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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Missing Chapters In Our Books

If you’ve lived long enough likely you can look back on your life and see where there are missing chapters. My missing chapter began when I was nineteen and said yes to a young Marine fighter pilot. Although I was only half way to a bachelor’s degree in college this fellow held all the credentials I needed for a husband and he was tired of being a bachelor. He’d been looking for a woman to remedy that and, outside of my youth, (he was five and a half years older) I fit the bill. He just had to win me. 

Wallace (Wally to family and friends) had grown up in Minneapolis next door to my grandparents, the Darlings, and only two blocks from my mother and father and me. But my family moved to the southern part of the state when I was five. The picture of Wally had been on Grandmother’s fireplace mantel in her little adobe Riverside California home when I’d arrived to live with her and go to the community college nearby. 

I knew what I wanted to do. I would get married, have children and live happily ever after. In the meantime? I liked school, I loved my grandmother, and those two years would probably open up a path to my future. A degree in art? A model? A military career? It was all a blank. The military career was possible. I could enlist to become a WAVE or a WAC or marry a military man. But first I wanted to get started on a college degree. 

The picture of that handsome young smiling cadet on Grandma’s mantel? He looked cocky and fun-loving. “Who is he, Grandma?” I asked on my first walk-through of her house. “Oh, that’s Wally Wethe. I’ve known him since he was a little boy of about eight. His family lived next door to us and sometimes your grandfather and I took care of him and his brother, Alan, when their parents went out. Now he’s been overseas in a place called Guadalcanal for nearly two years fighting in the war. I started writing to him and he seems to like getting my letters. Anybody’s letters. People write to the boys in the service just to cheer them up you know.”

Before long Grandma got a letter from this young man. “I told him you would be coming to live with me,” she said, “and when she got ready to seal her letter back she'd asked, “Would you like to add a note?” Of course I did and before long he wrote back. “You may know by now,” he said,”that I have a sister too. Her name is Carolyn and she’s about your age. My family moved out to Los Angeles when the war started and Dad works in an aircraft factory. He missed World War I and is too old now for this one so it’s a way he can contribute to the war effort. Alan is out here fighting too but I can’t say where. He’s a Marine sergeant.”

And so after about another year Wally’s tour of duty in the South Pacific was over and he and his family came to visit us. We went to a park and Wally took Carolyn and me out for a boat ride on the lake. It was fun. I liked him and his sister but we didn’t get together again soon. We sort of went our separate ways. The letters stopped. I was busy trying to keep up my grade A standing in school. Wally was stationed somewhere north of L.A. Carolyn was with her folks and in her senior year of high school.

I'd had a boyfriend in high school who was in the Army then and I wrote to him, but things hadn't got serious between us.  Harry was a musician and played the trumpet. I could see myself marrying him someday but my dad had said, '"Don't marry a musician. You'll always be poor." Then one of my schoolmates introduced me to her brother one day. He was handsome, a Merchant Marine, home on leave. “I saw your picture in the paper,” he said. “The one where you had been chosen pin-up girl for Battery C out at March Air Force base. I told Sis she’d have to introduce us to each other. He gave me a flirtatious smile and added, “Will you be willing to go out with me sometime?”

That’s how I eventually got engaged to Richy Thompson. But the engagememt only lasted two weeks. “I’m sorry,” I wrote in the note I sent to him with the ring he’d given me, “we’re not meant for each other.” Richy, I could see, was only after me for one more conquest. Then he’d go on to someone else and I knew it. So did he. The ring had fooled me. I wondered how many girls had been enticed to give up their virginity to this smooth operator. Maybe I was not the first to wear that ring. Maybe it wasn't even a real diamond, but I didn't get it appraised. Don't get the cart before the horse, I told myself. I'd go back to my original plans and wait until I was at least 23 to even think about marrying someone.

Not long after that Wally’s sister, Carolyn, came down to visit Grandma and me at a little cottage she’d rented in Laguna Beach for summer vacation. When Carolyn went home she told her family about my brief engagement. “What? Joyce is old enough to have a guy ask her to marry him?” Wally was surprised.

“I had put you in the kid sister category,” he told me years later. “And I thought of you as a big brother type,” I said. 

“I was never very good at dating,” Wally confessed. “I was always too shy to ask a girl out. At an age where most guys were dating seriously I was fighting a war. Whenever I got stateside I’d admire one and try to work up the courage to ask her out, but then I’d see her with some sleazy guy and before long she’d look sleazy too. Besides, I liked flying and kept busy. But then some of my buddies were getting married and invited us bachelors over for dinner.  It wasn’t long before the four walls of my room in the Bachelor Officers Quarters began to look pretty dull. I wanted to get married and still I couldn’t break the ice to even ask a girl out.”

