Friday, December 31, 2010

Senior Adventurers

I wasn't going to write today, but a thought occurred. From the missing of loved ones? From the passing of another year? Whatever the source, this thought needed a voice.

Yes, my friends, we all get older. Those of us over 60 know that the body aches and does not always cooperate. The thought we had in one room is gone when we get to the next. The grey and white hairs have become the natural color. Our families are requiring less of us. Many of us have lost dear ones. Some of us have had our struggles this last year. But I have good news. I have hope for the year 2011.

More and more I have thought of the wisdom I have gained regardless of the things I have lost. I embrace the knowledge that has come from loss. I embrace the me who has evolved over these years. I have a brain, folks! I have a brain that has barely been tapped. The grey matter in my thick head (as some would say) has only begun to be explored. Now how exciting is that news?!

My younger years consisted of growing up, marrying, raising children. I didn't have time find what I believed sorting through everything I'd been told. I didn't have time to think of me and my place in the world. I barely had time to think of the world.

We may be older, but we are considered younger. The longevity of life has lengthened. So we need to grow with it. I have friends who are senior citizens who have conquered Facebook in order to keep in touch with old friends and new. Other friends are authors. Some have working careers. I'm not sure we knew that we could still be valuable after a certain age. I don't think we have allowed ourselves to embrace this thing of aging.

Millions of dollars are spent in diet programs, face and body lifts, botox, hair color....everything to make us look younger. Well, I'm not younger. You can dress up a pig, but it's still a pig. We may be older, but we still have a great deal to contribute and to learn. Why stop now?

I have often wondered why nursing homes don't supply voice recorders for residence to record their family history....their stories. Slide projectors and video recorders can help keep the memories alive and awaken new part of the brain. Volunteers can assist the elderly in stretching their minds, by sharing their stories. A family tree can consist of more than just names and dates. It can consist of personalities and stories. The residence homes are full of wonderful history...history we can all appreciate. We are creative and full of wonderful thoughts and ideas.

My hands are painful and hurt. I can not hold a pen for long, so I type. The computer has become my paper and pencil, my tool for expression and communication. I started on the computer when I was in my late forties. My first fear of tackling this new technology was soon dismissed when I found that I could figure it out myself. I just had to say "I can".

We have a gift, older generation. We should know by now that fear is a frame of mind. We should know that adventure has no age limit. We are of value. The grey matter might be a bit fuzzy, but the more the fuzz is removed, the clearer the light. What a wonderful thing to discover that we are on a new adventure. We can read, write, explore our thoughts and share. We can be new again by expanding our brains.

A new year is just hours away. Enthusiasm for each day of our lives is at hand now. Come on, adventurers. Let's make 2011 the year we make a difference.

Happy New Year, my friends.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Apologies

I have been under the weather the last few days. Please pick up with me again on Monday. What a way to end the year!

Have a safe and wonderful New Year. May your new year be full of love, laughter, peace and joy.

See you here in 2011.

Monday, December 27, 2010

"They're Home Hugs"

The time had come. We all knew when we got there that the leaving would come in a few day. The leaving was the hardest. Each time we returned we knew it would be a long time until we were all together again. Yes, the leaving was the hardest.

One thing I remember most about my parents are those 'they're home' and 'don't go' hugs. Both of my farm parents knew how to hug. They also knew how to miss their children. The little ones would be bigger on the next visit. They would be wary of their grandparents the next time we walked in the door ready for that 'they're home' hug. On leaving, we all knew there would be tears and a hurting that would last for days. A missing that would never go away.

Leaving the farm after a visit was not just about leaving our parents. No, it was about leaving this land that nurtured us and babysat us in our growing up years. The farm was our activity, our adventure, our other member of the family. Driving away stretched the roots of love that held us to the land.

Growing up in a farm family is one of the greatest gifts a child can be given. The work was part of life. The struggles were shared with dedication and pride. Never was there a dull moment. Never was there a wealth. We learned to use our imagination and curiosity. Nature was our teacher and family was the core of our daily existence. Our church was a family who took care one another. Our neighbors were our extended family that loved us unconditionally. Growing up on a farm was a lesson is compassion, survival, dedication and love.

No longer do I drive up the lane knowing that those wonderful hugs will be waiting for me. But the life I grew up knowing in Darke County has followed me throughout my sixty-three years. The hugs are still in my heart at the end of the holiday season. The drive away from the farm still lingers. The friends and family, the neighbors and cousins fifteen times removed are still with me.

The tinsel goes back into the box. The tree sits at the curb waiting for a boy scout to gather it up. Christmas cards are read once more. Now I give the warm hugs to my family and friends. I savor the stories from the farm and share them with my granddaughters.

You know, a farm girl never really leaves the farm. No, there are no good-byes, only a once-farm-girl now a farm woman living in the burbs in Oregon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Christmas

The tinsel is sparkling, the grandchildren home. It's time to focus on the holiday and take a break from my blogs. Please stop back on December 28.

Have a wonderful holiday week with your family and friends. Many blessing to you all.

Merry Christmas from a girl who once lived back a lane on Neff Road.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Yearly Gathering

Christmas on Neff Road. Family gathered for the holidays. Well, not always. With all of the Loxley girls living away from Darke County, Christmas together was always iffy. Winter weather was definitely a problem.

I remember packing up the kids in our station wagon along with Christmas presents. Determination and maybe a little stupidity put our car on the road heading south from Appleton, Wisconsin, to the house back the lane. Did we turn around? Of course, not. It was Christmas!

Sometimes we ended up with ill children. A child with a fever, a runny nose, a barfy stomach was not unusual. Still Christmas took place with the family gathered around the tree. For sisters who rarely saw one another, this was a precious time. For parents who rarely had their children together all at once, it must have be a treasure. The Loxley's were home.

Jobi, the oldest of the grandchildren tended the smaller children giving the adults time once more to gather around the kitchen table. As the children grew, they would play with the Sparks kids and start to understand the importance of the visits. Before we knew it, they, too, were sitting around the table with the adults.

One year we all pitched in and got Mom and Dad a slide projector and screen. A history would be recorded. For my parents, a family could be shared with friends and neighbors. The old projector is a marvel to my grandchildren. They don't know many of the faces on the old slides; they weren't part of this history.

Oh, how dear those trips are to me all these years later. I just turn on the old memory and once more I am back in the warm embrace of the farm back the lane. I am richer for my history. I am rich for the life we lived on Neff Road.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

White Christmas Dreams

Microsoft needs to not send so many updates at one time to my computer. Overload, changing settings, all in all, frustration filled my morning. Since I have vented, I will continue.

'Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow'. We can sing all we want, but it's not looking like snow for  Oregon....again this year. The first few years we lived in Oregon, we rarely saw snow. We didn't even have a lot of rain. Having moved from Wisconsin with a dependable white Christmas, this was a bit disappointing.

We didn't have much snow through the '80s. Even a skiff of snow brought out the rare sled and cardboard boxes. Anywhere there was even a small rise on the street, the kids were there. We lived on a steep hill. James and Stacey loved it the winter the big snow.

Snow. It goes with Santa, right? Well, unless you live in the south.

We sold our snow shovel when we came out west along with the snow suits and heavy boots. We didn't need them. They did no good on black ice which is a winter hazard here. Skiers are pretty well suited for the random snow falls that happen to make their way to the lower elevations.

I wonder if children still snow on the hill at the farm. I'd give anything to sled there just one more time. We may not have the snow in Oregon, but Neff Road is white.

Not much of a blog, but sitting here in 45 degree weather makes me long for other days.

'I'm dreaming of a white Christmas just like the ones I used to know..."

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Mother died ten years ago. When I made mention of her passing on my Facebook page yesterday, Meg, my childhood friend's daughter, reminded me of the pictures hanging on the wall along the basement stairway, hanging in the house back the lane on Neff Road.

