Tag Archives: cousins

Dream A Little Dream

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A little music, a big memory and a whole lot of Mama…

This past weekend a bunch of my kinfolks got together for a reunion in Gatlinburg, TN, an event I had looked forward to for quite a while.  It was a branch of the family tree on Mama’s side, the Williamses, namely Mama’s big brother, my Uncle Otto and his wife, my Aunt Katherine’s, kids, grandkids and great-grandkids.  These are some of my favorite people on the planet, folks I don’t see nearly often enough.  I also saw some younger cousins, all grown up now, whom I had not seen since they were little, and some I’d never met yet.

Before I had even made it into the pavilion I found myself wrapped in a warm, loving hug from my cousin Stacy.

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She and I have been in touch on social media (one of the blessings of technology!) but have not seen each other face-to-face since the late 1980’s.  What a joy to see that sweet face again and enjoy a brief moment to catch up a little.  Second hug of the day was from her daughter, my cousin Danielle.  I’ve also been in touch with her online, but we had never actually met until that moment.  The musical genes in the Williams side of the family have passed on to Dani in a big way, and I was able to share a little bit of family musical history and heritage with her as we talked.

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Soft breezes blew through the shaded pavilion as my cousin Hazen asked the blessing over our meal and time together, adding special prayers for Aunt Helen as she deals with ongoing health issues.  I breathed a prayer as well for Dean, her husband, that he will remember to take care of himself as he tries to take care of her.  Seeing and hugging her was a special joy, as it always is.  She and Mama were so close, and when I hug her, I can almost feel Mama hugging me back as Aunt Helen does.

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I felt Mama with us all through the day, as we shared food and pictures and stories.  Aunt Helen’s kids, Lisa and Mike, were the kids out of the bunch I spent the most time with growing up.  And they were there, with Lisa’s husband Tim, who is a recent addition to the family and fits right in.  Mike’s wife Jane never changes, still glowing wth a headful of red hair and a huge smile.  All Mike and Jane’s kids were there, Aunt Helen’s grandchildren, and a huge light in her life.

As we shared food and stories and pictures, I felt Mama all around me, and I saw glimpses of her…in my cousin Robin “volunteering” to get up and sing, something Mama used to do…in the adult recreations of childhood photographs and the howls of laughter that resulted…

…in talking with Hazen about how active “my dead people” are in my dreams…

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…in the photo of me and my closest-in-age cousins performing a “family breast exam” (Mama and Uncle Otto are in Heaven laughing their heads off at that, while Aunt Katherine is telling us to “Be refined!”)…

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Family is not always dignified.  But that’s usually when it’s the most fun.

Unbeknownst to most of the family, Dani and I had cooked up a surprise to share, and after the meal was done, we offered them a little song, “Dream A Little Dream Of Me”.  Making music with a cousin I’d just met for the first time was both a joy and an honor, and I hope it’s only the first of many more times we can do it.  My beloved Sweet Pea captured the moment with his phone, and I am so grateful that he did!

All through the day I felt Mama there with us, along with all the others on the Williams side who have gone to Heaven and wait for us there.  The last verse of the song we shared says:

“Sweet dream till sunbeams find you,

Sweet dreams that leave all worries behind you,

But in your dreams whatever they be,

Dream a little dream of me.”

I dream little dreams of them all the time, waiting for the day we are all together once more, with God and one another, all the generations of our family making music together. All worries behind us.  What wonderful dreams!

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Best Friends

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Too many kinds to count…

This week many people observed National Best Friends Day.  I think it’s a nice idea to recognize the value of friendship and to appreciate the people who add such richness to our lives.  It got me thinking about the many “best friends” I have enjoyed over the years…and why I can’t really say that I have ONE best friend.

There were the earliest friendships I enjoyed with my brother and cousins, before school started and we met all those other kids in our age group.  Even though I am not as closely in touch with my cousins as I’d like to be, they are in my heart always, and I would give any of them anything I could offer if they were in need and I could help.  We share memories, blood and decades of love.

