THERE ARE ALWAYS SIGNS

pansies with a view

My back yard has slowly been filled with all my familiar things which are nice little signs telling me I belong here.  There was a sign that a house was for sale.  I bought the house and I moved to this new location.  First I had to put up a sign to sell my own house in the city.  A family saw that sign and bought it.  It all began with looking at signs.

What I love the most about living in a community rather than a city,  is knowing that anywhere I go,  I will see something familiar.  I know I can walk the same direction and the lake will be in the same spot.   The pharmacy, our Post Office, a gift shop,  hotel,  grocery stores, a park & even our Vet Clinic all have visible signs that let us know who they are.  When a new shop in town opens, it will have a bright colored sign to let everyone know about it and following that, their front window will have a sign with their hours of operation written out.  We just have to read the sign.  How about these ones: ‘GARAGE SALE TODAY’, or:  FIVE FAMILY YARD SALE’  with an arrow pointing the direction to the location.   Quick & easy to understand those signs and we will follow the sign, never doubting for a second that it would be anything but what we read.

 

before poplarfield

When I drove back to my old home place, although the road had been widened & resurfaced, it was still the same road.  Newer signs were reposted along the way, but the words & names of places were the same.  At the farm all the signs of my former life were still there, some visible while some were changed by time & the elements.  As I looked around me, my memory served me well as I visualized the way it used to be. Signs of summers that I remembered  were everywhere.

Have you ever driven into Dallas, TX.,  Vancouver,  B.C.,  Chicago, IL,  or Los Angeles, CA?  Well the first thing you look for are ‘Exit’ signs or where to switch lanes to merge in & out of traffic.  Some freeways are eight to twelve  lanes!  Traffic moves in an orderly way most of the time,  because they have a great ‘sign’ system.  That is a must to avoid mass confusion.  Modern tech has given us GPS systems that talk us through,  but we still need to read signs.

At this point my decision to move from a busy crowded city was almost like coming full circle.  But this time I am writing pages in the ‘now’ about my experiences that I want to share while they are still fresh and alive to me.  This is a wonderful time and experience for me… I am so appreciative of each blessing as I greet & recognize them.  I am trying not to miss anything.  Writing these pages for all of you will hopefully give you signs of who I truly am and about the things that matter to me.  Memories that I especially want to share with my family.

I decided to move to this lakeside town to be closer to my sister.  I was almost ready to retire, and my dream was to do that, then write my memoirs and hang up my shingle for my: ‘Colors of the Wind Art Studio’.  The place I bought had a great deal of potential for that in the front portion, while offering  a fabulous sized private back yard, which I am gradually converting into a Zen garden.

TO THIS

I happened to be over at my sister’s the day my brother in law decided to dig out a gigantic tree stump from their yard.  I fell in love with it and visualized it as a table since it was about coffee table height.  I could complete it with a shatter proof glass top,  varnish the sides and so on.  I paid a neighbor to cut it carefully at ground level with his chain saw, and we got 2 more guys to haul it over to my place on the back of his truck.  I could feel these guys shaking their heads at this weird new woman in town.  If they were discretely giving each other signs while driving over about what they thought, I knew it would have been:

“Amigo…She eez loco!”

However, after an hour’s work, everybody won!  The guys got beer money.  I got the gigantic tree stump.  My brother in law was happy that he didn’t have to deal with chopping it up  and discarding the garbage.  My sister was thrilled that I had saved her tree because she had wanted to do exactly the same thing with the old relic.  (The tree stump…not her husband!)

Well as it turned out, the ‘relic’ never did become a table because I rearranged the yard to fit around the stump.  I collected rocks and stones and planted a lily garden around it.  Then I added a huge bird bath that I also rescued from a back lane.

I HAD to.  There was a big sign on it:

‘FREE.  PLEASE TAKE ME TO A GOOD HOME’

…So I did!

….Oh Yes…The same guys moved that for me too!  Same thoughts, I’m sure.  Same payment plan….Everybody won.

Five years have passed.  Lots has changed during that time.  My brother in law and sister are both gone.  It’s just over a year for my sis.  My son has been coaxing me to let him take away the old tree stump.  It is beginning to rot away and he is concerned that it is becoming a refuge for ants.  I didn’t want to part with it yet but it is only a matter of time now.

A week ago,  I really looked at it.  He is right but I am not giving in too easily.  There were some green sprouts growing out of the cracks but as I pulled out a couple of weeds,  I saw something that amazed me…

There are two young maple trees that have sprung up and are growing together!  Not one,  but two!  I am delighted!

Instantly,  I accepted this as a sign.  Perhaps, it may sound silly or childish but I don’t care.  It was a sign!  Not a miracle or anything dramatic…just a little sign for me.

more of trees

We all have choices that affect our decisions, moment by moment sometimes.     What cereal should we have for breakfast…I don’t eat cereal…I want what’s in the flat box in my fridge.  The sign on it tells me it’s pizza.  I love cold pizza.  How we like our coffee.  Where we’d like to spend a vacation and who we want to be with.  And… The choice of what we want to believe.

I want to believe this was a sign that my sis & brother in law are okay in their eternal homes. Simple.  These trees signify new life from the old deteriorating shell, that is crumbling all around them.

I am not writing a sermon.  I am simply sharing what I personally got from this and it is something I choose to hold on to.  I won’t feel as sad when my son takes away the stump now. The seeds of new life have found a way to grow!  I’ve already written about my sister’s love and fascination of trees.  In their yard,  years ago,  my brother in law had planted 3 maples, one for each of Alice’s girls, my nieces.  There were two very strong spruces that were for the boys,  my nephews.  Every morning, my sister took her coffee into the front room, looked at her trees & said a prayer for her ‘Fabulous Five.’  I know this to be true.  My brother in law also told me this so often.  These trees were her signs about her children and that made her content.  These signs brought her comfort.

Alice and I talked about the deepest subjects that any two sisters ever could.  We had often discussed the subject of whichever one of us went first & if there was a way to send the other a sign, we would do that.  Of course we went about it in a loving, joking manner… it wasn’t a morbid thing.

I, of course was wondering what I’d be wearing???   This made her laugh and she would shake her head & say something like this:

“Oh, Sis!  Trust you to think of that one!”

I always teased her about her smoking & burning things in the kitchen, even though she was a great cook.  So I’d tell her that I would just watch for an angel with a little cloud of smoke around her head instead of a halo!

But, I always admired the way my sister had no fear about dying.  Her faith was without doubts in that area.  She had incredible courage.  As far as I know, she didn’t care one way or another about signs, but she wouldn’t have been discouraging to anyone who did.   And, all kidding aside… we did promise to do that one ‘sign’ thing… if there was a way.  Just loving chats between two sisters who in reality, never wanted to deal with having to let go of the other, first.

The two new maples out of the old dead stump are little life signs to me.  Maples spring up in cracks of sidewalks, unused chimneys,  and almost anywhere all the time, I know that.  Yet, I am blessed over these little trees that are growing for me right now.  Because to me they are special.  I am just accepting them as a gift.  Signs do go as far back as God sending an olive branch out to Noah.  He could have used anything but he chose a tree branch.

Trees happen to grow for generations exactly like families.  My new trees will someday become old trees and make way for newer ones from the seeds of the fertile parent tree.  Whenever we do our name and history searches for photos from the past or several generations, these collections are called:

‘Family Trees’,  aren’t they?

It’s a sign.

everything has a purpose

Thanks for reading.  I’ll be back here soon,

Memory Lane

THE NIGHT IT RAINED…(Are you ready?)…KANGAROOS!

