The Lion

There’s something comforting about driving a clunker. Maybe it’s because I come from a long line of clunker owners (present and former). I peer at the narrow nose of my Nissan and remember riding in Grandpa’s Nissan-from-a-different-decade, and smile. Yeah, these are the clatter traps that have taken a few kids through fast-food drive-thrus. They’re permeated with years-old perfume: pine needles from camping trips, French fries, and shampoo wafting from headrests. What’s a new car smell when you can be accessorized by memories?

And there’s a reason why they live longer than dirt—they’ve driven over all of it. Sure, when a car has lost its luster, just spruce it up with some Arizona pin striping. Plow through those cat claw bushes, tear through those dusty trails and be proud of your baby’s new threads.DSCF1325

Anyway, by the time you can afford a new car, you’ve had to replace so many parts in the old one that it becomes like new again.

But with experience.

Would you want an SUV that purrs up a hill, or one that Roars? Uh huh, my Nissan is a Lion. She’s a scarred-up, battle-strengthened, vintage-awesome Lion.

And she’s not afraid to get her wheels dirty.

So if you happen upon a rust bucket Lion today, give her a wave and think about the service she’s done. And remember, one day, your car will be someone’s  treasure. Stuff her with joy.

The Story of Us…a (rerun) favorite.

I’m taking some time off this week, so I decided to post an old favorite. This blog also appeared on Christian ebooks today last year.

Blessings as you approach the cross this week. May Christ’s sacrifice outshine the Easter Bunny (not that I don’t like the Easter Bunny).

 

Stories that breathe – ghosts of family legacies, the mishaps, failures and the champions of our past are the myriad steps to a life well-lived for those big eyed-pink cheeked souls sitting around our dinner table.
Chloe loves to run; the destination not necessarily tangible. Mud puddles, my mom’s place in the country, sidewalks and fiercely windy days have been pounded by 5 year old feet. When I see her face, I know she is feeling the joy of doing something that has been designed into her precious soul.

On a family outing to the park, we split up to race each other home. Noah and John went one way; stroller and straight paths, Chloe and I went another direction on foot and ready to win. Our path was a little more challenging, and Chloe slowed to a walk half-way into our race.

“Your Papa won a trophy in high school. He was the fastest runner in the state of Arizona.”

Before I finished the sentence, she grew wings. We won. She just needed to know that she had the blood of a champion.

My great uncle wrote a family history with the good and the bad; everything tied up in an honest bow. There were stories of the warriors, the civil war cousins – one who camped on the others lawn, and then there were the details that sent prickles up my spine; the artists and writers and those in medicine whose passions trickled down the line more than a hundred years later.

What do we see when we look back?100_1331

Failures, victories, heroes and villains. One step forward, two steps back until a leap of faith makes a hero.

I tell Chloe about her Papa, and how he had his own struggles, but had feet like wings. He had little education but worked hard and found his final job working with N.A.S.A. He tried and failed, and tried again and again until his work literally reached the stars.

Family histories are a lifeline. We must tell our stories to our children, so when they need that extra push, all they have to do is reach back and grab the baton. We propel them forward by running our race hard enough to reach them, even when we have passed into the land of spirits.

But those that hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31

The saddle

The saddle that rests in my Mom’s house is a family relic, displayed on its stand in the living room of brick and western hearth. It is draped in ropes and leather chaps my Dad made when he worked on a ranch.

“Ride ‘em cowboy!”, I would shout with spindly legs drowned in the chaps, hands gripped around the horn while I ran alongside the painted cowboy on the wall above the piano. Sometimes my friends joined me and we would ride off into the sunset of imagination, dreams yodeling over the horizon.

The lasso engulfs many a memory of Halloween costume contests with my oldest

A friends daughter

A friends daughter

brother standing in the chaps with a rope hanging from his leather belt. 1st place for authenticity. The fringed leather legs got thrown back on the saddle while the spiders creep-crawled in the saddle bags that once held more than dreams.

The last year that Santa was real to me, my brother, Kenny, told me about his latest act of espionage, hiding under the saddle while the jolly old elf filled our stockings above the fireplace. I bet Santa never dreamed his cowboy career would betray his identity.

The grass wasn’t so soft when we pitched tents on the lawn layered in packed earth and stickers, but this is how our Dad slept in his round-up days – under the stars (without the tents) and drifting to sleep with the coyote song. It was especially great when we wound down the evening with my Dad strumming his guitar, singing Ghost riders in the sky and scanning the night for a shooting star.

Childhood fantasies danced alongside us, and above us, and in the dreams lighting up the darkness.

The awkward teenage movement cast the saddle into a shadowy corner, briefly drawing my attention for art class when I needed something to sketch. It was simply lines, texture and layers of dust. The western theme permeated those days. My school was full of cowboys, the mascot was a cowboy and the saddle stand stood without favor for a few years.

Baby showers and parties began to drape the stand in streamers, balloons hung from the saddle horn to celebrate another decade and it bore witness to a new trail of dreams.

The fringe ran down the chaps just the same and it stood there, holding up our new-found adventures along its neck like paternal support.

A cliche for one is life for another. Some call it a museum piece. We just call it The Saddle. How many people can say they were raised by a leather seat?

Do you have a family heirloom that speaks volumes? Tell us in the comments.

Memories in perpective

There was this rock shelf down at the creek where the bones of mice rested. My friend, Mike, and I could play for hours going through these bones, making up stories, wondering if the mouse captor was lurking behind the cat claw bushes, waiting for us…
It was the type of graveyard where kids can play without bringing home nightmares.

Around the corner and down the dry creek bed was our rope swing, frayed and hovering over nothing but rocks and sand. Oh, how we loved to swing. We saw the frayed bits as a sign of a loved thing — danger was a word we left home with our parents.

Dream, swing, run and play, these things that filled the childhood treasure chest.

As I outgrew the bone cave and understood frayed as may break and let you fall onto the rocks I found that girls made good friends too and who didn’t want to look like Molly Ringwald?

Leah invited a few of us friends to her place for a party. Her life was gloriously mysterious. Leaving the traditional life behind, her family lived in their RV, spending three weeks in a Thousand Trails campground to move to another local camp until they reached their maximum stay. Back and forth, from a valley to a park, all under the Arizona sun. It was on one of their Thousand Trails rounds that we had our party.

It was hot.

It was amazing. We got ready in their tiny bathroom area, poofing our hair to 80’s standards and venturing out with kids of the road. The recreation room was stuffed with chaos. Noise, play and the kind of games that could produce a bloody nose or two.

Bounce, bang and none stayed down for long.

It was awesome.

Leah wore an outfit that could have been in Pretty in Pink. It was a thrift store find which disappointed me only because I knew it was the only one. I’d have to check out Sprouse Rietz for some pink fashion when I got some birthday money.

Back home again to a house of bricks, secure in the ground. Until the forest called…

Kindling works best when it’s nice and dry, and cooking over it makes for the best food in the world. It was cowboy camping with my family with no bathrooms but the shadows of juniper trees. The pine scent that inspired millions of air fresheners filled the blue skies of summers and I never felt dirty until we got home and I permeated the space around me with the perfume of campfire.

I brought my skills inside and built a fire in our woodstove that some people find 100_2621primitive. It made for cozy holidays and reminders of the ancients who brought us this far.

Ramble and vroom we went in my grandparents motor home to get a taste of comfy camping.

The black and white TV played my grandpa’s favorite Ernest movies and I slept on a bed that has no home but the landscapes of America. Carrots and potatoes were peeled in the campgrounds, McDonald’s a chicken nugget feast when we were in between destinations.

It was always world class travel when I got to see bits and pieces of America.

Time to do some stitching.

I could sew a beautiful quilt out of all the ragged bits of fun I’ve had or I could just write a book. So here I am, putting in scraps of truth into a bit of fiction that penetrates deep with the life experience of me and those warriors of rope swings and RV’s. It digs deep into the bloodline of America, passing from the fingerprints of all of us into one giant quilt of a story.

What do you do with your memories? Do you paint them, teach about them? Tell us in the comments.

The Marinellis and memory trails

Here he comes for his Friday night memory trail. I swallow some impatience and prepare to hear the story again about apple cider and the Martinellis. The daughter who was 5”10 in her stocking feet and has never been forgotten.

“I really wish I could find my old year books. Then you would see how pretty she was.”

It’s not a bad story, and I wonder if he has forgotten that he has told me this same story for the past three months or if he just relives this memory because it stands out among all the others. The impatience I swallowed has found my blood stream and I’m fully immersed in all the moments when I wonder about old age and if I’ll repeat my stories to others until they can recite them by heart – and which ones will be worthy of retelling.

Others sometimes join me at the desk and lament over the heartaches. Sorrow has pulled their faces into permanent frowns, their eyes toward the ground.

What can be learned in the scrapbook of someone who is nearing a century?

My regular talks about free cider given to the Martinelli employees and I can taste it now, wondering if I should buy a few bottles for the fourth of July. The man warns 0524131719of consuming too much cider at one time and snickers at those memories that little boys would find funny.

His eyes light up like he’s reliving prom again. “Alice liked us tall guys. We could look  her straight in the eyes.”

In between the potty training and those things that make me want to crawl back into bed, my thoughts shift to syrupy kisses on pancake Saturdays, and how sparkling cider sometimes accompanies celebration in our own home. Squeals of joy are the best played music and I hope they become memories that play like a broken record so I don’t forget the joy amidst all the work that goes in between them.

Will these be my cider stories?

I sit back and decide to drink in his story like it’s the first time I heard it. I will be back at the cider factory with him, peering from the behind the Martinelli warehouse, learning how to live moments so rich that I will have made plenty to live off of for a lifetime.

And then, I will be able to tell my children how life is peppered with shadows, but its beauty will shine through if you stand tall enough to look at it squarely in the eyes.