Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: I Love To Do Lists.

I knew one day I’d start a list. In the meantime I stood in front of windows and smiled.

I love To Do lists.  They keep me organized.  Help me to remember.  Remind me of what’s important.  They keep things orderly. Sweet and simple.  Neat and tidy. I love the symmetry these lists bring to my life.  Balance.  Ease.

I’ve always been a compulsive list maker.  As I age my appreciation for this practice has grown exponentially.

There is this list that I have been compiling in my book of “boo’s to do’s for today” that just keeps growing.  It appears to be never-ending. And for this I am grateful. These are the eternal things. The timeless. The constants in my life.  And the infinite. The daily reminders of how good life is.  How lucky I am to have been born in the time and place that is now, to the parents who raised me with love, to the children I have done the same, to the family and friends who I have been blessed to have walked the earth with, for their presence and presents.  For grace and forgiveness. For hope. For faith in us all to create a better, kinder, gentler place.

It’s all a wide-eyed wonder to me.  It’s humbling. I am thankful every day that I am here now with you. And you. And you.

So this is the ever-growing list of Boo’s To Do’s for Today.

The cover of my book of to do’s. It’s nice.

Today I will:
Thank God for my human being-ness
Be curious but not nosey
Be helpful but not pushy
Be funny but not hurtful for the sake of a joke
Be a dreamer but keep my feet on the ground
Be happy but not at someone else’s expense
Be honest but not brutal
Be smart but not a pompous know-it-all
Be supportive but not a door mat
Be a seeker but look for Light not darkness
Be God-minded but not God

Today I will:
Thank God for the little things in my life
Kiss my husband good morning
Tell my kids that I love them always, forever and a day
Eat mostly healthy stuff today
Eat chocolate, devour the entire bar
Smile at strangers, even the scary ones
Be helpful and kind and generous
Laugh at myself
Practice patience with everyone but especially the very old and the very young
Say my prayers and let go of the day

Today I will:
Thank God for a new perspective
See people in a different light
Recognize the truth
Appreciate an opposing opinion
Give everyone the benefit of the doubt
Understand that there are other sides to the story
Look for a new perspective in an old place
Offer grace so I can also receive it
Read between the lines and hear the words not spoken
Say my prayers and settle into the quiet

I like the red ribbon and yellow sticky note.

Today I will:
Thank God for the playful
Play it as it lays and learn acceptance
Play for keeps with those who matter
Play for real with everyone
Play around and square and mix it up
Play full with all I’ve got
Play games that are fun not hurtful
Play back again and again, especially if it’s good
Replay and repeat tomorrow
Say my prayers and sleep lighthearted

Today I will:
Thank God for all the wonders of Nature
Chase double rainbows across the sky
Sing with wild abandon in the rain
Blow free like a leaf in the wind
Spread my wings and fly
Soak up the sun and catch some rays
Dig in the dirt and get mud on my face
Soar with the eagles
Set the world on fire
Reach for the stars and make three wishes
Howl crazy at the moon
Say my prayers and drift into the waters of heaven

Today I will:
Thank God for this new day of simple things
Forgive everyone, even those I don’t want to
Do yoga and be grateful that my body still moves
Eat an apple, possibly an orange, but not a banana
Paint my toenails red and smile at my feet
Take my dogs for a walk
Drink water right out of the tap
Be polite and mannerly, please and thanks
Listen better to everyone but especially to the very old and the very young
Say my prayers and plump my pillow

Thank God for all the wonders of nature.

Today I will:
Thank God for the givers
Give a helping hand
Give advice only when asked
Give away the good things I no longer want, need or wear
Give to a charity besides the usual ones
Give love even to the unlovable
Give someone a surprise gift for no reason, just because
Give others the benefit of the doubt
Give of myself even when I’m tired and don’t feel like it
Give someone else the credit and the glory
Say my prayers and give thanks

Today I will:
Thank God for the journey through this day
Applaud the achievements of others
Eat more red foods
Be respectful and considerate of others
Play my guitar even when it sounds painful
Be honest, starting with myself
Bake chocolate chocolate chip cookies, then pig out
Sit quietly and breathe easy
Take the long way home and enjoy the trip
Say my prayers and drift into dreamland

Today I will:
Thank God for healing
Mend all bridges in my life that are broken
Sew buttons on tattered open wounds
Stitch time that has been squandered
Mend a broken heart
Seam together a fragile friendship
Repair all hurt caused by my good intentions
Fix things that can be fixed and bless what cannot
Patch the worn and the weary with love and kindness
Say my prayers and hug my love

Today I will:
Thank God for countless things in my life
Count my blessings
Count the red smarties in the box
Count the steps from the couch to the fridge
Count my friends who count
Count the birds at the feeder
Count the calories in the chocolate cake then eat it any way
Count the purple tulips in my garden
Count the number of sleeps until my summer holidays
Say my prayers and count sheep

Thank God for the Makers.

Today I will:
Thank God for all my senses: the first five, the sixth, common and Spidey
See the beauty in all things, even the unusual
Listen with an open heart to hear the unspoken
Breathe in all that is around me, especially the smells of nature and of the kitchen
Touch someone in need of a gentle hand
Taste the sweetness in life not the bitter
Trust my inner voice when in doubt
Remember the sound and reasonable advise of my mother
Pay attention to the goose bumps
Say my prayers and welcome a sense of peace

Today I will:
Thank God for the lazy days
Take it slow and easy
Relax and chill with a cup of green tea
Read a gossip mag from cover to cover while watching my fav soap opera
Eat a bag of Oreo cookies
Consider practicing yoga
Contemplate meditating
Think about going for a walk
Exercise my option to do absolutely nothing
Take a long soak in the tub
Say my prayers and rest gently

Today I will:
Thank God for the makers
Make believe and have fun like a five year old
Make memories without Kodak
Make amends to everyone I’ve hurt
Make love with the light on
Make up not down
Make music without an instrument
Make peace with myself first
Make better all my owies
Make good on all my promises
Make muffins, blueberry lemon
Make magic without a wand
Make friends with myself
Say my prayers and make ZZZ’s

Today I will:
Thank God for housework
Change the sheets and flip the mattress
Do laundry and maybe iron
Wash the dishes by hand
Scrub the floors, the old fashioned way, down on my knees
Vacuum even the hidden places
Polish the furniture with lemon oil
Clean the windows
Stop to admire the “clean and shiny”
Say my prayers and fall quickly into a deep sleep

Thank God for the lazy days.

Today I will:
Thank God for chance to begin again
Turn over a new leaf, discover the mysteries hidden there
Start a new chapter that begins with hope
Wipe the slate clean of all past doubts
Start fresh with a different perspective
Begin anew with novel ideas
Embrace the blank page and let go of fear
Clear the deck and make space for possibilities
Close the book and make peace with the past
Say my prayers.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: This is The Man we all Love.

Sitting in the window of an abandoned farmhouse.

I have written a lot posts for all the magnificent Girl Warriors in my life.  My strong, fierce and beautiful daughters, grand daughter, daughter-in-law and the original warrior, Ma. Plus all the others, near and dear to me.  All glorious inspirational women.

I also have a son.  He is equally magnificent in my eyes.  Yet in many ways he’s a mystery to me.  A charming and perplexing enigma.  Perhaps it’s because he’s a boy and at the end of the day I must admit that I don’t fully understand the male species.

I was young when he came into the world.  So was he.  In truth, we grew up together.  He has taught me much since that wondrous day when I looked into his dark raisin eyes for the very first time.  I am eternally grateful for all the learning through the years. Even the difficult stuff.  I’ve probably learned more through those experiences than from the easy breezy butterfly days.

So many rights of passage we shared.  The holding close.  And the letting go.  All those milestones.  From the first step.  To the walk across the stage to receive his degree.  Everything in between.  Proud mother moments.  Heartbreaks and heroics.  Flights of fancy and family ties.  Unbreakable bonds.  Love is born.  And grows eternal in this mother-son relationship.

He stands shoulder to shoulder with the three other good men who I love dearly.  My strong and gentle big brother, my solid husband and my complicated father.  Each seemingly different.  At least on the exterior.  At once complex and full of mystifying layers.  Yet also sublimely straightforward and uncomplicated.  Always sincere.  Forthright.  Honest.  Kind.  They are the faces of strength, courage and tenderness in my often anxious world.

The 10 Steps to Becoming the Man We All Love:

The Old Man was so delighted with his grandson.

1. Be your own man. Authentic. Genuine. 100% bona fide you. The real thing.  Don’t be an impostor.  Nor live a vicarious life.  Grab a hold of what matters to you.  Put on your own jersey.  Strap on your own skates.   Play the game you love.  Not someone else’s.  Be an original.  A maverick.  The natural.  Always be the guileless boy who looks at the world with wide-eyed wonder.  Forever rub your hands together with glee and pure joy.  Be the spontaneous boy. And the solid man.  Work with your full range of emotions.  Express yourself completely.  Thoroughly.  Freely.  And if a tear falls. Let it.

2. Be brave-hearted.  Stand tall.  Stare down your fears.  Look them straight in the eyes.  Laugh at them.  Call their bluff.  Walk right through them.  Don’t go around.  Don’t avoid.  Face them head-on. Know that all courageous men have fears. Life is scary sometimes. For all of us.  Don’t be a victim.  Instead be valorous.  Do no shrink.   Roar.  Hoot and howl.  Feel the fear and get on with it.  There are no boogeymen under the bed.  No monsters hiding in the closet. Myths.  False emotions appearing real.  That’s all.  And always remember that you are far bigger than your fears.

My big brother with my nephew and my son sharing a cuddle.

3. Get a real kick out of life.  Have fun.  Find things that amuse and delight you.  Not just once and awhile.  But every day.  Don’t put it off for the weekend.  For vacation.  Or another time.   Play right now.  Cause a ruckus.  Bang on your drum all day.  Shake your tambourine.  Laugh your guts out.  Make a fool of yourself. Embrace happiness.  Enjoy the people you’re with right this very second.  Surround yourself with the lighthearted ones who put a smile on your face.  Take delight in every minute of this life you are given.

4. Be a loving man. And you will be loved.  Guaranteed.  More than you could ever imagine or dream. Open your heart wide and let in the love.  Don’t run from it.  Strong men have the guts to be tender.  Kind.  Compassionate.  Be a Gentle Ben.  Tom, Dick or Harry.  And remember, love isn’t always perfect.  Accept that sometimes it will hurt.  That’s okay.  Don’t let this frighten you. Don’t push it away.  Or turn your back.  Don’t give up on it. Love refines your heart and grows your compassion muscle.  Most importantly, learn to recognize love when it comes your way.  It doesn’t always come gift wrapped.  It may be completely different from what you had in mind.  Better even. In fact, the best thing that ever happened to you.

The proud uncle with his lookalike niece.

5. Find your tribe.  Your band of sisters and brothers. The ones where you fit in.  Belong. Feel at home with.  For these will be your family.  Some related by blood.  Others by the heart.  Surround yourself with people you trust, respect and enjoy.  You don’t have to always agree. You don’t even have to always get along.  But these are the faithful ones. Loyal. Steadfast. And true.  The ones who will be there for you.  With you.  By your side.  Through thick and thin. The ones who have your back.  Who pick you up when you fall. Help you find your way home in the dark.  They’re with you no matter what. No questions asked.  No doubt about it.

6. Follow your passions and the things that make you want to get up in the morning.  Jazzed and ready to go.  Have big dreams.  They don’t cost any more than the small ones. Your life will be so much richer for it.  Do the things that you love to do first.  And everything else will fall into place. Be enthusiastic.  Get psyched.  Pumped.   Gung-ho.  Embrace new ideas and ways of doing the things you already know. Be creative.  Imaginative. Take the magical mystery tour of discovery.  Go on an adventure.  Expand. Grow. Cultivate. Hone. Take risks. Embrace the failures on the way to your successes.  Learn and move on.

My son with “his lady” in Scotland on the adventure of their lives.

7. Be generous and magnanimous of spirit. With everything and everybody.  Don’t be stingy.  Don’t withhold. Don’t hang onto things.  Never covet. Give of what you have.  What you know.  Give a little. Or a lot.  But give. This isn’t necessarily about money.  Nor material things. It can be. Nothing wrong with that. If you’ve got it.  Give it.  But it’s also about giving of yourself.  Your time.  Your energy.  The natural gifts you came into the world with.  Take every opportunity to share these with others.  The more you do, the bigger you will be.  This will make you happier than anything you ever imagined.  For the more you give, the more you receive.

8. Be honest.  A man of your word.  Don’t make promises you can’t keep.  Nor intend to.  Be a man of integrity.  Honorable. Upstanding. Someone you can rely on.  Depend on.  Be the good guy who shows up.  Even in the stickiest of situations.  Know that when you shake on something that you are doing more than pressing flesh.  You are giving your word.  Your bond.  Don’t violate this sacred trust.  Respect others and you will be respected in turn.

My two lovely men standing tall at our wedding.

9. Defend and stand up for something.  Be righteous. Not self-righteous.  Find causes close to your heart.  Help those in need.  Shelter the weak.  The young.  The very old. Once you accept the challenge, don’t put conditions on who you’ll help and who you won’t.  Raise the bar on compassion.  Kindness.  Tolerance.  Embrace your fellow travelers.  Meet them eye to eye.  Carry the placard.  Wear the colors.  Pin on the badge.  But don’t force your beliefs down the throats of others. This is not a persuasive approach.  Don’t cloud the issues with misplaced anger.  This just creates mindless noise.  Be humble. Not sanctimonious.  Charitable.  Not complacent.  Be a leader when called upon.  And a follower when the time is right.  But most importantly, be a man that everyone wants in their corner.

10. Take care of yourself.  Do whatever it takes.  All the days of your life.  Not just physically.  But mentally.  And spiritually.  Do it for yourself.  And for all the people who love you.  Be active in every arena of your life.  Find your sport. Get out there and move.  Join a team.  Or go it alone.  Play hockey.  Or a round of golf.  Walk the dog.  Or chase the kids.  It’s all good.  Learn to cook and eat well. Spend time looking inwards.  Take a moment for introspection.  Meditate.  Pray.  Go for walks alone with your thoughts.  Get to know yourself.  And “to thine own self be true.”  Do these things and you will be the man we all love.

Diaries of The Breadman’s Daughter: 101 Lessons for a Good Life.

#73 – Every child born to our family is wanted and loved.

I like lists.  I find them quite useful.  They keep me organized.  Or at least they create the illusion of doing so.  A nifty thing about lists is how they come chock-a-block with little goals.  Each line item something to be accomplished.  Been there.  Done that.  Now move on.  And there’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of scratching something off the list.  Personally, I like to draw a thick heavy line right through the achievement.  Preferably in permanent ink.  Finito.

There are daily lists.  Like the “to do/call/email” list at work.  Some are weekly.  Grocery lists fall into this category.  Others are annual.  The family Christmas wish list reigns supreme.  Some are fun.  Like the list of things we need for our Annual Thanksgiving Bluegrass Party.  Then there are sundry others.  Everything from books to read, songs to download,  places to see, people to meet, things to keep and things to chuck.  All worthwhile and handy to have in your hip pocket.

One of the best lists I have ever compiled is the one that I am sharing with you today.  It’s a list of some of the things that Ma taught me during the course of our lifetime together. These are things she said, did, led by example, or simply implied.  There are 101 things on this list.  There could have been one thousand or one million.  Because she taught me so much and I am so very grateful.  But I’ve narrowed the list down to 101.  I like this number.  It reminds me of the first year course numbers when I was in University.  English 101.  Pyschology 101.  Anthropology 101 where I met my first true love.  It’s a solid number with the implication that there is more to come.  And who knows.  Maybe there is.

The list isn’t in any particular order.  It’s random.  Like life.  Some things are common sense.  Others uncommon. Extraordinary.  Some are peculiar.  And contradictory.  Some are funny.  Others very sad.  At times confusing.  Often profound in simplicity.  And full of classic cliches of the time.  But also bright.  And wise.  Witty.  Practical.  Pragmatic.  Confounding.  Infuriating.  Loving. Tender.  Touching.

Cherished gifts each and every one.  From Ma to me.  To you.  With love.

