When Life’s Dreams Are Interrupted

 

Dear Readers:

Like many others, I’m watching my fellow countrymen fall prey to a divisiveness that will not go away with medical technology alone.    The 2020 census will reflect a composite of peoples and creeds; as before, this diversity offers a myriad of possibilities for national renewal.  We came together September 12th; and while today’s challenges may seem more fierceful, they are not insurmountable.

Actions still speak louder than words; we are all role models for the generations that follow, so let them taste of America’s Promise by mentoring with compassion, sharing our common experiences, respecting our differences, and lovingly serving one another in times of need.  Only by coming together can we successfully maintain the freedoms, opportunities, hopes, dreams and sanctity of human life in every American neighborhood.

May Our Creator  continue to guide and protect us all in this endeavor.

Annette Brochier Johnson/postscript 9-11-2020

 

 

 

There was no doubt in my mind; the effect must have been the same…

I’ll bet you never thought you’d live through anything like this again.

No, I never imagined…thought we’d seen it all….

That was the conversation between my ex mother-in-law and me on Wednesday morning, September 12, 2001, the day after the World Trade Towers fell.

For her, 9-11 was the second time she’d witnessed infamy on American shores; she and others her age remembered the radio address that alerted a sleeping giant about the attack on Pearl Harbor. Then President Roosevelt had called December 7th, 1941, a day of infamy.  That description would sear itself into History’s future chronicles.

Like many young-marrieds of that decade, her husband would later leave to serve in the Pacific.  She would stay behind, living close to family, raising their first born, the son who had arrived in ’43.  True to character, she worked at the army base located in the local airport of the small, Northern Californian town.

And like most military wives (then and now), she relied on help; often from a favorite cousin, who made sure that she and the little guy had enough to eat.  With rationing and a family of his own to feed, this cousin often hunted as did his friends to bring home extra meat.  She admitted to me that had it not been for him, she and her son would have made do with much less. When I first met them, the mutual devotion was apparent, even after thirty years.

Wartime and necessity had changed her.  She’d always been rather spunky, but she became a real fighter if need be on behalf of her baby son’s needs. When her little boy needed new shoes (he was fast outgrowing the only pair he had), she’d tried all the normal avenues to no avail; a toddler’s shoe wasn’t necessarily regarded as priority in a very limited, wartime marketplace; sizes and specific items were difficult to come by.

Neither the doctor nor the local authorities were any match for this young tigress. She personally presented her son’s curled little toes inside his only shoes to whatever authority would listen, and did so until she’d obtained a correctly fitted, newer pair of shoes for her son.

The Greatest Generation?  Likely true.  History does repeat itself, however, and that should not preclude us from supporting our own greatest:  the volunteer sons and daughters who currently serve under our flag.  Those of us born after World War II would view September 11 as the closest we had come to living with war on our country’s shores.

More than ten years later, it thankfully remains the closest experience for Americans in our homeland.  We are still safe to plan and dream here. Much credit goes to the many servants in and out of uniform who are diligently fighting the undeclared war against our Judeo- Christian heritage.

 

If It Started with the Letter F…

On a regular basis, Brat eagerly climbed the fence two doors away to spend time with the neighbor and poodles.  While I had many choices around the block, most of the time I simply crossed the driveway to the next door neighbors’ back door.

I completely absorbed the family culture and influences.  In some ways, my neighbor had a more direct impact on my early identity than my own family.  Certainly, I identified with her Italian heritage, so much so, that for my first eight years I believed I was Italian also.

Only upon sharing that our next school project was to write about our nationalities did my mother correct me (and rather harshly) that we – including moi – were not of Italian lineage.   We were French descent.

“What’s French?” I asked.

Normally an innocent question might not have evoked a ballistic response; but that one did.  I didn’t remember seeing my mother THIS upset since the time I’d returned home after a day at school.  By that term, I was reading really well and was good at phonics. So in perfect diction I repeated the sentiment that was carved into one of the portable’s wooden sides; then I asked Mom what one certain word meant.

That was the first time I’d ever pronounced the particular word beginning with the letter F.  Believe me when I tell you: it was also the last time.  I learned that asking certain questions could get me into trouble at eight years of age.

 

Seasonal American Pie

Having the additional ability to reason and therefore, expected to ably discern differences, man should routinely ask questions.  There is AS YET no harm in being inquisitive; despite what the current, myopic main media might imply, one should freely share and explore all variables of a topic.   While I wouldn’t attempt to read the intent of all the journalists behind the microphones, I would ask that we consider the source.

The US media have been fashioned from liberal arts and collegiate think tanks, many of which are anti-free market.  While there is no immediate harm in being compassionate and relegating a certain amount of the free market net earnings to community needs, the decision makers have grown power-hungry, therefore, less than honest with their philanthropic agendas.  And the main media have been quick to disguise underlying facts to oblige them.

The fiscally aware, i.e. the entrepreneurs and wage earners, are mindful that there are only SO MANY PIECES of the same American Pie…and more than twelve slices are needed in this 21st Century.  Twelve slices of tax payer money are rather thin and finite.  Not nearly enough to accomplish the compassionate missions of the most well-intended; the unscrupulous have yet to be fully vetted or, at the very least, have their microphones taken and discarded.

The competition continually competes for our dollars and rapt attention.    As some of the most benevolent people in the world, perhaps it is better for Americans to test the waters at the local watering hole.  Time to restudy that marketing travelogue…and make sure we are on board and our economic journey correctly remains in a free and open sea.

God Bless America —- and the ones who defend it at home and abroad.

Nurturing Garden Blues

Estaban Gardens book cover

Mom would have loved my back yard garden once it had developed after the first few seasons.  She would have enjoyed the maturity of the trees and the scattered perennial shrubs.  Blue was her favorite color, so the lobelia that I’d dappled here and there to offset the varied pinks and orange hues would have pleased her very much, as it well should since I’d planted it especially with her in mind.

So, too, the Star of Israel blooms that appeared just in time for the Fourth of July every year.  It was no coincidence that all of my plants yielded blue flowers.  Agapanthus plants, the correct name for the Star of Israel, were indeed survivors; the blossomed “star” bursts of white or blue were used frequently in California as commercial landscaping flora and in highway dividers.  They were my kind of plant; nearly indestructible!

I can’t tell you how often over the years I had read “easy to grow” and believed it!  Perhaps it was because Mom could always keep things growing, no matter how delicate the plant; she could revive any greenery in her keeping.  She had houseplants that were older than some of her grandchildren!  Each plant had a story and held a memory of someone or someplace.

On the other hand, delicate looking vines didn’t grow very well under my care. An “easy to grow” clematis struggled for its survival and, much to my chagrin, the vine very soon after planting looked like it needed a transfusion.  I decided after a few months’ efforts that it was really begging for mercy, so I dug it up and disposed of it.

One of my favorite sayings among garden prose is the one that reads,

One is nearer God’s heart in a garden

than anywhere else on earth

Nurturing an appreciation for flowers and gardens was one of the pleasures Mom and I shared.  Refilling our vessels as we did our favorite vases, His grace seemed to quell our anxious souls on many occasions, allowing us just to be.  Within the presence of God’s mixed bouquets, my mother remains joyfully alongside me.

 

Paste Buckets and Sweet Peas

Daddy prided himself on his yearly garden.

No paste bucket that had been emptied at the floor covering shop went unused; many came home to be repurposed as part of the vegetable garden; the buckets enabled Daddy to stretch the garden area.  He planted pepper plants, some zucchini plants and even tried growing pole peas in them, allowing the vines to trail upward along the old lattice fence to reach the late afternoon sun.

