Through the Lilac Grove

I was a young kid in the early 1960s, living in a small town. When Minnesota winters can be sub-zero and Jack Frost leaves his artwork on every window, it’s nicer to stay inside. Winter can seem like a long season when one is indoors for most of it. For the housewife, there was plenty to do with the housework and taking care of the family. If she wanted a break, she could watch a soap opera on TV, or telephone a friend, but by spring, she was ready to get out of her abode and catch up with the other cooped up ladies.  When winter was over it was much easier to go back and forth to the neighbors to visit. No need to bundle up and step over snow banks.

Most women were full-time housewives in those days. Not many were out in the workforce. My mom worked a few afternoons and Friday nights at my dad’s hardware store. She was home mornings and made good use of that time. Coffee with a neighbor was as important as anything else she would do that day.

When the first sunny warm spring mornings appeared, my mom opened the windows. The unlocked screen door let in plenty of fresh air. With the opening of the windows and doors came the active season of morning coffee visits with a neighborhood friend. Each spring these ladies were like birds let out of their cage.  There was so much to catch up on, and in addition, the stroll over to the neighbors itself was pleasant too. Warm sun, tulips blooming and birds singing are just as nice as the cup of coffee with a friend. It didn’t happen every morning, but most weekdays the birds would see the crisscrossing bathrobed women on their morning mission.

I was still a preschooler at my mom’s hip. These early morning coffee times are some of my first memories.

This was before social media and cell phones. Keeping in touch was much different than today’s instant connection, and instant coffee. Most women are working now too. Ways have changed how we keep in touch, but we still have the need and desire to connect.

Not every housewife did this. But many did. I know women on the other side of town were going back and forth, as well as farm ladies who lived across the country road from another farm wife. The ladies my mom would ‘coffee’ with, had different neighbors in the direction away from our house that they visited with. Through that social web, you could find out what’s happening two or more streets over. Those homes that were a little too far to visit while adorned in your bathrobe.

After their husbands left for work, the wives, usually still in PJs, bathrobe, and maybe even curlers, walked next door or a few doors down. They just left. When in your bathrobe you carry no purse. You are traveling just a few yards, literally. Nobody locked their doors when they left home. It was all spontaneous and casual.

They may or may not knock. Our neighbor, Violet, petite and cute, always with a smile on her face, would let herself in as her loud high voice called out to my mom, “yoohooooo“. She and my mom would sit at the kitchen table, both in their robes. They enjoyed one cup of coffee in a pretty coffee cup with a matching saucer. No big mugs or throwaway cups. My mom made perked coffee on the stovetop. Maybe a cookie or toast was offered. They talked about the weather, their gardens, kids, why the cops were whizzing through town last night and what they were making for supper. I would go in the next room and play with my toys. Twenty minutes later, the visit was over. Violet was in and out quickly because she may have another house to stop in.

When my mom and I would go to Norma’s, she’d offer my mom coffee and me some toast while she did the dishes or ironed. They lived upstairs in a big square house on the corner. It reminded me of The Honeymooners apartment. I stood around looking at her baby or went into the living room to look at the framed photos of family members. Norma was a soft spoken person and my mom did most of the talking. When Norma moved, they kept in touch. She would drive over to see my mom from time to time for many years.

The person my mom had the most coffee visits with was Dolores. Our backyards shared a border where a few lilac bushes tucked away grew on a small hill. They bloomed each spring bursting with a mix of deep purple, soft purple, and white lilacs. There was just enough room to walk through the center of the bushes for adults. Us kids went through the lilacs like nothing, but our moms had to duck a little to make it. The sweet smell was heavy. This was the path my mom and Dolores would go back and forth for about 45 years. They had morning coffee until Dolores started working, then they switched to weekend coffee, and baking pies together on Saturdays. These friends were going through the lilacs for other reasons too, to borrow an egg or bring over extra rhubarb. It didn’t take too many years for the well-worn path to become permanent hard dirt where grass didn’t stand a chance to grow. My mom wore her bathrobe all morning long those days, but I don’t remember Dolores coming over wearing hers. She was always put together and reminded me if Sophia Loren had been a regular person living in our blue collar part of town. Dolores might stay for two cups of coffee. She and my mom talked about everything under the sun and were very close. Her kids were my age so I had playmates during those coffee visits.

