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Our play is played out

July 4, 2013

Come children,

let us shut up the box and the puppets,

for our play is played out.

-William Makepeace Thackeray – Vanity Fair

Who are the children? Who are the adults? When do children become adults and when do adults become children? Thackeray was a contemporary and sometime competitor of Charles Dickens during the English Victorian era. He was also a bit of a cynic. I understand that.

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Never knew

June 23, 2013

The things I have been learning about family while rooting around the web have left me sometimes stunned, sometimes proud, and sometimes confused. I have traced one side to a mid 1600s arrival to America from London, and the other side from Prussia to America, in the mid 1800s. The names and places are often unfamiliar, but seem somehow part of us. I want to know more, and I shall. I will share it all with you, too!

In the meantime, Sweet EnTui, Happy 15th Birthday! My buttons are all busted and I am at risk of being indecently exposed.

I believe in you. I trust you. I love you.

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Check ‘em out

June 6, 2013

The babies expected right now and the one that already arrived have caused some fun memories to pop into my head. From Uncle Chuckie saying, “How can he breathe through that nose, it’s so SMALL!” to Grandpa Frank holding a newborn with its head in his hand and its legs dangling near his elbow to show just how small babies really are, each of us does our own thing when we first see an infant whose blood flows from the same tree of life as does our own.

Many of us say, “Awww,” and simply stare. I am one of those. I can’t get over the miracle of birth and the fact that the tiny person in front of me has as much potential as the wisest intellectual, the most powerful leader, and the most humble parent or grandparent who lovingly and patiently teaches truth and life.

As usual, one can expect that Grandma Beanie would do something different than everyone else. What does she do, with each and every family newborn presented to her?

She strips them. To their diaper. Off come the adorable outfits, bonnets, hats and shoes, the chubby socks from chubby feet, the onesies and cute little lap-shouldered or tank tees.

She then checks out every toe, every finger. She checks out ears, eyes, hair, and skin folds from one end to the other. She turns them over and checks out the back, the head. She kisses their head. She smells them. She puts their feet to her face and makes nuzzly sounds. She loves them long before they know who (or what) the heck she is. If they cry, she says, “Ssssss.” Not shhhh, but ssssss. I have no idea why. But they don’t usually cry. They look at her as if she is as much of a curiosity as they are, and a bond is born.

I don’t think I will ever ask her why she says, “Sssss.” I think I will just watch.

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Omit needless words

April 14, 2013

stoplooklistenYou know that I love Strunk and White and their seventeenth principle of composition: Omit needless words. Never was that principle better presented than by railroad crossing signs.

Stop. Look. Listen.

Always, for all things.

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First

March 22, 2013

We have lots of firsts. Memories of many bury themselves deeply within our minds because they seem inconsequential to our daily lives, but there they stay. There must be some reason that the vestiges of those firsts remain in our memories—perhaps to aid us when we experience similar things in our lives, or maybe they dwell there simply to give us a smile on a winter’s night when an old friend pops up and says, “Remember?”

He is an old friend, and he did pop up a few nights ago on Facebook and said hello. He’s an important old friend, someone with whom I shared entry into the world of true romance.

We were seven. He is upper left; I am the blonde smack in the middle.

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It was early fall and second grade had just begun. I had little interest in boys beyond how hard I could kick them in the shins when they got too close (yes, I was a bit of a terror), or which would play the best “Batman” on the playground to my “Catwoman.” Our Batman play involved a large, heavily rooted tree on the edge of the asphalt playground. We ran around and around the tree before taking off to the monkey bars that would, today, cause cardiac arrest for any observing safety inspectors. We would then return to the playground over a cracked and weed-infested concrete area with tall chain link fences at either end that was once a tennis court; our school had been a high school a decade before. After traversing the tennis court, the running around the tree began again. I am not sure how our play re-enacted the Batman show, but that was how it worked.

The boy that caught my attention was not a Batman. He stood off to the side, often staring at me, and I didn’t know what to do with that. He didn’t come close enough to kick him, so he was a complete enigma.

He drew me away like no one has done since. How could one not investigate such a mystery?

When we recently chatted he casually mentioned being near “The Portables,” which were portable classrooms outside of the main school whose use was reserved for cool second graders, because who else was there in the Universe?

He mentioned the grass near The Portables as if it was just grass. It wasn’t. It was the grass of the kids who were separate from the rest for good reason—we were cool second graders with cool portables. There was a small hill of mown grass near The Portables on which only cool kids could sit (including some older student usurpers), and of those cool kids, only those who were romantically involved.

