Timeless Affection

Once upon a time there was a little girl with blond curls, who went to Grandma’s house. Sometimes the trip was a long ride in the car, sometimes a shorter ride in a plane. Either way, along with her brothers and sister, she ended up at Grandma’s. A place filled with love, games, and snow. See, Grandma’s house was in Pueblo, Colorado. Grandma’s house had mountain views.

It was a magical place, smelling of peppermints, and home cooked meals. Decorated with crotchet, lace, and soft cushions. The little girl had her own bedroom that was simple, stylish and right out of her favorite TV show The Brady Bunch. The twin skirted bed featured a foam mattress sheeted, and covered with psychedelic swirls of bright green and yellow. Grandma always turned down the covers for her little body to snuggle beneath, tucked away from the cold Colorado nights.

Grandma’s house had stairs. Oh, the wonderful stairs behind the kitchen, to bounce, and pounce upon. Up and down, again, and again, and again. She never tired of it. They led to a basement of wonder. A delightful place for a curious child, filled with many treasures.

A sewing room featuring pictures of all the family and artwork. Another living room with a sofa sleeper couch for the boys, a TV, and an overflowing bookcase. A bedroom for her sister, and even a bathroom. It had a stand up shower, not a bathtub, which she found very different, but a great place to hide. All the windows peeked out at ground level. How exciting to see feet, and wonder whose they belonged to.

The last room in the basement was the laundry room. The likes of which she had never seen. A concrete floor sloped to a drain. Two wide basin sinks lined the wall, alongside counters. An old fashion contraption sat in the middle of the room with a tub, washboard, and a crank. She loved to crank the clothes through it, even though it was hard, and she needed Grandma’s help.

They would come out stiff, and flat. Then be taken outside to hang on the clothesline to dry. How different from her Mom’s house, where they had square machines that made funny whooshing noises.

At the top of the stairs, she loved to go up, was the backdoor that led to a carpeted covered porch the size of a large room. It was home to a ping-pong table. That’s right. Grandma loved games. Playing ping-pong was a favorite of hers, and everyone else in the neighborhood, but most especially her brothers.

Down the sidewalk to the back of the yard, just past the clothesline, but before the vegetable garden was a little red house with a door. A real playhouse with windows like she had always dreamed of. Chock full of dolls, stuffed animals, and a tiny – just the right size – table for tea, with dishes to match. Oh, the fun she had imagining for hours on end.

My sister at the playhouse in Grandma’s backyard.

Grandma’s arms were always open. Her laughter exceptionally sweet, her cheeks always rosy, and her twinkling blue eyes shined merrily. She loved her grandchildren. She loved that they visited her all the way from Oklahoma every year, nary a snowstorm could stop them. The games they would play together – Yahtzee, Monopoly, and cards. She would take them to Church. She would take them on trips. She would tirelessly take them all on – all four of them.

The many memories of Grandma’s include the thrill of summertime camping, in the mountains at a place called, Gopher Creek. Taking the ride puttering up the mountain in Grandma’s RV. Sleeping in the top bunk, snuggled next to other little bodies, crammed in the cove above the cabin, to keep warm from the chilly windows. Traipsing up the tree filled hills chasing squirrels, touching the icy mountain creek water, and roasting marshmallows by a blazing fire. The wonders never ceased to amaze with every outing.

Soon every Christmas was held on Thanksgiving at Grandma’s.

Four year old Angie, opening gifts with Grandma’s help.

As the little girl grew older, a trip to Grandma’s house included great mountain adventures in the snow. Skiing. The child endured a queasy stomach ride up the mountain to Monarch for the day. A ski resort at the highest elevation. The mountain always had snow this time of year. It was a wonderful Christmas present Grandma, so graciously, gifted. Not just for the fun of skiing, but for the memories created, and retold.

She bundled herself up with gloves, long johns, thick woolly socks, and a big (new) winter coat. She took the gusty ride on the ski lift, dangling her legs wearing big chunky ski boots, and long skis locked on. Gleefully flying down the mountain in the pure white, taking bitter cold tumbles, then breaks in the lodge to warm up.

