Someone else’s bowl
Before explaining this week’s title, I need to update my Christmas tree saga. Our four-year-old artificial tree seems to have a mind of its own. First, the top lights went out.
My son Doug, being the inventive frugal kind, went out and bought a string of lights with green cord to match the tree.
Unfortunately, Doug bought LED lights that didn’t match the incandescent ones on the tree. So another trip to the store. What does he buy? A string of 150 lights, way too long to do the job. Then back to the store to buy the right length and bulbs. Opening them up he discovers they have white cord, not green. We decide to use them anyway.
Then the bottom section of lights goes out.
We decided to just give up and to enjoy what we have. I guess it all depends on how one looks at things in life. Some of the simple things seem to get way too complicated. That’s the way it is with out two little “kids” Riley and Molly. Whenever we set out bowls of food in front of them, both containing the same amount and type of food, guess what?
Our cute little ones circle around the bowls, staring each other down, before selecting the “right” bowl. After taking a bite or two out of the bowl in front of them, they repeat the same procedure and change bowls. After two or three times, they decide that enough is enough and they finish whatever is left in the bowl in front of them. This reminded Doug of one Christmas long ago.
It was on a Friday night in December 1958. Doug and others were at Jean’s house, a classmate of his, to celebrate her 12th. birthday. Her birthday is the 22nd just before Christmas, and it was rare for Jean to have her birthday not merged into Christmas. Jean lived in a very new and beautiful home in the “upper class” neighborhood in Blue Bell, PA. We had an old home in the “working class” area of Ambler.
While the homes were only about five miles apart, Doug thought that the world in which Jean lived was a much better place than the one he lived in. As the second son, he frequently wore hand me down clothes. As the first child in her family with a wealthy father, Jean always had the best of “things.” But this didn’t keep Doug and Jean from having a deep and long lasting friendship.
On that cold December night of Jean’s birthday party, it began to snow. The kids were all enjoying their time inside. No one noticed or cared about the weather. Doug still remembers having his first taste of peppermint ice cream at this party. It also helped when the kids decided to play spin-the-bottle! About 10 p.m. when the party was supposed to break up, a foot or more of snow was already on the ground.
Five miles might not seem like a long way, especially today with better cars. However, in those days in heavy snow on narrow two lane roads in the dark, it would have been quite a chore to get Doug home. Jean’s parents called us and offered to let Doug, as well as others, stay overnight. They’d bring Doug home the next day during daylight. Naturally, we agreed.
Doug, in his thinking at the time, felt his “bowl” in life wasn’t so pleasant as Jean’s. So when her father drove him back to Ambler, Doug insisted on being dropped off at the main street of town instead of our front door. Doug then walked the three blocks in the deep snow. How sad, and only later on did Doug know the real story of Jean’ bowl in life. It was at their 30th. high school reunion.
Doug and Jean spent some quality time together, talking about their lives. Both of them had unsuccessful marriages by then. Jean related to Doug how her wealthy father had a mistress the entire time she was growing up, and how her mother endured the humiliation. Jean told Doug how abusive her father had been to her during her entire life, that nothing she ever did amounted to anything important.
Life is both a matter of fact and of perspective. What we believe we see very often interferes with what is reality. Yet to this day Jean and Doug are still friends and no longer think about their “bowls.”
Edna Van Leuven is a Churchill County writer and columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org