The Door Is Open

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I have a yellowed newspaper article taped to my up north refrigerator that reads: “There’s a moment of expectation as you walk into your summer cabin after it’s been closed up for the winter. You open the door and peer in. Did chipmunks sneak in to leave shells under your pillow? (it’s happened). The air is cool and quiet; the linoleum cold underfoot, sand free for maybe the only time this summer. Sun drifts through the kitchen windows past last year’s calendar. There sits the old couch, the driftwood lamp and weather beaten coffee table, welcoming an old friend. You walk out leaving the door open on new summer adventures.”

We’ve had our old cabin that was built in 1940, for thirty two years – with few updates since then. My children and grandkids have come and gone already, but I look forward to their return whenever their work, baseball, football, hockey, volleyball and soccer schedules allow. Friends welcome! In the meantime, I get to spend days with my black shadow, Josie, who will be 16 on her next birthday. I was afraid this might be her last summer to wander the woods and swim, but her new arthritis pills hidden in a gooey marshmallow have given her a lift. Literally. Being stone deaf, she can’t tell me when someone turns into our driveway, and we communicate now with sign language and touch, but she’s still one of the sweetest Labs I’ve had.

Four years after Bill died, Kathie Lodholz Batsch and her husband George, flew up for a short visit. She was head of our alternative ed department where we worked with at-risk high school kids; also a bright accomplished poet. I loved her gentle manner, wisdom and fierce certainty in dealing with our kids who needed a tough advocate in their lives. Sadly, her years were suddenly cut short by a glioblastoma that robbed her of a happy future with her children and George,the love of her life.

Shortly after their visit, she surprised me with this poem and photo she had taken of the door.
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Titled ‘Invitations’, she speaks of our history
here, the strength of my husband, Bill, and the joy
we’ve experienced as we’ve all passed through this
door that leads to the lake.

And this is my corner of our old cabin, where I can
write and think about all the fun and growing up
we’ve shared here with family and friends.
It’s summertime at last!

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Writing Letters is a Lost Art, and now, so is…

…learning cursive! I came home one day to find my grandson and his father huddled over a spiral notebook at the kitchen table. Hud was laboriously practicing the letter H in cursive. IMG_1254 Now in fifth grade, he told me that cursive  is no longer taught in his school, so I credit Sam for insisting that it is important for him to be able to at least sign his own name in script. Granted, his printing is fine and legible, but how can it be that handwriting is no longer a lifetime skill that requires instruction and practice? I don’t get it – makes me wonder what else is being dismissed as time-consuming and irrelevant ? Having been a teacher, I know there are only so many hours in a school day, but I believe handwriting is such a personal thing to develop from the time a child can grasp a pencil that it should not be eliminated from the curriculum. There are some things computers and spell check should not replace. Learning to write in cursive should not be one of them. My Dad was a master of letter writing , and I loved his long newsy pages written in flowing ink, and signed in his own inimitable style. His H’s were near perfect, and with practice, I believe his great grandson’s will be too!

Molly

Molly turns 21 today. Our first grandchild, who has skipped to adulthood in a most exuberant, yet easy, laid back way.

IMG_0216 Bill and I looked forward to her arrival, not knowing whether she would be a he – and of course, like grandparents everywhere, it was love at first sight.

She will graduate from college next year to become an elementary school teacher, carrying on what has become the family profession for three generations, including me and her mom and dad. I have no doubt that she will be a fine one – fun but firm, caring and compassionate, all laced with a healthy dose of common sense.  All attributes she’s had to have as an RA in university dorms for three years, which prompts me to reveal a couple of things and a letter I’ve never shown  her:

March 1, 1956

“Dear Miss Huddleston,

We appreciate your explanation. However, after checking with the head resident again, she pointed out that it was not one incident but rather the general behavior of all of you that prompted their reporting you to this office….I would hope though, if you are admitted to one of the halls next fall, that you will be one of our exemplary students. You will have then a better appreciation for the need for quiet hour schedules when you are trying to get your studies done.

Sincerely yours,

Emily Chervenik

Assistant Dean of Women

How times have changed in liberal Madison,Wisconsin and for that matter, schools everywhere:  In the ’50s, the doors of Elizabether Waters locked at 12:30; failure to be in by then resulted in being ‘campused ‘or not allowed out, on a subsequent weekend . Certainly, no men allowed. Ever. On another occasion, I got a fine for smoking on campus and finally, the one thing that required me to shape up and become an exemplary student – a letter announcing to my parents that my grades placed me on probation.

I’m so proud of Molly for being far more sensible and appreciative of her opportunities than I was at her age, and I credit her mom and dad as well, for stressing the importance of being responsible and accountable. I can say without bias (well, maybe some) Molly is  quite simply a delightful young woman – I know she will be an excellent teacher!