Masquerade moments

Halloween’s never been my favorite holiday.

Maybe because I alway eat too much chocolate.

And because it’s always seems to be raining.

Unless of course it’s snowing.

Or even worse, a blizzard!

But I thought this year I’d try really hard to like Halloween since my very sweet granddaughter was coming for an overnight.

The two of us were going on an old fashioned trolley car ride the next morning where we’d be read to by well known children’s author Nancy Carlson while wearing our costumes.

I decided to pick up dollar store orange flaming bright hair Saturday as a back up in case my granddaughter forgot her costume.

Catching up with friends later for lunch, I suddenly spotted a spark of creativity right before my eyes.

And soon I discovered I might actually be on fire with enthusiasm for this zombie loving holiday like I’d never been before.

I’d found myself a treat which translated to 95 percent off the price of detailed masquerades in all colors and styles.

Including one bejeweled in a brilliant orange to match my granddaughter’s orange hair.

Handing over my tired dollar to the clerk, I quickly handed her a fresh second bill to buy a masquerade in black just for me.

As my fashionably attired granddaughter and I took our wicker seats on the trolley Sunday, I proudly smiled beneath my stunning and ornate black masquerade.

But then I abruptly removed it.

I wanted my granddaughter, conductor, and the author to see I wasn’t hiding anything.

In fact, I wanted them to know that I may just like Halloween after all!


Fireflies and fireworks

With my eight year old granddaughter Alexxis riding shotgun, and two sleepy pups in the back seat, we took off for the country.

Or what’s left of it anyway.

I was searching for a simpler, quieter 4th of July weekend. Something akin to the one I enjoyed when I was her age.

A weekend full of front porches, lemonade, ice cream, with plenty of cozy books and crayons came to mind.

And sprinkled lightly with just a spoonful of fireworks.

Hitting the highway out of the city to the south, I noticed the road wasn’t the same as I remembered.

Instead of crops growing tall, it was the Golden Arches of McDonald’s and casinos that now beckoned.

And new treeless housing developments of endless large taupe colored homes. All clustered tightly together, with each house perfectly identical to the one next door.

Yet by the time we took a right to enter the big lot of the state’s largest candy store a half hour later, I noticed the landscape had changed.

Getting out of the car, I could see the corn surrounding me was “knee high by the 4th of July.”

Just as it should be. And maybe even taller.

And off in the distance I spotted grain silos on what seemed be a couple family farms.

At least I hoped they still were.

Alexxis and I smiled as we entered and  then walked through the mammoth isles of the candy shop. Our noses were happy as well as we caught the scent of fresh berry pies from the bakery within.

She picking out her favorite Bazooka gum and gummy bears.

Me selecting the sweet treats of my youth like Sugar Daddys, an apple pie, and root beer candy sticks.

I laughed as the root beer smell brought me back to one particular 4th of July memory when I was a child.

After too many sweets and too many stops at homes of friends and family, the new car smell of my parent’s brand new sedan soon was permanently overtaken with the scent of root beer fizzies mixed with something, well, not quite as pleasant and gifted by me.

Back in my car, Alexxis and I continued our drive through lush valleys until the road evened out some.

Before approaching the small farm where we would be staying, I introduced Alexxis to my favorite books back when I was her age that featured two young girls living in a Midwestern small town in the early 1900s named Betsy and Tacy.

We stopped for a brief tour of each of their original homes and to buy a special book bag for Alexxis’s growing collection of books at the little gift store attached.

After unpacking at the farmhouse, Alexxis rocked in the front porch swing with her new Betsy and Tacy book to the hum of a farmer haying in the field across the road.

And I settled into the rocking chair, dozing for a while.

Then suddenly Alexxis announced, “Fireflies Grandma, Fireflies!”

She’d never seen one before and I haven’t since I was a child.

But she was right.

There they were, dancing brightly near the blooming white snowball bush.

We danced as well, warmed by the light of the fireflies, skipping the fireworks display  in town.

There will be always be fireworks we figured.

But only one chance to be a kid.

Or maybe two, as just for a brief moment I was a kid back in the country once again.

Gifts from the heart

It wasn’t a new car smell at all, but something akin to glue that crinkled my nose.

And put a wrinkle in my spirits.

I’d arrived at the shop to pick up my car after its two week spa visit, which included a partial body redo and plenty of candy red polish.

It sorely needed some TLC after being rear ended on the interstate.

Yet upon opening my front car door I noticed a mirror that was to be fixed had some how been forgotten.

And then the body shop manager happened to mention, “Oh, and by the way I think your battery’s shot.”

My heart sank as I drove off and tried to find someone willing to put one in on a weekend afternoon.

But a nearby station mechanic announced after testing it that there was a spark actually left in the old girl, and suddenly my heart rose again.

Particularly when the mechanic looked me in the eye and said, “No charge.”

Soon I felt my own spark return and so much younger.

I celebrated by traveling to the lake with my car windows down, soaking up the scents of spring mixed with clear blue water.

A soothing sailboat regatta in the distance quickly put miles between the unpleasant memories of rush hour highways and my busted vehicle weeks before.

Near the swimming beach I was greeted by my three young grandchildren to celebrate my grandson’s birthday.

But I found that I may have received the best present of all.

Each of them ran through the grass collecting wispy remnants of blooming dandelions in bouquets just for me.

Great gifts of the heart, pumped so full of love.

And we blew the old dandelions just like kisses, before I received a few special ones to call my own.

Right there on my left cheek, to remember always.

And you can bet I always will.

A Three Soda Salute

Today I celebrate warm memories of a mom.

And the life of a daughter.

It was on Mother’s Day 15 years ago that my late husband and I returned to the United States from Russia with our new 12 year old daughter, Nicole.

My mom couldn’t have dreamed of a better gift.

A language barrier didn’t slow at all the love and bonds that grew between the two.

Such soul mates they were, sharing passions for strong coffee, pickled herring, and the spiciest of shrimp gumbos.

They even shared the same May birthday.

Though Nicole’s teenage years were far from simple for any of us, I know how proud my mom would be of her granddaughter today.

Nicole’s a strong willed and loving woman, making her a remarkable mother.

She’s been an advocate for ensuring the best education and health possible for her three children in spite of some challenges.

I believe her grandma is looking down from above smiling wide at that.

And so is this mother as she sits across from her now.

So Nicole, your kids and I would like to offer up a three soda salute for all that you do and who you’ve become.

This one’s for you, kiddo!

Nicole arriving in the U.S. at age 12.

Father Time’s Falling

I never was one to make New Year’s resolutions as I knew I’d surely break them.

Yet often on New Year’s Eve I’ll look back on the year gone by, as I did last night.

My date for the evening was my lively eight year old granddaughter.

She’d packed her purple and pink toy tea set for one of our beloved tea parties.

Possibly our last I was thinking, as soon she’ll be a ‘tween’.

I found our conversations over steaming cups of Earl Grey were skirting more towards adult topics such as bad drivers, technology, and bullying in America.

Later on we exchanged reviews of the rock stars performing on the TV before us, while waiting for the big crystal ball to drop in Times Square. I remember doing the same with my own grandmother, but I wondered could it have possibly been five decades before?

Suddenly, I felt old.

Father Time marches on, and ever so quickly.

Still I smiled as I looked at the sweet faced third grader before me:

-A girl who thinks it’s “so cool” I spend part of my work days now with students her age.

-A girl who believes it’s “so neat” that I’ve recently moved into a little grandma house, “so perfect” for overnight visits.

-And a girl who says it’s “fantastic” that Grandma adopted a young pup, just as energetic as the one Grandma had many years before.

As I took my two senior dogs out with the new youngster canine before turning in, I looked up at the stars while listening to the music of fireworks behind me.

Maybe…just maybe my move, retirement, a new job, and the new pup were good decisions for me last year, I mumbled out loud.

Sure, time is moving faster, but then so am I.

You see, I continue to be blessed with a muse.

And that muse is one spirited, sprinting granddaughter.

Jumping for joy

I know our culture often speaks of the ‘wisdom of the years’.

But what about the savvy smarts and spirit of a seven year old?

I bring you my granddaughter.

Front and center.

The first to run up to the DJ to volunteer for the Halloween Festival events in town.

First Act: The hula hoop competition.

There she was, going neck in neck with a five year old cowboy, six year old bride, and an eight year bumble bee.

But she lost her mojo, and the hoop, as soon as she she stopped to wave at me.

Luckily, the girl’s been blessed with a ‘no biggie’ attitude.

My granddaughter just smiled, thinking a little rest wouldn’t hurt with the dance competition coming up next.

She knew moving to Taylor Swift’s, “Shake it Off” and Pharrel Williams’s “Happy” was going to take some extra high octane fuel.

Watching her move and shake through out the afternoon, I realized how much she taught me in just a few short hours.

For example:

-You can always hula hoop in life, no matter your age.
-Public dancing is not to be ashamed of, even if your’re more than age seven and a klutz.
-You’ll feel great if you stop a minute to help others like your brother (or your grandma). Especially if they don’t know their right foot from their left.
-Smile, as soon everyone will be smiling along with you.
-Always wear pink if possible. Especially boots.

But I countered, and told her I did have one thing to teach her before the sunset down at the beach.

You’re never too old, or too young, to walk barefoot in the sand Halloween week.

They’ll be plenty of time in the months ahead for those pink boots.



An evening of love

I may have a date.

And it’s for Valentine’s Day.

This year the calendar shows it’s a Friday. That’s less than one month away, and frankly I’m as excited as a stoic Norwegian can be.

I came up with the idea this morning as heavy snow flakes fell outside my window. I’d pulled out Mom’s old Valentines from her grade school days spent in a small town in Minnesota.

Mom always loved this holiday of love. “You need something special to warm you up in a below zero winter,” she’d often tell me.

Now I’ll be the one warming up before doing the asking, but I believe my answer will be yes. I’ve heard the potential invitee is actually pretty fond of me.

I’m thinking I need to get busy now to prepare for the big event.

I want my house perfect. The dining room table is full of paperwork that needs to be filed. The carpets need cleaning. And my red tablecloth, candles, and heart trimmed dishes need to be found for this special occasion.

Also a perfect menu needs to be planned.

I’m leaning towards a wonderfully warm tomato bisque as a starter, then pasta with my special red sauce. And of course a decadent chocolate dessert, with a sparkling beverage to wash it down.

I’ll also need to clean up the guest room and put some rose scented sheets on the bed. Maybe I’ll even pick up some new pink towels and heart shaped soap for the bath.

Fresh red tulips, a matching box of candy, and selections of soft music should finish off my shopping and to-do lists.

I know it’s going to be one perfect evening.

I just made the call to my date.

And my sweetheart of a loving six year old granddaughter said, “Yes!”