I’ll Never Grow Up–NOT ME.

Peter Pan was an icon in our household. My mother was fascinated by the pixie image. Any sprite charismatic characters who were precocious, bright, and agile were her hero/heroines. This explains her desire to make me into Shirley Temple, but that is for another time.

We’re here to talk Peter.

Peter was a forever child. He never grew up. He was Puer aeternus. (eternal boy) the Scottish author J. M. Barrie created Peter from the memory of his brother who was killed at the age of 14. Barrie was merely six years old a the time of his sibblings death. The sadness and trauma of this loss to his mother left Barrie with a great need to fill the shoes of his older brother. She, in her grief, said she gained solace knowing that her son would always be a child, and thus never leave her. Being the youngest, Barrie  took on the roll of his brother, and eventually created Peter as a literary replacement for him.

As a young girl, I thought Peter was amazing. The whole concept of this nimble young boy flying into your room to sweep you off to Neverland was an exciting and wondrous thing.

Take me away Peter, the drudgery and sadness will be gone, and life will be constant adventures. The Darlings and Tink, and Tiger Lily and the Lost Boys will be our constant companions. We will fight Hook and crock and never once lose a hand.

His cockiness was endearing, and the self-absorbed cape he wrapped himself in was delightful

But then you grow up, and Peter stays the same. He has to. It’s not negotiable. You see, if he grows up he can no longer lead the boys.

He’s no longer omnipotent. He will grow old.

He will die.

In my life I’ve seen both genders embrace Peter. Our generation has been affected by these fairy tales like no other. I blame Disney. They annihilated the whole Prince Charming/Cinderella happy ending. I wrote about this once.  Here is a link to it.  I’ve seen both genders model their life after the Pan.  It’s as if we felt our ultimate destiny was to hope and wish that magic fairy dust, or the white horse, would bring about our salvation.

I can’t decide why my generation found the Micky-ization of our fairy tales so appealing. Maybe it was the colorful cartoon images, or the music and wacky sidekicks. I try to understand the whole take care of me thing, but my parents generation knew these stories as cautionary tales. My end of the line baby boomer generation seems to embrace them as role models.

Peter was a sad little boy who never got to be a man. Yes, he could eat what he wanted when he wanted. And yes, he could stay up all night with the guys and then sleep until 3.  He had the freedom to fight, laugh, and taunt without much retribution, but that didn’t really make him free.

Youthful arrogance and selfishness only turns into narcissism if it’s allowed to age.

The world eventually stops revolving around you, even when you stop noticing.

 

 

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So here’s the end game of all this.

In a world where school violence is happening on a monthly basis, guns are being toted around like hand bags into fast food joints, and kids are ducking from fists and bullets like Mayflies buzzing around their head; maybe we need to stop ourselves from worrying about growing old. Let’s concentrate on living well. Focusing on ourselves is fine, but living well is different from living like the world is orbiting around us.

Life is not to be lived as nothing more than a mirrored reflections of our needs.

Peter was a boy who never became a man. Let’s stop being children who never grew up, and become grown-ups who understand what it’s like being a child in this very difficult day and age.

There’s a difference.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking Gentle Care

Care always needs to be given when you are working with an old tattered robe.

Washing it too much can take the life right out of it, but too little and your family tends to make a rather wide berth around you in the morning as you go for your first cup of coffee.

Old things are comfortable and honest. They are part of your past, forgiving you for your mistakes, but never letting you forget them. They wrap around you like your true self, giving in to the years with ease, and reminding you that the ride hasn’t been as hard as you want the world to believe. Threads shedding off the fringe at the edge of the sleeve are easily picked free, and rolled between your fingers The softness coiling on the pad of your thumb.

Such are the things of age.

Such are we as we age.

Frank will be 91 this year. He is still living in his home with the help of family and friends. He gets by just fine thank you.

He speaks of a time in the 1940’s when he worked up in Alaska. The reason he was there doesn’t matter. Frank doesn’t care about those details. What is important is that he carried back $5000 dollars for that expedition. He traveled through North Dakota on his way home to Minnesota, and met a woman along the way. It wasn’t the woman he loved,or would spend life with, but she was oh so sweet.

He said sometimes you just never know, do you.

He still gets up every morning, though not as early as he once did. Taking pride in his appearance, Frank’s life is a throw back to the decades of Jack Paar and Martin and Lewis. He wears his a tie, vest, and watch fob, unless he’s working the garden. There was a time that his garden was a grand sight, with every imaginable vegetable growing in the sweat of sun. It granted all that peeked over the fence a view of a Technicolor patch of future stewed tomatoes and garlic dills. There is still great care taken with it, family and friends come over now to help. Alone now, he’s not inclined to sow all the seeds and transplant all the little sprouts. Frank focuses on squash, because it takes little effort but gives you a strong harvest. Sprawling leaves, some the size of his garden boot, flank and flap the garden trellis. Frank picks back the blossoms on many of the plants. This encourages fewer, but larger fruit.

Don’t be mistaken. Squash is a fruit. The seeds are on the inside.

squash

There are some details that are undeniable important.

Frank’s day job is going to recycling centers where he disperses his garage sale finds of copper and aluminum. He also dabbles in gold and silver. Anything that will give him a few dollars makes him smile. He isn’t a poor man, but the idea of performing any action not for profit is against his better judgment.

He’s a working man.

He lives alone now. He lost his wife Hattie about four years ago. It was sudden. He blames himself. Frank wasn’t by her side as she had her stroke. This is a dense weight he carries on shoulders once strong from labor.

The house is full of her memories, but now gives way to his daily rituals of washing, eating, sleeping and sorting. It’s still his home, and at 91 he still takes care of life. It’s a good life. It’s just not always an easy life. The threads are shedding.

Soft like a robe, age has wrapped around Frank, bringing him home; reminding him who he’s been, and that the hard times were worth the ride.

He’s taking gentle care of his well-worn life.

A Young Lesson On Dr. Pepper and Toilets.

I remember my third grade teacher. Her name was Miss Agurkis. Image

I was in love with her.

As a young girl with eight years under her belt, I knew she was the most remarkable person on the planet. It was an innocent love, one that you can only have at that age. It was the kind of love you can’t really explain. It wasn’t sexual, and it wasn’t hero worship. But I knew for the nine solid months of my third grade year, she was going to be the singularly most important person in my life.

She was just out of college, and we were her first class. A product of the 1960’s, she was the first person I met that had actually purchased a Beatles album on her own. She encouraged free thought, creativity, and laughter. Prior to her, my teachers had been traditional women of the 1950’s, kind but very stern and marginally distant.

But not Miss Agurkis.

I was an awkward girl, I grew tall very quickly, and by the time I was in third grade I was already a head above all the girls, and most of the boys. I was all legs and arms, clumsy as hell, and a bit of a clown. I wasn’t in the cool kids group, and nerds weren’t an actually classification back then. I spoke before I thought, a problem that some 50 years later I still feel challenged by, and I had all the insecurities that befall young girls, and old women.

Sometimes at the end of class, Miss Agurkis would ask us if we had any questions. One day I decided to ask the one question that had been on my mind for months.

Any questions? Laura, you have your hand up.

Yes Miss Agurkis.

What’s your question?

Why do boys leave the toilet seat up?

You can imagine the laughter, subtle name calling, and my ultimate confusion and embarrassment. I remember looking in her eyes for some relief, and she did not disappoint. She did not join the laughter, but instead simply said:

I don’t know.

She was honest. I loved her.

Around Christmas I was shopping at the drug store with my mother. I was looking at all the everythings that were displayed in multitudes around the store, when I spun around and knocked over the entire display of Dr. Pepper. It crashed everywhere and my tree limbs for arms and legs moved as fast as they could away from the mess. I hid in a corner crying. I could hear my mother yelling for me. I was terrified. I had committed the ultimate crime, and my mother was going to be so upset. Making a mess, PLUS embarrassing her, it was too much handle. I hid in that corner trying to be invisible and sobbing.

Suddenly there were two feet in front of me, and there was Miss Agurkis.

It’s OK. It can be cleaned up.Then she looked over her shoulder,  I found her, she’s over here.

NO.

Suddenly my mother was there.  She asked me why I was so upset.

I don’t know.

Miss Agurkis knelt down, Laura, it’s OK. Really. Accidents happen, and she reached out her hand.

I got up, and my mother hugged me.

I learned that accidents happen.

