Sunday, March 25, 2007

The heart of a little girl....backpacking in Pike County

I spent the weekend hiking in Southern Ohio with my son’s Boy Scout crew that will be going to Philmont. We hiked at Tar Hollow State Park on Saturday. We were fortunate to experience perfect backpacking/hiking weather…no rain, mild humidity and a slight breeze. Occasionally, the sun would peek through the clouds and warm our faces. It was a challenging hike (12.1 miles), but one our crew accomplished and did so very well. We are well on our way for being prepared for our trip out west. Personally, I need to do a little more cardio. I’ve made a promise to start doing more this week.

After the hike we drove about 60 miles back to my brother’s hunting cabin in Pike County. This place is near and dear to my heart for it once belonged to my beloved Grandfather, Smokey. I called him Grandad.

Grandad always wore a long sleeve shirt and a tie….even when working in the garden on a hot summer day or at the cabin during hunting season. Another one of his faithful accessories was a hat. These pictures are burned into my memory and the image that I conjure up when I think of him, which is often. He has been gone for over 20 years, but for the little girl’s heart…he left only yesterday.

Grandad sitting outside the cabin in Pike County....he's not wearing a tie!

There were three grandchildren growing up. We each had his heart in such different ways. Chris, my brother, was the only boy and the first grandchild. Therefore he was the hunter and shared the excursions to the cabin with him. I believe that he also healed the heart of a man that lost a son of eleven years old, six years earlier. My brother was his name sake, as is my son, Tucker. (Tucker was a nickname for Charles Christopher Clevenger, the man that would have been my uncle.)

I followed my brother a short 18 months later and my sister was 11 months after me. (I can feel what you are thinking right now). I was the one in the garden with him, learning about planting corn. “Four to a hole Sissy (that’s what he called me). One for the cut worm, one for the mole, one for the crow and one to grow.” I was the one that would spend the night at his house and he would give me a coffee canister full of pennies and ask me to wrap them. My reward was that I could keep half of them. (Nice profit margin)

But my sister was his favorite. He had a special place in his heart for her, the softest spot. He would sneak her treats (and only her) to her room and put them on her pillow, something that she only shared with me many years after he was gone. He would go out of his way just to make her feel special and important because she wasn’t like me or Chris. We were out going and boisterous and ready to conquer anything. She was meek and quiet and shy. He was drawn to her quietness in his own tranquil way.

So this weekend, I returned to his “hideaway”. The place where he went to just be with the boys. As a child, I went on the occasional trip to Pike County. But it was mostly for “The Boys”.

Back then, it was a rough frame house that was the home of many critters that you really wouldn’t want to share a space with. The only water was a hand pump (the pump is still there and still the only source of water) outside the house on the back patio. There was an outhouse and that’s all I will say about that…if you know what I mean. Typically the grass would be high and needing to be cut whenever you drove up. But the peacefulness of the little valley that the house sat in was like a little piece of heaven on earth. In 1997, they burned down the old house and rebuilt it.

I knew a little of what to expect since I have seen the photos of the changes. But I have not been there for close to 15 years. To say that I was apprehensive would be inaccurate, nervous, maybe and anxious to a degree. As we drove along Hackleshin, the scenery became familiar and I was seeing the same places through the eyes of a young girl going to Grandad’s cabin. Down there, time moves at less than a snail’s pace…unlike where I live today with immediate internet access, cell phone on my hip, cable TV…etc. In Pike County, there is no cell phone service, no TV and definitely no internet. OH MY…What’s a girl to do????

Now….you will find a two room cabin, with bunk beds for 10. The kitchen area has a microwave and apartment size frig. There are loads of lights, but no windows. Because sadly, a window is an easy way for a thief to break in.

Each bunk belongs to someone and is personalized to reflect that individual. Some bunks have small shelves with clock radios and photos. There are gun racks made of deer hoofs and favorite college team flags hanging on the walls. These beds tell the story of the man or boy that sleeps there and what is close to their heart.

Then outside….there is an outhouse. BUT…it has a light, exhaust fan and an air freshener (I laughed out loud when I spotted it) and an pseudo sink. Pseudo you say??? Well there’s a sink, but no running water. Once again, a source of laughter for me. My Oh My, how things have changed. The yard is well maintained with bird feeders scattered throughout and you can even spot an occasionally squirrel feeder. If you cross the bridge over the creek and walk up the path into the holler, you’ll find the deer feeders that Tucker talks about filling whenever he goes to Pike County.

As I sat by the fire ring and listened to the running water of the small stream that runs behind the cabin, my heart felt that Grandad would love what they have made here. It’s a place that my heart has yearned for and I didn’t even know it until I went back. The peaceful, quiet of that holler and the bright stars in the sky spoke to the little girl that still lives deep down in my soul.

That little girl stood back and watched her little boy come to life in a place that holds a special magic for her. A place filled with the magic of family, heritage, and tradition, but mostly filled with love.

I left there knowing that I have to go back. I need to hear the stories of Grandad from the men who knew him when he was there on “vacation”. The men that love him deeply to this day. My heart still aches for him and for Granny. They say you go on, but the heart never totally heals. I would have to agree, sometimes the ache I feel for them is the same as the day they left.

A few years ago, I opened my desk drawer (it was once Granny's) and discovered one of his old smoking pipes. Heaven only knows how long it had been there and why I still had it. As I reached for it, I wondered if it still smelled of his pipe tobacco. Naturally, I cupped it in my hands, drew it near my nose and inhaled deeply. I could still smell him and my mind drifted back to him sitting in his leather club chair watching CBS evening news, smoking his pipe. I keep that pipe tucked away in a baggie in my desk. When I think of him, I'll pull it out and smell it once again. Letting myself go back to those days and memories.

But maybe when I’m mushroom hunting this spring, I can remember him taking a little girl by the hand and leading her into the woods for the hunt. I’ll remember him standing in one spot and just staring at the ground. Inevitably, when I would follow his gaze, I would find the mushroom that he had been patiently targeting for me to find. Hopefully I will still feel the leap of my heart, like the leaping heart of a little girl that would scurry with glee to pluck that mushroom out of the ground and slip into Grandad’s bag. Then, I would smile, grab his hand signaling I was ready to go and walk until he stopped again.

Oh how my heart misses him.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Oooh that smell....

Can't you smell that smell?
Do you know the song I'm referring to by Lynyrd Skynyrd? Is the tune now in your head with the words circling around? (WELCOME TO MY WORLD OF TEENAGERS!!!)
"It's a Simple Kind of Man" is the music that plays when I'm waiting for him to answer his cell phone. What ever happened to a good ole fashion "ring". He listens to AC/DC too. I'm sorry, I am digressing. I just wanted to drag you into my world for a moment.
But seriously, I'm setting the stage for a recent conversation with the middle child, Tucker.
Right after school, he sits down at the kitchen table with me. This is not usual although we have a general conversation about the days events, any homework and what's on the agenda for the evening. He typically high tails it to his room to finish any homework he has so he can do the PS2 thing. So, this caught my attention almost immediately.
Tucker: "Mom, can I get contacts?"
Me: knowing that he is waiting for a "No"! "Sure, why not."
COMPLETE AND TOTAL SILENCE SINCE HE IS IN SHOCK. I'm seriously thinking I may have to give him a "flick" in the forehead to bring him back around to reality.
Tucker: "Oh, well thanks!"
Me: I lean towards him from my chair and start to sniff around his face. "What's that smell Tuck?"
Tucker:" What smell, I don't smell anything!" But you gotta see the look on his face and the fact that he's pulling his shirt up to sniff it.
Me: "Oh, I know what it is....I smell a girlfriend!"
Yes, my teenager has a "friend". So now he's even more concerned about his looks. So what's a mother to do. I know where this is coming from the moment the request is made. He thinks he's a "dork" and it just breaks my heart. I love his kind and gentle spirit. His ability to get along with anyone and everyone. But mostly, that adults enjoy him and think he is a kind and respectful young man. My heart bursts with pride!
So off to get contacts we go. Monday evening was the big trip. Elise just couldn't grasp why she wasn't going to get "her turn" in the chair like Mama and Tucker.
I already see his self confidence improving. I'm happy for him, but sad at the same time. We live in such a cruel world and teenagers can be the worst! I wish he did not have to experience that cruelty at such a young age. But alas, all a parent can do is prepare them and arm them with God's armour!
These are photos of Elise and Tucker before the appointment. I don't think I'll be seeing those glasses on his face anytime soon!

