Stroll Down Memory Lane

RooseveltMarketI took a walk through my neighborhood this afternoon and by my childhood home for what I thought would be a lighthearted trip down memory lane. I was heartbroken to see that a construction team was busy tearing it down and clearing the lot. My look of dismay didn’t go unnoticed and one of the workers asked if I was alright. Alright? Are you serious? You’re dismantling a part of my childhood. How can I be alright?  I know that he couldn’t possibly understand what this house meant to me with all the precious memories still deep within its crumbling walls. I stood for a long while, watching and remembering.

I was nine-years-old when we moved to Boise, Idaho from Vallejo, California in the spring of 1960. The trailer we pulled was loaded to the hilt with furniture and other belongings. It was truly a sight to behold. The car was packed tightly with just enough room for me, Mom, Dad, a golden Labrador puppy and a yellow parakeet in a blue cage. The trek was long, and I wondered if we would ever make it to Boise. But, when we finally arrived I immediately fell in love with the quaint little house in the east end of town. It was only 650 square feet, but it seemed like a mansion to me. I had never seen so many trees in my life. Squirrels were everywhere.

After one week of getting settled in our new environment, I resumed the third grade at Roosevelt Elementary which was a mere two blocks from my house. Several days a week, I visited the Roosevelt Market that was situated directly across the street from the school grounds, leaning on the front counter and selecting my favorite penny candy.

Standing there gazing at the rubble, I couldn’t help but remember the many “pictures” of my mother in my mind: how anxious she was to hear about my day at school; her smile, her laugh; how enthusiastic she was to help me plan backyard carnivals for the neighborhood children; how willing she was to make pink-frosted cupcakes so that I could sell them and make extra spending money; how comforting it was to have her come into my room in the night when I was scared or sick.   And then there were the strong and soothing memories of my Dad.  I loved coming home from school and finding him in his upholstery shop – the old brown Zenith radio playing in the background, the steady hum of a sewing machine, the smell of wood varnish and paint thinner, and the delightful discovery of leftover scraps of fabric on the shop floor that were destined to become articles of clothing for my dolls.  At the close of each evening, my last recollection before drifting off to sleep was hearing my Dad wind the old cuckoo clock and recheck the front door lock.  My, how safe and secure I had felt in that little house.

There was so much happiness in this house; visits from family and friends, celebrations of birthdays and holidays, sleepovers with friends, and backyard picnics. It was also where I first experienced the death of someone dear to me. I loved my Grandpa Gunderson and my memories of him are rich; the way he wore his cap, his steady, fast-paced gait, his love of candy,  the way he prayed before he ate, his dislike of cooked onions, and the long walk he would take to bring me a small brown paper sack filled with sweet treats. The real sweet treat was when he walked to the front steps of our little house and knocked on the door. I loved opening the door and seeing him standing there with a smile. I remember the morning that my bedroom door opened quietly, and Mom told me that Grandpa had passed away during the night.  He was eighty-one.  I was thirteen.  I would miss him deeply.

Ah, memories.  Sweet, precious memories.  I guess I really haven’t given it much thought as to what it will be like to never see the little old house again.  But, I do know that my memories are vivid, and I’m grateful to have had such a delightful place to make so many.

Colorful Field of Memories

050Our memories are not made of days; they are made of moments.  ~ Deborah L. Norris

We sat in our comfy chairs and enjoyed a second cup of coffee together, my 86-year-old Mama and I. Without much notice, she looked over the rim of her cup, and stated with purpose, “Let’s take a little trip upstairs.” Her soft blue eyes twinkled at the thought of a trek to the second floor. I offered to bring a few photographs and select family keepsakes downstairs, hoping to ease what I knew would be a difficult climb for her to the upper level of my home. But, the attempt, albeit honorable on my part, failed to dissuade her this time. She insisted on making the laborious journey, taking her time with each step, fifteen in all. Finally reaching the upper story landing, we walked along the hallway where an impressive display of framed ancestry lines the walls. Unfortunately, most of these behind glass family members had passed away long before I was born. She talked as though she had visited with each of them the week before. Suddenly, strangers with stoic faces and vague histories came to life with her many vivid recollections. She spoke tenderly of her beloved Grandpa Winkle who had a very strict ritual that he adhered to each evening at bedtime. First, he would wind the old clock.  Then, he went to bed – even if company was visiting – wearing long underwear, a shirt, and a tie.  He grew cotton for many years and sold home grown vegetables from a horse drawn cart.  A favorite past time of Grandpa Winkle was a hearty – if not sometimes rather heated – discussion of religion with his son-in-law.  In later years, he traded his strong opinions for long rests on his front porch swing as he lovingly watched his grandchildren play underneath the persimmon trees.

An old photograph of her Grandma Winkle brought another flood of memories, as she fondly remembered her as a very giving person that always found great satisfaction in doing for others.  She was a midwife and assisted with the delivery of many babies.  Where there was a sick child, you would find her – comforting and attempting to make well the young ones in her care.  Unfortunately, she was all but helpless when it came to aiding her own ill child – and at the age of six months, one of her twins passed away suddenly.  She desperately grieved the loss of her baby, and was often times inconsolable.  One night, the story is told of her waking to see the baby playing happily on her bed.  She watched for quite some time, totally enamored by this child she recognized as her own.  She would never be convinced otherwise – that God was keeping her baby safe and had graciously allowed her to see for herself that he was in good hands.  Though she would be forever mindful of the death of her sweet baby boy, this heaven-sent experience would reside deep within her very soul and comfort her for the rest of her days.  Grandchildren always knew that their Grandma Winkle would have something good to eat at her house – whether it was leftover bacon and eggs in the oven, or her specialty; white cake topped with applesauce and red heart candies.  She raised her own turkeys, geese and chickens – and churned her own butter.  It goes without saying that holiday dinners were a most joyous occasion. She could not read or write – although this did not prove to be a significant handicap.  Grandma Winkle owned and operated a market for many years, and due to her inability to read, she devised a rather ingenious system for identifying items and their prices through drawings that she created.

We made our way into one of the guest bedrooms and I removed several handmade items from an old chest of drawers.  Again, there was a heartwarming story from the past that accompanied each treasured keepsake.  I watched as she ran her fingers along the delicate edges of a crocheted doily that was nearly 75- years-old.  The sight of an old, well-worn table cloth that had once graced the little kitchen table in her and Dad’s first apartment brought a tear to her eye.

She journeyed bygone years with ease, like a familiar well-traveled path – and with a strange clarity that often eludes her when she tries to recall what she did earlier in the day.  The places in her mind where she chose to stop and sit for awhile became vibrant stories that she articulated like a gifted orator.  Suddenly, I saw her as an 86-year-old beautifully written novel, pages worn, but rich with prose.  I felt so humbled to “read” with her.

At the end of it all, her expression was one of pure joy.  “Well, that was delightful, now wasn’t it?” She clasped her hands together and smiled sweetly. “I feel like I’ve been on a nice trip.”  Indeed she had.  I had been privileged to accompany her.  A long, beautiful trip through a colorful field of memories.

Leave a Legacy

CaptureSunsetFieldsThe goal shouldn’t be to live forever, but to leave a legacy that will. ~ Deborah L. Norris

How we choose to live our lives is of utmost importance. Why? Because it determines the legacy we leave. Building a legacy that is worth leaving behind is made one choice at a time. To leave a legacy of excellence, you must strive to be your very best every day. As you make every effort to achieve excellence you will inspire this same excellence in others. Remember, you serve as a role model for your family, your friends and your colleagues. One person in pursuit of excellence raises the standards and behaviors of everyone around them. Your life, and how you live it, is your greatest legacy.

 

The Truth About Fear

shadow

We each enter this world with two natural fears; the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. Every other fear and anxiety is learned.

Certainly, some fear can be beneficial. It can help us to avoid a dangerous situation or make a necessary change. But, fear can also be very destructive and debilitating. It can limit our effectiveness and even inhibit our ability to give and receive love.

When my daughter was about four years old, she would sometimes become fearful in the night. Shadows and unfamiliar shapes caused her much anxiety, and would usually send her out of her room in tears. However, once the light was turned on and she could see for herself that the monstrous shape lurking in darkness was none other than Egbert, her favorite teddy bear, her fears were settled. She was able to see the truth and find peace.

Knowing and understanding the truth of our fears doesn’t necessarily mean that we conquer them immediately, but it does mean that we have the opportunity to choose how our fears to impact us. And that brings a new freedom that we may not have experienced before.

