Our Pages

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thankful for the Memories

I haven’t been participating in the “Thankful” posts on Facebook, but I do enjoy reading them.  Friends and families are thankful for all kinds of things from their children to bourbon.  It isn’t that I don’t have anything to be thankful for because I have a ton. If I really sat and thought about each blessing in my life it would be overwhelming.  But lately, all of my thankfulness revolves around memories and the people who molded me and made me who I am today.

My parents had been married thirty-seven years when Dad passed away. If I could change anything, I wish he could have met my two youngest children and been there to see all three of them grow.  My oldest was eighteen months at the time and sadly, none of my children have memories of their grandfather, but he was a wonderful man. He is the one that gave me my love for baseball and the Cubs (no hating Cardinal fans), poker and work ethic.

They had a strong marriage and even though there were some fights, they continued to love each other and settled whatever difference they had quickly. My dad was always grabbing my mother and kissing her. Usually she was cooking or doing the dishes and she would swat him away, but she was smiling the entire time.  I knew that when I grew up and married, I wanted my marriage to be just like theirs.  

They disciplined (that was really mother’s department), and trust me, we never messed up again. A certain look and tone could send me hiding.  Spankings were rarely given. I received three, remember them clearly, and deserved each one. My parents ruled our house, not the other way around. I couldn’t date until I was sixteen, though I was allowed on group dates and school dances as soon as I was in high school. I had a curfew and had to call if I was going to be late or I wasn’t going anywhere the next weekend.  By the way, this was before cell phones and if you are driving and knew you are going to be late, you had better find a phone from somewhere fast.

My brother was eight years older and my sister was six years older.  I adored him and looked for ways to irritate her.  Isn’t that the way it is supposed to be? 

My brother was a slob and would pay me to clean his room.  Let me tell you, it was disgusting and I did it all for a quarter.  I was a fool (and they still make fun of me for being so gullible), but I adored him.  The only time I remember him being in trouble with my father was when certain magazines were found in the trunk of his car (he was still in high school at the time).  My dad had a small fire going as magazine after magazine was tossed into the burning pile.  When asked what they were, I was sent back into the house.  Surely my brother, who was the most awesome person I knew at the time, wouldn’t have those kinds of magazines. Now that I am older and can reflect back, I am not shocked in the least.  By the way, he is a minister now though I am pretty sure that calling was not even on his radar at the age of sixteen.  He found his calling later in life, after marriage and children.

My poor sister had to share a room with me.  I talked in my sleep. But that isn’t what freaked her out. It was that I carried on conversations with her in my sleep.  When I knew she was having friends over I would get out all of my paper dolls and build their town in the center of the room.  I only did this because she hated them and not necessarily because I wanted to play with them at that moment. In truth, I was jealous of my her and wanted to be just like her.  She was beautiful and talented (she still is but we are talking about the past).  She played the piano  (I can barely manage chopsticks).  She could sing and act, and by the time she finished college spoke three foreign languages.  I can barely handle English.  She could do anything and I had not found a thing I was good at.

Oh, I loved baseball and other sports, but I wasn’t any good at them.  I was on the teams because everyone made the teams.  I was really the official bench warmer.  I only had a vivid imagination.  I was pretending and creating people as far back as I can remember.  Most children grow out of this, but I didn’t. There was always at least one character in my mind and a story playing out. I didn't tell anyone about this because I didn't want anyone to think I was crazy or childish. I absolutely adored my creative writing class in high school and took every English class I was allowed.  You would think my grammar and spelling would be better, but my mind was absorbing the books we had to read in literature, not the rules of sentence structure. Actually, there is a very good reason why I stink at spelling, grammar and often pronunciation, but I don't want to delve into that now.

What is funny is that while I loved my literature classes I still hated reading. I know, it makes no sense to me either. I wasn’t getting that you could also read a book for pleasure. Or, maybe it was I couldn’t sit still long enough to relax with a good book. I still have a very difficult time simply sitting no matter how good the book or fun the company. My reading was for assignments and that was it. It was my sister who handed me a romance novel at the age of sixteen and that is when I discovered reading for enjoyment (what else are you going to do on a 17 hour drive when DVD's didn't exist yet, and certainly not in cars). But, it was still a few years before I could sit and read.  I had too many other things going on.  Yep, I mentioned I am not good at sitting.

