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Celebrate Good Times

She gently took me from the car and carried me like a newborn baby. Each step up the stairs, she held me a little higher. When we got to the bedroom, she swung open the closet door. She reached up to set me at the top of the closet so I could stretch down. When she unfastened the plastic, the bottom part fell. The ladies at the dress shop told her to unwrap me so I wouldn’t wrinkle. Even though she wasn’t the one who would wear me, she let out a sigh of relief because she didn’t want me to get dirty. It was her daughter, Laura, who chose me.

“It took her a while to figure out what kind of style she liked,” I heard the mom say once. Once she figured that out, it didn’t take her very long to find me.  After Laura ordered me, and I was all put together, I was shipped to the bridal shop. It took four months before Laura got to try me on. I waited patiently in a closet.  I heard people go in and out everyday. It seemed like forever before Laura came to see me. When the lady reached up to pull me off the pole, I thought she was going to take down the dress next to me. When she held onto my hanger, I couldn’t believe it was finally my turn.

The person took me upstairs to hang me on another pole for a while. I was wrapped in plastic, but I heard them coming up the steps. They seemed excited to see me. Their voices were loud and filled with laughter. It sounded like three different types of giggles. They walked right by me and sat down on the sofa. I don’t think they knew I was hanging right next to where they were sitting.

The seamstress helped Laura put me on and then the others came in. Now that the plastic was off, and Laura was wearing me, we both looked in the mirror at each other. I liked the way we looked together, and I thought we made quite a striking pair. It’s like we made each other shine somehow.

When I looked at the other two ladies in the room, I could tell by the look on their faces that they thought I looked good. The way their voices softened told both of us they approved. The seamstress suggested adding a few alterations so the bride would be more comfortable on the day of the wedding.

Laura came back to see me a few more times – sometimes with different ladies but always with her mom. Laura’s future mother-in-law suggested that the belt would look better sewn close to the bodice instead of around the waist, and everyone agreed.  The next time they had to make sure the hem was the proper length. Each time they came, I knew it was getting a little closer to the day when we would get to walk down the aisle together.  The last time they came, the seamstress showed the mom how to fasten the buttons and put up the bustle.

Now as I stayed hanging in the house where the bride grew up, I knew the big day was going to be tomorrow.  That night the house was quiet, but when they came back, it felt like a lot of energy was buzzing about.  Laura came into her bedroom and looked at me hanging on the door.  It wouldn’t be much longer before we would get to celebrate.  We would see how all the preparations would fall together.

The next morning, the doorbell kept ringing as ladies arrived bringing more bubbling energy with them. Happy voices traveled up the stairs as the morning went on.  Then the time arrived when Laura took me down from the door.  Her hair was swept up like a princess.  She carried me to the car, and we went to church.  When we arrived, the photographer took me for a while and took pictures of me in front of a window to make shadows in the sun.  After my solo picture, the mom and bridesmaids helped Laura put on her dress careful not to ruin her hair or smudge her makeup.  The mom closed up the back by using a hair pin to grab the little string to wrap it around each little button just like the seamstress showed her.

Laura and Mom and Dress

“Whew,” she sighed.  “I remember my wedding night and how it took the groom a very long time to unfasten the buttons…”  A few more giggles traveled around the room.  After Laura was all ready to go, lots of pictures were taken inside and outside.  The temperature was cool, but Laura didn’t shiver.

“People are starting to come,” said Marilyn, the coordinator who volunteered at the church.

“They are?” the mom said as if she was shocked that everything was going the way it was planned.

“Yes,” Marilyn said with a smile – like she’d seen this sort of thing before.  “You’ll need to stay in the nursery and hide before you make your grand entrance.”

The priest quickly stopped by to say hello and to give a few instructions to the bride.  After Father left, the father-of-the-bride came in to say, “They told me to come in here right when everyone was starting to show up.  I wanted to say hello to a few people!”

“I guess we’re supposed to do that later,” the mom said.  Marilyn came back in to let the bridesmaids know it was time for them to walk down the aisle.  I waited with Laura and her mom and dad.  It was very quiet in the room.  Off in the distance, we could hear the organist playing Ave Maria.

“It’s time for you to go,” she said.  We walked out to the commons.  Marilyn and the other volunteer closed the doors to the entrance after the groom and his parents walked down the aisle.  All was quiet.  The organist began to play Canon in D by J. Pachelbel while we stood together.  Laura’s dad linked his arm through his daughter’s arm, and the mom held onto Laura’s elbow.  I felt little shivers coming from the mom.  Everyone else seemed to be calm.

“Oh, my god,” the mom said very quietly.

