A child’s freedom on the fourth

I just finished shucking corn on the back porch. The ribs for dinner are on the grill. The smell penetrates the neighborhood. It smells like home. Like my Dad’s cooking.

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I can hear thunder rolling in the distance as a small storm moves this way. There is hope it will cool off this hot sticky day.

Fat drops of rain pinging on the roof and off the gutters. Easy rolling thunder.

Lighting.

Summer on the small back porch.

A child, once terrified of the smallest of storms, sits. Watching. Waiting. Quietly.

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It could be any day, but it’s the Fourth of July.

A small town, middle-America, Forth of July.

Earlier in the day there was a neighborhood bike parade.

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Potluck lunches.

Hot. Sweaty. Dirty. Happy children filled with laughter. They are hungry, but they keep on playing outside in the July heat. Four year olds and thirteen year olds, playing.

Childhood.

It reminds me of my childhood. Celebrations in America without politics. Divisions. Anger. Hurt.

Sure it was there. Behind the scenes. But it didn’t dominate. Take over. Ruin. Sadden.

We took our kids to the retirement home to lead a patriotic sing-along with the residents. Songs of my childhood. Songs I know by heart, but now need to teach to my children. I have forgotten to teach them these songs. There are more songs I need to teach them.

Six to ninety-something years old. All singing.

Back at home after the evening meal of ribs, freshly shucked local corn, baked  beans, lemonade and a cheese cream pie to come, we head outside to light fireworks that don’t leave the ground. Only smoke in different colors.

The same girl terrified of storms, holds a small sparkler for the first time in years. Fears turn softer, slowly turing into joy.

“Can I have another?”

“I’ll hold two this time.”

Fear slowly turns to … freedom.

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Freedom to be a child.

To celebrate.

To play all day outside.

To not be scared.

To be adventurous.

Freedom to be a child on the fourth, and every other day.

 

Socks, Bare Feet and Carol Burnett

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When I was growing up, I wanted to be on Broadway. I memorized lyrics, sang the songs, and in my heart, was a Broadway Baby. The girls next door loved musicals as much as I did. We would put together our own musicals on their driveway. Belting out show tunes, or made up songs. We were a regular drive-thru theatre.

We probably “produced” Annie a million times. The 1982 movie cemented the songs and dreams in our brain. I was often Annie, the most sought after character in our group. She was the lead, after all. As I grew up, my desired character shifted from Annie to Ms. Hannigan, because, well … Carol Burnett. (I also wanted to be Carol Burnett when I grew up, because, well … Carol Burnett!)

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Can’t you just hear her singing?

“Little girls. Little girls. Every where I turn. I see them.”

Part of this song has become a sort of anthem of my motherhood. I know, Ms. Hannigan does not portray the best qualities, or any qualities of motherhood. But stay with me, because neither does my attitude toward this one little area.

Socks!

Little (and now big) girl socks!

Ms. Hannigan sings it so well.

“How I hate. Little socks. Little shoes. And each little bloomer!”

She’s belting it out for mothers everywhere!!! The chore of matching little socks, those that are not eaten by the dryer, are my least favorite thing to do. It never fails. Socks go in, but they don’t come out. Also, have you noticed that the same socks, that came in the same package, and are washed and dried in the same machines, come out in different sizes? Also, why can we never find socks? We must have a thousand socks in this house.

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The Sock Basket. Where lonely socks go to die!

All fall and winter long, I hear the same question every day. Every day. (Sigh) “Mom. I need socks!” It’s like I’m living in the movie Groundhog’s Day. Yesterday, there were 12 pairs of socks in your drawer. Where are they today?

Then, something wonderful happens. That something wonderful happened on Sunday. The freezing temperatures are gone, the sun is shinning, and the morning air feels … warm. Dressing for church suddenly takes no time, because there are no socks or tights needed.

We have entered … The Bare Foot Zone!

And it’s wonderful. Sandals, flip-flops, and bare feet!!!

So, here’s to you, Ms. Hannigan and your “Little Girls” song. I also would have “cracked years ago, if it weren’t for my sense of humor!” Let’s hope I don’t end up in the nuthouse with you.

Turn Your Family Rooms Into Libraries

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“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

Cicero

Growing up, our house didn’t have a TV Room or a Family Room. It had a Library. Now, there was a television in that room, but it was still called the library. On either side of the television, were rows and rows and rows of books. There was a smaller bookshelf that was full. Books on the coffee table. Book in the bedrooms. Books!

I grew up looking at copies of Twain, Hemingway and Fitzgerald long before I could understand their works. Shakespeare, Frost, Whitman introducing me to poetry and language. Books with fine print far smaller than my Babysitter Club or Sweet Valley High books. Books with old cloth binding and gold lettering. Encyclopedias, anthologies, history books. A giant red atlas that I couldn’t lift. There were more books than I could possible read; but I wanted to. Books!

When I got married, out first apartment was filled with books. The simple bookshelf made from cinder blocks and particle board was one of the first things we put together. Filling it with books, mostly from our childhoods and from college. Many date nights were spent exploring Barnes and Noble, with Starbucks in hand. A few years later, when we moved to Princeton, NJ, we bought three tall brown bookcases from IKEA and quickly filled them. Books!

We have downsized out book collection over the years only to replenish it again. I think the only reason we downsize is so we can purchase mimage3 (2)ore books. Just like my childhood home, we have books on our bookshelves, on the coffee table, on the side tables, in all the bedrooms. Our children loves books and get excited to explore a Barnes and Noble Bookstore. Books are gifts at every birthday and every Christmas. Books!

We take huge tote bags to the library on Saturday mornings and fill them so full no one can lift them. The children devour them, sometimes finishing a book before we get home. Books!

My love of books and reading has gifted me the opportunity to be a part of several book launch groups. I get to read books before they hit the bookshelves and share about them. I didn’t even know this was a thing until a couple of years ago when I responded to an email, and a book arrived in my mailbox a few weeks later. These days I usually find myself reading 3-5 books at a time. Here are just some of the books I’ve been reading lately. All different. All great! So many books!

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I am about to start two new books for launches. One of the books arrives tomorrow and the other soon after! The Power of Positive Leadership by Jon Gordon comes out on April 24th and Of Mess and Moxie by Jen Hatmaker comes out in August. I will be sharing all the scoop about these books and there will be more books to come. Someday, my book.

So, get thee to a library or bookstore and start reading! Fill those shelves, then fill them again. Turn your family rooms and TV rooms into libraries. Stack books next to your bed. Feed your children’s imagination with books and then set them free.

“They are the books, the arts, the academes,
That show, contain and nourish all the world.”
William Shakespeare, Love’s Labour’s Lost