Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Gen X and Shel Silverstein (Week 16 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

Many Gen Xers grew up with Shel Silverstein's iconic works of children's poetry, either because they had his books, or because their teacher read his poetry in class on some Friday afternoon when everyone was ready for the weekend and in the mood for something funny.  Shel had an impact on our sense of humor, our sense of creativity, and even our sense of morality.  

I loved his 'epic' poetry like Sick about the girl who woke up and said she could not go to school because of a very extensive list of ailments until she discovers it's Saturday and all of the sudden feels just fine.  I also loved the beauty in the simplicity of those that were just a few lines long.  If I had to pick a favorite, it would be tough, but I might go with Two Boxes - I love way they meet on the road and go home hand in hand to have some dinner.

Today, a posthumous collection was released.  I ordered mine online weeks ago and I was counting the days for it to be shipped.  It arrived on my doorstep today and I devoured it.  Those familiar with his work will appreciate how his illustrations make the writing come alive.  Just like all his poetry, you will laugh and laugh until all of the sudden there's a little twist, and suddenly you feel a little pain to the heart, or you feel that you have just learned something extraordinary.  If the main calling of a writer is to express the human condition, then this will involve both a bit of laughter and a stream of tears.

The poem that really struck me is called Dirty Face.  It is a message to adults who have forgotten about the joy of childhood.  An adult asks a child "Where did you get such a dirty face...?"  The child replies with a whole list of amazing and fun things he did during the day.  It ends with "I got it from ice cream and wrestling and tears/And from having more fun than you've had in years."

If you read Shel's poetry as a child, then the message he is sending you as an adult is don't forget to have fun.

Shel Silverstein 1930-1999

(c) 2013 by Chloe - all rights reserved

(Copyright for book cover and poetry: 2011 Evil Eye, LLC/Harper Collins Publishers) 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

What Would be the Symbol of Your Gen X Childhood? (Week 15 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

Mine would be a pinwheel.

I remember standing in my front yard as a three-year-old holding my pinwheel up to catch a passing breeze on warm summer evenings while my parents were doing yard work....

This week, in our neck of the woods, summer decided to leave us and fall decided to set in.  Just before the sun started hiding behind the clouds for the upcoming months, we caught its rays on the metallic surface.  As the last of the warm breezes came into our backyard, my little girl and I watched them spin in silver and blue.  

Time passes all too soon.  We must catch it and live this moment
while we can,
 any way we can.

For Jill 
(c) 2011 photos and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Gen X Anniversary at the Arcade (Week 14 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

What do two Gen Xers do for their 5th anniversary?  With our tot in tow, we decided to spend the first half of the day at a funplex to play in an arcade, watch galaxy bowling, and have lunch.  (We spent most of our time in the arcade!)

What could be a more Gen X day than this?

Ski-ball rules!
 I forgot how satisfying it is to watch the machine spew out a ton of  tickets.
 I traded in the tickets for a litttle stuffed turtle for my daughter.  She named it Roxy. 

Kind of fun to watch her have her first arcade experience...

Every generation wants their children to know their roots.

I picture parents throughout time, journeying back to the places they are from.

I imagine them saying things to their little ones like:

"When I was small like you, this is the street I lived on."

"These mountains and this river are a part of my childhood."

Gen Xers take their kids to arcades and say things to their little ones like:

"When I was small like you, these are the games I used to play."

"These digital sounds and graphics are a part of my childhood."


Most Gen Xers spent part of their growing-up years in arcades.  It was a place of familiarity, a place where things were consistent even when the rest of you life was not.  It was a place of escape even if just for a little while, and it is an important piece of who we are.

(c) 2011 photos and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved

Friday, September 2, 2011

Gen X and the South (Week 13 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

Some of the most vivid memories of my Gen X childhood are of the South.  The best of these memories was going on a road trip with my great aunt and uncle from their home in small town Louisiana to their vacation house that was propped up on stilts of cinder blocks near the beach in Biloxi, Mississippi.  The little house contained mix-matched furniture and worn pots and pans leftover from 1950s camping trips.

