Author: JoAnn


School Clothes


By JoAnn

As a little girl in the 1960s and 70s, I would best describe my life as humble. My favorite television show back then was The Brady Bunch. I can accurately say that our family life was the exact opposite of the Brady family. I lived in a very rural setting for the first 11 years of my life. I could not imagine a big, modern brick home with an upstairs and wall to wall carpet. I had seen nothing close to that with my own eyes. Not to mention the beautiful modern clothes that the Brady sisters wore daily. I could only assume that the show was based on a fairy tale. Looking back, I think it was healthier for me to not know what I was missing and remain content in my world. 

  Being a mother of three daughters myself, I can understand how my mama must have felt when it came to the needs of her 2 little girls. She rarely had the money for anything brand new for us to wear. Usually, new clothes were bought once a year, at the beginning of the new school year. And yes, these outfits lasted the entire school year. That being said, many times did my mama buy a dress that was too long so it could grow with me. She would hem it and let it out and re-hem as needed. The same with pants. I did not mind the dresses being hemmed so much, but it was much more noticeable on the pants. I hated that and felt some embarrassment wearing them.  

   I remember one pair of new pants that I had in third grade. They were lime green, my favorite color, and stretch polyester. Very much in style at that time. They fit well and were extremely comfortable. One day after school, I boarded the school bus and when I sat down, I sat in someone’s used bubble gum. It horrified me. I tried and tried to remove the gum, but it was stuck to the weave of that polyester material like glue. That gum and polyester had become one! I remember telling my mama. Her reaction was that they are brand new pants and still must do me for the rest of the school year. Yes, that meant I had to wear them anyway. Gum spot and all. And I did. Many times, until I either outgrew them, or I wore them out. I admit, I felt embarrassed each time. I never forgot that gum was there. I did however learn a valuable lesson, to look before I sit down! 

   I guess some would think my mother was mean for making me wear those lime green pants with a gum stain, and I probably felt it was unfair every time I wore them. But now, after raising my own children, and struggling to clothe them, I am a lot more understanding of my mother’s choices.  

   I remember in the summer; new clothes were even more rare. It did not really matter if we wore clothes from the previous Summer, my sister and I spent 95% of our time playing at home on our spacious 11 acres. No one cared if our shorts were too short or too tight. Or that I was wearing my big sister’s hand-me-downs. But sometimes we just needed Summer clothes. I remember a couple Summers when the Salvation Army moved into a vacant warehouse downtown. They filled the immense space with racks and racks of clothes. There were hundreds of items.  

   Now my mother had a lot of pride. She did not mind wearing a hand-me-down, but she did not want anyone to know it was a hand-me-down. She would walk down the street where the warehouse was located and check out every customer in the store across the street, in the warehouse, walking down that street, to check if she saw anyone she knew. When she felt sure the coast was clear, she would say “Come on!”  We knew to run as fast as we could up the ramp and through the doors of the warehouse.  

   I can still remember the smell of that Salvation Army warehouse. It was a mixture of mothballs, and a musty old house smell. It was dark because they did not have electricity for lights. It made it difficult to look through the racks of clothes. My mama always went into a smaller room where children’s clothes were piled up in bins. She was never interested in the hanging clothes. I assume they were all adult. Usually, she might find one item for either me or my sister. I remember vaguely a pair of shorts.  

   Shoes were a whole other problem growing up. And you guessed it, we would buy them with extra room in the toes so my feet could grow into them. I would stuff tissue paper in the toe until then. When I was in elementary school, there were several charities that would treat needy children to a new pair of shoes once a year. They chose me about 3 times for this. I felt embarrassed at first, but once I got those new shoes in my hands, it melted away.  

    I do not remember my Dad ever voicing an opinion on these charities or Mama’s thrifting. I wonder now if he was even aware. I can see where maybe he would not have been okay with it all. And my mama was superb at keeping things a secret. Not meaning any harm, but just to keep the boat steady. I can look back now, 50 years later, and see the many things that Mama did to make things “work”. The sacrifices she often made, just so me or my sister could have more of what she thought we deserved. Whether it was school clothes and Christmas gifts being put on layaway or ducking into the old Salvation Army thrift store. 

   Later in life, thrift stores became popular. My mama thoroughly enjoyed that. I took after her and have always loved thrift shopping. Not always so much for need anymore, but for the fun of it. Finding a huge bargain is fun! And now in 2020, you are just downright wasteful if you do not re-use items to avoid them being thrown into a dump somewhere. I think my mother would be in her element if she were alive today. Thanks for all the school clothes Mama.  

