Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Memorabilia

Butterfly Wings

Emerging from my cocoon
last night before I slept,
my eyes devour treasure
hidden in cards and notes
scattered among my
now ancient relics

As I read them slowly
a door finally cracks open
to reality larger than life,
despite my deep fear
of failure and a similar yet
heavier fear of success

This morning I wake to
flaws and old age staring
back at me from my mirror,
daring me to forego
daily beautifying rituals
meant to atone for my faults

My heart skips a beat —
not because of this poignant
reflection but because I
finally recognize a glimmer
of butterfly wings
springing from my back

It wasn’t easy growing up in the 1940s and 50s. During and after World War II, severity was called for. This meant daily care of Victory Gardens. Mending and passing along used clothes and shoes. Not wasting anything. And, in my case, full attention to the military-like heaviness of my clergy father’s rules for good girls.

As a clergyman, Dad chose not to be a soldier in Uncle Sam’s army. He believed he was in the only army that mattered — God’s army. Joining Uncle Sam’s army was like deserting God’s army.

I wasn’t the only World War II baby born into a culture of strict rations and homegrown Victory Gardens. Food was often hard to come by. Gardens had to be plowed, planted and weeded. And children, like gardens, also had to be plowed and weeded.

The upshot was simple. No vanity, no wasting time, no over-indulgence. Just noses stuck to the grindstone of everyday recovery from the horrors of World War II. Like other children born into this era, I learned to keep my nose to the grindstone, think of myself as part of a small army of obedient girls and boys, and forget about the fancy stuff our family could never afford.

It made for outstanding work habits. It didn’t make for easy enjoyment of parties or silliness in the workplace. Even worse, it took away the joy of being a young mother.

So there I was yesterday evening, reading cards and notes I’ve kept over the years. Finally acknowledging that I did something beautiful and did, indeed, have great fun from time to time–despite the heaviness of my work ethic.

In fact, I’m having more fun now than I’ve ever had in my life. Thanks to friends and family members who keep showing me how it’s done.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 June 2021
Photo found at commons.wikipedia.com

Attic Memories

The attic is bare, and our downstairs spaces are now crowded with boxed books, old photos, cards, letters and files. They’ve invaded the basement and every room below the attic. All this because it’s time to give the attic a new life. After a bit of dry wall repair, painting, carpeting, and a handrail on the attic stairs.

D began the project weeks ago, sorting things out. Keep, toss, or give away. Especially books. Academic books occupied at least 75% of the attic. In rows, like a library. His and mine going back to our college years. Scholarly, earnest, serious books we used as students, professors or administrators.

During the last two days I spent most of my time in the attic, going through my piles of accumulated evidence and memorabilia from teaching, travel and family life.

Here are things that made me teary, exhausted or both.

  • Seeing how many places D and I visited for vacations or professional trips. Takeaway: Marrying D was a great way to see and hear about the world.
  • How many postcards I’ve purchased as a way to bring some of our travels home. Though they’re small, they remind me of more than appears on the postcards. Keepers.
  • Reminders of my large extended Renich family. Sadly, I don’t anticipate more official Renich family reunions. I loved looking through old reunion photos and family newsletters. More keepers.
  • My long emails to Diane when I visited Kenya for the first time (1997). I was terrified Diane might die (of ALS) while I was gone. I also wanted to take her with me in my emails. I wanted her to see in her sharp mind’s eye exactly what I was seeing. Irreplaceable.
  • How many recorded notes I kept over the years. Formal and informal. Back then it was about having a written record of appointments, meetings, interviews and important events. I didn’t trust my memory. But I did trust my bankruptcy court note-taking skills. It also helped me keep my listening and observational skills sharp. No, I didn’t keep all the notes. And yes, it gave me little pangs when I let most of them go.
  • I was astonished (if not exhausted) at how many students touched my life. And the wild, wide diversity of countries and cultures they brought into the classroom. Not in an online setting, but in person. Many struggling with English as a second language. Many going through life crises and changes in professional status. Too many now gone from this life. And many I probably wouldn’t recognize if I saw them today.

Despite the emotional and physical exhaustion of the last few days, I’m grateful for this look back into a world I won’t experience again. Sometimes it’s difficult being on the outside. Still, I don’t want to go back. I love life as it is—even though it’s not always neat and tidy.

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 16 March 2018
Photos taken by DAFraser

fermented wine

pxby-white-flower-spring

life flows through her veins
fermented wine of past dreams
melts my eyes

***

This week was high-jacked. Not by force, but by my desire to spend time with our adult daughter. Her visit coincided with my husband’s determination to get rid of unnumbered books from our academic collection. Most stored on shelves in our large attic.

Deep in the attic, behind multiple shelves of books, he uncovered a mother lode. All belonging to our daughter. Boxes full of school papers, reports, works of a budding artist (she’s a graphic artist as well as a musician), stuffed animals, posters, programs, correspondence, and other memorabilia I’d saved for her.

This week she sat in our relatively small den surrounded by boxes, going through each item. Laughing, sighing, reminiscing, showing and telling, sorting and sifting for keepers. Of which there were an abundance. A paper trail that told the story of her life.

Unexpectedly, the paper trail confirmed the nature and content of our daughter’s character, and the trajectory of her life as an artistic type. Her life has had its ups and downs, and it wasn’t always clear how things would turn out. Or whether our parenting of her–especially mine as her mother–had helped, hindered, or encouraged her.

Thankfully, going through this treasure trove did more than confirm her nature, giftedness, determination and joyful creativity. It also gave me assurance I didn’t know I was looking for until I found it this week. I always wondered whether my mothering helped or hurt her.

I’m an expert on what I think I did wrong as her mother. I found out, though, that what I got 100% right was so simple I didn’t even know I was doing it. I kept boxes for each of our two children. Into each box I put anything I thought they might enjoy seeing when they were older. It was that simple!

Given my personality, I erred on the side of putting in too much material instead of too little. Before dropping it in, I penciled on the back of each paper item our daughter’s name, age and a brief note about when or where the item originated.

Tears, laughter, memories, hoots and hollers of recognition — all that and more because of those old pieces of paper that capture in vivid detail our daughter’s personality, creativity, and musicality. She is a strikingly beautiful forest flower–grown up now as her own wild woman.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 February 2017
Photo found at Pixabay.com

Response to WordPress Daily Prompt: Juicy

%d bloggers like this: