On Palm Sunday when we were kids, it was the custom (as we exited the church building after services) for an usher to give each of us a small palm branch to carry home. It was an odd thing, meant (I suppose) to commemorate Jesus entering Jerusalem while riding a donkey. John 12:13 tells us “they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him” and they acknowledged Jesus as “the king of Israel.”
Looking at the palm leaves (the above image is just one example), I’m struck today by their beauty and symmetry. During childhood, I think we used the branches to tickle and torment each other. Today, my usual impulse is one of contemplation. These green fronds hold the last droplets of morning dew and invite peaceful reflection. Continue reading “Each Day As God’s Gift”→
“Warren Piece.” I distinctly recall my mother uttering those two words as she ushered me out the door with my brothers on our summer afternoon trek to the library. Our visits to the public library were a regular occurrence in those days, and on occasion, we walked the mile+ distance sans adult supervision.
We had specific, unalterable instructions: stay together, follow the usual route, be home before dinner, and never, ever, ever talk to strangers! We had a tight camaraderie, the three of us. Brother Eric (two years older than me) and brother Kevin (younger than me by eighteen months) might run ahead or dawdle behind from time to time, but being voracious readers, our expectation of new adventures hidden in books on the library’s seemingly endless bookshelves kept the three of us on course to our destination. Continue reading “Warren Who?”→
Phew! We made it, right? Thankfully, the carcass of 2020 (metaphorically speaking) has begun to molder in the dustbin of history.
As might be expected, prognosticators are already spinning their tales about what this new year will look like. Will the world continue in the grips of COVID? Will the US economy recover or remain paralyzed by the lockdown doldrums? I won’t venture a guess … except to suggest, 2021 may not be so different from 2020.
From a personal standpoint, I hope your New Year is happy and blessed. May you find joy in the small but meaningful moments as well as abundant laughter to lighten your load. Herewith, my adieu to the year just past.
When my parents married in January 1946 after the briefest of courtships, there would have been an ample supply of newlywed adjustments for both. This union was the joining of two individuals from vastly different backgrounds.
My dad’s forebears were mostly no-nonsense, hard-working midwestern people of German descent. Upon arriving in the US, Dad’s grandfather had settled in St. Louis. He and his family led lives of predictability – work, family, church, work some more – with few distractions or embellishments. They were ordinary folks leading quiet lives.
In contrast, my mom’s east-coast (Philadelphia) upbringing turned her into an independent, free spirit, a woman eager to embrace the waiting world. From age six (when Mom entered boarding school), familial attachments had mostly evaporated; only her mother remained and mother-daughter visits were infrequent. Living at school was doubtless a happy and wholesome environment, but sans family. Continue reading “Driving Miss Ruthe”→
Great news about the recent recovery in Georgia of more than three dozen missing and at-risk children, thanks to the US Marshals Service and Operation Not Forgotten! Parents everywhere can rejoice knowing these children have been released from awful circumstances and returned home. Bravo to law enforcement for their diligence!
As a little girl, I knew children who had suffered neglect and abandonment. Maybe it’s just my impression (due to hazy memories) but in those days, it seemed to me the community took a more hands-on approach to difficult relational problems. Continue reading “A True Tale of Ricky-Robby”→
As a tribute to my dear mother, I’ve been compiling certain documents in my possession that add depth to and understanding of her life. A separate section of this blog is titled Blood Type / West and under that heading, I’ve attached a couple related documents. (More documents will follow in time.)
In 2006, we celebrated Mom’s birthday with much more fanfare than usual. We threw a party, Hats Off For Ruthe, and as part of the celebration, I created a book about her life. Given she lived another 14 years, the book is somewhat dated as regards her children and grandchildren. Still, it’s a good record.
Another tab in the Blood Type / West sub-section offers some background information about the boarding school my Mom attended. It was an amazing place for a young girl who came from a modest background and was suddenly bereft (having lost her father) while her mother was thrust into the workforce.
A couple times, I had the privilege (with my Mom) to visit the location of this school (in Newtown Square, PA) which shuttered its doors to students in 1977. The buildings are still there, repurposed. We were able to enter the imposing administration building as well as the inviting stone cottages where students lived under the oversight of a dorm “mother.”
