Category Archives: Nostalgia

Thoughts of My Gram

 

It’s strange sometimes the things that can remind you of someone, a person that may not have crossed your mind for a long time or had a reason to think about.  A song, a place, an article of clothing or a certain type of food. The most arbitrary of catalyst triggering remembrance.

A few days ago I looked out at an extremely crowded waiting room at work and thought about my grandmother, passed about twenty years now.  I looked out at the mass of people, turned to the student that was shadowing me, and remarked that “they must be giving away something for nothing here.”  It was a line that my grandmother used whenever we would pull into a parking lot that contained more than a handful of cars.  As a child I found it much more humorous than the student seemed to.

She lived farther away from us than either of my children’s grandparents now do, but was an important figure in my life growing up.  Summers meant vacations at their house. A week solo for myself, one for my brother, and then a week when we were both there. This time was spent working in their garden, swimming in the only privately owned pool that I knew of, and watching old episodes of Get Smart and Batman using a new innovation in technology called “cable television.”  It was also a time for reading, hours spent in silence as we lay across her bed in silence, each privately engrossed in whatever novel currently had our attention.

 

thinking of gram
sorry ladies, I did some cropping

 

My girls are very fortunate to have two grandmothers and a grampy that are very involved in their lives, as are my brother’s twins.  When she was younger a grandfather that has since passed was a very important role model in the teenager’s life and I sometimes wonder if she may have avoided a few of the pitfalls that she has stumbled into if that influence was still with her.

Over the past few years several very close friends of mine have been confronted with their parent’s mortality. Passage for some, ongoing fights for health continuing for others.  It’s something that’s painful to consider, but a reality that we all must one day face. One more reminder to cherish every day that we have with those that we love.

I think that recent thoughts of my grandmother may have been subliminally influenced by this picture, taken to commemorate the little’s first 100 days of kindergarten.  It’s meant to depict what she will look like at 100 years old. My daughter absolutely hates it, but I think it’s hysterical.  It also kind of reminds me of somebody.

 

looking like gram
a little bit freaky

 

 

 

Next Generation Speedster

 

No matter how long you’ve know somebody or how close you may believe yourselves to be, there are always some things about each other that you may not realize.  Beliefs, idiosyncrasies, fears.  Any number of surprises waiting to be discovered.  Over the past year many of us were faced with the reality of good friends, even family in some cases, that we were much farther apart from politically than ever before imagined.

My wife recently learned something new about me.  Not really a secret, nothing intentionally kept from her, but a skill that she had never seen me demonstrate in all of our years together.  She found out that I’m a kick ass roller skater.

Some of you are probably laughing right now, and I understand that. This beer belly doesn’t exactly scream athleticism and most days my gait is closer to Fred Sanford than Scott Hamilton.

It may also be that you are too young to understand, coming of age in an era that gave you a wider variety of things to do on a Friday night or Saturday afternoon.  If that’s the case, you probably didn’t understand the Fred Sanford reference.  You probably don’t know what it means to “shoot the duck” or ever bruised a tailbone showing off to Van Halen’s “Jump.”  Your first taste of romance probably wasn’t holding a sweaty hand while couple’s skating to Journey or REO Speedwagon.

If you did, then you understand how cool this makes me.  How impressive that after a twenty five year hiatus I was able to lace ’em up and not completely embarrass myself, only falling down once during the three times we’ve gone these past two weeks and not severely injuring myself.

Alaina’s first attempt at following me down this road to awesomeness wasn’t overly successful but I didn’t push her to continue trying as much as I may have another day.  As much as I sympathized with the parent’s trying to hold a winter birthday party on Super Bowl Sunday and appreciated that it was held several hours before kickoff, I deemed the risk of an afternoon in Emergency Care too great.  Everybody seemed content with cake and the video game options available at the facility so I let it go.

 

Secret Skill
not quite ready to borrow my keys

 

She, however, was not.  With yet another birthday party looming at the same place the following weekend, I wasn’t at all surprised that only a few hours later she was asking if we would be able to go back and practice before then.  For my local readers, Tri-State Speedway in Dudley, Mass has a rink that is much slower than the one in Plainfield, as well as a go kart track, bumper cars, mini golf and a large soft play obstacle course.  As an added bonus, there is a sports bar attached. It was the perfect place to refine her skills.

