Mow the Meadow

I walked up the steps from the barn this morning looking toward a glowing orange ruffle in the dark wet duff.  It was an old stump that had become home to an incredibly bright orange fungal growth which may be one called “witches butter”.  I am astounded each day by the diversity of life at our doorstep.

For the past several nights  Grandpa and I came home after dark and around bedtime from dinner in town, the airport or the play I mentioned last week.  As we drove up the drive we slowed far a small herd of deer, two bucks and three or four does. They eat the pasture grasses in the evenings.  One buck, larger than any we’ve seen, rests with his legs folded on the hill near the orchard.  He’s the caretaker for his herd. If we roll silently and slowly (the Prius), he doesn’t even unfold to a stand, and watches us pass about 20 feet from the car.

Yesterday afternoon I turned onto Lupine just after a rain shower and slowed for the road bunnies.  Remember how they would wait for us to approach and THEN dash across, one, then two, then 10 quail buddies, then the last brave bunny. We’d stop so you could spot them hiding under the brush, but you could never see them.  Me either.  You called them sneaky road bunnies. I love the way they munch grasses right next to the quail scratching through the soil for seeds.  It’s a mixed species dinner party.  Sometimes a jay or a raven drop in and the guests scramble.

A couple of weeks ago grandpa and I slowed on Lupine to watch a flock of turkeys cavorting in the meadow. (I call it a meadow because of a song we sang about it.) We counted 14 turkeys. A few were squatting to rest, some eating but the most interesting pair were sparring.  You know what that is?  Two tall, long-tailed, dark feathered wild turkeys stood two legs braced about three feet apart and dared one another.  Then ran forward wings flapping and bumped chests.  At the time of contact they would snap their beaks aggressively.  I really don’t know about bird behavior, but it was so cool to watch them repeat this over and over.  I think they made a turkey sound while they did it.  I’ll ask Grandpa if he remembers.

The pasture is also bobcat meadow.  One regularly slips across the road in the very same spot, her trail worn through the grass. She darts through the brush and out into the open where sits and preens for us.  She licks her paws, strokes a long pink tongue along her back and nips ticks out of her tail.  She allows us to stop the car to watch.  But if we are walking, she hides in the trees.  Maybe she doesn’t know we are in the car.  What do you think?

Visiting bobcat

Here she is at our house; although this may not be the same one.

“One man, two men come to mow the meadow, three men, four men they come to mow the hay.” Again, you say.  We’d continue to count by fours then backwards again.  We’d sing it all the way to town sometimes.  Our singing  started when we saw Salvador mowing the dry grasses  with John’s tractor. He was pulling a mower attachment up across and up again.  That was a couple of years back.  I learned the song when I was a teacher.  It helped kids learn their foursies multiplication tables. Four and three and two and one and whole lots more (not sure I have that part right) They mow the hay and they take it away on a beautiful summers day. One time we got to one hundred and twenty eight.  But, I ususally started over after 64. I remember the time we opened up to the big shiny ocean on Empire Grade after leaving the cover of  trees and you called, “Its a beautiful summers day.” You exhaled and held your arms wide and swooned, “Gorgeous.”

I hope you still say gorgeous. And someone gives you fantastic new words to try out.  And I hope someday I can teach you your foursies with breakfast cereal, jacks and a ball, playing cards, dominoes, my grannies button jar and the mow the meadow song, too. We could get all the way to our twelves if you want.  I love you little buddy. gma

Family time

I just got back from Los Angeles. I spent three days with my friend Marni and her family. They were all at her house and had daily snaggly haired morning snuggles. Her grown kids used to play with your daddy and Uncle AJ when they lived in Santa Cruz. Marni’s mom, her brothers and their kids all live nearby. I waded around for those few days through their family stories thick with emotion. I watched them hang on each others shoulders, eating and then discussing the food, talking and listening. They eagerly examine one anothers’ choices, share concern and get in little spats. I listened in on their rich, loving, and complicated lives. I felt a little lonely as I thought about our lives and yours.

You sure have a busy place. I imagine it a popcorn popper of activity. Little people and big ones. Your trailer-home in constant motion; noisy. What a change from your Bonny Doon cabin. Your mom and dad never had people over, no friends, little activity and lots of quiet under the trees. Its as different as it is here at my quiet house after my trip to LA. I am all alone. Grandpa at work and the dogs asleep. And I no longer wait for you to come bursting into the hallway.

Today there was a grandma on the news from another country called Brazil. She wanted her grandson to come back to her from far away in America. It was news because it was about a little boy being loved by two families far away from one another. They each want to live with him, feed him, watch him grow and play. The adore him and each want him to be their little boy. Kind of like you-right? They showed a picture of the grandma with the boy. It was me and you. I understand that grandma. And I understand that the little boy has had a really hard time of it and sad, hard losses already in his short life. And I believe he is going to be okay. I hope he gets to see his grandma.

I suspect you like it in Montana, but hoped you wouldn’t. I thought you’d have to come right back. But with 3 yr old Crystal to play with, toddler Nathaniel keeping you hopping and the old dog to snuggle with; you are entertained.   I love to think about you with me, but I know you like it there. Maybe soon it will be your new home. Today I have the feeling you’ll be okay. Marni assured me, as have other friends who know these kind of things, that you will forever be someone who had three good years in Bonny Doon. That you are resilient. And that even our own kids (your daddy and uncles) sometimes had hard stuff; lousy day care, times when we blew it and less than spectacular teachers. They are really okay guys. All of them. Yes, even your daddy.

Aren’t feelings complicated? Happy, sad, worried and hopeful get all stirred up together.

We need to see each other. I am a very lucky grandma. I get to see you in 16 more days. I found a motel that has an indoor play space. I will run with you, splash in a pool and we’ll slide down a slide. Maybe your mom and dad want to come play too. Sure. They can come. Your mommy told me today that you could stay all night. I’ll wait to call you and say I’m coming the night before I come. It would be unfair to have you confused by the waiting. I can hardly handle it. Two weeks seems far away.

I am a tiny bit afraid that you won’t want to stay and play with me. Worrying is not useful. Let’s always remind each other about that. Instead I will picture us having fun on the water slide. Come on,  sit on my lap.  Wheeee!

Kisses to baby sissy. I love you, bud. SPLASH. gma

Merry Christmas.  It was too quiet here today.  Just us old folks until AJ showed up and told us funny stories and brought energy from the city where he lives; San Francisco.  I am taking him back up there this morning.  He has to go to work.  Grandpa and I are going to a play starring an actor that your daddy worked with when he was a stage hand at the college.  His name is Joseph Ribiero.  Today he’ll be Scrooge.  Someday we will take you to plays and musicals.

Grammie had us over for dinner yesterday.  Her little place was all decorated with lights and Christmas doo-dads.  The kitties hid under the beds the whole time we were there. Georgia and Metro sniffed all over us when we got home.  They knew we’d been around kitties, even though we never touched them.  I was happy to hear your voice for a few minutes yesterday.  It sounded busy there at your place.  I hope you got a few moments to talk to yourself and roll your new truck around.  It was nice of the Toys for Tots people to bring you the truck.  It made me a little sad to think of you as a recipient of a donation.  I know it was a nice thing for you, so of course I am happy, too. Your mommy said that you wouldn’t put the truck down even at dinner.  It was heavy, I bet; made of metal, a big yellow dump truck.  Maybe its just like the one I got you that your mommy and daddy left in the sandbox here at your other little house.  I put it in out of the rain. It’s there with the other sand toys parked in the little barn that Jim built out of our old pump house wood.  Shelby sometimes plays in it.  She rides the pony over and she and her mommy dig for a while.  I told them you would think that was fine.

