Last week, I walked into a “state of the art” therapy facility and was reminded of a story from my youth:
My aunt purchased a new vacuum cleaner. It was the latest model with new a sensor to tell her when her carpets were clean. The little green light that turned on when the particle-to-air ratio was just right provided her with validation for a job well done.
There was nothing wrong with her old vacuum cleaner, this one would just do a better job.
We were in the neighborhood and she called us to the house to “show-off” her new toy; she had already completed one room of the house when we arrived. Now in a different room, she turned on the machine and the light was red, indicating that there was more work to do. As she continued to vacuum, the light remained red. As a matter of fact, she had to vacuum over the same spot 6 or 8 times before the light would finally turn green. She was mortified that her carpets were so dirty, but pleased that they would now be clean.
I recommended that she move the vacuum more slowly, rather than at the brisk pace that she had done before and she only had to make 2 or 3 passes before the light turned green. Content to move slowly, she completed the remainder of the room purposefully walking behind her fancy, new vacuum.
When her job was complete, she smiled as she proudly placed her new 12 amp vacuum in her storage closet alongside its 2-year old, 12 amp predecessor from the same manufacturer.
“Suppose I grew up on a farm and the actual night sky was there from birth, would I ever have taken it for granted?” –Neil deGrasse Tyson
There are a lot of memories here, and I have never taken any of them for granted.
During the day, it is beautiful. It is never quiet, yet never noisy. You can often see for a mile in either direction and not see another person.
In the evenings, it becomes majestic. The full moon lights up the sky and reflects off the water so brightly that you can read a book. Fourteen days later, the stars are bountiful; the sky truly has no bounds and the long mile that you can see during the day pales in comparison to the expansiveness of the night sky.
I still return home a few days every year. I take the dog for a walk, skip stones, and sit on the shore. After a few hours, I leave to go to dinner. Almost 20 years later, the days here remain beautiful and tranquil, but every time I drive away, I long for the majesty and wonder of another night at home.
Maybe next year.
All weekend, the dormitory bathrooms had gone uncleaned and with 40 young men on a floor who spent half of their waking hours inebriated with poor aim, upset stomachs and angry GI-tracts, the environment was not suitable for the senses.
But Monday mornings were the best. If you woke up early enough, you could walk into the stall of your choosing and be guaranteed that you were the man first there after Lois had made it all shine once again. After it had been disinfected and smelling like a chemical-ized version of a flower-filled meadow, I would sit quietly in stall #2, reading Calvin and Hobbes.
Seventeen years later, I remember fondly walking into the bathroom on Monday and sitting on my favorite seat, still with a hint of blue in the water. By Wednesday, I would hesitate to sit down in the same spot. By Friday, I would not want to walk into the room. But on Mondays, I felt like I was home.
My mom had always used that blue stuff too.
When I was a child, on the first day of school, I sat with my new classmates at recess; collectively, we compared the bottoms of our sneakers to look at the treads. Too young to be concerned with the emblem etched on the leather upper, we were consumed with discovering what pattern looked the coolest, and which one we thought would make us run the fastest.
High-tops were becoming fashionable, and Dan and Sean had the neatest pairs, but would they make them fast?
One after another, race after race,my classmates fell to the fleet-footed, high-top wearing duo. They had, without a doubt, the fastest shoes on the playground.
It was September, and each of us was already wearing brand new shoes, so we knew that our parents would not buy us another pair any time soon (not that it prevented us from begging anyway); we couldn’t wait, because when we finally got our new sneakers with the new treads, we were going to give Dan and Sean a run for their money.
In high school, I had been the only male in my class who had been interested in sports while remaining strong in academics with goals and aspirations beyond membership in the local labor union and the ever-growing welfare lines. It was a very lonely existence.
College was different. When I went to college, my world changed. Amongst like minded individuals with similar career goals and objectives for their lives, I thrived socially in ways that I had only dreamed of. I made more friends in my first two weeks of college than I had had in 6 years of junior/senior high school. Fifteen years later, 5 of them remain some my closest friends today. I went from someone who was mostly alone to someone who always had company, and it was good company.
My life had changed from one of isolationism to one of comradery, but I had not.
It had not been necessary for me to change to find happiness. I had only needed to change the environment that I was in. The difference was in the context, not in me.
My high school was a Hollywood stereotype played out on a real-life stage.
If you were good in sports, you were popular too, which worked well for the girls in my class: they happened to be the prettiest and the smartest as well. The boys, on the other hand, were different.
Unlike their female counterparts, the boys were not looking toward the future. They were not aiming to go to college. They had no reason to try to achieve in the classroom, and cared very little about their grades. Instead, they were incredulous to their teachers and unmerciful in their torment of their peers.
Still, I sought them out as friends, eager to gain their acceptance. We had more in common than not. We played varsity basketball and baseball, loved pretty girls and were passionate about heavy metal music. Despite all that we had in common, my efforts in school always drove us apart. They perceived me as a poser, a nerd in jock’s clothing, and never a friend.
“Don’t worry about them,” my mother would tell me, her words giving me strength. “They will be pumping the gas into your luxury car one day.”
Except for the whole “luxury car-thing”, my mother was right.
17 years later, Diane’s words resonate as strongly with me today as my mother’s had before, but they somehow remain less applicable in light of my long term goals as a private practice owner.
…The pitcher looked over his left shoulder for a brief moment and turned to look to the catcher. Then, he quickly spun, whirling his right arm toward first base.
It all happened so quickly: the base runner dove back to first base and the first baseman swiped his large mit through the sand at the runner. The baserunner looked up, squinting through the cloud of sand to see the first baseman run toward the woods, shouting, “Shit!” The crowd began yelling, “Go! Go! Go!”. With excitement, the baserunner jumped to his feet and ran toward second base.
Forty-five feet from a base and confused, the runner found himself in a run-down, the pitcher bearing down on him from the mound, still holding the ball. He was shocked, duped: the dry weather, opponents and crowd had collectively conspired against him. He would stop and try to return to first base, unsuccessfully outrunning the pitcher who would tag him.
We were about to win yet another game, cementing our “legacy” with a third consecutive sectional title.
We were young and inexperienced in life, but coach had a knack for teaching impressionable young men how to win.