Girlhood. Momhood. Lifehood.
Insights on navigating the craziness of life with young kids one — “large coffee with skim please” — day at a time.

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Lite Brites and Bingo

January 7th, 2008

So the other night I’m sitting at the counter in my parent’s kitchen, chin in one hand, a bottle of Texas Shiner Bock beer in the other (oh how I love vacation) enjoying the lull of our winter getaway at the aforementioned Glorious and Relaxing Wonderland of Grammy and Bah’s house. My two-year old daughter is sitting next to me and she’s completely engrossed in an old Lite Brite that my mom found in the attic. Her jaw is jutted out as she stares, with great concentration, at a big square of faded black paper that has an outline of a steamship etched on it. One by one, she’s taking the little peg light bulbs and gently punching them through the paper that’s affixed to the white plastic light box. With every satisfying little “pop” she proclaims in delight… “Yay! I did it!” Bright pink, bright purple, bright green. Her cheeks and blonde hair are aglow with the light of the little bulbs.

At first I was hesitant to let her near the dusty vintage Lite Brite, figuring that within seconds the tiny colored pegs would be rolling all over the kitchen floor much to the delight of my parent’s cat, or the delicate paper would be ripped from the light box and she’d be on to the next thing. But she’s surprising me.

Pop. “Yay momma! I did it!” We clap. Pop. Pop. This goes on for quite a while. She’s making one impressive steamship.

I swing my legs under the bar stool as I gaze at her. On this particular day we have no play dates, no preschool pick-up and drop-off, no gymnastics. We have no appointments, no errands, no mail and no emails (oh, who am I kidding…like I don’t check it every day from my parents computer). But back home, on my desk there’s a big, black line drawn through the week on my calendar. It’s marked “in TX.” Each day is wonderfully void of any commitments.

The next morning, I spent some time at a senior daycare center where my Dad volunteers once a week. The patrons are quite friendly, several of them in wheelchairs. There are big smiles and greetings as I am introduced around. I meet one lovely woman with a teddy bear sweatshirt and learn from Dad that she’ll soon turn 100 years old. The welcoming room is still decorated for Christmas with bright paper ornaments hanging from the ceiling. It smells faintly of coffee.

As the seniors finish breakfast at the long tables, it’s time for a group favorite, Bingo. The staff hands out dozens of bright-colored plastic bottle caps and based on the precision of the bottle cap placement around the Bingo cards and the ease of the set-up, I can tell most of them are pros. The caller is a cheery staff member wearing nurses’s scrubs. She sits at the front of the room and spins the basket of numbered balls. With each one she yells out the numbers with a pleasant Texas twang, “I-27…B-15…G-55.”

There are murmurs among the group, “Nope, not that one”… and then…“Oh, I got it!” They slide the caps over each number…patiently waiting for a winning row to materialize.

And after a while, a shout out… “BINGO!” It’s “Roger.” Roger’s face lights up as he reads the numbers back to the caller to confirm that he is indeed, today’s first winner. Cheers and smiles erupt around him. “Way to go Roger!” says my Dad’s friend and fellow volunteer, George who surveys the winning card from the other side of the table.

A thought crosses my mind at that moment. In the bookends of our lives, we often discover that the simpler things are by far the most enjoyable. It’s that big chunk of years in the middle where we seem to get so very focused on speeding everything up. Get it done faster. Automate it. Whatever makes it easier…even though the drive-through burger is never, ever as good as the one you cook on the grill.

I’m a “speed & ease” junkie myself. If I can create it, cook it, send it, think it, read it, write it, clean it, travel it, or get it faster or do it online, most of the time I will. And quite often my toddler crew is subjected to my time-crunching habits. Most nights I can’t make a bedtime literary commitment that’s any longer than The Very Hungry Caterpillar. It’s bedtime kids, and momma’s got minutia to do.

Despite the fact that I fully recognize my propensity toward operating at turbo speed most days, I can’t seem to help myself. But maybe I could give it a shot. Perhaps I could crack open the book I bought (online of course) last spring about gardening with kids. Or I could unearth my crock pot. Or, I could even shut off my computer for awhile.

Or, I might just take a day here and there and draw a big black line through it on my calendar and pretend we’re “in TX.”

I hear the Lite Brites and Bingo aren’t to be missed.

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