Halcyon (noun): A tranquil period of happiness, especially in the past; the period associated with calm weather, which in Greek mythology was attributed to the power of the fabled halcyon bird that was said to calm the wind and sea.
If you ask me what my childhood was like, I would tell you that it was golden, idyllic, and overflowing with adventure. A time of self-discovery, friendship, and love.
Lately, and with greater frequency due to our continual companionship, my daughter has been asking me to regale her with tales of my youth. One part inquisitive child, one part Sherlock Holmes investigator, she asks pointed questions that are her way of learning more about the “old” me, something I wish all children did with their parents. Speaker discretion advised—if you have a young audience, you may have to filter your responses if you lived a rockstar life. That isn’t me, though. This inquiry strategy might have saved me some heartache and confusion about my own two parents, as we rode the rollercoaster through my adolescence. Hindsight, no?
I’ve been told I have an eidetic memory, with the ability to unearth small grains of sand in the hourglass of my life, many unremembered by my family because they only mattered to me. Each is preserved in tableau within my subconscious, able to be reanimated at the slightest mentioning, with all the sensory details, as though they just occurred in “real time.”
I admit that it was hard to keep friends, as our lives (every four years or so) seemed to be packed and unpacked into cardboard boxes, always moving. It is often a challenge for children to feel grounded when they constantly use their wings to flit from perch to perch, so I had to hold tight to the moments of impact that were the binding threads of life.
The Polaroid-worthy moments began in a small Illinois town we transferred to for my Dad’s work when my brother and I were sproutlings, and we Chutes and Laddered our way back to Texas when I reached age 11. It’s those in between years that were brightest, so I digress.
My first “hometown” was a time capsule hamlet that could come right out of a scene from the black and white segments of the movie “Pleasantville.” We had the BEST mom-and-pop restaurants, local barber shop, vintage toy store, and the movie theatre I’d love to own and operate. If you haven’t seen the brass & glass candy counter, nestled into the red velvet seats that are right out of an Old Hollywood era gone by, eaten freshly popped popcorn from the original machine, you haven’t lived. It also had a library of my dreams, where I laid the foundation for my passion of reading. This nirvana was a place where you could go to weekend story time puppet shows, cuddle into worn armchairs with a Baby Sitters’ Club or Boxcar Children series, AND rent replicas of famous artwork for two weeks. My house was constantly in art gallery mode. I loved it.
Springtime (we had four real seasons!) was always about baseball and soccer; summer, swims in the Olympic swimming pool, driving ranges with Dad, endless backyard play; fall, everything that looks like a moment from “You’ve Got Mail,” sunset-hued leaves gracefully falling, amazingly creative Halloween costumes made by my Mom, adorable scarfs, and hot cocoa; winter, tobogganing down Centennial hill, snowsuits to school, ice skating (my secret dream career), and snowball fights with my brother. Sounds like Leave it to Beaver, right?
Mealtimes with my parents were some of my most cherished hours. My Dad worked awful hours for a cargo company at O’Hare Airport, and later at Bush IAH, but he always made sure we gathered together in fellowship around a good hot meal. We would recount every bit of our daily school happenings, and they’d listen in rapture, which I hope was real, even though if you looked closely, the exhaustion of their careers slowly etched lines on their brows. I felt the same way about morning breakfast, and the hour lunch we were gifted when we walked the block back home to sup on bologna sandwiches and chips with my Dad before he trudged to work.
My greatest treasures were captured during the hours we spent scouring resale shops with my Mom. It was like a holiday to go each weekend for donuts at Morningfield Bakery together while they were still fresh.
When we moved again, I tucked those moments away with my dolls and playthings, because life shifted once more, and I had to create new memories elsewhere. I never forgot them and they are truly the roots of the tree of my life. My mom cross stitched a saying very similar to this, and its beautiful kaleidoscope of threads connect back to my childhood:
“Give your children two things—one is roots, the other, wings.”
I say all of this to emphasize the hope I have for my daughter (as our son is too young to process all of this yet), because our time together during this quarantine is one I hope we will both look back upon, years from now, as our halcyon days. I want to remember our jaunts through the nature trails, the snuggly movie nights in our jammies, the story times, dress ups, picnics, and art projects, so that I can cherish them with her, rather than lament our circumstances. I hope they lay a strong foundation for her character, because they already have for me, as her mother.
I saw someone say recently that they hope we never return to normal when all of this is finished. I wholeheartedly agree, because that “normal” was what slowly destroyed our spirits and made us into automatons who were just cogs in the great wheel of commerce and progress. It caused us to neglect ourselves, and omit the minutes and hours of joy with one another, in favor of life at the speed of light.
Now, we may increase the pace of living when the gates are finally open, but I pray we’ve all learned a lesson about what we wanted and what we truly need. That we find a way to savor our blessings.
This is my wish for all of humanity: Make these moments your halcyon days.
~Kindred Spirit~ 4.17.2020