Echoes Trailer

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Blessings in an Ordinary Day

Blessings in an Ordinary Day

My eighty-two year old neighbor came to visit with me today. She appeared at my back door at a time when I was trying to juggle three tasks at one time; preparing breakfast, refilling my mother's medicine tray, and brewing coffee, or as my family often reminds me, my life blood. At first I felt a pang of anxiety because I was so busy and didn't want to have a visit with anyone but then she held out a gift for me and I not only smiled, I stopped to take two Tupperware containers from her hands.

Without realizing what I had done at just that moment, I know now that I made a split-second decision that felt right to me. It was the right decision to make. By stopping to smile at my neighbor and thank her for making my day a bit brighter we had both received a gift. She needed the gifts of attention and friendship this morning while the gift I needed was a reminder to stop and smell the roses, or in this case, the coffee.

The Tupperware containers contained freshly ground coffee and memories of a different era in my life. Sally, my neighbor, asked, "Dianna, do you remember where I got that Tupperware? You were just a strip of a girl and you had a party with this stuff. It was the first time I ever went to a party to buy plastic containers but I sure did have a good time. Now I come over here for coffee about every day so I figured I would bring you some coffee for brewing and get you to take a break long enough to drink a cup with me."

I slathered heart-healthy spread on the butter I took from the toaster, added milk to two bowls of shredded wheat, and took fresh strawberry jam from the refrigerator. My mother and Sally took seats at the dining room table and I poured three cups of coffee, one for each of us. While the two older women enjoyed cereal and toast, I checked out the Tupperware.

"Sally, how in the world did you remember where you got this Tupperware?" I asked.

"Well, Child, lift up the lid. You'll see. I always figured on giving it back to you some day and today seemed like a good day to do it."

I lifted the dark blue lid of one of the containers and saw that my name had been neatly etched into the plastic along with a date, July, 1974. My thoughts started to drift back to my teenage years. I always seemed to be finding ways to make a few dollars back then. One year I wore the rubber right off of my tennis shoes by walking door to door selling greeting cards. Another time I sold a tabloid like newspaper, "The Grit", door to door for a few months. I sold raffle tickets, I cleaned windows, I washed cars, and I groomed pets, but my biggest money maker had turned out to be selling Tupperware.

My mother and most of the women in this community were old fashioned stay at home wives. The only parties they attended were baby showers, bridal showers, and family occasions or events held at church. Even those were rare because I grew up in a coal mining camp where the men worked swing shifts and dads were not always available to watch the children while a woman went anywhere alone. Babysitters, while not unheard of at that time, were not in high demand in this area. The point is that these "parties" could be held in the middle of the afternoon or in the early evening and they were perfectly acceptable. The Tupperware was also an item that could be used by women of all ages.

"Dianna," Sally said, jolting me out of my stroll down memory lane. "Do you remember trying to teach us all how to burp those containers?" Sally laughed so hard at the end of this question that coffee spewed from her nostrils. "I think it was harder than burping a baby! I also think you learned to make sure the container was empty when you did that demonstration!"

Have I mentioned that Jell-O was also wildly popular as a dessert in the 1970's? I can still see the look on the widow Brown's face as bright red Jell-O seemed to jump from a little square Tupperware container and land right at the top of her ample bosom before beginning a slow decline through the mounds of flesh and onward to the top of her girdle. She was jiggling more than the Jell-O as she worked to unfasten the top buttons of her dress to remove the Jell-O.

"Oh, I remember that very well, Sally," I said with a smile.

"Child, you might not have known it, but every one of the women that came to your parties left there smiling and just praying you would have another party like that. We all went home thinking about the plastic junk we had bought to add to our saved up butter bowls and jelly glasses in the cabinets. We didn't really need that junk, we bought it to help you and we bought it to get together and save our sanity. You were funny, friendly, and fed us all finger foods we didn't have to fix ourselves. You wouldn't want to have another one of those parties would you? I'd buy some more of that Tupperware and you could send it to your daughter!" Sally's face was full of expression and happiness. My mother's face was full of need for me to refill her coffee cup.

