Archives for category: Memories

Lazy summer days are meant for meandering thoughts. Mine came while squinting into the sun, looking for signs of my youngest granddaughter in the vast swimming pool. She’s almost 11, but I automatically check to see where she is. She’s past the age where she delighted in playing with me and is content to be by herself or interacting with other kids, even though it’s 2020 and we’re trying to socially distance even in the water. That leaves me free to remember the years that explode in my mind as I listen to the sounds of happy people in the pool, cooling off on a hot summer day.

I go back over 70 years with this particular pool. Well, it wasn’t this exact pool, but it was this place. We moved to Tulsa when I was about 2 1/2 and my parents immediately joined Tulsa Country Club, the oldest country club in town, having opened in 1908. Daddy was a champion golfer and needed a place to play. He had come back from World War II and married at the age of 32 and rejoined the family business, moving to Tulsa to open a new branch in 1948. At what age they started bringing me to the pool, I have no idea, but we were certainly around the club in one way or another.

My first memories of the pool are of taking swimming lessons. The old pool, opened in 1935, was by the old clubhouse and this was back in the 1950s, my olden days. The pool was a large rectangle with a shallow end and a deep end that had both a low and high diving board. There were dressing rooms at the end of the pool and a grassy area to one side and an area with tables and chairs on the other end. Our swimming lessons were taught by Coach Charvoz, a coach at Central High School, who also managed the pool in the summers. I remember him so well, standing in the pool with a floppy hat to shield him from the sun, demonstrating the different strokes for us. He would stand in front of us and have us swim towards him, stepping back the closer we got until we could make it all the way across the pool. He was an excellent teacher as I can still remember everything he taught me about swimming the backstroke, sidestroke, breaststroke and crawl. I’m still pretty good, although the pool today isn’t as conducive to swimming laps as it was then.

My favorite thing to do for many years was to try and swim the length of the pool in one breath. I don’t know how long the pool was, but I could do it. I wasn’t as much of a fan of the boards, although I could dive off the small one. I’m sure my lifelong fear of heights comes from climbing up the ladder onto the high board and jumping off. It wasn’t a thrill for me – more likely something I did to show I could. Once or twice.

There were so many games we played in the pool, from racing to diving for objects to Marco Polo (why won’t that game go away?). The lifeguards constantly told us not to run around the pool, but we were kids and the pavement was scorching our feet. So many rules back then that have gone away. We were living in the age of polio, so we were constantly reminded to be careful of water. We couldn’t get in the pool for an hour after eating for fear of getting stomach cramps and drowning. This was proven not to be true, but we spent many an hour waiting impatiently for the pool clock to tick to our hour when we could jump back in. We also had to shower before we entered the pool. I still think this is a rule, although few follow it.

Another rule was that the girls had to wear swim caps. This was to keep the hair out of the pool filters, but it was pretty annoying. The guys kept their hair cut in buzz cuts for the summer so they didn’t have to worry. I kept my hair short, but still had to wear that cap. It was no fun squeezing your hair into that piece of rubber, although I guess it did keep it dry. The chin strap was just as irritating as the cap. I still cringe when I think of having to wear those darned things. By the time I was a teenager, it was even more annoying as we were striving to be bathing beauties as we laid in the sun, trying to attract the attention of whatever boys were around.

The sunbathing area was a large patch of lovely grass between the pool area and the clubhouse. To get refreshments, you went to the clubhouse, where there were steps to a window on the side where you could order hamburgers, drinks, ice cream and whatever. Those are the things I remember- cold Grapettes, hamburgers, ice cream bars. We spread our towels on the grass and slathered our bodies with tanning creams, including the all time favorite of baby oil and iodine. Those were the days when all we wanted was a good tan and knew nothing of skin cancers or the dangers of too much sun. We put lemon juice in our hair to bleach it in the sun and worked on getting that coveted beach look of tan skin and sun lightened hair. No wonder so many of us have skin cancers in our old age.

And those summers of my youth melted into the summers when I returned as a young mother. By then, the clubhouse had been moved from the site where it had stood in a wonderful old three story brick building since 1917 to the other side of the golf course into a “modern building,” a move that caused much grumbling among many of the members. The old building burned to the ground in 1986, leaving those of us who were fortunate enough to experience it with only fond memories, which leads me into other memories to be shared another time.

The new pool was a rectangle that flowed  into a smaller rectangle that was the diving area. There was a separate wading pool for the little ones. If I spent many hours of my childhood and youth at the old pool, I spent so many more at this one as a parent. My husband and I were able to get a junior membership and my summers as a stay at home mom were marked by the days we spent in the sun, moving from the baby pool to the main pool in what now seems like a flash. There was golf and tennis, but it was mainly the pool. My kids learned to swim there, taking lessons much as I had, and learning strokes that eventually led them onto swim teams in the winter months. They were genuine “pool brats” that I could leave to swim while I ran errands, went to meetings or played golf. They have their own memories of those days, but mine are of sitting with other moms, trying to talk over the constant cries of “Mommy, watch me.” To this day, I can hear those calls and hear the sounds of play that became the background of so many lovely days.

One of our favorite days in the summer has always been the Fourth of July, when there were swim games and races and fireworks. This has been a tradition that continues into the next generation. Here are my two oldest daughters waiting for a race to start:IMG_4802 2and my youngest daughter catching goldfish in the wading pool. IMG_4805Here is my husband playing with our son in the wading pool:IMG_4804and my middle daughter feeding her brother the wonderful pool water (yikes!)Scan 4and my oldest daughter diving from the board. IMG_4807Life went on and the kids grew up and I probably didn’t spend as many days poolside until the next generation appeared and we were once again gathering there in the summers. Here are my daughters and the oldest five grandsons at the wading pool:Scan 10and then there were a couple of more grandkids at the pool.Kids at TCC PoolAnd before I knew it,  they were growing up.

And then they were in the races and diving competitions. I will note (with a little bit of a grin) that our family is pretty competitive and we have won a lot of club races through the years.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then there were improvements at the club and by 2012, the old pool was gone and the new pool was in. This time, it is a spa design with a diving area, a slide, and a beach type area for wading, complete with fountains. My grandkids were bigger

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand still doing races in the new pool.DSC_0253By this time, we had lost my son, who was the kid that hung around the pool and knew everyone behind the scenes and everyone knew him by name. We are lucky to have his daughter, who has now grown up at the pool, following her cousins, aunts and father. And me, of course.DSC_0046

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1 1/2 years oldMy three daughters are now the mothers of grown children, but still like to hang out at the pool together.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAMy grandchildren are growing up, with seven of them in college or beyond. In 2020, it’s just my last granddaughter, turning 11 soon, and me by the pool on this sunny day. Some things are the same. The lifeguards are watching the kids, who are calling to their mothers to see what they can do. Kiddos are asking for snacks, running when they should be walking, doing belly flops off the board, diving for objects, making up fun pool games and making new pool friends. The parents are more diverse and have their electronics with them to read books or check their messages. Now they have their drinks delivered to poolside, where they visit and relax. They look younger all the time to me, as they should.

Sometimes I wonder what my parents would think of the changes around the pool. Not the activities or the pool itself, but the people. From the time I was a child until I was too far into adulthood, the country club was segregated. Now you see a diversity of races in the families, which is nice. It’s more of a slice of our community.

The parents are not as uptight as they used to be and this summer of quarantine, there are more fathers around during the week. I can picture my mother making funny comments about their various tattoos. She wouldn’t have been shocked, but she would have found it as amusing as I do. Since I have so much time to observe, I think about why each tattoo was chosen. Why does this young mother have “Gone Fishing” on her middle right back? What does that woman have a slice of pie on her arm? What was this man thinking when he asked for all those interesting pictures of ships and animals to be inked into his chest? My husband used to amuse me with stories of the tattoos he saw when he was in the Navy back in the sixties. I’m sure he would be rolling his eyes at me. I take it all in when I sit by the pool these days. My mind is full with images of all those decades.

It’s a vault full of memories that flash by with each splash of the water, each squeal of a child, each kid jumping wildly off the board or each girl parading by with her suntanned body glowing with youth and health. It’s just one tiny piece of my life really, but it’s all tied together at this pool in the summer. There are so many places like this for remembering all the good people and things that I have been lucky enough to have in my life. It’s a reminder that I have more good memories than bad ones, more family and friends and love in my life than so many. It’s a good thing to be reminded of on a hot summer day.

My father and all my uncles served in World War II. Daddy was a Lt. Colonel in the Army Air Force and my five uncles served in the Army. All of them came home but one, my Uncle Bill, my father’s youngest brother. He died before my father met my mother, a couple of years before I was born, so I never knew him. On this Memorial Day, I’d like to tell what i know of his story.

My father was the oldest of four children. He and his brother and sister were all born within about three years, beginning in 1912, in Uniontown, Kentucky, where both of their parents were born. The family moved to Wichita, Kansas to start a new business and where William Lyle Hamilton was born in February, 1921. My mother was born the next month, which gives me a little perspective. Here is the first picture I find of Bill, obviously the baby of the family, with my father behind him, his brother, Ed, and his sister, Sara.Hamilton KidsThe family moved to Oklahoma City at some point, where my grandfather started his automotive parts business, J. C. Hamilton Co. Here is a photo of the family during that time. My father is on the front fender behind his brother, Ed. Bill stands on the running board between his sister and parents. It’s the only photo I can find of the whole family together, but you get the idea. Scan 35Years passed, the children grew up and the boys went into the family business. Sarah married my other Uncle Ed and started their family. When the United States joined World War II, all the men went into service. Here is my Uncle Bill with my grandfather. Clayton & BillMy grandfather was about 5’8″, so Uncle Bill was the smallest of the brothers in the family, besides being the baby. I still don’t know where my father got his height of 6’2″.

The brothers were stationed far apart for their service. I think my Uncle Ed served as a trainer, My Uncle Ed, married to Aunt Sara, served on General Patton’s staff. My father was a squadron commander, flying out of Africa to Italy, much like the story in the novel and movie, “Catch 22.” Uncle Bill was a Technical Sargeant. That’s what I know.

A few years ago, I traveled to Louisville, KY to go through some papers kept at the Filson Historical Society there. I had been told that the Hamilton papers were in their care and went to explore. I found boxes of papers belonging to my great-grandfather, mostly receipts for his business. But, there was a scrapbook kept by one of my father’s cousins, which was full of information I had never seen. I could only photograph the items quickly, but here are the things I found about my Uncle Bill. First is this article about his last mission.IMG_8720 And then this article from the local paper.IMG_8719All I had ever heard was that he was shot down while parachuting into Germany and was buried there, far from home. Then I found this touching letter, written to my father. I’m not sure how this got into this group of papers, but it showed a big brother trying to find more information about his little brother, probably trying to get answers for my grandparents.IMG_8722IMG_8723The letter shows they didn’t know right away if he was killed or captured, as this letter was written well over a month after he must have been killed, according to the newspaper clip above.

Now I have to imagine how this affected my grandparents and the rest of the family. They were in limbo for I have no idea how long and there is nothing harder than the not knowing – except for the knowing.

