Sunday, December 31, 2017

The clock chimes

The clock chimes and suddenly it is 2018. 2018! Two years away from 2020! The clock chimes.

Many of us are struggling with health issues and losses in our families. We want to leave difficult times behind and step into something all brand new. But the chime of the clock means nothing more than stepping from one day to the next. I vote that we make that step worth something.

On Neff Road, I learned to always think of others. I sit here writing feeling as ill as the rest of my family. (Sweet Emma gave us all something for Christmas.) As I sit here trying to recover, I think of all the times my parents struggled going into a new year. Yet, they had hope. A new year brought a miracle drug to my sister with rheumatic fever. New years brought grandbabies into the family. New years were a time of hope for better crops. There was much to leave behind. Hope was that none of it would flow past that chime of the clock. Yet sometimes it did.

A clock chimes and in New York's Time Square a ball drops. In neighborhoods, fireworks are shot off and pans banged. Often there is a kiss for the new year and a bottle of champagne. But we only go from one day to the next. What differences will there be in that step into the new year?

Well, we are the difference. In our families, in our neighborhoods, in our world. To me, the clock chimes a call for all of us to do what we can to make the new year different and better. A time to leave your mark be it ever so small or ever so large. Indeed it is a call for action.

2018 is upon us. I sit here feeling lousy and not at all excited about banging a pan. In fact, I would really prefer no one bang a pan. I write this on Sunday, New Year's Eve. Right now I pray for a stuffless nose and a new box of kleenex. However, this time of isolation has opened my mind to new ideas and new hopes for this upcoming year. You are my hope for the future. Happy New Year, dear friends. Happy new adventures. The clock chimes.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

We are the New Year

Santa's suit is at the cleaners and the elves are taking a very long nap. The reindeer lost a bit of weight on that nightly trek and children are coming off a present high and sugar overload. The recycle bin is a little fuller this week. All of that time spent shopping and wrapping is over in less than a couple of hours. That stack of gifts looks much smaller once they are opened. The bows are piled high and boxes collapsed. All of that wonderful food was either eaten or became cherished leftovers. Sales in stores are starting. Stores hoping to recuperate their losses. Yes, that one time of the year has come and gone. What now? Diet? Self improvement? Organized? Fuller life? Financial success? Travel? Health?

What will the new year hold for me? What about you? Never have I made a resolution. With all the surprises life brings, it seems nonsensical to make changes by mere resolution. Those pounds I put on over the holidays will be great if a famine strikes. I work on improving myself every day so with that in place, I can just move on doing the same. Also, I could promise to live life to the fullest, but, again, I feel that I do that with great gusto. I would like to be healthier this year. Last year was a little frayed around the edges. Some like to get more organized in the coming year, but I find comfort in chaos. Maybe I should work on improving my financial status. Perhaps I will play the lottery. I would like to travel more. Going back to Neff Road seems to be a pretty good resolution. I think I can keep that one.

We go through a great deal of activity over Christmas and New Years. Laughter seems to be more plentiful, and, by the same token, with little, overzealous ones, the tempers can be tried. We leave the old enjoying the new. Those dreams of sugarplums turn into hope for a peaceful future. For a couple of days, we embrace one another and enjoy blessings we are given. Then a few days later we are wondering what 2018 has in store.

On Neff Road, we played in the snow oblivious to the year ahead. The crops depended on good weather and the market. The year of planting, hoeing, reaping would tell if a few more presents would be beneath the tree in December. The days in the tobacco shed were over and thoughts turned to seedlings and the big steam engine that would rumble down Neff Road when the weather warmed. Crops would own our lives when spring came, so for awhile, we hibernated and enjoyed the winter.

Yes, we have ended the festivities of Christmas but hold the memories of moments near and dear. That is what the new year is all about, resolving to love more deeply, to be kinder, to keep hope alive and to embrace those who need our help. We are the new year.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Turn on the Love

Today I am sharing my post on A Grandparent's Voice. Please read my Christmas message at

Monday, December 11, 2017

Pac Man Christmas

It was a craft packet of eighty ornaments that seemed to call my name after the holidays lastyear...and it was half price. Last year's adventure wi th handing out ornaments may not seem quite as exciting this year. The twins were only four. What would this look like at five? So I asked. Emma asked if we could go to the place where 'that lady was'.  I knew exactly where she meant. Last year, if you remember, Emma gave a handmade ornament to a lady sitting alone on a bench at the mall. We had continued through the mall when this same woman caught up with us. She told us that she had been looking for us to thank us. With tears streaming down her face, she told us that she had been feeling lonely. She had no one and felt no joy in her life. Emma gave more than a gift to a stranger. She gave little girl eyes looking into a hurting heart. She gave love.

So this year Loren joined us in creating a basket full of new ornaments. Emma went for quantity, slapping sticky pieces onto the foam ornaments. Nolan loved the little ornament toppers that resembled Pac Man ghosts. The receiver will have no idea what they are, but Nolan set loose his own creativity, and it was just right. Our first stop was one of the fire houses we plan to visit on our Christmas giveaway this year. Instead of giving only one to a fireman, the kids each handed out one, thus they were disappearing two at a time.  But as Nolan informed me, we can always make more. Instead of the timidity they experienced last year, they were all about the task at hand. As always, the firemen made them feel important profusely thanking them for their efforts (probably chuckling at the little Pac Man ghosts on their trees).

We didn't have much back that lane on Neff Road, but I don't think we realized it when Christmas came around. Our house was always open to the alone and lonely, travelers and visitors, old friends and new friends. They gave the gift of love to everyone they met. It was part of who they were.  Sometimes we missed not having the holiday for just our family, but in retrospect, I understand the gift Ruth and Willard gave to their children. They gave us open arms to show love, respect, warmth and most of all acceptance to everyone we met. They definitely had trouble receiving, knowing only how to give. We knew that when we came home, we would be blessed by seeing the faces that knew us as children. Welcoming arms embraced us every time the back door opened.

There is no money needed to give warmth to a cold heart, to dry tears and bring joy. As Emma found, we are paid back in full by the bits of love we can hand to a stranger, a friend, a fireman, a loved one. We are the gifts of the holiday season. Gifts we can give freely. Our little decorations might not seem like much, but they touch the hearts of those who receive them and teach two small children the joy of giving. Be a blessing to someone this holiday season, a gift to both the giver and receiver.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

That paisley time of year

There was a mystical room in our house back that lane on Neff Road. June and I often talk about it. At the top of the stairway was a very small room. In it Dad had configured pipes to create a rack on which to hang clothing. Across from the rack was a large bin containing one small section and one that was larger. Dress up clothing was in the small part and blankets were in the larger one. Our shoes were placed in a row on the top of the bins. Next to that was a wardrobe containing hats on the top shelf. Sheets on the middle shelf. Gloves and all sorts of odds and ends were on the bottom shelf. Dad and Mom's shoes filled the bottom of the wardrobe. It was a room that reflected days of poverty and those years that were more prosperous. The clothing grew in size along with the girls who wore it. So why was this room so special?

My mother loved paisley. Almost every blouse she owned was of a paisley designed fabric.When  Mom and Aunt Welma Johnson were wallpapering barren wall, they tackled the closet. On the last day I walked through that precious house, I stood in that closet of red paisley wallpaper and thought of the memories stored there. One reason this closet was so special was the big box hidden beneath the clothing in the back corner of that closet. Sometimes I would crawl back there just to make sure that big box was still in place.

It was this time of the year when Dad carried that huge box downstairs. It was a box of Christmas miracles. Each piece would be lifted from the box and placed where we could see it. Bubble lights, glass balls, an angel with spun glass hair, small figures that would dance on a mirror and memories galore. It was always so wonderful to find familiar items that took us all back in time. They were like old friends come home again.

Another item in that paisley room was a full-length mirror. I watched my older sisters apply make up in that mirror before leaving the house. Brenda and I paraded our dress-up clothes in front of that mirror. And, later I would stand before it checking out my own make up and take a last look at my wedding dress.

I never walked into that room that I was not surrounded by the presence of Mom and Dad. Dad stood at that mirror to tie his ties. Mom hounded her daughters to get ready for church. And on special days, Mom would get down the hats from the top shelf for her girls to wear or a furry muff for her youngests hands. It was a closet that held the essence of my family. A little paisley room.

When I step back through that mirror, I am surrounded by holiday laughter. Dad carrying that box in the corner, while Mom pounded out carols on the piano. The Loxley family paraded across that mirror and sealed their essence there forever. As I open my own box of Christmas delights, I am once again standing in that little room, watching Dad lift that box once more. It is that paisley time of year.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Turkey on crutches

Drumstick (Webster) 1. a stick for beating a drum  2. the segment of a fowl's leg between the thigh and tarsus.

Ah, definition 2. Oh my, whenever I look something up it just makes me do even more research. I should have paid more attention in anatomy. Tarsus! What part is the tarsus? Well, this can be a bone in the foot, connective tissue on the eyelid, part of an insects leg or a country in southern Turkey. The last definition was the closest to the name of the bird even though I cannot find a direct connection  to the drumstick.  Thus, we have come to the subject of this column. I think.

My son was in the National Tour of Evita which stopped in California. What a great excuse to have a Disney vacation! We packed up the family and headed south to meet up with him and some of his cast at Disneyland. Now I know you are wondering what this has to do with turkey legs, but please bear with me. (Oh, don't let me get started on bears!) One of the new delights at the park was turkey drumsticks. Now I am not a white meat fan, but let me at a drumstick, and I'm a happy girl. One of their drumsticks would feed a family of five. It was huge. A conversation ensued on the size of the bird with these hefty legs. This was around the time that Gabby learned that the birds we eat do not  survive the removal of said legs. Those drumsticks did not look quite as tasty.

I had begun to rethink this meat devouring thing. I'm not headed towards the vegetarian diet yet. But I think that the native cultures who thank God for the animal lives that are given in order to feed and clothe their people are teach us something very important. We are learning more and more about the cognitive power of not only animals but also fish. We are learning more information about a that makes us think. I find that it makes me look deeper into who I am and about the animals where I was raised. I think I missed a great deal when I was on the farm.

So, this is a column about not only drumsticks but also about being thankful for the food we eat. It is about the life of a turkey. Most of all, it is about defining who we are in how we look at new discoveries about the creatures of this earth.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. My blessings include each and every one of you. Much love on this special day to you and your families. I am thankful.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Out the front door

A friend once told me that she loved living in her area, because it was away from crime and the cities. It is a quiet community that hasn't changed that much for generations. The people live in the same neighborhoods where their ancestors resided. They marry local people. Their children go to the same schools. Nothing changes but the clothing with the seasons and the babies replacing those who have passed.

Well, as we all know, that is not reality. It certainly is not part of our religious background that tells us to go out into the world and to love all people regardless of their color, their beliefs, their lifestyles. We are told not to judge and to be lights unto the world. It isn't just about prayers. It is about us as God's hands. Seems to me that we all are failing on that topic.

This isn't just about the shooting in Texas but much more. It is about the people who criticize, who are close-minded and who allow their religion, party affiliations, and families to dictate what they believe. We have come through this last year with hate being allowed to have a voice. A time when being mean to someone is accepted and our values lowered to accept things we never would under different circumstances. We joke about harassment saying women are just pushing the issue. We ignore when one more African American or Hispanic person is brutalized. We ignore pleas from other countries for help. We have an ego that just doesn't stop! Where is the heart, the love, the compassion and understanding that we all know we are supposed to have? Yet, we believe lies and ignore injustice, because it happens elsewhere.

Please, I implore you to become part of the system and not just an audience member. Vote, vote, vote. Don't vote party.  Vote for the welfare of ALL people. Call your people in congress and let a voice be heard. Support organizations for peace and equality. Support mental illness agencies. Embrace and understand those outside of your community. Don't support an issue if you do not know all sides of it. Don't believe what you read unless you check out all sides of the issue by doing your own research. Rethink what a gun can do and the necessity of it. Don't be a pawn. Be a player.

When I grew up, no one talked seriously about family problems and how to help loved ones in need to find their own help. I know in our house Mom tried to solve problems; however, I learned from working with kids at risk that we are to help them help themselves by finding resources for them to pursue and encouraging them along the way. We can't just shut out problems. Be active. Not passive.

A small community not so unlike where I grew up lost 26 people in just a few minutes. As many are in the hospital. We are not communities separated by state or country or religion or sex or belief or color. We are a united world. Americans are no better than those in other countries. We have a right to protest when we are hurt and no one seems to listen. We need to listen, folks. We need to stop judging. We need to look out the front door and see the bigger world. Please.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Savoring the holidays

Just a couple of days to Halloween, and Nolan leans over to me whispering, "Christmas is coming."  What?!? Time to get a few things straight!

