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Posts tagged: kids

Spokane: A raging river is no place to play

    Like so many others in Spokane, in the spring I go down to pay my respects to the river. Fed by snowmelt and rain, the Spokane River swells and grows and becomes, seemingly overnight, a powerful monster roaring through the canyon it has chewed through solid basalt. 

 

    This dramatic sight draws people of all ages and the spectacle takes your breath away. Water spills over the falls, churns, boils and foams sending curtains of fine mist, droplets of water that ride the wind, coating the bridges, paths and spectators before it rushes on, making its way to fill the aquifer that quenches this thirsty land.

 

    This year, with so much snow and rain falling so late in the season, the river is at its wildest, just under flood stage. We were there on Saturday afternoon and we walked along the path to the viewing platform at the base of the Monroe Street Bridge. That is one of my favorite places to see the falls and feel the incredible power. The land drops away at the edge of the rail, the ground vibrates and the sound makes conversation difficult. We stood for a few minutes admiring the view and taking photos before we strolled up another block to the Post Street Bridge. 

 

    From there I noticed a group of boys on bicycles ride down to the place we’d just been. Gathering at the rail, they were roughhousing as boys of that age do, pushing, punching, shadowboxing as they peered down at the water. Suddenly, one of the boys climbed up and dropped over the rail in one fluid motion, landing on the deceptively thin layer of spongy soil covering the slick rocks abutting the concrete arch of the big bridge. He moved to the edge of the steep slope that plunges down to the raging water. 

 

    My heart slammed against my ribs and I heard myself make an instinctive, involuntary, sound like a frightened animal. I was terrified he would slip at any minute. The ground was still soaked from days of rain and there was nothing to reach out and grab if he lost his footing. And the river, always dangerous, is completely unforgiving at this stage. Whatever falls into it is quickly gone forever. 

 

    I looked for my husband but he was out of sight. I raised my phone to call 911, sure that if I took my eyes off the boy he would be gone when I looked up, but at that moment one of his friends must have called him back because he turned and just as quickly hopped back to safety.

 

    “Oh, you stupid boy.” I whispered. “You stupid, lucky, boy.”  

 

    The group stayed another few minutes—long enough for me to snap a photo—and then hopped back on their bicycles and moved on, off to swagger and impress one another in other ways, I suppose. 

 

    I finally walked away but I was still trembling.

 

    I keep replaying the scene in my mind, thinking how one wrong step could have changed everything, but I doubt the boy has given it a second thought. 

 

    I know this is nothing new. 

 

    When my children were that age they laughed at my constant worry. They thought I was simply overprotective, but the truth is, I was unhinged. They had no idea how many dangers there were outside our door and I suppose I believed if I could think of it and warn them against it (whatever it was) I could somehow protect them. New fears would hit me in the middle of the night. What if… What if… What if…

 

    At that age—adolescence and early adulthood—we are vulnerable because we have not yet developed an awareness of just how fragile we truly are. Age, experience, and exposure to the shocking misfortune of others gradually brings on the understanding that at any given moment any of us is fair game to tragedy. Terrible things can happen when we least expect it.  

   

    Eventually, wisdom—and with it a greater chance of survival—comes with the understanding that the reckless make themselves better targets. So most of us grow cautious, careful. Some of us become worried mothers and fathers, nagging our children to take care.

 

    Perhaps one day, when he is a man and he’s watching a teenage son drive away, the same lucky boy will remember the day the river didn’t get him and he’ll call out,  “Hey, don’t do anything stupid!”

 

    But his boy will not look back, and the words will roll off his back like the clean, cool, spray from a waterfall. 

    

     Note: The group of boys mentioned in this column appears in the photo above.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap’s audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

New baby, new world

(Photo by Cheryl-Anne Millsap)

 

I don't deny it. I'm smitten with my new granddaughter. This new addition to the family is the last thing on my mind at night and the first thing I think of when I wake in the morning.

And as I hold her, watching her adjust to this new bright, noisy, chilly, world, I can't help but project forward, imagining the life she will have and the wonderful, incredible, changes she will see. And I hope I'm always close enough to share some of those adventures.

Read more in this CAMera blog post “Oh, The Places She Will Go!

The Boy Who Believed

My son, who has been working in Japan, is on his way home. We haven't seen him in several months and I'm hungry for some time with him. My son has grown up to be a wonderful man; an adventurer, a tinkerer and a master of creating complex machines from bits of metal.

