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Leena's China

Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

Release Date: 12/15/2023

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Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

On this week's KIR, Cam Marston wonders if he could do the same thing for fifteen years and know, just know in his bones, that it would pay off. ----- I’ve just watched the documentary on Steve Martin called "Steve! A Documentary in Two Pieces." I’ve always liked Steve Martin. What caught my attention the most is that he did his standup act for fifteen years. The vast majority of that time, his audiences were very small. In one video clip, he’s counting the number of people in the room during his act – there were fifteen people there. He got what he thought were big breaks that bombed,...

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Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

On this week's Keepin It Real, Cam Marston hypothesizes on what a parenting podcast from him and his wife would sound like. ----- My wife and I sat together at the beach last week laughing as we retold stories and reminded ourselves of the humor of parenting. Especially as Gen X parents. We decided to compose a social media post together. The date was April first, and that date matters. The post read the following: We are frequently asked how we’ve raised four perfect children. Here’s our response: We are excited to announce our new Parenting Podcast called Gen X Parenting Tools. Go check...

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Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

On this week's Keepin It Real, Cam Marston has some observations about the NCAA tournament. The old guys are winning, and he likes that. ----- Someone in my family is not pleased right now. As I write this Wednesday, I don’t know who. Last night the North Carolina Tar Heels basketball team took on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the NCAA tournament. My wife is a Carolina grad. I was unaware people could like basketball that much until I met her. My son is a Freshman at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. He was an avid sports fan moments after his birth. One of them lost last night and is...

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Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

On this week's Keepin' It Real, Cam is searching for a message and if he hears one, he WILL obey. ----- I think there is someone or something out there trying to send me a message. A few things have happened lately that seem, well, like there is a message coming or attached but I don’t know what it is. First, storms rolled through a few months ago knocking out the power. Fortunately our house has a generator attached and it kept a few rooms running for a little while. My friends began texting about their power being out. I proudly texted a photo of my comfortable and well-lit kitchen that...

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Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

There's a grocery store Cam goes to when he's in a hurry. It's NOT the one closest to his house. That one is full of memories. Full of roots. ----- I saw him see me. He turned and headed my way. “Cam,” he said. “How’s you mother?” “Well,” I said. “She passed away two years ago.” I saw you at her funeral, I wanted to say. I remember talking to you. “Oh. Yes. That’s right. I’m sorry. Well then, how’s your father?” “Dad’s wonderful. He plays pickleball five, sometimes six days a week. Sometimes twice a day. He’s eighty-seven but I don’t think he knows it....

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Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

On today's Keepin' It Real, Cam shares something he saw last weekend that made him feel a little bit better about things. ----- I'm in Starbucks. It's Saturday. It's Noon. I'm in Tuscaloosa at the corner of Bryant Drive and 8th Avenue. Sororities across the street disgorging young ladies for their morning cups of honey-dew latté with extra chai, extra vanilla essence and a dash of bumble bee eyelashes or something like that. Yoga pants as far as the eye can see. One girl wearing a T-shirt reading Don’t Date Frat Boys. Parents here for fraternity and sorority parent’s weekend. Dads wearing...

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Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

On this week's Keepin' It Real, Cam shares a story he's kept quiet for fourteen years. It's time to get it off his chest. ----- I’ve just boarded my flight. I’m headed home. Sitting here, a memory has resurfaced. Many years ago, deplaning in Chicago, I took a call from a young man. He’d studied my work and asked me to mentor him. He wanted to travel and give speeches. He wanted me to refer him when I was too busy, and he’d pay me a commission. He loved my topic and said he could represent me well. I was deeply flattered. He charmed me. A few months later, we sat at my dining room table...

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Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

Cam's phone has been ringing. It's a lot of his small business friends and they're experiencing similar things. They're feeling pressure. They're feeling squeezed. ----- When an orange is squeezed, orange juice comes out. We know this. We know that sun and good soil and water and maybe some fertilizer help that orange develop that juice. We know the ingredients, we somewhat control the ingredients, and we know the goodness that comes from a squeezed orange. What happens, though, when you and I are squeezed? What happens when life puts pressure on you and me? What ingredients are we drawing on...

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Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

Mardi Gras ended Tuesday for Cam. Immediately following Mardi Gras is the beginning of Lent and Cam struggles with what sacrifices he should make. ----- Lent. I struggle with Lent every year. How much suffering is enough to prepare my soul for the Easter arrival of the Lord? Is there enough? Who knows. There’s always someone suffering more; someone taking it to the next level. As a child it was ice cream. I gave up ice cream every year and dutifully reported it to my religion teacher as the assignment instructed. I love ice cream, vanilla especially. In fact, I’ve created an association...

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Keepin' It Real with Cam Marston

On this week's Keepin' it Real, Cam Marston has thoughts about this upcoming weekend. Mardi Gras is on us down here in Mobile, and that leads to some tough decisions. ----- Dry January ended last week. Dry January followed soaking wet, sodden to the bone December. I’ve never done Dry January before and after sodden December, I needed to give it a try. Aside from one small drink to celebrate my daughter’s twenty-first birthday, I drank no alcohol for thirty-one days. I’m not sure I’ve done that since I was a teen. The net result? I lost nine pounds. I slept very well every night for a...

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A family tree of photographs is at the top of the stairs at my father's house. 

-----

A picture hangs at the top of the stairs at my parent’s house. It’s of my mother’s grandmother, my great grandmother. I think it’s Grandma Leena. My father and I were trying to figure out who it was. My mother had told me about the picture and about Grandma Leena for years. I never listened. There are a bunch of other pictures. At the top, near the ceiling, are pictures of my mother and father’s family and they form a family tree, coming together, picture by picture, generation by generation, to a picture of my father and mother with my brothers and me. It’s nice. It’s my roots. My mother’s family was from the upper peninsula of Michigan. The cities of Ontonagon and Rockland come to mind. Her grandfather’s corner drug store. Another’s cattle farm. Mom wanted me to know about all these people. “You’ll want to know, someday,” she said.

Mom told us that the happiest times of her life were her summer visits to her grandparents when she was girl. She wanted us to know this. She wanted us to carry her summer memories on . Afraid that with her death they’d be gone. And they are. She died a while back.

In a box in my father’s attic is Grandma Leena’s wedding China. It’s carefully wrapped in brown paper. Each piece brittle and delicate. Mom loved it. My father and I looked at the box. “It’s all hand painted,” he said. My mother’s handwriting across the top. Some of the China visible inside. “You want it?” my father asked? “No. I don’t think so,” I said. “But don’t throw it away. Maybe I will someday.” That China just sits in the box. I don’t know the last time the box was opened. A decade, maybe. If I were to take it, I’d put the China in my attic where it may sit for decades more.

Prior to my mother’s death, she shared a lot of stories with us. And when she could no longer talk, she asked us to tell her stories of our memories of her. Our favorite days. Our funny adventures. She wanted to know she wouldn’t be forgotten.

What is it in us that makes us want to be remembered so badly? And why do we hold on to things cherished by our loved ones that mean so little to us? I don’t know.

We were around the Thanksgiving table at my parent’s cabin in the woods a few weeks back. Lots of food. Lots of smiles. It’s a special place. My mother came to   mind. But I wasn’t remembering her. I was feeling her. She was there with me. In me. I don’t know. It sounds so strange to say. It wasn’t a memory.  It was better than a memory. Again, I can’t explain it.

But I suspect it was it was the same way my mother felt when, every now and then, she opened the box, removed the paper, and held a piece of Grandma Leena’s China.

I’m Cam Marston and I’m just trying to keep it real.