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Friday, December 22, 2017

Caught off Guard

Small things,
catch me off guard.

Great Grandma Margaret with Winston
Which of course,
brings me to tears.

The kindnesses of
neighbors stopping by,
messages from old friends
both near and far away.

The sound of my mother's silver scissors
sliding across the table,
as if they are still in her hand,
they are in mine.

Today, I made cookies,
from a recipe card,
written in her hand.

And it is her hand,
that guided mine,
I miss the most.

Monday, December 11, 2017

The Legacy of Laundry

Today is the day of my mother's wake.

I find myself, in preparation for this momentous event, sorting laundry, folding clothes, and heating up the iron.

What started out as a quest to make sure my spouse had a freshly ironed shirt for the occasion, morphed into a familiar task that sets my soul at ease.

I find a certain harmony in the process of things; laundry, sewing, mending, knitting, doing dishes, and making beds.

Domesticity at it's finest.

Tasks that make up the backbone of everyday living (or loving).
Forgotten or left undone, we find to our peril, will catch one off guard, in a state of want.

Which is where I am today.

Caught off guard.
In a state of wanting.

Wanting, one more lesson from my mother on how to pick up a stitch in my knitting, or how to get the pleats pressed,
just right,
or all of the other insights that made
up the minutes of our history.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

We will leave here.

You and I can call it home.
Margaret Ruth Smith Hucker
August 13, 1935 - December 8, 2017

We will leave here,
    as my mother did yesterday.

It can sometimes seem like
  there isn't  a trace left,

But, that would be a mistake to think so.

While the traces can sometimes seem like breadcrumbs left along a path,
  not easily found or followed,
it is still there, and always will be there.

In the little moments, the small gestures,
  the eyes of my daughter, that mirror my mother's, looking towards me with love.

Sentences spoken, allow me to hear my mother's voice in my head,
  not realizing I have taken her expressions into my lexicon so deeply.

So deeply,
  she is embedded in my soul,
  it is in the soul we will meet again, and again.

Monday, September 18, 2017

There are cracks in the concrete

Here is hoping this plant is lovely

Thoughts, like the seeds,
work their way up through
the sidewalk of my mind.

Small, tenacious,
eager to fulfill the need to grow.

Forcing the way forward,
as if time had not passed,
knowing only, the powerful desire to grow.

Disregarding attempts,
to stem the tide,
to keep at bay,
vessels of feelings
floating into my heart.

not the concrete barriers of fear,
restraints of time,
or distractions of everyday details
keep these thoughts at bay.

Ah, if only I wasn't so sentient,
life would be so much more blissfully unaware.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Window flowers

Summer is almost gone, at least if you look at the calendar, but we know better. The garden will keep bubbling it's bounty onto my counters, demanding to be used in some meaningful way. Though sometimes, it doesn't quite make it off the counter in time. Oh well.

The grass will continue to grow, as will the weed, and crabgrass between the bricks in my sidewalk.

September feels like it should be almost time off for good behavior, of a summer well planted, groomed and fertilized. Not so.

The flowers will continue to bloom, and here you will get no umbrage from me. Though the roses are long gone, the dahlias, shine forth, making my mornings glisten with dew on the petals. Cosmos, zinnias, phlox, daisy and even a few straggling gladiolas, are bursting forth with glee.

There is one hydrangea by the drive, that has constantly made my day by proving me right, in making the poor plant move to this sunnier location. Now that is validation one doesn't often receive.

Making a risky move, with the hope of making something better out of the mistake made, while one was too young to know better.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Missing Kevin

Kevin, painted by his wife, M'Lou McEneely
My husband's eldest brother, Kevin, was the kind of brother-in-law one should try to have, if at all possible. Stalwart, generous, loyal, funny, and warm. Which makes it even more difficult to have lost him this last Monday.

Infact, had it not been for this man, I would not have met my husband 42 years ago.

He gave my mother a job. He took a chance on a newly divorced woman, who had never held a job in her life, not finished high school, and was sorely lacking in self confidence. My mother had thought maybe she could get a job in a factory or warehouse when she applied. My older sister drove her as she was too scared to go alone.

