Monday, February 8, 2016

Stories to tell

Sometimes I wonder if I’m really doing right by my children, despite devoting every minute of every day to them.  I feed them, I clothe them.  I clean up after them.  I help them with homework.  I fight their battles when they can’t fight them themselves.  I watch over them and keep a watchful eye on days when they are out of the nest.
But still, I worry. 
Am I giving them good enough stories to tell their own children?
I come from a long line of people who know how to have a good time.  Like most people of their generation, my grandparents had a bar in their basement that was so decked out that I thought it was an actual restaurant.  They would host parties even while babysitting me, and while my grandfather played the organ and their friends poured drinks and danced the polka, I rode my tricycle around until I was swooped up into the arms of one of their friends.  (Now I can polka with the best of them.)
My parents learned from them, and on weekends I remember lavish sing-alongs, with my dad and grandfather doing duets on the accordion or some other group of guitars strumming old country songs while we all sang from our lawn chairs and there was an uncle dancing off in the corner as if we didn’t see him.
On calmer nights, there were cards.  Four people hunched over a pinochle deck and laughter thicker than cigarette smoke, if anyone had actually been smoking.  An only child, I lurked at the sidelines, waiting for the day I was old enough to play the coveted game because they were having more fun than I knew was possible.
And that’s why I worry about what’s going on today.  My kids, do they even know when is the right time to start whooping and hollering during a polka spin?  Do they know all the verses to “King of the Road?”  Have they ever witnessed from afar a cutthroat bidding war between husband and wife during a game of pinochle so intense that sweat runs off foreheads and tears of laughter runs down cheeks? 
I think of some of the night’s we’ve had.  Someone always makes sure there is a vegetable to eat, or some snack with organic ingredients.  We discuss horribly boring things like common core and state testing and if there is music, it’s played through a speaker and controlled with a phone and there is never, ever any dancing.

I wish I could change it all.  I wish I could zip my kids back to 1981 and put them on tricycles in my grandparent’s basement.  They wouldn’t wear helmets and my dad and my grandfather and I would form a ridiculously under-practiced band that would turn Roger Miller songs into polka favorites.  There would be artificial cheese and a card game and, of course, plenty of dancing.
Wouldn’t that be quite the story.

Originally written/published March 1, 2015

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