sissy...

so as to not prorogue this any longer. i am not ONLY going to blog everyday BUT i will use my word of the day IN the blog entry. i need some new words and i bet that you do too. so back to school time is new word of the day time for us this year....

so every summer from memorial day to labor day, we were at the beach. really, the WHOLE time. no a.c., no dish washer, no washer or dryer, no television, no phone until i was an early teenager. just my mom, grandmom, siblings, dad in the evening and weekends, and our wonderful beach neighbors....

sissy, g.dad, and their grandchildren were our beach neighbors. yes, the thought of my children spending all summer at the beach with their grandparents sounds really nice at times. their parents did come down for the weekends, but mostly i remember being over there and sissy being ever present in the background attending to our needs and wants. i played a lot of school (and i was the teacher, go figure) over at their beach house. we did a lot of everything over at their beach house. sissy had nicknames for all of us and mine was lea-love. i am facebook friends with her granddaughter and when we became facebook friends, she referred to me as lea-love and my eyes welled up with tears because i could hear the way that sissy said that name for so many years.

she was the first woman to graduate with a master’s degree in the state of florida (i think i have that little fact correct). this woman was a renaissance woman in every sense of the word. and she would LOVE that i started my word of the day thing with her entry. she was a woman of great words. she LOVED to read and loved to loan books to others (aah, no wonder i loved her so deeply). our favorite book for her to read aloud to us was “little black sambo” (i am sure she was unaware of the allegations of it being racially incorrect, and oh how i loved how sambo tricked those nasty tigers. i also erroneously believed for a while that butter came from tigers....)

in my wisdom (what little of it there is) i have realized that sissy had a plan for our summers. every summer she seemed to have a new skill to teach us all. here is a list of the things that i remember learning in the summers at the beach with sissy...

knitting (even the boys learned to knit a bit that summer)

how to find, identify, classify, and name shells of the florida coast (this was an ongoing obsession for sissy, she could find shells anywhere and knew every one by name)

cooking ( i made a lemon pie for my final project)

and poetry.

that woman LOVED poetry and could quote from memory a poem for EVERY occasion. in fact on the day that photo of sissy, millie, and maxx was taken she quoted no less than 5 poems. two about fairies for millie who was in a fairy loving stage at that time. one about a little boy and his dad for maxx. and together we quoted two christina rossetti poems. 

one was the first poem that i ever memorized and i memorized it on sissy’s front porch watching the wind in the trees and listening to her say it for me and me repeating it after her....

Who has seen the wind? 
by Christina Rossetti

Who has seen the wind? 
Neither I nor you: 
But when the leaves hang trembling 
The wind is passing thro' 

Who has seen the wind? 
Neither you nor I: 
But when the trees bow down their heads 
The wind is passing by.

also in the above photo, you see her reading books to my children. when i would come to town, my mom and i would take the kids to go and see sissy. we would call the day before and ask her for a good time (my mom was no “drop by” kind of gal, unlike her daughter). and by the time we arrived at sissy’s, sis had purchased new books for my children. wonderful new books, exactly right for their age and interest. that woman would have LOVED amazon.com... she would have had a wish list that rivaled mine....

one of my favorite sissy moments was her annual Christmas party for us all. one year we all made gingerbread cookies and made and decorated entire gingerbread families. she had the patience of job. and then there was the year of the taffy pull. she had been reading out loud to us the summer before some story with a taffy pull in it and we all asked how you pulled taffy. she was determined that Christmas to let us experience a taffy pull. we all huddled around the cooking candy in her tiny kitchen while she taught us the fine art of determining soft ball or hard ball temperatures. then we went to the yard to pull the taffy. it takes FOREVER to pull taffy and it is a rigorous upper body workout. it was sticky, messy, and glorious. and there was a point in the whole thing when even in my young age, i realized that sissy was about to kill us all and boil us along with the taffy (to the soft ball stage). but she carried on in the chaos and mess and we all learned about pulling taffy in the humid florida december weather (there is a reason why taffy pulling isn’t done in high humidity states).

i think about that moment when i realized that sissy was near the edge during the taffy pull and how she pulled it together and kept on going. i think about it when i have a lot of kids in the house (or just my own kids) and i am trying to do something really fun and memorable and it gets a little (or a lot) crazy. and i know that if sissy could have us all standing over a boiling pot in her tiny kitchen and all of us running and pulling taffy in her yard and survive... so can i. note that i have NEVER pulled taffy again and would NOT do it with children EVER. i came close once when making oodles of turkish delight candy for a narnia party (it has to reach the soft ball stage also and thanks to sissy, i knew how to do that perfectly well).

“the way to know life is to love many things.”
{vincent van gogh}

sissy knew life. she loved many things and taught me to love many things. i learned to search for shells by the clues they leave above the sand. she taught me to explore to wonders of cooking even in a tiny kitchen with little children on stools watching your every move. i learned to love words and writing and the beauty of poetry after listening to hours of her reading aloud, quoting aloud, and recommending great books to me. she taught me to stretch my mind by memorizing and trying new things. she taught me how to pull taffy and let the kids mess up the house... it will clean. most of all i learned from sissy that i need to make memories, lots of great memories with kids- not only the ones who belong to me, but also the ones that God puts into my life (or next door to my life). 

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