 

An Unknown Skill
the face of determination

 

The practice paid off, as it usually does.  She still wasn’t comfortable hitting the hardwood without assistance, but the kid was doing some serious cruising and had to be coerced off the track when it was time for pizza.  Once again, she made this dad proud.

 

getting the hang of it

 

There aren’t any more skating parties in the near future, but she’s asking to go back.  It’s a great way to get some exercise during these last few cold months and one of our jobs as parents is to pass along our knowledge and skills.  Its also more fun than I should probably admit whipping around and reliving my youth.  I just need these blisters to heal first.

 

 

Pictures Aren’t Worth a Thousand Words

 

Eve 6

 

Last night I was able to sneak off by myself for a few hours and see pop-punk band Eve 6 at the Wolf Den at Mohegan Sun.  As usual my trip there made me wish that I had more willpower when it came to walking by the slot machines on my way out, but this trip also left me feeling both nostalgic and grateful.

Nostalgic because I was reminded of all the great songs that this band recorded in the late 1990’s and first few years of the 2000’s.   In those early days of Napster and file sharing, “Here’s to the Night” was the first song that I ever downloaded, taking approximately twenty minutes to finish.  In those days Friday and Saturday night plans were made based on which cover bands were playing the circuit of bars that I frequented.  The song “Inside Out” was a staple of many of these bands’ set lists.

Grateful because there isn’t a whole lot from those years for me to be proud of.  I remember seeing the band at a music festival around that time, but who I was with, who else played, and much of the rest of the day escapes me.  I’m fairly certain that was the mosh pit where I got cut over both of my eyes after having my sunglasses punched into my face for defending a girl being groped while crowd surfing, but I’m not positive.  Seeing them play live again was a nice time, but being home with my wife by 11:00 and waking up to take my daughter to school made me much happier than anything that may have occurred on that night almost twenty years ago.

 

While waiting for the show to start I spent some time chatting with a younger couple sitting on one side of me and an older one on the other.  The younger couple were trying to decide what pictures to delete from their phones to free up some storage for a few of the band.  The thousands of pictures were all of their children of course, leading to some small talk about parenting ( because that’s what parents do ) and comments from the older couple about how many more photos they had of their two small grandchildren than they did of the entire lives of their two adult children.

It brought to mind a conversation I had earlier that night at work about how cell phone cameras have completely changed the way that we document our lives and also a half written post from about a month ago about how I’m not sure that pictures are always enough. They are reminders of a slice of time, but not true stories of the moment.  I have no pictures of that Eve 6 concert all those years ago, but even if I did, what would that tell me other than that I was there?

 

Earlier in the week my wife was telling a group of people about the spectacle of herself our youngest had made the prior evening at Daisy Scouts.  One of those in attendance mentioned to her that “she really should write this stuff down.”  I found it an ironic suggestion coming from an e-mail subscriber to this very blog, but the fact is that I did write down my wife’s story, adding that moment to all the others being collected in a pile of note books I’ve been scribbling into for the past two years.  I wrote it down not as potential material for future use, but because more and more these notebooks are becoming more about documenting moments than they are first drafts of blog posts.

I’ve mentioned before that this is never going to be a place where I share parenting advice other than the occasional “what not to do”, but I’m breaking my own rule today.  You don’t need your own blog, a fancy scrap booking set-up, or a secret diary under your pillow, but I’d encourage you to write things down.  Spend two dollars on a simple notebook and take a few minutes every week documenting what happened and how you felt about it.  Even if you don’t have kids, write things down. Write down things that you don’t want to forget because the odds are that you will.

I’m old enough to still be amazed by the idea that I have not only a camera with me at all times now, but a video camera.  I take a ton of pictures and the kids enjoy looking through them with me from time to time.  I have a feeling that one day they are going to enjoy flipping through my notebooks even more.

 

 

 

A New Appreciation For Video Gaming

 

It had been a while, ten days to be precise.  Looking forward it would be another six until it happened again.  A rare occurrence lately,  yesterday I found myself presented with four full hours with nobody else in the house but me, a dog, and a bunny rabbit.

