Category Archives: Teenagers

Where I Am From

 

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Where I am From

I am from Annie-I-Over and London Bridge, the upstairs trunk filled with my mother’s Eastern Star formals and my older sister’s discarded prom dresses.

I am from backyard cherry trees and grain sacks piled in the old cinder block garage. From the lame dog that dad named the arithmetic dog because he put down three and carried one, from that winter when the three little Judd girls perished on the prairie during a snow storm, their gloved hands rising from the snowdrift, their ungloved hands, one each, in opposite pockets of their snow parkas that were not sufficient in the prairie winds and drifting snow.

I am from sounds in the prairie night. That sudden popping noise and choruses of mice families in the walls, my oldest sister in late from the Vivian dance, trying to sneak quietly up the wooden stairs to our upstairs all-girls loft, my middle sister in her purple bedroom, me in my yellow and red with the green linoleum, my oldest in her green and black and white checked refuge whose windows opened up to the front porch roof and sunbathing a story above pesky neighborhood boys with ice water in glasses or simply inquisitive eyes.

I am from the creak of playground swings in the schoolyard across the street. From our neighbor’s cocker spaniel that they let me pretend was mine, me cross-legged in the dirt of their front yard in Levis and a checked shirt with my dog in the triangle of my legs.

I am from Frosty Freezes and Mowell’s Drug Store. Cherry phosphates and chocolate Cokes, Russian Peanuts and love comics I could only buy if they were at the bottom of the stack I bought ten at a time—my entire week’s allowance. My mother’s instructions only countermanded by the cooperation of Jack Mowell, who never looked beyond the top three in the stack.  Archie and Veronica, Casper the Ghost, Richie Rich and then—Love for the duration of the stack.

I am from hay rides and watermelon feeds at the Thomas family farm down by the river. Wood ticks and sand bars that sucked you in. I am from White River boys and mean White River girls who said they were their boys and to leave them alone. I am from a sudden stubborn nature that didn’t listen and so had my first kiss standing in the field between two cars––one being my car with  Jones County plates, the other the car of a Mellette County boy from White River who would make me dizzy as often as we could arrange it for the next two years.

I am from Job’s Daughters and 4-H, the apron I spent all summer sewing that made it to the State Fair where the judges declared it to look “hastily made.”

I am from a book handed to me at the age of 16 that began, “Listen, Violet, I am going to tell you a wonderful story and it’s all about the birds and the bees.”

I am from choke cherries and meadowlarks, riding in the backs of pickups, picking up pop bottles along the highway ditches, and bouquets of sweet clover and alfalfa and snake grass. Stealing corn from the neighbor’s fields and overnights in our own fields down by the river to switch the irrigation pumps at midnight, my older sisters in a wrestling match, throwing each other in the irrigation ditches and my dad’s ghost story ending in “You’ve got my golden hand” and his hand descending from the pitch black to grab my upper arm.

Screams under the summer stars and the half-full moon. The yip of coyotes and an occasional marauding coon. All the spirits of departed Sioux natives and homesteaders as well as a few ghosts of our own. Perhaps ourselves coming back to investigate our pasts. Haunted by the whole surrounding vast emptiness of rolling plains and empty skies between the vast amount of stars and grass and seeking souls who frequented those spaces that made the emptiness not empty but full of things with space enough to grow and move into whatever we were becoming.

 

I published this for Mary who asked for more results from the exercises we did at our writing retreat a few week ago. I believe this was a 20 minute timed writing to the prompt, “Where I Am From”. If you’d like to tell us where you’re from, please link your essay in the comments below!

Mistakes in Parenting 1: Teenage Fashionista

 

Teenage Fashionista

She layers on her makeup, gussies up her hair,
then faces indecision over what she is to wear.
It is an epic battle, trying to decide
inside which current fashion her body will reside.

She asks no one’s opinion. She’d rather try and pile
garment after garment, not quite today’s best style,
on bed and chair and carpet, in crumpled little heaps
until she finds the outfit that she will wear for keeps.

There is no dearth of choices of every hue and kind,
which makes it even harder—this making up her mind.
Crop tops, skirts or Levis ripped in the right places
are surveyed in the mirror as she strides off her paces.

Lip poochings and selfies help to make the choice.
When she finally picks her costume, all of us rejoice.
Into the car and speeding to get to school by nine,
both of the  kids delivered, back home I guzzle wine.

Raising a fashionista is something short of fun.
I swear I won’t go shopping with the younger one.
I’ll build her fascination with reptiles or bugs,
go hunting in swamp waters for snakes or frogs or slugs.

I won’t encourage fashion sense or darling little dresses.
I’ve had enough of posturing and daily costume messes.
Making mistakes in parenting is not part of the fun,
and for sure the next time, I’ll make a different one.

 

Prompt words today are help, dearth, epic and indecision.

Limbo

 

Limbo

My best friend taught me about limbo and saints,
Showed me their stacks of National Geographic.
You had to be invited into membership, she said,
not everyone could join. I rated them against
my mother’s Ladies’ Home Journals

and felt deficient, somehow.

No wine in our Methodist kitchen cupboards.
No tuna and salmon tins
stacked up awaiting Friday.
All those cans on my friend’s mother’s shelves in limbo
all Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday,

that long summer when we were still twelve.

Wanting something we didn’t yet know the name of.
Restless stirrings the little boys our age 
did not know how to respond to.
All of them inches shorter than us
 except for one—a tall country boy
new to town school,
the most innocent of all.

How we waited to be chosen—
the fact that we’d already chosen in our minds
having little consequence.
How we watched. How we kept secrets,
even from each other.

I knew what to call it, at least,
if not much else,
that summer I turned thirteen,
expectantly,

and
absolutely
nothing changed.

Limbo.

The dVerse poets prompt is “Limbo.”

But Jimmy Cliff says it best!!!!

And “Limbo” of a different sort was two years in our future: 

Adolescence

 

 

 

1960, Murdo grade school’s 7th and 8th grade, first boy-girl party in the unfinished basement of our “new” house.  I’m the tallest girl in the 8th grade, dancing with the shortest boy in the 7th grade. I have on two different dresses in these photos taken on the same night.  I ripped the side seam out of the first one trying to duck under someone’s arm during the first dance.  I had to go change into one of my older sister’s dresses. Click on photos to enlarge.

Adolescence

Awkward pauses, awkward poses.
Awkward stances, offering roses.
Teens are natural at this.
First date, first crush, first awkward kiss.

Stumbling to stand like newborn colt,
One day suave, just now a dolt.
All creatures need to learn to be
what they’ll be one day effortlessly.

We learn our lessons through mistakes—
missed swings at balls and fallen cakes.
There’ll be missteps. That die is cast,
but adolescence does not last.

I’ve used this photo before, but the poem is new. The prompt today is awkward.

Cold Weather and the Subtle Art of Wooing

 

Cold Weather and the Subtle Art of Wooing

A frozen little nose and frigid little toes
plague my teeny-bopper everywhere she goes,
for she does not cover tender little parts
when the winter comes and when the snowing starts.

Flip-flops on her feet, face naked to the air—
she seems to need to show us everything that’s there.
Little mini-skirts and a tiny cotton blouse
with nary a parka as she journeys house-to-house.

She says the weather’s nothing. She says she isn’t cold,
and she will not listen. She simply won’t be told
by her mother or her father that she should bundle up.
We try to give her mittens, hot cocoa in a cup.

Now once again she’s out of here with a new boyfriend
but without a coat or sweater to protect against the wind.
But then I see her logic. for when she subtly sneezes,
he drapes an arm around her to shield her from the breezes. 

So even though my daughter might seem naive and daft
not taking due precautions against the cold and draft,
there’s a method to her madness. She knows what she is doing.
Instead of dressing for the weather she is dressing for the wooing.

 

The WordPress prompt today is frigid.

Generational Drift

Generational Drift

It’s a symptom of their stage of life,
a product of their age.
Adolescents have to disagree
and posture, pout and rage.

That teenage chemical is now
rampaging through each vein,
bringing self-doubt, embarrassment,
confusion and disdain.

Nothing so discomforting
as advice of a parent.
Teens crave emancipation,
but go through with it? They daren’t.

They may neglect their family time
in favor of their friends.
The list of what is wrong with you?
Somehow it never ends.

If you could just dress better,
they might find it easier to
admit you were their parents
when they run into you.

But as it is they meet your eye,
their own eyes simply narrowing.
They walk by like a stranger.
To address you would be harrowing.

You rip your jeans and cut your hair
so it looks freshly tumbled,
but you cannot please them.
If you try, you will be humbled.

“Gross,” they’ll say, “You’re not a kid,
so why attempt to be one?”
But if you keep your present look,
they’ll say that you are no fun.

How can one be as old as you
and not know anything?
For their advice, they’ll go online
to consult the I Ching.

Ouiji boards and seances
bring advice from the past.
It seems words really ancient
contain more of a blast.

So parents, do not anguish
if you can’t reach your at-hand kids,
Just wait ’til you have passed away
and talk to your great-grandkids!

The prompt today is symptom.

Teen Idol

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Teen Idol

No mere pea in any pod,
nothing about her crass or odd,
all things about her svelte and mod,
designer clothes, designer bod,
her face a mask, her spine a rod––
Gucci-clad, Manolo shod.
Fortune gave an early nod
to one the whole world came to laud.
Yet as we throw the final clod,
how sad this beauty blessed by God,
choosing to end the whole charade,
now lies beneath the welcoming sod.
Her famous smile––a mere facade.

The prompt word today was “facade.” (jdb photo)