Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Memories

Sorting through closets

Sorting through closets
I’m overcome by sadness
about what?

Beloved outfits, yes
And also reminders of a time
when I was what?

Somebody?
A worker bee all dressed up for slaughter?
A shining star in someone else’s grand career?

I need another outlook
On these outgrown outfits
Consciously assembled to cover
A harmless woman
Not seeking glory or fame
Easy to work with
A good team player
Not given to outlandish clothes
Or calling attention to herself

I’m not mean
I’m neat and tidy
Unpretentious
Don’t mess with me
And by the way
I’m not sure who I am

Today’s work isn’t the end
It’s a beginning
An expansion
Not of what’s in my closet
But in my spirit —
The spirit of our Creator
Whose expansiveness goes
Beyond the boundaries of my small world
Into the vast unexplored territory
Of the woman I am already becoming

Most of my time right now is spent getting things ready for the contractors. They’ll begin work this coming Monday. In the meantime, we’ve been sorting things out, making another dent in our worldly goods.

As relieved as I am to be doing all this, I’m also grieving. The poem above is about going beyond my small world. Still, I carry happy memories of past collaborations with colleagues, and lively courses with students. My clothes are a reminder of good times, not just the other times.

Today I’m expanding. I also feel the drag of my upbringing and life as a woman in college, seminary-land, church, and society in general. I remind myself that our Creator is constantly expanding, moving into new territory, and calling out to us to follow, ready or not.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 7 September 2019
Image found at pixabay.com

Shades of memories

What will become of today
After the sun sets
And the moon moves on
To other nights
In other places

Will anyone remember
Or care what happened
Just now
When I laid eyes on you
And you on me

Shades of memories echo
From your eyes and face
Just beyond reach
Whispers calling to me
In the dark of dawn

A small poem for a large presence in my life. I’ll never forget the first day D’s eyes smiled at me. Just the way they do today. It was 1961. I was a sophomore in college; he was a junior. The quiet type, except for that sparkle in his eyes. I’d never had a man, or boy for that matter, smile at me with his eyes the way D did. To say I went all weak inside would be an understatement. Now, 58 years later, he still has the gift.

Happy Wednesday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 August 2019
Image found at creativelive.com

Haunted

Haunted by a slave market photo taken
On our way to summer Bible camp
To be indoctrinated directly and
Indirectly by the ‘good’ news of
White Christianity posing as the answer
To every question we might have
Including how slaves are to behave
And not behave toward their masters
And mistresses and white folk

Deep south heat rises from the ashes
Of lynchings, cross burnings and beatings
No water of baptism or gorgeous lake
Could ever quench the flaming seed planted
Fertilized and watered daily in us
We were God’s children
We were special
We were white
We were privileged
We were better
We belonged

Sit up straight little children
Hold very still and look into the camera
Not every child gets to visit a cleaned-up
Slave market in cleaned-up Sunday go to
Meeting clothes and live to tell about it
In this enlightened age of freedom
And justice for all

Was this the first slave market in the USA? It claimed to be. But does it really matter? Here it is, kept alive in the middle of this small Georgia town. A daily reminder to all inhabitants of who they are and are not.

The photo was taken in 1958 on a bus trip from Savannah, Georgia, to a summer Bible camp we attended regularly. I’m in the very back, tall, with glasses. Sister #2 is standing directly in front of me. Sister #3 (Diane) is sitting on the front row, second from the right. My father made this a regular stop on the way to camp, and loved taking photos of us on the market steps.

This was one small cog in the machinery that kept us in line. Good little white girls and boys obediently lining up for a photo op. Relieved to have our superior status, even though we knew something wasn’t right and that we’d done nothing to earn white skin.

Our nation is coming apart at the seams. High time? Yes. Dangerous? Yes. Can we get through this and emerge stronger, wiser and more compassionate? I wish I knew.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 August 2019
Photo taken by JERenich, 1958, in Louisville, Georgia

Are we there yet?

What child doesn’t know
the longing to be done with this
Wearisome winding grind of a trip
Everyone said would be lovely
Fantastic and most of all
Life-changing

Sitting there in the back seat
I toy in my mind
with going back and starting over
Resetting expectations and
End goals and a thousand other
Minutia I never dreamed
I would negotiate without maps
or trustworthy guides

Still, there’s this nagging truth —

Even if the trip is life-changing
That’s not what I had in mind
Did you?
I just wanted to be there
Part of the scene without
Calling undue attention to myself
Or others who threatened to undo
Me if I didn’t walk the walk
And talk the walk and stumble
And fall on the walk so I would
Have a really good Once I Was Lost
And Now I Am Found story to tell
To the nations

Forgive me if I ramble
It seems that’s all that’s left —
Rambling through memories
Searching for myself
As I know myself today not
The little girl of yesterday
Who just wanted to be there
And then one day decided
She did not

Yesterday was spent in another doctor’s office with yet more homework to do. This morning D and I went out for an early walk before things get hotter than hot. The sun is relentless these days, sometimes with pop-up thunderstorms that dump buckets of water at will.

Wherever you are in your journey, I pray all is well and that you’re having a lovely if sometimes exasperating ramble.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 20 August 2019
Photo taken by JERenich, Spring 1947, Seattle, Washington
Sister #2, Elouise, and a friend; Sister and I are wearing Easter outfits made by Mom

On this side of heaven

On this side of heaven
Components are missing
Without which I am expected
To keep functioning
Albeit slowly and with effort
Especially in the white hot
Heat of summer sun
Boiling over into my veins
Weary muscles screaming for
Blessed relief

Outside I hear our neighbor’s
Lawn mower chugging back and forth
Droning its way through
This week’s crop of tender grass
Now rudely chopped and left
Lying in withering weather
Unable to cry out or scream
Enough is enough please
Let me rest in peace or go
To seed just one more time

Inside the air conditioner labors
Creating semi-civilized space
In which to sort through
Accumulations of a lifetime
Heaving and tossing what
Will never rise from the dead
In this life or we hope in the next
Dust flies in the face of reality
Only too eager to coat the past
With its tell-tail pall of powder

The last few weeks were a blur of doctor appointments, conversations with contractors, decisions about our bedroom reclamation project, and sorting through accumulated belongings.

So far, so good. We’ve managed to leave a respectable amount of livable space throughout the house. The actual work won’t begin right away. In the meantime, I’ve become allergic to keeping things around that have no clear purpose.

Not that we haven’t done this before. We have. But this time it feels different. Our late-70s have begun, and who knows how long we’ll have beyond that. So yes, I’m laughing and crying my way through bits and pieces I’d forgotten about, then letting them go. Feeling lighter with each fond, relieved, or I-can’t-believe-I-did-that farewell.

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 August 2019
Cool male cardinal photo found at mix.com

Mom and Arnica Ointment

ArnicaFlowerExtractfromVideo

~~~Arnica Flowers and Healing Oil

Touching Mom was never easy for me. That included everything from an arm around her shoulder to a kiss on her cheek. Hold hands? Forget it. The ache for physical contact was there, but the reality—or even imagining the reality—was an immediate turnoff.

In the late 1990s I got a telephone call from Savannah. Mom had just been taken to the hospital. She’d had a stroke. No, it wasn’t the kind that could be easily reversed. It wasn’t major, and it wasn’t minor. It was what it was. She couldn’t talk clearly or move independently.

Mom was 78 years old. Too young, I thought, to die. I immediately made arrangements to fly down for several days. I wanted to see her. I loved her. In fact, during the last several years we’d developed the most positive relationship we’d ever had with each other.

The afternoon I arrived I went straight to the hospital. There she was, arms and hands covered with multiple bruises. The result of too many attempts to find veins to poke for various medical tests.

Mom always bruised easily. But this was horrific. Though she couldn’t talk, she signaled early on her extreme displeasure (slight frowns) and even embarrassment (a few tears) about the way her arms looked.

I didn’t know what to do, so I sat there talking to her and looking at the bruises. They were ugly.

When I travel, I always have a small tube of arnica ointment in my bag. It’s great for many things, including bruises large and small. It’s anti-inflammatory, has no nasty side effects, and needs no prescription.

I pondered the tube in my bag. Normally I would just give it to Mom so she could put it on her skin. Not possible today.

I took a deep breath. I knew what I needed to do, though I didn’t know how I would get through it without feelings of revulsion. If that sounds over-dramatic, it was not. Touching Mom in any way, except for a brief hello and goodbye hug, wasn’t even on my to-do list.

What I really needed, so I thought, was to maintain that ‘safe’ distance I loved and hated so much. The emotional and physical distance that seemed to shield me from being rejected.

When I suggested putting arnica ointment on her arms and hands, she perked up immediately and moved her right arm ever so slightly closer to me. I can’t even describe my gut feelings as I began applying the ointment. Just touching her skin was difficult enough, much less applying ointment.

She watched my hand intently as I gently rubbed the ointment in. It took a long time to do one full arm and hand. When I finished her right arm, she signaled that was enough for the evening. The nurses were coming to get her ready for the night.

The next morning she raised her right arm for me to see. Her eyes were bright. Her skin wasn’t 100% clear, but the difference from the day before almost took my breath away. She looked over at her left arm and pointed with her chin. She wanted me to do the left arm, too!

Mom’s arms and hands didn’t fully recover while I was there. Yet the difference between before and after was as dramatic in her body as it was in my heart. I got over my fear of touching her.

I still have regrets about what she and I missed in our relationship. This wasn’t the last time I ever saw Mom. It was, however, the beginning of the end. As unexpectedly wonderful as it was sad.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Psalm 23:5

 © Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 June 2015, reposted 13 August 2019
Image from purepro.com

Parting is such sweet sorrow….

Tomorrow we’re driving to our son and daughter-in-law’s house for a last chance to see our granddaughters for a while. They’ll celebrate their 19th birthdays later this month. However, by then they’ll be enrolled in their colleges, far from home. In the photo above they’re modeling their new, handmade sweaters–a Christmas gift, as I recall.

Grandma/Queen Elouise (that would be me) has been feeling a bit nostalgic today. I don’t usually post pictures of our granddaughters, but below are a few of my favorites from way back. Plus one Smudge treasures dearly.

About six years ago our  granddaughters and their Mom rescued Smudge from a state park. He was about 4-6 weeks old–soaking wet, skin and bones, bedraggled and frightened. On their first birthday after the rescue, Smudge sent them a birthday card. As you can see, he freely edited my carefully worded note from him to them. I still crack up when I read it.

Here are several photos, all from way back when they (and we!) were very young. D and I are in the first photo; our son and daughter-in-law show up further down. Along with Carolina and Eliza, of course!

Thanks for indulging my bit of nostalgia! Hoping you’re having a great weekend.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 9 August 2019
Photos taken by DAFraser and Scott Fraser, 2000-2001

Islands of sanity

Islands of sanity hover
In the distance
Small protected spaces
Untroubled by storms
Picking away at sandy shores
And beaches of pristine
Water marshes alive with
