Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Retro Shock, Springtime, and Stealing Lilacs

Peter informed me the other day that he would let all his kids get iPhones. And I laughed. When I told him his kids might not even know what an iPhone was he was incredulous. The conversation went something like this:

Peter: Why wouldn't they know what an iPhone is?
Me: Because they'll be old fashioned by the time you have kids.
Peter: You mean, like CDs are now?
Me: I mean like 8-track tapes are now. Or record players.
Peter: What's an 8-track tape?
Me: Exactly.

My kids don't all have iPhones, but I did get them Kindles recently and it was a good decision. Peter has been whipping through classics at about one a week, and even Naomi has been reading more, although she still prefers listening to her soon-to-be-outdated iPod.  I get my textbooks on my Kindle app and have been reading novels (when I have time to read novels) on the Kindle as well. Yesterday I saw the hardback copies of the books I just finished and was surprised at how thick they were. I'd thought they were short books.

When I was reading a hard copy, physical book recently, I swiped my finger up the page to scroll down and wondered why it didn't scroll. Later that day I stood in front of a door at a shopping mall and wondered if the mall was closed because the doors didn't open when I approached-- before I realized I had to pull them open myself.  In a public restroom my daughter said the sink wasn't working when she held her hand under the faucet and no water came out.  I recently watched my grandson (Yes! I have a grandson. And two granddaughters!) try to work a cell phone that wasn't touch screen. He concluded it was broken and went back to the iPad where he swiped it with his thumb, opened Netflix and scrolled down to find the Tigger Movie. He's two.

Sometimes it's not future shock that gets us so much as retro shock.

I jump in my Prius, push the start button, check the back-up camera, and as I drive away, push the phone button to make sure I didn't forget my iPhone which doubles as the back-up hard drive for my brain. And I wonder what it would be like to time travel back to living in the 1940s.

From Pintrest, of course
Something about spring makes me wish for a simpler life.  Green things sprout, flowers bloom and something inside me, perhaps a genetic memory from my ancestors, tells me to put on a sundress and straw hat and go plant vegetables and fruits.  Never mind that I have never successfully grown anything edible in my life and have trouble getting the grass out front to stay alive. When life is erupting from winter-dead branches anything seems possible.


And so I pick lilacs, old-fashioned flowers that feel like sundresses and lemonade, put them in a vase on the table and consider myself a gardener of fine lilacs. There is a poem I think of every spring as I struggle internally with the nearly overwhelming temptation to steal lilacs from strangers' bushes.  For 50 weeks out of every year I go about my life with no temptation to steal anything. And then the lilacs bloom.

Stealing Lilacs 
by Alice N. Persons

A guaranteed miracle,
it happens for two weeks each May,
this bounty of riches
where McMansion, trailer,
the humblest driveway
burst with color—pale lavender,
purple, darker plum—
and glorious scent.
This morning a battered station wagon
drew up on my street
and a very fat woman got out
and starting tearing branches 
from my neighbor's tall old lilac—
grabbing, snapping stems, heaving
armloads of purple sprays
into her beater.
A tangle of kids' arms and legs
writhed in the car.
I almost opened the screen door 
to say something,
but couldn't begrudge her theft,
or the impulse
to steal such beauty.
Just this once,
there is enough for everyone.

This year I looked outside and realized with a shock of joy that I have my very own lilac bush in the backyard.  I want to hang a sign on my fence saying, "Help yourself. There is enough for everyone." It feels so 1940s, but then, the world could use a little more retro.

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