Tag Archives: children

August: the Not-So-Special Month?

My daughter once wished for a different birthday month. I referred her to God for further discussion.

I do see her point, however. August boasts no holidays — not even a fake holiday like St. Patrick’s Day. Nobody throws big parties on the eve of August 1, as they do in January.

The hotter the weather, the more we chill. Dressing up is wearing matched right and left flip-flops. Days pass before we turn the calendar page.

When we do, though, a tiny tadpole of awareness wiggles into our days.

It’s August. Something’s different.

Outdoor projects delayed till warm weather now have been postponed till fall. Yards need extreme makeovers, but we’re so sick of yard work, we pay 4-Hers to release goat herds on our premises.

August presents an end-of-summer reality check. I purchased a “miracle” swimsuit in May. Now I realize the only miracle is that I paid big bucks for it.

August affects mothers in peculiar ways. They buy pencil boxes, though no one in human history has ever proved pencil boxes serve a useful purpose. Kids talk Mom into buying cool new backpacks, though 23 uncool backpacks languish at home.

Mothers also obsess about imminent changes in schedules: “Go to bed now so you’ll be ready when school starts.” My mother, who had five kids, did this. As of August 1, we went to bed at 4:00 p.m.

Even the sun listens to Mom and retires earlier in August. Yet during daytime, it unfurls golden rays as if leading an everlasting summer, ticker-tape parade. While eating home-grown, ice-cold watermelon in the backyard, we experience a different kind of reality check:

It’s been a great summer.

By August, every able-bodied person in the Midwest has ridden a Ferris wheel and consumed a warm, crisp elephant ear.

While still recovering from that gathering of DNA-related strangers known as a family reunion, we rendezvoused with cousins who long ago sneaked into drive-ins with us. We kissed sweet baby kin’s brand-new cheeks and gave grandmas and grandpas a smile.

In August, homeowners stop vying for the Yard of the Year. Instead, we concede the grand champion ribbon to God for His spectacular pastures of goldenrod, Queen Anne’s lace and Sweet Williams.

He treats us to evening concerts by cicada choirs that sing their best in August. Fireflies, now veteran presenters, perform spectacular light shows at dusk with few technical glitches.

Whether we own farms or only farmers’ tans, the ripe cornucopia of gardens, tasseled cornfields and leafy rows of soybeans reassure us: After harvest, we will celebrate with plenty of food on our tables.

All during August — the not-so-special month.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you like best about August?

Lovin’ Those Lilacs

My lifelong love affair with lilacs began when our family moved to a house with several bushes. Opening my second-story bedroom window, I inhaled a fragrance that made me want to write poetry.

“What’s that smell?” I asked my mother.

“Lilacs.” She took several long, luxurious sniffs, too.

Mom and I disagreed about short skirts, curfews and whether Herman of Herman’s Hermits needed a haircut. Lilacs made us one in heart, spirit and nose.

I didn’t know the Greek mythology behind lilacs — that a beautiful nymph named Syringa (now the botanical name for lilacs) was pursued aggressively by Pan, god of field and forest. Frightened, she hid by turning herself into a lilac bush.

Who was she kidding? No one remains in cognito smelling like that.

Case in point: few spies practice this form of espionage.

Sadly, no lilacs graced my subsequent homes. I indulged in sniffing them at church, where an enormous grove dominated the side yard. Every year when the allergic choir director threatened to dynamite my beloved bushes, I trembled.

Eventually, I married and moved to apartments and houses with no lilacs. Fortunately, many neighbors owned bushes covered with bouquets of blossoms. While walking with my toddlers, I cautioned that we couldn’t pick the lilacs. However, if we were very, very careful, we could borrow the smell. If you had followed us on our regular alley rounds, you would have seen little girls — and their mommy — standing on tiptoe, hands clasped behind backs, sniffing lilacs.

One kind lilac loaner brought a huge bouquet to my hospital room when my son was born. Her logic: with another sniffer added to our family, her blossoms might not survive long, anyway.

Once, I discovered a new neighbor had axed my favorites. They lay beside the road crushed, like green and purple roadkill.

“You may be chief lilac sniffer, but your name is not on the deed,” Hubby reminded me.

So instead of vandalizing their house, I moved into a home with a big lilac bush. Every spring, I filled my dining room with luscious fragrance.

Supposedly, no one can kill lilacs, yet I did the impossible. Inconsolable, I figured if we could conduct a dozen hamster funerals in the flower bed, we could hold a lilac funeral. But no one agreed.

My husband planted another lilac. But the following year we moved, and I had to say goodbye.

We now live in a house with a rather reserved bush that poises its large lavender parasol of blossoms far above sniff level. Still, it perfumes the garden and even graciously offers a few clusters for my olfactory pleasure.

One sniff on a busy morning makes all the difference in my day. Amazing what a little lilac love can do.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite sniffing flower?

Springtime in the Trailer Park

On frozen days like today, I want to press my nose against the window pane, spread my fingers and push winter away, as I attempted when a preschooler, living in the trailer park.

When spring showed up for real, our mother would no longer imprison my four-year-old brother and me in snowsuits. She’d stop slathering us with Vicks® VapoRub ®. She’d let us go outside.

