Tag Archive | childhood memories

PLAY – the Best Medicine

A couple weeks ago Floey and I went for a long morning walk, and it really felt like summer for the first time this year. The sun had warmed the air to the mid 70s, a few white clouds floated in the bright blue sky, the birds were singing, and cornfields were showing off neat rows of 2-inch baby plants. Floey trotted beside me on her 16-foot extendable leash, watching carefully for any movement along the side of the road that could indicate a chipmunk, rabbit, or squirrel was hiding from us.

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As we walked along the country road that goes by our old farmhouse, a song that was popular when I was in high school popped into my mind – “Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer.” In my mind, Nat King Cole was singing it, and I was in the driveway of the farm, washing my first car, a 1963 Corvair. I remember I did that on perfect Sunday afternoons in 1966. That song made me smile and feel good 51 years ago, and it made me smile and feel good now as I was walking Floey.

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Dust off the sun and moon and sing a song of cheer.

When Floey and I got back home, I said, “Alexa, play Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer by Nat King Cole.” My Amazon Echo gadget accommodated my whim, and I listened to the song just as I had remembered it.

Danny and Marian in first go-kart

We also built go-karts.

Summer is my favorite time of the year for lots of reasons. Most of my happy childhood memories took place in the summer – planting tobacco, baling hay, playing cowboys and Indians in the barn, walking down to the woods to explore, playing croquet on the front lawn. There was always lots of work to do, but there was always enough time to play, as well. Now that I’ve grown up, I find that it’s much harder to find time to play, although I’m usually most successful in finding time for play in the summer.

For the month of May, Joan Chittister wrote in the “Monastic Way” devotional pamphlet all about the importance of finding time to play. She started by quoting Proverbs 8:30, “I, Wisdom, was God’s delight day by day, playing with God every moment…”

fullsizeoutput_208aI’ve never used words quite like that to talk about “playing.” But as usual, Chittister gave me something to think about every day. One day she quoted Albert Einstein, “Play is the highest form of research.” She went on to explain, “Play frees our minds to think things we have never had the opportunity to think before. It enables us to come to know ourselves in other ways. It prompts us to think differently – about old things and new.”

Another day she said, “Adults get so work oriented, they forget to keep on growing. As a result we risk never becoming the rest of ourselves. To know who we are and what we can be requires a great deal of aimless activity…”

The next day she added, “To be really happy, we have to discover how to play as well as how to work.”

One of my favorite reflections of the month was on May 23. “Play … gives the mind room to think about more than the present. It provides the space we need to remember what life was like before arthritis of the soul set in.”

“Arthritis of the soul” is an image I won’t forget. I have a little arthritis in my knees, hips, and wrists. I don’t like it, and I do whatever I can to keep it from getting worse. I certainly don’t want to develop “arthritis of the soul,” and if taking time to play can prevent it, finding time to play will become a new priority for me.

So, how do I play as a “mature adult?” I’m not sure that rounding up my cousins to play cowboys and Indians in the barn will be quite as much fun as it was 60 years ago. Chittister had a suggestion. She said, “Get up tomorrow and go do something you’ve never done before. Then, decide if you’d like to do that again. If not, try something else the next day. Keep trying until you discover a whole new part of you. You’ll like yourself a whole lot better if you do.”

I think I have a few ideas of my own about how to play, too. Going for walks with Floey is fun and provides aimless time to think. Going on a treasure hunt with Mim usually ends up at a resale shop where all kinds of discoveries can be made – especially in the book department. Cuddling up with a good book can provide hours of escape from reality. Sometimes playing through a songbook of golden oldies on the piano can be unbelievably refreshing.

Now that the “lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer” are here, I’m ready to play. I need to prevent “arthritis of the soul.” And, as Joan Chittister says, “There’s no substitute for knowing how to do nothing [i.e., play] without feeling guilty about it.” And now you know how.

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Floey and I also play with gardening on our deck.

The Time Machine in my Mind

Albert EinsteinI think it was Albert Einstein who postulated that time is the fourth dimension – after length, width, and height. That intrigued me when I first heard the idea. I think I was in junior high. About the same time, I watched a TV episode of the “The Twilight Zone” that played with that idea.

This particular episode was set in the American West in the 1800s, the time of cowboys and Indians. A cowboy was alone and stranded on the plains in barren territory – I can’t remember why. He was tired and thirsty, leading his horse over the hillside with hopes of finding some civilization, or at least a trickle of water. As he reached the crest of the hill, what he saw instead was a four-lane interstate highway with cars zooming by at 70 miles per hour. He had crossed the barrier into another time zone. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. He couldn’t understand what he was seeing. He was terrified. He stumbled back down the side of the hill he had just climbed. The eerie “Twilight Zone” music started playing and that was the end of the show.

That episode fascinated me. Could it ever really happen that we could slip from one time zone into another?

While still in high school I read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. This novel used the same idea of accidental time travel, but it was a humorous adventure rather than a science fiction mystery. People have continued to write comedies and mysteries, novels and movies, based on this fourth dimension of our universe.

Marian and Floey walking the neighborhood

Marian and Floey walking the neighborhood

A couple weeks ago I was walking Floey through our neighborhood and we met a brand new neighbor and her dog, also out for a walk. As we chatted for a few minutes I thought about telling her that this whole neighborhood used to be the farm where I grew up, but I decided against it. The hot summer days when I would sit on top of a tractor pulling the hay baler over the hill where her house now stands were gone. I can still see my dad on the wagon behind me, pulling the bales of hay off the baler and piling them high on the hay wagon, but that scene is invisible to her. Those days were in a different time zone, about 50 years ago.

Obviously, that's not me on the tractor - but that's the kind of tractor, baler, and hay wagon we had.

Obviously, that’s not me on the tractor – but that’s the kind of tractor, baler, and hay wagon we had.

Oriole and Chickadee street signsEver since that encounter, I’ve been thinking about the 1950s – 1960s time zone as I’ve walked Floey along Chickadee Drive, Oriole Lane, and Bluebird Pass. In my mind I can see the hay fields and the corn fields that used to be there. The tobacco field is now Canterbury Court with ten houses lining the street. The pasture where the cows used to graze is now Stone Meadows, the condominium community where I live.

I guess that’s one of the benefits of getting older. In my mind, I can travel through time, at least back through history for as many years as I’ve been alive. That’s one more thing to be grateful for. “Gratitude” is my word for the year for 2015. Earlier this year I mentioned my word several times in this blog, but I haven’t talked much about it lately. The time machine in my mind is something I’m really grateful for – 67 years of mostly wonderful memories. This library of memories in my head is a huge resource for time travel.

I think the closest thing the Bible comes to on the subject of time travel is in Ecclesiastes. (If anyone knows of anything else, please let me know as a comment on this blog.)

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.  [Ecclesiastes 3:11-13, New Living Translation]

“Enjoy the fruits of their labor…” – I guess some of the fruits of our labor could be our memories. If you happen to see Floey and me walking through our neighborhood, and I have a great big smile on my face, know that I may have traveled back in time, and that I am sitting on top of our old red “H” tractor, pulling the baler and hay wagon behind me.

old tractor

My Musical Destiny

Welcoming guests to our bed and breakfast in 1998.

Welcoming guests to our bed and breakfast in 1998.

Seventeen years ago, Mim and I created a new business called Korth-Jacobson, LLC. Within that business structure we have done lots of different things – from being a bed and breakfast to selling real estate; from doing strategic planning and project management for small businesses to providing music in churches and a pub and other venues; from hosting spiritual retreats to caring for the elderly in our home. All of these businesses have been based out of our home. For the past 12 years, one of our businesses has been Country Comforts Assisted Living. We currently care for two 94-year-olds in our home, and we also coordinate the care of a third almost 94-year-old who lives with a neighbor.

By the very nature of this caregiving business, we are working 24/7. Whenever we are at home, we are responsible for being sure the needs of our residents are met. Whenever we are not at home, we need to be sure another caregiver is present to meet these needs. We have finally realized that to meet our own need for a break, we must take some time off, and that means we need to be away from our work environment – away from home. Lately we’ve established the schedule of taking Tuesdays and Thursdays off from about 1:00 or 1:30 pm till about 8:00 pm. Our most usual destinations on these days are Woodmans, Costco, and occasionally Trader Joe’s for groceries; Menards for hardware items; Farm & Fleet for dog treats and toys and for clothes when they go on sale (really!); and resale shops for books, clothes, gifts, and other bargains we “need.” Occasionally we’ll go to a movie if we don’t have any shopping that needs to be done.

A couple weeks ago we redeemed a gift certificate from a good friend and went to see the matinee performance at the Fireside Theater of “All Shook Up.”  We had a wonderful time listening to all those Elvis songs from the 50s and 60s, and laughing about the inter-racial mix-ups and mistaken sexual identity antics. Hearing those Elvis songs from our grade school and high school years brought back one of my childhood memories.

