Tag Archives: Growing up

Scraps of Her

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Scraps of Her

She was the glitter
in our all-too-literal lives.
She left a trail of it,
our littlest fairy. 
It was the dust of her,
like that perfume half
school glue and half strawberries.
All these little paths she created in our lives—
the silliness and dainty nylon net of her,
with sand spilling from her overall pockets
and shed-off Barbie Doll parts left like
clues: one tiny shoe, a pink plastic door
from her convertible.

These small reminders once filled our house
and some of them remained when she no longer did.
We find them like the droppings of her 
in infrequently visited drawers,
the corners of cupboards 
and the hidden pockets of the sofa.

I find her signs as I empty vacuum cleaner bags—
a tail of glitter through the dust that, unaware,
she left like breadcrumbs through the forest of our memories.

Little girl.  All grown up.
Off in a different world
that is like a new game of her own concocting,
this house a scrapbook
we would never choose to remove her from.

The prompt today was “glitter.”

Transformation

Tottering on stubby legs,
Reaching for the world,
Another child once nested
Now slowly comes uncurled.
Stretching out and learning,
Forgetting childhood woes,
Opening to each new thing,
Reforming as she grows.
Meet her in the springtime
And meet her in the fall.
The child you met the first time
Is no longer there at all.
One more child a woman,
Now a mother, now a grand.
Always we are changing,
Led by nature’s hand.

Libraries cannot answer
If changing has an end,
For we know not if transformation
Ends around the bend.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/transformation/

When I Grow Up

 When I Grow Up

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It stretches forever in front of me.
There, no future happens until I create it.
And that is the power of words
that rub like pieces of gravel in my shoe.
I become less of a child in bearing them,
grow to adolescence as I pry them from my shoe.
In storing them on the page, I become my own creator—
writing a new world with each decision of word.
On the page, I can, if I so choose,
grow up again and again.
Each page filled or every edit of the last
becomes another part of me
that tells the same story:
that growing enough to fill the space inside of me
never happens.

Yes, one or two of you have seen it before, but since I had totally forgotten this poem, it’s clear that one advantage of growing up is that you get to enjoy the same things over again with very little memory of them!  This applies to books, movies and even first spouses remarried!

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/ballerina-fireman-astronaut-movie-star/

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Companionable.” Head to one of your favorite blogs. Write a companion piece to their penultimate post.

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As I lie

Once, in that long dream of childhood, I
assumed that I would be a child forever,
slipping between the lives of adults, somewhat

off. The wrong hairdo, clothes
in my closet hanging in
that off-kilter way

like teeth missing in a child’s mouth, others grown half-way
in to not quite meet their lower neighbor.
It was a mystery

where I’d fit in adult life––
The job I’d do,
the children I’d tell what to do;

and I never quite found the answer, although
my teeth grew in, to meet
each other in the middle.

Blooming, after their
crimson exit––
two by two, they nourished a life,

burying childhood
like
a lie.

I chose S. Thomas Summers’ poem, “As a Child” as a springboard for my poem. Rather than use his poem as a theme, instead I used the first word of each of his lines as the first word in each of my lines. Go here to read his excellent poem: https://inkhammer.wordpress.com/2015/11/01/once-i/

Merry-Go-Round


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My sister and I at a park near my grandma’s house in Kansas on a merry-go-round similar to the one in the school playground across from our house in South Dakota.

                                                                   Merry-Go-Round

Their creaks were my alarm that kids were on the elementary school playground across the street and if my biggest sister was downstairs or away from home or even sleeping as soundly as she always did after coming home late the night before, I’d sneak into her room to look out on the playground from above and see who was there. I knew the difference in the sound between the merry-go-round and each set of swings—the little swings next to the little slide, or one of the three big sets directly across from the block my house was on. Higher, with longer and more flexible chains, these swings could be made to loop de loop—pass up so high that you actually went over the top of the frame the swings were suspended from and wound the chain once around the pipe.

Some of the boys could repeat this three or four times until the swing got so high that none of the little kids could get up to it. Then the janitors would have to get their tallest ladder and go up to push the seat over and over the cross pole with one of their big push brooms to straighten it out again and bring the seat down closer to earth.

