It doesn’t happen every time I look at that clock, but once in awhile, as it chimes the hour or half hour, I’m taken back almost twenty years to the day we acquired it. I remember parts of that trip to Dallas well. It was late July and our old brown Toyota didn’t have a working air conditioner. Talk about a pressure cooker!
Everyone in the family was glad that it was one of those days when we were in and out of the car continuously, since out of the car meant in an air conditioned building, most of them pawn shops. Back then, we made it a practice in the summertime to go to a big city or two and purchase as many reasonably priced band instruments as possible for repair and resale. A successful band season at the start of school meant the difference between losing money for the year and showing a profit. Although the kids got tired of the process long before we quit for the day, they had their own things that they were searching for; she needed a new pair of inline skates (you remember them) and he was hoping for a new game for the Nintendo console (yeah, old school man!). We might find any of the items we were seeking in the abundance of hock shops in the great metropolis of Dallas.
The pawn shops were in a seedy part of town, with bars and even strip clubs nearby, but we paid them no attention. We were pretty sure that no one would mistake us for persons of means. The old flivver helped and we certainly didn’t draw any attention to ourselves, with our WalMart clothes and lack of bling. Going on our merry way, we picked up the old antique kitchen clock at one of the stops for a very reasonable price. It didn’t run, but we were sure we knew someone who could remedy that, so the money changed hands. Just up the street, was a convenience store. The car needed gas and we needed something cool to drink, so we stopped.
Those two needs taken care of, we started out of the parking lot, only to see a woman walking around the corner. All it took was a glance to note the bleached hair, heavy make-up, skin tight clothes, and surgery enhanced body parts. The distinctive wiggle in the walk completed the story and left no doubt as to the advertisement. My Lovely Lady and I exchanged glances, probably raised the eyebrows a bit, but uttered not a word. I’m sure we both thought, “Perhaps they couldn’t see that from the back seat and we won’t have any embarrassing questions.” And so it seemed to be, since no questions were forthcoming, nor was any mention of the spectacle made. We breathed easier, thinking that we had made a clean getaway.
Oh, the foolish delusions of parents! We had completed our business in Dallas, spent the night in a motel, and were on the road home the next day, when the little girl in the back seat, out of the blue, piped up with her question, “Why was that lady dressed like that?” Never mind that 24 hours had passed. Neither one of us had to stop to think. We knew instantly to whom she was referring. Of course, we gave her the appropriate amount of information for the age she was, but we still laugh about the incident almost 20 years later.
Do kids notice things that happen on the periphery of their world? You betcha! All the time! My kids bring up events today which I was certain they weren’t aware of at the time, or thought, without doubt that they had forgotten. It seems that no event was safe from observation and many of these memories, our kids will carry with them all of their lives. I know I have vivid memories from my childhood, fifty years ago, that I’m sure my parents wish I would have never seen and especially not remembered. All of this is to say, the old adage, “Be careful little eyes, what you see,” is not idle talk. They see what you see, but we need to help them to understand right and wrong, good and bad. It makes a lot more sense for us to talk with them about what we see together, about occurrences we share. If we don’t, it’s a pretty sure bet that they’ll talk with someone else about it, usually someone their age with incorrect and incomplete information.
One of the other memorable (for me) happenings from the aforementioned venture occurred outside the same shop in which we purchased the old clock. A fellow approached me as I placed the clock in the trunk, offering to sell me some food stamps at well below face value. I declined, knowing that there were only two reasons to sell items which were mediums of exchange, such as food stamps, the first of which was that they were stolen, a distinct possibility, or the second reason, which was that they couldn’t be used to purchase the goods or services which the gentlemen wished to acquire. A quick look around at the bars and dives gave a pretty good indication of his motivation. After declining his offer, I suggested that his family might make good use of the food stamps. “Those are for poor folks! We don’t use them!” came his injured reply. My sincere hope is that his children don’t have hunger to add to the list of vivid memories which they have carried all of their lives. The memory for me is that the clock now sits on a sideboard in our dining room, a constant reminder to be sure to nourish both my family’s physical and spiritual needs.
Paul the Apostle encouraged us to “Redeem the time, because the days are evil.” Let’s make the most of the timely opportunities we are granted daily by a gracious Creator!
(Seize the Day!)