I remembered a conversation I had with my dad when I was about eight years old last night. It was a warm summer day and daddy had been working on the car all afternoon. He was in the backyard and scrubbing the grease off his hands using the water hose.
I had been playing on the swing set he had put up for us and it was about time to go in to eat dinner. I remember the light being just before the sun kisses the clouds at sunset. I had been thinking about my mom having a hard time with the ladies at the daycare. They were talking about money and the programs they wanted to do with the kids for Christmas and mom was frustrated. I didn’t understand all that was going on, just that it was hard on her.
“Daddy, why is life so hard?” I asked.
“Life is hard because it was designed that way,” dad said.
“Why was it designed that way?” I asked.
“Because only through the tough times do we learn to ask for help and grow, we won’t do some things unless we have too, so life was designed to bring us to our knees at times to keep us on track.” Said dad
“Sounds like a mean way to do things,” I said.
“It’s the same as me saying you have to clean house and do the dishes before you go outside to play,” he said. “You wouldn’t do it if you weren’t made to because you’re a kid and want to go play.”
“I guess, but adults don’t play much do they?” I asked.
“Sure, but only after hard work and making money to pay for things and buy the things we need and want. Life isn’t about getting something for nothing. You can’t learn unless you give and sometimes we get all involved in what we’re doing and God has to get our attention to show us that He’s got something we need to pay attention to and learn.” – he said.
“Then I want to learn to pay attention every day so God doesn’t have to knock me down to teach me things,” I said.
“I think that would be a good thing,” he patted me on the head.
Cherry Coley (c)
My parents had a love for the musicals. My brother performed in several musicals in high school like “Music Man,” “Oklahoma” and “South Pacific.” It was when I was working at the bookstore and musicals were first available on video that we all acquired a nice appreciation and greater love for them.
My dad and I loved “Singing in the Rain” the most, I think. We would pop some popcorn and watch that movie on nights when it was raining outside and he would go off to bed, singing either “Singing in the Rain” or “Good Morning.” His other favorite musical of all time was “Anchor’s Aweigh.” Since he was in the Navy he recognized and sang along with many of the songs, and of course, he loved Gene Kelly.
I set about collecting all the musicals and Disney movies that B. Dalton Bookseller would let me order. They were better than just about anything on television even back then. We both teared up watching Bambi and laughed at memories of Pinocchio. Pinocchio was my first movie at the movie theatre and it was also the first time I successfully dumped a large coke all over my lap then spilled the popcorn trying to get up, (I was about 4 yrs. old I think).
I got to watch musicals like “American in Paris,” “Oklahoma,” “Music Man,” “Show Boat,” “South Pacific,” Unsinkable Molly Brown,” “The King and I,” “Carousel,” “The Sound of Music,” “State Fair,” “Mary Poppins,” and of course the holiday classics like “Holiday Inn” and “White Christmas.” We watched them, sang with them, and later I shared them with my kids and clapped as they twirled around the room singing and dancing the steps while the music played.
My dad loved cartoons too, we spent many hours watching classic cartoons like “Casper”, “Mighty Mouse,” “Bugs Bunny and Looney Tunes,” as well as the new musical animation like “Little Mermaid” and “Lion King.” He was always really happy to babysit the kids because they brought the latest animated movies with them. He even liked “Jimmy Neutron.”
I loved watching movies with my dad, he was always so sentimental. He would tear up like me on the mushy parts and then clear his throat a few times to cover it up. Yes, he loved the action movies, westerns, and war movies too and watched those quiet often as well, but he had a tender side too and I’m very thankful to have had a dad that was not hesitant to show that.
Cherry Coley ©
It’s interesting how we age in this life. Our body’s age every day, but our souls, our minds grow according to what we put in them, what we feed them. I am so thankful for memories and how our minds store information.
I remember being about 5-6 years old, warm spring days, and dad making us all get up really early to go fishing. I don’t remember the park where we went; just that it was a stocked pond. We each had a bamboo fishing pole with a bucket of worms for bait. I hated putting the worm on the hook, I felt so bad about hooking the poor thing. My dad would walk over and put it on for me half the time because I would take so long.
We would always park then walk over to a part of the bank of the pond with a big tree. It was nice on those warm spring days to stand or sit under the tree by the water. It didn’t really matter that we weren’t expert fishermen. There were a few times we caught little trout, but we just looked at them then let them go.
I remember my brother taking a big swing with his fishing rod, swinging the line way out, hooking dad’s hat and sending it flying out towards the water. Mom would stand by the bank and laugh and get a little frustrated over not actually catching any fish.
On those banks I heard stories of how mom used to fish with her sister and brother for their dinner. Sometimes they would eat fish for breakfast too, though mostly they ate flapjacks and biscuits.
