To our sweet boy on his birthday - loving thoughts from his Grandma. Silas has an insightfully funny personality who is quick to read the emotions of others as well as express his own, at times with gleeful abandon, and other times with a controlled reserve. I love his happy, silly dance moves, his feet stepping lightly at such a quick light brings my energy level up x10! And I cherish the quiet moments when he wants me climb up on his bunk bed to read Shel Silverstein and talk about poems before bed. A brain like a sponge, he absorbs every tidbit of new information and locks it in like a steel trap. He is a baby elephant, retaining even complex ideas. He knows the rules of chess and is a brave player, making bold moves. He craves learning and creating. His parents began nurturing his ability to learn at a very early age, checking out EVERY book at the public library and reading nightly. In any given week I could walk into his bedroom and find baskets of new books to explore. This boy has a vocabulary better than some adults! These days he prefers to create scenarios on Mindcraft over reading, but his parents keep a sharp lookout for using too much screen time. And Legos…. Silas knows Legos! Use caution when entering his room as the floor is covered with creativity. During the Presidential election last year, he and I had a timed contest to see who could build the best White House. He won. He has a monthly subscription to KiwiCrate, which is a STEM kit. We have such a good time putting them together, and I am always impressed at how he follows each step of the project carefully. I pray he never looses interest in learning. Starting school during a global pandemic has been fraught with emotions and challenges. Silas has the advantage of his young age and not having had much experience in a school environment but still he felt the stress of remote learning. Before classes started in the fall we were playing poolside when he told me with grown worry in his little voice, “I can’t do what my mom and dad do’”. They have both worked remotely for quite some time. I did not know what he meant, however as the conversation went on and his tears emerged, I realized he was very worried about using a computer. His parents eased his mind with their patience and their availability to be nearby while he gained his confidence. I have often said that I would like to be a fly on a wall in my children/grandchildren classroom; remote learning gave me an occasional glimpse of him interacting with his teacher. He has done well at remote learning for Kindergarten and is good listener and quick learner. I overheard the Letter-Of-The-Day while he was at class/laptop at my house. The letter was ‘U’ and Silas said “Ukulele, its like a guitar, only smaller. I have one”. When his teacher said she hopes he will play for her one day, a shy, worried smile lit across his face. The simple things like that make me smile. In January 2021, school was open for in-person and he was so happy to be back, making new friends. He is definitely a social guy who loves to laugh, make up jokes and play. He is learning soccer; it is sad to see the littles on the field wearing their masks, covering up their cuteness, however they do not seem to mind and treat it as business as usual. He has also started Boy Scouts recently. I am very proud of how Silas looks out for his little sister, and as Hadley is growing and becoming insistently verbal (that girl just has to be heard), I see that he sometimes HAS to tune her out, but somehow she is always in big brothers radar. I know the two of them will always have a tight bond. She watches her big brother’s every move, and she is going to be as curious about things as he is. Silas is a joy to be around. He is seldom cranky but when he is, it is always brief. If he is upset with someone or something he quickly curbs his attitude. Truthfully, I have never seen him have a tantrum, even when he was younger. It is remarkable. The only times I have seen him upset is if he feels his older cousins are making fun of him or ignoring him. He wants so much to be a part of their teenage conversations/actions. It breaks my heart to see his little feelings hurt, but I get how Dylan and Devin need their space too. It is all a part of learning to cope, and I know they all love one another; the age differences will one day work themselves out. I foresee a future of Silas continuing to make us all proud, bringing all our lives laughter and wonderment with his inquisitive spirit and happy personality. Love, Love! Grandma May 3, 2021
Insecurities And Exchanges
INSECURITIES & EXCHANGES
My smile was too big for my face. This created a quiet nervousness and uncertainty in my psyche. If you watch closely, you will see that it lingers still. As a child in school, I would have absolutely wanted to wear a mask. It would have protected me from developing the low self-esteem that I carried inwardly for most of my life. My self-perceived ugliness would have been hidden. The anxiety I had about my overbite may have been squelched if my classmates couldn’t see it, and perhaps I would not have been a target for bullying. I spent many hours in the nurse’s office in third grade to sixth grade. There I found a safe place where I could be alone long enough to calm myself when the teasing at recess felt overwhelming. I told the nurse that I had a headache or a tummy ache, but in reality, it was my heart that was wounded. The thoughts and emotions floating in my young head were on overdrive. How could my classmates be so mean? Why am I so ugly? I hate them. I want to be friends. I hate myself. You see, not only did I have an overbite, my two front teeth had been chipped when I flew over my handlebars in a bike accident. I knew I was ugly; my teeth were pointy. My classmates merely confirmed this fact. During those few years I had three new schools bringing three new sets of classmates. Looking back on those years now, I wonder that if had I only had one school perhaps the teasing wouldn’t have been as prolonged during my formative years.
One cold day in particular, I felt completely surrounded by the name calling at lunch recess. “Bucky Beaver” or “Snaggletooth”. Everyone was against me, even my handful of friends didn’t come to my defense. I quickly yanked my knitted hat over my face so that they wouldn’t see my tears as I ran to the nurse’s office. She was sympathetic as always and asked me what had upset me so much, and I told her. She allowed me to recover on the cot, however a little while later she breezed in and said the principal would like to see me. Most kids would be mortified by that sentence being directed at them. Not me, I just knew that he would want names of the bullies, to punish them. I sat timidly in front of his desk, and he began by asking if I knew who Eleanor Roosevelt was. He then went on to tell me that she had overcome sadness in her life, that people did not consider her a beauty, but she had become a well-respected and important woman who was loved worldwide. At my young age I didn’t grasp the significance of what he was telling me. I heard only that it was okay to not be pretty. I do not know if my classmates were reprimanded. I did not feel any better about myself. It wasn’t until many years later, when looking back, I realized he had attempted to make me feel better by telling me looks are not everything, that what we have inside us, is what is vital to a happy life.
When my dad found out what had happened that day, he was calm but with an undercurrent of annoyance directed at the principal. “Don’t worry about your looks, you’re going to grow into your teeth.” And “You will be beautiful like your mother.” And “Some people consider Eleanor Roosevelt to be attractive.” Or “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” My dad has always known what to say to make me feel better about myself. He still does to this day.
Shortly after, we moved to Shiloh and a new school. I was older, my face filled out, and I eventually had porcelain caps put on my chipped teeth. I still had that overbite, but the teasing wasn’t mean, it was good natured. I was a novelty, new girl in the school and it seemed like everyone wanted to get to know me. There were only five girls in my classroom and the boys gave us all nicknames. I was Feather Head because of my last name, Heatherly. Shiloh was a turning point in my childhood, as I formed close friendships in that small town that have lasted my lifetime. However, to this day I cringe and squirm inside anytime I hear the word bucktooth.
Maneuvering in a Covid era has all of us feeling insecure and uncertain. With all the inane debating about masking at school this coming fall, these memories of my childhood have been on the forefront. I guess the reason I write this is twofold: Firstly, for the parents: Stop creating stress for your children with your anti-masking stance. Stop confusing mask wearing with an infringement on your rights. Change your mind set about YOUR rights. Having rights comes with responsibility to YOUR community. I understand your distrust with the government, but this pandemic has NOTHING to do with politics. Our government is not attempting to manipulate you. Continuing the anti-vax, anti-mask stance makes you out to be a whiner. Pick your battles. Be an activist in a fight that is worthy (environmental, poverty, healthcare, taxes… there are so many), instead of this self-entitled, fear of vaccine/disbelief of the seriousness of Covid. You look foolish. Variants don’t care about your opinion. Is this the lesson you want to teach your children? You are adding to their fear and confusion. Your children have no problems with wearing a mask, in fact, some of them may prefer it. It may even help them concentrate on their studies instead of worrying about what others think of them. All for one, one for all.
Secondly, for the kids: The United States of America was created to insure the people have a right to their own opinions, ideas, and lifestyle. You have won the geographical lottery to be living in this great country. But be sure your principles, beliefs, rights are on the right side of history. We all know that wearing a mask is uncomfortable, but it is the right thing to do to destroy a virus, which will continue to replicate and become stronger, unless society uses its tools to combat it. Your mask is your weapon. Also, for the kids who are struggling with their self-esteem, remember to love who you are, flaws and all, and know that everyone has them. Remain aware that your looks will change as you grow. Keep in mind that nobody is scrutinizing you as closely as you criticize yourself. They, too, are all wrapped up in their own insecurities. You will always appear stronger when you are open minded, kind and accepting rather than bullying and judgmental.
Remembering Without Knowing Irvin Pharris
Tears well up while polishing dry crackled wood on a magazine rack built by a grandfather I never knew. How can this inanimate object built over 70 years ago effect my emotions this way?
Though I never witnessed his wrinkled brow in concentration while whittling, sawing or hammering, I do know he was a serious and solitary man who had creative talents in carpentry. I know that he was a man who loved his daughter, my mother.
This wonderful piece of wood was constructed with patience and caring. Was it his hope to please my grandmother Evelyn, who was never happy? Or did he need to escape from her to his workshop, to keep his sanity while she was on the verge of loosing hers? Evelyn married a man 20 years older, a railroad man. He was away a lot. She berated him often. She complained and was unkind to him. My mother shared stories about her childhood, raised under her mothers ridicule, a frightened little girl in an unhappy home hearing her parents fighting, and the loss of a daddy who was dear to her. He died in his 50s from complications of a stomach ulcer. Evelyn had an affair with his coworker who drove her to the Railroad Hospital in Chicago where he was dying. I only found this out recently, but I am not surprised. Evelyn was cold. She was never grandmotherly. I suspect she had a personality disorder but the family never discussed that, and that is another story.
Wiping wood cleanser on it’s ancient varnish to bring back its luster also brings back my own childhood. My earliest memories are of playing on the floor near this magazine rack, hiding my stuffed animals inside or using its wooden platform for my Barbie dolls to stand against, it was the perfect size for Barbie feet. However, as I approached my teens, I rebelled against it, mad that my mom insisted my sister and I dust all its crevices, along with all the other furniture, every Saturday.
Thinking about my mothers’ deep sadness makes me cry. She is gone now too. All I want to do today is call her, talk to her. I want to tell her again how blessed I am to have been nourished by her love. I want to hear her kindness flow over me and hear our laughing together while we share every little thing about our lives. I want to ask more questions about her daddy, which she referred to him as with a faraway look of longing in her eyes. I wish I had realized the significance of her sharing those stories when I was younger. I failed to grasp the hurt she endured since my own childhood and our family life was very happy.
This magazine rack is a root to our connection that I keep in a safe place in my home. I keep my mom and her memories of my grandfather alive in my heart. This piece, as well as two chairs he built, are the only things that I have from a grandfather I never met. That, and the knowledge that my mother loved him so he must have been a good man. These pieces of wood created under times of hardship, furniture unknowingly left by him, are somehow a legacy of love to a granddaughter he never knew.
To Be Two
To be two is to be
Belly laughs are heard
Fascinated and fun.
Learning concepts and words
Eyes and ears alert
About all things near
Cuddly and kind
Tight body hugs of cheer
Soft and sweet
Nibbles of neck and feet
Giggly and squirmy
I will hold this innocent age in my heart
(05/03/2017) Silas turns two today! I want to grasp his sweetness before he goes full-force into the “terrible two” stage.
Save The Polar Bears
- After a weekend spent with my grandsons on a trip to the St. Louis zoo my heart is breaking for all animals that will soon be extinct, and especially the polar bear. I have been to the zoo on many occasions in and of course I have enjoyed the levity and laughter while watching the antics of the apes, the entertaining sea lions, I and have been amazed and awed by the beauty of big cats. However, yesterday, sharing our greatest creatures ever to walk this exquisite earth with the three little boys dearest to my heart while knowing that there is a distinct probability that every animal cherished in their favorite books will be extinct in 50 years has saddened my spirit. I was obsessed with animals when I was a child. All animals, large and small, hoofed or padded, ferocious or domestic, I loved them all. I can remember decorating my bedroom with posters of polar bear babies, frolicking sea lions, puppies and kittens as a preteen. My goal my freshman year of high school was to become a veterinarian and I was a member of the veterinarian club. We had field trips to the zoo, where I wanted to work. I would have done any job there, even cleaning the manure, just so that I could be close to the animals. But my sophomore year I started running with a different group of friends and my personality changed. I guess you could say I lost myself somewhat, I stopped listening to my own voice, and instead attempted to become more instep with others. I have had many passions and ideas that I have not followed through on in my life, regretfully. However that is another story in itself.
Looking at a beautiful polar bear laying in the dirt, panting heavily while trying to stay cool, was heart wrenching. He was asleep up against the glass while we all stared at him. I could hear all the usual comments around me, all the usual exclamations about how big his paws were. Or how cute. Children would ask questions like why doesn’t he play. All I could angrily think about was how uncomfortable he seemed. Where was his glacier!? How can he survive in the St. Louis climate in the summertime? And what about the other polar bears in the Arctic who are suffering because of global warming. The only thing separating me from that incredible bear was a 2 inch thick pane of glass and decades of my ignorance. I have let the years of my life swallow up my desire to help animals. In the noisy daily trappings of my daily duties I have forgotten the silent ones. I have guiltily cast aside the Endangered Species list and replaced it with a To Do list. Ironically, that To Do list makes me feel like a caged animal. You know, that proverbial hamster on a wheel in a cage constantly running, doing, going…. nowhere.
