reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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quirky quirks.

FullSizeRenderwhen i was 38 i got a package from my sweet momma. of course, it was from poppo too but he was pretty much a follower on this one. i excitedly opened the big box and there was a note inside. it read something like, “surprise! it’s about time…thought you could have one of these now.” curious, i continued to rapidly unwrap.   inside this simply wrapped gift (for my momma had to mail it to me across the country and everyone knows that those sticky bows get squished when you mail them) was —- wait for it —- a barbie doll with chandelier earrings in a huge party dress with pastel flowers glued onto it! now, that – blossom beauty barbie – sounds like an unusual gift at 38, but you have to know the back-story…

my momma would not let me have a barbie when i was growing up. ahead of her time, she felt that the barbie-body was somewhat unconscionably derisive for women and the feminist in her was railing against having her own little girl fall prey to that attitude. and so, she never let me get a barbie of my own. instead, she got me the doll penny brite, an adorable, flat-chested, bright-faced, modestly-dressed doll who just looked 1960s happy. a little later i got a skipper doll, who was barbie’s younger sister – clearly she hadn’t inherited the same physical genes barbie had. not being particularly well-endowed myself, in later years, i teased my mom that she had given me nothing to aspire to, but she just pursed her lips and tried not to laugh.

so this was a big deal – getting a barbie from my momma. it’s too perfect that it happened to be one of the tackiest barbies out there. but i received this from her when i had my own little girl and she probably guessed i was about to start buying her some barbies (so as not to be “the only one” in her group of little girlfriends without one, like me, still recovering from non-barbie-ptsd.) momma was quirky that way.

we were driving the other day and had to head into a shop that was on the other side of the street. i said aloud to d that i was going to “go up to the light” so that i didn’t have to cross traffic (in my defense, it would have taken forever to cross.) oh no! words coming out of my mouth directly from momma. she had this thing about crossing traffic. she would give me directions to get places all by making right turns, just to not cross traffic. it didn’t matter how much or how little traffic; she just preferred not to cross it. quirky, eh?

once, my sister told our momma that she had a friend who was struggling financially and had little children to feed. the little boy loved peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and the subject came up that he liked the little containers of jelly you get in diners when you eat out for breakfast. after that, my sweet momma never ever passed up the chance to take those little containers of jelly and wrap them in her napkin to put in her pocketbook (aka purse) so that she could save them for this little boy. even at assisted living, she encouraged everyone at her table (and other tables) to “save your jellies” so she could collect them all. now, it would have been easy/easier to buy small jars of jelly and peanut butter to give to this young woman for her children, but momma was on a quest…jellies it was. quirky.

this morning we laid in bed a little longer with our coffee and talked about momma. two years ago, right about now, the very moment i am writing this, my sweet momma took her last breaths on this earth. i cannot believe it has been two years; i cannot believe it has been only two years. both are true. and i’m betting that you can read, without the words, that i miss her…beyond words.

i’m sure there were times between my growing up and now that i found myself saying something or doing something or having an expression on my face that was identical to my sweet momma’s. i’m sure at some of those times i rolled my eyes thinking “whattheheck?” and trying to push back the momma-isms. i’m betting the girl and the boy find themselves every now and again thinking, saying, doing something that makes them push back at being a little like me. sometimes, we try so hard to escape the genetics, until one day, we realize we are damn proud of some of these traits, some of the quirkiness, some of the same gestures or expressions or….

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clearly, i wasn’t ready for the barbie doll until i was 38. maybe i’m not even ready now. penny brite wasn’t so bad after all. i’m grateful my mom stood against the prevailing winds of pop culture, opting for something different. i’m grateful she wanted her family to not have to cross traffic, figuring out, with her very analytical mind, how to get people from point a to point b in a safer way. i’m grateful she collected the little jellies for someone who needed them. and i am grateful for the quirks.

 

 

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liverwurst for lunch.

me and momma talkin

each load of laundry i put in today i am thinking of her. it’s been a holiday weekend with tons of things going on plus a busy week prior to that so the laundry has piled up. my sweet momma loved those piles and took great solace in the act of doing the laundry and having clean, fresh clothing and linens. so today, the day that would have been her 95th birthday, i also am taking great solace in doing the laundry and having clean, fresh clothing and linens.

we sat down together on the deck a little earlier and had a big bowl of fruit. what is it about already-cut-up-fruit that makes it taste so much better? i am vowing to make a huge bowl every week – spend some time cutting it up early in the week so that we can pick off it each day. watermelon makes me think of her, so each of these bites we take we chat about her. i wonder if there is lemon meringue pie or cheesecake in heaven; he wonders if she is having liverwurst for lunch. liverwurst is one of her favorites so i’m pretty sure it would be on the menu. not on my menu though.

liverwurst lunch

the last time i saw my sweet momma enjoying her liverwurst.  i always teased her about it.

that was one of those weird lunches i used to have in elementary school. i was the only one with an off-brand white bread or even -sheesh- rye bread, liverwurst and mayonnaise sandwich, all wrapped in wax paper. everyone else had cutesy sandwiches with fixings from the deli all wrapped in a glad bag. i had a sandwich bag of chips; they had pre-packaged lays or fritos. i had a whole apple, vying for the opportunity to get stuck in my teeth; they had oranges all sectioned in a baggie. i had a re-purposed bag of some sort (from a trip to the hallmark store or genovese drug store); they had the traditional brown paper lunch bag. but…now i’m thinking…what i wouldn’t give for a sweet-momma-packed-lunch these days.

we lit a candle earlier for her and we are leaving it lit all day. i want to feel her close by. i miss her. she would have loved the fireworks last night; her oohs and aahs would have momma effusive at shaynebeen cheery and boisterous. i learned about being effusive from her. she is the reason i know it counts to be effusive. each time i walk past the candle i cheer inside and i think of her.

we have a new grill. the last grill i had was put out to the curb a couple years ago. i’m astounded to think it has been that long. i put that grill together all by myself. i wrote to my friend frangelly that there were a zillion pieces, all in shrinkwrap, covering my dining room table. it took me three and a half hours to put it together and when i was done i stood back and thought, “wow…it looks like a grill!” the first time i lit it i took it into the middle of the street…i didn’t want to take the chance that some little piece i had misplaced or forgotten or something would make this new grill blow up in my backyard. (it didn’t blow up, by the way, and it lasted the next several years, so i am chalking that one up as a success – and – i am crossing putting grills together off my bucket list. from now on, we will buy them assembled.) i am the type to grill year-round, shoveling snow to the grill so that veggies and chicken and burgers and yes-i-live-in-wisconsin-brats can have that “grill” taste. what have i done for the last couple years without one? anyway, we have a sparkling new one now. we were going to use it yesterday but then i thought (in true thready fashion), “wait, maybe we can get some great steaks and grill them on momma’s birthday tomorrow. she loved a good steak on the grill and that will be a great way to christen it.”

now that it is the tomorrow of yesterday i am not feeling so much like going to the store to grocery shop. momma cutie-pie faceinstead, in my quieter day at home, surrounded by laundry baskets, my at-his-drafting-drawing-table-husband, dogdog and babycat, still in sweatshorts and a tank top, no shoes and no makeup, i’m thinking that maybe yesterday’s leftovers would be a better idea for dinner tonight. momma loved leftovers. they will make me think of her.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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ungrounded.

me&poppofour years ago today my daddy died. while in some ways this feels like yesterday, there are so many ways that this feels like eons ago. my sweet momma pined for him for the next three years. their marriage had been a lifetime of almost 69 years together. it’s hard for me to imagine that amount of time; i’m not even that age yet.

and now there are times i pine for both of them, her gentle but insistently positive and kind spirit, her chatty stories, her “hi, my sweet potato” or “good morning, sunshine”, his quiet pondering, quick norwegian temper, the tears in his eyes when it was time for leave from a visit, his “goodnight, brat” or “i love you, kook.” i wish they weren’t gone.

i find that today is not the hard day. it’s the days preceding today. it was like that for my momma too. it was the days preceding the anniversary of her dying that i was off-balance, out-of-sorts, crabby, ungrounded. anticipatory grief strikes hard, even after ‘real’ grief. anticipation of all the remembering. anticipation of The Day. anticipation of how it will feel…this time. anticipatory grief. ‘real’ grief. what’s the difference anyway…

he said, ‘we need to love more on these days.’ instead, we tangle some. this kind of ungroundedness is hard to explain. it’s raw. painful. one day in a note from lori, she wrote that she just wanted me to know that there is a different kind of grief that happens when both of your parents are gone and, having that experience, she would be happy to talk about it. i should probably take her up on that. sharing experiences with someone who can totally empathize –not sympathize- is a good thing.

we were walking yesterday, arm in arm, dogdog at our side. someone came out of her house, water bottle in hand, sneakers on, ready to take a walk. she said, “i have been trying to get my husband to take a walk with me. i tell him that we should walk together sometime before we croak. i don’t know how much more pressure i can put on him. i tell him all the time about the husband and wife who walk. i tell him they look so peaceful. i love seeing you two walk….”

i felt anything but peaceful yesterday. but there must be something. something that makes ‘loving more’ obvious. even if we can’t see it at the moment. even if we can’t feel it at the moment. even if i am ungrounded.

take a walk. hold hands. love more. every day.

hands

 


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i blame my sweet momma.

