Tag Archives: Nostalgia

Material Things (Two Word Challenge) : Six Gifts for My Sister

 

Six Gifts for My Sister

 

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Six Gifts for my Sister

 Older sisters are our teachers, our critics, our cruelest enemies and our best friends. When we were younger, my sister was no exception. With age, however, some of these roles have fallen away. The others I often take for granted even though I know they are still there.

This year I will be, as I have been for most years in my life, far away from my four-year-older sister, Patti, for Christmas. Betty, my 11-year-older sister, unfortunately started to leave us four years ago and now lives in a world we are not a part of. Both Patti and I fear the same thing happening to us and we’ve made some Thelma and Louise pacts to that end. Hopefully, we’ll never have to use them and will fade peacefully away in our dreams when we are well over 100.

If this sounds excessive, you are right. I am a glutton for life and probably part of the reason is the capacity for play taught to me by my sister, who was always my most imaginative playmate. Even when I’m sad, I love living and want for life to go on for as long as possible, so long as I remain relatively pain-free and retain my mind, my sense of humor and my girlish good figure. One of these things does not belong. You can probably guess which one.

Since I live in Mexico and my sister will be in her home near Phoenix this year, we have sent gifts early. Mine sits on top of the armoire in my beach rental in its blue wrapping bag with curly ribbon. I have added a pelican feather and gaudy ribbon streamers. Since I’ve chosen to spend this Christmas far from friends and other relatives, it is my only gift and I am hoarding its mystery until the last possible minute. Perhaps I’ll open it at 11:55 P.M. on December 25! I’m sure my sister has not opened hers, either.

A usual tradition in our family was to do Christmas stockings to which we all contributed. (Well, except for my dad, who instead donated the cash we all used to purchase our stocking stuffers.) With that in mind and feeling sentimental, I’d like to assemble an imaginary Christmas stocking for my sister to open right now—as soon as she sees this. It’s a not such a large stocking, but as in all things imaginary, anything is possible; so I’m sure all the gifts will fit.

I need to start at the top, with the lightest most crushable items, and so the first gift she will find sticking out of the top of the stocking will be something flat, rolled into a cylinder before wrapping. When she rips off the paper in her usual unceremonial fashion, she will know exactly why I have given it to her.

It is a folder of Debra Paget paper dolls with snub-nosed scissors taped to the front to encourage her to actually cut them out. I have visions of them decorating her tree for the remainder of its life this year, or even better, my sister on her stomach on the living room rug, cutting them out while she listens to “Our Miss Brooks” or “The Shadow” on the radio, then assembles the material for a paper doll house: Kleenex box beds and sofas, tuna can tables covered in tissue tablecloths. Since she taught me these imaginary games, she’ll figure out the rest. Then I want her to imagine me there playing with her. She can be Debra Paget. I’ll be anyone she wants me to be, as was the norm way back then when we constructed our first paper worlds.

The next box she pulls from the stocking will be long, narrow and flattish. It will weigh practically nothing. There will be instructions on the front to open it more carefully than usual, for it is fragile. When she folds back the paper, she’ll find a box of the old aluminum tinsel—the extra long and extra skinny type that only she knew how to put on perfectly. It was an art, this distribution of tinsel on the tree. One had to be sure to spread it out evenly in bunches of only three or four strands. For maximum beauty, it had to be hung on the ends of branches so it hung just to the top of the next branch without lapping over. In our house, it was never thrown! I am absolutely sure that now, as then, Patti and I are the only ones with patience enough to do the job right, so she will have to do it for both of us.

I’m sure that what the next gift is will be obvious. It is a Christmas tradition started by my mother, who would tuck a small box of Russell Stover Chocolates in each stocking. At times, she would succumb to temptation and all of the boxes would be empty as she generously absorbed all of their calories herself. I am making one small change in tradition and tucking in a box of See’s Chocolates in lieu of Mother’s poor taste in chocolate. Helen Grace would be even better, if I knew where to buy them.