There was a lot that I should have done, things either easier or only possible without distraction.  Pretty much anything that would involve reading, writing, or thinking actually.  Instead I spent the entire time playing Shadow of Mordor on the Playstation.  For those that are familiar with these sorts of things, it’s a game best described as Assassin’s Creed set in the Lord of The Rings universe.  For those that aren’t, it’s basically a forty two year old man pretending to sneak around and stab orcs.

 

Gamer Kid

 

I’m far from what anybody would describe as a hard core gamer.  I played Donkey Kong on our ColecoVision in the early 80’s, upgraded to a Nintendo and Super Mario Brothers a few years later, and spent my share of quarters playing Contra and Gauntlet at Gardner’s Lake and the Norwichtown Mall, but was never really any good at them. My buddies had epic, high stakes R.B.I. Baseball tournaments in the early 90’s but I sat most of those out, wisely calculating my odds at winning $20.00 buy in games of Risk or Monopoly to be higher.

 

One of the disadvantages of being proactive with Christmas shopping is the inevitability of a late addition to the list of things that they really, really, want.  Almost exactly twenty four hours after declaring myself completely done and vowing not to buy anything else, my daughter decided that the only thing that she cared about receiving this year was a “zombie video game”, making sure that Santa was made aware of this during our yearly visit.

She has a few puzzle and racing apps on her tablet, but to my knowledge has never seen myself or anybody else actually playing a real video game, so I assumed that whatever expectations she had would be fairly easy to meet.  Finding anything remotely zombie oriented and also age appropriate for a five year old proved a small challenge, but eventually I stumbled across Scooby-Doo : First Frights, dusted off the basement Wii and bought what has so far proven to be her favorite present of the year.

 

gamer girl

 

There is some cartoonish violence, but nothing worse than on a typical Scooby Doo cartoon episode.  As with the television and her tablet, her time playing will be monitored and limited.

To be more precise, her time playing will be limited to when I am controlling Shaggy.  Not because I’m concerned about over-aggressiveness, desensitization to violence or any of the other problems that studies claim to have linked to gaming, but because I want to see how the mystery that we are currently working on ends.

Gaming also has been been shown to increase hand – eye coordination, speed of decision making and the ability to multi-task, but most importantly it’s something else for us to do together this winter.  We argue over who gets the most Scooby Snacks, she can’t seem to hit the jump button without physically jumping, and whenever we do have to fight something she spends more time hitting my guy with her sausage links than the enemy, but this might be my favorite Christmas present in a long time also.

 

new gamer girl

 

 

 

 

Off to Work She Goes

 

My first exposure to the working world came when I was in the sixth grade. Our small town had a Summer Recreation program where older kids could make a few bucks supervising dodge ball games and other activities designed to keep everybody busy and active during the summer break. I have no idea how much money we actually made, or how this didn’t violate child labor laws, but it was an actual paycheck for not doing much more than hanging out with my buddies, dishing out ice cream, and putting band aids on skinned knees.

From that point on I was pretty much always working. I spent a lot of time shoveling manure and stacking hay bales at my friend’s farm, did lawn maintenance at the town baseball fields, and spent a summer painting houses. I spent two years at a plant nursery making $4.25 an hour, two  months at an Ames department store as a cashier, and two weeks in the housewares department at Caldor trying to figure out the difference between valance and regular curtains.

While working at Tri Town grocery store I made more lifelong friends and have fonder memories than I do of my entire four years of high school.

 

tri-town

 

The teenager now has her first job, a moment that I feel is just as memorable as first car, first kiss, or first apartment. I’m discounting the time she spent at a country store because she only got paid based on the store’s performance on that particular day. The only thing she ever seemed to come home with were some dubious right wing conspiracy theories and revisionist history books.  Apparently the US government was responsible for the cancellation of the  post apocalyptic television show Jericho, a shame because I really liked it.

She’s now the newest hostess at a local restaurant, working the dinner and evening shifts every Friday and Saturday night. These hours have the dual benefit of not interfering with her school work and also renewing the interest of all parties in the procurement of her driver’s license, her next big life milestone.

I have no idea how long she’ll stay there or how she will one day look back on her time at this job.  So far she seems to like the people and the money that she is earning. Its much more lucrative than collecting our empty bottles and cans. She’s learning responsibility, going in on a night when she wasn’t feeling well, and financial strategy, giving us half of her earnings to save.

She’s proud of herself and we are proud of her. Welcome to the work force, honey. Only forty eight more years until retirement.

 

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