“Positivity is a choice. The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.”
This morning, my day begins with a T-ball game, which means watching the scurrying of 4 and 5-year-olds in every direction, except for those who have decided to sit down and play in the dirt.
The day will later end at graduation parties, celebrating high school wrapping up for the children of two of my nieces. It seems like just a year or two ago we were attending their T-ball games, laughing at their antics as they took their first big step into the public arena.
I feel grateful to have been included in it all. I look forward to seeing where life takes each of these happy individuals who carry a blank slate of hopefulness and ambition, their story ready to be written, just like the generations of family who blazed their own trails before them.
We are given the choice, every day, whether to embrace the positive that surrounds us all, or to go in search of negative bullet points that can weigh us down to oblivion. The choice is there just as it has always been, and as it always will be.
I thought of this as I talked with my mother at her kitchen table yesterday about some of the hurdles her own generation experienced and overcame. Both of my parents were born at the height of the Great Depression, and yet, she says with a smile, “If we were poor, we never knew it.”
People planted gardens, tended their orchards, berry patches and grapevines, kept chickens and sold the eggs they didn’t need to feed their own family.
My parents married in June 1951, eager to build a successful life as young farmers and start a family. Our country had just become embroiled in the Korean Conflict, and my father would likely be called to serve, his numbered draft card in the shadows of all their plans.
My mom mentioned that their start into adult life came at a time when polio was gripping the nation “and it attacked the youngest population with no rhyme or reason,” my mother said.
I commented that the uncertainty in the world had to have caused worry, such a frightening time to be starting a farm and a family.
“We worried, but we also had faith, like everybody else, that we would get through it.”
My father was never called into active duty, though he was notified in an official notice that in all likelihood he would be. “That letter started out ‘Congratulations!’,” my dad once said as he recalled the letter he pulled from the mailbox one morning, and it went on to inform him he would soon be called in to the U.S. Army.
He said his reaction didn’t match the celebratory tone of the official letter, but he was prepared to serve. The Armistice was signed in July of 1953 when their firstborn was 5 months old.
“We breathed a big sigh of relief, but there were still plenty of concerns in an uncertain world,” my mother said yesterday.
When the polio vaccine became available in the U.S. in 1955, Dad and Mom had three girls under the age of 3 and were “as grateful as can be” to get each one immunized.
Born in 1959, I have a clear snippet of memory of my Dad taking me to the school gymnasium where many other young children waited. We were given a tiny white paper cup, instructed to drink it all, the oral dose of the polio vaccine.
What I remember most is the feeling of happiness and gratitude surrounding the event. We dressed in our Sunday best to go to the gym that morning, and it stands out in my memory all these years later.
The oral dose was first available in 1961 and administered in annual national campaigns from that year through 1978. My mother says it remains in her estimation the greatest gift of a lifetime.
One of my favorite quotes that runs through my mind is this: The secret to having it all is knowing you already do.
When I think back on so many things from my childhood through this moment, I realize I was given the gift of positive parents. Even in the slim margin years on our farm, there was this feeling we had it all, always blessed with enough to share with others.
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