Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Biographical Sketches... Rose Standish

Feet slipping over the rocks and mud, Rose picked her way down the hill. Her head was bent against a vicious wind that whipped her skirts against her legs and stung her face. She withdrew even deeper into her rough cloak and a shiver passed through her. Pausing, she glanced up at the pale sky.

"How long?" she wondered "How long until spring finds us?" Placing the wooden pails on the ground, she rubbed her hands together, then picked them up again and, once again, slid downward toward the fort wall at the edge of the water.

Reaching the well, she joined other women filling their buckets with fresh water. Few of them spoke. It had been a long winter. Unkind, even brutal. The fact that the cold continued now even into May taxed even the most patient of them. Not wishing to complain, they said little. They all knew that they were tired of fish. They were tired of ground meal cakes that had no flavor. Most of all, they were tired of the constant cold, and the incessant wind. They wished for warm breezes. They wished for things, green and growing. Too often, unbidden, their thoughts turned to the tulip fields and meadows of daffodils at home.

"Not home." Rose reminded herself, firmly. She hoisted the filled buckets and steadied her footing as she turned her back toward the wind. England would never be home again. This was her home--the place she had chosen. She had agreed to come with her Myles. She had promised herself that she would never look back. It shamed her to admit that there were times when she let her fingers dip into the frigid waters of the Atlantic, just to touch the same ocean that touched the shores of her native land. This was something she told no one.

With the wind at her back and the weight of the filled buckets to steady her, the climb back up the hill was easier than the way down. "Let the wind carry me home" she thought, and then smiled to herself.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Biographical Sketches... Helen Keller

I've decided to try a few short biography sketches of real people that I admire. Just an attempt to get into their heads. To try on that character, and that voice. My first one is Helen Keller. The first chapter book I ever read was one on Helen Keller, and to this day, she remains one of my favorite people. I've chosen to do a sketch on the day she met Ann Sullivan in March 1887. Helen was 7 years old, and had been blind and deaf for just over 5 years...

It was spring.

Sitting on the front porch, resting her hand on the smooth wood pillar, Helen took in a deep, hungry breath. She could tell it was spring. There were so many new smells--some of them strong, and assaulting. Some of them she had to really concentrate on. And there were smells missing; she couldn't smell as much smoke from the fires as before. The air was warm, and there was a spice to it.

Groping down off the porch, she felt towards the leaves of a bush, and then sunk down on the ground next to it. Helen dug her fingers into the dirt, and smelled the wet earth. Rubbing her fingers together, she felt the clay crumble. She dug some more, and then her finger bumped something... cool and wet. Carefully, with one finger she stroked the creature and felt it recoil and squirm. With two fingers, she lifted it up and put it on her hand. She felt it move. Then she laid it back into the dirt, careful not to smash it. She wondered what it would feel like, to be down in the dirt, where it was cool.

Scootching backward on her rear end until she felt the grass, she lay down. The grass was stiff and prickly. Not soft. It scratched through her tights. She lifted her legs off the grass and held them for as long as she could. She brought them down to the ground, hard, and was startled to feel something big and furry under them that darted away. She laughed. It must be the cat. She got up on all fours and crawled slowly toward to house, searching with her hands for the cat.

She knew that the cat hated her. It ran from her, and she had to find it. Sometimes, when she caught it, she would tug at it's fur. It would scratch at her. Then her mother would try to take the cat away. But she wouldn't let her. The cat was hers.

Suddenly, she felt soft vibrations through the ground and sat back on her heels. Someone tapped roughly on her shoulder. Martha. Only Martha would poke her like that. She made a sign to Martha that meant "WHAT?" and Martha replied by pulling on one of her hands. That meant she was to come inside. She signed again "WHAT?" and Martha rubbed her face. She needed to get clean. Her mother was always wanting her to get clean. To meet new people.

She sighed and got up, allowing Martha to lead her inside the house. She dragged her feet whistfully, and took another deep breath. But it was such a beautiful day.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry Christmas.

As we sprinkled reindeer food on the lawn tonight, I got impatient and dumped the rest of the baggie out in a pile on the lawn.

My husband snorted and said "Who's that for? Fatzen?"

Then he chuckled and continued "On Dasher! On Dancer! On Prancer! On Fatzen!!! FATZEN! GET UP! GOOOOOO!!!"


I feel a story in the works. Tailored especially for obese childrens. ;)

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Revised Christmas List...

I made up my Christmas list weeks ago.

But I've changed my mind.

I want new stuff:
  • I want the germs that are plaguing my house to cease and desist. No more vomiting. Please. And if my 15 month old could stop emitting farts that smell like a Port-a-Potty on a July afternoon at the fair, that would be AWESOME.
  • I want to be able to find a pair of tweezers. I know. It sounds like an odd request. But, somewhere in this house, I own FOUR PAIRS of tweezers. And yet my eyebrows are starting to look more and more Old Saint Nick-ish by the day because I.can't.find. a single pair. All four of them would make a great stocking stuffer.
  • Somehow in the past week, the name ABBY has appeared on my darling, perfect, red mama chair. I love this mama chair. It's my favorite Craigslist find ever. But the big, black ABBY is really kind of killing the appeal. When I asked my kids, glaring at the 5 year old, WHO wrote it, they responded "Um... Abby?" I would like "Abby" remover.
  • I would like my kids to decide that wearing pants is a good idea. Especially if they insist on dancing in front of the front window to "Run, Run, Rudolph", as is their habit.
  • I would like "The Drummer Boy" to never.darken.my.doorstep.again. I'll bet his mother hated the drum every bit as much as I do.
  • My cheekbones. (Okay, it's a repeat request. I asked for them back in 2005, 2006, 2008, as well. But, hey, at least 2007 was a good year.)

That's all for now, but stay tuned. It may change again.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Year 2: In which I never post because of "stuff."

I am currently not wearing a bra.

This is unthinkable for me.

But the Childrens have just been so darn needy this morning. They're always wanting something. Some of them are understandable. Like breakfast. Cereal. Not that cereal. That one. Without milk. No. With milk in a cup. Not that cup. That's a boy cup.


And now the Wee One, henceforth known as the GREMLIN, wants her thumb sucked, but she doesn't want to do the sucking herself. She wants ME to do it. And if I don't? Then she's going to sit there ON my bosoms (because they are hanging THAT LOW thanks to her and her siblings) and cry/whine/act like a teenager denied her prom date.

Fine. I'll even suck your thumb for you. Lazy child.

But can I at least get a bra on???

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Day 172: Date

Sitting at a table for two. Or six. There are no quiet tables at Chili's. They are all built for groups.

Or just two.

The air is filled with chatter and laughter. Waiters and waitresses skim past each other as they bring food to the table. Sizzling, steaming plates and skillets. Over and over, "Careful, that plate is hot." From the other corner of the restaurant, a group of waiters with an enormous sombrero converge on a birthday table and sing their rendition of happy birthday. I wonder to myself, amidst the clapping, when a new employee learns the song--is it part of their training? And is the whole restaurant expected to join in?

Sitting on opposite sides of the varnished table, my husband and I. Between us, a bowl of chips and a bowl of salsa. He is talking.

I realize how rarely he gets a word in edgewise. How the only time that I really hear him talk like this, about his work, his calling, what he heard on the radio, is on these dates. I feel guilty about that.

I reach out and take a chip and dip it into the salsa, and I watch him...

This restaurant is trendy and small. The settings are eclectic. The wine list is long. We had to get a reservation for our tiny table by the window, a candle in the middle.

Conversation rises and falls, like a wave. The tables are full of couples, although a few have the tables pushed together. Our waiter is wearing black, his arms lined with tattoos. All the waiters and waitresses are wearing black, their shirts expensive. Cashmere, maybe, for the women. Extra starch for the men.

My husband smiles at me across the table, holding the single page menu displayed on brushed leather in his hands. The waiter appears and whisks our wine glasses away, slightly disappointed, when we request only water. With lemon. He runs through the specials of the day, which leave us staring at each other in confusion--did he just say bone marrow with a blueberry sauce?

"We'll need just a few more minutes." my husband says, raising one eyebrow at me. His foot taps mine under the table, and I look down, smiling.

In the end, I order the squash filled ravioli. He orders the bone marrow, making a face at me when it's delivered actually in the bone, with a sprig of sage sticking out of the top. And I watch him...

"This is really good." my husband says, dipping his spoon into his Frosty dessert.
"What do you think these are made of?" I ask, twirling my spoon.
"You probably don't want to know" he laughs.

Back and forth. Back and forth. We're quiet, as we eat our Frosties, and swing on the swings at the local park. I am watching the small group of teenagers, sulking in the corner by the tennis courts. I glance over at my husband, who is gazing at the sunset.

He loves sunsets. Sometimes I forget that.

I scoop out the last spoonful and eat it, then look over at him. I find that he is watching me. And I smile.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Hope Chest.

The smell of cedar is overwhelming. Sickly sweet.

First, come Christmas stockings. Eight of them, woven, with embroidered names. Picking them up in my hands, I remember how the Christmas goodies would catch and snag on the threads inside. But the orange fit so perfectly in the toe. And peanuts, which always ended up abandoned in a bowl. Left for my father to eat.

More stockings, but only 7 this time. Red felt, with cut out felt shapes glued, untidy, on the front. Names with glitter on glue. I remember sitting at the table in an olive green kitchen and choosing the shapes for my own stocking: a reindeer, a bell, and a star.

A wedding dress, the satin with a slightly yellowed sheen. An a-line ball gown gown with a tiny waist. Long sleeves. Dust on the hemline from my mother's wedding reception. Beneath the gown, the veil--brittle with time.

Christening outfits. Baby blankets. Elementary school projects. A pair of tiny toddler cowboy boots. A Marine dress coat, cut to fit like a glove.

Going through my mother's hope chest is to step back in time. Filled with her hopes fulfilled. Reflecting years of my own hopes...
to wear a dress like this.
To marry a man like that.
To fill my arms with babies.
To hide their blankets in my own hope chest.

Which stands against the wall of my own room now.

Christening gowns. Baby dolls. Faded, dried roses. Graduation caps and tassels.

The smell of cedar, sickly sweet.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Day 171: Work in Progress

Sunshine day,
happy breeze.

in a pile of leaves.

Toss them up,
higher than high.
Deepest blue of an autumn sky.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Day 170...Early.


Cough. Cough.

She rolled over in her sleep, only partially awake. The sound of a tiny cough down the hall drawing her out.


She looked up at the red digital number on the alarm clock. 5:30. Just an hour too early. Curving into her sleeping husband as he reached instinctually for her hand, she allowed the warmth and silence to draw her once more downward.


Sighing, she unwillingly withdrew her hand and stepped out of her warm bed. Wrapping her arms around herself she closed the door quietly behind her. At least maybe he could sleep for another 30 minutes.

Walking down the hall she listened at the door and heard only the sound of restless sleep... maybe... but then, a cough and a little whimper. Opening the door softly, she reached into the crib and scooped up the small, sleeping bundle. Wrapping her blanket more snuggly, she lowered herself into the rocking chair in the corner. The humidifier hummed in the corner. Softly, she laid her cheek against the fuzzy down on top of the sleeping head. Back and forth. Back and forth. The soft warm weight in her arms. She closed her eyes, patting the little back gently. Maybe she could doze...

A creak. Her head came up and she saw the light from the front window fall across the hall. A little shadow peering into the darkness. The rustle of footsteps, with a blanket in tow. Awake already.

Standing, she lowered the now peaceful baby back into the crib and stroked her cheek just once with the back of her hand before slipping silently from the room. The little figure stood in the hallway, smiling when he saw her. She scooped him up and he cuddled into her. She gave him a hug and walked to the living room. They sat on the couch and she laid him down against a pillow, stroking his hair. He asked for breakfast. Too early. He asked for Daddy. Too early. Try to sleep. For just a few more minutes. He nodded.

Standing and yawning, her eyes itching for just a little more sleep, she heard a small meowing at the door. Opening it for the small cat, all puffy with cold, she followed it's meow to it's food dish. A scoop of fresh food.

Walking back to her room, she slipped in the closed door and shut it behind her. Back under her warm covers, nestling into the now cool pillows.

Just a few more minutes.

Saturday, October 31, 2009


The shadows come early here, and they stay late. Even in the warmest breezes of midsummer, there is a slight sour tang to the air that speaks of coolness. A warning: this will not last. So you hold each day as it comes, like a petal that you know will lose it's color and wilt in your hands. But you cannot help it, and you cannot leave. For the brilliant blue sky and the jagged edges of the peaks are as much a part of you as an arm or a foot. When you close your eyes, they make up the landscape of your mind. The hawk soaring--a tiny speck on the currents of the wind. And far down the valley, the river tumbles over rocks, sending up an echo of greeting.

Winter is coming on fast now, the snow creeping steadily closer on it's descent down the slopes. The brilliant blue of the glacier ice on the peaks is disappearing under fresh, white snow, and there is--more often--the crack of an avalanche on some unseen face. The animals grow shaggy under their winter coats, eating voraciously. But still, the sun is warm. You can sit on a rock outcropping, with a roll of hard bread and some cheese, and feel the warmth on your face--turning your cheeks pink. In those moments, you don't feel so alone. Even though the thoughts of the crowds far below, or even the small village on the opposite hillside, fills you with trepidation. It isn't always easy, when the winter comes, to be so alone. Alone in a hut, warm and secure, that hunkers against a hillside. No way to get out, once the snows begin. With all the wood stacked on the side of the house to get through the winter, and the cows nestled in their stalls. The warmth of fresh milk and alpine flowers, hung upside down to dry, holding your hand through another long, lonely winter.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The View...

Tomorrow is my 30th birthday.

Which explains why I'm sitting in a hotel in Interlaken, Switzerland. Looking out a window. Getting lost in my own thoughts...

Oh, how I can't wait to start writing when I get back.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Day 166: Ainsley, Part 7 and Conclusion


I'm not sure how it sunk in, for the Spouse, that he was going to be the one delivering a baby. I know that it only dawned on me, slowly, that we didn't even have time for the paramedics. But at no point did I feel panic, and at no point did I see panic on my husband's face. I think we both knew that it was up to us, and we would do it. He simply set the phone aside, on speaker, and did what the 911 dispatch told him to do.

"Sir--can you see the baby's head?"
"No... yes. Yes. I can see it."
"Alright, now sir, I want you to guide it out slowly... Don't drop it! It will be slippery!... Is the head out?"
"Almost.... yes."
"Okay. Now guide the shoulders..."
"The shoulders are already out."
"Is the baby out?"
"Yes! Yes--the baby's out!"

And there it was. Our baby. Caught by his father's own hands and handed right into my arms. I remember my first look at my baby's face. All wrinkled and tiny.

At that moment, a knock came at the door and the Spouse yelled "Come in!" There was the slightest note of excitement in his voice. I heard my friend, Lisa's, voice answer back "How we doin'?" I remembered then--we had called her to stay with the kids while we went to the hospital. The Spouse answered her by saying "Well, we have a baby!" She gasped and hurried in, grabbed a towel and started rubbing the baby vigorously. I wanted to hear a vibrant, furious cry, but we were getting only baby squawks that worried me a little. Lisa and my husband both assured me that the baby was breathing. Then Lisa realized we were all referring to the baby as "he" and said "Oh wait! Did we look?!?... It's a Girl!!!"

I looked up at my husband and he looked down at me in utter surprise. A girl! We had both been secretly expecting a boy. In all the surprises of that night, we hadn't even thought to check if it was a boy or a girl.

And then the party started, my doula rushed in leading the firemen who had come to our rescue. They knelt down beside the couch and suctioned the baby, cut the cord, and started looking her over and making notes. About 5 minutes later, the ambulance finally arrived with the paramedics. They got right in there with the firemen and began shooting off questions, "What time was she born?" "Uuuuuh... 3:30?" "We'll say 3:28." In all the quiet commotion, I looked up from the couch at my husband, holding our baby girl in his arms--wrapped in one of the bath towels we'd gotten for our wedding, and my eyes met his. In that moment, we both smiled. I was so happy that I cried. It was like we had the greatest secret on earth. We had just brought a child to this planet--just us. We were the only ones present when she was born, in our calm and quiet home. He was my hero in that moment, and reflected in his eyes I saw all the love and strength that I possessed. I wouldn't have traded that experience for anything in the world.

Several minutes later, they wrapped our baby girl up in my arms and loaded us on to a gurney for the ride to the hospital. Dave stayed behind to clean up a little bit and to send a skype message to my friends Tori and Rob in New Zealand that our baby had arrived, at home, and it was a girl. I asked Lisa to please tell them the story, if she had time.

And then we were out the door, in the warm night that was full of stars. They loaded us into the ambulance and I remember my precious baby girl clutching my finger in her fist with a death grip as her eyes looked up into mine. I'd never had a baby quite that strong before.

When we arrived at the Emergency Room they wheeled us through a crush of nurses who had been on alert for us, and all of them wanted to see the baby. We reached Labor and Delivery and met another huge group of nurses who were chattering and excited. It felt like the biggest, happiest birthday party ever. We finally got a weight, however inaccurate, and guessed at an Apgar score. And I marvelled at the whole experience. I had given birth and never been hooked up to a single monitor or I.V. I was amazed at how much I had loved it.

Eventually, we hugged our paramedics goodbye and settled into the night. It was just our little family again--a baby and her parents. I held Ainsley in my arms, with her little pink hat, and I can honestly say: I have never known happiness like that.


Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Day 165: Ainsley, Part 6

People tend to raise their eyebrows at me and look skeptical when I say the following sentence, but I want to assure you that I mean it as much as I can mean anything: I absolutely love doing the whole labor and delivery thing with my husband.

Go ahead and scoff, but I think it is one of the funnest, coolest things we've ever gotten to do as a couple, and--since we've gone through this a few times now--it just gets better each time. We are a perfect match in this aspect of our marriage. An ideal team. If Labor was a sport, we could go for the gold. My Spouse knows exactly how to support and comfort me in a way that helps things to move forward and help me keep my cool. He knows when to gently remind me to open my eyes, and when to get in my face and mirror breathe with me. He knows just where to push on my back during a contraction, and when to make me laugh. And every time I look at him, I can see it in his eyes: he knows I can do this, and he is right there with me. I.love.it.

So. I was in the shower, full blast, and the Spouse was there with me (in his swimsuit, thanks) and we were doing just great. He would help me during contractions and then we'd joke and laugh in between. That's something that I love especially--laughing together and being so excited to meet this new little person. Whoever they are.

I remember, at one point, the Spouse saying "Becca--I think these contractions are closer than 5 minutes apart" and I said "No. They're erratic. Wayne said not to call back until they were consistently less than 5 minutes apart or my water broke."

The hot water held out for an entire hour, and then I stepped out of the shower and said that I thought it was time to call my doula and see where she was, and then to call our neighbor and tell her to come over and watch our other kids. The Spouse got dressed and called my doula while he pulled a few last minute things together.

I was in the family room, draped over my exercise ball and feeling very relaxed. I knew things were going great so far, and was absolutely thrilled at the way this birth was going. Then, suddenly, I heard a little "pop!"... and my water broke. I couldn't contain a huge grin--this was a sure fire ticket to Labor and Delivery! There would be no sending me home, now!! I called out that we should call Wayne and tell him we were on our way.

Then, as the next contraction descended, I heard a faint echo of my the obstetrician's voice at my last exam saying "Wow. Your water is never going to break on it's own." But it just had. And at that moment, I looked up at the Spouse, who was waiting for Wayne to pick up, and he looked down at me. And I swore. Because, in that instant I knew--we had missed our window. We had waited too long.

Wayne picked up and the phone was passed to me. I stood up to speak and, in a moment that struck me as too sitcom to be real, I said "I need to push." The voice that came back, calmly, said "Now, ma'am. These things take time." Shaking a bit, "No, sir. I need to hang up so I can call 911. I need to push." Irritated now, Wayne said "Okay. Call 911. But don't get off the phone with me." At which point, with my teeth clenched I said "I.only.have.one.phone. I need to HANG UP so I can CALL 9.1.1." I threw the phone back to my sweetheart and said "Call 911." He held the phone in his hand and looked at me blankely. "9.1.1. CALL.IT." I ordered as I clutched the back of the couch and slowly moved around to lay on it.

I wasn't even sure where to lay. The couch? Should I get my feet up? Was this going to be messy? Maybe the tub would be better. I could hear that we had 911 dispatch on the phone. I remember my Spouse asking if he should get towels, and an affirmative answer.

As he left the room to go get the towels and I lay there on the couch, it began to truly dawn on me. I wasn't going to make it to Presbyterian Hospital. I wasn't going to give birth in a big suite with nurses and a warming bed. I was going to give birth right here. On my couch. And it was all so "Evening News" that I laughed out loud. But at least the paramedics would be there. Maybe they liked delivering babies. I'll bet they didn't get that many chances to do it. I clenched my eyes and muttered the most fervent prayer of my life: "Oh, Heavenly Father, it's You and me now. Stay with me." That was all I could think to pray.

The Spouse came back into the room and I could here him giving dispatch our information. Again. At this point, I was simply riding each contraction like a wave. I could feel the rise and fall. And I knew that the paramedics better hurry up a bit so, in between contractions, I gasped "We need an ambulance!" He relayed that information to the dispatch and then she spoke these words: "Oh, sir, an ambulance is on the way. I'm here to help you deliver this baby."

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 164: Ainsley, Part 5

Tuesday night. My kitchen. I finally, gave in to a much needed nervous breakdown. Crying into my husband's shirt. Copious amounts of saltwater flowing down my face. Hiccuping, gulping sobs.

And then? I felt better. Much better. Prepared to wait another week. To be patient.

My husband tucked me into bed, and I remember smiling as I dozed off. I looked forward to an exhausted but refreshing sleep.

An hour or so later, I opened my eyes. Something was off. I lay there in the dark and looked up at the clock. 11:30. I yawned and rolled over. Then I thought "Oh no. I know this feeling. It's the stomach flu."

At this point, can I just interject and say, is there anything worse than waking up with that feeling? The pre-urp, stomach ache, "green-apple quickstep" kind of feeling??? Because if there is, I have not experienced it yet. Moving on.

Sparing you the details, I made my way to the living room--expecting to spend the night on the couch, alternating between the ever handy huge Tupperware mixing bowl and the porcelain throne. I felt so nasty and crampy, but really low. Not like contractions. Contractions were up high. Like they had been on Friday. I decided to call my mom. She's two hours behind me, so it wasn't all that late where she was. And of course, there was a small nagging voice that maybe, just maybe--this could lead to something? If this was labor, my Mom would be able to tell me. So I got on the phone and chatted with her, aimlessly, as I walked around and straightened the house. The couch was in the middle of the family room, covered with picture frames and fall decorations that had been taken down while I was painting. One by one, I moved them back into their places until the couch was clear. I was starting to wonder if the coming and going of severe intestinal cramping wasn't contractions, and my Mom told me to call the triage nurse over at Labor and Delivery. I hung up with her and lay down on the couch, hesitating. I mean, the cramps were painful, but I really felt like it was a stomach bug more than anything.

I sighed and called L&D triage at my OB office and the call was answered by a nurse named Wayne. I explained to him that I was having pain, but it was really low. He asked if my water had broken--I said no. He asked if I had contractions that I could time--I said no. I told him that the pain did seem to back off sometimes, but it was erratic. He said "Ma'am, I'm going to guess it's probably gas cramps. Take some antacid and call me back if and when your contractions are less than 5 minutes apart, or if your water breaks." I nodded to myself and hung up, although I was feeling more sure that this was the beginning stages of labor.

Around this time, Dave came out of our room to see if there was anything he could do to help me. I told him that I thought I was going to take a shower, and asked him to call my doula Heather and ask her to come over. He did that, and then left a note on the front door. It said "Heather--come on in. We're in the shower. Don't worry, I'm in my swimsuit."

I knew it would probably be several hours, but I gave up on the idea of sleep for the night.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Day 163: Ainsley, Part 4

6:30 came and went. I wasn't headed back to the hospital. Not all day Saturday. Not all day Sunday. And even though I had a week to go before my due date, I felt overdone. Like insult had been added to injury. Lemon juice in the paper cut.


But I had an appointment on Tuesday afternoon at 3:30 with my favorite doctor at the practice. He was my one ray of hope. The single thread that kept me from pitching headlong into a batch of cookie dough.

So I did what any 9 month pregnant woman would do: I grabbed a bucket of paint, a roller brush, and repainted my entire house, ruining all my favorite maternity clothes in the process by brushing my ample anterior (and posterior, come to think of it) against freshly painted walls. By Tuesday at noon, I had sufficiently ignored everything else to the point that I was 3/4 done with the living room, family room, and halls. If that hadn't put me into full blown labor, nothing would.

Feeling optimistic, if tired, I entered my doctor's office early--3:00. I knew my appointment wasn't for half an hour, but I hoped I could squeeze in a bit early. I was hoping for good news and a ticket to Labor and Delivery. As I signed my name at the front desk, the nurse looked up at me with a confused expression and hesitantly said, "We thought maybe you'd gone into labor... when you didn't show up for your appointment this morning at 9:00."

"9:00??" I gasped, zipping open my little wallet and finding the appointment card from last week that read "Tuesday. 9:00 am." I felt the blood rushing to my face as I stuttered an apology, "Is there any way you could get me in, this afternoon?"

She turned to the computer and said "Well, I think we can get you in for a quick visit with the doctor on call. It's [Dr. Doogie.]"

Now my face paled. Not Dr. Doogie. "Isn't there some way--any way--I could see... who I was scheduled with this morning?" I whispered. "I'm sorry. Truly. But he's off. For the rest of the week." I nodded, numbly, and she said to take a seat.

I had not only forgotten my appointment, but I'd missed my one chance to see the doctor that I trusted implicitly. He had been my surgeon. Seen me through a very complicated pregnancy. Induced and delivered my second child. Comforted me through a miscarriage. Rejoiced with me in this current pregnancy. And he was.... off. Only a woman who has stood in those very swollen shoes will know what I was feeling. Like your favorite show has been cancelled, forever. Like when my favorite Ben n' Jerry's flavor, Purple Passionfruit Sorbet, was retired. Like there was nothing between you and a pregnancy that could, and would, go on for 13 more years.

They called my name. I went through the routine of standing on the scale as it groaned and the nurse made her little jokes. Waiting in the tiny office for Dr. Doogie. He showed up, looked over my chart, and said "Yup. Looks good. Make an appointment for next week."

At which point I lost all pride. "Please. I was in Labor and Delivery for hours last week. I'm just... so done. Can't you do anything?" At which he smiled his baby-toothed smile and chuckled "Oh! Don't worry! We won't let you go past 42 weeks."

I have never hated anyone more than I hated him at that moment, however irrational. I nodded curtly and made my appointment for the next week and thought I would rather crawl under a rock than face another week.

It was never.going.to.end.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 162: Ainsley, Part 3

Last night, as the Spouse read the latest entry he said "I'm not going to look very good when you tell them that you went to the hospital while I stayed home and slept." To which I replied, "Maybe I won't write about that part."

But then I decided it's kind of essential to the story.

Because when I say "we" decided it was time to head to the hospital, I mean "my doula and I." Dave was tired--understandable. It was 11:00. So we decided to head up and get checked in, and then call him if we were going to be staying. We all know these things can take time.

So we got to the hospital, contractions every 2 to 3 minutes. But I was still smiling. That right there, plus the missing husband, should tell you that things were not quite right. But we checked in, got our nurse, got our bracelet. Answered all the questions. After monitoring contractions for a few minutes, the nurse said "Get comfortable. You're not going home." We called the Spouse to tell him to come--he was watching Bourne Identity. Killing time. Waiting for us to call.

I wanted to get up and move around, but our nurse kept saying "Just a few more minutes on the monitor. Just a few more minutes." The spouse showed up. We were good to go.

Then, suddenly, the contractions stopped. Totally. Utterly. Stopped. I got out of the bed and looked in wonder, with my doula and the nurse, at the monitor tape. We had three hours of good contractions every 2-3 minutes and now... nothin. I waddled around a few minutes. Not even a twinge. The doctor on call was on the floor, so the nurse said she'd go get him. Get me hooked up to some pitocin. Now, I'm a natural girl, but I would've gone for some pitocin at this point.

Enter Dr. McNewbie. Not as recent a graduate as Dr. Doogie... but only by two more months. He'd been practicing medicine for a grand total of 5 months at this point. Nice guy, though. Looked at the readout, turned to our expectant, upturned faces and said "Eh, go home. It's late." The nurse's eyes widened in surprise, "You're... you're sending her... home?" He turned to her, "Yes. I think that's the best course of action." She looked at me, then back at him, then back at me.

I forgot to mention that my nurse was 8 months pregnant. So I knew that she could intuitively sense my palpable, tangible done-ness. Like a turkey on Thanksgiving. Oh yes, she understood. And I could see in her eyes that, if it were her choice, she'd roll in the pitocin cart and crank it up for me. But it wasn't her choice.

Dr. McNewbie laughed heartily and said goodnight. We all stood there for a minute. The nurse said, with a note of false optimism, "Well! I'm sure you'll be back by 6:30 in the morning!" We packed up a few things. I glanced longingly at the little warming bed in the corner... the newborn diapers... the little hat. I thanked my doula for coming. I felt utterly stupid. Foolish. This was my third baby--how could I have performed such a first time stunt??

Birthing ball in our arms, we shuffled back to our cars, and we drove home in the bitter, bitter contraction-less night.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Day 161: Ainsley, Part 2

By the first Friday in September, all my headstands had done the trick and we had a head-down baby. Perhaps this was the reason I scheduled myself a pedicure. I can't think of why else that would've been, unless I was feeling really sorry for myself. Also a reasonable hypothesis. But I'm pretty sure there wasn't anyone in the Northern Hemisphere that wasn't feeling sorry for me at this point. I was 50 pounds heavier than I had been 9 months earlier, my thighs were tan but still the size of pylons, and I had to get out of bed to go pee at least 10 times every night--a nearly impossible feat because my sciatic nerve liked to play games with my ability to walk.

So I mustered up the energy to leave my kids home with the Spouse (snort) and plunked myself down in a lovely, cushy pedicure chair and became instantly engrossed in "Days of Our Lives", which I'd never seen before but had no trouble following, while "Allison" from Vietnam went to town on my hairy legs and calloused feet. Because of some miscommunication that was either pregnant brain or the nuances of the Vietnamese language, I ended up getting not only Harlot Pink toenails but an orange salt scrub and paraffin foot waxing as well. Perfect.

It was about the time that the delicious smell of chemical tangerines hit my nose that I began noticing them... contractions. Blessed contractions. Based on the commercial breaks during "Days", they were about 5 minutes apart. Perfect. "Bring 'em on," I thought, as I slipped my now soft and sweet smelling feet into the little foam flip flops.

I drove home, patting my very cooperative belly. My mood was ebulliant. I had never gone into labor, but these contractions felt just like the ones I'd had hooked up to pitocin in my two former deliveries, so I assumed they were a good sign. I grabbed my laptop and brought up every full-term pregnant woman's best friend: Contraction Master. The contractions continued, not painful, but very easy to time. We had dinner. Got the kids to bed. They were now two to three minutes apart.

I called my doula, Heather, and she came over to walk with me. I had showered and put on makeup. I could tell I was headed for the perfect birth. Finally, we agreed that we should head to the hospital. It was baby day.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Day 160: Ainsley, part 1.

There are times in your life when you think "Wow. This feels like a movie... is this really happening to me??"

In my life, I've had that feeling three times:
1. Laying in a field of wildflowers next to a sparkling aqua stream in the Alps, nibbling on bread and cheese.
2. The night my true love proposed.
3. The night I had a baby on the couch.

To kick off my return to writing life, I present "The Tale of the Night When the Nurse said it was Gas Cramps so the Paramedics Didn't Make It On Time and We Had to Get a New Couch Cover."

