My dad never was a man to wear a beard. In fact, he didn’t like how they looked. He always wore a moustache, and we always thought he looked very handsome. In fact, I think that is probably why I like moustaches today, but I don’t ever remember my dad wearing a beard.

He did wear one however…once. It was during the Minnesota State Centennial, and my family lived in Superior, Wisconsin, which is just across the bridge from Duluth, Minnesota. One of the event of that celebration was a beard competition, and my dad decided to join in the fun. I don’t know if there was an actual contest or not, but there were a lot of men who were competing. Dad reminds me of a thinner Sebastian Cabot, who played Mr French on the old television show, “A Family Affair.” I always liked Mr French, I guess in many ways, his protectiveness reminded me of my dad.

I think I would like to have seen that, because my parents were dressed up as pioneers. Mom wore a long skirt and Dad a suit. Dad carried a cane. They looked very distinguished. They didn’t really tell me much about the celebration, but I have checked into it, and there was a parade…of course, there is always a parade, isn’t there. They also had a Centennial Train, which was fashioned after the Freedom Train that had transported the Declaration of Independence and other important documents around America after World War II ended. And of course, there was a beauty pageant. But to me, the Centennial will always mean the time that my dad grew a beard and my parents dressed up like pioneers, in celebration of 100 years of statehood for Minnesota.

I have been going through old family pictures lately, and I have found myself looking into faces from the past that look strangely familiar. I find it odd that people who don’t have the same parents can look so much alike…even when they come from the same family line.

And it’s more than that. The mannerisms are so similar too. The way they smiled, stood, and expressions on their faces, and even their laugh. It seems so odd to me that some of these things can carry down from generation to generation…even skip several generations an still present themselves in grandchildren or great grandchildren. You would think that expressions would be unique to each person, or at the very least be mimicked, but they don’t seem to be. I have even noticed these things in nieces and nephews, or cousins. I even noticed strong similarities between my father-in-law and his half brother. I guess they must both take after their mother, but when you add my nephew to that mix, and how much he is like both of these men…well, it just gets mind boggling.

I know genes play a huge role in who we are, but you would think that as the generations get “watered down” with the addition of new contributors into that gene pool, that those similarities would begin to be less noticeable. I guess there are just stronger genes in some people, dominate genes, that force themselves into the mix strongly every time, like fighting for survival. I don’t know much about that really, and I’m quite sure that some scientist could give me an explanation, but since I don’t have one handy, I will just have to continue to speculate.

No…maybe not knowing will keep the sense of wonder that I feel every time I look into the face of an ancestor and see the face of my daughter, niece, nephew, mother, father, sister, or one of Bob’s family members. I don’t think I really want to lose that, after all.

From the moment the were born, my dad’s grandbabies loved to cuddle up with their grandpa and take a little snooze. He just had a way of making them feel safe and warm…not to mention loved. Dad always loved to take a little nap, when his schedule would allow, and so became the logical choice for a nap time babysitter. Those little babies just loved their grandpa so much, that they seemed to actually be reaching out to hold on to him, and it didn’t matter how small they were. These pictures are among those that we wouldn’t trade for all the gold in the world. They are the moments that you can never get back, because babies just don’t stay this little for more than a minute. They are a glimpse of the past that we can’t ever get back.

My dad had a way with little kids. They just seemed to gravitate to him. He was a great friend, playmate, and a great snuggler at nap time. It always seemed like at some point during our visits, those babies and little kids would get tired after all the playing, as would my dad, and they would end up on the couch, where both would be sound asleep. When we would notice that things had gotten awfully quiet, we would tiptoe out to the living room fully expecting to find two exhausted playmates, sound asleep on the couch…and that is exactly what we would find. Grandpa and grandchild, often with a blankie or some such bedtime item to cuddle with. These moments were always so cute that they must be captured in a picture that always brings a collective “Awwwwwww!!” comment from those who see them.

Every so often, we would be treated to one of the cutest pictures, when a grandchild trying to be just like grandpa would so closely follow in grandpa’s footsteps that it was like looking in a mirror. I suppose that originally, Ryan was sitting on grandpa’s lap, but he slowly slid down into the gap between the seat of the chair and the foot rest, to end up looking just like his grandpa, but a little further down in the chair. It would prove to be one of the treasured pictures of grandson wanting to be just like grandpa…and maybe succeeding…just a little. My dad’s grandchildren all loved him so much, and thought so highly of him that they wanted to spend time with him…mimic him…play with him…and mostly love him. And all of them were greatly blessed to have known him.

It is amazing, how little girls can go from being tomboys to being very girly girls in a matter of moments. Little girls can have a love of the outdoors, and running around in bib overalls, chasing chickens or cats, riding bikes or horses, and then in the twinkling of an eye, they become a beautiful little lady in ribbons and lace.

Most times, of course, this transition takes place many times. Back and forth, our little girls try different styles and different fads…some we wish they hadn’t and some that make us cringe!! And that time between their grade school years and adulthood…well, sometimes we wish we could forget the clothes they wore or the hair, and especially the attitude.

Every so often, we would catch a glimpse of that little girl we knew was somewhere in there still, but as time went on, those glimpses were fewer and further in between. Still, we didn’t totally hate the girl we were seeing begin to emerge. Every so often, we could see the woman she would become, and we could tell that things were going to be ok. And then she would slip away again into some stranger that we didn’t know. I suppose it is just the nature of things. The journey from babyhood to adulthood. And along the way we keep a file in our minds of the precious little moments when we see the little girl we knew and love.

When you think about it, looking back at the toddler and grade school days, while that little tomboy of a girl was maybe not what you hoped for her to turn into, it didn’t seem like such a bad thing compared to some of the styles you have seen in the current years. The truth is that whatever she becomes, you will love her and be happy that she is in your life, because tomboy or girly girl…it makes no difference…she is your girl!! And she is beautiful!!

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!

In 1984, when my girls were 9 and 8 years old, they were excited to be getting a new cousin. Back then, you didn’t get to know what the baby was, so we all just had to wait. My girls were just learning to crochet, and they wanted to make something for their new cousin. So, we decided on Corrie making a blanket, and Amy making a bonnet. They picked out the yarn, a variegated mix if pastel green, yellow, pink, and white, so it would work whether it was a boy or a girl.

The girls worked very hard on their little projects. I was quite proud of their dedication. As the time grew near for the baby to arrive, it was decided that the gifts would be a Christmas present, since the baby was due in early December, and they lived in Pueblo, Colorado, and would not be up to Casper until Christmastime.

On December 8, 1984, Jessica Lynn arrived. It was a day my girls were very excited about. They now knew who they were making their gifts for. It renewed their excitement about the gifts they were working on. With their excitement, my own grew. I could picture the surprised look on my sister and brother-in-law’s faces when they opened the gifts. Christmas couldn’t come fast enough that year.

Finally the long awaited day arrived. They could hardly contain themselves. When my sister opened the packages, everyone was thrilled, and my girls were so pleased. The bonnet looked so cute on Jessi, and the blanket was a perfect match. It was a wonderful ending to an exciting story. My girls had set a goal for themselves, and worked very hard to reach their goal. And reach it they did…beautifully!!

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.

In the early years of our marriage, Bob and I went with my father-in-law, my brother-in-law, and assorted friends to the Shirley Mountains to get wood to burn for heating their house. We would spend the day hauling log after log to the trailer we had brought. By lunchtime, I was starving!! Carrying those big logs was hard work, but it was beautiful up there in the mountains.

My father-in-law wanted to burn wood as much as possible to save money on heating bills. Many people were turning to wood burning stoves to cut costs, and the BLM was letting people buy permits to clear the dead fall for the mountains to cut down on the fire hazard up there.

We went up several weekends, and brought back lots of wood. Then began the work of cutting and splitting the wood. We had quite a production going. The guys had a rhythm going. They cut the logs into pieces the right length, then they went to the splitter, and were tossed onto the woodpile. Even the little kids pitched in.They thought they were so grown up, when we allowed them to help stack the wood.

Over the next few years, the woodpile would get to be so huge that it looked higher than the house. We were all shocked at what we had. You could see it from a long way off. One thing was for sure…my father-in-law had enough wood to heat his house for some time to come. People don’t go out and haul their own wood much anymore, or maybe I’m just out of the loop, but it was a time I will always remember…because it was such a pleasant time.

When my girls were very small, we took a family vacation to visit their great great grandmother in Washington state. The trip had been planned while their great great grandfather was still alive, but the visit with him wasn’t to be. He would pass away the month before we came to visit. I was always sorry that we didn’t get to visit him too. They had been down to visit us in July and we went up in September. It happened so fast. One day Grandpa was fine, the next he fell off a ladder and broke his hip. He went into shock and was gone.

We went anyway to visit grandma and I was always glad we did. She was an amazing woman. She was 89 years old that year and still lived at her own home…alone. She still cooked and kept house and enjoyed life. She would live to be 97 years old. She was so interesting. She told stories of her family and showed us a family tree that she had that was hand written and extensive.

Corrie was just learning to walk then and found a little chair at Great Great Grandma’s that she loved, because it was short enough for her little legs to crawl up on and sit all by herself. Grandma would also let her play with the pans in the kitchen. She pulled them out and had them all over the floor. I tried to stop her from making such a mess, but Grandma said to let her play. She was so patient.

We would go out and sit on her porch and look at the birds and the trees. Her home and yard were beautiful. Corrie, Amy, and I loved it. And she wanted to share it all with us…to pass on a piece of herself and Grandpa to our girls, Bob, and me. The beauty of a different time and place. Her home held the memories of the past and the promise of the future all in one place. I just wish I could have known her better.

My girls, like most kids had great cousins, but like most kids, there were good days and bad days. This applied to both sides of our family. Their relationships with their cousins have spanned 3 decades and have grown into beautiful friendships, despite the rocky starts.

Since I was the second child, my older sister’s children were the only cousins on that side for a long time. Her older daughters were always a source of goofy antics, while providing my girls with a little bit of a look at how the bigger kids acted, and what they did. Her son gave them a glimpse into what boys were like…quite a culture shock for my girls who were around mostly girls. Her younger girls were really the ones my girls played with, and also, where most of the fights occurred. There were fights of the real and imagined kind. Now many people might not know what an imagined fight is, but I know. It is when one child tells on another child for hitting them, when in reality no such event took place. I expect this type of fight happens more than we know. Thankfully, as time goes by, those same kids who fought like cats and dogs, and then turned right around and played until they dropped from exhaustion, grow up to become wonderful adults, who are the best of friends and the greatest allies for life.

On Bob’s side of the family, things were much the same. Great little friends, but also serious little fighters when they felt like their territory was being invaded. The would play together, quite happily, until someone had a toy or other item…such as the seat of an old tractor that Grandpa had, and the other one wanted. Such invasions of perceived territory, might get one socked in the nose…or even bitten. Because the kids were all so close in age, they each felt like they were the one in charge, and sometimes the only solution was to make them all come in and let them know that…none of them was in charge. We were!! Again, thankfully those years have passed and yet, the relationships survived.

There truly is nothing like family. It doesn’t matter what you agree or disagree on, you always love each other. You are friends forever, because you have grown up with all the secrets, adventures, and yes, fights that build the lives of children. You have survived the most embarrassing moments, the most horrible looks, and those awful fads that your parents still cringe about.

You are now adults with kids of your own. You have come full circle…and your kids are fighting with their cousins, wearing clothes and hair styles you hate, telling you that you don’t understand anything…basically after all those years of trying to be yourselves, you have become…your parents.