Category Archives: Exploring My World

“Daddy Can Fix it!” A Letter to my Dad on his 100th Birthday.

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Mom and Dad 1917-2008

YOUR CHILDREN THOUGHT YOU COULD DO ANYTHING. We often said to mom when anything broke or didn’t work, “Daddy can fix it” – and you usually could.  Your hands were skilled and busy at so many things in your journey through life.

YOU ROCKED YOUR BABIES; fixed my doll and brother Ed’s go-cart; drove your beloved Lincoln; loved your wife;  played piano and saxophone; washed dishes after a holiday meal; held a hymn book while you sang full and loud at church; taught me to dance, sing and drive; played cards; and hung the lights on our Christmas tree.

WHEN MOM WAS SICK,, you made us sandwiches of peanut butter, jelly and butter mixed all together.  You placed your daughters hands on your arm and walked us down the aisle; held your grandchildren; made a moving ferris wheel of an erector set for my brother for Christmas; and lifted your children up so they could see the parades.

YOU CALCULATED ANSWERS to geometry problems to help with homework; held doors open for the women in your life; swung a golf club; built beautiful wrought iron railings; set the United Way progress thermometer when you chaired the community campaign; guided mom in the samba;  and worked as a power plant engineer.

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YOU ACHIEVED A BUCKET LIST GOAL when you designed and built your dream home for you and mom; you bathed your dog Casey; passed the collection plate as deacon at the Presbyterian Church; shook hands with a smile when greeting new and old friends; carved the turkey on Thanksgiving; and over folded hands, said grace before meals.

IN THE LAST MONTHS OF YOUR LIFE, when you needed assistance, I helped you with your meals.  Sometimes, you would reach out your two hands to grasp my left hand , tightly wrapping both hands around my thumb and holding on – while my free right hand raised the spoon to your mouth.  With a touch of the spoon to your bottom lip, you would open your mouth and eagerly take the nourishment.  This was just how my infant son had held my one hand with his two – so lovingly and securely – as I fed him with the other hand.  I’m glad my son would get to know you.  I thought about the circle of life.

WHEN MOTHER SAT WITH YOU, I watched her gently hold both your hands in hers.  Holding them reverently, she would turn them over and over as if studying them, and she would whisper, “Oh Harold, all the things you could do with these hands.   You worked hard.  You were a good provider for me and our four children.  You made a good life for your family with these hands.”  Then she would hold his hands tightly to her chest and cry softly for their shared loss..

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YOUR HANDS served you well to create a life well lived.  You reached out with a friendly spirit to family, friends and co-workers and you made a difference in your world. Your hands are now still for eternity and your work on earth is done.  Your beloved wife Ina, born the same year as you in 1917, passed away in 2008, a few months after you.  We miss you both every day.

WE WILL MISS YOUR PRESENCE in the upcoming holiday – but – we will call to mind memories and stories of our life with you- “Dad loved pie of any kind” – “He hated to lose at any game” – “He had a joyful laugh” – and “Remember the time…..”.   You will be fully present in our midst,  as the family gathers for Thanksgiving.

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HAPPY 100TH BIRTHDAY DAD!.  

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I’ll Remember Summer all Winter Long!

“The softness of a summer day is like an ermine paw.” Anais Nin (1937),  The Diary of Anais Nim (1967

SUMMER IN NORTH CAROLINA this year has sizzled with temperatures in the high 90’s and gracing 100 degrees from time to time.  Still, we’ve been blessed with the blooming majesty of summer flowers in our garden, and delicious produce fresh from our small vegetable patch, and the local farms and orchards.   Before I commit to preparations for the Fall season, I enjoy a last look.

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WE FOUND MANY LAZY DAYS to take a walk, explore or just sit on our porch with an icy sweet tea:

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WE ATE OUR FILL of fried green tomatoes, “Mater” sandwiches and just picked tomatoes in so many dishes with fresh vegetables.

 

WE DINED ON FRESH green beans, even tried greasy beans (new to us), savored juicy cantelopes and all things peaches:

WE NEVER TIRED OF WATCHING the birds in our back yard from our sunroom – house wrens, cardinals, bluebirds, yellow finches, woodpeckers, hummingbirds.

THE SQUIRRELS WOULD NOT leave the bird feeder alone – until we set up a Yankee Flipper that is weighted to throw them off.  They quickly learned, after several tries, to leave the bird feed alone, but they gave us plenty of belly laughs while they learned to stay away from it.

THIS VIEW OF NATURE has made our sunroom a real sanctuary for rest and reflection. Our dog Bear likes it too.  His job is to look for squirrels.

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THE WEATHER PREDICTION is for a cooling front this weekend.  As we step over into September, I am filled with gratitude for the bounty of summer 2017 that has enriched my life.

How softly summer shuts, without the creaking of a door.” Emily Dickinson (1880) in M.L.Todd. Letters of Emily Dickinson (1894).

Sue Marquis Bishop 2017

 

 

Christmas Trees, Booties, Elves and Skeletons

CHRISTMAS TREES decorated with booties, elves, and skeltons!  Really?  There are as many different ways to decorate a tree as imagination dreams up.  On a recent visit to Novant Presbyterian Hospital to visit a family member, the lobby was full of dozens of decorated Christmas trees. All were theme trees likely decorated by the various departments in the hospital, and were to be auctioned off as a fundraiser for the hospital.

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Booties and pink and blue for the nursery babies

 

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Lollipops and elves for pediatrics
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A  Christmas reminder to give to families in need
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Ribbons, red and green
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Celebrating wildlife and winter

 

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What is this about? Maybe not a great message for patients. Was it decorated by Radiology or Orthopedics staff?

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We enjoy the beautiful Christmas tree at our house
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Yet, I carry the tree from childhood in my heart, with  its plastic lighted star Dad placed on top, and its  shiny tinsel, we hung with care, one strand at a time.

Sue Marquis Bishop 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Fantasy and Food in Sugar Hill, Georgia

LUNCH AT THE SUGAR HILL BAKERY AND CAFE’ is a foodie’s delight in an atmosphere of  fanciful decorations that brings out the child in all of us.

ON A WARM FALL DAY, my sister Nancy invited me and her friend Debbie, to one of her favorite new places for lunch.  And want a delightful adventure it was!

THE RESTAURANT IS LOCATED IN SUGAR HILL, GEORGIA,  just a frog’s jump north of Atlanta. Parking is available. We approach the bright blue building  with painted sunflowers, pumpkin doormat, and a bicycle by the front door. It’s obvious we are not going to dine in a traditionally decorated milieu.

AS WE STEP THROUGH THE DOOR,  we are greeted by a big panda hanging over a chair.

img_0697 We enter an unusual environment reminiscent of  Alice in Wonderland, and find a cozy table nook to occupy.  The large bakery cabinet across the room dominates the room, brightly lit up trumpting all kinds of sugar confections and desserts.

The menu is simple, but varied, and includes healthy options for lunch.  That is a good thing, because we all want to save room for dessert.

WHILE WE WAIT FOR OUR FOOD,  we look over the fantasy created all around us with colorful and unexpected items on display, …stuffed animals, fur coats, jack-o-lanterns, trees, and lots of glitz, bling and twinkling lights on walls and ceiling.. The women’s restroom, an entrance to “the lion, the witch and the wardrobe” is imaginative. Unmatched vintage wood chairs are pulled up to tables scattered throughout. There is much to see in every corner.

THE THREE OF US ENJOY the choices we make for lunch, including Georgia sweet tea, chicken salad and sandwiches that are fresh and tasty. Finally, the time comes to select OUR dessert.  Such a decision!  We aren’t prepared for the large size of the dessert serving  that is delivered to each of us, especially the one Debbie orders. Some of the desserts necessitate asking for a box to take some home to savor later.  And good!  …. Sweet, flaky, custardy. smooth!  Oh yes.

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THE FOOD IS THE BEST REASON TO VISIT the Sugar Hill Bakery and Café, but the décor is the second best reason that makes having lunch here a respite from a busy life and the usual luncheon fare. It’s a quirky place for girlfriends to meet and chat, a place to take your children to be dazzled by the whimsy, or even for a couple to enjoy a cool drink to begin a romantic evening, in out of the ordinary surroundings.

A CHARMING WOMAN named Nancy (in the middle below) created and manages the Sugar Hill Bakery and Cafe’.  If you stop in for lunch, ask for Nancy and tell her what you appreciated about the experience.( Two Nancys and Debbie in photo below.)

Bon appetit’!

Sue Marquis Bishop 2016

 

 

 

 

When Thank You is Not Enough

“THANK YOU for being there.”   “Thank you for your support.”  But what do you say then when thank you is not enough? 

IT ALWAYS FEELS GOOD to do something to help another person in times of stress or need.   I am not as comfortable, however, being the recipient of caregiving.

Agatha Christie said that “you cannot give to people what they are incapable of receiving”,
(Funerals are Fatal, 1951).

A RECENT EVENT requiring major surgery brought unexpected assistance and loving support to our door…and this big sister learned an important late life lesson to accept my younger siblings generous offerings of presence at a special time of need.

WE DID NOT IMAGINE anyone needed to stay with us during my anticipated hospitalization.  However…, my sister and two brothers and spouses arranged among themselves (a surprise!) to plan a week in our home (at different times) just to be available to do what was needed.

MY HUSBAND AND I thrived on such loving care. I let go of organizing in my mind what needed to be done (meals and this and that),  and accepting the proffered gift that all was taken care of, I focused on my single task to get well.

THEY WERE THERE FOR BOTH OF US when I was in the hospital, and when I returned home. I know the surgeon’s skill and medical care made my recovery possible, but I am confident that my recovery was hastened by the emotional proximity of loving family, great meals, and laughter at stories and happenings that can only be fully appreciated by family who have been together for many years.

THEY HAVE NOW RETURNED to their own busy lives in Georgia and Florida, and we are all back into our normal lives.

“It may be more blessed to give than to receive, but there is more grace in receiving than giving. When you receive, whom do you love and praise? The giver.”   Jessmyn West, The Woman Said Yes, (1976).

Thank you Ed, Sue, Nancy, Milt and Ann! 

EACH OF YOU BRINGS SPECIAL TALENTS to our family , and as a family, we re richer for it (including my sisters by marriage). You are loving and caring individuals who are living productive lives and making a difference in your worlds. I remember well your births and witnessed your growing up years, and  I  still occasionally see your young faces in your adult expressions..

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I couldn’t be prouder to be your sister!

Sue Marquis Bishop
2016

The Dressmaker’s Legacy: A Poem

IMG_0153The Dressmaker’s Legacy

Grandma Mamie’s hands were always busy
creating beauty where there was none –
from threads, potato sacks, fabric scraps and wool,
she designed, tatted, crocheted, knit and sewed.
She had magic in her hands.

She might have been a famous dress designer
in another time – with other opportunities.
She could envision a garment,
make a pattern from newspaper,
cut the fabric and sew the new creation.

When her twins were two, she made
a white cotton dress with crocheted yoke and sleeves.
her daughters kept the yokes all their lives,
as a loving reminder of their mother.

When her twins were 15, they sketched a dress
with a hem longer on one side than the other.
They said it reminded them of a shirt untucked
on one side, so they named it the “shirt-tail dress.
Grandma designed it and made two.
Classmates at Gauley Bridge High School
wanted one too, so grandma made more, and
started a local fad in West Virginia.
The shirt-tail dress, ahead of its time,
a dress with an asymmetrical hem.

Grandma believed clothes for her twins
should be ready to wear at the same time,
(no favoritism here), so she cut out sleeves for one,
then sleeves for the other, bodice for one,
then bodice for the other, and so on.
Cutting and sewing parts in tandem,
both dresses were ready to wear – at the same time.

She crocheted elegant tablecloths,
intricate feminine collars for dresses and suits,
flat doiles for the arms of her chairs;
fancy ones with starched ruffles for her tables,
and bedspreads of pleasing patterns;
tatted delicate lace for trims;
knitted afghans to cuddle under in winter,
soft booties, hats and small quilts for
new grandchildren and great grandchildren.
She used scraps of leftover material and old clothes
to design and sew beautiful quilts by hand.
She worked magic with those hands.

Grandma’s hands were always busy,
Even when she sat at rest and her sight grew dim,
there was piecework in her lap.
In her 80’s, she was happiest when family visited,
eyes bright with anticipation,
especially when children were coming.
Her wrinkled face with thick glasses greeted us in smiles.
She held both our hands and looked into our eyes when she talked.
I remember staring at her slender hands – with age spots,
blue veins and arthritic joints – tenderly holding mine
and hoping a little of her magic rubbed off on me.

Grandma’s art is in my home now,
fruits of her labor all around.
A favorite quilt pulls at memories
each time I see it, or touch it,
made of fabric swatches from clothes
my mother, sister and I wore in years past.
Sleeping under the warmth of this quilt
brings comfort from the past beyond measure.
I treasure too, my babies quilts,
the kitchen napkins with crocheted edges,
her doiles I have framed, and
the white crocheted bedspread
I drape with care each Summer
on the white bed in the guest room,
as a artist displays a valuable art piece.

Her legacy is greater than treasured items.
Grandma Mamie passed on the value of work,
and the will to create beauty in practical things
that comfort – and make a home.

Sue Marquis Bishop
Copywrite 2013