Monday, November 23, 2015

Over the river and through the woods,

I'm going to write down my memories from time to time and put them here. Some will be stories my sons have heard a million times but I want to save for them anyway. Others will be things that spark a thought of how I became the me I am today.  This is the first of them.

Over the river and through the woods,

I celebrated Thanksgiving last night. Not on a table but in my mind. My memories of Thanksgivings past filled my mind with familiar smells and faces I knew and loved. My Uncle was a doctor. He had a practice in a small town. He and his wife raised six children there, in the same white house that doubled as his office. My Aunt was his nurse. Every Thanksgiving we made that drive from our city to their town. We'd leave early with a station wagon full of cookies, Christmas gifts and the smell of my Mom's "good" perfume. Not the Avon stuff she wore on less special days but a dab or two of her Chanel No. 5 she kept in a place of honor on her dresser. We had no dvd player to keep us amused so we watched the world go by. We'd call off each landmark we passed "I see the white church", "there's the huge oak tree". Each thing we passed meant we were that much closer. The ride always seemed more beautiful when the snow had made the trip before us. The lakes looked much nicer wearing a coat of ice.
I took this  same ride with my older brother when my Uncle passed. I did it without Map-quest to guide me, I memorized it long ago. The huge Oak is gone now but the white church is still there.
We'd arrive at my Uncle's and unpack in one giant cloud of people. I'd go first to the dining room to see if anything was new.  I'm not a fan of taxidermy. Damn things keep looking at me no matter which way I turned. My Uncle got paid in many ways; cash, cow, taxidermy. He had a giant zoo of wildlife from around that part of the woods. Birds, critters, even a fish or two. They lived around the dining room and I always looked because when you're pretty sure something might come to life and pack your eyes out you kinda want to know what type of create it might be.
 I was the youngest cousin so I'd have to tag along behind my brother once we got there. I'd give up after a bit and head to the kitchen where my Aunt, Mom, and two girl cousins would be bustling around, each with a job to do.  My stuffing is her recipe, my applesauce bread from my mother. I would curl up in a chair in the corner and learn against the radiator and listen to them talk and catch up.
But when the football started I'd head back into the den. That's where my Uncle held his place. My Dad wasn't much of a sports fan so he'd read the paper and pretend he wasn't napping behind the pages he held up. My cousins would be in and out,almost men with lives of their own and friends to visit while home. But me, I'd sit on the footstool and watch football. I became fascinated when a cousin had explained yards and penalties to me. My Uncle was a stern man. A tall man with a firm opinion on just about everything. Smiles from his were earned not freely handed out.
My Uncle hated the Detroit Lions and would treat us all to a lecture about them. Turns out their quarterback went to a rival college and he graduated with a bias. I'm a square peg of a person. I decided to embrace the Lions. I'm pretty sure, looking back, that I had bigger and brass-er balls than any of the male family members. I wish I could remember the look on my Uncle's face the first time I announced my newly found loyalty. I only remember it being both of us in there, with Dad asleep behind his small town news paper, and we emoted every play in the game and many years later when I visited him in his Alzheimer's facility he remembered me loving those damn Lions and smiled. A smile earned over many Thanksgiving games.
Being that my Uncle was a doctor there wasn't a year where he didn't leave the table to stitch someone up or even deliver a baby that came a week too early.  The buzzer would ring or we'd hear the fire trucks go by and he'd excuse himself and leave the table. My Aunt would follow and his children would just keep eating without looking up. This was normal to them. Nothing to see here folks, get back to your eating.
And we ate. All of us at a table that grew four times it's size every Thanksgiving day. We needed it for all the people, especially as my cousins married and had kids. We also needed it for the food it held. All the favorite and a few new. So much food and so many people.
And we ate. And ate. And ate.
And laughed and cried and sang along to the radio. The women in the kitchen warm and cozy. The men in the den full and happy.
I went there in my head last night. Trying to remember the fuzziest memories and wondering why we  don't do this anymore. I guess we all grew up and then one by one our parents died. My Aunt, then Uncle, my Dad then Mom. Some cousins on one coast, a few on the other, the rest in between or overseas. We've all got grand-kids, we've all got lives. And we've all got memories. For me Thanksgiving is still 'over the river and through the woods' so many many years ago. How lucky I was to live it, how lucky am I to still remember it.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

I'm wearing my Mother's socks

It's almost Spring, we're inching our way towards it but it's still pretty cold out there so I'm watching from inside, where it's warmer. I take the dog out and he bounds gleefully out the door, runs to the driveway then       stops         .  Three paws on the ground, one in the air he looks at me in confusion. It's sunny, he can hear the birds, but it's cold out so what gives?? I pick up my poor statue of a dog and carry him back in and watch him curl up in his mountain of blankets to go back to sleep and dream of the the squirrels he'll chase when it's warm. Off goes my coat and my gloves. Off go my shoes and as I go to slide into my slippers, I look down and I realize I'm wearing my Mother's socks. 

These aren't socks she wore. They aren't some creepy momento of her. They're socks someone gave her for Christmas one year up at the home. Everyone got them, a pair of white cotton socks along with a pair of  no slide slipper socks. Mom wouldn't wear either so I gave the slipper socks to her roommate (who never walked but liked the colors) and I brought the other pair home where it entered the black hole of my sock drawer. I'd forgotten they were in there and put them on without noticing. But now I'm sitting here wearing Mom's socks and sipping my tea and realizing I've been without her for almost a year. I think it's a good sign when I don't miss her every day. I've stopped getting up and packing to go up then realizing I've nowhere to go. Her friends at the nursing home have all been passing one by one. I know she has company where ever she is. 

I've gotten busy. Things to do, people to see, places to go. Ads to write and boxes to pack, She's been out of my head and my dreams. I'm adding a stage to the stages of grief, the 'the busy stage'. The stage were you've caught up on life and are just living it. Your loved one is out of your head but still in your heart. You've made it past the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, their birthday and you're closing in on the one year anniversary. But you're doing okay. 
I'm doing okay. I'm busy. I have people to see and spend time with. My granddaughter is growing so fast it makes my head spin.. I have friends and family and my conversations don't revolve around Mom. I just let myself move on and I'm ready for Spring. I'm ready for being a grandma, for planting my flowers, for going to baseball and for taking my dog out for walks that last longer than one minute.  I still miss her. I'm still not sure why but I do. I'll probably always feel a little lost but I'll do okay because I'm surrounded by joy and because every once in a while I'll look down and realize I'm wearing her socks. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Just a drive away..

I like to take day trips. Nothing to pack for, you get to sleep in your own bed that night. But during the day you're off to see something new. I live in New York. Not the city of New York, New York. I live at the other side. Niagara Falls are a short drive, we have history, the Erie Canal, museums for toys, steam engines, Canal History, and other fun things like Jello. A drive away can be reenactments, outdoor theater, concerts, horse races, and there's always a festival somewhere. Any given weekend I can visit a castle, cross a covered bridge, hike a glen, tour a cemetery, or ride in a hot air balloon.

For me, a day trip is the best way to go. Don't have to have anyone keep the pets company, Sometimes the wee doggy goes with us. He's a hiker of amazing endurance. He thinks he's five foot tall when he struts along Lake Ontario or Geneva. He's been to Buttermilk Park, Niagara Falls park, Olcott, and Canandagua. He loves Letchworth, Ithaca, and even Lake Erie. He out walks us humans but sure sleeps good on the way home.

Given a choice, I'd visit every small town's cemetery. I am fascinated with the history and the beauty of the stones. new life comes up in a cemetery every Spring. Newborn flowers burst into patches of color. Trees bud and bloom. The contrast is beautiful and a little bit sad.

I start a list every year. Just about now, when Winter is leaving and Spring is patiently waiting to move in. A list of day trips. Howe Caverns, a boat ride on the canal. Last year was Cooperstown, this year NJ. A day out to Cleveland for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the gardens. A train trip to NYC in the Fall. A drive to Maine for the leaves. A popover the border into foreign territory to visit Toronto Island and stroll in China Town on the way home.

When I was a child I hated these trips. It's just not cool to have to go to museums with your parents. No one wants to be see walking with them. So you'd sulk and pout and make sure that everyone around you knew how miserable you thought you were.
If only I could get those tours back. Some people want to see giant mice when they travel, others prefer boats with everything you could need. Some people need daring adventures, others want pampering. I like to see life. I like my day trips. Reader's Digest Condensed Travels. Always changing, none too long. Just enough in bite sized pieces, leaving me to see other wonders or learn other stories.

I'm making up for lost time and seeing everything I can. I'm one of those people who loves where they live. And when I finish up on my trips here I'll start branching out until I run out of things on my list. Since that will never happen I feel pretty safe continuing the way that I am. Waiting for Springtime, making my list and taking my day trips one by one.

What are your top three day trips?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

day dreaming of flowers

Remember, those of you in my age group, lying on the floor slowly going through the Sears or the JC Penny Christmas catalog? I do. Brightly colored photos of everything under the sun. Hundreds of pages. My brother and I would take strips of paper, blue for him yellow for me, and we'd carefully mark our wish list.. Toys, sporting goods, dresses, shoes, sleds, dolls, it was all in there. Page after page of things we just knew we needed. Telescopes, hats, games, BB guns, everything and anything. It was magical. Hours would be spent moving those strips of paper from page to page as a new item was spotted. And we got one or two of those items, it was a very good year.
Now I'm fifty one and those days are long gone. I'm not sure if Sears even puts out a color catalog anymore. As with phone books, they don't seem like anything more than a waste of perfectly good trees. I know Toys R Us does and I did read somewhere that JC Penny will put one out this year. It won't be the same. Not just because of nostalgia but also because I've replaced it. Those glowing eyes,  I used to look through every single page of those catalogs with, now have readers to look through every single page of my new obsession... The Seed Catalogs.

Sitting inside looking out at a wall of snow I thumb my way through my seed catalog. No colored strip of construction paper, we live in a Post-it world. And every other page flies a paper flag, a reminder that this page held something I just know I need. New Lavender for the back, coleus seed of all types for the little red wagon, something hardy for around the mailbox. Nothing every grows there but maybe this is my year? I'm sure with the right plant my flowers will stop cars and people will "ooh" and "aahh".
If it weren't for those pesky rabbits I could put in ornamental cabbage. But why stock a salad bar for those creatures? they already take out our sunflowers every year.
Did you know you can get twelve varieties of coneflower to grow in our zone? I do!
I'm not rushing Spring but I know it's coming soon. My Mourning Doves are back on the line out back, the air smells like Spring and the sky is blue-er. A friendly blue, not that cold grey blue of Winter. I can see it on the horizon and I'm ready to head out with shovel, rake and soil. I am ready to pull out the lawn toys and set them in place. I can feel the dirt under my nails and the smell of life as I plant and gather.
I know I've got a little time. It's going to take more than a few sunny days to melt all this snow. It's still up to my waist in spots. But, until then I've got my Post-its and my catalog. I can wait. I still have so many pages to see and so many ideas to get. So in a few months if you're in our end of the State, swing by my place and take a look at my flowers. I promise it will be worth it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

sitting on a bench, waiting for you, waiting for me, waiting for us

I'm a believer. I'm not ashamed of it, it's who I am. Not a believer in the sense of enforced childhood participation in the church of my parent's choice. A believer in the sense that deeply to my center core, I believe in God. Don't know which God but in my world there is a God. I'm pretty sure it's the same God everyone follows. Different names, same deity. A creator.
As a believer I do not associate with any church or congregation. I fly solo. Just me and my beliefs.
My belief in God's creation goes from seed to bloom to wilting but beyond that I'm not so sure. Is there an after life? Sounds good but I won't know until I know. Being blessed enough in life is good enough for me. I do believe that at the end those who went before us will be sitting on a bench at the door that leads to who knows what.
As my Mom was dying, I was fully confident that in the room with us in spirit were my Dad and her Mother. Just sitting on the bench waiting for her. They were patient. Their souls quiet while we waited. Me to say "goodbye", them to say "hello".