Lowery Organ 2

Lowery electronic organ, state of the art using vacuum tube technology in 1957.

My sister Nancy (11 years older than me) started giving me piano lessons before I started school. I’ve  enjoyed playing the piano ever since. When I was nine, my mom bought a Lowery electronic organ. She had grown up playing a reed pump organ, and she missed playing an organ. A piano wasn’t as much fun for her, although she played it some. When the new electronic organ was delivered to our house I was as excited as I could be. I got to take the ten free lessons that came with the organ from Ward Brodt in Madison, and then I continued taking lessons from our church organist – both piano and organ. But from my first organ teacher at Ward Brodt I learned that any kind of music can be played on an organ – not just hymns. I had to walk through the print music department at the store to get to the lesson rooms, and I always browsed the music on my way out of the store. Most of my allowance was spent on music books with titles like “The Best Hits of 1962 for Easy Organ.” I acquired quite a collection and learned to play songs as varied as “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” to “Itsy Bitsy Teenie Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.”

One Thursday morning when I was about 10 or 11, (I know it was Thursday because that was my mom’s day off) Eleanor Jarlsberg, one of my mom’s friends from church, came over for morning coffee. Mom and Eleanor were sitting at the dining room table drinking their coffee, and I was in the living room playing the organ just for fun, not practicing. I was going through my latest “Greatest Hits…” book. I was playing mostly the slower and quieter songs so that I wouldn’t disturb their conversation in the next room. When I finished playing the Elvis’ hit “Love Me Tender,” Eleanor asked me what hymn that was – she really liked it. When I told her it was an Elvis Presley song – not a hymn, she laughed and laughed, and I felt kind of embarrassed.

That’s when I began to put two and two together to understand that my destiny was to be a gospel pianist/organist, regardless of the type of music I tried to play. I’m not the gospel pianist that my Aunt Edith was who added all kinds of embellishments all over the keyboard. I’m not very good at that. I’m the kind of gospel music player that can play very expressively by varying volume and where on the keyboard I’m playing – high or low – and by sometimes holding a note a little too long to build the tension. I do simple stuff to draw the listener into the emotional message of the song.

Over the years as I learned more classical music on the piano and more traditional hymns and hymn arrangements on the organ, I tried to become more classical in my style of playing. But that was never as much fun for me. But then I noticed that Debussy’s “Clair de Lune” can easily morph into “Jesus Loves Me.” And that “Seek Ye First the Kingdom of God” can weave itself into Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.”

Beer Barrel Polka sheet musicOne morning last week I had a musical breakthrough. A few years ago, a friend of mine was planning her funeral, and she asked me if I would be willing to play for it. Of course, I said sure. Then she said she wanted the funeral to be a joyous time of celebration. One of the songs she wanted me to play was “The Beer Barrel Polka.” I happen to know the song because that’s one of the songs my first organ teacher at Ward Brodt taught me. But, I’ve felt uncomfortable with that song for a funeral ever since she made the request. My friend died last week. As I was mulling over whether nor not I should play the song, it suddenly dawned on me – if I can morph “Clair de Lune” into “Jesus Loves Me” I certainly can morph “The Beer Barrel Polka” into “Jesus Loves Me.” So I did.

Yup. That’s my destiny. Regardless of what type of music I try to play, gospel is what’s going to come out. God made me that way, and I’ve finally come to whole-heartedly accept it.

Thanks, Nancy, for helping me learn that lesson.

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Nancy Koplin, a good friend who helped me find “Jesus Loves Me” in “The Beer Barrel Polka.”

Sibling Rivalry – We’re at it Again!

Siblings are the people we practice on, the people who teach us about fairness and cooperation and kindness and caring, quite often the hard way.  [Pamela Dugdale]

Danny and me a long time ago

Danny and me a long time ago

My brother Danny was almost two years old when I was born. According to our mom’s notes in my baby book, Danny’s first reaction to me was “pretty baby Marian” as he watched me sleeping in my crib. His next recorded comment was an exasperated, “Marian cries so loud I can’t think!” We’ve had a love-hate relationship ever since – for the past 65 years. I agree with Anna Quindlan when she says, “There is a little boy inside the man who is my brother… Oh, how I hated that little boy. And how I love him too.”

Danny Marrian Kittens

When we couldn’t get along, our cats were our friends.

As little kids, we played together – baseball, football, croquet, cowboys and Indians, Monopoly, and on very rare occasions – maybe once or twice in our whole childhood – we played with dolls. We worked together – feeding calves, gathering eggs, baling hay, washing and drying dishes, and whatever other chores Mom and Dad gave us to do. And almost every day we got into a fight over something – such as which story book Mom should read to us before bed, or whether or not the other person had done their fair share of the work we were jointly responsible for doing. Sometimes the fights were simply words and looks. Other times we’d hit each other. I was usually better at word fights. Danny was better at hitting. Fortunately, our anger at each other never lasted longer than a few minutes.

Danny and Marian - teenagers

Our teen years were not our best.

As we got older, we fought less, but we played together less, too. In grade school, I had become the studious little girl who got straight A’s, and Danny had become the boy who was interested in construction and mechanical challenges, and had little interest in books. If we passed each other in the hallway, Danny would look the other way rather than acknowledge that he knew me. I was an embarrassment to him. I guess the feeling was pretty mutual. The closest friendly thing I remember doing for Danny in high school was type a book report that his girlfriend had written for him so he would pass English.

We lived through those awkward years. When I graduated from college, Danny and his wife (who had written the book report) and their 3-year-old daughter helped me move from Wisconsin to Connecticut for my first job as an English teacher. From then on, we learned to relate to each other as adults, mostly.

Family Portrait - early 1960s

Family Portrait – early 1960s

I still love Danny, and I know he loves me, but we’re fighting again. He’s become the conservative, and I’ve become the liberal. Usually, we can avoid topics where we strongly disagree. But that wasn’t possible last weekend. A friend of ours held a wedding reception in her home for Mim and me. Our friend wanted to provide an opportunity for my family and a few close friends around Cambridge to celebrate our happiness. Although Danny has treated Mim as extended family for the forty years we have been together, he refused to come to our wedding reception because he doesn’t approve of same-sex marriage. That hurt me just as much as all those childhood punches. I’m sure our mom and dad are looking down from heaven and saying, “Won’t those kids ever stop fighting!”

No, I don’t think we will. We’re both human, and I’m sure we’ll both hurt each other, and forgive each other, until we die. “You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” [Desmond Tutu]

Danny remodeled our old farmhouse into the perfect house for Mim and me. He also built swinging doors to help us keep guests out of the kitchen when Mim and I had a B&B.

Danny remodeled our old farmhouse into the perfect house for Mim and me in 1992. Later he built swinging doors to help us keep guests out of the kitchen when Mim and I turned the farmhouse into a bed and breakfast.

I Remember Cheating God

Two dimes minted in 1951 – when I was three years old.


I’m still thinking about an old memory that came to mind a couple weeks ago during the women’s worship service at the county jail. I was there as a volunteer to play the piano, as usual, and participated in the whole worship experience with the inmates. One of the scriptures that we read was Acts 5:1-11 (NRSV):

But a man named Ananias, with the consent of his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property; with his wife’s knowledge, he kept back some of the proceeds, and brought only a part and laid it at the apostles’ feet. “Ananias,” Peter asked, “why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back part of the proceeds of the land? While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, were not the proceeds at your disposal? How is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You did not lie to us but to God!” Now when Ananias heard these words, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard of it. The young men came and wrapped up his body, then carried him out and buried him.

After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you and your husband sold the land for such and such a price.” And she said, “Yes, that was the price.” Then Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to put the Spirit of the Lord to the test? Look, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” Immediately she fell down at his feet and died. When the young men came in they found her dead, so they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. And great fear seized the whole church and all who heard of these things.

God took cheating seriously back in those days! I know I’ve read this story in Acts before, but this is the first time that it triggered an old memory about when I cheated God. I was three or four years old. It was a Sunday afternoon and I remember my family went to a special church service in some other town – I don’t remember where or why. I just remember that I sat in the pew between my mom and my grandma. My mom gave me a dime to put in the offering. So did my grandma. I put one dime in the offering and one dime in my little pink plastic purse. When we got home and my mother was putting my purse away she found the dime and asked me about it. I confessed. She took the dime back and scolded me. I knew she was really disappointed in me. I had cheated God.

Now, sixty years later, I realize that I got off easy for cheating God. Look at what happened to Ananias and Sapphira!

I shared this memory during the testimony time in the jail worship service. What’s so amazing to me is the clear memory I still have of the incident. Obviously, I learned as a three-year-old that cheating God or being dishonest with God is something I shouldn’t do.

What does that mean for me today? I guess it’s a reminder of how important it is to be honest with God as well as with others. I’m still thinking about what that means… Especially why that memory came back so vividly now…

One of the benefits of aging – having so many more memories to think about. As of yesterday, I have 64 years of memories bouncing around in my head. Thanks be to God!