Posts Tagged ‘childhood’

My How Time Flies

It has been well over a week since my last post.  Many, many exciting things have happened in that week.  It began with two friends meeting after over 40 years.  That sounds strange, doesn’t it?  For over 41 years I conversed with who would become a lifelong friend via “snail” mail, a few phone calls, and finally email.  Many, many times we referenced meeting one day.  Maybe we just thought that was what we were supposed to say.  I’m not sure we ever really thought it would happen.  We come from very different lands on opposite sides of the world, on opposite sides of the equator, in different hemispheres.  Amazingly enough, the time came when, yes, we would meet and spend a wonderful week getting to know each other.  What we found was that countries apart, worlds apart, people are the same.  We have parents, husbands, children, and friends.  We deal with the same situations that having those things brings.  We also found that we had an uncommon amount of things in common.  Our views were often the same on many topics.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       We shared the same favorite things, favorite foods, favorite colors, favorite styles.  When we met for the first time, we were both wearing the same color shirts.  We wear similar styled glasses.  The list continues.  The more we talked about our daily lives, the more familiar our stories were.  How we looked at our day-in, day-out activities.  Why we made the choices we have, how we rationalize things…..so, so similar.  The more we were made aware of our similarities, the more we realized that we had not conversed enough thoughout the years to have influenced each other’s thoughts.  It is just how it is.  A sisterhood that was formed many years ago, came full cirle.

The timing of it all was also very interesting.  I shared with her that my favorite musical artist, James Taylor, would be coming to her hometown of Melbourne, Australia.  She said she wished we could see him together instead.  Then she said that she would be traveling to Canada to participate in an international Dragon Boating celebration/competition.  If she visited with me here in Florida the week before, JT would be in my neck of the woods.  Another “amazingly enough”……we did just that.  We attended the Carole King-James Taylor Troubadour Tour concert last Saturday in Ft. Lauderdale.  You’ve Got a Friend  never had more meaning as it did that night. 

In this high-tech world in which we now live, this story will never be repeated.  You will not find two young children who will find each other via Brownies, begin writing….as in handwriting words and thoughts onto a piece of paper, placing a stamp on an envelope, and sending it off into the unknown with great anticipation of a letter coming back in return.  Today it will be an instant response via email.  We even conversed with her husband and children in real time, with live pictures, via Skype.  It was amazing.

A bond that began 40-something years ago is now forever sealed.  When we said our tearful goodbyes yesterday at the Fort Lauderdale airport, I told her, “I will see you again.”  Her adventure continues with a trip to Toronto, then Quebec.  I imagine she will soon be anxious to go back to her place below the equator very soon.  Her family awaits.  She will have so many stories to share. 

Meanwhile, the next phase begins.  The planning of a trip to her land.  Maybe in a year or two, but it will now move up on our list of travel priorities.  The obtaining of passports, the gearing up for the long flight.  I know it will happen.  So to Glenda…..until we meet again.

“Ain’t it good to know you’ve got a friend.”  ~James Taylor

The Glenda Project

When I was in first grade, living in Niagara Falls, I was a Brownie.   We did the typical Brownie things.  We made a “sit upon” which basically was a recycled shower curtain folded over newspaper that we loop stitched around the edges to hold it in place.  It was used to literally sit upon rather than sit on the floor, or grass, or whatever.  I had that thing for years it seems.

One of the more interesting activities was being told we would be participating with a troop in Australia and become pen pals with a Brownie there.  Australia sounded very exotic to my six-year-old imagination and I thought the girl’s name I would get would be equally exotic.  I was handed a slip of paper about the size of a fortune from a cookie that read, “Glenda Dunstan.”  That did not sound very exotic to me and I remember asking if I could try again.  I was told no.  I guess she already had my name too.  Okay….Glenda it is.  Our assignment was to write an introductory letter to this person and let chance take it from there.  This all occurred somewhere around 1969.  Mail to and from Australia took about two weeks, each way.  My mom proofread my letter making sure it was in my best handwriting and there were no errors.  I do remember having to redo it a time or two.  It was quite exciting to receive that first letter.  Everyone in the family had to read it, look at the stamps, note Glenda’s interesting handwriting and way of speaking (“Mum” for Mom, “holiday” for vacation, etc.).

And a friendship was formed….

Fast forward 41 years (OMG!) and we are STILL friends!  There have been segments of years where our writing waxed and waned.  We have spoken on the telephone three times during the years.  Yes, she has an adorable accent.  Interestingly enough, she thinks I have an accent.  When the brush fires were ravaging Southern Australia last year, I had to call to make sure she and her family were okay.  She lives in Melbourne and luckily were still south of where most of the fires were.  She was very touched to know I was worried for her and even more surprised that America was following along with what was going on Down Under

During the years we each married (she is now Glenda Morris), had children, lost loved ones, survived illnesses (Glenda is a ten-plus-year breast cancer survivor).  We now take advantage of the internet and read each other’s responses within hours of writing.  Australia is nine hours ahead of us, so if she is up late and I am up early, we can almost “instant message.”  

In less than one month, I will meet my Australian Brownie pen pal for the very first time.  She is traveling to North America (Canada and the US) and will stay with me and my family for seven days!!!  This is a miracle to me.  It seems almost surreal….that on one hand, I feel I have known her since childhood, but on the other hand, have never really met her at all.  What will she think of our American ways?  What are American ways, anyways?  And how do they differ from Australian ways?

This has spurred a flurry of activity at the Bass household.  I live in a modest 50’s style cottage.  It is tiny and adorable.  There has always been a list of “wouldn’t it be nice to do this to that area” that has, up to about three months ago remained an item on the list.  The list now has a name:  The Glenda Project.   The back porch is now an almost completely enclosed sunroom.  The laundry room has been rearranged with a new hot water heater added.  A new 12 x 12 shed has been added to the backyard across from the chicken coop.  The kitchen pantry has been removed and a very cool antique armoire stands in its place.  (Only some…okay one… of the home’s occupants thinks it is very cool.)  It is not perfect, but that is part of its charm.  If I wanted perfect, I would have bought a new piece.  (The French door to the right is now gone as that is where the sunroom is.)

(I forgot to mention that I was told this HAS to be the LAST old piece of furniture I EVER bring into our house.  Now how am I supposed to accomplish that?  Maybe he was kidding….)

My brief mention of the projects above do nothing to describe the amount of blood, sweat, and tears that have accompanied them.  The sunroom was half engulfed in old termite eaten boards and had to be completely removed and replaced before the back half of the house fell off.  Why that actually never happened is beyond me.  My husband tried very hard to cut his thumb off with the table saw.  An ER visit and seven stitches later, he was back at it.  Exterior CBS walls had to be drilled and chipped to accommodate the new placement of the dryer vent.  And still the work continues….

Maybe one of the Australian ways is not to worry so much over what kind of panty food is kept in or if all the walls are freshly painted or if the almost 50-year- old wood floor has just the right sheen to it.  It certainly seems to be an American way, though–or at least this American’s way.  As the time of Glenda’s arrival quickly approaches, the list still seems insurmountable.  My attitude toward that list has relaxed somewhat.  At some point, the focus will shift to what we will do to make my exotic Aussie pal feel welcomed.  In the meantime, I still have some painting to do!

Lilac Memories

I was born in Niagara Falls, New York.  We moved to Florida when I was 8.  When I used to tell kids at my new school where I was born, they would always ask if my mom was going over the falls when I was born.  Stubbornly, I would say, “Yes.”  It’s funny that even now when I tell people where I was born, that next sentence still comes instantly to mind and I think to myself, No I was not going over the falls.

As my mother would attest, I sort of lived in my own little dream world growing up (some would say this is still the case).  I used to flit around singing and dancing and such.  We lived in the sort of little neighborhood where it was safe to wander a few blocks here and there, and do our own little bit of exploring.  I believe two blocks behind us is where I found “The Flower Lady.”  It was the first time I had ever seen someone plant flowers in their entire front yard.  There was a little white picket fence surrounding it all and no grass to be seen.  I really wanted some of those flowers.  My exact memory of how I got the first bouquet is a little fuzzy.  I know the lady of the house did come out to talk to me.  Whether she found me standing and staring from outside the fence (which would have been the appropriate thing to do) or whether she found me strolling amongst her flowers (the more likely scenario) is not clear.  She did get to me before I picked the first flower, I do remember that.  I told her I wanted to bring some flowers home to my mother.  She made me a beautiful bouquet and I went dancing home, so proud to present them.  My mother was not so happy to see my offering though.  Mortified that I had picked all the flowers from someone’s yard, she made me take my father back to the house where I had gotten them.  They did not believe my little story that someone had just given them to me.  So back to The Flower Lady’s home we went.  She announced to my father that I had indeed asked for the flowers and did not take them on my own.  Whew!  Saved….that time.  From then on, I visited The Flower Lady (as I had dubbed her) quite often. 

At the end of our street, lived an elderly couple:  Mr. and Mrs. Buttons.  They had several lilac trees in their yard that were too beautiful for me to resist.  Knowing I could not get in trouble if I asked first, I boldly knocked on their front door and asked if I could have some blooms please.  Who could resist a little five-year-old with white hair bouncing about who thinks nothing of introducing herself and telling her entire life story (to my mother’s continued mortification)?  From then on, The Buttons’ yard became a new play place.  My pals and I would hang out underneath the trees, orchestrating our little plays and singing songs at the tops of our lungs.  Many times, I would have them walk all the way down to our front yard to watch one of our productions (that I was, of course, the director of).  I would put chairs out for my parents, The Buttons’, and my best friend, Judy Zimmerman’s Nanna and Bumpa (I believe they were Hungarian) to come watch us perform.  Wearing my mom’s old crinolines, I’m sure we were a sight.

Every spring, when pictures of lilacs abound, my mind floats back to Duluth Street, Niagara Falls, New York….to The Flower Lady…..to Mr. and Mrs. Buttons…..to the 12 noon fire hall bell call…..to the biggest wild roses that grew outside the little neighborhood store (I did help myself to those many times).  I guess it is good that I cannot actually grow lilacs here.  Maybe they would lose their special place in my memory if I saw them so often that I took them for granted.  So I will happily gaze upon their pictures instead and let my mind wander back to my own little dream world.

In childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking out.  In memories of childhood, we press our nose to the pane, looking in.  ~Robert Brault

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