Saturday, July 14, 2018

A breaking heart

Today I write with a heavy heart. In fact, my heart is so sad that I fear it might break. How much longer can I write about Neff Road? I am not sure.

I grew up in a red state. I didn't know any better. I just did what my parents did and was told all the reasons it was the best to be a Republican. Throughout my life I questioned what was happening in our country. I questioned my faith wondering why it was so narrow minded, why it did not progress with our awareness of life around us other than what we knew. I questioned why men wrote the Bible and its interpretations. I saw narrow-mindedness all around me and did not know how to cope with it.

Over the decades I allowed myself to stand back and make my own decisions and observations. I knew that the way I was raised was based on a patriarchal attitude. Men had the say. Cowboys brandished guns and took what they wanted. People were shot and no one seemed to care. They just went on to the next scene. I watch old shows and wonder how we could even have tolerated the discrimination. What was wrong with this life I was raised in? It was a great life on the farm, but the scope of life in general was limited. There was no new input because everyone believed the same thing. I was suffocating.

All of the siblings in my family could not wait to escape the narrow bounds of our growing up. We all went to places where we were surrounded by other cultures and ideas. We had neighbors of all colors, all orientations, all religions, all nations. Our view of the world expanded, and we continued to delight in what we could learn. New idea, new awareness, open love and admiration for all took the place of that tiny place we had dwelled for the 18 years of our lives. Our God grew, our opinions about freedom of expression expanded, our views on violence found a place that felt right to each of us. We found that we were more drawn together even though the three of us lived far apart.

My life is rich for the people that have accumulated in it over these many years of living. I have grown and learned what love of humanity really means. So why am I writing this. Remember? Because my heart is broken.

Where were the churches when children were put into pens? Outrage!!! There is no justification. Why are we blocking people from coming to a country that accepted our immigrant forefathers on it shores??? Who do we think we are? I don't get it.We took the very land we live on. What hypocrites! How can we arm everyone in a country that already is the leading country in violence? I just read an article about how violence is increasing rapidly in farm areas? Why can't we be a country of peace? How can we judge people who protest by taking a knee? We are allowed to have a voice. This is a flag that has let people down. It is a flag that represents to many all that is not allowed under that flag. I came from a time when men did not want to join up. Our country made them. We did not want war. Now war is a real money maker for our economy. Why are we so egotistical that we think everyone is treated like white, anglo us? Now we have a man who gropes women, who has no idea what it means to be honorable and kind, who listens to only one news media because all the others do not feed his ego. Truth is in hearing it from all areas. When we turn off our news sources, we become a nation of one, and he is really working on it. We are moving backwards. We are losing all of the protections that have served our people and our land well. I am heart broken.

We turn away people who live in fear, who are raped, whose lives are always threatened. Why? Because one man says they are all criminals and will take away jobs. These people are why our country is great. They are the backbone of our country. Our economy is better with these people in our lives. People of color have suffered terribly in this land that welcomes all to its shores. We should be beginning them for forgiveness and see if they want to accept us.

Hitler convinced a society that they were the best. Books were burned. People were slaughtered and placed in cages, so to speak. A man determined what the public could hear. He convinced a nation into his illusions that they did unspeakable acts and caused a war that killed so thousands of our own. Yet here is a man who is doing exactly the same. He makes his own laws, he dictates what press he relies on calling all other liars, he makes people look one way while he sells them down the river the other direction. And......people are easily lead.

My heart breaks when I read what some people post. I wonder at the ignorance of it or the lack of caring for other people. I am crushed that churches do not stand against such vulgarity and do not stand up for all human rights. I am stunned that people do not believe in global warming because that and gun control just might upset their own narrow world. If you say it isn't happening, then it isn't true. Read only what will feed your beliefs, and it will be fact. Well, that's a crock.

I am sad. Why should I write? Entertainment? Is that all we think about now. Put all other thoughts of this declining country aside? So many people have said to me, I just can't think about it. Well, we have to think about it. We will not be another nation ruled by a dictator. We have to take a stand. I cannot preach to closed ears. I cannot preach to blue or red states.  The sadness I feel in my heart is that of losing someone I love. I am losing a community and a country. I can try to save that community, but they will not turn from what has always been.

So......do I keep writing?

Monday, July 9, 2018

Coming home again

House sold. Check. House bought. Check. Moved in. Check. Surrounded by boxes. Yep. Hm. Must be time to plan a trip to visit June.

For some reason moving seems to eat up your life. Packing, packing, packing. Unpacking, unpacking, unpacking. A ritual that I have repeated too many times and am finally at the last destination.....at least until I start running into walls and swearing my name is Bette Davis. Moving is indeed the appropriate name. I seem to have been moving constantly for the last month. Now I sit looking at the boxes saying, "What's the rush?"

Thus it is indeed time to plan a trip back to Angola, Indiana, to visit my sister. A lengthy visit. I leave here the last day of July and am very excited to pack a suitcase instead of a box. Sister time is the best. We always pick up where we left off even if it is a couple of years later than our last meeting. Yes, we are rather selfish with our time together, because we have so much fun reminiscing and going to our favorite places. I dream of tenderloin sandwiches and Shipshewana. June's friends have become very special people to me. Going to her house is truly like going home.

So how do we do it all in about three weeks? A look at the calendar says that we should have time during the end of the trip to make it to Ohio for a couple days. Loren will be there and wants to walk down Neff Road, see the farm and meet the people in my life. And, as luck would have it, the fair will begin. Hm. Two birds, one stone. Home. Perhaps we will do a meet and greet as we did before allowing me to meet all of you and spend time laughing and making new friendships.

I could say I am going home. But truly home is where the heart is. Our new home is indeed a dream come true. Spending time with my sister is a home where my heart sings and renews itself. Coming back to Neff Road is that blanket of love that has surrounded me my entire life. I look forward to meeting you and visiting with old friends. I look forward to coming home.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Walk the lane

Walk the lane with me one more time. I'll hold your hand, and you hold mine. We will share the memories of another time. Please walk the lane with me one more time.

A sweet neighbor posted the grave marker of her parents. I sat looking at it with tears streaming down my cheeks. Dolores and Carl Bucholtz were more than neighbors. They were our Neff Road family. Carl farmed with Dad, so heard his tractor or truck often coming back the lane. When we held the farm sale, Carl sat with me by the big, white barn. He told me that he did not think he would beat this cancer that he was battling. We had lost Dad and now his tools were being sold. It was the end of our farming, one that Carl was so much a part of. I held his hand knowing that I was not only losing the things that surrounded me in my growing up, but I was losing a dear friend.

That lane on Neff Road had seen many who returned again and again. The house back that lane seemed to be a beacon of love. Warm loving arms always welcomed whoever came through the back door. There was always time to sit and talk, even when work was calling. We stopped for friends and family. And sometimes for people we didn't know. Dad would stop working in the field when he saw a car in the driveway. The lane brought us together. And, even in parting, we held dear those it brought to us.

I often think of that lane. Our families walked it each time they came home. From the house to the bridge and back, or maybe we wandered off to visit Lavy's or Stager's. The lane represented our family. A trip to loving arms and loved land.

We live lives in transition. We go from there to here in the blink of an eye. We either embrace the new, bringing a newness in ourselves, or we lose precious time hanging back. Over the years, I have found that what I learned on the farm, back that lane, has brought old friends back into my life and new friends to continue new journeys with me. The link from the past to the future. From the road to the house.

When my mother passed, I asked friends and family to send their favorite memories of my beautiful mother. I came across those letters again as I packed to move. They are memories from the past that have traveled to the future, allowing me to see new visions of this mother who rarely shared about herself. She was always too busy asking about others. I think everyone should ask for those memories when a loved one passes. A bridge from one time to another.

