Thursday, November 30, 2006

Thanksgiving 2006. . .

This year for Thanksgiving I decided to do things a little differently. As I get older, I am more conscious of our limited time on this earth. That started about 10 years ago when I began to do genealogy, tracing our family roots. It quickly became apparent to me that so much history had already been lost to us.

There are things we will never know about when Michel Hahn came to the US, not even the exact date. Or what prompted the move from Maryland to Ohio to Missouri by the family. Those stories are gone, lost in the layers of history.

I’ve thought about this for a long time, and then realized it was just as bad that our own family history would be lost as well. I remembered some family stories, but many would be forgotten, so I decided to write as many down as possible, so that some day when my grandsons and maybe their kids wanted to know about their great grandpa K and or great-great grandma C they would have those stories, some of them anyway.

This journal is all about that, telling those stories; stories of my life and the family that surrounds me, to preserve those memories.

So this year as we celebrated Thanksgiving together, I did something different. I purchased a white linen table cloth and some permanent sharpie markers. Each year, we will use a different color and will write a message or just sign it if that is what you want. Thanksgiving 2006 we used a blue marker to sign.

For the 4 little guys, we traced their hands and they wrote their names, except for the littlest little guy who at two, can’t yet write his name. Each year, in a different color we will trace their hands, so we can watch them grow. In a year of two they may want to add their own holiday wishes.

I want this tablecloth to be a tangible piece of our family history, that someday, when my daughter looks at it, it will be dear to her, to see messages from her grandparents and her mother, who won’t be here on this earth any longer. I hope it will comfort her and the boys and their families.

That what families do you know, we perpetuate not only the blood lines of the family, but the history and the stories. I hope that table cloth will survive many Thanksgivings and that 50 years from now, as they are looking at the first and second and third cloths that have been done, that they will recount the family stories and remember those who are no longer here on this earth.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Italian Gadabout. . .

I hadn’t realized how many people my daughter knew while we lived in Italy until we got ready to leave. Suddenly, people I didn’t even know were coming up to me and telling me how much they would miss her.

For me, those 3 years spent in Italy were a life-changing experience, but also for my daughter as well. The world was different there—we never had to worry about her safety or if someone would hurt her.

When we first got there though things were rough. We came from a society that was already starting to preach “Stranger Danger’ repetitively and frequently. Going to a place where you don’t understand the language and where people adore children was rough on her.

Italians love children and will come up to them in the street, or anywhere actually and touch their face or head and exclaim, “Bella bambina” or something similar. They speak rapidly and perhaps a trifle loudly too, in that age old way people have of speaking louder when someone can’t understand you. For a 6 year old, it was frightening and she would try to hide away from it.

For awhile, things got very problematic. She refused to eat Italian food, even her beloved pizza. Our normally out-going friendly child now wanted to eat only familiar, American food, which was hard because we were still living in a hotel at the time and there wasn’t really anywhere except for the NCO club to get American food.

But eventually, she began to feel comfortable with our surroundings and after we moved into our apartment, exploring our new found Italian world became very important to her. We lived in an Italian neighborhood and she had to go several blocks to find the nearest American kids to play with, so she would take out on her bike, stopping at practically gate along the way trying to chat in her faltering Italian.

As I said, the Italians love children and it was never a worry for me that someone would hurt her or abduct her. She had more freedom that American kids usually did. She rode her bike all over the neighborhood, including over to the little local “bar” which wasn’t really like an American bar. She could go in a buy Gummi candies, back before American kids even knew what they were. Gummi’s were available in every flavor and shape imaginable and her favorites were the little pop bottles.

Our Italian neighbors all knew her, and would smile and wave as we passed. I have to share a couple of things about those lovely people. They like big dogs, German Shepards, St. Bernards, etc. If it was big and barked, they probably had it. And they loved the name ‘Dick’ for those dogs. You could walk around the neighborhood and find a half dozen ‘Dick’s’. They pronounced it ‘Deek’ and it was charming to hear. We used to sometimes catch a bus to ride in to post and there was a Dick that lived in a house across the street. His owner said he didn’t like people much, but he loved my daughter and would bring her his ball to play with him every time he saw her.

