The Community Of A High School Football Game

Gramps and I have been going to weekly high school football games recently. Not so much to see the football game itself, but to see the halftime show. You see Mac plays the sousaphone in his high school marching band.

In Texas, marching bands and music in general are a big deal in high school. And this is a competition year, so performance levels are pretty high and expectations are even higher.

So being the good grandparents, we attend every game to support Mac and cheer him on. We wear the school T-shirt and ball cap. We sit next to the band with all the other band families. We clap and cheer at the appropriate times. And we know where our specific child is on the the field at all times. We have this band thing down pat.

Since we arrive early, we watch the football team in action. At the beginning of the season, we thought this was the disposable part of the evening. But we have since learned it is the appetizer to the whole meal.

Gramps and I have become part of an entire village of supporters of high school kids doing their athletic best. We delight with them when they do well. We mourn with when they don’t. We encourage them when they face a challenge. We constantly tell then how much faith we have in them .

Students, parents, grandparents, friends, and family – all one community. All backing a team of teenagers with a ball and one goal in mind. All while enjoying the “great” stadium food!

Then there is halftime!! How much fun can we stand!! We are loving it!!

We get to watch Mac and his band put on a fantastic show with precision marching and a phenomenal musical sound!!!!!

Of course it is followed by more football, to round out the evening. By this time, I feel like I know everyone seated around me and which child is theirs (football player or band member) on the field. I start to care how all the kids are performing – not just my Mac

I love my little football community! It’s a little different each week but the same in many ways.

Can’t wait for Friday night when my village gathers in the stands again for “good” food, good conversation, good fellowship and good cheering.

Go Rangers!!!!!!!!!!!!

The Measure Of A Memory

Gramps has been busy on his old computer finding movies we have taken of Mac over the years, editing them, adding music and titles, and then moving them over to a new storage before everything goes to the new computer. (Thought you could just plug in the new one and start going, right? WRONG!!!!!)

In the process, we have been sort of re-living Mac’s early years. It’s been a real trip down memory lane.

And I realized, as I was watching Mac at age five at our annual July 4th fireworks party, that I was really there. I could hear his little-boy voice asking questions. I could feel the anticipation of setting up the fireworks in the back yard. I was actually laughing at the silliness of the adult men bragging about who had the biggest ordnance. I was counting the heads of the little kids to make sure no one was in the fire zone. I was checking to make sure everyone had a glass of refreshment in their hands.

I mean I was there! I believe I could almost smell the sparklers burning.

That’s how powerful a memory can be. It’s not just remembering an occasion – it’s reliving it with all your senses.

It’s like taking a trip but with no luggage, no vehicle, no stay in a hotel, no long hours on the road or in the air and no cost!! It’s all there in your head, just waiting for you.

Memories are precious treasures. They are personalized destinations. They are your own books that you can read over and over. And anything can trigger a memory – a photo, a smell, a word, a touch, a thought. But the trip is free and there is no age limit. They are great indulgences during quiet alone times or the current favorite, forced quarantine.

After watching the movie, I had all the feelings of having been there – the memory of the memory. so to speak. I was still smiling and chuckling over the funny things done and said. My heart was still overflowing with the sweetness of the children and the joy of having the entire family together. I was still in awe of the fireworks display and proud that we had organized such a wonderful evening for everyone.

All those feelings were rushing over me. And the best one was knowing that we had provided a fantastic memory for everyone else.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mother loved to cook.  That is to say, she loved to bake.  Everyday meals were not her forte, but desserts and special occasions were her real love.

She had a real sweet tooth (which I inherited!), and so we had a dessert at every meal. Yes, even breakfast had something sweet and yummy.

Mother was well known for her homemade pies, especially apple.  The crust was always crispy and golden.  Daddy loved her apple pie with a slice of cheese on it.  I think he learned that growing up in South Dakota.

Christmas was a big baking time.   She would start in September, making cookies, candies, bars and pies. Everyone would get something – the mailman to the doctor’s office to the pharmacy to all the neighbors.

