"On the plains of Oklahoma, with a windshield sunset in your eyes like a watercolor painted sky, you'd think heavens doors have opened."
Fly Over States

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Happy Birthday to My Babies

August is a big month for birthdays in my family.  All three of my children were born in August, as were their father, aunt, uncle and the great grandparents who raised me.  When the kids were little, I used to rotate giving one a birthday cake, one a giant cookie and one a cake of a different flavor.  Even then, by the end of the month, we were all fairly weary of sweets.  Coupled with birthdays was the return to school.  With three children in school, college and law school, and my own college, being a public school teacher, followed by going to law school, August has always been an exciting (and expensive!) month. 

But times have changed and now the kids are grown and all live in New York City; their aunt, uncle and my grandparents have passed away; their father and I divorced a dozen years ago; and I no longer teach school.  So in the past few years, August has been, for me, stunningly quiet.  No need to buy school supplies or school clothes.  No preparing a classroom in anticipation of a fresh batch of new students.  Perhaps sending cards and gifts to the kids via Amazon.  Sometimes, no birthday cake, at all. 

But with all that, August still touches me, deeply.  It is one of those months that, on  the surface, feels constant and unchanging.  In Oklahoma, it is hot and dry.  The sunny days, past the spring turbulances, dawn bright and sunny, frequently without a cloud in the sky.  The insects buzz lazily, wildlife is in abundance in the morning hours and late in the evening.  The meteor showers come on schedule.  The grass stops growing like wildfire and you can have a few weekends where you don't need to mow.  The trees start to wilt, the air feels hot and you start to wonder if the fall will ever come, bringing relief from the heat and a change from the endless days of sunny skies. Today is typical - we haven't had a spot of rain in a month.  July had five days where we had measurable rain.  June only had three.  On the days it didn't rain, there were also no clouds beyond the ones that seem to merely serve as decoration or to catch the pink from the sunsets or sunrises.  August feels like time is standing still and it will stay August, forever.

Not so, of course.  For those who rise early, you can already detect that the days are rapidly shortening as we travel through the seasons.  Why, by the end of the next month, the nights will be longer than the days!  How is that possible?  A glance at the weather map shows that cold fronts (that rarely make it here in August and if they do, merely drop the high temperature to the low nineties) are already starting to dip down through Canada and kiss the northern states.  They will be here, soon enough.  We'll be hearing rumors of snow in northern elevations in our mountain states within weeks.  The leaves on the Cottonwoods are starting to brown up and drop.  If you stand in the shade, the dragonflies are frantically bussing about, looking for a last chance date before their season ends.  The last crop of wee bunnies are creeping out from the Cedars outside my sewing room window to graze on the yard and drive the girls wild.  Some of their older siblings that arrived in April are as big as their parents.  Likewise, the Mockingbird juveniles are taking on a more mature coloring although they don't quite look like adults, yet.  I still see hummingbirds dancing around the trumpet vines but not as many as last week.  On the surface, August is a lazy, drawn out, settled month.  Beneath the surface, however, nature is moving at a breakneck pace.   

This August has been an exciting time for me.  Last week, all my children and their spouses came to town to celebrate their father's wedding to a lovely woman and give him their blessing.  I have not met the bride but saw the wedding photos on Facebook and she is beautiful, with beautiful children.  My kids say the bride and groom are deeply in love and that her children all seem very sweet.  I am absolutely delighted for him.  In truth, I never expected him to stay single for so long - I fully expected that some smart woman would snatch him up within a couple of years and was astonished that I was the one who re-married, first.  May they have many, many years of happiness! 

My older daughter arrived a day early to have a "mom" day, which thrilled me to no end. 
We had manicures/pedicures; drank wine on the back patio until late at night; shopped for birthday gifts; went out to dinner; visited the family cemeteries and just generally did what moms and daughters do, given the opportunity.    I love her, so much, and am so proud of her. 

On Friday night, late, my son and his wife, and younger daughter and her husband arrived.  There is truth to the addage that your children will always be your babies.  Everytime I first lay eyes on my big strapping son after being apart, I am shocked that he no longer smells like a newborn.  In fact, I still am surprised at his five o'clock shadow and how he carries himself with the confidence and competence of a grown man.  He was always a steady son and age has only ripened his character.  My younger daughter hasn't changed so much.  She still has the same sweet smile, dancing eyes and gentle ways.  She is mainly just taller.