Small chicks and crabs
Feasting on invisible bounty
Sheltered within my heart

This was a disruptive week due to our unexpected waterbed leak. I find myself depending on a few safe spaces not affected by our immediate crisis. They feel a bit like anchors or touchstones. Things I can count on right now for a bit of sanity.

I love my attic perch, looking out the window into the tree tops. I love sitting with D and Smudge in our den in the evenings. I love the sight of daughter Sherry’s glowing stars shining down from the ceiling in my temporary bedroom when I go to sleep at night.

Writing the poem took me back to my childhood. Often when I needed safe space or a bit of peace and quiet, I went out to the old dock (see photo) on the river that flowed by our front yard. I sat on the wooden picnic table and watched the river, the marsh hen chicks learning to balance on marsh grass, and little crabs diving into the mud at low tide looking for food.

Tonight I’m still that little girl at heart, grateful for small islands of sanity.

Hoping you have a restful Sabbath,
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 August 2019
Photo taken by DAFraser, July 2010
Dock in front of my childhood home in Savannah, Georgia 

Good Girls and Bad Girls

We shrouded our pain
Silenced our questions
And secretly breathed
Lonely sighs of relief
At finding ourselves
Alive and seemingly well
Reputations intact

This was warfare
Of the delicate kind
No blood No guts No glory
Only the privilege of living
To see another day
As one of the Good Girls
Born and bred in the USA
Daughters of the Church
If not the Revolution
Living memorials to
The Great Protection Racket

Looking back at the 1950s and 60s, I can scarcely believe how naïve I was. The Big Lie was simple: We four daughters needed good men to take care of us, keep us from harm, untouched and unscathed by real life in a real world.

I’d rather live in today’s real world with all its troubles, than in the world in which I came of age. It wasn’t safe. It wasn’t heaven on earth. It wasn’t fair or just. And it most certainly wasn’t great.

I believe men can become wonderful partners. Too bad mine didn’t come along the day I was born. Which isn’t to say his life was a piece of cake, either.

Hoping you have an opportunity to make your voice heard today on behalf of truth.

Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 July 2019
Photo of 1950s Sunday School in the South found at patheos.com

Four Sisters in Waiting

This is one of my favorite old photos. There aren’t many that have the four of us looking so spiffy! I think we were at a summer conference in North Carolina. If so, this was 1954. I was 11 1/2; Sister #2 was 9; Sister #3 (Diane) was 5; and Sister #4 was 1 1/2 years old.

Judging by our outfits, this was probably taken on a Sunday morning. White socks, shiny shoes, clean dresses, and curled hair. Obediently looking into the camera whether we wanted to or not. We were the daughters of a preacher. Surely life was a piece of cake. Not.

Even so, I love this photo, and am grateful for every opportunity I’ve had to spend time with my sisters. Especially since the late 1990s. They’ve been mirrors for me–telling me more about myself and about themselves and our parents than I remembered.

As some already know, Diane died of ALS in 2006. So now we’re down to three. Even though we don’t always see eye to eye, I find great solace in connecting with them, mostly via the phone.

Back to the photo. If I’m correct, this was the year I played afternoon babysitter to Sister #4. Each day, immediately after lunch in the large conference dining hall, Mom (known as Mother back then) took a much-needed nap and left Sister #4 in my care.

To my great chagrin, more than one conference attendee assumed I was my sister’s mother. I don’t think Sister #4 was keen on the optics, either. I was distressed. How was I going to meet good-looking young men if I had to play momma to my sister?!

One other memory. Sister #4 loved nothing better than lively music to which she could dance. Informally, of course, since dancing itself was a Huge No-No in our family and church.

At this conference, all guests stood at their assigned tables for a hymn or two and a prayer before sitting down to eat. Sister #4 was in a high chair, and broke out into a little sitting jig every time we sang a hymn! I’ll never forget a grumpy old man telling my father he’d better keep his eye on this little girl because she was going to be big trouble!

Little did he know that this docile, obedient Sister #1 was going to be big trouble, too. It takes guts to become a Disobedient Daughter of Eve. A lesson I didn’t learn until I was an adult. Which is why I began this blog in the first place, and why I keep writing. Not to sort things out, but to document what my big trouble looked like, and what it took to break decades of destructive Good Girl habits and beliefs.

Thanks for the visit!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 July 2019
Photo taken by JERenich, Summer 1954

%d bloggers like this: