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Write Your Memories

During the past few weeks, I have hoped that other people are writing their experiences and thoughts about Spring 2020.  Those writings are for you, your children, your grandchildren, and your great-grands. 

            While I mulled over these thoughts for a columm, two friends shared the same idea and granted me permission to use their words.  Jennie wrote to a group of us who write and share memories. “I urge you to write about what you’re going through.  Write any way you want:  notebook and pen, word document, cell phone notes app. Your descendants may want first-hand accounts of what life was like in the spring of 2020 (for us, both the tornado and coronavirus.)  Equally important is the cathartic benefits of expressing your emotions in writing.  Don’t hold back.  Don’t self-censor.”

            Lori wrote on Facebook. “This is a tough, confusing time, but admit it, there are some bright spots to the slow-down of crazy busy lives and schedules.  I’ve started a ‘Blessings and Burdens’ journal to note down what I’m sad and anxious about and the inevitable bright spots that appear each day.  I want to remember those as a takeaway for this when it becomes a distant memory. And it will become a distant memory.”

            I can hear you say, “That’s easy for them – they’re writers.  No one wants to read my stuff.  I don’t know where to start.  It’s too late.  I should’ve started weeks ago.” 

            If you ever write anything, you’re a writer.  You write grocery lists and to-do lists so make a list of 5-10 things.  What is different today from January 2020? From March 2019?  What wasn’t on the grocery shelves that is always there?  (I was surprised there were empty shelves where flour and cornmeal are usually stacked.) How are you connecting with friends and family since you can’t visit in person? Who and what are you missing most?  Or follow Lori’s practice of listing daily blessings and burdens.

            I guarantee someone will want to read what you write, but maybe not any time soon.  I treasure my parents’ writings, like the story of how Papa and his two sisters bought a pump organ in the early 1900s.  I didn’t appreciate their stories when I was young, just as my Grands don’t value my writings.  I know they will.

            Start with anything that comes to mind. Your first sentence could be that somebody said I should write so I am.  Or I used a paper towel to hold the gas pump handle.  Or I’d really like to bake cookies with my grandchildren.  Or I wore a mask today.

            It’s never too late.  You might think you’ve forgotten, but when you start writing you’ll remember. Don’t be concerned about sentence structure, punctuation, or spelling. If you haven’t been writing, please pull out a pen and paper or put your fingers on a keyboard and write today, even for a few minutes.  Even a few sentences or a list.

            One last suggestion: date and sign every scribble.  Your children and grands will be glad you did.

Savoring Thanksgiving

I’m savoring memories. Yes, Thanksgiving was a week ago and you shoppers hit Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. But I’m taking a few more days to appreciate Thanksgiving.

You can put up Christmas trees, string blinking lights, play “Jingle Bells,” and hide gifts in places you’ll remember, but where no one will look. But also, join me in remembering Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday. There are no fireworks, no Easter bunny candy, no wrapped gifts. Just good food and time with family and friends.

Husband and I hosted Thanksgiving dinner (served at 12 noon like all good southerners do) for some of my Bertram relatives, twenty-five people and three generations. None of us carry the Bertram surname; we’re descendants of deceased sisters, my mother and two aunts, who began our Thanksgiving Day tradition more than 60 years ago. In their memory, I put a picture of them with their husbands on our sideboard.

Guests brought the same food the sisters served. Green beans, creamed corn, pumpkin pie, sweet potatoes, whipped potatoes, and I’d made cornbread dressing in balls so every serving was crunchy outside and moist inside, just like Mom’s. Alicia’s pumpkin pie was the classic recipe used for decades. Myra perfected Aunt Nell’s asparagus casserole and Brenda has mastered the sweet potato casserole.

But change and surprises happen, for the good. Mike and Sarah served hot chicken-cheese dip and chips while Husband sliced the turkey. Instead of a few carrots and bell pepper strips piled together, Lilly’s veggie tray resembled a turkey. And since none of us dare try to duplicate Aunt Doris’s chocolate cream pie, Amy brought chocolate cake.

There was a time that everyone sat around the dining room table and bowls of food were passed family style. At my house, the food was served buffet style on the kitchen counter. We oldest generation sat at the dining room table and younger folks around folding tables in the garage. After we ate, a new tradition may have begun when Bingo numbers were called until all players won and chose prizes.

Before we filled our plates, I called everyone together for an official welcome. How happy I was that we carry on this family tradition. I mentioned Mom and my aunts and welcomed cousin Brett’s girlfriend and her daughter. Someone whispered there might be a special announcement.

“So before we bless the food, anyone have anything else to share?” I asked.

“Brett might,” his mother said.

All eyes turned to Brett and Kim as he announced, “This morning I asked Kim to marry me and she said, ‘Yes.’ ” Everyone burst into spontaneous applause and cheers of congratulations.

We quieted. I was overcome with sentimental and happy emotions and said, “I meant to pray, but I’ll just cry.” Across the room, Mike smiled, nodded, and said a grateful prayer, blessing the food and us.

Before Christmas busyness strikes, I’m reveling in blessings of traditions, joys of change, and celebration of family. I wish the same for you.


Before the Memories Fade

imagesBefore the Christmas memories before fade into 2014 I must find my pencil and paper. You’ve probably already written down what you want to remember about this Christmas Season.  Things that were said and done.  Quiet moments.  Chaotic, loud times.

