By Di Chapman
True confessions, y’all. I am a December baby, and this one is my 65th. Shhhh! Don’t tell anyone. Fat chance? Tease me as you will, but why not join me in pondering lifetime memories?
I have to give my parents credit. My birthday was acknowledged fully. Even though Christmas was on the horizon, it still brought celebration.
They had no abundance of discretionary income, but they gave us five kids the full Christmas experience every year. We chopped the tree down in the woods, trimmed it with sparkling everything, and then decked the halls. Like scenes out of Chevy Chase’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, we put everything back together again after the cats climbed the tree and jumped out as it fell, then ceremoniously upchucked the tinsel they had eaten. The dog ripped open food gifts and stationed himself in the kitchen and dining room to catch stray morsels of Christmas dinner. Nuts and goodies on the coffee table were fair game.
My Norwegian grandfather arrived from North Dakota, and rutabagas; lutefisk, a white slippery tasteless fish fondue; spuds; disgusting Gjetost cheese (Folks, do not try this!); and vínarterta, a prune paste cracker-like seven-layer cake, appeared on the table. Year after year, we kids joked about the cuisine. Only holiday brunch at the Sons of Norway lodge was more amusing.
I love the holiday season, although I see a “different” Di in the mirror every December. Dang, age hits like a steamroller as the numbers climb in the 60s. Every day is an adventure with the mirror. What the heck is up with the sudden cavernous lines from cheeks to chin? I’m starting to look like Mr. Magoo.
How did my upper arms, after enduring push-ups throughout the years, become dimpled chicken wings? Why bother? And oh, ye post-64 ladies and gentlemen, what’s up with the relentless bloated bellies that never go away? I can’t suck it in anymore. You? When did we start unbuttoning our pants after meals?
When did we become our parents?
I now have my mother’s draping legs and cellulite. Mom was a very pretty lady, but other than running after five kids when she was young, she never exercised. She wouldn’t have moved even if you blew a cannon off underneath her. (Sorry, Mom!) I, on the other hand, never stopped moving. It was push-ups and sit-ups contests with my brothers, running, baseball, backflips on the bars, and tetherball. I started gym visits at 20 and never stopped. And now dimpled thighs? Seriously?
As blatant as they are, my bodily changes are only half the story this season. My husband and I have pulled out the boxes from the storeroom, garage, and closets. It’s time to torture ourselves and clean out the contents. When it came to who could amass the biggest pile of boxes, I’m the guilty dog. I’m rummaging through my life mementos and records since 1992. Records? 1992??? We created the “shred pile,” which has become five full bankers’ boxes of papers; the “recycle bin pile,” filling it up twice; the “hmmm, to keep or not to keep? pile,” and a tiny stack, the “keepers.”
This mountain of papers reveals the great, the dumb, the exciting, and the accomplishments that create my story of 65 years. Do you remember the last time you took on this beast of a task? There’s so much I’ve forgotten. There are the radio shows in Southern California in the 90s. How could I forget the guests I interviewed? Like the Right Honourable Kim Campbell, former Prime Minister of Canada, and the only woman to hold the job. We made the interview a trio with Ethel Blondin-Andrew, then a Member of Parliament. They told the story of how they turned up at one ceremony wearing the same red Liz Claiborne suit.
Then there was the team who sent Timothy Leary’s brain into outer space on a rocket. His brain, by the way, showed no damage from LSD. I had a rousing interview with Dick Morris, the infamous Republican strategist who was caught with a prostitute in the act of toe sucking.
And there was a poignant interview with George McGovern, who was happy to schedule it while celebrating his birthday at a D.C. restaurant. “Just call the restaurant. I’ll tell the maître d’ to expect you,” he told me. Little did I know he wanted to talk about his daughter Terry’s death from alcoholism. She stumbled out of a bar one Christmas Eve, fell into the snow, and froze to death. He and his wife started a foundation to help young women alcoholics.
There was Lt. General Hal Moore, who dropped his men into Landing Zone X-Ray in the Ia Drang Battle of the Vietnam War, and is the subject of the Mel Gibson movie We Were Soldiers.
And a representative of the NRA. My lady co-host thought “right to carry” referred to pregnancy.
My digging has unearthed totally rad (but forgotten) experiences, like how I volunteered for a presidential election in Washington, D.C. and a congressional campaign in California. After writing a prenatal care book, I co-presented information about low reading level books for pregnant teens to Canadian Members of Parliament. Forgotten photos show the Ku Klux Klan rally I attended just to witness one firsthand. Serious violence broke out and I split. That, y’all, is an example of “dumb” things I’ve done. Well, why not?
Have you gone digging through memories lately? I know if you rummage through your life’s boxes of memories they’re as full as mine. Your stories with children, families, travels, work, and success are there to be re-lived.
Blessed holidays to you, everyone! If you’re like me, you feel younger than ever. Let’s tell the stories of our lives this season, no matter what your age. Embarrass your kids. Laugh with your friends. We had it goin’ on then, and (bellies aside) we’ve still got it!
Di Chapman is an inspirational author and speaker, and a branding consultant. Di’s latest book is Rekindle Your Purpose: Break through your disappointments, discouragements, and detours to resurrect your purpose and live it!