Saturday Morning TV

When I was a child, my favorite time of the week was Saturday morning.  We kids would rise early, tiptoe down the stairs and race to throw our pillow across the arms to our dad’s worn easy chair.  For the next few hours, our lives belonged to the heroes of Saturday morning TV.

Using my pillow for a saddle, I rode along with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  From them I learned that people ate apple pie and coffee for breakfast and that the good guys did indeed wear white hats.  Roy was polite and upstanding, and although he occasionally threw punches or drew his gun, his freshly ironed shirt never came untucked and his crescent eyes never lost their smile.  Roy was accompanied by his amazing horse Trigger and his wife Dale, who rode her faithful mare, Buttermilk.  Not to be deterred by fringed skirts and perfectly coiffed hair, Dale Evans kept up with the boys without sacrificing a bit of her femininity.  I never doubted for a moment that the American cowgirl could do anything that the American cowboy could do.

Out of the western blue came Sky King and his niece Penny.  Penny flew a Cessna.  By herself.  And she was a teenager, which is, of course, what every little girl aspires to become.  I wanted to wear a cowboy hat and pony tail and fly the Songbird like Penny did.  From my back yard, any overhead plane became the Songbird and each time I swore that Sky and Penny dipped their wings to say hello.

Saturday morning television encouraged my sense of adventure and fed my thirst for excitement.  It also introduced me to foods never allowed in my mother’s kitchen.  Drakes Cakes were suspended in air while melted chocolate mysteriously dripped from the sky, covering the surface in a delectable cocoa confection.  Nabisco Wheat Honeys and Rice Honeys held intricate plastic Whee Ball games- free, of course!  The Cheerios Kid had “go power” and FlavR Straws were magic straws.  I craved cream-filled Hostess Snowballs and Chef Boy-R-Dee, instead of the home made raisin oatmeal cookies and beef stew that graced our table.  To me, nothing would be so exciting as to indulge in the sugar laden treats that were advertised on Saturday morning TV.

My mother, finally fed up with the pleas of “Pleeeeeeeeeeeeease, Mom, can you buy this?” would finally turn off the television and shoo us from the living room, telling us to “go outside and get some fresh air.” 

But in the back yard, our adventures continued.  Using sticks for guns, my sisters and I shot jump rope  rattle snakes and lassoed tricycle cattle like Roy and Dale.  We stretched our arms to become the Songbird and jumped off the top stair from the back porch to take flight.  And when I was alone, I pretended that I had a bag of tricks like Felix the Cat, humming to myself,

“You’ll laugh so hard your sides will ache,

Your heart will go pitter pat

Watching Felix the wonderful cat!”

By the time my kids were old enough to discover Saturday morning TV, cowboys were replaced by Power Rangers and Felix had disappeared, leaving room for Care Bears.   Like my mother, I would shoo them outside when I tired of hearing “Pleeeeeeeease, Mom, can you buy me a Power Blow Super Soaker  Water Squirt Gun?”  and I made beef and vegetable soup from scratch instead of serving SpaghettiOs.   But when I glanced outside and watched Elizabeth use a Perfection game as a time bomb and throw herself through the air like MacGyver when the “bomb” went off, I knew the torch had been passed. 

Happy Trails to you.

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Goodbye to Summer

Autumn officially begins next week, but for me, it started yesterday, when the temperatures fell and I needed a sweater to stay warm throughout the day.  Although I’ve spent fall in other parts of the country, nothing matches the beauty of New England, when the apples ripen and verdant trees turn russet and gold.  This happens quickly.  In September, tree tops show splashes of color here and there, but within a few weeks, the hills become a patchwork quilt of saffron, copper and crimson.  The fragrant breezes of summer are replaced by October’s chill spiced by the faint scent of rotting leaves and wood smoke.  Lazy afternoons on the beach are replaced by planting mums and replacing worn weather stripping.

As a child, I loved fall’s crisp blue skies and brilliant sunlight.  It was a time to pull on woolen skirts and knee socks, to fold away shorts and swim suits, and stow bicycles and lawn chairs.  My sisters and I conspired about Halloween, planning elaborate costumes and Trick-or-Treat pranks.  School was in full swing, and we scuffed through the fallen maple leaves by the church steps on the way home from the bus stop, our arms laden with earmarked books and notes we passed during math class.  In fall, crayons still had points, new shoes still shined and teachers hadn’t begun to yell when they got frustrated with noisy children.  Although the calendar year was beginning to wane, the reopening of school made it a time for new beginnings and fresh starts.