1.  Two wrongs don’t make a right.
2. You can’t make someone love you.
3. Always wear clean underwear.  Carry a pair in your purse just in case.
4. Tomorrow’s another day and this too shall pass.
5. The secret to baking a good cookie is to remove it from the oven just before it’s done and let it finish baking on the sheet.
6. Time heals all wounds.
7. You can’t take it with you when you go.
8. Bad breath is better than no breath at all.
9. Everybody needs love even those who are difficult like your father.
10. God is inside of me.
11. The secret to a good spaghetti sauce is to let it simmer all day.
12. Don’t complain.  No one’s listening anyway.
13. Nobody’s perfect. They just wish they were.
14. Life is far too short.
15.  Send your child to school in fresh clean clothes every day even if it means doing laundry every night.
16. Don’t go out in the sun without a big hat and long sleeves.
17. Walk whenever possible and always have a comfortable pair of shoes at the back door ready to go.
18. You don’t need make-up, except for lipstick.  It brightens your face and makes you look pretty.
19. Keep a nice home and welcome everyone into it.
20.  Always tell the truth.  No one trusts liars.
21. Pay attention to how the dog reacts to your boyfriends.  The dog is a good judge of character.
22. Splurge on a really nice dress for a special occasion.  Treat yourself and don’t feel guilty.  It’s important to feel good when you go out.

#23 – Don’t walk around the house with your shoes on. It’s rude.

23. Don’t walk around the house with your shoes on.  It’s rude.
24. Always wash your face and put on night cream before going to bed.  Repeat in the morning with day cream.  Moisturizing is the key to beautiful skin all your life.
25.  Pick up a “Ladies” magazine while you’re grocery shopping. It’s an inexpensive treat.
26. Not everyone belongs in a group.
27. Don’t throw Tupperware parties. No one will come.
28. Stay away from bad people.  Especially men who are bad for you.  You’ll get hurt every time.
29. Call if you need me.  Anytime.  Anywhere.  I’ll be right there.
30. Babies like to be picked up when they cry.
31. Nothing beats flannel pajamas and nighties.

#32 – Take pictures of the flowers you are sent.

32. Take pictures of the cakes you bake, the flowers you are sent, the gifts you are given, the Christmas tree every year even if it looks the same, it’s different.
33. Support a third world child regardless of your financial situation.
34.  Cry when you’re sad.  Yell when you’re mad.  Sit silently when you need to think.  Laugh at the funny things.
35. Get up early.  Put the kettle on first thing. Start your day with a cup of tea and piece of toast.
36. It’s okay to wear comfortable clothes around the house just as long as they’re freshly washed and ironed.  Being comfortable isn’t the same thing as being a slob.
37. You can never give a child enough love.  That’s not what spoils them.
38. Accept invitations to lunch or an afternoon shopping at the mall.
39. It’s okay to fall asleep on the couch while watching television.
40. Don’t worry about your age.  There’s nothing you can do about it.
41. Always send Thank You cards.

#42 – Remember everyone’s birthday with a homemade cake.

42.  Remember everyone’s birthday with a homemade cake and a nicely wrapped gift.  At the very least give a special card.
43. Take care of your teeth.  False teeth just aren’t the same as your own.
44. Invite people to stay for dinner.  There’s always plenty.
45. Make the bed as soon as you get up.
46. Have supper together every night and make Sunday dinner extra special.  Roast something.  Have the entire family over.
47. Give people the benefit of the doubt and don’t hold grudges.
48. You don’t need a reason to give a gift or to send someone a note to let them know you’re thinking of them.
49. Try not to hurt someone’s feelings but apologize right away when you do.
50. Mind your manners.  Always say please and thank you.
51. Wash your hands all day long but especially before touching food.
52.  Bounce a baby on your lap and sing “doodley doodley doodley doo.”
53. Pick up litter when you see it.  Stuff it in your pocket if there isn’t a garbage nearby and throw it out when you get home.
54. Never let your grey roots show.  It makes you look old.
55. Baths are better than showers.
56.  Always bring out the good china for company and on special occasions.
57. You’re never too old to start something new.
58.  Nothing tastes quite as good as a sandwich made with lettuce freshly picked from the garden.
59. It’s okay to buy certain things for your home “on time.”
60. Write letters.  Everyone loves getting them.
61. No one will love you like your mother.  Especially a man.
62. Some people can be mean.  That doesn’t make okay for you to be mean back.
63. Take all kinds of vitamins and supplements.  They’re good for you.
64. People with thin lips are nags.
65. Pay your bills every month no matter how broke you are.  Even if it’s just a little bit to everyone you owe.
66. It’s a sign of beauty if a girl looks like her father.
67.  Get the dishes done right after you eat.
68. Eat lots of fruits and vegetables and enjoy dessert.
69.  Learn to sew clothes, embroider tablecloths and knit scarves.  Teach these to your daughters.
70. Learn to cook and bake, especially if you have children.
71. Read everything you can about being healthy and subscribe to Prevention Magazine.

