Category Archives: memories

auld lang syne

 

Ok, I’m going with, I’m posting the syrupy mawkish mess of diction that describes how I feel right now and judging from some of the FB entries, I am not alone, some of you guys are feeling “it” too. I guess it’s part of the “seasoning” package.  “It” all started yesterday morning; these surprise feelings that come with being human. I walked into the living room, the front room, the room where Christmas morning happens and “it” was over. It was already gone except for a few boxes to recycle and some red ribbon I wanted to keep. The people were gone; people that came from faraway places and places nearby, the Christmas lights on my dried out tree were even over, a fuse blew. The day went on and the evening came and I found myself in my studio painting and listening to Classic Country on the Dawg (just like I do every Saturday night) and the Highwaymen came on, Willie started singing and I suddenly realized my four sons are gone too. I know that sounds really silly because they left a long time ago but it was one of those moments where something that seems very obvious isn’t really and all of a sudden it registers.It re-registers with the heart, this thing that the mind has known for a while, now the heart knows and it doesn’t have the linear reasonable thoughts of the mind. It doesn’t care that that’s how life progresses and all things are as they should be – scheduled and precise, no the heart doesn’t think those things, it just feels those little bits of sadness when a mom realizes her children are all gone, even though they physically left a long time ago.

 


sweetheart rose from my mother
 These feelings transcend time; they just show up in seemingly random spots triggered by something – a fragrance, a picture, a conversation, or a Willie Nelson song. Then the heart takes a tumble and there you are in this sentimental mush missing someone. I think it’s necessary though, this random passage through mush,because I want to remember all of the people in my life past and present and this time of year is a hotspot. My mother died on August 20, 1997 – right before the holiday madness. I thought I would not be able to get through Halloween- that’s where my kids trick or treated and she dressed like a witch and how could we have Thanksgiving, she prepared the tom turkey and we sat in her dining room as a family and forget about Christmas Eve, going to her house each night before Christmas was the tradition. Obviously, I did get through those times; we pulled together as a family and it was okay. Whew! Well, at about 11:00 New Year’s day 1998, I was walking to the wood pile in my yard and it hit me – this sentimental feeling that is hitting me now. There was no warning, no real cause, just a flood of emotion hit and it was all about her – it was all about beginning the first year of my life, 1998, without my mother in it. It brought on a stream of tears and a consequent river of memories, all tied to her. I spent most of the day there in that soppy place but after it was over, I felt much better. These bouts of extreme sentiment are here for a grand purpose – they cause you to reflect and remember and that is how we keep people with us – through reflection and memory.I call it a spiritual visit. 

I suppose nature knows how to bring on these bouts of emotion when they are needed. We are too busy, it seems, to go there on our own. So, we run into situations that force us to get knee deep in sentiment and when we do, I think we need to just go with it and be there for a while. Anyway, just posting this because I can guess that everyone reading this has a sort of void in their hearts on this cusp of the New Year,we all miss someone, I get that from reading your posts on FB. Isn’t it beautiful to remember though and if it means stopping a bit and crying or calling someone and telling or sitting here writing, it is what we should do. It’s how we keep people in our hearts when they can’t be here physically. Or, like our children, when they have gone into their own lives, as they should, and things are not as they were, it helps to remember those times that were their childhoods and admit that this passage is both joyous and disheartening for parents. We easily celebrate the joy but the counter emotion of soppiness should be addressed also, for it is just as real.

 Writing this has helped me through this sentimental journey and I feel much better as I type out these last words. I hope to begin 2013 with a stronger take on how happy I am for my four sons, how happy I am that they are having their own lives. I know, like you know, I will always miss some of those moments when life was different. I will go with these seemingly random bouts of emotions that old songs and New Year’s Eve can cause and then I will go on into the “here and now” remembering that today will one day be yesterday.
there are so many memories to find inside of a fireplace…
 
 

“We drank a toast to innocence we drank a toast to time
We’re living in our eloquence, another old lang syne”

dan fogelberg

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Time

my snowman from Berry Tales 🙂

I try to recall the details of early December of last year – what I was doing, what worries I had – funny, but I can’t remember much negativity. I know something was there annoying me, concerning me, but, I obviously got through it. This lack of recollection makes me think about time and its magical effect, its purpose, really. I think of the figurative concept of moving through time – it carrying you forward as it washes away the troubles and concerns, leaving behind the good stuff – like little pebbles on the beach after the tide rolls out – smooth and shiny and brilliant from a cleansing; that’s what’s left of December 2011. I think of the early days of last December and I feel happiness. The twins were about to embark on a wonderful journey then and I know I was filled with apprehension and worry, but now, I just naturally go to that place of happiness, omitting any negativity that was running parallel to the good stuff that went on and I attach myself to that state where I felt happy. Hmmm, those pockets of peace restore us and time protects us, perhaps time is Nature’s Prozac.

 

It seems time is a gift in many ways. It heals, we all know that – and it sometimes washes away the things that are not so pleasant, leaving behind those that are – those memories that we need to keep, the ones that allow us to go on in gladness, for we must go on. It’s built in, this spirit we have to move ahead, to get better and to look forward. Like I posted before, we all need something to look forward to, whether it is a big event like a graduation, a big move or just a simple moment like the green beans sprouting in the garden – something good to anticipate – that keeps us healthy and  makes us happy.

 

I suppose time tweaks our memories a little – those days of childhood were probably not as gleeful as we “remember” but those “photo shopped “memories give us happiness now and what could be wrong with that? The bumps and bruises will all heal and fade away and , hopefully, we will all be left with a rich golden resin that was our childhood, one that we somewhat mimic for our children. Time is our friend.

 

I write this because it is nearly Christmas; it is the Christmas that you will reflect on next year and in the years to come. These moments are so fragile and so over anticipated and in 2012, so over done – Christmas has become the biggest retail extravaganza in the world. We have come a long way since the gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh; now it’s diamonds, Apple, and Mercedes. I hope we can all disregard most of that hype and understand that those things will most likely be forgotten; time will not keep a list of material things. It will, however, help you to remember the warm wishes, the still and cold night when you look up at the vastness of the Christmas sky, the afternoon spent in the kitchen with a child, the smell of cinnamon and evergreens, the macaroni ornament from someone’s first grade year, and the fleeting moments with the people you love. Time will only leave behind that golden resin that was this Christmas.
 

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just keep talking…

The room, my studio, is quiet now, the radio turned to classic country is silent, the caps are on the tubes of paint, the memories are doused and the lights are off, it’s only the early morning rays that move about giving some illumination and hint to the night before – Saturday night is over. Isn’t there something about how everything looks different in the morning light? Well, it does. Last night, like nearly every Saturday night I listened to old country from 6 to midnight and I painted. It is when I allow myself to go back in time to drench myself in melancholia and think of the people I have lost (I know I committed to making this only a positive blog but just wait – it will be). It’s a ritual, my muse; it’s the way I create, I have to tap on something way beneath the surface and nothing works like old memories. I had four paintings going on last night – one of a serious nature and 3 small ones that are impulsive and fun.

 I wake up on Sunday mornings and walk in my quiet studio and there on the easels are tangibles from the night before – it is glorious for me. It’s the music, the solitude, and the distance from obligation (and sometimes a few tears) that gets me there. It’s an interaction of art – I wish everyone could understand the importance of the arts – sadly, however so many do not and so many of those people are in control of our laws. (Sorry, I know that was a rant but I had to speak up).

Sometimes my mom would listen to music and she would cry. I was young then and my past was short and unblemished; I didn’t understand those tears that would just show up. I do now, I understand those thoughts of yesterday that well up your eyes and take possession of your heart,  those times and people in your life that are gone, at least gone from this world. Those thoughts are pulled from you by songs and visuals and even fragrances and every now and then I need to visit those places. When I do, I learn something, I reflect and I think of things someone like my mother said or did and it fits into my life now and I get it – it’s as though her life remains a part of mine – she is still my teacher, my role model. My mother in law once gave me some very valuable advice – she told me to keep talking to my kids, no matter if it didn’t seem as though they were listening – just keep filling their heads with the right stuff and someday, somewhere they will draw from my words – just put it in there no matter what. I have found this to be some of the best parenting advice ever – I continue to listen to my mother as I shove things I think are valuable into the heads of my “kids” and hopefully, they will be able to say the same about me and yours about you.

Anyway, it is Sunday morning now and the muse is gone with the rising sun. I hope somewhere in this entry you can find something to relate to and to encourage you to set aside time to reflect and to cry and to feel all of those things that living provides you with. For me, it’s important to have those moments that take me back to those days and those people that helped to bring me to this point in my life – how can they be denied or forgotten? It takes quiet time to “go there” – it takes music or a book or a sky full of stars or a blank canvas – it takes art.
I will end with this very bold step and post my three quirky paintings from last night’s “session” – the “serious” one is not nearly finished – I might post later. I have proclaimed this my “Recycle, Reuse and Hang” series – it is just fun and hopefully I will continue to add to it.
till next time

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Be mindful of these moments

I did something powerful this week; I reached a breakthrough in my healing, my getting past the deep emotion attached to losing my mother;  I went to City Park in New Orleans and I had Elizabeth with me (and a camera). It has been almost exactly 15 years since I was there. It was the last little adventure I had with my mom before her death in august 1997. She didn’t feel well that summer of 1997, tired and not much enthusiasm towards things but she did want to see Elizabeth ride the century old carousel “before I die” she declared. How often do we carelessly use that catch phrase, “before I die” – I never took it literally; sadly, however,  it was prophetic .

 Anyway, we did go to the City Park in New Orleans that summer – my mom, myself, and all five of my children – Jon was 16, Will 14, Matt and Drew 9, and Elizabeth 2. It was a fun day, we had spent the night before at the Hotel Monteleon on Royal and went to the park the next morning. The old oaks were still there as well as Storyland – things I remember as a child . The big feature, however and the reason for the visit, was the carousel. It was, at the time, 91 years old.

 “Since 1906 little kids and kids at heart have enjoyed the “flying horses” of City Park’s antique carousel, one of only 100 antique wooden carousels in the country and the last one in Louisiana. The carousel, featuring the masterwork of famed carousel carvers Looff and Carmel, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and its renovation garnered national attention and praise from the National Historic Preservation Society.”

My mom was so right in her prediction – Elizabeth loved it, again and again and again. I see my mom sitting on the nearby bench watching Elizabeth  go around and around. I wondered why she was so intent on and content to  just sit there. Now I understand , she was feeling so badly then; there was a yet unknown cancer inside and these were her last days. I look back, as we all sometimes do, with regret. I had no idea that my barely 65 year old mother was that sick and that this trip would be the last one with my 2 year old daughter.
 I often go back to that day and relive all that I can to keep the memory alive,  but until yesterday, I have not been able to go back to that physical place. After hurricane Katrina, I was so sad that the park had taken on so much water and damage but thanks to the good people of New Orleans, the park is as it was. I was able to see a bit of stress on some of the ancient oaks but I feel certain they are being cared for and will outlive me. Elizabeth was a good sport for me and let me photograph her around the park – we went to the places I remember her going with my mom.

Curiously , the girl operating the carousel saw us and when the last child was gone, asked if I would like a picture of Elizabeth on one of the horses. 

 
With a bit of a blur through the lens, I saw her  again and I knew my mom was there , perhaps on the bench, watching.

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amongst the rain drops

I walked after the rain today and the earth seemed fresh scrubbed and clean. The birds were flapping in the water, the frogs were croaking alongside of the ditches and the sky was brilliant and animated – all of these sights and sounds were amazing but what really stirred me were the puddles – the small puddles the dips in the road made. I don’t really know why but each one reminded me of a little boy with bare feet making sure he stepped in every one, not stepped, splashed, and each time there would be a laugh, a genuine laugh that only children have, one that makes you feel so happy. Those moments of childhood are just snapshots now, little flashes of memory that something, like the rain, takes me to unexpectedly. I can see the little feet and hear the small voices – pure happiness on a summer day long ago. I know time removes the murky stuff and leaves us with just the happy memories but somehow walking in puddles after a summer rain with a little boy can only be joyous.

 I wonder what I am doing now that I will remember later with tenderness. I suppose it could be these last bit of high school days with Elizabeth, days when I wait for her to come home from school and hear about her day and speak of friends that will, sadly, go away, friends and classmates that are such a big part of her life right now. Life doesn’t stop, it moves on and when we look back, it seems to have gone so quickly.

 I may have written this before but it’s worth another posting. It is a story about me as a young mother with four little boys standing in line at Eckerd Drugs – the older two, Jon and Will, standing alongside of me and the twins, Matt and Drew, sitting in the buggy. It was an effort to go anywhere then with four young children but I must have needed something really badly that day. In the line behind me was an old man. I could tell he was watching us fidgeting, moving, and anxious. After a while he said to me, “I have twins too, girls. They are grown now. “ I suppose I must have been too weary to even respond to what seemed to be his small talk because then, he got my attention when  he said, ” Enjoy them because the years will go so fast.” And then he smiled and said, ” It’s those days that are so long.” I will never forget that wisdom.

“This-this was what made life: a moment of quiet, the water falling in the fountain, the girl’s voice … a moment of captured beauty. He who is truly wise will never permit such moments to escape.”

 Louis L’Amour
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Broken Glass

I am sitting here trying to put words on this page that come out positive but for some reason, I am in some kind of negative spot. It all started with a mirror, a mirror I broke yesterday. It was my mother’s. It had sat on her dresser for years, a dime store kind of round mirror that magnified on one side and looked normal on the other. Somehow, and I don’t know how, it ended up on Elizabeth’s vanity without my knowledge until this past week, it was the little mirror that showed up in my blog on March 11, my mother’s birthday. It seems Elizabeth had taken a picture of it sitting on her vanity and it was the perfect visual for the entry. Curiously, she had been using it, for quite some time. It was a bit broken from the years of use so I brought it to the “shop” – a place where all the little things go to be fixed by the shop keeper, my husband. So, here is this little mirror that is very old and I didn’t know until just last week that it was even in my house. Anyway, after all of this,   I am, sentimentally attached to it and cherish it. I put the mirror under a basket in my kitchen cabinet where I keep loose recipes so that it can wait in a safe place until my husband could repair it. This is where the negativity happens. The phone rings and it is Elizabeth wanting to know the ingredients to a recipe that is in the basket. “Oh, ok, hold on a minute” – yep, I pulled out the basket and there slid the mirror right onto the brick kitchen floor – shattered. It was awful. This little irreplaceable manifestation of a memory that I just last week discovered I even had and was a physical connection of Elizabeth and her grandmother was gone. Elizabeth was not yet 3 when my mothered died so these things of hers are things I cherish all the more.

 Now for the message; it is something my mother taught me many years ago, and she didn’t even know she was teaching. One day I went for a visit, knocked on the door and walked in. There she was sweeping up broken glass. I asked her what had broken. It was her mother’s glass vase that had been  a wedding gift, one of the very few things she had of her mother’s. This vase had moved with my mother probably 20 times, from Ville Platte to everywhere in south Louisiana. It was about 90 years old and had sat in its last spot for more than 30 years – undisturbed.  On that day, minutes before, she knocked it over while dusting and it shattered as she watched. I, in my naïve age of ignorance concerning these disappointing realities of the universe, was upset for her. She, however, chose not to be – “I just swept it up like it was only glass”. It took years and experience to be able to speak those words – years of learning that “it was only glass” and like all things it had reached its’ end. I have to understand that. At that moment in my life I could not accept the limitedness of things. I thought people and places and things were forever. I had not realized that, up ahead, many components of my life would “go away” and only the memory would endure. She knew that then, she had said good – bye many times by then and she learned how to let it go. Now, I know.  I have drawn from that those few words she spoke incidentally ; they were with me as I swept up the glass.

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Autumn reminders

I’ve been “away” for awhile – I have been doing many housekeeping things and painting like a mad man. And while on my journey, autumn has peeked in. It was my mother’s favorite season and is now, Elizabeth’s favorite. I , on the other hand, have never been able to decide favorite anythings – especially favorite colors and seasons – I love them all equally – they are kinda like people, all unique and making their own  contribution.

 I do think a lot about my mom during this season, however. My thoughts are about food and her kitchen and my boys when they were little and in the woods behind her house. Those first cool snaps caused me to dig for funny little hats to cover tender little ears and warm socks and shoes to spend the day outside in – I can still so easily imagine all of that. I know I must have had some “troubles” during those years but it’s funny how time has taken them away and has left behind only the warmth. Time is indeed a healer of all things. I do miss those days, days when you knew that there was someone  there to watch over you and to guide you – it’s a difficult task losing that, at least in the physical sense.These first days of fall are reminders of those  days of long ago – pleasant reminders. It’s important to me to make these days warm places to visit for someone else later, just as my mother did for me.
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Memories

My aunt died last night, my mother’s older sister. She was 83 and had lived a full life – nearly 20 years more than my mother. I will miss knowing she is “here”. Since my mother’s death, I have not seen my aunt as often as before, but I always knew she was there, there at the top of the familial lineage. She knew the answers to so many questions about long ago, about my mother, about their mother, about the contents of times past; that and she are gone.My mom would tell me how she was a teenager during WWII and how that was very difficult to spend those years of youth in wartime – she remembers her singing in the front bedroom of their tiny house, singing songs from sheet music and wishing things were different. I can remember so much about her life , the wonderful way she cooked fresh fish and baked sweet pies (tarts), and spoke French, and drank coffee in demitasse cups, and was my mom’s big sister, and mother to her four children, but one thing I remember most was her coming to my rescue when I was 39 and expecting a baby. I will not go into the story, but I hope she knows I still remember and am still thankful for her.
 We all have our turn to die, just as we all have our time to live – it’s the living that is important and sometimes difficult, dying will come in its own time. Funny, but just today I read a quote by Emerson posted on the wall above the microwave in the building I work in, it said:
“To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and to endure the betrayal of false friends. To appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” ( Ralph Waldo Emerson)
…my aunt  succeeded.
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questions

we do not know the full value of our moments until they have undergone the test of memory. george duhamel
I rely on my memories to make my past a special place and to , later, make this time better. This time is a bit challenging, decisions to make, jobs to do, directions to take, never knowing if I am choosing the door with the tiger behind it. I will go through January with an effort to be optimistic and enjoy the sights and the reveal of this barren season, all the while leaving behind moments that will become memories.
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