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.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Till the cows come home

sook (definition)
  1. A call for calves. (Scotland) 
  2. A call for cattle. (U.S. Dialectal)
  3. A call for cattle or sheep. (Newfoundland)
"Sook, sook, sook". Dad stood in the barnyard calling the cows home.

If you are a farm kid, you knew the sounds of calling the animals to the barn. "Soooooey, soooey", pigs came in. "Shooopeee, shooopeee", sheep found their way to the barn. Farmers all over the world had their own way of calling the animals home.

Dad called the cows, Cyril called the pigs, and I called the dog and cat. Pretty easy to tell what was being called by the sounds used to call the critters. I decided to do some research on calling cows. What I found was that the roots of calling the cows began with sounds similar to yodeling in the Scandinavian countries. When Dad called, it was more like a melody.

In St. Gallen City in Switzerland cows are called by "Ho-ah" repeated in varying pitches. Other areas pronounced it as "Hoyah, Hooyah, or Hooah". Rather like various parts of our country pronounce certain words in different ways. In parts of Norway, herd calling is called kulning. It is indeed similar to yodeling and developed for long-distance sounds that bounce off the mountainsides and echo through the valleys.

Now we cross the ocean. "Bossy" seems to be a common call. Boss is from the eighteenth century and was sometimes pronounced as buss or buss-calf, a name given to an unweaned calf. One theory is that bossy could have come from Latin bos for an ox or cow. Words came over with our immigrant ancestors.

I ran across one lady in my online search who was from West Virginia. Their call was "Come Bossie, come boss". Another was "CuBoooosss! Hup!" Hup!" In Michigan, a call was "Kubas kubas, hup hup" thought to be from Dutch heritage. Another from North Carolina was "waaarden-waaarden um-bashay!"

I loved researching this topic. I found recalled memories from farm kids who grew up with those calls echoing across the fields. We all seemed to have the same thought, "If only I could hear it one more time."

"Sook, sook, sook". Just one more time, Dad. Just one more time.

Monday, May 8, 2017

All my moms

Looking into her face, I said, "Who are you? I don't believe I know you." She didn't answer. Hm.This might take some time. After all, I had known her for months.

The woman waited. She knew I would come, and she waited. On visits home, I could not go by her driveway without stopping. I needed one of her hugs. She watched over me and cared. I loved her more than she knew. Her name was Doris Lavy.

Her laugh brought a smile to my face. Her tears welcomed me into her arms. There were probably more childhood days at her house than at my own. Time with her was priceless and gave me precious memories. Her name was Margaret Stager.

She sat by my bed after my surgery. There was no book in her hand. Her attention was solely on this young woman who was still out of it. She took me into the family with loving arms, and beat the socks off of me at Rum. Her name was Anna Drake.

The names are many. Alma Hollinger, Alma Lea Gilbert, Pauline Aukerman, Betty Johnson, Leah Rhoades, Freeda Anderson, Kate Loxley, Bess Fisher, June Deardorff, Welma Johnson,  Lena Linder, Peggy Graham, Jennie Miller, Susie Miller. Just a few of the many women who helped me through my lifetime. Each hold a place in my heart.

Moms. Those who birth us. Those who watch over us. Those who are part of our lives, so much so that we fail to notice. Then one day we are older and remember with deeper feelings.

She placed a cool hand on my head when I was ill. She made me laugh and sometimes angry. She taught me to love and to care about other people. She held me in her arms when I came to visit. She thought of me every day. She was my mother. Her name was Ruth Loxley.

Moms. They come in all shapes and sizes. They come to us through birth and sometimes through adoption or marriage. They come to us in the form of neighbors and church ladies. They even sometimes come as a dad in the role of a mom. Maybe even a grandma. All of us who are moms and have had that wonderful love given to us know how important it is spread that love around. Mom power.

So who was this familiar face before me? I had her beating on the inside of my body for nine months with a foot in my ribs most of the time. She didn't look like that baby I imagined. She had coal-black hair and lots of it. She was so tiny, and her face turned red when she cried. No matter how we come into a family. There is a time of getting acquainted. I got to know this little girl. Her name is Stacey. When her brother was born, I asked the same question as I tried to acquaint myself with this little guy. After I waited that nine months for another dark haired baby, I was given little blond. Oh, well, never know.

Mother's Day. A day to remember. A day to honor those women who in one way or another created the you that you are today. Those wonderful ladies who hold our hearts. I have lost many of those dear people. I treasure those who I can still hug and love. Happy Mother's Day to you who touch the lives of others. Thank you, to the women who touched mine. Mothers' Day.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cardboard binoculars

They stood at the window, looking at me through their cardboard binoculars. I laughed as I escaped their view. A sweet vision in the rearview mirror.

Dad knew all the birds and their sounds. He could reply to any bird answering their call gliding on the air. The whistle of a robin. The trill of a sparrow. The call of a mockingbird. It was difficult to tell the difference in the sounds between my father and the feathered friend. Perhaps I could call them two birds of a feather. They were indeed nature in song.

