I never knew of Buster until last year. We lost my Dad a few years ago just shy of his eightieth birthday. I was visiting my step-mom at the home they shared in Traverse City last summer when she said “I have something I think you’d like”. I was intrigued, feeling it was something that belonged to Dad. Knowing that I’m majorly sentimental, she produced a stuffed woolen dog. “This is Buster and he belonged to your Dad”. Buster had seen better days, one leg appeared a bit wobbly but he was adorable. I was touched both by having him but also by having a new nugget of knowledge about my Dad. The fact that at 59 I still have my “Baby Teddy” imagine my surprise that throughout his life, Dad preserved and kept Buster.
Buster now resides in the same room as my Baby Teddy. But it’s different for him, a homecoming. You see, I live in the house that my grandparents built when Dad was a young boy and though Buster hadn’t lived here for a long time, it was once his home many years ago.
I’ve been told many times “you’re a lot like your Dad” and through Buster I see a glimpse of his childhood and know that even our youthful selves were aligned.
I know how happy it made my Dad that I love living in his childhood home and feel certain he’s smiling now, knowing that Buster’s returned here to live with me.
As part of the Blogging University Grads (BUGS) bi-weekly challenge, our prompt is a tribute to Dad. I did a post earlier this year based on my trusty childhood teddy bear.Apparently this lifelong attachment to a childhood stuffed animal was something my Dad and I had in common.
To read the story of Baby Teddy, follow this link:
Ninth thing: Morel mushrooms. Early on in our relationship, Spence made a visit to northern Michigan, near Charlevoix. His friend Don (and Don’s parents) owned countless acres of wooded land. And on that land around this time of year, a miracle occurs. Morels everywhere. This would have seemed like a beautiful myth had Spence not returned home with a brown paper lunch bag literally brimming with morels. I was in heaven and by extension, so was Spence as I whipped up the most incredibly delicious meals. Not a morsel went to waste. Oh the memories.
Rarely now I will encounter morels peering out of the produce stands if and when I’m lucky. Regardless of the cost (which is incredibly steep) I’m seduced on the spot – and cannot pass them by. So imagine my utter dismay when only a few days into our most recent vacation I saw this picture posted by my favorite farmer’s market Facebook page (knowing that I’ve probably missed them for this year).
Tenth thing: I never knew my Great-Grandma (my Mom’s Grandmother) but had heard my Mom speak of her. Recently I helped my Mom pack up and move her belongings back to Michigan after selling her home in Florida. (see my Moving Mom series for more about that)
Moving from a good size two bedroom house to a nice size one bedroom apartment, Mom found that she couldn’t keep everything she’d moved. (even after parting with tons of her belongings when down-sizing) She offered my sister and I numerous items, one of them was Great-Grandma’s quilt. My sister graciously said I could have it; she’s planning her own downsizing in a few years. I was thrilled. The quilt is showing some wear but given it’s age, surprisingly less than you might expect.
Apparently the original passing of the quilt from my Great-Grandma to my Grandma Fox was not as gracious or amicable. Both she and her sister Ruth (who I understand was quite formidable) wanted this quilt. Drama ensued. My Grandma had to concede other cherished items in bartering for the quilt – but she prevailed.
Fast forward to my childhood. My sister and I stayed overnight on occasion with Grandma and Grandpa F0x who lived 20 minutes away. We were lovingly tucked in with this quilt at nap time, played on top of it with our Barbies and snuggled under it while watching our grandparents dance to Lawrence Welk on their black and white TV (they were impressive).
As soon as I brought it home, I unfolded it and snuggled under it. Good times, happy memories.
Eleventh thing: As I’ve written previously, I started the practice of meditation last year after retiring. I had tried before with no success. I simply couldn’t shut off my mind nor understand that meditation doesn’t necessarily require you to shut off your mind. What it is about is being still, being in the moment and allowing yourself to just…..be. Done with regularity it’s my experience that I’m more focused, even when I haven’t slept well. When I recently started missing consecutive days, I noticed that I felt a bit irritable. And kind of mad at myself for breaking what had become a good habit. As with anything, I re-prioritized and schedule it as a little “me” time each day.
Spence supports my practice though initially he didn’t understand that I can’t talk to him during the 15-30 minute sessions.
“I’M MEDITATING” I would have to yell through the closed door of my meditation space (or guest room). Now, he gets it and leaves me be though – and you’d have to know Spence’s propensity for deliberately switching out words – he calls it “mediation”.
As I approach my 59th birthday and inspired by the prompt for Day 20 of Writing 101, I have to write about someone who’s been with me through it all.
Baby Teddy, One Good Bear
Baby Teddy today looks much the way that I remember him since I was old enough to form memories. His appearance is beyond “shabby chic”, he went through a lot in his early years. There are no known pictures of him as a young Teddy so we can’t be sure what he looked like when he first came into my life. Diminutive in stature, about 9 inches tall, I’m guessing his name came from his small size but it could be because I preferred teddy bears to baby dolls. But I digress.
I’m pretty sure we don’t even know who gave him to me; I suppose it doesn’t matter. He claimed my heart and in spite of my parents trying to entice me with a Winnie the Pooh bear (which I loved, don’t get me wrong) and numerous other pretty fluffy stuffed animals, I wouldn’t part with him. I think they were embarrassed by his shoddy exterior. It didn’t matter to me.
Baby Teddy’s Disappearance
This was a tragic day, I was about three years old. Carrying him with me everywhere, I remember awaking from my nap only to realize he wasn’t with me. Where was he? I searched, I sobbed and was completely devastated. This went on for several days and I wasn’t getting over it.
One evening, my Dad came home and called for me. With puffy eyes, I stumbled into the living room, looked up and stopped in my tracks.
“Look who I found walking through the flower garden” he said, holding Baby Teddy by the paw. Not noticing that he was worse for wear, his eyes sewn back into place, the majority of his fur missing, I hugged him with all my might and sure enough, he smelled like flowers. It was a miracle and at age three, you just accept miracles without questioning them.
Baby Teddy never strayed again and was with me through all the highs and lows of my youth, my teens and had his fair share of tears cried onto his tiny shoulders as he gave me comfort.
The Family Secret……..
Many years later, I was at work and fell into a daydream thinking of Baby Teddy, remembering his mysterious disappearance many years before and his trek back to me through that flower garden. Now an adult, it occurred to me that there was clearly another part of that story that had remained a family secret. And I had to know what the truth was, no matter what, no matter how hard it was to hear.
I called my Mom. “Hi” she said in her cheery voice “What’s up?”
“What happened to Baby Teddy, I have to know!”
I’m sure she was caught off guard (what, no hello?) Where was this coming from after so many years? She was quiet for a long minute. (I think she was suppressing a nervous laugh) But I’m sure she knew this day would come.
“Well, you carried him everywhere” she began “Everywhere. Even into the bathroom.”
She went on to say that I’d placed him carefully on the toilet tank and that when she next went in, he’d taken a plunge – into the less than pristine toilet. While I was sleeping, she’d fished him out and taken him to the trash.
Then I woke up from nap time and all hell broke loose. I began the search and was in such a state that she and Dad made the decision to discreetly rescue him and put him through the washing machine. That explained the eye mishaps and the nearly total loss of fur. Apparently, they next placed him somewhere to air dry, high enough that I wouldn’t discover him. (I imagine after they saw what the washer did, the dryer might have been the end for him.) Dismayed by his appearance but seeing that I was still distraught after several days, they came up with the “walk through the flower garden” story, first spritzing him with perfume and reunited us.
“You threw him in the garbage???” was the first thing that I said thinking, “arghhh the humanity!” (I’ve always been a bit dramatic)
Sometimes you just can’t handle the truth.
Here is a picture of my Baby Teddy today – still with me and holding a million memories and secrets, one good bear.
Day Twenty: The Things We Treasure
Today’s Prompt: Tell us the story of your most-prized possession.
It’s the final day of the challenge already?! Let’s make sure we end it with a bang — or, in our case, with some furious collective tapping on our keyboards. For this final assignment, lead us through the history of an object that bears a special meaning to you.
A family heirloom, a flea market find, a childhood memento — all are fair game. What matters is that, through your writing, you breathe life into that object, moving your readers enough to understand its value.
Today’s twist: We extolled the virtues of brevity back on day five, but now, let’s jump to the other side of the spectrum and turn to longform writing. Let’s celebrate the drawn-out, slowly cooked, wide-shot narrative.
If you enjoyed this, check out: https://spencesgirl.com/2015/06/17/like-my-dad/
Mom has sold her home in Florida, moving back to Michigan to be nearer my sister and I. Part of the process is letting go of things she won’t need in her smaller senior apartment. Cupboard by cupboard, drawer by drawer, closet by closet, she’s offered my sister and I numerous items before donating them. Not unexpected, the items I feel most drawn to wouldn’t be of interest to others; sentimentality has played a large part in items that I’ve said yes to.
Mom’s Mixing Bowls
Her mixing bowls have seen better days. Once a vibrant green, blue, yellow and red, they’ve faded to a more “rustic” look. What I see are bowls used when mom made cookies and cakes, teaching me how to use a rubber spatula with my reward being able to lick off the batter. I fondly remember the large one brimming with bubbling casseroles of baked spaghetti on Sundays and Six Layer Dinner, my Grandma’s recipe. She taught me how to measure and follow recipes, sparking my love of cooking and nurturing it. These bowls were always present. Years later when I’d visit, those bowls appeared when she cooked a requested family favorite for me or we prepared something delicious together. Good times.
Grandpa Fox’s Knives
My love of food and cooking came from not only my Mom but her father as well. My Grandpa Fox found his passion and talent for cooking after a long illness in his forties that necessitated early retirement. Memories of his cooking make me salivate to this day. He was gifted in the kitchen and on the grill. His enjoyment was evident, his enthusiasm contagious and he loved feeding his family. So many memories – the aroma of his fried chicken wafting out the door giving us a preview before we entered. His veal scallopini for which he became a legend (now a recipe I’m known for). His homemade beans, made in a special sunken bean crock built into their stove lovingly stirred and coaxed along over what seemed like several days. His ham glaze and homemade peach jam – divine. His perfectly crispy hash browns made using a potato ricer, dusted with minced parsley from his garden, browned in butter then expertly flipped – in the air. His famous charcoal grilled, rotisserie chickens that drew neighbors to his yard in awe and to whom he offered “a peek for a nickel” (with a wink and twinkle in his eye). And then there’s his Lamb Stew, so beautiful that you wanted to photograph it, the pop of green peas, bright orange carrots and perfect pearl onions in a glistening rich gravy with chunks of melt-in-your-mouth lamb.
So when Mom asked if I’d like two of Grandpa’s stainless steel knives is it any wonder that I’d want to inherit those instruments used to create meals ingrained in my memory and so much a part of my happy childhood?