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It snowed. And the snow stayed on the branches and grass, on the deck rail and roofs of bird feeding stations. All afternoon, soft lovely flakes drifted down and made of our little corner of the world a quiet and peaceful place. Josie and I went for a walk and then I brought a wheelbarrow of wood from the wood pile to the patio while she sniffed for small furry critters that live in the relative shelter of a wood pile under a tarp, under a tall fir and against a fence. Altogether a successful first day of the year.
As I rolled over to press the ON button for NPR Morning Edition it hit me again; school is in session but I am home snugged into a warm bed with the whole day ahead of me. Ooooh this is so cool! Once more sitting here at my desk drinking morning coffee I watch as the buses pass outside my window. Another first - a new year has started and I am free from daily labor to earn my keep. I worked hard to make it and those years of toil and trouble now provide me welcome comfort, peace and joy.
Dad and I spent three hours in his ‘forest’ cutting wood for me to bring home to stoke my woodstove. I thought I would just do it on my own while he focused on his stocks. Nothing doing. He was out with me and taught me a lot about electric chainsaws and cutting firewood! First, my extension cord was not adequate. We used his. Then the chain was loose, I lost the nuts, he lost his keys, he found his keys, we found my nuts put the saw back together, attached it to the chord with electricians tape and voila!
Dad taught me to notch a plank at 16” intervals and use it to mark the timbers for even sized logs. Mostly, it was incredible being out in the cold day with him, working together to transform fallen trees into a usable commodity; and to be a team. To understand one another’s body movements so clearly that no one would be hurt, the work would be shared, the figuring out how to get it done collaborative. I think each of his four children provide an outlet for his wellbeing. Mine is to depend upon, appreciate and reinforce his competence.
Diana came with me to reclaim Molly’s bicycle from a previous friend. We had no problem. On the way home I dropped it off at Molly’s new residence. Now twenty-two she is determined to work on a degree and is enrolled for GUR’s at Portland Community College.
What fun to have a young, yet fully functioning family member to care for! I have time, and oh goodness, I have a lovely truck to get and deliver things. As I stood in her room, I announced “you must have a desk!” “Yes,” she agreed, ”or a table!”
A classmate passed away. I know about it because of this technology - the one that allows you to read what I write and post here. How many years ago (?) Mike Thoney, one of my 1967 Pullman High School classmates, created a GoogleGroup for all of us who wanted to be part of this specific communication network. I joined it even though, just as I wondered in high school, I wasn’t sure I belonged or fit in. Maturity has brought us closer together. It has helped us lower our long-held (and now totally unnecessary) defenses and communicate openly. Wow.
How amazing this circle of life, the tie that binds, the thread that weaves together the story of our lives. In her passing new understanding comes out about who we were, and who we have become. It is truly inspiring and I thank all who have shared thoughts, insights and revelations.
Today as I wrapped and boxed Christmas ornaments and decorations my husband and I have accumulated over the years, I murmured a small blessing; “God Willing, I will see you again ‘next’ year.” And so I send to all of you the same wish, that we meet again soon.
“Ten cents doesn’t sound like much, but it got me into cowboy movie matinees at the Unique. For fifteen cents I could go to the REX which was a nicer theatre. See the Unique was just a few blocks from where the Bums got off the freight trains at Union Station. If they had a dime they went over to the Unique to get warm and sleep. It was a nasty smelling place; they hadn’t bathed, their clothes stank and they chewed and spat awful foul tobacco. But for a dime I could watch the latest cowboy movie!”
I grew up watching Saturday morning westerns in the 1950’s: The Lone Ranger, Hopalong Cassidy, Rin Tin Tin, Spin & Marty, Roy Rogers, The Cisco Kid, Sky King, and My Friend Flicka. The list is deep and dear to my heart. And in the evenings my family enjoyed watching Westerns. Sometimes on Friday or Saturday we’d have popcorn smothered in warm butter and sprinkled with salt as we watched the likes of: Sugarfoot, Maverick, Death Valley Days (with the original Old Ranger - before Ronald Reagan!) Zane Grey, Gunsmoke, The Rebel, Have Gun - Will Travel, Zorro, Tombstone Territory, and Rawhide.
Tombstone Territory came on after my bedtime but one night the theme song floated into my room; “Whistle me up a memory, Whistle me back where I want to be, Whistle a tune that will carry me...” I crept down the hall to watch from its dark retreat. Then Dad saw me and asked what I was doing up. I said I couldn’t sleep. Really I just wanted to watch the show. Dad had me come sit beside him in his big comfy stuffed rocking chair where I soon drifted off, satisfied yet unable to keep my eyelids open!
I crept down the hall to watch from its dark retreat. Then Dad saw me.
“What are you doing up? Aren’t you supposed to be in bed?” He queried in a firm but gentle tone.
“I heard the music and I couldn’t sleep.” I fibbed - really I just wanted to watch the show.
