I have blogged several times about my Winnie The Pooh and the fact that we celebrate our birthday together every year. My mother made him from a 1960’s McCall’s pattern and gave him to me on my first birthday. He has seen me through every happy and every sad time in my life. It may sound strange that an almost fifty-year-old woman still has a stuffed teddy bear, but I can’t imagine my life without him.
Though Pooh has undoubtedly been scarred by some of the trials he has witnessed me going through, nothing could have been as devastating as his physical altercation with a Woozle, known to humans as a Black Labrador Retriever. I was not there to witness the carnage but I came home from work to the aftermath. The trail of foam that led upstairs to the discovery of Pooh’s ravaged face made me burst into tears. I was twenty-one years old and called my mother in hysterics because Pooh had been assaulted and he lay in pieces in front of me.
(circa 1992 – post surgery)
After some amateur plastic surgery, thanks to my Nana, Pooh had a new face and a new outlook on life. He had survived what was arguably his worst day and had come out on the other side. He now resides on a shelf above my bed. It’s not quite the one-hundred-acre wood he was accustomed to but he seems to have acclimated.
Last night, I watched the movie Christopher Robin starring Ewan McGregor. When Pooh asks how old he will be when Christopher Robin is one-hundred and Christopher Robin answers ninety-nine, the tears started. That is me and my Pooh. He came into my life on my first birthday and my mother knew my fondness for a silly old bear of very little brain would lead to a lasting relationship.
Pooh is my constant. Regardless of what life throws at me, he represents my past, he remains an ongoing part of my present and he will stand beside me going into my future. For being a bear of very little brain, his intelligence speaks volumes. He will forever have the wisdom to just sit back and listen.
Some realities are harder to accept than others. As I crest the hill of my fiftieth year and prepare to enter the next phase of my life, I have slowly come to grips with the fact that I can no longer read without glasses. I have not gone so far as to see an eye doctor for a prescription but that trip is inevitable. I purchased a pair of readers from our local apothecary shop and I have come to rely on them more than I care to admit. Without those readers, I liken myself to Schultz from the classic TV show Hogan’s Heroes, “I see nothing”.
This truth became much more apparent last night as I was enjoying my hobby of cake decorating. I had whipped up a batch of buttercream icing, iced the cupcakes and small cutting cake and began the more tedious work of creating the decorations. As I got involved in the intricacies of the smaller parts, I realized I was squinting and couldn’t focus on what I was doing.
I had accepted that I needed glasses to read. I had made myself comfortable with the fact that those cheaters also made it easier to navigate what was on my screen as I spent countless hours at my laptop. What I had not prepared myself for was the fact that these glasses would insinuate themselves into every facet of my up-close life. As I tried to convince myself that my cheaters were not required to create the decorations I had been working on, I could feel lines being etched into my skin the more I scrunched my eyes to be able to see what I was doing.
Whether I like it or not, this is me at almost fifty. These glasses have found a comfortable spot at the end of my nose so I can see things up close and look over the rims to focus on anything beyond that. This is now my every day life. I have even purchased a second pair of cheaters to keep in my car should I forget to bring my glasses with me. With age comes understanding and with understanding comes preparation. One day I know for certain I will absolutely need glasses to find my glasses.
A child rarely considers the impact family dinners will have on their life. When I was younger, I never thought for a moment I would be in my fiftieth year and have to go back into the vault of my memories to conjure up images of my family enjoying a meal together. There are still days I struggle with the reality that both of my parents are gone. Yesterday was one of those days.
We were having a trivial discussion at work about meatloaf and meatloaf always makes me think about my mom. She made a killer meatloaf and every time she told me she was making one, I always asked her to make one for me. I am pretty proficient in the kitchen, but my meatloaf never, ever turns out to be as delicious as the one my mom made. Although she gave me the list of ingredients she used, there were no measurements so my end result is never as tasty as what she would produce. (I’m sure she did that on purpose and also left out one or two ingredients)
When I walked into the grocery store after work, I was almost certain that I would be trying, once again, to duplicate her recipe but other memories quickly sabotaged that idea and random ingredients found their way into my shopping basket. When I reached the cashier, I recognized all of the ingredients for my mom’s Hamburger Stroganoff.
Perhaps my brain will forever deny my taste buds any chance of my dinners tasting as good as the ones my parents used to make, but the way my house smelled last night disagrees with that rationale. I was fifteen again. I had just come home from school and the smell of Hamburger Stroganoff permeated the air. I could almost feel my parents’ presence in the kitchen. I could see my mom blush as my dad patted her on the bum, knowing that I caught that loving touch in my peripheral vision.
To say my dinner was satisfying doesn’t come close to what it was. My dinner last night transported me to a time when, even though things weren’t perfect, things were perfect. And though I will never be afforded the opportunity to ever again yell, “Hey Mom, what’s for dinner”, I can still try my best to make those meals that will freeze those moments in time, if only for a while.
The mere mention of the phrase ‘pen pal’ conjures memories of my public school classroom. Our entire class would be given time to compose letters to students in foreign countries and I can still see the younger version of myself with my tongue sticking out as I wrote because I was so focused on writing the perfect letter. There was an inherent joy about crafting a letter and sending it halfway around the world to a complete stranger. And there was a true feeling of elation receiving a letter in the mail in response to the words I had written.
I get to feel that sense of pleasure again. Our community has a wonderful program for local seniors and one of those programs is a pen pal group. Once I found out about this group, I knew I wanted to be a part of it and today I received a brief profile of my new pen pal. She loves reading, cooking, dogs and the same types of music I enjoy. She also enjoys writing. She and I are a match made in Heaven.
The time went by slowly as I waited for my work day to be over. I had already started writing three different versions of my first letter in my head, eager to introduce myself to my new pen pal. The walk with my dog was abbreviated and dinner was figuratively put on the back burner as I wielded my pen and put it to paper. It took a while for my thoughts to flow from pen to paper since I am so used to plugging away on my keyboard but, after a slight hesitation, the cascade of ideas began to gel into a thoughtful first letter.
For the first time in a long time, I will be stopping at the Post Office to buy stamps. I will put my first letter into an envelope and mail it to my pen pal and I will anxiously await the red flag on my mailbox to let me know that she has written back. To quote Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”.
It is interesting to see how my life has evolved over the last twenty-five years. I’m certainly not going to tout that I walked uphill to school both ways in the snow in bare feet but there are some long-forgotten truths about things that happened when we were surviving our impressionable years, some that our parents were oblivious to…..and for good reason. Back in the days when not wearing seat-belts and driving under the influence were almost socially acceptable, there were some essential unwritten rules shared by siblings and friends. The most important being – “Things that happen in your teenage years, stay in your teenage years”.
But, after the Earth had orbited the sun a sufficient number of times, I felt a little more comfortable regaling my parents with a few of the stories that happened in the good ol’ days since I had a nice cushion of “time gone by” and didn’t think I was eligible to be grounded anymore. The sealed records had been expunged, the statute of limitations had expired and I was ready to open the locked vault that contained the evidence of our teenage shenanigans.
Running with scissors would have been a much more acceptable behavior and a much easier tale to share over a cocktail or two but my folks took everything in stride, just like I knew they would. All things considered, after leaving a 19 and 15-year-old home alone while they went to Florida, they were not as shocked as I thought they would be to find out why the kitchen linoleum had tiny burn holes directly in front of the stove (it wasn’t the bacon) and why the giant satellite dish was perched at a precarious angle at the top of the steep hill behind our house.
My brother and I, for all intents and purposes, were respectful human beings and responsible kids. My parents knew our friends well and we were trusted to roam about town in our pimpin’ ride – the Pontiac Acadian. If I had to guess, I would say my brother had a Rum and Coke held firmly between his legs (maybe not so responsible) when the little blue car crested the hill. It was winter and the steep decline was more than treacherous. All of the defensive driving techniques my dad taught us could not have prevented the outcome of this evening. The momentum carried them down the hill and my brother strategically maneuvered the tiny car as it tipped on its side and wedged itself between a tree and a telephone pole at the bottom of the hill. My brother impressively “stuck the landing” and all of the occupants were completely unharmed. The car, that only weighed what felt like 100 pounds, was pushed out, righted and driven away with minimal damage.
(ours was a 4-door, but you get the idea)
After spilling the goods to my parents, a little bit at a time, they seemed unnerved. I always wondered if they had known these things all along and were just waiting for us to come clean. Was the omission of truth a lie? Were we terrible children for wanting to shield our parents from the horrors of the real world? Was it wrong to want to keep them in their safe little bubble? Only time will tell.
Now that they have both passed and have access to all of the details of our lives, my brother and I may eventually be in for a long overdue time-out when we are all together again.
There is a place in the woods where my heart is free,
and my mind has been known to roam.
There are four walls and a roof that wait for me,
and long for me to call it my home.
The mass of buildings and lanes of traffic
are replaced with hills and trees.
The soothing sounds of Mother Nature’s lullaby
truly put my mind at ease.
I am homesick for a place I’ve never seen,
a place where my heart is replete,
a home where my soul is understood
and a home where I feel genuinely complete.
The barren land beckons, the rolling earth lures,
I hear it calling my name.
I know when I finally find this haven
my life will never be the same.
I will shed the layers of the pretense I’ve lived
and genuinely feel at peace.
I will feel naked among the rocks and the trees,
and my life will have found a new lease.
There is a place in the woods where my heart is free,
and my mind has been known to roam.
I hope to one day discover this place,
and forever call it my home.