Monday, November 28, 2011

Back in Time

As we drove up the muddy driveway, guided by the neon OPEN sign, we knew this was going to be an experience.  The day had already been more like the script of a movie with the familiar theme of city folk go to the country.  The country folk always seem to be the better in these movies.  This time, we were the city folk I suppose.  

My beautiful Granddaughter on her wedding day.
Disguised from my modest roots, I was in a dress from Macy’s with a flashy bracelet from Stein Mart – both were from the clearance rack.  Most everyone else, except the beautiful bride (more on that in a later blog) were in jeans and t-shirts or a variation thereof.  The groom did have a suit on and looked extremely miserable.  Even the preacher who would pronounce them husband and wife was casually dressed in khaki and polo.  It could have been a scene out of My Cousin Vinny, or New in Town.  And I was the butt of the comedy.

That was behind us, a night at Vaught’s Restaurant and Motel awaited us.  Still in my “fancy” and tight dress, I jumped down from the pick-up.  That alone was a remarkable sight.  Held in with Spanx, I quickly yanked my skirt down to hide the black tubes.  In the office, unlocked, with entrance to the owner’s house fully exposed, was a note – I’m in the restaurant, come to the backdoor and yell – Karin.

It was cold, rainy and terribly muddy.  We opted to get back in the truck and drive the few feet to the back door.  By this time, a gentleman was coming to greet us.  He and Karin were the owners of this establishment.  He met us at the office, took our $52.50 and gave us a key.  A real key – remember when motel keys were real keys and had a key ring that was diamond shape with the number of your room? Yep, that’s what we had.  We would be in room 5. 

What a contrast to the elegant room with the Jacuzzi across the Hudson from NYC that I had stayed in two weeks ago or the posh room in downtown San Francisco that I slept in the week before.  Here we were in the capital of Ozark County, Missouri-Gainesville.  Ma and Pa recliners with two handmade yarn angels watching over welcomed us into the room.  It was clean.  It was immaculately clean.  Considering we had few options, this was a wonderful bargain for the night.

As we flipped on lights, we realized this was no ordinary room. This was the ANGEL ROOM.  There must have been over 100 angels images of one type or another in the room.  There was the angel border around the ceiling.  There were angel knickknacks everywhere –the kind they sell at Dollar General.  That made perfect sense since other than a grocery store, that’s about all downtown Gainesville had for shopping.


Christmas angel with
bird kissing angel

Baby room angel
We checked everything. There was not a dust ball or dirty smudge anywhere.  Then I saw it.  Safety first!  There was a fire marshal in the county or region who did his or her job.  All establishments must have an evacuation plan clearly posted.  There it was – the evacuation plan was clearly posted on the door.  It said, this door is the only exit, and in small handwritten print it said door, window.  I laughed so hard.  I understood it was the law but the comedy of this sign was too much to contain.

The bed was hard and had an old style chenille bedspread on it.  Exhaustion overtook us.  In the morning, the water was hot for a shower.  It got hotter after the toilet tank re-filled.  But where was the plug for the hairdryer? Anticipating no complimentary hairdryer, I had brought my own. My husband said there is no place to plug in in the bathroom.  There was no place to plug in near a mirror either.  Blindly we both attempted to dry our hair.

Then I spotted it.  There WAS a plug in the bathroom.  Too much time had lapsed since I had seen the single plug under the bathroom light.  There it was.  The big box on my 1800-watt hairdryer plug would never have fit under the light anyway.  But it was there. 

Vaught’s may not compare to any of the posh-er establishments in the “BIG CITY” but they do understand hospitality.  We were treated like guests in their home.  In the morning, before our trek back home in the rain, we would feast on their breakfast in the adjacent restaurant.  As we opened the door to the restaurant, the hospitality and warmth of a country Christmas greeted us. 

Yes, the country folk are the heart of this country.  They may show up in jeans and t-shirts to a wedding in a small hall with homemade spaghetti to eat, but they know how to live, they know how to say yes ma’am and yes sir, they know how to give hospitality and love their neighbor.  It was nice going back in time for a short while.  Not sure I’d trade my life for theirs, but it did make me remember to be thankful for all I have.

