Throwback Thursday Inspiration — Getting Started

I’m actually going to combine Jim’s Adams’ Thursday Inspiration prompt this week this week with Maggie and Lauren’s Throwback Thursday prompt. Jim has given us the prompt word begin and the image of a January 2023 calendar page. He’s asking us to focus on new beginnings, Maggie wants us to reflect upon this past year.

Looking back at 2022, I think it’s been a mixed bag. My honest appraisal of the year is that there wasn’t a whole lot to love, but it wasn’t all bad. I personally experienced some highs and some lows, but on balance, 2022 wasn’t much better than 2021, but it wasn’t much worse, either.

As we begin the new year, I’m hoping that by this time next year I’ll be able look back at 2023 and give it an unequivocal thumbs up. But I’m not optimistic. Without a seismic shift in the current geopolitical and societal trajectories, I’m expecting to feel about 2023 next December as I feel about 2022 this December: not a great year, but not a horrid year.

And with that, I leave you with this as we begin the new year.

Throwback Thursday — School Haze

Maggie, at From Cave Walls, and Lauren, at LSS Attitude of Gratitude, alternate hosting Throwback Thursday. The idea of the prompt is for them to give us a topic and for us to write a post in which we share our own memories or experiences about the given topic. This week, Maggie asked us ten questions about class assignments.

I’ll do the best I can, but I titled this post “School Haze” because it’s been so long since I was a young student in school that my memories of specific things such as those asked are hazy at best. Anyway, here are Maggie’s questions:

1. What do you remember as the most interesting required reading assignment you had? What class was it for?

While I have only the vaguest recollection of them, I remember reading epic poems, like Beowulf, Tristan and Isolde, and Evangeline, in English lit class and really getting into them.

2. Were you required to write a book report or were you required to give an oral presentation? What do you remember about it?

We were often assigned to write book reports and to get up in front of the class to give oral presentations of our book reports. I actually enjoyed both writing the book reports and giving the oral presentations.

3. What did you consider the worst book or article you were required to read? What made it the worst?

I can’t recall a specific book that we were assigned to read that I’d say was the worst, but if I started reading a book and, for whatever reason, hated it, I’d rely on Cliff Notes or Monarch Notes to get me through it.

4. Were you ever required to debate other classmates? If so, what class was it for? Do you remember any of the subjects and your ‘side’ of the debate?

Yes, I had a few teachers that really got off on pitting student against each other in debates. One teacher in particular would pick two teams of three students each and give us a controversial topic to consider. She’d assign one team to debate in support of the topic and one to debate in opposition. I remember one debate about slavery in America and I was assigned to the team to debate the topic from the perspective of southern property owners. It was really hard, almost painful, to be pro-slavery and to argue about the economical and societal benefits of slavery. I don’t remember which side won the debate, but I do remember which side won the war.

5. Were you ever required to do a science project or enter school science fair? What was your project? Did you do it alone or did your parents help you? If you were graded, how did you do?

Yes, we were pretty much required to participate in the school’s science fairs each year. I did work on some projects — stupid, simple ones like making a “working” baking soda volcano model in a cardboard display with illustrated drawings and information about why volcanoes erupt. I had a few other projects that were more sophisticated, but I’ll be damned if I can recall what they were. Needless to say, I never won any science fair prizes, other that my highly regarded Certificates of Participation.

6. Did you have a Home Economics class or a Wood/Metal Shop class? What types of things did you make?

I went to shop class and worked on projects like making rocking chairs, tables, a cutting board, and other pretty much worthless items. But I did learn how to use a bunch of tools, both hand tools and machine tools. And that has served me well over my lifetime.

7. Did you frequent the library? Was it for class work or for pleasure? What book that you read for pleasure had the most impact on you?

Yes, yes, and I don’t remember.

8. What was your most creative class? Band? Chorus? Art? Drama? Writing? What standout creative project do you remember most?

I suppose art class. I used to think of myself as being very artistic, and even earned the nickname “Doodles” because of my very elaborate doodles that filled the pages of my spiral notebooks. But once I got into art class, I learned that my true artistic creativity was limited to doodling. My attempts at serious art, whether painting or sculpting, were dubious at best.

9. Were you required to write a term paper or an end of year report in any of your classes? Did you remember what you wrote about?

Yes, I had some classes — mostly in high school — where we were asked to write term papers. I think they were social studies type classes, but I honestly can’t recall specific topics.

10. Bonus Question: Did your teachers ever offer extra credit assignments ? Did you do them to help improve your grade?

I remember a few teachers offering extra credit assignments or projects. The only time I ever participated was with Miss North, my 10th grade biology teacher. She was a gorgeous redhead and I had a hella crush on her. So I volunteered for special projects, but more to be able to spend after school time with her than to improve my grade.

