Sweet Viola Jane

1460246_10153466057230037_41362425_nViola Jane. Two sweet names that play on my lips. Their syllables ring bells and its melody releases a cool smooth mist to my brain. Some undisturbed ancestral bond begins to awaken. I love her deeply for she is flesh of my flesh. I see the old repeating in her. I see eyes of my aunties and toes of my uncles. I hear ancient wisdom whispered in her voice. I see the new too. Her daddy’s nose and her mama’s cowlick. The first time I felt the weight of  her warm little body wrapped up so tight  some primal call stirred deep in my soul. She fills my arms like the firm, quick click of a jagged missing piece to this crazy puzzle called life . Her eyes are bright blue like a new morning sky, the shape of fresh raindrops falling soft on their sides. She peers innocently from their delicious depths. Her tiny dimpled hands reach for my face and the feel of her kisses mangles my heart. That desolate empty room I kept locked up so tight,  bursts right open and reaches full occupancy now this cheeky little chamber maid 539058_10153401686690037_1965378635_nfills it so well. Her  plump little nose, upturned so perfectly, perches uniquely above her fresh white, gap tooth, smile.  A face full of secrets, a face of innocence,  her future wide open, her future not told. I ruffle the baby hair that tickles my nose and I nuzzle her neck and I kiss that lone lock of hair that adorns her forehead. This wonder filled child smells of mysterious wisdom of some other  life I dare not peek. She brings me her humor jingling from her rose perfect lips. Her simple  giggles and quick teases radiate from those eyes, those bright blue eyes. She works her perfect sweet magic and pulls me into her little girl world. She commandeers this adoring audience, as she observes the world in her quick quiet way.   With a blink of her eye and a bat of her lashes, she chirps out words on musical notes. Her pure sweet beauty squeezes my old lady chest and it’s  all I can do to breath in her love. Then she gives me a hug and she blows me a kiss. I rock my love and her sleepy small voice calls out,  a melancholy reverb bouncing through my bones and my mind and my soul.   “Mee Maw, Mee Maw!” She calls to her granny. My arms are content, my heart is complete. I hear a distant ancestral sigh as she closes her eyes. Then sweet baby girl, sweet grand daughter of mine, whispers so quietly, “I wuv you Mee Maw!   1536637_10153669797970037_1329461930_n   1174716_10153297237495037_225709610_n1381533_10153324165365037_1585145596_n934079_10152821677955037_73441664_n

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.

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.

Hello, My Old Friend

I have a very dear friend who comes to call at the most unexpected times.

When he does, he leaves behind such warmth and wonderful feelings.

It seems that I have all these small sunshiny memories that make me so happy. Such a small thing sunshine is but what a powerful impact.  How does the sun shine so beautifully despite the hustle and bustle of the world? How is it that we are so busy that we don’t take time to let it soak into our bones and soothe the frazzled edges?
My mind is filled with little memories of delightful visits from the sun.

The first would have to be a very little girl’s memory, my mother’s bedroom as she threw open the curtains and opened the windows.

The sun shone right through those windows into a room that usually stayed peacefully dark.

My father often slept during the day and patrolled nights as a state policeman. So it was very delightful to feel the sunshine in places it rarely was allowed to visit. What a magical place my parent’s bedroom became when it was spring cleaning day. I can’t explain the joy I felt as the sun blared in and I explored the corners that were usually dark. The busy busy of my mother and sisters vacuuming, scrubbing and dusting in that bright sunshine has left a sweet impression in my heart. Nothing big or important, just a bright little memory of a bright shine and clean white curtains that makes me happy..

One of my most favorites is also minute, it is only the sun shining on the back steps of my parents home.

The first days of summer vacation, found me, probably about ten or eleven, sitting on those concrete steps with it’s bumpy small stones massaging my bare feet.

The house quiet with my family still asleep. A moment, deliciously alone, just me and the world. I had slipped out to enjoy the smells of the hot concrete and the fresh cut grass, the sweet honeysuckle growing on the fence and I can still feel every little detail. I see the large beautifully scary, red velvet  ant making it’s way to the large crack in the steps. I feel the sun kissing me and really soaking into my winter weary bones. I raise my face to the sun and breath deeply. Summer was finally here. My life was ahead of me, no school for 3 months and a whole summer to bring on whatever adventures were heading my way.
This was truly, the first day of the rest of my life.

Years later another  memory, again of the sun.

Just a tiny house I rented from my sister. My two babies and I, newly divorced and on our own.

The house had just been cleaned up and my children were down for their naps. I had spread the beautiful pink quilt that my mother and Aunt LaVera had made for me upon my bed. The sun shone in and I basked in it’s warmth as I dabbled in my dreams and wrote about my life. The babies asleep in their own beds in that  same room, the sun shining in the window as I floated in that sweet shiny pink world. Safe, warm and oh, so cozy.
Life was good.

And again, the snow melting, the babies all grown, the sun bright and clear and begging to be felt as he splashed across my window sill.

Barging into my kitchen he lit up my  table.

Such melancholy I felt as I snapped a picture of him dancing there. I realized then that this was to be another beautiful memory. The day my oldest  friend  came to sit with me once again. This time at my own kitchen table, he made his appearance to shoo away the dreariness, to give a kiss of hope and cheer. I felt him whisper to me, ” Brighten up, old girl, winter is closing it’s door and spring is peering around the corner. ”   I sat there warmed by him and drank a toast of hot cocoa to the one friend that never fails me. “May I live to see you dawn, feel your caress upon me and watch you beautifully set for many more years, come what may!”
Here’s to you, Sunshine!

I love sunshine in my kitchen

Lego My Heart

Times are indeed tough and the economy is scary. We all are feeling it in some way or another. Because I am a Teacher’s Aide by trade, and unemployed in the summer, lately I’ve been struggling just to make my bills each month. In an effort to supplement my income, I’ve been finding creatives way to generate money. Ebay has been handy in selling a couple old antique’s that I’ve had in storage and never use. Local online garage sales have been great tools in reselling clothes, furniture and my daughter’s wedding paraphernalia.

Last night while checking items I have for sale online, I saw that one woman was in search of Lego Blocks to buy.

I sat and stared at the screen for a few seconds and let my mind wander into the closet in my small half bedroom. There, set up high on a shelf, are several toys that my children have outgrown. These toys have traveled several states with us and have seen many new homes as we  moved over the years. But always they have been there to bring comfort to my babes. I specifically let my mind creep around the edges of the huge plastic pretzel jar that contained Lego blocks.

Just for kicks I instant messaged the lady and asked if she were in search of the large ones or the small ones. Somewhere in my heart, I know I was hoping she would reply” the large ones”. Then I could breath a sigh of relief and the Legos would be safe and sound on their closet shelf.

But when she replied that she was indeed in search of the small ones, I reluctantly checked out the going prices of used Lego blocks on Ebay. I took the huge jar from it’s place on the shelf and dumped the legos on the ground for a picture. I felt my fingers type a reply to her stating that I had 11 lbs of Lego blocks for 40.00. I accompanied it with the picture.  I hoped it would be too much for her and I could abandon this endeavor.

But no, she promptly answered that she would take them.

So began my descent in to melancholy.

All day, I thought of my oldest son and the many winter hours he spent clicking together such unique creations. I remembered how each Thanksgiving I would venture out and brave the maniacal crowds on Black Friday to snag a bucket or two of these precious blocks that would be on sale so cheap for that one day. Winters were for Legos.  That’s when my little family would lie on the floor and put them together and talk and bond. I recalled how my older son broke his younger brother into the magic. How they would work on a project together and argue and fuss a little but still manage to come up with some really amazing drag cars or space ships. The pride and commradery these two brothers felt despite the ten-year age difference would sparkle in their eyes and could be heard in their voices.

So just a half hour before I was to meet the Lego Lady and finalize the deal, I asked my self if I really wanted to do this. I felt like I was betraying my boys, selling a little piece of their childhood. I got down on my hands and knees and searched my heart as I scooped up the huge pile lying on the floor.

“Wow!” I thought, “This really is a huge mess to pick up!” And then it all came back to me. I cringed as I heard the echoes of fussing and arguing over who had to pick up the blocks, rubbed my foot as I recalled the many cuts received from accidentally stepping on a forgotten block, oh and the countless times I was startled as the vacuum snuffed up one of the pieces with much clicking and clacking.

“Heck,” I murmured, “There’s not going to be any little boys around here for quite a few years anyways.” The first grand baby due in November is to be a girl.

I grabbed the now full jar,  jumped into my jeep and whisked a way with my sons’ memories. I promptly handed it over and noticed the dust on the jar as I listened to the Lego Lady explain that her son was now bed ridden with crutches. She had bought him a few new box sets of Legos and  his daddy had helped him put them together. Much to his daddy’s chagrin the little guy was hooked and was going to be so excited to see this huge amount.

My heart melted and I felt a little relief. My sons’ memories were safe in each of our souls. The blocks were only material things.  From my boys’ hearts to another’s, the beloved blocks were finding a new home, a boy who would appreciate the art of Legoing and a daddy who was building memories.

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