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Lady in White

Published July 2, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; Thou wilt make me full of gladness with Thy presence.”

Acts 2:28

Ruth Elizabeth Wimpy Smith

July 2, 1927—February 22, 2011

How could I possibly describe in a few brief words all that my grandma was and the impact she had on our lives? The truth is, it’s impossible; I can do my best to tell you about the things she did, the caring grandma and friend she was, and the fact that she loved her granddaughters. It wouldn’t do her justice to just tell you how fondly I remember the way she said “’Bye” on the phone—how her voice would get super soft and sweet as the word stretched out, and you could hear her smiling. I could try and explain her to you and paint a picture of the incredible woman I knew, but it’s impossible to just sum up someone so special, a lady who had room in her heart for everyone.

Ever since we were little, Grandma would throw her granddaughters these elaborate tea parties. Us girls would get all dressed up and pick something from her costume jewelry, and we ‘d spend the entire afternoon chatting and enjoying ridiculously gorgeous treats and tea from our china cups. Now I realize how much Grandma looked forward to those parties and what they meant to her, all of her favorite girls gathered around her, laughing and smiling. When each of us grand-girls turned ten, we received a special pin, and on our sixteenth birthdays, she gave us the completed journals she had been writing in since the day we were born, one special journal about each girl. Each year, she’d mark our heights on the wall in the laundry room, and it was always my goal when I was young to reach Grandma’s belt (in later years when I grew, she joked that we should get her a hat).

In recent years, she and my grandpa (the one who taught me my ABCs) took my sister, Katie, and I to the zoo a lot. We would ride the bus, and I still smile when I think of Grandma saying in exasperation, “Oh, Don!” when Grandpa tried to stand up on the top deck of the moving bus to better see (I love his curiosity!). My grandma always walked a little slowly, so I’d hold her hand, which was so cool and soft and reassuring. And then we would just stroll behind the group, holding hands and talking, just the two of us. Those walks became my favorite thing, some of the most special moments I can remember. I get a little teary-eyed thinking that we won’t get to hold hands for a very long time, but I look forward to strolling hand-in-hand again one day.

My grandma and I used to bake together, too, though we always seemed to get distracted and mess something up. We’d laugh over our baking gaffes, swearing that we would do better next time. Well, the next time we got to talking and forgot to add bananas to the banana muffins, and I still remember Grandma’s cute laugh and the way her nose scrunched up as she said, “Well, that’s new!” I know she would have loved to hear me relaying these stories, because she loved stories and writing; I got my ink-stained blood and love of books from her. Grandma was ecstatic when I told her that I wanted to be a writer someday because I would be living both of our dreams. She gave me a copy of Jane Eyre and wrote inside, “May this book inspire you to write your own masterpiece!” She passed away—peacefully in her sleep, completely healthy; the way I want to go—six months before she could realize her words had inspired me. When Rising Shadows came out on Tuesday, I spent a lot of time thinking about her and remembered that she wasn’t there to share my tears of joy. But I know that she is proud of me and overjoyed that I wanted to follow in her footsteps. And though I still wish she was here on earth so we could hold hands during those special moments and just sit together, I know that she is where every living soul wishes to be someday: Paradise.

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel (grand)mother.” -Abraham Lincoln  

I Turned Out Okay. . .

Published May 25, 2012 by Ashley Townsend

“And we urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with all men.” Thessalonians 5:14

I’ve been looking over a list of author questions for an interview I’m doing with a blog, and one of the questions got me to thinking about how energetic—that’s a modest word—I was as a kid. Generally, I make a point of not overthinking my childhood because it can be rather exhausting for my old and weathered mind, but once my head gets wrapped around an idea, I tend to go for it. So, I was sitting there sorting through some of the more . . . interesting moments in my young life that might be entertaining for those who would come across the interview. You have to understand, I was a curious youngster and, well, to be honest I was the type of kid who would have had a Kool-Aid mustache as a permanent fixture on their upper lip (though I wasn’t really allowed to have Kool-Aid because it made me more hyper than usual). If you continue reading, you’ll understand why I was having a little trouble coming up with one singular crazy childhood memory that really jumped out at me.

I decided I could talk about the time when I was four or five and stuck a dead skunk on my head so I could look like Davy “Cricket” (I was curious, remember?). The horrified looks on my mom’s and grandma’s faces are priceless now, but at the time I was very disgruntled that they didn’t like my fashion statement. Or I could tell my future audience about my first time at the “big girl’s” tea party. My grandma Ruth, a fellow storyteller, used to throw these fantastically elaborate tea parties for all her grand-girls each summer. I was five and had been dying to go to one of the grown up parties that my two older sisters had been going to for years, so I was ecstatic to be invited that year. Unfortunately, that excitement turned into energy in my little body (the equivalent of five Snickers bars in a middle school boy). Since I was all hopped up on joy, I spent ten plus minutes before the party officially started running around the elegantly decorated table in my party dress, snatching whatever food my little hands could hold and munching on pre-tea snacks as my grandma chased after me. Then there was that year when I was really young that I ate all the erasers off the pencils. Mom tried to break that habit by putting cayenne pepper on all the erasers, but apparently I was born with a thirst for spice, so. . . For the record, I’ve been cold-turkey off the stuff for nearly two decades. Praise the LORD!

Somehow, amidst all these musings about my eventful childhood, I remembered with great clarity how I learned the alphabet. Seems like an odd jump to go from chewing erasers and inventing skunk hats (it was revolutionary, I tell you!) to my ABC’s, but this is how my train of thought works. First off, let me tell you that my grandpa Don is awesome. He is the most patient man you will ever meet, my co-demiser of the evilius gopherous (gopher) species, the man who taught me to tie my shoes, and he is my favorite person to cook and bake for—he loves food as much as I do!

I think I was in kindergarten, and my mom could not for the life of her get me to sit down for more than a minute to learn the alphabet. So, she called in her dad, the master of the ABC’s and a former teacher. Somehow, my grandpa realized that it wasn’t the letters I was having trouble with, but rather sitting still that was keeping me from concentrating. Patient man that he was, he brought out the chart and plastic letters and allowed me to climb on the back of his chair, duck under the table, jump up and down in place, hang upside down from the chair seat, and run around in circles while I shouted the letters back to him. Needless to say, I had my ABC’s memorized by lunch. God seriously gifted him with patience, and I have no idea how he sat there so calmly that morning, but I’m glad he did.

It helps to have someone who understands you. I realize that not everyone has someone in their life who is patient enough to figure them out, but my life is full of encouraging people—my grandpa is one of these special people. I know I would have eventually learned my ABC’s, because my mom is an incredible teacher and learned from the best, but I like to think that my grandpa gave me that little push toward my future in writing, so I should thank him for jump-starting my career. I mean, what author doesn’t know the alphabet?

“Patience is the companion of wisdom.” -Saint Augustine

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