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Baby Book Is Never Truly Finished

E 2017

The day my son was born I had a sensation I  never had experienced before and would not again until last week. Like my pregnancy with his sister, I had been induced. Shortly after my doctor had examined me and left, I asked the nurse “Did he say I could push?” her response was “No, he needs to be here.” and explained he had returned to his office across the street. With my daughter I had never had the urge to push and had to be coached through it by the doctor and nurse. Now, I suddenly found myself overcome with the desire and told her she needed to summon my doctor immediately. She said  “Don’t push until you see the whites of his eyes.”. My response between panting was “His eyes better get here soon!” . The best way to describe to someone what this felt like was having the worst case of stomach flu and being told “The bathroom will be available in a half hour.” You simply know that will not work.

The doctor made a speedy return and the team swung into action telling me when to push, when to breathe and then in what I consider to be the most comical part of the delivery, the doctor said “The head is huge.” and my husband concurred and I somewhat angrily and unamused (at the time) said “I KNOW!!!!”. I followed the continuous coaching of being told when to breathe, when to push and when to stop. It only took about three pushes and then I was given the news that it was a boy! I held him briefly before he was whisked away. I then experienced the odd sensation that I wanted to continue to be instructed as to when to push and when to breathe and when to stop. It had all happened so quickly, it was as though I needed further guidance. I had experienced no such confusion when my daughter was born. It was as though I needed further confirmation that what I was doing was the right thing.

My husband left the room to find out where the nurse had taken our new family member and I was left alone to simply breathe in and out on my own without being told to by anyone, much like I had been doing the previous 31 years of my life. When my husband returned his eyes were scared and he told me “There is something wrong with him but they aren’t telling me what.”. So I swung my legs over the side of the bed and waddled to the nursery where my 8 pound plus newborn dwarfed the tiny newbies hooked up to wires and monitors. To my untrained eye, he looked fine to me. A visibly pregnant doctor in a lab coat turned around as I looked down at my son and she said “He was born just a half hour ago.” I responded “I know, I was there.” and her eyes grew wide and she called for a wheel chair and asked why I was up. I told her that my husband couldn’t find out what was wrong with him so I had come to see for myself. She told me that he was perfectly healthy but was getting some sugar, as bigger babies sometimes deplete their supply during the delivery. Everything was fine, those are the words all parents want to hear about their kids. It begins with the first prenatal sound of the heartbeat, continues with the ultrasound and goes on and on through every pediatrician visit and school conference.

In most cases there is very little a parent knows about their child before they are born. My husband and I didn’t want to know the gender of either of our babies before their birth, comparing it to unwrapping and rewrapping Christmas gifts before Christmas morning. After finding out their gender, height and weight, other things are revealed to you like hair color (not much with either of ours), eye color (both of ours have stunning blue eyes) and later their disposition. As time passes more aspects of who they are become apparent. Our son was two when we discovered he was allergic to cats. It wasn’t until third grade we learned he was dyslexic. Between those ages it was apparent he liked Barbies, enjoyed dress-up and could create fashions on a sheet of paper that when cutout were perfect three-dimensional articles of doll-sized clothing. He liked music and loved to dance. He was very social and loved babies.

E and Me dressup.jpg

He has a love for history, the Faberge Eggs led to his interest in Royalty from the Russian Czars to the British thrown.  He is fascinated by the Kennedy era of politics. He likes pop culture, runway fashion and most any movie with Leo DiCaprio in it. I knew none of these things about him when I carried him or in those early hours as I held him in the hospital.

As he has grown older it’s become clear how compassionate he is; growing his hair during the entire year he was ten to raise money for childhood cancer research to have it shaved for the St. Baldericks organization and donating the hair to Locks of Love, running the blood drives at his high school for three years, participating in the Box City Vigil (staying overnight on the lawn of the Capital in boxes) to raise awareness of homeless youth. Participating in (and winning) the Mr. AXO man pageant, a sorority event that kicks off Domestic Violence Awareness week. I recall in middle school him coming home and telling me about a classmate who had been molested by her uncle and his resulting deportation. When I asked if the other kids were understanding of her situation he told me that none of the other kids knew, she had only told him. Over the years he has often been the understanding confidante to his peers.

From pre-school on there has always been a girl(s) with a crush on him. During school open house in elementary school we were often asked “Are you Eddie’s parents?” then were told “We hear a lot about Eddie at our house.” only to walk ten feet down the hallway and have another set of parents say the same thing. His social calendar was filled with five proms, numerous Sadie Hawkins day dances and twenty-four formals and semi-formals filled his college weekends.

E and Crissy

His natural ability to lead people and organizations had him holding offices in student government, show choir and serving two years as a theater captain. His energy and natural gifts lit up the stage at dance recitals, theater productions and show choir competitions. College saw him step away from performance but serving on his campus Activity Board and as a class senator in Student Government, then as the treasurer and eventually as President for his senior year. Joining a fraternity rounded out his “free time” alongside his jobs in offices on campus and academics that garnered him a major in Business Management and minors in Economics, Studio Arts and Religion in four years.

Currently he is in grad school, living in a house with five guys and working on a Masters in Business Design and Innovation. His boundless creativity, time management and circle of friends have seen him accomplish more in 22 years than many do in a lifetime. His father and I are proud of both he and his sister for the people they have grown to be.