Whenever Dad saw a bird, he would immediately point it out. We would watch the bird until it flew away. I would get a lesson on the type of bird, its nest and other characteristics. He would call to the red-winged blackbird as soon as I spotted one. I delighted each time it answered back.

The preschoolers along with their parents hiked through the Cooper Mountain Nature Park. The trails meander over the mountain and through the woods. The warning signs about mountain lions were not alarming. Rarely would one come so close to town. When the children finished their field trip, they became Junior Rangers. Each child made a vest out of a paper grocery sack decorated with feathers and other pieces of nature. They made binoculars out of paper towel rolls. This preschool based on learning about our environment had done its job. In fact their mom informed me that they use the binoculars outside to look at birds then look them up in the bird book. A little imagination goes a long way in learning.

For my grandchildren and all the children in the world, we need to do what we can to preserve the environment for these birds. We just returned from a trek through our forests seeing all of the clear cuts. Forests chopped down. Barren hills. Mud slides. Nature turned upside down. It happens in all parts of the world. I want better for my family.

 Four little eyes spied on me as I drove away from their house. Little pieces of cardboard and a child's imagination. Children believing that they can see clearly. I will do my best to be sure they always do even through cardboard binoculars.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Happy toe wiggling

Anticipation began to build. It was spring. The Easter mark had passed, and Mother's Day would be next. My feet were aching to be free.

Spring was always special on the farm. Sheep were sheared. Lambs born. Chickens embraced the weather, clucking with more gusto than usual, and the cows seemed to moo at just about anything. Spring was a time of preparation. As with the creatures in our backyard, Dad was busy in the barn getting his equipment field-ready and plowing the garden. Mom had emptied the freezer and canned goodies in the fruit room, filling her daughters with the end of the year remains. She was making room for the new season of food. We prepared for the bounty of our land with the labor of our hands.

So all was well at home, but at school we wiggled in our seats each time the sun came out. Teachers fought a good fight, trying to keep our attention away from those wonderful, big windows in Franklin School. We dashed to the monkey bars and waited for a turn on the swings. Balls and bats littered the field and jump ropes spun around and around. Summer was around the corner.

For the seniors, we anticipated freedom at last. We began to see the present in that rear view mirror.  It was then we realized the leaving. Boys would be going to war and girls to work. Some would go to college, and some would serve humanity. The going was becoming bittersweet. Spring. A time of growing up.

I remember the summer kitchen airing out in preparation for the summer baking and canning activity. I always hoped that mice who wintered there might go to their summer retreats far from the house. It was a time of removing the feather downs and flannel sheets. A time Sunday drives and visiting friends.

There were more trips down the lane to the bridge. More time visiting neighbors who sat outside, waiting for a little girl to pass by. The kids on Neff Road got off the bus at the corner of Byreley and Neff Roads. No longer did we ride that long trip home. Instead we skipped, hopped and meandered our way down the road.

My feet ached to feel that summer grass between my toes. I wanted to get started on toughening them up for the gravel I would one day race across. The freedom of my toes signaled the freedom from school.  And, now, my toes still ache. They ache for the grass back the lane, the lambs in the pasture, Brenda and I sitting on the gate, watching the world pass by and most of all, for those lovely days of childhood. Toe wiggling at its best.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Coming home

Coming home.  How Mom and Dad loved to hear, "I'm coming home." So many thoughts come to mind with those two words. For most of my life, it meant coming home to Neff Road. Driving down the road and back the lane to the arms of my parents, to those of my relatives, to my friends. Coming home.

Over the years those words expanded to embrace more years and more people, more places and dear faces. Walking into my son's home is just like coming home. Sweet arms of my grandchildren wrapped around me is indeed coming home.  Even though I have a home, those coming homes are so much dearer.

For those of us who moved away from Darke County many years ago, coming home has a different connotation. Many of us no longer have the loving arms of parents to hug us. Yet home is still the house back the lane. Doris and Victor, Hollie and Margaret no longer live in their houses I visited so often in my childhood, yet they are places that I still call home. My grandparents homes call me back to their embrace. And, that bridge and sweet creek pull at my heartstrings. Yet it is difficult when we come back, as many people take us in to where we left off, forgetting about our lives we have lived away from Neff Road. We come back to visit, wanting to share our lives, sometimes feeling we have been kept in a niche from long ago. Perhaps that is the way with everyone who returns to their roots. Coming home changes over the years.

Sometimes we find someone in our lives who gives us that coming home feeling. Maybe it is a whisper of something we cannot quite explain that calls us. A walk in the forest. Walking into a room that feels familiar. The smell of cinnamon or fried eggs lures us back home with the pure delight of sense of smell. I find that music takes me back to many homes. They tug at my heart and talk to me with a melodious voice, returning me to a place I have been.

Now I come home to my little nest. I delight in the respite from the day of work or babysitting. A place created from the parts of my life that all have that sweet echo of the past.  It embraces me in the warmth of yesterday and a place of peace before the morrow.

The arms that held me long ago still hold me when I dream of coming home. The smell of the farm, the hug of a child, daily Skyping with June and snuggling in at the end of the day. Yes, I love coming home. Home to many pieces of my life.