Category Archives: Judy Dykstra-Brown essay

Play Date

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Play Date

 

My sister’s house has sold and they are cleaning out her attic. My niece and I make one trip more and I find my old dollhouse, collapsed, in the garbage can. I take the pieces out—some of them—and stash them in her trunk. I’d thought them gone forty years ago when the tornado took the roof off my parents’ house, but now, here they are like the leaves of memory blown miraculously back to me.

When she sees I’ve taken them, my niece asks what she should do with the dolls she found in the back recesses of her mother’s attic storage room—the one I hadn’t got to on my last visit—perhaps because of the roofing nails sticking through the wood which made reaching back behind the eaves a physical danger.

I find them where she has stashed them In a suitcase in her garage, and when I open the case and see the first doll staring up at me, I think it is a “find” from some antique store, like the dishes in my sister’s China cabinet or the tiny figures on her shelves. One rubber arm, sticky with age, has burst open and streams kapok like a froth of bleached and fermented blood. Other limbs have decayed to nothing but empty puddles of congealed rubber. Only the torso, held in place by a sagging pink fancy gown; and the face, stained red in places from some surface it’s been pressed against for too long, are still intact. As I lift the first doll from the suitcase, the other doll—the size of a toddler—stares up at me, one eye unhinged, her hair in pigtails sealed with rubber bands. When I lift her by one arm, her head turns, her legs pump and I realize this is my Ideal walking doll. When you raise her arms, one at a time, she walks toward you and her head swings, side-to-side. Hard and beautiful, she was not a doll to cuddle and she would not sit. She stood propped up against one corner of my room, rarely played with. What, I wonder, has happened to the bright blue dress she wore? Then I look closer and see that she’s still wearing it—faded to paleness even in the dark. What is here is original—her hair, her limbs, her dress, her petticoat—but her shoes and socks have been lost to another little girl, perhaps, or have jiggled off in some trunk and been left behind.

I’m 1500 miles away from home, yet I load the child-sized dollies into my boyfriend’s trunk: my sister’s doll in it’s fancy pink floor-length formal, my doll with her eye gone wild in its socket. They won’t make it home to Mexico in my suitcase this time, but it is impossible to leave them there in the suitcase to be thrown away by someone who has no memory of them. They are not collector’s items. They have been too neglected in their lives since they stood propped up in the corners of our rooms, then in the corners of our closets, the basement, my sister’s trunk and then her attic 800 miles from where they called us their owners and stimulated our imaginations to the extent they were able.

They’ll now reside in my boyfriend’s garage in Missouri until the time comes when I can carry them back in an extra suitcase or he can mule them down for me. If they were miniatures, I could include them in a retablo or a memory box, but each head is larger than the largest assemblage I’ve ever made. The closets of my house are full and overflowing, as are the wall-to-ceiling cabinets in my garage and studio and every area of my house where I’ve had room to build a closet. But I must use them. Give them some purpose for still existing other than to fill up room in some box on some cupboard shelf.

I imagine a memory box of gigantic proportions and suddenly, I have to make it, even if it takes up all the work room of my studio, and I start to plan how I could take my own doll back with me and what I’ll have to leave: the case of books that I’ve just had printed or my clothes or all the cartridges for my laser printer? If I wear a baby carrier, will they believe it is my baby, sound asleep? And what sensation will I cause when I try to stuff her into the overhead rack?

When I start to plan what else will go in the memory box with her, I remember the metal dollhouse sides and suddenly, I’m planning another trip back to Missouri, where I will make the mother of memory boxes—four feet square—and I wonder how my boyfriend will react to this and what I’ll do with it when it is finished. But somehow all these practicalities do not matter, because this dolly, relegated to corners for its whole life, is finally going to get played with!!!

This is a reblog from a 2014 piece. Since their prompt was “Play,” I’m reblogging it for the Ragtag Daily Prompt.

Without Flair

 

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Searching through the rubble of my bedroom desk drawer, I find the estranged top to my last remaining Flair pen. I’ve been looking for it for weeks, sealing up that last precious pen in Saran Wrap and a Ziplock bag, lest it dry out. They don’t seem to import Flair pens to Mexico and the last time I looked for them in the states, I could only find lurid colors of orange and purple and green.  No black.

