Placing flowers ..

While many are out on the boat this weekend, having picnics, gathering with friends,  enjoying the time off and not thinking much if at all about the reason for the extra day off …

Many others will be gathering in cemeteries throughout the nation .. placing flags .. thinking about the reasons for the holiday weekend and remembering loved ones who gave the ultimate gift of sacrifice.

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I remember well, marching across the street from Poynette High School when I was young with a group from the band.  Standing there in the heat while names of the service men and women from our area who had been killed in action or who had passed, were read.  Listening to a speaker reflect on the reason we were all there and for the day.  Wincing while the gun salute was fired.

http://www.poynettepressonline.com/main.asp?SectionID=42&SubSectionID=151&ArticleID=5681

Everyone would stand around and talk for a few minutes afterwards, catch up .. and see who was heading over to the chicken barbecue at the VFW.

“We’ll see you in a few minutes ..” mom and dad would always tell friends.

But every year before we’d go, we would always stop by the headstones of family members also gone .. veteran or otherwise, we would tell stories or talk a little about who they were and make sure all the relatives had fresh flowers on their graves.

Geraniums were always part of the mix.  I never understood why.  But red geraniums were always planted up the cemetery.

I was never a big fan of them, that is until after mom passed .. but I love them now.  Because, I would assume, they remind me of her.

It’s hard to see, but there’s one in there.  My daughter and I took flowers up to my mom’s grave last weekend, as I was headed to the Cowboy’s for the Memorial Holiday weekend.  And she this year has the weekend with her dad.

Mom always loved fresh flowers and being in the garden during the spring, summer and fall.  Sometimes I wonder if it isn’t silly to spend time around the gravesite and feel close to her in some small way there.

But she is with me all the time.

I guess fresh flowers next to her grave, or any others who are family or friends .. sometimes I know of people who place flowers or a flag at the headstone of a stranger ..  Memorial Day weekend or otherwise, I just think it’s one small way to show they haven’t been forgotten..

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My Mother …

Apartment is cleaned up.  Laundry is going.  Coffee is on.  Running clothes are on too so that I’m motivated to workout after writing this, before I run off to work.

Life’s been hectic lately.  A good hectic at times and at other times, exhausting.  More emotionally than anything.  But finally feeling like I have a moment to sit and write.

I wrote most of last week about the mom’s in my life.  And while Mother’s Day has come and gone and this was to be my post on Sunday .. my 100th post .. I’m actually thinking my mom would appreciate that I’ve been trying to take care of some other obligations and things that needed tending to, before taking this break.  Plus, she’d appreciate, I believe, the fact I’ve done nothing but think about her and what was important to write about her now for over a week.

There isn’t a day though that goes by, I don’t think of her and wish I could pick up the phone to actually call .. she was and will always be the woman who became not only my mom, but also eventually my best friend.

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Those of you who are a daughter or who have one now .. can imagine it wasn’t always that way.

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“I don’t have to listen to you!  You’re not my real mother ..” I remember saying to her more than once when I was growing up.

I’m not sure what she ever said or expected of me that warranted that response.

But I remember saying it.  And regretting it then and now with everything I have.  How often we say things, especially as children, we wish we could take back.  Thankfully I had the chance to make amends for that and any other trouble I may have caused her in her far too short a life .. over and over again.  I did my best anyway.

And even though my mom isn’t here to walk me through how she might handle some of the parenting issues I am now blessed and challenged with .. I believe I have some wonderful insight, hindsight and foresight .. as my daughter tries to get away with some of the same.

🙂

Back to my mom.

I may be looking at this through rose colored glasses .. but I don’t think so.  And even if I am, I don’t care.

Here’s what I remember of my mother:

She went by A. Eileen because she hated her first name.  And she never wanted anyone to know it was Agnes.  But I kind of like it.  Family name.  She was born in Maryland but raised in Madison.  Her own father, Paul died while she was very young of tuberculosis.  She ended up with TB because of it.  Scarring her lungs as a very young child.  She was lucky to have survived, herself.  But it would eventually make her more vulnerable apparently, to the cancer that took her life.  She grew up in both a single parent home and when my grandmother remarried at one point, from everything I understand, in an abusive environment.  She attended Business College.  Met my father in a soda shop on Madison’s east side.  Married and moved to the small town of Poynette where she .. and they would live and work and raise our family, most of the rest of her life.

Our first home was tiny, but from what little I remember of it, she made it a home.  Totally 70’s decor.  Sweet flower beds around the house.  Lilies of the Valley out the front window I still remember the smell of them as they would bloom each spring.  A play set in the backyard.  She was always very proud of how things looked, including herself.  She wasn’t a workout queen.  But she was slender, always kept.

And despite the fact she wore little other makeup, there was always bright pink or red lipstick that went on.

She was simple.  Didn’t need much.  Her closet was minimal.  I stood looking at mine the other day and even now, mine is half the size it was a couple years ago (in part because I keep most of my work clothes now at work because I have no closet space in my old school apartment) .. thinking about how I would like to get down to a wardrobe the size of the one she had.  Life.  More Simple.  I love the thought.  And I am going through my own things little by little doing what I can right now to minimize.  (How and when did we as a society ever go from something four-feet wide being enough to closets the size of an efficiency apartment being the norm?)

She was a wonderful woman with an infectious smile .. and a laugh that seemed to be heard around every corner.  When she was happy.  When she was stressed.  When she would hear us say things we shouldn’t .. knowing the consequence was coming.

She was stern, yet vulnerable.  Beautiful.  Outspoken yet often quiet, introspective and kept to herself.  She was helpful.  Had great penmanship.  I love how she wrote her name.  Is that silly?  Whatever.  She was hard working.  Always wanting to pitch in to help wherever it was needed but knowing when it was time to rest and ‘just be’, as well.  She was all about family.  And community where she could.  Volunteering.  Getting involved.  But she was equally good at hiding out and tending to her own well being .. and that of our family.

She preferred my dad do the cooking, she’d do the dishes or get us to do them.  She and my dad both worked hard.  And in turn, expectations of what we could do and how we could pitch in as a team were high.

Especially as we got older.  Older .. interestingly enough, meaning probably my dear daughter, about the age you are now.

During the summer and on weekends especially, mom wanted a clean house.  With or without company coming.  We were expected to keep our rooms clean, have the laundry done and folded, vacuuming done, floors scrubbed with a rag – not a mop, have the lawn mowed, weeds pulled, the garage swept out, toys put away and whatever our other jobs were, done.  We were expected (ahem .. encouraged strongly if we ever wanted money of our own, ever) to work on top of any of that.  We mowed neighbors lawns.  Had paper routes.  De-tassled corn.  Babysat.  My first ‘real job’ I’m pretty sure was at the flower shop/convenience store in town, where my mom would go everyday for her Pepsi and Hershey’s candy bar for a break from work.  It was right across the street from her office.

Work.  Then play.

Which we were given a lot of room to do as well.

(I had written a bunch about that, but thinking I’ll save that for a post all its own.  The importance of play.  And another .. about having a job when you’re young.  Both are so important, I believe.)

In having many expectations of us, we were also given a lot of freedom to mess up.  Figure things out on our own.  And reap the rewards of being good and doing well, earning trust.  Or suffering the consequences of not making wise choices.  And grounded.  For like .. most of my high school years.  All were gifts that helped us both grow into the people we’ve become.  Like us or not.

Travel.

Mom loved to travel.  But hated to drive (flying wasn’t an option back then on a budget).  And she was terrible about reading maps.  One of my fondest memories though is of her, wherever we would be, in the passenger seat with the map.

My dad would say to her, ‘Where next?  Where do we turn next?’

“Well, I think .. here,” she would say.  And she would almost instantly start laughing.

“You think there?!” my dad would say getting frustrated.

We ended up in places we should not have been traveling on more than one occasion because she would break down in a fit of laughter and tears and not be able to even read the map.  Ultimately ending up in the drivers seat while our dad tried to navigate us out of a mess.