POSSIBLE BOOK PHOTO (KODA) (2013_10_24 22_16_48 UTC) (2)

 

If you had grown up around our Dad’s sense of humor, comments like this were an everyday thing.  He had a terrific quick imagination and I seized every opportunity to collaborate with him for writing…especially poetry.  He could rhyme the most unlikely words, and you just HAD to believe them.  Well this is a poem that we wrote together one rainy night when I was nine or ten years old… So try and look at it from my point of view at that age.

me and my dolls

I have re-written some of the lines…not content… and it was published in a children’s magazine in 2007, but I clearly remember the night the original was drafted.  It was a dark and rainy night and I didn’t want to go upstairs to bed, so Mom let me stay up and sit at the kitchen table.  I had my notebook & I asked Dad what I should write about.  He was playing Solitaire.  It was boring to me because of the pouring rain all day & night and I hadn’t been outside or with my friends…yadda, yadda…whine…whine.

He pulled back the curtain as we sat there and peered out into the black night.  I could feel the wheels on his  ‘imagination bus’,  just turning.

He suggested: “Write about how hard it’s raining!”

“But rain is rain,” I said, whine, whine.  Not according to Dad.  He told me EVERY rainfall was different.  Anything can happen.

He looked out again and said: “Now, did you SEE that?”

I leaned over and looked out.  Of course now the window was fogged up from us breathing on it!  Mom was busy ironing in the other room.  All I saw was rain drizzling down the window.

Dad quietly said: “Write about Kangaroos.”

He had my attention now.  “WHAT?”

“I do believe it’s raining hard enough to bring Kangaroos all the way here from down under!  That hasn’t happened for quite awhile so you’d better write about it.  This might be important news one day.”  I looked and looked, and wiped the window with my sleeve.  Couldn’t see EVEN ONE!

Dad put his finger to his lips an glanced over my head.  “Your Ma didn’t see them the last time …either.”  I understood.  I didn’t run to tell her our exciting news.. She was listening to “The Red Skelton Show’ or something like that.

So we began…

Late one night…While asleep in bed…

I woke up to noises… Above my head!

When I looked out… Then did I see…

KANGAROOS!  Raining down past me!

They hit the ground… And then bounced quite high…

How could they be RAINING?  From the sky?

I was going downstairs… With the news…

But I heard Ma yell:  “STOP MAKING NOISE WITH THOSE SHOES!”

“That’s NOT me jumping,”  I tried to say.

“Ma, come to the window… Right away!”

Oh sure.  Just as soon as SHE  looked  outside…

All the KANGAROOS… Went to hide.

“Now that is it!”  She yelled at me.

“KANGAROOS?  Could NEVER be!

Get upstairs… And into your bed!

Shake those ideas… Out of your head!

Why do you make up stories like these?

Turn out the light… AND go to sleep…PLEASE!”

So I went upstairs…. Got into my bed…

Peeking through my window…A KANGAROO….said…

“This is a night…You’ll remember FOREVER!

That anything can happen…IN RAINY WEATHER!”

 

Well that KANGAROO was right….I haven’t forgotten that night…AND…I hope I do remember it FOREVER!

Good one, DAD…Thanks for the memory,  Love South Paw

 

 

AS I WALKED IN THE RAIN TODAY

 

 

GIVE THANKS

It happens to rain quite often where I live.  That’s okay by me because I love the rain.  Not so much the icy, hard driven type,  but the soft steady rain that soothes a sunburn,  blends with your tears,  freshens a smile,  and makes hair frizzy curly…who cares!  It smells wonderful to be out walking in the rain.  Wear clothes that will sun dry and feel as though they just came off the clothesline!  This morning,  I did just that.  I started out thinking about the stresses that might cross my path today,  worrying about my family members, praying for safe journeys for those ones travelling &  missing the ones that aren’t here to talk to about these matters… I took it all for a walk with me, out in the light rain.

As I walked, I felt the summer wind calming my spirit,  the rain was cool but refreshing.  I grabbed a coffee,  my notepad was shoved inside my pocket,  and I headed for the lakefront.  I left my phone at home because it was raining and I wanted to focus on the smells and sounds of the rain.  I wanted to be absorbed in  it with no umbrella hovering over me.  Free so that I could lift my face and ‘feel’ the rain.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes by Bob Marley and it is so very correct:

 

feel the rain

 

As I passed a few people on the street, I quickly concluded that they were not on the same page as I was, in fact, the exact opposite.  One lady, marched by underneath her tightly held umbrella, arms crushed to her sides, trying desperately not to get her rain jacket wet!  Her dog was pulling happily on his leash, eager  to run freely,  lovin’ the moment, wanting to feel the fresh rain on his fur!

A man nearly knocked me over,  be-lining for the coffee shop, trying to talk on his cell phone while keeping it out of the rain with his cap.

A lovely mom hurried towards me with 2 young children, both wearing adorable rain coats and brightly colored splash boots.  However, I could tell  she was in a rush to get them to the daycare around the corner while they aimed for every tiny puddle on the sidewalk.  The adults all had the same: ‘why did it HAVE to rain this morning?’, expression on their faces.  The only happy ones were the children & the dog!  I laughed because I knew which category I was in, & you guessed it.  I was on the happy side of the rainy street!

If you hold out a glass while its raining, it will never remain empty…it will be half full in no time!  I wish I could have babysat for that mom because I had something that she didn’t this morning & probably wanted.  Time.  Time, to let her family play & splash around in the puddles.  Time for not having to be worried about keeping happy little children clean & dry until they arrived at daycare.

It has been so many years since my Mom passed away but as I wrote my last article about her & I picking berries together,  that line about how I complained to go home to do my own stuff…I realized how much I wish I would have appreciated those times and savored them as I would now.  However, I am thankful to have come to this peaceful, contented feeling in my spirit about my life.  Some never do.  How sad.

Rain is a part of summer that I love,  but I tend to take it for granted…I mean it always ‘rains’ doesn’t it?  Well, that’s what we think.  But how would we feel if one day…it was gone?  I thought for sure I would be picking berries my whole life as a chore, but one day that was gone. I grew up and moved away.  At our campfires, I loved it when huge raindrops landed on the glowing embers.  They sizzled and made weird little sounds while tiny smoke clouds hissed at us.  When I rode my bike to my friend’s house, there were often sudden little cloud bursts!  I loved those too.  They were always there.  They probably still occur on that narrow prairie road under our piece of prairie sky,  But I’m not there.  It didn’t last forever.  When I was a child, I thought like a child and everything was ‘forever’ …good or bad.

Moving forward is good and that is how life works…Its just nice to think that some of the good things in life ARE free.  Rain is one of those things.  Feel it!  Then you won’t care about getting wet!

I am glad to be where I am.  I love the memories and I love feeling appreciative about all my blessings.  Rain, to me is a blessing.

At present, I can still go out picking berries, or mushrooms, fruit, & veggies, but those exact moments during my youth, were all slightly different,  a one time happening.  We don’t know why, when, or what can change, but that is the one certainty of life…it’s always changing.  I have been learning this more than ever, lately.  Live the moment, treasure the memory,  even if its as simple as a rainfall.  It’s one of a kind.  It even smells differently, if only slightly, each time.

