Popcorn Picnics

When I was 5 years old, my Dad was diagnosed with Cancer of the Colon. He was a doctor with the American Medical Association and the primary bread winner in our home. So, you can imagine that when he was no longer able to work, finances were extremely tight. My mom went to work part time to help make ends meet, take care of a sick husband, and raise two kids. She had ZERO help/support from her family; emotionally, financially, or just showing up to help take care of her or us. Life was not easy for her back then. Fortunately for Kevin and myself, we were really sheltered from a lot of the turmoil and pain.

As children, back in 1970’s, we didn’t have the amount of “stuff” that kids have these days. We also didn’t have the demands, expectations, or value for things. Our toys were our bicycles, barbies, GI Joe’s, a holster with play guns, and our imaginations. We played with our friends in the neighborhood, went from house to house for lunches and snacks, and enjoyed the adventures that we CREATED. That was one of the joys of being a kid back in those days – we were creative and used what we had as toys.

One of our most favorite things was having “Popcorn Picnics.” My mom would make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, popcorn, and lay a blanket on the family room floor. We would turn a movie on (whatever was playing on regular TV), and we would just hang out together. Those were some of my most favorite memories… we were TOGETHER. We would laugh, cuddle, and just BE. It was peaceful and having those moments while my father was facing numerous surgeries, chemo, etc., was something that stood out. They were really special, and as I look back, even more special to me now.

When Kevin and I became adults, we were sharing the story about our “Popcorn Picnics,” as we had LOTS of them, with our friends. One time, my mom overheard us telling the story, and she started to cry. We asked what was wrong, we didn’t understand why she began to have tears running down her cheeks. For us, those were great memories! Well, as it turned out, while they were special moments for us, they were also significant for her because they were a reality of some really scary times in her life. She told us that when we were little, she didn’t have much money, and sometimes she didn’t know how she was going to be able to provide for us, let alone feed us. She found ways to make food last; roast a chicken, use the bones to make chicken soup, the remaining meat for chicken salad, and so forth. We had NO IDEA! A sweet memory for Kevin and me, was a reminder of the struggles of my mom’s past…

As a single parent, sometimes, I struggle. I get scared, feel alone, question whether I am doing the right thing, being a good enough parent, and wonder how I am going to make it through this journey. While I know these times pass, sometimes the moments seem to feel so very heavy. Today, was one of those days….

When I picked Aaron up from his dad’s, I told him we had to run to the grocery store, get gas, and pick up a necklace, I had repaired. He was a good sport, turned some music on and told me how his weekend was. As we went through the aisles at the Costco, he helped put things in the cart, lifted the heavy stuff, and made me laugh (as he always does). I knew he could feel my energy, and from time to time, he would put his hand on my shoulder and say, “I love you, Mom.” That kid is so in-tune, sensitive, and caring. He really is special. While we were waiting in line at Costco to get gas, my eyes filled with tears. I try to be strong with him, so I held it in… I do my best to protect him from the adult fears and worries I carry. Thankfully, a song came on that we love, so he turned it up and we sang along. I love how music can immediately shift the energy!

We got home, unloaded the car, and he went across the street to play with the neighbors. I decided to lay down and take a nap – that’s my “New Thing” – afternoon naps…. Since the fire, I have come to appreciate REST. I could feel that I really needed it, emotionally, more than physically today. When I woke up, it was time for dinner. I was just so drained, I didn’t want to cook, or go running out to get something. I knew EXACTLY what to make – a Popcorn Picnic! Aaron ate Mac N’ Cheese and I had a bowl of popcorn. I don’t know why, but there is still something special about hanging out on the couch, watching a movie and having popcorn for dinner. For me, it is comfort food. It also is a reminder that everything will be okay. I will wake up tomorrow with fresh eyes, a new perspective, and gratitude that I made it through a tough day.

Life is hard, sometimes really hard. Those are the days when we need to be reminded that we will get through it, are loved, important, and valued. I am grateful for the special people in my life who remind me that life is truly worth living – they remind me that I am not alone, and that I am strong. That is why we all need a Tribe – our peeps that we reach out to when we are feeling low. We all need support, reassurance, and sometimes guidance. We can’t do this alone, and are not designed to. So in the meantime, make yourself a “Popcorn Picnic,” grab your favorite blanket, and turn on a good movie!

2 Responses so far.

  1. Laurel says:
    Such a sweet story. I think I must have shown up when you were nine years old. I’m glad you were able to pull some positive memories forward from that dark chapter in your young life. I remember you being so curious about my being vegetarian, and you loved helping me cook. You helped when we made pancakes with zucchini, carrots, mushrooms and onions. I still make them from time to time. Those were some very hard times, but we made it through to better days, bluer skies and new chapters to create. You had such a sweet face and beautiful nature about you. I love you forever my sweet friend.
    • River Phoenix says:
      Thank you Laurel. I still remember your amazing Lentil Soup! It was the best. You are the reason I became a Vegetarian. I love those memories.

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