Sunday, May 30, 2010

letter to Ari

My dearest Ari,

Visiting you has been sweet and fun and precious. I discovered that you love music and I even sang to you in bluegrass-style, which made you laugh.

You will soon learn that reading is a favorite of Baba's.
So this weekend we shared our first book, "Time for Bed." You did your best to pay attention, but working on your gums took priority.

We took you out to eat but you tired of it quickly. I understand: all that grown-up talk gets awfully boring.

Instead, you loved being outside, watching people and the fountain and cars zooming past.

We took many photos of you, pretty girl!

 I know we wore you out ... you caught naps whenever you could.


It doesn't seem so long ago that I held your daddy, just like this. So please, Ari, don't grow up too fast!

Thanks for spending time with me, Ari!

Your loving Baba

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

little rascals

Always something around here. Yesterday afternoon I spied my neighbors across the street, pointing and looking up a tree. Of course I hollered, "whatcha looking at?"

"Baby raccoons!" they hollered back.

And sure enough, one sat way up in the tree, the other two (one surmised to be the runt) were on the ground, cuddling. The one we named "sister" seemed to be protecting the runt.

Mama was nowhere in sight, though these guys looked small to have left the nest. Or whatever raccoons call home.

Afternoon wore on to dinner time and beyond. The three musketeers made their way to the next house, where they took a nap at the base of a large redbud tree, under some foliage.

After a bit, they followed their nocturnal nature and woke up, ready to move on. And so they waddled and nosed from house to flower bed to trash cans to yard to fence.

Lynn valiantly fetched her dog's crate and baited it with swiss cheese and a banana, but they weren't tempted by that menu and moved on.

Just as night fell, our suburban 'coons ambled down the walk, around the corner, and - we hope - back to the woods.

What's the entertainment in your neigborhood?

Saturday, May 22, 2010

goodbye, ghastly girdles!

What a blessing that my coming-of-age coincided with the emergence of pantyhose. YES, pantyhose made girdles more or less obsolete in the late 1960's. According to Wikipedia, it was in 1970 that "U.S. sales of pantyhose exceeded stockings for the first time, and has remained this way ever since." Thank goodness!

How do I know that girdles needed to be a thing of the past? I'll tell you how in two words: Mom. Sundays.

On Sunday we'd get to see Mom all dressed up. No casual Sunday dresser was she. A sharp tweedy jacket and skirt. Clip-on earrings. High heels. Or at least pumps. Lipstick! And stockings, held up by those suspender-ish clips dangling off her girdle.

Mom looked so chic, taking us to church and back. But as she stepped through the back door into our kitchen, she morphed into a squealing lunatic.

"Mom, when's lunch?" we'd chorus.

"Ooooooo, let me get this girdle off! I can hardly breathe!" Kicking off her heels and limping down the hall, she lifted her skirt and strained to get a grip on her girdle.

It seemed insane to me that any woman would voluntarily wear a garment that induced such extreme discomfort. Stockings or not. I likened it to a vise grip on the mid-section: a thick elastic tube stretching from waist to thighs.

After witnessing Mom's misery every Sunday for several years, I vowed never to subject myself to the obvious pain brought on by girdle-wearing.

And then. Pantyhose saved the day. They're no thrill ride, either, but sure as heck preferable to girdles. Come to think of it, I haven't worn pantyhose in a long time. Not even at my son's wedding!

Ya know, the good old days weren't always so good.

P.S. It's a sure bet that Mom and my grandmothers, pictured in the previous post, all had on girdles. Mercy, how did they keep smiling through the reception?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

60 years

My parents joined their lives sixty years ago today: May 20, 1950.
They were thin and youthful, though my mom's father had warned her she was "waiting awfully late" to marry. (She was 24, my dad 25.)
My dad graduated from college and served in the Army.
My mother couldn't afford to complete college,
though she desperately wanted to.
She worked for a time at the "weather bureau" in Memphis, Tennessee.
She communicated by phone with the airport and newspapers.
My parents tried to make a go of farming because that was what my father knew and loved, but it didn't earn a decent living.
There are now four children, eleven grandchildren
and one great-grandchild from my parents' union.
Unfortunately, cancer took my mom
before even the first grandchild came along.
My dad remarried a lovely woman, Sally,
and they have been married for 28 years: almost the same
length of time my parents were married. 
Mom once told me that if she died first,
she hoped my dad could find happiness with someone else.
I think that was a wise thing for her to share:
it was as much about my siblings and me
as about my dad.
When I married Bill, my dad told me that marriage is never 50/50 effort.
Sometimes it ends up 90/10 or 60/40.
But the goal should be 100/100.
That said, there's a load of effort for those who make it 60 years.
And love. And commitment. And blessings.

Note: my maternal grandmother, second from the right in
this photo, was 52 years old at the time, three years younger than I am now! And holy cow, I just realized my dad's mother, left, was MY AGE.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

mountain air giddiness

What a photo!
My son Dan and daughter-in-love Jenny took
their Ari on a day trip to the North Carolina mountains.
Looks like Ari is positively thrilled with the trek.
I love that Dan and Jenny
take the time and energy to
introduce their little girl
to the wonders of God's creation.

And I love to see Ari,
grinning and flush-faced,
loving every minute of it.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

in and out of jail

the Delaware, Ohio county courthouse, built in 1858

So I spot a blurb in the paper: "tours of the old jail during this weekend's arts festival. 2:00- 4:00 p.m."

I know few share my enthusiasm for a jail tour. No matter. Bill and I got in line. The jail, which sits behind the Delaware County courthouse in the heart of Delaware and houses some court offices, has caught my eye for the past 20 years. Every time I drive by I say, "oooooh, I'd love to see inside that jail." And today I did.

Built in 1878, the building not only housed up to 16 prisoners, it also was home to the sheriff and his family. Yes! His wife and children. And I met one of them: more on that in a sec.

Incredibly, the massive limestone structure served to hold local law-breakers until 1988 when a new county jail was built as a lawsuit from the state was threatened on our county. Originally, males, females and even juveniles were all locked up here together. Until the early 20th century, laws protecting juveniles didn't exist.

The cells are horrifically 19th-century. Little more than a dank hole with a fold-down metal 'cot,' cold limestone walls and an iron-bar door. A stainless steel commode sat at the end of each row of cells: no privacy whatsoever.

White-haired Marjorie Rutherford sat in a folding chair in the shade outside the jail. She regaled visitors with her memories of her 87 years in Delaware, including her childhood spent in the living quarters of the jailhouse. Opening a little box on her lap, she held out beaded necklaces made by inmates for her and her mother. She remembers her father, the sheriff, giving money to a prisoner to walk young Marjorie into town for ice cream!

I imagine everyone's town has jewels of its history waiting for the telling. And what a treasure I discovered today.

Marjorie Rutherford

Thursday, May 13, 2010

stayin' alive ... traveling with kids

 My kids were pretty good at amusing themselves on car trips.

My son's blog posts on his memories of growing up under my wings have stirred up some memories of my own ... particularly about traveling with kids.

We took to the road often. I think the earliest trip was David's first Christmas, in 1983. He wasn't yet three months old but he traveled beautifully from Florida to my brother's home in Atlanta. David was a laid-back little guy, though Bill and I took a photo of him screaming while in Atlanta because we'd never seen him carry on so.

Our family rapidly grew from one little traveler to four. Then things got interesting. Thankfully, time has a way of smoothing the edges off the most extreme travel memories, because I remember most with fondness.

We acquired our first mini-van in 1986. It was - and is - the best invention known to moms, mainly because it put distance between parents and kids, and each other. On trips with with both parents, the phrase "do you want me to come back there?" was no threat because I DID "go back there." I was plenty limber, and at a moment's provocation I'd bound over teddy bears, cheerios, blankets and coloring books to "clear the air" in the far corners of our van. Some dads are impervious to the shenanigans that go on back there. But I wasn't.

My sister will remember this. She had bravely road-tripped with the two boys and me to Florida from Ohio, and Dan commenced a piercing scream on the beltway around Atlanta. After 30 miles, Anne discovered a solid little something in Dan's diaper. It's the little things that can put a damper on trips.

A mayonnaise jar makes a handy potty on the go ... for boys.

I found the kids to be calmer and better-behaved if only one parent was in the car. Maybe they instinctively knew that their lives were at greater risk if they distracted the driver. I took full advantage of this and made some outlandish solo trips with the four kids. Craziest of all was Ohio to Rhode Island to the Outer Banks when the kids were ages 2 - 8. Yeah, insane. We skirted north of New York City, wowed by the skyline. And on the Connecticut turnpike, we encountered a power outage at a rest stop. Katie, age 2, screamed hysterically in the dark bathroom stall with me.

I never put up with screaming in the car, however. I'd just pull off the road and sit until they got quiet. "Can't drive when you're screaming." It always worked. Kids, whether they're enjoying the trip or not, don't like to waste time at the side of the road.

Assigned seats. Yes. I really did. Tired of endless bickering over who sat where (and usually on normal errands about town), I devised a seating chart. Each seat was numbered and each child was assigned a seat number, rotating to a new one each week. Sounds extreme, but it worked. Pretty sure I still have that seating chart somewhere.

We did without videos to entertain the kids on car trips: the technology didn't exist. But books did. And small toys, Cheerios (lots of those), crayons, puzzle books, "Brain Quest," guessing games, pillows for napping, songs and lots of good, fun conversations. I think I really got to know my kids while riding in the car. 

The monster of all road trips occurred in summer 1998 when we journeyed 5300 miles to Montana and back.

That, dear friends, is another blog post.

I'm sure you have some notable travel memories, either as a child or parent!

Monday, May 10, 2010

spring scurry

We neighbors are scurrying,
ok we're getting older so we don't scurry as fast.
But we scurry nevertheless
with our shovels and hooley-hoes (as Lynn calls them)
and bags of organic matter and mulch.

One of us pulls in our drive, throws open the back hatch
and the others of us ooh and ahh
over the fresh-from-the-nursery
burst of greenery and color:
impatiens, petunias, lavender, thyme and gerber daisies.
It's spring on our street
and how we love to scurry
and turn the earth
and plant new perennials,
 placing them all just so.
And giving in to just a few annuals
for color.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Mother's Day in reverse (revisited)

This post re-appears from last year. Life's been hectic, so not much new writing has happened.

One gorgeously sunny Mother's Day, my son Mark took me golfing. Hidden Valley golf course, a par-three here in town set the stage for a riotous afternoon.

First off, I was deeply touched that my 14-year-old would be seen in public with me, and golfing together at that. And frankly, I might have chosen to spend the afternoon sitting in the sun. But off we went. My thoughtful son insisted on renting a golf cart to give his mom an afternoon of pampering.

We hacked our way through the first couple of holes, enjoying each other's company. But around the fourth hole, far from the clubhouse, our golf cart took on an evil mind of its own.

Since Mark was underage for driving the cart, I took the wheel. The cart decided to quit working; it absolutely wouldn't stay in gear. Forward gear, that is. I tried; then Mark tried. Finally, I threw it in reverse and voila! Off we went, craning our necks to make sure we didn't collide with trees, ball-cleaners or - my biggest fear - other golfers. And so it continued through the next five holes.

The cart let out a soft beep-beep as we careened the course, warning others that we were moving in reverse. Of course, this scene put me in fits of laughter. A pair of men behind us glared disdainfully. And soon Mark was laughing, too. All these years later, we still laugh together over the memory.

It was a fine Mother's Day. Maybe even the best ever.

May your Mother's Day (whether or not you're a mother) be full of laughter, too. I believe one of the best gifts a mother can give her children is the gift of laughter and it is one gift my mother gave to me. She was zany and laughter-filled and I cherish the few years we had together. What gifts did your mother give you?

Thursday, May 6, 2010

the wonder of technology

I drive past their house nearly every day. I admire the retaining wall and attractive landscaping they installed last year. But we haven't met. Until now.

The W. family suffered a terrible blow on Tuesday. Mr. W. and his 6-year-old son were in a horrendous accident that nearly took their lives. A dump truck hit their car in an intersection, and a third vehicle was also involved.

Father and son are now recuperating in separate hospitals in Columbus. Mrs. W. is shuttling between them, trying to console both. Their daughter is home. I cannot imagine the chaos and fear of enduring such a situation.

Then friends, family, neighbors, and complete strangers step in through the wonder of technology: facebook. "The W. Connection" weaves a caring fabric of people who want to help. People who drive past the W. house, too.

"Praying for you all."
"Stay strong."
"What can I do?"
"God will not let our hardships destroy us."
From a cousin: "Here are ways you can help."
And from Mrs. W. herself:
"It's been an uneventful night. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers! This page is really helping me get through my day and night."

Technology is a wonder, but only a vehicle. It joins the prayers and hearts of caring people to a family in need.

God bless and heal you, W. family.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

24 at Taylor

Over the weekend I became a college student for 24 hours. At my daughter Katie's invitation, I packed my pillow, sheets and toothbrush and drove out to Indiana to spend a night with her.

Oh, boy. I'm no longer 20 years old. I observed college life with a new perspective, 30 years later:

1. My suite-mates don't watch the clock very closely. On Sunday, a "school night," we went to bed about 1 a.m. "This is early," they said.

2. I forgot that a shower wouldn't be there awaiting me. Finding them all occupied, I realized the the "8 o'clock class" girls would clear out soon. They did.

Oldest living college student:
ready for bed.

3. Today's college students have a lot of STUFF. I don't think I possessed so many belongings back in the 70's. Katie's closet is suffering a severe case of end-of-year disorganization.

4. Despite the students' grumbling, I found the food acceptable. Katie's roommate thinks moving to an apartment would be fun, "because we'd have a kitchen and do our own cooking." In thirty years, she might think differently. Let someone else do the cooking as long as you can.

5. Doing laundry at college is a time-intensive annoyance .

6. TWO pick-a-date groups came by looking for a "bigger or better" item for a game they were playing. That was fun.

7. Privacy and quiet can be elusive at college. The comraderie is so wonderful, it's a wonder these girls get anything done.

8. Once college is over, the great care and support ends, too. The friendliness and helpfulness of a small, Christian college community is second to none.

9. Taylor chapel produces the most amazing worship and music and sweet voices and I wish I could be there all the time for it.

10. I came away thankful for a daughter (and her cute roommate Maria) who would share her time and space with mom. (And thanks, 1st south English, for welcoming me!) Love you, Katie!

Not ready for bed.

What did you love about college? Or not?