The Best Days of Your Life

OK… think.

And you won’t even have to think too hard.

In fact, don’t think hard at all.

Just tell me some of the best moments of your life…

And I’m gonna bet a couple of things.

First you will remember big events. Weddings, Births, Graduations, Funerals. Those are important, of course. But do they really make your heart sing? Upon closer inspection… maybe not.

For me, yesterday was one of the best days of my life. And the amazing thing is that I knew it even while it was happening. In this life, short as it is, that is progress I’m proud of. Check yesterday’s post for the Fun Fun Family Day at My House. It really was special (and ordinary) enough to go in the top ten memories of my entire life.

picnicSlide

The whole family sat out in the yard with the kids playing, the older ones chatting and loads of food groaning on the tables nearby. The littlest ones may never remember it all. But I will treasure it always. The most fabulous thing in the world is that it was an ordinary day that exemplifies your life as you know it.

So here we sat… shoes kicked off… moving our tables and chairs into the shade as the sun shifted… while the littlest girls ran willy-nilly all over the yard. They are our future, you know.

So they chased each other, ran under the trees and occasionally just fell to the ground in delight. Then someone would shout “Everybody HIDE!!!” And off the little girls would go.

Do I have to remind you what it is like to be 5 years old and under? I think not. So that’s where the fun starts… Little ones think if they aren’t looking right at you – you can’t see them! And when you actually see them doing it, you remember that time long ago when you did the very same thing!

The 5 year old ran into the trees. She knew she needed shelter.

The 3 year old found a dip in the yard and laid down in it. We could see her but she felt totally underground so it was a perfect hiding place.

The littlest one went on the far side of a big flower pot and crouched low. She shut her eyes just to be sure no one would be looking.

Mere hiding

AJ and Josey, the older grands, went on the search for them. Naturally they knew the game and respected how each little girl had hid. They were kind enough to call ahead and say they couldn’t see them. All of us adults were laughing like crazy as the game played out.

Honestly, what is more fun than a day like that? You’ve got a group of special loved ones gathered together, everyone is just hanging out and it’s a most extraordinary ordinary day. Exactly what I love the most! It’s the kind of day a soldier thinks of when he’s far from home. Or a child who has rebelled and wants that family contact once again. It’s the very thing that was so ordinary you barely noticed when it happened – and now it is the most important thing in the world. Diamonds and rubies can’t buy it – you just had to be there. And we all have been if we think back…

And you know what made me realize that? An old article in Reader’s Digest originally published in 1949. It’s called “The Day We Flew the Kites” and I’m going to reprint it for you here. It takes just a few minutes to read and it says it all.

The Day We Flew the Kites

by Frances Fowler

“String!” shouted Brother, bursting into the kitchen. “We need lots more string.”

It was Saturday. As always, it was a busy one, for “Six days shalt thou labor and do all thy work” was taken seriously then. Outside, Father and Mr. Patrick next door were doing chores.

Inside the two houses, Mother and Mrs. Patrick were engaged in spring cleaning. Such a windy March day was ideal for “turning out” clothes closets. Already woolens flapped on backyard clotheslines.

Somehow the boys had slipped away to the back lot with their kites. Now, even at the risk of having Brother impounded to beat carpets, they had sent him for more string. Apparently there was no limit to the heights to which kites would soar today.

My mother looked out the window. They sky was piercingly blue: the breeze fresh and exciting. Up in all that blueness sailed puffy billows of clouds. It had been a long, hard winter, but today was Spring.

Mother looked at the sitting room, its furniture disordered for a Spartan sweeping. Again her eyes wavered toward the window. “Come on, girls! Let’s take string to the boys and watch them fly the kites a minute.” On the way we met Mrs. Patrick, laughing guiltily, escorted by her girls.

There never was such a day for flying kites! God doesn’t make two such days in a century. We played all our fresh twine into the boys’ kites and still they soared. We could hardly distinguish the tiny, orange-colored specks. Now and then we slowly reeled it on in, finally bringing it dipping and tugging to earth, for the sheer joy of sending it up again. What a thrill to run with them, to the right, to the left, and see our poor, earth-bound movements reflected minutes later in the majestic sky-dance of the kites! We wrote wishes on slips of paper and slipped them over the string. Slowly, irresistibly, they climbed up until they reached the kites. Surely all such wishes would be granted!

Even our fathers dropped hoe and hammer and joined us. Our mothers took their turn, laughing like school girls. Their hair blew out of their pompadours and curled loose about their cheeks; their gingham aprons whipped about their legs. Mingled with our fun was something akin to awe. The grown-ups were really playing with us! Once I looked at Mother and thought she looked actually pretty. And her over forty!

KitesWe never knew where the hours went on that hilltop day. There were no hours, just a golden breezy Now. I think we were all a little beyond ourselves. Parents forgot their duty and their dignity; children forgot their combativeness and small spites. “Perhaps it’s like this in the Kingdom of Heaven,” I thought confusedly.

It was growing dark before, drunk with sun and air, we all stumbled sleepily back to the houses. I suppose we had some sort of supper. I suppose there must have been a surface tidying-up, for the house on Sunday looked decorous enough.

The strange thing was, we didn’t mention that day afterward. I felt a little embarrassed, Surely none of the others had thrilled to it as deeply as I. I locked the memory up in that deepest part of me where we keep “the things that cannot be and yet are.”

The years went on, then one day I was scurrying about my own kitchen in a city apartment, trying to get some work out of the way while my three-year-old insistently cried her desire to “go park and see ducks.”

“I can’t go!,” I said. “I have this and this to do and when I’m through I’ll be too tired to walk that far.”

My mother, who was visiting us, looked up from the peas she was shelling. “It’s a wonderful day,” she offered; “really warm, yet there’s a fine, fresh breeze. It reminds me of that day we flew the kites.”

I stopped in my dash between stove and sink. The locked door flew open, and with it a gush of memories. I pulled off my apron. “Come on,” I told my little girl. “You’re right, it’s too good a day to miss.”

Another decade passed. We were in the aftermath of a great war. All evening we had been asking our returned soldier, the youngest Patrick boy, about his experiences as a prisoner of war. He had talked freely, but now for a long time he had been silent. What was he thinking of–what dark and dreadful things?

“Say!” A smile twitched his lips. “Do you remember… no, of course you wouldn’t. It probably didn’t make the impression on you it did on me.”

I hardly dared speak. “Remember what?”

“I used to think of that day a lot in PW camp, when things weren’t too good. Do you remember the day we flew the kites?”

Winter came, and the sad duty of a call of condolence on Mrs. Patrick, recently widowed. I dreaded the call. I couldn’t imagine how Mrs. Patrick would face life alone.

We talked a little of my family and her grandchildren and the changes in the town. Then she was silent, looking down at her lap. I cleared my throat. Now I must say something about her loss, and she would begin to cry.

When she looked up, Mrs. Patrick was smiling. “I was just sitting here thinking,” she said. “Henry had such fun that day. Frances, do you remember the day we flew the kites?”

by Frances Fowler
Copyright 1949 by the Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.

I originally read this article many years ago and was touched by the beauty and simplicity of it. And I wasn’t nearly the age I am now. I am not ancient by any means, but I’m sure getting old enough to be aware of my own mortality. I know when one of those very special days comes along. I treasure them and store them up in my memory bank for later because who can know what will happen as we go along the older path of life? I want every fond memory at my beck and call and yesterday was a treasure trove of them.

By the way…

I usually put a link to these sketch blog posts on FaceBook so my friends and family will see them and read them. And all my contacts are kind enough to make a FB comment or two along the way. But this time… if you will humor me, please comment right here on the blog. (And if you want to “follow” me, there is a link on the right side of the blog here – which just means you will get an email whenever I make a new post.) What are your favorite memories?

We all really need to know. It is our gold mine to draw on when we have little else left. I know what mine are… do you? Tell me now!!!

 

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Fun Fun Family Day at My House!

Every once in a while the stars line up and you hold your mouth just right and a fantastic day happens.

Today was that day!

I’ve written before about my former mother-in-law, Betty Jean, here. She recently passed away and we are missing her terribly but we decided to have a get-together just to all enjoy each other’s company. I had done a colored pencil portrait of Betty years ago and it was sitting in a folder in my office, so I got it out and had it framed for my (former) father-in-law. (And as a side note, I’m going to stop saying “former” right now because I’ve stayed close to my married family all along.)

So today was D-Day… Daubenmire Day… at my house. And like I said, I held my mouth just right and it was a gorgeous day with NO RAIN. A minor miracle this summer in Ohio.

Now I learned a few choice recipes from Betty over the years, so that’s what I made for lunch today. You might call them ‘sloppy joes’ but Betty always called them Spanish Hamburgers. And nary a work day or moving day ever went by that Betty didn’t show up with a crockpot full of them. Served on big fat hamburger buns with lots of dill pickles, of course. And Lay’s Potato Chips. I made more than we could possibly eat so no one would go hungry.

Side dishes? Fresh green beans cooked in chicken stock with some diced potatoes and corn cut right off the cob. Yum. I even threw in a can of kidney beans for a little flair. And then a great big dish of mac and cheese for the picky kids. Always a crowd-pleaser. On the fresh-food front was a salad of tomatoes, cucumber and red onion. Which we polished off after devouring a platter of taco dip with tortilla chips.

