Saturday, July 23, 2011

Bambi's Mother Would Understand...

I remember my first day of school. It was in September of 1960. My mother walked me to the bus stop. I was wearing a plaid dress with a starched white collar and a pair of black and white oxfords accented by lacy little socks. I carried a brand new book satchel (God, do they even make such things anymore?) That satchel was burnished and smooth and smelled all leathery with a strap that dug into my tiny six-year-old shoulders that felt as if they were carrying the weight of the world. Inside the satchel was a Blue Horse Tablet with two of those big, fat pencils, a box of 24 Crayola crayons, some Elmer's School Paste, a mini-box of Kleenex, and some milk and lunch money (which totalled 28 cents). I waited for the bus while my mother promised that she would be waiting for me in that very same spot  that afternoon when the bus dropped me off after one of the greatest adventures so far in my short little life. Ah, my first step on a journey of independence.

All went well until lunch time. I couldn't eat. I wondered, what was my mom doing? Did my baby sister, Patti, miss me? Were either one of them thinking about me at that moment? The lunch room was cavernous. Around that room was painted a mural of a particularly parochial pastoral scene. On one wall, through a thicket of green brush strokes,  I saw a deer staring back at me with sad, imploring eyes --  a baby fawn, brown with white spots and spindly legs. All I could think was, "Oh, God help me, somebody shot Bambi's mother!" Immediately, I was no longer in the cafeteria of St. Michael's Elementary School. I was running for the thicket. In my frenzied little mind, a shot rang out. Snow was falling as I called for my mother -- she wasn't there. I started crying, wretched, deep, heavy sobs as my shoulders sagged and heaved. Oh, how I wanted to be in my mother's arms! How badly I needed her! A nun, Sister Bertrand, came to me and asked what was wrong. I could manage only to wheeze and whisper, "Somebody killed Bambi's mother..."

I wouldn't admit then that I was sad or frightened. I just couldn't. After all, I wasn't a baby! Since that day, I always think of Bambi's mother whenever I don't want to deal with what is at hand. It is so much easier to try to shirk the sadness and blame another source. I told everyone I was thinking of Bambi's mother after my grandmother passed away and her house sat empty and lonely for years. I told everyone I was thinking of Bambi's mother when my best friend moved away. Yes, I was thinking of Bambi's mother when my son, Kyle, left home to start a new life in Atlanta, Georgia.

Now, my daughter, Jenny, is getting ready to head out for Shrevesport, Louisiana with her husband, Ken. It is a new adventure for them -- a wonderful opportunity! They will be leaving within a month or two. I wish them well. I wish for them all the happiness in this world. I wish for them success and joy and endless exhilaration. I just want them to know,though, that I will be always be waiting for them at the bus stop. I will be thinking of them. I will let them go with all my hopes and promises and as much love as I can send their way. If I cry just a little when they leave, know...somebody killed Bambi's mother!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Vacation Time is Over

Oh my gosh, I haven't posted a new blog since Christmas!!! Where does the time go? Actually, I do have an excuse, meager as it may be. You see, a couple of months ago, my computer had a MAJOR stroke -- it suddenly quit working,  an acute and absolute malady at fault. It seems my Motherboard had bitten the proverbial dust and would not be revived. Alas, after weeks in the intensive care unit at our local computer repair shop, another Motherboard was located and deemed an acceptable donor for a transplant. After some delay over a pay-pal account, the operation was successfully performed and my dear old computer picked up almost where it had left off before its collapse. Not to wax Pythonesque, but...there was much rejoicing! (Especially happy I did not have to try to re-load my Rosetta Stone -- I heard that could be a real nighmare!).  

Anyway, my computer was as good as new, but I was not. I had gotten quite lazy in the interim. My blogging discipline was was my Facebook interactions and forum maintenance. I had gotten used to not sitting in front of a monitor and was not wont to go back -- at least not for awhile.  I spent my time enjoying the beautiful weather we were having, visiting with my parents, coming up with new recipes for the Pillsbury Bake-Off (I think I may have a million dollar winner, by the way), doing lunch and shopping with friends, and going to lots of movies. Also, strawberry picking season started here last week, so there is another BIG diversion. I mean, everyone pauses for strawberry picking season, right?

Now, however, as I sit here munching a mouthful of strawberries, juice running down my chin, I am starting to feel like an island in a stream. I think it's time to get back on the boat and float. I took a vacation and now I am ready to pick up where I left off. Oh, if only I could find a new Motherboard to jumpstart myself!

Monday, December 20, 2010

All I Want for Christmas

Well, the days in the year are dwindling and Christmas is upon us once again. I love Christmas. It is the candle burning in the long, dark night of Winter. It is the song filling an unwanted silence. Christmas is the golden ring in the carousel as we spin through our lives. I can close my eyes to the crass commercialism that Christmas has become, and in the still of my heart I can hear Christmas like a whisper and feel an ageless magic drifting on the breeze in the frosty air. Christmas comes on dove's wings, gently and with peace. I wish it lasted all year long.

My children are grown. I'm sure they have their own ideas of Christmas. I hope it is poetry and light and enchantment. Maybe some of the magic left when they grew up, but I hope enough lingers that they can still feel it and remember what it was like to believe...although, I'm not entirely certain what they believed once upon a time.

I know what I believed...that a fat guy like Santa could not possibly fit down a chimney. I believed that if reindeer could fly faster than Superman (who I knew wasn't real), they still couldn't make it around the world in a single night -- not when they had to stop and let Santa deliver presents at every house along the way -- not to mention the obligatory eating of the cookies and drinking of the milk that most children left out as a token of thanks ( if not outright bribery) for the jolly old elf. I suspected that all those guys in red suits sitting on department store thrones could not be Santa. Also, I thought it would be creepy if Santa really did watch me all year long to ascertain the whole "naughty" and "nice" behavioral aspects of my juvenile tendencies. I mean, what was the deal? Was Santa a Peeping Tom lurking on the periphery, a well-intentioned voyeur? And how well could a fat guy in a fire-engine red suit hide anyway? Sure, it made for a  good story, but, you know, I can't remember ever believing any of it. Ever.

I asked my mother for the truth when I was six years old. She stammered for a moment, then told me it was all magic...that Christmas was magic, and that you had to believe in magic for it to be true. She said I could choose to not believe, but then the magic would be gone and Christmas wouldn't be so much fun anymore. Well, I ask you...where is the fun in doubt? I wasn't one of those kids who could tell themselves, "Okay, this is going to be better all around if you just buy the story." I couldn't play along. The truth was, I didn't want to believe something if it wasn't true.

And so, that Christmas Eve when I was supposed to be blissfully slumbering while visions of sugar plums danced around in my innocent little head, I forced myself to stay awake. Patiently, I waited as those hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning merged. Gradually, the lights went out. The house grew silent. The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below. (Sorry, I got carried away). After waiting for what seemed an eternity, when I was sure my parents would be asleep, I crept into the hallway from my room on little cat's feet. The moonlight shone through a window in the front of the house. I had a good view of the living room and the Christmas tree in the corner. But wait...a light was shining into the room from the kitchen! Was Santa in there rummaging around for more cookies and milk? I could hear a sounded like a quiet muttering of expletives. Why would Santa be in my kitchen in the wee hours of Christmas morning cussing in undertones? Silently, I crept into the room and peeked around the corner. This was the moment of truth! Sitting at the kitchen table was not Santa, but my dad! He was trying to put together a Christmas present for me. It was a doll house...a doll house that came with assembly instructions in Japanese and a bunch of parts that didn't fit together. His belly may have been full with eggnog, but his old noggin was filled with frustration. I was jubilant, however. Here was all the proof that I needed.

"Ha!" I jumped into the kitchen, my little finger pointing accusingly at my father. "I knew it!" I shouted. "You're Santa Claus!"

Bad timing, that.

My dad was not amused. It was two in the morning. He was tired. He was miffed. He was busted. "Oh, you think you are so smart, don't you, little girl? Well put your own *&#* doll house together!" That was one of my first lessons on the differences between myth and reality.

My dad was used to my pragmatism, though. And he did love his little girl. He next tried to explain to me that Santa had left the doll house, but was really pressed for time what with having to deliver so many presents to so many boys and girls, so Santa had asked my dad to put it together for me. Yeah, right. I knew better. I also knew better than to say "yeah, right" out loud. For once in my life, I just let it go. It seemed important to my dad. Still, I had seen all that I needed to see. I had figured it out. And, you know, I don't think it made Christmas lose its magic for me. If anything, it was a relief to finally have an answer. Besides, I had realized at that tender age, that the magic of Christmas went much deeper than Santa or presents. (Still, once it was all put together, I did love that dollhouse.)

