Faded PJ’s

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This morning, through dawn light, sitting in the stillness of my early hour house, eyes yet to focus, I glance along the edging of my soft blue pajamas and I feel a smile creeping now.  Sleepy smile, I feel it spread about my heart and down into my bones.  The fade of pajamas blue hover about me all the day, and I whisper good things under my breath.  Hope that this newest pair of already faded pajamas will become faded, no, just straight ratty.  That they will grow very old until they are ribbons of happy nothing. 

Crisp new pajamas.  I’ve grown to not like them much.  They come to me to be placed in suitcase packed for a hospital every time.  Some of the hospital visits are beautiful.  Baby boy brought home, precious and perfect.  Pajamas that didn’t fit me before, and body too much a mess to wear after.  That pair stayed nice for years. To the hospital for another baby, this time, a perfect tiny daughter.  I’d not remembered to think of pajamas for me. She had arrived before I’d expected, a month early.  Hadn’t packed a thing.  Other than things for her.  Her cotton pink footie-pajamas were washed, folded, held close against my cheek, folded again.  Ready months before.  My friend had thought of me when I had forgotten.  She brought to the hospital a lovely nightgown of soft pink and white, smocked and pleated, buttons down front.  I loved that nightgown.  I wore it year after year.  Don’t remember whatever became of it.  I’m guessing it was loved into shreds and threads as I rocked and fed, made a lap for two babies, a lap for reading and holding and spit up and …. Another baby years later.  And another. Pajamas packed and used until they were no more. 

As of late, pajamas for the suitcase bound for harder hospital stays.  Visits of cuts and drains, blood draws, parts removed, another cancer, another procedure, another and another. 

New pajamas. 

No thank you. 

I want to see how long the fade will keep on fading. 

Will the blue of light seem more white than blue?  I’m hoping so.  I could buy new ones for no particular reason.  And then I wouldn’t be needing another special book for my son on how to build something from nothing.  I wouldn’t be needing running shoes for me, or another hydrangea for my gardener girl, wouldn’t need to save for a night out with my best friend. I’d be too cut off from life to be buying sheet of music to practice with my girls.  I’d be winding down to dead, and I don’t want that. 

I really love how faded these pajamas have gotten.  Their worn down look speaks to how long it’s been since I’ve made a visit to the chopping block.  Long enough to make new fabric old.  Long enough to grow some strength on the legs that wear these pajama pants.  Fabric fades faster than it use to, I think.  Or my machine has more gusto than it use to.  In any case, time has passed without another reason for new pajamas, and I’m hoping my healthy full life thins them down to nothing at all.  I’m hoping.    

Not Knowing

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Today a friend commented after having told her how I’m doing, “So, no changes,huh?” That is so depressing to me. At the moment, I’m setting up a counseling business because the last office I set up made me no money in 6 months. Will this one be a waste of time too, although I have a book keeper now trying to help me keep paperwork straight? As we speak, we are packing up a daughter for college. We are preparing to put the younger two in school, we are asked to decided whether we want to move to Salt Lake now, or in January, or Charleston now or later or stay here. As for staying here, we are told we can’t refinance unless we raise our house payments by a TON, and that our house has to be finished, which we haven’t been able to manage yet. Dealing with Adored Husband mentally teetering on the brink of crazy and genius as he always does when he’s inventing – the thing he does for a living.

…they that wait upon the Lord WILL renew their strength…

I’m told to keep moving forward. To act as if I’m going to put the kids in local school. As if I will have a dozen paying clients in my new office in a week, moving forward.. not knowing – yet moving forward. I don’t do that well, which means I’m not doing well. Last year – today – I had a breast removed in an effort to keep cancer from spreading through me. That was the day I wondered if the cancer was taking me or moving on. I had to adjust to one on, one off. The crisis gone, why does life feel so off and so hard and so confusing? I don’t know. All I know is that I love to see my kids learn and grow. I love to work with clients, even when I’m not getting paid. I love my friends in WA, and my house. I love the mountains in Salt Lake, and the sunshine. I don’t love anything about Charleston because it’s too far from my kids… but if I was forced to, I’d learn to love life there as well. I love my guy, always curious about life  – despite his swings. And so I toss the stress back at God…. and move forward, not knowing.  Teetering forward, haltingly forward, hoping as I move along that God will direct these stressed out steps of not knowing.

Along the Way

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Tomorrow Christmas Vacation ends.  All Mr. Business goes back to school, Adored Husband goes back to work, College girl gathers her things for a return to dorm life.  Butterfly and I will be back at it again, driving, forever driving.  Breakfast, snack and sometimes even lunch from a car seat.  The never-ending drives from school to gas station, doctors’ office, to the Y, to Rite Aid, the dry cleaners, post office, the house for a few hours, and sometimes back in the car for All Mr. Business again. 

 

I love our drive, although it takes more time than the highway, but it’s back roads all the way.  Down the hill, round a few sharp turns, along a road that parallels a busy bike path, through back part of our small town, past soccer and cow fields, under a railroad tussle, past homes, sheep and fence lines.  Every morning the world peeks at me, looking far different than the morning before.   One morning it’s fog heavy and mystical.  Another lacy frost.  Mornings of green on ground, blue above.  Mornings of soft dancy show-off rain.  Mornings rain comes strong enough I barely see beyond the wipers.  Flooding across the moor deep enough to close our route to school.  Mornings behind some sluggish ole truck, driver reluctant to get where he’s a-go’n.  Mornings without a car in site. 

 

Butterfly, All Mr. Business, and Car Pool Pal chattering as we move along.  Or singing loudly to VegiTales sings the 80’s, or telling some knock-knock joke that makes me smile.  God and I silently chattering up our own storm.  We talk about today, about yesterday and tomorrow.  I take in comfort from our friendship.  God paints me a new picture every morning, just for the fun of it.  Taking in the radical change from the day before, I’m always surprised at the way new day art makes me feel. 

 

School boys are delivered to an institution of learning, Butterfly and I meander from school to Y, to needed stops, then back home.  I can either be a frazzled mess we live out of our car, or feel lucky I’m given such a view as the scenes I pass day after day, not one the same, and life all about.  Under every mundane task is hiding fulfillment beyond anything I’ve chased.  I’m Okay now for Christmas Vacation to end.  Off we go, down the hill, round a few sharp bends and beyond. 

 

Amelia

The Christmas Spirit

With malice toward none;

With charity for all;

With firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right,

Let us strive on to finish the work we are in; 

To bind up the nation’s wounds;

To care for him who shall have borne the battle;

And for his widow,

And his orphan –

To do all which may achieve and cherish

a just and lasting peace among ourselves 

And with all nations.

                                                                       Abraham Lincoln

Thanksgiving Noodles

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When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of Grandma’s noodles.  There might have been a year or two we didn’t cover the table, night before, with the mess of drying overnight, flipping, flouring, then flouring again our holiday noodles.  The damp would come out of hiding with the drying process, and we’d again add just a bit more flour, finally able to cut the perfectly imperfect wide and hearty slabs.  The process was a lot of work, and wonderful.  But not many years went without the noodle production, that’s for sure.

Grandma would stand, leaning over the table, a bit tall to reach the bowl easily, and carefully with silky hands create the most desirable noodles on the planet.  When I was maybe 8 or 9 she let me start helping.  She explained it was the size of egg that determined the recipe.  Any interesting concoction these days includes at least a dozen ingredients. Grandma’s noodles had three – the eggs, flour and water.  “Salt toughens the noodles”, she would say.  “Salt the broth, not the dough”.   She showed me how to choose the largest egg we had, crack it, set the largest of the shell halves aside for measuring water.  Another egg or two would be added… usually not more than 3 eggs.  The set-aside shell was our measuring devise.  It was filled two times for every egg we used.  Then whip the water and egg together with a vengeance, because this was the last beating the noodles had.

