Driver’s Ed

I couldn’t wait to drive. As a first born I was always ready to assume more adult roles. Familiar traits among firstborns are being reliable, conscientious, and structured. I love schedules and organization. Driver’s Ed was the perfect class for me. It was taught during the summer by one of our science teachers.

The earliest someone could sign up for Driver’s Education in my public school was fifteen. Now that I’m in my late 60’s, that seems terribly young to have the responsibility of driving a 2,500 pound vehicle, which in an instant can maimed or take a life, but in my teen years I was confident I could do most anything.

It was a six week summer class. We had classroom time with a workbook and lectures about traffic laws. It was excellent for preparing us for the written test we would be taking soon. Then the actual driving started. Three students were assigned to a car. In my car we had two girls and a boy.

The car had a sign on both sides that said student drivers, it should have had a flashing red light on top while the guy in our group was driving. We went from 0 to 50 in ten seconds, his first time behind the wheel. Fortunately we were still in the empty school parking lot when he made his driving debut. That was when I realized our teacher had a brake on his side of the car, we all breathed a sigh of relief. It gave us comfort to know we had a safety value in the car. He was bumped from first to last, being instructed to think about how serious he was about completing this course.

We would drive looking for stop signs, turning the blinker on when making a right or left turn, checking the rear view mirror from time to time, watching the mirrors outside the car and being instructed about blind spots. We also practiced backing out of driveways. We all dreaded the parallel parking, but it would be on the test, so we practiced.

After each student completed the above we would switch places and go through it all again. I did well, buy my teacher did say several times to speed up a little more. I took him at his word and misgauged the stop sign coming up when he had to use the brake on his side.

We had heard rumors that our particular teacher liked to challenge his students toward the end of the course. We would each be driving over the Rainbow Bridge. This bridge was famous in our area, it had been built in 1936, which meant it was now over thirty years old. The peak of the bridge was 680 feet. It had to be that high to allow huge ships to pass under her. The incline to the bridge felt like it went straight up.

Fortunately the day of our challenge was bright and sunny. I was the first for the challenge. As I took my seat behind the wheel, my hands were sweaty, I had to wipe them on my jeans. My heart was racing and my mouth felt like it was full of cotton. I begin to drive. It felt like we were going straight up. I forgot about checking the rear view mirror, I forgot to breath. It felt like we were on a roll coaster ride and I didn’t quite know when we would reach the top and start plummeting back down.

“You’re doing fine,” my instructor encouraged me. “Now when we reach the top, don’t ride the brake down, just let the car coast if you feel like you’re going too fast.”

As we reached the top the other students saw a huge ship approaching the bridge, they saw the marshes surrounding the area, and some beautiful birds flying in the distance. I know all this because they were talking while my grip on the steering wheel continued to get tighter. We started the descent, I did pick up a little speed, took my foot off the accelerator and made it to the bottom.

“Well done, ” my teacher said proudly, “Pull over to the right and park, who wants to go next?”

Isaiah 28:10, Line upon line, precept upon precept.

Seasons

I passed a rough spot in the landscape of my city today. It used to be my favorite barbecue restaurant. The lot was empty, the building torn down. The land not being used, just a spot that holds good memories for me. For whatever reason the business closed after being there for over twenty years.

When the business was open, one would enter with great expectation. For taking one step inside you would be met with wonderful aromas. The smells would make the mouth water and the mind would begin a mental checklist of all the foods the plate needed to be filled with, heard the expression your eyes are bigger than your stomach. This place was why doggy bags were invented.

The restaurant had a picnic theme, red and white table clothes, colorful napkins to match and real silverware. I have never liked plastic forks and knives when eating meat. The music was mostly country western, but played low so it didn’t interfere with the conversation around the table.

As most barbecue places it was a buffet line, filled with brisket, smoked turkey, ham, chopped beef, and sausage. The sides were many, creamed corn, dirty rice (some call it jambalaya), several different kinds of potato salads, baked beans, pinto beans, coleslaw and three different types of bread, jalapenos, white, or wheat. One didn’t come to diet, but to feast!

I liked the restaurant so much that many Thanksgivings I would order meat, smoked turkey and sausage, pecan pie for our feast. I forgot to mention above the homemade desserts, pecan and apple pie, peach cobbler. The apples and pecans rested in feather light homemade pie crusts.

The first year my barbecue heaven was closed I had to look elsewhere for my meat. Even though they have been closed for quite sometimes, I still miss them. As I was driving by today looking at the empty lot, I thought that was a nice season for barbecue dinners and help with a major holiday in the food section.

I wondered today about the owner of the restaurant. Was he or she ready to retire or was running an eating establishment just getting to be too costly to stay open? Was dealing with food inventories getting too expensive or hiring wait staff and cooks just not fun anymore? I have no answers to these questions, I just hope that when the owner and the people who worked there remember their careers in the food industry that that season has brought them joy from a job well done.

I had eaten there many years with family and friends. It was a place that met a need in my life for physical nourishment and time to enjoy the company of loved ones. The owner of the restaurant never knew my name, but his buffet line, booths, friendly wait staff left me a wonderful memory. Do we leave good or bad marks on the season of life we are living? Do we leave good aromas, laughter, and peace in the hearts of those we love?

Ecclesiastes 9:10, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might.”

Icebergs and Baggage

Icebergs have always fascinated me. Did you know that an iceberg is made of frozen freshwater from a glacier, not saltwater. In the proper conditions an iceberg can exist for 3,000 years. As seen in the picture we can only see a small part of the iceberg, the true part of it is hidden in deep water.

Working with people throughout my career, I learned that people are often icebergs. Only a small part of the true person is revealed to the eye, so much of the “real” person is hidden, sometimes even from themselves. Each of us carries that weight of hidden baggage with us. Childhood trauma, teenage mishaps, young adult mistakes, as well as some success and happiness along the way. It is the wise person who can wade through their baggage at some point in life and come to terms with living with who they really are, flaws and all. Coming to terms with who their loved ones were and forgiving them.

Much of what I always loved about Jesus are the stories in the Gospels where He saw a person and all their baggage and had relationship with them anyway. Matthew, the tax collector carried his baggage of a career choice that separated him from his own people. The woman at the well had married so many times, but that baggage didn’t prevent a conversation about matters of truth while sharing a cup of water. Judas, whose baggage caused disappointment in Jesus and led to his betrayal of Him, but Judas still heard Jesus call him friend right before His darkest hour.

I want to try better to look past the faults, temper, or offensive someone throws my way and try to emulate Jesus. Finding some common ground and moving forward from there.

The Phone

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. I think he would be shocked to see where his invention has led. Today my cell phone contains a great deal of my life, emails, texts, phone directory of loved ones and friends – I don’t even know my husband’s number. I just hit his number in speed dial. I have apps on my phone that contain my banking information and pays my bills. I have news sources, games, my picture library and often at the end of the day an aching neck from my posture.

My earliest memory of this invention was a rotary phone with a dial tone. Before my time my parents shared a party line with other neighbors. One might pick up the phone to place a call and hear two other people already talking. This could become a problem if you had a real talker in the neighborhood.

I have a wonderful memory of my aunt letting me play with her phone. I was probably four or five. She would tie the switch button down with a dish cloth, so the phone could still ring if someone was calling. Matter of fact that happened several times and I would always jump from its ringing.

Otherwise I could talk to anyone my imagination could invent while waving her cigarette holder. I was so cool. One day she put my arm in a sling, so I could call the doctor and tell him about my accident.

When I was in junior high and high school we had pay phones for assistance and convenience when away from home. History says they came into being in the 1880’s with an attendant to place the call for one. In my day they were located in booths or hanging on a public wall. I believe originally it would cost a nickel to use eventually it went up to thirty-five cents, not always easy to find a quarter and dime to make one’s call.

I remember being in college and my car breaking down, it was cheap and old when my dad bought it. I would walk to the nearest pay phone and call him. Often leaving a message where he worked. One would just have to wait until work was over, but he always came and got the car started. Considering the speed of life today many would not understand “walking and waiting.”

The phone enabled us to contact family members living across the country when loved ones were sick or had passed away. It also allowed us to share good news of weddings or babies being born. Every Saturday my mom would wait for my brother to call who was living in another state. Hearing his voice, the details of his week, knowing he was safe and sound would get her through missing him.

