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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Back to School

                      Maddie and Jordann, 3rd grade and 1st grade, August 21, 2014
                                (which also happened to be Jordann's 6th birthday!)

During the past 2 weeks, 3 of our granddaughters started back to school.  At 11, Skye is entering the world of Middle School in 6th grade. As you see, Maddie and Jordann are off to their new starts as well.  I am remembering their fathers at the same age, ways we wrapped up summers and headed back to classrooms, the excitement of buying school supplies, sneakers, and new lunch boxes. I am grateful for teachers who encouraged them, inspired them with art and music,  and helped them learn the reading, language, math, and science skills that serve them all so well as adults. I prayed for those teachers and our little boys all during the year but especially on that first day of school.  I do the same for our granddaughters, the teachers who will join them on their learning paths this year, and the friends they will make and enjoy.

 I also think about back to school times at West Side Elementary in Jacksonville, Texas in the 40's and 50's,  my own early school years.

Summers were long and hot. We had no television and no air conditioning, I remember going to the library, reading stacks of books, cooling off in the porch swing on our front porch, eating watermelon, and going barefoot. I remember tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash fresh from the garden, with blackeyed peas and a pan of cornbread that would be made early in the morning to avoid heating up the kitchen later. I looked forward to going back to school because I loved school and would get to see my friends.

Our house was one of the 2 houses on the same block as the school, so I didn't have very far to walk. My mother sewed most of my clothes, and getting ready for school to start meant looking through pattern books to pick a pattern along with the fabric to make my dress for the first day of school.

I see my granddaughters repeating some of that pattern as they go with their Moms to get uniforms, shop for the required shoes, and plan what they will wear on the first day.  They may have very different schools - the older one is in a Christian academy, and the 2 younger ones begin this year at a brand new charter school. They not only have TV, but phones and tablets and laptops. They will not only be studying basic "reading, writing, and 'rithmetic", but also drama, Spanish, and Mandarin.

But as I hear them talk about planning their first day and see their pictures posted in emails and FaceBook, I see they know the importance of beginnings and are off to a year of new adventures in learning.  Back to school, my beautiful  girls! I am looking back at all my own memories, but I am also looking forward to your futures. You may be scientists and researchers and authors and wives You may be musicians and artists and mothers. You may someday be sending your own little ones "back to school."

                                 Skye, 6th grade, August 14, 2014

Thursday, August 21, 2014

What Don't You Like?




I am glad to say that all my blog posts are about things I love or simply wish to remember, so most of my writing is positive.  For instance, I love this piece of stained glass which hangs in our living room window that looks out to the porch and garden.  I love everything I can see through that window, but to be fair, there are things I see that I do not care for.

 In Jan Karon's Mitford series, conversations between her two central characters, Father Tim and his wife Cynthia, often include a whimsical exchange triggered by an exclamation of fondness about something from her followed by his question:  "What don't you love, Kavanaugh?" And she always has an immediate answer.  Like this one, quoted from Karon's A Common Life:  "Ducks that cry all night, beds with creaking springs, and feather pillows with little gnawing things inside."

I have not been asked the question, but certain things lately have struck me as happening often enough to be thoroughly annoying!   My list is not as creative as Cynthia's, but would include:

Questionnaires that arrive in the mail or my email inbox or get passed to me at the end of a meal which ask me to fill out a survey rating every medical appointment, customer service, or product I buy, especially the ones on Amazon that ask me to rate books I purchased so recently I could not possibly have read them yet!

Cell phone ringers set on loud that blast out bad music in public places, and their owners who answer them only to continue what should be a private conversation for all to hear.

The millions of address stickers I get in the mail that come with a solicitation for a contribution.  Especially the ones that don't even spell my name right!

Plastic forks that break at the first bite, and paper plates that fold in half when loaded.

Unsolicited political phone calls as well as those which clearly target only senior citizens.

Smoke alarms that signal weak batteries in the middle of the night, and signal, and signal.

Oh yes, one more:  the pop up that tells me I have perfect spelling when I try to send a message from AOL. Really?

That is all for now.  What about you?  What don't you like?  Let's hear your list!


Friday, August 15, 2014

Admiration

As Nora nears 5 months old, she is increasingly aware of color and patterns.  She is more sensitive to faces, smiling at those familiar to her and exhibiting wariness or alarm at those who are not. She fingers spots and dots on toys, reaches for the bright paisley of my shirt and the textured wood panel of her changing table. Here, she is fixed on the butterfly quilt that belonged to one of the grandmothers she is named for, Opal Terrell Teal.  As I smiled and watched her admiration, I thought of so many stories the quilt could tell.

Opal was my mother, making her Nora's great grandmother.  The butterfly quilt was made as a gift for Opal on her 17th birthday in 1931, a common pattern choice in those depression years that so needed the butterfly's symbolism of hope.  The women who chose these colors and patterns and stitched every tiny, even stitch were Opal's mother and grandmother, making them Nora Opal's great-great grandmother and great-great-great grandmother.  I stood as I watched Nora admire their handwork, thinking of their stories and hers.  They could not have known that almost a century later, a beautiful little girl would so love what they made. But I am confident they know now.  Opal herself did not know when she passed the quilt on to me how I would keep it and love it and give it again.  But I know she joins Clyde and Earnestine in blessing Nora and returning the admiration. Hope is a wonderful gift to pass on.


Friday, August 8, 2014

Some Things Don't Change

Mary Ann, 1940  


While I am happily spending this week caring for our baby granddaughter, Nora, I have thought about my own grandparents, who from all accounts were thrilled at my birth and delighted in my smiles and laughter in the same way I delight in Nora's.  I reflect with gratitude, remembering stories of my own parent's happiness in having a baby after almost 9 years of marriage when I see my son and daughter-in-law's radiant faces as they hold their daughter.  When I care for her, hold her close, rock her,  and sing to her, I am re-enacting those long ago love stories.

Many things are very different now- early pregnancy tests, ultrasounds, disposable diapers, washers and dryers that are marvels, air conditioned homes and automobiles, car seats, and  Mp3 lullabies!  I am thankful for every convenience that helps to keep babies safe and provides help for parents, but there is no replacement or upgrade for the calming reassurance of human voice and the comfort of loving arms.  

                    Ben and Nora

Friday, August 1, 2014

Two Girls, One Dress

        Nora 2014


                        Skye 2003

Among my favorite photos of my sons are three separate pictures when they were babies. They are lined up in a small frame that holds the images of each of the three dressed in the same navy blue suit, evidence of the way we passed down clothing from boy to boy. These two photos will join those as pictures that make me happier every single time I look at them.  Eleven years ago, our granddaughter Skye wore a sweet dress that I had given her, and smiled sunshine into my heart.  The dress has been passed down through 2 more granddaughters (I am still looking to see if we have any pictures where they wear the dress) - and now, Nora is wearing the same dress and gracing us with her own happy smiles.  She wore the dress recently on the day we celebrated Joe's 77th birthday.  Skye is now almost as tall as I am, and loves her baby cousin.  When I saw the two of them smiling at each other while the one who wore the dress first cradled the one it now fits while she fed her, there was a lump in my throat and a few happy tears.  Shared dresses don't tell the story, but they do help remind us of shared joy and love passed on and on. Family hand me downs!


Thursday, July 24, 2014

For Me!

After I started elementary school in Jacksonville, TX in 1945, I never took my lunch to school because our house was on the same block as West Side School so I walked home almost every day for lunch.  Rarely I was given a quarter to buy my lunch at school which I considered a nice, if infrequent, treat!  If by chance I needed a sack lunch for something, it was just that - a waxed paper wrapped sandwich in a small brown paper sack.

When our sons started their years in Davis Elementary School in Plano, TX in the 1970's, lunch room prices had increased considerably, and most of the time they still had homemade lunches. They just carried them to school in cartoon character or superhero embellished metal  lunch boxes which had their names marked with indelible markers. Since plastic sandwich bags had been introduced in the late 1950's, their sandwiches most often were snugly enclosed in a baggie (no zipper on top), a Ziploc bag, or Tupperware!  If I stopped to do the math X 3 boys for making sandwiches, bagging them and assembling said sandwich, some fruit, chips, and a cookie or three into the corners of those rattly dented lunch boxes, it might make me feel tired, so I will just propose that over those years that happened thousands of times.  Often I tucked a note inside to send a little love along with lunch. I am pretty sure by first grade they did not let their friends see those notes.

In May, I started going to our youngest son's home to take care of my newest granddaughter. Her other grandma and I are sharing time, so I go every third week for my days with Nora, now 4 months old.  On the first Monday, I arrived at 6:00 a.m. to give them time for departure for their jobs by 6:15.  As they kissed their little one goodbye, picked up their things and started to leave, Ben turned around and said.  "Oh, Mom...I made your sandwich for lunch.  It is in the frig." As my eyes filled with tears and memories, I gave him a hug and thanked him before holding his daughter a little closer and breathing her sweet baby scent.

I am keeping that sandwich bag.



Friday, July 18, 2014

Lifelong Friends


I have been working lately at clearing clutter in our house and garden, reducing the number of things I need to clean and care for.  Cleaning out closets, clearing shelves, sorting out the pantry and organizing cabinets is not so much house cleaning - more a spiritual and physical reorganization, I think. But I am loyal to my friends, and many of my books are lifelong friends.  Books like the one in the photograph have been with me ever since I was old enough to read. Then there are the books our sons loved and read over and over again. Add to those the classics, mystery series, poetry, memoir, writing books, and the shelves of books which have been Bible study and spiritual formation guides. I know that the key to reducing the numbers of books lies in beginning to give them away and to stop buying anymore, but I am not making much progress.

I may be able to fill boxes for the Friends of the Library book sale by taking stacks of paperback mysteries, perhaps even some of the series of books written by an author I enjoyed.  But many others I will choose one at a time to introduce to a friend or a granddaughter.  I have always believed in practicing hospitality and  introducing my friends to each other. It pleases me to know that my lifelong friends can become the same kind of friend to someone else.

I previously mentioned my book friends in this post:  http://tinyurl.com/MyChildhoodBook