Gibson James

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My grandson’s eyes shine with everything boy. 

They light up the moment he sees me.  Blue, round and brimming with his excitement.

My breath catches every single time our eyes meet. His are so innocent and trusting and shine with mischievous delight. 

“Meemaw!” he cries and they crinkle as he gives me his cheesy little grin. His glance bruises my heart with it’s pureness and I feel the ground below my feet shift a mite.

I open my eyes even wider to drink all of his soul into mine. I desire to snap these moments as a photo for later viewing.

He reaches his dimpled arms for me, only. I am his Meemaw, his love, his buddy.

I am his.

Again the shifting of earth below my feet and this time I let go. I free fall, heart first, straight into the cobalt blue bliss that is my Gibson James.

My heart, my soul is his. He owns me.

~Sara Jane Rauch ~

 

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Her Forgotten Days

My fingers glide effortlessly on this keyboard with a will of their own. I begin to type and  a love song banters and begs to be freed. Sweetly my words flow as sounds and memories mesh and  nostalgic joy begins to sing of her forgotten days.

I want to tell you about a woman. My words can never recreate the person she really was. Words will never show that special twinkle in her eye as she swept up an unsuspecting visitor with her inquisitive conversation.

She loved to engage people in  banter.She had a way to pull them in and warm their hearts.  She was always interested in where they were from and who they knew, places they had traveled.

I often wondered how she knew so much about so many things. She had always just been there at home with us twelve children and dad. How did she lead friends and visitors along and have the knowledge to take them with her across the ocean or up a mountain and down to the devil, back up to God.

As I would quietly climb onto her lap and lay my head on her shoulder, she would rock me back and forth; talking on and on for what seemed like hours.

Yes, my mother loved people, truly, genuinely loved to interact with them. Cared about what they had to say, enjoyed hearing of their adventures, hurt when they hurt, rejoiced in their happiness’s, triumphed in their successes.

She was my idol as I would sit on her lap at the kitchen table and she rubbed my back while discussing what flowers to plant and and how to put up garden vegetables with the neighbor lady. She was my idol even when I would take my little hand to turn her face to me, vying for her attention.

I loved her voice and her absent hands on me as she gave herself to her visitors. I loved her laughter and the way her words wove and bound those around her and held them close and made them feel important.

I love the legacies she has left my family. I love the movements she started in the seventies. I love the stories of all the strangers she brought into our home, giving  them food and drink and support, listening  to their sorrows and bolstering  them up. I love the person she was and the person she wanted to be. I love that she was my mother and I was her daughter. I love that she gave herself whenever she could.sara's family

I love the memories I hold in my heart of her.

A Lovely State of Somewhere In Between

 

Thirteen was a lovely state of somewhere in between. Lean and brown and nimble, on the edge of something unknown, precariously teetering between my childhood and my womanhood. I had nowhere to feel comfortable. No place seemed to totally claim me, not my past and certainly not my future. That familiar little, knocked kneed girl with the dirty face and tangled hair,too quickly, it seemed, was slipping from me. That summer I had noticed my cutoffs were beginning to hug in a new way. My tan legs showed curious new curves, forgetting the gangliness that ten and twelve had brought. Long dark hair had taken on a thick healthy glow and flowed as soft as silk whenever I tossed my head.

The neighbor boys had begun to snicker and elbow one another, speaking when they thought I couldn’t here. “Ha, you see our little tomboy lately? I think she’s wearing a bra!” They had started to call now in a different way, requesting long walks or slow bike rides on warm spring nights. Gone were evenings of ramping bikes or running races. Each one showed at my door, shyly and awkwardly, at different times to sit on my porch and chat.

Bewildered and incensed, I wanted to shout at them, to grab their necks and shake them awake.  Please, see me! I’m here, still just the girl next door, the same one who grew up beside you, who knows every little annoying thing about you. Don’t try to tease me or grab me or hold my hand. Leave me alone. I don’t want to grow up. But that certain power that turned my face to red also crept within my body, spreading its warmth.

Body emerging with softened angles and mysterious allure, I pedaled my bike on that old paper route and contemplated this certain power I dared not use. Men, grown and with hair all over their bodies were straining necks, whistling out their car windows and honking horns. In my girlishness, my face burned as I pedaled faster. I didn’t know this attention and yet it gave me a secret warm glow.

I broke a window that year, on my birthday. A mixture of feelings, I always seemed to be fighting lately, swirled through my mind and body. I was sad and lonely and I didn’t know why.  I wanted to run and play with my brother and his friends but I wanted too, to be grown up and experience a first real boyfriend. I didn’t want men to look and honk but it did feel nice. I threw that last newspaper a little too hard and slam! It broke the glass on that door. I burst into tears, how could this happen to me on my birthday? Mortified, I rubbed away those tears and stomped up to the door to apologize and offer to pay.

In my dark mood, I jumped from my bike and ran into my house. There in that bright warm kitchen, my favorite meal of spaghetti and chocolate cake and colorful, papered presents awaited. There too, my big sis, Amy and her little babe, Laura, who I often babysat. I opened my presents and found things a thirteen year old would appreciate; perfume, cool colored undies with the days of the week printed on them, a pair of jeans with a sweet design on the pocket. My family had gathered around the table and my sister had come home just for me. My mood shifted. I felt okay again, comfortable again, there with my  family’s love showering around me.

I hung there, in that lovely state of somewhere in between, for at least another year. I learned things, secret things that you just come to know. Things that I now know happen naturally and sweetly. The real power of a woman, the true heart of men, all of those things were far ahead. But that year, that year I got a little glimpse of what was to be. And so it was, as easy as a baby’s sigh, with my family’s love there to steady me, I set aside my little girl ways. I began to move gently and gratefully into my own womanhood.

When I Was 12

Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks (Photo credit: Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer)

Sitting at my laptop on a snowy day off work. Delicious words whirl and twirl through my head but how to put them on paper for you all to enjoy? Jamming to Pandora gets my memories stirring. How creative was Fleetwood Mac and heck, all of the entertainers of the 70’s! Maybe it’s just my age showing, maybe I”m getting old and think that everything from my era is the best. Maybe but maybe it’s just the truth.

Rhiannon by Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac now pours from my laptop speakers. On it’s lyrics floats a starry summer night of mine,  sitting around the campfire in our backyard. I had a friend spending the night and we were camping out. The transistor was our companion and the fire was begging for some serious staring and contemplating life.

But alas, where was this so called friend. She informed me that she preferred to be in the house with my big sister, Peggy. All of twelve years old, I was  learning some hard life lessons this night. Some people really didn’t want to spend time with wonderful little old me! They just wanted  to get closer to one of my cool older siblings. Later I would find this especially true in the case of my older brother, Jeff,  but this first time it was my sister, Peg, 4 years my senior, that was the intent of my friend, Jess.

Jess was a couple years older then me, a tall, beautiful blondie with a carefree personality. Flattered by her attention to me I had quickly agreed to have her come for a camp out. I should have seen that coming I reprimanded myself as I turned up the radio and poked at the fire.

The fire sparked as I gave it some good hard jabs and I turned my face upwards towards the sky. The sparks floated up with a fierceness and died out with a small wisp of smoke.

“Rhiannon rings like a bell through the night
And wouldn’t you love to love her?
Takes through the sky like a bird in flight
And who will be her lover?” (Nicks).

Stevi Nicks rang out as the words  filled my mind and I kept my head up, shifting my gaze to the millions of stars twinkling above.

“All your life you’ve never seen a woman
Taken by the wind
Would you stay if she promised you Heaven?
Will you ever win?”(Nicks).

With the crackling of the fire,  sensual rhythm and mystical words filling my little girl senses, I felt something begin to stir inside me.

“She is like a cat in the dark
And then she is the darkness
She rules her life like a fine skylark
And when the sky is starless.”(Nicks).

I felt my sadness seeping out and something new began to dawn within me…a feeling I didn’t recognize. There was a mixture of wonderment, hope,  freedom. These words were speaking right to me. Some kind of a promise for my future was in her words, as if someone somewhere was calling to me and telling me good things were to come. Someone, someday would be mine and stay with me and be my forever.

While my sister, Peg and her boyfriend had clandestine meetings at Lake Siemer, I spent that summer laying in his car playing his 8 track player.  Fleetwood Mac, Blue Oyster Cult, Rod Stewart and whatever 8 track was available to me, I lay there with my eyes closed and drank them in. I believed them. I held on to the hope of them. I learned the lessons they taught.

Well, people, girlfriends, men, coworkers have come and gone and sometimes its my fault and some times not. Sometimes it’s mutual. But thirty some years later, I realize I’m still learning life’s hard lessons. Still, whenever I hear this song, I am slammed right back to that long ago summer night and the smell of fire and the huge huge sky full of millions of sparkling things that was my future.

When I was twelve, the word’s of the 70’s became my life.

 

 

 

Nicks,Stevie.  “Rhiannon” Music by Fleetwood Mac. (Rhiannon). Reprise. 1975.

Blessed Blue Aura

blue christmas

blue christmas (Photo credit: rojam)

I started this post before Christmas. I just got busy and never finished…thought I”d go ahead and put it out there even though it’s past due.

Such a busy month looming right ahead of me! Starting this weekend, the first weekend of December 2012, holiday cheer will be spread every weekend of the month. I should be cleaning and scrubbing and doing the wash. But I keep feeling a memory tugging at me. It began at work. The gym of the school, decorated like a huge Christmas fantasy by the custodian, contains a tree decked out in solid blue lights.

Oh my! The impact that solid blue lights have had on my life. It’s the most magical of all magics dreamed up in my childhood. My mother adorned our tree every year that I can remember in all blue lights. Sometimes as a wee girl,I really wished for multi-colored lights. But now as an adult, I so cherish the feeling of a solid blue tree. The bulbs of my childhood were huge and cast a beautiful hue that filled that darkened dining room where our tree stood each year. I remember staring at it and blurring out the world as all my hopes and dreams of Christmas night danced in my head. The excitement it created in my little heart blooms every time I see such a sight to this day. The feelings are so old and familiar but somehow I cannot recreate them until the blue lights catch my eye.

The blue lights create a holy aura and I reflect on Mother Mary and her newborn babe, Jesus. Such a peaceful calm overcomes me and a deep love of my life and my family surrounds me as I cast back.  I remember the Christmas Eve car rides with mom and dad to see all the pretty Christmas decorations of our townsfolk. I remember mom running back into the house for some forgotten thing after we were already packed into the station wagon. We never figured out that she was Santa,  working hastily to pull things out of her closet and place them just so before running back out to join us in the car.

We only knew that upon returning home we would find that Santa had paid a visit. I remember the wonderful brown paper bags scattered around the tree, each with a name for every one of us children.  Those blue lights bring the ecstasy of reaching into those brown bags and finding that special gift. We never realized that many times they were hand me down toys from some other child. A toy was a toy and we didn’t care if it had some dings or imperfections. It was prized in it’s newness to us.

We opened gifts from each other and the torn, discarded wrapping paper would pile so high that it was thrilling in itself.  Excitement revealed itself as board games and new dollies and walkie talkies and books appeared. Mom and Dad would share a glass of Egg Nog, spiked just a tad, and mom would kiss his cheek. We snacked on nuts and tangerines and hard candy as we shared our gifts with each other all evening until it was time for Midnight Mass.

Even now, as I see solid blue lights adorning some house,  my memory flashes to our old Christmas lights in that dining room. It seems to me we were illuminated in a blessed soft blue aura swirling around us,  pulling us closer and binding us to one another, forever.

My Father’s Shoes

How shall I write of such a humble man? How to pay him the homage I know he deserves. My words are confining, far too simple and they fall so short. I don’t know how to begin to capture his gentle spirit and his quiet ways.

A smell came to me today, winding its way into my soul, searching out a memory that I had forgotten.

Me and Dad in front of the house on Main Street

As I walked the halls of the school where I work, I didn’t know the origin of that smell and it didn’t even matter. No, what mattered only was that this particular smell took me back to my childhood, back to the days I would stand beside my dad watching him polish his uniform shoes.

My father was an Illinois State Police Officer for 25 years, which was all of my childhood.  As I walked down the hall, the smell invaded my senses, all these pictures and feelings and smells swirled around me.

My mind took flight and there he was, my dad, scrubbing on his shoes with that old brush, the shoe polish box sitting nearby. There I saw him, so handsome in his police uniform, in our old kitchen with his foot placed upon a chair, bent over, intently polishing away. Man, how those uniform shoes would shine!

No one knew as I walked down that school hall that my eyes no longer saw them. No one knew that my smile was not for them. No one knew that it was my dad who walked beside me now, filling that hallway chock full of memories.

Mom and dad’s bedroom was the only passage to the bathroom in our house. We had to walk right past their bed, past the closet, always aware of his uniform hanging in there.  I still feel myself stopping to peek up into the closet they shared.  I still can feel the mystery that was his career.

For our friends, we would delight in pointing out his gun in its holster on that shelf and that bright shiny star pinned to his uniform shirt. Ah, yes, we were proud, but never did we dare to touch that sacred gun. My gentle Dad would surely have taken a belt to us if we had. Or so we thought.

He hung his uniform pants by a belt loop on a hanger there in that closet. We all knew that he kept lots of coffee change in those pants pockets. Sometimes we naughty children would help ourselves to a small handful of that change and race up to the local candy store for a sweet bit of heaven. Surely he missed his change now and then but he never did say a word. Perhaps it was his way of indulging without actually spoiling us.

I don’t think we ever really realized how special he was. He was just our dad.  He worked hard and long. It was just what he did. It was just our life. Besides being a policeman, he was a farmer and provider for us twelve kids. When he wasn’t at one job, he was at the other.

I remember how he would sometimes take a different road home from the farm and honk like crazy and stick his head out the open window. Yelling a wild Indian holler, he would swear he saw a real live Indian standing high on a cliff above us.

Birthdays were crazy special when he was home. He would grab us up and shove us under his bed. Taking a board and grabbing a hammer, he would yell that we weren’t allowed to get another year older. He would swear he was going to lock us up and throw away the key. He would proceed to hammer on the board threatening to keep us under the bed so we wouldn’t be able to grow up. We would scream and laugh, knowing he meant no harm.

He often patrolled the third shift and mother would shush us and make us be especially quiet on those days. Poor old dad needed his sleep she would tell us.

Tiptoeing through their darkened bedroom, we really did try hard not to wake him on our way to the bathroom. So many times we thought him sound asleep as we tiptoed through on our way back out. But alas, he would reach out to grab us with an unexpected yell.  It would scare us, and then make us laugh. We thought he didn’t have the time or energy to play with us. We were so wrong. He gave us what he could.  I wish it had never stopped

When he was home, he was worn out, dozing in his recliner, watching gun smoke or the evening news on T.V.  I remember taking his shoes and socks off and feeling really good to do this for him. I remember stretching up to shyly kiss his cheek before bed.  I still remember how his rough, day old whiskers would scratch my lips and the way his old spice aftershave mingled with cigarette smoke. Sometimes he would give a little growl and snap at me like a dog and I would jump and giggle.

I remember when I first began to feel silly giving him a goodnight kiss. I would slink behind my  little brother as he kissed him first. I would feel my cheeks turn red as I gave him a quick peck. I thought myself too big a girl to kiss my daddy goodnight.

I wish I had never stopped.

Mama’s Bible

Mom w/Andy and Dad w/me on laps. Evening with one of our priests. Becky and Peggy in the background.

We had a small family gathering this weekend. My sister, Amy, brought our mother’s bible and we all got a chance to look through it. This well-loved book was like an old familiar friend as Amy pulled it out. It had apparently lost its cover some time ago. The pages were heavily noted with her handwritings scrawled in the columns and passages underlined and sometimes triple underlined.  I came across three or four dried four leaf clovers pressed into the pages and had visions of her children and grandchildren bringing her piece of nature. How thrilled she would be as she would ceremoniously help that child find a book to press them in.

My sister, Peggy, and I took turns with mom’s bible. As we skimmed through, reading a noted passage here and there, we tried to understand what she may have been dealing with at that particular time. We were grasping to eek any little bit of knowledge from the writings. We wanted desperately for her to reach out from that old bible and give us some wisdom.  Just some little something that would bring a little piece of her back to us.

I can still see my sweet mother reading to us from that bible. After supper we were not excused from the table until we were all finished and she read us a passage. I remember the boys fidgeting but giving her respect and staying seated. I remember the girls with their heads bowed, resigned to giving an extra ten minutes before starting with the dirty dishes. I would follow along as much I could and try to discern what lesson she wanted us to receive. Somehow, my young mind would manage to drift but I was always secure in the knowledge that mom definitely had our spiritual back.

I remember her sitting in the living room when I came home from being with my friends at night.  With only one lamp lighting the big old house, she would be there, reading it again as she awaited her teens to make curfew and be safely home. The nights that I would miss curfew, she still would be waiting up. I would be scolded. “I know what you’ve been up to!” she would say. I knew just to hang my head and take my tongue lashing as I sat on that cold fireplace hearth.  I never really knew what she was talking about, which sin to confess too. Because truth be known, I was probably guilty of whatever she thought I was up to, that and more.  So I would just sit there quietly until she would tell me to go to bed. I would slink upstairs and stay below the radar the next day, cleaning the house and doing what I could to get back into good graces with her and be forgiven.

Sometimes she didn’t need the bible to be open. She knew it’s passages by heart. Dad always took us on two week vacations in the summer. What a great time we would have. Dad wouldn’t shave for two weeks, he would relax and even joke and tease with us a little. This was something to us. Dad was a man of many responsibilities. With twelve children and two full time jobs he didn’t have much time to relax. Plus, he had to shave daily for his job as a State Trooper and we rarely saw him with whiskers. Vacations were a very exciting time for us.  But before we would venture out in our old station wagon, laden with luggage on top and packed with kids of all ages, pulling the Starcraft camper, mom would gather us in a circle. There in the living room she would quote from the bible as she prayed for our safety and probably her sanity on this adventure. I knew she would have her bible along and would sit beside dad in the front seat and pass the time with her two old friends.

That old book was the map to her whole life. She used it to help herself and her family along on our journey. She used it to keep her children safe as they played and grew all around her and again as they gained their wings and flew away. She used it when she was hurting, when she needed clarity and guidance. She turned to it in her happiness and successes. It was an everyday study for her. It brought her comfort and peace. Her old bible was her friend, her teacher, her confidante, her love, her peace of mind.

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