Saturday, March 29, 2008

Things I Miss From My Childhood

Normally I don't spend time reminiscing. There are plenty of current and future concerns to fill my dance card. But within the past week, as JLA and I were watching The Exorcist for the seventy-third time, I commented on Ellen Burstyn wearing a babushka in a couple of sequences.

"That's a scarf," he said, and even got rather snotty and dismissive about it. I reminded him we both grew up in Milwaukee, albeit on opposite sides of town, and if he knew his ass from page five about that city's immigrant history, he'd damned sure agree that Ms. Burstyn was wearing a babushka.

Merriam-Webster's Online Dictionary gives these definitions: By the way, it isn't just a Russian word. Poles often borrow it. Or at least my mother and aunts did. Anyway, I told JLA I missed wearing one and thought I'd just start doing so again. Babushkas are very versatile. They can serve as wardrobe accessories, protect your hair from the wind (or cover it if it's dirty), and keep your head and ears warm.

This got me thinking about other childhood pleasures I miss--profoundly, if I let myself dwell on them: eating kieshka in blissful, tastebud-delighted ignorance (if you know what this sausage is made from, you know what I mean); playing the jukebox in my parents' tavern; listening to late-night AM radio (and spinning a dial to do so); taking the bus downtown to spend entire days or evenings reveling in the city's wonders (the museum and central library, Lake Michigan's shore, the then-grungy riverfront, Gimbels department store, concerts and teen dance clubs and B-movies shown in grandiose theaters . . . ah, the list goes on).

The seasons, too, had more meaning then. Winter brought Christmases full of church and magic in equal measure, and ice skating on county park lagoons, and snow more welcomed than shunned. Spring saw the start of baseball season. Summer meant a week or two at a homey, musty cottage, sans indoor plumbing, that sat on forty crop-filled acres down a small, dusty road from the vast, blue lake. At home it meant playgrounds and parades and--glory be!--the state fair. Autumn was all about the feel and fragrance of leaf piles, and even more about Halloween.

Little did I know when I tuned in The Exorcist that it would trigger a whole chain-reaction's worth of memories . . . and the realization that we, as adults--so often on the move, so focused on the daily grind of "getting and spending", as Wordsworth put it--tend to lose sight of those people, places, and simple pleasures that went into the making of us.

So, long live babushkas! (Now I just have to find one that's winter-worthy. Hey, what a good excuse for hitting some resale shops!)

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