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Penny in the Porch

I’ve been thinking about my childhood recently and this has brought up quite a few memories of my grandparents and their home. I want to preserve those memories, since my daughter will never be able to experience these things with these people. Sadly, a few years ago, my grandparent’s home (my second home away from home) had to be torn down. The people who bought it after my Pappy died did not care for the house and land like my grandparents did, and the house became unlivable.  But that’s another story.  I’d like to share a mental picture of my grandparent’s home, a place that held many special memories for me.

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The front of my Pappy’s house had a porch that went nearly the full length of the house. There was nothing fancy about it. It was a concrete porch, very narrow in width on one end and nearly a foot high on the other end, but it was level!  A dilapidated wooden door was near the “deep” end that led to the hand dug earth cellar. In the narrow end, near the corner that ran nearly flush with the sidewalk, was a penny in the porch. The penny caught my attention at a young age, and I wondered why anyone would put a penny in the cement. “That’s the year the cement was poured,” my grandma would tell me.  I can’t remember for sure, but I think it was a  1952 penny. It wasn’t shiny anymore and had some green on it where the copper had oxidized.  Every now and then, I’d check to see that it was still there.

Grandma would keep her houseplants out on the porch in late spring and summer. They would flourish there. Everyone who would drive by (the road was just mere feet from the porch) could see them in their lush greenness and full bloom beauty. Redwood furniture with stainless steel trim sat on the porch and hosted a bevy of guests on a regular basis. As soon as it was warm enough, we’d spend nearly every evening out on the porch.

I spent nearly every day at my grandparent’s house. They were my babysitters since my parents each worked the 3-11 shift. I remember Grandma and Pappy’s house almost better than I can remember my own home. I just loved it there! Being that I was there so much, I soon started to accumulate toys and things there that I could play with. Near the end of the porch with the cellar doors was one of my favorite play areas. Pappy had helped me set up an outdoor “play kitchen” there. You had to use your imagination (which I had a lot of!) but there were two concrete blocks and a few bricks fashioned into a “stove.” Grandma had given me an old sauce pan that got scorched one evening and could never get clean. I had a dull table knife, an old spoon, a tin pie pan, and an empty plastic butter tub. These were treasured items to me! I spent hours “cooking” at my stove. I’d go into the yard, pull up handfuls of grass, pick dandelions, and find other little earthy treasures to make salads and casseroles that I’d “serve” to Grandma and Pappy with great delight. They graciously would pretend to eat the meal I had made and ask me to go make something else. I’d get creative and grind things between the bricks like a mortar and pestal, chop things with the dull knife and make garnishes with little flowers that bloomed wild around the yard.

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One of my best memories was the nights we would sit on the porch together and watch it rain. Even during thunderstorms, we’d sit out there and watch it rain. At some point during the storm, there would be a deep stream form along the road in front of the house. Pappy and I would remove our shoes, go running out and play in the stream, wading up and down in front of the house. This was fine with Grandma, unless it was still thundering and lightening! Then she would be chiding us to “get in before you get electrocuted!” We’d be soaked until we decided to stop, but neither one of us wanted to quit! Grandma would shake her head and fuss that we were wet, but Pappy would gently remind her, “Edna, you’re only young once! Let her enjoy it!”

The year I was 10 years old, my Pappy began to have stroke after stroke. Before long, he was bedfast. There was no more sitting on the porch in the evenings. Then I found myself going out there just to think about what was going to happen. There was talk that Pappy was dying, but in my young mind, I couldn’t fathom that would ever happen. Who would wade in the stream with me? Who would I pal around with. Who would be my best friend if he was gone? The porch had become a place for me to go in solitude to cry and contemplate the future.

Pappy died that summer. Grandma came to live with us for part of a year and with my uncle for part of a year. Things were packed to sell or move. The house was emptied room by room. I was having a hard time letting go of the house and the memories there. It was more pain than my 10 year old heart could take.

On our last trip to the house to make sure we had gotten everything out, the penny on the porch caught my eye. I went down to that end of the porch and rubbed the penny with my finger. I looked around and no one was there, so I began to pick at the penny. I dug and dug until my fingernails broke, but I got the penny out of the porch. I held it in my hand until we got home and then I put it in a safe place. No one knew for a long time, but I would get the penny out and hold it and think about the times on the porch with my Pappy. It helped me remember him.

I still have that penny. It means a lot to me, but it will never bring him back to me.

