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Friday, June 28, 2013

Happy Sweet Potato Vine

If I were a sweet potato I’d rather fall into the hands of someone who forgot to eat me than one who remembered. When I forgot my sweet potato and found it sprouting I cut it in half and put the more sprouted end into a glass of water. Then when it began to leaf out I planted it in a big pot on the patio with last year’s mini-Christmas tree, the one that refused to keep its shape and went wild. It could never be mistaken for a Christmas tree now with its needles long and bushy and its branches reaching randomly up to the sky.  The freedom to do what it pleases has gone to its head, but there was a bare spot beside it in the pot so that’s where the sprouting, leafing sweet potato went. Now the sweet potato vine has lost its head too and you should see how it’s grown! Huge leaves reaching up and hanging down and trying desperately to keep up with ex-Christmas tree Pot-Mate.

That’s the fun of pot gardens, at least mine. I don’t care what the plants do as long as they’re happy. And if a volunteer something or other finds a spot I let it grow, providing it has blossoms or pretty leaves. There’s a darling little blue blossomed thingy that is spreading out as if it knows it's something special. It is. I didn’t plant it. Probably some bird did. I love it! It found a home next to a miniature rose that looked like it was on its last legs. Now that rose is sporting a red tiny bud on a tall stem. All it needed was company. 

I have a feeling that gardens are much like their keepers. Like my garden, I too like life to be somewhat unpredictable. Unpredictable pleasures, like bringing Tommy, my red canary, out this morning to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air with the pots, plants and me. He’s showing his delight by singing for the whole neighborhood, though no one seems to be at home. He doesn’t care. He just sings!

I feel so lucky to be a non-working refugee from the usual end, at least for now. I can join my wild ones here on the patio and revel in the beauty of a perfect day. Time is forgotten. My plants, my birdie and I don’t fool ourselves. We know we’re not so wild as to escape the pots, the cage, and the patio’s paved floor. But we can see far. We can spread our tendrils and voices to joy and gladness. We can be as kooky as we like, but we’re really sane as sages. We just enjoy our home, stay within its perimeters, and let our senses soar.

Along with the Sweet Potato Vine and Tommy Bird I’m enjoying this unpredictable life of ours. Getting older is getting better, and it sure beats the alternative! But maybe even that will have its unpredictable joys. If so, we’ll be right there to claim them!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Halcyon Days

Any writing teacher will tell you that to be a good writer you must also be a good reader. I’ve always considered myself a good reader but recently, since I started writing this blog in fact, my reading times get short shrift. You see, I have a habit of keeping the dictionary at my elbow so I can look up words unfamiliar to me. Often though I also look up words I know well just to get a fresh take on them. This evening I came across the words “Halcyon days.” 

The dictionary had only three words to describe Halcyon. I wanted more but here are the three: tranquil, happy and idyllic. Immediately I thought of my own Halcyon days and they brought back times spent with my two grandmothers. Why is it that grandmothers are so generally loved? I only know why mine were. They were good women. By good I mean just plain good. Nothing pretentious or unkind or unloving about either of them. I cannot remember either of them uttering a word of gossip or criticism. 

Grandmother Darling was a city dweller while Grandma Hahn lived in the country. When I lived with Grandmother Darling I remember her waiting for me to get ready for church. She would be a half hour before our estimated out-the-door sitting in her chair, upright with hat, gloves and purse. She didn’t need to urge me to hurry up; the mere sight of her was enough to quicken my pace. In church when she opened her purse to pull out her hanky the fragrance of her violet cologne wafted out in subtle sweetness. To me that scent was so much her I loved it.  As a devout Christian Scientist she lived her religion without preaching. It showed in her face. At bedtime she could recite the 23rd Psalm so you’d swear she knew the Shepherd. She would also, on rare occasions, surprise me with a colorful clean humorous story or joke. Somewhere in her past she was the president of the local Browning Club. 

About my Grandma Hahn. I guess the word to describe her might be servant. Not servile, but the kind of servant the Bible would describe as an honorable woman, one who serves God by serving her family and neighbors and church. She was a faithful Methodist and could recite the Sermon on the Mount from beginning to end as well as numerous other passages of the Bible. Grandma Hahn had her Sunday clothes too including hat, gloves, purse and fan for hot Sundays and long sermons, but when I think of her I see her in a fresh apron, her hair tied up in a bun. In the kitchen. The scent that would describe Grandma Hahn best would be that of freshly baked warm molasses cookies. 