E with Bee

Over the years we have frequently been told what a great job we have done raising our kids and my response has been “We can’t take much credit for it. They come to you prewired and you can either support them in their interests and guide them or you can force your own plans on them and make them miserable.” My other sage parenting advice is “Don’t treat your children equally, treat them equitably, as they need different things.” I describe my daughter’s youth as being “linear”, she liked to participate in one activity at a time and valued her free-time for reading, art and time with pets. While she participated in athletics, she did not like when seasons overlapped. More of an introvert (like her father) she often needed a nudge to socialize. My son on the other hand could go from squeezing in an extra class prior to the start of a school day to returning from rehearsals after 10:00 pm, followed by homework and springing out of bed the next day to decorate for Homecoming and emceeing the event. If we had told him “Your sister did one activity at a time, you need to choose between dance lessens, theater, show choir and student government.” it would have crushed him and not allowed for him to reach his full potential. An example of the equal/equitable is their 17th birthday gifts, our daughter received a set of pens for her art interests, our son a used car. Our daughter is still using the markers (also had a Studio Arts minor) and never got her driver’s license until after completing college. I needed my son to have a car after years of drop-offs and pickups at strange hours. Same goes for a cell phone, he had one first because it was a necessity before it ever became a priority to our daughter.

Since going off to college texting has been the primary form of communication with both of my kids. As a Mom I relish the occasional phone call, even when it’s just for information to complete the FAFSA. There was the call that he’d been elected President, the call that he was part of the Homecoming court during his senior year and a couple of weeks ago there was a Friday night call to say that he had gone to watch Elizabeth Smart speak on campus. He told me that as he listened to her account of abduction, abuse and eventual return to her family that he was reminded of what his father had told he and his sister repeatedly when they were kids “If someone ever takes you, know that we will never stop looking for you. If someone tells you that we don’t care about you or have forgotten about you, that it is not true. No matter what, we will never stop looking and we will find you.”. He went on to say that he was looking to volunteer with an organization in the community that works against sex-trafficking and the sex trade.  As Minnesotans and newlyweds when Jacob Wetterling was abducted,  we intentionally raised our kids with an awareness that not everyone is kind and well-intentioned. When I hung up the phone and told my husband about our conversation it was confirmation that our kids carried with them the message repeated in innumerable ways since birth, that they were loved no matter what.

E Snoopy

Last week while I was at my best friend’s cabin, my husband was on a business trip in Georgia and my daughter was planning for a road trip with her roommate, my son sent a group text. In the brief message he let us know he was “coming out” and thanked us for raising him in a household where he knows he has our love and support no matter what. For a brief moment I was overwhelmed with the sensation that I had only previously experienced on the day he was born. I wanted someone to tell me to breathe or push or stop. Then the exact same thing happened, I just kept breathing on my own. It swept over me with the realization that this was simply another aspect of who he is being revealed and confirmed. Like a cat allergy or dyslexia, something that I had once not known that I was now aware of. An aspect of life figured out.

E Agitator.jpg

 

Other thoughts on parenting my adults can be found in previous blogs: https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/i-suppose-we-all-have-to-grow-up-sometime-im-getting-there

 

 

 

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My Dad Was the Best. Hope Yours Was Too!

Father’s Day is fast approaching, an annual celebration of the paternal and the sad anniversary of my own father passing. While memories of him cross my mind several times a day, at this time of year I find myself digging in my mind for some forgotten memory, thinking perhaps I have some tucked away like a forgotten sweater in a cedar chest, an old favorite that simply has not seen the light of day for many years.

I have used my father as the topic of previous blogs (https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/dad-gone-a-quarter-century & https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2016/11/04/my-roots-lead-back-to-november-fifth) and his humor and life lessens dot the landscape of other musings in my posts as well. While my mind is percolating on him as a subject, I will share some more.

My dad (just like my best friend’s father, another amazing man) was an electrician by trade, as was my grandfather. Though he worked on many job sites through the years, some of the more memorable ones included the construction of the Thunderbird Hotel, The IDS Tower, The Registry Hotel and the story I’m about to embark on  from his work on the MSP Airport.

My dad started work early each morning, usually packing a lunch and carrying a thermos of coffee. As a union man he also had “coffee breaks” during the day and while working on the airport runways a silver truck would stop out to his work site that offered hot coffee, sandwiches and pastries for sale. I imagine his first break took place about 8 am. An affable man, my father built a rapport with the truck driver during his daily rounds. When dad became aware that his work at the airport was winding down and his company was preparing to assign him to a new job he hatched a plan.

When the silver truck headed out to my dad’s location, on what was scheduled to be his last day, there sat my dad at a card table (with two chairs) covered with a white table cloth, an electric frying pan had been used to prepare bacon and eggs, he pushed the button down on the toaster and invited the driver to join him for breakfast, right there on the airport runway. Juice was poured and there the two sat and enjoyed a final conversation, the table complete with a milk-glass vase with two red plastic roses (that had come free with a bottle of dish soap). It was a funny and kind gesture of his appreciation. “Memorable”, that is a word that aptly describes my father. I imagine the driver never forgot that special breakfast or the man who prepared it for him.

My dad loved animals and they loved him. Unfortunately, his allergies could make his being around them a less than pleasant experience for him. While growing up we had rabbits, I had a parakeet, we had tropical fish, my brother acquired the rat from his elementary classroom “Milk vs. Soda” nutrition lessen.  We also had the cutest dalmatian puppy who in reality was the worst dog I have ever known. At some point in the late ’70s (sometime after a divorce) my aunt was moving with her youngest from her house to an apartment, a pet-free destination. For many years the family had had a beautiful long haired calico cat that they all loved, named Mama. Despite his allergies (and the fact he was not that fond of cats) my dad was very fond of his high-school classmate and the mother of his nieces and nephews. That is how Mama came to live out her final years with my parents. Meanwhile my uncle moved on, got a new wife, got a new puppy and eventually got another divorce. The Whippet/Collie mix was not going to work with either of their new housing arrangements, so Tara came to live with my folks (and Mama) where she slept on the floor next to my father’s side of the bed. My father loved that dog but when my uncle retired, my dad insisted that Tara move with him to the cabin. My dad was accommodating, compassionate and fair. In both instances it was not that he “wanted” a new responsibility at his house but that he didn’t want to see someone he cared about suffer any more than they already were due to their present circumstances. He gracefully made these situations appear to be nothing and just used his ever-present handkerchief with greater frequency. I bet you’d already forgotten about his allergies, that’s exactly how he wanted it.

