Posted in empty nest, family, Life

Waiting for Christmas

It’s January and the beginning of a brand new year – 2022. Yes, I know this because my wall calendar showed me it was time to turn the page and plenty of Happy New Year wishes have been uttered and proclaimed across the world.

But for this Mama and Papa in the old empty nest, it’s still Christmas. We’ve entered a time warp of sorts, a wormhole perhaps, that’s keeping us at a standstill.

We’re waiting for Christmas.

The outside of our home is still bedecked with garlands of greenery, wreaths on the windows and front door, and tiny twinkle lights of white and red outlining our house and front yard shrubbery.

Inside, it’s much of the same. Lighted garlands on the staircase railings, fireplace mantle, and other spots as well.

The lighted Christmas village still garners the top of our kitchen cabinets instead of the teapot collection that usually occupies that space.

A regiment of nutcrackers of various sizes are lined up on the piano. Snowmen and Santa have their assigned places as well.

The Christmas tree still adorned with all those memorable ornaments blazes in the living room and a child-sized tree with trinkets – many handmade by our children when they were young – stands in a corner of the family room.

Gaily wrapped Christmas gifts remain to be given. A schedule of fun games, activities, and prizes await, even a treasure hunt for the youngsters.

Christmas cookies are stored in the freezer. Planned menus and a gigantic haul of purchased groceries yet linger in the pantry and refrigerator waiting to be consumed.

The dining room table is festooned with lovely tablecloth, candles, and centerpiece, yet no one occupied the empty chairs there.

Various nativity scenes remain on display because they represent the real reason our family celebrates Christmas – the birth of our Savior and Redeemer.

Christmas may have passed by us on the calendar, but our family gathering for this holy holiday did not occur…yet. Yes, the empty nest was indeed empty on Christmas this year.

2021 was the year all our faraway adult children and grandchildren were traveling “home” for Christmas. And we all anticipated it with so much excitement and happiness to have this empty nest filled with love, hugs, and laughter again, especially since one set of family members hasn’t been “home” since Christmas 2019.

But, here Mama and Papa are — still waiting for Christmas. Why? Because a nasty virus that has held the entire world in its vicious grasp for so very long cast its malicious spell on members of our family, this Mama included. For the safety of all, everyone remained at their homes.

In the meantime, as we wait until we can join together as a family, we pause and give thanks for the greatest Gift ever given to this world – a Savior named Jesus Christ. And we are grateful for each day of life we are given, whether we have a festive celebration or not.

Nothing can take away our hope. Hope in a God who loves us, provides for us, and saves us. Hope for a healthy, happy New Year. Hope that we can gather as a family once more soon and celebrate Christmas better late than never.

“The best of all gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.” ~ Burton Hillis


Posted in Christmas, family, Life

Words for Wednesday: no cookies

Time is of the essence and being waylaid with some kind of sinus infection has sent me backwards in Christmas preparation as all of our offspring and grandchildren are singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas….you can count on me.”

Right now I’m counting on Papa who is a tremendous helper in getting the halls decked inside and out. But we haven’t had time to make any cookies yet and that is an old tradition to have scads and scads of Christmas cookies on hand in this household. But I don’t think it would be a good idea to be sneezing into the flour, do you?

For now, I’ll just enjoy the photo above of the cookies I baked during other Christmas seasons while I look over the items I want to check off my list.

Suddenly though, I am reminded that my Christmas to-do list should not be my focus.

To quote Dr, Seuss in How the Grinch Stole Christmas “Maybe Christmas (he thought) doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.

As a believer in a Savior named Jesus Christ, I know Christmas DOES mean not just a little bit more but a WHOLE lot more. So while being a tad under the weather has slowed me down considerably, I’ve discovered that is something for which to be thankful.

Slowing down makes me simplify everything. And in doing so, I can focus on the real and true meaning of why we, as a family here in the empty nest, celebrate Christmas.

Because in a lowly stable over two thousand years ago, a tiny babe was born and His name would be called “Wonderful, Counsellor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6)

Emmanuel, God With Us. And He would change the world.

I need to change my perspective in how I’m approaching this blessed holiday and I don’t need cookies to remember the greatest gift God ever gave us.

“Let’s approach Christmas with an expectant hush, rather than a last-minute rush.” ~ Anonymous


Posted in family, travel

Tuesday Tour: everywhere but here

You’ve been on a few journeys with me by reading my Tuesday Tour posts, if you’re a faithful peruser of Mama’s Empty Nest.

A song Johnny Cash sang comes to my mind: “I’ve been everywhere man. I’ve been everywhere, man. Crossed the desert’s bare, man. I’ve breathed the mountain air, man. Of travel I’ve had my share, man. I’ve been everywhere.” (lyrics written by Geoff Mack)

Okay, I’ll admit, honestly I haven’t been EVERYWHERE. Scads of folks have traveled to more places than I have. But I have visited 40 of the 50 states here in my own country, the USA. Only 10 more to go! The only other country I’ve stepped foot in is our neighbor to the north, Canada.

Someday, if the world and all the craziness in it ever calms down, Papa and I would like to travel abroad. Time will tell if we get to fill that bucket on our list.

In the meantime, we’ll journey as much as we are able, but for this week, my Tuesday Tour post is different.

You see, Papa and I have been on the open road again. Doing a bit of traveling outside of this empty nest. Not to accomplish some sightseeing, but to visit our grown up children who live in different states than we do.

“I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.” ~ Walt Whitman

We trekked several hours to the state next door to spend a few days with our son, daughter-in-love, and grandchildren in their new home. And over the Thanksgiving holiday, we traveled a good day’s journey down southern way to scarf down turkey and the trimmings with our oldest daughter and son-in-love.

So, we’ve been traveling our favorite way, on road trips, and time for writing more touring posts and scanning the old 35 mm photos from those excursions past has been scanty.

With Christmas looming in the very near future and all our family singing “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” I’m not convinced that there will be any more “virtual” tours in this blog until after the holidays are complete. This Nana is going to be one busy gal until the new year arrives.

For now though, Papa and I just relished our time together rambling down the highways to spend cherished days with loved ones. (The opening photo was taken on one of those trips.)

And we’re grateful for it and each other.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re going. It’s who you have beside you.” ~ Unknown

© 2021

Posted in family, Life

Words for Wednesday: the way we were

I just spent several days in October with my sisters, which doesn’t seem that extraordinary, does it? But the three of us, of which I am youngest, haven’t been all together for four years or so.

One sister lives in the area and she and I are together often for which I am grateful. But my other sister lives a couple thousand miles away, so time spent with her is sparse due to distance or circumstances beyond our control.

Circumstances are what happened when my far-away sister and brother-in-law attempted to drive their RV from their out west state eastward to visit us back in May.

An unfortunate accident, when my sister fell and broke more than a handful of bones in her leg, prevented them from continuing their trip and waylaid them only a few hundred miles into their journey.

After surgery which prompted me to call her the “bionic woman,” much recuperation and physical therapy for many, many weeks which turned into months, she was cleared for travel once again. And this time, they made the cross-country trip without incident, again a reason for gratefulness.

What joy we experienced during their visit! And we shared a lot of memories. Wonderful memories of the way we were in our family.

If you’re a certain age like I am, you may recall a movie from the 1970’s starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford entitled The Way We Were.

Streisand sang the movie’s theme song and those old lyrics came back to me so easily as I sat down to compose this post.

Light the corners of my mind
Misty water-colored memories
Of the way we were
Scattered pictures,
Of the smiles we left behind
Smiles we gave to one another
For the way we were
Can it be that it was all so simple then?
Or has time re-written every line?
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we? Could we?
Mem’ries, may be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget
So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember…
The way we were…
The way we were…
(Written by Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, Marvin Hamlisch)

Memories. While the three of us sisters gathered, we shared many truly lovely, endearing, and even funny memories of the way we were.

“Time and space may separate us, but not the thoughts and memories that bind us.” ~ Ed Parker

And we sorted through even more memories. With our mother already in her heavenly home, our father passed away over a decade ago, and we then emptied out our parental home to prepare it for sale.

