Saturday, September 25, 2010

Another Candle

"Put another candle on my birthday cake...I'm another year old today", a familiar refrain to any child from the 50's who lived in Southern California. Sheriff John would bring out a lighted birthday cake and sing the birthday song to all his freckle faced, birthday club members but most especially to those who had a birthday.

This morning on the last birthday of my 50th decade, it seemed appropriate to bring out the old ditty and play it on my grand piano. The simple little melody continues to bring a smile to my lips and a sense of childhood to my day. After all it is just another candle and the fact there are so many that I can read by them now is reason enough to celebrate. By virtue of remembering the tune and the words, I have remained a member of the birthday club for over 50 years. I may be a card carrying AARP member but Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade is truly a "badge" of honor.

I was 9 years old. My brother Johnny, sitting by my side, pulling my hair and my little sister, Susie watching quietly on the couch, as my mom turned on the TV to Sheriff John on KTLA channel 5 out of Los Angeles. We watched him in black and white (no color TV) sing the song and tell the birthday child where to find a gift hidden in their house (parents of course, were in on this deal, but who knew?).

Sheriff John read a 100 names a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year for 18 years, you can imagine how many children waited anxiously to hear theirs. The show first aired in 1952 with Sheriff John telling us to laugh and be happy and sharing bits of wisdom like don't play with matches. Kids would send in their own tips that he would read, like "never put a snake in the bathtub without telling your mother".

Today I share my birthday with my granddaughter and I will proudly sing "Put Another Candle On My Birthday Cake", because that's what a wise Lunch Brigade grandma would do.

The Birthday Polka by Sheriff John

Put another candle on my birthday cake
My birthday cake, my birthday cake
Oh, put another candle on my birthday cake
I'm another year old today.

I'm gonna have a party with my birthday cake
Come on and take some birthday cake
Put another candle on my birthday cake
I'm another year old today

We'll have some pie and sandwiches
And chocolate ice cream, too.
We'll sing and play the day away
And one more thing I'm gonna do.

I'll blow out the candles on my birthday cake
And when I do, a wish I'll make
Put another candle on my birthday cake,
I'm another year old today.
Happy Birthday to you!
I'm another year old today.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Man Up!

My father was only as close as the waiting room and believe it or not, with a cigarette in his hand as my mother gave birth to each of their seven children. My husband was not only in the labor room but delivered two of our children. My daughters also had the opportunity to have their husbands in the labor room and my son also was close at hand during the birth of his child. Yes, the times are changing. But there is more left to do according to the September 20th, Newsweek article, Men's Lib.

In a changing economic world, men are finding opportunities to reevaluate their roles in the workplace and in the home. Sweden allows for a 390 day split for new parents to use weekly, monthly, even hourly. But in 1995 they passed a new law - a use it or lose it leave for fathers. If the father did not use a month of his new parenting leave, it was lost. This allowed for a 4% increase in men taking time to bond with their children.

By taking paternity leave, men become more involved as fathers. Seems simple enough but the bottom line is impressive - more kids might stay in school, steer clear of crime, and avoid poverty as adults. Gender parity in the workplace creates an optimal balance of fully employed men and women, increasing the gross domestic product by as much as 9 percent as described in a recent study of the World Economic Forum.

The U.S. is currently the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t bankroll a bonding period for either parent. I propose that instead of subsidizing banks and Wall Street, could our money be better spent funding paid parental leave? That's what a wise grandma would do.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rites Of Passage

Spending the last few days taking care of my daughter and my new grandson has been an opportunity to watch the circle of life from a younger perspective. Having been a caregiver for elderly parents for the past few years, I have been immersed in the circle from the other side.

It is interesting to note that like Benjamin Button, we travel through life only to find ourselves at approximately the same position. The care and feeding at the beginning and end of our lives requires loving, patient hands. There is a certain amount of fear for those in charge of the care and those in need of the care. Together, a trust evolves between the cared for and the caregiver and the journey is made meaningful and rich from the bond that develops.

Traditionally family have filled these roles but whether it is new mothers and fathers, or grown children and elderly parents, the delicate dance is a growing experience for all. I have watched my daughter listen for every breath her tiny son makes. I have seen my son-in-law change diapers like a champ while announcing the play by play. I remember playing this same role with my father-in-law toward the end of his life. My daughter talks about how long it takes to get ready just to go to the market. I share how long it takes to get the shopping done when I take my mother-in-law.

Patience is the virtue we are rewarded with through these rites of passage. And by its very nature, the circle of life encompasses us on one end or the other - someday the daughter I cared for, will hopefully care for me. What goes around, comes around as the saying goes. Hopefully the time we spend in the middle of the circle prepares us to embrace both ends. That's what a wise grandma is learning to do.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Time Honored Tradition

Headed up to Portland to take care of daughter and grandson this week. All the women in my family have done this with the new mothers. My grandmother cared for my mother as each of the seven of us made our appearance. She cooked, cleaned and rocked as my mother took advantage of the help after the miracle/trauma of birth.

My mother came and took care of me, even with the adoption of my oldest. Though not a traumatic birth, I was a new mom and needed to learn the ropes just like any new mom. She cooked and cleaned and told war stories of raising me. The story goes that as soon as I was able to crawl out of her lap, I was off and running. Sounds like me.

Now as I pack to follow in the footsteps of the matriarchs of my family, I remember the overwhelming moments of being a mother. This little person is entirely dependent on me. This life is mine to hold for such a short time and each new moment is precious. I was fortunate to be a stay at home mom. I look back at some of the things I did and marvel at how I ever had the time. I actually purchased wheat to grind to make fresh bread. I made my own yogurt and baby food. The garden produced enough to can for wholesome food and the freezer held organic foods for healthy mom and baby. That was over 35 years ago. Where does the time go?

Time is about the only thing we can't can, freeze or capture. Precious moments are there to enjoy, relish and savor for short periods of time and then only memories are left to remind us. Matriarchs are present in our lives to give us the time to create new memories with our babies. My expectation is that my daughter will do this for her grandchildren, sharing her experience and allowing for another mother to enter the role of mother with loving support. That is what a wise grandmas do.