Tag Archives: family

Gifts

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The month of July is my favorite month.  My birthday is in July, it has always been the month that was totally free from school work, and I love the summer.  This year was no exception.  It was, and continues to be, a time of wonderful gifts.

One of the best gifts was having my children and grandchild visit.  They have finally seen where I live, and now they have a better understanding of why I love this “quirky little mountain town” as my daughter called it.  She sees the peace here, she sees my happiness, she sees the lovely people we are friends with.  My other daughter suffered from allergies, so was not outdoors as much, but she too could enjoy the beauty and peace that we have.  She also loves our dogs (the border collie in particular, as she imprinted on Winona when she was a puppy), as well as the wonderful studio/house they were able to stay in while they were here, providing some privacy, plenty of space, and kitchen facilities for convenience.  That the visit went well, even with not too many activities, meant a lot to me.  They were here for my birthday, we went to breakfast and saw “Happy Birthday Susan” on the board at the restaurant, and my request for my favorite cinnamon rolls had been honored.    My grandson Zeke convinced us to go and visit the graveyard, which turned out to be a wonderful place, very quiet, beautiful view, interesting items left around the graves, interesting names.  He also talked us into stopping at the rock shop, which turned out to be an amazing collection of unique things.  He picked out a beautiful crystal right away, my daughter got a ring, and I drooled over the smithsonite.  Zeke built a cactus garden with Sarita, met and was extremely polite to our friends, went to the library for books on Egypt, and got a cowboy shirt and hat in the nearby town.  Everyone decided that it was a good visit, and they said that they wanted to come back.  My heart is happy.  I was exhausted by the end of the visit, but wouldn’t have traded it for the world.

The other meaningful visit was with old friends from Pennsylvania, who drove extra miles to be with us for part of a day and a night on their way to Colorado.  We were able to feel comfortable with each other immediately and had no trouble talking constantly until tiredness overtook us, even though it had been many years since we’d seen each other.  I feel so lucky to know these wonderful people, and that they really appreciated this new life style I have.

The music I play with friends and with Sarita is another gift.  We had a lot of performances at the end of June and early July, so by the time we played for Old Timer’s Reunion, I was getting tired.  But we played with microphones and a sound system guy who was terrific, we had a good, supportive audience (friends, family, and a few other musicians), and it was a great experience.  We have taken a performance break until later in August, but we have been practicing, working on new songs, and having a lot of fun.  Laughter and singing are great healers.  I have never had so much joy doing music with others, and I will always remember this.  As part of the gifts of music, my old friend who really inspired me to play fiddle and mandolin 44 years ago  (my sister’s ex boyfriend) sent me a mandolin just before my birthday.  I had made some comments to him on Facebook about possibly wanting a new one, he listened, and sent me one of his.  Wow, I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe it.  It plays differently from my other one, and is wonderful.  That is truly a long time friend.

I got beautiful gifts for my birthday — a ticket to visit my parents in Michigan from Mom and Dad, a necklace and earring set from good friends who purchased them at Old Timer’s, 2 beautiful ceramic bowls from the Ann Arbor Art Fair from my youngest, a beautiful and incredible kimono style sweater made by a local friend, and a coloring book, where every page is a work of art, along with my favorite prismacolor pencils from my oldest daughter.  Another friend is knitting me a lace shawl made from soft, lovely turquoise alpaca yarn that I had purchased.  I realized that the yarn is too small for my eyes, and I can’t knit with it, and she said she’d make the shawl I wanted and give it to me.  Once again, Wow!  There are a lot of loving people in my life.

Speaking of which, I have gotten spontaneous hugs from one of our utility people, from one of our barn builders, from a fellow doll collector I just met, from the people who are selling us the alpacas, and in the form of a lovely card from my close neighbor.  Each of those make me feel very lucky to live here.

The next big gift to come is our alpacas.  We plan on getting them  in a week.  We’ve gotten their hay, all the supplies we need, now just have to finish a bit of fencing and setting things up.  Oh yes, and we’re getting two kittens to keep them company (and take care of mice) in the barn.   Sarita has decided these peaceful animals are part of my treatment plan,  along with my dogs,  who already give me amazing love and companionship.   With my beautiful, hardworking, loyal and wise wife, I couldn’t ask for better company.   So whatever happens in September (pet scan, bone biopsy, starting on chemo), I have a very lovely life here at home to keep me centered. And gifts that seem to keep coming.

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Family Stories

Being taken to the basement of a hotel at gunpoint by the Nazis, prepared to die, a young woman reassured her crying sister that they probably wouldn’t be killed in that place because no one would want to shoot holes in the hotel’s pipes that were all around them…

That was just part of one of the stories I was privileged to hear in my short story class at the senior center.  It reminded me that we all have stories, everyone alive has stories, and they need to be told while we are still around.

