Tag Archives: Travis Burchart

Thank you Norman Rockwell ©

Do You Remember Your Small Triumphs as Norman Rockwell Paintings?                   by Travis Burchart

norman rockwellAs newlyweds, my wife and I purchased a small house built in the 1940s. The house had a bay window that looked out to the south, and below the window, the dark, hard earth suggested the beginnings of a garden.  We planted ivy where there was nothing, and as the ivy grew, we guided the long tendrils to the porch.  Eventually, the ivy lifted itself and twisted into the iron works, where it curled upwards to the roof.  Our entrance, when we finally moved, looked like an English garden.

At the time, training ivy how to climb felt ordinary and mundane, but I now remember it in bright, dare I say inventive, detail.  The small acts and struggles that define the phases of our lives life can be captivating in retrospect.  Though mundane at the time, I often remember these moments as overly tinted slices of Americana.

It’s truly difficult to describe how I see these small moments.  I might describe them as having a painted quality, things I remember as truth, yet which are accented by colors too bright and illustrations too detailed.  Apparently, Norman Rockwell has set up shop in my head.

norman rockwellAnother small moment occurred during our first winter in the house.  To celebrate Christmas, my wife dreamed of icicle lights, the kind that hangs down in various lengths, suggesting a freeze of electricity running jagged along the roof.  The house pre-dated external outlets so I didn’t have a power source.  The solution was a small plug-in attached to a light bulb base, which I screwed into our porch light’s socket.  That Christmas (and all to follow), the porch remained dark, but strands of icicle lights illuminated the rooftop. It was a small struggle, but it helped define our first Christmas together.

While it might not be accurate, I remember planting the ivy backlit by downy sunshine.  And I envision that first Christmas through the absence of porch light, the silver moon tinting my breath as I climbed the ladder to hang lights.  Again, my recollection is doubtful, but I appreciate my memory for painting these minor moments in major colors.

Thank you Norman Rockwell.

photos by jojakeman & shinazy

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Coffee Breath: What It’s Good For ©

Sweet remembrances with coffee by Travis Burchart

coffeeI love coffee!  I drink boatloads of coffee – literally, I fill a canoe with gallons of Sumatra and guzzle it down.  Of course, my over indulgence comes with a price.  My teeth are stained the yellow of fall leaves.  I don’t sleep well, which leads to another side effect – infomercial addiction at 2:00 in the morning.  My blood pressure isn’t just high – it’s altitudinal.  And, of course, my mouth gives off a rather “Starbuckish” stench.

Stench or not, there is a positive to coffee breath.  You might ask: What possible positive could come from having the potent breath of Colombian coffee farmer, Juan Valdez?   I might answer: In this curse of the coffee – this breath of the Java dragon – therein lies a memory.

When I was in middle school, the bus stop was no more than a five-minute walk from my house.  However, every morning, my father offered to drive me to the bus stop on his way to work.  Every morning – a one-minute drive to save me a five-minute walk.  But in this one-minute drive – a single minute amongst 1440 other minutes each day – I strengthened my bond with my father.  It meant something to me that he wanted to drive me, and it meant something to him to drive.  Not the type of man to openly say “I love you,” this was his way of verbalizing how he felt.

And, of course, he had strong coffee breath.

coffeeSo for one minute each day, I experienced both my father’s affection and the remnants of his morning Folgers.  I remember it all vividly – the wine colored interior of his Bonneville, the fog of my breath if the car was too cold, the stop sign where he pulled to the curb and told me to have a great day.  And it’s all held together by the smell of his breath.

It’s definitely not a Hallmark Card –  “I remember your breath. Happy Father’s Day” –  but more often than not, it’s the little things that help us to remember.  Halitosis may be the bane of dentists everywhere, but for some, it’s good for recalling the moments that are important.

photo by mdid & shinazy

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Card Catalogue ©

The Only Thing That Kept Us from Being Omnipotent Was the Card Catalogue System

Remembering the card catalogue with Travis Burchart

catalogueThis chilly morning, my son wanted to take his hot chocolate to school.  Because transit equals spillage, I poured his drink in a thermal container but one that had a hard plastic straw connected to the lid.

“I thought it was bad to drink hot liquids through a straw,” he said.

“What?” I answered. “Never heard that.”

“I’ll check the internet,” he said as he ran to the computer.  His parting shot, before he sprinted out of the kitchen – “All questions of the universe can be answered on the internet.”

There was a time when all questions of the universe were subject to deep digging, the kind that got dirt under your nails and often discouraged you to the point of failure.  As a kid, there was no computer in the family room, no magic stream of knowledge that fell under the command of searchable word fragments or the point-and-click of a magic Google button.

When I was a kid1, the questions of the universe were subject to a multistep and often demanding process:

Step 1: Get a ride to the library (assuming you were too poor to own all 30 volumes of Encyclopedia Britannica).

Step 2: Once at the library, go to the card catalogue cabinets and thumb through the rows and rows of yellowing file cards.

Step 3: Find your book‘s file card and write its call number on a scrap of paper.

Step 4: Explore the library’s jungle of shelves and book spines until you finally find and match the call number.

Step 5: Worst case scenario – the information you need is on microfiche. Go find the film and decipher the mystery known as the microfiche reader.

So many steps, to the point that many mysteries were left unanswered.  I just didn’t have the time or patience to answer them all.  But maybe that was part of the higher plan, that knowledge would be difficult in order to keep us (me) more human and less omnipotent.

Things have changed.  Nowadays, knowledge is literally at our fingertips.  For my son, the mysteries of the universe are easy.  For him, it’s a simple process to know that drinking hot drinks from a straw increases the risk of mouth and tongue burns.

[1] I now sound like my father, who used to always say, “When I was a kid, I had to walk two miles through a foot of snow …” He said this for everything – the bus stop, the doctor, baseball practice. 

photo by kyz

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My Definition of Nostalgia ©

A Story by Travis Burchart

Super-Conglomerate Retailer Leaves Me Misty Eyed and Nostalgic

NostalgiaWhat is nostalgia? If you’re going by my dad, it’s a bunch of chromatic snapshots from the 1950s: things like orange packages of Teaberry Gum, the smartly dressed milkman stooping over a doorstep, little girls in navy sweaters spinning hula hoops.  If you’re going by me, nostalgia is Wal-Mart.

Nostalgia can’t exist without the phrase “used to.” There must also be a little bit of longing (maybe even sadness) to go with a sense of joy. When my son was four, we “used to” patrol Wal-Mart looking for action figures. We’d leave my wife with the shopping cart and rush off to the toy department. Together, we’d dig through the rows of packaged superheroes – Superman, Batman, Aquaman, Wonder Woman. When we found one he didn’t have, his smile would shine like sunlight. I became so fixated that I used to show up alone on stocking day, anticipating the weekly toy shipment.

But, as I said, we “used to” do this. My son has since grown out of action figures. Now, our trips to Wal-Mart are about DVDs and video games. Our action figure adventures are becoming harder and harder to recall. I desperately wish I could remember the last superhero we bought (that little bit of longing and sadness).

Last week, I found myself alone in Wal-Mart’s toy section. I find myself there quite often, checking out the action figures and thinking about which ones my son might like. Of course, if I bought him one now, he’d have no interest in it. But I’m still interested – interested in the joy that’s rekindled by these miniature, plastic heroes.

Nostalgia isn’t always about rotary phones and toy soldier sets. My dad, he gets nostalgic and a little misty eyed when he hears Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Me, I get nostalgic and a little misty eyed when Wal-Mart stocks a new Batman.

photo by Fritz Park

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