Sunday, July 31, 2016

Old screen door

According to Wikipedia: A screen door can refer to a hinged storm door in cold climates or hinged screen door in warm climates covering an exterior door; or a screened sliding door used with sliding glass doors. (Wow! Lots of screen options.) In any case, the screen door incorporates screen mesh to block flying insects or airborne debris such as seeds or leaves (frogs, snakes, mice, my list goes on and on) from entering, and pets and small children from exiting interior spaces, while allowing for air, light, and views.

When I told Mom that we would be moving to Oregon, she was worried about the wild west. In her mind, she still saw a land of cowboys and untamed countryside. And, all that rain!!!! After our first visit here, I assured her that it was a very civilized place with less yearly rainfall than Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I saw no wild Indians or cowboys. Oregon actually has highways and not trails. 

Ohio was always my standard for state comparisons. After seven years of living in Appleton, she had exposed all of her weaknesses. I was happy to leave the snow up to the top of the car, minus degree temps causing the house to stay below 65 degrees in the winter, mosquitoes the size of birds and humidity that you could cut with a knife. No, I slammed the old screen door on that state when we moved with no regret. We had moved to paradise.

In September we arrived in our new state. The weather was lovely and the countryside green, noteworthy especially since we had moved from Wisconsin where it was already getting very cold and trees were dropping leaves like crazy. Life was chaotic as we settled into our new life. Little by little we began to observe the differences in this place. Fall lasted until mid November. Winter was grey but mild. We got rid of the snow shovel and our heavy winter wear. Spring came at the end of February along with flowers. And, it was in the spring that I noticed the screen door....or rather, lack of.

Front doors did not have screen doors. There was no call for a storm door. And, with the lack of flies and mosquitoes, there was no need for a screen door. What's not to love! My apartment lacks a lot of windows. The skylight helps, but I miss having that natural brightness. So, I quite often leave the front door open with a portable gate across so the landlord's dog Moosie does not come to visit. My landlord informed me that he is going to put a screen door on my door. A screen door! The old screen door.

The slam of the old screen door. We grew up with that sound. It was the sound that meant that Dad was in from the field, a Loxley girl had come home, a neighbor had come to visit. And always, "Don't slam the door!" It was the sound of home, of comfort, of return, of family.

"How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it....." - Shel Silverstein

Friday, July 22, 2016

Day of Rest

Seventh day. A day of rest. Chicken was in the oven slowly baking, while we were in church pews singing "This is My Father's World". It was Sunday. The seventh day of the week.

Monday was a day of laundry and gathering eggs. The old wringer washer sloshed the clothes and the Loxley girls hung them on the line.  Mom began her week of cooking and cleaning. It always seemed to me that the cleaning took place mostly when the daughters were home (or in my case after my sisters left, when I was home). Spring meant spring cleaning. Summer meant beating rugs and cleaning floors. Fall meant that everything that was dragged out for summer had to be put away and the winter things pulled out to air. Winter meant that the house was on a downturn from our cold weather hibernation indoors and would definitely need to be cleaned and aired in the spring. It never ended. And it all seemed to start on Monday.

Tuesday through Thursday consisted of outside activity. Spring meant tobacco. Summer meant tobacco. Fall meant tobacco. Winter meant tobacco. Hm. Seems to be a commonality here. There was also garden to put out. Garden to take in. Garden to preserve for cold weather. Lawn to mow so we could watch it grow and mow it again. Hauling manure, baling hay, driving the tractor, picking up rocks. (Yep, they needed a couple of sons.) We gathered eggs, feed sheep, raised rabbits and chased cows, chickens (whose eggs we gathered) and sheep that got loose. Tuesday through Thursday could be very busy days. Oh, and on Tuesday we dampened down the clothes and ironed.

Usually by the time Thursday and Friday arrived, Mom was up to her elbows in pie dough. We girls were shelling peas or snapping beans on the porch, spreading noodles to dry and peeling potatoes. Chickens were killed and cleaned. Pluck, pluck, pluck. (I hate cleaning chickens.) Then we began the task of cleaning the house. Dusting, mopping, washing dishes, taking potato peels to the stock yard and gathering eggs. (Some things we just did every day.)

Mom and her trio of daughters went to town every Saturday. We went to Arcanum to the bank and to load up on groceries and to Greenville for piano lessons and enough meat from the locker to see us through the week. Sometimes Dad went to Gettysburg for a haircut, and we visited with relatives. Saturday was the day to say farewell to the week behind and prepare for the week ahead....just after we gathered the eggs.

