Dusty Old Things

He found an old beat up cardboard box.

He had not seen it for many years.

His heart was beating fast with anticipation.

He opened the lid ready to search the treasures inside.

Scraps from his life from over fifty years ago.

A photograph of cherished Grandparents, old and faded.

A  written note of thanks, for what he could not remember.

A story written in a childish hand.

A program from his High School Graduation along with the Valedictorian speech he delivered.

He turned each photograph and page in wonder.

Scenes of this past life played upon his mind.

He could see the road his life had taken.

He could see that road was not the road he had planned.

He could not really know what road He would have taken.

He sometimes felt that road was wrong.

But he pressed on.

There were no detours no place to turn around.

There were many cross roads, and many places to choose which way to go.

Each choice was progress.

Some roads led to sorrow and pain.

Even those road eventually lead to sunshine.

As he pondered on these thoughts he looked across the room at his wife.

The wife he found only a few years ago.

The wife who accepted him the way he was.

Who as they grew together their love grew also.

He could not imagine his life without her.

He knew they would finish out this life together.

He was grateful for the roads that had brought them together.

 

 

Cox Cousins

Growing up with mainly cousins around. Even when I started school my main playmates were my cousins. Phyllis was two years older, Charlotte was one year older and Nellie was one year younger. We played with our dolls and with our paper dolls. We played hopscotch,  jump rope, and jacks.

Aunt Wanda organized 4H groups. We learned to sew and cook. We went to 4H Camp at Duck Creek up on Cedar Mountain. Aunt Wanda really was an amazing organizer.

We begged our Mothers to let us sell lemonade or homemade root beer. But of course the big entrepreneurial profits did not materialize. Aunt Wanda did not supply the needed ingredients without requiring us to pay for them out of our proceeds. Early lessons in deficit spending.

We would walk to the downtown area to go to the Saturday Matinee or the library. Or if we had a little money we would walk downtown to the 5 & Dime or Woolworth’s.

Since we lived on the edge of town sometimes we would pack a small lunch and go for a hike in the hills west of town.

We would go en mass trick or treating on Halloween. The elementary school we attended was on the same block as the Jr. High and High School so once again we would all walk en mass to school.

As we grew older we would organize summer story times with the younger neighborhood children. We would play games with them and have snacks.

In the evenings we would have neighborhood games, “kick the can” and “war” Our large front porch was usually the safe zone. Since we lived on a dead end street we could play baseball and other street games.

Many summer evenings were spent with “sleeping out” parties. Our street was really on the edge of town, with very little traffic and few street lights, we could see all the stars. It was always surprising to me how it could be so hot during the day and then by morning we would be freezing and anxious to get back into the house and into our warm beds.

One of our neighbors had a movie camera and projector. A few times he would set up a screen outside and we would all gather and watch home movies and sometimes “real” movies and cartoons. That was a real treat.

In the winter if there was a good snow there would be winter games. We lived near a street that had a long hill and sledding was wonderful if the snow was packed enough and not too many rocks. Sometimes we could talk our parents into taking us up the canyon to take advantage of the snow and hills. Sleds and inner tubes were highly prized.

As we grew older and our various interests changed and our circle of friends grew, we became less dependent on each other for companionship. Phyllis and Charlotte graduated from High School and went on to College. By then we were traveling in different circles. A boy I dated few times ended up marrying my cousin Charlotte. They have had a wonderful life together.

We have all taken different roads. Our childhood homes are all gone. Even the street we lived and played on is gone, turned into a parking lot. Now when ever I go back to that place I can still hear the voices and see the images of kids and families, fun and laughter, angry words and tears. All a part of the world of growing up and forming our lives. All the “Adults” in our lives have gone to join their Father in Heaven. Even some of our siblings have moved on. We still see and visit with each other on special occasions but those are few and far between. It is strange how some families remain so close and others kind of drift apart. When we do see each other our talks are mostly about the “Olden Days” the days when we were young and free from the earthly cares that weigh us down today. Maybe that is the way it should be. Enjoy our shared memories, our laughs and the fun times. Times when the future was bright and we loved each day and each other.

Growing Up With Mother

It was a warm August afternoon. Mother was resting in her room at the back of the house. My brother and cousin John were playing in a tree just outside her window. They were trying to build a tree house. John was up in the tree and Doug was on the ground. Suddenly the small ax John was using fell and hit Doug on the head. OOOOW! “John hit me with the ax”! Doug is running and screaming in the back door, blood running down his head. Mother is roused from her sickbed and meets him at the back door. A run to the emergency room is needed. Mother can not drive. Aunt Wanda is pressed into service. Doug comes home with stitches in his head. A badge of honor. No real damage done. Head wounds bleed profusely. Just another summer day on “Cox Avenue”.

