Towel Day is Tomorrow-Do You Have Your Towel Ready?

Happy Towel Day!

Happy Towel Day!

Yes, tomorrow, May 25th, is Towel Day. I know, hard to believe it’s here again, right?

Okay, I had no idea until just recently that Towel Day is such a thing. But it must be pretty cool. After all, my friend Baddest Mother Ever is the one who told me about it here.

It is all good fun, and I am excited about picking out which towel I will carry around all day with me.  ‘Cause that’s what you do to celebrate.  And folks won’t think you’re crazy at all.  Especially not your visiting in-laws.  Just sayin’.  Ahem.

In mentally reviewing which towel would be just perfect, I started thinking about how some pretty special moments and some pretty extraordinary ordinary moments have been marked in my life by towels.  And so I share my towel anthology.  (Yes, I know an anthology is a collection of written works, but can I have a little poetic license here, considering it’s Friday and all the excitement over the coming celebration?  Thank you very much.)

The first towel I remember being given as my own was probably a beach towel given by my great Aunt Hattie.  She was an awesome gift giver.  I used it in the backyard and to “lay out” on the trampoline.  I may have taken it to Lake Tobesofkee a time or two as well.  Mostly I remember it in its later years used when Mama was canning to spread out the fresh beans or peas from the garden as part of preparation or to cover the jars after they were done.

My Purple Knight hand towel from Santa my freshman year.....um over 26 years ago.  Happy memories!

My Purple Knight hand towel from Santa my freshman year…..um over 26 years ago. Happy memories!

Then there was the “college” hand towel that Santa brought me my freshman year.  As I was in the Purple Knight class at Wesleyan, Santa splurged and got me a purple hand towel.  I say “splurge” seriously…..I used it constantly and that cotton pima is still hanging around today.  It’s now a lovely purple-y shade of gray.  And still soft.

When I was expecting my first precious baby, and my second, and my third I received sweet and funny towels.  There was the duck head complete with beak when Aub was born that I remember the best.  And with my next baby girl, there was a particularly sweet and soft light green with baby bears embroidered across the hat.  My favorite one for my baby boy is the one he can still use–handmade by a friend who used a thick towel and washcloth to make a hooded towel for him, accented with a cars and truck ribbon.  His first truly boy towel!

When my husband and I married, we were preparing to combine homes and move to Japan all at the same time.  We put towels on our wish list–the ones with the embroidered rubber duckies for Aub’s bathroom and the purple with embroidered dragonflies on the border for ours.  We still have some of those cycling through the house ten years later.

Some of the others in my anthology include a pink floral set, given to Aub when she was four or five by her friend’s grandmother.  She came to the house next door to keep her grandson.  One day she was cleaning out a shed and found this towel set among other things, and she decided it was made for Aub.  When I’m folding clothes and come across that one,  I still think of her and what a sweet and gentle soul she is.

Over at Mama’s there is a lime green towel that is MINE.  (I hope my sibs are reading this one.)  I’m not exactly clear as to how Mama wound up with it, but it had something to do with my great Aunt–maybe she was cleaning out?  I don’t know, but I know that Mama, whose favorite color was green, never really cared for chartreuse.  But she brought this towel home with her, and whenever I stayed there, she set it out for me.  That towel just hollers, “You are loved,” whenever I see it.

I have quite a few towels that, when we were cleaning out my great Aunt’s house a couple of years ago, I brought home with me.  They remind me of her and her style and good times there.  I expect they will be around a while, as she didn’t play when it came to linens and the like.

My great Aunt Hattie sent great gifts at Christmas that were surprises, but she also sent standard ones.  Like the box you KNEW was the Whitman’s Sampler.  If we could make our case for why we thought that was the one, Mama and Daddy would let us open it a couple of days before Christmas.  Quite the treat, I’m telling you.  But her standard gifts that I think we maybe took for granted as children were dishtowels for Mama and bandanas for Daddy.  To this day, it makes me smile if one of my siblings replicates one of these gifts.  A happy, happy memory.  It was just this past Christmas, when Mama wasn’t up to doing a lot of shopping that she asked me to take her Kohl’s discount card and pick up some dishtowels as gifts.  I had fun doing this, as it had become something of a “thing” for my littles to pick out seasonal fingertip towels and give to Maemae over the past couple of years.  She would sit them out for the grands to use as much as they needed.  And to enjoy.

