Archive | July 2016

Ba-aa-ad Wash Day

Already in bed, Mary watched me pull off my dirty shorts and top before slipping a nightgown over my head. Sitting forward, she glared at my cast-off clothing lying in a rumpled heap on the floor in the middle of the room. Sharing a bedroom with a sister seven years older than me didn’t usually bother me. Tonight was an exception. She snapped, “We have a clothes chute in our room. How hard would it be for you to throw your clothes down it?”

Sighing loudly, I picked up the soiled clothing, opened the clothes chute lid and tossed them in. Leaning forward, I listened to them slide down two floors to the basement. Turning to crawl into bed, my sister warned, “We have clean sheets tonight. If your feet are dirty, go wash them. Brush your teeth while you’re at it.”

I looked down at the soles of my feet. They were black. Obediently, I trudged downstairs to the bathroom to wash up. Later, when I finally crawled into bed, I realized that it felt good to be clean. Nothing would make me admit that to my bossy sister, though. Continue reading

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The Sad House

I glanced up into the rearview mirror and saw that my daughter in her van was slowly following me in the dim twilight. Spotting an unoccupied curb around the corner, I signaled, turned and pulled up alongside it. There were trees in front of the houses on this side of the street, but an empty parking lot across the street. I said, “This will be perfect for watching the fireworks.” to my brother who was sitting in the passenger seat. My daughter’s red van pulled up behind me.

Our small home town has a yearly celebration to recognize the many people who settled here in the late 1800’s. Earlier that day my family had enjoyed the small carnival, ethnic dancers performing on a stage in the park, a history museum, food tents and a parade. Continue reading

Land of the Brave

My daughter Niki surprised me the first time she told me her summer plans. I popped the cap off a bottle of apple ale and divided the contents between two wine glasses. Handing her one of the bubbly, sweet drinks, I asked while thinking that surely I had misunderstood, “What did you just say you wanted to do this summer?

Shifting Blaise, her one-year-old son on her lap, she accepted the glass and took a sip. She said, “Mmmm! Yummy. For our summer vacation, I want to take the children to visit a family Mike and I knew before they moved to Colorado.”

That was exactly what I had thought she’d said. The logistics of a widowed mother with eight children accomplishing the trip filled me with a mixture of dismay, worry and admiration. I questioned, “When do you want to do this?”

Niki said, “I want to fit our vacation between planting my garden and the boys and girls summer camps in July. I’m thinking we’ll start out on Father’s Day.”

“How long will you be gone?” I asked.

My daughter calmly said, “I hope to be back by Jon’s fifteenth birthday on June 29th.

After Niki and her family had gone home that evening, I wondered if as a young woman, I had ever been brave enough to do what she planned. Arnie and I had driven to Tennessee, South Dakota and other states, but we were always together and only had two daughters in the back seat.

A few weeks before the start of Niki’s planned vacation she said, “One thing worries me about the trip. If the van breaks down when I’m several states away, what will I do?”

I nodded and said, “I feel helpless when my vehicle has problems, but since I seldom drive far from home, I know people and places to call. Maybe you should enroll in the American Automobile Association. They have an emergency number that you can call for quick help, no matter where you are.”

A week before the start of Niki’s family vacation she added, “Jon wants a friend to come with us, so I will have nine passengers.

I said, “Your van will be jammed with luggage and kids.”

My daughter mused, “I wish I had shelves in the back of the van. We stack everything on top of other things and when you need something from the bottom, you upset the order. I’m bringing a lot of food. With this many people, it would be too expensive to eat every meal at a restaurant. Besides, the children are always hungry onean hour after we eat a meal.”

I said, “I suppose it is too late to have shelves put in. Maybe you could stack all the food on one side and the bags with clothing on the other side.”

Nodding, Niki said, “I’ve thought of another way to lighten the load. We will pack only enough clothing for half the trip. When we get to Colorado, we can launder what we’ve worn to be good to go for our trip back home.”

