When I talked to my dad about his time at Great Ashfield in Suffolk, England, we talked about, among other things, the sign at the town entrance that still stands today, after all these years since the end of World War II. The picture of the B-17G Bomber flying low over the town is not something that would necessarily be well received these days, when people are so quick to complain about the planes when they live near an airport. I understand why people would not like planes flying low on takeoffs and landings these days, but the planes that fly over my house really don’t bother me at all. Nevertheless, my dad assured me that the people of Great Ashfield felt anything but irritation at the low flying planes that graced their skies during World War II.
England was among the nations who had taken some serious hits by the Nazi war machine in the early days of World War II, prior to the entrance of the United States into the war. In fact, it was on this day, December 29, 1940 that London took a massive hit during a German raid. The German planes had been targeting London since August of 1940 as payback for the British attacks on Berlin. In September the Germans dropped 337 tons of bombs on docks, tenements, and the streets in one of London’s poorest districts. Then came December 29, 1940. The attack on that day produced widespread destruction of not just civilians, but also many of London’s cultural relics. The bombing was relentless and as a result, 15,000 separate fires were started. Historic buildings were severely damaged or destroyed. Among them, the Guildhall, which was an administrative center of the city that dated back to 1673, but contained a 15th century vault. Eight Christopher Wren churches were also damaged or destroyed. St Paul’s Cathedral caught fire, but was saved by the firefighters who risked their own lives to save it. Westminster Abbey, Buckingham Palace and the Chamber of the House of Commons were also hit, but the damage to these was less severe. These attacks, that went on from September of 1940 through May of 1940, were known as the London Blitz, and they killed thousands of civilians.
It wasn’t until Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, that the United States entered World War II, and soon after came the time that my dad spent at Great Ashfield beginning in early April of 1944 until he went home in October of 1945. While it may have seemed to many that we were somewhat late coming to the party, the war torn nations around the world were happy to see us arrive. It wasn’t that we were going to be the heroes riding in on the white horses, but we meant instant reinforcements to nations that needed assistance badly. The airmen were well received in the towns surrounding Great Ashfield, and the other air bases in England, but it was Great Ashfield that felt such gratitude that they went to the length of making and leaving to this day, the sign showing the B-17G Bomber flying low over the local church. There is also another memorial honoring the men of the 8th Air Force and the 385th Heavy Bombardment Group.
The reasons for the warm feelings toward the 8th Air Force and the 385th Heavy Bombardment Group are obvious. It was so much more than just the reinforcements the United States provided. While talking to my dad about this, he revealed that the main reason that they were so grateful is that the safest times for the area were when the B-17G Bombers were flying overhead. The German aircraft would become really scarce when the Bombers were around, because they didn’t want to be shot down either. The constant activity surrounding the air field made it almost impossible for the Germans to attack the area. Bombings are horrible, and take a huge toll on the civilians, as well as buildings. I suppose I would be eternally grateful for those planes, those men, and the United States 8th Air Force too. It gave peace of mind.
Safely tucked away, in a closet in the basement of my home, sits a red box. It is a homemade hope chest, built by my dad, when I was a little girl. Dad built two of them, one for my sister, Cheryl and one for me. This was long before hope chests became popular again, or maybe they always were, and I just didn’t know it then. I loved that little hope chest. I suppose some people would have thought it plain, but it held a very special meaning to me. My daddy had made it for me, and told me that it was to keep my treasures in. The original paddle lock was lost long ago, and replaced with a new one. I have lost the key to that one, so now a bobby pin has to suffice. It really wouldn’t matter if it was unlocked, I suppose, because to most people it’s contents have no real value. It holds no gold, silver, or diamonds…just the treasures from my past.
When I opened it last night…the first time in a long time, I saw my girlhood treasures, like souvenirs from trips taken as a child, my first wrist watch, and cameo soaps I got from…who knows where. I saw my high school diploma, and my husband Bob’s, both in pristine condition. There were treasures from my children’s lives, like perfect attendance awards from church and preschool, pictures of our family at that time, cards sent to me on special occasions, and baby cigars from a number of different births…I don’t suppose anyone would want to smoke those now. There was a baby blanket I had been given, and high school pictures of my sisters and sisters-in-law. There are three model cars…remnants of Bob’s past, and a multitude of key chains from his years of collecting them. If you looked at these items, I suppose most people would think many of them to be worthless, but to me, they are treasures…they are my past.
I realize that I am a sentimental person, and that I save things with sentimental value. I have accepted this about myself. I know that many people don’t like to save things. They don’t like the clutter, and I do admit that it can create clutter. But, I don’t really want my world to be so free of my past, that it seems sterile. This isn’t an operating room, after all, it’s my life, and my memories. I like most of my past, not to mention, my family’s past, and I want to be able to see and remember it. That is simply who I am. I can think of so many fun times in my past…camping trips with my parents and sisters, hiking with Bob, vacations with our kids, just to mention a few. In my opinion, I have lead a very nice life, and I want to always remember that. As I looked through the contents of my hope chest, my mind drifted back to a time when my family was young. The years have gone by so fast. It made me feel a little bit sad.
The contents of my hope chest have changed over the years, as my hopes and dreams have changed. As a little girl, I had the trinkets of a little girl in there, and as I grew, the things in my hope chest grew to take in my new self. Once I was married, the hope chest became a memory chest, instead of a hope chest. which was designed to collect the things a girl would need for her wedding and marriage. I think I like the latest job my hope chest has, because memories come from a life filled with good things. And maybe that is a fitting end for a hope chest, because it does start out as the hopes and dreams of a girl, and ends up with the memories of a life well lived.
On our trek back into our past, we took a drive to see some of the places my dad’s family had lived, like the town of Holyoke, Minnesota…my dad and his siblings’ old stomping grounds, I felt as if I was walking in my dad’s shoes so to speak…or at the very least traveling along on the same journey he had taken as a young boy. As we drove into the area, I recognized the railroad trestle that my dad and Uncle Bill had played on as kids. We had just talked to Uncle Bill, who told us that when a train came, they would just drop down and hang on, because there wasn’t room enough to stand there while a train went over. They said it shook a lot, and I personally wouldn’t recommend such a thing to anyone.
Our next stop was at the park across the street. This park was a favorite hangout for most of the Holyoke kids, and was located just down the hill from the school, making it convenient for after school ball games or hanging out in the creek that ran through it. The park is in great condition, and looks like it is still used a lot today, but I could picture the little boys, who were my dad and uncle hanging out there with their friends and avoiding the chores that probably awaited them at home.
We drove past the old church that they attended, who’s alter had been built by my Aunt Laura Fredrick’s ex-husband, Fritz. We were very sorry to see the state it was in. The front of the building looked pretty good, but when viewed from the side, we could see that the roof had caved in, and all that was still standing was three sides. That really made me sad, because it was the church they had attended for so many years of their lives.
Heading out of town, we came to a section of red dirt road that went for about a mile or so before returning to the pavement. Our cousin, Bill Spencer, who was our tour guide for the day, told us that his dad, our Uncle Bill and our dad had ridden their bikes to Superior, Wisconsin on this road. That was astounding, in that it was about thirty miles…one way…and they went to town and home in the same day, on the old clunky bicycles of those days. It was here, as we drove from Holyoke back into Superior, that I felt like I was traveling along the same journey that my dad had taken so many times. It was a lonely feeling, in that I really missed my dad right then, but it was also an interesting, in that they had gone so far in just one day.
I think that sometimes, we don’t realize just how amazing our parents lives were. We forget that technology and transportation have come a long, long way since their day. It seems like the work was harder and yet, the times easier somehow. I thought of my dad and Uncle Bill riding happily into Superior to spend the day, and what their plans might have been. Maybe it was just the idea of being free for the day…with no one to tell you what to do, or maybe they were meeting friends. I’ll probably never know, but I do know that it was strange to be traveling the same road to Superior, that dad had taken so long ago.
My grand nephew, Zack Spethman, who is the middle son of my niece Jenny and her husband, Steve, is a boy who knows what he wants. He has his own sense of style, and doesn’t like to leave the house until he is satisfied with how he looks…something that will definitely appeal to the ladies as he gets a little older. Ladies can’t resist a tall, dark and handsome, well dressed man, and Zack will fit that bill for sure. Zack likes to wear everything from casual style to suit and tie, so taking him places is an easy thing to do. He is also a very thoughtful boy, and is well mannered. If he were just a little older, I could see Zack really wowing the girls with his thoughtful style. He is a child who likes to hug and do sweet things for those around him.
Being the middle son, or middle child is something many kids don’t like, but Zack enjoys having an older and a younger brother, and the added bonus of a younger sister to make his life complete. He and his brothers, Xander and Isaac, are all boy for sure, and Zack is very good in sports, and loves most types of sports. He loves to get out and ride his bicycle with his brothers, but doesn’t mind a wrestling match with them either…sometimes even a middle son has to try to prove his superiority. But when it comes to his little sister, Zack knows how to play gently and always treats Aleesia with love and kindness…and protectiveness.
Zack is a very smart boy and is at the top of his class in school. He enjoys learning, and his curiosity about things around him shows in all his studies. That is something I’m sure his teachers appreciate. Zack, like all of Jenny and Steve’s kids, know how to behave in public. When we are in church on Sundays, you just don’t hear or see them acting up or running around. They are sitting quietly, listening to the pastor or Sunday School teacher speak. Today is Zack’s 9th birthday. I can’t believe he is 9 years old already. Happy birthday Zack!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
On Sunday morning, our congregation was treated to my niece, Kellie’s debut on the piano. Kellie is an accomplished singer, and loves music ministry, but this was the first time she had ever played the piano in public. She told us that she loves playing the piano, but until that day, she played in her home…alone. Kellie is a little bit shy, when it comes to performing solos, but she really shouldn’t be, because she has the voice of an angel, and she plays the piano very well too. She told us that God has been leading her to play the piano as part of her music ministry, and I for one hope she will follow that leading and play more often, because it was beautiful. Her God given gifts are many, and her spirit is so beautiful. It is a wonderful mix that makes her the blessing she is.
As I listened to Kellie sing, I once again found myself totally amazed at the woman she has become. Sometimes, it is hard to imagine what a child will become, as you are watching them grow up. Then, when they are grown, and you see what an awesome individual they have become, and you are somehow surprised at what great things they are doing now. I really shouldn’t be, because Kellie has always been this same way, but when I hear her sing solos, and now play the piano too, the beauty of it just brings tears to my eyes. It doesn’t matter how many times I hear Kellie sing, because each time is like listening to an angel in a choir. She puts such feeling into the songs and you know that even though she did not write them, they are just how she feels in her heart. It is God singing through her, and it is beautiful.
Kellie has always been such a sweet girl, and as she has grown into womanhood, her faith has grow to amazing levels. I love the faith filled posts she puts on Facebook, because they are from her heart, yet they minister to so many people. It’s amazing that somehow the things she posts are just the things I needed to see. She is a blessing to anyone who knows her, and an asset to our church. As her aunt, I couldn’t be more proud of her if I tried. From her sweet spirit to her angelic voice, she is amazing. I love you Kellie!!
When my nephew, Eric was a baby, Amy, my daughter babysat for his parents quite a lot. Because Eric’s mom, my sister-in-law, Jennifer is a nurse, she worked shiftwork, so often Amy would stay the night, and then on Sunday mornings, Eric, and his older brother, JD would come to church with us. Eric was such a cuddly baby, and since I didn’t get to hold him as often as Amy, I would usually let Amy keep JD entertained, so he would play quietly under her watchful eye, and I would hold Eric. As I said, Eric was a cuddly baby, and he would simply snuggle up in my arms and go right to sleep. It had been a long time since my girls were little, so holding a baby for an hour while he slept was something I hadn’t had the privilege of doing for a while, and it was really a treat every week. It became, another reason to look forward to Sunday mornings.
When Amy became old enough to have a job, her babysitting days ended. Jennifer started working more day shifts, and my sister-in-law, Brenda stayed with the boys whenever Jennifer worked nights, just as she had when Amy was too young to stay at the house alone. I saw less and less of Eric and JD. It’s a natural change, and one that I found a bit sad. Babies just don’t stay babies long enough…a fact that Eric is learning for himself now. Eric is a grown man now, married, daddy to his little girl, Reagan, and he is going to be a daddy again in September. I’m sure he, like every other parent in history, just can’t believe how quickly his little girl is growing up. By the time his second child arrives, Reagan will be almost two years old. I’m sure that is unbelievable to Eric and his wife, Ashley.
For the last year or so, they have been remodeling the home that they bought as a fixer upper, and it is looking beautiful. Before long, they will be decorating the new nursery for baby number two. It’s a good thing that they are already in remodel mode, because this is just another step in a their plan, and they will take it in stride just like they did with Reagan, and in September, they will be a family of four. Today is Eric’s birthday. Happy birthday Eric!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
As our children grow into adulthood, it can be difficult to look at them in this new light. Sometimes, it takes much longer to realize that they are grown adults than perhaps it should take. It isn’t that they are immature, its just that we can’t get past the picture of that child that has lived in our minds all these years. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be your own children either. Nieces and nephews can seem like they just shouldn’t be grown adults…and yet they are. That’s the way I feel about my niece, Jenny. As a girl, Jenny was a teeny little princess type with a cute little smile. She rarely took anything seriously, but rather just liked to have fun. I know, pretty typical of a little girl. Yes, she was typical of little girls, but Jenny was going to become something different…a faith filled woman.
Now, Jenny is grown and has a family of her own. Somehow, it has finally hit me I think, what a very special woman she is. She has been through so many things in her lifetime, and yet the woman I see before me is strong and charming at the same time. She doesn’t let the sadness or problems she faces, define who she is, but rather turns to God to lead her everywhere she goes. As a teenager, like most teenagers, she just didn’t seem like she would have become this strong faith-filled woman, but now, here she is. It is an amazing transformation.
I think that you can tell what a person is really made of as you watch them walk through the trials in this life. Some people are broken by the trials, and some stand firm in their beliefs, and strong in their faith. Nevertheless, you wish there was a way to keep them from going through any trials at all, because you love them. You can’t protect them from everything they will face in this world, but you can equip them with the necessary tools to see them through the trials of life…namely God. Now, as I see Jenny posting on Facebook about how happy she is to be going to church to worship the Lord, it makes me feel very proud of how much she has grown in the Lord.
The person Jenny is today is a direct result of the prayers of her mother. My sister, Cheryl, like the rest of my sisters, my parents, and I, have prayed over our children. I can’t imagine trying to walk through this world without prayers being said over the journey, nor can anyone in the rest of my family. Jenny too, has learned that life must be handled with prayer, and that while sorrows may come, God still has a plan for you, and that miracles still happen today. Those prayers brought Steve into her life, so they could walk the road of faith hand in hand. Jenny knows that God really does still answer prayer today, and when He heals your broken heart, it is in the most wonderful way. And she knows that while sorrows come, God will restore what is missing in their lives, back to them again. Today is Jenny’s birthday. While life has not always been easy for her…Jenny has come through it all, her faith intact and her joy complete, because she has her miracle. I’m very proud of her. Happy birthday Jenny!! Have a blessed day!! We love you!!
Memories come from many different places. They can be triggered be sights, sounds, taste, touch, and even smells…which is exactly what happened to me this morning. Bob and I were having breakfast at Perkin’s, and when they brought my food and I poured syrup, the view of the food on the plate, and the smell of that syrup, sausage, and eggs, took me back about 45 years or so, to those hurried Sunday mornings when we were all scrambling to get ready for church. Five girls and two parents trying to get ready using one bathroom…well, you can imagine. My dad usually got up early and got out of the way…it was safest that way. Getting in the way of 6 women getting ready to go somewhere can be very hazardous, and since Dad had been around us all our lives, heknew very well when it was time to get out of the way of his girls.
We usually went to church after a quick bowl of cold cereal. It wasn’t much, but we knew that breakfast would be brunch that day, when we came home to have a relaxing and lazy Sunday afternoon. I remember the smells coming from the kitchen after church. bacon or sausage and eggs cooking, usually toast, but sometimes pancakes. I would get so hungry waiting for everything to be ready. The smell in the house was incredible. I remember watching my mom or dad cooking the eggs in the bacon grease, carefully flipping the grease over the yoke, so the yoke stayed runny. It was great for dipping your toast in, after it broke and ran all over your plate. There really was a reason you had toast with eggs and bacon.
Finally everything was ready, and we all sat down at the table. After we said our prayer, we were finally able to take that first bite. It tasted so good. I think sometimes it is a good thing to delay a full meal, because when you sit down to eat…finally, there is just nothing that tastes better. Then we would sit around the table, and talk about our lives. It was a time to catch up on things. As we all got older, we were so busy, and you can easily lose touch with what is going on with each other, if you do ever take time to catch up. As Bob and I sat there eating, I found myself missing those days very much. Since my Dad is in Heaven, and the rest of us have families, we are as busy as our parents were then. We seldom have time to catch up like we did in those days gone by. I really missed those days today.
Remember when life was simple. You were a kid with no responsibilities. You went to school and then you went outside and played with your friends. Sometimes, when life gets to be too much and my stress levels are through the roof, I really wish that I could go back there again, but then I suppose many people do. Life wasn’t always so complicated. Back in the old west, people didn’t have so many places to go. Families spent time together. Kids seldom went to play at someone else’s house, and spending the night was something saved for trips back East to visit family that you had not seen for many years.
The kids in a family had really two places the went…school and church. Other than those places, they were at home, helping out around the place or doing their homework. With no television or radio, there was no big news story to occupy their minds. They used their imaginations to pass the time. Kids might pretend to have families, or they might pretend they were on a train to visit famiy, or maybe even fighting Indians, although I seriously doubt that many girls played that game.
Today, the kids get bored if they don’t have a video game to play, or the MP3 player playing their favorite tunes, or television coming up with newer and more exciting ways to entertain them. Reading books is almost a thing of the past, and I don’t mean because of the Kindle, which I consider to be a form of reading a book, but because they would rather watch a show on television than read about it. Their imaginations don’t seem to be able to take them into the book like we used to be able to do. It’s all about what action is put in front of their eyes, not about turning words into pictures in your imagination.
Now, life is so hectic. Most people have several places to be right after work, and they can’t go home for an hour or more after they get off work. Dinner is often late, or picked up at a fast food joint along the way. There is just no time for a home cooked meal, unless maybe it is on the weekend or in a crock pot. No wonder TV Dinners became so popular…and the microwave, of course. I mean who has time to cook stuff in the oven either. No one!! Life was so simple then…what happened?
When I first met my nephew, Ryan’s future wife, I liked her, but it was early on in their dating and so often you brush those first encounters off. I guess you don’t get too attached, because in dating, there are those that come and go. Soon, however, it became apparent that Chelsea was the one for Ryan. I think I was surprised at just how fast it became apparent that Ryan was gone on Chelsea. There were a few struggles…such as when she wanted to move back home to Seattle, because we hated to have them go, even though we know that her family felt the same about her living here. Nevertheless, I always liked Chelsea, and that fondness has grown over the years that she has been a part of our family.
I think most of us really come into our own…once we leave our teenaged years behind, and that is certainly what I have seen in Chelsea. She has such a sweet spirit and a wonderful sense of humor. She is a business woman who has worked very hard to bring in a second income for the family while remaining a stay at home mom, which is a top priority with her. She first started out making jewelry, with a flare for the beautiful and sometimes unusual, at Sophisticate Jewelry. She also has a new venture, which is baked goods, at Momma H’s Tasty Eats. I have personally had her muffins, and I highly recommend them.
Chelsea has almost effortlessly worked her way into the hearts of this family, and we all love her very much. She is a good wife and mom, and those two things go a long way toward earning our love and respect, but what warms my heart today is that in the short time that Chelsea has been coming to our church, I have watched her grow spiritually into a strong woman of God. It is a beautiful thing to see. She is in church every week, and many Wednesday nights, literally absorbing the Word of God. Her family is there and little Ethan is always so excited to go to Sunday School, as I’m sure Aurora will be when she is old enough. Chelsea glows with the happiness that can only come from living in the grace of God. Today she did something that many Christians don’t often do. She brought her neighbors to church, and they were excited to come, because she was excited about her church. That is spiritual maturity and continued growth, and that is something to be proud of. Chelsea, I want you to know how much I love and respect you. You are a blessing to our family. I am so proud of you.