By Freida Marie Crump
Greetings from the Ridge.
Alfie Rodhaver climbed up into a tree yesterday and he says he has no intention of coming down. I looked out my window this morning and he’s still there. Alfie’s wife Lora said that yesterday morning he filled a thermos with coffee, put the newspaper under his arm and climbed up into the soft maple in front of their house. His last words, “I’ll come down when I decide to come down.”
On one hand anything out of the ordinary is a cause for excitement in Coonridge, but on the other, most things in this town are on the far side of normal. Since he only lives three doors down I walked over to see what was going on. “I got to thinking, Freida,” he said. “I have a wonderful wife and two great little girls, but we’re just not a family any longer.” He could see the puzzled look on my face so he went on. “This week we’ve had two dance recitals, four ballgames, a concert, soccer practice, plus the girls in school all day. Our life was so filled with ‘stuff’ that I figured what the heck. I think I’ll just go sit in a tree.” Then he added, “Do you have any sugar? I forgot to bring sugar.”
His little daughter Maddy was embarrassed. “Daddy, could you at least hide when the school bus stops? It’s really hard to explain to your friends why your father is in a tree.”
Brigid Schulte is a reporter for the Washington Post who recently wrote a book, “Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time,” in which she explains the results of her research into why the Alfie’s of the world are beginning to climb trees. She lists several causes of why families are so stressed and the first on her list is that busyness has acquired social status. The busier you are, the more important you seem to be. People compete to be the most busy. Last week I had one of those encounters in the grocery store where I was talking to someone who evidently knew me well but whom I couldn’t place. She told me, “We’re just running ourselves ragged this summer. Brittany has three summer camps and is playing on two teams, plus we’ve got to work in a vacation there somewhere.” Author Schulte calls this the “busier than thou” attitude.
A researcher at the University of North Dakota, Ann Burnett, has studied fifty years’ worth of holiday letters. She said that over the years the Christmas letters have dwelt less and less on the blessings of the season and more and more on “how jam-packed the year has been.”
Schulte says that the other major reason that families have so little down time is that while women increasingly work more hours outside the home, the men have not kept up and taken an increasing role in taking care of the kids. The result is an acute case of Mama Stress, and you know the old adage: When mama is stressed we’re all stressed.
I went home and made Alfie a sandwich since it was approaching noon and his wife was too embarrassed to come out of the house. “I love my family, Freida. I really do. But I just don’t know what’s happened. We talk to each other between innings and on car rides to the events. When I got married this just isn’t how I envisioned it.” I tried to assure him that things would settle down as summer approached, first carefully checking the sky for lightening as I uttered this blatant lie.
So many of us are locked tight into schedules from which there seems no escape, and the good news is that once you become a grandparent all this becomes optional and the crunch eases a great deal. But until those golden years arrive, I hope we can all find some alone time with our loved ones this summer, away from the hubbub of organized activities and develop relationships that don’t involve someone else’s planned program. And may we all be more interested in what our children become than what they do.
I just looked out the window. Alfie is still there but he seems to be drooping a bit around the edges and I’m not sure how long he can sit up there. Time. . . now that he’s got it . . . will tell.
You ever in Coonridge, stop by. We may not answer the door but you'll enjoy the trip.