I grew up on a street with Aunts and Uncles and cousins. We could go to any home for comfort or help. None of the Mothers worked when I was young. My Mother started to take part time jobs about the time I was in 5th or 6th grade. Eventually she took a job at the hospital being a cook in the kitchen. So that made a change in our family. sometimes she would be gone in the morning and sometimes she would not get home until evening. In spite of that we always had wonderful meals at home and the added benefit of leftovers from the hospital. No jokes about hospital food in Cedar City, My Mother was the cook. She made everything wonderful.

Mother spent most of her growing up years in Pocatello, Idaho.  She came from a large family. Her Father died when she was 17 and she dropped out of High School to work and help support the family. One of her older brothers was killed in an automobile accident also.These events left a mark of sadness in my Mothers life. She had many friends in Pocatello and as we made our regular trips North to visit Grandma and the Idaho Aunts and Uncles, Mothers ‘girlfriends’ would be visited also. We considered them as much a part of the family as anyone else.

Mother would tell me about when she was a young girl and hurrying home from school and going to the neighbors who might have a little baby and begging to take the baby for a walk. I am sure these young Mothers loved having a little break. Mother always loved our little babies.

Mother was beautiful seamstress. There were always new dresses for Easter and Christmas and the start of school. I was a willing learner and anxious to start my own creations. By the time I was in High School I was sewing most of my own dresses. We had to wear dresses to school then. Pants were not allowed.

Mother was a wonderful cook and she could make a wonderful meal out of almost anything. We would wake up to the smell of new baked bread and pancakes for breakfast. Mother would be singing in the kitchen and we were dressed and off to school with warm clean cloths and a full tummy. When I was in grade school we had time to come home for lunch. School lunch was for the bus kids not the city kids. Once in a while I was allowed to stay for school lunch but it was always kind of a disappointment. Nobody could cook as well as my Mother.

What are some of the legacies from my Mother?

Because of my Mother, I too can make a wonderful meal. I can sew. I have learned the sweet peace of a testimony. I had before me the excellent example of how a husband and wife should love and cherish one another. That one took a couple of tries to get right. I am contented that my Mother could know that I had finally achieved that in my own marriage.

There are times I find myself sighing. Each time I heard my Mother and Mothers sisters “sigh”, my sisters and I would joke that we inherited the “Sorensen sigh”.

Mother was several inches shorter than me, my body shape is more like my Fathers, but when I look at my hands sometimes I can see my Mothers hands. Hands that cooked and cleaned, washed and ironed. Comforted and scolded. Played and prayed.

She never had the opportunity to play the piano or any other instrument but she loved music and tried to get us girls to learn the piano or violin. I tried both at different times but both eluded me. At least I can play the piano a little bit and I have a great respect for anyone that can play the violin with proficiency.

I feel Mothers presence when I go to the temple. She and Dad spent many years as temple workers and patrons. I can see in my minds eye as they are participating together, dressed in white, close to the spirit and Heavenly Father.

Other times I hear a soft reproach in my head, Mother is exasperated with me, I had better straighten up. “Oh Barbara!”, “Sigh!”

What’s in a Name?

My Mother and Father named me Barbara. I do not know why. I asked my Mother once and she really did not tell me. My Husband said I should say I was named after Barbara Stanwyck. I really do not know. I think my Mother just liked the name. I did want to be an actress and I have done some acting on the stage in High School and The Utah Shakespearean Festival and College.

Growing up I was the only girl I knew with the name of Barbara. I was taller than almost any of the other girls and boys in grade school. When we transitioned to Jr. High there was another girl named Barbara. She was also tall. Humm, that was kind of strange. Maybe in order to be a Barbara you had to be tall. For some reason I did not like her.

Nicknames: Barb, Babs and Bobalink. Almost everyone called me Barb. My sister sometimes calls me Babs and the man who lived across the street from us sometimes called me Bobalink. I liked that one the best.

Then there is always the name your Mother calls you when she is exasperated with you, “Oh Barbara”! each letter exaggerated. Funny thing I do the same thing with my kids. They even make a game out of it, trying to get me to use my  best Grandma voice.

As I have reached adulthood I have discovered more women named Barbara, and come to think of it all most of us are on the tall side. Humm, Barbara = Tall.

According to Wikipidia the origin of the name Barbara could be Greek, and the meaning is: stranger, foreigner or traveler from a foreign land.

Now that is interesting, I always felt like a stranger in many situations. I have had people tell me that I am a very strange person. Well I always wanted to travel and “far away places with strange sounding names” sound very exciting. I think I will embrace that idea and go on an explore.

Blessings

He came to me in my time of need

He gently asked if I needed him.

I looked at him in wonder,

How did he know I was feeling afraid?

He laid his hands upon my head

With Power and Authority

He blessed and calmed my spirit and gladdened my heart.

I felt his love,

I felt his spirit and his Priesthood power.

 

 

 

 

The Heroes in My Life

When I was young, Superman was my Hero. I loved reading Superman comics. My favorite Saturday matinee serials were Captain Video, Tarzan and Prince Valiant. Strong tall handsome men. Smart, honest, moral men fighting for truth and justice.

When I was about 10 or 11, Roger Maris and Micky Mantel and the New York Yankees were my heroes.  Cary Grant, Gary Cooper, John Wayne filled the movie screens. I was a dreamer and a romantic. I dreamed of being carried away or being rescued by a tall handsome hero.

Rescued from what? Saved from what? It didn’t matter, I just knew that if I was ever in peril one of these Heroes would be there to save me.

Then I became what some might call an Adult. Meaning I was over 21. I made some questionable decisions and some good one’s. We all do. I got married and had children. But the white picket fence and perfect home were not part of the picture. My “Hero” was still a part of my fantasies.

After two husbands and spending the most of my adult life as a single parent, I once again took the leap and married for the third time. This time the compatibility factor was much stronger. We liked each other right away. We were comfortable together. We both had somewhat broken lives. Our pieces fit together and filled up our empty spaces. As we shared our lives together I began to realize that Heroes can come in all kinds of packages. Sometimes they are large and bold on a movie screen. Or leap off the page of a book into your heart. Or they can sit with you at night and watch TV and laugh and cry at the commercials. Share their own joys and sorrows with you and listen while you pour out your secret longings.

My truest Hero came quietly and entered my life in an unlikely way. But when he kissed me for the first time I knew that Superman had come to life in this man’s body. James Hoag is the one and only true Hero that I will ever need.

To Do Or Not To Do, That Is The Question

I have always been pretty impulsive. I am not one to study and evaluate a situation. I mostly just plunge right in. Full steam ahead, Taking that kind of approach can get you into trouble. But it can also lead to great adventures.

During the summer of 1966 I was working in Zion National Park, in the snack shop. My friend Tauna Lyman was working as a waitress. We spent many of our off hours talking about school and what we wanted. Neither one of us really wanted to continue in College. We felt that we were spinning our wheels. What was college doing for us? I felt that continuing in school would not do anything for me that just getting a good job could not. I thought all I needed was a change of scene and new opportunities. I felt stifled in Cedar City. I wanted new horizons.

We had worked the previous year with two brothers from California. Tauna really liked one of them. He was now on a mission and would be home the next year. She had been writing to him and she wanted to go to California so she could be there when he came home.

The decision to go to California was made. She contacted his Mother, Mrs. DeGraw and she agreed to let us stay at her home until we could find jobs and an apartment. I was along for the ride. Tauna came to my house to live after school started for a couple of months and then she left to go live with her sister. We had made plans to leave after Christmas 1966. Tauna was gone and I continued on with our plans.

I am sure my parents thought I would abandon this crazy plan. But they did not really try to change my mind. I think they were of the opinion that I needed to make my own choices and suffer the consequences. We thought it would be romantic to take the train and then we could take more luggage. We would need things to help set up an apartment. I purchased two tickets for three days before New Years Eve. I was starting to get a little antsy because I had not heard from Tauna for several weeks. But she did show up just before time to go.

In order to get the train we had to go to Minersville which is northwest of Cedar about 40 miles. The train was scheduled for 11pm. My Dad drove us to Minersville. Remember this was the  middle of winter. When we got there we discovered that the train would be late, hours late. Too late to go back home and then come back. Dad unloaded our luggage and left. There we were in a very small train station which was not very warm in a very small town, where there was nothing open, and it started to snow, hard.

Somehow we managed to wait and the train finally came and we were on our way. It was still very dark but I was mesmerized by the silent night. At some point I saw a Christmas tree all lite up out in the middle of a field. The train stopped in Las Vegas. Then we continued on toward California.

Mrs. DeGraw and her son Danny met us at the train station and we were in sunny California. She was so kind to us. In looking back we were really asking a lot of her. She was a widow supporting her son on a mission and here come two silly girls from Utah. I don’t know if she was really aware that Tauna was hoping to marry her son. She drove us around and Danny seemed to like spending time with us. Since it was New Years Eve we went to a Singles party at the Stake house. I was beginning to realize it was not going to be as easy as we thought to get around. Neither one of us had a car and public transportation was not very good.