This morning, I treated my walk in the rain as though it might not always be around.  If I miss this one, there won’t ever be another exactly the same. This morning’s rain had patches of sunlight peeking through which made everything glisten & sparkle like crystal. but today was my moment, my revelation of what a special morning it was, walking and being at peace with my Lord and feeling blessed for all I have.  Yes, there is something  about the rain…It makes me think about how much I love it.  My Dad loved it.  My Mom did too.  My sister Alice  & I loved it together.  It poured the evening she left us.  That was okay because I had to drive for an hour to get home and my mind was occupied by the wipers working at top speed.  A week or so later, I planted a tree for her,  in the rain, but it was a beautiful rain.  As soon as it was planted the sun came out and shone directly on it.  I know she loved it.  And she would love the fact that I walked in the rain this morning & thought about her…a lot.

my rainbow road

“LET’S GO BERRY PICKING”

me again

Whenever I look back on those years known by my parents as: ‘the good ole’ days’,  I realize how special they truly were.  Today, they are the valuable memories I am sharing.  Going berry picking was my Mom’s way of spending ‘one on one’ time with me,  but I didn’t get that when I was a kid.  Living on the prairie as we did, picking berries was a pre-requisite of life in the country.  Every kid I knew,  myself included, hated those dreaded words we heard, almost every day throughout the summer:

“Come on, Lane.  Let’s go berry picking.”

I think my Mom went to sleep every night with a plan in mind for her next picking spot.  I had learned there was a methodical way for these expeditions.  We never hit the same spot every time.  We moved around in order to keep a certain amount of fruit ripening for the next picking appointment.   This way it seemed to me,  there was an endless bounty available and the picking sessions would go on until the snow fell!  One way or another, there was no escape from that dreadful chore, because even when we weren’t trampling through the woods,  we were in the orchard picking every ripe strawberry, plum, or various apple off our many trees.  At least picking fruit in the orchard behind our house, I didn’t have to cover up 99% of my body with clothing on a perfectly hot summer day.

I often thought I was a bother, a nuisance to our Mom most of the time.  I even resented the fact that she never took time to talk to me or understand the things that mattered to only ‘me’…but she did.  Those WERE our special times…those times we picked berries together.

Mom dressed me in Dad’s long sleeved shirts so I wouldn’t get bitten by mosquitoes.  I wore my overalls to protect my legs from getting scratched by twigs and scrub bush and Mom tucked my long hair under Dad’s cap so it wouldn’t get caught or tangled in hanging branches.  I didn’t want all that hair,  I wanted a cute short crop style like Hayley Mills in the Parent Trap.  And…I wanted to wear jeans…all the time.  I promised myself that when I grew up,  I wouldn’t EVER own a dress!  Well, those who know me today and all through my ‘grown up’ years, will laugh at that one!

A walk in the Woods

We’d leave the bright sunshine and burning heat behind, and walk together down one of many shady trails through the woods to the north of our farm.  Even Shep, our Border collie,  didn’t escape these berry picking hours.  He wouldn’t have stayed behind anyways, but somehow I envied him because I believed he did have a choice.  Poor deprived little ‘Skinny Bones’,  me,  I had all these terrible chores to do in a day.

Every so often, Mom would bang the stick she carried against a tree!  Shep’s ears would perk.  He was our protector, from what,  I never asked or wanted to know.  “For noise,” Mom said calmly, then we walked on.  I didn’t want to think about what we might step on, or disturb from their cool afternoon slumber.  And why did she insist on making noise if something  (I visualized a Shreck-like troll) was peacefully asleep?  Beyond me!  But we had this routine for years,  generations, and nothing ever came after us….So I guess her theory worked.

Midway through picking,  we stopped for a picnic lunch.  Mom had her thermos of tea or coffee and a cool jar of Kool Aid or Freshie for me.  We’d sit on the huge white stone by the clearing to the field, share sandwiches, buns and cookies and we’d talk.

Yes, we talked together.  About anything and everything I could think of to ask her.  Sometimes I brought my little notepads and I wrote in it,  my version of an interview.  I loved to get her talking about her own childhood.  Her first dance when she met our Dad etc.  I never tired of hearing how they met.  Her eyes got sparkly and she talked shyly with a smile that shed years away from her face as she shared a few little secrets.

Other times we discussed school and what I wanted to be when I grew up and the hopes she had for helping me make my dreams come true.  She let me complain about the mean kids and she let me get all the frustrated feelings I had towards them out of my system & it made me feel better for awhile.

Old Shep got the leftovers of our lunch, then we stopped by the little brook & he had a long cool drink.  Then we’d pick again for awhile.  As soon as her built in timer went off,  she’d say it was time to head home.  Dad would be putting the kettle on for afternoon tea.  Shep knew the word ‘home’, and without so much as a nudge,  he’d turn around and head in that very direction, faithfully leading us back.

I remember the brightness as we left the woods and the feeling of the hot sun on my face again.  Dad would meet us, take our pails, while I peeled out of the shirt and long pants, glad to be in my shorts and tee top.  Mom hung them up in the porch for next time while Dad estimated how many pies Mom would make.  After tea, my latest notes written for memory’s sake,  I went off to see what had happened to barn cat & her kittens, or the new calves or piglets while I was gone.

Mom

“Let’s go berry picking,”  I’d hear Mom say.

Right in the middle of my time for play!

“Put on shoes and Dad’s long sleeved shirt.

Cover your legs,  so the twigs won’t hurt.”

We took Old Shep from his lazy nap

Pinned up my hair, under Dad’s cap.

Mom led the way to her favorite spot.

Stopped for a snack, when we got too hot.

I’d look around wishing it would rain

But it seldom did, so,  we’d pick again.

Though I complained to go home and play…

Wish I could walk with her…today.

Now I would tell her,  how much it meant,

Those chats we had…the time we spent.

At last Mom checked her pail and mine.

Told me with a nod,  we’d done just fine.

“We’ve picked nice berries,  between us two.

Your Dad will be very proud of you.

Now you have plenty of time for play.

Come on, Old Shep!  Lead the way!”

He gladly led us on the path going back

Wagging his tail.  Sniffing his track.

At last we come out,  into the day’s hot sun.

I see the house!  I start to run!

Mom says: “Careful with your berry pail!”

I hand it to her and dash down the trail!

Old Shep starts to run farther ahead.

Anxious now,  for his shady bed.

Dad gives a wave.  He knows we’re done.

I whip off my long shirt, in the afternoon sun.

At suppertime,  something sure smells great!

Strawberry pie!  I can’t wait!

Picking berries was NOT that bad…

When I think back on those times…Mom & I had.

I’d wear long sleeves…Carry a pail,

If only we could walk…Down that memory trail.

Tuck up my long hair and not complain…

If I could be there…with Mom…again.

 

For Mom  always. You are the wind beneath my wings.

From Summer Wind

 

ANYONE FOR A CAMPFIRE?

THE CAMPFIRE (2013_10_24 22_16_48 UTC)

Photo taken by Pandanus Tree on Pandanus Prairie land

 

I have only met a few people who scrunch up their noses when asked if they would like to sit out beside a camp fire.  How damaging to hair or clothing could a little bit of wood smoke from a campfire be?

Besides it would all be gone with: Monday’s Wash!

As kids of course, it never entered our minds .  There were no worries.  If summer wind shifted, & we got a gust of it, we coughed, wiped our eyes,  hid our faces in our jackets for a second or two & carried on!

Our families have enjoyed gathering around a fire for as far back as I can remember.  Sometimes they were just in our backyard fire pit and at times we needed umbrellas when it started to rain.  We didn’t give up easy!  When I was  camping with my own family, the boys usually kept it going even in the daytime…Again, rain or shine.

