What We Need

Everyone needs help.  There isn’t one of us alive who – at some time in our lives – won’t rely on help from others.

Clearly, we need help in our youth.  Baby to eighteen is a time when most humans need loving care and support from a variety of individuals starting with parents and ending nowhere in sight.  Caregivers, teachers, neighbors, friends, extended family members – There are just too many individuals to mention, and yes, it does take a village – or as I often call it a boatload of folks all rowing in the same direction – to help one person reach the average and usual milestone of adulthood – which often times stretches well beyond eighteen.

We need help during the middle of our lives.  The help we receive is much different than the diaper-changing, hand-holding, tuck-me-in / keep-me-safe assistance we received in our youth.  Often times, we need that gentle push behind us, telling us that our next steps are okay.

We need to know that there is a safety net – strong and wide – even though we have no intention of using it, hopefully.  We need comfort when we make mistakes.  We need to be reminded to laugh when we want to cry, and to cry when we think we can’t.  We need to know that the village is still there, that it hasn’t left us, but is instead standing with us like a herd of elephants at the ready.

During the end of our lives, from what I can see, we need a substantial amount of help, too.  I have watched far too many parents, aunts, uncles, friends and acquaintances reach a different life milestone, the one that is way beyond that middle part, further to what is that end part.  When facing the end, we need help with almost everything, again.

It seems like we actually need more than the village and the herd.  The needs become so great that it isn’t the number of individuals in the village that matters or the size of the elephants in the herd, rather a combination between the two plus time.  We need the village and herd to offer buckets of time and more buckets of time.  And as the journey of life becomes more and more complicated, we need them to double those time buckets again and again.

Caregiving – at any stage – youth, middle, end – isn’t easy.  We all know that it requires skill, patience, attentiveness, and mental acuity that keeps us one step ahead of the people for whom we offer care.  It also takes great models.

It has been my great fortune to have witnessed some of the best – a friend who cared for her dying brother, offering up nearly a year of her life for his care . . . a brother who opened up his home to my father for months. . . my parents who opened up their home (which was my home, too, at the time) to nearly every relative – young and old – who needed anything for any length of time.

I have watched friends adopt children with disabilities, relatives foster teenagers who lack family and guidance, acquaintances move from their homes and devote portions, and sometimes all, of their lives to the care for those in poverty-striken countries.  One of my cousins just recently and reluctantly detailed his work with a local homeless shelter.  He is out caring for those who can not care for themselves a couple miles from his home.  Impressive.

After a couple of years pondering this particular issue  – I am on the slow but sure train –  I have learned that throughout the time that we are caring for the needs of others, we actually are in need ourselves.  Though our needs as caregivers are quite different from the needs of those requiring the care, we still have needs.

We need time to refresh.  This need is perhaps the most common and the most apparent.  Ask any individual caring for the 0-18 set.  After hours, weeks, months of meeting the needs of youth, even the best of caregivers needs break time, recess for adults, a pause moment.  If this time comes with a little solitude – all the better!  Sometimes it only takes a few seconds, sometimes longer to refresh, but we need to refresh.

Call it a coffee break or a vacation.  Whatever it is called, I am a strong advocate for allowing folks who are going above and beyond in their offering of  service to others . . . time.  I am all for a national holiday that celebrates the efforts of those who so selflessly attend to the needs of others.  Call is Bravo Day – and let everyone helping others rest.  It is such a lovely idea, but of course, impossible to do, because we know that caregiving actually has no holiday.  So much for refreshing!!

We also need some type of confirmation that what we are doing is worthy.  Confirmation is different from refreshing.  All of us can provide confirmation.  That confirmation can emanate from the person receiving the care, from the rest of the village members who are also assisting, or from those who are simply watching from the sidelines.  Regardless of source, we need to know that we are of benefit, that we help, that we make a difference.

Even if we are humble, private or modest, we still need affirmation of our efforts.  That affirmation can be as small as a pat on the back, a wink of the eye, a card in the mail, or an utterance of two very powerful words that can never be used enough.  We need it.

So, thank you.

Thank you to every single person who is doing anything to help anyone else.  Thank you for being great parents.  Thank you for being great friends.  Thank you for taking care of someone who is in need.  Thank you for being part of the village and a member of the herd.  Thanks from the bottom of my heart. Please know that I need you.  We need you.  The world needs you.

Flowers

A Moment of Refresh – Missouri Botanical Garden April 2016

 

 

 

A Poem As Lovely As a Tree

I have never met a tree that I did not like.  In fact, there is something about them that takes my breadth away.  The budding in Spring, the flowering in Summer, the color bursts of Fall, and their barren branches throughout all of Winter – all stages amaze me.  Simple, complicated, tall, small, evergreen, deciduous, alive, dead – I like them all.

Though I do not live in the heart of a forest, I am fortunate to have a south facing bedroom window that overlooks the woods.  Every morning and night, I take a peek at the trees – just to see what is happening.   Yet, the time spent double-checking those trees twice a day for 30+ years still hasn’t helped me with my general tree knowledge.  I have no idea what type of trees are out there – perhaps oak, or maybe maple, possibly walnut.  I’m just not sure. Dendrology isn’t my forte.

I know much simpler details. I know they have grown.  I know there are young ones and old ones.  I know their noise, and I know their quiet.   I just like them, all.

Growing up in suburbia America, my family had their fair share of trees.  There was the token large tree in the front yard, the evergreen trees that lined the house, and the three or four trees strategically planted in the back yard for shade.  As a child, I absolutely abused those back yard trees – climbing, building, hacking, pushing, breaking.  I did everything to those trees, but appreciate them.

Now, I do.

I enjoy the quiet they bring – not in terms of sound, but in terms of life.  There is something about walking through snow covered trees in the middle of winter – alone.  It is more than quiet.  It is calm and peaceful – two sensations that are normally difficult to achieve simultaneously but easy for me to find with winter trees. They offer no words of wisdom.  They speak only metaphorically. But for some reason their calm and peaceful quiet always provides a crazy-fun adventure.

I enjoy how they depict time – their uncanny ability to show me the circle of life in just a short twelve months.  With trees, I am reminded each year of how life moves from green to brown to bare to rebirth – a microcosm of the human lifespan.  From them, I am reminded that time is more than hours, days, weeks.  Time = seasons.  Not sure why I like this thought: I just do.

I enjoy what I have learned about anticipation. I anxiously await the blooming of the Bradford Pear trees that ring my college campus in Spring, and the show of color in the back yard woods each Fall, and even the gloomy bark-only look of those same trees in Winter.  I believe I enjoy the time of anticipation nearly as much as the time of arrival.

I know that in my wonderings about trees that I have certainly learned a little.  I have learned that there is beauty and majesty in most everything, that the world right outside my back window is utterly amazing, that the simplest of objects can cause the most complex of thoughts, that I clearly have way too much time on my hands, and am thankful that I do.

Happy New Year

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A Very Decorated Tree at the Missouri Botanical Garden

The Untold Stories of the Word of the Year

“Challenge.  It’s my word for 2015,” she said.

At that moment, for reasons I cannot explain, we knew that the conversation to follow would be memorable.  It was just clear that the four of us had moved from frivolous, fun, no-direction chatter to a much higher, sequential, magical plane.  We were about to discuss life and its importance. And from my vantage point, we weren’t disappointed with what followed.

Her plan was to select one word.  Just one word.  She would use that one word as a guide, a beacon for her journey from January until December.  She offered no additional rules, and asked if we wanted to participate.  Just choose one word and keep a steadfast focus on that word until the end of the year.  We all nodded in agreement.

In less than one week, my three friends had landed on their words: Challenge . . . Change . . . Zen, all intriguing, inspiring, daring, complex choices. But, within the same week,  I was still in some type of holding pattern.  Wordless.

Along with starting off 2015 searching for the right word, it just happened that I had been reading some very interesting writing.  A blog, familiar to me in the year past, was detailing circumstances in countries beyond my experiences.  The topics varied from post to post with what I identified as a golden thread of humanity holding it all together.  I would see the photos and read the words, and quickly my mind was blurring with thoughts.

Suddenly, I had a plethora of potential 2015 word possibilities: free, help, center, food, happy, others, world, poverty, irony, give, get, lost, woman.  The more I read, the more words floated to the top.  Now, my problem was no longer a lack of words; it was finding and selecting the right word from the crowded list.

Hmmm . . . what to do . . . .

Though my friend provided no particular rules, by default there seems to be a couple.  First, the one word that I choose must fit all occasions.  It must be able to balance between moments of distinct joy and happiness as well as moments of considerable pain and sadness.  The word must be able to lead me to new adventures, remind me of the difference between good and evil, give me an anchor when I need it, and allow me to laugh, love, and learn throughout an entire year.  It should be bold, blessed, and at times, comical . . . humorous . . . fun.   It should have an intent.

Even with knowledge and consideration of such rules, the days of 2015 began to pass in rapid succession without me finalizing my pick.  I truly was headed towards a million choices and not the selection of one, floundering in a pile of words, until . . . today.

In an odd moment early this morning, I found my word.  I happened to be walking through a snow-covered field at 7:45am.  It was a quiet moment.  The snow had settled, the morning had no wind, and the hour was too early for any traffic. The sun was peeking over a ridge of barren trees and a lonely bird swooned overhead.  It was a picturesque moment, an outdoor winter splendor.

A Crazy-Funny Winter Moment

A Crazy-Funny Winter Moment

Regardless of the extent of the beauty before me, my attitude was not following in kind.  My feet were cold, my shoes were wet.  The 6+ inches of snow buried the trail for my walk, and each step felt like I was trudging through cement moments before it solidified. My iPod blared out all the wrong music, but with a temperature below zero, I wasn’t about to remove my gloves to change it.  And the struggle in walking through the mounds of snow was causing me to be what I thought was late for my eventual rendezvous with my family – who were all comfortably inside about two miles away.

In that moment, at that time, just as my frustrations were nearly getting the best of me, it happened.  After nearly fifty days and after some interesting thinking on my part, I found that one word that I could hang my hat on for the rest of 2015.  As a matter of course, the one word is actually two, but its essence fits the bill.

So for 2015, I am going with crazy-funny.

For good or for bad, I have a tendency towards the serious side of things.  No doubt, I often see the world as having many challenges and problems.  And I know, deep in my heart,  that I must do all I can to help solve and resolve issues that press at all humans.  I must focus on the greater good at all times, lending all of my talents and treasures to such. It is easy to know that I all should do so.  But it is difficult to follow through with that focus for all of us. –  always.

That’s where my word crazy-funny works for me.

As I seek the greater good, I can see that it is important to laugh – laugh at myself, at life, at the crazy-funny situations that happen each moment.  This morning, I had chosen to walk to my destination through that snow-covered field.  I should have known that the entire experience was going to be nothing more than a crazy-funny circumstance and have expected nothing more.

Once I started to laugh at the strange pickle I was in, (wading through piles of snow with an attitude that was creating a huge weight around my neck), my trek became my pleasure.  It was a classic crazy-funny moment.  It just depended on how I looked at it.  Seeing it as crazy-funny made it so.  Still the same amount of snow, still the same distance, still the same challenges with walking, but it was all different because of the way I interpreted it.

I am hoping that my word choice will allow me  – and force me – to look at my 2015 with a truly different vision. Here’s hoping that I can hold onto the crazy-funny year ahead of me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature and History

The view was nothing shy of spectacular.  And it was certainly not what I had expected to see.  I stood quietly with my companions for what can be described as more than awhile – with only the steady clicks of our cameras interrupting the silence.

