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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Moving Day: or I was moved...

Treats for the worker bees.

Last weekend my eldest daughter, the married one, was moving to a new location. For several weeks prior, while her husband was attending school or working, my two girls worked together packing up the apartment. It is amazing what one accumulates, in not quite a year. (She will be married one year the middle of May.)

Cameo appearence of my eldest son.
From my perspective, it was lovely to see how these sisters have grown close and now work together so well. As with all siblings, there are many opportunities for growth. Delightfully for me, and for them, a true friendship has developed. (I was not always sure this was going to be the case...)
When moving day arrived, so did a whole posse of helpers. Friends, cousins, both sets of parents, and all of the siblings of my daugher and her husband.  Many hands make light work.

Some hand-me-down- end tables,
that have now served several generations.
All of the moves that I have had to make in my life have transpired this way. With friends and family showing up:  packing boxes, moving furniture, washing walls, bringing food, cleaning, all the while encouraging and supporting the endeavor.

My daughter's chair,
I really wish it were mine...
These communal work days are what bring us closer. It is where all of the stories come from, when we catch up on  of each other's lives and see the solid results of what love looks like. For what but love could make us clean out someone else's kitchen drawers?  To me it seems like a group hug, without ever touching.

I have never experienced a move that was accomplished by professional movers. Don't get me wrong, I am sure they do a very fine job, but it could never be better than the joy of knowing we are all in it together.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Overheard at the Track

Not the track I go to, but very similar.

Everyday when I am racing around the indoor track, I can't help but notice some of the others that also avail themselves of this facility.

There are the young mothers with baby in sling, walking through fatigue and baby weight gain, the high school girls, who move in a pack, other middle age women, trying to keep their bodies healthy, and this one elderly couple, holding hands..

These are not "my" elderly couple,
but I did not think I should take their photo.

Each time I see the "elderly couple" I am struck by the man's gentle guiding of his wife. It appears she has some sort of dementia. Sometimes as they walk along, she steps outside of the painted boundary of "their" lane.

I over hear him say: "Now dear, watch out for the line" as he tugs on her hand. She looks over at him, surprised to see her hand connect to anyone.  The expression in her eyes is one of quizzical wonder, as she stumbles back inside the lines.

I navigate around them in the passing lane and over hear him saying "So nice to walk, isn't dear? So good for us, don't you think? "

I don't hear her respond, but notice he is holding prayer beads in his free hand, and grips both the beads and his wife's hand, tightly.

As I pass them, I get a bird's eye view of their faces, his intent, her's far away. I also get to hear their conversation, or I should say, his conversation, as his wife doesn't seem to be saying anything.

Who knows, maybe she has used all of her words for the day, something my husband often has said to me: "Naomi, I just don't have any words left today."  Or maybe she has nothing to say or maybe she no longer speaks, I really just don't  know.

What I do know is: marriage when it endures, gives us the opportunity to suffer long, and still be kind.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

"Those Days"

I do not have one like this.

Today started when I slowly warmed up to the idea of opening my eyes. I kept them closed with the hope that it was not really morning. As I rolled over towards my husband and squinted my eyes ( my clock had died many moons ago) to see if I was:  late? preemptive? or... beyond late.

Luckily for me, I was preemptive  I rolled back over towards my night table, took a sip of water, considered my next move and contemplated all that was ahead of me in this day that was on the verge of commencing.

1. Meet friend to chase myself around the track
2. Bumble through the household tasks (which in the spirit of full disclosure, did not get accomplished)
3. Learn a new software program
4. Still learn new software program
5. Walk dog. (Otherwise, Clementine will most certainly expire)
Hard to get up some days.
6. Make a million phone calls
7. Leave a million voice mails.

As I pulled myself out of my bed, my spouse caught my hand. I looked over at him and heard through the sheets: "Hug?"

How could I resist?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

12 things I have learned

Edith, our late Hedgehog,
which has nothing to do with anything.

As has been noted in previous posts on this blog, I do have four children, well, actually, they are now young adults.

All of them have shaped me just as much as I have shaped them. When I look at them, I realize that I was much younger then they are now, when I gave birth to this bunch.  This amazes me.  I felt so old, so wise,  when they were born,  looking at them today, they seem like the fountain of youth.

The things I have learned from being their parent:

1. Actions really do speak louder than words. (Much louder.)
2. When all else fails, laugh, it will relieve the stress and it makes the mess easier to deal with. (Think white rabbit with red tempera paint, really.)
3. One story at nap/bedtime is never enough. (Neither is two)
4. Children "do" what they know, not what other's think they should know.
5. There are never enough hugs, ever.
One way or another we are always
 on our knees with children.
6. Forgiveness is the key to it all. (On both sides of the question, even if your sister took your Legos)

The things I did not expect to learn from being a parent:

1. I did not realize that I would need them as much as they need me.
2. That my husband is as much a part of them as I am. (I know, it sounds dumb, but there you are.)
3. Teaching them, would really be, teaching myself.
4. That seeing them go off to college would delight and terrify me, simultaneously.
5. That "their successes" would mean so much more to me than "my successes".
6. Forgiveness is the key to it all  (On both sides.)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Learning new things

ARGH! Always so much to learn!
Tonight, my spouse, kindly gave me lessons in how to use a new software package for my computer.  This does not seem like much, but in reality is it everything.

I have to admit, I have not always been an eager student. I just want the "thing" to work and why doesn't it?
We have been married almost thirty-five years and for many of those years (really all of those years) he has been trying to teach me new things about technology. As this is his profession, and he is the "difficult person whisperer" at his job, one might think it is easy for those of us at home to learn from him.

Balm of Gilead in the literal sense.
I have come to appreciate his knowledge on computers, plumbing (his father was a plumber and he learned a lot from him), his innate ability to take people as he finds them, and still help them.  His sense of humor has certainly been the balm of Gilead on many occasions when all appeared to be lost.

Upon reflection, I realize that he has been teaching me so much more than how to use my computer these years together. He has been leading by example for decades.

He does this silently and without a fuss everyday:

1. Cheerfully get up every morning
2. Patiently add tasks (I have given him) to his list of things to be accomplished before leaving home
    a. taking out trash
    b. settling arguments with children
    c. giving me pep talks on said children
3. Treats staff fairly and pleasantly while helping them
4. Listen to "users" concerns about new software
   a. sooth "users"
   b. assure staff and "users" alike that they can ---whatever
5. Takes my SOS phone calls throughout day
6. Comes home and while closing the door on the garage, opens his heart to his home, leaving work behind

I would not want to give the impression that he is perfect, as that might attract other "buyers", so to speak, and although we have not been without challenges in our married life, he most certainly is: perfect for me.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Breakfast Poem

Barney Levitt
Burnt Toast and Weak Tea
oil on canvas
14 x

Joy in the morning:

Careful conversations
While navigating
Overeasy eggs,
Tea & toast.

Burnt Toast
Burnt Feelings
Both spread
With preserves.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Rain and Hail and Dinner

It really did look something like this, brrrr!
Tonight I walked through rain, hail and blowing winds to meet my oldest son at his work. I happened to be in the city and he happened to be free so we joined forces against the foul weather for dinner.

This was a delightful treat for me.

When one gives birth to a baby, one expects them to grow up and eventually become self sufficient.  It is a wonderful thing to see one's progeny take wing and become an adult. Though I do not think we parents are ever really prepared for how much we will miss them.

It really was very delicious!
We had a delightful dinner of Lou Malnati's pizza, my son's favorite, while my umbrella, and bag dripped enough water to form a small lake under my chair at the restaurant.  The food was hot and the environment was dry, and we were warmed by each other's company.

As we walked against the wind, through the rain to the train station for home, I was overwhelmed with happiness.

We rode the train home together, laughing at all of the same things, and arguing about the things we remembered differently, though we were both present when they occurred, it was then, I realized: we had grown up together, mother and son.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Stories: ---of others

Dorothy Allison, Terrific author.
"The thing I'm telling you is true, but it did not always happen to me."
Dorothy Allison

In my life, I have met many, many people, you probably have too. Everyone of them has had a story. I have always found these stories fascinating to listen to. Some are terribly sad, some are terribly happy, but over all, through them, I gain a greater understanding of the human condition.

They are not my story, and frankly, I am glad most of them are not my story.

Every opportunity I am blessed with, I listen. I listen to what others have lived through, and how they have survived or in some cases, maybe have not. It feels to me like I am hearing an audio book with the narrator live in front of me.

One of the best I ever heard was from a driver my husband had while we were traveling abroad. The driver was from an African country and was a "causal worker" where we were visiting. After he completed his stay, he was headed back to his home, wife and four children.

Of course, I do not have a picture of his car,
but it was kind of like this one.
Because we spent a lot of time in the car with him, through conversation we ended up talking about his children. He asked me about my four children and I asked him about his. He told me their names, and he particularly noted that there were  alphabetical.

 I jokingly asked: "are you planning to have twenty-six children?"
His reply: "Why, yes."
Me: "You and how many wives?" (as a joke)
Him: "Most likely I will have four wives, that is what my father has, so do my brothers."

I am fascinated at this point. I just have to know, how does this work?  I ignore the raised eyebrows of my spouse and ask the burning question.

"Okay, do you have to ask your current wife's permission?"

Him: "Yes, but only for the second wife, after that, you can do what you want." (very mater of factually.)
Me: "How do you get her to agree?"
Him: " You figure out what she wants and you withhold it, when she wants it so much, she will give in. Like a house or a car or whatever it takes. I myself, am the first son of the third wife. I will take care to make them all happy."

The rest of our time together was much more mundane, though I frequently thought as he drove me around, how different his life and expectations were from mine.

I also hoped, my husband would not take a page from this man's book.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Poetry Contest

I have a flower pot of these
by my front door.
Which has nothing to do with
 this post, what so ever.

In a previous post, I wrote about writing for contest and all of the related results.

Well, I had submitted a poem for a contest in March. Have not heard back. Drat!

It was suppose to be a poem having something to do with romantic love. I am glad they stipulated.

Anyway, I thought I would share the poem I submitted with the readers of this blog. As I am pretty sure, because I have heard nothing to the contrary, I was not selected.

Here you go:

In The Future

I am not in love.
Or at least--
Not right now.

May bring me--
The you
I am going to fall
In love

I can hardly wait:
Skipping heart beats
Warm flushes
Soaring happiness,

That lead to:
Comfortable moments,
Steadying arms,
And arguments that
Can be solved.

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Face in the Crowd

This etching by Larry Welo hangs in my kitchen. Tittle: A Face in the Crowd
 (click here to go to his site)

I purchased this etching in 1991 from a gallery in Chicago. When I first saw this piece of art, I fell in love. Not the kind of love I fell into when I met my husband, but still a kind of love. 

My friend Marilyn and I had gone out to dinner at our favorite spot (Penny's Noodle Shop) and afterward we stopped into a gallery. From the minute I saw it, I looked no further.  I asked the gallery owner about the artist, he did not know much. On the urging of my friend, I asked the owner to set it aside for me.

I drove home from the city that night, thinking about this etching. It was not what I "saw" per say, it was what I felt.  

I could feel the dry summer wind rolling over my face in the heat of the day. I could hear my grandmother calling (as this house reminded me of her's) to come in for lunch. It was not so much an image as it was a place in the timeline of my life. 

We were not a family that bought art, even though I had been an art major in college. I often went to openings at galleries, supported friends and their art shows with my presences and was always interested to see what was going on in the at world at large.  

As I drove home, in my head I was building my case to present to my spouse about why we should purchase this work. I had, literally, nothing in my favor. We had  been facing a difficult economic time, and we had both resolved to be extremely judicious on how and where we would spend money in the next few months. 

So, I said exactly, nothing. But, I thought: everything. Everything about that image. 

The gallery owner called me a few days later. I still had not said anything to my husband. The owner asked me if he could deliver it next week, as he was going to be near our home. 
"Yes" came out of my mouth so quickly, I could have sworn someone else said it. 

The days between me saying yes, and the day it was to arrive, were painful for me. Between all of the conversations going on in my head over this etching, I had no words  left to communicate, what would be a new addition to our home.

The day the picture was to arrive, we had guests over for a cookout, and not wanting an awkward situation for our guests, I pulled my husband into our bedroom and said: "I need to tell you something. Don't you just love those people that choose beauty over practicality? You know, the old feeding your soul as well as your body?"

His response was everything to me: "Yes, I really do admire them."
At that, I poured out my longing, shame (for not saying anything sooner) and desire for this etching. I think he was so caught off guard, as I had never done anything like this previously, he just patted my back. ( I had thrown my self at his chest and was relaying all of this through tears) 
He said: "It is okay, somehow we will work it out. Just tell me next time, okay? We are in this together."

So now, when I look at this picture each morning, I am not only reminded of the warm summer days of my childhood at grandma's house, I am reminded of the love from my husband, on that one summer day, in my own house.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Silenced with a Glance

Reminds me of summers with my grandparents.

When I was a child, I would visit my grandparents for a week in the summer, all by myself. This does not sound like much on the surface, but coming from a large pack of children, it was indeed a unique opportunity. Finally, two adults, to oneself. This almost never happened in my childhood home. Except, perhaps for my oldest brother. I wonder if he remembers?

Anyway, it was about this time of the year, we would all start to "draw straws" if you will, to see what week each of us would go. We would look forward to our time and I for one, packed and un-packed my suit case for many weeks, long before i was to leave.

This is exactly what the record player looked like

When I was really young, I would just close up the portable record player, sometimes even remembering to tuck in the cord  before "buckling up" the lid. (Sorry about that guys, probably was why it shorted out, looking back in hindsight) I would drag around the record player, all the while pretending, I was leaving soon. Riding the train to grandma's in my mind, it must have driven my mother crazy.

This is what the train looked like
My mother would put me on the train, all by myself, with a real suitcase,  age nine or ten, to my grandparents'  home in Wisconsin. Not that far over the state line, but still, far enough to finish a short book.  She would engage the conductor in conversation and say: "Watch out for her, will you?"  The conductor would nod, touch his cap and give me a look, which even I knew meant: No funny business.

I would ride that train, reading what ever book I was engrossed  in at the time, hardly noticing  trees, houses or other stops as we made our way north.*

In those days, the train was quiet. No cell phones, no one talking, or making any noise, it was as if there was some sort of code. Everyone it knew and complied. I felt safe and comfortable with completed confidence that the conductor would make sure I got off at the right stop and my suitcase would be taken down off the rack and all would be well.

(I must add here, that having four children of my own, I would never have dreamed of sending them alone, but it was a different time and seemed  not atypical for the day.)
Maybe it was this man when he was younger
 that looked out for me that day.

Then it happened. The train made one of it's usual stops, and into my car (as I thought of it) some young boys entered and sat near me. Now, boys in general, did not alarm me as I have five brothers of my own. I  knew, keep your head down, and they will leave you alone.

Not this time.

I must have looked like an easy target or they were just bored, either way, I could feel that all was not well. Their stage whispering and pointed  remarks, while looking my way, were the warm up, when they started to move in for the kill (my usual technique of silence, as a comment,not working), the conductor slid open the doors of the train car.

And then, something that I am not sure happens anymore, occurred:  he silenced those boys...with a glance.

* The rest of the trip was completed without incident. My darling grandparents, were waiting to receive  me,  the conductor handed me, and the suitcase, over to them.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Cold Calls or I love my life

Cold calls, a very icy job.

Cold calls are really hard to do. Except when they are not. Which of course, makes no sense at all, unless you also have had to make cold calls.

What seems so easy in my head, does not always seem so easy in reality. I am sure this has been the case, for,O say, millions upon millions of people, everywhere.  Yet, we keep doing them.

Scenario one:
Not my favorite volunteer job, but there you have it.
Mrs. So and so, would you like to be a recess supervisor for your son's class? Just once a semester. (all in one breath)

Scenario two:
Would you like to be a chaperon for the Girl Scout field trip next week? (subtext: the one where your child has been a challenge since the first day she showed up)

Sometimes, it IS fun.

Scenario three:
The school is hosting a silent auction; will you be willing to help out with a donation or your time the night of the event?
"NO< NO< NO.

Yet, somehow, we all keep asking and others occasionally say "Yes".

When I started out in life, I did not realize how much of life, was indeed, a cold call.

1. Finding a friend on the play ground the first day of school.
2. Applying to be the art editor for my high school's  literary magazine.
3. Asking a boy to the Turnabout Dance (very scary)
4. Applying for college
5. Asking, what turned out to be my future husband, out on a date.
6. Asking for my first designing and weaving job out of college.
7. Asking for more jobs over the years.
8. Asking, for what seem like a thousand parents, over the years to help on various things for our children's schools.
9. Asking for cooperation from people that have never met me nor have asked to meet me.
10. Asking God to help me with all of the things I have to ask for all of the time in my life.

All in all, humbling, gratifying, and frightening. All rolled up into one question.

Will you help me?

Monday, April 8, 2013

How to Recover From a Nightmare

Finding the light switch is the hardest
when you are frightened.

Today, this post is a essay that my oldest daughter wrote many years ago. I have always loved it and received her permission to share it in this blog. I hope you enjoy it too.

If you're under the age of seven and don't share a room, the answer is obvious.  Waiting is not an option
although you feel paralyzed from the fright you've received, While your little heart is still pounding, you must
leap out of bed, (taking great care to clear the edge, avoiding monsters) race past the closet, (another
plausible spot for danger) and burst in the hallway where you swiftly flip the light switch into the on position.

From there you shuffle cautiously down the stairs, turning on the lights as you go, until you reach the door of your parent's room. At this point I cannot stress how important it is to move carefully here, because you CANNOT turn on the lights.  Waking up dear mom and pop with a bright light is a surefire way to be grumpily sent back to bed without a hug or reassurance. Instead creep silently up to the bed and choose the side with the parent most likely to allow you to enter the sanctuary of their bed, you must tearfully
report that you've had a bad dream, and could you please join them in their bed because your room is too scary for sleeping?

None of these feet belong to us.
Once admittance is permitted into their warm bed you can safely drift back into dreamland, not worrying about the nightmare that send you there because mamma and papa are there to keep you safe.

On the other hand if you are older than seven it immediately becomes difficult to sneak into bed with the parents based on size alone.  And if there are younger siblings, they also effectively contribute to this
unwelcome state of affairs by usurping the warm hollow between your sleeping mother and father.

You may try the above mentioned method, but just know that it's more likely to receive a "you're too big for our bed dear, go back up and borrow your sister's nightlight" than a "come on in darling." Rather than suffer that indignity I present this next method of recovery.

Upon waking from the nightmare, turn on the light, and if at all possible don't get out of bed to do it. With the lights on you can choose a book off the shelf, but remember to avoid stories that involve creepy crawlies,
evil stepmothers, hungry witches or trolls, and of course angry animals. With the proper book in hand burrow under the covers and proceed to read until either memory of the dream has passed or you conk out.

The real trick is to avoid certain adventure thriller stories because of the understandable drawing power they have.

If you are not a reader another option is coloring (but let it be said that marker, color pencil shavings,
and crayons are difficult and not to mention messy in bed) or waking the closest sibling and bothering them
for a while.  Either path will produce restful sleep in one way or another.

As your age further increases options decrease, as is the general case in life.  Now it seems childish to you and your parents to run to them, your siblings can't be bothered, and reading yourself to sleep is a lengthy process (when truly frightened even the most boring of textbooks has no effect).

This is when you try to apply reason, explaining to yourself in a calm manner that broccoli never attacks in real life unless provoked. Repeating "it's okay" and "it was only a bad dream" may strike you as silly now, but wait until you jolt out of a particularly nasty reverie, breathing heavily.

Moving out of the house introduces new hoops to jump through.  When at home there were other bodies around and while they didn't always offer comfort it was at least heartening to know that if there really was a psycho in the house, he would get them first.  In a new home, apartment, or dorm it's likely you'll have a roommate. And what's even likelier still is that you will have no idea who this person is, and they don't know you either.

These sorts of living arrangements often encourage one to rid themselves of strange mannerisms.
Out goes talking to yourself in the middle of the night, as you reach out to a new, but vaguely familiar behavior.

Last week I awoke with a startling nightmare of something so dreadful I'd rather not say.  It was precisely 3:24 a.m. and my roommate was fast asleep.  I listened to my rapid heartbeat as I carefully felt around for  the phone and dialed a number I know by heart. After three rings the sleepy voice of my mother answered and I told her my distressing nightmare. Her tired voice placated my fears and put at peace my worried soul.

In effect, the ideal way to recover from a nightmare never changes; the greatest way always involves a voice of someone you love, lulling you back to sleep.

Friday, April 5, 2013

DMV or Real Love

My quest: licence renewal

Today, when I opened the mail box, inside was an envelope from the Drivers Service Department or as most of us call it "DMV". Argh. Is it that time again? Really?

This means:
1. New picture (could be better or could be worse, toss-up)
2. Standing in line (possibly a very long time, sigh)
3. Taking a vision test. (I have glasses, so?)
4. Remembering to plan to go (harder than you think)
5. Another fee, paid to the state (thrilled)

Almost what his car looked like
I remember the first driver's test I took. I was seventeen years old, my older brother took me. Which in retrospect, I realize now, was very brave. He allowed me to take the test in his 1976, Dodge, Gold (the color) Duster.

It was June, school was out,  roads were dry and the sky was blue. I was nervous. He was tired.

These are not his legs...
He worked nights loading trucks at the UPS center about forty-five minutes from our home.  After he would load tucks all night, he would then drive another hour away from there to attend university. After classes were over, he would drive home (105 minute drive), collapse in bed for a few hours and then start all over again. If he was really lucky, he would get his homework done too.

All of the way there, he begged me to talk to him so he would stay awake. He kept saying: "you had better pass so you can drive home. I am really sleepy."

I, of course, assured him: I was going to ace the test and get him home lickety split so he could get some shut eye.

We arrived at the DMV, the line was very long. I was worried he would say we had better come another day and conversely, I was hoping he would say we had better come another day. But, he said neither. I am not sure if  it was a result of:  being so tired or so happy to be out the car. Either way he stood with me. No comments, no jokes, no dirty looks.

When they finally called my name, he looked at me and said: "Your going to be great, don't worry" and pushes me towards the official, gently.

I took: the written test, the vision test and between each of these, I looked out over all of the people waiting.
Imagine these filled with people: waiting
My brother was there. In the blue, molded plastic chair, I saw a very tired young man, slumped over his folded arms, drifting over to the side of his chair, sliding into sleep.

The man that sat in the tweedy seat next to me was nice enough. He systematically instructed me to back up, parallel park (my favorite, even today), change lanes on the highway, make many left turns and held me in suspense until we were walking back inside. He said: "Go wake your brother up, tell him: you get to drive home."

I was breathless in my response. He laughed at me, in a kind way, and pointed to the camera area and said "remember to smile, no one ever does" shaking his head.

License in hand, I walked over to the sleeping sibling, gently touching his shoulder, rousing him from his slumbers.  He uncurled himself from that hard old chair, shook his head, as if to revive himself, but looking like he was still drowning in fatigue.

I drove my brother home: knowing what love looks like:  it was personified, right next to me.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mrs Kevetko or how I survived 4th grade

Very similar to, but not actually Mrs. Kevetko"s

Mrs. Kevetko. I wonder what happened to her. She was my fourth grade teacher, with her rhinestone encrusted cat's eye glasses. Of course, I did not know they were rhinestones, I thought they were diamonds. I was in awe of her. So glamorous. So imperious. So stern. (The boys never acted out in her class, not like Mrs. Conrad's.)

My desk looked just like this

She was one of those teachers that silenced a room with a glance.

Everyday, as I sat in the last seat of the fourth row, I made sure, I did not give any cause to attract her attention.

You must know what I mean. So penetrating, you feel her gaze cutting through you like a lazar. I was terrified/amazed by her every afternoon when we would file into her class for social studies and math. Though, I loved the quiet orderly nature of how her class was conducted.

Once in a while there was a film strip, of far off lands, that had a "soundtrack" that was played on a phonograph as the film strip was advanced, manually through the projector. It was considered a very high honor to be the one that got to turn the knob to advance the pictures.

The evil machine of my undoing!

One day, much to my amazement, I was chosen for the task. I carefully threaded the film into the projector, as I had been keenly observing others do throughout the year. The projector stand was stationed next to my desk so I had a bird's eye view of the process. After that it was all down hill.

The record would emit a small "beep" to signal the move to the next frame. Well, you would if you could see where one picture ended and another one began. It was painfully obvious to Mrs. Kevetko, even before it was to me, that all was not well.

From her large wooden desk, the kind with the heavy drawers and scratched finish, she barked:  "Can't you see? Stop!"

It was also at that moment, tears trickled from my eyes. Filled with shame, as though this was a personal failing, I turned away from the class and tried to stifle my sobs. Failing miserably.

Another thing happened at that moment too: Mrs. Kevetko got up from her chair, walked over to me with a tissue in her hand, gently wiped my tears away, as she quietly spoke: "there, there, not to worry. You will get glasses; you will see a whole new world and all will be well."

What she did not realize was at that moment; I saw a whole new world: in her.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Escalators and Mrs. O' D

It is pretty amazing that our neighborhood has been so stable in its inhabitants. It seems that hardly anyone stays in one place anymore, to borrow a lyric from that old Carole King song.

Except this week. Our neighbor of twenty-seven years, left us for another world.

A younger version of our Mrs. O'D

I am not sure how long Mrs. O'D had lived in her house, but it had to be at least fifty years. It is a modest house; lovely flower gardens in front, not too showy, but all of the old fashion varieties blooming along the walk. Out back are vegetable gardens that have produced the herbs and tomatoes she so generously shared with us every summer.

She must have taken early morning walks, because when I would arise and go out to retrieve the paper, (back in the days when there still was a paper to retrieve) on my front porch would be several tomatoes and a copy or two of the Yankee Magazine. While she had lived in the Midwest for more then half of her life, I think, she still considered herself a New England girl at heart.

Not her house, but very similar

Her quiet, unassuming way made it possible for others to accept her help, for she never, ever mentioned that she gave it or that you needed it.

My husband worked long hours and traveled frequently while our children were young. Often, I would hear a quiet knock on the front screen door and a little "You-hoo! Would anyone like me to read a story to them tonight?"

The four children would race to the door, eager to let her in and choose a story for her to read to them. She never complained about how long the story was or how many questions about the pictures or anything. And frankly, she always seemed to arrive, just when I thought all was lost. How she knew, at the time I could not tell, but I was so glad to see her.

Mrs. O' D was widowed when her oldest child was only fourteen and the youngest was six. There were three in between. She often worked multiple jobs to keep the mortgage paid, as well as the rest of life's expenses. She did not speak of it often or if she did, it was without  ranker or self-pity. She just did it.

Pretty exciting,  in certain situations...

When our youngest was so very ill, she would come and "ask out" our third child. Mrs. O' D would inquire of our daughter; "What would you like to do?"

Of course, this little girl, lost in the shuffle of visiting nurses and hospital stays, was so happy to have a friend. That sweet little girl's desire?  To ride an escalator. Something she had only heard about, but never had seen.*

Mrs. O'D took her to ride an escalator. For two hours.  Just up and down and back up again; with this lonely, darling child.

In this day and age of "purchased entertainment", I often think of the day Mrs. O' D rode the escalator with a sad, frightened four year old girl, and gave her the gift of quiet acceptance and adventure all rolled up in a ride on an escalator.

*I had never taken our children to a mall, partly because I as outnumbered and partly because the return on investment was so very low.