Grandma Hahn had been a country school teacher before she married and Grandmother Darling had owned her own millinery shop, but that’s not something I would remember, other than it came up in quiet mention now and then. Each one was proud, I think, to have had something else going for them before she became "Mrs." I remember too that both my grandmas had large intriguing walk-in pantries in their kitchens. When I could tag along on a trip to the attic or basement in either house I'd be delighted.

Each of my grandmothers had their social interests too. Grandma Hahn was a member of the Ladies Aid Society and the WCTU. (For those who want to look that up, it's the Womens' Christian Temperance Union.) And Grandmother Darling was a member of the local Browning Club, even president once or twice.

Best of all, each of them made me feel special. They praised my sketches and how well I could play the piano. On occasions they'd take me to their meetings. On the way home I'd be rewarded by a comment on my behavior. "Joycie, you acted like a little lady today."

So, now you see why those words, “Halcyon days,” yanked me out of the book I was reading, pulled out my notebook and pen, then dragged me over to the computer tonight. Sometimes I think these days are my Halcyon days and they are, but that’s because I spend a goodly amount of time in them remembering other Halcyon days. In early morning hours when I’m up before daybreak, on lazy afternoons out on the patio with my rocking chair and flowers, I feel the Halcyon days of yesteryear as tangibly present in my heart as the ones of today are present by the clock.

Now I’ll try to get back to that book and hope that another word or expression in it doesn’t send me back to the keyboard. (These blogs take time!) Maybe you can stop a minute after you’ve read thus far and think of your own Halcyon days. One word of caution, though, be careful not to let any sad or mad or bad imps sneak in under those Halcyon skirts! Let your Halcyon days lady honor the dictionary. Let them reflect the tranquil, happy and idyllic.  There could be no better tonic when you're alone in your rocking chair in your advancing years. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

I Can Imagine Living Here

My granddaughter, Katie, has started a new job with the Irvine Company. It’s on the same street we live on, about a 15 minute drive. Her office is in charge of rentals in a new apartment development which is, as the Irvine projects always are, beautiful and well-planned. I found myself thinking, I could imagine living here. But remembering how hard it was to find housing during the war, I could imagine living happily in nearly any place I could find decent housing. Even a Quonset hut. (Don’t know what that is? Google it up.) I’ve lived in Quonset huts three or four times so I don’t need to imagine them. I remember them.

As the idea came to me a few minutes ago to write a blog with the title I’ve given it, I thought of a fun way to change the title by cutting off the last words so I can say,

I Can Imagine Living Here 
I Can Imagine Living
I Can Imagine
I Can

First, readers of my blog know how passionate I am about the subject of Home. The closest I’ve ever come to homelessness has been when I had to find a place to live near each new flight station where my Marine Corps pilot husband was assigned. Had that over a period of 23 years. He had joined the service at just the time the service was not able to provide housing anymore for all its personnel, (WWII). At times I was more than happy to live in a Quonset hut. A place to call Home is precious indeed and we needed a roof over our heads. We were glad to call our Quonset hut home. By the way, have you ever heard rain falling on a tin roof? 

One of my favorite pastimes when visiting a new town is to seek out the residential areas and drive around them slowly feasting my eyes on the houses. I don’t mean the richer neighborhoods. I mean the homey ones, the kinds of places where children can play in the streets or on sidewalks, the houses that have front porches and back yards and flowers. I find myself saying over and over, “I can imagine myself living here.”

Still, though it is upscale, Katie’s apartment complex is inviting too. It is beautifully planned and landscaped with just a hint of old-worldliness. And, I suppose I wouldn’t turn down a large estate if the house felt homey. Or any other place I could make feel homey.

Having said that, I can imagine living. Don’t have to imagine that either because I’ve been living for at least 87+ years. I can imagine living before this too and afterward as well, though pre-existence and afterlife are not easy to imagine because I’m not good with the unfamiliar.

I can imagine. As I said, I can imagine best what I’ve experienced, or something similar. It seems that my life has given me so many wonderful things that I feel full and satisfied. Still, a trip to the moon, or Mars, or better, some more habitable place in space? It would be fun, however I’d rather wait and see it in 3-D movies. Maybe.

I can. These are two of the most precious words put together I can imagine. I can. I may not choose to, but I can. Like “I can walk to the Regional Park, but I don’t care to right now, thank you.” Or, “I can sing, but not now. I need an audience of children young and uncritical enough to be entertained by that.” To me the words “I can” mean I can do the things I need to do and like to do with ease and grace and gratitude. 

Lastly, the word I. 
I is closely associated with the word am. This is nice to know: I am an individual human being for the time being, but when I get to the calculus of life I'll recognize my real and immortal being, the perfect I that awaits my worthiness to claim it. 

My teacher, Dr. Merriman, used to say, “You, sitting in that chair, tell me that you are, but you, sitting in that chair, don’t tell me what you are. He meant that none of us are fully aware of our eternal identity, or anyone else’s. The self that is made in the image and likeness of our Maker. So, in the meantime we work with what we have. It's somewhat like a second grader who's getting to know the multiplication table but hasn't stepped up to calculus yet.
I Can Imagine Living Here

I Can Imagine Living

I Can Imagine

I Can

Thanks for your tolerance today. If this blog was boring, try it by thinking of yourself as the “I” person. More fun that way? I thought so!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Where Is Love?

Remember that plaintive little song the boy Oliver sang in the musical movie, Oliver? Whether we know it or not, we all sing it every day. We wake up, we look at the clock, we reach out for the name of the day, and we spend the rest of the day looking for what? Looking for love.

We think it’s “out there.” We take steps to find it. Somewhere, sometime, we learn that Love is within. All we need to do is catch that Intuition, give it to Hope, let Hope hand it to Faith and Faith to Understanding. From Understanding we gather Fruit and then? Then we find ourselves at Home. At Home with Love.

To me, that is the whole purpose of living. It is life in a nutshell. We’re all wandering through a wilderness and our progress depends on the search for Love. Unfortunately we come across enemies of our own making on our daily walk. Fears, doubts, destructive means to worthy ends, (like wars?), and a multitude of dragon-like apparitions plague our paths, but we have no choice but to carry on our search. Even death cannot terminate the great truth of Life and the power of Love. (If this is not true, I’ll find it out, but I’m betting it is!)

The longing we felt with young Oliver to find Love is our guiding star. And then? Then we find that we are the star! We are at Home. All our loved ones, past and present, are here too and we find no distance between us, no painful separation, no disconnection, no unloving perceptions of anyone. Our Father-Mother sits at the head of the table, send us off to the school of Life where the teacher is Truth. In the classroom, on the playground, in the neighborhood, on vacations, at the office, on the worksite, on our daily walk, in our daily talk, we learn to know Love, express Love, embrace Love. Real love knows no pretense. Even courtesy is love in little ways. Large or small, Love cannot help being honest and real. No matter what denials of love may bruise our feet, assault our sensitivities, invade our efforts, we must travel on.

Love does not travel alone. She holds hands with Wisdom and lets Wisdom lead. She knows to let others learn and discover on their own while she watches and guards their progress. In my childhood bedroom a picture hung on the wall. It said all of this in visual language a child could understand. Perhaps you’ve seen that picture too. It’s a guardian angel standing next to two little children playing beside a country road. The children could be in danger from any number of things but they do not know it. Neither do they know their guardian angel is there, but that’s just the way it is. I don’t know what happened to that picture but I’d love to find it. Maybe in an antique mall? Never mind, I have it here in my head.

As children grow they are like angels in training. They learn how to live in harmony and peace with their fellows. They see law as emanating from Principle, not as man-made. But they do not presume to be a law to others. Rather, they strive to be a law to themselves. Only then can they influence the actions of others. 

A good mother and father stand as pillars of humanity. They provide a home, a place to be fed, sheltered, clothed, taught, loved, and tucked into bed at night. Oliver found his home, and so will we. Love is what it's all about and we're living it hour by hour, day by day, year by year, until we wake up to find ourselves Home.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


My friend, Joanie, has had a GPS device in her car for several years. It has turn-by-turn directions and the voice Joanie picked for those directions she dubbed “Dottie.”  Dottie announces each turn on the way and she sounds like a tough cookie, but a calm and collected one. Deep and throaty, all business, she interrupts our conversations as if she’s tired of putting up with them. She'll get her word in without apology. “At the next stop light turn right onto Richmond Drive, then..” When Joanie decides to ignore Dottie and go another way, Dottie says in a condescending tone that clearly registers disgust and tired tolerance. “Re-cal’-cu-la-ting.” 

