Gran's Apple Butter Blog

February 21, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Love Letter to Gran (9I)

Filed under: Authentic self,Book Series,Books,Forgiveness,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Grandma,Love Letter to Gran — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 6:11 pm

Chapter 9 ~ Love Letter to Gran

I know you will wander and I know you will roam, but please just remember you can always come home. – Bob Sima

Just as our story opened with Gran’s letter to Mikey, it ends with Mikey’s letter to Gran.

December 28, 2009

Dear Gran,

I found our manuscript not long after you were gone. It was almost complete. I just needed to smooth things over a bit, although it took me a year to be ready to do that. Mainly I wanted to add your story, to introduce you to all my friends. And I needed to read those pages a few more times myself, to finally grasp what we were talking about so long ago.

It’s all a birthing process, isn’t it? We’re all being born again, Gran, born into who we really are. I think I know what a caterpillar feels like now, fearful as it faces death, not realizing the light and life and joy waiting on the other side with that gorgeous set of wings.

Early on I realized this wasn’t just our story, Gran. It’s a beautiful tapestry of the wisdom of friends I’ve met all around the world. Their voices rise up, blending in my mind, a light shining in their eyes that reflected the flame in mind as they shared what their own grandmothers taught them. How precious to know we all feel this longing for home. What a bridge this offers in our disconnected world.

I finally get it: We’ll keep learning about this our entire lives, redefining and reshaping our relationships, our worlds, ourselves. It’s never too late to start, and we’ll finish right on time. Like the story cousin Wayne shared about his talk with Aunt Tishie not long before she went home. She told him that somewhere just past 70, she’d realized she was ready to let go of some things she’d held on to all her life – to open her heart and eyes to seeing things in a whole new way. She understood that until then she hadn’t been capable of making that choice. She called it evolution – she had evolved.

Just like Wayne remembers her, Gran, I remember you. I have so many wonderful memories. Heading for your house, that feeling of anticipation that grew with each mile, seeing the lights as we topped the hill. Arriving late, neighbors fast asleep, one light shining softly through the living room window: Gran waiting up, listening for the car. A quiet knock, and there you’d be at the door, hair set for the night, headscarf not quite covering the bobby-pinned curls around your forehead. I can hear the quiet rasp as the door opened into your world and the smell of Gran’s house would wrap us in a blanket of home even as we stood on the doorstep.

Fuzzy robe just right for hugs, Gran’s special PJs awaiting all, and a big pot of chili simmering on the stove, waiting for our arrival. Never too tired to eat, especially not your famous chili, we’d gather in the kitchen, munching crackers from the big pink tub and dousing our bowls with vinegar. Do you know how many years it took me to learn that not everyone puts vinegar in their chili?

Sooner or later I’d find myself falling asleep on a pallet in the living room floor, listening to the big clock tick from the kitchen wall, comforting hum as the refrigerator kicked on. Belly full, blankets warm, pillow soft, all the smells sifting through the house from the oven that never seemed to be turned off. Grandpa coming back in for one last drink of cold water. Then silence, darkness, sleep. Waking briefly to a soft glow from the kitchen and the sound of the oven door being carefully opened, tinfoil peeling back, stirrings and stirrings… then the light would go off, and a beautiful shadow in a long, pink robe would quietly drift back down the hallway. So many memories…

Looking back, I realize my childish anger that we didn’t finish our book so long ago was disturbingly similar to my emotions years later, Gran, when you took your final journey home. How could you have let me down like that? How thoughtless. At least that’s how I tried to convince myself I saw it. Somehow that made it easier. Once again I went through all the stages of grief, not in a nice, neat, straight line, but in a jagged, messy, confusing mass, one and then the other and then the other, until I finally arrived at acceptance and love – love for you, and love for me.

I didn’t deal well with your death, Gran, no better than I’d dealt with many other things in my life. I went through it all, fighting the truth: depression, eating too much, drinking too much, sleeping too much, medicating myself with every substance and activity and form of busy-ness I could find, staying in bad jobs and worse jobs, losing good friends, keeping bad ones, enduring traitors, finding my own treacherous streak, starting good relationships that quickly soured and then staying in them long after I knew better. And that’s just the short list.

One thing about it, I reinvented the wheel of emotional learning so many times, I should be a genius by now. I insisted on learning all my lessons the hard way, rather than learning from others’ mistakes. And here I thought my dad was the hard-headed one in the family. Gran, you knew I would go through all this. That I had to, before I could finish our book. And so it was. I know I still have a lot to learn, a lot to work on. But Gran, after all these years, I can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe there is a way.

I remember how you used to talk about innocence, how it was a wonderful thing when it was a true innocence based on experience. You knew I would lose my innocence as I grew older, just as you did, as my life seemed to prove everything I remembered wrong. But I feel like I’m on my way back to regaining this, this time the true innocence you chose to have, in spite of everything, because you knew what the full potential of each person, each situation, really was. You trusted, when there was no obvious reason to trust, because you knew what COULD be. You loved, when there was no obvious reason to love, because you knew what really WAS.

Thank you for setting this example, Gran. I’m trying to live up to it now, one baby step at a time, and I can feel you holding my hand. Thank you for teaching me about love, and hope, and faith, and trust. Thank you for teaching me not to give up on myself when everyone else did, when even I did. Thank you for not giving up on me, even when it looked like I’d given up on you. No, we’ll never get back those years, and letting go of that guilt is something I’m still working on. But you knew, Gran. You knew who I really was, who I really could be, and you taught me to look for that in others. I’m trying, Gran, I’m really trying.

Gran, it’s taken me years to figure out who I am and who I want to be when I grow up. I’m not sure I fully know now. As I’ve tried on different personalities along the way, I’ve managed to alienate a lot of people I care about. And like you predicted, I wasn’t sure how to go about mending those bridges, or if I should even try, because I knew some of those chasms were deep and wide – most times with good reason.

But Gran, you had one tidbit of wisdom I wouldn’t learn ’til further along – that people are often harder on themselves than on those around them. So while I spent years castigating myself for things I should or shouldn’t have done, once I started reaching out, to my amazement I’ve found that more often than not the person on the other side was already walking in my direction, holding out a hand in peace. Wow.

In many ways, Gran, finishing our story is more than just ‘finishing our story’ for me. It’s also a big long apology to all these people. I hope they can look at me a little differently now. Even if they can’t, at least I can look at myself differently, understanding a bit more about where I came from, and where I’m headed.

As I pen these last pages, I can’t help but feel sad. I know we have more books coming. I can feel their seeds stirring in my soul, just waiting for the sunshine and rain to help them grow. But this was our first, Gran, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. Maybe it’s silly, but I’m sitting here with a big lump in my throat. This book is so much more than just ink on paper. It’s my love letter to you, Gran, the one I never wrote before. Just like the love letters you used to write to me.

Maybe in a little way it’s also a love letter to myself, sending love in a circle, knowing that as I send it to you, it will come back to me. I realize that in saying goodbye to these pages, I’m also saying goodbye to you, the one I never got to say in real life. And I’m in no more of a rush to say it now than I was then. I don’t want to say it. Who knows, maybe I just won’t say it at all. Somehow, I think you’ll be good with that. I’m not ready to let you go just yet, Gran. Not yet. Someday. And that’s enough for now.

Gran, I forgot the book. I forgot a lot of things over the years, including most of what I knew about Home. But as I read our words, it all came back. I could feel the energy shift, the blocks moving as my tears melted them, and I could finally mourn, letting go of the one person who had meant more to me than anything in the world: Myself. At least, the me I thought I had become. As those tears fell, more followed – tears for you, tears for me, tears for others, great big sloppy drops across the pages for all the years and fears and feelings, expressed and not expressed. You’re right, Gran – you were right all along. But then, there was never really any doubt, was there?

I remember your do-over theory, Gran, that we get more than one chance to learn the things we need to in life. I hope you’re right. That’d be quite a relief, to know I didnt’ have to get it all perfect this time ’round. And if that’s right, I just wonder what you’re doing now, and what Big Adventure you’re planning next. I wonder if I’ll see you somewhere out there. And when I do, I wonder if I’ll look in your eyes and know you, seeing a fresh reflection of home. I think I will. Maybe I already have.

Thanks for everything, Gran. I miss you, and I can’t wait to see you again.



P.S. I think I’ve finally earned my whole name now, Gran, just like you said.


In Gran’s honor, it’s only fitting that we end this little story the same way she always ended hers, with the reminder that everything we had talked about was just our truth – hers, mine – and that it would serve me well to not accept anything she said “just because she said so.” Instead, she’d invite me to think about these things and drawn my own conclusions…


So there ya go, Gran. Did I do good?

And a whisper reaches my ear, the voice of Gran – or it is only my imagination?

“You did it, Mikey, you did it. Now can we all do it? Yes, we can.”


Thank you for sharing this time with us on Gran’s front porch. As darkness falls and the shadows lengthen, Mikey and Gran would like to offer one final question for you to think about as you fall asleep tonight…

Follow the Love {Bob Sima}

Have you ever asked yourself
Have you really sat down and asked yourself
What is it that makes my head and my heart collide
What am I gonna do when it comes down to choosing sides… choosing sides…

Have you ever asked yourself
Have you really sat down and asked yourself
What is it that makes my soul catch fire
What is it that I really believe inside?

