Clear Vision: 6 Tips from a Window Washer

Last Week Joe Schrock of TIP TOP Window Cleaning announced his arrival by knocking lightly on my door. I spotted his truck on my driveway.

tiptopwindowcleaning

I had contacted Joe about cleaning the windows at our new house. They were dirty when we moved in and got even worse when wind-whipped rain lashed the panes during October’s hurricane Matthew.

The name Schrock sounded Mennonite to me, or at least Pennsylvania Dutch.

When I inquired, Joe told me,

“Yeah, my Amish ancestors came to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania in the 1730s. Then they moved to Ohio. My dad’s from Sugarcreek, and my mom from Kent. You’ve heard of Kent State, haven’t you?”

Of course I had.

“I guess you know about the Amish newspaper, The Budget.” Oh, my goodness! I had never heard of it. Noticing my startled expression, “Yes,” he said, “it comes out of Sugarcreeck, Ohio.”

“I bet I can find it on the Internet.” I walked over to my laptop resting on the kitchen island.

There it was: Home page of The Budget newspaper with a close-up view of a goat with a big-eared welcome.

The newspaper also had a Facebook page. I quickly found the About page which read: Serving the Sugarcreek area and Amish and Mennonite Communities throughout the Americas since 1890. (The pages reminded me that many plain folks have settled in South America, particularly in Paraguay and Bolivia.)

There was a pause. “Golly, I had no idea the Amish did computer stuff!” he smiled.

Later he told me, “I was born in Miami but have lived in Jacksonville, Florida, for a long time. I started my window washing business in 1982.

* * *

Though two friends had recommended him highly, my first-hand experience as a former Mennonite confirmed some expectations I had of him, some sterling qualities that many plain people possess:

1. Right Equipment He came with all the right tools, chemicals, buckets, and squeegees. I detected a faint whiff of tobacco.

windowcleaningsupplies

2. Fair price His price appeals to the budget conscious. He was at my house for six hours and presented me with a bill that looked like it came from the 1960s. I gave him a nice tip.

3. Cleanliness As soon as he walked into my house, he put on blue booties and never tracked in any dirt.

booties

4. Thoroughness He went far beyond what was expected. I gave him the green light when he suggested that he could scrape off an old security company sticker. “It’ll come off just like that,” he predicted. Of course it did!

scottalarmstickerlabelremoved

5. Pleasant He didn’t whistle while he worked, but I believe he could have.

6. Strong work ethic He kept at it until he was done. He didn’t take any breaks although I would not have minded if he had.

joeschrockcleaning

 

That evening, I remembered a book on my nightstand, Wisdom of the Plain Folk: Songs and Prayers from the Amish and Mennonites, compiled by Donna Leahy, photography by Robert Leahy

Work begun is half done. ~ Amish woman’s proverb (33)

 

I know some sloppy Mennonites; maybe you do too. A few may be lazy, but probably not many. And you certainly don’t have to be Mennonite or Amish to uphold integrity in the workplace. Or appreciate fine workmanship.

sparklywindow

Even so, I’m glad my first-ever encounter with a window washer (Yes, I’m frugal!) gave me clearer vision: clean windows and a re-visitation of the values of my own ancestry.

 


As the new year begins, I need some sparkle in my life. Clean windows did it for me.

How about you? Are you anticipating anything sparkly in your new year?

7 Ways to Stay Young: Nuns Reveal Their Secrets

Whoopi Goldberg is no nun, but she played one in Sister Act, where she befriended three other nuns all named Mary and made the convent’s choir into a rollicking, soulful act.

Wikipedia Image
Wikipedia Image

 

Dr. David Snowdon obviously is no nun either. He’s not even a monk. But he is an epidemiologist, who spearheaded a study to decode Alzheimer’s disease as he researched the lives of 678 nuns at the School Sisters of Notre Dame. All had willed their brains to research on death.

Aging with Grace could have been a deadly dull read, but I kept turning the pages because the author was able to intertwine the excitement of scientific research with personal stories. These nuns shared valuable life lessons about “Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives,” part of the book’s sub-title.

Here are the seven I gleaned from Snowdon’s book:

  1. Keep your sense of humor

 Just before she turned 90, Sister Genevieve Kunkel marveled at her wellbeing. She said, “I have two good traits . . . I am alert and I am vertical.” 183

 

  1. Mingle with the young

When pressed about her other secrets for staying young, Sister Genevieve admitted, “Maybe it’s because I’ve always been with the young.” An educator, she had taught young people from grade school through college and was currently reading a Harry Potter book. She also read nearly every issue of the Sunday New York Times.

 

  1. Enjoy eating as a social occasion.

Share mealtime with others when possible. “The air in the convent dining room buzzes with laughter and . . . chatting.” 168

 

  1. Help others

Healthy nuns served themselves during mealtime. Then they took turns helping sisters in the assisted-living wing by pouring drinks, cutting their meat and helping them take their medications.

 

  1. Stay “With It”

Sister Clarissa, age 90, drove around the convent in her motorized cart dubbed “Chevy” and knew “as much about baseball as any die-hard fan a third of her age.” (She sounds a lot like my Aunt Cecilia!)

Sister Dorothy Zimmerman drew others into Scrabble games, often closely contested.

 

  1. Keep Moving

 Sister Esther Boor, who lived until age 106, sat on her “exercise” chair and regularly pumped the pedals on a stationary “bike.”

 

  1. Wake up every day with purpose

Sister Matthia knitted a pair of mittens every day for the poor. Every evening she recited the names of all 4378 former students until her death less than a month before her 105th birthday.

Unbelievable!

 

  1. Pray and Meditate

Dr. Snowdon admits “while we cannot directly measure intangibles such as faith and social support, the Nun Study would be incomplete without acknowledging their powerful influence.”

Want to know more about these marvelous women? You can read my review here.

Here’s a link to the book!

nunsstudycover

Here is your invitation to add to my list of seven. You can also comment on the tips you find here.

Thank you!

Precious in His Sight: Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, and White

Bright lights overhead illuminate a fun space. My eyes take in shelves with animal puzzles, bins with textured balls, sets of play tools, baskets of plastic fruit and veggies with pans for the play stove in our classroom. On my right – xylophones, bells and colored cushions. On the left side I see a box of string-a-beads, and on a shelf underneath – friendly-looking doggies and kitties that push or pull.

It’s Sunday morning, and I’ve entered the pre-school resource room at my church holding a white plastic basket for carrying items I’ll take to our classroom.

You see, two-year-old youngsters like to play. That’s how they learn. These children confirm the idea that “Play is the highest form of research.” (Unverified quote attributed to Einstein)

fbckidsxylophone

I continue circling the “toy” room and stop in front of the doll display now, dolls arranged in families: mommy-daddy-brother-sister. “Which sets of dolls should I pick out today?” I stop and wonder out loud.

asianblackfigures

hispanicwhitefigures

Children who walk through our classroom door have family origins in Viet Nam, Myanmar (Burma), Nigeria and Bosnia. Although our attendance records show Taylors, Elkins, and McCalls, the list also includes Biak, Torres, and DeVevo.

Friend and co-worker Gloria, who'd rather hold real babies!
Friend and co-worker Gloria, who’d rather hold real babies!

 

Why the Ethnic Dolls?

We obviously don’t point out differences with young children at play. I have never said to a two-year-old, “Look, this doll is hispanic (or black or white).

Of course not!

Then what’s the point?

When children see an image that looks like them, they can identify with it intuitively. We volunteer teachers aim to communicate to these impressionable little people that our world includes families with many different skin colors and facial features. The good Lord loves them all – and so, obviously, do they.

 

 

Spontaneous hug
Spontaneous hug

“Jesus Loves the little children” video + lyrics

* * *

Another Question

Recently author, journalist, and lecturer Gail Sheehy asked the question, “Is Trump out to make America white again?” Recent developments before and after our contentious election in America may warrant such a concern.

Our answer as pre-school teachers: Not if we can help it!

doctorcarpenterfbc

You may want to check out a Mennonite voice, Becca J. R. Lachman, whose blog expresses a wish to keep “a welcome sign [to everyone] lit in neon.”

* * *

Your turn: An anecdote, an illustration, a contrasting point of view. All are welcome in this space . . .

Coming next: 7 Ways to Stay Young: Nuns Reveal Their Secrets

Grandma’s 3 Thanksgiving Postcards: Red Leaf, Cheery Harvest, Shakespeare Quote

Before families went over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, a postcard may have appeared in their mailbox to mark this grand American holiday of gratitude in the early 1900s.

Grandma Fanny Longenecker saved three of hers.

postcard1909thanksturkey

In this card dated 1909 a brilliant oak leaf, an acorn cup and a fan-tailed turkey displayed “Hearty Thanksgiving wishes” though the celebration could not have ended well for this turkey.

(Incidentally, no filters or other photographic enhancements were used on these antique cards. Their brilliance remains after 100+ years.)

 postcard1910cheerythanks

Again, in the card above postmarked 1910, edible and bucolic images warm the scene which included another cozy house by the roadside.

postcard1911thanksshakespeare

Someone had already begun using a nutcracker on the walnuts in this still life from 1911 with an expression of hope for a happy mealtime. The quote from Shakespeare’s Macbeth (Act iii, scene 4) is ironic: Macbeth and his wife, attempting to cover up their dastardly deed of killing King Duncan, host a dinner where the condemning ghost of Banquo is about to appear. Clearly, the postcard designer took this quote out of context.

Though no ghosts may appear during your Thanksgiving celebration, you may be saddened by the specter of empty seats around the table.

Again this year, there are empty chairs at our table too. Here’s one:

Now a fixture on our table: Place card from wedding of Mother's niece, Janet Metzler
Now a fixture on our table: Place card from the wedding of Mother’s niece, Janet Metzler Diem

Postcript

“Grah-ti-tood” is the title of my very first blog post published February 25, 2013. Although it was not Thanksgiving season then, I knew gratitude could be a theme that may thread itself through my postings. Only two former students and a church friend responded to this first attempt at blogging. You can read it here.

Curtis_GratitudeBk

Thank you for joining me in many posts since then. Our conversations here keep me going.

“I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.” – G.K. Chesterton

Thanksgiving blessings with many happy memories!

What Does Rockwell’s Painting Ask?

Did you make construction paper turkeys and buckled hats in elementary school? I know I did. We elementary school-ers dug our scissors into orange, red, brown, yellow to create Thanksgiving art. And then we looked at pretty framed pictures that have become American icons of gratitude.

Freedom from Want, Four Freedoms Series - Norman Rockwell Courtesy Wikipedia
Freedom from Want, Four Freedoms Series – Norman Rockwell Courtesy Wikipedia
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914) Courtesy Wikipedia
The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth by Jennie A. Brownscombe (1914)
Courtesy Wikipedia

 

These pleasant scenes may trick us into thinking the world was a more peaceful place than it is now. However, the celebration has often been shadowed by discord and world war.

 

Conflict Coexists with Celebration

* The pilgrims fled religious persecution to find freedom in the new world. Though the scene above looks peaceful and full of plenty in 1621, many immigrants did not survive the winter.

* President Abraham Lincoln set aside the last Thursday in November 1863 during the dark days of the Civil War as a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

* President Franklin D. Roosevelt, just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor plunged the US into World War II, signed a congressional bill in December 26, 1941 moving the date for Thanksgiving to the fourth Thursday in November.

 

The True Story Behind Rockwell’s Painting

FDR was criticized for being too idealistic in his State of the Union address of January when he outlined his idea of the Four Freedoms: Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship, Freedom of Speech, and Freedom from Want.

Two years later, The Saturday Evening Post published essays on each of FDR’s 4 freedoms, each paired with a Norman Rockwell painting (February – March 1943)

 

Freedom from Want, Four Freedoms Series - Norman Rockwell Courtesy Wikipedia
Freedom from Want, Four Freedoms Series – Norman Rockwell Courtesy Wikipedia

 

Take another look at this painting. Three generations circle the table, the all-white nuclear family considered the ideal in 1943.

As Bob Duggan points out in his article for Thanksgiving 2013, if Rockwell were painting in this decade, surely the skin color would be more racially diverse. And, instead of a gathering of biologically-linked people, family may extend to include friends and neighbors of many creeds.

 

What is the Young Man Asking?

 thanksgivingdetailman

 

See the young man looking out of the setting to you, the viewer? His smiling eyes may be asking you to join and share the bounty spread out on the table – lots of protein, plenty of vegetables, and pumpkin pie, no doubt.

But is that all he is asking? Perhaps he is inviting you as onlooker (and possible guest) to participate in another kind of freedom: to free one another from all kinds of want beyond the physical — emotional, social, and even spiritual.

 

Your Turn

No doubt you are looking forward to a Thanksgiving gathering, either at your house or somewhere else. How can you help others to have something to be thankful for, finding a way to include sharing in your practice of thanksgiving?

That’s one way to smile back at the young man at the table.

 


Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.

– William Arthur Ward

Quote contributed by my friend Jenn, a Canadian blogger, who reminded me that Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October. Happy (belated) Thanksgiving greetings to all.

Aunt Ruthie: Birthdays to Remember

The Longeneckers think birthdays ending in 5 or 0 are special. At a Longenecker family gathering in Florida in 2003, we celebrated the birthday of my brother Mark, who turned the big 5-0.

Brother Mark's 50th Birthday 2003
Brother Mark’s 50th Birthday 2003   (Tim Kulp, spouse of grand niece in background)

And also of my Aunt Ruthie who celebrated her 85th birthday at our house at the same time.

Aunt Ruthie Longenecker's 85th Birthday, 2003
Aunt Ruthie Longenecker’s 85th Birthday, 2003

This month on October 4th, Ruthie reached her 98th birthday. That called for two celebrations: one among residents of the home where she receives nursing care and the other with her family at the same facility.

 

What she said at the first celebration:

It came suddenly and it left the same way . . .

 

What happened at the second:

The preliminaries: Tao from Viet Nam, one whom Aunt Ruthie sheltered as a young woman, beautifies the table with an autumn bouquet. Her children think of Ruthie as their grandmother.

taoflowerbouquet

Then –  family meal with dessert . . .

No 5’s or 0’s appeared on the birthday cake in front of her, but there was a huge number 9 in the calculation – not 98 candles, but close!

marianruthie98

She had her drowsy moments during the party, but slowly awakening once, she looked around the table and observed, “It can’t be denied that women outnumber the men here.”

birthdaygroup

My sisters Janice and Jean, two grandnieces, and a nephew

She didn’t have enough wind to blow out the two candles at first. Neither did I. We all sent her good wishes after 4-5 puffs, extinguishing the two flames.

blowoutcandles

 

Special Report: Ruthie Reaction

I promised to give you a postscript to my post Aunt Ruthie Longenecker: Her Life in Pictures.

Earlier in the week, Ruthie with her perky pony tail leaned in, looked intently at my computer screen with eyes wide open.

ruthieperkyponytail

When we came to the vintage photo of the 1930s family reunion, she began identifying a few relatives she remembered – her aunts, uncles, her father, her mother (“My, she was thinner then, if you know what I mean,” she said with a wry smile, viewing her mother.) Her left hand moved steadily if quavery across the family photo – speaking names of relatives long dead: “Grandma Martin, Grandpa Sam, Uncle Frank, Uncle Joe, Mattie, Bertha, oh, and my brother Ray.” Long pauses often punctuated the name call.