Right on schedule, Niki and the nine children left Wisconsin on Father’s Day afternoon. Since then I’ve been traveling along vicariously through her texts and pictures. Their first stop was in the Twin Cities where they visited the Minnehaha water fall and spent the night with the children’s Aunt Tami.

The children looked uncomfortably hot in the picture Niki sent from the Badlands, then wet and laughing at a fountain somewhere else. They visited the famous Wall Drugstore in South Dakota, Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Mountain.

Arnie and I had visited South Dakota with Niki and Tami in 1990. We had enjoyed that trip very much, but it felt good to return home to rest. When Niki called me from Cheyenne, Wyoming, she said they were having a good time, but it was the end of a long day and I thought she sounded a little tired. In the background I heard Gemma crying and calling for her.

I asked, “Niki, are you going to need a vacation after you get home from your vacation?” Niki didn’t have to answer me. I resolved right then, that I’d take all the children for a day so my brave daughter could rest when they returned home.

 

 

 

Living Every Step

Stopping in my tracks, I looked around. Open fields stretched in all directions. Over half a mile behind me, I could see the green mobile home where I lived. From this vantage point the yard around it looked like a vivid Grandma Moses painting.

The rich, brown soil of an early summer garden planted next to the house contrasted beautifully with the surrounding bright-green lawn. I saw rows of vegetables, mower trails and a green John Deere tractor parked next to the gray machine shed. Behind the house, but dominating the yard was a tool shed made of field stones, large, a blue-sided barn and a navy Harvester silo.

An overwhelming desire to be home and not out in the middle of the field washed over me. I felt hot and tired. Impatiently, I muttered to myself, “Deciding to go for a walk on my day off was a stupid idea. I should be home taking care of chores. Now I’m tired, but the dishes, vacuuming and laundry are still undone. I wish I could instantly transfer from here to my kitchen the way angels move from one place to another.”

Sighing, I turned around to slowly plod back home, thinking, “When Captain Kirk on Star Trek wants to return to the Enterprise, all he does is pull out his communicator and say, ‘Beam me up, Scotty.’  A moment later he’s teleported to the ship.”

An unexpectedly cool breeze danced past, giving me some relief from the hot sun glaring down from a blue sky. The rustling sound of a small creature in the tall grass along the line fence made me stop to search for the source. After a moment of silence, I saw it, a small, wild rabbit apparently thought he was invisible as he munched on grass.

Beautiful pink wild flowers growing in tall grass also caught my eye. While picking some to put in a vase, I glanced over at an oat field. The wind pushed the plants this way and that, making the field look like a green ocean with lapping waves.

My mood had improved by the time I returned home. Looking at the flowers in my hand, I thought, “If I had had the power to return instantly when I wanted to, I would have missed seeing the rabbit, picking these flowers and enjoying how the oat field looked like a green ocean.”

As a little girl I spent a lot of time wishing for Christmas to come. Before I had finished playing with my new toys and reading my new books, I wished for Easter to come. Before all the Easter eggs were eaten, I was wishing for summer to be here. One day Mom scolded me, saying, “You’re wishing your life away!” I never really understood what she had meant until the day I went for that walk and wanted to be home in an instant.

Sometimes wishing for things that we want to have happen blinds us to the beautiful experiences available to us on our way to our goals. Thankfully, the day I went for that walk, I realized that it was a gift for humans to not be able to ‘fast forward’ though the “boring” times of life.

Recently I attended a party celebrating a niece’s graduation from high school. The beautiful girl was valedictorian of her class. Her plans are to attend college with the goal of becoming a pharmacist. Her father said to me, “She has what it takes and can do it, but she thinks the seven years to get there is too long.”

Laughing, I said, “You and I both know how fast seven years can go rolling by.” The proud father nodded, no doubt thinking about how quickly the last eighteen years had passed. Thinking of the lesson I had learned while taking that tiresome walk years before, I said, “Tell your daughter there are friendships to build, places to visit and things for her to do besides study and take tests. Tell her to enjoy every step of the way toward her degree.”