Sunday, December 23, 2012

One Little Memory

Last year, we decided to go home and spend Christmas with Mother. She wasn't doing real well, and she had her special diet. She was pretty weak and short of breath. We stayed in her basement and took care of our own meals.... so different from every previous Christmas where she would wait on everyone hand and foot, and shoo off anyone who got in her way in the name of trying to help.

But we had such a good time!

 One day, I had a little shopping to do and asked her if she wanted to go, and lo and behold!, if she didn't decide she would! She never liked shopping especially.
"Go on!" She'd say, if we'd invite her, "I'm glad I don't hafta go anywhere."

But this time she said she'd go! So she and Regan and Todd and Becky and I went shopping. She wanted to show us off to her sisters. She thought they would be at the Farmer's Market eating, but they weren't. We went to her bank to deposit her paycheck.
 She wanted a flashlight, and she wanted a hook to hang her wreathe to her metal door. We found a strong magnet hook. Just what she wanted.  She turned up her nose at the expensive flashlights on display but the man at Rocking R Hardware found her one cheap enough to suit her. She leaned on me when she walked and she was breathless and exhausted till we were through, but we had great fun!

 When we got home she stuck her magnet to her door and unceremoniously tossed her wreathe over it with pert satisfaction. So like her...taking care of business without a bit of to-do.

I knew it was our last Christmas with her, barring some incredible miracle, and every moment  felt  like gold slipping through our fingers. She was there. So real. So alive. Yet impossible to hold. Time just moves forward. forward. forward....

I have a metal door. I have a wreathe. And now I have her magnet hook.
Merry Christmas,  Dear Mother. I know it will be heavenly.
But we miss you. Oh... we miss you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Joy to the World, Y'all.

The wigwam has been hit with a scourge of historic proportion. Todd got it first, annihilating the travel plans the Chief and I were on the verge of implementing. I was the second victim. From there we dropped by ones and twos until the Chief at last succumbed. So we've had a week of dreaded symptoms answered by tonics, sleep, despair, and misery.

I am better now, the only one who's completely better...which is good on one hand, because somebody can take care of the fallen...and bad on the other, because a whole Sunday spent in a convalescent home has real potential for sending you to a home of a different sort.

So I am escaping to here, and lacking any cohesive stream of inspiration, I think I'll just post disconnected thought-bites pertaining to Christmas.

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 I think we should petition the powers-that-be to ban those giant inflatables that pop up like boils on the night landscape this time of year, and collapse in big puddles of vinyl by the dawn's early light. I will not call them Christmas decorations. Classing them as decorations of any description would be too kind, and even though they appear with the lights and wreaths and garland characteristic of the season, whether they have anything in world to do with Christmas is clearly entirely optional. Take, for instance, the big yellow chicken in our neighbor's yard, located next to the Eiffel Tower right there where their garden had been located.

The next neighbors have a gigantic green helicopter with a slowly rotating propeller in their yard among numerous other inflatable things. Santa is in it, and I suppose it is meant to serve as gentle comfort against realistic worries the reindeer union may strike for better working conditions just when they are most needed....I don't know!  But it ruins their otherwise beautiful lawn!!!
 White lights, people! Colored lights, even! Candles! Wreaths!
Anything! Anything but those vinyl things!

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Christmas was entirely wonderful to me when I was a little girl.
I was analyzing the other day what made it so. The "Let's Make A Memory" enthusiasts would no-doubt be at a loss to find much. Mother "wrapped" all our gifts in brown paper grocery or lunch bags, taped them shut and scrawled the name of the recipient on it with a black magic marker. Maybe they had a bow stuck on top.
When we came down Christmas morning each child had his pile on one chair or spot on the couch. And Mother and Daddy had their spots too. We'd read the Christmas story, and maybe sing a few carols, alive with caged anticipation. And then we'd decide who would start... and we'd open gifts. I am sure they were modest gifts and certainly not numerous. I don't know that I can remember a single thing I ever got. But it was altogether wonderful, that much I know.

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One year, Mother bought a nativity scene. I think she got it at Glen's Fair Price.
Glen's Fair Price was a dusty, darkish shop in downtown Harrisonburg. Not the type of shop that will ever be a national chain, but the kind bursting with character, covered with dust, and crammed with second-hand stuff. I loved Glen's Fair Price.

The nativity scene had characters with slightly exaggerated poses and expressions, and they weren't fine porcelain, by any stretch, but when they were tucked inside that little stable and the lights were lit, I could sit  there entranced for long minutes, transported to another time and place by some artist's depiction of that first blessed Christmas.

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I think Christmas takes on a different aura when you find yourself in a position to be the one responsible for making memories for your own little people. At least, it did for me. The moms who create and implement all these beautiful and meaningful traditions to stock their children's memory banks full of haloed treasures, amaze and intimidate me. I bake special Christmas things, and two days later they are eaten, because I didn't quite get them to the freezer in time...and what else was there to eat anyway?

And what else do I do? Hmm I don't know. I do wrap their presents usually. Maybe only a day before Christmas... but they are wrapped. Not that it matters. It sure didn't matter to me.
I'm hoping a blanket of love and warmth will shroud their lack of concrete memories maybe how wonderful it was when mom let them pack all those Christmas pecan tassies in their pre-Christmas school lunches.

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I love Christmas music. I do not get tired of it. I am not talking about secular Christmas music featuring Santa Claus....or Rudolf.....or grandma who met him and an untimely demise on Christmas eve. Or songs that were manufactured by recent artists to fill up the obligatory Christmas album. But I love the old songs. The ancient carols. The orchestra music. Handel's Glorious Messiah. Every year it is wonderful all over again.

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Some of those old songs have some phrases that bring me a lot of pleasure for a variety of reasons. Here's a sampling:

"E'en so here below, below,
Let steeple bells be swungen,
And "Io, io, io!"
By priest and people sungen."
"The Master of the Inn refused
A more commodious Place;
Ungenerous Soul of Savage Mould,
And destitute of Grace."
Bring the torch Jeanette Isabella!
Bring the torch and hurry and run!
He is born! Good folk of the village
Christ is born and Mary calls you
Ahh! Ahh! Beautiful is the mother!
Ahh! Ahh! Beautiful is the child!
I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along th'unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.
And I love the "Bohm" at the very end of  Carol of the Bells, which is a supremely enchanting song from the first note to the last.

Nobody writes songs like that anymore.

Joy to your world this Christmas! Stay well!  God bless us, every one!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

"Honey, You Need a Bath."

He needed a bath. He really did.
He wasn't going to want one, poor thing. But he needed one.
And he would feel so much better when he had had one.

I set about getting it ready for him. I set up the little space heater so it would be nice and warm. Then I put in the plug and turned the water on, tweaking it till the temperature seemed right.

Hmm, what else?
I found some of the Chief's body wash. "New!" it said. "Irish Spring Body Wash." "Legendary Classic."
How can it be both "new" and a "legendary classic?" I wondered.

These are questions with no answers.

I opened the lid and put it to my nose. Ahhh...nice.  I squirted some into the rushing water and watched as it exploded in a swirl of foam that rose and built.
 A masculine bubble bath. He would like it, I thought, andwatched the water pounding into the tub briefly before turning to the task at hand. A nice fluffy towel, laid out right here. A wash cloth there. Soap here. A cup to rinse his hair.

Okay then. He needed clothes.
I searched his drawers. Fresh underwear. Fresh socks. What should I get him to wear? I extracted a few things from his drawer that should have been in the hamper. "No wonder he's always low on clothes" I mused. "Why can't I teach him the dirty stuff does not go back in his drawer even if it's his favorite shirt?... Especially if it's his favorite shirt?"

More questions with no answers.

Jeans looked stiff and collared shirts seemed wrong.
I shut that drawer and opened his pj drawer. There lay a pair of red and black plaid fleece pj's. Nice, soft, clean, and folded. "Probably means they aren't his favorite." I thought. I had made them for his older brother, but they fit him now. A gentle reminder of the fleeting nature of little-boyhood.
They looked perfect from the mom angle. I would take them out and ask him if he wanted to wear them, I decided. I'd let him wear whatever he wanted.
As long as it was clean.

Gathering my collection of clothes and taking them to the livingroom, I stood there and watched him quietly for a minute as he slept.
He had been curled on that corner of the couch wrapped in his blanket since Sunday, venturing out now and then only when the Ibuprofen was doing its best work. The Tylenol helped some too, I guess, but not enough to inspire him to rouse much. He was burning up with fever. Keeping it down to 103 was a challenge.

Hair sprouted wildly from his head. His cheeks were bright and each breath was junky with mucus.
"Toddy, you need a bath." I said softly.

Without a word he pulled the covers over his head.

"Would you like to wear these pj's when you get out?" I asked.
He turned reluctantly to look at what I had with lids that hung heavy over languid eyes, and nodded.

I took them in and arranged all his clothes on the counter near the heater.
"Come on dearie. It's time to take your bath."

Like a lamb to the slaughter he came, surveyed my preparations and seemed weakly grateful. All he had to do was get in the tub. He peeled off his clothes and stuck a toe into the water. It was too hot.

I turned on the cold water while he perched, waiting, and when it was just right, I left him to his tub of new legendary classic bubbles.

In the living room I settled in my chair with my cup of coffee and opened my Bible to the place in Isaiah where I had been reading, and my eyes lit on one of my favorite verses of all time. "The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound..."

They are prophetic words, speaking of Jesus, and are the very words Jesus stood and read in the temple at the beginning of His earthly ministry to humanity.

They echoed in my heart, and as many times before my eyes were opened to the similarities between the heart of God and the heart of a parent.

What a tender mission! Our heavenly Father in the flesh, sent to bind our wounds and free the captives. He came to a cold world, ravaged by spiritual illness.

And He set to nursing it back to health, mixing truth ("Honey, you need a bath") and mercy, ("Everything's here, dearie, all you need to do is get in.").

That's our Heavenly Father. The Gift of Christmas. Oh come, let us adore Him.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Reflecting on Reflection.

 The degree to which we reflect the people around us intrigues me.

Many years ago, when my sister would spend time with her friend Naomi, she would come home with Naomi-isms radiating from her person.  We would point this out with juvenile derision as if it were some unique and super-weird phenomenon.

But it wasn't. At least, it was not unique.

These days, I notice the same thing going on with the natives. The expressions they use and the attitudes they adopt take on shades of their latest comrade with fascinating ease.

If you know a person well, it doesn't take but about 3 to 4 sentences-worth of eavesdropping to be able to tell who is on the other end of a phone conversation. Not because of the subject matter as much as the expression and voice qualities of the person you can hear.

When The Chief's voice deepens and gets louder, I know who called him. It adopts a whole other aura when he's talking to his brothers. I can tell instantly if an old friend from his bachelor days makes a rare call.

Recently, his phone kept putting the person he was speaking with on hold without him knowing when another call would come in, and transferring him to the incoming call. One sentence, I was the one responding to him, the next, he was talking to Mrs. P.. And then I called back and he realized he was in conversation with me again.  It was more than a little confusing on various fronts, not the least of which is that you use a different tone with your wife than you do with Mrs P. and who knows what sort of havoc might be wrought on either account? When he realized what was going on, the portions of conversation I was privy to were held with a man who was choosing his words and tone very carefully.

I have friends who perk me up. Friends who calm me down. Friends who make me crazy. Friends who can make me see everything through their eyes just by coming and sitting beside me in church, I start thinking like they think. I see the humor in everything in which they see humor. Do I talk like they do when I'm with them? I don't know. I can't hear myself the way I hear other people.

Then there are those people who have spoken normally their entire lives, go to Canada or Wisconsin, and within weeks are warping their native tongue in unspeakable ways.

What causes it, I wonder. Do our words and demeanor mold only to those people we are fond of? Do we  adopt their traits because we approve of them at some level? Does our instinctive effort to find common ground with the Canadians inspire us to start saying our "o's" and "i's" in ways never uttered by Georgian lips?

These last couple days I have had a very sore throat. So sore that I haven't been talking much. When I do talk, it is mostly a whisper. Yesterday the Chief made a comment to which I would normally have responded with a bit of well-chosen sass. I said as much as could be said without saying anything. He laughed, "I believe I like a silent wife!" he said with undue enjoyment.

My friend Hilda called to give me the announcements from the ladies' Sunday School class. She talked. I whispered. By the end of the conversation she was speaking very, very softly. I smiled to myself.

My children too, began to sidle up and whisper when they spoke to me. The whole household was subdued.

In the evening, I was huddled in bed, reading. The Chief came and told me about a difficult repair job he had successfully completed. He whispered the entire time.
Then he fixed the covers around me. He always knows just how covers ought to be fixed. "I hope you feel better soon." He whispered.

It was very nice.
I believe I like a silent husband.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Brief Musings of a Fevered Brain.

Do you ever find yourself pondering whether to be happy or sad?
This morning, after coaxing myself through the beginnings of the morning routine, it dawned on me that I was sick. I suspected it yesterday, but there was little time to give the matter due consideration.
This morning though, it reached the point where consideration was no longer crucial to the awareness thereof.
After family devotions I pawned my various duties off on the most susceptible victims, some of whom didn't exactly agree to assume them, and went back to bed. 
I woke up several hours later to an empty house: The natives had been delivered to school, the laundry had been started, and some of it folded.  The kitchen was cleaned up and a note of sympathy from the Chief  lay on the dining room table.
It was the first day in many that there hadn't been a sick child at home, appointments to keep, hot lunch to make for school, or some other significant obligation calling for extra time and attention.
I had looked forward to this day, had seen it coming from afar...unless it was a mirage...which such days sometimes prove to be...and invested a significant quantity of hopeful anticipation into it.

"So...", I reflected, while padding quietly around in the kitchen in search of something to alleviate symptoms, "should I be happy that to have gotten sick on a day I didn't have anything big planned, or should I be aggravated to have gotten sick on the one day I had nothing else planned?"
And I contemplated this for a little while... the pros and cons of each choice...when suddenly the portion of my brain which mothers the rest of it, kicked in (I can only assume this particular mother had also been in bed with a fever as well, to have arrived so late on the scene) and said, "What could be more irrational than considering the advantages of being annoyed?"
And of course, she was right, as mothers always are, (ahem).
It's cold out, and rainish. But inside it's nice and warm, the lamps are lit, and I have nothing to do.
What could be nicer?

No!...don't ask!! I might start pondering it....

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Confessions of a Disappointed Woman

The Chief and I have been married 22 years. So we know each other pretty well. One thing I know about him: he loves a nice clean house. One thing he knows about me: I am no born housekeeper. I can clean as well as the next woman, but the art of maintenance I have not yet mastered. I say "yet", because I choose to believe that while there is life there is hope.

That is the backdrop for the following drama. It took place barely long enough ago for the river of time to round its edges.

The Chief had been out of town for a few days working, so the natives and I were holding down the wigwam. When the Chief had left, the wigwam was in a state of mild disaster that hadn't improved with age.

The morning of the day of his return I decided it would make him happy to come home to a sparkling house, and I was going to clean. I am not a great fan of cleaning. I don't know why; it defies logic, really, There is definite satisfaction in the whole process, a satisfaction I feel anytime I buck my natural inclinations and do it. And there really are few things I enjoy more than living in a sparkling house, so I don't know why I don't gravitate toward cleaning...but I'll move on here lest I get bogged on some psychological bunny trail.

I began in the morning by making a list. It was one of those lists you know from the very start you will never get to the end of. And then the cleaning commenced. Things were picked up. Manymanymany things. How we leave out so many things is quite beyond me. But I picked them all up, from one side of the house to the other. I organized and put away all my sewing project stuff. No small task. I went through the paper piles that accumulated because no one knew what to do with the items thereon. I did laundry and folded it and put it all away. I cleaned the bathrooms and scrubbed our shower till it sparkled. I swept porches, and polished windows and mirrors and door glass.
When the children came home from school I had them vacuum. And then I vacuumed again because I wanted it to be perfect. It made me smile just to think how happy it would make him. His face would light up a little and he would say "The house looks great, Babe." That would be all there was to it. But it would be entirely worth it. You know these things after 22 years.

I cleaned the microwave and arranged decor, and then I decided to get out the carpet shampoo and shampoo the spots on our bedroom carpet. Wow. It looked so much better. They had bugged me for awhile.
I was starting to feel a little sick but it looked fabulous, and I surveyed the results of my labor with supreme satisfaction. It was a good welcome home gift for my hardworking Chief and I couldn't wait till he came home. I made supper for the natives and they cleaned up the kitchen while I did more cleaning.

Before bedtime we sat down and played a game of Settlers of Catan together.
They needed some maternal interaction that didn't involve toiling at the behest of a driven woman. It was a fun touch to the end of the day even though I didn't feel so great.
While we were playing Regan realized she wanted a certain dress washed so she jumped up and threw it and a few other items into the washer...and then into the dryer.

We cleaned the game all up and put it away. A happy day for sure.
"It's not what you do that makes you tired, it's what you don't get done." I don't know who said it, but there is much truth in it.
The Chief still was not home, and I was feeling progressively sicker, so I took my shower, and got ready for bed. 

I went and checked the things in the dryer but they weren't dry yet so I started it up again and tucked my nauseated self between the covers. It didn't matter if I was sick, it didn't matter if I was exhausted. The house was clean and the Chief was coming home tonight.

I was just drifting off when I heard him at the door. I lay there quietly, drowsily, happily, listening. Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.

He walked in....strode from the front door to the laundry room, opened the dryer door and said  "How long has this dryer been running??? We can't afford to have this thing running and running like this. It still has 40 minutes on it!

I said, "I'm sorry". I should have made sure to check the time on it. I should have waited a few minutes and looked after that stuff before I went to bed.

But I was also incredulous.

 He, after being gone for days had walked blindly THROUGH my decluttered sparkling, scrubbed, polished, disinfected wigwam, sniffed out the one thing wrong and fussed about it!
 How could he??? What sort of beast was he anyway???

He was taking care of the things in the dryer, and making enough noise about it to properly punctuate his annoyance. Brisk, efficiency defined his every move when he was annoyed. I knew about him.

I hunkered down under my covers with my back to his side of the bed and simmered in my juices. When he came in I was going to be sleeping.
What was up with him? Not even a "Hi, Babe."
Why did I even bother? Suddenly my churning stomach and aching joints trumped all else. Just 10 minutes earlier they had seemed a trifling thing.

I would just go to sleep. I couldn't, at any rate, tell him how mad I was. That wouldn't be nice, and above all else, I was not the bad guy here. It was important that I maintain my faultless position.

I tried to go to sleep. By the time he got out of the shower I wanted to be traveling the roads of dreamland. He didn't tell me "Hi"? I didn't have to tell him "Hi"..

Despite my best efforts, my thoughts and my roiling insides prevented me from sleeping. But they couldn't keep me from pretending to sleep.

When he pulled back the covers I was the sleepingest thing in the room.

He crawled in beside me, "I shouldn't have mentioned the dryer, Babe. I'm sorry."
"That's okay," I said in the voice I imagined I'd use if I were sleeping.
Apparently, men married 22 years can sense resentment even in sleeping women. Well, fine. I hadn't done anything wrong except let the dryer run when the stuff was dry, and I had said sorry for that, so my sins were under the blood.

My physical ailments kept me awake long into the night, and while I lay there I obsessed like a spoiled bride with no brothers discovering for the first time that men and women are from different planets and speak different languages.

I should've remembered how mad I was the first time I was mad at him that he didn't have a clue that I was even mad. I should've been grateful that after 22 years together he could tell I was mad even when I was sleeping.

I finally got up in search of relief for my stomach and my joints. On the table neatly laid out were socks and various other pieces of clothing. They must have been from the dryer because they certainly weren't there when I went to bed. I went over and felt them. They were damp. The dryer hadn't been running with the stuff dry as a bone after all. The stuff was still wet.

I crawled back into bed and eventually, with my case against him built solid and strong, I went to sleep.

In the morning we awoke to my beautiful house, but he still didn't mention it. It was too late now, anyway, he had thoroughly blown the parameters of timely noticing.
The morning routine mercifully claimed my time and attention, and I was just glad when everyone was at school and work where they belonged and I could have some peace.

 But there is no peace for the wicked, saith the Lord.

Reason began to creep in. Here I was in my nice clean house, and I couldn't even enjoy it because I was too busy obsessing. How absurd.

 I thought of a book that I read that mentioned the "disappointed woman." This woman, it said, spends large portions of her life disappointed. Her husband doesn't meet her expectations, and she is disappointed... the project they had hoped to get done barely gets started, and she is so disappointed.....the grocery store was out of the item on sale that matched her coupon and she is so disappointed, because running in there again would cancel out any savings....the family reunions on either side of the family are planned for the same weekend in July and she is so disappointed.
These women choose disappointment concerning what they don't have, over happiness. Disappointment concerning what they don't have, over thankfulness. It is a way of looking at life that sucks the joy right out of existence and the light from their husband's eyes. (I don't know that the book said quite all of that, but it is true). I have thought of the disappointed woman a lot over the years and have strenuously avoided being her. And yet, here she was. Inside my own skin. The Disappointed Woman on steroids. And she could not have looked uglier. Ugh.

The light of truth continued to shine ......Who was I really cleaning the house for...the Chief?...or for the appreciation I would feel when he noticed? Obviously, the latter.

And then I started thinking about myself in relation to my heavenly Father. He has given me so much. Salvation. A beautiful world. The exact number of children we wished to have. Many, many friends. A wonderful church, A good husband (yes, it's really true) The list is long and luxurious...and yet, how often when I show up at His front door do I walk straight to the back door and say, "God, look here. Such and such is out of line. Why don't You fix it?" Too many times to count.

And what about the Chief.. really? He had walked in the door to a nearly dark house. After working long days and driving for hours providing selflessly for his family, he had to come home to a silent house with no wife at the door to even say "Hi Babe!" and the dryer running, burning up his hard earned money as fast as he could make it while the whole house slept.

So I had a little heart to heart with God about reality, and the joy started slipping back in. My house was beautiful. My heart was singing.

When the Chief came home that evening he put his arms around me and said, "I love what you're doing to the house, Girl." And it was not too late. It was right on time.

Friday, August 3, 2012

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night

It has been pouring for hours. I was going to go dump the rain out of the rain gauge down at the garden, because I was sure it was overflowing and wanted to know how much rain we were getting. In these parts the ongoing rain deficit is a significant issue and tracking rainfall a point of interest.

 It was still dumping rain big time and thunder was crumbling at every corner, but I was determined to go, (in a timid sort of way). So I went in search of the umbrella and couldn't find it anywhere. I knew Regan had had it earlier and remembered seeing it in some corner, but I looked in every corner in the house to no avail.

Finally I woke Regan up enough to ask her and she said, "The umbrella?? It's on the back porch."
And there it was, streaming with rain. So much for the umbrella... opening it would have produced roughly the same effect a wet dog has when he shakes.

My memory seemed to pull up some yellow raincoat or something that we had, so I searched The Chief's closet shelves, and sure enough, folded with his trademark precision, was a rain suit from his biking days.

I pulled it out and looked at it. I tried to put one leg in.
I decided it might be easier to talk him into going.

"Here Babe!" I said, hauling it out to the living room and holding it up temptingly, "Maybe you should go!"

He accused me of all sorts of things.
Wait, that's not true.
He accused me of only one thing.
He accused me of plotting all along to get him to go out, and only faking any intention of going out myself.
It was a false accusation.

"Here, you put it on!" he said.
"No." I said. "You put it on and I'll find you a flashlight."
I went and got him his rubber boots.

But I couldn't find a flashlight anywhere.
"Come on, you put it on." he said.
He just wanted to see me in that crazy yellow rain suit.

"I can't go because I can't find a flashlight."

I really was looking for one.
I finally found a camping lantern.
I also found a very small turtle-shaped inflatable pool.

I returned to the living room. He was putting on the rain suit.
"What am I going to do about my head?" he said.
I produced the wading pool and handed him the lantern.

And out into the dark and storm he went.

I watched him from the window as he slogged across the lawn to the garden; knelt down, held his lantern high and checked the rain gauge, He pushed it back into the ground, and slogged his way back up to the porch, the lantern bobbing rhythmically. I imagined he was some ancient seaman returning safely from a treacherous voyage. It wasn't hard, except for the green turtle pool.

I opened the door and took the wading pool, and started helping him get the suit off.
"This was a great rain suit!" he said. "It does exactly what it was designed to do....It makes me want to ride cycle again!"

 Oh, and we've had over five inches, so far.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Why Breakfast Was Late

I got up early enough. A full 20 minutes before the first breakfast shift was due to be served. I was up late last night for very good reasons, so I had to pretty much grope my way through the personal prep process till I could open my eyes without the light shriveling me. If you open your eyes too quick the light will shrivel you.

Anyway, Jesse's here. Jesse's Brent's brother and he's staying with us for a few days because of his work location. He needed to leave before the rest of the tribe so he got his breakfast on his own shift. Peppered bacon, a couple fried eggs, and a couple slices of toast. Not hard at all.
 That shift went off without the slightest hitch. And Jesse was on his merry way.

I fried the remaining bacon, piled it on a platter and joined the rest of the tribe for morning devotions.

We sang two songs. One song we didn't know, so we had to learn it first. We're working our way through Songs of Life and Praise, singing every song, whether it deserves to be sung or not.

Devotions was over. All there was left to do for breakfast was scramble some eggs, toast and butter some bread. What could be more straightforward?? I delegated the toast job and set to cracking eggs. I had just the right amount. Crack...bloop...crack...bloop, each little golden orb slid neatly in to join the others. One more was NOT a golden yellow orb. It wasn't an orb of any sort.  It was a long brownish string of slime, but it was just as anxious to join its brothers and sisters in the bowl. "EWWWW!" I shrieked. "Yuck!" I despise rotten eggs.

There was no saving any of them. Even the thought of trying was too much.
"You should have cracked each egg into a separate bowl before you added it, Mom", offered one of the natives helpfully.
Yes, I should have.

"I'm going after more eggs," I said.

There was time. Todd opted to join me and together we ripped out the lane, catching each gear with gusto. It was a beautiful morning in Georgia. The sun was lying bright on a wet world.
In a minute or three we were pulling up to the hen house behind picturesque Paddock Place. The chickens spilled out of their house, clucking with delight to see us. "I guess I should really feed them first." I decided, feeling the first prick of urgency. I gathered them a few handfuls of grass before I entered and let it scatter for them to fight over on my way to the feed barrels. Their feeding bowls were full of rain water and swollen feed. I turned them each over and clapped out the sludge. A couple scoops of corn. A couple scoops of pellets.

"There, little ladies! Isn't that better!" They seemed to think so.

I hurried out of the chicken yard and grabbed my egg carton from the car. It was getting later. I had better hurry for real.
I unbolted the chicken house door and entered the dim cob-webbie interior. Most of the chickens were gone but a few were taking care of business in their nesting boxes. The first box was full of chicken, the second box was full of...What?? In the second box lay coiled a large black and white snake. I saw a few eggs other places but I had to pass the snake to get to them. I was not going to do that. The hen house frankly was not big enough for both me and the snake, so I got out and shut the door.


Now what? What about breakfast? I needed eggs.
I called the Chief...what are husbands for?
"Honey, can you come quick? There's a snake in one of the nesting boxes."

The Chief was not especially disturbed. He mostly sounded tired. Like maybe running down the road to Mr.P's hen house and killing a snake wasn't at the top of his Want-To-Do list.
He said, "What kind of snake is it?"
"I don't know." I said.
"It's probably that big black snake that's been around there." he said. "There's a big black snake that's been around the house there at Paddock Place a long time." As if maybe we had no business interfering with it being it was on its own territory.
But then he said, "Alright, I'll come."
I knew he'd say that.

So Todd and I waited outside the chicken house. I pulled some more grass for the chickens to try to lure the remaining hens outside that dreadful hen house. A few more came out. I thought of that one hen sitting there placidly laying her egg with the snake in the box next door! Horrors!! Triple horrors! What was wrong with that stupid chicken! Why didn't she get out of there??

How many minutes had it been?? I checked the time on my phone. He should be here in 4 minutes probably. Except, he hadn't sounded especially panicked. I hoped he would hurry.

Suddenly Todd shouted, "Here come's Mr. P!" And sure enough! There was Mr. P's little white truck coming up the road! Had the Chief called him to come? No. That wouldn't be in character for the Chief.

Mr. P drove over to his tractor, hopped out and began tinkering.

What should I do? Should I get him to come over and help me? The Chief was probably on his way. I called the Chief. He hadn't left. He had had to gather his snake-killing equipment. He told me since Mr. P was there it would make sense to have him come over and take care of the snake.

I walked across the field.
"Good morning!" he said, turning from his tractor.

"I came to gather the eggs",  I said. "There's a snake in one of the nesting boxes. I called Kent to come, but he said if you're here maybe you would take care of it."

"It's probably that big black snake that's been around here." he said. He seemed to ponder briefly whether it was even worth walking across the lawn to investigate. But he came. Probably because he wasn't sure what to do with me otherwise.

He opened the door and entered. "Where is it?" he said.
I told him. He stood and regarded it with no expression for a minute. and then he said "Do you have something to put the eggs in?" He proceeded to go around the chicken house gathering the eggs and putting them in the carton, not at all worried about the snake being between him and the door. He almost tripped on some baler twine and stopped to pull it out of the straw.

Then he folded the twine up and started swatting at the snake with it. It looked feeble to me. And ineffective.
"Here. Do you want this stick?" I said handing him the stick I had been warding the chickens away from the door with.
He took the stick and started poking at the snake. And sort of hitting it. It was a sturdy stick, but pretty short....not a snake-killing cudgel.
But that was no problem, I came to see. He finally made the snake mad enough that it made a fast exit from the nesting box,  hit the floor of the chicken house and took after the closest chickens. The chickens fled. Mr P watched it a little. It was a big snake. Then he took the broken egg from out of the nesting box and gave it a pitch into the grass outside the chicken house. "It's probably been eating our eggs." He said.
Yes, it probably had been.

 "What kind is it?" I said.
He stood watching the snake again for a minute.
"I don't know what kind of snake it is. Probably a chicken snake."
Yes, it probably was.
Mr P came out and bolted the chickens and the snake into the chicken house.

Todd and I hopped back in the car with our freshly gathered eggs, and barreled out the lane, catching each gear with gusto. The sun splashed the rain-washed landscape on either side. Mr. P walked back to his tractor.

And that is why breakfast was late.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

It Might Be Summer

I guess it's summer now.
The chka-chka-chka of the sprinklers running has become a pretty regular sound.
The Crepe Myrtles flanking the streets of Waynesboro are bringing their reliable color-burst to that fair town.
The natives belly-ache to be taken to the pool, and groan at the inversely unfair smallness of our mower in relation to the vastness of our lawn. The predictable percentage of tomato plants succumb to that crazy wilt, and we start praying for rain with renewed fervency.

And then there's the fabulous produce coming out of the garden, and the gardens of  friends. There is something about gardening that brings out the neighbor in all of us and fosters a general atmosphere of benevolence and goodwill. This is because it is impossible not to be happy to see big green peppers on the seat of your car after church when your own haven't produced worth a flip. And there is something equally delightful and relief-inducing about successfully smuggling your own surplus onto the car seat of somebody else.

We took our excess corn to a neighbor recently who was so thoroughly thrilled that the joy-bells still ring in my heart to think of it.

It makes fixing meals a cinch. BLT's and corn on the cob. New red potatoes and fried okra. Sauteed squash and grilled veggie medleys. Throw a few fresh herbs in there and call it done. And almost too good to be true.

Family reunions are cropping up here and there and we scan the horizon for a free weekend that we might be able to go camping. Just like every summer.

So yes, it must be summer.

But there have been things that make me doubt it ever so slightly.
Number one: it's the 26th of June and we had the windows open the entire day and enjoyed every minute of it! Highly uncharacteristic behavior for a Georgia summer.
Number two: I just hung the new calendar approximately a month ago as near as I can recall, and looked in wonder at the fresh year and pondered what it might hold. That raises valid suspicions for sure.
So I can't really say it's summer beyond a shadow of a doubt.

But on the other hand, packpacks and lunch boxes sit abandoned and still day after day in their respective cubbies. It was light till nearly 9 PM this evening. And the nocturnal insects are loud and louder in the trees surrounding the wigwam tonight.

So it probably is. Probably.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


The other Sunday afternoon the Chief and I and the older natives were playing Scum at the kitchen table. I quickly secured my spot as Prez and had every intention of keeping my office. A couple of hands in, a lively discussion about how lame Scum was and how it took no skills, was underway, (an apparent attempt to discount both my presidency and their scumhood, I'm sure), when Scott got a phone call. He excused himself to answer it and as he exited the room I heard him say brightly, "Hello, Mr Floyd...or Miss Naomi!"...and he disappeared down the hall.
With the game in limbo we scattered a bit. I, to the stove, to make more popcorn maybe. I can't recall.
In a minute Scott returned to the kitchen, stood there straight and tall, and announced mechanically, "Brent was just killed in a four-wheeler accident."

"No!!! No!!!"
 I searched his face desperately for any trace of hope that it might not be true. Instead, the truth hit with blunt and brutal force. Scott's face, usually so alive and happy, was blank.
Brent! His dearest friend! Not Brent!! Oh his dear Mother! His Dad! Oh his dear brothers and sisters! Oh God! Please no!

 We held each other and wept. And then we all gathered in the living room and prayers rose from the depths of our hearts to God for mercy, for grace, for comfort... for answers. But Death is so final. And answers so elusive. Comfort and grace came, but it floated on seas of tears and anguish. And the enormity of the loss settled in like night. Cold. Dark. Silent. It is still settling in.

Let me tell you about Brent from my perspective.

He walked into our lives unceremoniously enough, approximately three years ago when he and some of his siblings began attending our school. We were glad to hear he was coming. There were few boys at our church or in our high school Scott's age, and though Brent was in the grade below Scott, they were within a year of each other in age.
It didn't take long before we started hearing his name quite often and it was as we had hoped, Scott had found a friend. I didn't really know him so well for a time. He was only a name and a collection of anecdotal facts. One of these "facts" was his discriminating taste in food.
 His family lived quite a ways to the south of us and it wasn't long before Scott asked if he could bring Brent home for the night. We were having a fundraiser the next day, a chicken barbecue, and it made more sense for him to stay around than having to run the whole way home and back again in the morning. To say I was intimidated was a downplay of the truth. Our accommodations are modest at best, and what if he hated my food???
"Just chill, Mom. He won't care." (I'm imagining this "quote" by Scott, because I don't remember the conversation verbatim, but it's a pretty good guess.)
And so he came, and slipped into our home with a laid-back ease that blended seamlessly with the life that teems inside the wigwam. I served Orange French Toast for breakfast, and fresh pineapple and bacon. He was polite, and ate it and thanked me like a gentleman.

"I don't know whether he liked it or not, but he has good manners." I thought.

We collected our stuff and headed to the fundraiser. Smoke rose from the chicken grilling over the coals. The line for assembling the barbecue plates stretched beneath two tents, and a generous assortment of parents, youth and children bustled about preparing food or sitting on camp chairs awaiting a day of fun and profit. I hadn't been there long before I heard Brent's voice behind me somewhere, talking to one of his brothers I think, "You would not be-lieve what I had for breakfast this morning!" he said in his signature style, a unique hybrid of Pennsylvania accent and southern drawl. His tone indicated he had hit  the jackpot for sure.

He liked my food! From then on, I liked him.

His sanguine/phlegmatic temperament meshed well with Scott's high energy disposition, and when he was with us it was as if our children had another brother, and we another son.
I cannot begin to distill my memories of Brent here, but I will share a couple of them.
We took him along with us one hot July to Cumberland Island where we braved the intense elements of coastal Georgia. We all mined sharks teeth together, while being peppered with jokes from the game warden's son.
When it came to breakfast time, I had brought baked oatmeal with blueberry pie filling beneath it. Brent said he didn't usually eat breakfast and he didn't care for any. I think he slept in while the rest of us ate.

We finished up and headed off to enjoy the splendors of the island. When we returned to camp, Brent was up and around. "By the way," he said, grinning, "that baked oatmeal was pretty good."
He had dug some out when he could sample it in safety. =)

Brent had an unusual talent for connecting with people. His peers, children, and older people alike. Our youth group had gone camping a couple weeks before he died, and there are pictures of him and a couple other guys playing football with our Todd, (9) and sitting with Becky (6) on her little two person camp seat. Within a couple days before he died, Tyler(15)had told me he was planning to frame a picture of a truck he had drawn, and give it to Brent, because Brent had told him he liked it. And Regan (13) had told me with glee that she thought today was probably the day Brent was going to "get her back.". They had some sort of running game going where they played tricks on each other when the other was unsuspecting.
And though he was officially Scott's friend, he was Dustin's good friend too, because Brent was just that sort of person. Utterly likable. Effortlessly charming. Inclusive of all.

One of my favorite memories of him was from a year ago. Kent and I are youth sponsors and were with the youth on a camping trip. We were all sitting in a big circle after a meal. I was sitting somewhat by myself, and he came over, sat down beside me and started talking. During the course of the conversation, he said, "One thing I like to do when I'm sitting in a circle like this is go around it and think of something I like about everyone in the group." And so saying, he proceeded to do so. Starting on one side and going to the other he named something positive, something admirable, something he liked about each person he came to. When he got to his brother Lyndell he said, "Lyndell's my best friend. We're really close."

With all my heart, I wish I could remember what he said about each one. I'd post it here as his little tribute to each of our dear youth. He liked you, each one.

The ease with which he gave his testimony and brought God into conversation was unusual for a teenager, and very inspiring.

This is my last memory of him:

 Friday evening, the 10th of May, graduation ceremonies for Waynesboro Mennonite School were held. Brent Halteman and Gary Heatwole were the only graduates.

