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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Kansas and Kfc

Conner had to accompany me on some errands today because two of the errands involved him. And I ended up being very glad that Miss Social Butterfly didn't come with us, as she is wont to do, because it ended being some much-needed mom and son time -- sans siblings.

Nothing special went on; it was just a relaxed time when Conner could talk randomly, as he is wont to do, without the usual interruptions, and with comfortable silences in between. We both got to ramble on, actually. He comes by it honestly. We even finished some sentences.

And we only had the two of us to consult about what we would eat for lunch -- because errands always take a life of their own and keep you out longer than necessary. It's never my fault. I never ever, say, stop by the paint shop I didn't know we'd be passing "just for a few minutes" to pick up some paint swatches. Or go into Hobby Lobby, "Look, it's right there!" because who can pass up going into Hobby Lobby?

We mostly talked about Conner's big book report he has due Tuesday. He's doing a comic strip as his project, and the deadline has crept up on him, as deadlines are wont to do. And he hasn't worked on it enough up to this time, which I'm sure is typical but I can't help but wonder how much of that is because of this move, and because I wasn't on top of him enough. And exactly how on top of him should I be, anyway?

We also talked about how much we like Kfc, where we had our lunch. We both agree: legs all the way. Though he prefers extra crispy while I have graduated to original.

I got to relate to him how I always equate eating at Kfc with my childhood and my family's annual visits to my grandparent's in Nebraska. We always went to church with them, and we always ate lunch at KFC after. At least, that's how I remember it. And, ohhh how I looked forward to those lunches. Inordinately so. I don't recall that my hometown even had Kfc, but if they did we still wouldn't have eaten there. My childhood memories of everyday life simply don't include fast food and eating out. And considering how etched in my brain those Kfc visits were with my grandparents, I think I can safely say that eating fast food was a pretty unique experience. How I looked forward to those lunches with my grandparents. Oh, that greasy fried chicken, and those instant mashed potatoes and gravy.

So I'm telling Conner about this silly sentimental memory, and I'm finding myself explaining how my little hometown didn't have fast food restaurants then like it does today -- I mean, it had McDonald's, and Long John Silver's -- but oh! we didn't eat there, oh, lawdy. And he's actually listening and pretending to get it, though he obviously doesn't, and I found myself wondering, what will Conner's silly sentimental memories be? Because, of course, how neat that I can eat in Kfc and be reminded of my grandparents, now seven years gone.

Then I started thinking about this city we live in now and how every modern convenience you can imagine is within 15 minutes of our doorstep, for better or for worse. And this is what is shaping Conner's For Granted World. He certainly won't have any silly sentimental memories of eating in a fast food restaurant. I'm just so curious what will be his lasting impressions of his childhood, this childhood that he is quickly leaving behind (though not yet!) that has seemed like so much of my life yet will only have skirting, random concrete memories for him when all is said and done.

I can't help but wonder if his memories of childhood will be a long list of flights that have taken him from one place to another. From home to home, yes, and also from various homes to visit Kansas, his favorite place in the whole world, if you asked him now.

This coming from a kid who has reason to know a few places in the world.

I'm wondering if he will equate these flights with a sense of adventure, of leaving the old for something new and exciting; if he'll recall any of the hysterically eccentric people or even the blessedly kind ones who remained anonymous. Or if he will think only of the lines, and the many hours of waiting, and the crankiness and terse answers to his questions, the exhaustion and the confusion. Oh, and the crankiness.

Somehow I suspect it will be the latter.

I think now how I didn't experience my first commercial flight until I was 18 years old. I couldn't count the number I've had since then. And, I realize now, I couldn't begin to count how many Conner has had, either. He has moved seven times. Big moves, that is. Like, state to state, country to country. (I had to count just now, and use my fingers.) That doesn't count little moves, when jobs didn't change but apartments did, or we were "in between" homes and living with relatives. There were four of those, I think. But I could be forgetting some by now. I guess it's good I'm rambling now, for posterity's sake, before I forget even more.

How is all of this shaping Conner's memories? I cannot relate to Conner's childhood, to the impression this life will leave on him. What is going to stand out to him at the end of the day? It won't be climbing the Eiffel Tower: it'll be watching a man get arrested outside Sandy's Paris apartment. It won't be the Basilica in St. Mark's Square: it'll be the pigeons that he chased there. It won't be "holding up" the Leaning Tower of Pisa: it'll be finding the McDonald's when we missed our turn. (Okay, maybe fast food will make its imprint; they were rare for us in Italy.)

But really the highlights of Conner's life so far, if I know my son, have been our visits to Kansas where his cousins are. (And you, too, Grandma! ahem.) This always sounds so funny to people who don't know us well but are part of our lifestyle. ("Um, Kansas?" is always the thought poorly concealed.) There's always a nod of understanding when they hear that it's not really about where I came from, but about the cousins that are there now. And, really, can you blame him?

In case you need reassurance -- yes, they are all boys! And already in the process of becoming men, some of them.

It seems likely, from my observations and conversations with people who grew up with a lifestyle similar to Conner's, that he will go in one of two directions: One day he will have a place of his home and declare that he is never going to move! but then decide that staying put isn't so great, after all; or, he will get a place of his own, dig in his heels, and simply never move again.

You never know, really. But if I were a betting person, I'd put my money on the latter. Only time will tell.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi. I just happened across your blog by accident but it caught my attention because I'm a military wife, too. Thanks for the interesting read.