Posts Tagged ‘memories’

On Memories and Possibilities

Wednesday, April 22, 2015
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Memories are such strange possessions.

Of the thousands of daily conversations and brief encounters we experience, we only manage to carry a limited number with us into the future.

Even the most meaningful events tend to hide in the background of the new experiences that consume us during the simple act of daily living.

Some memories are sewn tightly into the fabric of everyday life while others only emerge decades later to be taken out, reexamined, and recognized for their significance.

And so it was for me last week.

My daughter, who will be starting high school in only a few months, is on a mission to identify her future career.

time machineI don’t like to brag, but I can’t deny the fact that she is extremely smart and excels academically.

And yet, like her mother, she isn’t drawn to a career that has much potential to be  financially lucrative.

She wants to write for a living.

If she can’t do that, she wants a career that somehow embraces the arts. Money isn’t important to her. Expressing herself is.

I could tell her “Been there. Done that. It’s not all it’s cracked up to be,” but I know my words would have as much influence as, well, those of the mother of any 13-year-old girl.

But my daughter isn’t any 13-year-old girl. She’s my daughter, and I want her life to be easier and even more meaningful than mine has been.

Yet all I can do is provide expectations for her current life, emotional support for her life’s journey and a bit of advice based on my memories.

And sometimes those memories aren’t all that wonderful, because pursuing your passion instead of a paycheck often requires sacrifice.

At the same time, another memory has surfaced – one that has been hidden for decades.

I was about the same age that my daughter is now when my dad made a tough decision about his own career. He had just accepted a job that would require his family to move across the country.

I was sitting at our round, wooden table while my mom fixed dinner, and Dad stood in the middle of the kitchen contemplating the enormity of his decision.

“I’m not just making this decision for me,” he said. “I’m making it for everyone whose life I touch. The people whom our kids marry could be affected by my taking a job in West Virginia.”

I’ve been reminded of those words during my recent conversations with my daughter – not because I’m worried about her future marriage possibilities but because I’m reminded of the enormity of decisions my children are currently facing. Where they go to college and what they choose to study will set each of them on their own life path. That path will not be a straight line. There will be plenty of curves and detours and bumps. But that path currently has multiple potential starting points. The starting point they each select will influence the people they meet, the values they develop, and the passions they pursue.

When I close my eyes and remember the concern in my father’s voice as he talked about his decision to change jobs and move, I also remember the child I was who listened to those words. I couldn’t believe my dad was even thinking about his children getting married. To me, marriage was a vague concept that resided in the very distant future.

Now, as a parent, I realize how quickly the years can rush by, and I understand my father’s concerns. I also know that our move to West Virginia did affect whom I married. What I can never know is how different my life may have been if we had stayed in Oregon or moved to another state. Just like our memories, possibilities that never happened are a part of life and a part of whom we become.

As a mom, I’m responsible for helping my children understand that making tough decisions is all about choosing robert frostwhich possibilities they are willing to give up in order to embrace the possibilities on which they will build a life.

It’s my toughest job and the pay, like so  many others I’ve held, is lousy.

But the memories I’m making along the way are very, very rich indeed.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

A trip to the zoo

Monday, April 20, 2015
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Normally, taking AJ out in public involves a bit of anxiety on my part. It’s not that it is all that difficult, or that she doesn’t behave well, it’s just that I’m still getting used to doing it. I’m still learning how to balance enjoying myself and tending to AJ’s needs. Usually when we get home I breathe a sigh of relief and wonder why I even bothered dragging us out at all.

This weekend, we took AJ to the Columbus Zoo. It wasn’t until after we left that it hit me – I actually had a good time.

In typical parent fashion, we got to the zoo an hour and a half later than we originally planned. The day was sunny and beautiful and it was obvious the place was already packed. We parked our car and unloaded our bags, packed with enough supplies to survive approximately 56 hours should we have to shelter in place…because you never know what will happen and heaven forbid you end up in a pubic place without a baby wipe.

