Dreams Don’t Die (do they?)

Just this morning I was reading a friend’s blog post (Click here for a great read) about dreams that have come, gone away, and then reappeared later in life. (Dreams, as in things you would love to do someday, not the crazy stuff that happens when you sleep.) The post ended with “What revived dreams have surprised you lately?” And, wouldn’t you know it, I had a ready answer.

All my life I have loved to camp out. One of the first birthday surprises that I remember, when I was 7 or 8, was looking out the window and seeing that my dad had put up a tent in the front yard for me. It was an old army tent without a floor, but I spent a lot of time in it that summer.

Since then I’ve done some hiking and camping out with more sophisticated tents and equipment, always enjoying it, but with the thought that I would someday like to have a camper. A small house on wheels. Open the door and step in.

The dream was kind of on the back burner for years. A camper was not the most expedient thing financially, and my husband didn’t take time for vacations. I looked at tiny houses online, watched videos of women who built their own tiny houses on trailers, and rode my bike through Florida trailer parks checking out the campers regularly.

When my husband retired and got a diagnosis of dementia, I took the dream off the burner altogether and turned off the stove. Even getting up one or two steps into a camper was difficult for him, let alone moving around comfortably in a space the size of a closet. The dream cooled off considerably.

Since moving to Wisconsin, I have found myself living a short distance from an RV sales lot. The logical thought “you’re never going to have one of these” didn’t keep me from looking at them all multiple times during the summers. I had my favorites, a line called Vintage with cool retro colors inside and out. But they were a little bigger than I wanted to deal with by myself, and pretty soon they were all sold. Now, due to the shortages of the pandemic year, the lot is nearly empty.

These are soooo cute!

And then I saw a Scamp. A neighbor bought the cutest little pod I have ever seen, just perfect for two people to have a place to eat and sleep. I didn’t really feel envy, because I knew the whole idea would not work for me, but I had trouble keeping the lid on the dream. Yes, I did. That Scamp sat where I could see it all summer. I kept dreaming she was going to invite me to take it camping for a weekend. That didn’t happen and now it is winterized and in storage.

I don’t know why I look at Facebook Marketplace, but every now and then I go there. Last week, I nearly keeled over with surprise with what came up on that feed – an AIRSTREAM BAMBI!!! For $1200. No, I thought. That can’t be. You can’t even buy a piece of an Airstream for that price. So I sent an inquiry to find out what was going on. I emailed my daughter, who owns a couple Airstreams and asked what she thought. There was skepticism.

Nothing happened until two days later, after the weekend, when I got an email back. It was real. She was a woman, she had a reason for selling it cheap, she wrote like an American, and had all the facts. What if God had decided to give me the longing of my heart?!! It would be just like him to make it an Airstream! I emailed my daughter again, thinking that maybe I should jump on this. There was skepticism.

Airstream Bambi, these are absolutely the coolest (my opinion).

While I was thinking this over, I scrolled through Marketplace again. Oddly, there was another Airstream Bambi, from a different seller, same price. What a coincidence. When I found a third I couldn’t help but wonder why the market was being flooded with cheap Airstreams. I wrote the seller asking that question. I also suggested that she should get together with the other Bambi owners when she got to her station in Alaska. Maybe they would want to start a scammer club or something…

You know, it really is hard to kill a dream, even when I know it isn’t practical, feasible, or reasonable (or possible). It just won’t die, and I will probably keep giving it backward glances until my final day. Meanwhile, I still have a tent, and a backyard, and maybe that’s right where I belong. P.S. I’m not saying I would refuse if someone wanted to give me one. You know what I’m sayin?

September 2020 Road Trip

This is a silly year to be traveling, but we managed it. Now there are other things I need to manage, like remembering to post what I write.

I’m talking about the kind of driving that puts me in front of a steering wheel, looking out a windshield over the hood of a vehicle. The kind of driving that delivers a sense of power and force of will. A big machine goes where I direct it. I get chills thinking about it.

There is really no way to deny that learning to drive a car, or a truck, is a rite of passage for most people. Everyone in my high school looked forward to taking driver’s ed class and getting their license. On the other end of the spectrum, giving up that license, or losing it, is also a rite of passage. I remember my grandfather driving around, half blind, and scaring people. Then I saw my father hold onto the keys as he struggled with everyone’s concern over his driving. Macular degeneration took out his central vision, but as long as there were white lines on the side of the pavement, he knew he was on the road.

It didn’t seem like it was that hard for my husband. He gradually started sitting in the passenger seat and got used to having me drive. He still took himself to work and other familiar places, but he had a tendency to startle and get upset over other driver’s decisions. It was easier to let someone else (me) deal with all that craziness. Mom is also making a more graceful transition. Her driver’s license was up for renewal this November and she decided to let it go.

I’ve always liked driving and have not shied away from the unusual – driving big trucks, driving trailers across country, Ubering people around the city, and venturing into an occasional mud hole. But lately, I’ve become aware of the tedium of long drives. I have fond memories of sitting on the passenger side with my needlework or a book, and being able to look out the window at the passing scenery. That doesn’t happen anymore.

This week the husband and I have taken a two day drive to North Carolina for my daughter’s wedding. Eighteen hours of driving has given me time to think about this process of road tripping, it’s advantages and disadvantages. See, it’s really nice to have the freedom to go or stop at will. And there’s the luxury of taking most anything I want along with me – in contrast to the carry-on suitcase angst of flying. It’s also nice to have that familiar vehicle at my destination without having to rent and return and get a big bill at the end.

BUT there are some slight disadvantages. For instance, I feel the full weight of staying awake and alert. I don’t want to be like the guy who died peacefully in his sleep unlike the screaming passengers in his car (old joke we used to tell). The husband is always chiding me for eating popcorn in the car without realizing that it has kept us alive for numerous trips. I can’t sleep while I’m eating, or at least I haven’t been able to so far. This trip, after I finished the popcorn, I started in on the cheese curds, and then the nuts, and then the carrots/cucumbers/peppers. And then I felt ill, no surprise, but that also kept me awake.

Pandemic driving has some unique features too. For once, we drove through the city of Chicago without a major slow down. I was worried about going there but having no good way to avoid it, we went. There was traffic, and the need for vigilance, but it was surprisingly smooth. And what’s with the toll roads? There were no people in those little booths to collect money! I may have a massive bill lurking somewhere in cyberspace but so far I’ve gotten no notice.

Then there is the mask thing. I can’t remember how many times we were on our way into the rest stop or gas station and had to go back to get a required face covering. It’s not a habit yet. We took food with us, not knowing if there would be the usual restaurants available. Finding a place to sit down and eat was harder, and the experience has changed in so many ways – no uncovered smiles, no condiments on the table, not much merriment.

I knew it was a risk to get new tires right before a trip, but there were reasons why it made sense. I’m talking only hours before the trip, the dealership was able to find tires for my truck. There was no time to test them out. Did you know that pandemic shortages have affected the tire industry? Who would guess that? For this trip I went from worrying about old, misaligned and worn tire noises to worrying about new tire noises. What is that whap, whap, whapping…? Is it lethal? Should we stop? We ignored it. Found out later that gravel and acorns caught in the tread sound just like defects.

Nice loud tires with lots of tread.

All in all, it was not a bad trip, just peculiar like most everything else in 2020 has been. It is my hope that in hearing about this trip, you will find yourself more content, perhaps even happy, to stay at home (like we’re supposed to). I know it did that for me, just sayin’…

All Trails Project: Henks Park Trails

This trail was not on the All Trails app, but it should be! I have learned how to suggest it be added and plan on doing that.

Millions of leaves, from millions of trees…

Another warm fall day was given to us in Wisconsin so I took another hike. In case you think time spent walking is time wasted, let me tell you it is not. Something about the rhythm of walking, and the peaceful, natural environment is perfect for creative thinking. If only I could remember all the ideas that come to me out in the woods…

If only the deer could read the signs.

Henks Park has recently appeared off a road I have traveled for years. Only about five miles south of Hayward on State Highway 27, it is well marked with nice maps available at the parking area. There are numerous loops of varying lengths. I explored today and was able to walk three miles without retracing my steps. All loops are in beautiful, deciduous woods with glacial ravines and hills. The nearest highway is out of sight but close enough to be heard – it is not a remote area and it would be hard to get lost.

There are picnic tables near each loop and a gazebo at the parking area. This kind of wooded area has deep ravines, most of which have a marsh or pond at the lowest elevation. There are hills to climb. I tried to photograph the ups and downs of the trail but the topography is hard to capture. The trail is well groomed and leaf covered in most areas – great for walking but I would not have wanted to be riding a bike up the leaf covered slopes.

I thoroughly enjoyed this bunch of trails and want to go back soon and record them for the All Trails App (unless the technology is more than I can figure out). Check out this beautiful park!

All Trails: Spring Creek

Seriously, I am going to love this app

I needed this walk to clear my head, and my lungs. The day was just too beautiful to stay inside.

I’m excited. After a couple weeks of recovery from travel (and from the broken wrist and surgery) I’m exploring a new app on my phone called “All Trails”. It’s designed to show hiking trails all over the U.S. and today it led me to one only 15 miles away that I hadn’t been on yet. One thing we have a lot of up here in northern Wisconsin is hiking trails and many of them are within a few minutes or hours of home – so why not make it a project to see how many I can explore? I needed an interesting challenge and now I have one.

Spring Creek Trail was a 2.5 mile loop that was labeled “easy”, and it was. Part of it was through the forest on a bike trail maintained by CAMBA (Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association) and about half of it was on a dirt road called Spider Lake fire lane.

I enjoy hiking with friends but sometimes I’m glad to be hiking at all, even if it’s alone. I didn’t mind being alone today. I didn’t see another person, or even another vehicle once I got off the main highway. The app tracks my progress on the trail, so I wasn’t worried about losing my way. But, I should have started with a fully charged phone battery, and will have to make that a priority in the future.

Bridges on bike trails are usually like this one…

I assumed the water I crossed over right away was Spring Creek. It was moving fast from our October snow melt. Yes, we’ve had 6 inches of snow on the ground already and some of it was still visible in the ravines, but today’s temp was 73 degrees! Several times on this walk I was aware of a stream of cold air coming off the low spots in the woods. There was ice on most of the pools.

I kept hearing a noise that sounded like a muffled motor starting up and assumed I was somewhere near a road. It took me a while to realize I was stirring up grouse on the trail. They take off through the trees and make a pretty cool sound. I also saw several deer on the trail ahead that turned to stare at me before running off into the woods. They were dark and almost invisible when they were looking at me, but hard to miss when their white tails started bouncing away. So beautiful.

This was an afternoon hike, around 3 pm, which I thought would give me plenty of time. It did, but already the days are short and the sun was getting low on the horizon, making the woods dark in places. The slanting light, shadows and silhouettes kept me using more of my limited phone battery for pictures – I couldn’t resist. Here’s my photo log of the Spring Creek Hike.

The Wedding of 10/10/2020, post 2

The “process”, as one reader said it, of putting on a wedding concludes in this post. The post is long, but ends well, and we all need happy endings in this pandemic year. You will see the beginning of a love story in the video that closes out the post. Don’t miss it!

It’s not everyday you get to wear a “bride-to-be” banner!

Next up was the bridal shower. There’s just something so celebratory about a bridal shower that there has to be one. The groom’s family not only has an expert event host mom, but also three sisters-in-law so you know they have experience in bridal showers. Decorations, fancy (delicious) food, friends from different walks of life, and semi-embarrassing shower games to make the bride-to-be blush a bit. Perfect. I was glad to be on the scene for this.

The next week was busy for me. It was the week that I finished the alterations on the wedding gown and broke my wrist, thankfully in that order. It was also the week we started watching Hurricane Delta head toward Louisiana. The beautiful fall weather we had been having was predicted to turn into a tropical depression and pass over the wedding venue on the day of the wedding. I got a little nervous since we had no plan for an indoor ceremony. I added another small tent (the only one available) to our order and the rental company brought them both out a day early. They didn’t want to risk putting them up in the rain.

It might have made a good photo prop, but we were thankful for the friends who got it started and out of there.

Thursday and Friday were bordering on hectic. Pop up tents had been borrowed and the decision was made to keep all the smaller shelters bordering the main tent where the reception would be held. The ceremony was still going to be planned for the open field. I didn’t count, but all the tents got moved at least twice as the configuration changed from one moment to the next. People were arriving to help trim trees, hang lights, and set up tables. The large diesel tractor, doing some landscaping work, stalled and quit right next to the proposed buffet serving area. So in the midst of this, the bride and several of her girlfriends who had arrived early for the rehearsal that night, did what girls in bridal parties do – they escaped to high tea at the O’Henry Hotel in Greensboro. What a nice relief!

The rehearsal in the late afternoon and the dinner following got a couple more rituals checked off our list. We all met the minister with the Scottish brogue, and got put in our places, including the baby donkey chosen as the ring bearer. As he was pulled down the aisle, resisting all the way, another layer of risk seemed obvious. The weather might not be the only wild card.

So cute, but he had no idea what was expected of him. He behaved fairly well during the ceremony though.

Saturday dawned, the day of the wedding. At this point, there were so many details yet to be decided and attended to that it could have been frightening. It was raining lightly. I can only tell you that I had an unreasonable peace and trust that it would all come together, because the concerns had been given to God and I knew he meant to give Julia a good wedding. I left to get myself and the father of the bride dressed.

I couldn’t have imagined the changes that took place – all the beautiful flowers that arrived, and the astounding transformation in the reception tent and the field where the ceremony was to be. Family and friends had pitched in to create a miracle. And the rain had let up, giving us a brief window of dryness.

As we watched the weather radar, the ceremony started. At one point, a song was omitted from the program to speed things along. During the last five minutes we began to feel an occasional raindrop. But it wasn’t until we were dismissed and headed to the safety of the reception tent that the rain really began in earnest. By that time we were so in awe of the beauty of the ceremony and the happiness of the bride and groom, and the timing of it all, that no one cared. Let it rain.

Again, an amazing video captured most of the best moments for us and I share it with you here. You will see us dancing, which was one of the bride’s “must have” features of this celebration. We feasted and danced as the North Carolina rain ran under the edges of the big white tent and met the red clay soil of River Bend Farm. It was wonderful.

Click this link. Video is 3:35 minutes. The Wedding of Julia Dietz and Kevin Shanahan

And the next day, I relived it as I spent a lot of time washing red mud out of the hem of a beautiful white dress. Just sayin’…

A Wedding 10/10/2020

It’s been fifteen days since the wedding and I haven’t written a single word about it. I’ve been waiting for the pictures from the photographer because, for once, I didn’t take any of my own. Well, maybe one or two…

I’m not kidding. Weddings have become such productions these days, and the expectations… no wonder people take six months or more to plan (and save) for them. The six weeks or so that we had to prepare were short and sweet. And this is how it was done.

First, teamwork! What came to be called the Wedding Swat Team, met every Sunday for the first few weeks to brainstorm ideas and keep the bride on track. It was kind of like having seven wedding planners – not always the easiest way to proceed but we had a lot to get done. Lists, assignments, research, debate… It was interesting to me as I listened to my daughter reveal her dreams of how things would unfold. Some of those dreams were specific and she attended to making them happen. Some of them were less specific but she was gracious and flexible in letting others help her. I came to see how wedding details can be important to someone who has waited patiently, for a long time.

One of the main goals of all the planning was to make the bride (yeah, the groom too) feel really special. After all, the hope is that the memories will be unforgettable, in a good way, and last a lifetime. Let the rituals begin!

See all those white dresses? She tried them all on. (Kidding) Seriously, these girls were so patient, and so masked…

The first was the visits to the bridal shops. I didn’t get in on this but the soon to be “new family” took over and proved to be a great audience. It was so much fun, and Julia liked so many of the dresses that absolutely nothing was decided. Except that perhaps she should have been a wedding dress model instead of a horse vet. Girls like to try on dresses that cost a fortune and make them look like Disney princesses.