Once flour was added, gentle handling became the main thing.  “Handle it carefully”, she would tell me.  A fork and hands were our tools. We would add the flour carefully and slowly until we could make a sort of ball which also had to be barley touched and yet formed.  “Don’t use your middle three fingers; you’ll work it too hard,”Grandma insisted.  I’d forget most of the time and she would remind me again.  “Use only your thumb and little finger to move the dough or they’ll be tough.”

A little flour in our silver mixing bowl, the dough would sit under the bread cloth in the warmest part of the kitchen for an hour or so.  When the dough ball firmed up a bit, with slow and extra-careful hands, we’d pull it apart for rolling, but barely rolling, not adding any extra strokes, and taking our time.  A lightly floured table was the workbench where noodles were left out to dry.  Flip, re-flour again, continue adding as little flour as possible (too much flour toughened the noodles, too), then finally the cutting.

As the cut noodles dried some more, we busied ourselves pealing and chopping for the broth.  Once dry, the noodles would be added to the rolling boil that consisted mostly of celery, carrots, onion, potatoes, green beans, butter, chicken and seasonings that were never measured, but pinched and dashed for taste.

The kitchen smells produced people we didn’t even know were in the house.  Everybody wanted to help “test” the noodles. ”Mummm, they’re the best yet!” we would mumble through our second or third mouthful of “testing”.  The quality was always judged by lack of toughness.

Grandma has been gone 26 years.  I’ve been making the noodles since, every Thanksgiving and Christmas, and still can’t get the tender quality Grandma managed, I toughen the dough by the hurry and rush tactics that aren’t effective. Or maybe it’s my callused hands that overwork them.

 Its rather peculiar, but Grandmas hands never did toughen up.  Born in 1899, she was raised in a room above a hotel in a busy river town, Brownville, Nebraska, by a single mother of four who cooked for the hotel morning to night, making a living, so she could feed her children.  Grandma had all the reason in the world to have callused hands.  Early on scrubbing splintered wooden floors, young knees on rough skirt, later on linoleum – still heavily trodden, older more painful knees on softer skirt, or polyester pants.  Decades of floors that needed scrubbed.  She’d work the corners, moving toward center, hands in briny water, rinsing, wringing tight, over and over she made half circles, until she’d managed her task.

Grandma washed on the board for others and for her own family, working, with hands and arms and back, extracting impossible dirt out of clothes.  Butchering and plucking chickens, flipping heavy switches for hours at a busy telephone company.  Caring for sometimes large and frightening mentally ill patients middle of night at the State Hospital.  She milked the cow, fed the live stalk, gathered eggs, gardened, shoveled snow. Kitchen work, almost always using nearly scalding water, hauling in coal or wood, depending on the heat used in the place her and her four children lived, there alone, as her husband chose unfaithfulness to the hard task of marriage and fatherhood.  Hands with tissue to face, sobbing deep and painful to the neighbor friend when the husband choose the latest affair over coming home, this time for good. 

She held a book, a few minutes stolen here and there as her ever thirsty mind took on The Bible, the Classics, The Daily News. 

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She sometimes wrote her own great thoughts.  Thoughts on scraps of paper, some in a tablet.  Some on typing paper.  I have them in my attic, the musty suitcase that moved wherever she went, in her later years, all over the country to stay involved in her children and grandchildren’s lives. 

With pen and pencil, later on, with a typewriter she saw the world through her heart and recorded it.   She worked hard to make some dreams come true.  She managed to get her GED, and in her 70’s, took some classes at the local community college, learned short hand and more about writing.

In all her 87 years of life, it’s hard to understand how her hands never became callused.  Her heart somehow managed to remain young as well.  Don’t misunderstand.  Grandma wasn’t perfect.  But the part of her heart that found the usually taken for granted goodnesses of life still a treasure remained intact despite the disadvantages she was handed.  I guess that is the reason that when I think of Thanksgiving, I think of Grandma’s noodles.  The essence of gratitude.  Taking nothing much at all and from it creating the most savory of the many options that cover our Thanksgiving Table.

Amelia