Please visit my other blog at to see an older post that needs to be revisited. It is a blog for my mother, a friend, a neighbor, an honorary grandma. It is a blog for everyone.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ours To Share

We came back to the house down the lane on a freezing December day. Snow and ice chased away many who would have come to pay their respects. The icy roads did not deter our duty, our drive to Newcomers to say good-bye.

The house on Neff Road had suddenly become just a house. No longer did Mom's laughter fill the rooms, no longer was food cooking in the kitchen. The house had lost it's life. We had lost our mother.

Mom has been gone for quite some time yet her daughters still feel that day when it rolls around. No calendar is needed. A sadness descends in that short time in December before Christmas comes to visit.
My mom didn't know that the next year she would have another great granddaughter. A grandchild she would not see.

It is the anniversary of my mother's passing. Not a day goes by that I don't miss her. There are times I'm sure she is with me. When Gabby was placed in my arms for the first time, I was in my mother's loving arms as well. Oh, how I miss her.

The remarkable woman gave a home to many and fed everyone who passed through the old farmhouse door. She cared for the ill and did for those who were in need. She never said 'no'. Mom was grandma to all of the local children. Her toys waited for the children. She was a modern woman even in her 80's. We shared her all of our lives. She was never totally ours.

It is another cold, winter day in Ohio. And, another December of missing you, Mom.

Monday, December 13, 2010

South is Really South

"Wait!" I wanted to yell. "You're going the wrong way!"

Silly me. Geese don't listen. They form that 'V' and are once more drawn on a migratory path that has been traveled by their kind for as long as they have flapped their feathers. The geese all seem to be pointing their 'V'  north. Perhaps the cooler weather in the south has them confused. My rantings below would make no difference.

Since my days on the farm, perhaps the first time my father pointed my little head towards the sky, I have loved the Canada goose. The way they mate for life, fly in formation relieving the leader time and time again to allow time for respite, they struggle to survive in a changing world.

There are two places nearby where the geese come throughout the year to feed and rest. One is on the property of The Sisters of St. Mary's. The geese congregate on the small piece of land. This fall the property was torn up in preparation for a building. The other gathering place is at a middle school. The geese fill the field roaming the soil in search of food. They are so commonplace that no one seems to notice the beauty gathered there. Where is the wonder and awe?

My children laugh when I run to the door as geese pass over just to catch a glimpse of them. I roll down my window to listen to their lofty conversations. I say a prayer for their safe flight, and thank them for passing by my way.

Many years ago I read James Michner's book "Chesapeake". He wrote of how the land was covered with so many geese that people could hardly walk. Their feathers were used to warm the early settlers. Their presence brought food to the table. Their cry was one of salvation for those who worried at survival of the winter.

Yes, I am in love with the Canada goose. I walked to the creek after Mom died as daylight settled in. Two geese came to settle on the creek, a sight I'd never seen before. I sat on the cement abutment with the two feather friends at my feet. At that moment, I knew that Mom and Dad were together. Oh, I already knew it, but Dad knew my love of geese. He wanted me to know that they were once more at home on the farm.

Maybe you think I just have a vivid imagination. Well, you are correct. A little girl fell in love with a big grey goose. She fell in love with it as it flew over the farm on Neff Road. As long as I can hobble, crank up my hearing aid and make it to a window, I will watch them fly above me once more and be thankful.

I hope they find out that south is really still south even though it is chilly. I hope they fly back this way when they do. I will be waiting.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Savor The Time

Walking back the lane one more time. Finding again a time and place in a picture of a Christmas past. The older I get the more precious the faces.

Like many who moved away from home, I would assume that their pictures hold a special place in their hearts as do mine. There is no sadness in the memory only delight at seeing faces from the past and in remembering another time.

Mom loved, absolutely loved having the kitchen table surrounded by her family, full of food she lovely cooked. We sat at the table knowing that Mom had cooked and mashed her potatoes in a large, old kettle. Dressing, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, all the things we knew would be on the Christmas table.

Aunt Bess sat next to her sister. She always brought a good time along with her when she came in from Ludington, Michigan. She and my brother-in-law Bob are gone as are my parents. I can imagine Bob's silly laugh as he sat next to her. My nephews and my niece were young. Oh, such a long time ago. I was pregnant with my first child. Jack, next to me, was growing up. It wouldn't be too long before he left his foster home with Peg and Paul to return to his mother. He would be missed.

When I look at pictures of the family back the lane, the sounds, the smells assail me. I know the same is true for my sisters. We weren't all on the farm often. I was in Wisconsin, June in Indiana and Peg in Marion, Ohio (I think). Before too many years passed, she would be in Pennsylvania then Virginia, and I in Beaverton, Oregon. The family would be spread out and the Christmases at home with all of us there a thing of the past. Indeed, this was a snapshot of a moment in time.

I often think that those of us who have lived away from 'home' for many years have a different appreciation than those who stayed close to the homestead. What was once taken for granted is priceless. Even the view out the kitchen window draws me home to memories of sitting there watching the birds. Over time this glimpse became a treasure. No family tree can show the personalities of these people, the love they shared, the taste of a mother's pumpkin pie, the sounds and scents of the farm. Words can only describe but lack the essence of the house and time on Neff Road.

We all have our glimpses. For those of us who lived far away, the glimpses make us realize how much we missed on the days that were just days.

We sat around the table not knowing that the time was to be savored. I sit looking at a picture and am filled with the joy of remembering. Remember the kitchen, the people, the Christmas on Neff Road.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Thanks, Santa

What do you remember? Games, toys, presents from Santa. What do you remember?
Yesterday I wrote a blog for A Grandparent’s Voice and was drawn back to a memory of the Cootie game we had when I was a kid. There weren’t a lot of games in the Loxley house. Uncle Wiggly, checkers, pick-up sticks, Monopoly, Mr. Potato Head. Card games filled the drawer in the desk. Canasta, Authors, the old cards from the game PIT with the bull and the bear. Brenda had a Carrom game we loved to play, and the Riffel’s had my favorite, Stadium Checkers. More than likely these were all once toys from Santa or some loving adult who scrimped and saved so a child would find something special beneath the tree.
There were several dolls that found their way to our house on Christmas. I’m not sure who bought them for this once little girl. My favorite was Amosandra. I found her by the tree in a grey baby carriage. Mother had made a yellow hat, gown and blanket for her. Later Terri Lee, my Tony doll and Tiny Tears would join her in my room. Aunt Bess bought wonderful gifts. I remember finding the yellow, wooden horse in my grandparents’ front room. I could sit on it or push it. Aunt Bess also gave my last doll to me. Evidently someone had told her how much I loved Emmet Kelly the clown, because the doll arrived back the lane when Aunt Bess came to visit.
Noise from the basement filled the house. The youth group kids were roasting hot dogs. More than likely Mom laid out her usual fare of potato chips, potato salad and her cherry delight dessert. Popcorn balls would be stacked high in Dad’s popcorn pan. It was Christmas in the Loxley house.  
As the merriment carried on downstairs, I sat by the tree in the living room with my newest toy. I think my sister, June, was with me. The little plastic bells were lined up in a row with the colorful music propped up behind them… my first experience with music before I would someday sit at my first piano lesson.
I attribute my love of the theatre to a toy set from June. Surely she didn’t know that I would spend hours and years playing with the toys of the Disney TV Playhouse. I went online to see what my set would be worth now. The complete set depending on condition ranges from $200 to $518. The stage alone in mint condition is worth $165. My set isn’t worth much. A little girl played with it until the characters were worn and the stage bent. There is no price on memories, those memories from Christmases past.
I still have three of the plastic bells. My granddaughters love to ring them. The old stage is in a box in the garage along with the surviving characters and props, some broken, some not.
Old toys, old memories. Priceless pieces giving us glimpses into the past. Just the thought of a Cootie Game or a brand new Potato Head under the tree are enough to bring back memories of the days when we waited for Santa.
The toys are mostly long gone, but still the memories remain for the girl who lived back the lane on Neff Road.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Saving The Stories

They remember. I was too small. Vague memories tug at the edge of my mind. I remember the little pink coat, the way it smelled when it was wet. I remember the hat being tied beneath my chin. A whisper of memory quickly passes remembering the snow at The Mead in Ludington, Michigan. Just a whisper. But, my sisters remember.

