Our son recently asked Grandma and Grandpa if we could go to Home Run Pizza. This restaurant was a staple of our early visits to Bartlesville, OK. They had a buffet, and basic salad bar, and would make pizza to the specifics of the customer asking. It was not a huge place, it was not a chain, and the pizza was just what Jacob loved. We had not gone there in years, so it was fun and nostalgic that he asked if we could go there. Jacob, being the middle child, does not ask for much, and when he does ask, it is not very loud.
It turns out that Home Run pizza had closed some time ago. The question really being asked was, ‘can we go somewhere to eat pizza, laugh, enjoy each other’s company, and relive old times’? Although no one said that exact phrase out loud, the sentiment that pulls us together through history is an unseen, yet urgent, current in the river of our lives. Can we recapture the sepia of our youth?
Friends who shared a weekend at the lake – they never forget what happened, who did what, how much fun it was, the campfires and stories into the night. Camping trips up into the mountains – do you still remember what you gave up to get what you gained? We traded comfort for challenge and accomplishment. The policy at Philmont Scout Ranch is to ‘human sump’ the dinner dishes – basically swirl water in our cooking pot after cooking and then drink that water. The thought of that gross water ruining the taste of dinner will never go away. Did it get cold at night? A few of us camped by the Great Sand Dunes one January to commemorate Pike’s journey through that area200 years earlier. We slept with our water bottles so we would have water, and not ice, in the morning. Did a tent pole break? My lover had to repair a tent pole with Band-Aids once so we could put the tent up in New Mexico. A grin unchains my face at the memory of those times.
We all remember once in a lifetime trips; those are understandable. Paris in July with the sun setting through the Arc de Triomphe? Amsterdam at the Anne Frank House with on a cool, sunny morning? The high-speed train (224 km/h – seems fast) between Koln and Paris – we repeat to this day what I said THAT day, ‘wow, this baby HAULS’? The indescribable power of the water over the Falls at Niagara? ALL of those memories are indelible – a reference point to take one back in an instant. Surely you have a stuffed accordion file of these same recollections.
Perhaps you have read or listened to someone describe the approach to filling your life with the “fill this jar with rocks, pebbles, sand, and water” allegory. Only a few huge rocks fit (God, family, work), then some pebbles fit (friends, outreach, neighbors), sand (hobbies, diet, exercise), top off with water (breathing, storytelling, video games). Your jar is not truly full until the water has risen to the top. Listeners are amazed that they can fit so much into their lives when they decide what size rock each thing in their life should be.
A request for Home Run Pizza is a hearkening to the smaller stones of our lives – the ones you pour into the jar AFTER you put the biggest building blocks of your life in. It calls us to think of the daily joys we share together. It is not the grandiose, or the majestic, or the life-defining memory. By its very normalcy, this indeed is the sinew that builds our family, our ties, and our love for each other. Once we find a point of commonality, our tribe – be it blood relatives or friends – uses that memory as cement or bungee cord or twine or superglue to pull closer and grow stronger.
Our visit was full of enduring traditions; we like sitting in the TV room watching movies that we choose together, having dinner in the dining room, sharing a few gifts. We did clear new ground for growth – we finally went to the Phillips 66 Museum where grandpa worked for many years. There is a picture of him with his crew of aviation gas salesman and the planes they flew to reach their customer base. It is good for the grandkids to see what their people have done. He is from that generation that will never bring it up, let alone brag about it.
I cannot help but think that when we passed on the opportunity to find a NEW pizza place with the grandparents, we may have missed a chance at a new tradition. If, per chance, a voice asks about that ‘old pizza place we used to go to’, perhaps we should listen.
It could fill the jar in a whole new way.