My Brother’s Love

Andy with me standing beside him on the basement steps

Andy 14 and Sara 16 in Arizona on vacation with mom and dad

Last night, Randy and I watched the 2012 Women’s Gymnastic Olympics at my younger brother, Andy’s house. He now owns that great old house we both grew up in on Main St. It was an enjoyable evening spent with my old companion, his wife, Cheryl and daughter, Abbie. The U.S.A. Women’s team truly are the Fabulous Fierce Five. When it was over Andy teasingly offered to walk us out to our car. Laughing, I told him I thought we could make it okay on our own. I chattered away to Randy as we walked out the back door to our car. I guess that Andy’s back porch has one more step then I remember, I skipped it and promptly and heavily fell to the concrete landing below. I rammed my head into his garage but what I knew instantly, was that my knees and hands were burning. Sure enough, upon further examination, I had small scrapes on my hand and one knee. But the most damage was done to my left knee. A huge area had a layer of skin totally and deeply removed.

Later, at home, with Randy to doctor and wait on me, the pain and ugly open sore took me back to another time my whole body was covered in scrapes. This incident also involved my old companion and brother, Andy. You see, Andy has always been a special friend to me. The youngest two of a busy family of twelve, we often turned to each other for companionship. There were many times I realized his affection for me as we grew up together but the summer of my sixteenth year, Andy gave me my first real gift of brotherly love and loyalty.

We lived in a small Illinois town but my dad also owned a small farm about a twenty minute drive east of us. We spent many a day on the farm with my dad. Sometimes we were put to work, walking beans, tending the huge acre garden, helping to plant and harvest, and feeding the animals. Between the work we usually always had some time to create adventures. After the work was finished, we could be found climbing the old “monkey trees” in the northern wood,s pausing to quench our thirsts at a little spring nearby. Some days we would dive into the pond and have mud fights. There were  many hours spent swinging on a vine over the creek to drop just as you swung over the deepest part of the swim hole. When our hunger became too powerful as it often did with my dad working long hours and the lunch time sandwiches devoured hours earlier, we would make our way to the huge garden my mother tended. There we could eat all the fresh, raw potatoes, green beans and tomatoes our little tummies could hold. Life was good, we had everything we needed right there on that farm miles from civilization.

As I entered my teenage years, I found I no longer had time to climb trees and wade creeks. I had my driver’s license and a job. “Places to go and things to see” as my mother was fond of saying. Besides, my younger confidante, at fourteen, had discovered girls and was spending  a huge amount of his time on the phone. I felt as if we were growing apart and often yearned for the excitement of our earlier, care free summers. So when he came to me one day begging me to take him and a few of his friends to the farm to ride three wheelers, I readily agreed.

Besides the chance to spend a little time with my brother, I could work on improving my tan while they rode. I slipped a pair of shorts on over my swim suit and donned a beat up pair of sneakers. The boys rode for a while as I dozed in the sun. I could hear the birds chirping and the distant drone of the three wheelers lulled me as  I relaxed, enjoying the peacefulness of my father’s farm. After about an hour the drone became louder and I realized the boys were getting near. I sat up and watched as they pulled all around me. They were heading to the creek to take a dip and wanted to know if I would join them. At sixteen, I was taking pride in becoming a young lady, but the tom boy in me could not pass up the chance to have some fun. Besides, it would allow me time with Andy like the good old days. I agreed with the stipulation that I could drive one of the ATV’s.

We headed down the dusty road towards the bottom lands that held the creek. I picked up speed and the others followed suit. Soon we began racing and because I was the oldest, I was determined to stay ahead of them all. As we made the curve and headed down the steep decline that descended into the bottoms, I felt myself starting to lose control. The speed, the instability of the three wheeler, and my inexperience came together at this moment and I panicked. Instead of applying the brakes, I pushed the gas lever. Totally out of control by now, the three wheeler roared up the steep embankment and flipped over on top of me back to the road. That huge machine and I went into a slide for about twenty five feet.

Andy and the boys were close behind me and were quick to pull the heavy machine off of me. My swim suit had slipped down and my body was scraped from head to toe on my left side. As I stood up, the pressure on my left foot left me wincing and instant pain shot from my ankle. I reached out my bloody right hand to one of the boys for support and, in horror, watched as two of my fingers crumbled with a bone protruding from one of them. At this gruesome sight, the boy paled and turned away, holding his mid section. Andy had turned his vehicle around by now and was quick to come to my rescue and assist me onto his three wheeler.

We had no phone on the farm back then and no way to contact anyone. The nearest neighbor lived a couple miles away. As we sped back to the pickup truck, my eye sight began to dim. I yelled to Andy and he grabbed my arm around him and screamed “Just hold on tight!” He delivered me safely to the truck and helped me into it. By now, I could not see at all. I could hear my little brother’s shaky voice pleading with me to “just hold on a little longer”.  For some reason I lost my ability to speak, I could hear Andy’s panicked voice begging me and praying, but I could not reply to reassure him. I had lost my sight, my speech and my mobility. I couldn’t even raise a hand to pat him. I remember trying unsuccessfully to pull out of the darkness and comfort my frightened rescuer. I could only sit and listen. The sudden loss of so much blood had caused my body to go in to shock.

Later at the hospital, the doctor told me what I already knew. I was very fortunate to have a brother who “kept his head” and acted quickly when the other’s had panicked. I was so proud of my little brother and remembered the tender love and concern I had felt as he came to my rescue. It was at that moment that I realized we were not losing each other. We would go our own ways and take different paths but this day my baby brother had shown  me how deeply implanted love had already become in our young hearts. That special closeness that had been ours in childhood would continue to follow us as we grew.


From Our Front Porch

It seems to me it should have had it’s own actual name, such a part of our lives it was. But we simply called it the “front porch”. Parts of our childhood played out for the whole town right there on that big old 10’x30′ front porch of our house on Main Street.  That old gray, wooden floor and us children became very intimate through the years. We knew it’s cracks and painted chips by heart. It welcomed us home every day when we returned from school and again as we threw our bags in the corner after our paper routes. We sat on it’s brick ledges and on the concrete tiers of the steps while friends gathered to hash out our plans of the day.  Like a very close, old friend, my goodness, what memories that old front porch has witnessed!  Hot summer nights found us seeking relief from the heat; five dirty children sprawled upon layers of sleeping bags. The morning sun always seemed to rise too early, to tease our eyelids and dare us to waken. Oh what a sight we must have been for those early morning visitors. What thoughts they must have entertained as they knocked on our door, “Those crazy Rauch kids, always up to something?”

We were directors and actors as we practiced plays on that front porch. With tales of monsters that were meant to thrill, the old porch transformed wonderfully into our stage, complete with drop down curtains.We ventured into our neighborhood and sold tickets to fill the mismatched chairs we provided for our audience.  I still can feel the coolness of that old white bed sheet as it was wrapped around me, the mummy of the play.  I laugh at the memory of our mother arriving home during our great production, so mortified that we dared such a scene right there on  Main Street for the whole town to see. “Those crazy Rauch kids, what are they up to now?”.

Ah and the “hippies”. My parents simply saw someone else’s children needing shelter and a meal and of course we took them in. Those young hitchhikers sat on our front porch, played their guitars and sang their counterculture songs to us. The naysayers must have got their eyes full and shook their heads. But did they know the things these young people brought to us? Did they know how kind and respectful they were to my parents, how patient they were as they taught us kids to macramé belts and necklaces? No those who weren’t present will never understand how those long haired strangers enriched our lives. “Those crazy Rauch’s, always bringing strange people to our town!”

I remember Sheri, the little girl from St. Louis. She was one of the inner city children that came to stay with us in the summer to get a taste of rural life. As I sat on the front porch playing jacks, she skipped around me singing a little song. Sara sponda Sara Sponda Sara sponda Ret Set Set..Ah do re o Ado re boom di o..a do re boom de ret set set ..a do re boom de o….How that song echoes when I see little children playing on the streets. In the civil rights turmoil of the 60’s and 70’s I know that the people drove by thinking “Those crazy Rauchs, bringing “Blacks” to our little town!”