At the entrance gates, we watched as a sea of strollers poured over each other. Seriously, I’ve never seen so many strollers in one place. Umbrella strollers, all-terrain strollers, jogging strollers, double strollers, even a triple stroller (with the cutest triplet babies taking their naps). And then we noticed the wagons. Wagons galore. Wagons with children, wagons with coolers, wagons with toys. So many wagons I convinced myself we must need a wagon.

Despite the crowd, we got in with ease. We wandered past bears, elephants, penguins and more. If you asked AJ about the trip, she would probably say (if she could talk) that she saw a lot of crazy creatures running around and chasing after their young. Since she was confined to the stroller most of time her main viewing attraction was the people. And there were people everywhere. Parents and families of all shapes and sizes moved past us in waves, all looking at maps and yelling back at a wandering child to stay with mommy.

All this controlled chaos might seem like it would make for a stressful trip, but I think I was the most relaxed I have ever been taking AJ out in public. I didn’t need to worry about if the stroller would fit where we wanted to go. I didn’t feel self-conscious when we spread out our baby supplies at lunch, filling an entire six-seat table. When I went to the bathroom to change AJ, the changing table was in a logical spot (for once). And the last thing I was worried about was her crying.

When I took a close look around me, I noticed many moms nursing, changing diapers and otherwise taking care of their children while those who passed didn’t even blink. I wasn’t the only one who took advantage of the crowd as a bit of privacy and was able to simply take care of her child and enjoy the day.

Although AJ is too young to really know what was happening, I think she had a good time. She made her happy screeching sounds many a time and took a nice long nap for the better part of the afternoon.

And last but not least (although now that I look back, I’m embarrassed about this one), I completely embraced my mom status and busted out the selfie stick for a few family photos.

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

Motherhood is…

Monday, April 13, 2015
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Motherhood is…

Not changing after your baby wipes snot on your shoulder right before you leave the house for work.

Discussing mundane topics like baby food for hours on end with your fellow moms and not running out of things to say.

Cleaning your bathrooms on a Saturday night and enjoying the feeling of finally having some time to get the house in order.

A constant backache from bending over, lifting, and carrying.

Never having enough room on your phone for all the photos and videos.

Always stressing out over something to do with your child, consciously or subconsciously.

Wondering what on earth you ever did with your time before you had kids.

Spending an evening doing what you did before you had kids and realizing it’s as not fun or fulfilling anymore.

Feeling like you’ve won the lottery when you get five hours of solid sleep.

Buying clothes that are comfortable enough to be slept in yet acceptable enough to wear to the grocery store.

Crying when you find out you have to go out of town for work, because you hate every moment you have to be away.

Enjoying the time you do get to yourself, but in the back of your mind you are counting the minutes until you see your family again.

Googling phrases such as, “Why won’t my 8-month-old sleep all night?” and finding thousands of hits.

Showering a bit less than you used to.

Your heart melting every time your baby gives you one of her perfect smiles.

Motherhood is…exhausting, joyous, challenging, wonderful.

Where I Come From

Friday, April 10, 2015
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past-present-futureAt some point during my formative years, I began asking “where did I come from?”

I wasn’t curious about biology and human reproduction. Well, that’s not exactly true. I was curious about biology and human reproduction, but I was even more curious about my family history.

Perhaps my interest was piqued by peers who proclaimed they were descendants of famous historical figures. I was convinced that my family tree was a common Elm while everyone else’s was a Giant Sequoia.

All these years later, I’m inclined to think my classmates had active imaginations and an innate ability to stretch the truth. But at the at the time, I just wanted to be related to someone famous.

“Your great-grandmother was a Houston, and you’re related to Sam Houston,” my mother told me. That wasn’t a lie. I am related to Sam Houston. I’m just not related to THE Sam Houston. My pedigree, or lack of it, had been confirmed. I was a mutt.

Decades later, before the birth of my son, my interest in family history was renewed.

There is something about babies that binds us to our past. We realize that our existence is completely dependent on previous generations and that we will forever be connected to people we never met.

As I began to pursue my family’s history, so did my husband, although he had an unfair advantage.

His uncle Jack was so passionate about genealogy that he actually wrote a book about the family patriarch who moved from Bavaria, Germany to the small village of Shepherdstown, West Virginia only to be thrust into battle during the Civil War. It was a good story, and my husband took pride in his Bavarian roots. So much so that he was excited when he submitted his DNA to his surname family group in Bavaria. He knew he would discover even more about his family.

He did find out more – just not in the way he expected.

“Your DNA doesn’t match anyone in this group,” he was told. “Do you want us to expand the search outside of the surname and the region?”

He agreed while still insisting that he was German. When the results came back indicating he had roots in Denmark, he blamed the Vikings.

“They pillaged German villages all the time,” he said. “Denmark borders Germany. I’m sure the Vikings  invaded a Bavarian village and that’s why I’m showing Danish and not German blood.”

I tried to politely suggest that one of his grandfathers had been adopted or that maybe, just maybe, one of his great grandmothers had fooled around a bit.

He wouldn’t hear of it. The paternal side of his family was German, and no one would convince him otherwise.

Even when his mother bought him a Viking hat for his birthday, he refused to see any humor in the discrepancy between what the family tree said and what his DNA indicated. He may have Danish blood, but he will always be German.

He has a valid point.

DNA may provide the genetic code for the color of our eyes, our skin tone, and even our predisposition for medical conditions, but the core of who we are is so much bigger than that.

Just as none of us would be whom we are without our DNA or ancestral heritage, neither would we be whom we are without people who gave a piece of themselves to us.

I am a compilation of all the people who believed in me, challenged me and, most importantly, loved me.

The person I am today came from the elderly neighbors who provided a refuge when I ran away from home on a regular basis as a child. The person I am today came from the teachers who chose to see beyond my academic performance and also wanted to nurture my creative and empathetic tendencies. The person I am today came from all the people who hurt, betrayed and abandoned me and from the people who encouraged, supported, and loved me during those same times.

The person I am today could never give a simple answer to the question “where did I come from?” No biology lesson or family tree can even begin to describe where I came from. Only my relationships and the stories I pass on to my children can do that.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Mommy fails (continued)

Monday, April 6, 2015
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AJ,

It’s me, mom, again. You may remember I once shared some of my mommy fails from our first months together. Well, I think it’s time for another round. I’m happy to say we are still a good team. We are having a lot of fun together, and I’m getting better at this whole “mom” thing. But I’m far from perfecting my craft. So here’s a few more of my “mommy fails”:

By the time we get home, I never remember what was written on your chart at day care. So when your daddy asks me questions like, “Did she nap well today?” my response is usually along the lines of, “Oh, sure…you know…” This also means I can never remember that you ran out of diapers or clothes.

You’ve decided to rebel against diaper changes by arching your back, screaming, turning over and trying to crawl off the changing table. One day, you were being so difficult I decided to just put your diaper on backwards. It still did its job.

I let the dog lick your face and hands more than I should. I’m just happy she’s finally decided to like you.

Little did I know that blowing my nose would be the scariest thing on earth to you. After I did it, your face twisted into a complete look of terror and you started crying like you thought I was hurt. I felt bad that I thought it was really cute.

Whenever you are fussy I sing about what I am doing to try to get you to calm down. I do this so much, I recently found myself singing in the lunch line at a work meeting.

You have a wide selection of headbands and bows, but I rarely remember to put one on you. You’ve only been mistaken for a boy a couple of few times.

And last but not least – we were in the bathroom and as I was drawing your bath, I looked back to find you licking the toilet. I have nothing more to say about that one.