My memories of my grandparents are of them laughing and smiling and enjoying their family so much. My grandmother developed painful arthritis and my mother once told me that the doctors said that the stress of losing Bill may have been a factor. She was a grieving mother, but her grandchildren didn’t know this. I was the fifth of nine grandchildren, the middle, and I didn’t hear her speak of Bill. When I was in high school or college, my mother told me that my grandmother still got letters from Bill’s girlfriend. And she told me that my grandmother blamed FDR for her son’s death (because she needed to blame someone) and wouldn’t even have a stamp with his picture on it.

I never heard anyone speak of Bill, but I understand he was always in their hearts. I’ve lost a son at a young age and I know that you have periods of wondering what would his life have been like, where would he be now. And you always love them, they are always with you. I didn’t know these things when I was young and my grandparents were alive, so I never asked. I’m so sorry I didn’t know to let them share with me.

On this Memorial Day, I want to remember the uncle I never knew, the uncle who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country and our family. I don’t ever want to forget.

Thank you, William Lyle Hamilton. IMG_8718

 

 

I took this picture of one of my daughters and her daughter because it both amused me and made me think. img_0861It looks like my family has made it. You can just look at the way we dress and see that we are successful…not to mention on trend, with it, cool.

I’m not judging the style of torn clothing because I actually get it. Good grief, I’ve been through seven decades of the latest looks and have worn everything from madras plaids to bell bottoms, from spike to stack heels. I wore alligators and polo players on my shirts and ratted my hair into a bubble and then wore it in a Dorothy Hamill wedge. We all have our looks to cringe at as we look back.

This time, I’ve skipped the trend and I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. Partly, it’s because I’m 74 and don’t really think it looks good for me. I could pull it off, I think, but it just makes me grin. I think the reason goes deeper.

When I was growing up, torn or broken anything was a sign that you couldn’t get it fixed. You either didn’t know how or couldn’t afford to have someone else do it. My brother wore double thick knees on his jeans so they wouldn’t wear out that season. There were iron-on or sew on patches you could buy. We could cut our jeans off to wear ragged or turned up, but you wouldn’t wear them with holes in them. Our mothers would have been horrified. With good reason.

My mother grew up in Ardmore, OK during the depression. Her father died when she was 5 or 6 and her mother raised two boys and a girl with a small neighborhood grocery and by whatever means she could find. My mother said they had dignity because they owned their house so they weren’t thrown out even when the gas was turned off. Here is my grandmother in a glamorous pose.12CC4F9C-D9E7-43D5-B180-C40A3B2FAE89_1_201_aMy grandmother kept my mother’s dresses to make quilts. I have a few well worn quilts and some unfinished quilt tops from then that show the thinness of the fabrics. There was no waste in those days. They couldn’t afford it.IMG_0549My mother always looked stylish after she started working. Here she is when she was young.9BC5B5BD-716C-4FAF-BFE7-91DCF9643062_1_201_a

My other grandmother grew up poor in Uniontown, KY. Her mother died when she was 12 and she worked from an early age. Here is the earliest photo I have of her, after she was married to my grandfather and was living with his parents.imageI only have photos of three of my great-grandmothers. This is my father’s paternal grandmother, shown with him. These were their everyday clothes. They weren’t poor, but they had lots of children to keep dressed.IMG_8887This is my mother’s paternal grandmother, shown with my mother and her brothers. My mother may be wearing one of the dresses that ended up in a quilt. My mother told me her grandmother dressed the same way until she died, wearing layers of clothes as they did in the late 1800s. The earliest information I can find out about her is that she worked as a house servant in Texas when she was 14. Later she married and traveled to Ardmore, OK by covered wagon, where they set up the West Wagon Yard and did pretty well, although she always lived very simply.Scan 2This is my mother’s paternal grandmother. They were poor, living on a farm in southern Oklahoma. Both she and my grandfather ended up, literally, at the poor farm. I’m not sure if they were suffering from dementia or just couldn’t afford to live on the farm anymore, but I learned that they both died at the home in Vinita, OK. She was buried there and the family managed to bring him home later. IMG_6970So, I stand in the middle of the generations, looking back at my great-grandmothers who lived difficult lives, but managed to patch their children’s clothes and keep the families together, to my grandmothers, who both were poor as children, but worked hard and raised their families, to me, who was born to a comfortable lifestyle, which my husband and I worked hard to provide for our children.

My son was always the best at seeing the latest trends, so I know he would have laughed at the current one of the torn clothing. He was already there at 11 (about 1987), being himself. His mother (me) wasn’t going to patch those jeans since he was perfectly comfortable in them and growing to fast for me to worry about and we were just out fishing. He probably wore them other places and I just rolled my eyes. scan 2Our family has made it, if you look at the generations. I have grown children and grandchildren who can afford to buy expensive, torn clothing to show how well we are doing. I think I understand why I haven’t embraced this trend. I’m stuck in the middle of those who had nothing and those who have much. I look back and I look forward and I appreciate the progress. These are my people and I love them all.

My 10 year old granddaughter was experimenting in the kitchen, trying to make something with ice and a Grapette. Grandmothers know what a mess can be made but are a slight bit more tolerant than parents.

I’m not sure exactly what she was trying to achieve, but I told her I knew exactly what to do. I dug around and pulled out an old ice tray and filled it with Grapette and froze it. This gave her a history lesson (What’s an ice tray?) as well as brought back so many memories for me.img_0459Way back in the 1950s, when I was younger than my granddaughter now, we used to drive to visit my grandmother in Ardmore, Oklahoma. At that time, until the turnpikes and highways were built, the drive from Tulsa took at least four hours and involved going through multiple small towns and then winding along the narrow roads through the Arbuckles until you hit a flat road into Ardmore.IMG_0526This doesn’t look too bad, but it was narrow with big trucks going by quickly.  It used to scare me, sitting in the back seat looking at the drop off. I can now drive myself through the mountains in California and Colorado without freaking out, but it took me a long time to get over this minor childhood trauma (I had a great childhood).

When we got to my grandmother’s house, which was mostly in the summer when school was out, she would greet us and we would run to the kitchen and look in the refrigerator for squares, as we called them. These were the days when Kool-Aid was new and she would make a pitcher with lots of sugar and water (no instant in those days) and then freeze it in ice trays for us. We would grab a few squares (usually cherry or grape) in a bowl and take it to the front porch where we could sit on the porch swing and suck the sweetness out of those frozen treats. In Oklahoma, when it was hot and no or little air conditioning, this was the best.

Now, I know this isn’t the healthiest treat for any of us and I really like fruits and nuts, but this memory was so powerful. Add in the fact that I used a Grapette, which was our favorite drink in the summer (we used to pour it over ice cream for a special treat) and I couldn’t resist. My granddaughter took her bowl of squares to the glider (which was my mother’s) on the deck on a sunny fall day.

I took a square. There is no way that she got the same feelings that I did from this frozen experience. Besides the instant rush of grape flavor, there was a flood of memories of my grandmother, my mother, sitting on the porch swing, the drive, all of it.

IMG_0528Maybe my granddaughter will remember doing this – maybe not. That’s ok since we have plenty of other memories we’ve shared. For me, this was a trip back in time, into my heart and soul, for the sweetest of times, the times of love and family.

This seems so redundant, writing about losing my son. It’s been eight years today since that phone call woke me. He was gone, died in his sleep. It had been ten years since he was diagnosed with cancer and he was cancer free, but the treatments had ravaged his body and it just gave out. He was thirty-five years old with a wife and fifteen month old daughter.

So today is like all the days since. He’s not here and we all keep on living, knowing that our lives are different for loving and losing him. We are different, each of us who knew him. That’s how it works. That person and his or her life is absorbed into your own life and you keep going with all the things that you had in that relationship.

I’m pretty stoic about the whole thing, usually unable to cry after losing my husband and then my son. But, today, I saw down to write and find a picture that I could use and I started sobbing. That is unusual and was unexpected. It all came out while I looked at pictures of his life. I don’t know what that says really. I know we never get over these losses, but we go on, day after day.

I’m 73 now and my thoughts often go to the time I have left and how I want to spend it. I have no idea how many years I have left – do any of us? And I do squander several hours/days a week not doing anything that productive at all. It’s tiring to make all of it count, isn’t it?

Mainly, I try to keep in touch with friends and spend as much time with them as possible.  My family is around and I get to observe and participate as much as they let me. I used to say I wanted to stay healthy enough to keep up with my grandkids. These days, I want to stay healthy enough to watch them grow and live their lives.

I have seven grandkids between the ages of 17 and 21 and a nine year old. Every step of their lives that I get to witness is a treasure. The flip side of that is that every year that I am with them is another year for them to have memories of me. And I want to make that count. My maternal grandmother and my paternal grandparents were such an important part of my life and I only wish I had more memories, more information about them, more, more, more. With people marrying later and later and putting off having children, I wonder if there will even be grandparents at some point. It would be sad.

So, I dream now of watching my grandkids graduate, get jobs, marry and have some very special great-grandchildren for me. Well, not for me, but you know what I mean. Every day is a treat, a time to discover something new, an opportunity to explore and share. Sunrises and sunsets are still a wonder. The ocean, the sky, mountains and deserts are still miracles. Every living creature is still amazing.

But, today…today, I’m just a mom who lost a child. A mom who flipped through pictures and chose this one to share because it sums up a whole lot to me. Life.img_5786

Today would be my Mommy’s 97th birthday. I always called her Mommy and never thought a thing about it. We called her mother Mommie Dude and my children called my mother Grandmommy, so that’s the way it always was.

My mother, Betty West Hamilton, was a strong woman, bred from women who didn’t have easy lives but worked hard. I’ve written about her mother, who was widowed at about 27 and left in the middle of the Depression with three children. My mother was 6 at the time, the youngest with two older brothers. They were a close, tight family.

My mother and I didn’t always agree and she aggravated me no end a lot of the time, especially when I knew she was so often right. I fought to be my own person and not like her, to be more like my father. In the end, I became a mix of them both, becoming more my mother’s daughter as I grew up and realized the strength of the women in my family. She taught me so much, from how to make a bed with hospital corners to how to set the table. She taught me to always want to go places, to be ready for anything fun. Her mother taught us both that. “Let’s go do something!” was our motto.

Mommy was a beautiful woman who didn’t seem to age very much. When she went to the hospital for the last time, they were surprised at her age (almost 85). Her blonde hair (well, who knows what color it really was) and her incredibly smooth skin (moisturize, moisturize – the words still ring in my ears) belied her years. This photo was from years before, but one of my favorites. photoIn the end, she was on oxygen and had painful neuropathy in her feet, but never lost her sense of humor or her ability to listen to us tell about everything in our lives. I would say a fault was that she never liked to admit she was wrong, but she even mellowed in that as she grew older.

She almost always wore white. Sometimes there was a pastel or beige, but white was her preference. Our family and friends were amused by it, but it was so her…

Besides her mother, the woman who had the greatest influence on her was her paternal grandmother, Hattie Mills West. Grandmother West, as she called her, also always wore white – at least when my mother knew her. I only have two pictures of her and the first one was taken with her husband, E. Z. West and their son, John, who died at the age of 20. The original is an old tintype. My mother said Hattie had red hair, which she kept short, unlike the style of the day.Hattie & EZ West with John (2)I’ve tried to track down Hattie’s history, but it’s elusive as is the data on many who lived on farms across our country. From what I’ve found, she was born July 29, 1856 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama to Benjamin Mills and Dorcas Fox. The records get fuzzy because I find their names spelled different ways, etc. Some of those census people weren’t too careful back then.

Anyway, the next thing I could find was a census listing Hattie at the age of 14 as domestic help in Houston, TX. That 14 year gap is a mystery I keep trying to solve. The next thing I know she is marrying Ephriam Zacharius West, known as E. Z., around 1876.  They soon had my grandfather, Benjamin West in Denton, TX, followed by the birth of another son, George, and another son, John. George died at the age of 8 in Denton, Texas. Eventually, they made their way to Ardmore, Indian Territory, arriving by covered wagon as pioneers citizens of that community in 1895.

Ardmore was growing and a good place for a young couple to build a business and a life. They built a house and had a wagon yard adjacent to it. I had to ask my mother what a wagon yard was, thinking it was where they built wagons or fixed them. She explained that it was more like an early motel where people stayed when they drove their wagons to town. There were rooms with a little stove, a store to buy supplies, and probably stalls for the horses. Between 1893 and 1925, Ardmore had 39 wagon yards. The West Wagon Yard was located near where Central Park is in Ardmore today. I also found that E. Z. and his son, Ben, had other wagon yards, too.

I don’t have many details as I really didn’t ask enough questions until the end of my mother’s life. I know that John Q. West died in 1904 at the age of 20. His tombstone is the marker I use to find the family plot in the Ardmore Rose Hill Cemetery.IMG_3065IMG_3076John lived long enough to join the Woodmen of the World. I guess Ben helped E. Z. with the wagon yards until there was no need for them with the new automobile age. E. Z. died in 1920, the year before my mother was born. IMG_3067Piecing this story together, Ben lived with his mother, working in the wagon yard and then for the phone company as a lineman, as I recall. They had the wagon yard long enough for my mother to have a vague memory of it as she sketched me an picture not too long before she died. Ben met my grandmother, Artie Holt, when she was 18 and he was probably 38. They married and he brought her home.

Not to shorten the story of Ben, but to go on to my great-grandmother, I found that Ben had a small neighborhood grocery before he died. He had Bright’s Disease, which my mother said her doctor told her was probably caused by a childhood disease. Anyway, he died at the age of 50, leaving a young widow with three children and his mother. His is another story to tell.IMG_3072Hattie now is a widow and her husband and sons are gone. She is 71 years old and a respected Ardmore lady. The wagon yard was leased as a lumber yard before being developed in later years. She had her home, which was across the street from what is now Central Park in Ardmore, and she had several other properties. My grandmother and her children lived in a large home and my grandmother left each of the grandchildren their own house.

In the years before my mother died, she started telling me the stories of her grandmother. I’d always known what a great influence she was, but it became more and more clear why. Of course, the grandchildren spent time with her. This photo must have been taken around the time my grandfather died. I hadn’t seen it but recognized my great-grandmother immediately from my mother’s descriptions of her.Scan 2One day, I brought a small tape recorder and turned it on while my mother talked as I asked her to repeat stories she had told me. She didn’t know she was being recorded, not that it would have mattered. She took a piece of paper and sketched as she talked, showing me the inside of my grandmother’s house and sketching her garments.Grandmother West's house in Ardmore_2We went back in time as she described the rooms and the furniture. At one time, Hattie and E.Z. purchased a farm and moved there, although Hattie hated being out in the country. I honestly believe my mother was born out there, but she didn’t admit it. There were barrels around that they used to bring things in from the farm. My grandfather lived at the back of the house and my grandmother had a big armoire in the living room where she kept her opera hats. Yes, there was an opera in Ardmore as artists traveled from town to town. The hats were described as wire frames that Hattie stuffed with chiffon. I know she kept copies of Mary Baker Eddy’s books, although she wasn’t a Christian Scientist.

I remember the house because my aunt and uncle lived there when I was little. Here’s a photo of me in the yard.Scan 1

My mother described a woman who ate very sparsely, but made cookies that were heavy that my mother loved. Once she mentioned that people often came by to visit and talk. My mother said her grandmother never changed the way she dressed. Her clothes were the same as she wore in 1856, which made my mother laugh. Underneath was a pantaloon type thing that was basically two legs with a drawstring. There were other layers with several undergarments, which meant a lot of stuff at the waist. She wore a camisole type undergarment and a shirt waist. Most of these must have been made from feed sacks or cheap cloth.

Hattie lived for thirteen years after E. Z. died, so she was there until my mother was grown and had left town. There are gestures my mother made that I know she must have seen her grandmother do. She described how her grandmother took her fingers and fixed her hair and I could see clearly how that little girl watched. I sense that Hattie had a sense of dignity and a common sense that influenced everything about my mother. Hattie died in 1940, five years before I was born.IMG_3066IMG_6294I wonder what I would have thought of this lady in white who influenced my Mommy so much. I can only take what I know and read between the lines to fill in the story.

Today, as I think about my own mother, I realize how much of me came from her, and how much of her strength and personality came from her mother and her grandmother who both had so much influence on her. I hope that some of this has filtered down to my daughters and granddaughters whose lives have been so much easier than their ancestors.

It is a good feeling to know that you have the blood of these women to see you through the hard times as well as the good ones. I wish I had known my great-grandmother, Hattie. I miss my grandmother, Artie (Mommie Dude), who had so much influence on me.

I especially miss my Mommy. She was a good one!

 

My Road Trip playlist came together when I was travelling with my three oldest grandsons and wanted to share some of my favorite music with them. I’ve added a few things since I now use it when I drive the roads alone. I picked songs that keep me awake and remind me of old times along with the songs I love to sing along with. It’s something of a history of me.

There are songs from junior high and high school. How about a little Buddy Holly that I played so much in 7th and 8th grade? Some old rock & roll with Jerry Lee Lewis (music to shock the parents with the loud pounding piano and “Great Balls of Fire” and “Whole Lotta Shaking Going On”)Unknown-2and Fats Domino, Little Richard and Chuck Berry. I had to explain to the kids that DJs were brave to play music from black artists, which my 19 and 20 year olds didn’t get understand at all.Unknown-1We were a dancing generation, so I’ve got some great anthems of my youth. “Do You Love Me?”, “What’d I Say?”, “Good Lovin'”, “Do You Want to Dance?”, “I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” and, of course, “Louie, Louie.” Hopefully other drivers don’t notice the old lady rocking out a little down the road.

High School also brought us the Beach Boys, so I listen to “Surfing’ Safari,” and folk music, which took us to coffee houses and brought in social consciousness. I have some Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Kingston Trio and, probably my favorites, Peter, Paul & Mary. My concert days included all of them except Joan Baez. I went to this concert when I was a senior. imagesFor this list, I don’t have my Barbra Streisand favorites, but there are songs from Diana Ross & the Supremes, Credence Clearwater, and Simon & Garfunkel. It’s a hodgepodge for me to sing and think about.

The years went by, and there are a bunch of songs from The Beatles, who we discovered our freshman year in college when they were on Ed Sullivan and then embraced from then on.UnknownAnd, to round it out, my country vibes are all out there with Willie Nelson, because, well because WILLIE! I’ve got some of his most fun songs to make me smile and sing, “I Didn’t Come Here,” “If You’ve Got the Money, I’ve Got the Time,” “Big Booty,” and “On the Road Again,” because you have to have that one when you’re driving.

Some of these songs take me back to all the fun of dancing for hours with all my friends, some take me to the times when I listened to songs in my dorm room and tried to understand love, friendship and the world around me, some take me to concerts I attended (Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, the Beach Boys, The Kingston Trio, Peter, Paul & Mary, and Paul McCartney) and some I just have to hear. I’m not even a bar person, but get a kick out of the drinking songs. I keep thinking of another playlist, but this one is so much fun that I haven’t gotten around to it.

If you see me on the road, don’t laugh. Find your own favorites to sing along with and see if it doesn’t make the trip go a little faster!

 

 

I almost made it without writing this. Here is that day again, the day that reminds me that I lost my son, my only son, my youngest child, seven years ago today. There’s just no ducking it, especially since his family and friends miss him. That’s good – to be remembered so lovingly.

Today I was driving in the country on my way to appointments, trying to put thoughts together, piecing together the memories. I heard his voice on a tape in the car that played randomly on a playlist. I remembered things and bit my lip and didn’t scream at the universe because that’s really not what I do. He was 35 years old, which means he lived his whole life in 35 years. Some of us take longer to get it all done.

This time, I seemed to focus on what he is missing not being here to watch his nephews and niece and his daughter grow up. We are lucky that he left us his daughter. I’m lucky that I got to witness their bond because it was something special.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAShe was 15 months old when he died, already showing us a personality that rivaled her daddy’s at that age. Here’s how she looked the last day he spent with her.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is no doubt he didn’t want to leave this cutie behind. My mind did its tricks, whipping between memories and what ifs. Would she be as strong a personality if he had lived? Would she show the kindness that she has for all living things? Did his death make her stronger or bring out the best in her?

Well, crap. Who knows?

And so the day went by as I mixed my regular appointments and conversations with memories that came and went. Grief is unique for each loss. I know I mourn him differently than his sisters, his wife, his daughter, his friends and yet we share a common grief. We can laugh at the same stories and pictures and then have our personal feelings of loss.

This January 10, I focused on what he was missing because I already know how much I am.

I’m grateful for the time we had. It’s better to live with the grief than to imagine a world that never knew him. That would be the tragedy.

 

There are so many articles about uncluttering your home, getting rid of your stuff, simplifying everything. I start on a project like this and realize that I actually live in a scrapbook, a living scrapbook.

When I was a little girl, I always had a bulletin board and kept a scrapbook. Nothing was too insignificant to me if it reminded me of someone special or something that happened that I didn’t want to forget – ever! This is a habit that has never left me and it now adds up to 72 years this week of my life as scattered all around me.

I’m not sure if it bothers me enough or if it bothers me at all, to tell the truth. I’m more amused by it when I should be horrified. Maybe I’m just defending myself so that my daughters will laugh as they dig through when I’m gone – one of these days. Not leaving yet!

I mean, what do you do when you look on a shelf and find your own teddy bear from babyhood (music box inside it is broken – wonder what it played?) sitting next to your husband’s teddy bear?  Personally, I smile. Just so you know how bad it is – I also have my Daddy’s teddy bear and my son’s collection of bears.

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When dusting my mantel, I pick up each of these old elephants and feel the smooth wood. Daddy brought these home from the war when he was stationed in Africa. My brother, sister and I played with them, hence the lost tusks and glued on trunks.

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I don’t have anything stored in this old metal box, but I opened it many times during my childhood to see what Daddy kept inside. It’s still mysterious to me and that’s just fine.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s another music box. My husband bought this one for me in Switzerland. We wanted another one, but this was the one we could afford and its melody reminds me of that trip so many years ago.

