A few evenings ago I watched a movie from a Louis L’Amore Old West story. His stories were always clear about right and wrong, about redeemable and unredeemable, about enduring friendship and love, and certainly about consequences for ones actions.
I’m reminded of the summer when the only thing my friends and I could play is Cowboys and Indians. Kids at our age didn’t have political correctness on our radar; frankly speaking, the idea of that kind of sensitivity wasn’t even invented yet. You may assume as we divided up that most wanted to be Cowboys, but that wasn’t the case. In our world the Indians could easily win too. Some of our games were co-ed; in fact, one variation of our play introduced the nurse/patient relationship to me. Yes, my first experience playing doctor happened that summer (circa 1965). That was certainly a “Happy Trail” day for me, I can tell you that! I shutter to think of my fate had HER mother come down stairs to see why we were suddenly quiet.
Many of my ideas about friendship come from watching westerns. It only took a few episodes of watching Roy Rogers and I understood why every kid should have a horse to call his most faithful friend and confidant. I dreamed of endless nights in the Wild West, sitting by a warm campfire with nothing but freshly cooked beans and a horse for company.
Not long ago my wife and I were in Canada for a birthday party. Our daughter has twins and twins tend to attract a lot of friends. At five years of age both can ride bicycles, climb trees, and do crazy flips on their trampoline. Their mother thought it would be great fun to order up an inflatable Jump-O-Rama, fully enclosed so that the throng of youngsters could literally bounce off the walls to their hearts content while celebrating. The children jacked up on ice cream and birthday cake only added to their energy that day.
We brought Silly String to the party. The kids immediately pretended the silly string can was a “ray gun” used by space warriors, running about shooting each other all while making the “ray gun shooting noises”. What fun!
Now Gran, the ever present, steadfast helper at these events, wasn’t so impressed with the enthusiasm the kids displayed.
Gran is the one to always arrive early to clean the home and help with pre-party details. When outdoor tables need to be set, the yard straightened up and last minute trips to the store are in order, Gran is quick to lead the way. I think every family must have a ‘Gran’ to stand in the gap.
While I was taking some pictures Gran walks passed me mumbling something. Again she crosses my path, in front of the camera no less, she pauses momentarily to announce how this party has too many kids, she is just put off by it all. (I should clarify that Gran wouldn’t actually miss a moment of it all, but her place in the family ecosystem is to complain. Mother Teresa being on scene wouldn’t have changed a thing, Gran is Gran.)
When she’s done with her brief rant, I commented, “How fun is this! These kids are gonna have some great memories from today.” Gran begrudgingly confesses, “Well I suppose.”
I’m reminded of a few friends and family members that have gone “off the rails” into a desperately sad lifestyle. You’d have never thought any of them would come to this. Years of unhappiness get replaced with more years of tragic results from their renegade ways. One family member, at the bottom of hopelessness, ready to end it all recalled a moment from childhood. The recollection was from a happy occasion when the family was all together, singing and enjoying each others company during the Christmas season.
It’s this memory, the solitary memory of a better time, which burst through their darkness to rescue them from that final abyss.
Today, you’d never believe they were ever at the end of their rope.
I choose to recall the good things more than the bad. Some days it’s the scenes of Christmas gatherings or family bbq’s, some days it’s remembering my kids as they declare a new family tradition was in order because the first experience was so memorable they want to repeat it.
The other day my daughter and I were talking on the phone. Out of nowhere starts to chuckle, recalling the time I brought some helium balloons home just so we could breath in the gas and talk funny. She started to sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” like one of the chipmunks but never got more than the first line out before nearly falling on the floor in laughter. My son didn’t quite know what to do and asked what song HE should sing! It doesn’t get much better than that.
I’m quick to laugh these days, I live a good life, with good family and we’re always making wonderful memories.
Thanks for reading this far. Helium balloons for Christmas… hmmm.