Also, even though most of them lived in apartments as there were very few single family dwellings, they lived like it was a house. One morning as my daughter and I were standing out at the bus stop, one of your neighbors in a large apartment building was outside and he had several chickens out there with him.

He smiled and waved as we walked by and my daughter watched him closely as he grabbed a chicken, and then a small axe.

Oh oh, I thought.

We watched as he chopped the chickens head off and then hung it up so the blood could drain out.

She was standing there, holding my hand solemnly and I thought, how on earth am I going to explain this to her? At 7 years old, this is a tough time for her to see something like this.

“Momma,” she said, looking at what was going on over there very intently. He had repeated the procedure with another chicken.

“What sweetie?” I asked, dreading whatever her question was going to be.

“I bet those chickens are going to taste really good!”

That’s her, my dedicated little carnivore!

But perhaps, because she was so willing to adapt, to look at life from the Italian perspective, perhaps that is exactly the reason why she made so many friends there. She didn’t think anything was wrong with how they lived their lives and they could tell that immediately. She loved them, and everything about them, from the man who delivered our bread to the lady who worked on post. All of them told me how much she would be missed and several gave her small trinkets when we left.

I know those people touched her life and I hope that she touched theirs as well. I hope they remember my little Italian Gadabout with a smile.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Life is Precious. . .

My best friend is welcoming a new grand baby into the world today. The little miss made her entrance into the world at 12:45 a.m. this morning and is doing well. She is fortunate to become a part of a loving family who has waited with impatient excitement for her.

Birth is about the joy of life, of continued hope, of opening our hearts to another person. It is truly a miracle and a blessing, made all the more so by our human hearts which yearn to give and receive the love of the new addition. A new birth perpetuates life, in all the expected ways as well as a few that we can’t conceive of at the time.

Circle of life? Yes, but more than that really. She is the embodiment of her parents love, their lasting contribution to the future, not only of her family, but to the world around us.

Who knows what footsteps she will make on this earth? The paths she will tread and explore, the people she will touch?

The joy is life is the perpetual cycle: creation, gestation, birth, life and death. One life does not replace another, but only adds its own new layer to our lives, another memory, another joy. And while life itself sometimes hurts our hearts and souls, it also produces a kick that makes up sit up and take notice: that there is a new soul here, an invitation to discover who they are!

Welcome to this world precious girl!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Momma said there would be days like this!

Imagine a cold day in hell and you can imagine what the birth of my first child was like. I decided to do it naturally. (Hey, I was young ok!) From the beginning I knew that Jon's birth would not be uneventful. Call it a soon to be mother's intuition.

On the last day of February I went into labor. It started gentle, and went quicker then I expected. The weather was a balmy forty degrees outside, but inside it felt like it was eighty. I called my mom, and told her it was time. She started the 2 to 3 hour trip to get to me. I decided in the mean time that I would just relax and play the pain down to my husband while I waited. To this day, I am not even sure he realized I was in active labor at home until my mom got there and I finally lost it. We daughters sometimes tend to whine to our mothers at times like these. I was no different. I called my father as we were leaving, saying that we were headed to the hospital, and that he had better head out to us.

As we got into the car with my mother, I remember one song playing on the radio. A song by Chumbawumba in titled "You are never going to get me down." How appropriate I thought. Getting into the hospital was a blur, but I remember the nurse saying you are six and a half cm dilated and fully effaced. Lucky for me. Yeah, right. With every contraction my legs would go stiff and I repeated to myself, it will all be over soon. Even through the pain I still managed to say the words that would shock both my mother and my husband. “This isn't so bad, I want another one soon!" They certainly thought I was crazy, and maybe at that moment I was. It was shortly after that they ganged up on me and insisted I get drugs. (I will never admit that I was begging!) I now hate Staidol .It makes you way to groggy, and puts you to sleep. During one such episode, my mother quietly stated that I must be asleep. Not willing to admit I had be snoozing right through, I stated in no uncertain terms that indeed I was awake, and that they should quit talking behind my back. Ok, so I was touchy. Who wouldn't be right? RIGHT?

