Monday, February 20, 2012

Birthday Memories

Today is my birthday. I have no idea how I got to be 55 so quickly, but here I am. I don't "feel" 55 (whatever that feels like), and I like to be delusional and think that I don't look 55. Please don't burst my bubble. There are days that I actually believe my delusions and other days where I'm rational and realize that perhaps I don't look 25 anymore.

My birthday always brings back fond recollections of my birthday parties. Having the "joy" of having your birthday fall in the middle of winter (and a mere 6 days after Valentine's Day), meant that your birthday parties were confined to the house.  For whatever reason, God decided to bless my parents with all three of us in the middle of winter (our birthdays are all within the span of one month), so it was a string of birthday parties. I'm quite certain that Momma and Ma-Ma were happy to see March 1st come around. I don't remember having a birthday party without my friends. My first toddler parties were mostly the neighborhood girls and boys and their mothers. Complete with cake and punch, we mostly played with toys while our moms enjoyed visiting with each other. On occasion, a certain cousin of mine would sneak under the table to kiss one of the boys, but for the most part, they were pretty tame.

As time progressed, the boys went away, and it was only my little girl friends at my parties. What fun we would have! Momma would decorate the dining room and the living room would be set up for games. We would have a lovely meal that Ma-Ma would make (featuring something pink--one year, it was pink mashed potatoes, and another year it was pink cottage cheese on pears). Always, always, always, the cake would be a "polka-dot angel food", which was a white angel food cake with those colored sprinkles put in the batter before it was baked. As it would bake, the sprinkles would melt, and when you cut the cake, it was filled with colored dots. I swear to you, it made the cake better. You could actually buy the cake mix like this, but I haven't seen one in years. Ma-Ma would put a piece of wax paper over the center, so that she could ice it for the candles. This is from my birthday party when I was 8. I love that we were all so dressed up for our parties. It was from a different generation, and I feel that we've lost a little something when we spend most of our time in jeans.

Getting ready to blow out the candles on my birthday cake.
Debbie and Diane Wells, Tina Voss (facing the camera)
 and Lisa Poor (in the turquoise dress)
One of my favorite birthday gifts that year was my first cookbook that Tina Voss gave me. I still have the book (although it was used so much that it's pretty fragile). It is a great cookbook, and holds special memories for me.

Soon, we progressed to slumber parties, which is what most of my high school friends remember. I would like to think that they were my friends because of me, but sometimes I wonder if it was because they wanted to be invited to my slumber parties. They were the bomb! No exaggeration at all. We usually had everyone for dinner--or a late snack, which consisted of things like homemade pizza, or Ma-Ma's famous homemade ice cream (what I would give anything for some of that right about now). The boys and Daddy would disappear (this was a very good thing), so it was all the girls and Momma. The boys were usually staying at Ma-Ma's, so she would bring the food over and then disappear with the boys. We would giggle, have seances (I have no idea who we were trying to talk to, but it always seemed that the dog would make a noise in the dark and we would all jump), freeze the bras of the unfortunate girls that actually were able to wear a bra and always tried to stop the train. Our house was built across the street from a train track, and every night around 2 AM the train would come by. We decided that if we waved from our front bay window at the train, they would see us and possibly stop. Sure enough, with enough hand waving, the train would blow the whistle and many times would stop. It never occurred to us that they were changing cars on the train. Whatever. We had fun doing it. Soon, we progressed from not wanting boys anywhere near our parties to having various boys, both from our class and my older brother's class, appearing at some point in the night--especially from my brother's class. They would appear "looking for Steve" (who was never there) and pretend that they had no idea we were having our slumber party. Right! Every now and then, one of my guests would disappear for awhile with whomever had appeared.

We had a large, unfinished basement that had a pool table, ping-pong table, extra refrigerator and a television with furniture to lounge on.  But most of all, I have a fantastic mother that allowed us to just have fun and not worry about what we were doing. She knew that we were going to behave ourselves and just let us have fun. She is an incredible momma (as was my grandmother) and it is because of them that I have these dear memories to cherish.
l-r: Kevin, Erin, Stephie (holding Steinbeck) and Ryan
Thanks for allowing me to relive the memories of 55 years of February 20th. This birthday was made special by having my precious girl come home and bring some of her delightful college friends (to include meeting her new boyfriend). We went out to dinner and had a lovely time visiting. I'm blessed with my daughter and her friends, and I thank my family for giving me yet another wonderful birthday. God has blessed me with a wonderful family and friends, and I am thankful for everyone of you that have joined me in celebrating a birthday or two and helping me form these wonderful memories. Love you all!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Biffle, a Boy and a Baby

This is the story of me and a family of three generations. Let me start at the beginning.

40 years ago last September, a new girl moved to Greencastle. Being from a small town, having a new person was always a huge deal. We discovered that we had both home economics and earth science together, and started to become friends. I invited her to a slumber party, but her mother was very wary of her spending the night at our house. Not to worry--I had my southern momma call her southern momma, and before we knew it, my new friend was able to come to my slumber party. Not to toot my own horn, but my slumber parties were the bomb. That’s another blog.

Before long, this beautiful, sweet girl and I became best friends. Every boy in the school was in love with her. I was thrilled to have Sheila as my new best friend. God placed her in my life at the perfect time. Junior high days had been very tough for me, and I needed Sheila. I still thank God for sending her to me when He did. All during high school, we became closer friends. Although she was a cheerleader and I was a band/choir geek, we still had a lot in common with each other. By the time we were seniors, and looking at colleges, we really wanted the other to go to the school we had chosen. I was eager to go to Indiana State, but she had her mind set on Western Kentucky University. Well, what did I have to lose by looking at Western? I walked onto the campus, and fell in love with the school. So, on August 17, 1975, Sheila and I became freshman at WKU. What a ride those four years were. I won’t lie and say that they were spectacular, because the four years had their ups and downs. We pulled away from each other for a period of time, but always were friends. By the time we graduated, we were good friends again, and Sheila was getting ready to be married. But, the day that we graduated, we found out that her dad had been diagnosed with lung cancer, and we began our adult life with a tragedy that only began to pull us even closer together.

Fast forward 32 years. By now, there aren’t very many people that I’m closer to than Sheila. We have seen each other through the divorce of my parents, the deaths of her parents, the cancer and death of her first husband, the births of our children, our marriages, losses of jobs, and now the trials that our children are going through. We have watched each other’s children grow up, go to school, and become beautiful adults. We joke about finding our nursing home together (she’s been known to tease me about my curls, but I’ve told her that I’ll be in the craft room while she’s getting that perm!). I don’t know what I would do without Sheila in my life. I have to stay her friend--she knows way too much about me. So, Sheila is my BFFL (pronounced biffle). Best Friend For Life. Apparently, from what I’ve been told, that is a step above BFF.

Now for the boy: 

31 years ago, a beautiful baby boy was born to my biffle and her lovely husband. You have to understand, that all of the years Sheila and I had known each other, she was going to have a girl and name her Elizabeth. So, all during her pregnancy, we called the baby Elizabeth. Well--until an ultrasound told us that Elizabeth would be a bad name for the baby, unless we wanted to rewrite the song, “A Boy Named Sue”. I still remember the day that Jim called to tell me that Sheila had given birth to a perfect baby boy named James Neal. Even though, technically, he wasn’t my child, I more or less adopted him as mine (I was single at this point of life). I was working in a children’s clothing store, so I bought him books, toys, clothes...and spoiled his sister, Rachel, just as much 14 months later. I loved these children like they were my own. Years later, when my Stephie was born, I knew that Sheila would love Stephie like she was her own. It’s just the way our friendship works. Neal is the boy I never had.

So now, Neal and his beautiful, precious wife, Rachel Jane, have had their own baby boy. Sheila is a Nana, and we are moving into yet another phase of our friendship. I’m so excited to enter this new phase of grandmother-hood and surrogate grandmother (for me). This is as good as being an aunt. I welcome little James Dominic Garvin into this world. You are so loved by so many people. God has placed you in a family that will cherish and love you all the days of your life. I pray that I can be a blessing to you and your family as the years go on. Even though I haven’t met you, I already love you, just like I love your daddy, mama and your nana. God bless you little one and until I hold you in my arms, may God keep you and bless you. Hugs and kisses from Miss Julie

Nana, Papa and their beautiful grandson