So I picked out different hand towels and took them to her for review.  She loved them.  She sent some as gifts, and picked out a special one for each one of her children, unbeknownst to me.  Until Christmas morning.  I opened up my gift of the hand towel that I had probably loved the most.  How she knew I don’t know, except, well, Mama always knew.  Aub loved it, saying it reminded her of the patronus in Harry Potter.  Y’all know I love me some Harry Potter, so I only loved the towel more.  (And the fact that a patronus is a positive force, provoking hope and happiness.  All righty then.  I can always use that.  Perfect.)  It hangs on my oven bar in the kitchen.  Year round.

My most recent towel--from Mama this past Christmas.  It will always remind me of our precious times together.

My most recent towel–from Mama this past Christmas. It will always remind me of our precious times together.

Isn’t it funny?  When I read it was Towel Day, I laughed and thought what fun.  I didn’t realize how many stories are connected to them.  But I do know that as I fold my towels, I think of my brother who gave me this hand towel as a remembrance of Aunt Hattie.  Or this towel that hung in my great Aunt’s house.  Or this towel that I embroidered for Aub when she played basketball.  Or this one that I wrapped my baby boy in…..

And so many more.

Now before I get all weepy and need all the towels I own to wipe up my mess, I’m off to sleep to prepare for tons of fun tomorrow.  Y’all go pick out your own towel.  Or two.  How will you celebrate Towel Day?  Happy Memory Making!

LOL…..just don’t cut it

pic of lol

This afternoon my middle sister called.  She had a few minutes and wanted to share something that had happened in her adventures in homeschooling.  She got tickled as she told it.  So much so that her giggling overcame her voice, and she had to give into it for a moment.  Which started me laughing.  And before we knew it, we were both laughing and stumbling over words and neither could really understand the other.

Good, no, GREAT stuff.

See, we haven’t had a lot to laugh about together lately.  So much has gone on in the past four months, so much worrying, so much sorrow, so much business to tend to, so much to decide about.  And in all that I have missed her laughter.  Especially when it overtakes her story.  My Aunt says I do the same thing sometimes, that it reminds her of Mama.  Funny how I spent most of my life not wanting to turn into Mama, and now a random comment like that…..it becomes a treasure to hold onto.   I should be so lucky as to turn out like my Mama.

I wonder if the overwhelming laughter could be genetic because my Aub does the same thing sometimes, as she shares her stories.  She’s really good at that–sharing her stories.  I don’t take that lightly.  That’s another treasure.  And we can “lafe and lafe” as Andy Griffith might say.  It can take us quite a while to get through one story sometimes, just because of the laughter.

As I went on my walk tonight, I was thinking about my sweet neighbor who is moving soon.  Oh, how I will miss her!  We spend pretty afternoons standing in her yard or mine while our littles play, chatting about our days, our families, our children, our dreams, or what’s for supper.  We have texted about this and that from time to time, but our relationship consists mostly of face to face, can I borrow an egg or a can of tomatoes, real-life conversations.  And now we won’t have that.  I made a promise to myself tonight, thinking of my sister and her precious laughter, that I won’t let my relationship with my neighbor and friend become a texting or e-mail or facebook relationship only.  I love her laughter, and I love hearing her stories.  I hope we will be able to make time for regular phone calls and for visits when they come to town.

I am very thankful for the benefits of modern technology as I’ve said before, but I do think it has done us a disservice on this front.  So much of our communication with others is by text or e-mail.  I am guilty of this too.  Oh sure, we 🙂 and LOL, but there is nothing like a hearty guffaw in your ear when you are on the phone or right in front of you when you are sitting with a friend.  I love the camaraderie of laughing with someone until tears are rolling down my face.  And believe me, that’s the stuff that joy and healing are made of.  Honest to goodness Laughing.  Out.  Loud. Together.  That’s the best right there.  LOL just don’t cut it.

My Boots

My Daddy's boots

My Daddy’s boots

Growing up Daddy wore the same thing just about every day.  Jeans, belt, white t-shirt, and a chambray shirt made by Mama, matched with his work boots as he headed out the door.  When he’d wear one chambray shirt out, she would snip the buttons, and attach them to the new one she was making.  When Mama realized she did not enjoy sewing, he started wearing short sleeved button down Oxford style shirts–in light blue or white.   The last few years he interpersed those with a t-shirt, long or short sleeved weather dependent; often one I had embroidered a design on.  I think his favorite might have been the one that said, “Shade Tree Carpenter,” because that is what he was in his retirement.  He’d stand out there under the shade of the tree he called the trash tree because it made such a mess shedding its leaves, and he would create and build all kinds of wonderful things to be enjoyed by his grandchildren.  That was one t-shirt design he asked for.   It was a classic.

All that is to say, Daddy was laid-back.

I think he was probably glad our rehearsal dinner was at Nu-Way, where a sign was put on the door early that morning–“Dinning (sic) Room Closed, 6 pm, Wedding Party.”  His daily dress was just right for the party.

During his last couple of months, when he was pretty much bed-ridden, Daddy and I would visit and talk about all kinds of things.  At the time I had been thinking about getting a pair of boots.  My oldest Aub had saved up and gotten her a pair, and that flung a craving on me I guess you could say.  Daddy and I talked about the best kinds, how to care for them (saddle soap and all), and what color we thought I could pull off.  I had seen a pair of bright red ones with white and turquoise flame stitching.  I really wanted to be the girl who could pull them off, but I just wasn’t sure.

It was mid-November when Daddy’s fight with the lymphoma came to an end.   In the midst of everything going on, I had not even thought about what I would wear to his service.  It was the day after he died, that Friday, that we were scrambling–meet with the funeral director, take the clippings from the tea olive and cedar to the florist for the spray, make many, many phone calls, feed the children, and last but not least, plan out what each person was going to wear to the service the following day.  Mama called me aside.  “I want you to go get your boots.  Go right now, you should have time, and get them.  And then I want you to wear them tomorrow.  You have a denim skirt, right?”

I nodded, thinking of how appropriate that was for Daddy.  Who rarely had a day he didn’t wear denim.  “Yes ma’am, I can make it happen.”

“Oh, and Tara?”

“Yes ma’am?”

“See if you can find some dress shoes for me.  You know, a nice pair of flats.  I don’t have any shoes to wear for tomorrow.”

So I was off on a mission, one of them nigh unto impossible.  Mama had not been shopping in ages while caregiving for Daddy, so I had some experience in the “shopping for her” arena.  And I knew how hard it was.  I won’t say she was hard to please, but let’s just leave it at sometimes “she had high standards.”  Ahem.

First stop was the ride over to the Western Wear and Horse Supply store near my house.  I walked in and looked at the red boots I’d told Daddy about.  No, they just didn’t suit.  I walked the aisles a time or two, feeling the pressure of time and a lengthy to-do list crowding in.  Then I saw them.  Just enough red to make me happy, and what a beautiful deep, rich red.  Those were MY boots.

I didn’t fare as well for Mama.  I went to her favorite clothing store, Belk’s, and found two pairs that were possibilities, and I got them both.  I could return either or both later.  Both it was.  Mama tried, but since her foot surgery, only certain types of shoes were comfortable.  Her sweet cousin wound up loaning her a pair of dress shoes that were just perfect.

The next day was the first time I wore my boots for real.  And I loved them.  Still do.  I don’t know if it is because they were christened with the red dirt of home, but when I wear them, I find a sense of strength that I didn’t feel before.  I kind of fancy them as my “kickin’ attitude” boots.  Usually it’s a good attitude, but when I had to meet with doctors and ask hard questions during Mama’s HospitalStay, I wore those boots.  When I have had to take a stand, my boots were right there under me.  And when I stood again at the little country cemetery, saying goodbye to Mama, I wore the same boots I first wore at Daddy’s funeral.  Imagined or not, perception’s what we are dealing with people, and I perceive that they give me strength.  Anyone remember Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Were Made for Walking?”  Yes.  That. (Only with longer skirts…..)

pic of mah boots

In the past two months, I have acquired two more pairs of boots.  I wear them mostly to save the soles on my treasured pair.  I need to have them resoled.  I’ve done a lot of moving in them.   My sister found the black pair at her GW Boutique in Atlanta.  Can you believe that?  I don’t want to talk tacky, but I just have to brag about her skills–for less than $10!  Those boots were the perfect dress boots to give me what I needed on that bittersweet and precious Graduation Night of my girl two weeks ago.

It was a week after my sister made her find that we were at our local GW, and my 8 year old saw the red pair.  It was like there was a heavenly light shining above them.  Leading her to them.  She was enthralled and so happy.  They fit her and we brought them home.  The other day I asked her if she planned to wear them again, and she said, “Well yes, when I go riding horses.”  (Ummm, yeah, because that’s been pencilled in.)  Turns out they feel funny to her feet, and turns out they fit me just fine.  (She’s going to be really, really tall.)  So, score!

One cold night over a year ago, I was out rather late, picking Aub and her friend up from the movie theater.  It was past my bedtime, so I was in comfy clothes and threw on my lined Crocs and headed over.  As I was sitting there in the parking lot waiting for them and people watching, I saw a group of teenagers gathered together near the curb.  About that time a little man walked up to get his tickets.  The teens saw him and began to laugh and make exaggerated gestures, mocking this man.  He and his friends never noticed as they bought their tickets and went inside.  But it made my blood boil.  When Aub and her friend got in the car, I told them about it, and I lectured them that I better not ever…..well, you know the drill.  They might as well have been guilty the way I carried on.  As I drew to a close, Aub’s friend leaned over to look at my feet, grinned, and said, “Miss Tara, it’s a good thing you didn’t have your boots on or they’d have been in real trouble, wouldn’t they?”  See, even he knew.  I’m tough stuff when I have them on.  (Or so I tell myself.)

Tonight I’m thankful for a laid-back Daddy, and for a Mama who honored that and loved him for it.  I’m also thankful for my parents who raised me to be strong–to pick myself back up when I’m in the depths, and who bought me my first pair of grownup boots that remind me of that strength.  I love my family and friends who sit with me in those depths and cheer me on when I pull my boots out.  The thing is, I know there are more hard times ahead.  I also know, that even though things will get shaky and dark, in the end, I can handle it.  I’m going to come out on the other side.  Maybe a little more worn, maybe a few more scuffs, but still standing tall.

And for those who might have been deprived of Nancy Sinatra growing up–here she is, her and her boots.

Why I Want to Wear Black

pic of gibran quote

Yesterday I spent most of the morning with my children cleaning my great aunt’s house.  It has sat empty for over three years now.  We have a new realtor and high hopes this time.  When I went in for the first time in quite a while on Friday, meeting with the realtor, I knew we would have to come back and clean.  It was not a requirement or even a request.  It was a gift to one of the strong women who helped raise me.  I couldn’t kiss her forehead when she left, nor could I wash her face and hands one last time.  But I can make sure that folks who come into her home know someone cares and that it doesn’t look thrown away.  So we vacuumed and dusted and polished and swept.  It was a sacred morning.

Last night I was filled with sorrow and joy all at the same time (I know, I’m the crazy one in our family), and the first thing I thought was, “I want to tell Mama.”  And it all came rushing back.  I’m afraid the emotional tidal wave had me pouring my heart out in a raw, broken way.  And I’m sorry about that.

But I feel raw.  And broken.  Even still.  I get invited to do lovely things with wonderful people, and I want to do these things.  But when I think about it, the panic sets in and I just can’t.  I am so sorry for that too.  The panic.  The not being able to do things.  Be with people.  I do apologize.  But there it is.  And I don’t know what to do about it.  But wait, maybe?

