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Life Circles

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Carol Bossard


Caesar Agustus!!  Is the calendar page really about to turn again?  In our circling of seasons, July is bringing its warm, humid self to closure as August comes along with its half-summer and half-fall days.  Some garden produce is ready for harvest (lettuce, cherry tomatoes, kale….).   The roadsides are full of periwinkle blue chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace, and golden rod is beginning to blossom suggesting summer’s waning.  August is my birth month, a month with no holidays except my birthday, but now-a-days it comes around far too quickly.  How can a wonderful, anticipated summer speed by so fast?

A couple of weeks ago, some of my classmates from 1960 (and a fine class it has always been) gathered for dinner.  It was good to see people and to catch up with how they’ve all lived through more than a year of semi-isolation.   Earlier in the week I mentioned my plans to a friend and she shuddered.  She said that she always dreaded these events.  She is a charming and intelligent person, so I had to wonder why.  She has, apparently, had no continuing contact with her former classmates, so that a reunion is, for her, like walking into a group of strangers.  I’ve remained closer to some classmates than others, but we’ve mostly kept in touch enough to have some idea of where people are and what they have been doing.  I find it quite interesting to hear how people are living their lives, and to observe what fine individuals most have become.  There are always little tidbits of information to be learned; things I didn’t know back when, and it is fun to remember and laugh over some of our teenage antics.  I did notice some marked changes in people from six years ago; less energy, more fragility in some.  But I hope we can meet again ----sooner --- for now every year is a gift.

Another event ---- our family picnic is this coming weekend.  Due to medical issues and life in general, we will be missing some who are usually there.  But those of us who are able, will travel to the west side of Cayuga Lake and will find comfort in re-grouping.  These gatherings began many years ago with Chicken BBQs at my sister’s home and over the years have moved to our house, to my brother’s house and now we picnic at my niece’s lovely home and lake shore.  Naturally we all bring food ---- lots of food (we’re good cooks!) ----- and lawn chairs.   There is the lake for swimming ----- and we sate ourselves with conversation, catching up on our lives.  I’ve been taking along a basket of craft materials for the kids’ use after swimming has lost its lure, so over the years, there have been some cool creations from glue, glitter, stickers, markers and other ingredients.  We also laugh about the “Family Quiz” which is an attempt to keep us current about everyone’s life.

“Who discovered new painting skills during COVID?”

“Who nearly lost the end of a finger when a crossbow mis-fired?”

“Who has, for the third time, donated her hair to charity?”

“What two siblings had an on-going joke about ‘when pigs fly’”?


Families have had a rough go of it as many of us have moved from our places of birth.  It used to be customary to stay in the same community for generations; sons following in fathers’ footsteps; daughters marrying someone local.  But now there could be a continent or even oceans between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, siblings, cousins, etc.  Even with Skype, Zoom, Face Time and supersonic jets, it is hard to stay close.   And with a wider arena for living, new ideas and new vistas come along; changes and possible opposition to former ideas and ways of living occur.  It takes effort to circumvent (with grace) differences in thinking!  We all know some families who have issues that create insurmountable barriers to their loving and caring for each other. I’ve heard that back in the mid-1800s, part of my mother’s Dusett clan picked up their possessions and moved from the Rochester area to Michigan because of political disagreements.   I realize just how fortunate Kerm and I are to have such close relationships with our extended families.  It isn’t that we all think alike ----- definitely NOT.  We undoubtedly could have those same disagreements now that occurred in the mid-1800s ---- but we make every effort to not go there!  Our love for each other and our shared heritage is far more important than either our political opinions or our theological choices (the two biggies that stymie conversation).  And I imagine we all have, in the backs of our minds, the image of what Grandma Wiley (my mother) or Grandma Bossard (Kerm’s mother) would say if we squandered the good family feelings we have thus far achieved, over something so ephemeral as the opinion that I’m RIGHT!   We keep the family circles intact by being courteous, tactful, allowing ourselves a sense of humor and allowing the possibility of other perspectives than our own.  And I’m still working on a poker face that doesn’t advertise my thoughts.

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Of course, there are some families that can’t, for many serious reasons, be tolerated.  Robert Frost* said: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.”  This doesn’t sound too welcoming to me, and there are families that aren’t welcoming at all.  Thankfully, non-blood-related families can be formed with close friends.  We have lived in several places, and in each place, we found friends to whom we could turn had we not been blessed with good relatives.  And since we were at a distance from our actual families, our friends often did fill a gap.  When our children were small, several older women provided fine grandma-care.  Among our close friends, we’ve shared child-raising problems, marriage issues, spiritual thoughts, times when we felt inadequate, and many, many times of laughter ---- and we are so grateful.  It would be great to have a non-family family reunion ---- if only people weren’t scattered from Maryland to Pennsylvania to New York.

One of the ways to achieve closeness is to not demand closeness.  I know some families where parents moan if their kids aren’t there with them on every holiday, where the adult children feel so criticized, patronized and judged when they return to the nest, that they avoid the whole horror by being “too busy”.  Why go home if home is not welcoming and affirming?  Naturally, parents are hurt and resentful, not understanding how abrasive their attitudes seem.  Seeing one’s children as capable, functioning adults, able to make their own decisions, generally takes a while, but we have only to think back to how it was with us with our parents when we were in our twenties and thirties; if they did or did not deem us capable of managing our lives.  How did we feel?  No one likes to watch their children struggle or make mistakes.   But that is part of maturing; part of growing in wisdom, and we simply can’t keep our children as children if we wish for good relationships.

Letting go should start in high school (in safe ways) and gradually grow as kids get older.   One of my nephews has been an RA for his college dorms.  He has mentioned that too many parents call him when their kids have problems; problems that the kids should be solving themselves.  These “helicopter parents” are hanging on too tightly and keeping their offspring from growing into competent adults.  We all speak disparagingly about people feeling “entitled” ---- being self-centered, expecting the world to bend to their needs and desires.  Doting on and over-protecting our kids leads directly to that result.  Loving does not mean accommodating every desire or mitigating all results of bad choices. Kids need to learn to deal with sadness, with frustration, with boredom, with consequences.  Hothouse plants don’t tolerate real weather well!  It is the dilemma of parents to determine when they should or should not step in with rescue.  To be truthful, I’m not sure how much thought we gave these things while bringing up our children.  However, they seem sensible (usually) and not at all entitled, so probably, due more to our obliviousness than our attention, they came out OK.

Also coming out OK is this season’s garden---- except that the weeds are prospering.  The over-generous rains have kept everything growing apace.  Our cucumber vines seemed to have over-loaded the trellis until I looked more closely and found a spaghetti squash in there. ☹  The day lilies are blossoming in bright orange, shades of yellows and wines.  Cleome is standing tall and soon the cosmos will be adding its pink, magenta and white petals to the colorful mélange.  More turkeys are emerging from the woods now.   On hot afternoons, a turkey head may suddenly pop out from under the comfrey where they’ve been enjoying the shade.  And we haven’t seen a bear in a while.

July is ending and August adventures are beginning.  As the days circle into weeks, take the time to absorb and enjoy.  “What is this life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?  No time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep and cows.  No time to see, when woods we pass, where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.  No time to see, in broad daylight, streams full of stars, like skies at night…….A poor life this if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare.”**

Carol may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net.

*Robert Frost ---New England poet with multiple awards for his poetry.  1874-1963.

**“Leisure” by William H. Davies ----Welsh poet and writer who spent much of his life as a hobo/tramp traveling through the United Kingdom and the United States.  Even so, he was one of the most admired poets of his time.  He reflected on the human condition and spoke of the people he met on his travels. 1871-1940.

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