Archive for smiles

For Everything, there is a Season

DSCN3825When I was born, my parents lived in a little four-room house that my grandfather had built in the 1930’s  when someone offered to sell him a thousand board feet of wood for a thousand dollars.  With that as an inventive, grandpa built this small house, much like many others he had built around our community. His uncles were carpenters, he was an electrician.

For many years, this little house was the ‘first home’ to many young married couples. It was in a neighborhood surrounded by cousins, aunts and uncles. A little stream ran behind the house. It was a safe and loving neighborhood. My grandparents ran a little country store right across the creek, which, at that time could be crossed on a board from one side to another.

If I were to write a book that told the story of everyone who had made their start, or lived in that house when thy were young, it would be a long and interesting book.  I could name many families whose first and often second child was born while thy lived there. It wasn’t big, but it was not just a house, it was truly a home.

I think of all the babies who cried softly for attention in that house, the many sets of used furniture, cleaned up and decorated into a sweet and satisfying place to live. Anything from Model A’s to modern trucks have parked in that driveway. Black Heart Cherries served as delicious snacks on early summer afternoons.

My uncle next door often shared a portion of his garden to the families who lived there.  He would share his knowledge of gardening and even his water from the pump he put in the creek with his neighbors.We are fresh green beans in summer and carved pumpkins at Halloween.

I moved there here when I was seven months pregnant with my first child. To come there from a lonely apartment seemed like heaven. After a short,  rough marriage, I spent many lonely days and even some happy times while I lived there as a single parent of two.

I finished a 4- year University degree  in three years while I worked and raised two kids as a single parent. My two cousins across the creek spend many hours at my house during the eight years that I lived there. We played loud music, card games, laughed and passed the time. My best friend and her sisters would sit on my back steps and we would teach each other songs on out guitars.

There were days in the 1970’s that I spent my time with doors jingling colored beads that  hung from the doorways. Psychedelic  posters, Mother Earth Magazines and children’s books shared my walls and book shelves. I proudly called myself a ‘hippie ‘. Without the details, I will soon move on.  I had wicker furniture, pretty rocks, in a stack in a corner, a small black and white TV, no dryer, a hand- me- down washer and a clothes line beside the cherry tree snd flower garden. There were no extra ended or excesses.

i loved plants and one could be found in any feasible location, the floor, tables, or cabinet tops. The rooms were small, full yet cozy. I loved the claw legged bathtub and those relaxing bubble baths after an exhausting  day. After I graduated from college I moved  to my families” big house” which sat rather ‘ kitty corner’ from this little one. I had lived there for 8 years and for 32 more years, the story went on.

Young couples, single people, elderly widows, many more, lived in that house. A man and his mother were the last to live there. My aunt had promised her friend that she would continue to let her son, who never married, lived there after she died and both my aunts son, who inherited the house, and I, who bought a lot with both this  little house and my aunt and uncles house on it, kept our word.

By the time the elderly gentleman passed away while living in the house, it had seen its better days. In fact, it had seen them long before. The floors were warped, the doors no longer shut well, all the new siding  and Windows  and boards on the porches did not make the house truly livable by my standards after nearly 90 years.

With  a heavy heart, I decided last fall that I would have to tear the house down, it would have cost more to fix the little house than it was worth.  It wasn’t easy to watch the house be demolished, but the ease with which it went down,  showed me that I had made the right decision.  I planted flowers and vegetables in a box garden there this spring.

There are so many memories in that little house, I remember bringing my babies home to it, the soft strum of my guitar on the porch- and the loud Lynyrd Skynyrd on the stereo. I fondly recall the meals I prepared, the friends I entertained, the tears when life was rough and the smiles when life was good.

Even  though the house is no longer there, it will always be there in my mind. So many “firsts” to remember, the first steps of my oldest son and daughter, the first furniture that I bought on my own. Painting the walls, the relaxing warm baths, the  poems I wrote in that bedroom and the pictures I painted in the kitchen.

It is almost always hard when a page turns in our lives. Even if what lies ahead is a bit exciting, it is a challenge to move on. I can close my eyes and see the white picket fence, the rose bush I planted when my first child was born, building snowmen with my kids,  or looking out the window and seeing the first car that I bought myself.