I’m still trying my hardest to do my best for you, and you are a great baby. I hope one day you will look back at these stories and laugh at your crazy mom.

Love,

Mommy

Kelly Weikle and her husband Chris are navigating the uncharted road of parenthood with their infant daughter, AJ. Kelly shares the ups, downs, laughs, and cries of new motherhood on The Mommyhood every Monday. When not discovering what everyone else who has a child already knows, Kelly works full time in corporate communications.

The Tooth Fairy

Tuesday, March 31, 2015
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There are some parental roles I never mastered.

Playing the Tooth Fairy is one.

I should have known it was going to be problematic the day my son lost his first tooth.

He literally lost it.

He was on the playground in kindergarten, and I never got the full story about exactly what happened. The tooth (2)tooth may have fallen into a pile of mulch while he was on the swings, or he may have swallowed it while going down the slide. I don’t know. I suspect the latter because when my husband and I tried to convince our son that the tooth fairy would find his tooth anyway, he wasn’t exactly thrilled with the idea.

That was the start of my short-lived and very spotty career as the Tooth Fairy.

Losing a tooth was never a big deal for my children because it likely led to disappointment.

Sometimes, one of my children would put a tooth under his or her pillow. More often, they didn’t.

They knew that sometimes the Tooth Fairy remembered to replace the tooth with money and sometimes she didn’t.

When I did remember to take the tooth, I never knew what I was supposed to do with it.

Other parents told me that they kept their children’s baby teeth, but that seemed kind of disgusting to me. I couldn’t imagine a day when I would look at a tiny tooth and get all nostalgic.

That was back in the days when I didn’t realize how quickly the years would fast forward to a time when the cost of college tuition was a much bigger concern than how much the tooth fairy should pay. That was also back in the days when I didn’t give any consideration to the fact that I would someday have to seek professional assistance to remove my child’s teeth.

Last fall, when our dentist advised me that my 16-year old son needed to consult an oral surgeon about having his wisdom teeth removed, I was sure he was going to add “in five years.”

He didn’t.

And so, a few months later, I was trying to get my son to wake up after his first experience with anesthesia.

I could poke fun at how he behaved, but he really didn’t act much differently than normal. He wanted to sleep, and he wanted his parents to leave him alone.

The only surprising moment occurred as we were leaving.

I was handed a small paper envelope and told that it contained my son’s wisdom teeth.

“He wanted to keep them,” the oral surgeon said.

I stuck the envelope in my purse and immediately forgot about it. I certainly didn’t think that my son wanted his teeth so he could put them under his pillow in hopes that the Tooth Fairy would make one final appearance.

He and I both knew that my dismal performances as the Tooth Fairy were a thing of the past.

We didn’t realize I had one final curtain call.

A couple of months after my son’s surgery, I was checking out at the local grocery store when I was asked for my bonus card. I keep it attached to my key ring, which I had misplaced somewhere in my purse. I put my purse on the ledge by the debit card scanner as I searched. When I pulled out my keys in triumph, two large obviously adult human teeth popped out and onto the conveyor belt.

I couldn’t look at the clerk’s face as I scooped up the teeth and threw them randomly back in my purse.

I couldn’t look at her face as I handed her my key ring.

I couldn’t even look at her face when I paid for my purchase.

The only thing I could do was try to regain some semblance of pride while assuring the clerk that I wasn’t a complete freak.

“Being the Tooth Fairy can be a messy and sometimes embarrassing job,” I said as I walked away.

I didn’t need to look back. I knew the young woman couldn’t understand.

But someday, in the rapidly approaching future, she probably will.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Button Box

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
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The button box wasn’t actually a box. It was a round basket in a strange shade of orange and gold.buttons

Despite its shape, we never called it the button basket. It was always the button box.

Growing up with a mother who wasn’t a collector of much of anything, the button box was magical to me.

If the weather was stormy or if I was stuck in bed with some childhood illness, I could spend hours going through the only treasure chest I knew. I would take off the lid, dip my hands into the jumbled contents, and let the buttons spill through my fingers as though they were precious jewels.