After a long day on the mountain, they made the trek back. Spent, sore, with a red chapped face, the drive took hours to navigate the curvy mountain roads. As they arrived in Grandma’s driveway, she glimpsed through the car window at the warm glow of the kitchen window. Grandma had a hot meal, a hot chocolate, and a heartwarming welcome waiting for them. It was heaven.

When the young girl turned sixteen, she began ticking on her fingers whose Dad was whose. Her mother was twice divorced, and remarried to her Step Dad. Her Mother’s Mother was Grandma Dorothy who died before she was born. Mom’s first husband fathered her older sister, and brother. Mom’s second husband, her Dad, fathered her, and her brother Lonnie. Her Dad’s mother was Granny in Oklahoma. Her oldest brother Jay, and her older sister Deedy’s Dad was Davey, and he lived in Colorado. His Mother was Grandma Owens – who lived here. Her Grandma.

But wait a second…..after all those years, she realized – the bloodline did not cross. Her Grandma was not her Grandma by blood. She was not even related to her. How could this be?

She asked her mother when she got home, and her mother told her this story.

“When I was married to your Dad, and your brother was little, he did not understand. He heard his brother and sister calling her Grandma. He wanted to know who she was to him. He went to her with his big brown eyes and looked up at her. He said, ‘You my Ganmaw too? You my Ganmaw too?’ Grandma looked down at that little boy all of eighteen months old and her heart melted. She picked him up in her arms and said, ‘Yes, I your Ganmaw too.’ That is how she came to be your Grandmother, not by birth, but by love.”

Dear Grandma Owens,
You were the Grandma I was raised to love, and know. You cherished me like your own. You never withheld your affections, or your gift of them. The door to your heart opened wide for me and my brother. You welcomed us into your family, into it’s safety, and warmth. What a blessing you were to our young lives. You knew how much we loved our brother and sister, and you wanted to keep us all together on summer trips, and holidays. So you did. You took a sledgehammer to the ex-in-law boundaries, and what love is “supposed” to be. You bulldozed those walls. You loved us. And Grandma, we loved you too. Thank you for the gift of your affection. It is timeless to me. Timeless to us all. Our definition of family is different because of you. I promise, I will pass this gift on to every child I meet.
Love,
Your granddaughter

Grandma went to heaven, December 1st, 2008. Three days before her 91st birthday. She would have been 92 today. Happy Birthday, my sweet Grandma.

You are dearly missed, and dearly remembered.

It’s Time to Drive

Alright, there comes a time in your life, when you can no longer hide the fact that you’re getting stinkin’ old. This week is my time. Why? Well, because my lovely daughter started driver’s ed.

Oh boy……yes, I have a child old enough to be taking driver’s ed. Yes, they actually teach it in school like when I was growing up. Plus, this year in the metroplex, they passed a law saying all new drivers now have to take an actual driving test with a Trooper (just like I DID). This kid is really going to have to learn to drive. And believe you me – I wasn’t teaching her. I am terrible driver. I’ll admit that right now. I misjudge distances. I can’t see out of the blind spot. I can’t really see period. I go slow. I go fast. I turn too sharp. I hit EVERY curb.

Yeah, me teaching a kid to drive? Bad idea! So, she’s been in class for what? Three days? Last night, we are driving to Sonic, she is pointing out all these driving tips. I’m thinking, whoa, she knows more than ME. I kept saying, “REALLY? That’s who has the right away? I had no idea. Seriously? You can’t park that way? Wow, that’s a good tip. That’d be real, uhh, helpful. Hmm.”

How embarrassing
. Maybe, she will teach me how to drive, ahem.

Do you want to know why I can’t drive? Well, it all started when I was twelve years old. I have two brothers, both older. The oldest would have been 15, the younger one 13, and neither could drive. My mom had gone out-of-town, or to town, or something. They wanted to go to their friend JB’s house about two miles up the country road. Meaning, it was a gravel road paved with tar up til about a mile farther than it’s just sandy dirt and big pieces of gravel. They did not want to walk, and being the conspirators they were, they came up with a brilliant plan.

