Saturday, April 22, 2017

When One Moment in Time Becomes Another

I can’t remember why I was there without my other family members. Perhaps I wasn’t. Maybe, I’d ridden along with my dad, while he did something on the farm. Perhaps he’d told me my purpose for that day and I don’t remember. Maybe that purpose was for me to sit with my grandfather, his father, Hurschel Powell, while my grandmother Minnie did things around the house.

The life she’d agreed to, as a bride, was difficult. They lived miles from the nearest town, in the country, on a working farm. No telephone. That was hard enough, but now she faced an impossible thing; her husband was dying. He had Parkinson’s disease, and she had become his nurse.

At 11 or 12 years old, I did not begin that moment in time by sitting next to my grandfather’s bed. I could have, but it was too uncomfortable to look into his face. No one had told me, but I knew that my robust, congenial grandfather was in the clutches of death, from a terrible disease. So I sat nearer their regular bed, my side to his bed, donning curlers in my hair, and intent on painting my fingernails.

“What are you doing?” he said, in whispers.

I was forced to turn and look at my grandfather whose devout love for me showed in his face. He grinned and a familiar twinkle appeared in his eyes, reminding me of my dad.

“Painting my nails.”

“Can you come here and show me?”

It was like I was finally given permission to do something that I didn’t know how to do. I wasted no (more) time in pulling my chair closer to his bed. My grandfather said that he thought the polish color was pretty. He asked me if I had a date. I laughed and blushed as I always did back then. His face grew serious after that. I'm not certain why, could have been the disease, fatigue, but I think now it was because my grandfather knew he would not see me in my dating years. He would die soon after that, in his mid fifties (I think). One last thing I remember about that day was when he lifted his trembling hands to move one closer to me, but finally surrendering it to his sheeted mattress. These were the same hands that had played with his grandchildren. The same gentle hands that lifted me to sit on the tractor and picked me up to soothe my wounded finger after a turkey bit it, then calmly used the moment to teach me the importance of obedience.

Recently, I was reminded of that day when I sat by my dad’s hospital bed. I noticed how his hands reminded me of my grandfather's hands. Not long after that day, my dad, Ronnie Powell, 81 years old, passed away, and...we are sad.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Trading Lives

In the early morning hours, we leave our farmhouse, the outhouse, the best well water you’ve ever tasted, a large extended family and my best friend behind. My parents are trading a Missouri rural life for an Illinois city life, a new job for my dad at Caterpillar, a new school and a house on Hamilton Street. I feel excited for the adventure, but dread whispers a sad goodbye. 

Mom’s brother is tall, with black hair and tanned skin like her. He’s leaving his farm work behind (for someone else to do) to help us move. His wife has come along to help him haul some of our worldly possessions, in the bed of their pickup.

Along the highways, I switch from looking out of the side window of our car to the front windshield, between my dad’s red curly hair and my mom's head, to watch the pickup traveling in front of our car. Normally, my aunt and uncle fuss at each other, but on this trip, they are newlyweds again, laughing and using names like “honey” and “punkin”. At least temporarily, they trade their old relationship for a pre-marriage one. This new side, of my aunt and uncle, causes me to stare at them, much like people do when passing a car accident. 

After hours of traveling, we arrive on Hamilton Street where darkness has smothered the day and evenly spaced street lamps shed dim light. When we pull into the driveway of a dark house, my dad is the first to exit the car and enter our new home. From the car, I watch the house until blocks of light pop on inside the windows, from the back to the front. My dad appears again in the driveway, and we get out of the car to go inside. He and my uncle begin hauling our things to the house. 

Inside, I explore the unfamiliar two-story with basement, but leave both the upstairs and its basement for another day. I end up back in the kitchen where everyone has gathered. My mom’s tired eyes sparkle when she turns on the kitchen faucet and allows her fingers to dance under the flowing water, a convenience we did not leave behind. She giggles, but my dad says to turn off the water because we have to pay for it now. I’m saddened by his command and wonder how anyone can be made to pay for water.

Two men who seem to know my dad stop by our house. Even though they are old and in their twenties, like my parents, I immediately fall in love with the one called Anthony. He makes me forget my third grade boyfriend back home.

