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.
Yesterday was my fifty-ninth birthday. It was also my happiest birthday, besides being born (thanks MOM).
My children decided that the best way to celebrate my birthday was to spend it with me. What mother could resist that? They have such busy adult lives that normally we have a brief conversation over the phone, a sandwich brought by so I don’t have to cook, or a pat on my head. Their lives are so busy that in past years they haven’t had time to affirm that I was getting grayer, or whiter, or that time was ticking past at a tremendous pace. But this year we had the hospital scare which mobilized both of my dears to become more involved in my life again. It was a lovely outcome to a scary time.
My day yesterday started with a breakfast wakeup call. My daughter and her husband had arrived with pancakes, eggs, hash browns, biscuits and bacon. They set the table and giving a cheer to bring us down the stairs, presented me with this feast. It took another call up the stairs to bring my husband down. My daughter used the “Dad, he’s poking me again” line which has become a family joke. My son came in and announced that his sister has surprised even him with the early morning roll call. He encouraged us all to eat and then to dress warmly because the day had just begun.
“Just begun?” Could it be that the day was just beginning? Normally weekends are days spent cleaning house, grocery shopping, and organizing for the next week. Taking time away from those things was unusual. Did they mean a game day? We have days when we invade each other’s territory to spend the day with unusual games that call out to us to play them. My son in law Chris was the one to encourage days like that, but this time, it was not what was intended.
I was ushered into the car, and we sped off after my daughter and Chris, at a respectable 35 miles an hour, strictly following the speed limit. There is a vendor of trees, each Christmas season, at the end of our neighborhood behind the Wawa convenience store and overlooking Neabsco Creek. Every year we wander to the vendor a day or two before Christmas and pick a tree that we hope will last into January. This year we were suddenly ahead of schedule. My son had given us a new TV for Christmas this year at Thanksgiving. Now the two kids had delivered a tree, an eight foot all Frazier Fir, and let me pick it out. We were twenty days ahead of schedule. Maybe, as Merlin thought in White’s A Once and Future King, we were moving backwards in time. No, we were moving forwards. The tree was placed in Chris’s truck as Derek opened his wallet exposing the tree fund to light and U.S. currency and homeward we went.
At this moment, door number two opened. Yes, we got the contents of door number one and two at the same time. Derek began pulling out the lights, not just for the tree, but for the entire house. Since he moved home, there has been a sense of normalization that he’s brought. Halloweens must be celebrated with decorations, and so too with Christmases. But as he set out to do the lights, Chris and my husband Eric set the tree into water, and Genevieve ushered me inside.
We always spend Christmas eve cleaning the family room of a year’s worth of crafting and lack of energy on my part by cleaning and getting the area ready for a tree. It can be a daunting task. Once we lacked the funds for a tree, and my kids went out into the backyard and brought back a bough from a white pine, with the perfect curl to it that would have fit in Jack Skeleton’s setting or Charlie Brown’s Christmas. They wrapped the bottom of the tree with a blue Linus blanket, and set one ornament on the tree at the pointy end of the only branch the tree had. Our dear friend Ana arrived on Christmas Day and added one additional ornament to the tree, a Charlie Brown Christmas ornament celebrating the simplicity of the season which is often overwhelming for me. Another time, the cleaning was finished at midnight, and the tree remained undecorated, but well loved. Christmas always arrived expected, but never quite prepared for, just like babies.
So I was convinced that my duty was to let people help me. Chris, Eric, Genevieve and I sorted, moved furniture, ran up and down stairs (I only handed things that needed to be relocated) and we achieved a new landmark. We had a clean tidy organized Christmas room early. We also had a ficus in the corner that now bears handmade ornaments that look like the ones that Grandma Boonie had on her tree. (Just a sign perhaps, but this Thanksgiving Genevieve, my mother, Laura and I created the ornaments to help us celebrate her life. My mother had also created ornaments using the same techniques that had decorated my parent’s trees. We never lacked for a love of Christmas, even when there was no money to be found.) So we used the ornaments we had made at Thanksgiving to decorate the ficus.
Off went Genevieve, Chris and Eric they soon had the tree in the stand. Derek and Eric brought the tree in the house lifting it over all of the things that hop out into the way when you want to transport something, successfully missing all of the obstacles, and the tree was placed along the west wall of the family room. Then began a call for directions to straighten the tree, which was amazingly close this year to true from the beginning, and we ran a relay of water so that the tree wouldn’t dry out.
Then we fell over, and Derek arrived with the ingredients for fancy grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. He had four types of cheese, including the American cheese that I get teased for my infatuation with, two types of sausages to be sliced and added to the cheese and Campbell’s Tomato soup. He whipped up dinner for us all, taking orders like the short order line cook at a good deli. By this time we had listened to Hamilton, the original soundtrack, Christmas swing music by the Glen Miller Orchestra, and we were ready for something to go with a quick meal. So out came The Grinch, which has my father in law in it, just check the section of the first singalong where the Who wearing the glasses and the trimmed beard is shown, followed by Charlie Brown’s Christmas. That gave us enough to time recover our blood sugar levels and the lights arrived for the tree.
Genevieve has taken over that job. Her dad used to do it, but with his schedule giving him less time to do it in, he had to pass that tradition on. Derek has done it several times, but he was still finishing the outside of the house. We run a string or two of lights up the middle of the tree, generally using the largest bulbs we can find, and cabling several light strings together until we have fully lighted strings to use. Then we swirl small lights around the tree. Each year we put together the leftovers of the years before until we arrive at the tree lights we think of as perfection. The pineapple ornament, the symbol of hospitality, goes on the very top, and this year has two 9 inch ornamental angels in full gold and white dress, holding candles (fake candles, the ones using electricity) are directly underneath the pineapple. It almost looks like the beginning of an angelic chorus. As we added ornaments, the tree opened up beautifully. I decorate the inside of the tree as much as the outside. It’s always amazing to me how many ornaments a tree can hold.
