This weekend has been something unexpected. Three days off, so lots of plans to play and see our family and friends. Plans to enjoy the precious freedom paid for by the life blood of countless others. Plans to create more memories of raining orchids.
Saturday, a boating accident very near our play place on the river took the lives of two people and injured another. We noticed debris in the water a few moments before another boater arrived with the news. My husband and our friend went to wait with the victims until the authorities arrived. Seeing body bags go by on the water rescue boat is not expected. I pray I never see it again. I am grateful my family and our younger friends were not with us that day. I am saddened for the loss of the families involved.
Sunday was all we hoped for and more. All the children and our friends had a terrific time swimming and lounging on the river bank. A couple of our precious friends surprised us with an overnight at a bed and breakfast just upriver. We had a lovely Monday morning over breakfast and some wet fishing hooks. The boys caught a few and the canoes didn’t overturn. So, all went well.
Late Monday morning, I arrived home to find my daughter, at my house puppy sitting for me, had taken care of my cooking for us to take to our son’s home. We spent the afternoon grilling and eating and swimming. They decided it would be fun to make a whirlpool in the swimming pool. I was in a floatie with my feet up. My son pulled me around the pool in his wake as the rest of the crew also went round and round creating a whirlpool flow. I laughed and laughed the entire time!
Life has been good to me. I will dwell on all the good and set aside the sad for another day. The orchids of these days have been especially fragrant. They are red, white and blue and smelling like precious life, freedom, liberty and happiness found.
I am ever mindful of the many who did not come home during war time and those who have been lost while keeping ready for war time. He served in the United States Army during peacetime. What a dashing soldier he made! He was and still is my warrior. Without him fighting my demons with me, I would not have gotten where I am today. He has taken on more than flesh and blood enemies on my behalf. He has stood shielding me with his prayers and courage and strength while Christ held him firm and the Father answered his pleas. More than a conqueror. Yes. He is.
Now don’t get yourself worked up about animal cruelty. It is only an expression. Granny Sally and Mother used to call a certain kind of house cleaning washing the cat out with dash. There was a washing detergent called Dash. I don’t know if it is still made or not.
To wash the cat out with dash means to really deep clean the house. Not spring cleaning exactly, but still very thorough. It seems I used to be able to do it in half a day. The entire house would be dusted, vacuumed, mopped. The bathrooms scoured, the kitchen shiny, the washing done up.
Today(Saturday), I got some cleaning done. The house looks good. The floors and kitchen are done. The wash is clean. But, I have more to do.
Even when the children were small, it didn’t seem to take so long. Of course, I was home full time and twenty-something years old. Many things got taken care of as I went along. I could get busy and get the shine on pretty quickly.
Also, I had a room separate from the rest of the house that held projects and stored sewing and crafting supplies and equipment. I had a small shed to house a lot of boxes of stuff as well.
In this house, I have eight closets, generous pantry shelves, large bathroom cabinets. I also have an attic that holds quite a bit. I fret over them having things in them that may not need to be there. What if I have too many Christmas decorations? What if I have too many purses in storage? What if I have too many never to be used arts and crafts supplies and tools? As I look around my home, I wonder do I have too many decorative items? Too much furniture? I don’t even want to think about my overflowing bookcase. Books are precious to me. I love books. Nook can’t replace the tactile experience of paper and ink books.
I am trying to break the thought process that leads to the fretting. Whose business is it anyway? As long as he doesn’t mind, and I like the way it is, who else matters? What hovers in the dark memory of my past that makes my mind go off on that path? I think I know what it is. When I was young, not yet a teenager, an elderly man made a comment to me that hurt my feelings in a way that I still stings sometimes. He criticized me for allowing my room to be a mess. My mother was never one to force the room cleaning issue. She might mention it and then just close my door so she didn’t see the mess when she went past.
When I became a homemaker, the nagging feeling of shame haunted me. I think that is why I have never allowed personal things to sit on tables. Books, notebooks, nail file, a bottle of polish, pens, markers, lotion, those types of things, I don’t allow myself to leave sitting in the public areas of my home. The bathroom counter is always free of bottles, combs, hair bands. A soap dispenser or dish with soap is all that I allow. Kitchen counters are as clear as I can make them without too much inconvenience. No canister sets, toaster, bread box, etc. sit on the counters. Even in my bedroom there are no collections of toiletries or stacks of magazines. Our bedroom has a lot of furniture and most of my treasures, relics and trinkets. Even those are boxed up and put away when I feel suffocated by them.