No surprisingly, the Christmas when my daughter, Jenny, was seven years old, she came to me with the same doubts nagging her. I stood with my back to the wall while little Jenny sternly posed her question. "Is Santa real?" she demanded. I stammered. "And don't lie to me," she insisted, "because I'll find out."

"You want the truth?" I asked her, hesitating only a moment. She nodded. So, I bent down and took her little hand in mine. I searched her eyes. She was her mother's daughter. Nothing but the truth would do. And so I told her no lies. She was satisfied. (Although, I did caution her to not tell the other children).

The next time we were at the mall, though, she still wanted to talk to "Santa." It was kind of like when the Grinch stole Christmas, but all the little Who's joined hands and sang anyway. The magic was still there for her. When Santa asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she smiled and told him she wanted an "oil change." Go figure -- she was kind of a strange child sometimes. Pragmatist that she was, however, she didn't have any thing on her brother. When her brother, Kyle, was three years old, he told Santa he wanted a credit card. Ah, the gift that keeps on giving...

Now, all these years later, my kids will be here for Christmas. My daughter will bring her husband and my son will bring his fiance. I will also get to share the day with my husband, my mom and dad, my sister, brother, and their families. I also plan to visit my mother-in-law (who is home-bound) and take her some food, presents, and lots of Christmas cheer. It will be a wonderful day.

When the day is over, I will step outside. I will look up into that big, dark sky. If it is a clear night, I hope I can see the Milky Way glowing, its light white and dusted with stars. Ah, Christmas! The magic is eternal...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Big Thank You!

It's been pretty exciting around here lately -- first, Lindsey over at Dangerous with a Pen sent me a Versatile Blogger Award. Then less than a week later, Carol at Artzicarol Rambling bestowed upon me the same honor! You both absolutely made my day, and I am most happy to accept the award and pass it on to other deserving bloggers. And according to the rules, I will now list seven things about myself:

1. My first language was Japanese. I was less than a year old when my family moved to Okinawa and I spent a large amount of time with Yoshiko, who spent most of her time caring for me. Yoshiko spoke no English, but I picked up Japanese very quickly! Today, I don't remember a word of Japanese, but I will never forget Yoshiko!

2. My favorite color is indigo.

3. My favorite car was an acqua-colored MG Midget that I bought back in 1975. I miss driving that little car -- it was so much fun!

4. I have a cockroach phobia. I am terrified of the things! Working in a science museum, I have had to handle snakes, tarantulas, and even scorpions. No problem. But cockroaches? Ugh! Too creepy!

5. I love broccoli almost as much as I love chocolate. Hmmm...I'm thinking...maybe I could saute some broccoli with a little bit of orange zest in a chocolate sauce with some chili powder or chipotle...

6. I don't wear high-heels. They are too dangerous. The last time I wore high-heels (back in 1982), I went to get out of my van, but my heel got stuck in the hem of my dress and I fell out of the van and broke my leg. Come to think of it, I don't wear dresses much any more, either. Jeans with a nice white shirt and white canvas Keds have never gotten me in any trouble.

7. My mother tells me that as a toddler I used to eat dirt. She says it was an added treat if there happened to be roly-polies in the dirt (you know, those little brittle wormy looking things that like to curl up into tight buggy fetal positions) -- they added that extra crunch. So, I apologize to all those little bugs I ate and I hope they are all happily cavorting in roly-poly heaven where there are no three-year-old kids squatting in the dirt and patting out mud cakes with bugaboos stuck in their teeth.

Now for the really fun part. -- I get to pass on the Versatile Blogger Award to seven other bloggers. It's really hard to choose because I have come across some great blogs out there, but here goes:

1.Laura Eno at A Shift in Dimensions.
2. Suzy Turner.
3. PV Lundqvist.
4. Kate Higgins at Kate's Pictures and Words.
5. Carole Anne Carr at caroleannecarr.
6. Melissa J. Cunningham at A Writer's Reality.
7. Jennifer Rose at Wonder Turtle Soaps.

Please take a moment to check out these wonderful blogs and congratulate the writers.

Again, a great big "Thank You" to Lindsey Brooks and Carol Riggs. I appreciate the award and the wonderful writing and blogging community that makes writing and reading so much fun!

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Fire Tree

One afternoon last week I walked past my front hallway and noticed the glass on my front door glowed like orange-red flames. The leaves on the  maple tree in my front yard had donned autumn garb and came knocking...a tree like fire casting its light right where I lived. The hallway lit up, a stained glass shower of autumn bliss. I could feel the warmth soaking my soul. I could feel the season, silent but gloaming, dusky and daunting...daunting because I can now feel the autumn in my bones. I've lived through Spring and Summer, danced and chased passions. Now I am in the season of respite. The flame is alive, but I know Winter is coming. It's all part of the process -- part of the circle that is Life. I'm completely cool with that.

My father reminds me of Winter. I look at him and know that most of his life has passed. He lives in memories of times long gone, when the trees were green  and sprouting. Ah, glory days, alive and vibrant and all the time in the world. I'm sure it passed too quickly for him -- I know it did for me. Still, there is comfort in recollections. My father's whole world is now in the past. He tells the same stories over and over again. He can't remember today --  yesterday is a vibrant  hue of his favorite colors, though. Yesterday is where it's all happening for my father. Yesterday, when he was young...

I can sympathize. I haven't reached the season of Winter yet, but I've definitely crested the proverbial hill and the down slope is in sight. I'm slower. I forget stuff. There are "droops" in places that used to be "perky."  There is more to see in the rear view mirror these days. I have more doctors' appointments. And, God help me, it seems like I can't have a conversation with a doctor any more when every other word doesn't end in "oscopy."

Ah, but my Dad...what goes through his mind these days? His life revolves around doctor's appointments and medications. His memories are his joys. The future is something he doesn't think much about any more. How sad....

He used to catch promises floating on breezes -- now he has trouble catching his breath. His heart used to beat with anticipation -- now the beat is irregular and labored. His eyes used to shine -- now they fade into shadows and close when confusion baffles him. The other day he asked my sister if she knew David had gotten married. David is her son. She planned the wedding. We tried to play down the question, like we all forget details from time to time. The truth is, though, that the clouds have come to stay and they will grow heavier as Winter progresses.

Soon, the fire tree will be bare. Orange-red will fade to white and eventually blur. Winter comes. But, winter always gives birth to Spring.

So, I will be happy to share this Thanksgiving with my father and all my family, while we are all here and able to enjoy each other's company. We will make some new memories. Maybe my father will remember them. Maybe not. I will remember, though, for I am in Autumn and the fire tree glows like promises that will never fade. I am still able to fan the flames. For this I am thankful. I love you, Daddy, and I wish for you all a very happy Thanksgiving!  Peace.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Haunted... I love that word! It feels so delicious on my tongue! Ummm...Halloween... I can taste the season -- apple cider, sweet, spiced pumpkin, popcorn balls, and licorice jelly beans. Oh, and the scent of bonfires and burning leaves -- ahhh, autumn acapriccio. I love the way the leaves fall from the trees all orange, gold, and red, the way they crush under my feet as I walk in crisp, clean air . Halloween...that mysterious time when the veil between worlds is at its most gossamer, when goblins, ghosts, and ghouls are greeted like long-lost friends. comes to me like a yearning.

I have no problem with ghosts. I have been surrounded by them my whole life. I think I once lived in a haunted house. I have worked with ghosts. Things have happened that I can't explain. I know what it is like to be haunted.

We all have ghost stories. I remember one night a few years ago... I was up late at night chatting with a friend. We lit a candle, sat on the floor, and shared a bottle of cheap wine. What could be more conducive to a good ghost story?  He told me about the time he had been house sitting for a friend. The house was old and creaky and sat back on a deep lot in the woods. Pretty spooky stuff already, right? Well, my friend told me he had been drinking some really good Jack Daniels from the homeowner's private stash that night, though he swears that had nothing to do with what happened. A storm had moved in --  the wind was blowing, the rain was pelting, and my friend was delightfully doused in liquid libations. Suddenly, there came a sound outside the window, a meloncholy, mournful sound. He said he saw a figure floating in the air near the window, a solitary, soulfully woeful being, glowing in the gloom.

"A ghost," I whispered, entranced.

"Maybe," my friend said, "but it might have been Jesus."

"You saw Jesus?" I asked. "What was he doing floating outside the window during a storm?"

"Playing a guitar," my friend responded.

"Well, that's pretty cool," I had to admit. "What did Jesus look like?" I just had to know.

"You know," my friend told me, "he looked just like Ted Nugent." I haven't heard that before!

Okay, so maybe that isn't really a good example of a ghost story. Did I mention I used to work in museums? For several years I worked at a museum built around a pre-historic Native American ceremonial burial site in the historic downtown district where I live. There were certainly ghost stories associated with that location. I also worked at a little one-room schoolhouse that had been built in 1912 and was converted into a museum during the 1970's. I couldn't walk into that building without encountering a myriad of ghosts from the turn of the century. Thankfully, they were all happy ghosts. I think that is what history really is -- working with ghosts.

The most poignant ghosts I ever encountered, though, came to me out of the blue. I was stopped at a traffic light one day near the elementary school my children had attended. I looked at the building. I looked across the playground. I could see them all... so many little ghosts. I saw field days, open houses, spring and fall carnivals, cake walks, and May Poles. My precious babies were among all those little laughing ghosts. It was almost more than I could bear. I had to pull off the road, into a parking lot. I was crying and shaking. God, how I longed for the past! I am so proud of the people my children have grown up to be today and I love them dearly, but I wanted to feel the arms of my babies hugging my neck again. I wanted to hear their laughter in my ear. I wanted to kiss their rosy little cheeks! I wanted just one more day with my children, back when their worlds were sooo big and full of promises. I wanted YESTERDAY. I have been haunted by that vision ever since...

And I wouldn't have it any other way. I hope those ghosts never leave me...I hope I am eternally haunted...

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Feeling all Twilight Zoney...

We've all had those moments when we are reading a book or watching a movie and we'll stop and say to ourselves, "Oh yeah, like that could really happen!" But, let's face it, sometimes life does take a surrealist kind of turn off the beaten path. In those moments, we know that reality can indeed be stranger than fiction and we don't need Rod Serling along to narrate the journey.

Such was the case one Saturday morning in April of 1981. My mom had decided it was time to make a pilgrimage to Tuscaloosa, Alabama from her home in Fort Walton Beach, Florida. These trips to visit with her family were routine. Unfortunately,  my dad had to work that weekend. My sister, Patti, and I did not want Mom on the road by herself. (Remember, these were dark, ancient times before cell phones, and GPS systems). Although Patti nor I felt particularly compelled to roll with the Crimson Tide that weekend, we made a pact, agreeing that since neither of us wanted to go, we should both go. After all, misery loves company. And I figured the more, the unmerrier, so I dragged my daughter, Jenny, (who was only four years old at the time and, therefore, had little to say on the matter) along for the ride.  So it was we found ourselves unwilling wayfarers snaking along the narrow curves of State Road 331, heading north on a humid, gray, cloudy day. Could it get any worse?

Of course it could. I was sitting in the back seat with Jenny going through my mom's collection of cassettes. (I told you these were dark, ancient times!) All she had were a bunch of short hand transcriptions from the office and one Oak Ridge Boys tape. I begged my mom to turn around and let me go back and get my tapes. She refused, saying that it was bad luck to turn around on a road trip. Well, I mumbled something about it being incredibly bad luck to be stuck in a car for six hours with only one Oak Ridge Boys tape. (And before anyone goes coming down on me for dissing the Oak Ridge Boys, let me say that I have absolutely nothing against the Oak Ridge Boys -- it was just that I was sick of that song, "Elvira." I mean, I couldn't turn on the radio without hearing that song. It was all over the TV. My life in 1981 was saturated with that song! Giddy up, oom poppa, omm poppa, mow mow!) For the first three hours we listened to the Oak Ridge Boys. At the top of the fourth hour, I opted for the short hand transcriptions.

