Mystery man, I hardly knew you

The only picture I have of this uncle

The only picture I have of this uncle

His real name was Arnold, but he answered to other names.  Some people called him Jim, some named him Skis, but I never knew why.   He was different, a little odd – definitely marched to the beat of a different drummer than most folks.

As far as I know, he never drove a car.  For certain, he didn’t own one.  Instead he walked everywhere he went or hitched a ride with someone.  He never married.  He stayed with relatives and for only a short time had a place of his own.

I don’t know what jobs he ever held, if any.  I suspect he just took odd jobs here and there whenever someone offered him some honest way to make a little cash.  He never had much money, which was evident.

He didn’t have many words to say either.  Every once in a while, he’d mutter something that you’d have to really strain to hear.  You couldn’t tell what he was thinking or feeling because for the most part he guarded his thoughts and words, probably because he had been ridiculed on one too many occasions.

He was a mystery to me.  Part of me was a tiny bit afraid of him, yet part of me wanted to get to know this strange man.  He was my uncle, my father’s older brother.

By the time I was born, he was middle-aged, but I always thought of him as an old man.  Many years ago, he passed away, but for some reason, this eccentric relative crosses my mind lately.

My husband and I lived in another state when my parents called to tell me that this uncle had died.   I don’t imagine many people  – other than a few relatives – attended the viewing or funeral.  My uncle didn’t appear to have friends.  Living so far away, I couldn’t attend either, and after the phone call announcing Uncle’s death, I felt like weeping.

Weeping for a man who no one, including me, really knew…or understood…or took the time to know or understand.  And that made me incredibly sad.

My family alluded to his being a little “off,” maybe a mental illness or a nervous breakdown, but I never knew the real story.  He often just showed up at our house unannounced, never strayed beyond the kitchen, never accepted the invitation to sit on the good furniture in the living room.

He’d only sit in a kitchen chair a few minutes, then jump up, pace back and forth, jingle coins in his pants pocket, look out the kitchen door, and then mumble, “See you” and he’d depart.  My mother, who treated him kindly but found him exasperating sometimes, would shake her head after he left, say “That man’s too nervous,” and continue whatever she was doing.

Sometimes he appeared at the kitchen door holding out in silent offering a honey comb from the bees that he kept.  I know he had discussions with my father, his younger brother, but for the life of me, I can’t remember one thing they ever talked about around our kitchen table.

A few vivid memories of Uncle from my childhood linger in my mind.  A tiny trickle of water ran through a marshy area on our property with weeds, cat tails, and reeds growing around it then into a culvert under the road.  In the spring, the little stream rushed with extra water from melting snows and rain.

I loved launching little plastic toy boats into the upper part of the steam and watching them sail under the road into our neighbor’s yard.   One day, shod in my rubber boots, I trampled through the weeds to find the perfect spot to set a boat adrift.   Uncle showed up, asked me what I was doing and growled, “You better watch out for copperheads.”

Snakes?  The thought had never occurred to me, let alone poisonous ones.  I gingerly picked up my boat, recoiled from the swampy area, and marched back inside, a little angry that he had spoiled my fun.   My 10-year-old mind was divided about his warning.  Part of me wanted to call him a silly old fool, but part of me believed him and thought he was looking out for my safety.

Another memory I harbor is of Uncle watching my father take pictures with his movie camera.   One spring the huge lilac bush in our back yard was lush with fragrant blooms. Dad grabbed the camera to take pictures and told me to get in the shot too.

As soon as I moved to the bush, Uncle bent a branch down low and near to me so blossoming flowers would be in the picture with me.  But he didn’t want my father to take his picture, just like the reclusive uncle not wanting to be noticed.   And I realize today that I have only one picture of this uncle when he was a young man.

My parents and I lived in what once was my paternal grandparents’ house.  When I was growing up, Uncle lived much of the time with his oldest brother, another of my uncles, whose home had a perfect view of ours.  Uncle seemed drawn back to his childhood abode – our house – but never visited us for very long.

I often wonder if Uncle just couldn’t bring himself to stay long in our house because all the memories of childhood and particularly his deceased family overwhelmed him.  As a toddler, he lost a brother to leukemia.  His father, my grandfather, died when Uncle was eight.  His only sister succumbed to cancer.   Uncle lived with my grandmother until she passed away, and then middle-aged Uncle was basically left alone.

I know he didn’t deal well with death because I witnessed that first-hand.   Uncle stayed with his elderly aunt and uncle from time to time, who lost their home to a fire.   A few years later,  his aunt – my great-aunt – passed away.   It was summer and I was home from college at the time.  My uncle showed up at our house, plopped down at the kitchen table, and did something he rarely did.

He looked straight at me and asked a question, “Are you going to town today?”

I looked back at him, noticed his weepy-looking eyes and answered hesitantly,  “Noooo…I wasn’t planning on it.”

“Okay,” he answered, jumping up and starting for the kitchen door.

“Wait a minute,” I stopped him.  “Do you need something?”  I felt really sorry for him for some reason.

“I just wondered if you’d get me a new white shirt to wear to the funeral home,” he replied. “But never mind.”

I was actually impressed that he wanted to look presentable to go to Great Aunt’s viewing, so I told him I would run his errand for him.  Did he want to go along?  A brief look of panic crossed his face as he pressed some money into my hand, muttered his shirt size, and darted out the door.

That evening, looking uncomfortable in his stiff, new white shirt and tie, Uncle sat alone in a corner of a far room at the funeral home.  No one really seemed to notice him; no one seemed to care to speak with him.

I quietly sat down beside him, noticed he looked upset, and asked if he was all right.  He nodded his head yes, then hung his head and that’s when I noticed huge, quiet tears streaming down his face.   It occurred to me that when Great Aunt died, he again lost one of the few people who probably were ever kind to him, one of the people he loved.

Because of his odd ways, people tended to shun him.   And I was just as guilty as they were.  But that evening was a turning point for me because that’s when I began to view this strange uncle as a real person with real hurts, fears, and the capacity to love.  And I wept there with him, not so much for Great Aunt but for him.  Years later, I again wept when Uncle left this world alone.

Even now, 30 plus years after his death, tears well up in my eyes as I think of this misunderstood uncle, lost in the world’s shuffle, that few people may even remember.  Today I wish I had taken the time to really explore his life, ask him questions, and try to understand him.

Opportunities present themselves to us every day, often we just aren’t wise enough to embrace them at the time.  When we realize we missed the chance to touch someone’s life in a positive way, it’s too late to make amends.

On this beautiful day, Page 18, Chapter 8, in my life’s book of Opportunity, I remember you, Uncle, but you’ll always be a mystery to me.

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Nostalgia lesson – past, present, and future

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My mom on the farm

“Nostalgia is like a grammar lesson:  you find the present tense, but the past perfect.” ~ Owens Lee Pomeroy

Living in the present IS tense.  Just pick up a newspaper, turn on the TV, or click on an internet news site.

You’ll find headlines screaming at you about economic crisis, crime, joblessness,  war, homelessness, natural disasters, and social disasters.  It’s enough to make you crawl back into bed, pull the covers up tightly over your head, and pull a Rip Van Winkle, hopefully awakening in 20 years to find it’s all over.

Maybe that’s why my mind often reverts to the past because the present is just so difficult to maneuver.   It’s true nostalgia makes one feel better, and when we look back at the past, we tend to remember the perfect moments.

The other day, I drove to a much-needed hair appointment at my favorite salon.   The morning air proved cool enough to fling my car sun roof wide open and power all the windows down.  Traveling on some country back roads to get to the highway, I relished the refreshing morning air, and that’s when I heard it.

A distinct sound immediately transported me back to the past, back to my grandparents’ house.  Somewhere a rooster crowed.   Loudly.   His “cock-a-doodle-doo” rang through the air.  Instantly, I remembered the chicken coop at my grandparents’  where roosters and hens roamed the yard freely.

I also recalled one old mean rooster from which I steered away because he frightened me.  Let’s just say he didn’t like the hand that fed him, that’s for sure.  Once he attacked my grandmother flogging her legs and hands until blood flowed from them.  Since she was elderly, she couldn’t scurry fast enough away from his menacing, pecking beak.  If I remember correctly, he ended up being Sunday dinner.

I was just a young child then, but I remember those things well.  When I think about chickens, I also recollect one Easter when my sister brought home two baby chicks.  They were the cutest, downy fluffs.  But as they grew, they became destined to join the other chickens over at Grandma’s house.   They weren’t so cute then.   In the past, they were adorable.  In the present, not so much.

Later on my day out,  I visited a local antique store.  I’m always on the prowl for vintage items that middle daughter (my antique loving one) might use for her wedding plans.  It was hot and humid in the store, just like stepping back into years of old when air conditioning didn’t exist.  The wooden floor creaked under my feet and the place was crammed full of furniture, what-nots, dishes, you name it.  If it was vintage, it was sitting somewhere in that shop.  Even an old pump-organ rested there amid the clutter.

As I roamed among the nostalgic wares, my eyes would spy something that reminded me of my mother or my grandmother which prompted another trip down memory lane.   Those kitchen items there – Grandma had those.  That lovely dresser set consisting of mirror, jars, comb and brush –  similar to a set my mother used.

All the items packed into that shop were useful in the past; some of them were loved and treasured by someone.  Now they just gathered dust sitting on shelves, crowded into spaces where a passerby might happen to take a liking to them.   In a way, it saddened me to think about all of the lives those discarded items represented.

After a while, the search for just the right treasure proved elusive.  Wilting from the humidity, I crawled back into my car, cranked the a/c up and headed home.  On my way, it occurred to me that we humans resemble those antiques.   Useful, loved and treasured for a few seasons, but one day, life on this earth must end.   For most of us, we’ll only be remembered when something triggers a memory of us in a living soul who once knew and loved us.

It’s true that we are like the grass as God’s Word reminds us in Isaiah 40:6-8: “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them.  Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever.”

We wither, we fade away, but that doesn’t mean life is without purpose.  When our purpose is to live for Christ, show others His love, and lead them to Him, our past may not be perfect, neither may our present be,  but the future?  Oh, that will be perfect! Coming face to face with Jesus in Glory, hearing Him say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” and spending eternity with Him is the most picture-perfect future I can imagine.

In my book called Opportunity, Chapter 7 is coming to a close.  On this 30th page, I’m thankful that the God of the Universe loves me (and you) and desires for us to spend our futures with Him.   To receive that gift of grace that will last for all time, all we have to do is acknowledge that we are His and accept that Jesus is our Savior.

The following Casting Crowns song is one of my favorites.  Even though you and I are just vapors in the wind, flowers quickly fading, waves tossed in the ocean, He hears us and He saves us.

© 2011 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Making a withdrawal from my snow bank

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One of our Christmas tree hunts in the ’90s

Christmas memories float in and out of my mind like a delicate, intricate snowflake swirling and twirling through the air as it journeys downward.

One of two events must take place – either the bit of snow lands softly on the icy backs of all the other flakes that fell to earth or the tiny fleck alights on something of warmth, like my outstretched hand, where it melts away forever.

I make concerted efforts to make certain my cherished memories land on heaps of other memories, to deposit them like snow in a snow bank, where at any point in time, I can withdraw thoughts of a pleasant place, event or a meaningful conversation with a loved one and remember.

I’m not sure who Augusta E. Rundel was, but I found this quote she wrote tucked away in my quote notebook –  “Christmas — that magic blanket that wraps itself about us, that something so intangible that it is like a fragrance.  It may weave a spell of nostalgia.  Christmas may be a day of feasting, or of prayer, but always it will be a day of remembrance — a day in which we think of everything we have ever loved.”

The Christmas season always sends me to my memory bank.  I feel blessed and fortunate that it invokes delightful memories that I can wrap around myself like a magic blanket.  I can only hope my children will have pleasant recollections to also remember someday.

For the last two days, my co-workers/friends and I have been weaving spells of Christmas nostalgia at our office.  Well, if the truth must be told, we’ve been relating our fond Christmas memories in between gobbling down all the goodies that have been pouring into our office non-stop.

Just today –  and I am not exaggerating – we were treated to several plates of Christmas cookies, pizza, sweet snacks, salty snacks, homemade candy, chocolate and raspberry candy, nutty homemade caramel candy, (who makes homemade caramel these days – a lovely supporter of ours, that’s who!) and six different flavors of fudge!

Perhaps our sugar highs contributed to all the reminiscing, but I heard some great and heartwarming stories.  One of my dear friends has grown children like I do.  She was very near tears as she shared that this year, for the first time, neither of her children will be home for Christmas morning.  Her family will be together later in the day, but she felt blue about the changes in her Christmas tradition.

I tried to console her (although I don’t think I managed very well) and I thought about those changes that will someday affect me.  None of my children are married yet, so they have nowhere else they must be on Christmas morning.  But how will I cope with those changes when my children spend Christmas morning in their own homes with their spouses and families or with in-laws?   Hmm…considering that inevitability caused me to make a withdrawal at my memory bank.

Let me take you back about 18 years ago…..  My family, consisting of hubby, our three young children and myself, lived in the Pacific Northwest.  The day after Thanksgiving, as was our tradition, we had ventured out to chop down our fragrant Christmas tree, one with such a large trunk we had to purchase a sturdier tree stand.  They grow big trees out there!

Our three were beside themselves with excitement as we hauled out the ornaments, lights and the special angel who always sat on top of our tree.  That evening, we extinguished all the lights in our living room and gathered around as hubby plugged in the decorated tree.  Our children squealed with delight, and then fell into silence as we sat enthralled and basked in the shining beauty of it!

I have the most vivid memory of sitting on the living room floor with oldest daughter, who was probably 10, cuddled up on one side of me; middle daughter, at age seven, on the other side; and four-year-old son on my lap.  Our twinkling, sparkling Christmas tree glowed like something magical as we began the season in which we celebrated the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  Emotion welled up inside of me and I started to weep.

“Mommy, Mommy, what’s wrong?” my children asked.  “Why are you crying?”

Hubby looked at me questioningly, probably thinking, “What did I do wrong now?”  But he bravely inquired, “What’s the matter?”

It was difficult to get the words out and make any sense of them.  But the joy and happiness I experienced sitting in front of our tree with my three little ones and my husband had suddenly turned to melancholy.   Even now, recalling that night and writing about it brings tears to my eyes once again.

I tried to explain my tears to my husband, knowing my little ones wouldn’t really understand.  I remember saying, “I just want to sit here and hold our children close, to remember this moment forever because some day, they will be all grown up and times like this will be just a memory.  They will grow up and leave our home and we will never get these moments back.  And I don’t want to lose that.”

That’s the truth.  I really did think that all those years ago.  This memory is stored in my bank.  I saw a glimpse of the unavoidable future that night and I knew that when that time came, it would make me sad.  And here I am, those years are upon me.

This year as our Christmas tree was lit for the first time, only hubby and I were here to experience it.   In the near future, we, no doubt, will encounter Christmases when our children aren’t home for the holiday.

That’s why this Christmas with all of my kids home, I will once again cherish the memories, guiding each whirling, twirling thought into my snow bank of reminiscences.

I hope you will do the same.  Hold tightly to those you love this season, take a moment to savor the sweetness of your time together, and then stow your lovely thoughts away in a spot for safe-keeping, whether it’s in your memory or written down – lest like the snowflake, they melt away.

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Keeping Thanksgiving

blogDSCN8143Thanksgiving memories are too precious to let slip by so I need to record them before they are pushed to the back of the filing cabinet in an old, unused, dusty folder in the storage compartment called my brain.

I love Thanksgiving.  I love its warmth, I love the idea of families gathering in the homestead, surrounding the bountiful table of delicious food with the beautiful faces of loved ones.  I love pondering and remembering to count all our blessings and name them one by one, as the old hymn my Grandma taught me says.

My memories of Thanksgivings gone by still come to my recall.  When I was a youngster and my older sisters were married, my parents and I would always celebrate the day of thanks at my aunt and uncle’s home.  If I close my eyes, I can still visualize my aunt’s steamy kitchen with its red and white gingham curtains on the windows.  I can smell the amazing aroma of turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie. 

I can hear my aunt and mom happily chatting as they busily prepare the feast for the day.  I can see my father and his brother, my uncle, talking seriously about world and local events in the living room while I am situated in the “sitting room” watching the Thanksgiving Day parade on the television.

Spending the day with family was an important aspect of Thanksgiving.  And to me, it is still essential.  Last year, Thanksgiving was a quiet and somber day.  Still reeling from grief over losing my dad, the only family I had to share this day with was my immediate family – my husband and our three adult children.  My oldest sister and her family live in other states and we rarely get to spend this holiday together.  My middle sister was sharing the day with her married son and daughter-in-law and her family.

But this year’s day of thanks was different and a more joyful occasion.  All three of our adult children journeyed home from the hinterlands for the entire weekend and my sister, brother-in-law, nephew and niece joined us as well.  I actually enjoyed being in the kitchen the day before preparing some of our favorite Thanksgiving goodies.

Wednesday evening our southern oldest daughter was the first to arrive home after a very long drive. How wonderful to see her beaming face at the door!  Middle daughter was scheduled to work the night shift at her hospital, but surprised me with a phone call happily announcing she was “staffed down” for the entire night – she didn’t have to work after all, so she was on her way home from the city!  Another smiling face at my door!

Shortly after her arrival, son also arrived home from the state next door.  Seeing his tall lanky form at the French door made my heart leap with joy!   By that time, hubby was home from his day’s work and what ensued was much hugging, laughter, story-telling and bringing in of luggage.  We talked non-stop – all five of us together.  It was as if we hadn’t seen each other for ages.

At one point in the evening, I quietly observed my dear beloved ones and I wanted to laugh out loud at what I realized.  The girls and I had gone upstairs and in no time at all, the boys (hubby and son) followed us.  I realized that all five of us were located in our master bedroom, sitting on the floor or the bed or standing while talking and laughing and enjoying our time together.

It reminded me of the past when there were three little children jumping on Mommy and Daddy’s bed to get our attention.  But here we were, five adults with a house full of separate rooms, yet we congregated in one room for much of the evening.  It was as if we just couldn’t get enough of being together and it was wonderful!

That evening our house was full with each adult child nestled in his or her old bedroom, but my heart was fuller yet.  Having our family together for Thanksgiving was the most precious of gifts and as I said my prayers that night I had so much to thank and praise God for.

Thanksgiving Day was just as delightful as we added full tummies to our gratitude list.  How thankful I was that we could afford to provide a sumptuous feast and that we have a warm home in which to live when so many of our fellow humans are hungry and cold and homeless.  What blessings we have and so foolishly take for granted when we fail to stop and thank God from whom all blessings flow.  I am reminded again how easily we squander our blessings instead of sharing them with those less fortunate than us.

That afternoon, my hubby received an unusual surprise.  One of his brothers, who he has not heard from or seen for a very long time, telephoned from out west just to catch up with the family.  They had a very good conversation – another thought of thanksgiving.

How grateful I was for fun and laughter as we played round after round of games with our family.  Hubby took the day off on Friday and how thankful we are for the job he currently has.  We’ve had a few bumps in the road with downsizing and job losses, so the blessing of a steady job is much appreciated.

That afternoon middle daughter met her boyfriend in the city for the “backyard brawl” (big rival college football game) and then they rejoined the family that evening. Another person to give thanks for – daughter’s bf – a wonderful, godly young man who obviously adores our lovely one.

blogDSCN7236Saturday brought even more fun and festivities. The girls and I attended niece’s baby shower – a real cause for celebration as a new little life will soon join our family. 

