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Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter 2014

In recent years, Lent resolving into Holy Week and Easter has become rich with ritual and remembering for me, but it is always a time of remembering  Easters in the 1940's, when I was a little girl.

  Mother sewed new dresses for my sister and me, which  inevitably wound up being hidden under coats as we made our way to the Sunrise Service held. in our hometown.  This service was early, and happened at a place called Love's Lookout where there was a large ampitheatre formed from  red rock, a WPA project. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Depression-era Works Progress Administration came to the hill in the 1930s and, using red rock mined from Cherokee County, built a park, picnic grounds and an amphitheater used for these sunrise services, plays and other events.

The scenic bluff which was the location of  the ampitheatre was named to honor Wesley Love who in 1904 bought much of the surrounding area and planted a 600-acre peach farm. After Love's death in 1925, his wife donated 22 acres to the state for a state park. The state, however, failed to create the park and in 1934 the City of Jacksonville purchased an additional 20 acres and developed the two tracts as a city park. That's when the Works Progress Administration began its project.

In the Spring, dogwoods and other spring flowers are in bloom, making the setting even more beautiful.  I remember shivering on the cold hard semicircle of rock on which we sat, but I loved this sunrise service, with its gathering of Christians from many area churches, the joy of singing "Christ Arose" and Alleluia, the feelings of newness and festivity in our Easter clothes, and our family traditions that would follow:  church services at First Baptist Church, Easter Sunday dinner which would included having grandparents at our house or going to theirs.  There was baked ham, potato salad, new potatoes with green beans put up in Mason jars, Jello salads and sometimes Coconut cake or pie - all homemade and delicious.  I can almost smell the vinegar we used for die to color boiled eggs the day before so that we could hide them over and over again on Sunday afternoon.

Today our family includes some version of many of the same traditions as those I loved 70 years ago, but
we have added to these a deeper awareness of the season of Lent, and more intentional observance of Holy Week.  Our church for 22 years now, First Baptist Church in Richmond, Texas is where we gather for services such as one we attended last night, Tenebrae.  The church  has a prayer garden with a small labyrinth where chairs will be set up for a Sonrise service tomorrow morning followed by breakfast with our church family served from dishes made with eggs and sausage made at home and brought as families arrive. There will be an egg hunt for children.  I will sing in the choir and ring with the handbell choir as we express joy and praise with some of the same hymns I sang with my family all those years ago.  Then we come back here to our house with all of our sons and their wives and children who can be here.  That will include our newest granddaughter, sweet Nora Opal, who is exactly one month old and celebrating her very first Easter.

Alleluia.


Saturday, April 5, 2014

Bluebonnets and Friends

In Texas, each year's return of the bluebonnets is celebrated by all.  Driving from our house to visit their newest cousin last weekend, Skye, Maddie, and Jordann watched for this particular patch of wildflowers which in a little Wildflower Preserve in their neighborhood.  They were excited to find these in full bloom.  There was much conversation and admonishment.  "Don't ever pick them."  "They are our state flower." "You can only pick them if you grow them in your back yard." I loved the chattering and laughter, and they loved arriving to be allowed to hold the new baby.

On our way back, I stopped just long enough to stick my camera out the window and photograph bluebonnets, thinking I would frame a small print for each of them so they could have bluebonnets in their room.  They are always picking sweet bouqets for me, so I will enjoy giving them their own bluebonnets.

Friday, March 28, 2014

In the days just over a week ago when they knew their baby would soon be born,  I told my son that giving birth was hard work, yes, but that it was the most exquisite thing that ever happened to me. The beauty of welcoming a grandchild is another layer of that kind of breathtaking awe and wonder.  Part of this is being privileged to see that amazing awareness and tenderness in my son and his wife as they experience all it means to be a parent. Part is the hope, knowing, newness, and wonder in my granddaughter's eyes. Thank you, Ben and Kristen, and Nora!



"To have grandchildren is not only to be given something but to be given something back.
You are given back something of your children's childhood all those years ago. You are given back something of what it was like to be a young parent. You are given back something of your own childhood even, as on creaking knees you get down on the floor to play tiddlywinks, or sing about Old MacDonald and his farm, or watch Saturday morning cartoons till you're cross-eyed.
It is not only your own genes that are part of your grandchildren but the genes of all sorts of people they never knew but who, through them, will play some part in times and places they never dreamed of. And of course along with your genes, they will also carry their memories of you into those times and places too—the afternoon you lay in the hammock with them watching the breezes blow, the face you made when one of them stuck out a tongue dyed Popsicle blue at you, the time you got a splinter out for one of them with the tweezers of your Swiss army knife. On some distant day they will hold grandchildren of their own with the same hands you once held them by as you searched the beach at low tide for Spanish gold.
In the meantime, they are the freshest and fairest you have. After you're gone, it is mainly because of them that the earth will not be as if you never walked on it.
Frederick Buechner  on Grandchildren.    originally published in Beyond Words

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Nora Opal

On March 19, 2014, we welcomed our granddaughter, Nora Opal into our arms.  She was already in our hearts. The only thrill more wonderful than cradling her and feeling her melt into my arms is watching my son as he holds and adores her.  I love seeing them:  mother, baby, and father, God's good gifts for each other  - precious new family.  We celebrate!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Covering

The 3 inch wide kntted lace which I began when I was pregnant many years ago and picked up to work on again for that son's first child is finished.  I attached it to layers of crepe back satin, solid cream on one side, and a richly colored butterfly and roses print on the other. I knitted the lace, blocked it, cut and stitched the satin, went around the edge with pearl cotton in a blanket stitch, and finally, whip-stitched the lace to those stitches. It has been a labor of love, giving me the opportunity to focus on this baby, every stitch a prayer for her safe passage into this world and her journey in the years to come.  I have folded the coverlet and will pass it into the hands of my son and his wife today. Nora has been in our hearts for all these months, within days she will be in our arms.  Welcome, sweet little girl. You are covered with more than satin and lace. You are covered with Grace.

Friday, February 28, 2014

Record Keeping


 I am entering a time when I want to clean my house and tend my garden (literally and figuratively), gather my family in healing hugs, and begin the preparation and reflection that is the Lenten season. As Easter approaches, so does the birth of our newest grandchild, another reason for "getting ready." 

 I  rely on strength beyond myself.  Grace! I want to be sure I have things recorded and in order.  I have a project started that I  call Answers - answers to all the questions that can come when illness or loss occur.  I am reminded that even though Mother died in 2006, her development of Alzheimer's took her sharp mind away beginning around 6 years earlier.  It was her record keeping long before that which became so important recently.

Mother had never taken care of bills and bank accounts, etc. when Daddy died in 1982.  During the next 15 years she did a marvelous job of doing just that and kept meticulous records.  She would have been horrified to discover what happened with a property tax delinquency.  I believed at the beginning that this was another lash of the Alzheimer Dragon's tail, and indeed, the difficulty uncovering records for the 2 years just prior to my moving her and beginning to handle everything was affected by that.  But her previous record keeping was in the end what helped me answer the questions I needed to satisfy my curiosity before paying up.  Many times she had spoken to me about a tiny amount of royalty interest, and the lease records are in those old files.  The bottom line was a result of a combination of things.

  1) She sold her little house in 1998, distributed the income from that to my sister and me, filing a forwarding address.

  2) Because royalty property tax is only assessed when production/income is a significant enough amount to warrant a statement, apparently she did not receive any tax bill, so no tax payments in 1998 and 1999.  By then, the forwarding address order would have expired.
   
3) In 2000-2001, the first years of said delinquency, the tax office said they did not have any returned mail.  My only guess is that the people who were then at that address just pitched the bills thinking it was "old" and not necessary to return. 

 4) In 2002, I moved her here and she became a resident of another county where she died. 

 5) Since I had never paid that kind of tax for her, I wasn't aware I should be paying it!  I do think my attorney was remiss in failing to get her death filed in Smith County as well as Fort Bend.  If he did that, they would have had a traceable address for the last 6 years. So the last 6 years of delinquency were indeed mine!

Aging gracefully and dying well are important for us to consider thoughtfully and deliberately as we continue to care each other.  God's good gifts of daily bread continue to be our source of strength and energy.


Bad Day

the loud knock at the door was not my neighbor
a uniform, herald of gravitas
papers extended, not a handshake
do you know this person?

I dread to look,
astonished, say yes
my mother, I say
this was her last address

what can you want?
she died 6 years ago
can I help you?
yes, that's me, her daughter

Tax delinquency?
Impossible.  I paid her bills.
 12 years ago?
Interest? Penalties? Fees?


This one day I am glad she isn't here.



Saturday, February 22, 2014

Celebration

Today my friends hosted a wonderful brunch to celebrate Kristen and Ben and Nora Opal, who will soon arrive - our fifth granddaughter!  Extended family and friends shared good food, strawberry lemonade and cupcakes, and presented the first time parents with gifts, good advice, and baby blessings.  Most of all, I recall the laughter and joy of us all.  And the pure delight in Ben and Kristen's faces.  Above is a photo of the sign on the front porch which sat between rocking chairs.  We are waiting with open arms, Nora!