Thursday, November 10, 2011

To All the Beautiful People

As I sit on my bed this morning, (still in pj's because I can), reading the beautiful posts you have all loaded, I think to myself, what a wonderful world (best song ever). All of you are so special in my life and the high-tech gift of this blog just ices the great accomplishment of turning 60.
Some realizations struck me as I read and re-read your posts:
  • I never realized that I was running a sweat shop on my bed with you three girls grading papers and entering grades. Tiny slave labor! Thank you.
  • My Old Kentucky Home, part memory, part magic, and continuing on into the future with my grandchildren. Who knew? Thank you.
  • I never realized how much my brothers actually remember from our childhoods. It is funny what sticks in our memories and what doesn't. By putting it all down in words we make those memories collective and even more precious. Thank you.
  • I have always known that family is the most important single element of our lives. And so reading the beautiful, intelligent descriptions of what family means to each of us is the kindest gift I could ever receive. Thank you.
  • And dear, dear Sarah Buck. There's the old song, "Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold". I am blessed to have you. Thank you.
  • And perhaps most astounding revelation as I turn 60, is the inheritance we all leave as we pass through life. There are Eleanor and Sarah, reliving their own childhoods through their children. There is Amanda, anxiously awaiting the arrival of her very own memories. There is Susie, still a child to her Mama in so many ways, with the best of her childhood continuing on in the next generations.
Life is a gift, a blessing. But it is also a challenge. We all need to remember that the house payment, the bad report card, the hurt caused by another, the self-doubt, the endless chatter in our minds; all of these are just passing fancies. Just one rendition of "My Old Kentucky Home", one kind word, one loving touch, one beautiful sunrise; these gifts are, in the end, what matters most.
Thank you all for the special gift that you have given me simply by existing on this earth. Ohm.
Susie, Susan, Mama

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

With Love From Amanda (Dunn)

I love the memory of being put on my dad's shoulders to be able to get a view of the ceremony of Susie and Bill's wedding. She was the most beautiful bride at the most romantic wedding imaginable. It was like a fairy tale!

With Love From Sarah (Buck)

I have so many fond memories of Susie. She really was my partner in
crime (hey it was all innocent) but we thought we were so cunning with our "matchmakers club", literally ditching Anchorage School on foot to look for
our "horses that had gotten loose", phoning our teacher "Mama Rowell" from
the school dance, going to Florida in the camper (that we had wrecked
leaving the driveway) with my mom, (it's hard to beach cruise in a camper
with your mom), the barn party, pet shows, Pony Club, riding to Red Bud and other horseback trail rides---some lasted all day while others were early before school with Clearasil still on our faces, the Tommy Moore check-out route, the earring stuck at my wedding, the many kid visits while living in Tucson ... and just being there for each other throughout the years.

One of my sweetest memories of your mom is when she came to the hospital when
Travis was having surgery (at 6 weeks can imagine my state of
mind) and I saw her comforting, familiar face and she said, "Here, I
brought you some Oreos to help," and it did.

With Love From John

Anyone who’s lucky enough to know my sister Susan (aka Susie, Sue, Hoogan, or ’oo’ie) would agree that she is warm, vibrant, multi-talented, and driven by boundless energy. And, I would add, shining through and linking these is a primary trait: generosity. No, she and Bill have never had a lot of money, and probably won’t have any endowments or university dorms named after them . . . Though they’re, of course, quick to share anything they have. I mean more a generosity of spirit that seems to be unfailing.

Such a quality doesn’t appear out of nowhere or overnight. Let me take you back to a moment long ago, and far away — not in a distant galaxy, but Anchorage, Kentucky. Sister Susie was two years older than me. When we were very young children, the distance those years put between us was negligible, and we played together often, sharing made-up worlds, storylines, and jokes virtually as equals. But at some point in time that’s difficult to pinpoint, the older sibling crosses a threshold out of Neverland . . . never to return.
Though she was just starting out in grade school — possibly I was in kindergarten, but no older — Susie had crossed this line. Still, I recall sitting out in the yard, engrossed in watching a colony of ants scurry in and out of their underground city, when Susie crouched down next to me and asked “Do you still like to play pretend?” I said yes, I did, and she let me show her my ants, and the box turtle (“Boxie”) I’d found in the yard who now lived in one of the basement window wells, subsisting on hand-delivered earthworms and lettuce. Then we played our accustomed pretend games about princes, princesses, evil witches and magic.
Even as small children, we both knew this was “once more, for old times’ sake.” And, I suppose, began to learn a critically important lesson about life: You can’t go back — only forward. Later in the rotation of years and grades, we would pretend to be the Beatles on the front porch, enlisting neighbor kids to fill out the ranks, with coffee cans for drums and brooms for guitars. We’d improvise operatic duets about the evil witch who was forcing us to wash and dry a sink full of dishes. We’d put on weird one act plays (sound familiar?) for our parents, employing little Jimmy in one-line roles and making him the frequent victim of butter knife swordplay.
And on and on, to the present moment. Is it ever the same as the shifting phases of childhood? Of course not, and who would want that? But . . . it’s all good anyway, isn’t it?

Happy Big Round Number Birthday, Susie! Love you and hope to see you soon.
John & Michele

With Love From Sarah

It seems the most important things in my entire young life were the little moments with you, Mama, so hard to put into words. Filling in the little numbers in your grade book. Feeling a cool wash cloth on my sick forehead. The afternoons walking to the high school after class, my little heart filling with excitement to see you in your classroom, the teacher to all of these grown-up kids. So smart, so perfect. Sitting in the big book closet, smelling the books and thinking about how much you knew, how much you had to share, all held in the smell of pages and pages of knowledge.
I remember the big things too. How closely you held me as you let me go off into the scary world of the Air Force. How scared I knew you were, but how bravely you took care of me. Eating in that terrible little diner at the hotel. Just being my friend. I always felt your pride in me and your love, even when I was laying on your couch for days on end, no idea what was to come next for me, no idea where to begin. A grown girl with no direction and no clear way out. I felt your pride in me when you told me that I could do whatever I wanted, as long as it didn't involve any further lazing about, as long as it involved forward motion. It was all that I needed, and as always you knew that.

Now my memories of you come in waves every day. In the jokes I tell my own little girls, in the silly games we play, and in the adventure I am continually telling them to find in their own backyard. Ever since Tess was a tiny baby I have sung to her at night. My Old Kentucky Home. I've never made it all the way through without crying, not once in the hundreds of nights singing that song have I kept my voice at the end. It always cracks with the memory of you, the missing of you, and the profound love I now understand- passed down through me to your grandchildren. I miss you every day, and the days that go by without my saying it are only self preservation on my part. Sometimes it's too hard to say. I miss you and I love you, Mama. Always and in every way. On my loneliest days I am always with you in my mind, curled up in that big chair we used to have, right on your lap, all overflowing and grown, but still your baby.

I love you more than every grain of sand on every beach, more than every drop of water in every ocean, and more than every star in the sky. My mama. Happy Birthday.

With Love From Bill

Susie, I fell in love with you in the Donner Party History class, what was the prof's name? Smiling Osgood? I know that you'll remember. I love you today and I'll love you tomorrow. We've been best friends for over forty years and I don't see that changing any time soon.

I'm writing this for your blog as you work on a blog for a client in the other room.
I hear you stirring, you need that lap desk. Soon, soon my darling. Thomas just barked again. BAD DOG!!
Hopefully your new lap desk for your laptop will arrive today and you'll be more comfortable while working. You're amazing with your creativity, energy (Yes u do! Perhaps not like the 80's but so it goes.), and loving spirit.

I wanted to do something more special than a lap desk for your 60th, something like a cruise came to mind, but we'll do that sometime fairly soon eh?
We need to look at the pictures boxes more often. Can't live in the past, but we did an tremendous job raising three girls. Cue song:

Three Little Girls

Happy Birthday Sweetie.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

With Love From Eleanor

One of my first memories of you, my Mama, is riding on a horse with you. The feel of you so close to me, the nervousness and the hard saddle. When I have ridden with Alli, with Jack, I very nearly cried, thinking of my time in a saddle with you. It's the circle thing that's crazy and lucky about Mamas and their babies, that I have been given these gifts, these memories, to keep in my heart, hiding, until they resurface in interactions with my own kids. I think of you so often, in both the present and past tense. It's because I love you and you are always by my side, no matter the miles.

I think about how grownup I felt, sitting on your bed and grading papers with you. Me! Little me! Grading high school papers. About once a week, when harassing the kids into cleaning with me, I remember the game we used to play where we had to clean well enough to impress the Queen. You would help, falsely frantic, in your best Mammy voice, hair up in a handkerchief. At least once you even had a white glove! A white glove!!!

When tending to a sick kid, I am taken back to being taken care of by you. You would slowly tuck my hair behind my ear, stroking the hair back so slowly, singing My Old Kentucky Home until I fell asleep; head on a towel covered pillow. Do you know? I still cover my pillow with a towel when I am sick. It makes me feel so comforted. Like you are right there by me.

I remember when you guys dropped me off at college. How sad and scared and excited I was. And that you cried when you drove away like I cried, standing there. I think it was the first time that I really realized how much I needed my Mama. Not in a small child's way of needing, but in a friend for life, loving you no matter what. No.Matter.What. Kind of way.

I didn't really understand that kind of love until I had children of my own. And now I see you everyday in the way I love these kids, the way I parent, the things I say and do. Everyday I feel you, hear you, can almost reach out and touch you. But I can't most days so I call. I call because I am fortunate enough to think of you each time anything happens, good or bad. Because you are one of my very best friends. I love you Mama. Always.  

With Love From Manda

One of my favorite memories of Mama is when I came home after a long day at school. I was absolutely exhausted from school and after school sports. Mama was on her bed grading homework and I laid down next to her. We talked for a bit about our days and then I fell asleep on the bed. I woke up because I knew that I had homework to do and she gently stroked my hair and told me not to worry about it and just to sleep. In an instant, all of my worries from that day melted away. Although I had so much homework to do, she just let me sleep there next to her until she was done grading papers. It seems so silly to tell the story, but I just remember feeling so secure, loved and warm next to her.

With Love From Mama

Not only are you my darling daughter, you are my very best friend. I love you Susie.

With Love From Mom

The first time I saw Susan Wehmeyer she had come for the weekend
(Memorial Day) and she and Bill got in late and I was already in bed.
The next morning when I walked down the stairs I saw  a girl with her
back to me and she was brushing the most beautiful hair I had ever seen
like corn silk and when she turned around I loved her and still do!

Later that very weekend she was on the back of Bill's motorcycle and he
stopped for one of the only street lights on a broad street in Chagrin
and when he started up...quickly I add she wasn't prepared and
slide right off on the street. She wasn't hurt but both of them were

To make up for this incident she asked if she could do something to help me and I said she could bake a pound cake. She agreed though somewhat reluctantly. I gave her directions but didn't failed to make them clear and the cake turned out to be a FIVE pound cake. Fortunately when the directions were clear she turned out to be a wonderful cook as her girls and husband would attest. Love her so much.

With Love From Immy

Susie is horses and riding trailers, hair done just so, blonde under black velvety riding helmets, a room with flowery wallpaper with the names of high school boys written carefully into the petals, she lives in a different time zone, a different world, Big Sister World, years in the future, horses and friends like Sarah, friends who laugh and hang out and then disappear and seem to know everything I don't know and surely never will, and she is off to college wearing preppy innocent college clothes on the day we drop her off, only to return home on what seems the next day with a truckload of hippies who blow the very lid off of my go-carty and basketball hoopy mind, Big Sister's college friends, so many friends, how does one make so many friends, down for the Kentucky Derby, sleeping all over the floor downstairs, sleeping on the Living Room floor, even, where none of us is ever allowed to live otherwise so that the sickly green chairs and couches and ashtrays and coasters remain forever readied for Mom and Dad's grown up parties, yes, these thousands of hippies sleeping even on the floor of the Lifeless Living Room, long hair and crazy clothes, dressed for a collective performance of Something Very Different, with Big Sister in the midst of it all, no, that is really her, along with some guy who looks like Joe Cocker, I swear to god, Johnny, look at those sideburns, and one of these hippy friends teaches me to braid leather without cutting either end, and I live and breathe and dream of opening a leather goods store in Oxmoor Mall from that day forward, and then she disappears again, and then she and Joe Cocker, who turns out not to be Joe Cocker but is in fact named Bill, are getting married in storybook fashion, and my hair doesn’t seem long enough yet to be playing guitar, there is love, and then I'm driven to the desert by Mom and Dad to see to where she and Bill have fled, and there are cool adobe houses and Big Sister framed by a teller window, and there is a mountain cabin that is freezing and beautiful and surrounded by scary javelinas, and somehow my Big Brother shows up here in the mountains after disappearing himself, a smoking hippie with Nothing But Now all around him, welcomed in from the cold and the road by Big Sister and Bill, and there are geodesic patterns and an open and loving house across the river, if the bridge isn’t washed out, Big Sister's house, where I am welcomed in by Big Sister and Bill, and some guy who is writing a novel though I never see him near paper or pen, and an Indian man who rides a horse down from Somewhere Above who might well have slept on the Living Room floor the day before the Kentucky Derby in another time and another place, and there are classrooms and books and a dark room to coax out the shades and contrasts of yearbook dreams, and there are little beautiful girls beginning to appear, here's Eleanor, next time out it's Sarah, and then is the miracle of Amanda, resonation and reverb, it seems like Big Sister is being subdivided like the farmland in Carmel with each of her little girls so much like her, 1/2 acre lots of Susie with room for growth, and here are Mom and Dad sitting by their pool all the sudden, welcomed into a new chapter of living by Big Sister and Bill, embracing the change that Big Sister and Bill have brought to our family by simply being themselves, and the girls, they grow and sing and learn and swim and marry, and the dogs and cats and fish and horses and chickens and god knows what else weave patterns around these growing girls, and the years lose their definition to the flow of love and work and marriages and loss and grandchildren and desert flowers, and Big Sister, our Big Sister, is still out there, standing next to her very own Joe Cocker, like a 60 year old saguaro with plenty of time yet to grow another arm or two, and to love, and to be loved, in a world and time that she has helped to make.