Saturday is for Sharing – Amy Bovaird –

Post #122 – Aug. 25, 2018

Saturday is for Sharing

Series of Guest Authors – #8

Miss Opal & Lynda

Welcome YOU to

Saturday is for Sharing 

_____

Meet Amy Bovaird

Seeking Solace: Finding Joy After Loss

 

 

  

Hi Amy,   I am so pleased to present your books and hear your thoughts today on SCAN.

Your life-long love of travel and your humorous adventures abroad,  teaching English as a Second Language, seem to be  the backbone of  your writing.  No matter what the story is about, we get an excellent view of the world as you experienced it.  You bring us along wherever you are, in your writing. I’ve been reading your stories for a number of years.

Recently, I listened to the Spring/Summer issue of “Magnets & Ladders Literary Magazine.” This magazine was  recorded on digital cassette by the Perkins Library. I really enjoyed hearing your essay, “The Sweet Breath of Africa,” which won an Honorable Mention for non-fiction.  This story is about an African nurse  who took care of you while you were alone, in a foreign country,  in a hospital. It is a beautiful  and sensitive story. I have listened to it twice because it is so compelling. You are a natural storyteller, Amy.   Read this story here:  https://www.magnetsandladders.org/#the-sweet-breath-of-africa-memoir-nonfiction-)honorable-mentionwzxhzdk47by-amy-bovaird

Q_ What do you think about your name and do you use a pen name for your books?

Amy_ There is so much to a name, and over the years, I have learned not only to appreciate but also to cherish mine. My three siblings are named after other respected family members, but my mother said she chose my name simply because she liked it. That is so sweet, all by itself. As I traveled overseas to teach, having a small three-letter name like ‘Amy’ fit just right. My last name—French in origin—posed problems so my overseas students called me “Miss Amy.” This made me feel close to them; it facilitated stronger relationships and forged cultural ties.

In one class, which focused on teaching strategies for TOEFL, a college-entrance exam needed for non-native students to enter western universities, we came across the word, “amicable.” My Indonesian student said, “This is you, my teacher.” His observation filled my heart with gratitude. At some point, I heard the term, “Bon ami,” French for ‘good friend. and added that on to the lovely nuances of my name. It also has roots in Spanish, “amistad,” which means “friendship,” and “amor,” which means love. That described me well as I loved to make new friends. Later, I learned my name meant “beloved.” At that time, my walk with Christ was deepening, so my given name became even more meaningful.

I think it’s amazing how God ensures we have the tools we need to succeed in our careers—and that certainly includes the name we go by. I went by it as a teacher and I also use it as a writer.

Q_What have you done recently that really made you feel good about yourself?

Amy_ In the 90s I had the most wonderful job ever—teaching specialized English terms (think map reading, tanks, helicopters, etc.) to international military personnel at the Defense Language Institute at Lackland Air Force Base. I even helped set up language programs overseas. I left my job to marry an Egyptian Captain and teach in a civilian women’s college in the Middle East. I could never duplicate the unique teaching environment I had at Lackland.

About three weeks ago, one of my former colleagues and I met up in San Antonio and reunited with past co-workers. It was a whirlwind of excitement, beginning with an unexpected stop at the base from the airport and two full days of meeting up with memorable colleagues. It was also the best thing I could ever do for myself – to reconnect with the bold, daring teacher and intrepid traveler I once was in the days before the huge drop in my vision. It was good to remember I was still that person.

Q_ Are you a “Mountain,” “Valley,” or “Beach” person?

 Amy__I am definitely a mountain gal. Give me a backpack and I’ll climb high! I have a couple of humorous anecdotes in my second book, Cane Confessions: The Lighter Side of Mobility, about climbing mountains in Scotland and Japan. You can probably guess the challenges of climbing the Scottish mountain named Goatfell! There’s something about the high altitude that goes hand-n-hand with adventure.

 

Q_ What is your most notable achievement or accomplishment to date?

Amy_  I am  quite proud of my second book launch. I collaborated with the Sight Center of Northwest Pennsylvania to unveil Cane Confessions. We found a great location to hold the launch, a large senior center in our area. We put our heads together to create a strong line-up of speakers for our program.

The CEO of the Sight Center was our emcee. She introduced each speaker for the event. Other speakers included the director of the Bureau of Blindness and Visual Services. This organization provides counseling, training aids, rehab and orientation and mobility to those who are blind or have low vision. Another speaker was on the Board of Directors for the Sight Center but also represented Pennwriters, a state-wide group of writing professionals of which I am a member. It also included the head of the Lions Club (of which I belong), followed by a leader dog (guide) trainer with her leader puppy. The keynote speaker was a laser eye surgeon, who I asked to speak on gene therapy. I also spoke and read a humorous passage from my book. The line-up ended with my pastor, who prayed for the outreach of my memoir, and also for the food.

While we served cake and punch, and I signed books,

we had a fabulous new group perform some original music,

including one song they wrote specifically tor the launch.  One of the group members was from Pennwriters.

We even had someone to take the money for the books, so I only had to focus on signing and connecting with those who came to purchase them.

I don’t think any of us expected such an incredible, comprehensive program to unfold without a hitch! We were thrilled! Unfortunately, although we sent out a slick press release to the media, they failed to show up. What a shame as my launch showcased so many facets of assistance available to the visually impaired community. We certainly put up a united front. It is still one of my fondest memories.

 

Q_ Tell us more about how you began to write books. 

Amy_ The first professional paid writing job I fell into was a ghostwriter job. I wrote a memoir my client termed as “the greatest love story ever told.” It was an upbeat story of my client and his wife (the love of his life) as they dealt with her ovarian cancer. I was so proud of it when I finished it.

That prepared me to write my own memoirs. I have written two books about mobility (using a white cane), which includes elements of fear, faith, humor and adventure. (I am currently working on my third and final mobility book. I plan to finish the series by December of this year).

Seeking Solace: Finding Joy After Loss

is the memoir I want to share with you today.  This new book combines my faith and experiences in a devotional format. It consists of forty-five devotions where God met my needs at desperate points of loss during my time in the Middle East. The first section focuses on loss in childbearing. The second section focuses on getting through divorce. The final section focuses on coping with the discovery of my father’s stage-four cancer while I was in the Middle East.

Writing these devotions helped me better understand how God carried me through my heartbreak. My devotions reminded me how God had ministered to me in the past, which, in turn, helped me recall who was in control of my life. Certainly not me. I was deeply grieving over the loss of my mother, who was eighty-seven. One day she was fine; the next, she suffered a massive stroke. You think you’ll be prepared when an elderly parent passes away but few of us truly are. The loss of a loved one causes grief no matter what the age of the one you love or of the bereaved.

The greater purpose in writing this memoir was to reach out to others facing similar losses. When I go to speak, not everyone can relate to challenges of my sight loss. However, many can relate to losing a child or a parent. Additionally, one out of every two marriages end in divorce nowadays. There is a great need to know God will remain firmly at our side in those frightening moments when we face our biggest fears, failures and disappointments. All devotionals show testimony and mine does the same, only thematically.

 

If I could pick a page that would sum up of the message of my devotional book it might be found in this devotion.

LOVE TRANSCENDS TOUCH

 “‘I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow,’ declared the Lord.”
–Jeremiah 31:13, NIV


When Noor died, everything happened quickly. Nadir completed the legalities for her birth and death at the same time. I received no birth certificate or inked footprints to remember her. Nobody brought Noor to my bedside, so I could hold her and say goodbye. Nadir carried her shrouded body away. He placed her directly into a gravesite somewhere in a Dubai cemetery I would never see. Losing a baby in utero devastated me. It left me without even a photograph—as if conceiving her never happened. My second twin’s heart beat together with mine. I nurtured and sang to her, fought and prayed for her. After I delivered Noor, the nurses whisked her away to an incubator. Most of the time, my emergencies kept me from going to her. Except for One. Special. Moment. I reached through the incubator holes to stroke tiny legs—my first touch. One time to last forever.

My lack of input and involvement in the burial left gaping wounds. I cradled a single Polaroid the doctor snapped of Noor shortly after birth. Nadir hid the photo. He believed it unhealthy and wanted me to move forward. But I had no closure.

That summer, I wept for the missing rituals and mementoes that typically accompany motherhood. To fill that gap, God gave me a beautiful song about love being deeper than touch. The lyrics slowly filled the void, like rays of hope seeping through a heavy black cloud.

The words seemed penned for my twins and me. When I listened to that song, I thought about how beautiful it was to have those hearts beating inside me for even a short time. I believe one day I’ll have that privilege again.

 

Heavenly Father, thank you for scripting special words to heal our unique pain.

 _____________________

 

Contact information:

Name: Amy L. Bovaird

Book Title: Seeking Solace: Finding Joy After Loss

Email: mailto:amybovairdauthor@gmail.com

Website: https://amybovaird.com/

Book Description: https://amybovaird.com/seeking-solace/

Blog: https://amybovaird.com/blog/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/amybovairdauthor/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Amy_Bovaird

Amazon: https://amzn.to/2ls28BO

*Book is available in regular, large print, ebook and audio.

Audio is available at Audible.com, iTunes, Amazon and my website.

_______________________

Dear Readers of SCAN,

Your support of our Featured Guest Authors is  appreciated.

Here’s how YOU can spread the HAPPINESS:

Please  share this article with your friends on Social Media and by Re-Blogging.

You can purchase this book: Gift Giving Season is closing in on us already!

Thanks again for your support of the Authors who are featured on Saturday is for Sharing.

________________

Saturday is for Sharing

is brought to you by

Pennsylvania author, Lynda McKinney Lambert and her feline writing partner, Miss Opal.

SCAN is owned by Lynda McKinney Lambert.

View Publications Page for updates on my stories and poems.

Walking by Inner Vision.

Lynda’s Author ‘s Page

Saturday is for Sharing is Lynda’s property. You have permission to SHARE this blog post with your FRIENDS on FaceBook.

Copyright: August 25,, 2018. Lynda McKinney Lambert. All rights reserved.

Please share with your Friends on FaceBook and SHARE to your blog. Please Re-Blog this article and spread the HAPPINESS.

I only ask that you re-post the entire article with the copyright information attached.

Leave Miss  Opal and Lynda some comments and let us know what you liked about this feature story today.

 

SHARE Good Thoughts

and Happiness

EVERY day!

 

Saturday is for Sharing – Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author

 

July 14, 2018

SCAN is hosted by Lynda McKinney Lambert.

If you are NEW to SCAN, I recommend:Just SCAN it!

 

Guest Author

Abbie Johnson Taylor

Author of  4 Published Books

 

18_SCAN_Sharing_AbbieTaylorPortrait

Abbie, It is wonderful to have you here today as our Guest Author.

I first met you on an internet  writers group, Behind Our eyes. At that time  you were serving as the group’s president.   You were, and still are, are really the “Energizer Bunny” of this international group of writers., You are a role model and inspiration  to many of us who are writers with sight loss or blindness. You model for us all what we can do if we stay focused and keep on going on the writer’s path.

Miss Opal and I are glad to have this opportunity to share your life and your books with our readers today. 

Abbie’s Story

 

Q_What do you think about your name? Do you use your own name for your writing?  

My full name is Abigail Louise Taylor.

My middle name was that of my paternal grandmother, but I’m not sure how my parents came up with my first name. Taylor is my married, or should I say widowed, name. Johnson is my maiden name. I like the sound of Abbie Johnson Taylor, so that’s why I publish material under that name.

 

Q_Who would you like to see walk in the door right now?  

 I would like to see my late husband Bill

walk through the white door to my office

right now. Although he has no vision, he would know exactly where I’m sitting. He would saunter up to me and start massaging my shoulders, as I’m sitting here in my chair, typing away. Then, I would stop, turn around, stand up, and we would embrace. Of course Bill hasn’t walked since January of 2006 when he suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side. Now, he’s in a better place, so I know he’ll never walk through my door again, but I can dream, can’t I?

 

Q_Tell us about the books you authored. What is your most recent book?

I’ve written 5 books.

My latest published work is a memoir about how I met, married, and cared for Bill after he suffered two strokes that paralyzed his left side. Here’s the synopsis. You can learn more and find ordering links at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com/memoir.htm

 In September of 2005, Abbie Johnson married Bill Taylor.

She was in her mid-forties, and he was nineteen years older. Three months later, Bill suffered the first of two strokes that paralyzed his left side and confined him to a wheelchair. Abbie Johnson Taylor, once a registered music therapist, uses prose and poetry to tell the story of how she met and married her husband, then cared for him for six years despite her visual impairment. At first, there was a glimmer of hope that Bill would walk again, but when therapists gave up on him seven months after his second stroke, Taylor resigned herself to being a permanent family caregiver.

She discusses learning to dress him and transfer him from one place to another, sitting up with him at night when he couldn’t urinate or move his bowels, and dealing with doctors and bureaucrats to obtain necessary equipment and services. There were happy times like when she played the piano or guitar and sang his favorite songs, or when they went out to eat or to a concert. She also explains how she purchased a wheelchair accessible van and found people to drive it so they wouldn’t always depend on the local para-transit service’s limited hours. In the end, she describes the painful decision she and Bill made to move him to a nursing home when he became too weak for her to care for him in September of 2012. He seemed to give up on life and passed away a month later.

 

Q_Do you have a favorite dance partner?  

 My father was my favorite dance partner.

When I was a teen-ager, he taught me to waltz. My family often went to establishments where there was live music, either old standards or country and western. If there was a dance floor, you can be sure Dad and I were on it. My father passed away in 2013. When I met Bill, he could no longer dance because he had some infused limbs. Now that he and Dad are both gone, I still go to dances, but I sit on the sidelines, watch others, listen to the music, and remember.

 

Q_Do you have a favorite song that brings back good memories?  

 My favorite song is “I Want to Spend

My Lifetime Loving You”

from the movie, the Mask of Zorro. When Bill proposed to me in January of 2005, he was living in Fowler, Colorado, and I was living here in Sheridan, Wyoming. We’d been carrying on a long-distance relationship for two years. For Valentine’s Day, he sent a care package which included, besides the obligatory chocolates and other items, a cassette tape of love songs he’d downloaded from the Internet. This song was one of them. I found it amazing that a man wanted to spend his lifetime loving me, and I finally got to the point where I wanted to spend the rest of my life loving him. Here’s a link to the song.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo4AWDELNiY

 

Abbie Johnson Taylor

SCAN_AbbieTaylorBook_MyIdealPartnerCreatespaceCover (002)

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Abbietaylor945@gmail.com

Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/ybmouz5y

Website: http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

Abbie, Miss Opal and I agree that your  story

is encouraging and inspiring to our fellow authors and to the readers. It was fun learning so much more about you! 

We know our readers will be inspired and encouraged by your journey and we thank you for being m first guest here at SCAN on “Saturday is for Sharing.”

 Abbie’s final Comment – a Poem for you!

 

THE RISE AND FALL OF MY ZORRO

With cape, hat, mask, rapier,

he rode out of the darkness.

“Take my hand. Dance with me,” he said,

“I want to spend my lifetime loving you,”

but happily–ever–after was not to be.

My hero fell and rose many times.

I felt the glory

until he fell for the last time.

Where there’s love, life begins again.

When life dies, love goes on.

__________

More about Abbie:

Abbietaylor945@gmail.com

Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/ybmouz5y

Website: http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com

_____________________

Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright July 7, 2018. All rights reserved.

Saturday is for Sharing

is a weekly series coordinated by Lynda and Miss Opal, her feline writing partner.  Lynda and Miss Opal live in rural western Pennsylvania in The Village of Wurtemburg. 

Lynda is the author of 4 books:

Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage Buy it!

Walking by Inner Vision: Stories & Poems Buy it!

Lynda has just completed her 3rd book

Star Signs: New & Selected Poems

AND… her FIRST CHAPBOOK

first snow, 16 Poems with a Wintry Theme.

Both new books  are now available for publication. Editors, please contact Lynda for the manuscript.

 

Thank you for visiting with us today.

Miss Opal and Lynda McKinney Lambert

 

 

Contact Miss Opal and Lynda at:  riverwoman@zoominternet.net

Your COMMENTS, QUESTIONS, and SUGGESTIONS are always welcome.

PLEASE SHARE by Re-Blogging this article on Social Media.  

PLEASE share Abbie’s story and buy a copy of one of Abbie’s books!

 

If you are a published AUTHOR or an actively exhibiting ARTIST – Miss Opal and Lynda  want YOUR STORY for our “Saturday is for Sharing” blog features. We spotlight one outstanding author or artist a week.

Right now, we are scheduling into the month of September.

E-mail us today: riverwoman@zoominternet.net

 

 

Be My Guest – Abbie Johnson Taylor

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.” Rumi

My Special Guest Writer for February is

Abbie Johnson Taylor.

With Valentine’s Day just around the corner

here’s a poem about love that endures through difficult times.

This poem was inspired by a song from a movie that was released in the late 1990’s. I never heard of the song or the movie until 2005.

 

this was after my late husband Bill proposed to me.

He was living in Fowler, Colorado, at the time, and I was here in Sheridan, Wyoming. We met through a magazine, and after a long-distance friendship during which we communicated regularly by e-mail and phone and met face to face twice, he sent me a letter, out of the blue, asking me to marry him. This was in January.

PHOTO_ValentineLetter

A month later, Bill  sent me a Valentine care package that included, among other things, a cassette tape of love songs he downloaded from the Internet.

One of these  songs was “I Want to Spend My Lifetime Loving You”

from The Mask of Zorro. 

It became one of our songs.

 

 

 

Even now, after caring for him at home for six years when two strokes partially paralyzed him, and after I lost him three years ago, I still marvel that a man wanted to spend his lifetime loving me.

__________

To hear this song, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo4AWDELNiY . To hear me read the poem, visit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/rise%20fal%20of%20zorro.mp3 .

__________

THE RISE AND FALL OF MY ZORRO

With cape, hat, mask, rapier,

he rode out of the darkness.

“Take my hand.  Dance with me,” he said,

“I want to spend my lifetime loving you,”

but happily-ever-after was not to be.

My hero fell and rose many times.

I felt the glory

until he fell for the last time.

Where there’s love, life begins again.

When life dies, love goes on.

__________

Abbie Johnson Taylor. Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.

Abbie’s Bio:

Abbie Johnson Taylor is the author of a novel and two poetry collections and is working on a memoir. Her work has appeared in Magnets and Ladders and Serendipity Poets Journal. She is visually impaired and lives in Sheridan, Wyoming, where for six years, she cared for her late husband, totally blind and partially paralyzed as a result of two strokes. Please visit her blog at http://abbiescornere.wordpress.com and Website at http://www.abbiejohnsontaylor.com .

Below are links to Abbie’s books:

To hear this song, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yo4AWDELNiY .

To hear me read the poem, visit https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/15213189/rise%20fal%20of%20zorro.mp3 .

__________

this post is presented in much appreciation by  Lynda McKinney Lambert.

Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.

 

Below: Lynda Lambert, Photo by Bob Lambert:  “My Pink Scarf”

Lynda McKinney Lambert. Copyright 2016.. All Rights Reserved. 

 

Knitting15_Scarf9_4

__________

Lynda’s 2 blogs:

“Walking by Inner Vision” Link:  Walking by Inner Vision Blog
“SCANdalous – Recollections” Link:  SCANdalous – Recollections Blog

__________

Lynda’s Bio

Lynda McKinney Lambert – author of “Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage” published by  Kota Press. To order, click here:  Concerti: Psalms for the Pilgrimage
Lynda  authors two blogs on writing, the humanities, arts, and faith.
She is a freelance writer and her poetry and essays appear in numerous books and literary journals.  She is a retired professor of fine arts and humanities and she exhibits her fiber arts in exhibitions worldwide.
Currently, Lynda  has two books in development for publication in late 2016.

If you would like a signed copy of my book, contact me for information.

The Living Room – I Believe in Christmas Eve!

The Living Room

I Believe in Christmas Eve!

 Christmastreesoutside“A baby on its mother’s back does not know the way is long”. African Proverb.

 Esther looked forward to one special night of the year when she won’t be lonely in her quiet home.  Esther walked slowly through the stillness and then she stopped briefly to look out the large picture window in her spacious living room. She checked once again to see if anyone had arrived yet.  She won’t be alone tonight because it is Christmas Eve.  Every year Esther’s four grown children returned home with their families to celebrate this special evening together. Esther’s face will be radiant with happiness throughout this evening and she’ll be transformed into the queen of the night. Esther is the lone matriarch of the family.

 The elongated living room will quickly fill up with her children, grand children, and even great grandchildren tonight. This room was built with enough space for holding large gatherings for all sorts of family events. Along the one long wall, there is a gray stone fireplace. As she had done for many years previously, it was decorated with her hand painted ceramic angels.

christmasTree1The three elegant angels are glazed all over in pearly white. Each carried a different musical instrument. She had accented those instruments with a glittering gold paint that matched the halo on each angel’s head.  She always placed cranberry red candles among the angels and carefully arranged boughs of pine across the mantle. The graceful holiday decorations created shimmering reflections in the wide mirror that stretched out the entire length of the mantle behind them. The reflections made the room seem joyful and optimistic as the little multi-colored twinkle lights flashed brilliantly around the edges of the mirror. .  When Esther’s husband, Bill, was still alive he always made a crackling fire in that fireplace. Now it is bare and unused.  She did not turn on the stereo tonight because she did not think about it

 

For this special occasion, Esther selected her favorite Christmas sweater. She has had it for years.  The bright holiday sweater makes her feel happy.  It is a warm sweater in bright Christmas red and on the front it has white poinsettias and golden ribbons woven into the fabric.  She did not think about what her two sisters will probably be wearing when they arrive tonight.   The two elderly women, Fanchion and Bettie arrived early in the evening and as usual, each lady wore a noticeably similar Christmas sweater.  The three sisters always shopped together and most of the time, when one sister selected something to buy, the other two bought one just like it. Bettie, the youngest sibling of the trio, complained to someone, later in the evening about it.  She remarked, “I pick out this pretty sweater for myself. I found the sweaters first when we were shopping, and the other two had to copy me and buy one just like mine! They do this all the time. Why can’t they just pick out things for themselves?”

 ChristmasTree2

The three often grumbled about each other, but the siblings went shopping together often. Shopping helped fill the emptiness of their long days.  The sisters each lived separately, in their own hone. They lived about two miles apart.   They came from a family of seven children.   At this time, only four girls survived. They had lost the two brothers and one sister in the last decade.  Esther did not think about them very often any more. Sometime she even forgot they were no longer living and seemed surprised when someone mentioned they passed away.  She became agitated; her eyes widened as she said,

 

“They died? Oh, no! I didn’t know that. Why didn’t you tell me they died? I wanted to see them again! I wanted to go to their funeral. Why didn’t anyone let me know about this?”

 

Each time she learned again that one of her siblings was dead, she wept all over again. It always happened as someone brought up a conversation about their deaths. Each time it was the beginning of grieving for her.

 

When Esther’s children look back through old family photos they laugh when they see the three sisters sitting at a wedding reception. Each sister is dressed in a delicate little flowered dress.  Very often another sister, Jeanne, is there in the photos and sometimes her outfit looks like the other sister’s clothing. Strange, isn’t it? They all have the same taste.

 Esther’s husband, Bill, died eleven years before tonight. It happened suddenly one Saturday morning. It was in July.  While Esther prepared their breakfast in the kitchen at the opposite end of the home, Bill had left this world. He was in their bedroom and had not yet come out to have his breakfast with Esther. His sudden departure was a shock she never really recovered from, I recall several occasions when she grew silent and it was apparent she was overcome with sadness as she spoke. I turned my head away for her words were too hard for me to take in.  I tried to hold back my own tears as I silently inhaled and held my breath.

 

“I never got to even say good bye to Bill. I realize he didn’t come out of our room yet, I am in the kitchen reading my morning devotions. I hear him get up and go to the bathroom. Then, I think he should have come out for breakfast by now. Where is he?  I walk through the living room and into our bedroom   He is just laying there on the bed. All stretched out on his back.  His arms are wide open and his feet hang down almost touching the floor.  He is wearing one sock but the other foot is bare. I see he was putting on his socks. But he’s not moving.  I scream and rush over to him. I shake him, but he never moves. I try to put my mouth over his open mouth, and I try to breathe into him to wake him up. Nothing is working. I leave him and I run as fast as I can run, through the house, out the door, across the lawn to the neighbor’s house. I need help! Bill needs help he isn’t breathing and I cannot wake him up.” Bill left Esther alone at 6:30 am on July 17th, 1988. This is the year they would have celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, on Christmas Day!

christmsaTreeBalls

 

Esther was now seventy-nine years old – still a beautiful woman.   Her sharp, deep amber-brown eyes had clouded over.  They looked like a gray film had grown over the rich darkness of her eyes. She was still tall and looked stately. Her dark raven hair had slowly transformed into a soft, short silver color. She patiently watched out the thick glass window at the end of the living room.

 “I am sure someone will be here soon,” she whispered to the empty living room.

ChristmasSnowHouse

Some people told Esther she should sell her house and move into a smaller one. They said she needed one without such a big yard to take care of since Bill isn’t here anymore.  Her four children spoke about this to each other and once in awhile one of her children told  her she needed to move out of the big house so she would not have so many things to worry about and such a large yard that needed tending. But, Esther’s response to everyone who said something like that was,

  “No, Bill built this house, and I can never leave it. And, if I sold this house we would not have a place for our Christmas Eve party.” 

 

Esther was stoic in her determination to stay in the home she helped build. She managed to hold on to her home because it was built just for her and she loved it. The walls of every room surrounded her with a lifetime of memories. And, it held future possibilities for her Christmas Eve parties for her family.

 Bill and Esther did build the house, just like they had planned.   When they were younger and their four children were all at home, Esther and Bill dreamed about the house they would build some day.  Bill, a good artist and draftsman, entertained the children with his drawings of cartoons and animals. He made sketches of the ideas they formulated and envisioned their new house. Each of the children can recall the many times their parents poured over plans for a new home they wanted to build. . Bill even constructed a meticulous scale model of the house they planned together.  The model he built was large.  It was on a sheet of plywood. Bill spent the long, solitary winter months in the basement working on the model.  One of the features they planned so carefully was the spacious living room.  It was the most important room in their home.

 Now, so many years later, Esther is here all alone inside their dream house. They had worked side by side to build this home.     Esther was 38 years old and Bill was 42 when they moved their young family of four children into this house. It is the house where the children grew up together.

Esther and Bill had dreams of living in a nice neighborhood and in a house that they built. They made their dream come true. It was a little at a time, as they could pay for the things they needed when building it.  Bill was a Pennsylvania steelworker.  I can remember so many times when the men who worked in the steel mill went out on strike or when there would be lay-offs, and those times were difficult for our family.  After they started building the house, there would be several times when things came to a stand-still due to unemployment.  Our whole family actually moved into the basement of the house.  I was fifteen years old that summer. While our family lived in that basement, the upstairs was being built.  In a year or so, we all finally moved upstairs into the newly finished house.

 ***

It was exciting for me, as a fifteen year old girl, to be part of this new adventure in our life.

 ***

“It is a sultry, warm summer day and the men are here to start mixing up the fresh batches of plasterer. They set up all the equipment outside the front room, right there in the mud. They laid down some boards and they are walking back and forth on the boards, pushing the wheelbarrow. Some of the men are carrying the wet plaster on large boards. They hold the boards up with their arm and balance it on a shoulder, and walk as fast as they can towards the house.  They are really strong men and this is hard work carrying all the plaster into the house and to the room where they are putting it on the walls.  With each trip into the house the men start to cover the open studding. They are making wet walls that are getting thick and strong. I like to hang around watching the men and joke with them a lot. When they came today, I told them I wanted them to make the plaster lavender for my room. The man told me they never made lavender plaster before, but they said they would see if they can do it.  I really want lavender plaster in my room! They worked at it for a while, and then, they did start carrying in the lavender plaster for my room. I have to share this new room with my sister, Patti, and I hope she likes lavender because that is just what we are getting! And once we get the room plastered, then Mom said we can go pick our fabric for the new drapes she will order for it. I am going to pick out fabric that has black and white abstract print on it.”

***

 Our long-awaited new house was completed over the next week as the laborers made trip after trip from the mixing place outside, into the rooms inside the new ranch style house…

 “I have always loved real hand crafted plaster. The walls seem so solid and give me a feeling that I am safe inside of them. When I rap on a real plastered wall, I can hear the dull thud that does not make an echo.  The house seems to have a nicer voice once it is dry and has aged.  The older it gets, the clearer it sounds.  Handmade plaster sounds soft, and friendly.  When I lay my ear beside those walls, I can listen to the men talking as they carried it and slathered it onto the walls. I can hear the men bring in the plaster and the sounds of my two brothers and my sister as we danced about inside the bare, unfinished house. Memories whisper to me and I can hear the many voices from the past .The plastered walls have the power to speak and the voices of our family remain inside the plastered walls.”

 ***

One of the loveliest sounds that echoed through the house was Esther’s voice as she sang hymns. She was a strong singer with a ringing alto voice.  The living room was her concert hall as she dusted the table tops or washed the large picture window. 

***

Esther Luella Kirker started singing as a small child with her family.  Almost her entire family sang or played a musical instrument. Everyone who knew the Kirker family always remarked about the music they all made together at the local Wurtemburg Methodist Church. Esther’s father, James, played the coronet in the church orchestra. Her oldest brother, Clair, was there, too, because he played the tenor saxophone.  Sister Jeanne played the Piano.  Esther sang along with the family musicians. Her voice was her instrument. Esther sang at church.  Members of the congregation often asked her to sing their favorite hymns. She continued   singing those old time heavenly songs by memory her entire life. My Mother had forgotten many things these days, but she never forgot how to sing. She never forgot the words or the melodies of the old hymns. “How Great Thou Art” and “In the Garden” are two hymns that still ring in my memories today. I remember my Mother’s voice.

 ***

Around 7 PM everyone began to arrive tonight.  They parked on the blacktop driveway at the Mercer Road residence.  Cars soon lined the driveway and even down the sides onto the frozen lawn. Our entire family members came bursting through the front door. They called out, “Merry Christmas” and laughed as they greeted each other with hugs and smiles.  They carried in holiday foods wrapped up with foil and they juggled boxes and bags of bright wrapped gifts.  Each person wore holiday outfits for this special night.  Christmas Eve at our house was a grand affair and everyone always dressed in their sparkling new outfits; velvet, silk, and taffeta dresses were on all the little curly haired granddaughters.  Their little brothers had slicked down hair and they arrived with small metal model s of cars and soft stuffed toys to keep them busy.

 ***

Once her family members began arriving with their arms stacked with wrapped gifts and foods, we quickly put   out the colorful holiday food on the table Esther had prepared for this feast.  Esther served the very same punch every year. It is a fruity punch and we all expected to enjoy it. If she ever changed and used a different recipe, it would not be the same for us. We loved her frothy pink fruit punch.  When my father was still living, I brought him his favorite pie, an old fashioned Shoo-fly Pie or a mincemeat pie.

 ***

When the new house was nearly finished, Bill brought some spindly trees home from the woods. He planted them around the house and down the driveway.  One neighbor remarked, “Those trees from the woods will never grow.”  Tonight, the bare winter branches of the Maple and Sycamore Trees stand tall and strong in the early darkness of a Pennsylvania winter.  They were just like my Father and Mother might have imagined them forty years ago. Our Father’s hands were hardened by years of labor in the steel mill yet he carefully crafted this house and surrounding beauty of the yard through years of sacrifice and labor.

 ***

Tonight, in the gently beating heart of our family home,  our Mother’s swollen arthritic hands struggle to open the gifts are stacked around her. She looks so fragile and seems almost like she is drifting away to another place while we sit and watch her surrounded by her unopened gifts. These days, she struggles with almost everything. She often forgets ordinary things she had done for many years in earlier times of her life. She does not say very much tonight but she keeps on smiling. It is almost like she is part of a dream. She is like a Christmas angel, surrounded by her many offspring. She is quieter tonight. Sometimes she looks lost in the middle of the family celebration in the living room. At times, I watch her and try to imagine what she might be thinking about in the middle of this noisy laughter.

***

  As I glance over at her, I wonder if she is listening to the walls, hearing the voices from the past years.  Esther looks out over the five generations who have gathered here every Christmas Eve. The annual photos record the changes in the family. Small babies who once crawled on the floor now bring their own little babies to squirm through the ocean of wrapping paper. Bill is no longer in any of the family Christmas photos. Esther looks frail, and smaller than she looks in the old family photos.

 The living room has now become a witness in the house we filled with laughter, tears and secrets. The living room is part of a conspiracy tonight.

 We all know that this Christmas Eve gathering is Esther’s last Christmas Eve party in her home. We will never again be here as a family gathered around together. We are all facing a shift in our life. We will all be going in different directions after this night. While we smile and chat, we are lonely and deeply sad. I wrote a special poem about the house and gave a copy of it to every family member tonight.  There are tears behind our smiles. We all feel the meaning of the word “bittersweet.”

Epilogue:

The day after Christmas, I took my Mom to the local hospital for an evaluation. As we had all suspected, she was diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s disease. She lived another eight years but we would never again be in the living room of our childhood home for another celebration… This was the end of all our happy holidays together as a family. Our Mother’s life changed and so did we.  Each Christmas Eve, the living room remains the same as we always knew it, in our memories.

 TONIGHT, I miss the Living Room!

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Lynda Lambert.  Copyright 2012 and 2014.  All rights reserved.