Sunday, July 26, 2015

A long way home

Growing up at the Loxley house always meant that company was coming. There were very few weeks that we didn't have someone pop in through the kitchen door. No one ever knocked. Had they knocked we would have looked at one another wondering, "What is that noise?!" No, you did not knock on the door; you just walked through the door to welcome arms.

Some of the company came for the day. Some came to stay for awhile. All were welcomed and expected to make themselves at home. In many ways, I think Mom and Dad thrived on those visit. It fed their souls to have loved ones around them. Junior Shuff at most meals with Mom after Dad passed. Our home was home for anyone and everyone.

When I moved away from Neff Road, I understood just how important those visit were to my parents. Perhaps I realized even more than my parents did, since I had to move away from my roots and those I loved. We were close enough to make trips home and Appleton was near beautiful country, so we got occasional visitors. Of course, new babies always brought family to visit.

Moving to Oregon was a bit further and company from home seldom knocked on the door. Those who did make the journey by covered wagon (I joke. Mom and Dad thought I was living in the old west) were very much appreciated. The Sparks family and the Stagers. Raymond and Lena Linder. My sisters, their families, parents, cousins and aunts and uncles. Even my elementary music teacher Fern Fourman found her way to Oregon. Each and every one of them was deeply appreciated. What a gift when someone cares enough to come to visit!

I love going back to my roots. I hope that my visits mean the same to the people I care so deeply about. The miles are far, the years pass quickly and each visit is a gift.

Last week Mickey Gearing Rivers, who graduated with me, came up to Oregon from California for vacation. We antiqued in Aurora and had a great time. This week was extra special as Don and Janet Rhoades, my Neff Road neighbors, came to visit. They were taking a trip through the beautiful northwest and that is exactly where I live. We did some sightseeing, enjoyed dinner together and caught up on the comings and goings of Neff Road. I was allowed to slip back into the nest and gather the news that I miss now that my mother is gone. Old acquaintances made into new friendships with deeper meaning.

Today I saw my friend Linda Marinach Brown off after a short visit. She is a traveling nurse and presently working in Longview, Washington. We met up again at our class reunion in April after so many years apart.  Now she is close enough to pop in for a visit once every so often. We laughed about days gone by and shook our heads at the our interpretations of that past. New experiences shared making an old friendship very special.

 For those of you who have not lived away from Darke County, and I know you are many, please understand how important your visits are to those people who have moved for one reason or another. The older we get the more important and dear those relationships can be. It is not enough to be thought of once a year via a Christmas card or a Facebook message. The importance comes in knowing that someone cares enough to connect and make the effort to see you. I have had two wonderful gifts this week in the visits of my friends. Neff Road was just a little closer.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Neff Road Tree

This Neff Road tree has roots yet does not need water. It is huge yet does not grow in the ground. It is in fact neither coniferous nor deciduous. Well, it really is not a plant, per se. Yet it is a tree.

My sister and I often talk about 'who-lived-where-when'. I had called her on Saturday asking her if she remembered a man who I could not remember where he lived or his name. Of course, she understands my vagueness and told me she would think about it. Later in the day his name hit me like a ton of bricks. My sister in Indiana was in bed, so I could not share the wonderful news that indeed my brain is still working. The next day when we talked about it, the discussion did not get very far, because we only had vague bits and pieces that we each remembered. So I got in touch with Janet Bashore in hopes that she could fill in the blanks. My dad worked for Janet's dad Lloyd when he drove the milk truck. A branch on the tree.

This happens all the time. It happens to all of us. I cannot remember something about the my grandmother, so I ask Alma Lea. Perhaps something comes up about the old neighborhood. I ask Janet or Lowell. I see a name in the newspaper and try to figure out how to find out if it is who I think it is by contacting, via online communications, an old neighbor, family member, classmate.  Whew! A few more branches.

Perhaps I see a name on Facebook of someone I knew long ago. I see that they are a friend of one of my friends, so I contact that friend and ask if it is indeed who I think it is. Man, I hope you followed that. I'm not sure I did. Again, another branch.

