Reblog – Veteran’s Day

The following is a post that was originally published in 2012.

With great love and In Memory of Grandpa Ray:

Grandpa, Veteran, poppy

When my oldest daughter was about 3 or 4 years old,  we were at the grocery store one day and there was a man selling poppies for Veteran’s Day.  Of course she loved the bright red bloom and wanted one, so I bought it.

When we got into the car she asked “Mama, why was that man selling flowers”, so I explained that he was a Veteran and he was selling the poppies for Veteran’s day. This was of course followed by another question: “What is a veteran?”  I explained to her that a Veteran was someone who served our country, a soldier. I told her that her Grandpas were both Veterans, and in fact, her Grandpa Ray was in World War II. I told her that we were thankful to all of these soldiers who served their country and protected us and that we should be proud that we had Veteran’s in our own family.  We continued our conversation about Veterans and soldiers and wars for a bit, but moved on to other things.

The very next day we visited Grandpa Ray at his house and my daughter immediately asked him about being a soldier.  I was afraid that this might be a subject that my father-in-law, who was a Marine and had seen active duty in the war, might not want to discuss with a three-year old child.  Ray has always been the “happy man” of the family, our children’s delightful, cheerful mentor and subjects that are unpleasant are usually met with a change of subject from him.

This was not the case at all though.  He took her into the other room and answered her questions and told her about some of his days as a soldier.  I don’t know what the conversation was, exactly, because they were out of earshot.  Ray has never talked much about his time in the service or what he experienced there.  The family respects his silence on the subject and does not ask for many details.  Grandpa and oldest grandchild talked for a bit and then joined Grandma and me in the kitchen for cookies or some other treat, as I recall.

The amazing thing to me is how that short conversation has stayed with her all these years.  She has remembered her Grandpa each Veteran’s day since then…first by making sure we always purchased a poppy and then, as she got older and moved to different cities by phone calls to wish him a Happy Veteran’s Day and thank him for his service. Each November 11 they have talked – without so much as a reminder from me. Birthdays and anniversaries have come and gone and sometimes I have had to send notes to say….”Don’t forget”, but no matter how far apart the two of them have been, they have never missed a single Veteran’s Day.

This year, Grandpa is unable to take her phone call.  He is recovering from a recent illness in a Rehab facility, and his speech isn’t what it once was.  She did remember, though,  and sent him a lovely bouquet of flowers – red, white and blue, thanking him once again for his service. They were delivered on Saturday, because this year the holiday falls on a Sunday and the florist does not deliver.   He smiled with pride when he got them, and I know he was remembering that conversation that the two of them had all those years ago. It made me proud to be his Daughter-in-Law and also proud to be her Mother.

Thank you to Ray and all of the other Veteran’s out there who have served us in so many ways.  We are proud of all of you!

Advertisements

Flashback Friday – 10cc “Hotel”

So many of my life’s memories revolve around music.  Specific songs take me back to places and times in my past that will be with me forever.

Chautauqua Institution 1976. Hanging out in the winter time at the home of friends. Doing nothing, avoiding any responsibility, just being a teenager. Why is it that hours upon hours of total inactivity bring back such strong memories?

We were the “cool kids” – the ones that parents probably didn’t want their children to hang around with.  I was on the fringe…afraid to be too bad, but enjoying the feeling of rebellion.

Levi’s, work boots, leather wristbands. Long hair parted in the middle (on both the girls and the boys)  A pack of Newports in my coat pocket that I would hide before I got back home.

That was the winter that I discovered 10cc.  I loved this song – I don’t really know why.  I still have the album. I think I memorized every word to every song. In order.

Ah, youth.

Flashback Friday – The Carpenters “Superstar”

So many of my life’s memories revolve around music.  Specific songs take me back to places and times in my past that will be with me forever.

I think we were in 5th grade – maybe 6th. That would make it around 1971 or 1972.

