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.