Friends, family, cats, dogs, computer (blog), chocolate, art, art supplies, my house, my garden. These are my favorite things.
On Facebook, click on the URL to see all 35 photos. When you get to my blog, then click the first photo and arrows to enlarge all photos.
The WP Weekly photo prompt is beloved.
I am three years old, lying in my Mom’s room taking a nap. I can hear voices in the front room. The world comes slowly back to me as I rouse myself from the deep sleep I swore I didn’t need. I hear my mom’s voice and the voice of a stranger. I slide my legs over the side of the chenille-covered bed, balancing for a moment like a teeter totter before giving in to gravity and letting my feet slide through space to the floor below. I creak open the door, which had been left ajar. My mom’s voice gets louder. I smell coffee brewing and hear the chink of china coffee cups in the living room.
I hear a dull rubbing sound and move toward it—through the kitchen to the dinette, where a very small very skinny girl with brown braids is sitting at the table coloring in one of my coloring books. She is not staying in the lines very well, which is crucial—along with the fact that she is coloring the one last uncolored picture in the book which I’ve been saving for last because it is my favorite and BECAUSE I HAVE IT PLANNED SO THERE IS SOMEWHERE IN THAT PICTURE TO USE EVERY LAST COLOR IN MY BOX OF CRAYOLAS!
I sidle past her, unspeaking, aflame with indignation. Who could have—who would have—given her the authority to color in my book? I stand in the door of the living room. My mom is talking to a mousy gray-haired lady—tall, raw-boned, in a limp gray dress. My mom sees me, and tells me to come over and meet Mrs. Krauss. They are our new neighbors. They are going to live in Aunt Stella and Uncle Werner’s house two houses down. Did I meet their daughter Pressie in the kitchen? She’s just my age and Aunt Stella and Uncle Werner (who are not actually related to us, but just friends of my folks) are her real aunt and uncle.
The gray lady calls Pressie in to meet me. She is quiet and I am quiet. Then we go back to color at the table together. We drink orange juice and eat potato chips. We will be best friends for what seems like a lifetime but what is really only until we approach adolescence. I will have a love-hate relationship with her mother, who will continually set up competitions between Pressie and me to see who will win. She will try to coach Pressie first; but still, I will always win.
Pressie and I will play hollyhock dolls and dress-up. We play, sometimes, with Mary Boone; but her parents are too religious and don’t think we’re nice enough to play with her very much. I want to put on neighborhood plays and circuses, but none of the other kids want to perform. I want to play store and school, but Pressie eventually goes home to help her mother varnish the floors.
Pressie’s house is full of loud brothers and a sulky teenage sister. It is full of high school-aged cousins who tease us unmercifully and old ladies who come to play Scrabble with her mother. It is full of a missionary sister who comes back from South America and married brothers who come from Florida with babies that Pressie and I take charge of.
Pressie’s house is full of slivery floors that are always in the process of being varnished or de-varnished. There is one drawer in the kitchen full of everybody’s toothbrushes, combs, hairpins, hair cream, shampoo tubes, old pennies, crackerjack toys, rubber balls, lint, hairballs, rolled up handkerchiefs and an occasional spoon that falls in from the drain board above it. They have no bathroom—just the kitchen sink and a toilet and shower in the basement, across from the coal bin and the huge coal furnace. Their toilet has a curtain in front of it, but the shower is open to the world.
Sometimes when I am peeing, someone comes down to put coal in the furnace or to throw dirty clothes in the washtub next to the wringer washer. I pull the curtain tight with my arms and pray that they won’t pull it back and discover me, my panties down to the floor, pee dripping down my leg from my hurried spring from the toilet to secure the curtain. To this day, I have dreams about bathrooms that become public thoroughfares the minute I sit down. To this day, I get constipated every time I leave the security of my own locked bathroom.
Pressie babysits with the minister’s kids for money. I go along for free. She spanks them a lot and yells a lot. I think I can’t wait until I’m old enough to have kids so I can yell at them, but when Pressie is gone and the minister’s wife asks me to babysit, I don’t yell at them.
