Monday, June 29, 2009

Summer Morning Meanderings...

For a little while this morning, the doors were opened to let out the stuffy air and let in the fresh. The sun is bright, even at this early 7:30 hour, and the promise of 'killer' heat is obvious. I've already had to shut the doors. The air conditioner started pumping when the temperature in the house reached 77 deg.

My mind wanders this morning...from weather, to friends with health issues, to the sweet grandchildren who are sleeping upstairs. The cares and the blessings of life, mingling as they have a way of doing. The tides of life ebb and flow, bringing with them what they will. All is well, I'm content, knowing that much of this is beyond my control and safely in the hands of the One who is in complete control.

I'm looking forward to the next six or so weeks. Kimberly and Rebecca will be with us for the entire time. We have lots of things planned, but we also have a lot of 'hang out' time planned. I'm one of those people who feel that kids ought to have a few minutes to think and plan their own activities, without having to go to lessons or planned activities. Rebecca has already decided that she wants to do a lot of gardening with her Papa and arts and crafts with her Grammie. Kimberly has lots of reading on her list, as well as crafting. That fits the bill for their crafty grandmother, too, as there are a few projects to complete (decorations for our church 4th of July picnic)

Papa and I have a few secrets too. We will be driving the girls back to their home 900 miles from here, and we'll make it a vacation trip. They've always wanted to stay in a log cabin, so rather than a motel room, with all the amenities of home, one night will be stayed in a KOA cabin, where one must bring their own linens and walk the distance to the public bathroom and showers. Another over-night will be spent in a motel which is constructed entirely of old train cabooses. The restaurant there (a train dining car) has a mechanism which makes the car
feel as though it's moving down the tracks, all the while train music is playing for our listening enjoyment. There's an old steam train that passes just in front of the motel.

All this is in the heart of Amish country, so there will be old farms to view on our ride, with discussions of equipment such as old fashioned windmills which pump water to the houses, out-houses, one room school houses, home-made food stuffs which we'll find at the local stands and farmer's markets. I'm sure we'll have the opportunity to see many horse and buggies, and people dressed in unusual and simple clothing. We undoubtedly will have conversations about that, as well as why we mustn't take photographs of these folks. Sometimes children need to see that others live in different ways from what they might be used to, and that those differences must be embraced and respected. We look forward to introducing them to the Amish way of life.

But, for this morning, I'll return to the loose routine of summer at Grandma's house, and I'll deal with the non-stop use of technology...telephones, television and other viewing equipment, computers, video games. Sigh....I wonder why I wasn't born Amish, or if I'd really rather have been!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

East Hampton Visitor

About mid-way through my kindergarten year, my parents moved the family from East Hampton to Bay Shore. My father had secured a job at Republic Airfield in Farmingdale where he would work spray painting the planes. I was uprooted from my teachers, Mrs. Jones and Mrs. Wilson and the class I had just begun to be comfortable in.

Many weekends of the month, we would go to East Hampton to visit the families we'd left behind...both sets of grandparents, numerous aunts and uncles and cousins. In those days, about 1954, the trip took quite some time on the only route to and from east to west, the old Montauk Highway. We had to travel through all of the little towns between Bay Shore and East Hampton, slowly making our way 'home.' I remember listening to the 'thump thump, thump thump' of the tires going over the seams between the cement slabs that were the highway, and watching out the window as the telephone poles ticked off the hours to our destination. Sometimes by the time we arrived, I felt a bit sick to my stomach. Sometimes I had bouts of feeling car sick. I don't remember enjoying those rides much, but they were quickly forgotten when I was greeted by the relatives.

There were times when my father's parents would as if I wanted to stay until the following week when my parents would return. To this day, decision making doesn't come easy for me, but as a five or six year old, it was insanely difficult. I would gleefully decided, "Yes!" and in moments, change my mind, and minutes later, I'd be back to 'yes'. I'd repeat all of that indecision until it was too much for one of the adults. My dad would eventually decide for me, after hearing the see-saw of yeses and nos. He would load me into the car with the rest of the family, and begin backing out of the driveway on to Cedar Street. We'd get to the Snowball bush planted near the end of the driveway, and I'd begin to bellow from the back seat that I wanted to stay. Dad would pull back in, stop the car and ask if I was sure. I was, until I got out and saw the car start to back out again. Then I'd bellow that I wanted to stay. Again...the decision was made by the driver. I was either put back into the car and on my way back to Bay Shore or I was left to bellow at the side of my Grandmother. Whatever decision was made, it was quickly adopted by me, and I was fine for the rest of the week. But the scene was replayed whenever the invitation was issued to me to stay with Daddy's folks.

I loved being at my Grandparent's house. The hollyhocks played 'peeping tom' near the bedroom window where I slept in a big metal bed. The bees darted in and out of the Rose of Sharon blossoms there. The grass was sweet under the early morning dew. I was allowed to go barefoot at Grandma's, but never at home. The driveway was dry in summer, and I thought it was good fun to drag my feet in that soft, warm dirt, kicking up a great cloud of dust. The honeysuckle in the hedgerow sent forth a heavy on the summer air.

Evenings after supper, Grandma and I would cross Cedar Street, and walk in 'the Nursery'. (Boxwood Court and another subdivision are there now) Grandma, seeing the first star peek through the dusk, would recite 'Starlight, Starbright', until I learned to say it too. Hand in hand we'd walk, until it was time to return to the little house for a bath and bedtime.

Grandpa had a vegetable garden, and he'd let me help him work in it. I'm sure I didn't do much, other than to enjoy being with him, but he showed me how to hoe the soil around the plants to keep it soft and workable. I can see him out there now, his pipe clenched between his teeth, wearing a pair of old cut off work pants, exposing his white legs, and his high topped work boots. I had high top shoes too, brown ones, that Grandpa had bought for me because he felt that I needed sturdy shoes. (Oh how my mother hated those shoes! But, I wore them anyway, because they were good ones, and my mother was not one to waste anything.)

Grampa had grapes too. I can remember helping him pick those, while he whistled as he worked. He whistled a lot, though I'm told he had a beautiful singing voice that he used as a soloist in church, and in gatherings on the front porch of my Grandmother's home when he was courting her. I can remember hearing him sing only once. The song was "Que Sera, Sera."

Our time away from East Hampton lasted just shy of three years, and we returned 'home' to stay. I learned to adjust to places and people as a result of that move to another town, and I also made some memories of grandparents, that might have been quite different had we stayed in our hometown instead.

And, my Dad would be happy to know that I have learned to make permanent decisions more quickly, but still, not easily.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Grateful Hearts

On Sunday we attended the dedication of a Habitat for Humanity home. The house had been donated and moved to a new location in May of 2007. Through the process of renewal, I had taken photographs, documenting the changes. On Friday, I'd made a trip to the house, hoping to find the house completely ready for its new owner.

I was fortunate. Not only did my camera find the home finished, but I was able to meet and photograph the young woman who would be the new owner. She was cleaning up a small amount of debris left in the driveway area before she attended to the closing that afternoon. I introduced myself to Gloria and explained my interest in the place. I am the sister of the original owner.

Gloria's gratitude was so obvious, as I spoke with her on Friday. She smiled from ear to ear as she told me how blessed she was to have been chosen for the renewed house. On Sunday, as the

forman of the work crew spoke, he reinforced for me that the right person had been chosen. He explained that Gloria was the most involved worker he'd ever seen. He said that they'd make a big mess, and leave for the day. When he arrived the next morning, Gloria had cleaned everything up, leaving the work area 'spic and span'. This told me that she'd take care of her little home.

When a soloist at the dedication service began to sing, "Thank You Lord", Gloria sobbed her gratitude. She later spoke of how good her God had been to bless her with her goal in owning her own home someday. She was so sincere, I had no doubt. As I listened to her speaking through her tears, my own heart swelled with gratitude that the Lord had blessed us all with her gift, and I, too found myself weeping with joy.

A Special Man

When I was dating Mike, he was fun and funny, polite and courteous. He was neatly kept and hard working. What I also noticed was, he loved animals and children. He hasn't changed a bit in any of those things during the thirteen years we've been married.

Over the years, I think he's proved himself many times over. Not only is he a husband who aims to please his wife, he cares for my mother and sees to her needs for small maintenance repairs, yardwork, and has even taken her grocery shopping at times. This can be an exercise in patience because she needs help reading labels and as she ages, is growing slower. Mike helps in whatever way he can.

He is as concerned for my children as he is his own and is as loving to my grandchildren as he can be. He's met the challenges of step-fatherhood with love and with care. My children say he's the best second Dad they could ask for. As for the grandchildren, he's believes that adults need to get down on their level when playing or speaking to them, so that we aren't so 'overwhelming'. In fact, I have a photo of him at the EH Fire Dept. Christmas party where he was playing the role of Santa. There he was, down on his hands and knees, playing with a baby who was crawling on the floor! As the kids grow, he teaches them in fun ways, believing that they don't listen when it's a serious droning that sounds like school. They sit on his lap and he shows them pictures in the National Geographic magazine, they talk about them, and even 3 year olds learn new vocabulary words such as 'nocturnal', 'marsupial' and ' reptiles.' One day last summer, Becca sat on his lap, and he was playing with her long hair. He divided her hair into 3 sections, and then asked me, "How do you start a braid? I used to know..." I told him to place one piece over the top, and then bring the other side over. Without another cue, he went forward, creating a braid...not as neat as a Grandma's, but definitely a good tight braid! He dances with a child's feet on top of his own, busting the moves as only he can, making them burst into giggles! He bakes cookies with them. They all have been born since Mike and I were dating, and though they are not connected by blood lines, he is truly their "Papa."

My Mom used to kiddingly say, "Find me an older version of Mike" and before my girls married, they would say, "Find me a younger version!" I honestly believe that he's one of a kind, and that I am extremely blessed to be able to call him my best friend, my husband and my beloved.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bits of Yesterday...

It's not clear to me why, but bits of yesterday season my days with wonderful remembrance. Perhaps it's because I'm watching my grandchildren being raised with such different experiences than those with which I was raised. I'm not proclaiming that their ways are 'wrong'....not at all, but they are very different.

I watch them pleading to watch tv or dvd's, or to play computer games while the summer sun invites us outdoors. My mind flashes back to the days of my childhood, when those last weeks of school tortured us. The days were warm and there was nothing I wanted more than to be outside in it, spending every waking hour except mealtimes, playing with my friends. The moment school was out for the summer, we would spend hours outside on blankets, living our lives through Barbie dolls or paper dolls. As soon as there were three of us girls available to gather, we'd jump rope, learning all the newest rope-skipping rhymes. Games like Red Rover and Red Light,Green Light sounded through the neighborhood. At times it was Hopscotch, the rectangular type or the circular one. When there was a larger group, we played kick ball, baseball, touch football, dodge ball.

I don't remember growling that there was nothing to do. There were always trees to climb, forts to build, mud to play in. There were always a million ideas swirling through our minds, and a thousand lives to live in our imaginations. Grandma's front porch became a cruise ship, or a house boat, or a stage for our own productions. Appliance boxes were tiny cottages or served as wonderful items to roll inside of around the grass . When they flattened, they made fantastic magic carpets upon which to travel through the air to unknown countries. An old curtain became a bridal veil, or when wrapped around body, a movie star's gown. A simple blanket or sheet could easily become a tent.

It saddens this Grandma to see the lack of imagination being used by children today. They seem to feel that they must be entertained by screens or to be taken hither and yon. They seem not to know how to enjoy just being children at home. I loved my childhood days. Creative minds were at work back then, and parents had far more peace. Technology is fine, but for little people, it seems to me that fresh air and imagination is far more important.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A House Reborn...

The homes in our family have not remained in our family. Over the years, the homes which were my grandparents' were sold. The house which my parents built and I grew up in and even the place where my children were reared, went to new owners. In some ways, this saddens me. It's not so much the houses that I loved, but the history in them that I want to preserve. But then, it is all written on the walls of my heart and those histories will forever be within my thoughts.

Another home, one belonging to my younger brother, will soon become the home of someone else. When he passed away, the property and house had to be sold in order to settle the estate. Though there were some of us who had hoped to keep the acreage and house, the attorney said it would not be possible, and so it was sold. The developer/contractor who bought it wanted only the land, and we feared that the little house my brother had built in the mid-'80s would be torn down. Fortunately that didn't happen, and the man donated the place to Habitat for Humanity.

With my camera, I documented the events following the man's gift. I watched as the house was jacked up and taken off it's foundation. I sadly noted the pile of debris that once was a wooden deck, a front porch, a brick chimney, and the block foundation. I snapped my shutter as the little house was loaded onto the huge truck that would transport the house down the rural road to the two lane highway, to the new location ten miles away.

Over the next year I made frequent visits to the house to watch and to photograph it's progress.
I watched as it was placed on its new foundation and when it was stripped of the vinyl siding and the original wood clapboard siding. When the wooden windows were removed, they were replaced with vinyl ones. The front porch was rebuilt, and trimmed with columns and railing. The rear deck was replaced. Where the sliding doors were is now a single french door to the deck. The inside remained much the same, but for a small wall which was removed between the dining room and kitchen in order to provide a counter space and more light. The oak floors were sanded and refinished, and the bathrooms were redone. The walls were painted a light tan and new ceiling fixtures were installed. Small gardens were placed in front, two trees were planted.
A cement driveway was laid and a sidewalk leads to the bright new front door. The house is ready. I think it would please my brother to see this and to know that his home will be loved and lived in by someone who might otherwise not have ever owned a home of her own.

Next Sunday the little house will be dedicated and presented by Habitat for Humanity to the new owner. I hear that she is very excited and can't stop smiling. I will be there, at the ceremonies. I want to present her with another gift, one I've been working on for nearly as long as they've been preparing her new home. It is a scrapbook filled with pages documenting the history of the house in pictures and in words. It is my hope that she will enjoy knowing of how her home was built and how it housed a little family before her.

As she builds her own memories and lives what will become her own history in the little home, I wish her many years of happiness.