Sunday, September 24, 2017

Putting a spin on it

Pool sticks lined up against the stone wall. Chalk, balls, all the stuff of pool. The big table took up the space where once there was only a ping pong table. Wait a minute! What am I saying!?!?! It was not just a ping pong table. It was so much more.

Mom laid the pattern on top of the fabric. A piece of small print cloth that would more than likely end up as bib, aprons or possibly a dress; however, I never knew of my mom making a dress let alone any of us wearing something she made. The large green table was the perfect size for pattern cutting. The net could remain in place just in case a quick game of ping pong was pursued. Patterns were cut there and, occasionally, a meal was in place for the guests who came for a fun time at the Loxley house.

It was a warm September when our wedding gifts were beautifully displayed on that green background. As was done then, newcomers would wander around the ping pong table peeking what each person gave to the newlyweds. A rehearsal dinner was had, and I left that ping pong table for good.

My memories of that ping pong table were special as I played in that basement listening to my records and skating around the table, grabbing it on each corner as I swung about. Around and around on my little, metal skates that hooked onto my shoes. Oddly though, I never played ping pong on that table. Hm. Guess those sisters of mine were gone and so was the enthusiasm for the game.

Many are the people of Darke County who ate hot dogs in that basement seated around that big, old table. New Years celebrations with old friends, youth groups who grew into young adults, sitting around that table on most Sundays. Memories were gathered and meals shared, laughter echoing through generations.

The pool table came to stay after the Loxley girls were gone. Now grown up Loxley adults grabbed pool sticks and played. Their children played. I still didn't play, and no one seemed to care. Argh!

Just a 'backhand' of information gleaned from the pages of the English History of Ping Pong. Some sort of ping pong or table tennis has been in existence since the 1880s. It was first played among the upper classes in England. After dessert came a parlour game known as Whiff Whaff. It was played with books used as, batting golf balls across the dining room table. Later it was played with cigar box lids used as paddles and balls made from champagne corks. I'm pretty sure that even then no one would have played Whiff Whaff with me; I could have helped empty those bottles of champagne under the table.

The best part of those days around that big, green table was the conversations with relatives and friends. It was a gathering place of pure joy for you could not sit and eat at that ping pong table without laughing. My serve: Whiff Whaff.

Monday, September 18, 2017

As fur as you can go

Don't you just love family time. Those conversations with loved ones who shared your past. The little tidbits you share that jiggle loose memories you either had forgotten or occurrences of which you had no knowledge. Well, I just did some of that jiggling time with my sister June. You would think after all these many seventy years that we would have talked it all out. Hm. Maybe not.

The eggs cost under a dollar for a dozen back in the 50's. Now let's see. Total cost of raising them would include the cost of birds, feed, gravel, bedding, gathering eggs, washing eggs, packing eggs, cleaning out the hen house and putting up with the nasty creatures. Yet, Mom and Dad scrimped and saved every penny to feed and clothe their daughters.

I'm not sure of the cost of rabbits back then, but we raised them, fed them, cleaned the hutches and cuddled them as often as possible. As with the chickens (you never wanted to get attached), they were off to market as well.

Dad also raised cows, sheep and sometimes pigs at Granddad Loxely's farm. They required all the same only in larger amounts. The sheep offered wool to sell as well as an occasional lamb. The cows were given a reprieve if they were good breeders. Their calves were not so lucky. Food in the freezer and a little more money in the bank. Sometimes very little.

Crops varied year to year. The bank account grew or diminished as well. Some years we wore clothing longer even though they got shorter. In a good year we got something new. As with all things on the farm, a lot of money seemed to go into the various animals and crops with the return not so dependable. It was the way of farming. It was the way of raising a family.

Last week June and I got into a conversation about muskrats. I know, only farm kids would talk about muskrats, especially if you lived by a creek. Dad set out his trap and checked them each morning I thought that he was just trying to get rid of the critters. June informed me that he sold the furs; he checked the trees at night for raccoons. What!?!?!? I had never seen a dead muskrat with or without a pelt anywhere on the farm. It was indeed news to me. If Dad was lucky, he would get a fox. Well, this seemed to be a case of farm-underground. Who in the heck bought these pelts? Some hat maker back behind the Palace?! I envisioned a trapper I had seen on Daniel Boone. Then I tried to picture Dad as one of them. Nope, didn't work. I have no idea what the pelts were worth, but it was another effort to add cash to the cash box.

