Monday, April 17, 2017

"There are Places I Remember" , Number One

there are places I remember…”  (link to the Beatles' song, "In My Life")

I’m mining my photo banks and travel diaries to celebrate places I remember.  Two years ago we hit the road for Birmingham, Alabama. We were going to celebrate a wedding, but decided to stop off at places we’ve only heard of, not necessarily favorably. 

The first afternoon we visited Bob Jones University in Greenville, SC.  It was on Bill’s bucket list. Who knew? Less than enthusiastic, I tried to find something unique in their high quality sacred art museum which was full of old Masters. But having been to cathedrals in Europe I'd seen enough Virgin Mary paintings and cavorting angels to last a life time. 

Bill was disappointed to discover that the college book store is only online, no browsing text books.

Our glimpse into campus culture was interesting. When my daughter was eight, she played with a friend from a devout Christian family. I asked her what games they had played and she answered “humble girls.”  I’m not sure what she meant then, but BJU had a whole campus full of them! Girls are still required to wear skirts. Some could have stepped out of the set from Little House on the Prairie, others chose modest versions of current styles.

The student dining hall had a wide range of nationalities, and coed groups shared the tables. I did not see many African Americans, but again, I don’t see them at my white church either. 

I much preferred our time downtown at an outdoor cafe sipping locally brewed beer. No BJU students there. 

The next day took us through Atlanta for their reputation for "stop and groan" traffic. 

Once in Birmingham we went downtown to Kelly Ingram Park, the civil rights site where police hosed protestors and brought in the attack dogs. The art in the park recreates the scene with metal scupture.  It’s arranged so you have to sidle between life sized metal snarling dogs, frightening in their realism.

the four girls killed in church bombing across the street

Across the street is the Civil Rights Institute, a compelling collection of media—video, audio, recreated rooms, statues which tell the story of the 1960s in the South. I wish my grandchildren and former students could have accompanied me to experience this well-executed collection of artifacts. 

In total contrast, in the afternoon we visited Antebellum House near downtown. While the landholdings are much smaller than they were, it is a lovely home still. It’s good sized, but not grand. In fact, many architectural details reminded me of our century old home in Denver. The front door is glass with small panels on each side. The entrance runs through the center of the house creating a commodious foyer. Living room to the right, dining and kitchen to the left, just like our house. (sigh)

The rehearsal dinner was held in the Birmingham Botanic Gardens, small but lovely. The tulips and other bulbs were finished blooming due to a warm spring, but the temperatures made for lovely outdoor mingling. I’d love to go back and hit the gardens for the spring flowers.

Of course the wedding was wonderful too. And as the Beatles conclude in their song,"I'll never lose affection for people and things that went before." Here's a late toast to Andrew and Jenna on their second anniversary.

While my wanderlust hasn’t dimmed, my opportunities have slimmed. 

It’s best to recall the affections this trip stimulated. 

Friday, April 7, 2017

Glue Grandma

I trudged up two flights of stairs to carry a moving box up to my daughter’s new bedroom. On my way out of the closet I noticed my younger granddaughter swinging her legs as she sat in the sunshine on the small deck. I went out and joined her.

Her beautiful red hair swung around her droopy head and nearly hid her features. The eyes focused on her knees, and her chin nearly touched her chest. Her arms were tightly crossed.

She was willing to talk when I asked her what was wrong. Her other grandma had spoken sharply to her. We talked about that, and she came to sit on my lap. I enjoyed her lanky body leaning against my padded one.  Her head against my cheek, we kept talking until the sting of the incident dulled. 

I’d noticed her moodiness lately, and we’d our own times when she took offense. I was glad for this opportunity to show her I loved her. 

Twelve years of absentee grandparenting haven’t prepared me well for living close at hand. When we’d swoop in for a week’s visit it always included some special group activity, nonstop cookie decorating, crafts, movies out together. We were cherished and novel.

The shine has worn off of us. I'm no longer the glitter grandma, but the one who holds things together, stepping in for childcare, going to school events, patching over hurt feelings--the glue grandma. (I borrowed the glitter and glue idea from a well-written memoir: Glitter and Glue by Kelly Corrigan.) 

Now only the four year old runs exhuberantly to hug our knees when we come in the door. The older kids give us a nod, or nonchalant, “Hi, grandma.” We don’t always get a squeeze on the way out. And if the cousins are all together, they may not even talk to us. 

The one on one times are what we really enjoy.

We’ve invited each of the kids over for an overnight. Since we’ve sewed together over the past few years, I offered to start a new project with each. Em shopped for a cozy fabric to make an infinity scarf. We whipped it up in an afternoon. 

Addie’d outgrown her bathrobe and wanted a replacement. We narrowed the fabric types and out of about 15 color choices, she chose white terry cloth. Of course this was more than a one time project. I saved tasks that she could comfortably do and she learned to hem a sleeve and make a pocket. While she was here we took a chilly night walk and admired the moon. 


Sam admired Addie’s robe and asked to make one for himself. Sam preferred the cozy fleece fabrics, and after careful shopping and combining colors he chose a striking accent for the shawl color and pocket.  He finished it just before a trip to Arizona and proudly, but impractically planned on taking it with him. His suitcase would have been just big enough for the robe and swim trunks! 

Keeler wasn’t interested in sewing, so we planned a game night. It’s fun that he can play knowledge and word based games like Last Word. We change the rules to fit the kids’ strengths. It was a warm enough afternoon to have the first official “Happy Hour” on the patio like we used to do on their visits to North Carolina. We stopped by a specialty store so he could choose a new soda—a blood orange soda from Italy. We have special cups the kids use for happy hour and they enjoy sipping from “adult” stemware (plastic.)

The transition from visiting grandparents to local grandparents is creating deeper relationships with the kids, even if those relationships are a bit sticky.