Photo Dump

Man, what a lazy cow I have been lately! I had all these intentions for writing excellent stuff, really scintillating material that would wow you, and then Madre and I took a vacation.  Since we have returned I’ve read eight nine books (finished another last night).  I’m guessing that lazing around in a hammock chair for six days really did me a lot of good as far as relaxing me but it also put some kind of lazy haze on me and I can’t seem to snap out of it.  Oof.

Anyway, I was scrolling through the photos on my phone the other day because somehow I have used up most of my storage and I can’t figure out why. I play no games.  I have maybe four songs I listen to on a rotation.  I don’t Facebook anymore, and I’ve posted seven pictures to Instagram.  I wanted to see if I could delete anything, maybe some pictures of some meals I already blogged about here or an accidental 3-minute video of my floor covered in cat fur, and it so happens that I found about 62 pictures similar to this:

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Pooh

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Tigger

Turns out if you give your phone password to your nieces and then leave them in the same room with said phone, they take liberties. I miss those children.

I’m not one to really miss people. I enjoy you when I have you and I look forward to seeing you, but I’m not going to miss you, not really.  But Madre and I flew down to Key West with Pooh and Tigger a few weeks ago to deliver them to Aunties Anne and Susanne for a three-week European trip, and I MISS them.

(Also, do you like how I casually just threw “Key West” and “Europe” in there? Very blasé, like this happens to us all the time.  These kids are in EUROPE!  And Madre and I were in KEY WEST!)

(To be fair, I suppose Key West isn’t really that big of a deal because we do have open access to the aunties’ house any time we want to go plus it’s hotter than is healthy or fun for any human down there. I do believe it is currently too hot for even the iguanas and that is saying something.)

The girls come back home tomorrow. I am beyond ready.  Their parents are frantically beyond ready which is really the only word I can think of to describe what it must feel like to be a parent of children that you miss more than I do.

In honor of their return, and in honor of them in general, I’ll share this picture and then tell you the story of how it came to be.

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About a year ago I headed down to their house for my monthly babysitting gig, although babysitting sounds very juvenile for two girls who are already shaving their legs. Let’s say that I headed down for my monthly hangout with some preteens and we decided to go on an adventure.  We set off for the woods, in the fall where we were certain to not run into any ticks, and kicked rocks along the dirt road as we walked.  After a few good kicks, Pooh kicked a clod of dirt off of something round and sort of smooth and suddenly we were on the ground digging at it with rocks and twigs trying to see what it was.  I had to scurry back to the house for a shovel with which to dig it up and only after quite a lot of work did we discover that tortoise shell.

Pooh said, “I knew it! I knew something exciting would happen today!” We unearthed it, liquid dead turtle poured out in a chunky, vile-smelling stream, and suddenly it seemed less exciting.  I was not one to crush the excited hopes of a preteenager, though, so I excitedly placed the shell in the scoop of the shovel and excitedly carried it hobo-style back home. We placed it on the rail of the porch for the parents to exclaim over upon their return which they did with hands clasped over their noses and faint traces of nausea on their faces.

I think what I really want to focus on here is the hopes and dreams of these girls, the exciting opportunities available to them. I’m such a selfish person, or maybe an indulgent person, and while I want good things for everyone, truly, it is very hard to be as enthusiastic about your hopes and dreams as I am about my own.  I think that is human.  These children have forced me to be different.  They have forced me to face the fact that I am not the most important person to me anymore, the spinster, the person who gives herself everything she wants because it is clear that no one else will. Now that indulgent person wants every good thing I ever had or never had to be theirs, whether it be a stinky tortoise shell or a trip to Europe or a boy to just stand in front of the girl and say he really, really likes her.  I want them to have it all.  I’ve never felt so selflessly about anyone in my life.

Perhaps I will have stories to tell about their adventures when they return.  I hope I hear them all.

To sign off, I’ll deliver more of my photo dump to you so that I can delete this mess off my phone and save more room for teenaged selfies.

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Jimmie and Pooh

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Tigger and Jimmie

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Groundhog who actually posed for this photo

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And then turned the other way for another shot.  Not joking.

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Seamus, just because

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A Note To David

Poppa 2

Hey, Poppa.

It’s been a whole year. Today is a year.

You know, you don’t always understand how much influence a person has over you until you have to live life without that person. Do you know how many times I see a bird and think of you? Do you know how many times I’ve wanted to drive up into your driveway and tell you about my trip to Ireland or something I heard on the news? I’ve read so many books I want to tell you about. It’s the everyday things that are the hardest. It’s in the mundane you are missed the most.

