Breathe

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I have had the grandkids (and our daughter) with us for almost two weeks. I have come to the conclusion that two and three year-olds fight, scrap, say “NO” and pout almost as well as our politicians; so Grandma is taking a break.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

“Grandma, whatcha doing?”

“Grandma’s meditating.”

“What’s medtittatin?”

“It’s when you sit quietly and don’t make any noise.”

“Why would you do that?”

“Because Grandma’s head is about to explode.”

“Would that make a mess?”

“No, there really isn’t much in Grandma’s head anymore.”

“Where did the stuff in your head go?”

“My kids stole it from me.”

“Didn’t you teach them not to steal? My mommy says not to take something if it doesn’t belong to you.”

“Honey, its no one’s fault. They don’t know they are stealing it from you and you don’t know that you have lost it until they are all grown.”

“Grandma, am I stealing your head?”

“No baby. You are stealing my heart one day at a time.”

“Do you want it back?”

“No you keep it and when you go back home and Grandma is here you will have a piece of me that you know always loves you.”

“Like Sophia?” (her dog)

“Yep, like Sophia.”

“Sofia poops in the backyard.”

“Everything poops.”

And so it goes………..

 

 

 

Forgotten Things

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These past five days:

I have had the chance to rejoice

In the unconditional love of my grandkids

And basked in the joy of watching

Them learn and explore

Watched as cousins took turns

Comforting the crying baby

Willingly and with a gentle appreciation

Of the difficulties of travel on young ones

I have gotten to have a greater

Understanding of my daughter

Her daily life

And her aspirations and dreams

For herself and her family

I have met cousins from here to there

Two of whom I never knew existed

Until I found them last week

One on-line and one

In a tiny local historical center

The volunteer of which

Called him to say

“Come down here. A relative of yours is here!”

And he came lickety-split

To meet an unknown

Provided with a chance to talk and compare notes

Next to the sloth bones that another cousin

Dug up over 100 years ago

And others I have not seen

Since I was a moody teenager

Sulking in my own misery

And misunderstandings of life.

I have traveled to the towns

Of my ancients

And had a glimpse of how and where they lived

Drove by their houses and fields

Seen the rows of corn

That are planted in the same spot

That my Great-Great Grandparents hoed

I visited the graves of those grandparents

Who made the perilous journey

Across a vast ocean

With hope of achieving something

BIGGER and BETTER

For their children

Their dreams realized in the faces

Of their  never-known great grandchildren

And beyond

I have celebrated the birth of those

Who have shaped me

Shown me love and concern

Throughout these many years

And helped me to become who I am

I have been given precious keepsakes

Hundreds of years old

By my Aunt who loves to make

Others happy in the most

Delightful and meaningful of ways

I have felt the pain of my daughter

Whose child does not sleep

While admiring her calm and patience

On so little dream time

I’ve watched you, B

Love our children from afar

Reminding me, once again

Of all the precious people

I have waiting at home for me

With open arms and love in their hearts

But most of all I have had the opportunity

To feel all those blessings in my life

That I often miss during

The hustle and bustle

Of daily life

And those bountiful moments in time

With family members that love me

In ways once unimaginable

I am thankful for all

That I have

All I can give back

And for you

Giving me the chance

To discover things long forgotten

On Motherhood…Does It Really Ever End?

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I talked to West last night. He hates his job. He hates his life. He wants a girlfriend. He wants a wife.

“What do I have to get up in the morning for?,” he asks. A sob catching in his voice.

He is 32 and lonely. And tired. Of a life in which he feels he carries the responsibility of 12 million people’s accounts on his back and a management that just doesn’t give a F*** about anything but making a name for themselves.  That and big bonuses. They love those more than the people they are suppose to protect.

“What would you like to do?” I ask.

“I would like to build houses. Go from point A to point Z and in the end see the product of my work standing there, something to behold. Something that is meaningful and will bring a few people joy.”

“So you are looking to do something tangible, ” I say.

And I think back to all the days of child raising I have done. Days of toys strewn about, laundry piles a mile high and someone tantruming loudly through out the house. And sometimes that person was me. I remember struggling to see if what I have said and done had made a difference. I still wonder now even as the kids get older, their needs not so intense and demanding as they once were, is anyone listening? Is anyone learning something meaningful? Has what I have done mattered? Has what I have given up to be a SAH mother been worth it for anyone? I am not sure I know the answer to those questions.

I think back upon all the mistakes I have made. Ones so shameful that I glance around to see if someone can see the pink stains of guilt still written upon my face. Yet, I also see the times where I did the exact thing without preaching that made my child learn a valuable lesson that they desperately needed to know. And if I am truly honest with myself, my goods HAVE outnumbered my bads by a large margin but it is so much easier to remember the mistakes. Why is that? Why do those errors in judgement reside in the front of our minds while the things we should rejoice about slip silently away? Why do we crucify ourselves for things that were long ago forgotten as if the thorns embedded in us make our lives more noble in some sort of sadistic way? I don’t believe suffering brings about clarity so why play this game?

I wonder if is there ever a time when you can sit back and feel your job is done and you retire from parenting? You’ve done well, you know it. Instead of a gold watch all of a sudden a grandchild appears at your hip and she is your new timekeeper as you see things winding down. The minute hand of  your life speeding around the dial while hers is still being wound.

Maybe all of this letting go of guilt, worry and wonder whether it has all been worth it happens when you are truly old.  I must not be there yet.

I wonder if it will ever happen and I will rejoice on the day it does.

Times Past

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I still remember the things my parents did for me that my children or the kids in my neighborhood will most likely never experience. Sometimes that realization makes me sad. Some of this disconnect from my past stems from where we currently reside but some of it is due to the change in times. It seems strange to me how so much of the innocence I experienced of 50 years ago is gone and seems unlikely to return. Things like:

My father standing out in the bitter cold, night after night, pouring water over a homemade ice skating rink. Sliding the water here and there to make sure that the surface was even in thickness and perfectly smooth like glass. Then after several days of hard freeze he would lace up my skates while my wobbly ankles would cross precariously as I put one foot in front of the other, my blades slowly carving up his masterpiece.

Watching our black and white television where killers or carve-them-ups were not allowed to enter our household. Cuss words were unheard of too. The only things on television back then were shows which presented people trying to do their best and to help one another. In short, they showcased families/individuals who loved each other and the positive in life.

My parents pulling us through the streets on sleds to see the Christmas lights that decorated each set of eaves as the snow fell over them; creating a colorful shimmer that I remember to this day. Then, should we complain of cold (which we always did), my mother would magically pull out a thermos of hot chocolate to warm our bodies and our hearts. Such a simple way to show love and concern.

My grandmother making homemade mittens and scarves while my aunt sewed us outfits for Christmas. In addition, my mother always sewed my halloween costume (once out of old drapes) whereas I have yet to sew one. Most kids today have never experienced the thrill and the patience while waiting for the perfect outfit to emerge out of odds and ends that litter the sewing machine table.

Most of today’s kids will never hold an ice cream social, a play, and sell trinkets to earn money for charity. Back in the day, my mother would gather the squirmy and oh-so-hyper six-year-old neighborhood kids together for rehearsal everyday for the entire week prior to the performance. Then we would sell tickets to the big event to all the neighbors. Afterwards, my mother would load all the thespians into our dark blue Rambler station wagon and off we would go to the charity of choice to deliver the money we had collected. Being that this was in the days before digital photography I have grainy superimposed pictures to remind me of these times but I do remember the sense of pride and accomplishment I felt for doing something to help others. It’s something that appears to be lacking from the experience of many kids these days.

Crisp fall days during which my parents took us to the Franklin Cider Mill where we watched the apples being pulverized by the turning of the water wheel and where we ate fresh hot powdered cinnamon donuts on picnic benches while the cool wind blew the sticky sugar off our treats.

Back in the late 60’s and early 70’s the grocery aisle was a real treat. I remember picking my breakfast cereal not for taste but for the records by teen heartthrobs David Cassidy, Bobby Sherman or the Monkees that were on the back of the boxes. How glorious the sound after taking the time to carefully punch out 45’s from the cardboard box. Decoder rings and invisible pens were also prized possessions.

Once upon a time science was  new and exciting and at the forefront of our lives. When discoveries were made it was a time for everyone to rejoice along with renew our sense of national pride. In 1969 when I was just a kid I remember my mother waking me up to see Neil Armstrong walk on the moon.It was really late and our black and white television was fuzzy with the pictures being beamed back to earth. Now big discoveries are so common place that it seems as if the breath-taking excitement just isn’t there anymore.

Riding our bikes within a five block radius and exploring the world like children are suppose to be able to do without fear of injury or death. No wonder so many kids these days are afraid of failing…they never got the chance to try the little things that instill confidence.

Knowing all the people at the stores where we shopped. Back when I was a kid there was the crooked old man (Mr. Banner) who ran the milk store where milk was kept in bottles not cartons. There was the butcher who always smiled at me as he wrapped my mothers picks in white butcher paper. I also knew the liquor store owners because they had a penny-candy section that upon occasion I was allowed to peruse. The Chinese couple (The Kims) at the cleaners were favorites as was the old French lady who made the sweetest potato bread I had ever tasted. These days, unless you live in Europe, those relationships are missing from our children’s lives and its such a shame because these are the people who taught me that people who were “different” than me and my family were loving, kind and interesting. It was they who inspired me to seek out individuals who might teach me a thing or two as I journeyed through life.