At Christmas I can’t wait to have Pressie come see my gifts: a Cinderella watch, a doll, a wastebasket painted like a little girl’s face, complete with yarn braids, books and toilet water from aunts, a toy plastic silverware set from my sister, stationery from my other aunt, playing cards, sewing cards, paint by numbers, a new dress. I run over through the snow to Pressie’s house to see her presents: a new pair of pajamas, a coloring book and new crayons, barrettes and a comb. In her family, they draw names. Quickly we run to my house, but she doesn’t pay much attention to my presents. She is funny sometimes, kind of crabby. The more excited I get, the more withdrawn she gets.
Later, I want to make snow angels in the yard and feed leftover cornmeal muffins to the chickadees, but Pressie wants to go home. Pressie always wants to go home. What she does there, I don’t know. She doesn’t like to read. None of us will have television for another five years. She doesn’t much like games or cards. I don’t know what Pressie does when she isn’t with me.
When she is with me, we take baths together and sing the theme music from “Back to the Bible Broadcast,” washing our sins away in the bathtub. We play ranch house in our basement. We pull the army cot against the wall and put old chairs on either side of it for end tables. We upend an old box in front of it for a coffee table. My grandma’s peeling ochre-painted rocking chair faces the army cot couch. We sneak into the hired man’s room and steal his Pall Mall cigarettes and sit talking and smoking. We rip the filters off first, which is what we think you’re supposed to do.
Pressie will always stay longer if we smoke. I blow out on the cigarette, but Pressie inhales. We smoke a whole pack over a few weeks’ time and then go searching for more. When the hired man starts hiding his cigarettes, we discover his hiding place and learn to take no more than four at a time so he doesn’t miss them. When he has a carton, we take a pack and hide it under the mattress on the army cot. My mother wonders where all the filters are coming from that she sweeps from the basement floor, but never guesses our secret.
Pressie spends more time with me than before, drops by almost every morning and always wants to go to the basement to play and smoke. Then the hired man finds another room and moves out and when Mrs. Church’s granddaughters come to visit, I will want to play with them but Pressie won’t. Then we will pair off—Pressie with Sue Anne, the girly one, me with Kate, the boyish one. We have a little war—mainly instigated by the sisters.
When the new farm agent moves in with two daughters—one a year younger than Pressie and me, the other a year younger than my sister Addie—I want to ask the girl our age to play with us, but Pressie won’t. I have a slumber party for everyone—all the girls we know. I invite the new girl, whose name is Molly, but no one talks to her much. She is shy and doesn’t push herself on us. No one else ever wants to include her. I go play with her anyway and spend the night at her house. Her mother is nervous, her dad cocky. Her older sister laughs nervously under her breath a lot, as does her mother.
Many years later, by the time we are in high school, everyone has accepted them. By then, all of those girls have parties where I’m not invited. They are always a little reserved when I come up to speak to them. Maybe they’re always reserved. How would I know how they are when I’m not around? Later, they all got to be pretty good friends. But in the beginning, I was everyone’s first friend.
The prompt today is varnish.
Bloggers know this, but today I’m just reminding us all that best friends need not always be close at hand or even living in the same country. I’m leaving in a few hours to fly back to Mexico. My bags are packed and for the first time, although they are stuffed to the zippers, I’m leaving the U.S. with the same number of bags with which I left Mexico. What I’m not taking back with me are all the close friends and relatives who have made the rigors of traveling worth it. Prime among them is someone you’ve gotten to know a bit during these last few weeks of my trip. A bit of an agoraphobe, he has nonetheless not only paid host to me in his home but has also driven me through six states to visit other loved ones. I release him now, back to his computer and the grass that I am sure he’ll be mowing tomorrow. Oh, and to Little Duck, for whom he has sole custody, while I merely have visiting rights. Although he goes by the name of okcforgottenman on his blog, he is far from forgotten.
If I were to choose from all the rest,
you are the one who’d ace the test.
You left your warm and comfy nest
to drive around at my behest.
I do not say it often, lest
you come to see me as a pest,
but though we tease and joke and jest,
you are the one I love the best.
The prompt word today was “test.”
Over the river
It is most appropriate that the prompt word today was “Together,” for yesterday, Forgottenman and I drove from Missouri to Huntsville, Alabama, to be with two of our favorite people–our friends Tony and Allenda who lived right next door to me in Mexico for eight years before they moved back to the states. We had a wonderful time during those eight years, talking daily, meeting a few times weekly for Allenda’s incredible cooking or games of Mexican Train.
Tony and I wrote a book together and Allenda and I were in two different art groups together. With our friends Audrey and Linda, (Forgottenman and Ron when they visited,) we formed a tight “posse” that gathered at the drop of a hat or an invitation. And when we gathered, the one given was lots of laughter. Side-splitting, aching laughter that feels so good and that seems now to be the most necessary ingredient in friendship–coming right after trust and loyalty, which was certainly there as well.
Unfortunately, they all left Mexico on the same year, and I’ve been missing them ever since. Luckily, Audrey eventually came back, but two isn’t a posse, and we miss the rest of them. Always will. Hopefully just once more before all of our leaves fall from the tree, we’ll be together en masse at my house, as it should be! In the meantime, I’ll wander over the border now and then to come check up on them. This time, it was Tony and Allenda and Forgottenman I’ve herded together. Not the entire flock, but what lovely wooly creatures they are!
To Gather Together
To gather together, I flew on a plane
for seventeen hours, then flew once again
for another nine hours, then got in a car
and drove for five hours and now here we are!
Gathered together with three old time friends.
Now we’ll be together until our time ends.
Allenda’s lasagna and laughter with Tony
and all of Forgottenman’s verbal baloney.
I have been missing this madness for years.
All of their banter falls on my ears
like light verbal rain that gives birth to attention.
I soak in the comfort of each thing they mention.
There’s no time like idle time spent with a buddy.
We may not be sprightly, our memories muddy.
We tried to share book titles that we forgot,
Yet Google remembers all we have not.
Movies and TV and sports scores and then
we start to remember all over again
past times with invites thrown like a ball
with no prior warning, over the wall
that was all that divided us three years ago
when life was easier–free-flowing, slow.
“Let’s get together for a meal or a game.”
No prior planning, no traffic to tame.
The folks in our posse would gather like sheep.
The talk wasn’t serious, organized, deep.
Light chatter and silliness, cleverness, joking.
Side-splitting laughter ’til we were all choking.
Linda and Audrey, Tony and Allenda.
Forgottenman (when we were on his agenda)
and me like a housemother, guiding them all
so they didn’t wander, stumble or fall.
A sterling example when I wasn’t stumbling
or tripping or falling, forgetting or mumbling!
For the value of good friends you’ve formerly had
is that they remember the good, not the bad:
the train games that lasted far into the night,
driven in by the moths drawn in by the light.
Hot tubs at midnight, margaritas or rum,
counting up tiles until minds were numb.
Ridiculous movies of Allenda’s choosing,
raunchy and scandalous, but most amusing.
Collaborations over writing or art.
When we weren’t silly, damn, we were smart!
All of these pastimes special and shared—
All of the truths of our hearts that we bared
didn’t all end when you all went away,
for all of the memories have chosen to stay.
Now I’m handing them back to you, right here and now
and hoping you’ll all make a pledge, take a vow
that next year you’ll make the journey to me
so all of the “us’s” can once more be “we.”
Good night. All’s well in this world. We are together.
Appropriately, the prompt today is “Together.”
One of my two dearest friends once told me that the two of them thought I had always had an air of entitlement. This was a shock to me as from the inside out, I’ve always felt like I had to earn every bit of success or recognition I’ve ever received and that I’ve worked hard towards it. In trying to remember the exact conversation that led up to this statement, I have remembered that I had written an angry letter to my boyfriend who had totally overlooked my birthday, merely jotting his name down on a card someone else had provided for my birthday party. Luckily, I decided to read the letter to my friend before sending it to my boyfriend, and the statement above was her reaction to my complete disappointment in that. (No, I never did send the letter.)
Let me say first off that I harbor no resentment against my friend for her statement. I think it is the purpose of friends to occasionally bring these blunt truths and perceptions to light, and there was no malice in her statement––just a wish to furnish me with some insight into myself and to perhaps stay my action in sending the angry and heartbroken letter. She went on to say she’d never had a birthday party in her life. Now that got me to thinking, because I’m sure if I have ever been with her on her birthday, that I would have thrown some kind of a party, even if it was just for the two of us; but perhaps she meant as a child and if this is so––and if expecting some sort of celebration of one’s existence on earth means one projects an air of entitlement––then she is correct, because I am a great believer in celebrations for whomever and for whatever purpose.