Walk the lane with me one more time. I'll hold your hand, and you hold mine. We will share the memories of another time. Please walk the lane with me one more time.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Walking down the dingle

The trees reached from one side to the other, creating a beautiful archway dense with foliage. I was transported to another time and place. I had never been to England, only in the books I read. Now I was stepping into those visions I'd only dreamed of.

A friend wrote that she was walking down a path in England. Ah, I was a little envious. It has been about eight years ago that I traveled with a friend to Nottingham, England, to help settle his mother's estate. We moved into the town for two weeks, becoming natives instead of visitors. The perspective was different. No tourist tours for us. I met locals and was shown all the sights. The most memorable were the antiquity of the buildings, the awesome pubs and, most of all, the dingle.

dingle [ding-guh l]
noun: a deep, narrow cleft between hills; shady dell.
syn: basin, lowland, bottom, dell, glen, swale, vale, coulee, trough, notch, channel, basin, gorge

I grew up with a bottom. Now don't giggle. I grew up with two bottoms. One was a creek bottom. A place where cows grazed. A place where I rode my horse. It was a place of adventure and memories. We fished there and walked the back lane almost every day during the summer. I knew what a bottom was. However, I did not know that the bottom was also a dingle. This does not apply to the other bottom.

A fence ran along the shaded path. Though the day was sunny, the archway mottled the light, creating a dramatic effect. We followed the old rock wall to a gate. I began to laugh. At last I had found the faerie glen straight out of Tolkien novels. The sign on the gate said that it was the entrance to the dingle. We walked down the forest path into a small bottom where I am sure a mystical world lived. We clambered over fallen trees and hopped across rocks in the stream. The little girl in me laughed and wanted to dance with the faeries and talk to the forest creatures.
 
When traveling to another culture, you absorb. You do not compare, because there is no comparison. The people are different. The language is different, even though you supposedly speak the same. The history is much older. And differences enhance our lives and help us grow. 

Yes, I walked down a dingle. I walked in as a country girl from Neff Road and walked out with new understanding. Was it a dream? Sometimes I think so. For a girl who always had a wild imagination, imagination came to life. I walked down a dingle.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

A new beginning

Yes. No. No. No. Yes. No. Well, you get the point. I am deciding what will go to our new home and what will not. There is a great benefit to moving. You actually stop to think about all of this and that which has been following you around during your lifetime. The childhood memories, the things left from your parents and, for some of us, the things remaining from a past marriage all residing in one house. So the Yessing and Nooing is taking place.

My son came over yesterday to peruse the No pile. He shook his head and picked up only two things. My treasures have nothing to do with him. It is a new day and age. Back in older generations things were passed on, because they had use to the next generation. Doilies that once had a place on the shelf are now something that my kids and grandkids don't remember seeing in a home. The silver and antique dishes mean nothing in this new day and age. They are my memories and not theirs. So my No pile increases as I look to this new life with this wonderful man who is doing the same in his house.

We have decided that we want new things that are ours and not part of our past lives with other partners. And, I have to say, this is indeed an adventure. We are looking at our life together in a different way, a more creative way. Our ages have nothing to do with making plans and having fun finding things that represent this new phase of our lives. Having a new house that didn't belong to either of us is a great start. We get to plan together this new home of ours. We get to look forward. Not backwards. Not to the end when we are feeble. We get to look forward with a new vision that is all ours. It is full of life and enthusiasm.

I have emptied the old trunks. Too much has been packed and moved and never used in recent times.  The attic will be empty of the same. It is not housecleaning. It is life cleaning. My children will not need to go through years of history trying to decide what to keep and what not to keep. The piles of pictures of people they do not know will be gone. Only the history will remain.

There is a relief in ridding myself of all this baggage. I do not need these things to retain memories. I have the memories in my heart. Yes, I have saved a couple of doilies made by my cousin Betty and  those made by my grandmother, and I am keeping one of my old dolls. Not all will be gone, but the pack rat is gone.

A new beginning has begun.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

It is no lye

The buckets filled with it sat in the back room. I never really thought much about it as a kid, but it seemed that anything that could hold anything held the stuff. Funny the things that pop up in memory.

The twins were in the backseat. I was telling them about singing in the car when the Loxleys were going for long drives. All of a sudden I burst into verse......three little kitten, they lost their mittens and they began to cry....I couldn't seem to stop....oh, Mommy dear, we sadly fear, our mittens we have lost....where in the world did this come from? Those things that pop up in our minds that we have long forgotten. Once they grab hold, you don't want them to slip away.

June and I are good for one another in bringing up things we had forgotten and things that only siblings can share. We fail to realize as we are growing up the significance of having someone who lived lives with us and who can share all those memories that no one else knows. Yet, her childhood, until I was able to realize life around me, was so different from mine. Mine, after my sisters had gone, was much different than theirs. Little things. Little things that were taken for granted are now cherished, because we share them once more. And, they are little bit of a surprise when we stubble upon them.

I stood in the shower looking at my choices of soap. The shower soap smells really yummy. The handmade, oatmeal bar leave me feeling scrubbed clean. The body scrub takes off a layer of skin, leaving me pink all over. Then it hit me!!! Those tubs of that white stuff in the back room. Mom's homemade lye soap. Hm. Did we bathe with it? Certainly it would take off all your skin. Mom did laundry with it as I remember, scraping pieces off into the wringer washer tub. Did she use it to clean the house? Did she use it to wash dishes? Did she have any hands left after she used it?! Why was there so much soap hardening in the back room?????

Niggle, niggle, niggle. What pops up in your thoughts of the past that you fail to share? Don't you think you should? Making lye soap, using a wringer washer, reciting poems from childhood and sometimes breaking out in "How much is that doggie in the window? The one with the waggily taillllll. Memories more fun to share then to tuck back into the recesses of our minds once more.

I love sharing my memories with you but ask you to share yours with others. I guarantee they will be much richer when you share them, because a wealth of memories of people, places and childhood will flow over you.

Monday, June 4, 2018

Element of surprise

"Which hand?" Dad had his hands tucked behind his back. Which hand? Behind his back was something that Dad discovered and wanted to share with his children. The guessing game always brought smiles and giggles. What would he have this time? Was is alive? Was it an arrowhead?

My father loved to make his family smile. Of course, Mom's face lit up every time he walked into a room. He didn't surprise her with gifts. He surprised her with song or by taking her into his arms. He was her surprise and delight, and he knew it.

But for the Loxley girls, he was adventure. He delighted in taking us into the field to see a nest of bunnies or to take us mushroom hunting steering us toward a patch. His adventures often lead us to birds nests or maybe a turtle or a frog. Never was it just taking us to see the new thing. He delighted in teasing us and making it memorable.

There were two surprises that I know thoroughly delighted Dad. It wasn't just the end result. He loved the planning to make the event the best it could be. I sit here remembering these events and smile. My heart is full of love for that man who made it all special. He opened the door of the milk truck. Two small lambs stood on the floor. Some kids want a new dog or a cat. I just wanted a lamb. The sweet little lambs made our hearts soar. And, to this day, I can hear my dad laughing as our responses. Years later a truck pulled into the driveway. It pulled over by the garage. Dad and Uncle Jim opened the door to the trailer, leading the horse out. Yes, my second dream was to own a horse. It was a new mouth to feed and more work for Dad, but again, he could not resist the surprise.

So often when the screen door closed, Dad came in with a new treasure. He loved to tease us until we guessed. An arrowhead, a chrysalis, a fossil, a discovery he made that he knew his children would love to see. A lesson he would love to teach his children.

