Monday, May 19, 2008

Old Stone Farm Potluck to Remember & Celebrate Weedle

One of the traditions of Old Stone Farm was the annual gathering of all the Babbit family’s friends here for a cookout and picnic. Over time that custom was replaced by smaller gatherings throughout the year. But last fall Weedle spoke of wanting to revive the former without diminishing the latter, and having the big midsummer picnics again. This year, and with luck every year, the Caviness/Babbit family will do just that, partly in Weedle’s memory and partly just for the fun of it. Weedle’s birthday is June 25; we are planning the party for the afternoon of Saturday, June 21. The cosmos is cooperating by arranging to have the summer solstice on that very day.

It will have to be mostly potluck, but all those who knew and loved Weedle are invited to this, the first of what I hope will be many gatherings at the Old Stone Farm.

Call me at 785-594-3102 in the evenings for directions.

Thank You, Friends & Family -- by Paul Caviness

Friends, family, colleagues –

After losing Weedle, and after all the events following that, I have been shamefully slow in getting out notes of thanks. There are so many to thank. Please excuse the form letter –

It took me so long to face the task, with Weedle so much on my mind, and then so much time to write the first handful of notes, that I am resorting to a one-letter-sort-of-fits-all approach in hopes that I can be more timely in expressing my gratitude. I hope you will forgive the impersonal appearance of this note.

To all those who knew her as Weedle or Donna or Mrs. Caviness or Miss Donna or Badonna or Babe or Sissy or Mom or Grandma; to all who enjoyed or respected or admired or loved her as a friend, colleague, teacher, neighbor, relative – you enriched her life and mine, more than you know, and I thank you.

To those who helped with the ceremonies, making arrangements, providing flowers, food, anecdotes, music, readings, setting things up and putting things away, your contribution was invaluable and I thank you.

To the many - and there are hundreds, some traveling long distances to be there – who attended, participated and shared in those ceremonies, you made them a memorable, comforting, healing experience and did so much to ease the sadness, and I thank you.

To those who delivered food to my home, and offered support and companionship and counsel and help of all kinds, you are priceless and I cannot thank you enough.

To those wonderful friends - hundreds of you - who offered condolences and kind words, you brightened Weedle’s life as she touched yours, and if the occasion never arose for her to thank you for it, I thank you now for her and for myself.

Perhaps anybody who takes the time to count up all the friends, neighbors, co-workers and all whose lives touch one’s own, would be amazed at the number of people involved. I am certainly astonished at the crowds who came out to honor Weedle. Maybe teachers and children’s librarians, who influence scores or even hundreds of children each year, have an advantage in the tally, but nevertheless the extent of the circles of friends and associates who counted Weedle as one of their own has been a surprise to me.

Though Weedle’s place in each of those circles is now vacant for a time, it is an article of the personal faith that Weedle and I embrace that in the larger sense the circle remains unbroken. It is those with whose lives our lives intersect that keep it so.

And for that, I deeply and eternally thank you. Thank you all.

-- Paul

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Chimichanga Story -- by Weedle (and re-constructed by Paul)

Weedle had the rare gift of being able to turn the most inconsequential of occurrences into a hilarious story rooted in a kind of quirky wisdom. She liked to tell this one.

Weedle had finished a meal with friends at La Parilla, a Mexican restaurant in downtown Lawrence. She had an uneaten chimichanga left over, still in its paper wrapper, so she decided to take it home for lunch on another day. She put it on the roof of the car while she unlocked the door, set it on the back seat and drove off.

Somewhere on south Massachusetts St., she saw the chimichanga fly forward past her side window and roll down the street in front of her car. She was angry with herself for having driven off with the chimichanga still on the roof of the car. But then she clearly remembered putting it on the back seat. She turned around, and there was the chimichanga, right where she had left it, sitting on the back seat as properly as a paying passenger, but it was naked. The paper wrapper was gone. The wind, blowing through the open windows, had miraculously unwrapped the paper with great delicacy, without disturbing or even moving the chimichanga. Then the paper was rolled up again into the shape of the chimichanga, sucked out the window, and, rather than being drawn into the slipstream of air to fall behind the car, was somehow flung forward, to land in the street ahead of her, looking like the entire chimichanga had fallen off the roof of the car.