Please don’t worry. I’m not moping around mourning you every day. None of us do that. What kind of testament to your life would that be? All sadness all the time? You’d be so mad if that’s all we had left of you. But some days I miss you so much that it feels like I’ve been walloped in the stomach with a bag of rocks. My breath hurts and I just can’t see my way out of the tears. Those days pass, though, and I’m left seeing you in so many other ways, happy ways.

The whole family has been reading your journals. Every morning you sat in your chair and wrote about the weather or what project you were finishing. We now take turns sitting in your chair, and when one of us finds our name, we get giddy and read to everyone else what you said. Isn’t that funny, that my name in your handwriting is so special to me? You said my name a thousand times but when you wrote about me, that means you thought about me when I wasn’t there. Oh God, that hurts. And speaking of God, we never talked about that. Why didn’t we talk about that? But every day, no matter what kind of pain you were having in your feet or what sort of financial thing you dealt with or what kind of joy you experienced, you thanked God. “Thank you, Lord,” was the way you ended every entry, every day. A life well lived. You were steady, even to the end.

Sometimes one of us will see an owl or a kestrel and it feels like you are checking on us, so we say hello. We cry a little but we still just want to say hi, to let you know that we see you in everything and that we still see things through the lens of your eyes. Mom let us read one of your love letters. Only one, but it was so powerful, so you. You ended it with “Your children are my children” and whether or not that letter won you my mother’s heart, it won you mine. You already had it, of course, but I could look back over all the years I had with you and know you meant it. I never had to read a letter to know how you felt. I was your child, too.

Poppa, I miss your hands. I miss walking by your bedroom at night and seeing the top of your head over a book and your feet sticking out from under the blanket. I miss your stories. I even miss the way you’d talk about something that was so far over my head yet I felt compelled to nod and say “uh-huh” despite the fact you’d lost me in the first sentence. You loved Willie Nelson but as much as I love you, I don’t miss listening to that music one bit. Sorry. Christmas and Thanksgiving – the year of the firsts – those were melancholy in moments but we all knew that had you been with us, you wouldn’t have really been with us once you got your hands on a gun stock or a book. Opening day of deer season – that was the worst. I missed the phone call I should have gotten about how you spent three minutes getting to your deer stand, shot the biggest buck anyone has ever seen within one minute of settling in, and then spent nine minutes getting it home, much to the disgust of every other person you ever hunted with. No one ever gets a deer as fast as you. That day was hard.

Poppa, we are okay. Mom misses you the most. Living without you is the hardest thing she’s ever done but you know how she raised us all. Independent. Fierce. Substantial. She is those things – that’s how you teach someone else to be those things. It’s just that some days the loss of you wears down the fierce and the substantial. Some days are harder than others. Today is one of those. I’m so sorry we lost you. I wish we never had to experience loss. But never experiencing loss means never having loved and that will never do. I lost you, Poppa, and that hurts so badly but I know that it means I loved you so much more. I’d never trade that out, never. Love rules, even over loss.

Today we will wave to you. Today we will talk about you a lot. Today we will mourn but we will also laugh and we will also love. You left us, but we are coming to you. Give us time. We will see you again. I’m just so damn happy about that.

In your words, Poppa, Thank You, Lord.

As ever, your favorite oldest daughter,

Mandy

Poppa

Boy Loves Girl – A Story For Your Heart

There’s a little dollar store I stop in on my way home sometimes to pick up the occasional grocery item.  They don’t carry a lot of things but they have the basics.  They also carry seasonal items, and last week when I stopped to get some necessities, I swung through the Valentine’s aisle to check it out. 

As I was admiring the chocolates, cards, and stuffed animals, a woman walked down the aisle with her two boys.  Initially I didn’t pay a lot of attention to them.  I took my quick glances at the sweet stuff and then moved on to get the items on my list.  I then did a quick walk through of the store, just to see if I “needed” anything else and finally found a check-out line to stand in. 

In the check-out line was a Valentine’s balloon nearly the size of my car.  It was a monstrosity.  The mother and her two boys walked up to stand in line behind me and the youngest boy was instantly captivated by that balloon.  I heard him breathe in sharply and ask, “Mom, do you think she would like this?”

“Well, you already have chocolates and the dog for her.  That’s enough money for today,” she replied.

“But Mom, this would really work.  I just know it.  I’ll pay for it.  I’ll wash dishes,” he pleaded.  Let me clarify.  He was not whining.  He was asking.

“Don’t you think it’s a little big,” she asked.  “It’s probably expensive.”

“I love her, Mom. It has to work.”  I could hear the emotion in his throat. 

Her heart melted.  I felt it.  I turned to look back at him, to get a closer peek.  This boy was maybe nine or ten.  He had red curly hair with red-blonde eyelashes and a million freckles.  He was earnest and sincere and he had the sweetest little eyes.  He also had a stuffed dog under his arm and a heart-shaped box of chocolates with a picture of a guitar on it. 

He saw me looking and explained without my asking, “It’s for my girlfriend.  Well, she was my girlfriend and then I heard at recess that she’s going out with another guy and I have to get her back.  The dog I picked out because it’s colorful, like her, and the guitar I picked out because I like music and I want her to think of me.  Do you think she would like the balloon, too?” 

“I think everything you picked out is just perfect.  I think you chose really well,” I said.  “She must be very special.”

“She is,” he said simply.  “I love her.”  It was all he needed to say. 

They bought the balloon.  I watched them stuff the Valentine gifts in the car and I heard him telling his mom how many nights he would wash the dishes.  I hope that little girl is worth his heart because she sure has it, hook, line and sinker. 

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Happy Valentine’s Day!  I wrote a love story last year, too.  If you haven’t read it, you should.  It’s my favorite one. 

Girl Meets Boy – A Love Story

Once upon a time there was a little girl.  We will call her Girl.  When she was in the third grade, she fell in love with a little boy.  We will call him Boy.  He was a nice boy and lots of girls in the third grade liked him.  We will call those other girls Others. 

Boy took turns “going out” with Girl and Others.  He would “go with” one for a while, they would break up and he would “go with” another one for a while.  He wasn’t being mean, he was being fair.  It was the third grade after all and he was very popular.   

Girl would take it particularly hard when Boy wasn’t “going with” her.  Sometimes she would come home and cry, saying “Boy doesn’t like me.  He’s going with one of the Others.  That hurts me.” Her sister, called Sister, would say, “Don’t worry, Girl.  One day you will knock his socks off.”

That year for Christmas, Boy bought Christmas presents for Girl and Others.  He bought necklaces.  One of the Others got a Strawberry Shortcake necklace, another got a CZ chip necklace and Girl got a Smurfette necklace.  Girl was overjoyed with her gift.  She called Mother at work and worried the mess out of her until Mother agreed to take Girl shopping for a Christmas gift for Boy.  They had to go right away.   

After much deliberation in the toy aisle of Wal-Mart, Girl decided on a Donkey Kong piggy bank.  Girl got home with her gift and insisted that she wrap it herself.  She labored over it for a long time, her tongue poking out in concentration.  There was a lot of tape on it, a lot of air between the layers of the wrapping paper, and she finished it off with a Styrofoam glitter-covered heart that she ripped off one of her headbands. She stuck it on the gift with a stick pin and was determined to leave it there even though it kept popping off because of all of the air in the wrapping paper.  Mother drove Girl over to Boy’s house very late because Girl would have it no other way.  Boy loved the gift and all was well.

Time marched on.  Boy and Girl would “go together” for a while and then would break up and then “go together” again.  Eventually, though, Boy and Girl grew up and moved on to other boys and girls.  They became interested in other things and although they were friends, they no longer “went together.”   

One day, after Boy and Girl became Young Man and Young Woman, someone threw a party. We will call the party a Class Reunion.  Young Man and Young Woman both attended the Class Reunion and while there, discovered a mutual affection for each other.  They began dating and from the first date, were inseparable.  After some time, Young Man bought a ring, offered it to Young Woman, and Young Woman accepted the ring.  They began planning a wedding.

Young Woman made sure that she had something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue for her wedding day.  They said their vows, Sister cried, Mother cried, everyone cried, and as Young Woman walked down the aisle a married woman, she showed Young Man her something blue.  She had kept the Smurfette necklace Boy had given her in the third grade.  It was in her jewelry box the whole time.  The chain had broken and the metal had tarnished but Girl pinned that Smurfette to the inside of her dress and wore it proudly to say “I do.”   

Sister cries every time she tells that story. 

This is not my story but I am Sister.    Martie and Coach, Girl and Boy, will be married 13 years next month.  I guess you could say now they “go together” all the time.  Isn’t that the best love story?  Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone!  I wish you a nice love story of your own.