Friday, May 31, 2013

Today, Yesteryear, and Tomorrow

Today I read the obituary of a man I once knew.  His daughter Becky and I were very good friends in high school, seemingly a lifetime ago.  Reading the abridged account of his life sent me back to those days.

As a teenager, I imagined everyone's parents were better than my own, everyone's house, better than mine, everyone's family more "normal" than my own. I was number two child, number two daughter with four younger brothers and a houseful of critters (dogs, cat, monkey, guinea pig, rabbit, chicken and whatever odd pet managed to find its way home with one of us.)

"Normal" families had neat houses, with matching furniture, wall to wall carpeting and usually 2-4 children.  "Normal" families had a TV, rather than a monkey.

For reasons I cannot completely recall, I ended up spending a good part of my senior year more or less "living" at my friend Becky's "normal" house, with her "normal" parents (Hal and Sally), and her "normal" siblings (Tom and Jan).  I think I was invited to spend the night one night and ended up staying a month or three....

And these wonderful people, this "normal family," made me feel completely welcome.  I remember the house filled with laughter, music and love.  They even took me with them on their annual Spring Break vacation that year.  It remains the most favorite beach week of my life.

This afternoon, as I let my mind travel down memory lane, (Kornett Lane to those who lived in my home town) I found myself remembering a related event, shaking my head as I tried to imagine an adult having so much trust in my teenage self.

The summer of 1978 I was home from college. During my first year in college my parents had divorced and my mother had moved to an apartment in Washington, DC.  My adopted "normal" family was heading off for a summer vacation.  They left me with the keys to older brother Tom's car (little green Gremlin) and a large amount of cash, along with a registration form so that I could register Hal for some graduate courses he'd be taking when they returned from vacation.  Oh, those trusting souls.

One night during the week or two they were out of town, and before I'd been able to register Hal for his class, I needed to drive into Washington, DC to pick up my then-boyfriend from the bus station.  My younger brother, Dan, agreed to take the drive with me (I HATE driving in DC).  It was dark.  I was driving the Gremlin. We came to a stop at a red traffic light in downtown DC.  When the light turned green, the car would not go.  Neither Dan nor I could figure out how to get her going again.

This was well before the days of GPS and cell phones, so we were left to our own wits to figure out a way to get help. We pushed the car to the curb, locked her up, took the keys and started walking.  I hate driving in DC because I am ALWAYS lost when in that town.  Dan thought we could find our way to Mom's apartment and call for help from there.  As arguably the most geographically challenged person ever born, I should have been happy to let Dan lead the way.  However, I was worried.  In my purse was a wad of cash that did not belong to me, and I was certain a mugging was in my immediate future.  I wanted to get out of that place and over to Mom's place as fast as my feet would carry me.

So Dan suggested "the best" route (which, I don't mind telling you was a pretty scary one in that part of town, late on a Friday or Saturday night) and I walked at my fastest pace.  Dan, who could easily outpace me, kept trying to insist that I looked suspicious walking so fast and should slow down.  I kept insisting that we (the money and I) HAD to get to Mom's place fast, before we got mugged.  Dan suggested I give the money to him and he'd put it in his shoe... I was APPALLED by the idea, as he was WEARING NO SOCKS!

Somehow, we found our way to Mom's without getting mugged. As luck would have it Mom's apartment was right across from the bus station.  We were actually on time meeting my boyfriend. Then all we had to do was figure out how to get assistance for the disabled car, and find a way to get back home to the suburbs.....

Odd as life often is, my grandparents were visiting from Florida, chaperoning the three boys at home while Dad and my new stepmother were visiting my brother Tim, stationed in Germany.  We called Grandma from Mom's apartment and told her the story of our current predicament.  No problem.  She'd drive in and pick us up, which she did without getting the least bit lost. (How is it possible that we who lived in the suburbs of the nation's capitol were ALWAYS lost when trying to drive on her streets, and my grandmother from Massachusetts, transplanted to Florida, maneuvered through DC's streets with no trouble at all???)

I don't recall how we recovered Tom's car.  I don't recall actually registering Hal for his courses.  I did both, but my vivid memory is of breaking Tom's car and subjecting myself to potential mugging and loss of Hal's money.  That was one scary night, and all I could think while it was happening was, "why on earth did I drive Tom's car into DC and WHY did I bring all that money with me????"  Perhaps I wasn't the most intelligent kid on the block.  Perhaps the "normal" family's trust was misplaced in me.  I was just happy that all was in order when they returned from their vacation.

Tomorrow they will hold a memorial service for Hal.  He was 79.  He was a well loved junior high school music teacher in my hometown.  He was a wonderful pianist.  And he was my friend Becky's father.  May he rest in peace.

Back to the present.

