Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Unnaturally Natural

"Grams, what natural disaster scares you the most?" asked Sydney my granddaughter, age fourteen. "I'm afraid of earthquakes and tsunamis." About this time Gabby my granddaughter, age eleven piped up. "I'm afraid of fire and robbers." Hm. Obviously there is a need for dialogue here.

I stood upstairs in my bedroom back the lane on Neff Road. I know it was in the late '60s. No one was home except for me. I was stopped in my tracks as an almost human moan shook our house. I looked out the window as a rain, white as milk, was falling. Dad had just pulled into the lane when the tornado passed over our house. The storm created an uprooted path through my grandfather's woods to the little town of Painters Creek where it wiped out Bud Wyan's auto service garage. I know about the violent side of nature. Its eerie voice stays with me still.

It seems that every week when I have my granddaughters, another disaster has affected the lives of children. I always try to talk to the girls, so they can give voice to their feelings. Grandmas should be a safe place to unload, and I'm about as safe as safe can be. We have talked about safe exit from their home should disaster strike. Newtown opened dialogue that should never need to take place. We watched the tsunami hit Japan. And, now again, we talk of bravery, wisdom and survival. Sydney was quick to point out that Gabby's choices were not natural disasters. Fires were usually manmade, er, womanmade, er, made by the hands of people. As to tsunamis, we have a very high Coastal Range between the Willamette Valley and the blue Pacific. We have only had couple of earthquakes that were hardly felt. The largest fault lies off the coast. I've only heard of two twisters with only one on the ground since before my move here in 1978. We did have a mountain blow. Luckily Mt. St. Helens is a few hours away. Once in awhile we have a mudslide or two. But contrary to belief, we are not even in the top 100 cities for yearly amounts of rainfall and rarely have lightning and thunder. If Mt. Hood goes, we will have air quality issues depending on which way it blows, and our Bull Run water supply will probably be affected. Considering that it has never erupted, we don't really know for sure what would happen. We are not big on natural disasters here.

Still we talk about nature and man living together. We continue to investigate ways that we can do it better. Because of my grandchildren, I try to be informed and let them come to their own conclusions, not mine. Because of what happens in the world, we learn to dialogue and search for not only the solutions, but sometimes we look for the questions.

Maybe next time we will talk about peoplemade disasters. I think we'll start with robbers.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Embracing a past

We stood together one last time. All forty-eight of us. We stood there leaving twelve years behind. Teenagers eager to be on their way to life, standing together one last time. The class of 1965.

Well, we did all leave Franklin Monroe High School heading out our various directions. Some moved away. Some stayed. Some of us had families and grew older. Oh, wait, we all grew older. Those who stayed in the area kept track of one another. Those of us who moved away didn't do quite so well. It seems that now that we are older, those old friendships mean more. Perhaps we just look at life a bit differently realizing that our childhoods' were growing up times with these people. Perhaps it is embracing a past with people who remember.

Gene and Sandy were high school sweethearts. They made a point of trying to get our scattered classmates together at their home. The last time I was home two years ago we gathered around their yard laughing about old times and catching up on news. The men sat at one end of the yard and the women (still giggling girls) sat at the other. The years melted away. Distance and years hadn't changed that bond that tied these students together. Old pictures were passed around as well as the '65 yearbook. We had all gotten older, but the bond that once was seemed to erase the years and pull us together once more.

Once more I am heading to Ohio in a couple of weeks. My plan was to stay with Sandy and Gene. Gene loved the class gatherings and had even personally informed class members that once more the class of '65 would meet. On May 10th we lost Gene. I found myself overcome with memories of high school years and Gene's kindness to everyone. He always had ready laughter and loved his friends. Suddenly the miles were all to many. The class gathering was too late. Time did not hold still.

Sandy and I decided that we needed to continue with the plans for the class to meet. Gene would have wanted to have us all together. And, perhaps, we need each other just a little more now. Many of us will come from some distance to see faces of those we last saw on that day we graduated from FM. We will gather in memory of our good friend Gene Bridenbaugh. We will gather because it is a good thing to embrace those who have passed through our lives. It is good to laugh with those who remember a time when we went from children to adults.

Sometimes reunions and alumni gatherings happen with the local people not realizing how important those events are to those cannot be in attendance. Sometimes we don't get a second chance to see a classmate. And, perhaps, just perhaps, we might renew an old friendship that we grow to cherish even more.

I am going to spend my birthday weekend in Ohio. I can think of no better place to be than in the place of my roots and with friends of my heart. Each trip home is a rebirth. I learn to love deeper, to cherish more and to never say 'good-bye'. Believe me, Gene will be at our class gathering. He wouldn't miss it for the world.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


We packed into the car as we did many weekends. I was eight when it all started. The Sunday drive to visit relatives had changed. The drive were a bit longer. The trips took us across the border.

Most kids who were raised in the Church of the Brethren had siblings who attended Manchester College in North Manchester, Indiana, as did my sisters. The college became a big part of my childhood, since my sisters were ten and seven years older the me. I went from little girl to teenager on that campus and when my sisters brought college friends home. I was cursed with motion sickness. Every trip across that border from Ohio to Indiana was dreaded. I knew that once I made it through the first part of the trip, I had the return still to come. I knew that when we got to the college, I would follow everyone around having no playmates to keep me company. It was not an easy time for a little girl. In fact, I think I was so sick of college by the time I graduated feeling that I'd already had five years of campus life.

After my sisters married, they stayed in Indiana. Once more the trips to Indiana continued. At times I wasn't sure which state was really mine. Now, in just a little less than four weeks, I am heading back to Indiana. These trips back to see my sister are indeed some of the best times. I will spend time with her in Angola then head to Ohio. My two growing up states share my heart. Sometimes people who shop in our store mention that they are from Indiana. Of course, my ears immediately perk up, and  I explain that I'm sort of a Hoosier. Their response leads me to believe that if you weren't born a Hoosier you can't be a Hoosier. I believe that I have squatters rights. Indiana owns a piece of me, and that's a fact.

I noticed online that Manchester College is now Manchester University. And, North Manchester has grown a bit since way back when. I have a feeling that their college song "By the Kenopokomoko" has changed. Still I can sing every word by heart. There is little of my childhood that I remember that did not trail my sisters. I grew up as the tagalong. Now I pack my bag hop onto a plane that will take me to my sister in Indiana. Indiana is still hugging Ohio just as I will hug them both on my return in June. It's hard to get rid of a tagalong, you know.

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Changing Media

It laid on the sofa with one page turned back where the reader last read before she was called to the phone. The next person came in and picked up the magazine and started at the beginning. Mom usually never made it back to that page. It might even be found turned back in the magazine rack. But, oh, how we loved our magazines.

Magazines had an important place in our lives back the lane on Neff Road. They opened our eyes to new styles. They informed women of topics they didn't have time to think about. Sometimes they even opened their eyes to new ways of thinking. Recipes were torn out and put aside to try at a later time. Television was new in the 50's. There was no other way to find the trends and fashions of a post war era.

It was a good day when we received Life magazine in the mailbox. We all took our time looking through each page. Ads for new products brought advertising into our home. We shopped differently at the grocery store. We started to shop for styles we saw on the movie stars photos. Our world became larger with articles from around the world.

My grandparents took The Saturday Evening Post. As a child, I sat looking at the latest artwork from Norman Rockwell and paged through the magazine looking for the cartoons. They also took National Geographic. I remember looking at the gorgeous pictures of our earth and of people so different from those I knew. Perhaps that was where I first learned the marvels captured by the camera lens. My education with the world had already been in place watching Lowell Thomas on TV. Now I could spend time learning about other countries pouring over the pages.

Movie magazines filled new racks. Photoplay was one I remember well. Faces of Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak, Elizabeth Taylor, Elvis Presley, Cary Grant, Tony Curtis, Eddie Fisher, Paul Newman, Marilyn Monroe all met us at the news stand. It was a time when people looked away from war and into the lives of a more glamorous world. For the guys, the magazines ranged from Popular Mechanics to Playboy. Hm.

I remember staying with my Aunt Bess in Michigan. I was stuck sleeping in the twin bed in her room. Between the beds were stacks of True Confession Magazines. Knowing Aunt Bess, I sorta wondered if her story was in any of them. Needless to say, as a little kid, I was afraid I might get caught if I was found with one in my hands.

We grew up with a changing time in the world of the world of post war children.  Mom always had her Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day and Family Circle for the rest of her life. I sincerely hope we never see a time when you fail to find a magazine on the news stand.