Already stores are packed with slippers. Slippers, you know, sell out early as they are a sought-after Christmas present. You couldn't find a last minute Halloween decoration, because those were tucked away making room for a Christmas takeover. Yes, indeed, Nolan, every sign points to Yule on the horizon.

I hate the way that commercialism demands we focus on Christmas. The other holidays seem to get the boot, because the mighty dollar needs to be spent. We go into Thanksgiving hoping to get it done,  so we can get the Black Friday deals. We are manipulated by public relations and marketing ploys to draw us in and our money out.

Well, I am protesting. I am standing up against this power push by Hallmark and other card companies. I stand against Christmas movies beginning in November. I protest tinsel and garland before I have had a bite of my turkey. Who will stand with me!!! Ah, hello..... are you listening? Who will stand wi...okay. I am a lone voice bucking the system. Nothing new there.

I can close my eyes and find myself sitting in the kitchen with mom while she makes her pumpkin pies. Oh, wow, smell that aroma? Pumpkin and spices calling out to me after all these years. Anyone who ever ate her pie knows what I am saying. This is what I mean about savoring the holidays. The preparation, the planning. The family coming home. Long talks at the kitchen table and kids draped over the chairs and sofa getting to know one another all over again. Yummy leftovers to be eaten for couple of days after. And, no Black Friday. We savored the food, the family and all the memories that came to visit. My money can draw interest a little longer.

There are blessings that come when we don't live life so quickly. We set into motion traditions that stay with us always. We learn to appreciate the moment as well as the bite of pumpkin pie. Bah Humbug to those who are pushing the holidays. I prefer to lick my lips and say, "Can I have another piece?" For now, I will just bide my time and wait for Thanksgiving to arrive. And for those who are not looking forward to Thanksgiving, I say, "Run, Turkey, Run!!!!"

Monday, October 23, 2017

Treat and Treat

The candy makers are anticipating a great Halloween night that will have kids dragging home bags full of their goodies. Dentists cringe at the thought. Parents try to recycle the gathered candy as fast as they can once the child gets home. Yep, its that time of year again.

I always had a bit of a problem with this idea of trick or treat. The treat is nice if you get one. If you don't, why would you want to hurt someone else? Seems to be a bit of bullying tied to this old fashioned idea. I rather like the idea of handing out little books or tooth brushes. Perhaps we could just hand out good advice when the ghosts and goblins show up. Many of those old traditions and way of thinking really should be updated to reflect kindness and goodwill.

Well, what do I know? Mom felt that begging for candy was wrong. "We don't beg," Hm. Hadn't thought about that in years. It was begging. And, if you didn't hand over a treat, a cow might be tipped or corn shocks knocked over. You might get egged or have your pumpkins smashed. Why, why, why?

Then there are those kids who are entirely too old to go door to door and should know better. One year I even had a woman show up with a bag! And, they go to neighborhoods where they can get the biggest haul. My kids, and now my grandchildren, only visited their own neighborhood. Who needs that much candy?!?

I guess I sound like a Halloween curmudgeon, but truly, I don't get it. Give me a great ghost story and maybe a few ghosts, and I am in the spirit. Jack-o'-lanterns winking on the front steps and scary ghosts sounds coming from a hidden speaker. Kids parading their costumes followed by smiling parents...and grandparents. Feeling that pride when they say 'thank you' after they receive their candy. Watching neighbors who have watched them grow, beam when they open the door to their smiling faces. That is what I love about Halloween.

I handed out candy last year. I ran out and had no other option but to turn off the lights and sit in the dark. For at least 30 minutes, kids came up and still knocked. Some even yelled angry words. Those were the older kids who should have stayed home. I sat in the dark as if I had done a criminal act by not handing out more candy. I hoped to blend into the shadows so no one would notice that I sat there holding an empty bucket.

Perhaps Halloween should be a day of treating. Treating others with kind words and deeds. It could be called Treat and Treat. Good deeds deserving a few sweets. Candy makers might be a little put off by the idea. Dentists would love it. And, best of all, I wouldn't need to sit in the dark with my empty bucket.

Happy Halloween, my friends. Be safe out there.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Ah, sweet autumn

Put the cauldron on! We're going to revisit memories. How can you not go back in time when you feel that crisp, fresh air and smell the leaves and other detritus, that decay giving the earth a blanket for a winter's sleep. Our thoughts turn to pumpkins and pumpkin pie. Not just about today but about those yesterdays remembered. Nutmeg, cinnamon, apple cider. Somehow nuts and apples and pears are a bit more alluring. Autumn. Ah, let's add ingredients

The first thing into the cauldron must be the sound of farm equipment rumbling across the fields, taking in the fall harvest. Wagons full of corn, signaling a healthier bank account, and livestock with food in their pantry. It signals a quieter time for the farmer and a honey-do list waiting for him when winter brings him out of the fields and into the house. A time to sit by the fire.

Next comes the anticipation of snow and thoughts of Christmas. A quick stopover at Halloween and then Thanksgiving with thoughts of finishing crafts and buying presents. My granddaughter Emma took me into her closet to show me her snow pants. She is anticipating tubing down the mountain. "I need snow boots, MeMe," she imparted with perhaps a motive behind the comment. Ah, yes, snow. I remember. I remember the anticipation.

Add a few memories of counting days until kids come home from college or grandchildren come to visit. The excitement of planning. The anticipation of hugs long missed. For me, it is a time of missing those no longer here, remembering the family gatherings and anticipating my son coming home after months at Northwestern during his college years. A yearning for those we love and the past.

Let's toss in hay rides. Pure joy and smiles at the memory of straw in a wagon, singing at the top of our lungs and snuggling together against the fall chill. Cider and hot dogs. Popcorn and cookies. Donuts and hot chocolate. Sugar Grove and youth group.

Let's add a little bulk to this stew of memories. Homecoming, marching band, football and soccer. Pumpkin Show and fall bazaars. Summer put away so that a new season can bloom once more. A hearty fall menu.

Bold colored leaves of yellow, gold, red and orange are reflected in clothing. Tank tops make way for sweaters. Heavier bedding comes out of storage. Feather beds, down comforters, flannel sheets. The stew is a palette of memories and colors. I hope I have stirred a cauldron of memories for you. Enjoy every minute and savor the stew.

"And in my heart, sweet Autumn, thou art the awakener of many, many things. At thy touch the deep fountain of memory is stirred, and its shadowy bank is thronged with many cherished images and hallowed recollections of the Past!" - Elizabeth J. Eames from "An Autumn Reverie, October 1940

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Getting my penny's worth

Some people do spring cleaning. June and I are both doing fall cleaning. She is getting ready to move, and I, just like my mother, love to move things around and discover treasures I had forgotten I had tucked away in that "why am I keeping it/I can't part with it" box.

June: I just found those old cards I got at the fair that have actors on them.
Me: I hate to tell you, but I have one of yours. It's Donald O'Connor. Do you want it?
June: No. Do you want this stack?

So goes the conversation taking on a new direction straight to the Penny Arcade at the Darke County Fair. I know you all have some of those little treasures. We all took those once precious pennies into that tent to the left of the race track and tried our luck. We played pinball, had our fortunes read and hoped that the love machine would tell us that our favorite guy really loved us. When the pennies ran out, we took off in search of a parent who just might have a bit of change.

A big old claw would pick up cheaply made toys and toss them into a chute....if you were lucky. There were gumball machines that added to the already large amount of sugar we had already consumed with cotton candy and candy apples. You could squeeze a handle to learn what strength you held in those skinny arms. If you had no idea how much you weighed, for a penny you could have it announced it to everyone in line behind you. Marbles shot off into space and horses raced around a track. Boxers fought and balls were tossed into holes. For a penny you could learn how your day was going via the horoscope machine. How about a piece of soda mint gum to settle your tummy? Maybe you stood on a box and looked into the big, round Mutoscope at a movie. There was a personality tester where you could find out if you were shy, exotic, glamorous, studious. It was a place you could shoot a mounted gun and not take the life of any living thing.

Yes, one conversation turned into a column of penny memories.

June: Do you remember the one machine that you could type your name onto a circle that surrounded a silver star? I spelled my name wrong the first time and had to do it again.

I remember putting a penny into a machine, and it coming out flat with a message on it. I'm missing those days when a penny was worth every moment of delightful time spent in the Penny Arcade. Hey, June, remember the plastic kewpie doll on the end of a stick? (fuel for another sister conversation)

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Putting a spin on it

Pool sticks lined up against the stone wall. Chalk, balls, all the stuff of pool. The big table took up the space where once there was only a ping pong table. Wait a minute! What am I saying!?!?! It was not just a ping pong table. It was so much more.

Mom laid the pattern on top of the fabric. A piece of small print cloth that would more than likely end up as bib, aprons or possibly a dress; however, I never knew of my mom making a dress let alone any of us wearing something she made. The large green table was the perfect size for pattern cutting. The net could remain in place just in case a quick game of ping pong was pursued. Patterns were cut there and, occasionally, a meal was in place for the guests who came for a fun time at the Loxley house.

It was a warm September when our wedding gifts were beautifully displayed on that green background. As was done then, newcomers would wander around the ping pong table peeking what each person gave to the newlyweds. A rehearsal dinner was had, and I left that ping pong table for good.

My memories of that ping pong table were special as I played in that basement listening to my records and skating around the table, grabbing it on each corner as I swung about. Around and around on my little, metal skates that hooked onto my shoes. Oddly though, I never played ping pong on that table. Hm. Guess those sisters of mine were gone and so was the enthusiasm for the game.

Many are the people of Darke County who ate hot dogs in that basement seated around that big, old table. New Years celebrations with old friends, youth groups who grew into young adults, sitting around that table on most Sundays. Memories were gathered and meals shared, laughter echoing through generations.

The pool table came to stay after the Loxley girls were gone. Now grown up Loxley adults grabbed pool sticks and played. Their children played. I still didn't play, and no one seemed to care. Argh!

Just a 'backhand' of information gleaned from the pages of the English History of Ping Pong. Some sort of ping pong or table tennis has been in existence since the 1880s. It was first played among the upper classes in England. After dessert came a parlour game known as Whiff Whaff. It was played with books used as, batting golf balls across the dining room table. Later it was played with cigar box lids used as paddles and balls made from champagne corks. I'm pretty sure that even then no one would have played Whiff Whaff with me; I could have helped empty those bottles of champagne under the table.

The best part of those days around that big, green table was the conversations with relatives and friends. It was a gathering place of pure joy for you could not sit and eat at that ping pong table without laughing. My serve: Whiff Whaff.

Monday, September 18, 2017

As fur as you can go

Don't you just love family time. Those conversations with loved ones who shared your past. The little tidbits you share that jiggle loose memories you either had forgotten or occurrences of which you had no knowledge. Well, I just did some of that jiggling time with my sister June. You would think after all these many seventy years that we would have talked it all out. Hm. Maybe not.

The eggs cost under a dollar for a dozen back in the 50's. Now let's see. Total cost of raising them would include the cost of birds, feed, gravel, bedding, gathering eggs, washing eggs, packing eggs, cleaning out the hen house and putting up with the nasty creatures. Yet, Mom and Dad scrimped and saved every penny to feed and clothe their daughters.

I'm not sure of the cost of rabbits back then, but we raised them, fed them, cleaned the hutches and cuddled them as often as possible. As with the chickens (you never wanted to get attached), they were off to market as well.

Dad also raised cows, sheep and sometimes pigs at Granddad Loxely's farm. They required all the same only in larger amounts. The sheep offered wool to sell as well as an occasional lamb. The cows were given a reprieve if they were good breeders. Their calves were not so lucky. Food in the freezer and a little more money in the bank. Sometimes very little.

Crops varied year to year. The bank account grew or diminished as well. Some years we wore clothing longer even though they got shorter. In a good year we got something new. As with all things on the farm, a lot of money seemed to go into the various animals and crops with the return not so dependable. It was the way of farming. It was the way of raising a family.

Last week June and I got into a conversation about muskrats. I know, only farm kids would talk about muskrats, especially if you lived by a creek. Dad set out his trap and checked them each morning I thought that he was just trying to get rid of the critters. June informed me that he sold the furs; he checked the trees at night for raccoons. What!?!?!? I had never seen a dead muskrat with or without a pelt anywhere on the farm. It was indeed news to me. If Dad was lucky, he would get a fox. Well, this seemed to be a case of farm-underground. Who in the heck bought these pelts? Some hat maker back behind the Palace?! I envisioned a trapper I had seen on Daniel Boone. Then I tried to picture Dad as one of them. Nope, didn't work. I have no idea what the pelts were worth, but it was another effort to add cash to the cash box.

I am amazed at what I learn about my wonderful parents who gave every bit of their lives to their daughters. They suffered defeat. They struggled against health conditions and poverty. Yet, in all of this, they never lost their sense of kindness and pride in what little they did possess. I never had a beaver hat or a fur coat. But I lived a charmed life.  I had a bounty in my backyard and an even bigger one in the love of my parents. They built a life on hard work and small change. They certainly went as fur as they could go.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The only hope for the future

The smoke trailed up the slope like an old steam locomotive chugging through the trees, seeking higher ground. Then it was gone in a blanket of white. A blanket of smoke. As I flew off towards Indiana, I saw my beloved Columbia Gorge burn. A loss of the heart of my Oregon. A place that my grandchildren will never see in their lifetimes, in that beauty that was there for us to enjoy. Beautiful falls laid bare stripped of the thick forest that surrounded them. A place thirsty for rain that refuses to fall. Fish set free from fish farms way too young to meet the river but set free in an effort to save them. Animals frantically fleeing the raging flames. Environment attacked by foolishness. A kid with a firecracker.

A beautiful face comes to greet me. Once again I am united with my dear sister June in another place I call home. Her friends have become my own over the years. We share laughter, and we share tears. There is a bond that miles and time cannot erase. So to come here where there is worry and concern about homes and friends in Florida brings me to the center of frustration and worry. We were glued to the TV, hoping for word of Key West, Port Charlotte, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, St. Augustine and other parts of Florida that touch the lives of the people in my life. A storm large enough to engulf an entire state, to ravage it and leave it in shambles. Environment affected by the actions of humanity.

Yes, there are those who refuse to believe in global warming. Those who do not want to change their lifestyle, just because they like it and refuse to accept reality. It isn't false news. It is truth. We were given this earth to tend, to care for. We are given choice to support this globe or to destroy it. I believe that the true false gods are those who say, "there is no truth in global warming". The storms will be many and more intense as time passes. Our earth will be parched and fires will exhume the sticks left bare. Floods will erase communities and erosion will reclaim the beaches. There is no going back. I applaud those countries that are discontinuing gas-fueled cars. They are the first responders.

We can build walls. We can close our doors to outsiders. We can stand firm and be really ignorant. This is not an American problem. It is a problem we share with the entire world. If I need a country to run to, I certainly hope they will greet me with open arms. If there is a war here, I pray that someone comes to help us. If I am hungry, I hope I will be fed. We are not just Darke County or Angola, Indiana, or Beaverton, Oregon, or just America. We are all countries of the world who need to work together for the good of ALL. There is no you and me. There is only US. When we fail to recognize that, we kiss this earth and all inhabitants farewell.

You may not agree with me. There is no sacrifice in caring enough to change just in case you might be wrong. You just might give our children and grandchildren and every person on this earth a little bit longer to live.

The baby was lying there dying. He picked it up and returned it home. Its mother lay down the beach. Eight people, including a newscaster, picked her up carefully, taking the dolphin to the ocean from which she came battered and beaten. We care for each other no matter what the belief, the color, the  life form on this earth. We are the only hope for the future.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Unbridled kindness

You know, age does not make you ignorant. It might make you a little slower. It might make you feel you can no longer learn. Some things seem just too hard. But those thoughts all stem from fear of change or fear of failure. Now this has little to do with my column, but if you are afraid of computers, you are missing out on a wonderful part of your life and the lives of those who love you. I remember being in my 50's and afraid of a computer then someone explained to me that it was just like going through a file looking for a piece of paper. Instead of fear, I found adventure. This adventure took me to Facebook (FB),which is indeed a marvelous gift. Now....I think I'll continue my column.

I received a Facebook message from a friend I have never met. She is a Darke County girl so in essence we all know one another having met or not. Kim Morrison sent a personal message to me telling me that her mother had cleaned off my parents' gravestone. The Loxley girls all live away from Newcomer's Cemetery. We do not get back to care for the gravesite, yet here is a woman who knew my parents and honored their memory by cleaning the marker. I am deeply touched by such kindness.

A picture comes across on my FB messenger from Janet Rhoades. It is a picture of the creek. A picture that gets sent to my sisters so we can once more see our old neighborhood. A kindness from Janet who knows how deeply I love Neff Road and the people who have lived there. She is my lifeline to the news from home. She is my Neff Road 'sister'.

I get letters in the mail from readers and from my dear friend Geneva Lavy. I do not write by long hand any more due to arthritis in my thumbs. Yet I am blessed to hear from home. Kindness from those who care and remember. The emails I receive are kept in a special file, in a special place in my heart.

High school friends call or send a message. I see pictures of their families and share those of mine. Friendship continuing from the past. Kindness that comes in caring. Pictures and words that include me in their lives.

I got a message from Anita Miller who I have not seen since she was a child. She is Rev. Byron Miller's daughter. A minister who baptized me and who married us. Her home was like my own in my young years. She sends a FB message that thrills me, because she remembers me. I am humbled by her kindness.

Mom would have loved Facebook. She wrote letters, but she never had this chance to stay in touch with so many and to have that immediate contact with them. I know she would have sent words of support and concern. She would have been smiling at newborn baby pictures and couples in love. Yes, Mom would have championed this computer marvel.

For all of you who are my friends on Facebook, thank you. Thank you for your kind words and for sharing your lives with me. I treasure each and every post. I laugh with you. And, many times I cry with you. I know that your hearts are with me as well.  What an awesome experience to have so many people want to share their lives with you. Your kindness is overwhelming.

So for those of you who are determined not to learn something new, please rethink it. In learning to open new doors, we allow kindness, love and support to enter. Kindness is indeed unbridled.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Pluck, pluck, oops

Two little girls crouched down on the floor of the little chicken coop. Dad placed the big box down between them. The box vibrated with movement and sound. One by one the little girls poked the perforated holes out of the sides of the box. No sooner had the cardboard disc dropped that a little beak popped through the hole. Dad removed the lid and allowed his two little companions to remove the little fuzzy chicks.

"Mom and Dad left on vacation for a week, so I decided to bring some friends to the farm for my vacation as well," said June. It was a great plan except for one 'little' glitch. June and friends were responsible to take in the chickens to be permanently put to sleep (sounds much better than slaughtered). The girls loaded three crates containing ten birds in each into the back of the truck and headed to Greenville. The next day they picked up said birds who returned to the farm in an unlively state.

Now, thirty chickens are a lot of birds, so as ordered, some chickens were taken to Cousin Betty Johnson, a few to another neighbor and six to Lena Linder. Oops, Lena had just broken her arm and could not take the said lifeless fowl. June and friends ended up with twelve chickens to clean, cut up and then freeze.