#56 – Always bring out the good china for company and on special occasions.

72. Try to see the good in everyone.
73. Every child born to our family is wanted and loved.
74. Exercise every day. Walk. Do yoga. Ride an exercise bike.
75. Go back to school at sixty.
76. Don’t waste your time gossiping.
77. A health food store is a good place to shop.
78. The secret to a perfect pie crust is a secret.  But here’s the recipe.
79. Be kind and decent to everyone no matter who they are.
80. Walk facing the traffic at all times.
81. Be nice.
82. Don’t go empty handed to someone’s house.
83. Pray for people whether they asked you to or not.  Especially your children.
84. Don’t go blabbing family business to the neighbors.
85. You can do anything you want to if you put your mind to it.
86. You’re just as good as anyone.
87. Always make lemon pie from scratch.  It’s worth it.
88.  Forgive and forget.  Sometimes it’s easier said than done though.
89. Celebrate the holidays with your family.  Have big wonderful meals and lots of gifts under the tree.
90. You don’t have to get married to be married.
91. Potatoes are versatile.
92. No matter how afraid you are, get on the plane.
93. Respect your elders and those in authority, especially teachers and police officers.  Their jobs are hard enough.
94.  Don’t be a show off, braggart or know-it-all.  No one likes people like that.
95. It’s important to have a room of your own to sew or paint or make things.
96. Always have Kleenex up your sleeve and a package of peppermint Chicklets in your purse.
97. Offer your seat on the bus to older people and pregnant women.
98. Italians are nice people.
99. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, especially to children.
100. You only get out of life what you put into it.
101. You’re never too old to play on a swing.

#101 – You’re never too old to play on a swing.

Diaries of the Breadman’s Daughter: Life is a Beach.

Ma always on the lookout at Sibley Park.

I can’t swim.  But I do like the water – to an extent. If my body were a map, my breast bone would be the dividing line.  Like the equator.  That’s the border between fear and faith.  It’s the big divide where comfort zone meets terror.  But I do love the beach and pretty much everything about it.

Little back story.  I came by my fear of the water honestly.  Ma passed it onto me along with a fear of driving, dark streets at night, wild animals and dirty underwear.  I’m not sure of the origin of Ma’s fears.  Certainly not her own mother, since she died when Ma was three.  Regardless, Ma was not a big fan of aqueous immersions.

The way Ma expressed this fear was both lamentable and exasperating. It went something like this. It’s a beautiful sunny day.  We’re at a beach.  One of three – Chippewa Park, Boulevard Lake or Sibley Park.  Each had noteworthy characteristics that I loved.  Chippewa had an amusement park of sorts (merry-go-round) and a zoo (polar bears in dirty cement pits) and a long shallow seductive shore.  Boulevard was in town, easy to get to by bus, had a great concession booth and comfortable grassy shoreline.  Sibley was an hours drive from town, was situated on the Sleeping Giant (which in itself was irresistible enough), had a hot sandy beach and freezing cold water (which made me giggle and shiver upon initial entry.)

As this story unfolds, we are now at the beach. I’m in my bathing suit, Ma’s in her capris and The Old Man is jauntily attired in slacks and a short sleeved cotton shirt.  Usually I have at least one friend with me.  Most often it is D from across the street.  She’s one of five C-kids and I am a devotee of this wonderful crazy mixed up dysfunctional family.  We’re all appropriately attired, a blanket is laid out on the sand, towels and flip flops are tossed carelessly about and delicious snacks that Ma has packed are set out carefully on the blanket.  (If we’re at Sibley Park a picnic lunch will also be included in the day’s fare.)  D and I head down to the water and everything is copacetic.  Except it isn’t.  Already I feel Ma’s tension.  It permeates from her body like a noxious over-powering perfume. Just as our toes touch the water’s edge I hear her calling.  “Not too deep now!” she cries.  “No further than your knees.”  Knees?  Are you kidding?  So I call back, “Ma, you can’t swim in knee-deep water!”  “Okay, then no deeper than your waist,” she replies.  Waist?  Really?  So D and I wade out to where waist meets water.  And Ma hollers, “Far enough!”  Are you kidding?  Apparently not.

Compliantly, D and I find our little piece of liquid splendor somewhere between knee deep and waist high.  And we frolic.  And splash.  And squeal.  We dog paddle.  And float on our backs.  We blow bubbles with our faces under water.  The entire time, Ma’s worried anxious eyes are upon us.  I can feel her held breath.  Her pounding heart.  But she doesn’t say a word. She doesn’t have to.  Except when she thinks we’ve strayed too deep.  Or for that one millisecond when she loses sight.  We’ve drifted behind the fat kid floating in the ten-foot tractor tube.  And we’re gone.  Ma calls my name.  I can hear the edge of hysteria in her voice.  I emerge from behind the tractor tube boy.  Safe.  I wave reassuringly.  And all is well.

As a result of all that fretful smothering by the shore, I never really learned how to swim.  I spent much of my time reassuring Ma that I was indeed alive and still breathing.  But also, another thing happened.  I grew fearful too.  Maybe it was dangerous.  After all, we heard those tragic stories of kids who drowned, leaving in their wake broken-hearted devastated  parents.  Not just in lakes either.  But in creeks.  And bathtubs.  Mud puddles even.  Water was a heinous loathsome devourer of little children.

Of course, deep inside the well of Ma’s fear of water was just the plain and simple fear of loss itself.  Her losses were so great.  And they came so early.  I don’t blame her for wanting to hang on and protect those who were most dear to her.  To somehow hold safe, the small.  And the fragile.  The vulnerable.  Prevent them from walking into the deep.  And never return.

I don’t recall Ma ever going into the water.  Even her bath water was shallow.  I do have one lovely ancient black and white photo of her in a lake.  It looks like she is up to her neck but apparently as the family story goes, that was all trickery.  The water was no deeper than her waist.  Still the end result was one beautiful photo.  Of one beautiful, frightened courageous woman.

All this fear and anxiety aside, I still have only the fondest memories of summers growing up.  Despite her fears, she faithfully took me and my friends to the beach.  And through the years, I learned that there are many things to do by the water’s edge that are equally entertaining as swimming.  Adventures to be sought.  Imagination to be awakened.  Treasures to be hunted.  Oh the natural beauty of polished pieces of glass.  The Noxzema blue bits were my favorites.  Broken shells and hunks of gnarly driftwood.  Exotic micro creatures hiding under rocks.  Sand castles and suburban homes.  Catching miniature fish in yellow plastic pails.  The tickle of hot sand as it sifts through your toes.  The music of waves rushing to shore. The sounds of laughter and glee.  The smell of Coppertone.  And hot dogs.  French fries and onion rings.  And the glorious sun high in the large blue sky roasting our skin and filling our hearts with warmth.  And the promise of forever.  These were the gifts that Ma provided. This was the trade-off.

Magic.  And mystery.  And wonder.  All this in place of the butterfly kick and the front crawl.   But I have learned to swim in other ways.  I know the fine art of survival.  And the dance of intent.  The call of the courageous.    I know when to hold up my head and squint into the sunlight.

I wrote a song called Sibley Park.  It was inspired by my summers spent there with Ma.  Here are the lyrics.  It’s in the key of C.  Like much of my life.

Sibley Park © by boo king

We went to Sibley Park
And we swam in the coldest part
We took pictures of the three of us
Just you and me and Gus

The sand was beige and hot
And my suit was full of polka dots
We took pictures of the three of us
Just you and me and Gus

We ate Oh Henry bars
And you dove off my freckled arms
We took pictures of the three of us
Just you and me and Gus

Our moms sat in the shade
As we swam and they drank lemonade
They took pictures of the three of us
Just you and me and Gus

Gus barked and chased a stick
As he raced and he   did dog tricks
We took pictures of the three of us
Just you and me and Gus

I went to Sibley Park
Where we swam in the coldest part
I kept pictures of the three of us
Just you and me and Gus

I wonder where you are
You recall the way we were before
When we took pictures of the three of us
Just you and me and Gus.