We put in twelve hours of getting ready for Christmas on my birthday. It’s not many people who can say they have been given Christmas as a birthday present, but I can say that. I was exhausted but really happy by evening. When my daughter and Chris had left for home, and Derek had gone to get ready for bed, Eric and I sat and watched the tree. He remarked that we “have some great kids”, and I added “and they are remarkable adults.” He asked if I was happy and I am. I’m also really proud that they recognize that time with them is the most important gift I could have been given. Christmas as a present gave them a way to show how much they cared and let us share a lot of memories. And, it’s not even Christmas yet.
When the band has the blues,
When the night burns florescent,
Then time collects in pockets
Of memories, greeted with toasts.
Proffered feasts fading into the
Jazz heated spirals of sax,
Yes, sax, and trombone glissandos
As time burns through the bar
As patrons slide to the floor
Melting into the hot blue night.
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.
I haven’t tried my hand at a limerick for twenty years or so. My mother read us limericks as children and they were lovely silliness. Edward Lear caught all of us up in his style. His limericks and his Owl and the Pussy Cat were read more than once to four small children with wild vocabularies. Mom used the patterns of the poetry to calm us down and settle us in. We hated when she turned out the light, not because we were scared, but because we wanted the time to continue.
There is a strength to limericks that allows one to mock or support an idea. They are easy to remember, falling into the rhyming and syllable count. I loved the examples that this young mother gave. In fact, I was amazed that she is promoting the weekly contests out of her own pocket to give others the power to express themselves. She’s one of those young millennial that you find in the midst of thinking, writing, authoring. Strong women are the topic this week. So, mom, these are for you. (Oh, she’s Lois in the notes if you ever need to talk to her about me and my very normal insanity. Just peek at the bottom and like a jinni she’ll appear.)
My mother read books to us every night, Teaching her children to read and write, Her daughters so young, Developed a tongue, That made them unmanageable frights.
Okay, that was harder than it seemed. My mother did read to us every night if she weren’t falling over with exhaustion. And my sister and I are indeed frights for the women’s movement raising strong daughters. Hers in the hard sciences, mine in anthropology.
Genevieve's homework would nightly pursue, The dreams of a dragon that would misconstrue, That she was in charge, With lethal energy large, As her fictional writings of monsters she grew.
Limericks are supposed to be silly, but they don’t have to be. The syllables don’t have to be exact between lines, but the hard emphasis on the first grouping of syllables needs to be followed by two soft syllables. That’s no easy thing, unless you nap as mother reads.
My mother would spend her time counting sheep, When she did global markets allowed her to reap, Buckets of gold, For the produce she sold, As she took over bull markets and made them weep.
If you want help rhyming, there is a wonderful page called www.therhymezone.com that can help you rhyme almost anything. Balance your limerick on the tip of your tongue and see if you can find a pattern that soothes you.
Anyway, I’ll be posting more silliness later. Practicing formulaic poetry gives you the ability to change your style to match the need of the message you want to portray. I don’t see Limericks making it into my top ten forms, but then, I have a lot of practicing to do.
You think it dusty from the surface? Try here under the centuries, waiting, Waiting for a moment when I return Made from the elements you so insult With filth and dusty growth. Wait until I arise, here from the Bench of waiting, competing, hiding. I am dirt dignified, a dragon born.
Your base accusations thrown Up into the light, then fired Off one by one where others Out of the loop mock and destroy. You should have called, asked While listening, looked again For the rainbow's wraps between us Where we had left them, uninterpreted. Instead, you rose, phoenix-like voice Raised, accusing me of stealing Your opinions, inflating your ego, Stealing away your personality. Baseless, I thought, until I couldn't Find a way between us with a flashlight. I couldn't find the boxes of photos I Had left in hiding, the photos of pain. I looked for the boxes of joy, missing The ominous spaces, the boxes of sorrow Which had been sealed by us both. What dark Adjustments were made by you without me? Now we step like opposing forces armed To the teeth, with no base to function from As the war begins. Why? Some blame time Which was never my friend. Is it over?
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.
Why not feel good?
Good is full of opportunities
Aches and pains can’t hold
In the face of something to do
Something to think about
Something to lose yourself in
Something to meditate with,
No, feeling good is a state of mind
Over grumpy old men and women
Just a foot into the cheerful
Just an inch into the hope
Just a meter into a nap
With warm toast and a drink
A show to laugh at
A game to win.
My son gave me a Harper’s hero cap.
A donation to children
Who don’t get to play
Who have blinders on their futures.
He hopes to change that
To give them a place to be happy kids.
He knows he’s blessed
With so much energy and life.
My son said if Harper met
Me, he would be inspired
That I haven’t quit,
That my tears are reserved
For other times and other ways.
He thinks I am a hero,
But I am not.
I’m a woman who knows
That nothing is over
Until we take that last breath
And I won’t take that last breath
Until I have finished my book,
My Century of life lived well.
I met him at a social function. He caught me before I fell off a cliff. Inebriated, I fell off the cliff of love. We were engaged two weeks later and at a distance of 3,500 miles we found a way to marry. That was thirty-six years ago. I’m still falling off the cliff of love.