I loved visiting my friend Jan’s house. She had a RECORD PLAYER! We sat in her room for hours listening to 45’s on the small portable…changing the little yellow disks each time we put on a new tune. I remember the Carpenter’s singing this song over and over.  It was a love song – what did we know about love? We were eleven!

Her brothers would bother us occasionally, which would result in a loud complaint to her Mom, and protests of denial from the younger sibs. We would slam the door and return to our music. What else did we listen to? Probably Donny Osmond or Bobby Sherman, but I remember the Carpenters the most vividly. I think I still know the lyrics to every song.

Their household was so different from ours. Her family moved to the area from an exotic, faraway place – Eastern Pennsylvania! They knew about things I had never heard about before like the Pennsylvania Dutch. I remember singing the song “Shenandoah” in the kitchen with (or maybe for) her Mom. Her Mom talked to us like we were adults and had certain expectations of how we should act and behave. She was astounded that I didn’t like peanut butter. Her Dad was an executive. He wore a suit to work. He also wore sweaters, like the Dad’s on TV.

We played cribbage in their family room and skated in their basement. There was a button underneath their dining room table that rang a bell in the kitchen. I believe it was put there to call the maid. I don’t think they had a maid. It was cool, though.

Sometimes at school we would switch lunches. Jan would bring me lebanon bologna sandwiches on white bread with cream cheese. I had a “Holly Hobbie” lunchbox. I don’t remember what my Mom would make for her. I am sure it was boring in comparison.

Every time I hear the Carpenters I think of Jan. I am so glad that we found each other again a few years ago via Facebook. We met for dinner a few summers ago and reminisced about all of these things and more. I learned about her family and told her about mine. We actually have a lot of things in common and she is a wonderful, supportive force in my life.  It is nice that we can still find that easy, comfortable rapport.

I went back to the house (where her Mom still lives) to visit with a group of classmates and plan a reunion last winter. We looked for the bell in the dining room, but we couldn’t find it. No matter…they still don’t have a maid.

Yellow record disk, record insert, triskelion, 45RPM, 45's

Coming Clean

I have a confession to make.

I do not own a dishwasher.

I guess that this is not very common these days, but to me it is normal.  In all of my adult life I have only had one (secondhand, portable) dishwasher. It was messy and sprayed water all over the kitchen. It was cumbersome and loud.  I used its butcher block top for extra counter space for a while and stored my Tupperware cake keeper in it, but I think I used it less than a dozen times.

A conversation that I had recently with an acquaintance went something like this:

She “I could not LIVE without a dishwasher.”

Me “Never really wanted one.”

She (horrified gasp) “That is unimaginable!”

By the tone of her reaction you would have thought that I had said that I preferred an outhouse to indoor plumbing! It is true, though.  In my 30+ years up here on the hill I have wanted many things…a hot tub, a sidewalk, even a bathtub for a time (but that’s another story), but a dishwasher is not one of them.

Another friend whose own dishwasher broke down right before the Thanksgiving holiday one year told me that she couldn’t possibly host the festivities without one.  To her the dishwasher was as important as the oven itself!

Don’t get me wrong – when I was a teenager and washing the dishes was a chore that had to be accomplished before I could slip away to be with friends, I hated the job.  I would do anything to get out of it, including trickery and deceit. I would make promises to my siblings that I never intended to keep so that they would relieve me of the job, and I was quite often successful.

When my own children were growing up washing the dishes and folding the clothes were the two main chores that they had to do each day. They will tell you that if I came home to a sink full of dirty dishes there would be much commotion. It is true that when I was exhausted from a long day at the office and needed the sink for meal preparation, I did not relish the task.

The kitchen sink is the heart of our home. Each member of our family has spent a significant amount of time in front of it.  We’ve bathed our children (and now our grandchild) there, pulled up chairs so that they could help us and taught them to do it on their own.  Thousands of basins of soapy water have been drawn there. My memories contain hours of telephone conversations had while scrubbing and rinsing and drying, watching the seasons pass by through the windows that are situated just above it. Gossip was shared, tears were shed, good news was revealed and bad news received – if only those walls could talk! Long conversations had while cleaning up after large family gatherings – holidays, reunions, graduation parties and even a rehearsal dinner brought friends and family members together long after the meals were finished and the table was cleared.