Mom had left the keys to her van. It was a big sucker. The OLD vans, ya know the conversion ones, with the raised top, huge captain chairs, and about ten hundred feet off the ground. Their brilliant plan? To drive the van to their friend’s house. But wait a sec, see – they had to get it back so Mom wouldn’t know and guess who they blackmailed elected – Little Arthur (hush, it was my nickname). Problem was, little Arthur did not know how to drive. She sure as HECK didn’t know how to drive a VAN.

That didn’t matter to them. They decided, I would. They decided, I could. They dragged me to the van (in protest) and off we went. We go straight down the road, there is ONE turn in the sandy dirt gravel, then up a hill to JB’s. They get out and point the van back the way we came, on the road to home. All I have to do is go down the hill, take the curve , then head straight to home. Easy. They give me the keys and I climb into the monster. SWEATING. For one, I got four pairs of eyes watching their little sister – to see if she can hold her own – and just BUCK up and drive the beast.

In a mighty bout of bravery, I go. I push the gas. It jolts and rocks, then down the hill the van and I go, bouncing. I have a death grip on the wheel. I’m riding high, thinking I’m all cool, when suddenly it occurs to me…..What if another car comes down the road? What if I (GULP) have to PASS someone? That did it. Two seconds later a car appears around the corner. There are NEVER cars on this country road. EVER. Only today, with ME driving. I panic and swerve into the ditch. FAIL.

Of course, here come my brothers, who were watching me the whole time – running down the hill to me in the van that is STUCK. Stucker than stuck, in a rocky sandy ditch.

“What happened? Why did you go off the road?”, hands were waving in the air, as they scour for damage. Here I sit in the jolapy van, tears in my eyes, upset with myself. I had a chance to be the hero and I blew it. I cried out, “A car was coming!”.

They burst out laughing. Boy, THAT, made me burning mad. Out of the van I flew and down the road I marched. I didn’t need them. I didn’t need this crap. I’m gonna TELL.

I’m still walking my mad off, not even close to back home, when they pass me in the van. Waving, hooting and cackling in sheer joy, leaving ME in a cloud of van dust. Jerks! I watched through the haze as they kept going. I walked the rest of way home. I’m pretty sure I was never talking to them again.

So, that was my FIRST experience. I had a quite a few more, with said van, which I drove to school one day. That wasn’t the brightest idea since my mom was a teacher and another teacher told her. I, also, took my step dad’s Buick joy riding – I was thirteen by then. Still, I didn’t know how to drive. I used both feet. One on the gas. One on the brake. I even hit a mailbox which made a small dent. How in the world did my parents not know?

When I finally had my drivers ed, I had driven who knows how many times. I skipped all the classroom classes for three weeks. It was summer. I had swimming to do. We had our own in ground pool, I was teenage girl, any questions? I think I made one classroom class but talked the whole time. This explains why I don’t know anything about road rules. I did get instructor training in the car. He suspected I had driven before when I put my arm on the back seat, looking out as I backed up. Ooops.

Maybe little Sydney will teach me something. Maybe it’s not in the genes (please God). All I know is my little grown child is going to be driving – probably better than her Mom.

To a devoted family on Labor Day

I love my family. It’s not often that all four of us, me, my two brothers, and my sister,  plus our Mom are all in one place -besides a wedding or funeral. Now that we are adults, we are scattered. We have our own lives and our own ways of navigating them. It’s HARD to get together, especially when you don’t live in the same town.

My sister lives in Houston, just south, in a town called Friendswood. One of my brothers lives in Jenks, near Tulsa. My oldest brother, lives in the town we were born in, Ada. It’s funny that both sisters are in Texas, both brothers are in Oklahoma. ALL of us work full-time, and have families. I can easily say it’s near impossible for all us to get together with all the kids and our mom. IMPOSSIBLE.

