To the Republic

With a puzzled look on his face, Justin, a sandy-colored hair cutie, asked, “How do people say the pledge in other towns?”

Like typical, I sought for clarification. “In what way would someone in a different town say the pledge, Justin?”

“Well, we say ‘to the Republic’ for which it stands because we live in Republic,” he muttered.

“Let me explain why “to the Republic” is for the whole country,” I replied, placing my arm around his shoulders (and giving the gigglers of the group my “hush look”).

Justin was a proud 2nd grade Republic Tiger in Republic, Missouri. Me? I was a proud mom and teacher. This was my 5th year teaching and I was feeling more settled in my roles.

“Hurry up and draw the stick Mrs. Snook!” Oh boy! The lucky one would be our pledge leader as we joined the entire school body for the morning pledge (heard over a loud intercom). Echoes of the voices in nearby classes would be heard. This morning routine continued in my career for many years.

Typical days in the classroom, immediately following the pledge, would begin with a morning message on the board (“Wheel of Fortune” style). Hands would go up to guess the letters to reveal my message of what they would learn that day (objectives in my paragraph form). For at least seven years this strategy worked in teaching kids the parts of a letter, the spelling of greetings and endings (back in the days of spelling instruction and actual letter writing), and most importantly, my love for them (“I love you” was always my closing).

Proudly during the course of a day I’d present lessons of our history. It wasn’t just the good stuff. And I’d share of its people and its grandeur (and I was young; barely had I experienced all the beauty and wonder I’d later enjoy). Later in my career, I could share stories of visiting many beautiful and wonderful states. Rubbing my curiosity off on the kids (not germs) was a daily goal; especially with knock-your-socks-off science experiments. We read as if our lives depended on it-and soaked in books all around! I’d encourage questioning, researching, and awareness. The days would end with class meetings to confirm our collaboration and tighten our tiny community. We didn’t have to agree or even understand what someone was sharing, but we were all respectful and active listeners (with eye contact too!).

There’s a clipping, tucked safely in my large tub of memorabilia, of an article I wrote published in the Springfield News-Leader (titled “Respect”) fall of ’97. I’m pictured kneeling on the carpet with a book in my hand, and Justin and the class scattered around me. We read and sang to the precious residents of a nearby senior center. They loved hearing the kids recite the pledge. It meant something. This was a cherished monthly event.

By the end of that school year Justin understood the words of the pledge. He continued to ask so many spectacular questions that year. He, and the others, taught me as much as I taught them about respect, community, problem-solving, understanding, hard work,…and love. Many revolutions have occurred since that year. The world keeps spinning and adding movements. I wonder what questions Justin might ask today.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Pexels.com

Have faith 💚

To Hale and Back

“Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

As I gaze at the changing elms and maples around me I am reminded of their strength.   Even with broken limbs coupled with the loss, gain, and change of leaves each season, one thing remains strong-their roots.  As do mine.   I am a Hale.    

The memories of my visits to Grandpa and Grandma Hale’s doublewide are soul-secured.   Although the distance between us was less than 20 miles it still felt like a long trek.   Enjoying the journey over the rolling hills I knew we were close when the four females would all bend briefly right with driver Dad.   It’s just ahead on the right after the grocery store.

Amidst their home were many others they sold.  The smell of each “new” one still stings my thoughts and eyes (ah, the smell of the formaldehyde)!  Alas, I’ve discovered my first love of trailers!

The gas station sat next door.  Grandpa delivered propane and proudly wore his uniform (he had his name on it~I wanted one too). Grandma was the cashier.   How lucky were my sisters and I to “run” a register?  Even more fun was pecking the business calculator (note: even when my own two were young they loved playing with this. Although Grandma didn’t like having to replace the paper all the time).   One-time Grandpa didn’t seem so happy about us girls “helping” in the station.  We took our grape Nehi’s and scurried out (or did Grandpa escort us?). 

When the family would gather a crew of cousins would mob the chow table. If it were a Sunday night us kids would hit the floor in time to hear the beginning of “The Wonderful World of Disney”!   If lucky enough, I caught “Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom” before it.

The spare room kept us kids when the parents needed to get away.  There were times we got “caught” going through Grandma’s scarves and shoes.   But I loved most the signet ring Grandpa wore.  Adoringly we called it his “bubblegum” ring (don’t ask me why we named it that).  They had the perfect snow hill. Grandma would throw our wet clothes in the dryer, just like Mom did, so we could warm up quickly and return to the drop.

Once we were painting our nails (a very rare thing for me)

“Don’t get nail polish on my leather divan,” Grandma ordered.  Well… it happened.

“Which one of you did it?”

Silence.
(twins never blow the whistle on one another).

“Girls! God knows who did it even if you don’t tell me!”

One of us responded, “But he ain’t gonna tell you!”

K.L. Hale

Ouch! Sorry Grandma! “We love you!” “Isn’t it time to make homemade donuts?”  “Can I vacuum for you?” Quick diversions and hugs of remorse segue nicely into another memory making moment.

It was 1984 when they moved to OUR TOWN.  No more winding roads.  They were just around the corner from me (this time a right and then a left bend).  All I had to do was walk left to my parents.  We lived on Chrysler Street (where I grew up).  It was called the “horseshoe”.  How blessed was I that I lived in my family circle? 

Many years of Christmas breakfasts, croquet contests, garage sales, cook-outs, and table conversations were had at that house.  Grandpa would have his scanner playing (along with the baseball game on his radio) and Grandma would curl her legs like a pretzel sitting cross-legged on the couch.  Grandma always remained flexible and fashionable, Grandpa steady, hearty, and with a first-class laugh.  The two of them resembled Bonnie and Clyde in one of my favorite pictures.

My family is a forest.  Within it are so many exquisite types of trees.  Our pipeline of root systems keeps us connected.   Although sappy and alone at times we will not be uprooted.   I am a Hale.

Afterword:

 It was June of 1964 when Larry Hale (my Dad) married Darlene Wilson (my Mom).    Darlene’s sister Connie married Steve Hale in 1967.  Grandpa Hale (Gerald) was Larry’s father.  Harold Hale (Gerald’s brother) was Steve’s Dad.   Two Hale first cousins married Wilson sisters.  You should see the look on faces when the “double” cousins try to explain it.

From “A River and Honey” to “To Hale and Back” my family is my everything.  The ones we have lost are forever in our hearts and daily thoughts. The Hale’s and the Wilson’s- I am a piece of everyone of them in some way.  May my faith stay unfaltering and my roots keep me forever grounded.

K.L. Hale
In honor of Mac Davis-I’ve always loved this song.