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Missing Christmas

Missing Dad Christmas

Christmas came. Christmas 2014 is over. Most of the day I spent by myself, remembering past holidays when my own children were little. And of course, that also got me recalling the wonderful and cherished family members that attended Christmases when my brothers and I were little kids. So I mostly had a day of reminiscing and MISSING CHRISTMAS. My own parents were much younger than I am now when I was a little child and we had large family gatherings at our home filled with lotsa favorite cousins and Aunts and Uncles, as well as my beloved Grandparents. (The Grandparents and all of the Uncles are gone now and I have 1 Aunty left) After devouring a most scrumptious meal lovingly prepared by the fabulous cooks in our family (everybody had their ‘specialties’ which we came to expect and look forward to), the bigger kids would help to clear away dishes and arrange kids in the living room, my Daddy would mysteriously disappear, and soon thereafter Santa would come and hand our gifts. We had joyous holidays at our home.

1st Christmas with Daddy-5 months old-1956

Now my precious Daddy, pictured with a 1-year-old ME in the photo, is celebrating Christmas in heaven, and has been for a few years. I am sad, and the tears still flow because I miss him sooooo much. But I have learned not to be selfish, for I know that this is his ‘reward‘ and it is surely glorious beyond anything that my mind can imagine. Besides, this is Daddy’s very first Christmas in heaven with ALL 5 of his big brothers and his sister and his folks so I’m certain that they’re having a GRAND TIME! I still am blessed to have my darling Mama, pictured with me in the photo of my 1st Christmas, even tho she’s spending Christmas at her Hoosier home in Indiana. She does always hope for that ‘White Christmas‘, whether or she gets it is another story! The only white that I wanna see in the winter is the sugary white sands of the beaches on the Gulf of Mexico!

Mama&Jeannie-1st Christmas

I’m also missing my baby boy this Christmas. That’s him pictured with me when he was a young’un. He lives in PA with his fiancee and wasn’t able to come home to FL for Christmas since he’d just been here in October. But I’ll be seeing him in April when we all gather in Indiana for Mama’s 80th Birthday Celebration!

Mama & Joey Easter 1988

So even tho I spent most of my daytime yesterday MISSING CHRISTMAS, in the evening I did get to have supper with my other 2 kids and my daughter-in-law! We had a yummy meal and then our gift exchange at my son’s apartment. I enjoy living in central Florida; the down-side is sharing my kiddies with the tourists since this is officially ‘The Tourism Capital of the World’! My daughter and my son and his wife DO WORK for a giant Mouse, after all! Even tho it’s not cold here….it is very festive!

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4 Generations

4 generations-May 1993

Upon reaching a particular age in my lifetime, so many of the goals and dreams that I had once strived for but haven’t yet attained seem hazy now. Riches and notoriety are no longer as important as good health and longevity, especially when those things are not as abundant nor unending as my youthfulness once unwisely led me to believe. A photo of 4 GENERATIONS is a precious memory of my cute 9-year-old daughter with her head resting upon the shoulder of her beloved Great-Gramma with her doting Grandma on her other side, while I stand behind the three most important ladies in my life!

Twenty years later and my Gramma has been in heaven for more than a decade, my darling daughter is 30, and Mama and myself aren’t in the best of health. This spring the family will gather for a big party to celebrate Mama’s 80th birthday; quite an accomplishment! She’s had 3 children, 7 grandbabies, and a great-grandchild. She’s outlived 2 husbands and is happily married to #3 (she REALLY believes in LOVE and in ‘being in love‘, a characteristic that I didn’t inherit from her). She’s had 4 step-kids, lost 1, and has delighted in having 5 step-grandbabies too. She’s always been the epitome of MOM and GRANDMOTHER and WIFE. She learned this from my Gramma, her Mother, although they were from entirely different eras. They were as distinctly opposite as can be but yet alike in very many ways! I learned from both of them and they’ve been excellent role models.

So now I’m ready for my next role: to be a GRANDMA! I’ve been waiting and waiting and waiting. My 3 kids are all at that 30-ish age….and yet still I wait. My middle child is 30. My youngest will be 30 on his next birthday and my 1st child passed it 2 years ago. My oldest son has been married for 3 years and keeps promising to start a family but still I hear excuses. I am at the point of wondering if I will ever be a Grandmother. Maybe it’s not meant to be. I may not even get to have a ‘3-Generation‘ photo, much less one with 4 GENERATIONS because I’ll be too old to ever hold that honored position of distinction of being the FAMILY MATRIARCH in one of those. I’ve seen many within my own extended families of cousins having photos of 5-Generations and even the rare 6-Generations in other families. But in doing the calculations….in order for me to hold even 1 of my Great-Great-Granchildren, a kid of mine would have to become a parent within the year and then that child would need to become a parent at age 21; then so would their child in order for me to become a Great-
Great-Grandparent just a couple of years past 100!

GrandDad’s Buddy

Granddad and Jerry

My First-Born child also has the honored position of being the First Grandchild for my parents, as well as for my Step-Mom. He loves this distinction! However, my Step-Dad already had 2 grandkids by this time but they live in South Carolina so he only saw them a couple of times annually. He had lotsa fun being GrandDad too. My son never got to know his ‘other’ biological grandparents….the grandfather had been killed by a tornado more than a decade before and the grandmother had been extremely ‘broken’ by this same tornado so she wouldn’t have known him anyway. But since both of my parents had remarried and lived in the same small town, which was approximately 40 miles from where my baby boy and I lived, he still had two sets of grandparents and a set of great-grandparents to dote on him! I had to live in a larger town, near Purdue University, for my travel agency job but every Friday after work we drove to either my Mama’s or my Daddy’s house for the weekend and had a grand time! All of my children have/had special relationships with each grandparent/great-grandparent. For nearly the first couple years of his life, my son turned into his GRANDDAD’S BUDDY. Whenever we were at Mama’s ‘little round house out in the woods‘, every time I’d turn around, my Step-Dad had that baby laying on his tummy watching TV or reading to him or even taking naps with him!

My parents divorced when I was in my early twenties. Don’t ever believe the old adage about divorce hurting the children less if the parents wait until those kids are grown-ups. It’s just not true. My world turned totally upside-down even tho I was in college. I ran away, literally, to finish my college studies as far away from my small Hoosier hometown as I could get. My parents informed me of their decision in July and less than a month later I was attending a small Catholic college in Honolulu. That was as far away as I could get and still be on American soil. After college I returned to Indiana but not to the same small hometown. Instead I moved to the larger town 40 miles away where I could obtain work.

As it turned out, I married an Air Force Officer and we had assignments in Texas, Hawaii, and Florida before my husband decided that he didn’t want to be married anymore. So it was back to this small Hoosier hometown that I took my 3 children and our broken hearts so that we could feel the love of family surrounding and comforting us once again. My parents, even tho married to others, cooperated together to pave the way by finding a suitable house for us to rent and basically made the decisions for me at a time when my distraught mind was unable to function. My Daddy and my brother brought a moving truck to Florida and literally picked us up and got us and took us HOME, while Mama was busily getting things ready in Indiana. I do not even recall registering the kids in school and doctors and many other things that needed to be taken care of so I’m sure that my wonderful parents must have had a hand in taking care of a lot of the things that I didn’t even notice but am totally grateful for. It was a good move and a good idea. Sometimes in life a person has to trust in the wisdom of those who have lived life and already made mistakes because they are able to give advice, should anybody care to listen. My parents are a perfect example of this. I may not have always agreed with them but they wanted what ultimately was best for their grandbabies. Of course I’m sure that it was wonderful for them to be able to finally attend the various schooling and scouting and church functions with their grandkids too that they’d been missing out upon because we lived in other states! They certainly did! It worked out fine.

My Daddy and Step-Mom lived out in the country so that was fun for the kiddies. Daddy enjoyed coming into town and taking the 3 of them, or sometimes each one at a time, to do things or to go places. He even took my boys to his own barber and filled in when my daughter needed him for ‘Daddy Date Night‘. My Step-Mom always knows exactly which foods are the favorites of each family member and makes it a point to prepare everybody’s favorite. She’s kinda like ‘the cheerleader‘ of the grandbabies! Mama and my Step-Dad had moved a couple of blocks from the Elementary School so it was fun for the kids to be able to ask if they could walk to Grandma’s after school a few nights each week, where they knew that she’d have home-baked goodies awaiting! Their Great-Grandparents lived across town near the shopping area and we visited with them a few times weekly. It was a very good 4 years that we lived in that area, having all those grandparents nearby gave my kids the love and stability that had been lacking when we’d been moving around the country going from Air Force base to Air Force base!

For some reason, probably just because he’s the oldest, my Step-Dad seemed to like to teach my first-born kid lotsa stuff. Perhaps it was because he missed his own grandkids, which by now he had 4. Or perhaps it was because he reminded him of his own son at that age….they both are stubborn loveable blondes with really big eyes! My Step-Dad was a ‘tinkerer‘, always fixing or improving something, often to my Mama’s frustration. That’s how my son became his GRANDDAD’S BUDDY….my Stepdad and my boy took apart 3 junk mowers and built 1 mower rather than buying a new one. They built a model airplane and worked on other projects that always kept my Step-Dad busy. I think that sometimes he was just looking for an excuse to ‘borrow’ my kid even tho he said that he wanted to teach him something! My Mama and my Step-Dad also invited my son to watch EVERY Chicago Bulls basketball game on TV at their house, complete with carefully planned favorite snacks. My other two kids showed no interest in sports so this was a special memory for my son. He still watches basketball and is a big fan of the Chicago Bulls. He also has turned out to be a ‘tinkerer‘ too, always finding projects to work on! Yep, that’s my boy! I’m sure that my Step-Dad is watching this young man, GRANDDAD’S BUDDY, from heaven with a twinkle in his eye!

Getting Pincurls

Getting pincurls like Mommy-age 3

I find that it’s certainly true that we want the opposite of what we have. Myself, well, I have rather crazy hair that has never been stylish nor have I been able to tame it into whatever hairdo seemed to be popular at the current time. Nowadays I’m not particularly concerned with the way my hair looks, but according to the photo above this must have began at approximately age 3. I’d imagine that my Mama was probably placating me at the time and I was probably excited to be GETTING PINCURLS just like Mommy had, but maybe this began several decades of unsuccessfully attempting to make my hair do things that it wasn’t meant to do!

According to early photos, I had very straight hair as a preschooler! Mama was thrilled that I even had some hair because I had quite the lack of it as a baby. She and Daddy had curly hair so it made no sense to either of them that mine was straight. If only she’d have left it alone then I probably would’ve been very happy with long straight hair, as that was the norm in the 60s and 70s. But I blame my Mama for that early perm that she gave me because after that my hair would never go back to being straight again! Luckily it was very thick, so that was the only thing that I DID LIKE about my hair. I could not use a hair dryer because it would frizz terribly; in fact, a dryer hasn’t touched my hair in more than half-a-century! I took great care in cutting off tiny split-ends, as soon as I noticed them, little-by-little in such a way so as to not cut any of the length of my hair. I’ve had short hair, long hair, and shoulder-length hair throughout the years. In the Hoosier summer sunshine, I’d squeeze lemon juice onto my hair before sitting poolside after getting out of the backyard pool. Somebody had mentioned that this would keep away that greenish sheen that the chlorination from the pool’s chemicals would tint my hair. It must’ve worked because my hair didn’t have that ugly color. I remember when I wanted bangs or short ‘sideburns’ and having to wear the pink tape at night. The next morning I’d be happy with the reflection in the mirror from my temporarily-straight bangs….however, my disappointment would return along with my curls by the time I got to school! I just had no luck with straightening my hair. I thought that it was so unfair that I could not have the popular hairstyles! I got into very big trouble one Saturday afternoon when my Daddy came home early and walked in on me and a friend ironing my long hair on the ironing board, with a pillowcase between my hair and the iron. He sent my galpal home and I promptly got a paddling, even though I was already a teenager!

My Mama has always put a lot of effort and emphasis into her hairdo and makeup. Whenever she went out the door of our house, she does so looking beautiful. I was of the generation that didn’t like makeup, and even though I experimented a bit, mostly I only wore makeup for special occasions or when Mama told me that I HAD TO! Anyway, Mama had a LOT of hair….verrryyy thick. She’s mostly kept it short, but has gone to the beautician to have it styled for as long as I can remember. When my brothers and I were young, we used to tease that we couldn’t even put a finger into her hair for fear that it’d get stuck! I am NOT kidding! Mama always knew everything that was happening too….we could never be sneaky and get away with things like we could with our Daddy or grandparents. Mama always told us that it was because that mothers have ‘eyes in the back of their heads‘ that children cannot see, but that we’d better believe that those secret eyes were there, nonetheless. Well, the night before Mama would have her weekly hair appointment, she’d give one of us kids a coin to brush out her hair. It took a long time since it was really thick plus had several layers of hairspray. Besides, she liked the feel of the scratching of the Avon brush upon her scalp. The oldest of my brothers almost always insisted upon doing this, and he performed the task ardently. It wasn’t until we were all grown up that he explained that he’d been looking for those ‘eyes in the back of Mama’s head‘ all those years and he never did find them! Tooooo funny!