When she had filled out the paperwork in the HR office, Kevin interviewed her and told her he thought a place in the office would better suit her, and hired her. Then for the next ten years he mentored and promoted her until she was the manager of the order processing department with over 80 employees to manage. Something she never thought possible, yet he saw the possibilities in her, and allowed her the opportunity to find them in herself.

One day, Kevin asked my mother if she had any work for his kid brother. My mother believed in always saying yes to your boss, if at all possible, and that is how my husband came to work for my mother, and I came to meet my husband.

My mother was one of many, many people he nurtured, and smoothed the path for. He did this for his sons, nieces, nephews, friends of the family, and everyone he came in contact with.  He did so quietly, without fanfare, and with grace. I can't ever remember him complaining or speaking ill of anyone willingly.  He had the patience of Job, and then some.

He was kind to me, when I didn't make it easy to be kind, he was very patient with my four children, even when they were very trying. I have a huge debt of gratitude to him. He allowed me transcend what I was, and gave me room to grow into whom I have become.  I will forever be grateful.

To read his obituaryclick here

Friday, March 10, 2017


This was the little baby born at the time of this recollection
Really, instead of writing this I should be making various phone calls to make various appointments, but I am not.  I am drawn to the page to capture feelings of warmth and friendship instead.

Earlier this morning, my grandson and I went to visit our neighbor two doors over, and to bring them a present as a thank you for helping of us out of a tight bind several weeks ago. This is not the first time these steadfast, kind people have performed this gesture for me. Now it includes my grandchild as well.

 Thirty years ago, when we moved here, these neighbors had one son left at home out their six children. The eldest son had already passed away from muscular dystrophy at age eighteen, the four daughters that were born next were out in the world, this remaining son, also with muscular dystrophy, was the last in the nest.

Andy, who cheerfully rode past our house in his wheelchair with a tall flag waving was hard to miss. My young children would always run out to greet Andy as he passed  the house, and he would always stop and greet them with a smile. He was part of their life, and they were part of his, until he wasn't.

My other neighbor, Mrs. B called one day to share the news of  Andy passing away, she thought I would want to know. I did. I was pregnant  my third child, second girl, their loss seemed to hit me hard.  Making me aware of how hard it must be for Andy's parents.

So, we baked some brownies, picked some flowers, then together my three year old son, two year old daughter, I went over to somehow let her know how much we were feeling Andy's loss. As we handed over the brownies and flowers, my son said "my mom said you might be sad, but you don't look too sad to me". My embarrassment was acute, but Andy's mom laughed, being a old had with small children after bearing six of them, said, "I am sad, but happy to see you."

It wasn't too much longer before my daughter was born, and one day, Andy's mom walked over to our home bringing a gift for our newborn, with a shy request of could she hold our baby? As I placed the baby in her arms, my other two children requested my presence. (I wish I  could say the their request was made tactfully, but this is simply not the case.) Andy's mother said, you go on ahead, I'll sit here with the baby, not a problem. I'm not sure who was helping whom at this point, but nothing was said.

When she left to go home, she said to me, this little one helps to heal my heart. The truth of the matter Andy's mother has been helping to heal my heart for these last thirty years too.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Trapped: like a rat in McGregor's garden

Clementine, our old dog

I am trapped by a situation of my own making.
I may be the only one who has the key that fits the lock.

I am not sure I want out.

It is almost safe here.

Most certainly it is familiar,
and by that I mean comfortable.

I know the script,
very, very well.

The dance steps are well rehearsed,
and are performed without thinking.
(as all excellent dances are done)

After all, I am an old dog (so to speak) 
and this is a new trick.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Swedish Bakery or why I spend two hours waiting

Yesterday, I loaded my buddy into the car seat, and after buckling him in, departed for a nostalgic ride to the Swedish Bakery in the Andersonville neighborhood of Chicago.

Not my typical outing with a seventeen month old, nor even without a seventeen month old.

But...a institution was closing. A place where I have purchased cookies, birthday cakes, poppy seed pastries, cardamom coffee cakes and wedding cakes.