My dad wasn’t into gender stereotypes, he grocery shopped, did the laundry, gave his kids baths, read bedtime stories and even took on the role of “room mother” one year when I was in junior high. In many cases, if something needed to be done, he would just do it. He could work a full day, come home and make dinner and still remain engaged in what you were learning in school. When he went to bed we assumed he snored so loudly simply because he was tired, not because Sleep Apnea was just another medical malady stealing time from him. In other cases, if something needed to be done, it simply waited. Taxes were something he loathed doing and I think at some point he delayed filing for five years. Red Owl Grocery sacks filled with receipts and medical bills all waiting to be collated and submitted. He wasn’t avoiding paying taxes, he was delinquent in filing for money owed to him by the IRS. In retrospect I think he knew his time was precious and he would rather spend it occupied with people than with paper.

My dad was strict but you knew what was expected. I vividly remember arriving home five minutes late one summer evening and after listening to what my excuse was he simply said “I didn’t tell you that you couldn’t be early.” So I credit him with the fact that I am slightly early or prompt at nearly every appointment I have, as a general courtesy.

Growing up, my brothers and I didn’t get an allowance but Dad gave us our lunch money weekly and we were allowed to pack our own lunches and use the allotted money however we chose. That taught responsibility, decision making and flexibility. He also allowed me to pack a lunch for my brother and have him pay me a portion of his own lunch money.

My father had more interests than could be explored in a lifetime, he loved concepts, new ideas and possibilities. He was fascinated with black holes and could wrap his mind around things I never could. While his mind was sharp he was not impressed with phonies and would make time to chat with a loner or buy a guy a beer. I remember that he joked loudly to my mother as they were leaving one of her class reunions (perhaps her 20th) “Hurry Dorothy, we have to get the rental car back.” to mock some of the blowhards who had spent the evening trying to one-up each other.  He both literally and figuratively just didn’t have time for that.

Though this blog comes to an end and he is no longer among us, his story is far from over. I like to think that I have fostered in my own children some of his curiosity, his ability to learn something from everyone, his sense of fairness coupled with compassion and an ample dose of his humor. His greatest teachings were never in the form of lectures, they were in his actions, small gestures, mundane tasks that were eventually completed, behind the scenes maneuvers that brightened someones day, lightened someones load or simply made somebody laugh. His legacy lives on in that laughter.

 

 

 

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My Roots Lead Back to November Fifth

Taking off his work boots at the end of the day

My Dad taking off his work boots at the end of the day

If you look at some calendars on November 5th you will see the notation “Guy Fawkes Day” what you won’t see is “Charles A. Roses’ Birthday”. If it falls on a Tuesday (after the first Monday) the calendar may read “Election Day”. For most the date doesn’t mean much at all. Were it not for one of these November 5th events, you would be reading something else right now, I simply wouldn’t exist. This November 5th is my father’s 85th birthday, though he’s been gone over half of my life (https://nerpribyl.wordpress.com/2014/06/16/dad-gone-a-quarter-century) I feel compelled to do what I do on a regular basis, tell some stories about my dad. One might think that I would eventually run out of tales about my father after so much time has passed but I imagine that if I live to be eighty-five myself I will still be able to gather recollections from the recesses of my mind that highlight his humor, brilliance, general cleverness, patriotism  and huge heart. It wouldn’t take long either to come up with some epic examples of his stubbornness. chuck-rose

Chuck with his older brother Dick

Chuck with his older brother Dick

Growing up I sat to the right of my father at the kitchen table, during holidays in the dining room I was seated immediately to his left. It was during dinner, often while he cut my meat when I was little, that I would stare at his hands. My father’s fingers were twice as wide as my own adult fingers and his nails were large squares. The back of his hand had a fair amount of dark hair and occasionally I would ask him about the scar on the back of his one hand, a white crescent that was visible through the hair. Even though I knew the story, I liked to hear it because it reminded me that he was once a kid. The scar came from when he was in the garage as a child and the latch on the exterior of the doors fell into place, locking him in. After yelling for help and assuming he could not be heard he wound up and punched the glass out of one of the windows. This resulted in somebody hearing him and a permanent scar on the back of his hand. Every time I heard the story I felt sad for the scared little boy, admired his bravery and sort of wondered if maybe his brother hadn’t played a role in the situation.

My father was a bit of a prodigy on the piano as a child and though he didn’t play often while I was growing up it was delightful when he stood at the piano and banged out a jazz piece. My husband recalls him at the wedding where we met stepping over to a piano and hammering out a tune. It was like riding a bicycle for him, it just flowed naturally and never left him. His mother’s cousin who was born just a few years before my father and graduated high school with his brother shared with me recently that her family would occasionally be awoken in the morning to my father playing a tune. Sometimes upon completion of his paper route he would let himself in (in an era when people in Minneapolis didn’t lock their doors at night) and offer up an early morning recital. He was also a gifted drummer who would occasionally intentionally break a drum head during band in high school. “Why?” you might ask. The band director would then offer up the keys to his car and allow him and a classmate to drive to a music store to pick up a new one. I was sad when the Uptown Bar closed, as it was just down the street on Hennepin Avenue from where my parents (and grandparents) attended school at West High. The proximity meant that my father would stop in after school sometimes and play warm-ups with the jazz musicians that were passing through town in the 1940’s. It was there or The Rainbow that we would go together for a beer after meeting in Uptown for a haircut while I was in college.

