Tag Archives: nostalgia

So Now We’re Respectable?

Baby Boomers still like to think they’re brave. Creative. A generation like no other.

Anything but respectable.

During the ’60s, “respectable” reeked of The Establishment: Father Knows Best, the suburbs, hairspray, and Lawrence Welk.

My generation, on the other hand, was born to be wild. We listened to sounds of silence, but obviously didn’t like them, because we played our music loud.

We were all about Laugh-In, communes, wild hair, and the Beatles.

Baby Boomers once believed “all you need is love.” However, we discovered the need for a little bread for mortgage payments. As Boomers age, the word “drugs” now turns thoughts toward AARP insurance plans rather than The Moody Blues.

During our hairy, youthful era, how could we have foreseen being buddies with barbers and beauticians?

That people would regard us as trustworthy. Even (ulp!) respectable.

Have we really sunk so low?

Oh, yeah. While I waited for my husband outside a convenience store, a flashy convertible with a monster dog and beefy driver pulled in. Most Gen Xers avoid eye contact, but he approached me with a big smile.

Whoa, my wrinkle cream must have worked magic.

“Ma’am, I need to go inside. My dog might jump out. Would you stay with her?” He disappeared before before I could say “yes,” “no” or “I have rabies.”

I decided to change wrinkle creams. If I lived.

PuppyZilla didn’t growl, but I estimated her mouthful of teeth just about spanned my neck.

Staring at me, she probably entertained similar thoughts.

I told her Lassie and Benji were my heroes. That I hated Cruella De Vil and would never, ever wear a Dalmatian coat.

PuppyZ shifted restlessly. What if she decided to raid a garbage can in, say, Alaska?

Maybe I should sit on her. I pictured my husband finding me astride a giant dog in somebody else’s convertible.

Fortunately, the driver returned. I waved a motherly goodbye as they drove away.

Respectable. Sheesh.

Only one incident? I wish.

The ultimate insult occurred in a downtown bookstore, when the proprietor approached me. “How long are you going to stay?”

The Boomer part of me rejoiced. Did I resemble a vagrant who needed to move on?

He shattered my hopes. “My daughter needs her clarinet. I’ll return in 15 minutes.”

In 15 minutes I could have procured free Christmas presents for the next 30 years.

Instead, I made sure nobody raided the cash register.

He had faith in me. What had I done to deserve such treatment?

Nothing. But he, like the Gen X guy and PuppyZ, trusted this Baby Boomer when they needed a helping hand.

So naïve.

Presumptuous.

But definitely groovy.

 

Well, that’s me. But how does the tag “respectable” hit you?

Little League Love

Fierce soprano voices yell “Hey, batter!” Super-sized helmets top skinny little necks. Pint-sized players wield mitts big as sofa pillows (and often about as effective).

A hometown crowd cheers and munches hot dogs and popcorn.

It’s the season of Little League Love.

Unlike most onlookers, my husband and I are at a comfortable spectator stage, our children grown.

So I can actually watch games, which I rarely did during my son’s baseball career. Like many moms, I spent years sitting on the bleachers with eyes tightly shut, only opening them when I visited the concession stand.

We fans really try to behave. But when offspring are involved, the most righteous dad sometimes lets loose a tirade. The gentlest, sweetest grandma grows fangs when the umpire dares call her grandson out.

Of course, I never acted like that. I do, however, admit to going a little overboard in motivating my child, egged on by another mom. My friend loudly informed her twelve-year-old that if he didn’t hit that ball, she was going to dance for the crowd’s entertainment. I informed my son that I would sing. High. And very loud.

Not only did our sons smack the ball as if their lives depended on it, we inspired the entire team.

Yet despite our critical role in the victory, nobody put our names on their trophy. Where was the Mom love in that?

A roar from the present crowd brings me back from nostalgia. On this diamond, where younger teams play, contact with the ball almost guarantees a home run and most successful defense is purely accidental.

The players appear deeply serious, but the coaches are less, and the crowd has a ball. Some mothers even watch with their eyes open.

They contrast with their glazed-eyed kids, several of whom snore at their positions, the sun having set. An infield player makes interesting dance moves, but I don’t think he anticipates a Dancing with the Stars career. He forgot to visit the restroom earlier, so the compassionate umpire grants a special time out.

It’s easy for me to laud the joys of Little League from my maybe-I’ll-go-maybe-not perspective. For parents who spend enough time to earn a college degree watching, waiting and transporting, Little League Love wears a little thin. But one sitting near us saw it as a win-win situation. If his son’s team won, they’d return the following night for another chance at the championship. If they lost, he could run a combine over his neglected lawn.

He’s a dad who cares, yet doesn’t care too much about the game’s outcome. And that’s the very best kind of Little League Love.

What’s your favorite kid baseball moment?

 

Sweet Time Travel to the Store

One of Murphy’s Laws plagues me repeatedly: If I aspire to pack a lunch, I am out of bread.

So I ride my bike to the local store. There is no better time machine than pedaling on a sunny morning, the fragrance of cut grass and hot blacktop whooshing past.

As a child, I gloried in my role as Mom’s personal shopper for bread, milk and tomato soup – especially if I could keep the change.

Charlie’s Store bore no sign, but everyone knew who conducted business in the 1940s-style building at the crossroads. The pop machine held a place of honor just inside. Opening it cooled me, even if I didn’t have a dime. Rows of bottles swam in ice-cold water: root beer, Upper 10, Nehi Grape, Orange Crush, and cherry red pop everyone called cream soda, though it wasn’t creamy.

I clinked bottles until I could haul out my choice. If I struggled to open it, some nearby grown-up popped off the cap.

If I had accumulated that much wealth, though, I craved nickel candy bars that stuck to my skinny ribs.

During leaner times, I bought penny candy. Though crusty, Charlie allowed herds of kids behind his counter, where we spent more time pondering choices than doing our homework.

Boxes of Tootsie Pops, Pixy Stix®, licorice, root beer barrels, wax lips and Lemonheads lined the wall.  Lik-M-Aid turned palms and tongues green, orange and purple.  Atomic FireBalls, though not radioactive, exerted a similar effect on teeth and digestive systems. Even the poorest kid could hunt for empty pop bottles, exchange them for a penny, and join the sticky masses in licking, sucking and gulping.

Charlie sold Bazooka Bubble Gum, two for a penny. Some steamy days, I sat on the store’s cool, uneven cement steps, chewing four pieces and reading comics.

Fifty-five years have passed. I can’t pedal there today. The checkers at my present hometown store greet me with a friendly “how’s it going?” The aisles bulge with food, clothing, canning jars, hardware, birdhouse chimes and roach killer. I dutifully visit the bread rack. Sweet old friends greet me from jars and displays near the registers. I purchase a piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum.

Chewing, pedaling and dangling my bag from the handlebars, I ride home, where (sigh) chores await. But I am glad for my neighbors’ flowers, thankful for the blue sky that hasn’t changed, though I have.

Hungry Hubby, too, appreciates my trip to the store.

Sometimes Murphy’s Law isn’t so bad.

 

As a child, where did you buy your bubble gum?

Confessions of a Tree Borrower

This spring, God has outdone Himself. Lush lilacs, like grape clusters, decorate bushes. Redbuds flaunt finery like skinny little girls wearing new Sunday dresses. Pear, crabapple, and locust trees grace the landscape like young girls on prom night.

I yearn for the trees’ beauty and fragrance the way some crave the first steak on a grill.

Not surprising, as my parents, tree huggers long before the concept became popular, adored flowering trees. Gradually, we children realized that most families’ Sunday afternoon drives did not achieve action movie status.

MOM: Ooooh, lovely dogwoods.

DAD: Aaaah, those lilacs smell wonderful. Roll down your windows.

KID #1: Shouldn’t you keep both hands on the wheel?

KID #2: How about one?

MOM: I’m holding the road. Mmmm. Isn’t God good?

KID #3: But no one’s watching the road!

KID #4: Let us pray.

ALL KIDS: Look out! (Dive for the floor.)

DAD: What’s your problem? I missed that guy.

KID #5: Um, Dad … we missed the bridge. We’re floating — sort of —

MOM: But look at those crabapples!

I succumbed to the habit, passing it on to my small children. Their pursuit of blooming beauty resembled search-and-destroy missions. When their quests expanded to others’ yards, I intervened.

We began with the Eighth Commandment: “Thou shalt not steal,” and its corollary, “Thou shalt not stomp thy neighbor’s tulips in order to shred his lilacs.”

“But,” I told them, “if branches hang over sidewalks, you may smell them, if you’re careful. That’s just borrowing.”

Chubby hands grasped behind their backs, they sniffed away.

I followed their good example. Besides, borrowing kept me out of trouble, too.

Our next home’s trees seemed under a curse, succumbing to lightning and disease. One of two peach trees went into a coma and never recovered.

Having witnessed her partner’s demise, the surviving peach tree eyed us with trepidation. Thankfully, Penelope, as I named her, greeted me at my kitchen window the following spring, wearing clouds of delicate salmon-colored blossoms.

We planted a redbud and two lilacs. Their first spring, they wowed us. However, the following year, they too succumbed to the curse.

I wandered the streets … and borrowed past my limit.

My husband wasn’t keen about calls from the police, so we planted a crabapple and a pear that flourished. A generous friend gave us rose of Sharon starts.

As ours didn’t survive, I now bicycle to a road I call Redbud Row. There, I feast on an unbroken line of magenta loveliness.

I will try not to run you down. Or miss bridges.

But you won’t mind if I borrow your trees on the way, will you?

Rainy Day Activities for Grown-ups (Sort Of)

“No drought this year!” happy weather experts proclaim.

Thank you for informing us, as people bail out living rooms. Facebook whines and surly crowd mumbles at Walmart — my scientific tools for measuring demographic mood — have reached record levels.

So I share suggestions for coping with April showers until they produce May flowers and golfing hours.

  • Celebrate that nonstop rain = a power wash for house. And cars. And the lawn mower I forgot to put in the garage.
  • Instead of a rain dance, do a sun dance. Show your moves to bored kids and grandkids. They’ll either join in or run screaming, leaving you to dance — or nap — in peace.
  • Monitor the backyard battle. Marching dandelions take over my lawn. However, violets are mobilizing, too. Who will win? My neighbors are taking bets.
  • Clean the junk drawer—a penance that satisfies the pathological urge to accomplish “spring cleaning” without actually doing it.
  • Stick your nose outside to sniff the wet glory of earth and hyacinths.
  • Count cars racing through the rain — my nostalgic salute to inclement childhood days when I truly had nothing to do.
  • Reassure pansies. Mine won’t spend their entire lives in our garage. Soon I’ll send them, plus houseplants, outside and watch them party.
  • Try on summer clothes. If mine fit, I pat myself on the back. If not, I shop for a new wardrobe!
  • Listen to your parents’ music. Doing so recalls the rare privilege of sitting in the station wagon’s front seat while envious siblings elbowed each other in back. The radio poured out orchestra music led by David Rose, Henry Mancini and Percy Faith while raindrops raced down the windshield. Wipers, resembling long, thin Fred-Astaires clad in tails, bowed in sync.
  • Snuggly rainy days are the perfect backdrop for devouring an I-can’t-put-this-down book.
  • Throw a baseball inside the house. Someone will yell at you, and you’ll feel like you’re nine again.
  • Be daring. Watch an old movie, when good-night kisses were considered somewhat scandalous.
  • Find an intact umbrella and walk. Pass a house with Christmas decorations and feel smug because you put yours away last week.
  • Sing outside. Belt out “Singin’ in the Rain,” “I Love a Rainy Night,” or “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” — and watch traffic clear out.

Some hot, dry summers, I feel like a walking raisin. But this spring, I check my arms for sprouting mushrooms — one more thing to do on a rainy April day.

What’s your favorite rainy day activity?

Loony the Lamb

For years I celebrated holidays by directing church musicals. One fateful Easter I chose Watch the Lamb, which focused on Jesus as the Lamb of God. A live lamb would make the ancient story come alive.

During rehearsals, the cast greeted our lamb with enthusiasm.

Church janitors did not. “Do something before that animal pees all over — or worse.”

Why hadn’t I considered this minor complication? Especially as the lamb made entrances down different aisles. Most Passover lambs in 30 A.D. did not wear Pampers®

 What other option existed?

God provided the perfect solution: we would cover the stage and church aisles with the burlap-like backside of my recently discarded carpet.

However, God didn’t send angels to cut, arrange and duct tape the carpet throughout the sanctuary. After two unspiritual, aching-knee days, all my bases were covered. No worries now, right?

Wrong.

Loony the Lamb had his own ideas about entrances and exits. A hay bale helped keep him quiet, but for obvious reasons, we avoided feeding him too much.

The 60-member cast’s noise made Loony more nervous than your Aunt Nellie. Kids petted him without mercy. Bright lights and heat caused him to hyperventilate. During dress rehearsal, Loony the Lamb collapsed onstage in a wooly, quivering heap.

Watch the Lamb? No audience would want to watch this.

Two animal lovers carried the prostrate lamb outside while we prayed — and Loony recovered. One guy built a pen outside the stage door where our prima donna cropped grass between scenes. Visiting hours were restricted, with no autographs. We did everything but paint a star on Loony’s gate.

Thankfully, he showed no new signs of cardiac arrest. His brassy baaaaa erupted only once during performances — during solemn prayer after the crucifixion.

Our ingenious actors shifted and blocked escape routes, all the while looking very holy.

One child earned my special appreciation: “Loony was peein’ on my foot the whole time Jesus was on the cross, but I didn’t say nothin’.”

Even after Loony returned home, I couldn’t shake off sheep. Scriptures about lambs leaped from the Bible’s pages. Jesus frequently called his followers His sheep. After Watch the Lamb, I figured He didn’t mean it as a compliment.

Nevertheless, the King of Heaven volunteered to take on the title “Lamb of God” — what God in His right mind would do that?

Only a King who loves confused, clueless sheep more than His own life.

Even one dithery pageant director named Rachael — which means “lamb.”

 

Have you participated in a pageant/play that taught you more than you expected?

 

 

 

 

Closet Confessions

Scientists declare the universe is expanding. If my poundage provides ample support for this hypothesis, why doesn’t my closet?

Getting dressed has become a religious experience. Every morning I fall on my knees before opening the closet door, because one tiny shift on my shelves sets off shock waves that could lead to global disaster.

Still, I do not pose the ultimate threat. Rather, people who alphabetize socks pose a menace to freedom and the American way. Their closets resemble well-organized mausoleums, with shoes and sweaters residing in little plastic caskets. They file shirts, dresses and pants according to color, fiber content and button count.

Worse yet, their clothes fit. No sign of the fat-jean wardrobe every normal woman cherishes. No rack of size three dresses to provide the self-delusion necessary for good mental health. These disturbed personalities are desperately in need of therapy, medication and grandchildren with Popsicles.

They also demonstrate a pathological lack of conscience as their clothes age. How can someone be so callous as to condemn a loyal pair of black pants that has stood with them through years of Christmas parties, church services and funeral wakes to an unknown fate?

Sometimes, though, I long for the freedom of college days, when my wardrobe consisted of two beloved pairs of jeans, two T-shirts and a granny dress I wore when my future in-laws came to town.

After marriage, however, my expandable waistline stretched my outfits into three categories: pre-prego, prego and post-prego.

By my children’s adolescence, not even an underweight moth could edge in. I never would have suffered from closet claustrophobia if my daughters had done the decent thing and raided my closet during their teen years.

Instead, they plundered their father’s. We didn’t realize he had become a retro fashion icon until one Sunday before church as I made a routine check of the “teen corner.” Our younger daughter was wearing a purple-striped surfer shirt.

“Steve, she’s wearing that shirt I gave you for your 18th birthday.”

He cocked an eye. “Um, her friend’s wearing one of my shirts, too.”

It wasn’t fair. If Steve had worn ruffles during the 1960s like every other self-respecting hippie, the girls never would have touched his stuff. His closet would have looked as bad as mine.

Eventually, our children all married young and left town. I have no idea why.

I visited their quiet rooms and shed tears at the sight of neatly made beds and unnaturally bare floors.

And three beautiful, empty closets.

Which, years later, now overflow — and getting dressed each morning has once more become a religious experience. …

Does opening your closets inspire fervent prayer as well?

 

 

A Storm’s the Norm

In the Oregon desert where I lived two years, the few thunderstorms rated newspaper headlines. People ran for cover as if King Kong had invaded. They spoke in hushed tones of thunder, lightning and the deluge that made them search for the nearest Ark to rent.

Those storms hardly would have rated an umbrella in Indiana. Still, my father’s congregation trembled when he assumed the storm watcher persona he adopted long before The Weather Channel. Piles of purple clouds — if rotating, all the better — called for his scrutiny.

“Beautiful.” He’d wave a big, brown hand as if conducting a symphony. “Nothing grander.”

Mom, however, insisted that my siblings and I remain safe inside. How boring.

Later, back in Indiana, I was a passenger in a car that defied a white sheet of rain stretched across the road. Tree branches ripped, grabbing sparking power lines as they crashed. A chimney exploded.

The driver very appropriately prayed, “Dear Jesus, keep us safe. But if not, please take us to heaven.”

This struck me as unnecessarily pessimistic. In one of my less holy moments, I yelled at the top of my 18-year-old lungs, “Knock it off, Jo. Quit giving me last rites, okay?”

God in His mercy listened to Jo and ignored me.

I later succumbed to Boring Mother Disease during storm season. One spring, my small children and I spent so much time snuggled in our bathtub, they regarded it as a second library, the normal place to read storybooks.

My husband, bone-tired from a 24/7 medical practice, refused to budge from his nice warm bed just because pesky tornadoes suffered from insomnia.

Our next house featured an ancient basement. Hubby still favored Oz during tornado warnings. The kids and I, however, preferred the dungeon to our former cramped porcelain refuge. We added Play-Doh and Yahtzee tournaments to the storm regimen.

Now empty-nesters, Steve and I again live in a one-story ranch. Upon purchase, I assured myself that no storm could hoist my post-middle-age body more than a few feet.

Soon, however, lightning seemingly sizzled around my pillow, and moaning wind and rain drowned my husband’s snores. I craved my former dungeon, but tried to reassure myself.

You’ll laugh about this tomorrow.

The next morning, our ceiling had not moved. Peeking out windows, I saw no branches on the ground — not even many twigs. Why had I been such a nervous Nellie?

Then, opening a newspaper, I noticed a photo of our town’s Little League cement block dugout. A “small” tornado had dissected it.

Back to Bathtub Story Hour for me.

Are you a storm watcher? Or do you run for a basement–or bathtub?

Birthday Magic

Today, my birthday eyes me from the calendar like a big dog craving a cheeseburger.

When did the magic disappear?

Me, age 5, proud of my birthday dress

Childhood

When I was little, February dragged in slow-mo. But TV’s Captain Kangaroo always sang and dedicated a candle-laden cake on my special day. (That he serenaded thousands of kids born in March didn’t occur to me.)

Mom asked what I would like for dinner. No washing dishes! I received gifts, including my first bicycle at age 11.

Hiking the distance to my magical 16th birthday took forever. Not only would I drive then, but pimples would vanish, and long-overdue curves would appear.

The next day, still cursed with a negative bust measurement, I suffered the first inklings of cynicism.

The Twenties

Five years later, even with girlfriends celebrating and 21 roses arriving from my long-distance fiancé, a cold, adult realization icicled the hoopla.

Birthdays wouldn’t stop.

The Thirties

When I turned 30, Hubby tried to soften the blow with a pretty plant — cheaper than roses. Our baby refrained from puking on me that day, though she refused to skip diaper changes.

Three children steered birthdays toward a new frontier of McDonald’s parties, giggly sleepovers and laser-tag wars. Years before, I didn’t think I’d live until my birthday. Now I hoped I would survive theirs.

Fellow mothers and I learned to recreate magic, commemorating each other’s birthdays with to-die-for cakes topped by only one candle and gifts we really wanted.

The Forties

The year my husband and I turned 40, birthday carolers wearing pajamas serenaded us. They brought a beautifully decorated cemetery cake, complete with a figure crawling out of a grave.

Hubby served on a board that accidentally established a unique birthday tradition. During a meeting, someone arranged for a cake to celebrate a new member’s birthday. The guy’s surprise was even bigger than we anticipated, as his birthday would not arrive for months. We had so much fun that wrong-day bashes for new members became a yearly ritual.

The AARPies

Years sprinted past, and my birthdays faded in favor of grandchildren’s head-splitting, joyous celebrations.

Not long ago, I changed decades. Immersed in a writing project, I barely looked up from my desk. A birthday only meant I was growing older, fatter and weirder.

Our son called. Could we meet at a coffeehouse in our old hometown?

Upon arrival, we didn’t see his car. I kidded, “Hope they remember they asked us.

Hubby smiled as he opened the door. Our children and their spouses hugged me. All the grandkids. And dear friends, gifts unmatched by any they could bring.

Birthday magic was back. Better than ever.

Has growing older proved magical for you lately?