Then he told me how one of his fellow pilots was a charmer with women. “He and I decided to go up to San Francisco on a five day leave we’d been given. He told me he’d show me how get started with women. Well, we covered every bar in the city but darn if the angels must have been looking after me. Even he didn’t find anyone, let alone me. We decided to give it up and go back. I went to my folks’ house and after telling Mom about it she said, 'That’s funny. I got a call from Mrs. Darling just yesterday and she asked me if either you or Alan had ever thought of dating Joyce. I told her I’d ask you.' 

“Well, when you answered the door the next day you had a big smile on your face and I said to myself then, ‘You’re crazy! You don’t go to bars to find a wife! This may be the kid sister-girl next door type but we have a lot in common. Same church. Good families. And that’s when I started coming down every other weekend to take you up to L.A. I had plenty of money saved up from when I was overseas fighting a war and couldn’t spend it. So, well, we had a good courtship didn’t we?”

“We sure did!” I said. “Gardenia corsages every time, dinner at a new and fancy restaurant along Sunset Strip, then a stage play or symphony concert. I couldn’t say no to you when you proposed. You were too good a catch!” But that little word “Yes” to your proposal closed the door on the chapter most women have when they finish college and get a job or embark on a career. We actually fell in love on our honeymoon. I knew I was going to miss my chapter of single-hood but I never regretted my choice. 

The wedding had been sweet. It took place in the Flyers' Chapel at the Mission Inn. Our honeymoon was thirty days in Laguna Beach. And the 40 years of marriage? Like any marriage ours had its bumpy places. I had to learn how to cook but soon I felt comfortable enough about that to invite other of Wally’s Marine married couple friends over and our forty years together were so good I didn’t seriously miss that missing chapter where I might have had a career, earned my own way in the world and maybe even made a name for myself to be proud of. 

It’s taken me this long to realize I did make a name for myself, even three names. I was Homemaker, Wife, and Mother of Three. Our lives were pillar to post but we loved it. The other chapters of my book didn't need that missing one. In my advanced years I’ve lived alone, twelve years after Wally and nearly ten years after Robby, my second good marriage. Nowadays I’m a mom, mother in law, grandma to seven, stepmom to three, and great grandma to five little ones. I live in as lovely a place as I’d ever want and I’m learning a lot about a wider and wonderful Life. 

Sometimes I think back and wonder what might have become of me if I’d chosen different paths but the one, that missing chapter, doesn’t give me any regrets. Doggone it, I may even be living that chapter now! How about you?

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

"Go West!"

The legend of Johnny Appleseed, thanks in part, 
to Walt Disney, has come to children of all ages and it has planted more than apple seeds. I love the songs that made the movie come alive with lessons easy to learn. One of the songs has been teasing me lately. It’s the one that starts, “Get on the wagon going West, out to the great Unknown...Get on the wagon going West, or you’ll be left alone.”

Even the sun appears to go West and I’m thinking that the famous Christmas star led the “Wise Men from the East” westward in their search for the Messiah. So, would that mean progress leads westward literally? 

Without getting too tangled up in geography, let’s assume that the progress of mankind is symbolized by the West. In our time it would seem that progress has led to greater freedom. Tying in to the story of the prodigal son in the Bible could it also mean that the freedom to go west, even into a “far country,” can teach us through trial and error the true definition of freedom? Western society with its broad offerings of right and wrong
 often presents a wide path to destruction. It shows that happiness is lost in “riotous living,” licentiousness behavior, lawlessness and wickedness. Yet that very extremity can prove to be God’s opportunity. 

The grand awakening to a kingdom of heaven within is something we can learn of and live by. We often chafe at the restrictions of law, but experience shows us the freedom that obedience to divine law, while seemingly restrictive at first, opens onto a highway above the dangers of selfishness, ignorance, hate and the ills of error. It bridges over the catastrophes we cannot avoid with a willingness to awake to divine answers. 

The saying, “Go West, young man!” is controversial in origin, and no doubt the literal implications of betterment can be argued, but I’m going to see what I can glean from the idea of a westward way. We could literally avoid the night if we did not stop in our western path. What does it mean to “Go West?” Are we following the Star of Bethlehem, the promise of a birth of our own divinity, preceded by that of the prophets of old and Christ Jesus, or the lure of the fool’s gold of our own selfish desires? 

When I weary of how the world seems to be going according to today’s media, I can only try to figure it all out with the help of the wise men and women of all ages. It’s good to believe that the kingdom of Heaven is within us as Christ Jesus declared. In the lives of most of the survivors of old age I’d like to know we can rise above any circumstance with that promise and “get on the wagon,” West, East? Or within? 

