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Posts Tagged ‘funky family’

For nearly half a century we gathered at my mom-in-law’s house every Sunday after church for lunch. We’d try to have the food on the table by one o’clock at which time she’d announce, “Mute the T.V. and let’s grace the table.” As the family grew, the weekly event became more like the feeding of the 5000. And clean-up was a ginormous undertaking. Often we tried to convince Nina to let us use paper plates. She wouldn’t hear of it. And like her son, cooking required using every pot and dish in the house. Lord have mercy at the mess! Gradually we persuaded her to meet every other Sunday, then in her later years once a month. Bless her heart. It took her at least that long to recover. Plus it took a while to find everything once we washed and put her dishes away. I remember looking for her special ceramic slaw bowl that’s shaped like a cabbage for about six months. I think someone finally found it under the bed in her “craft room.” Thank the good Lord it was empty.

At her passing, we gathered in her home the evening before her memorial. Sweet friends and churches took on the massive task of feeding us all. Merciful heavens at the bread! We had so much that we had to load up a back bedroom since the kitchen could hold no more. As we stood there looking at the bed full of bread, a granddaughter-in-law suggested we give a loaf to the first hundred people attending the funeral. I’m guessing that would’ve been a first.

We also used paper plates that night. In fact there were more paper products used in the two days we met to say good-bye to Nina than the whole fifty-some years she lived in her home. I hope she didn’t mind.

With all those bodies in the house I got a little claustrophobic and stepped outside. One of my favorite nephews was there. As we stood on the patio he asked if I was okay. I told him I just needed a breath of fresh air. He smiled and confessed that he had stepped outside to pass gas.

Ah sweet family. Sometimes we laugh. Sometimes we cry. At times there’s plenty to eat but nowhere to sit. At other times we’re thankful just to stand upwind. But at all times we are to love. Because before we know it, this blessed time will pass and the gatherings will be few.

Often it felt overwhelming to keep having the dinners as our family grew to over fifty in number. But I’m so glad Nina continued to have us gather. As she always liked to say, “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.” I’m sure our family is stronger because of those wild and crazy dinners. For Nina’s sake I hope we can keep the tradition alive. Perhaps if we use paper plates we can.

I don’t think she’ll mind.

 

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The Inheritance

My beloved mom-in-law passed away a few weeks ago. She was such a beautiful soul. And funny… oh my word! The things she would come up with. She had special names for certain things in her life; like the big white robe she wore in the winter. Often she warned us not to be alarmed if we saw a polar bear ambling around her house as it was just Big Bertha.

When she could no longer walk with just the assistance of a cane, she began using a walker with a seat. It had a little basket where she would load her gardening tools as she puttered around the yard. Inside the house she would load it with cleaning supplies or laundry for that long trip down the hall. She dubbed it her “Cadillac.”

She had a pink blouse which she always wore to the doctor. More accurately it was mauve, that dusty rose color which was popular in the eighties. Her daughters tried every way they could to get her to wear something besides that godawful shirt as it did her no favors. However she always went back to it. Though mauve is code for ugly, she brightened it with her smile.

We’ve begun cleaning out her home of over fifty years. You can’t even imagine the treasures we’re gleaning. So far we’ve only gotten to the kitchen. We checked expiration dates on the foods in the pantry and laughed so hard at the things she hung onto. David suggested that if the date began with the words “In the year of our Lord,” we could probably assume it was too old to consume. In the back of one especially low cabinet was an unidentifiable figure. It appeared to be a dried corpse of an animal from yesteryear. David’s sister bravely pushed it into the floor with a broom. The four of us stood hovering over it trying to make out what it could have been. David finally scooped it up with the dustpan and took it outside. It was larger than a squirrel and had a funky shape. The sisters told me I could have it as part of my inheritance. I was more than thrilled.

Later as I thought again about the dried up mystery animal, I remembered bringing Nina some driftwood from the beach many years ago. She had expressed wanting a piece to put a little ceramic bird on that I had brought her the year before. Apparently the two treasures never met as she always had lots of projects in the works. In fact that bird is probably buried somewhere in her craft room which our middle daughter lovingly renamed Nanny’s Crap Room. It is an accurate description and we can hardly wait to go through the treasures there.

