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.
The invitation said “casual” dress. So Gramps and I took them at their word and arrived in jeans and T-shirts. The only other couple we knew, besides the hosts, were also dressed as we were.
Everyone else had on slacks, blouses and button-down shirts. We four looked like the country bumpkins of the group.
How did they know what “casual” meant? How did we not?
At first, I was just embarrassed. I felt I had somehow let our hosts down, that I had embarrassed them in some way.
Then the four of us began to be treated as if we were inferior to everyone. As if we did not understand what they were talking about. As if we were confused children.
Even our hosts were rude to us and shamed us in front of the others. If it hadn’t hurt so much, I probably would have found it interesting what a difference our clothes made in that social situation.
Because we were underdressed, we weren’t allowed to fit in the group. We were laughed at, ignored and talked down to – because of our attire!
By then, I was angry and wanted to leave. But the other three of our little foursome didn’t want to give up so easily. So we four formed our own small party.
We partook of the food, the drinks, the lovely home and our own companionship. We found our own little spot and had a great conversation all to ourselves.
I have no idea what the rest of those people did or talked about.
But when Gramps and I left, we could honestly tell the hostess, “We had a great time!”
I think about the things I would try to save if there were a fire in my house. Those objects that are precious, have memories attached to them and can’t be replaced. Those possessions that can give you a hug and a good feeling just by being there, being seen and being touched.
I have several of these irreplaceable items Some are out to be seen. Some are safely tucked away. And some are used daily.
My quilts are very important to me, but one is especially precious. It’s hanging on the wall in our guest bedroom. It’s so valuable to me because it is made from linens stitched by my grandmother and mother. There are tablecloths, towels, napkins, dresser scarves and doilies in the quilt. Then it is bordered in colorful handkerchiefs.
I can just feel those women around me when I am in the presence of that quilt. It’s like a great big hug. It speaks to me through its stitches and linens. I would definitely grab it first, if there was a fire or a flood.
My great-grandmother’s bedroom set is in our bedroom. Gramps and I have used it since we were married. My grandmother was born in that bed. It is made of cherry wood and is very ornate – very Victorian. It has a tall headboard and footboard.
I can’t even tell you how cuddled and comforted I feel in Gram’s big bed. I can just imagine the generations of women dusting those wooden boards and changing the linens and fluffing the pillows. It’s an honor to keep up the tradition of loving my bed. My dilemma? I’m not sure I could carry it out in a disaster.
Now my mother’s silver tea set is very portable in case of a calamity. It’s tucked away in a cupboard because we never use it anymore. That’s not to say I don’t get it out and pet it periodically. My mother had it sitting on the buffet, always polished and always shiny. It reminds me of her in many ways. She too was always polished and shiny.
I have some of my Daddy’s tools, which also are not very useful but are a treasure to me. He was a carpenter in the CB’s during WW II and was a general all-around fix-it kind of guy. To have those tools that were used and touched by him so many times is a gift for me. When I see them, I can almost hear him working and banging away on some project. Thinking of it now almost brings tears to my eyes.
Then there’s the diamond ring that Gramps gave me many years ago as a birthday present. I wear it all the time. It’s a daily reminder of his love and devotion to me. Coincidentally, the large diamond in the center is surrounded by six smaller diamonds, exactly the number of grandchildren we have.
The whole ring is a little remembrance of my entire family – all three generations. I don’t go anywhere without it.
So obviously, all these possessions could not be gotten out of the house very rapidly. But they could in a slow evacuation. And you know what? It doesn’t matter if I have any of these items really.
Because I carry all the people and memories in my heart, where they are safe from every disaster and can never be lost.
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.
Paula has been my best friend since we were in sixth grade. We are now seventy-two years old, so that’s . . . sixty years! Hard to believe but true.
We lived close to each other and would often “meet in the middle,” which was halfway between our houses. Sleepovers were common in those days, as they are today.
We clicked right away and did most everything together. I remember when we taught ourselves sign language and would sit silently in the back seat of her family car, happily signing back and forth.
There was a time in high school when we made clothes alike, so we could dress like twins. I think we both secretly wished we were real sisters all those years. Point of fact: we look nothing alike. How we thought we would pass for twins is beyond me.
For several summers during high school, we went on vacation together with her family. Those are some of the greatest memories I have. Especially the night we stayed outdoors on cots so we could see the deer come up to the cabin. We planned to stay awake all night in shifts. Well, the next thing I remember is us waking up in the morning and seeing the deer tracks where they had come up to investigate us while we slept.
Or the time we planned to row across the lake in a very small boat. That lasted about half an hour and it seemed we were getting nowhere. So we turned around and came back. Best laid plans!
We shared most everything in those days – ideas, activities, goals, worries, laughs and dreams. Where one went, the other was not far behind.
College found us going in separate directions – different career paths, different jobs, different friends.
After college, we stayed in touch by phone and letters. We were in different states by then. We both got married and had two children each. We visited each other a couple times during those years.
Then one day Paula called – she was getting divorced. How could we help? “Come get me,” she said. We helped her move and she stayed with us for nine months.
It was just like before. We laughed. We cried. We shared everything. Paula and Gramps became gardening buddies. Gramps would enter the house after work and announce, “Hi Honeys, I’m home!”
Paula has since moved out, remarried and bought a new home. But we remain close. She is my best friend forever.
We share a love of quilting and belong to the same Quilt Guild. We keep in touch with phone calls, lunches, birthday and holiday dinners and sleepovers.
The best part of our relationship is the shared history. We don’t have to say a word. Sometimes a look will get us laughing and only we know why. Everytime we get back together after a time apart, we just pick right up where we left off. No awkwardness. No reintroduction necessary. We really know each other.
The two of us have been to many of our high school reunions over the years. They have all been fun but the best part has been sharing them with Paula. Remembering those years together has been most special.
In fact, Paula and I are going on a cruise this year for our high school fifty-fifth reunion. We will be roommates for ten days to Alaska. Can’t think of anyone I’d rather go with. (Except Gramps. But he didn’t go to my high school)
We are going to have so much fun. Share such a wonderful trip. And make more memories together.
I’m a real homebody, a nester, so my home is especially important to me. I love everything about it. From the front door to the back door to the garage to the yard, it’s my special haven.
We bought the house in foreclosure, which meant it required an immense amount of work. Every surface needed some sort of work, replacement or refinishing. The labor nearly broke us physically and emotionally.
It was much better when we decided to hire out the jobs. And the nice part was we got to make the house ours. We added our own touch to every corner of every room.
Now the house is a real home – it’s ours. Gramps and mine. The original black front door (really? black?!) is now a welcoming cream with a seasonal wreath hanging on it. Come on in!
The front foyer greets everyone with horizontal blue and white stripes with blue and white plates scattered all around. The large chandelier is named Elizabeth.
I know that’s strange but grandson Mac and I where very into naming things when he was younger. Several things in my house have names. Don’t judge!
The rest of the house is also very blue. Blue is my favorite color. I can’t get enough of it – in all shades and hues.
We have a dining room because we had to have one. I love having meals with loved ones all around me at the table. Most of my memories involve meals, so this is important to me. And, of course, all the blue and white dishes. Enough said.
The family room is, steady now, blue with a fireplace. It’s very cozy and has two blue recliners for Gramps and me. We are like a pair of bookends on either side of the table with the lamp. Gramps does a lot of reading in his chair and I do a lot of sewing in mine.
We are surrounded by several collections of family antiques. They mean a lot to us and give us comfort.
The kitchen is white with a blue backsplash. It’s very country in style. I have a large cast iron sink and an island with a marble top. The old chopping block from Aunt Gladys is there too.
The kitchen eating area is surrounded in beadboard paneling with, you guessed it, blue walls. It’s a lovely sunny corner with windows on two sides.
The master bedroom is, careful now, yellow with blue accents. Our bed is over one hundred years old. My grandmother was born in that bed. The room has many antiques, which I love.
There’s a guest room and an office. The guest room holds many of my quilts. The office is mostly Gramps’ space.
Then there’s my sewing room. The HQ of all fabric-related jobs. It is my favorite room. Lots of lighting. Lots of storage. Lots of fabric.
One whole wall has shelves of fabric. And yet that is never enough. Somehow every project I start requires some fabric that I do not have. I hate when I have to go to a fabric store. NOT!
There’s a wonderful cutting table in the middle with an ironing surface. My sewing machine sits in the corner facing out so I can see everything. Sewing projects are stacked everywhere.
On the outside, Gramps has singlehandedly made our yard a green haven. He has added grass, trees, bushes and walkways. There is now a wonderful patio and a colorful yard beyond in the back.
The front has a welcoming walkway with lights, trees and shrubs. Our sunset walk always starts with an inspection of the front yard grass for weeds and other stray growing things.
I love my little bungalow of a house. It is my shelter, my haven. It is sweet and welcomes me home every time.
It has become like an old friend. Always there. Always comfortable. Always reliable.
It’s getting dark out now. I need to go turn on the front lights. Yes, even Elizabeth!
My Mother always had good advice for me and for others. She would gladly provide advice to anyone who asked for it or pretty much anyone she thought needed it.
She began early in my life with safety recommendations and some common sense things that would work for the rest of my life. Easy things like “One banana is good for you, two bananas are not” or “Never waste food” or “Look both ways before crossing the street”.
Later she got to more important issues involving sex, personal safety, drinking, things like that. She always told me to keep my clothes on and buttoned closed. I was to always keep a quarter in my shoe to call home if I ever needed help.
I was never to go out with any boy who never came to the door to get me for a date. I was not to respond to a honk from a car at the curb. The boy must come in and talk with my parents. In fact, if it was a first date, the boy was required to drive my mother around the block in his car to show he could drive well before he could take me out. And they all did it!
My mother said never trust a boy that did not bring you home on time and did not take you where he said he was going to take you. But point of fact – Gramps brought me home (back to the dorm) four minutes late on our first date in college. That was significant back then. I had to come in four hours earlier the next night as punishment. And look where we are now!
Mom was the greatest decorator and was not afraid to use color or paint anywhere. She said you could have five colors and three patterns in a room. And believe me we did! And it all looked great!
