Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Simpler Time

I listen to the radio a lot.  It is usually on in the house as I go about my day.  It is always on in the car.  It always amazes me how a song can bring back such vivid memories.  Smells can do that also - a certain perfume that I wore in college will always remind me of that time.  The smell of lily of the valley and lilacs always reminds me of playing in the front yard of the house where I grew up.  The front of the house faced north, and in the northwest corner of the house there was a square flower garden where we had rose bushes, irises, a bleeding heart bush (I just bought one of them and plan to plant it on the north side of my house), snow on the mountain, and lily of the valley.  We had three lilac trees in our yard right next to the long gravel driveway.  A light purple one by the road that went past our house, and another light purple one and a white one further up the driveway.  The white lilac tree was tallest, and it had a branch on it that I used to swing from when I was very little.  I actually have a picture of me swinging from that branch.  How I cherish that picture.  

The other day, as I was driving around town, I heard an old country song "Happiest Girl in the Whole USA" by Donna Fargo.  Immediately, I was transported back to a cold winter morning when I was little.  Mom would bundle me up in a blanket and sit me at the kitchen table where she would serve me chocolate Malt o Meal and milk in my favorite white mug with red roosters on it.  I have the mug packed away somewhere, and it just dawned on me that maybe the mug is the reason I recently decorated my kitchen in roosters, and I love it.  

I would sit at the table early in the morning, and a small white radio would be playing the local AM radio station music.  There was nothing spectacular that ever happened that stands out in my memory, but it is that wonderful, drafty old house, and my Mom, and the feeling of love and safety (for lack of a better word) that I remember.  Funny how after all the things my parents did - road trips, county fairs, presents at Christmas - it is the smallest, most ordinary things that I treasure about childhood.  

And so, this video is dedicated to my parents.  They were (as my father would say) "solid as Sears", and they always made sure that I had everything I needed.  And they have provided me with a lifetime of good memories that I hold close to my heart and think of often.  

Thursday, May 21, 2009


"When God closes one door, He opens another."  Proverb

Sometimes, I think I stare at the closed door for so long that I miss seeing the open door.  

This is my least favorite time of year.  Endings.  Goodbyes.  Moving on from one phase of life to another.  I have always believed that my kids don't transition well, but really it's me who resists change.  I don't always take time to stand back and enjoy the process of things.  I'm in such a hurry to see the end, the final product, the culmination of so much time and effort.  And when the end is in sight, I can't believe that the end is near.  

Last Sunday was my last day teaching Sunday School.  All my kids were there on the final day, so I had my hands full.  The wonderful Isabelle wore a pretty black dress and had her hair crimped in honor of the last day of class.  Her dress was held together in the back with safety pins.  She told me it was really her older sister's dress.  

The little fashionista girl was there in a very fashionable outfit.  The smiley boy was there.  Joe was there.  And the quiet boy whose grandpa had died last fall was there too.  We had our last small-group class, and then we joined all the kids ages 6 and under for large group lessons.  It was time to sing and dance to some songs, and Isabelle turned around and told me, "It's time for us to dance and for you to drink your coffee."  Guilty.  Those kids pick up on everything.  

At the end of class, the kids got a dilly bar, and I asked each one of them a question about themselves to pass the final minutes.  Then I asked them if any of them had a question for me.  Isabelle's hand shot up in the air and she asked, "If you got a yellow dog, would you name it Goldie?"  I told her that I would name that dog Nala like the lioness from the Lion King.  Then the fashionista girl asked me, "What color are your eyes - really?"  I have very green eyes, and I wear blue gas permeable contacts, so my eyes look like a weird murky green color.  

Then it was time to go.  I offered each child the choice of a handshake, a hug or a high five.  The girls gave big running hugs.  Two from the fashionista, and then her father came to get her.  One hug from the smiley boy.  Joe met up with his sister and went to sit on the couches in the lounge area of the church.  The quiet boy had put his hands in his pockets and took off without my noticing.  No goodbye from him.  And then it was me and Isabelle who stood with her blonde crimped hair and ill-fitting dress looking up at me smiling.  "I like you" she said, "I didn't think I would."  I asked her if she still thought that I didn't look like a nice person.  She said, "Sometimes.  You need to smile more."  And then she hugged my leg and ran off to meet her Mom.  She didn't look back.  I stood for a minute with a picky feeling behind my eyes which always signals oncoming tears.  I blinked them back and looked back at the empty Sunday School room.  And I smiled and shut the door.  

"It takes a lot of courage to release the familiar and seemingly secure, to embrace the new.  But there is no real security in what is no longer meaningful.  There is more security in the adventurous and exciting, for in movement there is life, and in change there is power."  Alan Cohen  

My daughter tends to see everything negatively.  Every day after school, I ask the kids how their day was.  Kaitlyn always gives me the same "Napoleon Dynamite" answer, "It was the worst day of my life!"  Last Tuesday, I had lunch at school with her.  She sits with a wonderful group of girls.  We talked all through lunch, though Kate remained quiet.  One little girl remarked how much Kate and I look alike.  We smiled at that.  Then we went out for recess, and Kaitlyn had to show me all the stuff she can do on the monkey bars.  Various little third graders would come up to me and strike up a conversation.  I had a wonderful time.  And then it was time to go and Kate was sad.  She has had a rough year in third grade.  She never made friends with any of the girls in her class, just girls in the other third grade classes.  Her teacher was very nice, and Kate liked her very much.  I believe Kate learned a lot this year, and she's getting excellent marks, but there was something about this year that just never "clicked" for her.  There is a rotten girl in her class that picked on her for most of the year.  I hope and pray that kid either goes to a different school or she isn't in Kate's class next year.  For the first time ever, I think I'll be happy to see her graduate to the next grade.  This is a door that I'm happy to close.  

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves."  Victor Frankl

And then there is my "Almost First Grader".  I am sad beyond belief that my last kindergartener is moving on to first grade.  He brought home a note from his teacher yesterday that said, "Joe had a terrific day today - not one reminder about a thing!"  He was so proud to show it to me.  I put it up on the refrigerator for everyone to see.  I am so proud of him and his good report.  

A couple of weeks ago, I chaperoned the kindergarteners on a bumper bowling field trip.  We walked to a local bowling alley and bowled six frames.  What a fun time.  I have so many good memories of his kindergarten year.  I was able to volunteer a lot in that classroom, and I enjoyed every minute of it.  I am so sad to see this special year end for him.  But he is ready to move on, and he's really ready for summer vacation.  Every year on the last day of school, I take the kids pictures and give them a kiss for the last time as a Kindergartener, third grader, etc.  And then I compare that picture to the picture of them on the first day of school, and then I cry for about an hour.  I will cry the last time we walk out of the kindergarten room and that door shuts behind us.  This year really went by quickly.  

"If you're in a bad situation, don't worry it'll change.  If you're in a good situation, don't worry it'll change."  John A. Simone, Sr.  

This was a special year for Kaitlyn in dance class.  You might remember that I blogged about it last fall.  She has worked so hard.  And she has had the most fantastic dance teacher.  A couple of weeks ago, I asked the teacher if she would be teaching the 9-10 year olds next year, and she told me that she gave her notice and won't be teaching next year.  She wants to spend some time with her husband, and she teaches for the Park and Rec Department in River Falls.  I practically started crying right then and there.  This lady is such a wonderful teacher and free spirit.  She literally dances through life, and she is the best teacher that Kate could have ever had.  Kate learned so much from her and had a lot of fun while she was learning it.  

The last day of class was Thursday.  We got the teacher, Miss Jennifer, a pink rose with baby's breath and a thank you card from Kaitlyn.  I wrote her a letter thanking her for all her hard work.  Sometimes Kaitlyn has two left feet, but she has the heart of a dancer, and Miss Jennifer helped her shine.  She instilled so much self-confidence in Kaitlyn, and when Kate looks back on her years of dance lessons, she will always remember Miss Jennifer.  

At the last dance class, Miss Jennifer drew face paint on the girls.  One symbol was for a warrior, and the other symbol was for the first woman president.  Each girl got to show off a move that she learned that year, and then was presented with a certificate.  Miss Jennifer thanked all of us parents for the gift of letting her get to know our daughters.  And yes, I blinked back tears.  I gathered Kate and her dance shoes and her certificate, and we got ready to leave.  Kate was bouncing off the walls from such a fun last class.  I felt a pang of sadness as we walked out the door for the last time this year.  Her dance school isn't a very friendly place.  It is very competitive.  It wasn't until Kate got in Ms. Jennifer's class that she really started having fun.  Kate is determined to earn a "five-year pin" from this school, and she has two more years of lessons before she can do that.  I hope she has fun these next two years.  And Miss Jennifer told Kate that she might come back for the 2010-11 classes.  I'll keep my fingers crossed.  This door might not be fully closed after all.  

"It's always something."  Roseanne Roseannadanna

And now we're starting up t-ball for Joe and junior fast-pitch softball for Kate.  Joe is quite serious about baseball this year, and he's loving it so far.  Kate is holding her own on a team of very talented softball players.  

The dance recital is coming up complete with dress rehearsal, costumes, and lots of other mayhem.  These next two weeks are filled with field trips and school picnics.  And soon, the kids will be enjoying summer school, summer swim lessons, more t-ball and softball, an art class for Kate at the local performing arts center, and day camp for both kids.  I'm keeping them busy.  I know the end of summer will come all too quickly, but I'm usually ready for them to get back to school in the fall, and that transition won't be so hard.  

And soon I'll file away the last school papers and art projects from this school year.  I'll retire the worn-out backpacks they used all year.  We'll turn our attention to all the fun that summer has in store for us - the newly opened door.  

And what makes me really sad is that soon I'll get over missing the kindergarten room, and the Sunday School class, and Ms. Jennifer's dance class.  They will become fading memories in a whole sea of fading memories.  But when we look back, we'll smile and hopefully will be able to open the door of our memories enough to catch a glimmer of the happy feelings we once had.  

"Nature's first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold.  Her early leaf's a flower; But only so an hour.  Then leaf subsides to leaf.  So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day.  Nothing gold can stay."   "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost