Friday, December 30, 2011

Quietly into the New Year

No pans were banged. No fireworks lit up the sky. There was no horn blowing or confetti. New Years on the farm came quietly.

My parents always met up with the same group of friends for New Years. Good food and friendship saw the new year in. But most of the time, New Years came in quietly for the residents of Neff Road. The cows in the barn had no idea that a new year was taking place. Chickens slept and sheep pushed against one another in the barn making the floor look like a wooly rug. The dog was in the barn wondering why he couldn't sleep in the house. The cats were snuggled in the straw in the haymow. All was quiet on the farm as the new year came to be.

My sisters and I have often talked of how we didn't celebrate birthdays or other big events. Oh, we had Christmas to celebrate, but most holidays consisted of church and family dinner. We seem to all remember having a big 10th birthday party and that was it for those yearly happenings.  I'm not sure why it was that way. Mom and Dad never exchanged birthday presents and rarely Christmas gifts. Celebrations were not a part of our lives back that lane. I think perhaps this might be why we are so humbled when someone gives us gifts. We never learned how to receive.

There will be no noise this New Year. I will probably see it arrive then make my way to bed. In the morning, the day will be no different than the day before even if it is in the year 2012.

Quietly, I wish you a happy New Year, the same as if I were still living in the house on Neff Road. I wish you a new year of contentment and adventure, of receiving graciously the gifts that the new year will bestow upon you. Happy New Year, my friends.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

To the Nest

The snow fell in Ohio. My children and I had flown in on the red eye from Seattle the night before. Junior picked us up at the airport and drove us to the farm. We were exhausted. It was a long journey in more ways then one.

My ex-husband and I had been separated yet living together. A marriage was falling apart, and I felt very alone in Oregon, my home of only a few months, trying to hold broken pieces together that would not heal.  So I made the big decision. We went back to the nest to heal on the farm.

Few people knew we were there. I didn't want to be pushed and pulled by opinion. My heart was broken and needed to be mended. My kids needed my parents' love. It was winter and the snow fell.

There was a healing that took place back that lane. For the first time in my life, I handed my troubles over to my parents, so they could help me heal. For the first time, they didn't offer opinion, only love. I stayed in that nest for a month then made the decision to stay in Oregon and move forward. Was it the right decision? I don't know. Perhaps moving back would have been the best decision, but at the time, it was my only decision.

Perhaps I write about Neff Road because it keeps me grounded in that love that thrived there so readily. I can always go back there in thought and words. The song that made my heart beat with nature at my back door still echoes despite the years. I am the better for having lived back that lane in a home that was loving and giving.

Yes, I returned to Oregon and my life here with my children. Yet each day I can still reside in the big white house on Neff Road.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Opportunities

I wanted to wait until I had a chunk of time all to myself. I knew that conversations would be long. I wanted to savor every bit of them.

Over the years away from Neff Road, most of the Christmas phone calls were from the daughters who couldn't make it home for one reason or another. Mom or Dad would answer the phone. More times than not, someone was sitting at the kitchen table.

"Junior's here," Mom would say. "Do you want to talk to him?" Or...."Here's Betty," giving me no time for a response. Yes, we were in Mom's kitchen catching up with the neighborhood and old friends and family.

"Here, I'll give the phone to your mother and go upstairs," Dad always said when he answered. The three-way conversation lasted for a long time each of us settling in on an imaginary sofa that covered the miles between us. Each call was time well spent and a gift to my parents.

In looking back, I wish we could have made it home for more Christmases. I wish I had taken more time for those personal conversations we never had. Perhaps as a grandma, I would like to have those conversations with my own children. They have no idea how precious they are to me.

The presents are revealed. The paper is tossed and bows packed away sleeping until the next season. A few more pounds have been added to make clothing a bit more snug. Digital pictures sit in the camera. Leftovers will last a couple days more. It is a long time from Christmas to Christmas and a long way from yesterday to today.

A new year offers us a time to make changes. A year to make positive changes in our lives and better relationships with those we love. A new year perhaps should be called New Opportunities. I have gathered sixty-four New Years. I have many more to go. I look forward to the new adventures and deeper meaning to my life. May your days be blessed with new understanding and a year of opportunities.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

A Christmas Walk Down Neff Road

Festival of lights. Tour of holiday homes. Downtown Christmas. Storybook land. Christmas Village. The list goes on and on. Events of light and sound held for holiday entertainment.