This morning I thought about something I wrote less than a month after Daddy left this world.  Considering the trip I took on the Grief Wheel last night, I offer this for whatever it can be.  An explanation.  An apology.  The map of where I am for the time being.  With love to all.

I originally wrote this the morning of 12/13/2011. It is just as true today, and even more so.

The journey is over
He, who fought so hard, and did so much to stay
Had to leave
He told me so
Not long after he left and we all said goodbye
I saw him, in my dream
We were all gathered to say goodbye, and he was there
I ran to him and hugged him
“What are you doing here?” I was ecstatic and a little confused.

“I’m sorry,” he said as he hugged me back
“I had to go. I’m sorry.”
He looked so good. Healthy. Strong. Ready to take on the world again.
To create with wood and words and make us all laugh and keep us all straight. He looked full of life.
I know he is healed. So many remind me, trying to bring comfort.
One said, “God needed your Daddy more than you did.” I don’t think so. I cannot breathe sometimes I need him so much. But thank you for taking time to speak to me.
Others choose not to say anything or ask anything. Grief is not a fashionable accessory. It can make a lot of folks uncomfortable. And that is okay too.
And those that ask, I wonder. How long can I be honest? How long can I tear up when they ask? How long before someone tells me enough is enough? How long before the world continues on, as though the sky did not fall, as though it can still breathe, as though he did not even exist? As though none of this matters anymore?

There are things to do, hustle and bustle, and appointments to keep, projects to produce, shows to watch and restaurants to visit, vacations to take, and trips to plan. How long before Life throws its hands up and says, “Really we must go on without you, because this whole grief thing…..well, it’s really getting old.”
Perhaps the tradition of wearing black for a year is not as unfounded as we may have thought. If one is mourning, and one is marked as a mourner, perhaps that is enough. There is grace in that, I think. So that when I start to cry in the candy aisle at the grocery store, because I just thought about buying that candy for him because he loves it, folks will know. Or when I feel drawn to the cancer center, to reach out and hug someone going through just what we have, maybe folks won’t think I’m strange, because they will know. Or when I am trying to remember the name of the person who worked with Daddy, and I think, I need to ask him…..and then it hits me, and I burst into sobs. Folks will know. I need for them to know.

I need for them to know, because one day, one day soon I fear, I will reach out and grab hold of the closest person around and I will beg them to hold me, to wipe out all of the brokenness in this—my Mama who is alone; my sister who shuts the door to her office and cries at work; the grandchild on the way who will never know what a special man he is and was; my children who miss him so, the oldest who misses the man who loved her and raised her and the youngest who doesn’t know what to make of all this but just misses his car playing buddy who let him drive his cars around the rails of the hospital bed…..over and over; and his sister, who cries quietly because she misses her brother. I will reach out and grab hold and I won’t let go. As I cry and sob and let it all out, I won’t let go. Because I’ve done that already, and it hurts so much I cannot breathe. I need for them to know. Because I cannot forget.

pic of things quote

Don’t Save It, Use It

Last night we had “Messy Church.” A kind and talented young man, Micah, came two weeks ago, (when we missed because of sick young’un, round two) and led the group in creating papier-mache’ globes. Last night he returned, leading the multi-generational group in coloring, painting, and writing on these globes that are to become “bare bulbs” hanging from the rafters of the coffeehouse where we go to church.

Our younger daughter was so excited. Art is her thing. She grabbed markers and had so much fun decorating her bulb. In the midst of all of the art, there was great fellowship. Truly light was being shared all around the room. There was a cake, celebrating the birthday of the church, and Micah had brought a treat, Orange Stuff. It is his grandmother’s recipe, and he shared that he makes it to stay connected to her. That right there. Precious.

