My grandchildren recently let me know they figured it out. They know to be careful with their words, for they will end up finding themselves, and the words they said, in one of their grandmother’s essays. Real life characters in her story – there they will be. Forever.
But then the truth comes out, when they admit they are okay with it. It’s fun to read about themselves. They know their words come out of their mouth before realizing it was funny or profound enough to make their grandmother take note.
After Thomas spent an afternoon working on his new Lego project, the words, “This has been my biggest Lego regret” slipped from his mouth. His mother was not happy to hear him say that in front of Grandpa and me, for we had purchased the Lego set for him.
I jotted his words in my purse notebook – knowing I didn’t want to forget what he said, and there was a future story I would someday write.
Thomas later explained he had worked so intensely on building his project. The next thing he knew, he was left with a finished project. That meant no more opportunity to spend time working on something he loved to work on.
It made me wonder if there is a grown-up version of a biggest Lego regret.
Somehow all of us know what it is like to step on a Lego which is probably an odd thing for mankind to have in common – knowing what it feels like to step on a Lego. Or running a toe into a table leg. The pause we are forced to take and the face we make is universal, but the syllables we utter may differ from one language to the next.
How can it be our minds can remember the stub-your-toe moments in life, yet it isn’t easy keeping an inventory of perfect moments to replay in our memories?
We are all told the day will come when we realize our parents were right after all, or we start to hear others say we look like our mother. We may know in our hearts there are ways we have indeed become our mother. Or father. And here I am – writing stuff just as my mother did. I had no plans for this.
My brothers, sisters, and I did not like it when everything we and our friends did ended up in the newspaper. Decades later, we discover it is great fun reading what we were up to and laughing at what made the news back then. And many small town newspapers are still doing a good job of letting us know what is really going on.
I understand there is an Edgerton Earth newspaper from the 1960s that recounts the story of the Edgerton Fire Department summoned to the Vernon Kimpel home when the fire-that-wasn’t was reported by my two sisters. I hope to locate the story, as I was told one of the firemen made a statement about what ended up being a practice-run to our family home on Bement Street.
Every Kimpel kid has their own memories and version of the story, so it would be good to read the facts as stated back then. Too bad someone didn’t grab my father’s Duraflex camera so we could be reminded of what a firetruck looked like back in the 60s.
My memory from that evening is the excitement of three fire trucks in front of our house. I remember the sound of the sirens becoming louder as they traveled from one side of the tracks to the other, and I have a very clear mental picture of the parked trucks in front of the house with lights flashing as they idled quite loudly.
I don’t know which sibling was holding me, but I do remember my view was from the hips of someone older than I. Quite possibly one of them instinctively picked me up because I was one of the little ones.
It’s rather comical there was no fire – yet all of us were required to get out of the house and stand in the front yard. When you think about it, who would want to stay in a house that has been declared on fire – even though it’s not on fire. Anyone in their right mind would get out.
Uncle Clair and Grandpa Imm happened to be there that evening, and I still have a mental picture of them speaking with the firemen and letting them know what happened.
If my parents would have had the average American size family – 2.2 children – and not went ahead and finished with the 8.8 more, their life surely would not have provided as much excitement. It took the 7th and 8th sons taking part in a wet washcloth fight to set off the fire alarm. And it took two well-meaning daughters, the 4th and 5th in the family, to run to the Wickerhams’ house and request a call be placed to the fire department.
Those two sisters of mine were certainly thinking of the family and what they were supposed to do: just get the firemen here. Do not stop to get the rest of the kids out of the house. Just run.
Quite possibly, my mother was an effective writer and ended up with a book full of stories because of all those children. And Warnie and Odelia Wickerham, two of many great neighbors, what did they really think of all of us? They were neighbors to 11 Kimpel kids and 9 Curry kids – 20 of us – essentially in the same back yard.
My cousins, siblings, and I have so many memories of friends we grew up with, and it makes me think everyone leaves a little story for others to tell about us. I imagine many neighbors joined us in the yard that evening after hearing sirens getting closer to their own homes. Certainly Warnie and Odelia followed my sisters home to see what it was they just reported on their rotary dial telephone.
In my parents’ collection of memorabilia is a little wire-bound notebook with the list of those they invited to their wedding, and I found the names of Mr. and Mrs. Warren Wickerham and Mr. and Mrs. Kenneth Blue. My mother’s handwriting starts the list, and my father’s handwriting is apparent when I read the names he added to the list.
The year was 1947. Although no one knew the boom of babies was about to begin, I imagine they could have predicted it.
My mother kept a list of baby gifts she received in October of 1948 when my oldest sister, Marcia, was born. And I had to smile when I read ‘Kenneth Blues’ gave Marcia a baby doll, and the Wickerhams gave her a sacque. I didn’t even know was a sacque was, so I had to look it up.
The day came when Kenny Blue became a volunteer fireman, and somewhere along the way became the fire chief.
When the call came in to the fire department from the Wickerhams’ phone, the firemen were already gathered at the fire hall for their Monday evening meeting, so they responded quite promptly. All they had to do was put their firemen suits on, hop in the trucks, and head across the railroad tracks to discover the house was not on fire.
The men of the department thanked the children and assured them it was a good thing they knew what to do. It was my parents who later took care of teaching their children what went right, and what when wrong, that evening.
I doubt my parents were charged a fee for the accidental call to the fire department, but if we had to pay for the memories from that evening, and the laughter it continues to create, it would have been money well spent.
Those who serve as police officers, firefighters, and paramedics are there for us in the worst of times, giving to us in ways we can never repay. And they are there for us in the best of times.
Anyone who sorts through an estate will come upon photos and what-nots that remind us we are just passing through this time and this place, and there are plenty of opportunities to build a life of giving to others.
Children undoubtedly look at those of us who have reached grandparent status and see us as an ‘old’ person. An old person whose hands may have turned the keys on a fire truck or ambulance. An old person who knows what it is like to do some serious work in a fireman’s jacket and boots. An old person who knows the weight of the equipment and how much strength it takes to even handle the water hose. There are a lot of old people who know how to do things children will someday learn to do – and do safely.
When we are at the end of our life on earth, we know money and material things will not matter, but the love and kindness we’ve given to others will live on forever. And we know there is such a thing as giving of bravery when we see what men and women who serve as firefighters are capable of doing.
It may be safe to say we should not regret any day in our life, for the tough times and the stub-your-toe moments are simply moments that teach us lessons. And the good times are moments that create memories and laughter, sometimes years after we first laughed.
But fair warning from a few who joke about their oldness – the day will come when we realize we worked so intently on meaningful projects – we will not only wonder how the years could have passed so quickly – but will want to be confident we shared our gifts and talents as we were meant to do.
72 years after my oldest sister received a baby doll from the Blue family and a sacque from the Wickerhams, I was able to read about it because my mother was someone who loved to write down what’s really going on. She journaled the names of those who ‘called’ on her after the birth of her first child – and I counted 80 names.
It seems a wonderful life couldn’t possibly be built upon the earthly possessions we may acquire, but rather upon the gifts and strengths given to us that we freely pass along to others.
It makes me know the best things in life truly are things we can build upon – like friendships – for the friends we are surrounded by have a way of showing how much they care for us. Friends prove they are willing to drop everything at a moment’s notice and show up at your house. Or show up at your wedding. Or show up with a gift and greeting card to welcome yet another baby into the family.
© Marlene Oxender 2021