I remember my mother standing at my sink washing the dishes, even as her health began to fail.  She would bend from the waist, leaning on her elbows as she cleaned each plate and glass and pot.  She taught my sister and me that it was rude to leave someone’s kitchen without offering to help with the dishes, and I know that both of us feel the same way to this day. Sometimes when I am at the sink by myself I catch myself standing the same way she did as my back begins to ache from a long day of preparation and celebration. I smile to myself remembering how important this task was to her.

I would love to have my big country kitchen remodeled. I have thought many times about how I would arrange things, and what kind of cupboards and flooring I might have.  I have added marble counter tops, farmhouse sinks and tile floor coverings to my Pinterest boards, dreaming of how beautiful it might be.  The one thing that I never make room for in my imagination, though, is the dishwasher.  To me it is just unnecessary.

Think of all of those missed opportunities for memory making….

“Unimaginable!”sink, kitchen sink, country kitchen, dishes, doing dishes, chores

My least favorite holiday

I have to admit that I woke up this morning feeling a bit sorry for myself. Eating, cooking, family drama….Thanksgiving has the makings for a stress-filled day. One that I usually face with a considerable amount of trepidation.

I had worked myself up to a pretty good level of self-pity.  This year felt different. Two of our children (and a granddaughter and a son-in-law) would not be home. Two of our parents (my Mom and his Dad) are no longer here to share the holiday with us. My father has a different living situation this year and it has caused us quite a bit of family strife. I had even written a blog post yesterday to be posted this morning about the reasons that I dislike the holiday (hence the title, previously written).

Then I got a call from a friend’s husband letting me know that her mother had died last night. I haven’t been a very good friend lately – I have been too tied up in my own misery to pay much attention to anyone else’s distress. I only learned that her Mom was gravely ill a few nights ago because I had been so out of touch.  I didn’t know what to do to help, so I offered my prayers. It didn’t feel like enough, but it was all that I had.

The phone call made me think. I have been spending way too much time thinking about how I feel and not enough about everyone else in my life. So many people have it so much worse that I do at this moment. I felt selfish and petty. If I were TRULY thankful I should have realized how lucky I am to be able to celebrate the holiday at all. A lifetime of Thanksgivings had set me up with a certain expectation of what the day should bring, but I was looking at them with the wrong focus.

Tonight I took a look back at the photos that I have stored on my computer of past Thanksgivings that we have shared with our family up here on the Hill. Yes, there has been a good amount of stress and drama during our past 30+ years here, but there has also been much laughter and happiness. Looking in to the faces of the people in the pictures I saw what I should have been seeing all along.  We are, indeed, truly blessed to have what we have here in the place where my husband has spent over 50 Thanksgivings. A lot of living has happened here on the Hill.

I am thankful to have been a part of it.

It’s all over but the shouting…

family car packed for collegeThe laundry is all caught up, the cars are packed and in a little over two hours we will be leaving for our very last “move-in” of an undergraduate student. Our youngest is beginning her senior year of college in a few days and I wonder where the time has gone!

It seems like only a short time ago that we set off on our first journey – to Sewanee, The University of the South – with our oldest.  That 12 hour trip was tackled with my in-laws, who accompanied us to Tennessee, completely loaded down with what we thought were all of the necessities of college life. That was ten years ago! It is amazing that we have spent the last decade supporting the lives of our children in college. Since then we have moved in to three other colleges – St Bonaventure University, Penn State – Behrend and Baldwin Wallace University née College , and we have the T-shirts to prove it!

We have moved our three daughters into double rooms, single rooms and apartments. We’ve carried refrigerators and extra chairs and clothes up three flights of stairs in 90 degree heat with 100% humidity and into basement apartments in pouring rain – assisted by siblings and boyfriends and acquaintances.  We have unloaded in New York, Tennessee, Pennsylvania and Ohio, and met so many roommates and sorority sisters over the years that we can’t remember who belongs to whom.

Sam Walton has been the beneficiary of hundreds (if not thousands) of our hard-earned dollars as we purchased over-the-door hooks, and sticky goo to hang posters, clothes hangers, plastic tubs and shower mats. I have always been the official “bed-maker”. I am sure that it is my mothering instinct that wants to make sure they have a place to lie their heads when the flurry of that first day is over.

It seems as though this is the end of an era for us on the Hill.  Sure, there will be future apartments in new cities with new roommates and perhaps even spouses, but this is the last true college move-in day. As I explained in a previous post, these days are bittersweet to me, as I never attended a residential college. As exhausting as the day is sure to be, I truly do enjoy the feeling of excitement that I get when we arrive on campus – the shouts of welcome from their friends who they missed over the summer, the newly decorated (and clean – for a short time, anyways) dorm rooms, the bookstore, the ever-present oak trees, even the squirrels.

I am going to miss this annual ritual and the feelings of hope and promise that it fills me with each year. I am sure the year will fly by and before we know it we will be leaving for commencement!

Man, I am getting old.

Tradition, Family and Rememberance

Memorial Day has always been a special holiday in our family. For my own children it mostly meant the beginning of summer, a day off from school and a family picnic.  During family visits like this we would always gather around the table and gossip talk and laugh. My girls always liked to spend time with their Grandma Prudie, because she seemed to always have a funny observation or story to tell.  Every year on Memorial Day she would remind us of the time in grade school when she was required to memorize the poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McRae, a remembrance written during the first World War. She would recite it word for word, and we were always impressed that she could remember it all of these years later. We would talk of their Great Grandfather, who served in that war, but whom they had never met. A few years before she died, she challenged my youngest daughter to memorize it as well. She did, and now she can recite it (almost) as well as her Grandmother could! The poem now serves to remind our family of my Mom as well as the soldiers that it was written about.

This past weekend I tagged along with my sister and my 5-year-old nephew to the cemetery to plant flowers at my Mother’s grave and to visit the graves of our maternal grandparents. This tradition is one that my sister and mother shared for years before my Mother’s death. I was never really a part of the ritual, but I respected the fact that they did it together every year and it was meaningful to both of them.  I have joined my sister and her son the last few years to keep her company. I felt that it might be difficult for her to do this without my Mom,  and also because I wanted to spend more time with her family.headstones, cemetery, history, marigolds

Cemeteries have never really been “my thing”.  I guess that I felt that I would rather remember loved ones in places that I had memories of them.  I have told my own family that I have no interest in being buried in a cemetery – I want my ashes scattered and have told them to “plant a tree or something” if they need a visiting place. Better yet – they can go to Mexico and feel my spirit there!

This year Memorial Day  seems to hold an even more significant meaning for our family, because we lost another of our children’s grandparents last fall. Grandpa Ray, who was such a large part of their lives, was a Veteran.  He is buried in the Soldier’s Circle at one of our local Cemeteries.  His stone was recently placed, and Jim and I had a plan to visit his grave later in the weekend.

The time spent in the cemetery listening to my nephew’s observations, and his mother’s patient responses, along with the first visit to my father-in-law’s resting place have given me a better appreciation for Memorial Day and what it means to those of us that are left behind when loved ones pass away. The history that is present there and the lives and stories that the sites represent seem so much more meaningful when there is a recent connection. The love and care shown by family members trying to give something back, to make an adequate tribute, is touching and personal. I have a new-found respect for this annual tradition.

My children are very lucky to have had such involved grandparents on both sides of our family. They had the chance to know them and love them and learn from them. I am lucky that my sister feels so strongly about keeping up this yearly practice. It gave me a chance to think about what family means to me and how much richer my life is because of all of them.

Happy Memorial Day! Hold your loved ones close today and be thankful for the sacrifices of the ones that have gone before us so that we could enjoy this day.Memorial Day Flags Sunset Hill Cemetery