I’ve heard it said that time moves in one direction and memory in the other. I would argue there should be an asterisk following that phrase, an asterisk which leads to a very large disclaimer stating both accelerate exponentially with age.
Most days pass without my feeling much like a full-fledged adult. I’m at the teetering point between early-30s and mid-30s, married with a mortgage, car payment, full-time job and 3 little mouths to feed (ok, so they belong to dogs and a cat)…but it seems all that does not an adult make.
What does make me feel very adult-ish is the shift in how I perceive the workings of the world. The statement above about time and memories moving rapidly in opposite directions—that’s new for me. I used to scoff at those who claimed life seemed to speed by after a certain point; now I believe them. Not only do I believe them, I can personally attest to feeling that way.
Last Saturday morning, the start of Labor Day weekend, should have been one for the memory banks. Just after 7am, I awoke from a sound sleep to the sensation of the house shaking. I didn’t think our washing machine was on a spin cycle and the dogs weren’t scratching up against the bed, so my mind jumped to “earthquake.” When the shaking lasted for the better part of a minute, I slid out of bed and peeked into the tall foyer to find the pendant light swaying. The evidence stacked up, but an earthquake in Kansas City?! Tornados are prevalent, flooding and droughts alternate with relative frequency and we get an ice storm that devastates the region every 20 years or so. There’s a reason midwesterners are considered hardy stock!
Earthquakes, though, are something of a head-scratcher even with our proximity to the New Madrid fault (which has been eerily quiet for as long as anyone I know has been alive). But an earthquake it was—5.8 centered in north-central Oklahoma.
The quake was all anyone on local news outlets and social media could talk about… For a couple of hours at least. Without any damage to remind us, the morning’s confusion and subsequent excitement faded. By day’s end it was nothing more than a brief topic of conversation at family gatherings, a cursory impression.
We are a people of short memory. It’s an element of the human condition that is both perpetuated and intensified by the digital age in which we live. Fads explode across our tethered screens and then fizzle like a fleeting shock of static-electricity. I can’t fathom what warp speed time will be when I finally feel like an established adult some day, and I can only hope my aging mind keeps up with the amount of energy it will take to maintain any sort of lasting memories.
When I was a kid they represented your brain or, somehow, your brain on drugs. “Any questions?”
Later they were rebranded, because eggs need a marketing strategy, apparently?! Now the ad gods will tell you they’re incredible and edible.
Well, friends, I’m here to tell you that farm-fresh eggs are more than just incredible and edible—they’re powerful! I don’t mean like protein and nutrient powerful, I’m talking time-machine powerful. And I’m not yolking.
It doesn’t matter what my day has been like, a fresh egg instantly takes me back to my grandparents’ house.
Mama and Papa lived about 3 hours away so “going down home” meant driving on narrow 2-lane highways and crunchy gravel roads, traversing sweeping curves and nauseating hills. I grew to learn the nuances of the little towns we passed through, the countryside blurring past my window. Excitement swelled with each passing mile
The farm was a wonderland for this suburban girl. The majority of the acreage was wooded with pin oak trees; a rock-rimmed pond and big, open field anchored the space east of the house. It was that one big field that captivated my imagination.
During our visits, my mom and I slept in the bedroom with a little window that overlooked the far field. Papa used to tell me that he went out into the clearing late at night to smoke a peace pipe with the “Indians.” Naturally, I believed him. Night after night I planned to peek out and watch his ceremony. But night after night, my little body was tired from play and lulled to sleep by the sound of the fan, the softness of the bed and the “magic paintbrush” bedtime story. I never did manage to stay awake long enough to see the Indians for myself.
In the early days Mama and Papa kept pigs, rabbits and chickens. Each morning Papa took me out to the chicken house to gather eggs and spread feed. One half of the little red shanty was the chicken coop with storage in the other half. The feed—kept in a huge barrel, which seemed bigger than me—smelled of dried corn and grains, organic and sweet. I loved running my hands through the mixture, letting the little morsels fall between my fingers and back into the barrel. When the chore was complete my dusty hands proudly cradled the eggs, and my shoes glistened with the early morning dew…and the occasional bit of chicken poop.
Mama fixed eggs for breakfast, usually fried. We gobbled them up with buttered toast and cold milk served up in pastel-colored Tupperware cups. No matter how often they were washed, the thick plastic tumblers carried the faint stench of cigarette smoke and looked perpetually dirty from the hard water.