Joanie and I find that expression and the way it is voiced amusing. It’s as if Dottie is a real person who is tired of her job, especially when the driver doesn’t follow her directions. We know that Dottie will eventually get us to where we're going no matter how many times we ignore her directions. That is comforting. 

I was thinking this morning how similar this is to our personal wanderings through each day. I believe we all have an inner voice, a kind of GPS. Call it conscience, call it common sense, call it discretion, intuition, whatever you call it, we have it. It is reliable. Depending on the kind of person we are, or have become, we obey or ignore the guidance system we’re born with. No matter how much or little we pay attention, it is always there. 

The way I regard my inner voice, the messages she sends are not in words so much as in nudges. I’ll start out the door and feel a nudge. “Have you remembered to turn out the bathroom light? Is anything left cooking on the stove? How about that grocery list?” With me, it’s all the way from deciding to change lanes on the freeway to what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. All through my days my inner voice speaks. She is so close to me, she is me, the me God made me to be.

In our daily lives we sometimes mistake other voices for our own. They can tempt us into doing the wrong thing, or the right thing at the wrong time. They misguide us because we think their suggestions are our own. The fractional moment when we should be doing the right thing we do the wrong, all because we have mistaken the prompting of some other voice as our own. When that happens we need to recalculate. 

I ask myself on a day like this, What am I going to do that will bring me closer to comfort and satisfaction at the end of my day? What will inspire me tomorrow morning to be glad that I did the right thing today?  Today I plan to read to my friend, Suzy, and intersperse the reading with conversation. I love to hear about Suzy’s path through the same years I was following my own. "Let's see," I'll say, "about the time you and Bob were tooling around the country in your RV Wally and I were dragging a little one-wheel trailer behind us carrying our camping goods and stopping at camp grounds on our way from the east coast to the Pacific." After Suzy today I expect to pick up Katie from the first day on her new job and hear how it went. That should be fun. The two of us will probably end the day as usual in our beds watching an old black and white movie. 

Sometime today I’ll no doubt ask myself again, What is my ultimate goal? The answer seems to be coming through like the “still, small voice” Elijah the prophet heard when the storm had passed, the fire had died out and the earthquake had quit shaking. It seems to be saying that when life’s trials and terrors are over it is still there, small but clear.  It will gently lead us Home saying, "I've been here all along and sometimes you even heard me. You were bound to find this smoother path sooner or later. It was only a matter of how many times I needed to recalculate."

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Keep the Garden Manageable

“A grateful heart a garden is
Where there is always room
For every lovely, Godlike grace
To come to perfect bloom.”
One of my early Sunday School teachers spent the whole period with us talking about how many things a grateful heart can be. The first one was this, a garden. How wonderful that the poet put a garden first, before a fortress or even a temple!

To me, a garden is the closest place to Heaven one can find on Earth. Naturalists might argue that the wilderness, an untouched area, a mountain or prairie, or the awesome formations of our Western United States national parks come closer to Heaven than our feeble attempts to create gardens can. 

Why do I believe otherwise? Because a garden, any garden, includes its gardener. You and I count too. Remember the old story about the man who had begged permission of the owner of a corner lot to make it into a garden? Mr. Browne worked daily in that plot of land and produced a veritable bit of Heaven there. A rose trellis, daisies, petunias, sweet peas, and other lovely blossoming flowers graced the place, all fitted out with green shrubs, winding footpaths, a burbling fountain and stone benches. A woman who lived nearby watched the bare unkempt corner’s transformation as she’d take her daily walk. One day she saw Mr. Browne and said, “Oh, Mr. Browne, your garden is simply beautiful! Isn’t it marvelous what God can do?”

He leaned on his rake and replied, “Yes, dear lady, it is that.” Then he added, “But you should have seen the place when God had it all to Himself.” 

