I Want To Go Back

Source: Valerie Barbera

I want to go back to when life was simple. Let’s say sixth grade. It was spring, and I had just gotten a new bike for my birthday. I road it everywhere, especially to the family-owned penny candy store called Knipps, with the gummy wooden floors. I was so excited to go there because the new Beatle cards may have arrived. After buying my stash, I headed home singing at the top of my lungs, to whatever was the current hit on my transistor radio.

A transistor radio was a battery-operated portable device that played the AM radio stations like Johnny Dark on WCAO. It was about the size of a smart phone but bulkier. It had a rotating antenna which could be strategically positioned for the best reception. Everyone had one. It was the first time music and information became portable. It sparked a musical revolution called Rock ’n Roll.

I usually would be up at the school playing baseball with the boys. I would run up to the school with my greased and worn baseball glove and a hardball to check out what games were going on. I would see the dust stirring in the distance and know that the game to join was in the far field. I would join left field since no one was there. Then it’s our turn at bat. I was an overly confident tomboy when it came to baseball. My turn at bat. I am nonchalant, almost diminutive, in my short-statured stance. This is how I trick the cocky boys in the outfield. Gets the newcomers every time since I’m just a girl! My old buddies look at each other and shout “Move back. ” I give it everything I got and lob it along the third-base line. My dad taught me how to do that. Homerun! Now that feels good.

In those days, my happiness depended on the weather because I loved being able to go outside and play. We’re talking ”free-range” play with the neighborhood menagerie. The only limitation was to be home by dinner, which was announced by a sound, louder than a Maine foghorn, emanating from a frustrated mother shouting ”It’s suppertime!” If there was a delay in our response, she sometimes used expletives. ”It’s suppertime. You better get your *** back home or else!” It worked.

Those were the days, my friend. When McDonald’s hamburgers were only $.25. When Bazooka gum had real flavor. When the only smoking you did was to puff on a thin white 100% sugar cigarette with an artificially colored pink tip. When polio was the only concerning disease that I had ever heard of because, at school, we had just been given a sugar cube doused in medicine that would prevent it. Milk was real. Sugar was real. Natural orange juice was challenged by a new powdered drink called Tang, which we were told that John Glenn and the other astronauts drank for vitamin and mineral supplementation while out past the Earth’s atmosphere. It was up there with quickset Jell-O, Pop Rocks, and the introduction of Cool Whip.

It was a time when the news was reported and not rendered towards any political stance. Although during times of unexpected crises, some newscasters would get teary, like Walter Cronkite announcing the death of President Kennedy. See the video here. The newsmen seemed to more human and less robotic.

Sunday nights were the best. We looked forward to watching the Ed Sullivan show on our black-and-white TV. His show highlighted a variety of guests ranging from a little animated mouse called Topo Gigio to the first time that the Beatles played their music on American soil. They were revolutionary- their hair, their music, their vivacity. It caused quite a stir and started a cultural shift for the younger generation. Meet the Beatles here.

Sundays were non-productive. Work was put aside. Stores were closed. It was the day to visit friends and family. I would go to church in the morning, come back for lunch, and either go for a Sunday drive with my parents (seatbelts not required) and perhaps catch dinner at a local restaurant. But most Sundays, we went down The Point to visit my granny and my relatives, who were always welcoming and fun.

You won’t believe this, but girls straightened and slightly curled their hair by rinsing out frozen orange juice cans and wrapping their long hair around it. They secured the cans with long bobby pins. Another alternative was to wear sponge rollers and bobby pin curls with a cap to cover your head as you slept. This was the preference of our moms. I remember coming down as the morning light streaked the smoke-saturated air. My mom would be reading the paper in her housecoat and her sponge rollers covered with a cap. Ah, those were the days!

Yes, it seemed like simpler times. There were not as many choices, not as much noise, more time, fewer distractions, and a Post-war pride in the great United States of America.

I want to go back. Don’t you? Would love to hear your memories. Leave them in the comment section. Thanks.

