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Mothers Day wishes

1971, Christmas.  I was 21, hadn’t met my husband yet. Mom was 63. These are from left to right Ralph (Buddy), Margaret Anne, Mom, me, Sharon Rose. Four of her five children in the same room, something that didn’t happen more than a handful of times. Missing from the photo was her first, Mary.

I wish I’d known Mom had 20 Mothers Days left. Had someone told me I would have called that a lot, that it was way far away. Twenty years are nothing in retrospect.

I wish I’d have made more of those 4 day weekend trips. We were only 500 miles apart, an 8 hour drive.  Phone calls and cards were sometimes late.  I had two little ones and time got away from me.  Although we did call. We did visit. Just not enough when I look back.

Time flies.

I think she understood.  I think, having been transplanted away from her family by 600+ miles and two states, she wasn’t surprised that visits were sometimes far apart.

I wish we’d taken better pictures.  I wish we’d had digital cameras so we could keep snapping until we were all looking at the camera, nobody was talking and nobody got cut off.  I wish we’d gone to a studio.  Although there are studio pictures here and there, the vast majority of our collective memories are captured in shadow, on faded Polaroids, in black and white, somebody with their eyes closed.

I wish I could call her in the middle of the day on a week day and hear her ask “who died” because it was higher phone rates.  If she hadn’t been in her 40’s when I came along unexpectedly, I wouldn’t have lost her in my 40’s and I could still visit.  She’d be 103 now.  Some things we can’t control.

I wish we’d had a movie camera.

I wish I’d listened more closely to her stories of her youth and the family. I did listen, but I wish I’d written them down.

I’m almost her age now that she was in the snapshot.  Buddy’s gone. Sharon’s husband, gone.  All our kids are grown.  The good lookin’ husband I hadn’t met then has white hair now. Still my man.

My family got together for a week last year, 2010. I wanted a professional set of pictures, pro shots as well as snapshots.  A mother-daughter pose, a father-son pose, a mother-son, a father-daughter, a girls only and a guys only, a Nana with the grandsons shot, a Poppy with boys, a three generation of men and of course the group, goofy and formal.  I want. I didn’t get. I’ll try again next time to arrange it. I’ll even pay for it.

Sixty-three sounds old to the young. “Hey, Grandma, that’s almost to the end” from my four year old son to my mother-in-law when she turned 68.  Yeah, well, you live long enough and at some point you’re almost to the end.  I’m a ways away from the end.  But once you cross the 44 line, statistically you’re halfway there.  I am a ways away the other side of 44.  I’m forty-twenty-one.

I do have a long term retirement plan in a dwelling place far far away close enough to visit Mom frequently.  In the meantime, I wish I could see her face and wish her a Happy Mothers Day, like she’s moping around in HEAVEN!!!

So. That settled, here’s a happy wish to all the mothers of young ones, grown ones, new mothers, grandmothers, mothers to be.

All we ever have is the current.  Love your moms now, don’t put it off.  Take a picture of her, of yourself or kids, write down that you love her. Thank her for raising you. If the least you can do is send a picture in a card, send it.

And have a great day.

The Wedding

2009:  Hey, sailor.  You look pretty spiffy in that tux.  How about you come home with me?”

Honey really was in the Navy.  Daddy was in the war, I mean, The War.  He told me to stay away from soldiers, that they didn’t respect women and said nasty things behind their backs.   I went on a blind date with a sailor just off the boat.  So, Daddy, you like him?

Diana planned her wedding for Memorial Day weekend so they could have a day off before they had to go back to work, both being in the Air Force National Guard, both having vacation issues.  Last week Di’s daughter, a senior, was in the high school’s production of Oklahoma.  They did an outstanding job.  This weekend Di gets married. This Thursday, the same daughter graduates.  Honeymoon? Next week.  Don’t call her on her cell phone.

1973:  I had just started my new job at 3M that year and accumulated all of 4 days of vacation.  We set the wedding date for Memorial Day weekend.  The stupid part was holding it 500 miles away in the home town.  The only reason I can come up with now was that I wanted to prove to the town and graduating class that I was not doomed to be an old maid at 23.

2009:  “You still have to change into your tux.  It’s 1:25 now and pictures are 1:30.  Pull up to the door and run in.  I’ll park the car.”  I park and head for the door and see Honey coming out.

“Diana is in curlers and is looking for you.”

