cricketmuse

a writer's journey as a reader

Archive for the category “Family”

POM: April 22


I have fond memories of my father and boats.

Work

by Sally Bliumis-Dunn

I could tell they were father and son,
the air between them, slack as though
they hardly noticed one another.

The father sanded the gunwales,
the boy coiled the lines.
And I admired them there, each to his task

in the quiet of the long familiar.
The sawdust coated the father’s arms
like dusk coats grass in a field.

The boy worked next on the oarlocks
polishing the brass until it gleamed
as though he could harness the sun.

Who cares what they were thinking,
lucky in their lives
that the spin of the genetic wheel

slowed twice to a stop
and landed each of them here.

Copyright © 2015 by Sally Bliumis-Dunn.

image: morguefile/seabreeze

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POM: April 3


Confession: I was a closet poker as a child.

*Whew* I’m glad that one is out of the way. Yes, I see that nod. You, too? What is it that fascinates the child to stand before a parent’s closet and sift through their belongings? I enjoyed parading around in my mom’s high heels, arraying myself in her scarves, her jewelry, and balancing a purse in the crook of my arm. Hats were in style back in my childhood. Well, maybe in the childhood before my childhood. I’ve always admired the fashions of the forties. A well-dressed adult always wore a hat. I missed those days of unspoken dress code by a decade or two. Hats once had meaning. Now they hide bad hair days. Never mind. I do enjoy what Mark Irwin shares about his own closet discoveries.

My Father’s Hats

     Sunday mornings I would reach
high into his dark closet while standing
     on a chair and tiptoeing reach
higher, touching, sometimes fumbling
     the soft crowns and imagine
I was in a forest, wind hymning
     through pines, where the musky scent
of rain clinging to damp earth was
     his scent I loved, lingering on
bands, leather, and on the inner silk
     crowns where I would smell his
hair and almost think I was being
     held, or climbing a tree, touching
the yellow fruit, leaves whose scent
     was that of clove in the godsome
air, as now, thinking of his fabulous
     sleep, I stand on this canyon floor
and watch light slowly close
     on water I can't be sure is there.

—Mark Irwin

NPM: #23–purses and tributes to mothers


Getting Close

by Victoria Redel

 

 Because my mother loved pocketbooks

I come alive at the opening click or close of a metal clasp.

rest of poem

Victoria Redel renders a stunning tribute to her mother. It’s odd how certain objects breathe life into dormant memories. The days of women ensconced in their handbags, pocketbooks, purses is one I do not currently relate to, as I am no slave to fashion and its requirements. Yet, Redel’s poem nudges a few faded portraits of “going somewhere” because my mother had a “certain purse” draped on her arm. Outings had a sense of special due to the requirement apparel, such as a matching purse crooked upon the arm.  I am still drawn to old handbags and their cousins whenever I browse thrift shops. I only hold a fondness, a remembrance; I have no desire to have one perch upon my arm. I am of the backbag age, the unique tote age, the “why-would-I-switch-everything-from-one-bag-to-another?” age. Still I do look, and still I do appreciate Redel’s own penchant and tribute.

NPM: #15–Longfellow’s Children


“The Children’s Hour” was first published in the September 1860 edition of The Atlantic Monthly.

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was probably one of the first poets encountered as a child. Who hasn’t encountered his “Song of Hiawatha?” He is well known for many poems, and one of my favorites is his tribute to his children. I can imagine his little “banditti” sneaking up on him and him gathering them up all shrieks and giggles.

The Children’s Hour

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 18071882
Between the dark and the daylight,
   When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
   That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
   The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
   And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
   Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
   And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
   Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
   To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
   A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
   They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
   O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
   They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
   Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
   In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
   Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
   Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
   And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
   In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
   Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
   And moulder in dust away!

Handily Written: A Lost Art?


Another TBR item has floated up to my attention. This one is dated December 2012 from the Wall Street Journal. Actually, I did read it, but kept it because it so resonated with me. “The Lost Art of the Handwritten Note.”

a handwritten letter is indeed becoming a rare commodity image: jppi/morguefile

 

I remember my elementary day struggle of learning to write cursive, and to this day my cursive is problematic. My students are continually asking me, “What does this word say?” when I hand back their work. I wish I could tell them.

Cursive is getting kicked to the curb these days. I wish it wouldn’t. I wish I had lovely handwriting. My mother has beautiful handwriting and it hasn’t changed in its precise simplicity in all the years I’ve known her. She laments, though, how she approaches her late eighties that she can’t write like she used to, blaming it on various ailments like arthritis and eyesight. I encourage her to keep up on her keyboarding. Emails and texts are great for instant communication, and yet I still appreciate receiving her snail mail as there is something truly lovely about receiving a handwritten letter.

The article’s author, Philip Hensher, starts out asking a rather private question: how many Christmas letters did I send out and how many did I receive. The MEPA keeps track of those statistics, and lets me know each year we receive less, so he sends out less. We usually get into a bit of a discussion of “Well, maybe we should keep sending them out in good faith” versus “Cross ’em off.” There are no easy answers or solutions on the Christmas card questions, which is not the point of Hensher’s opening lines. He simply is nudging the reader to remember the last time receiving an actual letter that contained a handwritten missive in a personally addressed envelope. Hmm, I’ll have to ponder on that. Beyond Mom, the only actual mail I receive at the PO box are bills or ad flyers. None are handwritten..

Hensher briefly covers the practice of handwriting and its implications for career placement and personality detection, along with its ability to bridge direct and intimate communications between people. A pause. Here I reflect on those moments in books and film where a letter plays an important part of the plot. Cyrano’s letters to Roxane are practically one of the leading characters of Rostand’s play. What about William’s group letter to his lovely “mark” in Knight’s Tale? Perhaps this is why tomes of correspondence remain popular reading items. Although I think it’s only polite to read someone’s letters if deemed permissible. I did turn away from reading Willa Cather’s letters, once I found out she never wanted them published. It seemed voyeuristic.

I have inherited a hefty box of letters from my great aunt, affectionately known as Auntie. These represent her time spent in New York when she attended the Julliard Institute on scholarship back in the heydays of the twenties. She wrote once, sometimes twice, a day to her mother back in Seattle. No handy telephone calls and definitely no Twitter communique in the twenties. She later traveled all around Europe on tour and penned her insights and reflections upon the changes the Fuhrer created upon the landscape. I began the arduous process of typing out her letters with the idea of creating a memoir of New York in the days of yesteryear since she gave such amazing detail. This might become a retirement project. Her handwriting is so fine and spidery it wears on my eyes and fingers to decipher them. There is also the fact that something is lost when transforming them from the loops and scrawls to the neat precision of typing. Now and then I will peruse them. Mostly I derive pleasure they are sitting in the box on my closet shelf. They are a bit of history and a bit of treasure.

 

Readers: Do you have a few treasured handwritten letters? What makes them so special?

 

33 in 2015: a love story


Marriage is like a long-playing record–a bit of static, some scratches, a couple of skips now and then, but overall the music compensates for the irregularities that occur. image: bunko/morguefile

 

33 years ago, my hubs, whom I affectionately designate as MEPA (most excellent personal assistant) and I, stood on a slip of beach in the calm of a January storm and exchanged vows. I was 25 and he 36.

Neither one of us thought marriage when we first met. Both of us, tired of the dating game and relationships gone wrong, thought it satisfying to have a working relationship. You see, I hired him to help me remodel the little shop I had decided to set up my balloon bouquet delivery service. The landlord had cut me a deal: remodel the store–I provide labor and he provide material. I gained six months free rent from that little agreement. I signed the line and upon recommendation, hired the cute guy sporting the fu manchu and curly hair who worked at the local hardware store. Auburn gingers are a weak spot.

The first night of work involved sheet-rocking the ceiling. It took the two of us, my entire repartee of elephant jokes, and about five hours to finish the job. I paid him the agreed sum of $65 and threw in a deli sandwich.
We met in October. I proposed two weeks after meeting him and we eloped 56 days later. I thought getting married January first would be a significant way to start our new life together. Too broke to afford a reception or honeymoon, we found a pizza place open and had the place to ourselves.


Last night we celebrated our anniversary with dinner at a new restaurant and the owners sent over a delicious complimentary slice of key lime pie. The evening was topped by watching Anything Goes with Donald O’Conner and Bing Crosby. The Cole Porter score fits the general theme of our marriage: a bit whirlwind and somewhat lyrical.
We are opposite in tastes, strongly singular in outlook, and much more mellow than we used to be.
33 used to be a LP record designated for long playing–yup, just like it should be for marriage.
Happy New Year!!

A Room Of My Own or a Writer In Woolf’s Clothing


image: amazon.com

While I’m not particularly a fan of Virginia Woolf, I do appreciate her unspoken contributions to women and writing. She once penned an essay discussing the need to have a room to create in, the desire to close out the responsibilities of mother and wife in order to be alone with self and creating. Rather a revolutionary idea in her time.
Though not so confined to the stove of domesticity these days, as a woman and a wife, mother, teacher, library trustee, GiGi–assorted other hat wearer, I too crave a room of my own. Carving out a space for personal creative endeavors has had its own set of challenges involving space and guilt.
We’ve tended on the small side of houses and squeezing out an area for a desk meant getting creative to find a creative corner. A door placed on top of filing cabinets worked for a time, but definitely cramped the bedroom and so we moved it out to the living room.  Still squishy. Ugly to boot.

When I switched to laptops, I got rid of the desk arrangement and I splurged, buying a loveseat the color of eggplant. I eked out a coveted thinking space in the bedroom, approximating nanoseconds of creative corner. The kids loved the idea that my office was purple.
Now, as an empty nester, I’ve commandeered one of the back bedrooms, I forget which progeny actually had it since they switched around so much. None of them can complain I’ve stolen their room. They know my standard reply anyway, “Your room? It was on loan for eighteen years.” My desk is an Ikea chair complimented by matching footstool to accommodate my two laptops (I still like my antiquated Dell, as I am trying to get used to my touch screen Lenovo). I have a rocking chair for when the MEPA wants to pop in and chat and a futon for the occasional overnight guest. This is where the guilt comes in: it feels a bit me-centric to devote one entire room towards my endeavors.

I know, I know–lots of people, lots of women have sewing rooms, craft corners, workshops, man caves and suffer not a twinge of remorse. I, on the other hand, do feel a bit bad about eradicating all traces of the progeny’s room. No beds, posters, old clothes, trophies remain; they truly are a guest when they visit.

Then again, I nudge away those nipping little guilts and conclude I should have no dilemmas about acquiring a room of my own. And this is where I have my moment of truth. Possessing a room of my own means I should make use of it, shouldn’t I? Then why am I writing this in the living room?

Home Again, Toto


 

Thomas Wolfe is credited with saying you can’t go home again. Of course there are multiple layers of meaning in that statement. I noticed at least one aspect of meaning, the one where home becomes more of a memory as time goes on, after a recent visit to see family.  I’ve learned that it isn’t always a good idea to revisit former places of our childhood and jotted down my reflections as I walked through old neighborhoods.
A garbage sack mocks the spot where Mom’s potted azalea graced the front step. A gated barrier replaces the hand-carved mahogany doors. Weeds gather in loud conversations supplanting Dad’s meticulous landscape.

The donut shop remains the same odd little shaked chalet busied by Toyotas and BMWs alike. It’s a strange little anachronism among the neon corporate stores surrounding it. As I pass by it a memory flickers on. I remember back to high school. My stern take-no-prisoners-driver’s ed teacher revealed a soft spot one day by instructing me to pull into the donut shop parking lot. She disappears inside and returns with sack of donut holes. No one at school would have believed us. A secret only to be dredged up someday at a reunion possibly.