I love my big brother....he's not a dork to me!

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Happy "Two Year Adoption Day"

Last weekend, Elise and I traveled to Michigan to celebrate our adoption day with our wonderful friends, The Summerfords. Tim and Debbie adopted Gracie at the same time we adopted Elise. We have developed a bond and a friendship with this family that has blessed our lives in more ways that we could have ever imagined. We never thought that along with a daughter, we would be getting life long friends! Thanks for the great weekend Summerfords! We appreciate your hospitality and cherish your friendship!

Our course the beauty of visiting Debbie and family is Birch Run~Home of the Coach Outlet and IKEA! Yep, there was some serious retail therapy occurring in Michigan my friends.

Happy Girls headed to Birch Run and the Coach Outlet~ Mama needs a new handbag!

When we returned from shopping and dinner at Cracker Barrel, we had an ice cream and cake celebration! Our children seem to have a "problem" or "fetish" for water. Once again, we found them in the bathroom, up to their elbows in soapy water~ At least Gracie didn't have a big pink cast on her arm to preclude her from the fun!

splish, splash in the bathroom.....

They are now in their jammies since their clothes were SOAKED and soapy from all the water! Can't tell you what the wooden spoons were for~they just had to have them. As you can see, Gracie has her eye on Cinderella!

Happy Mamas and baby girls!

Elise with The Summerfords

Finally, the cake and the hat. Do you like my hat???

Debbie and I headed out early on Sunday to IKEA without the girls. It was wonderful and we spent about four hours there (I think). Elise got a new bed, chair and basket for under her bed. She also got a new artist easel that she absolutely loves. Did I mention I love IKEA. I can't wait for the one to be built that is going to be five miles from my house~YIPPEE!!!

It was a great weekend and we look forward to doing it again soon!

Happy Adoption Day Gracie and Elise! What a blessing you both are!

Friday, March 02, 2007

The "Chick" card

Do you know what the "chick" card is? It's when a woman/girl/child uses the fact that she is female for special treatment. Now that special treatment can come in all forms. I admit to using "The Card" when I want to sway a decision in my direction, if you know what I mean. BUT, I do not and will not use "The Card" to get out of hardwork or contributing to a team or situation. There are some women in the troop that use "the card" and the men don't like having them in their crew for obvious reasons. I do not want to be lumped into that category of helpless/hopeless scout moms. I want to be an equal contributor!

I'm suppose to be going hiking for two nights this weekend. I wasn't thrilled about it, camping in March in Kentucky. It's cold here and that's all I have to say about that. BUT I bought and borrowed gear, had my backpack packed and low and behold....I started!!!! Yep, I sure did. Now folks, I'm not a big camper, but I do pride myself on hanging tough when I need to. But going hiking on Day 2 of cycle is not going to be a picnic since there are no latrines. All "duties" will be performed in the great outdoors, if you know what I mean. I spent the morning calling friends to get advice about what to do, surfed the internet for advice....and all I got was, "you'll have to carry your trash until you get a place with an appropriate disposal site. This translated into the end of our hike. Are you getting the picture here folks??? Well, you guessed it, I played the "chick" card and backed out of the hike. I just don't have it in me to go through all of that for a two day hike that I can makeup at a later date.

So tonight, I'm sitting here with a toddler that has been sick for 6 days now and no vehicle since I let Tucker's dad take "Black Betty" on the hike. He didn't have another vehicle to drive since he came to pick up Tucker straight from work. Yep, I'm basically stranded. It matches my mood...which is pretty icky!!!!