I moved up the elementary school chain, and the next year I went on to 4th grade where I published my very first story in the local paper. It was a Halloween story about a nice witch and an evil pumpkin. My mother was proud, but Miss Agurkis stopped me in the hall to tell me how wonderful the story was, and what a fine writer I would be when I grew up.

And then she left our school district the next year to get married.

I think about her now and again.

My mother was a strong woman, and I became as much her as any daughter can become, but I think I learned one of life’s valuable lessons when I was eight years old from Miss Agukis.

Sometimes accidents happen.

And if you can face the things that devastate you with your head up you will be able to see your way out of them.

Sometimes accidents happen.

And THAT may be why men keep the toilet seat up.

There Are Actually Lights All The Way Through, You Just Need To Look Up More.

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I’ll be 56 in a little over a month.

That is the first time I’ve seen that in print, and it’s dawned on me that after a half of a century of life you acquire some skills. Some are remarkable, You may have learned your job well, or mastered a musical instrument. Perhaps you have become a great cook; able to bake fabulous cakes and breads so luscious out of the oven that your friends and family love hovering in your kitchen. Maybe you can identify every sports hero from the 1900’s, or have knowledge of music that is unrivaled.

Skill-sets mastered by time.

Unfortunately there are other skills we master as we grow older that are not so revered. There is avoidance, self-indulgence, arrogance, duplicity, and of course, one of my all time number one favorites on the hit chart of life: fear.

Fear of: abandonment, losing your keys, looking like a fool, hurting someone, being hurt, reaching out, rejection, dying, watching a loved one die, having your cell phone battery die, and of course change.

Fear can creep up on you at the oddest times. Sometimes all it takes is one person you care about saying something in the wrong way. Perhaps they point out a flaw or enigma in you or your life  It may not be a bad or mean thing,  and you may be reacting to the way it’s said. There may be a raised eyebrow with a slight lift of the voice or even no inflection at all;  a cold stare and flatness.

Fear and doubt. They go hand in hand like cake donuts and coffee;  like cheese and wine; like peanut butter and onion sandwiches.pnutbutteronion

I know what you you’re thinking,  but it’s what I was raised on by my father. It’s quite good. You’ve got the savory and nut thing going on. It’s like Thai peanut sauce between two pieces of bread.

You have doubts. I can tell. It’s because of fear, and who wouldn’t be afraid of creamy peanut butter and onion sandwiches. It’s different. It’s not jelly. It’s a change.

My life, like anyone my age, has been nothing but a series of changes.  Many have been spread across the decades, but in the past four years I amassed a bushel of them, perhaps a peck, I don’t know. This isn’t uncommon. We all have periods of relative calm, and then BAM we have a few years of what-the-hell-did-I-do-wrong-to-deserve-this-shit. 

Sometimes there’s a catalyst, but frequently we’ve done nothing. It’s just change, which can eventually lead to greatness, but not always.

What it always does is throw fear and doubt into your life. I don’t care who you are or what you say, you can embrace change all you want, but your first reaction is usually some form of fear and doubt.

Why? Because of human nature? Fight or Flight?  Fear of the unknown? There probably all the same thing. What ever it’s called, we have it to some degree in our make up, just as sure as we have marrow in our bones.

So at  56 this is not the life I saw coming, and certainly not the life I had planned, but it’s the life I have, and I am thankful. Many wonderful things have come my way. Don’t get me wrong, I’m scared as hell. I finally have a place to live. A place that I will once more share with my grown son.  I’m interviewing for a new job, and in the last few months have a found a wonderful job on the radio that never, and I mean NEVER, in my wildest fantasy thought I would be able to do, but that I absolutely adore. I’ve ended one phase of my life, and I’m starting another. All of these things, bad and good, have caused me fear and doubt along the way, but for the first time I can see there is a proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.

The thing is-and this is the thing-if I’d have looked up more in the past four years I would have seen there were tiny little cells of light, all along the walls, guiding me towards the end,

Taken at Rice Creek Trail, North Minneapolis Area

Taken at Rice Creek Trail, North Minneapolis Area

but I was too busy looking down at my feet, wondering if they were going the right direction.

So today I begin the moving process, I have packed and lost many of my possessions in the past four years (I have packed up either my own personal artifacts or my business total of 7 times in that period). I won’t say this is my last move, but at least, for a time, I will have a place to hang my clothes, sleep at peace and make a sandwich.

One last thing-always, and I mean ALWAYS slice the onion very thin, and make sure to spread a layer of peanut butter on both pieces of bread.

If you take nothing else away from this today, please take that.

Take A Nap Under The Ass Tree

I just got off the phone with my son. He’s been interviewing and searching for a new job the past few weeks. On top of that tension, he is moving into a new place (with me), he’s in the beginnings of a new relationship, and he’s been staying with his girlfriend because he was forced to move from his apartment earlier than our new home will be ready. He feels like a burden.

He’s a stew of stress with a side of anxiety fries for dunking.

And he HATES dunking.

Within the course of the conversation he told me that his bumper had been ripped off his car by the car wash today, just after he gave his notice to his boss (and close friend) of four years. He had tentatively taken a job at a local manufacturing plant. It wasn’t his ideal, but he felt that it was the right and grown-up thing to do at this point in his life. I wanted to help, but there are no more band-aids I can put on the boo boos. I could feel his frustration and I couldn’t make it better.

He was dunking like crazy.

But then, as he was trying to bolt the bumper back on his 1994 Geo Prism, an individual he had known in passing from his job at the gas station and car wash (yup, car wash karma bit him in the butt) came up and offered him a job working in a group home. This is something that he’s always wanted to do, but never thought to apply for because he thought he needed to have experience.  The head of the group home told him not to think of it like that. He had gotten to know him behind the counter of the gas station and felt he was a strong man with great humor, but most importantly, he was a  REAL person.

I like that description of a child I helped raise: real. 

I told him how proud and happy I was for him, I told him he had a natural manner with people who were stressed or challenged. I had seen him work with young boys and girls a few years back who needed to focus their attention and learn to compromise. They always listened to him because he didn’t talk down to them. I told him that he would be great. Then, with a wry sound in his voice, he said:

Aw ma, I’ve been practicing for this job all my life, after all, I’ve learned how to talk to you, haven’t I?

I then called him an ass, and said the ass (him) clearly did not fall far from the ass-tree (me)

Really! Mom, I want you to imagine just what an ass-tree would look like. 

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OK, ewwwweeee…….

So now he’s looking at career instead of a job. He’s in a great relationship, and leasing a house that we can live in, and start our lives over. I am happy and proud of him. Words can’t even begin to explain what I feel right now.

Will this be his lifetime commitment? Who knows? Who cares? I’m just proud he’s real.

What more can I ask.

Parenting is a forever job. However today, I think I realized that there is a gambler philosophy attached to it – you’ve got to know when to hold them, and know when to fold them. It’s about timing, and if you can get it right, you can have some real surprises and real moments.

Maybe it’s time to put my feet up and take a rest under the ass tree.

Eweeeeeeee……..

The Six-Song Challenge, part one

My friend and co-worker Scott, who writes an excellent blog, sent out a Six-Song Music Challenge to some of his friends. I took the challenge. I was humbled by some fantastic songs listed. I hope you enjoy it. Take it yourself. If you do, post it in my comments section for giggles, and I will show it to Scott. It’s fun.

Name-Brand Ketchup.

six songsA few weeks back I got inspired to try something, so I cast this out to some like-minded peeps. As you can tell from the words “part one” in the title, this will be a multi-part series. Similar to a couple of othermusical discussions on this here blog. Six seems to be the going number for these things.

The task? Couldn’t be simpler. List six songs that you think everyone should know. Be serious, silly, pedantic, ironic: anything you like.

Briefly explain your choices. If a song has been recorded or performed by more than one artist, pick the version or artist you like best.

A handful of responses have trickled in, and I’m assured of more to follow. If you’re reading this, consider yourself invited. And if you’re just here to read the entries, I hope you tumble onto a song or three that you seek out and…

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It’s In The Eyes

I love blue eyes.

But I wish I had green eyes.

Sinatra, Newman, McQueen all had stunning blue eyes.

So did Leon.

But I wanted green eyes.  I wanted to be the one that Sugarloaf sang about.

I wanted to be the Green Eyed Lady, the wind-swept lady,the child of nature, and the friend of man

Instead, I was Morrison’s Brown Eyed Girl singing:
Sha la la la la la la la la la la te da.

Sugarloaf released their self titled album 43 years ago today, and the Green Eyed Lady was set free.

For the record, I also wanted hair like That Girl.