I am amazed at what I learn about my wonderful parents who gave every bit of their lives to their daughters. They suffered defeat. They struggled against health conditions and poverty. Yet, in all of this, they never lost their sense of kindness and pride in what little they did possess. I never had a beaver hat or a fur coat. But I lived a charmed life.  I had a bounty in my backyard and an even bigger one in the love of my parents. They built a life on hard work and small change. They certainly went as fur as they could go.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The only hope for the future

The smoke trailed up the slope like an old steam locomotive chugging through the trees, seeking higher ground. Then it was gone in a blanket of white. A blanket of smoke. As I flew off towards Indiana, I saw my beloved Columbia Gorge burn. A loss of the heart of my Oregon. A place that my grandchildren will never see in their lifetimes, in that beauty that was there for us to enjoy. Beautiful falls laid bare stripped of the thick forest that surrounded them. A place thirsty for rain that refuses to fall. Fish set free from fish farms way too young to meet the river but set free in an effort to save them. Animals frantically fleeing the raging flames. Environment attacked by foolishness. A kid with a firecracker.

A beautiful face comes to greet me. Once again I am united with my dear sister June in another place I call home. Her friends have become my own over the years. We share laughter, and we share tears. There is a bond that miles and time cannot erase. So to come here where there is worry and concern about homes and friends in Florida brings me to the center of frustration and worry. We were glued to the TV, hoping for word of Key West, Port Charlotte, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, St. Augustine and other parts of Florida that touch the lives of the people in my life. A storm large enough to engulf an entire state, to ravage it and leave it in shambles. Environment affected by the actions of humanity.

Yes, there are those who refuse to believe in global warming. Those who do not want to change their lifestyle, just because they like it and refuse to accept reality. It isn't false news. It is truth. We were given this earth to tend, to care for. We are given choice to support this globe or to destroy it. I believe that the true false gods are those who say, "there is no truth in global warming". The storms will be many and more intense as time passes. Our earth will be parched and fires will exhume the sticks left bare. Floods will erase communities and erosion will reclaim the beaches. There is no going back. I applaud those countries that are discontinuing gas-fueled cars. They are the first responders.

We can build walls. We can close our doors to outsiders. We can stand firm and be really ignorant. This is not an American problem. It is a problem we share with the entire world. If I need a country to run to, I certainly hope they will greet me with open arms. If there is a war here, I pray that someone comes to help us. If I am hungry, I hope I will be fed. We are not just Darke County or Angola, Indiana, or Beaverton, Oregon, or just America. We are all countries of the world who need to work together for the good of ALL. There is no you and me. There is only US. When we fail to recognize that, we kiss this earth and all inhabitants farewell.

You may not agree with me. There is no sacrifice in caring enough to change just in case you might be wrong. You just might give our children and grandchildren and every person on this earth a little bit longer to live.

The baby was lying there dying. He picked it up and returned it home. Its mother lay down the beach. Eight people, including a newscaster, picked her up carefully, taking the dolphin to the ocean from which she came battered and beaten. We care for each other no matter what the belief, the color, the  life form on this earth. We are the only hope for the future.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Unbridled kindness

You know, age does not make you ignorant. It might make you a little slower. It might make you feel you can no longer learn. Some things seem just too hard. But those thoughts all stem from fear of change or fear of failure. Now this has little to do with my column, but if you are afraid of computers, you are missing out on a wonderful part of your life and the lives of those who love you. I remember being in my 50's and afraid of a computer then someone explained to me that it was just like going through a file looking for a piece of paper. Instead of fear, I found adventure. This adventure took me to Facebook (FB),which is indeed a marvelous gift. Now....I think I'll continue my column.

I received a Facebook message from a friend I have never met. She is a Darke County girl so in essence we all know one another having met or not. Kim Morrison sent a personal message to me telling me that her mother had cleaned off my parents' gravestone. The Loxley girls all live away from Newcomer's Cemetery. We do not get back to care for the gravesite, yet here is a woman who knew my parents and honored their memory by cleaning the marker. I am deeply touched by such kindness.

A picture comes across on my FB messenger from Janet Rhoades. It is a picture of the creek. A picture that gets sent to my sisters so we can once more see our old neighborhood. A kindness from Janet who knows how deeply I love Neff Road and the people who have lived there. She is my lifeline to the news from home. She is my Neff Road 'sister'.

