Showing Me Their World

I continually find myself amazed by, IN AWE OF these creatures I have been given to raise.

Sometimes I’m amazed that they can eat so much or what they won’t eat or how much of a mess they can make or how long they can put off doing something I’ve asked, but mostly–mostly I’m amazed at watching them become their own people.

As my oldest writes her own story at my alma mater, doing things I never dreamed of doing, I’m amazed.  I watch her and think, She’s the cool one I always wanted to be friends with.  And I’m lucky enough that we’re even better than friends.

For the past eighteen months, I’ve watched our Princess swim and swim well.  I can hold my own in the water, but she knows strokes and dives and turns and the ins and outs and it just makes me wonder, where on earth did all that come from?  She is something to see.

Cooter is figuring out who he is and what his thing is.  Poor guy, he often gets stuck doing whatever his sister is doing.  He enjoys it but still.  He plays piano, does gymnastics, and after working really hard last summer, he also made the swim team.

But recently I saw him step out on his own to do something, and it took my breath away.  In that moment I realized I was watching him move one step closer to figuring out and becoming who he is.

We watched a youth performance during Christmas, and it was wonderful.  Cooter loved it, and I saw a spark in his eyes when they showed previews for their spring performances.  He was intrigued.  I mentioned to him that he could maybe try out, and he alternated between nervous and interested.  Aub helped him pick out his audition lines and memorize them.  Those lines stayed on our refrigerator where he could stand and practice them for over a week.

When the day came, he woke up excited.  I suppose there were some nerves in there, but my little ham was ready.  We dropped his sister off, and we were on our way.  He was #2 in line.  We walked to the back of the theater to the entrance to the back where he would be auditioning in front of two of the adult directors.  The helper asked him if he was nervous.  He shrugged and grinned.  He didn’t seem to be very upset that I wasn’t supposed to go back with him.

I, on the other hand, was a mess.  I held it in, but inside I was a rumbly tumbly tee-total mess.  That was my baby back there…..

He went back for a few minutes.  When he came out, he had a grin on his face and walked right past me, not even seeing me.

He’s been excited ever since.  No question, no turning back, no second thoughts.  He’s all about this play.  He’s also had this day, TODAY, in his head as THE DAY for two weeks.  It was two weeks ago that he auditioned, and today was his first rehearsal.  He woke up reminding me of what day it was.

As if I could forget.

What a cool kid, y’all.

He found people he knows to sit with and never looked back.  He clapped for others as their parts were announced and the look on his face when he found out his part was priceless.  At least it seemed to be.  I was all the way across the room with the parents.

Because he’s almost grown now, you know.  He’ll be 9 very soon–or “hitting the double digits next year,” as he likes to rush things and remind me.

It was a lovely afternoon.  The program is organized and fun and a really, really good place for these young people.  The playwright, bless him, didn’t finish writing the play until he found out how many cast members he was going to have.

46.

So he wrote a play with forty-six different characters.

That made me smile almost as big as Cooter when I learned that.

What a beautiful thing for these children.  Each and every one of them matter.  Each and every one important.  I’m so thankful that we happened upon this theater program.  Or, you know, were led there.

Tonight I’m thankful for the experiences I get to have because of these unique people I’m blessed to know and raise.  My Mama used to say, “You brought them into the world, now let them show it to you.”  Maybe she was quoting someone, I don’t know.  But beautiful words all the same.  And they’ve really hit home with me lately.  I love the world my children show me.  One full of love, laughter, justice, mercy, grace, teasing, storytelling, and joy.  Sure, it’s a messy world much most of the time.  But I will tell you this, I wouldn’t trade anything for it.

Love to all.

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By 76slideytrumpets (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons

 

All the Pictures WITH them

Today I had the joy–and it was sheer joy–of seeing the faces of children as they saw Santa Claus up close and personal.