I realized at that very moment how overwhelmed I sometimes feel by the frustrations of trying to be everything to everyone in my life. There are many moments when I ponder on the dreams that seem to have evaporated and my days that seem to have stalled in a rigid zone of chores and responsibility. What happened to that teenager who was so full of energy, determination, and ingenuity? Well, I think that young girl went through many changes of seasons and scenery and to be honest with myself, they were not all bad.

I've experienced people and places I never dared to dream about and I am still tapping into the potential I never even knew I possessed. I have learned and I have grown. I have been able to see past the rain falling around me to see the rainbow developing after the storm. I have taken the moments from my life and turned them into adventures I can retell and memories I can use to warm my soul during a cold period in time. That teenager seeking to make a fortune and see the world became a woman who brings her own unique gift to this world every day in some small way.

My mother started to bang her spoon against her empty cereal bowl and Sally gently placed her hand on one of my mother's hands. My mother seemed to calm down and I saw a tear trickle down Sally's face. "Would either of you ladies like another cup of coffee or some more toast?" I asked.

Sally stood and said, "Well, I'd better be heading home. My phone might be ringing off the hook you know. Every now and again one of my children remembers that they have a mother.” Her facial expression saddened and then she looked at me before adding, "Dianna, you have no idea of how blessed you are to have such a close family. You're a blessing to your friends and family every day."

I felt a tear trickle down my cheek as Sally walked past me. We aren't alone in this world. Many people face the same struggles and we all need a human touch of kindness. I'm pretty sure that I often search for the wrong blessings and overlook the blessings I'm given in an ordinary day. Sally is one of those blessings.

I guess Tupperware might have been designed to keep food fresh but for me it preserved memories, friendship, and a reminder that miracles happen when you least expect them. I think I need to purchase some new Tupperware very soon.

© Dianna Doles-Petry


Monday, March 15, 2010

As She Slumbers

As She Slumbers

The room is eerily quiet,
The sound of her breathing amplified,
As I lie motionless, listening;
Feeling helpless and anxious.

Her heart beats out of rhythm,
Struggling to untangle memories,
That keeps her tethered to this life,
Lost in the shadow of the life she once knew.

I wonder if she ever dreams,
Of helium balloons and music,
Past lovers and birthing her children,
Or the many sunsets of her youth.

Rain drops pound against the window,
As heavy as a sledge hammer against cement.
She straightens her arm before bending it again,
As if she is conjuring up music one last time.

I wish I could just hold her,
Instead I pray quietly so she won’t hear.
I rise and gently touch her wrinkled face,
As I smooth the tangle of hair that is her halo.

© Dianna Doles Petry

Monday, March 8, 2010

A Simple Meal

A Simple Meal

I have moments when I think everything is going smoothly. I'm completely dressed and everything matches. I've let the dogs out for a walk, my mother has had breakfast and her medications, the birds are singing, and the sun is shining. Then I realize that I've had one of my menopausal mental pauses. It strikes when I least expect it and it takes a disaster to trigger my memory to work again. I had one of those pauses today.

Today I was expecting my Goddaughter to spend some time with me this evening and I knew my teenager would come home from school eager to go outdoors and enjoy the pleasant temperature. With these thoughts in mind, I decided I would have dinner ready early this evening so I could enjoy being outdoors myself if only for a short while. It would be a simple dinner we could enjoy quickly without a lot of dishes to wash after the meal.

Finding a dish that is easy to prepare that will also fill hungry teenagers and be easy enough for my elderly mother to eat is not always an easy chore. Today I settled on a chicken casserole and salad. While the casserole was in the oven baking I managed to get some laundry done, tidy up the dining room, season my cast iron skillet, and put my treadmill to good use. (I refuse to use the treadmill for extra storage space as many of my friends do with their machines after the first week of ownership.)

I guess I lost track of time the way I tend to lose track of my vehicle in the mall parking lot, my own cell phone number, and lately, even the birth order of my children. When the oven timer started to beep very impatiently, I turned the treadmill off and headed into the kitchen to remove the casserole from the oven. I placed the casserole, in a glass baking dish, across two of the stove top burners and went about the business of putting together a garden salad. I did not realize that I had left a burner on after seasoning my cast iron skillet. When I heard a loud popping noise I knew immediately what had happened and tried to reach across the casserole to turn the burner off with one hand while using an oven mitt to attempt to slide the casserole away from the burner with the other hand.

I am so thankful that my dogs were out for a walk and not under my feet. The casserole baking dish broke into several pieces and chicken chunks were thrown everywhere. I had casserole in my hair, on my clothes, and all over the stove, cabinets, and floor. The only thing that offered me any consolation was Miss Boots, my cat, jumping up on the counter beside of me to start licking the chicken and gravy from my cheeks.

I managed to get most of the mess cleaned up by the time I had to leave to pick my Goddaughter up from school. We enjoyed a simple meal even if it wasn't fresh from my kitchen. Subway sandwiches went with the garden salad perfectly and we all had a good laugh about my fiasco in the kitchen.

A few years ago a disaster like this in my kitchen would have upset me for hours. Now I just tend to let things happen and trust that the world isn't going to end if I make a mistake or let something go for a while. Maybe this menopausal thing does have it's perks! Now if I could just remember what I was walking through the house to do...

© Dianna Doles Petry


Thursday, March 4, 2010

One of Life's Embarrassing Moments

An email I received from a friend earlier today caused me to take a stroll down memory lane this evening. A statement at the end of the email said something about breaking elastic and having your panties falling down around your ankles if you didn't forward the contents of the email. My grandmother had her own version of breaking elastic and it had nothing to do with friendship or email.

You see, my grandmother had nine children and money got very, very tight when my grandfather lost his coal trucking business and his ability to make a living for the family came to a screeching halt. He did what he could to make ends meet but with nine children there was never any money left over to be spent on luxury items.

My grandmother made do with what she had for as long as humanly possible. She learned to stretch a meal in ways I don't even like to think about. For the longest time she sewed clothes for the children to wear and made repair after countless repair on every dress, blouse, sock, and anything else the family was wearing. Finally, her sewing machine wore out and everything had to be sewn or repaired by hand. When the elastic in her undergarments started to lose their grip, she began using a safety pin to keep them snug on her waist.

One beautiful sunny day, as her story went, she walked three of her nine children to the nearest grocer (almost two miles away) to purchase food staples. She always left the oldest child at home to watch over the younger children and took the next three oldest with her to help carry the bags of groceries. Only the necessities needed for the kitchen were purchased and the girls knew it would be a much longer walk home than it would be to get to town. On this day, just as she and the children stepped out of the store, all carrying arms full of bags containing flour, sugar, beans, lard, etc., my grandmother felt a snap against the skin at her waist. Then she felt a slight prick as the open end of the safety pin pushed into her hip.

There was no where to set the bags of groceries down and the children walking in front of her had no idea of what was going on behind them. My grandmother felt her panties sliding over her hips and she tried to squirm around to keep them in place with no luck. Within seconds the panties were down around her ankles and the only thing she could think to do was to simply step out of them and continue walking.

As luck would have it, the three girls started to grow weary from the weight of the bags and their pace became slower and slower. Before long a man and woman who attended church with my grandmother walked up behind her and the girls. The gentleman took the heaviest of the bags from my grandmother before moving forward to talk with the girls and help to lessen their load. His wife, with a face red with anger, started to talk to my grandmother. "Okie, did you see the panties some Jezebel had the audacity to leave laying right there on the side of the road where decent families have to walk? I'm telling you, there is no telling what goes on after dark in these parts. I surely won't have my Albert out here to catch sight of such goings on!"

My grandmother said he could feel her face and neck flush with embarrassment. She didn't dare tell the woman that it was not a Jezebel that dropped her panties. It was good old church attending Opal who dropped her drawers because she didn't have any elastic! After that, as I understand it, she used two safety pins to hold up her undergarments at all times!

