I had a sign on my icebox for a long while a long while back. I still keep the saying close at hand, though for some reason other things crowded it from the icebox front. 

 It reads:

What really important thing are you forgetting to do?

I ask that question on many different levels.  Did I pay the fuel card bills?  Did I ask him to check the propane tank level?  Did I ask the Lord forgiveness for my recent failures of character?  Did I put water in the dog’s bowl? Am I sure I checked all the supply levels for baking Christmas cookies?

From trivial to profound and back to trivial.

One question that haunts me was asked me on the day we buried Mother.  What are you going to do with the rest of your life?  At the time, all I could think of was raising the children.  At ages 10 (nearly 11) and 12, things were just taking off.  And my father was still living and needed assistance.  The Butler sale launched that year as well.  The question didn’t mean much for a long time. 

A few years later, the children were grown and Daddy and his mother and his father, too.  From September 2003 through April 2007, there was a lot of leaving for us.  We also lost a dear friend during that time.  And Hurricane Rita blew through.  We got down to just having our jobs and the cows for the most part.

Eventually, the children married and finally a couple of duchesses came along to add glitter sparkle to our lives. Figuratively and literally! 

Still, there are some long days of not much going on.  I have been retired just past a year. He is still working.  The duchesses are too far to come and go on a regular basis.  I have some hobbies I have dabbled in through the years. I am so accustomed to not having time to really dig deep on them, I still just dabble. 

I am forgetting to dig deep.

I love to plan things.  Have my tidy little lists of things.  I passed that trait on to our son.  I have notebooks of lists.  I have spent my idle hours for thirty years making lists.  What do I list?  I have a list of plants I want for the jungle garden.  I have lists of household supplies I use so I can try to make a more efficient shopping list.  I have lists of my favorite foods.  I have a list of songs I like.  I have a list of books to read and authors whose works I want to read.  I have a list of topics for essays to write.  I spend more time and energy on my lists instead of attending the things on the lists. 

I love to sort things.  An offshoot of listing or the listing is an offshoot of sorting.  I will sort and reorganize my closets and pantries several times through the year.  I haul off stuff to the Salvation Army or bag it up for some of the teen girls at church or a friend I know would love it. I pass through the thrift store and get some more things and then go through the sifting process again.  I thought for a while I was off my rocker. 

When I look around my house, I see the results of the process.  I have several areas that show my love of tropical things.  I have book cases full of a full range of topics.  I have lovely dishes to use every day.  The walls have several original pieces of amateur art.  Some is my even my own work.  I have a modest collection of evening bags of which I plan to start using for everyday as soon as I can get my load of things I think I need to haul around with me pared down to fit.  I hear several of my besties reading this and cackling with laughter over that remark.  And he just rolled his eyes.  One of the things I get called is bag lady.  I still consider it a lofty goal to achieve.  Maybe beyond my scope. Nevertheless…….. 

I am getting better though.  I have been taking the time to read.  And yesterday, I took time to watch one of the movies on my movies to watch list.  I put in a new flower bed this summer.  I have the photos on the table and have begun the sorting process to make a photo album. (This is from the days of film style cameras.)  I have a number of digital photos I want to print and put in the album eventually.  I make time to spend with my friends and my family.  I am terrible at calling to check on folks.  I hate talking on the phone.  I would rather see someone face to face. I text painfully slow.  (I did learn how to talk to text and my phone seems to understand my accent.)  I go with him to check the cows most times. 

Nothing profound.  Just ordinary living. Working on not forgetting the really important things.  Time with him, time with the offspring, time with friends, time with my own creative muse.   Mundane things in a quiet house on a dusty dead end lane in the boondocks of Southeast Texas. 

Oak Trees

There was an oak tree here in the back yard when Mother started building this house.  Daddy said it was about 6 inches in diameter when he was doing some clearing and fence work for his Grandfather back in the 40s.  Grandpa Hamm told him to leave it for shade.  It was in the middle of a fence line then. 