These and so many things shaped me as I grew up into the imperfect person that I am but without these experiences I am convinced that I would have thought that the world was a harsh and lonely place; a place that so many of today’s kids believe the world to be.  A life without happy, positive and inspiring memories is hardly a life at all. And that is why I worry about so many of our youth of today.

On Being A Grandparent

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I never thought I would live to become a grandma. I don’t know why. Perhaps it is because my mother died at fifty just in the nick of time to see her first grandchild born. Or perhaps it was because I was such a stupid and hardheaded teenager who by all rights never should have survived the wild 1970’s. Either way, my Mom loved my son wholly and completely just like the “perfect” grandmother is suppose to do. She walked him when he cried, she cuddled him in her arms to remember the shape of his head in hands and she smiled whenever he was close to her. She read to him, begged to bathe him and sang lullabies in her soft and gentle lilt. Mom was enamored with everything about her grandson. Unfortunately, West was less than two years old when she died. They both missed out on so much that they could have gained from one another.

I shouldn’t have been surprised that Mom bought West his first Christmas present. Later, I found out she had bought it in April when she was first diagnosed. It was a hand-carved wooden car crafted of maple, with four over-sized wheels and a honest to goodness running board. It was hefty, polished to a golden luster, and was the kind of car that every male from the age of one to the age of seventy dreamed of owning someday. Yep, it was built to handle some major-league drooling.

My mother had painstakingly wrapped that Christmas present in a metallic blue and silver paper topped by a massive blue bow. Underneath was a homemade tag with West’s name taped to the side somewhat lopsided and in my mother’s script. It was simple and beautiful and just so her. Not surprisingly, it was the lone present sitting under her Christmas tree when she died. Of all the people she could have bought for that year; she thought of him and made the effort. Lung cancer doesn’t give you much time for shopping.

I remember several days after burying my mother, sitting under that brilliantly decorated Christmas tree, tears running down my face, debating whether to open the present or hold on to it until West was older and could appreciate it. Finally, I decided to unwrap the gift and as I carefully slid off the wrapping a note fluttered down to the floor. It read “Do your best but if you can’t then at least be happy and smile.”

When the most important people in your life die young it gives you an opportunity to envision all the things they would have done had they still been there and it lets you plan your own life accordingly. I have no idea if my Mom would have taken all eight of her grandchildren to the zoo, church, or out to a musical; but I know she took my son and in doing so she showed me what was important to her and the things she valued. Now it’s my turn to pass on the love, the fun and the memories that life brings to my own grandkids. In my mind I have envisioned trips to the theater, baking cookies on cold days and hikes along the windy cliffs. I just hope I do as good a job as I have imagined my mother doing for the past thirty years. But even if I don’t, I do know that I have followed her advice… I wear a smile on my face and find happiness in my heart whenever I am fortunate enough to be near my grand babies.  I think my mother would approve.

Copyright 2015

Another Great Love…291 Days To Fix This

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzwlotQVj5g

One of my absolute favorite ways to pass the time is to steal away into my “time capsule” and visit the lives of my ancestors. I rummage through boxes of old family heirlooms, search on-line for records and read stories concerning the past princes and paupers who were my grandparents as far back as 28 generations ago. Every find is precious to me and every story a best-seller in my mind.

Recently, I have been transcribing letters from my GG Grandmother to her cousin who was serving in the Civil War in 1864. He would write to her and she would reply back and so my family has this treasure trove of correspondence during those very difficult times. In the end, cousin Niles died while serving in the war. Not of a bullet or bayonet but of typhoid fever. Dead at age 24 years. Single. Alone with no wife and no children to mourn his passing. And I would never had known about him if not for these letters. His writings tell much about what kind of person he was and what was of value to him and what got his goat. And as I sift through these letters I have come to realize that things really haven’t changed all that much in the past 151 years. Sure we have electricity, internet and automobiles now but the basics of what we need to sustain our soul are the same.

We all want the basic of better lives for our children. We want food on the table, peace on earth, and someone to enjoy the simple things in life with. We desire to be able to help our neighbor and know there is someone to help us back. We still enjoy a loaf of home-made bread, a good supper of home-grown veggies and a “howdy” from our loved ones so we know they are thinking of us. We still need friends to laugh and cry with, one good listener to tell our troubles to, and some cheap entertainment to make us laugh. Still others look towards something bigger than themselves to help inspire them to do better and offer guidance as to how to life a meaningful life.

Lately, in an effort to put my head in harmony with my soul I have been making many changes. One of the simpler changes I have made in my life is that I am attempting to make the essence of who I am known to my grandchildren. I bought each a fancy box and I am sending genuine hand-written letters to each talking about the day, my hopes and dreams for them and the headlines that fill the airwaves. I want something for them to remember me by. Something personal. Something real. But most of all, I hope they feel my love for them through my words. Because, truly in the end, NOTHING IS REAL BUT LOVE and I want them to have something to show for it, now and in another 151 years.