Did You Have History When You Were Little?

My daughter was learning her manners and just barely past two years old at the time of this conversation:

Mommy, tie shoes PLEASE?

Okay, Honey.  And what is the nice word you are going to say to Mommy when she is finished tying your shoes?

DONE, Mommy?

When she had reached fourth grade and was learning about US History (or some of the highlights), she came home one afternoon and asked me:

Mommy, who was president first… Lincoln or Kennedy?

BOING!!!!  Help me, God…I’m becoming my mother….

History is REAL.  As I learned too quickly, it is REAL for those who lived through the headlines; it only STAYS REAL if SHARED…   SO?  What to do this Memorial Day?

JUST BE AVAILABLE.  While military tributes are on-going across this great land of ours during Memorial Day Weekend, recall that Veterans from  WWII, Korea, Vietnam, the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq War will be in attendance; and some of these survivors are not completely healed themselves, yet are there to honor their fallen comrades.

Hence, it is incumbent upon us all to stop and reflect upon the ones who grieve among us.  Don’t underestimate the value conveyed in the simplest expressions of a supportive arm or a respectful nod… or a sincerely expressed “Thank you for your service.”

 

Sense of Recall

This year, I am recalling all the construction heart valentines I brought home as a child; and the woven May baskets that we filled each year from home gardens. I am literally recalling them, playfully distributing my own child-like creations to a flock of individuals whose smiles and services have touched my life here in Frog Haven territory.

I am basking in the memories of great teachers, loving neighbors, caring mentors, dedicated medical staffers, and fellow Rotarians who have welcomed me here and proved to me the old adage that everyone does indeed have a twin; I have recognized enough smiles to believe with my whole mind and heart:  I have been placed here for a purpose.  God has once again transported me into a land five decades removed.

The names have changed, but I am, nonetheless, in an amusement wonderland of Fifties Americana, where customs and culture are unabashedly civil and painted with heavy layers of sentimentality and pride.  Libraries and museums thrive here, greatly cherished; their atmospheric oxygen is infectious! Even the shops along the historic downtown corridors evoke a time when destination was as much a part of the shopping experience as the items looked for; before “to shop” became an addictive “to have”.

In this time zone, there breathes community: and the wave of a hand from one driver to the next continually works the ground for the next generations; with enough left over that even an occasional transplant might digest a bit of local soil and comfortably take root.

 

 

Because We Are All One

For many of us born between 1946 and 1964, World War II was relegated to the history books; not because veterans didn’t live among us, but because too many who had served had experienced a private hell on earth.  They had seen too much, and could not speak of the horrors without reliving the moments; so they spoke seldom and far too little.  War widows, like my youngest aunt, moved forward, raising her young son with help from family until she remarried; and my cousin once again had a father.

Apart from personal stories like this, much of World War Two’s history came to some of us baby boomers from the printed pages of encyclopedias and historical textbooks.  I emphasize some of us.  I didn’t know my grandparents because they had passed away years before I was born.  But my friend Elaine Karen – whose Hebrew name was Elka – never knew her grandparents because they had died in the Holocaust.

Thank God Eisenhower requested that Congressional members and Allied leaders visit the death camps.  As Commander of the Allied Forces, he desired no more than all of humanity be reminded: such atrocities were real and had occurred from the hands of men.  One quotation featured in the Hall of Remembrance of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, is from the man who was known affectionately as Ike:

 

 

The things I saw beggar description…The visual evidence and the verbal testimony of starvation, cruelty and bestiality were…overpowering…I made the visit deliberately in order to be in a position to give first-hand evidence of these things if ever, in the future, there develops a tendency to charge these allegations merely to ‘propaganda.’

Written by General Eisenhower after his visit to the Ohrdruf Concentration Camp, it is one of many quotations featured in the museum.  This year, from April 7th thru 14th, marks the 75th official Day of Remembrance, also signified by the motto, NEVER AGAIN.  Take a few minutes, in between checking emails and other daily routines, to peruse the United States National Holocaust Museum’s website .

 

Because we are all one; and today we are all Jews…

 

Accordionist Angst

I began music lessons on April 9.  The good news was that I had talent and an ear for music.  The bad news was that I chose to learn the accordion…in the Year of our Lord 1961.

My father was delighted!!! An Accordion carried the melody…it was a REAL instrument.  So, at the age of nine and for the next seven years, I committed to lessons every Saturday.  What had begun as a means of fitting in (my best friend from third grade played accordion, too) eventually backfired; the Beatles arrived on the American scene in 1964.  Music was changing; cultural changes were “blowin’ in the wind” and by sixteen, I was beginning to realize: I was definitely outside my generation’s norm.  My “era” was quickly passing me by.  I would never actually “fit”.

I had made my choice.  My musical ability wowed the folks and their generation!  I could live with it; just another way of making people happy…no harm in that, I thought.  I would eventually sail through this rite of passage and become a normal, functioning citizen of society.

Gradually, I began to realize that there were some logical, though not very serious, side effects from having spent Saturdays with a keyboard during my early formative years.  So, I sought therapy as others my age did.  It was time to find myself.  I shared the following concerns with my therapist:

Make yourself comfortable, Annette.  What brings you in?

All in all, Doctor, I like to think of myself as a fairly average, well-adjusted individual.

What causes you to question yourself?

In hindsight, I can identify some terribly hurtful and/or embarrassing moments for me that started to domino once I committed to taking accordion lessons…

Tell me about it.

Well, Doctor, for example:

The day came to “pick” my own junior size accordion!  I had graduated from the very small, rented, marbleized red one, so I gravitated toward the black with the shiny silver trim! It was beautiful!   Immediately, I was reprimanded,   “What’s the matter with you?  The white and gold-trimmed accordions are for girls, Annette…” so, I chose the white one instead and said I liked it when I really didn’t.   I never confessed this until now, not even in confession.

Sounds like a simple case of Gender Confusion, Annette.  Go on…

Auditions were open the next year for our elementary school music.  I was very excited to tell our school’s music teacher that I already played accordion!  I would love to participate in his class.  When I shared this with him, he responded in no uncertain terms:  “We don’t allow accordions; you’ll drown out the orchestra! “  My fellow school mates laughed at me.

But my baby sister Winifred learned from my humiliation.  She was always daring, so she kept her mouth shut about her accordion experience, and two years later chose the violin; she successfully eased right on through the school orchestra application process.  Even our cousins were impressed and thought she was really cool, especially working with cat guts and all…

I see; so you were Shunned by Public School Music Teachers and Humiliated by Peer Pressure; please continue…

After a couple of years, Winifred exceeded my musical talents… the folks would later take my original instrument for her, but they promised me a larger accordion of my own.  Daddy came home one day and presented me with a very expensive but second hand full size accordion he’d purchased from one of his floor covering customers.  Apparently, their daughter didn’t want the instrument around anymore.  Her father claimed she hadn’t played it in several years.   I was now the proud new owner of this fancy, silver-trimmed, white accordion with their daughter’s name TINA emblazoned boldly down the front in silver lettering.  We were supposed to replace it (sniff..sniff) with my own name (sniff…) but we never did…

I understand, Annette…you were simply experiencing an early Identity Crisis; it’s very common.  Here’s some Kleenex…feel free to continue when you are ready…

Thank you, Doctor… (sniff…sniff…)   It wasn’t long before I began to realize that I had other talents my school friends didn’t.   Why, I could win at game shows, not just with my grade student aptitude (in the ninetieth percentile) but also with my secret arsenal of knowledge…

Secret arsenal?  Annette, what did you have in this knowledge bank of yours?

My best category was Polkas for $500.00.  What a thrill it was for me to take the lead, sitting at home and “name dropping” composer Strauss the Younger or recording artists The Andrews Sisters or the popular Beer Barrel Polka during an evening’s rerun!  What I didn’t tell them was that my worst category was Musicians from the Sixties. By the time I “discovered” Jerry Garcia, he was designing ties for Macy’s and very soon after, he WAS dead!  So didn’t that count?

Looks like our time is up for today, Annette…

Look Mom, No Hands!

Sometimes we moms wonder if all the repeated teachings we perform as loving parents are ever really understood; emphasis on ever.  During her upbringing, My Only received every family storyline and set of values, including the proper respect one should show for the colors.

At our next downtown parade, I arranged to take her along with her little buddy. The kids had great seats because I worked right on the parade route; I could have the two of them sit along the curb and enjoy the parade until my shift began. As each unit passed by, I made the two of them stand up if the particular club or service group had an American flag color guard.  I explained that we were showing respect for the flag and the military who had served under it by our standing quietly at attention.  By the time the parade ended two hours later, both children said they never wanted to go to another parade with me again; they were too tired from standing up so many times!!!

More often than not, children do understand when we least expect it; to our great joy, their comprehension is often greater than the initial credit we give them at so young an age.   Such was the case during a patriotic assembly at my daughter’s elementary school years ago.

The program was in full swing.  The next grade to enter was my daughter’s third grade class.  Nothing unusual; I saw that My Only was standing in line next to her best friend; both seemed ready and willing to participate.  We two mothers were sitting together, remarking how cute the girls looked, dressed in their Sunday best.  The girls filed onto the stage with their classmates.

It was then I took a double take and let out a small gasp!  I remained sitting, somewhat speechless. When I recovered enough to look at my friend, she knew immediately what had taken me by surprise.  We both began to smile, tempering the glee that we felt as we turned our attention again to the stage.

My Only was wearing her one pair of white gloves.  She was singing with all her heart, her true blue friend standing right by her side.  When the pledge was recited, the small, white clad hand held over her heart was even more visible!

I sensed neither pretense nor any foolishness from my little lady’s countenance that day.  She was a genuinely focused, good student. My friend remarked that it was obvious that my daughter had comprehended the desired sense of decorum all the teachers had tried to instill to the school children for this patriotic assembly. We agreed; My Only appeared to be somewhat of a trend-setter, seemingly poised and very much at peace with herself, having accessorized her own outfit.  This was all more than we could absorb; the giggling began and soon we moms were almost out of control, trying very hard to retain a bit of dignity ourselves!

To this day, I don’t believe either of us even remembers much of the assembly; but I can still remember my joy and delight at the sight of my daughter’s white gloved hands.

 

POPPIES ‘GAINST THE FENCE

A morning not unlike before; except, that March day, I chose to sit

And in the sun clothe soul and mind amid the warmth before it quit.

My child was safe in school that day, her father having left for work;

So few quiet moments came those years wherein I enjoyed a welcome quirk.


From time to time, I glanced to see the seeds I’d sown before the spring.

Now, poppies ‘gainst the fence did bloom; their grey-green leaves held bright orange bling!

Returning to my book, I reread a line or two, but growing satisfaction brought me ‘round

Back to the poppies’ brilliant hue! Ah…my eyes drank in each colored mound.


The news was brief; enough to break my solitary, peace-filled morn.

Our president had been shot. Again, a sordid mind our country torn.

More details came to further invade my peaceful place; in seconds, my repose fled.

Instead, the poppies ‘gainst the fence foretold to me a poignant dread.


I blinked back tears…please, please let me hold the morning’s warmth still cross my feet!

Beneath my chair the soaked-in sun released its ebbing, remnant heat.

Seasons passed. Our leader lived. The Cold War ended in mere peaceful pretense.

My daughter grown, I’d moved on too. I left those poppies ‘gainst the fence.


Another yard, a new bedding plan; again a chance to sow and till,

Leaving history’s sadder days behind so new buds might stave off current ills.

Today, I seek comforting bling.  My heart cries for its familiar sense!

Elusive still but, now and then, repose returns from seeded poppies ‘gainst the fence.

 


TRIBUTE – 100th Anniversary Year of Ronald Reagan’s Birth.

Holy Sundaes

Sunday evenings had taken on an entirely new perspective with the addition of evening service and a trip to Dairy Queen.  The calories I was consuming I rationalized were for a good cause.  Since the pastor and his family would be leaving for missionary work in the very near future, I felt the added pounds were a small sacrifice in lieu of the good friendships and the co-worker I would be losing.  My Only treated me on occasion; thus, these ninety-nine cent sojourns afforded many opportunities for good feelings, not the least of which were a little daughter learning to give. The pastor’s daughter, always the direct, no-nonsense type, informed us in her off-the-cuff manner that she’d rather live with My Only in the event that the need ever arose for an alternate guardian.  Her Sunday school paperwork was filled with circles indicating her sincere gratitude for God’s gifts, i.e. sisters (she had none) and for brothers (she had two); the latter remained un-circled and was plainly missing any penciled marks or grateful afterthoughts.

Obviously, Sundays would never be the same without this pastor’s brood.  Between rocket launches during hymns, one of the son’s signaling his pastor dad that he had only four minutes left to speak, the older sibling hitting his folks up for money…no, Sundays couldn’t possibly be that exciting without these three pastor brats…  Or could they?