That’s Hilarious…..and Important

A few days ago I had the privilege of speaking with a most delightful fellow on the phone.  My little nephew, who just turned four, woke up from his nap and came in the room where my brother was on the phone with me.  The miles divide, but the heart does not.  Thankfully so.  When his Papa told him who he was talking to, the little guy got on the phone and said hello.

My brother was suffering with a pretty bad cold.  After we said our hey, how are you’s I asked my little friend about his father.  “So are you taking good care of Papa?  Since he’s sick?”

“Uh huh,” he said.  I could almost see his head nodding over the phone.

“Oh good,” I replied.  “I need you to take very good care of him, because I love him.  He’s my baby brother.”

“What?!” he exclaimed in disbelief.  He turned to my brother. “Papa, Aunt Tara says you are her baby brother!” He giggled as he relayed this silly idea.

“That’s right.  I am.  She’s my big sister,” I heard my brother say on the other end of the phone.

“What?!” my nephew repeated through his giggles.  “THAT’S HILARIOUS!!!!!”

Oh, the joy in hearing him erupt with laughter on the other end of the line!  Bless him, I miss my brother and his family.  The laughter was like a balm to my soul.

I’ve been thinking about that little guy and his shock and disbelief about our connectedness.  It was as though something like that had never even entered his mind.  About how we are joined together.  The string that connects us.

I am thankful for my nephew, his laughter, his joy, and his reminder that sometimes we might not know or remember just how much we are all–every single one of us–connected.  And oh–the joy and laughter that knowledge should bring.

Sometimes I think it’s easy to remember the things that divide us–those things tend to be so much easier to focus on, don’t they?

But wouldn’t it be nice if we had someone to remind us of that connectedness and laugh like a child with joy over that knowledge?

Hilarious.  And fabulous.

And one of the most important things to remember.

Love to all.

 

holding my hand

if we are all, as the writer Ram Dass says,
walking each other home
then I am so thankful that you are here
to listen when I laugh and when I cry
to take in my stories
and keep them safe

and when I lose my way,
it is you, always you,
who gently takes my hand,
just as you did when I was little–
I do remember–
and walks me back down the dirt road
to the little house
that holds all those we love
and their stories

all I can offer you in return
are eyes that see all the beauty you are
the sweetness of your soul
and the depth of your heart

and my hand
as we take turns walking each other
back up the path
to find what is sure to surprise all of us
at the end-shaped beginning

img_5280

playing make believe

when I was little
you sat down and played with me
in the midst of all the grownup stuff
you stepped away into my world
and we played
all the things
we were adventurers
royalty
bandits
horses
chefs
store clerks
teachers
and what I imagined
you made into reality
with a nod of your head
and your willingness to join in the story

and now
as you see things
and tell me of them
does the fact I can’t see them
make them any less real?
and so I join in
with you now
as your story is winding down
just as you did at the beginning of mine
and we play together
just as we once did
looking for the keys
to the Penguin
so we can get out of here

Keys

By Dirk Kohlmann (094 Uploaded by Anne-Sophie Ofrim), via Wikimedia Commons

blue

perhaps
that candle he said you should use
countless years ago
showed how unique and precious
he thought you to be

like one blue candle
in a sea of red
amidst the holiday festivities

maybe he was saying
you are a treasure
unlike any other

and I would agree

blue was his favorite
and so were you

Blue_candle

By John Harvey [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

The Secret to Making Biscuits

One of my favorite memories from this past holiday season happened less than two weeks ago.  On the day after New Year’s my brother Bubba taught my oldest, Aub, how to make Maemae’s biscuits.

She even stood on a stool beside him, just like she used to with her Maemae.

Bubba told us the story of how he learned. Years ago he went to Mama in the kitchen and told her he’d like to learn how to make her biscuits.  She said, “Well, go ask your Daddy.  He taught me how to make them.”

So he went and found Daddy.  He made his request of Daddy, who asked him if he knew what the ingredients were.  Bubba replied, “Buttermilk, flour, and shortening.”

Daddy nodded.

Then he shared the most important part of biscuit making there is.

“The thing you need to know, the secret to making biscuits, is to remember that any biscuit is better than no biscuits at all.  Because you are going to make some bad ones.  It will happen, before you can get good at it.  But any biscuit is better than none.”  Daddy paused for a second.  “Now go on in the kitchen and let your Mama show you how to make them.”

And so he did.

Bubba was known for his cathead biscuits when he was in college.  Apparently grad school too, as his sweet wife whom he met there shared that she might have had her head turned by his biscuit making abilities.

I don’t blame her.

That boy can flat out make some biscuits.

Well, now.

It wasn’t always the case, but remember, any biscuit is better than…..

well, you know.  It’s the secret to making biscuits.  But let’s keep it amongst ourselves, shall we?

Tonight I’m thankful for the passing along of this family legacy–the biscuit making.  I’m thankful for a brother who makes time to share the stories and the gifts that he was given, and I’m thankful for our time together over the holidays.  It was far too short and more precious than all the gold or winning that big ol’ jackpot folks keep talking about right now.

Family, stories, and biscuits.  It’s hard to have a bad day when you’ve got all three of those treasures.

Love to all.

img_1194

Bubba’s biscuits as he rolled them out on the pan.

 

img_1195

I tried to get a photo of the whole pan, but someone was too quick for me to do it.  They were that good!

img_1196

Cooter’s biscuit with honey.  Mmmmm mmmmm.  That’s good eatin’ right there.  

The Last Gift My Daddy Gave Me

There’s this thing on Facebook where nearly every morning I am greeted with a “memory” from one of the past four years, with the option to see all of my memories from this day in each year past.

This morning the face of my sweet cousin-in-law, who was pregnant in the picture from four years ago, started my day.  I smiled to think that just over four years ago we were at one of our family’s Fall Hootenannies and Turkey Egg Hunts.  And then I remembered.

As if I could really forget what this time of year was about four years ago and again two years ago.  It would be impossible enough to forget without Facebook’s prompting, but with it, I’m there.  Again.

Four years ago, my Daddy wasn’t doing so well.  He was worn out from his long battle with the Giant–Lymphoma.  It had taken away so much from him, but not his spirit.  And yet, he was growing weary.  When we talked about the upcoming gathering at his sister’s house about an hour or so north of here, he encouraged me to go.  Whether I wanted to admit it to myself or not, I knew things were changing.  I don’t think I realized just how short the time we had left together would be, but I knew Daddy was not healing as we had hoped.

It was the first Saturday in November, and my sisters had talked about coming down and being with Mama and Daddy for the day.  I thought I should be there too, but Daddy said no.  He thought I should go to see my aunts and uncles and cousins and let my children play and for us to have a great time as always.

Go, he said.  I’ll still be here.

Oh, Daddy.

Little did any of us realize at that gathering that exactly two weeks later, we’d be gathered in my Mama’s yard, not in the comfortable fall wear from before but in stiff shoes, shined bright, and slacks and dresses and combed hair.  We’d be loading up in cars to make the drive out to the little cemetery by the old church, where the gravestones read like our family tree.  And now there would be one more.

I though back on that today–Daddy sending me for a day of normal.  A day of extraordinary ordinary time with family.  His family.  Our people.  What a gift he gave me.  I think he was sending me to the arms of the ones he knew would carry me through the years to come.  He knew, my Daddy did, that time was short.  But he also knew that time would become long, and we would need each other to laugh and cry with, to celebrate and grieve with, and to share our stories.

Upon reflection, I look at Daddy and the way he lived and what he shared with me, and I realize that the greatest gift we can give our children is the chance to live a good story.  Multitudes of them, in fact.  They don’t have to be outstanding, but there’s nothing like a good story.  My Daddy lived them, he shared them, and he raised us smack dab in the middle of many a good story.  The next greatest gift we can leave our children is folks to share those stories with–whether family or friends or folks who are both.

