Biking in the Woods…of Memories

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©Cindy Kennedy

The leaves crackle under our bike tires, burying the path underneath the trees.   There is a sense of golden aura, with splatters of rust and green throughout, as we wind along the trail flanking the river. The geese chatter, the slight scent of decay emanates throughout.

As we ride past the mirrored lake, the swing set adjacent, I am transported immediately to my past. I remember coming to these same Captain Daniel Wright Woods often as a child. We would spend the day with our neighbors, the boys and dads fishing, the girls running, laughing, chasing dragon flies, moms relaxing with a smile.

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Afterwards all we kids played together with new friends, made up games on the jungle gym. The picnic was unpacked onto long wooden tables, my mom offering up delicious pans of fried chicken still warm in foil, bowls of cut fruit, homemade chocolate cookies, the rare treat of a can of soda.

When I was in high school, my dad taught me to cross country ski on these snow filled paths. The woods turned magic, covered with sparkling snow, as we careened through the forest.

As we continued on our current bike ride , those memories morphed into later visits, when we brought my kids, their cousins, and our dogs to enjoy that same playground. We clomped over the bridge to a hidden pond for the kids to catch frogs, skip stones, and throw bread bits as the fish broke the surface again and again.

I hope that someday my kids will come visit here, and they will remember all the times we came to the forest preserve with poignant smiles. And better yet, I hope that they can create their own memories here with their friends or family.

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Conquering Men’s Uninvited Advances

Thank you, Donald Trump. Yes, thank you. Since that video of you surfaced talking about “grabbing her pussy” and the myriad of similar follow-up accusations, the conversation of how women are treated, taunted, poked, and prodded with bodies and eyes has become an open conversation.

Women are angry. Women are vocal. Girls and women like myself are talking about acts that happened to us years or a recent month past. We are admitting to ourselves things we might have buried or denied happened (TOO MANY TIMES) to us.

Trump’s misogynistic behavior has brought to front of my mind harmful words and hurtful ongoing occurrences that have impacted my body image, my eating habits, my relationships with others, my thoughts on sex, fashion, and the world around me since I was a child.

I planned to include some of these events in this post. However, after I wrote them all out, I am so furious and disgusted—and even a little ashamed though I did NOTHING to deserve these slivers of my history—at things that were done and said to me growing up that I have chosen to not include any specifics. Taken singly, they may not seem overwhelming. But collectively they have been staggering to my psyche.

They simmer in my brain, clog my throat with bile, frustrate my soul, and cannot heal that wounded child who stays hidden in my heart. Until now, when viewed all together on paper, they boil over and transform me. Stronger. Purified, like the jack pine tree pine cones that only burst during wildfires. Birth.

I am buoyed up by the women who surround me. Also, by those who have shared their revelations on TV and in the papers this week. I hope that we can gather those memories, pile them high only to light afire, then stomp over them in a dance of fury. These occurrences are part of our histories, our being, but they cannot control us. We will then kick them aside and embrace a new reality of acceptance of ourselves. And other women, with the knowledge that many we know have been forced upon and exposed to, verbally and physically.

I hope that this dialogue continues. I hope that this language of rape, of overpowering, of taking what IS NOT WANTED continues. I hope  it whispers breaths of anger and NO into our daughters, our friends, our silent neighbors, our families. And those tentacles of anger and hope reach into other countries, where women have far less freedom to say NO than here.

C

RIP Aunt Lorene

My Aunt Lorene passed away this week, her final months spent in home-care hospice.  It seems a cliché of being sad, but also being a blessing to let her go.  It  is also ironic that this now Midwestern girl was just several states south of her New Jersey, vacationing along the NC southern Outer Banks in Emerald Isle, NC when she passed away.

 

Mixed within the joy of our trip, a tinge of unexpected sorrows as many memories of my childhood at the Jersey shore summers with she and my family were refreshed in my mind.  With thirty-plus cousins and aunts and uncles and grandparents we vacationed at the shore many years running.

 

What simple yet incredible times we had with extended family dining outdoors with her husband (my Uncle Walt), my father and other uncles playing horseshoes and spitting watermelon seeds in an epic battle, card games, riding waves, catching crabs from a boat and flounder from the shoreline, her sons  Paul and Mike trying to teach us to surf,  her daughter Margie our summer girl several years running, shell seeking with Nana and the aunts.

 

As we grew older, my family’s trips to the Jersey shore became less frequent, but I have different memories of Elaine’s birthday with us wearing tacky paper hats for long after the cake disappeared, happy hours, my father and his siblings louder than those of us who rented the house, beach umbrellas, more crabbing and boil,  dancing with Diane,  sandy naps, and a myriad of cousins, spouses, kids descending upon our house.

 

I have not seen my aunt in several years, since another family trip to the Seven Springs resort in PA.  But my rememberances are strong, as I now create beach memories with my own children.  What they remember some twenty, thirty years later, I cannot tell, but I hope they remember the fun, the positive, the challenging, the hopeful.

 

Rest in peace, Aunt Lorene, with the family gone before. You deserve it. C

Hot Chocolate and Pudding

As I peeled the foil top off a large can of Swiss Miss hot chocolate, I was immediately transported back to childhood.  The chocolate scent that rose from the can was of the boxes of Jello chocolate pudding, a favorite dessert from my youth.

We sometimes prepared the cooked version on the stove, stirring and stirring in a silver-colored pot with black handle.  We put plastic wrap on the top as it cooled, then slowly peeled it off to see the chocolate craters on the surface.  And no one ever wanted the hard crusty part when it was just a day old. Sometimes we used the yellow and white Tupperware shaker, with a plastic spoke in the middle to stir it up.  We could then immediately take turns dipping spoons into the shaker, slurping down the chocolate jelloey pudding.  Yum!

The final time I remember eating homemade pudding I was just driving, home from a visit to a friend’s house with a severe case of the munchies.  I dove into the bowl of freshly-made chocolate pudding on the counter and starting inhaling spoonfuls into my mouth, all the while yakking on the phone.  Yum!

An unexpected trip to the past, just from opening a can.  Weird. C