They raise their hands, beautiful hands, Hands that have known labor, have kneaded, Have created, have loved and been loved. Praying to the creator, a creator, Mother Nature, "End the storms. Save our brethren." And the clouds tower above them like city towers. From plenty, they sense the devastation, the need. Politicians storm the fortresses for a picture. They shout, "We are here with your relief." Paper towels tossed into a crowd who wish for Water, food, medicine, jobs, homes. The cleanup has begun, with a single roll of paper. Beautiful minds are shocked at the blatant Lack of care. The victims are brown, black, and white. They are a colorful mosaic, whirled and swirled by wind. Voices come through the air, the web, the functions of of which convey disbelief, horror, future action. But for luck, there walk we in similar straits. Caring is call to action. Share, share alike, give. From coast to island to coast the storms remain. You only have a short time to build. Build. A legacy is formed by the footsteps you leave. I step in my ancestors steps. "Here is a broom, I will sweep. A mop, I will scrub. Soap to wash.. The bitter taste of anguish, in the mouths. Eyes that Pierce though miles away. Stories that will be told to Grandchildren, of the great storm, of a roll of paper tossed.
My brain has foggy recollections, memories,
Of the things we were promised, to be given,
As children, a world of peace, of standing in protest,
Flowers garlanding rifles held to sway children
By children no older than themselves.
The soldier shot, nerves and muscle, scared,
Not thinking of killing, not thinking
Of pelting rocks. Afraid. Unsure. A child of time
Given orders to stand by, to wait. Make them go away.
Orders again years after Kent. Waiting for the fog to come here, too.
Foggy recollections of Camelot, children in play,
Played in vinyl, surround sound. A glimpse into intense
Cherishing of time. The President’s Missus. Bravely
Facing the loss of a civilization, as she sat waiting, as the nation paused, then
Rushed out of the White House, a widow, out of time.
She was tall, classic, classy, a champion of children, well-educated
A woman who bore solitude in her heart. Her public face perfect.
A woman bearing in her arms, the children. Protecting them.
Mourning her husband John, her brother-in-law Robert, Martin
Luther King, all three martyrs to peace. She remained silent.
But her dream of peace arising from battle and blood was
Taken up and thrown, like feathers from a nest quickly disappearing
Erasing the stigma of violent victimization as others took up the flag of
Skin, of religion, of contesting savagery. Or so we thought.
Life fell from her hands into the ocean of solitude and ignorance.
She was a princess , a wife, lost, out of time but standing, but seen as
Perfection. Mother, editor, dressed in dark memories swirling in fog.
Clothes of the soul, shared by photographs stolen when she didn’t want to be seen,
Of private moments. With the population who couldn’t buy the tags of her style.
It’s so hard to see her now, under her packaging, with memory fading.
Foggy, recollections of the time. Childlike I believed, I still believe,
Making the decision to stand in the line of fire, to protect, being
Like her in my soul. Strong, able, sad, but never at peace.
For the world didn’t change as promised. Fog flew into the spaces as
She slipped away into obscurity and fairy tales. Moving into subtitles of time.
“Shh, old man,” Reggie mumbled to himself as he eyed the TV. “It’s not the end of the world yet.” He leaned closer to the television. “The end of the world hasn’t come yet, for we old soldiers still sit in purgatory uncalled. Surely that devil would call us if he knew we sat at ease.” The TV blared, for Reggie used the sound against the loneliness of his soul.
News reports troubled him: the president declaring war actions, kids dying, no one understanding why killing was so easy for the man, volunteers sent packing as democratic pigeon minders, told they got no business, old people dying and no one caring.
”Hush, Reggie, pray he doesn’t call you. You can barely keep time at a social dance with the old women down in the basement of the church. Not much of a social, all of us left by families that know our minds are going. Not much to be happy for, to care for, to do. Puzzles and number thingy squares. Old women knitting. Women ruminating like cows, no brains left. Young folks and nurses bugging folks to be active. Folks showing us computers, damned machines. Shh, damn it, man, don’t get so upset. Don’t call attention to your dark soul. You don’t want the attention of that type. They bury us with trumpets blowing and our service honored, but there is little honor in what we did. We killed, oh that we served as God willed. Oh, that peace was close, but it ain’t coming.”
The news flooded the room. Missiles launching from planes, children laying dead, yellow gas coating everything. Reggie looked down at his hands. His hands, beautiful hands, that had held a child when it was born, helped it learn to walk, paid with labor to send his child to school, and watched with pride at the start of the Great War III. Strong hands that had served him, that had held his wife as she sobbed at the telegram from the War Department, now sat idle in his lap. Sad hands that watched the news take his wife’s will to live, that buried her.
“Reggie, man, you have to keep quiet, man. Don’t say your thoughts too loudly, or they’ll have you out the door as a traitor. I’m you, you know, still you. I’m me. I was…I am, I get so confused these days.”
He moved the food on his plate around in circles. TV food, the folks next door brought TV food to him each night. They said it was okay he didn’t know them. He hated that. They told him names. They had no faces. The food was placed on his TV tray. One plate, one fork, one spoon, one glass of water. His teeth were worn and so his food was precut, mushed by him into the catsup. He took a bite, swallowed, and took another. Food had no real meaning, it just kept him alive. It all tasted the same.
“When’s it morning, old man, when’s morning coming? Not soon enough. Devils on the TV, devils in church, next it will be devils in my home.”
The door to the room he sat in opened and closed. Reggie didn’t bother looking around.
“What do you want now?” he asked. “You don’t normally come for the dishes. Got something for me?”
Whoever had entered the room hissed at him, “Good evening, Reggie.”
“Don’t know why you bother me every night. I’m an old man. Got a devil for president, a war to begin more wars, ain’t nothing going to ever be okay again.”
“Your pain, it seems worse tonight, Reggie. Shall I take it from you?” The stranger moved to the front of the couch. He pushed the plastic container of pills in front of Reggie.
“Pain means I’m alive. I’m an old man. Ain’t nothing going to matter ever again. Leave me alone. I don’t want nothing from you.” He watched the TV change to a game show. “See they roll that wheel and people guess words. Fools always take too long. You want to watch this show with me? I ain’t about to go out with all that fireworks on the news going on.”
“I can take your pain away, Reggie. I can ease the burden of your heart.” The stranger sat down and rested his hand on Reggie’s knee. “I’m worried about you, Reggie, you don’t do anything but watch that idiot tube. The news will make your heart stop, if you keep watching it.”
“Heart stopped years ago when the wife died.”
“Reggie, all you have to do is tell me that I can take your soul to a different plane. But you have to say it.”
“Hell, you think you’re the devil or something? Take my soul to a plane. A plane to a place where no-one gives a damn. Nah, you get out. I’m not going with no devil. I have my own devils inside me. I live my own hell, don’t need to go to one.”
“Heaven won’t come to you, Reggie, not ever. You’ll never find relief sitting here. Come with me, Reggie, you’ll be warm and with family.”
Reggie watched the wheel spin. “Hey, weirdo, you know that phrase right there? Daniel Webster said it.”
“Fine, Reggie, fine. What’s the phrase?”
Turning to the illusion beside him, Reggie laughed and said, “Get the hell out.” He leaned back in his couch and closed his eyes. “Devil wouldn’t want me, I’m too much of a grumpy old Gus. Close the door as you leave. Damn curmudgeon needs his rest.”
The devil stood and smiled. Reggie was one of his favorites. He could bide his time. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Reggie.”
Translate my pain into inspiration.
A grief that turns my heart to sterling,
A metal that will not leave me stranded,
A mourning that imbeds a jasper arrowhead.
He has gone, looping his words between
His memory and mine. Remaining.
Older brother of soul, teacher of order,
He had taken Valentines, paper cutouts,
Red hearts and Pink silliness,
Dark visions combating the light.
Wrapped them in cushions of unsweetened
Advice, given freely, powerful in their
Scent of citrus, their odor of sage.
Wholesome and forgiving. He listened.
Silence now that his breathing
Has erred on the side of quiet.
His heart filled with the love
A teacher has for student.
Transient as they grow, but his eternal.
I must write to find my heart again
Where I laid it out for him.
How many, many types of love there are.
So many ways taking the crystal bonds,
Which when broken remain
In our memory of precious laughter,
Honest criticism, layers upon layers of
Rebuilding. He gave these seeds to us
To plant in our inner gardens, to bloom.
Watered by tears of grief, blinked,
They will grow. Tiny green hopes, words,
Writer to writer. Clearing weeds
Nourishing plots of future dreams.
I hear his voice in the wind
Teasing me, scolding me, holding me close.
Calling me to finish what I had begun,
To love those he loved, to work, to stand
On two feet knowing he believed in us.
We must carry his gift to us,
The world’s visions, the expected literacy.
Must share our voices, must care, we must,
Even when the caring scares and scars us.
His footprints stay with us, his books,
His stories, his belief that the world
Must read, write, share and pass
The compassion of an old friend to a new.
We carry him now, heart to heart.
We will honor him by our words, soon.
But written as the storms come,
Rain beating the earth in a primal flood
As he flows away from us, following the flood
Of our sorrow. The transportation of our hearts,
Flooded and sitting now filled with salty tears.
Our memories are precious, sketch in words,
Written as the tears streak, but forming
Wary wry smiles, smiles that will not betray.
Oh the memory of those smiles, he loved us.
I will carry him with me in my pocket of life.
Filled with random pebbles, coins, a leaf,
An acorn or two, a magic ring, a fallen star.
This hole of sorrow, this well of loss,
Fill it with swords, shields, puppies
Pictures, mystery, letters, trials,
Hopes and dreams. Do not forget…
You see, I loved him.
I loved him as brother, father, friend,
Mentor, teacher, and confidant.
Bill Manville, of Sacramento, California died on Valentine’s Day 2017. He was a published author, a teacher, a traveler, radio host, copywriter, U.S. Army Veteran and dearly loved by Beverly. He ran a class on the internet called Writing to be Published. He was a well loved member of AA.
Volunteering at his local library, he ran a class on writing that was open to the public. He understood the need, the urge, to write and that writers need support at all levels of their ability. Being a gruff, loving, inspiring man, he passed the gift of what he had learned to others with an open heart. Whether the class succeeded of not, he urged them on. Revising, placing students in groups to evaluate each other, support each other, he gave us a rare gift of insight into ourselves.
He worked tirelessly in the pursuit of helping others escape the madness of addiction, remaining anonymous except for his first name. If a song represented his attitude towards others it might have been this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LjhCEhWiKXk also know as Bruno Mars “Just the Way You Are” He accepted people as they are. Truly a testament for human to be remembered as, Bill was “amazing” just the way he was. Of course you would have to change to words from girl to guy. Volunteering as a rehab clinic volunteer, he understood that by helping others he would help himself remain successful as a long-term sober recovering addict.
Celebrated as a Book of the Month author, he also worked as an editor for Cosmo, contributed columns to the Village Voice, Key West Solares Hill, The New York Daily Times and the Huffington Post. Magazine articles appear in The Fix, Cavalier Magazine, the Saturday Evening Post. He published his books through MacMillan Publishers, Duel, Sloan and Pearce, Simon and Schuster, NAL, Delacorte, Dell/Random House, BSForge Press and Tor Publishing. His works include: Cool Hip and Sober, Goodbye, Saloon Society, The Man who Left his Wife and Had a Nifty Time, Writing to Be Published, and Breaking up. He was a contributor to the fourth edition of the Alcoholics Anonymous: The Story of How many Thousands of Men and Women Have Recovered from Alcoholism (commonly called The Big Book at meetings.)
Bill also hosted a radio show, Addictions and Answers on KVML in Sonoma CA, which delved into real stories of the struggles faced by others dealing with alcohol addiction. With over forty years of research into the material he had available to him, he was able to paint a realistic picture of the process of becoming sober, something that was both a personal and social matter of importance. He believed in the process of sobering up as a lifelong purpose. One of the transcripts of a show he hosted with Dr. Dave More is available through the NYDailyNews.com, http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/health/parents-cope-moms-dads-turn-kids-ambien-adderall-day-article-1.1092155.
He attended the University of Pennsylvania, but graduated from Sarah Lawrence College. His next stop was the University of the Mediterranean, Nice where he explored life in all of its fullness and color. As his works were being published, he was encouraged to begin teaching. So he did. He was a member of LinkedIn where he looked for aspiring authors to take his online course.
No one can summarize the character, love, production and history on a single page and with such short notice. I have done the best I can. So a final toast: To all who aspire to sobriety or writing, we have loved him, learned from him, and will never regret that opportunity he shared with us.
It was work, good wholesome work, that held the nation together with each nail or mended wheel. The tools of the trade were honest, having no pretense or subterfuge like found in politics. Hard tools for making horse shoes and knowing that life was better for the way the shoe fit.
My great grandfather was a smithy. He and his wife formed a team that could take on the world. They followed the principal that hard work made for honesty. They were a partnership of American ingenuity and creativity, making things that would last and be valued. On Sundays, he became the minister and she the minister’s wife. Their congregation came to church to hear sermons that extolled virtue, charity, and kindness and left feeling that the world was a wonderful place to be in. They were all one generation that followed the pioneer spirit that led to the expansion of the United States, and they were proud.
Having followed the legacy of their parents, and having bloomed in the black rich soil of Minnesota, they cherished education and culture above all else. It was this passion that brought music, theater, literature and art and made them more than simple folk. And they took their congregation with them. They were members of the Grange, a society that stood for the good in mankind. It stood for the civilized expansion of farmers, blacksmiths, small town storekeepers and it kept life refined. She played the violin, he smoked his pipe and told the young ones stories from the bible. There were contests in spelling and grammar, the spelling bee being a way to bring children up, rather than see them running wild in the world. Everything had a order to it.
Generational families lived in a house or close by. Mothers were there to help Grandmothers. Grandfathers were there to teach the young boys how to become men. Life had a purpose, and the ideals of the middle class were brought to light in the fires of the smith.
My mother was sent to my great grandparents when her parents needed time to do things that a little girl might be a pest during. But she was welcomed, hugged, given a kiss and sent to play out in the gardens with grandmother’s watchful eye keeping an eye on her. Once when she wanted to play with a bee, and wouldn’t listen to that clear warning voice, she was shocked into behaving by the application of cold water from the hose her grandmother was using to water the kitchen garden. The cold water was followed by a hug and another warning that bees needed to be bees and little girls shouldn’t play with them. There was no trauma, no extensive punishing needed. There were rules and they were best followed.
Her grandfather would work in the shop, making things for the house when he had no customers for the day. Or he would create and set aside the makings for wheels and horseshoes so that customers wouldn’t have to wait. He was always thinking ahead. New inventions fascinated him. He’d quickly learn which parts might need fixing, which parts he could mend, for that is what a blacksmith takes pride in. Somedays he would ask Grandmother to assist him in creating an order. She was meticulous in measuring and sizing. When she had down what was needed doing, she’d return the to house where there was always something that needed doing.
Neighbors would come to tea some afternoons. They would sit at the polished kitchen and discuss the community, but never gossip. Something would have to be done, and someone was designated to do it. A young lady needed advice, and grandmother would undertake that mission after clarifying why she needed the advice. She was the backbone of the women’s charity. Every summer and fall, between harvests, the women would meet to make quilts, or clothes. The pins and needles were kept busy.
You never talked badly about your neighbor. No, instead you would listen and make the comment to change the opinion of the other. If someone was afraid that civilization would fail, she’d bolster the person to make them feel positive instead.
When a fire burnt a neighbors house, the family would rally the church to go make things right. Supplies would be donated, windows glassed, iron reinforcements used in the corners of the wooden houses. When a death occurred, the husband and wife would be the first to help the survivors mourn.
It was the smithy that caused young men to go to school and learn. It was the minister’s wife who encouraged the women to go to college. If there were funds in the church budget, small scholarships would be given for those who needed the assistance. These were never in the form of a loan, but given with the idea that education would widen your horizons so you could help others.
I know that there were problems, medical science was in its infancy and so illness was an evil that lurked in the shadows. I know also that there were wars in the future. Eventually technology surpassed the smithy, lessening the need for his services. But they prevailed over those things too. It was the iron and the smithy that brought my great-grandparents to Minnesota in a time when they were needed. They were the backbone of the community, the innovators, the compassionate.
The shine of a Christmas tree in the boughs decorated with shiny balls and silvery lights lit the child’s face as nothing had done before. Chilly temperatures in the house made seeing a tree inside a logical thing, as the child had just learned cold. One year of age and just twenty days more and all of the learning that had occurred until that day melded together to make Christmas a mystical experience. The cautionary voices of mother and grandmother as they mentioned that she should look, but not touch, gave the child the first knowledge of something precious that couldn’t be grasped. Christmas would be a fleeting moment in her development. As soon as the mystery was grasped, it was also gone. Two weeks in the eyes of a child, and Christmas would be a compounding memory each year. The grandmother’s tree, decorated with family ornaments from 21 years of marriage, filled with family history and time would sit in the child’s eyes out of focus and just out of reach but remembered distantly. A message about a baby. About animals. That was my first Christmas.
Two years later, another child came to learn of the mystery of Christmas. Another one year old, and a little more, stood beneath the tree decorated with sugar cookies because the young couple was making do with what they had. Now there were three children, and a young couple trying to be independent and having none of the money for extras. The sounds of carols from a record player filled the air, and the youngest toddler heard the admonition that he should look but not touch. The cookies hung so temptingly. So he stood with his hands behind his back and bit off all of the feet as mother made a dinner and father went out to seek a Christmas present with only ten dollars in his pocket. He sought it at a hardware store, and finding something he remembered from his Christmas’s long past, a sled with bright red runners. The cost, too great, but he looked at it longingly. The spirit of Christmas filling his eyes, and seen by a salesman, was suddenly his as the man gave him the sled for seven dollars instead of twenty. He would play in the snow with his wife and children, pulling the sled down snow covered sidewalks. All of them young and happy in the moment, then it was gone. But the sled remained for many years, a testament to the spirit of sharing.
Another year, and baby three arrived. Christmas in the blue eyes at only four months of age, now living with Grandmother and Granddad as the world changed. Korea was over, Vietnam was foretold in the news. But in the home, with it’s generations, life was safe and beautiful. This year the cookies hung above the little boys head, just out of reach, except when the oldest would lower the branches just so, entertaining himself and his brother. The toys the children received gratefully disappearing into memory, a doll, a truck, a book or two, all to be well loved and used.
Another year, and the house stood on the banks of the Mississippi, and the newest edition to the family being a parakeet who flew into the open window that summer and stayed for over ten years. Uncle Ned liked the tree and the lights. This year cookies came from a Swedish bakery and were placed in a clear jar only to be opened by the mother and father. Large cookies tasting of peanut butter, sugar, chocolate chips and the mother’s oatmeal raisin cookies tempting good behavior and giving instant reinforcement when that behavior was given with ungrudging enthusiasm. It was the first tree that was in focus for me. I had received my glasses that summer. It is the first tree I remember, the clarity of vision adding mysticism to the experience. This Christmas too was fleeting. But I was now old enough to know that there would be more.
The next Christmas in another grandparent’s house, for my Grandmama needed help from my parents in managing all of the daily tasks. The room was dark, but lit by the tree. Mom never had enough time to do all of the things she needed to do. Now she was no longer working forty hours a week, instead she was making all of our clothes, cooking and baking all of the meals, cleaning the house, playing with us, reading with us, showing her competence but feeling graded at every moment.
I missed a memory the next year. The only thing I remember is singing a hymn about Jesus and the animals. “Jesus our brother kind and good, was humbly born in a stable rude and the friendly beasts around him stood.” I sang that song until June. Over and over, my poor mother must have been driven nuts by it. I started school the next year at 4 1/2. I now think that my mother must have sent me early so that she could have a break. With four babies in under five years, her hands were full and she never complained or rejected us. She did need her own place to be totally happy and that happened as we started school.
The year after, we moved into our own house a few blocks away. Those years are filled with the memory of my brother making my father laugh as he pretended to be a goat head butting him in the knees. The trees got taller. We accumulated shiny balls and figures of ancient Santas, tinsel carefully cherished from year to year. My mother made incredible ornaments from egg cartons. She made tall angels to sing in a choir out of bottles and styrofoam balls, gold paint and old sheets. There was nothing cheap about the way they looked, gleaming as they did on the one book case we owned. She made a sled out of cardboard boxes to hold presents and keep them tidy and the tree safe. We were given an apple and an orange each Christmas by Santa once our stockings were big enough to hold them. There was always a candy cane. And Robert Shaw and Harry Simone came to symbolize the way Christmas should be sung about. One year, four stockings arrived from my Aunt Diana, and pajamas the next, a start of new traditions. We went to the Swedish Institute and learned of the tale of St. Lucia. Red candle holders turned up sometime in the first few years. Ribbons hung from the curtains, in gold and green combinations and splendar.
Mom did most of the work getting ready. Dad would put the lights on the tree and we would decorate. Dad would work. He made ice for the skating rinks, leaving in the early morning to put new ice on the rinks for Christmas. Then skates arrived one year, left over from other children who no longer fit them, Dad brought them home and we learned to skate. Granddad came to skate with us. I skated on my bottom more than my feet, eventually switching to rubber boots so I could stay up. It took me years to learn. So many Christmases. We lost my grandmothers early, and missed them each year.
My mother would make clothes and toys for us by hand. She would make new clothes for the dolls that my sister and I owned. And when I discovered that she was the spirit of Mrs. Santa, she enlisted my help. She and my older brother made me a doll house from a cardboard box that looked so real and was the dream I had thought I would never receive. My mother was Christmas. For us, Christmas was the moment when we could all be happy, safe, and full of joy. We were a lot like the Whos down in Whoville. Somewhere in the early years in the green house, we became recipients of gifts from the VFW. That had been a tight year, and we were invited to a Children’s Show. Every child there received a gift by name from Santa. I wonder now if it hadn’t been part of the Marine Corps Toys for Tots program. No matter, the VFW make Christmas real. My older brother got a lock which had a gun hidden inside it that worked with caps. My baby brother got a gum ball machine, which was also a savings bank. We helped him eat all of the gum balls, only to feel chagrin later in life for having done so. My sister and I got dolls, although I don’t remember any more. I remember sitting in that room feeling special and valued. We didn’t feel like poor church mice even when money was so very tight. Then there was the Christmas that the stockings hung empty, and my father said we had not been good, Santa hadn’t come. Oh the tears welled up in our eyes, and just before we all cried boohoo, gifts were discovered, too large to fit in the stockings. Oh such joy. We had been good, as good as normal children could be. I had a stove and refrigerator that I loved until I went to College and played with constantly with my dolls. It was just the right size.
And I grew, lean and uncoordinated, very slowly, but woke up one day knowing that the time of family celebrations being over was coming soon, and not wanting them to go. But they did. I went to college and learned more of the music of the season, carefully taught by teachers who believed that the music was more than for enchanting children. I learned of nuns, and sacrifices, and brought home that knowledge for two weeks of trees and changing brothers and sisters.
Then I was gone, living on the west coast, and rejoining once more a Christmas at my Granddad’s home, which fleetingly sped past as only two days was allowed for my visit. I was gone again, this time to the East Coast where Christmas became the time I was to be married. The ceremony held in Minneapolis, just a few days after Christmas, so full of family and time that I could barely grab the holiday. I remember that it was cold, -5 degrees in the morning, and then warm 45 degrees by noon. The wedding hung over the holiday and mixed the two so in my mind that I have never been able to separate them.
After that, I had my own children. Two years apart they acted like twins by the time the boy was four and the girl was two. We had trees and presents and travelled from one family to the next for family dinners. We now had three family dinners, one with my husband’s grandparents, one with my parents and one with my Aunt Diana and Uncle Herb. The first four years were as rough for us as had been for my parents. Poor in cash but rich in grownups who realized I had bitten off more than I could chew. They provided me with stability and the knowledge that life would provide us with enough speed bumps as to make it interesting. My focus at Christmas became the tree. I could never equal what my mother had done for us, although I tried. I baked gingerbread cookies for the tree, but no one nibbled on the feet. I had learned the tale of my brother and took precautions. Each year we added ornaments that we made, candy canes made of shiny plastic beads carefully sequenced in patterns. We made bread dough ornaments. We colored paper chains and threaded cranberries and popcorn. I made some dresses for my daughter but was nothing like my mother whose clothes had turned out perfectly. I worked. I, like my mother, had gone back to school when my kids reached an age where they could understand that I needed to do homework. They were in second grade and kindergarden. My poor mother had had to wait until we were in high school. Somehow she had managed all of the decorating, shopping, baking, cooking, and never missed a step. Me, I stumbled all over the place, but my heart was in the right place even if my skills weren’t.
My father died when my son was 14, and my daughter ll 3/4. It was 1995, and I remember insisting that mom come down and stay with us. I was teaching by then. She filled the day with joy, even though her heart was broken. In the years that followed, she began packing up Christmas and moving it to a place further away in her closet. It wasn’t the same without my dad. It wasn’t the same for me either. He had taken such joy in what my mother had created for Christmas, and that joy must have been the reason she continued to be so creative for so many years.
One winter my family from Minnesota came to Virginia for the holiday. My older brother, my little sister, her husband and two children, my younger brother and my mom all fit into our house in one fell swoop. We went to Mount Vernon and Williamsburg. I was informed that I was the favorite aunt because my lap was cushy by one of my nieces.We had the tree and a feast. It felt like the old days in the green house for me. I gave my little brother a ha’ penny, but he missed the symbolism. It didn’t matter, I got the message. I wanted my family to know that they were loved. Mom took photographs, as mom always does.
Then my children grew. In 1998 the first MS attack that we can document with a certainty occurred and I slowed down. I couldn’t do the things I loved to do. My children stepped up and helped with the tree becoming more and more competent each time. Popcorn and Cranberries were no longer on the tree. Mom donated some of her ornaments and the cats took the tree out that year, as cats are wont to do. They broke and it made me sad, but still the tree was reassembled and the holiday went okay. After that, my kids were grown and mom started going out to Minnesota for the holidays. We each got her for two or three days, but the season seemed fragmented without her.
One Christmas Eve, we had finished the tree that night, my husband having to work, and the kids had a surprise for me. We had been married 24 years, and that evening my husband brought me an engagement ring. I guess he figured out he wanted me to hang around. Time sped up.
When my son returned from the Navy, he brought a wife. She had troubles, but her children were sweet. We had a tree and took the kids to all of the places children should go when they visit a grandparent. It was only for that one Christmas, but we were exhausted at the end. I lost ten pounds that holiday. It was a nice perk.
One year, we had a Charlie Brown tree that the kids found and took the bottom branch of the tree in the back year from. They wrapped a blue sheet around the bottom and it had two ornaments, one from Charlie Brown that we had had, and a new Charlie Brown ornament from my dear friend Ana.
The next Christmas and those following found my family working to keep the holidays of Halloween and Christmas according to tradition. Until present day, we struggled along as best we could. But this Christmas arrived on my birthday with all of the bells and whistles and I feel that joy that I must have felt when I was one and the tree was lit with magic. This Christmas coming in a week will be our best. My husband took a week off. We plan to go to an arboretum to see lights. The tree is up and I made handmade ornaments to add to the collection. My daughter-in-law will be staying for the holiday. My son has taken a few days off work. And the cooperation between my two children is something new and something I wanted to see. My son-in-law has been putting up with all of this Christmas stuff for me, even though he doesn’t like the holiday. My father-in-law will be here. There is a new baby due in the family soon, my niece is expecting her first any day now.
There is a dark part to this Christmas, one I don’t generally talk about and try not to let it take over my holiday. I’m not sure how many more times I will have to celebrate the holiday. My father’s side of the family dies at about 65 and that is 6 years away. I know, I shouldn’t dwell on such a thing and I should take one day at a time and be glad for the times I have. But really, 65 is way to young to die. I’ve just figured out how to play the game here. It’s all gone by so fast. It’s the hospital stay that brought this on. But I will blink and block these darker thoughts for now. I’ve got what I wanted most for Christmas. I have a family. I wish mom could be here but she’s jet setting around the world as she likes to do. She’ll stay long enough to make sure that things are still Christmas and move to the next sibling. I’ll have her back soon enough. I know, I have a book for her present and she is a bibliophile. She can’t resist a book. Neither can I.
I’m off to watch Christmas shows and create some presents from “Stuff” I have lying around that needs to be created with. I want to leave something beautiful for each of my family to glow for many more years.
Merry Christmas, happy holidays…remember the light.
Whatever we start, Planned by engineers, or not, On the Danube flowing through time Or the Potomac flowing past a nation, We showcase ourselves with light. We fill the cases with the ancient Stones that we stole to teach the world About how important the stones we stole were. Each outrage part of the parade Of tough spirits trying to mitigate The damage done by screaming women, By ranting crows, by bullets and hooks. We sign the papers before we know The length of our enlistment. We face a nation With something akin to fear, pride, glory, And the fish which swim upstream breath In relief at having avoided the bears, Just before we net them. We must finish what we started, the next race Must begin and end and begin...until we realize the race was never ours to begin with.
And so the wave lashes its way through the blues of the white sand beach of Tulum. Here is where the Corona ads are created, the Atlantic Ocean, forever picking up a load of sand and moving it as I rearrange the furniture each Christmas. Weed washes ashore only to be thrown back into the shallows as the next wave retreats. Hypnotizing, the waves coming to and fro.
I met a man here on our lunch break. My husband had wandered off to find something he had seen. He was beautiful. I am not. My age, or it seemed so. He made no attempt to lure me into a tepid affair but wanted to know what I saw when I looked around. A kindred spirit of the kind that finds me. It’s totally random, but there is a depth in people that if we give them time to listen to it, comes to be something that must be shared by another spirit. We talked of life, love and how our journeys were never at an end. If he could, he would sit and watch the blues change all day long. So would I. It was a soothing spot, salsa music playing and the smell of chicken roasting in herbs for lunch. Traveling the world had given him scars, but he bore them with pride. He was not a conquerer, instead he was an observer of life.
The camera I used is a Canon G-10. My 50D had gotten totally drowned the day before and was drying. So I had to rely on my little friend the G-10 to record the moment. You can almost feel the grit in the water when you look at the wave. Geologists talk about the work load that a wave can carry. This one is carrying a heavy load. The water is restrained by the weight and is still able to arrive with bubbles, froth, and seaweed.
You step in here, as though the world At my table is yours to plunder. You badger me, and fuss, screaming, Taking your brief visit for granted. You beat the table and my heart With ruthless demands, that if not Satisfied, compound to make the a hammer Of your yammering, a bludgeon Of your will against mine. Finally, Vegetables and meat devoured! I place your ice cream before you, But you have fallen asleep, A tyrant in a high chair. All rights reserved@2016 AnnWJWhite
When we bought our house, new and shiny, with places that had nothing to fill them, I bought an album called Childhood Remembered. The songs were truly inspirational, sung not by human throats but by instruments, some electric and some orchestral, some a blend of it all. It was the Cello’s Song that rang through the house, echoing in time. I played it after school, before breakfast, in the middle of the night. I played it to write poetry, to get my daughter to write. I took the album to school.
My students would listen to it after being outside at lunch time. Their heads would be on their desks, and at the end of the song, the heads would come up and they would write. Oh, it inspired such fiction about fantastical voyages, heroes, villains, and the resolution of time.
It was magical, the way a tune would blossom under the treatment it was given. The theme was majestic, but asked questions. On its own, it would have haunted me. But then given a delicate background of electric piano and pulsating flute, clarinet, electric voicing. Filling slowly, adding more harmony, more of the rich voices of strings. Increasing the volume until the song overwhelmed and the listener had to just sit listening, nothing else was possible. The sound of horns arrives, notifying the listener that life is a beating moving process. Then moving back into obscurity. Cello argues soothingly. It’s best to just listen to it. Close your eyes and open your imagination. A song is a wave, needing nothing but its allure and one must listen well, for the wave may soon vanish in the distance taking our dreams with.