Tuesday, May 30, 2006


Mom just told me how nice it is when kids remember any good things from their childhood and want to carry them on. Oh, there are so many good things I remember. I remember Mom sitting on the porch all summer with a book and a glass of iced tea. I imagine she was doing that to keep an eye on us, but I always assumed that she just liked being outside with a book.

We used to go to watch the planes take off and land at the airport. I remember the line repeated each time: I wonder where they're going. I'd like to go there. It never mattered whether they were flying to Fort Wayne or Honolulu. Just get on the plane and go. That was the dream. Wherever it was would be fun, different and exciting. I think I've wanted to travel since those days. I've been many places in the U.S. and have been to London, Rome, Naples and down the Amalfi Coast. Still on my list are every other European country, Eastern European countries like Croatia, and the countries that made up the former U.S.S.R., much of Africa, particularly Kenya, where I have friends, Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Thailand, Japan, Sri Lanka, nepal, Tibet, India, Jordan, Turkey, Qatar, China, Antartica, Chile, Brazil, Honduras, Domincan Republic, Haiti, Mexico, Peru, Venezuela, Guatemala, West Indies, Puerto Rico, etc., etc. I want to go there. I want to experience life as I have never known it, outside the bounds of my narrow view of the world.

We used to follow fire trucks. I'm not entirely sure why, except that Mom wanted to be a paramedic, and eventually became an EMT, even working for the ambulance service in Alaska. I don't follow fire trucks. I can't bear to see anyone hurt. I have no confidence that I would be able to help should I be there.

We used to go to all the parks in the city. This week we might play in Portal Park, next week in Bonnie Park, the following week we might play on the concrete climbing structure over by the 26th street cemetary. Some people live such small lives, with each step contained within a two mile radius, but our worlds were constantly expanded, the boundaries were our imagination. We knew we could go to Seattle, or Portland, or anywhere else our car could take us. It never occured to me to be afraid to go anywhere, even by myself. Mom drove all over the country while Dad was working in exciting destinations like...Thule, Greenland. As I was preparing to drive cross-country with my kids, a friend gasped in horror, "What will you do about hotels?" I dryly replied, "I'll check in." I have since learned that many women would NEVER go out of town without their husbands. They would never dare to check into a hotel without their man. They don't know how to read a map, which is rather convenient when it comes to making their men feel that they simply can't do without them.

I, on the other hand, assume that a real man wants a competent woman. Oh, sure, there are many things that are really useful to have a man to do, particularly when you start getting older and your body begins its long course of betrayal. But why would a man want a helpless woman? I don't mean truly helpless, but one who simply will not do things she is perfectly capable of doing. It's irritating.

Another thing I remember is reading at the dinner table. Our home was filled with books. Inside those books my world was expanded. I understand more about our Creator God because of the creativity he placed in people who wrote things like "The Chronicles of Narnia", "The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings", "Watership Down" and others. I caught a glimpse in those books of the adventure that God has for each of us if we are willing to run out the door without our pipe and handkerchief. In those books I gained a lifelong love of reading, writing, storytelling and--BOOKS! And I do love books. I love hardcovers with the sleeves intact. I love beautiful bindings with elaborate endpapers and gilt print. I love the look of books on a shelf, books next to my nightstand, along for the ride in the back of my truck, stacked on the floor when the shelves are full, three deep on a shelf, when there is no more room, used as decor on the mantle, favorite tales on the bedstand in the guest room, and tucked into my carry-on bag when flying, though I can never resist buying a new one in the airport bookstore, even though their prices are too high and selection too narrow.

I loved camping and fishing, and the beaver ponds. I loved watching Dad fish down the middle of the river, just like a scene from "A River Runs Through It". I loved backpacking and still wish I could do it, longing for it as if for water on a hot day. I loved skiing, though carrying my own gear from the car to the slope was torture. I loved hearing my dad sing "K-k-k-katie, my beautiful Katie" and "Freckles", and other silly songs. I loved campfire stories like "The Yar" and "It Was A Dark And Stormy Night". I loved tuna helper over a campfire, pan-fried trout for breakfast, camp robbers trying to get the last of the pancakes, fried Spam (over a campfire, everything's good), burnt marshmallows, and ice cold water from the creek. I liked that wonderfully exhausted feeling you have at the end of the trail when you finally made it.

Like any kid, I have a lot of things I disliked about childhood, but I also have some great memories.

Dropping groceries on someone's doorstep, ringing the doorbell and running, laughing and happy, back to the car, hoping you wouldn't be seen. Burned out Vietnam Vets and hippies playing guitar in the basement, laughing, talking, studying, singing. Mom and Dad taught me the joy of giving. The fun of stealth giving, where no one is the wiser. And Mom and Dad gave me a gift of letting me try things and be creative. I don't remember them ever being disgusted when I would cook something no one had ever heard of before and would never want to hear of again. I don't remember them chiding my efforts when I drew, or designed clothes for my Barbie, or made furniture out of plastic communion cups. I didn't realize it at the time, but they allowed me to confidently try things, to paint, to draw, to sew, to create, to dream, to write, and never belittled me for it.

I hope I have nurtured that spark in my kids. I think my daughter is such a talented painter, and always have seen that spark in her since she was really little. I think my sons are clever and inventive with their games of crabapple golf and photo shopped presentations that are amazing and wonderful. I love my kids sense of humor, even when at times it gets too crude or gross for me. They should thank my parents for that.

Funny, but the four of us kids all remember life slightly differently. One thinks the reading at the table was awful. That's crazy. I don't know how each of these things is remembered by my brothers and my sister, but for me, this is the good stuff.

1 comment:

Beth said...

Those are wonderful memories. Last night Mitch brought home sunflower seeds in the shell, and we sat around the dinner table forever. Buying seeds in the shell facilitates leisurely family time. Buying seeds already shelled guarantees more calories on the run.