Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fourth of July: Childhood Memories, Thunderstorms, BBQ and Granny

Fourth of July. In my childhood that holiday meant one location, one event. It was a campout of fairly epic proportions with the Broughton family, a rag tag group of brothers and sisters, grandparents and grandkids. It was a summer party; a roadtrip to southern Oregon. And as that sparkler-filled, celebratory holiday nears, I am reminded how much I miss those reunions at the Ranch.

It was a dream weekend for a kid - acres upon acres of forest, fields, trails, barns, creeks and ponds to explore for three days with 15 like-minded troublemakers - cousins of the same age. Morning to night we played, fought, ran, swam, and laughed. Parents required check-ins but we were pretty free to roam with little oversight.

I’ve been flipping through my brain trying to piece together all my memories of those weekends. I can’t distinguish most years from the next but I know the feelings that the culmination of memories gives me. 

I already mentioned joy – there was definitely fun that could only be had with those people, at that age, in that setting. 

There is a little anxiety. For me as a kid, all of those cousins were intimidating. They were braver, louder and more imaginative than I was. It was so easy for most of the kids to slide right back into the relationships they ended the previous year. It wasn’t quite as easy for me. I kind of hung close to Ryan (much to his dismay, I have no doubt) and others I saw a little more frequently. 

Plus, I was terrified to explore too much –I mean there were snakes EVERYWHERE . Yeeauuuugh.

And I’ll be honest. I grew up in a very quiet household. The Broughton side of my family, I must lovingly say, is not from where that heritage comes. I was slow to adjust to the louder discourse. 

So 4th of July memories make me smile and a little tense. But those memories also bring a tinge of sadness. Not for the events themselves so much as for all the smiling faces I have in my head of great grandparents, great uncles & aunts who are no longer here. Images of each one laughing during badminton and card games, talking over dinner, giving me a hug when I arrived and when I left at the end of the weekend. Those memories make me sad because I miss them terribly. 

So, I feel compelled to get down in words the memories I have in my head of those great Independence Day weekends at the ranch. I myself have few photos from those weekends though I know my parents have some. I hope my fellow family members will share their fondest memories and maybe a photo or two (if not here, perhaps on my Facebook page.) I’d love to see them all this weekend so we could, in a way, celebrate the holiday weekend together even though we are all apart. 

A Few Sporadic Memories of July 4th Pasts

  • Granny leaning over the porch rail watching us play Volleyball. Smiling, heckling and laughing - She was always a participant.
  • The big cinder block BBQ pit with Uncle Roy at the helm and three to four other guys standing around it at all hours of the day. It was fathers, sons, brothers, uncles laughing and talking about who-knows-what while turning chicken, burgers, corn-on-the-cob, baked potatoes (the food was always outstanding!)
  • Creek play was amazing. We played war, house, explorers – you name it – along those creek beds. We had names for each section along the way though I don’t remember them now. And then of course there was the year Katie got stabbed in the center of her forehead by a rogue stick (was it a sword, a gun, a fishing rod – who remembers) while playing along the water. A small puncture wound but it bled like crazy.
  • There was a thunderstorm one year. The adults had opportunistically approved having nearly all of us sleep in our one monster-sized tent; we had roughly 8-11 kids in sleeping bags in one thin-walled cage. The thunder and lightning started and some of those brave cousins I was talking about earlier wanted to go and see it. So we ventured out into the middle of the night and sneaked quietly (highly unlikely) onto the porch where Granny kept a big metal bed. We piled on and sat watching the beautiful show across the night sky. It was amazing – I’ll never forget it.
  • Sitting on the trampoline (introduced as we had gotten older; claimed Jodi's ankle early on) one afternoon, I was watching the scene around me. Maybe there was someone on it with me, I don’t remember. But I remember scanning that wedge of the property where the house and yard, garage and fence, circle driveway, dog house, horseshoe pit, BBQ pit and front yard all sat together. And I remember looking over and seeing my grandpa and Uncle Fuzzy talking to each other near the horseshoe pits. I watched them for a while. There expressions changed from smiling to serious to laughing and back again. It was in that moment I realized, like clicked-in-my-head realized, that they were brothers. They were different but the same. They were close but distanced by life. It is such a strange, quiet memory I have from those weekends. Yet is nearly always one of the first I think of.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Big or small: a lesson in perspective

She said it quietly, nearly under her breath, as if she wasn’t sure she should say out loud exactly what she was thinking.

“He’s SO big.”

Eli sat at the top of the red slide attached to the preschool play structure. His size 11 shoes dangled about a foot from the bottom.  His trip down was very short but he didn’t seem to mind. He climbed back up with enthusiasm.

