Thursday, January 26, 2012

A Hand in the Dark- Gladys Taber

I certainly had no idea of writing this book.." the book jacket read.

And I certainly had no intentions of checking out another book from the library! I mumbled to myself as I knelt on the third floor of the IF library.

I was RETURNING 3 books, 1 forgotten at home. (thank goodness it isn't due till Feb.)


But Susan Branch got me thinking about an author, Gladys Taber and my friend, Kathleen, living in England for now, pushed me toward the dark recesses of the public library.

Literally, in the back of the library, where the lights only turn on if a person walks into the corner. Just as the old flourescent lights flickered on, I pulled out Gladys Taber's book: Another Path.

This woman, for all I knew, had written some books about a country home, purchased with a friend for a summer retreat with family and called it Stillmeadow.

Sounded peaceful enough for a snowing day.

Or blowing day. (which was the kind we had yesterday, which whipped away ALL but a few patches of snow but are being replaced as I peck at the computer!I thought for sure we were in for the long, painful haul of an Idaho spring; wind that rips through your body to clench your bones... and ya, you know the drill. But, NO!!!)

The home was the muse out of which such books containing recipes made there, some fiction by the educated author, and other cozy books to read while it snowed outside.

The computer at the library held a handful of titles written by this college professor of creative writing, divorcee, and come to find out: an owner of a home built in 1690, which was purchased for dirt cheap because a man had killed his wife and then himself in it. egh.

Anyway, out of that 'steal of a deal' in the house market- this woman was able to write and provide for a husband, who was more of an arranged marriage it appears, and who eventually went deaf, and a household of kids that came to her and her friend, Jill. (Jill eventually loses her husband to death and they just move to Stillmeadow full time.)

So I found that the book was about losing her friend, Jill. The one who'd worked hard to buy that cottage for their families for those summer retreats that turned into everyday life. And then unexpected death.

After Gladys reveals she had no intentions of writing about her grief over Jill's death, the jacket continues:

".. as I struggled to battle the illness of grief, I learned of many others who were undergoing the same struggle and asking for help. So I put down everything (on her old typewriter!!!) I discovered as I went a long this lonely path, with the hope that my experience might be a hand in the dark for someone else. "

And then from her foreword: "It is true help must come from within, but it is only a partial truth, I think. When you walk a dark path it is a good thing to know there are footprints on the soggy turf. Someone walked this way before, and you, in turn leave footprints for another who soon stumlbe this very way. At times, someone may be close enough to reach out a hand and to say, "There's a bad spot here." "

Thanks, Kathleen for getting me to check out a little of Gladys Taber!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Valentine Aisle

I don't buy Hallmark cards. I used to.

But a few weeks ago, while at Wal-Mart I was compelled to walk down the sweetheart aisle of the store that is now all decorated in red, pinks and hearts and I stopped to read some of their cards. Amore filled me! I felt like a school girl, pausing and trying to decide which card I'd pick out for my Sweetheart.

I reminded myself I didn't have one- but I felt like I did. Which is a good sign that I haven't let myself become too curmudgin-ish.

Then it happened. A comment, left me crushed and I said: "Bah-humbug, love!"

Why do I let that happen? Especially when I got the snow I asked for? Driving down my street and having a neighbor(s) who is so fragile is the only thing that turns me from looking inward and out into the beauty of it all. Even with the heartbreaks.

To keep mine from bursting I took the small shovel and started to move snow. A bit at a time. It was dark and hid myself from others somewhat. Yes, it was still snowing and usually not the greatest idea.

But it was healing to head up my neihbors' drives where they exit their garages and move the snow out of the way from being turned into ice. I even did Padren's tire treads. Despite crazy shingles pain, arthritis. I took to the snow hoping it would alleviate the other aching.

It did. For a moment and then after my hair was sufficiently doused with wet snow flakes, I leaned the shovel up to the house, opened the door and stepped over J.'s basketball bag and sweatshirt without trippin due to fogged glasses and retreated to the tub. I poured Epsom salts in and just sunk under the water until my muscles were relaxed enough, my body temperature brought back to speed and my shingles screaming: "FIRE!"

