How do you put a feeling or an emotion that jumps right out of your chest and stares you right in the eye into words? As you are trying to hold it still so you can look at it, the referenced memory tries to squirm and wiggle away from you before you can grasp it. Sometimes those little memory-caused emotions are heartfelt, or silly, or even sad. I had a childhood “Saturday Night” memory work its way up through the memory bank the other day. The trigger? Potato chips! Potato chips with consequences, as the case may be, but first….
I believe I have already mentioned the vast participation of potato chips in my life, probably a number of times by now! These days I probably munch on a few potato chips nearly every day. With the long and winding history that we have together, there are probably more than a few memory triggers caused by potato chips. This particular one, though, it is a childhood memory.
Back in the early 1970s, in rural southern West Virginia, we did not get a lot of treats, in the form of junk food anyhow. As far as food goes, Saturday was the best food day at our house. Saturday was the day that we went to “town” to go to “the store.” Yes, rural life was like that.
For us, going to town meant crossing two mountains on curvy, narrow two lane roads. (Off track, but on the fun-fact-front, one of those “curves” was a double horseshoe in which you passed the same tree three times. It used to be a really big deal and there were postcards in those little twirly standing racks when you got to town; but as it goes with the modernization of our world, it was streamlined away with the emergence of a newer, wider, straighter road. Yet back in the day, I spent many a car-sick day on those curves!)
Once we got to town and completed the weekly grocery shopping, we made a beeline for home. After all, it was Saturday afternoon by this time and dad and the boys would be waiting for their lunch; plus, wrestling was coming on TV. Don’t laugh. There was a moment in time when we all thought it was real; and my great-granny thought it was real till the day she died, I suppose. Ah but that is another story for another day.
There was one more stop to make before we got all the way home though. We had to stop at Dorthy’s gas station/market to pick up a six pack carton of “pop.” You could pick six different flavors there, in deposit returnable bottles of course. This was our pop fix for the week.
Next, it was home to make Saturday hamburgers and french fries (that were actually fried.) This was the Saturday menu at our house. The pop was not consumed with the hamburgers and french fries though. (Did I mention they were actually fried..you know, deep fried? Ahhh… old times!) We most likely drank Kool-Aid with those burgers and fries. Yes, the pop was saved for a special Saturday night event.
Did I fail to mention that we also bought a big bag of potato chips while we were at the store, and on a good week two bags? Ah yes, a big, silver foil bag of delicious delight! My love for potato chips began at an early age. They truly are my favorite snack food, and quite possibly pretty close to the top of the list of my favorite foods, period. I suppose we could have eaten the potato chips with the hamburgers; but, oh no, we had a much more interesting fate for them.
Let me preface this next part by saying that I was probably the biggest chicken of anyone that I knew. I did not like the dark, I did not like spooky things. (I may have mentioned a time or two before that I do not like spiders either!) I did not like to be scared, (which my mom loved to do to us…oh that is waaaaayyyyy another story also.) I was my dad’s little princess and I expected to dang be treated like it. OK, got that? Did not like anything scary, and pretty much still do not.
So, OK, this little memory that had jumped up from the dim recesses of my mind came just the other day after I opened a new bag of potato chips, took one smell and tasted the first chip of the bag. (The first chip is always the best, by the way.) Then, there it was, wait…wait….the flash of a memory somewhere waaayyy back in space and time, and then, in an instant it was right there, tangible, clear and strong. It was a moment where I just closed my eyes and swayed back to that long-ago Saturday night ritual.
The one tradition that I ended up participating in – partly against my will, but partly because that was when the chips were open, but mostly against my will – was midnight Saturday night Chiller Theater. Seriously? Me? Yes, me; but I only came for the potato chips and pop. I had my chips eaten and my pop downed probably before the first act was finished. Suddenly, I became very sleepy, and that was it for me. Needless to say, I rarely made it past the eerie, creepy, cheesy, hand coming up from the pool of blood that surrounded the title in opening sequence each Saturday night.
I definitely did not, and still do not, like Chiller. The thing that made that memory so special, and one that I savored for a bit, was the feeling of being in the midst of and surrounded by family and friendship, and the closeness and comradeship that wrapped around me and made me smile. Generally, the Saturday night Chiller tradition included a house full of kids that were there for the same purpose. Well, maybe not the same purpose; most of them actually were there for the movie. Plus, the movie location would rotate from time to time. Sometimes we watched at my house, sometimes at my play mate next door’s house and sometimes at my cousin’s house down the lane. No matter where, we watched, I was never long for the watching. We may have watched at my house often, because someone would generally have to miss part of the movie to walk me home, in the dark. Did I mention that I don’t like the dark? Oh, but the memories of that time spent with childhood family and friends is a special, sweet treat that tastes much better now than it did then.
