Friday, November 25, 2005

Owed to Nora - from a long-ago fan

(Composed and presented to Mom on the occasion of her retirement from the Corps of Engineers in 1983)

In '55, I came to be
A GS-12 in OCE.
'Twas a fearful place
In those days of yore,
With Fanflicks, Berges and many more.

A crew of tyrants was what they were
And if you erred, you got what fer.
The work was tough, the days were stressed
But through it all, the days were blessed
With the constant presence of a brassy dame;
Insolent, engaging, precocious and game;
Who finished her work, and others' as well,
And with it all, was as funny as hell.

She brightened our days with comments witty,
Malaprops, jingles and a poetic ditty.
The years have flown by
(Where have they sped??)
But through them all
There runs a thread
Of a bright little lady
So thoughtful and sweet
That to have worked with her
Has sure been a treat.

To you, dear Nora,
Much has been owed
By all of us,
So we sing you this ode.
May God bless you and
Keep you through all of your days.
A happy retirement and
Let nothing you faze.
We love you, will miss you
In the days ahead
Please don't forget us
Wherever you tread.

-- William J. Cronin
September 23, 1983

Reprinted today on what would have been Mom's 80th birthday.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Nora Saber Bucklew - November 25, 1925


On Friday, November 25, Mom would have been 80 years old. And she'd have made one fantastically saucy octogenarian!

We always celebrated Mom's birthday on Thanksgiving, since it fell on or near the day that the Bucklews, like families all across America, gather 'round the kitchen and the dining room to celebrate the simple joys of family, fun, fellowship, food and -- did I say family?

Mom was all about family. Maybe it was because she lost her own Mother when she was just four and her father by the time she was 18. Maybe it was because she was raised by her older sisters and brothers, and had a kinescope of hilarious but bittersweet memories of growing up as one of eight kids in a crazy-quilt depression-era environment. Whatever the root cause, Mom was adamant that holidays (and for that matter, weekends, evenings and lunch hours) were meant to be spent in the company of your Mother!

What each of her four kids wouldn't give today if we could summon the powers of Heaven and once again share Thanksgiving Dinner with Mom!

Since that isn't possible, I will give thanks for the 73 years, seven months and 15 days she spent here on earth, and let anyone who happens upon this cyberjournal see why she was so well loved and is so perpetually missed.

Mom was all things to all people... Mother, grandmother, sister, friend, neighbor, co-worker, and second mother to many of the kids from the old neighborhood. Her passion, generosity and courage spilled over onto everyone she met. And Mom was a woman of many passions. She was passionate about her family, her kids and later her grand children. Growing up, she called us her four little diamonds. Our friends growing up I am sure saw her as a safe haven and a generous spirit.

Working with lawyers all day ignited Mom’s passion for words and language, and she instilled that same passion in her kids. She loved writing outrageously funny letters to family and friends, and she loved crafting her little ditties, as she called them, to mark important milestones for her office colleagues. She took great pride in being a secretary for the Corps of Engineers and she reveled in the lightening speed with which she could take dictation or dress up a letter.

She loved clothes but she was FRUGAL FANNY before it became the rage. She could scout out a designer outfit at Purple Heart and Good Will for a quarter, that she could then pair up with another passion of hers, sexy open-toed Amalfi sling backs.

She had a sweet tooth, and a weakness for Fannie May candy, and later Godiva and Mrs. Sees. And although Mom wasn’t much of a drinker, she loved her afternoon bottle of Miller High Life. In fact, when she retired from the Corps of Engineers in 1983, she listed as her reason for leaving: It’s Miller Time. She knew how to make an exit.

She loved playing bingo and working the daily crossword puzzle, and upon retirement, one of her greatest luxuries was reading the Washington Post every morning from cover to cover with her morning cup of Maxwell House.

She was also a woman who appreciated the seasons. She loved tending her flower beds and vegetable plants in the Spring and early summer. She loved canning tomatoes and freezing peaches despite the effort and time it took, because of the rewards they delivered as summer gave way to fall and winter. And at Christmas and holidays, she loved baking fruitcakes and her world-famous toll house and oatmeal raisin cookies.

Mom sorely regretted her lack of a college degree, so she made sure her four kids all went to college. She had a life-long passion for learning new things, and she was brilliant at teaching us through memorable if slightly unorthodox methods! Growing up as we did before the age of computers, I remember spending evenings with Mom grilling us on vocabulary words from Readers' Digest, making us memorize and recite the 50 states, state capitals, the U.S. presidents -- any arcane factoid that would serve to sharpen our young eager minds.

She was up to her old tricks 25 years later when her three grand children came along, with a slightly diff spin... they usually earned a buck or two in the bargain. She really delighted in spending time alone with Matt, Ben and Chelsea. Mom would sit patiently for hours as Chelsea the toddler gave her a complete make-over -- curled and fixed Mom's hair, applied make-up, filed her nails ... not sure who enjoyed that more, Mom or Chelsea!

Mom also was a frequent customer of "Ben’s Best Back Massages." He would take his strong little hands and knead her back and neck muscles, with Mother cooing and ahhhing with every twinge.

With Matt, who was the oldest of the three, she played word games and sparred with him over the card table, teaching him card games and reveling in his quick mind and precocious demeanor.

She treated neighborhood kids no different from her brood of four or her grandkids, and well into retirement, she could be found holding court with a gaggle of little ones swarming her porch and doing little odd jobs to earn cookies, fruit and homemade treats. What I wouldn't give to turn back the clock and sit quietly on that porch step, watching her in action!

Tomorrow, when my family gathers at my younger sister Lynn's house to celebrate Thanksgiving, we will honor Mom by doing what she would have insisted we do, were she here: eat too much, laugh often, share funny family stories, speak by phone with any family members who couldn't be with us, and give thanks that Mom's traditions are alive and well!



-- HeartSleeve

Friday, November 18, 2005

Watching Grass Grow

Watching Grass Grow ...
A cliche' that happens to be true right now in my yard as well as my life.

After months of playing novice gardener and nurturing the myriad flowers, trees and shrubs that decorate and enrich my outdoor landscape, I turned my attention this Fall to my yard -- an ugly abundance of weeds, crabgrass, wiregrass, dandelions and chickweed set against a backdrop of patchy barren brown dirt. Fescue is definitely not my middle name!

The lawn service guys finally arrived on Halloween, dutifully core aerated the ground and then sent bag upon bag of grass seed spewing in every direction, and then disappeared, cautioning me to "water every day, Ma'am, if you want it to grow."

Of course, since "Murphy" is never far from most of my endeavors, we settled into a long dry spell here in Lower Slower Delaware, so I was once again busy every day with sprinklers, hoses and wet feet. The water meter spun like a top as I kept the ground bog-like in hopes of reversing the effects of five years of benign neglect, thanks to the previous owners of 9 Gracelyn.

Jera is the ancient rune of Harvest. It suggests beneficial outcomes but cautions that no quick outcomes can be expected. Plant, cultivate, tend... and be patient. So I watered and waited, despite the fact that PATIENCE has never been one of my virtues.

After three weeks that seems more like three years, brown masses of crab and wire grass still greatly outnumber the small verdant patches of new grass. And I am still clueless why some seeds that showed such promise and hope for new life, nevertheless were choked out by the encroaching weeds. Lessons learned...?

In love as well as lawn maintenance, either because of or despite my clumsy but well-intentioned efforts, some seeds fall on stones and blow away, some seeds initially take shaky root but eventually wither and die, and some seeds, thankfully, find fertile soil and fight their way upwards toward the sun.

This morning, in the bright sunlight, new growth is evident all across the yard, and even as the days grow shorter and the lengthening darkness heralds a time of hibernation, my heart is a little lighter as I reflect and await the natural cycle of rebirth.


-- HeartSleeve