Passing by Home?

In my novel ROSA NO-NAME, the lead character ponders several times about what “home” is. In regard to the title of this post, I might be pondering that same thing myself.

When I was a kid, from approximately eight to twelve, I lived in Durham, North Carolina. It never felt like home because I’d had to leave the only home I’d ever known when my parents and I lived in Farmville, Virginia. So, when we later moved to Norfolk, it was a relief.

My wife and I drove back yesterday from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in western North Carolina. Just as we’d done going to the conference, we skirted Durham on Rt. 85. I usually just casually think, “I used to live here,” but yesterday I started remembering some of the things I hadn’t thought about in years.

Even at that early age, Duke University played a role in my life. My father used to take me to a barbershop at Duke for our hair cuts. No idea why. I remember a fountain outside that building, one that we could frequently see a rainbow inside or through. (Okay, so I’m a little hazy on details.)

Although I wasn’t big on admiring flowers, my parents liked to visit the extensive gardens at Duke, and even though I wasn’t very interested in Handel’s MESSIAH then–I’d love to go back to that now–they took me to a presentation of that work every year. I may not remember the music, but I recall being fascinated with those huge columns inside the Chapel.

I recall walking to my elementary school and passing by a little neighborhood store–anybody remember when there were still a number of those around? I recall one day when a bigger kid across the street from me yelled an obscenity at me. I was too naive to know what he was talking about.

I can’t forget how big a part tobacco played in Durham. Our next-door neighbor even used it to fertilize his lawn. Although I think unsmoked tobacco sometimes has a pleasant smell, I hated playing outside and having to smell that every day.

Speaking of tobacco, one of our church members gave my father and me tickets to attend some very special, tobacco-related yearly show. The actor who played Joe Friday’s sidekick on Dragnet was an entertainer that year. I had to ask my father the meaning of a vulgar joke he told.

Durham wasn’t all bad. The problem was my inability at that stage of my life to adjust. Being put on the safety patrol and going with that group to Washington, DC, were two of the better parts of my life there.

Home, though? It still didn’t seem like it. Would I like to go back and visit sometime? Maybe. If I can forget the worst of the past.

Thanks for letting me journey a bit through the past today. If you have comments, I’d love to have you share them.

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

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Best regards,
Roger

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Did Peter Pan Get It Right?

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We had a friend and her teen daughter (we also consider her a friend) over for a meal recently, and sometime during the conversation I advised Lydia not to be in a rush to grow up. I cautioned her that being an adult isn’t all it looks like from the perspective of a young person who’s waiting impatiently for adulthood to arrive.

Adulthood with all of its promises.

Today my wife and I went to the local Hobby Lobby store to buy some yarn, and I wandered around for a while rather than watch Kathleen make up her mind. When I saw the sign pictured above, I whipped out my smart phone, took a picture, and changed my mind about what I was going to write a blog post about today.

When I was a kid, I loved reading Peter Pan. Couldn’t watch the DVD; video recorders hadn’t been invented yet, and my parents couldn’t have afforded one, anyhow. I may have seen the original movie, but I barely recall it. The book was GREAT, though! How many times did I read it? No telling.

Who could  forget the fun and happy concept of a flying boy who wants to remain a child forever–and never grow up?

I can’t say that book made me want to remain young forever, though. After all, Peter Pan had a lot of responsibilities–caring for all those Lost Children and protecting them from Captain Hook.

I looked at my parents. Rather serious people, it seemed to me. We weren’t poor, but we couldn’t afford many of the things my friends had. Who knows if we would have ever gotten a TV set if one of my father’s churches hadn’t given us one in appreciation for his ministry? Or a stereo if his next church hadn’t been equally generous?

No, adulthood didn’t look all that great. But what was I to do? I was going to grow into it without having a choice, and I didn’t prove very adept at taking on adult responsibilities. Not at first, anyhow.

My father took me to the state employment office to apply for a part-time job, and I ended up working at a huge bread bakery. I had to stand on my feet for hours at a time and do nothing but staple boxes together.

I’m flatfooted, although that’s not as much of a problem now as it was then. Without talking to my parents first, I quit after the first day. My feet couldn’t take it.

My parents were quite disappointed, but they never pushed me to find part-time or summer work again. I hope they didn’t think I was useless. As it is, I still feel slightly guilty for having been the way I was then.

A Peter Pan life was looking better and better, but I knew it was only make-believe.

I grew into adulthood. Technically, anyhow. Eighteen came and went without much fanfare. So did twenty-one. In between was one momentous event, though;  the time I almost got drafted (this was at the height of the Vietnam war) when I failed to notify the draft board that my graduation from junior college was not the end of my education and I was transferring to a senior college.

Whether the Army would’ve made a man of me or simply gotten me killed, I’ll never know.

I have no desire to return to childhood. I can only remember bits and pieces of it; some of them were okay and some were regrettable.

What about that sign at Hobby Lobby, though? Is adulthood a trap?