We had only the slightest idea of what romantic meant, but we were placed in a situation where we needed to learn quickly. If we had not, the older kids might have chased us off of our little hill of grass, and the weight of that embarrassment could not be borne.

I followed the boy with the brown-red hair to be near The Portables. I pretended I had a reason to be there and kicked other boys when necessary, to prove I had a reason. That boy with the brown-red hair had nothing to do with my being there. I didn’t like him at all. I went home and expounded on how I didn’t like him at all.

A couple of days ago when I mentioned his name to Grandma Beanie, her eyes lit up with recognition. She knew I didn’t like him at all. That is why we all remember his name forty five years later. He meant nothing. Nothing.

He meant everything, but it was a hard sell to get me to admit that when I was seven. I wasn’t going to like him, because that was not what self-respecting tomboys did. They didn’t like boys, not at all.

During the time I was not going to like him at all Grandpa John often said, “We are going to have a bunch of little Gooshwalls running around here.” The whole family teased me with that for years—no—decades. The last conversation I had with Johnny as he taught me to reload shotgun shells included hunting, field dressing game, baby powder and Gooshwalls.

My old friend will recognize that murdered name. I hope he will know that we all remember his real name and appreciate him. I hope he will understand that all of my family could not have recognized his name if I had not spoken of him constantly when I was a very romantic seven year old child.

He was my first.

He held my hand on the mown grass outside of The Portables when we seemingly had no idea of what romance was about. But we did know. We knew romance in its purest form. We knew it in the best form.

We didn’t have any Gooshwalls running around here, but we all have irreplaceable memories because of my dear old friend that said hello a few nights ago.

Thank you, Jerry. Thank you for then, and thank you for now.

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She looked like a prizefighter

March 10, 2013

When Jenny was born she had a blocked tear duct that caused the tissue around her eye to be sightly swollen. Once the delivery room nurse added silver nitrate drops to her eyes as was customary to prevent eye infection in newborns, the swelling turned a shade of purple-blue that left Jenny looking as if she had just come from a boxing ring.

She looked that way for about a week, when a porcelain doll emerged from the prizefighter face and she was the most beautiful child I had ever seen. Her features were tiny and delicate. She seemed to be aware of her own beauty and cried sparingly so as not to scrunch up her lovely face unnecessarily. I appreciated that.

She was a delicate little thing (off and on, and we won’t discuss those early OFF periods) until she awoke on her third birthday and decided that she was henceforth to be, Jenny: HELLION. She was, for a while. She then discovered some wonderful girly thing and became a delicate flower once again.

Jenny’s transmogrifications kept me hopping for the next couple of decades. She was girly, she was hippie, she was Wicca aficionado, she was gymnast and swimmer, she was singer, she was black goth girl wannabe, she was drum circle didgeridoo player, she was hiker, camper, canoe and outdoor enthusiast, she was forklift driver. She didn’t only live life, she tasted it, drank it, she consumed it and left a slightly singed trail of her presence behind her.

She drove me out of my ever-loving mind.

I called her my tornado girl because she entered like a whirlwind and changed things all around her. She exhausted me, and I couldn’t have loved her more. I can’t love her more today.

She is now to be married and will soon have a baby. I hope her child drives her as nuts as she did me. It’s the best way to raise a new citizen; watch them grow, watch them fall, watch them soar, and then sit back and watch them settle. A brand new family will be born. It’s as amazing as the birth of one baby, and as exciting to observe.

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I understand

February 21, 2013

I understand that folks are busy with life. It’s how things are. I wonder, however, what it would be like if people paid attention to those who will soon be leaving before they left, instead of telling their tale of woe at a funeral service.

I have been fortunate. I have had interactions with loved ones before they died, so I didn’t have to feel anything other than loss when they finally left our world. I wouldn’t give up those interactions for the world. I loved those people and was able to tell them so.

I also know that people receive far more in the way of commiseration if they have not been able to connect with loved ones before the inevitability of death. Announcing death or dying on Facebook has become a way to receive comment after comment stroking the same sore spots after seeing, or not seeing, those who are passing, and indeed, caring or not really caring at all. I think it’s a new fashion.

Such a shame.

My experiences with my mother over the past year have so affected me that I cannot understand missing out when things are tough. I can’t understand not reaching out for the person who gave me life or perpetuated my life in some way. I would not have missed a single moment. Beanie is as Beanie has always been—Mom, and I love her.

I am not sure how she imparted to me this deep love that I cannot leave behind as a nuisance, but I am grateful. We are both here, for now. We love. What a wonderful thing that is.