I get letters in the mail from readers and from my dear friend Geneva Lavy. I do not write by long hand any more due to arthritis in my thumbs. Yet I am blessed to hear from home. Kindness from those who care and remember. The emails I receive are kept in a special file, in a special place in my heart.

High school friends call or send a message. I see pictures of their families and share those of mine. Friendship continuing from the past. Kindness that comes in caring. Pictures and words that include me in their lives.

I got a message from Anita Miller who I have not seen since she was a child. She is Rev. Byron Miller's daughter. A minister who baptized me and who married us. Her home was like my own in my young years. She sends a FB message that thrills me, because she remembers me. I am humbled by her kindness.

Mom would have loved Facebook. She wrote letters, but she never had this chance to stay in touch with so many and to have that immediate contact with them. I know she would have sent words of support and concern. She would have been smiling at newborn baby pictures and couples in love. Yes, Mom would have championed this computer marvel.

For all of you who are my friends on Facebook, thank you. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your lives with me. I treasure each and every post. I laugh with you. And, many times I cry with you. I know that your hearts are with me as well.  What an awesome experience to have so many people want to share their lives with you. Your kindness is overwhelming.

So for those of you who are determined not to learn something new, please rethink it. In learning to open new doors, we allow kindness, love and support to enter. Kindness is indeed unbridled.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pluck, pluck, oops

Two little girls crouched down on the floor of the little chicken coop. Dad placed the big box down between them. The box vibrated with movement and sound. One by one the little girls poked the perforated holes out of the sides of the box. No sooner had the cardboard disc dropped that a little beak popped through the hole. Dad removed the lid and allowed his two little companions to remove the little fuzzy chicks.

"Mom and Dad left on vacation for a week, so I decided to bring some friends to the farm for my vacation as well," said June. It was a great plan except for one 'little' glitch. June and friends were responsible to take in the chickens to be permanently put to sleep (sounds much better than slaughtered). The girls loaded three crates containing ten birds in each into the back of the truck and headed to Greenville. The next day they picked up said birds who returned to the farm in an unlively state.

Now, thirty chickens are a lot of birds, so as ordered, some chickens were taken to Cousin Betty Johnson, a few to another neighbor and six to Lena Linder. Oops, Lena had just broken her arm and could not take the said lifeless fowl. June and friends ended up with twelve chickens to clean, cut up and then freeze.

The Loxley girls have never been known for their skills in the kitchen, since Mom never allowed us to cook or to help with food preparation. Of the three of us, June was the most inept in the ways of the kitchen and that of plucking and cutting up the creatures that once lived across the yard. Hence, with all the skills the three girls could muster, they plucked then cut up the chickens. (I'm sure Mom had never seen chickens cut in such a way as an art teacher might severe them.)

It was a good thing that those little girls who held those fuzzy little chicks in their hands, rubbing soft fuzz against their cheeks had no idea of the future of the chicks. It was rather like the rabbits we raised and took to town. Better not to know.

By the way, after June and her friends eliminated plucking chickens off the list, they were faced with wallpapering the master bedroom. Ah, sweet vacation.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Just nosing around

Sense of smell. Ah, I love the smell of summer flowers. The blooming magnolia, sweet roses, jasmine with its heady perfume. This nose that has gotten me into plenty of trouble in my lifetime is delighting in the essence of summer. The smell of the ocean or of rain on a breeze.

Of course, this nose picks up smells not always so pleasing. We farm kids know those well. But the smell of the fair with the mixture of horse, cow, pigs, waffles and people all blend into a nasal delight.

Funny thing about this nose, that appendage I can only see if I cross my eyes and look down. It seems to be very closely attached to that part of the brain that holds onto memory. Of course, the older I get, the more difficult it is to connect with things in that part of my brain. Memories should be cataloged as in a library so you can pull up information by quick reference. I find I get lost in the rows and rows of memories, trying to remember where I left my keys. But, getting back to the matter at hand, I often find that I do not need a reference to find something in that maze. Smell is enough.

I can smell a field of fresh cut hay in my sleep. That rich smell that reminds me of cows and tractors. Of bails tossed upon a wagon. Of hay tossed to my horse and the cows. Close your eyes. See, you can smell it, too. Once in awhile I can smell my dad. I guess that sounds funny, but Dad had that sweet smell of hay and grain that often followed him around. Sometimes it was Old Spice. Sometimes it was sweat and motor oil, cows and tractors.

I love hugging my family, taking in the scents of them. The twins are regularly insisting that I smell their little toes. I must say, they are smelly. I memorize all the smells of them. I add them to my brain library. I remember the smells of my dogs. That smell of puppy paws and a sleeping pup curled against me.

The sense of smell is truly a gift. It whets the appetite and helps us put on a few pounds. It draws us to beauty and warns us of fear and of fire. It gives us flashes of the past and captures memories for the future.

With eyes crossed, I just looked down at that nose of mine. It certainly looks different from the top than it does in a mirror. I'm wondering how I could write an entire column on that appendage. Then, I smile and remember the smell of baby lambs. Ah, sweet nose, I celebrate you today!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Zebra lines and candles

So I had a birthday. Yep, one more orbit, and I chalk up another line on the wall. By now, my wall looks like an overly-striped zebra. Well, I don't really have lines on the wall of my home. No, it is the wall in my mind that tracks all of my life events. Another birthday. Another line on the zebra.

The house was full of balloons, streamers and love. Emma and Nolan grabbed my hands and dragged me through the house, pointing out each and every bit of decoration. They rambled and giggled and could not wait for dessert and presents. I love that they were as excited for my birthday as they are for their own. I, myself, will be more excited for theirs. We can leave mine alone.

It is a year of significant birthdays in our family. I hit the seventy mark. Emma and Nolan will be five and off to kindergarten in the fall. My oldest granddaughter, Sydney, turned eighteen and is heading to college in the fall. Numbers that mark the turning of time. They mark the saying 'goodbye' and the welcoming 'hello'. Now at seventy, my life will change even more. Changes I embrace. (but that is another story) There is no need for candles on the cake, because the cake would be so riddled with little candle holes that it would be impossible to cut. Of course, there are little people just waiting to help blow out the candles. I prefer not to start a raging fire.

I sat looking through all of my old pictures. Looking for school pictures containing faces of my parents, their siblings and old friends.  Teachers, students all standing there with scowls on their faces. Lucy Fourman, John Rhoades, my aunts and uncles, faces of children I knew as adults now stared at me as children. I began to take it personally. Sorry, kids, I just don't know your names; however, I embrace this look back in time.

And, as it always happens with pictures, one search suddenly slows down with each of the memories that you hold in your hands. I wondered at the pictures we have of the events of this month. Pictures taken digitally. Who will take time to look at those? Who will lift each picture and look at the faces, the background, the memories of a time and a place? Will I have the pictures all tagged? Will anyone waaay down the line even come across a picture of me? In these pictures, I hold my history. I hold all the birthdays of everyone in this trunk of pictures. I celebrate their lives with every touch. I embrace their birth days.

Yes, another orbit has begun. A sort of starting over point where I get to gather new memories and maybe even learn a few more things. The zebra got a little longer this year. Here's to the celebration of living!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Our three dads

Father's Day retrospective.

When my little granddaughter was about two, I had gotten her a darling little bracelet with pearls and tiny hearts. A little girl charm hung off the side. She held the bracelet in her hand then placed it on the deck. In an instant the little bracelet fell through a crack. We could not get it out. The boards were close and there was no access beneath the deck. Well, that was three years ago. Last week Emma and I searched between the boards looking for the lost treasure. We found it. It laid there covered in a bit of mud.

Three fathers were celebrated. My daughter-in-law cooked a wonderful brunch where Emma brought up the fact that her bracelet was beneath the deck. Of course, everyone had to check it out. Three fathers. My son, his father-in-law Joe and my guy Loren. Three fathers vying to look through the crack at the lost bracelet. Three fathers working together showing the twins that we are family.

The bracelet was retrieved. Emma and I scrubbed and soaped the found trinket. The mud washed away and the shine returned a little scratched but still coming back to life. Three fathers. Three who truly represent the best of that word Father. Three men who would go to any length to serve this family well.

As a child, I failed to understand the times when my dad was furious with me. It was usually because he was afraid for me.  He didn't seem to mind too much that I wasn't a boy. He allowed me to always tag along and took time to show me the little things that I just might have missed. Dad.

I had dads on Neff Road who would have done anything for me at a moments notice. Hollie Stager, Victor Lavy, Carl Bucholtz, Warren Wert, Uncle Keith Loxley, Raymond Linder, Gene Johnson, Cyril Welbaum. Fathers who watched over the children on Neff Road. We didn't notice then but are so blessed to understand and embrace now. Dads.

