Saturday, August 14, 2010
And so another reunion has come and gone, punctuating the year, while moving time forward a notch. If you begin with J. T. Hoskins, the founder of this spreading brood, the reunion reaches back to 1817, the year of his birth. Hannah Elizabeth Ware was born some 20 years later; his second wife, mother of The Sisters. There were two boys of the first marriage and two from the Hoskins-Ware union, but it was The Sisters who really embody the reunion, and were, I suspect, responsible for this wedding anniversary celebration getting off the ground. They, of course, are long gone, and of the cousins, as that next generation are called, only 93 year old Joe Pollard is left. Not even an ancient widow remains since Elvira Henley died last year. With the passing of Charles Warner and Elizabeth Tribble, the next generation is beginning to peel off. They were the oldest of my own BDís generation and he is one of, if not the youngest. Fourth cousins of my son are now parents of children who will be going to college in a week or two. It is just a matter of a few years before we have sixth cousins coming to this reunion as wee tiny babes.
At least, thatís what I hope and thatís why I have shouldered what little responsibility I do have for seeing that this gathering continues. This is Virginia, where venerable old traditions are still alive. There are still folk who say "Pawpa said ..." and "Thatís the way itís always been done" and until world domination by the Random Access Generation is complete, I suspect we can count on hearing them offered up as fine reasons for just about anything. As I said, this is Virginia, so something this old has a right to keep on keeping on, merely because it is this old.
Happily, the weather gods were in the mood to bless this family with what I used to call "California Weather": dry air, bright sun, lamb-like puffy clouds and sweet breezes. Iím responsible for keeping up the mailing list and getting out invitations. I also provide all the paper products for about 100 folk and enough lemonade and tea as well. This way, I donít have to cook, something I almost never want to do on your typical Bermuda High Virginia August weekend. We canít count on California Weather, we can only be grateful for it. The other responsibility I share with BH is setting out all the paraphernalia: the name tags, mailing labels, and such, and directing all the food arrangements. We are the de facto hostesses and this has sometimes been a delight and sometimes been a burden. Itís always a joy afterwards, but for the past few years it was not one we eagerly anticipated. We just accepted it as our duty. A duty Iíve been about ready to pass on to someone else, in fact, bowing out of responsibility, not even caring that much if that person dropped it.
How glad I am that I began, about 10 days ago, to start tinkering with my soulís joy-0-meter. By the time I was driving out our lane with BD, who canít understand why I like to get there (anywhere) so early, I was prepared to have a splendid time, to not be upset about a thing, to greet them all with glad smiles and to just have one heck of a time. And thatís what happened. It was so breezy and cool we threw open all the windows to the church, letting in sunshine and crisp air for the first time I can ever remember. Folk came in so slowly that I figured weíd have a small crowd, and alas, none of the North Carolina nor Eastern Shore cousins came, but happily, my favorite William besides my own, was there with his darling mother and sweet natured father, his way-cool Aunt Mary and her beautiful daughter Katherine. As BH and I say, they are our kind of people, and I didnít have the slightest qualm about telling them of my friend L, the past life hypnotist, who is visiting tomorrow.
Our favorite cousins pulled in fairly early and lent willing hands to everything. These are the Bedford cousins who put me up for 3 days last April when I taught spinning and told stories at the Sedlia Fiber Festival. They had brought word from my darling niece R who was too far away in Chicago to make it this year. Cousins came from Texas. Cousins came from Arizona. They came from Maryland and NoVA and a whole lot of cousins came from Richmond. There were Henleys from King and Queen and Hutchinsons and Hailes from Essex. 75 to 100 altogether, with enough food to feed them all, even if there wasnít quite as much left over as some years. Somehow it all worked out as if planned by the best of caterers.
There was chicken, of course, mostly fried. There was some barbecue and of course, that southern staple, ham biscuits, though this was yankee ham, not the thin, chewy salty Virginia Ham. Iíve been the one to contribute real ham on beaten biscuits in the past, but as I said - I donít cook in August if I can help it. There were any number of corn puddings from creamy to speckled with fresh off the cob kernels. Fresh garden vegetable dishes tumbled from a cornucopia of kitchens. On the last table the regal deserts held forth as supreme reason for dining. I love to lean down and whisper to a wee child that here itís okay to eat desert first, so save room on your plate. The offerings were proof of a maxim I resent, but have to believe - that itís not desert if it isnít chocolate. And chocolate was there in plenty: brownies, cookies, chocolate whipped cream pudding, meringues, and a frosted Khaluah cake that Cousin Anne always brings from Roanoke. Even though my favorite thing there was a molasses pie, you can be sure I had a slice of that cake. For me, the meal has to end with chocolate, and if I donít get any, I find myself eating and eating and eating, looking for the flavor point that says it's time to stop, that period at the end of the meal. Who would have thought TheQueen was a chocoholic?