I was thrilled to observe the foggy memory mists lifting and blowing away for a few precious minutes . . .

Remember my promise on the October 5 post? I did show her the post of her life in pictures, including your comments.

They made her smile, smile real big!

ruthiereaction

“Thank you,” she said.

Madeleine L’Engle’s birthday sentiment:

The great thing about getting older is that you don’t lose all the other ages you’ve been.


Given a choice, what age would you choose among the ages you’ve been?

His Turn II: An Artist Discovers More

Do you have photo albums un-touched in years? Is there a box of pictures stashed away that hasn’t seen the light of day in ages? What treasures may be hidden in your attic or basement?

After our Big Move August 9, more of Cliff’s artwork has come to light, pieces squirreled away, forgotten for decades.

On the July 6, 2016 blog post, I hinted that Cliff the Artist would be discovering more goodies. What I said then:

He has also found lurking in drawers, pencil drawings of college classmates and professors in the classroom, sketches of unsuspecting diners in restaurants. (To be revealed)

The Revelation

Cliff found a treasure trove of surprises in an armoire’s shallow shelf with other large art pieces, in niches below that, in a handmade folding portfolio, and in a cabinet with glass shelves.

An antique mahogany cabinet brought forth more surprises.

Photographs and artwork like these:

cartoonistphoto

cliffdrawingpuppies1983

dogcatwolfson1983

Sketches in college classroom

Cliff and Barry Beitzel, both divinity students in college, studied Greek together. Cliff became an artist/educator and Barry, a Hebrew scholar and author of important biblical literature including The New Moody Atlas of the Bible.

barrybeitzel1966

Sketches in restaurants

In the style of Honoré Daumier who honored ordinary folks like in his oil painting Third Class Carriage, Cliff caught images of unsuspecting diners in Waffle Houses and restaurants of similar ilk:

smokingwomanlakeland1987

blackcoffee1987

restaurantnewspapermen1987

 

A Family Heirloom, the House on Anchor Road: Cliff presented the painting of our homestead to my dad, Ray Longenecker, 1983

housedaddycliff

 


His Admission

Without prompting from me, Cliff wrote this memo to himself recently, feeling exhilarated about finding his long-lost “friends”

memoclifforganizing

 

Time Moves On

Yes, time moves on. More than thirty-seven years have passed since this calendar with Cliff’s pastiche drawing circulated for the new year.

pastichecalendar

 

Your Turn

Maybe it’s time to check through memories marinating on your shelves, incubating in boxes. No telling what treasures you’ll find.

 

kidsswingingwolfson1983

Bonus: Two good websites to help you mine stories from photographs:

Shirley Showalter’s Magical Memoir Moments: photos and writing prompts to bring out the storyteller in you

Dawn Roode’s blog on using digital photos to trigger writing life stories

Any I missed? Please add others in the comments column. Thank you!

 

 

Coming next: Aunt Ruthie Longenecker ~ Her Life in Pictures

 

Janet & Marian: A Tale of Two Houses

My writer friend Janet Givens and I have both said Goodbye to houses this summer. She, to a vacation house on a canal in Chincoteague Island, Virginia, and me to our family homestead 12 miles from the beach in Jacksonville, Florida, geographically about 750 miles apart as the crow flies.

JanetMarian

Our meeting in 2014 was also geographical – and digital. I responded to Janet’s post about her Peace Corps experience in Kazakhstan, linking her experience to my trip to Ukraine, both countries with a Soviet-era history. From there the connection continued on each other’s blogs. That was until I, along with 5-6 other writers, were invited to her cozy log house on the Island. You can view the view memories of that magical first trip here.