Our favorite little coffee shop hosted Santa in the chair next to the Christmas tree up on the little stage.  Family after family came in and approached Santa with timid footsteps and eager.  With shy smiles, radiant, beaming faces, or with worried frowns.  Some children went straight up to Santa, while others had to warm up to him from afar.  Santa sat with children of ALL ages on his lap or standing next to his chair, and he listened.  He held hands and handed out candy canes and smiled and laughed and coaxed little ones into smiling for the camera.

Most parents pulled their phones out and took pictures of their children with the jolly old elf.  Group shots and individual ones with Santa and their children.

And that’s when I had to step in.  I was that person reaching for their phones, insisting they get in at least one picture too.  For a family shot.

Almost every time, the parent would insist he/she hadn’t really planned on being in the picture, so they looked “a mess.”  Still I insisted.

One day your children will thank you.  They will be glad they have pictures of you and them together.  

I know of what I speak.

Over the years, there aren’t a whole lot of pictures of me and my Mama.  She was either taking the picture or in the kitchen while the rest of us were taking them.  So when I find one of the two of us, it brings me great joy.

I don’t have enough pictures with my Mama and Daddy.

So today, I reached for phones and insisted parents jump in there, and I took two or six shots of each family with Santa, insisting the parents look at the pictures before they left, so we could redo if we needed to.

It was an honor to see their faces.  Because when the whole family was in there with Santa, the parents’ smiles were usually bigger than those of the children.  Every single time.

If you are going to be with folks you love over the holidays, take lots of pictures with them, not just of them–all the people, parents and children.  Use the little square in the corner of your screen to turn the camera around and take selfies with them if you have to.  Whatever you have to do, create some magical pictures with the folks you love for you and others to look back on and remember and feel all the love once again.

My favorite moment today–when the veil was so thin–was when I looked in the eyes of a young Mama who got it.  She saw into my soul and why it mattered so much to me, and I saw into hers and knew that it was important for her too.  She was a tearfully happy Mama in the picture with her very young littles which I took through tears of my own.

Tonight I give thanks for the pictures I do have with my folks, and I give thanks for all the times I look at someone I love and say, “Let’s take a picture together and they say, ‘Okay.'” The photos bring back joyful memories and make me smile and remember and hold my people close.  Once again.  The years between us just melt away.

Merry memory-making, y’all.

Love to all.

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Santa waves in greeting to one of his little visitors.

 

 

 

Joy After the Door is Closed

Today I found unexpected joy in rebirth and re-creating.  Thanks to an event shared on Facebook by a friend, we were able to see a play today.

I love plays.  I love live theater.

I absolutely adore holiday plays.

We attended a revision of “White Christmas,” performed by young people in our community.

It was different and well-done and completely fabulous.

Looking at all of those faces and their eagerness and thinking about how much of their wonderful lives they have ahead of them, I got teary-eyed.  When I saw a young teenage girl at the curtain call eyeing her parents who were sitting behind us and noticed that she was getting teary-eyed, I started to lose it.  When I leaned over and hugged my dear One who had joined us, I was undone.  The tears came, and I didn’t care.

Sheer joy.

The way the play was worked, all of the children who wanted to participate were able to.  They danced and they laughed and they delivered their lines and they told a story.  An important one about holding others above self.

The whole afternoon was joy-filled.

It was held in  a building that used to house a Family Dollar.  Since this was our first time attending a play there (not my first time in the building), I didn’t know what to expect.

What a lovely surprise!

New life was breathed back into that building and a theater was born.

From Family Dollar’s ending, something truly beautiful came to be.

If you haven’t picked up on it by now, change is very, very hard for me.  I do not like it at all, it’s not my friend, and it will never be on my birthday list.

And yet–

I think there was a lesson in what I felt today.

Things can end.  The darkness can come.  And yet,

joy shall rise again.  New life will come.

The light will shine again.

And I give thanks for that–for all of the lights that shine, from spotlights to tree lights to the bright, warm sun that kissed our faces as we left with our souls touched and spirits lifted.

A day of merry and magnificent memory-making!  I’m thankful.

Love to all.

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The Family Dollar never looked so lovely…..

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so homey…..

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or so completely wonderful.  Scenes from the back of the theater.  

 

When Your Pot Boileth Over…..

My oldest came home from college on Friday and went into provider/caretaker mode since, with this bug, I can use the help.  I was so thankful for her presence.  She reminds me of my Mama, able to shoot straight with me and calm me at the same time–in fact, like my Mama, she insists that I calm down.  It’s actually quite comical.

When I’m not in the middle of the moment, that is.

Friday evening she started making some pasta for supper for her siblings.  I watched in fascination as she first poured the frozen ravioli into the pot and then added the water.

Huh.

It didn’t overflow–because, well, you know, she put all she wanted to cook in there first.

Huh.

My standard modus operandi is to guess-fill a pot with water, take it to the stove, sit it down, and then pour in my pasta or peas or whatever else I might be cooking.  Inevitably I wind up with the water getting dangerously close to the top, and I have to drain it a bit, OR I have to tote it back to the sink and add a little more water.  Rarely do I get it spot on.

Like Aub did.

I think it’s easy to do that in life too.  I have all the things going on, and then I have something I really, really need to do, and I try to add it to the mix, and something almost always boils over, and things get really messy.

Instead, if I did what my wise girl did and took what was the most important and then added to THAT, things might not get so messy.

The busy time of being with friends and family and sitting together and visiting and going to plays and gatherings and meals and all sorts of wonderful seasonal things is upon us.  It is very easy to take on everything that is out there, and then when something we really, truly would love to be a part of comes along, we are already so packed, it just can’t happen.  At least not without stressing us out.

Rest.  Reflect.  Take time to create margins in your days, so you can breathe and have room to fill with good things that might come later, or for you to replenish for all of the other good things to come.

Basically, y’all, don’t fill your pot before you get the really important stuff in.  Nobody wants to deal with the mess that usually follows.

Tonight I’m thankful for the wisdom and caring spirit of my oldest, who did a lot of running around and cheering up this weekend.  She gives me a hard time sometimes and I her, but she really is growing up to do things in her own way–and oftentimes I wind up learning from her.

Love to all.

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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.

Riding Shotgun

Some of my fondest memories from when I was little are riding shotgun with my Daddy.  We played this game until he would finally have enough and stop it–bless him, I’m sure it went on way longer than he could have possibly wanted it to:

Me:  What’d you say?
Him:  What’d you say I said?
Me:  What’d you say I said you said?
Him:  What’d you say I said you said I said?
Me:  What’d you say I said you said I said you said?

…..and so on until we’d get tongue-tied in fits of laughter or Daddy would kindly indicate that was enough.  Being a parent now, remembering how much he did play it with me, it endears him to me even more.  BLESS.  HIM.

We’d also sing crazy versions of “Yellow submarine.”  We all live in an orange jellybean, a blue tambourine, grass that’s really green…..

Or “You Can’t Roller Skate in a Buffalo Cage.”  Yeah, that was a good one.

I enjoyed our times together when he taught me to drive.  There were life lessons going on in that vehicle as well.  All kinds of wisdom imparted on those drives.

As I got older I enjoyed when Mama would let me join her on trips to see my Great Aunt.  Or to town.  Sometimes I’d drive, sometimes she would.  The fun times were great.  The hard ones were scary, like the time I drove her to the ER when she was running such a high fever.  Even then, she kept her sass I loved and her sense of humor I loved even more.  We were bonding across that dashboard.

This is a “thing” I am passing on to my crew too.  We have some light-hearted, joyful, funny, deep, and hard conversations as we travel down the road.  I remember it was on one road trip that the impending arrival of Cooter was announced to his sisters.

Yesterday my Cuz’n helped us move the big things up to my oldest’s dorm room.  He had helped us move her out back in May.  The rule around our house (or so I told him) is you bring it in, you’re responsible for getting it back out.  He’s a good sport.  Willing and able, two qualities not to be taken for granted.  He met us at the house to load up her mini-frigidaire, rug, and papasan chair.  I commented that it seemed like she had brought back way more at the end of her last school year.

