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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Moody and Me- No Ordinary TeePee

I opened the bedroom door to find that my three oldest grand children had taken the quilt and blanket off the bed and had it stretched out over the furniture. I said, "What in the WooRRRlllddd are you guys doing?" they answered, "We are building a fort Mama, come look". I get down on my hands and knees and peek through the small opening. They had all the pillows piled around, their army men and all of their 'weapons' laid out neat and tidy. The oldest one, Alison, says..."We can't get this side to stay closed"........ I smiled. "I'll be right back," I said. I went in the kitchen pulled out a drawer and grabbed a handful of clothes pins.... back to the bedroom and leaned down with a huge smile on my face and said... "I bet these would work"..........."AWESOME" they said, and nostalgia hit me hard......

1 Strong Clothes Line
+5 Quilts/Blankets (or 50 burlap sacks)
+100 Clothes Pins
= 1 Fine Tent

I am guessing that we, Moody and I, were about 11 or 12 years old. It was one of the many times that I was visiting with her for a week or so when we came up with the idea of how much fun it would be to 'camp out' in her back yard. You have to remember that this was back before the days of Walmart, Kmart, Target, TOYS R US etc. Back when life was simple, when kids made up their own games, and couldn't just run to a store and buy whatever they wanted....such as a tent. Back when parents never gave a second thought to letting their kids sleep outside on the ground in a home made tent. When kidnapping or child molestation was something you never heard of.

So Moody and I set out to build us a tent. My dear Aunt Bernice supplied us with everything necessary to put it together, even instructing us on how to lap the quilts over the clothesline and pin it together with clothespins. After a few times of it falling down on top of us, we finally perfected the construction of it and we could make it so tight that an ant could not have crawled in. We loved sleeping in our tent and for the next 5 years or so we spent very few 'summer' nights in her house. If we did, it was only because the weather wouldn't let us stay outside. We pretty much made that tent our summer home. It was the very first thing that we would do when I would get to her house. Grab the quilts, and build our tent.... The very last thing that we would do before I went home.....take the tent down and pile the quilts on the back porch.

I am thinking that my aunt might have got very tired of washing these quilts on a wringer washing machine and hanging them out on the clothesline to dry, just so that we could mess them up again in a week or so. Because this one summer she surprised us with the idea of making our own tent out of 'tow sacks'(burlap feed sacks). She took us out to the backyard and showed us how to unravel the chain stitch in order to lay the sacks out flat. We were given two very large darning needles, and a spool of twine thread..... I know that we had to have sewn at least 50 of these babies together.. the result was huge..and it took us all day to finish the project. But when we got done, we had ONE FINE TENT. We had all four walls and the floor in one big piece. We could just throw it over the clothesline and then clothespin up the sides.. A genius of an idea!! (I am quite sure that our Native ancestors would have been quite proud of us!!!) Now when it came time for me to go home, we would just fold the tent up, stuff it down into another tow sack, and hang it on a nail on the back porch... ready and waiting for the next visit.....

We would pile all of our possessions in our tent. Our purses, our barbie dolls, books, pillows, blankets even snack foods. Anything we thought we might need, would be in the tent with us. We would make cabinets and tables out of cardboard boxes... Yep, we had made ONE FINE TENT.

I can not begin to tell you how many times through the years I have reminisced over that tent. Attached to it are some of my most fondest childhood memories....It was our fort...our playhouse...our sanctuary...our summer home. The place where Moody and I would laugh and talk and stay up half of the night with only a flashlight, telling each other our deepest kept secrets. As I sit here writing this I can still smell the burlap sacks that enclosed us. The smell of the damp soybean field just 20 feet or so from where we lay. The grassy smell of the green carpet beneath us. A whiff of motor oil coming from my uncles garage...even the smell of the hogs down in the pasture back in the woods. I remember so distinctly laying there in the middle of the night smelling all of these smells mingled together.

I don't know if I ever told my dear aunt 'thank you' for putting up with me all of those summers as a kid. Don't know if I told her 'thank you' for helping us and showing us how to sew our tent. I hope that I did. I hope that she knew how much it all meant to me...

I can only pray that my grandchildren can make great memories together too, so that some day they too can look back and realize how bitter sweet it all was. Weather it be at their own houses or back yards or even if it is making a fort in Mama's bedroom floor........................Seems like only yesterday it was us... Moody and ME..........................................................

Friday, December 24, 2010

Moody and Me- California, Here We Come

I was in my own little 6 year old world, swinging, at my aunt and uncles house, when this chubby little blonde haired girl came up to me and said, "Hey! we are cousins." I had never seen this girl before in my life, that I could remember anyways, so I had to go ask my mom if this was true....with the little blonde following behind me. Sure enough, she was right and we were definitely cousins. She said to me, "My name is Moody, what's yours?" I replied with "Lainie" ( my nickname as a child, hailed from my middle name 'Elaine'.) She grabbed my hand and said "lets go play" friend for life!!!!!!