I didn't know the questions to ask. So busy with my life, I didn't notice that there were questions. Sitting around the kitchen table on the farm on Neff Road, I listened to family stories. Friends, family, neighbors. Whoever walked through that door opened more information into the family past. But I didn't take note. I didn't listen.

We didn't have a video camera back the lane. Our neighbors have some old 8mm film of us as little kids, but we had nothing but an old box camera and a little Brownie camera. We had no tape recorder to capture the stories, to hear the voices. Our history was related in the stories we heard. I was so busy with children and my own life that I didn't listen closely enough. I didn't know the questions to ask. I didn't care enough.

We went to visit my Uncle Bob at the Brethren Home. My kids were teenagers and not really interested, but we took the video camera along and set it up. I was beginning to realize that I needed to ask the questions. The tape was filled with family history and the telling by my uncle. For some reason, I never set the camera up on Mom and Dad. My questions for them were not asked. Not then.

I am curious now. The stories of the past are important to me. I lived with my parents for eighteen years, yet I knew so little of their growing up. Since Mom and Dad are gone, I do the next best thing. I ask my sisters. We piece together memories and experiences. They remember.

My children do not ask the questions. I try to share my childhood memories with my grandchildren. They aren't really ready to ask the questions either. So I blog. I write a history of the family I remember. I write a history of another time in Darke County, Ohio. I write a history in case someone asks the questions when I'm not here to answer.

We are all family history. We are all important to those we love whether or not they realize the treasured memories we possess. For some day, some distant day, someone will ask, and when they do, they will be glad we remembered.

Monday, December 6, 2010

I Remember

The old trunk sits in front of the sofa. Papers, computers, a cup of coffee, remote controls, a candle and coasters litter the top. To look at it, you couldn't tell the treasures it holds inside. Once in awhile I open the trunk. I spend long periods of time going through the contents. The trunk is full of memories. The trunk is full of pictures.

Many of those pictures find their way to this blog. But there are those that do not. Yet those bring back memories and smiles. They are the school pictures, pictures of childhood friends and classmates. Picture of graduates with writing on the back saying things like: Friends forever; Let's keep in touch; Remember. Faces that would fade away with time. So why do I still have the pictures?

Over the years I have tossed pictures of scenery that have no meaning to anyone but me. Some of those pictures, those that are blurred or too dark, have disappeared in the recycling. Those school pictures of kids who were not really friends have also found their way out of the trunk. Yet those of my classmates who were with me during those twelve short years stay nestled in the trunk. They hold memories.

I guess we all wonder who will want our pictures some day. Who will care about those people from our past. Who will know the stories and history that accompany these pictures. Who will care.

When I knew I was going back to my high school alumni banquet last April, I went through my old pictures. I debated taking some of the pictures, the memories back with me. I wondered if anyone I knew would be there or even care about old friends and old pictures. A lifetime is short, but friends forget and move on.

It is the holidays. I look at the old trunk, a trunk that is for me a treasure chest. The pictures are just pictures that sit in the bottom of the trunk, but once opened, the trunk fills the room with the memories it holds. A lifetime is short....and I remember.

Friday, December 3, 2010

More Than A Picture

Once more I held the picture in my hands, a picture that has captured me since I was a small child. A small girl sits surrounded by presents, every child’s dream. Games, dolls, crafts, Santa just waiting for the little girl’s attention. Our Christmases were always very slim. Oh, how I wanted to be that little girl.
Over the years I came to understand more about that little girl. I noticed that the smile did not reach her eyes. The happiness that should have been shining in her young face was compromised by the disease that held her to her bed. I want my sisters’ memories to tell this story. My sisters, this is for you.
Memories from my oldest sister Peggy:
It was 1945. We all had whooping cough and scarlet fever at the same time. Dad was in the big bed, me on the couch and June in the baby bed. I was eight. The county put a sign on our door “Quarantined”. Mom was sick, but still tried to do the work outside. I think others came to help. Food was left at the door.
We eventually recovered, but June was weak. Since our local doctor didn’t seem to do anything to help June, Mom and Dad went to a children’s doctor in Dayton. He said she had rheumatic fever. There was a new drug he wanted to try on June. Our local doctor refused to give it to her, and she needed shots. I think it was every day. We made a lot of trips to Dayton forty-one miles away.
We played on the bed since June wasn’t allowed to walk because of her heart. We played puzzles and puppet kind of stuff. Even had a walking penguin. We thought up all sorts of things to do (for the days, the months, the almost two years our sister laid in bed).
After June recovered, Dad’s very expensive, registered cows contracted Bangs disease. June came down with an illness caused by unpasteurized milk. The entire herd was destroyed leaving Mom and Dad broke. It was a miracle in that day that June recovered. Mom was so scared that she would get sick again. June couldn’t leave the house without wearing slacks and warm clothes.
Memories from June, little girl surrounded by toys:
As I remember, I had trouble breathing when I ran and played. I was about four. The baby bed was placed in the kitchen during the day. I wanted to go out in the snow and play so Mom took me out on the sled. Peg play paper dolls, puzzles, etc. with me. I had an ultra-modern wheelchair. Becky Groff, the grandmother of the Royer kids, would come down with a basket on her arm that usually contained a snack (cookie) and a book to read to me giving Mom a break for an hour or two during the day while Peggy was at school. Perhaps every other week.
Memories of the sister born until two years later:
Mom and Dad always protected June even when she was older. Their sacrifices were many, but they were remarkable in their care of their ill daughter. They took a chance on a newly discovered drug called penicillin. They took a chance on a new type of doctor, a doctor for children.
The old wheelchair was often put into use when Mom babysat for someone’s child. It was fun to push friends around in it. When we went through the house after Mother died, we found the old wheelchair sitting in the corner of the attic. A reminder of a sister who survived.
I cannot imagine the guilt and pain my parents suffered during those years. They almost lost a daughter. They lost their cattle, their income. But anyone who knew my parents, knows that they were rich with love. Their strength saved a daughter, a farm and a family.
A child sits surrounded by toys.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Udderly Ridiculous

So I'm walking behind the sofa where my granddaughters sit watching kid's TV. I stopped in my tracks, my mouth flew open, and I gasped.

"What are you watching?!?!?!" I yelled.

My granddaughters both looked at me as if I'd grown another eye. Didn't they notice? Didn't they know?

"What idiot animated this show?" I wondered.

Now, I try to watch TV with the girls whenever I can just to see what they are watching. We talk over things that I question. 'Sponge Bob' is a crazy show that often leaves me shaking my head. Luckily, Gabby has a good eye for choosing what is appropriate and what is not. However, sometimes a child does not see the obvious.

"What's wrong, Grammy?" my granddaughters both ask as I rant and rave about the stupidity of editors and directors in not catching this obvious mistake.

"Look!" I exclaim. "Look at that! The bulls have udders! Bulls don't have udders!!!!"

This farm girl was having what my mom called a major 'snit'. Without question, the animator of the film had never been on a farm.

"Have you ever heard of anyone ever milking a bull?!" I continued. "Bulls do not have udders!!!"

"It's okay, Grammy," Gabby said.

"No, it's not! Kids who don't live on farms will think that bulls have udders!!!!"

"Grammy," said Gabby meek voice. "Why don't bulls have udders?"

I explained that cows have calves and the bulls do not. The cows feed their calves from the udders. Their heads shook in agreement, especially since their grandma was close to hyperventilating.

"Well, that's just wrong," said Sydney. "Why didn't they know that?"

