Tag Archives: remembrance

Life Is Too Short to Be Afraid

Staid: adjective: sedate, respectable and unadventurous. “staid law firms”
synonyms: sedate, respectable, quiet, serious, serious-minded, steady, conventional, traditional, unadventurous, unenterprising, set in one’s ways, sober, proper, decorous, formal, stuffy, stiff, priggish

Life Is Too Short To Be Afraid

Life is too short to be afraid,
caught, traditional and staid,
serious, steady, lacking flair,
always well-clothed and never bare.
We were not meant for formal fare,
pinched and tucked with perfect hair.

We’re meant to flap and drag and wear
with tattered bits and unkempt hair.
Life’s meant to mess us up a bit
as we make use of all of it.
Not just the parts traditional,
decorous and conditional.

Take a chance to win or fail.
Face the flood and face the gale.
Jump right in with both your feet
when adventure you chance to meet.
Go out to meet the world with grace,
hand extended, face-to-face.

In this great apple called mankind,
live in the fruit, not in the rind.
In the messy, fragrant, toothsome center
be an enjoyer, not a repenter.
Buy life full-price and not on clearance.
Live on the pith and not appearance.

For all too soon it will be over.
That field you rolled in, full of clover,
will sprout small stones that bruise your spine.
The rich mussels on which you dine
will be something you’ll have to pass
for fear that you might suffer gas.

The places where you want to go
can’t be got to when you’re slow.
You won’t have the energy
to travel fast and travel free—
to hitchhike, backpack, hop a train
when you have rheumatism pain.

So gather ye rosebuds while ye may.
“Real” life will wait another day.
Be silly and take chances now.
Forsake the contract, pledge and vow.
Too soon the walker and the cane.
You never will be young again.

The Prompt:No Time to Waste—Fill in the blank: “Life is too short to _____.” Now, write a post telling us how you’ve come to that conclusion.

 

 

Mommy Think

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The Prompt: Reverse Shot—What’s your earliest memory involving another person? Recreate the scene — from the other person’s perspective.

My earliest memory is waking up in my crib and making a noise to let my mom know I was awake and then watching her walk in with a big grin.  I remember very clearly thinking how delighted she was to see me and how anxious she must have been for me to wake up!  Ha!

Mommy Think

I can hear the baby stirring, but she’s quiet for now.  I guess I’ll try to finish the Daily Crossword before going in to see if she’s really ready to get up from her nap.  If she’s wet or restless, she always lets me know—the same gurgle as usual, but a bit louder, to make sure I notice.

The divan I’m lying on is so close to the open door to her room that there’s no chance I won’t hear her if she really needs me.  Hmmmmm. A Hawaiian goose.  I’ve seen that a dozen times.  Nene, I think.

Oh, Oh.  There’s that little singing purr.  She’s ready.  So much for the puzzle for a little while, until I get her changed, liquified and busy with her toys in her playpen.

There she is.  So adorable, peeking out from between the bars of her crib.  I can see her eyes dilate when she sees me, one chubby little arm reaching through the bars,  hand out, fingers spread.  Waving hello like her sisters taught her.  Face open in the biggest grin to see her mom.  It’s like looking in a mirror.  I can feel that same grin stretching my own cheeks.  I can’t believe I’ve created this sweet girl.  Me, the laziest woman on earth—I made this!

She’s gotten heavier and OUCH! those little fingernails need trimming.  She wraps her chubby legs around me like a vise.  Fat little toes for gobbling as I change her diaper.  That strange arrow birthmark pointing straight down and filling the vee between her legs like a direction signal. So strange.  My first child to have marks of any kind–the small port wine stain on her neck, and this larger brown birthmark in such an odd place. So glad this big one will never really show that much so long as she has any clothes on at all.

She’s perfect, so far as anyone else knows.   I’ll put her with a cookie and orange juice in her bottle into her playpen and finish my puzzle.  No need to change her clothes.  Her dad will be home soon for his afternoon break and he’ll have her filthy from his field clothes within seconds of entering the house.  They’ll both be asleep within minutes–him in his rocking chair with his feet up on the footstool and the glass of iced tea I’ve brought him sweating on his chair-side table, her stretched out on her tummy on his chest, little cheek pressed against his neck, wheat chaff and field dust on her sleeper and making light depressions on her cheek. I’ve never seen a man who loves babies more.  When we don’t have one of our own, he borrows them from tourists in the restaurant where he meets his friends for coffee in the afternoon.  “Want me to hold your baby for you while you eat?” he says, and they always say yes.  The novelty of the big farmer in the J.C. Penny’s khaki work clothes and the straw hat holding their little city baby?  They just wish they’d brought their camera in.