It’s funny how sometimes those days seem so distant that they can barely be remembered, but now and then I see a large sprawling tree standing by a pond and I remember the laughter while we tried to learn to fish.
I remember the squish of the mud between my toes when I took off my shoes. How I loved to look in the water and watch the minnows playing around the wispy grass and moss on the rocks close to the shoreline. I even remember the smell of the water, the warm air, listening to the birds sing and feeling the sun shining down through the branches.
I remember being tired at the end of the day, folding up the lawn chairs, putting the cooler in the back of the station wagon then crawling in the back on top of a blanket and falling asleep on the way home.
I loved those days spent with my family. You might think that kids don’t remember, but I do, and even on days when things seem so rushed and hectic, there are times when I look back on childhood memories and I’m thankful for the moments spent in the sun in a time that wasn’t so rushed.
Cherry Coley ©
I have thought of my parents a lot this summer. On days when it is really hot I still have to stop myself from calling to check and see if everything is okay, if the air conditioners are running and if they are cool enough. My dad liked to watch the electric bill closely so he would keep the air conditioners set on 75 degrees or more. My mom would swelter and not feel well at those temperatures, especially while she was cooking, so I would remind her to check the air conditioners and turn them down a little if she needed too, or turn on the fans.
It’s hard to think that I don’t need to check on them now, or wonder if they are okay. It’s even harder to realize that mom isn’t out tending to her garden this year, carefully watching the tomatoes, green beans, squash and greens she grew each year. This year they were not planted.
It hurts knowing that dad won’t be there to remind me to check the oil and coolant in the cars, or to make sure the tires are aired up properly. He isn’t here to grumble about the gas prices, or how much Medicare didn’t pay. He’s not grumbling about how much water is used to water the grass and garden either.
They aren’t sitting down and enjoying eating cantaloupe or watermelon this year. Mom isn’t slicing up fresh pineapple then tempting my kids to come eat it. She’s not fixing banana pudding or jello to have something cool to eat on hot days either.
I can’t bake a lemon cake for all of us to share with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or share a cool fruit salad with them while listening to mom talk about the ladies in the church, or a book she’s been reading. I can’t listen in while dad reads the newspaper out loud and mom asks questions about the highlights of the day.
No, there is only silence and an emptiness that just doesn’t seem to go away when I think about them.
I watch people with their parents and wonder if they realize how precious each day is. No, none of us really do. I did my best to not take the days for granted, but it still doesn’t seem like it was enough. Yet, I know I never talked disrespectful to them and if they needed me I tried my best to be there to help. I am still haunted with all the things I wish I’d done, or that I could say just one more time. Still think about things that I wanted to do and lately realize things that I just plain missed along the way. It’s all the way of grief I suppose. One day at a time is how it goes. There is a large hole in my heart where they used to be, and where nothing else will ever grow, but that is just how it is.
I have started writing journals for my kids: memories, dreams, thoughts, events past and present, so that someday when I am gone perhaps the emptiness will not seem quite so empty, but will instead be filled with stories of their childhood and mine. It would never take the place of the actual person being there, but to me it would be like sitting down and having a conversation with them again and that would be really nice.
Cherry Coley ©
My first skates were the metal kind that fastened to your tennis shoes. We wore them outside skating up and down the street and making a lot of noise as we learned to skate and made sparks with our metal wheels on the pavement.
My mom made sure we wore knee pads and elbow pads. Looking back it’s a wonder we didn’t kill ourselves scooting around learning to skate on those metal wheels. I remember going to the skating rink not long after that and being amazed at how much faster and smoother the rubber wheels rolled. The rubber wheels intimidated me at first, after all I learned on the metal wheels; they had friction and made a LOT of noise.
Suddenly, I was in a boot instead of something that fastened to my shoe, and the wheels were practically silent, with little friction. I didn’t know you could tighten them so they wouldn’t roll so fast and no one suggested it, so I fell a lot at first. Gradually though I got the feel for it, took off in the new direction and never looked back.
So often we set our comfort zone on things we know and are used too. It’s not that those things are great, or even that we are using something we want to continue to use forever; it’s simply something we know and are accustomed too.
Yet sooner or later life will hand us the opportunity to upgrade, to reach for something new and possibly better than what we are using. If we are up to the challenge to first recognize the possibilities and take a chance, then even though we may fall a few times, in the end we can wind up zooming off in a whole new direction and wondering why we held on to the old way of doing things for so long.
Cherry Coley ©
I’ve often heard the saying that many men can be a father, but it takes someone special to be a dad. I think this is true, just as it’s true that many women can be a mother, but it takes someone special to be a mom.
Being a parent is about so much more than genetics and just having a child. The truth is that a baby changes everything. Suddenly you are more aware of your surroundings, and things you just walked by before, or barely gave a passing glance, are now items you carefully consider, pick up, throw away, or even lock up so they won’t cause harm.
Suddenly sleep becomes a fleeting thing of great value. Naptime is guarded at all costs. Time alone is almost unheard of, even in the restroom; there might be that hesitant knock and tiny fingers probing under the door.
The pitter patter of little feet was pretty much just toddler stage for us, after that it was stomping, jumping, tap dancing, and skipping. The tuner for inside voices didn’t work too well most of the time either.
Then there’s the kid who has to test what you mean when you say “no.” They push the buttons, turn the knobs, tight rope walk across the back of the couch, build a “castle” with the cushions from the couch and chairs, play fort with the coffee table and kitchen table, try to flush the cat down the toilet, and see if Dr. Pepper will make the dog hyper. These kids are the creative one’s that we want to both throttle and encourage because they will pave the way to the future.
My youngest daughter is one of these kids that just has to try it to see what will happen. She tried to swing on a water hose from a tree and unfortunately, another little girl jerked the hose away as she leaned out, causing her to fall and break her leg. She spent the better part of 5th grade year in a cast. I painted a dragon on the cast to try to help with the awkward feeling of being a kid in a cast.
Then there are the reasoning kids who want to know the in’s and out’s of how things work so they can decide what to do and how to do it, my oldest daughter is my super analytical child of reason.
It’s funny how God has such a sense of humor that He takes half our personality and places it in one kid and half in another. They are night and day different from each other, but both like their parents. It will definitely keep you on your toes and keep life interesting. Whatever the case, motherhood and fatherhood are the greatest gifts.
Cherry Coley ©
Have you ever noticed that it is easier to give advice sometimes than to take it when we need it? Funny isn’t it? Yet at some point in life we are all guilty of this same thing whether it’s because of pride or just because the advice, though sound, is not what we want to hear so we put it aside for a bit and stumble on trying to prove it wrong. I have on occasion caused myself to trip up in many ways by not heeding good advice when I should have.
My youngest daughter found a little notebook full of poems and thoughts I had written when I was about her age. I have to say, I sounded like I knew what I was talking about on some things, though I read it now and think, “Wow, if you only knew how true those words were!”
Was I wise? Well, wisdom is the ability to discern or judge what is true, right or lasting. Wisdom includes insight, common sense, good judgment and more importantly, being able and willing to act on those things. Not sure you can have a lot of real wisdom at age 14. I can only say that even at a young age I was a listener, a people watcher and quick to notice and understand things. Being shy helped too, I suppose, in some ways.
I think Benjamin Franklin was one of the wisest people from United States history. He was always spreading little tidbits of information, wisdom with a dose of humor thrown in. The man had a profound impact on history, people and the nation in every aspect! He is one of the people I love to learn and read about because he had such a unique and daring personality. There are many throughout history that have passed down wisdom and experiences for us to learn from.
As for me, I learned a lot about life, families and friendships from the grandma’s in the quilting bee at church. I loved to sit underneath that huge stretched quilt and watch them sew the fabric, piece things together and talk the whole afternoon about anything and everything going on in their lives. They wove stories together in the same way they pieced that quilt together. I loved listening to them work things out and give each other advice. The older women mentored the younger women. What’s more is they knew I was there and if they wanted to be sure I understood something, one or two of the ladies would peek underneath the quilt and ask me if I understood what was being said. If I didn’t then they would have me come up topside, sit in a chair and explain it to me. I learned so much from my group of adopted grandma’s.
Was I always wise in my actions? I am human and like most humans, many times, years later I will remember some tidbit someone told me, or a quote I heard along the way, right about the time I have committed to some stupid action that will take a fair amount of time to clean up. Then the lesson and wise advice from long ago will be ingrained in my memory, become a bigger and more prominent part of me (I hope) because I hate it when I don’t learn my lesson the first time and repeat the same choice which ultimately ends in the same results.
In all of this I have realized that wisdom really does come with age. Though we may know the right thing to do, it doesn’t mean we will always do the right thing. Failures are not permanent, and mistakes are not final. Wisdom is sometimes hard-won and when asked it is passed on to fellow travelers on this journey.
So, if you are asked for your advice, please be honest and be kind enough to share your experiences and wisdom along the way, don’t worry if your words aren’t accepted or approved of the way you think they should be, that’s not the point anyway. The person you share them with was put in your path because they needed to hear them, the choice is still theirs and they will either learn from your lesson, or be taught their own.
Cherry Coley ©
It’s funny the things you remember right out of the blue. There are some things I would never have told my mom, though technically, I should have apologized because she was right. I just refused to tell her because there are some things that she just didn’t need to know.
