Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 874

Sometimes a pencil is more than just a pencil.

This morning I went looking for a grey lead pencil. It was time to finish Darby's tutoring homework.  It is hard to find a pencil in our house that is nice and sharp.

I looked deeper.  I went to a kitchen drawer. And that's where I found it.  A pencil that is so much more than a pencil.


When I was 21 I jumped on an plane and headed for the USA. I had finished uni, gotten some contract work and had worked hard and ate little so that I could afford 6 months overseas before I joined the full time work force. I had a family waiting for me over in Pennsylvania who had reorganised their lives to fit me in. I had only met one member of this family. Cathy and I had met in Australia two years prior when my family had taken her in for a week.  Now I was landing on her turf and being taken in by her family - for a lot longer than a week.

Her family embraced me and I embraced them. I am sure they got sick of me because I was a bit of a free loader. I didn't fully understand the need to pay my way and contribute to the daily running of the house.  I wasn't very adult like yet and could probably have done a whole lot more around the home.  For that I have regrets.  But I did form a bond with Cathy's parents and her siblings. And of course the bond between Cathy and I grew into something that is now embedded in our souls.

I didn't stay with them the entire 6 months.  I went on a bit of a journey up and down the east coast of the USA on my own.  They worried about me while I was gone and I phoned them often.  They were my second family and I had another set of parents.  I had a home base in which to return to.

Two years after my big adventures I went back to spend time with them one Easter. I wanted to be a better guest this time around and show them how much I appreciated them.  I stayed with them for one week and we talked a lot on this trip, we also had drinking sessions and played drinking games.  We had a ball.

My second set of parents were hard workers and beautiful family people.  They were warm and welcoming and kind.  My American mum (Anita) drove yellow school buses, and my American dad (Johnny) worked at the local Keystone Cement manufacturing plant.   They loved their kids and I think they loved me. Johnny in particular ... he and I joked around a lot.

My next trip was for Cathy's wedding. She was having a Christmas wedding and my parents and Derek and I were on our way over to stay with my American family.  My parents would meet my second set of parents for the first time. We were going to shower them with gratitude for how they had enhanced my life five years prior.

In 1996 only three months before Cathy's wedding Anita and Johnny were killed in a horrific car accident.  They were the innocent victims of an aggressively drunk driver.

As you can imagine this impacted their family in ways you can't even begin to imagine.

It impacted me as I sat on the other side of the world.

My parents never met them.  Derek never met them.  I could never again tell them how much they meant to me.


This morning I went to get Darby a pencil.

That simple act has taken me on a journey.

The pencil I found is a white pencil with faded red and blue writing.  That writing says " Keystone Portland Cement".

I am sitting here holding Johnny's pencil.  I am in tears.

I don't know what to say.  I just know that this is more than just a pencil. 


  1. WoW ! I am tearing up just reading one that is loved can ever really be lost, those lovely people live on in your heart and your life story.

  2. Wasn't ready for that on this Monday morning Leanne!!..sitting here crying...but, it brought me smiles and laughter...thanks for remembering my mom and dad in such a nice way....they loved you lots!! Such memories we have! you soul sister....

  3. Ok guys .. here is an annex to the above post. As you know, Mum and Dad have been overseas for three weeks putting in a watering system for a remote island community. Mum has not been reading my blog,until this morning when she did a catch up. Here is what she emailed me:

    "An interesting post to your post re the above. When we got home on Wednesday night (Thursday morning) I was listening to messages on the answering machine and a long lost friend of ours had left a couple of messages together with his mobile number which I had to write down. The pencil I picked up was a Keystone Portland Cement pencil which immediately took my focus off the long lost friend and back to Cathy’s first visit and life thereafter. Coincidental???"


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