I sat looking at the paper full of holiday 'walks' and wondered why Neff Road wasn't on the list. Sure it isn't a festival of lights or homes decorated by a professional designers. Yet, I think it might be a wonderful holiday event. Well, maybe not for everyone, but I'd go.

I'd start with a caroling at Painter Creek Church, then I would make my way down the Hogpath past the recently demolished Franklin School where two generations of my family played in the halls. I would walk past Granddad Loxley's old octagonal barn, a beautiful sight in itself. Over the bridge I would go and walk down past Uncle Keith and Aunt Kate's old homestead. Maybe I could share a cup of hot chocolate with Janet and Don Rhoades. I would insist that my friend Brenda Sparks tag along with me. We would stop at her once home and remember other Christmases with the Stager family gathered around the tree. Doris and Victor Lavy wouldn't be home, but we would sit on the stoop and remember baseball games in the field. Next we would walk back the lane where many a Christmas tree stood. Santa knew this house well. He had a good chimney to go down and a little girl who awaited his surprises. Brenda and I would shed a few tears and a great deal of laughter. We might even go to the barn to swing once more. It would be the holiday walk down Neff Road.

We all have a Neff Road, a place where our memories reside. Walls that knew Christmas when we were children. Walls that heard the laughter that I'm sure rings there still. Marshmallows over the fire in the fireplace. Loving arms wrapped around us. Friends and neighbors dropping in with Christmas wishes and sometimes cookies and candy. And, as we have our own visits down Christmas lane, so too do our families.

Thank you for walking down Neff Road with me. We are all memories in the making. Memories saved for other generations. May your Christmas memories be many and the joy of each day be yours. Merry Christmas from the girl who lived back the lane on Neff Road.

On A Grandparent's Voice: Nestled in the True Meaning

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Sled

Each year I like to remember this piece I wrote about a time with my father walking through the barn. A memory of a sled.
Peggy, June, Merrill, Geneva, Me, Marilyn

It hung in the milking parlor all covered with dust and cobwebs. Boards were broken, held together with wire. The rope tied to it was knotted by my father's hands. Dad and I walked through the barn remembering other days. He loved to share his stories. "That's my old sled," he said pointing to the greyed sled hanging in the corner. "I got it for Christmas when I was boy." He told me about the Loxley boys sledding on the snow, he on his new sled. The same sled we sat upon, racing down the hill back the lane on Neff Road. The old sled now resides in the corner of my living room. A sled from Ohio to Oregon. From father to daughter.

It was my father's sled. There. There in the corner. Ages old and weather worn, a remnant of the past, a remnant of my father.

Too soon the earth captures her own, holding in her bosom the babe who played in her leaves, who fished in her ponds, who loved her earth, who fed and nourished the very soil of her cloak, who saw his own returned to her loving arms.

Death, you are a blackness that comes quickly when least expected, silently hidden in the final assault. Your vengeance is cruel, your methods immoral. Yet you will not leave your throne until all have tasted your sword. Your shadow encompasses all who pass too closely. You, the victor over all who taste your wrath.

Me on The Sled
But you cannot take away. You cannot erase the moments, the memories of the immortal soul. Listen. Hear the laughter of a small boy running to meet the first winter snow. Running to try his new sled on golden planks atop freshly waxed runners. His face is red, so bundled he can hardly run. Yet he laughs dashing to try his new Red Flyer. Listen. No darkness. Only memory.

In the corner sits that once new toy. Now the runners are rusted, the lumber grey. Here and there broken pieces are held together with wire and dowel. Each scar a memory of a young boy's adventures. A fairly new rope knotted by old gnarled hands readied the craft for another pair of small hands. A small child eager to meet the first snow.

It is a fine old sled that once, when new, held a fine young boy.

We are all memories in the making. Memories saved for other generations. May your Christmas memories be many and the joys of each day be yours. Merry Christmas from the girl who lived back the lane on Neff Road.

On A Grandparent's Voice: The Ornaments of My Life

Monday, December 19, 2011

Worth of the Journey

What is the worth of a history? Does it have a dollar worth? Is it worth a new best seller or a career in an already determined field? Is it worth anything to anyone else? Is it worth something to you? What indeed is the worth of your history?