We finally found a furnished apartment, but it was not as easy to find a job as we thought. It was not as easy to go to Church on Sunday ether. We had to depend on Mrs. DeGraw to take us everywhere.

I finally found a job with a pharmaceutical shipping warehouse. I stood at a long tub pulling IBM punch cards that represented drug orders for hospitals and pharmacy’s. One of the girls lived close to me and offered to be my transportation to work and back. Another one of the girls offered to introduce me to her boyfriends brother. He had a masters degree in accounting from UCLA and had a real job. I thought all my dreams had come true.

His name was Wes Harder, He was tall, dark and handsome. I thought I had hit the jackpot. He liked me right away. Work was going well, I had a very attentive boyfriend and I was in California.

But all fairy tails have to come to an end. The rest of the story is not always happy. Life gets in the way. I found myself drifting away from the Church. Wes was not interested in being a Mormon, and since I didn’t have my own transportation it was hard to get to meetings on my own. He asked me to marry him and then it seemed that he started pulling away. He started talking about how HE wanted to move to upstate California and HE wanted to do this and HE wanted to do that. But somehow it seemed to me that I was not included in his plans. I got my feelings hurt.

Tauna and I had a big fight and I moved out and got my own place. We lost touch. I finally heard that she married Danny DeGraw. I broke it off with Wes and called my parents and moved back to Utah.

As I look back on those years I realize that going to California and the decisions I made there have colored my life forever. I had drifted away from the gospel. I tried to hold on but I was really not fully engaged. It was not until I met and married Jim that together we have been able to work on our relationship with our Heavenly Father. Together we have strengthened our testimonies and understanding of our purpose here. Unfortunately our families have suffered. But isn’t that the part of why we are here? To make mistakes and learn and repent and make more mistakes and repent and strive to do better? I learned a lot from my wild child years. I am grateful for the opportunity.

 

The Thing About Fear

The thing about fear is a person doesn’t usually set out to be afraid. It creeps up on you. There are times you know that some situations can cause you to be afraid. Going to an amusement park and riding on the Merry-Go-Round most likely would cause very little anxiety.  The Ferris Wheel on the other hand is really just a Merry-Go-Round turned on it’s side. Feet dangling down, seat swaying back and forth, going up backwards and then it stops just as you are right at the very top. Very high above the ground. You can’t see any other riders ahead of you. If you try to look down any little movement sets the seat swinging back and forth. You realize you left your stomach on the ground, somewhere far below.

Then there are the roller coasters. No one forces you to take that journey. We line up like puppets and wait sometimes for an hour or more just to climb into a small little contraption into which we are strapped and trapped for a three minute ride that jerks and bumps along a rickety track. Going up and up and up and you know that the higher you go the farther you are going to fall.

This brings me to Las Vegas. My daughter Rebecca and I were in Las Vegas for a few days and she said “let’s go ride the roller coaster at New York New York”. This is one of those rides that runs outside the building it twists and turns and goes upside down. I was feeling adventuresome. As we walked up to the top there were very few people. Then we turned the corner. Oops, there are the people. The line was very long. We had to stand in line quite awhile before it was our turn. Rebecca wanted to be in the very first car. Then we were in and then we were moving. Going up slowly. I was braced for the big fall but, no, not this time. I relaxed a bit but it was too soon. Suddenly we were upside down doing loop de loops. I was screaming and hiding my face and then it was over and Rebecca turns to me and says “want to go again?” Big Grin.

You feel like you are going to die, because this car is going to run off the track and you will end up in a heap on Las Vegas Blvd. The morning headlines will read “Mother and Daughter killed when roller coaster car crashes onto Las Vegas Blvd.” But you don’t die, this time, and the urge to try another roller coaster is still there.

The thing about fear is you can let it paralyze you or you can face it. There are things in this life that take much more courage to face than a roller coaster. If you can conquer the roller coaster you can conquer other challenges as well.

 

Dad

All she could see was the back of his legs as he leaned into the trunk of his car.

She could tell that he was tall, his legs were so long.

She thought he must be a fine man.

Then he turned around to greet them.

His smile was broad and welcoming.

She was about 5’6″ he was 6’4″.

They were young and handsome.

He was just returning from a two year mission, she was visiting her sister in Cedar City, Utah.

He talked her into staying a few more days before returning to her home in Pocatello, Idaho.

He took her fishing and dancing. They laughed and talked. It was early spring. He loved her right away.

By the end of October he was in Pocatello standing in her mother’s home claiming his bride.

A journey back to Cedar City to be sealed in the St. George Temple a week later.