He'll be home for Christmas Eve and wrapping his gifts and putting them under the tree, thought about the boy who loved contraptions and I was reminded of something he taught me one Christmas years ago.

(I had to do some digging to find a copy of this early column.)

 

 

For some, Santa's magic a guarantee

The Spokesman Review The Spokesman Review
December 25, 2003 | Cheryl-Anne Millsap The Valley Voice

Early each Christmas morning, as I turn out the lights and make my way to my bed, knowing I will be pulled out of it again when the sun rises, I stop for a moment, overwhelmed by memories and the knowledge that time is flying past me.

The children, who have been the reason I wake each morning and fall into an exhausted sleep each night, are growing up so quickly. Already one has left the nest, and another is perched on the edge. Their Christmas lists are more sophisticated now, with high-tech gadgets replacing Easy-Bake ovens and G.I. Joe.

When my son was six, he fell under the spell of a miniature arcade game, the kind where you manipulate a giant claw to pick up prizes and stuffed animals and drop them down a chute. He wanted the game more than anything and put it at the top of his Christmas list.

He was thrilled when he found the game under the tree and played with it constantly. But it was a complicated toy that was never meant to go the distance. When it stopped working, he was disappointed and put it away in his closet.

I didn't think about it again until the next year on Christmas Eve when I was getting everyone ready for bed and another visit from Santa. He walked in and placed the broken game under the Christmas tree with a note asking Santa to please repair it.

I could only gape at him, speechless. It was already midnight and to paraphrase the poet, there were miles to go before we could sleep.

My little boy had no idea that his mother was staggering under the weight of postpartum depression or that his father, who was in graduate school and wearied by final exams, was scheduled to work a 24-hour shift on Christmas Day.

My son wasn't jumpy and distracted from listening for the cries of the colicky baby sister or thinking about the 2 a.m. feeding that would cut into the few productive hours of the night.

The way he saw it, Santa brought that game to him and he would want to know there was a problem. And since the big guy was going to be in the neighborhood, it wouldn't hurt to have him take a look at a broken toy. So he left it with a note asking that Santa “make it work again.”

Somehow, the two elves-in-residence, Sleepy and Weepy, did everything that needed to be done. The baby got her 2 a.m. feeding and Santa placed the surprises, including the refurbished toy, under the tree before the children woke with the dawn.

I was watching my son the next morning when he found the game. He was pleased but he wasn't surprised. It was just where he expected it to be. His face shining with pleasure, he took it to the kitchen table, turned it this way and that to admire Santa's handiwork, and began to play contentedly while new presents waited under the tree.

Whenever I am confronted with the reality that life doesn't come with guarantees, I think about that Christmas morning. And when I think about it, I wish I could be seven years old again, with that much trust in everyone around me to do the right thing. I wish I hadn't learned that sometimes things break so completely that no one can fix them, not even Santa. Not even for a day.

Now, years have passed. Dad got through graduate school, Mom got over the blues, and the new baby stopped crying. The toy, which wasn't built to last, stopped working again and found its way back to the closet, to be eventually taken apart and its parts scavenged for a little boy's inventions.

For my son it was proof that Santa cared enough about him to take the time to try to make something work again. For the elves, it was an exercise in patience. For all of us it was a sweet reminder that love has responsibility.

Maybe this year under the tree I'll leave my heart, just to see what Santa can do.


Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance writer based in Spokane, Washington. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


Regie Hamm: A Song of Second Chances


    Walking down the streets of Nashville, it’s not uncommon to see a star; an artist stepping out of a studio or having a beer at a downtown watering hole. You might see them in the grocery store or jogging through the neighborhood. Nashville is that kind of town. Most are famous for the songs they’ve sung, but the thing most people forget is that most of those songs were hammered out by other people. Men and women who put happiness, hard work and heartbreak down on paper, one note, one chord, one word at a time.

    Tin Pan South is the songwriter’s time to shine.
    Once a year Nashville fills the Honkytonks, the cafes, the dives and auditoriums with the talent behind the talent. Songwriters, not necessarily the names and faces you associate with well-known songs, gather to perform. It’s fun to watch and interesting to occasionally spot a famous face, a famous fan of the relatively unknown man or woman on the stage, standing in the crowd. They are there, like the rest of us, to see the masters at work.

    On my last night in Nashville, I sat in the crowd at Puckett’s, just up the hill from the old Ryman Auditorium. On the stage, four musicians, the featured songwriters of the evening  - Regie Hamm, Karen Staley, Billy Kirsch and Wil Nance, and laughed and joked and sang. Regie Hamm was the spokesman for the group.
    Each took a turn playing and singing a song they’d written. But what made it so interesting were the stories they shared, the stories behind the songs. It’s funny what can happen to a song, like any offspring, when it leaves home. Ballads become rock and roll. Hard rock tunes turn mellow, intimate.
    “As a writer, I say my piece and then let it go,” Hamm told me later. “I've had to learn how to allow the song to live on its own, without me. I can't know how people will react to it or how the message will be received.”
    That can’t be easy.
    At the end of the evening Hamm, having saved his best work for last, began to talk. He had a song, and a story, he wanted to share.
    “This is a cruel business,” he said. “It can kill you.”
    “One minute you’re riding high and the next you’re as low as you can get.”
    He should know. He’s been there.
    In 2003, with an album climbing the charts, he and his wife traveled to China to adopt a baby girl. They were gone less than a month but when they returned their world was already beginning to spin out of control. His song was pulled, tour dates were cancelled and the big money never showed up. Hamm went from being the next big thing to just another artist trying to get a gig.    
    But the biggest blow was the discovery that their daughter had a rare genetic disorder. Angelman Syndrome. They lost their home and faced a landslide of medical bills.
Hamm grieved for what was lost and what would never be.

     Hamm’s wife asked him to write a song - something she’d never done before - for the American Idol songwriting contest. At first, Hamm wasn’t interested. She persisted and finally, a week before the deadline, more excited about the furniture store jingle he’d been hired to compose, a jingle that would bring in a guaranteed $500, Hamm sat down to write. He wrote what he thought would win, words about happy endings and fairy tales come true. And then he stopped.
    “I realized I didn’t believe any of it,” he said.
    So, he started over and wrote what he’d learned. Life isn’t fair but it’s all we’ve got. And, even when it hurts, life is worth celebrating.
    He paid the $10 entry fee and sent it along with the song.
    There were 40,000 entries but Hamm’s song won.The song was “This is the Time of My Life.”
     Idol winner David Cook recorded it. It spent 16 weeks on the top of the charts. Oprah blessed it. The song was played at the closing ceremony at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, a particularly bittersweet moment for Hamm.
    “We’d said we would return for the Olympics, with our daughter,” he said. “That was before.”
    For Hamm it was a second chance.
    “Sometimes, you get surprised and someone takes your song to a new level with an amazing performance,” Hamm said. “That is always a blessing and is often the rush that keep you writing another day.”

    I left the show that evening and walked back to my hotel - a nobody in a city of somebodies - wondering how many people have listened to Hamm’s song, connected with it on some level, hummed along, tapping the steering wheel with their fingers as it played. People like me who had no idea what led to its creation but felt the power of peace and acceptance in every word. I walked on, filled with gratitude for people like Regie Hamm. People who are willing to live out loud and put it all down on paper - the good and the bad and the sheer, blind, hope that keeps us going.

 

Information about the Pacific NW Angelman Syndrome Foundation


 Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com
  

One (and then one more) for the road

   I didn’t pay much attention to the first shoe. It’s not unusual to see a lone shoe on the road, although I almost always wonder who dropped it and left it behind.

   The second shoe, the mate to the one I’d just passed, did get my attention. They were expensive-looking men’s leather shoes, lace-ups, and the one that had landed upside down showed a good sole, no holes or worn spots.
   Who loses both shoes in the road?” I wondered.

   But it was the pants that slowed me down. Not more than 100 feet down the road, a well-traveled arterial through an upscale residential neighborhood, a street lined by stately homes and old trees, a pair of men’s trousers, a nice wool gabardine by the look of them, were thrown across the center line.
Pants, shoes and then, yep, you guessed it, a little farther down the block, a shirt. A man’s light blue cotton dress shirt. By this time I was almost afraid to look ahead, afraid I would see some guy, stripped down to his boxers, splayed on the pavement like a scene from CSI.

   Fortunately, I didn’t find him. But there was a belt. A nice black leather belt with a shiny brass buckle.
I drove the rest of the way bemused. There had to be a story there somewhere.

   Was this what was left of a stockbroker who’d decided enough was enough and had switched off his computer, pushed away from his desk and peeled out of the parking lot, stripping off his work uniform like a snake moves out of his skin? Did he walk into the house wearing only his underwear and carrying a brief case and say, “Guess what, Honey? I quit,” to his startled wife?

