Thursday, May 27, 2010

Crossing Chestnut

crossing chestnut

In less than two weeks Amy will be done with school. Along with the end of the school year, it also marks the end of a daily ritual.

For the past nine years, almost every weekday morning and afternoon, she and I have walked the few blocks to school-first to elementary school and then to middle school. When she was little, I walked with her out of necessity. As she grew older I walked and still walk with her because she likes my company, I like hers, and I get some exercise. Every trip back and forth has meant crossing Chestnut street-a road usually busy and hard to negotiate.

Next year Amy will start high school, and it’s in the opposite direction. Though this school is also only a few blocks away, you don’t have to cross Chestnut street to get there.

A lot of changes have happened in the last nine years, the most dramatic being that Amy has gone from a cute, toothless 5 year old to a beautiful young lady. In those 9 years we’ve also watched neighbors come and go, we ourselves have moved to a new house, we’ve made new friends along our routes. We’ve seen huge old trees get cut down and young ones planted, old wooden fences replaced with new vinyl fences that last forever, and sadly, one great old house burn down leaving behind a shell of its former self, and then an empty lot. We’ve found different ways to get to school-down different streets and alleys, but the one constant has been crossing Chestnut street.

Will I miss Chestnut street, and the difficulty it often presented when we tried to cross it? No, but I guess I’ll miss what Chestnut street represented—a divider between Amy as a child and still very much needing me, and Amy as the adult she is rapidly becoming-still needing me, but maybe not so much and in a different way.

Does this thought make me sad? Right now very much so. But I’m excited too. I’ve been to the new high school and I’ve seen what the kids have available to them, and I can remember myself how bright the future is when you have your whole life ahead of you.

Though I’m not ready to have Amy grown up and be gone from home, I am painfully aware that it’s inevitable. I don’t need to hold her hand any more. I don’t need to do a lot of things for her any more. But sometimes, the little girl is back-reaching for my hand, leaning her sweet head on my shoulder, and whispering “I love you.”

So long, Chestnut street.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Saddle Up!

I’ve lived in Ellensburg for nearly 10 years, and by now I thought I knew most of it pretty well. But on a walk the other evening, my daughter Amy pointed to this chimney. I was amazed- not only by how cool the chimney was, but that I’d never noticed it before even though I’d walked by it many times. Ellensburg is a western town-and saddles are not an uncommon sight-but I must say, (cowboy) hats off to the innovative and creative person who thought this chimney up!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A History Lesson, and a Reality Check


Every so often it’s good to have things put into perspective. Lately I’ve complained about how bad the wind is, or how hard it is to try to have a successful Etsy shop, or how much I hate it when cars won’t stop to let me cross the street, etc., etc. Well…

Last night I attended a presentation given by a man named William “Bill” Holloman. He was a member of the Tuskagee Airmen--an all African American pursuit squadron in WWII.

It was already a difficult time in the history of the world-wartime always is, but the Tuskagee Airmen had the additional difficulties of segregation and prejudice and the accompanying notions that African Americans lacked intelligence and skill, were unpatriotic and when it came right down to it, probably a bunch of cowards.

By the time the war ended in 1945, the Tuskagee Airmen had become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of WWII. Additionally, they paved the way for the signing of Executive Order 9981 by President Truman on July 26, 1948. This order called for equality of treatment and opportunity in the Armed Services. Years later still, the Tuskagee Airmen were finally recognized for their service and valor in WWII by receiving the Congressional Gold Medal of Honor.

So back to Bill Holloman…Now 86, he is a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force. During WWII he flew P-51 Mustangs with the 332nd Fighter Group in Europe, and later he became the U.S. Air Force’s first African American helicopter pilot.

He finally got to add another accomplishment to his list a few years ago-and that was to roll up his pant legs… and walk into the waters of the Gulf Coast near Biloxi Mississippi. Back in 1948 when he was stationed there, he saw the water, and thought it looked so inviting for a swim, but it would have been a jailable offense for him to set foot in it.

