Just me

This week has been a week of happiness, grief and reflection.  September the 9th was my oldest daughters birthday, but September 11th was my dad’s birthday.  So often through the years they enjoyed celebrating their birthdays today with my dad joking in earlier years that he didn’t get as many toys as Casey.

I am so thankful that my children got a chance to know and spend so much time with their grandparents.  We had our issues and our family was nowhere near perfect, but my parents took active roles in the lives of their grandchildren. 

Mom made many blankets, sewed dresses, helped with costumes, school projects and many other things.  Dad tutored both kids on math on a few occasions.  Both of them transported my kids to and from school or daycare many times.  As a single parent, I honestly don’t know how I would have made it without their help. 

Mom made sure we celebrated birthday on the day each time, and didn’t just put things off until the weekend or when it was convenient.  We might gather with the rest of the family later, but we celebrated with mom and dad on the actual birthday. 

Each year when the first day of fall rolled around, mom would gather the kids and I together to take our annual trip to Burlington Coat Factory or the mall to buy winter coats and maybe some sweaters.  This was a tradition my parents started when my brother and I were small.  Dad always made sure we all went and bought coats and new shoes for winter.  It’s a small thing, but it’s a tradition we will keep this year as well.

It’s been a real trip down memory lane this week, realizing that last year on the 11th of September, I took a Boston creme cake to my dad, we bought him a new razor, socks, a few movies, a new CD and some funny cards.  He waved his hand and said, “aw, you didn’t have to do that,” while we sang happy birthday, but smiled all the while.  I have thought a lot of that moment this last week.  I am thankful we have it to remember as it was 10 days later when dad passed away. 

Traditions, no matter how big are small play an important part in each of our lives.  Take the time to celebrate when you have the chance and if at all possible keep the dates sacred.  You never know when life will interrupt your plans, treasure each and every moment, take advantage of every opportunity, and love the people in your life.

Cherry Coley (c)

Fishing In The Park

photo by Casey Keal

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 ©

Memories and Echoes

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 ©

Siblings, Gotta Love Them

I love my children.  They are beautiful, talented, highly imaginative, very opinionated and independent girls.  They are complete opposites in many ways and alike in others.  It’s all fuel for the sibling rivalry that crops up now and then and roars through a lot like a Texas tornado.  I hate it when they don’t get along.

 Have you ever stopped to wonder why God, in His infinite wisdom thinks it’s so funny (I’m convinced He does) to put such different people in the same family and under the same roof?  I have.  I have sat in wonder at how both girls are artistic, but draw so differently which reflects how differently they see things.  I have watched one try to force an opinion or viewpoint on the other and tempers flare because of the disagreement. 

 I personally think that God doesn’t do this paring up of people just for kicks.   I learned many valuable lessons from my brother growing up, though we are opposites in so many ways.  I learned that while I like piano music, I am not one to play it for hours and hours until I learn the song the way it’s supposed to be played.  I would gingerly practice a little every day and make some progress while he would hammer things out until it was perfect, which of course meant that the teachers loved him, not me. 

 From my brother I learned that some people can be pushed too hard and you’d either better be able to run fast, hide quick, or prepare to be pummeled.  I learned that if I kept him up all night telling scary stories that he would (while I wasn’t looking) roll the eyes back in my dolls so they looked white, put their arms out and fake vampire blood on their mouths and terrorize me in return. 

 From my brother I learned such skills as: anger management, organizational skills – to clean my half of the room first (before he could put all the stuff on my bed), and disaster training – had to get my miniatures out of the log cabins before Godzilla stomped my village. I also learned excellent spying skills including: eavesdropping, how to find secret stashes of the other people in the house, and how to un-wrap Christmas packages and re-wrap so no one knew.  I also learned how to negotiate chores for cash and that, in general, boys do not like dish cloths and would rather do yard work than dishes.

 My brother was also the one who taught me how to drive and while he cringed at the way I drove through Whataburger and stopped 20 times before getting up to the window, he never out right laughed at me.  I was thankful for that.   

 Because of my brother and an argument we had over whether Ms. Beasley could magically talk or was a robot of some kind, we now know for certain that she had a tape recorder hooked up to a string in her back because of a difficult surgery that left her forever sounding like a chipmunk, and with really bad stitches in her butt.

 My brother and I did not always get along; in fact, there were times we stayed pretty far away from each other.  One thing I have always known is that if there were some kind of trouble and I needed a defender, he would be there for me and I for him.  Siblings might fight each other in petty squabbles, but they don’t allow someone from the outside to step in and go after their brother or sister.

 My girls don’t always get along either, but God help the stupid people out there when someone tries to hurt one of them because the other one will quite literally go after them, hunt them down and make their life miserable. 

