Crafting the American Dream



Today I was out with my youngest child having fun; just hanging out at the park and having a quick-lunch. I smiled often as she beckoned over and over, “Watch mommy, are you watching, did you see me?” Of course, I had seen every version of the same swinging trick so there I was nodding in agreement that I totally saw the difference from swing trick 32 and swing trick 17. It was somewhere in the middle of this excursion that a thought flitted across the cluttered floorboards of my mind. I was able to keep focus noticing where it had hidden and memorizing that spot for indexing purposes.

Throughout the day I would briefly flip through mind files revisiting the previously scurrying thought. Occasionally, my response to this mental review was positive and yet at other times I felt more meh about where I and my family stood within the tangible meaning of this thought. By now I am sure you’re getting impatient with me and are wondering what this scuttling little thought was.

Well, my focus kept wandering back to the thought, “Am I, my family, hell–anyone really living the American Dream?” I came at this thought from several different angles. Monetarily, nope I am nowhere near living the dream. Then I considered the freedom aspect. For the most part I do believe we live as close as one can now to the original intention of freedom, though my opinion there (if you care) is we could be doing a lot better in this area. I won’t continue because then we might get into politics and then I might lose a friend or reader which is a no-no.


I considered then the visual image of the American Dream. Anyone over 30 I assume knows this portrait. The wife with the perfectly coiffed hair, the smiling all american dad grilling burgers and waving to a neighbor, spatula in hand. Of course, there’s the dog who is milling around the barbecue grill playing the role of a Hoover vacuum cleaner. Then out of nowhere bounds two angelic children. Blonde hair, blue eyes; the boy is looking quite dapper in his button-down shirt and little man pants that stop short at the knee. The girl of course resembles Cindy Brady with two pigtails that fall into perfect ringlets tied off with red bows to offset her baby blue checkered plaid frock.

It was during this moment of complete Mommy checkout that my daughter started asking again about swing trick 405. I nodded and smiled, “Sure, I saw it, how could I not?” Now, I admit that was a lie, I had been looking blankly in her direction but I had not seen the last, oh; 100 or so more variations to swing tricking. I returned my attention to her and of course by now she was tired of maneuvering the swing into these so called tricks. Off she went to the treehouse which acts as a maze within and the only exit is two slides.

It was during her trailblazing through said treehouse that I actually snickered aloud when my thoughts returned to the old idyllic picture painted by years gone by of what the American Dream looked like. I snickered because my dream somehow does not resemble that picture at all. Mine looks a bit insane from the inside, perhaps the outside as well. There is no husband out back grilling because my dear hubby never knows when to take the food off. It is either burnt or raw. There is no in between. No, my husband is calling me over as if there is a crisis to check the “doneness” of his BBQ masterpieces. I use the word masterpiece loosely here.

I do have the two children only mine are both girls, both with dark curly hair that tangles easily. One loves to do her hair and the other has no idea what the concept of a brush is. Neither has blue eyes, they both have their father’s brown eyes. One races with grace, spirit, and passion into any task, all the while wanting to know what is next. Your typical eight year old tomboy. The other, well–sadly; she trips over air. It’s a running family joke that she is vertically challenged. However, she is my hippie chick. The world is rainbows and butterflies to her. The tomboy is more of an independent soul who faces life like it’s a chess game.


As for me, I am a far cry from the mother in heels carting out a tray of lemonade and kissing everyone on the crown as I pass by them finally stopping at the dear hubby. Nope, I am in jeans and tennis shoes and straightening everything around me as I move because things out of line drive me bat shit crazy. I do cook every night and we do actually sit down at the dinner table together. But the truth is our family and life looks more like one of those paintings where the artist just randomly tosses different colored buckets of paint at a blank canvas. Yes, my life is splatters, blobs, and long lined dripping paths of mixed up paint.

It was at this point, when I had, roughly, the visual image above locked into my mind’s eye that I realized that the American Dream that was proposed not so long ago in shows like Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch, and The Cosby Show has evolved. It has evolved as each of the previous shows mentioned evolved with the sociological environment of that decade. There is a reason why those old portraits that represent the American Dream are now considered vintage. And today I truly figured out why.

When you stop believing your American Dream must match a picture or show; what you are doing is finally asserting freedom. You know, that concept I briefly touched on like a 1000 words ago. We are free to make up our own American Dream and mine just happens to be a far cry in many respects to what I believed as a child what life was and on what my truth of the American dream would be. Hell, I live in America. Home of the brave, Land of the free, and welcomer of dysfunction everywhere! Why would I believe a poster from the 50’s or family life played out in a 28 minute sitcom?

So today I realized that my version of the American Dream is simple, I have a hubby that I love and he loves to drive me bonkers. I have two girls with a 10 year age difference that are of mixed heritage and polar opposite dispositions. As for me, my lovely readers, I am the planning, organizing, straightening quack who isn’t happy unless everything is neatly in it’s place. I attribute that to having sloppy kids, my doctor calls it mild OCD. You can take your pick. But what I have is love, tons of it.  And I have drive and motivation. I have a safe place to live with the lights on and food in the refrigerator. I am in debt to my ears in student loans but by golly I am earning two degrees. I realized that these past 37 years I have painting the picture of my own American Dream. It may not be someone else’s version but I am content beyond belief. And now with a bit of reframing,  by squinting and turning my head to the side–that picture looks more like this…


So what’s your American Dream look like? Is it the chaos of mine that when you step back you realize the abstract butterfly or is it something entirely different? Feel free to comment and share what your American Dream looks like.


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Photo Credits (in order of appearance): Pam GlewBetter Homes and Gardens Barbecue Book 1967, Duke University Visual Arts Blog, UTeezSF