“Well come over here and sit beside me,” Dad motioned as he scooted to one side of his generous, comfy stuffed rocking chair.
“OK,” I murmured while I tucked in beside him. Soon I drifted off, satisfied, warm and unable to keep my eyelids open!
I recognized the sensation immediately, though it had been decades since I’d felt it so strongly. Centered deep and low inside, the ache surged upward, grabbed at my heart, and caught in my throat. Though my sisters saw me they had no inkling of what I was feeling. But I knew what was happening. Excusing myself, I walked down the short path into the guest house, leaving Diana and Lori sitting together chatting in the mild morning sun. I left the French doors ajar and slumped into the love seat beside the shaded windows beyond which my sisters confided.
I couldn’t remember ever having this level of anxiety with my sisters before, though I had felt it often with Mom and older sister Diana. As I reflected I recalled being on a shopping trip with Mom and Diana. They were talking and laughing as we three ambled along the sidewalk, and I remembered how they brought their heads together to whisper some confidence then broke off with a conspiratorial giggle. I asked, “What?” and they smiled at me dismissively, shook their heads and waved me off. Aware that I was being excluded, a flush of confusion overcame me.
As Mom and Diana continued to chat and window shop, I trudged along pretending it didn’t matter. But a cold sadness in my gut rushed through my body and emerged as hot tears in a clenched throat. I lowered my head and walked ever more slowly until I lagged just far enough behind to appear to be in my own little world. It was a coping mechanism I perfected over the years; self isolation in plain sight.
But what had just happened here, now, fifty plus years later? What the hell had triggered this rush of fear-laced anxiety?
Perhaps it was how Lori and Diana were sitting with their heads bent towards one another when I came out to join them for morning coffee. It seemed their conversation shifted as I approached; a sentence dropped into air without an ending, a slight change in voice tone, an eyebrow askance. If they had been talking about me it would not be malicious. And, perhaps it was just my overactive amygdala. Regardless, withdrawing was not a solution. It was up to me to shake off the fear and walk back out into the sunlight to be present with my sisters.
The residue of my panic attack jangled within me all day though I didn’t mention it to my sisters. Instead I paid close attention to my own behavior; the words I used, my tone of voice, expressions, and gestures. I especially noticed when Diana interrupted me. Often I would begin to speak, wanting to contribute to the thread of conversation but my words would be rubbed into obscurity before I could finish. Why was it so easy for her to discount my thoughts? Was she even aware of it? Suddenly it struck me, I am expected to be passive.
Because I was a child it had been acceptable to dismiss me out of hand back then. I simply withdrew into myself. The residue of this pattern remained with Diana, but I no longer played by those rules. I had shed the skin of passivity and consciously struggled to change my behavior from passive-aggressive and defensive to being thoughtful and assertive. Still, today I knew it would be healthier for me to defer; listen, laugh, add tidbits or stay quiet. In this way I would remain engaged while I also restored my emotional energy and regained my spiritual balance.
The next morning as we three sisters sipped our coffee on the patio I wanted Lori to know that as far as I was concerned, she and Scott need feel no obligation to take us out to dinner tonight; an idea that had been floated the evening before. While our discussion of various options for the day offered small openings for me to voice my thought, every time I started to speak I was talked over. Finally I spoke up - kindly and assertively: “I have been trying to get a word in edgewise; please give me the courtesy of listening.”
For a moment there was tense silence. “Lori,” I began, “I just want you to know that our visit here does not require a night out on the town to be successful. It has been a wonderful time together, and speaking for myself I would be just as happy, perhaps even more, to have a simple meal here at your lovely home rather than go out somewhere. And we will need to get up early to get to the airport early. I’d love our last night to be right here.” Though out of sequence at least I had spoken.
Did I upset the applecart? Perhaps. It had taken a lot of courage for me to interrupt and make sure I was heard, but afterward I felt relieved. Though taken aback at first, Diana seemed to understand that she sometimes can be overbearing. Lori too sensed the need to make space for my soft but thoughtful voice. Over breakfast the tension eased, and the ebb and flow of our relationship rebalanced as we wove together a series of decisions for the day’s activities.
Since then our sister relationship has grown ever stronger. Our emotional bonds are deep and secure.
Did I upset the applecart? Yes. Would we be able to establish a healthier relationship in the shifted dynamic I had precipitated? Probably. We had done so before. I could tell it stung Diana when I confronted her. I’m quite sure others who love her have helped Diana recognize when she is overbearing. Having fulfilled this difficult but necessary task I began to feel a sense of relief. Since that day my relationship with both sisters remains close and strong. And if Diana and I ever slip back into that old pattern, I will confront it in a heartbeat.
