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Catching More Heart Tugs

It’s time to pull out my folder labeled ‘Heart Tugs’ to remember when heartstrings tighten.  Those times amid the busyness of a day – a brief moment, a single sentence, or an experience that grows fonder as time passes.

            When my Grand was eight years old, she spent a lot of time playing in the dirt.  “See these two worms, Gran? I saved them from the driveway.” she said.  “They really like me, but they can’t live with me so I’m putting them in water and they’ll be happy.”  She put the worms that lay curled in her hand in a mudpuddle and used a stick to stir a smaller mudpuddle.

            “I made chocolate milk.  Want to tase it?” Ruth asked.  I shook my head.  “I did and it’s disgusting!  Now I’m going to make a pancake.”  My Grand held a palm size flat rock in one hand and with the other drizzled thin mud.  “That’s chocolate sauce. It’s delicious!”  Her giggle made me laugh.

            Seven of our eight Grands request pancakes for breakfast when they spend the night with Husband and me. Most remind me to add sprinkles or chocolate chips, but one always says, “Just plain.  No sprinkles or anything.”  And each chooses favorite pancake shapes:  stars, bears, flowers, or hearts.  When a friend gave me silicone ring shapes twelve years ago, I didn’t know a shaped pancake tastes better than a round one. 

            Grand #1 is 16 and his breakfast choice has always been bacon and eggs.  Scrambled eggs topped with melted American cheese and crisp bacon.  “These eggs are better than Mom’s, but it’s not her fault,” David said last week.  “Cooking eggs for all of us (his parents and four siblings) is harder than cooking just for me.”   

            I knew 6-year-old Jesse was up because I heard his footsteps in the playroom which is directly above my bedroom.  The clock said 5:50, an hour or so before I usually get out of bed.  I stumbled to the kitchen, made a cup of coffee, walked up the stairs, and then watched my Grand play. 

            “Look Gran, I sorted them,” he said.  Bristle blocks, that his mother had played with when she was a kid, were in groups by color.  “Did you notice that all the big square blocks are red and the little ones are green?”  I nodded.  “And, look, the wheels are the only circles so they’re over here.”  He pointed to six wheels. 

            Jesse stuck two red blocks together and added wheels near the bottom edge.  “I’m making a car,” he said.  He made a car, a house, a tall tower that fell several times, but stayed together.  He talked non-stop telling me who drove the car, who lived in the house, and he laughed every time the tower fell. 

            As we walked down the steps, Jesse said, “Can I have chocolate chip pancakes?  And a heart and a star?”  Yes, every time, anytime.

            Heart Tugs.  I’m catching all I can.

Happy Heart Tugs Needed

In early 2020, I wrote on my calendar that today’s topic would be Heart Tugs. I’ve written other columns about happy times when heartstrings tighten. Times to imprint in my head and heart to relive and cherish.   

            During 2020, I haven’t followed through on my intention of writing quarterly Heart Tugs.  Other topics took precedence this summer and fall.  And now, I wrestle with sharing moments that paint pictures of happiness and well-being when so many people struggle from all that 2020 has thrown at us. 

            While it’s good to celebrate the joyful moments, I can’t put sadness and sorrow aside. All emotions kindle Heart Tugs:  some happy, some comforting, some painful.

            Many celebrated Christmas while still grieving the death of someone they love.  Many lost their homes in the March tornado. Many can’t hug parents and grandparents who are in retirement homes or hospitals.  Many families didn’t celebrate Christmas in traditional ways.

            In June, as Husband’s mother’s casket and vault were lowered into her grave, her family stood close by.  Three of her great-grandchildren, all younger than 6 and wearing masks, stood within inches of the grave and watched as shovelfuls of dirt were thrown. At age 92, Grandmother lived a long life with little illness. Her greatest treasures were her twelve great-grands who knew exactly where she kept candy for them.

            Thankfully, technology has connected friends and families.  Six college girlfriends and I didn’t make our planned annual trip, but we visit often using Zoom.  A friend and her siblings and their children and grandchildren reminisced and laughed together even though all were in their own homes and miles apart. 

            Using Facetime, Husband and I watched our Grands, who live an airplane ride away, open Christmas gifts we had shipped to them.  They wrapped new blankets around their shoulders and the two boys, ages 7 and 9, plopped onto the floor and looked at their new books.  Our five-year-old Grand said repeatedly, “I want to tell you something.”  She described every something in detail.

            During this pandemic, one of the few places our local Grands can go is to Husband’s and my house.  So last week, our 15-year-old Grand came with his four younger siblings to decorate sugar cookies.  He slathered colored icing and poured sprinkles with fake enthusiasm.  When Husband stood beside him and spread green icing on a baked Christmas tree, our Grand’s attitude changed. 

