Yearning for a Front Porch

The sound of laughter and jokes from the front stoop below my bedroom window almost every summer night when I was around nine (my daughter’s age now) tortured me as I lay in bed, yearning for the days when I could stay up later, imagining that this tradition would carry over even after my more popular older (by five years) sister had moved on. I was wrong. By the time I was old enough to participate, there were only a few fleeting moments on my front stoop, as the neighborhood kids opted for other activities that I wasn’t always welcome at. (Let’s just say the neighborhood got a little rougher over those years).

I don’t have a lot of pictures of Deb and I when she was in high school, so this will have to do.

I feel like I missed out on something special.

Not that I didn’t have some time experiencing the porch life. There were the occasional games of Truth or Dare where I actually had to kiss a boy. The stoop became home base for games of tag that spread around the neighborhood.  There were hook-ups and break-ups (none which involved me, just the lone Truth or Dare kiss). But that only lasted one or two short summers, while my sister’s reign as queen of the neighborhood lasted pretty much throughout her teen years.

(Yes, I admit, I was jealous of her).

Of course, I had a few other front porch experiences as a child that live on in my memory. Perhaps the strongest of those memories was sitting on the front porch of my Great Aunt Irene’s house near the beach and listening to the stories of times gone by, of relatives long-gone, and of my father’s childhood that even as we speak fades deeper and deeper into lost memory.

As I was reading Kathy’s post called “Redefining Front-Porch Culture: Bloggers and a World-Wide Notion of Neighbor” flashes of these “front-porch” moments came into my head, and I realized that I really want a front-porch.  Our first house in Vermont had a lovely front porch, but it was on the corner of a busy street, and we weren’t there long enough to establish a front porch community. Actually, most of the meeting and chatting took place in the yard between two homes.

I miss that.

Our homes since then have been front-porch-less. Of course, in Durango, CO we would meet with friends in the neighborhood and chat in the driveway, but it still wasn’t the same. Again, we were on the curve of a somewhat busy street, so it wasn’t exactly the safest place for hanging out and chatting. I had to go to other people’s homes for that.

Now, in our current home, not only are we front-porch-less, but we are also up a steep driveway and hidden behind trees. It’s beautiful, but doesn’t lend to casual stopping by as someone takes a walk down the street.

No porch here.

Across the street from Sarah’s front window. A gap in the trees.

 

Kathy suggests that blogging is perhaps

“. . .  a front porch, of sorts—a place from which virtual neighbors come and go.  When we leave comments, we take the time to stay and ‘set a spell’.”

I like that image and that idea, but I still yearn for a real front porch. I want to live in a neighborhood where people know each other. I want to have friends that drop by for tea, and I want my house filled with the sound of children playing on the front porch or stoop.

I wonder if those kinds of neighborhoods even exist anymore? I’ll keep holding onto that dream and keep looking.

But for now, I guess I will enjoy my virtual front porch.

Would anyone like a cup of tea?

 

What To Do When You Are (Not) Snowed In

It was supposed to snow today, and I was kind of looking forward to it. I mean, I wasn’t looking forward to driving in it to run the errands Sarah and I had planned (shopping for a birthday present for Nathan, Valentine making supplies, and goody bag supplies for Sarah’s birthday party). So the light dusting on the ground this morning was fine, since we could go and get that down without any snowy adventure. But, then I was hoping it would come down a little, creating a quiet cocoon and an excuse to stay home, read books, watch movies and nap.

Sleep has not been my friend lately, and I really needed a nap.

The snow didn’t come, but my need to just do very little stayed with me.

Nathan is working a 9 to 5 day today, which leaves me on parenting duty. Did I mention I need a nap?

I managed to distract Sarah for a while, as she worked on making Valentine’s for each of her classmates, and I lay in my bed to read. But, every 15 minutes or so Sarah came into the room for something. “Mommy, can you help me make valentines?” She asked.

“They are your friends,” was my answer.

She asked again a short time later. She really didn’t need my help making the Valentines. No, what she wanted was me to be with her, on duty, not lying down and being lazy.