Before long, I follow my uncle and dad back outside, but when they return inside, I stay behind and walk to the edge of the driveway. Each house along the street is close to another and lit up. My eyes scan each one finally resting on the house across the street. Through sheer curtains, I see shadowy shapes of various body sizes darting around the room. My mind pushes past the weariness of travel, the heartache of leaving our Missouri place and a growling stomach to suggest that this is the adventure I’d been waiting for all my life.
My eyes focus on the ghost dance of my new neighbors, through their filmy curtains. “I hope kids my age live there." My voice sounds small on my new street and as it mingles with city noises that I am not accustom to, yet.

(The picture is of the house and me on Hamilton Street.  I thought I was alone in the picture. If you click on the photo, you might be startled by something or someone in the bottom left corner. I was.

Did you move as a child? Was it a good or bad experience? 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Laura Ingalls Wilder Love

If you know me at all, you might remember how much I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder books. In grade school and while we lived in Illinois, I began reading the Little House books. Our teacher read to our class Little House in the Big Woods, and well, you know how it goes, I was hooked on the books. It was after I’d read my favorite of the books, The Long Winter, that I decided I would write the author a letter.  

Guess what? She had already passed away. I still feel a little bitter about that. 
I'm so pleased that I live near Laura's adult home in Mansfield, Missouri. I visit there at least once a year. So you might imagine my happiness when they announced last year (or it could have been the year before)that a new museum would be built. 

It is built.

It has opened. 

I have visited. 

The old museum was wonderful, but a bit small. The new museum is larger and has a few additional items that were not on display in the old museum. If you get to Missouri, travel to Mansfield, stop by the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum and visit her homes. 

You’ll get to see the farmhouse.

And the rock house that their daughter Rose built for her parents (my favorite). 


A huge Laura Ingalls Wilder Fan since grade school!

Have you ever read the LIW books? Visited any of the Ingalls' home sites or Mansfield, MO? 

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Now when I was a kid...

Soon we’ll be looking at another summer in the rearview mirror, waving goodbye either with gladness or tears. When I was a kid, the older adults said, “Now when I was a kid, things were different.” 

I'm now, not so suddenly, that person.
When I was a kid in the sixties, summers were different than what kids experience today. As a child, I played outdoors, my brother and I pretending we had a ranch, using tree branches for our horses. Our cattle were illusions of our minds. Leafy grasses became our currency. Often barefoot, we stayed outside all day, except for meals. When we moved to the city, for three years, we still played outside all day, but we had other kids to play with and bicycles to ride.

In the country, our bathroom was an outhouse, our bathtub--a washtub or a pan of warm water. I didn't know that air-conditioning existed. We slept most hot summer nights, upstairs. After church, summer Sundays were spent at my grandmother's house eating good food, making ice cream, swimming in the creek or river, and playing with cousins. 
My summers as a teenager were different than younger childhood. My brother and I no longer played together. We fought as siblings do. I thought about boys a lot. I read many books. One summer, I discovered the wonderful world of mythology through the traveling library from town.  I also discovered the classics written by authors like Jane Austin, John Steinbeck, and Kurt Vonnegut. I willingly disappeared into fantasy worlds. 

I taught myself to play the guitar. I played John Denver and Eagles songs. 

One summer, I discovered soap operas. They became my family and friends. I cried with the characters, fretted, fell in love and looked forward to seeing the characters each day. And "so were the days of our lives". 

I discovered talking on the telephone with friends, while being careful of what I shared, since we were on a party line and had neighbors who gossiped. Our phone was attached to a wall in the kitchen--a rotary dial. I didn't know about cell phones, but did fantasize about "what if" we had a car phone, and I could talk to my friends on the way to town. By that time, we had added a full bath for five people, to our house.

In the summer, rural teenagers(in my area)dated or hung out in groups of friends and drove continuously around our "square" in town on Saturday nights. We ate hamburgers and drank cokes from Mr. Swiss or the Snack Shack. We watched movies at the town movie theater, but preferred the drive-in movie at the edge of town. Some kids sat on river banks drinking beer or wine, bought by older peers, while some kids smoke their cigarettes and other things.


All summers, for most kids, were spent in church activities, ice cream socials and Vacation Bible School.

I enjoyed my summers, but always longed for school to begin again, since I craved the social life with my friends. 

Kids in my day were imaginative, read books and played hard physically, but that was my childhood. Kids are still imaginative and read. Every new generation forges their own childhood summer memories according to what is available to them and what they choose to do. Their memories will mean no less to them, than mine do to me. They will inevitably say to a younger generation,"Now when I was a kid...." 

Looking back on summer. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

I blame the turkeys.

