As we roll out the “Childhood Memories” series featured in the Creston News Advertiser this week, I can’t help but think of my own.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m a “Double Pisces” (Kelly Marcus pointed this out to me, but it seems fitting as I’m a bit extra when it comes to daydreaming and overthinking), but I often think back to my childhood and wonder, “How did I get here?” and “How the heck do I go back?”
As a fourth grader I thought I had my life pretty figured out. After all, it was during a good ol’ fashioned game of M.A.S.H. when I became pretty confident I’d be living in a mansion in Paris, driving a Porsche, and married to James, a boy who I’d pass notes to in church.
Now, I know there is someone out there reading this laughing. If you don’t know what M.A.S.H. is, the acronym stands for mansion, apartment, shack and house. Children with the intention the predicting one’s future commonly played the pencil-and-paper game back in my day. It was just a fun way to believe we could predict the trajectory of our lives well before we had any real life experience or even a first kiss.
It’s evident I am not living in Paris, but that’s OK. I feel like I dodged a huge car payment, dozens of children, and maybe a person I’m less than compatible with. Thanks Facebook for your reassurance. No regrets here!
Presently, I’m trying to make some major lifestyle changes and I continue to attempt a new workout routine. So far I’m feeling pretty fit after one bike ride and a walk around a portion of Green Valley. Does it matter that it was two weeks ago?
On that walk, I was reminded of the trek to and from Tierrasanta Drugs – my neighborhood pharmacy and general store – where I’d purchase bubble gum cigarettes from its candy counter. It’s a habit that has evolved over time and one I’m still trying to kick.
What I remember most is the walk to Tierrasanta Drugs, which took FOREVER. It was only a mile, but my legs were much shorter then. What made it worse was the dry summer heat. However, my brothers and I made a game of it.
Along the route to the store, I recall these metal buttons that looked like oversized rivets you’d button your jeans with embedded in the sidewalk. They appeared to be randomly placed. As I learned five minutes ago, those “buttons” are actually property markers placed by professional surveyors. Searching for these buttons kept me distracted and forward moving. As I came up on one, I’d stomp on it as I kept a mental count. To this day, I still intentionally, yet casually, step on them as I come across them. But back then, my brothers eventually joined in and we’d compete to see who could claim the most.
When I feel challenged, I remember those walks and think of ways to distract myself or I make a game of it – much like how my brother Brian used to teach me mnemonics to memorize things such as the periodic table.
“Little chemist Brian,
Now he is no more.
What he thought was H20,
Distractions and games are tools I still use to get me through difficult times and tasks.
Knowledge is power
I was recently gifted an encyclopedia set from Mary Jane Bishop, who lives in a house on my former paper route. She stopped me recently to let me know that she saw my post on Facebook in search of one.
Those that knew me in my youth might describe me as more boy crazy than bookish, but as a child I loved opening an encyclopedia to a random page, and without looking, place my finger on an entry and learn everything I could about that one thing.
I had the idea to get my son in that habit, which prompted my social media post. He’s not as enthused about it, but for me, there were few things more satisfying than cracking open a new encyclopedia with that fresh top edge gilt – the shiny gold finish that’s visible along the edges of the pages when closed – and arming myself with a little bit of trivia no one else knew.
You’re probably thinking I’m a nerd, or maybe you’re still stuck on the thought of 42-year-old lady taking on a paper route.
It’s not that I’m having a midlife crisis, but at one point I desperately wanted to be a paper carrier. It’s a job my older brother and his friends did for the San Diego Union-Tribune when they were younger and I was pretty jealous they had a job and I didn’t. However, my short stint as a paper carrier happened after I took over a route from my son, who was no longer interested. Some people feel I should have made him stick it out, but the experience still served its purpose as he realized what it takes to make a dollar.
Experiences, even failures, are necessary lessons that lead to a stronger work ethic. And, boy, I’ve had a few.
Snooping and secrets
Around the age of 10, I was snooping through my parents’ garage when I found my adoption paperwork in a metal filing cabinet. I memorized as much info as I could before trying to carefully place everything back in its place. I didn’t want them to know that I found it, so I kept it to myself.
Even though my adoption was never a secret, my feelings about it were. I know I was wanted, but I didn’t feel that way. Knowing and feeling are two very different things. I also didn’t want to hurt my parents by wondering.
As a child, I internalized an incredible amount of pain because of it. An as an adult, it persists. Those childhood feelings flood my mind every time I walk through the front door of my empty home. So if I run off with the circus, join a commune or a cult, you’ll understand why. Some people love solitude, but I’m not one of them.
I would be remiss if I were to not mention how great my childhood was. It was quite idyllic. My parents have always been faith-filled stewards of the community, good friends and hard workers. They both have traits I try to emulate.
My mother is a gregarious woman who likes to entertain. She delivers freshly picked bouquets almost daily to her friends when her garden is in bloom and has a penchant for handwriting letters.
One of my father’s employees once asked me what it was like living with him and told me, “He’s strict, but fair.” I’d say that’s a fair assessment. He exudes integrity, as he is the same person at home as he appears to be in front of his congregation or in the workplace. He’s wicked smart, hilarious and has a cool collectedness about him.
From them I learned, if you care about someone, show love, give support, and watch them grow. That recipe works for almost anything.
Reminiscing on our childhoods is not new for many of us, but as I do so there are some things that stand out to me above all else – little eyes are watchful eyes and memories can last forever.
With that, Let’s be brave and act with kindness and grace. Someone is watching.