Friends

When my girls were little, Bob and I wanted to start bowling. We started looking for a babysitter. I volunteered at the girls’ grade school doing throat cultures, and had seen a girl there who I knew to be the daughter of a man Bob worked with, and they just happened to live out in the country, just about a mile from our house, so it seemed ideal.

Molly was a little young, just in 6th grade, but she had 2 little sisters, Kelly and Jenny, so she was somewhat experienced, and her family lived close by, so if anything went wrong, help would come quickly. The decision was made. We asked her, and she agreed. She would babysit every Monday night, and assorted other days, when we needed her.

My first instincts about Molly were correct. She had some experience…lots of experience. She must have been a great help to her mom and dad, with her little sisters, because she knew what little girls would want to do. She played outside with them when the weather was nice, and inside when it wasn’t. At Christmastime, she would bring paper, glue, and glitter; and the kids would make us pictures to hang up for the holidays. And the best news, she never left us a mess. She even washed the dishes. The house was spotless when we came home. I was stunned, to say the very least! Where do you find a babysitter like that? Almost nowhere!! We were so completely blessed by Molly!!

But, more important than the blessing Molly was to Bob and me, was the blessing she was to our girls. They dearly loved Molly, and couldn’t wait to have her come to babysit the next time. There were never tears when we left, there were smiling waves goodbye. We left our house, knowing that it and more importantly, our children were in great hands.

As the years went by, and our girls no longer needed a babysitter, Molly would go on to college and marriage. She moved to Iowa, and has children of her own. While I haven’t seen her in many years now, I am in touch with her family and hopefully her soon as well, on Facebook. While she has a life of her own now, I hope she knows that we will always have a soft spot in our hearts for the best babysitter we ever had!

Every year a new set of kids delights a new set of parents with the annual school play. Your child might become a mushroom or a spider, a tree or a duck, a sailor or a seal, or maybe the moon or a princess. It really doesn’t matter what they do, they are your child, and you are totally smitten with their ability to act.

Parents hurry into the gym, camera or camcorder in hand, ready to document their child’s big debut…the moment when everyone around them will be thrilled at how cute little ones can be. It doesn’t matter what part our child is playing, because every part is adorable, every child as cute as they can be…especially your child. All the children are adorable, but of course, no child is quite as cute as yours!

The kids are excited, and you can feel it in the air. Giggling from backstage, and shushing from teachers. The gym is quickly filling up, and those poor parents who didn’t arrive at least an hour early, are looking hopefully toward the front of the gym, hoping against hope for two empty seats that might have somehow gone unnoticed, but to no avail. So they move to the back of the gym knowing that if they want good pictures, they will have to get in everyone’s way later by walking up front to get that much coveted picture taking spot.

Finally, the moment arrives! The play begins. Of course, there are mistakes…forgotten lines…and the occasional bout of stage fright, but all in all the play goes off without a hitch, and the mistakes just seem to add to the total cuteness of the play and the audiences enjoyment of the evening. There is the occasional irritation, as some picture taker moves in front of you and blocks your view of the plays most important star…your child, but that is a short moment, but irritating nevertheless.

When the play is over, it is time to meet the stars. The children are gathered in groups on the stage for photo ops, and then they run to their parents to ask what they thought, and receive their much earned praise. And no matter what the other parents think…you know that your child stole the show!

We all do it. Many won’t admit it, but it is true nevertheless. We all hear voices. They are the voices of our past. Our parents, grandparents, teachers, friends…whether they are living or not. Our mind is a big storage facility, a flash drive if you will, that holds the things we have heard, read, seen, tasted and smelled. If you think of a favorite food, that taste will suddenly appear, not as strongly as if you were eating the food, but you know the taste of your favorite food. You know it’s smell. You remember events of your life. Things you have seen, good or bad. They are burned into your memory. You remember stories you have read, or text books, maybe not word for word, but the knowledge you gained is still with you today. And you remember the voices, can even hear them very clearly, of loved ones who have gone on before you, or friends you haven’t seen in a while, teachers from your school days, parents, grandparents, speakers, singers, movie stars and even just the passerby who said something that struck you at the time.

The lessons my dad taught my sisters and me still ring strongly in my head. He told us things like, “Never let the sun go down on your wrath” and “go to church” to teach us the right things to do in life, but the things I remember even more, now that he had gone home to be with the Lord, are the teasing, funny things he said. He would do something, like tug on our hair and then pretend he hadn’t done it. When we would “retaliate” by flicking him with our finger, he would look at us in mock innocence and say, “You struck me!!” We would answer, “I wonder why??” He was an incorrigible tease. He thrived on it, and so did we. His teasing filled our lives with laughter. He never lost that…never. I can still see him coming out of their bedroom in the mornings and the teasing would begin. I would say, “Well, it’s about time!!” And he would shake his finger at me, looking shocked the whole time, that I would say such a thing. Our lives were filled with teasing and innocent pranks. I wouldn’t have it any other way. The pictures they create and the words I hear are with me always. He had an amazing imagination, and you never knew what he might come up with next.