When I was a teenager, autumn evenings were often filled helping my mother can pickles, jam, and vegetables from our back yard garden.  We stood side by side in the kitchen, slicing and chopping, filling Ball jars, and bathing them in a bubbling pot of water.  It was the perfect setting for long talks about school, boys, our dreams, our faith.  From cook books I learned how to preserve food and stock pantry shelves, but from my mother, I learned to preserves relationships and stock one’s heart with love and laughter.

During the fall of 1982 I was newly pregnant with my daughter Abigail.  The honking of Canada geese as they flew across a nearby pond heralded a new era of my life.  As is the case with most first-trimester mothers, I experienced several weeks of morning sickness.  In October, my husband took a week’s vacation to replace the roof of our little house, and I would listen to the banging of his hammer while I fought the bile that rose in my throat.  At last the roof was completed, with the exception of the shingle caps for the peak.  As Paul climbed the ladder under the sinking sun, rain clouds gathered overhead.    When the last of the twilight sky turned to black, it began to shower.  Paul was desperately trying to hammer the caps in place, but was unable to see.  Ignoring my queasy stomach and the fact that heights made me dizzy, I shakily climbed the ladder and sat on the roof to hold the flashlight.  We straddled the roof, raindrops dripping down our necks, until the last of the cap was in place. I looked at my husband’s fingers, bandaged and bleeding from when the hammer missed its mark.  He flashed me a grin.  We had done it- the roof was complete- and our house would be a warm nest for our expected little one.  To this day, when the October skies turn gray and I hear the faint honking of Canada geese, I remember that happy day, when determination triumphed over circumstances, and love prevailed over fear.

Now, as summer pales and the nights leave heavy dew on the car windshield, I fight against feelings of loss and nostalgia that threaten to leave me unmotivated and despondent.  No longer do I have school or canning or a new baby to anticipate.  The coming of fall marks the end of summer.  It is time to haul my beach chair and umbrella to the attic, to scrub windows that will soon be latched against the cold New Hampshire winds, and to wash the cedar from wooly sweaters.  No more lazy Sunday afternoons drowsing on the beach.  No more humming of fans and tall glasses of lemonade.  No more long legged children who leave wet towels on the beds and unlaced sneakers on the floor. 

I sigh and shake my head- no pity parties for me.  There is applesauce to be made, and Christmas pajamas to sew.  The sky is a brilliant blue and puffy white clouds part to reveal a golden sun.  It’s time to say goodbye to summer and greet fall with open arms.

Fore!

I had wanted to learn to golf for a couple of years.  It seemed like a game I could enjoy- one where the competition can be fierce, but doesn’t have to be.  A game that people can play as kids, but continue well beyond the age of retirement.  And most of all, a game that requires no running.

In July, I went with my brother Eric and his wife, Colleen when they played nine holes of golf at a course near their home.  Because I don’t golf, I drove the cart, which, by the way, is loads of fun.  I watched them play, noticing how calm and peaceful the course was, and thought how much I would like to learn this game. 

This weekend, after much teasing and cajoling, I got my chance.  I drove to western Massachusetts for the Labor Day weekend, and Eric and Colleen took me for my first golf experience.    Before I left for the weekend, I told my friend Gerry about this, and he wrote me the following email:

10 things to remember about golf:

1. It looks much easier than it is.

2. If it is true that only the mediocre are always at their best, golf is one game where the average “good” player is always at his or her best.  So don’t worry if you aren’t very good.  Very, very few players really are.

3. Sometimes, seeing the Canada Geese along the water hazard on the 5th hole is more rewarding than the game itself.

4. When you see people squatting, studying a green for a left or right break, when they’re done, they probably still don’t have any real clue as to which way the green breaks.

5. How men score: One in the woods, two out of bounds, three in the lateral water hazard, four on the green, and three putts for a five.

6. How women score: I know the highest I can take on a hole is an 8, but I think I got a 12.  I’m not sure though.  Between the penalty strokes and the whiffs, I lost count.

7. Cell phones have no place on a golf course, except in an emergency. 

8. Don’t take too seriously the helpful tips from others in the foursome about how to correct your swing errors.  If they knew, they’d be teaching pros, and they’d hit the ball better than they do.

9. If a teaching pro comes up behind you and puts his arms around you to “help show you how to swing,” he’s trying to pick you up if you’re a woman.  If you’re a man, he’s gay.

10.  Beer will not improve your game, but it does help to make it more relaxing sometimes. 

Have fun! 

