Fiddler crabs and tomato gravy

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Good afternoon, friends.  I would like your help with something.  The following is an excerpt from what I hope might possibly become my first novel.  Can you take a peek and share your thoughts, please?  If you read below, would you want to read more?

Susie’s bare feet sunk into the soft, cool mud, as she chased the fiddler crab back into the hole she had watched it emerge from.   Her footprints made her think of the plaque on Granny’s wall.  Granny said the plaque reminded her that when things got tough, Jesus carried her.  Susie smiled as she thought of Jesus carrying Granny.

Granny was standing in the mud a few feet away from her, the hem of her pleated skirt damp from their adventure.  Her silver hair was still tucked neatly in a bun and she was patiently watching Susie chase the crabs, as she dabbed at her face with her hanky.  That’s what granny called her embroidered handkerchiefs and she always had one in her pocket or her bible.

Granny never rushed Susie the way some grown ups did.  Most of the time, when Granny wasn’t “carrying a burden”, she acted just like one of the kids.  She was always willing to play games, dance, draw, sing or go on treasure hunts and she always made it fun and encouraged imagination.  Granny could turn her rocking chair into a pirate ship and Susie and her brother and sister would walk the plank on books with throw pillows masquerading as sharks waiting in the deep, murky water.

When it was nearly 5:00pm, it was time to get dinner ready.  Papa like to eat early, go to bed early and rise early.  Tonight, Granny was cooking pork chops and tomato gravy.  She had made a fruit salad earlier and left it in the fridge to chill.  Susie liked the sound of pork chops and fruit salad, but she would have to make sure she didn’t get a very big serving of the rice and tomato gravy.  She liked the taste, but the big chunks of the tomato were just too much.  She wished granny had made brown gravy instead.

Granny and Papa didn’t mind what you ate, but they sure didn’t like wasting.  Susie thought that in their book, a wasteful person must be as bad as a thief.  Mom said it was because they had lived during the Great Depression.  That was when banks closed and no one had much money, so they were very careful.  Mom and Dad didn’t like waste either, but it didn’t seem to bother them as much as it did Gran and Papa.

Susie didn’t care though; she just tried very hard not to waste.  She loved to be at Granny’s more than anywhere else in the world, although she felt a little guilty about that sometimes and would never have told her mom and dad.  There was a peacefulness at Granny’s that she just didn’t always feel anywhere else.

Be All There

Me, Ash and Ayda

This morning, daylight found me missing my girls and my granddaughter.  I was looking forward to the valentine card my granddaughter had put in the mail, which should reach me today and wishing I could hug her and shower her with kisses.

One thought led to another and I began to remember when mine were younger and how many times I was so busy with some pathetic task that was actually meaningless in the big scheme of things.  They would scoot up next to me, needing some love and affection and too often, I didn’t take full advantage of the opportunity.  I never ignored them, but I let a pat on the head with a promise for more attention later suffice when I should have stopped what I was doing and relished the moment.

The more I thought about it, the tears began to roll and I let them.  My husband came to find me and kiss me goodbye and noticed the tears.  I told him I missed the girls and that I was lamenting the hugs and kisses and undivided attention I didn’t always give.  He understood perfectly, and gave me a big hug.

It’s not that I didn’t love my children deeply; I just didn’t know then what I know now.  I was always busy cooking and cleaning and multi-tasking to make sure the household ran smoothly.  If I could go back and re-do things, they would be quite different.

I would throw that mop down and rush outside to catch butterflies or draw chalk figures on the concrete; the laundry could pile up, while we played dress up and the dinner dishes could sit and crust over while I sat with one in my lap, just because.

I share this because I’m older now and I know that it’s all too easy to rush through a day and neglect the most important things, which are not things at all, but people.

We aren’t promised tomorrow and if you have children, they are growing as you read this.  Before you know it, they will be adults and making their own way in the world.  You will have some type of regret because no parent is perfect, but you don’t have to have this one.   Give them the time and attention they need while they want it.  As they age, it isn’t always as treasured.  I am blessed with two loving daughters who think I’m the greatest (at least that’s what they tell me), but I know there were times I could have been “all there” and I let life get in the way.

Dust bunnies and Diaries

Will I even miss the mess?

Will I even miss the mess?

“My mom used to force us to do this at least twice a year”, I said, as we sifted through each and every item in her closet and drawers.  My daughter is quite the packrat and I knew we had better take a day (and preferably a full one) before her move to Texas to dig in deep.

As we went through every box, purse, bag and crate piece by piece, she painstakingly decided which pile the item would make its home.

Memory after memory assaulted my mind as I tried to keep this a lighthearted event.  There were the multiple pairs of Toms that she began wearing after her first trip to Mexico, when she learned she could supply another child with a pair if we bought them.  This reminded me of how compassionate she has always been.  There was the birthday card from Granny that still had the crisp $2 bills tucked inside that she had been saving; the tiny pee wee cheerleader uniform she once wore; the drum sticks that light up when you play from her days of drum lessons; the Dr. Seuss books, stuffed animals and old report cards.