I still do not like scary movies. Now my sister-in-law and my oldest niece, they LOVE scary movies. They like to have the daylights scared out of themselves. Sometimes my niece would tell me that she was afraid to go to sleep. Excuse me, no sympathy here. No scary movies for me, not me baby, not me! Just watching the news is scary enough!
Another scary thing has popped up for me, which may or may not surprise you. I just received my annual blood workup from my doctor. My ranges have been nearly perfect my whole life, except for inflammation levels due to inflammatory arthritis. My cholesterol levels have always been way on the low side. I credit that to my mom making us eat a bowl of oatmeal every day before she would let us out of the house to go to school. But this time, my cholesterol LDL levels are elevated, not bad, but rising. Who would have thought it? Not blissfully-ignorant me, who has kept on and kept on (and kept on) munching on those salty, tasty, golden orbs known as potato chips, not ever thinking that as we get older there are consequences.
No, it is not health-threatening right now, but it is a major wake-up call for me. One of the factors in my vision loss was possible blood clots in the blood vessels carrying blood to my optic nerves. In one of the many workups that I have had done, it was revealed that my pulmonary system is small; meaning that my veins and arteries are unusually narrow, especially in my head and the arteries going to my brain and around my eyes. Well, that does not leave a lot of room for LDL-artery-clogging cholesterol to be hanging around in my blood to begin with.
So, yes, some changes are going to have to be made. One of those changes is, I fear, a major cutback in the consumption of potato chips, and that is just the start. Man, that just doesn’t seem fair! I think we have areas in our lives, in general, where we feel disappointments and wish that there were easier ways to get past them. Right now I wish there was a magic eraser that would grab all of that goo and eradicate it right out of my blood stream. Then I would be at square one and just start doing better. Yea, right. We all know that is not how it works, don’t we?
Sometimes we wonder why God can’t just wipe those things right out of our lives with a simple prayer, and we would not have to face consequences. That would not help us to gain any strength or learn a lasting lesson. For me, in particular, I would guess that if He performed the cleansing and get my blood all cleaned up like new, that I would not learn a thing. I would, most likely, be right back in the same mess in a little bit and be asking Him to, “Do it again please, do it again!”
It is the same in our spiritual lives. We keep going along doing exactly what we want, doing the same ole things and making the same ole mistakes and not considering the cost or the consequences. I have a young friend right now that is having a tangle of a time with life in general. I think they are in that mode of wanting to do what they want to do and wanting to do what they think God wants — at the same time; but it is not until they get off the tracks and over the hill, waayyyy down into the ravine, they figure out that something is off. It is a frenzied reel that they are doing. They dance around closely with God for a while; but when the wind of life’s troubles blows around them, the dance starts anew, away from the safety of God’s circle. This is a cycle that has happened over and again.
Wow! Even spiritually, we wonder why God can’t just wipe those things right out of our lives with a simple prayer, and we would not have to face consequences. Jesus Christ did come and die so that we would not have to face the eternal consequence of sin. That does not mean that we are free to go about our lives and not worry about sin. The truth is that with every action of our lives, we face consequences. Some of them are good and pleasant and some of them are hard and hurtful. The thing is, if we were just free to be about anything that suited our fancy, we would never see the true path. We would never have authentic growth. We could never be strengthen by that growth.
Consequences are real. I fear that our culture is veering away from teaching our children about consequences. Negative consequences are hard, they don’t feel good and they are not easy to administer. They don’t go along with the, “I can have anything I want and do anything I want” ideology of our times. They do serve a purpose though. They keep us focused on a path that strengthens us and teaches us obedience and respect. Consequences help us learn and they help us grow. Sometimes they help us live.
Me, I now have to face the consequences of ingesting fat-laden chips of wonder for many, many years with no thought to the consequences. What am I going to do now? Well, I have actually mentioned to God about that eraser idea, but I don’t think He is going to use it to just magically take the damage away instantly. The action is mine to take. I am going to put away the potato chip bag for a while and cut down on some other cholesterol-causing foods and see about eating healthier. Day by day. The consequences call for a little effort by me, and a little sacrifice. I probably need to add “getting more exercise” to that list as well.
God really does have this, and He really can take that eraser and wipe out the gunk; but I have to put forth the effort and make a real attempt to get back in line with a healthy life style. As with those times when I am off track spiritually, I have to bear the consequences and ask God to get me back on track and back to a healthy relationship with Him.
So, God and I are good right now, but hey, does anybody need a workout buddy?
For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. (Hebrews 12:11)