I grumpily complied.  Well, at least I came and sat in the same room as Sarah, while she finished her Valentines and then stuffed goody bags for her party (which isn’t until next week).

I know she wanted more from me, but the problem is I don’t have much to give. However, feeling like the world’s worst mom, and seeing the mess that Sarah left in the living room from card making, I decided we would create art together. Here are the results:

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So now I have a little over an hour to fill before Nathan gets home. What’ s next for our un-snow, snow day?

Reflections on Occupy Thanksgiving, Joy Tinged with Sadness

Starting to load up the table

Insomnia struck at 3:30 am after a fitful sleep before that.

Simply a result of overindulgence?

It would have been convenient if I was one of the crazy thrifty multitudes who choose to line up outside stores for the early openings and buying frenzy known as Black Friday, but I’m not.

Instead it was a reflection of something more. When denied sleep I buried myself in the beauty of tragic love past, reading Jane Eyre for the first time in many years and relishing every dramatic throb of love torn asunder. Finally, I thought I could go back to sleep only to find myself crying convulsively, waking Nathan with wracking sobs.

Why would a day filled with laughter, smiles and thanks bring on this insuppressible sadness?

Because amidst the celebration I saw my mother’s eyes tear up when Sarah interviewed her and asked two important questions:

  1. “What are you thankful for?” Answer: “That all my loved one’s are here together.”
  2. “If you could have one wish, what would it be?” Answer: “That Papa would get better.”

You see, in the cacophony of voices, telling jokes, sharing stories, there was one gaping hole of silence sitting to my left. My Dad, who used to be the life of the party, now caught in the trap of Alzheimer’s would only interject in discomfort or annoyance if we pushed him too hard to eat.

Note my tongue sticking out, a habit I got from my Dad

The silence is heartbreaking.

The day, overall was joyous. Sarah’s excitement and enthusiasm for interviewing everybody was contagious. The food delicious. The laughter and conversation scintillating.

It’s been a long time since my family sat down together for a meal, followed by playing games together.

Love this image with Mom joining in the fun.

All in all a wonderful day that I will always be thankful for, and that I believe Sarah will hold in her memory.

Sarah got the big end of the wishbone. I hope all her wishes come true.

Still, for me, a joyous day tinged with a little sadness.

Most photo's taken by Steve, also known as Taochild

It’s All in the Perspective

“I can’t believe we have a summer home!” Sarah KramerLee

Nathan and I couldn’t help but laugh at Sarah’s perspective on our summer lives. While my idea of a summer home might be more like this:

A dream home by the lake in Okoboji, IA

with the ability to do this on a regular basis:

Heading back to the dock to hang out after a lovely boat ride.

to Sarah that doesn’t matter. In her mind, and her perspective, this simple little cabin is our “summer home.”

At the cabin at Okoboji Summer Theatre 2010.

To Nathan this place is

“like going back for a family reunion after not seeing them for a while.”

It is a place to focus purely on doing good theater and quality work without other things interfering. In some ways, then, to Nathan it is a home, but it is also a job and an experience that he values every year.

My perspective becomes a little more complicated. If this is a family reunion, then I am the awkward black sheep relative–the one who wants to make her way into the family circle and does not know how.  I recognize and value the wonderful creative atmosphere of this place, as well as the work ethic. I crave to be allowed to contribute to this work using the skills I bring with me, because I do have the talent to participate on an equal level.  But, for a number of complicated reasons, I don’t feel that I have a role or a position to play here, beyond being part of this extended family. So, from my perspective, I can’t quite call it a summer home of my own–rather it is closer to the summer home that I hold in my dreams but have yet to really achieve.

I know that I’ll never achieve the true dream summer home, which requires an inflow of money that could only happen if I win the lottery. But I wonder if, with a slight change of perspective, I can begin to see this place as simply OUR SUMMER HOME.

Only time will tell.

What kinds of things do you think change depending on the perspective?

________________________________

Today’s Quote:

“Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.” Marcus Aurelius 

The American Dream in Reverse

I’ve always wanted to own my own home. I have now owned two. But I no longer own a home as of today.  Neither houses were dream homes (although the first was pretty awesome) but they were mine.

