Tag Archives: memories

A Fright Fest of Memories

In first through third grade, I lived at the foot of 11th Avenue East in Seattle, a street that curved like a scimitar. So dramatic was the block long drop that it had been given a name by the kids who lived there before me: “Devil’s Dip.” (Insert minor chord here, “Dit dit dit DAH!”)

Safely piloting your bike from the very top of the hill all the way to the bottom took a major act of heroism, requiring more daring than watching the Saturday televised horror movie without covering your eyes, more bravery than sticking your hand in a bucket of brains at the Boy Scout Haunted House and more guts than playing hide-and-go-seek in our unfinished basement laundry room with all the lights off (especially since someone – whose name is DEAN — always seemed to jump out of the laundry chute).

It took me a long time to work up the courage. I’d go halfway up the hill and struggle to mount my bike, which wasn’t easy on an incline. Each time, I’d start a little higher until finally I convinced myself that I was ready for the plunge.

The street seemed to pull itself up a little taller, opposing me. It didn’t help that at the top of the hill was a house that was haunted. Everyone knew it. It loomed, cocooned in an overgrown yard surrounded by dark black boulders, a fortress occupying almost a full block of its own. If I squinted, I could imagine it as it might have been. Outside, dark half-timbers bisected ballet-pink stucco; picture windows gleamed, ornamented by transoms made up of prismatic diamond-shaped panes; roses, dogwoods and rhododendrons bloomed in the yard. Inside, golden light cascaded from chandeliers burning gas flames, spilling on to two young girls who sat up straight in high-backed chairs as they practiced their lessons or embroidered a sampler. My imaginary scene was hard to reconcile with the aging ruin before me, its stucco now a faded flesh tone stained by mold, vines obscuring some of the windows. At night, it lay in gloom. Maybe the house was vacant, but maybe the girls were still there, in ghostly form, or maybe the two old sisters lived alone, glowering from their bedroom at the kids who periodically spied on them from the shrubbery.

Finally, I did it. I pointed my bike downhill and my stomach went airborne as I gained speed. My heart pounded impossibly fast. Then I was back to terra firma, safely parked in the street between our house and the Racz’s.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I remember what scared me most as a kid. I remember everything about my first real kiss: where I was (Camp of the Holy Spirit on Mt. St. Helens), where I stood (right next to a big boulder), even what I was wearing (butterfly shirt). I remember exactly how my husband asked me to marry him (I missed the proposal initially, but that’s a story for another time).

Some moments are so powerful and so universal that they become cultural touchstones: first pet, first bike ride, first kiss… engagement, marriage, birth. Countless times when someone has talked to me about losing a parent, they say, “I remember it like it was yesterday.”

I remember, too. I remember it all.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

On My Trip I Took A…


When you lose someone – expectedly or unexpectedly – many supportive people and institutions come forth with suggestions about what to expect. They want to do what they can, say what they can, to help you heal.

The information from hospice is, well, informative: After the death of a loved one, “The resulting grief is a normal and natural response to loss. The struggle to adjust may be difficult and one of the most meaningful experiences of our lives.”

Over two months has gone by and I’m still in no rush to understand or “process” my experience. The only frame of reference that makes sense to me is traveling. I don’t have a destination in mind. I’m not trying to achieve a state of “healed” or “recovered,” in part because I don’t feel damaged or unhealthy. I’m just going.

When my son, Thom, took off Monday on his four-month study abroad program, I found and shared this poem with him. It spoke to me of my hopes for his experience, but it also helped me to recognize that journeying is a pretty good metaphor for this thing I’m doing.

It also brought to mind an old game we played with our children. We would go back and forth, adding to an ever-lengthening alphabetical list of ever-crazier things that had to be remembered after the phrase, “On my trip, I took a…,” until someone lost by forgetting. (On my trip, I took an apple, and a boat, and a curmudgeon, and a diary…)

I’m on my trip. And I’m not alone. I’m taking the love of my family and friends, the beauty of nature, the inspiration of art, a trunk full of memories, the still-palpable presence of my father’s spirit, and faith.

For the Traveler

Every time you leave home,
Another road takes you
Into a world you were never in.

New strangers on other paths await.
New places that have never seen you
Will startle a little at your entry.
Old places that know you well
Will pretend nothing
Changed since your last visit.

When you travel, you find yourself
Alone in a different way,
More attentive now
To the self you bring along,
Your more subtle eye watching
You abroad; and how what meets you
Touches that part of the heart
That lies low at home:

How you unexpectedly attune
To the timbre in some voice,
Opening in conversation
You want to take in
To where your longing
Has pressed hard enough
Inward, on some unsaid dark,
To create a crystal of insight
You could not have known
You needed
To illuminate
Your way.

When you travel,
A new silence
Goes with you,
And if you listen,
You will hear
What your heart would
Love to say.

A journey can become a sacred thing:
Make sure, before you go,
To take the time
To bless your going forth,
To free your heart of ballast
So that the compass of your soul
Might direct you toward
The territories of spirit
Where you will discover
More of your hidden life,
And the urgencies
That deserve to claim you.

May you travel in an awakened way,
Gathered wisely into your inner ground;
That you may not waste the invitations
Which wait along the way to transform you.

May you travel safely, arrive refreshed,
And live your time away to its fullest;
Return home more enriched, and free
To balance the gift of days which call you.

~ John O’Donohue ~

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

A Christmas Album, Shared with Dad

Rainy Christmas morning, shared memories with Dad at the breakfast table …

1953, my sister Midge’s last Christmas…


Midge got a dolly

Scott got a rifle


1954… brother Dean arrived on the scene…


1956 in Kingston, Ontario… Nana in the foreground (I’m still in Mom, about 3 months along)

Christmas 1956

1959… I’m on the scene, 18 months old, in our house on Old Spring Road in Kensington, MD

Christmas 1959Christmas 1959

Christmas dinner 1959

Dad at the head 1959

Probably 1960… brother Dean and I show off our snowman

Christmas snowman 1960

Christmas dinner in Everett, 1966

Christmas dinner, 1966

And our last family home in University Place (Tacoma), 1969

Christmas morning 1969

Cassandra Eileen Campbell 1969

By the tree, 1969

Christmas 1971… and man, was it the 70s!

1971 - big snow year

Sandy dressed for snow

Christmas dinner 1971

1973… Dad surprised Mom with the diamond wedding ring she never had, the ring I wear today

A diamond ring for mom

Gathered round on a Christmas Day, 1985

Christmas day 1985

Maddie had so much fun hunting a Christmas tree with Nana and Papa, circa 1991

Maddie Christmas tree hunting

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized