Pirates, Pearls, and Open Doors

Yesterday my Wesleyanne, my Pirate 2017–the one almost done with her first year of college–went in to work about an hour before I headed out for our Alumnae weekend festivities.  She told me the night before that she thought she might drive up after work to play in the Alumnae/Student Soccer game.  I was visiting with friends, new and old, when she came walking up on the loggia yesterday afternoon, ready to play.

I drove out to the new soccer field (not sure how long it has been out there, but it will always be the “new” one to me) to cheer a team on.  On the one side my girl and her friends, on the other side friends I’ve had for twenty-eight years.  What. On. Earth.  (And no, I’m not telling who I was cheering for.  There’s some things you get old enough to know better about.)

As the game wrapped up with laughter and hugs and pats on the backs, the Pirates of ’89 gathered on the steps of the covered deck.  With my dear friend Oenone’s camera, I took pictures of this group of women who were such great role models and even better friends for me.  With a lump in my throat, I introduced them to my Pirate, and asked if I could take a picture of her with them.  That moment right there.  And a tradition was passed along.  Oenone put her pearls around Aub’s neck, saying it is a tradition for Pirates to play in pearls.  Moments like this are when I look back at 1986 Tara and whisper in her ear, “That whole college decision thing?  You chose well.”

 

A Pirate in pearls.....perfection.

A Pirate in pearls…..perfection.

As we were all leaving the soccer fields and heading back towards front campus for other events, some of our friends needed rides, as they had walked out to the new field from the old one and it was H.O.T. hot.  I had the privilege of being accompanied by the scarf-maker who could.  In the five minutes it took us to get to front campus, we were deep in conversation.  We found a couple of rockers and commenced to visiting.  Aub joined us a few minutes later and the laughter and near tears that passed among us were the stuff that the best of memories are made of.   My scarf-maker friend, this woman who takes Chances and makes things happen, walked with us over to the loggia overlooking the fountain where we would be eating soon.  She looked down at all below us and then back at Aub.

She motioned for Auburn.  “Come with me.  Mom, you stay here.”

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I saw them go down the marble stairs I’d gone up and down so many times over the years, probably the most significant of which was when I was married by that fountain in 2002.  They seemed lost in conversation as they headed over to the door that opened up to the post office and bookstore.  As she opened the door for Aub, my friend waved up at me.  They smiled, and then they headed back.

The first in a long line of many, I hope.  Thankful for the legacy my friend has passed along.

The first in a long line of many, I hope. Thankful for the legacy my friend has passed along.

I stood and looked out at the preparations for our fiesta by the fountain while I waited.  When they came back up, both were beaming.
“I just passed along a new tradition. You want to hear the story?”

I nodded.  Traditions.  That’s my middle name.  Daddy used to say, Look out, if you do anything more than once, it becomes a tradition with Tara.  So of course I wanted to know this story.

“You remember Rita Delaney Harris?” she asked.  I nodded.  I had seen her name in the Annual Meeting program that morning.  She passed away this past year.  She was a non-traditional older student, who was a senior my freshman year.

“It was my freshman year.  I was walking over to go in that door, and Rita was heading that way too.  I started to open the door for her, but she stopped me, reaching out and opening the door for me.  And she said, ‘No, let me.  And may this be the first of many doors opened for you.'”

Is it okay to say that I was about to cry?

Okay or not, it’s the truth.

What a precious lady.  To think that something that may have seemed so simple and  that happened twenty-nine years ago still touches my friend.  That it made such a lasting impression on her heart.

And now.

Now she has opened a door for my girl, wishing for her many more open doors in her future.

Oh good gravy.

Is there anything more precious that having someone you love and respect sharing love and light with your young’un?

Tonight I am thankful for sisterhood.  But it’s more than that really.  Sisterhood at Wesleyan is like the beautiful handkerchief I got from my Great Aunt.  I always have it.  It’s an heirloom passed down from one generation to the next.  I tuck it in my pocket or my purse or the top drawer of my dresser.  I always feel the comfort of the memories it brings me, and I appreciate that I have it now, after all of these years.  It dries my tears from laughter and from the hard times.  A treasure that is beautiful yet still quite functional.  I don’t tuck it away and never use it again.  Keeping it close only adds to the memories, and that is where so much joy comes from.  Keeping my sisters close, and sharing the memories of yesterday, the joys and sorrows of today, and the dreams for tomorrow.

Thank you Pirates 1989 for showing my girl what being a Pirate is all about.  “Guidelines only, laughter, pearls, and loving your sisters fiercely.”  And sharing grace and love by opening doors for each other every Chance we get.

Go take a chance and do something great for someone, no matter how small it seems.  I bet you’ll be surprised how far it goes.

 

Love to all.  And pearls.  Always pearls.  😉

 

Her Biggest Fan

I got this text message this morning from my oldest, my college girl, my Aub.

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Where did the time go?  It seems like just yesterday this girl was prancing around Blackberry Flats, such a cutie patootie.  Full of vim and vinegar that one.

My girl in one of my favorite outfits from the consignment sale.  She could always make me laugh--still can.

My girl in one of the favorite outfits from the consignment sale. She could always make me laugh–still can.

I think about how just a few years after this picture was taken, she was at Yokota East Elementary school, a DODDS school on base in Japan.  I walked her to school in the mornings.  After a few weeks she asked me to start picking her up in the van (we lived five minutes away) because, she said, the school days just “wear me out.”  And so I did.  Many afternoons we stayed and she and friends played on the playground until they were ready to lock the gates.  Such beautiful days, much like this one, days filled with classes and art projects and Japanese culture class and book sales in the library.  I helped with class parties and was the assistant in her art classes.  If she had something going on, I was there.

Aub on a field trip with her Yokota East Elementary classmates and friends in a shirt my Mama and Daddy decorated for her.

Aub on a field trip with her Yokota East Elementary classmates and friends in a shirt my Mama and Daddy decorated for her.

And now, somehow time has slipped by, and I’m not.  There.  Physically.  But yes, I was still cheering her on today.  Even if she didn’t see my face going all goofy with pride over a job well done.

Today as I was cleaning out some drawers, I found a note tucked away that I had written her.  “Keep smiling.  You did great.”  And on the other side, “What’s for supper?”  When?  Ah yes, the county spelling bee in elementary school.  We went through several of those in her time.  I had written the note before we left that morning.  Because I knew that her just being up there was “great,” even if she were to go out on the first word she tried to spell.  And no matter how she did, she got to pick out what to have for supper.  Precious memories.

Later on this afternoon Aub and I were texting again and I suggested she could run an errand she needed to take care of this afternoon.

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And she sent me this back.  Another moment in my girl’s life that I’m not there as I used to be–snapping pictures, giving a thumbs up, cheering her on.  I was teasing her with that “comment o’ guilt” and she knew it.  But still, it hit me full force today that she has definitely moved on from the “Mama in the audience” phase of life.

Wow.

Wasn’t it yesterday that she was graduating from kindergarten?

 

My girl in her cap and gown graduating from kindergarten.

My girl in her cap and gown graduating from kindergarten.

Okay, maybe not.  Well then surely it was yesterday she graduated from high school, right?  Maybe last week?

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Almost a year, you say?  Do what?  I cannot believe it.  But there it is.  The calendar doesn’t lie, I guess.

 

I am so proud of my “sophomore.”  (Well, that is hard to say.)  She has worked hard, played hard, and found a new life in a new place to call home.  And the fact that I have great memories of the same place as my home brings me a special kind of joy.  In fact, we’ve just about determined that next year she will be living in the same room I lived in my freshman year.  That is just downright cool.

Aub and her alma mater

Aub and her alma mater

My girl knows how to stick to it.  :)

My girl knows how to stick to it. 🙂

For my girl, who “stuck” to it this year and did a great job, even when things got just about as hard as they could get–a big wink and thumbs up and “Whoo hoo” and all of those other things I’ve done to embarrass you as I sat in the crowd.  I’m always in the crowd, baby girl, and I’ll always be your biggest fan.  I learned from my biggest fan, you know.  Maemae never let me forget how much she loved me, and I hope you will always know how much I love you.

Way to go, boo–keep it up like this and you’ll be graduating before I know it.  *sigh*

Love this girl.

Love this girl.

 

Y’all, if you’ve got littles, go hug them.  I’m off to hug mine.  Before we know it, they’ll be graduating and doing their own thing, just like this one.

 

Love to all.

 

For the Seniors, and those who will be

Sunday night when I sat and listened to conversations among those about to graduate from my Alma Mater, I heard the stress and excitement and anxiety in their voices, in their days, in their plans.  As I listen to so many who are about to graduate, so many who are wrapping up their school year, I hear the frenzy and the panic and the trying to figure out how to get it all done before the year is over.  As they talked, the memory came back to me of one particular evening and a sandwich I made and took with me.  And what followed. 

 

The day was in spring

many moons ago

and the cherry blossoms covered the trees in rich abundance

creating a sanctuary for one who might seek it

like me

The sun was setting

dusk

the dark was settling upon the earth

but it was already in my heart

Fear, worry, concern, anxiety

trepidation

and maybe excitement and anticipation

Only a month left of classes

and finals

and graduation

That spring night felt like the beginning of the end

saying goodbye to my home for four years

the place that had birthed in me

a new person

stronger, wiser, smaller, with eyes more open

and more questions than answers

and a heart that was breaking for the things

I’d learned

and seen

and heard

and wanted to change

Wesleyan

As I sat on the cold concrete bench, tucked away

from the world

hidden by my tent of blossoms

it felt as though about the time

I’d learned the way of the syllabus

there would be no more

Life

doesn’t come with directions or syllabi

or a professor to advise

If you’re lucky

you have family and friends

to listen and share wisdom

but in the end

It’s all You

and Only You

I sat and slowly ate my pb and j

on wheat

that I’d prepared for my trek across campus

looking for answers

and peace

When I had spied the bench peeking

I sat and thought and was filled with the angst of the moment

I was about halfway through with my sandwich

when I looked down and realized

the bread

was

moldy

Tears

In that moment

I felt more lost than ever before

Moldy bread

I was hidden in the blossoms

in the world

I didn’t know what path to take

back to peace

back to the place I was meant to go

away from the tears and angst and moldy bread

The thing is–

the moldy bread didn’t kill me

It wasn’t pleasant, more in the mind than in the stomach

but it didn’t give me more than a moment’s pause

really

In life, those moments when it’s all bearing down on you

When the tears are at the surface

and the bread is moldy

and there are no directions

Time will pass

Friends will come alongside you

and it will

be

okay

again

and

moldy bread

it won’t kill you

 

 

Going Home Again

You can, you know?

Go home again.

I know because today I did.

I went back to the place I loved when I was growing up.  Wesleyan College.  When my Mama was in school there, finishing a degree that I had unintentionally and in utero interrupted, I visited and fell in love with it.  Mama spent two years in classes there to change majors and finish a degree she had only been two quarters shy of twelve years earlier.

She took us to campus when we were out of school and she had classes.  I sat in the solid wood desks in Taylor Hall and wrote stories while she learned Psychology.  I had no clue that six years later I’d be sitting in those same desks, fascinated by the same course of study Mama loved.

She and Daddy took us to plays and concerts and performances by the Naiads (the synchronized swimmers) on a regular basis.

It already felt like home before I set foot on the campus in fall of ’86 as a full-fledged Wesleyanne.

And so it has ever since.

My four years there gave me memories and friends I’ll treasure forever.

I married there twelve years after graduation.  Right there around the same fountain I was thrown in on my birthday every year.  ‘Cause that’s what we do–throw you in the fountain on your birthday and when you get engaged.  It’s called love, people.  And tradition.

And about that.  The tradition continues.  Aub began her Wesleyan journey officially on August 17, 2013.  What an amazing journey hers has been.  Despite a hard semester emotionally, she did well academically. She too has made friends whom she will love forever.  And she made another tradition a huge part of her life.

118 years.....wow.

118 years…..wow.

STUNT.

The Pirate STUNT committee--y'all did a great job!

The Pirate STUNT committee–y’all did a great job!

In a nutshell, each class elects a committee who writes and directs their class’ thirty minute comedy-musical.  Aub was elected to be on her class, the Pirates, committee.  Since last fall, she and four other wonderful women from her class wrote and edited and dreamed and spent many hours creating their class STUNT.  Three weeks ago they read the STUNT to their class for the very first time.  Yes, it’s been kept a secret that long.  And until three nights ago, the other classes had no clue what the other STUNTS were about.  It all culminated in tonight.  STUNT night.  The big competition for the STUNT cup.  Ticket sales from the event raise money for scholarships for rising seniors.  This is the 118th year.  That’s a lot of helping out your sister.  And I was one of the beneficiaries many moons ago.  Thankful.

Today was also Welcome to Wesleyan Weekend.  The day Wesleyannes bring young women–daughters, nieces, friends–to campus to attend mock classes, listen to the story of STUNT, eat in the dining hall, see dorm rooms, and attend STUNT.

I took our Princess, my Golden Heart 2027.  She has been so excited about this for weeks.  She planned her outfit–jeans and her Golden Heart Wesleyan shirt that her big sister got her last fall.  And a red sweater to support Aub’s class, the Pirates, in their effort to win the STUNT cup.

A precious day full of more moments to treasure.

Being with women whom I lived with for four years.  Before we entered the “Real World.”  I had promised to giggle the first time one of us had to use her “Mama” voice.   And I did.  But then I was the second–it was inevitable with my crew.

The beautiful dining hall at Wesleyan.  As our Princess said, "It's more beautiful than I thought it would be."

The beautiful dining hall at Wesleyan. As our Princess said, “It’s more beautiful than I thought it would be.”

I sat in the dining hall and ate supper with friends I’ve known for a long, long time.  Almost thirty years–what?!  How did that even happen?  And I had a wonderful visit with someone whom I had seen in plays there before my freshman year who became a dear friend.  I adored her then and I still do.  She’s just that fabulous.

One of the women from the class ahead of us led us in the singing of the Doxology.  I don’t think I will ever hear the beauty of voices raised in song in this room and not get chills.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Funny thing is we only ever sang it on Thursday nights before Family Style Supper, and yet, when I went to sit down tonight, it was the first thing I remembered from my years there in that beautiful room.

Our children played together around the fountain, and we reminisced.  So much to remember, so much forgotten, but one thing stood out. Sisterhood.  It does last a lifetime.

We went to see the model room for one of the dorms.  My room from my Senior year.  Remodeled, but same room still.  Then we went across the way to view a room in another dorm.  The dorm that we weren’t allowed in while I lived there.  Except for that one time.  The irony is that the same women who let me in that one time also let me in tonight.  I love them, but I might just hear that drum banging in my sleep.  If I can even sleep tonight.  Fortunately they were much friendlier this time around.  😉

Heading to the fountain for our Pep rally.

Heading to the fountain for our Pep rally.

As we stood around the fountain and sang our class songs, I looked across the way to my independent Princess who had found her way to stand with other Golden Hearts.  She was not looking back once.  Tears.  Gratitude.  A smile.  She has found her way home too.  She used those exact words tonight when we were walking back to our car, “Mama, it feels like Wesleyan is home.”

It is, baby girl, it is.  And so another Wesleyanne is born.

I love this place and the things that never change.  Familiar.  That is home for me.

I love this place and the things that never change. Familiar. That is home for me.

While sitting in Porter Auditorium tonight watching the classes put on an awesome show, I moved in my seat.  Without thinking, I reached down and felt the velvety sides to the leather seat.  I knew without consciously remembering that’s how they were made.  I’ve sat and touched the velvet during plays, concerts, convocations, meetings, STUNT rehearsals (so many of those), Alumnae meetings, and graduations.  It’s like going in a house you haven’t been in for years and you just KNOW where everything is.  Because it’s home.

Tonight I give thanks for folks who have known me forever it seems.  For the ones who listen to old stories and new, for the laughter–oh thank you for the laughter, for little girls and big ones bonding together where their Mamas learned to begin growing up.  For memories rising up and causing your heart to skip a beat because they are so vivid.  For the whispered words of my roommate when I was climbing over a chair, “I’ve got you,” and the realization that yes, she always has.  I’m thankful that my girl gets to create her own memories in the same place where her Mama and Maemae did so many years ago.  I’m thankful that I left her tonight with a smile on her face and joy in her heart.  Her class didn’t win the coveted STUNT cup, but they won something much better–a bonding experience and story after story that I hope one day they will share together on a sunny afternoon sitting around the fountain remembering with those they grew to love.

I’m also thankful for all who have supported her journey.  Godparents and Aunts and family and friends who were sitting in the audience, cheering my Pirate on, I love and appreciate more than they can know.  For folks who wore red or sent her encouraging words, it meant so much.  And to my Wesleyan sisters who sat and watched and cheered for a class different from their own (and even brought her cookies), simply because she was mine and therefore theirs, my heart is full to bustin’.

Tonight I’ll be dreaming sweet dreams of home.  Love to all.

Talking to the TV, Time Change, and Listening to the Littles

Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier

Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This afternoon it was just me and my little guy at home.  He asked to watch his “Davy Crockett” movie.  He loves it, and his sisters are not so fond of it, so I said yes.  Then he made my day and asked me to sit and watch it with him.

Sweet boy.  Yes.

We were sitting and watching when he got very excited.  “This is the part!  This is the part!  Davy and his friend are going to sneak up on the Indians.”  He started whispering very quietly.  It seemed like he was giving directions to Davy and Georgie Russell, but I couldn’t be sure.  He saw me watching him from the couch, and he smiled, a little embarrassed.  “Sometimes I think they can hear me from the TV and I don’t want them to hear me and find Davy Crockett.”

I laughed.  Quietly of course.  I didn’t want to be responsible for that either.

He reminded me of something similar I used to believe.  When we lived on Boy Scout Road, at one point two boys lived next door.  Mama and their mama were friends, and we played together too.  The older boy was Sister’s age.  I remember him telling me he watched “Batman” at 7 p.m.  One night our TV was left on that channel, and Batman came on.  I went up to the TV talking to J, thinking he could hear me through the TV since we both had our TVs on the same channel.  Yeah, well, I figured it out.  Eventually.

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This evening we were on our way back from Evening Prayer.  The littles were in the back seat asking me about their big sister.  “I have a question,” Cooter said.  “Where does Baba live? Does she live at our house or does she live at college?”

“Yes.  Both of those.  When she has classes, she lives at Wesleyan, and when she doesn’t, she lives at home.  So yes, she lives at both,” I answered.

It was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “So are the whole people at Wesleyan her family too?”

His sister, our Princess, piped up.  “Yes, buddy.  That’s how it is.  They are all sisters in the classes.  She has big sisters who are Golden Hearts because she is with the Pirates.  One day the new Golden Hearts will come and they will be her little sisters.  And one day when she IS VERY GROWN UP, I will go there and I will be a Golden Heart.  So I am her big sister.”  Ummm, get all that?  (For those not familiar with the traditions of Wesleyan, each of the four classes is like its own sorority–and they have big sister and little sister classes–Purple Knights, Golden Hearts, Green Knights, and Pirates.  So our Princess, with the exception of that last sentence, is absolutely correct.  She is in third grade and is already counting the days until she can move in on campus as a Golden Heart of 2027.  She is ready; we’re just wondering if Wesleyan is ready for her!)

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When we got home tonight, the littles went inside ahead of me.  I asked Princess to let Miss Sophie out of her kennel.  Cooter had run in ahead of her.

“I think he beat me to the punchline,” she said.  I don’t know why but that cracked me up.  No baby, he might have beat you to the punch, but I didn’t hear a joke in the midst of our arrival.  And yet, ironically enough, I was laughing.  Huh.  How about that?

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This time change is wearing us out.  In all kinds of ways.  But it is especially confusing for Cooter.  He is very troubled as soon as it gets dark. Right around 6 p.m. “Is it very, very late?” he will ask.  Usually it is not, and I tell him so.  Then Princess will answer, “The time changed, buddy, that’s why it’s dark.”  This conversation, exactly the same each time, has taken place numerous times over the past week.

Friday night I picked him up from Mess Cat and Leroy’s house around 10:30 p.m.  Sleepover cancelled.  I was prepared for his change of heart, so it didn’t bother me to head over and get him.  I picked him up already bathed and in his pajamas (thanks MC), and we headed home.

“Will there be any other cars on the road?” he asked.

“Sure there will, buddy.”

“What time is it?” he asked in an almost reverent whisper.  “Is it after midnight?”

“No, it’s not.  You’ve been up this late many times.  You’re fine.”

He was quiet for a few minutes.  Then he asked about other cars again.

“Cooter, there’s one up ahead and one just passed us going the other way.  Yes, there are other cars out.”
“Where are they coming from?  Are they going home?” He was worried about something.

I answered, “Well yes, they probably are.  Maybe they were out to a late supper or watching a movie.”

He was quiet again.  He finally got to the heart of the matter.

“What I’m really worried about is the traffic lights.”

I wrapped my brain around that.  Well, yeah, that could be a problem, couldn’t it?  So I explained that the lights were working fine and that no, they didn’t turn them off in the middle of the night, and we would be fine.

We both breathed a sigh of relief when we walked through the door of the house that night–each for different reasons.

So tonight as we were talking about the time change, I explained that the days get shorter and shorter this time of year.

“So how far away is the summer solstice?” he asked, with a longing tone in his voice.  (Whoo hoo, homeschooling WIN, he remembered our conversation from months ago!)

I counted off the months. “Ummm, a long way off buddy. It’s going to be dark early for a while.”  And then I got a little sad myself.

Seasonal Affect Disorder is very real y’all.  And I strongly suspect I am not the only one suffering with it.

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So bringing it back around to another talking to the TV story.  And no, we really don’t watch that much TV, but today was an exception.  Princess was in the bath, so Cooter and I were watching together.  It is rare for us to watch live and commercial TV but when we do, I tend to mute the commercials.  I was slow to do it at one point this evening, so the commercial began.  It talked about how we have policemen and folks like that to keep us safe in the world, but then it asked who keeps us safe on the computer.  As I hit MUTE, Cooter said loudly and very matter-of-factly, “Our parents.”

Love that boy.

And I’m thankful he sees me as a protector.  That fits with my newly found identity of domestic shepherd. I like it.

Tonight I give thanks for the voices of my children sharing their thoughts and worries and joys with me.  They make me laugh and cry and think, and hearing their voices in conversation, whether with each other or yes, even with the TV, makes me smile.