It has rained for days. I am not complaining, of course, because we have a backyard full of topical trees that love it. Also, the rain keeps the temperatures from ballooning past ninety-one each day (winning!). The kids are a little less impressed with six or more inches accumulating in three days.
This is exactly why I have to pull out Bill and Sharon from Kansas. They are just “real Topeka people” (Cameron Crowe quote – credit where credit is due and such) even though I have made them up entirely. Bill and Sharon have two kids and have saved all year for their big trip to Florida. They cut coupons, picked up extra shifts and saved all their pennies to fly here for some sunny skies and beach time – choosing a budget hotel (albeit one with a pool) because “they were going to be at the shore – all day, every day, sun up to sun down”. Bill and Sharon call it the shore; they drink pop and write out postcards to their folks back home. And all Florida natives feel sorry for them, because as nice as they are, they didn’t plan on an actual Florida summer: scattered thunderstorms with a side of a tropical depression. Oh, the forecasts might change it up – calling it “passing storms”, or “a chance of showers”, but the truth rings a little more like today’s advisory “violent thunderstorms in your area”…
My kids never want to hear about Bill and Sharon – because then they would have to feel a little less sorry for themselves, imagining that the worst time of year here was their only experience of this great peninsular state. In the car today, as we headed back home from errands, Big Sister held her hand up in protest, as I posed my usual question in this situation: “Did you think about…” “Please”, she pleaded, “not the people from Kansas”. “Or Iowa, or wherever they are from”, Little Sister added.
I stretched my lips in a tight smile and stoically nodded. “They are from Kansas” I started, “and they saved all year for this vacation”…Big Sister lifted her eyes to the roof of my car – in what might have been a precursory eye roll had there been any malice involved.
This is parenting. This is where the memories are made. They aren’t always shiny, or even fun, but they are ours. I am sure you have plenty of your own, but you can borrow some of my childhood favorites: once my sister was heavily into The Little House on the Prairie and decided to make what she gathered was an “authentic settler dish” (this turned out to be pork chops coated only in flour and fried in butter in a pan). When my mom delicately asked what exactly it was, my sister, exhausted from her life on prairie, bewilderedly called out “It’s cooked food”!(I have mentally said this countless times – in the same tone – as my kids asked me to identify spaghetti and meatballs, baked stuffed chicken and kale and potato soup on different occasions).
Another gem, polished through years of offering it up to us started in earnest to make us kids more grateful. If we complained about a shirt, or blanket or some other item, Mom would always ask us to “think of all the kids who didn’t even have a fill-in-the-blank” and how happy they would be just to have one. With Mom on a roll of gratitude reminding and perhaps not thinking it through fully, my sister complained of something on her face (I can’t remember exactly what it was – maybe a teenage breakout?!) and of course my Mom rolled out “Think of all the kids who don’t even have a face”. For years after, in my bedtime prayers I actually expressed my gratitude for having a face.
The point is that we can take away whatever we emphasize from each day. Yes it rained. We were cooped up. We were not at the beach. But we weren’t Bill and Sharon either. And I am pretty sure that even if they were sweating it out with a lazy air conditioner in a windowless hotel room, if they thought about it, they were each grateful just to have a face.