Farm life is full of adventure and discovery. We had nature lessons everyday. We learned how what it takes to make plants grow. We knew early how to reap the bounty of a garden. We knew the calls of the birds and the names of the stars in the sky. We learned to know the trees by their bark. We knew what birthing involved by watching the calves and lambs born. We knew how to gather eggs and to pluck a chicken. We knew how to play using our imaginations. We absolutely knew what it was to be part of a community. Yes, we were surrounded by the things that other children could not imagine. And, with Dad, he gave us more lessons in living.

Which hand? Which hand held the surprise? It is not that surprise that is precious now. In fact, I cannot remember all of them. I do, however, remember my father's hand as it unfurled. I remember his warm laughter and sparkling eyes. Dad indeed did leave us with a legacy in finding delight in life. But more than that, he left us with a spirit of adventure. He taught us to be surprised at what we might find. He taught us to look deeper into life. Which hand? Perhaps my own.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

History by design

History by design. Fashions long forgotten yet big in their day. Looking back and in awe of what I do not remember, I find a past opens up with memories I cannot capture. Being in theatre, I learned what it was to look at history by design.

I love watching Call of the Midwife on PBS. Indeed, it is a wonderful series that takes place during the years I have been alive. It begins post WWII. The costuming is right on. I observe what my mother would have worn in those early days and learn a bit about life in those times. It takes place in England but not so different that what was happening in the United States. I often see a young Ruth pushing a pram. Her hair curled and her figure thin. She isn't wearing glasses back then, and, to this daughter, she is quite beautiful. House dresses buttoned up the front were made from sackcloth.  Shoes were designed for long wear. Dresses were practical. Clothing was worn for several days and bathing was not a daily activity. In these women I see my past life. I learn what it was like to live when the milkman delivered milk in a glass bottle, and people rode bikes or walked. A day of no television when radio was the main source of learning about the world outside of Neff Road.

In later episodes of Call of the Midwife, time progresses to where a modern world steps in removing the old and adding bright colors to the new. Appliances take on new colors and so do the clothes. This series is now into the 60's that I remember. Through this show, I travel through time.

And, yes, I love Perry Mason. I love the look of the homes, hair, cars and clothing. Perry goes from slim to not so slim. Della ages from young woman to middle aged. Paul, of course, is still a womanizer. I chuckle at the differences the years make and love every minute of the mysteries. Indeed we learn about our pasts by learning from that magic picture box.

I am in wonder at the speed at which time travels. We cannot go back. And, who wants to? Contrary to the past, we can design our own looks. I know this because I still watch TV. Heck, I can get a tattoo, wear white pants in December, ride on a Harley in leather and shave my head. All of the finger-pointing that took place long ago and the rules of protocol are tossed aside, so we can be who we want to be without criticism. I rather wish I were a teenager now. Not just because of the smooth skin and thin figure, but because I would be able to have my own voice and use it. I could be a girl of my own design.

We don't wear bustles any more. And cinched-corset designs gave way when, I would assume, some women said, "no more". For me the demise of the garters, girdles and pantyhose was the end of useless torture. We no longer dress for men. We dress for ourselves. Men can toss out the there- piece suit, tie tacks and pegged pants. They can be more casual and yet look good. They can design their own look.

History does indeed show us how far we have come. I will continue to watch Perry and try to remember if I have seen the episode four or five times. I will continue to embrace new shows that show me more options for my current look and those that remind me of my mother and sisters. Indeed the past was history by design. Perhaps the future is individuality by design.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Fields of flags

Curiosity got the best of me when I sat down to do the column today. I knew I wanted to write about Memorial Day. It was a time when grave stones were cleaned and grass trimmed. Mom and Aunt Welma allowed me to tag along running around looking at markers at Cromer Cemetery and Newcomers Cemetery. It was a tradition practiced by each family. However, there is much more to learn about this holiday. With the help of the History Channel, I found my interest fed.