                                         


Sixteen Again


Yesterday I received a call from my oldest daughter, Robin, who began the conversation with, “I’ve got myself in a pickle!”  Knowing my precious Robin as I do, that could mean many things.  Robin has been married for 17 years and is the mother to my three grandchildren.  She has two daughters in high school, and a 5-year-old son with autism.  They fill her life with every activity under the sun.  She is a stay-at-home mom but also has a job she does from home, and successfully I might add.  She is constantly on the go, go, go!  And did I mention that my son-in-law is a hard-working tow boater by profession?  That means he is working on the boat and unfortunately away from home for a month at a time.  So, when she says she’s in a pickle, my brain spins.

In a voice that told me she was feeling stressed and embarrassed, Robin shared her plight.  She ran out of gas in a town 30+ minutes away.  She didn’t ask if I would help, but instead began listing the friends she had called who weren’t available.  As a Mama, I knew she was hoping I would “offer” to help, which I quickly did.  I instantly heard the relief in her voice, which made my heart swell.  I could have chosen the Mama card and given her a parental lecture about not checking her gas gauge when she was so far from home in a rural area with no gas station nearby, but I gave her grace, as she had done for me so many times over the years when ole Mama’s car had broken down and she so graciously came to my rescue.  Now that I think of it, all three of my daughters have come to my rescue many times over the years!  I’m one blessed Mama.  It was time for a payback.

Robin joyfully accepted my offer and proceeded to give me these instructions: I had to go to her house and retrieve her gas can from the garage, then go to the Exxon, fill said can (I chose 4 gallons as sufficient), put it in my trunk, and then drive the 30+ minutes to the town where she was stuck.  She warned me that it was a curvy country road and that she was sitting in a church parking lot and I would need to search for her.  Her exact words were, “I’m way out there, Mama!”  I began to think that this repaying of a good deed was turning into quite a chore, but then I felt a smile come over my face, a chuckle in my heart.  

As we ended our phone conversation, Robin says, “I feel like I’m 16 again and needing my Mama to rescue me.”  And just like that, the memory of my little girl needing me came flooding back.  I didn’t care if it took me hours, I was filled with joy to give my busy daughter a helping hand this day and make her load just a little lighter. 

After I got properly dressed (yes, I was wearing the now popular “quarantine casual”), I checked things off the list.  After retrieving the gas can, then filling it with the four gallons, I texted Robin that I was on my way.  She was right; it was a long, winding country road.  Thank goodness I had plenty of gas in my car.  But it was a pretty day!  The sun was shining, so I rolled my windows down and enjoyed every minute of that beautiful drive.  I realized I had not been on this road before.  It was gorgeous, with lovely homes and farms sprinkled about.  Spring was showing off its green glory this day, and I felt very blessed that my daughter had led me on this journey. 

I finally spotted Robin’s minivan perched on a hill in front of a large brick church, and the first words to come out of her mouth when I pulled up were those of apology, but I didn’t want her to apologize.  I had enjoyed the drive and had received even more joy in helping her out.  She quickly poured the four gallons of gas into her empty van’s tank and gave me a heartfelt “thank you.”  After some pleasant chit chat and several I love yous, we went our separate ways once more.  

When our children are grown, they have their own independent lives to live.  They can go months, or even years, without needing our help.  Especially with the minor things that make up everyday life, such as keeping a vehicle hydrated with gasoline.  Sometimes our relationships with them may resemble that of friends more than parent and child.  I can’t speak for every mother out there, but I know it warms my heart and soul when I can catch a glimpse of my younger child again making me feel needed in the most basic ways, just as they did back then.  With that being said, it was good to see my 16-year-old Robin yesterday.                     


Remember Me … by JoAnn


                            

With the holidays over and a new year born, I have been in a reflective mood.  I’m sure it has to do with the fact that we lost a very significant family member this past year, which left a hole that no one can ever fill.  Through the process of grieving, I remember not only the lost loved one, but the many others now missing from my life, which has put the question into my mind: how will people remember me?

When my mother passed away, 19 years ago this month, I remember feeling a wave of fond memories of her.  Anyone who knew my mother well enough knew that in her later years she could be very difficult to get along with at times.  She suffered from debilitating chronic pain, and there was not one hour of any day in her last 15 years on earth when she was not in constant pain.  She could be very harsh at times and hurtful with her words.  Being older myself, I now know that was the pain talking and not my real mother’s heart.  But at the time, when I was in my 30s, I did not understand.  So why, upon hearing of her passing from this world, did I experience that instant healing from all the bad memories of the times my mother had hurt me?  Was it because she was now free from her pain and once again happy?  Or was it because all the negatives had passed with her and were no longer an issue? 

