I Don’t Wanna Grow Up…

Toys R Us from 70s Commercial
I think anyone raised in America around my age knows how to complete that jingle.

(For those of you not in the know, you finish it with, “I’m a Toys R Us kid.”)

It seems to be the end of an era. The toy store that was a major destination for American kids (in at least the 70s and 80s) is closing its doors.
Read I Don’t Wanna Grow Up

Power Outages

They were on fire.

Tall burning pillars of what were once trees were on fire, and scared, I went running into the kitchen to tell my Mom.

It was the 5th of July 1980, the day after Independence Day. We had no power; a huge storm system had moved through the night before, with tornadoes and high winds. Our large elm tree had broken with the wind, missing the back of my parents’ new silver Mazda by about 3 inches. Trees were down all over Mount Prospect. Debris and litter were strewn all over the place. Some people were unlucky, and had rooves damaged or windows broken, or, like my soon-to-be-first-grade teacher, had her brick chimney collapse on her house.

So, after a short sleep in that morning — with a long night spent huddled in a basement who could blame us — my Mom decided to make some breakfast for us, and stood at the gas stove stirring a pot of something. She asked me, in turn, to keep an eye on my baby brother Brian.

Sitting in what is now my parents’ bedroom, watching my brother Brian sleep, I heard a crackling noise. Then more crackling. I couldn’t see out the window — in my parents’ place, the windows are high up on the wall — so I stood on the bed in the room to peer out the window.

And that’s when I saw it.

Our neighbours two doors down had two large cottonwood trees in their backyard. These trees must have been about a hundred feet high if not higher. They were amongst the tallest trees in the neighbourhood.

And they were on fire.

I rushed to my Mom and told her. She didn’t believe me — to this day, she said it was because I had an overactive imagination (which is still true to this day) — until the firetrucks came racing down our street.

Ends up that with the strong wind, the power lines — strung together with the telephone, cable, et cetera and accessable from power poles running through our backyards — got stuck in the tree. With the winds still moderate, the power line rubbed against the tree, exposing bare wires and… you get the idea. The feedback triggered the power outage (we had just woke up and the power was out) and must have done some pretty major damage because most of the town was out.

Now, I’m taking this from the memory of a six year old, so… some areas are a bit fuzzy, but I do recall being without power for 3 days in the middle of summer. I don’t remember being uncomfortable or angry or anything negative. It was what it was: an act of God.

As you may have read in Noel’s blog, some Aucklanders and North Islanders have been without power for a few days due to a storm that hit. And, it seems, some of them let no opportunity to complain go by.

I don’t remember that happening in our neighbourhood. Neighbours helped one another, made sure they could help out and share what they did have. BBQs seemed to be the norm for dinners. People got on and did what they had to do.

Maybe it was a different time. Lots of people had no power; other people had been or were trapped in their houses. So maybe they were thankful no one in their family was hurt and, hey, having no power for a few days was just an inconvenience and nothing more: no use moaning about it.

With that I share with you a scary but exciting small part of my life, from a time where a power outage caused by high winds and storms was an exciting adventure, not an opportunity to bitch to as many news outlets as you could.


She shocked me by what she’d just said.

I was 11 or 12 at the time, in 6th grade at Saint Paul Lutheran School in Mount Prospect. Our class was talking about heaven and things like that, and the teacher had asked us what we were looking forward to seeing in heaven. (Looking back, it was a very morbid conversation!) Classmates were saying things like their grandma or favourite aunt, but I hadn’t had any close family members who had died at that time.

Now, when I was growing up, we had an Irish Setter named Cindy. She would follow me around faithfully. When I got too close to the chain-link fence, two German Shepherds barking and snarling on the other side, Cindy would wedge between me and the fence, pushing me away from danger. I even remember, being very young at the time, staring out of my crib at night, the room dark but the door open, the light in the hallway streaming in across the floor, shining on Cindy lying on the floor, her brown eyes gazing up at me to make sure I fell asleep safe and sound. I only have fond memories of Cindy.

So when this discussion came around, and it was my turn to say who I was looking forward to meeting again in heaven (again I still think this was a morbid conversation for 11 and 12 year olds), I said, “Cindy”.

The teacher was a bit perplexed and asked who Cindy was, so I explained. And, quite flatly, with a scoff and a dismissive air, my teacher proceeded to tell the entire class in a mocking sort of way, “But dogs don’t go to heaven.”

Being the rational-minded person I am, I asked why. Why, if dogs are God’s creations, don’t they go to heaven when they die?

Because, she said, dogs don’t have souls. No animals have souls: only humans.

This greatly upset me and angered me. It rocked my foundations to the core and started me questioning my faith.

Up to that point, whatever teachers had said was the truth; I don’t believe I ever questioned anything up to that point. But her comments I questioned. It started me diverging from the Christianity of the masses to the Christianity I believe in today.

Jenah, as some readers may know, is our big dog. (We do have two Chihuahuas, Levi and Nyota, and I can use examples on all three, but Jenah is the easiest.) She has personality plus. When she found out she wasn’t a human — she looked in the floor to ceiling mirror with Noel and me standing behind her, looking down at her face, then up at us, then down at her own again, then walked away slowly with her head down and her tail down — she was depressed for weeks.

When I cry, she comforts me. She even tries to cheer me up! When I’m happy, we play with her toys or joke around. When she and I are tired, she lays down with me and we fall asleep. She plays games with us. She learns words quickly. She knows peoples’ names and knows when they are coming over. And each person, she treats differently. Noel’s mother for example: Jenah is very attentive, very loving but very careful around her (as she is 90, you know).

Looking into her big brown eyes, there is intelligence and personality in her. She is loving and caring towards all the other animals and us and every person who has walked in our door bar one. Even right now as I type this, she’s staring at me, big smile on her face, with her ears up and her tail wagging.

I love her, and she loves me.

So, with all that in mind, how can she not have a soul?