Monthly Archives: July 2012

Missing Mom…

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Last year, on this date, my mother celebrated her 79th birthday.

She had her hair done.

She received flowers.

Birthday cards were lined up around the living room.

Ribbons festooned her walker.

She had visitors.

She delightedly opened small gifts.

Mom was living the last few weeks of her life, and she knew it.

Still, with good example and extreme grace, she was teaching.

LIVE every day.

CHERISH every moment.

CELEBRATE when you can.

Every day, I appreciate the lessons she taught and the example she set.

Every day, I am thankful to have had her in my life for as long as I did.

Today, on what would have been her 80th birthday, I am missing my Mom.

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One Week in July

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I’ve been entertaining company this last week.

Or, rather, they’ve been entertaining me.

Madeline, Tommy and Patrick arrived on the 15th of July along with my daughter, Jen, who is also Patrick’s Mom.

It was “Museum Week” here on Beaver Island, with special events every day. We went to “Music on the Porch” at the Mormon Print Shop Museum on Monday night to listen to talented islanders sing and play instruments for a “pass the hat” donation. I submitted several paintings to the Museum Week Art Show at the Gregg Fellowship Hall. No sales for me this year, but I had good response from viewers. We planned, all week, on dressing up little Rosa Parks (as a Ladybug, according to the final vote!) and entering her in the Museum Week Pet Show on Saturday, but time constraints and impending weather foiled our plans. Next year, though!

This was also the week for “M.A.D. Camp” on Beaver Island. That is Music, Art and Drama Camp, for lucky children aged seven through seventeen. In five days of day-camp, 9AM to 4PM, the participants create costumes and stage sets, learn songs and dances, rehearse lines and choreography and finish with a wonderful performance on Friday evening. That is all in addition to arts and crafts, creative writing, games and trips to the beach! All three of my grandchildren attended.

The week ended with – Thursday through Sunday – the Beaver Island Music Fest. Jen camped there, with friends she’d known since childhood, and listened to the music all weekend. I attended Thursday evening, with my grand-children, for some early entertainment and to visit with friends. We were home and in bed by 10:30, though. On Saturday, Jen took them again, for special activities planned for the children and burgers cooked on the grill at their camp-site. I took that opportunity for a long bath, a short nap and a frozen dinner all by myself.

Evenings, all week, we tried to fit as much in as possible…and we did pretty good! We went swimming at Donegal Bay, let the dogs swim at Fox Lake, walked the foot bridge down to Lake Michigan for an evening swim, dipped our toes in at Lake Genasereth, collected pretty stones from the beach at the Bill Wagner Memorial Campground and fought the big waves for hours at Iron Ore Bay. We climbed the historic lighthouse at the south end of the island. We visited my Aunt Katie, checked out her dogs, the gardens, pond, gravel pit and sheep on her property. All of the kids climbed the Giant Birch Tree, and all of them climbed the Big Rock. We climbed Mount Pisgah! Not really a mountain, but a sand dune with an elevation of 733 feet, it’s still quite a trek. We had a nice bonfire on Friday night, toasted marshmallows and made “s’more”s. We visited the Beaver Island Toy Museum on Saturday, where one dollar can still purchase dozens of items. The five dollar bill each of my grandchildren carried made choosing what to buy an almost insurmountable task!

Every day we walked the dogs. Sometimes with only one grandchild, sometimes with two or three. One special day, Jen and I walked. Every night, Rosa went bed-to-bed, visiting each child. Whichever one woke up with her would say, “Rosa slept with me all night!”. I’d reply, “Rosa loves you”. Clover usually crowded in with me, but both dogs loved having the children around. More games, more hugs, more attention…I woke up each morning to the sound of their wagging tails as they woke and remembered that “kids are here!”

I worked two jobs each day on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, then had the rest of the week off. Sunday was a sad good-bye, and back to work for me. The house seems empty, and the dogs are hanging their heads. I slept twelve solid hours last night. It was a wonderful week!

Mikey

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Today, my oldest grandchild turns nineteen years old.

When his Mom was that age, I wrote a poem that asked “where are all the days…the common moments of my daughter’s life?”

I feel the same today.

I remember when Michael was born, all bright eyes and big feet.

I remember moments, incidents, hugs and giggles through the years. But years! Where have these nineteen years gone?

That beautiful little boy has grown into a big, handsome man, treasured, still.

Happy Birthday, Mikey!

Linda

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The people we count as friends, as adults, seem to reflect some version of ourselves or our lives.

Maybe political viewpoints differ, but we attend the same church, or our children are in the same class. Maybe our ages and those of our children are vastly different, but we support the same cause, or work for the same organization. Maybe our husbands are good friends. Or next door neighbors. There’s something there that we can relate to.

The people we choose as friends, as children, don’t reflect who we are, but show us who we can be.

I am fortunate to count my best friend, Linda, in both of these categories.

We have been friends for close to fifty years.

It’s amazing to me that I have so few photographs of Linda and I together.

There are a couple grade-school snapshots and an eighth-grade graduation picture. There is a distant shot of the two of us in our caps and gowns at the “Swing-Out” parade, the year we graduated from high school. One – in caps and gowns again – when we graduated college, and one group shot at a dinner party when I got my Master’s Degree. There is the photo, shown here, when we met in Charlevoix for a weekend of shopping and catching up, one taken of us together here on Beaver Island, and one group shot taken at her father’s eightieth birthday party.

That’s just about it.

Yet images of Linda run through my memories of most of my life.

I remember whispering and passing notes, staying over-night, doing whirling ballerina dances in undershirts and petticoats, walking holding hands, playing with “Barbie” dolls, buying penny candy, eating lunch under the bridge, and Linda’s perfect Yogi Bear imitation. Together we giggled about whatever we could find out about the mysteries of adulthood, compared our bodies, our first brassieres and the best means to pad them. We experimented with make-up and hair-styles. We compared notes on shaving legs and plucking eyebrows. We fell in love with the Beach Boys, then Fabian, then the Beatles. We watched horror films hosted by “Christopher Coffin” until I cried and begged for mercy. We read all the “MAD” magazines. We followed dance styles: the “Swim”, the “Frug” and the “Watusi”…Linda could do them all. We went from our little parochial school into the large, public high school with equal parts fear and excitement. A new world of boys and acting out opened up to us: drive-ins and parties and double-dates, experiments with smoking and drinking and skipping school…we made it through, as best friends, into adulthood.

Linda was the maid of honor at my wedding; I was the maid of honor at hers. We had children. We learned the joys and challenges of parenthood, comparing notes as our babies played together. We struggled with poverty, isolation and other limitations of marriage that we hadn’t anticipated. We read. We took a couple night classes together. We started getting interested in causes. We went back to school. When Linda and her husband separated, he came to sleep on my couch, until he could get his own place. Twelve years later, when my husband and I started divorce proceedings, he went to sleep on Linda’s couch. When Linda’s Mom died, I took off work and headed across the state to be with her. When my Mom was dying, Linda was right there beside us, a part of our family.

These are the ways our lives have intersected, always.

I remember Linda’s big smile and shy “hello” on the first day of school in Sister Aloysius’s sixth-grade classroom. She had transferred from another school. From sixth-grade to nearly sixty, she has beenĀ  there! I can’t imagine the person I would have become without Linda as a part of my life.

Saturday, my dearest friend turns sixty.

Happy Birthday, Linda!

Weeds

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I like flowers that have a little wildness in them.

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I’ve tried roses before, that promise cabbage-like, perfect blooms in shades of apricot or cream. I’ve fought the many things that challenge these dainty beauties, from soil that is too sweet, to rust, to aphids. For my efforts, I’ve sometimes ended up with one perfect flower. Too beautiful, even, to leave outside in the elements, it must be cut and brought inside, displayed in the good vase, in a location of special honor. Company should be invited over then, on pretense of a meal, so that the flower can be admired. Every day, change the water and trim the stem, to prolong the bloom time. When it is finally done, collect the petals and dry them, to be saved for some later, unknown – but special – purpose…

Then comes winter. Though ringed with dry leaves and shrouded in an inverted, rigid foam bucket designed just for this purpose, these beautiful hybrids rarely survive. But…

Below the graft is “peasant stock”…a hardy root of something closer to a wild rose that, if left, will come up healthy and worry-free with common blooms by the dozens in pinks or red or yellow. Butterflies abound, but other insects don’t seem interested. It will stand the heat of summer and the freezing temperatures of winter. It will grow into a loose shrub or a climbing vine. This is my kind of rose!

It’s the same throughout my garden.

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I go for the tiny species tulips, grape hyacinth, and common iris. I love the poppies, day-lilies and hollyhocks. I have waves of the wild daisies just now giving way to the wild brown-eyed susans. Wild roses and blackberry canes lean into my yard, and just beyond, the course milkweed perfumes the air with the most delicious scent.

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Specimen plants may be fine for others, but I enjoy my weeds.