Monday, August 15, 2016

Letter from home

July 15, 1987. What? I looked at the seal on the envelope. It had never been broken. The stamp was 22 cents. Mother's writing was scrawled across the front in her beautiful cursive writing. A letter from home.

When moving, I tossed papers into boxes determined to toss most of it when I got settled. Well, that was almost a year ago. Now that my hand is back in action, I decided to tackle the job. Memories. I saved memories. Special letters, tickets stubs to my son's shows, programs, scribbles from a child's hand, even letters from my second grade class when I had German measles. Yes, I had it all.

It is an emotional thing when you touch these memories from your childhood, from the lives of your children. Sweet memories of those who are now gone and of days when you were young and silly. My first book when I was four scribbled on several little pages. A story of a clown and the firemen who saved him. Old yellowed clippings from the Advocate telling of births and deaths. A story about my mother with her smiling face looking at me. A letter. A letter from home.

Yes, a letter from my mother was buried in the pile. "Mom?" I said out loud. I feel her presence often but never so much as in that moment. At that moment I wanted to have my mother's arms embracing me as I held this unopened letter. A letter written when my children were kids, and I was married. A whole lifetime away. I felt a bit tentative opening it. And, why had I not opened it when it came? What would I find inside? Was it a message from the great beyond? Well, just open the letter, Pam, and get it over with.

Mom wrote every week even though she called every week as well. Her letters were full of news of the neighborhood and of the church. I was caught up on family comings and goings and the health of all. This letter was like receiving one of the same many years ago. A letter from Mom.

Her first words: Surprise! (Well, indeed it was.) I thought maybe if I wrote you a letter I could forget how hot it is and maybe the heat will go away. (For a brief moment I thought maybe Heaven was having a hot spell. Better than the alternative.) She went on to tell the weather forecast and told me she had just talked to Peg. The letter was written soon after my sisters had come to visit. Evidently they loved Oregon. Community news: Doris Wert was not doing well. Margaret Stager was having pain. Doris Lavy was having a rapid heart beat. Neff Road was not healthy on this particular day. She was dreading the church picnic in the heat. And, Gene and Betty Johnson, my cousins, were preparing to visit me. Uncle Bob stopped smoking and Aunt Welma was playing cards. She finished with Dad going out to pick zucchini. Nothing earthshaking. Just her usual filling me in. The normalcy of it was more touching than had it contained a message from the great beyond. It was another normal day in the house back the lane. I was homesick.

"Just think, in a couple of weeks I'll be 75. The years are going faster all the time. Love you much, Mother." More a treasure now then it would have been all those years ago. A message from Mom just to tell me she thought of me and loved me. I got a letter from home.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Thrill of the Darke County Fair

Forty-two years gone by and 2300 miles away, the Great Darke County Fair still gives me a thrill. From the days when Mom and Dad held my hand to the time when I took my own children to the fair, the same excitement waited for me each August.

Last week my grandchildren and I attended our Washington County Fair. In comparison, this is fair is about a third the size of Darke County. When visiting my sister in Angola, Indiana, I was shocked that their fair was basically only animals. I am not sure we who lived in Darke County realized just how good we had it. One thing our fair has that neither of the others have is the rodeo. Those scarred animals are all in a pen outside the animal barns. County fairs with different meanings in different counties.

This was the first year that the little ones could interact with everything around them. Emma was excited to touch a horse; however, when we walked into the horse barn full of towering Belgian and Clydesdale horses, she wanted nothing to do with them. Nolan rubbed their noses and planted a kiss on one. For me, walking by theses giants reminded me that our big barn had been built by Dad and his Belgian team. Emma asked, "How do you get on it?" Good question. I could not even imagine how Dad put the hulling harnesses on his giants. MeMe's are supposed to know everything. "Well, maybe they get on from the top of a fence or a big ladder....very big ladder." I have found that if you don't know, then make up a reasonable answer. Works well with four-year-olds. Gabby, my fifteen year old, gave me 'the look'.

We visited the cows. We visited the sheep and goats. We visited the pig barn where we were chased by a runaway pig. Then we found the best part of the fair for this little duo. My father would be proud. These two climbed up on every tractor, backhoe and piece of equipment that was there. I smiled. The life I lead as a child will be foreign to them, but for a few minutes at the fair, I could share with them shades of the past.

Fair time means missing. I was never much on the rides. No, it was about the people, and, of course, all of that unhealthy food. A once a year feast. Old friends sat by the race track watching the comings and goings. Seeing friends I had not seen in years passing by. The smells, the taste, the feelings that are all captured once a year, even if you live in Oregon.

There is something that calls to me each August. It takes back to the fair, looking for familiar faces. It calls as naturally as does my farm home. The Great Darke County Fair. Enjoy, my friends. Enjoy.