At night, there is something comforting and almost hypnotic about sitting on an old log or lawn chair,  doing absolutely nothing but staring at a circle of toasty warm flames dancing & swaying every which way,  while playfully flicking sparks unexpectedly.  That is about the only time anyone moved, except to throw on another log or two.  Then we’d settle again and watch the new logs ignite, maybe strike up a conversation, chat about everyone’s day.

Take that, Netflix!

A campfire in the evenings, after everything was done for the day, was almost a nightly routine while I was growing up.  It was my  Mom’s power tool to get me to finish the dishes or sweep & do my homework.   Some evenings there would only be my Mom,  Dad  & me,  Sissy Pie Lainie,  but they always took the time & effort so I wasn’t disappointed.  Generally, though, we did have neighbors or my cousins & my aunts & uncles dropped over for coffee & a game or two of cribbage.  While the adults visited, we would sit around the fire, poking our greenwood sticks that Dad had whittled for us.  If they had a nice neat point on the end, that was the hint that there was a wiener roast in the plan.

Oddly enough, I liked our campfires so much that I was willing to put my hostile feelings aside when the ‘name calling’ neighbor boys dropped by just about the time of our wiener roast.  ‘Slugger’,  that’s what I called my lucky bat, was parked for the night, along with most of my attitude & I was content to just chill by the fire.  I have to admit on these occasions, they were decent & polite.  They gabbed with my Dad about fishing, hunting, , how their Pops was going ballistic because their tractor was dead and somehow it was their fault…you know, everyday small talk.  To this day, they still speak fondly of my Dad  and I know he made lasting memories with them, including threatening to lose them in the bush up north on the next hunting trip…if they didn’t treat me nicer.  But…they didn’t.  They are still around , so obviously…Dad didn’t either.

All too soon, the fire was shrunk to dying embers.  We hated to see it go.  But Dad was always true to his word when he promised to make us another.  Stuffed with hotdogs, & marshmallows  we surrendered whatever was left of our green willow sticks, and said our goodnights.

Upstairs in my room, I sat at my window and thought of new plans for tomorrow.  The stars were so vibrant in our prairie sky, while the moon cast long shadows across the yard.  Mom and Dad would be downstairs, tidying up and making their workday plans…  Before long, it would be silent, except for the whipporwill and that scary owl…somewhere close.  I didn’t REALLY believe mean ole’ Stevie when he told me THAT owl was waiting just for me to go outside at night & it would swoop down and PLUCK my eyes out!

Maybe I believed him a little…NAH!  (Yeah, I did).

I climbed into bed and tied back my curtains.  Summer wind drifted in,  bringing the fragrance of our lilacs with it.  I drifted to sleep thinking…If tomorrow night’s clear, and Dad has made fresh kindling and piled it beside the fire pit,  that means it will be another great evening,  because:

 

During the summer… When stars are bright…

Dad makes a campfire… Until late at night.

We each get a long stick… To poke in the fire…

Then blow out the flame… As it creeps a bit higher.

Sitting around it… Talking and planning…

Feeling the heat… Sting our faces from tanning.

Mom brings out ‘marshies’… For us to toast…

So we have a contest… who can burn theirs,  the most!

We stuff ourselves sticky… Until they are gone…

And shiver each time… Owl hoots out his song!

It gives me the creeps… But brave ole’ Dad’s there.

He laughs and he says… “Owl’s saying his prayer!”

So we beg Dad again… For a story,  “Please tell!”

He enjoys how we listen… But he does it so well!

Sometimes they are funny… We giggle all night.

Or else quite a scary one… We hush up,   tight.

But slowly the flames… Burn down to a glow…

Dad gets the bucket…It is time to go.

That’s okay, too… If tomorrow night’s clear…

About the same time… We’ll be back out here.

To dad,  by  Summer Wind

Me in the middle

As I write this,  I can still hear the crackling sounds of our fire…not any fire…those fires are the ones on the pages of my mind right now,  and all that went along with it.  The smell of the green willow branches on my hands,  wood smoke in my long hair.

As I hugged Shep,  his fur smelled like wood smoke too, but his breath smelled like wieners!  And he had a marshmallow stuck to his back!

On my way to school the following morning,  those mean boys would probably run down their driveway and torment me all over again,  but they wouldn’t get too close,  because of ‘Slugger’.

By the end of the day,  it would all turn out okay & in my favor  because I knew I would get a100% on our spelling test  & they would fail and have to stay after school to write out words for an hour.   Then their Pops would go ballistic because they were late getting home for chores….It was going to be a good…no…make that…a great day for me!  My memory is clear on this.  It was.

Hope you enjoyed sitting around this campfire with me.

For my next blog, I will take you  ‘BERRY PICKING’.  A  job every kid I knew who lived on the prairie, had to endure.

P.S……Yes,  that is me in the little ugly dress!

Memory Lane @: www.pagesofmymindblog.com

 

OUR PIECE OF PRAIRIE SKY

dens rainbow

Photo by Pandanus Tree

Our piece of Prairie Sky started out as my own journey,  but it has become more than that.  My family are all on their own and live miles apart, but we still are all connected to the prairies.  We all have our own pieces!

I have gorgeous photos taken by them from all corners of our beautiful prairie land.

This came to me @ 5.A.M. this morning after a wonderful family weekend celebration & it changed my whole direction from what my next blog was going to be.  I had mainly planned to write random pieces as they came to mind but for this one I decided to continue from WHAT’S IN A NAME and go back to what set my writing pattern in motion.

My trip back home as I’ve written, led me to all my stories,  my nicknames, (loved & hated) my artwork & my poems…some were barely readable scratches on pieces of paper.  They had all been saved in a trunk for me by my Mom, who in her wisdom, knew I’d come back one day.  After all of the findings:  the joys,  the tears,  the remembering,  the sorting and years of re-writing,  I compiled my book filled with:  MY PIECES OF PRAIRIE SKY.  However all my attempts at publishing left me with the feeling that it wasn’t the right time.

Now I know that it’s because I am NOT alone on this journey.  My life is braided into my family’s, theirs into mine.

That makes it ‘OURS’.  Not that I am going to invade on their privacy in any way, but because I am going to be able to keep sharing it with them & I see how they are a continuation…of where I began…on the prairies.   It’s a journey that’s definitely ‘OURS’.

After my parents had gone, I couldn’t think of any reason to go back to a place that didn’t belong to us anymore.  I was quite angry at God for many of my own reasons.  But mostly I was angry because my parents were good people.  They shouldn’t have been taken yet and I should have come back sooner and helped keep the farm in our family.  So in reality, it was myself whom I was angry at…it was just easier to blame God.  Besides, isn’t He the ‘Multi Tasker?

The winding road back home was a two hour drive.  The season: Early Summer.  Slowly I crossed the main street of my old home town. More than ten years had passed since I’d taken this drive.

“Another six miles to go,” I told myself.  Now I was on a gravelled back road.  I glanced in my rear view mirror.  A thick cloud of dust chased me and blocked everything else from sight.  I visited the cemetery first.  A few recent plots stood out, a reminder of the circle of life.  Summer wind whispered gently, soothingly through the tall pines.  There was peace here.  I felt it instantly & let my tears go.  I was tired of being angry.  It was up to me to change it.  No one else.  I wasn’t doing such a good job being my own boss so I simply said: “Take over, Lord!”

 

house in view

 

The wind felt clean and refreshing on my tears.  I back tracked and came to the last hill before our old place.  “Funny,”  I thought.  “It seemed this hill was a lot steeper when I used to coast down it on my bike.”   The row of tall spruces, still standing were a familiar & rewarding landmark.  They were breathtakingly strong and beautiful!  More stately than I recalled, standing firm against the elements, year after year, decade after decade.  I slowed to almost a crawl & drank in the view.

Even as I write these words today, that feeling of ‘familiarity’ as I idled down the driveway, washes over me.

driveway home

How happy I was every day, when I reached it after a long hot walk or bike ride.”So good to be home!”  In my mind, our border collie, Shep,  was coming out of his shady bed under the lilac bushes, to meet me at any moment.  He had been

my dog since I was 6 months old. desktop (219x155) (2)

Shep had a built in radar.  He knew how I hated snakes and would run to meet me, then walk ahead of me down our shady drive.  The garter snakes liked to sleep stretched out on the cool gravel.  If there was one,  he actually grabbed it, shook it a few ’til its brains rattled, and tossed it into the bush.  Shep was my hero dog for many great & faithful years.

As I parked in the yard, I pictured myself running across the sweet squishy grass after a summer shower.  Everything  sparkled in the sun.  Shep & I ran for joy!  After I collapsed out of breath on the front steps, Dad  would tell me how he estimated I put on at least two & a half miles!

“Better stop for fuel!  How about Blueberry pie?”

It was intense!  I was here and overwhelmed with forgotten emotions.  I almost expected Mom & Dad to come out to greet me with outstretched arms!  Summer wind blew all around me.  The fragrance from our lilacs enveloped me.  Lovely shades of purples, mauve & white, all blooming in a wild, untrimmed maze of colors.  I looked at the house.  The windows , now scantily clad in tattered ecru lace,  once starched & held back with ribbons.

I closed my eyes.  Beautiful flowering plants lined those wide window sills all year ’round.  Those same plants were faithfully set out on the steps during summer showers. The second story with the double dormer windows faced west.  That was my room.  Oh how stifling hot that room became during long summer days.  That turned into longer summer nights from which there was no escape unless God sent rain!  And that was that!  Grumbling got me nowhere!  That was for the bears & Readers, you’ve already read about THAT one! Picture this & breathe in…On the east side of the house, the endless clothesline with freshly washed sheets billowing in the summer wind!  Can’t you just smell that clean country air dried laundry?  There’s nothing like it!

Now that was a temptation too hard to resist no matter how many times I got in trouble for it!  I snuck them off the line and made the best tents…EVER!  However, I don’t remember Mom once coming to take them away while I was playing in them.  So maybe I shelled peas for an hour before supper!  I knew I owed her big time.  I’d had hours of fun.

After raising my crew & years & mountains of laundry, via automatic washers & dryers, I realized how much extra work I made for her.  They would be back in the load titled: MONDAY’S WASH.

‘GOOSEBERRIES!’  Does anyone remember what they were?  OMG!  They were these awful green berries that grew on the prickliest bushes in our orchard.  Dad might have been right when he told me they were named that because they were so sour, they gave a person goose bumps!  It was true!  I can remember how my cousins & I dared each other by stuffing our mouths full of the berries, then our nerve was tested by crunching into them!  They did make you shiver! AAAGGGHHHH!!!

A short path away was Mom’s summer kitchen.  It was the hub of activity.  Preserves in the fall,  jars and jars of them were simmered to just the right color & thickness.  Never ending loaves of bread came out of the oven of that big black cook stove.  It was identical to the one my sister, Alice cooked on at the lake, but  at least she used a modern one at home.  But my Mom cooked almost everything on hers out in the summer kitchen, also boiling hot in the summer.  Dad had gotten her an electric one but she preferred ‘old faithful’ as she called it.  A red & white enamel coffee pot still remained in its place above the warming oven.  Heavy cast iron pans hung on the wall as though any moment someone might drop in with fresh fish for frying.  A hand crocheted dish towel hung by the sink.

Beside the door, Dad’s work boots neatly placed & ready for morning.  I ran my hand along the checkered blue & white oil cloth covering the table.  Here, my parents enjoyed tea after the evening meal.  While they played a card game or two, I was busy writing about all I had or hadn’t accomplished that day.

The gate with it’s solitary hinge complained a little as I closed it.  I heard the friendly greetings of the neighbors who stopped by.  The country style of sharing joys, sorrows & endurance or geniuine concern for one another, can not be forgotten just because years have passed.  Neighbor relied upon neighbor for help and it was given without question.  That was the way it was …then…this is how I still remember it …now.   From the very roots of my heart.

WINDOW TO THE PAST (2)

My treasures were safe in my car.  It was time to go, but still I lingered.

I closed my eyes & thought about how many others have taken similar trips down their own memory lanes?  Everything has a season and a purpose.  I knew now that my Mom hadn’t really left us.  She loved her home and us.  She  freely gave of herself to the community and our church.  Her greatest joy came through in the countless things she made for us and taught us to do.

Dad hadn’t left without a trace, either.  His love for our home was still vivid in our minds.  He always said he never needed to travel around the world.  Everything that was dearest to him was right here, under the prettiest piece of prairie sky. Their loving spirits have continued on in us, their children.  Together they had firmly planted seeds of family love.

Like the prairie wind, their memories will keep moving with us.  Although we may not see it, it is still there.  It will continue to come and go.  My parents are my prairie wind.

The season for them will always be summer.  That’s my favorite wind.

When years have taken a toll on our memory, hopefully these printed pages of my mind will refresh us, bring us new hope and joy to give to our generations that follow.

I looked up one more time.

trees of home

 

YEP! It was still there…right where I left it….OUR PIECE OF PRAIRIE SKY.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back soon with the “MONDAY WASH” that I pulled off Mom’s clothesline!

Memory Lane @ www.pagesofmymindblog.com

MEMORY FROM A DAY AT FALCON LAKE

me again

I had recently turned 15 & discovered the four letter word: ‘BOYS’.  I was spending the summer at the cottage with my oldest sister, Alice and her ‘Fabulous Five’, my younger nieces and nephews.  I admit I sure didn’t think of them as fabulous kids then, but they’ve earned that name ever since the day I am writing about.  Iris, the oldest daughter & I were close in age and her and I were more like sisters.  As the youngest of four daughters, I never had to deal with siblings & sharing ‘EVERYTHING’.  Staying with my sister & family, venturing out of my sheltered life, broadened my outlook and helped mold me into the independent person I am. The day started badly.  We were up and dressed, ready to head for the beach when my sis lowered the boom!  “You girls aren’t going anywhere! Can’t you see it’s pouring out?”  We tried to argue that it was just a little bit of rain while we watched it streaming down the windows. “I don’t believe this,” I complained.  “A whole day ruined.  We’re stuck here in our room!  Do you think it’ll rain for long?” Iris shrugged.  “How should I know, Lane! But you do owe the bank $75.00 for taxes.”  We were on the bottom bunk playing Monopoly for the umpteenth time.  My brother-in-law, George, had gotten us our 1st jobs at the concession on the main beach.  Every morning we hiked the zig-zag trail along the lake to our new jobs.  It was a ‘fun in the sun’ place to be.  Families were relaxed and generous with tips.  Lifeguards were awesome & we could have all the food & shakes we wanted.  Of course we only worked during peak periods & when weather permitted.  So on this miserable day, we did what teenage girls do when things don’t go their way.  We pouted, called her Mom mean names, (I know, I know. Me of all people–name calling) and we plotted a no fail plan of escape.  It wasn’t going to be easy with six extra snoopy eyes waiting to tattle on us. Alice had no worries that morning.  She was singing along through a cloud of steam, to her country music, & had every pot on the stove full of something.  Potatoes for salad, some kind of vegetable soup and the most humongous pot of stew I’d ever seen!  Who does this at the beach?  Iris was terrified our friends would drop over and see the production but I told her not to fret.  Our friends came over BECAUSE of her Mom’s cooking.  Besides, I told her, if they clean up we won’t have to.  Fergie would be over for sure.  He was the one ‘geeky’ guy in the crowd that hung around us like a puppy.  He reminded us of the puppet, Finnigan from the old Mr. Dressup show.  He’d willingly do chores for my sister’s cooking & I don’t think he ever got fed at home!  Alice liked him because he was so helpful and happy to do it, unlike the rest of us. My sister loved the rain.  She loved being out there cooking on a gigantic wood stove.  We all had to share the job of carrying wood into the cottage and placing it in a big  bin.  Honestly, just when I thought I’d gotten away from chores.  It made Iris furious because it seemed every time we were showered and dressed to go out, her Mom needed more wood! While the world of shakes, fries, and the coolest guys in the local band hung around practising their songs before their next show, I was waving a $100.00  Monopoly bill in front of my opponent.  “Wanna sell Atlantic Avenue?”  I had no conscience and cheated without mercy.  Iris didn’t seem to notice anyways.  I had just placed hotels on Park Place and she landed there & began grumbling.  I don’t know why we were torturing ourselves with this game again but it was an excuse to stay in our room away from the little rodents as I called them. (at 15, I was the WORST aunt…ever, I know!)  “Pay up, or shut up,” I said holding out my hand.  “And stop grumbling!  You sound like a….?” Louder came the grumbles & it wasn’t Iris!  It was right outside our window!  We stared and froze in that order.  Then the window rattled, in fact the wall shuddered!  I couldn’t tell if the drumming sounds I heard were from the rain or my heartbeat!  “Let’s get out of here!” In a scratchy voice, Iris reminded me how we had barricaded ourselves in.  Right she was.  It had taken a lot of pushing to get a monstrosity of an old oak dresser in front of the door, our only way to keep Robbie, Weezer & little Shann out.  They would have jumped on the bed, touched everything, ate our candy stash & wanted to play our game with us.  My sister would have made us do it.  They had sticky hands & nothing of ours was sacred & I kept asking them to go away because they didn’t smell very good, either.  OUCH!  Even as I write this now, I wish I could sugar coat it a little but this is my story and they knew me then. LOL! “No chance to move anything now,” I whispered.  Instead, we scrambled up to the top bunk just as a dark form blocked the window  A black bear peered in at us!  “HIDE!” Iris screamed and dove under her quilt.  I grabbed the other end. I wanted to be a writer/journalist since I learned how to print but I figured it would never happen because I  lived such a safe, boring life on the farm.  Iris was going to be Florence Nightingale in some third world country.  I knew she was gutsy enough to do it and she had the temper to make sure what she said…got accomplished.  I, on the other hand, would fly in with a crew & drop food supplies for her cause & write amazing stories to get her the publicity she’d need and so on.  We were always planning together and our goals weren’t as different as we may have thought.  Looking back, I realize our common ground was simply to love people, where they’re at and accept them without judgement.  That is a learning process for our entire road of life. “What a story I can write after this is over!”  I said all pumped with adrenalin. “Oh yeah, take pictures too!  Of our bodies!”  Iris snarled. Well…I learned: RULE #1: in journalism.  Have a pen and paper handy, along with a camera & plenty of film!  Remember, we didn’t have cell phones, or even digital cameras.  Life WAS rough in those ‘good ole’ days’!  We could have sent this to You Tube!  But I had zilch! Nadda!  My film had all been used, taking pictures of the boys in the band, the lifeguards teaching beginner swimming,  Iris and I posing for each other.  My youngest nephew, Robbie had used all my paper for his drawings. So, I heard myself say: “It’s raining.  Maybe he just wants to play Monopoly with us.”  We started laughing hysterically until he slapped his paws on the window pane.  I sensed the power in that thrust.  He sniffed and snorted noisily leaving smudgy drool on the glass.  By now my sister’s favorite (according to Iris)  stinky dog, Tonka, was at the door barking and frantically scratching to get in.  Tonka was a great shepherd, we just added him to our list of complaints.  To us, everything either smelled awful, we disliked it, or it involved some sort of work & interfered with our plans, hair-do’s, clothes or make up. Iris was still under the blanket but I couldn’t take my eyes off that bear.  I brushed away tears.  I wanted my Dad & I wished I was safe at home.  I came to appreciate my home, safe, home, a lot more after that day.  Dad would have known exactly what to do.  So would my brother-in-law, but he was working in the city.  I told Iris if we got out of this alive, she was going to need lots of therapy! Imagine! Wasn’t I just ready for the Little Miss Compassionate Award! But that brought her out swingin’!  “Shut up, Lane! Just SHUT UP!”  She smacked me a few good ones!  She was a hitter.  I let her.  I deserved that!  Mentioning that was my way of getting her back for calling me Skinny Bones.  She threatened to tell the guys at the beach my nickname but I would never have won a fight with her.  Her brothers didn’t challenge her & one of them is older than her. My sister was banging on the door, wanting to know why we were upsetting the dog!  REALLY? Iris was still for some unknown reason, pounding me with her pillow!  Three more voices joined in the pandemonium:  “Let us in! We wanna see, too!”  As the glass shattered, my sister went to call for help. I said some prayers while watching those hairy arms flailing impatiently.  First, I told God how sorry I was for cheating in Monopoly.  I begged Him not to let the bear get us because I was mean to my nieces & nephews, telling them I didn’t like them. Because I did.  I loved them and secretly envied Iris.  I always wanted younger brothers & sisters.  I didn’t want to grow up alone on the farm.  That’s why I stayed with them as much as I could. The good part in this was the small window.  The bear was definitely bottom heavy.  He was unlike any animal I had seen up close.  Not at all like the cute, fuzzy ones on National Geographic.  This one was huge and wild, and not scared about being at our cottage! I shook myself.  What would my parents want me to do?  Our life wasn’t finishing here.  I needed to grow up, write better stories and outlive the awful name of Skinny Bones.  “We’re not gonna die, you Dummy!” I yelled.  “This is an adventure like in my Nancy Drew books!  She wouldn’t sit here crying!  We gotta get a grip!”  I pulled out my bag of candy from under the mattress and tossed a handful at the bear.  He tried catching them as they bounced off his head.  So much for that idea.  Not being able to catch them REALLY ticked him off!  He let out a roar that still chills me today.  Then, something phenomenal happened.  Bear started sniffing around.  With pieces of glass stuck in his fur, he wiggled back out of the window.  It was my sister’s voice!  Calm & clear.  I leaned over and there she was.  It hit me!  Someone should have been saying: “Kids, don’t try this at home!”  I grabbed Iris.  Tonka was still going nuts in another room.  “LOOK!” We watched her Mom set the pot of stew on a flat rock a short distance away from the cottage.  Slowly she backed away.  Mr. Hungry headed right for it.  What a Kodak moment…head down in the pot…butt ugly lookin’ our way.  Charming! “Your Mom’s awesome!”  I screeched.