I often think of the many gardens I’ve known, Grandmother’s flower beds, Daddy’s vegetable rows, Mother’s iris garden, my own climbing Cecil Brunner roses. And now I have two garden spots, the kitchen window with a sweet potato vine reaching up under the blinds, the lavender blue Campunella, the bamboo, African violet, and other small art objects like the crystal birds drinking from a crystal bowl that I bought in London, the crystal sailing vessel we found in the gift shop of our cruise ship, a small chunk of amethyst, and the ceramic rooster beside a stained glass tray. The crowning piece in my window garden is Tommy, my red canary. Right now he’s singing so beautifully I’d swear he knows what Love is!

My outside garden has hanging ivy, gardenias, roses, daisies, and other potted shrubs and flowers. These must all be kept within the borders of the cement floor, but they love their places amidst the tall trees and bushes along the creek. The main thing to remember about gardens is this: Don’t be a slave to the garden, just love it and keep it manageable. It will thank you by giving you a grateful heart!

So, what is this “grateful heart?” What grows there? Is it growing? Is it sometimes benignly neglected? Do some things die there? Yes, to all questions. But the beauty of it is, it’s mine. God didn’t do it all by Himself, though He did the most difficult part like giving life and color and variety. He knows that Life doesn't trap itself in its own artistry. It continues to live forever and sprout into view again in fresh form.

Humanity is like a garden. Some areas are cultivated and others wild. We love it all and cherish the thought of being a part of what’s growing here. The last verse of my hymn goes like this:

“Grant then, dear Father-Mother, God,
Whatever else befall,
This largess of a grateful heart
That loves and blesses all.”

Christian Science Hymnal #3

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Trail of Neat

My mother was what some may call a neatnic. In my childhood home dusting furniture was not done with a feather duster. I was taught to use two rags. One would be soaked with furniture polish and the other was used to rub the polish to a luster. When making my bed the sheets were kept taut and smooth with the top one folded over the blanket an even three to four inches. When Mother ironed clothes they had been sprinkled, rolled up individually and allowed to sit for a while wrapped in a tea towel. Then ironing was done with the iron at just the right temperature. Most garments were ironed on the wrong side. This allowed the natural weave of the cloth to be seen. My mother taught me that being neat, keeping the house in order, having things not just clean but super clean is an art. Though our home was modest, it was immaculate. I understood her pride and satisfaction in this though I have never achieved her success in practicing it. 

In my own home my natural artistic bent helps. My eye needs to be pleased. A picture must not be allowed to hang crookedly. Dirty dishes in the sink are offensive, but ironing can be hidden and the job put off.  I’ve not been able to keep to a schedule for housekeeping but the one thing that has worked for me is to do what needs to be done promptly, leaving a room the way I’d like to see it when I come back. I call that the Trail of Neat. 

I tried to teach my children to be neat but found it a lost cause. All the coaxing and scolding in the world would not engage them in the game of being neat. I realized too late there was a reason for that. Eventually Mom (yours truly) would come in and do the job. They found out soon enough when they were on their own how to set the threshold of tolerance for a messy house and nowadays they are often better at housekeeping than I am.

As years have gone by I have grown more lax. If I don’t leave a trail of neatness I just tackle the job later when it has become an assault on my conscience.  I’ve put more interesting pursuits first and sometimes they were worth more than a neat trail. However, I still need to get a room into shape before sitting down to read or write. Otherwise every glance up from the page will be a distraction, an irritation resulting in an exercise of getting in and out of my recliner chair. And that's no fun! 

Housekeeping, I’ve discovered, is closely akin to one’s mental status. Nothing quite satisfies the psyche like a sparkling clean and orderly house. After I get this piece posted on my blog I intend to do something about that. Well, it’s late tonight. The clock just chimed twelve. Maybe in the morning? Or the next day? Oh well, my eyes will be closed soon. Nothing can offend closed eyes in a dark room.  And nothing can cover a trail of tasks undone or salve the guilty conscience better than a good night’s sleep. 

G’night, my fellow bloggers! Happy trails to you! (Be they neat or not so neat.)

