Tree Memories

I have always loved trees. Not only are they beautiful, but they also provide refreshing shade. Though all are important in their way, some stand out above the rest.

Several specific trees from my childhood come to mind. A large tree near my grandma’s house had a basketball goal attached. I spent hours under its shade shooting hoops with my cousins. It provided family fun and a sense of security.

A lovely mimosa tree graced my parents’ front yard. With pink, feathery flowers, it made the perfect picture backdrop. I can see me now, standing nearby in my Easter dress holding my little woven basket.

We closed on the sale of our house today. This afternoon, I had one last visit with one very special tree. This tree watched over our backyard for the past sixteen years.

Our family took advantage of this picture-perfect spot many times. Easter, Mother’s Day, proms, graduations. Even those ”just for the fun of it” pics with the kids sitting up on the branches.

Today, I snapped one last picture. But this time, the tree was my only subject. Standing tall and proud, the sun shone through its branches. Inside my head, I whispered, ”Thank you.” As the wind rustled its leaves, I imagined a whisper back, “You’re welcome.”

An Old Toy Box

Today was moving day. My family expected me to be crying at some point. It wouldn’t be unusual. Even my oldest son, Robert, called to check on me this morning.

While I drove to the new house with Rachel and Ryan to unload cars, Gart stayed back with the movers. Soon he sent a text, a picture of the empty house. I felt a little sad, but no tears.

Once everything was unloaded at the new house, we made one more trip back to the old house. Now I was standing in the middle of the emptiness. Rachel commented, ”It hasn’t looked like this since we moved in.” That was 16 years ago. The kids were 8, 6, and 3.

I remember them running around inside the house. I remember worrying about Ryan falling down the stairs. I think about how proud I am of the young adults they’ve become. Still, there were no tears.

We backed out of the driveway. Gart and Ryan in the truck, Rachel and I following in my car. Something caught my eye-the old toy box my dad built when Robert was a kid. It’s a little bench seat with a lid which lifts for storage.

This wooden box has been through many moves, sat in many rooms, and served many purposes. Today, it caused my tears. ”Of all things,” I thought to myself, ”Robert’s old toy box.”

I suppose it makes sense. We are preparing for that empty nest. This move represents a culmination of changes for our family. The kids are all grown up. They don’t need that space to run and play anymore. They are too big to sit on that seat or play with the toys it once held. And that is a good thing.

I love our new house. I look forward to making memories here with our grown-up children. Maybe one day, there will be other little ones sitting on that seat. No hurry. The memories we carry will soon fill the empty spaces while leaving room for new ones.

This house will soon feel like home because of the people who live here and the people who will visit. In the meantime, I will look back with fondness and forward with hope. And maybe I will find a special spot for that old toy box. 😉

Dreaming of…

Dreams are fascinating. I don’t often remember mine. When I do, they are usually crazy. Last night I had two vivid dreams. This morning I felt compelled to write them down.

In dream number one, I stood in the middle of an auditorium, possibly a church. A stage with rising levels in front of me. People stood all around me and on varying levels.

I noticed water seeping in around the edge. It rose quickly, but no one else seemed concerned. I began to panic. Looking up, I saw Gart standing on one of the higher levels in front of me.

I frantically made my way up to him. Despite the now chest-high water, Gart was calm and collected. I was terrified. He pointed towards an open door to our right side and said, “Look. We can get out right over there.”

Dream number two involved our youngest, Ryan. Gart, Ryan, and I were driving near the ocean. Once again surrounded by people. Once again surrounded by water. Huge waves lapped at both sides of the road as if driving through the middle of the ocean.

Needless to say, I felt anxious, ready to turn around. But Ryan said, “Let’s drive a little further. There’s a sinkhole up ahead I really want to see.” We drove forward, and sure enough there it was; a huge sinkhole, spreading and quickly filling with water. We finally decided to turn around, but the car just spun around in circles.

Back to reality. After describing my dreams this morning, Gart said “Well, that makes sense. You’re under a lot of stress and worrying about things you can’t control.” Hmmm…he’s probably right. Shhh…do not tell him I said that. 😉

As I type, the house is full of moving boxes. No longer neat and clean like it has been for the past month. Until now, my summer days have been filled with making sure the house was ready for showings. There was routine. I knew what needed to be done each day.

Now we have a contract on our house. Yay! The past two days involved signing papers for selling our current home and buying our new home. Closing dates are set, tentative moving dates established, and moving boxes everywhere. Definitely cluttered, the house and my thoughts.

But what about the second dream? Why the addition of Ryan? Well, he is our youngest. He just graduated from high school, is working every day, and begins classes at Oklahoma State University Institute of Technology in September. My baby…making his way in the world. Saying I’m emotional is an understatement.

Today I may be swimming in a sea of moving boxes, but there is no rising water. I may be figuring out how to let go of my youngest, but there is no engulfing sinkhole. Those scary images came from my dreams. Dreams which brought laughter and a reminder that I need to let go.

Next week we are heading to Colorado for a much-needed vacation. Time to unwind and relax, enjoying the beautiful surroundings. The mountains are calling my name! As are the peaceful, flowing streams. Not the mighty ocean waves. Not this trip, anyway.

Front-Yard Goodbyes

I’ve had many experiences, too many to count, with front-yard goodbyes. A close friend or family member prepare to move away or go home after a visit. I walk them to the door. Hugs given and received, well-wishes spoken, but it doesn’t end at the front door.

We walk outside together, down the sidewalk. One more hug, one last “be careful,” conversation continuing until the car door closes. As they drive away, I stand firm in the yard. We wave, and I watch until they are out of sight.

These memories range from my childhood all the way up to this very day. Each filled with images of people I love. People I hope to see again soon. People who are difficult to watch drive away.

An emotional reaction from me is pretty much a guarantee. Sometimes it is immediate. Uncontrolled tears flow for all to see. Attempts to dry them to no avail.

Other times, my reaction is delayed. Although I feel sad as they drive away, there are no tears. And just when I think, “Wow! I didn’t cry” they are mentioned later in the day, and I’m suddenly fighting back tears.

Whether the emotions are instantaneous or deferred really does not matter. What matters is time. Taking the time to say goodbye not only once, but two or three times. Taking the time to follow, stand firm, wave, and watch.

Showing them how much they are loved through a simple front-yard goodbye.

Good Books, Good Friends

Summer break is here! I always look forward to having time to read for pleasure in the summer. Get lost in a story, feel like I’ve been introduced to new people. A couple months ago I bought a book with that thought in mind. I began reading it this week.

After the first chapter, there was no doubt I would not be able to put the book down. So, this morning I made a deal with myself. Reading would not begin until I had at least cleaned the kitchen. My plan was to clean, read a few chapters. Do a little packing (we are also moving this summer), read some more, and so on.

Well…the kitchen is clean. And I know the end of the story.

What a beautiful story. And though I couldn’t wait to reach the end, I felt sad upon arrival. The characters came to life. I could see their faces, hear their voices. As I was reading, I knew I would miss them when the story ended. Almost like friends who were moving far away.

One particular passage caught my attention. It was as if there was a stop sign on the page. Smiling, I read it again. After the third time, I wrote it down.

Universal truth: some people you’ve known since birth and you’ve just barely met them; others you’ve known for four years and they’ve been your friend since before you were born.

Marisa De Los Santos

What a sweet reminder from my first book of the summer. Certain friendships (and books) seem to transcend time. Once they are part of your life, you can’t remember a time without them.

Here’s to a summer filled with good books and good friends.

Kitchen Drawers

Getting a house you’ve lived in for fifteen years ready to sell is quite an undertaking. We spent much of this weekend working on small projects. Cleaning out closets, replacing light fixtures and bulbs, packing up books. Each endeavor seemed small on its own, but when added together, felt like a big accomplishment.

The kitchen pantry and drawers were in great need of some TLC. My daughter, Rachel, helped with the pantry. We removed everything from each shelf, threw away anything out-of-date, wiped down the surfaces, and put back what items remained. It looks so much better!

Next were the kitchen drawers. I had started to clean them out on several occasions. But every time I opened one and looked in, I felt overwhelmed. Today I would tackle one drawer. The main silverware drawer. Surely, I could manage just this one drawer.

I placed the contents of the drawer on the kitchen counter. Looking down, I noticed the paper lining at the bottom. Oh my. Was this the same paper that was there when we moved in? I’m afraid so. I had initially planned to replace it, but life happens.

As I stared at the paper, white with little blue and pink flowers, old and outdated, there was no question what had to happen. It had to be ripped out, every last sticky piece. And believe me, it was sticky. Once the paper was removed and the drawer bottom cleaned, I lined the drawer with some new, updated material.

What a difference! Not only did I manage to clean out this one drawer, but I also cleaned out all the other kitchen drawers!

A small treasure from today’s work! 🙂

I know this sounds like a minor task. It does not provide the selling power of say, new countertops or tile. But as I looked at the old paper, debating whether or not to tear it out, I remembered what it was like to move into a new house. Especially when I was a young wife and mom. I wanted everything to be just right but did not have the time or energy for even a small project such as this.

When we moved in, the task of tearing out that paper would have sent me over the edge. Granted, it was probably in better shape than it is now. So, I chose to leave it and give it a good scrubbing. It is nice to know the next person who lives here won’t have to make that choice.

I have no idea who will buy our home. I hope it is a young family like we were when we moved in. Kids running around upstairs, having their own space to play and grow. A family enjoying the openness of this house, the light from the large windows, the park at the end of our street. A mom who appreciates a simple gesture. A gesture such as the removal of the sticky paper from the bottom of the kitchen drawers.

House to Home

Our family has lived in our current home for fifteen years.  Kids were nine, seven, and three when we moved in.  Prior to that move we had lived in four different houses in three different cities, and two different states.  I remember feeling so relieved to be settled.

As someone who spent the first seventeen years of my life (until I left for college) in the same house, all of our moves were challenging.  I worried about how the kids would handle each new place.  Would they make friends easily?  Would I?  Of course, we all adjusted in our own way.

This house has truly become home.  It’s where our kids grew up.  So many memories.  For example, my concern that Ryan would fall down the stairs.  He was so little when we moved in, and the kids bedrooms were all upstairs.  As it turned out, the concern should have been for me!  I was the first one to bounce down the stairs on my bottom.

Although there was the time Robert tumbled down the stairs.  Apparently Robert, Rachel, and Ryan were playing the game “follow your siblings directions while wearing a sleeping bag over your head.”  I’m sure you’ve all played that one before!  Some friendly advice; make sure the sibling giving directions knows their right from their left…

Many of the memories involve celebrations-and food.  Saturday morning pancakes, Sunday night Chinese take-out, Dad’s burgers on the grill, my chocolate chip cookies, yellow cake with chocolate frosting. Birthday parties, holiday dinners with extended family, graduation parties-so many things to celebrate.

Well…things are about to change.  We currently have a high school senior and a college senior, and an already moved out and employed teacher.  We know from experience these next few months will fly by.  And though our nest won’t be immediately empty, that is the direction we are rapidly heading.

Gart and I have talked many times about preparing for this next stage in life.  He would even joke and tell the kids we were going to buy a tiny house or move to a loft apartment downtown.  Neither of those is going to happen, but we are preparing to buy another house and sell this one.

Right now my thoughts are mostly in the details-time frame, moving boxes, etc.  But they  unexpectedly drift and I find my eyes welling with tears.  This happened while driving away from the home we eventually decided to buy.  It’s a beautiful home, warm and cozy.  I am excited.  So why was I crying?

Change is like that.  Even when the change is positive, it still comes with growing pains.  Right now my growing pains involve how my role as a parent is changing.  Since the majority of my parenting years took place in this house, leaving it will be emotional.

Sometimes when I’m at home alone, our once busy house feels like an empty shell.  I’m thankful for the flood of memories that fills the empty spaces.  Just as our family established traditions and made memories here, I must trust we will do the same in our new house.  And as old memories travel with us and mix together with the new,  a transformation will take place-one that will turn house to home.