Thursday, May 19, 2011

Why Do I Remember These Things?

It is another rain drenched morning here.  The April showers have spilled over in to mid-May, and some days I despair of ever having more than 3 days running of sunshine, pleasant temps and no wind out of the northeast.  This year it seems to be two or three nice days and about seven that are cruel to those of us longing for spring planting and dreaming. We now have those early mornings and long days, we wait for in February, but it seems I can hardly enjoy them.  If nothing else, those of us who have endured, know patience, and know that it will change at some point, and we will likely complain about all the heat long about August.

In my house bound musings I was wondering why, I can remember the most insignifcant memory, crystal clear, after all these years, and other precious memories have slipped away.  Viewing them is like looking in lake water.  The image is there, at the bottom, but it has a shifting, transluscent feel.  The harder you look, the more it slips from your grasp.  I can remember lying in the sun warmed grass of my childhood yard, and staring up at puffy clouds, drifting across the sky, feeling perfectly content and having no notion of anything but watching those clouds and thinking my time watching them was endless.  I can remember three little girls standing inside the huge emptiness of our Harvestore silo and singing, "Guantenamero", at the top of our lungs because we liked the echo.  I can remember going to Crystal Lake and the peppermint fields on the way, how we always looked for them, and the first sighting of the lake with the old pavillion still in view.  Stu's Beach would come later with all the promised fun of a Sunday afternoon, swimming, and playing with friends.

I can remember going to the tobaggan run with my grandparents, walking up the long hill, the tobaggan set up on rollers at the top, while we mounted it, sitting front to back, our legs wrapped around the person ahead of us, one long human snake, on that tobaggan, shivering with anticipation and fear before we were shoved down that long chute, at dizzying speeds and sometimes making it to the end of the run, and sometimes spilling out like scattered bowling pins, one person losing grip and the others being moved by the next, a domino affect.  This was always at the bottom of the hill, and we would skid on our backs or behinds, covered in the snow at the bottom, and laugh just as hard as if we had made it to the end and a safe stop. 

I remember the wonderful taste of a 7-up float on a hot summer night.  I've never liked 7-up or vanila ice cream alone, before or since, but put the two together, and it was heavenly, at least in my remembering.  I remember june bugs on warm summer nights, I remembering their scary noise as they flew against the screens, trying to get to the lights inside.  I do not remember ligtning bugs however, those fireflies that I wait for now, as a cap to warm summer evenings in June and July.  I see them now, by the thousands, but remember only a handfull of times seeing them in my childhood.  I remember fresh rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries and huckleberries, and how we ate them with every meal while in season.  I grew so weary of them, but my dad could eat them all the time and never seemed to tire of the taste.  Today, I wait with mouth watering for the first strawberries.  The first rhubarb pie and the first juicy peach I can pick from my own tree.

And I remember the Saginaw Fair and how we waited for weeks for it to arrive in early September.  I remember getting off of school for Fair day and the sights and unusual food aromas combined with the all the barn odors and the smell of exhaust fumes when the track was being used by hotrods for racing.  I remember the rides and how many would could go on before we got sick, a feeling I had one time, and never wanted to experience again.  We would dare each other for the ferris wheel, and then squeal in fright and delight when the baskets would climb slowly to the top of the wheel, only to plunge over the edge and our stomachs along with it.  We marveled and respected the huge draft horses in the barns, with rumps so large and legs so massive, a stall couldn't contain them and we made a wide berth around them.  Corraled, fat and snoring hogs, and bleating sheep were in the animal barns.  The vendor buildings were the nirvana of "free stuff", and we ended our Fair day, bogged down with bags of junk and bellies full of our favorite Midway delights, crisp french fries with vinegar and tart ketchup, sugary sweet elephant ears, squares of vanila ice cream, dipped in chocolate and rolled in crushed peanuts on a cone.  Bratwurst on a bun, barbequed chicken, and even bean soup, it was all part of the Fair, and probably the best part to a kid who had no concept of fast food.  Why do I even all these years later still smell the smells and hear the carnival music?

I am making a quilt for my grandbaby.  My daughter in law asked me to make a crib quilt for her.  When I settled on a pattern, (Tumbling Blocks, which of course I had never tried before), I waited for her to give me some color cues.  When we talked about the colors of the large area rug that would anchor the room, browns with pinks, fuschias and touches of blues and greens, I had my answer.  To the fabric store I went and was overjoyed to find so many fabrics that combined browns and pinks.  The only problem was to narrow my choices.  I selected and grouped the choices into light, mediums and darks.  I had 4 groups of these color combinations.  It wasn't until I was sewing the combinations did the "remembering" hit me again.