“Jane, you have to fix my hair.” The last time I was fixing anybody’s hair, it was my daughter’s just before a danceline performance and she was trying to get away from me for good reason.  The time before that, she was 3, I was trying to cut her bangs and she was crying and getting teeny hairs her eyes.  “You’re sure…”

Not only that, I was to adjust her eye makeup, apply the lipstick, spread skin toner to cover her freckles, stand in between her and the window while she put the longline on, zip her dress, and stick the veil on.  I loved it!  What a girlfriend! Not only, that, I did a good job.  She looked gorgeous.  Of course, all you have to do with her hair is direct it with your fingers, it’s so thick and heavy.

1973:  Storms.  Tornado watch kept farmers at home rounding up livestock and locking barn doors.  Someone was fussing with my veil.  Someone came up to me to offer congratulations and words of something.  I said thank you and was distracted by tumbleweeds — tumbleweeds! in central Illinois! — flying by the windows.  Dad was ready to escort me down the aisle, stiff and military.  He reminded me of the guys who held post at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

I could hear the organist playing “Oh, Promise Me” knowing I had insisted it NOT be sung.  The soloist was halfway through a song I insisted she sing when the power went out.  The organist kept going, the soloist kept singing and when the power went back on they were in sync and on key.

Not only that, my sister, who was one of my attendants, was 4 months pregnant and looked funny in her dress.  Her son, the ring bearer, had a puffy red lip from a softball that afternoon.

2009:  Nothing went wrong.  Nobody tripped or fainted or forgot their lines. The unity candle did not fall and catch anything on fire.  No nosebleeds, no fat lips from softballs.  I did get a few chuckles at the guest book, however.  Yes, I was the Guest book Nazi. “You vill sign ze book. Yah?”  I even charged the assistant pastor admission which he did not pay, nor did he leave anything in my tip jar.

1973:  The best man tortured me for two whole days threatening to spike the punch and write “help me” on Honey’s shoe soles.  Kathy, is the punch spiked? “No nails in my glass!”

2009:  Sandwiches, fruit, potato salad, pasta salad, deviled eggs, and other et cetera, plus a cake tilting dangerously.

1973:  Mints, nuts, cake, punch — no nails.

2009:  The bride and groom danced.  Alone.  Nobody got up.  What a bunch ‘o’ Baptists!  C’mon, Honey.  We won’t have this chance again.  We walked hand in hand up to the happy couple and tapped the groom’s shoulder to cut in.  I took Diana who was laughing her head off, and Honey grabbed the groom.  Y’know, you only go around once.  You don’t seize the moment, it’s gone.

Hey, Honey.  What are we doing for our anniversary? (panicked stare)

1973:  “Where’s your car, Stan?” shaving cream in hand.  Are you kidding me? We hid that two towns away from you guys.  “Awwwww…”

We opened gifts at the reception.  Diana opened gifts at the reception. I’m normally the first person out at any given wedding, but this time, I enjoyed every minute.

Thirty-six years ago the dark haired sailor in the tuxedo whisked me away.  The last picture in the album was me with a rose in my teeth, winking. This year, the silver fox and I danced at our friends’ wedding.

What do you want to do for our anniversary?  Being in a wedding was pretty good.  How about grilling a couple steaks this Saturday? Sounds like a plan.

Not for sissies

If the theory of DNA Memory is true, that we genetically carry the footprints of our ancestors, shadows of their cultures, then there are sub-conscious rumblings in my soul and echoes of flutes and drums in my veins that connect me to Ireland .  I close my eyes and see green hills and Maureen O’Hara.

No?  I don’t believe the DNA thing either.  It just sounded good.  According to Ancestry.com my European heritage is all of Europe.  Lines weave backward through myriad shire and kingdom finding root through Troy to Goshen back to Abraham himself.

Yet, I feel so much more Irish than say, Prussian or Italian.  That could have something to do with growing up with the surname of Murphy and listening to Dad talking about his Murphy line, who was the immigrant, etc.  Mom also spoke of her Dutch line of sailors.  I just wasn’t that fascinated.  Sorry, Mom.  But, aye now, the Irish, the twinkling eyes, the roguish smiles, the castles, the green shutters and stone fences, the dancing and drums …  much more fun than say, wooden shoes.

We’re watching the Best of Riverdance.  When I emerged from the Celtic store in Gatlinburg last week proudly waving my purchase, my son-in-law chuckled and said “as opposed to the Worst Of?”  After viewing of the Best Of and remembering my experience of the live performance in Minneapolis, I’ve concluded that the Worst Of would look the same.  There is no Worst.

It can only be described as an experience.  You watch, you feel, you meld with it and believe all you have to do is put on the tap shoes and you are one of them.  That night my friend Lisa and I persisted 65 dark miles through winter wind and snow, and froze our fingers and cheekbones walking to the old Minneapolis Theatre.  The stage was wooden, the floors were wooden, the seats creaky and packed close together, barely room to peel off the parkas.

Lisa educated me all the way there on theater behavior.  She studied theater, there is protocol.  There is prescribed pattern.  By first curtain, if theater is a verb, I knew how to.  Then the thunder of steeled toes and heels vibrated through the stage, the floors, the seats and penetrated the bodies.  At the first opportunity to do so, the whole of the audience flew to their feet, shouting, whistling, applauding hard enough to wear on the tendon and joint.  Lisa must have been in theatrical shock but she too rose to her feet eventually, commenting later that she thought she was at a hockey game after a double overtime.

You too can buy the DVD in Dolby, set up the surround sound, crank up the subwoofer, and swim in the magic of Riverdance.  But …. until they’re in front of you on a wooden stage, passionately stomping out their heritage, until you’re watching “by the seat of your pants,” you haven’t felt Riverdance.  If you have that opportunity, you just may hear some Irish in your blood.

Where does this road go?

Forget the compass.  Just don’t even buy one.  Once upon a time we had one of those floaters hanging from the rear view mirror much to Honey’s embarrassment.  That’s the kind of thing my dad had on his dashboard. So if Dad was a geezer with a car compass, and Honey has a compass on the dashboard, he must be…. oh no, not a geezer in a pa-paw Buick!  At that point, we didn’t have the Buick … yet!

For Dad, it had as little purpose in Illinois as ours did in Tennessee only in reverse.  Dad knew which direction he was going anyway.  In Tennessee, the poor thing was spinning back and forth so much it didn’t stop long enough on any compass point to tell us which way was up let alone east, west, north, south or anything even close.  If it was a critter, it would be car sick and hurling on our laps.

Follow the yellow double line but do stay on the right side of it at all times unless turning off.

Tonight on the way home I drove past my turnoff to a known route and chose instead the road not just less traveled, but one I was only suspicious of where it came out.  I was already headed easterly and hoped I would continue as easterly into this stretch of not-so-sure.  My goal was twofold.  First, I wanted an alternate route that I knew wouldn’t get me lost on the way to work for blossom/fall color appreciation.  Second, it helps to know how to go around traffic backups.  Okay, there’s a third reason — impressing out of state flatlanders without looking foolish.

When we were all at home, a family of two parents and 3 girls, we took a lot of road trips.  If two kids have an imaginary line down the middle of the back seat, you know from painful experience whether as a parent or one of the two that there’s constant line crossing and the inevitable “Make her stop touching me! Stop touching me! M-AH-M!”  With three, somebody’s sitting on the line making the space even smaller.  In this case, the middle one is the victim surrounded by conspirators eager to torture her purely for the noise, noise which drives both parents out of their skins.  Therefore…..

Dad takes this golden opportunity to teach directions.  “Which way are we going now?  We just left the house and we’re heading for Monmouth.  What direction is that?”  If your first clue wasn’t the setting sun blinding you, you just have to know that Monmouth is due west of Cameron typically with no turns or curves, so you answer “west!”  You’d better answer “west” soon if you want him to stop.  But he won’t.  “Which way would we be going if we turned left?”  But, we’re not turning left between Cameron and Monmouth, Dad, or we wouldn’t be going to….  “Tell me which way you’d be going if we turned left!!”  (eye-roll)  “South?”  Yay, I get a point!

This was an easy game since all the roads were one of only 4 directions.  In our local tri-county area, there was one road that went diagonally for any significant distance which was known as The Diagonal Road.  All the rest, paved, gravel, or dirt, were North, South, East or West.  Not only that, if you were driving through farm land, the next available turn was exactly a mile from the last available turn.  The fields were divided into sections, a mile each. No need to look at the odometer if you were keeping track of how many cross roads you’d driven past.  Handy, huh?

I grew up on a checker board, a flat and square checker board.

So, why Dad had to know from his dash which way he was going was an unnecessary hobby, fun, but unnecessary especially when the sun was shining.  Flat, straight and mostly treeless as well, therefore there was nothing to block said sun, and just that much to not block natural navigation.

My new navigational discovery was typical Tennessee side road, not back road — those are deeper in the hills and not wide enough for lines.  I even figured out that if I’d turned left I’d have ended up on my more traveled route behind our house but I turned right and wound my way further south than I needed to be yet at a recognized intersection.  I am comforted to know I can still “smell” my way on an unfamiliar side road as I can in a new shopping mall.

Tonight I gently swayed and swerved homeward, not too fast, not too slow, with much the same feeling as swinging on the rope swing Dad made for us on the big oak branch in our back yard.  Dad’s voice asked me which way I was going.

“Home.   Eventually.”