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You see what the dangers are as I dig through a lifetime of little things that all bring a special moment or place or a beloved face to mind. There are memories on every shelf, every table, in every drawer. Where do I start to erase them? Which ones do I let go, wondering if they will be lost forever if I don’t have this little memento, this scrap of paper with handwriting so familiar, this memory of a laugh or tear?

Now it’s time to decorate for the holidays and I have way too many decorations, especially Santas. There are some I can let go when I feel like it, but mostly I just like them. Here is a picture of my kitchen window last year. In it I see a tall skinny Santa from my childhood, one that my husband bought me at a gallery in New Orleans, a couple that my kids bought me with their little hard earned coins and bills, one made by a lifelong friend, another given by a friend who died way too young, some from a volunteer project I worked on as a young mother, and others collected from travels or from artists or because I liked them.DSC_0174Imagine a house full of memories like that and you are with me. I’m going to keep trying to shed things that are meaningless, if there is such a thing in my life. I’m going to keep trying because it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. In the meantime, my memories are refreshed all the time and that’s not such a bad thing for an old lady.

Sorting through the 1,000 pictures I took in Oregon because I can’t help myself, I had a hard time picking the best ones to tell the story. I was trying to find ones that were different from my other visits, but there are always the same ones that I can’t ignore. When I take a break from my semi-retirement regular life, spent with my  family and my part-time job, I also take a break from most of the news and all the other headaches of everyday life. That means I’m there to soak up every healing thing I can see, hear, smell, touch or feel to fill my soul with memories that will override the crap we all have to deal with most of the time.

