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April 2009

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Time Began in a Garden

I love gardening. But who can blame me? Time began in a garden, at least biblically speaking. God did not plop Adam and Eve down in the desert… that’s where they were banished to when they screwed up! Nor did he choose a mountain side or a quaint cove along United States’ eastern seaboard. Nope. He created the Garden of Eden. Granted, this wasn’t a working garden. Adam and Eve did not need to toil from dawn to dusk tilling the soil or performing tasks as seemingly mundane as weeding, but, he knew when he fashioned the first humans, a garden would prove to be good for their soul.

Years ago I was given a garden sign that said, “I’m closest to God in my garden.” Truer words have never been uttered. I like church just as much as the next guy, and I’ve humbled myself before God in the wee hours of the night, safely tucked in my bed, BUT, I have my best conversations with God while I’m in my gardens. Sometimes our conversations are purely philosophical. “Okay, God. What’s up with mosquitoes? I don’t get them. Was that a faux pas on your part, or did you intentionally put them on this earth just to remind us that we aren’t in Heaven yet?” Sometimes my gardens become an outdoor counseling session with me just jabbering away about my latest woes, and God just sitting back jotting down notes. But my favorite time in the garden with God is when we work side by side, without speaking, simply aware of each other’s presence.

My first experiences with gardening weren’t as cathartic. As memory serves me, when growing up our gardens were quite lovely. Couple an engineering father who NEVER did anything unless he had a blueprint, and a mother who could have been the editor of Better Homes and Gardens, our gardens, like our house, belonged in magazines. I remember pristine beds filled with roses and alyssums. A porch flower box always held geraniums exploding with vibrant reds. And, seemingly an afterthought, although nothing ever was, the side of the house was a dense planting of my mother’s favorite flower, the zinnia.

The problem with the gardens was they were not interactive; at least not for us children. My parents planned and planted our gardens. We were not included in the creative side of gardening. Our only true interaction with them did not instill love of the gardens. Perhaps coincidentally, although I wonder, my parents would always wait until the hottest days of summer… certainly only days over 90 degrees, (there is the slightest possibility that I'm exaggerating) when the soil was parched and hard as a rock, then they would say the 2 words that instilled undiluted horror, “Go weed.” We were given spoons and instructed to dig up the weeds. If this seems like a scene out of “Mommy, Dearest” I can assure you, that’s exactly how it felt at the time! I think I probably started talking to God in the gardens back then. It’s probably a very good thing he never answered any of those prayers!

But, there must have been some recessive gene that lay dormant, until I had a house of my own. I was shocked and nearly giddy, when I discovered the creative side of gardening. The pure, unadulterated joy of pouring over seed catalogues in the dead of winter. Hey, it might be -20 degrees outside, but I knew… nay, I felt it in my heart, that under the heaps and mounds of snow, my friends the plants were sound asleep, dreaming flora dreams, just waiting for the first kiss of spring to awaken them. I began to see my yard as a canvas and plants as my artist’s pallet. Colors and textures comingled in any way I fancied. Pulling weeds and removing sod were a small price to pay for this ecstasy.

Sometimes I spend hushed time in my garden. Sometimes I play in it. But mostly, according to Tim, I full body garden! It’s become a housekeeping imperative that if I wish to maintain any standards of cleanliness in our home during gardening season, that I strip down to my birthday suit at the back door, leaving behind mud and assorted insects, as I run naked through the house free as a child, praying no one catches me in the act! There are few sensations that can compare to showering after a day in the garden, when the hot water beats against your aching back, and the smell of lavender soap reminds you of your garden’s promise.

So, I often spend the last moments of daylight in my garden… my cathedral. As Tim and I listen for the birds to depart, and the bats and lightning bugs to make their entrance, my garden, no our garden, fades into the shadows. But I know, when I awake tomorrow, and find myself being drawn to my garden, that God is waiting, in the place it all began.

Words, Words, Words

I love words and the subtle nuances the perfectly chosen word denotes. Why use the word “wavy” when you can use “undulate”? Why use “excess” when “plethora” has the audio equivalent of the bouquet of the finest wine? And why should I settle for a flat sounding word like “wordy” when “verbose” more fully expresses my propensity to prattle incessantly? The English language has a rich heritage which makes learning grammar and vocabulary a challenge, but it also adds to the beauty and intrigue of both the written and spoken word.

My interest in the English language began early. I remember one lovely summer day when I was around 4. My mom was out and about and my father was left with not only the responsibility of supervising the children, but to make sure we didn’t trash the house my mother had just cleaned. Piece of cake. It was a hot summer’s day, there was water in our little pool, and a baseball game on the transistor. My dad could do this all day, or at least as long as the baseball game lasted. So, my brother and I were contently splashing in the pool, soaking up the rays, when I got one of my first scathingly brilliant ideas. We could play soda shop. We just needed a few essential props from the kitchen. As we headed toward the house, my father stopped us.

Dad: Where ya goin’?

Me: We need some stuff from the kitchen.

Dad: Fine. Just don’t get the linoleum wet. Mom just cleaned in there.

We entered the house. My brother and I stood in the middle of the kitchen, creating a small pond under our feet.

Me: What’s “nanoleum”?

Brother: Beats me. I think it’s the curtains.

When we didn’t make a timely return, Dad followed us inside. After he hydroplaned across the room, we learned very quickly that linoleum was another word for the floor. As the sting from a whack across my butt wore off, I can remember wondering, why hadn’t he just said floor? But later that day I found myself repeating the word linoleum over and over again. Say it aloud a few times. Linoleum, linoleum, linoleum. Feels good in your mouth, doesn’t it? So although my introduction to the word linoleum came at a price, in the long run it was worth it.

One of my roommates in college was dating a guy that I thought was an arrogant narcissistic. They were both in their first year of medical school. She was lovely, but he believed himself to be far above the plebeians that surrounded him. He had a friend that often came over. When the two of them got together, they often began to speak in a foreign language. It was a strange blend of English and an unknown vernacular. Although I normally tried to ignore them, I was drawn to their strange banter. I was finally able to ascertain that they were, in fact, speaking English. They were just using words that normally only surfaced toward the end of advanced vocabulary exams, and admittedly, the average person would find it near impossible to comprehend their almost cryptic repartee. Granted, they did this mainly for sport, and although they were inarguably ostentatious, I could not fault them for taking the opportunity to make use of their extensive vocabulary. Although I still thought him an insensitive cad, I must admit I was filled with awe for his mastery of the English language.

Possessing an imposing vocabulary is more than a parlor trick. It is power, and knowledge, and beauty. For that reason when I had my children, I believed it their incontrovertible birth right to be exposed to a rich and expansive vocabulary. Very early on I exposed them to a vocabulary that far exceeded their stature and embraced every opportunity to expand their personal dictionary.

I remember sitting on my back deck at our house in Kentucky. My youngest was napping and my two oldest, 6 and 4 approached me.

4 year old: Mommy, can we have licorice?

Me: Okay. But just 1 each.

Several minutes later, I espied the 2 walking through the backyard, each toting a beer!

Me: (Befuddled, bewildered and besot!) What are you guys doing with a beer?

My 6 year old daughter gave her 4 year old brother a look that implied… “I told you so.”

4 year old: “You said we could have licorice.”

Ah, I got it! Note to self… explain the difference between licorice and liquor, which I did after I confiscated the beers!

Not only does an impressive command of the English language allow you to communicate in an accurate and expressive manner, there is a beauty and symmetry that is personally enriching! 

The Importance of Reliable Equipment

Eighth grade was my year to bloom. I went from little girl… my bras still had training wheels… to a woman with a perfect 36-24-36 figure. I must admit I was not unaware of the stir it created with the boys, and daily I was discovering the power of my new found femininity. But there was a downside to this metamorphic transformation… I also grew up. And not “grew up” in terms of mental and emotional maturity, but rather my physical stature approached what I believed to be at the time, Amazonian proportions!

My mother was short; she measured in at 5’ 2” if her feet were swollen. Bushia was short, as were most of my aunts. Pietrowski women were “petite”. So, when eighth grade rolled around, and I reached my mom’s height, I was thrilled. When I sailed pass it… not so much so. Okay, so I wasn’t the tallest girl in my class, but they weren’t my yardstick for perfection. My mother was beautiful, and I believed a large part of her beauty came from her diminutive stature. I saw youthful pictures of my mom and dad together. He towered over her, as it should be in fairy tale romances. So, if my mom was the princess at 5' 2", at 5’6” I would have to be the ogress.

One evening I sat around bemoaning my height. Because it bothered me so much, my brothers teased me unmercifully.

“God”, Keith said, feigning horror, “Look how long your toes are!”

My toes? I hadn’t realized there was something wrong with my toes. But looking down, I could see what he meant. After staring at them long enough, their length made them appear deformed and unsightly. I ran to the junk drawer and got out the tape measure. When I sat down and started to measure my longest toe, I realized the tape measure was broken, and the first inch had snapped off. So after taking the measurement, I did the logical thing… I added the broken off inch back on to the measurement. With the adjustment I made for the faulty tape measure, the length of my toe came in at an impressive 4 inches.

“Oh my God,” I moaned. “My toes are 4 inches long!” (A bit of an aside… I wish to point out, I was a whiz in math and very analytical. The fact that I had added instead of subtracted an inch from my phalange’s measurement, and then did not immediately see how inane a toe measurement of 4 inches was, speaks to my distraught state, not my intrinsic intelligence!) Anyway, as tears welled up in my eyes, my brothers were doubled over in convulsive fits of glee.

“4 inches”, Kev repeated. “They’re as long as cigarettes.”

“With toes that long,” Keith quivered, “you could scale telephone poles barefooted.”

Shame reddened my face, as scalding tears burned my checks. I went running out of the room, seeking the sanctuary of my bedroom. I should point out that my internal balance system was not yet calibrated properly to account for my recent height increase and mammary protrusions. Tripping over my own feet was a daily occurrence, and as I fled from the room, I failed to negotiate the metal rimmed step up. As my feet went out from under me, the shin on my left leg barreled into the step. This only fueled the laughter behind me, and as soon as I righted myself, I continued running upstairs to my room.

It was only after I got in my room, that I felt a hot trickle down the front of my leg. When I looked down, I was horrified. A thick stream of maroon blood trailed down my leg. The impact had been so intense, that it took several minutes for the pain receptors to transmit their signal to my brain. The tissue around the 2 inch cut (about the size of my toe) was swollen creating a linear crater. The flesh had retracted exposing my bone.

Later that evening, when my parents decided that I did not require a trip to the emergency room and had justifiably chastised my brothers for their grievous insensitivity, I sat on the couch with my injured leg on the ottoman. A towel filled with ice cubes rested on my injured shin. The atmosphere in the room was subdued, but out of the corner of my eye I could see the smirks my brothers still wore, and I swear I heard one of them whisper, “God, look how long her neck is!”

I still carry the 2” scar from that day to remind me of my “awkward stage”. I actually came to enjoy my height… as soon as the boys in my class caught up! Below is a pic of me at eighth grade graduation partnered with a prepubescent classmate!

What did you keep in a box?

As many of you know, Tim and I did not meet until we were in our mid 40s. Besides the obvious… he’d never be able to see the “killer bod” I had at 19… there were so many things we missed. Pregnancies and graduations, job interviews and college parties! So, on a regular basis, I would say, “Tell me something about you I don’t know.” Well, to begin with, it was a no brainer for him. Tim is never at a loss for words, except when he’s asleep. Nope, I take that back. Quite maddeningly, he talks in his sleep, too, but I only get to hear one side of the conversation! “Oh yes. I like that. I like that a lot.” I ask you… are we talking romantic interlude here or has a dream geek just shared a particularly concise line of code, and does the fact that that makes sense to me make me a geek by association? Sorry, not at all relevant to this blog! Anyway, over time, stories of Tim’s childhood and young adult life were shared. Some tales of woe and many of wonder, but as time went on the obvious recollections began to diminish. And because I wouldn’t relent, Tim got smart and started collecting memories to have on hand, so when I asked the inevitable, he was ready with an answer. And then one day, when I said, “Tell me something about you I don’t know”, it happened. His response… “I can’t, I’ve told you everything.”

Obviously, this couldn’t be accurate. So, my questions had to become more precise. “What board games did you play with your siblings?” “What did you do on snow days?” “Tell me about the first time you closed on a house.” See, tons of things I didn’t know yet! The other day I asked, “When you were a kid, what did you keep in a box?” His response, “How do you come up with these questions?”

Well, I thought this was a particularly pertinent question, and that the answer would be quite illuminating. Because, when you are a child, your most treasured possessions are stored in boxes.

Think back to the story of the Littlest Angel. You know the story. The day Jesus is born all the angels in heaven go to pay homage. Gifts are bestowed… impressive, magnificent gifts… gifts fit for a king. The Littlest Angel fretted because he did not have anything worthy of a king BUT then he had a thought. On Earth he had a special box he kept hidden under his bed with his most valuable treasures. Surely, if he only had that, it would be something worthy to give. An understanding grown-up angel heard the Littlest Angel, and made a speedy trip to Earth and returned with the little angel’s box. But when the Littlest Angel opened the box, he was filled with shame. What was he thinking? Here, in this tattered box, were treasures that certainly were not fit for a king. Inside laid a tattered collar from a beloved dog, a robin’s egg, a couple of smooth white stones and a wing from a butterfly. The Littlest Angel tried to hide the box, but to his horror, it was pulled from his hands by an unseen force and placed with the magnificent gifts near the Christ child. The Littlest Angel tried to skulk off, but he was summoned by God himself. Fearing a deserved reprisal, he approached, well aware of all the eyes that looked upon him with sympathy and pity. But, to his amazement, God did not chide him, but rather commended him for his selection of gifts. “This”, God said, “Above all other gifts, is exactly what a child, born of this Earth, will treasure the most.”

“So”, I persisted, “What did you keep in a box.”

As it turns out, and this in no way came as a surprise to me, on Monday mornings, Tim and his best friend traveled the neighborhood going through people’s trash at the curb. Tim was a resourceful lad, always on the lookout for… electronics! Some treasure butterfly wings some treasure transistors… tomato <pronounced toe-may-toe>, tomato <pronounced toe-mah-toe>. (As our son Mike pointed out, pronunciation is lost in the written word!) Anyway… when Tim was young, what he valued most was electronic parts that could be used to make an automatic sling shot or a battery operated space ship. So, although it appeared that Tim’s box was filled with discarded wires and transistors, switches and dials, it was in fact, filled with the things dreams were made of! Isn’t that, after all, what should be inside every child’s treasure box?

And, of course, it must be asked… what did you keep in your box? 

Edit: Tim pointed out that I never mentioned what I kept in a box. I kept the key to diary, a hair that fallen onto the lapel of my grandfather's burial suit, (okay, maybe a little morbid, but I was raised Catholic, and relics, like hairs and bone spliters, were big!) the bi-laws to a secret club I belonged to, and a letter I had gotten from Paul McCartney. (Okay, maybe his secretary, but when I was in 4th grade I assumed it was from Paul himself!)

As I grew up, I continued to have treasure boxes. And then, as a mother, I had a special tin. One day I was showing the contents of the tin to Tim. When I removed the lid, there was a very unusual smell. The contents included the first pair of glasses my pre 1 year old son wore, a hefty braid cut from my daughters hair, someone's retainer, about 30 baby teeth, 1 shriveled ambilical cord, and 1 ear tube.

Me: Yikes. This smells funky. I think this stuff is decaying. What am I going to do. I can't throw this stuff away.

Tim: You don't have to. Just put the top on it and never open it again.

He's so understanding! And so I did just that. I can't bring myself to throw its contents away, although its a rather macabre collection of paraphernalia, but I treasure what each of the items represents. So despite that fact that it needs to remain hermetically sealed, I know its contents marks major events in my children's lives. A pretty priceless treasure!  

Returning on Tuesday, April 7th

Just wanted to jump on and let everyone know that I will be back with regular weekly postings next Tuesday, April 7. This is the longest hiatus I’ve taken, I have missed it dearly! So, if your Tuesday mornings included a perusal of One Gen, I hope you’ll rejoin me. This week we will be making the switch over to the new server, and I’m getting the “old look” back! I swear, I TRY to change… Anyway, check back, and I look forward to catching up!

About Me

Hi there! I am Kimara Wise. I am a wife, a mother, a gammy, a sister, a daughter, and a friend. I have raised three children, numerous pets, ran a home based preschool, and met my soul mate at the ripe age of 47… they do exist! Through him I acquired two more “children” that I have grown to love. When you hear me speak of “my children” it is usually referring to my three biological offspring. When I talk about “our children”, I’m speaking about Tim’s and my collective brood. I received a degree in home economics, later returning to school to get my elementary education degree. I’m at the tail end of the baby boomers and was in my teens during the turbulent sixties. I have lines upon my face from a lifetime of smiles…I count my blessings daily.

I loved, or more accurately, love my life. I enjoy raising my children, befriending my house, and spending time with my gardens. I came from a home rich with traditions, many of which I continued, and added many more to our family’s life.

And “Why the blog?”

This blog is a gift of love to my children and grandchildren. It is, in part, my legacy to them. But, it is also my way, hopefully, of sharing with others the things that worked, and sometimes monumentally failed, on my quest to turn our house into a home. It is a cozy chat amongst friends, and it is meant to span the generations. Although often didactic in nature, I hope you find it lighthearted and amusing in tone.
Finally, The Invitation!

In this blog I share stories about children, homes, gardens, friends, observations on life and, well, whatever suits my fancy on any given day! Over the next several months I expect the blog to grow and evolve. I hope to develop an active on-line community committed to sharing and encouraging family lore. I hope you become a regular contributor to the comment section. This blog is intended to amalgamate generations, allowing us all to benefit from different perspectives and points of view. So, welcome, return frequently, share with others, but most importantly… enjoy!

You can also join me, and my daughter Michelle, on Wee Folk Art for some crafty goodness. Hope to see you there!
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