Granddaughter

Attended school until
The eighth grade
Not uncommon
For one born in 1923
Help was often
Necessary at home
Especially having
Elderly parents
Who needed care-
Married young
Babies came quickly
A full house of her own
But she was not
Uneducated as
Circumstances
Might suggest-
An avid reader,
Always a book in hand-
A thirst for knowledge
And meaningful conversations-
Needed to know the meaning
Or correct spelling
Of a word? The one to call-
I suppose you could say
She was self-taught-
If only I could
Call her right now
And tell her
How proud I am
To be called
Her granddaughter

Picture Reel

Frames play
In the back
Of my mind
Blurry, like a movie
Of faded memories…
Familiar, yet,
Not my own-
A young mom
Children at her feet
Gathered around
A black and white
Screen watching
The World Series
An avid baseball
Fan passing along
Her love of the game-
I have seen these
Children before
Though not as
They appear
And the mom?
This version
Is unfamiliar-
We will meet
But she will not
Share her love of
Baseball with me
One of her children
Will splice their own
Childhood images
Permanently into
My life’s reel-
Mother
To daughter
To granddaughter

Beautiful Mix

This afternoon the sun was shining! It has rained steadily for the last four days. My mood instantly changed as soon as I walked outside after school.

On my drive home, I decided to listen to one of the “created for you” playlists on iTunes. No surprise, the very first song was by James Taylor-Angels of Fenway. As you might guess, it is a song about baseball, life, family, never giving up. The melody is happy, the music energetic.  

How is it then that two simple phrases from this song instantly caused me to choke back tears? Again, the song is about baseball! Yet, here I was, driving down the highway, about to cry.

What were those phrases?

Grandma watched from her hospital bed.

It doesn’t feel like a long time ago.

Now, I don’t recall ever discussing baseball with my Grandma Mahar. But I did spend a lot of time with her growing up. She and my Grandpa lived next door.  

Grandma did not have much formal education. She took care of her parents. She also married young and raised nine children. But Grandma loved to read! It seemed like she could discuss anything. Her set of Encyclopedia Britannica was the Google of my childhood. And the bookshelves in her laundry room were always full.

Today, when I heard that first line, an image popped into my head. 

It was my Grandma sitting up in her own hospital bed. She had suffered a stroke. But on this occasion, her bed had been rolled out into a waiting area. And she was surrounded by her kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids.

It’s funny how some details are forgotten. I’m not exactly sure what occasion we were celebrating. But I know we were celebrating Grandma. ❤

The second line gave me a different thought. So many years have passed. Oh, how I would love to have one more visit. So many questions I would ask. So many things I would write down.  

My heart is grateful for the memories of my Grandma. And thankful for the beautiful mix of words and music that brought them to the forefront of my mind today while driving home in the warm sunshine.

Grandma’s Back

Last school year, I had a sweet group of fourth-graders. They liked to call me “Grandma.” I did not mind it one bit. It was funny and endearing. And it allowed for connections that otherwise might not have happened. The Grandma Connection

Fast forward to this new school year. Those sweet friends are all scattered. Some opting for virtual. Others no longer in my music class. I imagine some have also moved. But there’s one I still get to see.

This particular friend, now a big fifth-grader, has been a little withdrawn these first two weeks of school. I haven’t had much luck getting him to participate in music. But sometimes it takes time to get back in the routine of school, so I hadn’t given it much thought.

Today forced the issue. When I entered the classroom, my friend was sitting at the back, head down, hood on. And when other classmates were getting out laptops for an activity, he didn’t budge. I tried getting him to go, but he was not moving.

Once the other students were logged in and exploring their music activities, I made my way to the back of the room.

Me: Remember what you called me last year?
Student: Shakes head no.
Me: Yes, you do. You called me Grandma.
Student: Shakes head.
Me: That means you can always talk to me. Ok?
Student: Shakes head again.
Me: (Patting his head) Love you, Bud.