I looked up at the face of his preschool teacher and raised my eyebrows. I hear this said in different ways all the time and have no good stock response or retort.

“I mean REALLY. He’s taller than all the pre-K girls.”

This catches me off guard a little. Really? Taller than the five-year-old girls? He's 3. I looked down at my smiling son now running around the gym. I know in my head he’s a big kid but in my mind he’s my little buddy.

Hearing this come from an educator who has seen a lot of kids in her career made it all a little more real. It's very likely I won't have as much time as most parents do to look down at his face and pat his head while we walk and talk. I just hope I'm not looking up to him when he's 8!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Mother's Day 2014: A Review in Pictures

As a mom, I try not to put too much importance on Mother's Day. It's an arbitrary day to collectively acknowledge as a society that mother's rule the world.  But a lot of pomp and circumstance over the day seems silly and a bit contrived. And yet, I love every tidbit of acknowledgement I get as part of its celebration. And if I were to get nothing on that floral-focused Sunday, I wouldn't be mad or upset. But I would remember.

As it so happens, my Mother's Day weekend was exceptional. It was definitely a reminder what a great job being a mom can be. And how great it is to get to take a break from it on occasion.

My Mother's Day in Pictures

Cards from My Buddy

Flowers from My Husband

Manicure/Pedicure Day with Jamie Courtesy of Husbands

Eli hijacked my phone and decided to take my picture Mother's Day morning.
Viewing of the Grand Budapest Hotel with Celeste at the Hollywood Theater

I'm pretty lucky. And sometimes its forced holidays like Mother's Day that remind me how good I have it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Kindergarten

I have a lot of very vivid memories of my year in kindergarten. I didn't go to pre-school; kindergarten was my first 'school' environment where 15+ five-year-olds were expected (or perhaps hoped for is the right word here) to sit in little chairs, paint, glue and play nicely with each other.

(I suppose Sunday school was an early version of this except half the kids in my Sunday school were cousins, my teacher was always either my grandma, great aunt or dad and we didn't really have to play nicely with each other.)

At any rate, kindergarten was a big room full of strangers. I don't think I said a word most of that year but I clearly watched and took it all in on some level because I have very clear memories of that place. 

Things I remember from Kindergarten

1. One class-wide lesson was to bring in some sort of 'seed' we found at our house. The teacher put our seeds in little baggies and put them on a piece of poster board on the wall.  Kids brought in all sorts of seeds I had never seen or thought of before - avocado, kiwi, tangerine - exotic finds in my mind. I brought in apple seeds. Good 'ole boring apple seeds like 5 other kids in the class. The kid that brought in banana seeds (whomever you were) had me completely and utterly impressed.

2. We had a Thanksgiving recital complete with songs and colored-paper hats. Some kids were pilgrims with the appropriate head wear. Others were Indians (when people said Indians) with colored feather bandanas around their heads. I think I was a pilgrim. We all sat in a little room (what would have been the dining room of the converted house) and sang some Thanksgiving songs (what would we have even sang?) to the parents sitting in the converted living room.

There was a drawing that day - the name drawn would get to take home a 2' x 3' cut out turkey all of the kids had worked to color during the month.  
I won. My mom still hangs it up at her house.

3. I remember learning the difference between rubber and plastic and having that moment of, 'oh, now I get it.'

4. I remember telling my mom we were asked to bring someone to kindergarten who would be attending next year so that we could introduce them and show them around. Desperate to show my best friend and cousin, Ryan, who was a year behind me at school, where I went to kindergarten, I told my mom about this and she scheduled to have Ryan join me at school the next day.  

Only one problem. Apparently it wasn't the next day that we were supposed to bring next year's recruits. I watched out the big front window as the kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Gower(sp?) explained the error to my mom through the driver's side window, with Ryan in the backseat. I was mortified and played in the back bedroom that morning with an ugly cloth doll until we were forced to come together for group activities. 

5.  I saw my first real coconut (cool) and ate some for the first time (gross).

6. I remember being the last kid to be picked-up from school one day. I ended up playing longer than normal in the garage area waiting for my mom to arrive and thinking it was odd. At some point, a car pulled up and a woman got out informing my teacher that my mom and sister had been in a car wreck and that she was there to take me home (I honestly have no idea what the verbal conversation was. And I have no memory of how I got from Kindergarten to home.) The lady that picked me up (I think she took me home) was someone my mom knew and who had driven by the wreck and worked out a plan with my mom.  
I was definitely scared by this whole thing. But what I remember most is my Annie lunch box was in the car and it got a big dent in it.

7. We had a big kindergarten graduation ceremony at Hucrest elementary school. We all marched up onto what seemed like the biggest, grandest stage imagninable to receive our diplomas. I remember thinking I was pretty grown-up in that moment.