It’s Thoughtful Thursday…thankful for the mess

In the last four years you have read about my monumental task of cleaning out my parents house after my Dad died unexpectedly.  At the same time we also had to move my mother into Assisted Living.  Honestly much of that time is a blur in my memory.

I am still dealing with some of the aftermath.  Well a lot of it.  My parents didn’t throw out much.  The moment that is seared into my memory is opening a box and finding throw pillows from  the couch we had when I was five.  If it hadn’t been 10am I would have started drinking and Kahlua in my coffee does not count.  Well maybe it does.

In any case I am currently going through all the boxes of photos and memorabilia we dumped in my office after the final clean out.  I had to take a break after we finished.  Going through boxes is the most mind numbing experience.  I’d rather go to the dentist or take algebra again..and fail it ..again.

Lately though I have been thankful for the “classy hoarding” my parents did.  “Classy Hoarding” is a phrase I coined to refer to a house that looks put together but has closets and a basement just plain stuffed!  If the house could have groaned and let out its’ seams it would have done it!

So why am I thankful?  I am thankful because I am finding so many unbelievable treasures .  Treasures only to me and my family but still they are priceless.

Among other things I have found a letter written to my mother from  grateful parents whose young son died.  They wrote eloquently about how much they appreciated her kind and loving ways towards their 12 year old son as he passed away from cardiac problems.  My mother could not fill in the details ( unfortunately) but it was during her last weeks of nursing school.  The only thing she could say about it was that it was very sad.

I found humorous photos of my Mom and Dad in their youth.  As a child you never envision your parents as being wild and while this was the mild side of wild it was fun to see. It was  long before they were worried about what anyone would think and I found it refreshing.  I wish I could ask both of them about this time in their lives but one is in heaven and one is sadly in the throes of dementia.

I found letters written by them as a young engaged couple in love.  And then there is a lovely letter from the father of my mothers’ best friend extolling her virtues to her new in laws who did not approve of the marriage.  My grandparents thought my father could do better . Then my parents eloped and that didn’t help. They did recant those feelings many times over and became  Moms’ biggest fans.

In that same letter Ted Holtzinger painted a picture of my Moms’ tireless efforts on the pediatric polio ward before there was a vaccine.  Also as you read this please know that at 5 feet tall and 80 lbs my Mom was not much bigger than her patients.

           Ted wrote:

        I wish I could tell you of her heroic efforts on behalf of the littlest victims of this city’s worst polio epidemic.  She worked around the clock for what must have seemed like endless days trying to save those who were most seriously afflicted from death or from a life sentence to the worst phases of crippling that makes polio such a dreaded scourge.

     I saw her there one night when the epidemic was at it s height., her hands and arms reddened to the elbow form the hot packs that she was administering to the sufferers of this worst form of polio, I watched her wince as she lifted hot pack after hot pack from the scalding water and I said a silent prayer of thanks for women like Betty who could forget self in service to others so grievously afflicted and yet so needful of  her administrations.

My mother never told us about any of this.  I am so thankful this letter and others like exist and were saved so that I may have a glimpse of my mother before I knew her.

By the way I also have the response my grandfather sent many years later and it was eloquent as well.  Not sure why he waited so long but grateful I have the two letters to go side by side.

So on this Thoughtful Thursday what is my point about all these treasures?  Can you guess?

Write a real letter.  A real one.  Not a text or an email…a real honest to goodness letter.  Make a copy and save it.  Who should you write it to?  That is for you to decide but in this day and age of digital it is refreshing to hold a letter that can be read over and over again without turning anything on.

Tell someone what they mean to you, write down memories of fun times , special life events and anything that has become family lore. If you see someone like my Mom doing something so very special let them know you noticed.

I know it is all the rage to be minimalistic and to get rid of everything that isn’t nailed down.  I get it.  And all that is found will be digitized in case the originals are lost.  In the meantime it is a joy to hold a letter once written by a friend, a grandparent, my Mom, my Dad.  They once held that piece of paper.  The connection is real.

So thank you Mom and Dad…it has been hard but the rewards are bountiful.  I am so happy you saved this part of our history.

