May the coming year bring you blessings.
May the coming year bring you blessings.
Writing about the arcade at Mohegan Sun reminded me of the first encounter I had with a video game. Pong was placed in the lobby of our local movie theater, and for a quarter you could play against the machine. The picture on the right shows the screen with the little dot representing the ping pong ball. The aim was to outscore your robot opponent by hitting the “ball” over the net when it came at you.
While very primitive by today’s standards, this was a groundbreaking experience in 1972. I never could have imagined the games that would follow. I happily dropped quarters in the machine trying to outplay the devious opponent who kept happily shooting the “ball” past me.
Having had such a good time with these first game posts, I will be relating other fun and games in the days ahead. All G-rated, of course. They should be a welcome antidote to the gray gloomy days of January here in New England.
We had friends whose father worked for the county library which for some strange reason owned a house on the Oregon coast. Pictured here are the four of us and the two of them standing on the front porch with the Pacific Ocean in the background. The home was in Neahkhanie, a small, virtually undeveloped(in the 1950’s) beach town. But it had one important claim to fame–a rumored buried pirate treasure. In the center of town there was a welcome sign with a reproduction of the writing seen on the rock on the right.
Needless to say, the six of us were certain that we would be able to decipher the code and find the buried treasure. Armed with no more than a shovel and diehard optimism, we argued about where to dig and how deep to dig. But our enthusiasm quickly died and we simply dug and played in the surf. Only up to our knees to be obedient to our mothers. We were unsupervised but trusted to “never turn your back on the ocean” and to “never climb on logs that are on the edge of the surf.”
We would return after a morning of treasure hunting, wading and running to devour sandwiches. We feasted on tuna salad and our friends’ mother’s specialty, chopped olive with mayonnaise. Never had any food tasted so wonderful. Then, duly fortified, we took off for an afternoon at the beach.
Just before Christmas, I went to Mohegan Sun, one of two large casinos in southern Connecticut, with my daughter and grandchildren. Mohegan has a children’s arcade, pictured above, which we all love. The games are loud, bright and challenging, rewarding points for achievements. As at many arcades, the points can be traded in for kid coveted prizes.
My grandson’s skill lies in the claw machines where one maneuvers a mechanism around a bin of prizes, drops it to “claw” a prize and then brings the prize over to the chute for retrieval. I have never been able to even latch onto any object in the pile, while he routinely picks up things. He brags that he is “king of the claw,” and I have to agree.
I have been a fan of arcades all my life. My first one was in the Oregon coastal town of Seaside. Rain routinely falls on the coast, and to burn off some of our excess energy, my mother would drop my brother and me off at the arcade. There we happily played SkeeBall, racking up points to trade for candy. The Seaside arcade housed lots of old machines, including some not very risque “peep shows,” where for a penny a picture of a woman in a bathing suit was revealed for a quick look. We found these hilarious.
Our favorite spot was next door to the arcade, the table entertainment Fascination.
This game put us in competition with other players in a game involving rolling balls into a bingo grid trying to get a full row lit before any other player accomplished the task. We rarely won, but we enjoyed the thrill of almost winning nearly as much. Anyway, here the prizes appealed more to adults, so we were not too disappointed.
Many people told us we were wasting our money. Even today many accuse casinos of being exploitative. I felt then and now that I was free to “waste” my money any way I chose. And I still choose the flashing lights and loud buzzers on a rainy day.
I was at the gym nursing the tendonitis in my right elbow, trying to lift one leg and the alternate arm in the air while I lay on my back when “Somebody to Love” by the Jefferson Airplane came on the stereo system. I was catapulted back in time to 1967 in San Francisco wearing a tunic designed to be a shirt as if it were a dress. Marijuana smoke was everywhere in Haight Ashbury where my then boy friend was spending the summer. I was there for a brief visit before heading back to college. Everyone was young. Everyone was lithe.
I remarked on the time to my workout partner when my trainer quipped, “that’s the old people’s radio station playing.” Agh. My worst nightmares had come to pass. I clearly remember hearing music from the 1940’s in the grocery store and fearing that by the time I was “old” my music would be played in the nursing home. Having it play at the gym, surrounded by “Silver Sneakers”(people over 65) members was just as startling. Here I was remembering the precise way I moved through San Francisco humming that song and yet here I was trying to just get one leg and one arm into the air at the same time.
I actually don’t miss being 20. I was what my grandchildren would call “a hot mess” at the time, consumed with love problems. But I do wish sometimes that I could take my wisdom and experience back to that 20 year old body if only for a day. I certainly wouldn’t take it for granted!
My grandson dances hip hop and is in an all boys troupe at his studio. We had the pleasure of attending his winter recital which featured dancers ages 5-21 doing a variety of awe inspiring moves. I was raised with very traditional notions of Christmas dance recitals. They all involved ballet dancers in tights and tutus dancing to music from the “Nutcracker Suite.” The dances were formal, quiet and meticulously choreographed to showcase individual talent backed by carefully matched corps dancers.
Instead, hip hop gives an outlet for creative invention, incredible gymnastic feats, each dancer to shine, and unbridled energy. If you ever have a kid with an ADHD diagnosis, be assured that a hip hop dance team would be an excellent fit. While our grandson doesn’t have that label, he is very physical and very coordinated, so this type of dance is ideal.
When my daughter was in high school, she took African dance classes, backed by a drummer from Ghana. I was struck with how many moves in hip hop echo the dances she practiced then. In particular there is a fluidity in pelvis movement that seemed the same. I am pretty ignorant about the influences on hip hop moves, but the connection seemed clear as I watched.
Once again I am grateful for all the new experiences my grandchildren introduce into my life. I was wide awake after that performance. I certainly never risked falling asleep, a hazard I remember from those ballet recitals!
I sewed a great deal in my twenties, making clothes for myself and my daughter, but that was the extent of my crafting ability. Shortly after I became a single parent, and struggling financially, I found a kit to make a Santa using something called latch hook. While I had never even heard of this technique, the kit was inexpensive and I wanted some decoration for our first Christmas alone.
Latch hook turns out to be quite easy, just using a metal hook, mesh canvas and many short pre-cut pieces of yarn that are looped through the mesh. This canvas even had color coding, leaving no doubt which loop went where. The directions on the box were easy to follow, and I created the wall hanging pictured above. I went on to do more latch hook projects, mainly pillows, until I left the craft for more challenging embroidery and counted cross-stitch.
Each year, as I hang this Santa in its place on the inside of our back door, I think back 41 years to that Christmas. I had needed to create a life from scratch. With $20 I scrounged the second hand store near by for ornaments. My daughter had her picture taken with Santa at day care and mounted in a gift frame for me. We didn’t have much, but we were safe and warm. It was a Merry Christmas in the end after all.
On the left is the Christmas tree surrounded by presents from 1954. On the right is the Christmas tree surrounded by presents from 2018. I am struck by how much I have continued the same Christmas traditions from my childhood. The trees look to be about the same size; they seem to have about the same number of ornaments; and they seem to have about the same number of packages beneath them.
It’s interesting to notice that, although subconsciously, I seem to have set ideas about proportion, decoration and sufficient gifts established many years ago. I had a close friend that year whose tree was flocked white and had identical pink glass globes adorning it. I remember thinking how odd that was. I had no desire to have a tree like that when I was grown. Another family had the first fake Christmas tree I had ever seen, but I certainly didn’t want a odor free tree in my future home. I did covet a set of bubble lights that I saw at one friend’s house. Fortunately, my husband bought me a set one year without even knowing that about me.
We open presents Christmas morning. We have stockings for each family member secretly filled by another member. We have Chinese food on Christmas, though, a departure from the roast beef I had every Christmas as a child. I guess I have stepped out a little after all.!
My late mother-in-law did this exquisite needlework tapestry on brown linen with red and blue threads. I hang it each Christmas on the door of our front hall closet, so it is the first thing one sees when entering our home. I have done much needlework in my life, but this work amazes me when I consider how carefully she designed and executed it. I was grateful that my husband brought it home from her estate, knowing how much I would appreciate it.
The “Twelve Days of Christmas” song played throughout my childhood, and my siblings and I would try, usually unsuccessfully, to remember the verses all the way through. Today I am only able to sing the song if I start at the beginning. If you just give me one random group of ladies dancing or lords a-leaping, I am at a loss. I sang it in the school chorus at an assembly and was very happy to be able to slow down and take a deep breath at the phrase “five golden rings” before the song picked up steam again counting down to the final “and a partridge in a pear tree.”
There have been fun depictions of what it would look like if the loved one actually received all those presents and the chaos that would ensue. Parodies also abound. However, the song really points to the twelve days between the celebration of Christmas and Epiphany. Where we live, that twelfth day is celebrated as Three Kings Day with a parade featuring a camel to represent the magi coming to visit the baby Jesus. The Puerto Rican community here goes all out to celebrate that day, and school is even released for the festivities.
As I looked around our decorated(thanks to my grandchildren)home this afternoon, I realized how each object had a particular significance for me. I have never gone in much for decorating for its own sake. Instead I am surrounded by furniture, art and china handed down to me from earlier family members. In fact, until I was in high school, my parents never bought any furniture since so much was already available.
My grandfather was one of seven children whose father worked as a law clerk in Chicago. Money was scarce though adequate. The paper decoration above hung in their home one hundred years ago. It cheers me to think of him every Christmas and to remember his family’s frugality. Two favorite recipes came from his family. “Carpenter (his last name) spaghetti was just spaghetti noodles and grated “rat” cheese. No meat. No tomatoes. The other was canned chipped beef in white sauce over toast. Before I left home, my mother insisted that I learn to make white sauce in a double boiler. She felt it was an essential skill. I haven’t made it in many years, but I still have my grandmother’s double boiler and could still mix butter, flour and milk if forced into service.
I will share a couple more possessions over the next couple of days. I hope it encourages you to be grateful once again for the things handed down.