Saturday, August 29, 2015

Dance in the rain

Rain. Wet drops that smell divine. The grounds eagerly laps it up wanting more of the delicious treat . This stuff called rain.

For five months we have been without measurable rainfall. The earth is cracked and lawns are brown. Birds have lost their song beaconing the coming rain. Lakes and rivers are extremely low, record setting low. We watch the earth suffer and stand helpless and hopeless. But not today. The skies opened and prayers were answered.

Growing up on Neff Road, we knew the value of rain. Our lives depended on it. Seems we either had too much or too little, but in the house back the lane, we knew that rain meant hope for an easier winter with the larder full. Rain watered the seeds that grew into food for us to sell, for our stock to eat and for mother to can.

Once in awhile the rain refused to stop. The front field flooded and the ditches ran full. I remember being at Hollie and Margaret's paddling around in the ditch with Brenda. Our own little swimming pool on Neff Road. We splashed in puddles and danced in the rain.

Mom and Dad screened in the back porch.  When rain came, we did not retreat into the house. No, the family sat on the porch as long as the rain did not come in on us. A gathering place where we watched storms pass over and our children do that same dance in the rain. A special time. A memorable time.

If it rained hard enough, Dad would drive us down the lane to the bus. If not, soggy kids piled onto bus #16. A bunch of wet kids probably not smelling all that great piled in like a can of tuna. God bless our bus driver Lewis. He certainly managed to smile through all the seasons, all the weather and all the soggy kids.

So what does this rain mean to us here in Oregon? Well, it does not look as if it will make it to the fire zone. The amount of wildlife and forest lost is heartbreaking. Homes are lost, lives are lost and there seems to be no relief. Storms on this side of the Cascades bring fear of wind and lightning strikes on the other side of the mountains. If Oregon gets downpours, there is a chance of mudslides with nothing to hold the earth. It seems a case of feast or famine. Yet the beauty of this place calls to all of us who live here, wanting to protect her in any way we can.

The extremes in the weather teach us that we are vulnerable to Mother Nature and constantly at her mercy. We learn that we cannot control everything despite the fact that we want to or need to. There is no doubt that we learn what is important and to appreciate what we have knowing that it can change in the blink of an eye.

The smell of the rain takes me back to Neff Road again. The rain beating down on the metal roof of the house playing a musical tattoo on my brain. Dad and I are looking for night crawlers under rocks. Brenda and I are playing in the rain. We sit on the porch in a sweet compatibility that has grown through the years. The corn is growing and the beans look good. Today we cherish this wet stuff and look forward to more. In fact, I just might dance in the rain.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Gifts from the mailbox

Thinking of you. Just wanted to let you know. Hope you remember me. It's been a long time. Greetings....wonderful greetings that warm the spirit and bring a smile.

God works in mysterious ways. Over and over again, when I need help, He already knows it and has taken action. This last week was a prime example. It was a rough week, beginning with a dear friend's doctor informing her that she was going to be put on hospice. Tari has had MS for well over 30 years. Her doctor informed her that she is the longest living MS person he knows. She has been bedridden for at least the last ten years only able to move a few fingers and lift her head, yet she is one of the strongest people I know, accepting her circumstances and living with a cheerful spirit. For better or worse, I am the only person with whom she expresses her deeper feelings. So when this news came, I was the designated person to talk to her. It took three hours to get around to the subject. "I forget that I have MS," she said. It was time to talk turkey. I crawled up into bed with her and held her. She told me of her fears, and I told her about mine. We talked of her children and the end of life. I can truly say that it was one of the most difficult conversations I have ever had to face. I sat in my car after and cried.

On Thursday my granddaughter called to tell me that their other grandma had passed away. She had only been ill a few days with pneumonia. Another time to put on a fa├žade of strength and support, while inside I grieved with them and for them. But as I said, God takes care of me. Evidently the weight of compassion comes with a support team.

My sis June and I got into a conversation about how we love to get things in the mail. As kids we argued as to who would walk the lane to the mailbox. We could not wait to get toys we had sent for via the back of a cereal box. Waiting for the funny paper was a weekly treat. Junk mail was even better than an empty mailbox. Well, my mailbox was busy this week. On separate days I received notes from old friends and neighbors that wrapped around my heart and warmed me. Betty wrote to me of a time when my mom helped her boys. Marilyn thought she had to remind me of who she was, but I already knew and smiled at her note. Janet sent a picture and beautiful card, filling me with a missing of Neff Road. Today I received a dear note from Geneva who just happened to be thinking of me. My sadness was eased by these lovely women who took time to write. Their encouragement and sweet words picked up a sagging heart.

In this age of technology, we seldom find personal notes in the mailbox. I am at fault more than most, since it is difficult to write with my arthritic thumbs, but I know the worth of those written words. I do most of my communication and receive most via the internet. It, too, is my mailbox. What a blessing to know that someone is thinking of you. I am grateful for these women who came to my rescue. I will write return notes. They will take some time, but it is important. I have learned that when we have the urge to write to someone, we just might be writing at a time when love and support are needed. Wish I could still walk the lane to the mailbox. Wish I wasn't too old for that cereal box prize. The gifts I got this week are priceless. So are the women who sent them.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Great Darke County Fair

We lived for it. It was our Christmas in the summer. A time when those who moved away migrated back to Darke County once more. A time when people stopped to chat with neighbors and to find faces they had not seen in years. The excitement was in the air long before August rolled around. Farm kids were preparing their projects and brushing their animals to achieve that perfect, glossy coat. Dreams turned to cotton candy, blue ribbons, stock barns and carnival rides. The Great Darke County Fair is about to open once more as it has since 1853.

I have been to a few county fairs, but indeed none compare to our fair. And, I say 'our fair' because it belongs to all of us who ever loved it. I once thought that the fair fell right before it was time to go back to school as a lure to draw us in and make us all excited and happy before the doors closed on us in the classroom. Hm. Guess it had more to do with farmers.

Time for a little baring of the soul. I apologize if it offends anyone, but here goes. I did not like 4-H. I could not sew. Did not want to sew. Did not cook. Did not want to cook. Did not want to raise an animal.  But did want to hang out in the stock barns. However, when in Rome.......  So I took 4-H. Got a few ribbons. Managed to please my mother and my 4-H leader. What I realize later in life is that my talents did not include cooking and sewing. It just is not in my makeup. You can teach a dog to speak, but it sure isn't going to speak English. However,  I hung in there. I went to the 4-H building and stood looking at my project. Silently thinking, "Whew, glad that's over." I guess I wasn't a very good farm girl. You should have seen me in Home Ec! Argh!!!!

My favorite part of the fair was when as kids we walked around the midway. When little, Brenda and I checked out the rides. When we got a little older, we checked out the boys. Even older, we brought our children. Now when we go, we look for familiar faces and step back in time visiting old memories and missing that other part of our lives and those who shared it with us.

Hopefully, our senior class (now really a senior class) will meet at the fair next year. I think it is the perfect place for class reunions. We will probably all bring pictures of those days gone by. You know, those black and white pictures. We will embrace the days we have had together again remembering those who are no longer with us.

The fair brought us together during the summer months when we had been busy being farm kids. It got us ready for the school year, wanting to reconnect again. We said our farewell to bare feet and lazy days. We knew that this Darke County Fair sendoff was just the beginning with the Pumpkin Show not far behind.

I still have a blue ribbon that I won modeling, I think. At least I am pretty sure it was not for clothing or some delicious culinary achievement. I have an old post card of Donald O'Connor that I got at some booth. Not much from all those years of fair-going, but the memories are immeasurable. They are so many filled with faces from the past. Elgar and Leah, Freeda and Herb, Uncle Bob and Aunt Welma. So many people who had no idea that their lovely faces would still be with me today, especially at fair time.

Happy Fair-going, my friends. Perhaps next year we can go together.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

When old things were new

It travels from place to place wherever I go. Each time I pack to move, I look at it once more wondering why I keep it. Still, it finds its way to the next destination. We all have them. I did not really understand that until my mother passed, and we found hers. You have them. I have them. Those little treasures that we never feel quite right getting rid of. I have often tossed something only to find myself retrieving it once more. Not a hoarder. Just a memory keeper.

A small ticket stub fades more and more with each coming year. It once allowed a little girl to ride the ferry across the lake to Soo Saint Marie, Michigan. It allowed me to go fishing with my friend Brenda in Centerville. The gold cord and my school pins, useless to anyone else, lie there looking at me, thinking (if they could) that they are ready to part ways. So what happens? I trash them? Hm. Once in a while I pass on a treasure to someone in the family; however, there are many things that mean nothing to anyone else. Just me. Again, another hm.

When we settled the farm, I took an item that neither of my sisters wanted or could even guess why I would want it. I am not so sure either. It is the bust of a native woman. She is carved from dark wood with hand-crafted earrings. She gathers dust as she did when she lived with Mom. But I find it hard to part with her. She meant something to Mom. And, in all fairness, she is lovely in a primitive way. We do not know where she came from so now she lives in Oregon.

Treasures. Pieces of us. Pieces of those now gone. My cousin lived with us when I was a little kid. He made Mom a soap box for her detergent. It sat on the shelf in the basement, fading with time. I took that, too. It still smells like the soap residue that clings to it still. Clutter? No, it has a place of honor atop my kitchen cabinets. A memory of my cousin Dick, my mother and that old wringer washer.

I have often asked myself (which you tend to do when you live alone) why I love antiques and collectibles. Without a doubt it is due to the memories that cling to them the same as the soap in the box. The smells, the textures, the experiences that go along with each of them. Vintage. Yes, I am becoming something vintage. The things of my era have become novelties for my granddaughters. Gabby has taken to wearing long pants that resemble those days of the 60's. "I'm dressing like you used to, Grammy."

In my antique sidebar reside dishes that were given to me when I was married back in 1969. Dishes that hold memories of those who gave them. Those that hold memories of my life. I hope that one day my kids and grandkids will ask the history of these things that seem to cling to me. They may not be rich in value, but they are indeed rich pieces of my past.

So what got me started on this today? Perhaps because it is August. Time for the Darke County Fair. Blue ribbons, a band letter, a modeling award, bits and pieces of the girl I was at the Darke County Fair reside in this pile of memories. The thing you don't see in this trunk are the memories that swirl around me when I open it. I feel like a Disney character twirling around as the memories assail me. Delight, love and pure joy fill my heart.

There will be no tossing for now. Instead I think I will write about a time when I was young on Neff Road, and old things were new.