Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Presents vs Time

Christmas is upon us once more. As the parents of 19 and 15 year old children, it has been quite some time since there was anything “fun” under the tree. By fun I mean awesome toys that strike the imagination. I have to admit that with the exception of McDonald’s toys or other rinky-tink items, I have ALL of my children’s favorite toys in storage waiting for the day when they would like them back for their own children. Back in the “fun toy” days before wrapping, my husband and I would dismantle toys from all from the horrible Fort Knox shrink wrap, ties, staples, and other torturous packing and reinsert them into the box so that the kids could start playing right when they opened them without any pieces thrown away on accident.

It was always hard to find a place to stop shopping when they were little. The temptation to spend without reservation was always there because there were SO MANY choices. Fortunately, our children always preferred playing outside when they could so we didn’t have only video games under the tree. Our daughter never liked dolls – so Little Pet Shop and the like found places with GI Joe’s and other toys that required imagination. With a daddy that always worked swing shift, our children knew how to play quietly. They would take their toys into the living room and set up kingdoms of their own and be entertained for hours, so imaginative toys ruled the day.

As often as Tim’s schedule would allow we used to have “coloring nights”. This was different than family night. Family night was watching movies and eating popcorn (and was hard to come by because Tim was often not home), but friends and family might still drop by or call and we were open to whatever might come up. Coloring nights on the other hand, were sacred. We shut off all phones (cell AND land line). Locked the door. Pulled the curtains. Put a sign on the door that we hoped visitors would come again some other time as we were unavailable. Looking back, I think the act of putting the sign on the door made the fact that we were devoting our UNINTERRUPTED time to them a solid thing. We had piles of coloring books and a giant tub of crayons. We put the coloring books very close to one another on the floor so that when we laid on the floor to color our heads were almost touching. Tim and I would color and be silent. As a parent, it has always been hard for me not to prod and pry to get every last detail. Tim is always the smarter one. He just asks a question or two – enough to open a door – and then he waits for THEM to talk. On coloring night in the space of our silence, the children would begin to talk. Talk about their day, their friends, their dreams, their worries. It was amazing the amount of insight into two little people that would come out during those few hours. Sometimes we would laugh until we cried. Sometimes their thoughts would extend into what was going on in the world in general – political, medical – whatever they might have heard on the news (because their mom is a news junkie) and shock us with how much they understood. Now, those moments seem crystalline in my mind. If it were a movie it would be a cold winter with snow blowing, looking in a window at a family. The movie lens would have a filter on it so that the scene was all misty and magical looking on the edges to emphasize the togetherness of the family against the outside world.

The other day I ran across the basket of coloring books. You could not possibly have enough money to offer me to buy those coloring books. Looking back on the pages I can tell which child colored what (different styles) and which ones we colored. When I am old and gray and my mind is gone, I hope that someone gives me a coloring book and those days come back to me. Obviously as a sentimental person, I knew that the kids growing up would come too soon for me. I just didn’t know HOW too soon. Son is 19 and living on his own. Daughter is 15 and already working towards her goal of being a hospice nurse. They have occasional days where it is obvious that someone spoiled them (I don’t know who she was but when I find her I will smack her!), but for the most part they are well on their way to being people who give something to society. I am proud of them for being independent thinkers and making their way, but I miss the days of “coloring nights”.

Both of our kids have said they don’t want much for Christmas this year. Son wants a new cap. Daughter wants fuzzy socks. Maybe what they really need is a coloring book and new crayons.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The End of the Road (or at least this mile marker)

The Stadium Theater in our small town has closed. This fills me with a sense of loss that is not only connected to the building itself, but to what it represents. For 62 years families in our area were able to go there for entertainment the old fashioned way. Popcorn, candy.....and more movies than anyone probably could name. Occasional remodeling here and there kept things from falling apart, but much remains the same. For instance there are lights covered by painted glass on the side walls that would come on when the main lights went down that I always found fascinating (the antique lover in me wonders what will happen to them). The theater is small enough and the screen was big enough that when the movie started playing no matter where you sat you could lose yourself in the story and make it feel like you were within the movie rather than just watching it. When my husband and I were young and very hard-pressed to scrape together money for dinner out, the $1.25 ticket price was just affordable enough that if we split a soda and popcorn we could have a date without breaking our meager budget. We would be sitting in our choice seat (on the right hand side closer to the front) just waiting for the movie to start, munching a little popcorn and invariably he would speak to 3/4 of the people walking up to find their seats. "You know you live in a small town when" comes to mind- when you know most of the people sitting down to watch a movie with you. There is a certain feeling of home that abounds in this little place. I have been to larger venues that have the fancy reclining seats, six or more movies to choose from and all the other bells and whistles. None of them feel the same. I doubt I will go to the movies very often from now on. Having grown up going to the Stadium and watching movies there, the sense of familiarity and comfort just isn't there in the larger places - and they charge 15.9 patrillion more dollars to watch a movie anyway. Movie night at the Stadium felt like going to grandpa and grandma's house and the loss of it to our community will mean more than just the loss of a place to watch movies. It is also the loss of a way of life. One of the last of the "downtown" places. Driving down main street in small town America, seeing the shuttered stores and theaters is an example of all that is being lost in our country. The clothing stores, shoe stores, dime stores (do you all remember Graham's Dime Store?) theaters and diners that used to draw families to town for "Saturday" shopping and entertainment. They have been replaced by cold and ugly box stores, malls and monstrosities of buildings selling things we really don't need. I guess that is the thing that bothers me the most. These places and the closeness and familiarity are being lost to us and our lives are becoming less and less connected. When you frequent small businesses in a small town on a steady basis, you see people you know and you remain connected, even if in a brief moment. With the loss of our "downtown" in small town America, we are also losing our base. Our roots. What feeling of connection do you have in a mall? In a Sam's Club? Nothing. Rudolph's. Remember Rudolph's? Miss Jean watched my husband's brothers and sisters grow up. We would go in there to buy his jeans after we got married and she walked right to the stack of the kind he liked and pulled out his size. We have a couple of stores left downtown. Linn's Shoe Store. Bray's Drug Store. Norton's Hardware. Not much else is hanging on. How sad. My kids will never walk into Graham's Dime Store and be bewildered by all the little nooks and crannies chock full of wonders. Instead they know things about malls full of over-priced nonsense like Abercrombie and Fitch, Hollister, Buckle and the like. One of my best friends is in the 70-80 age range. She can tell you anything you want to know about Jerseyville during her life-time. She can describe the layout of Don's Department store when you first walked in. What they sold. The names of most of the workers. Kirby's Drug Store. What her favorite things to purchase there were. She is a fountain of information about the way things used to be. One wonders if perhaps maybe they shouldn't STILL be. Life is all about change. Change must be embraced. Medical advancements, technology that allows endless access to knowledge, all these other things we know have made improvements - this is true. In retrospect, however, history tells us that some change was not for the better. One wonders if perhaps there should be a headstone at each end of main street. "SMALL TOWN LIES HERE 1800-2000 MISSED ETERNALLY".

Monday, November 28, 2011

Time flying by..

Wow..... I had forgotten about this blog I had started until a friend of mine posted a link to hers tonight. How extremely odd to go back at the blink of an eye (obviously my passwords are not that good if I can remember it from this long ago!) and see exactly where I was at that time!

Tonight I am sitting in my warm and toasty home in my warm and comfortable flannel wrapped up in a warm and thick afghan thinking warm and fuzzy thoughts about me and mine. Feeling so incredibly blessed.

Regardless as to what the future holds, in this moment I have a piece of heaven. So much of my life has been just that. Little pieces of heaven.

It is my belief that happiness is a fleeting emotion. Much lauded - but the anticipation is greater than the reality. More to be desired is contentment and peace. They are not fleeting emotions, but states of being. I have found at this stage in my life that if I focus on all that is right, those things that are wrong have less sting. Less bite. Less drama.

I do not know what the future holds, but I know that nothing good comes easy. It takes courage and hard fighting to hold on to that which is worth while. I am standing as I always have. Steadfast against the world that seeks to distract and disarm. My life is boring compared to some, but I have fought hard to have the family and life that I have and I am content. I am at peace.

It is good.