Yes, reality checks, and history lessons are important…I see how good I’ve had it.


Images sourced from:

Monday, May 3, 2010

Mother's Day

This coming Sunday is Mother’s Day, and here in Ellensburg it also marks the official start of the gardening season-the date when it’s safe to plant anything because it’s most likely past the last frost. I think it’s fitting that these two days coincide, because for me the two are intertwined.

Last Saturday morning it was bright and sunny and with a temporary lull in the wind I decided to spend a couple hours in my newly emerging garden. As I made my rounds, I remembered other times, in other gardens.

When I was small I stayed with my mom’s mom, Dorothy, for a week. I was terribly homesick and would stare at my mother’s picture, hanging in my grandmother’s hallway, and cry and cry. I remember my grandmother setting me down in a big comfortable chair, making me peach toast, and telling me everything would be alright--my parents would come for me soon, and that we should try to have some fun in the meantime. I remember following her out into her garden and watching her fill her bird bath, and thinking at the time that there wasn’t anything grander than watching the water gush from the hose and splash against the cement of the birdbath….

Years later I lived with my father’s mother for about a year and a half. She was in her late 80’s at the time, and in need of some help around the house. I was in my early 20’s and making my third (and final) run at a college degree. I was to pay her a small sum each month for room and board and also do things for her that she couldn’t do herself. At first I felt it was going to be the worst time of my life. She was stubborn, and moody and we clashed many times. But it didn’t take long for us to discover that we had a mutual love of doing things with our hands-including gardening. I’ll never forget the sight of her hoeing madly at “weeds” that were really baby potatoes beginning to come up. I tried to point this out, but I don’t think she could hear me! Shortly before I moved out, she asked if I would plant her flower garden for her. I did so willingly and I felt so much pride when she told me what a nice job I had done. My Grandmother Helen is gone now, and I can’t help wishing that I could have her back again. I learned so much from her in that year and a half. She had a lot of wisdom to give from the life she had lived, which had been extremely hard at times. The day I moved out both of our hearts were breaking…

My own dear mother Anita and I have spent many happy hours gardening together. When I still lived at home taking care of the yard was a family affair and my job was edging around flower beds and along sidewalks-and done with a little hand trimmer too--no weed eaters allowed! ( We were a “push mower” kind of family--before it became the environmentally friendly thing to do.) As strange as it may seem-I loved this chore. I thought it was fun, and yes my hand often felt like it was about to fall off but I learned to love being outside, and I also began to really like the idea of growing and tending plants. From a container or two of geraniums at my first apartment I have gardened my way up to having a full fledged flower and vegetable garden. Now, when my parents visit us, or we visit my parents, my mom and I walk around our respective gardens chatting like long lost friends who have a lot of catching up to do, all the while pulling up a weed here, or doing a bit of deadheading there… I’m so thankful for these times!

I have learned so much and appreciated the invaluable advice I’ve gotten from my wonderful mother-in-law Mickey. She is a true master gardener and amazes me with her skill and knowledge and energy in creating some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen. She has inspired me to try new things, and has also shown me how beautiful fresh cut garden flowers look in cobalt blue glass vases-stunning!

I’m happy to see that my own sweet daughter Amy also has a love for gardening. It means that she will follow in the footsteps of her great grandmothers, grandmothers, and me. From the time she could barely walk she has followed me around, observing and learning and helping. Once, when she was about three she was watching me pull the faded blooms off of some flowers, and in her own precious way copied me by pulling off many flower buds before I could stop her! Another time we rescued a baby robin from a cat and brought it home to our garden where it could rest among the tall stalks of hollyhock. Unfortunately it was too injured and shocked to survive, and so it died quietly in that peaceful place.

This coming Mother’s Day Amy will be away at Honors Camp, but that’s ok. We don’t really need a special day to celebrate--she knows, and I know, and all the mothers in my family know, and have known that mothers, like gardens, are to be celebrated every day!