I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Once upon a time

Mama and me long, long ago
That phrase, "once upon a time" reminds me of the beginning line of fairy tales. I just read that it's been used in English since the 16th century, so I guess I'm not alone in remembering it with such fondness. In this picture, taken so long ago, I can look at it and wonder about those two long-ago people: mama and me.

I thought about her yesterday, since it would have been her birthday. Mama was born on July 30, 1923, and became a mother when she was nineteen. That makes the picture more than seventy years old. I'm sure it was taken by Daddy with his camera and preserved on Kodachrome, which shows Mama's beautiful long red hair, and my own blond baby locks. She used henna to bring out the natural auburn highlights in her hair. I remember when she would put what looked like mud onto her hair and wrap it in a warm towel, not forgetting to smear her eyebrows, so she looked fearsome to me, not knowing why she was doing it.

I've noticed that I remember things from my past that caused me to feel either fear or excitement, which helped the memory form permanently in my brain. I think of all the moments that have passed into oblivion because nothing caused them to stand out. I'm grateful for those moments that I still remember to this day. I have many fond memories of my childhood.

Probably one of my earliest memories came from a time when we had just moved to Puerto Rico. Daddy was stationed at Ramey Air Force Base, and we lived just a few blocks from the Caribbean Ocean. My parents must have taken me down there for the first time, and I saw a rather large crab walking on the sand in front of me. I was terrified, watching it scuttle sideways with its claws out and eyes on stalks. I started to cry, and realized that I had paid so much attention to the creature that I lost sight of my mother, which made me cry even harder. That memory comes back to me in technicolor, and I still see that crab in my mind's eye. Of course Mama came to find me, but my terror caused that moment to become a strong memory that stayed with me.

Even though we moved a lot during my childhood, I felt safe and protected because of my parents. Norma Jean and I had a rather idyllic childhood, I realize now, and most of my memories are good ones. Of course, there must have been moments when things were not so wonderful, but they are gone into the past, unretrievable because they didn't make an impression. That's just fine with me.

Norma Jean and I were as close as sisters ever are, and most of my childhood memories are shared with her. Sometimes we will talk about those times together, since we are the only ones still alive who remember them. And it always amazes me how differently we remember the same event. It makes me realize that memories are unique and probably bear little resemblance to actuality. Does it matter? I don't think so: I cherish the memories of my childhood and am glad that they are infused with happiness and feelings of being loved and safe.

How different the world is today. It's been a long time since that idyllic picture was taken, and now we have instantaneous communication across the globe. When something happens in (for example) France, I know about it immediately. And the sense of safety that I had growing up is completely gone; now I am cautious and worried when I see anything out of the ordinary. It must be very hard these days to give a child the same sense of security that I took for granted when I was young. But it's still possible; I see how my young friend Leo's parents shelter him from the news of world disasters. I was standing in line at the coffee shop behind Leo's mom after the Orlando shootings and started to talk about it with her, but she stepped between me and Leo and shushed me. I realized that she didn't want him to know about it. I stopped immediately but also thought about how difficult it must be to protect him from knowing about these awful events.

But as a child, what is most important is that you feel safe in your world, and events far away mean little. What was happening in the world when that picture was taken meant nothing to me. The Second World War was going on, with all the horrors that brought, but I knew nothing about it. Of course, we didn't have the instant communication of today's world, which made it easy to think that what was happening in my little sphere was universal. Not today.

I just went over to check on the news, which I do these days with trepidation. What awful event has happened while I slept? I see that there have been more shootings and that a hot-air balloon caught fire and went down in Texas, killing everybody aboard. The media capitalizes on these events and ignores all the good things that happened yesterday, because it's not news. I wonder how in the world I would protect a child from upsetting world events if I were trying to do it today. It would become harder and harder, the older they get.

Then again, the world of today is probably normal for most children. They have grown up with tablets and iPads and smartphones surrounding them. What is probably more important is the attitude of the adults in their lives. It makes me happy to see young people enjoying life and learning all the things that each of us still must learn to become responsible adults. That's going on around me in such abundance that I should concentrate on the positive aspects of life, rather than worry and fret about that over which I have no control.

I suppose it's inevitable as I grow older that I long for times gone by, thinking about "once upon a time" rather than looking for ways to distract myself from the ills of the world, which inundate me every time I open the news. Maybe that's what people are doing when they are playing something like Pokémon Go, the latest craze that I know nothing about. It's all over the news. Here's an excerpt from that link:
It quickly became an overnight global phenomenon and one of the most used mobile apps, reportedly having been downloaded by more than 75 million people worldwide. It was credited with popularizing location-based and augmented reality gaming.
I kept hearing about it, and I've seen people walking in groups down the street, looking at their smartphones, and I learned from Wikipedia that they are playing the Pokémon Go game. No, I'm not even tempted. I'm much more likely to pick up a new book or watch a series on Netflix than I am to spend time staring at my phone. I am curious to know whether any of my readers knows anything more about this phenomenon than I do.

Whatever. Today's world is a scary place, and if some people enjoy the distraction of playing games on their phone, who am I to object? We all have our coping mechanisms, and I have mine. I am currently reading a memoir that I'm enjoying very much: Breaking Night by Liz Murray. She was living on the streets at the age of fifteen but turned her life around and made it into Harvard. She's a good writer, too.

I did also want to say something about another coping mechanism of mine: my yoga classes. After I finish this post and stop at the coffee shop to visit my friends and quaff my espresso, I'll head to my Sunday morning yoga class with Laifong. I leave there each Sunday morning feeling terrific, as well as a little bit sore. She's teaching us very slowly how to get into a shoulder stand, using props such as a chair and wooden blocks. Fortunately for me, I am neither the oldest nor the most inflexible student in her class. I'm also learning some balancing poses. There was a time when all the stuff we're doing was easy for me. But that was then, and this is now, and I'm thrilled to be doing as well as I am. It sure helps to have a caring teacher.

Well, that is going to wrap it up for me this morning. I keep looking at the time and thinking about where I will be in two hours, and all that needs to happen between now and then. I hope you will have a wonderful week until we meet again. That said, with John F. Kennedy's immortal words, I'll close this post:
Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future. 
I don't want to miss out on the future!


Anonymous said...

It might be scary right now, but I still think World War II was the scariest war we have ever experienced. What we are experiencing now is nothing compared to that war.

Lucky you to have had a happy childhood. Not many people have had one.

Kailani said...

I used to subscribe to a newspaper (I even remember when there was a MORNING newspaper as well as an EVENING newspaper!), and I used to watch the evening news every single day. I stopped all of that years ago. If something doesn't happen in the first five snippets of world news, national news, local news, sports or entertainment that I have my Yahoo 'home page' set to, or if someone doesn't tell me about it, it just doesn't happen. I, too, got sick of all the horrible news, the focus on the negative a long time ago. I have refused for decades to open and read any news story on any type of child abuse (although I left the Catholic Church I married into over 10 years ago due to all the priest sexual abuse issues)...ever. Call me Pollyanna; I've been called worse.

I just wish I had the kind of relationship with my sister that you have with yours; but she was the proverbial 'middle child syndrome' martyr, and chose to 'leave the family' on her own decades ago. Oh well...

You are indeed lucky, and it is a much scarier world for our young ones now.

Linda Reeder said...

I am reading "The Nightingale", set in Nazi occupied France. Now there is real fear and danger!
I do not look at the world with fear. Maybe it is because danger has not touched me personally, but I see people around me as essentially good, just wanting to do the best that they can for themselves and their children. I do think we have become a rather selfish people, and that may be caused by the fact that there are just so many of us now sharing our space on this planet.
Memories are a funny thing. My sisters and I have quite different memories of growing up, even though the three of us are each just two years apart from each other. We are the three oldest and spent our childhoods together. You are right about what we remember, based on our emotional responses to an event.
The fog is here again this morning, and it's time for our walk in the coolness. Later we will gear up and go to a Sounders match at the stadium, along with a whole lot of other people just looking to have some fun. Of course there will be metal detectors to screen us as we enter the stadium. Such are the times we live in.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I have not taken to gaming on the computer (or other device) like I have to blogging or surfing the web. However, Pokémon Go, is definitely the latest craze. I've only read about it, haven't played it, so anything I say here is just an assumption on my part. I believe the object is to capture the little creatures using the GPS feature on your phone. For example, the game might show you a Pokémon at an intersection of streets near your home. You go out, go to the intersection, and capture the critter. You get points for that. You move on to another critter at another location. And so it goes as you move up the levels. The problems begin when one goes after a Pokémon that requires trespassing or going into a place where this kind of activity is not acceptable, such as inside a church. I'm not really too tempted to get into this game but I do think it will be successful for the company who designed it based on our ever growing addiction to smartphones. I enjoyed your post today, as always. Have a great week ahead!

Marie Smith said...

That little girl in the picture had such adventures in store! And still does!

Your Mama's hair was a gorgeous colour. Such lovely memories of her and your family. You were fortunate!

The communication age has cut us off from each other. The communication today is not person to person but instantaneous information via technology. We are isolated from each other with our devices in hand. I wonder if our isolationism has caused the problems of people turning to terrorism, looking for a place to belong. The personal connections are suffering or missing and people want to connect, if not within society, then within a terrorist cell or inspired by one.

I fear we are at the beginning of the age of terrorism and it will continue long past my lifetime. Meanwhile, we try to protect our children and do the best we can day to day to live our best lives. Raising children who want to make the world a better place is a good start. There is hope!

Elephant's Child said...

How I love sitting down to muse over the week and life with you in these posts.
Thank you.
And a wonderful, peaceful exercise filled week to you.

Gigi said...

I am so glad you are enjoying Breaking Night - I remember thinking that I thought this book would be of interest to you.

I love the picture of you and your mom!

Have a great week, DJan!!

Rian said...

Love that pic of you and your mom, DJan. And I too have happy memories of my childhood... always felt loved and safe. So glad that you and Norma Jean can still share those memories. And I think you're right about kids today being more affected by the *attitude of the adults around the* than by world events.

Red said...

The section on memory has really got me thinking. I have never stopped to think that most of my memories are gone. I have the same experience with my brother that we remember things just a little bit different. I feel safe. I don't worry about the bad guys. Yes thee are places I wouldn't go but I don't think anybody is out to get me. Oh , you start this post out with a great photo to emphasize past memories.

Sally Wessely said...

Beautiful post in so many ways because you capture even the bad news of the day with wisdom and insight.

I love the photo of your mom and you. I don't recall ever seeing that one before. What a treasure. Memory is a strange gift. I find it crazy the way my sister and I differ in the way we recall events, people, experiences. Lucky that I keep a journal. ;) In reality, the way I record an event is how I see it which is most likely very different from the ways other see the same event at the time.

I love the way your yoga class sounds. I wish I could find a good yoga teacher like that. I am going to a good Pilates instructor (when I get there) and her instruction makes a great difference in my success.

I've been away too long. Hugs.

Far Side of Fifty said...

That is a lovely old photo of you and your Mom! My Grands are playing the Poky game...Adam just got a phone and I asked him if he checked for pokeys in town one day and he said NO I forgot I had a phone! I would probably play it but I don't have a phone and never go far from home. I can see shielding children to a certain extent but sooner or later they will be confronted with all the bad news out there...I think some news is a great discussion point for parents and children.:)

Tabor said...

I do wish they would post more good news. MOre success stories, more kindness stories. There is a lot out there and it would help us cope with the bad stuff. We seem to be at a turning point, perhaps global population has grown too much and we are going to pay for it with another war of grand proportions which will then cause us all to be nice again. My mother always said not to worry about things over which you have no control, and I do follow that philosophy and live my life in my part of the world as best I can.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Beautiful photo of you and your mom and a beautiful post!

Rita said...

I avoid the news. I know it is there and that I am missing many horrible events and I don't mind at all. You know how I feel about spreading negative energy, so I don't want to absorb it. ;) The world has always been an absolutely evil horrible place and an astoundingly beautiful holy loving place. It has always been both and I doubt that is going to change any time soon, so it is what you focus on. Just as your memories are what you focused on at the time--what was important enough to imprint.

I do wish the press wouldn't focus so heavily on the negative, but that is what catches people's attention and sells. They don't just tell it to you, either. They milk it for all it is literally worth and tell it over and over again. Their choice. Mine is not to listen. As much as I believe in the evil in mankind, I totally believe in our goodness, too. It shines as brilliantly as bright stars on a dark night. That's my focus. And you are one of the stars, my friend. :)

Arkansas Patti said...

Loved the picture of you and your Mom. You look the same today--Ok--you are taller now:))
You and I were both lucky in our upbringing. I too always felt safe and loved, even when material things were not always handy.
I do remember the fears we felt as children after the Atomic Bomb. "Duck and cover" was a staple drill in our schools. Films shown in school auditoriums showing the devastation that bomb could cause made us take the drill seriously.
I wonder if all the news today isn't desensitizing kids. They will grow up thinking mass shootings are common place.

C-ingspots said...

I really enjoy your posts, and love your outlook on life. Like you, I had an idyllic childhood and have so many fond memories. Don't ever recall not feeling safe. We are blessed, then and now.
There is a lot of terror and bad in our world, and I do believe that it's going to get worse...however, I do not live in fear. I believe there is still more good in our world than the bad that our media chooses to focus on. I have inner peace, but do have hope for so many who likely do not. There is always room and reason for hope. Love will always win over hate, or evil.
You bless your readers with your inspirational thoughts, and I am thankful I found your blog. Your writing to me is real, thought-provoking and very positive. I totally believe in that philosophy of our thoughts becoming our words, which become our actions. So given that, we all need to ponder on things that are noble, true, good and beautiful. We can make a difference wherever we are.
You have got me seriously contemplating taking a Yoga class! Sounds wonderful to me. For exercise, I ride horses, clean up after said horses, walk with my dogs and not much else. Yoga would help with my lack of flexibility and improve my balance. I hope you have a wonderful week!

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Ah you and your Mom look very happy back then. And yes the world is different now. It seems many generations have faced changes before us but perhaps not as profound?
One reader suggests we are more apart from our families due to new tech yet I find Facetime very special to bridge the gap between here and abroad and I get tp see my family in action.
As for the crazy game well I am reminded that one person can very quickly take control of a huge number of people who believe to be having fun off their sears by walking all over the place but sadly safety is a risk.
As foe your memorie being different from your sister we all experience that. What is intersting is we sometimes tend to put too much value and tryst unto those not recognizing that our brain has reprocessed some events over time and they are more likely to resemble a dream than a real event.
Hubby only this morning told me about how his Mom took him to his father's village where they had a snall property and spent summer holidays there. He only reca;;s himself and his Mom doing this. Odd since he gad 3 older siblings and also 3 younger ones. His Mom would never have left her family alone. And more intersting in January his older brother visited us and gave me a similar account that he and Mom went to the village the summer vacations. I guess each child neede to believe they had alone time with Mom?

Elizabeth P said...

Feeling safe is something I haven't felt for a long long time. Unlike our un-technological world in which we grew up in. Of course I have embraced much of the technology coming our way but I do set limits.. such as with Pokemon... I'm with you, I would much rather read a good book or watch a series on Netflix, Amazon or Acorn. I also, perhaps irresponsibly, do not read newspapers. I live in a very rural setting in a 100+ year old barn on an old farm surrounded by nature. I don't often feel the need to go out into the so called "real" world since I no longer work due to fibromyalgia. Hubby works still and does most of the outside chores. The Internet is able to keep me in my little nest affording me the opportunity to order almost anything I need that Hubby can't get. I have no children and they would be grown and out of the nest by now anyway. So, it's just me and Maggie my gray tortoise shell cat and my hubby...
Thanks for taking me down memory lane... it was an unexpected treat!
Hugs for now...

Weekend-Windup said...

It is nice to have a walk in the morning which will make us feel fresh and active the whole day. Reading books is a good hobby. We can improve many things by reading them. You and your mom looks so cute. Cute old photo.