© Dianna Doles Petry

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Thoughts on Losing a Friend

Thoughts on Losing a Friend

My life is speeding past me to fulfill a destiny I’ve never been aware of or accepted until now. My friends are being thinned out by death as if they are nothing more than stray hairs in God’s eyebrows. Everyone I know seems to be in some state of declining health with a stack of medical bills tall enough to compete with the Empire State building and barely enough money to keep the electricity flowing to operate the computer, our modern day system for communication.

I am at an age that finds me and my circle of connections wondering about how the end will come. The fear of becoming fragile and suffering is never more than a thought away after reaching a certain point in our life. Time is borrowed: there is no question about that. Some of us, if we are lucky, will pass from this life into God’s waiting arms quietly and peacefully as one of my dear friends did just this week.

As I’ve watched friends and family stumble and fall, I have become more aware of my own life, my own compassion, and my own mortality. Maybe death is meant to be a teacher of self-awareness. Maybe we all change our perceptions of what is important and the meaning of success when faced with death. Maybe time and death work hand-in-hand to bring us the gift of wisdom.

Each day of my life has become a renewal of hope, determination, and gratefulness. I am more determined to share my thoughts with the world more freely. I write my innermost thoughts, important events, and personal information in a journal for my children to keep in days to come. I want them to know how many struggles I faced and overcame, how many battles I lost and what I learned from each one. I want them to know how I got around each blockade I encountered on the road of life. I want them to understand that each tragedy and broken heart gave me strength of character. I want my memory to live on in their hearts.

My greatest gift has been the gift of motherhood. I have cherished moments spent with my children beneath skies of blue. I’ve often recalled the pleasure of sharing a song gathered around a fire as we roasted marshmallows. The simple joys of laughter shine in my memory like diamonds adorning a queen’s neck. It is important to me that my children feel the passion I have for living and learning.

One of the other great gifts of my life has been my friends. No wonder I feel as if a part of me dies every time one of them is called home ahead of me. My friends have encouraged me, held me up when my legs were weak and tired, and helped me to find profound peace. My friends helped me to feel comfortable in my own skin.

My late friend told about his adventures with honesty and a sense of remorse for the accomplishments he had allowed to slip through his fingers like water from a kitchen faucet. I always listened intently. With cups of hot coffee in hand we shared thoughts, we shared the news that made the headlines on any given day and we sometimes shared a comfortable silence. I called on him when I lacked inspiration and he called on me when he wanted to be a part of everyday life with a house full of noise and hot meals coming from the oven at dinner time.

He had accepted his frail health and the fading youth he once clung to as fiercely as a tigress protects her cubs. He shared memories of the places he had been and the songs he knew by heart. He talked about the ladies; those he had loved, those he had lost, and those he dreamed of night after night. He learned from mistakes he made along the journey of life and over the last few years he found a renewal of promise in the joy of his own life. Confusion turned to understanding, anger became compassion, and the thrill of the hunt slowly settled into the contentment of having lived a life full of challenge and change.

Maybe music kept him moving. Maybe he finally heard the song he needed to hear. Maybe he heard the song of his mother’s voice softly calling to him from the Heavens. Maybe it is up to me to use my love of writing to immortalize the man he had been before he became bone weary with no where else to go but Heaven.

My life is speeding past me faster than Superman but each day is a miracle. I watch people walking with canes and walkers who still stop to tell a joke and make someone else smile. I watch children playing cowboys and Indians and feel the excitement of possibility stir within me again. I watch my mother struggle to retain memories of the dances she shared with my father, the faces of her grandchildren, and the touch of her mother’s hand when she was crying. I have been blessed to have a good family, wonderful friends, and cherished memories. My late friend blessed me by showing me that even in our darkest hours, compassion, forgiveness, and human understanding are still alive and well. I will miss him greatly but I didn’t really lose him. He just relocated. Instead of talking to me by telephone, he’ll be whispering to me from Heaven.

@ Dianna Doles-Petry