My mother had picked a brown backed wallpaper with large pink roses for my room when we first moved to my grandparent's farm.  Redoing my room which I would share with my baby sister at some point was her first project.  I remember sleeping in a double bed, (their old bed, upon moving they got a new bedroom set), full of sawdust from my dad designing and cutting an intricate wood soffit and shelves to frame the window wall in the room. Only one wall was papered with the rose flowering wallpaper, the rest of the walls were painted a pink to match the roses.  My mom also made a bed spread cover out of a brown fabric that matched the brown in the wallpaper's background, and more importantly to her, wouldn't show dirt for a good long time.  I didn't pick the wallpaper and I didn't hang it.  As I grew older, I disliked the colors as I was never a "brown' kind of person, or so I wanted to believe.  When I was old enough to request a room redo, I chose yellow for my bedroom.  A sunny yellow check with yellow spreads on the now twin beds, my sister and I received. 

When I was old enough for 4-H, my first sewing project was a skirt.   My mom picked out the fabric for my first sewing project, and you guessed it, my skirt was to be brown with a border of dark pink, green and blue flowers, and a scattering of those flowers spread across the fabric.  I was not overwhelmed by that fabric, and because I was not overly enamored with sewing at all, (I figured I had a built in clothes maker in my mom, so why should I sew), the whole making of and later modeling the skirt at the 4-H Achievement Night left me less than enthused.  When I had my first taste of modeling and saw how out of place my skirt looked, I may right then have created a lifelong dislike for sewing.  While A-line skirts and madras plaids were all the style, I was wearing a dirdnl skirt like something out of the movie, "Heidi".  It was not one of my fondest memories, and why do I remember it after all these years?   Though the personal, sewing bug never lit in me, I did develop a love of machine piecing in quilting many years later.  I never thought I liked math in high school, though Lord knows, I took enough of it, but I did like geometry, and loved the geometric lines and squares of traditional quilting.  While quilting has ebbed and flowed for me and has never become more than an enjoyment, it has stayed with me.  And when the crib quilt request came, I jumped in enthusiastically, thinking how long it had been since I had done this.  As I laid the pieces out on a white sheet to get placement, it hit me.  The colors of browns and pinks.  Mom did know best and was just ahead of her time with the browns, (which are now the new black), and my deep affection always, of pinks.  Funny how that worked out and funny how I remembered. 

Too many of my best memories are no more than a blur in my mind, making me sad that they went by so quickly and were shuffled through for the next memories.  Bits and pieces of my most precious times, my children's growing up are forever gone....or maybe it will just take bits of brown and pink material to float them back to me....

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Many Things

In the last few weeks, I have found out many things.  I have found that if we wait long enough, even in Michigan, spring will come.  And it will overwhelm us with its beauty and take our breath away, when it sneaks up on us.  It will send rain our way and the days seem numbered only by the amounts of water dripping everywhere.  We will watch rain gutters overflow, and check that new sump pump to make sure it is still working.  We will lament that there is no end in sight for all of this water, and jokingly kid to remind us, of this when summer's heat is upon us.  We complain about being duck's and wishing for some sunshine, to brighten the now longer days.  We note that we are a couple of weeks behind normal for where things should be.  We chafe at the fact our garden seeds are sitting here, unplanted and that life seems at another stand still. 

But then, it is actually spring.  No more false nods our way, it is actually, really, truly spring.  The daffodils have waited and finally arrive in all the happy yellows of the sun and make us smile just to see the clumps of spring gold.  The cooler weather, means the tulips arrive later but the daffodils also hang around to co-mingle for a week.  Then one day you have an actual warm spring rain, and suddenly the green grass needs mowing, and the cherry tree bursts into a white petticoat of blossoms, and the tulips have arrived in all their majesty.  And it makes me wish I could stop time for a day or two or three.  If I could just stop and relish in the long days now that seem to have purpose.  If I could just rejoice in the cooler mornings that give way to warm afternoons and so much time to work out of doors.  I realize that the rabbits didn't eat all my new tulips, in fact, now I can only find one small clump that they so badly damaged it will not bloom this year.  The dreaming of the wondrous displays, as I looked over tulip catalogs last fall, and as I planted them knowing it would be a long winter before I would see the fruits of those bulbs,has born fruit. It is much like giving birth.  You wait, you anticipate labor and are never quite prepared for how long it will take, but then you have that child and suddenly it is spring and life has color and meaning and all the past is forgotten. 

The tulips are exotic in color and style.  Last year I bought fringed tulip bulbs, and peony flowering and lily flowering bulbs in dazzling colors and combinations.   Every morning I am amazed at how they look in the garden and with my cup of coffee in hand, walk the garden just to enjoy.  If only, I could carry this with me, but I am finding that the peace I seek is in the looking and being ever knowing that its there, if I look for it.  I'm learning....

I have found out that my old love of baking has come back, and that dog hair in just about every mixing bowl is an inevitability. I am also warned that my family who read this will probably examine every slice they eat from now on.  But I have news for them, if they haven't died yet from ingested dog hair, they probably won't anytime soon.  Grandpa always told us we need to eat a bushel of dirt before we die, so I guess a few pounds of stray dog hair isn't a big deal.

And I have found out that the Betty Crocker coupons are no longer redeemable.  In fact, the coupon books retired in 2006, almost 5 years ago....That means the cake mix I just cut the points coupon from has been in my pantry cupboard for awhile, and that's putting it nicely.  I have Betty Crocker coupon flatware.  When we were young people and the eldest of us were headed to marriage, Mom told us to pick out a flatware pattern from the Betty Crocker coupon catalong.  She was going to redeem the coupons for us so we would each have an 8 piece setting of all the flatware availalble.  I picked Patrick Henry for mine, a simple, straightforward, Oneida piece that I loved then and still love.  But as with anything, over the years, pieces went missing and the knives developed a problem of splitting.  With the redeemable points coupon I had just cut out, I thought now was the time to dig out the other coupons I had saved and replace some of the flatware that had vanished over the years.  Woe as me, when I found searching online, that it is no longer.  Of course, as with everything in this day and age, there is an online source for that.  "" had my flatware pieces, as many as I needed, but also at a pretty hefty price.  In this time of looking to my future, I thought, "Do I really need 8 matched forks?".   I haven't quite come up with an answer to that yet, but I have the address saved and maybe next winter it will be something I will "have to have".  Somehow, though, like the Betty Crocker coupon books, I willprobably continue to go about my merry way with forks that don't all match, too few teaspoons and regular knives and steak knives mixed on too many occasions.  Hopefully I can do it with flair and smile and say, "Its the quirkiness of Grandma"....

Finally, I have found that Mother's Day is about being a daughter as much as it was about being a Mom.  I took Mom to her church on Mother's Day.  I have done this for a few years now so the order and makeup of the service was not unique or a surprise, but somehow a morning that started on the "poor, pitiful me" side, opened up as I watched children help with a service dedicated to moms.  I saw a mother of ten children, the middle ones of whom, had been my grade school friends, sit down with my mother as her "kids" were all busy with their families and being mom's.   She required no pity for attending church on Mother's Day alone, as her kids were there for her often.  She enjoyed the time to herself she said.   After church we stopped by unspoken agreement, at the cemetery.  We stopped at Dad's stone marker and once again I marveled and grieved that he had been gone for over 4 years and it still didn't seem right that he was no longer, here.  We looked at the newest "craft" craze in cemeteries, metal crosses with flowers welded on at the crosspieces and painted in rather gaudy colors.  There were several in the cemetery and we both thought them kind of ugly, but then we both laughed that Grandma Laurenz would have loved them and been figuring out a way to make us all some while down in Florida for the winter.  And again I remembered what it was to be a Daughter.  Mom and I spent time together today, and that was important.  I remembered once again the things, that have bound us and the things that in the past made me say, "she's my best friend".

On Saturday we had a baby shower for Jennifer, my lovely daughter in law.  Part of the gift giving was a request for a baby book in lieu of a card.  I remembered the large stash of the kid's books I had saved in an old doll cradle of Annie's, as it was convenient at the time.  So, I crawled into the crawl space, and muttered something about cleaning out all of this stuff I was saving and bending over looked through all the children's books.  I found most of them were Annie's as she wrote her name in all of hers, but I did find a few of the boys, and some brought back smiling memories of reading favorite books time and again.  The Giant Jam Sandwich and Where the Wild Things Go and many more.  Where did the time go?   And so I learned once again, that time doesn't stand still and even when the moments seem like hours, they are gone.  Four books wrapped as a bundle with much love and I can honestly say there were no replications in my gift, but once again I learned how in tune my mom and I are, or as the saying goes, "I am my Mother's Daughter".  When the books were opened  and I found Mom had brought a "little Golden book", a staple of my childhood, that she had saved and read to Korey, no doubt, as the book gift for Jen.  It made me smile as neither of us had any idea that the other was doing such.  I am my Mother's Daughter, and I am humbled and proud to be such.  I have learned the best we can do in this life as women, is leave behind children who will remember us with a smile and have conversations that start and end with, "  I learned this from Mom"....