Posts Tagged ‘love’

A Child is Born

December 11, 2014

A Child is Born

I wonder what Mary thought when she held Jesus in her arms for the first time. Was she afraid of what the world might bring to her boy? Was she ecstatic at the thought of what her boy might bring to the world? She wrapped him in swaddling clothes, laid him in a manger, and ultimately, she gave to the world the best gift she was ever given. Mothers do that.

2014 has been a year to embrace and think about the children in our lives. Last December Bruce suffered a massive heart attack and we came to realize that no matter how old a person is, he is still his mother’s baby, and Gladys almost lost her youngest. A mother never stops worrying.

Thirty-four years ago, my Mama watched her nineteen year old baby get married. Until that moment, it had been the two of us against the world. I left her, and didn’t understand her loss. I was supposed to grow up and go away, start my own life. That, I understood.

This year, my oldest baby left home and got married. I suddenly understood much more of my Mama’s experience. I sat in the attic, staring at Ben’s baby pictures, crying. He stood at the bottom of the steps, looking up at me. “Mama, why are you crying?”

“Because you are leaving your entire childhood behind,” I said, but what I meant was, “You are leaving us, leaving me.”

He hugged me tight, shaking his head and patting my back. Then, he moved to Maryland to be with his own true love, Emily, a beautiful girl who brings light, love, and joy to our Ben. We couldn’t have asked for a better partner for our boy.

When Ben left, I called my Mama. Of course, she understood my loss, and let me cry on her shoulder. “Children are meant to grow up and go away,” she said. “You do the best you can to raise them, then you let them go.”

Now, when my nineteen year old Ryan hugs me, I’ve taken to holding onto him a little tighter and a little longer than I used to. Time moves forward, and children grow up. They grow up fast, and then move on to have children of their own.

In early February 2015, our Emily will become a mother, and bring to the world her greatest gift, her son, Ben’s son, our grandson.

I arranged the nativity set last night as I do every year. With the animals, wise men, and shepherds gathered round, I placed Joseph, then Mary, and finally Jesus in the stable. I took a long time to look at Mary as she looked down at her sweet baby in the manger. I marveled at Mary’s love, a special love, a love that never ends, a mother’s love.

We’d like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, and a Very Happy 2015.

Advertisements

For the Love of a Trailer

February 20, 2011

We’re sitting at the kitchen table.  My eyes are closed as I savor the smell and  taste of my first cup of morning coffee.  I have a whole day ahead of me with no plans.  Bruce has his nose up close to the screen of his Mac.  He’s reading  the specs of some piece of heavy equipment out loud.  I’m not paying too much attention. He does this a lot.

“Look, I found one in Alleghany County,” he announces, turning the laptop around so I can see.  “It’s what we’ve been looking for.”

I focus my attention to the rusted hulk on the screen. “I haven’t been looking for a trailer, you have.”

“Ok, I found the one I’ve been looking for.  Its tongue is longer. It’s more heavy duty.  It’ll carry the backhoe.”

“We already have two trailers,” I say. “They look big and heavy enough to me.”

He looks at me and sighs.  This is where he usually starts talking like he’s explaining something to our youngest son, in simple words with bulleted specifics.  I’m not interested in the explanations. I give up listening, and leave to start putting together my day pack for the trip.  

We head out a half hour later toward Clifton Forge, that’s the location listed in the online Government auction. We’ve been there before.  We honeymooned at Douthat State Park, just outside of Clifton Forge thirty years ago.  Our cabin was a rustic log structure with a huge fireplace.  I remember spreading a blanket there and eating our first meal together picnic style. The food was left over from our wedding reception. The bubbles in the champagne tickled my nose. At nineteen, I wasn’t old enough to drink legally, but my new husband was. We planned that honeymoon week and our entire life together that night.   

Clifton Forge is a small railroad town set in the midst of the Alleghany Mountains. Houses and businesses line the sides of Main Street.  At one end is the train depot. I remember that. At the other end is a Community College. That’s new.  I can’t imagine what they teach there, Coal Mine Management, Train Engineering, Principles of Logging?  I’m surprised that there are enough young people living around the tiny town to attend the college. 

