the swing

I sit outside on the porch
as a warm breeze blows through
and twenty-two years disappear
the sun shines bright, illuminating a golden afternoon, and there you are,
carefully taking one step after another
holding the hand of the one you adored
and who cherished you right back
she leads you to your birthday gift
the swing
built by the man who makes you giggle
and gives you Nilla wafers to clasp
in your tiny hands, never mind the mess
he gently lifts you and places you
with her help into the swing
made especially for you

all the years since have come and gone
as have the ones we love
and I think of the gift they gave you
on the day you turned one

life is much like that swing–
may you always be surrounded by those who love you
like those who created and guided you to
the swing that day
giving you roots to tread on
and wings to fly

some days you will have someone at your back
pushing you higher and higher
up through the things that would pull you down
until you can reach for the stars and clouds and very nearly touch them
with your bare hands

other days, and there will be many, dear one
you will have to pump and point
lifting yourself above the noise and hustle
to reach your dreams and goals and all you want to be,
depending only on your own will and strength and determination

I remember the smile on your face twenty-two years ago
when you sat there in that old tire picked especially for you–
it would have lit up the darkest of nights…..
the sheer joy of the movement
and being surrounded by the ones you loved
brought laughter bubbling up from within
and cries of “again! again!”
as your tiny toes that couldn’t touch the ground kicked at the air excitedly

may you take time everyday to feel the wind in your hair
the exhilaration when you soar
and the beauty of the gentle quiet as you let it all “die down”
may you welcome those who have your back
and let them be a part of your journey, cheering each other on
and when you feel like no one is there,
pump and point, my dear, pump and point
and remember the dreams they dreamed for you,
the ones you’ve tucked away deep in your heart
and aim for the highest point–
and when you get there

grab hold of your faith
let go of the rope

and leap

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For A.A.D. on the night of her 23rd birthday…..keep soaring high, baby girl 

Happy Golden Years

Fifty years ago today, December 17, 1967, the romance that started outside a laundromat in Valdosta, Georgia began a new adventure as my Mama and Daddy said, “I do.”

And they did.  Sickness.  Health.  Laughter.  Pain.  Joy.  Grief.  Children.  Grandchildren.  Other children whom they called their own.  Friends.  Family.  Biscuits. Gravy.  Pound Cake.  Fried Cornbread.  Homemade Pizza.  Cars. Trucks.  Books.  Celebrations.  Mourning.  Everyday Life filled with Extraordinary Moments.

And even though their time together on this earth ended six years ago, I know they are together today, and I hope they are doing what they loved to do most on this day–spending time together, enjoying the journey.  On their anniversaries, Daddy would take the day off from work, and they would go on an adventure of sorts.  Traveling on backroads, eating in diners and restaurants they’d come across along the way.   Meeting interesting folks who would become lifelong friends.

Since 2013 after Mama left this world, I’ve had the joy of continuing their tradition of sharing books with young people we know.  In honor of their anniversary, I’ve chosen different books as our Christmas Book of the Year.  This year, I’ve chosen a very special one that ties an old memory to a new one.

This past summer the littles, the Fella, and I got to visit the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Mansfield, Missouri.   Growing up I read the Little House books and loved my weekly time with Laura and her family on “Little House on the Prairie.”  I was “fangirling” pretty hard.  The. Home.  Of.  Laura.  Ingalls.  Wilder.  Where she lived.  Wrote her books.  Raised Rose.  Oh my stars, I was over the moon.  But as excited as I was, it was wonderful to see that our Princess was even more so.  She had read and reread all of the books in the past year.  She loved them.

During our time there, we saw Pa’s fiddle and photos and letters from Laura’s sisters.  There were letters schoolchildren had written to Mrs. Wilder, asking about the people she wrote about or thanking her for writing them.  The museum part was fascinating, as we took our time wandering around, reading and looking and soaking it all in.  But it was when we went to her home, the one that Almanzo built by hand, one room at a time, that I felt the spirit of the place.  Neither of them were very tall, so the home suited me and my short height just fine.  I loved that she continued using her old stove, even after Rose had an electric one put in.  Sometimes change is hard, y’all, and just not worth the bother.  As a child I had fallen in love with the young Laura.  This past summer, standing in her home, surrounded by her things, I fell in love and in awe of the grown Laura, the strong woman who didn’t want anyone to know she loved to read Westerns, and whose last birthday cards were still sitting on the table in her kitchen, as she passed on right around her birthday.  That was my favorite part of the whole adventure.  Soaking in her world in her little farmhouse.  The other house we visited that Rose had built for her parents as a gift when she was an adult did not compare.  It was lovely, but it just didn’t have the same feel, the same homeyness, the same spirit.

