Lens-Artists Challenge: Pastimes

Lens-Artists Challenge #97: Pastimes

With so much time being spent at home, many of us have been looking for new pastimes or taking up old ones in order stay occupied or even sane. So that is my theme for this challenge – Pastimes. It could be something that you are trying for the first time or a hobby or interest that you have enjoyed for many years. Feel free to dig into the archives or take a picture to illustrate a current pastime.

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Trying to stay sane…that can be a challenge all on its own.

However…

The days begin with one of my favorite pastimes since I’ve been retired and empty nested. Coffee and the local newspaper. The paper itself is getting thinner by the day. Less ads with businesses shut down. No current sports to cover.

“Letters to the Editor” are ramping up though. Almost as much as during the presidential primary. I find them entertaining but I am also intrigued at the drama people thrive on and perpetuate.

I also read the obituaries. I always have. Some may think that’s odd or morbid or depressing. However, the obits often tell the fascinating – and often inspiring – stories of lives well lived…details of places visited, accomplishments and family. My favorite discoveries are the glimpses into sweet memories or personal quirks that make me think…I would have enjoyed meeting this person…

Of course not everyone’s obituary is like that. Some (probably due to the expense of listing) are brief and sum up the life of a 90 year old citizen with no details whatsoever. I wonder about them.

My late mother-in-law used to claim she read the obits faithfully every day to make sure she wasn’t in there. Sounds like reason enough for me.

The paper may still take half the morning to read while I sip and enjoy. Who knows…maybe eventually I’ll find some positive news.

morning coffee

 

A new pastime due to the pandemic has been a work-in-progress jigsaw puzzle. It waits for completion on the end of the dining table near the window…helping take my mind off the latest crisis. Perhaps fueled by my return to watching the evening news…just in case there is a breakthrough in testing or research or something hopeful.

We just finished our second puzzle (this one full of dogs looking very relaxed). We will admire it for a few days and then plan to move on to the next one.

puzzle

There is a patch of woods behind our condo building, which I have mentioned before in this blog. Many of my macro shots originated there. It has a few paths as well as an unpaved access road for the utility company. It borders a state highway, so it is not as quiet as I would like.

However it’s still a place of refuge during these days.

woods path

When all else fails – go outside! Walk! Sometimes I plug my white earbuds into iTunes and listen to one of my many playlists. Perhaps “Energy Dance Mix” or “Motown Choices.” There’s nothing like Aretha belting out R E S P E C T or Diana’s soaring Ain’t No Mountain High Enough to lift your spirits or quicken your step.

With my camera close at hand, I keep an eye out for potential Eureka moments when the sun is at the perfect angle in the afternoon. The golden hour that photographers get excited about.

And then at the end of the day…

I find that I have returned to a pastime that originated a very long time ago. When writing was my default – especially in troubling times. During my childhood I wrote feverishly in diaries (I say “feverishly” because the handwriting often had that look to it) about everything I did…down to the most mundane listings of television shows I watched. Emotions and opinions jumped out every so often too. Much of it is boring as sin to read now, but it served its purpose back then.

When the pandemic hit, I started writing at night again. Usually in bed before turning out the light. Just summarizing the day…and eventually the statistics. At first I thought…this is silly…but then did it anyway as it felt like the most natural thing to do. Perhaps to make sense of what was going on…or something.

I feel like I sleep a little better too.

I dug out a diary from 1965 to show here with my current one.

I wonder what the children of today are writing in their diaries…about how they are passing the time.

Time will tell.

Diaries Revisited – September

diaries line up

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Today I went to school. I brought my lunch. I wore my coolest dress because it was 90° Boy it was HOT. (grade 5)

Today I went to school. I brought my lunch. After school I did my homework…Then I played Army…We watched TV. (grade 5)

Today I went to school. It wasn’t my day. I brought my lunch… (grade 5)

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When September rolls around, traditions click into place. Even irrelevant outdated ones – when entrenched in childhood, they still rise to the surface years later. Like the cream floating on milk in those half gallon bottles delivered by the milkman when I was 9.

But I digress.

More like  whoops it’s past Labor Day, now I have to stop wearing white shoes.  Which, again, is no longer relevant. I don’t even own white shoes.

Labor Day. My childhood diaries mark its significance. Labor Day meant getting ready for school, the beginning of school and the end of summer. And my white footwear was shoved to the back of the closet until the following Memorial Day. Which was fine with me, as I preferred my Keds.

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I put dividers in my notebooks…Maddy came over and helped me organize my notebooks…(grade 6)

Today I went to school…I began to understand the Math…(grade 6)

Today I went to school. We had Math. Then Science…After lunch & Social Studies we had gym. We played keep-away football…(grade 6)

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September = shopping trips for school clothes. Sensible dresses, skirts, shoes. One year: dresses with attached poor boy tops. And then just poor boy tops. A CPO jacket. Penny loafers. Or – after much begging and cajoling – a bra. My my. And finally, after more begging – stockings and a garter belt. This was years before girls could wear pants to school. A new pocketbook – at some point – with my own saved-up money. Bought at a discount store with a girlfriend. One year a madras style. One year with fringe. If possible, with zippers.

School…

I attended 5 public schools from Kindergarten through 12th grade. There was always a wariness mixed with excitement before each school year started. Who would my teachers be? But mostly – who would the other girls in my class be? Would Diane be back to mock me and make me feel small? Damned if she didn’t follow me from school to school until we moved in my 6th grade year. Decades before bullying became a news headline, it was – of course – still rampant.

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…Wore stockings to school. Had a terrible lunch – meatball hero. (grade 7)

Today I went to school…Came home and washed dishes, made salad & whip ‘n chill. (grade 7)

…My hair turned out great.* It stayed in all day. Even when it rained. (grade 7)

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*Dippity-Do – another back-to-school must have. That stuff (plus pink plastic curlers) was magic for curling straight hair.

September = shopping for school supplies. I loved this part. Wandering the aisles at Valley Fair. The 1960’s version of Walmart plus Woolworth’s plus creaky wooden floors. Everything was in there – 45’s and pocketbooks and stockings and Wrangler dungarees and cheap cosmetics…and in September…a whole aisle of paper. All kinds. Notebook paper. Lined and unlined. Graph paper. Pads of paper. Yellow pads. White pads. Packs of pens and pencils hanging from hooks on display. Bic pens. Flair pens. Yellow pencils. Colored pencils. Blue three-ring binders. Black and white composition books. Smooth, blank and full of potential. Pink erasers. Notebook dividers. Pencil cases. Rulers. Protractors. When I discovered cartridge pens – with the little ink cartridges and calligraphy tips built right in:  Jackpot Fancy.

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Tried on dresses so Grammy could shorten some. (grade 8)

Went to school. Hot out…After school I went to Westwood. Got a new pocketbook – has a chain handle. (grade 8)

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I usually got a hair cut.  So did my sisters and brother.

Haircut. New dress. New shoes. Lunch. Notebooks and schedule. Ready to go.

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Today I went to school. Today was the opening of the high school for all students. I really felt crowded today. The lunch was good…. (grade 9)

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As I got older, September also marked changes in my after-school life.

Grammar school: Chores. Playing army with my brother. Or building a fort with my friend Kathleen. Riding my bike. Playing kickball in the street.

High school: Chores and babysitting my siblings. Lots of babysitting my siblings. Listening to records & AM radio. Talking on the phone, shopping or baking with my girlfriends. At their houses. At Wendy’s it was snickerdoodles. At Vikki’s it was fudge. Or maybe we just ate her mother’s fudge, because she was such an amazing baker. Vikki and I used to joke that we would widen our doors for each other when we got older. Forecasting the obesity that never materialized.

…back to September and another tradition…

First Day of School Picture

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8th grade

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Went to school…We had to write an imaginary story in English about what we would do with a super power. I picked invisibility. The lunch here is so much better than last year…On the way home the bus broke down & we had to change busses to get home…(grade 9)

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Diaries Revisited – 2018

diaries line up

My writing life started with diaries – the kind with the tiny keys. Keys implying a privacy that wasn’t actually possible. But which gave a 9 year old a sense of importance. Tucking away private thoughts in a safe space. A comforting fantasy. Trusting that the key really worked.

As I got older, diaries (keys long gone) were followed by small spiral lined notebooks (written with an orange Flair pen – this was, after all, the ’70’s). Next… black hardcover “blank books.” And then back to small spiral notebooks and thick journals. I actually preferred the printed lines to guide my sometimes erratic handwriting; angled in anger or loopy with emotion. I went through a calligraphy stage in college and carefully inked my thoughts with spaced precision. An art form! And since I was the sister who was NOT the artist, I felt mighty proud about that.

My good friend Debbie gave me a new 8 1/2″ x 11″ black blank book when we were both 20 and about to start sharing an apartment – a first for both of us. We would finish up our last 1 & 1/2 years of college together.

She filled the first page:

Here is the book you wanted. It means so much to have a book like this…to write down thoughts, feelings….watch how you grow, how your feelings change and how much more aware you become when you read back through it… 

The second and third pages contained Pink Floyd lyrics from “Dark Side of the Moon.”

Breathe, breathe, in the air…Don’t be afraid to care…Leave, but don’t leave me…Look around and choose your own ground…. 

I followed Debbie’s directions and kept filling that journal off and on for almost 18 years. (It didn’t come with a key. I wonder if it should have.) I was as open with my written words at 20 and 25 and 30 as I was at 9 and 10. Kind of shocking really. And now sometimes embarrassing – and painful – to see my heart splayed open on the page over and over, year after year.

Entries became sporadic and eventually just covered major life events – or the night before major life events – as I pondered their significance. Marriage. Career. Parenthood. Family dramas. Joy. Grief. Loss. I started and stopped various notebooks, journals and blank books. A brand new one always a hard-to-resist invitation to begin again. Maybe it was the fresh, smooth paper & its possibilities…like getting new notebook paper, pens and pencils for the start of school each September.

At the ripe old age of 27 – about 2 weeks before the birth of my first child I wrote…

It seems that the older I get, the faster life goes by…We Are Going To Be Parents!!…It will probably be the most important thing we do….”   

The next entry (in that journal) was 10 years later when I had a weekend away by myself.  By then I had a second child and a consulting job. I was still in my thirties. The 4 page summary began with…

Motherhood has changed my life more than anything else before it. 

And ended with…

After all these years I’m finally starting to acknowledge that there’s another side of me that’s been buried – perhaps a more creative side – I’m not sure…”   

Looking back, I was spot-on about the motherhood thing.

…I also have several well worn notebooks filled with stories of all the amazing, funny, and truly one of a kind things my 2 children ever said or did.

Truly like no other kid ever in the history of the world. Obviously. For example: How many 8 year old boys do you know who can make an earring out of a Cheerio?  And whose mother wrote a story about it?

I couldn’t help myself. It was such fun….

not-real TV

FullSizeRender 7
1967

 

When I turned on the TV one recent morning to catch the local news and weather, I heard a vaguely familiar young voice say something like “blah blah blah Uncle Charlie blah blah blah…”  That woke me all the way up. I found my glasses – it was Chip (or maybe Ernie)! Then in stumbled Uncle Charlie (on the screen, not in my bedroom) complete with the apron. It was “My Three Sons.” Oh my.

Apparently someone came up with the idea to rerun those TV “classics” from my childhood. It is a cable station called “MeTV” (an acronym for “Memorable Entertainment Television”) and advertises incessantly on its sister station – a legit ABC local network affiliate. MeTV also broadcasts local news at 10pm – for those of us who can’t stay awake until the typical 11pm news on the “real station.” Now that I think of it, us 10pm news watchers are probably the same ones who watched “My Three Sons” as kids.

Flipping though my diary archives yields a treasure trove of MeTV possibilities; although I’m not sure I’d want to watch them now.

A random sampling:

  • My Favorite Martian
  • Addams Family
  • Gomer Pyle (or as my brother affectionately referred to it – Gomer’s Pyle)
  • Flipper (faster than lightning)
  • Kentucky Jones
  • Gilligan’s Island (it was years before I realized the s in island was silent)
  • Walt Disney (on right before Ed Sullivan)
  • Ed Sullivan (on right before Bonanza)
  • Bonanza (if I was lucky & mom didn’t realize I was still up this late on a school night)
  • Johnny Quest
  • Donna Reed
  • My Three Sons (!)
  • Bewitched
  • The Farmer’s Daughter
  • Andy Griffith
  • The Lucy Show

This was just 2 weeks worth of shows in one year…..a tiny sampling.

