I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Back home, recovering from travel

Norma Jean, PJ, and me
At the celebration of PJ's life, the slide show of pictures of PJ's 63 years also included a few where Norma Jean and I were included. This one brought back memories of an Easter Sunday when we were in southern California visiting our paternal grandmother and Daddy's older brother and sister-in-law. Mama made our sweaters and probably our dresses too. PJ was born in March, so she was either two or three (I think two), Norma Jean seven, and me nine and looking to be right at the end of childhood's journey. All gangly and awkward.

It's painful to think of Mama working so hard to have us look so perfectly turned out, because it meant, in my memory, that she was anxious and requiring her children to be impeccable, and I was anything but. Daddy took the picture using his camera and Kodachrome, which he probably didn't develop himself. He was a bit of a camera buff, and when we were growing up he had his own darkroom for developing his black-and-white pictures. I remember once when he let me stay inside in the darkroom during the development process. The smell of the chemicals was very strong, and I was careful not to disturb anything. Maybe Daddy hoped I would want to become a photographer.

Not long after that, I was given my first camera, a Brownie, which used 127 film and advanced the film by turning a knob on the top of the camera. If you didn't advance it, the camera would simply take another image on top of the previous one. I ended up taking quite a few pictures with that camera and wonder where they all ended up. I don't think any of them have survived. Of course, it was partly because we were a military family and moved every few years for most of the time I was growing up. One period, when Daddy was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in Fairfield, California, we stayed for quite a few years. PJ was born there, and this picture is from that time period.

In many ways I wish I had taken up photography at that time, because then I would have preserved many memories that are simply gone forever. When I look at that picture, I can remember that back yard and the time we spent there, even though it's more than half a century ago. Now that everything is digital, and film has gone the way of the horse and buggy, I have plenty of pictures. Not many of them are ever printed, but I could if I wanted. I've got numerous albums on my computer, some filled with old scanned pictures from the past, and many taken since we moved here, six years ago.

How quickly time passes. It's been six years since I retired from my job, and I culled my belongings, getting rid of much of the detritus of everyday life that I felt I no longer needed. This is a habit I developed as I was growing up, knowing that when we would move to a new location, I would only be able to take a small part of my previous life along with me. Some people are born and grow up in one place, and I can only imagine what that would be like.

When my father retired from the Air Force, the family moved to Fort Worth and bought a home on Lake Worth. My three youngest siblings all had the advantage of growing up in one place, while the three older ones didn't. They were all young enough to start school there, and they had the same childhood friends throughout their entire lives. I can hardly imagine it, and they are my siblings.

Some of PJ's childhood friends were present at the celebration of her life. They were strangers to me, because I had left home before Mama and Daddy had moved into their lake home. Of course I visited, and once when I was experiencing a particularly bad time in my life, I lived in Fort Worth for several months and even got a job in a downtown office. I remember that I was required to wear dresses, no pantsuit allowed, along with  heels and hose every day. My brother and his friend Victor and I decided to take evening karate classes during this time, and Victor, who came to PJ's memorial, reminded me of that time. It must have meant a great deal to him; I had completely forgotten it until he mentioned it.

As I sit here in the dark, partner asleep next to me, laptop throwing light into the room, I think back over the past few weeks. When I decided to travel to Florida for a ten-day vacation, I had no idea what would really transpire during that time. I was sitting here in this bed at this same time two weeks ago when the phone rang, and it was Norma Jean telling me that PJ had died. Last Sunday when I wrote my post, I was in Buz's home and we had gathered the day before to say goodbye to my sister PJ. Now I am back in my own environment, one that is familiar and reassuring, and the past week is beginning to fade.

With all the turmoil, I caught a cold and am recovering. My sore throat is beginning to let up a little, and the sneezing and coughing are at a minimum. I slept last night without taking any cold medication and think I've turned the corner. Although I am still not completely well, I am taking good care of myself; my diet is back to normal and all my favorite foods are in the fridge, thanks to Smart Guy. By this time next week, when I'm hopefully sitting here writing, the cold should be a memory along with all that has transpired in the past few weeks.

Until then, please take care of yourselves, and I'll do the same, I promise. And don't forget to give your loved ones a hug, or a phone call, because you just never know...


Anonymous said...

Your mother must have been a talented seamstress, as those sweaters and dresses are adorable. I could never make such things. Lol. I have lived in Hawaii most of my life, except for the 7 years I spent traveling the world. I wish I had taken and kept more photos.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Always a pleasure to read your blog and see what you've been up to. Sounds like you had a good trip, except, of course, for the cold. Hope your recovery is speedy. What a coincidence ... can you believe I also lived in Fort Worth? How did you like it? I loved it at the time but would not want to go back there now, at least not permanently, because I simply can't stand the summer heat. Yes, I know, they AC but it's just not the same as our wonderful summers up here. Thanks for keeping an eye on my blog and your kind comments. Take care and get well soon. John

Linda Reeder said...

I love the old photo. Photos like that evoke such memories, and you have had two weeks full of memories. It will be good to get back to living in the present.
Take care.

Elephant's Child said...

Hugs and love. I am very, very glad to hear that your cold is leaving. And that you are taking care of your important self.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Glad you are recovering from your travel, both emotionally and physically. I love the photo and its colors. When my dad switched to color, he used slide film. Which meant, of course, that it was a big production to look at them. Wonder where they are now. Those dresses are especially lovely; I had a couple that I could wear to church and then I had to change into play clothes. Like you, if we were visiting someone, we didn't have much fun because we had to protect our clothes.

Cynthia said...

Sweet memories to be treasured. Those are beautiful sweaters your mom made for her three little girls. Glad you are getting well, and comfortable back at home.

Linda Myers said...

I, too, was a military brat. Friends made and moved away from, houses associated with what grade I was in school. When I was 49 I moved into my 49th residence. I am still there, and it is a good thing.

Deb Shucka said...

I'm so glad you're home safe and sound. I love the picture at the top and hope that and all the other memories you shared here help move you through these days of grieving with grace. Sending you a big hug through the ozone.

Arkansas Patti said...

Just catching up here. What a shock to lose a younger sibling but glad you got to go to the memorial. She really was the baby and adorable.
We traveled a bunch also, 9 different schools. Like you, I never got to find out how anyone turned out but it really opens up a persons world.

Gigi said...

Your mother was an amazing seamstress! Those outfits were so cute.

Glad to know that you are back home, safe and sound. Hope you are feeling better soon.

Sally Wessely said...

I loved your photo of the three of you. It certainly caused me to recall many such photos from my childhood. Like your mother, my mother labored to make our outfits also. I did likewise with my children.

I have so many old photos. I've moved relatively little in my life. I do think the old photos evoke so many deep memories for us, but do others really care in family? I don't know.

I'm glad you are home, but sorry you are sick. Take care of yourself. Don't let this stuff get ahold of you.

Red said...

Memorials can bring back many good memories. I like your story of the Easter celebration.
I have lived in the same house since 1971. I have accumulated too much stuff. Until I moved here I hadn't collected much.
Get better soon.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I enjoyed the old photo and your memories of that time a long time ago.
I am glad you are feeling better. Now that you are feeling better you can get back to normal activities...I notice anything out of your routine is not a good thing for you. Take good care..it is snowing here again:)

amanda said...

I love when you share memories, DJan - your life is so interesting. Darkroom memories with your dad.. mandatory heels mixed with karate lessons.
My mom was one of 10 children (spanning 22 years) & their family moved a lot. It was always interesting to me that some of my aunts & uncles were ok with this, and some of them spoke of it with resentment. I grew up in one place all my life, so I don't know how I would have felt.
Wishing you continued recovery from your cold, and all of the commotion in your life these past couple of weeks.
I stopped to visit my mom & dad this evening.. good advice.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, it's true, what you say at the end of your post, that "we just never know." Because of that sentiment, Mom always insisted that no matter what had happened the day or night before or in the morning after we rose, we were all to kiss one another good-bye before we went out into the world--to school or work. And that kiss became a sort of benediction between the four of us--Mom, Dad, my brother, and me. It resolved any ill will we might feel. It was both Benediction and Absolution. Thank you for bringing this lovely memory back to me just as your photograph brought back so many memories to you. Peace.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Yes memories are filling up my own head as I recall the sewing and knitting of family members and myself. Glad as you sit back at home you are able to feel some relief.And yes we must hug those dear ones often. One never knows.

Friko said...

You just never know, how true that is.

he old photos just didn’t last did they? The ones I have left are so different from anything taken nowadays, drab and dark, with people with serious faces or portrait studies. I have thrown many away.

PJ will live in your heart. It’s sad when someone so young dies.

You have Smart Guy and your comfortable home and many friends. You are fortunate.

Arkansas Patti said...

Just a note about the earache. I found heat really helped me and it couldn't hurt. Rice tied in a tube sock then microwaved for two minutes was what I used. Sure hope that clears up for you.

Glenda Beall said...

DJan, thanks for commenting on my blog. This post is poignant and makes me thing of my own sisters and those days when we had to dress up for every occasion. Photos like the one on this post can bring up wonderful memories for my writing students. We use photos all the time as prompts and they bring forth memories the writers had not thought of in years. Another great prompt for memories is smells from childhood. Spices or fruit like lemon, cause memories to swell up and pour out on the page. I know your heart is heavy with grief at this time and I wish I could reach out across the distance and give you a hug. Through your blog you have made fast friends who are sending their love.

Mel said...

I love that picture. Adorable.
I felt the same way about my mother's attempts to make us impeccable, perfect. It was a losing battle with me. Your mom was very talented. Your Dad too. And you? Taking karate in a time when women couldn't wear pants to work? Of course you did!

I love what you said about wishing you had more photos to fill in the holes in your memory, I have that wish too often.

I'm glad your sister's memorial was a good one, and hope you are healing from both your grief and your cold. Take care.

CiCi said...

You and I learned the same lessons growing up. Don't get attached to things and be ready to move often. One time I tried to count the moves and truly it is over 100 times I have moved in my life. LIke you, I cannot imagine living in one home and staying in one place. I like that you are hoping the very cold days will be over in a week.

Stella Jones said...

Good advice D-Jan, especially to me today as I am going through a family crisis too. I think the photo is lovely and only emphasises to me how great it must be to have siblings.