A memory comes to me now of our beloved porch swing upon that front porch. How can a couple of chains and some old wood slats cause such merriment?  The rides we took, the places we went, the stories that were created to the rhythm and creak of that old swing. Big brother, George,  sat in the middle, reached his hands to the chains and pulled hard to flip us backwards. With peals of laughter,  we would swing upside down. Games were invented and turns were taken, pushing and swinging as high as the old ledge would let us. “Those crazy Rauch kids, they’re gonna get hurt!”

And then the evenings would come. And mom and dad and sometimes a big sibling would come out to join us. Here and there a bike rider or walker would stop to chat for a while, crickets and cicadas serenading their banter. Quiet as ghosts, we would slink out to the yard,  catching the fireflies and setting them free again. The sun would sink, the breeze would blow soft and for a while everything  in our little world would feel just right.  “Those crazy Rauchs, aren’t they something?”

O Brother of Mine

Andy, Me, Peggy, George (4 of 12 sibs)

Hey brother did you know?  I have all these memories of us growing up together? Do you have these memories tucked away too? How magical we were together, o brother of mine.

“Hello little baby, I see you through that old white wrought iron baby crib.” Do you remember that old four post bed with the brass knobs? Maybe I climbed in with you, I’m sure that would be fitting. Maybe I was just impatient for you to hurry up and be big enough to come play. Maybe I already knew the magic we would create.

You see little brother; I don’t have memories of mom bringing you from the hospital or changing your diapers and helping you to walk. Just memories of you and me and the fun we had. Remember that sandbox in your third year? My goodness we spent so many hours there building our bridges and sifting sand! It was there we first met the little boy, Jeffy, our blood brother and constant childhood companion.

I feel the sun of our summers together and see us running everywhere we went, the bikes we rode, ramping everything we could. The old barrels we would stand and balance on, walking them carefully across the yard. Everyone in our town knew of our wonderful bag swing and often would join us. The huge old walnut tree Y’d in the middle allowing us to swing from three levels.  We were acrobats in a circus and we owned the wind that blew passed our ears. The laughter, the arguments and the challenges I still can hear.

The trails, the swamp, the Indian village and the year the Quatman family bought our wilderness and began to build their lumber yard. We climbed and lay in wait on that dirt pile, aimed our toy guns and planned their ambush.  How dare they take over our land! We were too small to understand we didn’t own the trails and the swamp and everything on the land neighboring our yard! We hated them for stealing our world, for tearing down the tree with the grand two story tree house built by our older brothers. We refused to let them stop us. We played around them and knew to hide when we saw them coming.

Our brothers and sisters played beside us, sometimes present, sometimes not. Still, we reaped the benefits. Do you remember those clubhouses they created and the old store Peggy put up in the old chicken barn? Remember that nice old witch, Broom Hilda? Remember the night Jeff and George created the wind sail and we ran along beside that little red wagon as it sailed that windy night?

 Tell me dear brother of mine, where have the days gone, where is that creek we called “Sandy Beach”, the large tubes we lazed on as it took us along? So many memories we created without even knowing.  These memories seep from me and yet no one but you understands the places I have been, the adventures we created.

I Heard the Church Bells Toll

I hear the church bells toll just down the street. The tolling causes an ache and melancholy rings from my soul. The lonely sound marks the hour and I feel a pull, the church, or maybe it is God, calling to me. Where are you, where have you been, I miss you. The feelings and memories of the little girl inside begin to stir. As a member of a huge Catholic family, I was made to go to church very regularly.

Everyone in our small town was Catholic. Our school was a public one but even it was owned by the church.  We had nuns to teach us in their long dark garbs and funny headpieces that reminded me of the mouth piece of a whistle. They took us to church every morning and taught our religion classes too.  Each day started at school with the Pledge of Allegiance and was followed with the Lord’s Prayer.

We spent our time in church trying to pay attention. Somehow our minds would wander.  One of us would begin playing with our hands daring the next to twist one finger across the other and stack all five if possible. Soon giggles and whisper would be heard and then quickly silenced with a swat on the shoulder and a very stern look from whichever nun was in charge of us that day.  There are really only so many mind games and finger games and distractions a child can invent when made to sit unnaturally still and quiet for so much of their lives. Yet, the giggles and the games rush back echoingly clear when those church bells ring.

Some of the priests were so ancient and so boring. Some we couldn’t follow due to the monotone credence of their voice. Yet, there were a few, just a few, who had a twinkle in their eye and a gift of engaging even us small children. These few would come down from behind the alter or podium, walk up and down the aisle, calling on us by name,  gently talking to us like we were real people. Kids sat up straighter, craned their necks and ears to see and listen. We would actually pay attention and want to participate. Yes, I recall those gentle priests with fondness when I hear those old church bells.

Oh and those sweet, slow Sundays, our whole family would go to church together. Dad would go sit in the car and patiently wait until each kid eventually tumbled from the house. Quietly he would remain until mom appeared to take her place beside him. Away we would go in that old station wagon tucked so full with all his love.  I remember the feelings that ran through me as we took up two whole pews in that old church. The older kids, some sullenly, some motherly, some still trying to wake up, filled the spaces of those benches. Ahh, but they never knew they also filled the corners of a little girl’s soul. I felt so safe and secure and yet a part of something huger then my little mind could even begin to imagine. My dad would sing bass and my mom would harmonize right there with him and I thought I heard angels chiming in. I still feel these things whenever I hear those beautiful church bells ring.

Safe and secure and loved and a sense of always knowing what was expected of me. My family and my church laid the map of my life. I may have strayed and taken paths not approved of but my love of both of them has always managed to pull me back. I love God and I love the Catholic faith even if I rarely attend anymore. God, my family and my church were good to me through my childhood. When those church bells ring I remember I have been blessed.

My childhood church:


Some evenings when it’s not so hot and I have my windows open, I can hear the call and laughter of children at play. No music in this old world could be sweeter.  Ahh, childhood, when everything is possible, where there are no limits and you have yet to discover the burdens of life. So many adventures my brothers and sisters and I created. How do I help you to feel the intensity of every magic moment. The burden is great and I am humbled.

Let me start with the smell of the earth. This is the one smell that can instantly take me back to childhood. The heavy whiff of soil and the ground rushing up to meet me as my favorite old cutoffs tickle my legs, the pound of bare feet running across the lush green grass, rushing to get to that old barn. I hear those calls from within, the clubhouse and my brothers and friends await me to come join them? The plans we made, the overnight camp in the far corner of the yard with only a fire and a couple old sleeping bag to protect us, sneaking out to walk through that sleeping little town, feeling like we owned the world, stopping to “borrow” a watermelon or some tomatoes from a lonely old garden that someone else had tended so carefully. Oh the trees we climbed and the creeks we conquered. I hope to share some of these great moments in future blogs. But for now, a poem comes to my mind. A poem of youth and first love, my poem.

Summer Love

I remember you, I do.

Though you were just a boy

And I, a little girl.

You came to call me your friend.

I remember the fast wild rides on your bicycle.

My heart pounding ever fast

As I clung to your sturdy little boy body

The sound of speed surging in our ears.

I hold precious memories

Of campouts in my backyard

The transistor radio turned down low

While I rubbed your back

By the fires soft glow.

I recall the sultry days of a youthful summer

Sneaking out at night

To walk through that sleepy small town

And watch the morning sun awaken it.

I remember the hand holding

And the sweet innocent touches.

I remember scribbling my goodbyes

Onto the snow

And staring up at your window

When you moved away.

I remember the hot tears

And a little girls broken heart.

I remember you, I do.

~Sara Jane~

My Childhood Home

My childhood home was a mixture of two places. We lived in a grand old house on Main Street in our small Illinois town. The home sported two acres of yard and  that was plenty of space to create a whole world in young imaginations. We also owned a beautiful farm of 200 acres about 20 minutes drive from our home.This is where my dad spent his life when he was not patrolling and keeping the good citizen of our county safe. You see, my dad was a farmer by love and an Illinois State Policeman by necessity. Farming was my dad’s passion but was too unstable an income to support a family of twelve, so when the great hiring of new state troopers came about, my dad jumped at the chance and began a 25 yr career.

