During the season of gifting I tend to reflect on shared offerings from the past. Mine seemed like an ordinary childhood but upon reflection it was probably unique. There were six of us living in a Philadelphia townhouse including Mother, Daddy, a brother, sister, Nana, and myself, the eldest of the three children. Our lives as children were never sheltered and we were able to access the city at will with public transportation. Concerts, museums, and library visits were just a bike ride or a token fare away. What a gift!
Essentially, Nana took care of the three children while my parents worked in the city. My mother was never interested in the daily grind of parenting. She was the ultimate music teacher. Nights around the dining room table became creative affairs making bulletin board projects or some other items for her classes. She was in her maximum comfort zone when performing on the piano. Many nights our entertainment was to sit on the piano bench with Mother and sing popular songs in harmony. Yes, and now, I, too, am a music teacher. What a gift!
Daddy was first in his family of coal miners to go to college, then to WWII, and, ultimately to work as an insurance adjuster with a large firm in Philadelphia. Army travel was not enough for him and he was proud that he visited all 50 states and more than 100 countries. He had a world map with flag pins designating the countries he visited. Oh yes, I have wanderlust ingrained in my blood too.
Nana was loving and doting although uncompromising with behavior expectations. No one wanted to disappoint Nana. I grew to be very tall and thin and difficult to fit even though I had a passion for clothes. As a trained tailor she would copy items from the newspaper that would catch my fancy so that I always had plenty of updated fashion. At one stage of my life, I designed and made all my clothes. As I sew, I can remember the many hours talking with her and her expectations for her extended family.
My siblings shared their individual talents as well. My sister, Evelyn, is a gutsy woman who won’t accept “no” as an option. Any problem has a solution. In her case she will devise a creative approach to any of life’s predicaments. She is always an inspiration.
Brother Dan always kidded with me that if I would read “how to” books like he does instead of novels I might be able to do more self fix-ups at home. He is able to devise Rube Goldberg-like solutions to life’s little bumps. At college he was able to turn the heat on from under the bed covers by pulling a string attached to the radiator. Later in Vietnam he befriended his Army pals by devising an outdoor shower using available scraps. Now I am getting more bold with fix-ups as I remember his advice.
My neighbor, friend, and sister-in-law, Pat, likes to work outdoors. Before I know it my leaves are raked, trash taken to the curb, flowers planted. My love of the outdoors is to hike into the solitude of the woods or mountain heights. Pat is always there in spirit as I plod along.
Closing the family circle is my husband, Ron, who can be described as the glue of any situation. He ran our household with quiet certainty so that I had time and energy to be creative. Although he was always very strong and healthy he developed ALS, Lou Gehrig’s disease, and died in my arms at home. I didn’t realize that would be the last time we would chat when he closed his eyes and I mentioned that I hadn’t seen him smile like that in a long time. When it became evident that he died, in retrospect, I felt it was a sign from God that all was well finally. This is a rare gift few people can experience and I am so thankful for his final gift.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.