The next box is small and may have slid a bit farther down in the stocking when the others were removed, so I’ve attached a streamer that extends well out of the top of the sock. Pull the streamer and the little box will pop out. Inside is a key. Looks like the key to a car. Actually, it is the key to a little tan Scout whose top can be taken off to make it a convertible. Here are the instructions I’ve written for Patti and wrapped around the key:

There is room for the driver (that’s you) and one more friend in front. (That’s me.) I am sitting there in honor of friends no longer able to: Patty Peck, Diane Looby, Mary Jo Kuckleberg. I think Karen Bossart is so slim that she could also squeeze in front with us. In the back, along the side benches and on the floor, if you really pack them in, there is room for at least eight others and I have written them all to be expecting your call. Billy Francis, Clarence Rea, Mick Penticoff and Bobby Brost are all must-rides. Since the male friends of your youth have outlasted most of your female friends, Billy and C.J. and Mick can bring their wives to sit in for Patty, Diane and Mary Jo. If my buddy Rita North were going to be in Arizona for Christmas (she isn’t) she could tag along as both of us always longed to do—and sometimes we were actually asked! Jim, I don’t think a Scout is your style, but be a sport and ride along in the back with the guys! You’ll discover formerly undiscovered levels of fun bumping along in this replica of Patti’s and my first wheels. And there is always room for one more in the back of a Scout!

The next gift is merely an envelope. Inside are two tickets to Africa. The accompanying note reads:

—To complete our journey that was once curtailed by a revolution and shooting that sent you off to bravely face the rest of the trip alone. It’s about time we tried it again, hopefully with happier endings. Since then, you’ve been back so many times that you can probably pick the agenda better than I could, so it’s an open ticket. You fill in the blanks.

So, we’ve finally come to the bottom of the stocking, but anyone who has plunged into the depths of a Christmas stocking knows there is always something left in the stocking’s toe. In this case it is a small but substantial box wrapped in rich gold paper with a shiny silver cord. Inside is a slide with a large diamond set in gold. Although I know that gold and diamonds are no longer my sister’s “style,” this one is a wonderful modern design with an emerald-cut stone set in a flat gold setting. It is this gift that I’ve chosen to show her worth to me and for that, nothing but the best will do!

Merry Christmas to all. Especially to that sister who has been there for me every single time and who need never worry again about being mean to me in our youth. That, too, is what older sisters are meant to do. It gets us ready for the world, which will not always be paper dolls and U’ing main in a Scout chock full of friends.


This is a reblog of a piece I wrote three years ago. The two word prompt this time was “Material Things:” If you want to play along or see other blog entries for this prompt, go here: https://teresacreationsblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/11/daily-two-word-prompt-121/

Sweet Harmony

Two years ago, when I visited friends from my childhood that I hadn’t seen for scores of years, we had a wonderful time  going through a box of mementos and then gathering around the piano to make  music as sweet as the memories.  Susan is a wonderful pianist and Karen a professional-level singer with a lovely soprano voice that always sends chills down my back.  Patti and I, good high school altos that we once were, created the harmony.  A perfect day with three of my favorite people whom I don’t see often enough.  Sweet Harmony for sure.

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Small Reunion

The pianist deftly presses out her chords.
The soprano’s voice slides smoothly from her throat
while we others strain until “Dear Heart” syrups our vocal chords
and we slip with less effort up and down the scale—
old friends singing even older songs.

The small dog snuggles in,
balancing on the plush chair back.
The mother of the pianist and the soprano
observes from her frame atop the piano.
All husbands out and about on other business.

Old letters reread, old memories pulled from forgetfulness,
each of us is left at the end richer—hearts refilled
from a shared past. Every word
has been a song of its own—
our notes blending together
in perfect harmony.

The prompt today was harmonize. This is a rewrite of a piece blogged two years ago. I’m getting ready for Camp Estrella so there won’t be much time for blogging for the next week!  

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.”

Sweet Little Pain

The prompt word for the weekly photo challenge was “Nostalgia.’

 

 

All of these photos were taken on Prince Edward Island, Canada.

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My sisters Betty, Patti and me, back in my pre-crush years. I remember being very proud that my legs had finally grown long enough to cross! Not too successfully, by the look of me.

Crushed!

When I was very small, I was notorious for hating boys.  My eleven-years-older sister once came into the living room and I was running around and around a big chair.  “What are you doing?” she asked. “Chasing boys!” was my answer. My sister was at an age when “chasing boys” meant something else entirely, but she got my drift.

When I was six, a lovely southern lady moved to town who enlivened the entire town.  She taught ballet and acrobatics to the girls and square dancing to everyone age 6 to 76.  This only lasted for a year or two, but twice a month most of the town would gather in the fairgrounds meeting room to do-se-do and alamand left.  I was usually paired with a little boy who was in my first grade class.  One night, after an especially invigorating “trade your partner,” when I was once again hand-in-hand with him, he gave me a big kiss.