I'm the little girl, far right, in the photo.
No fence separating us in this photo!
(Sorry for the grainy picture.)
When I was a young child, my paternal grandparents (see header photo, bottom far right) were raising turkeys, probably I was familiar with chickens because my maternal grandmother (see header, bottom left photo) would take me with her to gather eggs, showed me how make them leave their nests and even tied up a hen or two so that I could have a pet chicken, while I visited. (No hating on me, okay? I was a child.)

Turkeys were a different matter.

One day we were visiting my grandparents and ended up outside the turkey pen, looking in through the wire.

“Stand back from the fence,” Grandpa said, “They could bite.”

The turkeys seemed as curious about us as we were about them. While the adults talked, I watched them. They strutted about, sometimes in circles, puffing out their chests, fluffing out their feathers and all the while screaming turkey words at us, in gobbler sounds.

Bold, but not so beautiful, the turkeys moved closer to the wire fence.
I moved closer to the fence.
Something told me to stick my finger through the wire and wiggle it. Know what happened next? Yes, one rude turkey rushed to bite it.
At first I was in shock, then I burst out crying while holding my finger. My grandpa raced to me, lifted me to his arms, and studied my (non)injury.
“A turkey bit me,” I blubbered.
“The turkey thought your finger was a worm and wanted to eat it," he said, rubbing the pain from my finger. "Now don’t do that again.”
I remember I stopped crying to look at my finger. A worm? Eat it?
I also remember the turkeys and I never became friends.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

One Beautiful Sound

We stood on the porch of the singing church that was filled beyond limit. The rest of the attendees flowed to the porch where we waited  in our Sunday dresses: my cousin, my friend and me. We waited for our names to be called because we were there to sing.  Church singings were the place to be on a Sunday afternoon with your family—back then.
The name we gave to our singing group escapes me, but we had one.  When our name was called, we clawed our way through the standing people on the porch,  the large group inside the foyer and scooted sideways down the aisle between folding chairs shoved at each end of the wooden pews. When we finally stepped up on the platform, at the front of the room, one tween and two teens faced a sea of staring faces. 
What seemed like hours was only seconds as we waited for the pianist to start the song we would sing: At the Cross. To help my nerves, my eyes searched the room for my Grandma Sadie who had a seat inside. Some people smiled at us, some glared and others carried blank expressions. Finally, my eyes touched her sweet face and smiling eyes. 
Afraid we would miss our musical cue, I jumped in singing a little too soon, a little out of key and my voice cracking under nervous pressure. When a new confidence exploded in our egos, our voices sang out, blending into one beautiful sound.
After the song ended, we enjoyed the crash of applause but hurried back down the aisle to escape. On the way out, people patted our shoulders and said things like “You need to sing again sometime.” And, “Girls, you've got talent.”
As I remember it, we never sang together again. Probably for the better. We might have become famous, and well—you know.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Smuggling and Giggles

The word smuggle makes me giggle. I have no idea why except some words do that for me. When Hillary Melton-Butcher from Positive Letters…inspirational stories…. featured the word “Smuggling” as her A-Z alphabet word posted here, I giggled. Then this story popped into my mind.

I have a weakness for most sugary candies. When my kids were young, every Easter I bought candy to fill their Easter baskets. Halloween, I would buy candy to hand out to the goblins. Christmas—well the same, I bought candy to fill the Christmas stockings.

My problem was that this task turned into an expensive venture when I would buy the candy and then smuggle the candy (out of the baskets--sometimes) the “Easter Bunny” had prepared or from the stash of candy I had hidden and eat it.

Then off to the store again I would go to buy candy, all over again. Thankfully, my metabolism was much better then.

One day, my (then) husband said to me after my run to the store to purchase more candy, “I thought you'd already bought candy for the baskets.”

I grinned and nodded, then rolled the half eaten Easter egg with a hardish shell and creamy white middle, to the inside of my cheek. “I ate most of it.”

He rolled his eyes and left the room.

A few years later, I decided that I wouldn’t buy ANY candy for ANY occasion until the day before I needed it. This works much better for my pocketbook, my waistline and my smuggling weakness.

And let's not forget the story of smuggling a box of sugar cubes from my friend’s basement so we could eat the entire box, but when we couldn’t, stored them elsewhere for future consumption. It didn’t really work out. Read The Sugar War, if you haven't, yet.

Smuggling drugs, people and terrorists into any country is not cool, terribly wrong and criminal.

My type of smuggling gives me--yes, giggles.