It’s nice to be back.


Not Knowing

”The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates

But enough already!”

So I’m sitting here in my robe for the second day in a row not knowing. Not knowing whether this runny nose and low grade temperature is just a cold or the real thing. I’m very blessed if it is the real thing, because of my mild symptoms, but I don’t know. Even if I take the home Covid test, I still won’t be 100% sure. It’s the not knowing that is driving me crazy. Not knowing whether someone you talk to is asymptomatic. Not knowing if I am mini-symptomatic. Not knowing how your body will respond to it if you do get infected. Not knowing whether or not you will be getting the virus before you get vaccinated. Not knowing how all of the people and their families will be able to survive both economically and emotionally from this disease.

The pandemic has forced us to take the blinders off of our eyes. It’s forced us to evaluate those numbing behaviors like constant distractions and frantically busy schedules that enable us to avoid the big questions like…

*Why are we here? *What is the meaning of life? *When am I going to die? *What happens when I die? *Have I tried to make this life count? * How sick will I be if I get Covid?

I initially called this blog, Wake Up, because these uncomfortable but essential existential questions may actually lead to a deeper, more fulfilling life. Steve Jobs once said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Almost everything–all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure–these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.”

Very sobering words. Sobering words indeed. Valuable, life-sustaining, serious words. However… I am getting a little tired of facing them with all of this time on my hands. I am usually quite comfortable with solitude and contemplation but I’ve had enough. I am itching to ”get going again, to jump back into the swing of things, and to get back up on the saddle”. There is something to be said about the benefits of having a social schedule. Wouldn’t it be nice to be invited and actually attend a fun and frivolous Christmas party? Wouldn’t it be great to be elbow to elbow with the struggling humanity on Christmas Eve, all competing to get in line to make a purchase? (Never EVER had that desire before) Wouldn’t it be heavenly to be on a crowded plane going to an all-inclusive brimming Caribbean getaway? How about hearing the cheering of the football crowd on an icy winter day?

Forgive me for yammering on. Just a little bored. Life is what you make it. Right? I’m tired of trying to make it… sensible, interesting, stimulating, predictable. That’s the keyword. Predictable. As if I am in control of the situation. At least I had the privilege to live in a developing Arabic country that greatly challenged that view.

I lived for five years in a country led by a monarch. The king had complete authority. His photo was everywhere, from a small leather shop in the labyrinth of an ancient Medina to the newly built, snazzy high-end mall with the three-story aquarium in its center. One Saturday, I decided to head south with my roommate to visit another town along the coast. We instantly noticed that the road was lined with people just standing and sitting around in a relaxed manner. Some had even dragged out their froshes(sofas) to wait along the highway. The closer that we traveled towards our destination, the more populated were the roads. The number of flags had quadrupled and large photos of the king were hoisted and planted at the roundabouts. We stopped at a market and inquired about the event. The king was coming. He was coming from the town which was to be our destination. We traveled on but eventually were asked to stop and park along the side of the road. First, a cavalcade of 25 military vehicles passed us, and then a limousine supposedly transporting the king sped by. The crowd went wild. It was a sight to behold! The crowd had no schedule of when the king would be passing them. They just waited and were comfortable with it because they knew that they had no control of the situation.

America is different. We protect our individual space in which we assume we have control. We are accustomed to expecting things to happen because of our actions and productivity. We don’t rely on someone else to make our decisions. We can do it ourselves and as the most powerful nation on earth, have proven it to the world.

So here I am, a full-fledged but somewhat changed American, sitting in her bathrobe, being frustrated and bored, and not being able to do those things that I would like to do. Not knowing if normalcy, ( whatever that was) will ever return, and not being too happy about it. Just tellin’ the truth. As Mark Knopfler once sang in a Dire Straits’ song, ”Some days you’re the windshield and some days you’re the bug.”


For You.

Ann Voskamp: Only the Good Stuff- Multivitamins for the Weekend (12.19.20)

On the Brink of Everything: Grace, Gravity, and Getting Old