On trip with parents before Korea

He instilled an appreciation of music in all of his children, even when our tastes did not always align. Music played most evenings while we ate dinner and when my brother Bob was a senior in high school, that meant his favorite Rod Stewart Album nearly every night. While other homes had stereo, we had Quadraphonics. We listened to 45’s, LPs and old 78 rpm records. When a favored orchestra performance was broadcast live on  a local radio station he would often record it on his reel to reel and replay it later. With no air-conditioning in the the house and his music playing loudly in the summertime there would be the occasional quizzical look of a passerby who overheard the station break from months earlier predicting below zero temps or several inches of snow. When the Minnesota Orchestra opened a new concert venue in the early 1970’s he purchased a pair of season tickets to Orchestra Hall and I loved the nights I got to dress up and attend with him and then go out after the show for a late dinner. It was pretty heady stuff for an elementary student on a school night. He not only enjoyed listening to music, he loved to dance to it and since my mother didn’t much enjoy dancing I relished in the opportunity to join him, whether in a ballroom or neighbor’s living room. The only real luxury item I ever recall my father purchasing for himself was a pair of red patent leather shoes with a red suede accent, they were beautiful.

At the cabin 1959

At the cabin 1959

Other than his time in the Army during the Korean War (he didn’t talk about it much but enough to let me know not to refer to it as a “conflict”) and a stint in Milwaukee while he went to engineering school, worked at a camera store and started his family, the major portion of his life was spent in Minneapolis. His ancestors were among the early tradesman that built Minneapolis and as a foreman of the electricians on the IDS building (downtown) he himself participated in the changing skyline of the city he called home. His sons had memberships at the YMCA he had gone to as a kid. He took pleasure in his children enjoying the lakes he’d sailed in his youth and the independence he had experienced via streetcar was accessible to us via bus. While certainly Minneapolis has changed much since my father’s youth, it was not an entirely innocent place. He had gangsters for neighbors and once witnessed a shootout on the way to the store for his mother, a tale that got him in trouble for lying until she read about it in the Minneapolis Star the next day. News traveled differently in those days and during WWII much of it came from the newsreels shown prior to movies at the local theater or via the radio. He typically attended the movies each Saturday and as a flexible gymnast found humor in tumbling down the stairs from the balcony. He had a lot of freedom as a kid, taking the streetcar all the way out to lake Minnetonka to visit his grandmother and he also had a lot of responsibility, including going to some of his grandmother’s rental properties to stoke the buildings furnace on his way to school in the morning.

Dad sailing as a kid

Dad sailing as a kid

My father was what years later would be described as an “early adopter”, he was the first one in his family to purchase a TV set, a new invention that he was enthralled with. During my growing up years he paid little attention to the situation comedies or dramas that filled the airwaves but opted to watch when National Geographic or Jacques Cousteau had a “special” which is a somewhat colloquial term for not “regularly scheduled programming”. On the occasions later in life when he was home recovering after a hospitalization he would tease my mother regarding her soap operas. “Is that the same phone conversation she was having after my surgery three years ago?” he would inquire. We were the first people I knew that owned  a calculator, a Texas Instruments gadget that was an inch thick and I would later describe to my own children as an invention that could “add, subtract, multiply AND divide!”. It was a $100.00 investment in a new technology. We likely owned the first microwave on the block as well. It was a huge heavy model that simply had a single knob for the timer. He loved inventions, studied how things worked and were he to have had better health and a longer life would likely have his name on a number of patents that he was working on.

Christmas breakfast

Christmas breakfast a Rose family tradition

My father did not like to feel taken advantage of and many of my favorite stories are of times he stood his ground. It’s a quality of his that I am often reminded of when dealing with issues of fairness. I never feel alone when I stand my ground, it often feels like he is right there with me backing me up or chuckling at my determination. A favorite example of this was after a purchase of a refrigerator from Sears. It was delivered to our house on Pleasant Avenue while he was at work and my mother was home. He arrived home to realize that the refrigerator was a lesser model than the one he had ordered and paid for. He called Sears to explain their error and wanted the situation rectified. When they told him it would be a couple of days, that simply was not good enough for him. He asked “Well how long will it keep the food fresh without electricity?” They told him not to unplug it. He claimed he did not have enough extension cords to keep it plugged in, as he had moved it to the back alley for convenient pick-up. Sears had the correct model to our home that evening, at which time my father unplugged the refrigerator and removed the perishable items. He could justify his white lie by having been lied to first. They shouldn’t have told him they could not get the refrigerator to him that night when quite obviously they could and ultimately did.