   Or, perhaps it was something a little sexier. Had he been driving with a beautiful babe by his side urging him on as he peeled off his clothes, waving them once out the top of the convertible and then letting them fly as he sped away? If so, the pants and the belt impressed me. I mean, that would be hard to, well, pull off.

   I suppose the clothing could have been put there by an angry girlfriend, a trail of spiteful crumbs left by a woman who felt a little better with each garment she threw away. Relationship roadkill.

   I finally settled on another scenario. Not as romantic, but probably a little more realistic.
I pictured a car, maybe a minivan, driven by a man who left the office and stopped by the gym for a quick workout before picking up his toddler from day care. While he drove home, distracted, still connected to the office by a Bluetooth umbilicus, the curious child fished around in his gym bag, pulling out one thing after another and then deliberately pushing each out the window, delighting in the way the objects simply disappeared as the car moved on. I imagined his reaction when he opened the door and leaned over to unbuckle the grinning child.

   The next morning everything was gone. The street was clothing-free. But somebody, somewhere, must have had some explaining to do.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com

  

Love in Plain Brown Paper

Another Valentine re-post. This one was written in 2005 during my first life as a S-R freelancer.


  

February 14, 2005

Real love is the kind we are surrounded by every day

Cheryl-anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review
 
 

Chances are you’ve got love, or something like it, on your mind. After all, it’s Valentine’s Day.

Did you buy roses? You need to buy roses. And a card covered with sentimental poetry written by a stranger.

Don’t forget the chocolate, the expensive perfume, something from Victoria’s Secret, a gourmet meal at a five-star restaurant and jewelry. Isn’t that what it takes to show love? Well, one day a year, maybe. But it’s the other 364 days that tell the tale.

The truth is, love doesn’t always come with balloons and words that rhyme. True love usually comes to us just like the groceries – mixed with the necessities and wrapped in plain brown paper.

Love is spread between the peanut butter and jelly in a school lunch sandwich and folded into baskets of clean laundry.

It is carried in a soft look at the end of a hard day and the gentle sound of your name on another’s lips.

Love is scrambled into eggs for a quick supper on a hectic night and sweetens a cup of coffee brought to you before you get out of bed on a cold morning.

Real love isn’t just tender whispers in the dark. It’s pillow talk about unreliable cars, failing hot water heaters, thinning hair, expanding waistlines, ominous medical tests and parent-teacher conferences.

Love is the glue that holds us together and the fuel that drives us to work, piano practice, dentist appointments and soccer games.

Love is the smell of a newborn baby. Love is the sound of a sullen “goodnight” muttered by a teenager who, only moments before, expressed a keen desire to become an orphan.

Love is when you tell the one you chose, “I’m scared,” and they hold your hand. For as long as you need it.

Real love is letting someone hold your hand.

Sometimes love is only visible, like the growth rings in a tree, when we’ve been cut and left with an open wound. And love is the bandage that binds our wounds and helps us heal.

Real love has very little to do with the candy and cards we buy and give once a year. It isn’t in romantic music and movies.

For most of us, love is hidden in the shadows of an ordinary life, when you open your eyes in the cold, gray light of morning and make the choice to stick it out one more day.

Most of us learn to take love where we find it. And when we look, really look, past all the frills and fuss of a made-for-retail holiday, it’s all around us.

 

Cheryl-Anne Millsap writes for The Spokesman-Review. Her essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at catmillsap@gmail.com


Who will teach him to pull up his pants?

     It was one of those beautiful spring Saturday mornings that thrill you. When the sun is out, the air is suddenly warmer and there are tender green shoots peeking up in the flower beds. The kind of day you remember. The kind of day that makes you remember.
    Out on weekend errands, we drove through the neighborhood passing rows of houses, many with people in the front yards talking to neighbors, enjoying the sunshine.
    When we stopped at a red light I looked over to see a man playing with his young son. The little boy was behind the wheel of one of those motorized child-sized toy cars. A Power Wheel. In this case, a Jeep. He was steering but his father was behind him, helping him push the little vehicle up a particularly steep place in the front yard.
I watched them as we waited.
   

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About this blog

Cheryl-Anne Millsap's Home Planet column appears each week in the Wednesday "Pinch" supplement. Cheryl-Anne is a regular contributor to Spokane Public Radio and her essays can be heard on Public Radio stations across the country. She is the author of "Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons."

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