Dick and Jane Days

A Fall Drive  1948 Ginn and Company

A Fall Drive
1948 Ginn and Company

Remember back in grade school, all those pictures of America? Pictures of roads and cities and delivery trucks and fields and farms? They showed men in business suits and uniforms or overalls, women wearing aprons over their shirtwaist dresses as they cleaned house, or wearing skirts and jackets as they shopped. Children played in the yard or pulled red wagons down the sidewalk, or held their mother’s hand at the grocery store.  The sky is usually a bright blue, clouds are scattered here and there, trees are perfect and regularly spaced.  City streets are clean and country roads have fields of corn in straight, long rows.  Barns are red and beautiful in the flickering sunlight.  Dick and Jane days, that’s what I call them.

Sometimes I’ll catch a glimpse of something perfect, like in those pictures, and I’ll think, “This is a Dick and Jane moment.” I love those moments.  Each season brings to mind different pictures, but sometimes I’m too weighed down by life and disappointment to remember to even look.  But every so often, like today, I’ll take a step back and look intentionally

Today I saw white pickup trucks in pumpkin fields that still held thousands of pumpkins.  A lot of families will be getting a lot of pleasure from those pumpkins.  I saw a Skippy peanut butter semi truck with a giant jar of peanut butter staring at me as I drove behind it.  I was just about addicted to that delicious looking peanut butter by the time the truck turned off. I wonder how many sandwiches will be taken to schools with peanut butter from that truck.  I wonder about the pride and hard work that goes into driving this truck as the truck driver supports himself and perhaps a family by driving the roads of America.

I passed a woman with gray curls and the pedal to the metal of her burgundy Buick as she flew past me on country roads – a farmer’s wife with pressing needs?  Is she okay, is her husband okay?  Emergencies and frustrations come to all of us, that’s for sure.

I saw women in their sweatshirts and jeans at the department store, and an aging mother asking her daughter if she liked a particular hat.  Women still shop in the middle of the day, even on Mondays.  And I still love seeing mothers and daughters, of any age, shopping together.  I kinda wish they were holding hands.

I saw farms with fields of corn already harvested, while other cornfields stood patient, tall and strong despite the stiff breeze blowing through them.  I saw farmhouses with their yards neat and clean, some with signs advertising pies, others eggs or vegetables and one was selling goats.  Farmers still love the earth and what it grows and supports.  Women still love their farmers and tolerate the work, and they all likely have even more patience and faith in a good harvest and a good God than I do.

I drove a patch of road with a sign that said it is maintained by a group of Girl Scouts. Apparently they had just cleaned up, as fat orange refuse bags still sat on the sides of the road, waiting to be picked up.  Girl Scout leaders still volunteer and believe in young girls, and young girls are still learning the value of civic pride and the blessing of giving of self to make this world more pleasant for others.  And yes, people are still littering roads with tons of garbage, a fact that still drives me crazy!

I saw a man with white hair sneaking out from beneath his red cap that matched his red coat and his red riding mower.  He drove slowly as he cut the grass that sloped in a gully in front of his home.  Old men are still retiring, and still have enough gas and know how to mow their lawns and keep their mowers running.  There’s something comforting in that.

I saw another older person, a woman, walking up the driveway from her mailbox as she carefully clutched her walker.  She accomplished something that others today may not do.  She is home, she is walking, the sun still shines down on her within the confines of her more limited world.  There is hope in that.

I also saw a young boy skateboarding in a city park.  Now, either he was visiting on vacation, is a home schooled student or kids still play hookey.  I have no idea exactly how he got to be there, but he is really good at skateboarding.  He is young and strong and a risk taker, even if it’s just to skateboard.  As long as he doesn’t hurt himself, he’ll likely see more of America’s future than I will.  There’s a lot of hope there, too.

We are the fruit of our forefathers and our country.  As a whole, we live a life that is still envied the world around.  The slice of life I experienced today was still similar to those Dick and Jane days. Take your camera to the cities and rural areas and you’ll capture similar scenes.  The geography may have changed, the demographics, the morality, yes, they’ve changed, too.  But this is still a beautiful country, no matter how or where you slice it, because the individual parts are still made up of a whole. I still get to live out some very beautiful Dick and Jane days, right here, in America. What a gift.