Hmmm. A South American Country.  Peru? No, that’s just four letters. Chile? There’s Ben’s truck.  Guess I’ll get the baby out of the playpen and have her waiting at the door for him when he comes in!

The Prompt: Reverse Shot—What’s your earliest memory involving another person? Recreate the scene — from the other person’s perspective.

(P.S.This is a pretty unremarkable post for my 300th posting, but I have an eye appointment in an hour so must hurry.  Perhaps I’ll do another post later in the day…It was fun trying to write from my mother’s perspective.  Sorry it had to be so hurried.)

(P.P.S. The eye doctor never showed up, although I waited an hour.  I was sure it said I had an appointment in my calendar.  I must need my eyes examined!)

2017 Note:  It’s been three years since Word Press used the prompt “recreate.” At that time, I used the prompt to make my 300th blog entry.  Now I have penned (or shot) my 3,444th entry, so it seems appropriate to reblog it.  Thanks for reading it—and perhaps for reading it again.

 

So What Am I, Chopped Liver?

chopped-liver-2

So What Am I, Chopped Liver?

The first time I can remember feeling unequal was in college, in Modern American Literature class. I remember the teacher (male) asking questions and I would usually raise my hand and answer first. I would make a point about whatever we had been reading and there would be a moderate reaction on the part of the teacher and the mainly male members of the class.

Half an hour later, after much discussion, invariably, one of the male members of the class would repeat what I had said as his own opinion and everyone would laud what he had to say as insightful and brilliant and everyone would agree!

This happened time after time. It was as though none of them really listened to what I said, or perhaps that their minds weren’t ready to accept it unless they went through a period of inductive reasoning first and they needed all the accumulated comments of the class to bring them to acknowledge what I had known from the beginning.

What it felt like, however, was that they put no credence in the ideas of a woman. This is not the only time I have noticed this. It happens now and then in the small poetry workshop I am a member of. I am really curious about whether any other woman has ever noticed this same phenomena.

The Prompt: Unequal Terms—Did you know today is Blog Action Day? Join bloggers from around the world and write a post about what inequality means to you. Have you ever encountered it in your daily life?

Bali-Bound


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Bali-Bound

Germans, Aussies, Kiwi, Brit, Dutch, Canadians, Swiss.
I was the lone American who was pulled into this
adventure—just thirteen of us, including them and me
in a tank barge left from WWII, across the Timor Sea.
We did not know that Bugis pirates still set sail out there,
for we were young and reckless, and we didn’t care.
We still felt invulnerable. We would never die.
We all sought our giant chunk of the adventure pie.
We sailed all day and through the night and part of a new day.
Most of the cash that we had left was what we had to pay
to reach the west shore of an Island lashed by monsoon rain.
All bridges and all roads washed out, we searched for rides in vain.
A lonely store stocked not with much—some cans of cheese, two Cokes.
Not adequate provender for such starving, thirsty folks.
We crossed from Portugese Timor onto Indonesian ground.
Although we all had traveler’s checks, there was not much cash found
within our empty pockets, yet to Bali we were bound.
Still an unspoiled paradise—a haven with few cars
or partying Australians or honeymooning stars.

We stopped at one last little hut where I took off my sandals
to ease my feet, and thus were they made off with by some vandals.
And so it was that we set out through jungles vined and rooted,
fording rivers filled with leeches. I, alas, barefooted!
But chivalry was still in vogue and one or two or three
of my fellow travelers shared their boots with me
taking turns at walking barefooted for awhile
as we walked through the jungle, mile after mile.
Till late in the afternoon we came across an inn
(By then my resolution grown dangerously thin!)
Alas, we had no money for dinners and our room,
and here was where the two Swiss guys dispelled our sense of gloom.
They traded the two ten-speed bikes they’d carried or they’d ridden
most of their way around world—and they did it unbidden
by any of us, for we knew those bikes were like their kin;
and yet they gave up both of them for one night in this inn
for all of us, plus dinner—a repast full and rich,
and furthermore, our breakfast and the promise of a hitch
on a truck loaded with grain bags that was headed out tomorrow.
They did this for all of us and did not show their sorrow.
After showers poured from pails, (I noticed, I’d grown thinner)
some of us had a little nap and then a welcome dinner.
And when the Germans both pulled out their guitars for a song,
the sons of our innkeeper brought out theirs and sang along!
We all chipped in to teach the lyrics to Bobby McGee.
Our beds and food cost dearly, but the music was all free.

Next morning, we climbed high upon the grain bags for our ride
while Indonesians hung onto the rear and either side.
That truck looked like a peddler with his wagon piled high,
not with the usual notions, but with humans far and nigh.
We rode along uncomfortably, hour after hour.
No songs for us this long, long day, our mood was turning dour.
When it was nearing dusk, that truck gave one tremendous lurch
that very nearly threw us all from our precarious perch.
The Indonesians climbed on down and vanished all but one,
while the drivers told to us this next stage in our fun.
The axle cleanly broken, they would start out to get aid.
They’d come for us tomorrow—but they wanted to be paid!
We waved them off with promises—just one more awful bungle
and looked around for sleeping spots in this dense, darkening jungle.

We settled on a little hillock clear of trees and vine.
Rolled out all our sleeping bags. On what were we to dine?
One tiny little can of cheese and sardines in a tin
and those two Cokes we’d purchased—our provisions were most thin.
Hans had pellets with him meant for purifying water.
Guys headed out in search of it like lambs led to the slaughter.
The sky was darkening, but I knew I had to go to pee.
I headed down to where the trees afforded privacy,
pulled down my pants and put my hand, to balance, on a tree
when a sudden piercing pain shot from my hand through all of me!
I screamed and all my traveling friends came running down the hill.
I think of all my crises they were soon to have their fill.
I felt as though a burning dart had pierced through my right hand.
Toppled and now hobbled, I was unable to stand.

They helped me pull my pants up, sadly with a still-full bladder
as I heard the Timorese man say that it had been an adder.
I’d die within the hour, there was nothing we could do.
They emptied all their pills out and decided I’d take two
of everything we carried in our pockets and our packs,
for all of us were traveling with a drugstore on our backs.
To wash them down they offered up the ultimate in gifts:
the Cokes that we were hoarding, then they sat with me in shifts.

My finger swelled to such a size that the one ring I wore
cut off circulation until Peter cussed and swore,
“We’ll have to cut it off, so Trevor come here with your knife.
We have to cut if off of her to try to save her life.”
They put my hand upon a rock, I was delirious.
Trevor was looking rather green. Could they be serious?
He brought the knife down to my finger, but his wrist went limp.
The Germans gave a severe look, as though he were a wimp.
They told him to get on with it, but still he chose to linger.
“I just can’t do it,” Trevor said, “I can’t cut off her finger!”
“Not the finger, fool,” they said, “Just cut the ring away!”
And Trevor used the saw blade, for he had no more to say.
All night they held my arm aloft and manned the tourniquet,
It’s clear to me that I will be forever in their debt.
When I hadn’t died after an hour, the old man rubbed his eyes
and said it was another snake and I’d be paralyzed
on my right side but wouldn’t die—somewhat of a relief,
and still, I must admit I viewed paralysis with grief.

Eight hours later, still awake, I heard a distinct pop
and the swelling went down, but the throbbing did not stop.
Years later when I read “The Pearl” by Steinbeck just for fun,
when the baby nearly died, stung by the scorpion,
in just eight hours the swelling went down. That’s how I came to see
that it was probably a scorpion that had stung me.
They came with a new axle and we were on our way
and made it to our destination later that next day.
We caught a plane to Bali, but I got there in a haze,
to fall in bed where I was passed out cold for three more days.
Covered with red rashes from the rivers that we’d forded,
we were treated by the women in the houses were we boarded,
who tended to our wounds from leeches and our dysentery.
Yes, Bali then was paradise, but entrance wasn’t free.

Still, we’d paid the price and we were there right at the start,
before the rush of travelers destroyed some of its heart.
We rented bikes and rode the island, town to town to town
without meeting any traffic to try to mow us down.
A quarter for our rooms each night, a quarter for our lunch.
A lobster dinner for fifty cents—we were a happy bunch.
Processions down the streets at night, where gamelans abounded.
and temple ceremonies—all-in-all, we were astounded.
Magic mushrooms by the grocery bag cooked into omelets for us,
everywhere we went, the people just seemed to adore us.
Kuta beach was lazy then, and as we strolled along,
the most commercial thing we faced to buy was a sarong.
No beggars and no hawkers and no motorbikes to meet.
No half-an-hour to stand and wait to try to cross the street.
You might have guessed from hints I’ve given that there’s been a change.
Everything has altered now and become very strange.
Poppies restaurant—a tiny place in ‘73,
has grown into a restaurant chain with dishes gluten-free.
Hotels abound and hawkers flog their watches on each street.
Young Australians in each bar must drink to beat the heat.
We lived on just one dollar a day, in homes on Kuta Beach,
for there were no hotels yet anywhere within our reach.
There are more stories I could tell, and might, another day.
This tale has gone on for too long, so I must fade away.
But first I must apologize for this long-winded view
and say if you’re in Bali, we were there ahead of you!

