Monday, June 30, 2008

And the word of the day is...

... goat
Kate wants a goat. At least she used to. I suspect the part of her she left at home, with her old textbooks and comfy pajamas, still does. We thought about it for a while. Thought about how excited she might be on the morning of her birthday to wake up to a hairy chinned pygmy in the back yard. But we were not sure Sally the slobber dog would adjust. And we were not sure our yard would survive. But in my mind I see a little YouTube video of a winter afternoon, when the sun is washing over 16 inches of snow in the back yard. Sal, our faithfully apathetic Basset, has tunneled her path through the white jungle, as usual. Her low lying belly plows through the powder in what looks like a mini-luge. From overhead it must seem like there is an ant farm at 844 Emerald Oaks Court. Sally is trailed by the fleet footed wonder goat, who stirs up the smooth tunnel so that it becomes deeper and deeper each time they take a turn. I see Sal trying to butt heads with the goat, whom Kate would have given some random name like Floyd or something. In the summer Floyd runs in circles around Sal and confuses her, so she scrambles over to her dog house and tries to curl up under the tree as close to the trunk as possible so that there is no way Floyd can get through. She lays her chin on the ground, her paws under the flappy folds of her jowls, and raises her eyebrows, glancing at Floyd as he chomps on an old shoe. Her right eyebrow jumps up and lowers, as if to say “Whatever”, then she closes her weepy eyelids and starts to snore. Floyd, meanwhile, drops the shoe and sticks his scruffy silver head through the rungs of the fence and eats away a perfectly good newly blooming peony. Bye-bye, Floyd. I just cannot fathom the aromatic combination of Sally the Slobber Dog and Floyd the Crazy Pygmy Goat, anyway! (Though I guess I could live with it if I could have Kate back.)

Thursday, June 26, 2008


We're a year apart in school. A house apart in Farmington. A few numbers apart in size. But, thank the Lord, we are not any more apart than that! From the time we were little Libby has been my compadre', partner in crime, confidant and best Barbie doll pretender. She straddled the opposite banister on the basement stairs when we were kids and hollered "giddy up" with me. She stirred the lentil beans from the food storage in the back room on Old Clairton Road, pretending to be college room mates making dinner when we were 8 and 9 years old. Ann Marie joined us. We dressed up in Mom's old designer garbs, all made on mom's old singer sewing machine. And even though any other normal third grader would grab the Red Gingham Dress for her own, she let me wear it. Happily. We once acquired a large cardboard box, perfectly sized for our imaginations. Our sister Sue was at the time working as a computer programmer in Pittsburgh. She brought home these long manila cards with chads punched out. This was in the early days of computers, when what fits in our palm now used to take a warehouse full of machine to process. We designed, traced, colored and sawed out slots with mom's best tomato cutting knife. One of us sat inside the box, playing the role of "computer" and the other fed those cards into one of the slots, asking a question. The computer wrote answers on the cards and returned them through another slot. And one time in 7th grade I won a school contest for best invention. Lib helped me display Pappy Parker's Powerful Pound Popping Machine. Someone skinny entered one side. Someone hefty entered the other. Libby was the skinny one. She weighed fifty-one pounds for four years. Lights flashed. Glottal noises were made, followed by whirring sounds. Finally both doors opened and two perfectly sized individuals exited the contraption. That was a good idea. I need to take myself and the rest of America over to Ethiopia and really figure out how to make it work now!