Moody and her family lived in Michigan at the time and had came home to our uncle's funeral, my dads' brother, her.. mothers' brother. I suppose that is why I didn't remember ever seeing her before since she lived so far away. A few weeks after the funeral her family moved back to Missouri and settled in a small town just 10 miles from where I lived, so our families visited quite often and Moody and I became the very best of friends. When we discovered that we were the same age, that just made our friendship stronger. After all she was only 6 weeks older than me. We went to different schools but every time we got a chance we would spend the night with each other. In the summer months we took turns spending weeks. She would come to my house for a week and I would go home with her for a week. This went on for the next 10 to 12 years.

There are several stories that involved the two of us that I plan on sharing......she was so very much a part of my childhood... We shared many many laughs together. When you are a kid seems like everything you say or do is funny. We don't get to see each other very often anymore, mostly at funerals .... I hope that she remembers those days together as fondly as I do....for they will always be in my heart. So come ride along with us as Moody and me journey to California!!!................


Moody had moved to a small farm outside of Advance. I loved going to her house..There was so many fun things to do there. I lived in town and so going to the farm was a real treat for me. She lived in a big old two story house and we would play upstairs for hours. She and her sister had bicycles,which I didn't have at home and although I didn't know how to ride one at first, (That will be another story) I finally did learn. She had real Barbie dolls, and a little toy piano, the best climbing tree in the whole world. Then there were the cars.....

Her dad was an auto mechanic and had lots of old cars parked everywhere.. I guess they had been wrecked or just needed repaired. Some of them he just used as 'parts'. So on the times when I got to go to her house for a few days we would plan our trip to California...She would grab a favorite doll or two and so would I, we would pack a little overnight case filled with our babies clothes and anything else we thought we might need on our trip and go out to the 'car lot' and pick out our favorite car. Sometimes we would drive separate cars, but most of the time we would ride together, and take turns driving. Our husbands would be with us of course, and this would be whoever we might have a crush on at the time. Subject to change at any given moment.

As I sit behind that stirring wheel and 'drive' us, we pretend that we see all sorts of things. We cross over the mountains and over long bridges, sometimes we change our minds mid trip and decide to go to New york, or drive to Hawaii or maybe England. We are in the middle of a storm so we have to turn the wipers on. We honk the horn ( which doesn't work) to just say 'Hi' to someone we pass, or to tell someone to get out of our way......Sometimes we would stop at a 'store' or 'restaurant' and have to go in and get a snack or something cold to drink.. we never tarried long, we would always be in a big hurry to get back on the road. We would see the sights of the whole world through the dirty, dust covered, broken windshields........there were times when my uncle would sell one of our favorites, and we would be sad as we would stand and watch someone hook on to it and pull it off. But we would just look around and pick out another one that we liked.

Yes, we traveled at least a million miles during those summer months, never leaving her back yard...For a couple years, that was our favorite thing to do, from daylight to dark, was ride and drive those old cars, to nowhere, and everywhere....

I have thought about those old cars often in my adult life and the fun that we had as kids. In our own innocent world, believing that we owned it. Young and carefree, pretending that we were all grown up and all the while not realizing that at the time we were making precious memories that we would be thinking about 50 years later.....

I never made it to California for real...don't know if she did or not...I hope so...Maybe I should put that on my bucket list...when I get around to making one. We never know what tomorrow brings, maybe someday......but I think I will fly when I do go..just so I don't get side tracked and end up in England or somewhere else...................................

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

My Dad..........March 2, 1911 - Dec.5th, 1974

December 7th, 2010

Today has been a sad day for me, as this calendar day has been for the last 36 years. Dec.7th, not only is it Pearl Harbor Day, but it marks the day that my dad was laid to rest, in a very small cemetery, on top of a hill, in the town where I grew up in. Near the place where he was born and raised his family. Seems impossible that it has been that long ago.

I was almost 21 years old. I had been married for nearly 3 years, and had a 10 month old baby girl. My life absolutely revolved around my husband and daughter. When looking back, I can't help but think how young and naive I truly was, and so very selfish. I did not realize the finality of death. That when one takes that last breath, it is over, the end of life as we know it, gone. I have so often wished that I had been older and more mature, before he passed from us. I wished that I had talked to him. I mean really talked to him. I wish that I would have known his thoughts and wishes. Where he was 'coming from'. I wish I had asked him more about his life as a young man. I wish that I had realized that mom needed help in caring for him. Many wishes, many thoughts, many regrets.