By this time, one of my labor nurses had been in to inform us that my doctor was on vacation, the on call doctor sixty miles away in a dinner meeting, and that they would have to call in to another city for a doctor. Did I forget to mention that I was in a small town hospital? Oops! I was eight cm along and I had no doctor.

By that time I had the need, not urge, but desperate need, to push Jon out. I knew instinctively that he was pressing too hard on the cervix, and my water had not even broken yet. I was yelling at my mom to get my labor nurse, who, in her infinite wisdom assured me that I was wrong. After the third call to her, she finally checked me. Without a word to us she practically ran out of the room. We never saw her again. It wasn’t until later that we discovered she had handed me off during the shift change.

The doctor from the other city arrived, and in his official tone, informed me that he would now break my water. Five minutes later there was still no gush of fluids. His conclusion, Jon was pressed so hard against my cervix that he couldn't break anything. I could have told him that!

Soon they cleared me to push, and push I did. An hour later, I still couldn't get Jon out. He was right there the doctor kept telling me. Look in the mirror the labor nurse said. I did try, and try, and try! Finally, two hours in, the doctor suggested a c-section, but I was opposed. I stated I can push him out! The doctor suggested we try a vacuum pump. Nasty business. Needless to say it didn’t work. He just would not budge. So, I agreed to surgery.

The doctor went off to prep his surgical suite, and I turned to my husband. I felt like a failure. I had known all along that it would come to that, but admitting defeat was never an easy thing for me. I was stubborn like my father and strong willed like my mother. I was crying rather hysterically. At a moment when I thought I could not go on, my father walked in. Now, it is important to tell you that like me, my father has mood eyes. The kind that change with your emotions. He walked right over onto the left side of my bed and held my hand. No words were exchanged, but his eyes spoke of deep caring and empathy. They were the clearest shade of green I had ever seen. It was my father that got me through those last few moments of waiting for the anesthesiologist.

Soon, I had my epidural in and was whisked off to the operating room. If you haven’t figured it out by now, mine was an unusually strange birth; what follows might shock you. As the nurses and I were rolling into the operating room, I noticed my husband putting on his paper scrubs, and being told to wait in the hall until they were ready for him. They were getting me onto the table when I discovered that I still had a lot of pain on my left side. I mentioned it to the anesthesia nurse, who simply started to put me under general anesthesia. She didn't even tell me that she was putting me under until I started to fall asleep. That feeling of drifting off scared me so bad I was screaming for my husband at the top of my lungs. I was so scared I was going to die that I needed him with me. My grandmother had died after surgery, and I was afraid I would be next.The anesthesia nurse kept saying my husband was not allowed into the room, but by then my labor nurse had arrived, and did some yelling of her own. He made it in just in time to hold my hand for the barest of seconds before I finally drifted off.

When I woke, my labor nurse was with me, saying I had a darling little boy. He must have been just as upset as I was she said. Jon came into this world yelling and had pooped on the neonatal nurse to boot. Jonathan was born with my husband in the room a mere two minutes after I was asleep.

Most of the following hours after that are a blur for me. I didn't hold my son till the next day. On that day, I walked with my parents to the nursery window. Inside was a tiny little angel getting his first bath. Remember I said earlier it was important to remember that my father had mood eyes? My parents were standing by the window, gazing in at Jon, when they turned to each other. My father’s eyes were a clear proud shade of the strongest blue; my mothers normally hazel eyes a shining green. All of the bad feelings between them had been left in the past. For a moment in time they were in complete accord. What followed was something I will never forget. My father said Jon was beautiful, and my mother agreed, holding his hand as they looked upon their first born grandson. I was the luckiest woman, wife, mother, and daughter in the world.

