SUMMER DAYS OF OLD By Lori A Alicea

Flipping through the old vintage calendars of the late sixties, early seventies, I can still recall bits and pieces of those hot summer days of my childhood that lasted from June until Labor Day, a holiday signaling summers end and the first day of school.

When June 1st came though and the school bell rang for the very last time after a half-day of kids cleaning out their desks, a mass exodus of screaming and jubilant students burst through the doorways in celebration, starting the clock of their long anticipated three month vacation from studying and tests. Labor Day might as well been a year from then as it seemed so far away on the eve of summer vacation.  The calendar weeks that followed were scheduled fun around family, kids and so much more.  But first on the minds of many kids, including myself, is that tomorrow morning, we’re all sleeping in.

Remembering the summer days of old replays my 8 mm memories of a simpler life void of distractions.  Technology wasn’t common place back then.  Communication between loved ones was intimate and face to face, or sentiments handwritten in a letter to those living a distance away.  Microwaves weren’t common place either back in the day and we didn’t miss it as we weren’t in a hurry, and the meals weren’t hurried either because the dinner table was an oasis where families spent time reconnecting with one another after the hours of the day spent apart.  Most houses in our neighborhood didn’t boast of central air, but box fans in the open windows and thru the unlocked screen front door circulated a cool breeze throughout the rooms most days.

Born into a family of six children, we didn’t have much, but we didn’t know it either. We shared our hand-me-down clothes and shared three bedrooms between the six of us.  I don’t ever recall feeling crowded sleeping in a room with two other sisters.  What we lacked in material things we made up for it in love; love for God and love for one other.

Summer season always kicked off with a community little league parade of baseball players loaded up in the backs of a caravan of pickup trucks with the town fire station leading the way in a blaze of sirens. Ball players threw candy into the crowds lined along the streets while the parade made its way through town ending its route at the little league field, welcoming folks of all ages excited for opening day with the first smells of hot buttered popcorn.

For as long as I remember, my brother played baseball during our summer break. His wool-blend uniform appeared stifling in the scorching June heat but the true  love of baseball overshadowed any irritations.  I loved watching the crowded concession stands of Babe Ruth wannabes  buying and stuffing their mouths with wads of bubble gum that came wrapped with a baseball card, all hoping for that desirable rookie of their favorite team.

Mother always made sure we kids attended a week of vacation bible school. Back in the day when mothers didn’t work, scores of children lined the church steps at 9:00 am where selected boys and girls carrying the American Flag, the Christian Flag and the Bible led the way into the sanctuary for a few songs before class.

Vacation bible school was about getting kids excited to learn and watch those famous bible stories come to life on flannel graphs, following up with related crafts, and snacks. Walking single file for a brief recess outside, I loved being a kid passing the church kitchen table reaching for a Styrofoam cup of Kool-Aid and cookies stacked in twos.  Best of all, the five days of vacation bible school ended with a Friday night celebration where parents enjoyed a program presented from each class, then traveled room to room to see their child’s work from the week on display.

In addition to vacation bible school, mother diligently saved through the year so we girls could attend a week of church camp located a few hours away. Girls from all over the state enjoyed cabin living, swimming, hiking, boating, crafts, bible lessons and the best food ever served in the mess hall.  Mornings began around the flag pole where prayers welcomed the day.  In the evening seated in an outdoors theatre type setting in full view of the lake and a campfire, we enjoyed Vespers together, a time of singing and preaching.  I gave my heart to Jesus at church camp one summer, remembering the moment like it happened an hour ago.

The summer days of old is a scrapbook of many moments; planned and spontaneous.  As a child I never took for granted the lifetime memories my mother planned during our years of summer vacation.  But those spontaneous “out of the blue” summer surprises delighted me also.  Like the unexpected times when dad told mother to load up the station wagon with us kids for a short trip to town, where carhops served and perched a tray of frosty mugs of root beer on your “partially rolled down” window.  I also treasured those unplanned Sunday family nights at the outdoor Drive-In where the latest G-Rated movie for kids was being shown.  During those hot summer days, dad would every now and then spring for seven soft-serve cones from the mint green ice-cream truck travelling the neighborhood; one for each of us six kids and one for the dog.

Summer wouldn’t be complete without our July 4th celebration.  That particular day Dad was busy in the backyard grilling BBQ ribs and mother could be found in the kitchen preparing corn on the cob, watermelon and her famous sweet tea.  We always thanked God for freedom amid our family seated around the dinner table.  At night the neighborhood gathered together, setting up their blankets and lawn chairs on an open lot of our town square to enjoy the firework festivities.  We kids delighted to share a few boxes of sparklers, as many other kids that 4th of July.  Neighbors and old friends conversed from blanket to blanket catching up on summer news and plans for back-to-school shopping.  Though privately the light display saddened me as the mid-air explosions of fireworks reminded me of war and “bombs bursting in air”, I still found room to relish my siblings and firework show.

In the sixties and early seventies of my younger childhood summers, these memories remain as a sweet slice of watermelon, retaining their taste in my mouth as those simple pleasures of a simple summer, staying the times and hidden in the heart of a simple little girl as her
summer days of old.

THE FACES OF CHRISTMAS By Lori A Alicea

We all have those faces we remember at Christmas; the memories of those we’ve shared the holiday with, some still with us today, others forever with us in our hearts.

Families, friends, neighbors, acquaintances, all faces taking their place in the Christmas photo album, faces we can see with our eyes closed when this album turns its pages one after the other traveling the years of Christmas past, pausing for those special streets down memory lane when we reminisce and savor those traditions, moments, surprises, changes, and even some let downs.

What is it about the faces of children at Christmas that delights me so?

Maybe Christmas for me as a child was magical.  While being one of six kids, there wasn’t much money for presents to crowd the tree like Christmas trees of today.  But I remember mother always making sure our favorite dolls were wrapped for us to find and open come Christmas morning, bringing smiles to five girls who haven’t forgotten those dolls; an indelible Christmas memory.
xmas tree houle sisters

Christmas as a child was simple though I was so unaware.  The faces of our Christmas card included six kids, cousins, parents, grandparents and church family.  Celebrations weren’t centered around gifts, but on faces called family, for which I considered myself a very rich kid.
xmas tree houle sisters 1

The faces of a simple Christmas I enjoyed as a child now reflected itself in the faces of my small children being raised by me a single parent.  We didn’t have much in those early Christmas’, but my children’s holiday photographs tell a different story; we had what money couldn’t buy, each other.

There’s no mistaking the gift of a child’s face at Christmas.

By the tree.

Sitting with Santa.

In their church Christmas program,

Imagining the day the church stage
being shared with children of their own.xmas program cova
Opening gifts.

Or enjoying Christmas dinner at their grandparents.

I find it funny how you forget what gifts you received each year for Christmas, but you remember like yesterday those faces you enjoyed a holiday dinner with, some faces you’d give anything to find seated again at the table.

Being abundantly blessed as we all are, Christmas adds a few new faces to our family photo album throughout the years.

A new brother; A new sister; a new husband for me.

New faces in the Christmas program.

And new faces in the Christmas card.

Interestingly how the faces in the Christmas card changes as times goes by.  Sure loved receiving holiday greetings from my college son and his roommate one year realizing my hilarious kid kept his goal of not cutting his hair for a year.  Made me laugh.  The sentiment of this postcard blessed me as it reminded me a busy student took time to think of his mother.
xmas card jakes college

Somehow though the faces of Christmas always takes me back to when I was a child.

I loved our simple tree with its sparse decorations, yet enamored how the tinsel sparkled against the lights like stars on a dark night.

I was crazy over our matching pajamas,
xmas tree house sisters 4

all those Christmas cards that came in the mail, the homemade cookies stored in Tupperware containers and duct taped in the freezer until Christmas dinner, mom’s amazing ham and all its trimmings, my sisters and brother, my grandparents, and how could I forget,
my favorite childhood doll Little Patti Playful.

xmas tree houle sisters

While it is written in the old song we sing,
Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year,
it is the hope that we celebrate the faces in our lives each and every day of the year like its Christmas.

Christmas is just a day, a wonderful day for sure.

But the faces in those old photographs of Christmas past and new ones in our Christmas’ yet to be, should bring a smile to our faces everyday as it is because of these faces, albeit imperfect, reminds us we are a “photo album full” of very rich kids.

CHRISTMAS THROUGH MY EYES By Lori A Alicea

Christmas through my eyes is a holiday stroll thru an old vintage Christmas card that tells its story through the sweet faces of children when the scenery of a simpler home encouraged peacefulness and allowed you to catch your breath during its festivity celebrations because the pace of the clock in its time slowed you down.

The Victorian Christmas tree lit with candles and ornaments sparsely decorating the freshly cut spruce, yet a seasonal announcement of joy and loveliness as the children in awe of it.
girl by tree

Brothers and sisters skate on the afternoon ice, with little girls keeping their delicate hands toasty warm inside a soft muff of velvet fur.
skaters

The winter’s gentle wind kiss a child’s face during their joyful sled ride down a hill dusted from an early morning snow.
girl on sled

Bonnets and bows and swirls of curls adorn all those angelic cherubs of Christmas.

 

With children fast asleep in their dreams, imagining the gifts that Christmas morning will bring them.
kid in bed

While a vintage Christmas card is only a dream portraying Christmas back in time, I love the innocence and calm of a simpler life where the hustle and bustle of our holiday hadn’t found its way to theirs.  That small tokens of a parent’s affection ignited a child’s delight on Christmas morning the way I believe it was supposed to.  Maybe I’m the child dreaming, but a simpler Christmas feels like the gift we’re all meant to open.

Continuing that Christmas stroll through a timeless vintage card, I find my gifts beneath the tree in my grandchildren wearing their old fashioned pajamas.

Three of them still in diapers and all four dressed back in the day when horses pulled carriages and fireplaces heated your home, my vintage Christmas card through a grandmother’s eyes come to life.
xmas jammies (2)

Another grandchild living far away completes this vintage card of cousins enjoying an old fashioned Christmas.
cova and xmas jammies

Maybe I’m showing my age or that the music of my heart stills plays from an antique Victrola.  But Christmas through my eyes will always be that walk through a old vintage Christmas town where the slowed life of the season is framed around time with family and children.

 

As the years passed by and new grandchildren found their place in the Christmas card, the old fashioned pajamas the others outgrew were passed on to them as heirlooms.  New Christmas wear was ordered though for those whose vintage nightclothes didn’t fit anymore yet still wanted to match their siblings.

 

Victorian children or not, each child strays from their “picture perfectness” during Christmas.

As words to a holiday song we sing,
“You better watch out”.
hollis pj xmas jammies

“You better not pout”.
2016 england xmas jammies PRINT 2

 Santa sees all the good little boys and girls.

YOU’D BETTER WATCH OUT.
cova hollis face baby xmas jammies

As grandparents of that first vintage holiday card, we hold dearly the memory when our Christmas children were small.

The hands of our Christmas clock continues to move forward in the seconds, minutes and hours.  Yet how we wish Father Time could hold back the hours a bit longer when Papa’s Christmas babies still fit in his lap.
2012 jammies

We delight though when we see the tree crowded again from the new gifts in our grandchildren of Christmas present.  Just when you believe your heart is full to capacity, God opens a new chamber for more love to beat from.

 

While an old vintage card might stir up Christmas in the little girl through my eyes, it’s the sacred love and magical wonder of Christmas that truly lights up a child’s eyes come Christmas morning.
2017 aubrey xmas jammies 8 THIS ONE

Though the vintage pajamas our ten grandchildren once wore and pictured in our holiday cards are now packed away in the drawers of Christmas past.  I continue to keep the old fashioned spirit of Christmas alive during the holiday season, aspiring to the calm and innocence of a simpler Christmas as family portrayed on a Victorian Christmas card.

 

 

PAPA’S ROBE By Lori A Alicea

Safe in the arms of a grandfather.

Safe and peaceful as Papa’s Robe is soothing as a grandchild’s security blanket for the time spent in his arms.

Calming is the lingering smell of Papa’s cologne on his collar or the lullaby of his heartbeat gently playing beneath his fleecy robe that a child resting their face on Papa’s chest is quieted.

Enveloped in Papa’s Robe our grandchildren lay eyes on their grandfather for the very first time.

Papa’s Robe is Papa’s Place where it’s just you and him making a memory.Papa and cova first time 1You don’t realize until you look back through the pictures how some things stay the same for years.

I know it’s just a robe.

Yet reminiscing, our grandchildren will one day close their eyes and still catch a mist of Papa’s cologne in the air, connecting that memory and moments shared with their Papa wearing his robe.

Papa sharing pancakes and juice filled sippy cups with them at the morning breakfast table.  Papa holding little boys hands and guiding their feet while learning to walk.

 

Grandchildren every now and then need their one-on-one time with Papa.  Nothing needs to be said, yet their “robe-to-blankie” snuggle speaks sentences to a sweet toddler who just wants to sit next to Papa before bed.

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Sometimes Papa has to share his cuddles before bed, but Papa’s Robe has enough room for all of his babies.

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Papa shared his lap during night time stories with two grandchildren and their daddy millions of miles away during deployment.  While Papa never took their daddy’s place, Papa’s arms in his soft puffy robe comforted when a sad little boy and girl needed a hug from their daddy.

