Category Archives: Judy M. Miller

March 30 – The Sentry

by Judy M Miller

You know, I’m very much the Taurus and my environment is of utmost importance to me. This morning I drifted from room to room (as usual), picking and straightening up.

Upon leaving the family room I noticed that the painting of my great-grandmother was tilted. I straightened her up and in doing so I though of a recent conversation about replacing the painting with the exquisite sketch of an Asian man my husband and I purchased at an auction. Although I love our purchase and how I had it re-matted and re-framed for my husband for Christmas, I was adamant about not moving her.

Granny Huff stands sentry into the hearth area of our home. She is a young woman, resplendent in the fashion of her youth’s time. Her wavy hair, under a wide-brimmed hat, is in a loose bun–what she still wore when I was a small child. She is outside in the verdant woods of West Virginia and looks, well, like a younger version of tiny Granny Huff–the stoic, deeply religious, Bible reciting woman whose husband treated her like a queen.

I worried when Granny Huff was coming to visit. Of course, I always asked if Dada Huff was coming, too. Visits with him were special. He was affectionate and captivated me with amazing stories, so well-told I could visualize them. I’d get lost in our story time, whittling and exploring for crawdads in the crick. Dada Huff taught me how to whistle with a blade of grass, throw a boomerang and spit really far, on target.

Granny Huff was watchful, especially of me. Much was made that I was the only great-granddaughter, the fourth living generation of great Pennsylvania Dutch women. I didn’t appreciate that. I felt exposed and judged. And although very young I resented that what was okay for my brothers was not okay for me. I also didn’t like some of what my great-grandmother told me, particularly the bit about lying.

Now, I wouldn’t say I was much of a liar, but I could spin a yarn. Quite well. Granny Huff always told me that if I fibbed the ground would open and swallow me and I would go to Hell. Well, my brothers lied all of the time and the ground never budged, so yes, I tried it and ran all over the back yard, watching for an opening in the ground. Glancing up briefly I spotted my great-grandmother, in the kitchen window, observing me, expressionless.

I was busted. Lesson learned. We never talked about it, but that experience has stayed with me, as vivid as the moment it happened.

For some reason it seems fitting that her image, be it a softer one than that I remember from my childhood, resides within the hearth of our home, where love and laughter are celebrated among family and friends and morals and lessons are learned. My great-grandmother just kind of “belongs” there, like peanut butter and jelly.

Judy’s work appears in parenting and adoption magazines, A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families, Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to Be? and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom. She presented at the Stories from the Heart. Judy is an adoption educator and coach, blogs at The International Mom and Grown in My Heart.

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February 2-The Past is Present


by Judy M. Miller

There’s a small storm coming, purported to dump inches of the cold, fluffy white stuff overnight. One of our local weather-people shared the news with me during “a.m. drive-time,” on my way home from dropping the younger three-quarters at school this morning. Before we left for school, the weatherperson said it was going to be a “dusting.” How quickly things change…and don’t.

Upon arriving home, I began to sort through the kitchen, wiping down counters, washing dishes and sweeping the floor. Then I ventured into the mudroom, to take a load out of the dryer, warm and ripe for folding, and move the washed load into the dryer and fill the washer again. Yes, typical domesticity, but something other than obligation fueled me. My mental “to-do” list began to tick through my head and then it was interrupted by a conversation that I had with my mom decades ago.

It was a hot, humid, late summer afternoon. I was very young, around the age of seven or eight, and a severe line of thunderstorms was coming in, full of hail and the possibility of tornadoes. I had already slept through one tornado the year before and was surprised and grateful, as my great-grandmother said I should be, to be alive the next morning after seeing the damage it had caused in our neighborhood.

I was picking up and cleaning my room, without being asked or nagged to do so. After finishing I went and helped my mother in my brothers’ room. Aware that this was not my usual M.O. or how I usually felt I asked, “Mommy, why do I feel like cleaning and putting things away?”

“Oh honey, there’s a storm coming. It’s what women do–making things secure and tidy before something might happen, a way to prepare so that they can focus on the important.”

“But, Mommy. I’m not a woman.”

“No, you’re not, but you’re practicing to be.” And she smiled.

I mulled that over. I was not excited to become a woman. I liked being the tomboy who could keep up with and often beat my three brothers at their own games, so I addressed the other part of her comment, “What’s important?”

“You and your brothers are.”

And I smiled and felt all warm and mushy inside, like the best-ever caramel and hot fudge sundae–with chopped peanuts. Affirmation of my mother’s love, a comfort to me then and always.

The little things matter. Loved ones realize when you make the effort to “prepare,” so that you can take the time to provide the comfort and focus. Perhaps we’ll have to burrow in tonight or go late to school in the morning. But what I do know is that we can be together–safe, warm and loved–enjoying the fire in the hearth while Mother Nature covers us in a blanket of white.

I think I’ll make a pot of soup…

Judy’s work appears in parenting and adoption magazines, A Cup of Comfort for Adoptive Families, Pieces of Me: Who Do I Want to Be? and Chicken Soup for the Soul: Thanks Mom. She presented at the Stories from the Heart. Judy is an adoption educator and coach, blogs at The International Mom and Grown in My Heart.