One of the “bulbs” was designated to be hung for the children to swing at and try to break. It was already filled with candy–pinata time! Our girl finished decorating hers, and passed it along to her Daddy for him to add his own touch to it. She was so excited about the whole thing. She came up to me, “Oh Mama, I can’t wait to knock mine down. It’s going to be so fun.” I pulled her aside and explained that hers would be hung up in the shop, but that the one that Mr. Micah had was the one we would be swinging at. Tears welled up in her eyes, and sadness was evident in her voice, “But Mama, I want to do mine too. That’s what it’s for.” I tried to talk her into being happy that she whenever she walked into the shop, she would see her bulb and remember the fun she had making it. In that moment, she was inconsolable, but the fun of the evening caught up with her, and when it was her turn with the “bat,” she was all smiles.

It took a few swings and then, as pinatas often do, it lost its string and fell to the floor, still intact. A few creative moves from one of the older children, and everyone was squealing excitedly over all of the candy that was scattered around.

Candy and crimped paper.....y'all know how I love me some paper crimping!

Candy and crimped paper…..y’all know how I love me some paper crimping!

It was on the way home that I thought about the evening, and I wish I had done things differently.  Oh, I think in the end our girl will be tickled to point out her bulb each time we go to the shop.  I think it will make her smile and feel special.  But I wonder if I gave her the wrong message.

She was happy creating and making something.  And she was looking forward to seeing it in action, this thing she had put time and energy into.  She wanted to see it used for its intended purpose.

And I said no.

So often we have special things that we put aside and don’t use, saving them for a special occasion.  The china, the real silver, a dress, a special pair of boots, the handmade quilt.  I am guilty of all of these.  The sad thing is that it seems like the special occasions rarely if ever come.  And the things sit.  Collected.  Protected.  Unused.

This happens with our gifts and talents too, I think.  We have a skill, there’s something we are pretty good at.  Maybe it’s baking.  Maybe it’s knitting.  Maybe it’s organizing events.  Maybe our special gift is kindness and laughter.  And we let it sit on the shelf until it is NEEDED.  In a major way.  When there’s a sign-up sheet.  Sometimes we don’t see the value in using our gifts a little (or a lot) in the day to day.  We don’t use them for their intended purpose–to shed light in the world and love on other folks. Every day.

I have a set of fun dishes that it took me a while to start using.  All different colors with polka dots.  Oh I just love those dots.  And sure enough, in the using of this set, we have had three of the small plates bite the dust.   There was a time when I would have kept them in their boxes–as a matter of fact I did in the beginning.  But honestly, the joy that those dishes have brought me by sitting in my kitchen, making my children smile, getting excited over choosing (and yes, fighting *sigh*) their color plate or bowl or cup–that’s worth the sadness of the broken dishes.

So, no, I don’t think we’ll go and take the bulb down and bash it to pieces.  That’s not where this is headed.  However, as the bulb hanging down from the rafters of Bare Bulb Coffee will make my girl smile and remember a fun night when she created and did something she loved, it will remind me that life is short–that I should use what I have here and now.  For its intended purpose.  To love on folks.  All of them.  And not save it for a day or time or need that just may not ever come.

Our girl's light bulb--she decorated it herself.  Someone asked her, after reading it, who her teacher was, and she said "My Mama."  Yeah, folks "bestest," that's how we roll around here.

Our girl’s light bulb–she decorated it all herself. Someone asked her, after reading it, who her teacher was, and she said “My Mama.” She wrote, “God is the bestest.” Yeah, folks, “bestest,” that’s how we roll around here.

If You Were Ever A Child…..

The homeschool curriculum I use with my littles is literature based. There is a list of books for “required” reading and then another list of “suggested” books if you have the time and your child loves to read.

Which mine does.

It was touch and go her kindergarten and first grade year. I wasn’t sure we were going to make it. I gave her a copy of “Old Hat, New Hat” in November of her first grade year. Hoping she could read it. Eventually. Less than five months later she was reading Magic Tree House books. Something finally clicked. Now her favorites are the Rainbow Magic Fairy books by Daisy Meadows. I’m thinking that’s a pen name–you?

As we are looking at wrapping up the school year, I went through the suggested book list and put in many hold requests at the library. (Can I just say I LOVE Interlibrary loans?) We are running a bit behind this year because of the January/February HospitalStay, but reading will be a wonderful pastime for our summer break as well.

Yesterday the first of our hold requests came through, and we ran by and picked it up. Last night my second grader, who loves to read all the time, asked if I would come and read her a story. This was a special treat for me, as she enjoys being an independent reader. I picked up our library book, and we began reading.

Roxaboxen by Alice McLernan, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Roxaboxen by Alice McLerran, illustrated by Barbara Cooney

Oh my, bless it. Precious.

If you have a child or know a child or were ever a child, you should find this book. And read it. Right now. It’s a story of children playing, imaginations taking flight, and the memories we carry with us into adulthood.

Yes, I cried. It was that good.

It reminded me of our little brick house on Old Boy Scout Road. The little two bedroom house where, when she brought home my baby brother, child number four, Mama told Daddy, “I don’t think another thing will fit in here.” And so we moved to Blackberry Flats. But before I was nine, we lived in that little brick house. There was a spot under the pines between our house and the one next door that was perfect for sweeping out and using the pine needles to mark off rooms and houses. At one point, two young girls lived next door and we would play out there for hours, sweeping and building and playing.

It also reminded me of playing at my Granny’s, where we built toadhouses along the banks between her yard and the peach orchard right next to her. We created whole villages and were allowed to bring cars out (“be particular”) to drive in and out of them. My cousins and I used to play “Cowboys and Indians” at their old house on Rabbit Road, where the deep slope of the yard made for some great chases and use of imagination.

When we moved to Blackberry Flats, we had a horse, Betsy. Each fall Daddy would go and get a load of hay to put back for the winter. I can remember the smell of the sweet hay and the feeling of hefting up a bale and handing it down off the truck to him. He stacked it up in the side area of his building. (I guess it was a workshop, but all we ever called it was “Daddy’s building.”) I remember crawling up to the top of the stack of hay in that little shed and reading. Mama let us have the boxes their checkbooks came in, and we created a post office, each of us having our own “mailbox.” We made up our “names,” and we spent lots of time writing letters and “mailing” them.

Creating. Dreaming. Playing. Imagining. Only it all seemed so real.

Just like in Roxaboxen.

I’ve driven by the old home place on Old Boy Scout Road since I was grown. It seems so much smaller now, like the woods crept up towards the house. The old sand pile is still visible at my Granny’s old house. And while there is no hay, the shed at Daddy’s is still standing, stock full of memories that bring a smile and a tear.

I am thankful for those happy memories of a carefree childhood and for my own “Roxaboxen” places. I give thanks for my girls who love to read and dream, and hang onto the hope that my little guy will also find a love of reading one day. As I write this I look out my front window where my two little ones are playing with their friends, and soon they will come in all breathless, eager to tell me about their latest “adventures.” I love that they too have their own “Roxaboxen” right here on our little cul-de-sac. And I give thanks for those who have gone before, sharing stories and reading books with us, helping us to dream and play and imagine. Right now, I can’t think of a better gift that’s ever been given.

Lessons in Legos

pic of legos

Today we went to what my littles call “Lego Building School.”  It is put on by the local franchise of Bricks4Kidz, and my crew all love it.  It is a combination of free play building with all sorts of Legos and a mini-class, where they learn about something and then build a model according to the directions they are given.  In the past we have built mechanized spiders, a dragster, and a windmill.  Like most things, it is the people who run it who make it the most fun.  They love what they do, and they take the time to get to know the children there.

Last month the assigned project was a Venus Flytrap.  Thanks to the lesson about them, my two became interested in these fascinating plants again, and we are on the lookout for one.  We had my nephew with us that day, as my sister was in China and we asked my brother-in-law to let him join us.  My little man paired up with his Daddy to build the Venus Flytrap model.  My poor nephew was stuck with me.   It was a complicated model, complete with friction bushings and gears that had to meet just so.  Oh let’s face it, I was totally inadequate when it came to helping my sister’s baby boy with this.  In the end, he gave up on me and wandered off to test the one the teacher had built.  Correctly. Mine never would snap just right when triggered.  One of the instructors tried to correct whatever it was that I done incorrectly, bless her.  It was not salvageable.  I left with my head down, feeling like I had let my nephew down.  Though I don’t think he was much upset.  He still got his mini-fig that he built to take home and a lunch of pizza after.  I’m pretty sure he has let it go.

I only wish I could.

Today we arrived to find that we would be building two projects.  As my two were the only ones there (whoo hoo!), they handed my husband a kit.  One of the instructors asked if I would like one too.  The shame from last month overshadowing me, I said rather meekly, “Oh no, I don’t think so.”

However the other instructor, Mr. Tom, did not hear me.  He brought me a kit and a manual and told us we could start on our projects–a paper crimper.  Okay.  Sure.  I was very hesitant as I pulled out the 1 by 12 tech plates and bushings and so on.  But my confidence gained when my gears were moving together.  Could it be I was on the right track?  The Venus Flytrap in my mind whispered and giggled, “As if!”  Oh my.

But there it was.  The last step.  I was finished, and I was ready to attach the battery.  As I was the first one done, I had no idea exactly what it was supposed to look like.  I gave the switch a flip and voila!  It was running.  I was handed a pile of 1/4″ wide paper strips.  I ran one through.  Coolest. Thing.  Ever.  (or at least this morning)  So cool.  It came out all crimped up like those fancy strips you can buy to put in gift baskets or bags.  Awesome!  Win.  Soon all four of us were whirring paper through and laughing triumphantly.

Our Princess with her Lego paper crimper running smoothly

Our Princess with her Lego paper crimper running smoothly

Time to take it apart and build the second project–which was a stand for spiral art.  It spun a plate in circles while you held a marker in place.  Really cool art resulted.

As I was attempting to put the pieces back in their correct spot in the kit, I noticed a “Key to Difficulty” on the last page of the directions.  Wow, I thought.  I wonder how hard this one I just did was.  I was probably a little full of myself at this point, I have to admit.  I felt redeemed after last month’s failure.  I just wish my nephew had been there to see me.

I turned to the front cover.  A green dot.  What did that stand for?  I looked back.  Green dot.  Green dot.  Green.  Dot.  Oh my.  Easy.  (Facile)  Sigh.  My spirits sank.  I think I may heard the Venus Fly Trap snicker.  I tried to let that go, and I put the Spiral Art Stand together.  Again, no problem, and it was so much fun making the picture.  I did not even look at its level of difficulty.  I have a feeling I know.  And there is the looming feeling that perhaps my failure last month is the reason for this month’s projects’ levels of difficulty?

It was this evening when a couple of things came to mind.

If I had let last month’s failure keep me from participating this month, I would have missed out on an awful lot of joy this time around.  I mean, it was really, really fun.  Lesson #1.  As Mama and Daddy said, “Try, try again.”  (Or “When you fall off the horse, you have to get back on.” Literally, in my case.)  Pretty obvious, that one.  But for some reason I have to keep learning it.

When I saw the level of difficulty, I let some of the joy escape for a minute or two.  In a sense I was comparing myself to the “others” who set the skill level.  Daddy often said in his later years, “When you compare, you lose.”  Every.  Single.  Time.  Errahday.  Thank you, Daddy, for that reminder.  Lesson #2.

When we have failures, no matter how little, it is hard to get back in the game.  We tend to compare ourselves to how so-and-so or the generic “they” would have done it.   But I’m thinking tonight we should give ourselves grace in these situations.  Steps, even if they are baby ones, are still steps.  Some days that’s just as good as it can get.  And if we find joy in the “easy” or “simple,” so be it.  We should embrace that.  If it brings you joy, and it ain’t hurting anybody, don’t let anyone, especially not an old Venus Flytrap, tell you it’s not worth doing a jig over.  Take that joy and hold it close.  Joy don’t grow on trees, so when you do find some, treasure it.  Even if it’s VERY FACILE.

Joy and beauty with Legos.

Joy and beauty with Legos.