Sunday, June 27, 2010

Beach Parties

Growing up in East Hampton, a wonderful, small town surrounded by the ocean and the bays. we had plenty of beach time. As a child, we'd spend every Sunday when weather permitted at Sammis' Beach with my mother's sisters and families. We'd pack our lunches, something without mayonaisse, and take our towels and blankets, and off we'd go for afternoon with cousins. We'd chase minnows with our towels as nets, gripe about crabs that bit our toes, watch for jelly fish and dig for sand crabs. There was a wood 'bath house' there in those days, with little stalls where you could change your clothes. The walls didn't reach the slanted roof, but did touch the floor. I was always aware of that 'above the wall' space, and knew I had to watch for a curious boy cousin who'd shimmy up to peek over. There were also a few holes carved into the wall, where a 'peeping toms' eye might be seen, and poked at with a finger, if necessary.

When I was a pre-teen, Daddy came into possession of a large wooden canoe. I think he bought it from Blue Bay Girl Scout Camp. He refurbished it, and it became a great addition to our weekend beach trips. Daddy, always the amateur inventor, managed to rig the vessel with a mast and sail...and a rudder, so that we could all 'sail' it. Another summer, he built a hand-operated paddlewheel for each side of the boat. I've got a very poor photograph of my brother trying to maneuver the 'ship', with little skill and lots of laughter. Whether we traveled by way of paddle, sail or paddlewheel, it was a terrific source of beach fun.

Then we grew up to be teenagers. Sometimes some of the cousins would skip the family outing and opt for spending time with our friends at the ocean beaches. At other times, we'd take friends to our gathering at the bay. Always, we enjoyed the sun, sand, and sea, no matter where we spent the time....unless we were complaining about green horseflies, sand fleas, or tormenting male cousins.

Some nights would find friends and family members jammed into the back of Dad's pick up truck, for a ride down the wooded dirt road through the dense trees at Old House Landing. We'd end up somewhere far down the beach from where my aunt's house stood high on a bluff. There'd be a bonfire, and a supper of hamburgers cooked on sandwich grills or hot dogs on sticks cut from a wild cherry tree. Toasted marshmallows and s'mores followed, and we'd stay around the fire until the mosquitos or fatigue drove us home.

I miss those parties and those days at the beach. Looking back on them, I wish there was the opportunity to give my grandchildren such precious memories. I suppose it has nothing to do with where or what we do, but who we do fun things with. I pray that our family events will cause my childrn and grandchildren to look back, as I do, with joy and a true sense of the love we've all shared.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

When I was growing up, I was blessed to have three grandparents in two houses. My mother's father had passed away when I was not-quite-two years old, so I have no memories of him at all. They lived locally, so I knew them all quite well. There was a time when my parents moved our little family, due to Dad's job, away to a place about 2 hours away, by way of the old 2 lane, Montauk Hwy. We would travel the route at least once a month during those years, so that we could visit the families in East Hampton.

But, for the most part, I was well-aquainted with my grandparents and as a result, my memories are quite vivid of each of the three. My Mom's mother was subject to having small strokes, some with symptoms that went unnoticed, some that were more obvious, always seeming to attack the area of the brain that controlled her thought to speech. Since Gram was a quiet sort under normal circumstances, I guess I really didn't notice. Although I remember very little of her spoken word, I know there was communication with her as we played Chinese Checkers, Pachisi, and card games together. She is the one who taught me to embroider....even the tricky method of creating a french knot. (Well, tricky for a 9 or 10 year old).

My other grandparents lived on Cedar St. and I would often stay overnight with them. I have cherished memories of time with Grandpa as he delivered milk for G & T Dairy or being with him in his vegetable garden. I can see him now, dressed in a baggy pair of old, cut off trousers which exposed his colorless legs, socks with garters and ankle high, heavy black shoes. It appeared to me to be an odd outifit
for my grandfather to wear, as usually when I saw him he was well dressed in his milkman's uniform or neatly attired, complete with a necktie. He whistled the day long, and only once can I remember him ever singing a song..."Que Sera, Sera." He is said to have done a lot of solo singing at St Mary's Episcopal Church on Shelter Island when he was growing up there. An elderly cousin of my father's told me that his grandfather, who was my grandmother's brother, often talked of Grampa's beautiful voice as they all sat on the front porch of the house where Grandma was born, while he was 'courting' my Grandma.

Grandma wore house dresses and aprons, thick, high heeled black oxfords, except when she went to an event, which wasn't often. I can remember only one 'dress up' dress for her and it may have been the only one she owned, as she rarely went anywhere where she'd need to be 'fancy'. That dress was a navy blue one with white polka dots on it. I believe it was probably taffeta, as I remember that it 'swished'. Gram introduced me to Winnie the Pooh and the hundred acre woods, and often read to me from A.A.Milne's "Now We Are Six" . At other times I'd curl up on her lap, with my head on her breast, as she rocked me in her big, brown wicker rocking chair. Sometimes she'd read to me from a book she'd bound together with a shoelace, Sunday school pamphlets of Bible stories. I will always remember my favorite, a baby named Moses who was found by a princess, floating in a river in a basket.

Grandma would spend hours with me at the table, making paper dolls of cardboard, and she'd make the clothes which I'd color with her colored pencils. Sometimes we'd paint with her watercolor paintbox. Sometimes, after dinner, we'd stroll in what was then the 'nursery', where Boxwood Court and the road across from Palma Terrace were. Then we'd go back to the little house where Grandpa could be found in his worn leather, over-stuffed rocker, reading some book or another.

Grandparents are very special people to little ones. I've recently discovered that many other children loved my Grandfather. He was a nice man, always loved children and others, as well. Perhaps even before my Grandmother passed away when I was eleven, he may have developed the habit which went on long afterward. He'd pass candy to the neighborhood boys and girls, and they'd always line up at the door at the end of the day to get their share. I've met many on Facebook who have told me how they remember Grandpa Beebe and even some of the treats he doled out! One even told me that she wanted him to be her Grampa!
It's a blessing to know that those I hold so dear to me were well loved by others too.

With seven of my own grandchildren, six of whom I know very well and one of whom I've seen little in his sixteen years, I treasure every moment of my time with them. They love me unconditionally, as I love them. I ache for the time I've missed with my other grandson. Perhaps one day we will establish a real relationship, but we'll never get back the wasted years. We've both missed out, and for that I am sorrowful. Some things can't be helped or mended, no matter how one tries.

In the meantime, I will lay aside that sorrowful thought, and look forward to the week of July 3rd when three of my daughters, three husbands, one mother, one brother and six gorgeous young people that I am blessed to call grandkids join together in one place. Our house will be raucous with the sound of laughter, a few grumbling moments, and just plain noise of a family together. I can't wait!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

'Life Savers'

Recently I read a blog from by a friend which speaks to the issue of saving things "in case someone needs it some day." It's been my mantra for many years. I'm a 'Life Saver' and I'll admit it.

I save bits of life, as it comes and goes. I am sentimental about things and find it difficult to get rid of some things that fall into the category of 'family history'. I suppose that could mean anything, couldn't it? But, being a family historian and searcher of ancestral stories etc, I find it interesting to add little things that work together to illustrate the story.

Ok. That's my newest excuse. I have, for years, kept things of importance to me. There are small boxes of baby clothes that my children wore. I've got the first pair of shoes each had, a few handmade items and one favorite outfit. For years I kept larger boxes of them, thinking my kids would want them some day. Of course, that was a pipe dream. What parent today wants to put Gap kids into funky old Oshkosh overalls or dumb looking plaid Healthtex pants that are at least 34 years old? What was I thinking? I've even saved a couple of things from two grandchildren who lived with us and rescued some handmade sweaters from a 'giveaway' box when their mother cleaned out.

I'm guilty of saving for life. Does it come from an upbringing of hearing my thrifty mother repeat a phrase that now graces my wall in the form of a sampler? "Use up, wear out, make do, do without?" If so, it seems that I've not adopted all of that word to the wise. I don't do without much. I'm a yard sale buff, though I do far less of that than I did when I lived in the land of the rich. Garage sales in this part of the country are priced much lower, but the goods available are no where near as good or as interesting to me as were those in my hometown. Still, I've plenty of opportunity to scour the thrift shops and antique places, and often come home with a 'gotta have' item.

My self-appointed analyst, my 3rd child, has determined that both my husband and I have compulsive obsessive traits. She says I'm some what of a compulsive shopper....with some validity, I'd say. She claims we're obsessive about keeping things....again, somewhat true. But, as I grow older, I become more and more willing to part with some of the stuff I've saved. There comes a time when even a hoarder must unload, or be subject to having one of her children call a tv show like "Get Organizeed" or "Hoarders". I have no interest in being on any tv show, thank you!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Shadows on the Wall

"And the sun shines through the curtain lace, and shadows wash the room...and we sit and drink our coffee...." This song by Simon and Garfunkle plays through my mind as I drink my coffee on the couch in my living room with the lace curtains. The patterns are cast on the wall in shadow, as this early sun rises greet the day.

I see my mother through the veiled front window. If the sashes were raised, I'd hear her before I'd see her. The click-click-click of her metallic cane on the pavement as she walks would give me notice that she is out for her morning exercise. She is quite faithful to walk whenever the weather permits and she does this activity as early as she can to beat the heat. I keep an eye out for her to return from the hill at the entrance to our lane. I see her pass as walks around our cul de sac two or three times, signaling the end of her regimen.

The local news on the tv informs me of the events of the weekend and what to expect of the weather today. Commercials blare. I mute the remote. I have no need for accident law suits or motorized wheeled carts to ease my 'getting around.' I'm tired of hearing about the oil spill in the Gulf. I'm weary of hearing of fatal car accidents. I'll avoid that noise this morning.

The sun is higher now and the shadows have changed. The room is heating up. My mother is safely back inside her air conditioned home across the street. My coffee cup has but a small puddle of caffeine at the bottom. It is time to begin the work of the day so I can then get to the business of doing what I like to do. My stash of 'birthday', 'sympathy' and 'thinking of you' cards is depleted, and the ones I'll create await my time and attention. I think I'll do some with silhouettes of some sort.....inspired by the shadows on the wall.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Family Feuds

When we were considering moving here, I asked my brother what the level of crime was. I was told that there was 'some', but not bad. He told me that family feuds were about the worst we'd hear of. In our little country community and the small ones near by, there seems to be little in the way of criminal activity that makes the news.

However, if you listen to the news out of Greenville and Spartanburg cities every day, you'd think you were in a war zone. I often wonder why anyone lives there, if they've a choice, and also how there is any population left! The news reports are filled with murders,shootings, domestic violence, vigilante vengence and drug activity. Had I listened to all of that before I moved here, not knowing the distance from here to there, I'd have probably moved to some secluded island far north of here!

We are fortunate in this area to hear of few violent crimes. I cannot say that there have not been horrifying events, but those, as my brother said, were families settling their disputes in a negative way. The one that I heard of that was most awful involved the family of a deacon in our church. His daughter was married to, but separated from, a young man who was stressed over the loss of his job and other issues. He went to his wife's house and then shot her a number of times, and his six year old son in the leg and abdomen. Thinking that he'd killed them, he turned the gun on himself, ending his life. The sad part of this is, he is said to be a fine young man who 'snapped'. The end of the story will be a far-distant one, as the wife and child will carry the emotional scars long after their surgical and physical ones have healed.

There is no way to stop crime but here in the south, penalties are stiffer than they were in my former state. I would think that might deter anyone from their choice of criminal activities, but it has not seemed to do so. High unemployment rates make people turn to things to 'soothe' their hurts. Alcohol and drugs have become easily accessible to anyone who wants them, regardless of age and social status. The use of those types of 'pain killers' turns rational minds to mush and causes people to do things which they'd never think to do if they were 'uninfluenced'.

Domestic violence and child abuse is rampant. I can only pray that as local officials and organizations work to inform people of the help available to them when they are suffering from anger, loss and other stresses of life, that people will become more informed and take advantage of the aid that is available to them.