The day was ending with evening approaching much more quickly than any of us desired.  Soon our tour would be over, and the six of us would be headed back from whence we came.  Thankfully, from beginning to end, the weather had kindly cooperated, offering us a smattering of sunshine, wind, clouds, and rain.  Eighty degrees and balmy would have been ideal, but autumn is a season of surprise when it comes to outdoor conditions, and we were prepared.

In the last of the moments, I still had not come to terms with the landscape surrounding me.  The cliffs were more than beautiful; the water calmly lapping their edge.  A lone bird was swirling back and forth, seeming to have no particular destination.  And it was quiet . . . so quiet.

I thought I was going to see something quite different.  In fact, I was most positive that the experience was going to be one hundred and eight degrees away from what the experience actually was.  Part of my quiet was due to my inability to quickly move from my past expectation to my current reality.

I knew that to visit this site meant that I would be stepping on ground where many – too many to count – had died before me.  I just didn’t know what to expect.  World War II started and ended well before I was born with every subsequent generation since June 6th, 1944 having chronicled the horrific battles that transpired on and near Omaha Beach.  All six of us had studied the history well in preparation.  But, it absolutely did not prepare me.

I saw magnificent colors in the water swells.  I saw green, moss-covered cliffs with auburn, crimson, and turquoise hues.  I saw a blue and white-painted sky with moments of gray pushing towards shore.  I saw serenity, peace,and calm.  I saw majesty.

I listened as our most reverent tour guide spoke about lost lives on Omaha Beach.  He mentioned those who scaled the cliffs in twenty minutes and survived both the climb as well as enemy fire. And he mentioned those who did not survive.  He described the men who exited their boats and headed towards sure-death on the beach.  He described the deafening sounds of that day, as all sorts of explosives were launched from sea to shore and shore to sea.  The more he spoke, the more I realized that all the ground around me – as well as the tiny piece beneath my feet – held the memory of the death of many.  My heart ached – and still does ache – for all of those who died in pursuit of freedom for others including me.

Yet, when I looked out towards the horizon, I saw beauty.  In fact, the nearby rock formations were mesmerizing.  Likewise were the sandy shores and the surrounding vegetation. Here and there were tiny cottages, some vacant, some inhabited, all that clearly had stunning views of the Omaha Beach of today.  There were many memorials to those who had fallen in service to their country seventy years earlier, all of which were impeccably landscaped and maintained.  A scenic coastline, serpentine road cut through the hillside, bringing visitors like me to see and experience the history of the area.

I must admit that I still have not come to terms in any way with Omaha Beach’s unbelievable beauty juxtaposed with the reality of the heightened degree of suffering and death that occurred in the same place.

Perhaps the generations that follow me will offer greater clarity and understanding of how we, as humans, can come to some understanding of the balance between nature and history.  I know for me it is something that I will ponder for much time to come.

The Cliffs of Omaha Beach

The Cliffs of Omaha Beach

Positivity – – -ness

“It’s all in his positivity – ness.”

That is the sentence my son uttered and the word that he used.  And when he did, I did the eye-squint double take.  I certainly know what the word positive means.  And I am fairly skilled with the meanings of the common english suffixes. But when he put them all together, I paused.

Since that moment, I have thought long and hard about it.  Positivity – ness. What does it mean?  What does it mean to me?  What should it mean?

Many days, I find that all types of challenges, problems, dilemmas, tests, trials, and conundrums that are just waiting to be explored, solved, eliminated, completed, deciphered, and overcome.  All too often there seems to be far too few hours in the day to properly address everything that is on my short-term list, never mind everything that is on my long-term list!

In fact though I am embarrassed to admit it – but not too proud to face it – two days ago, though it is not something I do often, I did take a small pile of moments out of my day to stop and complain – about the workload in front of me, the mound of seemingly insolvable problems around me, and the lack of my ability to succeed with any of it.  Keep in mind, that I know that I should not be complaining. I know my world is kind, great, and wonderful. I have family, friends, health, security, and more; but, for some reason I took five and whined.

Today, I remembered my son’s word . . . positivity – ness.  It swirled around my mind for a piece of time, and became a little, silent mantra that I heard most of the afternoon.  Positivity – ness. Positivity – ness.  Positivity – ness.  As crazy-funny as it might sound, that most unusual word – a word that seems to have one too many endings – is one very powerful noun.  And for now, it is becoming one stunning part of my vocabulary.

Most vocabulary words have rather concise definitions.  Though not a genius, I can generally rattle off the meaning of everyday, ordinary words lickety-split, and for words that are more complicated, I can usually find sufficient dictionary definitions that are ten words or less.   However, positivity – ness is neither an ordinary word nor one that can be found in the dictionary.  It was one that was created and developed by my third son, the artist.

What I think he meant by it is only a guess.  However, I have had some practice with such word interpretation.  For this particular word isn’t the first that he has invented.  In fact, he has a fleet of great terms plus a few phrases that he has brought to fruition.  Some of his words have brought howls of laughter, some nods of agreement, others quizzical head shakes, all of them joy in the moment. I have truly grown accustomed to new language additions from this most unlikely source.

Positivity – ness is a term, however, that has done more for me than just increased my language.  Its meaning isn’t simple nor short.  I think when that third son invented it, he knew it was a word to be comprehended and understood after a long period of thought. In fact, I think he expected folks around him to consider its meaning and use it appropriately, kindly, and confidently.

Positivity – ness is what it takes to make it through a day when there is nothing else to consider.  Positivity – ness is knowing that we are all challenged each day, but we are also blessed, and it is the blessings that should be the focal point.  Positivity – ness is learning to enjoy and respect the differences within each other.  Positivity – ness is expecting that we will work to change the world in many ways, every day, all of our days.  Positivity – ness is relying on each other for the strength we need when we can’t muster the strength we need ourselves.

Today, I found positivity – ness in the smile on the face of the guy who nodded his head as I jogged past him on a sidewalk near my home town university.  I heard positivity-ness in the voice of my oldest son as he told me about the birth of a friend’s child, seven pounds, two ounces, healthy.  I felt positivity – ness when my golf partner told me about the joy of helping her daughter move into her first new house.  I learned positivity – ness through all of these events and so many more, too many to list, that occurred in one brief twenty-four hour period.

I think the beauty of the definition of positivity – ness is that it can not exactly be defined.  More importantly, as I use the word – positivity – ness – I need to make sure that I use it well and use it right, while undergoing and valuing that quirky unknown meaning sensation.

The world is a great place, filled with opportunity and possibilities.  I hope that I can use my positivity – ness to reach out to others, to find ways to make the ails of the universe fade away.

What a great word.  What a great day.

Positivity - ness from the artist. 2014

Positivity – ness from the artist. 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Changing of the Guard

“Mom, you go first,” she said with confidence.

So I did, and as I looked back at her, I knew times were a-changin’.

The weather was beautiful and the snow was perfect. The slopes were glistening and we were skiing together as we had for the past 25+ years. This year’s ski-adventure started out like all those that preceded it. We arrived at the lift-line a few minutes prior to opening. We secured boots, strapped on helmets, slid on gloves, and clicked into our skis. Moments later, we hopped on the first lift and headed up the slopes. Throughout the initial ride, we chatted briefly about our ski-history . . . the times we had been together on this particular lift . . . the weeks we spent as a family skiing . . . all of the traditions of the past. We smiled because here we were doing it again – skiing for a week, and it was only day one.

Over those past 25+ years, I have learned that she prefers skiing in wide open spaces, in light fresh powder, the faster – the better. Steep downhills don’t phase her, nor does skiing over ice in cold, cold weather. In fact, she is an excellent skier – with the skill and ability to maneuver most any terrain.

At the top of the slopes, we plotted out our first runs – something a little easy to start the day. And for the first hour or so, we traveled back through some of our favorite ski-haunts – pushing powder here and there – gliding and sliding – laughing and chatting.

