May Memory


There they were.  As a child, I first discovered them while skipping along my maternal grandmother’s winding, weathered sidewalk path.  It led to beautiful backyard gardens of assorted tulip beds and pastel peonies planted along an aging wrought iron fence.  They were nearly growing wild in patches abutting cool cement basement blocks under Grandma’s kitchen window.  I kneeled too low for her to see or catch me there…I’d snip off a stem or two, until before I knew, I had almost more than I could hide or carry!

Sneaking off behind the back of my Grandpa’s shingled garage, I’d sit in the sun.  Crossing gangly legs on moist grass of green, newborn spring rosied my face.  Then, between youthful growing forefingers, I’d gingerly roll textured leaves, gently touching the tiniest white bells I’d ever seen.  Did they ring?  Lifting them closely to my ear, I swore ‘twinkling’ sounds could nearly be heard.  Ahh, my imagination.  An aroma wafted just below my nose, smelling sweeter than any colored rose!  The scent reminded me of Grandma’s perfume upon kissing the folds of her neck or the plump of her soft powered cheek.

As I grew up and older into a teen, “Lilly of the Valley” was always my favorite flower together with my favorite scent.  Memories from childhood carried on, I think.  When the time came for me to marry, I so wanted this blossom to be part of my wedding bouquet. Over thirty years ago this month, when the florist told me and my then, “finance” that a single stem would cost $15.00, I opted to carry silk instead.  I still had the beauty while the fragrance floated throughout my vast imagination…..

Guess what?  I truly did hear the twinkling of my favorite ‘Lilly’ bells ringing during that glorious sun filled afternoon!

May Memories to last a Lifetime.

*one of my favorite posts of May

 

A ‘Good Friday’ Memory of Grandmother


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 this day to meet God in heaven. It happened to be Good Friday, that year, and although I’m not sure if I said it then, I remember thinking it was the perfect time for her to go. I believed 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. Grandma’s bedroom was a kind of sanctuary where fancy bottles of rose-water sat on a mirrored tray atop her vanity table. My father was born in that very room on Christmas Day in 1933.

There were cement sidewalks in front of a shiny black railing of Grandma’s small front porch. Like monkeys, I remember my brother and I dangling from it to get a better view of the neighbors next door. Children rode bicycles or skipped hand-hand on that sidewalk. 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 roses 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 it in a shiny gold 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.

After church, we’d take Grandma home where the tradition was to go inside for home-made applesauce served in dainty china bowls. Served on the side were freshly baked molasses cookies set on matching flowered plates. She’d wait on us hand and foot, only sitting with us after pouring cold glasses of milk to tell us of her daily plans. Gardening, baking or writing personal letters on perfumed stationary, 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 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 told Grandma of her great-grandson. “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….

Queen Anne’s Lace


Early last evening the sky began to open.  Dry snow began to sprinkle down from heaven above.  It fell loose and landed randomly.  White powder reminded me of the sugar I used to watch my grandmother shake from a round sifter she kept in a metal kitchen drawer.  It was made of silver wire with a wooden handle painted in red.

My grandmother shook the ‘snow’ over stencils in the shape of a half-moon or triple sets of stars placed on top of a chocolate cake or brownies made from scratch.  Nearby, in her white porcelain sink floated used mixing bowls in colors of yellow, green and pink.

Yesterday, I’ll admit to feeling a little blue when the snow began to spill.  After all, it is nearly the end of March.  It seems as though God has put a temporary lid on our usual box of seasons here.  The spring that sprung only days ago is once again hidden underground.  For now….

Enchanting patterns fell to resting places atop the very tips of landscaped bushes surrounding my home.  Like miniature stars.   Still, I took them to be a sign of spring.  They were clusters that looked like, Queen Anne’s Lace.  The same flowers seen in fields of whispering wheat or near the sides of bicycle roads.  When I was a child they grew wild behind my grandmother’s green garage.  If snow hadn’t showered yesterday, I wouldn’t be thinking of my grandmother’s kitchen stencils or chocolate cake today.

Warm memories bursting forth through cold tufts of snow.  Spring has sprung after all.

God’s way to let me know…..

photo 2  photo 3  photo 4photo 1

Arizona Memories


Last night we looked for a Mexican restaurant nearby for dinner.  I hardly had an appetite.  Most of yesterday, I spent packing for today, when I get on that great big jet plane to fly home to my St. Louis town.  I had already said “Good-Bye,” to friends and a brother by phone.

Earlier in the day, I left my guest house to amble down a familiar path around the desert in the afternoon.  Jumping dogs on chain-link fences howled as I passed by.  Along the dusty, gravelled road, I waved to them for one last time.  Ahead, a tall saguaro looked down quietly from the rose and slate blue sky.  It didn’t say a word to me.  The crisp, dry air was silent.  Still, a message was whispered to me…..

Today I’ll call my Great-Aunt who lives about an hour away.  One last hug and kiss over the phone from my father’s home.  Later, I’ll squeeze my second brother tighter, thanking him for playing board games with me.  When it comes to my father, how do I say the words I feel?  I’m not sure they’ll be there when we must part.  He’ll drive me to the airport pulling to the curb.  I won’t let him park.  He’ll help me with my bags, our eyes will well with tears.  We’ll hug, I’ll kiss him on his rosy cheek before skipping away without looking back.  It’s too hard in fact.