I can’t remember my reaction, but I certainly remember his mother’s.  Abandoning her “trade your partner,” she came flying across the dance floor to shake her finger in his face.  “Shame on you, Brian!” she said, “Shame on you!”  (Not his real name.)  She then grabbed him by the upper arm and jerked him off the dance floor to go sit in a chair by the wall.  I was left without a partner and so had to dance with Will Prater, a grown man who was jerky and severe in his movements and who nearly dislocated my shoulder every time he swung me around.

Brian’s mother’s fervor in upbraiding him worked.  He never dated a girl, let alone kissed one, for his entire grade school and high school life.  He did ask me to the prom my sophomore year, but unfortunately I had accepted a date with another boy the night before.  By then I had a pretty big crush on him, fueled by his third grade tauntings of ‘Mayor’s daughter, mayor’s daughter,” when my dad was, indeed, mayor of the town, as well as a lifetime of torments in study hall, where he would break my pencils or pass me notes upbraiding me for scoring higher than he did on chemistry tests .  In my town, teasing was foreplay, but unfortunately in this case, the foreplay led to nothing, since he never repeated his offer of a date, in spite of his dad’s best efforts.

By my junior year, I was dating a boy from out of town.  “What are you doing dating that White River boy?” chided Brian’s dad every time I ran into him on the street or in our little town’s one  general store where I had gone to run an errand for my mom or to buy penny candy or a bag of Russian peanuts (our name for sunflower seeds.) “There are plenty of good boys right here in your own town!”

I knew he meant his own son, and had I not been in the throes of first lust with that “White River boy,” that would have been fine with me, as my longtime crush had continued.  But, alas, Brian never heeded his dad’s hints, either, until my sophomore year in college when, both home for the summer from college in different states, he finally asked me out. There is no crush like the one where contact is long delayed. I remember one very hot and heavy kissing session before we both went back to our separate lives.

We both married older people with children.  Both became swamped in our own lives.  I see him now and then at school reunions and of course crushes rarely survive a combination of reality and the passage of years.  But everyone needs a first crush, and perhaps he doesn’t remember that I might have been his, but he has the distinction of being mine.  I wonder if he would be surprised.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “First Crush.” Who was your first childhood crush? What would you say to that person if you saw him/her again?<

My 1000th Blog Post

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                                                                     My 1000th Blog Post !!!!

When I made my first blog entry on NaPoWriMo, taking the big step to commit to one posting a poem a day for 30 days, it seemed like a task I might not be able to complete.  I made the pledge to myself nonetheless, perhaps knowing my own nature and my dislike of not fulfilling obligations.  I made it, sometimes in the nick of time.  I think one posting was made at 65 seconds before midnight, thanks to a power outage and earlier obligations which kept me from posting first thing in the morning, as I usually did.

My days during that first month of daily postings went pretty much as they go now: 8:30, let the dogs out and see if the prompt was posted yet.  9:30–last possible moment to feed the dogs without Frida going into an apoplexy of barks.  By noon, my poem was usually written and posted, but sometimes the internet went out.  Sometimes workmen came.  Sometimes the electricity went off.  Other than these mitigating circumstances outside of myself, posting was always first priority.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was my first ever picture posted on my blog, on September 12, 2012. This fountain of a Mayan woman is long deceased, having been knocked into the pool by a visiting workman, repaired and repainted, then again knocked in by either my gardener or dog–a different report according to who was speaking. This time, she was unrepairable, so parts of her reside separately in different parts of my garden.IMG_8669_2-1I didn’t post any more pictures until March, 2013.  This is one of the pictures I posted then that I used for the cover of my book, Lessons from A Grief Diary–which was initially my purpose in starting a blog, but after my initial posts and a few replies by readers and friends, my posts were few and far between until April, when I participated in my first NaPoWriMo.  After that month of posting a poem a day, I made  almost no posts again until April of 2014 when I again participated in NaPoWriMo.  It was at the end of that 30 day period that I decided to just keep going by doing the WordPress daily prompt, initially posting every day, then gradually adding photo prompts and occasional challenge prompts from viewers, up until the present day, when my record total number of posts per day reached 9 one day this past week.

