I take great joy in observing life. I spend a lot of time pondering my observations. So, one day I thought I would write them down. These are my ponderings. -dana

Monday, May 25, 2015

Old Glory.

It's exactly 5:20 a.m. on Memorial Day 2015.

I've been wide awake for a solid hour because I want to fly my flag today.  It's our first year in a new place--a place made of stone and brick.  Hanging a flag holder requires drilling with a special bit.  With other renovations, we just haven't gotten around to it.  So my mind is working on other proper ways I can fly my flag today.  Soon my thoughts are drifting to the American Flag and my interactions with her in my 55 years.  

Once the thinking begins, sleeping is hopeless.  So I thought I would write about the things I'm thinking.

When I was a kid in 6th grade my teacher was Mrs. Groom.  It was 1971 and girls wore dresses to school with knee socks and track shoes.   We improved our reading skills through a color-coded curriculum called SRA.  Right before we said the Pledge of Allegiance--or maybe after--there was a scripture reading over the loud speaker.  It was a huge deal to be chosen to lead the Pledge and read the scripture.  We would giggle when a classmate mispronounced the scripture reference.  Like the time a boy pronounced "Psalm" as "Possum".  

We played Jacks at recess.  

We couldn't have candy in school, but with a little fake cough we could have Luden's Cough Drops which we consumed as if they were candy.  To get the Presidential Physical Fitness Award,  girls did something called the "flex-arm hang".  I'm pretty sure the boys did pull-ups instead.  We had weekly spelling bees in our classrooms.  

We had a janitor named Curly--a big, round older man who didn't have a single hair on his head.  Curly was known for handing out silver dollars to random students for good behavior.  I still have one of them in my keepsake box.  

These are all just random memories.

And there is one more thing I'm remembering today.

It was a huge thing to be chosen to raise the American flag in the morning and lower it when the school day was done.  I don't know what the selection process was, I only remember that I felt special when I got to do it.  We worked in teams of two or three.  In my mind I can picture exactly where the flagpole stood in front of my school.  We were taught to carefully unfold the flag in the mornings, being mindful to never let it touch the ground.  We were taught that the flag shouldn't fly in the rain, so if it began to rain during the day we would bring her down quickly.  We were taught the proper way to fold the flag and we took our job very seriously.

We were all just a bunch of carefree 6th graders whose main goal in life was to play.  That's it.  Mostly we never thought about freedom at all and we never considered what it would be like not to have it because we didn't even realize we had it.   Still, when we raised and lowered that flag we were reverent.  We understood that the American flag stood for something, but we couldn't fully grasp what that meant.

The American flag still evokes in me a feeling unlike any other that I have.  It's a feeling of pride for sure.  Of resolve.  Of a patriotism I aspire to.  

Sometimes its image can move me to tears or at least cause a very large lump in my throat.

The American flag.

Being raised high as an olympic champion receives a medal.  Seeing it soar over bent beams, broken glass and a huge hole in the ground where the World Trade Centers fell.  Being raised over every single sporting event I've attended in person or watched on TV.  Being raised as I drove through a military base very early one morning.  Waving all through my little town on days like today and on every Fourth of July.

All these flags waving and singing in unison "People!  We are free!"  At least that's the song I hear.

Mom and Dad always flew a flag, and ever since my husband and I have had a home, we've flown an American flag on days commemorating freedom and sacrifice.  There were times when we flew the old girl everyday, until the wind caused her to ravel and fray at which time she would retire.  We were taught that there were appropriate ways to dispose of the flag and that the Boy Scouts were the ones who would in a ceremonial and honorable fashion, burn her.  I always gave my worn out flags to the them until the last time.   I asked a scout leader about doing it and she said she didn't know anything about that. 

It made me sad.  Not because I couldn't do it myself, but because it just seemed like another sign that the American flag is ever so slowly losing her glory.  

It's ironic isn't it?  Free people tromping upon and burning and trying to ban the very thing that symbolically allows them to do so. 

With every sad image, I imagine our freedoms going away a few at a time.

