Spring in His step
Snow in the country is a place, but then again, it is a mind remembering and a heart feeling old times and old places. Snow and cold go together as well as chill winds with frost and icicles. It’s also about snowballs, frosted windows, snowmen, mittens, scarves, earmuffs, sweaters, and warm boots. Ask anyone who lives in snow country and they will tell you their memories of frost bite, huddling around the wood stove with an emphasis on heavy blankets, furry slippers, handkerchiefs and shivering family and friends. Once all the adjectives are spoken, it is a place looking back at you and you can hear the voices of long ago.
Paul stopped for a moment, brought back to reality by a voice from long ago that said: “Paul, you leave those cookies alone and get on with your chores. You know we have company coming tonight so get on with the things you have to do, especially shoveling the snow off the sidewalks.“ Paul sighed and thought to himself: “Paul do this and Paul do that.” Give me a break.
He shrugged his shoulders and went to work. He had heard that voice over the years, always teaching, loving and curing his ills with solid life recipes. He grew silent. Tears came to his eyes as he thought, “Mom is gone and I miss her so.” He thought about her wonderful attributes and how Dad had preceded her. Now they were both just a memory. Mom and Dad just were there when you needed them and always supportive.
I remember when my wife Alice was so despondent when we lost our first child due to complications at birth. I was too, but Alice just could not come to grips with it. I was beside myself with worry about her. Her folks were also supportive but my Mom and Dad searched for ways to break her sadness. Finally, one day there came Mom and Dad dressed up as Angels in the middle of summer. Dad and Mom had good voices as they sang a song they had made up called. “Breaking the Ice.“ All the time you have been so sad we have been breaking the Ice, Breaking the Ice. When your lip was on the floor we were breaking the Ice. Now we are at your door breaking the Ice. How could you want for more breaking the Ice?” Alice and I just stood there in amazement while these two crack pots handed us each a pick and said, “Why don’t you help us in breaking the Ice, Breaking the Ice.” Alice grabbed one of the picks and started singing with them Breaking the Ice. I joined in and Dad spread out a small tarp with the words Breaking the Ice on it. He began hitting it and we all joined in. We stopped and let Alice finish. She kept hitting the tarp and finally fell down and cried and cried and cried. Mom held her, crying with her. At last she started laughing and saying to my parents, “You two are nuts and I am so glad.” She was a lot better after that and when the blue days came we got out the pictures I had taken and we laughed and cried and thanked the Lord for his mercy.
Alice’s parents came over and we showed them the pictures and once again we laughed and cried. Alice’s mother put her arms around her daughter and said, “They threw away the mold when God made Sam & Mabel.” She looked at her husband and said, “We must go to see them right away.”
Paul began to think of their gifts of service and love and then it hit him. The best thing he could do was to preserve their memories in something solid and lasting. Weeks went by and then an idea began to take form. What brought the idea around was when Mom and Dad rented a small ball field for the day and invited their four kids and all the grandkids to “Family Day baseball.” The day came and Mom and Dad showed up in the old style ball player uniforms from the 1920’s to 30’s era. We were to start at 10 a.m. and Mom and Dad would be there to greet us. They were both dressed in the vintage baseball uniforms Mom had sewn and it was hilarious. They had chosen dark maroon colors and with stripes up and down. The jersey had a patch on it which read “Family Baseball League.” On the back of Dad’s uniform it read: “Sam’s Ice Cream Shop” and on the back of Mother's it read: “Mabel’s Quilting and Knitting Shop.” The pants were also striped and on both of their ball caps was the word “Family.” They had also arranged for an ice cream bicycle cart complete with frozen yogurt, ice cream bars and popsicles. Oh yeah! There was a banner across the front of the backstop on the diamond which read “Breaking the Ice.” That saying had become a family Motto.
Paul then decided on what to do as a legacy for his parents. He would need help so he would call his brother and two sisters. He could just hear their reaction. “You want to do what? Where?”
We will build a waterfall but a different kind of waterfall under glass in the winter, heated and flowing for all to see. There will be colored lights and a reflection pool with a family statue of parents and children gazing into the pool. Paul had done well in life and had the funds. His brother was an engineer skilled in building and his sister was an accomplished artist.
Paul had purchased some property years ago in a commercial district. He had talked to the town council, wanting the memorial to be a community place and they had agreed to its being put in place. They would have to gather materials. There would be rock from a rock quarry owned by one of Dad’s friends. We went to see him and when he learned who it was for he donated the material and said he knew just what our parents would like in the way of marble and rocks to set it off. He looked at Alice and me for a moment and said he wanted to donate the materials but had a story to tell us.
Sam had come over to the Quarry and was looking for some rock and other materials for Mabel’s flower garden. He said they had agreed to have the material in place. On one of the rocks, he had one of my workmen make a hollowed out spot and drill a hole down through the hollowed out spot into the dirt below. When I asked, “What for?” He said he wanted to surprise Mabel. He said he was going to plant an artificial rose in that tube to the ground. He said he had made a tin box and had rigged it up so if anyone pulled on the rose it would make a hollow tinny sound.
Sure enough, everything was in order for Mabel’s flower garden and then the workman left. Sam said she eventually spotted that rose and went right to it and said, “Why, the wonderful workman left an artificial rose there!” She looked at it a moment and decided to pull it up and when she did she heard the clunk on the tin box. She began investigating and dug out the tin box and opened it up. Inside were two things: A note that said: “I just can’t keep a secret from you” and also a large silver coin with the words engraved on it: “You’re such a treasure, Mable.”
The work on the pool began and the transformation was a sight to behold. Paul’s brother had engineered the mechanical part -- heating, water flow, and lighting. His two sisters and their husbands had drawn up an artist’s perception showing landscaping, placement and a dome shaped cover that was in three parts. It just sort of grew out of the ground and gave one an impression of peace and contentment. Soon the water flowed and fell. The pool, of all things, was shaped like a hand and the statues were placed and slightly elevated when the lights finally went on.
We stood back and looked at the inscription: “In memory of Sam and Mabel Brooks -- and a separate sign that read: “For our family and all families.”
We all stood back. Our emotions were high. It was then I noticed another sign, small and tucked away by the edge of the pool. “Thanks Mom and Dad.” I looked over at my family and they pointed to the sign and the tears just came. We all embraced and I knew then that what we had done was accepted and our hearts were glad. But the great joy of that moment was when we found out the grandkids had thought of the inscription “Thanks Grandma and Grandpa.”
That winter seemed so much warmer than I had ever known and still to this day when winter comes I stop by the waterfall and come away filled up again with memories and moments from long ago. Oh yes -- when I stopped by the memorial before heading home there was a young boy about ten years old looking through the glass. He saw me there and said, “I would be proud to have a grandpa and grandma like that.” Then he sighed and said, “That’s not likely to happen since I live in a foster Home.” I asked him where he lived and his name. He said his name was Billie Bishop and pointed to a large home I could see a block away. I made note of it and thought there must be something I could do. I looked at the memorial with different eyes now and a smile came to my face and I said once again, “Thanks mom and dad.”