As I write this, it’s Christmas day. I’m smack up against the deadline for this column, and I’ve had writer’s block all week.
When the column does appear, we will be about to enter a new decade. The last 10 years have not been good for America: 9/11, two major wars, and the collapse of the housing market and along with it much of our banking system. We’re in a depression.
People are out of work, and the country is more divided politically than ever before.
This leaves plenty of room for negative comment, but my mother use to tell me, "If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all." Not very helpful advice for a political columnist; but, hey, it’s Christmas. Surely I can come up with a few lines that won’t offend someone somewhere.
Let’s go back to the turn of the last decade. My husband and I had just begun a new life. We’d become full time caretakers of a 3-year-old, our granddaughter, Anna. Keeping her meant going to court, and it was not a sure thing. I hadn’t slept well for months.
My column that Christmas was titled The Gift of a Child, and in it I pondered on the emotional stability and physical stamina needed to bring up a child, any child, but especially when the caretakers had reached retirement age.
In January 2000, the courts awarded us custody, and we settled in for the long haul. In the years that followed, I watched Bambi over and over again until the tape wore out, learned all the words to "I love you. You love me. We’re a happy fam-i-ly," read and reread Winnie-the-Pooh, and joined the parent-teachers association — again.
I become a soccer mom, supervised spend-the night parties and birthdays at the roller rink, and carpooled with a bunch of giggling, bouncing kids while they discussed who was "cool" and who wasn’t.
Anna is now about to turn 14 — a teenager! The braces are off and she is gorgeous, which is rather frightening for two people in their late 70s and early 80s. What’s more, we have four years of high school still ahead of us.
Christmas newsletters arrive describing the various travels and trips our friends have taken in the past year. Meanwhile, we stay home and save our energy and economic resources to make sure Anna is prepared for the day when we won’t be around.
We may have missed Machu Picchu, but there’s a lot I would never have experienced if it weren’t for Anna. Furthermore, if you want to keep up in the world of cell phones, online shopping, and digital gadgetry, you need a teenager in the house.
My husband entertained some visitors from Atlanta the other day. After they left, he found a small black thingamajig lying on the table and spent hours calling one friend after another to ask if they’d left their cell phone. Anna came in, took one look and said, "That’s the remote for the VCR, Granddad."
Left to my own devices I’d probably miss the books and movies that define today’s culture. After seeing "New Moon" with Anna and a friend, I began reading the Twilight series and discovered the world of teenage vampires and werewolves. In Stephanie Meyer’s books, these creatures share a common trait: When they get angry and let emotion override reason, they lose their human form and become monsters. Not a bad lesson for the young.
"Avatar" is another movie I might have missed if it weren’t for Anna. I’m sure it’s a blockbuster, but the posters outside the theater and the ads in the papers didn’t appeal to me.
Anna is old enough to go to a daytime movie with a friend, but I still keep a close eye on her so I stayed and saw an amazing piece of technology and one of the most beautiful films since Disney’s "Fantasia." Don’t miss it.
Joan King lives in Sautee. Her column appears every other Tuesday and on gainesvilletimes.com.