When we do, it’s like the paparazzi with all the camera flash bulbs. We have to record those moments. I live for those times, not only because I get to see my brothers and sister, but because I can see my mom’s face brilliant with pleasure. The gratification she gets from our growth, from our our lives, from our children born. The honor it brings her to touch and hug every one of them. How exceptional. How rare.

This weekend, I witnessed an event similar to my family but with Jason’s family. We had an impromptu cook out. It came together very quickly without hardly any notice. His stepbrother’s girlfriend sent me a message on Facebook asking if we were doing anything for the Labor day holiday. This was on Sunday night about 8pm.

Actually, we weren’t doing anything, which sounded blissful and concerning at the same time.  Shortly after her message, he found out he would get to keep the girls from 11am-7pm. O happy day!!! THAT lead to an all out  celebration and wasn’t it just natural that we wanted to throw a party? *like we do every time the girls are around we celebrate every moment*

So, just like that, a  party was born. A cookout. A celebration with both of his brothers, step brother, step-brothers girlfriend Beth, his Mom , Step-dad and ALL the kids (8 of them). Additionally, my neice Jaelynn came as well as my daughter and some dear friends on the cusp of their wedding, Lonnie and Rachael. The only one unable to come was his step-sister Kim, with her baby Landon, who was ill.

This kind of celebrating calls for some big activities. We got out the water slide. Oh yeeeaah. It’s about 20 feet tall, has a generator to keep it aired up and a water hose shooting out of top to slick it up for sliding. The kids climb it from built in foot holds then slide down barrell down it pell mell, shrieking to a splash at the bottom. *man to be kid again*

IMG_0185IMG_0184

Seriously this thing is AWESOME!

It is pure entertainment just to WATCH them in all their glory. We even had a big blow up pool, off to the side, just in case THIS wasn’t enough fun.

Hold up a second, can I brag on Jason’s backyard? It’s gorgeous, peaceful, and tree-shaded (mostly).  I got the pleasure of gardening there this year. Amazing. It is a HAVEN of mine and his. I have a garden post that I will share very soon with all the flowers. Next year, I hope to do fairy garden with the girls.

Ah, but back to the cook out and the reason for this post.

IMG_0186
A cook out in a great back yard with family.

Family. To witness this families love for each other. The way they gather last minute without blinking an eye. The children enjoying the merriment of romping with their cousins. It is such a prize to behold.

Nothing is a coincidence. Not your family, not where you live, not who your parents are, who crossed paths with you, who your ex is, who your children are, where you work, go to school, you reading this. NOTHING. There is a purpose, a reason, a meaning behind it all.

This post is about seeing a wonderful family come together. Seeing the heart and soul of a family soaring and relishing time. As each cousin chased another, up and down the slide, their eyes were a thousand twinkling stars. Their laughs, a song of delight so sweet to the ears.

I have no doubt, that, all of them living in the same city is NO coincidence. It was God breathed. Their mother has a SOUL full of love. She would be swallowed by it – if she were not able to pour it out onto her grandchildren,  her sons, and her daughter-in-laws. They soak it up and they shine. They shine her light. Her love.

Witnessing their togetherness is a great joy of mine.  I can stand back and appreciate the greatness of it. I can’t imagine ANY of them living anywhere else. It would be a shame. This is where they belong.

If Jason or his girls had ended up in Massachusetts, where their mother is from, I can not imagine how different this picture would have been. It took all them to make it just right. It’s what God wanted from the beginning. I just know it.

The cook out continued inside for some family fun Rock Band which was jamming. I got some pictures on my other camera that I don’t have here, but will add to this soon because it’s too good to miss, especially a five year old boy, who head bangs perfectly to Metallica.

Life. Love. Laughter. It’s what I live for. I watch for those moments and I saw it on Labor Day. It was everything I relish and more.  It makes me more grateful for those rare times with my family. It makes my heart smile.

Here’s hoping your Labor Day was as incredible as mine. Enjoy the “short” week.