Friday, August 21, 2015

Tranquility on the Farm

Life has calmed down, and we are enjoying the in between season with summer winding down and cool days hinting of autumn almost here. Gerald is bringing in tomatoes, okra, cantaloupe, and watermelon from his garden—far more than we can eat with the company gone. So he is taking excess to friends and the soup kitchen.

At the beginning of last summer I filled the hummingbird feeders as usual, but after an unexpected several days in the hospital with blood clots, I could not keep up with preparing the sugar water and cleaning and sterilizing the feeders, so I gave it up. This spring I decided to not even start although I knew I would miss the busy little creatures. And I do.

However, that decision gave me one of my most delightful moments this summer. Sitting at the kitchen table and looking out the glass doors towards the lake, I observed a very large dragonfly sitting on the top of the wire hanger where the one of hummingbird feeders was supposed to be.

Seeing a dragonfly always carries me back in memory to the ones I loved at our small pond over the hill from our house at Mount Airy Farm, where we spent summers. This pond is where we swam and even took baths sometimes despite having muddy feet when we left the pond. The far side of the pond was edged with cattails, and the dragonflies flitted among them. I can almost be there again and smell the damp aroma of the sticky mud when I see a dragonfly.

The dragonfly visiting our deck was using the hanger as its post to catch its meal. It would sit perfectly still with its lovely wings spread out. Then it would dart off I assume to catch a gnat too small for me to see, and then return to rest again. I would pleasantly relax and rest with him as I waited for his next flight. I was mesmerized, and I am not sure how long the dragonfly and I shared this time together. I had hoped it would make it a habit to sit there, but I have not seen since.

Most of us in Southern Illinois always feel a surge of pleasure when we see deer despite the damage to crops and the danger on the road. Late at night as I come home from Katherine’s, it is not uncommon for a flock to be scared by my car lights as I come in our long driveway, and one by one they leave the lake running and cross in front of me heading into our neighbor’s field. I stop and hope the last slowpoke has crossed before I go on. My favorite sightings this summer included a single large buck running bedside the road at the edge of our son-in-law’s corn field and then the time that twin spotted fawns ran beside my car before turning into the woods there. Family members have seen triplet fawns in our fields, but I haven’t yet seen them. Nor have I seen the albino deer that our next door neighbor posted a photo of on Facebook. Two neighbors further away chimed in they had seen her, and I am keeping my eyes alert in hopes of a sighting.

Small pleasures are important mood elevators, and they are plentiful during this end-of-summer season.

Friday, August 07, 2015

Cousins Week

Cousins Week is officially over. Elijah just left Woodsong to see a friend in Madison, Wisconsin. He and Trent had gone down to Cadiz, Kentucky, last night to meet up with Lige’s sister Leslie, who drove up from Nashville. Brianna had left the day before to drive to Michigan to see a friend. Sam was up early this morning to go to work as he has been helping out with his high school’s annual band camp this week as well as being here at Woodsong enjoying Cousins Week. Despite the late night hours, Trent managed to make an A on his summer statistics exam Wednesday. Erin got in on Cousins Week by a fortunate schedule happening, and I was glad because she could give her younger cousins some good advice. And I think Sam’s friend Anna has been officially adopted by the group.

Back when I wrote about only one pair of tennis shoes in the front hall, Elijah had read that blog and hastened to tell me that I did not need to worry about their absence. The younger gang of cousins were already texting and planning on “Cousins Week” the first week of August after they finished summer activities and before they started school again. Unfortunately, Geri Ann is busy right now with a short summer term at Oregon and had already left Texas. Our youngest grandchild Cecelie was working full time this summer at the consignment store, so she could not come down join the college kids. I had to be proud of her!

Erin and Geri Ann had planned to come earlier in the summer, but the rained-out postponed softball camps foiled their plans. So Erin, at least, was finally getting to come up between workshops to prepare for next year’s teaching. For me, getting to meet Josh Simons, her new husband over in South Korea, by Skype was one stand-out moment of her visit. Next summer we get to meet him in person. Erin was kept busy seeing all of her loved ones including Candice’s toddler twins, fishing on our lake, and walking either 4 plus or 5 miles down to Gma Shirley’s house. Since her wrist watch and her car disagreed on how far it was to Shirley’s house, Erin was perturbed about that, but I was impressed either way. She was also able to see her parents because Gerry and Vickie arrived here the day before she had to get on the road to return to her new apartment and participate in the new teachers’ orientation workshops. She and her mom had time together fishing out on the lake that afternoon.

Nine of us all together were at Brian and Mary Ellen’s house for dinner in Erin’s honor last Sunday. Mary Ellen has had a busy week at work, sometimes feeding cousins, and attending Brian’s gall-bladder surgery on Tuesday. (This was same-day surgery, and he says he did good.) Nevertheless, in spare moments, Mary Ellen has been in and out trying to see her brother but has kept missing him. But as she was leaving last evening, she met up with Vickie, who is also doing a lot of walking, and they had a long visit down by the lake. I watched the debates, and I enjoyed discussing them with Sam when he came in at the end of the evening.

Gerald and Gerry took off yesterday for northern Illinois on some kind of bird dog business and are due back this afternoon. Vickie is spending another afternoon with her mother and tonight is having dinner with her brothers and families. So right now the house is empty for a little while and the quiet gives me time to reflect and enjoy recording all the comings and goings here this week. Thinking back on all the fun is one of the blessings of company. I am wondering if Cousins Week will become an annual affair.

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Trent--A Star with Star Wars

A little boy’s sweet singing woke me up Thursday morning. Soon I was at the kitchen table with Aidan, 9, and Payton, 5,—our youngest and oldest great grandsons—Tara and Bryan’s boys. (Their Maddux, 7, was still in bed as I think he inherited my sleep genes.) Since their family moved to Texas, it is a rare treat for us to get to see this family. They had come downstate the evening before after a week or so visiting Bryan’s family in northern Illinois, attending his cousin’s wedding, and taking the boys to downtown Chicago.

At the breakfast table with me, Payton would periodically say wishfully, “He said he would come back.” He was talking about our grandson Trent, 22, who had come over for the family supper the night before. I bet Payton repeated that sentence at least ten times. Because of the sparsity of visits, I am not sure he knew Trent’s name.

Following supper the night before, the three boys had immediately been treated to Trent’s complete attention all evening. Trent had engaged the boys in discussing Star Wars videos, which evidently they have three or so that they watch. Since Trent has all of them, he quickly drove back to his house to get the latest to share and he came back with his collection of masks of the characters. (Although I have walked through the family room with it playing many times, I have never sat down and watched an entire Star Wars video. So I have no idea what to call these characters, but the masks were impressive.)

Trent did a masterful job of keeping three active noisy boys entertained downstairs while the rest of us enjoyed sitting around the table visiting and laughing. Tara asked Brianna questions about her spring internship, so we were able to hear a little more about that. We asked questions and caught up on Tara’s involvement with the sports facility that Ty and Kesha Warren are building in College Station. But mostly we laughed and enjoyed being together. By the time we left the table very much later, Trent had two out of three boys asleep for the night. Mary Ellen, Brianna, and Trent left for their house. (Their Brian had to be out of town this week.) Trent’s next day agenda was to finish the week’s statistics class at John A. Logan since the college is not open on Fridays during the summer term.

But the next morning as Payton remembered all their fun, he said with a certain awe more to himself than to me, “He said he had waited seven years to show us Star Wars.” After breakfast and Payton’s final, “He said he’d come back,” their day was instantly filled. First with the usual farm activities with Gerald and then a visit down the road and onto the next one for a visit with Tara’s Gma Shirley. Tara’s cousin Jeremy—just her age and who grew up with her--could only come to see her during that part of the day because of his shift at the mine.

For the boys, it was important to see Jeremy’s daughter Kinsley, just Payton’s age. For Tara it was important to meet his new son Bentley, four-months old. Even better, she had been promised she could care for the two children after Jeremy went to work as his wife was already doing. Bryan had to make a trip back to the farm once for new sets of clothes for the boys because Kinsey and they remembered a previous time when they were allowed to play in the mud. And after that reprise, they were hosed off and left to dry in the sun while Bryan came over for clean clothes.

After lunch and more play at Gma Shirley’s , the gang came back to Woodsong to fish in the lake. (I think they had almost as much fun digging worms in the garden as they did using them to fish.) Gerald was extremely impressed with very feminine tiny Kinsley who not only caught a fish—a blue gill she explained—but she was totally comfortable with handling worms and poles and taking the fish off the hook. While Bryan and Gerald supervised that activity, Tara was delightedly and smugly engaged rocking Bentley. I came in from Katherine’s and even got to hold that smiling baby boy just a bit when he woke up. Occasionally I heard mention of Star Wars and Trent’s promise to come back.

Somehow Bryan and Tara had to get those four older ones rounded up, re-dressed, hands washed, etc, along with any necessary care for Bentley and get out of our house and over to Gma Shirley’s to meet up with Kinsley and Bentley’s parents for the roast beef supper that Shirley was cooking for them.

Belatedly the two adults and five children were finally heading out through our kitchen back door when Tara and I realized Trent had arrived and was coming in the front door! It was a crisis moment, but we literally hid Trent from the kids and Tara promised they’d be back in a couple of hours. Of course, I figured that was probably not possible since everyone over there is as eager to see these far-off loved ones as we are, and Kinsley is not likely to be satisfied with ending play time with cousins any sooner than possible.

I was concerned that Trent might be bored with just us two oldsters here at the farm. But he contentedly ate a bite of supper with Gerald and me, helped Gerald with a computer problem, and took a little nap until the boys returned. (Trent is not only our Star Wars ace, but he’s also our computer and Internet expert since he is on his college’s cyber security team.) It was late when the Archibalds arrived back at the farm, but Trent had the next video ready to go and the boys were soon once again enthralled. And very rapidly asleep after that day’s heavy play. Tara and Bryan were able to move the two youngest into a bed, but Aidan was still sleeping there on the floor with a blanket when I carefully crowded through his feet and the wall when I moved upstairs after my Facebook fix in my office. With enough dim light left on, he later put himself in a proper bed.

By Friday morning, we were all excited because we knew Erin had spent the night close enough to be arriving at the farm sometime around noon or soon after. So the Archibalds decided to dally long enough to see her before they took off for their challenging trip home to Texas. Erin has moved from College Station to an apartment in Belton since her new school is at Temple. Her family is going to miss seeing her as they were able to do this past year. Although he likes to sleep in on his day off, Trent had arrived early enough to let the boys finish the last video, and then he helped them dig more worms to go fishing again out on the lake.

We’d almost finished our bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwiches with potato salad, corn on the cob, and chocolate cake when Erin drove up and joined us. Everyone wanted to hear about her new husband Joshua and how to pronounce her new last name. Josh is now stationed in South Korea, and they communicate daily between midnight and 2 a.m. but are able to Skype on the weekends. While we visited with Erin, Tara quietly cleared the table and filled the dish washer. Then they had to go. It was difficult to tell the Archibalds goodbye, but Erin’s presence made it less lonesome.

Erin, Trent, and I ended back sitting around the table again while we visited. We heard about the writing workshop Erin had just completed for her new position. This workshop made her miss her annual coaches’ gathering, which she regretted, but she had loved the workshop and the presenter. Erin’s enthusiasm was contagious. Trent and I thoroughly enjoyed seeing her materials and hearing all the ways she’d been shown to get sixth graders writing, editing, and sharing their work. And we read Erin’s essay in the booklet that the workshop had published. Trent, who reads widely, is interested in everything, and Erin made us both want to see kids bending over their desks happily writing about their lives. It will be fun next summer to hear her tell us how well these ideas and methods worked.

Too soon the afternoon ended, and she was off to her cousin Sarah’s house as Sarah and her husband were cooking dinner for her. I ran in to check on Katherine but did not stay long in town as the aide had things well under control.

This morning I woke up to Gerald and Erin’s excited conversation as they breakfasted together, but by the time I got up, she was already out walking—clear down to her Uncle Louie and Aunt Chris’s place! Soon Mary Ellen showed up here hoping to visit with Erin, so I benefitted from that. Mary Ellen has been working so hard all summer that she couldn’t stay long as she had finally planned a mother-daughter day with Brianna after bringing her home from Orlando near the end of June. Erin was taking Gma Shirley out to lunch, so I am hoping it worked out for Mary Ellen and Bri to lunch with them as Erin invited after she found out she’d missed Mary Ellen’s early morning visit.
After a quick lunch, Gerald went to Cape Girardeau as his brother Keith is once more back in the hospital, and later I ran into Katherine’s to give afternoon pills. While I was there, Sam and his friend Josh came in from the cruise to the Cayman Islands that Josh’s family took the boys on for their high school graduation celebration. I knew Erin was going to supper tonight with her friend Candice; and when I got back from Katherine’s, there was her note on a napkin with a drawn heart reminding me where she was. Now Gerald has returned, and we have talked over his visit with Keith. We have also talked to our son Gerry who is headed back to Texas early in the morning. He and Vickie are in the East where was he scouted a softball player. It is not easy keeping track of our family during these busy summer months.

Monday, July 27, 2015

"Summertime, an' the livin' is easy"

Drinking coffee at the breakfast table in my pajamas and a duster, I was invited to go with Gerald on his Gator to see the sunflowers. For some reason, the deer have been extra kind to them this year. Hurriedly finishing my coffee, I left the house as I was and climbed in for a ride around the farm. Going past our garden and then the neighbor’s test plots, we reached a back field. Rows and rows of sunflowers were abloom in their full circled golden glory with an infrequent blue morning glory to add an extra bit of color. No wonder the electric power line down our driveway is filled with doves these days.

Over across the country road to yet another field, we next traveled on the strip still in the Conservation Reserve Program. We appreciated driving beside the thick tall corn in the field that had come out of CPR. Along a waterway filled with large rocks, I asked Gerald where those huge boulders came from. Oh, the Sullivan boys from Goreville hauled them for us probably 20 years ago, he answered. It is exciting to see what his conscientious conservation has accomplished. Occasionally, Gerald would interrupt our ride to hop down, grab his spray, and give a lethal dose to kill a rare but unwanted piece of Johnson grass. Getting rid of Johnson grass has been a career-long effort for him.

Sweet corn and now tomatoes are part of many of our summer menus these days. That make meals easy to fix. And peaches, plums, melons, grapes, and sweet red cherries from the store or fruit stand make an easy summer dessert—sometimes mixed in with the bananas that are always on our table to make sure we have the potassium needed for meds and prevention of leg cramps.

Summer company is another pleasant addition to our lives. Last week it was an unexpected but most welcome visit from Sandra Henry from Indiana. Her mother, Shirley Jones Henry, was my second cousin. Shirley was a childhood companion in summer when we both lived in hilltop farm houses with a rock-bottomed creek between. We would holler our signal and meet up for hours of play in that beautiful creek. Years later, Shirley’s grandfather, who was my great Uncle Sam Martin, moved up from his home in Sleepy Hollow to our farm named Mount Airy Farm by my aunt Myrtle when she was a girl growing up there.

Sam’s home in the hollow on farm land bought a few decades ago by the government had been built by my great grandfather following his return from the Civil War. The house is probably crumbling now, but the nearby cave used as a tool shed would still be there. The road down is no longer passable. My cousin Doug and his son David came from California over a decade ago to see it, and they are the last I know to hike down that over-grown hollow. They came back covered with ticks, but feeling accomplished.

Sometime after Uncle Sam’s death, Shirley and her husband and children moved into the house at Mount Airy. As the oldest child, Sandra vividly remembers living there and the smell of Sam’s tobacco when they moved in. Sandra loves to tell me how my daddy—always the teacher—would tell her big words as they rode horses together and would encourage her to learn to spell them. Sadly, the house burned down (another of her vivid memories), and their family moved onto Marion. Not too much later, Sandra lost her daddy. So it was only at a couple Martin family reunions over a decade ago that I met Sandra as an adult with some of her family at Ferne Clyffe Park. But a love of her mother and our love of Mount Airy Farm binds Sandra and me together.

We have carried on some correspondence about family history, and she discovered not only a wonderful story about Uncle Sam’s false imprisonment and consequent release but also a mysterious secret that my very special Uncle Oscar had a son named Hebron who disappeared from Johnson County census records after our great grandmother’s death. Sandra traced him to Missouri, his service in World War II, and finally to California. Sandra could not stay long at Woodsong as she had come down from visiting two of her brothers in Jacksonville and was on her way to decorate her parents’ and great grandparents’ graves at Cedar Grove Cemetery down in Happy Hollow. And she was able to catch up with her mother’s first cousin Lowell Martin in Goreville for a brief visit there too.

Our grandson Sam (no, not named after my great uncle but for the Biblical Samuel) was out again for a few days, and other family members have been in and out. More are expected this week, and we are excited about that. And the next week the younger cousins are planning to gather in before school starts again. So they will be enjoying sweet corn and tomatoes with us.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Wedding Bells and Goodbyes

Because the killdeer was not on the nest as I drove out our driveway, I slowed to a stop last weekend when I came back home later. Instead of four eggs, there was now only one—and no egg shells. The next day that one egg had also disappeared, and there was no sight of the mother. I drove on feeling bereft though I know too well that all things are temporary.

Although we have had a host of company since I last wrote, our house is empty again. Unlike the empty spot in the gravel where the killdeer’s eggs lay, there are remnants of the visits we have enjoyed. A framed photograph that Gerald copied for Ernestine on the table to be returned. Sheets laundered and waiting to be put back on beds. Food still being eaten that the guests didn’t finish. And memories.

Ernestine had been torn about keeping her plans to leave since their brother Keith had ended up in the hospital at Cape Girardeau Tuesday evening. His son Tim spent the night there with him, and we had a good report at the farewell breakfast for Ernestine Wednesday morning. We were also able to hear about Barbara’s surprise retirement party that Keith had lured her to saying they had to meet Ernestine there at Barb’s office. I know he was glad he got to do that before his breathing became more troubled later in the day. Gerald and Ernestine drove to Cape Wednesday afternoon, and that good visit with Keith satisfied her that she should leave as planned.

So on Thursday at breakfast time, our niece Vicki picked up Ernestine after graciously offering to drive her to the St. Louis airport rather than putting her on the six-passenger plane again. Bad weather had increased Ernestine’s angst that the flight might not arrive in time for her to make her flight out of St. Louis. That went well, and her husband Don met her when she arrived at Salt Lake that evening.

We had really thought granddaughters Erin and Geri Ann might be up from Texas when softball camps were over, but Erin called Gerald and explained the camps were rained out for a second time, and she had taken a new teaching job in another town and had to get moved into an apartment there. And yes in answer to her grandfather’s question, she was very serious about the best friend she told us about on Facebook who had shipped out for Korea for nine months. We thought so.

A little later on Thursday Gerald told me that our son-in-law Rick had texted that that they hoped to be at the farm around seven that night on their way down to Nashville to spend the holiday with their oldest child and husband to celebrate her birthday and the nation’s. Because I knew they were coming through although I thought it might be on Friday, I already had clean sheets in the guest room upstairs where Jeannie and Rick always sleep. I have learned not to fret about the downstairs bedrooms because the younger generation tends to stay up most of the night and settle down wherever they find a couch or bed regardless of which cousin might have slept there for a night or so before them.

Sure enough when I got home from Katherine’s at almost 11, the grandkids were partying in the den downstairs where we have a couple old couches and TV and fridge. Trent and Brianna had come over and joined Cecelie and her boyfriend Ryan. Elijah couldn’t come with his family since he is working in Chicago this month, and Sam and his dad were at Waco for Sam’s orientation week at Baylor.

When I went down to say hello, they were in a state of excitement telling me that Erin was married! I thought they were kidding, but they read her announcement text to me. I was surprised but not totally amazed. Still it took time for me to absorb this big news: So they had chosen not to announce their May 22 wedding until now! Hmmm. Well, they had not wasted any time on shopping for bridesmaid dresses, flowers, and all those lovely but unnecessary things. Erin says they will celebrate with us when Joshua gets back. Yes, we will! I was not sure I could sleep after that late-night excitement, but I was tired and slept peacefully after praying a wedding blessing for this special young couple before I dozed off.

The next morning Cecelie told me they tried to pull an all-nighter, but only lasted until 3. Trent, the oldest of the bunch, is in summer school, and he had sensibly left at 2. Fortunately everyone was able to sleep in and still have plenty of time to drive to Nashville before the Thompsons would be home from work. Jeannie’s bike was on
the van, but some last minute shopping before they left did not allow her time to get it down for a ride. There were no need for long goodbyes since they’d return Sunday night on their way back to Freeport.

With the Eiler visits bookending the Fourth, we managed to stay home that day and celebrate quietly. Gerald asked if I wanted to go into town for supper; but by then, I had already prepared our holiday-themed simple meal—hot dogs and chips and bright red strawberries turned into shortcake with crackers the way my precious mother-in-law taught me years ago and with artificial sweetener to observe Gerald’s admirable discipline to prevent too much sugar. A sign of my old age was that I didn’t bother looking out over the deck to see fireworks in the sky from Marion as I usually have.

Sunday night I got home from Katherine’s earlier, and once again the grandkids were downstairs enjoying being together. While Jeannie and I sat at the kitchen table telling about our weekends, Cecelie and Ryan, Brianna and Trent, Sam and his friend Anna were catching up on their lives. Sam had just gotten home from Waco in time to do his laundry and repack his suitcase for their youth group’s mission trip. He and Anna were to leave at 6 the next morning, so they left early. Trent had school, so only three of them stayed up to watch the late night movie someone went to town for. Those three remaining made it to 4 a. m. this time, and again they were privileged to sleep in. I had bought a lasagna to put in the freezer for this occasion, so I made a salad and heated the frozen dinner rolls and dinner was ready with little trouble on my part. I went outside looking for a bloom for the middle of the table, but the one red rose was already shabby, so a plate of red apples had to suffice for our centerpiece. Earlier while the kids were sleeping, Jeannie finally got on her bike, and Rick took off to visit his old employer and friend Tommy in Carbondale.

All exhilarated because she had finally had the time to ride her bike and match the 26 miles in a day that she has worked up to after chemo, Jeannie came in to rest a bit and eat a bite with us. She soon took off again for a little ride on neighborhood roads and reached 33 miles for a new day’s record. That made her weekend a success, and we were all in a good mood when Rick came back. Once more suitcases were returned to the van along with their dogs Lucky and Leah. This time the goodbye hugs were a little longer and a little sadder.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Summer's Here and So Is Love

0Summer came on Father’s Day this year, and our nation was bathed in tears for yet another senseless slaughter. Nine exceptional people who had given so much and had so much yet to give were taken from us on a Wednesday night. My personal loss of a niece in Texas magnified my grief.

But amazingly when I turned on the television last Sunday morning while I drank my morning coffee, I unexpectedly found myself in church at Mother Emanuel in Charleston, SC. That heart-broken congregation worshiped God together and loved on each other with such intensity that their love flowed to my kitchen table.

They demonstrated for us what the nine stood for and what faith is. We know the nine would have chosen to stay here and take care of their responsibilities. That is the kind of people they were. Instead a chariot swung low and carried them to God’s presence. We cannot imagine the beauty and glory they are experiencing with Him. Believers in Charleston know that the love they shared there at the AME church as they trusted God and grieved and worshiped is but a foretaste of what the nine are experiencing That love and faith was so strong it came across the mountains and the rivers and the meadows to our farm.