Tables have always been set up inside the church hall for those too old to sit long in the heat but I never like to dine inside. For one thing, itís too crowded and for another itís too noisy, but the main reason is that once youíre at a table you donít get to visit with anyone but your immediate neighbors. I far prefer to eat outside with the picnickers, usually younger cousins with children, drifting from one blanket to another, from one sister's greatand great-great grandchildren to the next. Saturdayís glorious weather made people linger much longer than usual, talking, sharing, gathering in clusters to be photographed, breaking up into new arrangements of kinship for more snapshots. For the first time I can remember, weíd done all the clean-up and driven off before the last of the visitors were ready to part.
Though BH and I do the artistic arrangements and the small personal details, we donít do any of the heavy setting up. For years the Henley boys did all the work, with a little help from some of the other young men in the family. But someone has to linger at the church to lock up and that lingering can turn into excruciating patience when ancient great aunts who havenít seen each other in a year want to chat a while in the cool before getting into cars and parting for another 12 months. At last, they rebelled and their mom backed them up. The first year I accepted the role as co-hostess I didnít get out of that church till nigh on to 5 oíclock and I was almost screaming with frustration. Now we pay someone to do the heavy stuff and nobody has to be a victim.
Only 4 households gathered at our house in the late afternoon, for swimming and boating and dining again - yes yes - we do eat dinner on reunion day even if we already had our daily caloric needs met at lunch time. The Bedford cousins bring us peaches every year, white and yellow, succulent and sweet. There was ice cream and there were popcicles, and of course, any good house has a couple of bottles of champagne to celebrate with - just in case you have a celebration emergency. Conversations flowed from porch to dining room to upstairs bedrooms to back yards. Croquet was set up on the back lawn, favorite toys were spread out on the floor by 6 year olds, little girls gazed lovingly at teen aged boys. Just your typical family reunion core group, catching up on the details of all the news weíd shared in letters or emails or phone calls.
It was a loving end to a long day. It glowed for me all of its 24 hour hours.
The next morning was a softer version of the night before. Weíve cut our beautiful family tradition from the same pattern for 13 years but it's made of knitted fabric; flexable, stretchy. A teenaged boy is married and has his own house now. Little girls who were not yet in school that first year are now in college. A little boy who once wept when he had to leave drove the family car home this year. The reunion is different every year, even as so much stays the same. It spans almost 200 years of living to know and talk about, for stories about old J.T.Hoskins are still shared as if they had happened just last month and when he got here you could tease him about them. Itís a precious thing to know this much family history. I guess I can keep on as steward a little longer.
The weather stayed deliciously perfect. No sooner had the cousins driven off than BDís brother drove up and the visit on the porch was as sweet as itís ever been. When the silence of his departure settled over the house, BD and I took the three mile walk out to Robertís Landing, savoring happy memories, anticipated delights and present joys. The late afternoon sun felt tender on our skin and the patches of shade had a coolness that carried with it the hint of fall. As we strolled past the west woods a harvest cricket began its autumnal song, that shrill cry that speaks of morning glories and tickseed, early dusk and sweaters. The dogs jumped a buck along Farmerís Hall Creek. Still in velvet, it looked more like a reindeer with its huge antlers. It crashed up the bank and disappeared into the cornfield, Jack in hot pursuit and Priss yipping as she dashed past us.
There is no denying it. That great wheel of time is turning turning turning. Summer isnít over yet. But it almost is. It always is. After The Reunion
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
So. On the day I post in my status about how cramped for time I am, along comes this horoscope from a favorite MsHoroscope:
"Resources Ė time and money Ė are in focus as Venus, Pluto and Jupiter form a rare alignment. You may be feeling the pinch, in terms of your budget or your time. You have more resources than you realise, itís simply a matter of prioritising - authentically Ė what to do with your money and your days. If you want financial security, trade time or skills for money. If you want more downtime, trade some income for better life balance. All the pieces are in front of you, you just need to find a new way to put them together. Todayís New Moon energises your hidden, resting zone. Give yourself some quiet uninterrupted space in which to put your analytical skills to work. "
It IS true I am really rushed for time. There are a zillion things to do this week and I want to do each and every one. My work has suddenly become very busy and very interesting OR I have suddenly become very inspired to find interesting productive things to do to get me someplace I want to be. oh . Uh. Red Flags flapping and Whistles blowing?
I've been reading James Arthur Ray's book Harmonic Wealth harmonicwealth.com/
and in it he says that it's not about the goal, it's about becoming a person who can reach the goal - which feels very good to me. He also says that to have a bigger anything, be it life, salary, job, circle of friends, you have to become a bigger person. Not a better person, mind you, just a bigger one.
I'm all about books that help you go places - starting with Julie Morgenstern's organizational advice
to the Hicks' books on the Law of Attraction
to Rick Warren's "The Purpose Driven Life"
And of course Martha Beck and her 4-day Win and Steering by Starlight books
And one thing all of them tell us is that when you ask for more and get it - things don't end there. We're not in a race to the finish - be it a dream house or a top job or a perfect weight. We are ever expanding beings growing into the person who can live the life we are creating.
The only reason I'm so busy is because I have thought of a better library than the one we have and to create it I have to manage lots more things. The only reason I'm so busy is because I really want a close loving relationship, not just with my aging parents, but with the sister who lived so far away for so many years, and is now close again and doing an enormous lot of work to ease my parents final years. The only reason I'm so busy is because I want to take that trip with Himself next week AND spend Friday with my cousin getting things ready for the huge family reunion on Saturday.
It really is about priorities. For every advantage brings responsibilities. Not a price, mind you - but just added items. And the way to enjoy the advantage is to believe it will work out. To believe that every problem that arises comes with it's solution - or solutionS and that is where the real reward is. Not in achieving the better job or the bigger salary or even the smaller weight - but in becoming the person who has More Solutions to Life's Issues.
I'm reminded of a day in January 2009 when I came to work to find our library's internet access completely shut down. The problem was convoluted and the solutionS were myriad, diverse, weird and amazing. And we implemented every one of them in a single 8 hour work day, changing our domain name, our internet provider, our method of connection, getting help from 3 institutions not even connected with the library and the following day we had internet access. The whole day I felt like I was riding on some light beam across the universe, picking answers out of thin air. I was in the zone. I was on my game. It wasn't even that I had to get it all done in a single day. I just knew we weren't going to fail and we didn't. We did better than that. We solved it all in a day.
Sorta makes me wonder how much time I actually fritter away NOT riding on a light beam and plucking answers out of the air.
The good thing about a day like that January Monday is that it proves to me that I can go light beam riding. I can have miracle days where everything happens. I just have to keep my consciousness on the happening, the doing, instead of the troubles and difficulties. They ALWAYS look bigger than they are and the answers are always closer than I had imagined.
Friday, August 06, 2010
My mother was always overweight and she had many health problems that were exacerbated by the excess pounds she carried on her. I used to think - if only she'd drop 20 pounds (or 30 or 40) how much easier her life would be. She suffered so much pain from hips and knees and those pounds made it that much worse. And now her life is really circumscribed because she's wheel chair bound and still overweight.
And a little part of me sort of tsk-tsked - even though I know how hard it is to make such a serious lifestyle change.
Well - turnabout is fair play and now I am exactly where she was when she was younger: 20 lbs overweight and with a herniated disc in my lumbar region. It hurts like the dickens and at this point ibuprofen is not helping. There are things I can do to help with this problem - different shoes, different mattress, new exercises, stronger medicine - but nothing is going to do as much good as losing 20 lbs and never finding them again.
The sane observer part of me is sitting down with both my wild child and my school marm selves and having a sober heart to heart talk about this. It is she, the watcher, who is posting this because she wants the truth spelled out in words that are impossible to confabulate.
Wild child would just run away and hide, while school marm would try to tell you it's not THAT bad.
Well. Listen up, my two other selves
Losing 20 lbs will make even a herniated disc feel better and it will make us all feel so much livelier, prettier, happier in our clothes and ready to enjoy all the wonderful things out there. From now on - each time we are faced with a food temptation we're going to think about this painful back and pass it by. We never over eat because we're hungry - we over eat because we're self indulgent. From now on, we're going to substitute something else for a food indulgence because man - this aching back is killin' me!
Time to get serious. Hugs to you all!
Thursday, August 05, 2010
We moved my dad from independent living to assisted living yesterday and all went very well. My job, for which I am most suited, was to take him off for the day while sons in law and cousins did the heavy lifting. we spent an hour with his favorite veterinarian and old friend; had lunch at Arby's; went to see mom; and then drove all over the old Westover Hills neighborhood where they lived while I was in my teens. The city has just completely refurbished the local park where Daddy used to take us sled riding when we were little and the fancy house with the dark deep hedge just south of Wayside Springs is still there and doesn't look a day older than it did the summer I sat behind it, in a patch of poison ivy and smoked a purloined cigarette with Sue Fisher.
He was sad though, about leaving his apartment and asked over and over if we were going to go back there today. He cried a few times too, those tears of true sadness of leaving the familiar, knowing you're that much closer to death, knowing you'll never get to do the things you used to do again. And with those tears I could only empathise - I would feel the same way. And it is not hard for me to praise him for the good things he did as a father. To thank him for the things he gave me that I still value.
My cousin, BiL, husband and sister got everything squared away - a new flat screen tv, a new lift chair, it was all in place when I brought him there. He was so tired, though, that I don't even know how he felt. I was as tired as he, though all I did was drive him around in an air conditioned car.
Though he's in a studio room it is nicely laid out and I think he'll do just fine. Or rather - he'll do as fine as he's going to do.
And even though I had 8 good hours of sleep last night, I'm still wiped.
Hard to stay up when you're this tired.
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