I'm learning what my history is worth. As I lived it and heard about that parts that I didn't live, I didn't understand the worth it held. Yet as I age, I know the richness that my life back that lane on Neff Road added to my life. I have discovered a new pride in the past that my family lived. I am richer in soul for the life of this country girl.

By writing this blog, I have discovered that my history is one that others are interested in for one reason or another. Perhaps the memories are shades of their histories as well. Maybe it is a glimpse into a certain era, a certain way of living. Or, maybe people are bored and decide to stop in for a visit.

My history is rich because of my children. They will not have memories of my grandparents, my grandfather's farms. They will not know me and my sisters as children, young adults. My grandchildren will not know the life on a farm. They will not have the grandfather who takes them for a ride on a tractor or a walk in the woods. They will not walk out the door to see sheep, cows and chickens. Their history is rich. They should know it.

My history is priceless. It is unique to me yet part of the whole, isn't it? All of our histories blend together to hopefully make a better future. Histories for our future generations. Some day someone will be much as I am today reflecting over their past. They might wonder what it is worth. Maybe in looking a bit farther back, they will find a richness I have passed on, a look into a time that began my journey on Neff Road, my journey into their history.

Good journeys, my friends. The worth of the history from there to here is priceless.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Prancing and Pawing of Each Little Foot

This morning I woke to a chilly Oregon winter. No snow on the ground but a blanket of white frost tipped the trees. I'm living with my friends, Paulette and Mike. It is a new move for me and a good one. Paulette came back to Darke County with me in July and fell in love with my roots.

Once in awhile deer wander into their yard. I'm always looking for them, and she is always hoping they will leave her plants alone. A couple of days ago I got a call from her.

"They're in the backyard!" she exclaimed. "Three of them! I took a picture for you."

Well, the picture is great, but I really would like to have seen the real thing.

It got me to thinking of the little things we took for granted on the farm. After a night time snow, the activity of those sleepy hours was evident on the clean, unblemished surface. It wasn't unusual for Dad to pop his head into the kitchen door to announce that we'd had a nightly visitor. Maybe a fox. Maybe a raccoon. Always a possum. Dad knew where the sheep were headed and where the rabbits had been. My horse in her shaggy winter coat stood in the barnyard wondering what all the excitement was about. The dog came to the house to find a warm body. Chickens roosted a bit closer, and the horse trough would be frozen. Dad's boot prints would add to the others.

I was always fascinated looking out across the yard at the little grey indentations crossing the snow. They seemed  sometimes to wander and circle as if looking for something. Other times they were in a straight path to a destination. Many lead to the barn where the critter could find warmth. The night time visitors to the farm left their signs.

I wonder if as a child I looked for reindeer hoof prints. I'm sure they would have been evident. Of course, Dad wasn't about to climb up a ladder to check out the roof of the house. Well, anyway, we had plenty of prancing and pawing in the barnyard. The prancing of pawing of each little, hoof.

On A Grandparent's Voice today: Unbridled Love

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Deck the Halls

The sign in front of the church read:

Christmas Eve
Carols and Candles

A smile crossed my lips in remembering Christmas at Painter Creek Church where members sat in the pews singing to the top of the lungs carols that they knew by heart.....carols I still know by heart. Some sang out of tune. Some, like my mom, could belt out a carol heard above everyone else. The Loxley men sat in various places in church, so the mellow tenor harmonized and blended notes into lovely song. It was a time of family and joy. Past members came back to visit. Once playmates reunited. It was Christmas at Painter Creek Church.

I cannot go back home in memory at Christmas time without recalling Ludlow Falls. I remember standing between my parents, just a small child holding onto their hands. My checks burned with the cold despite the layers of pants, coat, hat and scarf wrapped around my face several times. It was a wonder to behold. A wonder that continued when my young daughter stood between her dad and mom holding hands and echoing the oooo's and ah's.

Arcanum wore the decorations on the lamp posts, and Greenville was light like snowglobe town. Christmas had come to Darke County and Neff Road.

Wrapped in the warm remembering, I greet another Christmas full of lights and sound. Once more with closed hymnal I sing:

"Deck the halls with boughs of holly.........."

