I’ve been asked, “Why Suzy Cornflakes?”

While I do live in a household full of Dad-jokes and corny jokes (thanks to my witty hubby and sons), the reference is actually to a cereal box from the early 1970s. I’ve searched online to find images of it, but with no luck.

Before even that box, in the 1960s the cereal called “Wheaties” became very popular. Full of whole wheat goodness, it was dubbed “The Breakfast of Champions.” Many may still remember the great sports heroes featured on the front of the boxes over the years. Prior to the famous folk, the boxes held images of cute little children because the cereal was marketed to parents who wanted a healthy breakfast for their kids. One of the children pictured was a cute little strawberry blond girl with freckles. The resemblance to me was not missed by my brothers, and one of my very first nicknames in life was: Wheatie.

Wheatie, 1966
Wheatie, 1968

A few years later we moved to Northern Baltimore County in Maryland, a very rural area with thousands of acres of farmland. One of our neighbors (I have mentioned him before) was Mr. Ballard. We went to the same church as his family, and worked together on the local, church-organized horseshows. His children were excellent riders and older than me. When I was a teen, and they were grown or in college, I helped clean Mr. and Mrs. Ballard’s house each week. At 16 I had sold my own pony, and by 18 I began to exercise his hunters. That subject is book-worthy, for I will never, ever forget the many experiences riding horses for and with “Mr. B.” He was more than an icon; in many ways he was my hero.

In the 1980s with Spindrift, Rathkeale and Justin

Back to cornflakes. Generic products became prolific with inflation of the 1970s, and big-name brands became too expensive for many household budgets. The market flourished with identical products, but in plainer packaging and cheaper pricing. Sometimes the manufacturer was one-in-the-same with the name brand, as is common today with store-brands. Popular “Kellogg’s Cornflakes” was rivaled by a generic box that I only remember as light-blue on the front, with the face of yet another adorable, strawberry-blonde, freckled little girl. Mr. B immediately nicknamed me: “Suzy Cornflakes.”

Halcion days, walking to and from the bus with my brother.

My brothers still call me Wheatie from time to time, but no one calls me Suzy Cornflakes anymore, since Mr. Ballard passed away several years ago. He was close to the age of 90 and I smile to think that he was probably on horseback not long before his passing. I will always remember him, grateful for the rides and the advice and support that only a very special and sage human being can gift to another…to a talkative, freckle-faced, strawberry-blonde adolescent.

Suzy Cornflakes will forever remember Mr. B.

Wither into Truth

Days of youth pass into memory

Though leaves are many, the root is one

Through all the lying days of my youth I swayed my leaves and flowers in the sun

Now I may wither into the truth. 

W.B. Yeats

Wisdom is attributed to the old for good reason. Our life experiences are numerous and our perspective deepens despite our weakened physical appearance. We “wither into the truth.”

Though we age, we are often called upon to continue physically caring for others. We must seek a balance in order to remain strong for those we love. Self-sacrifice that is all-draining renders us exhausted and unable to help anyone.

We are reminded of Jesus’ example but must remember that he did take time to sleep. I imagine that he ate healthy food and cared for his health, enabling him to care better for others. When the time was right and not too soon, he gave all. Most of us will not be in the position of sacrificing our lives, but we are all called to self-donation, to giving, and to some form of self-sacrifice.

Life is a juggle of self-care without self-centeredness, of self-sacrifice without self-destruction. It is at times difficult and even counterintuitive.

And then loss occurs. Tragedies visit more often or earlier in life for some: loss of health, of a partner, of a loved one, of abilities, of home, of youth…

I search for a better concept of loss. If inevitable, how does one best deal with it? I truly think it is with gratitude and acceptance. Pleasurable life experiences are easy to accept and be grateful for, but I am striving to be thankful even for premature losses and for tragedies. Certainly not that they occurred and hurt myself and others, but that life continued and God was there to comfort us with loved ones, with future life experiences, with a “peace that passes all understanding.”

It does seem counterintuitive. I have lost a dear husband early in life. It was tragic. Many people still feel the effects of the loss of him though over 20 years have passed. And yet, had he not died, Bruce and I would not have found each other, and our six children and four grandchildren would not have been born. I stagger in the profundity of emotional pain and of God’s grace.

I search to find meaning in physical pain, so hard to bear, so hard to witness. I do not believe that it is in vain. I ponder why some suffer so greatly, and feel that there is truth in the belief that their prayers and influence are profoundly powerful.

We are called to be generative in old age and thus if we are physically feeble, perhaps this is accomplished in our words, or modeling peace, or praying, or just loving. If cared for by others we become the means for their gain in grace.

“Now I may wither into the truth.”

Yeats contemplates the beguilement of his youth, and reveals to us that as we wither physically and surrender control, we have the greatest opportunity to gain in wisdom, influence and love.