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Posts Tagged ‘grandchildren’

It’s never too late to have a happy childhood. (Tom Robbins, Still Life with Woodpecker)

On Labor Day afternoon my granddaughter, Ella, and I play fast-food restaurant. She is at the drive-through and I am a 107-year-old customer with a special request. Since my chewing is limited, I want my order cut into small pieces: 2 hamburgers, a couple dozen chicken nuggets, five orders of fries.

She is willing to oblige.

“How much is that?” I ask as I reach for my invisible order from my imaginary car. (Fortunate, since at 107, more than chewing mechanisms would be out of order. Driving may not be advisable.)

“Nine hundred dollars.” She grins.

Wow! Service charges have gone up everywhere. However, in the pretend world I can reach into my pocket and find five dollars, a thousand dollars, or a magic frog.

Perhaps I should have given her the magic frog.

Imagination. I hope it stays with me until I am old enough to keep the nursing home entertained.

Ella’s real-life gifts appear as I get lunch ready. She makes Lego creations for my friend, Ann, to see by feeling them. Ann has been blind since birth. I don’t mind that Ella sits next to Ann instead of me.

After the meal, Ella brings Ann to our toy shelf and shows her safe-for-kid paint jars, stuffed animals, cars.

I watch. Enriched. Ella has Down syndrome: I am grateful to be favored by the up of her existence.

 

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Asking ourselves, “Where am I right now?” gives us a chance to step outside the internal dialogue for a moment of peace. Look around you, take a deep breath and notice what you see, hear and feel. Present moment awareness is the point of power and choice. It frees us from our compulsive thoughts. (Laura Harvey)

Okay. It’s time to organize. Or, should I have started these projects years ago? I haven’t been allowed to lift anything heavier than five pounds for more than a month. Now that my cataract surgeries are completed my eagerness to begin is heightened.

My eight-year-old grandson Dakota wants to help. He eyes the paper shredder. “Anything to shred?”

“No…Wait!” Folders lie stacked on top of one another. Copies of short stories already published. Stories I abandoned—for good reason. Early chapters of my books, The Curse Under the Freckles, Stinky Rotten Threats, and The Ugly Mood Storm. The Ugly Mood Storm, the third book in the series, will come out in October.

Sure. I could recycle the pages without shredding, but my young buddy likes the noise and the action. He knows how far away to keep his fingers from the blade, the source of the noise he enjoys.

The past returns as I open each folder. Mistakes circled in red on the page. Mistakes made in life jump out as well. Years cycle through as I open each worn folder.

“Oh,” I say.

“Something wrong?” he asks.

“No. It’s just a name of someone I used to know.” Someone who died.

He pauses to make sure I’m okay.

I celebrate the messy, beautiful present, my young grandson on the floor next to me.

Dakota continues to work, sorry when the shredder needs time to cool, sorry when the last sheet becomes a mass of white slivers. Then he is happy to play another game.

I take a deep breath and notice the whir of the air conditioning on one of the latter days of summer.

“See you next Thursday,” Dakota says.

His enthusiasm brings me a gift no amount of money can buy.

In the scheme of things where am I right now? Not sure I know, but it’s a mighty fine place.

 

 

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Be master of your petty annoyances and conserve your energies for the big, worthwhile things. It isn’t the mountain ahead that wears you out—it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. (Robert Service, writer)

I’m ready to start editing, eyes on the computer, coffee cup in my hand. And I set the cup on the pull-out board of my old desk—right smack on top of a pen. Gravity wins. Every thought I had falls out with the hot liquid, onto the floor and rug. Time to wash a load of caffeine-soaked rags.

An unplanned cleanup becomes the metaphorical grain of sand in my shoes, the shoes I’m not wearing yet. Sunrise is fresh and I’ve already drowned the day in spilled coffee. Far from an important event, but I can turn it into an omen. Easily.

Time to brainstorm some perspective. Random fun memories for starters. When the memory occurred doesn’t matter:

A granddaughter at play. She introduces herself as the teacher, Mrs. Tushman. Mrs. Man for short…

My grandson’s huge brown eyes and his turn as pilot. “We’re flying 20 miles and it will take 20 hours…”

Years ago, my parents gathered my siblings and me into the car. We were going somewhere. It could have been a trip to a park. It could have been a trip for ice cream.  The fun came with the surprise. The smell of popcorn! It’s a drive-in movie.