Because we had only a limited amount of garden bed in the backyard, Daddy used the area well, packing enough tomato plants against the pink stucco wall (side garage wall belonging to next door) to feed the third world …we were constantly amazed at how many plants Daddy could pack into the seven by ten bed!  Radishes, Lettuce, parsley, thyme, some Swiss chard and even kohlrabi – this latter veggie had been introduced to us by our Czech neighbor.   Often, marigolds filled spots in between the edibles to fight the garden pests.

The next door neighbor would drive into his garage, hear my father cussing and look over the wall.  Daddy would be on his knees, pulling the tomato worms off his precious plants, cussing at them as though it would make them leave and never return. Return they did and I can still hear the Italian chuckling and shaking his head, then admonishing Daddy to be sure all the worms were off “his” plants.  A repeated scenario, his reminding Daddy that the property line reached 10 inches deep into our garden was an on-going joke; in our neighbor’s eyes, all the plants against the heat-holding stucco wall were technically his.

Hey, Brochier…make sure you water those plants really well when you get through cussing out the worms…I want to see a good crop this year…

I can’t write verbatim my father’s response as it actually had little to do with gardening.  Suffice it to say that the two bantered on like this for years, one cajoling the other and the other never failing to come back with his best retort.

Daddy wasted nothing.  He kept old coffee cans and other trays and containers from any nurseries to plant garden seeds ahead, so he often dried seeds from his own beefsteak tomatoes and green bell peppers.  He and his buddies even exchanged seeds from year to year, comparing the easiest to grow, the sweetest varieties, and so forth.

One particular year, our cousin dropped off some seeds in an envelope; he told Daddy that they were among the sweetest peas he’d ever grown, so Daddy was really excited to have some of such high quality hybrid peas.  He put them away until sowing time, and then made sure he gave them lots of room to grow in his limited garden bed.  He staked the seedlings and had cross bars he’d made from salvaged wood strips.  Daddy was determined to have some very sweet peas to enjoy this season.

The plants had just the right amount of sunshine; the stucco wall helped bounce back some of the afternoon sun, so the tendrils began climbing up the makeshift lattice in no time!  Daddy was really happy with the progress until the small little pods didn’t grow any longer; instead, the little pods began to open.

Standing tall, smack in the middle of tomatoes, lettuce, radishes, Swiss chard and crawling squash plants fighting for room with the herbs and marigolds were multi-colored blooms of pastel pinks, lavender-blues and creamy white.   What the—! He called my mother out to the back to see; she confirmed what he already suspected:  those very sweet peas that Daddy had imagined he’d soon be harvesting for dinners were indeed sweet peas.

Sweet peas in all their beautiful, delicate glory!!!  Mom was absolutely delighted, as the blooms’ scent perfumed the entire back yard.  Some were even tall enough to cut and take inside to enjoy!

Down at the coffee shop, the guys had been counting the days until Daddy realized this garden “discovery”; you can bet they knew the minute their ears began burning!   My father resigned himself to being the butt of one very clever joke, but remained a good sport always. Obviously, Daddy became especially careful when accepting any future envelopes of “specially” dried seeds from this gang!

When the Chimney Shook

Daddy didn’t contemplate life before him in rhetorical terms.  He might ask the questions, but he’d already accepted the circumstances and decided on his necessary role.  His was a tough act to follow; principled, he normally forged ahead with a quiet conviction.

Daddy was extremely loyal to family.  In his view, family was his original siblings.  Mom understood this loyalty, as she shared the same devotion to those “siblings”; their father was her guardian and she lived with them in her teens until marriage to my father. Familial assumptions of responsibility were theirs to share. As number seven’s daughters, we grew up watching this devotion and love for the older ones, Daddy’s name for the six children born before him.

We were ill prepared to influence him very much to think outside of the box. Devotion had become a hereditary virus of sorts; collected from our common good, we were emotionally spent beyond our capacities often under the mantel of doing the right thing.

Infected like the rest, I did the best I could to do my part; sometimes, it took a toll emotionally and I gladly buried my head in my studies and retired most evenings, totally relieved to shut away the day’s responsibilities.