I can also hear the things my favorite teachers said, as well as others who had an influence on me. Sayings with a positive impact are forever tied to the person who said them. I can repeat lines from movies and picture the scene, vividly. Songs I like run clearly through my head, sometimes over and over. Yes, like everyone else, I hear voice…every day. Voices from the past, as well as the present, run like a movie in my head, reminding me of right and wrong…of where I came from…and where I want to be. I would never change the fact that I hear voices.

Today is May Day. Most people think of it as just the first day in May, but to me it has a different memory. It goes back to when I was a little girl, and a tradition that my mom taught us and continued until she didn’t drive anymore.

Every May Day, my mom would help us, her 5 daughters, to make May baskets. We used construction paper to create beautiful and unique baskets. We decorated then with hearts and flowers. Then we filled them with candy. We were ready.

The fun was about to begin. We would take the baskets to the neighbor’s houses, and hang them on the door knob. Then, we knocked on the door and ran to hide. The neighbor had to come and try to find out who left the basket. We would try our very hardest not to get caught. Part of the fun was receiving the candy from a secret friend.

These days no one I know does May baskets anymore. And people don’t dare trust candy unless they know for sure who gave it, so if we did, we would have to make sure they found us. I guess May baskets, like so many other traditions, will live only in my memories now. Sad isn’t it that so much has changed in our world.

So many things that were popular items when I was young and when my kids were young, are now coming back into style. When you are young, you think that the things that are the “newest and hottest” of the day have never been seen before, and sometimes that is true. Computer technology and other such technological items, are probably totally new and your grandparents or more likely your great grandparents had no idea they could exist.

Other things don’t work quite the same way. Fashion is something that really is a “what goes around comes around” item. In my lifetime I have seen the mini, midi, and maxi skirts. I’ve worn big bell, boot cut, straight leg and skinny jeans. Of course, there are hot pants, short shorts, knee length shorts, and Capris, or as we called them when I was little…Petal Pushers. Many of these items will sound familiar to you, as they are still in style or back in style. I suppose it would be hard to continually come up with clothing styles that have never been used before. So they add new prints or colors and present as new, an old style, and every young person thinks, “Wow, this is totally cool and unique!!” But, we know that they are simply recycled, and I remember the days.

This recycling of the old that is presented as new doesn’t stop with fashion. Toys seem to have the same life cycle. Remember the Cabbage Patch Dolls and Strawberry Shortcake. Some toys are always in style, like GI Joe, and Hot Wheels, but some like Cabbage Patch Dolls and Strawberry Shortcake have been archived for a time, only to be pulled out of the box, dusted off, and presented to a whole new group of excited kids. I remember Corrie and Amy and their Cabbage Patch Dolls. They were delighted with them, so when they came back, it was even exciting to me! It doesn’t get better than that for a toy…does it?

Everyone who has been around a while can say that they have seen or used something that went out of style, and now has come back. We know the excitement in the eyes of our kids, while being able to think, “Oh yes, I remember the days!”

We have all at one time or another in our lives, been interested in horses. It just seems to be in our nature. We might go from a rocking horse, to a stick horse, to one on wheels, and eventually to one that is powered by horses. We even name our cars, school mascots, teams, etc, after horses a lot!! There is no doubt…we love horses.

When I was little I had a favorite rocking horse, that I trained to make ruts in my mother’s hardwood floor. We also had a German Shepherd dog named King, that my sisters and I used for our horse…and he was just gentle and kind enough to allow that.

My girls had a stick pony that my father-in-law made for them, which they loved. He gave them the ponies when they were 2 or 3, and they rode them for hours. Oh, the adventures they had! They headed out west, to play Cowboys and Indians…or just rode out across the plains to see what might lay on the other side of the hill…all this of course, in their imaginations, because they never really left the yard. But, that didn’t seem to matter. In their minds, they were explorers, or cowgirls, or just country girls out on a lark. They were on their ponies…just like at Grandma Hein’s ranch.

We went to visit Grandma and Grandpa Hein every summer, and my girls just adored them. Going to their ranch was that adventure come true. They explored the barn and found eggs hidden outside the chicken coop, where the hen was hoping to keep them safe for hatching, and avoid having them used for breakfast. They wandered over that next hill to see what might be there, and found an old play house where they would spend countless hours living in the old west.

And…they would get the chance to ride a real horse once in a while. Grandpa Hein would set them up on a huge horse, bareback, because their feet wouldn’t reach the sturrips on a saddle anyway, and he would lead them around the corral, while in their heads, they would build a story of being a real cowgirl in the old west.

Our trips to Grandma and Grandpa Hein’s ranch every summer were a rare treasure that my girls got to have, and one I will always be glad we gave them. Grandma and Grandpa Hein always made them feel so very special, as they did Bob and me. They were Bob’s grandma and step grandpa, but to us that didn’t matter. Grandpa was just Grandpa, and they were wonderful. We love and miss you both!!

Friends often go in and out of our lives, as our interests change, especially when we are young, but once in a great while, something very rare and very special occurs. That very first friend becomes a forever friend. Such was the case between my daughter, Amy and her friend, Carina. The girls met on the first day of kindergarten, and from that day to this, there has never been a time when they weren’t friends. Carina became so much a part of our lives, and Amy a part of Carina’s family’s, that we both said that they were adopted daughters.

When Amy came home from school that first day, I asked her how she liked school, and all she talked about was her friend Carina. Little did I know that this…Carina, was about to endear herself to our family for life. Rarely did a weekend go by without those girls spending the night one place or the other. They both just became a fixture in the home of the other, and none of us seemed to think it was the least bit odd.

As the years went by, their interests changed, but always seemed to include the other in some way. They both loved gymnastics and later they were both in the Kelly Walsh Dancers. Carina’s career as a flight attendant would take her all around the world, while Amy’s life would keep her right here in Casper, Wyoming, and into her marriage, but no matter how far apart they were, they remained friends. After 9-11, Carina’s life would change again, and bring her back to Casper, and later into her marriage. And now, they are closer than ever.

Once in a while, a rare friendship occurs, and that is what happened between two little girls named Amy and Carina, and our lives would never be the same…and that is just fine with me.

It was raining tonight as we headed over to my in-laws house, and my thoughts wandered back to when I was a little girl. Few things were more exciting on a summer day when I was little than going outside in the rain. All you needed was an umbrella, because after all, that was what they were for, right. We would run outside the minute it started to rain, hoping for it to rain really hard so the water would run rapidly down the gutter. And once it did, we would be out there splashing along in the water, with boots on and an umbrella over our heads. I’m sure it made a funny picture.

Why is it that we all seem to have an obsession with the rain. My daughter, Amy can’t wait for the rain to come. If at all possible, she immediately goes out driving in the rain. She is totally at peace when driving in the rain. I think many of us have some of our fondest memories built around the rain. It’s got this hold on us somehow. Even when the lightning flashes and the thunder rolls, the rain is captivating. It has a peaceful feel that is beyond compare.

Tonight while driving in the rain, my mind wandered back to those days, so long ago, when all was right in my world. Nothing would ever change…I was just sure of it. And whenever it rains, I get that feeling all over again. It’s like when it rains everything is clean and new again. The world seems to renew itself.

Like that little girl playing in the rain that I once was, I still love the rain. Everything smells fresh and clean. And I feel free and at peace. It just doesn’t get any better than that.

Every year Bob and I take a vacation to go to the National Bowling Tournament. This year it is in Reno, Nevada. Every year we go with the hope of Bob’s team doing well. Some years are great and some…well not so good. But, no matter how they bowl, we always have a good time. Bob and I have made it a tradition to take the whole week even though he only bowls two days, and then only for a couple of hours. We have had the opportunity to go a number of places that way, and still give him the chance to bowl in the tournament.

It is a very exciting thing to come and bowl in nationals. They make a big production of it by bringing the bowlers out in a big procession, set to music, and with everyone clapping and cameras snapping pictures. Then the practice begins. After 10 minutes, the National Anthem is played and the competition begins. This year has not proved itself to be a hot year for Bob, so far, but there is hope until it is over. He came in with a 212 average, so bowling badly really hurts the team.

So far, it looks like this year will be one of those years. There has not been a lot of cheering going on…anywhere in the bowling stadium. The scores are all pretty low, and everyone is trying to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it, but that doesn’t dampen the spirit of these men. At the beginning of the final game of the team event, it has become very obvious that there is not much hope for a good showing, but even though they are discouraged, they continue to encourage each other, and have a good time. That is just how these guys are. And there is always tomorrow and the doubles and singles event. Hopefully they will have a better showing then.

When I was a kid, the summertime would bring hours of playing outdoors. All the neighborhood kids would be involved. We didn’t watch a lot of television, and video games didn’t exist. We used our imaginations, coming up with crazy games like “ditch it” in which we would all play in the yard, until a car came up the street. The first person to see it would yell “ditch it” and everyone would drop on the grass. This game was always played after dark, so the cars couldn’t “see” us when we dropped to the ground. The idea was that the cars were obviously the “bad guys” and we were the “good guys”. Of course, we had no idea what the “bad guys” had done, because we had never really thought the game through to figure that out.

We would play “hide and seek” for hours on end. When you live in a neighborhood fille with kids, there were always enough kids to make the game interesting. An unusual thing in our neighborhood, was an unusual amount of families with all girls. There must have been 4 or 5 families with all girls, and at least 3 more with mostly girls, so we had plenty of people to play house, jacks, jump rope, and other girl games. The kids simply dominated the block all summer.

Because we lived in a different time, you could play outside well after dark, and your parents didn’t have to give it a second thought. We were usually allowed to play outside until 9:00 pm to 10:00 pm. There just wasn’t anything to worry about. When I think back on that time, I feel sad, in a way, because our children today can’t safely play outside late at night, because you just don’t know who is out there.

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