Life goes on, through good times and bad. The ages creep in that little house just as they did with me. There is something about a place that holds so many ” firsts” that keeps it written permanently in my mind. So, it is with the little house at # 10. It is a part of my parents first years, of my own first house, and that of my first two babies.

I can close my eyes and see the basket where kittens were born, where I held my newborns, where I dreamed dreams that actually came true once in a while. Little White House, you now live only in my mind  but you are part of me and I love you. I will never forget the night skies or sunrises I saw there. You will always live in my heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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Back to a Night as a 70’s “Hippie”

 

To set the reader in the mood for a typical Friday night partying with friends, along with a little ditty that I happened to read on Facebook recently that we sang “way back in the day”, I want to have you think back and remember, or perhaps experience for the first time what it was like to be young and “free”, with little responsibility and even less material things. First of all , remember, we didn’t care about material things. It was part of the idea of being a hippie. We didn’t call ourselves “hippies” as a rule. But a lot of other people did. It wasn’t near as evil or mysterious as outsiders suspected. It was usually just a group of friends, sitting around in the sparsely furnished living room of a friends “pad” or house, enjoying a little pot and a lot of munchies , such as M n M’s, potato Chips, candy bars, soft drinks, beer, whatever we could get-whatever someone could afford and brought to share.

I am not advocating this lifestyle or condemning it, though as a mature adult, it seems rather trivial.

Some of the friends had jobs or went to school, some of the girl had babies. Most were in their late teens to mid twenties. The furnishings in the living room often consisted of thousand dollar stereo on which to play albums and 8 tracks which a lot of our money was spent on. The stereo was often sitting on a long board with cement blocks as legs. The house was filled with hand-me-down or throw-away type furniture. I don’t remember the houses being dirty or lacking in style. It was clean and the furniture well arranged. The door to other rooms often had strings of beads hanging from ceiling to floor. There were lava lamps and psychedelic posters on the walls.

The music was the best part of being with friends on a Friday night or any other nights. No one was forced to take drugs, and usually, the drug of choice was marijuana. The music we listened to consisted of my all-time favorite (still), Lynyrd Skynyrd, Aerosmith, J.J. Kale, old favorites from the Woodstock era, or any southern hard rock groups friends brought in to share with others. We turned the music up loud, sang along, pretended to play the guitar (some of really could, but not of the quality of the groups we listened to. It seems there always one person who put on a one man show of pretending to play the guitar, sing and dance around the room.

These were fleeting times, soon all of us would either rejoin the real world of college, jobs, family, or fall through the cracks that lead to more dangerous drugs and lifestyles. Still, I remember them fondly, and I imagine a lot of other people do too. I have seen a recurrence of a “hippie” like, earth lover types lately, and, to be honest it makes me smile. The new hippies may eat food that was (and is) strange to us who lived their youth in the 70’s, but they still decorate in a similar, though maybe more sophisticated manor, they still have beads on the doors, the pictures are more likely to be beautiful woodland scenes than psychedelic posters, the music more modern rock, hip-hop but still mingled with the favorites that have lasted the years.

Now, for those of you who have stayed with me this long-your reward-the song or “ditty”, if you will that has been sung by generations of hippies, just to get a laugh.

(Sung to the tune of “Row, Row, Row your boat” )

“Roll, roll, roll a joint, twist it at the end. Light it up, take a puff, share it with a friend!”

Peace and Blessings to the ‘hippies” of any age who may have smiled as they remembered….

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The Last, Sweet Taste of “Mine”

DSCN2143My youngest son, I have endured so much,

loosing your brother, my parents, my health…

And all of that time, you have been here,

to give me the will to live, against all odds.

Now you are driving, dating,  and someone else

is the love of your life.  It hurts, but it is “life”.

The moments you come in and lay beside me,

let me rub your back or hair, whisper to me,

“I love you, mama.” and mean it, are so precious.

You envite me to go out with you and your friends,

You laugh with me, talk with me, tell me secrets.

I find myself wiping tears every day at loosing you-

as MY BABY, “MINE”. me-being number one in your life.

I’ve known in my heart that it would happen,

but not so soon, not so fast. My heart is broken,

yet I have to  try and savor those days we had-

Those last sweet tastes of “Mine”, that I cherish.

