As I approach my 68th birthday, and as my husband turns 74 one month after that, we see that we are standing at the threshold to Old age….some would argue that we are well past the threshold to old age, but it is all in the perspective isn’t it?
I am a thinker. I am also a writer, and I like writing down what comes to my mind during my thinking session at any given time. Writing is therapeutic for me and it helps me sort out the good stuff from the garbage that accumulates up there from living this life. I spend large amounts of time within my own head, visiting my past more and more as time goes on because there is so much history there and fortunately, in my history, I have felt the love of others. My childhood was rich with the experiences of growing up in the woods and countryside of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan surrounded by a very large extended family.
Our family didn’t have excess of anything, but we did have “enough”. We lived in a small house with small closets that were not packed full of clothes and shoes. We each had one pair of everyday shoes and one pair of dress shoes. We had what were called “play” clothes or everyday clothes and a very few nice outfits for church and school. We had one kitchen, one living room, one bathroom, (all small) and my only brother was the only one in our house who did not have to share a bedroom as my sister and I did and our parents. We had a garage with one car.
We were all slender because while we had enough food (delicious home cooked meals) we did not have snacks anywhere around to eat in between meals, other than occasional baked goods. We never had soda in the refrigerator nor ice cream in the freezer unless a birthday was approaching. There was not an over abundance of restaurants like there are now in these times.. There were basically NO restaurants within a 30 mile radius of our home. Fast food restaurants were unheard of. In town, next to a gas station, stood a little commercial kitchen with a long counter and backless stools where you could sit and order hamburgers, cheeseburgers, fries and malts, but we never participated. It was just not considered. As I think back, I don’t recall that this was unusual because we children just never questioned it.
Most people lived the same simple life as their neighbor because most were in the same socio-economic situation, yet we never felt deprived of anything. It also eliminated the sense of keeping up with the hypothetical “Jones’s” next door. What we did have in abundance was family. One did not have to look far to find someone to hang out with. One movie theater was over 30 miles away and it was extremely rare that we attended, so our love of books grew exponentially.
As I walk around my memories of times past, simultaneously I find myself looking around my home at the overabundance of everything. At our mature age, we have guest bedrooms that are rarely used with the exception of family visits from out of town. We have two large gathering room spaces, one of which is rarely used. This is a beautifully appointed room which is lovely to look at and enjoyable to sit in, but in all honesty, not something we really need to have anymore. As it turns out, we likely never needed it in the first place.. When we moved here, my husband wanted to build small, citing the cost of heating and cooling excess square footage and the cost of taxes that are paid on the same. Our nest was newly empty, with none of the children married, and I had big dreams of what was to come so I wanted to accommodate those dreams. Surely, we needed a lot of space for the future in-laws and multitude of grandchildren did we not? I heard it said once, and I think of it often, that when you create dreams for yourself, you need to get the permission of those you put in those dreams because their dreams may be entirely different from yours. So true! As it has turned out, we have only two grandchildren who live as far north as we live south. Our children are independent and self sufficient (thank goodness for these blessings) but these blessings also mean they only have so much extra time on their hands and we are not the only people they want to spend time with. We are happy and content with our life as it has turned out, it is just different from how we had imagined it.
So, we look around at all the beautiful things we once thought we just had to have and find ourselves wondering “whatever are we going to do with all of this?” We have consulted with the children and they are not particularly interested in any of our things. Their houses are full of their own choices and we understand that. We love our home and outside courtyard and outdoor grounds, but as time marches on, we understand that the more you have, the more you have to take care of. How is it that those things you didn’t think you could live without end up taking up much of your precious limited time in the purchase, the care, the moving, and eventually the sale of it? I remember when we first got married, how little effort it took to move into our first house because there wasn’t that much stuff to move. With each successive move, the trucks got bigger and bigger and eventually the moves required hiring professionals to help wrap and pack and move! Looking back, we realize that we have spent the first half of our life accumulating things, and now in the second half or later, we are faced with getting rid of a lot of it. We could have saved ourselves a lot of time and a lot of money.
The child within us just wants to play in the time we have left. We don’t want to take care of a large house, or dust and vacuum unused rooms. We don’t want to move mountains of dishes and glassware from cupboard to the table to entertain. We just want to live with the freedom we once had in our childhood where all we really had was our little room with our comfy bed within a little house and family to love us. How did we come to feel we needed so much more, only to discover we didn’t need it after all?
My husband and I are discussing our future and how we want to live it. We made a list of other places to live and slowly crossed off each possibility until we realized that after 20 years of living here, THIS is home! Home may not always be this particular house, but it is certainly this area where we are familiar with our church, friends, Dr., Dentist, library, post office, shops, and restaurants. Recently, driving back home from a visit to our daughters place, we felt the usual sense of “coming home” as we approached the rolling hills and views of Lake Travis in the Hill Country of Texas.
At the end of the day, all any human being really needs are creature comforts….food when we are hungry, water when we are thirsty, a bed when we are tired, a fan when we are hot, a blanket when we are cold, and the love of family. It is the love that makes us all want to continue our earthly journey, for without it we cannot exist.
Jesus said, “Come to me as little children” and the reason for this is so obvious. Small children have small desires…and an acceptance of life as it is. Big children have bigger desires and lots of questions and so it goes. The quote “less is more” is truer than true, provided you have enough to sustain yourself, and provided that you are loved by at least one special someone in this world. Love is the ultimate nourishment, for without it our spirit would die.
O.k….my child within is making a lot of noise about wanting to go outside. It is a beautiful day here in Austin, Texas and I have big plans to sit under our giant oak tree swinging in our new rope swing.
(Above is a picture of me as a young mother holding two of my dreams in my arms)