Monthly Archives: February 2012

Uphill, Both Ways

      Its been creeping up on me for a long time.   I finally have to acknowledge something that my children have known about me for awhile.  Like my father before me, I’ve begun whining about How Much Things Have Changed.  Sure, I never walked five miles to school, uphill both ways, in 40 below weather with a lunch bucket frozen to my hand.  Dad, you win that one.  But!  Brace yourself for this, and Clarence, thanks for bursting my bubble. I just found out that there are hotels in the Himalayas on the way to Mount Everest.  Hotels!!  Nothing else could signal so well the collapse of the world as I knew it.  Next thing you know, people will be driving around the golf course in cars.  Wait.  They do that already.  But back to the Himalayas.

     Way, way back, in 1979 to be exact, Clarence and I were hiking to the Everest Base Camp.  Those of you who know me well will understand that this was not my idea.  On the other hand, being only twenty-four at the time, I was eager to take part in it.  I mourn that change as well.  But anyway.  We walked about 250 miles over 24 days.  That’s two hundred and fifty miles! It was mostly uphill!  There were no hotels, per se.  Instead, we stayed with the Nepalese people in their homes.  While this was a rich cultural experience that I in no way regret, it probably explains my tendency for intermittent coughing.  The people built huge fires in their small huts, and at night they closed all the windows and doors.  There were no chimneys.  So the smoke just built up until you couldn’t even see the person lying next to you.  On the other hand, it helped hide the rats that lurked in every corner. 

     On second thought, they didn’t lurk.  They gamboled around the room, having an especially good time on top of my sleeping bag.  Then there was the food.  It was mostly rice and dalbaht.  (I may be spelling it wrong, but I can’t find my diary.)  There was no butter.  No salt and pepper.  Just rice.  The chai was good, though.  We stayed one night at a monastery and bought a wheel of yak cheese so large, it would have looked comfortable on a tractor.  We could barely carry it between four of us.  Still,  we ate it in three days.  Now, I know what you’re thinking, but don’t worry.  Nothing gets plugged up when you’re walking for eight hours a day, uphill.  Its an impossibility.  (Side note: when I came back to Canada I searched everywhere for yak cheese.  Apparently, they don’t export it.)

     Rats.  Plain white rice.  Two hundred and fifty miles uphill.  To make matters worse, Clarence lost thirty pounds and I gained five. I could go on (and  will, if someone asks me to.)    But my point in all the whining is this.  What’s next?  Sliding floors that help you move faster?  Wait.  They have those in the airport.  You get my drift, though.  Why does the next generation have it so much easier?  And will they at least appreciate the hardships we suffered?  I’m begging all the baby boomers who read this to take up my cause.  Whine to the next generation.  Carry on the grand tradition of belly aching about change.  After all, I’m only one woman.  I can’t carry the load alone. 

The Sound of Your Life

     I am aware of the fact that I have a good life.  This is true for most of the people I know, though all of us face adversity from time to time.  Still, I’m going to whine a little about something that my life is  missing.  In order to have it, Apple would have to figure out a way to make  life apps.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  I know which one I’d want, though yours might be something different.

     I would like my own personal soundtrack.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to live in a movie.  I like making up my own dialogue, thank you very much.  And I like being surprised by life, and also appreciate not knowing when the end is coming.  So, no script app.  But a soundtrack is a completely different thing.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to meet a friend on the street and have just the right kind of music playing lightly (or not so lightly) in the background?  If the conversation was intense, there might be a pulsating undertone.  Or maybe just a poignant violin, depending on the topic.  If one of you was having a bad day, the other would know it instantly.

 There might be some downsides to it, like if you were planning to kill somebody and everywhere you went, violins were shrieking like they do in horror movies, right before the monster appears. However, I’m a pacifist, so I don’t think it would be a problem.  Some of our family dinners might be a little crazy, but that would just be business as  usual.  We usually have music anyway, come to think of it.

     For my personal, every day life, I want the music to swell for me, like it did for Scarlett O’Hara in the movie, ‘Gone With the Wind.’   When I dig in our garden,  I want a whole orchestra backing up the flow of my tears as I hold up a shrunken vegetable and cry “As God is my witness, I’ll never plant potatoes again.”  So much more satisfying than just whining to my husband about it when things don’ t turn out.  And relationships would reach a whole new level of interest.  Especially the sex part.  (Forgive me, my children, but its true.  Parents have sex.  And yes, they would like some music, too.) 

     A soundtrack would be especially useful when times are tough.  When my self esteem is circling the toilet bowl with all the other crap, I’d like a little music to mark the pain.  Maybe our soundtracks could be programmed to gradually get more upbeat if we’re wallowing too long in our self pity.  It would drag us right out of the doldrums and have us marching to a whole new tune, feeling great about life again.  Most of all, I want a soundtrack that, like Mary Tyler Moore,  gives me permission to just go ahead and throw my hat in the air.   Because, if I do it to music, then I’ll know for sure.  I’m  going to make it after all. (drum beat and cat meow)  Sigh.

Love Story

This is reprinted for Connor and Cheyenne, Susan and Brent, and for baby Mason, the newest addition to the clan.
February is the month for stories of the heart.  If you’ve ever set sail on the ship of love, you’ll recall the intensity, the pain and the wonder of it all.  Yet ask any new parent about first holding their newborn, and they will tell you of a connection so deep, it makes everything else pale in comparison.  And so nature planned it.   
Why else would we willingly deprive ourselves of free time for the next decade, face an avalanche of poopy diapers, or walk the floor at 3 in the morning while singing old Barry Manilow tunes, which is the only thing your tired brain can produce and which strangely enough seems to help.  This is truly God and biology at work.  It amazes me even now how those tiny dictators have us hopping to attention, all the while keeping a firm grip on our hearts.
          And how does this explain that other love story; the grandparent?  Just when the kids have left home, the dog has gone to doggy heaven, and retirement looms like a sweet promise on the horizon, along comes the first grandchild.  Even if a parent is unprepared, and the grandparents are in shock, still, a new chapter in the book of love is written.  And this one is a blockbuster.  Plans fly out the window in the face of this new being.  Grandparents are as helpless as parents in resisting this tiny force of nature.  I hear grandparents say all the time, “You enjoy them, and then you send them home.” 
         But they don’t!  The grandparents that I know, including my own parents and in-laws, give up many weekends to care for their grandchildren, and most seem happy to do it.  It’s like an angel appeared with a trumpet and shouted, “Let the endless giving of time, love, and energy begin again!” But that’s not how it feels, because love never drains your batteries.  It charges you up instead.
          I remember when our oldest was a year old, and she threw up in the middle of the night.  I immediately called my parents, who came running over (though my mother is a nurse and should have known better.)  We all watched over Hilary like she was a time bomb ready to go off, and when she simply fell asleep on the living room floor, we all breathed a sigh of relief.  “That was a close one.”  No, it really wasn’t.  And of course, it happened time and again, though we all learned to panic less often.  The love was there, always, and the time given, with my mother taking turns walking the floor with her 16 grandchildren, and even traveling with my sister to conferences, walking around cities wearing her grandsons in the babyTrekker.  When I was feeling overwhelmed, my parents and in-laws would come over and hold my babies while I did housework. 
Love signs us up; we have no choice in the matter.  So this February, which many consider the month of love, I salute and give thanks for grandparents, who give their hearts over and over again, along with their time, energy, and money passed under the table to grandchildren.