Sunday was indeed a day of rest. Mom's well-plucked chicken was in the oven baking. The potatoes peeled by her daughters were swimming in water ready to boil. The house smelled too delicious to leave, but off to church we would go. It was this day of rest, the Lord's Day, yet often seemed to be the busiest of all. Visitors always came around. I think it was Mom's chicken they came for, but they stayed all afternoon. Kids played in the barn. In winter, hot dog roasting in the basement. Mom and Dad were finally enjoying a day of the week together doing nothing. We gathered eggs and animals were fed, but I think even they knew it was a quiet day on the farm.

Sunday was a day that my family gave to others. And, well, you know about the eggs.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

The Present Past

There is only so much you can write about the past. Well, in truth, there is only so much you can remember about the past. A touch. A smell. For a brief moment, something passes by and you try to grab hold, to cling to a memory that is ever so illusive.

Some of you have mentioned that I bring back a glimpse of something you have forgotten. In the remembering, it seems that more comes along with it. That tender touch was from a grandmother gone when the child was three. All that remained of her was the tender touch, a suffering grandmother in bed by the window and a father's arms holding the child at a casket. A touch. A brief but warm reminder.

Little things from long ago create smiles. I look at a bowl of Cheerio's and say, "I remember you when you were just grain." Okay, so you do not talk to your cereal. Perhaps I do march to a different drummer. I cannot eat lamb chops because they smell like the baby lambs in the barn. The twins pluck off dandelion heads, and I once again see Brenda and I stringing them together. Hollyhocks made into little dolls and honeysuckle by the stoop outside of Mom Johnson's back door.

I sit next to my old saddle in the twin's playroom and smell the lingering scent of my horse and the barn. We are surrounded by the past. And, we are making the past.

Sometimes I wonder what will be carried on from this past. Hopefully, the memories will come with feelings of love. Mine will definitely be preserved in my writing. But what will be passed on?

Nolan is just the guy to say "MeMe? You remember?" Only four years old and collecting memories already. We made a new one yesterday. While the twins were playing with the little chihuahua that lives next door, I happened upon a little snake. Snake!!!! Obviously, I am not a fan. So I decided to make this a learning experience. I called the children over to observe this little creature. Nolan wanted to hold it and Emma, who was more tentative at first, concluded that it was cute. I stood my ground. The snake survived the encounter as did I. It wasn't much, but maybe it would qualify as a memory for the twins for one day.

We can open any page and find it written upon with our past. From Cheerio's to first kiss. From bird song to croaking frog. Our senses are full. I cannot write all of your memories for you. But I can rattle the door and ask you to enter your past. Just do me a favor. Do not forget that this is the present past.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ingenuity gone amok

When I received the email from my son, I knew that I needed to take action. "Mom, it looks like it might be too cool for the twin's Slip 'n Slide birthday party. Do you have any ideas what we can do with the kids?" Of course, when your child asks you for assistance, you really want to shine. So the twins and I went into action. What games did I remember my children playing or for that fact, what did we play?

I needed to determine what capabilities the twins possessed at the newly reached age of 4. We could not Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Nolan would be trying to pin the tail on the dog and Emma trying to pin the tail on Nolan. The orange under the chin was out, because the space between chin and chest would not accommodate said fruit.

I decided to go to my source of information, my sister June. "I don't know," she said. "I never played those games. How about Drop the Hankie." Wow!!! That was a game I hadn't thought about in years! It was my favorite.  But then I tried to envision a group of four-year-old children looking at me as I held out a handkerchief as I explained the game. Hankies are for nose blowing not game playing. I envisioned one of the kids actually blowing a nose on the hankie before handing it off to the next person. Hm. Maybe not such a good idea.

So I decided to see what the kids could handle at age four. We gathered balls from all over the house. Balls that they kick. Balls that light up. Small rubber balls and plastic baseballs. Balls, balls, balls. Next we got three buckets from the garage. The kids tossed the balls around the yard as I placed buckets strategically among the balls. I picked up the first medium-sized ball and placed it between my knees. I then started shuffling along (much easier when I was a kid).  The kids looked on with great enthusiasm and began to copy me. Soon we were laughing as none of us could manage to get the balls into the buckets. We tried balls toss into the buckets never landing a single one. We tried rolling the balls into the buckets. Hm. Well, this ball thing was just not working.

