My Mother’s House


Thinking of my mother…a post written long ago in 2013

Yesterday, I said, “Good-Bye,” to my mother’s house. The one she and my father shared for over twenty years. Made of white stucco with a red tile roof, and a lovely front portico hovering over the dual wooden door. To all others, it’s a typical ‘Arizona’ house, but to me, it will forever remain my mother’s house.

My parents moved to this home sometime in 1989. I was a proud realtor back then and sold it to them. It wasn’t far from where I lived, just around the corner. My little family of three lived close enough to see. My parents followed us from their home in Michigan to escape the cold and the poor economy at the time. There were other reasons too. They had relatives who lived there, my mother’s sisters and an aunt, and my younger brother too.

I knew this day would come, and it’s time for it now. My mother’s been gone over three years. My father didn’t rush, he grieved as he should. Sand passed through the hour-glass, and things settled down as I knew they would. This is the last step in the order of things. My dad is ready now. He has moved on with his life and has a new place to go. I am happy for him. My siblings are too. He is 81 years old. What a treat it is to see him laugh and play, to sing and dance his early night away!

There is a sign in my mother’s front yard that says, “For Sale.” An offer to buy is being negotiated today. I may never step inside my mother’s house again on any given day. I knew it yesterday. I walked slowly through each and every room, soaking up memories of the past. Glancing up and down, brushing floors with fingers, tenderly touching walls with warm cheeks, and gazing at mirrors with pictures only I can see.  Memories everywhere….  The food she cooked, the holidays we spent, our children who slept on the floor in front of the fireplace. Oh, the fun we had!  The lemon pie she baked from scratch, the bird bath in the back, the wind chimes singing on the patio, and the blooming yellow roses planted everywhere.  They were her favorites flowers you know.  And, if I close my eyes ever so tight, I can almost see her there. She’s bending down to smell a new bloom or nipping a fresh bud to place in her favorite aqua-blue vase. She’s truly beautiful looking this way.  Always smiling at her carefully tended roses with the sun warming her precious porcelain face.

Memories everywhere….Sights and scents. The food she cooked, the holidays we spent, my children together with cousins who slept on the floor in front of a roaring holiday fireplace. Oh, the fun we had! The lemon pie she baked from scratch, the bird bath in the back, wind chimes singing on the patio, and the blooming yellow roses planted everywhere. They were her favorites flowers you know.  And, if I close my eyes ever so tight, I can almost see her there. Mother is kneeling down to smell a new bloom or nipping a fresh bud to place in her favorite aqua-blue vase. She’s truly beautiful. Always smiling at her carefully tended roses with the sun warming her precious porcelain face.

The big front door is closing now. As the old bronze lock clicks tight, I  shall forever be at my mother’s house, surrounded by yellow roses, soaking up the smile on her beautiful porcelain face…………

The Perfect Rose

“Grandma Joan”


She was an English war bride, named Joan. Losing her first love shortly after throwing her bouquet, she left her homeland and all that she knew to live in America with her second husband while still grieving her first. It wasn’t long after the war, and she had dreams of the new world awaiting her.

Joan was a kind and gentle soul who had a soft lilting voice, the tone of which reminded me of a string of tinkling brass bells moved by mellow winds during the warmth of a late spring day. While I worked outside the home, Joan sat for my eldest son who was just a baby at the time. It didn’t take long before our family more or less adopted her, calling her, “Grandma Joan.” She touched my baby as though he was her own, rocked him gently and bundled him close. Joan took him for rides in a stroller where he dangled a pudgy fist, hoping her black poodle, Pepper, would tickle it with his pink tongue. She taught him to feed fuzzy, quacking ducks in the lime green pond of the park and read him fairy tales before tucking him in for naps before toppling A.B.C. blocks.  And, when my second son was born she joyously added him to the fold, kissing him from head to toe.

Before long, “Grandma Joan,” spent almost every holiday with us including Christmas and birthdays. I remember whipping up her favorite German chocolate cake for a milestone birthday one year, while my toddlers surprised her with presents she didn’t need but loved to receive. One Christmas day, she delighted me with the gift of an angel soft afghan colored in cream. Surely it took many hours of love and toil to make such a dream. Today, nearly thirty years later, I still wrap up in the warmth of it while dozing in her scent. Joan taught my children manners and messages that can never be replaced while giving me memories of proper grace.

Occasionally, I sensed a chasm of pain behind Joan’s golden rims of wire. Reflecting pools of blue never to surface. A life of  youth and love sunken by war and loss.  As close as we were, some things were better left unspoken. People come in and out of each other’s lives at just the right time as part of fate or from a plan high above in Heaven. During the time we spent with Joan, her husband was dying in a nursing home from Alzheimer’s disease. And, before meeting Joan, my own little family had just moved from afghanout-of-state. We craved the love and touch of maternal wisdom. Suddenly, out of nowhere hearts and homes collided providing both with an extension of a family. Kindness, trust, and love.

This morning a chill is in the air. Doodle dog is by my side as I sit by the fire wrapped in an afghan of cream where I am forever thankful for “Grandma Joan.”

 

 

 

Penny For Your Thoughts?


Long before I knew what growing up ever meant, I had two maternal aunts who were never far from my side, always ready to show me the way. My mother was one of four sisters, one slightly older followed by two younger half-sisters, several years younger. There was never any deviation between the four girls. They loved and fought with the gusto of any sisters, full blood or not.

Upon my birth, my mother’s little sisters, suddenly aunts of mine were only five and seven years of age. Throughout the years, we more or less grew up together, and I often thought of them as big sisters, more friends than relatives. We had a bond, often whispering to each other our innermost secrets and dreams, or wishes for the future which of course changed as the years went by.

When my little brother was three, he needed open heart surgery, one of the first to be performed at U of M Children’s Hospital https://kimgosselinblog.com/2013/10/30/loving-mother-infant-heart-surgery/. I went to stay with my grandparents during this precarious time, including several visits afterward whenever extended follow-up was needed. My aunts made my life magical during a stage in my life that could have easily turned traumatic. They took me under their wings, played with me like a baby doll, and made me feel safe and secure. I remember sharing a room with them, where we slept together in bunks of two while listening to Alvin and the Chipmunks, on their phonograph over and over again. One of my aunts had to climb down the ladder to move the needle over every time the 45 record ended. Up and down, down and up. And, every afternoon, as soon as the two stepped off a giant yellow school bus, another of them would scoop me up before plopping me inside the front of rattan bicycle basket where the three of us rode off into the woods. There, we often sat on the rough of a fallen log where they made up stories while braiding my hair. Sometimes a snack or two was shared while we hunted for woodland treasures, caught frogs or waded in the clear of a bright blue stream among slippery silver minnows. 

The Chipmunks, as seen in the live-action/CGI ...

My aunts, of course, grew older before I did until one day, both of them had boyfriends. By then, I was simply a pest they wanted to swat away. Their sweethearts used to pay me to run across the street where an old neighborhood store sat on the corner. “Buy yourself anything you want,” they said. Suddenly, a shiny silver quarter was stuffed into my pocket, allowing me to purchase handfuls of penny candy. “Take your time.” Far too soon, I was back in front of them carrying a little white paper bag. Bazooka bubbles of gum smiled and popped directly in front of their boyfriend’s faces!

Bins of candy on display at Murphy's Candy and...

When my parents traveled for work, one or the other aunt would often babysit, staying for a weekend or more to wrangle me and my four younger siblings. They attended high school by this time, and I thought they were so cool. One day, I wanted to be just like them! We often shared my mom and dad’s king-sized bed, where I listened to whispered worries in the light of the moon. Treasured secrets never to tell….

Years later, when I married, one aunt was a bridesmaid, while the daughter of the other was my flower girl. Tragedy struck on one of the happiest days of my life. The aunt of my little flower girl had a seizure at the reception and was quickly taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. She adored children, especially babies, and rooted me on during my monthly struggle with infertility. Nearing her end, she said, “Come’on, Kimmy. Hurry up and get pregnant! I want to hear the good news before anyone else. Promise me!!”

My aunt passed away in February of 1986 at the age of 34. Three months later, when my EPT tested positive, I dried my tears, hopped into my coveted canary yellow Chevette and drove to the cemetery. There at her gravesite, I bawled my eyes out while sharing my blessing. Yes, she was the first one to hear.

Penny for your thoughts?

A Few of My Favorite Things


There’s something to be said about downsizing. Purging through all worldly goods in order to make room for a smaller space. Not long ago, I went through it, and although not easy, it actually felt good in the end. If I didn’t absolutely love something or need it, PLOP, it was dropped into one of three boxes: selldonate or garbage.

This morning, I sipped a warm café latte from a painted cup of cream decorated in dusty roses woven in stems with muted green leaves. A matching bread plate sat in front of me holding a freshly toasted English muffin that called my name. “Come closer…nibble away….” Nearby, a shiny teaspoon of silver rested upon the cup’s saucer, while a butter knife in a flowered pattern of the same shined in rays of early morning sun.

The dishes were my mother’s, passed down to me after she died nearly six years ago. Afterward, I proudly displayed them in a packed china cabinet where they were used only once or twice a year during the holiday seasons. The silver was a wedding gift, over thirty years ago. I’ve used it perhaps twice a year, again, during the holidays.

In sorting through my life, I found a few of my favorite things simply put away, or saved… having chosen other items to use in their place. Why? What was I saving them for? When was the right time, if not now? Prior to my move, an estate sale was held where everything imaginable was sold, except a few of my favorite things…those that I had been saving. Downsizing opened my eyes to using and enjoying my favorite things. No longer do I save them for someday in the future that may never come to be.

Now in my smaller home, I use my mother’s dishes each and every day, including my wedding gift of good silverware. I’m creating new memories while bringing back some of the old. My mother’s dishes will forever trigger warm and loving thoughts of food and family around her Arizona table of solid oak. One day, my grand-babies will learn about their great-grandmother, of how much she would have loved them, and about the dishes they are spooning from. And too, about the very spoons themselves, those that are now clutched in chubby hands while dropping green peas or dribbling applesauce down wee chins.

Yes, there’s something to be said about downsizing. Use and enjoy your favorite things today, don’t save them for tomorrow.

 

moms-dishes

Do You Believe in a “Chosen Day?”


Before the ringer on the avocado wall phone rang, I felt my father’s presence. On the other end, his shaky voice crackled and choked with words, rehearsed. Finally, he simply said, “Grandma’s, gone.”

What could I say to lessen his pain? “I’m so sorry, Dad.” My father was my Grandmother’s only son, the sixth of seven children. Although I did not say it then, I remember thinking she chose that particular day to meet God in heaven. It happened to be Good Friday of that year, the perfect time for her to go. I believe she knew it so.

My earliest memories of Grandma are visiting her in a spotless abode. It was a considered a ‘salt-box’ house https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saltbox, set in a quiet neighborhood on a clean and cozy city block. I remember the bedroom of Grandma’s house as being kind of sanctuary where fancy bottles of rose-water sat on a mirrored tray atop her vanity table. It was to be respected, and never entered without permission. An unspoken rule. My father was born in that very room on Christmas Day in 1933.

Clean and smooth cement sidewalks ran in front of a shiny black railing at Grandma’s house. Like monkeys, I remember my brother and I dangling from it to get a better view of the neighbors next door. Children rode fancy bicycles or skipped hand-in-hand on those sidewalks. Early on, I remember Grandma’s beloved house being covered in old black and gray speckles all the way around. Soon the sides were replaced with asphalt shingles, the color of mint-chocolate-chip ice-cream. It stayed that way for years and years….long after she was gone.

My grandmother was a proud Swedish, Lutheran. She went to church every Sunday in a crisp cotton dress and wore a hat to match upon her gray curled head. In the winter, she wore a long felt coat of camel or royal blue with a mesmerizing pin made of fancy colored stones glued into birds on branches. Now and then, she wore a double heart or a half-moon over the sun.

When I was a little girl wearing ruffled dresses with hair to my waist, Grandma dabbed a tiny dip of fluffy Avon cream to each of my wrists. Soon, I smelled like the flowers that grew in her kaleidoscope garden. Sometimes, I’d pest her until she let me try on her shiny black shoes, the ones with tiny heels and long laces… just for fun. On Sundays, if I sat quietly next to her in church she taught me to sing, “Lu-Lu” when the music played. I was still too young to read the words.

My Grandmother never learned to drive a car. My father drove her to church each and every Sunday, usually scooping her up from the curb a bit late. Our phone rang three or four times before my father together with five children rushed through our waiting back door. Racing to pick her up, Grandma will forever be in my mind, standing at the curb in front of her saltbox home. Even now, I see her there in later years, looking tiny, rocking impatiently to and fro. She’s holding a smooth black pocketbook. She closes the shiny golden clasp, making a clicking sound. Barely stopping by the curb, my dad swings open the door, as if we are driving a getaway car. There’s not a second to spare before my Grandma’s beloved church sermon begins.

Afterward, we’d take Grandma home, where the tradition was to go inside for a dollop of chunky applesauce served in dainty china bowls. On the side were freshly baked molasses cookies set on matching flowered plates. She’d wait on us hand and foot, only sitting to rest after pouring a few cold glasses of milk. Then, she’d excitedly tell us of her daily plans. Gardening, baking or writing personal letters on perfumed stationery, perhaps?

After I grew up and went to college, my grandmother began to forget things. Her old-fashioned stove of white was left burning too long or important house keys became lost in a sugar bowl without the lid. Soon, it was too dangerous to let Grandma live alone. Doctors didn’t have an exact diagnosis many years ago, but today I have no doubt that Grandma lived with Alzheimer’s disease, a Chronic Condition stealing the brain of memory and more. Alzheimer’s Disease is a progressive disease. There is no cure, but today help is available that wasn’t an option for my grandmother. http://www.alz.org/alzheimers_disease_what_is_alzheimers.asp  

Two weeks after I gave birth to my first son, I took him to meet his great-grandmother in the sparkling snow of Michigan. For a moment, Grandma had a bit of recognition. Cradling my newborn, I knelt to introduce her to my child. “Would you like to hold him?” Her dull, blue eyes suddenly lit with excitement. Placing him carefully in her arms, she stared at him with love renewed. “Oooohhh, look at his beautiful eyes,” she said, over and over and over again. I snapped a few pictures then. They are the only photographs that I have of my son with his great-grandmother. She was happy in those brief moments, and I’ll cherish them forever. Two weeks later she passed away.

On her chosen day….

Birthdays with Daddy and the Mommies Behind Them


As a young girl, I remember my mother sewing me a special dress of flowered cotton just before my big day. She braided my long hair of dark blonde before tying ribbons to match near the bottom of each. Then a kiss on my pink cheek. Both, I think.

Ding-dong, the front doorbell rang. Mother made a huge production of who might be standing behind the honey colored, wooden door. I remember getting so excited until I jumped up and down in my patent leather, May Jane shoes. The bell rang again. Slowly, Mother opened the door. I clapped my hands. “Open it, open it,” I begged! My heart skipped a beat. Slowly, Mother turned the shiny brass of the round knob to open the door. It squeaked and swung inside to the right. It was Daddy! Daddy stood behind the honey colored, wooden door

I remember my father being all dressed up in his very best suit and tie, probably his only suit and tie. I was four or five years old at the time, with love spilling out of every pore. He smiled before coming inside. Within the two of his hands, he held a white box, the kind I had never seen before. Handing it to me, Mother helped the two of us open it. Inside was a corsage made of a single pink carnation accented with a beautiful satin bow. If I close my eyes tight, I can smell the sweet scent of it even now. Mother helped Daddy pin the corsage on my pretty new dress. I remember the pin was long and silver. At the end, it had a beautiful pearl of white. Seconds later, I learned my daddy was taking me on a date, just the two of us!

This soon became a birthday tradition for me. For several years, I pretended to be surprised when the doorbell rang at the sight of my father just before dinnertime. Every year he carried a flower corsage and fumbled with his fingers when he tried to pin it to my new dress. Mother rescued him from the shadows each and every year. My father was ever the gentleman, opening the car door for me, taking my arm when we went into a restaurant and helping to pick out magic music on the jukebox. I remember dancing atop his shoes in ruffled stockings on my feet……Afterward, we went to the famous Bay City, City Dairy where we gobbled hot fudge sundaes while sitting on red stools at their Formica counter.

In looking back those were treasured birthdays for me. Traditions created by my mother, no doubt. Oddly enough, I didn’t think of them yesterday which was my birthday. No, the memories flooded me today. Why? Because it’s my mother’s birthday. I’ve been thinking of her all day long. How selfless she was! It was always about my birthday, never about hers which fell the very next day. I suppose this is what all mother’s do.

Happy 80th Birthday, Mother. Thank you for who you were, for all you gave to me and others, and for the memories held deep within my heart. I love you yesterday, today and tomorrow.

pink corsage

 

Tangible Time


Hourglass handQuiet in my office space today except for the sound of clothes tumbling in a dryer a few rooms away. Things to get done before I’m on my way. Off to visit my father in Arizona tomorrow. Yes, leaving on an old familiar jet plane to soar above into a golden setting sun off the tips of shiny silver wings.

So much to do with extra excitement too. Lots of relatives to visit during my brief stay among the tall green saguaros within a painted desert land. My precious father of course, together with my father-in-law and my dearest great-aunt. In addition, I look forward to seeing three of my siblings and other relatives who live nearby. My husband and I will be very busy!

My great-aunt, who I love so very much is not doing well. She hasn’t been for quite some time. Now blind from her own Chronic Condition of Glaucoma, she’s not able to telephone me anymore. How I miss our giggling chats! I’ve written about her before, once on New Year’s Eve http://wp.me/p41md8-Uo , and it wasn’t long ago that I scooped her up for a visit to St. Louis. But, even then, I knew she would probably never be coming back.

I will treasure my Arizona memories perhaps like never before. Besides squeezing a frail hand of my precious great-aunt, the touch of my father and father-in-law will feel differently this time. The warmth of their skin will be soaked like a sponge, their hugs imprinted for only me to see. Time has become tangible as I feel my loved ones aging closer toward Heaven.

 

The Gift of An Unexpected Day

Oh to cluster sands of coral within an hourglass of time

Seconds trickle silently

Speck by speck, grain by grain

Falling through clear 

Dropping one by one

Ever s-l-o-w-l-y not to hear

Reaching bottom

Single seconds drifting into precious minutes

Until the gift of another day may come my way

Lost and Found


The last weekend of long was filled with anticipation for me.  I was off to visit my elderly father in Phoenix, Arizona.  I use the term elderly in a loose manner as he doesn’t look elderly to me, nor does he behave as such.  A boy’s brain in an aging body it seems.  I thank God for that.

I met my sisters at the airport and immediately our togetherness could have become a pilot for an unscripted reality show.  Even at the airport, we got lost before finding each other.  From there it went downhill whenever our sub-compact rental car opened it’s doors to us.  Contorted in every-which-way, we felt caged in small can of tin on wheels of four.  Minus an opener.

My youngest sister was the designated driver.  It was only after we made a wrong turn coming out of the airport that I realized she needed glasses for distance.  She couldn’t read a single sign.  “Kim,” she playfully squawked at me, “I’m a great driver when I know where I’m going!”  “Kellie, you don’t know where you’re going because we’re in Phoenix, not Dallas!”  “Yes, but I’m really good when I use your eyes!”  Seriously?  Seriously??!  “That’s fine,” I responded, “but my eyes are not behind the wheel!”