I have to hurry today, and I sure wanted to talk to you more yesterday, to hear about your day, your gifts and if you got the ham I sent for dinner, but it was so loud.  I heard your mommy say that Grandma had to use the phone.  When you cried, I did too. You weren’t quite ready to hang up, and I was sad because I am Grandma. I know you have two Grandma’s but couldn’t she choose another grandma name?  I knew you first.  She hadn’t even hung out with you until last month.  I know I sound unkind.  You can call me,  Grandma-one, if you want, or maybe Grandma Brown, like your cousins in Boulder do.  I hadn’t planned on losing my name.  I hadn’t planned on losing you.  Oh, dear, there are just so many hard things about you moving to Montana.  I’m a little bit sad right now, but I know AJ will cheer me up.  See you in 21 more days, little buddy! When we will laugh and play.

PS. Bring your truck and while you fill it then back up to dump it, I’ll say, beep-beep-beep for you. Soon-O   Love, gmabrown


Last year at Christmas you had just turned 2.  You called our tree a “missmiss twee”. When we drove to town we’d stop by the houses decorated with lights and discovered where the best ones were.  You would point and call from your car seat, “dares more missmiss”. Your daddy liked the lights, too.  AJ particularly liked the fake animals and moving figures, as I recall, but all of us found delight in the extravagant displays.  It was always fun finding the longest and fanciest Christmas route to get some milk or stop at the gas station.

The weather is crisp, clear and frosty in the mornings.  There was ice on the horse troughs and as I picked up a stick to crack away the crust so the horses could drink, I remembered that you liked that job.  Poke, poke, poke, you’d say and I had to remind you not to eat the small sheets of ice.  They are frozen mule spit, I told you.  YUK, is right.  I had a friend who used to tell her kids to stay out of the road and warn them that they would end up like this, and she’d show them an old dead toad that was dry and flat. She kept it on hand for this purpose.  I hope my mule spit idea isn’t like the dried toad.  I won’t say that anymore, now that I think about it.

Thinking about the way you’d hike up all those stairs from the barn and back home makes me yearn for you. Climb up on my lap and we’ll read a book. You choose.  Okay, I’ll read the one about the carton of rubber ducks falling off the ship into the sea-AGAIN.  I will read it as many times as you want.  I started a homemade book for you that I will send when I finish it.  It’s a story about change, but that’s not what you will notice about it.  A mouse lives in your old house, I saw it scurry from the kitchen yesterday when I was over there cleaning up a bit.  The story is about the mouse.  It’s a pretend story about a real mouse.  I’m not finished yet and still have to paint all the pictures.  I started doing art again with all my free time.  Maybe the little mouse will paint, too. Maybe she’ll work with clay.  Can’t you just picture her tiny little hands shaping the clay? I haven’t really decided yet. What do you prefer?

It’s Christmas eve and I miss you. Tonight Grandpa and I will drive down to town and find the best of the fancy lights.   We’ll say, wouldn’t our little buddy love this?  And we’ll stare at the lights, thinking about you. Tomorrow will be the day you open the packages I sent.  That makes me happy.  Merry missmiss, little buddy.  Kisses to you, your  mommy, daddy and baby sister.      gma

Sittin in my carseat, my seat, car seat…

I am humming the song that Vicky used to sing, “Sittin in my high chair, my chair, high chair, sittin in my high chair way up high….” I forget some of the words but we liked it any way it came out with our made up words. “Sittin’ in my car seat, my seat, car seat, sitting in my car seat, buckled up tight!”  I was looking for your car seat that I’d tucked away someplace a few days after you left.  I couldn’t remember where I put it.  In January Ella and Kalen will come visit and one of them will sit in it when we go places. I found it in AJ’s old room along with Ellie’s crib, snuggly blankets, her diapers and wipes.  Folded into a puff of yellow is the down comforter that used to be Mia’s before you and way before Ellie was born.  When one memory slips into our minds and hearts, its like opening an overfilled closet, everything, and I mean everything comes tumbling out.  I usually close the door really quickly so I don’t get buried in it all.  I am just too busy with everything to hang out there. I want to close my eyes really tight so I don’t have to look. But sometimes, like this morning, I stay and look at what’s there.

AJ’s room is not his room anymore and hasn’t been for a long time.  How long will I call it AJ’s room, I wonder?  People sometimes call this feeling I have empty nest; no kids at home.  AJ was the last one to leave.  He was our youngest son.  Your daddy is 2 1/2 years older.  Parents have to let go of their kids.  That’s the point-raise them up and out.  That’s just one layer down.  And everything is tangled into the next layer. There’s this other one that groans like a tender bruise. And this morning, as I run my hands along the crib rail, I remember Mia.  She slept at our house like you used to.  She was your daddy’s first baby. She got very, very sick and moved in with Grandpa and me.  That seems like a long, long time ago.  You didn’t ever see her because she died.  Remember when the blue parakeet died?  Like that.  They are both gone, but we can hold them inside of us if we want to; little zones of loving warmth that we will always be within us. Making us who we are.

I pulled out your car seat to have a look at it and moved some things around.  AJ will visit this week for Christmas and may sleep up in Bonny Doon.  He sometimes stays with friends. I set up the futon for him. I like smoothing out the flannel sheets, fluffing two soft feather pillows and one fiberfill;, they way he likes it.  It’s okay if he doesn’t stay here but I hope he does. He wishes he could see you.  Maybe he’ll send you a card that you’ll get in your mailbox in Montana.  Did you get mine?  I sent you one with Grandpa and I talking.  We had fun deciding how to use the ten seconds.  We have so much to say.  Way more than 10 seconds worth. Last night on the phone was funny when Metro barked and then Georgia.  They were saying hi to you in DOG-talk.  You’d been crying and it made you laugh.  We all laughed and you finally could say good-bye.  I’ll call you again. Maybe this time I’ll get Tony the mule and Chief and Roxie to whinny and call out to you.  We’ll see.  Lovingly, Gma

January visit

I planned a trip in January.  I have to go to Boulder to pick up Ella and Kalen to visit their California Grandma’s and your Grandpa.  They will stay in town for a week.  I decided to fly to Billings and go through Denver.  That way I can get them on the way back in Denver at the airport.  But the big news is that I get to visit you.  I can hardly wait.  I can think of may things I want to do.  I can think of many things you’d like to see, and walks we could take, places we could go, but all those are here.  I don’t know what we’ll do there.  Just hang out maybe.

I looked on a Welcome to Billings, Montana website for ideas.  It is winter so we can’t go fishing. The rivers will be frozen.  We won’t be going hiking or maybe not even walking. You don’t ski and I don’t drive a quad. There is a mall, I think. We may not even go outside.  I barely know what to do without going outside.You can help me figure it out.

I remember the fun we had making cookies, rolling out the dough, pressing in the raisins and nuts. We made soup together, you learned to peel carrots and pick the meat off the boiled bones and one time you dropped a whole big potato splash right into the pot.  We laughed so hard when I told you I would fish it out, you said “NO, of course not.”  It will be hard to cook in a motel room, but we could eat.  Maybe we can play games, jump on the bed and run in circles until we fall.  That’s silly.  I will probably bring a camera so we can take funny pictures and also sweet pictures of each other. I will pack a project to do and a game and some books.  Maybe we’ll  sing songs and dance to music or just sit and look outside and at each other.

I haven’t been having too much fun.  I forget to have it.  Then just now I realize that I need some silliness.  That’s why I want to visit, so we can laugh and me find my silliness. I think silliness sits really close to love.  And together there is nothing better.

Walking with you

I just got back from a hike along the old road out by Melanie and Jim’s. When I feel lonesome, I go for a walk. You and I used to walk a lot. I wasn’t ever lonesome when we were together. When you were as tiny as sissy until you were one year old and even two years old, I walked you in the cart on and off the road.  We’d walk to get the mail, ride over bumpy trails through John’s.  The cart had good wheels for that.  I’d bring a snack, your bottle and some extra clothes along. We’d travel miles just looking around, the breeze in our faces. We’d stop whenever we wanted.  There was no rush on walk days.

Georgia and Metro would run ahead.  Georgia would chase deer through the trees and come back her curly hair snaggled with berry vines. She’d sit quietly as we untangled her ear from her tail while she was panting with her big pink tongue hanging out as long as ever! We were always calling Metro.  He’d put his nose the ground and follow it. Then he’d be way back there and we’d have to whistle (you said, “ooo-ooo-ooo”)  down the trail.  Sometimes he’d sit and howl like he was lost.  But he’d always show up at home before us.  He knew all the short cuts.

When you got old enough and you wanted to walk, you got on your tricycle and we’d park at the trail head; you’d get off and we’d hike so you could play in the sand.  Sometimes we’d hike up to see the water trough and check for pollywogs.  Now its too cold for pollywogs.  Georgia and Metro are sleeping after their walk out the old rutted asphaltum road.  And Grandpa is in town.  I am glad I took a walk and I very happy to be writing to you.

Come take a walk with me pretty soon, okay?  Maybe in February you can come visit.   We’ll hike all the way to the top of the quarry and wait for the sunset. I’ll ask your mom and dad. Want to?

My gravatar is a sculpture

I want to tell you about the identity photo that I selected for gmabrown. This site calls it a gravatar and maybe everyone does, I just never heard that term before.  It’s an 11″ painted clay sculpture that sits on the shelf in my office here at home.  I hand-built it in the old hobby room at the other house. It emerged from a half-block of clay during another time that I was struggling with hard changes.  I didn’t even know you then.  I wasn’t grandma, I was your daddy’s mommy, AJ’s mommy, Robin and Ariel’s step-mom and Grandpa’s new wife.

Hands in clay helped relieve my sadness, confusion and worry; gave me something in my hands I could control, shape, and mold. I could look at it after I was done. The clay was never confused, it stayed put.  Most of the time, anyway. I rolled long snakes (just like you and I do when we play with clay) and laid the fatter ones on the bottom and kept stacking them up, welding each one to the previous snake below with mushy clay called slip and a teaspoon to push it around.  When it got about half as tall as it is now, I covered it and stopped to wait for it to set a bit.  Otherwise the whole thing would collapse.

But I couldn’t wait, I had an idea and wanted my hands to make it.  I was thinking about being strong, mighty and capable.  And I wanted to see that woman hiding in the clay. But it was too soft, damp and began to sink down.  I was all of the sudden sadder thinking about the burden of the weight I felt and now here it was in the clay. Slumping, folding and misshapen. I sought an image of strong women I known in my life and landed on my grandma.  All of the grandmas.  Whether it was true or not didn’t matter, I liked the idea of grandmothers holding the weight of the lives of generations in their hearts and minds. The burden of it all made them so much more capable, I thought, fuller. And I worked the thin coils above the slumpy form, added thickened slabs, pressed balls into the walls of her dress, added an old face on top and stood back.  “Grandma’s Burden”, I called it.  I rubbed her with acrylic paints. And I saw strength.

And today she is my muse.  My premonitions from that naive but knowing place are the slip that welds me to this experience as Grandma; who I will be for the rest of my life.  gravitar

A few changes

Each day I go about my chores walking from room to room to put things away that Grandpa and I have used and left lying about.  Most of us do that, I think.  But if I put stuff back each day then it never gets to be too big of a job.  A shame that I don’t do that in my office, but that’s another story. Today I took a toy baby cow, a black and white calf , out of its barn on the coffee table and put it in a basket with the other animals. You and I had given her some green paper in a bottle lid pretnding it was grass hay for her to eat. We used to pretend she mooed a very tiny “moo” and her mom cow and the dad bull each had bigger “moos”.  You were good at the different pitches.  “Teeny, teeny tiny moo” we’d say.  “BIG loud, deep moo.”  We’d laugh at our silliness and tried it with other things.  “Big giant truck.”  “Teeny tiny truck”, “BIG rock”, “Teeny rock.” Remember?

I threw the grass in the lid away. I thought about packing all of it away.  I scanned the toy shelf there with the cars, trucks, the small wooden gas pumping station set up for play, Tommy doll still wearing his pumpkin suit and the baskets of trinkets we’d collected. I pulled out all the natural items and tossed them over the deck rail; redwood, fir and pine cones, your alligator stick, rocks that you’d found got shiny when you spit on them and acrons with their caps still on. I should put the toys, puzzles and games all away.  They have always been a pain to dust.  Then this morning I found Georgia on her dog bed with your stuffed lion between her paws.  She wasn’t even chewing it.  She was asleep; her snout snuggled against it.  We aren’t yet ready to pack  your playthings away. Besides, maybe your mom will let you visit and wouldn’t you want to see it all just the way you remember?

I have to tell you something.  Your  house is not the same as it was.  It looks very different.  All winter long Jim, who you called Jim-guy, is making it nicer to live in.  Your little place was chilly, it had no insulation in the walls or roof, the electrical wiring was very old and not too safe.  With you guys gone to Montana, Grandpa and Jim and I made a plan to fix it up.  Its really messy now, and looks like no one would ever want to live there.  We can see all the wires and pipes and the rug is gone.  But if you come visit, (that is, if your mom lets you) we’ll walk over there to see it.  But be warned, your bed is not there, there’s no place to sleep or to sit, and there’s no window in the livingroom.  We’ll get a new one.   You can see the insides of the walls.  But Jim knows how to fix it.  I promise that in the Spring it will be amazing.  The walls will be closed up, painted and the floor nice wooden planks. And if you guys ever come back home, you will be more snuggly, warm and safer than ever before.  And I hope you do.

Packages are coming

I keep sending you things.  It was your birthday, so I sent you a book that I made, some boots, gloves and a warm hat.  I sent sissy some too. Then I sent you a box of building blocks with animals, vehicles and people accessories for Christmas.  Enough for you to share with cousins; 20 month Nathaniel, 3 yr old Crystal and someday the two babies, your sister Elizabeth; only 3 months old and your baby cousin, Claire; 4 months. I also sent the whole family some footies.  You love footie jammies.   It must be crowded there with all of you. Maybe loud and busy, too. You have mommy, daddy Tom, Shanna, Willie, his girlfriend and your Montana Grandma, and you and the other four kids.  I probably should send you tiny things, fold-able things, maybe nothing at all.  Invisible things. But I like thinking of you holding what I placed in a box just hours before.  Your small hands wrapped around an ornament, a gingie cookie that I’d cut and iced the night before- one for each of you.  I wonder how you play.  Is there any floor space?  Where are your clothes?  Your books? Do you still sleep in a box?  Do mommy and daddy have a room yet?

I don’t ask when I call, because I just want to hear you talk and listen to the noises in the house.  “Don’t come in the kitchen.” ” Out!” “Go and turn on TV.”  “Get out of here.” ” No! pinching hurts him, Nathaniel.”  “Don’t do that. ” And I hear a baby cry.  Is it Ellie?  I’ll hold her, I think.  You all probably need a hand.  Mine aren’t ever too busy to hold a baby or to help you tell Nathaniel not to pinch, but to ask when he wants the phone.  We could teach him to tell us.  Just like we tell Georgia not to jump when she’s happy to see you.  And you tell her to sit and she does. She twirls around when we go to your old house to find you, but flops down when you aren’t there.

I found one blue slipper in the sand box that Jim built for you.  Is one of your feet cold?  I put it in the package with some little presents. I hope you took the other slipper to Montana.  I was sad when I found your new backpack in the garbage.  Some other baby may want to go hiking in it someday.  I put it in my garage.  I still have the picture of you in it.

Maybe this summer sissy can sit in it and the three of us will go for a big hike.  You can walk by yourself now.  You have your own camel back pack with a water bladder.  When you wear it, we hike very very slowly.  Because each time you want a drink, which is so fun with the tube there to suck on; your feet stop moving.  And I wait for you.  There’s more drinking and waiting than hiking.  That’s just fine.  “We are in no rush,” I told Grandpa. Someday we’ll be asking you to wait for us.

Let’s go to Echo Lake this summer, okay?  I like thinking about it.