I always said that Raymond Finney was ONE STRANGE BIRD.  Don says that "'he was what he was." But truthfully, he had some very strange ways. For instance, he thought boys and girls lived by two totally separate set of rules. There are 5 of us kids. 3 girls and 2 boys. The boys were just expected to drink, smoke, cuss, and stay out late (after they got older of course.) I have heard him say more than once that, "boys will be boys." For us girls, it was a whole different story. I have to say that I had it better than my two older sisters, even though he still had some strict rules, lucky for me, times changed and so did he. He had a dress code that the older girls lived by, and wearing shorts was NOT in it. So playing sports in school was not an option for them. Fifteen years later when I was in high school he had mellowed out some and  I got to play volleyball, and I wore shorts. You could forget about being a cheerleader. His thought was "you are NOT going to get out there and turn flips for those boys and show your underwear." Period.

 He did not attend any of our weddings. He said that he had only been to one wedding in his life and that is all he intended on going to. When Don and I got married, he chose to sit over on the "liars bench" in front of the cafe/pool hall until the wedding was over . He did however come in time to share the wedding cake with us, and enjoyed being with all of the people. Again, One Strange Bird!!
He had many other ways and thoughts that at the time I just took for granted, but as an adult, I indeed think they were strange.

I can only speak for myself here....

I was almost like an only child. There are 8 years between me and my brother closest to me in age, so by the time I got to be 10 or 12 years old, the other 4 were married and having kids of their own. So a lot of time was spent with just dad, mom, and me in the house.  The sad part of that is that I feel like I never really knew him. To me he was an authoritative figure, that simply ruled the house, and I do mean ruled. Always telling me "you are not going there" or "you are not doing that" or "you are not running around with that girl" "you are not going out with that boy" etc. We never really had any conversations at all, and I remember thinking that my life would be so much better if he wasn't in it. Again, so young, naive, and selfish I was.

 I have often thought about Reba McEntyre's song, "The Greatest Man I Never New". Some of the song fits so perfectly with the way I felt during those young days.  I always new that dad loved us kids, even though he never said the words, at least not to me. There were never any "I love you's",  kisses, or hugs from him. He just didn't know how to show any affection or emotion. Although as I said previously, I knew that he did. Maybe this is why I always tell my girls that I love them when I am leaving them or hanging up the phone from talking with them... I want them to KNOW that I love them.  I never want them to doubt it or question it.

The letters...........

I suppose work was hard to find in the days before I was born, and afterward, because sometimes during the winter months dad would go to my uncle's houses in New York, or Florida, and work and send the money back home to mom. It was his way of keeping food on the table and trying to provide for us.....  After my mom passed away I was going through an old suitcase filled with some old memorabilia of their lives together and I found some old letters that dad had written to her while on these work trips. Which shocked me to the core.  First of all, I really didn't think dad could read or write much, other than to write his name. He always had mom do that kind of stuff. I was mystified to see he could actually write pretty intelligently.

As I held these letters in my hand and read the words for the first time in my life, tears flowed down my cheeks. It was so sad that 30 plus years after he was dead and gone, I saw a glimpse of a man I never knew existed.  He spoke of how much he missed mom and us kids. He would say things like "Now you have the boys help you get the wood in" one point I guess one of my sisters was gone with someone for a few days because one letter said something like..."I want Gerry home as soon as possible, I don't like her being away from home, " With the later letters he would always end it by saying.."Give that little ole baby girl a kiss for me"...Which meant me....As I sat there reading these letters I literally saw a side of him that I had never seen in the 21 years that I knew him, and it tore me up inside. I will cherish those letters until the day I am laid to rest.

Dad found out he had lung cancer on Sept 5th, 1974. He lived exactly 4 months to the day from when he found out. After he got sick, he became a Christian, and got baptized. He laid on his death bed with his arms straight up in the air. Praying. He told someone that he wasn't afraid to die, he knew he was going to a better place. The only thing that bothered him was that he didn't want to leave his kids and grand kids in this world, the way that it was. Wonder what he would think if he could see it now!!

So, this is the story. I know that it may seem like a sad story to some, and maybe it is. I harbor no ill feelings toward him at all, for as Don said "He was what he was". I know that he loved us, he just wasn't good with words. Sometimes, I find myself in that same situation. I am just not good with words, but I love deeply and wholeheartedly. I look forward to someday being able to sit down with him and 'really' talk to him. There is so much I want to say and so many questions I want to ask... Until then, every once in a while, I will dig out the old letters and read the scribbled words, and ponder the bitter sweetness of knowing that even
even though he never spoke the words out loud to us, that down deep in his heart... He loved us all......................