Finally, we decided to move on to bigger and better runs – something a little more challenging. With the snow conditions perfect and the sun shining, we opted to head to up to the top – to the summit – to see the sights and ski with gusto. A smooth six-person lift took us up. Once off the lift, we stood in awe of what we could see. We were slightly above the treeline – and the Rockies stretched out in front of us for miles and miles and miles.

And there we were paused – looking, watching, thinking – with the feeling that we were standing on top of the world. What we could see was so spectacular that skiing itself took a backseat to the scenery surrounding us. During that moment, time just seemed to stand still with the only sound heard best described by Robert Frost as “easy wind and downy flake.”

“Mom, you go first,” she said with confidence.

So I did.

The slope in front of us was actually a little dicey. Most of the snow at the top had blown off so we were starting out on ice. The second section had been well-skied by others, creating a few navigable moguls. Oddly enough, 500 feet from us, the ski patrol was assisting a young man who looked like he had an unfortunate meeting with a nearby tree. The final section would take us through glades and glades of evergreens until the run flattened out near the bottom.

Skiing is an interesting sport. Any great resort will have terrain for everyone – accommodating both beginners and experts and everyone in between. Most runs have an easy way to the bottom and a challenging, more exciting way as well. Skiers judge their own ability and choose their own paths.

Throughout our ski history, we have always skied following a simple rule – an unwritten and an unspoken one – but a simple one. The strongest skier goes last. If those in front of the last skier encounter challenges beyond their abilities, that strongest skier is a tremendous asset – having the skills to not only self-navigate, but to help navigate others when necessary.

In past years, more often than not, I was the last skier. There were many times when I hauled my children out of ski-misadventures – following them down slopes that were well above their abilities, chasing them down paths through snow-covered trees, fetching runaway skis, and pulling them out of piles of snow after a fall. The last skier.

But with those four simple words, I knew that the times were a-changin’.

I glanced back and saw her standing, confident and proud. She was perched just a few feet away from me and used her ski pole to casually point towards a solid direction that we should take. I nodded equally as casually and pushed myself slightly over the icy start.

The only sound I heard at that point was the swish of my own skis. I knew that she was waiting above me – as I had done for her so many times before – patiently and appropriately, making sure that I wasn’t going to encounter any problem or challenge. It was her turn now and my turn to let her have a turn.

Out of the ice, I hit the short section of moguls, and headed for the trees. I stopped for a brief second and heard snow spraying off of her skies when she stopped immediately behind me. Though nothing outwardly had changed – we typically stopped throughout any ski run, just for fun, laughing, resting, smiling – inwardly much had changed.

Everything in life has its own season, and though my initial response was to delight in seeing her move into a different one, it was also about delighting in my movement as well. I now had another person in my life who was following and watching over me, someone to follow me through my misadventures and fetch my runaway skis. It was the changing of the guard in a part of my life, and all I could think about was all the crazy-fun that would lie ahead for me and for her.

We finished the run with little to no fanfare – which is great when skiing – and hopped right back on the same lift to experience it – one more time, again.

The You Go First Moment

The You Go First Moment

(P.S. – I have been absent from my blog for awhile, but am glad to be back!)

Turn, Turn, Turn

“To everything . . . turn, turn, turn.  There is a season . . . turn, turn, turn.  And a time for every purpose, under Heaven. A time to be born, a time to die, a time to plant, a time to reap, a time to kill, a time to heal, a time to laugh, a time to weep . . .”  The Byrds, 1965.

At the time, it didn’t seem that small.  It just didn’t.  But, I suppose it was. Throughout the normal year, there were eight of us – six children (four boys, two girls) and our parents.  In the summer, however, the number increased.  Our grandmother arrived in May for a two month visit, and our cousin joined us in June for the summer.  And at least once each day – and sometimes two – the entire group would gather around the  wooden kitchen table  – oblong in shape with two benches and two end-chairs  – to eat.  With five to a side and my grandmother and father at the ends, it must have been elbow to elbow.  It just didn’t seem so at the time.

When it started, the home was 888 square feet – not including an unfinished full basement and a backyard. It had three bedrooms, one bathroom, and what would now be called an “eat-in” kitchen.  As I entered my teenage life, my folks expanded the house, tearing down the small bedroom wall to create a living-room/dining room combo, and adding a family room and a larger bedroom. Finally, well after I had moved out, they added a deck which spanned the entire length of the rear of the house.  Again, at the time, none of it seemed small.

There was a need for creativity, however, with only one bathroom and a minimum of eight residents.  On school mornings, showers started early and lasted a few minutes or less if possible.  The house had two sinks and it wasn’t beyond anyone to use the one in the kitchen to brush teeth or wash hair.  As the family aged, my father kindly set up a make-shift shower in the basement – weaving a hose through the ceiling joists, centering it over the floor drain, and encircling it with a shower curtain for as much privacy as a shower in the middle of an open basement could have.   It seemed luxurious and we felt lucky to have two showers.

Throughout the ensuring years, my parents added a large round, above-ground pool in the backyard – right next to the two story tree house, built by my brothers, and eventually secured for safety by my dad.  We had a one car garage which was fine during the time that we only owned one car.  As we learned to drive and bought more cars, we simply parked them in the street as best we could. Everything seemed to fit – nothing seemed too small.

In fact, our small house worked so well that on Christmas in 1976, my parents invited my aunt, uncle, and their four children to stay with us for the holidays. Total home population was fourteen residents, fifteen when my grandma arrived, with my parents welcoming many others on a daily basis to visit with our visitors.  For two weeks, we ate in shifts, showered on a schedule, slept wherever floorspace permitted, and, in general, made concessions on almost everything and anything related to space.  With a Christmas tree and presents filling up an already full family room, the space should have felt tight and cramped.  But again, it did not.

It never did.

Not too long ago, my husband, my son, and I went to that family home to stay overnight.  There were only three of us in the house at the time – as my father was staying at my brother’s house for the evening, and my mother had passed away a dozen years prior.   As we sat at the kitchen table, I thought back to the times when there would be a minimum of an additional five to seven individuals eating dinner in the same space.  Toe to toe, shoulder to shoulder, we would eat, talk, laugh, fight and cry with each other, meal after meal after meal after meal.

Something in the world has changed, however, because looking at that kitchen today with a yardstick and a ruler, it definitely would be considered small. It just would be. In fact, thinking back, there were times when rather than navigating through those sitting at the table,  the best way to walk through the kitchen was to exit out the back door, walk around and enter the front door.

The kitchen may have been small.  The bathroom may have been small.  In fact, the whole house may have been small;  but, what wasn’t small was the life of the folks living in that home.  From that small house, we learned a lot.

We learned to share – everything – closets, clothes, towels, bedrooms, shower space, radios, cars, food – nothing was sacred. In small spaces, individual ownership of things is tough – making sharing a natural, seamless, normal function. I look back on it and recognize that it was a blessing to learn the concept of sharing so prominently and passionately.

We also learned to be flexible.  People – cousins, grandparents, friends – moved in and out of the house all the time. In fact, the house seemed empty without someone staying with the eight of us.  We just shifted, moved, and/or switched places to meet the current needs without fanfare or concern.  A sleeping bag here – a blanket there – add a couple of pillows – and voila – we found the space.  With such flexibility, my parents reaffirmed the idea that it was our family that was blessed – to have so many folks who wanted to live with us.  We were the fortunate ones.  We were the lucky ones.

We learned that there was a time for everything. Everything was scheduled to make sure that life in the house ran like clockwork. Dinner time – 5:00pm.  Shower time – scheduled each morning.  Bedtime – on the half hour after 7:00pm depending on age.  Everything had its own moment, and it was best to capitalize on those moments.

Finally, as I march deeper and deeper into the 21st century, I only hope that I have learned to share well, to be flexible enough, and to know that “to everything there is a time and a purpose, under Heaven.”

At the edge of the world - a big and beautiful place.

At the edge of the world – a big and beautiful place.