Longing for the Past

When we were growing up, we had several major forms of entertainment: taking a ride, watching the planes land and take off, and going shopping. “Get in the car,” were magic words, inviting us to adventures with amazing – and not so amazing – destinations. We might visit friends, which people did back in the day, no invitation required. Sometimes, we ended up at a geographical or historical site, since Dad was a geography and geology teacher. Sometimes there was no destination at all, just a trip through farm land or around the area. If we were lucky, the ride might include an ice cream cone or fries and a Coke. One of our favorite destinations was Great Aunt Cela’s house. She would greet us with, “I wish you’d told me you were coming. I don’t have a thing to eat in the house!” That meant we were in for a real treat –
Kewpie hamburgers and fries, plus a ride on the turntable which allowed us to enter and exit from the drive-in!
Watching planes land and take off at the airport was okay, especially if we took some snacks and drinks. A gallon thermos filled with an icy cold mixture of lemonade and orange juice was our favorite, and popcorn or cheese crackers were our favorite snacks. Long after my father’s death, a cousin sent me a letter Dad had written to my cousin’s father while serving in the Army Air Corps during WWII. In the letter, Dad commented on how much he loved flying, and that he hoped he would be able to continue after he left the service. The responsibilities of a family made that impossible for him, but it explains why he enjoyed watching the planes so much. It was as close as he could get to the planes that gave him such joy.
When we went shopping, we seldom came home with a car full of packages. If we knew were going to buy clothing, that wasn’t shopping. That was a buying trip. Shopping was looking at what was available, walking the mall and exploring shops full of things we didn’t need and couldn’t afford, and, once in a while, splurging on a small item that caught our fancy. If we went to a discount store, we might pick up some necessary items, but we bought almost nothing on a whim. Every purchase was carefully planned. Shopping might lead to buying, but not until we had serious conversations about the necessity of any item.
Our children and grandchildren look at us as if we’re from another planet when we share these activities with them. Car trips are for destinations. Shopping is to buy whatever is wanted or needed. As for watching planes land and take off, they wouldn’t even consider it – unless it’s from the airport gate and they have a ticket to get on the plane. But in this pandemic time, when shopping is reserved for purchasing necessities, and visiting family and friends is challenging, and when airlines are laying off employees and reducing flights, I’m grateful for the memories of simpler pleasures. To ride with no destination, to be surprised by what we saw or where we ended up, to share a simple treat, to shop without adding to our possessions, to dream about where a plane might be coming from or going to, to see it break the bounds of gravity, or come gently back to earth. Maybe we aren’t from a different planet, but we are from a different time. A time when life was simpler, when possessions didn’t define us, where conversations mattered, and joy came more easily. Maybe every generation feels this longing for a past that probably wasn’t as idyllic as we remember it being. But this is my time to remember, to give thanks, and to tell the stories that still bring joy. And when my children and grandchildren reach the age of longing for their past, I pray that their stories will be rich and full of life and hope.
Stay safe and be blessed,
Pastor Barbara

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