ForsythiaLogHouse

I know many of the nooks and crannies of Janet’s special place and feel I’m such a lucky duck to accept her invitation not once but twice to the spacious log house for a writers’ retreat. I can understand her bittersweet sentiments as she lets go of it now.

On both trips, we spent time writing, eating healthy food, talking and laughing in the sunroom, and gazing at the sparkly bay, which leads out to the Atlantic.

WriterComputerHealthyFood

Susan Weidener, Janet, and Merril Smith sharing photos
Susan Weidener, Janet, and Merril Smith sharing photos

Ah, and seeing the ponies, personal and close up:

poniesjanet


A Vermonter, Janet is bidding farewell to her second home after 22 years. We’ve lived in our house, our primary residence, for 37 years. Pencil marks on the kitchen door record our kids heights from ages 8 and 9 ½ until they were teens. Photos of our long history there fill family albums.

KillarneyHouse2016

Of course it’s a cliché, but life really is all about trade-offs and feeling gratitude for what is now. I think Janet would agree with the J. R. R. Tolkien quote below. I know I do!

TolkienQuote

Maybe you have had attachments to a house in your past, perhaps a childhood home or one you used to own or visit.

Golly, it could be the one you live it right now.  Grab a cup of something cool or warm and let’s have a chat!    🙂

Above all, do check out Janet’s own thoughts about her love affair with the Chincoteague house here on her blog. You can also find a link to her memoir there: At Home on the Kazakh Steppe.

Finding a Home for My Books

I’ve written about a Mouse, a Madras dress, Marie Kondo, my Mate’s stored secrets and Louisa Adams’ Moving adventure during our Big Move from a tri-level to a single floor. Now we are settling in. You may be curious about what happened to all the books originally stacked on the shelves of my three adjoining bookcases next to my former writing desk.

I gave away plenty. This week, Ian got my 1950 copy of The Peanut Man. He sucked in a gasp when I told him George Washington Carver was sold as a slave in exchange for a horse but bravely used God’s wisdom to find hundreds of uses for sweet potatoes and peanuts. Another book, The Power of Style became a birthday gift to my friend Carolyn, a stylish woman whose blouse underneath declares she is cleverly disguised as a responsible adult.

CarolynBookStyle

Back in May I started with three floor-to-ceiling bookcases, now condensed to just one. My other books have cozy nests elsewhere, cosseted in small spaces all around our new home.

A book rack in a corner of the great room holds books for morning meditation, including my lilac gratitude book.

BlueChairDuck

My journal for rants and other facts of life has gone missing. It has an iridescent Tiffany-style cover. If it turns up at your house, please let me know. I’m dying to have it back!

Old books, my hymn books, and a violin in-need-of-repair with the bridge missing fill an alcove in the hallway. Cathedral ceilings have amplified both glorious sounds and sour notes – ha!

PianoViolinBooks

The dining room has built-ins for china and books. On the window seat, small crocks (one from Mother) hold in place more old books, including the one at the far end on my blog banner.

WindowSeatBooks

Underneath, a long cabinet swallowed up over two dozen photo albums and about a dozen journals.

JournalsPhotoAlbums

Above the media center in the living room, a sturdy candlestick holds up Sonnets of the Portuguese, Beatrix Potter’s Lakeland, Sarah Ban Breathnach’s Simple Abundance popular in 1995 and Alice in Wonderland, a gift from son Joel and wife Sarah, Christmas 1998. Coral from Key West separates these from another stash of antique books.

AlcoveBooksTV

Under the sofa table, brass butterflies hold some of my books by Mennonite writers, a collection by my favorite short story author, Alice Munro, one of John Updike’s novels, Judith Viorst books and The Story of Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey by the Countess of Carnarvon.

SofaTableBooks

The water closet, should you choose to linger on the “throne,” offers a changing display of reading material.