Hanging on the wall, the perfect prescription for a good nights
rest at Vaught's motel and everywhere.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Best Decade

I don't know if this is the longest I have gone without writing.  I don't like to go this long.  Many things have grabbed my attention over the last few weeks.  I've been to both coasts of the United States, seeing the Atlantic and the Pacific, seeing the Hudson River and the San Francisco Bay.  I've ridden a subway, but didn't take a cable car.  Something I'll probably regret but the taste of sour dough is still on my tongue.  I brought some home.

The bumpy air ride over the Rockies was something I'd never experienced.  However, very small in comparison to days on a wagon train as people pressed past their known world to the glories of the west, or in search of gold.  For me the gold of this trip was not panned in San Francisco but on the east coast.  I saw one of my beautiful daughters try on her gorgeous wedding gown.  I wanted to cry.  Not because the dress was beautiful, or even that she is - and they both were stunning - but it was the smile on her face, the joy I saw, she will be a glowing bride as all brides should be.

As I boarded the plane to return home from the glories of the East Coast, the calendar reminded me that I had reached a new decade.  I've had much angst about this milestone.  I want to turn the clock back.  I know there are no do-overs.  Time always keeps moving.  But as God always seems to do, He gives you grace for each day.  He will give me grace for this decade.

When I look back at passing the last decade, it really didn't go that fast.  I am hoping this one doesn't go too fast either.  I want to stop, slow down, enjoy every moment.  I learned a lot about myself over these last few weeks.  I learned that it is time for me to get over my "poor" mentality and to enjoy life.  I learned that when I told my story to a new friend, she wept a bit and told me I was inspirational.  I learned that this is a big world and there is much I still want to do and see.

I have gotten up out of my seat - This will be the best decade if I just keep moving.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Get Up Out of Your Seat

I’ve been thinking a lot about getting old.  I guess I think about it too much.  But, a milestone birthday usually sparks such thoughts.  I came across a piece in the Huffington Post by Billy Graham.  He’s getting ready to celebrate 93 years.  Yikes, that’s old.  I always thought it interesting that Oral Roberts, Billy Graham, and my mother were all born in 1918.  He’s the last one remaining of this odd trio. 

Waiting for the bus to take Norwegians to Madison
Square Garden in 1957 to hear Billy Graham.
As usually, Graham was inspiring.  I remember going to Madison Square Garden on a bus with lots of Norwegians from my neighborhood in Brooklyn.  I remember wanting to “get up out of my seat” and go to the front.  I was six years old and the power of his preaching convicted me.  Of what?  I don't know...  Instead, holding my mother’s hand I walked the opposite direction so as not to miss the bus back to Brooklyn.  I remember the crowds of people and feelings so small.  Later, I would sit cross-legged in front of a round black and white TV screen and silently pray with Rev. Graham. 

Of late, I’ve been thinking about Maggie Kuhn.  You probably don’t know her.  I first heard about her while studying gerontology at the University of Missouri.  Her claim to fame was the founding of the Gray Panthers.  I was so excited to hear her as a new Senior Center Director in Connecticut. 

There she was with her bun and glasses.  She looked like she should be sitting in a rocking chair knitting.  However, she had sneakers on – she was spry and seemed ready to run a marathon.  Such energy – It was the mid-80’s and she was in her 80’s. 

I never forgot what she told us.  She told us fresh faced mostly young Senior Center Directors with big ideas to help the “old” that seniors and youth had a lot in common.    Old age and adolescence had many of the same issues.

While I no longer fight acne – although sometimes my hormones still rage… I think she is right.  As I looked in the mirror yesterday, thinking about my coming birthday, I thought – Maggie Kuhn was right. 

Daniel Pink in Drive aptly describes the angst of age.  You know you are old, but you know you aren’t done.  You know you still have a purpose.  You know that you have to find it.  Time is running out.  Yet, the culture tells you are done.  Ageism in the work place is rampant.  With nearly a doctorate I can't get a job at a Container Store or Target.  No I don't have a criminal record, I'm old.

The church focuses on youth and young marrieds.  The church offers you a pew and chance to ride a bus to go out to eat once a month.  It is assumed that your needs are social rather than the full depth of emotional and spiritual needs.  Schools are not ready for the returning non-traditional student who burns with passion to continue to serve.  It can be summed up as being marginalized.

Youth are marginalized as well.  They are told to wait. They are told you aren’t ready to contribute. They are taken on social trips rather than offered opportunities for deep meaning.  I think that might be why they leave the church in droves … they really don’t need another canoe trip or social event.  They need something of significance.  They are searching for their purpose.

Youth and old age are polar opposites and yet they are so similar.  Marginalization and angst over the future join them together.  I think we need "pastors for seniors" like we do youth pastors... I'd be a great one... sigh.............. Did you hear that God? 

As I looked in that mirror I thought yes, I feel like a teenager all over again.  I do not know what my future holds. I fear it and yet, I want to contribute.  There is still a purpose.  At 93, Billy Graham calls me again to “get up out of my seat.”  I better hurry because the bus is waiting.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Paper Fortunes

Last week I had the glorious experience of reconnecting with a childhood friend. She sat with me in Miss O'Shea's class. She stood in line as Miss O'Shea put lipstick on our lips for the May Day Celebration.  The one that led to the consternation of my mother at my being unchristian because I had make-up on... Peering through the black bars of the school fence, she glared as I danced around the May Pole with lipstick.  I loved Miss O'Shea and yet it was the year of such horror.

I imagine she was one that I would hope would accompany me to the girls bathroom in the basement of the school.  Always sent in pairs, one would raise their hand and be excused; the other would volunteer to go with you.  That meant a time to chat and giggle.  Later, she and I would walk together to PS 220 John J. Pershing Junior High School.  Of all my childhood school memories, Pershing was the best.

It's odd the things you think about when you reconnect. Little tiny snippets of your life come alive in your mind.  Such were my thoughts about the folded paper fortunes.  I am not talking about the one that starts with a square, folded, you use your thumb and index finger to manipulate - I still fold those at restaurants when I fidget before my food is brought.  I make them from a piece of the paper ring that secured my napkin.  No, these were different.

You started off with a paper of loose leaf paper.  Loose leaf paper was ripped from your loose leaf - also known a 3-ring binder.  You carefully folded it into quarters.  Then the questions began.  Who will you marry?  Four names were offered.  How many children will you have? Where will you live?  What will you name your first girl?  What will you name your first boy?  Each time you'd give four responses.

Now your fortune could be told.  Pick a number, any number, from one to ten.  I pick 5.

Now the count down began.  One, two, three, four, five - number five was scratched off.  This process was repeated over and over again until all but one response to each question was scratched off.  Here was your fortune:

My fate was sealed.  I would marry Stephen, have three children, live in Long Island, be clerk, have a daughter named Cindy Anne and a boy named Michael Peter.  I probably actually had a fortune that read identical to that... I never thought my life would be beyond the greater NY area or that I would have anything but a Cindy or a Michael.

As my childhood friend, like others before her, shared how her life turned out - very good I might add :).  And I shared how my life turned out - pretty good too, I thought of those folded paper fortunes.  I thought of how we dreamed of our lives in Brooklyn.  Now so far away in time and space, we can look back.  No Cindy's or Michael's for me.  Never lived in the greater NY area as an adult.  No Stephens in my life and the 3 children, became 8 wonderful kids.

Life never seems to go as we plan it to but usually it comes out better if we just keep moving.  As I look back at the girl standing between the boys in Miss O'Shea's class, I want to warn her of so many things.  I want to tell her that in a short while she is going to violated and it will never be the same.  I want to tell her that her life will get rough and rocky and she loose hope.  I also want to tell her that Jesus will be with her the whole time and in time, she'll recover.  She will raise a beautiful family and while never perfect, live happily ever after.