So, when that old demon calling itself death stalks me with questions like when, where and how? I say, “I have no time for you! I’m on the wagon going West! You can just stay in the ditch!” 

Of course, like Johnny Appleseed, I’ve got to see what good I have to plant along the way. Seeds of Love? Truth? Compassion?  And I need to watch out for seeds of weeds like ...well, you know what I mean. Leave them in last night’s bonfire.


Day Dreaming Again of Feathers for Me?


Sometimes when I get tired of doing what I probably should be doing I turn to day dreaming. Then one of those day dreams may flag me down saying, "Blog about me!" So, I may consent and see what comes of it. What shall I write about now? The subject just came to me, as it usually does the minute I ask. But why feathers? Because if I were destined to come to earth next time in another species after my sojourn here as a human what species might I choose? I am quite sure I’d choose to be a bird.

Not a big bird but a smallish one that sings beautifully. I’d like to be a part of a community of its kind. I’d like to go to sleep at night in a tree where many others of my kind gather at twilight to exchange stories of our day and cuddle up on a branch next to others with our feathers all puffed up to shut out that day and say goodnight with a thank you to our bird-God for seeing us safely through. 

I used to watch that happen on evenings when I waited for Wally G, my Marine husband. After a day’s work he was ready to serve as a counselor at the little white chapel on the Marine base at Cherry Point, No. Carolina. That’s when he’d talk with the enlisted men and women who needed some comfort after a hard day of drills and exercises meant to toughen them for real battles to come. They were young and strong but they were barely out of boyhood and the comforts of home and family were sorely missed. Wally was good at helping them find fresh acquaintance with God and the spiritual rest and assurance needed in that rugged path they’d fallen into. He’d been through those feelings, hiding pain and needing the comfort he himself was learning to find in the Holy Bible's spiritual refuge. 

I, on the other hand, would have had a busy day myself as a mother of three, keeping house, laundering clothes, cooking, taxiing kids to music lessons, ball practices, gymnastics and such. Only a homemaker mom can know how many are the little and large tasks that confront a mother’s day. My relief often came in the form of finding a peaceful place to day dream. A few minutes would do it. That small sanctuary of time waiting in the car with the windows down gave me nothing more to do than watch the birds settle into the big tree across the path and listen to them as they exchanged accounts of their day in lively bird chirp fashion. Or were they merely jostling for places? I’d wish so much I could know! What was it that animated them so? The tree was fairly alive and jumping!

Then gradually, stories told, positions claimed, things would quiet down until only a few chirps could be heard. At last, though I couldn’t see them, I knew their little heads were being tucked under their wings because all the urgency and excitement was toning down except for those few who had to get in the last word. Then I got a taste of the meaning of serenity! What peace!

I wish I could find a tree like that again where birds gather to spend the night. I felt privileged just to be there listening and watching and feeling a-kin to the feathered flock. Maybe if I could find such a tree again the birds would tell me their secrets. What is it like being a bird? 

Tommy, my canary, has been with me for nearly five years and he hasn’t been able to tell me even though I’ve asked him over and over. But he does greet me with a special double chirp when I come home. And he talks to his image in the little cage mirror and at times even scolds that fellow. If I’ve forgotten to bring him his afternoon apple treat he lets me know with a repeated chirp that sounds increasingly demanding. 

Dogs seem to do best at communication with humans. But I don’t want to be a dog. To be honest, not even a bird. But I’d love to feel a little more a-kin to Tommy and if I could sing like him? Now that would be a feather in my cap! Somewhere in my yesteryear I heard a man at a county fair who could do that. I was so impressed! Does anyone imitate bird song nowadays? If so, why haven’t I heard them on U-Tube or anywhere? 

Time to stop day-dreaming. It’s a quiet day here in my neighborhood. What are the others doing? Maybe I’ll find out at dinner tonight. Come to think of it, the dining room where we show up at five p.m. for dinner often sounds a bit like that bird-tree. Do you think for a minute a bird might wonder what we talk about? Or ask us in bird language what it's like to be human?

In a little while I’ll be wishing I could tuck my head under my wing to shut out the evening news on TV. If only I could find a tree where the birds gather for the night, I’d gladly go there and listen to their news instead of ours. And just think of how beautiful I'd be, already dressed. in the morning  in colorful feathers that take me on a fly-by of the neighborhood! 



  

Saturday, May 9, 2015

"Go West!"

The legend of Johnny Appleseed, thanks in part to Walt Disney, has come to children of all ages and it has planted more than apple seeds. I love the songs that made the movie come alive with lessons easy to learn. One of the songs has been teasing me lately. It’s the one that starts, “Get on the wagon going West, out to the great Unknown...Get on the wagon going West, or you’ll be left alone.”

Even the sun appears to go West and I’m thinking that the famous Christmas star led the “Wise Men from the East” westward in their search for the Messiah. So, would that mean progress leads westward literally? 

Without getting too tangled up in geography, let’s assume that the progress of mankind is symbolized by the West. In our time it would seem that progress has led to greater freedom. But tying in to the story of the prodigal son in the Bible, could it also mean that the freedom to go west, even into a “far country,” can teach us through trial and error the true definition of freedom? Western society with its broad offerings of right and wrong often presents a wide path to destruction. It shows that happiness is lost in “riotous living,” licentiousness behavior, lawlessness and wickedness. Yet that very extremity can prove to be God’s opportunity. 

The grand awakening to a kingdom of heaven within is something we can learn and live by. We often chafe at the restrictions of law, but experience shows us the freedom that obedience to divine law, while seemingly restrictive at first, opens onto a highway above the dangers of selfishness, ignorance, hate and the ills of error. It bridges over the catastrophes we cannot avoid with a willingness to awake to divine answers. 

The saying, “Go West, young man!” is controversial in origin, and no doubt the literal implications of betterment can be argued, but I’m going to see what I can glean from the idea of a westward way. What does it mean to “Go West?” Are we following the Star of Bethlehem, the promise of a birth of our own divinity, preceded by that of the prophets of old and Christ Jesus, or the lure of the fool’s gold of our own selfish desires? 

When I weary of how the world seems to be going according to today’s media, I can only try to figure it all out with the help of the wise men and women of all ages. It’s good to believe that the kingdom of Heaven is within us as Christ Jesus declared. In the lives of most of the survivors of old age I’d like to know we can rise above any circumstance with that promise and “get on the wagon,” West, East? Or within? 

So, when that old demon calling itself death stalks me with questions like when, where and how it may get the best of me, I say, “I have no time for you! I’m  going West! You can just stay in the ditch!” 

Of course, like Johnny Appleseed, I’ve got to see what good I have to plant along the way. Seeds of Love? Truth? Compassion?  And I need to watch out for weed seeds like ...well, you know what I mean. Let's just leave them behind in last night’s ashes of our bonfire.


Sunday, April 26, 2015

My China Pig and Other Things I Love

My mother once told me I should not say I love things. “You love God and people,” she said. “You just like things.” But I’m not so sure Mother was right.

There’s a small fat china pig on four tall wire legs standing on a small table in my living room. She brings a smile to my face whenever I stop to look at her. I found her in a little out of the way shop called Hog Hollow in St. Louis County about fifteen years ago. My hubby thought me silly to spend $16. on that pig but I couldn’t help myself. She looked so whimsical and she still does. She needed a home and love. I just had to buy her.

I’ve always liked pigs and at one time I might even have considered getting one of those small sized real pigs as a pet, but I never stumbled on one. I’m afraid dear hubby would have balked big time at that idea!

My china Pig has made it through many moves since then and she’s just one of the many things in my home that gives me smiles. My real live red (really carrot-red) canary whom I named “Tommy Tucker” sings beautifully and not just for his supper as the nursery rhyme Tommy. He’s simply a happy little feathered fellow who sings for reasons of his own and his song makes me happy. 

All the things I treasure in my home, the pictures and lamps, the pillows and clocks, books and other memorabilia are more than things to me. Each has a living memory to be cherished.  I remember where and when it came into my home and now and then I take a few minutes to give each one the loving attention it deserves. I have moved too often to have kept anything that doesn’t spark a tug at my heart. Although all my things may seem like too much to the casual looker, I insist I’ll take them with me into heaven itself unless I can give them to others who will care as much. You can imagine how I feel when I step into a thrift shop where the orphaned ones dwell for a time and are crying out to be loved again! Nearly as pathetic as going into an animal shelter! 

I have no apology for loving things. They are so quietly persuasive. Of course I love people more, but people as my housemates? Not many would fit into my little nest. Still I seldom feel lonely. I have only to look around and if I find a broken heart among my souvenirs I let divine Love mend it so that it will never know it ever had been broken. 

They say “You can’t take it with you.” Not anything. I’m not so sure about that. I have a big attic in my heart’s home where I can find any number of things that aren’t here anymore. There’s my little red tricycle and my Radio Flyer wagon. My sled, my dolly that I called Flossy, my collection of children’s books, my first grade class room where I proudly claimed my first desk. The French horn I played in the high school band. The house I grew up in that stood a-top a country hill. And the wee chapel where I was married in the Riverside Mission Inn.

