Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Giant-Sized Lite Brite (Week 26 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

One of my best Gen X memories is playing with my Lite Brite.  I remember getting up early before Saturday morning cartoons would start while the curtains were still closed in the living room so that the room would be dark to give the light more contrast.  Plugging in the Lite Brite to let the colorful glow reflect on my face while laying on my stomach on shag carpet with a bowl of cereal in hand was a cozy way to start a morning.  We took my daughter to the Portland Children's Museum this week and they had this giant backlit board with slots for colored pegs that you could slide in and illuminate.  It was mesmerizing to me because it was exactly like my old Lite Brite, but on a larger scale.  

As part of the Fireflies at Dusk project, I have been looking for ways to pass on my history, my Gen X culture, and other parts of  who I am to my daughter.  I hope that when she is older, when she looks back on the entirety of what I strove to teach her and to pass on to her, that she will see a lot of color, a lot of hope, and a lot of light.

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

Friday, November 25, 2011

Vintage Soda (Week 25 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

A grocery store where I often shop recently started selling vintage soda bottles.  This week, I gave these as an early Christmas present for my husband to put up on a shelf in a room in our house that is decorated in a vintage style.    

Bubble Up (first bottled in Ohio, 1917) - As an elementary school kid, I had a babysitter who had grown up during the Depression and had stockpiles of random things in her house just in case of another one.  I remember the huge case of these stored in her garage.  If there had been a second Depression in her lifetime, she would have been ready to face it without the worry of running out of lemon-lime soda.  (Hey, if you had lived through the Depression you might do the same.)

Frostie Root Beer (first bottled in Maryland, 1939) -  I remember chugging down a foamy, cold can of it back when cans still had pull tab tops in the early 1980s.

Dad's (first bottled in Chicago, 1937) -  I remember a friend from high school always had this at her house in the early 1990s and she would let us have one whenever we came over for lunch.

Sometimes when I see the transparent color of sodas - like orange or the blue pictured above - I think of all the times I saw these colors in bottles of soda at the the truck stops or convenience stores I've passed through in my nomadic life.  Since I began the Fireflies at Dusk project, I have discovered how much color played a part in my childhood, and in all our Gen X childhoods.  Distinct colors bring back distinct memories in the same way an old familiar song comes on the radio and in a moment you are transported to another time and another place.  Throughout the project, as I have opened containers of play dough, as I have found old copies of my out-of-print textbooks, and as I have looked back on the food that Gen X ate while growing up, I have seen how these still images in our minds - these images of color and shape - have imprinted themselves on our collective memory.

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

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Why the Holidays are Hard for Gen X (Week 24 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

There were a lot of things going on for Gen X during the holidays of their growing-up years that were difficult. That is in part because Gen X grew up during the highest divorce rate in history, which led to the most blended family situations in history. Take all the complications of that in addition to the usual problems that go on in families -- the hopes and expectations of what we feel the holidays should hold, the hurts and disappointments of what it often does hold -- and you end up with a lot to deal with.

If you are a Gen Xer who had to spend holidays with a step-family/more than one step family, you may have noticed:

a) they didn't really want you there, or
b) they didn't really want you there but tried to at least be cordial (or at least some/most of them did)

Or perhaps you had a step-family that seemed initially welcoming and made you think that you could really be a part of their family until some painful moment occurred when you discovered that you were, in fact, just really an outsider. You may remember trying to navigate your second, third, or fourth step-family situation. This kind of situation is hard because you still have scars from the previous situation, and by this time all your your naivety has been replaced with cynicism, yet you've got to find the energy to completely start again. This kind of situation might mean that you had more than one moment when you are left out of some group conversation at a holiday meal or you don't get the punchline to an inside joke. It was in one of those moments that you realized that you essentially spent your life as some sort of foster child and that you raised yourself.

Now you don't have to go to those holiday dinners anymore. Now you have a choice to do what you want.

This means you do not have to:

a) pretend to smile and be happy, or
b) get in trouble for not smiling and being happy

As you go on in life, when you find yourself sitting at yet another table where you have to swallow your anger or hold back your tears...don't eat at that table anymore. Most importantly, now that you are the adult, make a conscious decision to never treat others the way you have been treated.

If you are a Gen Xer who has created a blended family of your own, remember what it feels like to be the step-child -- it would in fact be hard to forget. During the holidays, treat your step-children with genuine love if you can, or at least genuine kindness. Kids can smell fakeness from a mile away, and holidays are some of the most vivid childhood memories they will have for the rest of their life.

One very Gen X person I used to know in college told me a story once that his mom's boyfriend dragged their Christmas tree outside when he was a child, poured a can of gasoline on it, and then lit it on fire. The man was angry that he didn't get to have Christmas as a kid, and apparently that is how he dealt with the anger. My friend was only a little boy at the time -- he and his brother watched through the cold panes of the window as the ornaments melted and the flames scorched the branches. Then he looked at his brother who dryly said, "Well, there goes Christmas."

When I heard this story in college, I felt sorry for my friend and his brother. As I have grown older I have also begun to feel sorry for the tree-igniting boyfriend. I have seen so much more of life and how people's suffering can make them do crazy things. My advice this holiday season is to take extra good care of yourself. Bring yourself to the present moment when your mind drifts to unhappy memories, and give others the most genuine love you are able to. Even if your holidays were horrible when you were growing up, even if you have every reason in the world to be mean to other people, don't be the guy with the gasoline can.

This week, and for the rest of the holiday season, I have given myself permission to go take a moment when I need one, and to take it easy on myself.

Take it easy on yourself, too.

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

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Jumping in the Autumn Leaves (Week 23 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

When it comes to the associations and memories of a generation, some things are specific to that generation and some things are timeless in that they apply to everyone. One of these things is scooping leaves into a pile and to jumping into them....

I knew that having a child would make me slow down a lot, but I didn't realize that it would even make me experience time differently.  When my little one stops to study a pebble on the sidewalk when we need to be somewhere on time, I need to remember that she is making me live more within time instead of constantly chasing it.  This week, I decided not only to jump in the autumn leaves, but also to be more intentional about noticing the tiny things that she notices without rushing myself on to the next thing that needs to be done or looking down at my watch. 

Nothing gets me thinking about time like autumn.  All around us are  the red and gold reminders that nothing is permanent.  It seems our minds bend in every direction trying to understand time.  You always hear the same expressions about time.  Adults say things to children like,  "You are growing up so fast!"   Or friends reminiscing about a shared past say things like, "Where did the time go?" There are endless clich├ęs about time,  and we cannot stop saying them because we are constantly stunned by the way time passes.  

I watch my daughter grab a handful of red leaves and throw them above her head and stomp on the piles I have made for her in the park.  I think to myself about how one generation grows up, and another grows old.  I am on the other side of growing up.  I am on the side of growing old, and in the bigger picture, I am only in this life for a very short time.

Those once-green leaves that are now being released by their branches and are fluttering down to the earth from where they came.
Go jump in them.

This time we have is a gift, don't let it pass you by.  The people we love are a gift.

Appreciate the gift.   

- A generation comes and a generation goes, but the earth remains forever.  The sun rises, and the sun goes down, and hastens to the place where it rises...Enjoy Life....  - Ecclesiastes

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


Thursday, November 3, 2011

All the Good Food of Autumn (Week 22 of Fireflies at Dusk: A 52-Week Project)

This week the Fireflies at Dusk Project was all about making and eating good Autumn food.  This included roasted pumpkin seeds, butternut squash soup with spiced roasted pecans sprinkled on top, and baked cinnamon apples.  Here were the highlights...

An organic pumpkin spice latte on the table on a
 cloudy, cold morning.

Tomato bisque soup with a dollop of sour cream and crushed
pistachios for lunch on a busy Saturday. 

Mini berry cobblers for all!  Made with an oatmeal topping and
 homemade vanilla ice cream for dessert at the end of a long day.

Many of the good memories through the seasons of my life have been connected to food.  One of the most important aspects of a culture is its food, and a generation is a culture within itself. Many Gen Xers grew up on a lot of processed food/convenience food, and there has been a gradual movement of Xers trying to get back to natural/homemade foods. There are all kinds of food allergies that didn't exist a generation ago, too. I've decided to create a "page" (which can be found at the top of this blog on the homepage) about revisiting Gen X American food in a new and healthier way.

(c) 2013 photos and writing by Chloe - all rights reserved