Have you ever really listened to the little voice inside your head?
When it really comes down to it, you shouldn’t have to think about it
When it really comes down to it, just go with your heart
It’s easy to see where you’re going when you’re following the love…
Follow the love, follow the love, follow the love…

Have you ever doubted yourself
Have you ever just sat down and wept
What is it that makes my plans and my dreams collide
What am I gonna do when it comes down to choosing sides… choosing sides…

Have you ever really listened to the little voice inside your head?
When it really comes down to it, you shouldn’t have to think about it
When it really comes down to it, go with your heart
‘Cause it’s easy to see where you’re going when you’re following the love…
Follow the love, follow the love, follow the love…

Don’t change your mind, don’t change your mind, don’t change your mind, don’t change your mind


Gran’s final borrowed advice:

Then give to the world the best you have,
and the best will come back to you.
~ Madeline Bridges

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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February 14, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: The Big Front Porch (8VIII)

Chapter 8 ~ The Big Front Porch

One home-coming Gran and I often discussed was death. No surprise, she had her own ideas about our final destination, and being Gran, once again, they were all about love. She used to say she reckoned that after death we probably go somewhere kind of like her front porch. You know, a happy place with loving faces and the feeling of being home again, like you’ve been there before. And maybe there will be your own Nanna or big brother or favorite uncle. Just sitting there, waiting like Gran in her rocker, big smile on her face, big hug in her arms, and that special hairspray smell only your grandma had.

When it’s time for this trip, you’ll know, Gran said. Lessons complete, pencils put away, lunchbox ready. The bell has rung, the little yellow bus is waiting outside. It’s time. This doesn’t mean that just for a moment you won’t wrap your feet around your chair legs and stubbornly hang on. After all, some of us like school. Then again, who’s to say we won’t be back tomorrow anyway? And what about third grade?

But for now, it’s time to go home, take a nice long nap and spoil your dinner. If you’re not partial to sweets, this might involve a fishing pole or a hammock and the world’s Best Book Ever. Whatever you need to feel like you again, ‘cause by the time we reach that final front porch, we’re just all in.

First things first: Milk’n’cookies. There will be plenty of time to do your homework. For now, just listen to the crickets sing you to sleep, waiting for sunrise when it all begins again.

The next morning, after you’ve had a good long rest, maybe you’ll head back to that front porch again, in a completely different state of mind, fresh and whole, chapter complete, remembering Who You Really Are and what you’re all about. You’ll be ready to look back at your day, your life, and to chat with some good friends about the whole thing.

You see, Gran thought our lives are kind of like projects, based on her dream, with tasks and milestones and objectives that all contribute to the whole. As any good project planner will tell you, the success of a project depends on having a good team behind you, pulling the same way on the rope. And sometimes the most valuable part of a project is the evaluation that comes at the end.  

So when you go Home that last time, Gran thought you’d have another project meeting, this time on that front porch, rockers circled ‘round, lemonade for all. The whole team would come in, including Grandma, Uncle Joe, and your kindergarten bus driver, and you’d all take a look at the master plan you designed so long ago. You’d look at how things went, and do some Serious Thinking.

How did it go? Did you break a new record? Find some new way of doing things that no one ever thought of before? Or did you slip up here or there? Miss a deadline? Forget some piece entirely? It’s all learning – or it can be. As long as you’re learning, Gran thought that was the important part. There’s nothing like personal experience to drive a lesson home, that’s for sure.

Once all the cookies and team members are gone (that’s usually closely related), when it’s just you and the Great Grandmother on the porch again, you can have a real heart to heart. You know, the kind you only have with your grandma. Maybe you’ll talk about what you wanted to accomplish, and She of the Greatest White Rocking Chair might ask if you were happy with what you’d learned, or if you’d like to give it another go ‘round, a do-over.

After your big talk is done and you’ve all but overdosed on cookies, maybe you’ll head to the backyard, looking for the tire swing or Snoopy the Beagle. Maybe you’ll just hang out on the steps for a while, passing the time, content to be close to Gran once again.

Maybe Gran was right with her ideas. Maybe she was totally off. But somehow the idea of a big front porch and a great white rocking chair really resonates with me. Or maybe it’s just ‘cause I miss Gran so much. Who knows.



One thing Gran said about that front porch: The whole do-over idea was quite different from what she’d been raised to believe. It stretched her mind a wee bit past her comfort zone, but she was kind of hopeful, as that would greatly ease the pressure of getting all her ducks in a row in just one go-round. She had a lot of ducks, she said, and some of them were pretty unruly and disinclined to cooperate.

Besides, even those who are sure about do-overs don’t agree on all the details, she said. She’d decided it didn’t matter if it was true or not, at least not to her. When it came down to it, Gran thought what mattered was whether this idea helped us understand more about ourselves and the lessons we’ve chosen. Any tool that helps with this is worth keeping polished and handy in our little tool boxes.

It’s like dreams, Gran said. Some people put a lot of stock in recalling their dreams, analyzing them, learning from them. Others say that’s just a bunch of unrelated hogwash, bits and pieces of memories and day-to-day life that come together in a Hungarian goulash, more likely a mishmash of one’s favorite sitcoms than anything meaningful.

Here again, Gran looked at dreams like any other tool, be it a screwdriver or a pair of pliers. She’d ask herself, was this useful? Was there anything she could get out of this, whether it was real or not? If so, her dream was helping her learn about herself and her life, maybe why things were the way they were, or why she did or didn’t do this or that, or even whether she should lay off the late night spaghetti binges.

As long as we were letting our imagination run free, why not follow and see where it goes? True to her mystery-loving roots, Gran’s imagination led her to the idea that perhaps our dreams are doorways into other worlds. What if, while our bodies sleep at night, we go visiting these other places, like channel surfing during commercial breaks? We might as well keep things entertaining, she said.

It probably won’t surprise you to learn that Gran never quite bought the idea of living happily ever after. Sure, you’re home. That’s great – enjoy it! Stay a while, hang out, eat some fresh pickles and try the cornbread, but don’t start thinking this is It. Life doesn’t work that way. Have a nice visit, ‘cause soon it will be time to journey on to your next home, wherever that may be.

I know what you’re thinking: I just got here! It’s not that we don’t want you to stay (although that three-day rule for guests and fish might have some crossover application), but if you sit in one spot too long, you’ll get bored and probably develop bad breath.

Besides, Gran didn’t think we were meant to sit any one place indefinitely. Our legs are too long for that, she said, and even our bodies tell us this – too much sitting leads to stiff joints and wide margins. And no matter how great home is, sooner or later we’ll feel the need to remodel, or maybe just see the other side of the world.

When that day came, Gran said, it would be time to start looking at those 3 P’s again, and time to say “Aloha.” You know, that word that means both hello and goodbye and all kinds of other nice things? It’s perfect for this, because the same road that takes you in your front door may be the very first step on someone else’s big adventure.

That’s why Gran said to never try to make someone else take the same exit you’re on. It may not be their time or place, and we don’t want to make such an important decision for another person. It goes against free will, Gran said, and focusing too hard on someone else’s road is a good way to not notice we’re headed down the wrong one ourselves.

So for now, back to the road. The sunset is calling, and sunrise to follow, and I can see Gran, far up ahead, the tail lights of her little hot rod twinkling in the distance.

Aloha, Gran, sweet friend. Travel well.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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January 24, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: The Basics (8V)

Filed under: Book Series,Books,Calling home,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Grandma,Postcards — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 9:35 am

Chapter 8 ~ The Basics

Once the welcome party is over and Gran’s had a chance to pinch our cheeks and remind us of our manners, what’s next?

In the interest of our recently awakened awareness, Gran recommended we call home. If we can’t call, write, and if we can’t write, send smoke signals. It’s just to let folks know we’re alive and well and not dead-in-a-ditch-somewhere (apparently that’s a distinct possibility, as often as I’ve heard about it).        

As the excitement wears off, we may discover we’re ready for a nice long nap. My big sister used to come home so exhausted she’d go to bed first thing and sleep half the next day. Gran said she needed rest in a place that felt safe and had a few less distractions. That was frustrating, ‘cause I wanted her to play with me, not sleep, but she was too tired and grouchy to play nice anyway. Besides, once she got that nap in, she was a ball of fire.

My friend Lynda called this “Resting in the Knowing,” which I thought sounded pretty amazing.[i] Gran said we’d sleep like we’ve never slept before once we reach that place.

After our nap we’d have time to grab a snack, visit old friends, and check out if anything new had happened on Main Street. It’s the little things we notice most. Like when the county paved the road to my childhood home. Visits were never the same after that, not without gravel crunching under the tires for that last mile. Sure, it made the drive faster and the house less dusty, but I still thought it was a poor call. We do hold onto things, don’t we?

If we want, we can send postcards next, Gran said, to let our friends know we’re doing well and thinking of them. There are all kinds of postcards, from the pretty-pictures-on-paper ones we send from the beach to the ways we reach out to loved ones, from phone calls to dreams – and that was long before we could text, email, and tweet our days away. Come to find out, Grandpa Harry’s visit – you remember, after he went home – came as no surprise at all to Gran. She thought that was just about as normal as picking strawberries come spring. 

Once we’ve settled in and gotten the little things out of the way, we can move on to bigger items. There’s one I bet you’ll never guess…

[i] Rest in the Knowing, by Lynda Allen, a poetic glimpse of darkness and light


© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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January 17, 2012

Going Home, Excerpt: Remember Your Manners (8IV)

Chapter 8 ~ Remember Your Manners

Although the specifics of good manners are debatable, Gran thought their observance in general is more important than we realize. Not just for the sake of knowing where our napkin goes, which maybe isn’t all that important in the big picture, but because of the patterns and processes and ways of being that develop based on these guidelines.

We become aware of how our actions affect others the same way we notice when we’re chewing with our mouths open. You know, that incredulous stare from the other side of the table, if our parents didn’t get that fully drilled in. How we do what we do shapes how people see us, whether we like it or not, and actions speak louder than words. After all, there’s more to body language than just how you shake hands.

Gran thought the most important reason for learning manners was that this taught sensitivity to others, like a beginner’s class in diplomacy. First and foremost: Pay attention. If you find yourself in a sticky situation, slow down. Hitting speed bumps at full throttle is never recommended.

No matter what, as one friend advised, just show up and be your best self, which may include planning a few defensive maneuvers and remembering that “a soft answer turns away wrath.”  Be respectful – of your differences, each other, and yourself. When in doubt, looking for ways you’re similar is a good place to start. And if you need time or space to process, take it. Everyone will be glad you did.

At the same time, if we’re acting from our center, we may not get as impatient or angry when others do things we find offensive. We’ll be more compassionate and understanding, and we’ll know when to share our needs, to give the other person a chance to meet those needs. If someone chooses not to do that, we have other options. We can s-t-r-e-t-c-h to let go of that need, we can accept their choice, we can take our company elsewhere, or we can stuff our frustration down inside until it reaches the DANGER HIGH EXPLOSIVES level. That, Gran said, is generally counter-productive.

Whatever we do, we want to remember that those who share our lives – especially our youngest companions – are watching us and learning from our choices, helpful and not so helpful. Gran thought that’s why artists often portray children with great big eyes and little bitty ears. They may not listen much, but they watch everything.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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March 2, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Open Eyes (4/VII)

Filed under: Birth Home,Book Series,Books,Family,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Grandma,Home — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 10:38 am

Chapter 4 ~ Open Eyes
from Going Home, by Mary Batson

One thing about it, once we start looking at home base with our eyes open, things are never quite the same. Not in a bad way, though. Open eyes are a good thing, even if sometimes they let us see things we’ve been trying to ignore for a long time.

Gran said no matter what we see, it’s wise to take a good long look at the place and time and people we chose to be born to. In the best of all worlds, our families give us life. They nurture and protect us, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, helping us grow and learn. Our parents do the best they can for wherever they are in their own lives, but sometimes when we look back, we realize home was not as supportive and nurturing as we might have hoped.

As grown-ups, we can rewrite the stories that fill us with so much pain. We can look back with love, no matter the situation. This may seem difficult, nearly impossible, but it’s something we can choose to do for our own growth. Sometimes we take this step for our families, and sometimes we do it for our own survival, knowing that any anger or pain or resentment we harbor in our hearts does us even more harm than the pain we endured in childhood, however great it may have been. When we protect this pain inside, Gran said, it will only grow bigger and bigger until it consumes our soul.

Gran’s childhood held its share of these memories. Some things she’d tried to ignore for a long time, to save relationships, not wanting to let her anger take control, when it seemed that was all she had left inside for those she felt had hurt her in her most vulnerable times. She’d finally gotten past all that, she said, because she knew it would only hold her back. It wasn’t easy, but Gran said it helped to imagine these people as they were when they were small children, when they were experiencing the good and bad in their own lives, the light and darkness that would shape them into the adults they later became.

When she would picture her family’s faces at age five or eight or ten, Gran said she couldn’t feel anger at them anymore. Looking in their eyes, she could only feel love and sorrow for whatever they had gone through, and compassion for the wounded child they still carried within. She tried to remember this whenever she’d encounter one of these people later in life, still carrying those festering wounds. A tirade of angry, judgmental words might burst from their lips, but Gran could only hear the voice of the child underneath, crying “It’s not fair!” one more time.

Life isn’t always fair, Gran knew that better than anyone. But she also knew that sometimes, we aren’t in a good position to recognize what is fair and what isn’t. It isn’t fair that we can’t eat the whole bag of licorice, or stick that screwdriver in this light socket, or tell the kid on the bus that his eyes really will stick that way. Life can be cruel that way, ruining our fun, raining on our parade.

Yet, from a higher perspective, the One who says no, who takes away the bag, makes us apologize when we’re finally ready and really mean it, or simply takes the screwdriver away in spite of our screams, that One knows that in the long run, maybe even in the short, we’ll be better for it.


Either way, Gran said the most important thing to remember about home base is that it belongs to the past. It belongs to who we used to be. If our memories are free and light and good, wonderful! We can celebrate them together, and release them with joy, just as we do with all parts of our past in order to be healthy and move forward. Even holding on to good memories can throw us off balance.

If our memories are heavy, we don’t have to carry them anymore. If judgments were harsh, we no longer have to accept them. We don’t have to beat ourselves up for who we are, for who we were, for expectations we met or those we didn’t. We can stand courageous and strong now, in our own power, centered in all that we have learned about ourselves, in who we have become.

As one wise woman put it, “All you have to know is who you are.”[i] And there we begin.

[i] Oprah Winfrey, Howard University Commencement Speech, 12 May 2007

NEXT WEEK – starting Chapter 5!

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
NOW AVAILABLE: Going Home, The E-Book & Going Home: The Tour LIVE – 2 CD set – Mikey and Gran’s story put to music!

August 30, 2010

2/VI Keys

Filed under: Book Series,Books,Front Porch Rambles,Going Home,Gran,Grandma — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 6:17 pm

Chapter 2 – Keys
Excerpt from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Gran didn’t talk much about her past, because she didn’t think it was a helpful place to live. She said the past was the past for a reason – we learn from it and move on. That’s how she lived, and that’s what she taught me. And besides, she’d decided at one point that there were very few things worth worrying about today. If they were Very Important she might put them on her list to worry about tomorrow. Of course, once tomorrow arrived it was today, and nothing was so important that she needed to worry about it today.

Most of what I knew about Gran’s past came out in stories on that front porch. They were always stories with a moral or family roots, or maybe a big adventure with a dashing heroine. The few times she spoke of darker days, Gran’s words were brief and to the point. She did not ask for sympathy, nor did she wish to play a disempowered victim, as she’d learned where that attitude led and she never wanted to go there again. But she understood that others might learn from her mistakes, so occasionally she’d share a few words about the left turns she’d taken in life.

Gran had followed a rather circuitous route on her way home. Like many of us, she’d worked on her outside until the darkness within forced her to shift focus. This came first as fears and worries about everyday life. In learning to overcome her anxieties she was introduced to meditation and the power of positive thinking – something she hadn’t heard much about since she was a child. Then she began to make her way through all the self-help titles on the best-seller list, whatever was making headlines at the time, sure that The Answer was just one book away. 

And yet no matter how much she read, things never seemed to get better. There had to be some secret she was missing – there had to be. She felt like her life depended on finding The Key that would unlock all her answers.

You see, early in life Gran had given up trying to be happy – that no longer seemed feasible, given the turns her life had taken. Instead, she chose a more doable goal – to be at peace with herself. Years later she would look back and say that was a wiser thought than she realized at the time, for there her real journey began.

Down the road Gran realized that it wasn’t until she quit looking outside herself for answers that she actually began to find those Keys – to feel them turning, to almost hear the puzzle pieces of her life clicking into place around her. These weren’t big fancy keys, ornate, golden, heavy. They were tiny little keys, easy to overlook when hunting, easy to misplace once found, like those little luggage keys with a lifespan of seventeen minutes.

With each key she began doing things differently, looking at things differently, letting things go, detaching from her expectations, and redefining and redesigning almost every piece of her life. Along the way she learned the greatest secret to happiness: Gratitude.

These keys were tricky, Gran said. If you didn’t let their simple appearance mislead you, once you tried them you found they unlocked doors exponentially bigger than themselves. Maybe they really were magic keys. She’d heard that once you get yourself figured out, pretty much everything else just falls into place, and she had been desperately hoping her life would follow this route as well.

Gran said she’d learned more lessons in her life than we would ever have time to discuss, so she’d written down all the ones she could remember for me to read one day when life was slower. I haven’t found that manuscript yet, Gran, but I’ll keep looking, because I know it’s there, and there’re only a few more boxes left to go through.

One thing about it, Gran, you blazed a trail. And just think of all you accomplished with those tiny little keys…

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
Download Chapter 1 or order your copy at!

August 16, 2010

2/IV Hill of Beans

Filed under: Books,Going Home,Gran,Grandma — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 5:58 pm

Chapter 2.  Gran
Excerpt from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Thanks to Gran’s colorful character and even more colorful storytelling, she was well-known around the community. Everyone knew her as Gran. No one left her house without a quilt top or at the very least a jar of apple butter and a piece of fried chicken or green tomato fresh from her well-seasoned cast iron skillet. Gran reckoned she’d pieced at least one quilt top a week since she was about eight – more as she got older and her knees got weaker. Bearing in mind that she lived to the ripe old age of 92 (at which point she could still cut a rug with a jig-from-the-knees-down), she must have worked her way through an awful lot of thimbles.

And of course, every Sunday Gran went to church. You know, the little white clapboard one down on the corner with the bell tower. She’d gone there for decades – the better part of a century by the time she said goodbye. She’d put on her good dress and hat and pack up her picnic basket for Sunday-Go-To-Meetin’ Time, All Day Singin’ and Dinner-on-the-Ground.

In that world Gran was famous for her blackberry pie. Come Sunday afternoon, anyone looking for Gran could find her seated in the middle of an over-sized red-checkered tablecloth spread among the acorns under her favorite tree in the church yard, surrounded by grown-ups and children alike. When one pie pan emptied, another would mysteriously appear, to the delight and pie-smudged faces of all.

Everyone would eat, and Gran would talk. She always was a talker. But she could be an equally good listener. Some of my best conversations with Gran ended without her saying a word – just looking at me with love in her eyes and occasionally reaching out to touch my shoulder or wrap me in a shawl-scented hug.

After the pie was gone and everyone had walked home, come Monday afternoon, it would all begin again. You see, Gran had gained the reputation for being something of a miracle worker. No, not that kind of miracle. Gran did her miracles with words. This was no small skill, and served her well throughout her life, as many came to view her as the best mediator in Newton County. No matter the problem, if you truly wanted to resolve it in a way that was highest good for all involved, you could bring it to Gran’s front porch (office hours: 1-4 PM Monday-Friday and all day Saturday, tea served every hour on the hour.)

By the time you left hours later, all liquored up on iced tea, rhubarb pie, and coffee with just a touch of Mr. Smith’s Cure-All Cognac (boiled ‘til the alcohol was gone, she’d reassure anyone who seemed concerned), you’d have found your answer. You see, Gran never gave out answers. People would ask, that’s true, but Gran said she probably didn’t know the answer, and even if she did, until a person found her own answer, inside herself, the words wouldn’t ring true, and consequently, wouldn’t be worth a hill of beans. So that’s what Gran did. She grew her own beans, and ate ‘em up regular. If you were inclined, she might share a few gardening tips, but overall she kept her beans to herself.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
Download Chapter 1 or order your copy at!

August 3, 2010

2/II Bookworms and Thresholds

Filed under: Books,Gran,Grandma,Threshold — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 9:10 am

Chapter 2
Excerpt from Going Home, by Mary Batson

What else can I tell you? First and foremost, Gran was a storyteller. She could weave words and magic and fairies and spinning wheels and talking trees into stories I could barely keep up with, hanging on each word as I danced in my seat with excitement. Gran said her storytelling was on account of all the books she’d read in her life, and she figured my dancing was on account of that last glass of lemonade.

You see, Gran was a self-confessed bookworm. She said it all started years earlier, on the very night she was born. At first she just preferred the taste of Dr. Seuss to that of strained peas, but she quickly learned to savor the flavor of the words over the paper itself. It had been a strange lesson for her, to learn that not everyone shared this hunger.

Gran said she had lived a vicarious life through her books over the years. She grew up on the classics, spending most of her free time at her father’s office, where he had converted a back room into a small library. She read all the fiction, she read all the facts, and then she started on the encyclopedias. She’d laugh and say she guessed in today’s terminology she grew up a geek and just never knew it. And not much had changed – she was just a little older. Now she knew she qualified as a geek – and she just didn’t care!

Gran said she’d learned a lot from her books, not the least being that she could learn more with each new book – there was always at least one Zinger, as she called ‘em. You know, the line that really GOT ya. So she’d learned to read, and live, with an open mind. To look at things from others’ perspectives. To study and learn from others’ philosophies, adapting and fitting them to what she valued and believed. She said as a youngster she’d left a reminder to herself about this, making a note that her books would take her through her life, hoping she would grow as her knowledge of others’ wisdom grew.

True to her book-worminess, Gran had accomplished one of her life dreams – she had her own library, although it wasn’t the leather arm chairs, velvet smoking jacket and bear skin rug she’d originally envisioned. No, it was much nicer than that. Homier, too. Still had the fireplace though. But now her library featured pictures of friends and family, candles here and there, neat little pieces of original artwork from friends and someday-to-be friends, birds and squirrels right outside, coming to the door to say hello, daylight streaming in. And just like she’d imagined long ago, little girls and boys like she used to be would come and visit her library, to read or play a game of checkers, to learn to see the world with widened eyes.

One of Gran’s favorite quotations went: “If he is indeed wise, he does not bid you enter the house of his wisdom, but rather, leads you to the threshold of your own mind.” That’s what Gran thought good books do: They hint how things might be behind this or that door, but it’s up to you to decide if you want to step across that threshold. Gran said that’s why it was important to keep your thresholds bright and welcoming. As for hers, she preferred red and yellow.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
Download Chapter 1 or order your copy at!

July 26, 2010

2/I: Riverbed

Filed under: Going Home,Gran,Grandma — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 3:31 pm

Chapter 2. Gran
Excerpt from Going Home, by Mary Batson

“Peace – that was the other name for home.” – Kathleen Norris

What can I tell you about Gran? Well, for one thing, Gran was a strong believer. I don’t think I ever met anyone else with the strength of faith she had. As she got older and her nights got shorter, she spent many an extended evening reading her Bible, an inspirational book, or another of her collection of “books of knowledge,” as she called them.

Gran had a copy of almost every spiritual text ever written, I guess, from all around the world – or at least it seemed that way to me – and she studied them religiously. She’d learned German from her grandfather, enough to piece together texts from the Old Country. Then she taught herself French and Latin and Greek and Hebrew – I’m not sure how or where, but it was highly impressive, although she never made a big deal about it. She said she always had a feeling there was more to all of this, if she’d just keep reading and praying and looking for Truth. And so she did.

I don’t think Gran ever realized how much people looked up to her and her words. She didn’t see herself as anything special, that’s for sure. She was just another person, nothing extraordinary – she just liked to read, and she’d read a lot. She said she’d met a lot of smart people in all those pages; some of them even qualified as “wise” (being Gran, she didn’t use that term loosely). So when people would thank her for sharing a thought and go on about how wise they thought she was, she’d smile and laugh with her twinkling eyes and say, well, thank you kindly, but those weren’t her words – she was just remembering someone else’s (although she usually couldn’t remember exactly who that was). 