What I love about Nina’s kids, Jo, Gail, and David, is that they’ve been able to maintain their mother’s great sense of humor as we do the necessary things. No pushing, grabbing, or resentment; just working together to honor their mother’s last wish of having a happy home. The closest we’ve come to fighting so far has been over a pack of bacon.

Very graciously I have been included in the dividing of assets. Along with the driftwood shaped like a varmint, I’ve been given her cement pineapple which was always her southern symbol of hospitality. Though I do not share that same sentiment, I love that she did. I tucked it by my side entrance behind a large hosta lest anyone get the wrong idea. You know how I feel about entertaining visitors I do not know. All you “angels unaware” might as well fly on down the street to someone more Godly. However, if you do happen to knock on my door, don’t be surprised if I’m wearing a mauve shirt. Too bad it didn’t come with Nina’s sweet smile.

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So what’s the deal with all the humidity? Nobody dreams of a damp Christmas… or a sticky New Year. We actually broke down and turned on the air conditioner lest the heat wafting off the relatives cause tempers to flare. Some of us of a certain age cannot be overheated without dangerous consequences. Men take note: when a woman picks up a magazine or a church bulletin or a dishtowel to fan herself, it’s time to turn on the air. Never mind that it’s winter; there’s nothing jolly and bright about a sweltering woman in room full of guests.

Nobody dared light candles or God forbid build a fire in the fireplace. Ambience was no longer the goal and festive lighting dropped waaayyy down on the list. Keeping mama cool was the number one concern, at least for any man who considers himself wise. Take my husband for instance. Christmas is over and the ceiling fans are still spinning at warp speed. THANK YOU DARLIN’!

Our grown kids made footprints of the three youngest grands at some point in yesteryear. Fashioned from salt dough they are always on display. However lately they’re more like sponges. The indentations of their tiny feet began to drift slightly. So into the oven they went. The peanuts in the fruit bowl became a little wiggly as well and had to be toasted again too. Therefore the oven was set to 200 degrees for an hour. They were still a little chewy when we checked them; [the peanuts, not the footprints.] It was sort of like biting into a raisin when you’re expecting something crunchy. T’was a little disconcerting. So we roasted them another hour while I made our traditional holiday salmon stew.

I called to my beloved from the kitchen.  “Turn the air down another notch honey. I’m still hot.”

“Yes baby you are,” he replied. I fanned with a dishtowel and gave him the look. It wasn’t pretty, but it WAS hot.

The salmon stew was perfect except for the heat of it. We fanned and slurped it down like we had good sense. Why ditch tradition just because El Nino is passing through. Certain things must always be done after the holidays; like washing Christmas socks, and discovering that last snowman on top of the refrigerator, and apparently consuming salmon stew.

“Lord have mercy! I’m dying!” I exclaimed as we finished our late supper. A window was flung open which allowed a warm breeze to enter the kitchen… a very warm breeze. I walked outside in my pajamas no longer caring what the neighbors thought… bless their hearts. Immediately my hair multiplied like fluffy bunnies forming a lovely cotton candy look around my glowing face.

Again, not pretty… but it WAS hot.

Last of the Christmas cheer going down the drain.

Last of the Christmas cheer going down the drain.

My beloved joined me and we took that opportunity to haul Frosty and his miserable companions to the building out back til next year. Water ran through the yard as it had reached its limit. I understood. Mud marred up past the black line on my favorite Converses. But a little breeze stirred the balmy night air delivering a moment of reflection.

“At least our heating bill won’t be as high as last year.” One of us spoke hopefully.

The other one of us wisely observed. “Yeah… but we’ll make up for it by running the air conditioner full blast.”

We walked back to the house through the nature induced sauna. A piney wreath laden with fake snow smiled at me from yet another door. I decided I like it there… at least til spring. That’s probably when we’ll get a record breaking snowfall.

Maybe then I will finally cool off.