My TV listings were often more detailed than homework descriptions. There are comments such as “I watched Bewitched. I like that program very much.” Well, I imagine I did. Here was a woman who could do whatever she wanted just by twitching her nose. The first woman on TV with superpowers. How fantastic was that?

Or “We watched Addams Family & Gomer Pyle on TV while we ate dinner. Gomer Pyle is FUNNY.” Hmmm….why was he funny?  And “I watched a new show called Lost in Space which is about a family with kids & is floating around in a spaceship & is Lost in Space.” That about covers it.

Binge watching one night in the 1960’s: “Camp Runamuck, Hank, Hogan’s Heroes, Gomer Pyle, Smothers Brothers, UNCLE – Waverly Ring Affair.”  (Camp Runamuck?? Hank??) I also would rather not think about the subject matter of “Hogan’s Heroes” being an actual comedy. It is, however, on MeTV.

I watched quite a bit of television as a child.  I also read Nancy Drew books and played outside when I had free time, but I think I loved television the best. I could escape and imagine something different; it became a lifeline of sorts. Those perfect family sitcoms with an Uncle Charlie or an Aunt Bee. Or the nose that twitched and made things happen. The brothers that got along in “My Three Sons” & “Leave it to Beaver.”  The cousins in the “Patty Duke Show” – they got along too.

Pure entertainment drew me in – especially “Variety shows.” One unforgettable one: “The Ed Sullivan Show”…The Beatles! The Rolling Stones! The guy who balanced the spinning plates and of course Topo Gigio!! The June Taylor dancers on “The Jackie Gleason Show” – filmed from above to see the kaleidoscopic patterns they would make. I first fell in love with Lily Tomlin’s humor on “Laugh-In.” All this from just 3 networks!

I took great comfort in knowing that:

  • Lassie would always locate Timmy and find the well – every single time
  • Gidget would always be cute and get a date
  • Mighty Mouse would always save the day
  • Superman would always fly fast and get the bad guy
  • If Opie, Chip, Ernie, Beaver, Wally, Cathy, Patty, et al. misbehaved, their punishments would – at the most – be a “stern talking to.” Their worries, if they had any, were whisked away by episode’s end.

I spent those hours entertained…but also worry free, knowing that it would all work out – whatever “it” was. Was any of it realistic? Of course not. Did it matter to me then? If someone had pointed out that there was no such thing as a flying mouse (obviously not) or a flying man (again, nope) or that girls don’t need to be cute and have boyfriends (would find that out eventually), it would have made no difference. Reality wasn’t the point. And I am grateful.

I do wonder who watches MeTV and why. I admit that I didn’t watch any of “My Three Sons” the other day when I discovered it coming to life on my TV by accident. There was a “Leave it to Beaver” moment one morning as well, when I was expecting GMA.

Are today’s sitcoms “better” than they were in the 1960’s? I don’t know; but I wonder if they give kids the easy escape they may be needing. I hope so. Those slices of not-real life helped me get through childhood. Today’s kids may need something different or maybe there is still a need for not-real TV. Reality for today’s children seems as if it could be a difficult burden.

I know, I know, the sitcoms of the ’60’s were unrealistic and perpetuated many stereotypes and inappropriate role models.  I agree. But still. Sometimes it can be more important to give a worried child’s mind a rest, at least for a short while. That has value.

After all, I knew very well that mothers did not always (or ever) wear an apron, heels and pearls to cook dinner. And of course there could very well be a Superwoman. And that families (of many colors) really did have problems – sometimes serious ones. And that war is hell; not funny.

I should change the channel back to the “regular” channel after the 10pm news from now on. No need to accidentally see Jeannie in the turban rising out of the bottle first thing in the morning. Although….”Bewitched” could work…and might be an easier way to greet the day than what happened overnight in real-life land.