Well, it was during that fourth hour that we stopped at a McDonald's in Montgomery. (I was feeling a little guilty about dragging poor Jenny along, so I thought I would placate the kid with a Happy Meal). By the time we ate and made it back to the car, the sky had gone from merely gray to bruised and spitting, rain dribbling like saliva from those dismal clouds. That was when my mom's powder blue Buick decided it wasn't going anywhere. The car wouldn't start. Mom kept turning the key in the ignition and pumping the gas pedal. She was rewarded with a grinding noise. After a few minutes, she conceded defeat and ran back into McDonald' to use their phone.

By now my sister, Patti, who happened to be in her last trimester of pregnancy, by the way, was feeling more volatile than the rolling clouds above us. Patti had always had a flair for colorful language, but during her pregnancy she had become most fluent in profanity. Oh, the things my sister said sitting there in that parking lot on that rainy Saturday morning! "$#!!* piece of $#*+!" she extolled. "Oh, Mom thinks she has something here -- she's got a Buick! La di da! What she has is a #*!*$!!* piece of General Motors $#!+!"

During this diatribe, Mom crawled back in the car. The rain had gotten harder and she was soaking wet. "Someone in the restaurant recommended a good garage," she said. "It's just up the street, so the tow truck should be here soon."

"$#!+!" was Patti's response.

"You know," Mom said, shaking her head, "this car was acting funny all last week."

"What?!!!" screeched Patti. "You knew this car was 'acting funny' and you came off in it anyway?!!!"

"I had to," Mom insisted. "Our other car was dirty!"

I could see the veins bulging on my sister's neck from the back seat. Her face was red. She was blubbering. "And you tell me I don't have my priorities straight!"

I couldn't help thinking we were all going to laugh about this someday. But not that day, though. Jenny was already bored with the Happy Meal trinket she had gotten minutes before and was whining to listen to "Elvira" again. The one good thing that had come out of all this was that as long as the car wouldn't start, there would be no music.

The tow truck showed up about a half-hour later and towed us to the garage. We all piled out of the car while a very nice young man climbed into the car and positioned himself in the driver's seat. He tried to start the car, but to no avail. "Might be the battery," mused the nice young man.

"It's not the #*!#*-+#* battery!" Pregnant Patti was frothing.

The nice young man was clearly befuddled and much agitated by Patti's hostility. He did something under the hood and played with the ignition until he finally got the Buick to whimper. After a few false starts, the engine roared to life. He drove it around the block while we waited in the garage. When he returned a few minutes later, he left the car running out in the rain. He told us it was probably the starter and we would be fine as long as we didn't turn the motor off. He was dismissing us. On top of that, we had to run through the rain to the car. Patti had clearly miffed the nice young man and that was his revenge. Blustering, Patti waddled to the car like a duck. Mom, Jenny, and me made a run for it. We were almost at the car when Jenny slipped and fell face first into a mud puddle. When it rains, it pours.

So, it came to pass that we found ourselves back on road, limping out of Montgomery and on the home stretch. The highway was desolate. Jenny sat in the back seat of Mom's Smurf mobile with mud drying on her face and cuss words streaming out of her sweet little baby mouth. (She was giving my sister lessons in profanity, Patti actually taking notes). Mom was eerily quiet. Through it all, "Elvira" blared through the speakers. Finally, I snapped. I couldn't take it anymore -- I was sick of that song! Not wanting to hurt anyone's feelings, I took it all out on the Oak Ridge Boys. I said terrible things about their music, things I didn't mean. And while I was still disparaging the band, my mom looked in her rearview mirror and said, "Oh, my..."

"Oh, my...what?" I asked.

"It's the Oak Ridge Boys." Mom responded.

I turned and looked out the back window. Sure enough, a big tour bus with "Oak Ridge Boys" emblazoned above the windshield was following us. I smiled and waved demurely. The driver waved back. A bunch of guys came from the back of the bus and waved. I threw kisses. Mom and Patti both called me a hypocrite. I told them I was being practical -- we were out in the middle of nowhere in the rain in a car that could die at any time. I was just making friends.

Those wonderful Oak Ridge Boys followed us all the way to Tuscaloosa. I kept waving and sang "Elvira" as loudly as I could. Giddy up, oom poppa, omm poppa, mow mow!

Life was sure strange.

Oh, one interesting little side note -- when we got to our destination in Tuscaloosa, nobody was home. Did I say life was sure strange?