Monday, December 12, 2011

Now I Understand

The road is long from Neff Road to Oregon. A road that is about sixty-four years long. No longer the girl who grew up there, it seems when I go back I am still thought of the same way. It's not a bad thing, but we do grow and change over distance.....over time.

I am probably at the most difficult time in my life in many ways. And, it causes me to wonder about my parents and what all they went through. Their children didn't live there. Their grandchildren were seldom seen. We were busy living our lives and really didn't think much about it. Now I wonder why.
My Dad had my same hand degenerative disease. I remember seeing him almost knocked to his knees when he would hit a hand. Now I understand. I remember how Mom would beg me to come and stay. I didn't want to. I was too busy with my life and had basically wanted to get away from that life. Now I understand. When my parents were failing, I didn't drop everything and go to them. Too many miles. Too much money. Too many other things I'd rather do. Now I understand.

I was blessed to be by my father's side when he was passing. I was blessed to be able to serve him. I was honored to help him through it. There was where I belonged. I didn't understand until I wept at his bedside and lifted him in his bed. Someone once said that we should live our lives backwards. Perhaps I am now, because now I understand.

The house back the lane didn't change much during the holidays except for a bit more traffic and the Loxley girls coming home every so often. I wish I had been there every year. Family is a gift, not a given. Family is to be honored, not abused. Family is a manger in a stable and a family around a kitchen table. Every day on Neff Road was Christmas, because Mom and Dad gave their all to anyone who needed them without once saying, "I can't."

Now I understand.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Sentimental Journey

Gonna take a Sentimental Journey.
Gonna set my heart at ease.
Gonna take a Sentimental Journey
To renew old memories.

I was just a kid when Doris Day sang this hit song way back when. I find this time of the year that I take many sentimental journeys. And, after sixty-four years, I have quite a few of those to take.

For a very long time, I have tried to find old friends from the days back on the farm. One family I've missed over the years was that of Joe and Helen Eliker. Their daughter and I have birthdays one day apart. I don't know when it started, but our families always got together to celebrate our birthdays. Once a year we met up and as children do, we stared at each other for awhile before we decided that playing together might just be fun. Their farm was always a fun place to go. Joe had a go cart, and they had a pony and cart. We didn't lack for fun things to do or laughter.

So, I went online to see what I could find. I knew the girls were probably married making it impossible to find them. So I tried for their younger brother. I found a phone number and called. And, being "old", I could make a phone call and a fool of myself and not really care. Thank goodness the answering machine picked up. I left a message, this voice from the past. I just hoped for a return call or email. That night I got my phone call.

One Christmas many years ago, I decided to send a "gift" to those on my Christmas list. I would send each of those people a letter about how much they mean to me. Over the many years, they had been a gift to my life. I took a sentimental journey into the past remembering the love  and support I'd received from each of them. I remembered the little things that meant a great deal to small farm girl. Each letter was filled with love and gratitude. In reflecting back over that Christmas of letters, I am thankful that I took the time for many of those people are gone now. And, for those who are still part of my life, those letters mean even more.

It is a season of sentimental journeys. I have a family added to my life that I once thought lost. A simple task of reaching out has brought home those days of ponies and birthdays. We are a gift to one another. One well worth giving. One well worth recognition.

Gotta take that Sentimental Journey. Sentimental Journey home.

On A Grandparent's Voice: I Believe/Twas the Night Before Christmas

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Banjo Mama

She stood in the snow with her fur trimmed winter coat and heavy stockings. A 1930's hat on her head, she looked a bit like someone from the flapper era. Young Mom and her banjo.....with hair longer than I ever saw on her.

I never saw my mom play the banjo even though one sat in the upstairs closet all of my life. I don't know why it never crossed my mind to ask if she would teach me to play. I look at the picture and wish I'd known Mom had this photo album, this album we found when we cleared the house. So many questions and she isn't here to answer them.

Why didn't she pick the banjo up again? Once in awhile she would do the Charleston for us. She always played the piano. I feel short-changed.

I think perhaps I would have enjoyed playing a stringed instrument, the cello, guitar, BANJO! My hands won't allow it any more...or any less.

A woman standing in the snow, banjo in hand. A woman of laughter and fun. A woman, my mother.