It grew to a monstrous size over the years, but developed a hollow all through the main trunk.  Hurricane Rita shredded every leaf and she was never the same after.  Finally, she was bare and dying.  Rock had a fellow with a big enough chainsaw come cut her down.  Laying on her side she was seven or eight feet in diameter where the branches started. 

There were many fish fries and barbecues under that old tree.  There was a swing that soothed me through many an anxious childhood trial.  The photo with this letter shows three of the four daughters left behind by her.  The cows enjoy the shade and acorns now.  There is one nearest the house he is planning to move the fence behind so we will have a shade tree in the back yard to gather around again. 

There is one memory that has come to the front for me lately.  Our central air conditioner has had a couple of problems this summer.  Made me think of how we used to live.  We had a window unit in the living room and one in Mother’s bedroom.  We have an attic fan that still works.  The window unit is mounted in the wall in the living room since Mother added on to the house in ’86. We added the central air when we moved in here in ’04.  I’m not even sure if the window unit still works. 

Nevertheless, my memory turned back to the summer of ’77.  At least, I think it was that summer. Might have been the one before or one after.  Mother wanted to redo the kitchen.  She wanted to rearrange the cabinets and hired a carpenter to come in and do it.  What to do for cooking while the kitchen was out of commission? 

In those days, eating out was a very rare occasion.  We usually only ate out when we went to see Daddy when he came in port or on one of the rare shopping trips to Beaumont.  Luby’s and later, Piccadilly cafeterias were Mother’s favorites.  The Monterey House or The Schooner were also occasional choices.  Locally, there was a Dairy Queen and a Pizza Hut.  There was a place in Spurger that made great hamburgers.  That was it. Convenience foods found in the freezer were Banquet TV dinners and frozen pizzas.  If there were microwaves then, only rich people had them.  Folks bought groceries and grew gardens and cooked from scratch in this part of the woods. 

What about not having a kitchen to do all that?  Mother set up a screen house and a canopy right under that old oak tree.  She set up a long folding table and a card table and the lawn chairs and what have you.  A cook stove and the water hose and the refrigerator moved out of the way in the dining area next to the kitchen along with the deep freezer and she never missed a beat.  We stayed out there all the time it seems.  Of course, I was a kid and that was a long time ago.  My brother could probably fill in more details and we have a couple of friends who were always there.  He is gone now, but she could provide some details, too, no doubt. 

Growing up, we lived closer to nature than we do now.  The windows were open unless it was blowing rain or too cold.  The attic fan drew in the air. Sometimes it was hot air, but moving over perspiring skin was cooling.   Even in winter, we slept without heat.  The propane heater was lit each morning. I don’t know of a time it was left on during the night.  We all had electric blankets. That helped a lot.  There are many days in winter no heat is even needed.  The days are mild and pleasant.  The windows would have been open back then.

If it was just me, I would run the central air and heat less often.  I would get rid of all the carpet in the back half of the house and situate more of the furniture away from the windows. Except the beds.  The beds are best left in front of the windows to catch the draft from the attic fan pulling the cool night air through the house.  The night sounds are soothing to the soul and the gentle light from the moon is magical. 

One fall he and I turned the central unit off and lived with the attic fan until it was too cold to have the windows open.  I have clear memories of lying there next to him in the moonlight with the draft passing over us.  There was something magical about those quiet moments with him I pray remember when the days of my life are closing. 

There are so many treasures in my memory of our loving each other these many years.  I continue to work toward creating more treasured memories with him all the time.  What would I have done without him always being my champion and hero?  His courage and stubborn will have saved us more times from more enemies than I can ever enumerate.  But He keeps track and rewards him with His mercy and grace.  His faith in our Lord is an anchor I hold on to through the rough times.  I am grateful beyond words for him.

I have drifted all over the place with my thoughts here.  But, isn’t that the way of memories?  They come trickling in and then they flood through the mind and heart washing us along in the current.  I’ll keep seeking the ones in the past to relate to the little ones and keep creating ones in the present to cherish as time passes.