I still remembered the times I had not gotten along with my mother for whatever reason, and all of those memories were there if I chose to confront them, but instead I felt this peace in my heart that there was no need anymore.  And when I did force myself to remember something negative, it no longer affected me.  The love was greater!  I felt content in remembering every good thing about my mother and in feeling the love from her in those memories.  It felt right.  And I felt very blessed for it!  Please don’t get me wrong, my mother was a great woman and she did many, many things right!  Unfortunately, it is human nature for us to remember, and to spend more time and energy on something a loved one has done to hurt us.  The good things become clouded with the pain.

I noticed that the same thing happened to me with my dad’s passing 8 years later, which was another welcomed blessing.  Then I got to thinking that maybe this was God’s way of comforting us, as His promise is to comfort us in our grieving.  So maybe that is the answer as to why.  

I have recently witnessed this again through the experience of my own children, as the loved one we all lost last year was their dad.  My ex-husband, who had remained a close friend, had suffered for years with a lot of problems, sometimes very serious problems that not only affected him but everyone who loved him, especially our children.  But I watched each of my daughters be blessed by the same experience I had when grieving over my own parents, an overwhelming remembrance of the good things that were very much a part of their dad.  He was a very good man!  And sometimes that got lost in all of his problems, so it did surprise me that my children remembered so many good parts of their dad.  I had always thought that the painful times would leave a permanent cloud over their relationships with him, but much to my surprise, and relief, each of my daughters received the blessing that I had with the loss of my parents in that they can speak so highly of the real man their dad was—his goodness, his love for them and for others, and all the wonderful parts that made him who he was.  It makes this mom’s heart so full to see my daughters have this positive experience through something so monumental as a parent’s passing.  

So back to my question: how will people remember me?  I can’t seem to grasp the thought, or vision, of being remembered with such love and adoration as I have remembered my parents, and how I have seen my daughters remember their dad.  Maybe I’m not supposed to.  Maybe none of us are.  Maybe that is something that is only left behind for our loved ones when we are gone.  Our way, or God’s way, of comforting them in their time of grief.    

But how wonderful it would be if we could put aside all of those differences, conflicts, hurt feelings, and remember only the good parts of those loved ones while were all still on the earth together, if we could remember only the positives that are indeed stored in our minds right along with the bad!  Why is the negative always in the front of our brain’s filing cabinet?  It seems to be human nature, but is there a way that we can change it?  I think it is worth a try.  How much happier everyone involved could be!  

It is my hope that I will be remembered as making a positive impact on those I love.  My biggest hope is that they will know, without a doubt, how much I love them.  I hope they will remember how hard I tried at life, and even though I may not have succeeded in all things they feel are important, that I did succeed in what God put me on the earth to accomplish.  I hope they will be happy they knew me, and proud of the person I was.  And I hope that, just maybe, I did something so right that they even learned an important lesson from me, something that will be of great help to them after I am gone.  How will you be remembered?  Something to ponder. …JoAnn

                                      


Everyone Loved Lucy


I guess the most appropriate title for the jobs I have done in recent years is Home Healthcare Worker. That seems a little too proper for me though, as I am not formerly trained in this field. I fell into these jobs just by being at the right place at the right time someone was in need. And there seems to be an overwhelming need for people just like me!

My first “little lady”, as I like to call them, was Lucile. Lucy was in her early 90s and had Alzheimer’s in its later stages. Being in the situation where I not only needed a job but also a place to live, I had agreed to move into Lucile’s home to offer 24/7 care.

Lucile’s well-being had been in the hands of her two loving nieces for years. They took excellent care of their aunt! There was nothing that Lucy needed or wanted that she didn’t get. They adored her immensely. I was instantly welcomed into the family. I never felt like just an employee. They took good care of me too. They made sure I was well paid and had a comfortable place to live. They provided everything and more that I needed to care for their beloved aunt.

What a hoot Lucile was! She had story after story of her very colorful life to share with me and anyone else who was genuinely interested. And she always could tell who was genuine and who was not. She was an accomplished artist, and her home was sprinkled with her paintings. She could tell you a story for each one. She was one smart cookie, and I loved being around her.

For the majority, Lucile had no concept of place or time. What year, month, day, hour, all changed on the flip of a dime for her. When I realized this, I began to ask her each morning how old she was that day. Some days it would be 42, some 37, and others 16. The days she was 16, she also took on the personality of 16. She would ask me if she had overslept and was going to be late for school. I would assure her that she had the day off and could enjoy it in any way she pleased. This made her incredibly happy, as it would any kid. I would usually have a more difficult time keeping up with Lucile on her teenage days. She not only thought she was young but expected her body to react as such. This meant her trying to get out of bed without assistance. And that usually ended with a fall. Her legs were extraordinarily strong, but her brain could not convince them to react the way they should.

