Monday, May 27, 2019

When the last bell rings

Painter Creek Ohio, December 24, 1891 Dear Mettie, (my grandma Johnson) your album is a garden spot for all your friends to sow. I'll plant a small "Forget me not" and see if it will grow. Compliments and best wishes, Lucinda Swinger.

Old tattered pages once held and read over and over by a teenager. Cherished friends in a time of one room schools and horses to ride. A time when the school bell told children to get a move on it.

The old school bell. What a history. In the Native American areas where they lived in tepees and children on prairies, a bell was rung to awaken them. The next bell was to call them to school. The teacher stood on the stoop and watched her many ages of children come from all directions. A bell ringing out hope.

There are many things we take for granted in our growing up. Of course, when my grandmother and even my parents were young, life was hard and simple. That bell at the school or the one in the church called out for many reasons. A death, a birth, bad weather, a friend in need. The bell called to worship, to school and to alarm.

I was given an old, heavy, school bell years ago. Somewhere along the way, I passed it on. I wonder about that old bell. I know it came from the Chicago area. It would be too loud to ring here in suburbia; however, I'd give anything to ring it again. In my mind I see a flurry of children bringing in kindling and pulling buckets of water from the well. Children wearing high top shoes, many too small, and most handed down. Girls with braids and boys in hats. The old bell rang, and they came.

School is almost over. Shoes will be tossed aside and crops will tended. Other children will go to camps and go traveling. They are all the same. They race through their childhoods without a care. We see the time race with the ringing of that bell. Another year gone never to return.

When did the last bell ring? What was the last school to remove the bell, the building. Did the children rush to the new school forgetting about that old bell? New replaced old. Many things were lost in this surge forward to modernization and change.

I love these old albums from my mother and grandmother. I hear the ringing of that school bell and know they giggled and laughed writing in classmates' books. The pages were new. Now they are fragile. The bell rang and time passed.

March 7, 1928 F.H.S.
Dear Ruth, When you get old, don't marry a fool. Marry somebody from Franklin School. Freeda Helman

When the last bell rings.

Monday, May 13, 2019

A full life

"Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude." - A.A. Milne

The door opened and Mary Kay (Snider) walked in. We had not seen one another since we were teens. Growing up at Painter Creek Church together, we were tied by friendship and the heart. She was so brave mastering three-day camp at Sugar Grove while I went home homesick on the first day. Now in our 70's we embraced in tears and still held that love.

What makes the years disappear and the heart swell with love? After going 'home', I found my love had grown for those people I met once more. Their generosity of spirit and kindness to an old kid who left the area in 1971 reminded me that I never left home. As to that man I brought along with me, he was embraced as one of their own. He was overwhelmed with the open arms that greeted him. Yes, he found 'home' as well.

As a writer and as an old native, you wonder if anyone reads your writing (and wonder why they would). You just take a brain full of words with a heart that loves her roots and writing is just something you do. But you took my words in and cherished them. I am humbled. Classmates, neighbors, readers, people I have known and those I did not came to embrace June, Loren and me. You take me to my knees, dear people. Your wonderful faces lifted me up and make me want to do better for you. There was not enough time. Never enough time.

I missed those who are now gone. We shed tears remembering. Loren wanted to meet everyone from my past and see everything about which I have written. "Can we come back next year?" he asked. Oh, yes. Please know that we relived every moment of having you with us. On Saturday we spent time with Carol, Bob, Sue, Martha, Shirley, Ron and Kay, Marilyn and Barbara, Linda, Miriam and Clarence, Doris and John, Ed, John, Jeanette and Jim, Barbara, Chester, Fred and Joice, Janet, Nita, George and JoAnn know that your lovely faces are embedded in my heart. I look forward to seeing you again only over a much longer time. Four hours was not enough. For those who could not make it to the meet and greet, let's try again soon.

"It sounds like we will be coming back for the fair," Loren said. "I was also told that I need to go to it and need to eat a Maid Rite." Thank you for making him so welcomed.

"Gratitude unlocks the fulness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." - Melody Beattie

We headed back to Angola with thoughts of you whirling around in our heads and Maid Rites on our lips. Thank you, my friends. Thank you.

Monday, May 6, 2019

The beginning and the end

Here I sit once more with a page waiting for words. I wish Emma were here to tell me how to sort through my thoughts, for you see, my heart is overflowing. So much I want to say and trying to say it in words doesn't even begin to capture how much I love the people I have seen in the last three days. Perhaps this will take a couple of columns.

So, I will start at the end. Yesterday June, Loren and I visited my dear, childhood friend Vivian (Force) and her beautiful daughters Melissa and Monica. A lot of tears have been shed and many prayers sent up asking that God give Viv to us longer for we are not done with her. We laughed at all the things we did when little girls. Years of nightly phone calls and so many sleepovers that I can't count them all. "I remember your dad coming over to pick me up when we had a big snow storm. My dad called yours telling him I wanted to come over and play." Well, Dad did pick her up, and she rode on the snowplow. There was not enough time to hold all the love we have for one another in that special hour. So I will take it home and cherish it. "My mom always said that you are as good as anyone but not better." Yes, this is the family I grew up being part of.

Saturday night we enjoyed time at the Bistro with my neighbor and other 'sister' Carol (Stager) DeMaio and her son David. Time with the Stager family was always time with my own family.

On Saturday one by one people came to the meet and greet. I wish I had an entire weekend to talk to each and learn about their connections to my family. Time to spend with old friends...and new. I still feel the warmth of those loving hearts. Memories swirled around June and I. We both were (and are) better people knowing that Neff Road is not forgotten. There will be more to come on this.

Saturday morning was spent on Neff Road. Neff Road. It isn't just a road; it is my other parent. First stop is always with Don and Janet Rhoades. Best welcoming station I know. They sent us on our special trip around the block. We stopped next to visit Janet and Rob Douglas where we were welcomed with open arms and fresh hot bread. Then we went on to visit Geneva and Roy Yoder who live where my mom's parents lived. Next stop was the farm. It has changed and is no longer ours. Loren had heard so much about Neff Road, and it didn't disappoint.

Friday we had lunch with my cousins. Alma Lea Gilbert and Ron and Angie Dapore spent a long visit with us. We had seen my Alma Lea's other daughter Kathy in Marathon, Florida. Family is so special and keeping the generations together is an honor to those who passed before. These people are a big reason why I come home.

So we are at the beginning and the end. We leave Angola for Oregon on Thursday. Time will be spent here with family. My son informed us it will be 88 when we get back. We began this trip in Key West in summer clothing and will return to the same. The most difficult thing of any trip is saying good-bye. For all of you who have so warmly embraced us, we will miss you and wish we had more time. Your kindness and open arms will remain in our hearts.

We left with a Maid Rite on our lips and a promise to return some year for the fair. Thanks, dear friend.