May has been another busy travel month for me.  I've been up to the DC area several times, out to California and to Texas on business travel.  During two trips in May, I included side trips to visit with Mom and help her with some of her "honey-do" lists.  On Mother's Day, Joe and I had a nice visit with Jenn and the Lovely Miss Eloise, here at the farm, where, everything is bursting with growth...animals, plants, mosquitoes, ticks, the whole "spring into life" thing is very visible around here.
Miss Eloise Meets Jay Lee

Bucket o' Chicks testing the outdoors for the first time
Kids in the Play House
Judy spending some quality time with Miah
Joe contracted to have some of the larger trees felled and that whole process, due to weather constraints (rain), dragged on for a couple of weeks. There was stump grinding and more roads were worked. We burned brush and leaves for days and still have more to burn. We also managed to get the stairs in the old farmhouse sealed and finishing to occur tomorrow.  We still have some caulking and trim work to complete upstairs and then....drum roll, please... we SHOULD be able to move in.  Oh, sure, there will still be plenty of little things to complete, but, hopefully, we can complete those while we are living in the house. I am SOOOO ready to be there.
Cutting up one of about 15 trees felled
Joe, from "on high"
Making quick work of the stumps
Judy, stacking the wood for splitting
And More Roads
Adding Leaves to the Fire
Working the Fire
Finishing Stairs
Finishing Hearth
Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will erect a new goat pen and move the goats in to begin their next underbrush clearing project.  Next, we'll begin erecting another chicken pen and more dog runs.  Joe has built two new "summer quarters" for the goats that can be moved from pen to pen as needed.  He is working on several more chicken houses so that everyone has plenty of space.
Goat Shed Frames (re purposing old pallets)
Re purposing pool siding for goat shed sides
Screwing it all together
Two "new" summer goat sheds

Roomy Inside of the new Goat Sheds
The puppies are growing like weeds and are learning to be more obedient daily, but they still have lots of room for improvement!  Our "Princess," the hen who was badly mauled in late January, is now sitting on a clutch of eggs.... we shall see if she has the staying power to see them through hatching.  We are waiting to see whether our first attempt at rabbit breeding was successful.  And the once-tiny baby chicks are now 20 very energetic and plump, fully feathered chirpers!  The baby goats are weaning, though I still see them suckling when they can get away with it.... we need to start milking the mama, so we can try our hand at goat cheese.... so much to do, so quickly the days get away from us!
Judy Teaching Ruby to "relax"
Latest "pet"
Barn Living
Rabbit Breeding
Chicks in their New Pen

Baby Goats Weaning?
Enjoying Bounty from the Gardens Daily
NOT one of our pets!
OK, Move Along Now!

Here's to June!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thoughts of Her Came Rushing Back

I was five, maybe six, when my grandparents went to Bermuda.  I had no idea where that was or why they were going there, but I did understand they were going on a vacation.  We didn't live with my grandparents, in fact we'd lived continents apart for half of my young life.  Nevertheless, Granddad and Granther were leaving, and we -- Dad, Mom and the six kids, were seeing them off.  We were a musical family, even back then.  Expression through singing was the norm, and so only in retrospect does it seem odd that we children sang a goodbye song to send them on their journey.

"Now is the hour that we must say goodbye.
Soon you'll be sailing, far across the sea,
While you're away, oh, please remember me
When you return you'll find me waiting here."

After we sang, we gave Granddad and Granther kisses and hugs and they were on their way.

I remember that scene vividly.

Today, I was running errands after work and one of my stops was Ollie's...the discount "department" (junk) store.  I needed a hammer.  I grabbed the small basket rather than pushing the shopping cart, confident that my search for a hammer did not require anything bigger than the basket.  When I located the hammers, I discovered there were options and Joe hadn't been specific on which kind of hammer he wanted... only had suggested Ollie's as having the cheap ones.  As I examined the selection, 16 oz. Rip, 16 oz Claw, 20 oz. Rip, the canned music overhead caught my attention.  Frank Sinatra was crooning, "Now is the hour...."

I decided to take one of each hammer, and as I walked to the register with my basket o' hammers, my mind and heart were flooding with the memories of Granther, of that day nearly 50 years ago, the last time I remember saying goodbye to my beloved grandmother.

Years later I understood more about that trip.  The adults already knew Granther had terminal cancer.  The vacation was taken while she was still feeling strong enough to enjoy it.  I'm sure that vacation was bittersweet for those old enough to understand the realities of life.  For me, it is always how I remember her, that last goodbye.

After they returned from their vacation, I'm sure we visited them, but those times I do not recall with clarity.  The next moment burned in my memory is the moment my mother got the word that she needed to come, Granther, only two years older than I am today, was at the end of her earthly life.  She passed away in late December 1964 -- I was six and a half years old.

In all the years that have passed I honestly do not remember ever hearing that song on the radio or even on a record.  I have sung it over the years, but today, out of the blue, I was six years old again, saying goodbye to the beautiful woman I knew for too few years.

It was a lovely memory.  She was a lovely woman.

Grandad and Granther, years before I met them!