Keeping Spring

April 1, 2010 by Ellen Stimson in Springtime, Worries

When I was a kid and an ambulance pulled into one of the driveways on the street everybody called everybody else and pretty soon the casserole patrol was lining up food for the family until the crisis passed. The word neighbor had a friendly connotation back then. And for the really bad stuff there were the church ladies. These gals had hair that had been sprayed into place with high-powered aerosol from a hard pink tall can. They went to the beauty shop on Saturday morning, drank coffee, chewed Dentyne, traded stories under the dryer, and when they came back they were outfitted and ready for whatever battle the world threw at them. Those helmets of curls and waves could withstand any storm. They’d sent their husbands and sons to war, gone to work to keep the country running, and by God they could handle a little thing like a wayward teenager or a death in the family with one hand tied behind their backs. Those women were a force. And I miss them

What you do now if your life goes to pieces is call up a therapist who you probably found on the Internet and then you drive to their office and tell them your hard stories. They nod sympathetically, and offer a thoughtful forum where your own thoughts and ideas can bloom, and then you pay them and go back to the mess that you probably mostly made yourself, and that now you have to solve without out that comforting noodle bake from the church ladies.

We have had a hard spring. Couple of years ago we went pretty well bust from a crummy business decision, (when you buy and sell and start businesses and have had more than your fair share of success, you start to think your luck will hold, only then it doesn’t, because of course luck always goes both ways, and that’s a real wake up call is all I can tell you) and life had just about returned to normal financially after a couple of good business decisions and a lot of hard work and digging out. Only now there is a new kind of trouble. There is a sadness in our house without an immediate or obvious solution. And this morning after a dark night with lots of teary phone calls and recriminations, mixed with threats and hard words all around, I keep thinking about that beauty shop, old fashioned neighbors and those infallible church ladies. I have a friend who says she channels me when she has to be exuberant or put on a sales face. I get that. Coming as I do from a long line of over reactors I channel her when I have to be rational and calm. And now I am channeling a 1970s strip mall beauty shop and those gum cracking, wise women who knew that the key to almost any problem lay in their kitchens and over their back fences. I am roasting rhubarb with real vanilla beans and filling a vase with some tulips and before it is all over I may even make myself a noodle bake. Because the real wisdom of those ladies will not be found in a psychology text book or on a therapist’s couch. What they knew way back then, and what they are reminding me of now, is that sometimes things just must be endured. And while they are happening you fill your kitchen with good smells, you get your hair fixed, put on some lipstick and wait for the worst of the storm to pass. It will of course. Hard as it is to predict a favorable outcome right now, what I know for sure is that in a year or two it will have already come and gone. It may be better or it may get worse, but this moment will have passed. And with it this spring, and these trees with their little hopeful buds and the singing robins who are making nests filled with twigs , birch bark, our dryer fuzz, and promise. Plenty of promise, as they simply and steadily go on about the business of making spring happen one more time.

You never know how many springs you will get so it pays to keep the ones you have. And so I will keep even this hard one. I intend to keep it with rhubarb and tulips and maybe some baby chicks, and for sure a whole bunch of deviled eggs from the grown up girls out back. It may be hard but the sun is coming closer and the ground has gotten soft. We have roosters crowing in the back yard and pretty soon there will be lilacs. Lilacs demand gratitude. It’s spring. Time to pay some attention…..


  • Abigail Mae Hudson

    I remember the beauty shops of my youth almost just the way you do. Our hair really was glued into place too.
    I am sorry you are having a hard time right now. The Psalms are a comfort to me. They are beautiful and they remind me that my problems are centuries old. There is nothing new under the sun.
    Good luck my dear

  • Casdok

    I to am sorry to hear you are having a difficult time but i admire your attitude x

  • Lisa

    God bless ya. We're going through some hard stuff, too — so I understand. And, you're right. Sometimes it must be just Endured. Consider this note a glass pyrex full of noodle casserole — and lilacs, because that's what I have growing in my yard — and know that us Church ladies come with prayers, too.

  • Lisa

    (The lilacs are in a vase… Not in the noodle casserole. 🙂

  • Kate

    I want to hug you and sit on your swing and drink coffee with you and just be. Because you're right. That's what works when things are tough. People to just sit and be present with you.

    I'm sending you happy South Dakota sunshine today. You've helped me out of my hole many a time by your sunny words, so I'm sending some back. Extra strength.

  • Molly

    Welcome back Mr p. I am sorry you are having a hard time but glad you are here telling us about it. I miss your stories big and small. This blog was the place i checked every morning before work and now even after this time still look in every once in a while just in case.
    I am really glad you are here and that there are women in the world who think about noodle bake and how to get through stuff. You already know you are strong and that you can write.. Now you should know that you inspire a whole bunch of us. My friends all read you too.
    Good luck with the hard shit….we are all rooting for you

  • beesknees

    Me too. Sorry and glad..sorry you are having a hard time, really glad you are back

  • laurwilk

    I love reading your posts. It always provides a perspective that my 24 year old self had never really thought of before.

    Noodle bakes and flowers – I can do both of those things.

    Do you think that perhaps it is about control? About having some control over yourself, your hair, your food, your home – when you are struggling to have control over much else? Or is that just the 24 year old perspective?

  • retired library lady

    As I was being hauled away in an abulance a few weeks ago, one of our best neighbors was standing in the drivway assuring me that she would see that my cats were fed and watered. She's the same neighbor who brought over Easter dinner–including deviled eggs and greenbean casserole!

  • starrlife

    When I grew up in Burlington my Mom and the other Moms would “coffee clatch”, watch soaps, do their nails and there was always a group in the neighborhood. Sigh…. I don't live that far away and anything I can do please…. Sounds like teen trouble to me and hugs for all of that – again anything I can do. Even though I am a therapist I can still be helpful 🙂

  • painted maypole

    oh. this is some good inspiration for me right now.

    I'm sorry things are hard right now. Here, too.

    But this determination, this getting through it. Yes. We can.

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