I was sitting in my room eating lunch a few hours later when this friend showed up at the door. Carrying his lunch tray, hood off, smiling behind that face mask. He walked over and gave me a hug, assuring me that he was ok.

What a relief! Many moments tested my patience today. And some of my reactions could have been better. I am thankful that this one, at least, worked its way to a positive.

I guess this means Grandma’s back! 😉

Grandma’s Piano

The image remains
Though faded
Old and upright
Tall, black, majestic
Eighty-eight keys in a row
Sitting on the bench
Beautiful patterns
Come into focus
Two-three-two-three
A perfect guide
For little hands
Learning to play
Roll knuckles up
Tap twice
Repeat
Roll knuckles down
Tap twice
Repeat
I dropped
My dolly
In the dirt
A love that began
With simple melodies
Played on ivories
Prominently placed
In Grandma’s
Dining room
How I wish
I could play
Those simple melodies
One more time
For my Grandma
On her old piano

A New Nickname

Nicknames can be mean, intended to make fun of their recipient. But they can also be funny and endearing. I’ve had several during my lifetime. Spaghetti and Kelley Girl top the list. Each name attached to a person or memory.

This week I received a new one. And though I’m unsure of the original intent, I have no doubt about the outcome. It all began with a group of fourth-grade boys.

As students entered my classroom on Monday, I overheard some boys laughing and saying, “Abuelita.” I smiled, “They think I don’t know what that means.”

“Did someone just call me Grandma?” I chuckled. “I am not your Grandma, although I am old enough.” I smiled, assuring them I was teasing. The boys grinned.

Soon we were playing Christmas Song Bingo. The group of boys was a little chatty during the game. After reminding them several times to be quiet and listen, I decided to have a little fun.

With the help of Google, I discovered how to say, “My grandson talks too much” in Spanish. After repeating the phrase in my head several times, it was time to act. I quietly walked over to the boys, leaned down and said, “Mi Nieto habla demasiado.”

The look on their faces was priceless! We had a good laugh and continued with our game.

At the end of all my classes, I like to stand at the door and tell each student goodbye, have a good day, see you next time, etc. Today was the “Abuelita” class again. As they were leaving, one of the boys smiled, gave me a big hug and said, “Bye, Grandma.”

I have no idea whether or not my new nickname will stick. But if it does, I will answer. It represents a connection with another student. And that is what truly matters.

Steel Magnolias

When I first saw this movie about thirty years ago, it became an instant favorite. Many times, I’ve watched it simply because I needed a good, cleansing cry.

The story has so many beautiful elements. It follows a group of women friends through the love and heartache of life. And it does so with a backdrop of the changing of the seasons.

I didn’t initially appreciate the powerful imagery suggested by the title. Magnolia flowers are large, beautiful blossoms which grow on a magnificent tall tree. Steel is a hard, strong material used in construction. These two words seem to contradict one another. Yet together, they create a picture of beauty and strength. Exactly what the women in the story portrayed.

My mom has six sisters and two sister-n-laws. That meant eight aunts for me growing up in the Mahar family. Along with my grandma, these women are the definition of “steel magnolias.” Beautiful, strong women who have each faced their share of challenges.

After a recent visit with some of them, I began to think about their list of accomplishments. I first created a list of their names and wrote a brief description next to each one. Although they might not recognize it themselves, their qualities and achievements are quite impressive. The following is a comprehensive list describing all of them collectively.

Daughters and sisters
Wives and mothers
Aunts and grandmothers
A single mom, a grieving mom
Breast cancer survivors
Adult college graduates
Artist, nurses, a pianist
Three widowed, one remarried, two deceased
Women of faith
Hard-working
Opinionated
Dependable
Teachers
Faithful
Friends
Patient
Loving
Strong
Kind

Muriel, Pearl, Mary, Elizabeth, Geneva, Sharon, Linda, Martha, Jeanie, Linda

I’m thankful for my mom, grandma, and aunts. Each embodies this picture of strength and beauty in their own way. And together, they create a strong family tree. A tree with strong roots and beautiful blooms. “Steel Magnolias” able to face any challenge this life brings.