After admiring the contents, I would sort the buttons by color, size, and shape. Then I would create designs with the buttons while I imagine why they had landed in the button box. I became an archaeologist digging up my mother’s history by uncovering a small remnant of a favorite coat she no longer wore; the eyes of a stuffed animal from her childhood or the small pearl button from her high school prom dress.

I never wondered why my mom had collected so many buttons. I never even considered the possibility that she had an emotional attachment to the objects. She was a practical woman, and buttons were useful.

Except, most of the buttons in the button box weren’t very useful at all.

There were a few sets of buttons still packaged with price tags that were more reflective of the 1950’s than the 1970’s. Some buttons matched, but most were singularly odd: a red heart, a large black square, a plaid, cloth-covered disc. I couldn’t imagine my mother would sew them onto anything she was making or mending.

On  rare occasions, Mom would take out the button box, riffle through it, and pull out what she needed. More often, however, she went to the store and bought the exact buttons she wanted

And yet, she kept that box and saved those buttons because she considered them valuable. Then, she shared her treasure with me because she thought I was valuable too.

And that’s the magic of motherhood– the appreciation that the greatest gifts we pass on to our children aren’t the ones that cost money but instead are the ones that require us to give pieces of ourselves to the next generation.

The magic of childhood is appreciating those gifts.

And the magic of family is appreciating why those gifts are so important.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering, writing, biking or walking the giant German Shepherd, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

Alone On the Curb

Wednesday, January 21, 2015
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I have no doubt that every child who went to elementary school during the 1970’s experienced the same trauma I did. Fortunately, I only experienced it once – or at least I only remember one incident. There may have been more, but none has stuck with me like the one that occurred that day in second grade.

I remember feeling completely lost and alone as I sat on the curb waiting for a mom who hadn’t arrived.

I don’t remember why I had stayed after school. I just remember that I did and was quite excited to do so. Bon the curback in those days, afterschool activities weren’t the norm for the under ten crowd. We had music lessons and 4-H and Scouts, but none of those activities were associated with school and there was no such thing as afterchool care.

Whatever the reason my friends and I had stayed late, it must have been  a special occasion. I still remember chatting with my friends as we stood on the sidewalk by the playground fence waiting for our moms to pick us up. (In those days, the moms were always the ones who picked up the kids.)

As other moms began to drive up to the curb and my friends climbed into their cars (usually into the front seat, generally without seat belts and always with absolutely no concept of contraptions called car seats), our group got smaller and smaller and smaller.

Eventually, I was the only one still standing on the sidewalk until I tired of that and sat on the curb.

I know anyone born after 1980 is wondering where the adult supervision and teachers were. My answer is “I don’t know.”

Back in those days, vigilance didn’t exist like it does today, and teachers usually went home when the students did. There was a sense of trust in the parents and a sense of safety in daylight – especially in small towns. There was also a belief that situations usually worked themselves out.

Except when they didn’t.

As the sun started making its journey behind the Juniper-covered hills that surrounded the town in which I lived, I sat on the curb and waited. And waited. And waited.

Eventually, a teacher who had stayed late happened upon me as she walked to her car. She didn’t, however, see the same gravity in the situation that I did.

“What’s the matter?” she asked. “You look as though you lost your best friend.”

I remember contemplating her words. My good friends had all left me, but I didn’t think I’d actually lost them. But I didn’t share those thoughts. Instead, I told her I was waiting for my mom.

“Oh, I know your mom,” the teacher said. “I know she’ll be here soon.”

And she was right. My mom did arrive…eventually,

In those days before Google calendars and other electronic reminders, she had simply forgotten that she was supposed to pick me up at school. And, in those days before cell phones, answering machines and vigilant school personnel, I was powerless to remind her. Those things just happened to those of us who grew up in the 1970’s.