Less is more for me. Less stuff to clean and clean around means more time and energy to play and to laze around daydreaming. Two of my favorite things to do. Although, I do love to get busy and wash the cat out with dash some days. That freshness of a washed up house is wonderfully relaxing. That sense of accomplishment silences a ghost voice I am still trying to banish. I like doing it just for the joy it gives me.
A huge almost empty room. Natural light illuminating everything. Sumptuous bed. Beautiful plant or flower. Great book to read. Cup of steaming black coffee. Sounds like paradise to me. How do I get there?
I am not one. My mother was one and was always sewing. She wore out three or four sewing machines in my lifetime. It was her passion, along with cooking. She usually made outfits for everyday wear, but could certainly sew anything on which she decided. She loved to sew pant suits to wear. She made them for both of us. She would make dresses for the two of us out of the same fabric. She taught me how to sew. When I got to be a teen, all I wanted was jeans and tee shirts, so she let me wear that. But, whenever she could, she would sew up a dress and put me in it!
She loved to dress up. She always wore her beautiful brown hair short and curled. She didn’t wear makeup, except lipstick. Her olive complexion allowed her to wear an outrageously bright shade of orange lipstick. So she did! Orange was her favorite color anyway.
I asked her why orange one time and she just said she didn’t know why, it just was. In May, after we buried her in April, I found one pair of orange sneakers at the store. Just the cheap lace ups I always used to wear. Only one pair in orange and they were my size. I bought them and wore them all summer. I know why orange was her favorite color now.
I always take off work on my birthday. A few years ago, I was off and prowling around resale shops. I found a McCall’s magazine with Natalie Wood on the cover. She was wearing orange with an orange backdrop. The issue was July 1965. The month and year I was born. Needless to say, the magazine now hangs in a frame on the wall. It was a “birthday card” from my mother. Yes, I call it supernatural and not coincidence. It was her reaching out to touch me.
But, about fashion, she may be why I struggle so with what to wear. My friends may not think so. They always love my outfits. They get tickled at me because most of my clothes come from Goodwill or a cheap consignment store or a church resale shop near my home. I avoid having to pay full price for anything. I do buy all my shoes and undies new and spend good money for them. I try to have a coupon or find something on sale.
When I was little, double knit was the wonder fabric. My mother loved it. No ironing, easy to sew, easy to fit. Every color, pattern, texture. If I could find it in any real selection of colors and textures, I would probably buy up a big pile and try to sew my own clothes, too.
But, the reasons my mother caused me problems clothes shopping are these: she often shopped from the catalogs. You remember when three certain stores sent two inch thick catalogs in the mail twice a year and a few smaller ones seasonally? She could find something she liked for each one of us and buy one in every color. We only went to the store to shop when I needed a new coat or some shoes. I didn’t have any experience shopping for clothes off the rack. I had to make myself learn some skills. I prefer the resale type shops, though. If I find something there, it is one of a kind on the rack. If I find myself at a retail store looking at things, I want to buy one of every color! In fact, I did that a couple of years ago buying tee shirts. I bought a half dozen at once. Thank goodness they were only five bucks each!
Another obstacle she inadvertently created was by the following comment: “We can make this cheaper than that price.” And she could. She could get a pattern and fabric and notions and in two or three hours have a new outfit of better quality and fit at half the cost or less. I cannot do that. I can sew. I can sew well. But, it creates anxiety for me. I don’t get the outfit completed. These days, the pattern, fabric and notions far exceed the price of most ready made things anyway. If I am not going to enjoy the process, why should I try to do it? One of those “should want tos” I have had to overcome.
But, I do love to dress up, too. My work place has limitations on what I can wear. I don’t have to wear a uniform, but there is a very strict dress code. That leaves the evenings and weekends. My activities require rugged outdoor wear for fishing, hunting, cattle handling and such. Not much room for glamour. I have a closet full of clothes that I don’t get to wear very often. I kept trying to make myself get rid of them. I don’t think I will, though. Rather, I will wear them anyway. Who says I can’t slip into a favorite dress to sit on the porch and write or go to the kitchen to stir up supper? The one I am wearing now walked me along Waikiki and the streets of Honolulu.