So last night we headed off to the Mexican restaurant to have “our last supper.”  My spirits were low, how could they be not?  We pulled into the parking lot.  Like a western movie reel, there it was.  We pointed and did a double-take!  I laughed out loud, jumping from the car.  A saddled horse with a bridle and spurs was next to cars in the parking lot!  A beautiful horse with his reigns tied to a tree!  It was a sight no one would see in any other state.

That was my last Arizona evening sight.  It was perfect you know.  It’s in my pocket now, next to my boarding pass.

And the memories I shall never let go……………

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

Thanksgiving Memories


This Thanksgiving morn kindles fond memories of my Aunt Barb.  She was the eldest of my father’s seven siblings, always a special one to me on this day.  My aunt made Thanksgiving look and feel like a Hallmark commercial or a “pop-up” cut-out card to be treasured in a box under the ruffle of my bed.  If she were alive today, she would long be in the midst of Thanksgiving preparations, cozy and warm within the confines of her Bay City, bungalow.  Like a snow-globe found in a department store, a child’s hold could shake it to see her smiling there while stuffing turkeys, preparing pies, or filling crystal candy dishes for her nieces and nephew’s with colored, M&M’s.

My aunt Barb took it upon herself to create an extended tradition for my enormous family, one that I have never forgotten.  Generous in spirit, humble and kind, she was a special person through and through.  Blessed to have escaped a rare gene that ravaged the lives of three of her younger sisters, she made silent promises to God, I believe, in going above and beyond in ways others could not.

My aunt’s house was not a large home, two bedrooms and a bath.  Her galley kitchen was small with black and white linoleum covering the floor.  I remember the stairway going to the basement was directly in the back, with a windowed door in between.  On Thanksgiving, it was forever left open.  Once you passed through, magic began to happen. I can still hear the clicking sounds of my patent leather Mary Jane shoes as I raced my cousins down the stairway to the heart and home of Thanksgiving.

The basement was divided into two large rooms.  It wasn’t finished in a fancy custom design like basements are today.  No, simple cement block walls greeted me, painted in bright and cheery pastel colors.  I remember being in awe of an extra kitchen at the bottom of the basement stairway, making me believe my aunt was rich!  Looking back, it was nothing more than a row of necessities to make life easier on Thanksgiving Day.  An old farm sink in shiny white, a gold oven with a big round clock on top and a white refrigerator that made buzzing sounds.  Still, extra turkeys browned and baked within the oven’s warmth, jiggly salads of jello chilled in the refrigerator’s coolness, while dishes were endlessly washed within the basin of the sink.

The basement’s tile floor beneath our shoes was shiny and bright.  There was a corner where all of us kids took turns bending down to see our faces in it.  Windows were all around the bottom of the cement wall, allowing fall sunlight to peer in.  Our cousins smashed pink noses flat against the glass of dust to see us from the outside.  In return, we teased them from the inside.  They were missing all the good stuff!  The smells of pumpkin pie, the games we played and oh, the fun we had down the basement there!

In the next room was a table the length I’d never seen before.  Actually it was a combination of several little tables, all pushed together with many mis-matched cloths on top so one and all could sit together.  Anticipation seemed to last f.o.r.e.v.e.r!  Finally, my mother, together with all of my aunts took turns bringing in plates of delicious food. Carefully, they sat each colored platter and bowl on top of tables while lifting lids up above to allow steam to escape.  I marveled at the twirling smoke, watching it swirl to the top of the ceiling.  Soon my father said the Thanksgiving Day prayer, giving thanks for our many blessings, and always to Aunt Barb who had brought our great big family together, making us all one for the special day.

After bellies were full, women pitched in to help clean-up, children scattered outside to play make-believe, while men trudged upstairs to the living room to watch afternoon sports on a colored television.  Babies cried, mother’s bounced them on their knees, and daddies passed them back and forth.  Toddlers teetered, older cousin’s sneaked M&M’s from crystal bowls, little boys played cowboys, and I dreamed imaginary tales while talking with my cousin in the “woods” beside my aunt’s shingled house.  There wasn’t any woods, really.  An extra lot with a few trees, but to me it was Sherwood’s Forest….

When I picture my Aunt Barb today, I see her like she always was.  A beautiful face with skin the color of perfect porcelain.  With eyes as bright as the ocean blue, they truly were the “windows to her soul.”  She had a tremendous love for family together with an amazing zest for life.  She did almost anything she ever wanted.  My aunt traveled the world while helping others.  She laughed every day, danced with the two of her legs while twinkling her eyes.   I remember as a little girl, she used to tell me I was her special gift because we shared the same birthday.  Truth be told, she was my special gift.

Year after year, my Aunt Barb brought our overflowing family together on Thanksgiving Day.  I’ve cherished those memories ever since.  I will forevermore.

 

English: "The First Thanksgiving at Plymo...

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. 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. Smiling bubbles of pink Bazooka gum 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?