The Best Kind of Gifts

This afternoon after going out on a few holiday jaunts, the littles and I came home.  They never made it in the house, as they saw their friends out playing in the neighborhood and took off to join them.

As it was growing darker, I walked down to my neighbor’s house to call the children home.  I saw Cooter and two of his friends working on something inside of the garage.

And Cooter was carrying this.

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Cooter’s buddies know him. His reputation as a stellar Star Wars fan might have gotten out. What a thoughtful and wonderful gift!

Turns out the three boys decided to “build” Christmas gifts for each other.  Two of them would create something for the third, and they all took turns until all three of them had a present.  When I walked up Cooter and J were finishing up a football “helmet” for their buddy A.  To some it might have looked like a box with holes cut out of it, but to those little guys, it looked like a helmet.

To me, it was beautiful.

And so much fun.

No electronics required.

I love imagination powered fun.  And when giving to others is involved…..well, it just about doesn’t get any better than that.

Tonight I’m giving thanks for the blessing of living on this little street where the children come in when the streetlights come on and pack in as much fun and adventures before that happens as they can.  I’m thankful for the blessing of the friendships between the neighbors and their families.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the spirit of giving and cooperation I saw tonight.

Our future, y’all.  I think we’re going to be all right.

Love to all.

 

The One About What Really Matters

All last weekend I could hear the joyful sounds of laughter and conversation as all the girls from our street and one who used to live here gathered on our front porch, making “potions” and “perfumes” and all kinds of things.  Using wood, old chimes from a wind chime, baskets, all kinds of leaves and holly berries, and very active imaginations, the girls went at it as though they had mortar and pestle.  Mashing and grinding and laughing and singing and concocting.  They were having all the fun.

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I stepped outside to say hello at one point, and the youngest girl on our street was holding a big ol’ basket in her arms.  Her smile though–that and her blue eyes would warm anyone’s heart.  She set it down and went back to work with the others.  I turned to go back inside when the basket’s contents caught my eye.

Oh.  No.

It was filled–FILLED–with buds.  Beautiful closed buds from my camellia.

Oh my heart.  I guess I made a sound, probably a distressed one, and that sweet girl looked up at me with her blue eyes.

“Where did y’all get those?” I asked, when I finally found my voice.

“Over there,” she said, pointing at–yes–my camellia.

“Oh.  Ummm.  Okay.” I paused.  Hold it together, hold it together.  “Well, could y’all not pick anymore of those please,” I said to all the girls.  “They won’t bloom if they’re not on the bush. I mean, it’s fine and all,” I hurriedly said, as eyes got bigger, “but just maybe not anymore?”

“Oh, don’t worry, Mama,” our Princess said.  “We left the ones at the top that we couldn’t reach.”

Oh.  Well.  In that case.

*sigh*

So my poor taller than I am camellia with just a few buds left at head height was on my mind and heart all that evening.  I could hear my Mama’s voice, gently reminding me over the years.  People are what count.  Not things.  And I’m certain she would add, not flowers.

Eh.  I would likely have lost a lot of them in a good freeze anyway.

Tuesday I had a busy day, and my Fella took the helm.  While I went from an appointment to a meeting, he hung out with the littles and had them helping him take care of some much needed yard work.  I had started trimming our Lora Pedlum in the front flowerbed two months ago while the Fella was gone for work, but I could only get so high using my pruning shears without a ladder.  And I refused to get on a ladder without an adult close by to call 911 when I fell.  (Because yeah, it was bound to happen.)  So it was in desperate need of trimming all around, especially on top, as were some other shrubs.  There was also an invader in the middle of my camellia bush.  Some tall singular strand of an interesting weed/plant that had reached at least three feet taller than the camellia around it.

Since he had all of this in front of him, my Fella had picked up a cordless hedge trimmer.  (More power, more power) As I left for my day to dailies, he was setting out, trimmer in hand.

When I dashed back home between obligations for just a few minutes, he pulled me to the side.

“You want the good news or the bad news?”  he asked.

I immediately jumped to the bad news.  Was it Miss Sophie, who had felt puny a few days before?  Was it one of the children?  I couldn’t even wrap my brain around what all the bad could be, but YES TELL ME ALL THE BAD THINGS NOW BEFORE I PASS OUT FROM HYPERVENTILATING.

“It’s your plant.  I cut it down.  By accident.  I’m sorry.  Our Princess said it was your favorite.  I’m really sorry.  I couldn’t see that’s what I was cutting down under there.”