Thanks to Kroger Bakery we had a huge Chocolate Chip Cake, a Pineapple Upside Down Cake, some powdered donuts and a tray of mini cupcakes. All of which disappeared in no time. Makes it easier to clean up, doncha think?

And if I’m not mistaken, my brother-in-law Mike was humming while he ate. “This is the same food Mom always cooked,” he exclaimed. Ummm… duh… that was the point! I’m glad it worked!

Dozens of cans of Diet Coke, Sweet Tea and Sparkling Water kept everyone cool for the afternoon. And boy did the little girls have fun in that tub of ice! Thankfully all the moms and dads are pretty laid back and just snapped photos while the little girls drenched themselves and splashed away.

I wish you could all have been here… it was that fun!

Sooo….

We started off by giving my father-in-law, Bill, the portrait of Betty. Naturally that was a tear-jerker, but we expected that. You can’t live a good life without shedding a few tears, so we cry and then we laugh. It’s all good.

Bill & Starr Betty portrait2

I LOVE my father-in-law. He’s been a real father to me for most of my life (which means I am a fortunate person to have had TWO wonderful dads!) and I treasure him. He turned 88 last week and I hope he’s around for a good long time. Here he is with his youngest son Mike, who drove him to my house today…

Mike and Dad

Then… everyone else at the party today was the offspring of either me or my sister-in-law, Becky. Here we are with her new grandbaby, Mac (Macon William – after my FIL.)

Starr, Becky, Mac

My three kids (Bill, Brad & Ellyn) all came with their broods and Becky and her husband Mike brought the Patriarch, Bill and their daughter Amanda, who has Meredith (2) and Mac (4 weeks.) Becky’s son Michael couldn’t make it.

Now we don’t get together too often, so this was a special treat indeed. My two youngest grands, who I call “the little girls” hooked up with Meredith and had a blast. And even though I have a very small apartment, I have a pretty nice yard and they ran wild all afternoon. I can only hope they sleep good tonight!

OK, I’ll shut up and show you some pics…

This is my niece Amanda and her new babe

Amanda & Mac July 2015

This is my daughter Ellyn with niece Grace

Ellyn & Grace 2

Here is my oldest grand daughter Josey – the original Princess!

Jo Jo

And my first grandchild, AJ – who is 16 and is DRIVING!!! I can’t believe it!

AJ

Of course you must see one of the world’s cutest babies… Macon William – he is a precious chunk!

Gorgeous Mac!

We also had our “little girls” whose parents would rather not have their photos online. But what a delight it was to watch them run and play all afternoon! I’m old enough to know when to store up memories now and today was a day for that. To have my grands here… and my niece and her babes… and my in-laws who still claim me… I’m tellin’ you… life doesn’t get any better than that.

It’s been a long day but a very precious one. And I’m gonna have real sweet dreams tonight. The family came together… we had enough food for an army… everyone is healthy… and I love them all so much that I am just overflowing with gratitude.

All I can say is thanks for reading what I write here. And I hope you have such good days in store in your future. I’ll be in a nice warm family cocoon when I go to bed tonight. Thank you, Big Bill, Michael, Becky, Amanda, Bill, Brad, Ellyn, AJ and Josey for making me have such a wonderful day. I love you all.

Bill & Starr 3

PS… If you have a grand daughter named Josey you can’t say “sloppy joes” – it is “sloppy joseys!”

PPS… Remember to hold your mouth just right and your dreams might just come true!!!

Back to the Drawing Board

OK… back to the drawing board today.

Yesterday was a bust… art-wise.

Josey5I tried to draw Josey numerous times and not a single one looked anything like her!

What???

So I tried again today. It turned out a bit better. But not all that much. Not sure why, but I’ll keep trying. Meanwhile, here’s today’s effort.

Then, since I am realizing I am a very “rusty” artist and need to practice a whole lot more, I decided to do a sketch of my dad.

First let me say this…

I am 63 years old. And I still have my dad. He is 83. And he is in pretty good health! He lives in his own home, washes his car more times than I would ever dream of, and mows his yard umpteen times a year. In fact, he records his yard-mowing on his calendar. Has for years.

Now he’s a funny guy (which is where I get my own “funni-ness!”) so he writes “mode” on the calendar every time he cuts the grass. And believe me, he is thorough about it. One year he said he “mode” every month but February… in Ohio! I’m tellin’ ya, when you pull up to his house, it looks like he clipped the lawn with scissors.

But my daddy is not just a grass-cutting ninja in his golden years… he is a serious ninja from times past…

Take a look at this sketch I did of him today. DadSee those blue eyes?

Ha! I have those eyes. (And so do my sons and one of my grand daughters.) But we do not know how to use those eyes like he did!