I remember she loved pink, so it was very predominant in our house. Daddy never said a word. Of course, he was color blind.
We had the only pink refrigerator I’ve ever seen. And the cabinets were pink, blue and green, all around the kitchen. You certainly couldn’t nap in her kitchen.
Yes, Mom was fearless with color. She would say, “It’s only paint!”
And she sewed everything we used practically. From clothes to table linens to curtains to slipcovers to pillows. She make almost everything I wore. One year, for some reason, there were numerous school parties and I got a new outfit for each one. When I commented that this seemed too much, she said, “If you have fun in it one time, it’s worth the effort.” How sweet was that to say to a sixth grader!
And that held true for babies also. One good day in an outfit was worth the making of it.
She had good advice for a newly married daughter. Never stop talking to each other, she said to me. And I have found that helpful for fifty-one years.
Mom had lots of good words for us and would often refer to the old standards. But somehow she would get one or two words wrong and yet still get the meaning across. Such as, “A stitch in time saves ten”. It was hilarious and she never knew why we were all laughing.
Mom was a caution and her words of wisdom, correct or a bit revised, helped raise me. They even saved me several times.
I imagine she is still organizing and advising in her corner of Heaven.
Gramps and I went to see the movie “Emma” today. Despite the fact that it is pretty much a chick-flick and he had a tough time keeping up with all the characters, he was very concerned that everyone would end up with the right partners. Good man, Gramps!
The movie is an adaptation of a Jane Austen novel. That alone would be reason enough for me to see it. But the costumes and the sets were astounding! Even the hairdos were captivating! Needless to say, I loved the movie.
Besides reveling in the look of the move, I enjoyed what Jane Austen had to say. She always has plenty to say about love and “Emma” was no exception.
Here is what I learned in two hours of period drama:
Lesson #1-Never interfere in others’ love choices. People fall in love for a lot of reasons, most of which we are unaware. Maybe even they are unaware of them.
Interfering in, or worse, judging, someone else’s choice of love can lead to unbelievable heartache. It hurts both parties and you. It can damage a relationship forever and can break a trust for a lifetime.
It can be so hurtful that the friendship can never be repaired.
Best to be a good friend and supporter. Be happy for their choices and rejoice in their joy.
Lesson #2-Never judge people by their wealth alone. The amount of income a person has can be the least important thing about them. Of much more importance is their character, their morals, their ethics, their spirit, and their humor.
The income or wealth of a person may be temporary. It may be the result of something beyond the person’s control, such as a health crisis. It is beyond our knowledge to know and so should be beyond our ability to judge.
Lesson #3-Love words should be spoken often. Too often we think our loved one understands what we are thinking and feeling. Even if they do, they need to hear the spoken words of love.
More often there is miscommunication through looks and gestures that are unclear. False conclusions are assumed and actions are taken based on false premises. The ending couldn’t be farther from the intention.
We all must speak what is in our hearts every day. Feelings of love, gratitude, pleasure and need should be expressed often to that special loved one.
Very often, they too are simply waiting for the opening to speak those very words back to you. They are bursting to tell you exactly what you have been dying to hear from them – love words.
Don’t miss any occasion or opportunity. Don’t let a precious moment go by when those caring words can be shared. You’ll never regret saying them. But you will regret locking them in your heart and keeping your silence.
That will haunt you to your dying day. Jane Austen gave good advice through the language of her novels.
Listen and learn
We all have a favorite day of the week. A day we look forward to and wish it would last longer than it does.
Maybe it’s Monday, the beginning of the week. The best day to start a diet, a project, a job or a resolution. A day for fresh starts is always a good day.
Or maybe your favorite is Tuesday – a good day for bargains and senior prices. It’s the best day for shopping and for going to the movies.
Perhaps Wednesday? Hump Day, “middle of the week” day? You feel you’ve almost made it through the week. Most of your work is done and you are on the other side of the mountain.
Could it be Thursday you can’t wait for? I can’t think of a good reason to love this day but there must be one. Maybe it’s your day off or maybe it’s the day you get your house cleaned. Whatever, you are allowed to adore Thursday.
Now Friday is a great day! End of the week, last workday. We celebrate the day with lots of fun in the evening – parties, dinners, movies, entertaining. We all love our Fridays.
But Saturday is the best of all to me. Now that I’m retired, every day is like Saturday (Except Sunday, of course).
My favorite day is relaxed and carefree with no deadlines. I’m free to do what I want. I can sleep late, if I want or wake early to get a good start on a project. I can eat whatever I want, whenever I want.
My everyday Saturday is open to any whim or wish. I can visit a friend, go to lunch with the girls or stay home with Gramps. I can attend a sewing group, read all day or even sleep my afternoon away, if I wish.
The non-Saturdays are Sundays, which are days set aside for church, choir, bell choir practice and car races on TV. Sometimes family come over but they are required to watch car races on TV also.
So again my favorite day is Saturday, which is everyday, except Sunday (which is my second favorite day!). I look forward to every day, wish it would last longer than twenty-four hours and can’t pack enough into it.
My only problem? Today is Sunday!