My fondest memories of the Swedish Bakery is of when my eldest daughter was in graduate school near the bakery. I would drive down early in the morning to the city, exiting on Cicero, heading south till I came to Foster.  Turning so I was facing the sun, I drove east to Andersonville, to care for my grandnephew so his parents could work.  I would circle the block hoping to find a parking space close to their home on Glenwood, then hustle in, so the parents could leave.
Poppyseed, something delicious

I would bundle the baby up in his stroller, walk
the morning away in the charming neighborhoods while waiting for my daughter to walk over after class. We would meet up at the bakery, get a "little treat" for later, find a bench along Clark street, sit and catch up while we indulged in our treat.

As the baby would gurgle and coo, We would look at each other and say, this is our future! Someday it will be my daughter will have a baby, we'll go to the bakery, walk these shady streets in conversation looking for the bench to eat our treat.

Getting another angle 
Those days we dreamed of will never come.  While my daughter is now with child, the bakery has closed it's doors as of today.  It had been feeding families for eighty-eight years.

SO, yesterday morning, my son's son and I went to the bakery to retrieve some "treats" to bring home to  enjoy the goodness one last time.  When we arrived, I knew it was going to be crowded, but I was amazed at just how crowded.  My number was C93, the number they were calling was B01. I had 192 people ahead of me.

Signs everywhere said, quantities will be limited. The cases were only partially full, very partially. There were people from all walks of life. I met a man who had driven in from Nebraska, another from Michigan, some from hours away, some from around the corner. One person I met had come three different days and had not been able to purchase anything before they were sold out, he was hopeful today. His number was one before mine.

There was a seventy-nine year old man, who had lived a block away from the bakery his whole life, asking people for computer recommendations, especially young looking people as he was sure they would know which would be best for him, as well as how he could retrieve his passwords. One elderly lady received a text from her daughter that her first grandchild was just born, unexpectedly early, and as a result was so overjoyed she was hugging other customers. (it was a girl, they named her Kaitlin Marie, incase you are curious)

There were hispanics speaking swiftly as only the native tongue can do with a language meant for speed. Japanese women, charmingly demure as they took their paper ticket.  Large burly men, shorter hipster boy/men with fuzzy beards and acne. African americans with long, long dreadlocks, my grandson waved shyly at this particular gentleman, who responded with a shy smile of his own.

Thin folks, medium folks, large folks, and even larger folks. A small boy, named Harry, who was wearing a green fake fur jacket that was lime green with matching furry pants and dinosaur shields on his head, who would randomly say to his mother, who was holding a small pink baby in her arms, "jump!" and she would jump as though this was the most natural action in the world while waiting in a bakery full of the international village.

My darling, buddy of a grandson, watched it all in awe. He watched in his stroller for one hour and fifteen minutes. Then, I released him from the seat and he walked underneath, between and on people's toes to get to the bakery cases to point out to me the muffins saying "EAT, EAT, EAT!"

One customer, who had just finished her purchase and was attempting to leave the bakery took pity on him (and me) and gave him a bite of a donut. Glee doesn't even come close to describing his delight at finding food falling from heaven into his mouth.

One customer, who was finally called to the counter for her turn, found her wallet was missing. The staff, a skeleton crew, all stopped to help her, as did all of the people waiting. After it was determined the wallet was not there, the police were called, the person next inline covered the cost so the line could keep moving. The police arrived, questions were asked, the next steps were taken outside, so we shall never know how that story ends.

I could go on and on for all of the amazing things that happened yesterday morning, but I  won't.

What I will say is; everyone helped each other, making sure no number was missed, doors were opened, people entertained each other's children to help pass the time, no complained, no one pushed, no one was crying out of frustration,(not even the small children and babies waiting) only out of sadness as there wouldn't be another morning spent in this bakery again.

And finally, after driving the hour home, my daughters, daughter-in-law, grandson, sons and husband all enjoyed a piece of the Swedish bakery one last time, and it was delicious.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

State of the World

1 hour old grandson

I could write about the snow that is said to be falling this week.
Or how it might be rain.

I could write about how the trees have gone to sleep,
Or how they will awake in spring.

I could write about how hearts can break.
Or how hearts can mend.

Instead, I will write;
snow or rain, broken heart or mended,
trouble or trifles,

Nothing is safe,
but all is well.