This year, we started our trip by landing in Portland and driving a quick 5 hours to outside of Crater Lake National Park, one of the National Parks I hadn’t seen yet (they are all on my bucket list – even the ones I have seen several times). It had been touch and go as to whether we would go there because of the fires in the state, but it miraculously snowed early in the week, cleaning the skies. We parked at the Crater Lake Lodge, excited to get to the views. And, of course, it started raining on us as we got out of the car. Dang. IMG_4713We raced inside to be greeted by yet another beautiful historic park lodge with fireplaces roaring.IMG_4718By the time we got outside, the rain was stopping (typical Oregon) and we made our way along the rim before driving to the spot where we would meet our trolley tour around the lake. I have to recommend this trip. The West rim was closed for construction (and earlier for the fires), but we were able to see it all through the tour. Our guide, Ranger Annie, is a retired geologist and was full of information, showing us photos and picking out interesting things to show us at all the stops. We learned about the plants, wildlife, lake life, flowers, trees, and geology of the lake. She also showed us the impacts of climate change on the area and gave us insight into what the park services and scientists are doing to learn more about this area. I can’t tell you how much I love National Park Rangers!IMG_4742I told my friend I just wanted a minute with the sky blue so I could see the lake in all its glory. I’d come all this way, after all. I got more than a minute as the sun came and went all through our visit. Oh my – it truly is glorious to see one of the deepest and the cleanest lake in the world sparkling in the sun.DSC_0059Regardless, it was also beautiful to see it with the silver shimmer when the clouds were overhead.DSC_0022We saw the Phantom Ship island, which looks small as does everything until you can get the scale.DSC_0046Leaving the park, we also stopped at Natural Bridge to get my first glimpse of the raging Rogue River that goes all the way to the Pacific. Nothing like a roaring river to wake up your senses.DSC_0064That was just the first full morning of our trip, which gives you an idea of how many treasures we had ahead of us. It was too much to prioritize which ones to visit again or for the first time. We did see a couple of the many, many covered bridges this time. The first one was on our way to Crafter Lake, Lowell Covered Bridge. IMG_4681The second one we saw was towards the end of our trip, Drift Creek Bridge, east of Lincoln City. Don’t ask me why I’ve never seen covered bridges until this year when I saw these two and a couple of the Bridges of Madison County. They are fascinating, lovely pieces of our history.IMG_5214The view from our condo in Depoe Bay is lovely in clear weather or in storms. IMG_4770Since Depoe Bay is the Whale Watching Capital of the World, we looked for whales. Some years, we had to take the whale watching boats out to see them, but the past two years they have been right outside our window. They came as close as just past the rock in the picture, which was pretty close to the seawall on Highway 101. That’s the closest I’ve ever seen them come in. Here’s one right off the rocks.DSC_0104 One of our favorite beaches is Fogarty Creek, where the creek runs into the sea right out of the magical forests along Highway 101.IMG_5194 Our first morning there, we found driftwood tossed around, looking battered from the journey.DSC_0074This other piece is on the walk to the beach from the car and has been there for years. I always enjoy this angle that looks like a creature peeking at us.IMG_5190The sea was pretty calm for the first few days, but there was sea kelp (or sea whips) and sea weed, and feathers floating and rocks shaped like hearts.DSC_0095DSC_0088DSC_0077DSC_0087We also were standing near this man and I recognized his gesture as giving thanks on the beautiful morning.IMG_4787His name is Mark D. Shelton, http://www.markdshelton.com, and he is the Tribal Artist of the Chinook Tribe. It turned out he has relatives in Oklahoma, another small world moment. IMG_4785Our nightly sunset viewing didn’t look too promising, but it turned into something special by the Depoe Bay seawall when we watched the sun set through a rainstorm, a unique view. IMG_4807The next day we wandered up the road to Lincoln City where a Kite Festival was happening! We’ve always missed it in the past, so it was a treat to see all the colorful kites flying.DSC_0208We walked out in time to watch a synchronized kite contest where teams flew their kites in routines to music, a dance in the skies.DSC_0235My friend was born in Oregon, so she is basically coming home. I pretend I’m not a tourist since I’ve been there so much. When the weekend is over and the weekend crowd is gone, we take longer trips down the coast. On a beautiful day, I had the wild idea of taking a hike I had read about, so we drove down the coast to Yachats (don’t pronounce the c). We had driven through but never stopped, which was a mistake. It’s absolutely charming. Wow! I could stay there any time. Here’s a view from one of the parks. Beautiful parks, views, restaurants, and it’s near Cape Perpetua, another wonderful place.IMG_4890I didn’t do all of my hike due to not really knowing if I was on the right place (I was, but couldn’t tell), but the woods were lovely and I looked down across the Pacific Ocean.IMG_4883DSC_0261IMG_4884From Yachats, we wove around Highway 101, past Cape Perpetua with the Devil’s Churn, Thor’s Well, and The Spouting Horn, stopping below Heceta Head Lighthouse for a quick visit with a friend before heading south to Florence for lunch. We had the iconic view of the lighthouse. The last photos I took showed it covered up for restoration.DSC_0283DSC_0281Around the curve was the view of the Oregon Dunes, a dramatic change from the Cape Perpetua cliffs.DSC_0285In Florence, we ate by the docks. I’m a sucker for piles of colorful buoys.DSC_0289The next day we lazed around Depoe Bay, having a lovely lunch at Tidal Raves and watching whales off our porch as they spouted a heart at us. DSC_0326 Later we headed to Newport for crab for dinner and realized the sunset was coming so we crossed the bridge and headed for a view at Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, gleaming in the fading light on its hill. DSC_0337We were watching the sunset through the trees, IMG_4930when I turned and saw the moon coming up over the Yaquina Bay Bridge behind us. Another lovely image of the most familiar of the Conde McCullough bridges along Highway 101 in Oregon. I fell in love with this bridge the first time I crossed it back in 2009.DSC_0348The next day was for driving north, through beautiful farm country, IMG_4941to a mandatory stop at Tillamook dairies for ice cream before heading on to Cannon Beach. It was a beautiful day on this gorgeous beach where the weather can change in a minute! We parked at Tolovana Park where my friend grabbed her book for a beach read while I started the walk to Haystack Rock. IMG_4990It looks close until you realize that the people beside the rock are ant-size. I think it’s about a mile from where I started, but it’s a wonderful walk on a flat, sandy beach. The last time I was here, the tide was out and there were tide pools with urchins and other critters. This time, I couldn’t get so close, but the reflections were incredible.IMG_4958On the way, I witnessed a life and death fight between a crab and a seagull. My heart was with the crab, although that was a little hypocritical since I ate one the night before. I walked right up, trying to give the crab a chance, but the seagull was persistent and won his dinner. The crab waved his claws bravely, fighting all the way.DSC_0369DSC_0371I’m still a long way away in this photo.IMG_4965There were great views of Tillamook Lighthouse to the north. The story of Terrible Tilly is interesting as men fought to build on the rock.DSC_0386Walking back, the skies changed, of course, but the view to the south was gorgeous too.DSC_0402After a lunch at Mo’s on the beach, we drove back, stopping to see a dahlia farm in all its blooming beauty. So many varieties!DSC_0416DSC_0439DSC_0452DSC_0458I was anxious to get back to our condo as I have driven Highway 101 through the fog and forest – not fun with all the curves. We made it back in time to watch the sunset at Fogarty Creek. Lovely.DSC_0477For our last full day on the coast, we drove back to Newport (only 15 minutes away), stopping at Yaquina Head Lighthouse, where we’ve been several times before. It was such a beautiful day and we couldn’t resist.IMG_5051On that day, the whales were spouting like crazy all around us and visitors were pointing all over. I like the birds lined up on the rock to watch the show.DSC_0522In Newport, we went to the docks on the bayfront,DSC_0541and then to see the funny California Sea Lions that stay there. We’re told only the males come, so it’s kind of like a fraternity house with some lounging around and others fighting for a spot.DSC_0556While watching the sea lions, we spotted a first for us. Jellyfish were swimming around the docks. I’ve seen them in aquariums, but never out in nature. These orange ones were quite fascinating as they undulated along. DSC_0567DSC_0582DSC_0585We next toured the Sylvia Beach Hotel with its rooms named for various authors and the Next Chapter Restaurant. It’s right on Nye Beach with beautiful views.IMG_5140There are rooms for J. K. Rowling with a Harry Potter theme, Mark Twain, Herman Melville, Amy Tan, Gertrude Stein, Ken Kesey, William Shakespeare and others, all beautifully decorated. We loved the Dr. Seuss room with this whimsical bed. Such a fun place for lovers of books!IMG_5109On the cliffs at the point by our condo, I watched our last beach sunset with the same mixed feelings I always have when it’s time to leave. I spotted a whale spouting near the buoy in the bay, DSC_0632and saw the harbor seals sleeping on a rock on the other side,DSC_0614before the sun finally set calmly into the sea. Sigh.DSC_0657.JPGAll week the ocean had been very calm, so we were rewarded the next morning when we made a final visit to the cliffs on the point before we left town. I can’t tell you how mesmerized I am by the crashing waves. On past trips, I’ve had to tear myself away from watching them grow,DSC_0720DSC_0661foam,DSC_0729and crash against the rocks.DSC_0701And I spotted a precious feather on the rocks of the cliff.DSC_0113I have so many photos – I can’t resist. This was a nice way to end our visit to the coast.

As we drove east towards Salem, we drove back to see the Drift Creek Covered Bridge. Looking at the land around it, I took away another memory of a more rural Oregon.IMG_5230So ends my ode to Oregon for this year. When I think of this state, I always know a piece of my heart is there and that’s just fine.DSC_0366DSC_0187