Last Fall as I sat with a family friend at her nursing home, I felt that same quiet company but this time not my family but her's. Her sisters and brothers, the one man she truly loved. All waiting for her to step into their arms. As we held her hands and felt her breathing stop I knew without looking that her soul was walking away arm in arm with those she loved so much. They'd been waiting. They were ready, she was ready. They went joyfully toward the door that leads to who knows what.

I do not fear death, nor do I actively seek it. I know I've written those words before. A fellow blogger's recent posting has me thinking about that great beyond and what waits for us. When I try to picture it I'm not seeing streets paved with gold or a gaggle of virgins. I'm seeing nothing. Just blank space, empty canvas. I'm sure it will fill in someday. Colors and shapes and hopefully faces I know and miss. My childhood friend, Gregory taken from life by Leukemia. Not an easy thing to grasp as a child. My first "date" Andy, his mental pain so overwhelming that he felt he had no choice but to stop the noises in his head himself. My Aunt and Uncles, friends I knew, murders, suicides, illness, old age, accidents. The means didn't matter. For each of them as I mentally look back the images in my mind tell me their soul was met with tears, love and hugs. And then they walked away, somewhere, with those who waited for them.
If you're a fan of 'Dead like me' and I am, then you know at the end of each episode as the reaper freed the soul, that soul went off into whatever it was that Heaven was for them. I like that. I hope for that. But I'm not sure. The only thing I am sure of is that as my Mother passed, as Aunt Sally passed, those they loved so deeply were all there just sitting on a bench waiting for them. And as their souls moved on, they went with those loved ones and walked through that door to know one knows what.

There may be a heaven. There may not. What I do believe is that as I go and my loved ones say goodbye to who I am, those who went before me will be right there to say "hello. We've been sitting here on this bench waiting for you. Let's go."

Monday, February 23, 2015

For sale, one slightly used but deeply loved shiny object

I sell on ebay. I should be doing it regularly but it seems like I went on a one year sabbatical.
I also collect stuff. The problem with the buying of shiny objects is it leading to collecting shiny objects which leads to clearing space so you can buy other shiny objects. It's a nasty nasty circle of life.
Sure I could keep my mountain of shiny doo-dads and gee-gaws but then my family would put me on an episode of 'Hoarders'. I'd be the woman snuggled up inside walls of books. I'd be lying on my couch made of books and looking at my shiny stuff arranged in tidy stacks around me. Just, my books and my little dog and of course, shiny objects out the wazoo. Before I start thinking that kinda sounds's  ebay time. I photograph and describe the items one by one. I use the 'Pickers' and Antique Roadshow-speak  ".."Vintage" "Rare Find" "Highly Collectible" "created in the 1800s, 1900s.".. " I carefully describe the item. I list any flaws and I praise it's values. But I don't put the whole story on there.
All about 1880s silver and crystal condiment set with holder I pulled out of a quarter box at a garage sale in Greece, NY. I could mention how I stood there and picked each piece out myself. Took a while but it's worth it.
I don't get to explain how I bought two full page comic strips from 1903. To be fair I bought the frame. I didn't care what was in it until I pulled it out of the closet to use it and was floored.

I never give the real story. Everything I buy has a story, every single thing I own has a story. I have a wide selection but what amuses me one summer has to be rehome so I can be amused next summer.

Except books. Books go free. I leave read books with friends and family with the promise that the new reader will pass it on when they finish it. I never want them back. I never expect them back.
Sometimes what I set free comes back to me. It must love me. Growing up I had a poster that said so and as you know, 1970s posters do not lie. When a book returns to me I put a post-it with 'free to a good home' on it and leave it at the drs office, hospital waiting room, restaurant, any place you can put it down.
Not the rest of my collections. Every year items must be eliminated from the herd. Tia's natural selection.  For me, the thrill is in the hunt. I guess I've taken my love of sports and winning to a different more middle aged woman friendly level. According to my math skills I am over middle aged since I will never see 102. Blame my NYS public education if I'm wrong. I like to see other people's crap and possibly buy it. I enjoy talking to strangers and bonding for the short amount of time I'm in their drive way. I've met people of all types. Retired school teachers with a deep interest in birding. A family that took in wrestlers from Germany in the 1980s. Couples married late, couples together 50 years. Most strangers but occasionally someone you know or should know. People from the old neighborhood, people you used to know in HS, even people you used to date. Familiar strangers. Socializing with a perk.

I just have to find a way to support my addiction. Tah Ebay dah! I like to go to flea markets and buy things I like, love or am amused by. Over time some specific groupings have appeared. Those I keep. My 1980s Basketball collection. Stockton to Malone baybee.. My Niagara Falls collection. That will end up donated as a whole  to some sort of museum. The rest is forming a straight line to hit the exit.

Sundays and Mondays are ebay days. I place my ads. Then it's the wait. 3, 5, or 7 days of checking to see if I have watchers. Maybe bidders. Possibly questions. For me like losing children. I listen to music (Julian Lennon) and get to work. Sad to be giving up beloved items, I know I am fickle enough to replace them as soon as Spring hits.

Goodbye Tootsie Toys,goodbye Coca-cola glasses, goodbye silver spoons and sewing kits. I'll miss you.
Goodbye baseball cards, goodbye purses and popcorn tins.It's been real.
I'll remember you all fondly. I'll relive the time I found you and how much I made from you when you left. I promise you that if we ever run into each other again. Me with money burning a hole in my pocket and you on a table, price tag slapped lazily on you. I won't stop or pick you up. I'll keep on going,  I won't look at you sadly. I'll move along to my next find. My eyes will keep searching for that item that makes my eyes glow a little.

Today is Monday. I've got a full mug of coffee. Switching to Tracy Chapman, working music. Time to do what I hate so I can continue to do what I love. Just looking out the window at Mother Nature's PMS fury and wondering how long it will take to melt this freakishly large amount of sow. Snow up well past my waist. That ain't right. I want Spring. I want Summer. So I'm selling my old stuff and counting down to Spring and shiny new stuff.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Photographic memories

What to do with old photos? The real kind of photos, not the ones we take that never touch film. Some of my readers don't know what film is. They never had a Brownie or an Instamatic. They never bought film in cartridges or rolls, they never had to have it developed. Taking pictures used to be a process, you'd buy the film, use flash bulbs, using it sparingly because not only did you have to buy the film you also had to pay to have it developed. You'd either take it to a store and hand it over or you'd mail it off in the prepaid envelope and wait for a week or two to find the packet of photos in your mailbox. The only selfies you took were when your thumb accidentally got in the way of the lens or you hit the shutter when the camera was pointing down and you had a lovely picture of your left foot.
Those of you nodding your heads along with me know what I speak of. You also have photos or slide. Slide are photos you have to work twice as hard to see. But you have them, I have them. So what do we do with them?
I have mountains of photos. I don't throw them out because I dreamed once that I threw out all my photos and the people in them ceased to exist. Any of you book writing people who want to use that idea, it might make for a nice sci-fi short story. Just promise me I can read it! I knew my dream was a dream  but since then I've had a hard time throwing photos away. So I keep them and then the pile grows and grows and you know where this is headed... avalanche!
Now my dilemma, what do I do with these photos. Do I scan them and save them to some cloud in the sky? Do I learn to scrapbook and put them in nice neat piles of books? Should I return some to the people in them? I really don't know but I do know something has to give because there are too many of them. But how do you throw away memories like these:

Yes that my brother and me. I have photos of us growing up, of my kids growing up, of relatives as far back as cameras span. I have tin types, Kodachrome, black and white, color and Polaroid. I have slides, portraits, school photos, and negatives that ended up stray without an envelope to call home. I've got bins of old photo albums from my parent's childhoods, all glued in place with black corner holders and dates written underneath in white pencil.
I will probably weed through them all and liberate most from the herd. I'll scan them to save them and then comes my issue. How do I get rid of them? Do I have a bon fire? throw them in with the kitchen trash? bury them in shreds, I really don't know. Do spirits live with photos as many people think or are the memories so real that we feel the person in the photo? 

This is a real question: what do you do with old photos?