When You Can, Do This

The Fella went on a trip to do the do that he does.  For three and a half weeks.  He was scheduled to come home today.

He did not come home as scheduled.

I’ve had this day circled in my mind, my heart, and with everything that has gone wrong around here–I’ve counted down the days.

The backed up kitchen sink.

The brand new washing machine flooding water on the laundry room floor.

The vacuum cleaner belt broken.

The dryer running hot, and therefore, not at all.

Each thing, I’d say–we can do this.  For 21 more days, fifteen, ten, six, two, and then yesterday morning I woke up thinking, “One more day.”

I almost cried.

We’ve had some good times while he’s been gone.  Cooter tried out and made the swim team.  The littles wrapped up their summer gymnastics fun.  Aub got an A in her summer class, and worked out continuing her summer job she loves so much as a Fall internship.  We’ve visited with friends and family and eaten breakfast for supper and lots of yogurt and pizza.  We’ve gone and gotten peaches, and I’ve put nearly all of them up in the freezer.  The littles have played at their cousin’s, and Aub and I’ve had a couple of “Big Girl” days.  All in all, we’ve not only survived, but we’ve lived.

However, this day, today, that I had circled in my mind, was the day I was going to pass the reins over to another adult and sit down and take a long needed deep breath.  (Oh and someone else would be taking out the garbage. Yay.)

Yesterday afternoon, after the crew and I had been out running errands, doing our day to dailies, I was tidying up in the house a little.  The littles and Aub were scattered around the rooms, doing different things, when the phone rang.  Our Princess answered, calling out that it was Daddy, and then she talked for a minute or two.  After that she handed the phone to Cooter.  I was back and forth between the room they were in and the kitchen.  When I walked back in, Cooter was off the phone.

“Did you hang up?”  He can get easily distracted, so it would have been like him to be so distracted his Daddy would say he’d just call back later.

“No,” Cooter said.  “He said he had to go.”

Huh.  Well, that was weird.  He didn’t want to talk to me?!  I was working up my indignation, when Anxiety Girl whispered that maybe the plane had broken down and he was trying to come up with a way to tell me he wouldn’t be home on time.

I walked back into the kitchen and heard Aub coming in from the garage.  I wondered why she’d gone out there.  I also wondered why she was closing the door so carefully instead of tossing it shut like she and I usually do.  I was about to call her out for doing that, saying that it made me think the Fella had come home early, when I realized I saw her feet in the recliner.

And I saw my Fella standing in the doorway.

With the biggest grin on his face.

We don’t have to go into detail about my expression (goofy), but the only words I could get out were, “What are you doing here?”

And then chaos and laughter and “gotcha’s” ensued.

Seems that the original return home date was only for the first few days of him being gone.  It was then backed up to Friday and had been for about three weeks.

And he kept the secret this whole time.  Every time I’d say “so, Saturday the 2nd, right?” calculating how much more I could handle without losing my cool or how I could do laundry considering and so on–he would reply, “Yep, if the plane takes off on time.”

Ha.

That man had the biggest grin on his face the whole afternoon and evening.  Pretty pleased with himself he was.  At one point I looked over, glad he was home–he had already fixed the dryer, thank goodness–and I asked, “What were you even thinking?”

And he said, “Well, I figured you were due for a good surprise.”

Yessir.  I think I pretty much was.  We all were.  And that he struggled to keep his secret for that long (and believe me, as much as I asked him about it–and even three days ago said “just go get on a plane and come home early”–it had to have been a struggle) makes it pretty awesome.

Tonight I’m thankful that all that fell apart while he was gone, including emotions and worries and vacuum cleaners, have all pretty much been repaired.  Now we are all catching up on sleep and preparing to say goodbye to summer together.

Which is really when we are at our best.  When we’re together–all five of us.  Oops, six–sorry, Miss Sophie. I’m pretty sure she thought something really bad had happened to him the way she refused to let me out of her sight.

