Oh Daughter of My Daughter

Oh daughter of my daughter

Oh granddaughter of mine

Beautiful of most beautiful that God can create

Your tiny soul peered up at me

Our age-old destiny set

As our eyes met

Your heart took mine

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You smiled at me

Like old soul mates  do.

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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 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.

Hey, Dad

My father passed away on August 14th, 2001. His passing was a great shock to our family. He was not sick and did not suffer and for this I am very grateful. We were just so very unprepared. He had an aneurysm below his heart, a condition the St. Louis doctor assured us was easily corrected with surgery. He told us my dad was very healthy for his age and would be just fine. I saw my dad the night before his surgery. I gave him my love and talked over plans for our mother’s care while he was recouping.

Later, my sister, Kate, who lives in kentucky, called me. She felt an urgent push to see our dad before his surgery. I agreed to ride with her early the next morning so she could say her, “I love you’s”.  I remember walking into the prep room where they had him waiting in a wheel chair, dressed in a hospital gown and socks. Without his dentures, he looked so vulnerable.  The silent, strong, permanent presence that was my father suddenly seemed so small and helpless. I felt my life tilt a little as I kissed his cheek and felt the moisture of Kate’s kiss lingering there. We said our goodbyes and turned to walk away.

As they wheeled him down the long white corridor, my life tilted more and I felt a panic attack looming. It hit me as I grabbed Kate’s hand and held on. Perhaps it was a premonition of the sorrow that was to hit us in mere hours. We  joined our brothers and sister and innocently waited. Patiently, we scanned magazines, made small talk and joked with each other. Our only care at that time was the post surgery care of our father and our mother who had Alzhiemer’s.

Our world fully tipped and went into an instant spin the moment the doctor gathered us in that little conference room. My father hadn’t made it.  The announcement throttled my close family with pain. Simply picked us up and threw us all. In our grief and shock we dealt with the aftermath in ways we have come to regret. Blindly and without our leader,  we became as walking zombies. We buried our dead and were forced to make decisions we weren’t prepared for. We muddled through it all as we played out the stages of grief. The years have flown by and we have learned more about ourselves then we ever thought possible. We have had  to soul search, to learn to forgive ourselves and each other. It has been a journey none of us could have predicted, a journey that has torn us apart.

My sweet family is still picking up pieces and mending after eleven years. We seem to gather more readily now and revel in each other’s nearness. When I look at my sisters, I feel my sweet mother looking down upon us. In the stance of my brothers, I see my father. I can hear whispers of their voices when the grandchildren giggle.  We talk and tease and laugh and reminisce and  through this tragedy a deeper, closer respect for our unity slowly begins to emerge.

Today, I came across a letter I wrote to my father on the first anniversary of his death.

Hey Dad,

I miss your crooked little smile. I miss the deep tanned creases in your face. I miss you at your place at the table.
I miss the strength that was you.
Today it has been one year but it seems like forever, feels like a nightmare.
I want to talk to you about Levi. I know you aren’t here but maybe you can look down and see what I write.
I feel so bad. Today I took the day off. To enjoy the beauty of nature as you used to, to run and play like when I was your littlest daughter. To be with my son as a parent just like all those summer vacation you alway provided for us.
But, Dad, I found myself angry at him constantly, telling him to stop being a baby, to stop doing that , to stop making that noise. All I really wanted to do is to tell him he’s okay and that I love him. That he’s going to be alright.
Dad, what would you do? How would you lead this little boy who struggles with his handicaps? I want so badly to walk into your front door, sit at your table and listen to your advice.
Hey Dad,
I miss you.

Sara Jane

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?”

Whisper Me the Words

Funny little children
Where have you been
Hiding in my mind
Running just out of reach
climbing through the memories
To dance on my keyboard now

Tap the keys with gleeful shrieks
Peer over my shoulder
Whisper me the words
Twirl and swirl
Stir the visions of my youth
Lay them here before me

Please, keep your sweet funny faces near
Remind me of your laughter and smiles
Nudge me with your tears and pain
Enthrall me with your innocence
I’ll capture your essence as best I can
Write it on paper permanantly

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