A previously coddled child myself, it was difficult for me to imagine my mother as a six-year-old being brought to this cottage and entrusted (by her own mother) into the care of strangers. It was (no doubt) a crucible for the development of strong character. She could have felt the bitter sting of abandonment; instead, she learned gratefulness for God’s unique provision. She also learned the value of self-reliance.
In large part, the person my mother became reflects the transformation of tragedy (the death of her father) into beauty, as she received an excellent education within a safe environment where multiple benefits (usually reserved for wealthy families) were available to her. Thanks to the generosity of an unknown philanthropist (who’d been dead 20 years when my mom was born), young fatherless girls received a wonderful start in life. Though I wasn’t one of those girls, I’m certainly a beneficiary of aforementioned philanthropy … and how thankful I am.
Throughout childhood, my older brother was a role model and I eagerly followed him, learning from his example. He’s two years older and surely, I must have been an annoying shadow at times. When he decided to learn the violin in grade school, I followed suit. If he climbed a tree, I’d be directly behind him. An incident from junior high comes to mind.
My brother and his friends (all boys) were hunting rabbits in the barren cornfield near our house. Naturally, they didn’t want a girl tagging along but I begged and bargained: I agreed to carry any rabbits they managed to snag. (It probably wasn’t the best bargain I’ve ever negotiated!)
I thought it unlikely they’d catch even one rabbit … imagine my chagrin when they bagged two! But I kept my side of the bargain, grasping a pair of rabbit ears with each hand for the trek homeward.
Needless to say, this experience ended my “hunting” inclination. I began emerging from my brother’s shadow to do my own thing. But even today, he acknowledges gratefulness to his younger sister (shadow) for introducing him to one of my classmates – now his wife with whom he recently celebrated 53 years of married life together. Continue reading “Art for Art’s Sake”→
With her 92nd birthday approaching (the end of August), my mother Ruthe must contemplate the final days (or years, we hope) of her incredible life on this planet. I’ve shared her stories more than a dozen times in this space, among them Everybody’s Fine, The Tale of Bobbie Pringle (in 2 parts), and Safe In His Arms. I’ve also posted poems where she was my subject: Mother of Mine, Touchstone. Along life’s journey, she has embraced numerous adventures, taken surprising risks and absorbed monumental losses. What a blessing she has been to me (and her other offspring)!
The photo above was taken a couple weeks ago. She needed groceries and I was in town, so we drove to the nearby SuperCenter. Because she lacks the stamina she once had, I suggested she try the motorized shopping cart. I’ve never used one of these devices … nor had she until that day! (Keep in mind, she’s almost totally blind, with only a sliver of cloudy light squeezing into the uppermost corner of her left eye.) Still, I figured the electric cart was worth trying, since I worried her knees might give way during our trek through the massive store.
As things turned out, we managed to collect her groceries without inflicting excess damage to the cart or any merchandise lining the aisles … and thankfully, no customers were permanently injured during this endeavor! When she first grasped the forward/reverse lever, the cart unexpectedly shot forward, leaving me far behind. I caught up quickly and decided to set my hand to the “wheel” to control the cart’s speed and direction. It was my chance to walk beside her, guiding her to the k-cups, the oatmeal and her other important purchases. Making our way (slowly) around the store, she depended on my guidance, but strange as it might seem, she was leading the way … as she always has! Continue reading “Leading The Way”→
Since the passing of my mother-in-law on March 1st, my Beloved and I have sifted and sorted through the tangible mementos she left behind. There are photographs and slides aplenty, so I set myself to digitizing as many as possible to add to our (informal) family archive.
Scanning the vast collection of photos/slides, etc. required lots of time … and I’m not finished yet! What’s more, the stack of photos seemed to multiply every time we opened another box! My initial enthusiasm diminished as the number of digital images grew and my eagerness took an unexpected turn to frustration.
I had a nagging sense something was missing. But what?
In my mind, the possibility of a personal, written memoir (or several, if fortune smiled) would help flesh out an understanding of my mother-in-law that forty-seven plus years of being her daughter-in-law had not achieved. By digging deeper, I thought to solve the mysteries of Inscrutable Daisy. Continue reading “Papers, Please?”→
My mother-in-law died last week. She turned 94 last October, so her passing wasn’t unexpected. In addition to dementia (which prevented verbal communication), she suffered congestive heart failure. Bed-bound over the last six months, she slipped away quietly in her sleep. That was a blessing.