I think we take the phone for granted. A modern convenience that changed the world when it was invented. Think for just a moment if you did not have the modern phone to meet all the needs it does in a day. Life would certainly be quieter, perhaps more peaceful. I thought I would turn my phone off for a day, well maybe a few hours. I felt like I had lost my best friend.

But as I sat on our patio, I watched a squirrel play, the breeze blew the leaves on the tree, and I heard a dog barking. Simpler things in life, but refreshing to the soul. Yes, I wondered who’s texts I was missing or the latest news, but when I made the effort to return to the outside, the squirrel had found a buddy and they chased each other until I turned away.

Charlie’s Dad

It was almost four and Charlie was in his usual place. Standing by the front door, the screen locked, waiting. There it was the old truck coming down the road, shifting from first to second, turning into the driveway. Five year old Charlie was jumping up and down yelling, daddy’s home. Mama unlocked the door, Charlie ran for all he was worth to jump into his dad’s arms, just as the truck door swung open.

“Hi Daddy, did you miss me?”

“To the moon and back Charlie, to the old man in the moon and back. What’s for supper?”

“Your favorite daddy, meat loaf, mashed potatoes, and those little green balls that I don’t like.”

“Those little green balls are English peas and they make you grow up big and strong,” daddy said, as he tickled Charlie in his ribs.

Daddy set Charlie down and gave Mama a big hug and kiss. Charlie hid his eyes, like he hated the kiss, but truth be told he loved seeing his parents together.

The house was small, but super clean. Wood floors ran throughout every room and at the end of the day everything would be in it’s place just like Mama liked it.

Daddy worked hard in the field of construction. He had not finished high school although he had gotten his GED after he and mama got married. The highlight of his day was to come home to his family, pull off his smelly boots and clothes, and take a quick shower before supper.

That night after supper, Charlie got an idea. He finished eating, took his plate into the kitchen and then ran for his parent’s bedroom. He clunked back into the kitchen wearing his dad’s work boots and in a sing song voice said, “I’m going to be just like daddy when I grow up.”

Over and over the song was repeated. He fell just before he got to dad’s chair because the boots swallowed him. His dad picked him up, pulled the boots off and set Charlie on his lap.

“Son, I don’t want you to be just like me, wearing those boots to work every day. i want you to grow up and go to college. I want you to wear a coat and tie to an office job when you grow up. You are so smart you can be anything you want to be.”

Through the years Charlie proved his dad right, he was an excellent student, often hearing from his daddy the same advice, I want you to go to college. Charlie graduated from high school with honors and earned a partial scholarship to the local college. He became an accountant and sure enough wore a tie and coat to work every day.

Many years later as Charlie stood sharing this story at his dad’s funeral, he reflected on his dad’s constant encouragement through planting seeds of hope, self esteem, and a work ethic in him. It was his dad’s greatest gift to him. The season of having his dad with him had passed, but not before Charlie’s dad had got to laugh with his grandchildren telling each one that he loved them to the moon and back, to that old man in the moon and back.

Ecclesiastes 1:4, “One generation passes away and another comes…”

Easter

“In your Easter Bonnet with all the frills upon it, you’ll be the grandest lady in the Easter parade.”

Bing Crosby could sing Easter Parade like no one else in my opinion. One might also remember, “Here Come Peter Cottontail, hopping down the bunny trail” sung by Danny Kaye. My brothers and I loved to sing, mainly in the car. Dad would be driving and mom joining in, none of us played any instruments or really knew how to read music, but that didn’t stop us singing the popular songs of the day.

Easter was great fun at our house when I was a kid. We got Good Friday off from school and normally went shopping for new dresses for mom and I. My mom loved high heel shoes, her outfits always matched for Easter. My brothers and dad usually got new shirts and ties. I so miss dressing up for special occasions.

Often the downfall to the Easter Sunday outfit was the cold front that would pop through our area. A sweater or coat would hide our new dresses. We would attend church as a family and celebrate our risen Lord. I still sing in the shower the old hymn, “Christ the Lord is risen today.”

After church we had the biggest holiday lunch since Christmas, ham, potato salad, salad with those little marshmallows, green beans casserole, broccoli with cheese sauce, deviled eggs, and rolls. For dessert we had different pies and lots of candy from our Easter baskets.

