This Old House

Old Log Cabin“I’m like an old house, run-down and falling apart,” she said, smiling at me from across the table. We had a good laugh at her analogy of aging – she’s a young 88-year-old at heart, but the mind and body are not cooperating so well these days. She struggles with balance and failing eyesight. She loses her train of thought in mid-sentence, and often forgets the simple things. In spite of it all, she maintains a sweet, positive outlook that is nothing short of amazing. Oh, how I love my Mama!

Recently, our conversation took a turn for the serious and left me feeling like I needed to hold onto her a little tighter – for fear that she might leave me sooner than later. “This old house is going to be traded for a mansion in Heaven one of these days,” she said, matter-of-factly.

Today, my grip is firm and my reluctance to let her go is immense. I’ve bargained shamelessly with God, reminding him that I need her more than he does. At the end of the day, I know I’ll have to relinquish my hold and let her have her mansion. But, for now, I’ll cherish every moment that God will allow me to have on this side of Heaven. ~ Deborah L. Norris

Keeper of Childhood Memories

DepartedThe old house was nothing at all like what she had described to me through the years. From her vivid recollections, I saw in my mind a lovely, well-kept home with spacious rooms and beautiful furnishings. According to her, it was a glorious place that remained alive with the laughter of children and happy conversation around the kitchen table.  Now I stood in the doorway of this dilapidated structure, and found it all but difficult to disguise my shock. She walked slowly into the rundown keeper of her childhood memories, and raised her head as if to draw in the yesteryear aroma of homemade bread cooling on the kitchen counter. She smiled with utter delight, her hands clasped tightly to her chest. It was in this moment I realized she had described precisely what she would always remember.  ~ Deborah L. Norris

Goodbye, My Friend

Roosevelt SchoolWe were best friends right from the start of the fourth grade at Roosevelt Elementary school in Boise, Idaho. It was September of 1962. We lived two blocks apart, so we walked to and from school every day. I lived in a quaint little yellow house shared with my parents, and she lived in a big gray building with lots of other children. Her parents had abandoned their five daughters a year before and now Carrie was a resident of the Idaho Children’s Home.  She always had a smile, her sweet face accentuated with deep dimples. But, her soft brown eyes told far more of a story than her happy disposition ever did. No doubt, Carrie was acquainted with sadness and loss.

Her charming personality afforded her many opportunities for friendship. Teachers adored her. Despite several attempts by classmates to befriend her, she was my shadow and stayed close by my side. Carrie spent many a weekend at our house, and gravitated to my mother for the maternal affection she craved.  I was always more than happy to share the blessings of my family and home life with her. She went to church with us frequently, and we even attended a week long summer camp together. She accompanied us on weekend camping trips along the Payette River and in the Idaho mountains.

Just before the beginning of fifth grade, Carrie sadly informed me that there was a family from Texas that was interested in adopting her. Unfortunately, their interest did not extend to Carrie’s sisters, the youngest of which was only two-years-old.  We were both frightened at the prospect of her being taken away – especially to Texas. I promised her that I would talk to my parents about adopting her so that she wouldn’t have to move and live with people she didn’t know.  Neither of us was aware that the adoption process was well under way, and that we had very little time to spend together – or very little to say about her eventual destination.

A couple of days passed and I walked to the Children’s Home to see if Carrie could come to my house and play. A social worker met me at the front door and said that she was already gone.  What? How could this be? I would not be able to write her or have any contact, she said. Carrie had moved to Texas to start a new life. I cried all the way back home.

I never had the chance to say goodbye to Carrie. I still miss her – after 54 years I think about her and wonder where she is. I can only pray that she found all the happiness she sought.

Saturday Morning Glory

WafflesBaconIt was pretty much the same routine every Saturday morning, but, believe me, it never grew old. Really. The kitchen always smelled of waffles and warm maple syrup. Bacon sizzled in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop. The wonderful aromas, along with gospel music from the record player drew us all to the table for breakfast and happy conversation. Sometimes my Grandpa would walk the ten blocks from his house to ours and join us. He loved bacon, and I loved to hear him pray.

Saturday morning household chores were a family affair and everyone was involved – even the dog. Princess was our miniature black and tan dachshund. She had learned very quickly that she could earn a special treat if she gathered up our slippers and delivered them to their respective closets.

Mom always made cleaning and organizing fun. She would get a piece of colored paper and list all of the chores to be tackled. Then, she would cut the paper into strips, fold them, and place them all in a round metal bowl. We would each take a folded piece with a corresponding task. Once the job was done, we’d take another strip, and so on until the bowl was empty. Before we knew it, the house was clean and tidy.

Then there was the yard work. Dad wasn’t so much about making the task fun as just getting the job done. I loved working alongside my Dad and being his helper. He mowed the grass and I raked the clippings. We were a team.

Once all the chores were completed, Mom and I would get dressed and walk to the corner to catch the bus to town.  I had my allowance tucked away in my red purse – 50 cents went a long way, even with 10 cents set aside for church the following morning.  A trip into town usually meant lunch at the JJ Newberry counter and then a little shopping in the store. Of course, it never failed that we would have our pictures taken in the little photo booth. I always got a small white sack filled with favorite candy. Something was inevitably put on layaway for the start of school in September or for Christmas. Mom usually made a few small purchases; embroidery thread, crochet needles, and handkerchiefs for Dad.

After a stroll down the streets of town to do a little window shopping, we happily carried our treasures back onto the bus and made our way home. It had been another wonderful Saturday, with memories made that would last a lifetime and beyond.

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.