Jan 1, 2015

Goin' To The Chapel........

We ended the year in style at a courthouse ceremony that legalized the new daughter we added to our family this year.  Yes, that is right.  Our Rockette finally carries the family name.  We still have a lovely wedding and reception to come, but we got the paperwork part taken care of.

It is my extreme pleasure to welcome our Rockette formally into our family.  
This woman just blows me away.   There is nothing that she cannot handle.  She worked all day on her "wedding day", came home, got ready herself, got our Charli-girl ready, remembered the ring, and the paperwork, out the door we went.  Into the bitter cold, on to the waiting, running and warm vehicle we went, when Turkey, the sweetest if most exasperating dog in the world, shot out the front door also.  The Rockette had the baby, the paperwork, the ring, and I was following loaded down with purses, diaper bag and coats, cussing Turkey all the way.  Turkey decided to jump into the vehicle but resist my serious attempts to capture and/or throttle him.  The Rockette assured me this was fine.  Not only did she stop everything she was doing and patiently, without even a bad word or wrinkle of her beautiful brow, capture the escapee and loving deposit him back into the house, but she did it all without being late to her own wedding.

I would have left that dog to fend for himself on the mean streets of Kansas City, Kansas until I decided to come home, but not our Rockette.  I knew she was good but I didn't even know how good.  Now I knew.  I think she must be an angel in disguise!

After that she zipped us through the kind of traffic that gives me hives like a pro.  All I had to to was ride in the back with my beloved Charli-girl.  I tried not to look at the traffic, or think about it either.  Instead I comforted myself with the thought that if I ever do become senile or get dementia that the Rockette would take good care of me.  Whether I know it or now, I know that she will take the best possible care of me without ever losing her temper and she won't forget any of the details.  I can truly trust this woman's judgement and rest easy knowing that if I forget some of the details, she is on the case.

Once at the courthouse, being the last to arrive, we had to go through a metal detector and have everything scanned.  I was about ready to sit down and cry by then, but she set a good example and I just followed along.  I marveled at who the adult was here, because it was not me.

A short ceremony followed, with just a few tears being shed, even by me, because this was such a happy occasion.  An occasion that we have waited for and were blessed to attend.  We got a few pictures afterwards, during which Charli tried to eat the wedding bouquet and learned that flowers are not for eating.

Due to the time, the courthouse was shutting down so we had to make our way to a particular door.  I never knew which one, I just followed the crowd.  We had to split into two elevators, and though our elevator was supposed to go to floor 1, a whole bunch of us ended up on floor 8, and had to try again once we realized our mistake.  If you must be lost, always do it with a crowd.  Safety truly is in numbers.

Eventually we all got to the door we were supposed to out and then all that remained was to try and find our cars in the bitter cold.  The Rockette did this also, owing to the fact that The Rock Star (and herself) have been sick for several weeks.  The Rockette deemed the Rock Star too sick to go find the car and faithfully brought it around while we waited in the warm foyer with our Charli girl secured in her car seat under some blankets.

We went to dinner, all of us strung out along a long table.  The Beautiful Redhead and Magic Man showed up along with some friends of the couple's from work.  I looked down at our two families, now joined as one, and thanked God that this couple had found each other and brought us all together for the rest of our lives.  Babies were passed around, everyone was smiling and visiting with each other.  My own Beautiful Redhead's laughter pealed out at one point, filling my heart and eyes with wonder and gratitude that we were all there in the moment.  Also thinking ahead to the day when we would once again be joined for her own wedding day.  I assume it will be the Magic Man she marries that day.  If not, a whole lot of hearts will be broken wide open because we love him too.

If any doubt remained that our two families were compatible, they were put to rest in a hurry when a rude, and quite possibly drunken woman yelled at my own Rock Star to "shut the damn door" while we were carrying stuff out after dinner.  The Rock Star is by nature a pretty mellow fellow, and he tends to get upset rarely but memorably like his mother.  Add to that the slow burn that may smolder for decades but never be forgotten, which he gets from his father, and you have a formidable enemy that looks so good and seems so nice you would have a hard time believing it until it happens to you.  3 of us followed him to the car, listening to the Rock Star rehearse what he was going to say to that woman all the way to the car, back through the restaurant and back to the room we had dined in, I was readying myself for true battle.  Not to worry though, I should have known The Rockette herself was handling that with panache in the time we were gone.  By that time the rude woman's date-or husband-or whatever, had told her she was embarrassing him, to which she indicated that she didn't give a damn about that either.   That poor man was doing all he could to make himself invisible.  All I wanted to say was "Have another drink, honey!", because I learned years ago that alcohol does not usually complement your basic personality or endear you to those who are not inebriated also.  The most you can hope for, I have learned, is that they pass out quickly.  Hence the phrase "Have another drink!"  And be quick about it!  Could I interest you in some grain alcohol?  Because we don't have all night!  The entertainment they provide, I must point out, cannot be replicated or topped by much that I have ever seen.  :D  

At any rate, I believe she rued the day she had let her mouth get away from her as 20 people bore down on her and quite effectively brought peace and order to that restaurant once again.  It was actually one of the funniest things I have ever been lucky enough to witness and I can report truthfully that our families are truly united, for better or for worse.  We rose as one, with even the babies paying attention.  We are in this together, come what may!  The enemy was vanquished in short order. 

It certainly ended the year 2014 on a memorable note.  That's all I've got to say about that!  I daresay no one who was there will ever forget it.  One marriage starting out strong, one possible marriage limping along.....if that "lady" was on a first date I doubt there will be a second.  Just saying.

Somehow I just know the wedding and reception will fall a little short on memorable episodes.  At least, that is my hope.  I suppose it is always best not to rule anything out.

So bring on 2015!  Here is to the first of many happy years with the new and formidable Mr. and Mrs. Clark, with all our love, good wishes and unquestionable support.  I just have the best feeling about this one.

It's about time you two had another dance on your old mom.  Love you both forever.

Dec 27, 2014

You Can't Go Home Again........

The title of this post comes from this song that has haunted me the last few years.

I guess I'm getting sentimental in my old age, but doesn't everybody?  Why?  Because the older you get, the more things change.  Change is good, overall, but sometimes it hurts.

Moving back to my other home, my heart fills every time I look around.  The red dirt, the bluffs, the trees, all these are familiar from my childhood and have not changed.  This makes me feel like I have indeed come home.  And yet, some things have changed, and while I know in my head that everything must, it breaks my heart.

My uncle Melvin and I recently took a trip to the cemetery to visit Nana's grave.  Once at the cemetery, we took our trip through town.  The town is Southwest City, Missouri, and Nana lived all the way through town right before the tri-state cornerstone.  She didn't live there her whole life, but that was the house all her grandchildren remember the best.  It was the house where we all came every Sunday for dinner.  It was the house where our parent's traveled to spend weekends when we were small.  I can remember waking up on the living room floor with all my cousins, where our parents had deposited us like so many burritos wrapped in our individual blankets.  

The house was down a winding road, and walking up to get the mail was a big trip for little legs to make.  I was never old enough to go, and sometimes my cousins got to ride the horse to get the mail.  I was never old enough for that either, and by the time I was old enough there wasn't a horse to ride.  Nana lived on a farm, and I can remember going with her milk the cow.  I would watch her pour off the cream, separate out the butter milk, and pour the milk over oatmeal for our breakfast.  Gathering eggs did not just mean from the chickens in the coop.  Nana had banties and guineas as well, which involved roaming the fields to find the eggs.  I wasn't old enough for that either, denied because I would step on the nests.  She had rabbits that she raised for meat, and geese that I don't know why she raised but remember as being very mean.  Nana always had bruises on her thighs from those geese, and I can remember seeing her reach out and wring their necks nonchalantly when they were headed for one of us little ones.

She sold the place years ago, and a family bought it but the house later burned.  In all these years we had looked in vain from the highway above trying to see what was left, but were always foiled by the leaves during the summer.

This time the leaves were gone, and we could see that nothing much remained.  My uncle Melvin pulled up the cattle guard at the top of the hill and asked me if I thought anyone would care if we drove down there.  I said I doubted it, but was secretly thrilled that he was going to do it, as I and my cousins had often hovered there too afraid to go on down for fear of trespassing.  We started the drive and I cannot tell you how it felt to once again travel down that winding gravel drive.  It truly did feel like coming home again. 

We drove slowly, commenting on the new barn that didn't used to be there and all the things that did used to be there but no longer were.  We were prepared for everything to be gone, but were surprised that the car port remained.

As the truck stopped right in front of the old carport, I said "How many hours have we all spent sitting right here drinking tea?" and the tears started flowing.  I got out, and through tear filled eyes, made my way across the cattle guard that I could remember being old enough to walk across for the very first time.  This was the cattle guard that my cousin Billy lost his play holster in and all us kids looked for it down there for years but never did find.  Funny the things you remember.  
We started just calling out memories.  How bad a driver Chief (Nana's second husband) was. How there used to be clothes lines strung between the posts. Nana had a dryer but did not prefer to use it.   How no one ever used the front door or porch even though it was on the front of the house.  The little wooden box with paper and pencil to leave a note and a clock to position on the front for when they had stopped by.  The spot where she butchered her chickens.  The old tractor seats welded onto posts with circular bottoms that she had instead of lawn chairs.  The hooks that had faithfully held the porch swing, still there but empty. The water tank for the horses that used to also be a home to goldfish.   The time Chief wanted to try Melvin's new motorcycle and ended up driving it straight into the trash barrel and crashing it. This turned the tears into laughter.  We have laughed about that for at least 25 years and probably will till we die.  Where the rabbit cages used to be.  We wiped tears and laughed and swore there never used to be a tree in a certain spot.  I looked at the hill where the hollyhocks used to grow and asked if it didn't used to be steeper.  Melvin said no, and I had to trust his memory more than my own.

This one was taken standing in the car port and looking East toward the highway.  In the summer the fence row up there is covered with honeysuckle.  The fence remains but all the gates made out of wagon wheels are all gone.  There used to be irises along the fence in front and no doubt they will bloom again this spring, perhaps unaware that they alone remain the same.  Whatever was left of the house has been cleaned up really well.  You would never know, could never fathom, the house that used to be there.  There was no cellar but there was a basement full of canned goodness from Nana's garden, shining like jewels when the sun hit them.  I could still see Chief in that field baling hay in the little square bales.  The tractor frequently broke down and how he could cuss when that happened!   It was more common to see him working on the tractor in that field than it was to see the bales rolling off like they were supposed to.  Something about twine and how you couldn't find parts anymore...........I guess that tractor was probably an antique even then.

These graduated cement blocks surrounded the outside of the shed on the back of the carport.  Rabbit cages used to line them on the yard side.  I remember being warned not to climb on them from my mother's fear that I would fall.  I did it anyway and did not fall, but never when my mother was there.  They seem much smaller now, with the lowest set being about shin high on me now.  That was the glory of Nana's.  We were often there together, us cousins, while our parents were gone or just inside and not paying attention.  I do not remember ever getting in trouble there, although we surely did.  I do remember a round picnic table, covered with contact paper, that my older cousins put me on once and spun me around until I threw up.  I was so sick I could hardly tell our parents that I had wanted them to do that to me.  It was even better than a merry-go-round!  What I remember is us getting called in to eat and myself making it as far as the screen door before I erped up everything that was in my stomach.  The adults asked what had happened and I told them but they interpreted my story as a mean trick the older boys had pulled on me.  It wasn't that way at all.  I asked for it.  I only remember my panic that my cousins would think I had sold them out and my mom almost getting me all the way into the bathroom before I could make it clear that it wasn't their fault.  That is the only time that I can remember anyone even coming close to getting in trouble at Nana's.

You can't go home again, I know.  And yet.  We were home.  We were together.  Nothing of this earth remains the same, but our memories make another kind of home.  As long as we are here together, nothing can ever take our memories.  I thank God that I have this time to be home, here, again.  With my family that I have been so far away from for so long, I will make new memories.  They will never overshadow my old ones, though.  This is hald of my foundation, my roots, and my future, all tied up together.  Nothing can ever take that away from any of us.  No fire, no rebuilding, no tornado, no storm.

Nana's legacy is us, not a house or a farm or even a carport where you might pull up only to find her in her underwear pulling clothes off the clothesline to put on.  In Lori's last days, she said to me "Let's go to Nana's", and I was surprised that she remembered.  She was a little miffed that I was surprised.  Lori said of course she remembered Nana's, because she was so welcoming and that being there was so relaxing.  All true, and I can only hope that each of us continues her tradition.  We are so very blessed to be part of this family, and need to do better to get together and remember her, and ourselves, the way we should.  We can not forget who we are, where we came from, or what is really important in life.  Nana runs through all of that, and all of us.  We will find our home in each other forever, and where ever location we might be in, a part of us will always be right there on that farm.  Sitting outside on the car port, drinking sweet tea, waiting for Nana to call us in to dinner.

Dec 20, 2014

Picking Your Battles............

Being a mother is not for the faint of heart.  It's a job that does not come with weekends, days off, or vacation.  It's a job that calls for decisions that are often deemed heartless by one's own offspring.  Sometimes you just have to stand your ground and wait for enough time to pass that they see the reasoning behind your "heartlessness" and thank you for it.  It's a tricky dance to ensure that your child is well taken care of, healthy, and happy.
In fact, happy is usually the hardest part. You spend a lot of time second guessing yourself, and sometimes it takes years before you know you did, or did not do, the right thing.
What makes our children happy sometimes breaks our hearts, scares us to death, enrages us, and can even drive us to despair.
Don't get worried, I am just talking about a shirt.  You would not think that just a shirt could put anyone through such anguish, unless you were a mother.
All my children had blankies as babies that gradually fell apart by the time the children were about 3.
I saved these blankies faithfully, even when there were only shreds of them left.
I felt it was the right thing to do.
Now, I know it was the right thing to do.  If you have ever seen your child's face light up when they see a long lost "friend" such as this, you know what I'm talking about.  If you haven't yet seen this, save the crap they love, even if it's gross.  Just do the best you can.  They can throw it away if they want.  It's theirs to throw, all in good time.
How could I throw away something my babies loved?
Throw away part of their security?  NEVER!
I carefully saved and packed away those blankies, or what was left of them, packed in plastic bags so that no bugs, no mold, no bad smells, would desecrate what meant so much to my children.
Lately, however, this particular battle has come back around to haunt me.
I offer the prosecution's exhibit 1.

I don't think this picture does justice to how bad of a shape this poor sweatshirt is in.
It used to be white.
It came into my youngest babies life when he was in 7th grade.
He wore it MUCH.
That was 5 years ago.
It's been through a lot with him.
Possibly the most important years of his life.
I have wrestled with getting rid of it for at least 3 years now.
He loves this sweatshirt as much as he loved his blankie when he was small.

Here is another shot against an off-white washing machine.
It certainly was worth whatever money I spent on it, I must admit.
Especially considering I undoubtedly bought it at a garage sale or a second hand shop.
It's lost it's shape.  It's a dingy gray now, no matter how much I bleach it, add baking soda to the laundry.
Oxiclean has no effect.
I've tried everything except dying it.
I draw the line here because 1) It might upset his delicate emotional balance as it relates to this shirt, and 2) I usually make a terrible mess of things like that and would probably end up with odd splotches of color for months on good clothes.
Believe me, it would happen.
It's lost it's shape.
It's cuffs are torn and tattered.
It hangs on him like a rag.
It has been a really good shirt.  Hollister, my hat is off to you.  Salute!
People might well think it has survived a terrible fire, barely.
I could not blame them for drawing this conclusion, but they would be wrong.
I would feel better if it had survived a terrible fire.
At least that would be a reasonable explanation.

It is getting too embarrassing for me to allow him to wear it anymore.
Can you see my point here?
I mean, I know he loves this shirt.
He has worn it without interruption except for the one time I tried to throw it away, about 2 years ago.
He found it in the trash and told me in no uncertain terms that it was his favorite sweatshirt and he could not live without it.
Could. Not. LIVE.
He felt betrayed that I had thrown it away.
I felt terrible.  I had betrayed him by throwing it away.  I was a bad mom!
But not as terrible as I did when he wore it to school..........
"What must people think of me?" I wondered.  The ego never dies, even if all you have left that you really care about is your laundry skills.  Menopause, the great apathetic state that can be soothing at times.
So when we moved I did not have the heart to throw it away again.
I saw it in the laundry the first week we were here.
 I lobbed that sucker up on top of a pile of cleaning rags in the laundry room.
I had peace of mind for about 2 weeks.
2 weeks that my poor Youngest Baby was frantic looking for his favorite sweatshirt.
He finally decided he had lost it in the move.  Or so I thought.
I thought I had won that battle.  
I consoled myself with the knowledge that I could give it back to him after he had acclimated himself to wearing the many good, warm, unstained, untorn sweatshirts that he has.  In his closet.  Anxiously waiting their turn to get to be worn.
They deserve a turn!!
It is a testament to either his love for this damn thing or just his stubborn, single-minded devotion to all things HIS that he looked until he found it.
I can assure you, he has never surveyed the rag pile before.
I had not won that battle.
I am such a fool.

So tonight, when I found it in the laundry again, (Drat!  Foiled again!) I said
"Youngest Baby?  This sweatshirt........I don't care if you keep it, but could you not wear it anymore?"
This brought a hearty round of laughter from the boys around my kitchen table playing the Magic game.
(The Magic game is some kind of game played with cards.....probably just as bad as video games but not video games, which puts me on the side of the Magic game.)
My Youngest Baby looked hurt.  My heart broke a little more.
His friends said they knew which shirt I spoke of.
They said he wore it to school.  My face got red.
I said it looked like orphan's rags.
He said that shirt had been through a lot with him.
I said I understood.
But then I begged him not to wear it in public anymore.
It's a work shirt, I said.
It's a perfect shirt to work on the car, or burn leaves, I said.
"If I can find another shirt exactly like it?  Would you quit wearing it then?"  I bargained.
He agreed to that.
So now I have a mission.  Possibly an impossible one.
I don't want my Youngest Baby to be unhappy.
I also cannot stand the embarrassment of him wearing this shirt in public ever again.
But I do not have the heart to make that happen because it would hurt him too much.
For whatever reason, this shirt has taught me a lesson.
I am not nearly as tough as I like to pretend.
Oh, I can talk the talk.
I can talk it all day long.
In fact, I am pretty convincing.
But my babies are just as sentimental as I am, and I am proud of that.
In the end, embarrassed as I am that people either think I'm so poor my children have to wear the same clothes endlessly for 5 years at a time, or that I never wash their clothes (which of those 2 things are worse, exactly???) I am a big, old, push over.
At least when it comes to my babies and the things (disgusting as they may sometimes be) that mean a lot to them.
I am not heartless, and this is a good thing.
But do you think people know that?  Or do they just think I'm filthy?
Does this really matter?
All that matters is that I have finally found a way to compromise.
My youngest baby gets to keep the shirt.
In fact, I may frame it.
At least that way he won't wear it anymore.
What's a mother to do when her child's heart is involved?
It's just a shirt.  What's left of a shirt.
Much more bleach and it will surely disintegrate, right?  But that would kill him.
I guess I will look for a frame, and another sweatshirt just like it.