The Loxley girls have never been known for their skills in the kitchen, since Mom never allowed us to cook or to help with food preparation. Of the three of us, June was the most inept in the ways of the kitchen and that of plucking and cutting up the creatures that once lived across the yard. Hence, with all the skills the three girls could muster, they plucked then cut up the chickens. (I'm sure Mom had never seen chickens cut in such a way as an art teacher might severe them.)

It was a good thing that those little girls who held those fuzzy little chicks in their hands, rubbing soft fuzz against their cheeks had no idea of the future of the chicks. It was rather like the rabbits we raised and took to town. Better not to know.

By the way, after June and her friends eliminated plucking chickens off the list, they were faced with wallpapering the master bedroom. Ah, sweet vacation.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Just nosing around

Sense of smell. Ah, I love the smell of summer flowers. The blooming magnolia, sweet roses, jasmine with its heady perfume. This nose that has gotten me into plenty of trouble in my lifetime is delighting in the essence of summer. The smell of the ocean or of rain on a breeze.

Of course, this nose picks up smells not always so pleasing. We farm kids know those well. But the smell of the fair with the mixture of horse, cow, pigs, waffles and people all blend into a nasal delight.

Funny thing about this nose, that appendage I can only see if I cross my eyes and look down. It seems to be very closely attached to that part of the brain that holds onto memory. Of course, the older I get, the more difficult it is to connect with things in that part of my brain. Memories should be cataloged as in a library so you can pull up information by quick reference. I find I get lost in the rows and rows of memories, trying to remember where I left my keys. But, getting back to the matter at hand, I often find that I do not need a reference to find something in that maze. Smell is enough.

I can smell a field of fresh cut hay in my sleep. That rich smell that reminds me of cows and tractors. Of bails tossed upon a wagon. Of hay tossed to my horse and the cows. Close your eyes. See, you can smell it, too. Once in awhile I can smell my dad. I guess that sounds funny, but Dad had that sweet smell of hay and grain that often followed him around. Sometimes it was Old Spice. Sometimes it was sweat and motor oil, cows and tractors.

I love hugging my family, taking in the scents of them. The twins are regularly insisting that I smell their little toes. I must say, they are smelly. I memorize all the smells of them. I add them to my brain library. I remember the smells of my dogs. That smell of puppy paws and a sleeping pup curled against me.

The sense of smell is truly a gift. It whets the appetite and helps us put on a few pounds. It draws us to beauty and warns us of fear and of fire. It gives us flashes of the past and captures memories for the future.

With eyes crossed, I just looked down at that nose of mine. It certainly looks different from the top than it does in a mirror. I'm wondering how I could write an entire column on that appendage. Then, I smile and remember the smell of baby lambs. Ah, sweet nose, I celebrate you today!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Zebra lines and candles

So I had a birthday. Yep, one more orbit, and I chalk up another line on the wall. By now, my wall looks like an overly-striped zebra. Well, I don't really have lines on the wall of my home. No, it is the wall in my mind that tracks all of my life events. Another birthday. Another line on the zebra.

The house was full of balloons, streamers and love. Emma and Nolan grabbed my hands and dragged me through the house, pointing out each and every bit of decoration. They rambled and giggled and could not wait for dessert and presents. I love that they were as excited for my birthday as they are for their own. I, myself, will be more excited for theirs. We can leave mine alone.

It is a year of significant birthdays in our family. I hit the seventy mark. Emma and Nolan will be five and off to kindergarten in the fall. My oldest granddaughter, Sydney, turned eighteen and is heading to college in the fall. Numbers that mark the turning of time. They mark the saying 'goodbye' and the welcoming 'hello'. Now at seventy, my life will change even more. Changes I embrace. (but that is another story) There is no need for candles on the cake, because the cake would be so riddled with little candle holes that it would be impossible to cut. Of course, there are little people just waiting to help blow out the candles. I prefer not to start a raging fire.

I sat looking through all of my old pictures. Looking for school pictures containing faces of my parents, their siblings and old friends.  Teachers, students all standing there with scowls on their faces. Lucy Fourman, John Rhoades, my aunts and uncles, faces of children I knew as adults now stared at me as children. I began to take it personally. Sorry, kids, I just don't know your names; however, I embrace this look back in time.

And, as it always happens with pictures, one search suddenly slows down with each of the memories that you hold in your hands. I wondered at the pictures we have of the events of this month. Pictures taken digitally. Who will take time to look at those? Who will lift each picture and look at the faces, the background, the memories of a time and a place? Will I have the pictures all tagged? Will anyone waaay down the line even come across a picture of me? In these pictures, I hold my history. I hold all the birthdays of everyone in this trunk of pictures. I celebrate their lives with every touch. I embrace their birth days.

Yes, another orbit has begun. A sort of starting over point where I get to gather new memories and maybe even learn a few more things. The zebra got a little longer this year. Here's to the celebration of living!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Our three dads

Father's Day retrospective.

When my little granddaughter was about two, I had gotten her a darling little bracelet with pearls and tiny hearts. A little girl charm hung off the side. She held the bracelet in her hand then placed it on the deck. In an instant the little bracelet fell through a crack. We could not get it out. The boards were close and there was no access beneath the deck. Well, that was three years ago. Last week Emma and I searched between the boards looking for the lost treasure. We found it. It laid there covered in a bit of mud.

Three fathers were celebrated. My daughter-in-law cooked a wonderful brunch where Emma brought up the fact that her bracelet was beneath the deck. Of course, everyone had to check it out. Three fathers. My son, his father-in-law Joe and my guy Loren. Three fathers vying to look through the crack at the lost bracelet. Three fathers working together showing the twins that we are family.

The bracelet was retrieved. Emma and I scrubbed and soaped the found trinket. The mud washed away and the shine returned a little scratched but still coming back to life. Three fathers. Three who truly represent the best of that word Father. Three men who would go to any length to serve this family well.

As a child, I failed to understand the times when my dad was furious with me. It was usually because he was afraid for me.  He didn't seem to mind too much that I wasn't a boy. He allowed me to always tag along and took time to show me the little things that I just might have missed. Dad.

I had dads on Neff Road who would have done anything for me at a moments notice. Hollie Stager, Victor Lavy, Carl Bucholtz, Warren Wert, Uncle Keith Loxley, Raymond Linder, Gene Johnson, Cyril Welbaum. Fathers who watched over the children on Neff Road. We didn't notice then but are so blessed to understand and embrace now. Dads.

