The day has come

Sitting here in a quiet, empty house, finally taking a few minutes just to breathe. The start of the school year is normally crazy and hectic, but this year – year three of pandemic teaching – has been especially exhausting. On top of the long hours and late nights, I am in the last few weeks of my Master’s program, which means multiple projects and looming deadlines. I have not really been able to take time to process all the emotions that I am feeling about the upcoming weekend.

In just two days, my son will marry his one true love. My baby boy. My firstborn. The one who gave me the title of momma. I am beyond excited and proud of my son and all that he has worked for and achieved. I am thrilled that he has found his lovely bride and will stand before his family and friends on Saturday and vow to share his life with Katie.

I find myself flooded with so many memories as we prepare to celebrate this big day. I think back to the day that we brought Zach home from the hospital. I think about spending every minute of every day of his first months of life. I remember saying to my family that at that point in his life I remembered every day that he’d been in the world. I wanted it to be like that forever. When he began walking and talking he would say the cutest things that I swore I would never forget. When I was pouring his milk he would say “Too nough, mommy.” I have never forgotten that sweet little face sharing his own sweet words.

As he grew older, the days became too many to remember every minute. The busyness of childhood and adolescence felt never ending with the countless practices and homework and uniform washing. Looking back now though, it went by in a blink. I am so very thankful for all of the memories that my son has given me over the years. And while I can’t recall each and every day that I have been blessed to be his momma, I do have so many amazing memories of him growing up. I can so easily recall the summer days when he would play football out in the street with the neighborhood kids, race Big Green Machines up and down the cul-de-sac, and play flashlight tag in the backyard. I have amazing memories of cheering on my son from the stands as he played football with all of his heart. There were out of town baseball tournaments with families who became lifelong friends. And I can never forget all of the mischief that Zach and his best friend since birth, Tyler, found themselves in. Like the time they thought it would be fun to see what happened when they threw grapes (an entire bag) at the ceiling fan. Or the time they thought it would be funny to cut the neighbor’s swings?!? Although I cannot remember every day, I realize that I am blessed with so many memories of being his momma.In 48 hours, my son will start the next phase of his life with his wife! He will begin creating his own memories as they build their new life together. We will spend the weekend celebrating their love and I know that the memories that we create this weekend will be added to the long list of memories that I cherish. So for now, I am enjoying this quiet time of reflection, recalling all of the joy that Zach has brought into my life an eagerly anticipating the weekend because the day has come.

My very first best friend

I met a friend for coffee yesterday. Not just any friend. I met my very first best friend. My oldest friend. The girl I met on the first day of kindergarten. My mother and I stood at the bus stop waiting, and waiting. She and her mother had been doing the same and decided to drive to school. They picked us up and took us to Mrs. Kirby’s class together. That bus that didn’t show changed my life forever. (Okay – maybe a little dramatic because we ended up being in the same class and would have met anyway….but still you never know how it could have worked out.)

From that very first day of school, Becky and I were best friends. We spent so many days together playing and growing. I can’t even begin to share all of the memories we made. We were always together. She was either at my house or I was at hers. We grew up together. I still know her childhood phone number. I still remember the games we played, the adventures we shared. We dreamed together. We used to sit in my mom’s car and pretend to be grown ups. (Oh if we knew how hard being a grown up was going to be….). We would wear my mom’s sunglasses and pretend like we were driving to the mall while talking about our perfect husbands and our children. We even had “names” (I won’t share those…)

In the last 20 years, this was only the second time we have gotten together! But the minute we sat down I felt such a familiar, comforting warmth envelop me. We just picked up and talked and shared – this time as REAL grownups! When I think about all of the time we have missed over the past several decades, I feel sad that we didn’t make our friendship more of a priority, that we didn’t share in so many everyday moments of life. But rather than letting that sadness take hold, I have decided to use it for good. We have resolved to be more present in each other’s lives. We are not going to wait another 5, 10, even 20 years to catch up again. Two and half hours was not nearly enough time yesterday to catch up on what seems like a lifetime. So we will be intentional about our meetings. Cause here’s the thing…I don’t just want to get together and “catch up” anymore. I want to actually share in life with my very first best friend.

It did my heart good to sit and talk and laugh and listen to that voice that was such a HUGE part of my childhood. If there is anything I can share with you now it’s this. Pick up the phone and call that old friend. Send a letter (yes – like a real old-fashioned hand-written one). Take the first step, reach out and get together. I promise it will do your heart good too!

