Category Archives: Nostalgia
My husband, Julian, our five children and spouses, eight of our nine grandchildren and three great-grand children gave me a marvelous birthday weekend. They rented a large suite at the beautiful Montgomery Bell State Park near us and decorated it with a New Orleans and Mardi Gras Theme complete with Dixie Land Music, Mardi Gras Masks, beads, balloons, flowers, and all kinds of tinsel spirals and confetti. There was an awesome feast of New Orleans foods. I was born in New Orleans, baptized in the St. Louis Cathedral and lived in the Pontalba Apartments on Jackson Square in the French quarter. We moved when I was six,and I have lived since 1961 in Tennessee, but somehow New Orleans and the French Quarter are still my hearts home. My grown children also put some poster size and other smaller collages of pictures of me from the various stages of my life all over the walls along with signs and pictures of New Orleans. I thought that was cool, until they started snapping photos of eighty year old me next to twenty and thirty year old me. No fair!
I’m not very good at posting photos. I couldn’t get them to stay in a reasonable line. They started stringing out.
Here I’m a Senior in High School in Houston
The barn’s worn grey boards lean
from the weight of forgotten decades
shrouded in weeds hiding rusty parts
full of empty echoes of dusty memories
long gone hay bales, children’s laughter
bright red tractor, bush hog, hay baler
once the heart of a family’s life blood
now, just nightly cat and mouse games
and a black snake brooding in the loft
just now and then, a golden butterfly
floating in on dust filled sunbeams
a sign of hope, perhaps a resurrection
During a Jungian inner journey in my late fifties, I had a very vivid dream. My husband and I were in a dining room on a boat on a river cruise. They brought us a series of small appetizers one at a time, which my husband ate with great pleasure, but I ignored while waiting for the main course. At some point, I realized there would be no main course. I was furious and went searching the boat for another dining room. When I found one, they only brought me an apple, which I threw against the wall in frustration. I went out on the front deck of the boat to see where we were going just as it began to go through a dark tunnel which became so small that I had to hunch down as we went through it. I felt total despair at first, but became hopeful when I saw some light at the end of the tunnel. Since then I have learned to delight in and treasure the small joys of life, while accepting the pain of failures and disappointments that are part and parcel of being an imperfect human being in an imperfect world. I used to live focused on the future with its possibilities, missing both the joys and the grace available in the difficulties of the present. At seventy-nine, I am pretty much running out of future! But since that dream, I have had many experiences, both joyful and heartbreaking that have become grace for me. Life is about spiritual growth from living in awareness and finding meaning in the whole reality of the journey, not ego or worldly gains or idealized scenarios.
Heartbreaks that have brought grace:
The pain of loss filling me with hate, but persistence in prayer freeing me to let go and accept not only loss, but mine and others’ flawed humanity.
Letting go of past ways of experiencing tenderness and intimacy and becoming open to new ways of feeling deeply cherished even in my helplessness and physical pain.
Accepting that one of age’s delights, sharing laughter with the one I love the most, has an expiration date, because it brings on debilitating coughing spasms due to his progressive lung disease, then finding peace instead in quiet moments of just holding one another.
Letting go of the need for understanding, so I can begin to love instead of need.
Sadly recognizing my own vulnerabilities in the generations following me and knowing the pain these will bring them, but beginning to see that God can bring them through to joy as he has me time and time again.
Knowing that life will not get easier, but believing that grace will continue to bring the fruit of love from both heartbreak and joy.
