Generation Mirror

I love my early mornings, before the rest of the world wakes. It’s coffee time, when I respond to emails, peruse Facebook, do a little writing, catch up on the news — all kinds of things to get ready for the work day.

This morning, I was browsing through photos, and look at the treasure I found–a mirror of two grandmas. A mirror of four generations.

I love my mornings. 🙂

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My Two Degrees of Separation from Tarzan

While researching for a short memoir piece I’m working on, I discovered that this year Lex Barker, former Tarzan, would have turned 100 years old on May 8 of this year.

Why is this interesting to me? Because my mother once starred in the movie with him called Jungle Heat.

Some of you may have read my post, My Dad’s Fork in the Road, about what my father was doing prior to my arrival. Jungle Heat was released July 22, 1957, which means my mom would have been about 2 months pregnant with me. So, she, too, had a pretty abrupt fork in her road, and chose me over her blossoming acting career.

Though even as a mother of five, she continued singing and modeling for many years, I often wonder if she wondered what might have been had I not come along when I did.

On a lighter note, it makes me smile to think I’m only two degrees of separation away from Tarzan.

Tarzan and Jan

 

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The Happiest Place

Many of you don’t know that Steve is a beautiful writer. When he read the following journal entry to me last night, I asked him if I could post it on my blog.

He also looks pretty cute in an Autopia little red sports car.

May 27, 2019

After a long day strolling through  Disneyland, we arrived back at Adam’s and Emily’s hotel on the shuttle bus. We walked them to the entrance and stepped just inside the double doors into a narrow foyer. Jan and I would be flying back to Dallas in the morning. It was late. We were all tired, though Allie had slept through most of the fireworks show at Frontierland and seemed to have a second wind.

“Give Grandma and Pops hugs,” Emily suggested. “They’re going home tomorrow so we won’t see them again.”

Tommy and Allie walked to each of us and hugged our legs somewhat dutifully. Tommy whispered “Bye,” and coiled inward sleepily. We’d been out together for over 13 hours and had walked a good twelve miles. Both Jan and I were still suffering from bad chest colds. We were exhausted.

The day was over and the suddenness of the ending felt almost unfair.  We had no time to surmise and savor the thousand beautiful things we’d shared, a procession of buoyant activities sprinkled with obstacles and challenges that needed to be solved. There was plenty of magic, but it rarely arose from the obvious planned experiences.

The magic wasn’t in the reservation at the Blue Bayou, but in Allie’s face just before she blew out her one birthday candle. Nor was it the Pirates of the Caribbean ride but in Tommy’s tumbling physicality, let loose as we waited in line for our turn to strap into the boat.

 

There was Tommy’s joy in the anticipation of a new toy which lingered and bubbled up throughout the day until he finally, proudly, clasped a bubble wand. (In that moment, it was the greatest toy ever)

Allie discovered Minnie Mouse on a dance floor near the plaza where we ate dinner. She ran past a human barrier and tugged at Minnie’s skirt as if to say “I’ve been looking for you.” She danced and danced, her little hands held by Minnie’s huge white-gloved hands.

Dreams do come true.

There were small joys in requests to “Hold me,” in songs sung spontaneously, in hands that were suddenly unheld to scurry ahead,  fights that arose and ended quickly, popcorn that couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be shared, and moments where the sidewalk became a place to swim, or a shiny metal barrier became a bed for a baby Minnie Mouse.

To suggest the central themes  weren’t central would be an error. The context was happiness, always happiness, forced perhaps, but forced in a way that left space for  shifts of feeling and mood, for a smile to come round, and come round quickly with a laugh.

Joy was the agenda. It hovered in potential excesses, in a sudden parade, in the plaster-cast purple leaves covered with white spirals, in the rumble of roller coaster rails, in the green fake rounded hills, in the drum corps quick-footed snares, and in Goofy’s sudden appearance. Centralized we’ll say, all pulsing out from the Magic Kingdom castle.

On our way out, as we were leaving, I walked behind Adam and Emily and the kids, Allie had fallen asleep during the fireworks show in Frontierland.  She was  flopped to a side, her head almost dangling over the edge of the rented stroller. Tommy bounced along, switching modes on his bubble wand.

Watching them, I had the rare sense I’ve had a few times in my life, when everything and everyone feels connected, that our distinctions exist within a greater whole, that there is so much more beyond what I can describe, or see or conceive.

Later, recalling that moment, I remembered something my cousin Frank said to me at my father’s funeral. He recalled how once, when he’d been struggling with all the responsibilities and demands of his children and family, he called his father, who was sick and nearing the end of this life. He asked for advice.

His father said, “I don’t  have any advice, but I want you to know something. I’d do anything to go back to those days. They were a struggle, but they were the best days of my life.”

Jan and I stepped toward the door after we’d said our goodbyes. We watched Emily, Adam and Tommy walk toward the elevator, but Allie stopped and swung herself around to look at us after she’d taken a few steps. She stood still, bent toward us in a slight bow and smiled, as if to pose for a moment in the rapturous, uncluttered joy of her three-year old self.

We both stood there, staring at her for a few seconds before she turned and hurried off to join her mom, her dad and her brother.

Though Jan and I are both writers, neither of us seem to be able to find the words to describe the feelings we had in the closing moments of the day. Ineffable comes to mind.

Maybe it’s okay that not everything can be described in words.

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Motherhood

Several days ago, I decided to finally start going through boxes I’d retrieved from a storage barn in Tulsa months before. Those boxes had been in that barn for almost 15 years. So, in all honesty, I thought about throwing them away, especially since many of them had been on the floor when the barn flooded.

But, I knew they were filled with countless memories from my kids’ childhood. How could I throw them away, sight unseen? So, I hauled them to Dallas, where they sat in my garage for several months.

In those boxes, I found blankets I once crocheted, my son’s and daughter’s crib layettes, old photos (unfortunately, many damaged by the flood,) a Cabbage Patch doll, my son’s “Ooh-Ooh,” a blanket/bunny he used to sleep with, old homework papers and art, etc.

But the real treasure was . . . cue the scary music . . . Carol.

Carol was Adam’s precious baby doll. Yes, my son’s doll.

 

Of course, my daughter, Andrea, also had dolls, as well as a pet Tarantula named “Rosie.” 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Through Andrea and Adam’s childhood, Carol endured many awful hair styles and makeup jobs with permanent markers, including black lipstick. When my children were grown and flown from the nest, I sold my house in Tulsa and Carol, along with other precious memories, was packed into a box and stored away in the barn, where she remained for almost 15 years.

One might say she hasn’t aged very well, but she was one well-loved baby doll.

So, where does motherhood come into this blog post?

Well, after I bathed Carol and washed her hair, I gave her to Allie–my granddaughter, and Adam’s and Emily’s daughter, who will turn 3 this month.

I wish I had recorded when I first handed a newly-swaddled Carol to her, but I suppose some moments should be relished in real life, and not behind an iPhone screen.

Allie took Carol into her arms, ever so gently, and kissed her head. She walked away, talking softly to her as she held her close–a natural mommy at 3!

Of course, I thought about all the years that had passed, that Carol had once been her dad’s baby doll that he had once treated just as tenderly. (Well, okay, except for the black lipstick!) 🙂

But the other thing I thought about was that to Allie, Carol was the most beautiful “baby” in the world. She didn’t care what Carol looked like. She didn’t even care what she smelled like. (I couldn’t completely get that musty barn smell out of her hair.)

Allie loves Carol because she’s “her baby.”

I wonder if motherhood is something innate, a compilation of love, compassion, empathy, acceptance and tenderness. Of course, having been a mother, I also know it can be frustration,  insecurity, helplessness, hurt feelings and anger.

I think all mothers question whether they were good moms–it’s just a part of being a mother. So, maybe this blog post is nothing more than a continuation of trying to figure out what makes a  good mother.

All I really know is, when I saw Allie take Carol gently in her arms, I was happy that so many years after Carol was placed in that box, she will be loved again.

Happy Mother’s Day to all moms who wonder!

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A Spiritual Renewal

I’ve been thinking for some time about unfriending myself from Facebook, due to the many things I’ve come to dislike about it:

  • Lots of fake news that too many people continue to believe and worse, pass along to others who believe it
  • Too much talking-point or meme-oriented politics, with little open and honest discussion
  • Often, any attempt to have open and honest discussion is reacted to with vitriol
  • Sometimes I mindlessly scroll and scroll and scroll through countless posts. When I add up all the minutes, it seems a waste of time that keeps me from better ways to spend my time
  • Privacy issues

However–and this is what makes the decision so difficult–there are also a few seemingly irreplaceable things I love about it:

  • Staying in touch with friends and family I wouldn’t otherwise be in touch with
  • Seeing photos of families, vacations, etc.
  • Notifications of events

I am just as ambivalent about what Facebook has done to us as a society. It’s been a effective tool for getting to know each other and for staying in touch. But, it’s also caused us to communicate less face-to-face, to lose our ability or desire to empathize, and to cling to our tribes and become more divided.

In the upcoming political season, (actually, the previous political season never ended) the chasm between us will become even greater, much with the help of Facebook.

Which brings me to the purpose of this blog post. I’m giving up Facebook for Lent. As I considered what to give up, I looked up the meaning of Lent:

Lent is a penitential period, involving the dual disciplines of abstinence and fasting. During Lent many Christians commit to fasting or giving up certain foods, habits or luxuries – for example meat, cakes and sweets, alcohol, smoking – for its duration (the money saved is often then donated to charity). This is done both as a form of penitence and as a spiritual tool to tame the body and ‘sharpen the spirit’ for prayer, reflection and contemplation in preparation for the celebration of Easter.

“A spiritual tool to tame the body and ‘sharpen the spirit’ for prayer, reflection and contemplation in preparation for the celebration of Easter.”

Giving up Facebook sounds just about perfect.

I hope to write more during this time of reflection. Though I’ll be logged out of Facebook, I’d love to stay in touch and just happen to have a  “Contact” button on this blog. 🙂

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