Rockwell’s America.

“Honestly, I just wish there were more of Rockwell’s America.”

I get strange looks whenever I say this, followed by “Whose?”

Those interested in art, like myself, know Norman Rockwell as the artist who captured portrait after portrait of our United States. He painted children, adults, couples, teenagers, grandparents, and everything in-between, perfectly portraying the dynamics of our culture and relationships. His pictures make viewers long for something simple, memorable, and authentic. He highlights the memorable and mundane of both small-town life and city living. He inspires us to cherish our American life.

When I use the phrase “Rockwell’s America,” I’m referring to a state of living where we would choose the porches in front of our houses over the red carpets in California. Playgrounds over amusement parks. Sidewalk chats over hurried texts. Time with people over time online. Friends over “friended.”

Please, turn off your cell phone and go for a walk. Ride your bike if you want. Bring your little sister. Your neighborhood might not seem like anything amazing, but it’s your home. It’s the place you’re growing up. It’s the place you’re going to remember.

Stop by the library, where I am right now. They’ve got books like The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton and A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor. Books on leadership and do-it-yourself and scenic drives through – where else – America. Books on “The Most Beautiful Libraries in America.” (Guess which one is on the cover. It’s in Washington, D.C.) Ask the librarian where to find books on Bigfoot. If librarians aren’t quintessential American culture, I don’t know what is. And heaven forbid you leave without the largest Calvin and Hobbes collection you can find.

Go to the swimming pool. Host a party. Read the comics. Respect the men in uniform. Know where your local barbershop is. Shop at the thrift store – it saves money. We live in America. We are surrounded by beauty, and we will miss it if we forget to look.

(see slideshow below)

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Please comment and tell me where you see Rockwell’s America.


2 thoughts on “Rockwell’s America.

  1. I caught a glimpse of Rockwell’s America yesterday.

    Time: about 2 p.m.
    Place: downtown Charleston
    Event: a sudden downpour

    I was holed up under an awning when I spied two women tying plastic bags around their heads. I thought they looked cute, and lifted my camera. They came my way, saw my camera, and, still laughing, they posed for my camera click, then went merrily on their way.

    Optimism and fun in the midst of major inconvenience. That’s part of Rockwell’s America I love. :-)


  2. “If librarians aren’t quintessential American culture, I don’t know what is. And heaven forbid you leave without the largest Calvin and Hobbes collection you can find.” :)

    Amen, sister. Looking for beauty in the simple things is becoming a lost art, slowly crowded out by the flashy, instant-gratification entertainment mindset that has all but taken over today.

    The camp that I am currently working at is an excellent example of Rockwell’s America. I love how the camp itself is full of simple joys to let the kids have a good time; no video games, iPods, cell phones, etc. allowed. Just some good old fashioned moon bounces, go-karts, skits, creeking trips, and water games. And I see how much the kids love it. The simplicity of many of their activities is just beautiful to think about, especially when in contrast to an afternoon spent in front of a TV.

    The kids themselves showed me a wonderful example of Rockwell’s America. One day, my group (of 1st graders) decided to have some fun in the dirt. They dug up rocks with sticks, made “creeks” in the ground by pouring water into little grooves they’d dug, looked for worms, you name it. Then, two diggers found a small ant colony, and the real fun started.

    It started off as a ring of pebbles around the dug-up area to “protect” the ants. Then, through many trials and hours (okay, maybe not hours, but still good amounts of time) of labor, the construction grew. The kids began collecting bigger rocks, and working together in larger groups. Even after the project was destroyed several times by an outsider with no appreciation for their work, they pressed on, rebuilding and vowing to protect the ants. The circle of small stones grew into a football stadium fortress at least a hand width wide. Large amounts of rocks (the largest of which were almost fist-sized), sticks, and acorns were collected as building materials. Captains (or “bosses” as they liked to call themselves) were appointed. Guards were stationed, sign were posted (“Do not touch. If do touch, we will tell the counselors.” “If you do touch, write your name and grade down here. Singed, Everyone.”), so that the fortress might prevail. The company’s bosses began “hiring” people (I heard one of them asking a counselor for her registration in order to become a worker) as additional Ant Team workers. The hiring process basically consisted of teaching them the team’s handshake.

    The fortress practically became a tourist attraction. Lots of people stopped by to take pictures and comment on how they’d enjoyed seeing the project grow over the past few days as they walked by. The company currently has about 20 workers, including several counselors and assistant counselors (like me).

    The best part of the story is that it all was completely engineered by the kids. I was overseer for most of it (there were fights to break up, and reconciliation to be made), but it was all the kids’ work. i directed nothing. And I believe that is a capital example of Rockwell’s America. These kids found joy, not by watching TV or playing video games or going to an amusement park, but by working together to create something fun. And all it took were lots of rocks, a good number of sticks, a heap of acorns, long hours of labor, team work, and a few ants.

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