Life in all areas of this country is far different from the way it was when I grew up. Wishing it would go away does not do much, but perhaps if we all wished it hard enough, it would make us determined to worked toward that end. It's not just for 'them' to's for 'us' to join in with them. Or, am I just dreaming?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Fears and Fun

Road trips are one of my fears, due to the inept driving of those who think they are invincible, but they're also one of our favorite pastimes. (They are also inevitable when you have family within a 2 hour drive!) Since the interstate highways are particularly uninteresting and quite a fearsome trek, we choose more scenic routes whenever possible.

Yesterday, at the end of few days visit with family, we planned our return route through the mountains. If the speed on those twisting inclines and declines is slow, I'm usually fine, unless it's dark. But it wasn't dark, so let me speak on the daylight trip. We snaked our way to the top of a mountain in Georgia, with a pick up truck hard on our bumper, and my good, safe driving and accommodating husband going a bit faster than I'd have prefered, just to keep the guy behind us happy. Meanwhile, I was trying to maintain sanity while my longest-nails-ever were attempting to penetrate and scar the palms of my hands. Finally we pulled off the road to let the bumper-rider by. Obviously, he knew the shoulder-less roads with no guard rails and had no trouble navigating them. I yanked my fingernails out of my skin, flexed my digits, relaxed my leg, back and neck muscles, and breathed a sigh of relief. I was still alive and had silently lost only a small portion of my sanity. I also announced to my husband that passed the test with flying colors and he was now qualified to road test new vehicles over obstacle courses.

From that point on, I enjoyed the trip. I took notice of the mountains we drove between. I reveled in the beauty around me. I giggled at some of the sights and signs on the back roads. There was an antique shop (picture Fred Sanford's place in the tv show, Sanford and Son) It was a rickety, run down wood construction, with little appeal, unless you are like me and you love haunting those places filled with rusty, musty old stuff. I'd have been tempted to call a halt to the drive for a time, had the place been open, but it wasn't. So I chuckled at the sign which read, "Antiques, and stuff for Men too!"

I never cease to be amazed at what some folks are calling 'home'. Shanties and shacks that appeared to have no running water or electricity (of course I might be wrong) littered the side of the road here and there. Porches on their fronts were stacked with stuff: furnishings, firewood, boxes... just stuff. Some of the yards, too, were piled with car parts, machinery, rusted and surely frozen with time and weather. Mobile homes, looking not much better than metal chicken houses, in some cases, were being inhabited by humans, and who knows what else. But, home is home, and my heart goes out to those who can afford no more than that and are thankful for that.

I found another cause or two for a giggle. One was a roadside habitation in a place called Clayton, Ga. Over the entry to the rotting front porch was a sign that read "Claton Hilton". There they are, living in Clayton and hanging a misspelled sign! Someone has a sense of humor, I'd say. On down the road a piece was another sign that made me laugh. An old rough board was painted with dripping, now faded, black paint. It read " All Around the world" and off to the right, about 3 feet away, was another, smaller, rougher bit of lumber painted "Musem." (museum... in the south is pronounced 'mu zeem', but whoever painted this sign didn't know how to spell, I guess.)
When I read 'All Around the World Muzeem' to Mike, he quipped, 'around the world, huh? And next week the Mona Lisa will be on loan.'

Despite the phobias I have to fight at times, the fun makes it all worthwhile, and makes good fodder for blogs! See you next time.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Have you ever met someone that you were drawn to, on the spot? It happens rarely in my life, but it has happened, and with no real warning.

There's a sweet, old gentleman in our church who has been coming with his wife for about a year.
I would guess that he's in his 80's. He wears yellow glasses over his eye glasses and carries a white cane. He can see, but I assume he is legally blind. He's very soft spoken and what little he says is genuine. I know very little about him, other than he's sickly, that he used to play guitar and sing bluegrass music, and that they moved here from Texas. All that being said, I will add that something about him makes me love him, inexplicably, almost the way I loved my grandfather.

They aren't always able to attend services because he is in ill health. I miss them when they aren't with us. I have developed a card ministry at church, and whenever Calvin is in the hospital or ill at home, I send him a greeting just to let him know that he's being thought about and missed. The last time he was hospitalized, we nearly lost him, but there he was, two weeks ago, coming up the aisle with his wife on his arm. I went to greet them, and he showered me with thanks for my prayers and thoughts and asked me if he could give me a hug.

Yesterday I received a hand-written thank you note from Calvin for the birthday card I'd sent him, belated due to the church calendar having his special day on the wrong date. His note is special to me. It's short and to the point, but oozing with sincerity, and I am sure that it is difficult for him to pen something when he doesn't see well.

I know that Calvin may not be walking this earth for too much longer, so I've determined to enjoy him and to cheer him with my greetings too, for as long as he is with us. I guess that's the attitude we should have with everyone, every day...for none of us knows what sand is left in the hourglass. What a pleasant world it would be if we all recognized that and acted accordingly.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Don't you just love the appliances that 'talk' to you? I'm not talking about our telephone answering machines and voice mails, which were designed for the purpose of collecting important information while we're unavailable to answer our calls. A host of other 'smart' machines speakk to us all day long.

Our coffee pot gives us a gentle 'beep-beep-beep' signaling that the brew is ready to pour. The washer gives a continuous high pitched alarm if the load is unlevel, and another when the laundry is clean and ready for the dryer. The dryer beeps when its job is finished. The microwave sings for us to remove whatever has been place in it minutes before. Even our stove calls to us when it reaches the set temperature.

Alarm clocks wake us with music. Computers offer a greeting of "You've Got Mail". Even cars have voices, in some cases. I remember the story of a friend who had rented a car to make a road trip. He was smack in the middle of NY city heavy traffic when he heard a strange voice.
"Pardon me, but your windshield fluid is low." He was somewhat taken back and, being frustrated with the traffic, he yelled at the voice, "Who the h...... cares?!" As if that had caused irritation with the vehicle, it continued to give him reminders of various things on the remainder of the trip. "Excuse me but your door is ajar." He responded, "the door is NOT a is a DOOR." It was his, and my, first encounter with a communicating mode of transportation.

My wonder is, why did the manufacturer feel that we needed to be notified that the oven had reached temperature? Did he think that we're so mindless that we'd forget to check it as we prepared our recipe? We live in a mechanically noisy world. There's enough din to make one want to wear earplugs at times. I can live quite well without the audio from my appliances. I guess my husband feels the same way because when an alarm goes off, he can't distinguish one from the other. I've actually seen him spinning in circles trying to decide which direction to go in to attend to the appliance that's demanding attention.

Personally, I prefer the song of the birds, the soft, rhythmic sounds of the sea rolling into the shore, and rain pounding on the roof.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

War Dead,Veterans and Others

It is our custom to dedicate the last Monday in May to the memorializing of our Military men and women who have lost their lives in combat. This should be so, in my opinion. These days, from the voices I hear everywhere, some of the purpose of the special day has been replaced by a 'holiday' feeling. Some are joyfully planning to spend their day with parties and cook outs, parades and celebration.

You might think I'm finding fault. Maybe I am, in a way. If the celebrating is done because we are rejoicing in the freedoms we enjoy because our soldiers fought for them, fine....but I'm more inclined to think that the frolicking is due to the fact that there's no work or school that day. My mother tells me that the parades in her day were somber affairs...not fun-filled times. I'm not big on doom and gloom, believe me, but I don't propose a nationwide day of funeral atmosphere.
I do think, though, that a healthy dose of respect is due those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, whether it was as a volunteer or a draftee.

On another note, often Memorial Day is used by some to honor those who are actively involved the Military now or those who have been who are still living. It is right and good that they are honored, but there is a day set aside in November for that purpose.

While I'm at it, there are many who have been involved in the 'war effort' who are rarely recognized. Think of the many women during WWII who spent time rolling bandages for the Red Cross, or knitted socks and sweaters for the servicemen overseas, or the 'Rosie the Riveters'. I'm sure that there must be some today who are doing some service here at home that supports the men and women who are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan. How often do we hear of them? They, too, should be noticed and recognized for their work for their country. Maybe we should have
another day to truly celebrate these lives...maybe we could call it Volunteer Day. That would cover all those selfless souls who get up in the middle of the night to do EMT services, those who leave their tables to save someone's home from fire, those who read to children, those who take a child under their wing to give them guidance, etc. These are precious people who are all saving some part of our lives and country.

I offer my sincere appreciation for each one of them, and I give them a standing ovation!