They settled into their lives together. He went to work for the Power Company. His first day of work was December 7th, 1941.

By July of 1942 a daughter joined their family. The next year another daughter came along. By the time their son was due to be born she had moved back to Pocatello because he had been drafted into the Army Air Corp and was stationed in Colorado. It was there in Pocatello, that their son joined the family. A short tour in the Philippians took him away from his young family.

Then home he came safe and sound, the sounds of war were over.

Soon another daughter, Me! came to join this little family. Three years later another son came and their family was complete. They settled in on 9th West, surrounded by Aunts, Uncles and cousins. It takes a whole neighborhood to raise children.

Work at the Power Company continued. He was very personable. He knew everyone in Iron County and all the surrounding Counties. He joined the Lions Club and served a couple of times as President.

He was a Bishop for 9 years. He loved to hunt and fish. He loved Southern Utah and saw its beauty everywhere. He learned to write poetry and he loved the gospel. Often he would get up early and bring home a mess of mountain trout for dinner. There was always venison in the freezer. Sometimes there would be a bunch of asparagus he had gathered on one of his trips to “Dixie”. He would come home in the middle of the day on a hot summer day and say “Who wants to go to “Dixie”. Any child within ear shot was ready and willing. We knew an ice cream would be a reward for the trip. We loved going with Dad, there would be stories and songs and poems. Some of our favorites were ‘The Cremation of Sam McGee’, The ‘Strawberry Roan’, ‘Peter Rabbit’, and anything we wanted to talk about. He would tell us about the mountains and the valleys and about how his Grandfathers came to this country and joined the Church.

He was always front and center at our school productions. It was hard to keep a straight face and do your part with him sitting on the front row grinning up at you. I never had to beg my parents to attend any program I was in.

We always knew Mom and Dad loved each other. I rarely heard them disagree. She would be busy in the kitchen and he would sneak in and grab her and she would squeal and then he would hug her and give her a big kiss. Surprise gifts would appear under her pillow for no reason. He loved surprises. Mom and Dad served three missions. They gathered friends everywhere they went. He was kind and patient, he did not judge or ridicule.

One day in early February 1999, they went to a funeral at their ward house. They had just returned home. Mom was preparing some lunch. They were talking to a grandson who lived with them while attending BYU. Dad sat down to watch the news. Next thing they knew he was on the floor. EMT’s were called. It was too late. Massive heart attack.

We were not ready. There was a big hole in our family. Our consolation was our knowledge and faith in Jesus Christ and his saving grace. We knew we would be with him again. Mother missed him so much. Now she is again with him. We miss them both but we know they are happy to be together again.

 

 

 

 

 

Prizes and Awards

When it comes to winning awards or prizes I would try but some how I never really seemed to understand the game.

When I was a kid in Cedar City, Utah in the 1950′s the one and only movie theater would sponsor contests along with the Saturday Matinee. One contest was to gather as many bottle tops and milk cartons from Meadow Gold milk. The prize was a brand new bike. Another time the big prize was a giant Sugar daddy bar. I loved Sugar Daddies. I always got a bag of popcorn and a sugar daddy when I went to the afternoon show.

So I had to get to work. Right away I realized this was not going to be easy. My Mother did not buy Meadow Gold Milk. She got her milk from a local farmer in two quart canning jars that were washed and reused. Most of the families on our little street did the same. I would have to appeal to other neighbors out side our little neighborhood. Also I was not the only kid in town.

On the appointed day we gathered with our collected bottle tops and smashed cartons. I thought I had a good number. Hopes were high. We watched the cartoons and the serial. Captain Video was in his usual cliffhanger. The feature film was about to start. Still no announcement. About half way through the movie the house lights came up and Mr. Yergensen, the theater owner, rolled a shinny new bike to the front of the theater. He thanked everyone for entering and that the winner had turned in hundreds of bottle caps and cartons.

Right then I knew I had never been in the game. I probably had less than a hundred items to offer.

So I learned any contest where you have to gather the most items of anything I would never win. Any contest where you had to perform some skill better than anyone else I was never going to win.

The best prize I ever won was the one I did not even know I was in a contest for.

I was in ninth grade it was close to the end of the school year. The principle Mr. Miles, came into our Home Economics class and announced that one of our class member’s had been awarded “The Crisco Award for Outstanding Student in Home Economics” and would Barbara Cox please come to the front of the class.

Me! I didn’t even know there was such an award. How did I qualify? What was outstanding about me? Later I realized my teacher must have sent my qualifications for the award. I guess the biggest reward was realizing that my teacher who I admired thought enough of me and my abilities that she recommended me for recognition.

And that was the best reward of all.