Archives for posts with tag: memories

While being snowed in for a couple of days, I’ve been decorating the house. This is no small deal as I have a vast collection of Santas and other Christmas objects. It takes me about three days to get it all out and that’s if I don’t get distracted. Part of the time is spent cleaning and clearing away everyday items to make room. It takes three steps: get everything out, make a huge mess, bring it all together.

This year, the emotions of it struck me harder than usual. Each piece I bring out has a story or brings a memory with it. There are ornaments and Santas from vacations that bring a flash of fun. There are Santas given to me by dear friends, long gone. There are ornaments from projects I worked on through the years. There’s the Santa my son gave me when he was 13, a hand made one he bought from an artist. There’s the Waterford Santa my husband bought me the year our first three grandsons were born, a Santa with a child on his lap. Little did we know that would be our last Christmas together. There are Santas and reindeer and bells brought to me by my precious little daughters. There’s a lovely snowman snow globe my daughter-in-law to be brought me when she and my son first started dating. There are some from my childhood and Santas and trees from my mother, purchased at Neiman Marcus so very many years ago.

As each of my children moved out of the house into their own, I gave them their box of ornaments. That left me with fewer, so I started using a little half tree that goes on the wall. It’s kind of my Charlie Brown Christmas tree, but it works. I have the same Santa on top I’ve had since the first year we had a tree, back in 1967. We actually married on December 23, 1966, but were on our honeymoon that year. I’ve added ornaments I found a few years ago that are picture frames with images of my family and some dear friends, even my pets. I decided these are the treasures of my life.

It’s tempting not to decorate. I don’t have the big parties I used to and it’s mostly for me, but it’s still special and fun. I usually hum while I’m working, all the beautiful and fun holiday music of our lives.

The emotions run through every day during the holidays as we celebrate with friends and family. We’re hurried to get what we want for our gift list and we’re bombarded with requests for donations from so many deserving charities. The joy is tempered by the guilt as we see one more image of a family who will have nothing when we have so much. We give canned goods and adopt families and drop coins in the Salvation Army buckets, knowing we can never do enough because the needs are so great. Some of us have someone close to us who is as needy as the people on the lists, but would never let us know. The joy of the season is tempered by the sorrow of those in pain and need.

The holidays are for sharing, sharing with all the joy in your heart. We pay it back and pay it forward and we reach out of ourselves. It’s a wonderful thing, this season of hope that brings out the best in all of us. A very wonderful time of year.

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Bit by bit, I’m cleaning out my garage. It had gotten out of control as I stored things for relatives and friends and kept things I might sell in a garage sale or might use later. I’m still sorting.

There was a moment when I thought I might be on the brink of being a hoarder, but then I recruited some of my grandsons to help me dig out and discovered some hidden bonuses. First, I found a box of old directories and date books, which I have kept since 1975. I have actually used them to find dates for things nobody else can find. There were a few directories from groups I volunteered with that contained a list of past presidents that helped us put together a history of an organization. There were other directories that helped me remember names of people I worked with. The date books have helped me date old photos and events through the years, not to mention giving a timeline of my life when I need it. I confess to being a keeper, a keeper of old photos, letters, memories. There is a difference in being a keeper or being a hoarder. I hope.

There was a lot of junk in the garage, still is. The biggest decision was not to do a garage sale which would take an inordinate amount of time and energy, but to start throwing away and giving away. Local charities are glad to get stuff like I had in there. Some of it was leftover merchandise from when I owned a gift shop and I’m thrilled they can profit a little from it.

The best part was watching my grandsons discover things and ask questions. There was a conversation about things that belonged to their grandfather who died before some of them were born or things that belonged to their uncle. They wanted to take things home with them, which I let them do. They found out things about their relative and about me that they didn’t know. I gave one who loves making movies a camera that was my father’s. Later I found a photo of my father using one of his cameras, emailing it to him to make a lasting connection.

When my mother died, my sister and I spent weeks going through her things. She had already cleaned out a lot of cabinets and drawers and closets and given us some precious items, but there is always the chore of touching every single thing in a house, every little bobby pin (remember those?), scrap of paper, piece of clothing in drawers, closets, a house. A lot of stuff. It turned out to be fun, full of memories and stories and laughter, a last way to connect and learn about her life. I’ve heard other people say this, too, and it’s true that the things people want in the end are the old cookie jar or some object that strikes a memory rather than the most expensive things.

So, I continue to sort and clean out and am close to being able to get my car in there again. There is still much that needs to go, and it gradually will, I promise. I want to leave things that my kids can laugh about, wonder why I kept it and figure it out, discover something new about me, or remember something fun from our lives. My goal is to be more historian than hoarder. I’m digging through, excavating so to speak, a job that will never end.

I hope when I’m gone, my kids say, “What a mess.” And then, “What a life!”

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My youngest grandchild turned four today and several times her conversation started with “Remember when…” We laughed because it sounds so funny for a little one to be looking back at experiences she remembers in her short life, short compared to ours. I was thinking about it and realized what a big step it is. Up until now her life was all about what lay in front of her. Now, she has a little bit of past and she’s remembering and comparing it to now. Wonder how long she’s been doing this and just didn’t have the verbal skills to tell us about it?

I’m constantly astounded by how much a child learns in the first few years as those little sponge brains soak up everything around them. Today’s children must come out of the womb knowing how to use all the technologically advanced gear we carry around. This one has almost never lived without an iPad and there have always been cell phones in her little life. She’s my first grandchild whose life is over photographed (I plead guilty without shame) due to digital photography and the ability to edit and send photos immediately. She’ll never even think about those things because it’s all she’s ever known. I wonder what incredible things lie in her future?

We were driving through downtown today and she was remembering other times we had been there and what we had done, which streets we had been on, who we were with. She’s been doing that for quite awhile actually. Her little history is pretty exciting to her, which means we’ve all done a good job providing great experiences for her.

This is a big day. From now on, she’ll be forever saying, “Remember when…” and adding more chapters to her story. Looking back at my own story, doing my own personal “remember whens,” I can only hope for her and for all my grandchildren that they have a wonderful life full of love, family, friends and great memories. Of course, we know there will be the not so good times, and this little one has already had more than her share of those as she lost her Daddy and Grandma, but I hope that there are so many good “remember whens” to get her through the sad times, the hard times, the challenging times.

When you get to be my age, you have lots of memories to deal with, to sort through, to put in perspective. Your brain is so cluttered with a lifetime stuffed into that internal file room that you sometimes have to do a search to find what it is you want to remember. Today, I enjoyed listening to a little one with a brain that is filling oh so quickly ask me to “Remember when…” Today was a special day to add to her memories and I’m so glad I was there.

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OK – I can’t be the only person who brings home a carload of souvenirs from a road trip…can I? It’s not like I can’t remember the place or person, but I do tend to forget after a time and the things I pick up along the trails of my life make me smile as I walk by them or dust them and shake up a memory from a wonderful experience. My home is packed with such memories and I’m old enough to know I’ll never be a minimalist in any way. So, here’s what I brought home from my travels through the South this past two weeks…think what you will.

First are the general, sometimes tacky, souvenirs: hats, t-shirts, magnets, lapel/hat pins and a few books, including a Cajun Little Red Riding Hood, “Petite Rouge,” because I have other Cajun children’s stories and love to read them out loud. You can’t help but sound a little Cajun…DSC_1059

 

I’ve collected the pins since I was in Vienna way back in the 1970s and saw a man with pins on his hat in European fashion. I used to be somewhat casual about it, but ended up with quite a few and now always look for them. I have them on a little bulletin board in my laundry room that I pass by every day.DSC_0001

 

The refrigerator magnets are a new deal and I have to promise to stop…DSC_0002

 

I just bought a hat and t-shirt in the town where my father was born because that’s all they had. I bought a ball cap in Savannah to wear out on the water and a cute painted t-shirt in Charleston because I liked the artist.

Then there’s the food category, which really can get out of hand in the South…

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After all, I can’t get boiled peanuts and okra chips at home and who could pass up the Peach or Cherry cider and the Sweet Potato anything? And I wanted to see what was in red rice, so I bought a package, and then we went to Avery Island where they make Tabasco sauce and had to buy some of the new flavors. This is nothing compared to the souvenirs that didn’t make it home because they were eaten along the way…another blog. I did buy a cookbook from one restaurant to get the recipe for the best sweet potato soufflé I’ve ever eaten.

And we had to have things from the nature part of the trip, so I have seashells from the Katrina-wrecked beaches of the Gulf and puppets of animals from the National Parks we visited, Mammoth Cave and the Great Smokey Mountains.DSC_1067

 

Finally, there were the antiques and art I had to have. I’ve always liked to support local artists, especially when they have pieces that represent what I’ve come to love in their home. So that is why I came home with a ceramic mug and platter from potters in Fairhope, Alabama, a painting from the streets of the French Quarter in New Orleans, and antique tobacco basket from Thomasville, Georgia (what am I going to do with this huge piece even though I love it and got quite a deal on it) and an antique framed book plate by a well known artist of the Charleston Renaissance period (I learned about that). Each piece of art came with a story to make it even more special.DSC_1068

 

Maybe because I’ve owned a gift shop and know what it’s like to have people wander in and not buy anything, maybe because I’ve worked with artists for years and want them to be appreciated, maybe it’s the things my mother taught me, but I never, NEVER come home empty handed. The end result is that my home is a warehouse for some pretty exciting travels that I love to remember. I can only hope my children will smile and laugh a bit when they have to clean this stuff out when I’m gone! I can feel their eyes rolling…

Some friends and I were talking today about how we’ve reached the age when we’re really interested in our ancestry. Not that we weren’t before, but we probably just didn’t have the time to do the research and find the stories. And one of the things we all agreed was that we wish we’d asked our parents and grandparents more questions, learned more about them in the days before they knew us.

There was a day when I asked my mother about her grandmother and she started telling me the most interesting stories. I went home & came back with a recorder a few days later and had her repeat them, not knowing about the recorder. She sat at her desk illustrating her memories for me to explain things I wasn’t familiar with. That recording is a treasure, my mother talking and me asking the questions. Why didn’t I do more of that? How did I miss asking my grandparents and my father and my in-laws things that I wonder about now.

In this age of technological advances that change so quickly we can’t keep up, it’s amazing how little we had when I was growing up and how much I’ve seen in my lifetime. They were watching the changes, too. What did they think?

Here are five questions I wish I’d asked. I know there are more, but here are my first five good ones!

1. What did you do during the war? My father was a Lt Colonel in the Army Air Force in World War II and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Why didn’t I ask him more about what his time overseas was like? My grandmother worked in a parachute factory. What was that like? My grandparents sent three sons and a son-in-law to serve and their youngest son didn’t come back. Why didn’t I ask more questions?

Here’s my father during the war…

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He told me some stories, but not all.

2. What did you do for fun when you were young? Who were your friends? What did you play with? Where did you go when you were young adults? They didn’t have electronic games or television…what did they do?

Who is my grandmother’s friend in this photo?

Artie Holt West (right) & friend

What kind of lodge was my grandfather in?

Ben West lodge group (2)

Here’s my other grandfather’s fraternity picture…

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3. What kind of work did you do or what did your parents and grandparents do? Or maybe, what was your first or favorite job? I know one great-grandfather ran a mill on the Ohio River and another one was a farmer and another one ran a wagon yard in Ardmore. One of my grandfathers worked for the telephone company on the wires when that was a new thing. What did the women do? One grandmother ran a neighborhood grocery store and rooming houses.

4. What was your house like growing up? How big, how many rooms, how were they furnished? That sounds so simple, but I know it was so different from the way we live our lives today. The way I grew up is different from my parents. I can remember our first dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, television set, air conditioner. Our homes are so much more complicated today.IMG_3731

 

5. What were your dreams? I don’t know if they did as they were expected to and dropped their dreams behind them and found new ones or what they expected out of their lives.

It’s universal among my friends that we wish we’d asked more. We’re getting to the age where our children and grandchildren should start asking us. One of the problems is we think our life isn’t that interesting. We need to get over that and just remember and share. All of us have interesting stories…all of us.

I take a lot of photos. I’d say too many but I don’t think you can take too many. We’re a far cry from the days when you took the picture and had to be careful you didn’t waste the film or the plate or whatever you were using. I love all photos, posed or candid, although I admit to loving the random moments we catch best.

I’ve got a lot of old family pictures, collected from my grandparents and my parents. I was looking at some of them recently and it crossed my mind that I wasn’t sure who took them. Who captured this special moment, what were they thinking? I can guess at some of them because of the setting. It opened up a whole new look at people I knew, gave them a new dimension to think of them behind the camera, catching this moment.

Here’s what I mean…

Who took these photos of my great grandfather and great grandmother? Who had a camera on that farm? Who wanted to capture him chopping wood or her feeding the chickens?

Benjamin Holt cutting wood

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Who took this picture of my father? I know they hired professionals sometimes, but…

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I’m guessing my grandfather took this one of his parents with his children. I never saw my grandfather with a camera, so this is a revelation.

Mom & Dad Hamilton with J. C., Ed & Sara

This one of my great-grandmother with my mother and her brothers is a mystery. My grandfather had already died when this was taken, so who took it? I don’t think my grandmother had a camera then.

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Did my grandmother or one of my uncles take this of my mother at her high school graduation? Who would she pose for?

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I know my father took this one of me as a baby…

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He must have taken this one too and it touches my heart that he captured this moment.

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And I guess he took this one of his father with my brother and me…

Jim, Karen, Grandad

My mother always said she didn’t like photos, but I bet she took this one…

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I know how I feel behind a camera and I know what I’m looking for, the moments I’m trying to capture. I know when I get a picture that has caught a look we all know. Now I’m thinking of all the members of my family who went before me. The photos they took, the ones they kept teach me a lot. I feel even more of a connection with them through these photos. I hope I’m passing that down to my children and my grandchildren and that they can feel those same connections. There is something about looking through a lens…

Just got back from a morning walk and remembered this piece I wrote for no particular reason 10 years ago. So much has happened since then, but a lot hasn’t changed. You can read this while I cool off…

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I took a walk tonight – a small journey. I have lived in this house, this neighborhood, for less than a year. I moved from my big family house of 27 years to my small house for me. It is a nice neighborhood with homes from the 1940’s, a neighborhood of four blocks with distinct boundaries. There are older people and young couples with small children – a good mix. Some of the homes look small from the street, but they have been remodeled and rooms have been added and they can be deceptive.
I have always liked to walk – it makes me stand up straighter, get my arms and legs in synch, and let my thoughts flow free. I wasn’t walking too fast – but fast enough. Other walkers said Hi – we do that here. I waved to a young couple & their children who are friends of my kids. I got into my rhythm and let my mind flow to other summers, other walks. This summer has been mild so far – the hot Oklahoma sun has not begun to beat down, withering everything in its path. The night was pleasant, everything is green and smells fresh. I loved the air against my face.
I used to walk through the old neighborhood with my husband. At one time, I was trying to get in shape and we walked every day for months – maybe close to a year. He was obsessive – like a personal trainer. We would walk four miles every morning and three miles every evening. Just leave the kids and walk. And talk. I have no idea what we talked about – but we talked and talked – trying to keep breathing while we moved. Neighbors said they could hear our voices traveling up to their second story bedrooms in the early morning and they would know it was just us. People who saw us walking laughed. He was 6’4” and I am about 5’5”. About every block, I would do a little quick run walk to catch up to his stride. He just walked and I jump stepped to keep up. At least he didn’t have me jogging beside him. I don’t know if a run of bad weather or kids’ activities or what made us stop. Some excuse.
Tonight I walked just before sunset. It was light enough to see but the lightning bugs were starting to blink, bringing back memories of childhood summers chasing each other around in the dark, filling jars with holes punched in the lids full of the wonderful bugs, hoping to catch their magic. The bugs were talking – I remember June bugs from summer. We would catch them and let them walk across our hands – tickling us with their feet.
I walked through another neighborhood, past homes that used to occupy my childhood friends. A feeling of stability and continuance – I have been here and am still here. I walked on a street where I used to walk with a friend in high school as he threw his paper route.
I walked to move my body, feel my heart pump, my lungs breathe and my thoughts flow. I walked to get away and to come home.

There’s a plate that hangs in my kitchen that I have there for the sentiment…

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I DO love the fireworks of summer. They bring back summers past when I watched fireworks displays with my family growing up, shooting off sparklers and bottle rockets, back when we shot off lots of dangerous, exploding things, watching big displays from blankets in the dark.

When I lift my face to the sky to wait for each burst of color and light, I go back to the days of my own young family, watching them with their own sparklers, running and playing as they waited for dark and the sounds of the fireworks in the night.

Wendy, Robin - Kerry in back

Our driveway was stained with the marks of snakes and exploding toys and sparklers laid down to burn out. There was such a thrill in watching each piece being lit, anticipating what burst or fizzle it would bring.

It’s all magic. I love the sounds of patriotic music playing at the ballpark as they launch their display. I love the family activities leading up to the fireworks show, all the noise of excited children. I love watching family and friends, dressed in red, white and blue, gather on their blankets or chairs to wait together, all the craziness of anticipation quieting down for the first big boom. I remember the days when I leaned against my husband to watch the sky or cuddled a child and smiled at the wonder in his or her face, lighted by the bursts before us, the lights sparkling in bright eyes. I love the parents carrying sleepy children to cars and home to cozy beds at the end of the evening.

