Archive for childhood

Mama vs. Beebee (Grandma)

Today, I walked thru the bird sanctuary at a lake near by.  I relearned a few lessons,  that to be honest, I  had sort of forgotten. It saddened me, hurt me. It made me feel like I didn’t matter anymore. I had six kids, one lost at 15, the stress almost killing me too.

I walked along. I would smile at couples walking by, see a woman apparently alone, then see her kid run up. Sadness would creep in.   I fed bread to the fish and turtles, like I used to with my children, and a few times with my grandchildren.  I felt profoundly alone as I walked along.

An hour before , I had walked around my neighborhood with three grandsons, two, age 7, one age 4, along with my youngest son who is in college. ( as of October, I will have 11 grandkids!) Though I enjoyed it, I was disappointed at the lack of discipline, especially after “7 year old no. 2” joined us and there was more ‘cutting up’ going on.  The other two were brothers. I tried to show them how to hunt snail shells. I would  tell them that they were called mollusks, I would name the flowers, if they were annuals , biannuals or perennials, that some  were irises  that grew from rootstock a hundred years old. ( I got an audible “wow” from that).We saw butterflies and I asked who knew what kind it was-  ( swallowtails, easily recognizable). We looked at the creek bank and talked about the flood that collapsed on side of it, and had to be shored-up with rocks. We talked about how the rich people scraping off the plants that held the water in the ground was responsible for the flood, but those of us down valley had to financially and physically clean up the mess the mansion makers made,and how wrong that was.

If you are thinking, “that was too advanced to be teaching seven year olds”, I beg to differ. I started having my own version of “home school” when my kids were two years old. They knew their alphabet and numbers 1-20 by the end of their 3rd year and were reading simple books by the end of their fourth year.  It is a matter of discipline on the part of parent and child, but with my kids, its just what we did.Period. When they learned one thing, we moved on to the next step. Having consistency is the key to education. That was my problem today, there is no set time or way to learn at home. All of my kids went to public school. I taught the youngest at home full time in K-1. We had an hour  to an hour and 1/2 or more of home school, depending on  if it was outdoors or such.

I had very little problems with discipline. Some of my kids wDr e not easy, (ask their public school teachers!)They knew we were  doing school on Saturday, holidays,summer, etc BEFORE anything else. It wasn’t a question or discussion. I may hear you saying “and they hated it”. No, they didn’t, they got it done early, knew more about any subject than their friends, and never complained a lot about doing it. My kids were not close in age, so I would have my 9th grader learning world capitols while the 5th grader learned state capitols,lakes and rivers, and the younger one learned to read or memorize math tables.  At some times, I had four at a time and worked with varied topics. We only spent abut 20 minutes on each subject. We did lots of art, nature walks and studies,  all seasons too. In fall we studied mushrooms and watched the mating of spiders and mantises we had followed since spring. We watch plants emerge in spring, develop color for their rest time in fall. we studied weather as it happened. These are examples.

Besides not having any grandswith me,  (especially not having my kids when they were young) it was hard. I could have probably taken one of the 7 year old, but I didn’t. I wish I could tell my kids not to delay teaching until a certain age. I do tell them about using “teaching moments”. When you went to the store, and were unpacking groceries, you could talk shapes and colors with young ones, then maybe names of vegetables or other foods for preschoolers. The story goes on, as they grow. I have worked with kindergarten children who didn’t know their colors, first graders still struggling with the sound of letters, unable to read a very simple book.

If you work outside the home, it is hard, you may have to work for shorter time periods, but it is still possible. When my grandkid complained, I asked them , do your parents go to work every day so you can eat, have a roof over your head? Of course they all nodded “yes’ , I said, ” Do you think they just woke up one morning and knew how to do their job? ”  Answer: (in unison..Noooo…) So they learned all of their lives, right? (heads shaking, “yes”) I asked the 7 year olds if they could read and they said ,”yes”. I asked the 4 year old and he smiled and said, “I’m learnin!”. I pointed out that the seven year olds had learned thing between the time the were 4 and 7. They got it.

