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Although a new or altered perspective on life can come from small experiences—like turning on a light switch after a multiday power outage, the lasting changes tend to come from larger life events. For my dad, it came from a close call with the school of hard knocks.

Recently I came across a picture of my dad in a neck brace sitting in a chair in the driveway. It took a while to figure out why mom might have posed him in the middle of an oil spot in the driveway. A couple of days ago, I figured it out. (I think.)

Ruptured perception

Daddy after his change in perspective

In the late eighties, Daddy started experiencing numbness in his extremities. Being Daddy, he ignored it until it interfered with his golf swing. Because he had no pain, neither he nor his doctor were too perturbed about the situation. Finally, when Daddy started tripping when he walked, his doctor sent him in for a diagnostic scan.

The scan revealed a ruptured disc in his cervical spine. It was ruptured on both sides, which, though it caused no pain, put his spinal cord under critical pressure. The  smallest incident—a twisting or impact—could result in permanent paralysis. A fender bender, for instance, or a fall. Daddy went into surgery at 8 am the following morning.

As Daddy was leaving the radiology office, the enormity of his situation hit him, as did his lack of a meal. He passed out, going down in a swan dive.  Luckily, an alert nurse or tech caught him. Speaking of enormity, did I mention that Daddy was a big man? Six foot one and a hefty 245 pounds. Some catch. (Some swan.)

Overall, he was very lucky and though he did miss a few months of golf, the surgery went well and he had an able caregiver in my mother (whole ‘nother story there!) He’d dodged a bullet.

For Daddy this was a lesson in Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff before the book ever came out. I was living in Germany, so I got the run-down of events from Daddy later. He told me once that the full impact of this close call hit him one post-surgical morning in the shower.

A center knob on the wall turned on the shower. Normally, it would be turned off via the same knob. This particular morning, however, rather than turning off the water, the knob simply came off in his hand. Daddy told me that he surprised himself by laughing at his predicament. (He didn’t tell me how he resolved it, but I’m fairly confident it involved bellowing for my mom.) He realized that weeks earlier he would have been “bent totally out of shape” by such an annoyance.

Looking back, I feel grateful for that shower predicament story. It’s the story of Daddy starting his version of stopping to smell flowers. He retired earlier, played more golf, and traveled.

For him, life was relatively short. I like to think back and realize that despite its shortness, Daddy had a lot of moments that mattered. Like enjoying a nice day and petting a cat, even if it meant dragging kitchen chair out to the driveway, oil spots be damned.

Nothing brings home the significance of Christmas traditions like spending a Christmas away from home.

Glühwein at christmas

Glühwein or hot spiced (mulled) red wine is a wonderful German tradition.

My first Christmas away from home was spent with a family in southern Germany. There were many parts of their family traditions that I enjoyed enough to adopt later. I loved their beautiful advent wreaths and calendars. However, I missed the big Christmas tree going up early in the season. Even the wonderful chocolate and cookies didn’t quite make up for that.

To be honest, I found their Christmas tree erecting tradition somewhat scandalous. One parent took the children out for a very long walk on Christmas Eve day. They came back to find a fully decorated tree brought to their home by no other than the Christ child.

Christmas away from home German angel

Acquired over 20 years ago at a Germany Christmas market, this feather angel is still one of my favorite tree decorations.

Years later, when I was again living in Germany, I fell in love with the Christmas markets. Though they were commercial in a way—handmade ornaments and crèches were for sale—they were much more. I cherished walking through the stalls, smelling the roasted almonds and anise cookies. I loved getting chilled enough to warm up with the warm spicy Glühwein. Choosing gifts for family was a joy—all sorts of hand carved German crafts were available. It was a full sensory immersion experience in all things warm, fuzzy and well, Christmassy.

Now when we celebrate Christmas, I love adding the elements from the years that we lived in Europe. Somehow, they’ll always be a part of me.

Interested in sharing your memories? My website, Treasure Chest of Memories, has tips, resources, and a blog about memory sharing.

In 1979, I was admitted into the second class of women that lived on campus at the heretofore all-male Wofford College. The college was chartering a women’s basketball program and the coach wasn’t overly picky. She wasn’t desperate enough to take anyone with a pulse, but, as I had scored two baskets over three years of playing YMCA league, I made the cut.

Wofford women's basketball

Lady Terriers circa 1979

Another unique thing about Wofford was that it was 1.5 miles away from an all-girl’s college—Converse College. Converse girls did not like the Wofford girls, and the feeling was mutual. We looked at them as debutantes and arm-candy.  They probably thought us all science geeks and jocks.

Over my four years at Wofford, my basketball skills improved quite a bit, but I also had a lot to improve on. During that period, the Lady Terriers, as we were called, developed a healthy rivalry with the Converse College team.

During my junior year, we were in a close game with the women from Converse. For some reason, I was on the court. Perhaps someone had fouled out, lost a contact lens, or Coach was trying to send a message to someone that should have been scoring more.  I don’t remember that part of the story. We weren’t playing well at all until a Converse girl took umbrage at my guarding her. She dropped her dainty-girl etiquette long enough to slug me in the side of the head.

Luckily I was incapable of standing, because I certainly would have blown the foul shot under pressure.  Also luckily, this lit a fire under the rest of the team who were furious on my behalf. Honestly, they were a lot more upset about it that I was. Not only did they score the foul shots, they played their hearts out to take the win from Converse. . We (they actually, I was out of it then) ran away with the game during the last five minutes. Watching them, I realized they were furious because they cared about me. Maybe I was closer to Miss Congeniality than MVP, but they had my back.

After that day and into my senior year, when the Lady Terriers were in a slump, someone would (jokingly, I hope) suggest, “Why don’t we put Laura in and hope someone hits her.”

© Laura Hedgecock 2013

Interested in sharing your memories? My website, Treasure Chest of Memories, has tips, resources, and a blog about memory sharing.

Tweets from Beyond

Tweets from Heaven As I gaze at the photo taken of my parents the week of their deaths, I imagine they’re in a Harry-Potter-esque animated photo. They’re happy and waving from the bow of the whale-watching ship. “The weather is beautiful! I saw a humpback before you! See ya soon!”

I also imagine getting text messages. I’d settle for that as one son, who still has a few memories of his grandparents, starts his sophomore year at college and the other son, who has no memories of them, starts his senior year of high school.

I’d retweet @LoydandElleninHeaven’s “I know! We’re watching them and are such proud #grandparents. Love you all.” My dad might tweet,“Visited best celestial golf course today and played a round with Ben Davis.” My mom would give a short report of greeting my Uncle Jack up there.

Better yet, there’d be ones that I’d hide from the kids: “We’re watching. We won’t let him screw up.”

So those of you inventing “Cheerful” iPhones and “smart” watches, could you manage a social network with the hereafter? You’d get tons of Likes.

© Laura Hedgecock 2013

Interested in sharing your memories? My website, Treasure Chest of Memories, has tips, resources, and a blog about memory sharing.

Bad salesman in Garmisch

Image Credit Wikipedia Commons

When husband and I decided to buy a piece of furniture painted in the traditional Bavarian folk-art style, or biggest obstacle was a bad salesperson.

Living in southern Germany, my husband and I came to love the Bauernmalerei folk-art furniture style. We traveled to Garmisch-Partenkirchen, situated at the foot of the Zugspitze Alp, where we hoped to select and order a hand-made Bavarian keepsake.

This was in the late 1980’s when a strong US-Dollar motivated hordes of American tourists to visit picturesque Germany. Beautiful Garmisch, with its painted buildings and cobblestones streets, was a popular destination.

We found a small store that had beautiful hand-painted armoires that we immediately fell in love with. Since the shop owner was studiously ignoring us, we sought him out and asked him, in our fluent German, what the price ranges.

“Teuer [Expensive],” he responded.

Matt and I looked at each other. Ok, so he didn’t particularly like Americans. He probably had tons come into his shop and leave again without purchasing anything. We got it. As ex-pats, we sometimes cringed at the behavior of busloads of US-tourists. Un-offended (or not very offended), we persevered.

“How expensive?” I asked.

“Sehr [Very].”

At this point, I was torn between wanting to giggle and wanting to stomp out. Luckily, Matt remained calm.

Bad salesman very Expensive Armoire “Could you be more exact?” he asked, pointing at an exemplar that we had particularly admired. “How much would one like this cost?”

“It depends.”

Yep. He hated American tourists, or possibly any tourist, or possibly anyone.

“Depends on what?” I asked testily, fully expecting him to tell me it depended on how much he hated the individual wanting a quote.

He grumpily pointed out features of carving and painting that influenced pricing. Finally, after pointing out the features we liked, we got a price out of the man.

Despite his misogynist temperament, we loved his work and decided to order an armoire from him. We still love it, twenty-plus years later. When visitors admire it, we enjoy telling them how it was “very expensive.”

© Laura Hedgecock 2013
Interested in sharing your memories? My website, Treasure Chest of Memories, has tips, resources, and a blog about memory sharing.

My Uncle says that my mom’s  family never had a turkey.

Doesn’t sound like devastating news, right? But to me, it is surprising.

Jack and Ellen

My mom and Uncle Jack playing.

One of the stories I’ve been told since I can remember was about my uncle and his “pet” turkey.  The story goes that a turkey imprinted on my uncle and followed him around everywhere until one day when the turkey didn’t make it all the way through the spring loaded screen door.

When he was here a week ago, I asked my uncle to fill in the turkey saga details. He claims that there was never even a turkey, much less a pet one. He doesn’t have any idea why my mother would pass on such a story. He did vaguely remember and goose and “neck snapping incident.” But the goose was no friend of his. It was begging for food as the screen door slammed shut.

He also remembered that my mother was afraid of the geese. According to my Uncle Joe, my mom bawled when the goose pecked her. In a show of four-or-five-year-old male machismo, Uncle Joe protected three-year-old mom from the assault of a goose by grabbing the goose by the neck when the goose tried to peck her.

According to my mom, my Uncle Joe cried and cried when the “turkey” died. I think I even remember some debate about whether they were going to eat him. (This was a poor family during the depression.)

So why does it matter? The stories have the same sub-text. Mom and her siblings grew up together on a farm, interacted with the animals, had adventures, and loved each other. When one of them cried, it was a noteworthy event.

© Laura Hedgecock 2013

Mystery Man Dear Sir:

You probably don’t remember our brief meeting that snowy night in February 1994. Dressed in overlapping hospital gowns, I was walking the back halls of Detroit’s Sinai hospital with my husband to “regulate” my labor. You were dressed in a black coat and brimmed hat, walking towards us with purpose, when the pain from a contraction took me to my knees. You stopped and waited until I could stand, made eye contact, and said, “I’ll pray the best for you.”

You said it with such authority. It wasn’t a platitude.

Often I think back on that chance meeting, wondering. Who were (are) you? A clergyman on a mission of mercy? Caregiver for a loved one?

I picture you in my thoughts—a tall statue of ebony skin and clothes. I wish I could tell you how comforting your words to a stranger were.

I wish I could tell you how often I pray the best for you.

© Laura Hedgecock 2013

Want to write about your memories? Check out my memory-sharing website Treasure Chest of Memories.

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