On the first day of summer the “Well Family” blog (New York Times) set forth The Intentional Summer Challenge — a weekly list of simple ideas to help us connect more to the season and to those we love.
The first tip? Walk or bike somewhere you’d normally drive to. Pick a short distance that might turn into a ritual (such as a bike ride to work or the library) or an even longer trek.
Our intentions this summer are also quite simple, including big and little pleasures like…
A family beach trip (check)
The Peachtree Road Race (it’s Mike’s 30th)
Making homemade ice cream, and often (the new maker arrived last week)
Spontaneous weekend drives and road trips (our pal David calls this “going loafin'”)
Game of Thrones (Seasons 1-6)
Fun horse time with friends
Read, read, read
And squeezing every possible moment out of being with our kids, without driving them crazy 🙂
Our list really goes on much longer than this, and we hope yours does too. Here’s to a summer filled with loving and fun intentions!
“A sense of autonomy — of making active decisions about how we spend our time — is one of the elements that helps us enjoy our free time.”
Our mom wasn’t one to stand on much ceremony. But she sure surprised Mike and me five years ago when she gave us Papa Brooks’ old farm bell on Mother’s Day. Grandma Brooks used to clang this bell to call our older brothers, Billy and Doug, up from the pond where they were fishing. I remember that big bell vividly, seeing it every time we pulled up to their farm. My little sister Janna and I loved ringing it as loudly as we could, only to be scolded by Grandma or some other adult standing nearby. When our family sold the farm after Papa and Grandma passed away, Mom sent Doug over in secret to retrieve the bell. Little did the rest of us know she kept it out back at our family home in a storage shed for 20 years. And on Mother’s Day 2010 she gave it to us as a gift for our farm. Now every time I look at it I think of her — and often tug on the old rope just to feel the bell reverberate in my ears…and in my heart. Thinking of you this Mother’s Day, Mom. We sure miss you..
A beautiful surprise crossed my email today, a post about our grandfather’s family homestead — a place, quite honestly, I hadn’t thought of in years. Yet today there it was, with old black-and-white images staring me in the face…offering tiny glimpses into the log cabin where Forrest C. Brooks (“Papa”) was raised in a family of seven sons. Kolb Farm was restored in the 1960s to preserve the history of The Battle of Kolb’s Farm, which took place during the American Civil War. It is on the National Register of Historic Places as part of Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park.
Peter Valentine Kolb built this log house in 1836 as four rooms with an open dogtrot (huge by 1836 pioneer standards!), enclosing the dogtrot into a central hall sometime before the Civil War. William Franklin Brooks (1864-1952) and Emma Latimer Brooks (1865-1949) purchased it from the Kolb family and had seven boys (William, Jr., George, Clyde, Glen, Grover, Guy, and Forrest) that lived and grew up on this farm.
Saturday morning. Our house is quiet. Arielle is home for Easter, and Adrian is asleep in his room after last night’s tough loss to North Atlanta in a cold hard rain. Our little family is all here now…intact, safe, warm. “How many more mornings will we have like this?” I wonder. Tonight is prom night. Adrian’s graduation is a few weeks away. Arielle has decided to close the chapter on Washington, D.C. and move to New York City. Change is most definitely afoot. I get up, make coffee and read the papers all to myself on the sun porch — my favorite room in the house we’ve lived in for 23 years, the place where we chose to raise our two children. And as I read, there, in The Wall Street Journal is a profile on Francine Prose. Called “The Art of the Meal” it’s a Q&A with the author and her partner, artist Howie Michaels, in which they talk about the life they share today in an old farmhouse in upstate New York.
The writer knows well the place where we are now. In fact, her words on letting go reached deep into my heart 18 years ago when she penned an essay for Family Life magazine entitled, “Every Step They Take.” An eloquent account written by a young mother experiencing the pleasure…and the pain…of watching her sons grow. “Had I saved that article?” I asked myself, and ran upstairs to see if I did. Sure enough there it was, in Adrian’s baby book of all places — the book I started but never completed because, well, parenting got in the way. And now he’s a man who’ll be leaving for college in a matter of months. Mike and I have spent countless hours talking about this moment. The time when our last child flies the nest and we must find our way without them here. Suddenly I more fully understand why my husband has taken such fancy to a little brown wren who has built her nest in the back of his Rhino at the farm. There are five tiny eggs in there and Mike tiptoes through the garage lest he disturb her. For now he refuses to drive the 4×4 — not until every egg has hatched — and so he walks wherever he needs to go on the property, tools in hand.
Prose writes, “Children are born leaving us. Carefully programmed into the system are the tiny incremental steps by which they will make their way — crawling, walking, driving. This is a basic element of the life cycle, common to every species; watching a swallow who had nested on our porch cajoling and then hectoring her babies into taking their first shaky flights, I couldn’t help wondering if the mother bird had any…regrets.”
For our parent friends, and those who may one day embark on this wondrous journey, we’ll have this in common: Our children will grow up. We will draw deep breaths as they wobble around and begin to take those first steps — then keep on walking. They will fill us with infinite amounts of love. We will know nothing greater than giving them life. Treasure your time together, watch with pride as your baby birds fly away, and be happy in the knowledge that it was you who put them here and that your job was well done.
Capturing the cultural heritage of Alabama, Journey Proud is a new show on Alabama Public Television hosted by folklorist Joey Brackner. Here’s an episode from last fall on gourd houses. While watching it, I had a small epiphany. Our mom used to have gourd birdhouses strung up outside (and inside) our childhood home — usually painted or decorated with one of her own kooky designs. We all just thought they were tacky. Well, Joan Brooks was an Alabama native, mind you, born in Mobile, so we think we now know where her gourd house attraction came from!