The last thing I told them to day was an old Indian proverb: “You cannot learn with your mouth opened.” I asked  them what that meant, and after some delay , I covered my mouth and said ,”We learn by listening, not talking” I told them , “There is a time to ask questions and a time to listen, do you understand?” They all smiled and said yes. Then  I let them choose what to have for lunch. I told them I loved them and hoped that they would grow up learning everything good that they could so they could take care of them selves and their families. They smiled, ate their crazy lunch choices, had extra glasses of tea (After all, it IS grandma’s house (or as they call me ‘Beebee”. )My husband took two of them home and the other walked home, after hugs, smiles and them saying, “We love you, Beebee.”

I feel better about my walk alone now, realizing that it is simply life which has moved me from  ‘mom’ to ‘Beebee’ . Still, it hurts that I can not teach them like I did my kids because they didn’t start at two with a strict schedulde. I will continue to teach my grands as I can. I find myself learning from my own kids now. It is nice to know that they have learned that learning is a life- long adventure. I am trying to think of things that will grab their attention and to express my pride it what they have accomplished. Yesterday “7 years old #2 showed me some barrels of standing water with creatures swimming in it. He knew they weren’t tadpoles. “What is it, Beebee?” He asked.   It was mosquito larva! We poured the water out and I told him how proud of him I was and that he had saved us from a lot of mosquito bites. Today, he got to brag to his cousins bout what he did.

Just thinking of that lesson- one that my grandchild learned long ago, had been used to help his family, cheered me up. Being a mom and making my own rules my suit mr better, but there is a lot to be said for capturing those moments with my grandkids. They have learned from me! And, I also learn from them. Maybe it isn’t so different after all!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Snowfall in Mountains

It seems it’s been years since snow piled up for days-
Global warming, I wonder or just that on storm
That seems to haunt us every year.

It seems the pretty , fluffy snowfalls of my youth
Are gone, the snow melts and freezes,
Days of melting snow and dangerous ice.

I remember walking in the pasture, in the woods
Now filled with disgusting mansions and roadways
We can’t walk on the logging roads- there are none.

I can’t imagine what through are going through the
Selfish developers heads when they cut
And saw- tear down the forest, so disgusting.

If I could only make these people go away,
Go back north or south- just go and put our
Forest back like a God made them.

My grandkids will be lucky to climb a mountain in the snow.
Maybe they can find enough for a snow-fort
Selfish greedy people with your mansions.

I didn’t realize until my own family fell in this trap
That I was the last generation that would enjoy
The winter forest it spring flowers

Unless we went miles away somehow on slick roads
I wish we could make a law to stop development
To stop those blind to the beauty of the woods

That I could scrap their horrible mansions and road away
And put holly trees back and spring flowers
And fall mushrooms and mast crops…

Can I at least wish that the selfish developers
And desperate farm owners who no longer farm
Can find a way to keep the land and stop destroying it?

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Stopping by the Woods on a Snowy Evening

 

By Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer  
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake. 10 
The only other sounds the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep, 15 
And miles to go before I sleep.

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The Chance to Remember

 

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This week, I celebrated two events that I wasn’t, sure I would see.  My granddaughter turned two a few days ago. That seems like such a simple statement. I have quite a group of grandkids, but enjoying them has not always been easy. My youngest son graduated from high school, and it was as sweet and crazy as the other childrens were.