Gran said once she thought of herself kind of like a riverbed, cut through the countryside by the hand of God, and whatever water flowed through her from God’s Grace, she couldn’t take credit for that. She said her job was just to take care of the river banks, to keep the waterway clear, and to show the beavers the perfect spot to build their dam, just off to the side where it wouldn’t get washed away. Beyond that, it was up to the spring thaws, the summer rains, and the occasional flood or dam break to keep things moving. 

Yeah, that’s just the way Gran was.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
Download Chapter 1 or order your copy at!

1/II: Mikale Steps In

Filed under: Going Home,Grandma,Life Journeys,Loss,Mikey,Self Development — Mary Batson - FrontPorchRambles @ 3:24 pm

Mikale Steps In
Excerpt from Going Home, by Mary Batson

Mikey remembering home: That’s how the story began in the manuscript I’d found among my grandmother’s papers. And yet, when I lifted the flap to peer inside the envelope, seeing the typewritten pages, I realized I wasn’t ready for what was inside. Even without knowing what the words said, something inside me gave a shudder. I could feel a twisting in my soul, a stab of pain so deep it felt like my heart might split open, exposing what was left inside to a world that would mock it, searing its scars all the more deeply. Not now. Too soon. Whatever it was, I didn’t want to know.

And that was enough. I closed the envelope, careful to fold it along the original creases that Gran had made, and put it back in the box, secure in the not-knowing, feeling the clamor calm within, my heart rate returning to normal and the knot in my stomach loosening a hair’s width. That was then.

And now, what now? It’s been just over a year. And here I sit, surrounded by pages, tears streaming down my face, heart raw inside. Where has the time gone? The feeling? The knowing? HOW COULD I HAVE FORGOTTEN? Breathe with your belly, as one of my dearest friends often tells me, breathe with your belly. Ok, girl, I’m trying. I’m really trying. In and out, in and out,  warm inside, flooding through, don’t hold the emotion, don’t attach to it, sit back and watch it do its dance, let it through, let it go, relax into the feeling, and just let      it      go.

Now. Deep breath. Back to center. Turn to page one again, and start reading, again.

Three times I’ve read these pages today. Three times the flood of emotions has threatened to overwhelm me, even now. Sometimes I start to pat myself on the back, thinking how far I’ve come on all this. Good for me, I want to say. And then something like this comes along and knocks me completely off my feet, if only for a moment, and it reminds me that I still have so far to go. I have come far, my journey has been long. And yet as I read these pages I begin to realize that all that time, all those years, I was walking in a circle. Today, reading, I find myself lost in a mix of wonder and sorrow because I realize that in all my wandering, when I finally look up and see that I Am Where I Always Wanted to Be, as Mikey would put it, that my footsteps have, slowly but surely, simply led me ’round the world — and I find myself once more where I stood many years ago — on the front steps of my home, hand on the doorknob, ready to go inside. If only, if only, if only. Too many ifs. How might things have been different, if I’d only seen what I see now? And yet, I realize that wasn’t possible. It was only by stepping away long and far enough to be able to get a broad view – the whole forest – that I could begin to see and feel clearly enough to come back to the same spot where I was before, and see it for the reflected glory that it truly was.

What a journey. The more I think about it, the more it amazes me, and the more I understand the words of the letter clipped to the manuscript. As my tears ran through the ink, I read aloud, Gran’s voice echoing in my head, her message soothing my heart.

                                                                                                    January 1976  

Dear Mikey,

By the time you find these pages, you’ll be ready to finish our book.

I know you want to DO IT NOW — you’ve reminded me of that several times, obviously unhappy with my decision to put our story away for now. But Mikey, you have so much still to experience in life, so much to learn about being a mere mortal. I can tell you this now, with the surety of my own years, my own journey. I know you remember a lot about Home, and I love that — I love to see your eyes brighten and sparkle as you remember, and I love to watch you struggle to come up with words to describe what you feel in your heart, your soul.

But there will come a time when this will mean so much more to you, when you will begin to understand on such a completely different level. Until you have experienced loss, until you have experienced the longing that comes when you fear that you can no longer go home, not even to yourself, until then, you won’t be ready to finish this work. By the time you are, I will be long since gone. I know this, sure as I know the geese will return to our little pond next April. And you’ll understand why I’m putting these pages away now, sweet little Mikey. I love you, precious girl. Love everybody and they will love you.

I’ll never forget our afternoons together on the front porch, sharing our thoughts of home. They brought a joy that I hope will heal your heart as you read these pages and begin their completion. And now, my budding authoress and lover of words: WRITE.

With all the hugs our years could hold,

You’re right, Gran — I feel the joy. It seems bittersweet, and ironic, as I sit here smiling through my tears. You were right all along. And now, to pick up a pen — to write.


© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010. All rights reserved.
Download Chapter 1 or order your copy at!

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