My–favorite?

“The one with the buds on it.”

Ah.  Oh y’all.  Yeah.  That sounds about right.

I went to the front door and looked out.

Yep.  Camellia.  Gone.

And all I could do was laugh.

Right?

I mean, last weekend I was trying to hold it together because most of the buds were gone.  I sure am glad I didn’t give the girls a hard time about that–would have been really silly, considering, huh?

I think that my Fella might have been a bit concerned that I was delirious, laughing and all.  After all, just over two years ago I lost it because he chopped up my fuzzy Wandering Jew plants in the flower bed thinking they were weeds.  I mean, LIFE WAS OVER AS I KNEW IT when those plants were chopped up.

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Only of course it wasn’t.

And they grew back healthier and in greater number than ever.

So yeah.  I’m in a much better place now, and really–I think maybe, in the words of my folks, I’m finally “getting it.”

People.  Their feelings.  They matter so much more.

My Fella seemed relieved that Hurricane Tara wasn’t about to hit land.  He took me out and showed me what he had done in the hopes of saving something.

Bless him, he had take two of the bigger branches from the bush and planted one on either side of the other shrubs in the hopes of them somehow taking root and growing and blooming and all the beautiful things.

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He’s been watering them everyday.

Bless him.

How could I not love someone with that much hope and faith?

Maybe it will happen.  Maybe those stalks will take root.  Or maybe they will become very important ingredients in the very busy and intense potions factory I host on my front porch.  Either way, all will be well.

I can always get another camellia.  I mean, I was hoping for a ginkgo for Christmas, but camellias are good too.

But precious little ones sharing their imaginations and picking buds and dreaming and folks who love me and go to such lengths to show it–I wouldn’t take a whole tea garden of camellias for that.  Or all the money in the world.

Wishing you all a sense of joy and laughter in the midst of the unexpected.

Love to all.

 

So It Wasn’t a Lawn Mower…..

We had quite the excitement this afternoon around the homeplace.  So much excitement.

It would seem that a tractor-thieving fugitive was holed up in the woods somewhere behind our house.  Or in that general vicinity.

I can’t make this stuff up, y’all.

He and his buddy, who was driving the truck and trailer with the tractor on it, were stopped.  He ran.  His buddy didn’t.  His buddy was arrested. He hightailed it into the woods.

It all started with the lawn mower outside that was rather loud.  Miss Sophie announced it even louder.  It was a while before I discovered two things–first, that the alleged lawn mower was actually a search helicopter, and second, that Miss Sophie is smarter than I am.  But then again, she does bark at lawn mowers too so maybe not.

I learned a few other things today in the midst of the massive search that had our neighborhood swarming with policemen and Georgia State Patrol vehicles.  In all of this, we did not know at the time it was a tractor thief they were looking for.  We just knew they were looking for “someone.”

The first thing I learned is that one cannot homeschool when there is a massive large scale manhunt going on.  It’s just too exciting, apparently, as my littles went from window to window watching for the bad guy, giving their word that they heard someone holler, “Run, he’s got a gun!” and that they saw someone behind our house in the woods.  Which they did.  But he was a good guy.  As for the hollering, I have no idea.  I do tend to encourage active imaginations around here.  So there’s that.

I also had it impressed upon me once again that I have the best neighborfriends ever.  The three of us who were still home over this way were texting and calling back and forth and promising to walk out at the same time when we had to leave our homes.  It was actually my sweet neighborfriend who alerted me to what was going on.  When I didn’t answer my phone (long story), she came over very concerned that we’d been “gotten.”

It’s the absolute best when folks love you enough to worry if you might’ve been gotten.  I mean, really and truly, it is.

I also discovered today that I can act braver than I feel–at least when my children are around.  And I learned that my OCD about locked doors and such is only heightened in potential crisis situations.  I will not share how many times I checked the doors, but suffice to say, it was somewhere between two and aplenty.

Perhaps the most perplexing thing I learned is that raising my youngest is going to be a great challenge, and I’m getting old, y’all.  I’m tired.  And that boy…..

This evening on our way home from our day to dailies, breathing much easier because the one who took the tractor and “run oft” had been taken into custody, my little guy asked me a question.  I had told them in no uncertain terms that they were NOT TO ANSWER THE DOOR OR EVEN GO NEAR IT IF THEY HEARD SOMEONE KNOCKING.

