Tag Archives: family memories

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.

Everything is in the Shape of a Bird, a Fish or a Woman


Everything is in the Shape of a Bird, a Fish or a Woman

Look how they frown in the old photograph:
my grandmother, her sister,
her two daughters and her granddaughter.   
All of the women are very stern.
Grandma looks out of her element,
her eyes shielded against the sun.

In the yellowing photo,
“Taken at homestead” written on the back,
They stand, stark house behind them.
From the porch overhang, a sparse vine hangs,
but on the hidden tendril of the vine,
in the dead tan prairie that surrounds the scene,
in the summer grass bent low, I imagine birds.

It is a drying photo—brittle, cracked,
of three generations of prairie women.
Although none there knew it,
a waterhole is in their near future,
and in this stock pond that my dad would someday dig,
would swim perch and crappies,
sunfish, northern pike.

And although none there will ever see it,
in my house, everything is in the shape of a bird, a fish or a woman.
On the wall hangs an earthy goddess–
stolid and substantial. 
Birds perch on her shoulder, arm and knee.
On the hearth, a crow formed out of chicken wire.

A soapstone fish swims the window ledge
beside that aging photograph
and on another window ledge
 are two ancient terra cotta figurines.
The small one kneels in her kimono, playing pipes.
The large one stands wide-hipped
with arms narrowing to points
above the elbow.

In my studio,
a still-damp terra cotta figure
holds a fat plum.
On drying canvasses,
Women recline in their vulnerable states–
layers of wet flesh tones, yellows, purplish reds.

The house in the photograph
has been long-felled by rot and fire and rust.
All of the people except the youngest are dead.
Yet still in the grass, the meadowlark.
and in the muddy pond the minnow.

In the glass of the photo frame, I see my own reflection–
thinning lips pulled into one straight line.
around me is their house, their sky, their prairie grass.
In the glass, my face
turns into the face of my grandmother.
I flinch but do not falter.
I look deeper.
Reflected in one eye, a perched bird.
in the other eye, a swimming fish.

for dVerse Poets Open Links

(To enlarge all photos, click on first photo and arrows.)


Grandpa’s Pronouncement at the Family Reunion

Grandpa’s Pronouncement at the Family Reunion

“Pack up all your suitcases, we’re going on vacation.
Don’t forget your sleeping bags and some alimentation.
We’re heading out in two hours for the challenge of your lives,
so load up all your kids and hurry up your wives.
I’m making a pronouncement that perhaps you won’t agree with,
but since you are the folks that I most enjoy to be with,
I spent all of your legacies on this giant bus
that it is my fondest wish to fill with only us
and set out for the summer having various adventures.
Most likely we’ll get lost and perhaps Gram will lose her dentures,
but all-in-all we’ll have great times that no one will forget.
You’re going to spend this summer with the finer set.

I’ve cleared it with your bosses. I’ve contacted your friends.
No need to call anyone. No need to make amends.
You’ll live without your boyfriends for a month or two.
Just tell them that your family needs some time with you.
Go and find your places–kids all in the back.
I have some games to play with you while your mothers pack.
No phones, laptops or notebooks are allowed aboard the bus.
I want communication to be narrowed down to us.
I’ll teach you snakes and ladders, Monopoly and Chess.
You can beat your Uncle Tom and your Auntie Bess,
your grandma and your sisters, your cousins and your brother.
Why bother to beat someone else when you can beat each other?”

The ending you might well project. The mom’s find fault. The kids object.
But once he’d packed us all inside and started out on our grand ride,
we settled down and all joined in to get to know their closest kin
and all in all, that summer trip, each tent-pitching, each skinny dip
turned into one fine memory, just as Gramp knew it would be!

(Click on photos to enlarge and view as slide show.)


Prompt words today are pronounced, legacy, challenge, alimentation and suitcase. Sadly, this is fiction and the photos a compilation of various friends and family. I wish this had happened, but alas, it didn’t. The fourth photo is a picture of part of my actual family.

Confession to an Errant Grandchild


Confession to an Errant Grandchild

From the first, I called you “Piggy,” my small bundle in a poke.
You grew into a ham, as though you got the silly joke.
In return, you called me “Brammer,” for your whole younger life.
I ignored your teenage insolence, which cut me like a knife.

For years, you called me nothing, while off roaming with your friends.
I waited for your twenties, when you would make amends.
Those foggy baby early years, I’d held you in my arms,
your most ardent admirer, a captive of your charms.

When your parents fussed, I was always on your side.
Made cookies for your naughty friends, embraced your errant bride.
Wiped your babies’ noses, patted their small behinds,
as they toddled off to school, observed from behind blinds.

 So many decades later, sitting by my bed,
not knowing it was just a cold, fearing I’d soon be dead,
you asked why I was always there and why I didn’t balk
at your teenage indifference and your dismissive talk.

What was germane to the matter, I finally confessed,
was a truth which on your own you might have never guessed.
As I observed the recklessness of you and your rude crew,
In every naughty act, I saw a bit of me in you.

Prompt words today are brammer, germane, foggy, ardent and joke.

Easy Street

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Easy Street

Her wishful dreams did not include the latest Paris fashions.
Pedicures and facials were not numbered in her passions.
Being a wife and mother was what she loved the best.
It’s said that wild horses couldn’t drag her from the nest.

If they held a World Olympics of mothering and wifery,
she’d excel in matches such as ironing and knifery,
and her family members no doubt would all concur
that she’d capture golden medals in the wash and bake and stir.

If you questioned her contentment, you’d hear her lilting laugh
as she dished up cornmeal muffins, buttering each half,
thawed out frozen orange juice, avoiding the debate
as she hurried us through breakfast, afraid that we’d be late.

When the fifteen minute warning bell was rung across the street
in the school bell tower, we beat a fast retreat.
She drained her cup of coffee, then poured another cup,
put fish food in the goldfish bowl and fed the cat and pup.

She filled the sink with wash water and scrubbed and dried and listened
to her morning radio until the glasses glistened.
She’d make the noontime casserole and put it on slow bake.

Sometimes make a cherry pie or a chocolate cake.

She’d sweep the floors and make the beds, polish, dust and mop
until the noon bell sounded and she had to stop.
She’d make a hasty salad of lettuce and tomatoes
and serve what we called dinner— ham and scalloped potatoes,

meatloaf, hamburgers or a ring of cooked baloney,
Spanish rice or navy beans or cheese and macaroni.
Spaghetti, ham and cabbage, goulash or steamed steak—
whatever she could fry or steam or boil or broil or bake.

My dad would come in from the fields and eat and leave again.
With just an hour for lunch, we kids were always in a spin
to get back to the playground and lay claim to the best swings
or be first in line for tether ball or other schoolyard things.

Then she lay down on the sofa with our little terrier curled
right up close beside her as she learned about the world
through books, papers and magazines, reading there until
the let-out bell was sounded and kids bolted down the hill.

Time enough for supper preparations to be started
as one by one she was rejoined by her dearly departed.

Tales of school spats, teachers’ stories, what our best friends said.
From four to five, our childish raves and rants swirled through her head.

Then my father home again to wash up at the sink,
his mouth up to the faucet for a little drink.
“Use a glass, Ben,” She would say. A rather tardy rule
as he sank into his chair with feet up on a stool.

Supper at six, then radio, or later the T.V.
Dad in his favorite rocking chair, teasing my sis and me.
Mother in her usual place, prone on the divan 
reading “Redbook,” eating stove-popped popcorn from the pan.

Did she wish she’d gone to college and had a different life
than just being a mother and a rancher’s wife?
She would laugh and say to us, seemingly undaunted,
“Girls, basically I’m lazy. I’ve had just the life I wanted!”

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Word prompts for today are horses, wishful, concur, laugh and nest.


Early Bird

Early Bird

The party got much better right after you walked out.
You would have really liked it, I can say without a doubt.
The cornucopia of desserts you brought was a definite hit,
but as we enjoyed its bounty, we wished you hadn’t split.

The baby took his first step and Grandma came alive
as though for this Thanksgiving, her memory she’d revive.
Cousin Shirley was a panic and the kids performed a play—
the whole family there to see it (if you had chosen to stay.)

So, the freeway was in gridlock from five o’clock to eight?
Negotiating lane changes was hurry up and wait?
By the time the party ended, traffic was flowing freely.
Uncle Arthur breezed right by us in his classic Austin Healey!

Everyone got home okay. We were in bed by nine—
about the same time you got home from waiting in that line.
Hearing old family stories may not be your favorite thing,
but versus overheated engines, they have a certain zing.

Splitting out on family may not be a  crime,
but did leaving three hours early save you any time?
When you’re in the biggest hurry, you’re  most frequently delayed.

You might have gotten home faster if only you had stayed!


Word prompts today are cornucopia, hurry, negotiate and delayed. Here are the links:


Down in Grandma’s Cellar: NaPoWriMo Apr 13, 2019

Down in Grandma’s Cellar

Sleeping over at Grandma’s, her rooms all stuffed with treasure
there for my explorations, their pillaging my pleasure.
The barn so full and shadowed with pigeons, mice and more,
I did not venture farther than to peek in through the door.
But the basement was forbidden, so I overcame my fear.
To test my new maturity, I had to venture near.

Down in Grandma’s cellar, I could not see the stars.
There weren’t any planets like Jupiter or Mars.
But still it was as dark as night. The light from one mere candle
seemed the only light the ghosts who lived down there could handle.
As I creaked down the ladder rungs, glass rattled on the shelves
as though the time-dulled canning jars told stories on themselves.

Rhubarb on the nearest shelves, peaches in the back.
Watermelon pickles seemed poised for the attack,
swaying on the upper shelves, dusted by the years.
I gathered up my courage, pushing down my fears.
So many eyes caught in the dark. Glassy gleaming sprites
waiting there to satisfy the family’s appetites.

But no one came to gather them and spread them on a plate.
The waste of it was senseless—their empty, useless fate.
How many hours she’d labored to gather nature’s fruit.
How many other hours used up in the pursuit
of washing, peeling, cutting, and packing them in glass,
packing them in cauldrons and boiling them en masse.

Where did the hungry mouths go? Why did they go untasted?
What happened all those years ago that their richness was wasted?
Accustomed to the secrets kept hidden behind blinds,
we kids retained the questions that stirred our tiny minds.
So many of these mysteries lie hidden in my past.
Remarkable how long their spreading shadows seem to last.

I still have some of Grandma’s old canning jars, now relegated to a decorative use.
(Click on photos to enlarge.)

NaPoWriMo prompt: Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem about something mysterious and spooky! 


Memento: NaPoWriMo 2019, Day 12


The ring is dull with tarnish that I will not wash away
for half of its life stories are wrapped up in the gray.
The silver was the fairytale­­––the fantasies they dreamed
before they discovered life was much more than it seemed.

Thousands of daily scrubbings of tablecloth and shirt.
Another thousand cuppings of fingers through the dirt
retrieving carrots, beets and potatoes for the table.
She wouldn’t have removed the ring, even if she were able.

Through my whole long childhood, I saw it on her hand,
wondering at the beauty of that simple silver band.
Worn thin with age along with fingers sinewy and spare,
the silver gleam lost to the ring wound up in her hair.

It’s pattern now worn down with age, it nestles in a box
with other family memories: jewelry and rocks,
a tiny woven figure and a buttonhook and key––
each one rich with happenings still held in memory.

All worn and rusted, tarnished with the lives that they were part of,
I don’t know all their endings and I do not know the start of
many of these objects that now are all that’s left
of the family members of which we are bereft.

Their lives rest in these objects in their depleted beauty.
They’re here to provide evidence, as though it is their duty
to tell entire stories, both the pleasures and the pain,
so the lives they’ve touched upon have not been lived in vain.

And though I do not wear the ring, I cherish all its beauty––
all its former silver gleam obscured by toil and duty.
For the years since she first left us, I have kept it tucked away,
like so many of her virtues, hidden to the light of day.


Here is the NaPoWriMo prompt: Today, we’d like to challenge you to write a poem about a dull thing that you own, and why (and how) you love it. Alternatively, what would it mean to you to give away or destroy a significant object?

Moss Rose, FOTD Apr 6, 2019


 I planted this plant in the broken off lower part of a huge sculpture Bob and I bought the day we bought our house. There were two of the three-foot high precolumbian sculptures, one a seated woman and one a seated man. I put them on the pedestals inside the front gate–one on either side–one representing me and one Bob, who as you know, did not live long enough to actually move into our house. The “kittens” knocked one off its pedestal a year or more ago, the other a few months ago.  Since they were in too many pieces to possibly mend, I saved the one, intact from the waist down, and the other, only intact from the hips down, and planted ferns in them and put them back into their old positions.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough soil to support the one, so I replaced the fern with this moss rose, which seems to find its new home to be sufficient to thrive. Here is the newest member of its family.

Family Vacation




Version 6My dad in a slower mode of conveyance.

Family Vacation

My father on vacation was robotic in his thrust.
His modus operandi was to get there or to bust—
another hundred miles or so before we stopped to sup,
and we rarely got a room before the moon was up!

When he hit the highway, he became another man.

No mere roadside attraction could deflect his driving plan.
In those days of two-lane traffic and a speed limit of fifty,
he thought five hundred miles a day sounded rather nifty.

Fathers prone to threaten, who hit and rage and cuss

are, I fear, too often too ubiquitous.
But this was not my father. Rage was not his style.
He simply had addictions to mile after mile!

My dad was generous and fun. He told a story well,
but to take a trip with him was nothing short of Hell.
 His proclivity to “get there,” I fear was never curable,
and so family vacations were just barely endurable!


Version 2
My sisters and I with my dad.  He didn’t usually look this grim!

The prompt words today are highway, durable, robot and ubiquitous. Here are the links: