I know in my head that she is not in her apartment across town. The apartment sits empty waiting on new tenants. I know in my head that she has a new home, complete with a new husband and new adventures to look forward to as they begin their life together.
I know all of this. But still, sometimes I pretend. I pretend that she is still in her apartment across town. I pretend that she has been so busy lately with the two part-time jobs that she had until recently and hanging out with her friends at coffee shops that, well, she just has not been able to make it out to the home where she grew up, and where her mom and dad and youngest brother all still reside. It’s all good really.
And even when I am not pretending that she is in the apartment across town, it is still all good. I am very happy for her to be married to the man she loves and whom loves her abundantly. I rejoiced with her when her young man proposed. I was delighted to sit on the love seat in the dress shop, watching her try on wedding dresses, waiting to discover if she would find the right dress to say “yes” to. I was more than happy to hear the music she had selected to be played before her wedding ceremony and the piece that would be playing as she walked down the aisle toward her future, holding her daddy’s arm. I ordered the beautiful bright blue suede pumps that would adorn her feet under her once-in-a-lifetime dress. The blue suede shoes seeming like a perfect match to walking down the aisle to Elvis’ “I Can’t Help Falling in Love with You.” (My little girl never particularly cared for the traditional wedding march.)
Two days after the pretty-much-perfect-in-every-way wedding day, our daughter climbed into the passenger seat of her new husband’s loaded down GMC truck, pulling a trailer with her equally loaded down Nissan Altima, and off the two of them drove, out of the parking lot of the apartment building where she no longer lives and toward their new home a few states away. Her oldest brother, whose flight back to his life in another state, and her youngest brother and mom and dad, all waving bye for now.
So, I know in my head, and even in my heart, that she is not in the apartment across town. But just a week into this new stage of life, with a married daughter and all, the reality hits in new ways. Like when I walk into her old bedroom, where she stayed before the apartment across town, and where she also stayed the week before her wedding…and I see her old softball glove, the one her coach gave her when she was 10, lying next to the Ziploc sandwich bags containing all of the volleyball ribbons that signified team victories from her junior high and high school days. That’s when I realize anew, she is not in her apartment across town.

There is a golf ball in one of my kitchen drawers.  It’s in my kitchen towel drawer to be exact…the drawer to the left of the kitchen sink, at the end of the kitchen counter.  The golf ball is a Nike golf ball and it has been in that drawer for a long time…I mean for years.

Why is there a golf ball in my kitchen towel drawer?  Well, I don’t remember exactly how it got there originally.  It was either because I took it away from then-much-younger brothers who were playing with the golf ball in the house and I was pretty sure that if the indoor golf ball play continued, something was either going to get broken or someone was going to get hurt when one brother decided to throw it at another brother.  Or, it may have ended up there during a mad cleaning dash when guests were about to arrive at our home.

Both are plausible reasons why the Nike golf ball landed in the kitchen towel drawer.  But, as I mentioned earlier, the golf ball has been in that same drawer for a long time…for years.

Every once in a while, I pick the golf ball up as I place clean kitchen towels into the drawer.  I turn the ball over in my hand.  Then…I place the golf ball back into its designated space…in the kitchen towel drawer and I push the drawer handle until the drawer closes snugly.

The golf ball reminds me of young brothers, sometimes with sister included, running through our house… giggling, yelling, wrestling, chasing, being underfoot, getting scolded to take their play out of the kitchen where I might be busy cooking a meal or washing dishes or putting groceries away or talking on the phone.  The brothers, and sometimes sister, usually left the kitchen much as they entered…giggling, yelling, wrestling, or chasing.

Squeals and screams would come and go, into and out of our kitchen, throughout days and over months and years.  A door frame leading from our kitchen into the laundry room marks the heights of the brothers and the sister who passed through that kitchen.

The kitchen is quieter now…noisy conversations conducted by deeper voices descend upon it less frequently.  But, every now and again there still may be quick-paced footsteps heard in that kitchen, accompanied by giggles and yelling and even some chasing.

I treasured the kitchen traffic then…and I treasure it now.   And as a memorial…I keep a golf ball in my kitchen drawer.

I spoke with my dad on the phone last night.  He asked me if I remember the first time I drove on a Mother’s Day Sunday.  I thought back to my learning-to-drive days as a young teenager, but that was not the time frame he was remembering.  He began telling me a story that I’ve heard many times, but do actually remember parts of myself.

My dad reminisced about that Sunday morning long ago when he took me along to a little farm our family owned on a country highway, to cut some roses for my mother.  I accompanied him on the short trip, sitting next to him on the long bench-like front seat.  I was probably four-years-old.

When we arrived at the farm and turned into the graveled driveway, my dad decided that it would be easier and quicker work if he went and cut the flowers while I sat in the car.  I sure didn’t mind that because I would hold onto the steering wheel and pretend to drive while I watched him meander up the drive into the farm yard to retrieve the roses.

Evidently, on this Sunday morning, I decided that simply holding on to the large steering wheel wasn’t realistic enough pretending and I decided to grab the gear shift on the steering wheel column.  I moved the gear shift into neutral and the car that my dad had left in park began backing down the narrow driveway toward the highway.

My father heard the crunching sound of rubber tires rolling over gravel and looked up to see his black and white car with his four-year-old at the wheel moving away from him.  I was thrilled to have the car moving, never recognizing any danger whatsoever and then happy to see my daddy running to meet me.

Thankfully, the wheels on the car had been turned,  so the car was not going to roll too far and my daddy ran really fast I thought to get to me.  My dad stopped the car, opened the driver’s side door and scooped up his little girl.

I’m sure my dad breathed a sigh of relief and maybe even a prayer of thanks, but I was none the worse for wear; excited that I had gotten the car to move all by myself.

My father mentioned in our phone conversation that he doubted  I would remember, but often during my childhood years, he would take me along for the ride when he had to go somewhere.  But, I do remember.  I remember that some of my favorite times were sitting alongside my dad, riding in his Chrysler or Dodge sedan or later in his Jeep truck, running an errand for my mom or him going to check on some of his business matters.  It wasn’t that the errand missions were exciting.  Sometimes I would end up sitting in the passenger seat waiting on my dad to finish a conversation with one of his friends or business acquaintances, for what seemed like a short eternity to a kid.  But, that really didn’t bother me…it was a small price to pay to go riding with my dad.


It’s the day after Mother’s Day and thoughts about the mothers in my life still bounce about in my head.  Yesterday I went to church with my family and at the beginning of the service we watched a video of a man interviewing job candidates for a job with a list of requirements that no one human could ever fulfill.  Except… women all over the world carry out the tasks every day that were listed in the job description presented in the interviews.  These women are moms.  My eyes welled up with tears as the interviewer revealed to the multiple interviewees that the job description was for the job of “mom.”

I watched the video and thought about how I love being a mom…and I thought about my mom and my grandmothers who influenced my life so much.  I’m thankful for each one of them.

My maternal grandmother grew up in eastern Tennessee, the daughter of a farmer.  She worked hard all of her life.  There was not a physical task that she was afraid to undertake.  She didn’t have a lot of education.  Her handwriting was always hard for me to read.  But she knew a lot about a lot of things, like growing any kind of plant.  She had the greenest of green thumbs.  The yard around her house across the street from ours was full of all kinds of flowers and trees.  She could take a cutting from any plant, put it into the ground and it would grow at her command.  It was amazing to me, even as a child.  I did not inherit her green thumb.

My grandmother like to play ball with me when I was little.  She would throw a rubber ball and I would catch it and toss it back.  She was always up for buying a new large in diameter bouncy ball, that we would bounce back and forth.  A love for bouncing balls I did inherit.

My maternal grandmother liked a good April’s Fool prank.  I remember listening to her stories about pranks while lying beside her in bed after the lights in our house were turned out     for the night.  Her stories made me laugh.

This grandmother of mine loved music and liked doing the twist.  She taught me how to ride my bike and let me and my cousin stay up late at her house watching Elvis movies or westerns.  She loved her children and grandchildren, but didn’t always know how to express that love.  She was a simple woman who appreciated hard work and sitting outside on a big swing in the evening.

My paternal grandmother was also a native of eastern Tennessee.  She had a gentle southern Tennessee accent.  She was a baker of breads and cakes and sometimes when I smell sausage cooking the mornings, I feel as though I’m walking into her kitchen.  She took a lot of meals to many people in her community.  She could talk to anyone and was charming with her southern graces.

This grandmother was tall and loved wearing sandals.  I remember her taking me to feed the ducks at a small lake near her home.  She loved a good cup of coffee and visiting with my mom.  She adored my grandfather and he adored her right back.  The two of them taught me how to bowl and play golf.  She would let me spend hours and hours running through her shrubberies playing games with the neighbor boy who lived across the street.  She taught me how to play a game of rummy and let me teach her how to play crazy eights, though she would mention that I sometimes changed the rules a bit during the game.

She is what comes to my mind when I think of a southern lady.

And then there is my momma, the lady who most inspired me to want to be a momma myself.  My mom was and is a hard worker like her mother before her.  She can manage a budget with amazing capability.  When I was young, she typically wore pretty shirt dresses and nice shoes.  I used to think that when I became a mom, I would have to trade in my favorite blue jeans and sneakers for shirt dresses and dress shoes.  Thankfully, times and styles changed and I have done ok mothering in my blue jeans and tennis shoes.

I have watched my mom do whatever she needed to do to care for her family.  She loves her children and grandchildren with the utmost loyalty.  She is proud of every one of them.

Moms can be amazing women and I am blessed to have watched three of those amazing moms up close.

There’s a puppy in my lap.  His name is Scout.  His sister, Darcy, is lying nearby on a blanket on our sectional.  Scout and Darcy are the dynamic brother and sister puppy duo who arrived at our home in January at the age of six weeks.  Now they are five months old.  They have grown so much from the little fluff balls they were when we first brought them home.

Scout and Darcy were part of a litter of pups that belonged to a friend of mine.  The momma, a terrier mix, and the daddy, a beautiful Brittany Spaniel, belong to my friend as well.  It was an unplanned pregnancy, but turned into a blessing for us all.

Our family had been searching for just the right puppy for almost a year, without success.  Then I heard about my friend’s litter of puppies, free to a good home.  Our family decided to take a look at them.

When four members of our family went to pick out one puppy to love, we picked out two.  We had just lost our much loved golden retriever, Ellie, and our dog-lonesome hearts decided that we needed two pups instead of one.  It was the right decision.

Puppies…they are a lot of work.  And puppies…they  bring a lot of joy.  Scout has a low-to-the-ground stocky body, the shape of his mother. He has a  white wiry coat with large brown spots, a terrier nose and beard, and floppy brown ears.  He has lots of brown freckles on his otherwise pink tummy.  Scout’s white paws are huge.

Darcy looks more like their Brittany Spaniel dad, only much daintier.  Her features are fine and her legs are long.  She has jet black, soft fur, except for the whitest white fur that interrupts her shiny black coat in places.  Her paws are dainty and small. Darcy has a lot of energy, whereas her brother,  Scout, is much more laid-back, an enjoyer of sitting quietly in our front yard watching a butterfly flutter by.

Darcy likes to run and run and run and run.  Scout likes to run and then sit…while Darcy continues to run and run circles around him.

Scout likes to wander off into the woods for a great explore.  Darcy likes to follow Scout.  They both have learned to accept the bath time that they need after a great explore into the woods, where they find all sort of smelly smells to adopt as their own and bring back home with them.

They both prefer to eat our cat’s weight management cat food to their premium brand puppy food.  They both like our cat, Chris (long story about the cat name).  Chris the cat tolerates the puppies, often with much hissing and spitting and tapping a pup’s head or nose.   But, Chris the cat has not scratched either of them…yet.

Scout likes to lick.  He seems to like to lick anything, but human limbs attached to his people’s bodies seem to be his favorite.  He especially likes to lick feet.  Darcy doesn’t lick as much as her brother.  She does like to stand on her hind legs and ask to be picked up.  She likes to be held and comforted, which is fine for now, but could be a problem if she gets much bigger.

Scout likes wearing a bow tie on his collar.  Darcy likes to look at Scout when he is wearing the bow tie on his collar.  Both of them could do a better job of coming when they are called and they still don’t let their people know every time they need to go outside before they go inside.  But, they love their people and their people love them.  That is why this morning, there’s a puppy in my lap.

When my third-born Jeffrey walked into his kindergarten class on his first day of school, I was a bit weepy.  I restrained the tears that were filling my heart until I had dropped him off and collected the small gift bag from his sweet new teacher, Mrs. Tiffany.  The bag contained a little poem, a pack of Kleenex and a tea bag for us moms to use when we got back to our homes while our little students stayed at the school.

Once back at home, the tears spilled out and ran down my cheeks. I sat in a recliner in my bedroom, surprised by all of the emotion.  I guess that I had wrongly assumed that it would not be as hard to take the third child to kindergarten.  After all, I had done this twice before.  But it was hard…another daytime  companion would be spending part of the day away from his mom.

My bout of sadness was interrupted by child number four.  He came into my room, walked over to the chair where I was sitting and announced that he wanted to learn to ride his bike…without the training wheels…right then.

So the weeping mom turned mechanic as I took the training wheels off the repainted, hand-me-down purple bike.  My three-year-old Timmy’s little legs could not touch the ground when he sat on the bike.  I wondered how he would ever be able to master the riding-without-training-wheels skill when the bike was so much bigger than he was.

We rolled the now-two-wheeler out to the edge of our cul-de-sac driveway and pointed the bike toward our garage.  I held the bike while he balanced on the seat.  If I let go, the bike would fall over and Timmy could not stop it.  So I began walking and pushing the bike and he began pedaling.  I let go of the bike and off he went.  I wondered how the ride would end, he could not just stop the bike and put his feet down, his feet didn’t reach the ground.  But my determined little boy did not stop the bike at the other end of the driveway, he simply bailed off the bike when it reached the end of the drive and let the bike roll into the grass.  Problem solved.

For the rest of the morning, I was busied by my three-year-old-turned-bike-rider.  Over and over again, I would balance him upon the seat at one end of the drive and he would pedal as fast as he could to the other end of the driveway and then jump off the bike.  He mastered riding the bike and dismounting by the end of the morning.  He mastered the bike; it did not master him.

I have watched my Timothy use this same determination to master other skills and challenges over the last many years.  He sets his goals and then works…he works hard.  He works hard at work and he works hard at play.  His determination and effort have served him well.  And with each accomplishment he has remained humble.  It has been a joy to watch him grow into the man version of the determined boy he has been all of his life.

This morning at a school assembly, I watched with admiration as Timothy received his congressional appointment to the Air Force Academy and was named valedictorian and a distinguished graduate of his senior class.  I thought about my little boy who was determined to ride that bike…and I was a bit weepy…and very proud.

I teach a preschool class at my church on Sunday mornings.  I have been with most of this same group of kids since they were two and could not yet form complete sentences when they spoke.  Now most of them are five.  They not only talk in complete sentences, but they talk in paragraph after paragraph…usually all at once…usually with my name, Mrs. Donna, interjected at the beginning of every new paragraph.  I try hard to listen to all they have to say every week.

When the class year was drawing to a close when they were two, I made the decision to move up with them to the three-year-old class.  My youngest son who helps me in the class moved up with me.  When the year was ending when they were three, I decided to move up with them to the four-year-old class.  My son moved up as well.

Now, most of the kids in the class have or are turning five.  They are very proud to announce that numerous times every Sunday morning.  Being five is a big deal.

When the time soon comes for them to move out of the preschool department to the grammar school age children’s department, I’m going with them.  I can’t help it…they stole my heart a couple of years ago, so I have to keep moving up with them.  When they graduate from high school, I will probably go live in a dormitory somewhere with them.  They all need to go to the same college.

Anyway, yesterday one of the little girls in the class, one of them that I have held in my arms on a lot of Sundays since she was two came in to the classroom.  We had not seen each other in a few weeks because I was gone and she was gone and yesterday, we were just happy to be together again.  I asked her about her T-ball season and what her favorite part of playing T-ball is…batting, of course…and we chatted about T-ball for a while.  Then she mentioned something about her dad and how he had cheered for THAT college team.  Her expression had changed from the excited talking-about-T-ball-expression that had just been on her face to a bummed-out look.

I was a little surprised that her dad cheered for this particular SEC college team because this little girl has worn a small-sized cheer-leading outfit for a rival SEC college team many times to church…that’s what we do in the south…at least in the SEC…at least in Alabama.

I listened quietly to her and then she looked at me with a piercing, questioning look and asked the question that we have avoided for the last three years, “Mrs. Donna are you a __________ fan?”…with the name of her favorite SEC college team filled in the blank.

I took a moment and gathered my courage.  Even after I had gathered all of the courage that I could gather as I looked into this five-year-old’s precious eyes, I only told her half the truth…the truth, but only half of it.  I told her that I had grown up in Arkansas and that since the time that I was the age that she is now I have been a Razorback fan.  Her face fell.  My face fell at her face falling.  I hoped that I had not permanently damaged our friendship.  I couldn’t bear to her that I am also a fan of that other school.

I tried to tell her about the calling-the-hogs-cheer that every Razorback fan knows, but her countenance remained a little disappointed.  My young friend was coming of age in Alabama…coming to the point of realization that some people you like and respect and even love “go” for the other team.

These kids and I have endured a lot together:  diapers, diaper bags, sippy cups, most episodes of VeggieTales, a lot of giggles and fun and some tears and missing mommies and daddies during the hours we have been together.  Just add this “coming of age” moment to the list.


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