Later that night when I tried to fall asleep all I could think of were my grandchildren and how the world is changing so fast, and I wondered how my grandchildren’s children would see their world. Will they grow up to have an appreciation for nature and for all things great and small? Would they have trees to climb in and fresh water to drink? Will there still be animals left on the earth roaming freely in their natural environment?
The next morning, my oldest grandson Dylan, 11, who has always been an insightful boy and is now becoming a deep thinker, shared some of his thoughts about planet earth and its relationship to the universe and solar system, and somehow that led to the conversation of Isis and terrorism. He even told me about ‘Anonymous’ that group of activists/hacktivists. While I have heard about that group, he knew more about it than I did! We shared our sadness about the near extinction of some of the animals that we saw at the zoo. His soulful brown eyes told me how upsetting it is for him. Dylan is my nature boy, my creative grandson who looks at the world and constantly reminds me about the importance of kindness, peace and understanding others He wanted me to watch some of his favorite YouTube videos with him. He immediately pulled up Prince Ea’s powerful political and important philosophies Regarding saving the earth and animals. I was in near tears while watching this incredible man espouse his opinions regarding these issues on which I used to have so much more passion about. I need to rectify that.
Dylan is Double Digits!
At this milestone birthday I want to wish for you a huge birthday wish for many, many, many more happy days in your childhood. You are 10!! Ten seems like you are growing up so fast, but I am here to remind us all that you are STILL a young boy. That is GREAT!!!.
You still have so much more of your childhood left Dylan so enjoy playing with all your friends. Enjoy all the silly goofing off and clowning around that only a child can get away with! Enjoy make-believe and pretending! Enjoy digging in the dirt and exploring. Enjoy your Army men and Minecraft. You have a great life and are surrounded by love which is reflected in the goodness of your heart and the sweetness of your personality.
I will enjoy introducing you to more and more of the world (and books) and answering your inquisitive questions. I am so proud of the capacity of your brain inside that cranium of yours Dylan! Like a sponge it soaks up so much every day, continually learning. Enjoy all that! Never stop observing the world, thinking and asking questions.
Do NOT worry about anything. You are 10! You are bright and smart! You know what your job is! Listening at school. Being polite to others. Looking both ways when crossing roads. Taking care of a few chores at home. Eating healthy and getting exercise every day to keep your body and brain strong and happy.
It is hard for me to express with words… but your first 10 years have spread so much laughter, love and joy to your entire family! When I think of you, it is always brings a smile to my face and it always brings a fierce feeling of pride and protection. I love everything about you Dylan.
Your #1 Fan, Grandma.
Meramec River Boys – A Sequel to Black River Boys
Meramec River Boys – A Sequel to Black River Boys
D. J. Heatherly / July 27, 2014
Happy smiles from a proud grandma greet my grandsons upon their arrival.
I hug them hello feeling tight little arms wrap around my soul.
First things first.
They remove their shoes and run inside to assess the sleeping arrangements.
Well-taught and well-mannered.
They know the rules of the Raptor as instructed by Vernon.
Dylan climbs up the loft with his pillows and his thoughts.
Devin quickly follows.
Together, they stretch out for a total of 3 minutes, planning their next move.
Zip down the ladder, zoom out the door to explore.
An old cedar swingset sits 500 yards away.
We keep them in our sights giving them their space.
Two brothers swing and giggle uninhibited.
I join them.
Fearless, Devin swings willy-nilly in an attempt to hit the swing posts.
I grab a pair of ankles to suspend Dylan in mid swing.
A tangible memory floods my senses.
A palpable push that propels me back in time.
I recall how I swung them as toddlers.
I describe the feel of their tiny backs as I gently pushed, reminding them to hold on tight, and to swing their sweet, skinny legs.
I tell them how much they liked to be swung by Grandma.
Dylan says, “Show me.”
I grab his 9 year old ankles. Stronger now, and capable of hiking, running, tree climbing, pedaling.
I grab a hold and push him back, then, I run behind him, grab the swing to delay momentum, which always made him nervously giggle when he was a tot. He roars with delight.
Love flourishes when laughter abounds.
Devin wants the same, of course, so I repeat the process.
“Again” they say in unison just as they did years ago.
Their legs are now too long for a swingset however who can resist reliving past moments?
Later, after dinner, it’s back to the old swingset again.
Perched in the swing, Dylan is stretched out, laid out parallel to the ground.
