Park Benches of America

benches-31642-32377-hd-wallpapers

We were in for a fun time. Well my mother-in-law and I anyway. Maybe not so for my husband Dave. But he’s a good man.

Our destination was central Missouri, specifically a quilt shop. Mom, we were close enough that I considered her my mom too, were both fabriholics. Dave would always enter the shop with me to size it up as to how long I might be. A big shop=a long time, small shop=only a short time.

Before he exited, he always said the same thing, “Take as long as you like, there is a park bench outside calling my name. I’m conducting a study on the park benches of America. I’m thinking of writing a book that I know husbands would appreciate. I’ll include the GPS stats of where the best ones are located.”

Inside, Mom and I were finishing up our purchase when the alarm went off at the fire station across the street. It was deafening and encouraged us to stay in the store a little longer.

As we chatted with the shopkeeper we learned the fire department was made up of volunteers. The alarm raged on for what felt like hours instead of minutes. Dave, being the trooper that he is, remained manning the bench getting a front row seat to the action.

A pick-up roared up from out of nowhere parking at the fire station. The driver leaped out running inside the station. The garage doors flew up revealing the red engine ready to go. But it stayed there.

Soon after, a second pick-up rumbled to the scene and thundered to a stop… The first arrival stuck his head out of the window of the fire truck, “Have you got the keys?”

Apparently he did. The shrieking alarm was turned off which made the silence as deafening as the alarm had been. The fire truck came to life and lumbered off to the emergency. We were relieved to know this small town had same day service.

To date, my dearly beloved hasn’t written a single word of his book. Such a shame as so many men would find it a valuable resource.

Remembering Grandma

20200209_154330“A stainless steel colander? Don’t you think that’s asking too much?

So said Grandma Andrews. She had a way of letting me know how she felt.

Our conversation revolved around the requests in my bridal registry shortly after my engagement. For starters, JL Hudson was the only store that offered a registry for soon-to-be couples. Secondly, it was a high end department store. They didn’t sell junk.                                        © jb katke

My husbands’ grandmother claimed I didn’t ask enough on my registry. Some grandmas you just can’t please.

This time every year I think of my grandma. Her birthday was on Valentine’s Day. I think of her whenever I use my colander too.

Grandma Andrews was a practical lady. She lived through the Depression and knew how to make do. She had a plastic colander from the early days of plastic. Hers got a little too close to the heat from the stove and bore a melted souvenir from the experience. But it still worked.

Her home was always meticulous. She even washed her walls. I recall she had a coal furnace when I was very little, and over the long Michigan winters it would leave a residue on the walls. Hence, spring cleaning.

After I was married she asked me, “Do you get on your hands and knees when washing the floor?”

“No Grandma I don’t.”

I considered myself more modern than that. There are mops that make that unnecessary. But I learned getting down on hands and knees does a better job. Likewise when I clean the woodwork. Grandma would be proud. However I do wait to make the effort worthwhile.

I wish I had gotten to know grandma better, I think I could have learned much from her. She wasn’t the talkative sort and I never questioned her past. Too bad for me. You can understand why people are the way they are if you have a sense of what they experienced.

I do know she loved baseball. And she had what I call a British sense of humor. During the Christmas season a popular song, Jingle Bells, came out sung by a clucking chicken. Grandma said it was a fowl song. Her favorite was The Little Drummer Boy.

All this is a distant memory now, my colander is going on fifty years old.  Grandma would probably flip if she knew my kitchen now sports a second smaller colander. Yep, it’s stainless steel too.

Too Many Toys

20191209_091058

 

 

 

 

 

My husband had enough.

Begging was wasted breath. Rewards meant nothing. Bribery didn’t work, and neither did grounding. Grounding I learned, is never a good idea. It punishes the stay-at-home parent. AKA me.

Clearly our children’s concept of a clean room differed from ours. They threw things in the closet and stowed as much as possible under the bed. Leftovers were designated to line the walls. On the plus side, we never worried about a bed collapsing. Their ‘cleaning’ took all day. As buried treasures surfaced, they played.

I’m not sure if it was frustration or tired of hearing my ranting. But desperate times called for desperate measures in getting the kids to pick up their toys. Out came the leaf rake.

At the end of the day, so-called cleaning done, their dad raked what was left into the middle of the floor. It was deposited into a box. If the kids wanted them back it was going to cost them. Prices ranged from a penny to a nickel.

Who Is Learning A Lesson Here?

Eventually there were no more purchases. What’s with that? They didn’t care whether they got the rest back or not. The excess toys were unnecessary. By all appearances we all had something to learn.

Good Intentions Are Not Always Good

When Christmas or a birthday rolled around, we went overboard in gifts. The Grandparents hearts held more than their wallets, unable to give as much as they wanted. They lavished love for our children. It’s what money can’t buy, doesn’t need wrapping and takes up no space.

All we wanted to do was give our children good memories. Too many gifts multiplied by three children gave new meaning to a well-rounded Christmas tree. We have learned.

That’s the problem with parenting. By the time we learn how to do it right, the children are grown and the damage is done. We’ll do better with the grandchildren, we’ve got this.

Wait a minute, grandparent play by a different rule book, don’t they?

Tradition

“’What is your favorite Christmas tradition?” 20191208_154746

It was an icebreaker question for my tablemates at Bible study.  First off, getting-to-know you questions are dumb. We are women, nurturers at heart, compatible beings, user-friendly and capable of carrying on a conversation.  With or without cause. We have words and know how to use them.

Secondly, I don’t have a favorite Christmas tradition.  My mom did. When you got any clothes for Christmas, you couldn’t wear them until after the New Year. Where she came up with this I don’t know.

After I got married, this went out the window.  With gusto.

As far as Christmas shopping is concerned,  my husband is not prone to buy clothes.  Many Christmases ago, as I shopped for others, I kept seeing things I’d like for myself.

When my husband returned home from work I told him, “You have some clothes on hold at the store.  Pick through them and surprise me for Christmas.”

He did.  I got them all-and amazingly they all were the right size.  Not all husbands can do that.

When I was a child, Aunt Jane had the tradition of hiding a really large gift for me behind the chair.  I caught on quickly. Christmas Eve always found me peeking at it.

Apparently I did have one tradition albeit unintentional.  It seems every Thanksgiving for too many years I clogged the garbage disposal with potato peels.

“Mom, again? You do this every year.”

“I do?”

“Yes, it happened last year too. Don’t you remember?”

“Um, no. That was last year.”

But I’ve learned.  Now I make instant potatoes. Problem solved.

Grandma Andrews had the tradition of baking fruitcakes for everyone in the family.  I grew up with them, but my little family didn’t share the love. It was mine, all mine.

Grandma died, but Aunt Jane carried on her tradition. It wasn’t until my aunt passed away that I had access to their recipe collection.   I was shocked that neither of them followed the recipe. Both these women were sticklers for doing things by the book. While I haven’t made a fruitcake yet, if I did, I’d modify it too. It’s what I do. Then wonder why it didn’t turn out good.

One would think I would learn from my mistakes, especially in the cooking department. But why change a perfectly good tradition?

Salvation Army

SA Bucket

Many a Christmas season I refused to donate to the Salvation Army cause. But my heart had been touched as I gave it more thought. Both physical and spiritual help is offered year round to the less fortunate.

“Oh no, I didn’t mean to do that!”

I came unglued. What was I going to do now?

About to enter the grocery store, I scooped up all the loose change in my purse and deposited it into the red Salvation Army bucket. I watched helplessly as the coins fell in, along with my husband’s wedding ring.

A couple volunteers stood at the post ringing their bell.

The man spoke up. “That was really generous of you.”

“No it’s not, I’m not generous at all.”

