Tag Archives: children

Bicycles

The Magic of Summer

There is just something wonderful about the beginning of summer. Maybe it is the freedom that we–even as adults–feel once school has ended. Or maybe it is the lengthening of days and the vegetable stands and sunburned skin.

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I was reminded of the magic of a summer evening as I drove along a rural portion of a South Carolina interstate earlier this week. Mesmerized by the way the trees filtered the late afternoon/early evening sun, I watched as dust particles danced like fairies in the space between the trees and grass. My mind slipped easily back to a day in my childhood–summer 1974–in the small, mid-Western town of my youth…

 

SUMMER 1974–PARKVILLE

A chair pushes back, side door opens and the screen door slams shut. The mother’s voice yells unheard to the girl bare feet, bed-messed hair, eyes minutes from sleep. The girl pauses on the steps and surveys the yard feeling the warmth of the sun on her cheeks and shoulders.

Screen door

Her head snaps to the right, hair flying as the dog runs barking towards her. Slobbers and paws and too much fur greet her. Laughing she pushes the part-collie, part-cocker spaniel, part-dachshund aside and races down the stairs jump-stepping onto the stones with grass creeping around the edges. Finally—bare feet already hardened sink into cool, soft, blue-green blades. The day stretches out before her for miles.

Grass

The phone has already rung. Secret plans have already been whispered. The girl moves to the back of the old house picking her way across the sharp gravel to the dark, cool basement dug into the hill. Quickly, to avoid the spiders and bugs and musty smell, she retrieves her bike: purple frame, glitter banana seat, name plate, tall fluorescent flag to catch the wind.

Sidewalk

Scrambling up the slope, she makes her way to the street and hops on. She pedals the flat stretch of road passing one, two, three, four Victorian houses. Then there is the hill. The hill where the car slammed into one of Dr. Donnelly’s Saint Bernards laying in the street smashing the front of the car while the huge monster lumbered across to its home. The hill that she flies down but dreads pushing the bike back up. The hill that the girl’s father walks daily down into the town and up onto the college campus.

Pedaling faster and faster to gain speed, she sails down the hill, trees and leaves and grass and houses all swooshing past. Finally hill turns flat and she pedals on to the house with white picket fence—the manse for the Presbyterian preacher and his family. The house with the quiet, serious, best friend. The house tidy and smelling of cooking and mother always home. The backyard a long slow slope covered in vinca vines sprinkled with purple flowers. The large bedroom on the second floor with two beds for sisters who read and play piano and study.

Picket fence

Slowly the group gathers at this house—white haired fairy-like girl, tough tom boy from two blocks away, smiling little sister of best friend, street-wise blond with the bad mouth and the parents divorced. An odd crew—best friends on street, strangers at school.

Alliances form. Negotiations begin. A decision made. Whatever the outcome—riding bikes to the creek, picnic under the trees at the college’s playing fields, roller skating in the freshly paved parking lot of the church, walking down the next hill into town to Ernie’s pharmacy for candy or escaping the heat or rain in the basement of the house playing school or acting out plays—we are all in. No complaining, no do-overs, no crybabies.

Pharmacy

As the day draws to a close the group disperses and heads to their respective homes and dinner. The girl walks her bike up the hill with the white-haired girl whose house is in the middle of the incline. Bikes dropping on the sidewalk, the two run up the driveway to the back yard, through a hole in the fence, across the neighbor’s yard into the dainty garden next door.

Strawberries

Crouching, crawling across still hot paving stones to the mounds of variegated, scalloped leaves with fingers gingerly reaching trying to grasp the small, sweet, dark red strawberries. Popping as many in their mouths as possible, they stuff pockets while always looking and watching for the old woman. One day, a few summers later, the girls were caught but the old woman invited them to take as many strawberries as they wanted. That was last summer of sneaking the berries. Now mouths and pockets full, the girls race back across the neighbor’s lawn with hearts pounding, down the driveway back to their tangle of bikes.

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Waving goodbye to the friend, the girl pushes her bike up the steep hill past the house where she picked out her kitten-now-cat—a bribe from her parents to go to first grade without a fuss. To her right the narrow island of grass and trees calls to her to step inside its secrets. The woods with so many lost balls and the old woman who kept them.

1338 Main Street, Parkville MO

The gray clapboard house peeks over the hill and the girl picks up speed ready for dinner and questions about the day. The father stands in the garden—a small plot of land carved from the lawn—amidst the asparagus going to seed and squash and tomatoes. The girl joins him half-listening to the lessons of gardening and mulching, skimming her hands over the tops of the riotous zinnias.

Riotous zinnias

Armed with their bounty, the girl and her father enter the kitchen to smells of chicken and rice and butter beans cooking. With the tomatoes sliced and the table set, the girl, her parents and brother settle in for the meal and talk. Later, plates cleared, the girl and her father load the dishwasher. Again the lessons half-heard on the proper way to rinse and load.