I’m more excited about the drive than I am the trailer. The road is straight, the mountains are beautiful and the leaves are turning. It misted rain all night, but the clouds are lifting and the weatherman forecasts sun by afternoon to our west.  I pack the camera and two books.  I never know exactly how long a three hour trip will take.  Ones in the past have sometimes carried over into the next day.

When we leave home, the trailer lists for $365.  We climb up into Bruce’s new dump truck, my first time in it, two steps up, grab bar, hoist self, sitting on top of the world. This dump truck dares smaller vehicles to pull out in front of it. It’s a diesel road tractor with air horns. When Bruce makes a decision, he goes all-the-way-big.  We can barely hear each other over the roar of the engine.  I wonder why the International even has a radio.

We bump along the interstate.  The further west we drive, the lighter the sky becomes, but clouds still hang low and drift along the tops of the mountains.

“Help me watch for the exit,” Bruce says. 

I’ve been taking pictures from the passenger window, but the side mirror is hindering my artistic abilities.  I’m glad for the diversion.  The Dabney S. Lancaster Community College is at Exit 150-B in Clifton Forge.  I’m amazed that Clifton Forge warrants two exits. 

“There it is,” I say.  “At the end of the ramp, take a right.”

As we pull off the interstate, the entrance to the school is right there. The road dead ends at the school.

Bruce follows the parking lot around to the rear of the college until he finds what looks like a buildings and grounds garage. It turns out to be the welding shop.  Students are busy at work, helmets donned, sparking metals together.  A man hurries out to Bruce and points him in the direction of the saw mill.  That’s where the trailer waits.

We backtrack to a small gravel path, just wide enough for the dump truck. It’s  guarded by a Keep Out sign.  Bruce drops into a lower gear and we descend a steep hill.  A saw mill appears on the left, students at work there too. A bulldozer and log truck with knuckle boom watch us from the parking lot.  A tree planter squats in the bushes. Bruce pulls up to the trailer, where it lies dying in the weeds, tires flat, metal rusted, floor rotting. It’s worse than the two we already have. Even I can see that. We couldn’t even drag it home if we bought it.  We’d have to have a trailer to haul it.

Bruce drops down to the ground, and I struggle, trying to find my footing on the steps, grabbing for the handle to ease my landing.  We walk over to the trailer.

“It’s ugly and broken,” I say.

“Let me measure it,” Bruce says.

How he finds promise in this wreck, I can’t imagine.   I get back in the dump truck and open my book.  My decision is already made.  Leave the monstrosity here.

It takes Bruce an hour to inspect the behemoth.  He puts on his coveralls, takes out his tape measure and begins calculating.  He’s busy with numbers and schematics.  He lifts parts, slides under on his back, shines a flashlight, measures some more and decides it could work.

“Needs fixing, but it’ll work. We can’t haul it away like it is,” he says.  “We’ll have to pull it out into the parking lot, repack the bearings….”  I’ve stopped listening. I shake my head and wonder again just why I married this man.

He pulls himself up into the truck and starts the engine. “I’m taking you to lunch,” he says.  “Where do you want to go?”

We had stopped at the Outdoor People Store in Clifton Forge for fishing supplies on our honeymoon.  It was right across Main Street from the C&O Railroad Depot Restaurant. Lunchtime sent us in that direction.   It was a small, square, block building next to the railroad tracks. The interior was bright and clean with a lunch counter and several small wooden tables dotting the tile floor. We opened the door to the tinkle of a bell and the aroma of fresh baked biscuits drew us in.   The food was almost as good as what came out of my Mama’s kitchen.

“I wonder  if the C&O Depot Restaurant is still there,” I say.

Bruce heads in that direction  The small building is still there, feeding railroad workers and townsfolk.  The door bell tinkles, and I’m nineteen again, just married and hungry.  A sign boasts Today’s special:  Chicken and Dumplings, mashed potatoes, green beans, biscuit, all comfort food.  A glass case displays home baked apple, cherry and peach fruit pies. We decide on two specials with sweet tea.  Bruce orders cherry pie. I choose apple. We sit at the counter and watch trains filled with coal roll slowly by the window. 

