Monday, November 1, 2010

A Life of My Own Choosing

Its 1978. I am seven. My mother is thirty-six. She sits with friends at a luncheon.
“Kids these days. Watching Starsky and Hutch, Hawaii Five-O, nothing like what we grew up with, that’s for sure.” Eleanor was a worrier. Still is.
“I don’t worry about Brynne.” said my sweet mother.
“No?” Susan managed to say while swallowing a swig of coffee laced with whipped cream, her upper lip a frothy white.
Mom shakes her head, hoping someone will interrupt and free her from having to reveal what she certainly didn’t intend on sharing. Life was like that sometimes. You tell yourself not to mention your host’s ugly furniture and sure enough, it pops up and in your face like toast from the broken toaster.
“Whatever do you mean, Christie?”
Mom smiled uncomfortably. “Oh, about Brynne? Nothing really. Just that she doesn’t watch much television.”
“But when she does, Darling…?”
Mom decided to come out and say it. “She likes the Price is Right and The Lawrence Welk Show,” her eyes staring into her tea cup.
No one said a thing for a few seconds and then…
“You mean the game show?” said Carol, trying to mask her surprise.
“And that old lady show with the dancing and bubbles?” Another giggle.
Mom nodded. “She loves it. Don’t ask me why, but she does.”
And after a few fake laughs, that was that. I had officially embarrassed my mother.
“Who left me an inch of orange juice?” my father bellowed through the house, leaving me terrified that I somehow, in the middle of the night, did what I always feared I would do. Was it me? Did I forget and drink his orange juice? I started to tremble before mom explained she had given it to my younger brother late last night and forgot to make more. I went back to eating my boiled egg, the butter still warm on my spoon, my heart beating faster than a white rabbit’s.
When you want to learn to ride a bike, to hit a baseball, to drive a car or eat with chopsticks, you have to focus. You have to practice. You have to want to grow yourself in that particular direction and to do it determinedly so. Even as a child, I was determined to have a love-rich life filled with laughter, joy, wonder, even magic. I had my hurdles as we all do, but reading, writing stories, hunting for leprechauns and yes, watching the Price is Right and The Lawrence Welk Show is where I chose to focus my attention.
Have you ever watched the Price is Right? To this day I get tears when I see the joy on the contestants faces. They are filled with hope, with the silly joy of unbridled happiness. As a child, I remember wanting to feel what they felt. I wanted to have that happiness inside me every day. So I watched. And laughed. And watched some more. And delighted in other’s joy that soon became my own.
Then there was the Lawrence Welk Show—the music, the bubbles, the dresses, the smiles, the way every person on that show seemed to set aside their difficulties, deciding, even just for a few minutes, to focus on joy. It gave me a kind of distilled hope that I could do that, too. I didn’t want to escape my reality but I did want to create a container to house what I wanted out of life and to go there whenever I needed to. When my mother was embarrassed or my father was angry, I wanted a bubble of hope to help me soothe the blow, to remind me that nothing is as bad as we think it is and that if we look yonder over that hill, we will always discover what we believed we would….what we focus on.
As a child I wanted a love-rich life filled with laughter, joy, wonder, and even magic. I still do. So guess what? That is exactly what I have.