 Scott was suppose to sing with a group, and the guys were suppose to wear black pants and white shirts with black vests. Scott modeled his newly acquired black vest with characteristic flare, and excitement stirred as the whole tribe got ready to leave.  I had had a horrid migraine all day, and all hopes and drugs did not suppress it. Staying home was the only viable option. I signed the cards to the graduates with a throbbing head, and sent the tribe on their way.

They poured back in later that night, with happy stories of this and that...the fantastic decorations and food, the amazing fruit display. Scott had taken pictures and showed them to me. "He really likes pineapple so they had all these fresh pineapple."

No wonder he had liked my breakfast way back when. It wasn't my cooking at all! It was that crazy pineapple!

When the Chief and I were retiring for the night he said, "Brent did really good on his speech. I couldn't have been any prouder of him if he'd have been my own son. He asked about you. He said to tell you he missed you."

The next day was the school picnic, and closing program, held in a big shelter at a campground. The school gave their program, each class and person giving their parts as they do every year. It's one of those traditions that anchor us in life.... the first graders sounding cute and looking adorable,... on up through 11 and 12 graders who have mysteriously morphed into nicely looking young men and women when we weren't looking.
And then it was time for the picnic...I went through the food line and filled my plate of food.
I searched to see where the Chief had gone. Oh! There he was. I made my way toward him, when Brent stopped me, "I missed you last night." he said. "I'm glad you could make it today."
"Yes", I said. "I was so sorry to miss it! Kent told me you did a fantastic job on your speech!" He grinned, his dimples showing, and with an aww shucks grin, he headed with his own plate of food to find a seat. I found Kent. "Did Brent find you?" he said. "He just asked me if you were here."
"Yes," I replied, "I just talked to him."

That was our last exchange. Every one of you who loved him can remember your own last exchange with him, too, I imagine.

The following day, during that blissfully ordinary Scum game, Scott's phone rang.
Our lives will never be the same.

As you think of it. Pray for Brent's family. Pray for his mother. Pray for his dad. He had a big sister, and a little sister. And big brothers and a little brother. He had a quartet of nieces. Their lives will never be the same. Pray for his friends. For Michael, And Jesse, and Scott, and Lyndell and his brother Jesse...and all the rest who struggle with the pain.

And when you pray thank God that we do not grieve as those who have no hope. That we can know where Brent is because of Jesus, and because Brent knew Jesus.

This song has run through my mind many times in the last while. With so few words it gives meaning to the grief we have experienced the last number of months. Adelaide Proctor wrote them.

I thank Thee more that all our joy
Is touched with pain,
That shadows fall on brightest hours,
That thorns remain:
So that earth's bliss may be our guide,
And not our chain.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Original Mysterious White Powder Horror Story

I used up the last of the confectioner's sugar tonight, making cream cheese icing for a cake. It was a bittersweet moment when I dumped it out of that familiar plastic gallon container into the mixing bowl. And this is why: (to my best recollection)

I had just turned 7 and we were moving from NC to the Shenendoah Valley. We were packing up the stuff in the kitchen cabinets, Mother and I. I opened a container filled with white powdery stuff and tasted it. It was powdered sugar.
"Mother, what's this?" I said.
"It's cornstarch." She replied.
"Can I have some?" I asked.
"Sure. But you have to eat all that you take." she said evenly.
Oh! Glory!! She thought it was cornstarch!! I knew it was confectioner's sugar! Neenerneenerneener!!! I got the orange Tupperware 1 cup measure, scooped that baby full, and lit into it. It was dee-licious!! At least the first tablespoon was pretty good. But pretty dry too. Bleh...and there was a bunch left. And I had to eat it. But I couldn't let her know she had the last laugh. So I pretended to be lovin' it...for awhile. And then I couldn't really pretend any more. It was just plain awful. But I had to eat it. And eat it . And eat it.

And. eat. it.

And through the years it was one of those family stories that resurfaced forever and again.

In March when we children went back home for the last time to divide up Mother's things, My sisters already had a few boxes packed and taped shut. One had my name on it. "It's something you you ought to have." they said. "You can't open it till you get home."

When we finally unloaded all our loot here in the south, I found that box, cut through the tape, laid back the flaps...and there was a plastic gallon jar filled with white powder.

And no, it wasn't cornstarch.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day. If you are one, you start thinking a couple different directions: toward your own mother, and to the children who make you a mom.

 Every year I am touched with the little gifts, cards, sentiments, and acts of service, that punctuate this day.
Some are very small and not quite as this morning when one of the natives came out dressed for church.
"You look nice." I said.
He replied "What can I say?...I'm my Mother's son! ...that's your compliment for the day."

And some are big and very touching... like the Chief getting up way early to fix the coffee and cook  for the annual Mother's Day carry-in dinner the men of our church put on for the ladies. Every year they do an absolutely outstanding job and this year was no exception.

This year some of the men got up in church and serenaded all the mothers (And mother's-in-law) with song.

I think maybe we ladies have some room to step up our Father's Day observance, actually. We should have a carry-in where we all bring our husband's favorite foods...or let them choose what they'd like us to make.
But that's another discussion...

This is my first Mother's Day without my mother. Her best one, no doubt. A couple times in the last couple months I have found myself talking to God about her..."Take good care of her God. She was so good to us all. Give her Your best royal treatment, please..." and then my prayer fades away when I think of Who I'm talking to and how absurd the words must sound to Him.

I wrote this little piece up about my mother years ago. Some of  you have already read it, I know. I wrote it fast and it's no literary gem, but it was the beat of my heart at the time and I am going to repost it here...because it's Mother's Day, and it's still the truth...

                      ~ ~ ~ ~ ~   ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

The most unfortunate thing I think, is that while I was growing up, I did not at all appreciate my Mother for the treasure she was. She was just "Mother". As reliable as the sun. As consistent as the seasons. As fun as a puppy.... with none of the mess. As comforting as peach cobbler with a little cream drizzled over it on a rainy evening.

She wasn't nuthin' but the truth when you were bad. And peace, perfect peace, as soon as your spanking was over.

She was as unconventional as a hot pink Buick. And as much fun as exploring an old house for the first time.

She taught me that praying and reading your Bible every day were important, that God is everything you need, and when things get unbearably stressful to break into gales of uncontrollable mirth.

She taught me that life is about 10% circumstance and 90% attitude.
And that people are very much fun to watch.
That it doesn't matter what you look like, or whether you ever get married.
And that if you don't know how to spell or pronounce it, to look it up.

She taught me that it is much better not to show up at a social event and have people wish you were there, than to show up, and have people wish you had stayed home.

She taught me not to worry about what people think about you...... that nobody's thinking about you anyway.
And that if you are somebody, you don't have to try to be somebody.

Probably, the light began to dawn  in my dormant awareness as to what a special person she was when as a teenager my friends would be over to see me and wind up sitting and talking with my mother. "You're mom is so cool" " You've got a neat mom!" " I LOVE your mother!" were things I began to hear regularly and suddenly I realized that she wasn't the same as everyone else's Mother.

She was forty-four years old when I was born, and a year older when my little brother made his debut. But she was by no means worn out. The spring before I got married she and I would get up early several days a week and play tennis before we had to go to work. She was good. She beat me far more often than I beat her.

But it wasn't until I had six children of my own that I began to truly marvel at her and her six. How did she make it look so easy?? How did she keep from ever losing her temper? How did she always have time to talk with us? How did she wind up at the end of every day with plenty of time to read to us? How did she manage to always appear to know exactly what she was doing? She's a miracle. My miracle.

The hand that rocked my cradle, without a doubt, rules my world.

                   ~ ~ ~ ~ ~   ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

God bless all the mothers today. And the motherless. And the childless.
God bless us all.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In Search of Sanity

What do you do when people say "Write!"  "Please write!" "When are you going to write??" "I keep checking your blog and there's nothing there."?
There is a reason for this. I have lost my brain. I catch glimpses of it now and then, but it's like trying to keep track of a two-year-old in a crowd. By the time I get to where it was a minute ago, it's long gone.

The schedule at the wigwam has been truly crazy, and generally, the more I have to do, the less efficient I become. So many things have to be done I haven't a clue which one to do, so I just do....THIS! And why not?? I've always wanted scalloped fingernails!

 Alright, that's not quite true. I barely have any fingernails at all. But you get the picture.
It's a curse to overcome. I thought I had made progress, actually, and was feeling deep satisfaction about it the weekend of the Youth Camping Trip. The Chief and I are youth sponsors, and a couple weekends ago the whole gang went camping up at the lake. The trusty food committee handed out little slips of paper to each of the youth at chorus practice with the list of foods they were to bring.
 Scott got one. Dustin got one.
Scott gave his to me. I looked at it briefly and stuck it in the pocket of my chorus book for safekeeping. Dustin kept his and put it on the bulletin board here at the wigwam.

A few days later, Diana (queen of the food committee) asked if I could bring some clothes pins. And three dish cloths. Sure! I'd be glad to! I had previously been assigned pancake mix. So I got that.
And what else was I to bring? Oh yes, Dustin had Gatorade mix and marshmallows on his list. And two heads of lettuce, I think. And what had been on Scott's? I didn't know where his list was anymore, but I was pretty sure it had chocolate bars and a pound cake. I baked the pound cake, wrapped it, and set it where it would not be forgotten.
I bought the other things and gave them to Diana ahead of time.
Then I did up the laundry and made sure everyone's clothes were packed. And I went and sewed my chorus dress... the one that had to be done when we got home from the camping because a few hours after we got home from camping we were suppose to be back at the church giving our first chorus program...and my dress wasn't done.
 I finished the dress, except for the hem. But that was no problem; I could sew that in on the way to the lake.

I was virtually ready when the crew came in the door from school and work.

Sleeping bags, tent, pillows, binoculars, towels, washcloths, soap, camera, suitcases, cake, clothes pins, dishcloths, pancake mix, lanterns..... It was all packed by the Chief with the expertise that comes with years of practice. He laid the folding table on top. Diana had called at the last minute and needed a table. All done. Almost on time even.

"Do we have the griddle?" he asked.
"No. I didn't know we were suppose to take the griddle."
"Oh yeah! It was on that list we had from that meeting at the school." The Chief grabbed the griddle from its place on top of the refrigerator.

 There was a list from the meeting?? I had somehow forgotten the meeting we had where we planned the details of the camping trip.

"Did I know about it?" I asked. My feeling of satisfaction at getting around so efficiently quietly evaporated.
"Yes, you knew. I may have written it down before you got to the meeting but I passed it over for you to look at, remember?"

I had gotten to the meeting late because I had been at Writer's Conference in Virginia and barely made it back in time.. The folks I was traveling with kindly dropped me off at the meeting which was well underway till I got there. I was mostly just longing for the meeting to adjourn so I could get home.

What else was on that list? I had no idea. I supposed the pancake mix had been on that list and my subconscious had juggled that detail,  but was that all? Who knew? Certainly not me.
 I beat on my brain and implored it to pull up the items on that list. It blinked back at me vacantly. Maybe I had gotten everything. I chose to believe I had.

We piled in the Expedition and off we went. The weather was beautiful! After all the mad scrambling it was so good to sit there and just relax. (And sew in my hem). Ahh! It would be a great weekend. The 90 minute drive alone would be bliss. I had my hem sewn in almost before we got out of town and settled back and enjoyed the ride and the conversation.

We were nearing our destination when Regan said, "Mom, did you bake a chocolate cake?"
"I wasn't suppose to bake a chocolate cake." I said. "I was suppose to bake a pound cake."
"You were suppose to bake a chocolate cake, too. It was on Scott's list."

Now I had lost Scott's list. But I was pretty sure what had been on it. I had even asked Scott and he had confirmed what I thought. Scott had ridden with a friend to the lake so he wasn't there to back me up, but I remembered nothing about a chocolate cake.
"There was a chocolate cake!" Regan was adamant. "I saw it, and Scott asked you about it. He asked you twice. I heard him."
Dustin joined in, "That's right. I heard him too." Dustin was equally sure I was suppose to have made a chocolate cake.
I hadn't heard him. I hadn't seen it on the list. Or had I? I beat on my brain again. I tried to imagine having known at some point I was suppose to have made a chocolate cake. I could almost do it.
Regardless, there must have been a chocolate cake on the list.  Three of my children knew it.

I settled into a melancholy study. What else was I suppose to have brought that I knew nothing about??? Where was I going to get an edible chocolate cake at this point, an hour from anywhere? I was probably suppose to have brought a whole collection of kitchen utensils and stuff too. They probably needed them for supper. They probably needed the chocolate cake for supper. How was I going to explain to the super responsible food committee, who had gone to great lengths to put this thing together, that Mrs Youth Sponsor couldn't even keep her lists straight and bring what was on them?

I decided there was nothing to do but face up to the truth. I would go right away and confess I hadn't baked my chocolate cake and ask what else I was suppose to have brought. I would get it out of the way first thing, do whatever I had to do to fix it, and be done.

We rolled into Elijah Clark State Park and wound our way to where camp headquarters had been set up. Diana wasn't hard to find. And Jalina. They are the food committee. They were busy getting things around for supper. Waiting on my chocolate cake to get there, no doubt.

I told them the whole tale: I had no chocolate cake. I probably didn't have a whole lot of other stuff too.

Diana looked at Jalina and back at me. "You weren't suppose to bring a chocolate cake. Just a pound cake." she said.
They went over the items I was responsible for bringing. I had them all.

                              ~ ~ ~   ~ ~ ~

A couple days ago, a friend of mine who lost her dad to cancer last year asked me "Have you gotten your brain back yet?" She said it took her a long time to get her brain back after her dad died.

So that's it?? I didn't know! I have an excuse! Oh! I have an excuse!
I latched onto it with maniacal joy. What is more blessed than a perfect excuse??
And maybe...maybe someday my brain will come back to me! Maybe it will stand quietly by my side like a well behaved child licking an ice cream cone and holding a red balloon.

Maybe someday I can write again.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Calories, Coffee and the Inequities of Life.

"Mom? Do you think you could gain thirteen pounds by next Friday?" It was Tyler, asking a serious question.
"What???" I am unused to thinking in these terms.
"No, probably not." I replied, after considering a little.
"Well, I'm going to." He said. "They won't let me play football because I'm not big enough. I need to gain weight."

I scooped pancakes off the griddle and added them to the ones warming on the platter in the oven.
I tried to imagine how blissful my life would be if I were trying to gain weight.
Tyler presided over his lunch-packing with unusual passion. "Do you know how many calories are in a container of yogurt?" he said.
"170. Dad guessed 40. Do you know how many calories are in two tablespoons of peanut butter?"
"180. I'm packing my lunch with all high calorie foods." he said enthusiastically.
"If you get too fat for your jeans you're going to have to buy your own new ones." I warned.
It may have been a sour grapes comment. Or it may have been one of those remarks mothers need to make in order to feel useful.

We sat down to eat breakfast. Tyler was making commitments to put away monumental portions, mingled with football talk.

 I chose the two smallest pancakes, which were really quite small, and committed to not taking seconds.
 I wondered idly whether I should have chosen just one medium-sized one instead, if that would hold me through the morning, and how many less calories it would have been than two smalls.

A couple of the other natives chimed in with their weight gain goals. A discussion about who weighed what ensued.
Then Dustin said, "I just dreamed that you were losing lots of weight, Mom! Without even trying, it was just coming off!!"
Yes. I dream of that too.
I finished my little pancakes, and took my plate to the counter, poured myself half a cup of coffee and added just a bit of milk. Normally I'd have had a whole cup, but the doctor told me yesterday to cut back on caffeine.
Blah. First calories. Now caffeine.
I cradled my half-cup and husped a little off the top.
The clamor of natives collecting lunchboxes and backpacks, tying shoes and telling each other to hurry, gave way to silence as they spilled out the door.
I found my purse, slipped into my crocs, took up my half cup of coffee, and followed them to the car.

I was where they are, once. I remember a classmate calling me skinny in the presence of his mom, and her horrified "Oh, David!" And Mother referring to my protruding shoulder blades as angel wings.

 But someday they will likely be where I am. Unless, by some stroke of brilliant luck they inherit the Chief's metabolism. Which they probably will.

Oh well!!
I sipped at my half-cup of coffee with the merest splash of milk in it.
At least we won't have to worry about buying new jeans.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Suddenly Spring!

Do you realize it is 7:30PM and light outside! The natives are barefootin' it in the back yard, playing ball. The lawn is freshly shorn...the first mowing of the season. There are a fair amount of winter weeds out there crowding the Centipede. But even weeds look pretty nice if they're mowed. Azaleas brighten the border beneath the pines.

Two evenings ago I felt the coolness of loamy soil beneath my own feet while the Chief and I raced to get our potatoes into rows as twilight gave way to darkness.
We're getting our garden in late this year, actually. We don't really try to get it in early ever, because our position on the north side of a hill makes us vulnerable to late frosts. But this year with our trotting to and fro to Virginia, proper garden planting time has come and gone. It doesn't matter. The beauty of living in the south is that the growing season stretches before you long and long. You can plant two consecutive gardens if you have a mind to. Though by the time we're done with round one we are seldom of a mind to.

Our latest trip to Virginia was this past weekend. The Chief and I traveled up with my brother and sister-in-law (his sister) to meet with the rest of my siblings to go through and divide Mother's things, clean her house, and say good-bye to that chapter of our lives.

As the miles melted behind us we gradually greeted an earlier version of the season, but there was no question it was spring the whole way! Pale green leaves stood in relief against darker evergreens. Dogwood lighted the undergrowth, and Redbud bloomed in glorious profusion. There was some other tree blooming. I don't know what it was, but it was the most delicious shade of dusky raspberry. Great patches of spring flowers splashed the interstate medians with color.

When we pulled up to Mother's house, there were hyacinths blooming in the flowerbed by the carport. And tulips. I had seen their leaves peeking through when I had gone up to see her the week before she died. When I went in and told her about them she said, "Really! I haven't seen one sign of anything in that flower bed!"
That conversation seemed long ago and far away.
 I looked at the hyacinths and tender blushing tulips and wondered if I wished she could see them.

The cars are largely some shade of yellow/green here in our town, unless they have just been washed. The pollen we can always count on. It comes down in gentle drifts some days, guilding the world. And making us sneeze.

Watching things grow is one of my dearest joys. I much prefer growing my flowers and vegetables from seed. It didn't happen this year, but most years, that is what I do. The Chief built me a little greenhouse, and I fill it full of seed flats and then every dew-kissed morning, I pour my cup of coffee and venture out to peer at each flat to see if I see anything...anything.
And one morning there is something!  YES! And something else! Oh! And these are up!
And after I've seen everything there is to see, I cast around in my mind if there might not be something more to check on...somewhere! And I always wish there were. But at some point the things to check run out. And so does the coffee. So I go inside to do housework.

It would be so nice to love housework best of all, wouldn't it? But I don't. But it's Spring, and it would be a sin to waste it wishing you liked to do housework.

Happy Spring to all of you. May all your seeds sprout, all your flowers bloom, and may you always have a tissue handy when the pollen drifts your way.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Going Home

I had a built-in sidekick in the form of my younger brother, Jeff. One of our common ventures was creating hideouts. We built them anywhere we could find a good place. In hedgerows, barn rafters, out of scrap wood in some remote field corner,  in the branches of trees. We once started building one out of mud. We had grand visions of building a whole village of mud houses, but never got beyond the foundation of the first house. It was too much like work.
We made plans in our hide-outs. Dream and Imagination were king and queen. From them, we spied on the unsuspecting world.
In the particular instance I am recalling here, we had built one of these hideouts...somewhere. It must have been fantastic, because I clearly remember the general excitement we had about it....and hitting upon the glorious plan of asking Mother if we could sleep out in it that night. She said yes, and we promptly set to hauling out all the things we'd need. Blankets, pillows, flashlights...we hauled them out load after haphazard load, wild with anticipation.

Evening approached, and somewhere along the way a thought sprouted in my mind: it was dark outside at night. What if I didn't feel as excited about this in the dark as I did right now? What if it seemed more creepy than cozy in there with all the pillows and flashlights and shifting shadows? What if we heard noises? What if Mother would tell us we'd hauled all that stuff out there and we had to face our fears and sleep out there no matter what? What then???

 I didn't know. I had to know.  I had to know if I was going to be stuck out there with no recourse, and nothing but a little brother for protection, in case of emergency.

I crept up beside her and asked her very quietly, "Mother? If we get scared tonight, is it okay if we come in?"

She had been busy with her housework, and we had been so enthusiastically implementing our sleep-out plans! This was certainly an about-turn! She turned to me a bit startled. Then with a bit of a catch in her voice said, " can always come home. Never forget that."

Mother has moved several times since I've married and left home, but no matter where she's made her abode, any morning I wake under her roof and the aroma of breakfast is wafting from the kitchen, I'm her girl again and she's my mother. Home is where mother is, that's what.

Yesterday, Mother moved one last time. We came to know this move was relatively imminent and inevitable last fall when she was diagnosed with stage 4 ovarian cancer. It was incurable, they said.
In these last months I have grieved and grieved again the losses her passing must bring, not the least of which is never being able to go home again.

And I've thought more than once of what she told me there that summer afternoon, and how it is now no longer true. I can never go home again.  No more walking in her door, drawing in the familiar aroma of her house, talking together by the light of her lamps, or waking under her roof with the smell of pancakes floating from the kitchen.
She's gone, leaving a vacuum as big and silent as the night sky.

The tears flow from a heart that feels like a stone within me. Heavy. Hard. No more mother. No more going home. Oh Mother!...Mother!
The future stretches before me sadly devoid of her reliable and steady maternal input.
But suddenly from my puddle, I hear her voice again as gentle and reassuring as it was back then.... "Honey, you can always come home. Never forget that."

Oh yes, Mother! We can! And we will! We'll be leaving here as soon as we can get packed up and on the road. I'm not sure when we'll get there. It might be late; don't wait up. Just leave the door unlocked and the light on, and we'll see you in the morning.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Remembered Fear

(In keeping with the current "fear" theme, I transferred this to here from a G+ update awhile back.)

I remember taking out the garbage when I was a little girl. Taking out the garbage always seemed to happen after dark. And I was scared of it.
The dark, that is. Not the garbage.

Going out was only moderately terrifying. The light of the porch was right with me at first, and then just behind me, and fading gradually as the fear grew. I'd brace myself against the dangers of the dark and the myriad evils suspended in it, lurking beside, above, below, within. and without. I'd step right through them carefully, quietly, so as not to disturb them.

And then....there was the fence! I'd FLING the garbage over it in a wild eruption of pent-up terror, and streeeak, completely surrendering to the propelling forces of panic and adrenalin, back to the safety of the light.

And nonchalantly open the screen door and enter suavely as if nothing in the world had happened.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

And That Was That

I had Todd in for his annual eye exam with Dr Goei, the surgeon who did his surgeries when he had his accident and lost the vision in his right eye.
He has never, and I mean NEVER, done well at these appointments. The last time he was to see her he did okayish, which was a great improvement over previous times, but they have never dilated his eye and done a full-fledged test because he is petrified and uncooperative.
We had an appointment with another doctor in the interim that will live in infamy.

This time, when we got there, and settled ourselves in the waiting room he crawled up on my lap and started compulsively twisting the buttons on my dress. "Oh dear." I thought, "here we go again." I breathed a prayer for him...poor little guy; fear is the worst of all fiends.

The waiting room held a young Hispanic couple and their three-year-old boy. The parents sat on opposite sides of the room, and the boy sat somewhere in between. Their stuff filled in the gaps. I had chosen a seat as well as I knew.
There is this unspoken protocol about which seat you choose depending on the seats available and the positions of the current occupants, but it was a little tricky here, because I infringed on either them or their stuff no matter where I was.

As it turned out I was seated closer to him than to her and he proved to be extraordinarily friendly. He said hello instantly. Then he asked what religion I was and what we believed. He told me of the Bolivian Mennonites he had seen featured on a television show. There were two different kinds down there he told me; the one kind kept entirely to themselves, and the other kind didn't. What kind was I, he wondered. I told him I didn't know too much about the Mennonites in Bolivia.
It was the truthful and safest answer.
"Do you believe in the Holy Spirit" he said. I said "Yes."
"We're the same then." he said with guileless acceptance and confidence. "We're Pentecostal. We and the Baptists and y'all believe the same. The Jehovah's Witness don't. They don't believe in the Holy Spirit".

Todd carefully kept his back to him.

By the time their name was called, I knew they were from Mexico,  and about his siblings, the ones who lived and the one who had died, his daughter named Genesis, his mom, and their ill-tempered Shih Tzu, and who was due to deliver twins in March.
 He had pictures of them on his phone and when he had largely concluded the commentary he scrolled through them and provided me with visual aids.
His wife sat across the room and regarded him pleasantly. She was silent till it was time to leave and then she said goodbye warmly, as if we had been long friends. It would have seemed so.

Todd was in quiet mode.

In the meantime another couple had entered with a charming cross-eyed little guy. The parents were substantial. The lady came in, surveyed the available seats and taking the first one inside the door, said calmly, "I might as well block the door." and proceeded to do so. Her husband played games on an I-pad most of the time while simultaneously engaging his wife in conversation. A remarkable man. She asked him nicely for a turn. He nicely refused.
The cute little guy knocked all the legs off an activity table and walked around the room chewing on them.

It was a blessed distraction, really. Dragons seldom shrink for the thinking of them.

A third couple moved in with a brand-new baby in a carrier. The daddy was a gentle looking sort littered with tattoos. He took care of the bags and the baby.
The mom who was pencil thin and wore heels, came in like a whirlwind, dropped her stuff on the chairs, announced, "I'm going potty," and promptly walked back out.
How in the world she got to be that size two weeks after giving birth, I do not know. Women want to know these things.

Todd surveyed it all silently, no doubt less distracted than I. He lay against me like a little monkey

The cute little guy with crossed eyes came over to explore the new folks. "He'll get in your bags." warned his mom. "He'll have them emptied out in one minute." The tattooed man pulled the bags close around him.
This was no match for the cute one.
Dad put the bags all up on the chair. Cute one's mom came and followed him around the room keeping him out of everything remotely interesting to him.

I have always found waiting rooms fascinating. This one was no exception.

One by one each group was called out and Todd and I were left alone.

"Todd," I said "they're not going to do anything scary. They're just going to look at your eyes and have you look at things. Just answer their questions, okay? It won't be anything scary." Todd had moved to sit a few seats away from me.
He said "mmhmm."
"Yes, ma'am."
He said it. But he had said it before. Somehow when we got to the examining room his fears always took over entirely. Panic rather. His last eye appointment had been a full-blown disaster.

"Todd?" The nurse called his name finally. He took my hand and we followed her down the hall and around the corner. We'd been in this room before. It reverberated with ghosts of visits past. She left and we settled in once more. Waiting is so routine at this place, you expect nothing else.

"Todd," I said, "I think you're big enough to sit in the chair by yourself this time. You just sit there and answer their questions. You can do it."
"I want you to hold me."
"If I hold you, will you cooperate?" I said.
(Don't you hate those negotiating parents?)
"Yes." he said.
Dr. Goei was already at the door.

Dr. Goei and Todd go way back. She has learned to expect the worst and prepare for the worst. So has he.
I steeled myself.
"How are you, Todd!!" She acted genuinely thrilled to see him.
"Fine!" he replied.
This was the first miracle in a series of miracles.
Another doctor came in.
He let them shine lights in his eyes.
He read the letters on the chart quickly and confidently.
He leaned his head back and looked at the ceiling while they put drops in; three in one, one in the other.
He sat there stoically while they checked his eye pressure.
Once, while their backs were turned, I whispered in his ear "Way to go, buddy. You're doing great!"
He slipped me an aww shucks grin.

We made plans to do surgery on his wandering eye in the summer. She wrote out a new prescription for his glasses. And we were done.
Chart in hand, we descended from the chair, and away we went. He hopped blithely from dark tile to dark tile as we made our way back out the maze of halls that is MCG.

"You wanta eat at McDonald's here, or at Burger King on the way home?" I asked.

"I don't know, I guess Burger King." he said, still hopping.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day is coming, and  you know what that means!! That means it's time to celebrate love by expressing it! If you do not know how to express it, you have not been paying attention because the commercials, sales fliers and store displays have been telling us how for weeks now.