Daddy’s actions always spoke louder than words. He did the right thing; as hard as it might be on him or us all.  Underlying the days’ tasks was the deeper belief and faith that we were doing the best we could; that there was a light at the end of this tunnel and we’d get through it.

Our family provided a home, food, a job and often transportation for a favorite uncle of ours who was an alcoholic.  Somehow, Mom and Daddy managed all this at the same time Only Bro was having his ups and downs, phases during which times his mental stability was very fragile. Daddy pursued, working his business around the needs of his customers, his son’s medical needs and his brother-in-law’s binges, covering the bases to provide for the immediate family with Mom’s support from the home front.

The carport was beyond the chimney and had no room left for an actual car anyway.   Daddy’s seeds and garden equipment, along with his tool bench and storage cabinets filled up what wall space there was.  Our family picnic table sat in the middle, out of the sun and accessible for backyard picnics.

As cars grew in width,   one had to be very cautious not to drive in and break any tomato plant branches or roll over the garden hose.  The drive might have accommodated two smaller cars, but our father drove a station wagon for business and personal use.  So, he rarely used the deepest end of the drive.

We always knew when Daddy had arrived home for the evening; once we felt the rumble, Daddy had hit the chimney; no point in going any further. We raced to the front door and unlocked it. Daddy was home.

What are ya gonna do?

That was Daddy’s summation of his day, as he stood there in the kitchen, pouring his glass of red and grabbing a piece of French bread with a slice of salami before dinner…

Plywood

I’m sure my father never thought twice about the plywood he delivered to my junior high school that day; but I remember it on occasion, especially on days like this when I think I haven’t accomplished nearly what I set out to do.

In fact, today was one of those the whole damn day was shot days as Daddy used to call them, walking into the kitchen to reach for the wine bottle and a glass from the cupboard.  This announcement was normally followed by a string of the what went wrongs:  the pattern that arrived was the incorrect color; one of the guys had a flat tire and was two hours late getting to the job site; or somebody forgot about a medical appt. and didn’t show up; or any variation on a theme that might affect a small floor covering business.

Daddy had heard me say that our eighth grade class was pricing wood for the showcase.  That’s all he remembered.  Before the pricing had even begun, I was called out of a morning class and asked to see my science teacher.  I arrived there and, to my great surprise, was told that my father had just dropped off two large sheets of 4 x 8 three-quarter inch plywood; my teacher had been in class, so he missed seeing Daddy, but was informed by a memo that we now owned had two large sheets of plywood-what did he want to do with them? Mr. L., my science teacher, was especially appreciative that Daddy had donated the wood sheets; so he asked me to please make sure to thank my father for the donated sheets.

I was on cloud nine that day…couldn’t believe that Daddy had taken time from his busy, time-sensitive schedule to drive by the school and deliver the plywood sheets.  My father worked.  He owned his own business.  He was a no-nonsense guy when it came to serving the public.  My father was an honest laborer, who made sure that the customer came first; normally, that meant that the family’s wishes were secondary.  Without his “hustling” as Mom called it, we’d have had no income. Neither Winnie nor I were allowed to chat on the phone for anymore than ten minutes tops.  Our home phone was an extension of our family business, so God help the daughter who dawdled and prevented a possible customer from reaching our home!!!

Daddy understood time was money, so made sure we understood it as well.  That day, I realized he had spent an hour traveling from his shop to my school, then making sure the plywood sheets were delivered to the right classroom (I still marvel that he even knew how to find the administrative office!!!)

I would never completely understand all the nuances or the actual costs involved, but I would always remember:  I was important enough for my father to make sure our class had the material to build the showcase for our science project.  There was no describing that emotion; even today, I “tear up” at the thought that my father, the man I saw as normally too focused on making a living to even tune in to his kids’ school projects,  would attempt such an extracurricular delivery; especially during a work day.  But it remains one of my very precious memories.

Perhaps, with any luck at all, I might have touched someone’s heart today…and the day wasn’t a complete loss.  I should be so fortunate…