My first attempts to scribble poetry with a mere rolling writer were not successful.  That attempt was without precedent.  I’ve been scribbling with Flair pens for as long as I can remember. Their little felt nibs flow so effortlessly over the surface of the paper. The track they leave is wide enough to make a writer feel important and acknowledged. In the world of writing aids—pen, paper, notebooks, staplers, dictionaries—Flair pens are the perfect neighbors. They do not make a noise or leave an impression on the page under them. 

Now I move to restore this much-looked-for cap to its spouse, only to find someone has moved the ziplock back containing the pen.  With no one else to blame but the cats or Yolanda, my three-times-a-week housekeeper, I mine my mind for memories of where I might have moved it. Sigh. Place the top in the place formerly designated for its companion. The search continues.

 

This piece was written making use of these three prompts: If you are in need of a prompt, click on any URL for how to submit your work.:

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/25/ragtag-prompt-25-precedent/https://dailyaddictions542855004.wordpress.com/2018/06/25/rubble/  Link 
https://fivedotoh.com/2018/06/25/fowc-with-fandango-estranged/

Who Knew?

Who Knew?

When new was new, I was crazy about it. A new friend, new dress, new favorite food. But what I liked best was new places. I yearned to travel, even if it was just to the next town. Strangely enough, as tiny as the towns were in my part of South Dakota, people from neighboring towns did not mix. We went rollerskating in Draper, 7 miles away, but when our eyes chanced to stray to Draper boys, we were taken aside by several of the “popular” Draper girls–the cheerleaders, in fact, and told to stay away from their boys. This really happened. We played their school in sports, went rollerskating every Sunday in their school gym, even went to movies in their tiny theater, but we did not mix. When we tried, we’d been warned.

I think I visited Presho, Vivian and Kennebec–all 20 to 40 miles away–no more than once in the 18 years I lived in Murdo, population 700. White River, 38 miles away, we more regularly visited since they had shows on Mondays as well as weekends, and the movies were just ten cents, whereas ours cost twenty-five cents! But, never did we ever socialize with White River girls. The boys, however, were a different matter.

The first boy I ever kissed was from White River, and we went steady for two years. I think I’ve told the story of that first kiss in another blog posting. Suffice it to say that after putting it off until age 16, it was about time. And, it worked. I was literally dizzy and he had to hold me up for a minute afterwards. He had opened my car door, helped me out, then folded me in his arms and kissed me. I was so discombobulated that instead of walking to my own car, I opened the back door of his car and started to get into the back seat. Not for the reasons you might think. My best friend and a boy who (as I recall) later turned to cattle rustling were already in the back seat. I just did so in utter confusion. And no, I had never had a drink in my life at the time.

At any rate, this story has veered off in a direction unintended, so just suffice it to say that after that, life continued to present new after new and I accepted most of them. I traveled widely, loved a few loves, pursued a few careers and wound up in Mexico. Now, at age 70, I suddenly find that new isn’t as necessary to me. The older I get, the more I realize that everything is everywhere. You just have to look for it closely.

No longer is it necessary for me to travel to far-off third world countries. It is exciting to take the same walk on the same beach day after day since the sea presents new treasures each day. I love getting up each morning and writing first thing, having Pepe come each Wednesday to give me a 1 1/2 hour massage after which I plop into the hot tub. I love spending hours at my desk and sometimes hate having to leave home even for activities I have enjoyed in the past.

The point is, that the older I get, the more I want to spend all my time doing what I love most. Writing. Art. The fact that each endeavor creates a new piece is getting to be enough “new.”

 

This is a rewrite of an essay I wrote so long ago that I only had one viewer.  If it was you, you must be one of my first followers! The prompt today is suddenly.

Happy Ending

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Andy and I outside our luxurious home formed of mud, manure and straw.  Dirt floors.  No running water. No bathroom. No electricity.

