Unlike most, my nemesis is not an evil company or disease that takes your life and turns it upside down. No, my nemesis is my son, my beautiful golden son. He was a good boy as a toddler, picking up his toys and going to bed in the evenings when I declared it was bedtime for him. He would snuggle under his blanket with his stuffed bear and close his eyes tightly declaring he was already asleep. He ate everything on his plate, new foods included. He was perfect.

That perfection led to school, where he knew everything without being told. That led to not doing the daily work the teacher’s required. That led to failure on his report card, although all of his tests were As. I taught youngsters in the fifth grade and watched over them like a mother hen. No one watched over my son’s work, although I tried.

I caught him in the garage when he was in high school building a time machine. That’s what he called it anyway. When confronted about why he was building a time machine, he did respond to me.

“I’m making it just in case I need to go back in time and correct my mistakes.”

He worked on the machine to the exclusion of every thing else. He stopped eating, going to school, and doing his own laundry. His face grew gaunt. The luster fell out of his golden hair, turning it to a dish water blond. But his eyes grew in excitement with every new turn of his project. I was called to the school for conferences, but I went to seek answers. They told me that I would be jailed if I couldn’t get him to school on time. The conversation was not pleasant.

“Son, you have to go back to school. They are threatening me with jail time.”

“Mom, I’m so close to finishing this. I’ll make it right soon, I promise.”

I was arrested a week later. The judge sentenced me to two weeks in county jail with a fine of $25,000.00. When I told him I had no way of paying the fine, he said I could stay in jail until I came up with the money. Of course, I appealed his decision. I was allowed to go home until the jury trial.

“Son, I have to pay $25,000 now. Why won’t you go to school? They are incarcerating me!”

“Mom, I’m almost done.”

The morning of the retrial, I was fidgeting and worried. I had no lawyer, none would touch the case.

“Keep your kid in line and you won’t need a lawyer,” was the response I had been given.

We rose as the judge and jury came into the courtroom.

There was a door slammed shut as a handsome blond man came in with a pile of paperwork. He stepped into the bar and presented himself as my attorney. After being acknowledged, he waited for his turn to speak.

“Your honor, this woman has been a good parent and there has been a gross injustice here in accusing her of any of these charges. I have here the school records of her son, from elementary school through high school. The record keeping has been atrocious. I would like to present these records to show her son’s consistent attendance in school. The school records had him enrolled in one set of courses when he had been assigned to a completely different set.”

I couldn’t even speak. I was confused. I was also exonerated.

At the trials end, he gathered his materials, winked at me and left. I went home, the garage was empty but my son was sitting on the step with a cup of tea for me.

“I finished it, mom.”

Born of a Brass Band

Born of a Brass Band

My earliest memory was standing on my father’s feet playing my wonderful horn. He had the big trombone and called me his second chair. Trombones make a tenor sound. The sound lies to the outside world, “Here I am. I shine. I spew, I rock the world.” How could a daughter ask for less? We would stand outside the baseball stadium waiting for the game to end. Chill air ending September and leading into fall bussed with crickets, peep frogs, katydids, and toads. My lips would buzz, my mouth would buzz, my teeth would hold the mouthpiece firmly so it wouldn’t fall off my chin. Dad would look down at me hopping with both feet and smiled with his eyes.The little boy next to me and equal in size to me would be known as the brother with another mother. Dad winked at him. Brother to the stomp, the sousaphone little boy next to me had a grin the size of the Washington Monument. In the spirit of the Fire House Five, we wiggled and blew notes that were adorable and blessedly underlay the large horns playing. We were blissfully awful.

In Washington DC, children would disappear in the crowd and get lost by the vendors selling everything the eye of a child would desire. A popcorn, hot dog, sodas, or clothes. Everything was shiny and loud. We stood as a family in the afternoon sun and Theo would move around with his bright orange bucket.
“Here you go, ladies, help us get these kids to college in fifteen more years. They will need the money for Juilliard. Come on folks you love the sound. Can you imagine all this at a dollar each and more to come? Hey, man, impress your friend their with feet holding the ground and you dancing the dance of the music. Can you hear that sousaphone? He’s not playing for my benefit, We work hard practicing for our performance. We have trumpets, horns, tubas, a drummer, and we are a family band straight from DC for your enjoyment. We got all the permits and call those cops over for a bit of a dance, they look bored. Here we go again, listen to the Blues got Me from Memphis to Here.

The trumpets would slide into the song and I’d watch dad for my cue. Three years old and in love with sound, in love with my parents blues, and thinking I was all grown up, when the world was waiting for me to get my feet where I was big enough to have them touch the ground.
Two hours later, we had scored as much cash as we were going to.

Dad called out, “There’s enough here for the rent, food and electric. Get these two shortstop musicians an ice cream and we’ll meet back at the rooms. Any one got a need for cash, come see me.” Dad had an account in Ma. She took the totals from him, crunched the numbers, slid the bills between her fingers and put them in the ledger. No worries were to be had if the ledger was filled with numbers.


Saturday’s Bread

Saturday morning smells woke me,
bread, oh bread with your power to awaken the mind,
to settle the soul that Mother still loved us.
The stairs where untrodden
as my nose gathered me to slip through the air,
to round the corners of a life suddenly at ease.
I floated like a cartoon character
following the scent, the smell, and yearning.

Mother would smile and motion to the crusts
and the world became taste.
Yellow butter melted, fresh bread with pockets of air that were
proof one should never argue with your mother
for the kneading was fine and consistent.
Strawberry jam or was it chokeberry jelly,
sweet and sour, warmed by the bread
as it escaped its jar.

Smooth and gentle, easy on the eyes,
but a feast of smells and memories.
Then the oven opened once more,
cinnamon, brown sugar, sweet bread,
the rolls had arrived and heaven was complete.

(For mum, mutti, mom, oh mother, mama and a courageous woman who could make something from naught.)