Mother implied through example and dressing me that one should complement ones fellow man by looking as well turned out as possible. There have been many times I failed on this task. I intend to keep trying. I passed some of this on to my daughter. We have a common thought about a commercial on television. The young woman is upset because the wind blows up her skirt on wash day or something and she isn’t wearing cute undies. Pam and I said to each other: if you always own and wear only cute undies, there is never an issue! So Mother, I guess I did okay with her. Even though she wouldn’t wear the little pile of summer dresses you made for her second birthday, she wears the cutest outfits all the time now and she loves to sew! I would rather you had been here all these years helping me raise her and her brother. But, I know you reach out to me often and show me things I need to know. Even when I don’t know it is you showing me.
From the back porch, where every day is Mother’s Day,
Several, as in twenty plus, years ago, I found a book that extolled the virtues of simplicity and clutter free living. For twenty plus years, I have been trying to reach a point where I feel my life is simple and clutter free.
My problem has often been sentimentalism and indecision and not knowing when I will get there. “There” being some indefinable place in time and reality.
With both my parents and his parents and all our grandparents passed on, we have the leftover trinkets, photos, furniture and even my parents’ home to manage. I have pared down a great deal. But, my problem is that some of the things I have inherited are not necessarily useful or my style. Mind you, there are no antiques even, just old stuff. I will get things that are more my style and then get rid of them in a de-clutter session because it is easier than dealing with getting rid of the objects that remind me of our ancestors. The objects are not holy relics to me, just simple reminders. Some things are truly wonderful pieces that I do treasure and would grieve should they be lost. A piece of pottery, a conch shell, copper ash trays, an ostrich egg to name a few. So maybe there are some holy relics in the pile now that I list them in print.
Still, sometimes, I want to box up everything I own and toss it out the door. I want to be able to start over with everything, partly because some things do cause so much anxiety. The real issue is more comical and human. I read books and blog articles about people who live with two pairs of pants and four shirts, have a bed and a table with one chair and some floor pillows. Of course, I am exaggerating, but not too much. I think I should do whatever I read about. If it is in a book it must be true…..like the notion that everything on the internet has to be true! Human foibles. Of course, I don’t believe those notions, but it still creates a conflict in my mind because I am not content with the way things are and am seeking a better way.
I recall living in California when the children were infants. My house was very simple. We did have more furniture than described on the bloggers’ pages as mentioned above, but only the barest basics. I had few artifacts and only a handful of clothes. I could clean my entire home, front to back in a few hours. Dusting, polishing, mopping every surface. Even when we came back to Texas, there were a few years with very little to deal with. Then things continued to accumulate even with my tossing things out regularly. People passing away; their things often falling to me to disposition.
I think most observers would consider my home to be uncluttered. It is usually fairly tidy and as clean as I can manage with him and two medium size dogs who love to roll in the dirt or mud outside and then come in and roll all over the rugs and floor. (Thank goodness for a tile floor!)
I am not sure where the unease comes from. Perhaps, it is leftover anxiety from grief. I have not regained balance completely. On one hand, knowing the objects don’t matter and on the other hand, letting the objects remind me of my loved ones. Then, again, many of the things I still have are just my style. If I were to go on a treasure hunt to decorate my home, they are the kinds of things I would seek. So, in the end, my ancestors’ treasures have become mine. Not just relics, but my own signature of style.
I have three treasure tables and a bookcase of books, dolls and trinkets. Here is one of my treasure tables. Some of the things I have purchased for myself, others are “holy relics”.
From around the world and down through the years, trinkets and relics. Catching light, catching dust, pouring out memory, pouring out identity. Telling stories and keeping secrets. I wonder what my children and grandchildren will do with each of you. Will they hear the stories I tell about the loved one from whose hands it passed? Will they feel a connection with the ages of simple living and loving of those who lived and loved enough to bring us into this world? I believe they will. I must believe they will. For in their memories and stories dwells my immortality and my legend.