 All that being said, I think it is obvious that God puts different people in our lives so that we can learn from them, grow with them, love them, protect them, and to remind us that life should be handled with a sense of humor, a dash of tolerance and a load of patience.  I am thankful for my family mixture of personalities.

 Cherry Coley ©

Memories of Metal Skates and New Possibilities

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 ©

Things I Wouldn’t Tell My Mom

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 © 

Fear and Ghosts of the Past

No one ever told me that grief felt so much like fear.- C.S. Lewis

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 ©

Childhood Memories

I grew up in a part of Dallas, Texas called Urbandale.  The elementary school we went to, was called Urban Park Elementary and was at one time a military school for boys.  There is still a historical marker at the school, though the original building has somewhat been swallowed up by portable buildings and a huge add on building to accommodate current students. 

 Urbandale was every bit a small town when I was younger.  We had a small grocery store, a little downtown area with a Motts 5 and 10 store, Rexall Pharmacy, a Dairy Queen and a gas station.  I can remember many days of walking to the Pharmacy, Motts, then Dairy Queen with mom and my brother.  In fact, Dairy Queen was one of the places my dad liked to go out to eat.  He enjoyed the steak finger basket and a chocolate dipped icecream cone on many occasions.  I still love Dairy Queen and that their menue hasn’t changed that much.  You can still order those things on their menu even now.  Our other favorite place was Rexall’s Pharmacy.  I still remember the taste of the ice cream floats from Rexall’s soda fountain bar area.  The way it was set up always reminded me of a scene out of Happy Days.

 In the late 1970’s Urbandale grew a bit and put in a hand wash / car wash and a Hunt’s Hamburgers too!  It was the beginning of a turning point for the neighborhood, the competition for Dairy Queen, but we didn’t really know that then. 

In the middle of the neighborhood where we lived there was a wonderful little candy shop set up in a house.  It was so much fun to walk there.  They had a big window in the front of the house so you could see in to the counters filled with candy and cookies, the parking lot was in the front yard.   It was there that I bought my first big round sucker and had my first taste of rock candy.  They had all kinds of stick candy and liquorice, as well as taffy.  I still love the sickly sweet smell of candy shops, though most cannot compare with the smells in that are embedded in my memories of the first one I ever went in too.

There is a park in the area called Parkdale Park, it looks much different now, but then it had a small playground, a dirt walking trail, fields to play in, a baseball diamond, a small concrete swimming pool, and a natural pond that would fill up more in the spring time and support a healthy helping of frogs and minnows, as well as a few picnic areas.  The whole area was kept very clean because people cared back then and took care of parks.  There was a man who became known as the Guardian.  I never knew his name that I can remember, but he was always at the park and people would let their kids go there because he was there all day and if something happened he would take care of it. 

 Between that tiny pool, where your feet would feel raw after you got out of it because it was such rough concrete, and the YMCA I learned to swim at a young age.  The pool at that park was really too small to teach more than a handful of kids at a time to swim in.  Mostly they just had free swim days.  The whole pool was about four feet deep.

I often played with other kids in the pond, catching tadpoles to take home to my (not so thrilled) mom.  She would set up a little habitat in a glass pie pan using pond water, a few rocks and maybe a small stick or two to make it look interesting.  It’s wasn’t but a couple of weeks after watching the tadpoles grow arms and legs and then (oops) start hopping all over our den, that mom decided we should have used an aquarium instead.  Boy did she get mad at me when she found baby frogs hopping on her kitchen floor!

My generation wasn’t so glued to television and video games, we spent a lot of time in community type of gatherings and outside playing. There was a big hoopla when it came time for Vacation Bible School.  It was a huge event at our church with a feast (potluck) included.  Our church had different days throughout the year that were basically just a reason for a church wide potluck lunch because they really loved to eat.  They had “Old Fashioned Day” where the women dressed up to look like characters from Little House on the Prairie and the men all wore overalls and straw hats, they did 50’s days so they could bring out the poodle skirts and leather jackets, and then there were the different holidays along the way as well.  They used to joke about one of the best reasons to come to church was for the food, they were right about that.

As for me, I spent a lot of time climbing that old pecan tree and sitting among the branches, or playing cowboys and Indians with my brother on our bikes in the backyard.

 I miss the innocent days and can’t help but be thankful I grew up in a time where it was still okay to accept a banana fudge popsicle from the ice-cream man, rides from the  milkman, or listen to jokes from the mailman.  It saddens me that my children will never miss those innocent days, because they never really got to experience them, by the time they came along the neighborhood had changed, people had changed, times had changed.  Ah….progress, and more people, we grow in some ways, and lose ground in others, it is just the way of things I suppose. 

It just makes me more determined to take advantage of the time our family does have together, even if we have to be more careful in order to be safe now.

Cherry Coley ©

Lindsey vs. Santa – Gotta Love Christmas!

