Monday, July 8, 2019

Call of the homeland

The sun was setting over the lake. Shades of yellow, pink and blue reflected from sky to water. Mountains loom behind us seemingly asking what we are doing here. Here. Here in their vast wildness. Here is the reality of past and present.

After twelve hours in the car with five people packed like sardines, we arrived in Polson, Montana. Flathead Lake stretched before us reflecting the sun waiting to set. Shades of pink, yellow and blue scattered across the water. The air is fresher, the water deep and wonderful, the mountains hiding mountain lions, black and grizzly bears, moose and deer. A zoo wild in its own habitats.

It was dusk when we arrived at the reservation. Tiny houses and trailers dotted the streets and fields. In 1970 I had been on a reservation in Arizona. This same scene greeted me way back then. The poverty and culture of a nation still trying to make a home on land they did not choose. Tears stung my eyes. I could not turn away nor get my thoughts around all this beauty and what was done to the people who our country belongs to and who in turn belong to it. Freedom was not theirs. And, for a few days, I will mourn their loss even more than usual.

My niece Jobi is of the Flathead tribe; therefore, she owns this piece of land overlooking the lake. Her children can not inherit this home once she is gone unless they marry into the tribe. I get it. And, for this family, every moment here is priceless. Jobi left Montana when she was three. My sister and her husband adopted her and moved her to Indiana with them. We all fell in love instantly with this beautiful girl. Yet over the years, her voice has yearned to answer the call of her homeland.

This is all quite timely. I just finished sending my DNA in to check my lineage. For all the years we were told we had Native American blood, I find that indeed I have none. So I really am an immigrant. I am mostly French/German, Swiss and British/Irish. I am more than a half breed. I am a breed so diluted that there are no numbers to cover the genes that have feed into my little pool of DNA. 

Birds are singing. The scat from a black bear was found in the yard this morning. My niece faced off with a mountain lion in their driveway some time ago. Eagles perch in their trees and the earth is alive with bird song. Hm. These animals, too, are native to this land. Yes, I am the intruder.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Shoes of a different color

Hers didn't match. In fact, one shoe wasn't even hers. One belonged to Gabby's friend. The girls decided that they would have a little fun and wear two different shoes. Funny I never thought of that before. I am pretty good at coming up with weird, unusual ideas. Then I began noticing something else. Something more than footwear.

Emma has a drawer full of socks. When she gets them out, they match but don't. One might have a bird on it and the other with a frog and the same background. Or maybe the critter matches but the background is different. It is a bit mysterious this 'unmatched match-up." 

And again, I find myself looking around. Not just those of my grands, but those of other kids. Shoestrings mismatched. Tights not matching the shirt. Shorts conflicting with a sweater. My mind was swirling with possibilities I had missed.

We are getting ready to go out tonight. I have a new, shorter haircut that is an interesting challenge. I want one side to match the other. No matter how hard I try, one side turns to the back and the other to the front. Now, I ask myself (which I do often), why do they need to match. Why can't I just have fun and do it my way. I was raised that everything needed to match. I always felt that I needed to look like everyone else. And we all did! None of us knew that we did not need to follow the same old path. We could dare to be different and if no one liked it, that was their problem. But we never thought of it. Hm. 

It isn't just about clothing. Nor is it about matching other people. It is truly about finding yourself. Maybe finding a new self every day. It is about having a voice and not being afraid to be different. Seeing yourself in new ways, finding new ideas, doing things for yourself you have never tried before, are all possibilities we missed long ago.

Yes, I found out something that day I saw two different shoes. I found that my granddaughter was not the copy of her mother or grandma or any of her friends. She dared to be different and own it. Now that is pretty awesome. Makes me wish I were a kid again.

So tonight we are going out. My hair is a combination of all the genes that are on my DNA chain. Maybe one side of my family looked forward and the other looked back. I seem to be the result of my past and the enlightenment of the future.  Now I can wear all my mismatched socks that have lost their partner. Ah, shoes of a different color. 

Monday, June 24, 2019

A story waiting to be found

A story once told. A memory captured on the page. The people who were once creating the story now gone and never forgotten. Why? Because it is a story once told.

Often it is difficult to pull something out of the air to create a column. So sometimes I need to wait until almost deadline time to find a story that is waiting to be found. Interesting words, right? A story waiting to be found. Now, realize that you are a trove of wonderfulness.  No matter what your age, you are full of stories waiting to be found. You might think what I do is difficult, but it is not. You must just open your mind. Look around. Allow the world to touch your soul. Then write it down.

We are nannying for the twins this summer. Most of the days will be filled with camps; however, there are weeks that we will entertain them. Or maybe, they will entertain us. This last week was an eye opener. I am not 30 anymore. Nor am I just a couple decades past. My knees rebel and my energy needs a swift kick in the....well, you know. But what an opportunity. We get to make memories that we hope will last forever. Will they? You and I are the memory banks for so many people, for so many events.

I picked up the kids at 7:30, fed them and then brought them to our house. "MeMe, you have a really cool house," said Nolan. Making themselves at home, the toys came out of the closet. A bucket was lowered over the upstairs gallery railing with a note for me and pencil and paper for return mail. They finally settled in with freshly made scones and morning TV shows. I settled into my morning computer time. Well, sometimes it is good to look up from what interests you. For when I looked up, the twins had turned Mom and Dad's old chairs around to see the screen. Emma rocked away in hers while Nolan curled up in his with a raspberry scone still warm from the oven. How could I look away? My thoughts carried me away. Mom and Dad received these precious chairs as a wedding gift. Back then, people often gave away something of their own. The Loxley girls have always cherished the chairs. We played on them, our children sat in them when conversation filled the living room, and when we cleared the house on Neff Road, my sisters had already decided to give me both chairs. Now I was looking at their great grandchildren filling a couple of hearts in Heaven.

Later Nolan walked over to the glass topped cabinet that holds the Native American stones from the farm. Each sister has the same. I opened the top. He picked up a small one. "This was used to shoot birds," he echoed from a past conversation. "It's my favorite." I knew what he was hinting at. Yes, he wanted it to go home with him. It probably will some day, but it is the one and only one I ever picked up in that field that ran along the lane.  I am not quite ready to part with it.

Stories surround us. They are waiting to be found. If we don't pass them on, they will be lost forever along with those people who were and are part of our lives. They are waiting. Each time you find one of them there will be an explosion of other stories that will find you. The stories are waiting.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Let there be love

This is a piece I wrote three years ago. I feel it is as important today as it was then. Maybe even more so. I hope you take it in and pass it on.

Let there be peace on earth with every person loving, not judging, not hating. Let every man, woman and child strive for understanding. Let cruel words dissolve and positive thoughts prevail. Let there be peace.
Let creativity flow from every person. Let them find joy in the gifts they possess. Let them dwell on ways to build together creating a universal canvas celebrating all humanity. Let us all raise voices full of hope and joy. Let there be beauty.
Let us embrace this earth that provides life. Let us work together to save trees that provide for every living creature. Let us protect and love each creature that wants life as much we do. Let us tend their roots as we must do our own. Let there be action.
Let us embrace our differences, the uniqueness we each possess. For in that embracing we experience the love of God. Let all cruelty, bigotry, bullying, oppression fade into oblivion. Let there be hope.
Let the sun shine on a world where unity and cooperation prevail. Let us all choose love over hate. Acceptance over judgement. Where color, religion, sexual preference, origin and circumstance of birth are accepted by all. Let there be joy.
Dear God, let us be what you created us to be. Let there be love.
By Pamela Loxley Drake

Sunday, June 9, 2019

A helping hand

Tragedy strikes, and we who live in the country know what that means. Neighbors step up. They don't need to be asked. They don't need to be called. They don't need to feel guilted into helping. It seems they just show up with tools, food, clothing and whatever it takes to make life easier for those who are hit by an unforeseen force.

Online I am seeing posts of people finding things on their properties that do not belong to them. Pictures, toys, even a pet seemed to have ended up far from home when the tornado hit. They are all symbols of the power of nature; those things picked up and carried for miles. They are items seeking their owners by the grace of those who find them. This is what neighbors do for one another.

There is such a pride we have in this unsaid love and concern. It is a way of life we grow up learning by the actions we see by our family and friends. We are part of it, and it is part of us. You can take the girl out of the country, but you cannot take that neighborly love out of the girl.

None of us are immune from extreme weather conditions. A storm takes out a neighborhood, and we who live far away hold you all in our hearts. Even Loren asks if the farmers are in the fields yet. Yes, rain or shine, we care.

There are garage sales all over the Painter Creek area on June 20 from 9am-6pm. A list of the sales will be available at each residence. Forty homes are participating, including Pleasant View Church. Go. Go see what the farmers are doing. Enjoy a drive in the country. These are my good neighbors. They and their relatives are the ones who pitched in when our family had scarlet fever, when June had rheumatic fever, when Dad lost his herd of cattle and helped us care for our parents. I wish I were there. Gotta love a sale!

So while attending the garage sales in Painter Creek, remember to look for items that might go into a goodwill basket for someone needing a boost. Remember the less fortunate. Take used clothing to a clothes closet in a church or other organization that gathers good, used items. One of those things you look over might just be a plus in someone's life.

Yes, we are all a community. That desire is born in us from Neff Road. I could go back today and ask anyone of them for help, and they would embrace me with all they could give. Remember to think of those who have lost so much. They are family.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

Old lady tug-of-war

Message from my granddaughter Gabby: Grammy, when were you born? Reply: 1947. Gabby: So you were alive during the 50's and 60's. Reply: Well, it would seem so. (Where is her head!) Gabby: Well, two of my friends have to do a report on someone old (There she goes again!) who lived then, and they are fighting over you. Reply: Hm.