So, all of this time when I am in awe of my beautiful, intelligent and talented sister, and feeling sorry for myself because I had would never be as good as her, it never occurred to me that there might be something I am good at.  Oh, I tried poetry in high school (what girl doesn’t) and in my twenties a friend tried to convince me to write. I dismissed the idea and laughed it off as ridiculous (probably had more to do with fear of failure and insecurity).   However, the idea of writing a book kept popping up in the back of my brain for another ten or so years and I finally decided to give it a go. I found my passion and discovered the reason why so many people live in my head. 

Yay, I am not crazy after all.

Like my brother, I found what I really wanted to do after marriage and kids. My sister always knew. 

I do wonder what my father would think of me being an author.  But after his reaction to my brother's magazines, I am fairly certain I wouldn't want him reading some of my books.  Of course, my brother was a teen and I am adult, but he was my dad and certain things are not discussed.  I am sure my parents found me in the cabbage patch and we will leave it at that.  

My mother, now that is a different story.  Her one criticism on the a draft of my first book was that there weren't enough certain scenes (the very ones I would die if my father read - lol).  By the way, my mother probably read five romance novels a week.  She was also one of those lucky women who found her very own hero, married him and had an awesome marriage. And even though I am holding onto the idea of coming from the cabbage patch, I have no doubt that my parents had a a very loving and passionate marriage.  Mom didn't date after dad died.  She had one true love and has mourned him since.

Mom doesn't understand that I am an author now.  Dementia has settled in and she tried to give my book back the other day. She assumed it was mine because I had signed the inside of it for her. She didn't understand that I had written it.  Mom lives in the past, which may be why I am there today.  She misses her husband, even though it has been twenty years since he passed, and only talks about things that happened when he was still alive.

So this year, what I am most thankful for is my family and the memories. I can only hope that my children have similar fond memories and know that they were loved unconditionally and that each of them have their own talents, strength and are as individual as my brother, sister and I were/are.

What from your past are you most thankful for?


  1. What lovely memories, Jane. I think I'm most thankful for growing up with a mom who has a big heart. I remember how she would go grocery shopping for a couple of widow ladies through our church who were homebound. Every week she would go to the store, often with 3 kids in tow, and she never complained. I'm certain this is the reason I went into social work. :)

    1. Samantha, I think it is wonderful that your mother was so giving. It couldn't have been easy with three children, but what a valuable lesson to share with your children.

  2. Jane, this post made me teary. My girls are like you and your sister--the little one (my shy little mouse with the sweet caring heart and a personality to rival Jim Carrey's) looks up to the bigger one (the confident, smart and independent one). I only hope they each realize the value of their gifts and run with them. And I can't help wondering why my children will remember about my parenting when they grow up. EEK!

    1. Andris,

      My sister is my best friend now. I would have never believed I would say that as a kid. But she is. And I worry about what my kids will think too.

  3. Jane,
    What a wonderful post. I am thankful for so much, but I know I would not be where I am today if it wasn't for my mother. My parents were divorced when I was very young, and it was my mother who taught me first hand you can do anything you set your mind too no matter the odds stacked against you.

    1. Julie,

      I think it is great that you mother was so supportive and such a positive influence.

  4. It sounds like you have a lovely family, Jane!

    Today, I'm going to concentrate on the memory of my Grandma. She was a lovely, earthy woman. Funny and generous and devoted. I still dream about her a lot, although she died 15 years ago. Her love felt boundless.

  5. Deb,

    She sounds like a wonderful grandmother and you must have been extremely close to her if you are still dreaming about her. I still dream about my dad on occasion.

  6. Probably like most other women, I'm so thankful for my mother. I only had her until I was in my 20's but I learned so much from her. Her strength, faith and courage were amazing. She was left a widow with three little children under three years of age. The grace with which she handled this load throughout her short life was awe-inspiring. Unfortunately, she lost her 10-year battle with cancer at the age of 57. I will never forget her and have strived to be as much of a lady as she always was.

    Happy Thanksgiving to everyone.

  7. Connie,

    Your mother sounds like she was an amazing woman.

    1. Thank you, Jane. Yes - she was a wonderful woman who graced our lives for just a short time. We'll never forget her.