Mary has asked that I tell more of the story about the trial of the man who abducted me and the aftermath––especially  about Andu Alem and why I ended up not leaving Ethiopia after this horrid occurence.  I think the lady craves a happy ending, so here it is.  In the past segment, found HERE, I skipped over most of the information about the trial.  Here is more information as well as some of the aftermath, including Andy.  It starts the morning after I was accosted by two of Solomon Kidane’s friends who threatened my life and the life of my friends if I didn’t withdraw charges against him. The story continues:

The next day I went with my attorney and we started making the rounds of government offices and officials, eventually making it up to the equivalent of the national Attorney General. The way the Ethiopian justice system works is to hear an hour or two of testimony per week for each case it is adjudicating. This can lead to very long trials—sometimes a matter of years—and businessmen learn to devote one day a week to sitting in court to plead various issues before the court. After hearing my story, however, the Attorney General granted special dispensation for my testimony to be heard in one or two long sessions or for as long as it would take so I could then be free to leave the country. The fact that he had suspended this custom for me was remarkable, explained my attorney, in that it was without precendent. A court date was set for the following week.

The day of the trial, my lawyer and the embassy interpreter picked me up in a taxi and we rode to the courts building. They led me to the courtroom, where another case was being heard. Interestingly enough, it was the trial of a young Tegrian woman who had been among the hijackers who had hijacked the Air Ethiopian plane that I have mentioned formerly. Ironically enough, she was the cause of “Solomon Kidane” and the other security guards being on my plane and so was responsible for my kidnapping as well. It is a further irony that the hijacking had been done to call attention to the revolutionary cause that Solomon Kidane and his friends were also sympathetic to.

The first day of the trial, I sat in court watching several other cases being presented. I was curious about what was being said, but remained unenlightened for all of the testimony was, of course, in Amharic. When my case came up, they charged a young man sitting on the right hand side of the aisle with the crime. When they asked if his name was Solomon Kidane, he said no, presenting his identity papers. Clearly, his attorney said, they had arrested the wrong man. The judge told him to turn around and face me and asked me if this was the man who had abducted and molested me. I was confused. Solomon Kidane had had a full Afro, whereas this young man had closely cropped hair. Could they have substituted someone else in his place? What could have happened? He looked so different. How could I be sure that this was the man who assaulted me? Then I noticed the huge goose egg on his forehead in the exact same place where I had hit him over the head with the lamp. At the same time, I remembered him showing me various i.d.’s that he had used in his role as a secret security agent.

“I am sure he is the man,” I said to the three judges hearing my case, and went on to explain to them that Solomon Kidane was just one of his many identities.

For the next three hours, his lawyer did more to prove my moral turpitude than to defend his client. Was I a virgin, he asked? How many men had I slept with. Why was I crying when the airplane left Lalibela and who were the two men who had brought me to the plane? Had I slept with one of them? I answered truthfully that yes, I had. Had I slept with both of them? No, I had not. Why was I traveling alone he asked, and did I sleep with many men as I traveled. No, I did not. Had I not propositioned this man and asked to meet his family? When he came, had he presented me with a gift? Yes, I answered. In accepting this gift, was I not expressing an interest in this young man, and did I feel it was proper to accept a gift from a man who was a stranger. It was a cheap shamma that could be purchased in the marked for the equivalent of $3 American, I answered, and I felt it would be rude to refuse. In return, I had given him a hat I had bought that had cost much more. Was I aware that in Ethiopia an exchange of gifts like this could indicate an intention to wed, he asked? No, I answered. And was I aware that abduction of a bride was still a behavior often practiced there?
“And is saying you are going to kill your bride after raping her also an established tradition? “ I asked.

At the end of my three hours of testimony, in which his lawyer did everything to discredit me and to prove my moral unworthiness, Solomon Kidane was arrested and ordered to stand trial. The judges then released me from obligation to the court.

One very interesting twist to the story is that I was in sympathy with the E.L.F. cause and felt it justified, and so I never did reveal to police, my attorney, the embassy or the judges that these men were all E.L.F. members. If Solomon Kidane was to go to jail, I wanted it to be for his personal actions, not his political ones. I believe to this day that the men didn’t realize that I could understand their political ravings as they got drunker and by the time the night was over, they had given away a secret that I was wise not to reveal I understood.

The day after my court testimony finished, I was preparing to depart for Khartoum to join Deirdre when a letter was delivered to me via Poste Restante. It was from Andy, who stated that he had heard what “that man” had done to me. “He is just devil!” he stated in his usual colorful English, and he went on to say that sending me away was the biggest mistake of his life, and that I should come back to Lalibela to live with him until they were forced by the upcoming rainy season to journey out over the mountains via Land Rover to go back to Addis. “After that, we will travel to Kenya, and then we will marry,” he said.

Two days later, I was soaring low over a familiar grass landing field. Andy and Tessie met me with arms full of flowers. How did they know I was coming? I asked. It was Tessie who answered that they had met every plane since Andy had written the letter telling me to come back. When we went to the Seven Olives that night for a welcome back celebration, I noticed that the flower garden was completely shorn of flowers. “Every day, they granted us permission to cut flowers for your arrival,” admitted Andu Alem. “By the time you finally came, we had had cut every flower.” That night, lay singers in the Tej house once again sang the song of my coming back, and staying with Andy, and opening up “The Judy and Andy Souvenir Shop.” They had predicted it, they insisted. As it turns out, the ending to our story did not turn out as foretold, but in this way I nonetheless entered into the lore of this mountain village so far removed from civilization.

(Even though the name he used with me was fictional, I have changed the false name he used to “Solomon Kidane.” Ironic that I would change a real false name to a false false name, isn’t it?)

 

 

 

Rings of Saturn: Daily Post, the Final Day of 2017

Rings of Saturn

I had taken off my wedding ring years before. How typical of me that I would finally put it on again after he died. I don’t know why I do these things. Perhaps it was easier to be married to a dead man, or perhaps I felt he had finally atoned for his bad behavior, but suddenly that symbol had more significance than it had come to have in life. That sainthood of departure? I’d seen it happen again and again, but I had never been one to run with the pack and so it surprised me so much when I looked down one day and saw his ring on my finger again that I took it off and it has resided in my jewelry box ever since—that hinged red leather lips-shaped jewelry box that opens in a kiss to reveal a  little slit-compartment for rings. A next-door-neighbor of my childhood  had brought it as a hostess gift when she came to Mexico to visit me during that long year after his death when everyone came out of the woodwork to come visit.

Draw a ring around the old. Ring in the new in multiples. Duplication has become such a science—the craftsman thrown out of the ring. With the new three-dimensional copier, what cannot be duplicated, if plastic is your creation material of choice? A plastic gun—complete down to the bullet in its chamber. A perfect functioning model of anything with moving parts. Can each grain of gunpowder be duplicated? One ringie dingie, two ringie dingies. Floating away on the surface of the lake of forget. Is that giving up? Ringing the final buzzer? Burning the evidence in a ring of fire? Burning bridges? A phone rings and rings in the distance. It has that ring of authenticity, but that does not mean it is real.

Ring of thieves. One by one, the days steal my life away. Time is that one thing no one has control over—even Einstein or Hawking, who perhaps understood it more than anyone. Estee Lauder, Timex, Time Incorporated—all profit by time but none have conquered it. We are all in the ring with it whether we know it or not. Others may suffer the black eyes or sound the buzzer, but we are all really fighting the same fight. The smoothest face still wrinkles and the most beautiful voice cracks with age or disappears. Buzzers finally go silent and the arms holding up the signs go saggy. Ring around the rosie. Ring around the rosie. Ashes, ashes, we all fall down.

 

This is a rewite of an essay originally written three years ago. The prompt today was finally.

Thanksgiving Reflections: Waiting to Be Fed

IMG_5805Waiting to be fed.

When I was a kid at summer camp, we used to sing a song in the mess hall as we sat waiting for our food to be served.  It went, “Here we sit like birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness, birds in the wilderness. Here we sit like birds in the wilderness, waiting to be fed.”  It never failed to amuse us.  For seven years as a camper and two as a counselor, I joined in the refrain and sure enough, the food always eventually came through.

