It’s been a crazy week. So crazy that I didn’t realise until late yesterday afternoon on a car trip to visit the new Burger King that my birthday is in two weeks.
Since my birthday has, to me, always been as much about kicking off summer and starting a season of carefree joy, it’s no wonder I’ve not been in the mood to think about it. This hasn’t been a week for ruminating about carefree joy.
I finally broke down Saturday and had a shower. I’ve been doing what my grandmother called Possible baths* in an effort to save water. But by Saturday I was in dire need of a good scrub down, so I gave in. That’s the good thing about tragedies. They remind you just how much of your every day life is comparative luxury.
When I was eight my parents bought an RV, and we spent the rest of my childhood taking vacations in that orange and brown contraption. (They bought it in the 70s.) Two weeks in the summer and at least six weekends a year we’d go somewhere to ‘camp’. Tent campers will tell you what we did was in no way camping, as we slept in sort-of beds and had a stove and refrigerator. But anyone who has ever stayed in a hotel will know that sleeping on a foldout couch behind the driver’s seat and peeing in a chemical toilet is most definitely camping. I was not a big fan of this way of life, although it DID help me learn to entertain myself by reading and making up stories.
I realised last week how those dreaded camping trips also taught me how to live without easy access to running water. Because although our camper theoretically had sinks and a shower of sorts, they all had to be run from small-ish water tanks. With six people on board there just wasn’t enough water to live like we were at home. Not to mention the fact that the shower was really too small to be practical unless you were Truman Capote or a Roloff. So I learned young how to brush your teeth with a quarter-cup of water, how to wash your body with two cups of water, how to wear your hair when it wasn’t freshly scrubbed.
Those lessons paid off last week. So I suppose my parents can be happy that those lessons sank in.
The older I get the more I realise just how much I have to be grateful to my parents for. Because the chief goal in their life was to raise educated kids. They gave up their weekends–times when most parents recharge from a hectic work week–to teach us about travel, nature, Indiana state history, getting along with others in tight spaces.
I look at people who are parents now and realise the kind of diligence my parents showed us has become extinct. It seems like modern parenting doesn’t include a lot of ‘your comfort is tabled until your children are raised’ sort of thinking. Everything we did–everything–was a chance for my parents to teach us how to behave. And they did it. When we went to restaurants it was about learning how to order, eat politely, use manners and enjoy the family in a restaurant setting. When we went grocery shopping it was a lesson in budgeting. When we watched TV it was a lesson in analytical thinking. (“Why did Potsy and Ralph do that? What could they have done differently to avoid this problem?”)
Both of my parents–not just my mother–were devoted to our education and growth. That’s something I treasure.
*Possible Baths: Using a wash cloth, you wash down your body as far as possible. Then you wash up your body as far as possible. And then you wash Possible.