As I wandered through the farmhouse, enjoying the stories that our tour guide shared, I was reminded of a Christmas in my own home, many years ago.

I believe it was Christmas 1989, my senior year in college.  My dear friend had come home with me for a day or two before heading home to Alabama.  We had slept through the night to be awakened early the next morning by the ringing of jingle bells.  My friend, my siblings, and I all went to the living room where we found a sock for each one of us.  A long knee high sock I believe, filled with good things–like an orange, a giant peppermint stick, a penny, an orange in the toe, and the matching sock balled up inside as well.  It was left there by, as the note said, “The Christmas Spirit of 1889.”

I probably laughed it off as my parents and their whimsical ways in the moment, but inside I loved it.  I love all things old and traditional, and as far as I was concerned, this was perfect.  Everything about it.  I’m not really sure what prompted my Mama and Daddy to keep Christmas like that that year.  Maybe they wanted to remind us that simple joy is at the heart of Christmas–that the simple joys are the treasured memories we will carry in our hearts for a long, long time.

Just as I have the memory of the sock filled with goodies, nearly 30 years ago.

So when I sat down to choose a book to share this holiday season, I found it almost instantly.  In memory of that Christmas 28 years ago and our adventure “home” this past summer, our family Christmas book this year is “Christmas in the Big Woods” by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  The illustrator, Renee’ Graef, shared that her artwork was inspired by the work of the talented Garth Williams with his permission.  It’s a sweet story about the excitement of the holiday season and the greatest joy of all–being together.

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Tonight I’m thankful for the love of two people that grew to touch so many–our family and friends and folks they met along the way.  A love that was joined together forever fifty years ago tonight.  I’m thankful for their quirkiness and how they reminded us of what is really important all those Christmases ago.  And I’m thankful for the privilege and thrill of standing where some of the world’s favorite stories–I know they are some of mine–were put on paper for all of us to enjoy.

May the simple joys of this Christmas season bring you grand memories that you will treasure for years to come.  Love to all.

 

 

Maemae’s Holiday Book–2015 Edition

December 17, 1967.

Forty-eight years ago.

My parents stood before a small group of family and friends in front of the Pastor, and with my Mama’s best friend and my Daddy’s Daddy standing beside them, they said “I do.”

And they did.

They laughed, they learned, they worked hard, they listened, they tried, they failed, they succeeded, but most of all they loved.

Through it all. They loved.

Each other.  Us.  People they met along life’s journey.

They loved.

One of the things they enjoyed most was hearing stories about the children in the family–and those who were not in the family.  They loved the stories, and they loved being with them.  Over the years it became one of their greatest joys to pick out books for the little ones they knew and loved.  On birthdays and especially at Christmas.

It has been one of mine too.  For the past two Christmases I have chosen “Maemae’s holiday book” in honor of their anniversary. This being the third Christmas without my Mama right here with us, I spent a lot of time and energy and thought into making my choice for the book this year.

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Mortimer’s Christmas Manger by Karma Wilson, illustrated by Jane Chapman 

This year’s story I had to think about before committing to it.  After all, it is about a mouse.  Mama was not a fan of mice.  As a matter of fact, she could be downright inhospitable to the little creatures.  She never could sit down and watch “Ratatouille.”  A mouse that cooks?  Food?  In a restaurant?  “Blech,” she would say and shake her head.

Oh me.

But this little mouse named Mortimer (pretty sure Mama would have loved his name too, I know I do) is adorable, and the whole book is whimsical at the surface and powerful underneath.  It’s about making room and finding a place and feeling the love of the Gift given all so many years ago.  Without giving the storyline away, we can all learn something about hospitality and welcoming with open arms from this little mouse.  Eventually.  Like all the rest of us, Mortimer is a work in progress.

As I sit here next to our twinkle-lighted tree with “Mortimer” at my side, I give thanks for my parents who loved reading and taught me to do so as well.  I give thanks for them and their love of children and books and how they loved matching the perfect book to the perfect child.  It was a beautiful thing to behold and to be a part of.  Tonight I’m honored to carry on this tradition, and I hope, as the ones loved so dearly by Maemae and Cap/Uncle B and Aunt B find their books in their mailboxes over the next couple of days, that they will remember the smiles and the hugs, and even if they don’t remember that–I hope they will know how precious they are, that they were and are still so loved, and that every person deserves a sweet place where they are always welcome.  A place to call home.

