The world has changed in unique ways over the years. As a child, life felt so simple. The hardest thing would be worrying about passing a test coming up on Monday morning, or the right clothing to wear to school. Desperate measures to impress the girl sitting next to me in class, or which video game to put on my Christmas list. As I’ve gotten older and the world has added stresses to it, I can’t stop looking back at my life and the experiences that I’ve had along the way. It hasn’t been about the material possessions, as we didn’t have an overflow of these items while growing up. It was more about the love that we shared and the simple experiences that we created.
Early years in Newberry, Michigan consisted of us finding our own entertainment. Days spent outside playing football or playing hide and seek in the chicken coop. When we had the occasional rainy day or it was night time, we got more creative. My brothers would concoct games like at home Jeopardy out of markers and paper. Sticking the categories to the wall. I don’t know why, but I remember vividly being in the basement looking up at that wall. The concrete formed perfect borders to line the categories up. The exaggerated letters sprawled across the paper in marker, made for easy reading. My older brother playing the famed host, Alex Trebek. My other brothers and I would guess at categories that were simplified down to our knowledge of the world. My middle brother would guess the most correct answers, until it came down to final jeopardy. One night as we were playing, a question on my favorite country singer, had me alone getting the question right. The excitement that I felt at the time for answering this question, I felt like I was on top of the world. “Garth Brooks! Garth Brooks!” Not knowing that more than likely, my brother knew that I would be the only person to get it correct. Regardless of the chips being stacked in my favor, I was naive to the fact. These nights are somehow engraved in my mind.
Trips my middle brother and I would take out west with our grandparents. Stopping at every Denny’s along the way. Not for their famous Grand slam breakfast, but for the hobby that my brother and I had for collecting baseball cards. Every breakfast could come with a selection of prestigious cards that we would anticipate as we entered the parking lot. We would visit over 6 Denny’s along the way. I actually was never sure if my grandparents loved Denny’s, or they just saw how happy it made us. Regardless, traveling across country made us get creative with how we entertained ourselves. My brother and I would switch back and forth between reading books and watching movies. By the end of the trip, everyone got the joy of hearing me sing along to the Lion King on tape. “I just can’t wait to be king” in my best Jonathan Taylor Thomas impersonation. I’m sure my family thought less of my singing ability, but chose not to comment. Or we would get creative with our GI Joe action figures. Taking string or yarn from whatever my grandma would be knitting, we would have our own death defying ropes for the GI Joe’s to go tumbling down as they battled Cobra. Stopping the car always became an issue. As my brother and I would maneuver our way to exit, we had to find the perfect route in between the strings and hooks attached to the windows and seats. We always found a way though, especially if it lead to the famous Dennys Grand Slam breakfast.
Thanksgiving at my Aunts every year. We would get dressed up in our Sunday best to take a ride two hours away. The itchy sensation I had with a sweater that I didn’t choose to put on my body, would look perfectly fitting in our famous Thanksgiving family photos. The touch football we would play in the backyard, while the adults saw to watching tv or preparing the meal. After we got exhausted or one of us got injured, we would make our way to the living room. The repetitive questions would then come fast and furious. How are you doing in school? How is hockey going? What are you asking Santa for this year for Christmas? These questions at the time were enough to put me in agony, looking back, I actually feel guilty for feeling this way. Within these monotonous questions, there was a love that only a family has for one another. Over the years as we have geographically grown apart, I find myself yearning for things like this. Something I didn’t realize at the time, was the love shared during our Thanksgiving tradition.
I could go on forever about the experiences that I remember through the years. It’s interesting, as much as I yearned for material objects over the years, if I ever received them, I don’t recollect memories with them. I know I would give anything for a Nintendo 64 or a WWF wresting ring growing up. Do I really remember specific scenarios involving these items alone? Not at all. I remember different times of using these items with friends or family, but these items alone didn’t make the experience, the people did.
The world feels different now and I feel a change in the way families interact. Social media had a premise behind it, it originated with the thoughts of binding people closer than ever. What it’s done is take families further apart. Looking across restaurants seeing families at tables, paying more attention to the latest Tik Tok trend then their own flesh and blood in the seat next to them. The kids captivated by video games or movies on their iPads or phones. It’s not alarming anymore to see a whole table talk for less than 10 minutes at an hour setting. Stopping quick to talk to the waiter to take their orders, or a simple conversation over the child complaining that he didn’t want to finish his meal. It’s sad but true. I miss the old scenario. Random conversations about what you did at school that day or dad talking about his envy for the neighbors new toy. “Can you believe that the neighbors got a new lawnmower?” Now we are glued to the fact that a girl from England eats American snacks in her living room. Or a mischievous child goes around stores and puts buckets on innocent peoples heads. Has our concept of entertainment changed that much? Have we decided that our families are so boring, that we need to tune in on other families doing mundane hobbies?
To my unborn child, I am committed to bringing you up in the best ways I know. Being more committed to talking to you and nurturing your mind, as opposed to sitting you in front of a movie to learn about the world. I’m committed to loving you for who you are and who you choose to be. Regardless of my own bias from what I’ve learned over the years. I want you to experience life for all it has to offer. Travel and learn how all people live on this earth. Try everything and enjoy just being a child. Not to be fearful of others, regardless of if they look different from you or look similar. Sometimes we learn the most from people that differ from us. Go outside, put your hands in the dirt. Get sunburned, when you disregard my advice to place sunscreen on. Get into trouble with your friends and do stupid things. Be courageous, learn, but always keep your moral compass. Be nice to the kid on the bus that other people view as different. Go after a kiss with your crush, when you graze each other’s hand while reaching for popcorn at a movie. Dare to be different, be you.
Ultimately I also want to share the love that my parents gave me as a child. Regardless of the situation I could become entangled in, they still always found a way to say that it will all be ok. The guilt that I would have, when they could simply say I’m disappointed in your choice you made, as opposed to raising a hand and physically taking out their anger. That guilt far outweighed anything they could have done physically to me. They also always shared love unconditionally. The best thing you could ever hear was to have a parent say they were proud of you. That cloud 9 feeling that could move mountains.
There will be bumps along the way and a whole lot of learning, but I want for my child what I had. Not the material things, the experiences. The walks in the forest with my father as he explained the difference between two trees. The high school nights that I got home late, just to find my mother waiting up on the couch to make sure I got there safe. The visits to my great grandmother, who I watched make friends with every chipmunk in the Upper Peninsula. These are the things that matter most. Not the video games, new cars or other material possessions. I want the experiences to matter. Everything else will fall into place.