The house in the snow. I won't miss that part. Goodbye Colorado home.

[Well, sort of as of today, since the money hasn’t appeared in my bank account yet. Grrrr!]

Anyway, while I know it was the best thing, having to sell the house was bittersweet. Why? Because I haven’t found a new home yet. No, I’m not homeless. We just haven’t found the place we want to settle in, the place where we will all feel comfortable living. I’m not just talking about the physical location, but the community, the town, the state or maybe even the country.

It is also bittersweet because I don’t know if or when we will ever be able to afford to buy a house again.

But, there is a positive side to this. What, I am calling “The American Dream in Reverse.” See, while we did not make as much money on the sale as we had hoped, and technically lost money (because of an evil sale that fell through last summer after the buyers insisted on fixing the house which ended up on our credit card) but we still made some money. And, once we see it, I will pay off our credit card debt and put the rest into savings.

I like a credit card balance of $0.00.

The only people we will owe money to now are Nathan’s parents, who helped us out with maintaining two homes this year while taking a huge cut in income. I’m going to write a nice big check to them as well, and then pay back in increments as we are able. Great rates (0%) and no time limit, but I want to pay them back asap.

Still, I’m not a fool, and I’m putting the majority in savings to make some interest. Perhaps we will even invest it in some way. And then, since a  major move does not seem imminent from our current location, we will save money. We are switching rentals to help with that, and moving into a place that is giving us free reign to paint and decorate as we see fit–to turn it into a comfortable home. And as we save, we will make plans.

A new American dream.

If all works well, next year we will move on. Of course, I’d prefer to move with a job in hand, but if not maybe we can just take a chance and follow our hearts. Maybe we can find a place that calls to us and simply pursue our dreams. I know it won’t be easy, and that we will never be rich, but I am beginning to realize that happiness and fulfillment are worth pursuing, even if they are not easy.

So, maybe not owning  a home will be my key to a new American Dream, one that suits us all  better than the one that has failed us so painfully.

Who knows what the future brings?

Ice Cream Tastes Better . . .

I’m feeling a little nostalgic and lone today. I haven’t given my daughter the Memorial Day she deserves as a child. Maybe next year. But, thanks to her, and the little tinkle of music coming down the street, I got to eat a strawberry shortcake and find some words to write (words that have avoided me all day):

 Ice cream tastes better
when it comes off an ice cream truck.

Fried Dough tastes better at a county fair.

Marshmallows taste better after a barbecue.

Ice cold lemonade tastes better after playing in the sun all day.

Everything tastes better in the memories of childhood.

The Miles We Travel in Search of Ourselves

A Long Road Home

Image via Wikipedia

When you drive alone in a car for 8 1/2 hours it gives you a lot of time to think.

Of course, you can distract yourself by listening to the stories of other people or music. But that distraction only works if your mind isn’t constantly connecting what you hear with what you think or believe.

I learned that as tears poured down my face while listening to “The Tornado Prom” story on This American Life.

I learned that laughing my way through Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me and thinking, I would love to be a reporter on NPR.

I learned that listening to the podcast about Pop Culture from NPR (I’m not sure what it’s called, but it is connected with Monkey See. The discussion of books led me to think, “Oh, I should read that” but even more “How do I get paid to review books.”

When I lost the ability to listen to the podcast, and went to music, every song had a message for me . . . about life, about love, about following your dreams.

And the miles passed.

I thought about the millions of miles that I have traveled throughout my life. Sometimes the miles led to adventures, sometimes the miles led to comfort, but rarely have the miles led to home. I mean, I am technically “home” now, but I haven’t found the home that makes me stop wanting to following those miles.

Will I ever?

I’ve found temporary sanctuaries, but not permanent homes.

I was talking to the cook at the Summer Theater where I left Nathan and she asked “Where are you now?” I answered, with my usual “Kansas face”; the face that says I’m here for now, but hopefully not forever. She answered, “Oh, I thought you would be wandering gypsies” and then told me about this family she met in Florida that were travelling the country just to see if they could.

Part of me thought, how cool is that.

My journey is long–both the metaphorical one and the physical one. I wonder if and when I will ever come to rest.

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