Recycle or repurpose? First it was a piece of olive green and brown plaid lightweight wool fabric. Mother made it into a pleated skirt that Diana wore in the late 1950’s. When her girls were in high school (late 1980‘s) they wore it for ‘dress up’ days. I found it in a box of fabric Diana lent me so I could add onto a wool quilt Grandma and Lori had made for me in the late 1960’s, using leftover and preused fabric.
After removing the seams it returns to being fabric; worn, loved, and chosen once again.
Regarding ‘makers vs takers’: the verb 'take' has 33 possible uses in Webster’s on-line thesaurus. Those who use the term disparagingly label 'takers' as ‘thieves; someone who takes something that belongs to me...’ (antonym - 'give back, restore’).
The verb 'make' has 14 uses. The first meaning is ‘construct’ (antonym - 'destroy'). It is the sixth meaning of ‘make’ that applies here; ‘to make a lot of money...’ (antonym - 'to lose'). I believe the true 'takers' are the 'makers' of a lot of money who want to keep it for themselves. They consider ‘giving’ to be the same as ‘losing’.
Maybe we redefine ‘takers vs makers’? How about uses 10-12 where the verb ‘take’ means ‘accept, undertake’ (antonym - refuse), ‘choose, select’ (antonym - refuse) and ‘consider, examine, study’ (antonym - ignore, ignorance).
I am the daughter of a ‘maker’ in the first meaning of the word; a man who constructed, built, assembled, put together, manufactured, produced, fabricated, created, and fashioned a life for his wife and children out of the depression and the grizzly rubble of WWII. This is a ‘maker’ I respect.
Dad ‘accepted’ his responsibility, he ‘examined’ the world as it was, ‘considered’ the possibilities, and ‘studied’ future consequences.
In my thesis I define ‘makers’ as: selfish rakers in of gross (as in shameless) amounts of money, ‘keepers’ of wealth as though they had actually ‘earned’ (as in merited) it, ‘takers’ of every advantage available in tax law to maximize personal wealth, as though it was their ‘due’ (as in deserve). These ‘makers’ do not construct, they demolish. In the wake of their self-centered lifestyle, middle class Americans are flattened, torn down, bulldozed, destroyed. And smugly these false ‘makers’ call the true ‘makers’ (as in builders) ‘takers’ (thieves). In truth
are ‘takers’ the robbers of a nation.
That first summer in Pullman I began to smell like canned sardines to myself. An immature eleven year old, I longed for the physical changes I saw in other girls my age. This smell marked the beginning of my slow odyssey into womanhood.
My family was in Pullman so Dad could take classes toward acquiring a PHD. Mom and Dad rented a small house at the top of West Main Street, and enrolled Mike and me in WSC (now WSU) summer camp. We sped on our bikes down Main street, pumped up Stadium Way to arrive at the playing fields.
Curious and bright, I was a tall, lean, homely tomboy, with thick glasses and unbecoming haircuts. Though initially reserved, I made friends easily. In Wenatchee I had earned a reputation of respect and accomplishment. Last year, in sixth grade I was president of the student council at my elementary school.
The kid scene in Pullman was different from any I had encountered before. Though I made ‘friends’ right away (that is people who would at least say Hi back to me) they seemed to be part of a preset group that didn’t included new people like Mike and me.
Our parents knew we would be moving to Pullman for good and hoped this summer experience would help ease us in. We hoped so too. At the end of the day it would be just Mike and me careening on our bikes in the empty parking lot of Pullman High School, chasing a tennis ball and batting it back with our heavy wooden rackets.
One morning after camp was over, antsy for a project I asked Mom to teach me how to make peach pie. We had gone to Lewiston over the weekend and had bushels of lovely ripe fruit.
Carefully I peeled off their fuzzy skin and sliced the peaches thinly into a crockery bowl. Following the
recipe, I stirred in sugar and spices. That was the easy part. The crust was quite another matter. Generations of women in my family had perfected the craft of pie crust construction. There was a certain magic in the quantity of each ingredient, the temperature and the proper blending of shortening with dry ingredients. Especially important was learning to handle the dough right, to keep it flaky and tender. These secrets of womanhood I was eager and ready to master.
I divided the golden dough into unequal portions and gently rolled them into thin rounds. The larger of these delicate sheets I carefully placed inside the pie tin pressing it lightly. In went the peach mixture topped by the second round, its vents already cut through. Mom showed me how to finish the edges with a thumbprint seal. It was lovely.
During the cool mornings those last hot days of our first summer in Pullman, Mom helped me perfect this ancient art. In the process she eased the transition from my girlhood in Wenatchee, to young adulthood in unknown territory.
Maybe writing about it would help? That is what has kept me writing since my teens. Writing is still my best self therapy. Somehow putting my feelings down in words forces me to examine everything more deeply. If I am to understand, I have to determine what inner and outer influences have brought me to my current place, and as I dig into it I learn more about myself. And I must imagine how the other person felt/is feeling. It forces me out of my 'own little world'. You know all this, still it is good to be reminded.
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