It was time to make the wedding website (who knew?) and get the invitations out! These days it can be done with email invites, which was all we had time for anyway. Of course, an invitation kind of has to tell guests where the wedding will be. Although the date 10/10/2020 sounds really cool, pandemic restrictions ruled out a lot of the venues. Being out of their minds by this time anyway, the couple decided to have the whole celebration outside, at the “farm”, recently purchased, where the groom was living. It would take more time on their part to prepare it, but they had more time than money. No, wait, maybe there wasn’t a lot of either time or money, but whatever… I ordered a tent. It was my first job

Tent is going somewhere in here. You just wait…

Before the invitations went out there was a fun photo shoot. One of the groom’s friends did this for them. It pays to have good friends who are willing to make things happen. I loved it and hope you’ll give him some good comments on his website. It’s how I’m finishing this post. There’s so much more to tell though, and I’m finally able to type without too much pain (see previous post “I Blame the Washing Machine”). Post 2 coming up soon… Click the link below for a happy video!

Kevin and Julia’s Engagement Photo Shoot

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I Blame the Washing Machine

Preparing a wedding in six weeks seemed possible but a bit scary, given all that has come to be expected of weddings these days. All of the bride’s women, Wedding Swat Team was our label, were meeting weekly on Zoom, from our locations all over the country. The important elements were gradually falling into place. I am the proud and excited mother of the bride.

A week ago, the husband and I traveled two days by car to the wedding city. The final two weeks before the big day kicked off with a bridal shower given by the groom’s family, and things started getting real. We jumped into the world of final decisions, last minute invitations, wedding gifts coming in the mail, and my job which was customizing the wedding dress.

The beautiful, expensive gown was a gift from the bride’s sister. I had only seen it in pictures. I was asked if I could help save costs by hemming it, fixing a bustle for the train and lining the bodice. To many, those sewing terms are like a foreign language and I was somewhat fuzzy on them myself but, eh, sure. I agreed to do the work.

My first look at the dress made me wonder if that had been a wise decision. There was a complex lace outer fabric over three layers of tulle and two taffeta linings, all needing to be shortened four or five inches. For some strange reason wedding dresses often have a long skirt that drags on the ground in the back, aptly called a “train”. The train has to get hiked up out of the way at some point so the bride can dance without tripping over it – that process is called “bustling the train”. And most puzzling to me is why any dress would be made with a top that is pretty much transparent and in need of a lining. But there you have it.

I spent a couple days watching tutorials on bridal sewing and shopping for things I didn’t know existed. Then came the scary cutting parts and all the stitching. It was with great relief that the final fitting yesterday morning showed it to be quite right. The bride will be lovely.

But wait, you’re thinking. When does it get ruined in the bad washing machine? This is not the end of the story, clearly.

The beautiful prospective venue

Yesterday, after taste testing the reception menu, I went out to work on the venue – the groom’s farm and barn. I love to dig into dirt and dust where I can really see I’ve made a difference. There was an area of the barn that met this description so I started dragging things out to be washed and de-spidered. Here’s where the washing machine enters the story.

It was there for washing horsey things. It was dirty and heavy but I wrangled it out on the lawn and sprayed it off. Later, I was again wrestling it in, inch by inch, back and forth. I distinctly remember the groom’s eight year old daughter looking at me, watching intently, as I muscled the machine around for the last time. And then my wet, gloved hand slipped on a backward pull and I fell on the concrete floor. In retrospect I should not have broken my fall by breaking my wrist. Surgery tomorrow with a nice doctor and maybe, by Friday, a splint small enough to fit through the sleeve of my beautiful, mother of the bride dress.

Now, instead of helping, I need people to take care of me and that’s awkward. It’s kind of fitting though, for a wedding in an already awkward pandemic year. There are reasons for all of this, but I’m blaming the broken wrist on the washing machine, just sayin’…. That’s my story.

More pics of me in splints and casts….

Short Stories Series: Three Stories about God and Giving

I know, no stories for a long time, and then three at once, and no pictures either. So use your imagination. You have one.

Story One

The first story is one that Robert Morris tells. He is a televangelist who writes and speaks a lot about his experiences with God as a giver. He will say with confidence that he has never been able to out-give God and this is one of the stories that he uses to illustrate that.