ALICE FEEDING THE DEER

Alice always had a way with animals.  She had named a deer Charlie & got him to eat crackers from her hand.  We thought that was cute but this was out of her league…or not? “But Lane, there’s a bear in our stew.”  For once I got to smack her with her own pillow.  “I know!  I told you someone would want all that food!”  Next the Park Rangers were on the scene, aimed & fired a tranquilizer into the big butt facing our way.  A few more seconds over went our guest and that lunch was all in his dreams. BINGO!  We were off the bed laughing like lunatics and with super strength, moved the dresser aside.  “Glass,” I warned the little guys.  “Don’t go in there till it gets cleaned up, okay”  Little heads nodded in agreement.  I grabbed Robbie and gave him a squishy hug, then danced around in a circle with him.  He didn’t smell icky at all, just like the rain,  but he sure looked at me like I’d lost it.  And yes, I had lost something…my selfish attitude.  This time I remembered to thank God for helping us.  Now what my Mom always said made sense: “Pray without ceasing in times of trouble.”  It worked!  I couldn’t wait to tell her that.  I decided to write her a letter.  Awesome! The ranger said he would send someone out to fix our window my sister told us.  She sounded a little shaky as she sipped her coffee & told us to make some peanut butter sandwiches.  I couldn’t resist.  “What? No stew left?  Such a loss!”  Okay, so I still had some attitude left…  This was all in the span of an hour or so…geez.  Anyways I glanced outside.  “The sun’s coming out!”  In all the commotion we hadn’t noticed it had stopped raining!  “Still want that shake & fries?”   Iris’s huge brown eyes sparkled.  She dug out her lip gloss. “Race you there!” I shrugged.  She was fine.  She didn’t need therapy at all.  Her siblings?  I saw them differently.  They were these little people…in my family…who meant everything to me.  They loved me too and wanted to hang around me.  I was older & I helped take care of them and they looked up to me.  In their eyes I was ‘cool’.  I wanted to start living up to that image.  I shivered.  What if they’d been playing outside?  Then I did the math.  They weren’t.  Because God had sent the rain and made sure we were ALL inside.  For the rest of the summer, I decided we were going to keep them closer a lot more.  Later, I would figure out how my heart got changed through that experience.  Dad and I would do it together. I poked my head into the kitchen.  “Hey guys,  we’ll be back soon and bring you something good, okay?”  Wow!  Their faces lit up like little neons!  I felt great as I ran to catch up with Iris.  “Can you imagine when this story gets around?  By the way, let me tell it, okay?” “Not a chance, Skinny Bones!”  Iris laughed and pushed me off the trail.  “You know I can outrun you!”  I followed the sound of her laughter down the path.  Iris has the greatest laugh of anyone.  Yeah, she could outrun me & I was a darn good runner.  I let her go because I now had different priorities because of the four letter word…. I could run like the wind but my hair would be ruined or snagged on a tree branch…not worth it…I had to look good! From all the memories we made together, this one topped the chart for me.  Anytime we get talking and need a laugh…reminiscing over the summers at the lake always comes up.  I gave Iris a copy of the 1st draft & asked her to critique it.  Later when she called me, she couldn’t talk because she was laughing so hard.  Finally, she told me I did a great job but didn’t think she was the hero I made her out to be.  I told her she was…then…and always will be.  She still has that same great laugh.  How wonderful for me to have found this story amongst many.  Not a single photo from that adventure but the ones that were in the camera came out fine.  Iris, with her teased hair, perfect makeup, looked fabulous burying Neil in the sand.  She got a picture of me too.  Yes, she did!  Fergie and I sitting side by side in the bleachers.  He had to sit beside me.  The look on my face said it all!Iris an me at falcon lake

Thanks, Iris, part of my Fabulous Five, for being such an important part of my life’s story.  Love ‘Skinny Bones’

family of five

 

This story is also a tribute to my sister Alice.  I remember her laughter over this story that took us back to simpler times.  She loved it & it led to many other happy time events & long talks about us all being at the lake together. She left us suddenly just over a year ago. We miss her so.  What I miss most is the sound of her voice & her smile.  Like her daughter, she had a great laugh but there was something about her smile that spoke for all her emotions.  The one I liked most was her mischievous one that left us wondering what she was really thinking about.  That is what I see every time I think about my sister.

I know she is happy & free.  She is our Wind Spirit.alis hat

To my brother-in-law, George, who made all those wonderful summers at the lake possible for me.  I spent so much time at their place in the city,  he was almost a 2nd Dad to me during my early teens.  He was my 1st employer.  He bought my art work and stories and continually encouraged me on.  I have kept all of these memories in a treasure box close to my heart. This is Memory Lane sharing just one of the memories…out of the pages of my summers spent at the lake with people I love. Thanks for reading.  I’ll be back soon with a few more pages @www.pagesofmymindblog.com

WHAT’S IN A NAME

SIMBA AND ME Hello world and welcome to my 1st blog. Memory is the pen name I am attaching to my favorite nickname, Lane.  For those of you who decide to follow me…And I hope you will… as you read along through my pages, I’ll share my memories, some sentimental journeys, other hilarious/embarrassing antics that are commonly known as ‘growing pains’,  I think you will understand why this pen name fits. Thank you to my Family, & Friends whom I know I can count on for support as I start what I hope will be my best writing adventure yet!   And to new Friends.  I  look forward to hearing back from you and hopefully you will share some of your ‘memorable’ nicknames also.  I have been considering a blog for quite awhile and now I am taking that leap of faith and actually doing it.  It’s going to be a great way to share all the memories I’ve stored up in my mind over the years, plus, I need to continually challenge myself with my writing. Somewhere around 12-15 years ago, I began sorting through my poems, short stories, memorable/sentimental events in our family, some previously published.  I realized how my values about my life growing up in a small prairie community have changed for me over the years.  Although I had always heard how times were better ‘in the good old days’,  while I was growing up I didn’t believe that.  I sure didn’t believe I had it ‘easy’ either!  In fact, this is how I started the ‘name’ thing.  I was looking through my old copies of my work and realized how names were a big thing to me.  For instance: I HAD MADE UP LOTS OF NAMES FOR THINGS I DIDN’T LIKE TO DO AS A KID!   I had to do this thing called: CHORES!  Every day!  “Boy, when I grow up and become a Mom, I’ll never make my children do that!” …Sound familiar? Well here I am, nearly retired and I am the generation now writing and telling my grandchildren about ‘the good old days’. There’s a song I just heard the other day by Willie Nelson that sums it up:   “Ain’t It Funny How Time Slips Away.” Life got busy for me and I lived in the city with my own family of four, lots of pets, nieces, nephews and cousins. By the way, my crew will rat me out if I don’t say this.  THEY DID HAVE TO DO CHORES! My parents had passed away and I hadn’t been back to the old family farm in over a decade.  I decided to drive out one afternoon, seeking closure, I suppose.  I really didn’t know why I felt the need to go but I did.  I never expected the changes to affect me so dramatically.  The farm no longer had our family name on the land!   But I had known that.  However, I was able to wander freely through the home I had grown up in, opened every Christmas present, waited impatiently for fresh baked bread to come out of the oven after school.  I climbed up the stairs to my room with a view.  The same stair halfway up still creaked.  I hated that stair but it was MY stair, the one Dad NEVER fixed!  I named it “Blabber Mouth!”  I laughed as I rocked back & forth a couple times & listened to it grumble. “Yes, I’m home,” I said out loud, then climbed up to my old room. Imagine my delight when I opened the ‘secret door’ to my little cubby behind my old bed frame!  Neatly packed in small trunk were all my diaries, hand made booklets with printed or hand written stories and poems I had scribbled out.  I always found a way to write out a new idea I had, so I wouldn’t forget it.  Other times I wrote by flashlight under the covers and by bright moonlight shining in through by double window.  But I got the story done!  I usually read them to Mom & Dad at breakfast the following morning.  Dad would laugh or comment and hand me a pencil: “Make sure you sign this one, South Paw,” he’d say.  That was my family nickname for me because I was left handed. I couldn’t believe I was here looking through my old trunk but I was!  And they were just as I remembered…so long ago!  Hardly believable!  Ready for me.  Every piece of work had my name signed on it.  Dad always reminded me to do that.  Mom  must have known I’d come back one day and find them.  She was right.  I had such a moment of missing her that I almost couldn’t breathe.  I hugged them and carried them to my car.  Then I came back for the trunk and filled it with a few more trinkets.  My teddy bear from my Granddad and cards and letters he sent me.  The envelopes were all addressed to me.  I remembered how important I felt to receive a letter with my own name on it. I took one long last look around.  I felt at peace.  Although the farm wasn’t ours, it was okay.  We weren’t in need of it anymore.  But I looked up into the same piece of prairie sky.   It hadn’t changed and it never will.  It still remained  ‘our piece of prairie sky. I had the greatest long talks with our dear Aunt Edna Mae.  She often used to tell me that it was easy to wander around for years and never even realize we had lost ourselves.  Then one turn of events can change everything & bring us back.  As I stood beneath that piece of never ending sky that afternoon, her words came through, clearly. Also my Dad’s voice and his ways with words echoed through my mind.  Anytime I asked him what he thought I should be when I grew up, he’d look up, then extend his arms wide and tell me this:  “Anything you want.  The sky’s the limit for a South Paw like you!” “WOW!”  I thought.  There was a lot of power in a name like that for a 12 year old!  I  glanced back as I slowly drove away.  I had a fresh vision.  While I stood looking up at our piece of prairie sky, I had found my roots.  My sisters and I were raised with good values, a strong faith and loving parents as examples.  I had always been free to follow my own dreams.  Now I knew what it was…I would become a published writer. But I wasn’t going to write just anything.  I wanted to write about things that that mattered, truthful topics that would touch the hearts of my readers, entertain,  make them feel nostalgic & hopefully able to relate through my sense of humor. OUR PIECE OF PRAIRIE SKY became the title for my book.  About 2 years ago I thought I was all set to publish but I kept finding & adding new topics I wanted to share.  Several months ago, while browsing through my trunk for inspiration for a newspaper article, I came across the bundle of editor’s notes I’ve kept from submissions & acceptances over the years.  For example:  ‘Great walk down memory lane’, or: ‘good luck with publishing more of your memories, Lane’.  I liked this one: ‘Lane, thanks for your submission to Good Old Days Magazine. You really brought back happy memories of times with my grandparents’.  Another:  ‘What lovely memories you have written here, Lane.  My grandma also taught me how to sew on an old treadle machine one summer.  All the best to you’.  Suddenly, I knew I was Memory Lane.  It fits. When I was 10, Lane wouldn’t have been my pick for a nickname or any part of my name.  I blamed a lot of my ‘growing pains’ on it.  Lane was an open door for:  ‘Lainie the freckles, brainie!  How about:  ‘Big pain, Lane?  Or this one that got me so mad I’d cry:  ‘Lane, Lane, has no brain, ’cause she got hit by a freight train! But I didn’t cry long.  Luckily I have always been a ‘glass half full’ rather than half empty’, type of personality.  At age 12-14 I took a serious growth spurt. While the names Beanpole & Skinny Bones rang out across the schoolyard or anywhere I rode my bike, my turn was coming…and I reveled in the ways.  I  could hit a bull’s eye using a bow & shoot a tin can target accurately with my Dad’s 22 while he supervised these matches with the neighborhood boys. News travelled that I was really good at baseball.  My arms were strong from pulling the bow & I could hit a fly ball or grounder as hard as the boys and run even faster on my long skinny legs!  I gained the respect I sought once I started carrying my own lucky bat around with me.  I  even named it ‘Slugger’.  It had earned that name.  My Dad loved baseball & whenever there was a picnic after church or in our town, Dad would get a game going with whoever wanted to play.  I was 1st in line.  It was a perfect excuse to avoid wearing the dresses my Mom insisted on. They were mostly ugly dresses and naturally ugly names like Sissy Pie Lainie followed ugly clothing. On the field I got my moments of ‘payback’.  I had a slight but sneaky advantage being left handed.  I stood over the plate facing either direction.  It threw the pitcher off, every time!  Dad would call: “Batter up!  Come on, South Paw, you’re up!”  So I positioned myself to look as though I would hit towards 3rd but a quick little twist smackered it past 2nd.  Then I ran like the wind while 2nd base was chasing my ball and dove into 3rd.  Next time up, I changed it …or not.  That year, Dad named me Summer Wind.  I loved that name…still do.  I remember how wonderful it felt to be named after something as amazing as the fresh seasonal breeze. and it helped me believe I wasn’t ever going to let myself get trampled over.  Many of the poems & booklets I wrote in that time frame were signed: ‘To Dad,  from your Summer Wind’ I had also been practising for the races at our school.  I ran 2 miles to get there every morning.  Then I ran home and made it in time to run across the field just to meet Dad so I could drive our John Deere tractor home & park it for the night.  I ‘ran’ errands for Mom to our neighbors down the road without complaining.  It was worth it when I did win several ribbons at our school field day that summer and I don’t remember a single mean or poke fun name thrown at me!  Success was mine for a season. Names are always on my mind.  Whenever I start a new children’s story, or even one of my own I spend a long time choosing names for my characters.   As I mold a new personality, I let him or her fit into the name I have selected.  I think it’s safe to say, there’s a little of me or one of my family members in every story I write.  I chose really good ones when I wrote about those mean, name calling boys!  “Ha! Ha! Thanks for the inspiration, guys! And for some things, time means very little.  I  haven’t escaped nicknames even now.  Also, I didn’t grow up hating dresses!  As anyone who knows me will tell you…I love clothes!  The more colorful , the better!  I named myself a: ‘CLOTHES-AHOLIC’!  But my pals have a better one for me…They named me ‘Hippie!  Whenever, wherever they see me, its:  “Hey, Hippie! Where you going?  Want to go for coffee with us, Hippie Girl?” I laugh!  I think its great.  They call me that for fun & they know I can take all the teasing they dish out. I wish I could have stood my ground & laughed when the kids were taunting me with names like ‘pogo stick.  I bet they wouldn’t have known what to do if I’d laughed in their faces or rode away yelling at the top of my lungs: “HEY, YOUR RIPPED OLE’ UNDERWEAR IS HANGIN’ OUT, STEVIE BOY!” But that just the thing, isn’t it? We learn but it takes a lifetime.  I am thankful for my friends who laugh with me or how together we make fun of ourselves.  It’s freedom like a breath of summer wind! We know who we are to one another.  I know they care about me…a lot. FRIENDS…Now there’s a name filled with meaning.  Choose with care, use wisdom and your discernment, then give generously back to those who have earned that calling. FAMILY…My greatest blessing in life.  They surround me with their love & support.  They are accepting, unique & different individuals who are all amazingly talented in their own ways.  I am blessed beyond words sometimes but in one way or another I will make sure they’ll be recognizable in my stories. Well readers, I am sure each one of you have a name that strikes a chord somewhere in your memory.  Either it was loved, hated or special to you for your own reasons.  I would love to hear about them. Thanks for reading my 1st blog.  My next one will be a few pages from: SUMMER AT FALCON LAKE.  It was the summer of my 1st job away from home & the valuable lessons I learned at a young enough age about the true meaning of family.  No worries, Family…whatever else happened @ Falcon….stayed @ Falcon…Gotcha! Memory Lane@www.pagesofmymindblog.com