Around Poem

I went back to college to get my Education degree in my late 30’s. I was a nontraditional student on a very traditional campus. Many universities have great programs to encourage older adults to return to school and get their degrees, but my alma mater did not. I was most definitely different. However, I was placed in a cohort with amazing students and they welcomed me as their “school mom.” I loved this part of my life during this time period. My capstone class right before graduating was creative writing. We were assigned an “Around” poem for our first writing. I’ll never forget sharing this with my classmates. I was very anxious to share my life experiences with this group of 20 somethings who had barely lived in my eyes. I felt so different in this setting and nearly let my fear of rejection get the best of me. But, I shared and they received and it was a very proud moment for this old school mom. I’d like to share that poem with you here. On a side note, I have done a lot more living since I wrote this poem…and I think I might write another one – and updated one in the near future.

Around 2006, I returned to school and was labeled non-traditional.

Around 1979, my oldest brother left home at the age of 16 without saying goodbye.

Around 1997, after 18 hours of labor, my first child came into the world.

Around 2007, on a bitter, cold morning, my Grandpa died.

Around 1975, I stood at the bus stop waiting for my first day of kindergarten…the bus never came.

Around 1993, I married my high school sweetheart.

Around 1974, I watched my dog Benji get hit by a car while I played in the front yard.

Around 2001, on an icy morning, I gave birth to my daughter.

Around 2008, I watched my brother’s son marry his high school sweetheart.

Around 2003, I walked my son to school fir his first day of kindergarten…we didn’t take any chances with the bus.

Around 1984, I kissed a boy for the first time – at the county fair. His name was Nick.

Around 2008, my high school sweetheart and I ended our 15-year marriage…at the breakfast table.

Around 2006, my son and I walked my daughter to school for her first day of kindergarten.

Around 1985, I had my heart broken for the first time.

Around 2008, I learned to be me again…still non-traditional.

It’s bittersweet to sit and reflect on all of those poignant moments that stick in my memory. It’s also comforting to know that I have been blessed with such a life. What moments would appear in your Around poem? I encourage you to take time to reflect and be thankful for this life today! Much love.

I wish…

I got a message from my mom this week that shook me. One of my many cousins had passed away in his sleep. He was just a few years older than me. I hadn’t seen him in way too many years, but when I received news of his death, that didn’t matter. Steve was that one relative that everyone was drawn to. He had an amazingly quick wit and was always laughing. He included everyone in the conversation and made those around him feel special. My most vivid memories of him were the times we all spent on Granny’s farm – mostly at family reunions. Those days – oh how do I long for those days again.

We would typically start to gather at the farm on Friday night. Often there would be a bonfire with roasting hot dogs and marshmallows. When Saturday would roll around, more and more family would arrive with food and hugs and hellos. After catching up – the day would really get started. One of my favorite memories of those days was the volleyball games we played in the field between Granny’s house and the old barn. I never tired of those games. We crowded as many as we could on to each side of the “court” and everybody got a turn. Laughing and joking were as prevalent as setting and spiking during those endless games. Near the volleyball game, was the horseshoe game – most often played between the “uncles” – who could be heard jeering and bragging about whose shoe was the closest.

The only thing that would stop us from playing was when the food was ready. Table after table cut through the middle of Granny’s front yard, covered in homemade dishes that seemed to never run out. We would find a spot in the shade of the tree and sit to eat. I remember listening to stories from Granny and all of my aunts and uncles about growing up in a house with 12 kids. What I wouldn’t give to sit and listen to those stories now. As a young kid, I liked hearing them, but truly didn’t understand how special the memories of those times would become. After eating (not that it really ever stopped, as we sort of grazed for the remainder of the day) there would most certainly be music. It seemed everyone had a guitar or banjo and they all came out for our afternoon entertainment. I can still feel that music in my soul. It is who I am – who my family is.

Sitting here typing, I wish I would have spent just ONE more summer day down on Granny’s farm. I wish I would have done a better job of keeping in touch with all of my cousins. I wish more than anything that I could remember every single minute of every single reunion – every taste, every laugh, every song. I am so sad that I did not know Steve as well as an adult as I did when we were kids. Life is so precious – and so fragile. And while I am so very sad for all the time that has gone by, I am more than grateful for the beautiful memories I have.

Forced confinement

sidewalk chalkToday started out as a sad day. This may sound silly, but if you are from Cincinnati, you will get it. Today was supposed to have been Reds Opening Day. That means the streets of downtown should have been lined with fans for the Opening Day Parade. Today should have been celebrated as a holiday – as is always the case for the start of baseball season here. When I was finally awake enough to look at my bullet journal and realize all of this, the tears came. I just felt so sad. So many things we are missing out on.

But then, I stepped outside and felt the day warming, saw the sun greeting me with its bright yellow smile, and my mood began to lift. And rather than being sad about all the things we are going without, I fixed my thoughts on all the positives that are coming about as a result of our forced confinement.

Sidewalk chalk. Four of my five kids are here at home. All day. Every day. While that can be a bit chaotic (and by a bit I mean a lot at times), it also is time that we would never actually take for ourselves. Never have all four of my daughters and I spent over an hour in the sunshine creating with sidewalk chalk. Being that they range in age from 7 years old to 19 years old, we just rarely spend time doing activities together (stop judging – just being real). But today, we did! We laughed and worked together and created something we were proud of. We were happy.

Later, my oldest daughter, Cart, and I took a walk through the neighborhood. If you have a teenage daughter, you understand that any time at all you get to spend with her is amazing…so my momma heart was happy. We took selfies, we shared songs, we talked. And as we walked I noticed so many positives all around us. At the end of driveways throughout our subdivision, there were notes of encouragement written in chalk. Smiley faces, hearts, and phrases. Each one brought a smile to my face. And the more and more we saw, the bigger my smile got, and the more my mood lifted. Families worked together in the yard. The smell of fresh grass wafted through the air. Children played in yards, rode bikes, climbed on swing sets while their parents lounged on freshly cleaned patio furniture and watched.

This virus is awful and the havoc it is wreaking on our world is devastating. But there is a flip side to all of the negative. The world is slowing down. People are slowing down. We are talking. Playing games. Putting puzzles together. Creating art and music. It’s almost like this virus has reminded us about who we are as humans.

Sitting here typing I have tears flowing down my cheeks. (I’m a complete sap these days!) (Ok – not just these days…I’m a complete sap all of the time). If you stop and look, slow down and listen, you will find the beauty in all of the chaos. We will all look back on this time of our lives and will be filled with the memories we made when the world made us all stop.

What memories are you making today?

Home

I went back to college in my late 30’s to earn a teaching degree. I had two school-aged children at the time. To say that managing it all was a challenge is an understatement. One year into my three year journey, my 16 year marriage ended. This event did not make life easier. But I kept going… My senior capstone work was creative writing. Considering the season of life that I was in, my writing from that time was raw and full of emotion. After the program was over and I had graduated, I put that writing portfolio away. It was a reminder of the pain and hardship of that time in life.

Recently, I came across my senior capstone portfolio. As I sat in my basement office in our quiet house, I read. And read. And read. Tears flowed freely as the words flooded my mind and heart with the memories of that year. I was surprised by some of the pieces. I hadn’t even remembered penning the words. Some of the writings were almost too difficult to read, and I moved through those quickly. But others were full of sentiment and happy memories of life “before” all of the hard stuff came along.

These writings have been in a beat up red file folder for more than a decade, and I would like to finally share them. So, over the course of the next few weeks I will share one at a time. The first piece is called “Home.” This was written in November, 2008.

Home

Home is the smell of sausage frying in a ridiculously heavy, old cast iron skillet once belonging to Granny. The smell would sneak down the hallway to my bedroom in the early morning hours. It was our signal that it was almost time to get up. The sound of cabinet doors and drawers opening and not so gently closing always came with morning. Daddy was the responsible party – and we knew when we smelled the biscuits in the oven, it was time. Daddy would whistle while he cooked each morning – yet another not so subtle wake up call for us. And when we finally stumbled to the kitchen we were always greeted by an awful mess. Homemade biscuits always left a trail…a light covering of flour on every available surface.

Home is the quiet of late afternoon – the dull rhythmic thumping of the dryer in a distant room. Background noise – a lone television broadcasting afternoon headlines to an empty room, the occasional creak of the ironing board as my mother ironed in the living room. The perfect blend of these sounds in the late of day is a recipe for home.

Home is the small tree growing in the front yard. Not an impressive tree – at least in stature – but to my sister and me it was…a princess castle, a pirate ship, a mountain top, in the jungle, a hiding place, base, and adventure, a swing, monkey bars…and the dreaded sources of our daddy’s “switches” – used only in the worst of circumstances. When Daddy went to grab a switch from our beloved tree, it was only then that we wished it didn’t exist.

Home is dinner around the dining room table, saying prayer before eating, holding hands as a family and thanking God for the nourishment which he had provided. And not complaining about what was on the evening menu. “It’s not right to thank God for our food and then complain about what it is, ” Daddy would often remind. Familiar meals, comfort food, were served in a weekly rotation…foods such as meatloaf, and fried chicken, and once a week…breakfast for dinner…a concept my own children will not warm up to.

Home is the conflict and tension of teenage brothers, resentful of their “step” mother and angry over the death of their own. It is the open defiance and harsh words heard by my sister and me as we hid at the top of the stairs – terrified but curious. It is the sound of objects thrown, painful sobs, and endless slamming doors. Home is the feeling of being torn between family members. Admiration for older brothers, and the natural love for a mother and father.

Home is the gentle reminder from our father each time we left the house. We were not sent on our way with rules or threats but rather with four simple words from our soft-spoken patriarch…”Remember who you are.”