If you ever get a chance to give someone a good surprise, big or small, do it.  Please.  There are far too few of those in this lifetime.

Wishing you all something that makes you smile so much you just about can’t stop.

Love to all.

the discernible path

of all the things
I want to be remembered for
as the stories of who I was
and how I lived
and what I cooked
and how I raised my people
are told long after I am gone

the one thing I don’t want to be
remembered as
is a silent witness

I come from
people who lived
and loved
and cooked
and farmed
and built
and wrote
and painted
and created
and noticed
and told stories
and played
and worked
and laughed
and comforted
and left footsteps worthy of following

but not a one of them
was a silent witness
of what they saw and heard

they stood up for what was right
and refused to be a part of what was not

and now as I whirl and spin
sometimes lost
seeking the way I should go

though it has been years
and the wind has come
and storms have ravaged
and the sun has beat down unmercifully
upon their dusty path

the imprint they left
is still discernible

and so I go forth
trying to live as they did
not silent
never silent

speaking
out
standing
strong
bending
but not breaking
as I continue
along the way

Michael Dibb [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Michael Dibb [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

“Grandmothers Are Very Good Cooks”

Last Sunday we spent the day at Lake LBJ in Texas.  My Fella’s aunt and uncle have a house there, and his parents, siblings, and their families all joined us there for a day of hanging out, visiting, and having fun.

The day was warm but not too hot.  The water was just right, and wasn’t much over two feet for a good ways out.  A beautiful day of merry memory-making.  Laughter, story-telling, looking through old photographs, good food, and time together.  Priceless.

At one point, Cooter came up and asked me if we would be eating supper there.

“Yes, buddy, we are.”

“Oh YAY!” he all but shouted, complete with fist pump.  I laughed in surprise.

“Why are you so excited?” I had to ask.

“Because I can’t wait to see what we are having.” He looked very serious. “Grandmothers are very good cooks.”

Bless him.  Yes, baby boy, they are.  And yours was one of the best.

I’m so glad he knows and remembers.

I love that he saw his great Aunt and immediately saw a Grandmother.  He was drawn to her and she doted on him too.  A little while after he finished his supper, he came up and asked me if he could please have an ice cream sandwich.  Behind him was his Great Aunt K, standing there with her hands and face begging with a smile to PLEASE let him have one.

And of course he could.  Ice cream sandwiches and grandmothers–those are two of life’s great joys.

This Sunday is a day of remembering and honoring.  Many folks will be feeling the pain of loss on this day.  It will be my fourth one without my Daddy here with us, and just writing that blows my mind.

Instead of being sad though, I’m going to give thanks for the ones who step in when there’s a space.  Who listen and show compassion and offer a smile, a hug, or an ice cream sandwich or strawberry frozen yogurt when there’s someone to love right there in front of them.

Folks like Great Aunt K, my Aunt, my knitting diva friend and her dapper Fella, my sisterfriend’s Grandma and so many others.  They don’t try to fill the shoes of those who are no longer here, but they sure do fill the hearts of those who are.

And for that I give thanks.

For his wisdom and how my little guy sees the world, I am very thankful.  I give thanks for those who love the ones who are theirs and also the ones who aren’t.  Because, in the end, don’t we really all belong to each other?

And in the words of my Mama, “Happy Everyday!”

Love to all.

The Healing Power of Batman and Bandaids

It’s been a very busy weekend full of swim meet activities and birthday parties and listening to live music. While we wrapped up our Princess’ swim meet (day 2) activities yesterday, Cooter went to Mess Cat’s house to play with Shaker. He was “Guess What”ing me the whole drive home afterwards. Obviously, he had a great time.

As we were getting ready to leave Evening Prayer last night, he wasn’t feeling good. He started complaining about his stomach and his head. I couldn’t determine whether he was really hungry or nauseated. I moved us post-haste to the car and towards home, handing him a cookie and a trash can for the trip–trying to cover all of my bases. He ate the cookie and continued to moan and cry out and in general make me wonder if we would actually make it home before he threw up. Or worse.

We got home and I ushered him inside and together we sat. We camped out on the couch together until he started lounging so much that I moved him to the recliner. I gave him ginger and ginger ale and still nothing happened. Except the moaning. And the worry.

I can do that like nobody’s business.

As in if it were an Olympic sport…..
gold medalist right here.

He had bumped his head at the swim meet on Saturday. Though he’d done fine that evening and all day Sunday, I started questioning if maybe something wasn’t bad wrong. If I should take him to the Med Stop or something.

And then he asked for crackers.

Okay. Okay. That helped my feelings.

He ate a few and continued to sip on his ginger ale. We turned on the TV in the hopes of distracting him, and it did seem to lift his spirits. At one point in the show he started laughing really hard–pretty sure it was some bathroom humor. He’s eight after all.

That was when I breathed a little bit, and his big sister smiled.

“Awwww Fweetie, are you feeling better?”

When our Princess was little she called everyone Sweetie, only we heard it as “Fweetie.” She would use it especially in those tender moments, “Oh Fweetie, don’t cry, it will be okay.”  *pats back of Fweetie*

Because she would get booboos of various kinds–both real and imagined–she got a lot of bandaids when she was small. They were magical, curing all the pains and hurts and owies almost immediately. So much so that when she got a tummy ache, she thought her tummy needed a bandaid as well.

So last night when Aub asked Cooter that question, he smiled a little. Then he sighed.

“No, my tummy still hurts really bad.”

She hopped up and went into the kitchen. When she came back, she was carrying a bright yellow bandaid. “Here, Fweetie, this will make it all better.” And she put it smack dab in the middle of his little belly.

That got a laugh out of him. A good laugh.
And that was good for my worried heart.

As one by one all the others went to bed, I decided to find something that Cooter would enjoy watching since it didn’t look like either one of us would be settling in for sleep soon. I kept hoping the discomfort would ease up enough that he could go to bed, or at least sleep in the chair, but each time I thought it might happen, he’d start up again about how bad either his head or his stomach hurt.

It was then that I remembered I had recorded the old 1966 Batman movie with Adam West. I decided to give it a try. I figured it would be appropriate–cheesy maybe, but not offensive.

I am so glad I did.

From the moment the movie started, I had a different child on my hands. He was still a little puny, but he was watching and paying close attention and calling out from time to time, “What?! Does everything have to be bat something or other?”

Holy repetition, Batman, why yes it does.

As it got later, Cooter still didn’t want me to leave him alone, even just long enough to get a shower, but halfway into the movie he barely nodded when I said I was going to shower. He was entranced.

Yes, I let him stay up and watch the whole movie. Way too late. But doing just that made him ready to get in his own bed when it was over, and while he still wasn’t 100 percent, he definitely felt much better.

And this morning his little face was the first one I saw, staring me in my eyes.

“Breakfast. I need food.”

Color this Mama thankful.

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I am thankful for a beautiful weekend of unexpected twists and turns and grace abounding. I appreciate the whole family working together to make things good for all. Most of all, I am thankful for a well little guy today and for the healing power of Batman and Bandaids.

If only all ailments and woes were so easily fixed…..

Wishing you all a day with no hurts that can’t be covered by a bandaid.

Love to all.

Pumping Gas in My Pajamas…..

I put on my purple plaid “silly pants,” aka pajama bottoms, and I got in the car.  It was as I was backing out of the driveway that I realized I needed gas if I were going to get to my destination.  There was no time to go back in and change.  So it happened–I pumped gas in front of God and everybody in my pajama bottoms.

This wasn’t a dream.  It actually happened Friday afternoon.  Fortunately, I am over the age of 40, and I just about didn’t care if folks stared at me in my silly pants pumping gas at the gas station next to the only traffic light in my little town.  These things happen, right?

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I was invited to be a part of the 14th Annual Storytelling Festival at Wesleyan College, my alma mater, and we were encouraged to wear our pajamas.  It was an honor to be asked to come back home and be a part of it, but it was bigger than that.  It was a chance to share stories.  Stories about the people I love, where I come from, why I am who I am.  And all of the laughter and tears that go with that.

Despite the traffic-stopping gassing up, the littles and I were only a couple of minutes late.  The attendees–students, professors, staff, and their children–were getting snacks and playing with the balloons spread out over the blankets under the half tent made of sheets.  It was such a fun setting, and here’s the cool thing.

This event?  This evening of storytelling?  This was the FINAL exam for an education class.

How awesome is that?

I was so impressed when I learned that.  The fact that the professor values hands-on application of the learning instead of mere regurgitation of the facts–that is huge.  Once again, I was overwhelmed in a moment of gratitude that my daughter chose this college.

The evening was delightful.  The students shared their stories–from personal and true to tales from homelands to fables.  Funny, magical, exciting, and intriguing.  A staff member told a story impromptu, because when students all team up and beg you, well, what else can you do?  He did extremely well, and his story was in Cooter’s Top 2 pick.  Another alumna told her story, one that she said her own students ask to hear regularly.  Absolutely hilarious.  The one shocker of the evening was when she asked for songs you listen to, no one said, “Let It Go.” Considering the age range of the young girls there, well, I was very surprised.  Especially since it is still our Princess’ favorite.  The woman who shared her story about her brother and “got to get the enemy”–she had us all interacting and saying the right thing on cue–it was adorable.  She was adorable.  And her story alone made Cooter, only one of three or four males in the entire room, very glad he went.

Just after the intermission, it was my turn.  I learned many, many years ago when I was in 4-H not to write out what I’m going to say in public.  Outline, yes.  Work it out in my head, absolutely.  Write it down word for word–epic FAIL, guaranteed.  This was what happened when I was headed to Rock Eagle for our District Project Achievement.  I had my whole presentation written on note cards, word for word.  Only when we prepared to leave from school–I could not find my cards.  I spent much time after our arrival trying to rewrite the thing.  The words were gone.  Once I put them down on paper, I couldn’t recall them at all.  From then on, whenever I was planning on public speaking, I just made notes in a semi-outline form, and winged it from there.

So the day before the festival, I sat down and jotted down the main parts, a few key words, of the stories I wanted to share.  I even copied them on yellow paper, in honor of the senior class, in the hopes that my “class spirit” would distract the audience from the fact that my memory isn’t what it used to be, and I needed a crutch–just in case.

Turns out, when I got up there, I didn’t need the crutch.  I put the card on the chair with my props (yes I am a sucker for bringing the story to life with visual aids–goes back to my storytime days with the library), and I never looked at it again.  The stories from years past at Blackberry Flats came to life in front of my eyes, as I told about the cedar trees and cutting the grass and our old school lawn mower and the snake in the tree and my Mama.  Oh, Mama.  I wish she had been there.  She could bring a storybook to life like nobody else I’ve ever heard.  My Daddy though–I can recall long afternoons of sitting and listening to him and my Granny telling stories about our family.  Friends.  Folks in town.  It was a sharing of the history.  Of how things used to be.  As I grew older, I loved even more to hear Daddy share with us the tales of folks like Grandma Jane from so many years ago.  And about the old high school.   And the Easter baskets he and my Uncle dug for themselves out in the yard on Easter Eve.  So many great stories.  So many words released into the air to wrap around another’s heart and be locked up tight for later reflections, time and time again.

I come from a long line of storytellers.  I didn’t really think about that until later last night, sitting in the quiet of the memory of the evening.  I love putting the words together and recording them for my children to read at their leisure later in their lives.  But what I realized last night is that stories are alive, and they beg for breath and to be told and heard and felt in a way that only sharing aloud can make happen.

In that moment, sharing the stories with people–some whom I knew, some I had never met–we shared something else.  Our hearts.  Our quirks.  Our hopes and fears and what we find funny.  We shared a moment of togetherness, of connection.  And in that moment, I was home in a way I’ve never felt before.  My folks and their stories and the very essence of who they were swirled around me in the room, and for a moment, they were there.  The stories gave them life and breath once more, and it was exhilarating.

As the evening came to a close, I saw where my Fella had texted in response to my simple text: “Here.”  He too used one word: “Fun?”  As we got in the car to head home, I wrote back: “Beyond fun.  I now know what I want to be when I grow up.”

When I walked in the door from our wonderful evening of sharing stories and laughter and fun, my Fella looked at me and said, “So what is it you want to be?”

A couple of weeks ago, my friend Lisa at My So-Called Glamorous Life: The Adventures of a Domestic Engineer introduced me in her blog as a “master storyteller.”  To be honest, I was gobsmacked.  And honored.  It brought tears to my eyes.  I wasn’t sure that it fit just yet, but I knew when I read those words that I want to be just that–a master storyteller.  My Daddy and my Granny were two of the best.  They could weave a tale that would capture the imaginations out of one strand of yarn.

And last night only served to validate that desire.

I want to be a master storyteller.

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Tonight I sat around the fire pit with Mess Cat and Aub while our Princess, Cooter, and Shaker chased each other around the yard.  We caught up and talked about what had been going on in our lives.  We shared memories of years past, and we laughed until we just about cried.  While sitting there, I realized that deep down inside all of us is a master storyteller.  We all come from folks who used to sit around the fire swapping tales.  And for the past two evenings, I’ve rediscovered the joy of doing just that–fun, entertaining, meaningful, and connecting folks–all without a device or gadget in sight.

Last night when I arrived at Wesleyan, the young woman who had invited me told me they were being graded for their final.  I had a horrible flashback to all dreams I’ve had, like one does, of showing up in class in my pajamas not ready for the test that was about to be handed out.

That makes me laugh.  I was in my pajamas, back in college, and there was a test.  But you know what?  I think I am ready.  For the next step–for becoming a storyteller and giving life to the things I write.  I am not sure where the journey is headed, but I know I’m ready.

After all, it’s who I come from.  A long line of storytellers.

Love to all.

Leroy’s “New” Plant

Tuesdays often find me driving down the very first driveway I ever drove on.

The one at Blackberry Flats.

Home.

Once again life and laughter and love fills the house and the yard and the spot beneath the Scotch Pine–and all up its branches as the children climb and play, hardly able to be seen from our spot sitting on the porch–now Mess Cat’s and Leroy’s porch.

When I walked up towards the house yesterday, I saw a pot with a plant in it.  For a second I thought, Oh well, isn’t that nice?  Leroy got a new plant.

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He’s got all the landscaping skills.  I love seeing what he has added and enhanced.

But this, after a second of appreciation, this one confused me.  Because–well, there’s a story there.

My Daddy often gave gifts that were out of the ordinary.  On Easter he gave us children mechanical pencils.  At Christmas he picked out music he loved and wanted us to hear.  He’d often share a book he thought we needed to read.  One Valentine’s Day he gave us daughters pretty colored tights.  The purple was especially lovely–I can still see them in the clear plastic ball.  And for Mama, he got roses.  But not in a vase.  In a pot.  With soil.  And he planted it by the back steps.

Many years later, when age and genetics slowed them both down, Mama decided to add a back porch to the house, complete with a ramp to make it easier for Daddy to go places.  Daddy nodded, and it came to be.  But before the steps were moved and the porch was built, the rose simply had to be moved.  And so it was that Leroy came in and did just that.  He moved it down to the other end of what would be the porch.

But this rose, like their love, had very, very strong roots.  And one day, as Mama and I were sitting on the swing on the porch, I noticed little leaves coming up through the crack between the floorboards.

“Mama, what do you reckon that is?”

She looked closely.  And then we looked at each other, realizing what had once been there.  “The rose!”

Now how it continued to grow after Leroy dug it up and moved it was a mystery.

But a lovely one, to be sure.

Mama cut it back a little and tried to get cuttings from it, but she allowed it to adorn the porch.  And it continued to grow.  It intrigued me.

Recently Leroy went under the porch to see if he could figure out what to do about it since spring was here and it was popping its head up through the floorboards again, despite his cutting it back.

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And this was the solution he came up with.

He’s tried cutting it back, and he thought about digging it up again, but in the end, Leroy decided to go with “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

And I love it.

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I mean, I really, really love this.  You know he’s a good man when he will put a hole in his porch to accommodate a living thing like that.

And that rose?  What a beautiful reminder of the strength of the love of the two who started it all.  And the spirit of new life and hope rising up after all that time in the dark and brokenness.

May we all find the strength and persistent spirit to climb up out of our own darkness towards the light and shine with all our being.

Love to all.

 

And Now, Only the Stories Remain…..and the Echoes of the Laughter

A phone call can change everything, you know?

It can change your plans, your evening, your thoughts, and your life.

I was just now sitting down to write about the bird we saw today, when I got a call that did just that.

My godfather, the man who is responsible for my existence (he introduced my parents), passed on from this world to the Next One yesterday evening.

Oh my heart.

I don’t ever remember him not being in my life.  He was like a refreshing summer breeze, blowing through and bringing all kinds of laughter and stories and sheer joy with him.

Uncle Chesh (short for Cheshire) attended college with my parents.  He was friends with both Mama and Daddy, who had never met.  He called Daddy “The Joyner.”  And he shared some of “The Joyner’s” writings with my Mama before she had even laid eyes on him.  I’m pretty sure Mama loved him before they ever met.  She was blown away by what she read, and Uncle Chesh knew it.  He arranged for their first meeting to be at the laundromat, but my memory might have failed me here.  I suppose I could skip over the part where Mama looked up (her 4’11” to his 6 feet) at Daddy at this first meeting, and said, “I believe I could fall madly in love with you, Mr. Joyner.”  But I won’t.

Because that’s how it all began.  Thanks to Uncle Chesh.

With a wedding planned, he wanted to get them something nice as a wedding gift.  And he did.  A real classy gift.

A set of dishes to start them out in their new home.  Perfect.

But this wouldn’t be an Uncle Chesh story if the backstory weren’t even better.

See, he was a college student.  So he found a way to get them dishes on his limited income.  The gas station had a deal where with every fill-up you could get another dish.

One fill-up at a time, Uncle Chesh got them that set of dishes.

I love that man.

He was right tickled with himself when, at my brother’s wedding back in ’05, he brought his gift.  A set of dishes.  This time not from the gas station, but the story goes that he did have to visit a few different Targets to get enough place settings.

Oh me.

I was the one who first told Uncle Chesh that his dear friend was sick with lymphoma.  The heartbreak in his voice was more than I could take.  He made sure he went over to visit Mama and Daddy when they had to stay in Atlanta while Daddy had his treatments.  And it was Uncle Chesh who came into town less than a week before Daddy left this world, planning a fried catfish dinner because he knew that was something that Mama and Daddy would both like.  He filled the house with laughter and regaled us with tales of his past adventures.  Some stories we knew, some we didn’t.  But it didn’t matter.  That he was there and that, one more time, the sound of his and Daddy’s laughter echoed off the walls were the greatest gifts he could have given us.

I was the one who called to tell him that Mama was gone.  He cried.  He loved them both so much, just like family because he is family.  He wanted to come to the services, just as he had with Daddy, but his own health wasn’t good.

And now–

too soon.

My heart is breaking.

But I did get one good laugh in tonight, when I realized the timing of everything.  Yesterday evening, I found myself wanting to paint–and a picture of the Cheshire Cat came to my mind for no good reason.  Only now I know it was for a very good reason.  I’d like to think that was my Uncle Chesh popping in with his big ol’ grin to say goodbye.  For now.

Because he was on his way.  To someplace better.

And then there’s this.

Yesterday, the day Uncle Chesh passed on, was my Daddy’s birthday.  And if that ain’t just like Uncle Chesh, showing up to surprise my Daddy for his birthday! Because that was his way–on many occasions over the years we’d get a call out of the blue: “Hey, I’m at the Waffle House about two hours down the road, I’ll be by there in a couple.  Can’t wait to see y’all.”

I bet that was a humdinger of a hootenanny my Daddy had for his 73rd birthday yesterday.

I just hope somebody was serving some Waffle House coffee.  Because I have a feeling they were gonna be up a while catching up, and well, it was my understanding that’s where Uncle Chesh told some of his greatest stories.  Over a cup of Waffle House’s best.

To the man who stole my heart from the moment I first met him, and without whom I would not be here–

thanks for the laughter, the hugs, the encouragement, the stories, and the love.

Until then…..

I miss you.

love always,

t

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My Uncle Chesh doing what he did best–making me laugh and sharing his love of life with all around him.

 

the last one home

there is little better feeling than being the last one home

the last one to return to the roost where we all grew our wings

the lights on, hearts and stories waiting until all are there

and the smiles grow brighter

hugs are given and given again

and last just a moment longer than they used to

laughter accompanies the threats of telling that one story

that everyone already knows anyway

 

all await me behind the blinds with the light peeping through the cracks

beckoning me to their warmth

their affection the perfect protection from the cold chill

and darkness of the journey

 

all those I love and hold dear

tucked away inside,

piled up on every chair and cushion

and even curled up on the floor

 

plates are full

and so are the hearts

of those I love

and cannot wait to see

a sight for sore eyes

it’s been far too long

 

there is little better feeling than to be the last one home

unless it’s being the first one there, waiting,

anticipating

all the joy that is to come

 

Sharing Stories Around the Picnic Table

On New Year’s Day, over Maemae’s Swedish Christmas Ginger Cookies in the shapes of Star Wars characters with a side of sparkling cider, I got to share stories with my nephews and my littles.  They sat around the picnic table I bought and brought home and painted on one of the occasions the Fella was out of town years ago.  Bless him, he never knows what he’ll be coming home to.

It was a beautiful day to sit by the fire and share stories.  I suppose I had an ulterior motive, but too many stories left this world with first my Daddy and then my Mama, so when I have the chance, I’m gonna tell ’em and they’re gonna listen.

We talked about superheroes.  This crew knows their stuff.  They named several I had no idea whom they were talking about.  Superheroes are cool, able to do amazing things that we can’t.  I remember thinking about what one superpower I’d want if I were offered such as that–it would be to be able to discern at a glance whether any food allergens were present.  But that’s another story.

Then we talked about real-life heroes and how they were real whereas the superheroes were not.  They named the standard police men and women, fire and rescue teams, ambulance drivers, military members, sheriffs, teachers, doctors, nurses…..and so on.  They had this down too.

I told them I wanted to tell them about two of my heroes.   Our Princess piped up, “Maemae and Cap!”  (Way to mess with my momentum, baby girl.)  I looked down at her, eyes blinking, for a moment.  She smiled and shrugged. “You told me they were your heroes one time.”

Well, she’s right.

They are.

I explained to this bunch of little people who had just had such an awesome week playing and imagining and running around together that the two people they all had in common are my heroes.

“You know why?”

The shook their heads.

“Because they were kind.  They didn’t leave anyone out.  They loved everyone.  What’s the first thing Maemae always did when you walked in her back door?”

My brother’s oldest piped up, “Give you a hug!”

Spot on.  Absolutely right.  That woman loved her hugs.  Giving and receiving them.

Before I could nod and confirm his answer, his younger brother shouted, “Ask you to take off your shoes!”

Ha.  Well yes.  Yes, she did.