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A Christmas Miracle

One summer at a family picnic a beloved nephew commented that he likes those tall Tupperware salt and pepper shakers because they don’t have to be refilled often. They’re great for camping since they have lids and are airtight. I made a mental note and thought how nice it would be to find him some at a yard sale. Though everyone in the family had owned a set at some point, I hadn’t seen mine in years. So I added “Shakers for Jason” to the list of kindnesses that I will never actually get around to.

One day while digging in an extremely low cabinet for a possible lid to match a sour cream container, what did my eyes behold but a pepper shaker from yesteryear. Yep! Still had pepper on the lid. Pulling every container and lid from yon cabinet did not reveal the wife to the set. Apparently she had left the pepper of her youth for better digs.

Bummer.

Tossing all the unmatching lids and tubs back to their home of discontent, Mr. Pepper was elevated to a better position. It’s hard enough losing one’s mate. But being relegated to the far reaches of a cupboard behind lowly yogurt and Cool Whip containers when one is used to being the crème de la crème called Tupperware is unthinkable. Now he stood proudly ahead of the crowd hoping for better days. Still, he was not brought out and made useful as he would surely look a little odd standing in the middle of the table all alone.

“Where’s the salt?” people would question.  What answer could he possibly give that wouldn’t be painfully awkward? I was sure he’d rather just hide in the cabinet. His one consolation was that at least now he stood in front of the throngs of mismatched Tupperware wannabes.

Then lo and behold a Christmas miracle occurred. My sister was digging through one of her highest kitchen cabinets most likely looking for the lid to a butter tub, when out of the back rolled something odd.

“Hey Lynna. Haven’t you been looking for Tupperware shakers for Jason? Here’s one, but I have no idea where the other got to.” There she stood all long and tall, a silver “S” upon her chest, as lovely as the day she met him! [Mrs. Salt… not my sister]

What had come between them that sent each to such different worlds? How had she lived without him so long? From the depths of her soul she heard Peaches & Herb singing a hopeful song.

Yes, Christmas came early this year for my nephew Jason. For Mr. and Mrs. Pepper too [she decided to take his name this time] as once again they are a couple. Standing proudly together they serve side by side.  No more hiding. No more awkward questions. Just happy hearts together for at last they are “Reunited and it feels so good!”J salt&pep

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She sang her little heart out holding each note longer than necessary. I wasn’t sure what she was singing but it sounded familiar. Our three year old grands Jesse and Marie came to ‘help’ decorate for Christmas. Large plastic bins were stacked on the porch. I unpacked the treasures there while the kids took each item inside and placed them where they deemed best. When finally I dared to look it took my breath away. Words cannot describe the loveliness they arranged. Much like Marie’s song it was familiar but not quite right.

Apparently there was not enough chaos so the plastic playhouse complete with ringing doorbell and flushing toilet [their dad is a plumber] had been pulled to the middle of the floor. The big toy basket had been emptied as well in case we needed more to step around. My dancing raisins which usually march on a windowsill in the kitchen had made their way to the playhouse. No longer did they sing ‘I heard it through the grapevine.’ A new song was given them by sweetie Marie. She helped them hold out the notes long and loud. I still couldn’t figure it out.

Her brother stacked Christmas blocks as high as they would go instead of lining them up side by side in a message of good will. Every year we get those blocks out and every year we stare at them trying to remember what they spell. It was even harder this time as they teetered vertically thanks to Jesse.

My prior vision of hosting two grandchildren to decorate was shot to pieces. Instead of sipping hot chocolate and baking sugar cookies I lobbed clementines their way. We peeled fruit and tried to make sense of the clutter. “Where should we put the manger scene?”

“Oba heah Grammy!” Jesse grabbed the largest piece and ran.

Smack dab in the middle of the dining room table he placed the shelter. He and Marie climbed onto chairs and arranged all the pieces to face the manger. Marie had a hard time letting go of baby Jesus but finally placed him in the ceramic hay. Jesse had a hard time letting go of the camel as he was fascinated with who could ride such a thing.

“The wise man rode it honey.” I tried to coax him to place it with the others.

“Where’d he sit?” He eyed the two humps and tried to make Mary fit there. She was tired. I understood.

Their other grandmother Karen had hosted them for similar festivities a few weeks earlier. Unlike me she has a better handle on things. I imagined Christmas music playing, a fire in the fireplace, a quiet reading of the Christmas story complete with Scripture. Beautiful treats were surely served from pretty dishes. She probably even made an Advent wreath or something noble.

My house looked like a dadgum bomb went off.

But Marie still sang. Jesse asked for another clementine. I popped popcorn and plunked the kids down in front of Curious George where we learned about siphoning algae water from a swimming pool. Like Mary I was too pooped to party.

Their mom arrived a bit later and I was ashamed of the chaos. She laughed and said, “Nana Karen’s house looked the same way when I picked them up.”

I sighed with relief that I wasn’t the worst grandmother in the world. Marie sang loud and her mom said, “That’s right! Hold those notes out!” I laughed and asked, “WHAT is she singing?”

Hannah smiled. “Peace on earth. She’s practicing for the church program.”

I nodded knowingly as the man in the yellow hat commended George as well. We searched through the clutter for socks and shoes. Bedlam left with their mother who was happy just to have shopped for groceries alone. Jesse yelled through open truck windows. “Bye Grammy. Love you love you!”

Marie sang as they drove out of sight. “Peeeeeeace on Eaaaarrrrffff.”

I picked up the blocks and placed them side by side trying to remember the joyful message they were intended to spell. I studied the letters as I tossed toys into the basket and vacuumed up popcorn.

Consoling myself with the fact that at least Mary was placed safely in the stable instead of balancing precariously on the two humped camel, I laughed when it dawned on me. The message of the blocks was the same one Marie had sung all morning. It’s the one the angels proclaimed as well. While everything around me screamed Christmas chaos the Lord as usual whispered a better way.

Hopefully my beloved husband will appreciate this deep spiritual truth too because right now I can’t locate the remote control.

Peace.

It’s a message worth remembering.

photo (88)

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Libe is Goob

I’m hoping to grow into my lips soon. If you just imagined Sophia Loren with that beautiful come hither pouty, I’m terribly sorry. The image should be more akin to an old Steven Tyler. It’s not pretty. I’m apparently allergic to some unknown substance which turned my mouth a little wrong side outwards. Now all my shirts have a coffee dribble right down the center. Remember that Saturday morning cartoon with Fat Albert and the kid with the big lips? Remember how he mumbled out the words and used a lot of B’s? NOW you’re getting the picture.

“Cub to beckbass Dabid. I fwibe bakun.”

My beloved looked at me curiously, “Whaaat…” Though he was happy to discover bacon for breakfast he wondered silently if there was any coffee left. It seemed there had been a mishap upon my lovely morning attire.

“Whab bue doobin tobay?” I asked as I tried again to consume the sweet nectar of life from my favorite mug. It assured me that “Life is Good.” I began to question the validity of that statement.

He listed the things he hoped to accomplish then asked if I needed anything. “Want me to stop and get you some drinking straws… or a bib or something?” He glanced at my shirt.

“Nobe. Ibe fibe.”

He wondered aloud, “Want to go with me to visit Mrs. So-and-So at the hospital? I could pick you up on my way home from work.”

“BAKBDLFLKLADBFLKABLKDBLFKSDBLFKABLEFKRBWALEKAJABLFGJABLKFBWLEKROPBABABABBAlBBB!”

He tipped his head to gaze at my loveliness. “Sooo… no?”

I was ashamed and cleaned up my answer, “Nobe tanktube.”

He kissed my cheek trying to stay out of the way of my lips. I looked at him and consoled myself with the fact that his mom says he has a big head. Not as-in filled with pride… more like that of a German shepherd. For years she has warned, “Don’t get your hair cut too short son. You’ve got your Grandpa Peele’s head and you need a lot of hair to cover all that up.”

Once he left I checked the mirror again. I changed my mind and hoped that I DON’T grow into my lips. That would make the rest of me quite hefty.

Hefty Lynna would be even less pleasant than Large Lip Lynna. That reminded me that my namesake turned twenty five this week. When she was born my sister named her Lynna and I was thrilled… until everyone started calling her Little Lynna. So what did that make me?