She marveled at this, and wondered how the laws of physics could account for the behavior of this thing. Weedle had a strong belief in an all-powerful and benevolent God, but like any person would who is as perceptive and analytical and especially irreverent as she was, Weedle found in this event not only confirmation of God’s wonderful abilities, but also affirmation that, for all His awesome powers and hardly-justifiable kindness toward humans, God also has a really wacky sense of humor.

For evidence of this, we have seen the duck-billed platypus, Marty Feldman’s eyeballs, and the portraits of Jesus (or is it Che Guevara?) scorched into the surfaces of English muffins and whole-wheat toast. Scholars and researchers will long lament the fact that the celebrated chimichanga, brushed by the hand of God, was consumed by Weedle for lunch the next day. Nevertheless, we know that the prophets walk yet among us, as long as we can still repeat Weedle’s miraculous chimichanga story.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Good Night, Weedle -- by Paul Caviness

Weedle believed that some part of her never got past being ten years old. She was fresh, brash, direct and irreverent. She was always able to see things from a child’s perspective, and to understand what goes on in a child’s mind. She loved animals – cats and big galumphy dogs, even stuffed animals.

Being ten, she connected with kids easily. Since she started as librarian at Shawanoe School, she said she had the best job in the world.

As an adult, too, she was strong, capable, diligent, organized, methodical; and she was capable of indignation when she felt ill-used. Once on a family trip we stopped at a McDonald’s in St. Louis, which had scheduled a bingo game for senior citizens to fill the slow mid-afternoon hours. They had not anticipated that players would arrive hours early to get seats, then not buy anything, displacing paying customers. Our family arrived, road-weary and hungry, got our food and like many other diners there, including a family with babies, had to sit on the ground outside, and it was cold out. The manager was not around to complain to, so Weedle picked up a comment card and filled it out, blasting the management for boneheaded handling of events. She then continued beyond the printed lines, and sustained her sense of outrage long enough to write all around the margins on both sides of the card, writing between the lines she had already written. If she could have written on the thin edges, she would have. No doubt the card was actually hot to the touch by the time she finished. It was, of course, completely illegible. But expressing her point, as opposed to actually communicating it to the manager, was sufficient. We never went back to that McDonald’s, and it was a long time before we went to any McDonald’s. We still don’t go to Wendy’s, but that’s a whole other bonehead-manager story.

But sometimes she was vulnerable and sensitive and easily hurt, and aware of slights, even if unintended. Her anger could be towering. She sometimes threw things at the wall or floor. Once in the car with Will and his friend Daniel, she got mad at Will for who knows what, and tossed a just-purchased package of expensive “Magic” role-playing game cards out the window, where they scattered all over the highway. It turns out they weren’t Will’s. Daniel stared glumly out the window all the way home. The kids tell me of another occasion when Walt, sitting at the kitchen table waiting for pie after dinner, said something or other that made Weedle mad. She flung the entire pie at his head. She missed, and the pie splattered against the wall. Much of it stuck there. Walt’s response was classic – he scraped the pie off the wall back into the pie pan, and ate it anyway.

Worse than her anger, to me, was her sadness. Her despondency would melt your heart, like that of a sorrowful child. And worse than her sadness was her hurt, when you couldn’t figure out what you had done to hurt her feelings and she refused to let you help her feel better.

She had many moods, mostly vivid, sometimes extreme and usually persistent, as if each constituted a different personality. I always envied my kids – my stepchildren – their ability to get around her dark moods and cheer her up. Kelly was a master at this.

