From A Child's Point Of View...
With Running Commentary From the Parent...
Who Is No Longer Responsible...
Finally. And all in one piece. Says your former warden.
Me too. No more threatening to call the Child Abuse Hot Line when you are told to make your bed.
Walking the path to independence and freedom.
Here. Let me open the door for you.
Shaking off the surly bonds of surly parental control.
Does this mean I get the remote back now?
No more taxation without representation.
Allowance? Allowance? Don't forget to wear clean underwear to your job interview. They really do have X-ray vision. I did not lie about that.
I get a vote.
Yes you do. Yes you get a vote just like everybody else. ONE. Oh and you have to go and register and know the names of your representatives and senators, and the name of the President and the Vice President and who is running in local elections and what is the current tax rate and why is there money for street improvements but no money for fireworks and study all the issues and then get to the polls and pull the lever. That's called exercising. Exercising your right to vote.
I never have to listen to my parents again.
This is not a one way street. Welcome to the your way or the high way rush hour traffic. Hope you've read the fine print on the rules of the road.
I never have to ask for my parents permission again.
Oh, and I don't have to be home on time, and I can screen your calls, and wait until I finish this really good book before I reply to your email, and I can change the code on the house alarm. Intruder! Intruder! You are now on private property. Proceed accordingly.
I never have to go on some stupid vacation with my parents again.
Let's see. Note to self. Check fares on Expedia after changing auto fill...how much less? I can go there? First class? Now?
I never have to have to do chores again.
Oh. Like laundry and picking up after yourself, and remembering where you left your phone...I'd love to meet your new housekeeper.
I never have to have a curfew again.
And I don't have to bang on your bedroom door six times in the AM, or stay awake in the Lazy-Boy until I hear your key in the front door. Plus, I don't have a curfew either!
I never have to agree with my parents again.
And I can program the radio in my car to the golden oldies radio station, watch reruns of the Golden Girls and play my DVD of South Pacific and sing along while eating from a full bag of Doritos.
I am free.
To come and go as I please.
To think my own thoughts and go my own way.
No more parental control on Facebook or Twitter or the Internet.
No more eating vegetables that make me gag.
I am free.
To be out on my own without a chaperone.
Free speech. Free to be me.
I can sign a lease.
I can live on my own.
I can stay up all night.
I can leave dirty dishes in the sink and wear the same clothes three days in a row.
I hold these truths to be self-evident that I am an equal member of society and am endowed with the right to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.
I can leave and never see my parents again.
I pray that this will never happen, because what I know as your parent, that you may not notice for awhile yet, as you bask in the glow of your new found freedom, is that one day, somewhere down the road, a new thought will cross your mind.
The very same thought I am thinking right now.
With a touch of heartache.
You...will never be a child again.
What I need to tell you most is this...
The Declaration of Independence is a statement of freedom, but more importantly, it is a rite of passage to individual responsibility.
Read it carefully.
Others gave their lives to make this a living document.
Our world, yours and mine, needs a few more grown ups.
And we...your loving parents...need you.
Being a parent is a full time job. So is good citizenship.
There is one difference.
Parents never get to retire. Ever.
Depend on it.
Thursday, June 21, 2012
I was just picking up a bag full of fertilizer, standing in queue, patiently waiting my turn, fishing in my purse for my dowager discount card, when I noticed a woman in front of me clutching a packet of twine. Behind me, another woman, looking like a cowgirl readying for a round up, loops of rope slung over her shoulder, under her arm, around her neck and piled high in her cart. She glanced over my shoulder at the customer by the till and stage whispered, "No, no, no...not that flimsy stuff. Did you EVEN read the book?"
Being the gardener that I am, and a radio talk show host extraordinaire who prides herself on interpersonal communication, being in the know, staying abreast of current events, and possessed of the ability to make friends in the midst of a check-out line, I stuck my nose right in the middle of a none-of-my-business-busyness. What book, I asked, with innocence and a smile.
To say that the two thirty-something women smirked, would be an understatement. In fact, the electricity that crackled, make that cackled, in the air, made my hair stand on end. These two were up to no good.
Setting a trap, for the sucker born every minute,
all dressed up in yellow wellies and a bag of compost.
The book. They told me the name of THE BOOK. They tee hee hee heed and ho ho ho hoed all the way out of the store. I figured it must be a VERY good book. A side splitter. A just for women rib tickler. An inside joke.
So, off to the bookstore. Standing at the information desk. In another queue with more thirty-somethings. I did what I always do. Informed the uninformed of my most sincere intentions. My hippest hip replacement hipness. Told them I was about to buy the BOOK. A book about a whole range of just one color. A colorful book. A book that would keep me in the loop, just like the women in the hardware store.
The woman, approximately the same age as me, poised behind the information counter had to shout to be heard over the cacophony of chuckling. She could have warned me. She could have prepared me. She should have SAVED me. Instead, she tried desperately to straighten up, to get enough breath between wheezing heaving snorts, and pointed her finger over her exploding head, to the shelf beside the counter.
Something. A siren. A warning bell. An alarm. A red flag.
I smiled my gratitude and ignored the woman being fitted with an oxygen mask, lying on the floor clutching her ribs in obvious pain. Something didn't match up. I think she was grinning.
Chapter after chapter after chapter...of um, er, well, geez, instructions.
Lots of instructions, VERY CLEAR instructions, but not one word about gardening. Well, maybe a few words about home maintenance, repair and upkeep...but...slightly more frisky.
A blast from the past.
I miss 'em.
I am a gardener. A fan of the birds and the bees.
To be honest, my face was red, sixty shades of red to be precise. Not because I was shocked. The only thing that shocks me these days is the nasty nagging nerve behind my right knee. My trick knee.
I was tricked.
And slightly ticked. To be the punch at the end of the line.
The truth is simple.
Feelin' frisky does not go out of style as we ripen on the vine.
Being near and dear to our near and dear.
It is still a fashionable accessory to sensible shoes and silver tresses.
That I find all those chapters and verse a bit exhausting,
doesn't mean I've forgotten how much fun it is to be wooed.
But a cuddle and a kiss. Mmmmm....
One of the best parts of growing up and growing older,
is the realization, that my capacity to blush is still gracefully intact.
"I Love You"
First it sleeps
Then it creeps
And finally it leaps
Across the seasons
Thursday, June 14, 2012
Once upon a time, stories passed from generation to generation as the soft glow of the campfire highlighted the fine gray hairs of the patriarch's beard. Knuckles reddened from dragging a club through the wilderness, fathers of the clan sat apart, remote and silent, while the women of the clan gathered in a circle chewing on the leather of their men's shoes, to soften them for greater comfort. The sultry smell of beef jerky perfumed the night air.
Fast forward to the 1950's, when fathers appeared on the doorstep, briefcase in hand, greeted by children with freshly washed faces and the matriarch, slightly scented, in a starched shirtwaist, panty hose and full make up. How times have changed. Children are hushed as the patriarch settles into his recliner, remote in hand and a TV tray at his feet, as the stories around the campfire have evolved into the evening news. The sultry smell of beef roast perfumes the night air.
Welcome the 1960's and the Age of Aquarius. The gatherings still take place around a campfire, but the women of the clan have grown restless and now demand not only a seat in the inner circle, but have abandoned their undergarments as well, and want their own set of clubs to go out to do a little foraging of their own. The air is perfumed with the smell of whatever can be found in the back of the refrigerator, or from a white sack of cheeseburgers on the kitchen counter. Patriarch meets matriarch and she is holding the remote in her hand as a bargaining chip for a night out with the girls.
We meet at last on the other side of the millennium divide. The matriarch who can now have it all, looks across the table at the patriarch, who now must do it all AND be emotionally available. As their eyes meet, they look longingly at the remote lying on the table between them and realize neither has the energy to pounce.
Not much has changed.
Except maybe the bit about chewing the shoes.
Oh and in each of the little glimpses around the campfire, the father, the patriarch, the breadwinner, the man-of-the-house...
...is wearing a tie.
...an extremely ugly tie.
Father's Day...Much Ado about Something...ends in a tie.
Surely, most assuredly, we can do better than this.
Because by all accounts, fathers deserve credit where credit is due. Unlike the current trend in the advertising cycle, where all men are fumbling, bumbling idiots, forced to carry their wife's purse and required to be eloquent in expressing their deepest feelings, the truth needs telling. The narrative requires some serious editing.
So I come to you in complete honesty. I have only two reputable perspectives on this topic.
One, my own father.
The other, the father of my children.
My own father was a difficult man, prone to silences and sudden bursts of anger. He was a man of very few words and sparing in his compliments. His persona was a gift from his father, a man who didn't spare the rod and never spoiled the child. But this man, my father, worked hard every day of his life to make our lives, his children's lives, better. He went without, slogged through the mud and the rain and the snow, walking the streets of downtown Chicago making his sales calls. He had a distinctive stride that was so recognizable I could pick him out of the many commuters piling off the train, three blocks away from our apartment window. I had trouble keeping up with him, his step requiring three of my own. But if I stumbled, his hand was always magically in reach. I only saw him cry twice in his lifetime. Once when his father died and once on the day I left home to be a wife in a city far away. The only present he consented to receive was a blue shirt for work. It never crossed my mind to offer him a tie. Never. His deeds were enough words for me.
The father of my children is, as well, a man of few words with a devout work ethic. He is a gentle man. A man who lives his life setting the example for his children to follow. Rising at dawn and out the door to work, each and every day, only to come home and change into his role as coach, lawn maintenance and home repair expert, baseball throwing, guitar playing, home movie taking, camera-ready-never-in-the-picture, hero. He was the one to sit in the front seat as the boys backed down the driveway, learner's permit in hand. He is the man who showed his sons the simplicity of growing up in a rural community and the importance of an extended family. He taught them how to water ski, how to manage a checkbook, how to apply for a job and how to keep one, how to stretch a dollar and how to save a penny. He survived scout camp and baited the hook on the end of their line. He taught them to get out and see the world, by going out and seeing the world, from London to Sri Lanka to Australia. Then he came home, and took his sons on road trips through the Badlands and Yellowstone, just as he had as a boy. He taught them how to sing through his love of music. What he could not say, he could play on his guitar. The father of my children, who lost his own father at 14, made up for the parts of his life that he missed by matching the strides of the father he treasured so. The steadfast, gentle and tender man he walked beside. The man who made him smile. The man who called him son.
So, my advice to you on this Father's Day is simple.
Skip the tie.
Find a way to tell a story around the campfire.
To simply say.
I love you Dad.
And for those of you at a loss for words...
Fathers steady the handlebars, ride the brake on the passenger side, cover the bounced checks, fall asleep in chairs while waiting up, pace in the emergency room, pack the car, unload the car, fix stuff, grill the steaks, wear dorky clothes, like even dorkier music, tell tales of life long ago and act tough. In order to be a good Dad, you can't let on how much you love, but the good ones, like you Dad, let the love leak out around the edges once in awhile.
Thursday, June 7, 2012
Growing older, recent memories slip out of grasp more readily, but oddly enough, memories of the distant past emerge fully pixilated and in exquisite detail. I have three distinct picture perfect memories of me before the age of five.
In the first, I am standing near a rock wall outside of our first residence, the Chateau Hotel. My mother is holding my hand and our eyes widen in unison as a dog, unleashed and poorly mannered, refuses a proper introduction before the scaling the wall and lunging with canines bared, right at us. My mother scoops me up in her arms and yells in her mother-will-keep-you-safe-voice one singular syllable, STOP. With her one hand in the air stop sign, she moves quickly indoors leaving the bewildered dog cemented in place. It takes me many years to overcome my fear of dogs, until the day I raise my own hand with equal confidence and say forcefully...STOP.
The second remembrance is a feeling more than an actual picture. My small hand is wrapped around the handle of the icebox in the kitchenette of our one bedroom apartment. The electricity is flowing up from my fingers to my wrist and into my body. I cannot move my hand. I cannot move my feet. I cannot hear voices. I cannot scream or yell. One by one I feel my fingers being uncurled from the metal handle. A short. There was a short in the electrical cord and I unwittingly helped to complete the circuit. It was my mother, once again, throwing the circuit breaker. Pulling the plug. I did not know until much later in life, the significance of that particular event. Not only was this a circuit breaker, it was a deal breaker as well. The last straw. The motivation that drove my family to move. Away. To start over. And most definitely, to buy a new refrigerator.
The third moment of perfect recall is that of the night we moved. I am sliding into the backseat of a waiting cab. In my lap, I hold a milk carton full of water. And fish. Pet fish. The water sloshes onto the front of my shirt, but I cradle the milk carton tenderly. I look down into the water and my fish, with their big innocent eyes, look up at me trustingly, knowing they are safe in my care.
The Age of Innocence.
How do we get there from here?
Sometime ago, I spent considerable time studying Buddhist psychology. It was time well spent as it led me to investigate the art of meditation. The ability to sit alone with one's thoughts. To separate from feelings and emotion. To acknowledge joy, pain and suffering as pieces of self that could be detached and piled up to be sorted out later. An important learning exercise in self awareness. A test of one's ability to access inner calm and to quietly focus.
I flunked the test.
I got itchy and uncomfortable after about three minutes.
With all those thoughts and feelings and emotions piled up at my feet, my inner child surrendered to my fastidious outer self. I did not need quiet. I needed a vacuum cleaner. A Dust Buster. A can of Pledge. A Bottle of Mr. Clean and a sponge.
Mindfulness. Mindful attention.
The writer, Anne Lamott, once wrote, "My mind is like a bad neighborhood. I try not to go there alone. "
We, Anne and I, must live in the same neighborhood. Or perhaps we lived next door to each other in a previous life. I know one thing for sure, we would have been fast friends.
Okay...I said to my inner-storytelling-fantasy-laden-scary story-hard-to separate-fact-from-fiction-self...let's try this again.
What if I just went back in time and picked one story. One sweet innocent and truly true story. One precious moment in time.
What if I closed my eyes and saw my youngest and most innocent self. A photograph of my own very young face smiling back at me.
What if I stored that image.
In a safe.
In a safe place.
In my heart.
Where, with just the simple act of placing my hand over my heart, I could go back and make a promise to visit once in awhile.
That I could do.
That, I did do.
You can too.
Take a moment. Close your eyes. Open the album.
And in the words of George Lucas, "long ago in a galaxy far far away"...there you are.