I hear her laughter everyday ..

.. as I glance at the photo I took of her on one of the last road trips we would ever take together.

We were in Montana.  And while at this particular moment we weren’t lost, we were laughing.

The photo reminds me each day of her simple nature, her appreciation for life and finding beauty in the everyday little things, for exploring .. but also in coming home again.  And in being with family.

Love and miss you.

“Let there be more joy and laughter in your living” – Eileen Caddy

(A quote not my mom, but apparently another wise Eileen.)

Best Friends Mom …

I was five, I think when we moved into the house that I eventually grew up in..

I knew there were some other kids in the neighborhood .. and my brother and I were excited to explore.  The neighborhood.  New friends.  The woods behind our house.  The rope swing over the pond.  The sewer treatment plant (that at the time, didn’t have a fence around it).  Disgusting, I know.  But at that age, the dirtier, tougher and grosser we could be it seemed, the better.

We had a blast.  It was small town living at its best.

Growing up, I would almost always choose hanging out with the boys versus just about                                                                                                                                    any girls.  I don’t ever remember anything different.  In part, because there were just fewer girls.  But I wanted to play football or baseball, golf, run and jump and build forts and climb trees, bike everywhere I could and go into that one old house we all thought was haunted and our parents told us never to approach.  Not just walk by and wonder.  There was no playing dolls.  In fact I still remember having to apologize to a girl in the neighborhood we first lived in because I ripped the head off one of her dolls.  I’m not sure I meant to, it just happened.  I think.  I had little interest to sit around and watch tv.  Or be giggly and put on make up and talk about boys.  No thank you.  Not at that time.

And the one girl who lived just a few doors up the street, closest to my age, felt exactly the same.

In getting to be fast, best of friends with Amy ..

I also became very close to her family.

Even her brother who used to site me in the eye of his slingshot, chase me home, hide in the woods knowing I was heading home to scare the bajeezus out of me, lock me out of their house if he knew I was coming or once I got in, not let me leave.  And then find a way to put his underwear over my head.

Perhaps I got close to their mom, Peggy, because she felt terrible for me and it was out of pity over all of that.

But I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.  Peggy was just kind of, like some of the others I have mentioned the past couple days .. mom to all who knew her.  The door was always open.  Food or a meal to be shared.  Drinks in the cooler.  There was always time for a late night chat.  A hug.  A phone call.  A walk around the block.  An invitation to join whatever it was the family was doing.  Always.  I loved her and still do so much that at times, I believe my own mother felt very slighted.  Because Peggy was in many ways to me a resource I wasn’t sure how to completely find in my own mom.  Someone I could talk to about anything.  Not feel I was revealing too much or be judged.  Or who would ground me for any of it.  There was just always sage advice.  A kleenex.  Understanding.  Empathy.  Love.  Laughter.

And Cheetos.  There was always great junk food in the cupboard up the street .. stuff we rarely had at home.  (A tradition much to my daughter’s dismay I now carry on.  Very little junk food ever in house.)

I would usually stay to a point where – we knew the phone would ring.  And when it did, we would all look at each other and say, ‘my mom’, and chuckle.  Sure enough, my mother would be on the other end of the line, when she could have shouted up the street, saying .. “Ten minutes, honey.  You need to be home in ten minutes.”

I hated leaving, always.  And still do.

Peggy and her beautiful family have always made me feel at home and been home to me as much as I have a home anywhere.

And because my parents sold our home years ago .. when I get back to my hometown, which isn’t often enough ..

Main Street in our small town

I find myself mindlessly, always pulling into their drive.

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So much has happened recently I want to write more about but I don’t want to say too much.  What I do want you to know is the difference you have made in my life.  My time here.  That I am reminded everyday of the importance of time together and family and good health and paying forward so many blessings like time together and laughter, a door always open and so much love to be shared..

I love you dearly.  So many do.

I think I may go today and buy Cheetos for the neighborhood …