As we eat our meal, we reminisce about our time spent here years ago.  Bruce taught me how to bait a fishing hook, and fry the catch over an open fire.  I taught him how to make a bed, only to have it in complete disarray a few minutes later.  We laughed, talked, and made plans for a house, and babies.   He lifted me up under my arms and sat me on the hood of his truck.  He laid his head in my lap and told me he didn’t know he could be so happy.  I was a tiny thing back then.  Thirty years later, we’ve spread about the middle and  we’re contemplating broken-down trailers.

Bruce takes out his wallet, pays the tab, leaving a few bills for a tip.  We head to the truck and turn toward home. The auction ends at seven p.m. and the drive is several hours long.  At exit A, Bruce unexpectedly veers right,  and turns in the direction of Douthat State Park.  At the entrance, he pays the fee and we rattle over the speed bumps toward the dam and cabins.  It hasn’t changed in thirty years. We park in the lot overlooking the lake.  The sun has come out and the wind has picked up. The ripples on the lake sparkle and a few boats float here and there on its surface. 

“Want to get out and walk around some?” Bruce asks me.

“Sure, that would be nice.”

He opens the door to the truck and hops down.  I reach over, lock his door, slide my purse under the seat, and turn to open my door.  Bruce is standing there waiting.  He reaches up, puts his hands under my arms and lowers me to the ground.  He kisses me and we walk hand in hand toward the path to the lake.

“Wonder if they have a cabin open tonight?” he asks.

“What about your trailer?  The auction ends at 7:00.”

“We’ve already got two trailers,” he says. “I can do without another one for awhile longer.”

Now I remember why I married this man.

The Pawn Shop

January 9, 2011

We don’t do “new.” I’m not sure whether it’s born in us or if it’s leaned behavior, but we don’t know how to go into a Big-Box store and buy something with dangle tags or peel off stickers. No unopened box with Styrofoam protected item for us. We’re on a treasure hunt. Our cars, clothes, tools, and furniture are all second, third or forth hand. Today we go in search of a chain saw at the pawn shop.

“The pawn shop?” I ask. Pawn shops sell used guitars, bongo drums, stereo systems, used wedding band sets and wicked looking knives in leather sheaths. Going to look for a chain saw in the pawn shop sounds to me like going to look for a set of pots and pans, or high thread count sheets, a wasted trip.

“I called,” Bruce said. “It’s a used Steihl, five hundred dollars, worth a drive for a look.”

“I might ride with you,” I say. I haven’t been to a pawn shop since we stopped at one on a whim coming back home from the beach.

“OK,” Bruce says. “Ben’s going. He said he’d drive.” Ben’s looking for a deal on some electronic gadget I’m sure. He has the buy-used gene too.

When we leave, it’s sunny outside, but cold. I wish I had wrapped a scarf around my neck. All four of us squeeze into Ben’s Explorer. At ten o’clock on a Saturday morning, Ryan is usually immersed in dreamland under a quilt, but he’s in the back seat, leaned against the car door, face covered to the nose by his hoodie. I’m not sure of his motivation, but know he has one.

Bruce is a no-nonsense shopper. He pulls his cap down, focuses his attention straight ahead, ignores all flashy bargain signs, and trudges to the item of interest. The rest of us browse.

I look into the glass jewelry case at the rows of engagement and wedding rings, sad symbols of lost love. Someone working in the shop has shined the tarnish off. The gold circles and diamonds sparkle. “Who would buy those, Mom?” Ryan asks, then lowers his voice an octave to simulate a man. “Come on Honey, let’s go down to the pawn shop to buy some divorced couple’s rings, see if we can make them work a second time around.”

Farther down the case is an assortment of belt buckles. Two especially gaudy ones are six inches across and four inches tall, proclaiming “ELVIS” in silver letters. “You know, today is Elvis’ birthday,” Ben says, always a font of historical facts and useless trivia. “Maybe we should buy them to wear in tribute.”

Both boys walk around looking at bicycles, scooters, a motorcycle that Ben swears he could resell for four thousand dollars at school. Everything wears price tags higher than we are willing to pay.

Ryan wanders off to a case in the back of the store. There’s a young man next to him in a wheelchair. The two of them are surveying the contents of the case. They are pointing and talking. Ben and I wander over to Bruce as he barters for the chainsaw.

“It doesn’t even have a chain break,” Bruce says.

“A chainsaw just like this one is selling on ebay for four hundred-fifty dollars, with three days to go,” the salesman says.

“When I left home, it was listed for four-thirty, and it has a chain break,” Bruce says.

“You can buy a chain break,” the salesman says.

“Yeah, but that adds another fifty dollars to the cost.”

“Let me go check my books,” the salesman says, slipping around us and heading to the back of the store.

Bruce looks at me and shakes his head. “It’s older than I want and doesn’t have a chain break.”

The man returns. “I can’t go lower than four seventy-five.”

“Thanks for your time,” Bruce says shaking the man’s hand.

“Here let me give you my card in case you change your mind,” the man offers.

“Thanks,” Bruce says putting the man’s number in his pocket. Ben and I follow him out the door.

Halfway down the block, Bruce turns around. “Where’s Ryan?”

“I thought he was behind us,” I say.

“I’ll go back and get him,” Ben says.

Bruce and I stand together, huddled, backs to the cold wind and wait for the boys. “I’ve decided I don’t like pawn shops,” I say.

“Why? I’ve found some good deals in pawn shops over the years,” he says.

“It’s sad,” I say. “people taking their belongings into the place to trade for some small amount of money.” I look down at my wedding and engagement rings.

“You know, a long time ago, I got those…” he starts.

Our attention is drawn to the the boys as they hurry toward us. Ryan is waving a bag. “Hey look what I got,” he says, pulling a video game from the bag. “Half the price you pay at Best Buy.”

“You got what at the pawn shop years ago,” I ask Bruce.

“Never mind,” he says, putting his arm around me as we walk to the car.

Twenty-nine and Holding

January 2, 2010

  I woke this morning to a hot cup of coffee presented to me in bed. It was a nice way to start my anniversary. My husband is a good man.  He isn’t romantic, doesn’t sing or recite poetry, rarely tells me he loves me, but brings me coffee, changes the oil in my car, plows the path for me to explore, and sometimes cooks. He goes about life quietly doing.  A hug from him wraps me in security I can count on. I hadn’t had much of that before he came along. I take him for granted.

       Few of my friends have been married twenty-nine years. One asked, “How have you tolerated the same man for so long, doesn’t he get on your nerves?”

      “Sure he does,” I said. “I’ve finally learned that his workday begins at daylight and ends at dark, “evening” means anytime after the noon hour, and “Ask your Mama” is his way of being supportive in raising children. Oh, and he snores.”

      My friend shakes her head. She doesn’t understand my marriage.  She never will. She thinks I should be bored.  She exhales excitement about her third marriage. The latest man is tall, has hair on his head, and his chest, drives a BMW and sky dives.  

      Then, she complains about the blendedness of her family. “His cell rings. It’s his ex. Every other weekend is his son’s soccer followed by his daughter’s ballet.”

   My friend doesn’t like receiving children mid-raising.  They don’t love her on contact. They wear shoes on her carpet and leave water rings on her coffee table.  Vacations are not relaxing. Her hair needs color and her nails are chipped.

      The equations that make up her life take me back.  I come from a long line of complications.  Multiple relationships flung themselves at me when I was growing up.  I spun around, trying to catch all the strings that tied me to parents, step-parents, step-siblings, and sets of grandparents. 

     “I just want to find that simple love I missed out on the first time,” my friend laments.

      I want to tell her, but don’t, that nothing about relationships is simple, and they get more complicated with endings, new beginnings, additions, subtractions, divisions and multiplications. There is no simple love. 1+1 rarely equals 2.  Love takes sweaty effort, a good sense of humor, and some luck.

     As I leaned back against the headboard this morning, holding my cup, I decided I’m happy. The payment I receive for the toil in this marriage is measured in my son’s excitement at hitting a baseball, in the comfortable quiet as I sit next to my husband watching the sun set behind the Blue Ridge, and in tablespoons of fresh ground coffee.  No words are needed. I don’t want a man with a fancy car or one who jumps out of planes. I want one who plows a path for me to grow, and brings me a cup of coffee in the morning.