Big Lynna was not pleasant either. For a while the family obliged and called me Tall Lynna. That stopped making sense when she hit fourth grade and began towering over me. Come to think of it… that never made sense.

A knock at the door sent me scrambling for a clean shirt and a hockey mask. It was our youngest daughter. She’d just been to get new contacts. They had to order them special because she has large eyeballs. She laughed, “Yep, me and the minions!”

I laughed too. It sounded like habhablahablablabbb…

We sat at the kitchen table and enjoyed another cup of coffee… her with her big eyeballs and me with my fat lips. Her three year old twins jumped on a bed and fished for sharks with yardsticks. We worried that they might poke someone’s eye out… but not enough to get up and check on them. Another clean shirt was soiled because she made me laugh.

When her daddy gets home I shall kiss his big head with my fat lips… because my coffee cup was right.

Our big ol’ fat happy life really is good! Besides, if you can’t trust your favorite coffee mug, who CAN you trust?

Breakfast of champions!

Breakfast of champions!

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We were headed to the beach for a vacation when the girls were approximately five, seven, and nine. They were in the back seat of a car whose air-conditioner was on its last leg. Our middle daughter, Amanda, began to complain, “I’m hot.” I assured her that she would be fine. Besides, we were only a half hour into a four hour trip. “Think happy thoughts sweetheart. What are we going to do when we get there? We’ll play in the ocean, and look for shells. Won’t we have a great time?!” She would not be comforted.

“I am so hot,” she moaned for about the tenth time. Her daddy, usually a very patient man, pulled the car over to the side of the road. He was also hot. He turned around and looked her in the eye and said, “You may NOT say, I AM HOT for the rest of this trip. We all know you are hot. But those words may not come out of your mouth again. Do you understand me?”

Wow. Very clear instructions hung in the air. He pulled the car back onto the road. It was obvious that he meant business. Playing the good cop, I pulled out little note pads and pencils and passed them to the girls. “Here you go. Draw a picture for me. You are such good artists!” The car was silent as they began their masterpieces.

“Oh how pretty! Look at these, honey! Didn’t they do a good job.” I was determined to lighten the mood, as steam was still coming off David’s head.

Amanda’s was especially well done. Besides the flowers and grass, the sunshine in one corner, and clouds in the sky, there was also a very good drawing of an Indian. He had a headband with a feather and fringe on his clothes, and a frown…and what I assumed to be a giant tear. “Why is he sad?” I asked. With great sympathy she replied, “Because he is SO HOT!”

Sometimes you just have to laugh. Even her daddy thought that was well played.

This beautiful strong-willed middle child and I bumped heads an awfully lot while we were growing up together. There could be only one Queen in the Clark Kingdom and I was determined that it was not her. She was not so sure.

She lost control of her bicycle one day and lay sprawled in the gravel driveway. Through much wailing and gnashing of teeth, she announced for the neighborhood to hear that she had broken her leg. I helped her into the house and explained to her that not only had I seen her fall, but that one does not break a leg simply by sliding sideways off a bike. It was not that hard of a fall! She mourned and whined from Wednesday til Saturday, at which time I proclaimed in my kindest and most nurturing tone, “I WILL TAKE YOU TO THE EMERGENCY ROOM FOR AN EX-RAY. IF YOUR LEG IS NOT BROKEN, WE WILL DEAL WITH THAT WHEN WE GET HOME!”

Notice parents: You never actually state what the punishment is going to be. You just leave it hanging in the air like fire about to rain down from heaven. Anyway, her leg was broken and I felt like the uncaring parent that I was often proclaimed to be. Please don’t report me to DSS. How was I to know that her mourning was valid this time?

This week she turned thirty seven and is currently reaping all the rewards of the mother’s curse. She has a very determined three year old son who pushes her buttons so fast that she lives exhausted. She finds herself saying things like, “Able, don’t write on the window with your banana.” I find it extremely fulfilling watching her do motherhood.

Sometimes I just have to laugh.Able & AmandaAmanda & Able

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