Keeping current in wellness, in and out of the water
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I grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania in the 1950’s. We were a suburb of Pittsburgh, but had a very fancy golf club to distinguish our borough from all others—The Oakmont Country Club. Membership in this much sought after institution was costly as well as tricky to obtain. The members generally lived on top of the hill, near the club, in the neighborhoods developed for them. I lived near the Oakmont Country Club but my parents did not play golf or care about the snob appeal. This infuriated me because rather than walk to the swimming pool I had to wait for a ride to the Alcoma Country Club where our family belonged. Alcoma was less expensive, but still had all the country club trimmings. I was invited frequently to the Oakmont club pool with my member friends and neighbors, and never lost my desire to join. I believe I was absorbing not so subtle messages about social and financial status. I would have said it was because I wanted to walk to the pool, but I am sure I also desired the status that accompanied belonging to the fancier of the two country clubs. Today I have chosen the fancy, clean, multi functional Tucson JCC over the Tucson Racquet Club, even though Silver Sneakers provides free membership in both for me now. I do always prefer an upgrade if I can afford one. Perhaps it is all because of my upbringing.
Our town was on a hill, with a steel mill and barges full of coal floating down the Allegheny River at the bottom. The area by the river was dedicated to industry and commerce, with small working class homes scattered into the mix. Ascending the hill, the houses became larger and more elaborate. The streets were numbered from 1 to 14 climbing the hill. I lived on Tenth Street. One could almost tell by the address in our town how much money the family had. I lived in the upper middle category of housing, but very close to my home was a row of mansions belonging to robber barons. These super wealthy neighbors provided all manner of recreation for the kids in the area, including a trampoline, a very large field for sledding, and some woods for exploring. The mansion kids all went to public school and were part of our regular play group as youngsters. Still, we were aware that their parents were not in the same financial league with ours.
My parents put their own status emphasis on appearances. The wardrobe and/or landscaping needs of those two consumed most of their free time. They spared no expense on the clothes they wore and their precious yard. My mom was active in a garden club, and my dad just naturally loved to mow his lawn in his coveralls. They were a 50’s cartoon of suburban pride of ownership. I had to play along, helping with the yard work and dressing up to go to the country club, the University Club downtown, their friends’ homes, or to travel. I was also costumed to the hilt for the many parties they held at our house. I was fine with it up to a point, or up until I decided to have my own taste in fashion. When I was over the white gloves and the little white ankle socks I waged a war on fascist control over my wardrobe. My parents bemoaned my fate and warned against a hellish life ahead unless I started to want to dress more like they did. Life would never smile on me again without those white ankle socks. This was the beginning of our political differences. They were appalled to think I did not want a life like their life. How silly of them. I could not have a life like theirs because I was born in another generation with another set of circumstances, yet to be discovered. All we knew was that my white ankle socks would not be part of that future reality.
Today I am pleased to say that I understand that attachment or revulsion to any kind of status can only end in heartache. Possessions, titles, offices, locations, are just data dust in the true meaning of life. If we come to identify too greatly on the situation, how will we cope when the situation changes? My parents had their own giant cultural revolutions to endure. They came from the south, but spent many years freezing their bones in Pennsylvania because it furthered my father’s career with Gulf Oil Corporation. I learned by direct experience to stay aloof from judging circumstances. Nothing is ever a simple as it seems. There are generations of beliefs and traditions at play in every moment. Learning to define one’s own status rules and symbols is perhaps our essential role on earth.
I watch the political scene today go wildly off the rails with wonder. The United States has become very distracted by our own self image. The will to shun has outweighed the will to live in this country in peace. The electorate is behaving badly. Law and order is threatened. The fabric of society is frayed and damaged. Public faith in institutions is understandably at an all time low. As a nation divided we stand ready to implode if we can’t get a grip on the difference between rhetorical status and reality. Politics maintains status …quo or otherwise. Mother Nature maintains reality…harmonious or otherwise. It is time to strip away the political aims of these two parties and look directly into the soul of the tax paying nation. What did you learn from your childhood that influences your views today, gentle reader? Were they positive or negative? Do you belong to the same party as your parents?