Almost 10 years ago, my friend Renee gave me this beautiful Crosley record player. I had come into possession of some old records from my grandparents after they passed and I had been playing them on my old fisher price turntable. Do you remember this jewel? It was plastic and 3 retro-rific shades of brown, orange and tan. This small, self-contained treasure even had a handle for quick and easy transportable music. Funny, what we viewed as on-the-go music.
So this was quite an upgrade from the phonograph of my childhood. It’s lovely, isn’t it?
Moreover, it never disappoints. It gently taps the happiness trifecta dominos into life, cheering me up when I’m feeling blue. It reminds me of my Renee, who in many ways understands and uplifts me in a way that only a sister soul-mate could. The old records are nostalgic gems that are nearly impossible to listen to without smiling. The wonderful static of the player’s needle, bobbing its head up and down, digesting rounds of notes, warming each song and emitting a comforting melody. And the records remind me of my Grandma Frances. Friendship, music & beloved grandmother – one beautiful happiness trifecta.
My Grandma Frances truly was a treasure. She was a very special lady who worked her tail off from dusk until dawn. Everyday. Milking cows, raising babies, factory work. No complaints, just gracious eyes and willing hands. I inevitably start thinking about her life and all the struggles they dealt with on a daily basis and pretty soon most of the things I might be slightly grumpy about somehow seem less important, sort of silly really. The spinning of the record dissipates anxiety and elevates grace and remembrance.
At my sister-in-law Hope’s baby shower years ago, all the moms invited were asked to bring a letter of advice or a short story to share with the mama-to-be. It was really something, listening to the wisdom, humor and kindness of all the women in the room share a tiny piece of their mama worldview. It was more than just a trivial list of what diapers to buy or books to read. It was a small slice of shared encouragement from each woman, that added up to 3 generations of experience, each unique in their own way. My Grandma Frances shared the story of giving birth to her first-born at home with a doctor, visiting nurse and her mom, Thanksgiving night, after 48 hours of labor. The home they lived in had no electricity, running water or telephone. To wash diapers each day, she carried in water from the well, heated it on the cook stove and washed the cloth diapers over a wooden wash board. Where she went, baby went.
I was in college when she passed away, the day before Valentine’s day. I knew the details of my memories of her would start to erode over time, so I wrote a list of all the things I didn’t want to forget. I pulled out the list from my hope chest this week.
I wrote about how she always called me Jenna on the phone. How, if you pull out old photos of her, she labeled each person in the picture; when it came to her, she didn’t write Frances, she’d write – me. I noted her cinnamon coffee cake, her kitchen window framed in old-fashioned Christmas lights over evergreen garlands, and her Christmas trees. She decorated the loveliest trees each year.
On December 23rd she would go pick out a tree, bring it home and then quarantine the living room until Christmas Eve so the tree could be a surprise, a shared gift for all. Then, on Christmas Eve, all the grandchildren would line up one by one, youngest to oldest, behind her veiled curtain to catch the first glimpse of the tree. For many years, I enjoyed a coveted spot in line upfront, among the first to see her tree. And, it was magic. She was magic. Her trees were a gift to be unwrapped by little eyes and enchanted hearts. She had this ethereal way with angel hair. The delicate white strands graced the tree like tiny clouds begging the angels themselves to perch upon its branches.
I miss her all the time. I wish she could have met my babies. Someday.
So, Saturday morning, I found myself pulling out my old friend Crosley and setting him up in the kitchen. I found these Disney read-along book and records last year at the flea market for $1 each. Jack finally understands when the record “chimes,” you turn the page to follow along. Jamison, well he just preferred to have any old book of his own and read it next to big brother (albeit upside down).
And, Mr. Crosley delivered again. After we listened to all our Disney favorites, I put on the Sound of Music and we danced around the house singing “Do Re Mi” and “So Long, Farewell.” I’m thankful our windows were closed and no one dropped by unannounced. I’m pretty sure they would have thought we were all a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Oh well, it made us happy.
Speaking of the Sound of Music, Jack dressed up in some lederhosen of his own for Halloween. I did make them… just not out of curtains. And, last I checked he does not respond by salute to his own personalized whistle tone. Heck, sometimes I can barely get him to peel his eyes away from Peg + Cat long enough to even look my way.
Here are a few of my favorites from trick or treating with friends last weekend.
Phew, I feel like maybe I should pay you all for therapy today. Thanks for listening.
Do you have any treasured keepsakes that remind you of loved ones? Please leave them in the comments below. I would be honored for you to share them with me.