There was always something in the cookie jar and more stacked in the freezer, waiting for the right occasion.  Mother never went to visit anyone empty-handed. That was her rule, “Never go out with a bare face or an empty hand.”

The one item that brings back the most memories of my childhood is Mother’s chocolate chip cookies.  Just the aroma of the cookies baking makes me feel like a girl in her kitchen, helping her bake.  I suddenly feel all warm and safe with a smile on my face, eager to see how the cookies turn out.

Then there is the joy of tasting the first warm cookie from the oven.  That was always “cook’s treat” at Mother’s house.

My daughter feels the same about my chocolate chip cookies. When she takes a bite now, she closes her eyes and sighs, “Ah, my childhood in a cookie!”

Her son, Mac, says my chocolate chip cookies are the best.  Little does he know he’s talking about Mother’s recipe, passed down through all these years.

And I bet his children and their children will say the same.

Peggy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • 2 1/4 C all purpose flour
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • 1 C Crisco
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 t soda
  • 1 t salt
  • 2 T water
  • 12 oz. semisweet chips

Cream sugars and Crisco.  Add eggs.   Sift salt and soda with flour. Add to creamed mixture.   Add water. Add chips by hand.   Drop onto cookie sheet by spoonful . Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes.  Cool on rack.

Life Lessons From Children

The older I get, the more I realize that children have some of the best answers to the basic questions of life.  They seem to instinctively know how to manage the twists and turns of everyday living.

With all my education, experience and wisdom, I have learned to look to a five-year-old for some of the wisest lessons in getting through life.

Here are my top ten favorites:

Play is the best medicine.  Children have the ability to play with anything, anytime.  It’s how they release their emotions and feelings.  It’s also how they heal themselves.

Take a nap when you’re tired.  Children can sleep anywhere, when they need to.  What a great gift is that!

Always greet your elders with a hug and a kiss.  This is good advice your whole life – no matter how old you are.  Grannies always love to be greeted this way.

Every day is a fresh start.  No matter what happens today, no matter how bad it is or who hurts them, tomorrow is always a new day to a child.  All is forgotten and everything is possible again.  Each morning is a clean slate.

Be courageous.  Sing out loud.  Dance to the music.  Children are not confined by fear of failure or shame.  They embrace life.

Laugh every day.  Children see silliness everywhere.  Look for the humor in your everyday life.

Be active.  Get up and move.   Go outside. Find something to do.  Contact a friend. Children rarely sit in a rocking chair staring into space, thinking about the past.

Scars are badges of honor.  Scars are sources of pride to children, not signs of weakness.  Be proud of your scars.  Tell the story.   Make yourself the hero.  Pass on the wisdom.

Try new things.   Children do not fear the unknown.  They will try a new game, dive into a pool or jump on a trampoline.  Be adventurous.  Get out of your comfort zone.  Step into the unknown.

Notice the little things.  Children can be fascinated by the smallest of things – ants crossing a sidewalk, the tiny feet of birds, the wings of a bumblebee.  The things we take for granted bring them great joy.  Take notice of all the small miracles around you, and see how much more beautiful your life will be.

Becoming more childlike is one of the wisest things we can do as we age.

Family

The one thing I always wanted was family.  I loved the thought of having many cousins, aunts and uncles.  I always wanted a sister.  I thrived on large family gatherings.

Having said all that, family is the one thing I was never blessed with.  I don’t relate to either of my brothers.  One just doesn’t respond in any way.  The other was in the prison system most of his adult life and died early.

My mother died at age fifty and none of her family has spoken to us since then.  My dad’s family has never related to us in all these years.  I have cousins I have never met, seen or talked to.

Because Gramps is a genealogist, I know more about my distant relatives than I do about relatives my own age.  It broke my heart as a child.  Wanting what I couldn’t have and having no way to fix it.  I had no power to get the family I wanted, when I was young.

When I got married and had children, I thought now I had the family I was looking for.  I had a devoted husband and two children.

Except now our son is not speaking to us.  Our daughter and her family live nearby but we only see them about once a month.  But lucky me, I have our niece who has become our daughter and her five children, who have become our grandchildren.  We see them a couple times a year and those times are so special.