Posted by the woman formally known as “Boo Bear
An entry from my daughter!

My son Jonathan has always loved his food. Even today, he still asks for a "snack" fifty times a day; it's one of his innate charms. When he was a mere two months old we decided that we would have to start adding solid food into his diet. He was eating up formula at the rate of almost two cans a day!

The first of Jon's new foods was to be applesauce, and boy, did he love it. He would gulp it so fast you couldn't get it to him fast enough! My mother, bless her heart, discovered this on her second trip from Wichita to see him. I TRIED to warn her, Jon would set speed records for the fastest finish in the race to eat. As she sat down on my couch with an increasingly fussy Jon, I handed her the open container of applesauce and a spoon.

"Now mom," I said, “You have to be quick about this, or he will roll right out of your arms.”

She didn't believe me...yet. I never was sure afterwards who was the most frustrated; my son Jon, who was screaming at the top of his little lungs for faster service, or my mother, who was trying to feed him at the speed of light. All I could do was laugh out loud as I handed her his bottle, and waited for him to fall asleep from the food that he hadn't even had time to taste. When he was finally tucked into his little crib, I handed her a cloth for her clothes, which had the distinct odor of eau de applesauce, and a side of formula on them and asked," So, What do you think of our little Jon?" She pondered for a moment as she gazed down at him so peaceful in his bed, and finally stated, "My god, that kid can eat! Is he always like this?" All I could do was grin and answer "Yes!"

Monday, November 13, 2006

Tasha and the Bunnies. . .

My cat Tasha was a natural born huntress. If it moved she pounced and caught it. This included everything from bugs to furry critters of all kinds.

From the time she was just a kitten, she was fascinated by anything that moved and just catching it wasn’t enough. She would toy with it until she finally killed it, but she also seemed to need recognition for her deeds.

When she was about a year old I lived in Colorado, in the Springs. There was a window that didn’t have a screen on and Tasha would come and go as she pleased. It was convenient, so I never worried about fixing it. It was 1977, so our world was still a little less intense and laid-back then and an open window wasn’t such a big thing.

One night around 2:00 a.m. I rolled over in bed and my hand touched the floor. I moved it and felt something warm and wet, so I reached up and turned the light on. There was Tasha, sitting there proudly with a half-eaten bird in front of her. I was her sacred offering to me, which I rejected, much to her dismay. I don’t think she ever forgave me after that and when I got married a couple of months later, she was his cat from that time on.

When we moved back to Wichita, she again shared her world with Tiger, my yellow tabby. Tiger didn’t know he was a cat and when Tasha would bring him little ‘gifts’, he was lay his ears back and move away, obviously disgusted by the wet, dead things that Tasha would bring him. Whether she was looking for approval of her hunting skills from the elder cat or she did it just to disgust him, we’ll never know.

Our neighbor across the street raised bunnies. He had a pretty secure fencing system so the bunnies didn’t live in hutches; they just hopped around his backyard. It didn’t take Tasha long to discover them. In the mornings my mom or dad would go out into the back yard and pick up baby bunny carcasses, throwing them away to dispose of the evidence before the neighbor could discover them.

He would come over and comment that some ‘damn neighborhood cat’ was getting in and killing his bunnies. But he knew that Tasha would never do it, he said. But he sure did want to know which cat it was.

My parents were appalled by this, and didn’t know what to say to the neighbor. Finally, it got so bad that the neighbor decided to move the bunnies to his brother’s farm in Medicine Lodge. He asked my dad to help him move them and my dad, feeling slightly guilty told him that he would be glad to help.

They loaded bunnies, into the neighbors’ station wagon. Lots and lots of bunnies, around 60 actually. The bunnies weren’t in cages, just stuck in the back.