Three men became heroes today. Perhaps for Emma but truly for me. Our three Dads.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

A day for Dad

Yep, Mom's Day has come and gone. Father's Day is on the horizon. Neither of these days were celebrated back the lane on Neff Road. It wasn't that we didn't like our parents. In all seriousness, as children we were oblivious to their existence. My feeling is that perhaps my mother thought the days to be expressing pride. She was so against being prideful that we girls didn't know what it was like to have pride. I think she overshot her target.

As adults we realized the importance of our parents and gladly celebrated them. So today this article is for them and all the years we did not or could not celebrate. Well, really it is for my late father since it is his day on Sunday.

In asking June about the reasons we did not have these days in our childhood, she suggested that perhaps Hallmark had not yet come up with this marketing idea. Of course, nudge me a little and I am on the trail seeking the dawn of Father's Day.

Hallmark did not come up with this money-making card day. In fact, it had a difficult time getting started. There were several failed attempts ranging from one fellow trying to make his birthday Father's Day to a celebration for the families of the men killed in a mining disaster. However, the current Father's Day took hold in my beloved Northwest. A Spokane woman named Sonora Dodd who was raised by a widower wanted to establish a day for male parents. She visited churches, the YMCA, store owners and those in government to get support for her Father's Day. She succeeded and June 19, 1910, the state of Washington celebrated the first statewide Dad's Day. 

But here is the reason we probably did not celebrate Father's Day when I was growing up. In 1966 President Johnson issued the first proclamation honoring fathers on the third Sunday in June as Father's Day. In 1972 President Nixon signed Father's Day into law as a permanent national holiday.

Sorry, Dad. We certainly missed many years of celebrating you. We had the Father/Son celebration at church. But seeing that we were daughters, he missed out again. In fact, I don't think parents should be singled out to celebrate with the child of the same sex. A parent/child celebration of family would have been more inclusive. The Daddy/Daughter dances out here have turned into Family Dance. A celebration not divided by sex but a celebration of what family means.

Hallmark and other card companies love that we have so many singled-out celebrations. I see people dashing for cards, grabbing and running with the first card they pick out. Often I tell them to write a note to the person instead. Don't let Hallmark do the work for you. Indeed it will mean more as time passes.

Oh, well. Dad, I love you. I was your shadow and you relished the time we spent together. I sat at the table often with the men in our family fascinated by the conversations of farm and old stories of the past. Other fathers raised me as well. Hollie Stager and Victor Lavy were men who influenced this person. They loved me and embraced me as one of their own. Fathers be active in the lives of your family. It is your legacy and our blessing.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

She stood tall

She stood tall. She nurtured our family and gave us a serenity that I think we failed to notice at the time. She lived a good life before she fell. She was the old mulberry tree that grew in the circle of grass that held the memories of our family. She was my friend.

It is difficult to remember when I first became aware of that old tree. The thick trunk supported the long branches that shaded the grass. Dad tied a swing to one of the branches on the west side of the tree. A rope and a board. A place where little toddlers pushed off with chubby legs and big sisters pushed them when they were a bit older. The leaves provided a canopy that became a place for dress up and make believe weddings. Oh, how I loved that tree.

Old pictures cover decades of family activity. An old picture of my uncle, grandfather and dad playing croquet beneath that old tree. Their old cars parked beneath to keep them cool on a hot summer day. The tree in the background of a picture of my mother and my aunt astride horses. A new barn being built, looking at the old tree which was looking back and welcoming it to the farm. An old tree. A tree we took for granted.

There wasn't a day that the old tree didn't participate in my life. All of our special pictures were taken beneath that tree. We swung on a trapeze that hung on the east side of the tree. We picnicked beneath its shade, and younger generations would pick up the mallets and continue the game playing as the tree stood by.

Sometimes we don't miss something until it is gone. Dad eventually chopped down that sweet tree. Limbs were falling from its weary trunk. After it had fallen, the barnyard seemed bare. A friend, a playmate, a family member had left us. No longer would a small child pick the empty shells of the locust from its bark. No longer would the shade draw us to the yard. A friend had left us.

Perhaps the poetic side of me saw that tree as more than wood and leaves. It was a living, breathing tree that grew new branches as our family grew older years. It was as much a part of our childhoods as were the members of our family. We mourned when the old tree died. We were conservators of the land and had to terminate a dear life.

Trees, flowers, creeks and ponds, fields of grain, dung beetles, barn owls. All of them and more were a richness in my life. Then I appreciated them. Now I know the importance of them. She stood tall. She nurtured our family and gave us serenity. And, in her passing, she remained in my heart.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Till the cows come home

sook (definition)
  1. A call for calves. (Scotland) 
  2. A call for cattle. (U.S. Dialectal)
  3. A call for cattle or sheep. (Newfoundland)
"Sook, sook, sook". Dad stood in the barnyard calling the cows home.

If you are a farm kid, you knew the sounds of calling the animals to the barn. "Soooooey, soooey", pigs came in. "Shooopeee, shooopeee", sheep found their way to the barn. Farmers all over the world had their own way of calling the animals home.

Dad called the cows, Cyril called the pigs, and I called the dog and cat. Pretty easy to tell what was being called by the sounds used to call the critters. I decided to do some research on calling cows. What I found was that the roots of calling the cows began with sounds similar to yodeling in the Scandinavian countries. When Dad called, it was more like a melody.

In St. Gallen City in Switzerland cows are called by "Ho-ah" repeated in varying pitches. Other areas pronounced it as "Hoyah, Hooyah, or Hooah". Rather like various parts of our country pronounce certain words in different ways. In parts of Norway, herd calling is called kulning. It is indeed similar to yodeling and developed for long-distance sounds that bounce off the mountainsides and echo through the valleys.

Now we cross the ocean. "Bossy" seems to be a common call. Boss is from the eighteenth century and was sometimes pronounced as buss or buss-calf, a name given to an unweaned calf. One theory is that bossy could have come from Latin bos for an ox or cow. Words came over with our immigrant ancestors.

I ran across one lady in my online search who was from West Virginia. Their call was "Come Bossie, come boss". Another was "CuBoooosss! Hup!" Hup!" In Michigan, a call was "Kubas kubas, hup hup" thought to be from Dutch heritage. Another from North Carolina was "waaarden-waaarden um-bashay!"

