Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Remembering My Second Mother

My former mother-in-law passed away last week.  She was nearly 89 years old.  I first met her when she was a young 41.  I was 21.  She became a role model for me.  More than that, she was a second mother.  I've not been an official member of her family for over thirty years, but our hearts were linked, so she continued to be a dear and important figure in my life.  I visited her when I could.  I loved her dearly.  This is my tribute to her.

Nearly fifty years ago I met her.
I don't even remember our first meeting.
It must have been not long after I met her son.
Was it when her son took me to his home where he lived with his parents after an early morning motorcycle ride or tennis game?
We worked nights together.
So, we would go on dates during the day.
Or, was it on a Sunday afternoon that I first went to the home of my former mother-in-law?
Time has taken the first memory of her away from me;
Time has preserved so many more memories.

Gloria Marie Christiansen was like a mother to me for a bit more than a decade and half.
The things she taught me remain forever in my heart and mind.

She was such a quiet, dignified lady.
Always proper,
she had a dry wit that would zing my mind and cause me laugh out loud.
When I first became a regular visitor to her home,
I felt so loud.
They were all so quiet.
She especially was soft spoken.
I am not quiet.
I am not soft spoken.
I am loud.
I doubt she, my former mother-in-law, ever raised her voice.
After my first born's birth, I told her that I could hear him crying louder 
than any of the other babies in the nursery. 
"Oh no, he will take after me,"
I thought.
She said, that it was normal to hear my child above all the other children.
She could always hear my baby's father's voice louder than any of the other kids on the block, she said.
Did we tune in to hear the voices and sounds of our own children over others?
Was this a mother's instinct?
I think she thought it was.

Later, she told me never to take up the side of your own child with another child's parent when the children were having disagreements.
"You never know what your own child did first," she told me.
That was wise advice.
I took it.
I followed it.
She followed this same advice when her son and I divorced.

In my mind, the image of her on the day her son and I were married 48 years ago is still very sharp.
We were engaged, but a wrench had been thrown in our plans for getting married when my former husband received orders to report to boot camp for the Army Reserves.
We knew the orders were coming, but didn't expect them so soon.
We went to talk to her about what to do.
Should we get married that day?
Should we  'elope' by walking across the street to the church to get married?
Could we find a church official to marry us on such short notice?
What time should we marry?
She just listened.
She didn't tell us what to do.
I see her sitting at the dining room table painting her nails as she talked with us.
Finally, she said,
" I wish I knew if we were going to have a wedding tonight or if I should start supper."
I guess that decided it.
We decided we would have a wedding.

The photo of so long ago is cracked and faded.
We all look so young.

Our quickly planned wedding was attended by just my mother-in-law and father-in-law,
and my sister-in-law and her husband.
I wore a quickly purchased dress.
My sister-in-law did my hair.
We walked across the street and were married.
We then all went out to dinner.

At our engagement dinner, she served liver.
I hated liver, but I ate it.
Actually, I could eat liver when she cooked it.

She taught me how to 
can fruit,
and make apricot syrup.

I think of some of her great recipes:
cracker pie,
potato salad,
a tuna casserole made with Bisquick.
I remember all those Sunday afternoons in the summer when we would eat homemade ice cream made from the abundance of raspberries that grew in the garden.

The summer I married her son, 
I had an apartment that my new husband never stayed in because he went off to boot camp.
I guess my mother-in-law thought I needed something to take up my time.
Not long after we were married, she delivered a basket of un-ironed, freshly washed shirts belonging to my husband to me.
I still smile at the memory.
I love that she did that.
Why should she iron them?
Now, that job was mine.

That summer, the summer of 1966 was a hot one.
I spent so many summer afternoons and evenings on the front steps of his parents' home that year.
His sister and I would eat the sour green apples that we covered in salt.
 The apples came from the tree in the backyard.
No doubt my mother-in-law had carefully picked a few good ones for us to eat as we talked with her late into the evening.
My sister-in-law was pregnant and craved green apples covered with salt.
Good times.

Those steps we sat on,
how many times did I sit on those steps with my mother-in-law and other family members and talk?
If we went over for a visit, she'd say, 
"Let's go outside where it's cooler."
Out we would go to sit on the steps and watch the happenings in the neighborhood.
We watched trees being planted,
children riding bikes,
folks walking to church meetings,
teenagers driving cars too fast,
and neighbors who were all a major part of her life.
She'd tell me stories about everyone on the block.
Not gossip, just good stories.
She told me stories of her life.
She was a great storyteller.
(Two of my grandchildren with their great grandparents on the front steps of their home. Parker is next to Grandma and Regan is on her lap.)

I also remember that she would sometimes go out for a walk.
She said she needed time to
"air out her brain."
I think of that statement so often when I walk and think about all I have to think about.

She 'adopted' the elderly neighbors next door who never had children.
She took care of them until they died.

She had a grace and wisdom about her that I've seldom known in others.
When I'd have a new baby, on the first visit to 'meet' the baby,
she'd bring gifts for the other children too.
I remember her bringing a lunch box filled with treats to my firstborn when she came to visit his new sister.  She didn't want him to feel left out.  He got his gift first.  

Her hands, her lovely hands, always carefully manicured by herself,
were busy, productive hands.
She crocheted many treasures.
She taught me to crochet, even though I never mastered it.
She taught me to quilt.
I never mastered that either.

Her home was always tidy as a pin.
Nothing was ever out of order.
The walls were adorned with keepsakes and photos of her family.
The couch would always have lovely pillows and crocheted throw blankets on it.
I'm sure she always made her bed.
She did have one little secret.
We would be at her house for dinner.  We'd eat.  Then it would be time to do the dishes.
That is when she would open the oven.
It would contain dirty dishes from earlier in the day.
I would always laugh.
I don't know if she ever had a dishwasher.
That is where I stash my dirty dishes.

My former mother-in-law was a wonderful grandmother.
I'm grateful my children had her in their lives.
She was a constant for them.
She loved to have them visit her.
She loved to make things special for them.
Sometimes, she would take my children to the movies.
First, they would go to her house to pop corn.
Then, they would get all of her old purses from the 'dress up' play box.
Then, they'd fill the purses with popcorn to eat at the movie.
It makes me smile to even write of those days.
She'd have them over for the day to learn a craft, bake cookies, or have a picnic.
There was a closet full of toys when the kids were younger.
There was a box of old clothes for playing dress up.
Each event that involved a grandchild or grandchild was a special event where she made little sandwiches, or had a special activity planned.
She made each child feel special.

My former mother-in-law, whom I always called "Mother,"
was the best mother-in-law anyone could ever have.
She never interfered in my life.
She was always kind and loving towards me.
She always showed me great respect and much love.

I joined the LDS (Mormon) Church just before I married into this woman's family.
I left the LDS (Mormon) Church while I was going through the divorce from her son.
She never showed or spoke judgement towards me.
She continued to show me the same love and acceptance she had always given me whenever I would go to visit her in the thirty plus years since I was a member of her family.

I will remember all those wonderful family gatherings I had at her home.
I will remember how we always went to Salt Lake City to shop when the men went deer hunting.
It was the big event of the year.
We called it Deer Shop.
She had started the tradition with her sister years ago.
It continues to this day, even though the guys no long go hunting.

I will remember many picnics,
river rafting trips,
camping trips,
fishing trips.
I will remember a woman who blessed my life beyond measure.

My Julie could have been her clone.
They looked so much alike.
Her prominent features are features I see in each of my own children.
This photo was taken of her with my girls just before Julie died.

Keicha, Grandma Chris, Julie, Amy

Her dry wit, her humor, her intelligence were gifts to all of us.
She could play by ear nearly instrument she picked up.
She wrote her school song many years ago.

Today, she was laid to rest.
Her funeral service was held in the exact same spot where I married her son 48 years ago.
All of my children were there.
Sadly, I could not make the trip due to other commitments.
As her dear husband remembers her,
and as others remember their dear mother, grandmother, aunt, great grandmother,
I too remember and honor her.

She was a
gracious woman.
She blessed my life, and the lives of my children and grandchildren in countless ways.
We all will miss her greatly.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The Little Country Wedding

My son and his beautiful bride were married during the middle week of June in Boulder, Utah.
It was the best wedding ever.
My son, the groom, was teary-eyed throughout it all.
The bride could not stop smiling.
The sheer joy emitted from these two will not soon be forgotten by any in attendance.

Ryan and Sheridan
A disclaimer is in order.
Photographer/participant do not go well together.
I wanted to take my own personal photos,
but mostly, I wanted to just enjoy the moment.
Also, I took so many photos, that I just might crash this blog by sharing them all.
Not only that, I just could not begin to capture the scope of this wedding.
It was in the country.
It was not "little."
No detail was missed to make this wedding perfect.
Some said it was like a Martha Stewart Wedding.
That is not correct.
A Martha Stewart Wedding would not have been as relaxed, joy filled, fun, and beautiful
as this wedding was.
Going to this wedding was like going to a great family reunion.
It wasn't just a wedding.
It was the event of the year for our family.

There was:
dress up clothes for
polaroid camera photos,
daily agendas,
fancy restaurant meals
cowboy boots,
cowboy hats,
fancy dresses,
a gourmet wedding supper
prepared by chefs written up in the New York Times,
Sunset Magazine, Fodors,
homemade ice cream
outstanding scenery,
a full moon, 
the coming together 
of two families,
The bride accompanied by her two sons

My son awaits his bride.
My son and his children.
Parker, Ryan, Bridger, Regan

There is more to come.  I just wanted to give you a small snapshot into it all before I fill you in on all the details.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Springtime Joy

To my dear blogging friends,

Thank you for all of your thoughtful and caring comments that you left on my last post.  I had hoped to respond individually to each and every comment, but since I've not yet accomplished writing back to you all, I'd just like to thank you for all the love and support you have always shown me as I have gone through my times of grief.  I honestly don't know what I would not done without all of you, your encouraging and thoughtful comments, and your friendship.  Blogging has meant so much to me.  My blogging friends are some of the best friends I've ever had.  Thank you again for your continuing love and support.

Dear blogging friends, that being said, you may wonder where I have been lately…

I have been out there enjoying life and living it to the fullest during the month of May.  I have not gotten around to visit you all, nor have I taken the time to blog about each joyous event that has filled my days in the past month.  I so admire those of you who are organized, productive, live life, garden, hike, participate in family events, and have full social events while you also manage to post daily, or weekly, about all you have been doing.  That trait is not one I seem to share.  I miss reading your blogs and keeping up with you, and letting you in on what I've been doing, but I don't have the same discipline.  Blogging gets fit in around the edges of my life.  Lately, it has been edged out.

We have had many joyous events during May of 2014 in our family.

  1. My oldest grandson by marriage, Jim's grandson, was married during the first week in May.  The marriage took place in Logan, Utah.  This meant that my hubby and I traveled by car to Utah for the wedding.  This also meant that we had some great family time with other family members in Utah.
    Here's the happy couple,
    Caleb and Rachel
  2. Caleb and Rachel's wedding happened to coincide with the my oldest grandson's Eagle Scout Court of Honor.  We live 500+ miles from four of my grandchildren who live in Utah.  That means I have missed a lot of events in their lives that I wish I could have attended.   I was so excited to be in town for this milestone.  I'm so proud of my first born grandson.  
    Parker's Eagle Scout Court of Honor
  3. A week after we returned home, we attended Caleb and Rachel's wedding reception in Colorado.  It was a great wedding reception that included time with family, great food, and lots of dancing. What fun.
  4. A week after that, I flew back to Colorado to attend grandson Parker's high school graduation.  This time, I was able to extend my trip.   This allowed me to spend lots of quality time with my children and grandchildren.  Parker made my day, when on the Saturday before graduation he sent me text asking if we could go to lunch together so we would have time to chat. I was thrilled.  *Warning:  Parker shaved his head the day before he asked me to lunch.  It was one of those crazy impulses that kids do to celebrate graduation.   
    Parker and Grandma Sally
    Graduation 2014
    He said he missed his hair.  I can relate.  Of course, I remember that the first time I ever saw him he had no hair. I thought he was one of the most beautiful treasures I had ever seen.  My mind has not changed.  He is still a beautiful treasure.  I continue marvel and adore this handsome grandson of mine. 

    Parker and Grandma Sally
    March 1996
    Parker is one day old.
    Where has the time gone?
  5. I flew home from Utah so I could join my husband in watching his oldest granddaughter graduate with honors from high school in a ceremony held at Red Rock Amphitheater in Denver.  It hailed, rained, and tornados touched down in Denver just before the ceremony, but the beautiful Daphne had only sunny skies as she walked across the stage to get her diploma. 
  6. About a week after I got home from Utah, my oldest daughter Keicha came for a visit with me.  She came to be with me and her sister during the anniversary date of her sister's, and my daughter's, death.  We had the most wonderful visit that included a wonderful day spent with my niece Michelle.  She and Keicha are cousins and best buds.  They love to be silly, laugh, and share the special bond they have.  I got to tag along with them for the day.  It was a very special day.  The visit with Keicha was just what this mama needed.  

Keicha and Michelle
May 2014
At the Broadmoor
Today, the skies have been cloudy, and grey.  We've had rain.  We've had tornado warnings.  I even had to put my warm winter pants and fleece jacket while I read the Sunday newspaper.  Not only that, I actually had to turn on the gas fireplace to take the chill off the house.

It has been a crazy spring here in Colorado.  Even the pastor at church today said that today was one of those days when he just wanted to stay in bed and sleep when he saw the weather when he woke up.  I understood what he meant.  I felt the same way when the alarm went off this morning.  I thought, It's Sunday.  It is 6:00 a.m.  I am retired.  It is cold. It is rainy.  I should just stay in bed.  But, I didn't.  Thankfully, I was able to hear an amazing sermon that helped to build my faith and filled my heart with peace and joy.  

After church, my husband took me to brunch at one of my favorite places, Patty Jewett Golf Club.  Today, Pikes Peak, shrouded in clouds, could not be seen from our table that allowed us to look out on the beautiful golf course,  but the great food and the atmosphere gave us an uplifted spirit.  I even saw an old friend from long ago who was having brunch with friends. We made promises to connect soon. I came home to  read the paper at a leisurely pace in my newly rearranged living room.  Here is a panoramic view that includes the dog's toys and the newspapers.  We live rather casually around here.
I went outside to water the two new trees and three new bushes we planted before the rain came.  I took another panoramic photo of the back view of the house.  You can barely see my husband in the right corner of the deck.  He is wearing a winter jacket.  Yes, it is still cold, but the storms that threatened earlier today passed over us and just brought us some rain.  

The days have been full and happy as I have spent time with family in May.  I've celebrated a wedding, an Eagle Scout Court of Honor, and two high school graduations.  That alone would make anyone feel happy and blessed. I hope to catch you up on the details later.  For now, I'm getting ready for the next big event in our family.

Later this week, we travel to Utah.  My son is getting married.

I'm so excited!  I can't wait to go to The Boulder Mountain Lodge in Southern Utah where the wedding will be held next Saturday.  I'll be taking a blog break from now until late next week.  I hope to catch up with all of you soon.