Sunday, July 22, 2007

Breaking Obsessions and the Scent of Roses

I don't know if other families obsess about particular issues, but the three of us in our home have our pet preoccupations. And we bore each other, and others, with our hyper-interest on the topics.

So we've decided to call a truce. Ron, Andrea and I can and will talk freely about our obsessions in the normal course of conversation... but we each promise to be aware of how we bore others with it. And how we fail to notice the beauty of this wonderful life when we focus too intently on one tiny aspect of our existence.

My mania is politics. Since I write about it professionally, I must stay plugged in. And on many an evening, I rattle on and on ad naseum at the dinner table about Obama this and Hillary that. Or George Bush this and Dick Cheney that.

I care passionately about our great country, and this is my way if contributing to its welfare. But after a rant exceeds 10 minutes, their eyes glaze over. While I'm getting worked up, they're tuning out.

Ron's focus as a diabetic is his health. He takes five prescriptions daily, including a twice daily injection. And he must measure his blood sugar several times daily. Of course he focuses on his health. Disciplined focus is the key to his very survival.

But it's easy to succumb to a constant victim/patient mentality, and become over-absorbed by a chronic illness. It's easy for an illness to become an identity. And life is about more than keeping one's body alive and healthy.

Andrea is an exceptional high school student, and is being heavily recruited by many dozens of excellent universities. Unchecked, it's all she talks about. Not in an arrogant way... but in an exuberant way.

She's glimpsed the green, green pastures of college life, and she can already taste the heady freedom of dorm life without mom and dad. The vision is pure nirvana for any sixteen year old. But she talks about college choices constantly.
At dusk yesterday, she joined me outside as I was watering my roses and herb plants. And she started in on Cal Tech this and Yale that.

Running hose in hand, I turned and asked if we could talk about something else. That lately, college is the only subject we ever talk about, and I'd love to know about books, movies, music , friends she cares about. Anything but college all the time...

Puzzled, she shrugged and went inside.

I continued to water roses. Yellow, peach, whisper pink and crimson roses. And I stopped, for once, and smelled the roses...

And the scent was lovelier than I remembered.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Magic Kingdom

My earliest memory dates to the summer of 1955, when I was a few months shy of four years old. I remember my feelings and the sights as if it was yesterday, not five decades ago.

A vast, empty parking lot, with few people and almost no other cars.

Red and white striped tents gleaming under the perfect California sun. Curious carnival rides poking into the skyline. Booths selling books of entrance tickets. Planters and planters of manicured red and yellow rose bushes. And Mickey and Minnie Mouse, greeting me, my baby brother, and mom and dad.

I vividly recall staring... really staring... at the tents from the parking lot. My childish imagination sparked with the unexpected promise of a bigger, more interesting world than I knew on our suburban street lined with one-story tract homes.

Sleeping Beauty's castle. A terrifying boat ride through the African jungle. Dumbos soaring children aloft in the afternoon sky. A circus train, with monkey cages for parents.

To children today, the terms "magical kingdom" and "the happiest place on earth" are stupid marketing hype. Every major American city has multiple amusement parks. And Disneyland of 1955 pales when compared to the common technological miracles of the 21st century.

But my deep sense of wonder that sublime, youthful moment was the seed of my creative life.