When Lib was 5 years old and I was in first grade she had a friend who lived down the street and was in love with her. I don't remember his name. He used to come to the front door and say "Can Limpy play?" She was just the best player. Still is. The other day I watched her walk around the car after putting Mom's wheelchair in the back. She was hot, and she limped slightly. I think that boy had a premonition. Her ankle hurt. Me...I let everyone know when my feet hurt. Lib...she just gets in the car. The day her foot removed itself from her leg I remember frantically demanding that Dave give her MY blessing. "You have to bless her that she will not lose circulation to her foot! You HAVE to do this!" I stood out in the cold at the edge of her driveway, shivering with fear, praying for faith. Curling my fingers into the rim of the ambulance window I pulled myself up to look inside. Shelley Young and Todd Richardson were the paramedics, both friends. Lib was on the max dose of morphine. Her foot dangled in its skin, hanging backwards from her ankle, stabilized by a pillow. David sat at her head. Todd bent over beside her, one hand on her head, one on a monitor. While Dave blessed her Todd went back and forth between closing his eyes and bowing his head to checking her vitals. There was no room in there for me. I stood in the cold and sobbed. The thought of losing her, of losing any part of her, kept scratching the outer core of my brain and I would not let it enter. There's a scene in Sense and Sensibility where Elinor kneels at the bedside of her gravely ill sister. "Marianne, try!" she whispers. ""You must try! I cannot do this without you!" I weep every time I watch this. I know that feeling. That love that goes deeper than time, where all of life's experience is doubled in its joy and sorrow because it is shared with someone who knows all of you. The good and the bad. Lib knows me inside and out. She knows me in ways that no one else knows me. And I am amazed that in spite of knowing me so well, she loves me so well.

I cannot imagine how, in all the universe of possibilities, someone as unlikely as I was given a Dave and a Libby...and the gospel. And this is just a part of the bounty! I have a mom, and more sisters, and brothers, and kids, and friends, and talents, and means. Pile them up and I have a Neuschvanstein castle of blessings jutting into the heavens! At the foundation, holding steady, are the man I love and married 31 years ago yesterday; and the girl who came to our house to stay 49 years ago today. Thank you Lord, I see my blessings!


Sunday, June 15, 2008


A friend hears the song in
my heart and sings it to me
when my memory fails.--

I like my kids' friends. I like all of them. I know this is a rare statement for a parent to make, but it's true. I liked them when they piled salamanders in a bucket on my front porch; when they showed up at our house wearing our kids' clothes; when they made those wacky video movies on the back deck. I liked them when they imagined the front yard was a "restrot" and when they clustered around that little red wagon full of kittens and stared at me with those yearning eyes..."you HAVE to take one, or my mom will take them to the place that KILLS them!" I liked their night games; their bum wars on the trampoline; their ball games and sleep overs. I liked them when I thought my kids would be scarred for life because of their antics. Looking back, I think I liked them when I was pretty sure they were possessed. In the quiet of this room, with only the hum of the computer and the clicking of my fingers on the keyboard, I can conjure up the sound of laughter in the yard...the rustle of leaves on Halloween night...the escalating volume and rising pitch of a short lived argument when someone was not getting their turn. I hear balls bouncing and backboards ringing followed by someone shouting "H-O-R-S you're almost OUT!" The thunk of a ball getting sucked into the pocket of a newly oiled glove. The creak of the hinges of the fridge at midnight. The clanging of dishes. The hushed whispers of deepening voices as they sneak back into the basement at 3 am. The sound of glass breaking/ walls breaking/ guitars crushing. I liked them even then! Well, maybe I loved them then. Like may have taken a hike for just a moment those days. But it always returned.
I see Jenny in line at Costco, her baby kicking his legs in her shopping cart and her three-year-old darling tugging at her leg. "Tell Sarah I love her!" she says, "and John, too. I named my boy John, you know." I know she is a woman, but the feeling is for the junior high adolescent whose voice had that darling catch in it when she talked. I hear of my nephew's brother-in-law who crashed in Farmington Canyon last week and I recall the laughter in the basement of this home, the plans to gather up the sleds and saucers and give the new fallen snow a go. Ryan drove up that canyon to check it out, and he never returned. Those same boys lined up beside his casket in their brand new missionary suits and ties. Like, like Love, is not always happy.
I like my girls who are not of my flesh but are heart-born. The ones who made creative messes in the garage, in the basement, in the yard. I like that the girls of my flesh are also each other's friends, and that their sister-in-law fits so naturally and comfortably. There is just so much around our lives to like!
Come to think of it, along with liking my kids' friends, I also like my friends' kids. How lucky can I get?
I also like my kids' kids.
Oh...and I like my kids.