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.

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God’s Angelic Author

She bore twelve children and we just called her mom. We never realized that she was a young woman once, with dreams all her own. We’ve glimpsed old photos of her with sassy pigtails and a tiny waist. But those old photos never whispered the ambitions and aspirations she relinquished to give us life. We only know that our father came home from the war as a young man to find his best friend’s little sister all grown up. Beautifully, she came walking down the steps. Stunned, he looked up and said, ” Why Mary Ellen! You’re all grown up!”  Her blush was to be the very beginning of a beautiful 52 years of life together.

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Such a simple lady, living amongst her children, serving her husband, toiling beside him there on that sweet land they loved. A dreamer was she, a lover of words. Many a play day echoed with the sound of her old typewriter clackity-clacking in our ears. Through her writings one could easily realize that when she looked her eyes saw that the dirt was gold, and the trees were majestic, the wind, that blew the leaves, the warm breath of God. Hers were mystical words that created an amazing world.

Her writings were actually little pieces of art. Words and sentences wove together to form one grand masterpiece. When we cut them apart to search for quotes to adorn photos at her funeral, we found that each small sentence was somehow a great piece of wisdom. So beautifully carved  and laid there before us, were they, that we didn’t even realize she was gone. It seemed to me that she was there, just above our shoulder, nudging us and whispering to us.

My niece and I poured over her old photos and simultaneously mused through her writings. Brittany would pull out a photo and magically the sentence I was reading would seem to match right up to that picture. We felt such a closeness to her as we toiled away on our little project. We wanted to stay there drowning in her words and memories. Let tomorrow and tomorrow come and go while we drank her words and relived her life. We felt happy and sad. We felt her presence.

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Maybe she had finally reached her highest ambition. The Alzheimer’s fog  would have cleared for her now and  I could imagine her making little memos of the rippling, swooshing wings she witnessed. I could hear her laughter as she scribbled precious words to her Lord. I imagined the twinkle in her eyes as she took note of his incredible creations, painting all of Heaven with her beautiful words.   Perhaps finally she was there at the throne, God’s angelic author.

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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.

Sweetness

My daughter, Allison and son, Levi about 14 yrs ago

Little boy laughter
Come wrestle with me
Sparkle my eyes
With mischievous glee.

Little girl giggle
Come dance with me
Twinkle my life
With love so free.

Laugh and giggle
Dance and wrestle
Sparkle and twinkle
Gleeful life, mischievous love.

~Sara Jane~

Full Circle

So, here I am once again missing my little birds. My three children have grown, taken flight. They are each living in different states. James is in Indiana, Allison in Arizona and Levi now lives  in Arkansas . These three states now hold my heart. I pray they go gently on my children, allowing them to prosper, grow and find love.

Don’t get me wrong, I am loving my little empty nest. I have no regrets that they are now soaring and testing their freedoms. I love to see how their lives are unfolding. But sometimes the ache is there as I live among all these memories. My children’s spirits as babies, toddlers, preteens, teens and young adults float beside me always. All I need do is to pluck a moment and there they all are, laughing, crying, fighting, loving, here with me again. But still I am excited for our future reunions. I’m excited for the new life they will bring back home with them. I am filled with joy and love when I realize what we have become.

While looking through some of my old writings I came across the following short blog that I wrote on my old MySpace account. It took me right back to the beginning of my children’s flight to total independence. College was finally finished and they were seriously moving out on their own. Packing up whatever they could fit into their beat-up old cars and moving out to Phoenix, AZ. I felt a certain excited, nostalgic confusion. It was a time of letting go and a time of looking ahead for all of us.

So this week I have been diggin up bones. It’s amazing how much we humans accumulate without even realizing it. I’m braving the trenches of our closets and pulling out everything we’ve outgrown, forgotten about, tired of, and just plain never cared for. It’s all going down in our family garage sale. The profits of which will go to help the two eldest in their huge adventure and move to Phoenix   AZ. later this month. Blown away by the memories I’ve recovered. The sweet faces of my babies tucked away in tubs. Hastily scribbled notes to me from them…both sweet and angry. Funny misspelled little stories and left behind well-loved toys and stuffed animals. Every little thing I’ve kept brought back so many wonderful memories. All of which I’ve tucked back into the tubs and boxes for more years of safe keeping till the little ones are grown with their own little ones and would love to share memories of their youth with them.

I cannot believe the amount of stuff I have. I was worried I wouldn’t have enough stuff on my own and should ask others to join the garage sale. But jeez, I guess I haven’t moved in like six years now so stuff has accumulated.

I’ve outgrown the doll collection that I collected after dad’s death. I was missing mom and dad and had a turn of craziness and bought a lot of the same kind of dolls that mom had picked up right before her Alzheimer’s started to get so bad. I think they were a grieving thing for me, a way to deal with missing them. But now, I think I’m okay and ready to move on. I also started to collect Frankoma pottery like mom did and I think I’m ready to part with that too.

Anyways, I’m so way ready to have this sale over, clean up the house and get back to normal. We’re hoping to make enough to help them with gas or maybe some second hand furniture when they get out there as all they are taking is what they can fit in three cars.

And here we are five years later. The youngest son has now moved a few states away while the oldest son has moved backed from Phoenix to a much closer two hours’ drive from me. My middle child and only daughter is now married and expecting her first baby. They also have plans to bring their little family closer to home. They bring me stories. Stories that make me chuckle. In these stories I hear them testing and using some of the same lessons I taught them so many years ago as a young mother. Do they realize some of these lessons were passed down to me from my mother? It seems our lives really are all about circles. As I feel our little family circle becoming complete once more, I rejoice and feel a smile beginning deep down in my soul.

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