Let Everyone Play

In 1984, many of us remembered Sally Fields holding onto a coveted Oscar for her role in “Places in the Heart” and declaring, “You like me. You really like me!” In actuality, what she said was, “I can’t deny the fact that you like me, right now, you like me.”

Like most of us, I’ve come to hold onto the first quote as the real one. For me it has accurately summed up my need for belonging and acceptance over the years, and explains why I felt so giddy last month after receiving my yearly t-shirt and hat from the Veteran’s Senior Center of Northern Ca.

I felt like some smilin’ 5-year-old, that day, who lost her first tooth and was eagerly awaiting a visit from the tooth fairy. And if the truth be told, I continue to feel that way.

You would think at this age that I’d be able to buy myself as many blue t-shirts and baseball caps as I wanted, and technically you’d be right. But there’s something that makes me cry with happiness when I think about what the shirt and cap mean. There’s something that’s so deep and primal about what those two items represent, that in one instance it overwhelms me with an unbridled joy and a feeling of unconditional acceptance and love. And in another instance, I travel back to my childhood, and am engulfed in a down-to-my-toes sorrow and a feeling of exclusion and dislike.

No matter how old, how rich or poor, how educated or uneducated we are; where we were born, or the color of our skin…we all have the need to belong and be accepted.

When we’re young, having friends is so important to our development and well-being. But maintaining friendships as we age sometimes becomes difficult. Our careers, family demands, and health restraints – all pull us in different directions – all pull us further away of what is truly important; truly valuable to our survival.

As a child, I keenly remembered being left out of play groups and study groups. According to a group of neighborhood kids, my family was poor and our father was crazy. So, it gave them a reason and justification to exclude me from playing kickball and hide and seek in the Cherry Street Park on those sultry, Adirondack nights as the lightening bugs dotted the sky.

“No newcomers,” Rosemary yelled as I rounded the corner from Orchard Street to Cherry, smiling with the anticipation of a naive 10-year-old who just finished her household chores and was ready to play. “No newcomers,” she yelled as I innocently looked behind me until the reality of her comment struck home.

Slowly my smile faded, ever-so-slowly my pace slackened. I was crushed – my spirit deflated – my self-esteem kicked in the stomach. But I knew then, as a 10-year-old that those kids weren’t going to get the best of me. So, I smiled even broader, straightened-out my young shoulders and walked right by them ignoring their jeers and taunts because I knew who I was – even as a 10-year-old – and I knew that I was better than their insults and abusive remarks, and I wanted nothing to do with them or their unkind ways. Or at least that’s what I told myself, as I walked around the block and went straight home to curl-up in my closet and sob myself to sleep, comforted only by the quiet and darkness of a long, summer night.

The fact remains: we were poor and our father was crazy. Killing guys on Pork Chop Hill during the Korean Conflict and leading men into a battle that took many of their young lives can do that to a person. There’s no doubt in my mind that my dad suffered from PTSD; no doubt in my mind that his self-imposed isolation and sitting for hours playing basketball with a small plastic, hand-held toy after he came home from the war were both signs of a mentally unstable young man; a man not able to appropriately parent four children and be a good husband to Mom. His demons were many and all went untold. So he’d thrash-out at my mother and beat-up on us kids and the more I’d watch shows like, “Father Knows Best,” and “Leave it to Beaver,” the more I thought something’s not right with this family, something’s not right in our home. But my mother would feed us, iron our clothes and try her best to keep smiling between my dad’s constant blows.

My mom would divorce him and eventually he died young – died alone and on vomit from an illness unknown, and I and my siblings went on with our young lives and turned into good people in spite of our poor start.

We had something more than money could buy – we had something more than fashionable clothing and all the newest toys – we had a mother who loved us and believed in us and taught us to be compassionate and fair. We had something that no one could give us or take from us; we had something undefined.

Our survival as a community, a nation, a world and a species, all depends upon our ability to make friends and play nicely together in the sand box that we call life. No matter who wins this election come November, may we all go forward and graciously let everyone play, because it’s necessary and it’s needed and it’s the right thing to do.