Appetizers on the journey this Christmas season:
The tree full of cardinals outside our windows, children’s laughter, babies’ smiles, hugs from my husband Julian, people being kind and friendly in a crowded grocery store right before Christmas, Americans’ amazing kindness to the handicapped, Christmas decorations, Julian sitting quietly in the dark enjoying his Christmas village, both Leonard Cohen’s Halleluja and Handel’s Messiah, getting to do the sermon from the molehill at our worship service on Christmas day, our son Mike’s photos and delightful descriptions of his students at the Cambodian orphanage for children born HIV positive, our son Chris getting an interesting new job and so many people in Dickson telling me how wonderful he is, my suicidal friend now ministering to others, seeing friends find new hope in the person of Jesus without having to buy into the hang ups of any denomination, Tylenol taking away all my pain for a while, my loyal friend Margie being a constant in my life, my sister-in-law’s mouth-watering fudge cake, my first cup of coffee in the morning, Christmas memories on face book, our son Steve’s humor and willingness to take care of us Aged Parents in bizarre experiences in foreign airports, all of our grandchildren and great grandchildren, grandson Josh and wife Paula and seven year old Eisley’s adventurous spirits, grandsons Jordan and Jake’s caring hearts and courage, Nativity scenes, granddaughter Hadley so happy wearing her Unicorn Onesie at Norman Family Christmas, granddaughter Emma and her BFF talking and laughing non-stop in the back seat while I drove them to the mall, getting freed from my temporary insanity of hating someone by saying a prayer for love and peace each time while writing it on over a hundred Christmas cards, our teen-aged granddaughter Sophie hugging Julian whenever she sees him and laughing and discussing great books with nephew David, the HO HO HO’s – my friends who are not afraid to color outside the lines, my very own fun super drummer boy great-grandson Aaron, our daughter-in-law Molly’s incredible ability to continue to love even those that bring her heartbreak, our daughter Julie’s infectious laughing attacks that we call “Julie moments”, eight year old Bella’s unfettered enthusiasm for life, memories of waking up to a snow covered world, grown granddaughter Carmen’s resilience and lightning quick sense of humor, the delight of making vegetable soup to share with sick friends and the poor, becoming friends with our fascinating and loving cousin Mary Eleanor, my ninety-four year old friend, Barbara’s children coming to see her in shifts from all over America this Christmas season, grown up great grandson Ryan still having good memories of going downtown with me before the stores opened to earn nickels by sounding out words on signs, some people actually responding to my blogs, being able to keep up with my best friend from High School and College on line, getting to know interesting and friendly people in Canada, England, Nigeria, France, New Zealand and other countries across the globe through the internet, my Study Club women friends, who have miraculously bonded across huge differences in religion, politics, age, background, economics and interests.
These are just a few parts of the wonderful collage of my life that bring me seasons of joy in what sometimes momentarily seems like the “cesspool” of life.
An illusion haunts us, that a long duration, as a year, a decade, a century, is valuable. But an old French sentence says, “God works in moments.” We ask for long life, but ’tis deep life or grand moments that signify. Let the measure of Time be spiritual, not mechanical. Life is unnecessarily long. Moments of insight, of fine personal relation, a smile, a glance–what ample borrowers of eternity they are!
Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Some of our experiences up close and personal with denizens of the forest were very funny.
One time around dawn when our kids and one of their friends and I were camping out near the house, a pack of baying hounds chased a fox right through our circle of sleeping bags. The friend from the city made it to the house without touching the ground.
Another year we had a small white poodle that slept inside, but ran around outside most of the day. One morning he decided to protect us from a doe grazing in the front yard. He raced right up to her face barking furiously. She not only didn’t flee, she butted him backwards head over heels and just went back to munching. He, however, streaked back to the front door with his tail between his legs and cowered there until I let him in.
One of the most delightful experiences was when a doe brought her new born fawn into the small clearing outside our bedroom window. For about a week she rested there watching it wobble about until it could finally gambol around happily. I was stuck in a wheel chair for a while just then, so watching them each day was pure grace.
An awesome experience was recognizing a Great American Horned Owl flying over our lower field. It had what looked like close to a five foot wing span. We rode in our jeep along the woods that edged the field that night with flash lights and found its perch. It’s eyes glowed in the light, but it didn’t fly away. We visited it at the same spot several times, but finally it left.
A day or so after snows, we loved to look for animals’ tracks after they came out of their burrows to search for food.
Wildlife encounters are among my favorite memories from the twenty-seven years we lived in our hundred acre wood.
