On the evening of November 9 2019, my husband and I attended our local Gold Star Dinner honoring Gold Star Families. A Gold Star Family is the immediate family(s) members of a fallen service member who died while serving in a time of conflict.
Veterans aged and young from all service branches, ranks and wars were there wearing ribbons, war medals, uniforms once worn, along with their stories, their injuries and beneath it all their utmost respect for our country. Salutes to the flag were stern, not feeble. Voices sang the national anthem with robust, not old shakiness. We sat near a Korean War veteran in his 90’s now. I thought of my father who served in the same war and what he would be like now with his stories if he had lived. Solemn ceremonies took place as we stood listening to the posting of the colors,
the missing but not forgotten soldier’s table,
and the meaning of what each of the thirteen folds of the flag that I had long forgotten.
There were no politics or differences of opinion on Saturday night. Instead, there was a grieving mother, a proud father, moving speakers describing how their sons were recently lost and why. Moving words of being visited by the military detail on the steps of their front porches. Moving words of how it all happened and what their sons did to save others. Moving words of how our government taxes their sons death benefits because it is considered income. Moving words of PTSD and suicide of our military members and veterans.
Being a Gold Star Family is something that no one wants to be a part of or asks for. I sat thinking and thanking God I never had to go through this. Saying “Thank you for your service” is never enough I feel. “Thank you for your sacrifice” is more realistic. And…the words “Happy Veterans Day” are not always appropriate. There is nothing “happy” about being a Gold Star Family.
July, 20, 1969. Where was I? I was at my house on 7 Constitution drive, in Cold Spring NY. It was my mother’s birthday weekend-her birthday on July 19th and her brother’s birthday on July 21st. My mother was thrilled beyond words that the moon landing happened in between her and her brother’s birthdays. Her step brother-in-law invented the seismograph that went to the moon. Yes, it was hot on that weekend. We all gathered around our black and white television set in the newly built family room that my father recently finished with all of our help of course! We were watching it all with very little if any sleep; it was the first time I remember being up for over 24 hours. All of us were in awe of something so extraordinary happening right before our eyes. Even looking up at that moon with humans on it at that moment was something you could not believe actually was happening.
The moon, the TV, Walter Cronkite, NASA, Nixon, eight days of live TV coverage, and all of America and the world putting aside differences, politics, the Vietnam war, and more that day was momentous. And that was where I was 50 years ago that summer before I was a senior in high school-16 years old and just getting my driver’s permit. And eating birthday cake left over from my mom’s birthday the day before to celebrate something bigger, momentous and memorable than mankind ever witnessed.
The picture is Nana with my grandfather whom we called Pop. You will meet and come to know them in the forthcoming book titled ‘Corn Silk’. The flour sifter I have had Nana’s flour sifter since I married in 1974; Pop gave it to me one winter day in 1974 when I sat at their kitchen table copying Nana’s recipes. Nana and I spent many of my childhood hours cooking together. Always she would give me a blank recipe card that was printed at the top -“From the Kitchen of Cora Godbout.” She would always tell me to cross out her name Cora and write my name Nancy over it. Her flour sifter still goes on being used all these years since I had it. Yes, cakes, cookies biscuits and more have been made because of her recipes and flour sifter. And the spoon? Yes, it was hers too engraved with a fancy “ G” on the handle. It was often used for “tea precisely at three” *. Three o’clock in the afternoon was always tea time with Nana accompanied by whatever baked goods we created together. Pieces of my family history were made through each of Nana’s handwritten recipes that she wrote with her soft pink fountain pen along with the grinding sound of her Bromwell flour sifter blending memories along with Gold Medal flour, Clabber Girl Baking Powder and Arm and Hammer Baking Soda and of course Morton Salt.
* From the poem “A Quilt Whispers” published in the poetry collection ‘Journey On: Beauty and Grit Along the Way’ by Anna Blake Godbout.
This poem is based upon a true event. Shortly after my grandfather passed away in August 1974, I found a battered worn down quilt in the corner of my grandparents’ living room. I had not seen it before in all my childhood years visiting there. I carefully picked it up, took it home with the hope chest my grandfather built for my grandmother when they married. I always relive that day in Goshen, NY when I reading this poem.
As President of the Pikes Peak Branch of NLAPW, I am very proud of the Poetry in the Schools Outreach Program that was the inspiration of the collaborative book titled “Creating Students who Soar Higher Through the Poetry in the Schools Project’. Thank you Sarah Byrn Rickman for this amazing article! Visit our web site at www.pikespeakpenwomen.com for more about the Poetry in the Schools Project. ~Nancy Godbout Jurka
“Be a good steward of your gifts. Protect your time. Feed your inner life. Avoid too much noise. Read good books, have good sentences in your ears. Be by yourself as often as you can. Walk. Take the phone off the hook. Work regular hours.” -Poet Jane Kenyon
Every New Year’s Day, I have followed a tradition from my grandmother and mother of opening up a new and fresh journal filled with welcoming pages for events, thoughts, poems, memorabilia and daily musings. This evening was no different. My 2017 journal is now filled with what came our way each day of the past 52 weeks. There are many good things that filled this journal and some not so great. We weathered them and came out on the other side of each one. Some are still in progress such as having a nephew still in South Korea serving his country, grieving off the loss of a sibling, and new baby on the way for my nephew and his wife and a wedding in the coming year. The good things outweighed the bad although with the world the way it is, the way our country has become and the way natural disasters made a swath of tragedy in the West and South did not take away daily quiet blessings. Often, it was sometimes hard to see quiet blessings prevail, but they did. At times when it becomes a struggle to see light, we must create our own. I hope I have. Whether it is a lighted snow village on my dining room table, or helping a young writer with her dream to write, light comes through little by little-and it endures.
In the dark days of winter that are coming, we have memories of all the good, and the light behind them. I can only say this: That everyone has done their hardest and their best. The love here among us all stays and stays strong. This is the most important New Year’s intention or as some call it resolution that truly matters to me. It is not on a to do list to be accomplished…it is ongoing. Quiet blessings and welcome to a new year and a new light in 2018.
“There is more to life than increasing its speed” -Ghandi
It has been a busy and exhausting couple of months. Losing a family member suddenly and without warning brings life to a sudden stop. Everyday tasks, schedules, work responsibilities and other commitments come to a grinding halt. You persevere, forge on and take care of what needs to be with the best you can give to such situations. But this is not what this posting is about. It is about enjoying Christmas for a few days more.
Christmas was just two short days ago and already I am seeing social media postings about taking down the tree and putting all decorations away. It is no different that seeing the same kind of postings in November only the opposite-who is getting their tree up and putting lights on the outside of homes. My first thought was this: “Why can’t we enjoy Christmas for a few days more?” It all comes to a finality on December 26th. Yes, it is done, over with for another year. And then I read the quote above by Gandhi and wonder why the rush to take it all down? I do realize that it is necessary due to personal preferences and time constraints. Two years ago, Christmas had to end for us on December 26th as a emergency kitchen floor renovation needed to begin on December 27th. And it was depressing, I will admit to see everything packed up and done for another year.
You see, I live in a small town nestled against the Rocky Mountains in Colorado. I live where the biggest star in the world ( historical fact) shines from the Saturday after Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve. It’s light shines for miles in all directions. The Bright Star of Palmer Lake has shone each holiday season for 82 years. (Please see about the Star in the book titled ‘Bright Star of Palmer Lake’ available on Amazon.) It does not shut off on December 26th just because Christmas is over and neither does my Christmas lights.
Photo by Aaron Jurka, Mountain Tapestry Press, LLC
I want to extend the memories of Christmas for just a few more days. Yes, they will be held in our hearts and minds for years to come. I want the quiet moments of drinking cups of tea and become absorbed into a new book that was a Christmas gift. I have no need or desire to do post-Christmas sales. But this year, it is the moments of memories that were made by family and friends that I do not want to rush away.
In the closing days of December and all of 2017, quiet reflection and slowing down for a few moments can do wonders. There is time to pack up Christmas and turn to normalcy but I don’t want to hurry it up just because others are doing so. In the poem “Waiting for Christmas”, I believe I convey the quietness of the winter season:
A Walk in Wintered Woods
Almost evening, the winter sunlight fades
through darkened aspen and pine.
The tranquility of two white tailed deer
grazing through snow is interrupted
by the creaking of branches in a brisk,
twenty degree December wind.
The silent flight of a hawk disappears;
only to pop back into my view as it circles
over the mountains blanketed in thick, quilted snow.
There is no path here; the wintered woods
lie ahead in deep shadows.
I stand still listening to this land call out
its life to me; the woodland loner now
warmed with the peaceful wonder of falling snowflakes
upon my Christmas mittens.
This poem, written and published in my first poetry collection titled ‘Journey On: Beauty and Grit Along the Way, is accompanied by a translation into Latvian.
I awake in the Christmas dawn light;
a shimmering snowfall
echoes upon the mountains.
Through parted curtains,
my curious eyes follow
a shaking of snow
from pine needled branches.
An opera of sun slowly takes over;
erasing long blue gray shadows.
We lie under the soft warmth
of the red plaid comforter,
meeting the moment
of a gentle and tender us.
Es pamostos Ziemassvētku ausmas gaisma;
spīdīgs sniegputenis atbalsojas kalnos.
Ar šķīrušiem aizkariem, manas interesantas acis seko
sniega raupšana no priedes adatas zariem.
Saules lāva pārņem opera;
dzēšot garas zilas pelēkas ēnas.
Mēs gulējam zem sarkanā pleds mierīgā siltā siltuma,
satikties ar maigu un maigu mirkli.
The storm arrives without warning,
fury consumes hurt, suddenly casting
a dark shroud across our blue skies,
over the angry sea, gray like wet slate.
Even at a safe distance, we can no longer protect
our moors from being thrashed upon
by tempestuous surf, uninvited to our private beach.
We do not have the strength and courtesy
to hold on to threadbare ghosts of our years.
Once tender now lies tossed,
heaped in a corner of tattered pain.
Traveling down broken and divided roads,
our backs turned, hearts chilled;
we walk away from mornings that once were,
to mornings that will never be the same again.
This poem needs no explanation. It was written almost twenty years ago and has not seen the light of day as it has been kept in my files all this time. It is a relevant one I feel…just as it was when it was written back in 1998. It is a common story, more common than we want to admit. It is probably one of the saddest and realistic poems I have ever written. I do not wonder where this “broken crayon” is now. On any given day in our streets, in a store or at a movie theater, “broken crayons” are everywhere…
Perfect father, paint-brushed mother,
living in a palette of water-colored dreams
diluted by lost expectations, assumed possibilities,
ignore muffled sobs
within the imperfect child they left
to flourish beneath the guise of contentment.
The carefree boy leaves scribbles on a wall
next to the closed kitchen door.
The angry teen leaves muddy footprints
on polished hardwood floors;
resolves to shatter the whitewashed mask,
covering up a proper upbringing.
He shrugs between the spoken and the unsaid,
suppressing reasons why he’s flawed.
Crying in a tunnel of his own fabrication,
he sits cross-legged on shards
of broken crayons.
Le petit lapin espiègle à la veste bleue vous a toujours séduit par ses facéties et vous souhaitez en savoir plus sur celle qui lui a donné vie, ce blog vous ouvre la porte du monde fascinant de Beatrix Potter
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