No School…Again

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I originally wrote this on January 6th 2014.  I find if amusing that I am sitting in my living room, snuggled under blankets, watching a movie with my teenagers almost exactly the way I was 1 year ago to the day.

The temperature this morning is -8° below zero.  I love winter and yet this is too chilly, even for me.  The call came in yesterday evening around 5 p.m., schools were closing. 

This phone call was exciting!  My boys will be home all day for us to enjoy one more lazy, watch TV, play video games, eat snacks, do nothing kind of day.  A small extension of their winter break from school. 

Recently calls of this nature were a life line of hope while I was working at a day care center.  If the public schools closed so did this particular institution.  The cancellation of school was a ticket to relaxation.

When I was younger, in the public school system, we didn’t get phone calls.  The responsibility of knowing if your child was to be at school in inclement weather rested solely on the shoulders of the parent.  The parents had an easy job here.  This was news every student in the district would happily receive for their parents.  The news station, yes it was singular in my house, would scroll a banner of school closings across the bottom of the screen.  Every child would sit, transfixed, to read each school listed.  The silent prayers for your school to be closed flooding the heavens.  Brothers and sisters would stop their teasing, teeth would go unbrushed, pets would become restless at the silence in the house.  Sometimes children would be chased to bed because hopes had not been answered, yet.  Sometimes the district wouldn’t make a decision until the morning.  At 6 a.m. the TV would come to life, cereal bowl in hand, more prayers…waiting…waiting…

Then it would happen!  The announcement would come, NO SCHOOL TODAY DUE TO INCLEMENT WEATHER.  Chaos would ensue.  Siblings who couldn’t sit next to each other at the dinner table, would suddenly embrace with joy.  The cheering was deafening.  Parents would scramble to make sure appropriate care was in place for the younger children.  Pets would join in with the celebrations with yapping and hissing at the commotion.  Nothing compares to the news of unexpected days off from school.

It seems in our technologically advanced era the excitement has not ebbed.  Social media was flooded with reports of the closings the moment it happened.  My teenagers happily stayed awake as late as they chose.  The anticipation of rest and laziness just for the sake of being lazy is almost intoxicating.  In my house today I will enjoy the company of my boys while I work. I will bake cookies for the sheer love of warm cookies. I will embrace the calm of a restful day that does not require make-up or jewelry.  

Have a warm, restful day.

Childhood Memories

Memories flood in like waves rushing to kiss sandy toes.

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The stage looks the same.  Towers of concrete and metal, sturdy.  Then the art designers are unleashed upon their ‘canvas’.  The soaring metal trusses are adorned with colorful lights.  The pillars of man made stone are converted into a lush growing forest then transformed into a majestic castle, then back to a forest again.  Scenes played out from stories written ages ago.  A different world emerging with each minute that passes by. 

The orchestra is warming up in the pit.  Melodic sounds emanating from the depths below the crowd.  I remember, as a child, wondering why the musicians were confined to performing under the stage.  It seemed like a moat in front of the stage that held the audience back from the performers. 

The sun is still shining over the age old pine trees.  It is warm but it has been worse.  We spread our blanket in front of wood slatted bench.  The benches are the same, many are missing, replaced by open grass areas where patrons place their camp chairs with cup holders and reclining backs.  The benches have been painted the same shade of green over and over again.  Some things never change.

My teenagers flop onto the bench unimpressed by the lack of cell service and country music playing over the loud speakers.  I gleefully chatter on about my past experiences here at Lincoln’s outdoor amphitheater, Pinewood Bowl.  This is the 65th year of productions at Pioneer’s Park Pinewood Bowl.  I don’t think my father has missed more than half a dozen performances.  This was the big summer family event for our family.  Mom would pop bags of popcorn (not microwave style, that wasn’t mainstream yet, air-popped corn, then transferred to plastic bags).  The large Coleman cooler would get filled with water and each of us kids would be asked if we had a plastic cup ready to take with us, because, “We are not buying anything while we are there.”  I still begged.