There was a time when the American flag was revered.  It stood for something.  But then again, there was a time when people stood for something.  I'm not talking about social media rants that require no backbone.  No.  I'm talking about having such a strongly-held conviction about something that death is not too high a price to pay. 

Like my family's friend Ron Horn,  who died in some humid jungle far away from his family.  It was 1968 and he carried the weight of my freedom and yours on his shoulders.  And he didn't even know you.  He was 30.  I was only 8.  I only have a few recollections of him.  One of him sitting on our kitchen floor playing Jacks with us kids.  I remember his pretty wife Barbara with her black hair always fixed just perfectly.  Few can understand the heart of a patriot like Ron.  I always think about him on this day because he's the only person I've known in my whole life who died in battle. Recently I searched for information on him and his service and found this:

“Ronald Horn re-entered the Army while working for Shell Oil Company in Eunice, New Mexico and volunteered for Vietnam.  He had served three years, jump qualified and had been a member of the 101st at Fort Campbell.  A graduate of The University of the Americas in Mexico City and a native of Andrews, Texas.  He was a poet and a true patriot.  He was killed attempting to retrieve ammunition from a downed helicopter in order to help save his buddies.  He was awarded the Silver Star.”

I also read a tribute written by Ron’s daughter.  I remember her as a little baby.

“I miss you.  I always will.  I will always feel like there’s something missing in my life.  I’m constantly looking for something that I will never find.  I am a child of war,” she wrote.

And so the soldiers aren't the only casualties.

I hope I can find a way to fly my flag today.  But even if I can't, I'll look at all the other flying flags and remember Ron and his family, who all made sacrifices I can’t begin to comprehend.  I'll remember—and hope that as our soldiers are daily willing to sacrifice, that we--all Americans in support of our soldiers--can become brave patriots once again.

You’re a grand ‘ole flag, you’re a high-flying flag.

And forever in peace may you wave.

Friday, May 8, 2015

I am MAM. MAM I am.

I am a Middle-Aged Mom.  A MAM.  And I am marching on into the great yonder where I never know what is around the bend.  I'm trying to embrace it.  Some days I'm excellent at it and other days just kind of "myeh", you know?

My husband and I have moved to a new place.  We've streamlined.  We've cleaned out.  Simplified.  Gotten rid of a whole boat-load of non-essential "shtuff"! 

But high on a shelf in a closet downstairs are hidden away six boxes.  There lives the very condensed but real tangible evidence that I once had three little ones who lived with me.  Two boxes per child.  Very efficient, I think.

There are notes written in kid handwriting thanking me for cooking macaroni and cheese.  There are photographs and old guitar strings.  There are a few Beanie Babies and thousands of baseball cards.  There are programs from concerts, keepsakes from trips. There are old shot records to prove that I was a responsible mother! There are notes written to Santa Claus.  There are childhood bibles and all kinds of love notes from the kids to my husband and me and from us to them. And notes to each other.  Hysterically funny ones with misspelled words and heartfelt ones apologizing for wrongs against each other.  There are cub scout badges and track ribbons. There are notes that Todd and I slipped into their suitcases when they went off to camp.

One thing there "isn't" are baby teeth.  I know some people save them, but not me.  I can't help it that I find detached teeth--even baby teeth--kind of disgusting.  I didn't save locks of hair either.   Anyhoo…

Here's the truth of the matter.  If it wasn't weird, I would still have all their childhood stuff out and about.  I would still have their trophies on my shelves.  I would still have those larger than life photos on my walls-- of one of them shooting a basket to set a school record, of another turning a double play in a big tournament, and still another singing on a big stage.  No joke, I really would.  

But that would be weird. And probably a little pitiful.  Even desperate maybe.

So instead, six boxes remembering three childhoods--54 combined years of childhood.  Twenty-four years of mothering in my little nest.

These boxes are so dear to me because in every treasure inside, I am somehow woven into the mix.  Those things are snapshots of their lives when I was a main character. And I loved it.  I loved being a main character in their lives.  I loved have a starring role. 

And that's what has changed.