My brothers and I would wake up Easter Sunday to find three baskets on the dining table, full of candy, eggs, and a chocolate bunny. The bunny was always my favorite. It was a hollow bunny and I made it last for several days. The eggs had been dyed the day before. Real hard boiled eggs, not those plastic shells everyone uses today. We always looked forward to dying the eggs with those kits of color dyes and a metal apparatus that allowed one to dunk the egg in their favorite color.

My aunt and uncle would come over on Saturday to participate in the egg dying. It would take forever for those eggs to boil, normally three dozen. One had to have plenty to hide Sunday afternoon for the egg hunt. My brothers often got through with the dying process before they were all done, they would run outside preferring to play baseball.

My aunt and I would work diligently in trying to make no two eggs alike, she was very talented at combining colors on the eggs and even making a ring around the middle. The trick was holding the metal apparatus with a steady hand.

After Sunday lunch dad would go outside and hide the eggs. Some were in plain view, some under bushes, and one sitting on the slide in our yard. He got creative one year and put one in the top of the swing set. The swing set was a huge metal contraption. He pushed the egg in just out of sight and forgot about it. We never thought to look that high and in a few days things started to smell bad in our yard.

“What is that smell?” mom asked.

“Smells like something died out there,” dad said.

The he remembered the egg he had hidden. Everyone laughed especially after he had removed it and thrown it away.

So often our memories are holding our loved ones close.

Continue reading Easter

The Newspaper

My aunt and uncle had the cutest garage apartment. They are almost nonexistent today. They would sit behind a house or over a garage, my aunt’s was over a garage. When I would visit my aunt and uncle it was climbing the stairway to heaven. Huge trees surrounded the lot and the wind always seem to be blowing. Train tracks ran behind the neighborhood and the train engineer blew his horn often.
To reach the apartment one had to climb ten stairs, there was a railing on the left hand side that I would hold tightly as we made our way up. I never once thought about carrying groceries or laundry up those stairs. My aunt didn’t own a washer, she always went to the laundromat. They didn’t have a garage to park their car in, it just sat as close to the stairs as my uncle could park it.
Upon entering their apartment there was living room, small kitchen, one bedroom and a bath. They had a huge tub that I spent many nights in having a bubble bath. My aunt always had a couple of candles lit on the counter. She said it created atmosphere.
There were hardwood floors with throw rugs. Everything seemed to match, bath towels with the shower curtain, kitchen hand towels with the paint color. The same was true for my aunt herself, in her clothing and shoes. She was picture perfect as she dressed for the day. Shoes and purses matching, hair just right, and jewelry that complimented everything.
Their family was completed by Pierre, a French poodle. He was the best dog, letting me comb his hair or tell him my favorite stories. Often every morning while having my chocolate milk sitting at the dinning table Pierre and I would patiently watch my aunt and uncle read the morning paper.
As I sipped my milk, my aunt and uncle sipped their Seaport coffee. The aroma filled the small apartment, along with my uncle’s cigarettes. My uncle would take the first half of the paper, holding the big two pages of the paper until I couldn’t see his face. Every so often he would remark about some news of the day to my aunt.
After a while my aunt would fold the paper back and then again in the middle. She would sit by me sharing our favorite comic strips. Nancy and Sluggo, Blondie and Dagwood, and the one I liked the best, Orphan Annie and her dog, Sandy. She would read the stories of their adventures while I followed pointing at the pictures. If you pointed hard enough black ink would get on your fingers which would only come off with soap and water.
Later in the afternoon another paper would appear on their front porch. I was never sure if the paperboy ran up the stairs or threw it perfectly hitting the mark each day. That same paper boy would come to their front door once a month collecting for the paper. My aunt said he was a good boy and always said please and thank you. She would give him a bonus every Christmas for his hard work.
Today our news is gotten through out phones, the internet, or TV’s. I like the kitchen setting with my aunt and uncle, chocolate milk, and Pierre.

three days

Mary and John stood at the foot of the cross weeping. It was so painful to look at her first born. She could no longer recognize her son due to the abuse and beatings. Mary had never known such pain. She was sure her own heart would stop beating at any minute, sure she would have collapsed hours ago if John had not been at her side.

She never though the end would resemble what was before her eyes. Jesus was only thirty-three. He was just beginning his ministry. There should be more time, more miracles, more teaching, his life could not be ending, not like this.