The town: a grace of upscale suburbia, an old community, struggling to maintain its dignity as its unique shoppes and colonial clapboard frontage succumb to being slowly replaced by box stores and parking lots. The stylish luxury apartments converted into condominiums are showing their wear, much like wrinkles found in a linen skirt mark the evidence of use.

Childhood memories remain, yet become increasingly marred by these yearly trips home. Perhaps it’s true that you can’t really go home again because home is now relegated to the past, then again sometimes home presents itself in a sound bite: the speed boat chop on the lake reminds me of teen summer fun; the smudgy glance into favored memory flashes by as I drivepast an icon building, the steepled church where youth group met ever so long ago. Upscale Neighborhoods slip into weedy shabbiness, stretching sections from nice to nervous when walking through.

A hodge-podge of cultures, a grab bag of mixed socio-economic populace is startling while browsing for dinner ingredients at the local Safeway, and becomes a reminder that going home is a state of flux.

I concur with Dorothy–Kansas, metaphorically speaking, is not the same because it’s changed  and so have I.

Dorothy5 Dorothy, I know how you feel–there’s no place like home. Then again, home is sometimes just a memory or that special place in our heart. (photo: wizardofozpictures.com)

 

Oh the Wonderful World of Disney Classics


Writing about Reading Rainbow made me think how fortunate I am to have grown up with the real Disney. The one where Walt would step out from his desk and spin a little introduction relating to the feature presentation. Tom Hanks in Saving Mr. Banksgot it down pretty well.

Wwod open.jpg

image: wikipedia.org What a wonderful world

Sundays nights I would look forward to whatever presentation Uncle Walt had for us to watch.  There was always a variety ranging from live action movies with top actors of the day to mesmerizing and delightful animated shows (my favorite).

With the advent of packaged programming I was able to introduce my own kiddos to the Disney treasures through the thoughtful purchasing practices of our local library. Presented as Walt Disney Treasures, these are samples of Disney’s live action best. Even though the kiddos are grown up and gone, the MEPA and I don’t mind checking out one of the treasures for our nightly movie watch.  Disney didn’t cut corners on production. The acting and scripts were always prime and still hold up well after all these years.

Do you remember Disney? Better yet, anyone come across the re-released treasures?

A couple of Treasure favorites so far:

images: amazon.com


Rolling Over


Displaying photo.JPG

 

I glanced at the numbers clicking away the miles, rhythmically measuring off the coveted roll over. I envisioned the possibilities: fireworks, though it’d be daytime, a serendipitous cavalcade of singers and dancers ala Doris Day:

or at least the significant Beethoven four beat–da da da dum. None of these happen as I turn into my driveway. I am three miles shy of my goal. My anticipated day of Shazzam will not be happening today.

A bit dramatic, I know, but ever I was a little kid I held great significance in the reckoning of the great roll over. It only happens once in the lifetime, at least I have only witnessed it once. And it happened today. And I almost missed it. This is way the MEPA, the Most Excellent Personal Assistant, is valued beyond belief. He noticed the momentous occasion on the way to obtain yogurt and fresh bananas:
“Look, Hon–it turns over in one mile.”
“What?! Ack, I almost missed it.”
Fumbling for my iPhone I quickly recorded the event. Blurry, yes; however, it is recorded for always and forever.

Displaying photo.JPG

What about you? Have you owned a car long enough to record the reckoning of the rollover?

My parents traded out cars regularly every five or so years (part of the old American dream, you know), so I never actually witnessed the event, although my kidmagination just assumed something significant happened at 100,000 miles–a second chance perhaps? All fibs erased? A sharper remembrance for the eights of the multiplication table? Something. I knew something had to happen.
Of course something had happened: I have saved $20,000 because I replaced the timing belt instead of buying a new Honda. I can’t wait for the next ($)100,000 miles and what it will have in store.
This set of 100,000 has seen the progeny through driver’s ed and high school graduation, trips to visit the grandkiddo, jaunts to do book research, vacation wanderings, Sunday drive escapes, and has ushered us into glad tidings of empty nestering. New car? No, not yet. This one still has a few more memories to accumulate.

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