Now as always, go make it a Thoughtful One..and if you are so honored go hug your Mom and Dad !                                                                     Jennifer

 

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Using “Young” Wisdom to Pick my Next Book!

Is it possible we were smarter as kids then we are now? It’s not only possible it’s the truth.  Granted, as kids, we did not have all the life experiences that bring more common sense and obvious solutions.  We can make a batch of brownies without a chocolate explosion in the kitchen but the reality is I listened more to my heart when I was eight years old.  I knew what I wanted as a toddler ( even if it was unreasonable) and at eight.  I didn’t give two hoots about what I was suppose to wear, what the latest fashion was or if my belly was too big or my thighs were too chunky.

Given the era I grew up in the input from outside sources was limited to my parents, grandparents, older siblings (my sister was especially embarrassed by my fashion sense) teachers and my friends.

I had a second grade teacher who encouraged us to express ourselves through creative writing.  She wasn’t concerned about grammar or spelling or what subject we chose. She made the writing time more appealing than recess.  We couldn’t wait to get going on our stories.  It instilled in me a love for not only writing but reading as well.  I still have my box of writings with crayon illustrations.  A true treasure.

I was a voracious reader as a kid, it slowed down in my teen years and came to a screeching halt in college when I was forced to read textbooks that gave sawdust a run for its money in being interesting.

Lately I have been doing more reading in an effort to reduce the number of books in my house, to offset the crummy weather and no where to go pandemic boredom.  Also my pandemic pudge needs to go, so book in hand keeps hand out of mouth or so I am hoping.

It has been so interesting  to see what books I am choosing to read or maybe what I am not reading.

I could choose from one of the many  Pulitzer Prize winners, best sellers or a book from one of the endless celebrity book clubs made famous by Oprah. And yet those types of books rarely work for me.  I tried twice ( real book and audio) to get through “Olive Kitteridge” , a Pulitzer Prize winner, and I just couldn’t do it.  I could not believe it won that prestigious prize. Best sellers can also be great but when they are really awful I wonder how many have been “sold” but never read.

As far as the books go from the celebrity book clubs I am often puzzled  as to why they would choose a certain book.  I tried to read some of Oprah’s selections but honestly I found the ones I chose to be dark and dreary.  I actually purchased “Lovely Bones” and read it .  It has the distinction of being the only new book I have ever thrown out.  It was so disturbing I could not give it to a friend to read.   I was not going to be responsible for wasting someone else’s time with such a creepy book.

I have learned not to post about a book I did not like on social media. Okay..maybe I just did in that last paragraph but I will risk it. People take their book loves very personally and if you dare to say you didn’t like it they act like you said their kid was ugly.  Wow!  Then they will plead with you to try again.  If I have to struggle to get through the first 50-100 pages then it is a no go.  Try again?  Probably not.  Life is too short to read books that I  don’t like no matter how many people love them.

So back to my wise and wonderful 8 year old self. 🙂  I have fond memories of climbing the winding stairs of the old library in our town.  Sometimes I would race up them to get to the children’s section.  I would plop myself down on the scuffed up wooden floor in front of the shelves and start looking, pulling out the ones that interested me, reading a few pages, putting it back or deciding it was a keeper.  Without lists, suggestions or book clubs I managed to pick out some gems:

  • The Secret Garden
  • Stuart Little
  • Caddie Woodlawn
  • Henry and Beezus ( actually anything by Beverly Cleary)
  • Harriet the Spy
  • Nancy Drew ( The Ghost of Blackwood Hall scared the pants off me)

 

Much like the imaginary friend I had when I was five, I now take my 8 year old self with me to the library, the bookstore or where ever I find myself looking at books which is just about everywhere I go.  Together we pick out books that I often can’t put down.

Trust yourself like you did when you were a kid.  Read what you love whether it’s  fantasy, romance novels, thrillers, classics, comic books or Sci fi.   What YOU love…nobody else has to love it. As long as it brings you joy than it’s the best book for you!

So here’s to you next best read…may it make your February days warmer and transport you to another time and place..a mini vacation pandemic style!

And as always..keep triing!  Jennifer

P.S.  If you want to know what I am reading you can find me on GoodReads where I sometimes ( tri) to list the books I have read.

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