Today, we packed the kids up, along with our dessert (thank you, Emeril, for the lovely Cranberry-Apple Crisp), and followed my parents up to Arlene and Ken’s for Thanksgiving dinner. As we traveled the two hours north toward the area where I spent my elementary school years, I was marveling at how much and yet how little I recognized on the trip.
It’s been roughly 20-25 years since I’ve lived in northern PA. Times change. Places change. There are Walmarts where there weren’t before and empty shells of broken buildings that used to be McDonald’s. The intersection of Tedd’s Landing has changed over time, but remains basically the same as in my memory.
When we pulled off of the main road and into the little towns between the highway and our destination, I was saddened to see the buildings with cracked windows, fractured like my memories of them. Paint peeling, removing the once-held beauty that still remained in my memory. The little store that the school bus used to stop at for penny candy on the way home from school on Friday’s has, not only changed hands so many times that I’ve lost track of whether it still exists, but isn’t even where I thought it was in my mental map.
Suddenly, as we turned onto entirely unfamiliar roads, I was struck with the realization that I had never been to my aunt and uncle’s house. See, not only had their towns changed over time, but so had their lives. The garage that my uncle had owned, with the soda machine outside for which my little brother and I used to beg quarters, and the little house that I “grew up in” next to it was no longer my aunt and uncle’s home.
So we went to a new house today. An unfamiliar house. A house that wasn’t my “home” as I remembered it. A house with a huge blow-up turkey outside. We thought we had the wrong house, except their name was on the mailbox. We laughed and teased my Mennonite Deacon uncle that the next time we visited we’d see Santa or the Easter Bunny, but he assured us he was merely “turkey sitting” for the out-of-town neighbors who insisted that our children would enjoy it.
It was a cute house, but it wasn’t “home” and I doubt it will ever be the same as visiting them in the old house. It’s a feeling much like I had the first time we visited them after their dog Heidi had passed away, the Australian Sheepdog they’d owned since before I was even born. Something was just missing or out of place. But it was much deeper, far more shattered and unsettling of a feeling, like the year after my cousin, Brenda, their only child had suddenly passed away.
At least some things have stayed the same. The women still belong in the kitchen and the men in the living room prior to the meal (except for me and my hubby – but that would be an entirely different post). My aunt’s stuffing is still the absolute best in the world. There are still leftover cold turkey sandwiches for supper. And there is still the ongoing friendly “rivalry” between me and my cousin’s husband Johnny.
All of this today just makes me wonder how many other things in my life have changed. How static is our past? Does it change based on how we remember it? If enough people believe that something happened in the past, can we assume it to be true? What is the difference between truth and reality and memory?
See what nostalgia does to me? Or maybe it’s just the tryptophan from the turkey.
- My love of music. When I was in high school, I sang all the time. I sang lead on the youth worship team, had solo parts in nearly every musical I was in, and could rarely be seen NOT singing something. When I went to college, tried out for choir and was told that since I couldn't read music, they didn't want me. This was a huge blow to me and my ego. In a last ditch attempt to salvage that part of me, I took a music theory course, was told that since I wasn't a major, it didn't matter whether I "got it or not", and ended the semester with a "C". For the next 10-11 years, the only time I sang (except for extremely rare occasions) was in the shower, or my car... alone!
- My love of writing. I ended up majoring in English in college with a concentration in writing. I was published in several campus magazines, edited the feature section of the school paper, and was introduced by my favorite poetry professor as a "poet" to one of her colleagues at a dinner for the big-wigs. After college, I got a job as a school librarian and taught creative writing for a couple years. Then life happened, I stopped working for the school, and I stopped writing. For the next 6-7 years, the only time I wrote anything was if I was directly asked to do so for job-related responsibilities.
- My love of encouraging others -- the song that God gave me to sing. This happened over time. I don't even know how. When you have a passion for pushing people to stretch beyond themselves to be the person (s)he created them to be, you get a lot of backlash. People don't so much appreciate it. So, over time, I just stopped. And for however long it's been, this passion has been embroiled solely in cynicism, if and when I allow it to come out at all.
- There is the obvious point of Obama being the first black president (and for that matter, the first non-white-male president) in US History.
- A passion for politics has been re-ignited for the younger voters, and renewed hope has been offered to a lot of people who have been (up to this point) disenfranchised and disillusioned with American politics
- Obama has proven that campaigning as it was previously done is no longer fully effective. He ran the first positive ad campaign in recent history and made proper use of the internet as a grass-roots campaigning tool
- Perhaps our status as a country will now switch to one that works WITH the world in which we live instead of AGAINST it. I think we're looking at a new era in politics.
- A weekend away with my hubby. This requires the cooperation of his bosses, extra random money from... somewhere, and someone to agree to keep my kids for the weekend.
- Money for the kid's savings accounts. They need so little now, but the costs of education and other "big ticket" items for their future is climbing steadily.
- Time & attention from people that we love. I'd rather spend an afternoon sitting and chatting with you over a nice cuppa (pick your pleasure) than sending gifts back and forth making the mailmen miserable.
- The ability to give -- and teach our kids the importance of giving sacrificially. Money and time are tight for everyone. Donate volunteer hours or money in our names to someone who truly needs help. Pick an organization that you know we support or a cause that you know we're passionate about. (Need some help: World Wildlife Federation, Bethany Christian Services, Water Street Rescue Mission, Susquehanna Valley Pregnancy Services... and that's just suggestions)
For My Little Man
He opens his mind and looks right through me,
Sitting with silent tears falling on broken dreams
“Mommy,” he breathes from somewhere beside me
“Why can’t we see kisses?”
Annoyed, I pretend not to hear
His innocent question outside himself
So caught up in myself and my pain
“Mommy…” he persists, “Mommy!”
“Yes, Little One?” I answer wearily.
Then God opens his mouth and he asks me again,
“Why can’t you see my kisses?”
Stunned, I stop and look at my child.
“I don’t know, Love,” I finally answer,
“But I see them when I look at you.”
- That I've written at all
- That I have 50,000 words logged for November -- whether it's all the novel or a combination of "words"
- That I have finished something
- That I learn a few things about myself in the process, and hopefully become a "better" person for it