A Walk at Twilight

Last night:
Went outside and took a walk around the house and let the twilight wrap itself around me. Listened to the frogsong, and birds chirping to each other. Breathed in the cool evening air, filled with the scents of apple blossom and just-mowed grass and damp earth. And a flood of memories rushed into my thoughts: sitting outside with Dad when I was a little girl, looking at the stars and watching for satellites; Camping out at Mount Rainier – the family sitting around the campfire while Dad played his accordion. Family trips into the Canadian Rockies. And I felt Dad with me, right now, looking at the evening sky with me. Always with me.

(Photo of a Skagit County, Washington, sunset by Karen Molenaar Terrell.)

Taking Down the Tree

Taking down the Christmas tree
seemed especially hard for me
this year.
Every ornament brought back
memories – sweet and dear –
as I wrapped them up (both
the ornaments and the memories)
and packed them in the Christmas sack.

Ornaments Mom left me after she passed.
Ornaments from former students in my class.
Ornaments our sons made of pop-sickle sticks
and glitter, macaroni and beads.

I felt the loss.

And I know. I know. I know.
I know all the things you want to say:
I know that Good is never really gone-
It’s here to stay
It lives on –
in our memories. I know Love never ends –
and I should be grateful for all the family,
all the friends,
all the love I’ve known in my life.

But as I take down the tree
I’m missing you especially.
-Karen Molenaar Terrell

Christmas Lights




Calling Out Her Name One More Time

I found another treasure while sorting through my piles and cupboards during the COVID-19 lockdown: the memory of an old friend.

I found the memory as I was going through the shelves and more shelves and stacks of books I’ve accumulated through a lifetime of reading. I have books from my sci-fi phase; from my fantasy phase; from my romance phase; from my mystery phase; from my memoirs phase; from my true life adventures phase. I have books from authors who make me laugh and books by authors who make me think, and books by authors who make me do both. There’s my Tolkien collection and my Vonnegut collection and my Douglas Adams collection and my old Earl Emerson collection. There are my Neil Gaiman books and my Norah Roberts books and my Jane Austin books and my Agatha Christie books. And, as I was sorting through my stacks, I found I’d accumulated a whole lot of Christian Science books, too – and that’s when I stumbled upon the memory of my friend.

I’d come upon yet another copy of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy – this one was a 7 12″ by 10 1/2″ “Reader’s Edition”– an old black leather beauty. I opened it up to see if I could find out where I’d come by this one – and that’s when I saw  – written in elegant red calligraphy – the name of my dear friend, Jane Elofson. Just seeing her name there awakened a sweet memory of my friend’s beautiful smile.

Jane Elofson had been one of the people who had made me feel welcome when my husband and I moved to Skagit County 35 years ago and I began attending the local Christian Science church. Jane, and her husband, Gordon, must have been about 68 or 69 then. They were one of those couples from The Greatest Generation that exuded a kind of classy kindness and grace. Gordon was handsome and dignified without being stuffy – he had a wonderful laugh and a great sense of humor. And Jane was stylish and gracious and funny – she had a “Ginger Rogers” kind of class about her.

As I stared at Jane’s name in the book I couldn’t remember when I’d last seen Gordon and Jane – and when I’d lost contact with them. It’d been decades, at least.

I thought it might be cool if I could do some googling and see if I could find some children, or maybe grandchildren, that I could send Jane’s book to. I imagined her loved ones opening up my package and finding Jane’s name in the book, and I imagined the happy surprise that might bring them. But there was little information to glean from the internet about Gordon and Jane. There was a 1940 census that placed them in Oregon when they were both 23 and newly-married. There were possible obituaries in Minnesota and an old photo of what might have been a younger version of Jane. But, eventually, I hit a dead end on the world wide web.

I contacted a mutual friend who had loved the Elofsons, too, and she gave me a bit more information – she told me she thought the Elofsons had a son, an artist, who lived on the east coast somewhere. I went back to googling, but soon stalled out again.

In the end, it seems the only physical evidence I have to show that Jane Elofson was ever on this planet is her elegant signature in the leather-bound copy of the Science and Health I found in my stacks of books.

Maybe this is what she would have wanted. Maybe there’s something kind of clean and simple about leaving this planet with no trace of yourself – no trace that you ever lived on it, or were ever a part of it.

But I can’t help myself – I feel a real yearning to call out Jane’s name at least this one more time – to bring her name to the world wide web and acknowledge her existence – acknowledge her kindness to me and remember her beautiful smile.

Jane Elofson signature

I Miss Him

It is Father’s Day – and it is also my dad’s 102nd birthday – a double whammy. When Dad was 99 and lying in a hospital bed with a UTI, angry that he wasn’t being allowed to leave, he announced to my husband and me that he was “going to live to be 102!”

He almost made it, too. He died January 19th of this year – just five months short of his goal.

A lot has happened in those five months. If my dad were suddenly to reappear here today and look around at what’s happened to our world in the last five months I’m not sure what he’d make of it all. I know he’d be celebrating some of it – I know he’d support the Black Lives Matter movement and be glad to see the progress that is being made towards equality for all people. He’d probably be baffled to see everyone walking around in face masks – but I think he’d like the smiley face on mine. 🙂 He might be frustrated by the way elderly folks are being isolated from the community and he probably wouldn’t like not being able to have a lot of visitors. But – as he always managed to do – he’d make the best of the circumstances – he’d rejoice in the good, patiently wait for the bad stuff to pass, and remain hopeful about the future. He was born at the end of WWI and the beginning of the Spanish Flu pandemic; survived the Great Depression and service in WWII; and survived 10 days in a small tent in a blizzard at 25,000′ on K2 – he wouldn’t be daunted by 2020. Pffft.

My dad, Dee Molenaar, had a full and wonderful 101 years and seven months. He saw his share of tragedies, but he also saw his share of triumphs.

I miss him. As I look at the photo of him, standing next to my mother on their wedding day, I feel him with me. I feel them both with me. Giving me courage. Telling me it’s all going to be alright. We’ll make it through this.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy.

Daffodils in the Wind

It was a beautiful and perfect day, but not in the way
that you probably imagine. The skies were grey,
the new daffodil blossoms bent over in the gusting
wind. It was a hot tea and zipped jacket day.
There was a sweet melancholy in my thoughts
as I drove by your old home, our old haunts,
and remembered the two of you, laughing and happy,
exploring your new hometown. There was no pain
in the sweet sadness.  No  tears.  A gentle  gladness
for the time I had with you here.  It was a day to rent
“The Secret Garden” and watch young Mary learn
about hope and magic while a fire danced and burned
in the woodstove and a cat curled up on my lap for a nap.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

daffodil reflection this one

Homesick for a Place That No Longer Exists

Today I felt an urge to drive to the old homestead
in Port Orchard and surprise the folks with a visit.
I imagined
the smile on Moz’s face when she saw me
walk in the door.
I imagined
Dad scaling the stairs to greet me.
I imagined
taking a walk through the woods to the creek,
looking for new spring buds on the alders,
and squirrels scrambling through the cedars.

Feeling homesick
for a place that no longer exists
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

.

The Window’s Open

The window’s open and a cool breeze and old memories
waft through the screen. The smells of dry grass and flowers
take me back to my youth. The window’s open there, too,
as I lay in bed in my childhood bedroom. That day I planted
a pansy my mother gave me – folded its roots into the rich
earth next to the birch tree. There’s the little building Dad put
together in the back yard so he could work on his maps and art
away from the hustle and noise of the rec room with its TV
shouting out Bewitched and Mighty Mouse and Get Smart.
The fence between our neighbors behind us and our backyard
blew down in the hurricane a while ago – Dad had been out
there, trying to hold the fence in place, when Mom called him
in because the hurricane lamp flared up. As soon as he left
the fence it tore apart into pieces that whipped away in the storm
and now we have neighbors behind us who weren’t neighbors
until the fence blew away and revealed us to each other.
For a while we play in the dirt with the neighbor children
who live behind us. But we soon lose interest in each other.
Maybe our loyalties to the neighbors to the right and left
have built another kind of fence between the backyard neighbors
and us.

We played TV tag in the front yard – yelling out the names of our
favorite TV shows before the tagger could tag us. And we rode our
bikes to the school so we could see the class list posted on the front
door and find out who our teacher would be next year. Then we
played hide and seek in the mounds and the scotch-broom
in the empty lot across the street.

The patio has a picnic table on it and I sit at it with a Pixie Stick
or my home-made juice Popsicle frozen in a Tupperware mold.
I step on a clover blossom and get my first bee sting which Mom
soothes with baking soda and water and love. I feel bad for the bee
after she tells me it died when it stung me. We pray for the bee
and for me and life goes on. We have these pipes that Dad put
up in the backyard for us to play on – two vertical pipes about six
feet tall and about five feet apart – with a horizontal pipe
connecting them at the top – and I get it in my noggin to wrap
a scarf around it and try to work my way along the top pipe
by holding onto either end of the scarf. But I let go of one end
of the scarf and land on my belly and experience getting the wind
knocked out of me for the first time. Dad’s got the bamboo high
jump set up for me and I jump and jump again until the sun
goes down – testing myself, wanting to go just a little bit higher
before it’s time to go inside and get ready for bed.