When I started school, my guess is my mom continued to morning coffee with her neighbors, especially Dolores, until one by one they got jobs or eventually down the years…died. The tradition for my mom and her coffee mates slowly evaporated. Things change. 

A few summers ago when my mom was in a nursing home and my sisters and I were preparing to sell the home place, I remember walking through the now shriveled up lilac grove over to Dolores’ with some rag rugs we thought she might like to have. I didn’t need to walk through the lilacs. It would have been easier to walk around them, but I was being pulled that direction. I had to squeeze through the overgrown unkempt branches but I was determined to go through. I was going through the lilacs for my mom and Dolores because this is the way they would have gone. The path was barely there. To my trained eye, I could still see it though. And even more, I could see my mom’s feet from years back, making one of the many warm weather jaunts over to Dolores’. I could still see the neighbor friends going back and forth through the lilacs. They needed to get in as many cups of coffee as they could before the silent winter sets in.

 

Women’s History Month: Frieda

FriedaThe theme for Woman’s History Month (2013) was ‘celebrating women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics’. The names of famous women who’ve done impressive things is too long to list here. But I can think of several women in my personal history who are worth a mention when talking about outstanding females.

I think of my Grandma Frieda who made homemade root beer (science), fetched water from a hand pump (technology), made rag rugs on a loom (operating engineering), and had to budget every dime (mathematics).

She was born at the turn of the 20th century to Swedish farmers, spending most of her life near the Minnesota-Wisconsin border where the Rock Creek bends and turns through beautiful country.  A typical girl of that time and place, she lived a simple life on the farm, then as a young adult married a local man.

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I Did Not Go To Church Today

church steepleI did not go to church today.

I drove around taking pictures of church steeples.

 

I walked up the steps of a big old church to get an artsy shot and there sat a young man who looked like he’d had a rough night, a real rough life. He was waiting for a bus.

He didn’t give me any eye contact. I stood right next to him as I took steeple shots. I was in his space now so I said to him, “I’m taking pictures of steeples today.” He looked at me like ‘ok whatever crazy lady, who I don’t know who just got out of her car while I sit  here and wait for a bus.’

Then a few moments later he spoke up,”Any reason why?” I answered,” Yep, sometimes I pick a theme and just go with it. I recently did old steps that lead to nowhere, also shadows, stuff like that.” He didn’t say anything as I snapped a few more pictures. I was sure he’d lost interest in our conversation. Then as I was leaving he said,” You could do waterfalls.” I turned around and said, “That’s a good idea!” Then he added in an upbeat tone in his voice, “..or tree stumps!” “I hadn’t thought of that one.” I answered, “Thanks for the good ideas.”

He gave me a nice smile and sat up a bit straighter. You know, I think I did go to church today.

Season of Joy


 

Meaning of ChristmasI write this on a quiet Christmas.

My loved ones are far away, yet I still find myself almost giddy with joy. I do feel blessed to have the love of family and friends. I have a home, a job, and all my needs are taken care of.  All this makes me happy. But I feel such an overwhelmingly deep joy that can’t compare to anything else in life, that I’d be a fool not to share it with others and let you know how to have it too. Christmas is a great reminder of the source of my joy.

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10 Ways To Have The Perfect, Non-Perfect Holiday

holidayThis time of the year can be crazy and stressful or beautiful and meaningful. Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Solstice , Kwanzaa, Christmas or something else, there is so much to do.

December is busy for me. I celebrate not just Christmas, but also our wedding anniversary and several family member’s birthdays.

I’m older now and more relaxed about a lot of things but the first few years as a young wife, I wanted to have the perfect Christmas.

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right, left, north and south

Library - 1545(spoiler alert: this is not soft…sometimes i think too much)

i am writing this out of a deep frustration…

 …at how the obvious is not noticed and the endless piles of mud are tossed..all the deep and lovely words about time and space and truth and beauty are raped by those who have put up a wall so high and so thick that no miracle or magic can be seen or heard through it……on our short journey through this life experience there is no place for these solid walls…

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Halloween in 1961

Halloween 1961That’s just me hangin’ out by the jack-o’-lantern waiting to go trick-or-treating. It was 1961 and I was 5 years old. (Notice the dog face to the right of the pumpkin. I wish I could say this was a ghost dog that appeared when the picture was developed, but it’s nothing like that, it’s just our dog, Lassie.) 

My mom had taken me to the five and dime store to buy my costume.

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On This Day

Diary

ON THIS DAY

(I spoke at my mother’s Celebration of Life service on August 29th. Here it is.)

 

For the past several years my mom was living her life in a wheelchair unable to do much of anything, losing the strength to hold a book or spoon, stay awake very long or to even speak.

 This could be frustrating at times for her, this once independent, active person. And, I’m sure when she thought back to her prime years, that she found joy and satisfaction in those memories.

 Sometimes on my visits I would read from one of her old journals she’d so faithfully kept for most of her life, and we’d both marvel at how much she used to do in one day.  As her memory failed, her own written words from years past were interesting and enlightening to her.

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Blood, Sweat and Ice Cream Cones

FullSizeRenderI used to work for a temp agency that placed me in offices around the city to fill in for receptionist and office support work. A particular job could be anywhere from one day to two years. I worked all over the city, meeting lots of people and experiencing all types of office environments.

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Friday Nights at My Dad’s Store

Go GamblesI walked into the drug store late on a Friday night when I noticed a sign saying “OPEN 24 HOURS”. I’m glad they stay open late. It was the only chance I had to get shopping done before the weekend. Next stop would be the grocery store, open until 11:00.

When I was growing up in the 1960s, my dad owned a hardware store. You’d never see that sign in his store or any of the stores in our small town. They all closed at 5:30. But Friday nights were different. The stores stayed open until 9:00.

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My Dad

me & daddyMy dad…I thought he was the next thing to Superman. Even though he didn’t leap from tall buildings, (although I did see him fall out of a tree once landing on his feet!), he could do a little of everything, and do it well.

 

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The Current

road to Nancy's

road to Nancy’s

After driving over 100 miles, I turned off the freeway to a county road then onto a narrow dirt road that leads toward Nancy’s. Driving through the lonesome wooded hills and swampland, cattails grow on both sides of the road. Nature looked picture perfect on that summer day out in the middle of nowhere. One more turn goes down a crude winding driveway that leads to her large rustic house, an impressive work of construction done by her husband’s hands.

Here is where hospice was set up for her.

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Turn Up The Silence

shoe on TVI’m that driver with the loud music on. Heavy bass, please. I enjoy TV. Most of it’s junk to me, but what I like, I really like.

I love to have my family around me. There is no sweeter sound in the house than the voices and footsteps of those I love.

We live in a noisy world. Sounds are everywhere and are a normal part of our everyday lives. Sounds from people, traffic, social media, TV and music are whirling around us in a constant hum, and we just sing along.

Have you ever found yourself in a very quiet place?

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A Is For Amazing

first apple

This apple has come a long way.

This morning it glowed in the sunshine like a giant ruby. My husband brought it home after he’d been to visit his mom. She lives with his sister in the old house that has been in the family for five generations.

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Summers Outside

sand townWhen I was a kid, my friends and I were outside all day long in the summer. After breakfast I was out the door and into the summer sun where us kids decided what we wanted to do when we wanted to do it.

We were old enough to leave the yard but not old enough to have a summer job. This is a glorious and brief time in a person’s life. Those years between your mother’s apron strings and sliding into the work world. The ‘Tom Sawyer’ summers, I call them. Days spent outside, barefoot, with no keys, money or phone to carry. Days that were simple.

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