Slowly I washed my hair with yummy smelling shampoo from baby Sis's store. When I got out my bones began to freeze like they do when I stop moving. But I shuffled downstairs to gather my warm clothes and get some left-overs ready.

I opened the fridge to see they were gone!! The beans on the stove, for mom's chili, weren't ready yet and it was late- time for J. and I to go to bed! AHHH!!!!

Tears welled in my eyes as if I'd just been sent notice of a pending engagement. Thinking something as trivial and small as leftovers are still left in the fridge over night for you to use when you need it?

Padre said: "That happens to me all the time. I buy groceries, come home and their gone. Welcome to life."

Little consolation.

I opened the olive can, made a microwave omelette for my little baller and then we read the last chapter in Call of the Wild. I didn't cry. It just.... stunned me.

And for some reason I think there is gold dust buried in a valley where a lone wolf howls. And John Thornton's memory still hangs in every soulful cry of the beast!

Taking chili to someone who would appreciate it on such a cold winter afternoon and indulging in it myself with some fresh french bread was sooo delicious. Mmmm. MOm's chili is divine. Topped with snow outside it chases away heartbreak.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

More Snow!!??

Wow! I got what I wished for ! (the boys in the picture aren't part of it)

I need to apoligize for bringing slick roads, drives to shovel/snowblow and stinky feet (this is where the sweaty boys come into play from above pic) for teachers to smell all day at school!

The skies silently let it all come down, covering IF with that white blanket I was home-sick for this last week.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thank You, January!

Last night it snowed! Even the sun stayed out and proud for a few hours this morning.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Trackside Mall- Joel Sanda Part II

okay. It is time. I will post about the Trackside Mall. Why have I put off writing about it? So many times I have written about it in my head you'd think it would finally be easy to write down all I have thought.

But I have given myself assignments; Read up on Eastern Idaho. Which is why it has made me put it off, I bet.

Why did I assign myself?

Because, when I drove down the lane,

it felt like I passed through time; before Idaho Falls was IF, and it was called: Eagle Rock.

The industrial, train yard location next to a building that looks like a mill- and right next to Pacific Recycling- a place J and I frequent to take in mainly Coca-Cola cans to recycle for meager amounts of change for Jaden to save.

This place, Trackside Mall, seems to be in a different realm from everything surrounding it; even the time period.

It's been silent every time I have gone there. No trains coming and going.

I think I put off writing about Trackside because inside I was hoping I could take pictures of it covered in big, fat happy flakes of snow. But it stayed in my mind in an eerie way, with all this grey-ness, shown in the night

that I took the pictures.

There is so much to take in, give yourself time to linger. Not just so you can enjoy milling around all the little treasures and knick-knacks but so you will think before you buy.

The location of the mall- which doesn't make me think of a mall in the sense of the word( Gap, Abercrombie, and Wet Seal squisehd with kiosks down the middle of a building type mall.)Is on Poulesen Ave.

No, it's a place, right in front of the train tracks. Symbolically placed-as- if the people who have owned the items inside have happily left them here, for us, to enjoy before climbing upon a train and gone.... on.

It feels a bit ethereal to me.

Yet, when I entered for the first time, and saw Joel's santa hat hanging there,

my heart leapt, as if I was seeing him; we were shaking hands and talking about all of his collections. -That he wasn't gone to another place at all! He hasn't dropped off his things to be bought by so many different owners; his things divided, and then gotten on some special Harry Potter train that leads to Hogwarts Academy!

Maybe we will still be lucky enough to have Idaho Falls covered in snow just once before we have to head into more harsh weather!!!

(I just pictured these tracks covered in snow!)

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Letter to January, 2012

Dear January,

In an effort to think of something meaningful to put on paper and roll into my old type-writer, I learned yesterday that your name is derived from the mythological God, Janus. Which meant the keeper of the gate, or door. That there were money-like coins with a face looking back and looking forward- which represented you.

However, I read a poem ,from a gardener's web page full of poem's to read during the winter months, and one poem said to bascically bury last year and just look ahead. Which makes me wonder if the whole two-faced coin is a bit much.

If I put the words to the song Auld Lang Sine- I would have to write the definition so everyone would know what it meant; Times gone by. And then I would have to write the whole song down because it is so good and I never memorized the words to it, or even thought about the song past a few of the sentences.

Do I leave a blank page; A symbol of the possiblities that could become of 2012? I think it quite a good idea; a blank page. I had often thought I'd leave two blank pages, directly in the middle of a book I wrote simple for one to turn to when it was too hard to think, or read at all. A place inside my book that you could pause and not feel like you needed to do anything- except lay it across your chest while you took a delicious nap. And if anyone came in to see you- they would expect you were into a grand book, when really you were just having a respite from my ramblings.

You could scribble your own thoughts. Which is something Padre HATES; underlines in his books. And I can't blame him when I accidently highlighted a book that had become out of print and was a collector's item... but I have since learned what and when to write in books.

Back to you- January. I am a bit let down by you. Yes, I expect your wind. But, you see, we didn't even really get a summer. So I feel cheated out of that bliss and tucked away my gardening hopes for the next season.

But you are arm wrestling with spring it seems. White winter, where did You go? Why did you skip us? Will you please just put down a small blanket of whiteness to cover the dreadful leaves that are matted down on the lawn. Could you softly cover the stiff grass and hard ground?

I am glad to be reading Jack London's book during this month- the month of The Wolf Moon (was that the 9th that you came? I can't remember. But Susan Branch's printable bookmark from her sweet little site is a good reminder of the Indian names for the moons.)

Yes, January, your dreadful wind and cold grey-ness drove home the sadness Jaden and I felt when we read about the faithful huskie, David, who became sick but would not allow his owner's to take him from his place in the harness. The hard, long, overworked hours of Buck's team carrying all that heavy mail to the correspondent starved individuals looking for gold, and not caring whether it broke a dog's spirit by such hard work- all sunk in heavy with your unrelenting, cold hand.

Whenever I open the door and feel the bite of the wind on my face, twisting my hair in every direction so that I can't see in front of me.. I wonder what I can do to outlast you.

Can I dance around like Calvin and Hobbes mimicking Indians and cause you, January, to be good to us? could you at least blow the clouds away from the Sun's face?

January, please snow. wind, please die down. My dear friend is sick with pnemonia. And I can't bear that she has it, especially with the weather as it is. She is as consistent as a clock, and it is hard to hear her sound weak.

And that is just one friend, one neighbor that is in need and on my mind at this time.

So, January, please see to it that my friends look out or into something cozy, comforting.
That they will rest and feel hope on the horizon. Especially the little kids that walk to school or the bus stop they feel the bite of life the hardest. (Thank you, teachers, for helping them get through January.)

January, I learned that even though my garden is the queitest right now that the most action is taking place beneath the soil. Is this why you are so harsh? Whatever the reasons, please snow. A gentle, beautiful snow that will cover all of this for a time. And we will dutifully face the unkind winds to come!

Most Hopefully,

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


The white board was wiped clean of the previous etchings and I wrote the next word on the board. Using my best grandeous handwriting; expecting the students to reach far into the recesses of their brains to give me the meaning of the word.

Hoping to direct their thoughts toward the heavens- to the starts, planets, the moon!

Quickly I made spider-like legs grow out of the word so we could place the ideas that came to us as we searched for its meaning.

"What does wondrous mean??" I asked walking down the middle of the desks looking for the quietest child- one who had listened to me ask that they raise their hand, rather than shout out the answer.

I felt a quietness inside myself as I searched the chaotic waving of hands, wiggling bodies and chatty children.

Looking down I saw a slight boy with; a small scar just an 1/8 of an inch below his left eye.

Putting my left hand on his desk, to signify I had chosen him to answer the question, he swallowed and lowering his hand and looking firmly up into my eyes,said:


Silence. My face felt a calmness come over it, tension left my mind and a clearing of thought came to my own mine.

silence. I breathed in deeply and slowly let out a breath


Nodding my head, as the first true smile of the day broke like sunshine onto my face, I stood next to him. I unable to move because he'd entranced me with his soft eyes. Finally, I looked around the room until there was class silence eventually, I turned back to the white board, erased the spider legs and left: Wodrous, alone on the board. And an invisible underlining went under the letters U and S.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Flu Strikes Back

Each child has at least three or four epic flu moments that a parent will have seered in the steel vaults of their brain.

J already had those moments during his toddlerish stages and I ignorantly thought that kind of lore was behind us. But he surprisingly, No, shockingly, had two more added in less than a month's time period during or before and after Christmas.

The dates are fuzzy.

Whenever I told him about them, he sat mesmerized at my feet, neck crooked up at me, his doe-like lashes blinking innocence as if I were reciting the feelings I had when he was born.

"You woke up crying and when I reached your room and saw the way you swayed to and from, I knew you were gonna up chuck. I grabbed you under your arms and ran as fast as I could to the bathroom, but I only made it to the hall. Like lightning it came. I had time only to turn my head a bit. My hair soaked up this pink mess you launched out and the rest dripped down my nightgown collar, slid down my back and smashed into my clothes as I,now, slowly moved toward the bathroom.

Whatever I didn't soak up, launched over me and hit the carpet.- So going back and forth to put you back on the your bed, I hit those spots with my bear feet."

J full of love and wonder asked innocently: "What did I do after that mom?"

After what?

"The part where you muffled a scream when it dribbled in your ear."

It's hard to hang those moments over your kid when they think it's some sort of bonding experience- like when you looked each other in the eyes for the first time.

I expected a stomache flu episode but fully believed he was of the age that his system could contain that vile mess until he hit the bathroom- at least the bathroom.

That sort of unrational thinking happens much like a woman forgets how painful carrying and giving child birth really is to the body. There is some place in the brain that deletes such horrifying moments and makes you fully believe you could do it again.- How mean how hard is? To be 9 months pregnant, have the baby, nurse it for a year and change its diapers. How hard really was it to get up at night and snuggle that cute thing?

Those olden day car seats were waaayyy heavier back then, heck today's are lighter than a Nike shoe. C'mon. And older child can practically drive the car from the back seat. (And buckle his OWN seatbelt! We have it made!)

So the brain allows you to enter flu season with only a mild sense of dread. But your kid is getting older!!! Heck, he'll probably offer to clean up his own mess.

Amnesia set in, however, and I didn't notice that he'd not been eating simply because he doesn't like the food served. The last meal he eat, before he blew it all over the nice quilt made for him, that requires dry cleaning, is etched in my mind. As is my urging: "C'mon, Son. You haven't eaten a decent thing in over a day. No, you can't leave this table until you eat that food.

The shock of him NOT making it to the bathroom, and the difficulty keeping my own gag reflex in check, was the first of surprises this year's flu season. And the fact I didn't read the symptoms and crammed spaghetti down his throat.

I will spare you the gross details. I will say that he felt "sorry" I had to clean up 4 different spots leading from his room, down the hall and into the bathroom, in the middle of the night. And where we convened together; me showering the quilt while he hugged the throne.

Recovering from this revolting, life-changing episode took over the next few weeks. You can imagine my surprise that, an hour before school was to end, I heard:

BBRRIIIINNNNGggg (technically, a cell jingle.)

A brief look at the caller I.D., It read:

T.V. Elementary School.

"What the...." I'm thinking. --Sickness is not even on my mom radar.

Only the worst passed through my mind; he's been injured at recess playing football or stolen off the playground. Yet at the same time I want to choke him if he has done something bad and that has required the call. So those two thoughts fight with each other in the long, dragged out silence.

"Hello?" I tentatively said holding the phone a safe distance from my ear as if it would help in whatever breaking news the school secretary had to give me.

"Hi.... It's Deborah at T.V." (name change. But picture those big, spider like devices in Empire Strikes Back clamboring over snowy terrain.)

"mm-hmmm." I replied, trying to build a strong defense against the pending fateful news.

"Jaden's sitting here..." she trailed off.

Oh, Great!! Sitting There!!!!!!! I KNEW IT! Guilty! Why would he go and do something, right now? He was doing so good! Darn it all!

I sigh through gritted teeth, to let the secretary know my displeasure, but not to let on that I was the type to beat my kid. At least in public.

"Yeah, he is just having a hard time. His stomache hurts." she says in a kind, soft hopeful voice that begs for me to come get him as far from her and the rest of the healthy individuals within a ten foot radius.

What? Yeah, right, I'm thinking of his story.- But it is an hour before school gets out which was unusual. This doesn't add up.

huhh... I mentally mull over a million possiblilite but quickly quip:

"I'll be right over!" with the determination of the president of the P.T.A.

Pulling on my jacket, I quickly head out into the frigid cold thankful for the blessed bright sun, weave down the lanes to his school and park in front of the old familiar brick building.

Walking in the brown front doors I see my little guy, sitting on the wood park bench across from the front office, bent over. My disbelief melts away and I stride over to him, and sit by him on that park bench for a second while I tossle his hair and put an arm around him.

"hey," I bring him toward my chest, "Let's go home."

I check him out, get more info about his day as we drive back up the hill. He tells me about hanging out in the boys room for more than he'd have liked and trying to get through recess. Already he has me feeling sympathy pains.

The drive home he gives some sincere, bent over yelps and I quickly look for a throw up bag. Upon getting home, I drive him passed his littler cousins, and into the tub.

He soaks a bit and then says in biblical fashion: "Mom! I feel better!"

"What? I thought you were sick. I had to go get you with 50 minutes left of school." I look at him through slit eyes, inspecting this change of behavior.

"Are you just sayin' this to get to play with the kids?"

(cute little nehphew begging to get out and get the germs too.)

So sick who does seem to have taken a turn for the better, plays with his cousins for a bit.

Grabbing his clothes and wet towel from the bathroom- I headed down the stairs to put the infested wash into a machine, on the hottest possible temperature. Only to exit the laundry room to see
J was sitting on the bottom step- like a kid not picked to play at recess on some team.

Uh-uh. How silly was I??

"You really okay, buddy? Just rest." near a bathroom or something, I am thinking.

He nodded his head, walked back to his room and finished getting dressed whileI headed back up the steps to finish cleaning the bathroom after his bath. (he plays with boats that create a lot of wake for his imaginary boarders/skiers. So I hang up the bath mat over the edge of the tub and as I walked out of the bano I saw Jaden screech, like blurred color, across the kitchen to the sink and proceed to hurl into it- ignoring the dishes inches away from him. -And the garbage can he passed on his sprint to the sink. Slack jawed I took it in. Finally, I was able to walk to him and put my hand on his neck while he let the virus work its way out.

Somehow I felt cheated that the flu struck TWICE. Or at least by the time frame.

TWICE? In. The. Kitchen. Si.... I can't even finish the word.

for the love!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

After he'd heard of the disaster, Padre said standing in the hall, away from the kitchen: "It's those dang Norwex rags." ugh.

Did I say: "ugh" ? Okay good. And by the way, I haven't been using those rags! Just on the windows. So that wasn't it.

Surprisingly, Jaden's his teacher called later that evening when the excitement had died down a bit. I expected her to say he had to have been nervous about school, a test, or a friend. However, she went on to telling me that he'd tried so hard all day to make it through, but then turned "that color", and she decided to send him home. (aww, can't you see Jaden like the young Luke Skywalker flying one of those awesome planes under such duress??)And what kind of teacher gives you a kind call? As Jaden puts it: "She's mine." Meaning he has some affinity toward her. I want to say: "Nuh-uh, she's MINE!"

I sighed with relief, felt guilty for doubtin' the little guy, and felt a relief that it wasn't something "more serious." I told her we'd already had the flu over the break and couldn't believe it could happen again.

"ANOTHER flu strain is passing through." she said sadly. I wanted to sink to the floor and cry; vow I'd do my part to sanitize every crevice of my child and our home, and gargle Lysol if necessary. Finding the courage to talk, I told her good-bye then moaned.

four. 4. FORE!

Jaden has four stories that I will harbour until the end of time, repeat to all of his children, his wife (when she needs to hear a good one on him) and when I'm old and rickety and forget to just keep those stories in the journals, no. They will escape my mouth like hot, old cats gossip.

But look at me blogging it- I coulnd't even wait until dementia set in to record the events.


Love you, Jaden. Really. Even when I have to clean up your bodily fluids in the middle of the night, wear those fluids while I attend to you and calm your little hurting body even while I battle nauseau, inhale the fumes of the harsh chemicals I use to clean up those fluids, and then, try to make those foods that I saw come from your body.

No wonder we forget pain/and horrible images! And beg for more! (i.e. more kids. more of the love. you know.)Someone once said something about suppressed pain is an emotion buried alive.

I disagree.

(Yes, in certain circumstances I'm sure that is true.) But for this sake of sick kids post- or having kids in general-Bad/disgusted emotion suffocates in my heart and brain and dies.- Why else would I delete all the horrrible parts of the throw up moments,turn around and proceed to tell Jaden the stories of him retching on me while I rock back and forth in a rocker with a far off love-lorn look on my face, and recount the events;

as if they were as priceless and precious to me as the first moment I held him in my arms and his eyes opened and we looked into each others for the first time.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Jaden's Christmas

I can't procrastinate posting Jaden's Christmas thoughts any longer. Despite the incompletion of the day, here is what he has said so far:

(unedited- which is precious to me.)

"This morning in UTAH I woke up and I went downstairs. I coudn't believe my eyes when I saw my own pump modle air rifle. But at first I didn't know whos it was so I looked on the back and I didn't exactly see a nametag like I thaut I would. So I thaut of the last thing I could do to find out whos it was. So I walked to the gun and I looked inside the barrel and I still couldn't believe my eyes man I ran like a bolt upstiars to my dad. I jumped on him and woke him and my step mom up. Boy I loved that gun so mutch I almost fainted. but I kept myself from doing that.

At 3 in the afternoon I went back to my mom's house. wile in the car driving home to IDAHO I told my mom the whole story that I'm telling you guys."

The rest of his Christmas day was back in Idaho. It was too special to really talk about. I will let the camera do the talking....


The shock of receiving a new ball- he is feeling the magic...

Sometime after this event took place, J said in confidence to me: "Mom, no one knows I like the Colts. I didn't tell my friends. My family. No one. It must have been an Angel or something. Because the Colts aren't doing so good this year... Manning is hurt.... maybe he'll get better. I hope he does."

I don't know why he would keep it "secret" that this was the football team he liked best- whether it was because of their season, or that he is new to understanding the NFL and only knew about HS football up until a couple years ago or that we haven't been able to watch any games. Either way, he was quite surprised that SOMEONE figured it out.

Reading Cal. (Calvin and Hobbes) Padre got some shots that I didn't and I'm too afraid to mess with his good camera and upload them without his consent. So maybe that could be upcoming.. : )

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Joel Sanda

I didn't know Joel Sanda personally. In fact, I had only been to his house, a couple blocks from mine, a handful of times to see the elaborate train sets, villages, and other Christmas decore that filled his seemingly small home.

During the December months his street was lined with cars, so when we did go to visit the congested area, it required walking in a couple hundred yards in the frigid Idaho weather. Then you had to wait in line outside his house; ultimately standing shoulder to shoulder with strangers who also came to see the amazing collections one man filled not only in his home, but in his heart and life.

I never felt any initial connection the event but simply considered it one of the annual Idaho FAlls traditions that were an option during the December month. Preferably for a date and not simply an LDS mutual activity on a Tuesday night!

One particular time I went on a date with my HS sweetheart and I recall being glad we could walk hand in hand through the cold winter night to his house. That particular visit we actually scored a parking place close by Joel's house and therefore our hand holding was brief but it stands out in my mind.

As a teenager, what astounded me, was the extent Joel went to in decorating. I didn't realize it was to bring joy to a lonely heart, a smile to a child's face or a reminder to frenzied adults to slow down and recall the magic of Christmas. And to so many strangers, nonetheless.

Joel's dedication went to the extent that he made large, mouse like holes through the walls of his house so that the trains could chug through to the other rooms, circle his displays and capture our imaginations before they disappeared into the menagerie.

Heck, Padre has a coniption if he hears me pound a pin sized hole in the wall- to hang a painting- so the fact this man could go through dry wall like that showed some serious dedciation that I had to admire!

Another aspect about Joel's house that astounded me, was the welcoming spirit he had to all who came inside. I mean, here were complete strangers, shoulder to shoulder, walking through his living room- which was devoid of any furniture but the tables that held his trains and miniature towns- who would mingle down the hall, passed his bathroom- the door open and welcoming if you or a kid needed a pit stop, and into two separate back bedrooms. Then turn back track so you could see the basement.

Everyone had to be considerate and allow time for those in front to shuffle around one another to exit a room and head to the next, down the hall, and into his kitchen. His kitchen!! I remember looking at magnets on his fridge holding letters from school kids thanking him for the display, and even seeing a pot or two next to the sink signifying that he had soup for dinner.

You were treated like family, given license to make yourself feel at home and meander through his house like a relative or back door friend. Passing his dining room table you turned left and descended into his basement.

The stairs seemed steep to me at the time but that could have been a child hood memory, and again you passed by strangers as they were retracing their way up the stairs and out of the house through the front door. It was a bustle of activity. I even recall a ledge on the right that held a collection of cups. Were they Irish? Is that just a figment of my imagination? Were there his Nutcracker collection all lined up?

The details are fuzzy.

The basement seemed to have a softer glow to it. At least it did the last time I visited. I recall that he had his manger scenes set up down there at one time and I liked those. He carefully placed lights to create the ambiance needed.

The carousels, moving trains, chattering children- all made for quite an evening.

However, I often felt rushed. If there were a lot of people in line to see the display I felt guilty and tried to make my way through the house as quickly as I could. There was always so much to see! One or two things always caught my eye. Whether it was the ferris wheel that turned amidst a carnival below, a train that blew real steam as it crept through the intricate play land.

The one time I went to Joel's thatI don't recall a single part of the display, except that I was with my Sweetheart. My only recollections of that evening are the feel of his warm hand in mine, clenching it every so often- the way he did, to keep it warm as we waited outdoors and even as we weaved in and out of rooms. The way I could lean into his chest as we waited for those in front of us and he would hold me close to him.

The wait didn't bother me then because I was in my own dreamland. The way my man smelled overpowered any scents that others visiting brought into the house. Only his cologne, mixed in with whatever his mother used to wash his laundry and his signature scent, filled my nose and my mind.

I know we must have made others gag. Not because of major displays of affection. But that we were lost in each other and probably held up the line at some point due to the state of oblivion we were in at the time. But we were there to be with each other, Joel's seemed a nice excuse and it proved to create a lifetime memory. The kind that belong in some Richard Sparks novel made into a movie. O.K. not quite. But you get the pic.

It was back when things were innocent in life and the displays took and take you there, again and again.

--That was the extent of my Joel Sanda recollections. The last visit I made to his home was when Jaden was small- but just tall enough to get a bird's eye view of the magic in front of him- which a lot of us adults missed. However, I recall being worried that he'd break something and was on the look out for him to not touch anything. (I hate that stage- the one that you worry about what your kid does and the financial ramifications. Funny, that doesn't ever end.)

The first connection I felt toward Joel Sanda- the real connection- came when I worked the voting polls two Novembers ago. It was my last time volunteering; doing the day long stint of helping community members cast their votes. I enjoyed seeing my neighbors, catching up with many of them, that, I'd either delivered papers to, or simply saw as we drove in and out of our neighborhoods and waved to each other. We didn't have time to talk to one another outside of that because life is like that, right?

Joel came in to vote and while he waited for those ahead of him and I pushed the button on the recorder that gave the well rehearsed tape on how to vote; I stopped it and looked up at him from my seat (which I'd been glued to for the about 6 straight hours)and asked if he had started to put up his collections.

He was solemn. He told me that he wouldn't be able to put it up in his house the upcoming season. I was shocked.

Something serious had to be going on- he'd done it for years!!!!!!!!!! I leaned back into the chair I'd been glued to all day.

Concerned, I said: You are kidding me!" And asked: " why not?"

"Well, I've had cancer and I just can't get it up this year." He held his emotions in bravely in tact. But I sat horrified at what he was feeling.

I hate to admit, but sitting at my little desk where I played the same tape over and over all day to voters about hanging chads,etc. it was the first time that day that I really looked my neighbor in the eyes and heard him.