Still there are no large family gatherings.  No extended family to relate to.

So I have devised my own way to have a family.  I have friends that care about me the way a relation would.  Some of these friends have been in my life for many years and some are recent acquaintances.  But all of them fill a hole in my heart and my life.

My friends share my love of sewing and quilting.  We love to sit together with fabric, needle and thread in our hands, sharing our thoughts about everything.  We care for each other in good times and difficult times.

My friends call me.  They check-up on me.  They ask me if I’m okay.  I do the same for them.

My friends invite me for dinner and holidays.  We have lunch together.  We share potlucks and buffets.

My friends share my good news and are happy for me.  They hold my hand and cry with me if the news is bad.  My friends do not abandon me – ever.

My friends are my family.   My lifetime wish has been fulfilled.  I have many sisters now.  I have gatherings large and small.  I have the equivalent of dozens of cousins.

The one thing I always wanted, I now have to my heart’s content.  I couldn’t be happier.

A Good Movie Plot

My mother was born in a hospital in a small town in South Dakota. She was the youngest of all girls.

My dad was born in the same hospital four days later. He was the youngest of all boys.

My two grandmothers met each other in the hospital, of course and joked about how they should trade babies so they would have a different sex child in the family. That did not happen!

But the two children grew up knowing each other from day one. My mother recalled, in kindergarten, that my father brought cupcakes in for his birthday four days after she had brought cupcakes in for her birthday. She wasn’t impressed at the time.

I’d say she wasn’t much impressed with my dad for most of the years they were in school. He was pretty wild for his time and she was very shy.

In high school, they dated some. My dad was a cheerleader. I still have a hard time imagining that but it was an activity with some status. He was part of the group of kids that went to mom’s house often.

I think he began to fall in love with her in those years. She was very cute and lots of fun.

During WWII, they both joined the military. My dad went into the CB’s and mother became a Marine. I don’t think they saw each much during those years but they exchanged letters a lot.

It was always expected that mother would marry another boy from home. But somewhere in there Daddy proposed to her. I believe they were both on leave at the time.

Mother said she was on a train coming home, having to decide which man to marry, when a vision of her deceased mother appeared to her. The vision told her it was alright to marry my dad.

Mother always said she knew in her heart that was the right choice for her and had no second thoughts from that moment on.

They were married in the small town in South Dakota with both families in attendance. Myself and my two brothers arrived not long after. A family was born.

I’ve always thought that my parents’ story would make the best plot for a movie. I’m thinking Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed would play my parents. In fact they even look a bit like my folks. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful tribute?

How I Learned To Forgive

When my son Ken got married, we were all very excited.  It seemed, at the time, like a perfect match.  As time progressed, we learned more about Amy and saw more of her true character.

She turned out to be a very hurtful person and we saw odd changes in our son.  Amy was also physically abusive to Ken and he showed many signs of an abused spouse.  He started to become less than his best self.

When the breakup finally came, our son was a broken man and Amy was blaming me for everything.  Ken cried harder than I had ever seen a grown man cry.

He grieved so hard for all his losses, including the two stepsons he had come to love so dearly.  He became almost non-functional for a time.

To say I came to hate Amy would be an understatement.  Truly I had never had such feelings for any human being in my life.  She had damaged my loving son, intentionally with no regrets.   I couldn’t believe my negative feelings towards her.

I was going to hurt her with my negative thoughts. Get revenge with my hateful mind. Maybe damage her the way she had damaged my sweet son.

But the person I was hurting the most was me.  I couldn’t sleep.  I had headaches.   My blood pressure was up and I thought about Amy all day.  My life was now being taken by her and I was allowing it to happen.

I had to learn to forgive Amy or become a cripple.   First step was wishing her no harm. That came with a lot of prayer and the counsel of others.  After months of work, I could honestly say I wished her no harm and did not fantasize about her death any longer.  (Yes, I had real issues with her!).

Next step was being able to wish her well.  That also was very hard.  I had to keep visualizing her two boys and wanting the best mother for them.  To do that, I had to think of her being her best self.

I don’t know that any of this has changed Amy but I am now able to sleep, have no more headaches and my blood pressure has returned to normal.  I don’t think about her anymore, except very rarely.  And when I do, I wish her all the best.

I am certainly the better for it.

Childhood Christmases

When I was a child, Christmases were a lot less commercialized and a lot more innocent. Gifts were often homemade and so were ornaments and decorations. More children believed in Santa Claus and wrote letters to him.

It was just a more innocent time. There was no TV or very little TV for most of my childhood. So we weren’t overloaded with all the Christmas stories and animated movies that we have now. We had to make our own entertainment.

The season started in about September when Mother began baking cookies and breads and making candy. She gave some to everybody she knew in little Christmas tins she collected all year. Everybody looked forward to their little tin of goodies every year. Some people returned the tins to get them refilled the next year.

Then the decorating started. Every room had its own theme. It took days to get the whole house done, but did it look spectacular. My Mother had some decorating favorites in those days. Lots of candles and lots of angel hair.

I remember the year the angel hair on the dining room buffet caught fire. My Mother was always in charge of noticing problems and sending out the alarm. My Dad was in charge of fixing said problems. And so it was with the fire. Mother saw the fire on the buffet and began screaming. Daddy, knowing his job, immediately jumped up and threw his drink on the fire. It worked and the fire was instantly out. To which my Mother responded, “Well, that’s going to leave a stain!”. Ah yes. That was a good year.

But most years were not so “firy”. Usually we just decorated and put up our tree like normal folk. Well, maybe not so normal. We never had a green Christmas tree my whole life. In those days, tinsel trees were very popular, so that’s what we had. A tall sparkly heartwarming silver Christmas tree. Every year. My entire childhood.

Oh it looked great when it was decorated. It really did! And we all decorated it – the whole family. Then we had our Christmas tree picnic.

We would turn all the lights off except the tree lights. Put a picnic blanket down by the tree, where we would all sit. Then we would eat cookies, drink cocoa, talk and sing Christmas carols. It was wonderful fun and sometimes would last for hours. It’s a tradition I carried on with my family too.

No one ever peeked at their presents before hand in our family. I’m not sure why. I guess it would have spoiled the fun of Christmas morning.

Mother would carefully wrap each present. She was gifted at that. She could tie beautiful bows and the tape didn’t even show. Her presents were works of art. I hated to unwrap mine because they were so beautiful.

We opened gifts on Christmas morning – at o’dark thirty actually, when my brother woke up. He was a real early bird.

Mother had coffee and OJ ready for us. We usually all got new pajamas to wear for the pictures. First the stockings were emptied. There was always candy and an orange in the toe.

I never understood the orange, until I was an adult. My parents lived through the Depression when fresh fruit was so hard to come by. To have an orange all to yourself then was a real treat and my Mother was just passing that on to us.

Then we got to open gifts one at a time, so everyone could enjoy each one. Sometimes one child was designated as “Santa Claus” and would hand out each present from under the tree

Most years we had more than we knew what to do with but I remember one year when I was pretty young. Christmas was little sparse. But a week later my parents told us that Santa Claus had brought some gifts that he had “forgotten” the previous week. We were beside ourselves with excitement. And were we ever popular in school that year. Santa Claus had come to our house TWICE!

I was grown before I figured out that my parents had to wait for the after Christmas sales to get us Christmas gifts. How hard that must have been. But they made it so wonderful for us.

My parents always did that. They made every holiday special. They ept a positive attitude when it wasn’t easy to do and protected the children from adult concerns. Even though they must have had many Christmases when they were uncertain how they would manage, I never felt fear or worry.

My childhood Christmas memories are filled with fun, laughter, good food, family, bright colors, a silver tree, and an occasional fire (but no one was hurt!). I hope my children can say the same.

My Neighborhood

Gramps and I moved to this neighborhood almost eight years ago.  We loved it from the start.  It was exactly what we were looking for.

