Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Simpler Times

This is me, my mom and my sister, Janet, outside my grandparent's home, about 1951 or 2. We don't look all that happy here, but it's probably because we were exhausted. We'd often take a trolley down from Wilkinsburg to Frick Park in Pittsburgh. We'd spend some time on the huge slide and the swings and monkeybars and then start our magical journey into the woods. You walk down into this beautiful little grotto with a stream. Back then you'd never know it was in the middle of the city.

We'd stop at a little store beforehand and get peanuts to feed the squirrels, and the little things would come right up to you to get them. We'd sit on a bench and talk. Mom always told us stories about "The Olden Days." She'd tell us stories about when she was growing up, like chasing the ice-man's truck, how he'd chip off some pieces of ice from the big blocks and toss them to the kids on hot summer days. About her family's "ice box." And how you had to be careful where you walked on the streets so you didn't step in horse poop. (Mom was born in 1923) We loved those stories.

When we were ready to leave the park, we still had one stop to make. We'd take the trolley to her parent's house, where we'd go upstairs and sit at the kitchen table with our grandmother and mother and listen to the two of them talk and gossip, eat cookies or bread and butter, and when we were totally tired (as in the pic) we'd take a trolley home.

Frick Park had changed for the worse by the time my own kids were ready for that trip in the 1970s and '80's. It just wasn't the same. The park had gone the way of a lot of big city parks. The magic was gone for me. I went looking on the web for a photo of Frick park to write this post. I found out that the city had recently done a major restoration project on the park, turning it back to its pristine beauty. And that photo brought back the magic.

This photo evokes exactly the feeling I had when I was a child visiting Frick Park. Magic. Joy. Freedom. Hope. Promise. Love. I haven't been back to that park in probably 25/30 years. But I don't need to. I have recaptured the feeling with this one photo.

It's just so important that you constantly try to get yourself into a state of mind that is joyful. If all you think about in your day is fear or anger or depression, you'll only get more of that in your near future. So when you see that you need to change mental focus, go back and look at your old photo albums. Find something that brings you peace and joy.

Even when it doesn't seem possible, it really is. It's a decision you make daily. Maybe that joy will only be momentary, but it's effects will be felt in your future.

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