Why then were these events so memorable?  First, let me tell you about them.  After the ice cream and presents, I saw my older grandkids splashing in the creek trying to catch minnows, crayfish and salamanders. I didn’t give it a thought before I had grabbed two cups and headed for the creek. Because. Of my disabilities, I had to find an easy way in. My grandkids all know that I’m the nature lady- nothing makes me smile quicker than a chance to teach them a nature lesson, whether it is ” how to catch creek creatures”or “what are the different kinds of life cycles among insects?” Today, it was time for creek creature catching!   My oldest daughter loves these nature studies as much as I do and was already at the creek when I arrived. Among the happy shouts of ” I got one!” One of my grands would quietly ask me to catch one for them and let them have the cup to show off their prize.  I was in grandkids heaven as we lifted rocks and I tried o teach children the importance of patience and still waters if you want to catch your prize creatures. I am not sure a tassel of kids between 6 and nine really gets the meaning of patience.  Oh, well, having had six kids of my own, I could work around it. Soon, I was sharing cups with several little salamanders with them, the giggled and splashed and ‘dirtied’ the water as they ran to show them off to the others.

After a lot of hunting, we finally began to find some medium sized crayfish and put them in a bucket. My daughter and I explained how happy we were to see them because the ‘ nutrient rich’ water had killed off a lot of the creek life.  Yes, we had to explain that the ‘nutrients’ were fertilizers that he big houses that had been built used to make their perfect lawns , thus polluting the creeks and killing the creatures that lived there.)

As we worked to collect the creatures, I told my daughter and grands about the days when my mom took me and my friends to my grandpa’s pasture to catch creek creatures, much larger than these because the big houses had yet to overtake the farms. They were sweet memories. My mom, like me was a lover if nature. Rather than having instilled a fear of wildlife in me, she taught me to respect them.  From Black Widows to Black Snakes to water creatures and wild plants, my mom taught me to love them, catch and observe them, then let then go, so we could catch and observe them again. The memories of my mom and I, along with the privilege of sharing such a day with my daughters, sons and grandkids formed a mist in my eyes. You see, I never thought I would be able to do those things again.

Nearly ten years ago, as my 15 year old son was playing baseball, an unbelievable tragedy took him and “life” would never be the same. After a great double and a steal to third base, my lungs were sore from screaming my praises to him. The next kid struck out and soon the teams were practicing for the last half of the last inning. Suddenly someone called out, “What’s wrong with Andrew? ” I looked up to where he was practicing in the outfield and saw he begin to ru towRds me. Instinctively, I began to run to him, meeting close to the pitchers mound as he started to fall, hitting the ground in a swirl of dust. I was in shock. He had not even been sick, to my knowledge. I started screaming, ” Call 911, Call 911, and saw that the father of one of my sons team mates was calling. There was a fire station at the top of the hill and I expected an immediate response, but none came. After coaches and parents rushed up, one person ran up, said they were a nurse and looked at my unconscious son as he asked me questions. My heart, my mind was in a blur- why were there no sirens? Where were the EMT’s who could have walked there by now. Someone asked me his name and gently shook his shoulders, calling his name. No response- no siren or ambulance. I was screaming for the nurse to ‘ do something’ as the clock moved on and my son’s breathing became raspy. Between ten and twelve minutes passed before an ambulance finally came in a back gate- the opposite of the way an ambulance from the close-by fire Department would have come. The EMT’s first words were, ” bag him” ( give him oxygen).

I rode in the front of the ambulance to the hospital. I saw the attendants using a defibrillator on him. My mind was screaming, ” No, no!” I was met by a hospital cleric who lead me away as the ambulance attendants rushed my son in. After working on him for an hour a doctor came out and called our family in to a private room to tell us, ” They did everything they could.”

“You mean he’s dead?” I cried as we all sat in silent stares- our world crashing around us. I walked out the door with an apparently healthy 15 year old son and would walk, completely stunned back in that door without him.

Within a few months, I was having symptoms of what was later to be found to be a pituitary tumor, caused, mostly likely by the stress from loosening my son. This story is not about me, so I will suffice to say that neglect  nearly cost me my life just as someone giving the 911 operator the wrong directions to the ball park had cost my son his life.  By the time I had surgery to remove the tumor, I was told  that without the surgery, I would have had about three weeks to live.

Now, we come to the second part of this week just passed.  I saw my youngest child graduate from high school. He had been barely eight when his brother had died. Graduation is a crowded, long, yet joyous occasion. When the ceremony was over, my son’s girlfriend and I caught up with him and he gave me a ride back to my car when I would meet my husband and two other sons.  I was tired, in pain, yet thrilled for my son.   One more ordinary occasion that I got to witness.

It wasn’t until my son came home late that night that we talked about his graduation that he told me something that I guess I had never realized.  ” Mom, he said, as we sat on his bed, “years ago when you were so sick after we lost Andrew, I had the thought that you would not live to see me graduate. It has haunted me ever since.”

“But I did it.” I smiled as I hugged him. ” Yeah,  you did.” He smiled, holding my hand.

Tonight, as I sat in my room thinking, both of these simple events that I had enjoyed this weekend suddenly hit me. No one, most of all me, ever thought I would play in the creek with my grandkids and even my son had not believed that I would live to see him graduate.  I have suffered so much, so long, it just seemed endless. I still suffer everyday.  Somehow, this past year, I have found a way to bring joy back into my life, if even for a short time.  I told my son that it was his holding me close, willing me to live that had helped me  ” make it” this far. I thought of the song that I had heard on my Facebook page that some kids sang to their teacher who had cancer. it was called, “I’m Gonna Love you Throught It”.

That is just what my son, my kids and grandkids and my family had done for me. Through all the loss I had endured, the disability, the never- ending pain, I would feel their love and know that somehow, they still needed me.

As I found myself scratching the poision ivy on my arm tonight, I thought that even being able to work in my garden again was a blessing.  Maybe, I was still here ‘ for a reason’. The sweat running down my itchy face felt amazingly good somehow. I new life would never hold the same joy that it had when my son was alive and I was well, but I was still here, and I was determined, at last to be thankful for that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When She Was Young

When she was young, she used to dream of living in a mansion, a castle, being a princess, or an heiress, at least.

There would be silk curtains in lilac-her favorite color. Fresh flowers on a dark wooden table inside the spacious dining room.

She would lay in the sun by the pool in her back yard, relaxing, getting that perfect tan. A garden of her favorite perennials would grow around the winding sidewalk that wound from the gate to the steps leading to a slate porch outside the entryway.

At night, lights would glimmer over the pool and line the winding staircase that lead to the bedroom with the best view of the ocean. The music of a violin whispers up from the parlor below.

Dreams, is it not strange how our dreams and wishes change as we age? The prince riding up on white stallion to reach down and lift you up beside him, whisking you away to the wonderful castle with palms and turrets. He carries you in his arms to that lilac scented room and holds a flower out to you as you reach for it.

Then, one day, we find we have grown up, we notice the world around us, how it has its own beauty and charm. We see that the simple things, small, yet delicate are often more appealing than the opulent dreams you once held.

Wild flowers replace the sculpted garden, a path through the deep forest takes your breath away as you peek at the azure sky above you. You no longer dream of the wealthy, handsome prince, nor hear the gallop of his horses drawing a carriage. Smiling, you raise and twirl around, as you see him out in the field, guiding the brown mare up the wooded trail toward the cabin.

You smile as you remember how your dream has changed. How you love cuddling up in an afghan on the floor of the cabin as he plays his newest guitar melody for you in front of the rock fireplace. Dreams…

When we are young, we have not yet experienced life’s choices or possibilities. We can only dream. We remember the stories read to us at bedtime, the books we read, curled up on the couch on a rainy

day. But as we grow, we are made aware that there are many dreams to choose from, many beautiful places, many choices await us.

Your castle has turned into a cabin, our garden into a forest. Beauty has taken on a new meaning- it is more a feeling, than a vision. To close your eyes and hear the strum of his guitar is much more romantic than the prince you once dreamed of hiring a musician to play tunes for you by moonlight.

When she was young, when YOU were young, the future was knitted from strands of starlight shimmering through the palms to the tune of ocean waves and nautical wind, There’s nothing wrong with that, you laughed, its simply that his hair blowing in the winds of the forest, the moonlight glowing through the windows of your cabin as he played the song he wrote for you, somehow soothed your soul more now that you were grown. You think of all the dreams you had ever entertained,

and looked up at him as you realized, this was real, it was life, it was good. When she was young, just as when when YOU were young, your daughter would entertain the same dreams.

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To Be Someone’s Everything

Since I was only 19 years old, sitting in a frayed chair,

I have loved looking down upon a sweet head,01090049

of soft,curly hair, stroking it, as it mixed with my own.

That was the incomparable joy of motherhood.

A sleepy head upon my shoulder, or laying beside me,

a soft, even breath when sleep finally came and I could rest.

I would lovingly touch their sleepers of pink or blue,

as I laid them beside me, watching them as they dreamed.

“It’s hard to be someone’s everything.” I told my friend.

A young mom too, she laughed and said, “But so sweet!”

In those difficult times, I though,how true it was,

To be wrapped in the joy of life’s greatest pleasure-motherhood.

Now, I am not young, and have spent nearly 40 years,

with a soft head of hair in many colors, and textures

laying beside me, or on my shoulder, they all loved being loved.

For me to rub their backs or heads as their eyes closed for the night.

We have been through so much, over the years-

the unimaginable joy of new life and the unspeakable sorrow

of the loss of a child, and still, running my hand through

each child’s hair has remained an unforgotten blessing.

Today, I walked into my teens room, music playing quietly,

and saw him lying there with her head on his shoulder,

His girl, not me, and I found it hard to hold back the tears

as I walked away knowing those days would soon end.

Yes, I would rub the heads of my many grandchildren,

such beautiful, soft hair, I touched and remembered.

But it wasn’t the same. I would lay them in their bed,

or take them to their home. Leaving me here, alone.

If only I could be young again, tired again, I thought.

Running my hand through silky hair, and knowing,

that this tiny act of love between us was so precious,

would one day be only a sweet memory, but not,

I hoped, today…..

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MUSCADINE MEMORIES

DSCN2817One day last week when I was at your house-okay cleaning out your now empty house, I noticed the most wonderful vine of the old fashioned Muscadine grapes growing up a tree at the edge of your yard.

I have never seen anything like it! Oh, Dad, how I wanted to run in and get you and show you the redbud tree hanging full of Muscadine grapes. You and mom grew up very differently, but I lost you both in your 87th year. Mom was a few years older, so I had to watch you drown in the misery of waking up without her after 62 years together.

l I haven’t been able to write for the past few months, since I lost you. There is so much inside me, I know I will never remember the feelings as I did when they were fresh, and I will always resent it. What kept me from writing was not because of you passing, but the pain was nearly as bad. A violation by someone, of my deepest thoughts, written in my journal, had made me feel as though I had been robbed of my most precious gift-the truths, good or bad that I written in a journal to the son I lost when he was 15 years old nearly every day.

When I saw the Muscadines, I knew the only reason they had survived was because they were wound around the branches so high in the redbud tree. Your neighborhood is full of bears, and my son who lives next door has seen many walking through your yards. My aunt on the hill above you had lost her grapes to the bears, as had neighbors and friends, I couldn’t think of anyone who hadn’t lost their grapes to the bears. A surprise for you, dad, but a couple of months too late.

All this time that I have been unable to write, I have though of you and mom, of my Andrew, all the loss, the sickness and pain I have endured, all the court stuff I had to endure in order to settle your estate. Hell has been my constant companion. Maybe that’s why the wild grapes were so special-a moment of joy and beauty amidst all the pain.