I watched with intensity and tucked many lessons away on my way up. I witnessed the struggles of my siblings with each other, with my mom and dad and with society. I can’t even begin to write all that I learned from them. I thought them all beautiful and wise and right. I never doubted who they were and never questioned that I would be as true as they were as I grew. My parents were good, gentle people. They loved to help others who were suffering and struggling. Their generosity knew no boundaries.

My story really begins as a waif of a child, all arms and legs, round brown eyes and a tangle of long dark hair. The sun kissed my skin and turned me a nice nut-brown every summer. In the years before my twelfth one, I had swam in my father’s creek, shirtless, and as free as the boys I ran with. I had climbed the vines and swung out above the water,letting go,fearlessly crying “Geronimo!” as I crashed to the waterhole below. My legs were always in motion. Running was the fastest way to get anywhere and my scrubby stubbed toes revealed this fact. Never did I care about the state of my hair, much to my sisters’ consternation. Much more important affairs drew my attention. I could pee, standing up, just like the boys. Well almost like the boys. I could slide into first base and pitch a mean ball. I was as fast on my bike and could ride a wheelie and ramp like Evil Knevil.

They Named Me Sara

They named me Sara. It means “Little Princess” or so my father told me once upon a time as I sat on his knee. I don’t know when the memories replaced the years. I don’t know when I became me. At forty some years of age I have begun to awaken. I have begun to look back and forward at the same time. Until now I have been wandering, drifting, floating through life. And so now, I stop. I promise myself that I will make plans and goals. But soon, I save my document, turn off the computer and my real life begins again.

I believe that there are all these minute events and people and situations that come together and form each one of us. Wifts of cigar smoke from a grandfather, smiles of mischievous brothers, big sisters’ tugs on pony tails, best childhood friends, kick the can games, fast bike rides, campouts in the backyard and swimming in the creek. For myself, the creation of a woman began as the adventures of a tomboy.

I am the youngest girl of a family of six boys and six girls. That does not mean that I am the baby of the family. No, my brother, Andy, grudgingly holds that position. Though it seems as though we have always been the same age, Andy is actually two years younger than me. Andy and Sara, some would say, two peas in a pod, childhood companions, soul mates, and buddies. I looked up to him and he always watched out for me. We rose from the earth. Dirty little feet, tangled wind blown hair and the smell of the great outdoors clinging to our sturdy little bodies. Smudges on our faces never matched the one’s on our hearts. We were poor, we wore hand me down clothes and ran barefoot all summer long. We watched our parents and our older siblings struggle and work. We played in the spare moments around life’s hardships. Our pride was strong, our hearts true. We never thought we were poor. We adored our family and defended it with all the innocence of our days. We kept it’s secrets and followed the unspoken rules and expectations that were set before we entered it. “Use your manners” “pass all food to the left around the table” “Eat with only one hand, the other on your lap” “Use Please and thank You when asking for seconds” comb your hair, wash your hands and face before supper and no hats at the table.

Security came in knowing what was expected. Never be late for supper. Evenings were sacred with only one thing to do, gather at the table to partake in our nightly ritual. Twelve children around one table with mother saying grace while dad sat silently. After we were satisfied and the huge bowls of food depleted, dad would take out his cigarettes and shake one from the pack to light. Mom would set the pot on for coffee while the girls would clear the table. Even now as a grown woman, I find myself with a tug in the evenings. When the street is dark and the lights go on in the houses along my neighborhood, I long to burst into our house to have delicous smells fill my soul. I long to slink through the quiet darkened living room into the kitchen full of light and warmth and welcome, to see my dad patiently waiting for us to wash up and know that mom will be busy up until the last child sits, filling bowls and fetching dishes.

And so, I feel compelled to write these words. To let the world know of the life I have lived and the feelings my heart has endured. Please join me as I ride this ride. Follow me as we wander back in time or zip to the present only to float somewhere in between and dream about the future. My blogs are simple musings on childhood and adulthood and life and everything in between. I have been given ROOTS and WINGS by my mother. I simply hope to share my wonderful roots and beautiful wings with the world.

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