I could connect to pain. Suffering. Not cancer. Not of being able to put up his Christmas collection, but of the pain that accompanied what you lost with that physical malady. No I haven't had cancer. But I've had enought to have to had to have seen a lot of the dreams, hopes and goals I wanted to do- thrown out the window.

We looked at each other and took in whatever it is people take in when you have an understanding of reality. I thanked him for his display.

Stumbled through some thoughts on what it has meant to me.. Asked if the Post Register had heard about this new turn of events, promised to get them called and a story done on it.

I wanted to offer to help set it up or something. How awful! We depended on him to keep the tradition in Idaho Falls alive! -Yet in my heart I knew that he needed to rest. All that stuff...

that wonderful, Christmas stuff- was okay to leave alone for the time. Heck, I could barely help folks vote, let alone set up that whole thing!

I knew I wouldn't see him again at the voting polls or anywhere after this point. I knew that this unique man's hobby would silently fall into the archives of memory and I.F. lore - that I needed to somehow make that happen.

Joel voted. We said good-bye. I wished him luck throughout his battle in the chemo. Did I stand and shake his hand? I can't remember. I hope that I did. I should have hugged him but I wasn't going to cross that boundary at the polls. Luckily,not many went to vote so we had the time to talk. The fact he made the effort even though he was sick, made an impression on me. Which made me make another mental note that it if he could at least do that... then I needed to always make the effort not onlhy to vote, but to serve others- bring some happiness.

When the paper did an article on him, I read it and felt a bit of sadness. But not a great deal. I didn't know him, you see. Just respected and appreciated his ability to share joy with others. I didn't know his life story. Just that he liked to bring smiles to our faces and that must have made him a special guy. And that, sadly, we wouldn't have his house on our tradition of things to do list.

'Til this year, when Madre started bringing one Joel building home at a time; a boarding house here, two story drug store and Barber shop there,

a bridge and a horse drawn sleigh pulling bundled up passengers past a church.

Little by little she set each village upon the mantle and lit them with a soft glowing bulb. It seemed to bring the spirit alive. Yet I wasn't totally sold on the whole Sanda buying up of his collections idea.

Every pay day she'd come home and sneak a new Sanda item found, onto the mantle or hutch. I'd been suspicious when she started skipping her lunch at home and race to wherever it was she was finding these little treasures. When her shift ended, I thought she'd be home with in her usual time but as December continued, I knew she was out adding to her personal collection.

Later I would spot a train station on the china cabinet;

knowing it wasn't just Joel's love of trains that instigated the purchase, but triggered memories of her father, working on the trains at night and the low mournful sound they make that can be heard from the exact area that Joel's treasures are being sold: The Trackside Mall.

Soon a boarding house and a small cabin with a covered bridge were added- She was acting like a delighted school girl at Christmas time with each new treasure she'd bring home.

I couldn't help but pull out some of my woodland animals to add to the scenery around her collection and rearrange the trees or some of the pine scenery to make it look natural.

One day, I cornered Madre: "What's with all the secrecy? Where are you getting all these things?"

"Oh, I found out that Joel Sanda's villages are being sold and some of them are at the Trackside mall!!" she said excitedly.

uh, oh.

Me: "Trackside Mall? Where the heck is that? (thinking that the Grinch would catch on to it and flip gasket.

Madre: "Oh, it's down by Pacific Recycling."

Me: "What?" J takes his pop cans down there to recycle and I never saw a mall once.

"But I'm done now. --I think I might need a little bridge for this display. Hmmm..." She'd get a calculating and imaginative look but resolve: "I'm done. I won't buy any more!" She said like an in decisive alcoholic.

Each lighted house started to help us feel the Christmas spirit; They were up before the tree. It was Fun to lift up the grandkids to stare into on the mantel and hard to keep them from picking the ones up at eye level on the hutch. It started the magic.

(Special Thanks to Roy Orbison's In Dreams randomly playing from one of Padre's radios on the am station. It helped me re-create a dreamy feeling and find some inspiration to capture the feel of Joel's display and love gone by. And gracias to Padre for ruining the moment when he discovered that his Roy Orbison CD is missing. I swear it wasn't me!!! )

Part Two of Joel (Trackside Mall Post) coming...

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