Time for Solitude

We live in a fast-paced, noisy world. Yesterday, I hesitated for a brief moment after the stoplight had turned green and was awakened from my solitude by a chorus of horns! We’re in a hurry. Signs and slogans give credence to the fact that we’re on the run and out of time. Fast Service. No Waiting. One Hour Cleaners. Quick Cuts. Minute Lube. We’re the only nation in the world with a mountain named Rushmore.

It’s often difficult to find those precious moments of silence, and so easy to get caught up in the intensity of life and busy schedules. But times of solitude are as necessary to our well-being as breathing. Take a moment to consider how you might find time for a refreshing respite.

 

Heart of Forgiveness

CocaColaMachineI’ve spent a great deal of time pondering the concept of grace.  One of the very first grace-filled moments that I can recall took place when I was about seven years old.

Jim was a soft-spoken man and the owner of a small gas station in Vallejo, California that I passed by each day on my way to and from school.  On one especially warm afternoon as I was walking home, I couldn’t help but notice the big red soda machine sitting just inside the station.  I would simply have to get a better look at the cold bottles of Coca Cola, even though I knew full well that I didn’t have a dime to my name that day.  Jim saw me.  “Hey Blondie, what can I do for you today?”  Jim’s question caught me off-guard.  But, I was even more surprised at the words that came out of my mouth.  “I think I lost my dime in your machine.”  Jim knelt down and intently checked the machine for the “lost” dime.  Without so much as a word, he reached into his shirt pocket for a dime, dropped it into the machine, and then handed me the bottle of Coke that I had so longed for a moment before.

My heart pounded like a sledgehammer and my cheeks burned with shame.  I walked home much faster that day, full bottle of Coke in tow.  I was so upset by the time I reached our house, that I opened the front door and ran directly to my bedroom.  Falling on my knees before the bed, I confessed to my mother what I had done.  What a premium opportunity for a reprimand!  But, I suspect that Mom could see I didn’t need to be convinced of my guilt.  Instead of scolding me, she comforted me and told me that she was proud of my confession.  Then, in a soft but firm tone she informed me that I would be returning to the gas station, along with a bottle of Coke and an apology.

I died a thousand deaths!  But, before I could protest we were on our way back to the station.  I can see that little gas station as clearly in my mind today as I did that afternoon so many years ago.  Jim stood near the soda machine, almost as if he had been anticipating my return.  The sight of my friend brought a flood of tears.  Approaching him with my head down, I struggled to express my remorse.  I was surprised again, this time to feel the gentle touch of a hand on my shoulder and the comforting words, “I’m proud of you, Blondie for coming back and doing the right thing.”

Those who extend the hand of grace and forgiveness often do much more that they realize.  I learned so much that afternoon.  I received a blessing from my mother, whose grace was not cheap.  She loved me, forgave me, and accepted me.  But, in her Godly wisdom she did not spare me the discomfort of owning my wrongdoing.  And, I received another blessing from my friend, Jim.  He forgave me and affirmed me.  But he also demonstrated by his actions something I would never forget.  He had purchased the bottle of Coke with his own dime, despite the fact that he knew I was guilty of lying.  Then, he waited patiently for my return.

 

All About Perspective

CaptureForestGreenA dear lady and very good friend of mine once remarked to me, “Honey, it’s really all in the way you look at things.” I’ve often recalled her words of wisdom, especially during difficult seasons of my life. Obviously, this positive and faith-filled individual had discovered a very precious secret along life’s way which enabled her to view her circumstances through eyes of hope and thankfulness.

When I was  a child, my parents and I would often go camping on the weekend in our small travel trailer. We had a favorite site located next to the river and under the tall Idaho pines. Because our “spot” was almost a hundred miles from home, we would usually arrive long after dark on Friday night. Once we were settled and in bed, I would gaze out the small upper bunk window at the towering pines, thinking to myself just how big and unfriendly they looked in the night shadows. After a time, I’d snuggle deep into my sleeping bag, close my eyes, and dream of morning. When the first rays of sunlight appeared, I would again look out the small window. The huge pines which had seemed so threatening in the dark now glistened in the morning sun. Same scene. Different perspective.

We can make the choice to view our circumstances through eyes of despair and negativity, or we can shift our focus to one of joy and gratitude.