Tag Archives: childhood memories

First Friends

Click on photos to enlarge.

First Friends

Friendship need not be dazzling at every bend and turn.
It can be a placid river, devoid of roil and churn.
It can merely listen—a sympathetic ear
can be enough to cancel out sorrow, anger, fear.

Friends are one of life’s delights that nothing else replaces—
initials in a school desk that nothing else defaces.
School assignments dreaded, but then attacked together,
countless outings faced as one in mild or stormy weather.

Dazzling feats accomplished: sports, exams and proms. 
Secrets shared together that we’d never tell our moms.
Giggling under covers, far into the night,
regretful tears and tight embrace after a childish fight

What can replace a friendship in which every secret’s known?
Even after years apart, when we’re matured and grown?
In every single mother, grandmother or wife,
there are those kernels of  memory of the first friends of her life


Word prompts for today are assignment, delight, dazzling and friendship.

After the Town Reunion, For Jim

After the Town Reunion
For Jim

Sandwiched in age
my two older sisters
and ten years my senior,
he is someone from so long ago
that he seems more myth than actuality.
Yet when he asks me to write a poem
about hummingbirds,
even now, more than a year after the reunion
and sixty years since I had seen him before that,
honored to be noticed,
as little kids are with older kids,
I comply with his wishes.

My first hummingbird days, Jim,
centered around the trumpet vine
that clung to the trellis
on the south side of our big front porch.
It was the side you wouldn’t have seen
as you walked from your house to the grade school
across the street from us,
but it was where
both hummers
and I
loved to hang out.
I lay on the porch on my stomach
on a folded-over blanket,
chin on my fists,
legs crossed at the ankles,
to watch their thrusting flights,
or stood on the concrete sidewalk—
roughened to prevent falls on the ice in winter,
but its numerous small ravines
filled nonetheless with my flesh—
the remainders of knees oft-skinned
while attempting to round its curve
on roller skates,
or simply from falls during rushed passages
in the heat of a game of hide-and-seek
or cops and robbers.

Whether I lay or stood
made no difference
to the hummingbirds
who executed their
sweep and dart, then paused suspended,
wings creating great outspread parasails
that held their small bodies
motionless in mid-air as they sipped
nectar from the speckled throats
of orange honeysuckle blooms,
profuse and heavy on their tangled vines.

Shifting to the nearby grass,
I closed my eyes to the music of their wings,
opened my eyes to see their blur—
another smudged memory
that moved too quickly
out of hearing
and of sight.


And, lest you, like Jim, think I have been neglecting hummingbirds in my poetry, HERE and HERE and HERE are three links to poems that at least mention hummers.

Memory Box

Above is the entire box. Below are enlargements of each square. Click on photos to enlarge. even more.

Over fifty years ago, my sister Betty gave me a memory box for Christmas.  It was an old box used to store type-setting letters with thirty compartments, some of which she backed up with paper and decorated with a buckeye, a small bird, a basket of dried flowers. It was up to me to fill the rest. I remember sitting that Christmas and choosing photos from my family album to put in some of the boxes and over the years I have added other objects that together tell the story of my life. I had the box hanging in my studio, but when men recently installed wifi wiring, they knocked it off the wall and a number of the pieces fell out of the box. Others rolled away and were lost. So, during this three months of isolation, I’ve spent more time in the studio and so for several days, off and on, I worked on refilling the memory box. In some cases the glue had soaked through the photos. In other cases the photos have nearly become invisible. I found backing material for some squares that had no backing, added items from the many drawers of items in my studio. Here is the finished project, mostly restored to its old order but with many additional items added as well. I was going to try to tell the story of each square, then decided that I would tell the stories as people queried me about them. If no one is curious, I’ll let the memory box tell its own story. If there are any squares you want me to tell the story of, make a request and it will be met. The memories span a time period from 1947 to 1987, when I got married. Above is the memory box, with all of its warts.

HERE is an Explanation of the “6 Coeds Narrowly Avoid Disaster in the Mountains” square, and HERE is an Explanation of the square with the quinine pills and pins.