I went online to see if anyone else in the world noticed that the 'cows' with really low voices were supposed to be udderless bulls. Maybe it was like theatre in the olden days when men played women's parts. Maybe there was a shortage of cows.

"Get a grip, Pam," I told myself. "It's animated."

Yes, indeed, there was a long list of comments from other adults offended by the uddered bulls. It was udderly (sorry) ridiculous.

My granddaughters managed to calm me down. We had learned bovine lessons. Life was good again until....

"So if bulls don't have udders, Grammy, what do they have?"

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Tree From Tastee Freeze

Oh, tannenbaum, oh tannenbaum.....

Another Christmas on the farm. I'm not sure where our tree originated. I only remember driving to the edge of Greenville to the Tastee Freeze (I think that's right) next to what I believe was then a hardware store. We walked around the little ice cream store with Dad holding up a tree for approval. It's odd that this is the only time I remember going to get a tree. I don't know where Dad got the tree all of those other years, but we always had one.

We have been in Oregon since 1978. To our surprise most families made 'tree cutting' an event. Trekking to a tree farm in the forest, children ran from tree to tree looking for nature's best. We non-natives had to learn to 'track the best tree'. I'm sure that when trees were plentiful on the flat fields of Neff Road, fathers with axe in hand walked out the door to find a fresh tree. The only two fir trees that I knew of that were Christmas tree worthy were at the end of my Uncle Keith's lane.

The big cardboard box was once more brought into the living room. The same ornaments from Christmas's past would be unwrapped: the angle with spun glass hair, the cast figures who skated on a mirror surrounded by fake snow, small, burgundy plastic bells, metal ice icicles in a variety of color twisting reflecting the lights, bubble lights that fascinated a small girl, gold glass balls that mother loved and blue glass balls with snowflakes on them. Memories with each precious ornament.

I remember hanging tinsel icicles one by one over the limbs of the tree. Some families just threw them onto the tree. Not at our house. Each one was draped neatly over the limbs picking up the lights causing the tree to twinkle. It was Christmas on the Loxley farm. The tree from wherever Dad found it brought joy to the house back the lane.

We cut our tree again this year. We pulled out the plastic bins filled with memories from Christmases past. My ornaments weren't used this year. I decided that my granddaughters needed to see their ornaments with memories tied to them on our tree. A small burgundy bell is resting in my Christmas box in the garage. A memory from the past from a tree back the lane on Neff Road.

Friday, November 26, 2010

50 Years

November 27, 1960. I was barely a teenager at 13. I wore a royal blue satin dress. My oldest sister, Peggy, was getting married. Our family was changing.

I remember crying. In my mind, I was losing a sister. I felt as if a limb of the family was being removed. I barely saw my sister as it was and knew that when she married Paul, she would move with him to Indiana. She would have a new family. One I would not be part of it.

Paul came from a farm family in Indiana. He knew the ins and outs of living on a farm. He fit right in. When Dad worked outside, Paul pitched in to help. He never sat by watching. Paul made the farm his home, too.

Paul loves to cook. Mom loved to have him in the kitchen. He learned early on that it was 'Mom's' kitchen, but Mom loved to have him there. My parents loved Paul.

My sister was a beautiful bride. I wanted her to be happy. As a little sister, I had seen the times she was sad. She was my big sister. Who would protect her if I wasn't there? But Paul made me his little sister. I learned to trust him and to know that he watched out for all of us.

My sister and Paul will be married 50 years tomorrow. 50 years! I am so proud of them. Marriage is difficult at best. They have survived many moves and deep losses. They have raised two wonderful sons. As grandparents, they are the best loving their two grandsons who live nearby.

About a year after my sister and Paul married, they invited me to stay with them at their little house in Indiana. My friend, Vivian, came along. We two boy-crazy girls managed to meet two older boys. We went to a movie with these guys. The next day we went to a dance at the community center. Viv and I twisted showing these town kids a thing or two. Later we were informed that the twist was banned in this little town. My poor sister who was then only in her twenties was aging rapidly with the responsibility of two teenage girls. It was during these times with my big sister that I really got to know her and my brother-in-law, a bond that lasted these 50 years. A love that deepened.

Happy Golden Anniversary, Peggy and Paul. I love you with all my heart. Thank you for loving me all these years from Neff Road.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Miracle on Neff Road

Turkey, family, dish after dish of traditional food. Memories piled high for sixty-three years of Thanksgivings.

Don't forget the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade. One of my earliest memories of this special day is sitting with my sister in front of the old Raytheon TV watching the parade in black and white. For the first time, I saw huge helium balloons. A smiling dachshund drifted across the New York City skyline. It was the 1950's when the first parade was broadcast. Little did I know that I would still be filled with the same excitement at my age now as I was then.

I don't remember ever watching the parade with my parents. I'm sure Mom was busy in the kitchen preparing the 'feast', and Dad was finishing up the chores in the barn. The Johnson family would show up with the foods we craved all year long. A puzzle was set up on the card table. Wonderful smells filled the house. Pumpkin pies had been made the day before tempting us until the next day. Yet with all of this, we were drawn to this new thing taking residence in our living room. Our new TV.

I don't remember who the grand marshal was of that first televised parade. Bert Lahr, Jackie Gleason, Sid Caesar, Abbott and Costello, Jimmy Durante, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans (my favorites) and Boris Karloff were a few reigning over the parade during the 50's. At my young age, I was waiting for Santa Claus.

The parade has been a wonderful time of my growing up sharing it with my children and granddaughters. I watch Miracle on 34th Street in preparation. But I think that maybe, just maybe, the parade is dear to me because of that first time I watched it with my big sister. A sister who didn't have much in common with a sister seven years younger took time to sit with her little sister just spending time. Ah, yes, it was indeed a miracle back the lane on Neff Road.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Don't Ask The Grandma

"Grammy, can you help me with this?" Gabby, age nine, asks me.

Math. Oh, how I hate math. I'm a keeper of words. English was always my forte. Social Studies, Biology,, I did just fine. Journalism was my all time favorite class. Math. It was a dirty word.

I'm not sure how my children ever got through math. If I'm remembering correctly, they liked it as did their daddy. Whew! I made it through the parenting years. Now here I am faced with a child actually doing math a bit differently than did her sister three years before. I shudder before I pick the girls up from school praying that there will be no math homework.

"You do what you can," I reply. "Maybe your sister can help you."

Gabby does all of the work in her head. No scrap paper. No finger counting. She manipulates the numbers in mysterious ways ending up with the correct answer.

I'll say this for my childhood school years at Franklin School. Diagramming sentences, long division, trips to the library were all part of the educational system.

"Do you know how to diagram a sentence?" I ask Sydney, age eleven.


"Diagramming. Breaking up a sentence into parts."

"Why do I want to do that?" she asks.

For a moment I am wondering why she would want to do it. Sentences have changed since I was a child. Expressions, creativity seem to have taken a front seat. I do it all the time. Now she has me wondering if it is important? I've never, since adulthood, been asked to point out a participle. No one has asked me to explain my sentence structure. Normal Rhoades, my eighth grade teacher would not be happy with me.

So here we are with math. Instead of two numbers in a subtraction problem, she is writing down three. I look at the page as if it were a foreign language. Obviously, if I were in the third grade right now, I would be failing.

Franklin School teachers gave me a strong educational base. Many of the ways I learned were the ways my parents learned as well. I may not be as fast on my feet figuring out a problem as are my granddaughters, but I understand each step. My granddaughters may have more creative freedom with their writing, but, darn it, I can diagram any sentence should the request come my way.

My granddaughters use computers at school for research. They are in the library, but the lugging of books home from the Greenville Library has changed to the click of a screen. In fact, reports now have downloaded pictures. I know because I helped Sydney do a report on Switzerland teaching her to use the Power Point program on the computer to create the document. It has changed. Hm. Maybe I have, too.

"Grammy, can you help me with this problem?" Sydney asks looking at her Algebra book.

