Summer schlummer. Whatever. It’s over.
The great thing about blogging is you’re always blogging in your head. The awful thing about blogging is you’re always blogging in your head.
This one’s been swimming up there for a while, but nonetheless, I give you “The Green Piano Post”.
So. Sometime between 1970 when my parents got married, and 1975 when I was born, my folks spent their hard-earned G.I. money on – No, not a down-payment on a house…No, not stocks in McDonald’s – a piano. God love ’em. Such a beautiful hippie love story, and I’m proud of it to this day. I’m pretty sure they were eating beans and rice or the equivalent, but By God they had a piano, and I know they sat at it night after night and played Kum-Ba-Yah and Puff the Magic Dragon and whatever else the Readers’ Digest Piano Book contained that was in a key that worked for their perfect triad: guitar capo, piano, and vocal range.
Forty plus years later: Their 1970’s flower child who grew up playing that piano now spends hours a week with her hot husband/love/bff/duet partner and his guitar/ukulele cranking out Kasey Musgraves and Symarip and Jack Johnson. The same piano is featured in her newly renovated front room, and it hosts at least 12 different pairs of hands each week.
The variable: Instagram and an obsession with paint. So, you need some background here – I’m the girl who saw curtains she liked, couldn’t afford them, bought some similar curtains and painted each and every stripe the desired color…four pairs of 96″ curtains. She wanted yellow and blue, not khaki and blue. I’m the girl who bought a figure-flattering dress for her role as Grace Farrell in “Annie – the Musical”, but was told she couldn’t wear a red dress because Annie wore a red dress, so she spray-painted it with car upholstery paint until it was some weird form of black with a red sheen. Also the girl who follows Annie Sloan Paint on Instagram because her motto is “Paint Everything”.
So when I saw a painted piano on her feed, I thought “huh. I haven’t painted a piano. I have a piano. I have paint. Why don’t I have a painted piano?”
Now, I’ve painted a lot of things, but nothing has caused me pause and reflection quite like this piano. Nevertheless, with the kickass new home reno and no hope of a baby grand in sight, I just decided to close my figurative eyes and jump in. LOTS of encouragement from hot husband, who, based on his experience with me, couldn’t believe that I talked about it and didn’t make it happen the same day. I told him I needed to process this one.
So, after a couple of weeks of reflection, I stuck the brush into the green paint and touched it to the piano and knew that now I had to do it. It made me a little sick. Until two very strong feelings swept over me consecutively, in a very connected way. In such a way that I’m not sure I’ll do it justice.
First, I was overwhelmed with the realization that those two hippies who could have bought food or a television or something else more conventional – bought a piano. And then they made a baby, and their combined DNA created a baby who wanted to paint everything and play every song and sing every note and love everything deeply. And I realized that they can’t get mad that I’m painting their piano – they made ME, and so it’s their own faultslashcredit.
Then, without warning, I was overcome by the feeling of gratitude for having a Nike husband. To anything I want to do, his response is “Just Do It!” or something like it. And he MEANS it. It my past life (ex-life), I wasn’t even allowed to play the piano when ex was home because it “made too much noise”. I was discouraged from painting all the things I wanted to paint because I would “diminish their value”. So what am I even here for? Something in me was programmed to want to make things different from everything else…What was really going to be negatively affected, the painted furniture, or who I thought I was?
I love my green piano. It is fun. It says, “come play me…I don’t bite…we’re all just here to have some fun while we can.” It speaks volumes about how much I love the way my parents raised me. It sings a melody of the freedom that comes from finding your one-and-only who wants you to just keep being more of you.
And hey (this could have been my life’s motto), if you have to be an upright, be the funkiest one in town.
In 73 days, this family will make its annual pilgrimage back up to the holy land – known to others as Keuka Lake.
I hear all of the Finger Lakes are spectacular, but Keuka is the one where I’ve perched for two solid weeks of relaxation each of the past three years. My hott husband has been there almost every summer of his life. And last summer, it’s where we celebrated the 50th year of Maga’s Lake House and we were married on the dock in a perfect little gathering.
His family home there is warm and welcoming, its hosts are laid back and gracefully hospitable, the lake is cool and clear, and the people are friendly. But even if these things were not true, there’s something else extraordinary about this place…
They have a time-travel portal.
If you count their horses, the Amish might outnumber televisions, and they definitely outnumber air conditioners. You might find some of what you need at the little grocery store, but you still need to stop at the butcher’s, the Amish market, and the fruit stand. The summer days are long, the tables are large, and the windows are open.
But here’s my favorite part of the time travel there: kids get to be kids – without instructions or a plan or an itinerary or supervision, all day, all the while learning more than we could ever teach them. Our kids and the neighbor’s kids run all day – All. Day. – up and down from the lake to the woods and around again. They fish, build forts, make up games, swim, kayak, sail, paddle, run, run, run, did I mention they run? everywhere? When they’re hungry, they figure out how to eat while running. When someone gets hurt, they clean each other’s wounds. They celebrate the big catch together. They come up with creative things to make out of trash from the gully. At dinner, plates get clean, stories get relived, brothers don’t fight, and a good hard sleep comes easy. They strategize plans to most efficiently accomplish the assigned daily chores. You can’t make this stuff up! But they can. And they do. For four weeks straight. They learn more there without adult supervision than in all the time and money we adults (collectively) try to “invest” in their development. NOTHING is as important at their age as learning things for yourself. That is hard to find in the suburbs, my friends.
It seems like these days, if your kid turns out to be a self-sustaining adult, it almost has to be in spite of us, not because of us. My father-in-law dropped this wisdom on us a couple of years ago – “Don’t handicap your kids by making their lives easy.” But we do it every day.
My adult daughter is a walking reminder of this. It is abundantly apparent what aspects of her life I kept out of and gave her independence, and which aspects I stunted her growth by treating her like she couldn’t do it on her own (well, right, enough, etc.)
Challenge/Reminder: I am going to stop doing for the kids what they can do for themselves. Obviously, there are time constraints and bedtimes, but their ability-level is way higher than we give them credit for…and there’s a lot of things they should know how to do by this age, but they don’t – simply because we’ve never taught them.
So I might be the bad guy around here for a while, but in this whole step-parenting adventure, I’ve learned that my role is sometimes different than the parent – but just as important.
(Pretty sure it would be a big help if we do what we keep saying we’re going to do and cut off the cable…So many of these challenges are actually going to save us money – I’ve saved money on eating out, not drinking, not picking grout ((oops))…Feelin’ Pre-tee Good 🙂 )
The Thanksgiving tradition for my family was set in stone, until us grandkids started getting married and having kids (and various renditions of those two things), which brings the inherent conflicts in schedules. This also means that there started to be years without the sausage balls (sacrilege!), and then there were years with no kids’ table – which meant I had to be an adult…which hopefully didn’t mean I had to do dishes. Yikes! Hurry and take a nap on Grandma’s bed until the after-meal chores were done! Nevertheless, holding to the “tradition” had become something unrecognizable and slightly less Thanksgivingy.
My hott husband was a Navy brat, and, with much of his family scattered around the planet, hasn’t spent any of his adult years living near the rest of his family. So holidays are simply opportunities to get away – ski, surf, camp, etc. The blended family that we are means our kids have other families who DO have traditions, so our take has been “pressure’s off…you don’t have to pick or split your Thanksgiving between family obligations…y’all go and have a good time with the ones who are tradition-oriented, and we’ll take advantage of the freedom to do/go wherever.” One condition is required of our doing/going wherever: Whataburger feast for Thanksgiving meal on two wheels. This new tradition began simply because, unlike most places, Whataburger is actually OPEN on Thanksgiving! Like most Texans, we love our Whataburger. We eat there maybe monthly throughout the year, but Thanksgiving at Whataburger means Whata-sizing, extra everything, soda, milkshake (chocolate…duh!), AND fried apple pie. We’re pretty sure we still come in WAY under the average American caloric intake.
Do my parents love this new tradition of ours? Doubt it. Do our kids care? Doubt it. Do we enjoy the opportunity to free ourselves of holiday obligations and chill in a camper, scooter parked outside at the ready? Absolutely. Do we spend a great deal of our time here expressing how thankful we are for this dream we get to live and the happiness we find in these simple things? You betcha.
We love our families, we adore our children, but we hope and pray that they know that our happiness together is a testament to the long legacies of families who appreciate the simpler things – we’re just taking out the pressure of cooking, traveling, tryptophan comas, while using our time to relax and recharge so that we can be thankful EVERY day for this crazy/busy/wonderful life we live the other 364 days of the year.
Our way is not for everyone, but it is for us, and we hope the legacy we leave our children is to take this time of year to do what makes you thankful, whether that is celebrating a centuries-old tradition, starting a brand new one, or just taking the opportunity to rest and relax. If you can’t be grateful everyday wherever you are, you’re probably not thankful at this time of year that is designated for giving thanks. When you’re living the dream (even if it’s your own dream), appointed days don’t seem so necessary.