I learned the couple belonged to each other, but neither of them had the key that belonged to the bucket. Sensing my anguish, the man pulled out his cell phone placing a call to his supervisor. There was nothing he could do to help me either.

The husband handed me his business card, in case I should need him. He was a lawyer.

I wagged my finger at him. “You better be honest, because I have your number now.” I can’t believe I said that. Clearly I must stop watching so much TV.

I was cold and in a hurry.

I had just left my husband’s bedside. He was still hospitalized recovering from his fourth back surgery. The wedding band was put in my change purse for safe keeping. Yeah, right.

Eventually I was given a phone number I could call to retrieve the ring. The office of the Salvation Army was alerted to my error and were on the lookout for it. I was told it was found and waiting for me to pick it up.

It was one for the memory books.

That was several years ago, but it still brings up a vivid holiday memory. Today, I smile at it, not so at the time.

The following year, I again deposited some change in the red bucket. “You’re not getting any wedding rings this year.”

The young man’s bell stopped mid ring,  “That was you?”

A change of heart

The Salvation Army folk are a good group of people that make a positive difference in lives. Who couldn’t use a little encouragement now and then?

The Blue Season

 

 

We are fast approaching the blue season.

No one wants to be identified with what the world calls it. Depression. Down time or a case of the blahs doesn’t sound so bad. But it feels awful. I know.

We all have some form of heartache.

Too many of us have lost loved ones this time of year and the absence screams at you.

Why should this time of year be more painful than losing a loved one any other time?

In my case, it’s those Norman Rockwell scenes that appear. The pictures that depict what our family gathering will not be. The memories of what used to be

The holidays can look as bleak as this festive but hollow turkey.

20191124_132952

© of JB Katke

It’s all where you place the syllable.

My dear departed mother used to tell me about putting the emphasis on the other       syl-i-able. She meant for me to look on my situation differently.  The good Lord gives us enough opportunities to do just that, because nothing stays the same.

Not all change is bad…so I am told.

A few years back I inadvertently found the secret to overcoming the blues. It’s about taking my eyes off self and really seeing others.

A family from Great Britain were renting the house across the street. Being in the US meant back home there were going to be some empty seats at the table. We had some empty seats of our own and invited them over for Christmas dinner. It was a memorable evening for all of us.

The reality is not all Facebook lives are necessarily as they are portrayed.

Perspective changes, when you suddenly realize how much you have to offer and be grateful for.

Note to self

Joy comes when you lighten the load of a heavy heart.

It Just So Happens…

Who would have considered a trip to the grocery store as a divine encounter?

My purchases were made and I was in the process of loading them in the car. Likewise for the shopper parked next to me. I was oblivious of her until she spoke.

“Why is my car moving?”

 First she panicked, then leapt into action to stop the car. The young mother had put her daughter into the back of their SUV, then proceeded to load her groceries.  Apparently her little one clamored about the car, hitting the gear shift that set the car in motion.

The Memory Came Flooding In

thVE2CGGDEIt took me back to Clyde Smith, a local produce market that is now defunct. In its heyday, it was a thriving business, set far off the road with a huge parking lot in front. I let my toddler in the back hatch of our Chevrolet Vega and proceeded to load my purchases.

Just as I slammed the hatch down I became aware of the car moving in reverse. The keys were in my hand but I couldn’t side step fast enough to get them in the lock to open the door.

My daughter had climbed into the back seat, her eyes wide, as I watched her through the window passing by. The car getting ever nearer the heavily traveled main street.

I was screaming for help, but no one could hear me. Having to think fast, I darted behind the car and let it bump into me, not thinking of the dangerous consequences.  Eventually it stopped.

But here is the main thing. From where I was parked, the car came to a halt about fifty feet from the road.

No other cars were parked behind me that could have been in the path of mine.

Now is that a God thing, or what?

Back to the Present

Because of my experience, I was able to share with this mom how God had made himself known to me.

The Point is

In thinking back,  I hope she sees God in her experience as well, because he was most assuredly there.