Three men became heroes today. Perhaps for Emma but truly for me. Our three Dads.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A day for Dad

Yep, Mom's Day has come and gone. Father's Day is on the horizon. Neither of these days were celebrated back the lane on Neff Road. It wasn't that we didn't like our parents. In all seriousness, as children we were oblivious to their existence. My feeling is that perhaps my mother thought the days to be expressing pride. She was so against being prideful that we girls didn't know what it was like to have pride. I think she overshot her target.

As adults we realized the importance of our parents and gladly celebrated them. So today this article is for them and all the years we did not or could not celebrate. Well, really it is for my late father since it is his day on Sunday.

In asking June about the reasons we did not have these days in our childhood, she suggested that perhaps Hallmark had not yet come up with this marketing idea. Of course, nudge me a little and I am on the trail seeking the dawn of Father's Day.

Hallmark did not come up with this money-making card day. In fact, it had a difficult time getting started. There were several failed attempts ranging from one fellow trying to make his birthday Father's Day to a celebration for the families of the men killed in a mining disaster. However, the current Father's Day took hold in my beloved Northwest. A Spokane woman named Sonora Dodd who was raised by a widower wanted to establish a day for male parents. She visited churches, the YMCA, store owners and those in government to get support for her Father's Day. She succeeded and June 19, 1910, the state of Washington celebrated the first statewide Dad's Day. 

But here is the reason we probably did not celebrate Father's Day when I was growing up. In 1966 President Johnson issued the first proclamation honoring fathers on the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. In 1972 President Nixon signed Father's Day into law as a permanent national holiday.

Sorry, Dad. We certainly missed many years of celebrating you. We had the Father/Son celebration at church. But seeing that we were daughters, he missed out again. In fact, I don't think parents should be singled out to celebrate with the child of the same sex. A parent/child celebration of family would have been more inclusive. The Daddy/Daughter dances out here have turned into Family Dance. A celebration not divided by sex but a celebration of what family means.

Hallmark and other card companies love that we have so many singled-out celebrations. I see people dashing for cards, grabbing and running with the first card they pick out. Often I tell them to write a note to the person instead. Don't let Hallmark do the work for you. Indeed it will mean more as time passes.

Oh, well. Dad, I love you. I was your shadow and you relished the time we spent together. I sat at the table often with the men in our family fascinated by the conversations of farm and old stories of the past. Other fathers raised me as well. Hollie Stager and Victor Lavy were men who influenced this person. They loved me and embraced me as one of their own. Fathers be active in the lives of your family. It is your legacy and our blessing.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

She stood tall

She stood tall. She nurtured our family and gave us a serenity that I think we failed to notice at the time. She lived a good life before she fell. She was the old mulberry tree that grew in the circle of grass that held the memories of our family. She was my friend.

It is difficult to remember when I first became aware of that old tree. The thick trunk supported the long branches that shaded the grass. Dad tied a swing to one of the branches on the west side of the tree. A rope and a board. A place where little toddlers pushed off with chubby legs and big sisters pushed them when they were a bit older. The leaves provided a canopy that became a place for dress up and make believe weddings. Oh, how I loved that tree.

Old pictures cover decades of family activity. An old picture of my uncle, grandfather and dad playing croquet beneath that old tree. Their old cars parked beneath to keep them cool on a hot summer day. The tree in the background of a picture of my mother and my aunt astride horses. A new barn being built, looking at the old tree which was looking back and welcoming it to the farm. An old tree. A tree we took for granted.

There wasn't a day that the old tree didn't participate in my life. All of our special pictures were taken beneath that tree. We swung on a trapeze that hung on the east side of the tree. We picnicked beneath its shade, and younger generations would pick up the mallets and continue the game playing as the tree stood by.

Sometimes we don't miss something until it is gone. Dad eventually chopped down that sweet tree. Limbs were falling from its weary trunk. After it had fallen, the barnyard seemed bare. A friend, a playmate, a family member had left us. No longer would a small child pick the empty shells of the locust from its bark. No longer would the shade draw us to the yard. A friend had left us.

Perhaps the poetic side of me saw that tree as more than wood and leaves. It was a living, breathing tree that grew new branches as our family grew older years. It was as much a part of our childhoods as were the members of our family. We mourned when the old tree died. We were conservators of the land and had to terminate a dear life.

Trees, flowers, creeks and ponds, fields of grain, dung beetles, barn owls. All of them and more were a richness in my life. Then I appreciated them. Now I know the importance of them. She stood tall. She nurtured our family and gave us serenity. And, in her passing, she remained in my heart.