Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Coffee Chat: Spring Has Sprung
Come on in and let's talk a bit. Choose your favorite cup from the cupboard, fill it up with coffee and settle here in this comfy chair. I'm ready to chatter away. Are you?
Spring has sprung
The grass has riz
The flowers is.
They are no where
to be found
Soon the heavy
Rains will pour
That will make
The flowers soar....
And from there memory dies.
53 years ago, Mama stepped into a welder's shop in Ft. Valley and bought an old Tiger Striped oak upright piano. It was her dream that I'd learn to play piano. The huge old piano came to the house with a flat topped bench seat which had a compartment under the seat for music books. Fortunately for me, some of those old music books lurked inside, all nice primers for beginners. Daddy wrote the corresponding alphabet letter above each note on the pages, then wrote them in pencil on the ivory keys, and showed me where middle C was. He explained that everything on the bottom line of notes was generally down from middle C and everything on the top lines was usually up from middle C. With that bit of teaching, I began to play piano.
The words to the above song was in one of those old primers. I can't remember the second verse entirely, but I do remember that I always supposed I'd be 'sore' too if I was pounded with heavy rain in the cold days of spring.
I practiced on my own for about two years and then I was allowed to take music lessons at school. I walked from the elementary school, across the driveway to the lovely old high school. It was my sad regret that piano lessons were given on the ground floor and not up the wide old wooden staircase on that mysteriously wonderful second floor.
Miss Suzanna Newell worked in a small room there just off the snack room, with an old upright piano as her full-time companion. I expect, recalling the size of the room, that it was the original office when the school was an all grades inclusive building. Miss Newell was an attractive woman, slender and prone to wearing black dresses (at least in my memory) which set off her black hair perfectly. Being myself, I was forever curious about why she remained a Miss when she was obviously the age to be a Mrs., but fortunately, I was taught manners and actually used them and kept my questions to myself. Miss Newell taught just about everyone who ever wanted to learn piano how to play. I enjoyed my three years under her tutelage. I never did learn why she remained a Miss. I think I have more regret over not hearing her tragic (surely it must have been!) story than I did over having to leave off the music lessons.
I continued to play piano on my own and Granny supplied me with newer books which I plugged my way through. Then Big Mama dug deep into an old closet and came out with her brother
John's old books of Beethevon and Bach. Those were HARD to play but I tried just the same, and I am happy neither Beethoven nor Bach could hear me because I'm sure they'd never have known it was one of their compositions I was attempting. I had no clue what it was meant to sound like, my timing was never correct, and my fingers fumbled repeatedly. But I tried.
Still, the songs I enjoyed the best were the ones that Granny had bought and supplied me with: Cole Porter and Gershwin and Rogers and Hammerstein classics. Those were the songs I played over and over again, reminiscing over an era I'd never known, brought alive on Saturday evenings on the Lawrence Welk show, which taught me the timing and tunes better than my own playing ever had. I was never meant to be a virtuoso or even good. But I whiled away many happy hours at that piano and have regretted only that it took me forty years to have a piano once again.
I suppose it was that adventure in music that led to my taking Mama's old albums. I borrowed Xavier Cugat, Ferrante and Teicher, and Andy Williams and took them to my room. I adored those albums. Curled upon my bed with that music playing and my favorite cookbook opened before me reading recipes and looking at the vintage illustrations on the page, I knew without a doubt, my time and era had come and gone without me in it.
I was not made to be a hippie, pot smoking, free love child of the 1970's. I was meant to be born in an era when one went out to eat and danced slow on the dance floor after and wore corsages. I was born for the age when women just assumed they'd marry and be at home and raise children and putter about the house humming happily. I felt it in my bones. I felt uneasy in my life and era.
Alas, it was 1978 and boys didn't marry girls with the purpose of having them be at home, they expected them to go to work like a liberated woman ought and help support the household. They most certainly didn't take girls out to eat at places with white tablecloths and flickering candles and a band on the dais up front ready to help soothe the passage of rich food with a slow dance about the floor, or hold car doors open for them. I was meant for the era when you met for malteds and if you were a little more sophisticated you met for coffee at the diner.
The piano stayed at the family home where visits were rare. I did manage to sneak the albums out of the house when I packed up to move and they are with me still. A reminder that I am who I am, and always have been, though I did lose myself for a good long bit of time there.
I can smile this afternoon as we sit here, thinking of the young girl who felt lost in the world that was hers to live in. I can feel heartache for her, too, as she struggled until she got her true heart's desires: A home of her own. A man who loved her truly, even though she was born in the wrong era. A house full of children who at times nearly drove her mad but made her happy as sunshine in the morning. A tenure as a homemaker. And finally, a bit of a life as a writer. The blessing of all blessings, of course, was to become a grandmother. Isn't life sweet?
Even better, here in this century I've found small ways to sneak in my love of an era that wasn't mine to grow in. I have books and magazines written in that era and I watch the movies that I might have watched had I lived then as well. In that way, I find the balance I need to live in this century, in this now. I've reconciled my longing for another time with my need to be just where God placed me.
John and I were talking the other day about true nature. "He's very pragmatic..." he said of one fellow. "I was always more of a romantic." "What am I, John? I'd like to say I'm a romantic but I think I'm too practical to be one." "You....You are the eternal optimist, that's what you are. If the sky is black, you are the very one who will see the silver lining." I thought about it for a bit and decided I could live with that characteristic. It felt true. An optimist might well see the problems, but by jove she can see the possibilities of every solution she can try as well! If all fails at least she tried! Yes, that is me. I am an optimist.
I've been digging through old Penny Ann Poundwise posts and oh the things I found! Ten years ago in two weeks from now, my Amie left middle Georgia for North Dakota, taking my first two grandchildren with her. Ten years ago today, we went up to visit and I held Lily in my arms and John held Josie and someone at her school took a photo. How long ago that was!
And three days after that, I came home to find a package on my back door step that left me cold with fear, though it was just a box of china. I called Mama and she told me that Amie was leaving without even saying goodbye. Oh how my heart ached way back then, because I knew I might never see them again. I lamented the loss of my grandchildren and wept more tears than I'll ever confess to outside of now and lay awake at night with a sore, sore heart longing for the dreams of all I'd hoped to be in those little girl's lives. There's been a boy born and another girl since then. Children I see in pictures on facebook, whose voices I've heard over the phone but who I've never had the privilege to hold, nor count the toes on their little feet, or snuffle deep into their baby necks.
Amie and I had our sorrows. Somehow we'd gotten out of sync and off track. She felt judged in ways I'd never judged her. It took years to get at the root of all her angst and when we discovered that I'd never felt the way she'd supposed, and nor had any knowledge of some of the things she was told; when I was honest with her about what I had felt; when she discovered how my heart had ached over the things we must let our children just go through because there's no way out to the other side unless they go through; then we could find our way back to being a mother and her much loved daughter once more. To be honest, there's nothing quite like parenting to make you appreciate your own parents is there? There's nothing quite like failing, to make you realize that just possibly, flawed as they were, you parents might just have been doing the very best they could at that moment in their lives.
I have to share what John remarked this afternoon during an actor tribute on TCM. The host said,"It's just not that easy to express rage and anguish all at once." John said "Yeah, it is. Just try parenting." When your grown children have experienced those emotions with their children, they can't help but find common ground with you once more!
No I haven't been the grandmother I longed to be to Amie's children, but somehow, despite the distances and the spotty correspondences and the lack of phone calls, somehow they've understood that I love them truly and deeply and they love me. It's not as good as what might have been. It's not even a nice consolation prize, but it's something.
Well God gave me more grandchildren to love. I don't get to see them all the time, some I only see once in a great long while, but I have far more than the two I lost for a few years. He multiplies our losses into blessings. There is that to soothe us.
That all sounds a bit downhearted but it's not. Heartaches come in one shape or form or another all through life. It is a testament to us as people that we get up morning after morning and live, anyway. We find joys make us smile, anyway. We take hope captive and we move forward, anyway. Aware always that God is there, watching, overshadowing.
Reading family history I find that it's not such a rare thing. I'm not the first among grandparents in my family to have a family move away to a new place, a new land, a place far away. I'm blessed that in this era there are cell phones and a reliable postal service and facebook. As Amie said to me one day not long ago, "Let's just pretend it's pioneer days...It would have been like that for us back then." Well she's right, except for the modern blessings we have to make it a little easier.
There's a family story of two brothers who went their separate ways back in their early days in this new country. One moved far west. One stayed in the east. One day great excitement set upon the household in the east as a letter arrived, with a return address in the upper corner and the name of the long lost brother. The letter was carefully placed on the fireplace mantel, in a prominent spot, so that the father could see it when he arrived home. He came in from a long days' work and as he opened the door, a great gust of wind blew the letter from the mantel into the fire. He never read his brother's words. He never received another letter. No one could remember just where the letter was from. The two brothers were lost to one another forever. Their descendants gather now, thanks to the miracles of DNA and facebook and genealogy websites that connect people long lost, even generations ago. I think that is beyond awesome. Restoration always come eventually.
Had Amie not moved, I don't know if Ben would have been led to take his family to church. I don't know if it would have become his pressing desire to see her and his children saved. I look back and see now that this might be that reunion one glad morning. Amen.
Being mostly in the middle of my Spring cleaning and having been informed that John will be cutting grass soon, which pushes me to get out in the yard and pick up the many fallen twigs from winter storms, I've decided it's a bit much to expect me to do all my regular things and those added tasks and come up with six posts a week. For all that I love to write, I have to deal with real life. I remembered the requests to share some of the old Penny Ann posts of which there are many and that some of you've never seen. I've been pulling a few forward to fill in slots here and there. I hope that you will enjoy reading them. And because that is what I determined was my task today, I'm caught in the mirey mess of memories good and bad. So, no, I'm not melancholy so much as letting memories wash over me.
When John came in from work this morning, I was sharing with him things that took place in March pasts and we laughed over some things and got misty eyed over others. "Time has passed so quickly," he said. "It doesn't feel it should be so long ago that we spent that day in the city with Josie. Or that it was that long ago that we sat two weeks vigil over the dog..." Yes, it's true. It doesn't feel it's been years but perhaps just last year, yet the evidence is there in dates, in photos of little girls who are a young woman and a budding young woman. It's there in the added years we had Trudy girl before she died her peaceful death one New Year's Eve. It does seem just last week I pulled into Granny's drive and she opened her front door, surrounded by warmth and light, laughing as I came up the steps for our morning coffee, giving me her version of the weather forecast (usually the accurate forecast!) and her peace and wisdom to carry me through the heavy days. Time passes quickly.
Well dears, I should wind up here now. It's time to remove the ice pack from my poor foot. Nothing to worry over. I dropped a 1 liter water bottle on it earlier this morning and the silly thing decided to bruise (hurt like dickens, too!). I'll get up and work on that cleaning cupboard I mean to make. I won't go as far as I'd intended with that project, not today, because I'll need to rest my foot and ice it again but hopefully taking care of it today will mean I can work the remainder of this week.
Talk to you later!