It was the late 19th century that the US began the practice of honoring those fallen in battle. Ancient Greeks and Romans actually had annual days of remembrance for all loved ones. There began the practice of placing flowers on graves and holding feasts in their honor. Athens held public funerals for the fallen after each battle with public viewing before delivering them to the grave. (Hope they had outstanding morticians.).  In 431 BC, one of the first public tributes to fallen soldiers was held there.

Thousands of Union soldiers were held prisoner in a horrible camp in Charleston, South Carolina during the Civil War. More than 250 died from disease or exposure. On May 1, 1865,  three weeks after the Confederacy surrendered, more than 1,000 recently freed slaves accompanied by US Colored Troop regiments and a handful of white Charlestonians gathered in that camp to consecrate a new proper burial site for the Union soldiers who died there. They distributed flowers and sang. Flowers and music.

So how did we get to May 30th. Hm. It seems that in May 1886 General John A. Logan who was then commander-in-chief of the Union veterans' group issued a decree that May 30th should become a national commemorative day honoring the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the Civil War. It was then dubbed Decoration Day. Logan wanted Americans to lay flowers and decorations at the graves of war dead. However, before Logan took up the cause, women's groups across the south gathered to decorate the Confederate graves. The Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia, decided to honor the fallen once a year. Perhaps Logan caught his idea from them.

American love special holidays thus embracing Decoration Day. In the first year, more than 27 states embraced it. By 1890 every former state of the Union adopted it as an official holiday. And now we have an 'oops'. This Decoration Day only honored those who died in the Civil War. It was not until 1970 that it became an official holiday honoring the fallen soldiers of all wars. 

Of course, the day has changed with placement of Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. I remember laughing that May 30 was going to fall on the last Monday in May whether it was the 30th or not. Another 'hm' moment.

In looking to this Memorial Day, you might just carry a bit of this column with you. A day of remembrance that began in our country with a war within our borders. A war that tore families and the country apart. I am saddened that we still lose soldiers to wars. What is the price. Perhaps we can measure it in the flags flying on graves. Fields of flags.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dum Dum De Dum

Tricky tune, right? Hm. The second set of notes are the same. Dum Dum De Dum. What does it mean? Well, just in case you have no musical sense. I will continue. "Going to the chapel and we're....". Yes, Loren and I are going to be married.

At one time I would have wondered why anyone my age would want to marry again, especially since I have been single for over twenty years. I would be the first to say I was pretty pathetic. However, Loren Nelson did enter my life a year and a half ago. We have tested this relationship. Questioned if this would work with a woman who loved her freedom. Through it all, we discovered that there is so much life and love we have ahead of us. He is my best friend and just a silly guy who loves his woman.

Loren is a professional photographer. His work is shown in many galleries on the west coast. A gifted photographer who has a wonderful reputation. He comes from a family of potters and artists. I come from a family in the performing arts. We are a good match. We have much to learn about one another and many adventures ahead of us. (https://www.google.com/search?q=loren+nelson+photography&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1)

Loren and I had a conversation on our return from a gallery show in Astoria about being at the perfect age to marry. Our priorities are so much different than those we had at a younger age. We both have been on our own and in other relationships, so we have a pretty good idea about love. We have no desire to move into a home where we will raise children. No jobs to bother with. We are focused on family, volunteering and creating with our own artistic interests. Plus, we have all the time in the world, any day of the week, to have a new adventure. What could be more perfect!

Perhaps you wonder at this strange column, but I am a child of Neff Road. Maybe I need your permission. We have it from our kids. Maybe you and I are, by now, old friends once a week. I will be bringing him back this summer. He is very interested in meeting all of you and walking down Neff Road with me. He plans to bring his camera and capture the house back the lane.

We are not sure when we will be married. Perhaps late summer or fall. Nolan is thrilled to be the ring bear. Yep, I said bear. Emma is ready to toss flower petals at people. What could be better? So we invite you to be part of our new adventure. Looking forward to our meeting you when we come back to farm country.

I just had to tell you.....dum dum de dum.