Christmas is a big deal to me, even if it means making a crepe paper tree by twisting streamers from a central place on the ceiling overhead down to the various corners and edges of the tiny desk on an ocean liner–which I did when I happened to be on a boat mid-ocean one year for Christmas. Another time, when I was on another cruise with my sister and mother for Christmas, I even packed wrapped presents and a tiny foldable tree in my luggage.
I believe that there are enough days to “rue” in this life, so given any excuse to celebrate, I’m going to take it. On Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Valentines Day, May Day, Halloween, Easter, New years and Day of the Dead––I’m going to use it as a reason to do something creative and something celebratory. Yes, I admit, over the years I’ve forgotten a few birthdays of friends and relatives not physically present. One other year, everyone forgot mine–even my mother––but when you are with me on your birthday, believe me, we’re going to celebrate it!
Such events smooth out the choppy seas of life and give us something on which to pin our memories. Think back. How many of the best memories of your life involve celebrations of some sort? If I tried hard enough, I could probably remember more childhood events centering around holidays and celebrations than any other factor. I vividly remember the costume party my sister had when she turned 13 and the complete southern belle ruffled hoop-skirted costume (complete with picture hat) that Kitty Reynolds made for Cheryl Lillibridge to wear to it–out of crepe paper! My sister went in our older sister’s prom dress, complete with a wrist corsage and dance book (remember those–with a tiny pencil attached for the guys who wanted to dance with you to sign up for a certain place in line on your list?) I went as Alice in Wonderland, accompanied by my sister’s giant yellow “white” rabbit.
The only photo I have of the party shows me, as Alice in Wonderland, in the foreground, but you can see Cheryl in her remarkable southern belle costume in the background as well as Patti in the polka dot prom dress. Perhaps because we have recorded them with photos, we remember these events the best, but so what? if they weren’t memorable enough to take photos, there wouldn’t be any photos to help us remember. (Now that is a cyclical statement if I ever heard one.) And yes, Patti, I do remember that you are the one who reminded me that dress was made out of crepe paper when I mentioned it in a comment on Murdo Girl’s blog.)
At any rate, I was going to list a number of other examples of memories associated with Christmas and other holidays, but I think I’ve proven my point as clearly as I would have if I were to give twenty more examples, so I won’t. The point is that life is going to furnish us with countless choppy seas. In the past few months, this has been especially true with friends and friends of friends suffering terrible tragedies. In some cases, it has been almost too much to bear, but in the midst of all this sadness, we continue to plan these special life events: Easter egg hunts, reunions, summer camps for kids, special dinners with friends, birthday celebrations, writing retreats and trips to far-off places to visit friends we’ve been promising to take for years. Because life on its own doesn’t furnish us with very many smooth spaces, I think we need to furnish them for ourselves!
Recently I quoted this statement by Will Durant to a blogger friend in the comments section of his blog. It is probably one of the quotes I’ve requoted most in life, and forgive me if you’ve heard it before, but I’m gonna do it again:
“Civilization is a stream with banks. The stream is sometimes filled with blood from people killing, stealing, shouting and doing things historians usually record, while on the banks, unnoticed, people build homes, make love, raise children, sing songs, write poetry.
The story of civilization is the story of what happened on the banks. Historians are pessimists because they ignore the banks for the river.”
I think Mr. Durant will forgive me if I add one item to his riverbank list of activities. The word I would add is “celebrate.” It is one more everyday occurrence between people living their ordinary lives that helps to smooth out the bumps that the “big things” provide.
Billy Sorenson and I dressed up as characters from fiction for our town’s 50th anniversary parade. Why Robin Hood looks terrified of Little Bo Peep and why she looks like the cat who has swallowed the canary is lost in the annals of history. If my sisters hadn’t been fond of very large stuffed animals, I would have been limited in my costume props. The sheep was won for my sister Betty by her boyfriend who spent a lot of quarters and got a sore arm tossing balls to win her favor. The big rabbit in the first photo was my sister Patti’s.
P.S. Remember that little twig in the ground I was sitting next to as a two year old in “Dreams of Flying” ? It is the same tree pictured in the first picture above. It took seven years to grow even that big–which is how slowly trees grow in the dry climate of South Dakota, even though I’m sure my dad or mom probably watered it daily. It would have been that size in less than a year in Mexico.
For the most part, the men I have met over the seven years I’ve participated in social introduction sites have fizzled out–either through lack of interest, lack of memory or just plain lack of fuel to keep a long distance relationship going. There is just one who has lasted as our relationship has evolved from friendship to seduction to love affair to a best friend relationship where we are crazy about each other from a distance––willing to do anything for each other that can be done from 1500 miles away––including advising each other over other romantic relationships as we share heartbreaks, frustrations and all the problems of daily life.
In this strange cyber world we are all slipping into by varying degrees, he has become one of the most important people in my life, even though it has been two years since we’ve met in person. He is my blog administrator, copy editor and computer tech. He reminds me to pay my helpers, lock my doors at night and turn the lights out. When I lost my camera, he found it from 1500 miles away in Missouri by checking the message boards in my hometown in Mexico! Once, when I was at the beach, when a friend came by and handed me something as I lay on a hammock on my front porch, he Skyped me asking me what she had handed me—having seen it on the beach cam of my next door neighbor which just happened to pick up the corner of the porch I rent every year! (I know. Sounds creepy, but it wasn’t.)
Since he hardly ever leaves his house or his computer screen, unless he is asleep he is usually available within a few minutes via Skype. He checks my computers from afar, patrolling for viruses or needed updates. He is there when I receive good news and bad. Because I live up on a mountain above a small town in Mexico and because all of the houses around me are homes used as vacation homes and usually empty, he monitors my after-midnight swims in the pool or my journeys down to the studio, waiting online to check that I am safely back in bed within a reasonable amount of time–one hour or two, depending on how ensconced I become in my late night/early morning adventures. But with all of the roles he has assumed in my life over the years we’ve know each other, one of his most important roles right from the first is as my “Music Man”!
For the first four months I knew him, he played his guitar and sang me to sleep every night over Skype, the camera of my laptop trained on my face so he could see when I slept and say goodnight and go back into his own world where few strayed. Those serenades continued off and on for the next year, but since then, he has been my music man in other ways: sending favorite songs I request as well as songs I’ve never heard before that I open like Christmas packages.
On the CD’s he has made for me or the iTunes he’s sent are my own favorites: Emmylou, Rickie Lee Jones, Tom Waits, Stacey Earle, Leonard Cohen, Bob Dylan, Nina Simone, Dan Bern, Chris Smither, Billie Holiday, Ray Charles, Lila Downs, and Janice Joplin. Joining them are his favorites, some of whom I’d never heard of before: Brett Dennen, Joe Purdy, Steve Earle, and Nanci Griffith. He has created a new world for me comprised of Towns Van Zandt, Eva Cassidy, Jolie Holland, the Wailin’ Jennys and Iris DeMent along with songs discovered via movie soundtracks or the background music of favorite TV shows. The Avett Brothers we discovered together––I no longer remember which one of us first stumbled across them on a YouTube video of the Letterman show.
Music was our courtship: Since he is too much a rebel to participate in the regular celebrations of society, songs became my valentines, my birthday gifts and Christmas stockings. Where others gave flowers, he gave songs. “I and Love and You” was declared to me by the Avett Brothers. When Amy Lavere sang to me, “Lucky boy, lucky boy, ’cause I’m your lovely girl,” I got the message that I was the lovely girl and he the lucky boy, even though in the past he had advised me not to interpret all the songs as messages.
I now have over 471 songs on my computer—most of them sent by him. They are the songs I listen to every time I have guests, when I am in my car or in my studio. They keep me company at night in the pool or my studio. The first thing the man who comes to my house to give me a weekly massage does when he enters the room is to click on my iPod in its speaker/holder. He says this is his favorite place to come—partly because of the calm and the art, but more so because of the music.
My music man. I’ll see him in person in September and it will be wonderful to give him a hug and a kiss, to travel up to Minnesota together to see my sister and nieces and to Alabama to see other friends; but this man who has been by turns my serenader, my computer tech, my editor, my confidant, my lover and my best friend has, in addition to everything else, given me one invaluable gift. He has created the soundtrack to my life.
In typical fashion, Music Man has answered this post you have just read in musical form. To hear/see it, go HERE.