There were rules forbidding loop de looping, but the boys would come after school when all the teachers had gone home and even our janitors, Mr. and Mrs. Polachek, who lived kitty-corner across from the south end of the playground, were at home in their backroom away from the sounds of kids in the neighborhood, sealed up tight and safe. They were Polish, and now that I think of it, probably displaced persons from WWII. Their accents were thick and her temper was short and they were the objects of constant tauntings from the boys. One year the boys had hung a dead cat from their front porch on Halloween. I wish I could remember whether I thought this was funny, as many of the kids did. I hope I didn’t––that I was as sickened by it then as I am now.

The creak I was listening for was the creak of the merry-go-round. Teepee shaped, it had a wooden runner all the way around it a foot up from the ground. There was a handrail about thirty inches above it, so you could stand on the wooden runner, facing the center pole, hold onto the hand rail and enjoy the ride as the big kids ran around in circles around the merry-go-round, pulling it with them to go faster and faster, then stood on four sides of it, grabbing the handrail pipe and pushing it off to make it go faster still. One by one, more onlookers would be enrolled in the joint effort to get it going fast enough. Then they’d jump on and everyone would pump up and down, sticking their bottoms out into space as they bent their knees, pumping to keep up the momentum.

There were other ways to use the Merry-go-round. The bigger girls like Marie Holstedt who lived on the street that faced the opposite side of the playground from the one my house faced, would sit on the foot board with her boyfriend Robert. Their feet side by side on the ground, they would sway to and fro in a kind of two-step movement—two to the right, then one to the left––their knees touching with their swing to the right, their hips touching when they swung to the left. When they did this, the sound of the merry-go-round reminded me of the strange rhythmic creaking I’d hear sometimes late at night in my house.

It was probably the TV antenna on the roof, my mother had said. Or maybe the furnace trying to pump out heat, she had speculated when I pointed out that it had been a windless night.
Life was simple and I believed her. Only now do I make sense of it and of my father’s late night short trips down the hall to the bathroom—the washcloth always draped over the tub faucet the next morning.

It was an innocent age where it was entirely possible to be eleven years old and to never have had the least idea that anything like sex existed in the world. Yet a good deal of what eventually led up to it went on in the playground across from my house. Older girls would sit in the swings, swaying back and forth without ever taking their feet from the ground. Or, take fast running steps forward and backward without really letting go and allowing the lift off. To their side or in front of them would be their crush of the day or the week or the hour. If he was not the boy of choice, sometimes the girls would switch swings. If the boy switched again, too, and the other boy let him, then it was a sign language of sorts that indicated which boy favored which girl, and if the girls went home, a clear message that things had not matched up correctly to their satisfaction.

But at other times––usually during games of ditch ‘em played in the twilight and darkness of summer, courtships could progress toward hunkering down in the ditches around the playground, close up to some culvert where the ditches were their deepest, the girl in front, the boy with his arms around her waist, holding her back from running to try to get to home base when one of the littler kids who was “it” ran past without seeing them. In these junior high years just past childhood, the objects of the games started to shift until finally in high school, the rituals of the old games were left behind entirely and ditch ‘em became merely a starting place––as did the swinging back and forth, the pumping, the dance.

Today, with merry-go-rounds a thing of the past, they are still an appropriate metaphor for what life pushes us toward from our birth. It begins with our rocking in the arms of our mothers, the rocking chairs of our grandmothers, the wild swings through the air locked hand-to-hand with our fathers. It is what slippery slides and swings and merry-go-rounds and dancing move us towards. Everything going around and around and in doing so really going back and forth from generation to generation. Passing the world on and fading away. Now and then doing a loop de loop just because we can.

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Ode to a Playground.”A place from your past or childhood, one that you’re fond of, is destroyed. Write it a memorial.

Sixteen!! The Combiners (Excerpt)

                                        Sixteen!! The Combiners (Excerpt)

This is an excerpt from a longer narrative poem in my book, Prairie Moths.  It is the final section of  “The Combiners” –a poem about the itinerant workers who would drive up from Oklahoma each summer to harvest the wheat crop in South Dakota.  This infusion of fresh young men was, of course, exciting to teenaged girls whose own male classmates were a bit immature. Not that any of us ever did anything about it.  Imagining and talking was enough for us at the age of sixteen!

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The Combiners

I saw him first on the bleachers
on the other side of the floor.
As dancers came together and parted,
I saw him and then didn’t see him.
After the music stopped, I craned my neck
around the legs that stood in front of me,
trying to see him across the cleared dance floor.

Then the voice at the top of the legs
asked me to dance, and I looked up–at him.
Feeling uncertain, wicked and wild,
I answered yes.

I’d served him once or twice
at Restaurant 16–
that highway-fronting restaurant
as exotic as its name.
I knew he was working the Weston place
with an outfit my dad had never used.
He liked his steak well-done,
French dressing, no tomatoes.
Butterscotch sundaes made him cough.
Over the water pitcher and order pad,
we had traded a look or two.
I knew he wore Old Spice
and drank Cokes with breakfast,
but I didn’t know his name.

When we got to the dance floor,
he took my hand,
put his other hand on my damp waist.
It was a slow dance and the night was hot.
The dance was work.
I was awkward–too inhibited to get as intimate
as following in dancing requires.
Over the music, we tried to shout our names,
tried to find a mutual rhythm,
finally giving up both endeavors
to dance the slow song, not touching,
moving our arms in fast song 60’s style
to the slow song rhythms.

When the music stopped,
he walked me back again
to the bleacher
he had plucked me from,
reinserted me into the correct space in the line of girls,
smiled, and walked away.

My friends closed around me
like a sensitive plant
to hear the news.
I watched his back,
blue short-sleeved shirt,
his pressed Levis
and his cowboy boots.
I watched the Oklahoma swing of his hips–
danger on the hoof.
He wouldn’t ask me to dance again,
yet, his sun-blackened arms,so finely muscled,
had held me for a minute or two.
His bleached blue eyes
had seen something of worth in me.
He had asked my name, touched my waist,
and walked me off the dance floor.
And, since this was as spicy
as any of our stories would likely be
all summer long,
I turned to my friends to tell the tale.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_prompt/only-sixteen/

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The Prompt: All Grown Up—When was the first time you really felt like a grown up (if ever)?

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It stretches forever in front of me.
There, no future happens until I create it.
And that is the power of words
that rub like pieces of gravel in my shoe.
I become less of a child in bearing them,
grow to adolescence as I pry them from my shoe.
In storing them on the page, I become my own creator—
writing a new world with each decision of word.
On the page, I can, if I so choose,
grow up again and again.
Each page filled or every edit of the last
becomes another part of me
that tells the same story:
that growing enough to fill the space inside of me
never happens.

 

“Adult”ery

 

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Unfortunate hairstyles of the past

 

“Adult”ery

I don’t remember, as a child, ever really thinking about what it would be like to be an adult in terms of where I would live or what I would choose as a profession. I do remember, however, two things I worried about.

First of all, I worried about what instrument I would play in the school band. I had two sisters, one eleven years older and the other four years older, who both played saxophone. As a matter of fact, there being 7 years difference in their ages, they both played the same saxophone! When I entered the sixth grade and was old enough to play in the starter band, I knew two things. #1: I had to play in the band because both of them had done so. #2: I had to find a way to be unique in doing exactly what they had done, and so I had to find a different instrument. This resolve was strengthened by the fact that my sister Patti was still using the “family saxophone.” As long as I was being different, I decided to stretch my uniqueness as far as it would go. No one in either the starter or the regular band had ever played a flute. It was exotic and not very heavy to carry. I would play a flute!!! Or rather, I would attempt to play a flute.

