Rings of Remembrance

Jewelry is one of my passions, and I especially love wearing jewelry that belonged to someone in my family because it connects me to them in such a tangible way. For a long time I wore two slender gold wedding bands on the middle finger of my right hand - they belonged to my mother in law and my aunt, and each morning when I slipped them on my finger I gave these two women a tender thought. In June of 2011, I took the rings off and put them into a heart shaped box I keep in my nightstand - it seemed like time to move on, to let them rest quietly in my memory without that daily nudge against my heartstrings. This month I’ve been wearing my grandmother’s pearl ring on my right hand, because April is both the month of her birth and the month of her wedding anniversary. My grandfather bought the ring for her birthday, and although I can’t remember which birthday, I wonder if it might have been her 60th. I was old enough to recall going along on the shopping trip he took with my mother to pick it out. If she were turning 60, then I would have been 11 years old, and that seems to fit with the physical memory I have of myself in the jewelry store with my mom and my Granddad.

Wearing my grandmother’s ring this month has given me a chance to reflect on how important she was to me - how important both my grandparents were in my life.  They lived with us for most of my childhood, and became my de facto baby sitters and playmates. My grandmother spent most of her time in the kitchen, but she would always stop what she was doing, wipe her floury hands on the cotton apron she wore over her housedress, and take the book I had proffered to our favorite chair where we would cuddle and read for as long as I liked. My grandfather took me on daily walks through the woods where we imagined elaborate games of hunting wildlife, me carrying my little plastic Winchester cap rifle, our cocker spaniel trotting happily ahead with nose to the ground.

She taught me to sing - the hymns she once played on the piano at the Baptist church in their hometown. He taught me to play poker and hold that toy rifle steady. Fifty years later, those memories bring back a feeling of contentment, of being loved and valued.

I was luckier than most children in those days, and certainly luckier than most children nowadays, who more often than not have grandparents in different states or even different countries. My own grandson is one of those, and when I feel badly that we live 1500 miles away from him, I remember that his maternal grandparents live about 15,000 miles away in Thailand, and have never even seen him.

The other day I was out shopping with my friend when a Face Time call came in from her daughter and granddaughter in another time zone. The baby, an eight month old, looked seriously perplexed, staring at our faces in the little box on the phone screen. “All of these kids are going to grow up thinking their grandparents live in a tiny electronic box,” I joked. And while technology is a wonderful aid to see and hear in real time what the little ones are doing and how they are growing, sometimes those Skype and FaceTime calls reminds me of TV shows where people are visiting their family members in prison, talking to one another over a telephone, pressing fingertips and lips to the plexiglass screen that separates them.

It’s easy for me to have a personal pity party over the fact that I rarely see my grandson, that I can’t babysit for him while his mom and dad go out, that we won’t have many holiday traditions or regular sleepovers. But when I think about how much my grandparents taught me, how much I loved listening to their stories about life when they were children, what a close relationship we had based on the things we did together every day, then I realize that Connor and all the other little ones like him are missing something too.

Parents try so hard to give their children every advantage - the best schools, creative toys and playthings, access to every sport and enriching activity imaginable. In the modern world it’s easy to lose sight of other things that also important. Extended family can provide a quality of unconditional love and attention, a legacy of family history, a wise and calm perspective that is- well, in the words of the famous commercial - Priceless.

Each morning this month when I put my grandmother’s ring on my finger, I connect with all those wonderful memories I have of her and with what I know about her and my heritage. From her came my desire to play the piano, my understanding of the importance of books and reading. I don’t think I inherited her ability to bake (although admittedly I’ve not given it a fair shot) but I’m afraid my generalized anxiety and impatience are all hers!

I like knowing where all that stuff in me comes from. But I love having memories of the of hours, days, years, I spent in the company of my grandparents. Their love made me feel cherished in a way I’ve never felt since - as if I could do anything, as if I could do no wrong. It was a wonderful feeling.

Sometimes, when I put the pearl ring on my finger, I can still feel it. 

 How about you? Do you wear any jewelry that connects you with someone special in your family history?

Flash Point

Hot flashes. Power surges.

Hormonally induced temperature fluctuations.

Whatever you call them, they're not pleasant. I've been suffering with them for almost 10 years now, although in the past six months they've diminished quite a bit.

At least my hot flashes are predictable. For instance, I always have one when I first wake up, no matter what time it is. I always have one just after a hot bath.  I always have one when starting to drink my second cup of coffee in the morning. And I usually get at least one during handbell rehearsals.  All seeming to prove the theory that hot water, caffeine, and stress promote them.

However, I do not get them from drinking wine, which is purportedly another common trigger.

Something to be grateful for.

I've tried several different "natural" remedies - black cohosh, soy products, St. John's Wort - but nothing seemed very effective. My doctor has offered to prescribe HRT (hormone replacement therapy), but I've never wanted to use it because there are too many side effects with any kind of synthetic hormones. Besides, you never know what the long term effects might be.

Here's the oddest thing. When I was helping take care of my grandson just after he was born in November, I stopped having them all together. For about four weeks, I didn't have one single hot flash. But within a week of returning home they returned on their same predictable schedule.

 I'm wondering if just being around a baby - smelling his heavenly baby aroma, touching his tiny baby hands and feet, feeling the silky softness of his cheek against mine - could have inspired my tired old body to produce just one more little surge of estrogen, enough to prevent those hot flashes from making an appearance.
If so, that's all the more reason to spend more time cuddling baby Connor.
I wonder if my doctor would prescribe that for me?


Getting Ready

I'm getting ready for a trip here in a couple of days.  Heading out on a jet plane to one of the hottest spots in the nation right now. And I mean that literally.

Yes, we're on our way to Frisco, Texas, which, along with the rest of the greater Dallas area, has enjoyed a record breaking 37 days of temperatures over 100 degrees.

And we thought the hurricanes in Florida were bad.

What I'm wondering is, if my only child has to live 1500 miles away from home, why does it have to be in a place where the weather plays these ridiculous tricks on people? First it was Florida, with the ever present threat of being swept away by tidewaters and tropical winds. In Texas, apparently you run the risk of being roasted alive. That is, if you don't spontaneously combust from the drought. It's not bad enough that he drags me and his father into these places, now he's bringing my grandson into the world to live in extremis along with the rest of us.

But, like any red-blooded American mother, I goeth wheresoever my offspring goeth. So off I goeth to Frisco, and pray the power stays on.

Seriously, I think I'm part of a new breed of parent/grandparent. Like nomads, we wander around the world so that we can spend a few precious moments every now and again with our children and their children. Within my fairly limited social circle I have friends who travel to Missouri, Vermont, Santa Barbara, Phoenix, and Texas to visit their children. I suppose I should be thankful - one of my friends from work just welcomed her first grandchild in Norwich, England.  And of course, my daughter in law's poor parents live on the other side of the world, at least in terms of visiting this new grandson.

But don't get me wrong - I'm thankful that I have the ability to make the trip, and make it fairly frequently if I so desire.

After all, when you're getting ready to welcome a new grandson in the family, what's a little heat wave?