Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Children, My Blessings, My Joys

Tomorrow is Mother's Day, and I shudder when I remember how close I came to missing out on my greatest joy,  being a mother. 

Before I had my children, it would be accurate to say that I did not like children in any way, shape, or form. I despised babysitting, avoiding it whenever possible after the dreadful summer of 1969 when I babysat three unruly, spoiled children under the age of five, who tormented me every day for twelve long weeks. Now I know that the problem was the parents, but then I thought it was the kids, and I decided that having children was absolutely not going to be part of my life.

I hummed along, happy in my childless existence, until Gordon shared his desire to have four children with me. Four?! Not one, but four. Who was he kidding? I was an educator, a scholar. I only liked children once they got to college and not before. That's why I never got a teaching certificate--I had no desire to spend time with people under the age of eighteen!

Gordon wisely suggested that we start with one child, and because I loved him, I agreed. I was terrified about how my life would change. Would my brain shrivel up? Would I become a Stepford wife? How would I talk to a baby? How would I change a diaper? Eek! What was I getting myself into?
Well, the moment arrived, and Amy was born, and I fell in love for the first time in my life! Yes, of course, I loved my family and friends and husband, but the love I felt for Amy was not like anything I'd ever felt before. It was transcendent. It was pure. It was joy. For the first time in my life, I knew that I would die for someone, for Amy, because she was the most important person in the world.

I fell in love three more times when Gavin, Hugh, and Grant were born. With my four babes, my angels, my darlings, my life was whole and complete. I felt connected to the world and other people in ways I never imagined possible. I understood how God could love us humans, even though we're often unlovable. My children show me the world through their eyes, and it is a lovely world indeed. Because of Amy, I see fairies in the world; because of Gavin, I understand the simple truths in country music; because of Hugh, I marvel at all the ocean's creatures; and because of Grant, I get a glimpse at the answers I'm seeking to life's big questions; my children show me all these things and so much more that I would never have known if not for them. And, because of all four of them, I know goodness.

So, while tomorrow is a day to celebrate mothers, I also want to spend it celebrating my children who made me a mother with their love, patience, and understanding. As I bumbled about, reading T.S Eliot's poems to them along with fairy tales, serving oven baked chicken for dinner far too often because I hated cooking and didn't know what else to cook, and worrying aloud about every little thing, my children somehow managed to grow up to be the kindest, gentlest, most caring individuals I know. And, wonders of wonders, they are so well-adjusted. I'm in awe of them, and I am blessed.

Roger Whittaker sings a song called "Tiny Angels." It is a Christmas song, but these words from the song perfectly express my feelings about Amy, Gavin, Hugh, and Grant every day of the year.
"You changed the world, my angels - when you came to me.
Now Christmas day and every day is the same to me.
The only gifts that I could want are you, my darlings."

Have a lovely Mother's Day tomorrow celebrating your mothers and your children!

Take care,


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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

My Beloved Porch Swing

The idea of a porch swing always enchanted me. I imagined that all sorts of everyday magic could occur while rocking in one. I can't recall any porch swings in my childhood, though I have a faint memory of one on my maternal grandmother's porch, or maybe it's just wishful thinking. I do know that my great-grandma told me that gentleman callers courted her on her parent's porch swing, so maybe that romantic story is what sparked my desire for a porch swing. I can't say for sure, but I have wanted a porch swing to swing on since I was a child. Nine years ago this Mother's Day my wish came true.

On that Mother's Day, we still lived all together on our mountain paradise, and on special days, like mothers everywhere, I would embrace all that was good and true in our family, and do my best to fill our celebrations with love and joy. On Mother's Day 2003, however, it was my sons who gave me a gift of love and joy--they gave me a porch swing. They did not buy me one; they did something much better--they made me one. Gavin designed the swing, and he and his brothers, Hugh and Grant, built it together. They did this in secret. On Mother's Day, all three boys carried the swing out to the point, our special place on our mountain that overlooked another mountain, where we could watch glorious sunsets, fierce storms, or magical, waterfall-like fog, and where we walked to each evening. 

In the late afternoon of that lovely Mother's Day, we took our family walk to the point. Imagine my delighted surprise when I saw the swing. I laughed and cried and jumped for joy. My heart felt like it would burst with love and happiness. My loving sons had given me one of the best gifts ever--hours and hours of peaceful swinging, while looking out over an idyllic pastoral view.

When we had to move off our mountain nine months later, I was determined to take my porch swing to our new home. This did not prove easy to do, but, in the end, I prevailed. Now, my porch swing sits in my backyard on the patio. I can sit there and talk with Gavin and Grant when they barbecue, but mostly I sit there by myself, swinging back and forth, thinking back on my happy family memories, or trying to figure out solutions to problems, or just basking in the warmth of a fine day,  comforted by my swing that was made for me with love by my boys.

My porch swing is even better than I imagined it would be, proving that sometimes reality can be much better than my imagination.

Take care,


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Sunday, May 6, 2012

The Love Of A Good Pet

Today, I am joyfully remembering and praising the pets I've had over my almost sixty-one years of life. My cats, dogs, rats, goats, rabbit, horse, sheep, turtle, and hamster have been my boon companions every day, and I cannot imagine life without a pet.

Fluffy, a gray kitten, is the first pet I remember. We got her when I was three or four. I would dress her up in my doll's clothes. I did not like dolls, but I loved Fluffy, so I wanted to see how she looked in the pretty dresses my grandma had given me for my dolls. Fluffy was fairly tolerant for a cat, but one day she'd had enough. She took her paw and scratched my face. My mom was horrified because I was going to be the flower girl in my aunt's wedding in a couple of day. All was saved when they put makeup on my delighted four year old face, but my mom never let me dress Fluffy again.

Fluffy was my closest confidante in high school because I could trust her to keep her own counsel. She and I would sit for hours under the tree in the yard, and I would pour out all my hopes, dreams, and frustrations. She would always purr reassuringly when I cried over a boy or had a misunderstanding with a friend. She knew how to make everything just right. My heart broke when she died.

Some of my animal friends over the next thirty or so years have been: Elsa the cat, Thomas the turtle, Gordie the rat, Thumper the French Lop rabbit, Maude the cat, Beau the dog with a huge, loving heart, Katie the cat, Smokey the cat, Fionn the cat, Jennie the best dog ever, Rose the rat, Special the horse, Destiny the goat, Mama the sheep, Orlagh the cat, Patchie the cat, and Zeke the wonder dog. Each of these friends have shared happy times and sad times. They have shared meals too. 

When I was a very poor student, working in a factory in the early 1970's, I would splurge each Friday when I cashed my paycheck, and buy a can of sardines. It was the only treat we had each week, and Elsa and I shared it. When we got Jennie, the best dog ever, in 1994, she was not supposed to live long because she had a severely defective heart. We brought her home and hoped to give her a good year. She lived six years because we gave her so much love, and she loved us back with every beat of her heart. I would bring her sliced roast beef for treats, and on her birthday we always got her an individual all meat pizza from Round Table. The kids and I would sing "Happy Birthday" to her while she scarfed down her pizza. Now we have Mollie the dog and Oreo the cat, who both love bacon. So, most days, Grant fries up bacon for me, and I share with Mollie and Oreo. It's lovely.

One thing I know for sure is that no matter how much love I give my pets, they love me back much more and much better. They have infinite patience and unconditional love. Zeke let me cry my eyes out into his fur when my middle son developed schizophrenia. I would sob and sob, and his fur would be soaked, but his glance was so kind, and his breath on my cheek so comforting. He never moved away, even though I'm sure I squeezed him too tightly at times.

The current situation in our home is a very odd one indeed because we are living with my husband's dementia. When Grant is not home, Mollie the dog, Oreo the cat, and Miss Whiskers (a deaf cat who does not like bacon) get just as unnerved as I do with some of Gordon's odd utterances and behaviors. Sometimes, it is scary; always, it is lonely. However, Mollie, Oreo, Miss Whiskers, and I keep each other company until Grant returns. Mollie and I take walks. Both cats and Mollie sit next to me when I'm reading, working on the computer, or watching a movie. Together, we keep the darkness of dementia at bay.

What is really amazing to see is when we hear Grant's car coming up the street. Mollie and Oreo run to the door to welcome Grant home. Oreo glues himself to Grant, and Mollie jumps and licks him and wiggles her whole body in delight. Mollie does this when Gavin or Amy shows up too. It's as if my children bring light to brighten the darkness of dementia, and Mollie, Oreo, Miss Whiskers, and I bask in the warmth of that light.

So, let's hear it for our pets. They love us just the way we are. They are never too busy for us and never preoccupied. They let us cry, or laugh, or dance with them. They share our meals. They share our beds. They don't pout or hold grudges. And, most importantly, my pets think everything I write on my blog is absolutely brilliant, and always reward me with a purr or an affectionate lick. I love you, Mollie, Oreo, and Miss Whiskers. Thank you for being such boon companions!

Take care,


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