When I went away to college in Hawaii, I found that my long wavy strawberry-blonde hair was suddenly very popular, especially with the Pacific Islanders. Of course, I had to forget about the frizz because August in Hawaii is a bit humid and I just got used to it anyway. But I soon found that the Polynesian boys would hurry to sit beside me in classes. After a couple of weeks of feeling like a Midwestern Oddball, my Indonesian and Samoan roomies told me that the guys hadn’t seen red hair before! Several times I’d catch someone touching my hair just to see if they were gonna get burned! I even got mad at a boy from Palau that cut a long strand of my hair without my permission; when I turned around and glared at him, his excuse was that he wanted to send it home to his grandmother because she’d never believe it! I didn’t know whether to laugh or smack his face! In my mind I was having these thoughts of a little voodoo doll of myself in a dark room someplace awaiting these strands of golden hair but I remembered that these were South Pacific Islanders and not Creoles. Instead I told them that they could’ve asked and I’d have given them some strands from my hairbrush. About that time I started wearing my hair in elaborate braids and buns in order to avoid and solve these situations. It didn’t take too many months for the warm Hawaiian sun to bleach the red outa my hair anyway. As my skin darkened into a golden brown, my hair lightened and lost the red. I looked like any beachgoing blonde!

Now I’m in my late 50s and my hair is totally white in the front. The back part is whitening. My hair is partially curly and partially straight. It cannot make up it’s mind. It’s nothing at all like when I was younger. The straight portion is as I had always hoped and envisioned but then there are these unruly curls that pop up here and there all over the place. They’re curlier than ever before. The curly-hair gene must have totally skipped my daughter. I’d always imagined that my daughter would have thick, blonde, curly hair. Well, it’s blonde, Period. Not thick. Not a tiny bit of curl or wave in sight. But she’s as blonde as can be. She got a perm once when she was a little girl and it was a mess to keep up with so we never did that again! She prefers a long ponytail and it suits her. Since my hair doesn’t do anything worthy of a style, I’ve been keeping it kinda short for the last few years. So I don’t think that either one of us will be GETTING PINCURLS anytime soon!! Maybe we’re finally accepting what we have.

Make Lemonade

basket of lemons

What’s that old saying? Something about about Make lemonade when life gives you lemons’? I think it goes something like that, however, I can certainly think of several variations of the original version. In my own particular life there are oh-so-many different ones that it’d either make me laugh or cry if I decided to sit down and make a list. Or perhaps I could plant my own mini-orchard outa the assortment of fruits and nuts that my so-called LIFE has tossed at me! I’ve learned, mostly from the time-tested ‘trial-and-error method‘, to make all kinds of things from these fruits and nuts: juices, smoothies, jams, jellies, dried fruits, preserves, muffins and other baked goodies, and nut butters!

Of course, that’s just speaking literally. Lessons and growth make my ‘wisdom‘ increase with each passing year. Remembering my teenage years, I thought that my 50-ish Grandparents were OLD, although absolute gems! I enjoyed spending time with them. The little ‘bursts of knowledge’ that our parents liked to cleverly dole out didn’t quite have the same impact as that of sitting on the porch with Gramma (Mama’s Mother) or fishing off the dock in the early summer mornings at the lake cabin with Grandpa (Daddy’s Dad). Even though both of these grandparents lived quite nearby, I was lucky enough to have them as an almost-daily ‘constant’ in more than half my life. Luckily, my 3 children also got to know their Great-Gramma too until they were young teens; they weren’t fortunate enough to have met their Great-Grandpa (my Grandpa) but surely they will someday.

Now I’m the one that’s 50-ish and I haven’t any grandbabies yet. I very often wonder, since I am now disabled and have only been worsening these past few years, if I will be able to pass on any of MY WISDOM to that next generation!!?!? Like many parents, I usually feel that what advice I offer to my darling children is tolerated, but I soooo long for grandbabies to teach. It seems that when the kiddies are at the ‘tween stage’ throughout the younger teen years is a good time for the grandparents to teach them. Often that is the time that the youngsters aren’t feeling ‘understood’ by their own folks so the grandparents’ house is a good place to visit! I wanna be that REFUGE! But, alas, I feel that by that time for me it will have been too late as my illness has taken control more and more of my mind (IF I’m still here).

When I homeschooled my children throughout Middle School and High School, I had a rule that we’d never start the day on a ‘bad note’ or unhappy in any way! I always always ALWAYS found a way to ‘turn around’ a situation, small or large; hence learning to problem-solve. This was important for me to teach my children and wasn’t necessarily something that they would’ve learned in the regular school system. I wish more schools would do this and I wish more parents would do this. Our children oughta be taught to MAKE LEMONADE whenever they’re given lemons long before they allow their small ‘mole hills’ to grow into mountains!