Our Jeannie had just left the afternoon before. Her chemo was finished, and she came down to squeeze in a four-day visit before their summer schedule prohibited that kind of stay. Her bicycle was on the back of the van, and she hoped to try to ride again. But it rained each day. Yet she made certain to take long walks. She was in great shape when this illness hit, so she is determined to get back on the bicycle as often as she can so she will be ready next summer for the postponed last lap of her ride beside the Mississippi River to the Gulf.

Part of the four days was taken up by the many hours required for the trip down, and another part for the long trip back home. So she only was able to be here for two complete days. But it was so good to see her and to think she was able to drive that far. It had to be difficult—it has always been for us even when we were not recovering from anything—let alone chemo.

On top of that, on Saturday before she made the drive home, she took me with her to meet up with Leslie in Paducah. It was such a treat to be there laughing and loving with Les and hearing about her artistically gifted friend’s special wedding and about Les’s great new job. Of course, even after a three-hour breakfast, we were reluctant to leave, but Leslie had to drive back to Nashville and Jeannie to Freeport.

Jeannie and the rest of her family plan to stop by briefly on their way down to Leslie and Mike’s for their annual Fourth of July celebration there, but there won’t be time for any more late night talks.

In the meantime, we received word that Gerald’s only sister was coming from Wyoming. We met her at the airport Tuesday evening, and she regaled us with stories of her flight from St. Louis in a six-passenger “crop duster.” But she was safe and sound and that is all that mattered. She was even on time and no luggage was lost. She had left home at 4 a.m. and was properly tired, but we still did a lot of talking that night and have continued through today when niece Vicki picked her up to take her to another brother’s. Yesterday Vicki also took her around, and they ended up at her house. Ernestine came home with a table top’s worth of family photographs, so we did a lot of looking and reminiscing last night and this morning.

She had a rental car ordered, but Gerald and everyone urged her to cancel so they could loan her a car or better yet drive with her to visit as they rode. A special bonus for us was the Wednesday night visit from Keith and Barbara, Gerald’s youngest brother and wife. Although Keith has been here often for brother fun or business, it has been way too long that Barbara had been able to come. Her last day of work before retirement is Tuesday, so maybe we will be able to see more of her. Before Ernestine left today, we finished up at lunch the blueberry pie Barb brought us from Weaver’s Market. I had heard about the wonderful Amish goods available there, and the pie was scrumptious. Thursday night Gerald and Ernestine came back from their Union County visit with fresh blueberries Barb sent us. And they are good too.

Tonight we traveled down below Marion for grandson Sam’s graduation-going away party given by his Cedar grandparents. Their home at the end of the road is surrounded by huge pines planted 25 years ago, and their huge and attractive open garage was planned to hold such gatherings. The weather was perfect; and after the feast, adults continued talking at the tables there while the teens played on the huge lawn Fred mows between rains. It was easy for all of us to agree that these kids are a special bunch and have made us all proud.

As it darkened, David lit candles for us in and outside the garage. Darlene explained to me they always had a bonfire for Sam’s birthday, but last year it rained and they were unable to burn the damp gathered wood. So she was grateful to complete the bonfire at last. The kids gathered down by the fire. Those of us at the tables, who by now were eating the beautiful celebratory cake, enjoyed the beauty of the flames flying in the air seven or eight feet high. We were among the early leavers, but I suspect the teens stayed by that fire a long time. I hope the memory sustains them when summer ends and they have to go their separate ways.

The corn fields here are racing to reach that elephant’s eye, and some have already made it. The neighbor’s wheat along our driveway is golden and beautiful. Our killdeer has her annual nest in the gravel at the edge of the driveway and is setting on four eggs. If you come see us, stay on the right hand side of the road to miss her! Summer is definitely here; and if we follow the example of the congregation at Mother Emanuel, we can choose to do what Jesus taught: to love God, to love our neighbor; to love our enemies.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Church Bells Tolling

Cynthia Hurd, 54

Susie Jackson, 87

Ethel Lance, 70

Clementa Pinckney, 41

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, 45

Tywanza Sanders, 26

DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49

Myra Thompson, 59

Daniel Simmons, 74

Myra Thompson, 59

Love one another.