And that was another thing that makes my parents my heroes.

They took care of what they had.  We did not grow up in a disposable household.  There was none of this, “oh well it’s okay if it breaks, we’ll just get another one.”  You took care of what you had–clothes, shoes, books, toys, dishes, everything–or you didn’t have it.

My parents were good stewards.  They saved and when they did spend it was well thought out and rarely on something frivolous.  They were good stewards of their money, of their home, of their time, of the land, of their children.

They took care of their things and of others.

And there was one more story I wanted to tell my little people.

“They also told the truth.  They spoke up for what was right, and what came out of their mouth was the truth, no matter how hard it was for them to stand up for ‘right.’  No matter how unpopular it made them.”

And now, as a parent, I can respect that so much more than when I was an embarrassed teenager.

A few weeks ago, my crew and I were watching an episode of “Girl Meets World.”  The daughter was struggling because, as a middle school student, she wanted to be popular with the “in” crowd.  In defense of her changed behavior and dress, she told her mom, “I’m popular with at least five people.”  Her mom (Topanga, for those of you who remember “Boy Meets World”) replied, “Well is one of those five you?”

Well.

That kind of truth is what I was raised with.  Speaking truth and living true to who we are.

It is interesting that to this day, the ones I hold in highest regard and admire as heroes (a word I don’t use lightly) are kind, take care of all that is around them, and speak the truth, no matter how difficult that may be.

After I shared about why Maemae and Cap are my heroes, the littles had their own stories to share.  It was neat to hear the memories all the littles had of my parents, their grandparents, and it was just as important for me to listen to their stories as it was for them to hear mine.  I think that is what family does best, when they sit down together and just “be”–they carry on the stories for those who have yet to come to hear.

Wishing you all someone to share your stories with, and someone to share their stories with you.  Those are really the only things no one can take away from us.

Love to all.

 

 

the little boy who’s all grown up

the little guy who taught me all about little guys

is no longer little

the one who brought cars and trucks into our toybox

(I already had the tractors)

now drives one of his own

filled with his precious family

 

the one who took my hand as we walked and talked

down the old road near the homeplace

now takes my heart and listens

and shares his words of wisdom

that sound more and more

like those of our Daddy

 

the one who held my firstborn when he was still so young

now watches as that grown baby girl holds his baby boy

and the two of them laugh together

and take selfies and

the little boy who’s all grown up

and I

look on

 

when did the baby boy

become one of my best friends,

when did he stop keeping me up late with

all the silliness

just to see my eyes droop and hear me talk nonsense

and become the man who sits and shares stories

and joys and worries and all the life thoughts

until the wee hours of the morning?

 

this person who will always be my baby,

yet who is taller and stronger and perhaps even wiser than I

(though there’s no need to tell him that right now)

and who, as we both tried to do something yesterday,

when I said,

“sorry, just trying to fix it, that’s what I do”

replied,

“yeah, me too”

and in that moment

I saw how much more alike we are becoming

than we’ve ever been before

 

and I give thanks

for I need his strength

and laughter

and I love that he still wears the worn out blue jeans

and t-shirts

and goes barefooted in the middle of winter

and chases the children around

 

last night he packed his Matchbox cars and children

into his big car and prepared to head back home

the little boy who once lived down the hall

now lives way too far away

 

as I said “goodbye” and wept

the tears fell unapologetically

for I know that life, it’s too short

and I know that, despite everything,

we all need to be known well

and loved anyway

 

and that baby boy, the one with the jet black hair

and big green eyes

who changed our world

when he came home to a house full of sisters,

he knows my faults and my flaws and

what the inside of my microwave looks like

and how quirky I can be

and for whatever reason, he says my name and he loves me

 

the little guy who isn’t so little anymore

he’s grown into the space he owns inside my heart,

the space he’s owned since the first time he wrapped his fingers around mine

and today it feels a little empty

as does the house

as the laughter and stories we shared echo in my heart and mind

 

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