Mom may have told me why she didn’t worry when the bus arrived without me. Or she may have told me that she had a meeting and she thought she had babysitting duties covered. I don’t remember because her words never registered. I was too relieved and grateful that I wasn’t going to have to spend the night on the curb and wear the same clothes to school the next day.

I was reminded of this incident a few weeks ago as a read a post that has been recycled through social media a few times. It is a reminder of what would now be considered parenting fails but  were acceptable when I was young. And my generation survived anyway.

We didn’t wear bike helmets (although I do remember the humiliation of swimming caps). We played outside with no supervision (unless you count our dogs which all ran free without any type of fence – even electric.) And we weren’t electronically connected to everyone we knew.

If we were out of our parents sight, they never knew where we were, if we were safe or when we would actually arrive home.

I can’t imagine being a parent during that time period, and I give my parents kudos for being so strong.

Apparently, I am much weaker.

Both of my children have cell phones with which they use to constantly communicate with me.

I know if their plans have changed and they are going home with a friend after school. And when they text me such information, I can immediately text the friend’s parents to confirm.

I know when the band bus is running late or early, so I can arrive at the school in a timely manner. I don’t have to sit in a parking lot for hours waiting for a bus to arrive and imagining all that could possibly have gone wrong.

And I know that the school has my cell phone number so I don’t have to be sitting at my office desk to get a notice that my child is sick or is in detention (yes I have experienced that parental fail.)

Those of us who had the true 1970’s childhood experience may laugh at how much we protect our children these days, but deep in our hearts, we are also extremely grateful. Changes in technology and society ensure that our children will never be sitting alone on a curb waiting for a ride home.

And if that isn’t progress, I don’t know what is.

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

#Horriblemom

Wednesday, January 14, 2015
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Of my many flaws, believing that I only have a few isn’t one of them.

On the flip side, I’m very, very good finding fault in almost everything I do.

It’s a trait that I come by honestly – it was passed down by the maternal side of my family, but I’m not sure whether its longevity is linked more to nature or nurture. While my mother and grandmother excelled at identifying their own weaknesses, they were less successful at keeping those discoveries to themselves.

I am cursed by these same behaviors.

As a little girl, I  grew up hearing my mother talk about her mistakes, missteps and misfortunes. When I became a teenager, she no longer had to point them out because I did an outstanding job of doing that for her.  Now, I just point out my own.

And even though I’m well aware of the warnings from psychologists and child development experts that we can damage our children when we speak poorly of ourselves, I do it anyway.

And yes, my children picked up on my behavior. What they haven’t done is repeat it. Perhaps their father’s side of the family is more dominant than mine, because they haven’t even taken my concerns about my inadequacies very seriously.

Instead, they’ve turned them into a running joke

When I started saying “I’m a horrible mom,” to note that I had experienced a parenting fail, they quickly picked up on the phrase.

When I expressed dismay or worry about a decision, one of them would say “Hash Tag Horrible Mom.” They found it so amusing that they began using it as the punctuation mark to most of my sentences – almost as a sign of affection.

And while I may suffer from an intense need to openly identify all my faults, I don’t lack a sense of humor.

That means I can not only appreciate how ridiculous I can be, I can also have fun.

And so it was last Sunday night when my daughter and her BFF were trying to complete a display for their social studies fair project. I tried to assist as needed, but I was actually contributing to the silliness as much, if not more, than they were.

I was attempting to restore some order to the overly loud and raucous high -jinks, when my daughter  played the Celine Dion song “My Heart Will Go On.” Kendall knows none of us can be serious when that song plays – especially since her brother shared Matt Mulholland’s  You Tube video “My Heart Will Go On – By Candlelight.”  (My Heart Will Go On – By Candlelight)

As soon as the first sorrowful notes began to play, I stopped in mid reprimand to launch into song – complete with overly dramatic arm gestures and facial expressions. The girls joined in, and the social studies project was forgotten.