But it was Will that gave her a nickname on account of her different personalities. H once made her mad with some forgotten offense, and Weedle just let him have it with an angry lecture that went on just a little too long. Will stood it for a while, but soon he put up his hand and said, “Okay, Mom - now let me talk to Good Donna.” It worked. In mid-tirade, she cracked up. She has been Bad Donna – Badonna – ever since.

She embraced the concept. Her online password was always Badonna. And our license plate says Badonna.

Somebody joked with her that for a person with multiple personalities, she was pretty well integrated. “Yes,” she said, “I all get along very well.”

She was devoted to her family – her families – a big one at Shawanoe School, one at Lackman Library, even the ones from years before at Marion Springs School and Topeka Public Library and Linwood Library.

But at home she wanted her family gathered close, and she would have kept them gathered close if she could but she understood that that would have kept them from doing their own gathering when the time was right. Many people never knew that she was not Kevin & Kelly’s mother but their stepmother. But along with their birth mother Cathy, she was absolutely their mom, and there was no distinction of relationship among the four kids.

She was a close, interested and involved mom. “What did you do in school today?” was not an idle question at the dinner table, and most of the time Laurel and Will eagerly told her their stories and a lively conversation followed, most always a cheerful and bright time.

On a trip to Chicago one time, as Weedle & I & Laurel & Will walked, chattering with each other, up Michigan Avenue in the ritzy shopping district there, a well-dressed lady walking our way came up beside us and said, “Excuse me, but I’ve been following you for a block and I want to tell you how nice it is to see a family enjoying each other and acting like a family.” Weedle just beamed. She wasn’t individually the glue that held the family together, but mostly because of her, we all became the glue.

Weedle was a force – Danny Bentley called her a Force of Nature – organized, hard-working, persistent, persuasive. She was determined, too – when the Vinland Fair Association had it 100th Fair last year, she pledged to bake 100 pies to be sold by the slice at the food booth, plus one to enter in competition for the Best Pie award. She asked me to put our little air conditioner in the kitchen window, and then went to work. She was practically a one-woman assembly line for three or four long summer days, cranking out cheery pies, peach, apple, mixed fruit and strawberry-rhubarb pies, 15 or 20 a day. Eventually the ladies running the food booth asked her to stop because they wouldn’t be able to sell all those pies before the end of the fair. The final count was 63 pies, plus her entry. And that one took the Blue Ribbon.

About a year ago, Weedle told me about a dream she had the night before, in which she died. She was eager to tell me about it – she was excited and happy about it. In her dream, she was walking along the top of a bluff overlooking the sea. She was carrying a basket filled with work to do – projects, tasks, lists of items to take care of, checklists.

It was a pretty day, and the sea was beautiful, and the waves were lapping at the rocks below.

Somehow she fell off the cliff, and as she fell through the air, she thought, “Oh, darn, I didn’t get to finish,” then blackness.

It should have been a terrifying dream. But she told me it was a happy dream. Not a perfect ending, but a pretty good ending, quick and painless and decisive and free of fear. That’s Weedle – like a ten-year-old girl, able to look at familiar things, including fear of death, with a new and bright perspective. Death for her did not mean terror, or loss, or oblivion. Death was just another damn nuisance to get past, so you could go on.

When Laurel and Will were in their mid-teens we had a little bedtime ritual they had apparently been doing long before I joined the family. Like the Waltons on TV, we called through open doors across the dark hallway, “G’night, Laurel,” “G’night, Mom,” “G’night Will,” “G’night Laurel,” “G’night, Paul” and so on, eventually degenerating to “G’night, Jon-Boat,” “G’night, Plumb-Bob,” “G’night, Lawn-Boy.” Weedle and I whispered to each other, “G’night. I love you. Sweet dreams. See you in the morning.” Or some combination of phrases like that.

As the kids grew older and moved away, the Waltons parody disappeared, but Weedle and I always whipered to each other, “G’night. I love you. Sweet dreams. See you in the morning.” To the last night of her life.

Weedle – G’night.

I love you.

Sweet dreams.

It’s going to be a long, long, night. But when the time comes for me, I’ll see you in the morning.

Paul and Weedle -- a story and poem by Paul Caviness

When Weedle and I were dating, our dates sometimes consisted of a Saturday afternoon at her farmhouse in Vinland, with a home-cooked meal, playing a game with Laurel and Will, watching a little TV or a video, or taking a walk – just simple, homey things. Maybe Weedle was giving me a taste of family home life, something I hadn’t seen much of since I went away to school decades before.

Taking a walk was special – one time all the kids were home with their friends, and we all walked across Mr. Flory’s field – this was after the harvest – to Coal Creek, where we climbed down into the ravine. The stream was barely a trickle, and we strolled along the creekbed in changing groups, talking and laughing, and the kids were horsing around

in the water or up on the bank among the trees. The branches, nearly bare, met overhead, and we moved through the sparse web of shadows but mostly in sunlight. Weedle and I held hands. We moved downstream, and when we reached the low-sided bridge at 1750 Road we climbed out, with some difficulty, and walked on the road past the little Vinland Cemetery to home.

That was one of my favorite memories, when I realized I had been accepted as a part of this family and their circle of friends, all new to me.

Weedle and I often took a walk on part of this path – Mr. Flory’s field was usually not passable, and the creek usually filled its bed, so we stuck to the road from our house past the cemetery to the creek and back. We walked hand in hand, and various dogs swirled around us or explored ahead. Sometimes we were wrapped in the gentle silence of old friends, but mostly we talked, of our days since the last time we saw each other, of the people and things we loved, of our thoughts and dreams. One time, as we detoured through the little cemetery on our way home from the creek, we talked of our future together. I said something about making our relationship more permanent.

It was Laurel, not me or Weedle, who recognized this as a proposal. But we soon enough endorsed the idea, and we made it permanent, with family and friends joyfully attending.

We still occasionally walked up to the creek. As Weedle’s knees began to give her more trouble walking, we took the car halfway up the road and walked with the dogs the rest of the way to the bridge. Eventually we took the car all the way, and sometimes we didn’t even get out of the car but just stopped on the bridge and looked down at the water, to see how the creek was running. Every few weeks we’d take the detour, usually on the way home from town, just to see how the creek was running.

I used to write little poems to Weedle – usually just greeting-card style rhymes that I’d leave around for her to find. Or I’d write something more ambitious – sometimes downright pretentious, and embarrassingly bad – and put it in a nice card. She was very diplomatic about saying she liked them all.

After Weedle died I found one of those old poems that had since changed its meaning as time passed and events unfolded. I had written about the creek only as a creek, a place where we loved to go. But now, with Weedle gone, the creek has become a metaphor, and has a further meaning for me. This is what I wrote to her:

In our courting days, we’d take the dogs
And walk together, from your old farmhouse,
Hand in hand, step in step,
Up the narrow gravel road
By Vinland Cemetery, to the creek beyond,
To see how Coal Creek was running.
The creek runs in a shady little ravine,
Cool and sweet on a hot, hot day,
Soft and promising on a chill one,
Wind and water talking together.
The creek might run high or low or nearly dry.
We looked together from the little low-sided bridge.
The dogs ran happily down the steep bank
And chased shadows through the stream
And sniffed after absent possums and raccoons and deer.

We held hands.

Concluding that the creek was running all right,
We’d turn toward home. Tired and dripping,
The dogs walked on ahead.
We’d pause in the little cemetery on the way,
Where lie old family and neighbors long gone,
And where one day I offered to you what was in my heart.

We’ve taken this walk together for years.
The creek is running all right yet,
Your old farmhouse is our home,
And what you accepted from me years ago
Remains undiminished in my heart still.

Let us always walk together
Hand in hand, step in step,
Up the cemetery road
And to the creek beyond.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

I Wish You Enough -- by Debbie Parks

I wish you enough sun to keep your attitude bright no matter how grey the day may appear.

