Dreams of a Different Time

It was 1 in the afternoon before i got all my aches and pains under control and was able to get out of bed and do things that needed to be done. I tracked down the post office packages. I ground some oat flour. I made some gluten-free peanut butter cookies out of the flour, peanut butter, water, and raw honey. if you use the well water after its been softened you don’t even have to add a pinch of salt. It’s already there. I cut up a pear and a persimmon and ate those along with a few of the peanut butter cookies for breakfast around 1:45. I took 6 freezer bags of compost material to the pile at the edge of our land. I filtered massive amounts of well water a half-gallon at a time in preparation for refilling the chicken water dispenser the following day at dawn. I washed laundry and hung half of it to dry while putting the other half into the dryer in the house. I boiled water on the stove and put the stopper in the sink to let the dishes soak in hot water before washing them. I cleaned the counters, the mirror, the stove, and the toilet in preparation for christmas company. I would leave the sinks and the sweeping of the floors for the following week as the tiny house was always so dusty and the sink full of make-up residue; it didn’t make sense to clean it so far out from the date. I would just have had to do it again. I thought of the 1950s housewives who had powdered and vacuumed the mattresses, fluffed the living room pillows, and dusted daily and chuckled to myself at how useless an activity that seemed to me now, a single person in a dusty little tiny house where no one but me could see crooked pillows or turmeric on the stove. I didn’t imagine i would have been a good housewife in the 1950s. At least, if my vintage-obsessed friends were an accurate rendition of what life was like back then. Everything in their house was from a different time. Even their car, their hair, their clothes, make-up, and glasses. It was as if they were living in a different decade of the past. Though i knew i wouldn’t have conformed to the norm in that decade, i did enjoy quite a few things of the past. I had cassettes for the car instead of an ipod shuffle. I had a record player for when i wanted to listen to music. I had a manual hand-mixer for baking. I had a vcr and old vhs tapes to watch on my little box television. The hardest thing i did when moving to my tiny house was downsize my vhs collection to nearly a sixth of what it was. What it came down to was that i had to decide to get rid of all my westerns with the famed john wayne and my beloved clint eastwood with his signature scowl before he shot all the bad guys who didn’t believe he was a threat. Though i enjoyed them immensely i rarely watched them and that was my justification for getting rid of them. Beyond this i had a metal tub for bathing and did all my mending by hand. I didn’t subscribe to the theory “newer is better”. I saw that the forward march of progress sometimes left old treasures in the dust of history, especially when it came to technology. My hand mixer never needed repaired or replaced. It was powered by me, and it was my grandmother’s before it was mine, if that tells you how long it has lasted. Things don’t last 3 generations nowadays. They are manufactured to be broken and replaced or upgraded. Once upon a time things were manufactured to last and be handed down. That time is nearly unknown to my generation. We have all subscribed to the “replace and upgrade” model and we need the salaries we pursue in order to maintain such a life norm.

I don’t know what possessed me but i pulled out one of my records and put it on the player for the first time in nearly a year to listen to while i was hanging the dried laundry. It was “music in the night” by the pittsburgh symphony orchestra. As i opened the case and carefully set the record into place, dropping the needle ever so softly onto the edge of the record, it seemed like such a treat, something special; music. Nowadays it was obtained at the click of a button on thousands of devices. It was taken for granted, expected as background noise. It was no longer something profound and special, a treasure on a fragile black disc that had to be handled with care. And i’ll say it though some will think i am crazy. No cd or computer speaker has ever achieved the quality of sound that a record provides to my ear. It seems to fall flat in comparison. I perked up as i heard the familiar snapping and popping that let me know the music was on the way and then i watched as the needle traveled ever so gradually inward towards the center of the record with each turn. The music began. It was clear as a blue-sky day and beautiful. I went about the laundry and other chores while listening to the record. When it was finished i played the other side. When that was finished i put on another one. I thought about why i didn’t play records often, though i so loved to listen to them. I think listening to them couldn’t help but remind me that at one time in the past i had planned to share these treasures with another generation of human beings. I had wanted to raise a child or two. I had dreams of teaching them to cook, exposing them to music (in record form of course), teaching them to grow their food in the garden, to be kind to animals, to live in harmony with the wilderness around them. I had dreams of watching little ones form their own opinions about the sights and noises and concepts they were interpreting; watching them transition from tiny helpless beings that needed total protection and care for survival to independence-seeking individuals that were developing unique characteristics and personalities of their own. I was aware there would indefinitely be times when i regretted the day i desired to parent, like when a child screams “i hate you” or begins bullying other children. I was aware that there would inevitably be days when one would find their child doing something they hadn’t taught them to do, something they viewed as unacceptable, and the adult would sit with their head in their hands wondering when and where things had gone so terribly off the rails that this child was no longer behaving as the parent hoped they were raising them to be. There would also be times when the child was searching for answers and the parent didn’t have them and felt inadequate or when the parent fell short of the super hero the child thought them to be and was unable to provide what was needed. I had no misconception that parenting would be a picnic, but it was something i had dreamed of in the past. When i listened to my treasures, i now knew that i was the only one that would be hearing them for the next 50 years, and that saddened me a little, so i didn’t pull them out often.

Sitting here in 2020, plagued by my own anxiety, riddled with arthritis, and struggling to hustle enough to pay my share of the mortgage my family was helping me with until i could launch myself into the next career…watching my friends try desperately to explain this world we are living in to scared and confused children developing their own anxiety disorders and struggling with the idea that hugs and cheek pinching were no longer signs of affection but a danger to be avoided…i didn’t question God’s decision to make me barren, a poor candidate for adoption and unable to afford surrogacy before my golden years. It has become even less of a picnic now; parenting. I don’t envy them. They have a big job, teaching little ones how to be in this world right now. The other day i witnessed two moms trying to teach their toddlers appropriate socialization skills in the grocery. They had parked their baskets 10 feet apart from each other on the chip aisle and they were going through the motions of having the children greet each other, wave, ask them how they’d been, and then wave again and tell the other child they’ll see them later when it was time to go. They did this on several other aisles and before long the children began waving and saying hello and goodbye without being prompted. I admired their commitment to the cause. They were not giving up on these children. They would have them know all the skills they would have known had they not been growing up in a global pandemic. These were mothers with fight, tenacity, creativity, and hope in them and they soldiered on in teaching their children the skills that they felt they needed, with bright eyes and in all probability a smiling face, though it was partially concealed by a mask. These toddlers didn’t know anything dire was going on. That would have been hard for me to do and i knew it. I would not, in all likelihood, have been able to hide my own anxiety and depression and be enthused about life each day for the sake of a child who drew their sense of normalcy from me. I didn’t question God’s decision. I just sometimes felt a sadness for dreams of the past when playing records that had once been collected for a different purpose.

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