Anabel won the 'old lady' prize. I set up the deck so my yearbook and other items from my ancient years would be in view. I played 50's music, hoping to set the mood. Admittedly, I was nostalgic as I gathered up old cut out dolls and old 45's. Still in love with Frankie Avalon. Soon I was dancing to the music of my elderly past. I had pictures of the wedding styles from my grandparents to my own. It was quite a stretch. West Side Story and Peter Paul and Mary albums looked on. I even had my old curls that were cut when I was about 3 or 4. I wanted to toss the blonde ringlets, but Loren wouldn't let me.

Gabby came along with Anabel. I sat on the hot seat. Gabby sat with chip dip and chips in front of her, and Anabel had a thick tablet that had 15 questions in it for me. The first thing she asked me was what would be my most memorable event. I started to tell her about JFK's assassination, and much to my surprise, I began to cry. This is an event I have talked about with friends many times over the years without this reaction. What was wrong with me!?!?!? Was I really an old broad losing it?

No. No, I was not. As I sat there with these two beautiful girls about to go into their senior year in high school, I was struck with the fact that I was their age when it happened. Suddenly the fear and confusion I felt back in 1963 was as raw now as it was then. It wasn't about me. It was about so much more.

I turned the table on Anabel and chip-munching Gabby. "Do you read the newspaper and follow news?" Both girls said 'no'. It was too scary. They didn't want to know.

When back east I was asked why I was missing the Today Show so much. I watch it faithfully every morning here at home. I watch the news and read about what is happening in the world. It is my duty as an American, a mother, a grandmother and a woman trying to help a world in distress What I saw was disturbing and sometimes made me angry and feeling helpless. But I watch. I cannot have an opinion if I do not know all the information. Yes, I am a Democrat. But it might surprise you, I do not follow any sites posted by the Democrats and do my own research on all parties. I try to keep an open mind and a level head. This is the responsibility of parents and grandparents. We are the examples who need to open doors to clear thinking so that our young ones know how to make their own decisions. How could this father and grandfather have opinions if he was not opening his mind and changing the world for those he loves? As far as I was concerned, if you don't open doors, you will remain locked behind them.

Anabel and I continued our little interview. I rambled about playing with paper dolls, twisting to Chubby Checkers and occasionally making out in an old Chevy. I laid it all out. They could ask what they wanted. I learned long ago that you can't fool teenagers.

As we finished, I had one question to ask them. "If you don't know what is happening in your world, how can you protect it? You will be going to college. We have not left you with the same world I had when I graduated. You are the future. You are the ones who will make a difference. How can you not be interested? I challenge you to step up to the task. I am trying and would like your help."

Yep, Anabel won the old lady tug-of-war. My guess is the she got more than she bargained for. In fact, the chips and dip seems to slow down with the conversation. Maybe, just maybe, a new page was added to my history.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Ironing the wrinkles

We do it, don't we? Yep. We look at everyone else who might possibly be our age and wonder if we look that good, or maybe that bad. Age. We seem to be defined by it. How do I know? Well....

There has been a change in my visits to the doctor. For some reason I don't seem to get the same attention to my concerns as I did before. "It is just part of growing older." Hm. Well, I don't really buy that. I know my body pretty well and know that some of the changes have happened quickly. All of a sudden I seem to have red spots that pop up over night. They are the size of a dime. If I was thirty, I would be sent to dermatology. But for me, "It is just part of growing older." Another hm.

I notice that my son treats me differently. Not necessarily in a good way. Just because I can't jump down from the bleachers as quickly and could use a hand, he doesn't need to say "Hey, need a little help, Mom?" Of course I do. I just don't need his chuckling as he does it. My grand twins even inform me that I am old. Hard to understand since I sit on the floor to play with them. I play basketball with them. I will try most anything to keep involved. I'm not old!

On top of everything else, I keep getting AARP info wanting me to join and get oldster benes.  I'll get there. Just not feeling it yet. I get ads for wheelchairs, first alerts for when I tumble over my own feet, hearing aids, life insurance, walk in bathtubs, all sorts of 'old' ads. Not interested! If I am, then I will check it out. Anyway, how did they know my age?!?!?!?

We aren't old. No. We are all on a path to finding out what we will be when we grow up. We are full of adventure and eager to learn new things. We can contribute because, believe me, we have learned a few things over the years. We are a walking encyclopedia on life. We have made the mistakes so the younger generation will not need to. We have seen the worse, so we understand what is the best. We have suffered through wars, drought, flood, death and broken hearts. We know that nothing is gained without change and new ideas. Yes, we have much to offer.

I no longer compare myself to others. I applaud everyone who has leaped over adversity and survived pain. Each age is beautiful. And, the faces that accompany them are precious.

Here's too long life, lovely faces, new adventures....and wine.