What should have been a 45 minute drive to my father’s house ended up taking two and a half hours.  My GPS helped to re-route us while my younger sister’s did the same from the back of our seats.  Every few seconds or minutes voices were heard guiding us.  “Make a U-turn, proceed to ramp,” or “Merge on to I-10.”  Again and again and again.  Have you ever tried listening to two voices at the same time?  It was very confusing.  Even more so because one of them had a British accent.  No luck in turning it off.  I tried.  Several times.  The British accent was along for the ride!

Finally we called my father.  Five or six times….At least.  I can’t imagine what he was thinking.  It was nearly 11:30 pm.  He had been waiting for our arrival since 9:00.  Like any father, he was worried and scared, wondering what could have happened to his three daughters.

Guiding us into a parking lot of a nearby restaurant, San Tan Flats, his voice crackled in disbelief through the speaker of an I-phone.  “Oh you girls, do you see the stuffed bear to the left?  Turn right.  Drive until you see a For Sale sign at the end of the parking lot.”  We did before somehow ending up at the restaurant’s hulking emerald-green dumpster.  Our bright lights caught a raccoon scampering off in the distance of the desert darkness.

“Dad, what do we do now?” my sister asked, in panic.  I could tell my dad couldn’t believe his ears.  “Back up, back up, turn around and follow the smoke from the campfire.  Go out the nearest drive to the first road.  I’ll stay on the line.”

Bless my father’s heart.  He did stay on the line, hearing a big thud as we drove over a Saguaro that had fallen during a recent storm.  Car lights, bright from our rental car soon shined on the best of him.  Standing in the middle of the dusty desert road he stood wearing baggy jeans and a loose yellow shirt.  On his feet were tennis shoes, glowing in fluorescent white.  His legs were balanced straight, even and wide apart.   His arms of two lifted high towards a clear endless sky with hands swaying back and forth in a frenzy as if to yell, “STOP!  Turn off the engine now, before it’s too late!”

In spite of our trials of lost and found my father together with all of his children had the very best time.  Rare because the five of us were all together with him.  During the weekend we went to the American Legion where he sang Karaoke and danced the night away with his girlfriend.  Yes, she is so kind and they are happy!

My sisters and I woke in early mornings to share coffee under quiet, peaceful canopies of leftover stars.  We walked at dawn to discover horses who neighed, mongrels who barked and flowers that bloomed “Hello” from nothing more than dry cinnamon dust of a desert crust.

Then the inevitable happened.  Such sweet sorrow to say, “Good-by.”  A whisper in my ear from my father. Choking up he said, “Your mother would love to see all of you kids together like this.”  Hugging him tight, I whispered back, “She does, Dad.”

That’s what life is all about.  Love and bonding.  Togetherness.  No matter how far apart, get together again.  Create new memories.  Laughter.  Even the mini-trips of lost and found with my sisters will forever be with me.  I dare say one of my ribs might be broken from laughing so hard.  No matter.  All was worth it.

From every second in the desert dark to each minute of my father’s mark…..All above is in my heart forever.

Memories are made of this.. 1969 Peter Sarstedt, Bad Moon Rising and Moon Landings


Sally’s lovely memories…Thanks to her many of my own have been released from that great year.  What do you remember?

Smorgasbord - Variety is the spice of life

It is 1969 and Apollo 11 was the spaceflight that landed the first humans on the Moon, Americans Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, on July 20, at 20:18 UTC. Neil Armstrong became the first man to step onto the lunar surface six hours later on July 21 at 02:56 UTC.  “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

That was the year I was 16 and about to take some small steps that were to be a giant leap for womankind… Well me anyway… Still at school but what was to be my final year. My headmistress and my mother had a meeting with me present about my choices. Stay on for A Levels and go to university or to leave school and attend secretarial college.

I was a spectator to the discussion rather than a participant. Given my choice I would have gone to drama school…

View original post 664 more words