And in the meantime, I have a nifty new cap and a pretty blue shirt and I’m hoping that someday that everyone does, too. Have a great day, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes.

 

 

Advertisements

A Mouse in the House

After living in Northern Ca.  for over 34 years, technology and the entitlement that goes along with the money and privilege associated with that technology, has forced me to re-evaluate my opinion of my once thought of paradise that I call home and pack it in and go north to cooler temperatures and less people.  A friend of mine who moved out of the area herself a year ago volunteered to help me in my pursuit of such a formidable task, and I gratefully accepted and spent a week on the road looking at various cities for the Princess and I to call home after her retirement.

 

On the evening before I was to fly home after my house-hunting expedition, I got 2 back-to-back phone calls. One from my older brother, Anthony, telling me that his wife’s Dad was not doing well, and that they were disappointed and apologetic, but that our plan to get together and head to Mendocino for some camping and relaxing when I returned home was not doable for them and that it was unfortunate, but they’d have to cancel. The other phone call came from my distraught, out-of-breath partner, who animatedly informed me that my bedroom had been turned upside down and that there was an F-ing mouse somewhere in the house.

 

Accustomed to my cat’s mouse-gifting behavior from previous adventures, I tried to calm her down and assured her that the chances of a small mouse surviving the evening with two cats in a tiny house were slim to none and asked her, “Where are the cats right now?”

 

“Boo’s chowing-down and Molly’s spread-eagle on the couch,” she answered while gasping for breath. “And I’m not feeling so protected by these fur balls right now. If the truth be told, I’m feeling kinda freaked-out and that lump on the side of my head is totally throbbing. I’m not looking forward to going to bed with a mouse in the house, Lucie, and these cats aren’t making me or my throbbing head feel any better.”

 

Concerned with the fact that she said she had a sizable knot on her head, I asked, “Hun, how in God’s name did you get a bump on your head?”

 

“Well, she began, “Do you want the short version or the long version?”

 

“I just want the version that tells me if the mouse was involved,” I answered, while taking in a deep, cleansing breath. “Just give me the abbreviated version, please. I’m already on emotional over-load right now with my phone calls tonight, so please be succinct.”

 

“Well,” she again started. “The mouse ran. I chased it. Boo chased me and after the three of us were thoroughly pooped-out, Boo cornered it between the back of the desk and the front room closet, and then pinned it in the corner with her paw. I figured I could grab its tail and capture it and crawled under the desk to do just that; and when I did, Boo released the mouse and it jumped, scaring the hell outta me, and I smashed my head on the underbelly of the desk, losing the mouse for good.”

 

“I don’t know where the hell that flippin’ mouse is right now, Lucie,” she continued, “and I’m exhausted and my head hurts. I don’t know where it went, and it’s freaking me out. I need to go to bed, but I’m afraid the damn thing will end up curled up snoring next to me, and it’s making me crazy just thinking about it.”

 

“Listen to me,” I said to her aware of her fragile state of mind. “The fact is: you have TWO cats in a very tiny house with you tonight. You’ll be fine,” I said trying to assure her, but wondering where the hell the mouse went and praying that it wasn’t establishing residence in my thoroughly messed-up closet.

 

“Keep Boo hungry and go to bed. I guarantee you, Hun, you’ll be fine,” I continued all the while thinking to myself, “With her luck, the damn thing is gonna end up sleeping with her, and I’m not feeling too keen about putting our house on the market with a resident mouse.”

 

“Cazzo!”

 

So, we hung up and each went on with our evenings, and I eventually went to bed. The next time I heard from her was via a cryptic text at 12:45 a.m.: “Everything under control. Woke up to blood-curdling squeak. Turned on light. Saw mouse belly-up under kitchen table. Think it died from fright. Had startled look on face. Both cats with me when we heard last squeak. Oh well… Have a good flight home!”

 

Yep. Just another day in our crazy, wacky lives.

 

Have a great day, People, and I’ll catch ya the next time, looking at life from my shoes!