Throwback Thursday — Then and Now

Maggie, at From Cave Walls, and Lauren, at LSS Attitude of Gratitude, alternate hosting Throwback Thursday. The idea of the prompt is for them to give us a topic and for us to write a post in which we share our own memories or experiences about the given topic. This week, Lauren asked us ten questions about what it was like then and what it’s like now.

When I read her questions, I was having a hard time figuring out how to respond. My memories around most of her questions were so faded that I couldn’t figure out how to respond, and I was going to skip the prompt this week.

But one question caught my attention. Lauren asked, “Did you ever get lost as a child? How did you handle it?” And suddenly a very vivid memory popped into my head from when I was about seven years old and either in the first or second grade. So instead of answering all ten of Lauren’s questions, I thought I’d just share that memory in response to that one question.

I’d walked through this woods at least a dozen of time before. But suddenly everything looked unfamiliar, menacing, treacherous.

Still, I followed the path I was on. But was it the right one, the one that would lead me home? I couldn’t be sure. There were several forks in the trail and I worried that I’d taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way.

The branches, some still with autumn’s dying leaves clinging to them, were reaching down toward me like the gray, bony arms of an army of skeletons. Grabbing, pulling.

It was dusk, and the rapidly approaching darkness, intensified by the canopy of the trees surrounding the path, seemed to be enveloping me. It was getting cold, too, and I could feel a chill passing through my light jacket, reaching deep inside to my very core.

I heard sounds, but I couldn’t be sure if they were the sounds of my own footfalls or if someone — or something — was lurking from within the trees, following me, waiting for just the right moment to pounce. I had never been so scared in my young life.

Why had I done this? I knew I was supposed to go right home after school. But I was new to this school and my best friend — my only friend, actually — had invited me to come over to his house to play after school.

My friend lived just on the other side of the woods, not that far from my own home, really. Just in the opposite direction from the school.

I knew how to get home from my usual starting point, the school, but now I was hopelessly lost. I didn’t know whether to continue in the direction I’d been walking, or to turn around and head back toward my friend’s house. But if I did turn around, would I even be able to find my way back there?

I came across a large, downed tree branch along the side of the path. Unsure about whether I should move ahead or turn back, I sat down on the branch. It was dark and it was cold. Fear was starting to overcome me and I began to cry.

“Hey kid,” I heard a voice say. It startled me. “Are you okay?” the voice asked.

“I’m lost,” I said between sobs, looking up at an older boy, who must have been a sixth grader.

“Where do you live?”

I gave the older kid my address; my parents had made me memorize it. “But if you take me back to my school, I can find my way home from there.”

The older boy grabbed my hand and pulled me up. “I know where you house is,” he said. “I’ll take you home.”

I didn’t know whether to feel relieved or to be wary. “Don’t talk to strangers,” my parents had warned me countless times. But in this case, the stranger was, himself, just a kid. Maybe only five or six years older than me. He was a godsend.

The older boy took me straight home to my worried parents, who were so relieved and overjoyed to see me. I was surprised to find my father there, as he normally didn’t get home from work until much later. My mother was crying tears of relief and happiness. So was my father. It was the first time I’d ever seen his father cry. My mother couldn’t stop hugging and kissing me, repeating “Oh thank God, oh thank God” over and over.

The next day, first thing in the morning, the principal’s voice was broadcast over the school’s P.A. system, to be heard in all of the classrooms throughout the building .

“Boys and girls,” she said. “When you leave the school in the afternoons, you must go directly home unless your parents have given you a signed permission slip authorizing you to go somewhere else after school.”

I knew why the principal had made that announcement on that particular morning. But no one in my classroom was looking at me, the new kid. The kid who should have known better.

And when I left school that afternoon, I walked confidently into the woods. The familiar, comforting woods that I knew would lead him home.

Throwback Thursday — Spaces and Places

Maggie, at From Cave Walls, and Lauren, at LSS Attitude of Gratitude, alternate hosting Throwback Thursday. The idea of the prompt is for them to give us a topic and for us to write a post in which we share our own memories or experiences about the given topic. This week, Maggie wants us to amble around through the spaces and places of our youth.

Here are Maggie’s questions.

1. Did you grow up in an urban or a rural environment? How would you describe the geographic area where you lived? Was it mostly buildings or mostly trees? Four seasons, or always warm or cold?

I was born in Newark, New Jersey. We lived in an apartment building and it was definitely an urban environment. But when I was around five, we relocated to a suburb of Washington, DC and lived in a rental house, a single-family home, for about four years before my folks bought a house in a typical suburban development. We definitely had four seasons.

2. What about the place in which you resided? Was it a house, an apartment, a mobile home, a boat, or something else? Did you like it and do you miss it now?

The place my parents bought when I was nine was a split-level house. I did like it at the time, but I decided that I would never buy a split-level house myself.

3. What about the bedroom you had in the home? Did you share it with someone or did you have it all to yourself? If you shared, with whom? How was the space decorated?