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Summer Vacation

One last picture before leaving.

One last picture before leaving.

I prepared myself as I anticipated the summer visit from my daughter and her family.  Schedules would be upside down, and so would the house. I’d be cooking up a storm some days and other days they’d be out on their own and I’d barely catch a glimpse of them.  I finished the bathroom just in time, got the beds freshly made and the rooms ready.  Stacks of towels were waiting in the closet, the refrigerator and pantry were stocked with their favorite foods.   Minutes before they were due I took a deep breath to take in all the peace and quiet and then exhaled to let it all go.

They arrived and the whirlwind ensued.  Within minutes my five-year-old granddaughter had me wrapped around her finger with her sweetness, charm and that curly ponytail that had grown several inches in the six months since Christmas. As usual, she melted my heart as she raptly listened as I read to her.  Our eight-year-old grandson with his blond crew cut and large blue eyes had joined Little League and our tradition of playing catch and Nerf gun wars wasn’t quite the same anymore.  His speed and aim have significantly improved and I could see it’s just a matter of time before he plays with me only to be polite to his dear old grandma. Sigh.

There were late night talks with my daughter and son-in-law.  Katie and I went over old recipes and I gave her some things I wanted her to have.  Josh helped my husband chop down the trees that hadn’t made it through last year’s drought.  We made s’mores with Uncle Ian and Aunt Erin around the fire before the mosquito bites made us run for the indoors.  We all ate too much and did too much and it was wonderful.

What I didn’t prepare for was how fast the two weeks would go.  They left today, in their cherry red truck, waving and beeping and shouting thank you’s.  I stood in the driveway and waved as they disappeared around the corner.  My feet seemed rooted in the spot.  Letting go.  It was harder this time.  I lingered out there, their voices still ringing in my ears.

Why is it this way, this fullness that life takes on when loved ones are around?  As mom I’m still the protector, my world is right and good when they’re around me, even though they’re older now. I know they’re safe when they’re here, that for a brief time I don’t have to wonder or worry.  I love going to sleep knowing we’re all together and we’re all where we need to be.

But, it’s temporary.  It’s vacation.  They really need to go back to their lives and their futures, as do I.  I have to let go.

As I walk inside, I smell the blueberry waffles we made for breakfast.  The house is not quite so upside down anymore but I’m in no hurry to wash sheets and straighten the few things up.  The TV is on, the silent movie my daughter was enjoying reminds me how much she is like me.  Next time I see her, Lord willing, she’ll be holding the baby she is expecting.  Time to embrace yet another love.  A love that will likely break my heart a little, too.  But there’s always room for more.

Yes, tears fill my eyes, I will miss them terribly.  I look at my hands with five blue nails and five red nails, painted last night with Tinkerbell polish by my granddaughter.  They will stay this way for a while.  I see the juice boxes I forgot to send with them.  Their bedrooms smell of them, the faint scent of their laundry soap lingers.  It was such a good visit.  I want to call them back, they’re still just miles from home, but I can’t, I have to let them go.

Now the dishes are washed, the sheets are in the laundry, the rugs are vacuumed and I’ve thrown out that awful red micro something blanket I bought for the guest room that sheds red lint all over the place.   I find a part of toy that dropped on the wrong side of the bed.  I find two pieces of wrapped bubble gum hidden in a secret spot, the can of bug spray they left behind.  I touch them all.  I chew a piece of bubble gum.  I keep willing myself to let them go, but it’s so, so hard.

I find that in all the giving I do to prepare for them, to make their vacation special and fun and as easy as possible, it is I who have been given the most.  It’s a gift to do these things, to provide this little respite for them.  To soak up the love and charm of grandchildren, to see one’s adult children so blessed and so in the middle of all that is good in this life; these are things we are not promised, some do not get.  Yet here I am, blessed beyond measure.  It is I who have received the greatest gift, the greatest satisfaction.  And I’m oh so grateful, but it has taken me by surprise.  I wasn’t prepared for that.