I faked it for two years, blowing energetically into the little hole as we sat in the band loft at games or marched along behind the regular band, practicing for parades or football games; but I never really developed much of a tone and my memory of which note was which was limited. It was really easy, though, to carry that little case about as large as a large pencil case the two blocks to the auditorium where our band practice occurred. My band instructor could not afford to be picky as there were only 200 students in the entire school system—grade school and high school combined—so every warm body available was required to flesh out the physical body of the band. If a few were miming, so be it. As long as they could stay in step for the marching band and didn’t play any really loud false notes, who would ever know?

When my sister left for college, she left the sax behind; and when I headed out for my first band practice as a high school freshman, I left that dread flute behind as I took sax in hand to continue the family tradition. I was not a whole lot better at it, but found something held between the lips and teeth was a lot easier than something held sideways and blown across and although the sax was heavier, it was held in a much more sustainable position than the flute, which was an exercise in arm isometrics as I held it aloft!!

The second worry I had about growing up was how I would wear my hair. I would lie awake nights worrying about what hairstyle I would adopt when I could no longer sport the sausage curls my mother formed around her finger each morning. Shirley Temple, who had already grown to adulthood, needed to be replaced! My hair was too long, however, to duplicate Shirley’s bouncy little curls. It hung in fat tubes down beside my cheeks, offsetting my tight little bangs curled up each night in pink rubber curlers. For some reason, both my mom and I thought this made me look real good, and I am not exaggerating when I admit that there were nights when I’d lie in bed, tears streaming down my cheeks, worrying about what I would do when I grew up and could no longer wear curls!!

So now you know why I dropped the saxophone as soon as I graduated high school and why I had to move to Mexico to escape the shame of all those years when I allowed my mother to shape my esthetic sense of hair. I haven’t owned a curler of any type for 20 years. That saxophone was handed on to the next generation of my family and its mouthpiece, at least, met its demise when it snapped in two as my niece tried to grip it with the fourth pair of teeth in three decades. With a new mouthpiece, it survived four more years—hopefully this time with someone with more talent than I. I know not where it ended up. Probably in some second hand store or donated to some child who couldn’t afford an instrument. I hope it wound up with some talented individual who could restore its pride in itself.

Now that I have been an adult for many many years, I have conquered most of its demands. I have found many hairstyles, only a few of them more ridiculous than sausage curls (see my college picture above as an illustration of this fact) and attempted only one additional instrument, the guitar. Having played only solo or in duet with a college friend who tried to mold me into Joan Baez but failed, I did learn about seven chords and learned to adapt a whole succession of seventies songs to fit into those seven chords. I played for sing-alongs with the kids I counseled at summer camp and for groups of little neighbors around the world, who would come to my house on Saturday mornings to sing silly songs. And I have that guitar to this day. But I haven’t played it for years and harbor no illusions about my prowess. It is there for visiting friends who want to play for me and as a big, cumbersome, hard-to-store reminder that I can choose my own failures as surely as my own successes.

I am an adult like other adults—growing more childish year-by-year, but in my regression toward soft food and adult diapers, I will never sink so low as to repeat some mistakes of my youth. Never ever more sausage curls or flutes held aloft like punishment. And never again will I try to be different just to be different. “The Far Side” has shown that this is nothing that really needs to be aimed for. We all grow odd enough just following the path of nature, thereby furnishing the humor for all the generations that follow us.

The Prompt: As a kid, you must have imagined what it was like to be an adult. Now that you’re a grownup (or becoming one), how far off was your idea of adult life?

P.S. Thirty years after high school, when I was doing an art show in Oregon, a man walked by my display and then did an about-face and came back and said, “You’re Judy Dykstra, aren’t you?”  I admitted the fact and asked him how he knew me.  He said he was 5 years behind me in school in the small South Dakota town where I grew up.  He was a country boy and since we’d never been in school together, I didn’t recognize him but did recognize the family name.

“How in the world did you even know what I looked like, let alone recognize me thirty years later?” I asked.

“Well, a bunch of us used to collect in the the school library and look at old annuals,” he said.  “I recognize you from your high school picture.”  Suddenly, it all came clear.

“You used to look at them to laugh at all the funny hairstyles, didn’t you?”   Sheepishly, he laughed and admitted it.  I had hit the nail (or the girl?) right on the head!!!!