One day a child will return
No longer in shame or chagrin.
There is always a home,
A beginning, initial rays of light, first steps taken.
Night falls in the quiet country
Crickets and critters, shapes and movements among the trees.
The screen door shuts, echoing in the darkness
A cigarette glows fiery red and orange, and then, a sigh.
It embraces you
This homecoming. You could stay here forever.
And perhaps some do, or will.
You either resist or you yield.
No place is Shangri La.
The green is as vivid or lean
As you wish it to be, wherever you are.
So: Will you reclaim this now, again, as Home?
Daily Prompt: Local
The world can be such a sad place, so full of disappointment. Not the world itself per se but the people who inhabit it: Folks whose hearts are cold and cruel and only self-serving. Individuals who, by rights and connections – none of their own making really but there you have it – should be the guardians and nurturers and caretakers of those closest to them but fail utterly in that regard. Relationships where love and gentle regard is sorely absent.
It’s sad to discover there are members of the human race who possess these traits of ugliness, brutality and disregard. When the knowledge that the world is filled with this caliber of humanity becomes apparent to us, it’s as devastating as when a young child first discerns there really is no Santa Claus, if the child was fortunate enough, that is, to have lived in a family where the perpetuation of this loving tradition was cultivated in the first place. To recognize that some children have never even had that… Well, that’s a sad realization in and of itself, is it not?
I won’t lie. I still struggle with resentments of my own. My father drank a lot and rarely put his wife’s and his children’s well being before his own. He was a good provider, however, and did love all of us, of that I am certain. Perhaps it was just the era but I don’t really fault him for this. I can’t explain why. So the duties of child-rearing fell to our mother and with a husband who drank and six girls under the age of ten to raise, I can only imagine how difficult it was for her.
I suppose, then, that I should be a bit more charitable and excuse her for her lack of affection, for her utter disinterest in nurturing us (maybe she just didn’t know how?). For failing to foster strong sisterly bonds (rather, she chose to exploit and corrupt them instead). For her, then and even now still, her only regard was and is herself. Her neediness seems to know no bounds. And, here I am sixty years old and it still rankles. Especially when she bemoans the fact that the six of us don’t get along well at times. In her mind, she apparently thinks she was a perfectly wonderful mother and does not believe there is any cause for her to feel regret or remorse. Oh yes, that rankles too.
Sigh. I know it could have been worse, glaringly, shockingly, horrifyingly worse. I get it. We weren’t abused – not physically, anyway – but still we’ve spent a lifetime of distrust. A lifetime that could have been spent as friends, we sisters, where we had each other’s back instead of using them as targets. We could have spent these years delighting in each other’s company rather than merely tolerating our sibling relationships. This small artifact of truth, that our mother does not recognize this consequence, this fall-out of her non-mothering, speaks volumes of her refusal to accept responsibility for her own actions – all the while she readily chomps at our own failings and misdeeds.
Yes. I need to move on. And quite often, I feel that I have. But every so often I’ll read or see or observe others’ realities, and the niceness of their relationships, and I’m hit on the head – soundly! – with what we were denied. It’s less – much less – than the brutality and depravity of much of what lies in the world, I know that. I do. But it doesn’t make it hurt any less, not for me, for my five sisters and me, that our childhoods, our family’s bones were so lacking in love, nurturance, warmth, safety and structure.
There is beauty and love and resilience and nurturing in the world, this I know too. I must strive to seek it on my own, and to find it within myself. The past is the past and while I know it will always serve up small reminders of what was (and what was not), I must actively choose to see it for what it was and nothing more. I’ll get there. I’ll be fine. Sometimes, a body just has to fess up and recognize those nagging voices from the past, deal with them, and push forward. Get right with one’s own soul and enjoy the sunshine of today.
While I’ve been away…
Blogging has not been a high priority lately as my son was here visiting for a few days. Although we grated on each other’s nerves a few times, as is always the case when he’s here more than a day or two, we managed to have a little fun as well.
We hiked, explored the downtown river walk, ate at a variety of restaurants, and rode bikes. Here’s a great example of my son’s wacky sense of humor. My sister and I, following along at a slower pace, encountered this amusing vignette on the way back to our vehicles. It reminds me of my dad, Wesley’s grandpa, as this is exactly the kind of stunts he liked to pull. It occurs to me now that it might have been funny if Molly and I had just continued riding along as if we hadn’t even seen him.
In any case, we had a nice visit but I’m certain that we’re both glad he’s back home now!
By far, the greatest gift my mother gave to us girls was her love of reading. On visits back home, we girls would peruse her shelves for something new to read or to reminisce with Mom about old favorites. My uncle, Roy, built these shelves for her a few years ago and they hold most – but not all! – of her collection.
I snapped this photo a few weeks ago and also captured a few shots of aerial photos of the old homestead, a cringe-worthy family photo of the six of us girls from the early 80’s and a series of incredible photos that my mother took of a summer storm. I can’t believe I never thought to photograph these things before. Now, I have my own copies to cherish for years to come. As for all these books, well, we girls will have to draw straws, I’m afraid, to divvy them all up after Mom’s gone. But hopefully, we won’t have to concern ourselves with that for some time…
Fall is a gorgeous time of year, no doubt about it, and October is a fantastic month to commune with nature doing activities such as biking, hayrides, sitting around a campfire, hiking, camping and snapping photos of all those wonderful fall colors. This past weekend I enjoyed an entirely different type of event in the great outdoors: an October wedding.
My beautiful niece and her new husband exchanged their vows on a spread of land they hope to build on in a few years that they’ve christened Up South. Situated along a gravel road in Madison County (yes, that Madison County – of covered bridge fame), guests pulled into what appeared to be a hayfield where large, round bales of hay displayed hand-lettered signs that assured family and friends they had, indeed, come to the right place.
The hayfield parking lot gave way to an open clearing where ‘pews’ of hay bales had been set up for the guests. The ‘altar’ was a wooden archway with a grove of mature trees serving as the backdrop. In lieu of a unity candle, the couple branded their initials and the wedding date onto a tree trunk. The groomsmen wore simple brown suits and the bridesmaids wore gauzy shifts, denim jackets and cowboy boots. Everything about the ceremony and wedding party smacked of simplicity and as a result was elegant and lovely to behold.
Even guest attire was casual as everyone was instructed to wear jeans (if they so wished) especially given that it was an outdoor affair and temperatures (and that wind!) were a little on the brisk side. Several people carried blankets and quilts from their cars and that added to the cozy factor.
Brad and Becky had an amazing wedding and I think they definitely got it right. Not only did they (hugely!) save on the costs associated with elaborate flowers and programs but their wedding hit all the right notes in that the emphasis was on the love they share and the future they look forward to together – just as it should be.
Strolling through my photo archives looking for ideas and inspiration for the photo book I made to give to Mom when she moved out of her old house and into the new one I had fun reminiscing about this man I knew as Daddy. Our family has many stories and examples that perfectly illustrate my dad’s character – both the good and the bad! Of course I know this can probably be said of most people but those who knew him will likely tell you that my dad was one of a kind.
Dad enjoyed a drink (or two or three…) and many of the stories I’ve heard about his younger days usually occurred as a result of tipping the bottle a few times too many. Driving down country roads with a cooler in the back seat led to much silliness and zany antics. Like the time he and a friend high-jacked a tractor parked at the end of a corn row, put it in gear and let it slowly drive across the field with nobody to pilot the darn thing. Or when he and another buddy stopped at a dangerous intersection, took off their belts and whipped the ground yelling ‘Bad corner! Bad corner!’ Mom tells of how Dad would carry a chair out to the middle of a crowded dance floor and pretend to be casting a fishing rod and then laughingly scold the dancers for tangling his line.
There is a somewhat risqué (but entirely fabricated!) story Dad liked to tell of how he met Mom. She would just roll her eyes and sigh ‘Oh Richard’. Dad would explain (with a twinkle in his eye) how he was crawling around under a booth in yet another dancehall — they both loved to dance! — when he first laid eyes on Mom. ‘What are you doing down here?’ my mother supposedly asked him. ‘Oh, just looking for my glasses. How about you? What are you doing here?’ ‘Oh, just looking for my panties.’
After my dad died Mom and I were cleaning out the office in the sawmill one day when suddenly Mom started to both laugh and cry. We had stumbled across an old wallet in one of the drawers. Not understanding the significance of this discovery I asked what was so funny. Apparently Dad used to hide old wallets, like this one, with a dollar bill tucked into the lining inside an open knot of one of the logs loaded on the sawmill ramp. When a new and unsuspecting hired hand proceeded to roll the log up the ramp he would then whoop and holler at his ‘good fortune’ at finding this not-so-well hidden treasure.
Whenever Dad was on the phone talking business, us girls would giggle and grin and nudge each other as we waited for him to end the call because he would always wrap up the conversation with a curt ‘You bet’. We would all burst out laughing – until that one time when he calmly told the party on the other end of the line ‘Yes. Thank you. Goodbye’. He looked up with a smirk — and a ‘Gotcha’ expression on his face — and laughed at us instead. By golly, he knew!
A favorite story of mine is one I will always remember fondly and with an appreciation of how his mind – churning, twisting and turning and thinking, always thinking! – worked. Mom and I were discussing a precancerous mole that I had just had removed from my belly. She and I talked about how one of my other sisters had also had one removed a few years earlier and that the doctors had been quite concerned. It was a fairly serious conversation. Dad sat there silently, biding his time. When there was a lull in the conversation he quietly observed that one time he’d ‘had a gopher’ on his leg. It didn’t sink in at first. I just looked at him blinking, trying to understand but once I did I was a goner! I laughed and laughed. After I stopped laughing, I’d think again of what he had said and would laugh still more until my stomach ached and big, fat tears rolled down my cheeks. Oh, how Daddy loved to make us laugh.
My husband knows this last story by heart because he has heard us girls tell it over and over again. The best ‘Dad’ story begins with a long-distance phone call. He had just gotten out of the shower as both my parents were getting ready for a big fish fry at the Timber Inn (the tavern my dad had built on our property a few years earlier). Back then it was a serious matter getting a long distance telephone call especially if it was related to business so it was important that he take – and finish – the call. While he was on the phone one of our cows broke through the electric fence. We girls tried again and again to corral it but our efforts were unsuccessful. We gestured frantically for Dad to get off the phone and come help us. Finally he finished the call, hung up the phone, grabbed a pair of pants and ran outside. Fortunately the cow had a rope attached to the collar around its neck and Dad was able to quickly grab hold of the rope. Success! He had the cow. But the cow was apparently in no mood to be had and struggled mightily to free itself from the hold Dad had on him as he ran along the busy highway that ran parallel to our property. Finally Dad had no choice but to grab the rope with BOTH hands. The result of which is that at this point gravity took over and his pants dropped to his ankles. Just as a highway patrolman drove by!
These stories of my dad– and so many others like them – helped all of us get through that dark and difficult time after he died. He was an amazing, wonderful (yet exasperating!) person and I sure do love and miss him immensely.