Nope… his eyes were WEAPONS!

In my growin’ up years, he would turn those eyes on me and I would melt under his gaze. Had I done something I shouldn’t? Had I even thought about it?

If so, I would run screaming from the room and confess to all manner of sins committed or briefly considered.

Please, God, forgive me for even having such thoughts!

But that was the power of a good daddy in those days. He knew how to use his strength and I knew how to respect it. It made me a good girl. No matter what the temptation. (So for all those juicy boys I knew in high school… now you know why I was able to resist you! I was skeered to death of my papa! And now you know how to train your own daughters and grand daughters!)

Anyway… my daddy was also one heck of a musician. He played the mandolin. He taught my brother to play the guitar when he was a wee bit of a thing. And when we were young adults, my family had a band… The Pleasant Mountain Boys, from Lancaster Ohio. The core group of the band was my grand dad, Lawrence Featheroff, my dad, Ralph Tipton, and my brother, Larry Tipton. And over the years and various incarnations of the band, others joined them to play the most wonderful bluegrass, down-home music you ever heard in your life. They made a number of recordings and all of those who knew them at the time spent every weekend “following the band” to wherever they played.

My dad was known as “the Roadhog” – not sure why now. And all the guys had nicknames I can no longer recall. Isn’t that crazy? It really wasn’t all that long ago…

Meanwhile, I’m sketching my father today and recalling his talent and wishing him a very, very, very long life. His talent will always live on… and I hope mine does, too.

May you all have fond memories of your own families today of both times past and future!

Bad Day at the Drawing Board (but That’s Life!)

Remember that old Sinatra song, “That’s Life”??? It goes like this…

That’s life (that’s life), that’s what all the people say
You’re ridin’ high in April, shot down in May
But I know I’m gonna change that tune
When I’m back on top, back on top in June

Well, it isn’t May, yet, but I sure got shot down today.

At the drawing board, that is.

You see, I was wanting to do some sketches of my grand daughter Josey today. She is 14. She is beautiful. She is a love of my life. And I wanted to get her down in my sketch book again.

Because I have in the past…

Here’s a sketch from 2006 when she was about 5 or 6. It is in my very first everyday sketchbook when I started doing little drawings on a regular basis.

Josey 2006

Isn’t she the cutest?

Then a couple years ago, she fell off her bike and broke both her wrists! And yes, my gorgeous grand daughter is a monumental clutz. Always has been. From the time she could walk, she fell down as much as she went forward…

Josey arms

But oh how I love her! And what a delight it is to see her grow up – and mature – and torture her mother to death like her mother once tortured me! hahaha!

BUT… today has been a disastrous drawing day. I was able to make a couple quickie sketches of the Jo-bear that I liked. Here she is sitting in a booth at one of my brother’s restaurants… and by the pool when we went for an overnight adventure last December…

Josey sketches 2015

Then I tried to do a serious drawing to showcase her special look. It turned out terrible. Looked nothing like her. And I actually cut the first one right out of the book and threw it away. Surely I could do better the second time around….

Nope… second attempt was another disaster.

What? Did I really forget how to draw? I’ve been doing portraits for nigh on 30 years… what happened?

I don’t know, but I got out a pad of drawing paper and started going rogue freehand. Surely I can get a glimpse of my precious Josey that way. So here’s attempt #1…

Jo1

And attempt #2

Jo2

And attempt #3

Jo3

And attempt #4

Jo4

Now don’t even tell me what’s wrong with these drawings… some have fat cheeks, some have a too-big nose (her nose is long, but not BIG) and I don’t even know why I can’t get it to look like her!!!

Well call the squad because I’ve done lost my cotton-pickin’ mind. And I can’t remember how to draw.

So I cut out the photo I was working from and pasted it right in the dadgum sketchbook.

Josey failure

So there.

Pfttt…

I’m quitting drawing for the day and going to play Facebook games. How ’bout a little Farm Heroes or Pepper Panic or Candy Crush? How much skill does that take? Probably more than I have right now, but don’t call and check… I’ll be yelling BINGO!! when the blitz hits… I’m a failure at the drawing board today.

Hopefully I recover tomorrow.

Hey, I know – why don’t I just paint apples or petunias – nobody knows if those look like they really should!

Yeh, that’s it. I’ll go do fruit bowls and y’all will think I’m wonderful and won’t realize what a putz I am.

Ugh… back to the drawing board in a day or two.

Sorry Josey. You are so beautiful and I couldn’t do you justice. But I will soon… Love you bunches my precious one!

Everybody else, stay tuned. I’m just having a bad day – but why shouldn’t I post that as well?

As Frank Sinatra so eloquently serenaded… That’s Life…

And hopefully I’ll be back on top in June….

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