Tag Archives: family stories

Grandma’s Sneakers–Friday Fictioneers, 9/20/17

 

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My grandmother’s afternoons were written on her shoes––insides rubbed to fine parchment, once shiny trim worn down to dull cowhide, shoelaces loosened for easy ingress and escape, tongues swollen, vamps dusted from her habitual circling of gravel streets in search of treasures. Her pockets told the rest of the story–discarded Cracker Jack prizes, severed limbs of dolls, lost marbles, toy soldiers, single jacks separated from their families. Lined one slightly ahead of the other as though she had just stepped out of them, they told her last story that morning they carried her from her house without them.

 

To participate in this photo prompt, go here: https://rochellewisoff.com/2017/09/20/22-september-2017/

In the Catbird Seat

 

jdbphotos. Click on first photo to enlarge all and read captions.

If you aren’t familiar with the term, “in the catbird seat,” it means to be in a position above the action or perhaps in control.  This is what I am when I’m in my studio, which has one wall entirely comprised of windows looking out on my garden and another window to my right that looks out over my spare lot down below and ultimately at the lake spread out on a lower plane with Mount Garcia and Colima Volcano behind it on the other shore.

In the Catbird Seat

After a year of no time at all in the studio, I’ve spent 4 days there in the past few weeks. It feels wonderful, even though the last day I spent there was entirely spent organizing, sorting, putting away, reorganizing.

My studio is a separate small building I had built in the garden below my house. My dogs, unaccustomed as they are to my being there, followed me down, no doubt remembering I keep a bag of dog biscuits down there. Fortified, they wandered off, but eventually returned to spend the morning outside my door––Morrie plastered horizontally across the base of the locked screen door, Diego perpendicular to him, stretched out along the brick walkway.

The kittens, relegated to the front yard and house, have seen neither the back yard nor my studio. I fear what my dogs, intent on doing away with every soft fuzzy creature that enters my yard, would do to them, even though they’ve been seeing them for almost four months now through the glass, bars and screens that form most of the walls of every room in my house.

That is why I was so distressed when I heard the plaintive meow of one of the kittens coming from the wrong direction. Not from the side of the house where they have a walled-off outside run all their own, but seemingly from the street behind the studio or from the empty lot down below me. I listened closely, hoping it was just my one hearing-impaired ear that was misdirecting the direction from which the sound was coming; but, when I stepped out into the yard, I could hear it clearly.

I called out to Pasiano, telling him I thought one of the kittens had made its way out of its safe zone.

“No, senora,” he insisted.

“Yes! Listen,” I insisted as the loud meow came again––several times.

He shook his head, laughing, and gestured up into the pistachio tree, from which one bird was cawing an insistent bird call, another creature mewing back an insistent interspecies reply. It was a bird, he told me. He led me closer to the tree and as he did, a black bird flew down from that tree to a large castor bean plant in the spare lot. The bird in the tree cawed and chirped. The bird below in the spare lot meowed back,

It was a magpie that had evidently been hanging around the kittens for too long. A mother knows her kids’ voices and this was a perfect replica of my kittens’ bossy demands to be fed.

When I told Yolanda about this strange occurrence, she laughed and said she had done exactly the same thing two days earlier, sure one of the kittens had escaped.

Now this story, as unbelievable as you might find it, has a precedent in my family. When my 11-year-older sister was a tiny girl, she was in the habit of coming to the back door and calling out, “Mommy, Mommy! This occurred so many times during the day that my mother had told her that unless it was an emergency, she should come into the house to find her instead of expecting her to drop whatever household task she was doing to come to the door. Betty heeded this request perhaps one time out of three, which was an improvement, at least.

One day, my mother heard he calling out to her, but when she came to the door, no Betty! She went back to her work on the other side of the house, only to hear he call out again. Once again, she went to the door, but no Betty. This time she called her in from her play, gave her a scolding and told her not to do it again. But Mommy, she hadn’t done it, my sister insisted, but in that way Mommy’s develop, my mom just shook her head and said, well, not to do it again.

Barely had she gotten back to the kitchen however, when she heard my sister demanding her presence again. This time really angry, she stamped back across the house to the screened-in porch to see—absolutely no one standing on the front door stoop. This time, however, the mystery was quickly solved. In a large cage on that screened in porch was a magpie with a damaged wing that my father had brought in from the ranch. Even as my mother entered the porch, he had called out once more in my sister’s voice, demanding her presence.

Most mimics only get themselves in trouble due to inappropriate material. This mimic was most adept at passing the blame. True story, as is the more recent magpie story above.

 

 

The Emperor of Chocolate

                                                                             image from internet

The Emperor of Chocolate

I am the emperor of chocolate. I conquer every bar.
I can detect its presence in wrappings or in jar.
When there’s no chocolate to be found, I simply can’t abide it.
I can find it anywhere—wherever you might hide it.
My tendency toward chocolate is a tale I hate to tell;
but I cannot help it, for it’s congenital.
My mother abused substances—namely, Russell Stover.
She could not close the box lid until eating them was over.

She couldn’t resist chocolates, though she was not a glutton
when it came to other foods like hamburgers or mutton.
She received a box of chocolates on every holiday—
on her birthday and for Christmas, and for sure on Mother’s Day.
When it came to appreciation, my mother never failed them,
for when it came to chocolates, she always just inhaled them.
One time my dad decided that he would have some fun.
He bought my mom some chocolates to dole out one-by-one.

He hid them underneath the cushion of a chair
to give her one piece daily, but she knew that they were there.
She ate the whole box in two days. It really was disgraceful.
Every time I saw her, it seemed she had a face full.
Only with my father did she manage to save face,
For she bought chocolate-covered cherries and put one in the place
of every chocolate she stole. My father never knew.
She was not tempted by the cherries—a taste she could eschew.

My father always thought he’d pulled one over on my mother,
although I’ve always known that the true jokester was another.
When the box was only cherries, and he offered them to her,
she’d say, “I’ll save it for later,” or sometimes she’d  demur.
To resist chocolate cherries, she was fully able,
and I was fully loyal to preserving mother’s fable.
That’s how my addiction was learned at Mother’s knee,
because the chocolate-covered cherries? She gave them all to me.

The prompt today is conquer.

Wish List of a Youngest Daughter


Wish List of a Youngest Daughter

Off and on, I’ve been wishing
my dad and I could go fishing.
I guess my sister could go along
so long as she does nothing wrong
like catch a fish bigger than mine
or tease or hum or brag or whine.

Perhaps she’ll sit back in the bed
and not up in the cab instead,
so Dad and I can be alone—
the truck a sort of “private zone.”
He’ll hit the bumps real hard so she
will wish she was in front with me.

Just like I always pray and pray
her friends and she will let me stay
with them, when they come for the night
and play without me, door shut tight.
Marvelous fun had down the hall,
but not with me.  I am too small.

That’s why, when Dad tells me a joke,
I’ll laugh real loud until I choke;
and my sister, sitting there behind
might feel left out, but I don’t mind.
And when we get to where we’re going,
to the stock dam, cattle lowing,

Dad will bait my hook for me
and sister, too, and then we’ll see
who will catch the biggest fish.
I guess it’s obvious that my wish
is that I’ll catch the biggest one,
and sister will go home with none!

The prompt today is “Fishing.”

Near

Near

My father went from obscurity to a sort of small renown.
He worked hard as a rancher and the mayor of our town.
He met my mother at a dance in her sister’s borrowed gown–
both of them lonely visitors to a faraway strange town.
I’ve thought about it often since we laid him down.
Why didn’t I ask more questions? Why didn’t I write it down?

Many a calf he helped to birth and many a field he’s mown.
Avoided his mother if he could–long-suffering aged crone.
Not many highways traveled,nor many airwaves flown.
He died in his angry daughter’s arms–the two of them alone.
I’ve thought of it often till regrets have turned into a drone.

His eyes were always looking further over yon.
Over a ripening field of wheat or over a fresh-mowed lawn.
Working, often, until dark and up again at dawn.
A man of camaraderie and wit and brains and brawn.

He liked to tell a story and sing a rousing tune.
Stand on the porch at midnight to piss under the moon.
He gave me a turquoise ring, a baby rabbit and a coon.

Now that he’s very gone away.  Now that I’m very grown,
I know my flesh is of his flesh. My bone is of his bone.

And I wish that I’d asked more questions. That we’d both been less alone.

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The form of this poem is one consisting of six stanzas, the first with 6 lines and each thereafter one less line.  Each line in each stanza rhymes with all the other lines in that stanza and each stanza’s rhyme is a near rhyme to the last. The name of this form is Sylvestrian Near Rhyme and since “Near” describes both the theme and form of my poem, it is also the name of the poem.  And yes, I did make up the form!  I’d love it if poets given to rhyming and meter would attempt the form and send me the results as comments or a link to this blog.

Update: Here is Sam Rappaz’s response to my challenge.

The Prompt: Fireside Chat—What person whom you don’t know very well in real life — it could be a blogger whose writing you enjoy, a friend you just recently made, etc. — would you like to have over for a long chat in which they tell you their life story?

Scissors, Tissue Paper and General MacArthur

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Every year, my mom helped us make May baskets to fill with candy and leave on the doorsteps of our friends. As mentioned in an earlier post, we’d ring the doorbell and run. If the recipient caught us, they could kiss or pinch us—their choice.

Some years we bought fancy handled nut cups from the dime store and used them, but I liked best to make my own. One year, my mother showed us something special to use for May baskets. Her family knew how to make these incredible tissue-paper ornaments that, with a cupcake liner filled with candy glued into the bottom, hung down in a web-like form. We’d pin them at the top and when you held them up they would fall down in a lacy accordion effect so they were a foot or two high. The only way you could really get the effect was to put them on the floor and hold up the top part or hang them from something.

She didn’t remember whether it was her mother or one of her seven older siblings who taught her how to make them, but about five years ago, when I went to the International Music festival in Adelaide, Australia, I went into one of the tents on local cultures around the world and saw my mom’s May baskets hanging all over the tent! It seemed surreal. The tent was displaying handicrafts from the Philippines, and it turns out that my mom’s May baskets were actually hand-cut Philippine lanterns. Suddenly, it all made sense.

My mother’s older sister had married an army officer who served under General MacArthur and my aunt had become a very good friend of Jean MacArthur. She told a funny story about going to a ball and not having a dress to wear and either Jean persuaded my aunt to wear one of Jean’s very fancy satin nightgowns or vice versa. (Wish I’d written down all these family stories when they were fresh.) Anyway, when MacArthur was sent to the Philippines during the war, he took my Uncle Tubby with him.

Jean MacArthur elected to stay in the Philippines with her husband and at one point, my Aunt Betty was there as well. She talked of journeying through headhunter country and other adventures I have forgotten and that she had perhaps embellished, but the point of this circuitous story is that obviously, it was my Aunt Betty who brought the tradition of hand-cut Philippine tissue paper lanterns back to Junction City, Kansas, creating a family tradition that I must remember to hand down to my three nieces—the last surviving members of the family who might be remotely interested in how to create three-dimensional beauty from a flat piece of tissue paper.

I’m going to stop now and go to find two sheets of contrasting color tissue paper and a pair of scissors, to see if I even remember how!!! I’ll post a picture if I figure it out. (I, alas, could find only one piece of tissue paper, so I’ll have to post a less-spectacular example of this family craft that after three tries, I finally remembered.)

Now, I’d love for you to pass along a story about one of your own special family memories, handicrafts or recipes by posting it on my blog.

Happy Mayday, five days late. Happy family memories and here’s to passing them on.