After the bath, the girl pulls a clean cotton gown over her head. Hair still wet and feet clean and prunish, the girl follows the voices of her parents out into the side yard. Fireflies flicker across the grass. Chasing a few, the girl finds herself at the hammock—the one purchased two summers ago on the island in South Carolina white ropes crisscrossing. Climbing in she pushes off from the ground gliding slowly back and forth, back and forth. Arms supporting her head, the girl looks into the dark sky that peeks between the two huge oak trees counting the stars. A breeze rustles the cotton gown body underneath all clean and scrubbed. Parents’ voices trail off, the girl closes her eyes.

Good night moon

Photographs by Amy Watson Smith, 2013 and 2014

This was originally posted in May 2013 as Summer 1974-Parkville.

 

Celebrating Teachers: How to Host a Teacher Appreciation Luncheon

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With the school year almost over, it is an ideal time to thank the teachers who have guided our children for the last nine months. The parents’ association of many schools celebrate the faculty and staff throughout the year while in some schools they are honored during a specific “teacher appreciation” week.

We have done a variety of things at my daughter’s school during her twelve years there. It depended on the age division, parent involvement and leadership. Since she has been in high school, we have supplied the faculty and staff lounge with beverages and snacks each month and hosted a nice luncheon near the end of the school year. I have been responsible for the luncheon for the last few years.

Ashley Hall, Charleston SC

My daughter attends Ashley Hall—an independent, girls’ school in Charleston, South Carolina. There is a lovely campus with a beautiful lawn and hundreds year old live oak trees. Given the setting, a luncheon on the lawn is a must (as well as lots of prayers for good weather).

I chose a travel/bon voyage theme this year knowing that everyone was ready to get away from it all in some way or another. The food table was decorated with antique [looking] luggage, globes and atlases.

antique suitcases and globes

food tables

The beverage and dessert tables were decorated in a more whimsical par avion (blue and red) theme with colorful, vintage [-like] suitcases and paper banners made from road maps.

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Each table had a living centerpiece (taken from my front porch container garden).

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teachers

luncheon on the lawn

Each place was set with a merci treat bag.

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The favorite part of the luncheon is always the “giveaways.” I found lots of great ideas that fit our travel theme at TJ Maxx and Marshalls.

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Parents donated lots of great items to give away too.

giveaway

gifts up close

We held the drawing for prizes after lunch.

the drawing

The prizes are always a hit with the teachers. These two had trouble deciding what to pick. This year we had so many prizes that every teacher was able to select two.

making a choice

prizes

The key to the success of this luncheon–as always–was the great parent volunteers who helped decorate and who donated or made food.

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piled up

All of the supplies and decorations waiting to be loaded back into my car at the end of the luncheon.

The “Ashley Hall Upper School Faculty and Staff Luncheon on the Lawn” is a wonderful tradition and is just a small way of showing appreciation to the incredible individuals who guide and teach our daughters.

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 How does your school celebrate and thank its faculty and staff?

How to Spend a Year Writing

Happy 1year birthday to amywatsonsmith.com

Well, today is the one-year birthday of this blog.

Happy birthday to me, happy birthday…

I don’t think that I ever really believed that I could actually spend a year writing on a regular basis. Okay, I use the term “regular” rather loosely. But despite my best attempts at procrastination, I still managed to write. No, I needed to write. And apparently I needed to write in this format (i.e., blogging).

The actual look and name and feel of my blog has changed several times as I learned more about blogging but the content has remained consistent. I have attempted to write about my life in an authentic way–not white-washing it as I hope many of my posts and photos demonstrate.

I have learned quite a bit about blogging along the way and even more about myself. I feel as if I am just beginning to hit my stride, so here I go. I am going to spend another year writing this blog. I do hope you will continue on this journey with me.

Below you will find links to my top ten blog posts from the past year. I invite you to read them again–or for the first time.

Thank you and God’s peace and blessings to you.

Amy

TOP 10 POSTS FROM THE YEAR:

1. How to Make a Spring Break Survival Kit

Spring Break Survival Kit

 

2. Lessons from Miss Frances: On Living, Loving and Laughing

"Lessons from Miss Frances on Living, Loving and Laughing" on www.amywatsonsmith.com

 

3. How to Silence the Voice of Doubt

How to Silence the Voice of Doubt: Just write

 

4. When Everything Has Gone to the Dogs

"When Everything has Gone to the Dogs," Chester, one of the "twins"--English Springer Spaniels

 

5. Game Day Done Right

Ole Miss Road Trip

6. The Love of a Dog

A dog's love

 

7. Bee Smitten: Banner Celebrations

Oliver's banner

 

8. Time Flies When You are Living Life

Daddy-daughter chefs in "Time Flies When You are Living Life"

 

9. How to Have the Perfect Vacation

"A vacation is having nothing to do and all day to do it in." -Robert Orben How to Have a Perfect Vacation on www.amywatsonsmith.com

 

10. Bee Smitten: A few of My Favorite Things

"Bee Smitten: A Few of  My Favorite Things / Photo of Judith Ann Entrican Kirkpatrick

Lessons from Miss Frances: On Living, Loving and Laughing

"Lessons from Miss Frances on Living, Loving and Laughing" on www.amywatsonsmith.com

Lessons on life come from many people.

I have learned a great many things from the women in my life. Generations of women: mother, daughter, grandmothers, aunts, cousins, friends, teachers, mentors, employers, . . . .

These women came from different places and different times. Our paths crossed perhaps for but a minute or we may have walked together for many years.

Not all of the lessons taught were ones that I wanted to learn–or for that matter, thought that I needed to learn. Many were learned the hard way.

The wisdom they shared ranges from the practical to the philosophical and includes: entertaining, parenting, graciousness, marriage, having a thankful attitude, being a lady, maturing spiritually, etc.

So, who is Miss Frances, you may ask?

Well, for the purposes of this series of posts let’s just say she is an old friend of the family. In all honesty she is an amalgamation of the many women in my life and as such, she is the wisest of us all.

I look forward to sharing with you on a regular basis lessons from Miss Frances on living, loving and laughing

The Love of a Dog

A dog's love

“A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.” —Josh Billings

I remember sitting on the front porch of my house with my dog, Prissy, after an especially bad day in middle school. As I rubbed her head and told her all about my awful day and how she was my only friend, she looked at me sympathetically with her dark brown eyes and licked my face. At that very moment, she really was my only friend and I knew–without a doubt–that she loved me and always would.

If you have a dog, you will never feel unloved or unlovable.

There really is something special about dogs. They get under your skin and into your heart in a way no other animal can. Do not misunderstand me, I love cats too. I have had a number of cats as pets throughout my life and they are lovely–great companions, wonderful to snuggle up with, etc. And while I may believe that my cat loves me, she just doesn’t seem to express it in the way a dog does.

I went for almost fifteen years without having a dog as a pet. I didn’t realize at the time that I missed having one. When I was around other people’s dogs they seemed so smelly and dirty and noisy. Once I had a baby there was no way that I was going to add that kind of chaos to our lives.

Over the years our daughter begged and pleaded for a dog but my husband and I tried everything we could to distract her: cats, a hamster, frogs,….We finally caved in when she was in fourth grade. We found Charlotte, a rescue dog from Pet Helpers in Charleston SC and gave her to our daughter for Christmas that year. The two have been inseparable ever since. It was a wonderful decision for our entire family.

A girl and her dog

A girl and her dog

Several years later we decided to add a second dog to our lives–an English springer spaniel. My husband located one in Hattiesburg, Mississippi (for some reason we wanted one from our home state). When we went to pick up the 8-week old puppy, Hattie (named for her birthplace), we could not resist bringing home her only remaining litter mate. We named him Chester (after Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre).

These two turn four years old today. Charlotte, the chocolate lab mix, turned eight last month. I cannot imagine our family, our home, our lives without this crew.

Our lives have been forever changed by these dogs–for the better.

Do you have a story about how your dog has changed your life?

*Photographs by Amy Watson Smith. The images have been altered using the Waterlogue app.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Halloween for Scaredy Cats

Vintage black cat

I have never been a huge fan of Halloween. I’m not saying I didn’t participate in the festivities. I loved the costumes and the candy but I was never very big on the actual “trick or treat” aspect of the event. I have always had a pretty vivid imagination so I was able to completely freak myself out walking in the dark on Halloween night passing all of the other children in costume. Unfortunately I think I passed these feelings on to my own child.

Driving through my neighborhood last night after dark, I realized that at least half of the houses on my street had extensive Halloween decorations: spiderwebs, skeletons, pumpkins, ghosts…the works. It seems to me that people are decorating for Halloween as much as they are for Christmas. That just seems strange to me.

Cute vintage pumpkin child

I suppose that if Halloween decorations were more like this cute vintage pumpkin child, then maybe I would enjoy it more. But that does not seem to be the trend. Just going into a party store in the month of October is terrifying. Gone are the days of Little Bo Peep and cowboys.

Vintage Halloween costumes photo

So tonight I will celebrate Halloween as usual–with some reservation–welcoming the little ones in the neighborhood early then turning out the porch light at the first sign of the older kids. My daughter and I will be counting down the minutes to November 1st when Halloween has passed and the “good holidays” are ahead of us!

 

All images are from The Graphics Fairy.