If you ever think life is barren, broken, gone, just sneak into your memory attic and look for all the good things you’ve ever had. They are still there. Never mind the ghosts. They can’t stand the light of love.  

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The Laguna Tic Bit Me Again!

I went back in time yesterday. That’s what it feels like whenever I wind down through the canyon road that leads to the other side of the rim of foothills behind Laguna Beach. There are four houses in the Cliff section  that I’ve called my home at times ranging from 1937 through 1975. Do I wish I’d stayed in any one of them? How would my life story have read today if I had?

Well, my favorite town definitely was Laguna Beach. Even though it has kept much of its charm from my childhood days it is polished and still the same “ten miles long and six inches wide.” That is simply a geographical fact and no doubt one that has helped to keep it unique.  

“Where shall we go for lunch, Mom?” My weekly date with Robin, my daughter, hadn’t taken us to Laguna Beach in a long time so we decided quickly. Lunch at a special place is usually a part of our day.

“If I could have my pick of places I’d choose Trotter’s Bakery,” I said. 

Robin agreed. “Me too. Who could forget those ham and cheese sandwiches on rye bread we used to take to the beach? They were warm and so filled with thin slices you could hardly open your mouth wide enough to take the first bite.”

“And don’t forget the aromatic mustard and delicious giant dill pickle too!” I added. But many years ago Trotter’s had been taken over by a fancy gourmet restaurant. “It might seem traitorous, but let’s try that one,” I said. And we did. We sat right by the sidewalk with only a half partition to keep us separate from mothers with baby strollers, friendly dogs and shaggy old-timers as well as young laughing teens clad scantily and heading toward the beach. The ambiance, service by a charming young woman and superb food were great.

Afterwards we went shopping and I bought a pair of shoes that cost me what three pairs might have in my usual shops, but they promise to be easy on my feet and they’re not clunky but good looking as well. In quest of a garden watering can we ended up at the old Coast Hardware store that “has everything” we were told. I didn’t buy one but went out with a new clock, a potato masher and two paperback books about Laguna Beach in the early days.

“There’s a picture of me and my mother in this one,” I told Robin. “We’re in the crowd standing on the curb as President Franklin D. Roosevelt went through town back in July of 1938.” With the help of a magnifying glass Robin found me. “Yup, that’s you all right, Mom! You must have been about twelve then, right?”

I couldn’t decide between the books so I bought both and now I’m going to have to ration my time perusing them because, well, it’s been so long since I spent my junior high school days there I want to savor every page and picture. 

I’d gladly have lived in Laguna Beach all my life if I could have but we did land there at the end of Wally’s Marine flight career and stayed for fifteen years when our three kids were going to school. We all picked up the “Laguna tic”as the old-timers said we would. 

But had we stayed I’d have missed those eight years on our Oregon ranch, the three in our lakeside home in Bellevue Washington, the seven near Robin’s little family in Laguna Niguel after Wally G. died, the three in my old hometown of Preston, Minnesota, the eight with Robby, my second hubby, in Chesterfield, Missouri, the four in Santa Barbara after he passed, and my latest five in Laguna Hills. 

Laguna Beach now shares its first name with all the other Laguna cities that have sprung up where bare hills, strawberry fields and orange groves claimed the lands in back of the hills behind Laguna Beach. What has grown up here since those early days? Cities, suburbs, and spreading crops of skyscrapers, not to mention the labyrinth of packed freeways and an international airport. 

My little community here at The Willows is quiet and homey and lovely. I’m glad to be near my beloved Laguna Beach so I can see her, reminisce as I taste the salt air, bask by the beach and stroll her quaint streets. Through all the years she has managed to keep her charm, but golly those books I bought sure make me feel old! (But better!)

Monday, March 2, 2015

The Game of "What If?"

I don’t know if there is a game called “What If?” This little piece of mine is not meant to plagiarize the name if there is, but it sounds like it might be a fun parlor game. On the other hand, if you bother to read this you may agree that my particular “What if?” would take more time than an after dinner fun game. It’s far too serious than that. My question would be, What if Eve had not eaten of the “Tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and tempted Adam to do so too? Would they have become bored to death having all things handed to them on a platter? Not needing to labor either in the fields for food or in procreation to have children? Would they still be living in an old age of 6,000 and some years of relative retirement? Or might they have then eaten of the “Tree of Life?” Would they have found all children born of God?

Silly questions I suppose, but they bring to bear another question. Would it have been the loss of that thing called “free will” we think so highly of? Sure, we’d have been spared the pain of wrong choices and chance, but would it have made us practical robots of a “Lord God?” 

Knowing the world’s constant dangers and warfare, strife and terror, would we choose the better option of foregoing the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil and passing it up for the tree of Life? 

In thinking about this I know my choice would be to be obedient to the Lord God’s warning. Only, I’d have to ask, “Why did you allow the good and bad tree to grow in the garden in the first place? Why did you present such a temptation to snare your children into slavery and a world of pain and short-lived pleasures? If You are the good God you’d like us to believe, why would you make life take place in a wild and dangerous wilderness? Even I am a kinder soul than to put my kids into a school where there are countless wrong options to every one right one.”

Now I’m asking myself what can I learn from this allegory which is so unlike the record of creation in the first chapter of Genesis? That God was not some tribal “lord” but a good God, a one and only God, who sees darkness as only a first impression on the “face” of creation, sort of like a cloud or mirage that presents an initial misconception needing only light to penetrate the darkness and ignorance and reveal the truth of being.

I’m thinking now that this earthly schoolroom is merely the way God, divine Truth, Life and Love encourages His children to take on more of His light in order to get through the initial "dark glass" so we can see clearly out of the “Valley of the shadow of death.” Maybe we’re like His children playing in the streets but learning in both school and home. We find here that we must daily choose the paths to take but it’s not hard when we are obedient to maps the successful pioneers have drawn for us. 

The Bible says that God rewards us for choosing His way and following it as they did. With long life will I satisfy them and show them my salvation, He promises. To me that implies that if we need more time and are given it, I’ll buy that. I’ve done my share of lagging behind. I want to be ready for the next grade in this "school." I’ve got some make-up homework to do. I’ll need a good lamp as well as my own light and plenty of extra oil because it’s beginning to look a bit dark out there!

So you won’t find me complaining about old age. There’s time for me and you too if we keep shining. Our light comes from on high but we need to do a lot of letting it be! A friend of mine, well along in years, once said to me, "These are good years to figure out the meaning of life." I agreed then and especially now.  So, get out your old rockin' chair too. Or think about it with your hands in the dishwater. When you're in the shower or saying your good night prayers. I'm finding it beats solitaire or old movies. And it keeps your mind on pleasant prospects. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Old Rocking Chair's Got Me

What’s happened to that old-school kind of girl who used to blog? Well, she’s been taking time out for simple sitting sessions. When the days are sunny and the air is so still you can hear every bird within a block or two, then I’m beginning to see the virtue and honor of that old rocker’s company.  Along with gentle rocking comes a sort of rhythm of the universe. No need to think too hard. No need to figure things out by myself. Just relax and soak up all things that speak harmony. Declare along with the old song, “He’s got the whole world in His hands, He’s got the whole wide world in His hands. He’s got the whole world in His hands, yes, the whole world in His hands.”

I go out to the patio to give the rocker the kind of company it wants whenever the weather is pleasant. When it’s more comfortable to stay in I have another rocking chair. Whatever comes to mind that might worry me or distress me, I just do some letting go in one of my rockers. This involves exactly what it says. I don’t try to sweep the current worries, the “elephants” out of the room, I just refuse to be concerned about them. If they are things I should be concerned about I simply acknowledge that I’m willing to do what needs to be done when the time is right. Patience and promise don’t mind a little procrastination. Someone once said, “The right thing at the wrong time is no longer the right thing.” I don’t believe we need to feel guilty about things yet to be done. Just let the spirit move and when it does you’ll feel sincerely good about doing them. 

A great religious leader, Mary Baker Eddy, has said that “God rests in action.” We know He never sleeps, so He must. Ego of the right sort need not push us around and wear us out. Life is a great ride when we do the right thing at the right time. Will power is not the virtue it’s cracked up to be in my book and a good rocking chair session can inspire me to do or not to do as well as how and when to do the good thing.

So, frequent sessions with my rocking chair have been recharging me. They’ve helped me let in the light of gratitude and love and truth and I’m inspired, well on my way without pain, prodding and punishment. 

My patio rocker I bought at a small wild bird feed farm in southern Minnesota near where I grew up. The proprietor and owner was a young man whose farm served to provide him and his family a simple country life, a thriving business and contact with customers who didn’t mind traversing the winding and rugged dirt road to get there. 

When I saw the plain wooden rocking chair in his barn sales room and commented on how great it would look on my porch he said, “Try it out and see how comfortable it is. It was made by an elderly Amish fellow who constructs only one a year in his spare time.” That was in 1993 and of course I felt myself to be the one that year it was built for. I never met the crafter but can easily picture him, long white hair, long beard as well, and work-worn hands. I wonder about the others he built. Mine has been on my porch or patio ever since and is still as sturdy as new. but now it’s in need of a fresh coat of varnish or paint. As I take out times to rock in that chair I feel the time to get it refinished is not far off but am I the one to do it? We’ll see. 

