Sunday, November 30, 2014

Season of sixty-seven trees

Thanksgiving is finished even if the leftovers are not. Just twenty-five days until St. Nick hops his chubby body into the sleigh for another yearly flight. Tree fever has hit the neighborhood. Tree lots are looking bare, waiting for more newly-cut trees to show up. Chilly weather keeps some from going to the tree farms dashing to the corner grocery instead. The weekend of the tree.

I have been single for a good many years. There are no arguments over which tree is perfect nor anyone to tell me that the tree is too big. I can have crooked tree or one with two tops and have no one to blame but myself. However, I could have used a little help this year getting the tree first out of my trunk then into the tree stand. Three times the tree fell over. Does a tree make a sound when it falls in the forest? Well, I do not live in a forest and the tree did not make a sound in the living room...I did.

Always when I put up the yearly tree, I think of several things. I remember Christmas's back the lane on Neff Road. Dad lifting me up to put the angel atop the tree, the angel with spun glass hair. I flicked the bubble lights to make them wake up and bubble once more. My little hands placed the cast iron ice skating figures on the mirror. Little houses and tiny evergreen trees added with a bit of fake snow made the perfect winter scene.

Then came the Christmas tree hunting with my children. Off to one of the wonderful tree farms here in Oregon. The tree that had a dead bird in it. A tree that fell on a friend who cut it. The perfect tree we found in a woods. The time my son and I rolled a tree down a hill to get it on top of my car. The ropes through the car windows and branches slapping the car. The smell of evergreen around us and on us. Perfect tree hunting days.

There is something about a Christmas tree that makes a house even more of a home. The soft lights and ornaments full of memories warm the heart. God certainly created a wonderful thing when he graced the earth with trees. The tree of the present represents all the trees from the past. Days when my aunts and uncles came to call. When my parents gave their daughter a puppy. A time I cannot recapture. Now new memories I can give my grandchildren.

It is that time of the year. The season of  my sixty-seven trees.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Leftovers to savor

Betty's baked beans. Aunt Welma's butterscotch pudding. Mom's roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, stuffing and pies. Food filled the counter tops. Aunt Bess was a fantastic cook and worked side by side with Mom. My job each Thanksgiving was to tear toast into small pieces. Mom did not buy croutons. She put her youngest next to the toaster with a full loaf an bread and set her to work. The big, white dishpan slowly filled with toasted pieces of bread doomed to be devoured. Mom boiled giblets and chopped onion, adding them to the toast. She broke an egg into the bread mixture then chopped the giblets and bits of chicken tossing them in, too. Next she added enough broth to the stuffing, or dressing as we called it, to make it very moist. When the Loxley girls got older, we tossed in some chopped mushrooms. The dressing we remember still. Leftovers to savor.

Favorite memories of Thanksgiving always seem to focus around the food. When I was older and had my own family, I hesitated to go away from home for that big meal for very selfish reasons. I wanted the leftovers. Cold dressing and chicken sandwiches, leftover pumpkin pie and mounds of my special mashed potatoes. In fact, I think perhaps the leftovers were better than the meal. With leftovers, I savor every bite.

The meal around the table. A puzzle in the living room. The men watching football or talking in the kitchen. The activities of the day seemed to hinge on the refrigerator door. Kids played pool or ping pong in the basement while babies played in the toy box. Thanksgivings over the years back the lane on Neff Road.

As time passed, so too did the traditions. The family scattered and many family members had passed. The traditions of Thanksgiving and Christmas changed. Children stayed home to have their own holiday celebrations with their families. Mom and Dad celebrated with Junior Shuff at their table. They were not ones to visit their children on holidays. I learned a lot from that. I decided that I would be with my children in any way possible rather than sit at home where old memories pulled at my heart. I would enjoy new holidays, watching new memories take shape. My special mashed potatoes are still on the table. Sometimes cousin Betty's baked beans appear. The pumpkin pie has changed to the family pumpkin cake. The old blended with the new.

Someday I will cook all the foods I miss from my childhood. I will stand next to the toaster, remembering a little girl whose small hands tore the bread into bit-sized pieces. I will look forward to leftovers the next day...and probably the next day after that. I am thankful for those Thanksgivings from the past and those that have been added with my children. I am thankful for being raised on a farm where most of the meal came from that place back the lane. And, I am thankful for you, my readers. May God bless your Thanksgiving. May peace come to those of you who find this time of the year difficult. May your day of thankfulness be filled with laughter and love. Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

My Humble Roots

The holiday season is knocking on the door. Along with the tinsel and wish list comes the recognition that there are many who have very little. It is the season of giving. It is the season of receiving.

We did not have much in that house back the lane on Neff Road. A family who lived on a farm and on the bounty it provided, if indeed there was a bounty on any particular year. And, our home was no different than those that surrounded us. We lived by the success or failure of the crops, of the well-being of the animals and of the health of the family members. I have a such admiration for my parents. Their love and commitment to one another was powerful. It was the one thing that kept this farm and family going. There was a strength in their pairing that could withstand anything that confronted them.

Bang! Bang! With each gun shot, another cow fell. I know that my mother cried and ached as each shot was spent. I know that every neighbor heard, and they, too, were heart broken. My mother probably held her daughters and wept. My father was probably one who held a rifle and wept as his lovely herd was put down. Bangs Disease took their livelihood. A new cow stable built for the milk cows. The latest equipment was purchased by the young couple. Dreams died in a pit truly of despair. Scarlet Fever attacked the young family. A disease fought only with penicillin, a drug not on the market until 1945. A middle daughter diagnosed with rheumatic fever and bedridden for two years. A baby daughter wrapped in a rubber sheet and placed in ice water to reduce the fever of spinal meningitis. How much could a family take? How did they survive?

As I laid in my tiny bed trying to survive, the small child in the next bed passed. My mother prayed that if I would live, she would give service to God the rest of her life. And she did. I believe that the faith that had seen them through the horrors of their young married life saved my life. The commitment of my mother to God truly touched the lives of all those who knew her. This was what happened in the house back the lane.

But there was much more. "I remember people leaving food outside the door." June said when I asked how they survived scarlet fever. The neighbors fed our family. I know when June was ill and in bed for all those many months that the neighbors made sure that she had things to do and visitors on a regular basis. When Dad lost his cattle, I know that the other farmers understood and did all they could to help him through this painful time. We were all poor but gave what we could of our own food, the help of our hands and all of our faith to help one another. It was, it is, the way of life on Neff Road.

My parents were very proud people. The most difficult thing in the world was for them to receive. Giving was easy. Accepting was hard. They never received that they did not feel compelled to do equally for someone else. I often had this argument with Mom over the fact that sometimes you had to receive to give others the benefit of giving. A hard lesson for a woman who promised to give for the rest of her life.

We on Neff Road came from humble roots. We live by the land. We love by the land. We are part of the land. What befalls a neighbor befalls each of us. When I return to my roots, I find that I am always welcomed home. I settle back into conversations as if I had never left. I find the same love greets me with open arms. The layers of the past welcome the memories and layers of the present. None of us had wealth, but living on Neff Road, we were rich.

It is a season of giving.....and receiving. A season of memories and thanks giving.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Time out

Time for a change. Literally, time for a change. Or, perhaps, change of a time. Daylight Savings Time. What ever happened to the wonderful days of ordinary standard time. No hopping ahead. No dropping back. Just time. The clocked just ticked the same as it had all the days before. Internal clocks remained constant. Hm. Time for a change. Change of a time. Bah humbug.

Time has a way of hopping around whether we like it or not. If we travel across the country, we change time zones. If we make a call coast to coast or internationally, we must adjust to the time differences. Time, you are a tricky rascal. I wonder if the sundial was this complicated?

Time flies by when you're having fun. Time slips through your fingers. Time and time again we hear about time. Time for this. Time for that. Time for a change. Time to change your socks. I seem to be locked into a time warp! Help!!!

Well, not that I had a vote in it, but time did change. I supposedly got an extra hour of sleep. I'm not sure since I stayed up late in order to capture that extra hour and not get too far off my daily routine. I can't track that extra hour, since I was asleep when it crept out door. I noticed that it hadn't left yet when I got into my car and again when I looked at my watch. Evidently, time doesn't go as quickly when you physically change the clocks. My phone and my computer knew that the time had changed even before I got up to acknowledge the fact. Hm. I wonder if they saw that hour creep away.

I remember when my children were young. The time change always brought with it irritable babies, wanting to eat earlier than the clock permitted or didn't want to sleep because the clock played a trick on them.  For several days their irritability seemed to spill over into the rest of the family. Children trudged school. Farm animals wondered why the farmer changed his hours of visitation. The rooster was so confused that it had to be institutionalized. Time changes are not for the weak.

At least in the fall we do get to capture that extra hour. Following closely on the heels of this extra hour rides the recognition that in a few months that hour will be snatched from our greedy hands and tossed to the wind not to be recovered for a few more months.

Perhaps this timely column is telling you things that you already know. I apologize and promise not to repeat this time and time again. For now....ah, that extra hour.