This is a story about my lovely, youngest daughter Lindsey.  

photo by Cherry Coley

My sister-in-law – Jamie once said (of Lindsey) – “That kid just oozes personality.”  I don’t think I will ever hear of a better description of Lindsey.  She did then and she still does “ooze personality.”  She is, like her sister, a completely different individual, who has from a very young age marched along happily to the beat of her own drum. 

This event took place in December 2000 – When Lindsey was two years old at First Baptist Learning Center in Downtown Dallas.

It was a cold day in early December and I was taking the kids to school.  Casey went to kindergarten and Lindsey was in the two-year old class.  As we were walking through the foyer we saw a large red and gold chair wrapped with green garland and lights, white floor covering and small trees placed around by the chair along with a few wrapped gifts.  Today the daycare had announced they were bringing in Santa for pictures for the kids.  As we walked by Lindsey pointed to the display and said, “what’s that?” 

I said, “I think you are going to have a visitor.”

We walked on through and dropped Lindsey off at her class.  All the kids were dressed in their best Christmas outfits.  Lindsey and Casey had on red matching dresses, white tights and black shoes.  Lindsey immediately ran and got on a Big Wheel and started paddling around the classroom. 

I walked on and took Casey through to the next building to her class.  The kids were making snowmen with cotton balls and black felt.  Casey was excited.  She loved kindergarten.

I waved to Mrs. Penny (the principal) and went downstairs and across the street where I worked in Lincoln Center.

It was about 10:30am that something occurred to me and suddenly I had a sinking feeling.  The day before the daycare had another visitor.  The Crime Dog, McGruff.  He had come by to talk to the kids about “stranger danger.”  He was very thorough and even included a part about staying together at the mall.  The kids had spent the night before coloring the books he had handed out.  “I’m sure it will be okay,” I told myself.

By the end of the day I had not received a call from Penny so I thought things must have went well.  After I got off work I walked back to the Learning Center to pick up the kids. 

I was met at the door by Mrs. Penny.  She looked at me, shook her head and motioned me into her office.  Uh oh.

“I need to tell you what Lindsey did,” she said.

I sat down.

“First of all, Lindsey acted really well this morning.  She was well-behaved and kept her dress nice and clean.  She behaved so well that Ms. Eva made her the leader for the class when they brought the kids down to take pictures with Santa.” She smiled.

I breathed a sigh of relief.  (Lindsey had a habit of stripping if she got too hot.)

“Lindsey led the class in a straight line down the hall and the stairs.  She even helped the teachers tell the other kids to be quiet when they went by the baby rooms.” She went on.  I was feeling better.  This was a good thing!

“Then the teachers opened the glass doors…Lindsey marched through and slammed on her brakes..pointed her finger at Santa and yelled…’STRANGER!’” she tried to look stern, but her lips were quivering in a hidden smile.  “She then screeched at all the kids behind her yelling ‘STRANGER STRANGER!!’ Until she had all of them yelling with her.  They turned and ran back up the hallway, up the stairs and back to the room, where Lindsey turned the latch and locked out both of her teachers.”

“I am…..soooooo sorry,” I whispered.

“So not only did the entire class NOT get their pictures taken with Santa, but we had to make a trip upstairs with the key to open the door, which wasn’t easy since the kids were all leaning against it because Lindsey was telling them to keep the stranger out,” she went on.

“Oh gee,” I said.

“Your daughter is quiet a leader,” she said.

“Um, yes,” I replied, “she seems to be that.”

“Don’t ever let that go away,” she smiled. 

“But….aren’t you mad? I mean, none of the kids got their pictures taken with Santa and she locked the teachers out,” I replied.

“I will have to explain to the parents that perhaps it wasn’t such a good idea for us to have invited Crime Dog McGruff over to do the stranger talk the day before the Santa pictures.” She agreed, “Then I will tell them that the class really paid attention, and that they should not be frustrated, but pleased that the children learned a lesson, even though it caused them an inconvenience.”

“Thank you,” I said.

On the way out the door I asked Casey if she got her picture taken.

photo at FBLC

“I did!” Casey replied and produced a couple of candy canes.  “I even got one for Lindsey cause she ran away.”

Lindsey stopped and looked at her, “You took CANDY from a STRANGER!!”

Casey – “Lindsey, it was Santa!  He comes and brings toys in the house on Christmas Eve!”

Lindsey – “OH MY GOSH!!  I’m gonna stay up and watch for him!”

“Well, you can leave him cookies,” I said.

“WHAT?! YOU CAN’T LET HIM IN MOM!!  HE’S A STRANGER!!  WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE!!!” Lindsey continued to yell as we went down the hallway.  “HE’S NOT COMING IN OUR HOUSE!”

“Mom, is Lindsey going to get coal?” Casey whispered.

…SIGH…

Cherry Coley (c)