Easter Hunts


Easter Hunts

My toy cannon muffled by an egg stuffed in its snout.
Easter grass and sugar eggs hidden inside and out.
My parents’ Easter soirees were things of grand design.
The pink nests were sister’s and the yellow ones were mine.
One disappeared behind the mirror, one behind father’s chair.
At the end, still one nest to be found, I knew not where.
Suckers, Peeps and sugar eggs, jelly beans and gummies—
sought out and stuffed in Easter baskets, then stuffed in our tummies.
My folks went to such bother, whereas I must say in truth, 
If I’d been asked, I’d rather have just had a Baby Ruth!


Prompt words this Easter Sunday are truth, soiree, disappear, cannon and mirror. (You didn’t make it east this time, folks!)

Sweet Clover

Photo by my sister Patti Arnieri

Sweet Clover

Before our dad told us its real name,
we used to call it wild mustard.
What did we know about sweet clover except for its color
and that summer smell, cloying in its sugared perfume.
It filled the air and smothered the plains—
bright yellow and green where before
brown stubble had peeked through blown snow.

On these dry lands, what flowers there were
tended to be cash crops or cattle feed.
Sweet clover or alfalfa.
The twitching noses of baby rabbits brought home by my dad
as we proffered it to them by the handful.
Fragile chains we draped around our necks and wrists.
Bouquets for our mom
that wilted as fast as we could pick them.

Summers were sweet clover and sweet corn
and first sweethearts parked on country roads,
windows rolled down to the night air,
then quickly closed to the miller moths.
Heady kisses,
whispered confessions, declarations,
unkept promises.
What we found most in these first selfish loves
was ourselves.

The relief of being chosen
and assurance that all our parts worked.
Our lips accepting those pressures unacceptable
just the year before.
Regions we’d never had much congress with before
calling out for company.
That hard flutter
like a large moth determined to get out.
Finding to our surprise,
like the lyrics of a sixties song,
that our hearts could break, too.

Hot summer nights,
“U”ing Main,
cars full of boys honking
at cars full of girls.
Cokes at Mack’s cafe.
And over the whole town
that heavy ache of sweet clover.
Half promise, half memory.
A giant invisible hand
that covered summer.

The dVerse prompt today is to write  a poem about a flower. Nice coincidence that I was working on this poem for a book about growing up in South Dakota and had just asked my sister if she had any photos of sweet clover. She did–and here are both the poem and the photo.

Memory Games

Memory Games

Half over-achiever, my other part is zen.
Sometimes I concentrate on now, other times, where I’ve been.
This morning’s evanescent. I can’t remember shit.
I know I found my car key but what did I do with it?

Ameliorating circumstances? Sorry. There are none.
I simply have no memory of what  I have just done.
I know I wrote a poem, but I can’t recall a bit.
I haven’t the foggiest memory of what I said in it!

It’s said I have good judgment and a judicious mind,
but as to short-term memory? I fear I’m in a bind.
I remember blow-for-blow what happened as a child.
My college years I recall well. My twenties are well-filed.

When I write, the memories pop readily to my brain.
It’s only hours later that the memories don’t remain
of what I have just written or the words that I have used.
The present and my recent past simply are not fused.

So if you want a memory, please choose one in my past.
The farther back, the better, if you want my reply fast.
Fifty years ago are fine. The details I’ll relate.
But details of this morning? I’m afraid you’ll have to wait.

Prompt words today are ameliorate, judicious, zen, evanescent and bit.

Our Gang Comedy

Nancy Merrill is sponsoring a photo challenged entitled Nostalgia. Here is my take on the matter:

I think the year was around 1952. We were gathered for a play put on by the two cowgirls at the top of this photo. Susan, the tallest girl and also the older sister of one of the cowgirls, doesn’t look overly enthusiastic about being there. I was the little blonde girl overacting in the second row and the sister of the other cowgirl. I was their “mystery personality.” Anyone who guessed who I was (The Sunbeam Bread Girl) got a prize. They put on a few of these productions and I always thought they were wonderful.  The year before, my mystery personality had been Bonnie Braids (of Dick Tracy fame.) When they called out, “Who knows who the mystery personality is?” Bobby Lathrop yelled out, “That’s Judy Dykstra!!!” and I cried. Ah, nostalgia


Skating Lessons

photo by Gloria Palazzo

Skating Lessons

Bazooka or Double Bubble
the biggest decision I had to make that June,
my mentor was the girl six years my senior
who lived two houses away.
Brown braids and freckles,
her calm made order out of mayhem,
her smile resolving daily skinned knees and bruises.
A skate key on a cord around her neck—
always dependable,
like some preteen utilitarian angel.

I skated through July,
hanging my last
in a long line
of replacement skate keys
securely around my neck
from my dad’s old compass cord,

knowing by some prescience
far beyond my years
that mentors, like meteors,
streak by quickly and are soon out of sight.


And…..remember this song very pertinent to the topic at hand?

Prompt words are mentor, compass, mayhem and bazooka.

Little Sins: NaPoWriMo 2019 Day 3 Plus Multiple Prompts

Little Sins

Lynnie Brost and I, washing our sins away in the bathtub
and singing of it to the strains of holy music
from The Back to the Bible Broadcast
on the radio in the living room.

My older sisters stretched out on the porch
reading Photoplay and giggling
at our penitent antics,
feeling no need
to confess the sins
of Vivian dances
and the back seats of cars.

At the age of five,
How could we articulate our sins?
The tiny plastic sword—a wingless caduceus
I’d filched from a junk drawer where hundreds resided,
rewards for the cancer drive her mother supervised.
My mother head of the Sister Kenny Polio
drive, where rewards were merely
of the conscience.
How I had wanted
one of those
tiny swords.

had I not just asked for one?

worried most
back in our innocence—
back when our sins were the least.
Back when in our minds, the value of what we wanted
was linked as much to how much we wanted it
as to its material value.

That two-penny sucker taken from the open jar
in the Peck family’s remodeled basement.
My mother asked where I’d gotten it.
My ashamed confession,
that long trip
next door
confess again.
No problem. That’s what they were there for.

But my mother,
knowing the power of the little sin,
was teaching me the dangers
of its contact.

What could it hurt,
sugar packets pocketed at Starbucks,
extra ketchup and mustard scooped by handfuls into purses?
Little sins overshadowed by the big sins of this world
and yet, somehow, shameful in their pettiness.
Drenched in these small sins,
what contracts do we,

To steal from the rich and give to the poor,
then display our generosity on our lapels
by the scarlet badge of the caduceus?
Noble Robin Hoods, we justify
by our assurance that
they’ve stolen
from us
and thus,
those who need most to learn
become instead our teachers,
educating us that their own sins are justified—
what we ourselves would do
if only we had
their power.

Prompt words today are articulate, contacts, drench and penitent.

The NaPoWriMo prompt is to write a poem that “involves a story or action that unfolds over an appreciable length of time, focusing on imagery, sound or emotional content.”
Here are the links:







Click to enlarge photos.


Sitting up past midnight, we search our mind for facts,
parting long grasses of the past for long-forgotten pacts
of secrets kept from parents and long-forgotten games:
“New Orleans” and “Send ‘Em” *. We comb our minds for names.

Of talents left to childhood, like flips off monkey bars.
Adventures dreamed on rooftops and the back seats of cars.
Favorite childhood dresses and jokes pulled on our folks.
Afternoons in Mack’s Cafe, sipping on our Cokes.

Hot beef sandwiches at Fern’s and running up the stairs
to avoid Mom’s fly swatter aimed at our derrieres.
Childhood dramas staged in trees or in our backyard lawn.

Teenage slumber parties that stretched out into dawn.

We journey through old albums, searching photos for
any tiny detail that will open up a door.
Each time I come to visit, we remember a bit more
on these safaris of the mind that we both adore.

*These are the names of childhood games. Did anyone else play them?

For the Word of the Day challenge: Exploring