In her head she could no longer separate the cries of the crowd. One minute they were shouting, “Hosanna, blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

Her heart raced as they had praised her son, could it really be happening? Jesus taking the Jewish throne and ruling. He was such a wise man with a heart full of love for their people.

But then the chant had changed, “Crucify him, crucify him.”

She understood now what Simeon had said in the Temple that day, “A sword will pierce through your own soul.”

The smell of blood and death filled the air. The ring of nails being hammered into his hands and feet would haunt her forever. She could not bear to stay here one minute longer, but where could she go?

“Is this how it’s supposed to end?” she whispered to John, “My son dying with criminals? Where is God?”

John only looked at her in silence, having no answers.

Mary’s thoughts turned inward, did I misunderstand the angels’ words? Gabriel had said that day, “Jesus will be great, He will be called the Son of the Highest and the Lord God will give him the throne of his father, David”

Why couldn’t Caiaphas and the Pharisees see the terrible mistake they were making? Jesus was not their enemy or one to be feared. Where was the Roman sense of justice? He had done nothing worthy of death. Suddenly darkness covered the scene, Mary heard the words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”

She witnessed Him take his last breath, she had witnessed him take his first. She watched as they removed his body, watched as Joseph of Arimathaea wrapped him in linen, carrying Jesus to Joseph’s own tomb. This was the end of everything, all the words of the angels, all the prophesies from the past.

But what a difference three days made!

What a difference time makes for us in looking back with more clarity, in looking ahead with such hope. Seasons, perspectives, now we can only see through a glass darkly, but all was redeemed that day at the cross.

Climbing Trees

I was sitting in my backyard, looking for a four leaf clover. The three leaf clovers were being woven into a chain. From time to time I would eye the tree. We had several in our backyard, but my favorite was the China Berry right in front of me.

The limbs were perfect for small hands and short legs to reach. I was ten years old and every time I climbed the tree I went a little higher. Today I was feeling pretty cocky about how high I could go. I discarded the clover chain, spit on both of my hands for traction, I saw them do that on television, and started to climb.

I easily climbed the lower branches, feeling the rough bark on my hands and bare feet. I reached for the next branch and the next. I glanced up to see how far I still had to go to reach the top when the sun broke through a cloud. I squinted against the glare reaching for my next hold and in a matter of seconds was on the ground having fallen on my back.

I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t get a breath. What was wrong? Looking back that was one of the scariest moments in my life. I had knocked the wind out of me. After seconds that seemed like hours, I caught a breath then another. I slowly sat up, felt my arms and legs everything seemed to be working. I stood, took a step convinced now that I was not dying. I heard my friends next door starting a game of hide and seek and went to join them.

All the kids playing hide and seek had summer tans and drank water from the water hose connected to an outside faucet. Of course we all went bare foot. I don’t know how many honey bees lives we ended by stepping on them. My dad would pull the stinger out, rub the spot with tobacco for a minute and then tell me to go play.

I lived in the same house the first eighteen years of my life. My dad and many other dads who had served in the Korean War had found affordable housing in this area. The houses were made out of wood, a few had vinyl siding, built on concrete slabs. Most had three bedrooms, one bath, and a one car garage. Rather than curbs, ditches ran in front of everyone’s homes for drainage. It was a great adventure after a big rain to walk through the ditches looking for frogs.

Most houses had large attic fans that would run during the night to circulate the air, I would fall asleep to the noise. At some point in the night dad would turn it off so it wouldn’t burn the house down. Mom had a washer, but no dryer. She would hang the towels and sheets out to dry. I didn’t think anything about how scratchy the towels were until years later when we got our first dryer. I vaguely remember my grandmother ironing her sheets.

When the days were windy or a little cool, every window in the house would be open to air out the germs and let the fresh air in. We all had screens on every window to keep the mosquitoes out. I still love the smell of wild onions drifting on a breeze.

After falling out of the tree and a few other tumbles in my life, I now regularly see a chiropractor. Growing up as a tomboy in the 50’s and 60’s wasn’t perfect, but a time of innocence and sweet childhood memories. Grateful for the chiropractor, but wouldn’t trade my tree climbing days for anything.

Psalms 16:6, “the line have fallen to me in pleasant places, yes I have a good inheritance.”