            Two hours later, these five Grands boxed up their decorated cookies to go home, and I declared this the best cookie decorating ever.  My six-foot teenage Grand said, “Yeah, Gran, that was really fun.”  A minute later, he asked, “Gran, are you crying?”

             On cold winter days while I walk outside for exercise, I’ll be warm wearing the scarf my 13-year-old Grand knitted for my Christmas present.  My nine-year-old Grand reached her arms high, hugged me tightly, and whispered, “I love you so much, Gran.” 

            Heart Tugs. I’m catching all the happy ones I can – to balance the sad ones.

Heart Tugs are Needed

I promised myself to be mindful of Heart Tugs, the times when heartstrings tighten.  To appreciate happy moments and imprint them in my head and heart.  To make notes so I’ll remember.  I’ve shared Heart Tugs previously, and during this time of upheaval when life isn’t normal, I cherish these moments even more. 

            When all eight Grands were here together in January, they wanted tradition.  (For children, a tradition begins when we do something they like one time.)  “When are we going to the gym and playground?” they asked.  At our church gym, eight-year-old Daniel followed his big cousin, Samuel, who is six years older. Did Samuel realize that Daniel tried to dribble a basketball exactly like he did?  That Daniel stood right beside him and looked up to him?  

            At Heart of the City Playground, five Grands, ages 4-8, played Follow the Leader.  The two eight-year-olds took turns being the leader and the last person in line because, as Lucy told Daniel, “So the little ones will stay between us.” 

            Charlotte, age 4, held Elsie’s hand.  “Gran! Did you know my favorite cousin is Elsie?” Elsie, age 12, smiled and swung hands with her little cousin. While taking a bath, Charlotte hid under a thick layer of bubbles with only her face showing.  “I love bubbles! I love bubbles!” she shouted.  That same exuberance ensured that I’ll continue making dried apple stack cakes.  Charlotte chewed her first bite of cake slowly, leaned her head back, closed her eyes, and then sat up quickly and said, “I love apple cake!”

            A balloon, blown up and tied with a knot, was Henry’s favorite toy for two days.  It was a ball to throw and kick and bat. A pillow to lay his head on.  When it began to lose air, my six-year-old Grand squeezed his balloon until it was flat.  With ceremony, Henry held the deflated balloon over a trashcan and announced, “Well, that was fun! Good-bye balloon!”

            On a cold February day, ten-year-old Annabel and I sat side by side during a journal writing time.  It occurred to me that my Grand was writing on the handmade harvest table that my great-grandparents ate meals on.  That my mother used in her basement for canning beans and soup.  That I use to lay fabric on to make pajama pants for Grands.  And now, Annabel is writing on it.  I held my pen still and looked at Annabel, who said, “Gran, what are you doing? You said to keep writing non-stop for ten minutes.”

            “I’m writing,” I said.  And I wrote, ‘I’m sitting on an old ladder back chair that came from Granny’s house and writing on a table that belonged to her parents, David and Elizabeth Rich.  What a blessing.  Annabel sits beside me.  This table belonged to her great-great-great grandparents and the chairs were her great-great grandmother’s.  A tranquil moment.  Burn it in my heart, my memories.’             Heart Tugs.  I’m catching all I can.

Family Vacation Heart Tugs

Oh, the heart tugs when Husband and I were with all eight Grands and their parents.

            I walked in back on a short walk from Son and Daughter 2’s home to their neighborhood playground.  Husband. Daughter. Son. Daughter 2. Son 2. Eight Grands – ages 4-14.  They paired up.  Husband and Sons talked. Daughters walked together.  The youngest Grands ran ahead.  Other Grands followed. I wished for a longer walk. 

            At Son and Daughter 2’s home, I tucked in and kissed the Grands good-night.  They lay on blow-up mattresses and over them were Granny’s quilts.  My granny’s quilts.  Their great-great grandmother.  The moment that hit me, my eight-year-old Grand said, “Gran, are you crying?”  I wiped sentimental tears remembering how I sat beside Granny and watched her pin a worn 3” square paper to fabric scraps or cloth flour sacks to cut the quilt pieces.  I threaded tiny quilting needles because the needle eyes were so tiny that Granny could hardly see them.  Some 60 years later, Granny’s great-great grandchildren snuggled under their favorite granny quilts. 

