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Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Gray Matters: Need an activity, then start a conversation

Monday, January 12, 2009

That annoying TV ad which suggests that renting a movie and watching it together would be a great "family activity" started me thinking again about the way we so often misuse words.

I am all for family activity, but I think that ad totally misses the point. Tell me, when did sitting together in front of a screen become an activity? By its very definition, activity requires movement. Beyond replenishing the pop and popcorn how much movement, either mental or physical, does it take for a family to sit and watch a movie?

If I'm not making myself clear, I'll give it another try by going back to those "pre-historic" times of my own childhood. Our family consisted of Dad, Mom, my big sister and me, and our grandma.

Family activity usually revolved around farm work. Onerous as that four-letter-word, "work," is made to sound in this day and age, it gave us an opportunity for togetherness that may no longer be readily available. As the resident tom-boy, I spent a great deal of time trailing after Dad.

Like Mother and Grandma, he was a great story-teller relating tales of life on the treeless plains of Nebraska just a few short years after the buffalo herds and Native American tribes had disappeared. Life, first in a dugout and then in a sod house, took on epic qualities in my eyes. My curiosity was piqued, and my awed questions were always answered. I've told you before of my grandmother relating her memories of President Lincoln's assassination.

I guess I was blessed with lots of great stories, but there were other physical and mental activities, too. In the evenings, Daddy often played cards with us while Mother sewed. Pitch or rummy filled pre-bedtime hours with lots of action. There were board games, as well.

I must confess I have never played a modern video game so I may not have this right, but it seems to me that the screen and the hand-held controls are more barriers than aids to personal connectedness. There certainly can be no conversation going on. I would suggest that young families turn off the electronics and get out a deck of cards or an old fashioned board game for some true family activity.

Then here's another idea. After a good meal around the family table you youngsters could start a conversation. You might ask Mom and Dad to tell you of the naughtiest (or nicest) thing they remember doing when they were your age; or perhaps, ask them to tell of some mischief at which they got caught (or didn't get caught). These are just a few conversation starters. Use your imagination and come up with your own creative list.

After a recent Holiday meal, our host asked each of us to recount a favorite Christmas memory. What a delightful experience! It even inspired one woman to broaden the assignment. She is having her husband write brief recollections on different topics throughout the year which she will then put into booklets for Christmas gifts for their family members. You see, it doesn't have to be Pioneer stories.It's amazing how much fun can be gotten out of hearing of the things your folks did just one generation back. To me, that is "family activity" in its truest sense.

Now, with that off my chest, I promise I will write about something totally different next time.