In our split level home, there were three bedrooms on the top level. My parents had one, and each of my sisters had their own rooms on that level. My room was in a large recreation room below the main living area and that my parents had converted into a bedroom. It was mostly decorated with my toys and posters I had put up on the walls.

4. When you did family activities at home, in what room did you spend your time? What did you do together? TV? Cards? Board Games? Reading?

Other than reading, which I did mostly in my bedroom, we watched TV in the living room and played cards and board games at our dining room table.

5. Did your friends’ living situation seem similar to your own? Did you prefer to be at your friend’s home or did you prefer your own? Did your friends like to hang out at your house?

It was a typical, 1950s suburban development with cookie-cutter homes, so with only minor differences, everyone’s home was like everyone else’s. My friends and I would hang out at each other’s houses. That said, my room, being a recreation room converted to a bedroom, was the largest of all of my friends’ bedrooms, so we hung out there a lot.

6. What kind of school did you attend? Large or small? Religious or secular? Public or private?

I went to public, secular schools from K-12.

7. Did you attend church, synagogue, temple, or some other religious facility? If so was it large and ornate, or small and homey? Did you feel comfortable there?

No, ours was a relatively non-religious (mixed religions) family, and we didn’t actively participate in either religion.

8. Did you have a hang out spot? Skating rink? Mall? Burger joint? Bowling alley? Friend’s house?

All of the above. Plus movies.

9. Where did you typically go on dates (if you dated)? Movies? Out to a restaurant? At home watching TV? Library? Gym? Dances? Clubs? Mall?

Yes to all of the above. Plus, we went to a lot of parties. My friends were big party-throwers.

10. What kind of place did you live in when you first moved away from home? Was it a big adjustment or were you ready to strike out on your own? Describe your first place.

I was ready to strike out on my own after I graduated from college, for sure. When I first moved from home, I lived in a small, spartan, one bedroom apartment, but I then bought an old fixer-upper about two years later with a friend of mine. It needed a lot of work, but we sold it about four years later for a tidy profit.

Throwback Thursday — Booze and Doobies

Maggie, at From Cave Walls, and Lauren, at LSS Attitude of Gratitude, alternate hosting Throwback Thursday. The idea of the prompt is for them to give us a topic and for us to write a post in which we share our own memories or experiences about the given topic. This week, Lauren wants us to “think back to those teen years (and later) to respond to today’s topic, which is “Suds, Buds, and Vino.”

Here are Lauren’s questions.

1. Did you grow up in a family that had beer or wine at family meals? Were either beverages part of your parent’s “relaxation” time?

2. Was wine consumed as part of religious or family celebrations? If so, when?

In answer to #1 and #2, my father kept a bottle of Southern Comfort, a whiskey-flavored liqueur, and a bottle of Slivovitz schnapps, a plum brandy, in the dining room cabinet, but he rarely imbibed. There was no beer in our house and wine was reserved for special occasions, like family get togethers.

3. Were you allowed to have a “sip” of the adult beverages?

I wasn’t allowed to, but I would occasionally sneak a sip when no one was paying attention.

4. When you were a teenager did it bother you that your parents had one set of behaviors, yet you were expected to have another?

Not with respect to drinking at home, as that was a relative rarity, anyway.

5. When you were in high school, did you or your friends drink alcohol? If you were underaged, how did you acquire the booze?

Oh yes. We’d find some older person who would purchase beer or booze for us for a slight fee.

6. Were you offered marijuana or other drugs while in high school? If you chose to partake, did it get you into trouble, or were you never caught?

I didn’t try marijuana until I was a junior in college and probably had it only two or three times before I graduated. I was never caught nor did I ever get in trouble (probably because I was never caught).

7. Did you ever get too drunk or too high to function? How did your body react to that?

Mostly it was too drunk and I’d end up spending the night with my arms wrapped around the porcelain goddess and suffering from a severe hangover the next day.

8. Have your opinions about taking drugs and drinking alcohol changed over time? Are you more conservative or more liberal than you were in your youth?

I don’t drink much alcohol anymore and while I did experiment with LSD, Quaaludes, mescaline, and I smoked a lot of grass in my younger days, I never did heroin or cocaine. These days I may consume a cannabis-infused edible (a gummy or marshmallow) every once in a while, I mostly neither drink much nor get high from marijuana anymore.

9. If applicable, did you raise your children with the same beliefs that you grew up with?

Pretty much, but my daughter and her fiancé are into artisan beers and will smoke pot or take edibles periodically. Because my son is a parent of very young kids now, he doesn’t drink or do any drugs at all.

10. If you had any input over alcohol or marijuana laws would you change them?

I would make marijuana legal throughout the country for those adults (over 18) who wish to use it. It shouldn’t be a crime to use marijuana if it’s not a crime to drink alcoholic beverages.