Well, by now you know that my tree is not a family tree but a tree of people who lived on Neff Road, attended Painter Creek Church, went to FM or just happened to be a friend of the family...or someone else's family. Branches. Important branches. Important because they fill in the spaces in our lives. They draw together to form that trunk of the tree which is my life and that of my family. I might even begin the tree with Brenda and me, since we are at the beginning of what I remember of Neff Road.

I am grateful for my computer. So many people tell me that they do not want to learn to email or do Facebook. I truly feel sorry for them for the opportunities they miss in expanding their neighborhood tree to reach out to those who have moved away or who are children of those who have passed. It is indeed a gift. I have gained back into my life those who would probably have drifted away into the past. They would be one of those names June and I try to remember. Not now. Now they are even better acquaintances, since we are no longer children and are able to leap beyond the past into the present.

The Neff Road tree is not just my tree. It is a tree that also includes you. You are the branch that holds the present, the past and perhaps the future. Plant your roots deeply in embracing those in your life. Your 'tree' just might go on forever.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

A bit of string and a stick

Summer days on Neff Road. A time of creativity. There was no boredom. We were surrounded by things to do. My sister June and I started talking about all of the things we played during the summer. The list grew and grew. One thought triggered another. Perhaps you might be reminded of the wonderful times you had growing up. My time was on Neff Road.

The list of games changed as we grew older. Little ones play Button, Button, Who's got the Button. London Bridge, Farmer in the Dell and Duck, Duck, Goose. We chased each other when we got older playing Kick the Can, Tag, Freeze tag, Hide n' Seek. We bossed each other by playing Red Rover, Red Light/Green Light and Mother May I. We ran around the yard chasing lighting bugs. And loved playing baseball when enough of us played together. Games that had been handed down from generations before were still fun to play in the 1950's.

School aged girls loved to jump rope and play Hop Scotch. At camp, we learned to play Tether Ball and Four Square. Of course, camp always meant a swimming pool and Scavenger Hunts. Kids that were strangers soon became friends. Unless you belonged to the Loxley family where none of us stayed longer than a day because we were homesick. Argh!

Even though the Stager house is gone, I can take you to the exact spot where Brenda and I played Marbles and Jacks. We sat in that hot driveway totally immune to the heat. We rode our trikes on gravel driveways and pulled our dolls, kittens and anything else we could find in our wagons. You could spin a top on their cement drive way or bounce a ball. At our house we made a playhouse in the corncrib and tunnels in the barn. A swing hung in the tree. And, on hot days, we sat in the horse trough to cool off. We didn't go to the house for drink of water. Nope, we just drank from the hose. When it rained, we dashed to get our bathing suits.  They were good days to be a farm kid.

Not always was the play safe. I remember well Dad teaching me to play Mumbley Peg with a pocket knife. A bow made from a willow branch and string with arrows of sharpened sticks. A fishing pole made of stick, string and a clothespin. Target shooting with a BB Gun. Our parents did not always know where we were or what we were playing. Somehow we did survive.

A bit folded paper, a straight pin and a pencil and you had a pinwheel. A playing card, a clothes pin and a bike. and you had a cool means of transportation. A couple of buttons and a string, and you could create a whirring sounding toy. With a piece of string, you could make a Cat's Cradle. Yes, life was simple and so was our entertainment.

Perhaps one of the best things to do in the summer was to watch the animals on the farm. I spent quite a bit of time talking to my horse and sitting atop the gate watching the cows. Or sitting in the field with Brenda watching a cow give birth. The little peeps that came to live with us grew into the chickens we hypnotized. I loved holding the babies bunnies and watching the baby lambs. Kids who grow up not living around these wonderful animals have no idea the education we received and the fun we had just living within a few feet of our animal friends. 

I do not know how many hours during the summer that Brenda and I searched for baby kittens. We cuddled them. Put them in baby carriages and tried to sneak them into the house. Brenda had her dog Judy, and I had Whitey. We were never without pets. The farm was our adventure. We hiked the land, we played at the bridge, we visited neighbors and had a freedom that only kids like us could understand. It was the 1950's, and we were blessed to live on farms on Neff Road.