I wish you enough rain to appreciate the sun even more.

I wish you enough happiness to keep your spirit alive and everlasting.

I wish you enough pain so that even the smallest of joys in life may appear bigger.

I wish you enough gain to satisfy your wanting.

I wish you enough hellos to get you through the final goodbye.

They say it takes a minute to find a special person, an hour to appreciate them, an a day to love them,

but then an entire life to forget them.

In Loving Memory of


SUBMITTED BY : The Squires Kinfolk

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Remembering Weedle -- by Edie McBride

My first memory of Weedle was before she was born. My heavily pregnant mother had gone to the hospital in Orofino, Idaho for a checkup, and she was huge. The doctor did an x-ray and found TWINS. I was only 3, but remember how amazed my parents were. They already had everything ready for one baby, but two? Both of them were normal sized babies—I think Weedle was just under 7 lbs, and our brother was over 8 lbs!

Orofino was a lovely little idyllic town in North Idaho on the Clearwater River. It was in a deep valley, with hills seeming to go straight up on both sides. Many members of our mother's family lived there or nearby, and there was a warm welcome when the twins were born on June 25th, 1948.

I remember the first day Weedle walked—some weeks before our brother. She actually sort of trotted, smiling a big smile, both hands up in the air at her sides. She was so delighted with herself. To set the record straight, I gave her the name of "Weedle". Her full name was Donna Louise Montre, and her twin, our brother, was Don Lee Montre. I think some of the family called her "Weezie", and I somehow devolved that to "Weedle", and it stuck.

When the twins were 2 and I was 5, we moved to Topeka to be near my father's family. Also—I remember long monologues by our father about how dangerous it would be for us to drive the "river road" when it was time to go to college at the University at Moscow, Idaho. Talk about planning ahead! I can't remember a time when it wasn't clear to all of us that college, whatever that was, was in our future!! I used to wonder if it was something like a little "cottage", or "cottage cheese", but was too shy to ask.

We arrived in Topeka just after the big 1951 flood, and it was hard to find a place to live. We ended up in a nice older house with big shady trees and a deep porch at 2017 Lane street. Brick sidewalks, brick streets. The Baughman's ice cream wagon would come every day—pulled by a horse!—and our mother let us stand on the curb and wait for it. You could hear the bell from far away, and I remember all 3 of us on the curb, leaning forward as far as possible without toppling over, to spot it.

When we lived in that house, Weedle loved to collect locust shells in her little red wheelbarrow. It was heaping with them, and she would always say, "See how many I have?!" One time Butch, being a boy and full of mischief, dumped them out and she was heart-broken!! I remember Mama consoling her and scolding Butch. It was also in that house that once at dinner, Weedle was trying to be SO polite and grown-up and asked, "Please pass the catshit!"

We had a lot of fun at that house, even though we were only there for 2 years, I think. The yard was deep and shady, there was an alley, lots of foliage, and an old grape arbor—plenty of places for kids to play. When I was 8 and the kids were 5, we bought a new house—in a development of the type that were springing up all over the country, to accommodate veterans and their growing families. It was at 3429 Adams Street, in Highland Crest. It was just an ordinary rectangular box, but we were so excited about it! We would drive out nearly every evening to see how things were coming along. We each had our own room…the yard was a rough and bare former pasture, muddy, no grass, no trees. But we loved it. Weedle's room was pink, mine was blue, and Butch's was sort of gray.

Anyway—it was a wonderful place to live, a neighborhood FULL of kids and dogs, no fences, and a feeling that things could only get better—a time of great optimism. In the summers we roamed the block, playing soft ball, kick the can, hide and seek, statues, and a game our mother taught us called "New Orleans" where you act things out—it was our favorite. Lots of times Weedle and I would work up little "shows" (only for the family), often involving dancing and me swirling her and flinging her about—she was really tiny, and I was tall and strong.

We had a piano in that house—an old upright—and we all took lessons. Our mother played and we would sing sometimes.

We both, Weedle and I, had a lot of good memories of living in that house and neighborhood. We didn't have a dog, but we had LOTS of "friend" dogs—Pootsie and Andy, for two. They practically lived with us, and we loved them.

When the twins started first grade, it was in East Avondale Grade School, a brand-new school a few blocks from home. We were the first kids to go there, and it was new and sparkling, new desks, new everything. It was light and bright. Weedle had a hard time leaving Mama, but got over it…she was always a "homebody", I think. There were lots of activities at the school, and I remember a talent show, sponsored by the PTA. All 3 of us had songs to sing. Butch was called first, and he stood up there on the stage, about 7 years old, and sang all 14 (or however many) verses of "Davy Crocket, King of the Wild Frontier". We had the sheet music at home, and Mama would play it while we sang. When it was Weedle's turn, her selection was—guess what—the same thing! I remember hearing a murmur of adults chuckling, and kind of wondering why.

Our parents often had us "perform" at that age. Every Saturday night, our paternal grandmother, "Gim", as we called her, and her sister, "Aunt Tu", would come over to watch TV. TV was still a new thing, and Mama would prepare snacks. Sometimes we would sing or play piano before the evening of TV began. We watched "Gunsmoke", "Have Gun, Will Travel", "Your Hit Parade", "George Gobel", etc. One evening the adults were wondering why Paladin of "Have Gun, Will Travel" didn't have a first name, and Weedle piped up, "He does!" When asked what it was, she replied, "Wire". Everyone thought that was pretty funny—his business card said, "Have Gun, Will Travel, Wire Paladin, San Francisco".

When the twins were about to enter 6th grade, our father decided we should move. We bought a house on the west side of Topeka, but it might as well have been in another country. All our friends, the people and places we had grown up with, were gone, and we were in a new unfriendly land. In our "old lives" we were known for being "the smart kids", we were confident and comfortable with our social station, our mother worked at the school as a cook, and was active in PTA, Girl Scouts, etc. Suddenly we were sort of "the poor kids", and no one knew us or treated us very well. Before long, though, the twins were established again as "the smart kids". At the spelling bee at Capper Junior High when they were in 9th grade, Weedle and Butch were the last two standing on the stage…we could never remember which one of them won!

I think we remained pretty much "outsiders" all the years we lived in that house on West 15th Street…but we had each other, thank God!! We used to congregate in our brother's room, where he would play records ("Listen to this—just for a minute!"). He loved Ray Charles and so did we. Weedle and I would often dance in front of the full-length mirror on the back of Butch's door. We spent MANY hours debating what was "cool"—white socks (NEVER), madras shirts and skirts (yes), etc. We were sort of fixated on that stuff for a couple of years. Weedle and I wore each others' clothes quite a bit, and would laugh about being the cool "Montre girls". In a way, we thought we were…in another way, we KNEW we weren't! We would lie awake at night (we shared a room) and play "word games" long into the night. Our poor mother, who had to get up very early, would come and ask us to keep it quieter, and we would TRY.

One memorable evening, Weedle and I decided to make "toothpick sculptures". We spent HOURS making very intricate, elaborate structures—we even kept them in our closets for a long time. We ran out of glue, so started using airplane glue—the odor drifted through the house and our brother woke up and had a fit! Mama came into the kitchen, and exclaimed, "Toothpicks! All over the floor!". We looked around and saw maybe two, so that made us laugh even more uproariously!! That phrase, "Toothpicks! All over the floor!", became one of our little "phrases" to use over the years.

I should have mentioned that our father died when the twins were 17 and I was 20. Our family had grown into sort of an armed camp. It was pretty terrible. Our father had been in a bomber shot down over Germany in WWII, and was severely burned—his face and hands, everything not covered by his flight suit. He lost an eye and was extremely disfigured, spent nearly 2 years in an Army hospital getting skin grafts, etc. He only weight 100 lbs. when his camp was liberated, and he had been a tall man, very handsome, black hair and blue eyes. He lost his teeth, and generally starved, nearly to death. His life, of course, was never the same. We, as kids, didn't really comprehend the pressures he was under, going into the public every day, etc. I know now that he also suffered from PTSD. At any rate, as the years passed and as we got older and more independent, things got worse for him, and he sort of turned on us and there came a point of no return. Our parents had separated a few months before he died. A few days before he died I went to see him, and he begged me to intervene and ask our mother to take him back—I of course declined.

Our father's death marked an end to a certain very controlled, rigid way of living, and everything just burst loose that had been so controlled. That summer of 1966, before she left for KU and began her "new life", we just lived wild, and loved it.

I'm not saying anything much about Weedle after she left—she always said her life sort of began when she went to KU…and in many ways it did. But—she used to like to talk with me about the times "before", when we were kids and adolescents. Also, of course, both she and I shared in the ensuing years things like marriage, kids, divorce, deaths of our brother and mother, our thoughts and feelings and triumphs. She was SO HAPPY during these recent years—I am very grateful for that. And she was ALWAYS there for me—I hope I was for her too.

Our mother was in a nursing home in Olympia, WA for just a few weeks before she died of a stroke on February 15, 1997. Weedle came out here while she was still pretty much OK, and Mama asked us to sing for her. Weedle and I both used to have such high, clear soprano voices that blended seamlessly—and in that nursing home room, we sang her every song she requested. I'm so glad we had that time!

And now—I'm the last one left. It reminds me of that "Farmer in the Dell" song, where at the end, "The Cheese Stands Alone". As a child, I can remember always wanting to be "The Cheese", but now that I am, it isn't that much fun. More than ever, I look forward to joining them all.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Share Your Comments, Prayers, Stories, Wishes about Weedle/Donna

Please share whatever you wish here (see sidebar on uploading photos, videos, etc., but you can also comment below). Paul and Weedle on New Year's eve at the home of Ken Lassman & Caryn Goldberg, and some of Weedle's pies. How in the world can we go on without Weedle or her pies?

The Sacrament by Weedle Montre (Caviness)

The bowl--pale yellow outside, smooth white inside. A bowl made so the sun shines through it when I hold it up to the window. A silver spoon for stirring, simple and heavy--made to fit in my hand. A gathering of ingredients on the counter silently beckons to me: Come let the sacrament begin.

Hot, hot water, pebbles of yeast, globs of oil, silken honey, and cool, soft flour fall into the bowl one at a time. And each one works a change in the look, the texture, and the smell of the ordinary mixture. The silver spoon slips through it easily and rings against the sides of the bowl as the common ingredients begin to bond together into a fragile yet powerful union.

Out of the bowl and onto the floured board it falls and as I touch it, I feel again the wonder of this transformation. How glad I am then for strong simple hands and busy fingers who know and love the bread in a way that my mind never can, no matter how eloquently I describe it. Fold, pat, push, fold pat push, make a circle, fold up the edges and push it flat again, over and over. I hear and feel the rhythm of the kneading, and I love to change the shape again and again.

All too soon, there it is--finished--rounded, smooth, and placid on the floured counter, one final hand print on top. I plop it into the buttered bowl, cover it with a warm towel, and set it on the stove. The house is silent, except that the clock ticks, and I love the solitude.

The dough is busy on the warm over. Soon it fills the bowl and pushes the towel up. I get the bread pans ready and divide the dough, a little reluctantly, into three pieces. A few minutes later neatly folded rectangles go into loaf pans, ready for the oven.

Often in the past they all went to the woods for the afternoon and left me, most happily, to bake and cook and welcome them in from the cold to hot bread and melted butter. Sometimes I could hear the busy chain saws in the distance, the thud of logs landing in the truck bed, and the shouts and laughter carried to me on the wind.

Through all the comings and goings of the people in my life, the bread has been a constant thread, connecting me with the ones I have loved. Wiggly babies have grown into curious toddlers, busy thoughtful youngsters; hurrying hungry teenagers, and young men out on their own, all coming home to countless, crusty slices cut from steamy loaves. How I love to remember those shared experiences--Will proudly carrying his very own "little loaf" around the kitchen, Laurel carefully buttering slices "all the way to the edge, Mom", Kelly bringing his friends out to dinner ("Is there any of your bread, Mom?") and Kevin taking his sandwiches to law school every day.

And so it continues: the constant, the consecrated, the celebration, the sacrament.

Well, Well, Well Spring 1992 (transcribed by Dan Bentley). Photo at bottom shows Weedle (Donna) and twin brother, Butch (Don), on one of their joint birthdays.

Memories of My Brother by Weedle Montre (Caviness)

His bedroom was across the hall and down a bit from mine, but I could see it pretty well from the doorway of my room. It seemed smaller than mine did , maybe because it was full of all of his toys and lots of mine too, because we always played there. In my memory, the floor is still cluttered with the tin western town, the battered metal yellow dump truck, our rubber Donald Duck car, and countless Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys and plastic cowboys and Indians. We played there so many, many hours of our childhood, fashioning elaborate stories filled with unlikely heroes and villains-- our favorite rumpled bear, simply called "Teddy" , the evil "Richard", a saggy, sad-looking panda, "Martha" my tiny plastic nurse doll (really a witch in disguise), and so many other characters of all different sizes and personalities.

His room was drab. I remember even as a little girl gazing at the walls trying to decide just what color they really were - gray, brown, or a combination of both. His bed was pushed into a corner out of the way, a plain dresser beside it, with drawers that always stuck horribly. I was always glad that he had that dresser and not me. The one window in the middle of the west wall looked out into the back yard, with its sloping lawn and the houses of our friends beyond. My room across the hall was light and airy, with pale pink walls, a pretty white bed and dresser and double windows looking out on the road and nearby fields. Still, I loved his room- the coziness of it, the welcoming of it, and I remember it much better than any other room in that house.

We became teenagers, left behind the toy-scattered room, replaced with a desk, shelves, record player and old easy chairs. Our evenings then were filled with homework assignments, made bearable by the likes of Ray Charles, James Brown, Roy Orbison, and eventually the Beatles, all turned up loud enough for us to concentrate on them and our homework at the same time. Our dad always went to bed before we were ready to, and we had to turn the phonograph down so low we could hardly hear it. It seems that's when we really finished our homework.

We did finally grow up and apart, I guess, although we always tried to get together on our birthday. If we were both home, our mother still made two cakes, mine white with white frosting and coconut, and his chocolate with chocolate frosting. We talked by phone every few months, sharing our latest news and sometimes engaging in heated discussions about the state of things in general. He'd grown into a tall, kind looking man with deep-set eyes, and I was always aware of him in my life- companion of my youth, childhood and infancy. It felt good just to know that he was in the world, in my reality.

A bright snowy morning is always linked with the saddest call, that he was dead, suddenly and forever. How completely strange to know that I would never find him again in the world, no matter how far I looked.

I came home on the airplane, and my children greeted me ecstatically, overflowing with clinging touches and close, searching looks. "Will you be different now, Mommy? Will you be different?" Laurel asked, holding my face still to look into my eyes. And memories of life with my brother, all of our days together, swept over me. I knew I would never be quite the same for having lost him. But how fine it was to have known him and to have shared so much of my life with him.

When we were little and got into trouble, our mother routinely sent us to our rooms. We sat cross- legged, exactly even with our doorways (We are in our rooms, Mama!" ), whispering across the polished hallway, waiting to get back to our play. We are in our separate rooms again now, in a way, farther apart than even before we were born. Yet I do still find myself whispering to him across the gulf, and sometimes I hear him whisper excitedly back to me.

Reprinted from Well, Well, Well (transcribed by Debbie Parks)