Bobbing Along

A Lifetime of Stories: collected, painted, shared.

Here’s Beanie!

DSC_4239

Yeah. I know. I’m overdue on announcing this. Waaaay overdue. Good God, he’s already 3 1/2 months old! And he’s gone from this wee thing with stringy arms and legs (hence the name),

IMG_5080

to this little chunk of chins.

DSC_7146

He was instantly adored by his big brother, the Rooster.

DSC_4286

Accordingly, the Rooster’s insatiable curiosity continues to give me pause. As I was feeding Beanie one afternoon, Rooster and I had this discussion:

“Mommom, what’s in that bottle?”

“Breast milk, Rooster.”

“Mommom, is that a bad word?”

“What word? Breast?”

“Uh-huh.”

“No, it’s not a bad word. Everyone has breasts, Sweets. Boys and girls, men and women, animals, we all have breasts. It’s just that women’s breasts were designed for the purpose of feeding babies.”

“Oh. I knew that.”

{insert here what could be called a very pregnant pause…}

“Uh, Mommom, how does that work anyway? How does the baby drink from breasts? Are there straws inside or something?”

Hmmm. Yep. Straws, folks. Totally straws. I went with straws all the way…straws.

Anyway, back to Beanie, straws or no-straws, he is quickly becoming a charmer. I cannot wait to see what questions he has for me down the road…

 

 

This Man

In May, we accompanied the Rooster and his parents to the May Festival at his school. It’s been years since we went to a May Festival but attending this one at the same elementary school our children attended brought back many memories. Memories of being a young mother. Or of just being young, for that matter. And memories of volunteering for this very event, volunteering for years in different capacities. Good years. Good memories.

Suddenly, cutting through my reverie, I heard the voice of Dear Dave, my husband, the father of my children, the love of my life, and all that blech. I heard him calling,

“Cindy! Come here! Come here! Quickly! Come here!”

I looked around, located him over by the playground and headed over to see what he wanted.

“Sit down. Sit! No, right here! Beside me! Closer! Here! Smile! I want to take a ‘stuffy’.”

A WHAT???

“You know. A stuffy

And with that I realized he was aiming his big-ass super-duper digital camera, the one that requires a crane to lift, backwards toward the two of us.

“Dave, do you mean a selfie?”

“Whatever. SMILE!!!”

DSC_3595

Conversations with my Father

I don’t go home to visit my father very often. I’m not particularly proud of this but I  have to be satisfied with whatever time my life allows. Our days are ridiculously busy—a fact that, quite frankly, surprises me. I suppose the explanation for this is fairly simple: I just cannot pack into each day the amount of “stuff” I once found manageable. My vision of being of a certain age was a life paced more slowly, certainly a life with more time for leisure pursuits, and, possibly, less cooking…

Ah, well…

One of the last times Dear Dave and I visited Dad, we brought a box filled with very old family photos. Together, we spent an entire afternoon perusing each faded black and white image, studying them with an old magnifying glass. For a man who cannot remember what he ate an hour before, Dad gleefully shared memories triggered by the photographs. It was one of the most enjoyable visits we had had in a very long time. And the stories he shared were time capsules of his life. Here are a couple of those stories with some memories of my own tucked in for good measure…

The Mighty Buick

These are photographs of my dad’s father or, more accurately, my dad’s father’s car. In the first one, Pops is seen standing in the middle of some road while Mom-mom, visible in her white cloche, is on the other side of the car. Dad didn’t remember who took the photo—or why—but he was fairly certain that Mom-mom, his mother, was standing beside the car, taking a pee.

This is very likely. I remember as a child, sitting beside my grandmother during one of our excruciatingly long family trips to Ocean City, Md. Upon my request for some chewing gum, she opened her mammoth purse pocketbook to search for some Wrigleys. Crammed amongst the gum packets, tissues, coins, and lipsticks were no less than three rolls of toilet paper. When it came to roadside necessity-stops, that woman was prepared.

Another photograph shows the car loaded with bundles of gear. Dad remembered this photo being taken as the family headed off for a camping trip sometime during the Depression. I imagine my grandmother had a pocketbook stuffed with toilet paper even then.

Because the car looked old and to me an old car is a Model T, I asked Dad for confirmation of that. “No! That’s not a Model T. A Model T is a Ford! That’s a Buick! My father only ever bought Buicks!

Of course it was a Buick. I remember now, painfully. Sunday afternoons with my grandparents: My sister and I, old enough to spend the weekend away from the rest of our family, were privy to the “Great American Sunday Afternoon Grandparent Experience”. Sitting together (carseat-less, safety belt-less) in the back seat of whatever Buick they currently owned, we were taken on delightful excursions called the Sunday Drive. Windows rolled up tight (no drafts allowed–nor fresh air), winding back country roads (great for the car-sick one—me), sun beating in through those smokey, dusty windows, and my grandfather at the wheel puffing merrily away on his pipe.  I turn twenty-two shades of green just conjuring the memory.

Moving on,

We found this photo:

Graduation gift for dental school 1939

That’s my dad’s older brother in a car, which I suppose is also a Buick. Uncle Ted was given the car in 1939 as a gift for his dental school graduation. Learning this begged the question,

“Dad,” I asked, “Did you get a car when you graduated from medical school?” His answer was swift and sure, “No! No, I certainly did not!…Do you think it’s too late for me to ask?”

Uh, yes.

The Preacher’s Daughter

My dad was raised in a little house in Lost Creek, WV, a tiny farming community with nary a stop sign, let alone a traffic signal, at least not until I had married and moved away. Directly across the road from my grandparents’ house is the house owned by the local Methodist Church. It is in this house that the pastors and their families lived while being assigned to the church, which, as it happens, is directly behind my grandparents’ house. No matter which door you opened, you couldn’t avoid being reminded of the Almighty. It was a very clever way to keep us well-behaved. On Sundays, at least.

In all the years that my grandmother was alive, I never heard her refer to the preacher as anything but The Preacher. His wife was The Preacher’s Wife. The kids were The Preacher’s Boy or The Preacher’s Girl. No names—first or last—were ever attached.

Thus, when my father would tell us the story of The Preacher’s Daughter, we never really expected to hear her name.

The story of The Preacher’s Daughter is famous within our family. On one rainy afternoon when he was five or so, Dad was invited to play across the road at, yes, The Preacher’s House. Bored, The Preacher’s Daughter suggested a “new” game. The premise was that Dad, being the younger of the two, was to stand at the edge of a scatter rug. On the count of three, The Preacher’s Daughter pulled the rug out from under him. Yep, ass-over-timbercups. The first time she did this, it was fun. The second time, Dad lost his four front teeth.

Fortunately—or not, depending on one’s outlook—my grandfather was a dentist. After some fierce reprimands to my father, my grandfather fitted him with four new front teeth…all made from gleaming, shiny gold. It was good that the lost teeth were baby teeth but it still made for a very long year (or more) waiting for new, adult teeth to arrive. To say that Dad was teased unmercifully would be an understatement.

Imagine our surprise then, on that afternoon with the box of photographs, when we found this picture:

In the center, the chubby-cheeked fellow is my father. On the left, we are told, is his friend, Charlie Watson. Then followed  this declaration:

“That’s her!”

“That’s who, Dad?”

“Jo Reeder!”

“Who’s Jo Reeder?”

“She’s the girl who knocked my teeth out!”

“WHAT? That’s The Preacher’s Daughter???” 

To those of us who have lived with this story all our lives, this conversation is remarkable for two reasons. One, Dad, in his dementia, remembered the girl’s name. And two, we now know the surname of ONE of the many preachers of Lost Creek Methodist Church. Apparently, some had names after all.

Here is a photo that, when viewed with our trusty magnifying glass, shows Dad smiling with his gold front teeth.

Ted and Burl (age 5 years)

And, remarkable too, is this photo. It shows an older Dad with an older Jo Reeder. They remained friends in spite of it all, though why they’re sitting on their dogs is anybody’s guess…

Jo Reeder and Burl

 

Difficult

The word, by one definition, means hard to please or satisfy. 

Synonyms include challenging, demanding, severe, exacting, formidable, rigid, unyielding, my father.

It would surprise more than a few of those who knew us as youngsters in that small mountain town, that our childhood—my siblings and mine—was anything but idyllic. Unpleasant comes to mind but I will leave to another time, p’haps, more accurate descriptions or greater detail. It is enough to know that our childhood was frequently unpleasant.

It took me a very long time to cast aside the pain, anger, and turmoil from those years. Healing was slow to come. The love of my husband and children kept the balance. They held the key. They made my effort worth my risk.

Eventually, my father and I developed a comfortable relationship; the gift of forgiveness is another topic for another day. Having confronted his actions long ago, I try to honor our relationship as it is today, even as he drifts into aged-related dementia. It is difficult to watch anyone diminish. In his case, he knows just how diminished he is: lonely without my mother, angry that she died and left him alone, frustrated by the failures of his body and mind. It is hard to watch and impossible to stop. There simply is no way to make his days better.

Given his history as a “difficult” father, however, there is still a part of me that hopes for some resolution for the past. Not all of my siblings have been able to address their history with him; not all of them have found a place of comfort. Any visit with Dad renews my dream that he will say something, anything, that I could share with the others in the hopes of bringing them peace.

Dave and I visit when we can. After dinner one evening several months ago during one such visit, Dad stretched out on his couch. Hands covering his face, he sighed,

“I should have been more patient.”

What? What did he just say?

“I should have been more kind.”

Oh. My. God! Here it comes! An apology! Is he about to apologize? Can I finally tell the others that he is, after all these years, sorry?

“I should have been more loving.”

Dave and I looked at each other. Our eyes bulged, our mouths gaped. I had to make certain. I had to make sure I heard what I thought I heard.

Carefully, calmly, I asked, “To whom, Dad? To whom?”

 “To my mother.”

WHAT?

“To your mother?”

“Yes. To my mother.”

Close.

No cigar.

I’ll keep listening.

Waiting.

Hoping.

So, um, this is happening…

DSC_3117

Yup! The Rooster is going to be a big brother. Coming soon…June…updates to be posted as soon as possible. Life is grand!!!

 

 

 

Five Years

Five years have passed since she died

Surrounded by family,

Two daughters and one grandson beside her bed,

Others waiting nearby.

We stroked her arms gently and our whispers spoke of love,

Masking our sorrow.

Medicated against the ravages of cancer, she drifted in silence.

It would have been her way, of course,

Quietly doing what was true,

Never one to make a scene

Or create chaos.

Chaos was left to us, her children, six in all,

Five remaining.

Her patience was tested over the years.

I was as guilty as any.

Yet,

Her love was unconditional.

Her wisdom was unimpeachable.

Her smile and her dancing, dark eyes spoke volumes

Even as the disease took its toll.

She was our guidepost, leading by example.

She taught us well,

Not just how to behave, but how to be.

Goodbyes having been said, it was time to let her go.

So we did.

And so she went.

I miss her still.

I always will.

Christmas 2008

To read more notes about my mother, click here and here and here.

 

 

Well, then!

I am hugely embarrassed that my last post was some eight months ago. Where has the time gone? What was I doing all those days and weeks and months? Imagine the conversation:

Where have you been?

Uh, here.

Why have you not written? Why have you not called? Why have you not updated this blog?

Uh, I was busy.

Doing what?

Stuff.

Stuff? STUFF??? What do you mean, STUFF???

Conversations with myself are just like conversations with a surly, sullen twelve-year-old. And when the conversation becomes confrontational, as it inevitably does, I always come out on the losing end.

It appears that the weeks flew by all on their own. Before I knew it, 2015 was here. Here, as in IT’S APRIL of 2015, fer cryin’ out loud.

I could go into great lengths to account for my absence but I think it would be more fun, for all 3.2 of you who might still be interested, if I say less and show more. “More” as in pictures. Maybe even videos, if I can figure out how to do that. (Yay! My personal IT guy—Son #1—has fixed that little problem for me. Muwahh!) So now, no excuses! Get the job done, woman!

My apologies to those who haven’t given up on me. I’ll try to do better. Promise. In the meantime, let’s begin where we left off, way back there in two thousand fourteen

These last few months have been good. Life has treated us kindly, with much laughter and celebration. As I peruse the library of photos, most of which were taken by someone other than myself, what stands out are the smiles. Lots and lots of smiles. Details are less important. The smiles tell the greater part of these stories, so that’s where we shall begin.

Smiles

Birthday Boy, Sept. 2014

Birthday Girl, Dec. 2014

McDonald's, July 2014

The Shavers, August 2014

The Most Handsome Rooster, 2014

The Maevids, 2014

Hook's Hat, November 2014

Hair, November 2014

Hugs and Kisses, November 2014

Kindergarten, September 2014

Sujata, July 2014

Brooklyn, September 2014

Summer, 2014

Empire State Building, September 2014

Her Ladyship, December 2014

Thanksgiving weekend 2014

Peanut's Birthday Party, December 2014

Chickadee's Birthday Party, September 2014

Christmas, December 2014

Face timing with Chicago, August, 2014

Card shark, December 2014

Shoe House Ice Cream, June 2014

Brooklyn, September 2014

Lancaster Science Factory, 2014

Family, Summer 2014

Though their time together is limited, the three young cousins make the most of any opportunity to kibbitz. And come summer, a fourth cousin will enter the fray.

Cousins

Summer, 2014

Bubbles, 2014

Builders, July 2014

iPad, September 2014

Brooklyn, September 2014

Ice Cream, Summer 2014

Technology, September 2014

Lancaster Science Factory, December 2014

Riding, 2014

Lancaster Science Factory, December 2014

Helping, 2014

Cars, December 2014

Ice Cream, July 2014

DSC_9803

DSC_9907

DSC_2898

 

For those who may wonder how I’m doing with my art, I will say that I do spend time in my studio—creating memories if not actual paintings.

Studio

DSC_2832

DSC_2857

DSC_2751

Teacher, December 2014

Yay! You made it to the end! Exhausted? It would appear that this little guy may well understand just how you feel.

DSC_2564

Thus the blog continues, even after this very lengthy, rather delinquent pause. It’s nice to be back. Thanks for stopping by. More soon!

Booster for the Rooster

A brief phone conversation with the Rooster today:

“Mommom, I’m just not feeling very happy right now [sniffle, sob, sob…]. I got THREE shots and I’m just not happy at all.”

“Ah, Rooster, I’m so sorry but you know, those shots will keep you from getting really bad diseases…”

“I’m still not happy right now [more sobs…]!

“What if I send you some kisses over the phone to make it all feel better? Ready? Here’s the first one…[muwaah]. Did you get it?”

“Noooo…[sniffle, sob, sniffle]”

Several kisses later, none of which seem to reach him, I finally resort to fart noises.

While he did not acknowledge those as “kisses”  he did—at least for a moment—stop crying. And I sensed a smile…

He is his father’s son.

 

 

 

Outside the Box

or 

A Little Dirt is Good for the Soul

 

Occasionally I find myself signing on to do things I normally would avoid. Things like teaching (which requires speaking in front of people) or exercising (which requires sweating), both examples of stuff I don’t particularly like to do. It’s good for me to shake things up a bit. And I generally feel great once the commitment is complete except for exercising which usually leaves me in pain. For those of you who feel that pain is good, you know, that “No Pain-No Gain” school of thought? Just keep those opinions to yourselves. Thank you.

So, where was I? Oh yes, shaking things up.

Over the weekend I found myself in a Kusamono workshop. What is Kusamono? Well, it is a Japanese art form related to Bonsai. Instead of miniature trees, however, the Kusamono artist works with tiny plants. Which means, I was working with living, breathing tiny plants. And dirt. Willingly.

You must understand that in my home, gardening of any variety falls under the purview of Dear Dave. He’s the Gardener, the Bonsai Artist, the Seed Planter, the Weeder, the Composter, the Plant Whisperer. He loves it. I love that he loves it. It keeps him outside and I can stay inside. Inside, away from worms. Humidity. Bugs. And dirt. It’s not that I’m prissy; I have no problem with getting messy. I love it when my hands are covered with those telltale, colorful signs of painting. But I can paint inside, without worms. Humidity. Bugs. And, yes, without dirt.

The workshop, however, was delightful. See? I am positively gleeful as I ponder the plants I’ve selected. Also, not just a little daunted. Terrified is the word I need to use…

Kusamono Beginning

After some many fits and starts, I ended up with these three arrangements…

Kusamono View 1

Kusamono View 2

And these hands, after scrubbing…

Kusamono Hands

And a grin from ear to ear!

I mean, look at this adorable little bud on the appropriately named Goldfish Plant!

Goldfish Bud

The bud came with the plant. It may well be the only bud we ever see.

Nevertheless, every morning, I skip downstairs to check on my sweet little pretties. I gently tap the soil and spritz them with water if they seem thirsty. And I circle around, chatting softly while I carefully observe each group, noting any changes that may have occurred overnight. Changes like, uh, this one:

Wither 1

What’s that, you ask?

Mmm. Sadly that’s a withered fern leaf. Oh yes. The first sign that maybe—just maybe—I should stick with painting.

No surprise there.

I’ll keep you posted on just how successful this adventure becomes.

And if, by some mighty miracle, things go well, who knows? Christmas is only some 23 weeks away!

 

 

Empty but Full

I wander throughout the house glancing at the half-empty soda bottles; the glasses of partially sipped water; towels—tons of towels—both damp and dry; a t-shirt here and a pair of socks there, forgotten in the flourish of packing; rumpled beds; diaper-scented trash; scattered toys and piles of children’s books. It is a home seeking its return to order.

It can wait.

I am busy, now.

I am busy remembering.

Listening carefully, I can still hear the voices. The chatter. The giggles. The occasional squawk and sniffle. The laughter, loud and long. I can hear the grunts and giggles of the nine-month-old amidst the questions and commands of the two-year-old. I can hear the whispers of the five-year-old trying the outwit the younger ones whose sights are forever set on what he holds in his hands. I can hear those sweet sounds of cousins as they learn about each other, building memories of this time together. It is music—a symphony of the purest form.

I remember the sharing and also the not sharing, recalling the calm, parental approaches to avoid or resolve conflicts. I listen for the sounds of these young adults, my “babies,” and their spouses, as they share stories with each other. Stories filled with wisdom culled from their experiences in these relatively new roles. They are so wise, so patient, so gentle and loving. They are far better versions of what I once was.

I still see the wee ones’ eyes lighting up at the sound of the train whistle and at the taste of the ice cream cones. Adventures large and small filled our days: blowing bubbles on the porch, racing in the the grass, splashing in the pool, drawing in the studio, singing in the car. Their delight filled my heart.

Tomorrow, I will begin to sort the toys and put them away. I will remove the leaf from the table and return the extra chairs to their proper corners. Bit by bit my house will once again look like the empty nest that it is.

Today, though…Today I will continue to wander in and out of rooms, smiling as I go. Remembering with gratitude the life I have lived and the family I have loved. And then? Then I shall begin planning for our next time together.

July 2014

The Gift

He is growing up so quickly. He’s lost some teeth, though a new one is already filling the gap. He is close to riding his bike without its training wheels and even closer to being able to swim without assistance. He no longer makes his ‘L’s sound like ‘W’s, and I miss that. He is a baby no more, nor a toddler. He’s not even a “a widdle guy.” He’s simply a boy, my very special Rooster boy.

Soon he will enter Kindergarten where his world will expand, his skills increase, and his independence explode. Knowing with all certainty that this will happen, I found our time together over the weekend to be extraordinary.

For one glorious afternoon, he did what he has always done so well: he walked right into a world of his own imagination. Yes, it might have helped that I had just the right fabric on hand and just the right scissors to transform it into the very cape he described. That might have helped a little. And it didn’t hurt that he found just the right stick in his grandfather’s wood pile to serve as his mighty sword. Props are very important, after all.

Yet, it was his world that he entered. A world fueled perhaps from a cartoon but one that he navigated with his own creativity. One forlorn bit of cloth and one sturdy stick and he was off on one adventure after another.

And the gift? The gift was that he took me along. Come on, Mommom! Follow me! I know the way!! For hours, I was his trusty sidekick, slaying dragons and bad guys and hiding in newly discovered forts and caves. It was the perfect afternoon and there was nowhere else I would rather have been.

Follow Me

Yes, Rooster, you do know the way. Please don’t ever lose that knowledge. It will serve you well. Your mind is a magical place and I am so grateful you share it with me. You are a gift beyond words.

Imagination

xoxoxoxoxoxo