Thursday, December 15, 2011

Where are the chimes?

This was written by one of my favorite authors, the late Erma Bombeck. Thank you Erma and God bless you!

Christmas Chimes ~ by Erma Bombeck

Everything is in readiness.

The tree is trimmed. The cards taped to the door frame. The boxes stacked in glittering disarray under the tree.

Why don’t I hear chimes?

Remember the small boy who made the chimes ring in a fictional story years ago? As the legend went, the chimes would not ring unless a gift of love was placed on the altar. Kings and men of great wealth placed untold jewels there, but year after year the church remained silent.

Then one Christmas Eve, a small child in a tattered coat made his way down the aisle, and without anyone noticing he took off his coat and placed it on the altar. The chimes rang out joyously throughout the land to mark the unselfish giving of a small boy.

I used to hear chimes.

I heard them the year one of my sons gave me a tattered piece of construction paper on which he had crayoned two hands folded in prayer and a moving message, OH COME HOLY SPIT!

I heard them the year I got a shoe box that contained two baseball cards and the gum was still with them.

I heard them the Christmas they all got together and cleaned the garage.

They’re gone, aren’t they? The years of the lace doilies fashioned into snowflakes … the hands traced in plaster of Paris … the Christmas trees of pipe cleaners … the thread spools that held small candles. They’re gone.

The chubby hands that clumsily used up $2 worth of paper to wrap a cork coaster are sophisticated enough to take a number and have the gift wrapped professionally.

The childish decision of when to break the ceramic piggy bank with a hammer to spring the 59 cents is now resolved by a credit card.

The muted thump of pajama-covered feet padding down the stairs to tuck her homemade crumb scrapers beneath the tree has given way to pantyhose and fashion boots to the knee.

It’ll be a good Christmas. We’ll eat too much. Make a mess in the living room. Throw the warranties into the fire by mistake. Drive the dog crazy taping bows to his tail. Return cookies to the plate with a bite out of them. Listen to Christmas music.

But Lord … what I would give to bend low and receive a gift of toothpicks and library paste and hear the chimes just one more time!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A Grandfather's Love

I love this photo of my two year old son. It was taken in 1967. He's holding on to a little tree my dad planted the day he was born.

My son was only a couple hours old when my dad announced to my mom he had to leave the hospital. He had something very important to take care of. My mom wasn't very happy about my dad taking off and expressed her displeasure when she came in to visit me.

We both wondered what could be so important that he would leave. He had already seen the baby and was told that my son would be named after him. He seemed very emotional when he was given the news that his first grandson would carry his name. We assumed he had just wanted to go home for awhile. When my dad didn't return to the hospital after several hours my mom decided she better go home and check on him.

A little while later my mom returned to the hospital to tell me my dad was at home, and the reason for his departure. My dad left the hospital to go to the store and buy my son a brand new red tricycle and to plant a tree in the yard to commemorate the day my son was born. When my mom got home there was my dad, busy putting together the tricycle, and planting a tree.

My mom informed my dad that my son was only a few hours old and it would be awhile before he needed a tricycle. My dad didn't care. He wanted that shiny red tricycle there at the house waiting for his grandson when he was old enough to go for a ride.

When I brought my son home from the hospital the first thing my dad did was show him the tricycle. My dad was so proud of his grandson. He couldn't wait for the day he would be riding that little red tricycle up and down the street in front of their house. It seemed like in a blink of an eye that day arrived.

I recently saw a photograph of my parents home and the little tree that dad had planted is gone. I don't know why the new owners removed the tree, it had grown quite large and was a beautiful tree. I had hoped that tree would be there forever. The tree may be gone, but a grandparent's love is forever.

The Old Black Bridge

It amazes me how a photo of an old black bridge can stir so many memories. I walked over this bridge almost everyday when I was growing up in Pennsylvania. Crossing over the bridge if you turned right, it lead you to "downtown" if you continued straight and to the left you went "over town" I crossed this bridge going to school every morning, and when I came home in the afternoon.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Play Misty for Me!

The Universe is strange place, full of surprises. On the morning of March 22, 2011, I received an e-mail regarding a Yorkshire Terrier that was in a shelter in Tampa, Florida about an hour and a half from where I live. The photo of her was precious. She looked scared and lost. I mentioned the e-mail to my husband and he replied "We already have two Yorkies, we don't need a third". I agreed with him, but the photo of this little girl stuck with me.

Ten hours later, one of my beloved Yorkies, fifteen year old Abby Doodle, my precious little girl died in my arm. I had adopted Abby Doodle when she was just eight weeks old and weighed less than a pound. She was my baby. I spent the night sitting on the porch holding Abby until morning when my husband could dig a grave for her and we could put her to rest. There are no words to describe the pain and anguish I felt (and still feel).

Later in the day I received another e-mail regarding this little girl in the shelter in Tampa. I told my husband, "no more dogs, I can't deal with this". I continued to receive an e-mail regarding this other dog, for five consecutive days. Finally on Saturday I told my husband we needed to make the long drive to Tampa, to the shelter to check on this little girl. It was almost like someone was pushing me to do this. He agreed and off we went.

We arrived at the shelter and were taken to her cage. She was terrified and wouldn't come near us. We were told she had been brought into the shelter along with her fifteen year old sister who had just been put down. Misty was ten years old and had an eye infection and ear infection and had been at the shelter since Tuesday (March 22nd) and it was unlikely she would be adopted, that she would probably be put down also. We asked if we could visit with her. They removed her from the cage and we went to a visiting area.

The moment I held her in my arms she became a different dog. She started kissing me and then my husband and turned into this happy little ball of fur. We put her on the ground and she ran around all excited to explore the area and came running back to us. We knew in an instant we had to adopt her. Unfortunately we couldn't take her home that day as they had to have her vet checked and we had to fill out adoption papers.

Three days later, a week to the day that Abby passed away, we were able to go to the shelter and bring Misty home. Misty is the sweetest little girl. Her personality is totally different from that of my Abby Doodle. Misty is a happy little girl and I know that she knows she was given a second chance. She loves her new mommy and daddy, her new home, and her new brother Tucker. Her greatest joy is to go out in the back yard and chase squirrels.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't grieve for my little Abby Doodle, but I feel like somehow she knew that I needed this little girl to help heal my heart and fill the void she left behind. I can never replace Abby Doodle, she was one in a million, but little Misty is a dear sweet little girl that needed love and a home and I am so glad I could provide that for her.

One door closes another door opens.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Coming to America

When I was a child growing up in Pennsylvania I remember my dad telling me the story of how my great grandparents emigrated from Germany to the United States. He would tell me about their struggles in Germany and how they had to save money in order to secure passage aboard a ship that was less than seaworthy and make the long arduous journey across the Atlantic Ocean.

When my great grandparents left Germany they were traveling with their three children. Martha was nine years old, Adam (my grandfather) was seven years old and baby Johann was just eleven months old. During the long journey, baby Johann died and was buried at sea.

The family arrived in New York Harbor in February of 1880, during a fierce snowstorm. From New York they traveled to Scranton, Pennsylvania, where they had relatives and they would begin their new life.

My great grandfather was a coal miner as were his brothers and several of his sons. Coal mining in the anthracite region of Northeastern Pennsylvania was and always has been a very dangerous profession. One of the few occupations in which a person could face a very real risk of death everyday from all four elements, earth, air, fire and water.

I remember hearing about my great grandparents struggles growing up and while I thought it was interesting; it wasn’t until later years that I realized what these people must have gone through. They had to leave their family and friends in Germany, travel across the Atlantic Ocean in the middle of winter, and they lost their infant son along the way.

I think of the struggles I’ve had in my own life and it’s nothing compared to the hardship my great grandparents must have endured. They not only lost their infant son at sea, but they also lost three of their daughters in the 1918 flu epidemic. It’s hard to imagine what not only my ancestors, but a lot of our ancestors had to go through a hundred years ago.

We take so much for granted today: airplanes, computers, cell phone, nice cars, air conditioning, medicine, good medical care, just to name a few, that I am humbled by what my great grandparents were able to achieve. Seven of their surviving twelve children went on to have good productive lives. Their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren continue to grow, go to college and lead good lives thanks to their sacrifice.

For many years I took for granted the life I had, but in recent years thinking about the stories my father told me about my great grandparents, I am humbled and greatly appreciate what they did to have a better life.

Recover Your Soul

“Hey now, let’s recover your soul”, Elton John’s voice drifted through my conscientiousness as I struggled to wake up. I’d been floating on an air mattress in the pool for over an hour, feeling the warmth of the sun on my back, the cool fresh water on my hands and feet. “Hey now, let’s recover your soul”, there were those words again, telling me to recover my soul. I started to smile, my soul, exactly where was my soul? How does one recover their soul? Can you buy a new one? How do you repair the old one? As I drifted back off to sleep, I kept repeating the lyrics over and over in my head.

When I woke up for the second time, a new song was on the radio and Elton was long gone, but I couldn’t get the words of his song out of my head. “Recover your soul”. Maybe that’s what is wrong with me. I’ve lost my soul. I have a home I love and spent a lot of time refurbishing, a job that I adored and lots of friends. Was something missing? Oh yes, my marriage, it was as Elton John said, “torn and tattered”.

After eighteen years and one crisis after another, maybe it should be “torn and tattered”. Could it be fixed? Did I want to fix it? What would I do, where would I go? Recovering my soul would require me to leave, to go far away. With a husband whose middle name was “crisis”, I knew I couldn’t recover my soul and stay married.

As the days went by I kept thinking about my soul and how I would go about recovering it. I called my sister in New Jersey and told her about the song and how unhappy I was and how the words of this silly song would not leave me alone. She suggested I spend the summer in New Jersey with her and her family and try and put things into perspective. Fortunately I worked at a private school and had the summers off. In just three weeks the school year would be ending. I tossed the idea around for awhile and finally decided I was going to New Jersey for the summer.

My husband wasn’t too pleased and tried to talk me out of it. I tried to explain about “my soul”, but I knew he wouldn’t understand. The only thing he understood was that he would be alone and would have to take responsibly for the house and all that entailed, for the next couple of months.

As the days crept closer and closer to my departure date, I was becoming more and more excited, almost giddy. I felt like I was going away to camp, that for the next couple of months I didn’t have to deal with my husband’s endless problems, I could just think about me. What a novel idea! It’s been years since I actually thought about me and what I wanted and how I felt. I’d been sucked into a never ending drama that centered around my husband.

The day finally arrived, I packed the car with clothes and goodies for the trip and my two precious Yorkshire Terriers, Maggie and Abby, and off we went, to recover my soul.