In A Flash

They say you never really appreciate your parents until you grow up.  I knew I’d always valued them, but I have come to the conclusion that one cannot be fully grateful for everything your parents did until you become a parent yourself.  My father worked every day but Sundays.  He owned a painting business and had a clientele mostly for residential houses, both interior and exterior.  He also did large projects, like painting the First Baptist Church of Dallas.  He and my mother made sacrifices so that she could stay home with me.  Looking back though I notice we had an abundance of books — my mother’s on classical art and music, my father’s on politics and history, and mine which contained Newbery and Caldecott Medal award-winning children’s books.  We took advantage of free outdoor concerts in the summer like the symphony and Shakespeare in the park, we utilized our local library, and tried to make museum days when they were free.  We also watched cool nature documentaries on TV.  I particularly loved watching, “The Wonderful World of Disney” on Sunday evenings with my parents.  Looking back I see how well they educated me on their own outside of the schoolroom.  They instilled in me a love of learning and thirst for knowledge which continues to this day.  I remember it was very important to my father that I learn phonetics.  He was never very good with them and wanted me to be better.  I do not know why, over the years, I have managed to tell myself I was naturally gifted with languages and spelling.  As I have recently been working with my kindergartener over her 72 “sight words” I have been transported back into the long-forgotten days of whining, writhing, and wailing.  To my horror I realized what my little one is doing to me is the same thing I did to my mother as she thanklessly and tirelessly worked with me on my flashcards.  Now the cards are in my hands.  I must do for my daughter what my mother did for me.  When my little one proclaimed it was too hard I told her that for most people learning isn’t something automatically acquired; it requires persistence and hard work.  Sometimes it is fun and sometimes it is unbridled Hell.  Peering through the veils of time, I remember my parents helping me study to make it to the regional Spelling Bee after I became my elementary school champion.  That didn’t just happen; I remember them working with me and checking the words as I got them right.  I have noticed with each small victory my little one becomes less “agonized” and, therefore, so do I.  The retired American four-star army general Colin Powell said, “There are no secrets to success.  It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.”  Just as my parents wanted for me, my husband and I want for our child to successful, in whatever form that may take.  One day I wonder if my little one will recall these early days of learning and have the same revelation about me that I did about my mother.  If or when she does, she’ll know it in a flash.


He Gave Us His Heart

As I have often stated I never had the privilege of living in a house until I got married.  One of the things I instantly loved was our big, sliding kitchen window.  Growing up we had a tiny, enclosed galley kitchen.  My mother cooked incredible meals in there made from scratch, but I longed for a kitchen window that looked out upon a yard.  After we bought our house I begged my husband to let us put in a little koi pond, and now every time I am at the sink I have a view of double waterfalls, our five beautiful fish swimming languidly in the water, and often water lilies in bloom.  A great black wolf statue stands majestically at the top of the falls, and to his side is a large white statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the Patron Saint of Animals and Ecology.  He is depicted in such a way that he appears to be smelling the flowers, with his head turned facing Gubbio the wolf.  It is serenity by its very nature and when I open our kitchen window I can hear the soothing sound of water flowing over the huge rocks.  In the mornings I often hear birds singing or the chattering of squirrels.  On summer nights I can hear the rhythmic, deep “brrrraaaaaaap” of toads calling to one another.  And I love to watch dragonflies drinking from the pond.  Before this the only thing back there had been a solitary fig tree.  We built our pond around it and I had the workers use the three massive slabs of leftover stone to make me a bench underneath the branches.  As I name all my trees, he became known as Mr. Figgy.  I spent over a decade watching him bloom and grow.  In the summers I’d watch him become so bushy I learned to prune him.  In the fall the three of us delighted in watching the squirrels gorging themselves on the literal fruits of his labor.  This last spring I taught my child how to climb him.  My daughter has adored Mr. Figgy and I had visions of building a tree house around him.  Then the arborist delivered some devastating news:  Mr. Figgy was getting long in the tooth.  He had already been treated for some type of borer worms.  We thought he was better but then she pronounced he now had mold.  “Oh NO not Mr. Figgy!” my little one cried as I silently echoed her sentiments.  My mind traveled back to that book “The Giving Tree” I’d read so often as a child.  With great sadness, I realized Mr. Figgy did not have much left to give.  And so I gave the order, feeling like a cold-blooded killer assassinating a beloved friend.  I wish I had taken a picture of him.  My little one and I went outside, told him what he’d meant to us, and then said good-bye.  “Can we keep a piece of him?” she asked.  And then we heard the chainsaw roar and could not bear to look.  After it was quiet I got a call from our gardner who said, “he had something for his Princessa” and so I called my little one outside with me.  The picture you see here is what he gave her.  It is literally Mr. Figgy’s heart that was cut from one side of his base.  Manuel said he had done nothing to shape it but when he noticed it was so perfect he wanted us to have it.  I love what Saint Basil, the 4th century Greek bishop of Caesarea, once said:

”A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds.  A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.”

Mr. Figgy was so much more than a tree; he was a dear friend whom I aspire to be like more.  I am immensely grateful we have something so special to remember him by.  Mr. Figgy gave us all he had:  his buds in the spring, his shade in the summer, his fruits in the fall and, in the winter of his life, he gave us his heart.


Oh Deer!

Each day I pick my little one up from school and we pass a house on the corner of an intersection which has brought us immense joy.  Situated on the edge is a deer which, to our delight, always seems to be dressed for the occasion.  At Christmas he sported a Santa hat and my little one and I were tickled to see the deer rocking a New Year’s hat for 2018.  What has captured our fancy the most, however, is how you see him pictured here.  Cleary he is between holidays and yet he is wearing a festive scarf and ear muffs.  My six year old and I have HOWLED as we’ve passed by.  Clearly someone cool lives there who is dressing him according to the season.  Recently I decided to ring the doorbell and inquire about the deer on the corner who is so nattily attired.  An 81 year old woman named Nancy responded and informed me that “Bob” the deer had been in her yard since 1990.  She wanted a deer that her first grandchild could ride and he is named after her brother-in-law Bob.  Multiple attempts have been made over the years to steal him, but her husband cleverly placed him in cement and had him rebarred for good measure.  Somewhile ago a heart wreath was placed around his neck for St. Valentine’s.  Another time Nancy came outside to discover dear Bob had been cheerfully festooned with Mardi Gras beads complete with a sequined mask.  She said someone volunteered to outfit him for St. Patrick’s Day this year.  Since no one has claimed the patriotic holidays of Veterans’ Day, the 4th of July, and Memorial Day I have requested them.  Bob has acquired quite the collection over the years.  He already has rabbit ears for Easter, an inflatable raft and sunglasses for the hot summer months, and even a Hawaiin lei.  And the two-leggeds are not the only ones who have noticed.  Nancy says she has gotten to where she can identify a lot of the various dogs who bark at him as they pass by.  “Bob has been to rehab like me,” she said as she told me of the repair she has done to his front and back legs.  She has learned to mix cement to fix his signs of aging and has also painted him several times to keep him looking good.  I greatly admire this widow for staying active and maintaining a playful sense of humor.  Wayne Dyer, the American motivational speaker, once said:

”The child inside of you knows how to take things as they come, how to deal most effectively and happily with everything and everyone it encounters on this planet.  If you can recapture that childlike essence of your being, you can stay ‘forever young at heart.'”

So what adventures are next for Nancy and Bob?  I can only say, “Oh deer!”