“Mom!” said Laura.

“Whoops,” Mom mumbled.  Marilyn gave us the thumbs up sign, and we walked to the doors.

“Are you ready?” We gave a unanimous nod, and the ladies pulled the two big wooden doors open to show us the guests.  As we walked down the aisle, some people nodded and smiled at us – Great Uncle Jack gave us the thumbs up sign.  When we met the groom at the altar, there were hugs and handshakes and sharing of “love you” among the four.  Laura and I walked up two little steps with the groom who soon became Laura’s husband.

As the day went on, I didn’t stay ivory clean as the mom hoped.  Only once that entire day did my bustle come undone, and it was during the reception.  After Mom pinned it up, she said, “Oh, look how dirty your dress is on the bottom!”

“That means the bride is having a good time,” said a voice from a corner of the bathroom.  From what I saw, it looked like everyone knew how to celebrate good times!  I’m glad to have done my part of being the wedding dress.  This special occasion was celebrated a year ago today.  Now it’s time to celebrate another special occasion:  Laura and Michael’s first wedding anniversary!

An anniversary is a time to celebrate the joys of today,
the memories of yesterday, 
and the hopes of tomorrow.  ~Author Unknown

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All Grown Up

It was dark where we waited in single file to pay a nickel for our carton of milk.  We walked down a wide staircase to reach the basement where a lady collected the fee and handed each one of us a carton.  A small light bulb lit that room outside of the lunchroom.  After we got our cartons, we walked into the lunchroom where long columns of windows bordered one wall to brighten the place. Long rectangular tables lined up evenly to fill the space. I had to lift my leg high to get over the bench while carefully holding onto my brown paper bag where I’d just stored my carton that was sitting on top of my lunch. My other hand held onto the table for balance.  I didn’t think I could hold onto a lunch bag and a carton of milk while maneuvering my legs over the bench especially while wearing a jumper.

Mom always packed the same lunch for me in first grade.  I opened the bag, took out the ice cold milk, and opened one side of the carton so the opening reminded me of a diamond shape.  Waxy bits of the carton made my fingers sticky.  When I looked in my bag again, I found two pieces of white bread sitting inside neatly folded wax paper.  If I was lucky, the carton didn’t squish the sandwich.  I always lifted one edge to make sure crunchy peanut butter was on one side and grape jelly was on the other. After a few bites, I drank straight from the carton because we didn’t have straws available to us. (Yes, straws had been invented then, but our school didn’t have any.)  Sometimes when I drank, a chip or two of frozen milk cubes surprised me. After the sandwich was gone, I twisted the stem of a bright red apple while I recited the ABCs.  Whichever letter I was on when the stem broke off, was the first letter of the last name of the boy who liked me that day!  I bit into the crunchy apple and ate it all away except for the seeds and core.  By the time I got to my dessert of a powdered donut, my milk was gone because it seemed like peanut butter and white bread need a lot of washing down to get it all to the stomach. For the rest of the day, it felt like the powdered sugar stayed on and around my mouth.  Even if I tried to wash it away, my face still felt powdery.

I was glad when I made it to second grade because that’s when I got a lunch pail, and I got to eat bologna sandwiches with Miracle Whip. I must have matured enough to figure out that I could let Mom know I didn’t want any more powdered donuts and that I was tired of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I’ve only eaten a handful of those donuts since I graduated from first grade and doing so brings me back in time to my old school’s lunchroom.  Yet, I will have a crunchy peanut butter and grape jelly sandwich at least once a week even now.

How about you? What did you use to eat for lunch when you were in elementary school?  Do you still eat that now?  Did you have a lunch pail?  What picture was on your lunch pail?

It’s hard to remember what it’s like to be small sometimes, after we’re all grown up.

Blog post idea courtesy of WordPress:  Your typical childhood lunch. 

Yeah Write Button Fiction

 

A Sight for Sore Eyes

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I stumbled out of the car and briskly walked towards the door. I was so relieved we arrived. A series of moments had taken place to get me to that door, and I think maybe the seed was planted by the TV show, The Gilmore Girls. Rory, the main character, always talked about how she wanted to backpack through Europe. As my daughter Katie and I watched the show, Katie often commented on how she would like to go to Europe someday.

I would say, “Oh, but that’s so far away. You really wouldn’t want to go that far away from home.” Katie was often reminded about traveling to far away places when her classmates from grade school and high school travelled away on mission trips. “I didn’t even want to bring it up because I knew you and Dad would say no,” she told us. She was right about that.  After Katie went off to college, she hinted about travel abroad programs to Rome and Greece.

“Oh, but that’s so far away. You really wouldn’t want to go that far away from home for that long,” I repeated over again and hoped that something would distract her and make her want to stay. Or I said, “How about you do a short trip, like your sister.” Laura traveled abroad for three long weeks when she was in college. But, Mom’s idea of keeping Katie close to home was not an option for the determined young lady. Katie informed us that she went to a travel abroad meeting at school. “I am going to go to Ireland,” she announced. “The director is awesome, and I think I would learn a lot.” A plan to go to Ireland was smart because of the Irish roots Katie inherited from her father.

It was funny how the orientation meeting for parents and students was on St. Patrick’s Day. I wore my shamrock scarf and my husband dressed in bright Irish green colors. Katie told us that we looked like we were going to a party. As we learned more about the trip, the better we felt.

Next thing we knew, Katie was packing her one suitcase and one carry on that would have to last her for a semester in Ireland. It was hard for me to imagine how such a fashionable young lady was going to manage with one suitcase. As she scattered all of her favorite clothes on the bedroom floor and resolved to eliminate the unnecessary items, I still marveled how her dream of traveling abroad wasn’t even going to be stifled by having to abandon about 90 percent of her wardrobe!

When Katie stood in line with her future travel companions to check on her suitcase at the airport, I realized that the hardest part of being a parent is the letting go. But letting go doesn’t mean that we couldn’t go visit! I never thought that I would be one who would travel abroad, but my husband and I set about making plans.

Soon we were on an airplane to Philadelphia and then on a flight to Dublin. We flew over the Atlantic Ocean at night and having had a very busy day, I longed to lie down, but there was nowhere to go. I thought about how beds were underrated. I snoozed a bit until I was woken up by bits of turbulence or fellow passengers who were coughing, snoring or emitting unusual odors.

Thankfully, the sky started to light up and we saw how different the clouds looked beneath us. They seemed more compact and fluffy! As we went through the cloud bank, and the patchwork quilt of greens and browns greeted us, we felt lucky to see a land that was unfamiliar.

We ate a quick breakfast of eggs, sausage and potatoes and wondered why the breakfast menu offered pudding. We didn’t order pudding, but later Katie told us that Irish pudding is pig’s blood mixed with some other stuff like grains and looks like sausage!

We found the Go Bus, got on board and traveled through the sleepy town of Dublin along the Liffey River. After we went through a long tunnel, we were able to enjoy the countryside. I said, “This is the longest I have ever traveled to see someone!”  We snoozed off and on, and in between we spotted cattle or sheep happily grazing amongst the many colors of green that are divided by stone walls.

When we arrived at the bus station in Galway three hours later, we were surprised that we had to pay 20 cents to go through the turnstile to get to the bathroom. It’s the first time I had to pay for such a visit. The words, “I like to live in America, everything free in America,” a song from West Side Story kept running through my head.

My husband called the rental car company and a very nice young lady came to get us to deliver us to our rental car. We carefully paid attention to how she drove on the right side of the car, but on the left side of the road. It was scary how the traffic came at us from what we thought was the wrong direction. The pedals on the floor are the same as in the US, but everything else was backwards. We could not find signs identifying the names of the streets. The driver pointed out that sometimes they are on the sides of buildings or stuck on stone structures!

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By the time we were in our rental car and ready to go, I prayed that we would make it safely to our destination. My husband drove, and I think I was glad it was not me.  It took a while, but we found our hotel which was quite crowded with people trying to check in. When we got to our room, we grabbed a few items from our suitcase to deliver to our daughter, went to reception to ask for directions and headed out.

I felt cramped as we drove along because the streets are quite narrow and don’t have shoulders. It always felt like we were going to hit the curb, and I hated that I felt like a driving instructor as I had to remind myself and my husband to stay on the left side of the road. The travel book that I read before we left said that driving in Ireland is stressful; I wished that the author would have elaborated that point a little more because I missed seeing how beautiful the sky and mountains were and the pretty bay that we passed by because I was worried about everything! When we saw the sign we were looking for, we scooted over into the driveway, got honked at, passed by a parking lot, and found the cottage with a big sigh of relief.

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We rehearsed the procedures of putting the car in park. I got out and knocked on the door. We arrived at the time we predicted. When Katie greeted us, I thought to myself, “You are really a sight for sore eyes.” We hugged and I knew that all that it took to get to that door was going to be worth it. Not only to visit with our daughter but to be in such a beautiful place.

The journey to that door helped us discover that our children’s dreams can be and often are contagious!

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.  ~St. Augustine

The Adventurous Ones!

Katie & Me on a Bench Somewhere in Rocky Mountain National Park
When we visited Estes Park, Colorado a few years ago, Dad, Laura and Matt decided to be adventurous and go on the gondola ride.  Since Katie and I are not ones for rides, we decided to go explore the shops instead.  After we saw the rest of the family off, Katie and I headed down the path and we talked and talked while we walked and walked.  We chattered enthusiastically because we were secretly happy that we didn’t have to go on that ride, and we told each other all about it.

There was not much activity going on where we started on our way.  We walked by many houses that were along a dirt road.  One other lone walker was right ahead of us, and we slowed down because we didn’t want to pass him up.  Suddenly we both realized that we didn’t know where we were going.  We thought that we were heading towards the quaint shops, but it turned out that we took a wrong turn at the very beginning.  Even though we had driven through the town many times before, I knew we had been on this road.  It would have been better if we would have taken a right instead of a left, just like Dad told us.

I was disappointed in myself that we went the wrong way.  Not only did I feel like a bad Mom who wasn’t paying attention, I knew that we would hear about our getting lost from the adventurous ones later on.  It was yet another confirmation to me that I was not born with an internal compass.  This idea is difficult for those who do have internal compasses to understand.  They cannot fathom that people like me do not automatically know the direction by where the sun is sitting in the sky or that we do not have some connection with gravitational forces like they must.

Panic started to set in a little.  First, if I knew that we were going to be going on such a long walk, I would have worn tennis shoes instead of flip-flops because my feet were starting to hurt.  Second, if I knew we were going to get lost, I would have paid more attention to where we were going in the first place.

Our feet got grungier and grittier, but we finally came to a spot where we could turn.  About the time we tried to connect with the rest of the family was about the time when we thought we were on our way to the shops.  We dialed numbers that kept on ringing.  When we didn’t get an answer, we decided to enjoy the scenery on the way and discovered that the quaint shops were not where we thought they were.

After many lost phone connections and directions of ways to go from the adventurous ones, we found our way to the Super America Gas Station where we met up with the rest of the family.  That’s where Katie and I got a Coke and called it a day.

There were more days left to discover the cute shops, but that day it turned out that we made an adventure of our own.  Even though we got lost, we saw lots of sights that we would not have seen if we thought we knew our way!

Cute Shop!
We were glad to make it back to the cabin ~ this wasn’t the cabin we stayed in though!
When we were all together again, we stayed that way, and explored Rocky Mountain National Park as one happy family!
We made sure we stayed together on hikes.
I made sure I wore my tennis shoes!
We were glad to see beautiful streams!

We drove up high into the mountains!
Luckily, we only saw one wild animal!
Don’t let people drive you crazy when you know it’s in walking distance. 
~Author Unknown

Every Time a Train Whistle Blows

My Dad and Me 60

One day Daddy brought me to the railroad yard where he worked. The train tracks seemed too high for me to go over, so Dad held me tight and carried me across. When we got to the train, I looked down along its path and saw all the cars hooked together. Dad pointed to the caboose and then climbed up into the engine while he kept me in tow. It was dark inside, but being up so high, I was able to see the tracks that we just crossed and the building that Dad said was the station. Dad looked at me and smiled and said, “Pull that string.” He pointed to a cord that hung down from the ceiling. I shook my head “no” as I looked into his big blue eyes. Dad didn’t ask me to pull it again. He just pulled it himself. That’s when I knew what needed to be done to make the whistle blow. The sound of the whistle was so loud, but it didn’t scare me because Dad held me tight.

Ever since then, I wished I would have been brave enough to make that whistle blow. Sometimes I felt like I was a little afraid of Dad because I didn’t see him very much when I was small because he worked nights. Every now and then, I would see him in the early morning just when he got home from work. I didn’t blame him for my being a little afraid because I knew that it was his schedule to work, come home and eat, and go to bed. It was what Dad had to do to take care of his family.

If I got up early enough, I was lucky to see my Dad. I hid behind the kitchen door and peaked at him through the crack. I held myself very still while holding onto my white baby blanket. The bright morning sun hurt my eyes as its light crept through the window. I watched Dad’s back, and listened to his spoon hit the bowl of cereal with a sort of steady rhythm as he held the newspaper in front of him. His engineer hat usually sat on the counter right next to him.

Suddenly, he belted out a tune that took me out of my trance and had me pulling my thumb out of my mouth:

Peak-a-Boo, I See You,
Hiding Behind the Door!

He sang it over and over in a melody he made up until I got brave enough to come out from behind the door. When I got close enough, Dad pulled me into his lap and I felt more comfort there than I did from my security blanket and my wet thumb put together. That nice warm hug made all my being afraid go away.

It always shocked me when he sang that song because I couldn’t figure out how he knew I was hiding behind the door. Now every time I hear a train whistle blow, I think of you Dad!

Dad, your guiding hand on my shoulder will remain with me forever. ~Author Unknown

State of Embarrassment

Eleanor was a lady who was about the age I am now when I met her. Both of us typed away our days on electric typewriters. Carbon paper smudges could be found on our hands and desks. The faster Eleanor typed, the more askew her black wig became, and sometimes small unruly gray hairs escaped around the edges. Eleanor pounded that keyboard and flew through it all creating words on heavy bond paper. I kept up to speed and switched out my paper just when she did.

Since it was just the two of us who had to keep the place running and stocked with supplies, I soon learned that it would be my job to go get all these things. Luckily there was an office supply store right around the corner from our building. We looked through the small cabinet which seemed to be full while Eleanor made a list of items.

I didn’t mind going off to run errands since it got me outside. That day was bright with a blue sky, and the sun made long shadows of the buildings. My high heels clicked on the pavement while the breeze swished at the skirt of my dress. I held that list firmly in my hand.

When I entered the store, a helpful salesman greeted me and kindly showed me about the place. We gathered up the supplies which included folders. The folders were a good place to balance the 20 boxes of staples that Eleanor said we needed. I thanked the gentleman for helping me, left the store, and again clicked my heels on the pavement. All the while I held steady the piles of boxes of staples on top of the folders. As I rounded the corner, I was happy about my balancing act. Just as I approached the revolving doors, my clicking heels got off beat, and all the boxes of staples went crashing down to the hard pavement. Some boxes stayed intact, but many did not. Not only were some boxes all kittywampus, but there were many staples that had broken apart from their neatly arranged rows. I stooped over to pick the mess up and knew that my face matched the color of my dress. Little rivets of perspiration made a path down my spine. I could feel the stares of the passersby as I tried to move to hide my blushing face.

As I tried to pinch the lone staples between my fingers, a nice young man came to help. I don’t think I was even brave enough to look him in the eyes, but I know I thanked him over and over again. I even told him that I was okay, and that he didn’t need to help me, but he wouldn’t listen and stayed. We weren’t able to pick up every single staple because I could only stay in that state of embarrassment for so long. I gathered up what we pinched up, thanked him again and went through the revolving doors.

When I got back to the cupboard I noticed that there were plenty of staples there already. I told Eleanor through clenched teeth that I dropped the boxes. She shrugged and suggested that I stack the new ones as best I could with the intact boxes on the bottom, and the unorganized ones on top. She thought it would be best if we used up the mixed up ones first.

I could never figure out why Eleanor thought we needed so many staples. Inside I felt she was just playing a dastardly trick on me. When I left that job two and a half years later, some of the lopsided boxes were still in the cupboard. I wasn’t disappointed that I never got to see all those mixed up staples get used.

Even though I was in a state of embarrassment that day, it was still nice to receive help from a stranger.

Every day may not be good, but there’s something good in every day.  ~Author Unknown

Favorite Tune Still Playing!

Samantha turned the pages pretty rapidly and only got stuck on a couple of words.  She sounded the tricky ones out just fine, and I only had to help a little.  As she pulled one book out of her blue knapsack while putting away the other, she looked at me through the corner of her eye, and her mouth bent into a smile.

When she got to the last poem in one of the books, I didn’t think that the poem she read to me would be in a current book.  The poem was written just as I remembered it, and Samantha read it perfectly.  The only thing that was different about it was that it was called The Rainbow Poem.

Listening to those words brought me back to the days when Dad played albums every Sunday.  The Peggy Lee album was one of his favorites.  My favorite song on that album was Sing a Rainbow.  I bent over the phonograph, my belly feeling the pinch as I stretched.  I always counted the grooves and found the spot where I should lower the arm.  The needle almost always fell right in place.  Peggy Lee’s voice would surround the room as she happily sang the colors of the rainbow.  Once the song was over, I placed that needle right back to the beginning again.  My parents didn’t seem to mind hearing that song over and over again or listening to me sing along.

That tune stuck in my head over the years.  As I rocked each one of my babies, I sang that song to them, over and over again.  Even though they are not babies any more, I bet each one of them knows Sing a Rainbow by heart.

I didn’t think to tell Samantha that I knew that poem as she named the colors to me one by one.  Maybe I will see her again the next time I volunteer at her school.  It’s nice to know this favorite tune is still playing in other places instead of just inside of my head!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=TxsHzfpjbHw