“Look at the sky!” he yells with wonderment.
I look up to see a jet black night glittering with silver stars.
At that moment my sweet mom is with me.
I tell the boys my belief that stars are the energy and spirit of good people who have left this earth.
“Yes. I know.” Dylan says. “My grandma Jean is up there. And dad’s dad, Chuck.”
I want to cry. Instead I smile and hug him and Devin tight.
Early morning awakens us. We eagerly prepare for a 6-mile float.
Skin slathered with SPF. Skulls protected with bandanas.
A school bus like none they have ever ridden awaits us.
Loaded with coolers full of beer. And adults full of excitement.
Cracked windows with a solitary spider hanging on for dear life on a web.
Blows into the bus as the bus driver picks up speed careening around a corner.
I scream as Bobby rescues us by closing the window.
Startled by a loud pop, we all jump in our seats!
Dylan’s window has been hit.
Realizing it was a water balloon thrown by a random camper, we all laugh.
Except Dylan is not laughing. He barely manages a smile.
I imagine the many scenarios running through his head. All the questions he has. All the reasons. Why was it his window? All the what-ifs. He is a deep thinker.
Scramble to the raft.
Attach tubes to the raft for the kids, to which Dylan and Devin’s faces say it all before they even speak it.
Scared of snakes striking. Fear of fish biting.
“It’s an adventure” I encourage.
They bravely get in their tubes and we take off!
We move at a snail’s pace.
Dangling legs in the murky Meramec River.
Fear of unknowns’ unseen in the water.
Anxiety overwhelms Dylan.
“We are survivalists!” I tell the boys, as I get in his tube as he takes my place in the raft.
“Ahhh, this feels sooo good.” I smile. And it did, so happy to share this day with them!
In a valiant attempt later, Dylan gets back on a tube.
Trepidation of turtles. Worry about the white water.
“Lift your bottoms up.” His mom and I say together approaching faster moving “rapids” so river rocks would not bump them.
Dylan straightens his entire self out on top of the tube, elongated and nearly hyperventilating with worry.
We laughingly decide it is time to give up the tubes.
Eight people and 2 coolers in a 6-man raft.
The tubes glide empty behind us as we fill up the raft with gaity and contentment.
>Black River Boys
Black River Boys (2006)
D.J. Heatherly Hall
Prepare, pack, plan, provide
Sun, hugs, mud, bugs
Filthy fingers. Happy feelings
Finding tree stars and tree nuts
Four-wheeling to a fishing spot
Our little bit of paradise
Where the River runs shallow and secluded.
Floating in clear coolness with eyes full of brightness
Dylan’s curiosity along with Devin’s sweet smiles.
Brings contentment to the family.
Small voice questioning all around us
What are those lines?
As Dylan points to the ripples in the water
Bordering us silently, moving as we slowly glide.
What is that sound?
Listening to concealed birds screech over head.
What are those things?
Looking intently at the polished pebbles under foot.
Tiny fishes scatter in all directions
Yet, the plastic red one is continually caught
Proudly on the end of Dylan’s reel.
Canoeist’s float towards us
Small talk begins. They comment
about our boys in the River.
Devin coyly smiles at them
Dylan shyly looks away, grinning.
Canoeist’s drift lazily past us
And Dylan quietly says to me,“I did not talk”.
Heather and Bobby take a walk, take a break
Alone together to float downstream.
Dylan tells me, “I can’t see.”
“See what?” I ask.
“My best friends” he says in his small voice.
He misses his mom and dad.
They are his world.
Minutes later he sees them floating towards us
he points at them excitedly with his whole self smiling.
Back at our camp site quick showers
Washing away sunscreen and sweat
Primed for evenings’ bug spray and smoke
Blued-eyed dimpled Devin bounces happily in his walker
As we work our magic on the grill.
Snuggled in their tent, our boys doze off before dark.
Time for adults. Starry nights and wine lead to talk
About life, the future, and The Universe.
Rise and shine to a dewy day.
Dylan chases his early morning shadows.
While running from hand monsters.
“It’s getting me, it’s getting me.”
Giggling all the while.
Early a.m. energy and excitement.
Stooping, exploring, digging, collecting
Acorns, rocks, leaves, memories.
Arms wide with joy, high stepping and spinning.
“Whats happening to me?” Dylan laughs.
His feet, in constant motion.
Coffee savored over warmth of the fire.
Simple moments make the grandest of occasions.
Dylan’s sweet comments and Devin’s carefree smiles.
Our Black River Boys.
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