I have recently found the calendar and grandparent book, in which my Nana wrote down some of her activities, her memories, and her thoughts.  When I was a young adult, I asked her to write things, whatever she wanted, in these books I gave her.  My grandfather had already made a tape talking about his life for my mom, and my dad had written about both his parents, so it made sense for me to ask Nana.  For quite a time, I had worked on Nana to become more of a feminist, because she was the traditional homemaker, and that was appalling to me as a young career-minded person, and I wanted her to develop her hobbies, have more independence, show some feminist attitude!  She actually out-persisted me, in her denial of the idea that she could ever change, and I finally gave up.  She did write in those journals, however, and I am lucky enough to have them.  I have been reading them, as I plan to do with all the writings I have about my grandparents, and now that I am finally somewhat mature, I have really enjoyed them, and maybe gotten to understand my ancestors a little better.

My Nana was a good girl who fell in love with a mischievous boy a little older than herself.  He had run away from home a few times, hadn’t finished high school, and was not welcomed joyously into her family at first.  However, she married him when she was 18, and they bought a little brick bungalow in Blue Island, Illinois, and the family came around and helped fix it up and decorate it for their wedding present.  Nana also included some pictures in the journals, so I could see her when she was a baby and a little girl, and she also had some of the houses she’d lived in. As I read,  I was impressed by the sewing abilities of my family, who made all the beautiful wedding dresses, and by the close friends my grandparents had:  friends that got together regularly and had fun when they were young, riding in my Papa’s car called “Sir Nutmeg”, and friends who went through the hard times of the depression with them, and friends who played dominoes with them when they were older and lived in Florida.

I started asking my mom about some of the stories, and she told me more wonderful stories.  I learned that February is a month when most of my relatives died, and it was a hard month to bear for my Nana and still is for my mom.  And me.  I’ve never liked February either, although I thought it was because it was the middle of winter, often cold and snowy or rainy.  I now think, maybe there’s more to it.    It is a month of birthdays for my partner, children, and grandchild, so I’m trying to turn my feelings about it around. (It helps that Sarita likes to celebrate her birthday for the whole month, so we do special activities almost every weekend.)  My mom tells me how Nana decided she’d probably die when she was 86 because that’s when her mom died (and her husband), but Mom told her she was already 87.  “Darn,” she said, “I missed it!”  So now my mom is writing her own stories on her laptop, and I am learning more about her grandparents, my grandparents, and my mom.  It is really exciting, and I’m learning that my young adult idea about the perfect life for them was so wrong.  They had good lives, hard lives, and some things didn’t get better until very late in life, but my Nana experienced independence, and she had plenty of hobbies, and my mom has wonderful memories about her own life, before and after having her children.

 

I treasure having these memories in writing, because my memory is worse than ever — it’s never been great, but chemo has not helped.  They fill me up in a way that makes me feel more complete, causing my ancestors to become part of my soul.  They make it more meaningful to wear that turquoise and coral ring that used to be Grandma’s, or the pearl ring given to Nana by her best friend, whom her mom did not like because she was too much of a tomboy.  I love to look at the embroidered picture of Nana’s house over my couch that Mom made, or the pen and ink picture my dad made of a great grandfather sitting under a tree fishing.

 

I have even more understanding and appreciation for my own children seeking their birth parents,  (as both are adopted by me) and trying to negotiate meaning and understanding into their present families and lives, as these people are found.  My oldest daughter has a new relationship with her birth father, a shy and gentle man, who reminds her of herself more than she can believe.  My youngest daughter is in new contact with her birth mother, who has decided to really push for a mother-daughter relationship after essentially giving her up twice (once at birth, and once when she was 13, and made contact, then pulled away, unreachable).  They both have so much on their plates, that they have just a marginal interest in all that I’m finding out about my family, (not genetically related to them).  Maybe that’s why it’s important that I find out everything I can, to hold in case they get interested as they get older, and to hold just for the meaning it gives to my life.  I can appreciate all my parents have done to get their stories, to hold on to their keepsakes, and to convey that information to me.  I feel extremely fortunate for this, as I know that others do not have the same experience, the same access to information about their family’s past.

 

So as I prepare to move to another state (yet again in my life), I box up the knick knacks that come from my family, I think about where I can put them in a tiny little house.  I used to think there would be no room, they would all have to go in storage, but now I’m rethinking that, and figuring out a place where they can be available and in my sight (at least on a rotating basis), and I organize the writings so that I can easily remind myself of where I came from, and then spin off my own stories.  I encourage my children to do the same as they make their discoveries.  They are leading such interesting and amazing and crazy lives, I’m hoping they will write it all down for their children, because it would be hard to believe it was all true otherwise!  And I say to everyone else, write your stories — the world is changing so fast, even little bits and pieces of writing about whatever you have experienced in life is going to be wonderful history some day.  Find whatever stories you can, remember them, write them!