Hmm. As a child I didn’t pay taxes or fret about what I would do when I grew up or how many vocations I’d go through to find the one I really liked. I didn’t know about all the evil in the world, and I didn’t know enough about violence to be afraid of it. Even if ISIS had existed then, I wouldn’t have known to be concerned about it. I never attended a funeral until I was in my twenties; so death didn’t seem like much of a reality.

As I continued to age, though, everything changed. I found that adulthood had definite drawbacks. Many things to dislike or feel ill at ease about. Reasons to appreciate God more and start looking forward to the perfection and sinlessness of Heaven.

I look at my life now and thank God daily for helping me safely reach this point. With His help, I’ve never felt hopelessly trapped. The Bible says, “Perfect love casts out fear.” He loves me perfectly, and I do my best to love Him that way, too.

God doesn’t want me to fear anything. Or to feel trapped. Even though I’ve become not just an adult, but one who’s had years of experience being one, I enjoy a sense of freedom I never knew as a child.

What about you? Do you ever feel trapped by circumstances? Do you ever wish you could become a child again to escape the various trials and evils of adulthood? Or are you living in God’s comforting presence, taking things as they come and trusting that He’s ultimately in control, even when He permits bad things to happen to good people? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

What “Good Old Days”?

Old people–sometimes mid-lifers, too–are known for their tendency to talk endlessly about “the good old days.” I don’t do that.

Yes, of course I remember a few good things from my childhood and youth and occasionally mention them to someone. But not as many things or as often as some people I know. Too much of my young life was darkened by an unwanted move when I was eight years old.

I’d never expected to be uprooted and have to leave friends and familiar things–my whole life, seemingly–and relocate to a new city in another state and start life all over again from scratch. I was hurt and angry. So I wasn’t inclined to try to adjust. Consequently, I spent a number of years growing fatter and more miserable.

Not exactly what I’d call “good old days.”

Moving away from there was a pleasure–I wouldn’t have cared where we went–and I hoped things would be better with the new city. I was a pre-teen then, however, and growing into adolescence is tough–no matter what.

But when I came down with acute viral encephalitis during the eighth grade and almost died, what hope I might’ve had for a better life seemed to die, even though I lived. Recovery was long and stressful, and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt nearly as strong and “normal” as I had before.

I can’t say whether my very small store of memories from childhood and my early teen years is a result of the encephalitis, but the memories I have are sketchy and sporadic. I don’t remember that much about high school or college, either. Even a lot of my adult life seems to be blurred or at last hiding in some inaccessible spot in my brain.

All of that to say I am not an old person who thinks back to the good old days. I remember too many days that aren’t worth talking about and too few to bother talking about.

If I  sound miserable talking about my past, I apologize. The fact is I’m not overly concerned about a past that seems, well, to be so very far in the past. I’m more interested in the present, anyhow. And in the future.

Being able to wake up every day and function just as well as I did the day before is more wonderful than you can imagine. Productive projects that keep me productively busy are definitely something to be thankful for. And the assurance of Heaven someday is far beyond wonderful.

I’m not in a rush to get there, you understand. But I’m thankful I have eternal life in God’s presence to look forward to. It will be perfect in every way this earthly life has so often proven imperfect.

What about you? Are you focused on the past, the present, or the future? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

 

What Childhood Memories?

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When people start getting older, I thought they began forgetting what happened yesterday or last week while increasing in their ability to spend countless boring hours talking about what happened in their childhood and youth.

Not me. I remember yesterday and last week just fine. Of course, I have problems with names and faces, but that problem has been with me as far back as I can remember. No pun intended.

My problem is I don’t recall much from my childhood and youth. These are most of the things I DO remember:

  • Getting my first bike for Christmas and trying to ride downhill in our grassy backyard
  • Racing a neighborhood boy to the easy chair in my bedroom, breaking the window with it, and my parents making me pay for the repair
  • Going down to a younger friend’s house to watch “Roy Rogers “on TV every week
  • Going to a nearby park for the weekly nickel Coca Cola my parents permitted me to have
  • Watching my mother find where my father had hidden the grandmother clock (behind the studio couch) he’d bought her for Christmas
  • Receiving our first TV from the church my father pastored and the horrible reception we got
  • Attending a children’s choir practice and hating it
  • Finally learning to ride that bicycle
  • Crying when I heard we were moving away from the place we’d lived the first eight years of my life
  • Pigging out on homemade rolls at the home of a church member who babysat me overnight for some reason
  • Pretending to play the guitar that was sitting around at my friend Chuck’s house
  • Being severely frightened by an elementary school program which included a demo of the sparks from static electricity

Those events all took place during the first eight years of my life. I probably remember no more than an equal number of things from age eight to approximately age fifteen. That’s when I had acute viral encephalitis and almost died. But that’s another story.

In short, I almost get jealous of people who vividly remember a lot about their childhoods .

But who knows? Maybe I’ll be the reverse of a (stereo)typical older person and continue to be able to live in the present. I don’t know about your present, but mine is a great deal nicer than what little I remember about my distant past.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on “As I Come Singing”–check it out HERE. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

Best regards,
Roger