Perhaps this can wait until Mom gets home.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Don't Bother Me

Shhhhhhhh. The rain is falling in Oregon. The Douglas Fir shelters the squirrels and birds. Quiet, I'm listening to the wind and rustle of water laden limbs. Winter lurks in the November sky. Mt. Hood received a foot of snow last night. What is in store for the valley? Shhhhhhh.

Winter seemed to come to the farm when least expected. After a few days of cold weather a sudden winter chill would sit on the trees and driveway. The sky is heavy with the threat of snow, and all children pray it will arrive while Dad put the snow plow in the front of the tractor.

I don't think I will ever forget that childhood love of snow. Fox, Fox, Goose. Snow Angels. Wimpy snowmen. Poor excuses for a snow fort. The snow seldom kept us home, but on those days that we had drifts and flurries, we bundled up to play, to spend the day in the snow.

Mother wrapped me in layers. My white sock hat, a scarf wrapped several times around my neck, rubber boots over my shoes and socks. A couple pair of pants covered my legs. Definitely, I was not waterproof. Heck, I could barely walk. But you know what? I didn't care.

Neighbor kids walked up the lane, sleds following behind. Ours was the only hill around. The little ones would sit in front of an older child. I'm not sure if it was so we little ones would be the first to fly off should we hit a bump or if we were keeping the older kids warm. Regardless, we flew down the hill and across the field....time and time again.

Once back in the house, wet mittens, hats and all the rest were draped over the radiator. The smell of outdoors and wet wool permeated the house. Sometimes we would come in to find hot chocolate waiting and, if lucky, a warm fire in the fireplace.

Snow. Years later I would take my own children for a ride down that hill. We piled onto the sled, and Dad pushed. It was winter on the farm.

Shhhhhh. Listen to the wind. Winter threaten from the arctic air over the blue Pacific meeting up with the east wind blowing down the Columbia River Gorge. The winter wind blows memories of other days....winter back a lane on Neff Road.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Flip The Switch

I just flipped the switch and turned on the gas fireplace. Flip of a switch. The room will heat quickly taking off the winter chill. It will travel upstairs heating that area as well. Flip of a switch.

Shhhhh. Nope. Don't hear it. No sound of crackling from the burning wood. Hard to get a crackle out of fake wood. No beautiful colors and hypnotic flame. Instant fire.

Dad was quite a pro when it came to building a fire. He carefully laid out the wood and kindling. Like a grown boy scout, he took the task seriously. This was his territory. Many times I watched him build the fire in the basement fireplace. The winter routine would repeat itself, and we were thrilled. Dad built the fire then brought out the hot dogs and the roasting forks. Mom laid out the plates and potato chips. A hot dish would join the food laid out on the counter. Christmas lights that hung around the room were lit. Dad's fire roared. When it calmed down, he threaded the hot dog onto the stick and placed it in my hands.

This was quality time with Dad. We roasted hot dogs sometimes talking about the dancing colors in the fire. I learned that different woods burned differently. A bit of grease would drop into the fire and the flames would peak. Dad oversaw the progress of the food prepared over his fire. A daughter and father spending time together.

There won't be any hot dog roasting over our fire. I can't even build a fire in our fireplace as my father did all those years ago. But I can sit here and remember, telling my grandchildren of the fun we had gathered around the fireplace in the basement.

Just a flick of the switch.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Distance Between Cousins

Distant cousins. The distance across the United States that prevents us from learning more about one another. A person who is known only as a name on a family tree. We all have them. People who share our own genes. Those my parent knew, but I do not. Those children raised away from the homestead who never knew their extended family. We all have them.

Yesterday I received a CD from a second cousin who has had a stellar career. Our paths would probably never have crossed had I not wanted to meet this cousin. Because he was famous? Maybe just a little, but more so for another reason. He is the grandson of my dear Great Uncle Jerry. As I have mentioned before, Uncle Jerry is the man who taught me to sing. Now his grandson sings.

My cousin and I do not write or talk often. Once in awhile I receive a call. He just wants to catch up.

Uncle Jerry would be thrilled that I cared enough to contact this cousin. He would love that we talk about the horse I received when Uncle Jerry passed, the conversations about the great grandparents, the simple questions like, "How is your family." I still have a piece of my uncle in this contact with his grandson.

I care about those cousins far away. I care about those who still live on Neff Road. I miss that my children have few memories with their cousins. My grandchildren have none. Yes, my roots are deep on Neff Road with those who settled there long before I came to be. I think I would like to have a family tree that just showed the interest of the people. Who was the artist, the singer, the story teller? Who had a scientific mind, a curiosity? What thread has been carried on in the genes to this current generation? What makes me write and my son sing? What makes my granddaughters draw and my daughter create knitted toys that everyone begs for? What makes us want to dance? Who came before and felt the same pull?

Maybe the distance between cousins doesn't have to be so far. Maybe it just takes people who care.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Farm and New York City

"Grammy, if I could go anywhere I would go to two places," my granddaughter, age 9, informed me. I would go to the farm where you lived and to New York City.

One never knows what might surface when spending time with a grandchild. Gabby always provides a constant stream of conversation. She is an observer like her grandma. I never know where our conversations will lead. Silence seems to bring on the best dialogue.

We were working on our yearly project, one that began when my children were small. The children and I create handmade ornaments then hand them out randomly to strangers the first twenty-five days of December. Scattered pine cones, pieces of bark, pre-made ornaments waiting to be painted, paint brushes, markers and sparkle covered the table top. Creativity was alive and active at the kitchen table.

"I want to see where you lived. Can we go, Grammy? Will you go with me?"

Oh, how I'd love to take her back to the farm. We would visit the white house back the lane. Walk to the bridge. Step back in time with my granddaughters holding my hands. I cannot afford to take them back and long to do so.

"Maybe some day," I answer.

"Can I make my name Loxley?" she asks. She rambles off all the possibilities of last names. She wants her history to be part of her name.

"You know, if indeed there was a Robin Hood, we are probably related since he was Robin of the House of Locksley, and our family roots started in England," I add.

"Who is Robin Hood," Gabby asks.

"You don't know who Robin Hood is?!" exclaims Sydney.

"He lived very long ago. He took money from the rich and gave to the poor," I explain.

"Can we do that?" sweet Gabby asks.

I explain that we are not going to rob the rich to give to the poor.

"You know, by making ornaments and giving them to strangers, we are giving something special a bit like Robin Hood."

The quiet sets in.

"I love New York City," she says finished with the current conversation.

"People get robbed and killed there," Sydney quickly answers.

Oh, my.......

Monday, November 15, 2010

Where Is It?

I've looked everywhere. I've asked other people if they know where it is. They don't know either. I didn't notice it was missing until I was about fifty, then I became aware that it was gone. Darn it, where did it go?!?!?!

Mom once asked me about it. One of the last times I would see her she mentioned it. I couldn't help her find it. I wasn't fully aware that it was gone. She told me that it was gone before she realized it. Where in the heck is it?

My sisters and I have tried to figure out where it went. We've talked it over time and time again. None of us noticed when it happened. How can something so precious be gone, and we not realize it? What was so important in our lives that we didn't notice, maybe not until Mom asked?

I have been trying to remember where I lost it. I know that I had it on the farm those many years ago. It was part of our lives...a slow life back the lane where time seemed to stand still. Especially true when I was a teen and wanted to move to the city. I'm still trying to remember where it went.

Maybe one of my relatives has an idea what happened to it. I know that friends and neighbors borrowed it. We had it at Painter Creek Church. Boy, did we take it for granted. I had it for a while when we lived in Wisconsin and hold it even dearer here in Oregon. I wish I could talk to Mom about it and ask her where it went.

Where does time go?

Friday, November 12, 2010

When Old Is New

The old stereopticon sits in the antique Weller pot beneath my desk. I'll admit that it gathers a bit of dust. Not often do the girls pick it up, but when they do, we step back in time.