To be honest, they have been telling you gentlemen how to express it, because, admit it, you're the ones who need help here. This is how it's done this year, from what I've been able to gather....

First, and most importantly, you pull out your wallet.
Then you select from one or more of the following options:
1. Purchasing very over-priced crimson roses. The more you love her, the more you'll buy. She'll know if you bought enough, or not. (She'll also know if you picked them up at your local grocery store. Don't risk it.).
2. Ordering huge chocolate-dipped strawberries for over a dollar apiece.
3. Purchasing Chocolate. Good chocolate.
4. Purchasing large red teddy bears that will clash with her decor for the rest of the year.
5. Hiring four other guys to come sing love songs to your sweetheart.
6. Taking her out to a spiffy restaurant where hundreds of other couples are, and the wait staff is stretched way too thin.
7.  Purchasing gems. (Particularly diamonds handpicked by your broker to your individual specifications in Antwerp, Belgium.)
8. Carefully selecting the perfect wildly-expensive card. (You have to do this last one regardless what else you choose on this list.)

These are the options you've been given and they come with warnings: Her girlfriends will be asking her what she got for Valentine's Day, and if she doesn't have a good answer buddy, you and Fido are going to be sharing digs for a long, long time.
(This is just as well, actually; have you ever lived with a disappointed woman??? Let's just say they don't talk much, and the temperature around them is lower than other places.)
So now that we have that little understanding firmly in place, let's celebrate, shall we??

A few years ago, I read an article citing a study which brought to light this fact:  men, overwhelmingly, do not like Valentine's Day, and women love it.

I wondered, naturally, whether my beloved Chief felt that way. How could he, possibly???
But... he did. He didn't like Valentine's Day.
He never knew what to get me, or what I expected. He knew I'd like to go out to eat, probably, and he'd like that too, actually, but he hated going out to eat when every decent restaurant was packed to the gills.
I was always on a diet, so chocolates seemed counter-productive.
And Valentine roses were so expensive!

Men are such dreadfully reasonable creatures.
"Reasonable", and "Valentine's Day" have nothing to do with each other. At least not if you buy the line we're fed every year by those hoping to profit from all the guilt offerings.
That's what they are, you know.

Here's a much-needed Truth Injection: True love can be celebrated however you wish to celebrate it.  True love doesn't punish the other person for not fulfilling manufactured expectations. True love is fun for both parties.

After the cold revelation that The Chief is pretty much a regular man and doesn't like the inherent pressures of Valentine's Day, we came up with our own custom-fit  Valentine's Day Celebration plan. We go out to eat the weekend after Valentine's Day. Sometimes we do other things too, but they are entirely optional, and not expected. One year, he built me an adorable little gnome-house with a charming door in the bottom of a huge hollow oak.
Once, I had an artist sketch Mt Rushmore and put his face in that distinguished line-up,  I wrote up a little tribute to him and framed them together. That was lots of fun.

You and your true love are unique. Your relationship and love is unique. Don't let mass advertising dictate your expectations and your celebrating. Carve your own traditions and tailor your celebrations to fit the two of you in a way that doesn't stress either of you. And have a truly happy Valentine's Day!!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Successful Sermon Survival

Yesterday was Sunday. We had church twice. Once in the morning and once in the evening, and each service we heard a sermon.
There is no end to the things we need to learn and be reminded of, so sermons are good, I'm sure. I enjoy a good sermon, and I am so glad, because there was a time when I did not.
A time when my feet could not touch the floor when I was sitting on the bench.
A time when the clock hands crawled with sloth-like movements.
A time when preachers used odd language they never used otherwise. The words I remember most vividly are these: "Is it not?" No one ever says this in real life, but the preacher would say it often.
"It is a privilege to be here this another Lord's Day morning, is it not?" "
"This is a good reminder for us today, brothers and sister, is it not?" etc.

I might have a lousy memory, but this I clearly recall: I hated sitting in church during a sermon.

Sometimes church was interesting, I enjoyed the singing and hearing my mother's rich alto voice. I did wish she would sing soprano. It seemed like soprano was the part the best women sang, but she sang alto. Despite this, I still liked to hear her.

Occasionally there was childrens' meeting. This was as close to entertainment as church services ever got...except for when we'd sing "If Ye Then With Christ Be Risen" and Bro. Derstine's tenor voice would reach for that high note on "Ri-sen" in the chorus. I loved that. But childrens' meeting was really good, too.

Surviving a sermon, though, took special skills. They admittedly had to be very subtle skills, because any obtrusive survival techniques were swiftly dealt with by Mother. She was not an unkind person, but she believed in behaving in church. And she did not believe her children needed to take anything to church save the Word of God.

Other children's mom's did not see it this way, apparently. I remember Lisa especially. She had her own purse, and it was stocked with survival gear. Lisa seemed to me like a princess with divine privileges.  I watched her with awe and envy, as she pulled things like embroidered hankies and writing tablets and pencils from her purse. Lisa, no doubt, loved sermons.

But I was not altogether without recourse. I remember, for instance, counting the tiles on the ceiling. Counting them from side to side was easy enough. Counting them from front to back was trickier, because turning around was not okay, and if you were caught, there were consequences, so you had to count the ones behind you very surreptitiously. It could be done. I successfully counted the ceiling tiles many times.

Finding the mailboxes in my copy of the Word of God was another great favorite. In some Bibles, the beginning of each paragraph is marked with a mailbox... at least that's what it looked like to me. Finding mailboxes was a lifesaver and never frowned on. I even remember finding mailboxes with my friend Roger once, when he was sitting beside me. Roger's dad was the preacher so it must have been okay. (Roger's mom sang soprano).

Also, my little Bible had pictures in it. The one I remember most vividly was the picture of Judas betraying Jesus with an army of soldiers behind him with torches lighting the night sky. There were probably six pictures all told, and I could look at them as long as I pleased...and did....but no matter how long I looked at them the sermon lasted longer still.

Perhaps the most useful thing about the pictures though, was that the back side of each page with a picture was blank. I drew pictures on the blank sides. I still can't believe Mother let me do this, but she did. The pictures are still there to prove it.

As I mentioned before, turning around was not okay, and I apparently risked it too often, because Mother came up with a plan to stop it. If she caught me turning around, she very calmly poked one finger into my ribs. If I turned around twice, two fingers. Three times, three fingers. However many finger pokes I accumulated till the end of the service was how many licks I got with her "magic wand" when we got home, unless, by some stroke of unbelievable luck she forgot about it between the sermon and the spanking. I tried to be very, very good in the interim so as not to attract any attention whatsoever to my existence. It worked, sometimes.

Childhood really is not for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of strategy and long-suffering and bravery.

Today, our church has no ceiling tiles; my Bible has no pictures; It doesn't even have mailboxes.
But that's okay, because somewhere along the line, I learned to love church, including the sermons.
And that's a beautiful thing, is it not?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

The Joys of Tragedy

I talked to my mother yesterday. We were talking about writing, because that's what she does and what she tries to get me to do.
"Did you ever write down that cat story?" She asked.
"What cat story?" I said.
"Oh, Rhon!! The cat story!!! That was the funniest thing you've ever told me in your whole life! Don't you remember??? you tried taking that cat to the vet and he got out of his box in the car and all the trouble you had trying to drive with this half-crazed cat loose in the car and the children and everything??"

You'd have thought I had just burned our complete family history.

"Well...maybe I remember ....just faintly." Snatches of it were coming back to me...but I knew even as I gathered the fragments from dusty archives,  there was no way in the world I could ever reconstruct it enough to put it on paper.

 I have a horrible long-term memory. I don't remember things that happened, and  remember things that didn't. It's a curse.
And  I have learned the hard way to be very humble about what my mind tells me about the past. Especially the years when all the natives were at the high maintenance stage. I was too distracted to be committing the incidentals of life to memory. So I never pass my recollection of things on with overmuch confidence. I try to preface memories with "If I recall correctly..."  to cover my bases.
I have noticed though, that Mother finds our lives a lot funnier than I do. Especially the disasters. And she always orders me to write them down.

Like the time I had to stay in bed during a troubled pregnancy, and The Chief took all the rest of the natives camping with his family on Cumberland Island,  forgot the tent poles and tried to suspend the tent by tying it to a live oak tree. 
Or the time the Chief was out of state at a mission's committee meeting, one of the natives got very sick and the only vehicle I had to take her to the doctor was a car with a transmission that was seriously on the had other problems too, because, if I recall correctly, there was some sort of pliers there for opening the hood...which, if I recall correctly, had to be done at semi-regular intervals. About a mile and a half  down the road I had to pull over to the shoulder. I had come to realize that just because The Chief could drive this thing didn't mean I could. There was no way I was going to get to Augusta. I put my head on the steering wheel and started crying. A cop stopped to see if I needed help. "I'm fine." I said, explained the problem briefly and assured her I could get back home.
I went up the road a little bit to turn around in the driveway of a big new house. It was then I remembered the car would not go into reverse. Period. And there I was. I pondered my options:
 1. Sit there forever.
2. Make a big fat loop through these people's yard and go home.

I chose the second option.

This is the sort of thing that sends mother into gales of laughter.
She has always been able to see the comedy in every tragedy, even her own.
Not that my life is a tragedy, really. it just has a lot of, say, unexpected parts.

Having a poor memory contributes to this situation. So do children and pets, a persistent propensity toward procrastination, and perhaps more determination than sense.

Ah well, what is life without a touch of woe? Where would we get the stories worth passing on? And what would supply the perspective we need to properly appreciate the uneventful days? Tragedy, after all, is rather useful.

But Mother is right, if you don't write it down, you'll never remember. Or at least, I won't.