Now, at 2 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day, 2017, the strains of that line of music keep weaving their way through my thoughts.  By some strange series of misunderstood communications, I actually have two dates for a turkey meal—both at the same restaurant, but with different groups of friends and at different times––one at 3, the other at 6:30.  I could relate the weird facts of how this came to be, but suffice it to say it wasn’t my fault and that yes, I’ve cancelled one of them.  Sort of. At any rate, I’m saving myself for that meal and although I went grocery shopping this morning, mainly for the cats and dogs, I had unusual restraint in not buying any junk food, no matter how healthy it presented itself to be.  The naughtiest items I purchased were whole wheat bread, low fat thin rice cakes and apples. I splurged on Fancy Feast for Annie, who has been staging a hunger strike since I got home, and got 60 packets of kitten food which should last the other cats a few days and I will probably feed them the Fancy Feast as well, after Annie turns her nose up at it.  I, for one, am fasting until tonight’s meal, doing penance before the act.  Tomorrow I start my new diet.

IMG_2825Also waiting to be fed.

In case you missed it, HERE is my Thanksgiving post from a few days ago of images of Thanksgivings present and past.

 

 

A Roadtrip Through Five States (Cee’s Share Your World Prompt)

Click on any photo to enlarge all:

Today I’ve been a lazy passenger as Forgottenman has driven us from Alabama through Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois and Missouri. In one 45-minute period, we crossed 4 rivers: the Cumberland, the Tennessee, the Ohio and the Mississippi and saw two huge dams––the Kentucky and Barclay—both TVA projects I had studied about in the sixth grade. We have gone from 77 degrees in Huntsville to 53 degrees and rain. We’ve seen 13 dead deer along the interstate and over a dozen stalled cars as well as countless huge tire strips from semis—more than I’ve ever seen in a day of travel before, although Forgottenman thinks that is about par for the course.

The trees of every size, shape and variety as well as every hue of green, gold, yellow, red and brown have been spellbinding in their beauty. I don’t know that I’ve ever taken a ride through an autumn landscape this varied and extensive. Would that skies had been sunny and clear, but nonetheless, it has been a wonderful ride. In a little over an hour, we’ll be home and I can share photos of my day. Until then, I’m gritting my teeth on this rain-slickened two-lane road with no shoulders and fairly heavy traffic. Forgottenman is a good driver and “Mother,” our GPS, has not led us astray so far, although I must admit she has in the past.

Now that it is nearly dark, the traffic has thinned and the puddles on the road deepened. I can hear the water splashing against the undercarriage, as though we are driving through a car wash. Bug splashes on the front window that I’ve been trying to shoot photos around all day have been abolished by heavy rain and windshield wipers, but too late, too late. A stiff neck slowly Improved over the past two days again starts to seize up in the tension over oncoming car lights, unceasing rain and deepening puddles.

I’m glad I’m not driving and glad a good driver is, although I am wishing he was not using the cruise control. We’ve had this discussion before with me maintaining that it should not be used in rainy weather, he insisting this is an old wives tale. Since I am neither a wife nor old (in some eyes, namely mine) I reject once more his statement. But he is driving and so I surrender the argument in his favor, not because he is right but because he is driving.

Forgottenman is anxious to get home so he can look at a map to try to understand why Mother has directed us off Highway 62 onto this hilly, winding tiny two-lane road. More of a technophobe, I never go anywhere without a map along, but he is more trusting of the powers of technology to steer him aright, in spite of a number of experiences in which she hasn’t. In less than an hour, all mysteries will be revealed. In the meantime, I’m going to close my eyes and pretend I’m anywhere other than where I am.

Ha!! Finally home seven hours after we started out from Huntsville. We unloaded the car in a light drizzle, thankful for the fact that it isn’t the heavy rainfall of the past few hours. Cold wet grass made us grateful for a dry carpet and relatively warm house inside, as well as Wifi and electricity so I can post this message. We had a wonderful time with old friends but there is no place like home.

 

Cee’s questions for the week:

Would you rather take a 2 week vacation with an organized tour or take a cruise of your choice? I’d rather take an unorganized tour–going where I wished to.

Did you like swinging as a child? Do you still get excited when you see a swing? I lived across from the playground for my entire growing up years.  I loved swinging and hearing the sounds of the swings across the street when I was at home lying in bed or in the grass.

What is the most important thing that you ever learned ? (I bet it’s not something you learned in school) It is wise not to say everything you think and to think about everything you say.

What inspired you or what did you appreciate this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. See above!! And, there will be more tomorrow.

 

For Cee’s Share Your World prompt.