First of all, it had sidewalks.  We had gone without sidewalks for about twenty-five years and that was the most important thing in our move.

Sidewalks make neighborhoods friendlier and closer.  They connect all the houses and make them safer.  The people in neighborhoods with sidewalks know each other and spend more time talking to each other.   It’s a proven fact.

Our neighborhood has great sidewalks.  Gramps and I walk them every evening and run into numerous neighbors and their dogs while we are out.  We stop and chat with them each time because we know our neighbors – all of them.

Our little village here is very safe because we all check up on each other.  We know when someone is gone on a trip or when someone is sick.  We know when a strange car enters the neighborhood or when someone has visitors.

We feel very comforted and cared for right now in these hard times.  Our younger neighbors have checked in on us and made sure we have everything we need.  Gramps and I know for certain we could go to anyone for assistance and get it with no questions asked.

Gramps and I are the unofficial grandparents of the neighborhood and used to be almost the only ones home all day.  But now during this health crisis, a great majority of the folks are home.  Our village now looks like Saturday, every day.

Everyone is out doing lawn work, washing cars and odd jobs around the house.  We are still visiting with each other and the dogs are still running up to greet us.

All the neat lawns and well-kept homes attracted us to this neighborhood.  We could tell that everyone was proud to live here and worked hard to keep their homes looking nice. Such a good neighborhood without an HOA!

Gramps and I love the diversity of our sweet neighborhood.  There are elderly, young families, children, teens, singles, people of color and lots of pets.  I think we would be bored if we were living in an all-seniors environment at this stage of our lives.

Now that we have found the neighborhood that is so perfect for us, we plan to never move again.  This is our last home.  We will stay here and be part of the best neighborhood for the next person who moves here.

Daddy

My father was somewhat of a wild child in his youth.  No one thought he would grow up to be the serious, successful man he became.  He had a wonderful sense of humor and didn’t always obey the rules.

He and my mother grew up together in the same small town, so they always knew each other.  I think they fell in love at a young age.  Maybe it was because my father was so much fun to be around.  I know he adored my mother until his dying day.

While trying to enlist in the service during WWII, he discovered he was color blind. Consequently, he joined the CB’s (Construction Battalion) and spent the war building bridges and other structures for the Navy.

He learned a lot about construction during his tour, which served him well the rest of his life.  Psychologically he never adjusted to military life.  That old thing about not obeying rules, especially if they didn’t make sense, really got in his way.  He always had a bit of a rebel in him.

After the war he married, went to college and had three children. Those were lean years, but fun according to him.  He always had a funny story to tell about any period of his life.

And living in a mobile home with a family while working and going to school on the GI Bill must have been hysterically funny, because his memories of that time were amazing.  I think my mother remembered having three babies in three years in a small mobile home a little differently!

Daddy was always the epitome of what a father should be. He was smart.  He was witty. He was honest.  He was fair to a fault.  He loved me completely.   He could fix anything. He was a gentleman.

He made mundane things fun.  His sense humor was legendary.  He could make the grumpiest people laugh.  It was magical to watch him.

And he had a way with kids.   Strange children would just slowly come up to him and climb onto his lap.  No words were said.  The children would just snuggle into my dad’s embrace as if they knew him their whole life.  Even he was mystified as to why it happened.

I have such wonderful memories of my father helping me with school work, questioning young boyfriends, driving us all on vacations, trying to punish the three of us children while hiding his smile, teaching our dog tricks, making Halloween costumes and teaching me to drive.

My dad taught me many things but mostly how to treat other people well.  Respect your elders.  Help the needy.  Say please and thank you.  Treat everyone with kindness.  He seldom got angry and was more often forgiving.

I did see him get really frustrated with the recurring plumbing problems in one house we rented and he threw a mop down the stairs.  That was as angry as I ever saw him and really pretty funny now as I remember it.

He wasn’t a perfect man but he was so perfect for me.  He died with dignity and grace after a long full life.  He left behind a wonderful legacy, to the following generations, of a great human being.

He was my Daddy my whole life.