At least, it was forgotten until my husband marched into the family room to complain about the noise level, of which I was a primary contributor.

When he left the room, I muttered “what a grumpy dad” under my breath.

The girls picked up on my words immediately. “Hash Tag Horrible Mom Hash Tag Grumpy Dad,” they said. The line has stuck.

Ironically, I no longer consider their words to be a reminder of our faults.

Instead, they are a reminder that, even though we may do many things wrong, my husband and I have obviously done just as many things right.

We encourage our children to pursue their passions. We help with school projects.  And, perhaps most important, we have a home that promotes creativity and freedom of expression (within reason of course).

If the worst my children can say about us is “Hash Tag Horrible Mom and Hash Tag Grumpy Dad,” then I maybe I should start ending my sentences with “#notsohorribleofamomafterall.”

Trina Bartlett lives with her husband, Giles Snyder, their teenage son and daughter, two cats and one enormous German Shepherd. When she’s not being a mom, volunteering or writing, Trina works full time as a director at a nonprofit, social service organization.

The Pink Lady and the Microfilm Machine

Wednesday, January 7, 2015
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I am a more than three decades older than my daughter, and she reminds me of that on a daily basis.

She doesn’t actually say anything to me. She’s simply 13 and in the eighth grade while I am quickly closing in on a half century.

She can watch her favorite television series on Netflix. When I was her age, only very lucky kids, of which I was not one, had VCRs. If I missed an episode of my favorite show, I had to wait for a re-run and hope that my brother didn’t want to watch something that same night.

She has her own cell phone that tracks everyone who calls her (although she gets many more text messages than actual phone calls). When I was her age, my family had one land-line phone and no one had answering machines.  If we missed a call, we just missed a call.

She literally has a world of information at her fingertips, whether on her phone, a tablet or computer. When I was her age, I had no options but to go to the public library when I wanted to do research.

But sometimes, even in these high-tech days, 13-year-old girls still need to go to the public library to do research.

Such was the case this past weekend when I took Kendall and Bri, her BFF (best friend forever) to the local public library. They are doing their social studies fair project on the history of a local theater where they love to perform. During their interview with a long-time volunteer and default historian (an interview Bri recorded on her iphone instead of on a pad of paper or on a tape recorder), he gave them a list of resources in old newspapers dating back to 1912 that they could probably research at the local library.

That’s the reason I found myself giggling with two 13-year-old girls on a rainy Saturday afternoon as we browsed reels of microfilm from newspapers published more than a century before.

The content was both microfilmamusing and educational.

There was an three-column story about a “well-respected colored man” who had died after eating a large meal. The article described his last few minutes right down to the moment when he raised his hands above his head and proclaimed “Lord have mercy” before he collapsed.

There was a story about a “musical mule” that ate the keys off a piano.

And there were many, many articles about the day-to-day happenings of local residents who had gone on vacation, visited relatives or held parties. There was even an article about my daughter’s great-grandfather.

As we used the rather antiquated technology of microfilm to take a trip back in time, Kendall and Bri snapped photo after photo on their iphones as they giggled and sent text messages. I couldn’t help but note the paradox.

Then, a brief note about a lady dressed in pink who made male hearts flutter sent all of us into peals of laughter.the pink lady

When I finally caught my breath, I asked “Why would this be in the newspaper?”

Bri didn’t miss a beat.

“How is our news today any better? One-hundred years from now, people are going to laugh at us because we had headlines about Miley Cyrus twerking.”

She had a point – a really good point actually. And her words helped make our time together at the microfilm machine even more meaningful.

We left the library that afternoon with much more than a few pieces of copy paper for a social studies project. We left with a mutual understanding about life.

Times change. Attitudes change. Styles change. Even people change.

But the distance between generation shrinks when we realize our shared experiences, which we may document with different technology and with different language,  greatly outweigh our differences.

The pink lady – and the local public library – taught me that.