ToiletBooks

And finally, I pared down kitchen recipe books. What remains has a distinctly Mennonite/Amish vibe with slender tea-time booklets at right. Most recipes are available online, so the 4-inch thick encyclopedias had to go. Besides, my favorite recipes sit snug in a computer desktop file.

RecipeKitchenBooks


Four months ago in our former home, I began with three adjoining bookcases, jammed with books. In the photo below, I had already started purging.

BookcasesKillarney

Space for my books is much smaller now, condensed to just one. Besides, it was time to let some tomes go. Looking back, I see my method for giving away or keeping has been more intuitive than rational. Autographed books, gifts from friends or family had to stay. Hardest to let go – textbooks laden with notes I had labored so long to create.

BookcaseOne

A glitch occurred as we tried to stabilize this bookcase. When the cable guy came, he angled the bookcase to hookup the internet and pushed the oak file-case forward. When he finished, he shoved the case too far to the right, so we couldn’t get it pushed back to the wall. Because it was overloaded with books and too heavy to move, son-in-law Joe and husband Cliff relayed books from case to floor and back again, so the behemoth could be moved into its final resting place. Bless them!


“I like best to have one book in my hand, and a stack of others on the floor beside me, so as to know the supply of poppy and mandragora will not run out before the small hours.”  Dorothy Parker, The Collected Dorothy Parker   (My stack has dwindled.)

Do you believe as William Dean Howells suggests

Oh, nothing furnishes a room like books.

What books are among your favorites? Which ones would you never, ever part with?

Do you have places to showcase special books?

What other room accessories do you value? More quotes about books are welcome here too ~ thank you!

Summer on Anchor Road: Sights, Smells & Sounds

Your life is a poem,” says Naomi Shihab Nye.

And as the world tilts toward the dog days of summer, that’s how I see it too: tiny images of poetry seen through the prism of my childhood, remembering summers in the Longenecker back yard and inside Grandma’s house. Louis Macneice expresses these sentiments vividly in his poem, “Soap Suds”

Soap Suds

Soap Suds 1a

Vintage Lawn Croquet with wooden mallets and balls - Google Advanced Image
Vintage Lawn Croquet with wooden mallets and balls – Google Advanced Image  (The Longeneckers had one almost identical.)

 Soap Supds 2a

GlobeNorwood1966TerrariumVictorian

Soap Suds 3a

Soap Suds 4a

Though Macneice reminds us there’s no going back to childhood after experiencing the realities of an adult, our younger selves can still exist in memory – as photographs preserved in sepia tone. And like the bubbles in soap suds, I recall a childhood that is ephemeral, fleeting:

I can see the nicked edge of the croquet mallet, as it strikes the striped ball with a “thwack” sending it on a scrolling roll . . .

. . . taste the root-beer float Mom made from Hires concentrate, laying the 2-quart Ball jars side by side on the cellar floor to “cure.” . . . hear the straw suck of the cool drink like the sound of sudsy sink water draining.

Marian in tub_13 months_4x3_300

. . . feel the cool water as I splashed in the tub on a hot summer day in August.

* * *

Only one piece of playground equipment was a fixture in our back yard, an iron swing painted glossy silver. Here Daddy, probably at Mother’s prompting, posed with me in his plain coat and black bow tie before or after church at Bossler Mennonite. He has a tentative hold on his firstborn daughter, perhaps still feeling awkward as a parent. The calendar must have shown April because I was 9 months old. No roses or peonies bloom yet in the garden behind us.

SwingDaddyBabyMe


Credit: Globe and still life. The antique globe above comes from Norwood Elementary School where Cliff first taught school. He composed the still life painting next to it during his Master’s degree studies at Florida State University.

Did your family have a croquet set? Do you still use it?

What other pictures or stories of childhood summers did this post spark in your memory?

How as an adult, have you tried to retrieve child-like wonder and playfulness?

Coming next: School Daze – They Ain’t What They Used to Be