The new leather rocker in the house is also used for watching television or reading. It is far less simple and, yes, even spiritual, than the weathered wooden one. The job of giving the Amish man’s chair its due may find its answer in one of my sunny sessions as I rock in tune with the angels. I’ll let you know when and how it happens. In the meantime my old rocker will never complain. It's just not in its nature to do that, and when I'm  sittin' and a-rockin' with it, even I have not a care in the world. I'd be ashamed to complain!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Always Means Forever

The song, Always, was “our song” but we almost lost it over a 60 acre ranch amidst the Siskiyou foothills of southern Oregon. Here’s the story:

It began shortly after my birth in December of 1925. My grandparents’ neighbors’ little five and a half year old boy came over to our house in Minneapolis as he often did to bring my mother some little thing from my grandmother. As usual he came up the steps of the kitchen porch. 

“Wally, Come here in the kitchen,” Mother called when she heard him knock. “I want you to meet Joycie, our brand new baby girl!” She had just lifted me out of a basin in the kitchen sink and wrapped me in a towel after a warm bath. After we married about nineteen years later, Wally always said, when people asked how we’d met for the first time, that I was naked.

(Now, just for the record, Wethe is a Norwegian name pronounced like you’d imagine it to be if it were spelled this way: Wethy. I was Mrs. Wallace Wethe for forty years.)

After Wally’s twenty-some year career as a U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot we lived several years in Laguna Beach and then eight years on the country place we’d promised ourselves we’d find sometime when retired from the service. 

After the first year on the ranch Wally was ready to leave. "I expected all we'd need to do was to sit on our front porch rocking chairs and enjoy the scenery," he'd said. I, on the other hand, had spent all the previous years looking forward to just such a home as Forest Gate Ranch. My heart had found home. How could we forget our promise of Always over this? The compromise that kept us there for seven more years was sharing our home with Wally’s mom and my aunt. It saved our marriage and “Always” remained our song. Then we sold our place and  moved to Bellevue, Washington. I was happy in our new home overlooking Lake Sammamish but within three years my aunt, my mother-in-law and even Wally all died! I decided to move to So. California to live near my daughter and her family. They all came up to help me pack.

Jenny, my little granddaughter, was curious. “Is this a city, Daddy?”

“No, Honey, it's a suburb, but we’ll take a day off tomorrow and drive over to Seattle. That’s a city.”

After lunch on the Space Needle the next day we wandered into a tall office building. The many floors were connected with stairs and balcony halls winding around a central  atrium. In the center on the ground floor there was a concert grand piano with an older man playing beautiful old love songs. At about the fourth level we stopped to just listen. He had paused for a few minutes but then started playing again. I said to myself, “Oh, Wally, you should be here now. This is our kind of music.” Then I suddenly realized it was not only our kind of music, it was our song, “Always!”

I looked around, half expecting to see Wally standing beside me. Instead I heard, “I’m right here, Mrs. Wethe.” (That was his only pet name for me.) 

I didn’t hear our song again for a long time but one day after my move to Orange County, there it was right where the cassette tape had stopped halfway through the last time Wally had played it! How was I to know? I hadn’t ever played that tape! 

A year or so later I decided for a change to take the freeway to work one morning. I didn’t know why. I’d slipped another tape of Wally’s into the car’s player. One of his favorites, Respighi’s Fountains of Rome. I felt so caught up in it that as it reached the climax I waved my hand over toward the passenger seat as if Wally were there sharing the moment. At that very instant a big truck passed by the window on his side and I read in giant red letters the words “ALWAYS MOVERS.
         
I can’t remember the last time I heard our song until last night when I sat on an aisle seat in the balcony at the Laguna Beach Playhouse. As the lights dimmed I heard a slowly emerging tune. Yes, it was Always! One of Irving Berlin’s earliest compositions, “our” song! Hershey Felder gave us a one man show about the life of that remarkable song-maker, an evening of tears, laughter and music that I’ll never forget. I've come to expect hearing ALWAYS only at unexpected times. I know it is not only our song; you don’t need to tell me. Countless others have claimed it. Maybe even you?

When I lived with my grandmother and went to the college near her home she had Captain Wally Wethe’s picture on her mantle. She’d been writing to him during his two years of combat duty in the South Pacific and I met him when he got home. He came from his base nearby to visit his childhood neighbor, Mrs. Darling, and her young granddaughter, me. Weekend dates led to falling in love and a lovely wedding in The Flyers' Chapel at The Mission Inn in Riverside.You might say ours was an arranged marriage, that Grandmother picked my husband for me.  

I sometimes think Wally may have picked my second husband for me too. He'd often mentioned as we crossed the country where we'd see layers of geological strata, that he loved to fly but if he might have had more of a choice he'd have become a geologist. He never met Dr. Forbes Robertson the professor of Geology at Principia College who taught our children, or knew that this man had not fought in WWII but had contributed greatly by discovering in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic the bauxite aluminum ore that went into the airplanes he flew. I'm sure they'd have been good friends. It’s one reason why I added Robertson to the name Wethe.  But that’s a story for another day. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

A Few Good Words

Wally’s new tour of duty in the winter of 1953 took us to Glenview, Illinois. There was only one motel there then and it was definitely not first class. With two lively little boys and a dog in one small room and  weather so dismal it could dampen the spirits of an optimist like me, the task of finding a house to rent seemed overwhelming. 

We couldn’t afford to buy a house and the only rental we found was a two story weathered frame house that leaned, literally, like the Tower of Pisa. The floors were covered with worn out torn linoleum. Wally was already working at the Naval Air Station and our real estate man said, “People here usually buy. There’s hardly ever a house for rent.” 

When Sunday came along we made an effort to go to church. It would take divine help to drag me out of the mental pit I was in. And I found it, surprisingly, in the words of a little white-haired, blue-eyed lady.

“So, you’re new to our town?” she said. “Where do you live?”

“Well, in fact, we’re in the process of looking for a place but things aren't going so well,” I said.

Immediately she smiled and her sparkling blue eyes conveyed joy and confident assurance as she said, “Why, my dears, your house is looking for you!” I could have hugged her and was about to say, “It is? Where? You know of something?”

Then I realized she was merely saying that God knew where and would make it known to us soon. I was cheered by her words. The sun had come out and we found a good restaurant, had dinner, bought the Chicago newspaper and drove back to the motel. The boys spread out the comic section and Wally took the dog for a walk. When he got back he said, “I saw the manager and he gave me a message.  Someone saw the ad our real estate man put in the paper. He said it’s another country place, but you’ll like this one better." Wally pulled a piece of paper out of his pocket. "Here’s the address. Let’s bundle up the boys and go take a look.” 

We found the address on a mail box but could not believe the agent would have sent us there. The house was like a country estate, large and white with a long curving driveway lined with elm trees and surrounded by spacious lawns with a fruit orchard on one side and a three car garage on the other. Under the blanket of snow it looked way out of our league. The owner was waiting for us. He was short and talkative as he eyed us, openly admitting that he’d been a bookie and when the city would not let him buy lumber because of the shortage during the war he simply bought three smaller houses and moved them onto the property creating one big house by putting them together. Then his wife changed her mind and told him she didn’t want to move out of their old house after all. So it had stood empty for years. He showed us through. 

A living room with large bay windows had a baby grand piano and Oriental rug. A family room with a stone fireplace had a sofa and comfy chairs. A huge refurbished kitchen came with a breakfast room that accommodated a long table and chairs. A spacious dining room for formal dinners would be perfect for our mahogany set. The large master bedroom with a sunroom and bath along with another bedroom and bath completed the downstairs. Upstairs were three bedrooms with cedar lined closets and a bathroom. 

This house seemed just perfect for us. Even the scant furnishings would compliment our own perfectly. I knew we’d not be able to afford it but it was good to see something really nice. The rent had not been mentioned so I asked, “Mr. Connors, how much are you asking for rent?” When he answered with a figure just matching our budget I was shocked. Wally too. Then Mr. Connors added, “But I don’t want to hear about any problems. If something, say the furnace or plumbing, goes wrong, you pay to fix it. There’s a gang mower and a sit-down mower in the garage. You keep the lawn mowed.” We readily agreed!

In the two years we lived there nothing major went wrong and the gang mower was fun for Wally and the boys. The boys couldn't drive the mowers but they loved to ride on their dad's lap pretending to steer. Wally’s sister came to live with us. She had the upstairs all to herself, and got a job with an advertising firm in the city, riding the commuter train to and from work. She met the young man who became her husband and they had a beautiful wedding in the small town Presbyterian church. The reception was in our house. 

Best of all the sun room off our bedroom became a nursery for our third child, a little girl! Wally’s tour of duty was one of his best and we acquired a church family of friends with whom we had great times. The little woman who first greeted us became a dear friend and her first words, “Why, your house is looking for you!” had given one little family the lesson that whatever we need is never withheld by a God who loves us. All we have to do is hear a few good words and believe them.

Have a Happy New Year!