But, that penny does give me hope. It reminds me that though I still miss my grandfather 35 years later, I know that one day I will see him again. I dream about him occassionally…they are some of my best dreams! It’s not just in my dreams that I will see him though. I know I will see him in heaven one day.

Revelation 21:4-7 tells us this… ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.  He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life.  Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”  This excites me! Not only will God take away the pain of death and the sadness we feel when we lose someone, wiping the tears from our eyes, he will make everything new! I’ll get to see my Pappy whole again! And, if I drink from the water of eternal life (Jesus), I will be there in heaven with him! We will both be children in God’s house! How exciting!

When that day comes, I will no longer need the penny from the porch to remind me of happy days in my childhood. My Pappy and I can be together again as brothers and sisters. What a day that will be!

♥Miriam

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♫Take me OUT of the ball game!♫

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Do you remember the “good old days”? You know, those days when we could run around the neighborhood unafraid of those we would meet. Those days when it was hot outside and it was still okay to drink from the water hose? Those days when you worked for everything you got and nothing was just handed to you?

Those good old days are gone. I am concerned for our younger generation. It’s taken the sport of softball and baseball to bring this concern to light for me.

Back when I was a kid (now I’m sounding like my mother or worse yet, my grandparents!) when we played organized sports it was vastly different than playing sports today.  We kept score. We won or we lost. We got awards if we EARNED them. (I could go on and on here.)

Now that my daughter plays softball, I find it absolutely appalling the way this sport is handled at this age level.  At certain levels of the sport, they don’t even keep score at the games. When I asked about this, I was told, “It doesn’t matter who wins (okay, I’ll agree with that) so we just let everyone play (again, I’ll agree) and just have fun.”

Okay, fine. This is “do-able.”  So then I ask, “When we get to the play offs, how do you determine who wins the championship if you’re not keeping score?”

“Oh, we’ll keep score then to determine how they finish.”

Ah, wait a minute. Back up here. So, you don’t keep score all season long, the girls are clueless as to if they won or lost and then all of a sudden when it’s playoff time scores are important? Don’t you think that’s a little confusing for the kids?

Knowing this ahead of time, parents would sit in the stands with tablets and scrap paper, keeping score themselves just so they could know who won or lost. “Who wins or loses isn’t important,” they say. Really? Tell that to the next 2 candidates for president. I think they would beg to differ that it DOES matter who wins or not.

When playoff time finally came around, Katie’s team lost their first game and were automatically eliminated from the rest of the playoffs. I started to help Katie pack up her gear and we started toward the van. “Wait! Come back! They all need to get their awards.”

Awards? You get an award for losing now? Yup, apparently you do. Each girl on the team was given a trophy. Even Jenny* who only showed up for 3 practices and when up to bat, just kept swinging the bat whether a ball was pitched or not and struck out every last time, got a trophy.  Ellen* who spent her time dancing on the field doing pirouttes and ballet moves, never caught a ball, never got anyone out, and when up to bat always injured herself somehow (usually, it was tripping over her own feet, because again, she was trying out a dance move) got a trophy. Abbie* who was always “too tired” to play and begged to be benched as often as possible and who rarely showed up on time and never seemed to have a ride home afterward, and only had one good hit the whole season, who also had a vocabulary that would make a sailor blush got a trophy. (*Names have been changed.)

What did this teach these three girls. It sure didn’t teach them that they have to work hard to earn something. It taught them that they could just goof off and get a trophy just like the other girls on the team who played their hearts out during unscored games. It taught them that they didn’t even have to show up to get the prize in the end.

This is just outrageous! Why can’t we go back to how it was? You know…where you kept score, there were winners and losers. The winners went out for icecream and the losers just went home. The ultimate winners got the big trophy for the team and little individual trophies for each player. The other teams got some sort of ribbon or token for participating, but nothing more. Everyone went home knowing that those who won the championship had worked hard to get there. They didn’t get the award just for showing up.

It disgusts me how we put our children in cocoons and try to protect them from disappointment and failure. No one wants to fail, but sometimes our greatest growth comes through failing.

How I miss the “good old days” when it wasn’t all sunshine and roses….but at least we knew right from wrong and that you don’t get a free ride. So, take me out of the ball game. I don’t want to play this way anymore. I’d love for our children to know what it is truly like to be a child. There are successes and there are failures. That’s life. What our children are living today is just a fairy tale. Hopefully, they’ll all turn out alright despite the sheltered life we force them to live.

I know this isn’t a typical post for me, but just something that I’ve been “stewing” on for a while and just needed to get it off my chest!

Thanks for reading!

♥Miriam