A simpler life.
I hear that term a lot lately. It takes me back to my childhood when we used to gather with the whole extended family over at my uncle’s father in-law’s estate on Sundays. His father in-law purchased it during the depression. An immigrant seamstress and a waiter saved all of their money so when the Great Depression came along they were able to buy an estate for a song. They chopped the grand house into apartments, which they then rented out to family. I can still remember the wooden bannister that elegantly wrapped up the main hallway.
The house was settled on the most beautiful plot of land. In the back, there was a pond filled with fish, frogs and lily pads. We’d arrive with mason jars in the spring and capture tadpoles. Taking just a few home to keep in a tank my brother would set up and we’d watch them grow into frogs. It was fascinating as legs budded from slim bodies and faces formed before our eyes. Mid summer, we’d release them back into the pond as fully grown frogs with song and ceremony. Wild raspberries grew around the edge of the pond, which would fill our tin buckets to the brim. My grandmother taught us how to make jam out of the berries. The heat in her tiny kitchen almost unbearable as we stood on chairs with ill-fitting aprons tied around our bodies.
Last weekend I gathered with my cousins to celebrate a belated Swiss Day. It was the same crew that used to gather at my Uncle’s place. The estate sold long ago and since plowed under to make way for new buildings. Time and age have not been kind to us and the generation before me is under attack. Dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Age Related Memory loss, Depression, Diabetes, Cancer and Insanity were all represented around the table. Well, insanity wasn’t exactly at the table. Aunt Lucy is in a hospital right now battling her demons again.
I guess my question is, what is this simpler life everyone is talking about? Is it living within our means or is it mealy the yearning for childhood happiness? I don’t remember my grandparents and their generation facing so much illness. Most likely, I missed the conversations that included what ailed them. Too busy capturing tadpoles at the time. My cousins and I talked about the care of our parents this past Saturday. We discussed the care of our insane aunt and who would be visiting her that night. We are all responsible for her though my cousin C. has taken care of the brunt of her needs. We laughed, we talked, and we told stories and yearned for a simpler time when buckets of raspberries and a card game filled a Sunday afternoon. I guess it is safe to say, we’ve grown up and it is our turn to make the decisions. I never would have guessed that adulthood meant your heart would ache for the generation before you as they age. I admit I also look around and ponder the diseases I have a good chance of developing. Cancer having already arrived doesn’t mean it will keep Parkinson’s at bay. These thoughts make me shudder and then I look around the table and all I want to do is freeze these moments in memory. One day these memories may represent a simpler time.