Playing charades at a Job Daughters event (Electrician)

Playing charades at a Job’s Daughters event (Electrician)

I am fortunate to have friends from my youth who will occasionally mention to my kids that their grandfather was a really nice guy. Typically they’ll say how funny he was but often they reflect on how kind he was and that unlike many of their friends parents he actually took interest in them. My oldest brother remembers him as strict, acknowledging that with me he was considerably more lenient. He had high expectations and he was not a man I wanted to disappoint. He was generous with his time and knowledge and showed a lot of compassion. I remember when our neighbor with young kids got laid off work that I babysat, so my parents could take them to dinner. I recall that when my cousin arrived from New Orleans with a paper sack of possessions and pregnant that my father took her in. After his own father died, his stepmother became someone else he watched over, much like he’d done with his favorite aunt years earlier. Smart, good, kind, funny and compassionate, tempered with stubborn and of strong opinion isn’t a bad legacy to leave.

rose-family-1963

Rose Family 1963

My father never really had any birthday wishes that he shared with us and typically would tell us that he had everything he needed. He did however like to tease that his birthday was a big event. If he saw a delivery truck anytime after mid-October he would suggest “we should get home, November 5th is right around the corner and they may need a signature for delivery.” Living in the flight pattern of the MSP airport he would often look up in the fall and claim “If it’s something big, they may be airlifting it in.” He would joke about November 5th when we passed the Cadillac dealership as well. When I was little I remembered my mother’s birthday was in the month of March but “November fifth” was etched in my memory as my father’s birth date from a very young age. It’s a day I will always fondly celebrate. If you knew Chuck or simply resonate with a father who packed a lot of wisdom and some excellent parenting into a truncated life, I encourage you to raise a glass on Saturday and toast to him as well!

My parents with their best friends Jan & Bill Newland

My parents with their best friends Jan & Bill Newland

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The Heart(s) of a Mother and Other Trinkets

Mom Locket

The picture of a heart shaped charm that says “Mom” on it is not simply some random online photo I Googled. That’s a locket, one my children lovingly selected for me, for Mother’s Day in the late ’90s. I dug for it in a jewelry box, as I don’t wear it anymore. It is one of many heart shaped treasures that my husband allowed my children to select for me as gifts. As the worn edges indicate, I did wear the locket for many years, the children proudly noticed each time I wore a gift from them. This particular one made things pretty clear. In the same way an engagement ring shows you are betrothed, there is no mistaking who a piece of the owner’s heart belongs to when “Mom” is clearly displayed in her cleavage.

Locket Kids

Lockets are a special form of jewelry. Not that the heart shaped necklace with the gemstone flower wasn’t lovely, it’s just there was no place to carry pictures of my daughter and son in it. I often wore my Grandmother’s childhood locket when I was a little girl. Her locket it not heart shaped, it’s round and gold with her childhood monogram on it in a fine cursive script. Though it was only intended to hold two pictures (her parents) at some point she had removed the isinglass to insert a picture of my grandfather over the picture of her own father.  On the left hand side of the locket was my Great Grandmother whose stern countenance was reminiscent of Margaret Hamilton in her role as Almira Gulch in the Wizard of Oz. If that character name doesn’t ring a bell, she is the neighbor lady on the bicycle who takes Toto and becomes the Wicked Witch of the West when Dorothy gets to Munchkin Land. I didn’t want to suggest my Great Grandma resembled the witch, as the black and white photo definitely bore greater resemblance to the character in Kansas. My Grandpa’s picture is quite worn, as I removed it frequently to look at the real treasure in the locket. My Great Grandfather, Ace Porter Abell was a distinguished looking gentleman. I chose his moniker as my son’s middle name.

Locket Neona   Locket Ace

I assume my grandmother’s childhood locket was likely a birthday gift, probably dating to about 90 years before my heart shaped locket was gifted to me. My grandma was named Neona, she died of breast cancer two and a half years before I was born. She was only 58. I have her locket, her cocktail ring and paintings done by her mother Nida. I share her first initial and her love of the color purple. It makes me wonder where my own locket will end up someday.

I have only one of my own Mom’s Mother’s Day gifts. Typically on Mother’s Day my father would take me over to the local flower nursery (Sunny Side Gardens, which is still located near 44th and France, the neighboring Taystee Treet of my youth is not) to painstakingly select annuals. I would choose Pansies, Petunias and Marigolds for the large pot near the front steps of our house. I feel like the large pot had come with the house and that perhaps there had been one for each side of the steps at some point. I imagine it may have been terracotta underneath the many layers of green paint. It may have been the paint job that allowed the pot to stay intact through the below zero temperatures of our harsh Minnesota winters. Red was my mother’s favorite color, so often a Geranium was in the center of the pot. I’m fond of Geraniums only for sentimental reasons and have never purchased one for my own home. I find their stems have sort of an awkward and unattractive arthritic bend to them. I also don’t buy Marigolds, as I can’t stand their scent. I planted them as a labor of love, knowing my Mom would appreciate them. Despite being gone for at least an hour and spending another hour creating the potted arrangement, it seems my mother never noticed our clandestine activities. Every year, after we summoned her to come out front, she would walk across the porch and spot my handiwork. She was surprised every time!

My mother didn’t have a jewelry box of treasures from Mother’s Days gone by, she had memories of a little girl who desperately needed a bath, with dirt embedded under her fingernails and a huge smile over having pulled it off. There was the one exception, the year she got her “Mother’s ring”. There was an era where rings with the birthstones of ones children was a staple, like Pandora bracelets seem to be now. I remember being at the jewelry counter at Montgomery Wards. No that is not a typo. The real question should be what order had Sears screwed up so badly that year that we were not patronizing their “fine jewelry” counter? I remember the various sample rings that she tried on before deciding on a delicate setting with openwork. I watched how the employee completed the official looking paperwork; size, setting, stones, order of stones. It was in triplicate at least. My eldest brother’s September birthday dictated the sapphire stone, my other brother’s March arrival was acknowledged with a pale aquamarine and my July birthday contributed the ruby. I remember the debate over whether the stones should be placed in birth order or arranged by what was most aesthetically pleasing. We were represented on the ring in the order that we spent our life in the back of the station wagon. I, as the youngest was always in the center where it was easiest for my brothers to extend their arms to save my life if there was a sudden stop. It took several weeks for the ring to be made to specifications. I remember the night we went to Montgomery Wards to pick it up. The ring box was opened and there gleaming before us was an entirely different setting than my mother had chosen. Not delicate, no open work. After much rustling of paper (the copy my parents had been given, the one the store retained and the one that accompanied the completed order) the flustered employee confirmed that other than the correct birth stones, the ring was in fact the wrong one. It was however a more expensive setting and Wards was willing to let my mother take it home without paying more for it. The pendulum took a mighty swing for the Rose family back to being Sears customers.

My mother went home with the ring that day. She wore it both proudly and sporadically throughout the rest of her life. She would have worn it everyday, were it not for the fact that she would get a rash under it when worn too long, something that a bit of openwork might have prevented.

Mothers Ring

I wear this ring now on occasion. The sapphire is my daughter’s birthstone, the aquamarine is my sons. Their stones rest nicely on each side of my ruby.

 

I am posting my Mother’s Day Blog a little early. I’m putting in some hours at a local garden center and look forward to selling kids flowers to “surprise” their mothers with. I’ll be working alongside my adult daughter.

 

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Let Us Be Civil as We Disagree

Getting Along

I am politically, as I am socially. I am fiscally conservative and more liberal regarding social issues. This means I will host a party where I allow my Catholic and Protestant friends to mingle among my atheist and agnostic acquaintances but choose to prepare the food myself and not use a caterer. I’ll buy the beer in cases because it’s cheaper per ounce than 12-paks and stock the bathroom with toilet paper that came in a bale and not a convenient (but costly) 4-pack. It also means my initial preference for President of the United States has been out of the running quite awhile now.

When I say I’m conservative, I am not saying that I am a supporter of the KKK. Which is a current inaccurate notion that frustrated people are sharing. I did however spend a year in a town where the Klan met Tuesday nights out at the levee. It was during that time that I was labeled a “black sympathizer” by some people who had apparently never seen a white woman treat black men and women in the same way as folks she looked like. I had simply always judged people based upon their actions and behavior (things they had control over) and not an arbitrary feature like pigment, shade of hair or eye color. A number of white people in the community did not share my open minded approach to life. I chose my friends wisely that year and no, they did not all look like me.

I raised my children with the belief that they would be better equipped to make choices about how to spend the money they earned than someone else (even their elected officials) could.  We talked about infrastructure, roads, bridges, electricity and plumbing. We would  discuss education and amenities; schools, libraries and parks. Investments that were shared by all, that benefit the population as a whole. I relayed the need for politicians to be good stewards and choose wisely in how funds should be allocated and invested. I also acknowledged the generosity of the wealthiest among us when taking advantage of local theater, museums and galleries. I would point out the names of donors; individuals, families and corporations who chose to contribute financial support or family collections to allow access to all. I reminded my children that those donations went further not going through political channels.

One does not have to be wealthy to support what they believe in. This may be the greatest lessen to come out of the Bernie Sanders campaign. He amassed his funding through the small contributions of a great number of supporters. That’s an excellent example of the power of the individual. At age ten my son grew his hair for an entire year to raise money for St. Baldrick’s (a Cancer research organization that shaves heads in public places to raise funds) and also donated to Locks of Love (which accepts human hair and creates wigs for Cancer patients). He’d witnessed the loss of a family member to Cancer and chose to raise money and awareness as a tribute. Knowing his Godmother had needed multiple blood transfusions (after complications related to childbirth) he chose to run his schools blood drives throughout high school. His sister opts to support wildlife and animal causes that appeal to her. Being fiscally conservative is often mislabeled as lacking compassion. That is not the case at all, it means actually investing of your time and money in the areas that you are passionate about. These are issues many parents simply ignore when raising their children, things they don’t want to take the time for or think about. Topics they would prefer to simply have their government handle.

While I recognize that as taxpayers we don’t get to pick and choose what programs to opt out of due to our personal opinions, I do prefer making my own choices whenever possible. I stood on my deck one summer night with a very liberal Democrat who was telling me how compassionate he and his fellow liberal friends were. After listening to his opinion, I asked him “where are they?”. He was taken aback a little and then began naming neighboring cities and suburbs and then I stopped him. This man was a veteran, his family was from Puerto Rico, he’d lived in New York after his father died during the Vietnam War. He had given up his apartment when he anticipated being deployed with his Reserve unit, which then did not occur. Realistically, he was homeless and unemployed. We had been housing and feeding him for six months while he looked for work. My real question wasn’t about the address of any of his liberal friends but more literally “If your liberal friends are so compassionate, why are you staying with us?”. They didn’t want to help him, they wanted to have a program help him, let the government take care of it. That’s like buying a machine to pet your dog. It was an experience that my children weren’t taught at Sunday school, didn’t read about in a book or discuss in class, they simply lived it.

I had caught the evening news last night regarding Ted Cruz dropping out of the presidential race after Trump’s victory in the Indiana primary. I was interested in seeing what social media might look like this morning and the diverse opinions did not disappoint. This entire election cycle has been unlike any in my recollection and again today I see the threats to move to Canada, by the same people who made that empty promise when GWB  was elected. That may seem harsh, as it may be they did not qualify due to lack of language, employable skills or family sponsors. It may be that they simply don’t understand that the United States is not the only country that wishes to guard their borders and have policies in place designed to protect their citizens. These laws are not designed to be mean or punitive, they are established criteria to help ensure safety and well being of all, a bureaucratic necessity. Typically these are the same people that don’t realize that Americans with the desire to move to Mexico have to provide similar proof of employment and ability to be a contributing member of society if selected for admission.

The banter will go on until the November election and regardless of the outcome will continue for years beyond that. It looks like the candidates will likely be a non-politician businessman vs. a candidate whose own party identified eight years ago why she was not worthy of the candidacy. I have lived half of my adult life with someone in the Oval Office who was not of my choosing. I have survived.  On some occasions I have felt the impact of poor leadership more than others. Yet, this is my country and I choose to remain. I think this election cycle we have seen greater disrespect from our news media, from the political leadership, even from the candidates. We have a process, the people are participating and as we have done for a couple of hundred years, we will choose a new POTUS.

I believe what we have witnessed during this last year is the American People saying that we desperately need a change from what we have had. Though I will acknowledge that there are some among my circle of friends who have relished in the workings of the government these past seven years. Most of them not experiencing the un(der)employment status I have endured during the last forty months. Many more among my friends valuing the symbolism of our current president but owning their disappointment in his meeting of their expectations.  What has surprised me is those I know who have supported  Bernie but  have never spoken with someone from a Socialist country.  They tell me “not that kind of Socialism”. As the result of having opened our home for Thanksgiving one year to a family that was raised under a Socialist regime, I know they appreciated the ability to have a discussion over dessert about politics that they were unable to have in their home country (due to the possibility of family turning on family under fear of their government). If they wanted to live under Socialism, they would not have made sacrifices to leave their country of origin for the freedom of the US. I wish more Americans would take the initiative to engage with people who can share this sort of firsthand insight, instead of simply relying on their computer screen and television to gain information.

I was reminded in a posting today regarding the opinions of individuals around the world (regarding our candidates) that all eyes are on us. Internationally people have opinions about our politics and often it is because of the financial support we offer, military security we provide and humanitarian involvements we have. While our nation is built on our willingness to be tolerant of discourse, I am embarrassed by the increasing level of violence by protestors who are apparently too inarticulate to express their opinions peacefully. I’d like to think we are still a country whose majority can’t be swayed to come over to the views of the violent out of fear of more violence.

There has been a lot of commentary during the primaries over the “educated” choices and insights from political “experts”. Their predictions have been mostly inaccurate. If you are a citizen over the age of 18 in this country you can vote. Period. The vote of a person with a Doctorate carries no more weight than that of a drop-out. The Most Likely to Succeed from your graduating class has a vote equal to the one of your class bully. Your religion, skin color or how long you have been a citizen do not impact the strength of your vote. So callous commentary about any voter isn’t particularly valid because the neighbor who you love and agree with on everything, has a vote worth exactly the same as the KKK member who you despise has. Tolerance is not about acceptance of people who you approve of, it is actually a lot more about accepting those who are nothing like you; those who you oppose, the people you don’t understand and ultimately the ones you can’t stand.

We are a country where our neighbors can put a sign in their yard stating their political views, put a sticker on their car letting others know who they worship, all without concern over their home being torched, their car being bombed or experiencing some other act of reprisal. We share communal meals at block parties without fear we will be poisoned so our neighbors can obtain our land. We don’t all have to agree but it is sure nice when we can all be civil.

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Memories of a Distracted Child

I have been told by many throughout my life that I have a fabulous memory. Though it’s not particularly common, I have vivid recollections from about 13 months of age on. Many years ago I read an article claiming that memory is triggered by a specific event.  Based upon my earliest memories, I am convinced that my families move from the rented double bungalow on Pleasant to the house my parents bought on Vincent Avenue South was the catalyst for those first memories. While most do not recall life in diapers, in my earliest memory that’s all I was wearing.

walker.jpg

Mine was more aqua blue than this.

Though there are photographs (and slides) of me from just weeks earlier, celebrating my first birthday at our home on Pleasant, try as I might, I recall nothing of that house. I just remember the things from the photo’s that made the trip to the “new” (built in 1905) house, like the yellow high chair I was seated in. My first memory was in a different metal contraption and I was in the large yard behind the house when the next door neighbor lady came through a gate in the hedges that divided their yard from ours. My mother was in the yard with me, the two women spoke. I  would later refer to the woman as Grandma McGovern. I sat in the little metal walker, it was August in Minnesota and it was sticky. Hot rusty metal, a near naked baby in direct sunlight. My mother was likely smoking a cigarette (as she had through all three pregnancies) and to further embellish the story why don’t we pretend this little vehicle was coated in lead paint. In retrospect it is ironic that over 90% of the women in my neighborhood were stay-at-home-mothers and yet by today’s standards, daily life was the sort of thing that currently warrants calls to protective services.

high chair

You might wonder what got me thinking about childhood memories, unless of course you know me, then you know it doesn’t take much. Personality tests define me as the type of person who makes connections between disparate ideas, items, topics. As I’ve gotten older, I have learned to recognize the triggers. Yesterday the trigger was a school teacher. I’m working part time for a few weeks at a neighborhood garden center. Yesterday it was rainy and there were few customers. In the afternoon a school teacher stopped in to pick up some starter plants donated by our greenhouse. They are to be used for a family Earth Night tomorrow. The woman also grabbed some colorful rubber tubs and potting soil and commented “the kids should have fun digging in the dirt with these!” and I could not have agreed more. Once the transaction was completed I was mentally back at Lake Harriet Elementary School (the original one, not the one that assumed the name years after the destruction of the stately Linden Hills structure that I and my grandmother had attended) and recalling planting Johnny Jump Ups in Styrofoam cups. The school was located on a block that ended in a point where Upton Avenue and Sheridan Ave met. At the point of the block was a grassy area with a flag pole. In the spring when our flowers were strong enough and the weather was appropriately warm, we made a procession in a single file line along the curb (there was no sidewalk) and planted our flowers at the base of the flag pole. We could see them all summer long from the business district at the intersection. It was science, community beautification and patriotism all wrapped up in one activity that got wiggly kids outside on a nice spring day.