And that’s what my Daddy was doing that day.  He wanted me and mine to have one more good story to put in our books.  He wanted us to be with those who share in so many of our stories, and who would walk with us through the hardest one of all.

In “An Affair to Remember” Deborah Kerr’s character says to Cary Grant’s:

IMG_0327

Tonight I’m thankful for the warm memories that come to me just as the coldest time of year is about to be upon us.  I’m thankful for the stories I’ve heard and the stories I’ve lived, and for the storytellers who raised me to appreciate both.  Tonight I marvel at the man who looked at me that day and knew exactly what I needed, and despite where he was on his journey, was unselfish and encouraged me to make that happen.  From the moment I took my first breath until the moment he took his last, he was the best Daddy that ever was, and in his wisdom, one of the last things he did was remind me to turn to our stories and the people in them for warmth and comfort and love.

Giving thanks for the memories…..

Love to all.

Looking Forward To…..

Such a lovely day today.  The sunshine.  The crisp fall leaves beneath our feet.  The colors of the trees, the faint smell of fall in the air.  The children ran as far as they could until they collapsed in a pile of arms and legs, laughing.  We explored the park, read the historical signs, the children played, and we adults talked about all and none of the important things.  Moments of conversation punctuated by laughter and shared stories and companionable silences, during which all that was unsaid was understood.

A picnic lunch under the trees wrapped up the morning.  The quiet except for the rustling of napkins and children chomping away was a testament to the energy expended and fun had. As goodbyes were said and pictures taken to remember, we all hugged and nodded, “Yes, we will do this again soon.”

After a brief afternoon slumber to recuperate and rejuvenate, we were off again.  To share coffee with friends and do gymnastics and visit with my sister and her family. Again with the storytelling and remembering and catching up.  I think my favorite moments in life will always be the ones where stories are told–whether I’ve heard them ten times before or not.  After a lovely supper and candles and cake and singing and wishing, we were headed for home and closing the house and the day up tight.

Such a lovely day to have a birthday.

Except that none of this is true.

And yet–it was still a day with lovely moments.

Poor Cooter.  He is a sick little fella.  Round two with this cold/allergy/upper respiratory MESS.  We are so over it.  (But not over it, if you get what I’m saying.) Our Princess had two bouts with it and came out a winner, but then she had the help of her inhaler.  Cooter has no such help.  He only has his secret weapon.  Me.

Bless him.

He wound up in the bed with me last night, which suits me fine.  I like to be able to hear them breathing and check for fevers and besides, when they are sick, it’s just so pitiful.  When he woke up this morning, he lay there for a while, looking at the ceiling or a book and then, suddenly, he popped up, “Hey!”  He looked really close into my eyes, “Today is your birthday, isn’t it?”  I nodded.  “Well, happy birthday!” he said, with his croupy little voice.  Then, “I’m sorry I’m messing it up by being sick.”

For the love.  Priceless.  No, buddy, no.

Tonight as I hugged our Princess good night, she said, “I am worried that I messed up your birthday.”

“How?”

“By playing too much Minecraft and not just sitting with you.”

Oh my stars.  Can’t you just picture that?  Let’s all celebrate my birthday by sitting around together.  And hanging out.  And just sitting here.  With folks glancing at their watches (okay, phones) to see how much longer is left in this. very. special. day.  Hoping it will be over soon so we can all return to our regularly scheduled way of living.

Ummm, no.  I assured her that I did not begrudge her the bit of time she had played her game.  No worries.  She smiled and hugged me once more (when did she get to be as tall as I am?) and headed off to bed.