The old viewer is not a family heirloom. I purchased as a prop for a show years ago. The high school kids loved looking at the early 3-D pictures. The pictures held a history and many a hidden story. A bonneted woman spanking a boy with a broom. A swimmer diving into a lake. A view over Niagara Falls. All places that took our parents far away from home when they were children with a viewer in hand.

Once in awhile I pick up the viewer and look through the old cards. Many are well-worn. Perhaps those were favorites of children in a time when this was a form of entertainment. Who bought the old steroptican for the child? Were there gales of laughter? Maybe a traveler brought the new-fangled thing home as a gift to the family. Women thrilled at viewing new styles of clothing. Children saw far away places and a different way of living. History was captured in pictures that still are enjoyed today.

"Hey, look at this," my granddaughter yells to her friends. The girls gather around the stereopticon. I'm glad I have this piece of the past in my home. Maybe we have come a long way with TV, video camera, movies, photos, but nothing will ever replace the wonder of picking up the view, picking out a card and moving the handle back and forth watching the picture reach out to them.

 We never had one of these on Neff Road.....but one has touched the life of a little girl who once lived there and the generations after.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

At The End of The Pole

Sunfish, walleye, bluegill, perch, catfish, bass. I grew up catching these fish. Even when I was barely old enough to hold a cane pole, dad would sit me on the bank of the pond or creek, on the pier off Aunt Bess's store, seated in the front of the boat. I learned to fish with the best of them.

Hollie and Dad raised their kids to fish. We loved it even as adults. As I've said before, I'm not sure if it was because of the catch or because of quality time with our dads laughing, joking, sharing in a way we didn't share on a daily basis.

Fishing in Oregon is different than that of fishing for pan fish. Out here people fish for salmon, trout and other fish I don't recognize. Digging clams and trapping crabs, tasty, but I don't do it.

Last night I went out for happy hour with friends. On the menu was: Crawfish. My son chuckled asking if I would like some. My mind immediately raced back to the creek and the little crawfish we tried to hit with rocks from atop the bridge. The bottom crawlers were not going to cross my palate. Delicacy? I think not.

I would love to go fishing here in Oregon, but my favorite type of fishing is my old cane pole. I remember swinging that pole back when I had a fish with Dad ducking to avoid my flinging line. As I got older, I learned to bait the hook and catch my line. Dad still delighted in every catch I landed.

For hours my dad and Hollie would tell fishing tales. They reminisced about old times. The length of 'the one that got away' seemed to grow with each passing story. Our fathers seemed to glow when they allowed themselves the luxury of time away from the farm with a fishing pole in hand....and with a captive audience.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

City Chickens

A new trend has come to suburbia. "I can't get our chickens to lay in the nests," explains a friend new to the chicken business.

Several years ago I was invited to the home of a friend who had always lived in town then moved to the country. Next to the house was a chicken coop with a variety of the birds poking around. Each chicken had a name. These hens were like family pets. Town people raising chickens.

Chickens. Now I'm no authority. At our house chickens lived in a coop out near the barn. Living across the yard from them makes me a bit knowledgeable.

Chicken coops: Dirty, smelly, full of wanna-be mothers sitting on eggs that will never hatch. When this trend started a few years ago, I was confused. Cost of building a coop, fencing around coop, chicken feed, cost of chickens = a couple of eggs a day. Hm. Organic? Yes. Fresh eggs every day? Yes. Worth it? Not in my estimation. As a child, I had enough of those beaks try to catch me when I walked up to a nest. I tip-toed through the chicken yard enough to know that my shoes would be a mess by the time I walked back through that gate. The smell chicken farms permeates the air....not in a good way. Oh, give me my eggs from the local grocery.

"We decided to raise chickens," the mother of Gabby's friend informed me. "We're building a fenced in area for them."

Immediately, my mind is drawn to the layout of their backyard in an urban neighborhood. A fenced in area would take up about a fourth of the yard. A garden was taking up a bit more. Play space for the children was dwindling. Did she know that they needed a coop? Did she know that these beaked demons needed to be in a covered yard? Did she know that nighttime critters would seek out the birds and/or their eggs?

"The chickens keep getting out," she later informed me. Hm, evidently she didn't know.

Many people are fighting for the right to have chickens in their urban yards. In Key West, the chickens just roam the streets. I wonder if soon chickens will do the same here. Another hm.

I wonder who watches these chickens when these families go on vacation. I can just imagine my response if my daughter asked me. I am done with chickens. The best chicken on the farm was that one frying up for dinner after church on Sunday mornings.

City chickens.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

All in a Name

Neff Road. Yes, I lived on Neff Road. Were I to go away from Neff Road, I could easily find my way by getting on a road that told me the towns between which it ran:

Red River-West Grove Road
Arcanum-Bears Mill Road

Country roads are named a bit differently than in town. Town streets often run from numbered streets to names of presidents, names of trees. Whereas in the country road names a local history is captured.

There is no longer a town of Red River. West Grove Church is no longer. Yet the history of the road remains. Bears Mill still stands reminding visitors and neighbors of another time in Darke County.

I imagine that a Neff once owned a home on Neff Road. Perhaps his farm was the land where the groundwork of this road began. The Hog Path got its name from the path farmers traveled their livestock to market. Children's Home Road was the location of the Children's Home. County Home Road got its name the same way. Our history was noted in the names of the roads.

None of my relatives surnames made it onto the road sign. There was never a Loxley Road even though three Loxley families owned property on it. I'm surprised that we never had roads with names, such as Wheat Road, Corn-Elevator Road, Farm Road. The essence of the neighborhood is never captured in a name. Lavy, Stager, Welbaum, Rhoades, Wert, Bucholtz. Those were the important names representing our road.

A few years ago, I moved closer to my daughter into a neighborhood that was not familiar to me. One day I was driving my granddaughter to a friend's house. My stop at the stop sign indeed stopped me in my tracks, stopped by a street sign that read:

Loxley Drive

Monday, November 8, 2010

New History for an Old Swing

The old porch swing.  Yes, I've written about the swing before, but this weekend the memories were to well-visited.

My phone buzzed. James had sent a text. I opened the mail to a photo of my daughter-in-law sitting on their new porch on the old family swing. A swing that was a wonderful part of the Loxley girls' growing up years.

Saturday I went to a party at the yellow house. I walked into the house and out the back door. There was my beloved swing. It was hung a bit higher than on the farm, but nonetheless, I managed to get my weary bones onto the seat. I had no longer settled in when the memories began to flow. A memory of holding my puppy, Whitey, on the bench with my Aunt Alma next to me. Memories of snapping beans and shelling peas on the porch sitting on the swing. Neighbors visited on the swing, and farm hands rested on it after dinner (lunch). Mom and Dad sat on it waiting for visitors or maybe one of their children coming home. The porch was full of memories.

Yesterday my sister called. I told her about the swing.

"I probably had my first kiss on that swing," I said.

"Oh, I remember sitting on that swing with a few boy," Peggy laughingly replied.

We talked of our memories on that dear swing.

"I remember pushing you on that swing. You were so little that your legs were straight out," Peg shared of a time I did not remember.

Mom and Dad enclosed the porch by the time my children came along. They don't have an attachment to that old swing. A glider replaced a swing. My son will not have the memories I do of that porch swing back on the farm.

I plan to sit on that swing often. I plan to tell my grandchildren the history of the old swing. I hope to rock more grandchildren on that old swing and once more hold a puppy there.

Histories continue to accumulate in the life of an old swing, an old swing that once held me on Neff Road.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Give Yourself A Hand

I was working on a Christmas project. Most of the day I had the camera close at hand just in case I felt inspired. It turned out to be an inspirational day in a surprising way.

After school, Gabby grabbed my camera and with her unique prospective she dash across the lawn taking the odd, the unusual, the sideways, the silly self portraits. I knew that every odd picture that came up was taken from a creative point of view.

"Grammy, can I have it now," Sydney asked.