The last thing my mom saw as they drove down the street was bunnies going wild in the car, hopping on the dashboard, over the seats and my dad trying to keep them off of his head!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Motorcycles and Mistakes. . .

The women of my family have a unique relationship with motorcycles. Combine us and a motorcycle and it spells trouble.

When I was 13 my uncle in Enid, Oklahoma owned a motorcycle shop. Flashy Suzuki motorcycles appealed to the wild side of many people and business was booming for him. When we would go to visit my dad’s family in Enid, it usually involved a trip to the shop so my dad could check out what was new.

One visit there, my uncle had a new cycle in and my aunt decided to try to ride it. She was 25 and had never ridden a motorcycle before and got on and things went great, until she got to the stop sign at the corner. She sat there for a minute, waiting for traffic to pass and then she revved the motor up, cranking it a bit too much. The handle bars rose straight up into the air; it was the most fantastic wheelie I have ever seen! My cousins and I applauded and cheered and my uncle and my dad ran out there to her, pulling her hand off the accelerator and set the cycle back down. Wow, it was exciting we thought.

My mom gave it a try later and managed to head straight for the storage building at the side of the shop. Unfortunately for mom, a telephone pole sat about 2 feet from the building. There was no place to go but into the building or between the pole and the building. Logic took over and she headed for the gap!

She made it—almost. Unfortunately there was a large square piece of concrete foundation jutting out from the building. The rear tire clipped it and over the bike and mom went. Luckily neither was hurt too badly, but she never got on one again.

I wasn’t that smart though, as if you didn’t already know that. A year of so later my uncle got a little Honda 100 in for a trade and he and my dad worked out some deal for it. I was ecstatic when it came home with us. Until my dad informed me that since I was only 14, I couldn’t ride it on the street. With all the wisdom and aplomb of a 14 year old I protested my head off. He won the battle and I won’t go into the gory details. It still smarts.

We lived on a corner and had large yards surrounding the house. I could ride it anywhere on our property I wanted, but if he caught me off of it, no more motorcycle!

I agreed, but thought that was so stupid, not to mention an embarrassment. What if my friends saw me riding around the yard like that? What I didn’t realize of course was that they were envious that I even had the cycle to begin with.

I would zoom around the yard, looping from the north side, across the front around to the south side. It was actually pretty far; as I said it was a large yard. Large enough any way that when I went to the south side and rode back, a minute or two had passed. And right in front of me was my dad’s brand new company car that he had just picked up. A ’72 Chevy Malibu, its light blue metallic paint glinting in the sunlight.

There was no time to swerve, but I hit the brakes as hard as I could and at least slowed down a bit. A very little bit. I left a pretty good dent in the driver’s side door, but otherwise I was okay. So was the cycle, to my father’s consternation.

I got grounded from the cycle for a week over that, but trust me, I was back up on it after that, finding new ways to torture and maim myself.

The next incident came when, zooming around from the south yard again I looked up and found that my grandpa had set the sprinkler up to water the trees in the front yard that he had planted a few weeks before that. Not so bad I thought as I went to the left. But somehow I lost control of the cycle and laid it down on its left side. I was still hanging on to the handlebars, and giving it gas. It was digging into the earth, dragging me with it. Over a rose bush.

I had scratches from the top of my thigh to my knee, all on the inside of my thighs. Of course, the skin is the tenderest there!

I was screaming and mom and dad and grandpa came running out there and saw me sitting on the lawn, glaring indignantly at the vivid scratches which were bleeding a good deal. I looked up at them, tears of outrage streaking freely down my face.

The Honda had died when I was no longer giving it gas and I stood up, trying to decide what to do when I looked down and saw bright red drops of blood dripping onto the white paint of the cycle. Instead of kicking the darn thing as I wanted, I picked it up and put it into the garage and silently went into the house to wipe the blood off of my leg.

I was disgraced. I didn’t touch the bike for a whole week.

It wasn’t the last injury I got from it, but that’s another story!