            Sons and Daughters took charge of an all-day ride, with many sightseeing stops, through the Rocky Mountains.  Three vehicles were loaded with stuff for a few nights in a house on the other side of the Rockies.  Son said, “Mom, you’re riding with me.” Husband was assigned to Son 2’s van.  Daughters rode together and the Grands were assigned seats to give the cousins time together.  All I did was ride, take notes, and enjoy the scenery and time with Son and two Grands who later declared themselves “Best Cousins Forever.”

            How to feed 14 people lunch in 30 minutes.  Park at the Rocky Mountain Welcome Center.  Open the back of one van.  Hand out sandwiches packed in zip lock plastic bags with each person’s name on a bag and bottled drinks. Everyone find a seat, on the rock wall, on grass, anywhere not near the road. Pass around big bags: chips, cut up apples, grapes.  Gather trash.  Pass around a bag of cookies.  

            “Tonight we’re making s’mores!” Daughter announced after lunch.  “There’s a fire pit at our big house.  It’ll be fun!”  The outside fire pit was on a steep hill and surrounded by dry pine needles, not safe in windy conditions.  Plan B: use the gas fire pit on the house deck.  Wind and rain and hail canceled that plan. Son and Daughter conferred while the Grands waited, seated at the kitchen bar.

            “Okay, we got this!” Daughter said and passed out graham crackers on napkins to the Grands.  Son and Daughter 2 roasted marshmallows over medium flame on the gas stovetop. Disappointed groans from kids faded quickly when roasted marshmallows and chocolate were passed around.

            Son 2 adjusted helmets.  Checked bike tires.  Made sure everyone had a water bottle and had been coated with sunscreen and away he rode with four kids behind him on a Colorado bike trail.            

  Tired and emotional meltdowns hit the Grands during the week.  Thankfully not at the same time.  I’m erasing those memories and keeping the happy ones.

Even More Heart Tugs

            I promised myself to be mindful of Heart Tugs, the times when heartstrings tighten. To appreciate the moments and imprint them in my head and heart.   To make notes because by writing about these experiences, however brief and jumbled in the busyness of life, they are relived and cherished.

I’ve shared Heart Tugs previously and my files are filled with more. My twelve-year-old Grand’s birthday request was to spend the night in Nashville with her mother and me and shop at bookstores. My heart sang. Time with Daughter and Elsie and book shopping. This overnight trip got better when my college roommate invited us to spend the night with her. When Roomie, Daughter, and Grand posed for a picture, I could hardly focus to snap it because my eyes were filled with happy tears. I never imagined that my dear friend of fifty years would also be loved by Daughter and my Grand.

Mindi sent a text message. A picture of a Valentine paper bookmark with the words, “Look what Mason found and uses in his books!” Mason is Mindi’s son who is about the same age she was when she was my fourth grade student. On the bookmark I’d written, “Keep reading, Mindi!” Mason declared it his favorite bookmark.

A friend texted six words, “Doctor said all clear! No cancer!” Those few words were the happiest of the day.

When I visited a friend’s home, she said, “Come downstairs, I wanta’ show you what I’ve done.” The concrete basement floor and wall blocks had been painted a warm gray and a colorful area rug covered a small area of the floor. A bunk bed set along one wall and a queen size bed and a twin bed on the adjacent wall. A kid-size table and toys and children’s books were the only other things in the huge room. “Look at my new room! All 5 of my grandchildren can sleep here!” I smiled and laughed. I understood my friend’s jubilance.

On a windy 39° morning, four-year-old Jesse said, “I need to play outside!” We bundled up in coats and hats and he happily created roads in our mulch around shrubs. A cup of hot chocolate and cookies warmed us when we went inside.

A bed of bright pink and lavender-pink phlox tugs my heart. It’s just a small flowerbed around my mailbox. Nothing spectacular except these are exactly the same plants that bloomed every spring beside our driveway when I was a kid. Mom shared a few plants with me more than thirty years ago and although an over-zealous yard boy sheared them to the ground (because he thought the late summer green plants were weeds), I salvaged a few plants and this spring they are beautiful.

“This is a momma hug,” Daughter said. As she and I hugged each other, my ten-year-old Grand wrapped her arms around Daughter’s back. A three-person hug. A three-generation hug.

Heart Tugs. I’m catching all I can.








More Heart Tugs

Valentine’s Day. A time to show love. I promised myself to be mindful of Heart Tugs, to remember and appreciate loving moments.

I sat in my reading chair with paper and pen and read a short devotion early one morning while the house was quiet. Soon three young Grands and Son and Daughter 2 (aka Daughter-in-Law,) who were visiting for a few days, would awaken and be ready for juice, coffee, and breakfast. I closed my eyes and then heard a patter of footsteps. Five-year-old Neil stuck his head around the living room corner wall. I motioned for him to come to me.

My Grand, wearing only his ‘unders’ as he calls his underwear, ran across the room and snuggled onto my lap. He laid his head against my chest and wrapped his arms around himself. I covered him with a knitted afghan and in hushed voices we talked and agreed that we’d slept well and we weren’t hungry and we liked being the first ones awake. “Gran, tell me last night’s Purple Cow story,” Neil said.  I repeated, with Neil’s help, the one I’d made-up as I sat beside him on his bed the night before.

“I have a story,” said Neil and he spun a tale. A big black bear wandered away from home. He fell into a creek. He climbed out of the water and walked up a bank. “How do you like my made-up story?” he asked. I loved it, but most I loved those few minutes with my Grand, just the two of us together.

All our Grands and their parents gathered around Husband’s and my dining room table for brunch. Eight children, ages 3-13, and six adults. Last to fill my plate from the buffet served meal, I thought ‘this is as good as life gets.’ A cliché, but my thought. Jesse, who was seated, said, “Gran, come sit by me.” My four-year old Grand reached his hand toward mine. While holding his wiggling fingers as we all recited our family prayer, life got a little better.

Sometimes Heart Tugs happen when not holding hands or hugging or even touching the person who makes the heartstrings tighten. I posted a picture of an empty plastic popcorn bottle on Facebook and asked if anyone knew where I could buy it. “I bought it locally, but I don’t remember where. After looking at several stores (I listed five), I can’t find it,” I wrote. Friends’ comments gave suggestions of other brands and online links to order my favorite popcorn. Daughter 2 sent a text that read, “Tomorrow a box will be delivered on your porch. Enjoy. Love you!” From miles and miles across country, Daughter 2 sent a hug, masked as popcorn.

After Husband returned home from running errands, a box of chocolate covered cherries appeared on our kitchen counter. For no reason, except he knows what I like: surprises, chocolate, and cherries.

Heart Tugs. I’m catching all I can.


Heart Tugs

 “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” played as I sipped hot tea and wrote notes on Christmas cards. White lights sparkled on our Christmas tree. This moment. All is right and heart warming.

I promised myself to be mindful of when my heartstrings tighten and to appreciate memories. To imprint them in my head and heart. To make notes because by writing just a few words I can relive experiences, most brief and jumbled among the busyness of life. Especially during the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations and celebrations heart tugs are rays of sunshine.

I almost missed Dean’s wave. My 7-year-old Grand picked up his backpack, got in line to board the morning school bus, glanced my way, moved his hand from side to side, but didn’t raise his arm, his palm faced toward the ground. I smiled, winked, and waved toward the ground too. Dean grinned, ducked his head, and stepped onto the bus.

Ann, age 3, held my hand as we watched her big brother’s bus leave their neighborhood. “Let’s take a little walk before we go back to your house,” I said. Sunshine warmed the chilly 24º temperature. My Grand and I were bundled in coats, gloves, and hats, and she led the way as we walked on the sidewalk. She stopped, crouched low, bent her head so that her nose almost touched a basketball size landscaping rock. She patted the rock and asked, “Gran, did you ever see a rock go to sleep?”

I shook my head and Ann ran toward the neighborhood park. She stopped for me to catch up, grabbed my hand, and said, “This is a really good day for us to take a little walk together, Gran! Come on!”

Three Grands, Lou, Ruth, and Elaine, hung ornaments on my Christmas tree. For three minutes. “You probably should hang the rest, Gran. We might break them,” 11-year old Lou said and smirked. Her two younger sisters agreed and asked, “Is the hot chocolate ready? What kind of cookies do you have?” We drank from Christmas mugs and ate vanilla wafers.

The dining room table centerpiece of red roses and holly was beautiful. China, silver, and crystal set eleven place settings. Our traditional Christmas meal was served: beef, potatoes, green beans. A group of six couples began a Gourmet Group (gourmet is a misnomer) in 1978, and we’ve cooked and eaten together monthly. I looked at each of these friends and Husband sitting around the table – thankful they were in my life. And I remembered Carolyn, whose absence hangs heavy since her death in the spring.

“Here, Gran! I made this for you!” Jesse’s card is red construction paper decorated with a green pipe cleaner wreath and small red pompoms glued on the front. “Look inside. I did it myself!” My four-year-old Grand had carefully arranged yellow smiley stickers and Christmas stickers. “Look, the stickers are upside down. Do you like it?” I love it.

Heart Tugs. Rays of Sunshine. I’m catching all I can.