I smile. The splattered area is relatively dry.

I consider simple signs of love that have happened within the past 24 hours:

A thank-you note from my friend, Liz. We haven’t seen one another for years. Our friendship is rekindling.

My husband’s words, “Wait, I’ll do that!” as I carry dishes from the table to the sink.

Countless opportunities to give back. Someone could use a reach-out call from me right now.

I’d like to think that the next time I get in my own way I will be instantly forgiving. Probably not. Besides, the mountain ahead remains ahead.

Companions appear along the way. However, the climber needs to grasp each rock to succeed.

I didn’t really need another cup of jitters anyway.

 

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Man is the only animal for whom his own existence is a problem which he has to solve.
(Erich Fromm)

Human animals think too much—without questioning the truth of their source. Unfortunately, we upright-moving creatures are born with ego and an overdose of certainty, based on experience in a tiny section of the world.

I wrote this poem more years ago than I recall. My granddaughter was a toddler. She is now in fifth grade. A ballerina. Grade-A student, She also happens to be significantly taller than I am.

These verses are based on an incident that occurred at the Museum Center in Cincinnati, Ohio. My beautiful girl may have grown up, but she chooses her friends based upon inner qualities, not incidental skin tone. I am proud of who she has grown to be.

Naked Baby Dolls

 

Child-proof dolls

with painted black hair

and eyes forever open

 

lie on the floor

of the toddler room.

Figures identical, except for

 

brown or peach plastic bodies,

the dolls are naked.

The children don’t care.

 

Bare babies and honesty

fit the simple ambience

of parallel play.

 

I watch as each doll

passes from child to floor,

and back again. The brown babies

 

get picked first.

My toddler granddaughter pouts

as another child grabs

 

the dark doll she had been cuddling.

I try to hand her the paler version.

Her frown deepens. On the rug

 

the dolls that wait

look anemic, pale.

I think about human skin shades

 

from ivory to licorice, and mentally

list a larger number of darker tones.

Nutmeg, cinnamon, chestnut, bronze

 

chocolate, mahogany, coffee, umber.

Strange that at this age

the little people choose the toy

 

with the richer complexion.

Yet only a few of the children

resemble darker hues. The toddlers’ choices

 

contradict the prejudiced

adult majority. Someday I pray

these children see beyond the exterior.

 

The dolls wear a paint layer

thin enough to be chipped off.

Their differences can be altered with a brush stroke.

 

People share diverse histories

and cultures, but living hearts beat

a common rhythm.

 

May we grow

together

as one human race.

 

(This poem has been published in the anthology, FOR A BETTER WORLD and in the online magazine PIKER PRESS.)

 

 

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I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day; I’d rather one should walk with me than merely tell the way. (Edgar Guest, poet)

My husband and I received two plants. As living, growing, loving gifts from our church family. Neither Jay nor I garden or know the difference between a weed and a rare flower, a mushroom and a toadstool. He takes care of watering indoor plants. Mother Nature tends to the outdoors.

These two plants belong outdoors. I assumed that after a few days, my husband had taken both small green pots from the screened-in back porch to their home outside. Only one made it. The other isn’t dead, but it is malnourished, waiting to be rescued. Drooping, brown-edged leaves fall from the side.

I watered the plant and placed it next to its healthier peer.

Peer? Yes. Planted at the same time. One starving, the other well-fed.

The individual who blasts views different than mine may look like the failing plant to me; he or she may think I am in the dying pot. Either way, negative judgment leads nowhere.

The man begging at the corner may be an alcoholic and drug addict; he may be a veteran with PTSD, or someone who lost everything from inadequate health insurance or despair. Appearances don’t tell the whole.

A storm last night watered both plants. No change in the flowerless pot yet. I want instant results. Real life rarely works that way. Next step—I must check with the person who gave us the greenery and get a hint or two. My plant knowledge may remain in the pre-kindergarten stage, but, any level of increased caring can help.

In the meantime, my seven-year-old grandson and I tinker with my failing printer. He is fascinated with the parts, with anything mechanical. The copy of his sight-words homework appears. The printer has come to life; he is ecstatic. I don’t know much about anything mechanical, like a printer. He doesn’t know much about printers or words.

We have no idea what we did right, but our work together has succeeded. Peers in a different sense. Okay, I did the work until my son came and finalized the original problem. (The machine was trying to send a non-existent fax.) My grandson brought the enthusiasm. The mix worked.

May people with differing points of view find the best in one another. Someday. Rich and poor, conservative and liberal, as equals. It may be the only way.

 

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Happiness often sneaks in through a door you didn’t know you left open. (John Barrymore)

My grandson, Dakota, and I explore our backyard with his new red plastic truck. It’s large enough for him to sit on it. I’m grateful he realizes I would crush it. A septuagenarian squatting that low and then maneuvering the toy from a bug’s height, would be a sight for the neighbors. I wouldn’t want them to anticipate a 911-call.

“You know you won’t live forever,” he says.

“Yes, I do. That’s why I celebrate time with you, give to others, and love as much as I can.”

He doesn’t answer and continues playing with the truck. We create ramps from National Geographic Magazines. He rolls construction paper and tapes it with heavy tape. My granddaughters’ baby doll bottles in the center maintain firmness.

We let the moments speak for themselves, the challenge to roll or unroll. To go over the ramp with the truck or bypass it. If one tactic doesn’t work, Dakota tries another. My little buddy doesn’t give up easily.

I consider how quickly the notion, not-good-enough, flashes into my mind. I know it was taught to me in childhood. What isn’t good enough? The statement is too generic to be true. Nevertheless, the temptation to just-forget-it rises far too often. For most human critters, both young and old.

My friend, Cathie, calls. She hasn’t seen me at the Y for a while. Either I have been entertaining grandkids or working on my book. She has something to give me.

“When I saw this, all the bright colors,” she says, “I thought of you and just had to get it.”

I plan to meet Cathie. On Friday morning. At ten AM.

She has made a pillow. Cathie is a seamstress. She uses her gift to celebrate other people.

“It’s pre-hugged,” she says, holding the pillow through the plastic bag against her chest.

Since we have both been in the pool, we are soaking wet. A chlorine hug doesn’t negate the love attached to her or her work.

Life isn’t perfect. It never will be. However, with grandchildren like Dakota and friends like Cathie, sweetness is easier to find.

 

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I have come to believe that giving and receiving are really the same. Giving and receiving—not giving and taking. (Joyce Grenfell)

“Do pebbles grow into rocks?” my young step-grandson asks as he gathers odd-shaped stones and places them inside a cardboard treasure box. The box rides inside a red wagon.

I smile and tell him rocks are more likely to break into pebbles. I smile, but don’t laugh. His innocence warms me. He finds a tiny lock on the side of the road and adds it to his collection. Then, he puts it inside his pocket, to take home.

For him, all of life is a collection of serendipitous learning experiences. The tracks left by a bulldozer, a dusty trail made by the thin wheels of the collapsible, fabric wagon. The dusty wheels create mud after the wheels travel through a deep puddle.

The thought strikes me that rocks and keys may not be the unique metaphors I imagined them to be in my series, The Star League Chronicles. Black rocks act as weapons for the Malefics, the evil League. Chase Powers, the main character, operates an ancient, rusty, magical key. Sometimes, the key knows more than he does.

Sometimes play teaches me. And I haven’t been a child in a long time. My teacher-key contains no magic. Often its key is no more than a realization, a prod to notice a beauty I hadn’t noticed because I’d been stuck inside ubiquitous bad news forecasts.

This little boy trusts me. A breeze cuts through the afternoon heat. I am at peace despite that fact that I have an approaching deadline—and more words to write and edit than I want to think about. Right now, I could be pecking away at the non-magical keyboard-keys (pun semi-intended.) With the hope of creating magical scenes.

Instead, I follow a red wagon into a child’s imagination and allow my love for this boy to expand.

Work challenges will continue tonight…and tomorrow…weeks after. Until the story fits into a whole.

For now, I give and receive experience. And hope to remember this beautiful day in the middle of July.

 

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