When Life is Good Enough

A walk to the mailbox yields an extra envelope inside; this one not a bill! The card is a funny one; a sort of vicarious life-is-good thrill, for this time, my friend’s message tells me that her life has turned around again.  The Thanks So Much is underlined because of the quick emails I sent along with my almost-as-quickly-crafted prayers; I thank God for filling in the blanks so that I could send my short messages when she needed some encouragement.

 

I haven’t had to experience watching a son go off to war; so, when the phone rings later that evening, and the good news is that a friend’s son has safely returned home from the front lines, I take note.  The many months he spent knowing he was in harm’s way is something that as a parent I can only imagine; reading history and watching old Victory at Sea newsreels doesn’t begin to simulate the same experience.

 

Another day’s work has finally ended; the clock permits me to stop and call it a day.  I used to arrive home with a paycheck in my pocket; today, my answers to prayer are what make the hearth seem even warmer than before; perhaps it will be a popcorn night?  A few moments of reverie in the garden before starting dinner are allowed tonight; even the knockout roses are still blooming to full capacity!  There is not an empty branch in sight.

 

I’m beginning to understand my father’s tendency to settle for what he repeatedly described as good enough. It has taken me years to believe that an inner sense of peace can be mine more often; I need only see and hear with a grateful heart.  There are gifts of solace and joy when life is good enough!

 

 

 

 

 

When Everyone Was Irish

Across the Bay, the City had a parade each year.  Even the Italians walked among their Irish compatriots, extolling the Virtues of the Green in their mutually adopted new homeland.  This was America.  The Melting Pot.  Monthly Holidays in a myriad of global refinery and adapted traditions, representing many of the nationalities that had built our country, eventually found a home on Rubberneck.

The weeks after the Christmas holidays were always a letdown for kids; we had to wait for the end of January or early February for any further excitement.  Then, we enjoyed Chinese New Year (comparing our birth year animals) and Valentine’s and George and Abe’s birthdays; excitement invaded elementary classrooms each March as we studied the Irish and their folklore.  A childhood imperative:  we must wear green or risk being pinched!!!

We brought home our latest St. Patrick’s art project to the smell of corn beef and cabbage, with little boiled potatoes, turnips, onions and carrots cooking in the pot!  This was the one night of the year when we were all Irish on Rubberneck Avenue, sharing a bit of the blarney and blessings in our own kitchens.  While most of Mom’s boiled dinners were “French” in nature, containing a variety of meats and things (i.e. oxtails, beef tongue) that my normal friends didn’t eat, I enjoyed this Irish meal very much…and was much relieved that we were eating what the other kids did that evening!  Even Yakov knew what St. Patrick’s Day was.  Wow! What a country!

One St. Patrick’s, Mom even let me make green lemonade!  Odd, but that pitcher lasted the longest any pitcher of lemonade ever did.  Apparently, not too many neighbors were willing to test it out.  Even the kids on the block hesitated.  Thinking about it now, I may have put a bit too much food coloring in the batch; the Kelly green shade was slightly over the top, making the lemonade look more like a potion; something from the Evil Witch Stepmother’s laboratory in Snow White.

We’d had too many hours of Disney magic to warn us of such things. Even though we understood that not all Irish have red hair, the bigger, more important question remained:  do Leprechauns really exist?  Darby O’Gill convinced us they did.  Wow…even the bakery had four-leaf clovers; holiday cookies sprinkled with green sugar.  What a great day to be Irish!

Gunfight at the OBGYN Corral

On the surface, it was simply routine; my annual checkup.  The form might have been revised; I filled out current symptoms – everything from migraines to fatigue – checking a fair amount of items on the list.

Once my gynecologist entered, we chatted briefly.  Then, she reviewed my check marks, confirming the severity of each chosen item, skipping around as one health concern led to another, including family history of diabetes, cancer, and the like.  Mentally, I was ticking off the points I wanted to remember, interjecting questions that I had as a layman in this medical office atmosphere.

Before long, her eyes back down on the list, she looked up and asked, “How many firearms do you have in your house?”

Thankfully, I was not struck dumb.  Rather, the adrenaline began to flow at top speed. Looking straight into her eyes, I asked, “What the hell does that possibly have to do with any of this conversation?  My husband doesn’t own any firearms.  What’s your point?”

“Have you always been sort of a Type A personality?” she broached…

“My baby book states that I walked on my own at nine months.  What does THAT tell you?”

She quickly changed the subject, but not before I continued saying my peace (or piece, pun intended, because I let go with both barrels!!)

“Doctor, this is not the country I grew up in.  I know where that line of inquiry is coming from; I am aware of the so-called, protective, nanny-state ordinance that recently passed on behalf of protecting our children and grandchildren.  I have no grandchildren as yet, but I absolutely refuse to acquiesce to such scrutiny now or in the future.  Furthermore, my husband lost everything years ago, his guns included.  If I were able, I would replace each and every one he used to own. “

Not that she had much choice after that soapbox rant, but apparently, this naturalized physician with the lovely Australian accent heard me!  She never handed me another form or brought up the subject ever again.

I was definitely my father’s daughter – Type A and however many red-white-and-blue political genes we shared.

HOLY MACKEREL!

When mackerels were holy and the circus came to town,

We children sat upright with smiles, few of us had frowns!

Our parents taught us well; we knew how to behave.

Forgetting manners in public wasn’t minor…it was grave!

 

There was no “wait until we get home” pardon…

We were talked to right then! And put our kid guard on.

Knowing the lines were now drawn: Rights were NOT Wrongs.

When mackerels were holy, our summer feet wore thongs.

 

A taste of Hawaii was fresh pineapple gobbled in pretend grass huts!

This entertained youngsters with imagination and guts.

Teachers taught students to think, encouraging questions and debate.

When mackerels were holy, young minds discerned morals from raw hate.

 

Holidays we drank soda: crème, orange and strawberry!

The rest of the year: milk, water or juice; choices didn’t vary.

Seasonings from far off places flavored a melting pot of tastes;

When mackerels were holy, mothers supervised the family’s plates.

 

 

 

HAPPIER TRAILS….

Internet emails continue to circulate long after they first debut; so, I was recently reminded of a vacation highlight that we had visited during 1980; this was on the same trip in which my parents and my daughter would share their first Disneyland experience together.

Victorville was one of our stops.  We purposely deviated from the main highways toward Apple Valley to see the recently relocated Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum. From the moment we entered, we were in a place that was very un-museum like in its displays and its life size exhibits.  I have never again experienced the same feeling in any other historic collection.

I’ll never forget watching my mother “take in” a glass memorial case at the beginning of the self tour.  For some reason, I only remember two of the three children honored in that case: the military-clad elder son that the Rogers had lost and one other (also adopted) little Korean daughter who had died in a church-sponsored bus trip crash.  The third child was their little daughter with Down’s syndrome.  A sign of the times, medical technology was limited and she had lived only until age two.

As mothers, there was nothing more heartbreaking in our minds than the death of a child.  Mom and I let the men walk on ahead to keep My Only occupied; but we both knew what the other was thinking.  It had been a year of medical challenges for Only Bro, so we’d planned this vacation to temporarily remove our folks apart from the day-to-day concerns that were quickly wearing them down.

We had no idea what was in store that coming holiday season; for now, it was enough that we could step away from a glass encased memorial and move on to the next chapter.

With each turn, there were both recognizable artifacts and the family’s real lifestyle possessions, replicated in a respectful and welcoming manner.  We were not intruders; rather, we were guests invited in to observe and linger where we wished for as long as we cared to, in what I can only describe as the closest thing to walking inside the pages of a 3D family photo album that I’d ever experienced.

Signs helped narrate their home style.  George Montgomery had purposely designed the lovely wooden dining set with a spinning center lazy susan to accommodate a family with nine children. I was old enough to have remembered George Montgomery in his own movies; that he was a master wood crafter was not well known beyond the immediate movie industry.  So, the table setting was there, surrounded with the quintessential dining room wallpaper and décor one would have expected to find in an American family’s 50’s home. Roy and Dale were no different than their fans, it seemed.

I’ve never been good with fur; alive or dead.  So, to see Trigger still in the flesh and the family pet Bullet sitting there to greet us was a bit alarming for me!  I tried hard to hide my discomfort; but as children can be extremely perceptive, my daughter soon picked up that Mommy wasn’t really smiling very much as we discussed the two animals.  I’d never make a taxidermist, nor would I ever want to live in any room with glass eyes staring at me!

Thankfully, we passed the fury critters and came upon an old friend. This next object I gratefully admired; it was the very inanimate but precocious Nellie Belle.  Now, this was a hoot!  I could just picture ‘ole Gabby having left the parked vehicle right there!  The Sons of the Pioneers history wasn’t too far from this main arena; also adjacent were some of the lovely costumes that both Dale Evans and Roy had worn.  We adults even recognized the movie titles that they came from; only now we saw their actual lovely detailing in living color.  Once again, we were reminded of what it felt like to visit old family friends and gleefully await for the host and hostess to join us.

The day we visited, the greeters shared that Roy still came down to the museum to chat with his fans. This was not one of those days, but we were okay with that and thanked the greeters for their warm hospitality. The entire ambience of the museum was engaging enough for us, as the inside décor reflected honor and good taste; both personal and movie collectables had been preserved for the public to enjoy.   And enjoy them thoroughly we did.

Sadly, the two year old email that colored my memory of the Victorville attraction was the Christies Auction House summation of the demise of the Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Museum in Branson.  Per Roy’s wishes, his children had promised that the exhibits would be sold off and the museum closed once the attraction could no longer pay its own upkeep.  Seems that not enough lil’ pardners even knew who Roy and Dale were;  not even in a tourist town like Branson, a place known for its traditions and reverence for all things Americana.

While few of us understand our personal stewardships will one day end, Roy had realistically foreseen that his earthly fame would eventually be replaced.  Like any good steward, he had prepared his children, lovingly giving them permission to make the difficult decisions when the times changed.

How fortunate we were to have shared some of the happier trails of yesteryear…

Valentine Mirth

For innocents awake to Friendship’s arms

Hearts are not just for February days

They are a bit of make-believe

To soothe winter’s uncaring ways

 

A bit of mulch, clay pots, will toy

Violets and lavender bouquets scent

To quiet inlets of a gardener’s soul

And ease a snowy discontent

 

Some wayward bulbs may yet instead

Break forth through frozen ground

Bare branches stretching out their souls

Refuse to hide! Small buds abound

 

The spring will once again infuse

The garden’s air with sentiment

So hearts ‘mid greens again amuse

Worn, loving hands only slightly bent

Seeing Red

Knowing Mom’s penchant for little things that were sentimental and greeting cards for all occasions, I decided that particular year I would send her a larger than life Valentine; actually, a door hanger for the folks’ front door.

I was taking a craft class.  This was going to be my big treat to myself at this time.  Though I didn’t care too much for sewing, I figured I could still pick up some basics.  I had always loved fabrics and envied the women who could spend hours at the sewing machine, fashioning something pretty for the home.  My perfectionist tendency had taken any possible enjoyment away years ago, so I rarely sat down at my Singer, knowing full well that I didn’t have the “laissez faire” attitude to just sew and not want to rip out each imperfect seam.

I purchased a yard of two Valentine shapes meant to be used for one heart-shaped pillow.  The design was similar to Pennsylvania Dutch, with red/pink tulips emblazoned on the heart.  Being the close-to-the-ribs frog I could be, I’d stretch the two pillow fronts into two heart hangings by using cardboard backing, some stuffing, lace trim and a stapler. AHA!  Cheaper by the pair; and within my household budget! So far, so good…

I worked on the Valentine Door hanger and, surprisingly, even the teacher thought it was rather clever!  I had completely circumvented the requisite sewing by using glue and staples; but even she had to admit the effect was overall holiday festive and perfectly suitable for a front porch door hanger.  I managed to finish the first one in time to mail down the completed heart for Mom’s enjoyment well before Valentine’s Day!

I could hardly wait until I would get Mom’s call.  In the meantime, I worked on my own, completing the lace trimming and hanging it up on our front door.  Success!   I could see it fairly clearly from across the street.  Mom is going to love this, I thought!  Imagine our both having matching Valentines on our front doors, emitting the welcoming love and hospitality that was so a part of our nature!  How neat was that!  Like my mother, I could get excited over little things.

Mine had been hanging up and in clear view of the neighbors who drove up our cul-de-sac for a few days before I received Mom’s thank you phone call.  Funny, but she was laughing as she tried to explain what had occurred the first day she hung it on the age-old nail above the glass window of the old door on Rubberneck.

What is so funny???

Mom tried to be subtle, but there was a slight problem.

Didn’t the heart look cute?  Had it arrived safely?  Was it OK?

Mom then contained her laughter and explained:  Daddy had driven up the driveway, walked up the steps, and seeing the oversize Heart in all its pink and red glory, had immediately determined that it looked like a target and would attract too much attention to our front porch, so he immediately insisted that she remove it!

Looked like a WHAT?

Apparently, Daddy didn’t want our home to attract any type of attention! The sixties may have been over with, but the seventies were just as screwy in his mind; and this was the Bay Area, not the North Valley.

The Valentine message that the hanging was to impart for the upcoming holiday was completely lost on my father.  Like this was a big surprise; I had watched this man over the years, one of many who waited until the last minute to buy “the wife” a Valentine.  He was always shopping late, when the selection was picked over and the dregs standing in the allotted card section were all that was left.  He was really very lucky Mom hadn’t hit him in the head with her large cast iron fry pan the year he came home with a Mahogany Valentine to My Wife that was meant for women with more melatonin…

Like I said, Daddy wasn’t exactly tuned in to the Hallmark thing.  But I was irate!  Certainly, the times were very different from the original Rubberneck years.  But a homemade Valentine as a target?  Yes, I’d been away from the Bay area for a few years, but give me a break!!!  Just who was Daddy listening to these days besides a few talk radio hosts and the local boulevard merchants?

Mom and I could not stop laughing at this current impasse.  No matter how we tried to see Daddy’s concern for the social behavioral changes that were occurring in the old neighborhood, neither of us could meet him halfway! Even with the most creative, out of the box thinking, I could not reeducate myself that my hand-made Valentine would be subjecting the family home to a dangerous encounter from a sniper or mugger or whomever Daddy feared might impede the relative safety of the old guard still living on the block.

How he had made the jump from the occasional stolen hubcaps or robbery of the corner liquor store to a current rash of cruising criminals looking for marked front doors with Valentine Hearts in the porch entry was beyond my comprehension!

I went down to visit over the years and, when the occasion was timely, I’d dig out the heart-shaped door décor from the bedroom closet, and then personally hang it on the front door.

Daddy didn’t like it, but he was outnumbered by the women of the house – even those of us who lived one hundred eighty miles away were now “three times seven”; we knew now to exercise our vote when necessary…