Friday, June 7, 2013


My desk has all the symbolic elements for the contentment of a little old lady like me. It has light, (a good lamp,) a computer, (key to the vast outside world,) and a mirror, (the reflection of a home full of memories and present day living.) The mirror is one of those vanity table affairs, three-way. I got it at a Salvation Army thrift shop, caught up in the whimsy of it, and then didn’t know where to put it. Some time ago I almost took it out to the dumpster where it could catch someone else’s whimsy but then I thought of my computer desk. Sitting to one side of the computer's monitor it could provide me with more than a wall to glance at. I’d see the room, my Inside.

The lamp that sits by the mirror is a tall white ceramic fellow. He’s been in the family perhaps longer than any other household object. Got him at the Post Exchange on the Marine Air Base in Cherry Point, N.C. He occupied the first of our many homes, a brand new pre-fab set among tall skinny pine trees in a place called Havelock Park. That lamp has survived countless trips on huge moving vans across the country as we moved from pillar to post with the Marines.

The computer, an Apple, is my buddy. It has on its monitor a big blue Earth as seen from outer space, sailing along in the vast black sea of space. It symbolizes answers to questions, far away places, wonder, magic, the reaching of our human hearts into the vast unknown, and yet the glorious glimpse of our magnificent earthly Home.

Inside my world, outside my world, and a bright lamp for the early morning and late night hours when I consult Apple. This kind of observation is what gives my heart solace as I sit eating breakfast in the early morning hours during the dawn of a new day. My home comforts me with all its furnishings. The newest thing is the bicycle clock hanging over the sofa. Its front wheel is a round clock. The rest of it is slender black wrought iron. A gift certificate, “We haven’t seen you in quite a while; this $10.00 gift certificate is yours if you come back and spend at least $40.00.” The thing had been burning a hole in my pocket so I bit. Not that I minded shopping at Pier One. I love that store! Well, when I saw this charming bicycle clock priced at nearly the required amount at first I resisted and walked out. It haunted me the rest of the day and night. I went back the next day and got it. An object of art that speaks of past travels and present moments. It’s right at home with the old-timers now.

As much as I treasure the objects in my home they don’t hold a candle to the living, breathing ones who occupy this dear place. There’s Katie, my granddaughter of 23 who is waiting for her husband to get out of jail. (Yes, you’ve heard about that.) She’s asleep with her little Chihuahua in the next room. (Nobody gets up at five like I do.) And there’s a beautiful red canary sitting in the kitchen window who reluctantly un-fluffs his feathers when I come in to make coffee. Later on he’ll earn his keep with melodious song that thrills my heart. 

I’ve spoken before of my “fireplace,” the assortment of candles that rest on the secretary-desk by the patio door. They remind me of the candles I saw in the cathedrals I visited on my travels abroad. Each one represented prayers for a loved one.  These could too.

The Insides and Outsides of life are ever with us. A little old lady sitting at home on a cloudy dark morning knows this and takes comfort.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Right in the Palm of the Hand

Did you ever get your fortune told? Have your palm read? Have someone interpret the tea leaves in your cup? I can only say that, living with my grandmother when I was 17 - 19, I used to enjoy having her read the tea leaves in my cup. Grandmother was able to see many things there. “A man will be coming to your door sometime in the next two weeks. It could be the man you will marry,” she’d say with a sly look in her eye. Often she would see packages coming for me, or letters, even telegrams. 

Neither of us took these things seriously, but Grandmother Darling did tell me of the time when she was a young woman and went to see a fortune teller, “just for fun,” on a dare from her friends. I can remember most of what the fortune teller told her. First, she would marry a man of Scottish descent, tall with florid complexion, and a cavalry man. They would have four children, the youngest would die in infancy. (How terrible!) The woman also predicted that Grandmother would travel abroad before she died.

The first prediction came true. At the boarding house where she lived while she was a young milliner  Daniel Darling came to stay and sat beside her at the dinner table. He was an attorney who dealt primarily with properties, land deeds etc. He was tall, Scottish and had a ruddy look about him.“Did you recognize him as the man the fortune teller had predicted you would marry?” I asked.

“No, not at all. It wasn’t until long after we’d had our four children that I remembered the fortune teller’s predictions. She’d told me I’d marry a man of Scottish descent and a cavalry man. Both true. Daniel had served for a while in the United States Cavalry after graduating from Macalester College and his father had, indeed, come from Scotland. Your mother, Faith, was our fourth child and she nearly died at birth. She weighed only four pounds but she soon got to be a plump and healthy little baby. So that part didn’t come true, thank goodness! If it had, you wouldn’t be here.” 

“But Grandmother, you’ve never traveled abroad, have you?” 

At that Grandmother smiled and nodded her head no. She never did either and I have wondered if that was a thing she denied herself because of the “before you die,” part of her fortune. Grandmother lived to be nearly 90.

Once when I was going to college and living with Grandmother she suggested I might give a little party for some of my friends. I agreed to do it and planned a small dinner party but then worried about what to do for entertainment afterward. So I borrowed a book of party games from the library. It had a chapter on palm reading and I studied it in case things got dull. One of the boys at my party had been a sailor on the battleship Arizona when it was struck by the Japanese attack at Pearl Harbor. He’d suffered a concussion that put him in a coma for some time and when he awoke he was unable to remember his name or anything at all about himself. While still in the hospital two or three months later he slipped and fell in the corridor striking his head again. Suddenly his memory returned.

I knew his story but when I read his palm it wasn’t until I saw that his line of the head had a short blank space about a fourth of the way along that I saw the connection. That perfectly blank break in his head line sent a chill up my spine. I let go of his hand and said, “Let’s play another game, shall we?” I wasn’t ready to really believe that stuff and what had started out as entertainment suddenly scared me.

When I later told Grandmother about it she assured me that such things were purely incidental and meaningless. She was an ardent student of the Bible and she said, "I never again had my fortune told." Then she quoted that passage in the Bible where it says we should not “seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter,” but rather look to God for answers to questions we might have about our lives.

Because of Grandmother’s experience with the palm reader though, and the fact that she seemed to leave her mental door cracked open ever so slightly to the mystique, I’ve sometimes wondered if I might take a closer look at palm reading. I could look into it, I suppose, but the same thought always follows those moments of curiosity: “Not now. I have other things to think about.”


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

One Way to Wait

The year was 1958 as I recall and Wally’s orders were to the West. We’d bought a house in Norfolk, Virginia two years prior and had enjoyed living there. Lovely newish, yet traditional, brick houses built amidst a wooded park. Our house would easily sell, we thought. There was little to do but start packing. 

Of course, the Marine Corps would keep Wally on the job right up to moving day. Then we would have 30 days to move out, drive across the country with three kids and a dog and get settled in a place we'd need to find before Wally would be reporting for duty. There were about six weeks before departure date but that would give us plenty of time to sell the house we figured. No need to list it with an agent. Surely people would rush to our door when they saw the FOR SALE BY OWNER sign on the front lawn. Not a good idea, I thought, to mess up the house with packing stuff until the buyers had signed on the dotted line.

Time went by quickly but hardly anyone stopped to look at the house, much less buy it. When we were down to two weeks before leaving I was worried. We might never be stationed in the East again so leaving it was not an option.  Besides we’d need the money to put down on another house in California. 

I’d finished sweeping the screened-in porch and fixed myself a sandwich for lunch. Hot tea with it would taste good. I sat down and my silent grace was not in thanks for food. It went something like this: “Dear Father, please send us a buyer soon!”

I pulled the tea bag out of the cup and read the fortune on the tag. It said, “Everything comes to him who hustles while he waits.” Could that be God’s answer? I wondered. Did it mean I should get busy and start packing, not worry about the mess? I took it that way and after lunch I got out all the boxes and packing materials, then started working. Neither the house nor I were fit to be seen when the doorbell rang but the couple were charmed. We went to the escrow department of our bank, and the house was sold that very afternoon.

Have you ever noticed your reactions to the need to wait for someone else? I have, and then I remember the tea bag tag and find something to work on while I wait. It must be wrong to let another’s delay waste our own moments.

Katie has been getting ready to leave on our shopping trip for nearly an hour while I was ready to go. What did I do to fill the time? Did I fret, did I prod? Did I fiddle my thumbs? No, I "hustled" and wrote this piece. It brought back a host of good memories of just one of the many tours of duty with the United States Marine Corps. A pleasant hour it gave me. A good idea shared. And best of all, the wait was spared of any sense of irritability or anxiety. When Katie came out, looking like a million dollars, she said, “Ready to go, Grandma?” Yup, and we were out the door in seconds!