I can write now, the anger over having been put through a completely unnecessary hell during the weeks proceeding your loss have dissipated to the point where not writing would let the evil win-and I damn well wouldn’t do that. So I will write a few of the memories that the Muscadines brought to me. Perhaps, in some small way, they will help me heal.

Dad, I had seen your health failing for a long time, your memory and rationality fading as well, and I had been working to get things in order. I felt a lot of guilt, many of the decisions I had to make were hard. I knew without a doubt that I was doing what you wanted me to do, but there was still a ring of guilt to suddenly be the ‘one who held the gold’.My kids and I will never forget your slightly evil (but loving) smile, when we would want something that your conservative mind could not quite go along with and we would see you smile, as you looked at us and said, “You know the ‘Golden Rule?” And we did know it. Your “Golden Rule” had always been, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”(possibly first used by Confucius) -and it had always before meant YOU. Suddenly it was ME.

Part of me anxiously awaited my turn at “holding the gold”, and part of me had always feared the responsibility that came with it. Now, that I did “hold the gold”, even though you were still here in a weakened condition, I found the responsibility both humbling and empowering. Every decision that was made was MY responsibility, every mistake made was my fault. Suddenly, I wondered how you could have held that responsibility all those years and smiled as you reminded us of it. It was completely terrifying.

Thinking back, again, (and not having allowed myself to write it), I remembered the little gift your grandchildren and I received within moments of your death. My son’s friend, who had been with us when you died and had loving called me “Mah-mah” since his childhood, had called my son on his cell phone and told him to look at a photo he had made with his phone. In his picture, directly over the spot where my mom (and soon you) would be buried, there had suddenly appeared a beautiful rainbow, so perfectly centered above your graves that it had seemed like a message from God.

Muscadines…they reminded me of so many of the moments in nature I had shared with my grandparents, parents and children through the years. Those little snips of beauty that stay with you as though your mind was a camera, even though you had no actual photo. I thought of Andrew, three or four years old, staring up at a huge sunflower. I will never forget the look of wonder on his face as he gazed up at that eight-foot high flower, as golden as the sun, above him. I remembered finding the hillside filled with bloodroot flowers whenI took a walk with my children were they were quite young. I showed them how the plant got its name from the Mercurochrome-colored fluid that flowed from the stem when it was injured or broken of. Many years later, I witnessed one of my children, telling the same story to their child.

Once, when I was about ten years old, my grandmother, aunt, my mother and I, went on our daily walk in my grandparents pasture. Suddenly, my grandmother almost stepped on a snake. My mother screamed and my aunt laughed, “Its only a garter snake.” she smiled as she saw my mother look away. My mother was never afraid of snakes or spiders and was quite embarrassed at her own reaction. “I hadn’t looked that close yet”, she mumbled, and we knew it was true. Mother always told me that she was much more afraid of men than of spiders and snakes, “because you knew what a spider or snake was going to do.”

My aunt ran a little country store and to this day, I can see my mother marching in with a black widow spider she had caught in a jar. Even the men stepped back a bit as she told them about catching it on the very steps they had just gone up. I could write a book on “the little store” stories that my cousins and I shared as we enjoyed freedoms modern children no longer have-wandering the neighborhood without supervision. To this day, my favorite “little store” stor is the time mu cousin, Johnny, who was maybe 14, pretended to vomit on the store’s steps as my furious uncle tried to sweep up the fake plastic vomit before someone stepped in it. A crowd of cousins stood at the edge of the store building giggling away. When my uncle realized that he had been duped by a teenager, he was madder than ever.

Sometimes, in this rough and often cruel life, a simple scene like the muscadine grapes will bring us back to all the good memories we have had. For a moment, we smile, we realize how much love surrounded us, even when we were a bit naughty. WE close our eyes and remember those who are gone now and find ourselves smiling rather than shedding ear. Just for a moment, those muscadine memories surround us, comfort us and ring us home. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

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