I had no idea I had made that many until I read it on my stats page. I was sure they were wrong, but they weren’t. So it is official.  I am obsessed by blogging.  Not only writing them but reading them and conversing with other bloggers.  I love that I am in daily communication with interesting bloggers from India, Nigeria, Australia, the States, Canada  and other points all over the world.  Iceland. Greenland, Mongolia, Kenya and Indonesia.  Too many more to name.  I know what is going on with women’s rights in India and Journalist’s rights in Saudi Arabia.  I know that this week a Nigerian king cannot be buried because the man who has been raised from birth to accompany him to the grave (and by this euphemism, I mean to be buried alive with him, as in the style of Egyptian pharaohs) has run away!

I know that a good blogging friend’s beloved dog has passed away but I also know intimate details of the most important dolls in her life.  I know that my friend Judy King, who lives here in Mexico, had a Tiny Tears doll, as did I and I know the worries of a sixteen year old girl, a friend again looking for employment, the sadness of a twinless twin.  I have met nomads, travelers, photographers, introverts, shut-ins, journalists, and those fighting bravely for the security and safety of their transgendered friends.  It is incredible how the world has opened up for me in the nearly two years I have been seriously blogging.

A friend told me very early in my blogging life that she didn’t get it.  To her it just looked like an exercise in ego to be posting a blog each day.  I don’t think she’s ever looked at my blog.  Nor has another close friend who likes all of my books but who says she “Doesn’t do blogs!”  Other friends read and comment, knowing that even though a message isn’t sent exclusively for them and to them that it can still be personal and interesting and true.

In blogging we expand our circle–like a group telephone conversation on Skype or a support group or interest group. Blogging is the corner bar minus the drinks, the pot party where no one inhales, the slumber party not limited exclusively to girls. Very rapidly, it has become one of the most important parts of my life.  What I wake up for.  Where I go when I need advice or I’m feeling blue.

Some blogging friends have moved through my life and disappeared.  Most of them are mothers with a lot else to do, so I understand.  But others have come to take their place and I am constantly surprised by what it is that they respond to.  A recent posting with pictures of my favorite dolls of the past, posted exclusively for a friend who collects dolls, drew interest from men and from Judy King, whom I mentioned earlier–a journalist friend who wrote pages in my comments section–a wonderful story of her favorite doll that I hope she develops into a story some day.

Every day when I force myself to leave my house and go back out into the physical world, I meet people who, when they hear my name, say, “Oh yes.  I read your blog!”  People I did not know in my own small community as well as surrounding towns have become supporters, occasionally noting on Facebook or in my comments section that they are daily readers of my blog.  I’ve heard from kids I went to high school with, college friends I haven’t seen in 50 years–even one old boyfriend of my sister’s (when she was 12)  whom I had never even met when we both lived back in South Dakota.

I have reconnected with my favorite cousin’s wife and daughter, my high school principal’s ex-wife, who it seems was a friend of my older sisters in high school and who was there when those pictures of me and my friends in Johannsen’s dam were taken.  She and my sister were the ones who had driven us to the dam to swim!  And, in a remarkable coincidence, I’ve heard from Douglas Johannsen, whose uncle owned the dam!

Long story short, I’m not accepting the charge that I am writing a blog purely out of ego.  Yes, in writing it I am recording a life, but I am also making one.  And what a big big life it has turned out to be!

Thanks to all my funny, smart, loyal, dedicated, varied, weird, uncategorizable blogging friends.  I wish I could send you all a piece of cake or glass to lift.  Instead, I send you a slice of my life because you have sent to me so many slices of yours, and they were delicious!!!

And so, on to the next 1000!!!!

# (Today’s prompt is to pledge allegiance to what you believe in, so I pledge allegiance to the United World of Blogging!)

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In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Generation XYZ.” What can you learn from the generation immediately in front of you or the one immediately in back of you

                                                    Generation “Haven’t A Clue!”

I really do not know what name was given to my generation. Someone born into a small town in the forties was more or less protected from being classified into any generation, at least for their first eighteen years.  The mass-education and pasteurization of the internet had not yet happened.  We didn’t have television until I was eleven–when the first transfer station was built in my part of South Dakota.  Even then, the programs were idealized. Ozzie and Harriet, Father Knows Best, The Danny Thomas Show , Leave it to Beaver and The Donna Reed Show presented squeaky-clean prototypes of the American family for us to gauge ourselves against.