He reminded me, “Don’t you remember, Tara? You keep taking things up all year long, get it just like you want it about April, and then move it all back in May.”

Yep. Sounds about right.

As the Fella loaded up in his vehicle with a few smaller things inside, I decided to ride with Cuz’n.  We don’t get to visit that often, and when we do, it’s always a happenin’, as my Mama would put it.  We packed up our mini-convoy and headed up the road to Macon.

What we talked about isn’t nearly as important as the laughter and the shared memories that allow for really, really good conversations between folks who are each other’s people.  Folks who get the quirks and hardly see them anymore. Or at least when they point them out, they still love you and will go off on anybody ELSE who points them out.

Yes. A good time riding shotgun.  It didn’t hurt that we were in his old truck taking the backroads as far up as we could.

It was Sunday, after all.

Sunday drives are the stuff some of our best stories are made of.  Yesterday, I added another chapter.

Tonight I’m thankful for the folks whom I get to call mine.  They really are the best.  I’m thankful for the willingness of good guys to spend their Sunday making sure my girl had her niceties to make this year and her room extra homey.  (The littles and I helped her move the necessities–clothes and bedding–up last Wednesday.)  I’m thankful that no one mentioned, not even once, that maybe next year she could ask to finally be on any floor other than the top one.  And that no one complained we didn’t get to use the elevator.  Good guys, I tell you.  They were smiling and laughing the whole time.  Most of all, I’m thankful for a good day of riding shotgun, laughing over old memories, and making new ones to laugh over in years to come.

Wishing you all someone fun to ride shotgun with–it’s always a good day for a Sunday drive.

Love to all.

falling in love again

I love waking up to the bright light of early morning
and walking outside to an already hot day
and smelling the smells of cut grass or water from
rain or sprinklers, evaporating in the sun.

I love sandwiches for lunch
with a side of pineapple
or fresh peaches,
pimento cheese has grown on me over the years.

I love the look and glorious smell
of fresh-picked squash cooking
in the cast iron skillet on the stove.
Or the sound of peas cooking in the bubbling water,
bouncing them around, tossing them to and fro
until they are tender and done.

I love afternoon naps in the heat of the day
and damp towels left over from water play
or dips in friends’ pools.

I love the angle of the sun through the windows
at 4:30 in the afternoon. That’s the time my Daddy
always came home, the same time he went Home.
That light is spectacular.

I love the way children emerge from their homes
to play and ride bikes and run up and down the sidewalk,
their little legs pumping and jumping,
when the sun starts its journey downwards behind the trees.

I love the way the frogs start to come out
and sing their songs as evening comes to visit. Their songs
a serenade the breeze dances along to, teasing all around
with moments of believing it might one day be cool again.

I love the bathwater warm muggy nights, when sweat collects
and drips on little heads and big
and how, even though we are all hot and sweaty, we are loathe
to climb off the back of the pickup trucks where we sit and visit
to go inside.

I love the cool air that hits my face and the comfort of a warm shower
to wash the day away.
Or a cool one, the boy says that helps when he’s itchy from
rolling in the grass and talking with the bugs
as they crawl back home to rest.

I love all the hot and humid days and evenings and nights that
barely relieve us from the heat of noon. I love bare feet on warm
grass and the smell of sunshine on puppies and tomatoes off the vine.
I love sweating as I stand and laugh with friends, passing the evening sharing
stories and recounting adventures of days gone by.

It was as though I had forgotten all of this,
grumbling, staring wide-eyed at the dashboard thermometer, until–
this evening as I carried out the trash, I took a deep breath
of heavy summer air,
and I remembered my love
for Georgia summers
and all the stories she has shared with us.

I looked up at the stars, nearly visible,
and I remembered–people and stories–hot summers
spent with people I love.

They are gone,
but she remains with me
and holds me close
as I stand with her and
remember.