All I Did Was Blink

Being 39: Where I've been, Where I am, and Where I'm going…

Memory Mine: Swing February 21, 2011

Filed under: Life — itsahappyblog @ 8:06 pm
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Daddy’s mom loved her swings.

Her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren loved them too.
My brother clearing the brush
Nan gave birth to 12 children in the early 20th century; my father was born in 1918. (Go ahead, do the math..I turn 40 this year..Yip. He was 53 when I was born! Go dad!) She raised her family in the Pennsylvania Mountains, eventually moving to a little town outside of Pittsburg called Monroeville.

Growing up in Philadelphia, one of my fondest memories is of climbing aboard a Greyhound bus and heading for Murrysville where someone from the family would pick us up and take us to the home we all treasured as a place of reunion and familiarity.

I can smell the fresh vegetables from the garden where we would pick beans and sit around snapping the ends off to prepare them for cooking or canning. I can see the metal trash can outside the downstairs back door where we would husk the corn. I remember being one of a long line of cousins to get sick from eating too many berries off the arbor.

It was such a stark contrast to the concrete jungle I was accustomed to the other 11 months out of the year. The nearest neighbor was through the trees and down the hill. The second thing I would do upon arriving would be to run to the neighbors’ and find my summer friend, Paula Sue, (even her name told me I was someplace different) who would teach me about catching lightning bugs in a jar and watching them do their shiny dance before letting them go. We would search for smooth stones by the creek and lie in the tall grass as the clouds drifted by.

But the very first thing I would do, the very first thing every one of us would do when we got there (after the hugs and kisses and the ‘my how you’ve grown’s) would be to rush out to the big swing in the back yard! It was the kind of swing with two bench seats facing one another and a floor between. We kids would stand on that floor and make the swing sway back and forth using our legs and shifting our weight to get it going.

We would have long talks with family that we would see far too little of during the year. We would catch up, we would remember, we would dream and we would swing – for hours on end. It was where I learned lots of family history and legend. It was our favorite thing and it was our favorite swing!
But it wasn’t the only swing. There was the swing on the front porch where a privileged few could fit at one time; the rest would get the Adirondack chairs. We would greet the morning or welcome the night from that porch. There was the swing in the basement where we spent the majority of our indoor time. It was the ‘everything’ basement; kitchen, dining room, living room, bedroom – no walls to separate between. We would all gather at the long table for meals. It was really several tables pushed together to get everyone around it at once. Pap would have no hats worn at the table, and do not dare to come without being properly attired! There were the old chain link and wooden board individual swings. Nan loved her swings!
I ponder those days when examining my life. Who am I now and why? What stayed with me all these years later? I would still rather hang out with family than just about anything else. I still love to head for the (deck), coffee in hand, and watch the sky go from day to night. I still prefer fresh from the garden over processed. Do these things happen all the time? Not as often as I would like, but I take it where I can get it. I learned from Nan that slowing down and being together is great for one’s heart and mind. Tranquil, peaceful coexistence, smiles and laughter do a body good.
Maybe I just need to build me one of those old swings and invite people to come sit on it with me, sway back and forth and take a break from the hectic pace of the 21st century. Wadda ya say? Got time for a cup o joe?

 

Memory Mine February 7, 2011

Filed under: Life — itsahappyblog @ 1:10 pm
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The excavation of boxes over the last weeks and months has re-acquainted me with several pieces of memorabilia. A new weekly feature will be a commentary on an artifact from my far distant past called “Memory Mine”.

Today I want to tell you about my mother’s baby shower photo album and where it took my mind and heart as I turned its pages. I promise they will not all be as heavy as this (or as long).

My Mommy

I came to a startling realization some time around my 38th birthday. I am officially older than my mother was when she gave birth to her 4th and final child…me.

Even more startling is the truth that I am not a mother.

Most women I know grew up dreaming about the future and what it would look like; their dashing husbands, their magnificent homes, their high paying careers. They dreamt of how many children they would raise, their names. Did they have their mother’s eyes, their father’s hairline?

I spent countless hours imagining camping trips and study nights. I had conversations with them in my head about cleaning their rooms or obeying curfew. I told them how I had to take three buses and a train through the mean streets of Philadelphia to get to and from school. (My personal ‘through the snow – up hill both ways’ lament) Great memories, but I would have milked it for all it was worth!!

The number of children varied as often as my hairstyle or my mood. I wanted my own baseball team. I wanted an only child. I wanted all boys. I wanted no boys. I wanted to have a multiple birth, get it over with in one shot. I had twin friends at church and in high school and I always thought it was fascinating to watch them interact with one another. I often wished I had been a twin.

I digress. The point is, I am now older than my mom was when she had me and I am childless. Why? Only God knows the real answer to that question. I dare not even speculate. I would most likely be wrong anyway and I look forward to asking the question someday in person. I can wait for the answer.

Mom and Danny

Looking through my mother’s memory book from what seems such a happy time is equally heart warming and heart wrenching. I love seeing mom so vibrant, young and radiant. She is beaming in every shot. I enjoy seeing her with her son, my youngest big brother, opening gifts and -no doubt- wondering about all the changes to come into the house and into their relationship because of my arrival. I am blown away at how charming and beautiful my family looks; mom’s sisters and one of her brothers, my grandmother. Grammom wore a fabulous early ‘70s yellow polyester dress and smiled from ear to ear. Another grandchild! Daddy … oh how I miss you. Excitement fills the pages.

Look at all I’ve missed out on in my own adult life.

Grammom

Beautiful Lady

The photos show the strain of time and poor handling. (Why oh why did we EVER think it was ok to scotch tape pictures to pages!! The scrap booking diva in me cringes to look at the damage it caused. I am transferring everything into a new photo safe album.) The faces are a part of my history, my story. What will my legacy be? Why is it so tough on this woman’s heart to live without having had a child of her own?

Mom and Dad

What a handsome couple;)

My emotions about being a mom – having and raising children, are honestly just as fluctuating as they ever where. The reasons for the back and forth these days have more to do with time management and enjoying the ability to essentially do what I want when I want without having to consider the kiddos.

But when the clock ticks loudly in my ear I feel a twinge of sadness that is so deep I know it has left a permanent mark on my soul. Who is going to remember me when I was vibrant, young and happy? Who is going to take care of me in my old age as I have watched my mom, aunts and uncles, cousins do for their parents? As I have done.

I rejoice with friends as they grow their families and I am thrilled to be an aunt to the most fabulous groups of kids! I have a long history of providing child care for a living throughout the years. The bond I share with some of those children is strong and lasting.

S and I have talked about foster care or adoption. It’s not off the table. I know that this is a highly transitional year for yours truly. Mayhaps I am just laying some much-needed and long overdue ground work before bringing new lives into our little world. Who knows?

In the mean time, I give a mommy an afternoon break and I play with her little ones. They make me laugh. They make me scold. They wrap their tiny arms around my neck. I close my eyes and feel a calming peace. My influence in the lives of the children around me is hopefully a positive one. I want to be a role model, a confidant, a support as they navigate this world. I settle into my place in the village helping to raise the next generation. Then I go home to enjoy a quiet cup of tea in front of the computer screen and type it all out, smile, and do a little dreaming about the future…

 

The Seven Month Plan October 5, 2010

Boxes 1

Image by Skrewtape via Flickr

I feel a move coming on…

Since the age of twelve, I have lived a very transient lifestyle. Recently I calculated that I have moved 14 times in 24 years. That may not seem like a lot to some people, but I always envied the stories of families living in the same house on the same property for generations. “I was born in this house, married here, raised my children here, we have a family graveyard on the grounds…”

Most of the moves I have made as an adult have looked something like this:

  1. Time to move again
  2. OK, I have x months to get ready
  3. Plenty of time to slowly downsize my belongings so as not to move so many boxes and bins
  4. OK, I have a month before the move, time to pick up the pace since I have about 3 boxes actually packed in an organized fashion
  5. One week to go, better sort some stuff after the move, lets at least keep rooms separated so we don’t have trouble finding things later
  6. Tomorrow the truck will be here, start throwing things in boxes, doesn’t even matter if we sort, label, whatever…just get it done
  7. Aaahh, please save this room for last, I’ll keep packing while you guys load everything else up
  8. Good thing we planned to move three days before we need to hand over the keys…we will have to load up the car and make some final trips over the next couple of days and save the last day for cleaning
  9. Umm..now that we are in our ‘new’ place…can we try to move everything still packed into one room so we can gradually go through the boxes and still have decent living space??
  10. Just shut the door when company comes over, I can’t even LOOK at that room…grrrr…I’ll NEVER be organized!!
  11. Time to move again
  12. OK, I have x months to get ready…

In many areas of my life I am a very detailed, organized, disciplined, rational, dependable person. When it comes to uprooting my living space it is a completely different story. I have the tendency to throw nothing away. Nothing. I have the ticket stub to every movie I have ever seen in a theater. I have the program for every graduation, the invitation to every wedding, the order of service for every funeral…let alone every book I have ever owned, every kitchen appliance that ever caught my eye, every holiday decoration, every photo…

Now, I have seen those television shows, like Hoarders, where people can not even walk in the front door of their 5 bedroom house without stepping over the mountains of hoarded junk (much still in the original packaging) and their lives are stuck. I recognize how easily I could be that person. If I had money, I may very well be facing an intervention of my own.

Let me be clear. I have a room in my apartment with no furniture in it. This is where my boxes live. The rest of our living space is ‘company ready’, as my mom would refer to it. Clean, organized, places to sit and interact. I go in ‘the room’ on occasion to find whatever it is I ‘think I still have’ to try to find it…mostly my husband gets this job. *sorry babe*

It IS out of control. It IS tiring, frustrating, debilitating. But this is the year of the change, right. Right.

So on to the Seven Month Plan. IF we move in the spring, I want to move lighter than I ever have. In the next seven months I want to eliminate the need for a ‘storage room’. A storage closet would not bother me in the least. I would like, however, to be able to use any extra room in our space for guests. Maybe there would be a place for something more permanent, we have talked about some day fostering or adopting…

Well then, I need a plan. Lets not spend most of the next seven months planning out the plan. Lets get it down ‘on paper’ right here, right now.

Each month I want to report back my ‘room cleanse’ progress. Each week I want to set a goal manageable with my schedule. Each day I want to DO something toward that goal. Is it going to good will? Put it in the car now. Is it getting sold? Is it recyclable?? Trash???

Sounds somewhat familiar to my starting list. The difference is the accountability I am trying to add by sharing it in my blog. Thanks in advance for cheering me on…tonight, box number 1!

 

R.I.P. JG September 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — itsahappyblog @ 3:41 pm
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Blessed Are Those Who Mourn (Beatitudes #2)

Putting aside all that is mishandled, misunderstood, misinterpreted, misrepresented, mismanaged, and just plain missing from our day-to-day lives, lets talk about missed human connections.

This week I mourn the loss of someone very dear to my heart. She has served as role model, mentor, mother-figure, friend, traveling companion, partner in music, and all around inspiration since the beginning of my life. I ‘grew up’ with her kids. I have laughed with her, learned from her, admired her and cried with her.

JG holds for me the very strongest memory of the day we held funeral services for my dad. I was nineteen. JG and I had traveled together for 5 years already, along with her husband and, at times, various others – including my sister. I often would call her mom instead of by her given name. Her son was one of my very best BFF‘s. I would safely say we were extremely close.

There had been a lot of activity surrounding the death of my father and this day was no exception. So many people coming and going, hugging and talking, meaning well. I could not hear a word they were saying. My daddy was gone and my entire life was in upheaval. I had left college to be with him for what turned out to be the last month of his life. No regrets there, but I never made it back to school. That is a subject I will save for another day.

I found myself sitting in one of those funeral home chairs, the ones that have a little extra cushioning and arm rests for the grieving family, not the extra folding chairs they pull out for the extra big crowds that may show up. I was looking at my dad. I was quiet. All of the well-meaning friends and relatives kept making their way over to me with kind words that never actually penetrated my thoughts.

Then JG walked in. At first I did not notice her. But soon, and every so often since, I felt when she silently slipped in behind me and placed her hand on my shoulder. She stood there for what seemed like forever while others came and went. She never said a word. She was just present with me in my grief. She was just loving me the very best way she could have in that moment.

And now I prepare to go and grieve with my family and friends for the loss of her daily presence in our lives…I so desperately want to live by her example and not be one of the nameless, faceless, wordless throngs I am sure will be meaning well.

I lost touch with JG and her family over the years. I think we may have seen each other all of three times since the late 90s. I am not going to go on about how mysterious life is when we ebb and flow in and out of the lives of significant people and that JG’s passing is going to make me stop loosing contact with people. We will continue to ebb and flow out of each others lives until each of us passes from this earth.

I am going to say that I want my 40th year to be about meaningful interactions and that I hope to have a positive lasting impression on those lives I wander in and out of. I know that so many have made positive lasting impressions on my life. I want to tell them so while they can still hear me say it.

R.I.P. JG. You are missed. Greatly.

 

 
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