She took a few pictures then yelled to Gabby and me. "Come here. Put your hands out," she said.

She placed our hands with my old hands touching each of theirs. The camera clicked and a precious relationship was captured.

I notice hands. Maybe I do because I have watched my own age over the years with arthritis settling into a couple of joints and my thumbs gradually weakening and aching with degenerative joints. Hands are a history unto themselves.

Mom's hands were tough. She could chop a chicken head off with one fine swoop or wipe a child's fevered brow with tenderness. I remember her hands often smelling of potatoes....a daily ration at our house. I remember those wonderful hands on piano keys or holding a crochet hook and a piece of yarn. Those hands lead a choir, feed chickens, baited a fish hook getting hooked herself and knew how to apply first aid when needed.

Dad's hands were rugged. His nails were jagged from the work he did on the farm. Yet those hands could hold a small child's and show her the miracles of the earth. I remember the smell of fish on his hands long after he took the fish off the hook and then cleaned them. Those hands assisted in the birth of animals and pulled the trigger when one was beyond help. His aged thumbs suffered the same joint disease as mine. Now I know the pain he must have suffered. In later years he sat next to Mom wrapping her crochet yarn and holding her hand.

Hands. When I return to my roots, I notice hands. I know that Margaret's hands will be holding a handkerchief which she will use when she greets me with tears in her eyes. I remember Raymond lifting our little girl up in his arms, a few fingers missing on his hand. Brenda's broad hands will be busy on a project as we fall back into the same comfort we have always had. Doris's hands will sit in her lap. Victor will clasp my hand in his and treat me like a daughter of his own. Hands.

"Grammy, it turned out just like I wanted it to," Sydney exclaimed.

Yes, Sydney, it did. It truly did.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Last Chance to See

The small book was given to me as a gift. I'd never read the author before. I never read Hitchhiker's Guide to The Galaxy. Never saw the movie. Doug Adams was a complete stranger to me, that is until I stepped into New Zealand in Last Chance to See.

Doug Adams and photographer Mark Carwardine traveled to New Zealand to actually take a last chance to see.....a last chance for Doug Adams.

The beginning of this book began when the two aforementioned men placed pins in the locations they wanted to visit where wildlife was struggling to exist. These conservationist did not go to point a finger at man but to raise awareness of what we were losing. Their journey oddly enough took me back to Neff Road.

My dad was an early conservationist. I was taught at an early age to respect birds, bugs and animals. A nest was not to be disturbed. Bugs were essential to nature. Some ate bad bugs. Some disposed of waste. All of nature worked together. I was taught that trees are essential not only to wildlife but to man as well. Even though trees had to be cleared for farm land, Dad knew the importance of the woods, the underbrush. He believed in protecting habitat. He planted a woods on our farm. He was progressive in his farming rotating crops and later planting to deter erosion. Sadly, little was known of the affect of pesticides back then.

Doug Adams took me on a journey to see animals I didn't know existed. Some of the pictures would be the last of the animals soon to be extinct. He took me to a country that was wild and wonderful. In 2002, two years after the book was in print, the Brit died at age forty-nine. Still his work is pertinent today.

I think Dad would have appreciated Doug Adams' work. In fact, I could envision my father loving a career involving nature and protecting it. Maybe he knew that in what he taught me, I in turn would pass it on to my grandchildren.

Hugging a tree is not passé. I hug them with my grandchildren thanking God for what it means me. I look to the sky when a flock of geese fly over. I could sit for hours looking out over an ocean that holds mystery and awe. I catch spiders in the house and set them free outside. My Dad gave me roots in nature. Doug Adams reminded me embrace what we have, because it could be gone tomorrow.,

We are tied to the earth. In turn it is tied to us.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Friends, A Way Of Life

I'm not sure about the rest of the world, but friendship on Neff Road consisted of more than just those we hung out with at school or those who lived next door. Friendship was a lifetime of in part a shared history, a shared way of life.

Not many people moved to our area when I was a kid. In fact, most of our parents and grandparents had known one another their entire lives. Farms were farmed with grown sons. Daughters canned and gardened with their mothers. Quilts were made by the women in the family. Implements were shared by the farming men. A way of life bound families together.

Neff Road was the same. Farmers farmed together. Garden produce was shared. If a cow got loose, everyone chased it. If someone was ill, food was taken in and neighbors sat by the sick bed. When someone died, meals were again taken in, chores done, children babysat and families embraced by loving friends and neighbors. We all felt the loss.

My parents seemed to always go to graduations, weddings, funerals and everything in between. Mother was always baking, buying gifts, crocheting hats and booties. She had a drawer full of things she kept handy in case a gift was needed. With one phone call for help, Mom would jump into action dropping whatever she was doing to help a friend.

As I have said before, the people on Neff Road were our family. A playmate was a close as the end of our lane. The parents were parents to us all. Their homes were unlocked and always waiting for us to come for a visit.

Yes, homes were unlocked. Mother always had a bed made in case someone needed one. It was not unusual to wake in the morning to find someone recently risen from that bed at the breakfast table. Mom would be chatting away, tossing eggs over and frying bacon. Dad would be on toast duty, pouring coffee and laughing. Our door was the true revolving door.

Painter Creek Church was our other neighborhood. I don't remember a time in my life that didn't involve my friends there. We had gone from cradle roll to high school. We went from the children to the church leaders. Most Sunday's a church friend came home with me, or I went home with them. When we stepped through the door of one another's houses, we were home once more with people who loved us. Friendship was special on Neff Road.

I grew up with wonderful friends in my life. Most of the children I had known before I started school, were in my life until I graduated. Many of those same friends are still my friends today. When I go back to Ohio, I catch up with Geneva, Brenda, Vivian and Shirley. On Facebook, I have found old friends or they have found me. Neff Road friends are friends forever.

Yes, I moved away from Neff Road. In the Loxley family, there are no boys who stayed in farming. Most of us have left Ohio. Yet, we know that when we return, we will return to the friendships that remain and a history that binds us to the place back the lane.....the lane on Neff Road.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pass On The Past

Photo albums. I've seen them at farm sales, at estate sales. Pictures are disposed of when a generation passes. The old album is dusty on a shelf or buried in a box. Names on ragged photos omitted. Most of this later generation have no interest in or knowledge of these people in black and white.

I am the keeper of the stories of our family. The people in these pictures are part of me. The faces my parents chose to keep in albums should be important to me.

I love looking through Mom's old photo album. The pictures that end up on my blog are carefully taken from the album. Maybe I recognize a location. Pictures are a story in themselves. Personalities come alive. I can see what grew in the yard, what was parked outside of the barn, the chairs we played on as children those that were our parents as well. I see adults as children. My parents young once more.

 Aunt Esther came along long after my father and his brothers. I love this picture of Mom holding her outside of my grandparents' home which is no longer standing. Since only knowing her as an adult, it seems strange to see my mother holding her. Mom is so lovely, so happy. A picture of a younger mom I didn't know. A picture of a cherished child.

In another I see the women I grew up knowing. The Hollinger cousins. A group of beautiful women. My Aunt Kate holding my cousin, Karen. A picture of my grandmother surrounded by the women who loved her. Probably one of the last taken of her.

Photos. Do we just walk around them, leaving them for someone else to wonder over? Will they be tossed aside by those who do not know the people or the significance of those before their time?

There are few people who still remember me as a child. They have been on a journey with me for sixty-three years. They are a part of my history, the history of my children.

We don't have names that show our heritage as in olden times. Pam the daughter of Willard and Ruth. Or even a name like Willard Farmer. Loxley probably stems from a locksmith way back when. In England the name is spelled Locksley. They had no cameras. They captured their heritage in a name, a story. The griot, the recanteur, the bard, the jongleur, the scop, the spinner of yarns. For centuries stories have been told and histories captured in song, poetry and tale.

My mother was a spinner of yarns. She could entertain anyone with a story making it bigger than life. We always cut everything she told us in half. She was the storyteller.

My blog is my history....and maybe yours. Perhaps you will take more time to remember and share with your family. Perhaps you will dust off the old album and pen in a few names.

I chose my maiden name to be part of my legal name so I could carry on the Loxley name. No sons will carry it on. I will write my history for my children. I will continue to investigate my family history. My sisters and I continue to talk about our growing up. They tell me of a time I was too little to remember. A history will be passed on.

Song, poetry, storytelling. I open my computer and write.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Do You Remember?

Tools of the trade.

I stood on my son's porch. He was fastening a new ceiling over the porch of his new 'old house'. Power tools were scattered about. Watching my son took me back to the years when I was a child, to the tool of the farm.

I love to go back to farm auctions in Darke County. The old tools and items of the houses and barns take me to the house back the lane. Feed sack and twine, bales of straw and hay, wooden pulleys and chicken crates. Things not seen in the urban areas. Things my children only vaguely remember, and my grandchildren will never even know.

What do you remember? What is on your list? See if my list takes you back to memories of another time and place....a place called Neff Road.

Pitch fork
Egg basket
Egg crate with the egg shaped dividers
Scoop shovel
Grain scoop
Milk bucket
Hand held corn planter
Tobacco spear and lathe
Barbed wire fence
Cane fishing pole
Wooden single-tree
Stone wheel for knife sharpening

Wash board
Rug beater
Milk bottle
Butcher knife
Crank popcorn popper
Wooden, crank ice cream freezer
Cast iron skillet
Lemon squeezer
Potato masher
Mom's old soap container
Dad's popcorn bowl
Pop bottle opener
Wash tub
Bakelite tray

Cast iron toys
Tiny Tear Doll
Carroom Game
Tin doll house
Cowboy holster and pistols
Pop guns (we seemed to have a lot of guns)
Cap guns
Tin toys that whirled

We carry with us a history. We are history.

Happy remembering.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Trick or Treat

Halloween was such a special time at Franklin School. We dressed in our costumes and paraded around the other classrooms. Once a class passed, we could not wait to get up from our desks to join the parade. Our costumes were simple sometimes consisting of only a mask. Farm kids eager for a Halloween party. Farm kids on Halloween.

Repeating a bit of last October's blog, I need to share what it was like back that lane on Neff Road. We didn't have the close houses to run from door to door with paper bags open and eager hands out for candy, or maybe an apple which back then wasn't tainted. Dad drove me from house to house following me most times up to the door of a darkened house. I always wanted to go to Jimmy's house first because I had a crush on him. Vivian's grandparents always said the same thing,"This must be Willard's girl. She has that dimple in her chin." Neighbors were delighted to see us at their door and relatives were ready for the yearly knock from a niece. Halloween was fun back on Neff Road.

When we were older, too old to don costumes and knock on doors for candy, we knocked on doors in Greenville for Unicef. Old farm stories of Halloween consisted of cow-tipping and knocking over corn shocks. Teens still found ways to get into trouble, but we learned a way to do good.

If I lived back on Neff Road now, I think I'd put on a half-mask and head up to the Brethren Home. I'd knock on doors, "Trick or Treat." Margaret would answer and laugh hugging me close enough for her hearing aid to buzz in my ear. Victor would probably say, "Well, look who's here." A hug and kiss would follow. I'd hold his hand to go visit Doris. She would say, "Oh, my." Frances would echo her father and say, "This must be Willard's girl. I see that dimple in your chin." "Well, Pam Loxley," Leah would say then pull me in to a big hug.

It would be nice to be on Neff Road for Halloween. My bag would be full of hugs, of kisses, of love and precious memories. Ah, just to say once more, "trick or treat".

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In Search Of A Mountain

For days we drove around looking for it.

"Why can't we see it," my aunt said.

Well, it wasn't as if Mt. Hood was just a rise on a hillside. We should be able to see something that rises 11,239 feet toward the sky. Yet the tallest point in Oregon remained hidden.

When our little family drove to our new home in Oregon, we came down the Columbia Gorge. I yelled for my husband to stop the car. The kids and I dashed out at a viewpoint standing in awe at the beautiful mountain that reigned over the famous river below. I'd never seen a snow capped mountain as such. We drove through the mountains, but none were as lovely as this sight that greeted us for the first time.

How a mountain can hide even on sunny days is beyond me. Every day of the visit of my aunt and uncle, we went out to see the mountain. Not once did it show it's snowy cap.

"I remember seeing it years ago and just want to see again," Aunt Kathrine said.

We didn't have mountains in Ohio. I'd driven through the Blue Ridge Mountains, but still did not know the beauty of a mountain until I saw Mt. Hood.

Sometimes the mountain is hidden by a haze that lies somewhere between it and Portland. Try as you might see it, the mountain is magically gone.

Why does this have anything to do with Neff Road? Last week I decided to read some of the old letters and post cards I have in a basket. They date as far back as 1907. I came across one of Mt. Hood. In the bottom corner it is noted: Mt. Hood from Lost Lake. The card is dated June 26, 1950, and was sent to my Grandma Johnson. It reads:

We were going to drive up this mountain but the road was closed because of so much rain. We are having a wonderful time. - Love, Rena Beane

Rena was my Aunt Kate's mother. I wonder if she was with her parents on that trip in 1950. This card with a one cent stamp makes me think of that once young woman standing here in Oregon, all the way from Ohio, looking up at a mountain that has awed us both.

Sometimes we find surprises in the oddest places. Mine was on a postcard written sixty years ago.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Migration to Neff Road

"Pam, hurry up," Dad would call. I ran to the yard hearing the ruckus. Dad and I would once more look up to watch the familiar 'V' pointing south. The geese talked to one another. A father and daughter shared a moment.

Oregon is a long way from Ohio. Our trips back were way too few and far between. The children always had a 'settling in/reacquainted' period. Mom was always a power into herself grabbing the kids and hugging them. When the kids were little, they would head for cover. As they grew up they began to understand those bear hugs.

By the same token, I always had to find my way again with my parents. They still had trouble thinking of me as an adult, and I still fought for my independence. Going home was an ordeal....and an absolute joy. I  'home' once more.

I grew up with livestock, barns and tractors. Lightning bugs evidently do not cross over the mountains, because we have none in Oregon. When we visited in the summer, Meg would come over to run with my children across the lawn chasing bugs capturing them in jars fascinated, intrigued and delighted. The adults sat on the porch watching the kids catching up on local gossip, the crops, births/deaths/marriages and best of all, just embracing our precious time together. Fall and winter visits brought on roasting hot dogs on the fire and cozy visits around the kitchen table.

We always knew that when we went home neighbors and relatives would come to call. Family friends would find their way back the lane. Seldom did we find times of  'just family', but it was the way of Mom and Dad.

The last time I was home I visited the Brethren Home.

"Pam? Is that Pam?" Leah asked.  She grasped my hands teary eyed.

Others held my hands and kissed my cheek welcoming little Pam back home again. My parents are gone, but these people are my home. A young girls love for these men and women grew more deeply over the years even though she was on a coast far away. But once again sitting with these dear people, I was back in Mom's kitchen laughing and visiting.

When I go 'home', I wonder if the people who live there appreciate where they live. Do they ever get that choked feeling, that lump in the throat when an old friend remembers, when walking into a building that embraced you as a child, standing on a bridge tossing rocks into a very loved creek? They seem to go on with life as usual. There is an awakening that takes place when you move away from least for this farm girl.

As a friend recently told me, we are becoming the old generation. We are losing those of our past. My children remember glimpses of the farm and my parents. My grandchildren have never returned with me. This blog is a history of me, my sisters, my parents and all of those who lived on Neff Road. It is a history of  Darke County. We are the keepers of that which is past. We are the storytellers for other generations. Perhaps we are "those who remember".

Listen. Hear the geese? Again I migrate home to Neff Road.