Once we had some young college age kids who were part of a Christian Ministry stay with us. They were mostly from places like Los Angeles and New York. So we tried to give them a taste of country living by bringing them down in our jeep to a nice sandy spot where branches of the creek came together at the far end of our valley. We gathered branches and built a fire to cook hot dogs and marshmallows. One of them played a guitar and we all sang soft sweet songs as the woods disappeared into darkness. It was picture perfect until we heard our local Bobcat scream near-by. That was a little too country for the New Yorkers, so we gathered up quickly. But it took two jeep trips to get us all back to the house. I waited with the last two city kids. They helped me make sure the fire was completely buried while we waited for my husband to come back for us. We had flashlights and we didn’t hear any more from the Bobcat, but those two big eyed kids kept looking over their shoulders until we got all the way back into the house. (And maybe I was just a tad nervous myself.)
But for me the creepiest wildlife experience was the time I was home alone, but fortunately talking on the phone, as a long line of about fifty wild turkeys started coming slowly our of the woods single file. It was like a funeral procession that eventually looped around the house. I told my friend if I disappeared or died, the turkeys did it!
Wildlife Encounters: Part 3 The Sad and Challenging Kind
We moved from the suburbs of a large city to a Winnie the Pooh Hundred Acre Wood. This was six miles down a dirt road and through a creek from the nearest small town. Our love of nature led us into wildlife encounters of the curious, scary, humorous, sad, and blessed kinds. Part One is about the curious and unusual.
One of my first encounters was with a rather large possum who scratched noisily on my screen door. When I went to check out the noise, it stopped scratching, but stayed there staring at me. I stared back. It continued staring. I continued to stare back. Finally, it made what sounded like a disgusted grunt and waddled slowly back into the woods. I never knew if it was panhandling or what. We didn’t have bird feeders or an outside dog then, so I don’t know why it would expect food. But it never came back, so I’m pretty sure it wasn’t a Jehovah’s Witness.
An even more curious experience happened a few years later on a freezing February night. We had returned from out of town late that day and were now snuggled warmly in our bed watching a scary movie. Suddenly there was a tap, tap, tapping on the window next to us. We both froze and stared in horror at the curtained window. The tapping continued, so I followed my husband to the door nearest the window. As he stepped outside, he pointed in amazement and a Chickadee flew from the window ledge onto his hand. It stayed there a moment as we gaped in open mouthed astonishment. Then it flew to the nearest eave where it continued looking at us. We decided this must be one smart, hungry Chickadee, so we grabbed our coats and went to fill the empty feeders which were all the way on the other side of the house.
It still astonishes me, even freaks me out a little that something with, after all, just a birdbrain could be smart enough to know where we were, that we would respond to tapping, that it was safe to come that close, and that we were the ones that gave him food. Nature is an awesome mystery.
(Part Two is Wild Life Encounters: The Scary Kind)
Since I have been recounting the hardships of 2016, I felt it only fair to share some of the many wonderful blessings we have had. I’m starting with our last house before moving to our current apartment. I had loved our 100 acre wood way out in the country, but as we aged the land with woods, a beautiful creek, cleared and fenced horse fields and a large house designed for five children and frequent house guests became too much for us to keep up. I balked at moving far longer than I should have, but agreed finally to move into the city if we could find a lot with some woods and a view of a lake. Miraculously we did. And since my husband is an architect, he designed it to suit me by bringing nature in through lots of wonderful walls of windows and open spaces inside. The house was small, but seemed much larger because of these.
The first photo is a spring night view through the woods to the lake. The back of our house was all windows. So there was a wonderful view from the master bedroom, the open combination of study, breakfast room and kitchen and the combination living room and dining room. It was like being outside in all seasons while being comfortable. There was also a screened porch with a cathedral ceiling that felt like a tree house because the land slanted down from the back of the house. The porch had no doors to the outside, only one into the kitchen/study area. This made a wonderful safe outdoor playroom for our passel of young grandchildren.