The fireworks of summer burn memories into our hearts that are brought forward with each spark the next year.

Be safe and enjoy your own fireworks of summer!

So many summers I’ve spent watching kids in swimming pools, reacting or not reacting to the calls of “Mommy, watch this…” over and over. There’s such a peacefulness about baking in the sun or standing in the water watching kids bounce and splash. It’s one time when the noise of happy play is part of the atmosphere around you.

My youngest grandchild has learned to jump off the side of the pool, laughing at the thrill of it all. How many more jumps will I watch her make? The diving board is next. All eight are now leaping into water with the impetuousness of youth. Ages 3 to 16 splash with equal delight.

Today, I was going through pictures and found photos of my own children, frozen in a moment of pure joy.

My oldest at 9, leaping with complete abandon…

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My middle girl on her 7th birthday, trying a twisting move in the air…

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My youngest daughter at 4, flying like the big kids…

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My son at 5 1/2, jumping with all the enthusiasm for life he always had…

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And, I remember that I jumped with such joy when I was young. I can feel the air underneath me now before I hit the water. Watching my next generations takes me back and moves me forward. May we always remember that incredible feeling of flying with nothing to fear and only joy in our hearts. Happy summer memories…

A friend of mine always marvels at his cousins, saying they share 1/2 of his DNA. He’s right, of course. The connection is unique and interesting, especially when you start getting into your first cousin-once removed, second cousins, etc. The hilarious HBO show, Family Tree, is about a man searching for his relatives and finding all kinds of off the wall characters.

In my life, which is the only one I can speak of with any iota of experience, cousins have played many different roles. I had eight cousins on my father’s side and three on my mother’s side. I was the middle cousin and the oldest cousin. None of mine lived where I live, but I saw several of them a lot, spent time with them growing up. Looking back, one cousin and I seemed to always be off on an adventure, sharing secrets that we hope nobody found out about. Once we snuck into my parents’ bathroom & took stuff out of the medicine cabinet, combining things into what we called “mixtures.” We kept a notebook of the different combinations. This included everything from medicines to creams to whatever was in there. Yikes! I don’t think my parents found out…ever. Once we got on a bus and rode it to wherever it went. My aunt had to come get us when we got off and had to ask someone to use their phone. A much more innocent time, obviously! Her life went in some tragic directions…she kept on making crazy and hurtful choices. I keep in touch with several of my cousins, even with the different places our lives have taken us. They are special links to people and places in my history.

My own children had five cousins, four on my side, two on their fathers. Three of the cousins lived a block away growing up, went to school with them, played with them. They were close in age to two of my own so they have secret memories that I find out about when they are laughing about something they did way back then. My mother kept getting the award for the grandparent with the most grandchildren at the school (7), which made her laugh. She said it was an award for having prolific daughters!

Cousins 1990

My grandchildren are a unique bunch. They were born in bunches, it seems, and all live in the same town, going to the same school, playing sports together. I’m speaking of the older seven, who range in age from 11-16. The youngest, at 3 1/2, is on her own but finds them all pretty exciting. She has her own special place in all their lives, the living reminder of her father, their uncle, who died very young. She bonds with each of them differently. I love her with her 13 year old cousin who looks like he is her older brother…

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If our family has been given a gift, it’s these cousins. All are close to their own siblings as well as the extended family. In fact, sometimes you can’t tell which one belongs with which family. For me, it’s watching the genetic pool at its most frenzied. Some of the children seem to have sprung from one of their aunts or uncle, some look more like a cousin than their own sibling. When you have them all together, you have to marvel at the connections and see how closely we are joined by the DNA. And you have to acknowledge the incredible individuality of each of them. There are different personalities, different approaches to life, and amazing affection for each other.

Here the oldest three…eight months between the oldest and youngest of them…two in the same class at school…

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Here are the next two, eight months apart, who play basketball together, are in the same class…

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And the younger two, boy and girl, three weeks apart in age, who we thought shared the same brain when younger…

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What will their futures bring? I’m sure they’ll go in different directions and be as individual as they are now. They’ll have spouses and children and do different things. The comforting thing is that they have had the unique and wonderful experience of having a larger pool of relatives to share their youth and their experiences. I’m sure they have more secrets than we can even imagine.

I hope that they take all of this with them, in their hearts…and that it makes them even better people than I think they will be. Great kids…all of them. Grandmothers do get to beam with pride, yes we do!