My Dad was known for his ability to spin a tale, and we cherished the mornings he stopped by for coffee and a story.
Remembering days his on the baseball field at Mark Twain Elementary, strolls to Bud’s Golden Cream for a treat, and the time Grandpa knocked on the bathroom door after Dad and his buddies smoked an old box of cigars they’d found in the basement.
Grandpa found him in the bathroom after smoking that entire box — and inhaling it. “Ronnie,” he said. “You been smoking?”
Dad looked up from the toilet and shook his head. “Oh no sir. Must have been something I ate.”
“He never mentioned it again,” Dad remembered. “I guess he figured the puking was punishment enough.”
No matter the topic, each of Dad’s stories shared a few common threads. As his hands flew around with gestures as exaggerated as the story’s details, there was an appreciation for the simple things.
Those were the days when preparing to spend the day outside meant gathering up his things and whistling for the dog.
“Every kid had a dog and every dog had a kid,” he said. “It was never hard to find a group of kids to play with. The outdoors was our meeting spot.”
As I watch my own kids clamor in front of Netflix and beg me for more screen time on their tablets, I wonder if this generation of kids is missing out on something really important.
After incessant whining, boredom sparks self-guided play and creativity.
The kids once built an entire go-kart out of old wood and some bicycle tires they found in our garage one day after grand proclamations that they were so bored they were going to die.
Although I have to admit that boredom for me often ends staring aimlessly into the refrigerator — so it isn’t to say it’s always a good thing either. I fear that our kids’ (and our own) constant need for provided entertainment will never lead to some of the great stories like what Dad shared during those cherished mornings around my table.
I don’t want to sit around with my grandkids and talk about the time their grandpa and I binge-watched the entire series of "Chuck" on Netflix in three days.
Although that was fun, I have to say. Sometimes I find my attention span is waning with a constant need to check social media when I am sitting in a waiting room. My kids struggle to get the day without wanting a tablet to keep them entertained.
I just want them to know that great things often come from idle minds.
I also noticed that Dad seemed to have a deeper understanding of appreciation as a kid.
“Every Friday my mom used to set out good pants, my nice collared shirt, and a bow tie — man, I hated that thing — because we were going downtown to shop,” he said. “That’s when I would get my weekly soda, and nothing ever tasted as good. I waited all week long for that soda.”
As he told the story, he guzzled one of the Diet Pepsi’s his refrigerator is always stocked with. Yet that faraway look in his eyes said that weekly soda was a lot more satisfying.
It makes me wonder if on-demand living has made us more demanding.
My kids have no idea what it was like to wait all week for Saturday morning cartoons. In fact, their favorite shows are waiting for them on a “watch later” Netflix queue.
They will never know how good a bowl of Captain Crunch is when sitting in front of an episode of the "Smurfs" you’d been waiting all week to watch.
Treats aren’t treats when they are constantly at our fingertips.
Watching my own family disappear into the world of instant gratification and constant screen time, I learned through Dad the simple things seem to make the most impact.
As his memories always mingled with the swirling steam rising from his cup, I also learned that nostalgia is best served with coffee.