 

 

Papa and his cast of animated voices brings storybook characters to life.  There’s no doubt these simple minutes spent traveling the world through the pages of “make believe” with Papa will never be forgotten.
Papa reading book to ethanPapa always reserves palace time for his princess’.  Wearing royal robes together, Papa reminds his princess’ how pretty and smart they are.  They share secrets and promises and pinky-swear their confidences.

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But one Christmas not too long ago, Papa and Gaga decided to give their grand-babies “gifts of the heart” as money was a bit scarce that Christmas season.

Pondering what gifts to give, Gaga decided to create a memory from Papa’s Robe for each grandchild to remember their special time with Papa.  Papa agreed deciding after all the years spent wearing his robe, he loved the idea of passing a memory on to his babies.

 

 

Cova months old and Cova five years old with Papa wearing his robe

Papa’s Robe became Papa Bears.

Cut and designed from Papa’s Robe were a vest and bow-tie to clothe and create a child’s personal Papa Bear.  Hidden on each bear was a special message Papa recorded in his own voice.

 

 

Not revealing reasons for the photo shoot at the time, a picture of Papa and each grandchild was taken together, giving them a permanent reminder of time spent with their Papa wearing his robe.

 

 

 

 

On a fun note, a box of “Papa’s Juice” was also included for each child.
Papa’s Juice was a phrase our two year old Hollis adopted at the time when he saw us grandparents adding this to our water and liked it himself.
Papa’s Juice became a common drink in the house; a phrase still used today.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESIt’s been a few years and two babies born since Papa could be seen wearing his robe.

Papa’s babies are getting big now.  They are pulling away from “time alone” with Papa, but Papa knows that’s how it’s supposed to be in this season of life called “growing up”.

But you find new memories to make, new traditions to enjoy.

Life gets away from you when you’re not looking.

Make those memories count.

Pass on your “Papa Bears” to the next generation.

A SUMMER RIDE TO FALL By Lori A Alicea

Labor Day has passed causing most of us to look back wondering,
“Where has the summer gone?”

Summer is a time of baseball, swimming, vacations and leisure.
Summer is a time to celebrate the “little kid” in all of us, albeit at the ice cream stand, the “put-put” place or the county fair.
Summer doesn’t require you to break the bank to put a smile on your child’s face.
But summer does require an intentional heart to fill up those scrapbooks with memories.

As an older adult I’m more aware of my summers lived and want to be more present and make the hot summer days count with my grandchildren, as time with them is getting away from us as we grandparents are a witness to how fast these precious babies are growing up.

Summer has been good to us this year.
While we have no fancy vacation pictures to share with you, we did take a
“Summer Ride to Fall”,
adding another volume of intentional memories to add to our scrapbook collection.

Some of our best summer memories with our grandchildren are spent at the baseball field taking our seat on the bleachers as they play.
Maybe it’s the smell of popcorn and hot dogs or the taste for victory that makes sweating on a sweltering day of nine innings bearable.
Maybe watching our grandchildren cheer their cousin on while having a bad day at the plate is worth the slew of pictures taken.
Maybe your little slugger in uniform just puts a smile on your face that keeps you coming back for more at the field each year.

Baseball this summer had our grandson cheering on his grown up slugger at his games.  I loved that Ethan wanted to be there.

Baseball this summer didn’t disappoint.
The only disappointment was not being able to cheer our DC soccer players on during their summer meets.  But pictures have a tendency to fill a few voids.

After a hot day of baseball, nothing cools off a family of cousins than a splash in Uncle Bradly’s pool.  It doesn’t hurt that Uncle Bradly lives next door and has given us a free pass to swim all summer long.  All he asks is for everyone to exercise safety and have a pool full of fun.

Every now and then the kids have to be satisfied with Papa and Gaga’s mini version of water fun.  Bribe them with a few freeze pops and set up the tent for an overnight sleepover though and they go to bed with a smile.

Though our DC kids didn’t swim in Uncle Bradly’s pool this year, they were able to get away for some much needed time as a family.

Summer is also a time when the grill stays lit from one BBQ celebration after the other.

When gathering around the table it means so much to decorate the place settings.  Little effort is required and the memories in the details speak for themselves.

Mother’s Day and Father’s Day came, the tables were set and we celebrated.  Our children who call us mom or dad honored the years of love and sacrifice spent on them.  Not going unnoticed was the heart behind each simple card and gift.

Summer is one birthday party after the other and we can’t get enough of them and cake.

We had three milestone birthdays this year.

Our oldest granddaughter became a teenager and our two youngest granddaughters blew out their first birthday candles and had their cake all to themselves.

We had birthday themes of all kinds:  American Girl party, swim party, Star Wars party, Mickey Mouse party and a Unicorn party.

We celebrated my mother’s birthday, my birthday, and even thanked God for life as we celebrated Uncle Bradly’s birthday while taking his chemo treatment.

As I said, this summer the grills were always lit for a party.

July 4th was no different.  Papa’s BBQ is like none other and he looks a bit dapper sporting his new grilling duds and utensils he received from his DC kids for his birthday in February. fourth of july david cooking
This July 4th holiday had my daughter dressing her girls in red-white-and-blue which delights a grandmother.  Facebook memories also tug my heart seeing the red-white-and-blue of my babies from July 4th’s in years past.

As a military mom I’ve become more appreciative of our country and the great sacrifices of our servicemen and their families during our July 4th time together.  July 4th brings out the sparklers, the fireworks and an evening when skies are lit up to celebrate our freedom.

Summer spurs on those bike rides around town to greet the cows or take your grandchildren to the Dollar General where they spend $2 each for candy and chips.  I always feel sorry for the cashier with our bustle of six children invading their domain each Friday, with five kids under eight, one being a baby.   The cashier never looks annoyed to bag each child’s treats individually.  But hey, a grandparent has to make those memories count.

Summer is a great time for trying new adventures.
That skydive you’ve been begging to take since your high school graduation.
Or that painting class you finally took with your sisters, daughters and nieces.

Summer is a reminder to keep your love alive by taking a train ride to the city for an extravagant lunch on your kids.

Summer is a spontaneous trip to your honeymoon town for the day; a place that never gets old and deepens your time together surrounded by memories of where your marriage first began.
south haven 2
What would summer be without canning homemade strawberry / rhubarb jelly for those future hot winter biscuits?

Summer is also a time to say good-by to your grandson who leaves for a month’s visit to his dads.  Of course we are happy for him to see his family, especially his little brother, but his voice and presence is noted and terribly missed at cousin camp when he’s gone.

Then there is that unexpected summer good-by to your Pastor of 28 years or your pseudo-mother from your childhood past that catches you off guard and unprepared emotionally.

Summer sometimes resurfaces that sad good-by to the ones you’ve shared summer weekends together at their river front cottage.  What I wouldn’t give for a quiet cup of coffee with my nanny seated next to her by the water’s edge.

swimming bill and gloria

Summer this year was bittersweet as the “growing up” of our grandchildren is as glaring as the morning sun.

Our youngest two granddaughters Kizzey Mae and Aubrey Ann are walking now.

Our three year old granddaughters Rosalee and Ayva have ditched their high chairs and now sit in big girl chairs at a big girl table and do big girl things.

Our seven year old granddaughter Cova is allowed to video chat with me and her other aunts, uncles and grandparents on her private account.

video chat cova ears

We still have Friday night cousin camp but our grandchildren are big enough now to want a cup of coffee with papa in the morning.

We look at these ten gifts from God and wonder, “How did they grow up so fast?”

Summer in the park takes me back to the wonderful season 25 years ago when my children were small.  A wall of their hand-prints taken then along with hand-prints of many children in the community memorializing their childhood still stands after all these years.

Labor Day has finally come marking the end of our “Summer Ride to Fall”.

Hollis in truck

I am so thankful to the generous aunt and uncle our DC kids have that share their river front cottage with them over many holiday weekends; this Labor Day included, so our children have family to make memories together with.

I am thankful for the reminder while watching my granddaughter Ayva make music with her papa, we all have a song to sing and somebody is waiting for us to lift up our voice.

labor day drums

I am thankful for the reminder when looking at our great niece this holiday weekend that God’s biggest miracles come in the smallest of packages.

labor day celeste

I am thankful for the conversation I had with our seven year old grandson Ethan as we closed out the summer on the way home from our Labor Day celebration.  For no reason, Ethan inquisitively asked when we were buying our dream home log cabin.  Interesting as David and I rarely talk about this dream out loud much these days, so for a seven year old to ask a grown up question caught my attention and heart off guard, especially when he offered those millions stashed in his piggy bank for us to borrow.

labor day log cabin

I am thankful for our kids that call and face-time through the week who want to hear about our day.

I am thankful for grand-kids that recognize our voice over the speaker phone and engage in conversation.

I am thankful for the kids who sit next to us in church as we worship together the one who is responsible for and the author of everything amazing in our lives.

church with kids

Fall is here and so another season begins.
God is always on the move.

Let’s continue to live our life with intent.
Memories don’t get made by accident.
Memories are made on purpose.

Yes people, Fall is here and so another season begins.

Fall brings out the kid in me as my favorite season is around the corner and
I am celebrating already!

end of summer xmas