After spending the afternoon at the Par 3, which, as far as I am concerned, should be called Par 6, I have this response to Gerry and to all those people who play golf:

1. Gerry is correct- it does look a lot easier than it is.

2.  I am striving to reach the status of “not very good. “  It is an improvement over my current status of “stinks.”

3.  If there is water, my golf ball will find it.

4.  For some people, golf is a serious game. For me, it is an opportunity to give my brother, my sister-in-law, and everyone else on the course a hearty laugh.  Or rather, several hearty laughs.  Especially those guys whom we allowed to play through, since it took me so long to get my ball to the green.

5. There is a lot to think about when golfing: How to lock my left elbow, but keep my right one bent.  How to plant my left foot but lift my right during the swing. How to keep my eye on the ball, even when I fan the stroke.  Oh, and how to remember how many ^&*()&*()_++_)_ strokes it took to get to the %^&*I(O)P_&**ing green.

6.. The sound of the ball dropping into the cup is extremely satisfying.

8.  Spending time outside with two of the people I love most in this world outweighs any embarrassment, although, I’m not sure they feel the same way.

9. I knew I was in trouble when the clubs weren’t even in the car and I started planning for the next time.

10. Two (yes, kids, two) glasses of sangria during dinner afterward  didn’t improve my swing, but they sure went down easy.

Shoes and Arrows

On Children  ~Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

“Your children are not your children.”  This was a lot easier to subscribe to when I was a theoretical parent.  When I was a young woman, I believed that I would raise my children to be independent.  To have minds of their own.  To be free spirits who lunged toward life with unfailing bravery, never looking to the side, never looking back.  Then parenthood happened, and I realized that kids don’t always make good decisions. 

I should have known this by personal experience.  When I was in fifth grade, my parents brought me and my siblings to a local shoe store to buy new school shoes. With eight children who grew faster than mold on bread, I can only imagine what a financial drain and monumental task this must have been.  I always wondered why Pete, the store owner with the raspy voice seemed harried when the whole lot of us filed into the store, sat in the red leather chairs and removed our shoes.   He patiently measured each foot, laced each shoe, and placed it on our feet, making sure there was a thumb width from the top of our toe to the end of the shoe.  Then he had us walk up and down the rug to make sure they didn’t slip in the back or pinch our toes.  One by one, he and his wife Doris would wait on each child until we were all laced and buckled into shiny new shoes, begging my mother to wear them home.

My practical mother always selected shoes made to last longer than they would fit, with rugged soles and sturdy stitching, but on this particular trip a pair of shiny black oxfords caught my eye.  They were much more delicate than the shoes I usually wore, and the soles were glued on, creating a smaller, more feminine silhouette. I immediately fell in love with them and pointed them out to my mother.  To my dismay, she shook her head and explained that the shoes I had chosen were not made to last and I would need to pick a pair from the selection that Doris held up for me to admire. 

This was not a message I wanted to hear.  I loved those shoes.  I hated the others that smiling Doris nudged closer to my face.  And so the battle began.  I whined.  I sulked.  I protested that the other shoes hurt my feet.  I dug my knee socked heels in so hard that my mother did something she rarely did. She caved.   However, the concession came with a warning.  If the shoes fell apart, a replacement would not be provided.  I cared not one bit, but danced home in victory, my shiny black oxfords on my feet.  I was thrilled, but only for a few weeks.

As my mother predicted, the shoes did not last long.   Within a month, my white socks could be seen peeking out from the hole between the soles and the upper.  And true to the warning, I had to wear torn shoes for the remainder of the season, because there was no money to replace them.  The embarrassment of wearing torn shoes to school far outweighed the disappointment of having to choose a more practical option.

I didn’t realize it then, but now I know how wise my mother was to know that sometimes kids have to make their own decisions- good or bad.  She knew that the best lessons are learned by living them and that experiencing a few bumps along the way is all part of the Master’s plan.

I, on the other hand, struggle with this concept.   I have to fight the urge to protect my loved ones from the consequences of their actions.  I want them to always make the right choices- to opt for what will be good for them in the long run.  I don’t want them to make costly mistakes.  I don’t want their cheeks to burn from embarrassment.  I don’t want them to feel the sting of their errors. 

But it’s not about what I want.  It is about what they need.  They need to live their lives and make their own decisions, right or wrong.  They need the freedom to choose and they need to be allowed to make mistakes. 

Like Gibran said, we are not the arrows.  We are the bows.  So, reluctantly, sadly, I draw back the bow and let the arrows fly.   And although tears roll down my cheeks and splash on my feet, I know it is right.  Because it is not my life and they are not my children.

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