Oh I know.  It's how things have to go down.  It really is.  

But ouch.

They had to leave.  They had to have experiences and conversations to which I will never be privy.  That is, unless a sibling slips up and happens to mention the time the oldest was robbed at knife point one night in Quito.  Yeah, so I was never supposed to know that.

They have friends I'll never meet which lead to conversations that go like this.

Me:  "Oh hey Sweet Girl!  What'cha doing tonight?"

L:  "I'm meeting some friends downtown".

Me:  "Cool!  That sounds like fun.  Which friends?"

L: "Oh I don't think you know them", at which time I pause just in case she wants to throw in their names.  But no, she doesn't.

Yeah so there are conversations like that.

They have inside jokes that I am not in on.  Doctor visits of which I will never know the particulars.  They have daily routines that I don't even know.  A few of them speak languages I don't understand. Do they bike to work, take the train, drive or walk?  I don't know.   What is their favorite restaurant? I don't know.  They go to weddings I'm not invited to. I don't have a clue how much money is in their bank accounts.  I have no idea what they're up to tonight.

Here's the nitty gritty of the matter.

We don't run in the same circles anymore.

Yeah, I know.  And here's something else that's even tougher to swallow.  There are very likely whole entire days--maybe even several in succession--where (I'm whispering this part slowly for effect)  i am not even a thought. 

Take a moment if you must, because this is heavy stuff to digest.  It's okay to ugly cry here. 

I don't write this as "poor pitiful me".   I write this as a realist.  As in "that's just the way it is".  As in, "put on your big-girl high-rise, super-comfy-sensible undies and get on with it".  We MAM's are a tough bunch.

On the surface, anyway.

Thank goodness for social media where I am able to get glimpses of the lives my children lead apart from me.  However if I peruse my children's lives in this way, there are unspoken rules and boundaries to which I adhere. Be aware.  Personally I've found that "liking" about one in every five of their posts is acceptable.  You know, without seeming desperate like I'm hanging on their every post or something.  Who would do that?   If I'm feeling rebellious, I might breach the rules occasionally, but mostly I'm a good MAM.

Another favorite friend of this MAM is my weather app.  Currently I can tell you the weather in the following cities:  Ann Arbor, Berlin, Oslo, Austin, Nashville, Durham, Marfa, Alta, New York, Dallas, Navasota, Hong Kong, San Marcos, LaGrange, Driftwood and Waco.  These are places my adult children live, have lived, work, have worked,  vacationed, or had a long layover.  If I know little else of what they are doing in these places, I always know the weather!

What can I say?  The habit of mothering is a hard one to break.  

I still never wants to miss a single thing.  When they tell me about new and exciting things in their lives I will always wish I could've been there to see their faces.  To applaud them.  To hug them.   I will always wish I could know the adult versions of them as well as I know the child versions. 

As I look on from a distance, though, I'm beginning to see something else.  I see that as I now stand in the back of the cheering section, others have come close to them.  A wife.  A fiancĂ©.  A community of friends.  It happened so seamlessly that there was never even a gap or a void in their lives.  And in some strange way, there is a great peace and even relief in that for me.  From where I stand now, the most important role of mothering is praying and giving breathing room.  I hope to do that well.

Back to the boxes.

If I'm being honest, these boxes are way more special to me than to them.  To think one day they'll want what is in them is wishful thinking.  Oh one day they'll look through them and laugh and be nostalgic for a bit, but these remnants of their childhood likely won't tug at their hearts like they do mine. No matter how much I want them to, I'm fairly certain they won't.  That's okay. 

They've moved on.  They are still who they were,  but with new wonderful layers that they added all on their own with no help from me.

They are filling their own boxes.  It is as it should be.

As I'm about to enjoy my 30th Mother's Day I find myself reading something I wrote some years ago.  And it is this:

Let me take this moment to raise a glass to three of the most wonderful humans walking this planet.  I'm  happy to know you.  You've taught me everything that really matters.  This and most every other happy day is/was brought to me by you three. 

The three who call me Mom.

Now excuse me while I check the weather.