The Brody Bunch – Life is a Highway

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Snapped a pic of Lightning McQueen and Cruz Ramirez while watching Cars 3 on Netflix.

December Errands Turn Into Holiday Memories

December.  While we need toilet paper, dish soap and mustard, store shelves are overflowing with holiday cheer.  My retail experience has been a teary eyed holiday season regarding memories from material gifts from years ago. The retail world is on high octane with sparkly pajama sets, gift boxed Hot Wheels, non scary looking baby dolls, Barbie and her dream world, Lego kits, books and more. I used to buy it all.  Now, I get a lump in my throat when I see the the holiday packaged merchandise as my kids are too old for this, they outgrew the this world, but my heart and memory did not. 

My kids are sweet, they don’t ask for expensive items, but their interests are expensive (sports gear and arts classes).  Toy catalogs and trips to box stores are now non issues in my house regarding the kids. But these are issues for me. The kids don’t long for their childhood toys, but I do. The toys used to shed light into their thoughts and imaginations before screen time. We used to play together.

My biggest holiday gift was always the joy I received in picking out the perfect doll or race car and watching my then little kids open the presents with such happiness and gratitude.  Those days are now just memories.

Lightning McQueen, then and now

My oldest son, 15, invited me to watch a movie with him.  Cars 3.  At age three, the first movie he ever saw was Cars. We watched this movie at least one hundred times. Ka-Chow! [Ka-Chow is Lightning McQueen’s catchphrase in case you missed the Cars experience].  Cars 3 represented a lot to me: present time with my son and a chance to go back in time.  I had a lot going on in my head. I tried to explain this phenomena to him, but his 15 year old self responded. I knew to pipe down and enjoy being in the moment.  I also knew that I would come back here and reflect this with all of you later.

We were watching Cars 3 just like we watched movies when my 15 year old was three, well that was my perspective.  And, when he told me “I love you”  it was the same infection in his voice as it was at age three, but now much lower in pitch at age 15.

At one point during the movie, we switched roles.  When he was little and something sad happened in a movie, I would remind him that it’s a movie, and I think things will work out.  Now, when I gasped at a Car character spinning out of control and hitting a wall (yes this is all animated), I was reminded by my son, “It’s a Disney-Pixar movie, it will be okay.” And, it was followed up with, “I love you.”   This growing up stuff is hard on the heart, but all will be okay.

Merchandising to the Kids, and to THIS parent

Recently, we gave away hundreds of Hot Wheels cars, and I pulled out Lightning McQueen from the giveaway, to keep for myself as a memento from my younger years of parenting.

The next morning after watching the movie, I was in Target. I knew it would be hard, but I went down the toys aisle to find a Lightning McQueen car from Cars 3, as a gag gift/or a pull at your heartstrings gift to my son, but probably more as a souvenir for myself.  I couldn’t find any movie merchandise, which was probably best.  And, I found myself eyeing the Hot Wheels race tracks that we used to set up through the living room. I saw the section of toys that we always ignored, no offense to the action figures and board games. 

I like to talk to strangers in the aisles and there was no one. No one for me to share with the great life messages that we watched in Cars 3.  The movie was filled with themes of friendship, doing the correct thing, knowing that you can always go home and to be yourself.  I left the toys aisle quickly and got our toilet paper, dish soap and mustard.

Life is a Highway

Whenever I hear the song, Life is a Highway the theme song from Cars I think of the journey my family is traveling.  This song is one of my songs with my oldest son, we hear it and we give each other a nod and a smile.  It’s a special song in our family.

Gifts don’t always come with glitter or with a big bow.  My gift came via Netflix and a trip down memory lane.  This holiday season shaped up to be a reminder via sparkles, movies, Barbies, Hot Wheels, glitter lip gloss and fancy plastic high heels that time moves on. 

To borrow from the lyrics Life is a Highway “Life’s like a road that you travel on/When there’s one day here and the next day gone… I love you now like I loved you then, this is the road….”  It’s a blessing to be on this highway, glad I was asked to watch a movie.

Brody Bunch – The Bike, Teen Freedom & Adult Personal Growth

person riding a bicycle during rainy day

Reflections, Freedom, Personal Growth Because of a Bike

Labor Day is the universal date marking the end of summer. Our summer included great vacations abroad, the beach, New York, Philly, Pittsburgh, California and camps. Our memory buckets are overflowing.  And, I will look back on this particular summer as our oldest son’s “Summer of Freedom” combined with the byproduct of my “Summer of Personal Growth”.  

Our son turned 15 in July.  All he wanted was a bike. For his fifth birthday, I gift wrapped a tricycle for him.  His four-year-old sister saw the wrapped gift and excitedly announced: “You got a bike!” He was disappointed that she “ruined” the surprise. There was no doubt that under the Sesame Street wrapping paper a bike was in there.

Ten years later, he wanted a bike.  After bikes were stolen off our porch and there was a stretch of teens being knocked off their bikes by thieves in our neighborhood, we denied bike requests.  Our son’s friend shared an extra bike and the boys spent hours riding around the neighborhood. Yet, my son wanted his own bike. He offered to pay for it. So, I stood between the bike and my fears.  And, should the pendulum swing towards the bike, there would be a beautiful rite of passage for this teenager: independence and freedom.

A Birthday Wish, Agonized and Granted

A grandmother asked me what birthday wish she could fill.  I told her about the bike and asked if she wanted to contribute to that.  She called me back and offered a wonderful bike. My younger children went to see the bike and confirmed that this bike was the perfect size and he would love it. The siblings never mentioned the bike to their eager brother.  My concerns about past crimes and the issue that we live on the West side of a very busy street that needs to be crossed to get into the neighborhood of friends living East of the main road was well known. Now, I held the permission to the gift of freedom. After restless sleep and with tremendous trepidation, I graciously accepted the bike.

Days later after a family dinner, we stepped onto the patio.  The bike was revealed. Our reserved son beamed with happiness and his recessive dimple popped out. Grandparents, parents and siblings filled the porch to see this surprise. I imagine this moment was like someone receiving their first color television or their first car.  With much gratitude, my son held onto the bike handles and quickly shared the safest routes to bike around busy roads. He had a responsible plan already worked out for this magical moment.

The Gift of Freedom and Independence and Letting Go, Riding off into the World

My son, through the bike, was given the gift of freedom.  Throughout the rest of the summer “the guys” rode their bikes to various friends’ homes, the pool, the soccer field, the baseball diamond, the park, and on trails. I received photos of my happy son on his adventures. With a knot in my stomach, my heart was happy for him.  I recognize that I lived through this agonizing decision.

His friends’ parents maintained stocked fridges, a welcome place to sleep, and space to lock up all of the bikes.  It took an entire Village to lift my son, support his wishes to get a bike, and let him be a kid experiencing adventures and journeys.  Deep in my heart, I know this is about me letting go. The experience of getting a bike at age 15,  is very different than a 10-year-old getting a bike. From his parents’ point of view, the issues surrounding a bike at an older age feels much closer to getting a car – further travels in the City, navigating decisions, personal safety, unsupervised travels, and more. We still worry about him constantly, and I share in his happiness about his outings and experiences.  Now, he has the opportunity to ride off into the world, on his own bike.