She laughed as she opened an old diary and began to read.  As I listened to the words written by a nine year old, describing her days in detail, the thing that brought me the most pleasure was the happiness reflected in her entries.  So, as we laughed over silly diary entries and I again hid tears, we reflected on the past.

When you clean the cobwebs and dust bunnies from things long forgotten, it’s akin to cleaning the cobwebs from the recesses of your mind, or removing the layers of dust accumulated from years of not remembering.

Thankfully, my mind is alive tonight with so many beautiful memories that I had tucked away.  It’s a joy and a pleasure to revisit them, to recall all the good times with my family.

And she isn’t even gone

Dusky, hazy, purple day after rain

Dusky, hazy, purple day after rain

As the thunder rolls outside, it’s almost deafening, compared to the silence inside.  There is a faint whisper from one of the televisions left on in another room.  Other than that, there is nothing.

Normally, I relish in the quiet but today it is different.  Today I cannot seem to stop the agonizing silence from reminding me that there is much more of it to come.

You see my days of telling toddlers to eat all of their dinner or get in the bathtub are over.  My days of shuttling adolescents to appointments long before they get their permit are gone.  Sleepovers and sports, bedtime stories and battling are a thing of the past.  When my youngest departs in a couple of months to carry on with her life, it will leave its mark.

People will tell you to think on the bright side; of lives fulfilled and your “good raising” and grandchildren and hope and dreams realized.  And I will.  They will say, “This is a normal, natural part of life and you should embrace it”.  And I have.  Some offer that, “Now, you have all this free time and you and the hubby can enjoy each other!”  Yes, this I realize.

But you know what?  That doesn’t take away the ache, the missing and the worry.

I know God has His hand on all of us, and things really will work out for the best.  And maybe I will even look back someday and laugh about my melancholy days, missing my children before the last one is even really gone.

But not today, not right now.

Digging to China

My sister, brother and I

 

I am always silently thankful when I see a parent explaining something tenderly and patiently to a child instead of demeaning them or yelling at them.  It grieves me when I see adults talking to children in a belittling or humiliating way, in a way that causes the child to lose their confidence.  Don’t get me wrong, I am completely opposed to rebellion from children and wholeheartedly believe that children should be obedient and respectful.  I’m referring to those times when a child is just being a child; they spill something or they ask a simple innocent question; or they can’t sit still for very long.  These aren’t reasons for yelling and screaming and treating them like imbeciles.

When my sister, brother and I were kids, my paternal grandparents lived in a wood frame house, but the support structure underneath wasn’t one huge slab of concrete.  From what I remember they were more like columns of concrete.  It wasn’t on stilts, but it was high enough off the ground that we could crawl under there and sit down very comfortably with plenty of room overhead to spare.   I should know.  My brother, sister and I spent enough time under there playing.  There was some type of lattice around the base of the house and we could look out and spy on people, another favorite past time.  This particular memory took me back to a time when had been outside playing and decided that we could probably dig our way to China if we worked together.

There was a porch by the back door and we would get under there to hide while playing hide and seek or to make mud pies, or if we were hiding a new stray kitten from Poppy.  We had noticed that we could keep crawling and get to a rather large (or so it seemed at the time) area near the front/center of the house.  This is where we decided to begin digging.  I can still remember the smell of dirt and the musty, dark, coolness under the house.

Now, before you ask why in the world we would go under a house to dig to China, please remember we were quite young.  However, we also felt we wouldn’t be discovered this way so we could dig to our hearts content without getting into trouble.  We lived in a very safe neighborhood and had free rein to run all over the place so we knew granny wouldn’t come looking for us for quite some time.

We began to dig with our spoons, sticks, toy shovels and we may have even found an adult size shovel in the backyard.  We dug until we were filthy and bored with it and then went on about our business doing something else.  I don’t remember how many days we continued to pursue our efforts, but we were bound and determined.  I’m not sure how we thought we would communicate if and when we got there.

If my memory serves me correct, as the event loomed ever closer (reaching China, of course), we finally ended up nearly bursting with excitement and had to tell granny about our wonderful plan.  If you’ve read prior blogs about my granny, you will understand why it was so easy to tell her and then so natural for her to insist on coming under the house to inspect our project.  Granny never yelled.  She never told us that our ideas were ludicrous or made us feel stupid in any way.  She merely explained that it was more likely for the house to cave in than it was for us to reach China.  And she explained it in such a funny, simple way that it all made sense and somehow we ended up almost feeling like it was our decision to stop the excavation.  Thus, it became a sweet memory and not one filled with shame and embarrassment.

I’m thankful for the adults in my life that took time to explain things and showed me so much love.  There was the occasional offender but for the most part I was very blessed to be surrounded by loving, compassionate, kind people;  the type of people who saw the innocence and joy in the eyes of a child and wanted to bring their dreams to life instead of raining on their parade.  Praise and encouragement really should be lavished whenever possible, especially on children.

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