“Hi, Gran!” said two-year old Dan as he ran toward me.  He’d travelled with his family in cars and an airplane, and he brought me wonder gifts.  A two-arm, around-the-neck hug and slobbery kisses.  Dan’s mother lifted his six-month-old brother, Neil, out of his car seat and laid him in my arms.  And then their cousins, our four Grands who live across town, and their parents came.  I wish that time had moved in slow motion and I could hit replay for those few days.

Husband’s electric candy train under the Christmas tree was derailed after a few trips around the track.  The candy was too tempting for Dan and Elaine, both two years old, so Husband parked the candy cars high on a shelf until after meal times and when more than one adult could supervise.

Cousins Dan and Elaine are typical toddlers.  They climbed onto a wing back chair seat at the same time, wiggled into opposite corners, and eyed each other.  When he tried to hug her, she pushed him away.  Later, as they stood side by side, they both picked up their new identical push toys.  Never letting go of their own toy, they grabbed each other’s and screamed, “Mine!”  Two toddlers, both were holding two toys.

Four-year old Ruth picked up a snow globe, shook it, and asked, “How do you turn this on?”  Six-year-old Lou turned off the bubble light that was plugged into an electric socket.  “Gran,” she said, “It’s been on a long time.  The battery might die.”  When decorating cookies, it’s still true that the more sprinkles, the better, and the more people, the more fun and mess.

While we opened gifts, Dan wore his daddy’s Christmas vest that I made about thirty-something years ago.  Six-year-old Lou arranged her gifts in the order she wanted to open them – smallest to largest.  David, age 8, put on his new Obi Wan Kenobi costume as soon as he unwrapped it and he wore it all day and the next.  Paper, ribbon, boxes flew in the air!  Little girls squeal.  Little boys stomp.

A folded quilt covered floor space for baby Neil.  He rolled, sat up, rocked on all fours, and scooted.  He smiled and laughed, except when he was tired or hungry.  And then the last morning, just before time to leave, he crawled!  Lifted his right knee, moved forward, lifted his left knee, moved forward, and collapsed then onto his tummy.  And he laughed when I clapped and cheered.

Our dining room table was full.  Six adults and six children – three in high chairs.  The first meal we sat around the dining room table that was decorated with red candles and a fresh green centerpiece.  Those decorations were moved to the sideboard before the next meal.  For our last meal together, we had a winter picnic.  We dined on take-out pizza while we sat on plastic tablecloths spread on the floor, and we watched a Curious George movie.

I know I should be making New Year’s Resolutions, but I’m not ready.  I need a little more R and R before tackling 2014.






Peppermints and Cupcakes

Picture 2             “Can we play the peppermint game after lunch?”  my Grand, age 6, asks.

“Sure,” I say.  “Do you remember who taught you that game?”

“Aunt Doris,” eight-year-old David, answers quickly.  “Remember the time I found a peppermint under the couch and she didn’t even know it was there?  It was kind of hard, but I ate it anyway.”

“I wanna’ play too,” says Ruth, age.

“Play, too!”  shouts my two-year-old Grand.  It’s Thursday.  The day these four Grands are Husband’s and my lunch guests.

Aunt Doris, the Grands’ great-great aunt, always had York Peppermint Patties to share with children.  But she didn’t just give them to the children – they played Aunt Doris’s game, Hot and Cold.  A game most everyone has played.  The children hid their eyes or went into the kitchen while Aunt Doris hid peppermint candies in her living room.  “Okay, you can start hunting now,” she’d say.  And then one at a time, each child looked for a peppermint while Aunt Doris gave clues as to how close the hunter was to the hidden treat.  Cold – far away from the candy.  Warm – getting closer.  Hot – very close.

I don’t know who had more fun.  Aunt Doris, my Grands, or maybe Uncle Hugh and I as we watched.   “Hide it again,” my older Grands would say, “and this time made it really hard.”  The same candy might be hidden two or three times, and Aunt Doris refused to give any clues except cold, warm, and hot.  A simple game and a simple candy treat, that connected two generations, separated by more than 80 years.  And now I hide the peppermints.

It occurred to me that so much of what grandparents do, we do to make memories and connect our grandchildren with those we love.  One afternoon when our oldest Grand was about four, Husband came home from work with a box of fancy cupcakes.  “Aren’t the kids (meaning our daughter, son-in-law, and two Grands at the time) coming for supper?  I bought dessert.”  I wanted to know what the special occasion was, but I didn’t get an answer.

As the table was being cleared of dirty plates and meat and potatoes, Husband left the kitchen and came back carrying a picture of my dad.  “Today’s a special day.  It’s your great-grandfather’s birthday,” he told our Grands.  “He made this kitchen table.  This one where we just ate supper, and he was your Gran’s daddy.”  And with that, a tradition began.  On the birthdays of my deceased parents and Husband’s father, we eat cupcakes, look at pictures, and talk about Papa, Grannie, and Grandfather.  Our Grands will never know and love these three great-grandparents as they do Grandmother, who visits and brings macaroni and cheese and chocolate pudding, but maybe they’ll remember that Papa was a schoolteacher and a postmaster, and that Grannie sewed beautiful clothes and owned a flower shop, and that Grandfather owned a grocery store.

  It’s all about the memories and connections.  And peppermints and cupcakes.images