The best farm visits were when all of my aunts/uncles and cousins came, too—I’ll never know how we all fit in that little trailer. Back then I was the middle cousin, the only girl; 3 years separated each of us. No matter how hot and humid, we played outside with reckless abandon. There was a long, old platform trailer that made a nice (if only imagined) respite from the scratchy farm grass, chiggers and ticks. That trailer also served as the home base when my older cousin Dusty and I pretended to be Ghostbusters.
Things changed when I was 6 years old. The farm got a new double-wide trailer with plenty of room for all of us. Sadly, Mama went to be with Jesus before she got to really enjoy it; she was just 5 days shy of her 56th birthday. April 21 marks 26 years past.
It’s amazing how something as mundane as an egg can bring back such a flood of memories, but that’s exactly what happens when I eat a farm-fresh egg. I know what’s for dinner tonight!
Note: elements of this were edited from a 2013 post; an earlier version of this piece was published on my now-defunct blog, The Road to Kilmarnock.
If you’re a frequent visitor to this establishment, you know that I’m smitten with snark. Today, though, I’m trading that for sentimentality. Savor it, friends.
Each week our company intranet highlights articles that call attention to the business. One such post in June came from the Edmond Sun by way of a weekly column called “As I See It” (the actual post was titled ‘Some Birthdays Outdo Others’). I enjoyed the writing so much that I decided to search
the website for other pieces by the author, one Marjorie Anderson. The more I read, the more I was convinced this delightful woman needed to have a published anthology of her wit and wisdom…
and so, I emailed the Sun‘s editor to offer my suggestion and express praises for a job well done.
The kind editor put me in touch directly with Mrs. Anderson, thus sparking a fast e-pen-pal friendship.
MA has several decades of life experience on me but I feel like we’re very much cut from the same cloth; it all goes back to my being an old soul, I suppose. She regales me with stories of her current adventures with dog Su and of days past, offers insights on a host of matters and obliges my never-ending questioning. We also share a love of cute animal videos. As an aside, you can find her books (This End Up and A Patchwork Sampler) on Amazon, and I highly suggest that you do!
This week, MA gave me a sneak peek of her Christmas column. Her lovely memories made me think about my own “glittering” Christmas recollections. I shared the following with her, so I’ll share them with you too!
I have a hard time pinpointing my favorite Christmases past. My dad was always snapping photos, so I sometimes wonder how many of my memories are actually memories and how many are just things that I think I remember from having seen the photographs all these years.
Mostly I remember a blur of decorations and gifts. Far too many gifts, really. But there is one year that stands out: Christmas 1989 if I had to guess (since I think I was in 1st grade at the time). Among the whirlwind of gifts was a musical jewelry box. It wasn’t anything special in hindsight, just some laminated chipboard in the shape of a circus train car. Regardless, I remember focusing on it that evening as my mom tucked me in and we said our bedtime prayers. For whatever reason, looking at it made me sob. I thought of all the beautiful gifts I’d received and realized, probably for the first time, that there were other little children who had nothing. There are no pictures of that moment, so I am certain it’s a memory.
Another “glittering” moment for me is one that I get to re-live each year as I decorate my Christmas tree. In 1990 or ’91, I received a package in the mail from my great-grandmother in Texas. It contained the yearly check that she sent for my parents to buy me a pretty new Christmas dress (another came each Easter) and a little seashell angel ornament that she had picked up on a trip with my great-aunt and –uncle. Every year, it hangs prominently near the top of my tree though it’s probably one of the ugliest things I own. Its little mop of thinning white curls reminds me so much of my dear
Both of my grandmothers passed before I turned 8,
but Great-Mamaw was with us until my freshman year of high school. I was especially fortunate in that we saw her somewhat frequently despite the vast distance between Granbury, TX, and our home in Missouri. We visited Granbury once or twice a year, and she lived with us for weeks or months at a time while Uncle Dale and Aunt Martha (who passed away this year) traveled around the country.
My Christmas tree also boasts her handmade, crafted drum ornaments. Great-Mamaw’s arthritis kept her from doing much crafting in her later years, but I did get one last ornament that she made at the nursing home towards the end of her lifetime. The little felt mouse looked more like a preschool craft but it came to me with a stack of quarters from her bingo winnings. The mouse’s googly eyes have long since fallen off, but it still touches my heart. Each time I see it, I’m reminded that Great-Mamaw was thinking of me even as her pain was great in those last months.
That’s the point of Christmas, isn’t it?! At the risk of sounding preachy, I feel compelled to mention this: God was thinking of us even as He felt the pain of sending His Son from Heaven down to earth to live among us. Jesus, the namesake of Christmas, is the greatest gift God could have given us. Not only was He the greatest gift at the time of His birth, He is still the greatest gift. It was Jesus who sacrificed Himself for our sins and overcame the power of the grave to afford us the gift of life abundant. Now that is a reason to celebrate!
It’s been two months and four days since my uncle Pete left behind the worries of this world.
Today would have been his 55th birthday.
And the fantastic thing of it is that they still are!
In spite of the circumstances, Sherry carries on the joyful essence of their relationship and what it means to all of us. Even in her sorrow, she radiates the love and good humor that were once carried by two.
Sherry is stronger than she realizes and more inspiring than she’ll ever know.
Among countless other things, Pete and Sherry taught me how to imitate a richy-rich, snobby voice (imagine the Howells from Gilligan’s Island). Saying the most mundane things this way still reduces me to a pile of giggles.
From them, I learned to appreciate nice, long conversations held on the front porch or deck. Time is better spent outside, away from the television.
They instilled in me the therapeutic value of intermingling serious subjects and gut-busting funnies. The most beneficial laughter often accompanies tears.
Pete repeatedly demonstrated that even annoying commercials can be funny when irreverently taken out of context—he had a habit of hilariously singing and dancing like the guys in the old Nextel commercial or muddling through jingles like the McDonald’s Filet-o-Fish song.
Above all, they provided a glimpse at the beautiful result of spouses treating each other like respective kings and queens. They carried as much respect for one another as they did love.
That’s something that neither could have done without the other.
That’s something I will forever cherish.
July 4, 2004, didn’t start like other Independence Days. The phone rang around 7am, and I didn’t have to look at caller ID to know it was my mom. Nor did I need to answer the phone to know what news she’d share; the ringing alone was enough to tell me.
My grandfather had been hospitalized for several days—his time had finally come. The maternal side of my family had lost its patriarch.
At age 21, I’d already experienced the deaths of my three other grandparents. But somehow, this was harder to absorb. Perhaps it was the chickens…
Though we lived in the middle of a suburban neighborhood, a family down the street harbored illegal chickens. And roosters—one of which mysteriously ended up in our basement window well the following Christmas day. The feathered “fish out of water” clucked and crowed at all hours of the day, and they made their presence known on the morning of the Fourth as I sat on the front porch, grieving. It’s amazing how something as mundane as chickens can bring back such a flood of memories.
When I was a little girl, my grandparents had chickens on the farm. I loved getting up early to accompany Papaw to the chicken house and help him spread feed and collect eggs. One half of the little red shanty was the chicken coop, while the other side was storage. The feed was kept in a huge barrel container and smelled of dried corn and grains. I loved running my hands through the mix!
When we came back inside Mamaw fried the eggs, which we enjoyed with buttered toast and cold milk served up in pastel-colored plastic cups that looked perpetually dirty from the hard water.
The best visits were when all of my aunts/uncles and cousins came, too—I’ll never know how we all fit in that little trailer. I was the middle cousin, “Papaw’s girl”; Dusty was three years older than me, Michael was three years younger. We played together outside with reckless abandon. There was a long, old platform trailer that made a nice (if only imagined) respite from the scratchy farm grass, chiggers, and ticks.
The majority of the farm was wooded with pin oak trees, but one big field captivated my imagination. My mom and I slept in the room with a little window that overlooked the far field. Papaw used to tell me that he went out into the clearing late at night to smoke a peace pipe with Indians. Naturally, I believed him. The sound of the box fan, the softness of the bed and the “Magic Paintbrush” bedtime story always lulled me to sleep before I could glimpse the meeting for myself.
Some of the wonder disappeared when I was six years old. The farm got a new double-wide trailer with plenty of room for all of us; with more of the comforts of home, it felt a little less novel. Then, sadly, Mamaw went to be with Jesus before she had much time to really enjoy it. She was just five days short of her 56th birthday.
Now nine years removed from Papaw’s passing, the pain inevitably hits at some point each Fourth of July. While grateful for the time we had, I still miss him terribly.
I’m proud of his military service. I’m blessed by the five wonderful lives that he and my grandmother brought into the world (the first of which was my mom). Above all, I’m still tickled pink when I think of Papaw singing his silly little song—too dum, too dum, too dum day—and dancing his little scarecrow jig. My mom discovered this Burl Ives song a few months ago that must’ve been his inspiration: Lolly-Too-Dum.
Love you, Papaw! Hug Mamaw for me, and hope you’re enjoying the gooseberry pie in Heaven.