Take Me Home, Kermit

This afternoon the crew and I were over at Leroy’s and Mess Cat’s house for a bit.  My littles were playing with Shaker, running through playing some game that kept them entertained and getting along.

*Win*

At one point, our Princess came running through carrying something and the boys were chasing her.  She stopped next to me, poised the bundle she was carrying just so and said in this special little voice, “It’s not easy being me.”

I looked over and laughed.

She had taken the Kermit the Frog that Shaker got for Christmas and wrapped his arms and legs all around him until he looked like what she deemed “Baby Kermit.”  She has played with this little critter every single time we’ve been at their house since Christmas.  It made me smile that she has such a fascination with him.  I think maybe it’s because of the movie trailers for the new Muppet movie “Muppets Most Wanted” coming out on March 21.  My crew wants to see it because “Daddy loves the Muppets.”

As I was thinking about Kermit and all of the Muppets this evening, my mind wandered to John Denver.

Yes, Rocky Mountain High.  That guy.

He was a guest star on The Muppets and then had two television specials with them.  He developed a lifelong friendship with Jim Henson, you know, the Muppets guy.   I think John Denver’s version of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” with the Muppets is the best one ever.  Hands down.  (I heard that song referred to as the “100 Bottles” song of Christmas, and I nearly laughed myself silly.  True.)

I started thinking of John Denver and his music and his untimely death at age 53 in 1997.  He was born the same year as my Daddy.  I grew up with his music.  When we had the awesome backyard Barbie Wedding about thirty-something years ago, my Aunt had a tape of “Annie’s Song” that we played during the wedding (or maybe as the Wedding March?  the brain’s a bit foggy).  That was a great day, as evidenced by the ease with which my mind and heart travelled back to it, with just the mention of John Denver’s name and legacy.

As I played through his other songs in my mind, I thought about Japan.  Yes, Japan.  When we were preparing to leave after our two and half year wonderful, awesome tour there at Yokota and Fuchu Air Bases outside of Tokyo, the Fella’s cohorts from the Japanese Base–Fuchu–threw a Hawaiian themed get-together for us and the other family moving away.  It was at the home of one of the Japanese officers.  All of our friends were decked out in their Hawaiian finest–shirts, leis, and the like.  Our greatest surprise, however, was when they gathered around and our dear friend began to sing, in his best, only slightly broken English, “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” which, bless him, came out something like, “I’m reabing on a jet prane, don’t know when I be bock again, oh babe I hate to goooo.”  Bless.  Him.  That’s another great memory.  I will never hear that song and not think of our good friends  and great times in Japan.  And the gift they gave us by singing that song and making the night and our whole time there so very special.

And then, as I thought a little longer about John Denver, I naturally started thinking about my Mama.

Oh take me home, country roads.

My Mama loved that boy.

As I write this, I have “Take Me Home, Country Roads” playing.  Only it’s not John Denver’s voice I hear singing it.

It’s my Mama’s.

She LOVED. That. Song.

It was maybe about twenty years ago that she got a CD of his.  Maybe his greatest hits?  She loved to play it.  When she was mopping, when she was cooking, when she was doing whatever, she loved his music.  But when she loved most to play it was when she was rocking her first grandbaby to sleep in her chair in the living room.

The CD player sat (and still does) on the corner of her big desk in the den.  Around the corner was the door to the living room, where she and Daddy each had a rocker/recliner chair.  Mama would carry our baby girl in there and if she’d forgotten to press play, she’d call out for me or Daddy to do so.  And she’d start singing.  Right along with Mr. John Denver.  Sometimes she’d sing louder to drown out the cries of a tired baby who never wanted to go to sleep for fear of missing out on something.  I might be wrong but I think that “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was the first song on the CD.  I remember Mama would measure how long it took her to get Aub down for a nap by how many songs it would take.  “She was out before ‘Take Me Home’ was all the way through!”  That was a triumph indeed.  I think my baby girl loved her some John Denver too.  John Denver a la her Maemae.

And that’s where my thoughts landed and stayed.  With my Mama.  Not that a day goes by that I don’t think about her.  It’s just interesting the twists and turns my brain takes each day to travel back to be with her again.

So today I’m thankful for Kermit and my Princess’ fascination with him.  I’m especially thankful for Mr. John Denver who has been on this journey with me most of my life.  I’m thankful for friends who used his song to remind us we were loved and appreciated.  Most of all, I’m thankful for his song that let me hear my Mama’s voice once more.  How I miss her and her…..well, every single thing about her.  Even the way she’d call me on stuff I’d rather not be called on.  Yes, every single thing.

Tonight as I was reminiscing and listening to his old songs I love, I came across a new one I’d never heard before by “JD” as Daddy sometimes called him.  (He also called him by his real name Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.)  In it I heard words that touched my heart and helped me feel Mama’s hug, to hold her hand, one more time.

From “The Wings That Fly Us Home” by Joe Henry and John Denver:

The vision of your goodness will sustain me through the cold.
Take my hand now to remember when you find yourself alone: you are never alone.

 

Amen.

Rolling with the Princess

It was a day like any other day.

Nine years ago.

Only I was very, very pregnant.

And we were stationed in Japan.  Thousands of miles away from my Mama and Daddy.

School was out for two days–teacher work days at Yokota East Elementary where my third grader was in school.  We had gone up to the school to help Aub’s art teacher and my friend, Van, decorate a bulletin board in one of the rooms.  He is from South Carolina so the first time he met Aub and heard her accent, he asked to meet me, and we were fast friends from then on.

As we were wrapping up, another friend needed a ride from across base, so Aub went to lunch with Van, and I headed over to the commissary.  I met my friend and grocery shopped.  I picked up the Anthony’s Pizza two slice special, dropped my friend off at her house, and went back to our apartment.  I only ate one slice and I drank some orange juice because the baby (we didn’t want to know in advance the gender) hadn’t moved in a few hours.  The OJ did the trick, the baby moved, and I was happy.

Later I picked up Aub and dropped a present off for our favorite twins who were having their birthday that day.  They had begged me to have the baby on their special day.  I hugged them and said, no, no baby yet, and we went back home.

The Fella was working a military exercise out on the Japanese base about 45 minutes to 1.5 hours away (depended on the Tokyo traffic), which had him getting  home in the wee hours.  I had put a roast in the crock pot and made a peach cobbler (yes, from canned *sigh* the real ones over there were several dollars each, but boy were they beautiful).  I was working that evening on the awards for a reading incentive program at Aub’s school  “Reading our Way up Mt. Fuji.”  I was telling Aub how to e-mail our Fella and tell him what we had cooked, and I stood up.  My water broke.  That had never happened before, and it was the strangest thing ever. Aub was worried, but I remember just laughing.  I was so surprised.

After getting cleaned up and ready, I quickly called The Fella, who went into game planning mode immediately.  He was very shocked as this was two weeks early.  He just knew he’d be done with that exercise before the baby came.  But this baby hadn’t signed up for military duty yet and was having none of that.  I called Van because he had agreed to help me with Aub in the event that something like this happened.  Our other southern friends were visiting his home off-base and I could hear their excitement.  Finally I called the house of the twins and let their sitter know.  I called back home, as it was early morning there and let my parents and my sisterfriend know.  Then it was time to head out.

I got my stuff together quickly, and we wheeled my little suitcase out the door, to the elevator, and down to our van. Carrying the suitcase across the grass, I thought maybe I shouldn’t be carrying it, as it was a little heavy.  Then I laughed, what would it do?  Put me in labor?  Ha.  We cranked up, and I drove us to the hospital just a short way down the road.

I don’t remember a whole lot about the next little bit until Van and Vernon, our other friend and Aub’s PE teacher showed up.  They were all smiles, and they decided to take her to eat at Burger King.  Since the baby was still breech, I was having an emergency C-section, and they knew they’d be back before we were ready for visitors.  As they were leaving, the Fella showed up.  He had been so worried about making it in time.  He said to begin with, he drove cautiously.  After that, he thought, no this is my baby being born, and there’s no second chances on this!  I don’t think I was ever so glad to see him as I was then.   I gave thanks that it looked like she’d make her way into the world during the period of the day when it was the same day in Japan as the States.  I had stressed so much over what if it was one day here and the next day there, and what would be her real birthday.  Yeah, me and Anxiety Girl go waaaay back.

It really wasn’t long before our precious baby girl, our Princess, was born.  Her given name means happy or joyful, and that is who she is.  We say she is our sunshine, but sometimes we have to wear shades.  From the moment she joined us on this journey, she was making people smile.  Vernon’s wife showed up at the hospital to meet our girl in her pajamas.  She said, “I wasn’t going to come, but then I thought, this chance doesn’t come along very often, so here I am.”  And she loved her velvet baby, as she called her.

Our Princess eight years ago in a kimono given to her before we moved back.

Our Princess eight years ago in a kimono given to her before we moved back.

Our girl adores her big sister and considers it her personal responsibility to keep her little brother out of trouble.  She didn’t learn to read well until she was seven, and then she took off like a house afire.  She can’t start her day until she’s had her first bowl of cereal, sitting and turning the pages of her favorite book, reading as she eats.  Her favorite author is Daisy Meadows who writes the Fairy books.  She’s been known to lose her math book, and I don’t think it’s coincidental that math is her least favorite subject.  She loves dogs and cats, but especially Miss Sophie and Sugar.  She can go from picking up and “rescuing” lizards and frogs to getting a special treat manicure in less time than it takes you to say, “marches to her own drum.”  She cries at movies, and she worries over Amber Alerts and lost puppy signs.  Her favorite shows over the years have been “Melmo” (Sesame Street), Sid the Science Kid, Curious George, Olivia, Kratt Brothers, and Jessie.  She used to dance on the bed to the intro music to Hannah Montana, and now she loves ballet, tap, and gymnastics.  She loves to write stories, make people laugh, she’s a budding artist, and when she loves something I cook, she makes me feel like a gourmet chef.   She has a joie de vivre that is true and genuine.  She is often heard saying, “This is the best {day, meal, picture, book, story, birthday, etc} ever” and she sincerely means it.  She cries missing her Maemae and Cap, whom she first met when she was eight months old after our return from Japan.  She was the apple of their eyes.  She loved it when Daddy would carry her through the parking lots looking for Mustangs if she got a little restless at Stevi B’s Pizza.  And cuddling with Maemae to read a book was the best thing ever.  She is a Daddy’s girl, and the only person I’ve ever known who nearly sobs while crying tears of joy.  She asks hard questions from the gentlest of spirits, and I’m so honored and awestruck that I was chosen to be her Mama.

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And our Sunshine, our Princess is turning nine.

I give thanks for her and her unjaded views on life.  She loves all folks, even the ones who are a little harder to love.  She has a heart of gold, which is appropriate as she one day aspires to be a Golden Heart at her sister’s, her Mama’s, and her Maemae’s alma mater–Wesleyan College.  In the meantime, we will stick with her third grade subject matter, keeping up with that math book, and getting excited over things like potato soup for supper or homemade “sushi” dessert to celebrate.  She is my Japanese baby, who is already doing great things to light up the world.  When she blows out her candle to make a wish, there’s no telling what will come into that beautiful, whimsical, quirky little mind of hers.  But I do know that whatever it is, she will smile and say, “This is the best birthday ever!”

Because that’s how our Princess rolls.

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