Love to all.

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As I read Mortimer’s story, I kept thinking of this picture our Princess drew several years ago.  It is all of us around the supper table.  She said that extra seat was in case a special Guest dropped by.  Keeping room for others–at our table, in our homes, in our hearts, and in our lives–that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?  

 

PSI have one copy about Mortimer’s little adventure to share.  I’d love to send it to someone with a little one or not quite so little one who would enjoy it.  Comment below sharing your favorite holiday book and subscribe to the blog and you’re entered to win.  It’s that easy.  Winner will be selected randomly Friday 12/18 at midnight EST.  

I Love That Wonky Pumpkin

Today our Princess decided it was pumpkin carving day.

She has been so excited about the prospect since she picked hers out at the Pumpkin Patch last Saturday.  Then on Thursday we found a pumpkin carving kit at the GW Boutique.  That thing has been burning a hole in her proverbial pocket ever since.

Today was the day.

I get it.  This is the first time she’s ever carved a pumpkin.

Mine too, as best as I can remember.

I have a vague recollection of Mama cleaning one out and carving it many, many years ago when I was very small.  My thinking is, after being a part of the carving today, that it was just too messy for her to want to deal with, what with four small children underfoot.

We all gathered out on the front porch as Princess traced a circle with a Sharpie around the top for the cut out.  Her friend Miss C was over, and she liked to offer her guidance.  *ahem*  I gently suggested that maybe she could let our girl do it her own way since I assumed Miss C had already carved her own (and expertly so, I’m thinking, from the suggestions she offered).  She graciously backed off with the suggestions for a few minutes but was sure to inform me that she was going to carve hers later tonight.

As my girl worked on cutting a hole in the top of the pumpkin with the orange tool that had all the sharpness of a dull butter knife, she chattered away happily.  Life is such a dream for this child of mine.  Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily.  Everything is the “best ever,” and today was the best ever because she was carving her very own pumpkin by her very own self for the very first time.  Ever.

She’s pretty awesome like that.  I think she got it from my Mama.  That whole “finding so much joy in everything” thing.

After scooping out the innards, something she let her friend help her with, she was ready to design the face.  She drew triangles on, again with the Sharpie, which in hindsight might not have been the best idea.  When one was a little higher and bigger than the other, she tried to redraw it, not realizing at first that redrawing wouldn’t help.  The lines would still be there.  Her friend made one suggestion after the other.  I was about to interject again, when my girl said, “No, it’s okay, thanks though.  I like the way it looks.  They eyes will just look a little creepier and spookier this way.”

I am so proud of her.  So secure and confident in what she was creating.

I’m proud of me too.

I didn’t say one word as she drew the nose.  “I want it to be a square,” she said.  And the next thing I know, this “mouth-sized” rectangle was sitting below the two wonky eyes.  I so wanted to suggest she make it into the mouth and not worry about a nose, but I didn’t.  This is huge for me.  My Joyful friend and I used to congratulate each other when we let our children create without all the assistance and guidance (okay, we were intent on redoing the whole thing) when Aub and her girls were little.  So to be able to sit back and enjoy the creation and keep my mouth closed?

HUGE.

Her friend actually did suggest the whole make it a mouth and create a smaller nose above it idea.  Wondering how my girl would react, I again sat back and listened.

Princess did not disappoint.  “No, I really want to make the mouth below there.  And I like the nose.  Lots of light will show through.”

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And she carved away.

The only thing I had to help her with (don’t judge me please) was getting the mouth out without losing the teeth.  She hadn’t cut it quite all the way through and it threatened to turn into a crescent shaped mouth.  But she had carved the teeth, so I wanted her to have them.  A few more sawing motions and gently sliding it out, voila!

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Done.

Mr. Jack O’ Lantern was finished.  A bit wonky, but that only makes him creepier.  And spookier.

Don’t you think?

Tonight I’m thankful for the privilege of raising these precious children.  I’m thankful for this middle one who is as full of sweetness as she is spunk, which makes for a sparkling combination.  I give thanks that she is confident and creative and strong, and I am happy she can hear criticism and kindly continue doing her own thing.  Most of all, I’m happy that what made her most excited about creating her very own jack o’lantern all by her very own big self was putting a light in it and watching it shine in the darkness.

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Because you know what?  She has a gift for that.  Letting her light shine, especially in the hard and sad times.

She got that from my Mama too.

Love to all.

Tumbling, Tap, and Tears

It has been a busy week.

The littles had their last dance and gymnastics classes on Tuesday evening.  I will miss the little community we have built the past ten months among ourselves–us dance parents.  I will miss catching up on the week and visiting and just being with these good people whom I’ve grown to love as friends.  Some I will likely see in August, but some I will not.  More goodbyes.  Despite the practice, I’m not real good at those.

Thursday evening both of my littles were a part of their gymnastics program.  That afternoon we ran errands and then went over to Mama’s to eat a snack supper before it was time to go.  I picked up some food, and we sat down at her table to eat.  As we held hands, bowed our heads, and said the blessing around the table, just as we’ve done so many times with her, I had the oddest and most precious sense of her presence.  Like I haven’t felt before.  With tears in my eyes, I said Amen, and felt a peace set in as well.  She always liked the idea of and sought that–a peace that passes all understanding.

The gymnastics performance was delightful.  Such talented young people.  It was awesome to see my little guy’s eyes focused on the tween-aged boys who were phenomenal in their routine.   Our princess was excited–as she is about so many things in her world. It was her first gymnastics performance.  She loved her leotard, loved being there, loved the routine.  It was a good night, but I missed Mama.  A year ago she was with us there.  We didn’t get to have supper with her that night because there was a bad storm coming up.  The clouds and rain of this past Thursday night reminded me of the weather a year ago.  Mama had enjoyed watching the children, especially our little guy.

Last night was dress rehearsal for our Princess’ recital.  She was in her element–dressup, dance, being with friends–all things she loves.  And she loves her teacher.  So do I.   She is a dear, sweet, gracious lady who loves and dotes on each of her students.  She has especially been a blessing in the rocky journey we’ve been on the past few months. Her love and patience, her laughter and gentle ways–they’ve helped so much.

I had the privilege of helping with my girl’s class in the downstairs/backstage experience.  I was thinking about it, and I actually prefer seeing her perform from backstage.  I get to see her excited face just before she goes on, eyes huge in her face, her eager yet nervous smile, and her little hip hop step she takes as she goes on stage.  Because she does that–little hip hop steps–when she is most excited.

Dress rehearsal went smoothly.  Today was the actual performance.  I’ve thought about Mama a lot today.  We picked her up last year, and she went with us.  She, Aub, and our little guy sat together in the audience while I was backstage, and Mama was enchanted by all of the performances, but most especially by those of her little Princess.  Mama loved all children and believed that every one of them should be loved and wanted.  That’s what she did when she watched those performances last year.  Loved every one of those children.  And boy, on the way home, she smiled and laughed and said over and over how much she enjoyed going, talking about the different performances.  It was the first time since Daddy had gotten really sick that I thought we might actually make it.  Daddy had been gone just over six months by the time of the recital last year, but it felt like it had been no time.  To see her smile and hear her laugh, I was filled with hope and…..well, Hope.

So this afternoon, after our second time up the stairs for their last performance, as all of the children were gathered behind the closed curtains for the final curtain call, I thought about the past year, and how much I miss my Mama.  I miss her when I’m sad and hurting, but I also miss sharing my joys with her.  She would have been there today, no doubt.  To think about the years of her not being at things that are yet to come was almost too much to bear, and then the tears started flowing.  I guess I really should carry around my own bandana.  I couldn’t stop them.  Thank goodness for the darkness backstage.

I write this tonight for my children.  I want them to remember how much Maemae and Cap loved them, and how they loved being a part of their lives, of their stories.  They were there for the events they could get to, and they wanted to hear about the ones they couldn’t.  I want them to know that it’s okay to be sad and to cry when they are missing them.  But it’s also okay to laugh and tell funny stories about Maemae and Cap and to talk to them when they want to.   I believe they are listening.

Tonight I give thanks for the time we did have.  For the memory of Mama’s laughter and joy over little ones, especially her little ones, as she watched them do flips and tap their hearts out a year ago.  She found hope in those days too, I think.  I give thanks for the wonderful dance and gymnastics teachers and friends who have walked this journey with us as well, who have given an extra hug, sent a card, patted me on the shoulder, said a kind word, but mostly, who have loved on my babies.   That right there.  I love you all, and I cannot say thank you enough for that.  I also give thanks that my children will never have to doubt how much they were loved by Maemae and Cap, because they told them often with their words, but even more often with their actions. Mama said that a lot, “Actions speak louder than words.” And my three precious gifts, as you face your future, remember that, do what you can to let both your words and your actions show love and light in the world.  Just as your grandparents did.  You were and are loved and always will be.

My precious ones, who were so loved by their Maemae and Cap

My precious ones, who were so loved by their Maemae and Cap