Then came the school friends, those people outside my family circle, the ones I met and learned how much we had in common.  Those moments of discovering that we liked or disliked the same foods, or shared a favorite song or hobby, were the youthful foundations upon which some of my longest-time friendships were built.  I am still in touch with some of my grade-and-high-school friends on social media, and seeing how their lives have progressed to this point is both fun and rewarding.

The church and college friends began my deepest connections, ties that bind us across years and miles to this day.  My college graduating class has a milestone reunion coming up this fall at homecoming, and I look forward to seeing many of my classmates there to reminisce about our times in the dorm and the music building.  My roommates especially helped me bridge the transition between living at home with my parents and making a new home with my husband.  I crave in my heart to see Janet and Dana, and soon.  It has been WAY too long since the three of us have been together.

These days I am still making college friends through my connections as the Chapter Mother for Alpha Gamma Chapter of Delta Omicron International Music Fraternity at Carson-Newman University.  Getting to know these young student musicians and to encourage them has been my joy for almost 10 years now, and I hope to continue in this capacity for many years to come.  My musician friends come in all ages, shapes and sizes, with specialties ranging from voice and instruments to conducting and composing.  These friendships help me to continue growing as a musician and as a human.

I’m grateful that almost every job I’ve held has yielded one or two lasting friendships as well, and since I’ve worked in predominantly male environments, I refer to some of these fellows as my “work husbands”.  At my first TV job, there was only one other woman in my department, a top-notch board operator named Linda.  We referred to ourselves as The Gyno Mafia!  I have a dream team of current and former coworkers I would surround myself with if I ever had the chance to build my own company.  The combination of professional excellence and wacky humor makes work a lot more fun, and shared goals (and grievances!)  give us much to share.

So many other “best friends” come to mind.  Mama and The Aunts who wait for me in Heaven.  My precious husband, who, after nearly 30 years of marriage, is still my favorite person to spend time with.  And our beloved, goofy dogs, Ernie The Wonder Beagle (in Heaven) and Our Boy Roy, who has been part of our family for almost 9 years now.

So, who is my “best friend”, really?  They all are!  And if I spent the rest of my life counting the reasons I love them, I would never finish.

 

The First Friends

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And the blessings of a large extended family…

Mama was the youngest of 9 children, and Dad was the youngest of 6.  With that many aunts and uncles, most of whom had some kids, I’ve got cousins in abundance, some on Dad’s side whom I’ve never even met.  And many of my cousins are clustered fairly close together in age, which means most of us are in or approaching our 50s.  It hardly seems possible that we’re adults, let alone eligible for senior discounts!

A bit of wisdom shows up on social media from time to time which states, “Cousins are the first friends we have”.  My history seems to agree with this statement.  Before going to school or to Sunday school, my cousins were part of my life.  And even though our lives have taken us far afield from one another, we are family.  We share history, DNA and many of the same memories.

Our lives are busy, though, and it’s difficult for us to get together.  Even the bunch of us who live in the same city don’t manage to see each other very often.  And frankly, I’m just in closer touch with some of them than with others.  Social media has been a real blessing,  enabling us to have at least a little glimpse into each other’s daily lives and activities.  I enjoy seeing what my cousins are doing, and what their children (my 2nd and 3rd cousins!) are up to.

About this time last year, I had the chance to spend a day with my Aunt Helen and my cousin Lisa, as well as sharing a meal with Lisa’s brother Mike and his daughter Haley.  During the course of our visit, Lisa shared an old photograph with me.  I think it is the only one in existence with this configuration of the cousins all together, and it’s a treasure I am thrilled to have.  The picture was made at Lisa’s 8th birthday party, and I can only imagine the effort it took to get all of us kids to be still long enough to snap it!

Today another member of our group celebrates a milestone birthday, entering the world of senior discounts and AARP mailers.  I don’t think of us that way though, at least, not most of the time.  I think of those long summer nights playing Fox & Hounds, birthday parties with homemade ice cream, Barbies and army men and that old Fisher-Price barn that moo’ed when you opened the door.

I think of how young we were.  How young we always will be, if only in memory.

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Gifted

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Everything in my life came from somewhere…

Sometimes I am just plain overwhelmed by how gifted my life has been.  It seems as though everywhere I look, there is something to be grateful for, some gift I’ve been given that warms my heart.  Whether tangible or not, gifts surround me.

As I chose today’s clothes and accessories to wear to work, it dawned on me that many of the things I’m wearing were gifts from important people in my life.  The denim jacket with the Cinetel logo embroidered on it came from my friend Sam, who gave it to me as he was moving away from the area years ago.  I was too large to wear it when he gave it to me, but since weight loss surgery and shrinkage have happened, it now fits with room to spare.  It’s a warm reminder of Sam’s friendship and the laughs we’ve shared over the years we’ve known each other.  When I wear it, it’s like a hug from him.

I am wearing the Vicki treble clef earrings and the Olivia bracelet I mentioned in an earlier post called “Hand Made”, shiny reminders of these beautiful women whose lives have touched mine as we crossed paths through faith and music.  Such gifts are a tribute to their thoughtfulness.  While I treasure the jewelry (and I definitely do!) I treasure the women and their friendship even more.  Each of them is entering a new phase of life right now.  Vicki is getting married in 2 weeks and Olivia is finishing up her doctorate and about to begin a new teaching position.  My prayers are with them both as they continue on the paths God has set for them.

On our last adventure trip to Las Vegas, Sweet Pea and I drove out into the desert to Primm, where there is a huge outlet shopping place.  That drive into the desert was astonishing, the rugged beauty of jagged rocks and a huge sky overwhelming me with a view so different from home.  That is where my white gold emerald and diamond anniversary ring came from, which I am also wearing today.  It was an early 19th wedding anniversary present.  The ring is beautiful and I love it…but the relationship with my husband is the true gift.  The ring serves as a reminder of what really matters.

I also wear a little silver bead and crystal cross bracelet.  This came from my cousin Judy.  She slipped it onto my wrist last August on a hot, muggy morning.  It was the morning we buried Aunt Ruby and my cousins had asked me to conduct her graveside service.  I think Judy knew I’d need a little extra strength for the day, and the bracelet carried her love and prayers with it.  It continues to do so and I wear it with love and gratitude.

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Thanksgiving following Aunt Ruby’s passing, our family gathered at my cousin Holly’s house for the first time without Aunt Ruby’s presence among us.  It was a bittersweet day, with both laughter and tears as we remembered the joy of Thanksgivings past when we gathered at Aunt Ruby’s house on Arnold Street.  My cousins presented me with a gorgeous pair of earrings, a love gift for preaching Aunt Ruby’s funeral and a reminder of the many roles she had served in our family, among them, the resident ear-piercer.  And the gem of choice?  Rubies.  Of course.  Doubly meaningful because Aunt Ruby’s name was also Mama’s birthstone.

 

 

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Everything I have, material and otherwise, came from someplace, from someone.  As meaningful and special as the material gifts are, they are just reminders of the true gifts, which are the people whose lives touch mine and the Lord Who brought all of it together in the first place.  He put me in the family He chose for me and brought into my path the friends He knew I would need to make my life rich, fun, musical and colorful.  

So yes, in all honesty, I can say that I am indeed greatly gifted.

Giving It Up For Lent

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When I give something up, I gain something else…

I spent the afternoon yesterday visiting with Aunt Helen and her kids, my cousins Lisa and Mike.  It was a much-needed visit with family I don’t get to see nearly often enough.  For years we have run into each other most frequently at the funeral home, and that is a situation I think we all would like to change.  After some recent events in each of our lives, we might be more likely to make time for visits like yesterday.

I remarked yesterday that I collected feathers but I had not found one in a while, and I was looking forward to springtime when the birds are more active and there might be more feathers to find.  In an interesting bit of timing and providence, today on the first day of Lent,  I found my first feather in months.  It’s not a pretty one.  It’s kind of dirty and pitiful, actually, enough to make me wonder what the little bird might have suffered in the process of dropping it.

But I didn’t think twice about picking it up and adding it to the others I have gathered over the last few years.  It’s pitiful, but I will give it a home.  As Lent commences, I think about how pitiful I am, but God has given me a home even in my pitiful state.  Many religious traditions encourage their adherents to give up various indulgences during Lent, or to take on some extra project to enhance one’s spiritual life.  A couple of times during Lent I have written letters to people telling them how much they mean to me.  It turned out to be a study in gratitude that blessed me more than it blessed the recipients.

Several years ago I decided to read the C.S. classic “Mere Christianity”.  It took time that I could have used tor other pursuits, but what I gained from reading it far outweighed the time I invested.  This year, in addition to eating more sensibly, I have decided it’s time for more C.S. Lewis during Lent, and the book I’ve chosen is “The Problem of Pain”.  I am certain that God led me to this particular book for a reason; after enduring Aunt Ruby’s death last summer and watching numerous friends lose their loved ones, especially parents, in the last several months, suffering has been very present in my world.

Jesus told us that in this world our lives would be filled with trouble.  He never promised is that we would not suffer.  What He did promise is that we would not suffer alone; He is with us in our pain.  As I give up pieces of my time to do extra reading during Lent, I am trusting that God has something for me to gain through that investment.  He always does.

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(the opening page before the preface to “The Problem of Pain” by C.S. Lewis, and the sad little feather I found today)

The Big Six

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The end of a generation…and time for the next one to step forward

My cousins, my brother and I are living in a different world than we were just 10 days ago, one with a giant hole in it.  The woman Reed and I called Aunt Ruby, and who our cousins called Mother, Mom and Mama, has gone home to Heaven.  I will write more about her, her living and dying, in a future post.  Right now I can still hardly wrap my head around the idea that she is gone.

Right now I just want to reminisce about simpler times with Reed and my cousins, to find comfort and maybe some smiles in my memories.  Debbie was born to Aunt Ruby and Uncle John first, and she enjoyed 10 years by herself with them.  Then Aunt Ruby and Mama started the family “baby boom”.  Mark and Reed arrived less than 5 months apart, then I was born less than 3 years after Reed, Alan was born 10 months after I was, and Haven brought up the caboose about a year and a half after Alan.  Poor Debbie sometimes got stuck with babysitting the remaining 5 of us younger kids! I can’t even imagine what that must have been like!  Image

We grew up attending the same schools because we lived close together.  Reed and I began going to church with Aunt Ruby and Uncle John and their kids when Mama was taking care of Granny and unable to take us to church herself.  Granny made Mama promise that she would take us when she was able to, and after Granny died, Mama kept her promise.  Aunt Ruby and Mama were very tightly bonded and, as a result, so were we, often functioning as a single group of siblings rather than two separate sets.

Often we would “swap a kid”.  Haven would come to spend the night with me on Ford Street and Reed would go to hang out with Mark and Alan on Arnold Street.  Or vice versa, with any configuration of kids at either place.  I know I spent almost as much time at Aunt Ruby’s house growing up as I did at my own.  It was equally home to me.

As we’ve grown older, our lives have taken off in different directions, and each of us has dealt with individual issues and struggles.  Life as a family is not always pretty.  And even though 5 of the 6 of us all live in the same town, we’ve been hard-pressed to get together as a group…unless someone is getting married or buried.  But I agree with the immortal wisdom of the Facebook quote that asserts, “Our cousins are the first friends we have”.  In our case that has been the absolute truth.

Aunt Ruby was the last of her siblings, her generation, to leave this world.  She and her sisters, “The Big Five”, left us a rich legacy of strength, craziness, laughter, tears and love to draw upon as our generation is forced now to step forward and pretend that we’re grown-ups.  I don’t know how all of that is going to work out…but I pray that we can be more diligent about gathering now and then, just to spend some time connecting with one another.  We’ve learned once again, all too poignantly, how short life is.  Image