My first memory of Pinewood Bowl was Annie, Get Your Gun!   I remember the strength of the characters, amazingly rough costumes, and the blank fired from a stage-gun into the metal rafters where a fake bird was then dropped onto the stage.  Creating the illusion, to this small girl, of a true huntress displaying her skill with a weapon.

The list of plays I have witnessed is a long introduction to stage theater for me.  The King and I, Guys and Dolls, Cats, Beauty and The Beast, Annie, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers…..the list goes on and on.  And now I can add Shrek to my viewing memories.  This is an especially meaningful musical for me.

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My teenagers were just small little ones when Shrek burst on to the big screen in all it’s green glory, toting a furry donkey with it.  I was unsure as a new mother if a movie, even a children’s cartoon, with Eddie Murphy as a voice character would be appropriate for my young impressionable children (enter new mom scorn).  I admit to viewing this particular movie more times than I can count.  We treated ourselves to seeing it in the theater then buying not one but both the soundtracks and keeping those in the minivan, always.  When the VHS (yes I wrote that right) was released we plunked down our hard earned cash for a copy.  This was the movie that just never wore out.  We enjoyed it as a family, often.  So when I heard Pinewood Bowl would be doing the musical version of Shrek I couldn’t resist the opportunity to stroll down memory lane with my offspring once again.

As intermission approached I turned to my teenage boys, who were still sprawled on the bench, sandwiching their grandparents between them, and saw each of their faces in the fading light, remembering their childlike features molded now into young men.  They were watching intently.  I knew the memories of one of their favorite movies were flashing through their minds.  Connections from childhood to young adulthood melding their memories.

The moon began it’s rise over the pine trees, fireflies graced us with their tiny lights as the sky faded from blue to black.  The actors kept the energy of the second half rising till the big finish of the final song.  The standing ovation for the cast was well earned.  This was not an easy production to pull off and the whole cast made it look simple.  Farquaad was on his knees for his entire performance.  Donkey is of course covered in fur, on a balmy summer night in Nebraska.  Green is not the natural skin tone of any human I know and Shrek was covered in green makeup with a huge head piece to achieve his ogre like look.  Not to mention the rest of the cast in fairy dresses, long noses, armor, full body skeleton suits, and so much more.  I give many thanks to all the performers for a wonderful night of entertainment and reviving childhood memories that spark smiles in my family and I.

“Now we need to watch the movie again” was the first response as we left the amphitheater.  My smile is still glowing on my face.  Their childhood memories and mine all intertwined in my heart.

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Goodbye

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Saying goodbye is never easy.  I learned that lesson a few years ago when I had to say goodbye to my grandmother.  She was ready to die.  She had lived for almost 92 long, mostly hard years.  The joy she brought to my family was immense.  My selfish heart wanted her to stay by my side forever.  When she died I was devastated.  My head knew she was ready and at peace but every fiber of my being wanted her to live on with me here on this earth.  Last year, my Great Aunt passed away.  It was so sudden I was in shock through most of the process of her final wishes, funeral, and cleaning out her apartment.  Once again I learned how hard it is to say goodbye to those we love and care about.

Today I said goodbye to a man who influenced my life more than he probably knew.  He was the pastor at my church when I was a small child.  I remembered him as the first bald man I ever met, the quiet reserve of authority, and that he could never remember my name.  He always called me Cassandra, and I never corrected him.  I’m not sure why I didn’t correct him, maybe because he was so genuine and I was a little shy.  All I knew was I liked that I had a special name with him, even if it wasn’t my given name.  He was a very kind man.  He was a part of my congregations life well after he was no longer our pastor. 

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I attended the funeral at my home congregation to celebrate his life.  As I walked in the front doors I saw people I knew from years gone by and so many new familiar faces as well.  I sat behind my parents, welcomed into the reserved seating for the pastors.  I guess being a PK (Pastors Kid) allowed for my presence.  It was a beautiful service, full of love and remembrances.  The hymns were sung with pride.  All around me were smiling faces.  Tears were shed as well for the friend, father, husband, grandfather, leader and mentor while the smiles shone through.  He was a great man and saying goodbye is difficult yet I know the lives he touched will carry on his spirit.

Goodbye, I will miss you and thank you.