Between the moments of my littles’ worries about my day, there were some very precious moments.  My children’s neighborfriends wishing me a happy birthday because a little birdie had told them it was.  A gift bag on my doorstep from my sweet neighborfriend.  Message after message from all the people from different parts of my story sending well wishes for the day.  Phone calls from people I love, offering to go get Ginger Ale or whatever we might need, offering to tote my non-sick child to her practice, offering best wishes and much love.  Seeing faces I love on the screen, live and recorded, thinking of me on this day of days.  Cards in the mailbox and old pictures coming out of the woodwork. And the laughter.  Yes.  That too.

Mama's Lucia Pepparkakor cookies, using her old birthday cake cookie cutter.

Mama’s Lucia Pepparkakor cookies, using her old birthday cake cookie cutter.

This evening I baked my Mama’s special fall cookies with her birthday cake cookie cutter.  She made those cookies for me so many times over the years.  I love the recipe, I love that cookie cutter, and I love remembering her hands making them.  I can see so clearly what the early morning on my birthday was like all those years ago–walking in to the dining room where my present was sitting in my chair waiting for me.  That is, until the year I told them I really didn’t like getting my present first thing in the morning.  I liked it better after supper–because it gave me something to look forward to all day.

Which is why my cards are sitting right there, waiting on me to finish writing to open them.  I’ve been looking forward to this all day.

So lucky to be so loved.

So lucky to be so loved.

And perhaps that is what I have learned today–that while much of birthdays can be about looking back and remembering those of years past, it is just as much about looking to the future.  Now that I’m a woman “of a certain age,” *ahem* I find myself a little braver, a little louder, a little less serious, and a lot more in touch with where I am right now.  And I’m looking forward to the wheres of tomorrow and a year from now and years beyond that.  Some days I’m just plain looking forward, and while things might be too far in the distance to see them clearly, I do know that I’m heading in the right direction.  Oh I’ll still glance backwards every now and again, there’s nothing wrong and everything right with that.  But I can’t live there, though goodness knows I’ve been tempted.

I am looking forward, because if life has taught me anything, it’s that there is so much waiting there for me at the end of the day.  So much to treasure and unwrap.  So much joy.

Love and happy everyday to all.

Bubba, the Lamb, and the Raspberries

A week or so ago I promised a story about my lamb Raspberry.  And so, true to my word, here it is.

Years ago, when I was 12 or so, I was in 4-H.  One of the activities we could participate in was raising a sheep for show.  I was all for it, and my Daddy was willing to help me, so we went to the auction.  The lamb I got had an 8 painted on his back, so I thought about calling him Eight Ball.  (My only friend with a two-story house also had a pool table, so I knew stuff–yessiree.)

After getting him home and in the pen Daddy had fashioned for him, my siblings were introduced.  My little brother Bubba, who was maybe 3 or 4, was fascinated with the gentle creature.  He helped me bathe him and lead him around with the rope.

One day Bubba came in the house with a couple of raspberries in his sweaty little hand.  He had picked them from the bushes out in the side yard–another 4-H project I think.  He offered them to Mama as a gift.  As she plucked them from his hand, she gushed with appreciation.  “Aren’t you kind to pick these and bring them to me?  What a sweet gift from a sweet boy.”  And then she popped them in her mouth and ate them with exaggeration, oohing and mmmmming.

“Oh good,” Bubba said, “’cause the lamb didn’t want them.”

Yep, turned out he’d offered those same berries to my lamb, who sniffed and mouthed at them but decided better of it.

And then my sweet Mama took my little brother in her arms, hid her disgusted face, hugged him and said, “Thank you very much for thinking of me.”

Ahem.

Bless her.

And from that moment on that story became part of our family lore, and the lamb who wanted none of the red jeweled berries earned that as his moniker.

Raspberry.

I miss my Mama.  You could give her a rock (and we often did), and she’d act like it was the greatest treasure on earth.  And no telling how many bookmarks I made her over the years, and she loved–and used–every single one of them.

Because she loved me.

That’s a big legacy to live up to.

May we all have someone who finds delight in whatever we have to offer, no matter how big or small, beautiful or not, previously “nibbled” or whatever–just loves it because they love us.

Love to all.

Raspberry and me--after he became Raspberry.

Raspberry and me–after he became Raspberry.

Duplicate Prints

My Mama’s cousin made time for a visit with us on Tuesday as she made her way back home to Florida after a trip to North Carolina.  It is always good to see her for many reasons, but especially because she reminds me so much of all the ones we love and miss.  And that we can love and miss them together.  So many stories we can share and laugh about.

She brought with her some pictures that her Mama, my great Aunt, had kept and put in albums over the years.  Pictures of us–some were from her trips up to see us, but many were ones Mama had sent her when we were little and ones I sent when my own Aub was small.

And the magic words came to mind:

Duplicate prints

Remember when we took film to the Mart and dropped it in an envelope after writing our name and address and phone number on it?  And those boxes–matte or high gloss and…..single or duplicate prints?

I seem to remember that the duplicates weren’t really too much more expensive than the single prints, so I usually checked duplicate.  I can remember the excitement of opening up the prints and going through, making a pile of the second prints to share with different folks.

And now, what a gift these all are…..put together in an album…..glimpses of my childhood and the beginning days of being a Mama…..almost twenty years ago.

Yes, I was moved to tears.  That my Great Aunt had saved them all those years and put them into albums, the love just shone through.  But most of all, I smiled and held the pictures and the memories in them close, thankful they’d been given to me all over again.

Me and my sheep, Raspberry.  How he got his name is a story for another night.  Loving the 70's fashion statement I'm making here--or early 80's.  It all sort of ran together.

Me and my sheep, Raspberry. How he got his name is a story for another night. Loving the 70’s fashion statement I’m making here–or early 80’s. It all sort of ran together.

Maybe 8 or 9 here.  About Cooter's age.  And speaking of my little guy.....it's possible that maybe he might actually look like me.  This is the first time I realized it.

Maybe 8 or 9 here. About Cooter’s age. And speaking of my little guy…..it’s possible that maybe he might actually look like me. This is the first time I’ve realized it.

My Mama, doing what made her happiest, loving on her grand baby--my big girl--this was almost 20 years ago.  Where has the time gone?

My Mama, doing what made her happiest, loving on her grand baby–my big girl–this was almost 20 years ago. Where has the time gone?

Tonight I’m thankful for visits and memories and stories from the past.  For laughter and tears and hugs and pictures taken to save a moment for always, I give thanks.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the people and the love that each story and picture holds.

Wishing you all someone to share duplicate prints with, and the delight of finding treasures from the  past.

Love to all.

oh, brother

It’s quite late, really, and I’m sure you’re already sleeping.
Worn out, tired, the good kind
that comes from chasing your three boys
and all the memory making you do together.

And so I will tiptoe down the hall
and just leave this outside your door
much as I did when you were new to us,
sleeping in the room with the door cracked
and I’d peep in to see your eyes closed
and watch you breathe.

Standing here in the dark
I wonder where the years have gone
from the moment I first saw your eyes so blue,
unblinking as we memorized each other’s hearts.

You, so tiny and frail,
with the strength of a little giant
have become a rock for me–
a safe place to lean when the journey
is hard
and too much to bear alone.

Your laughter echoes in my heart,
stirring up memories from days before it was cracked
by the pain of losing the ones we love–
memories of the days when we took long walks looking for rocks,
holding hands and waving at folks in cars
as they passed by
like the years,
way too fast.

I was walking at sunset this evening,
watching the shadows get longer,
and your words from this afternoon came to me
again
and I smiled.

It is good to be known
and loved
and to know that someone
has my heart surrounded, holding the
hounds of darkness and hurt at bay.

Your voice holds a thousand memories,
and I smile at the memory of when I used to chase
the dark away for you.
Hours spent up late talking, whispering long after
all the others had fallen asleep.
The wee hours are sometimes the best.

And so are the wee ones
who grow up
and become the greatest of people.

Sleep well,
for dawn will stir your boys
and you will be off again.

But for now,
thank you.

For–
everything.