Sometimes here in the Pacific Northwest, when the day is a little too long, or rainy, or cold, I think about the smell of ocean or barbecued shrimp drifting through warm, balmy air.  I find myself longing for the sights and sounds of streets lined with Gulf-port hotels, antebellum homes, and sunburned people.

Since the Fireflies at Dusk project began, I have found myself thinking a lot about the South.  Several weeks ago, my family went out for southern food and it brought me a certain happiness that I had almost forgotten.  We were immersed in the smell of ribs being smoked.  Our table was covered in corn-on-the-cob, beans, and coleslaw, while the smiling people across from us dined on pecan pie.

This week, a close friend of mine came over for southern food.  She lived a lot her growing-up years in Georgia, so we share childhood memories of the South.  We feasted on a spread representing all the regions of the South and chased it all down with sweet tea.

As I try to make peace with my Gen X childhood, I find myself gathering up remnants of the cultures that made me who I am.  I will always remember watching my Southern-born great uncle standing at the mirror shaving and talking, passing on pieces of his unbounded wit and storytelling - letting it infiltrate my consciousness as a priceless inheritance.  I will never forget my older second cousin teaching me the unspoken code of the heart of hospitality that can only be shown and not explained.  In her garage hung the giant butterfly costume she'd wear on visits to local nursing homes.  She'd take me swimming and then offer me watermelon and fried chicken to devour afterward for lunch.  I think about these amazing people that I loved so much, that have now passed on to the other side, just as I think about that little vacation house as it was swept off its stilts by the force of Hurricane Katrina.

Any kid who is in and out of multiple cultures, getting moved in and out of several different schools, usually gets singled-out in some way, especially if you've brought with you the accent or some other baggage of the last place you lived.   If you are Gen X, I can guarantee that you probably felt misplaced or discarded at one point or another.  You know the feeling of being 'a man without a country.'  Because of the decisions of others, because of  divorce or remarriage, or the military, or the economy, or because your family was so rough that you had to run away, you most likely lived in many different places.

Gen Xers with tough childhoods sometimes want to block out any memory of their childhood altogether.  I have decided there is a better alternative:  taking back the memories that are rightfully yours.  Reclaim the good parts in spite of the bad and bring back to life the parts that were happy and peaceful - even if those parts were only a small part of your experience.

I remember peacefully floating on my back in the Gulf of Mexico at that Biloxi beach, staring at the gray sky - letting my body become weightless in the water made me feel that not only was I connected to the earth, but that I was made of the same substance.  The feeling of connection made me believe that I would truly have a place in the world - somewhere, someday.  Upon moving from one place and situation to another, and another, when I was not accepted by the people around me, I could always find my solace in the landscape.  That is where I could sense God.

I can name a hundred ways in which our generation got the shaft.

But I think the greatest gift our generation received was the opportunity to experience so many different cities and landscapes. When you have been exposed to many different places, it changes you - it makes you less narrow, less limited.

The not staying still made you who you are.

Keep moving forward.

If Gen X has been a lost, or wandering or displaced generation, then our curse was our blessing.


Recipe for Chloe's Organic Sugar-Free Southern Tea

Magnolia tea leaves
Purified water/ice
Liquid stevia
Organic fresh mint

Bring two cups of water to a rolling boil.  Put into a tea pot or glass measuring cup
with at least two or three tea bags depending on how strong you like it. 
Steep for 10 minutes.
Fill a pitcher to the top with ice.
Put in five droppers full of liquid stevia.
Pour the tea over the ice and pour in more cold water to top it off.
Serve over more ice in glasses.  Add more drops of stevia to taste to get it even sweeter!

Garnish with mint.  Drink with eyes closed and a smile.  Enjoy!

(c) 2011 Photo, writing, and recipe by Chloe - all rights reserved.