I remember when I was fifteen back in high school my mom was determined to take me bra and underwear shopping. Oh joy. Off we would go to Montgomery Wards or Foley’s and she would put me through all manner of humiliation by holding up different items and comparing them on me. I wanted to crawl into a hole. Why on earth mom’s would put their daughters through this I don’t know. I mean, isn’t that what dressing rooms are for?
Then to my surprise I found something new! I found a front clasp bra. I remember begging mom to let me get it.
“That thing would be a pain,” she said, “I bet it would always pop open on you, look at that clasp!” She wrinkled her nose, “you wear that thing one day and you’ll be ready to throw it in the trash!”
Alas, I was bound and determined to prove her wrong and bought it myself. I got up the next morning and wore my brand new, front clasp bra, to high school. It was great! That is until the clasp came undone as I was carrying my books from one class to another. Great. I remember quickly sidestepping into the girl’s bathroom to correct the issue. Then off to class again, a little bit late.
Unfortunately, I was working at the bookstore that night and was going to have to leave school to go directly there. Wouldn’t you know the stupid bra would decide to come undone as I was up on the ladder putting books up in the storage bins above the shelves? Yikes! I went to the backroom as quickly as possible holding books in front of me. Okay, just a few more hours to go and I’d be home free. Fortunately, it didn’t come undone again while I was working the register or sweeping the floor. I was thankful, maybe the stupid thing just had to be snapped the right way.
You’re thinking that’s the end of this story aren’t you? No, of course it’s not.
The grand moment was just as I was about to close the store for the night and I bent down to lock the doors on the bottom, and SNAP, the bra came undone again. It was just me and my friend Becky there, thank God, but by that time I was exasperated with the whole thing. I stood up and turned around and she both pointed and burst out laughing, “OH MY GOD!” she yelled, “You have four boobs!!” Of course she yelled loud enough so that passersby heard and tried to look in the door.
Yes, the stupid bra had come undone and was hiding by my arms. Lovely.
Thank God they have improved on this article of clothing since then, otherwise I’m convinced there would have been a huge bonfire of front clasp bra’s at some point.
Cherry Coley ©
I must say that I completely agree with C. S. Lewis on this one, grief does feel very much like fear at times. Now and then, out of the blue, it will come along out of nowhere and punch you in the heart and all but bring you to your knees. Suddenly things you were so sure of, you second guess and then your mind willing or not wants to ask that person their opinion, but they are not there anymore to ask.
As nice as it is to paint the house we are moving in to and work together to make it a home, there is a bittersweet thought that lingers in the air and simply won’t go away. The thought that this will be the first place I will live where my mom and dad won’t come visit me. Yet it’s not even that thought that haunts me. No, I was a bit shaky with that thought, but still okay. It was when my brother mentioned that since we didn’t move in to my parent’s house, he is working on selling it.
I am actually okay with selling their house; because of where it is located I know we would not be able to live there. The house is too far away from my work and the kids like their schools and friends. We weighed our options and looked at it from every direction then decided to stay in Garland. I know the best thing to do is to sell their house. Yet the thought of that is like a punch in the heart that almost knocks me to the floor. I walk in that house now and it’s empty, but the walls ring with echoes of days long past. I can hear my brother’s footsteps as he stomps up the hallway. I can watch memories shift in my mind through all the different years, showing me the furniture and how it looked at this age, then how it looked even a few months ago. I can remember thinking of how amazing it was that my dad bought such a small house, then designed and built on a large den, back porch, and a washroom that could actually be another room. Later when I was seven or eight years old my dad converted the single car garage into a bedroom for my brother with a large walk in closet. He did most of the work by himself, with a little help from my uncle Basil Thomas and his brother in law “Slim.”
I have a hard time looking at the yard when I go over there now. My mom loved gardens, and keeping her yard looking nice. The yard doesn’t look so nice right now. She created flower gardens and vegetable gardens that were pretty high maintenance since she would spend two to three hours outside every day pulling weeds, watering and doting on her plants. No one has been there to care for them since December, so there are parts of the yard that are beginning to look overgrown.
I remember riding my bike on a path we’d made in the backyard, around the gardens and the swing set dad had put up for us. My little dog Butch would sometimes run beside me trying to keep up.
I remember the tree right outside the back porch. We used to climb that tree, get on the roof of the back porch, lie down and watch the birds fly by during the day and the stars come out at night. Watching the sky up on that rooftop is one of my favorite memories and something I really miss. I loved that tree.
There are so many good memories in that place. I can’t help but hope that it will go to a family that will come to love and appreciate it like we did. It doesn’t make letting go any easier. When I stop and think about it, there’s a feeling much like fear that tries to swallow me up. I suppose it’s because once it is gone, then it’s gone and there’s no turning back, no revisiting, no more just knowing that it’s there if we need a place to go. It’s odd what grief does to you. Still, this is a time to move forward and memories are portable. No one said the path would be easy.
Cherry Coley ©