The Prompt: Avant Garde—From your musical tastes to your political views, were you ever way ahead of the rest of us, adopting the new and the emerging before everyone else?

 

 

Back and Forth

Back and Forth

If I should find a time machine, I might or might not buy it.
And even once I bought it, I might or might not try it.
To think about the future always makes me sweat,
for I am trepidatious about how bad it might get.
I foresee live-in bubbles for one or two or three
who merely turn on YouTube for whomever else they see.
Pollution would be too advanced to venture far outside—
the world turned way too violent for most folks to abide.

If I visited the future, chances are I’d see
the death of friends and loved ones—perhaps the death of me!
See our country crumble due to earthquakes or to slaughter.
See Monsanto poison food crops after ruining our water.
Our seasons turned to drought, tornado, hurricane and flood—
by turn made dry or spinning or blown away or mud.
I know there are alternatives, but I can’t help but doubt
that current politicians will let it all work out.

But if I went into the past, perhaps I’d also rue it.
I might just be happier if I chose to eschew it
I might see as a toddler that I was just a brat—
a little squirming dervish—graceless, spoiled and fat.
I might hear that my singing voice was just a bit off-key
and see the looks the others gave as they were hearing me.
If I encountered me, we might just end up in a fight
like ones I had with sisters—and discover they were right!

Yet, this probably won’t happen and perhaps it might be fun
to have another look at what I’ve seen and what I’ve done.
And though to relive some things would leave me feeling queasier,
I know that it would certainly make memoir-writing easier.
What fun to relive Christmases from year to year to year,
To see my mom and dad again, what’s more, to get to hear
all the stories of my dad and this time to record them—
to spend time with my sisters and to show how I adored them.

What fun to watch me with my friends— Rita, Lynn and Billy—
to see when we were children if we were just as silly
as little kids I see today who just seem to be reeling
with energy and foolishness and excesses of feeling.
I’d drive on roads with fewer cars to spots no longer there.
Go roller skating in Draper gym. Fall on my derriére!
I’d have a Coke in Mack’s Café and then I’d shop at Gambles.
Buy love comics at Mowell’s Drug and then expand my rambles

down to the playground monkey bars, where I would do a flip.
Then to the Frosty Freeze where I would have another sip
of orange slush and then I’d have to buy a barbecue.
(I fear that in my tiny town, that’s all there was to do!)
I’d skip ahead, then, many years, to 1971,
and fly off to Australia for adventures in the sun.
Then Singapore and Bali, Ceylon and Africa.
See everything as it once was, when it was new and raw.

Regrets? Of course. I’m human, and so I’ve had a few,
but over precognition, I prefer déjà vu.

The Prompt: One-Way Street—Congrats! You’re the owner of a new time machine. The catch? It comes in two models, each traveling one way only: the past OR the future. Which do you choose, and why?

Leftovers


Leftovers

When my father died forty years ago, it was in Arizona, where my parents had been spending their winters for the past ten years.  They maintained houses in two places, returning to South Dakota for the summers. But after my father died, my mother never again entered that house in the town where I’d grown up.

Our family had scattered like fall leaves by then—my mother to Arizona, one sister to Iowa, another to Wyoming. Both the youngest and the only unmarried one, I had fallen the furthest from the family tree. I had just returned from Africa, and so it fell to me to drive to South Dakota to pack up the house and to decide which pieces of our old life I might choose to build my new life upon and to dispose of the rest.

My father’s accumulations were not ones to fill a house. There were whole barns and fields of him, but none that needed to be dealt with. All had been sold before and so what was to be sorted out was the house. In that house, the drapes and furniture and cushions and cupboards were mainly the remnants of my mother’s life: clothes and nicknacks, pots and pans, spice racks full of those limited flavors known to the family of my youth—salt and pepper and spices necessary for recipes no more exotic than pumpkin pies, sage dressings and beef stews.

Packing up my father was as easy as putting the few work clothes he’d left in South Dakota into boxes and driving them to the dump. It had been years since I had had the pleasure of throwing laden paper bags from the dirt road above over the heaps of garbage below to see how far down they would sail, but I resisted that impulse this one last run to the dump, instead placing the bags full of my father’s work clothes neatly at the top for scavengers to find—the Sioux, or the large families for whom the small-town dump was an open-air Goodwill Store.

It was ten years after my father’s death before my mother ever returned again to South Dakota. By then, that house, rented out for years, had blown away in a tornado. Only the basement, bulldozed over and filled with dirt, contained the leftovers of our lives: the dolls, books, school papers and trophies. I’d left those private things stacked away on shelves—things too valuable to throw away, yet not valuable enough to carry away to our new lives. I’ve been told that people from the town scavenged there, my friend from high school taking my books for her own children, my mother’s friend destroying the private papers. My brother-in-law had taken the safe away years before.

But last year, when I went to clear out my oldest sister’s attic in Minnesota, I found the dolls I thought had been buried long ago–their hair tangled and their dresses torn—as though they had been played with by generations of little girls. Not the neat perfection of how we’d kept them ourselves, lined up on the headboard bookcases of our beds —but hair braided, cheeks streaked with rouge, eyes loose in their sockets, dresses mismatched and torn. Cisette’s bride dress stetched to fit over Jan’s curves. My sister’s doll’s bridesmaid dress on my doll.

It felt a blasphemy to me. First, that my oldest sister would take her younger sisters’ dolls without telling us. Her own dolls neatly preserved on shelves in her attic guest bedroom, ours had been jammed into boxes with their legs sticking out the top. And in her garbage can were the metal sides of my childhood dollhouse, imprinted with curtains and rugs and windows, pried apart like a perfect symbol of my childhood.

Being cast aside as leftovers twice is enough for even inanimate objects. Saved from my sister’s garbage and cut in half, the walls of my childhood fit exactly into an extra suitcase borrowed from a friend for the long trip back to Mexico, where I now live. I’ll figure out a new life for them as room décor or the backgrounds of colossal collages that will include the dolls I’m also taking back with me.

Mexico is the place where lots of us have come to reclaim ourselves and live again. So it is with objects, too. Leftovers and hand-me-downs have a value beyond their price tags. It is all those lives and memories that have soaked up into them. In a way, we are all hand-me-downs. It’s up to us to decide our value, depending upon the meaning that we choose to impart both to our new lives and these old objects. Leftovers make the most delicious meals, sometimes, and in Mexico, we know just how to spice them up.

The prompt: Hand-Me-Downs—Clothes and toys, recipes and jokes, advice and prejudice: we all have to handle all sorts of hand-me-downs every day. Tell us about some of the meaningful hand-me-downs in your life.


 

 

Waiting for the Bell

DSC07814Nine Minutes to Nine–Retablo by Judy Dykstra-Brown ( 5.5 X 7 X 1.25 inches)

Waiting for the Bell

From my upstairs bedroom window, I could see it all:
who got to school early to be first for tether ball,
the teachers driving up the street, avoiding children running
some children in the sandbox, and other children sunning
stretched out on the teeter-totters, waiting for a ride—
their friend the perfect size to balance, still locked up inside
cleaning off the chalkboards and dusting the erasers
with others who’d been tardy, or perhaps desktop-defacers.

We could hear the school bell toll the warning for
just one more bite of Cream of Wheat—no time for any more.
I stood and watched as sisters sprinted out the door.
Going on without me, for I was only four.
I waited then for recess, spread out on the grass
waiting for the hours and minutes just to pass.
Through open windows, I could hear all the teacher voices
quizzing all the children and listening to their choices.

The teacher on piano, the class singing along—
long before my school days, I’d memorized each song.
At 10:15, the bell was rung and big doors thrown out wide—
one hundred children, all at once, released to the outside.
Some ran to claim the swings and slides, or lined up for the games:
choosing sides for “Send ‘Em” by calling out their names.
But the creaking of the swing chains and whoops up on the slide
could not reveal the mysteries of what was sealed inside.

Year after year I watched and listened, storing up the clues
for the day that I could put on my new school shoes.
I’d have my school bag at my side while mother curled my curls
and keep it with me as I ate my breakfast with the girls,
spooning up my Cream of Wheat but listening for the bell
that warned the time was getting short for me to run pell-mell
across the street and up the stairs in brand new skirt and blouse.
I knew which room to look for.  I could see it from my house.

And then perhaps my mom would stand under our big elm tree
and the singing that she listened for would finally include me!

 The Prompt: August Blues—As a kid, were you happy or anxious about going back to school?