The young girls stood excited at the city bus stop, anticipating spending their day downtown. Downtown consisted of Miller & Rhoads and Thalhimers, beautiful brick and mortar multi level department stores. They were iconic to Richmond, Virginia, boasting the “Real Santa Claus” at Miller & Rhoads and the most beautifully decorated windows at Christmas. Both had tea rooms and bakeries and were places to gather with friends. There were ladies with hats and women in fur, men in dress shirts and ties and yes, even teenage girls out on a Saturday afternoon. It was the centerpiece of Richmond and “the” place to shop. The girls stepped onto the city bus, dropped their coins in the slot and headed out for the day. This particular route required a bus change and they made that without a hitch. Arriving downtown, they walked to their destination, usually starting with a little shopping, sometimes taking in a movie at the three old movie houses on Broad St., ending up at the tea room for lunch. Usually there was a stop by the bakery for eclairs, cream horns, mints or seven layer chocolate cake. It was a simpler time.
Growing up in the 50’s and 60’s was very different than today. There was limited access to world events, no social media and limited resources for many. Many moms remained at home caring for the family while dads went off to work. Family roles were defined in a different way. In my case, my mom was on her own when I was just shy of 4, so going out into the workplace was not a choice, but a necessity. She worked hard and did whatever she needed to make ends meet. I don’t know how she did it, but my memories of childhood are nothing short of perfect.
We played outside whenever we could, in the yard, in the woods, building forts, collecting treasures. In the evening we returned for dinner, home cooked meals, sitting together at the table, sharing our day. As the light began to fade, we would return to the yard for Hide and Seek or Kick the Can. Catching lightening bugs was a highlight and we would make little lanterns with them. Baths and bedtime were next and as our eyes closed and we drifted into another world, memories of that day became etched in our mind. It was a simpler time.
I remember the excitement of playing board games. That may seem lame today, but there were no electronic games or computers or even access to movies outside the theaters. No cable, no Netflix, no tablets, and the phone was attached to the coiled cord which was attached to the wall. Board games were a staple of family life. Monopoly, Life, Candy Land and of course Chutes and Ladders. Families sat for hours around the table, talking, sharing, laughing and competing for everything from real estate to wealth.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about Chutes and Ladders and it kind of imitates the journey of grief. You roll the dice, living each day as it comes and every now and then, you land on a space that either you find yourself sliding rapidly backwards or you find yourself climbing, going forward, embracing the changes. Each space, each day, each moment is filled with uncertainty, much like the roll of the dice. Will you climb today or will you slide back? It’s a minute to minute thing we call life.
You get used to the ups and downs and almost anticipate them. When you are able to land on the ladder, you relish the moment and remember the good times with your loved ones. Problem is, you know the chutes are always coming. It may be a special occasion, vacation, a place you spent together, the smell of a favorite cologne that causes you to land on the chute and rapidly free fall until at some point you grab on and hold tight trying not to go back to the beginning. You right yourself, roll the dice and once again take those steps, hoping in your heart, a ladder awaits. It sounds so simple.
As I continue to find my way through the maze, I find myself wanting to climb the ladder. I find myself wanting to be happy again and contented. I believe, with all my heart that the reason for this is because I have been blessed with a wonderful life. Although life is always a challenge, my life with Rick and my three daughters was so worth it. I sincerely want to find my ladder. I know the chutes are out there and I know there are huge ones in my near future, but I’ll take them as they come. If I slide, I will get up and look for a ladder, because only continuing to try will help you reach new heights. I think I’m up to the challenge.
Live and Love today like tomorrow will never come. Hold tight to your loved ones and the memories you make. You will never regret it.