Special Delivery

Yesterday a package arrived from Australia.  My sister was moving and there was no place in her new home for our mother’s silver tea set–the one Mom kept on her buffet in her little house in Detroit.  My sister could’ve easily packed it off to a thrift store or sold it at a garage sale. Instead she kindly chose to pay postage to send it all the way to America to reunite the silver service with mom’s old buffet, which now lives in the dining room of my home in Seattle.

Three days ago I put my son on a plane to Turkey, where he will teach English for the next three years.  I can fret, or be proud of him for having the courage to make such a momentous move.

His sister Bea was scheduled to come home from her program in Lithuania two days after Eli’s departure. Unfortunately they would miss each other, but Eli turned it into an opportunity.  In the wee hours of the night before he left, we hauled a little surprise for Bea up from the basement.  Eli hoped she’d like it even better than the last surprise he left her.

It was the perfect way to present Bea with motion-activated cooing tribble slippers she hadn’t even known she needed.

Still, it lacked a certain ‘Je ne sais crois.’

Actually, Eli knew exactly what it needed.

…And then he added the finishing touch.

Packing done, boarding pass printed, and still enough time to play one last game of Pandemic and save the world before our trip to the airport!

On the way we brainstormed how and when to visit, just as I used to do with my mom before each parting. And nowadays we can even Skype in the meantime.

My mom taught her kids to look for the bright spots. She could find ’em where you wouldn’t have thought there was one.

After Mom’s first chemo session, my sister Constance and I suggested going home to rest. Mom said, “The doctor says it won’t hit me until tonight. We’re going to Sanders Ice Cream Parlor. If I have to get sick, I’m going to throw up ice cream.”

 

Bea arrived two days after Eli left.  His parting gift was appreciated (up to a point). Now it resides in his room, scaring the heck out of me and making me laugh every time I go in there to open the blinds.

Bea, unpacking the heirloom tea set, said, “We’re going to have a MONSTER Tea Party!” There was another unexpected gift from Auntie Down Under–an uber-protective full-body swimsuit. Bea ran to try it on. Like Clark Kent bursting from a phone booth in Superman duds, out of Bea’s room flew Doing-Things-That-Aren’t-Fun-But-Are-Good-For-You-Girl.

Doing-Things-That-Aren’t-Fun-But-Are-Good-For-You-Girl (aka The UV Protector) threw Fashion Sense to the wind, and bravely faced the sun and its evil rays–in public.

All our lives we’ve heard,”You gotta break an egg if you want an omelet.” We jump willingly into the fray, enduring, for instance, the red eye flight for the trip to Europe.

My mom used to say, “When you’re holding your baby in your arms, you forget the pain.” Then Mom’s sister lost her baby. So what if there’s no baby to hold? My Aunt Loena would say you have to find others to hold and love, which she did. But some challenges you cannot go around, hire out, or wiggle free from.  It’s the stuff no one else can do for you, even if they wanted to.  It’s the bend in the river of life where there is no turning back and no standing still. Moving forward is all you can do, and your only choice is about how you do that, whether you are five years old or ninety-five, whether it’s getting a tetanus shot or chemotherapy, whether you are saying goodbye for now or forever.

I know and love–and I’m sure you do too–some very dear people who are facing some of life’s most daunting challenges and have been taxed in ways most people can only imagine.  Yet they are getting up and going to work each day and taking their kids to school and playing Werewolves with them at the end of the day with stents in their chest.  Or telling stories to bring joy to their audiences while undergoing months of chemo, and celebrating the last treatment by traveling the great cities Europe.  Or writing Haiku with one hand while learning how to walk again after a stroke. Or surviving cancer to reinvent themselves, leaving a bad marriage and developing a highly successful career as an artist. Or after a hip replacement, beating the odds from sheer determination to progress from wheelchair to walker to cane to standing on their own two feet while receiving radiation for a spot on the lung.

Who ARE these people? They are not the Supermen and Wonder Women of the world; they are the Clark Kents and Diana Princes, who through sheer strength of will and spirit quietly forge on through fire and ice. They are the real superheroes, delivering the right stuff. Their legacies are not the silver tea sets, but the stories they give us to hold in our hearts.

All words and images copyright Naomi Baltuck.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Mischievious

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Fray

Mad Cow Disease

Earlier this month I visited the Hampshire College campus in Massachusetts.  I was there to spend a few days with my daughter Bea…

…who was studying at the amazing Yiddish Book Center at the college.


Hampshire has a lovely campus in the middle of rural farm country.  And it was 97 degrees.

I’m from The Emerald City and I know green when I see it.  Believe me, that countryside was green.

It was midday, and the campus was deserted, except for mad dogs and Englishmen.  Oh, yeah, and Bea and me.  We were walking to the dorm to sit in front of the AC and have lunch (did I mention it was 97 degrees?).  Then out of nowhere came a couple of dairy cows, fresh off the farm, looking like two giant Oreo cookies on the hoof.  Completely out of context, they looked larger than life.

One doesn’t often see cows going faster than a mosey, but these two came galloping toward us–no, frolicking is the only word for it.  They came frolicking across the manicured lawn.

They seemed giddy with the sense of freedom.   No cattle lows here.  In fact, I could almost hear one calling to her girlfriend, “Woo hoo!  C’mon,c’mon,c’mon, come ON!!

Oh, they were fresh, and they were frisky!  Across the campus they bounced, udders swaying, heads bobbing.  Like young girls taking the bus downtown for the first time.  Or mothers in a frenzy of activity when Baby goes down for a nap.  Grownup sisters on their first overnight after the kids are weaned.  Old ladies and their girl herd down at the senior center on Bingo Night.

A student heading out to the parking lot saw them.  Before ducking into the safety of her car, she shouted, “Get inside!  Mad cows on the loose!”  But Bea and I weren’t afraid.  If this was Mad Cow Disease, we wanted to catch it.  I swear, those cows were laughing and shoulder bumping!

They were on their first jump over the moon.  New sights, new smells, new tastes.  Maybe the grass really was greener on the other side of the fence.  How would they ever know if they didn’t give it a try?

You’re going to stick your head into a garbage can?  Then I’m going to stick my head into a garbage can too!”  Thelma and Louise on the hoof!

Out from under Farmer Brown’s thumb!  You go, girls!

I knew then and there, I would never wait for someone to open the gate of the corral.  If it’s locked, I’ll jimmy it.

Whether your middle name is Hamburger Helper or you’re just tethered to a milking machine, life is short.  You can put in your time on the farm, but if you wait patiently for someone to put you out to pasture, chances are it ain’t gonna happen.

It’s up to you to kick up your heels while you still can.

You hear what I’m saying?   Get Moooving!

All words and images copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Pairs.

Click here for more interpretations of Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Farm Animals.

Click here for more interpretations of Nancy Merrill’s A Photo-a-Week Challenge: Green.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Fresh.

Whatever the Hell It Takes

Well?  What do you think?  Is it half full or half empty?

Do you see a gray cloudy day or blue skies?

Is the task before you huge and daunting?

Or are you ready to dig in?

Of course, your perspective will be affected by where you are…

…where you’re going…

…or your current situation in life.

Timing can certainly affect your perspective.

When you have no control over certain events, you can still choose the lens through which you look.

Will this injury leave a horrible scar or provide material for a good story to tell the relatives back home?

Is this an obstacle to folding clean laundry, or the cutest kid in the world?

Do you feel the damp and see the darkness, or admire the view?

It’s not always this easy to find a happy place….

…or even the light at the end of the tunnel.

Sometimes you have to write yourself a better ending.

It helps to have someone who understands.

Who can lend a hand.

Who can help you put things in perspective.

If you can’t change your path, then do whatever the hell it takes to change your perspective.

Sometimes the glass really is half empty, but who says you can’t fill up the darn thing?  In fact, fill up another one too, for a friend.

All images and words copyright 2013 Naomi Baltuck.
Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Refreshing.

Shadowplay

What is life?  The flash of a firefly in the night, the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime.  It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.  –Native American Blackfeet–


Every man has a different idea of beautiful…best to take the gesture, the shadow of the branch, and let the mind create the tree.–Wm. Faulkner

A man cannot jump over his own shadow–Yiddish proverb

Beware the dog–it’s shadow will not bite.  –Danish proverb–

Worry gives a small thing a big shadow.  –Swedish proverb–

If you stand straight, you need not fear a crooked shadow.–Chinese proverb–

Observe carefully, and you will find wisdom even in the shadows. –African proverb–

One can live within the shadow of an idea without grasping it.–Elizabeth Bowen–

The shadow is often more interesting than the object itself.–Ellen Thompson–

There are dark shadows on earth, but its lights are stronger in the contrast.–Charles Dickens–

Imagination is the real and eternal world, of which this vegetable universe is but a faint shadow.–Wm. Blake (1757-1827)

No hill is without gravestones, no valley without shadows. –South African proverb–

Like our shadows, our wishes lengthen as our sun declines.–Edward Young–

Count your nights by stars, not shadows; count your life with smiles, not tears.–Italian proverb–

All images c2013 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Shadows.

Click here to see Turkey, a Land of Light and Shadows.