I loved researching this topic. I found recalled memories from farm kids who grew up with those calls echoing across the fields. We all seemed to have the same thought, "If only I could hear it one more time."

"Sook, sook, sook". Just one more time, Dad. Just one more time.

Monday, May 8, 2017

All my moms

Looking into her face, I said, "Who are you? I don't believe I know you." She didn't answer. Hm.This might take some time. After all, I had known her for months.

The woman waited. She knew I would come, and she waited. On visits home, I could not go by her driveway without stopping. I needed one of her hugs. She watched over me and cared. I loved her more than she knew. Her name was Doris Lavy.

Her laugh brought a smile to my face. Her tears welcomed me into her arms. There were probably more childhood days at her house than at my own. Time with her was priceless and gave me precious memories. Her name was Margaret Stager.

She sat by my bed after my surgery. There was no book in her hand. Her attention was solely on this young woman who was still out of it. She took me into the family with loving arms, and beat the socks off of me at Rum. Her name was Anna Drake.

The names are many. Alma Hollinger, Alma Lea Gilbert, Pauline Aukerman, Betty Johnson, Leah Rhoades, Freeda Anderson, Kate Loxley, Bess Fisher, June Deardorff, Welma Johnson,  Lena Linder, Peggy Graham, Jennie Miller, Susie Miller. Just a few of the many women who helped me through my lifetime. Each hold a place in my heart.

Moms. Those who birth us. Those who watch over us. Those who are part of our lives, so much so that we fail to notice. Then one day we are older and remember with deeper feelings.

She placed a cool hand on my head when I was ill. She made me laugh and sometimes angry. She taught me to love and to care about other people. She held me in her arms when I came to visit. She thought of me every day. She was my mother. Her name was Ruth Loxley.

Moms. They come in all shapes and sizes. They come to us through birth and sometimes through adoption or marriage. They come to us in the form of neighbors and church ladies. They even sometimes come as a dad in the role of a mom. Maybe even a grandma. All of us who are moms and have had that wonderful love given to us know how important it is spread that love around. Mom power.

So who was this familiar face before me? I had her beating on the inside of my body for nine months with a foot in my ribs most of the time. She didn't look like that baby I imagined. She had coal-black hair and lots of it. She was so tiny, and her face turned red when she cried. No matter how we come into a family. There is a time of getting acquainted. I got to know this little girl. Her name is Stacey. When her brother was born, I asked the same question as I tried to acquaint myself with this little guy. After I waited that nine months for another dark haired baby, I was given little blond. Oh, well, never know.

Mother's Day. A day to remember. A day to honor those women who in one way or another created the you that you are today. Those wonderful ladies who hold our hearts. I have lost many of those dear people. I treasure those who I can still hug and love. Happy Mother's Day to you who touch the lives of others. Thank you, to the women who touched mine. Mothers' Day.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Cardboard binoculars

They stood at the window, looking at me through their cardboard binoculars. I laughed as I escaped their view. A sweet vision in the rearview mirror.

Dad knew all the birds and their sounds. He could reply to any bird answering their call gliding on the air. The whistle of a robin. The trill of a sparrow. The call of a mockingbird. It was difficult to tell the difference in the sounds between my father and the feathered friend. Perhaps I could call them two birds of a feather. They were indeed nature in song.

Whenever Dad saw a bird, he would immediately point it out. We would watch the bird until it flew away. I would get a lesson on the type of bird, its nest and other characteristics. He would call to the red-winged blackbird as soon as I spotted one. I delighted each time it answered back.

The preschoolers along with their parents hiked through the Cooper Mountain Nature Park. The trails meander over the mountain and through the woods. The warning signs about mountain lions were not alarming. Rarely would one come so close to town. When the children finished their field trip, they became Junior Rangers. Each child made a vest out of a paper grocery sack decorated with feathers and other pieces of nature. They made binoculars out of paper towel rolls. This preschool based on learning about our environment had done its job. In fact their mom informed me that they use the binoculars outside to look at birds then look them up in the bird book. A little imagination goes a long way in learning.

For my grandchildren and all the children in the world, we need to do what we can to preserve the environment for these birds. We just returned from a trek through our forests seeing all of the clear cuts. Forests chopped down. Barren hills. Mud slides. Nature turned upside down. It happens in all parts of the world. I want better for my family.

 Four little eyes spied on me as I drove away from their house. Little pieces of cardboard and a child's imagination. Children believing that they can see clearly. I will do my best to be sure they always do even through cardboard binoculars.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Happy toe wiggling

Anticipation began to build. It was spring. The Easter mark had passed, and Mother's Day would be next. My feet were aching to be free.

Spring was always special on the farm. Sheep were sheared. Lambs born. Chickens embraced the weather, clucking with more gusto than usual, and the cows seemed to moo at just about anything. Spring was a time of preparation. As with the creatures in our backyard, Dad was busy in the barn getting his equipment field-ready and plowing the garden. Mom had emptied the freezer and canned goodies in the fruit room, filling her daughters with the end of the year remains. She was making room for the new season of food. We prepared for the bounty of our land with the labor of our hands.

So all was well at home, but at school we wiggled in our seats each time the sun came out. Teachers fought a good fight, trying to keep our attention away from those wonderful, big windows in Franklin School. We dashed to the monkey bars and waited for a turn on the swings. Balls and bats littered the field and jump ropes spun around and around. Summer was around the corner.

For the seniors, we anticipated freedom at last. We began to see the present in that rear view mirror.  It was then we realized the leaving. Boys would be going to war and girls to work. Some would go to college, and some would serve humanity. The going was becoming bittersweet. Spring. A time of growing up.

I remember the summer kitchen airing out in preparation for the summer baking and canning activity. I always hoped that mice who wintered there might go to their summer retreats far from the house. It was a time of removing the feather downs and flannel sheets. A time Sunday drives and visiting friends.

There were more trips down the lane to the bridge. More time visiting neighbors who sat outside, waiting for a little girl to pass by. The kids on Neff Road got off the bus at the corner of Byreley and Neff Roads. No longer did we ride that long trip home. Instead we skipped, hopped and meandered our way down the road.

My feet ached to feel that summer grass between my toes. I wanted to get started on toughening them up for the gravel I would one day race across. The freedom of my toes signaled the freedom from school.  And, now, my toes still ache. They ache for the grass back the lane, the lambs in the pasture, Brenda and I sitting on the gate, watching the world pass by and most of all, for those lovely days of childhood. Toe wiggling at its best.