purple tub.jpg

Johnny Jump Ups

My father was an easily distracted child as well. Rather than trying to quell it in me, he encouraged it. Every spring he let me select a Punch & Grow for my classroom. It was a container with soil that had been seeded, with a clear lid that you punched holes in and watered. I spent a great deal of time when I should have been learning my multiplication tables keeping an eye on the little plot of outdoors that I had gifted to my classroom. Another spring tradition was him giving me a bird seed bell for my class. Annually a custodian would come up to hang it outside a classroom window. I enjoyed giving my dad updates at the dinner table regarding visitors to the bell that day. I’ll never know what lessens I missed while witnessing the migration of my feathered friends.

Birdseed

I feel like my vivid memories from my childhood are what prepared me to parent the children I had. Just as my father’s distractions had prepared him to be my dad. When my son was being tested and it was discovered he was dyslexic it was also noted that he applied Chapstick several times in a brief period of time. It was suggested that further testing might be required to understand his distractions. I asked if his behavior was impacting his classmates and was told that it was not, just that he might not be focused. So, I had a talk with him. I explained that when the teacher was at the board and talking, that most of his classmates focused on what she was writing and the content of what she was saying. That was how they learned. I told him that I suspected that while he was looking at the teacher he was noticing that the pattern in her skirt had the same colors as our couch at home and then perhaps he noticed a bird outside the classroom window. He nodded in understanding and said “yesterday it was a cardinal”.

Cardinal

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Mom is Gone and the Gifts Keep Coming

Mom B & WMy mother was born 80 years ago today. I have written in the past regarding epic birthday moments. There was her 60th Surprise party on St. Patrick’s Day, that she thought was going to be her grandson’s first birthday celebration. On her 50th when I got her the first new swimsuit she’d had in twenty-five years and she posed for a commemorative photo (in the Minnesota March snow) in a lawn chair my eldest brother gifted her.

Dorothy 50

I am reminded several times each month that many of my friends are joining the club of the parentless. What was somewhat exclusive when I unwillingly joined it nearly twelve years ago seems commonplace now as the Facebook tributes and condolences frequently appear in my feed. My best friend’s parents have departed in that interim, as have their next door neighbors, who were my own parents best friends. A couple of our friends lost both of their parents in the last year and we are at that phase in life which has transitioned from socializing at weddings and baby showers to catching up with friends over luncheons in church basements. Just recently my husband’s father died, though Alzheimer’s had stolen him years earlier. His mother struggles with the frustrations of dementia, a version which cruelly behaves like a rewind button and has her share the same anecdote a dozen or more times in a half hour or initiate a phone call to the person she only moments before ended a conversation with, but has no recollection of.

When a friend experiences the death of a parent I do two things. I encourage them to enjoy the shared remembrances in the days ahead; friends, neighbors, aunts and uncles often have fond recollections of interests and events that even adult children are totally unaware of. I also like to share that the memories that bring a tear to the eye during that initial raw phase (immediately following a death) eventually become the memories that will bring a smile or that they will share with others so their loved one is not forgotten.

I remember after my father died that I wore his old work socks for many years until they were all worn out and I hung onto a blouse he had bought me as a birthday gift for perhaps twenty years beyond fitting, not because I intended to ever wear it again but because I knew I would never receive another gift from him. I was mistaken, I still get gifts from my parents on a regular basis. An event that triggers a memory, a glance at one of their grand kids, my own words or behaviors that mimic them.

When I open a buffet or desk drawer and come across an old greeting card from anyone I am reminded of my mother who painstakingly chose cards for friends and family members but who also hung onto most any correspondence she ever received. When I am eating and slop on my front, I am reminded it is a genetic trait passed down from my mother. One that happened with such frequency that we developed a code word. While dining out if I said “shelf” Dorothy knew to glance down at the front of her top to see if it were merely crumbs on “the shelf” or if she needed to dip the corner of her napkin in her ice water to blot away a spot.

This year I received a letter from my mother, a letter written twenty-seven years ago. Though it was not written to me, upon reading it I am sure it was intended for me. Jeff’s aunt while clearing through decades of her own paperwork was going through letters from her sister (my mother in-law). They had the habit of not only sharing newspaper clippings and programs from weddings or funerals the other had not attended but also passing along letters which they had received from others. She passed along to me a letter that my mother had written (to my then future mother in-law) in the week after we had told Jeff’s parents we were getting married (they had been out of the country when we shared the news with others) and her happiness was palatable upon the paper. “What do you think of Jeff and Nancy’s news? Do you think you can handle two Rose children in your family? I am very happy for them.” It came as sort of an endorsement from beyond the grave, none of the misgivings covertly exchanged among others who questioned why so soon or came up with unkind assessments to share, like “they don’t even know each others middle names”. Gerard and Elizabeth, those are our middle names and while for us they’re not cornerstones of our marriage, they were actually known to each other even early on in our brief courtship. Ultimately “two Rose children” did not remain in the family but Dorothy was equally supportive when that happened too.

Today we will celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday, that premature twin who began her life with the loss of her brother. We will do it while celebrating the 21st birthday of her eldest grandson, whose birthday was four days ago but who just arrived home from college early this morning. It is my assumption that at some point during the meal I will glance down and have slopped something on my front, and I will smile and simply accept it as another gift from my mother.

Other reflections on my mother are available on my blog. Feel free to share and comment.

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