Lucy never learned my name. Her family and friends would tell her I was JoAnn. She would agree in the moment but refer to me later as “the woman who lives here”. But whenever she needed me, she would call out her best friend’s name, which was Kathy.

 I would be stirred from a deep sleep early each morning to the sound of Lucy screaming, “Kathy, I’m awake!”.  It was a rough way to wake up at 6 a.m. but it sure gives me a laugh now. It never bothered me that Lucile couldn’t learn my name. I knew she cared for and appreciated me. She told me so, and I knew it was heartfelt. Anyway, she thought I was her best friend, and that was an honor.

There were fleeting moments when Lucile would know exactly how old she was, and where her life was headed. She would become very solemn. Depressed actually. Things that she had spent years enjoying, she no longer wanted to partake. Her family had shared that Lucile enjoyed sitting in the front room of her home, where the front wall was all glass. She lived on a mountain top, and her view was beautiful. She would watch the many different birds fly all around her collection of bird feeders. Feeders, which I promptly kept filled in hopes to entertain Lucy.

But much to her family’s disappointment, and mine, she no longer wanted to sit in the front room. We even had a hospital bed delivered and placed in her sunroom facing the view. I would talk her into it, get her wheeled in there, and she would quickly depress. It was like watching a light slowly growing dim. I believe she remembered that room better than any other. It had been her favorite room. A place she admired the beautiful view, and the woods where she had taken long daily walks for years. Now it was a bold reminder of the things she could no longer do. It reminded her she was 90 years old. Sadly, she would always ask to go back to her bedroom.

I spent almost every 24-hour period with Lucy for around 4 months. I wonder how many years of friendship that would measure out to be. I felt as though Lucile was my friend, and I felt blessed and honored to have had the opportunity to share the last months of her life on earth. It was hard, for her, and for me. I guess the end of a life always is, no matter what the circumstances. You can never be fully prepared. It is impossible. But for the last months of her life, I hope that I made some sort of positive difference in Lucy’s world. We laughed a lot, the two of us alone in that big house on the hill. And we struggled on days that were difficult for obvious reasons. But I would not have changed a thing. Lucile taught me important lessons about life that I will hold dear forever. Lessons that only being in her presence could I have learned. What an amazing human being she was. Love and miss you Lucy. Until we meet again…. JoAnn


I love Chocolate


                   Chocolate Kisses

Anyone who knows me well, knows I have a huge sweet tooth. With that being said, you have probably already assumed that I like chocolate. And you would be correct!

Since my very first Hershey milk chocolate bar was given to me as a little girl, it has been my favorite. I’ve tried many chocolates in my 57 plus years, but I always find myself going back to the most basic of American chocolate.

With my pronounced love of the Hershey bar, it only makes sense that I would eventually find the adorable Hershey Kiss. My first thought of that cute little chocolate drop is how they got so much flavor in that one little bite?!

I prefer to believe, or use as an excuse, that I got my insatiable love of all things sweet from my dad! My mom could eat one or two fun size candy bars and feel as though she wouldn’t need another sugar fix for days. My dad…not so much. Much like myself, my dad enjoyed and wanted something sweet every day.

In his later years, when my mom had lost her health and could no longer cook, my dad’s big appetite took a hit. Being over 6-foot-tall, and over 200 lbs., my dad was a strong, hardworking, big man. He was used to consuming some calories. He learned how to cook the basics in order to feed himself and my mom. And he found ways of incorporating sweets into his daily life.

How you say? By keeping a nice little supply of chocolate kisses in his front shirt pocket! Many nights I witnessed my dad watching the news on TV while I listened to the sound of the foil being peeled from another chocolate kiss. I don’t know if my mom ever caught on to his shenanigans (he really did try to be quiet), or if she simply decided to let him have his kisses without complaint. All I know is, he was adorable with those chocolate kisses in his shirt pocket. Needless to say, any kid in the family liked him a lot better when they realized he had them.

Now that my dad has been gone for many years now, I still can’t look at a chocolate kiss without thinking of him. And yes, it does tempt me even more to buy them when I see a bag in the store. Of all the things you could hand down to me Daddy, why the love of sweets? And those darn chocolate kisses! How do they get that much flavor into that tiny little drop?

As I sit typing this on my laptop, an unopened bag of Hershey Kisses is within my eye’s view. I think he would like the new packaging.

I love you Daddy.