He wanted to give his wife a gift for her birthday and asked their daughter to find out what his wife wanted. After the daughter had talked with her mother she reported that she had been sworn to secrecy. Robert was determined to reward his oft self-sacrificing wife so he told his daughter she was released from her promise. His wife had talked about a certain purse that she knew was more expensive than she would ever buy for herself, and she really didn’t want her husband to buy it for her either. She figured he might try if he knew. That was why she made her daughter promise not to tell.

Robert says he was floored when he heard how much the purse cost. He evidently didn’t or couldn’t buy it and he felt sad and was wondering what he should do. A widow lady in his church enters his story next. She came up to his wife and gave her a gift. It was the exact purse that his wife admired and wanted. God’s message to Robert was simply “I wanted my daughter to have this gift.”

Hearing this remarkable story, I was struck with the thought of how it would feel to receive uncommon extravagance from God, how I would feel loved and valued. To feel like the daughter of a king…

Story Two

The second story is about my own experience with giving. I met Darnelle when he was about ten years old. He was in a struggling, single parent family, and we developed a friendship centering around music. I was teaching piano at the time and he wanted to learn so I gave him lessons. Over the years he was frequently in our home, mostly in times of need. He seemed to always be out of work, sometimes homeless and sleeping in his car, when he had one. We gave him money, helped him buy cars, fed him, and gave him shelter and prayed for him. Nothing helped for very long. Every call from him eventually got down to asking for money, and finally I was done. I said no. Rather than helping him, it seemed we were enabling bad decisions.

Recently, even though we now live thousands of miles from Darnelle, I received a text from him. As usual, he was stranded and out of money, on his way to a new job. He just needed enough money to get there. I didn’t see the text until an hour after he sent it and when I replied to it, there was no answer. He often used someone else’s phone when he didn’t have one so I assumed that was the case.

Two days later, the husband and I were praying, and it occurred to me to ask God for wisdom if Darnelle should somehow connect with us again. Sure enough, I got a text. He was desperate and asked me to “walmart-to-walmart” him some money. I didn’t want to stand in line forever at Walmart. I didn’t want to feel like I’d been “suckered in” one more time, but I knew I had prayed about this. I didn’t doubt that he was in some kind of need. God has been generous with me and I felt that he was asking me to be obedient and help Darnelle one more time. I sent the money, not because Darnelle had asked, but because God had asked. Everything belongs to God, including my money.

Story Three

The third story is, again, about giving. And about God. I have a daughter who is getting married, in a pandemic year when everything is a little bit crazy. She is a hardworking equine veterinarian and barely has time to wash the manure off her clothes, much less plan a wedding. But, she made time to try on dresses. The lace, tulle, and frills (at extravagant prices) transported her to a different vision of herself as a beautiful bride. In contrast, her practical self was staring at her school loans and numerous bills. She said “no” to the dress and tried to be satisfied with something less.

We had conversations about this decision. I knew it was not in her nature to spend thousands of dollars on a dress to wear once, ONCE. She wanted reasons to feel good about the lesser dress she was planning to wear and I gave her some. I told her she could choose to be satisfied with whatever decision she made. I told her that I was praying and trusting God to bless her, “his daughter”, with her heart’s desire for this special time in her life. And I truly felt that those were not just words. They were God’s message to her.

With the time growing shorter and tension mounting, Julia was feeling the weight of things that weren’t getting done, weren’t turning out quite as well as planned, weren’t what she had hoped for. I got another call. Things were more hard than happy. Right in the middle of the disappointments, I could see the dress, and I didn’t know what to do except to keep praying for her.

On the same day that I said okay to God and gave Darnelle $100, someone precious gave Julia a gift of a beautiful dress. It was one she had tried on and loved but didn’t feel she could buy.

I don’t presume that God spoke to the generous benefactor in an audible voice, or that he even presented himself as God. I’m pretty sure the generous benefactor knew nothing about the backstory of Darnelle and obedience in my life. But I have seen and heard that God is always at work in ways that are so complicated they can only be described as mysterious. Somehow he can bless Julia, he can bless a man stranded on I-95 with no gas in his car, and he can bless me with answered prayer, all connected with the same circumstance. I know he will also bless the person who cared enough to dress a bride in a beautiful dress.

Four Women, One Dress

Tonight I am at the sewing machine. I’m remodeling a dress for North Carolina daughter. I can’t be sure it will fit her but I have a fair idea of what is needed. I’m praying with every seam that it will turn out well. I think the prayer will be answered and I’m sewing with confidence.

The material is satin. It’s creamy white and soft and surprisingly different from today’s satin, because it is 70 years old. Seventy years ago, my grandmother sat sewing with this same fabric. She was a skilled seamstress, making a wedding dress for her daughter. Her daughter was a different size than my daughter so I have taken the dress apart to resize and change the design a bit. I have to admire her work. She was careful, and gave attention to details. It was a beautiful dress. I have seen it in the pictures of my mother’s wedding.

Grandmother Clementine Warner Boone

Expectations of what wedding dresses should look like have changed so much from 1950. I don’t know what they are making them out of these days that they should cost thousands of dollars, but I know the one my grandmother worked on was made out of love (and satin, and lace).

The work on this project has been an emotional experience for me. I take apart a seam and realize that was thread put there by her machine. Her hands touched the fabric in this very place as she guided it under the needle. She probably peered closely at that button as she sewed it on, just as I am as I remove it. We are linked, she and I, by many things that aren’t tangible, but this dress can be touched and felt. The whole idea is kind of eerie, almost sacred, to me.

And our daughters, the one who wore it so long ago and the one who will wear it next month, they are also linked by the same dress. Mothers and daughters, four women, seventy years, one dress. I love it. It has specialness that can’t be bought.

But as I said, we will see if it fits and seems appropriate for the ceremony. At the least, it will be in a picture. And to some of us, it will look beautiful. Just sayin’…

The Place Things Go to Be Forgotten

I just went over to take a quick picture of something to send to someone, but Mom had the garage door open and I went in to see what was going on. She had pulled everything out of the utility room. Stuff was everywhere and it looked like a lot of work for a nearly 88 year old to be doing. “What’s going on here?” I said, wondering whether those would be famous last words.

There’s a phenomenon that occurs after traumatic times involving death and loss. It’s kind of a restructuring of priorities, a re-evaluation of one’s life, a need to do something drastic to counter the trauma. My brother had talked about it in our early morning “touch base” session at Mom’s house. He was going through it, having just lost his wife to cancer. He was cleaning house, looking at everything and making decisions to keep or not. And evidently, it was contagious. Mom had caught it.

Her first excuse is always that she’s looking for spiders. Spiders are not allowed to live in Mom’s garage. It was only a few months ago, in the spring, when all the corners got “broomed”, and everything, including a freezer full of food, was moved and cleaned under. But we might not have done the utility room thoroughly, and today was the day.

“Since you’re here, would you mind going up in the attic and getting the blankets you said you saw. Tell me what’s up there, and bring it down if it’s something I should look through.” Mom doesn’t go up in the attic any more. It has one of those pull down ladders which is only wide enough to fit between the ceiling joists. The ladder is a little scary at any age, but certainly in one’s eighties. I had been going up and down, storing things, ever since we moved up from Florida two years ago – kind of the curator of the attic museum. Things only go up in the attic if they are willing to be forgotten for a while.

For the next half hour I tossed items down the hole, rearranged boxes, poked around reacquainting myself with the contents of containers, calling down to Mom as we made decisions. What to do with that set of dishes that used to belong to a friend’s mother, now deceased? What to do with the bag of fabric strips for braided rugs? What about all those fake flowers, and knick knacks that got replaced? Why are there two boxes of old jeans up here? How many good cardboard boxes do we need to save? Almost all of it came down the ladder. It looked like an attic explosion, with Mom in the middle of it.

This looks neater than it really was. But notice, no spiders anywhere.

“Don’t worry. I won’t do it all today.” She reassured me that she was only going to put things back in the utility room. I packed up a few things to take over to my attic for a few years. I stood, trying to think why I had come over in the first place. Although it felt good to organize and de-clutter, I was feeling a little guilty about the mess we’d made.

I guess it’s all a part of the grieving process, and everyone does it differently. Some of the things we do are helpful, some aren’t, and some don’t leave us feeling the way we thought they would. But we need to do something, a cleansing of sorts, and then maybe we can go on, one day at a time… just sayin’.