Again my mind turned to thanksgiving – we haven’t had a new baby join our family since my great-nephew was born about 12 years ago.  So this little girl arriving in December will be so lovingly welcomed.

The shower was lovely with a princess theme just like the wee one’s nursery.  We gathered with friends and my girls received an extra special treat when they got to tend a friend’s baby – a beautiful, sweet-natured boy.  We relished princess cake and my sister’s gift to her new grandchild of the Princess Potty Chair was a hit!

While we welcomed the princess, the boys were having some male bonding time at home.  Boyfriend brought his new shotgun.  Woo, boy, nothing makes manly men more excited than target shooting with a new gun in the back yard!  A few empty 2-liter pop bottles met their demise as well as some sweet potatoes cleverly disguised as clay pigeons.  As soon as we girls got home, my daughters wanted an equal opportunity – they tried their hand at shooting too. That’s when my thankfulness for living out here in the country kicked in.

Before I was ready, it was Sunday morning – departure day.  Oldest daughter, first to arrive now and 28 years ago, was first to leave.  Sitting in church that morning, listening to my young friend deliver the morning’s message, my heart was full of thanksgiving for my family, for my faith, for friends, for my Savior.

So many blessings, my cup of gratitude overflowed.  My desire is to experience those moments of gratefulness each and every day.  I do not want to let Thanksgiving Day go,  I want to keep it in my heart and mind not just for one day of the year but for always and especially during the upcoming Christmas season.

“Know that the LORD is God.
   It is he who made us, and we are his,
   we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving
   and his courts with praise;
   give thanks to him and praise his name. 
For the LORD is good and his love endures forever;
   his faithfulness continues through all generations.” ~ Psalm 100:3-5 (New International Version)

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Thanksgiving blessings

pexels-photo-265562.jpegThe season of Thanksgiving always makes me nostalgic and I love being retrospective and reflecting on all the blessings I’ve experienced over the years.

Today I re-read some of my earliest entries from a now unused blog I started five years ago when I was recovering from my cancer surgery.   Comparing my life then to where I am today evokes emotions that bring me humility and gratitude.

Here’s a quick look backwards:

  • November 2005 – Five years ago, I was so thankful to be alive.  My cancer diagnosis that summer frightened me, brought me to my knees, and made me realize how much of my life I took for granted.  It also caused me to examine a bitterness that had taken root in my heart.  Through much prayer and atonement, not only did I praise God for His forgiveness, but I came to fully forgive others.  The chains of bitterness that encircled my heart were broken!
  • November 2006 – I was happy and grateful to have been given another year of life to witness our son’s senior year of high school, tearfully and proudly watch him graduate from high school as valedictorian of his class, and send him off to college.  I was also very thankful for the high quality medical care in our city for middle daughter’s concussion treatment, appreciative for oldest daughter living in the city nearby, and so fortunate to enjoy time spent with my elderly father.
  • November 2007 – Another year graciously given to me chock full of blessings.  Despite some set-backs, God was working in all three of our children’s lives while teaching lessons about careers, college life, and loving relationships.  Good medical results from cancer screenings for me provided more fodder for my grateful heart.  We celebrated the holiday at my middle sister’s home with a feast of her awesome good cooking – always something for which to be thankful!
  • November 2008 –  Celebrating Thanksgiving that year, we had a full house – my father, my sister and her family, and all of my own family, especially wonderful since oldest daughter had moved to another state.  What a joy it was to sit at our bountiful table with some of the people I love the most, name and count our blessings, one by one.
  • November 2009 – Last year’s celebration at Thanksgiving was quiet and reflective.  Hubby was unemployed, and we had just lost my father the past summer. Grief was still fresh, especially on the first holiday without him.  But oh, there was so much for which to be thankful!  God supplied our needs, and we were warm in our home,  had plenty to eat.  Middle daughter had graduated from college and launched her nursing career.  Son had scholarship money to pay for his next semester of college.  Oldest daughter safely traveled home from the south for the holiday.  My father had lived a long, full, rewarding life of 90 years.  God took him home quickly before his suffering became too difficult and for that I was also thankful.

So many life events, some wonderful, some daunting, occurred during the last five years.   But through them all, the Lord has taught me lessons that needed learned, shown me grace, forgiveness and His faithfulness.   The blessings overflow like the goodies in a horn of plenty – a cornucopia of God’s love.

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Dancing in September

pexels-photo-707697.jpegDo you remember the 21st night of September?”

For those of you too young to remember, that’s an old disco song performed by a group called Earth, Wind and Fire.

For some reason, songs really stick in my brain and I can recall lines from songs better than remembering what day is trash pick-up day.

Speaking of trash, some of the songs being played on the airwaves today should be relegated to the trash bin if you ask me.  I often wonder what will happen when the younger set becomes the older generation.  Will they look fondly back to their “golden oldies?”   Will they wistfully listen once again to today’s songs and reminiscence about days gone by?  You know, songs from Lady Gaga and Eminem.

Many of today’s hit songs would make a well-seasoned pirate blush, that’s what I think. Songs from yester-year are mild and tame in comparison, but even better yet, they are tasteful.  Even in the rebellious years of the 60’s and 70’s into the me-decade of the 80’s, most songs did not have foul language in their lyrics, let alone sexual language too crude to even think about.

Call me old-fashioned, but give me the real oldies – songs from the late 50’s and 60’s.   My sisters were in their teens in those years and  songs from that era are filed away in my memory bank because I heard those songs a lot back then.  My oldest sister would have “pajama parties;”  we call them sleepovers today, except back then no one would ever think of inviting boys to a sleepover!

Sis would set up her pink and grey record player, with a big stack of 45’s waiting near by to be played during the party.  Yeah kids, record player.  Songs were recorded on vinyl discs called records – small ones were 45’s and they had one song recorded on them.  They were played on a contraption which had an arm with a stylus (needle) inserted into it.  As the record revolved, the stylus picked up vibrations off the grooves in the records, which magically emitted music from the record player speakers.

So Sis would invite all her teenaged girlfriends and they would dance to the records, eat snacks,  and just have fun all night, I assume.  I was never allowed to stay up for those parties because I was just a youngster of four or five.  The pajama parties were usually held in our basement, and I would sneak down the stairs part-way, sit on a step, and watch with envy as the girls danced, laughed, and squealed at their fun.  My sister would shoo me back up the steps, but sometimes one of her friends would take a shine to me and let me come down to dance awhile.  I not only remember the parties but the songs on the records they played.

Songs like “Cathy’s Clown” and “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Brothers, “Soldier Boy” by The Shirelles, “Papa Loves Mambo” by Perry Como, “Love Letters in the Sand” by Pat Boone, “The Monster Mash,” “Leader of the Pack,” and the list goes on and on.  Simple music from a simpler time.

My adolescent years took place in the 60’s and early 70s’s.  The music from that time is also ensconced in my memory.  The first record I ever purchased was “Mrs. Brown, You’ve Got a Lovely Daughter” by Herman’s Hermits.  I listened to typical teenage fare back then and graduated to songs by Elton John, The Doobie Brothers, and Chicago in my college years.

And then the disco era hit. By then hubby and I were married and starting to settle down.   The songs from the late 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s are scattered in my memory.  I was too busy producing and raising children to listen much to popular music, but I do “remember the 21st  night of September…Say do you remember, ba dee ya, dancing in September, ba dee ya, never was a cloudy day.”

If I wasn’t still sick with this nasty flu bug, I’d get up and dance.  No energy though.  Fits of coughing would ensue.  So I’ll just watch this little guy boogie on down.  Come on, get up and boogie with him, you know you want to!

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com

Life might be a highway, but I travel down memory lane

blogvacation3If life is a highway, and according to Rascal Flatts it is, then today I took a trip backwards down memory lane.

Someone once said, “A moment lasts all of a second, but the memory lives on forever.”

I would have to agree with that quote as today I visited a place where so many memories entrenched in the recesses of my mind sprang back to life.   After church, hubby and I decided to follow a ribbon of highway and see where it led us.

We traveled to the north country, where it’s even more rural than our area and the woods are thick and cool.  A distinct woodsy smell permeates the air there, a smell I can’t describe in words, but my mind identifies and remembers.

Our travels transported us down a narrow country lane where many of my childhood days transpired.   From the time I was about 10 until just a few years ago,  my parents owned a “camp” on a wooded lot near a national forest that runs through our state.  Our family spent many weekends there and sometimes a week at a time in the summers.  Relatives owned the camp next door and our families celebrated lively and entertaining times together.

When I was a child I reveled in this “home away from home,” but later in my teen-age years, the lure of Friday night high school football games, school dances, and going out with friends overshadowed my enthusiasm for going to camp for the weekend.

Today though as hubby and I drove down that familiar country road, I regaled tales to him about those forever memories, my memories, of camp.

See, right here was where girlhood friends and I would sit on a wooden plank bridge dreaming of our futures and giggling about cute boys while we competed to see who could hurl stones farther  into the creek and make the biggest splash.   The wooden plank bridge is long gone,  but the memory lives on.

And right there in that thick of woods was a lane that invitingly enticed us to follow until we arrived at a wider stretch of the creek, babbling on its merry way.  There were huge rocks that we would climb and sun ourselves on and then when it became too hot in the afternoon sun, we’d shirk our socks and Keds and wade into the cold, rushing water.  The lane is gone, a very faint path remains, but the memory lives on.

And there!  That was the old farm where the owner granted us permission to climb up into his old tree house nestled in a stately oak tree.   As we were ascending up the rickety ladder, a swarm of bees descended on us like a plague and we ran screaming and swatting the air as we flew like lightning out of there.   All four of us were stung and crying like crazy.  The farm looks abandoned now, the treehouse surely destroyed, but the memory lives on.

And right here at this house, where our playmate/local girl  lived all year round, is where we sought comfort from our bee stings.  Her mother soothed those nasty bee bites with Listerine mouthwash.  And back we ventured to explore some more, but never to that treehouse again!  The house remains, but looks quite different now and somehow smaller, but the memory lives on.

Oh, these fields are where my girlfriend and I rode, trotting and cantering, her ponies, Bonnie and Blondie.   We pretended we were cowgirls blazing trails on our trusty steeds and right there stood the barn where we would unsaddle the ponies and give them hay to eat.  No signs of the barn remain, but the memory lives on.

Someone I know now owns our old camp, so I didn’t feel like we were trespassing when we parked our car in the driveway and walked around the yard.  Back in my childhood days, the remnants of coal strip mining were behind the camp.  My friends and I enacted numerous pretend adventures on those mounds of shale.  One day we were desert explorers, desperate to find water.  Another time we were treasure hunters.   The no longer visible mounds are covered over with dense underbrush and trees now, but the memory lives on.

Hubby and I continued weaving around the country roads noticing changes here and there.  We stopped at what once was an old country general store, where I loved to go with my parents and pick penny candy out of a large candy counter.  Today it is an antique gift shop/post office but as soon as I walked inside I noticed the wooden plank floor.   Still the same floor, the lady behind the counter assured me.   Not the same store, but the memory lives on.

We traveled on to a nearby state park and then veered off to a different route back home,  stopping to view some lovely sights along the way including this one below.

Our meandering occupied our entire afternoon and our journey was complete  when we stopped for an ice cream dinner.  Yep, when you live in the empty nest and you don’t have to cook for the family, you can eat banana splits and grasshopper sundaes for dinner!

This day was filled with memories, but on our way back home, another thought became apparent to me.  Today hubby and I constructed more enjoyable memories together.

“Memory is a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.” ~Anonymous

©2010 mamasemptynest.wordpress.com