I can only hope you will always find room

in your life for me-stay close, share those hugs.

I have your siblings and they love me,

but you are my baby and have breathed

life into a mom who was dying of grief.

Those Last Sweet Taste of “Mine” will never leave me.

Enjoy every second of any child you may have,

because while growing goes slowly for them,

it races by for you.  You will always love them

in a way that is different from how they love you.

You would give them your life without thought,

Your last crumb of food or drink of water.

I love you my son, all of my children, with all I have.

My teen in heaven, you will always live in my heart.

My teen that is still here with me, messes and all-

To see you walk in the door, lay down your coat down

and crawl up to me with a hug and “How are you?”

Is still, will always be life its self to me, my child.

I dream of you, perhaps sometime, you might let me

sneak quietly into your dreams or even reality

and plant a flower or walk around the lake.with me.

We can never have too much love, and I will never

forget the love you gave that kept me alive.

My youngest son, I have endured so much,

loosing your brother, my parents, my health…

And all of that time, you have been here,

to give me the will to live, against all odds.

Now you are driving, dating,  and someone else

is the love of your life.  It hurts, but it is “life”.

The moments you come in and lay beside me,

let me rub your back or hair, whisper to me,

“I love you, mama.” and mean it, are so precious.

You envite me to go out with you and your friends,

You laugh with me, talk with me, tell me secrets.

I find myself wiping tears every day at loosing you-

as MY BABY, “MINE”. me-being number one in your life.

I’ve known in my heart that it would happen,

but not so soon, not so fast. My heart is broken,

yet I have to  try and savor those days we had-

Those last sweet tastes of “Mine”, that I cherish.

I can only hope you will always find room

in your life for me-stay close, share those hugs.

I have your siblings and they love me,

but you are my baby and have breathed

life into a mom who was dying of grief.

Those Last Sweet Taste of “Mine” will never leave me.

Enjoy every second of any child you may have,

because while growing goes slowly for them,

it races by for you.  You will always love them

in a way that is different from how they love you.

You would give them your life without though,

Your last crumb of food or drink of water.

I love you my son, all of my children, with all I have.

My teen in heaven, you will always live in my heart.

My teen that is still here with me, messes and all-

To see you walk in the door, lay down your coat down

and crawl up to me with a hug and “How are you?”

Is still, will always be life its self to me, my child.

I dream of you, perhaps sometime, you might let me

sneak quietly into your dreams or even reality

and plant a flower or walk around the lake with me.

We can never have too much love, and I will never

forget the love you gave that kept me alive.

My youngest son,I have endured so much,

loosing your brother, my parents, my health…

And all of that time, you have been here,

to give me the will to live, against all odds.

Now you are driving, dating, someone else

is the love of your life.  It hurts, but it is “life”.

The moments you come in and lay beside me,

let me ruvb your back or hair, whisper to me,

“I love you, mama.” and mean it, are so precious.

You envite me to go out with you and your friends,

you laugh with me, talk with me, tell me secrets.

I find myself wiping tears every day at loosing you-

as MY BABY, MINE. me being number one in your life.

I’ve known in my heart that it would happen,

but not so soon,not so fast. My heart is broken,

yet I have to  try and savor those days we had-

Those last sweet tastes of “Mine”, that I had.

I can only hope you will always find room

in your life for me-stay close,share those hugs.

I have your siblings and they love me,

but you are my babby and have breathed

life into a mom who was dying of grief.

Those Last Sweet Taste of “Mine” will never leave me.

Enjoy every second of any child you may have,

because while growing goes slowly for them,

it races by for you.  You will always love them

in a way that is different from how they love you.

You would give them your life without though,

‘Your last crumb of food or drink of water.

I love you my son, all of my children with all I have.

My teen in heaven, you will always live in my heart.

To see you walk in the door, lay down your coat don

and crawl up to me with a hug and “How are you?”

Is still, will always be life itsself to me, my child

I dream of you, perhaps sometime, you might let me

sneak quietly into your dreams or even reality

and plant a flower or walk around the lake with me.

We can never have too much love, and I will never

forget the love you gave that kept me alive.

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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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