IMG_1799three weeks ago we loaded a 5 1/2 foot long piece of driftwood and more rocks and shells than we could count into the xb to drive home. with sand everywhere, we carried back to wisconsin with us morsels of my life on long island…pieces of the north shore and my beloved crab meadow beach, pieces of the south shore and the fierce atlantic ocean.

i have always always collected rocks and pieces of wood. i’d like to be able to say that i could identify each one and its origin, but i really don’t know.  the easier ones to identify are the ones my children painted for me, all of which i saved.  but now all the pieces of my life that i have carried have blended into each other, blended into who i am.

for me, the piece of quartz or granite, the sedimentary rock with mica flecks, the conglomerate somehow arriving in northport, the clamshell that had been home to some northeast clam, the sand in a bag, pebbles, flowers from the field, grasses that dried in the woods…all important souvenirs – unlike a perfunctory t-shirt – things that ground me, help me remember, things i can touch.

my sweet momma loved rocks too. growing up we had a rock garden out back and their tv stand was a huge slab of rock that they moved on a moving van down to florida with them when they left long island. i always knew that i could give her something made of rock, made of wood, something natural, something organic, and she would celebrate it….with all her heart. she got it. that feeling of staying connected with the land she loved, the earth, the very soil, the very spot that gave her a memory. i get that. the rocks around our pond and scattered inside our house, the pebbles in my purse, the 6 foot long aspen branch in our dining room are evidence. the driftwood – and the sand – on our table make it clear.

i am thready, just like my sweet momma. i blame her.

thank you, momma.IMG_1853

www.kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood


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there if you look

photoi walked into the bathroom this morning and it greeted me. the scent of my sweet momma’s favorite perfume – estee lauder’s pleasures. it took me by surprise, making me stop suddenly. i stood still. i looked around, thinking maybe there was some other reason for this beautiful wafting ghost of perfume lingering in the air. i could see no other reason, no cause of any scent into which i might have meandered. so i stood there.

a few long seconds went by until i could speak and i stepped out of the bathroom to tell him that my momma’s perfume was in the air. he smiled and i could see he was moved. i went back into the bathroom slowly, wondering if i had imagined it. but as i entered the space again, it was there. most definitely – pleasures. the tears in my eyes weren’t tears of sadness. i spoke to her, telling her how much i missed her, how glad i was she had ‘stopped by’. i have been hoping that somehow she would show up, somehow she would make herself known to me, somehow she would let me know she was around.

so now i wonder – if this was her first wave from heaven. i imagine she’s been busy, her energy running high as she catches up with everyone she loves who got there before her. i imagine that she’s been talking up a storm, so to speak, and embracing all the opportunities she has to be with those she loves. so i am grateful for this moment today. this moment that – in an instant – made me feel like my momma is right here, just on the other side.

i talked to my sister during her lunch. i was sitting on the edge of the deck in unseasonable 65 degree sun and she was in her jeep at a favorite lunch spot. i told her about momma’s perfume. she said she had goosebumps. i told her, too, that the other day i found myself saying the words “betwixt and between”. now, who says that these days? we laughed when i said i was channeling mom. my sister said she had said something mom-esque a few days ago and i asked her if it was the word “irked”. again, we both laughed and we could both hear our sweet momma….

last night i woke in the middle of the night. i have no idea why or what woke me, but there was this one thought i was aware of as i made my way into awake-ness. the words – something like this – the more you have gratitude for every little thing, the more the universe gives you to have gratitude for. i woke him up. to talk about it. i’m not sure where the words came from but they were present in the air around me and my pillow. gratitude for every little thing – not just the good things. but also the challenging things. the things that make us weep. the feeling of being tired. the feeling of being exhilarated. with gratitude, the glass never has to be half-empty. it’s always half-full, waiting for the moment it spills over. our universe isn’t full of bubbles and rainbows, but they are there if you look.

my sweet momma’s perfume brought me a moment with my sweet momma. i look for the next time with great anticipation, wondering what this amazing woman will do to let me know she’s there. in the meanwhile, i am grateful for estee lauder’s pleasures in the air. a little thing? i don’t think so.

after working on projects, we played frisbee in the street. we never took a shower but wore sweats and sneakers. (we did brush our teeth.) we ate fresh strawberries and drank strong coffee.

we agreed it was a magic day.

www.kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood


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take the back road and make your own roses

back road cropped copythe sun is shining brilliantly outside and somehow i find myself wandering through the corners of my memories that take me back to long island – my earlier days. i see myself driving my little blue vw bug all over and, even though i wonder now if i would remember where all those little back roads might end up, i am taking all the little back roads. i’m kind of a back road person. ok. not kind of. i AM a back road person.

growing up with my sweet momma and daddy i was the youngest, separated from my brother and sister by enough years that put them all grown up and out of the house when i was a teenager. and so i would be in the car alone, or with my bestest friend susan, on sunday drives with momma and daddy. momma was good at picking destinations. nothing fancy. an apple farm. or a park on the water, way out the island. upstate somewhere. just enough to make you feel like you got away. and never on the highway, if she could help it. always the back roads. for momma, that was the point. my dad was an ace at seeing groundhogs sitting on the side of the road or spotting special birds. my mom was an ace at navigating for him – my poppo didn’t pay much attention to the signs and such; momma did that for him.

i’m sure i learned about back roads from them. and i’m sure i learned about the point of back roads from them. each and every moment a treasure of what might be around the next bend. the curiosity of a back road. the mystery (without a gps) of not knowing if the back road you were on might become a dead end. the laughter accompanying a three-point turn at the end of that back road. the not-knowing. we never set the bar high on these jaunts. we just traveled together and sang songs. or chatted. or were quiet. or we looked out the window. and because the bar wasn’t set too high, we had extraordinary times – moments i still remember to this very day. feelings i still remember to this very day. and the lure and joy of a back road that i still hold close to me.

so often we set the bar high. too high. i’m all for visioning a wonderful life. but not at the expense of losing the moment we have right now. not at the expense of only having this very moment because we are planning the next. or because we think the next depends on this one. not at the expense of missing the back road.

valentine’s day was this past weekend. people have really high expectations of this made-up holiday. we decided ahead of time that we were to buy nothing. anything we did had to be made. by our own two hands. the back road.

and so i made a little book for him, created out of brown paper and jute. accompanied by a teeny painting. i couldn’t wait to give it to him. i ended up giving it to him the same day i completed it. back roads are like that.

he wrote me a poem and rolled it into a scroll, tied with raffia. and he gave me a piece of brown paper, with lines on it and many folds that had been folded.

later on valentine’s day, i found some origami paper in the house (easier to fold, he says – from his experience of trying to make a rose from brown paper) and we sat in front of the instructions on the computer. together. with music on in the background, we sang. we chatted. we were quiet. we looked out the window.  snow falling.

and, literally giggling at our clumsy hands, we made purple origami roses together.   we placed them, along with candles, as our centerpiece for the dinner we made together.

it was extraordinary.

purpleorigamiroses

kerrisherwood.com

itunes: kerri sherwood


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frog.

photo-1we have a frog! this sweet green quiet sitting-on-one-of-the-small-boulders-on-the-edge-of-the-pond little creature makes us so happy.

i was summoned from the backyard, “k.dot, quick! hurry!” i ran outside to stand at the edge of the little pond. “we have a frog!” he said. i looked down and this beautiful creature was sunning himself on a rock.

now, having a frog in our pond is no small feat. although lake michigan is a block away, there aren’t frogs running amuck in the yards close by. two years ago one other frog visited here. but this frog, well, it couldn’t be better timed.

we stayed at my sweet momma’s house many times over the last two years. she was either in her assisted living facility or rehab, or even the hospital. there was little there in the way of furniture or accouterments. we loved the simplicity, the two bag-chairs and the TV trays we used for every meal and the times we spent with coffee or wine in the lanai, pondering life and searching for answers for my momma. when a frog literally jumped out of the toilet in her small bathroom, its pale color giving away that it had spent a long time in the plumbing pipes, we were shocked into looking up what it might mean to have a frog show up. the frog is indicative of “the transient nature of our lives. a symbol of transition and transformation, it supports us in times of change…it connects us with the world of emotions, the process of cleansing and rebirth, abundance and metamorphosis.”

helen, who is infinitely wise, told us over hot coffee and soup one cold day last year that having a frog show up in your life is even more meaningful. “it’s not just a frog”, she told us. “it’s a reminder.” a reminder of what, we asked? “frog is a reminder to ‘fully rely on God’,” she explained.

FullyRelyOnGod. FROG. frog.

ahhhh.

thank you, little frog, for the reminder. you are so welcome here.