Drugs had not yet worked their way into the American mainstream.  The first time I even knew about pot was in college, when a few kids of California opened up a network, via the post office, for educating the naive plains states kids about the glories of escaping the pressures of homework, exams and pecking order by escaping on a cloud.  Crystal meth had not yet been invented, nor crack cocaine, nor any of the other drugs that have since given so much of the developed world society a total escape–and in the offing, created huge social problems.

All-in-all, I’m grateful that i was born into the generation I was born into.  Although the world of computers, texting and social networking have reached out and grabbed us, we nonetheless have a memory of a time without–when books were held in the hand and messages were delivered mouth-to-ear with a hand held in front to prevent information leakage.  Today’s world with instant texting with a camera attached is just an invitation for bullying and the sharing of private information and acts that should never have occurred in the first place. Every bully becomes his own broadcasting network and increasingly violent programs on the television and both big and tiny screens have desensitized the world.

Witnessing act after act of violence and cruelty and a world obsessed by “reality” shows makes us numb to reality–as though it is not enough.  We crave sensationalism even as we tsk tsk and shake our heads at it.  I am truly afraid for the generations that continue to be exposed to this widespread compulsion to view each violent act–be it on the news, via YouTube or on the fictional screen of choice.

Screens get ever larger or ever smaller, so they fill the wall in our media room or get lost in our pockets; but whatever the side of our viewing device, our brains slowly fill with depravity that rivals the Colosseum, the gulags or the German concentration camps. This wholesale violence is the real lethal drug unleashed upon our world, and I don’t know a way out of it.  It is no longer of influence primarily in the big cities, for with the advent of the internet, the entire world has become one colossal city.  We know of the most violent act of the flogging of bloggers in the Mideast or the stoning of homosexuals in Iran or raped women in Africa.  We know of senseless and seemingly motiveless mass murders in churches and schools and fast food restaurants, beheadings in Mexico, suicides of bullied teens and murders of children by their mothers–but all of them occur too far away to be influenced by any action we might take.

We know too much about a world where we have no influence, and so all that happens is more hate, disgust and a further drawing away and warlike attitude toward societies that we don’t understand enough to judge.  And so we hate an entire society instead of hating the violent part of that society that, as in our own society, commits the violent acts that we judge the entire society guilty of.

In the meantime, our politicians are drawn ever more into judging their actions according to economic results rather than humanistic or ecological considerations.  So our cars get fancier, our kitchens are turned into little museums of opulence, our TV screens turn into movie screens and our hand held devices fit on our wrists.  Yet we increasingly turn to takeout and what we watch either warps us, disillusions us or totally removes us from a world of performance and action.  Technology has made it possible to wage wars without leaving the control room–to spy with drones and mount combat with missiles.  We find romance by watching staged reality shows, watch others plan their weddings and pick their wedding dresses, watch million dollar staged weddings and then day-to-day reports of the divorce a few months later.

Yes, the world is crazy, and growing crazier with each technological advance.  So you might have surmised that I would not have chosen to have been born at a later date than my 1947 birth.  And in spite of my yearning to be out in the wider world for most of my earlier life, I am not sorry that my explorations began in my twenties.  I saw the world with new eyes–not having seen The Wild Kingdom, The Discovery Channel or any of the other programs that show us idealized views of far off worlds.  All of my shocks of discovery were purely my own and many of the countries I visited were undeveloped.  I took ferries across rivers now bridged, strolled the dirt paths of towns now paved over and filled with tourists.  I lived in countries I knew nothing about before I lived there, formed my opinions according to my own experience. I was naive, uninformed, ignorant and young.  What better way to see the world?

So, long story short, I would not have chosen to be in any generation but my own.  I did not participate in demonstrations until my fifties when I was an expat living in Mexico.  I was not a flower child, didn’t live in a commune or go vegan.  I was too ignorant to protest the Vietnam war until it was over. But neither was I exposed to crystal meth, heroin or crack cocaine. My mode of escape in college was bridge, not texting, and in my youth it was Monopoly, Cops and Robbers and Drop the Handkerchief!  Perhaps it is pure nostalgia that makes me say I prefer my generation to all others, but I don’t think so.  I think it is the realization that I’ve lived in two worlds and appreciate the perspective this gives me.  Perhaps this is true of every generation, but if so, I wonder what horrible future will render the events of this generation a patina of nostalgia.