“Mama, what would you have done if that little guy had come to the door and knocked and asked for help?” Cooter asked.  (I have no idea why he was “little” or why Cooter was asking in such a pitiful tone of voice.)

“What do you mean, asked for help?”

“Well, you said he was running in the woods, looking for a place to hide.  What if he came to our door, asking for help, looking for a place to hide?”

I looked and him, and I’m sure I looked as tired as I feel. “You mean, let him in, to stay here and hide from the law?”

He squirmed.  “Well, I mean, no, well, yes, I mean if he needs help.  And he would really be needing it, scared and looking for a safe place and all.”

Maybe we’ve had too many conversations about real life stuff around here, but that is so not what I meant when we talked about folks needing help and shelter.  And I’m pretty sure Cooter knew that.  Sometimes he tries to get my goat just to entertain himself.

So that’s when my little guy found himself in the middle of a conversation about right and wrong and aid and abetting and being an accessory to a crime.

I think he might get it now.

If only I did.  I have taught them we are called to help folks in need, but then…..oh me.  There is no such thing as clear cut black and white anymore, y’all.  Grey.  It’s all grey to me.

Tonight I’m thankful for good neighbors and folks who offer to walk the dog with you so you will be safe.  I’m thankful for folks who care if I’ve been gotten, and I’m thankful that my littles were not frightened by what happened today.  I know all stealing and wrongdoing and criminal activity is wrong, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t thankful it was a tractor thief they were searching for today and not something else.  Most of all, I’m thankful for my children who keep me on my toes and help me think through the hard questions.

Here’s hoping for a less exciting day tomorrow.

Love to all.

tractor stolen in houston county, ga

The tractor back, safe and sound.  

Elvis Had Left the Building…..and the Yard

Cooter and his cousin Shaker were talking on the phone yesterday–mostly about that ever-loving Minecraft game.  (Do NOT get me started.  They weren’t even playing it–just talking about it. They can do that FOR HOURS.)  Then Shaker cut it short, saying, “I’m sorry.  I have to go.  Elvis is missing, and me and Dad have to go look for him.”

Elvis had not only left the building, but he had left the yard, and possibly the whole neighborhood.

It was quite distressing to hear.  Elvis is Leroy’s, my sister Mess Cat’s, and Shaker’s black pug.  He is adorable but he can’t hear a lick.  And although he can tell when it is time to eat to the very minute, his sense of direction is not very good either.  Bless him, he had gone outside and, in the words of Cousin Wash on “Oh Brother, Where Art Thou?”, “RUNNOFT.”

On one of the hottest days of our Georgia summer.

My heart was heavy for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.  Texts to my sister telling her I was thinking about her got no replies.  Elvis is no longer a young fellow, and he can’t handle the partying like he used to.  I was worried.

We all were.  He’s been a member of the family for so long I’ve forgotten what he looked like without the white hairs on his muzzle.

When the littles and I got in last night, Aub asked if Shaker had called me.

“No, why?”

She announced with much fanfare.  “Elvis has been found!”

Well hallelujah.

I called to get the details.  Prayers and wishes had been answered.  Elvis was home.

Shaker answered and was quite pleased.  “Yes, I’m glad he’s here.  I don’t know what I’d do without a dog to ignore.”

Oh me.  That cracked me up.  Elvis is an old man, y’all, and he doesn’t enjoy playing with the little people much anymore.  Plus the whole not hearing well thing only convinces Shaker that Elvis is ignoring him as well.  He even told his Mama, “And Elvis wouldn’t know what to do without a boy to ignore.”

Excuse me while I wipe my tears…..from laughing so hard.  Bless him.

When I finally got to talk to Mess Cat, the story got even better.  And I laughed even harder.  First of all, my sister, bless her heart, rushed home from work when she got the call, so she could help look for him.  So there she was, walking up and down their road, knocking on doors, asking if anyone had seen Elvis.

Y’all.  I can only imagine the looks on folks’ faces.  Too funny.

This is the road we grew up on since we were very young, long before they paved it.  There are only two neighbors who still live there who have been there for a long time.  One of them is Miss Helen.

Miss Helen lives next door to Blackberry Flats where we grew up and where Mess Cat and her family, Elvis included, live now.  When Mama was in the hospital, Miss Helen, a few years older than Mama, helped us out with things like checking the mail and feeding the cat, Rev.  One evening, Mess Cat decided to go back and spend the night at Mama’s.  We called to let Miss Helen know that my sister would be at the house, so she wouldn’t be worried when she saw the lights.  “That’s all right with me,” Miss Helen replied.  That brought us joy, and wondering if something would be all right with Miss Helen was sure to bring a smile during those hard weeks.  It still does.

So yesterday afternoon as Mess Cat was asking folks if they’d seen Elvis, she was also telling folks she lived next door to Miss Helen.

And not many folks looked like they knew who she was talking about.  Which means that not many folks are making sure things are all right with Miss Helen.  Perish the thought!  I cannot imagine.

Turns out Elvis had made quite the “Family Circus” trek through and around the neighborhood.  Starting with Miss Helen, who said she had seen him earlier.  Unfortunately he didn’t check things out with her before heading over to the house next door to her and then the next and then the next.  Mess Cat had started knocking on doors of houses where there were other dogs, but in the end, he was found “chilling” on a back deck at a house with cats.

Yep.  That sounds about right.  Elvis has always been a pretty cool cat himself.

We are all so happy this little guy is home safe and sound.  And look at him bringing all the neighbors together!  Folks who might not have met otherwise.  He’s quite the social facilitator, bringing strangers together looking for him.  Elvis has always been pretty good at that too.  Leroy told me he got another call today in response to the sign he had put up.  A dear lady said she’d had an Elvis sighting but when she went inside, he left her yard too.

That Elvis.  Steeped in mystery.  Not the first time Elvis has disappeared after being spotted.

And today–he was so exhausted.  When we went in to see him and give him a welcome home pat on the head today, he was curled up on the couch in his favorite spot–Leroy’s.  He was OUT.  I mean, I realize he couldn’t hear me call his name, but couldn’t he sense someone was there?  I patted his head.  No response.  I immediately moved my hand to feel if he was breathing.

Relief.  Not only was he breathing, but he was also SNORING.  All that partying yesterday caught up with the old guy.  He was worn out.

Elvis home today where he belongs.  Love this little guy.

Elvis home today where he belongs. Love this little guy.

Tonight I’m thankful for this little dog who came into our life years ago, with the name that never fails to bring us a smile.  He is as much a part of our story now as any of us is, I guess.  I give thanks for the people who saw him and welcomed him, a stranger, into their lives without questioning it much.  There’s a lesson there, I think.  I am especially thankful for the ones who called after Leroy put up the sign, and that Elvis is home snoring away tonight.  In his own home.

Most of all, I’m thankful for a happy ending.  I expect Miss Helen’s all right with that.  I know I am.

Wishing you all a happy tail with a happy ending and an Elvis sighting that brings you joy.

Love to all.

She’s Missing

Monday I rode down to my great Aunt’s house accompanied by my little guy.  I went to meet with her neighbor who is going to do the painting and some of the repairs so we can find a great new family to live there.

The forty-five minute trip there was uneventful.  When we got there, I noticed that the statue of a woman pouring water or holding (?) some kind of bird was missing.  It had been in the little flower bed at the side of the carport.  I know this because I’d always check to see that she was there and then wonder, Does Mama intend to sell her with the house?  Why didn’t Mama do something else with her?  Is there a story behind this that makes her not want the statue?

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When Mr. J came over to help us get in the house and choose paint colors, I asked him about the statue.  I wasn’t as worried about her being gone as I was that someone had been in the yard and maybe up to no good.  A sweet older gentleman with impeccable manners and a great smile, he nodded and said, “Yep, I took her.”  It seems that someone had walked past the house twice and had really been looking closely around the yard.  Mr. J and his wife became concerned that somebody might take her, and that I wouldn’t get to have her.  “It’s only right you have her,” he said.

Turns out Mr. J loaded her up and drove her out to the cemetery.  His original plan was to put her at my Great Aunt’s grave, out at the town cemetery.  But when he got out there he couldn’t find her.  Rather than hauling her back and trying to find a safe place to keep her at his house, he left the statue at his daughter’s grave until he could find out what I wanted to do with her.

As we walked through the house trying to find just the right shade of gray to paint in two different rooms, I asked him if he would show me sometime how to get out to the cemetery from the house.  It had been three years since I’d been out there.  And I assured him I was more than happy for the statue to be out at his daughter’s grave.  I thought that was just fine and the right thing to do.

But he was having none of that.  After we chose a color, talked about what draperies to take down, and made plans for all that needed to happen, he said, “I’d like to take you out there now if you have a few minutes.  You need to have that statue.  Or at the very least we need to move it to Miss E’s grave.”

Well, I had the time, and I had going out to the cemetery to check on things on my “should” list, so we loaded up in my van and headed over.  It was less than ten minutes away.  Pretty direct route.  When we got out there, Mr. J said, “Well, now, this over here is where I thought she was, but I’ll be dog if I couldn’t find her anywhere.”  I agreed that I remembered the same general area that he did.  But it has been over three years since we’d said our goodbyes out there, so I couldn’t be sure.  And was the main marker in her married name, or had she and my Uncle been buried with her parents?  Mr. J had only been looking for the married name before, so we drove slowly up and down the paths on that side of the cemetery, craning our necks to read every marker we could.  Finally, I put the car in park, and we got out to search on foot.

I told my little guy, who by this time was playing games on the Kindle in the very back, “Stay buckled up.  I’ll be right back.  I’m going to see if I can do any better walking around.”

I love cemeteries.  I don’t know if I was ever afraid of them.  My first job was at the library in our town which was across the little road from our town cemetery.  On cold winter afternoons, when dark would creep in and we had no patrons, I would sometimes go over to the window and imagine the stories that were tucked away in that small bit of ground.  I love wandering around the old country cemetery where both of my parents are buried now.  Many of the markers read like our family tree.

So in the warm sunshine, walking around the small town cemetery on Monday, looking for my Great Aunt, I was at peace.  I thought about our Princess, who brought Mama great comfort at the funeral three years ago.  She leaned over to Mama as the car pulled in the main entrance and said in a voice filled with awe, “Oh, it’s beautiful here.  Look at all the flowers.  I love this place.”

I thought and I remembered and I walked and I looked.  And I saw Mr. J over across the way, also searching.

I finished my circle, arriving back at the van.  I decided to drive over and pick up Mr. J.  I got in, buckled, and took the brake off.  My little guy who never looked up from his game said, “You find her?”

I laughed to myself and shook my head.  His matter of factness in a situation like this just cracked me up.  “No, buddy, not yet.”

Neither had Mr. J.  He too shook his head.  “I know she was over thisaway.  I just can’t imagine.”

He directed me over to his daughter’s grave, and there was the statue.  I assured him that she looked just right where she was, but he flat refused.  He insisted on loading her up in the van.  (Thank goodness we had a seat down already!)  Mr. J said he’d bring his wife back out later this week, and he bet she could find my Great Aunt.  Well, maybe so.  I like to think that she would be tickled that she’s able to be so elusive.

I took the lady statue over to Blackberry Flats Tuesday afternoon.  Whether Mama wanted her or not, that’s where she’s staying put now.  She’s too heavy to be moved again.  At least by me.

My children’s acceptance of taking care of business for folks we love who are gone is precious to me.  I’m sorry for the reason, but since it is what it is, I am thankful for it.  Part of it may have come from the fact they just weren’t given a choice.  We planted a tree at the cemetery on Daddy’s birthday last year, and the young’uns and I spent all last summer riding out there to water it at least once if not twice a week.  I guess for them, death has become a very significant part of life.

Which might account for last week’s conversation between my two littles.  We were over at Mama’s.  I was at the desk taking care of some business when I heard my little guy call out suddenly and with great concern, “Oh NO!  Mama!”

I turned around to see the two of them at the kitchen counter.  “What is it?”

“Mama, Maemae forgot her glasses!” He held them up.  “Oh no!”

I smiled to myself, and said, “It’s okay, Buddy.”

“Do you think we need to go out there and bury them?” he asked.

Before I could answer, his sister answered in an impatient “well duh” tone.   “Uhhhh, Buddy, she doesn’t need them anymore…..she’s in Hea-ven.”  The emphasis on Heaven left no doubt to anyone listening that Maemae was doing a-okay in the eyesight department.

Which is a nice thought.

So having found the lady statue and the littles having found Maemae’s glasses, now we just have to find my Great Aunt.  I need to make sure things are taken care of out there like she and Mama would have wanted, like my Great Aunt always did for her parents’ graves.  If Mr. J and his wife can’t find her, I’m thinking we are going to have a different kind of treasure hunt, my crew and me.  How weird and fun all rolled into one would that be?  Oh my.

The lady statue at her new home.  Mama's neighbor asked me if we were going to keep her there.  If am the one who has to move her, yes!

The lady statue at her new home. Mama’s neighbor asked me if we were going to keep her there. If am the one who has to move her,  then yes, she is there to stay.