My sweet daughter-in-law was born in July and my darling son-in-law was born in June so we celebrated all the summer birthdays Friday night.  I was so happy to be able to actually give them gifts, in person!  There was much laughing and hugging and toasting of family.  Although it was not my birthday, I received the greatest gift of all.  Trust me. 

Check out the new picture, to the right.

Early the next morning they left to meet their father for breakfast before the wedding festivities officially started.  They returned to dress and pack but at that time, I had to hug my oldest girl, son and daughter-in-law goodbye as they were staying overnight downtown and leaving early the next morning to return to NYC.  I met my younger daughter and her husband on Sunday morning to have brunch with his family and dropped her off at the airport Sunday afternoon.  So now I am left with just the "girls" but happy memories and excitement about the future.
Since the kids left, I have been busy working on my Lady and the River art quilt.  I posted about it on my other blog a few days ago and have made some progress, since then.  Here are a few photos, in progress:

The original pattern:
Adding fabric:

Here, I am just auditioning fabric for the tree:
Here, most of the pieces are initially stitched and it is nearly ready for quilting:
I plan to add embellishments and some coloring, later.

Husband is out of town so I don't want to quilt for a long time out in the barn and leave the girls alone in the house.  They have been super clingy and if they could, I believe they would wrap their arms around my neck and not let go.  Yesterday, to keep myself occupied and to dream of my sweet family, I began a simple baby quilt.
It's a very light fabric that is intended to be blend together. The actual pattern is a checkerboard but it is hard to see because the colors are so soft. 
I'm working on some hearts for the border that are more distinct.
It is coming along, nicely.

While I am thinking about it, I want to show you the amazing gift I received from my friend, Amanda.
It is a cover for a sketch book and is exquisite.  She put a lot of symbolism into it - see the barn?
These flowers represent my children!
And she didn't forget to put in something white and fluffy to represent the girls!
She is a very gifted quilter and blew me away with this gift.  It is amazing.  I made one for her but it sucked in comparison.  I would make her another one that was better but it would be futile.  No matter how hard I tried, it would still suck in comparison.  I want to be able to create like this, someday.  I think part of my problem is that I am not a hand stitcher.  All those little details she pulls together leave me with my mouth hanging open, gaping like a large mouth bass.  I can handle my big 'ole longarm.  The difference is that I stitch like a moose and she stitches like a hummingbird. 

Okay, while multi-tasking with this post and an e-mail, it just came to my attention that SOMETHING IS IN MY CHIMNEY SQUEALING AND BUMPING AROUND!  The girls are staring at the fireplace, heads cocked.  I hope it is just a bird.  I am sorry to end this so abruptly but I think I need to go look at the roof...

Happy Quilting, Penny, Evelyn and Pearl


Elaine said...

Well GRANDMA congratulations!!!! You will absolutely love being one. February is a good month for a baby.

My 2nd granddaughter will be here in Sept/Oct and I can hardly wait.


Penny said...

Congratulations, Elaine!

Anonymous said...

What a sweet post.

Congratulations, Penny!


Sherrill said...

Sounds like great fun having the kids all home at the same time--how'd they all end up in NYC?!! Love your Freedom quilt as well as the Lady quilt you're working on. I grew up in OKC!!

Miriam said...

Happy Birthday to each of your children!!
More congratulations to The "world's best Grandma" !!!!
Great photo of your DD, I can see the family resemblance.
Beautiful photographs of the clouds.
What a wonderful gift!
Is the baby quilt finished yet! lol
I hope it wasn't a nasty surprise in the chimney!

ranette said...

Penny, you are an artist with words and fabric. Great post about August in your family and August in Oklahoma. I've always loved it because my sister and I both have birthday's this month and my youngest daughter does as well.

Oh and congratulations to you Penny...how exciting for you to become and Grandma!

p.s. your beautiful daughter looks just like you :o)

Stephanie D. said...

Wow, what a gift!!! I foresee many East Coast trips in your future. Congratulations!

Hubby's birthday is in August--yesterday, in fact--but it's never been one of my favorite months. In fact, it ranks only slightly above Nov. and February. But you're right about the undercurrents. September always seems to take me by surprise.

Amanda karol said...

My journal cover doesn't suck!

I love what you made me! Show a picture please!!

Love your sunsets/sunrises photos.

Anonymous said...