Yesterday, when I found these toys in the rubble of the house foundation that was recently unearthed in the Greenbelt, I got teary. Who were the children who had lost these toys? Had they cried when they realized they were missing? Were they once beloved toys?
Then I became puzzled. When I moved into this neighborhood in 1973, I had been told that there once had been a house in the lot behind mine; one that had burned in the 50’s. Even though this foundation is not directly behind my house, I have assumed it is the house that I was once told about. These toys had not burned, so had the house not burned either? If not, what had destroyed it?
The foundation has probably been covered by blackberry vines since sometime in the 60’s. Did the toys show up on the lot after that time? Had they been thrown over the embankment by inhabitants of the home above it? No one on this neighborhood even knew the house existed, so I will probably never know the answers to these questions.
I brought the stuffed animals and doll into my house and cleaned them to the best of my ability. The transformation was remarkable!
Tomorrow, we will be holding another work party in the Greenbelt. Twenty students from an Environmental Science class at the University of Washington have signed up to participate. I wonder what we will find as we continue our endeavor to return this piece of land to the beautiful forest it once was.
My father was in the Army when I was born; therefore, I lived on Army bases most of my childhood. One of the things I remember about that life is that on Saturday mornings the base theater showed children’s movies. While I remember seeing cartoons, westerns and other types of films, the ones I remember the best were the science fiction thrillers.
I doubt that those movies were shown during the Saturday morning time slots. My friend Vince, who also grew up in the Army, said he thought Friday night at the base theater was known as “Fright Night” and that the scary movies were shown then.
I decided to look for the trailers of my favorite science fiction movies from that time. As I watched the trailers, I marveled at how times have changed. I wonder how many children would be allowed to see this type of movie today since I doubt any of them would receive a G rating! But in those days the theater was full of children and teenagers. And we loved being scared. (During this time frame I would have been 8-15 years of age.)
There were two movies I couldn’t find. One was about a person who grew bigger and bigger and bigger. As I recall the man (or was it a woman) was eventually housed in a gigantic circus tent but outgrew even that. The only snippet I remember from the other movie was that objects of some kind were found scattered on a beach. I think they were shaped like round rocks. Whenever someone picked up one of the objects and held it near their face, it marked them. I think it was a circular mark of some kind; could have even been a burn. Do any of you remember either of those films?
I have enjoyed this trip down memory lane. If you lived during that time, did you see these movies? Did you enjoy them? If you are from a different generation, did you ever watch them?
The Dungeon Prompt for this week asked us to identify a life pattern, one that we see repeating again and again. Since I already write regularly about the patterns in my life, I decided to answer this prompt in an unusual and fun way.
As I looked for a pattern to explore, I realized I have a nearly fifty-year-old pattern (something that happens in a regular and repeated way) of making items that are patterned (a repeated decorative design) and/or are made from patterns (a set of instructions to be followed in making a sewn or knitted item)! While I certainly don’t have pictures of everything I have made over the years, I do have a good sampling.
In the late 60’s and 70’s, I knit sweaters for myself and people important to me.
I also liked to sew. I made my blue wedding dress and the dashiki Al is wearing. I also made shirts and other clothing items for us.
I believe I crocheted the outfit Chaitanya wore when she came home from the hospital. I made the three sweaters below when Sreejit was a baby and have loaned them to friends with new babies many times. They still look as perfect as they did in 1975!
In the 70’s, I made several blankets. Two of them I still use.
In the 80’s, I made quilts for my daughter and my mother. When my mother passed, the white quilt was returned to me. It took me many years to finish Chaitanya quilt. By the time I completed it, she had moved to India where a quilt wasn’t needed. Both quilts are still used from time to time.
Sometime during the 90’s, I started making tiny Gods and Goddess dolls. They are sold during Amma’s tours as a way of making money for her humanitarian projects.
In the 2000’s, I worked with other Amma devotees to crochet blankets for homeless women who were moving into transitional housing.
Some years later, we worked together to crochet items out of recycled plastic.
Made from coffee and chip bags, strap and newspaper wrapper
Made from grocery bags
I can see that patterns are even a factor in the gardening I do now!
This has been a very interesting prompt for me to write. I am realizing how important projects such as these have been throughout my life.
It has been a very long time since I have immersed myself in any of these crafts. I hope to begin some of them again in the not too distant future!
For some time, I have been thinking about writing a post about a small lemon tree I purchased during the summer of 2013. My plan was to call the article “A Tale of Endurance.”
Then on Thursday, Sreejit posted his Dungeon Prompt for the week. He asked us to address:
How do you measure up to your eight-year-old-self’s plans for the future? We all had childhood dreams, or fantasies. How did you imagine the world as a kid? When you were eight years old, what did you plan on being when you grew up? What would that version of yourself think about who you are now?
Responding to this prompt posed a problem as I have almost no memories of my childhood. My mind went blank when I thought of my eight-year-old self. As I reflected on my childhood as a whole, it occurred to me that that my growing up years could also be seen as “A Tale of Endurance.” I wondered if I had that attitude about life by the time I was eight.
I decided to include both endurance tales in one post!
A Tale of Endurance #1
What did my eight-year-old dream of? I have no idea. My only clue is that I know my primary past-time during my childhood was reading. I do remember loving the Bobbsey Twin series. I think those were books an eight-year-old might read. I have no doubt that when I immersed myself in my books I was transported to other lands. It is likely that most of my childhood dreams came from the books I read.
Since I couldn’t answer the prompt by talking about my dreams, I decided to see if I could learn more about my eight-year-old self. I searched for some pictures and found two. I believe I was eight in the first one and nine in the second.
Me at 8?
On our way to Germany
I grew up as an army brat. I was born at Sandia Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico and lived there for the first years of my life. At some point during the Korean War my father went to Korea and my mother, brother and I moved to West Palm Beach, Florida, the city where my mother’s family lived.
I thought I had attended three different schools in the third grade but as I looked through old belongings yesterday, I discovered I had gone to two schools during the second grade and two in the third. When my father returned from Korea, we moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina; I would have been seven at that time. After two quarters of school in Fayetteville, we moved to Ft. Bragg, which is also in North Carolina. I finished the second grade there. I attended third grade at Ft. Brag for half a year and then moved to Pirmasens, Germany for the last half of third grade.
I can imagine the difficulty that switching schools so often would cause a child who was a strong introvert. In an army brat’s life, friendships were usually short; either we moved, or our friends did. I have no memory of any childhood friend, other than the cousins we visited on vacations.
I remember my mother saying that my pattern was to have one friend and then if they moved on to another best friend I would be devastated. I can imagine myself developing a “why bother” attitude when it came to friendship.
Yesterday, I also looked through all my elementary school report cards. I probably had read them sometime in the past, but it would have been decades ago. I paid particular attention to the report cards from the years I was eight and nine.
At that time, my teachers described me as earnest, pleasant, a hard worker, cooperative, and a good student who was creative, read well, learned quickly and had a wholesome attitude. In the second half of second grade and the first half of third grade, I received “Excellent” and “Good” for grades. When we moved to Germany and they used A, B, C, etc. as the grading system, I received A’s and B’s. The area where I consistently received the lowest marks and negative comments were in Writing. One teacher wrote “Carol (my name at that time) writes large enough but her letters are poorly formed.” Those comments continued throughout my elementary school years. I have no memory of my writing being an issue, although I’m not surprised considering how poorly I write now!
After writing positive comments on my report card, one teacher added- “I’m afraid she doesn’t receive much challenge.” I wonder what she meant?
Other comments that interested me were:
“She is slow to express herself.” That seemed reasonable for an introvert.
“Carol has improved some in writing but seems tense and not able to relax when writing and other times also. Have you noticed this?” My mother, who was also a teacher, responded “I have never noticed any tension in her writing at home but then she has an eraser at home (which she uses far too often) and I think her not having one at school may cause the tension. I’m not sure. She is a sensitive child and may be trying too hard to succeed in a subject she knows she’s having trouble with.”
I don’t know how soon my life began to feel like a tale of endurance. As I aged, I became more and more unhappy at home. At one point, I counted off the days until I could leave for college. I hated moving so often and wanted to create a life where I could stay put. Hmmmm. I wonder if that was a dream when I was eight. If so, it was one I created as I have lived in the same house in Seattle since 1973!
I have loved getting some insight into my eight-year-old self. Thank you Sreejit for offering this assignment and thereby prompting my exploration.
A Tale of Endurance #2
In the summer of 2013, I bought a small lemon tree. There were several lemons on it when I purchased the tree and I had visions of all of the lemons that were to come. The nursery staff told me to bring the tree into the house before the temperatures dropped, so as winter neared I put it indoors. One by one, the beautiful lemons turned black and fell off. Then most of the leaves fell off. Soon there was nothing left but the trunk (if you can call something that small a trunk) and a few leaves.
Spring came and nothing happened. The same few leaves stayed on, but there were no new ones and there were no buds. I took the plant to a nursery to see if it was possible to save it. They instructed me to use a particular kind of fertilizer. Months later there was still no new growth. It wasn’t until late August that a few flower buds formed. The plant was still alive but it seemed too late in the season for any fruit that formed to grow to maturity.
As it started to get cold, I once again brought the tree into the house. And again, the few small lemons that were on the tree turned black and fell off. This time the rest of the leaves fell off as well. I decided to leave the tree in the house even though it was just a stalk.
Sometime in late winter, I concluded that the situation was hopeless and put the tree outside on the balcony. I would compost it in the springtime. However, when springtime came and I picked up the container to take it to the compost heap, I noticed there were many tiny leave buds!
This tree seemed determined to live. Over the next weeks, the leaves grew, flower buds formed and then blossomed!
After a difficult childhood, my life blossomed and has been filled with friends, adventure and learning. It is interesting for me to see that many of the characteristics that my teachers pointed out on my eight-year-old report cards are characteristics that I am known for now. I think my eight-year-old would like the adult I have become.
It appears that this year the lemon tree is moving forward on its journey towards health. Perhaps in time it will even bear fruit that will become ripe!
I appreciate all the ways, past and present, that I am learning the value of endurance.
Today, we challenge you to show us what “express yourself” means to you. It could be the delightful, gummy grin of a baby grand-nephew, a message of love written with a biplane in the sky, the clenched fist of anger and frustration, or even a lunch with an attitude. This topic is wide-open and I can’t wait to see what you do with it. Have fun!
I am oh so grateful for my daughter Chaitanya. She was born on September 14, 1977 so today is her 37th birthday! I feel so blessed to have her in my life.
Chaitanya has always lived life fully, whether it be playing with her friends, participating in drill team, running track or doing the many other activities she enjoyed during her childhood and teenage years.
Sreejit, Chaitanya, and dad
She and her brother Sreejit have a very special relationship. The pictures below give just a tiny glimpse into their life together!
Best of friends
Chaitanya went to India for the first time in 1993. She felt so at home in that country, especially at Amma’s ashram. Over the next few years, she visited the ashram several times. On her 21st birthday she decided to move to India on a permanent basis, choosing to dedicate her life to supporting Amma’s humanitarian work. For many years, she has overseen the work at the cafe and canteen that serves Western food to ashram residents and visitors.
Chaitanya and her husband Akshay met at the ashram and have been together since she turned 28. They have so much in common and are blessed to have each other.
Her dad and I, of course, also have many memories of special times with her.
When she was a young adolescent, Chaitanya loved watching old Broadway musicals, especially if Gene Kelly was involved. Over the years, she created numerous short plays of her own. Since 2009, however, she has written and directed hour-long musicals every year. The plays are performed on Christmas eve in Amritapuri. I recently wrote a post about one of them.
Below you will find the mp3 and lyrics for two of my favorite play songs; the first is from God is Able and the second is from A Guiding Light.
One segment of God is Able is about Rachel, the woman who was healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ garment. Rachel had been sick from childhood. The first words on the recording are from the mother, responding to Rachel’s concern that she (Rachel) is such a burden. Rachel then responds to her mother’s comments by singing this beautiful tune. I still cry when I hear it, especially if I’m also watching the play DVD.
Mama you’ve given your whole existence To serving this child plagued with illness You look exhausted, your face full of strain It’s I who should be easing all of your pain.
If I had strength in this body of mine I’d cook and I’d clean till the walls began to shine I’d put your feet up, tea in your hand Let you enjoy the life God has given
This may be a fantasy, an impractical dream I just long to return the love you’ve shown to me I’ve known there’s no cure a doctor can give Only a higher power can change what’s been destined.
I pray to you dear God, if it’s your will from above Give me the strength to overcome. There’s nothing I want more than to ease her weary soul To serve her is all I’m asking for.
One part of A Guiding Light is about the three wise men who traveled to Judea to honor Jesus at the time of his birth. This song takes place at the beginning of that journey. (I recorded this song from the play DVD, using the voice recorder on my phone, so the sound certainly isn’t ideal, but it works!)
Wise men together:
High in the sky a star shines bright Through unfamiliar paths it will be my guiding light A journey I will make to a far off land That I may greet God in the form of man
Wise man 1:
I shall bring to him this gift of gold Treasure that never fades nor grows old Gold represents his earthly kingship In Righteousness he’ll rule, with love and virtue
Wise man 2: I shall bring to him sweet Frankincense These simple sticks hold great significance They symbolize his priestly role in life A burning offering of love and sacrifice
Wise man 3: I will take this bottle of embalming oil Though his body’s born, his soul is immortal He is beyond both Birth and Death Yet if he resides on earth life is surely blessed
Wise men together:
Yet if he resides on earth life is surely blessed
I am so proud of you Chaitanya. You have grown into a remarkable, adult woman whose strength, talent and wisdom I admire greatly. Happy Birthday!