Finally I went online and copied pages of ideas for my son. Yes, I had lots of other ideas of games we had played years ago but decided that we just might need one more year before they could tackle them. Then again, it gives me one more year to practice on my own. And for my next trick, I will attempt to carry a ping pong ball on a spoon!!!!

Oh, wait....I have an email. "Mom, it looks like the weather is going to be great!" Hm.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

I will be light

The gulls call overhead as I sit watching the blue Pacific kiss the sandy shores. The immensity of it, the roar, the wind, the smells fill my heart with longing and love. It calls to me from a primitive place that I have yet to discover. It takes me to a place I have no words for and leaves me there with every sense alive.

I was a teenager when I first saw the Atlantic Ocean. I was the only one of the Loxley girls to travel alone with our parents. It was dark by the time were arrived at the ocean's side in Pompano Beach, Florida. Dad took my hand and lead me to the water. I was afraid. The roar sounded like a giant monster coming at us from the unknown. I wanted to leave, but Dad made me stay to listen. I could not comprehend the vastness that I could not see. I could only feel the depths of it in my heart.

We grow and learn. We learn to face fears and to overcome anxiety. We learn to understand monsters in the night. We learn to listen with our hearts. We learn and grow if we are wise.

Dad taught me to love beach combing. Of course, that beach was in Michigan on Lake Hamlin. This is where I discovered what would be my favorite fishing pole washed upon the shore. Driftwood, rocks, a feather or maybe dead fish crossed our path. He taught me to be surprised and awed. He taught me to be curious. In Florida, he showed me a new beach. Shells I had never seen before. Sand that whispered when my feet skimmed the glistening surface. Waves that the giant ocean cast around my feet.

The world is full of rumblings, revenge, guns, hate, most of all fear. A roaring body in the night. A darkness that falls completely. I was taught to look beyond that roar for what is beautiful and am still surprised and awed by what I find. I have learned that looking for good in all allows more good to flow in all directions. Beautiful pearls of hope that wash upon my heart. I would never pick up a weapon or write about hate. It is not my belief and would only feed the darkness that already prevails.

I sit upon the shore. The gulls call to me looking for a scrap of bread. The ocean calls to me asking me to keep it safe and clean. The earth beneath my feet cries for love among all with hate dissipating as each wave retreats. I stand in the night before a roaring ocean and say, "I will not be darkness. I will be a light."

Sunday, July 3, 2016

These are the days

Standing on the bridge, the past come roaring by. Once more I am a child sitting on the tractor pulling the plow. My dog sits on the platform next to me. Dad sings as he drives the tractor. A moment captured in time. A house holding memories of shoe-fly pie and hot dogs roasting over the fire. A corn crib where two little girls played house every summer. The old barn where I saw the birth of sheep. A mere house back a lane, but so much more. A lane that took us home for years long after we were gone. A lane that took us to those who loved us. A place I called home.

The old pump sat outside next to the sign that read Painter Creek Church of the Brethren. A sandbox,  Bible School, choir and playing church. A place where friends were made on the cradle roll to the days when they moved on with their lives. A family created by the mere walking into that church each Sunday. A family that would help create the you you would become.

The lot is empty. The place where my family members all attended school. The big, brick building where early on the kitchen cooks became those who gave us newcomers a sense of security. Halls that echoed the past where high school kids played basketball and young teens danced at sock hops.  An old school where we played beneath the pictures of past classes. Where we became archers and learned to raise and lower the flag. A place where our neighbors were our teachers, cooks and custodians. A place where we grew in all ways.

We drove down a street much changed from the past yet echoes remained of the past. Ballet, piano lessons, dresses at the Palace, soda in the drug store. Days of driving the loop downtown to the Big Boy and back again. Dances in the park and at the Armory. Days in the public swimming pool and walking the midway at the fair. The place where we shopped and played. A place we knew as "going to town".

Grand Lake, Wayne Lakes, Crystal Ballroom, rollerskating. Poultry Days and Pumpkin Show. Annie Oakley, Lowell Thomas. Lick Skillet, Rip Town, Red River, little towns gone from the map. Little towns with funny names. History in all directions. Our history.

These are just a few of my days gone by. Then again, they belong to you, too. This is a history of the past and the present. A gathering of days that we recall, we live and we take to us into the future. This is the place and these are the day.