And I lay in bed at night, with a cool breeze wafting through
my bedroom window and wonder what tomorrow will bring.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

We Forgive

“…old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
II Corinthians 5: 17

We forgive because
we no longer need the pain.
We forgive because
good is all that we gained.
We forgive because
love is all that remains.

Struggling to forgive old sleights and slingshotting
words sent to us, and sent by us, too, guilt
and hurt having a heyday in our hearts.
But how do we let go of the memories of mean
-ness and the bullying of those years when
we were the targets, the receivers (or givers?)
of hate? How do we let go, move on, forgive?

“…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature…”
Can we really start new? How…?
Accepting all the good that comes from being
the target of envy, bigotry, hate – the strength
and confidence and empathy that comes
from surviving the bitter times – accepting
the healing, means an acknowledgement
that the rest is done and over. It served its
purpose. Judas to Jesus: It brought our
ascension. Led us to better times. Hate’s job
is done now – a cheap plastic toy from our
childhood – we put it down and move on –
no longer interested.

“…old things are passed away; behold,
all things are become new.”

We forgive because
we no longer need the pain.
We forgive because
good is all that we gained.
We forgive because
love is all that remains.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Love Hath Made

Sunset over flooded fields in Skagit County, Washington State. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

 

 

Garage Treasures

A bag of Camp Fire Girl beads from fifty years ago
and a little girl’s autograph book filled
with signatures from family and friends –
some now gone. Prusik slings and an ice axe
she used on Rainier, and a backpack that traveled
with her through Europe.  A tiger squirt gun
thrown to her in the midst of the best squirt
gun fight ever by a young man named Phil or Bill
who in a western twang drawled, “Here, little lady,
I think you’re going to need this.” And a book
that her father took with him as he climbed K2,
inscribed by the American consul in India.
A Mary Poppins bag with a Mary Poppins doll –
no longer prim or practically perfect in every way –
barefoot and hair tousled – she has lost her button-
up Edwardian footwear and her flower-bedecked hat –
but she still has the power to bring a smile
to her human’s face. And she looks on these artifacts
of a life before now, remembering who she was,
and seeing the things she’s always been.
She was an odd little girl.  She is an odd woman.
But, dang! What a wonderful life she has lived.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

Memories of Moz this Mother’s Day

“Love, the divine Principle, is the Father and Mother of the universe, including man.” 
– Mary Baker Eddy

I’m missing Moz this Mother’s Day. I wish she was here with me so we could watch The Music Man together and laugh at the Shipoopi song. I wish I could hear her talk about her father one more time, and sing the Christopher Robin song with her. I imagine taking her out to my hobbit hole of a secret garden and listening to the birds singing with her. I imagine sitting out on the back deck in the sun with her and talking about family and friends and politics.

When I’d driven her home from the hospital a month before she’d passed she’d smacked her lips together and said, “I want some cream cheese dip and potato chips.” I wish I could give that to her one more time.

I can’t do any of those things with Moz right now – but here’s what I’ve got: I’ve got memories of laughing together, singing together, talking together; I’ve got the lessons she taught me – be kind to everyone; “love the hell” out of the crabby people; treat all of God’s creation with care and respect; be generous; play fair; speak up for the little guy; keep learning; be able to laugh at yourself; be brave; be honorable; have some awesome adventures. I carry Moz’s love with me.

Here’s wishing mothers everywhere a most magnificent Mother’s Day.

***

So last year in honor of Moz I sent a bouquet of Mother’s Day flowers to a friend who had been very dear to Moz. This year it came to me that I needed to honor Moz by bringing a Starbucks gift card to one of my heroes: The bank manager at Moz and Dad’s bank who had been so kind and helpful and amazing to my parents and I as we’ve negotiated moves and death and inheritance and safety deposit boxes in the last couples years. I seriously do not know what we would have done without Laura in our corner.

When I got to the bank Laura recognized me right away and gave me a big hug and I handed her the card. She told me to come back into her office when I was done with the banking stuff I had to do. When I joined her at her desk she told me that on Wednesdays in Anacortes the schools always start late and so she and other moms have taken to meeting at Starbucks with their youngsters for breakfast. And last Wednesday, Laura told me, she brought chalk to Starbucks for the kids to color the sidewalks. Then she got out her phone and showed me how the youngsters had “bedazzled ” the sidewalks in front of Starbucks. People heard about it and came to look at their sidewalk gallery. If the weather is nice next Wednesday, she’s going to bring sidewalk chalk to Starbucks again. And she’ll have my Starbucks card to get herself something to drink. 🙂

I think Moz would be happy about the Starbucks card – I can imagine her smiling.

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Moz