We didn’t dislike the tiny yellow trailer we called home. The kitchenette smelled like bubbling bean soup and love. Our play area: the closet-sized living room. We slept on the sofa, Ned at one end, and I at the other. Long before ESPN’s kickboxing competitions, we conducted world-class foot fights at bedtime — until the Head Referee called emphatic fouls on us both.

A little later, my sister, brother and I (pictured with my mom) all shared a for-real bedroom in a bigger trailer.

Finally, a hundred robins outside sounded an all-clear. Before sending us outdoors, Mom drilled us: Thou shalt not play around the railroad tracks. Thou shalt look both ways before crossing the drive to the playground. Thou shalt never speak to strangers. But the First Commandment eclipsed them all: Thou shalt not shed thy jacket.

Fully catechized, Ned and I darted to freedom. We stopped and looked both ways before splashing across the gravel road that circled the playground, the center of the trailer court and our world.

Paradise awaited, with a clangy old merry-go-round that spun us into an ecstasy of nausea.  Ned and his buddies defied God, gravity and their mothers, walking the teeter-totters instead of sitting. Kathy and I soared on swings, singing Perry Como’s hit, “Catch a Falling Star,” as we touched heaven with our toes. Sometimes, we all simply galloped like a wild-pony herd around the playground.

As suppertime approached, Ned and I picked up dandelions like golden coins to take to Mommy. When Daddy’s old blue Chevy turned into the drive, we raced toward it. Daddy stopped and threw the back door open. Ned and I rode home, waving to friends as if in a parade.

Eating soup and johnnycakes, we fought sagging eyelids like an enemy. We wanted to watch Rawhide, with our favorite cowboy, Rowdy (a very young Clint Eastwood). I wanted to sit on Daddy’s shoulders, eat popcorn and comb his wavy, Elvis-black hair. But it had been such a long, wonderful … spring … day … zzzz.

What do you mean, fall asleep? Not me! It’s springtime! That lazy, good-for-nothing sun has finally shown up. I’ve got more to-do items on my list than candles on my last birthday cake: garage to clean, closets to organize. Plus, a new book to write …

But first, I’m going out to play.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What childhood spring memories warm your mind?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Thank You for Laughs

My grandsons made a “homemade meme,” the star’s name above his head.

O my God, thank You for people who help us laugh. For Jim Davis, the creator of Garfield, who grew up on a farm in our county. And, OMG, thanks especially for special people who laugh with me!

 

I Was an Empty-Basket Wonder

Like all greedy youngsters, I couldn’t wait for our school’s Easter egg hunt. When, when, when would the magic hour arrive?

We suffered through everlasting classes of English and arithmetic, drooling at the prize: a chocolate bunny with a yellow bow tie.

As we sallied forth to the playground, I dreamed of delectable treasures I would discover: yummy jelly beans (all but the black licorice kind), chocolate eggs, fat pink marshmallow chicks. Where would I conceal my Easter loot from my siblings?

The kiddie crowd’s roar at the starting point dissolved my blissful sugar fantasies. Only our omnipotent principal kept us from rioting.

Unlike my childhood experience, my grandson is not an empty-basket wonder.

He boomed, “Ready. Set. Go!”

A horde of barbarians, we attacked.

I could run fast. However, with zero sense of direction or strategy, I dashed randomly within the hunt’s borders — not unlike the way I now seek parking spaces — arriving just in time to see others grab the goodies.

I complained, loud and clear. Why did the Easter Bunny put us through such agony?

While I stood by the merry-go-round, debating the hunt’s constitutionality, two kids found a nest of pink, blue and yellow eggs under it.

I stomped across the playground — and smashed an egg left in plain sight.

By hunt’s end, I found only jelly beans. Black licorice ones.

Afterward, I stood at the front of the classroom with other empty-basket losers, hoping the victors would, at our teacher’s guilting, share the wealth.

Some did. I received more black jelly beans.

I survived Easter-egg-hunt trauma. You did, too. But as all grown-ups know, adulthood does not immunize us from empty-basket syndrome. After a steady diet of motivational speeches, we may improve our egg-finding techniques and even win a chocolate bunny or two. Often, though, we watch others celebrate success while we count black licorice jelly beans. And we ask God, “Why?”

In the Bible, Jesus often displays the same annoying habit my mother had. Instead of answering the question asked, He addresses the one hunkered behind it: “Jesus, do You care about me, too?”

To us empty-basket wonders, He says, “More than you can imagine. You don’t have to hunt for Me.

“Actually, I hunt for you. You’re the lost coin I treasure, the clueless, obstinate lamb I love — yes, I’ll even leave 99 winners to search for you, no matter where you wander. Stop fighting Me and let me hold you close.”

I still dream of finding the chocolate bunny with a yellow bow tie. But if I don’t, that’s okay.

My basket already runneth over with His love.

 

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you consider yourself an empty-basket wonder?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: The Morning After

Guess who won the pillow fight?

O my God, when I’m with grandsons, I lose decades. Such fun! But after a museum-sprinting, pizza-eating, pillow-fighting weekend, I feel 157 — and look it. Still, OMG, thank You for every tackle-hug — and the sweet time warp of being a grandma!

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

O my God, when a squalling baby interrupted a Christmas brass choir concert, I inwardly grumbled, “Why did those parents bring that kid?” Then, OMG, You reminded me: “The group is playing ‘What Child Is This.’ But you think babies shouldn’t be allowed at Christmas?”