We just couldn’t decide what to do with some memorabilia, so we packed items into plastic totes and unfortunately, those bins took up residence in my basement ever since. So, while our other sister was visiting, the three of us sorted through those remains.

What did we find? Memories. But most of them did not belong to us. Some were from our parents. Even some belonged to our grandparents who passed from this earth over 55 years ago.

Old greeting cards. Long forgotten letters. Personal items like Grandpa’s coin purse, bow tie, and leather straight razor shaving strop. Grandma’s hat pin, shoe buttoner hook. Mom’s overflowingly full recipe boxes. Dad’s high school graduation yearbook and his retirement recognition. Memorial books from all their funerals.

And there were scrap books. Five scrap books full of newspaper clippings some going back to the 1930’s and further back.

Memories. All those memories that actually did not belong to us but gave us a glimpse into the past. A glimpse of our departed loved ones’ memories. The way they were.

But the question we had to ask ourselves was “Who will care?” Who wants to preserve those old memories of days gone by and long forgotten? Not one of us three sisters believed our children or grandchildren would be interested in any of it.

As we rifled through those memories, sorted them, and eventually tossed most of them into the refuse bag, it saddened me.

Not because I wanted to keep those remnants but because at some point in time, our family members long gone thought they were important enough to keep. But their value had diminished away.

And the material items we think are worthy of value now will do the same. Perhaps we should leave memories behind by our words, told and retold to our children and grandchildren, not our things.

“Sometimes you will never know the value of something, until it becomes a memory.” ~ Dr. Seuss

© 2021

Posted in family, Life, photography

Words for Wednesday: into the woods

School is now in session. But you don’t always have to be in school just to learn something new.

It’s that time of year when the big yellow buses travel down our road stopping every few houses to pick up school students. New backpacks, lunchboxes, shoes, clothes, and other school necessities have been purchased.

The school bell is ringing, and our oldest grandchild is growing up before our eyes as she is launched into a new year of learning.

The end of a lazy, hazy summer arrived before we could believe it, and we wanted to enjoy one last hurrah before her first day of school.

So, one day while her mama worked, Nana and Papa took Little One on a day trip that promised not only to be full of outdoor fun but also would allow some exploring and learning to boot.

Little One helped Nana pack a picnic basket with our lunch, sunscreen, tick repellant, and a thermos of ice water and off we set on an adventure into the woods. Our destination was a spot for which I have fond memories from my own childhood.

We traveled to Cook Forest State Park, an 8,500-acre area along the Clarion River in northwestern Pennsylvania. Sometimes thought to be a gateway to the Allegheny National Forest, Cook Forest is well known for its thickets of old growth white pine and hemlock trees.

It’s a popular spot for canoeing, kayaking, and tubing down the river as well as offering cabins for vacation stays, camping areas, picnic spots, and many wooded hiking trails.

We first stopped at an old, historic fire tower that I remember climbing as a teenager. Papa and Little One braved the 80-foot climb to the top while Nana snapped photos of their ascent. From its pinnacle, the scenic view from the tower is panoramic.

After being cooped up in the car, Little One thoroughly enjoyed the short hike through the woods to and from the fire tower and climbing over gigantic rocks. Being active was a plus, but what she didn’t realize was that she was also learning something new.

We stopped along the way to inspect fungi growing on trees, toadstools, moss, and giant gnarly tree roots. Papa helped her count the rings on a tree stump to determine how old the tree must have been.

At lunchtime, we found a quiet picnic spot beside a creek which provided even more adventure and education. While eating, Little One noticed two kinds of butterflies on a nearby tree and enjoyed watching them.

After eating, we explored a short trail that took us over the creek via two wooden bridges. But the best part was when she examined critters and rocks in the creek.

Tadpoles were a delight to watch. Wading up and down the cold-water creek was even more so and giggles of glee abounded.

From there, we drove along the river where we watched a few folks paddling kayaks and those tubing along on floats.  We even found a spot to wade in the shallow water and toss stones to determine the largest splashes and kerplops made.

A quick shower of rain didn’t dampen our fun either. As the day wound down and it was time to head back home, how did we end our excursion? By eating delicious scoops of ice cream, of course, from the Cooksburg Café.

Little One devoured her strawberry ice cream cone happily discovering chunks of real strawberries in it. Papa indulged in white chocolate raspberry trifle and Nana satisfied her cravings with a chocolate peanut butter cone that included the largest pieces of frozen peanut butter I’ve ever eaten in my life.

It was a great way to end a summer’s day, to enjoy an outing before school resumed, and learn a few of nature’s lessons.

Our Little One may be growing up with no way to stop time but we hope she never halts her desire to learn new things in this life. And her Nana and Papa will provide those opportunities as long as we are able.

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” ~ Anthony J. D’Angelo

© 2021

Posted in family, Life

Tuesday Thoughts

You know that old saying? Time flies when you’re having fun. It does.

When you are enjoying yourself immensely, the hours on the clock seem to rev up to warp speed. When you’re miserable, each minute drones on and on and you honestly believe the wretched day will never end.

Thankfully, even in the midst of this ongoing period of time that appears to drag on mercilessly (I’m tired of saying pandemic), Papa and I spent last weekend with smiles on our faces and joy in our hearts.

Blessedly, after about seven months of not being in each other’s company, we were able to spend an entire weekend with our son and daughter-in-love and their two adorable children – our beloved grandchildren.

Giggles, music making, and lots of playtime filled our hours and time whisked by us. Before we were ready, it was time to part.

That’s when we experienced some tears at the thought of goodbye. That’s when the little ones’ hugs and the “I love you, Nana” whispered in my ear reminded me that times of our family all being together, gathered in one place, have been too few.

And those times disappear as quickly as they come. Because all good things sometimes do come to an end.

But hopefully, not for long.

“Weekends are a bit like rainbows, they look good from a distance but disappear when you get up close to them.” ~ John Shirley

© 2021

Posted in family, Life

History keeping

I’m not a true antique collector, but I do possess several vintage items, classified as antiques, which belonged to family members no longer with us. Those mementoes aren’t worth much in monetary value, I’m sure, but for sentimental reasons, to me they are priceless.

For example, the photo above is an old washstand that once belonged to my maternal grandparents. Since they lived with us during the last few years of their lives, I distinctly remember this piece of furniture being utilized in their bedroom.

After their deaths, it found a home in my childhood bedroom. And when I was a young teenager, I painted it white because it was old and a bit decrepit looking. Years later after I married Papa, this old piece of furniture became ours, white paint and all, until I asked Papa to strip and refinish it.

He only occasionally worked on that project and soon it was relegated to the back burner of importance. A young family to provide for, family activities, and a career to maintain superseded an old hand-me-down. Eventually, he did manage to strip away all the layers of paint and varnish and dismantled the washstand into pieces to do the job correctly.

Then it sat in our basement, unassembled and in need of some repair work, for many, many years. Finally, just a couple of months ago, Papa hauled it out, repaired some broken areas, refinished it, and purchased new hardware for the drawers and door portion of it. And now, it occupies a place of honor in the eat-in portion of our kitchen.

And it gives me joy and provides sweet memories of my grandparents who I loved so much but lost when I was nine years old.

What do I know about this family “heirloom?” Not much, except of course, it belonged to my grandparents and they were married in 1900 – you read that correctly. So, it’s fair to say that this piece is at least 100 years old.  Sometime during the years in which my grandparents, married for 64 years, owned this washstand, the attached towel bar became missing.

But I’m happy to see this antique repaired, reassembled, refurbished, and in functional usage once again.

In the last few months, (because honestly, what else is there to do in this ongoing restriction of our comings and goings?) I’ve cleaned out closets and drawers in this empty nest. To say there is much to be purged from this home is an understatement and I just commented to Papa that we have lived in this house too long – over 20 years now, more than double the time we lived in any other home – and have acquired too much stuff.

His reply was, “You want to move?” Heck, no! But when we moved often in the first 20 years of our marriage, we did jettison unnecessary items each time, but now…well, we’ve found ourselves surrounded by more possessions than we truly need.

So, while blitzing through this and that, casting aside items to eliminate or donate, I concluded that some family heirlooms (and I use that word loosely), need attention. Both Papa and I can identify those items and from which family member we inherited them, but our offspring may not and probably do not have that knowledge.

Let me confess right here that I am an organizer deluxe. I prefer to have my ducks all in a row and to be able to find them exactly where I placed them. And now, with more time on my hands, my inclination for putting things in order advanced to the next level. Okay, don’t worry, I’m not obsessive compulsive about it; I’m just getting a better handle on what’s here and where it is.

I’ve often read articles that suggest at the first of a new year it’s a smart idea to take inventory of your household goods, document or update that, place it in a safe location, and if for some unforeseen reason, you have a catastrophe and lose such possessions, you then have an accurate record of them.

We hadn’t updated that in more years than I care to mention, so another project presented itself to be accomplished.  Using my DSLR camera, I took photos of all the rooms of our home, uploaded them onto a flash drive, and placed that, along with a hard copy list of household goods, with our other important documents.

Upon completion of that project, I realized that perhaps those family keepsakes passed along to us should be documented as well.  So, I created an Excel spreadsheet with each item’s description, where it’s located in the house, and most importantly, from which family member it originated, and placed that with our home inventory information.

What our offspring/heirs choose to do with those items will be at their discretion, but at least, they will understand why we kept the mementoes and the family significance behind them.

Maybe it’s because Papa and I have reached a certain age of…maturity… but we now wish we had paid better attention to family stories and asked more questions about some of the keepsakes we now possess. Since both of us are the youngest in our families and our parents were older when we were born, there’s family history we just don’t remember or even know. And such information didn’t seem important to us while growing up.

Papa never knew his grandparents since they were either deceased by the time he was born or shortly afterward and for those same reasons, I only knew one set of mine who died when I was in elementary school. Hence, many of our family’s stories died with them. All we really know for certain about most of our ancestors are their names and vital dates like birth and death.

I have one cousin still living and a couple of years ago, he presented very thorough genealogy information, going back a couple hundred years, to me in a three-ring binder. We also have a fair amount of family genealogy about Papa’s ancestors as well.

When I read through the several generations worth of names written in that information, I find myself wondering what those ancestors were like. What kind of people were they? What was important to them? What were their lives really like, especially those who lived so many hundreds of years ago in a country different from our own?

Maybe that’s why some of the keepsakes seem so special to me. They provide a link to our past that we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Whatever the reason, my hope is that our children and grandchildren can learn a bit of family folklore from the memorabilia we’ve chosen to keep. Whether they opt to retain possession of those, pass them on to their progeny, or dispose of them will be beyond my control. But at least, they will know the family historical significance of each keepsake.

“Not everything worth keeping has to be useful.” ~ Cynthia Lord in the novel, Rules

© 2021

Posted in family, Life, Love

A valentine special

Photo by Rinck Content Studio on Unsplash

When February rolls around on the calendar, a lot of folks’ fancy turns to celebrating Valentine’s Day.

Love it or hate it, this holiday is a mushy-gushy popular one with the masses if you consider all the merchandise available in stores and online.

Papa and I do not celebrate Valentine’s Day with each other any longer. After three years of dating and 43 years of marriage, I truly don’t need a stuffed teddy bear wrapped up in a big red bow holding a fragrant or fake rose or a box of chocolates to tell me that my husband loves me.

He demonstrates his love for me every single day by the way he treats me, the loving ways he supports me, and in his kind manner of doing things for me. And I strive to do the same for him. So, we banished the cards and gifts a long time ago as truly not necessary because really, shouldn’t every day be like Valentine’s Day?

One of our offspring doesn’t care much for this holiday, not even when she was a teenager. To her, Valentine gifts and mushy greeting cards just seem overly showy and even insincere. I fear she resembles her mother when it comes to outlandish, unnecessary gifts and grandiose words of affection because those things don’t fill our emotional tanks like they do for some folks.

Instead, show us how much you love us by your actions – kind of ‘put your money where your mouth is.’ And by that I mean, don’t spend money on gifts, just mean what you say and prove it with your actions.

But since Valentine’s Day is fairly successful as a consumer-driven holiday, obviously many people enjoy the gift, card, and flower buying and receiving. Now please don’t think I’m berating those of you who love receiving or giving gifts, I’m not. I understand each person has a different “love language” and that may be yours. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Of course, the focus of Valentine’s Day seems to center on romantic love, but not everyone has a romantic relationship. So, maybe the holiday would prove more meaningful for everyone if we included demonstrating our love for our families, love for our friends, love for our neighbors, love for our fellow humankind – the way God intends for us to love one another.

When I recall Valentine’s Day in the past, I remember using construction paper to decorate a shoebox which I took to elementary school to be used as a “mailbox” for simple Valentine cards from my classmates. But two other fond memories of this holiday are foremost in my mind and both came from my father’s actions.

When I was just a youngster around three or four, my daddy sent me a big Valentine card in the U.S. mail. He could have just brought it home with him that day but instead he mailed it because he knew it would make me feel special. What a surprise that was and how excited I was to receive my own personal mail addressed just to me! That experience was such a treasure that I actually still possess that card – one I’ve kept in a safe spot for over 60 years.

The second memory is what my father did every year. On Valentine’s Day, he always brought home a big heart-shaped box of chocolate candies for my mother and three smaller ones for his three girls – my sisters and me.

This tradition continued even after my sisters, who were several years older than I was,  married. Dad still bought all of us Valentine candy. Years later after I married Papa and moved out of state, I continued receiving a package in the mail just in time for Valentine’s Day. A heart-shaped box of chocolates from my Dad.

At some point, we told Dad he could stop buying us candy since we really didn’t need those extra calories. I don’t know if he was disappointed with our decision or not. But now, I realize that those red and pink boxes bedecked with ribbons and filled with chocolates wasn’t the point.

It was the thought that counted. It was a loving husband and father reminding his wife and daughters that he loved and cared for them and in his eyes, they were special.

I remember my father’s loving gestures, which extended far beyond Valentine’s Day, with some melancholy tears brimming in my eyes, as I prepare little packages filled with Valentine goodies for my three grandchildren.

Do they need those little gifts? No, not really. But since two of them live in another state and Nana and Papa can’t visit them as often as we’d like (especially now), we must send Valentine greetings by mail.

All three of our grandchildren will receive special mail addressed just to them and those packages are reminders from Nana and Papa that we care about them, we love them, and they are all so precious to us.

So, in a way, we will celebrate Valentine’s Day this year by sending our love in a special package by mail.

“A bell’s not a bell ’til you ring it – A song’s not a song ’til you sing it – Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay – Love isn’t love ’til you give it away.” ~ Oscar Hammerstein

©  2021

Posted in family, grandparenting, Life

Words for Wednesday: first day

It’s in the air. I can smell it, I can feel it.

The days are still filled with bright sunshine and warm temperatures tricking us into believing summer is still hanging on till the bitter end, but after the sun sets in the west, the evening produces a bit of a chill.

And in the early mornings? Oh, it’s so very prevalent.

I’m talking about the change of season which signifies another kind of change. It’s back to school time.

Do you remember your very first day of school ever? I truly do not. Since I first hopped onto a big yellow school bus for the first time to attend public school 60 years ago (can THAT be right??!?), I don’t recall my first day at all. But I think it’s safe to say I was probably terrified.

My school didn’t offer kindergarten classes back then and preschool existed only in the cities where children went to “nursery school.”  So first grade was my first experience at school. I do have a few recollections of first grade but mostly they aren’t positive ones.

I was shy and timid and my gray-haired, somber teacher was also the school’s principal, so she was a strict disciplinarian. To me she loomed large over us with her very stern appearance and her unbending rules. Frankly, she scared me and most of the time, I was afraid to even open my mouth.

Once I became an adult, my mother shared a story about my first few days of school with me. As we were adjusting to school and schedules and rules, my classmates and I tended to cry during the day. Obviously, we sobbed because we were frightened or we just wanted to go home or we missed our mothers, who were mostly stay-at-home moms at that time.

So every school day for the first few days or so after I arrived home, my mother would ask me which of my friends cried that day. I didn’t like to admit that I shed tears as well because I really didn’t want her to know that. You know, put on a brave face so mom wouldn’t worry and would believe I truly was a brave, big girl.

One day, Mother asked me that question again and I promptly gave up the wailing culprits’ names. Of course, she suspected I wept as well, so she inquired once more, “Didn’t you cry too?”

My answer was, “Well, I wheened a little.” Apparently I knew the word whined and what it meant, but didn’t know how to properly pronounce it. Obviously, my mother thought it was funny enough to remember it and tell me the story decades later.

That memory came back to me just the other day – the first day of school in our local district. A lot of preparation and anxious discussion preceded it due to covid-19 concerns, but after advisement from area medical personnel and listening to parents give their thoughts and opinions via a video conferencing school board meeting, the district announced school would resume in person for those who wanted their children to attend. For others not comfortable with that, online learning would continue to take place as it had during the months of lockdowns.

Tons of safety precautions and procedures later, those big yellow school buses roared down our roads, picking up students, whose smiles or frowns were hidden by masks. Children must have their temperatures checked at home before they board, practice social distancing on the bus, and undergo another temperature check upon arrival at school.

It’s enough to make your head spin but I know one school student who happily complies. I can hardly believe it, but our grandchild – our oldest one, the first one, the one who loves to stay at Nana and Papa’s while her mommy works – trotted off to kindergarten just the other day.

She couldn’t wait. She was so excited to ride the school bus. She shared that she was eager to make new friends at school and confessed that she was a little nervous because it was a “big school, not like my preschool.” 

Papa and I arrived at her house several minutes before the bus was due to pick her up, we snapped photos, and she looked so big and grown up in her dress carrying her lunch box and her pencil case. She didn’t appear nervous or scared or any of the emotions I’m pretty sure I experienced the first day of my school career.

Instead, it was her Mama and her Nana who were nervous and apprehensive for her – but we didn’t let on to her that we were feeling that way. You know, put on a brave, happy face so she wouldn’t see us cry.

The big yellow school bus stopped in front of her house, she held her Mama’s hand and waited for Mr. School Bus Driver to motion that it was safe to cross the road, and she boarded that bus all by herself. Miss Independent. And at the end of the day, when she jumped off the bus, we could tell that she had a great, fun first day of ‘real’ school.

Even with her mask on, her eyes were smiling. As she removed it, she gushed about all the excitement of the day and she couldn’t wait to go back to school the next day.

A great start to a new season of learning. A new season of experiences. A new season of growing up. A change of life just as the season is changing.

I don’t remember my own first day of school all of those years ago, but I remember other first days. Wasn’t it just the other day that I was sending my own first child to school for the first time? Wasn’t it just yesterday that the other two eventually followed her onto that big, yellow school bus?

I remember those first days when my own children were filled with the same eager excitement that my grandchild experienced. I also remember feeling a little sad and teary-eyed but happy for them at the same time as they began a new phase of life.

And as long as my memory serves, I will remember my grandchild’s first day going off to school as well.

“You’re off to great places. Today is your first day! Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” ~ Dr. Seuss


Posted in family, grandparenting

Words for Wednesday: make your own fun

Summer. Hot temperatures. Little rain. Humidity climbing up the ladder of mugginess.

Add covid-19 restrictions to that. No amusement parks. No summer baseball games. No fun at a playground. No public swimming pools.

No fun outings. No trips to a children’s museum. No trips to the zoo. No carnivals or county fairs. No festivals.

No trips to the library. No cooling off at the movie theater.

No Vacation Bible School at church.

Only drive-through trips to get an ice cream cone which you must eat in the car.

What’s a child to do on a hot, steamy day at Nana and Papa’s house when summer fun is restricted?

Make your own fun by engaging in a water blaster fight with Papa. And hope it helps water the dry, crunchy grass.

She makes us determined to make her childhood enjoyable no matter what!

“Summer will end soon enough, and childhood as well.” ~ George R.R. Martin