This story begins actually about 6 weeks before Baby was due. We didn't know if we were having a boy or a girl. We thought the surprise would be fun--you know, the big announcement at birth by the doctor. We thought it would be fun. For about two weeks after the ultrasound. Then we realized that it was one of our stupidest decisions. But too late. So, anyway,6 weeks before my due date, I felt like I was still carrying this baby in the breech position. I had an appointment with a new doctor at the practice, whom I shall refer to as Dr. Doogie.

He walked into the tiny office and tripped over my two children who, as usual, were playing with plastic glove balloons on the floor. He looked disconcerted at the presence of other children, and his eyes kept skittishly flitting to them as he looked over my information. While he did this, I was noticing the lack of wrinkles on his forehead. He seriously looked like an 18 year old doing a "Try Out a Profession" project for their civics class. He asked me the standard questions, and then asked if I had any questions for him.

"Actually, I think I'm still carrying this baby breech." I stated.
"Oh." he said, eyeing the two year old, who was busy stacking the little pap smear tests.
"Um...is there any way you can tell?" I asked, without confidence.
He felt my ample belly and then said "Nope. Can't really tell."

Cue awkward pause.
"So. Um. Who in this practice is best at external versions, just in case?"
"I don't think we keep that kind of information."
"Oh... Is there any way to get that information?"
"Um. Well. When I was in medical school, we googled how to turn a baby. We lit some herbs on a lady's toe and it worked. It set the fire alarms off in the hospital though."
"In medical school?" I stuttered, "And how long ago was that?"
"I graduated two months ago." Dr. Doogie stated proudly.

At this point, alarms of my own were going off inside my head. Dr. Doogie offered to schedule a c-section, on the spot, but I tried to decline politely. I didn't want to be his first, you see.

I went home and proceeded to put on my old lady maternity swimsuit and do headstands in the local swimming pool at every opportunity, trying to get this baby to turn. I had a new purpose in life: to avoid having Dr. Doogie deliver my baby at all costs.

And so a month passed.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day... uh....

It has been a long time since I've written. The well dried up. Seemed to have hit the rock bottom of my creativity and imagination.

It was depressing to know the true depths (or not) of my abilities.

So I had to decide: force myself to keep writing, and feel frustrated in the process and unhappy with the result? Or step away. Close the laptop. Wait and see if more would come.

So that's what I did.

And for a long time, nothing came. Not a thing. I would try, on occasion, and find nothing there. So I tried to be patient and keep waiting.

Then this past weekend, I took Thing 3 and got on an airplane to fly to meet some good friends up in New England. It had been a cloudy week here in Charlotte. The very definition of muggy, without a single ray of sunshine. Not typical for here. I was looking forward to the flight and the utter assurance that we would pull above the clouds and see the sunshine, even if it was only for a couple hours.

We boarded the plane and found our seats clear at the back. The flight wasn't full, which was nice. I put Thing 3 in the seat next to me, which was open, and stretched out. Waiting for take off. Then I saw a teenager coming up the aisle. He caught my attention because he looked familiar, and out of place. He looked like the kind of teenager who should be hucking hay bales in hometown. He looked like the kind of quiet teenager that would be much more comfortable all alone on a mountain then on an airplane headed for Baltimore and beyond. In my head, I knew he was a cowboy. This is not a title I give lightly. True cowboys are very rare. They work on farms and ranches. They are quiet a respectful. Cowboy is a title you earn through back breaking work in sweltering heat and freezing cold, not something you buy at a Western Wear Outfitters. This was a cowboy. He nervously found his seat. Struggled with the buckles. Looked about apprehensively. Not long after, I noticed another figure coming up the aisle. I knew immediately that he would be sitting in the seat next to the Cowboy.

He was older. Well into his sixties, if not seventies. His face was lined and had a deep, permanent tan. His silver hair combed carefully. He looked just as nervous as the Cowboy, who I'm guessing was his grandson. He clutched a blue duffel that had written on it "THE SPA at ARCHWOOD" in a familiar font, circa 1986. He saw the Cowboy with relief and nodded. He
"Excuse me, ma'am"-ed himself past the flight attendant, and settled himself into the aisle seat. The Cowboy showed him how to put on his buckle. They were looking around, quickly--like chipmunks or prairie dogs.

The engines revved. I handed Thing 3 a "TAKE ONE" copy of a Herz rental car pamphlet to chew on and continued to watch what was happening directly across the aisle from me. The flight attendant stood in the aisle for the safety demonstration, and they hurried to grab the safety instructions from the back of the seat pocket in front of them.

Their first flight. A grandfather and his cowboy grandson. I wondered where they could be going. What could be so important that it would get this grandfather on a plane, after so many years. The Grandfather stood to get his blue duffel out of the overhead bin after takeoff and I noticed the tag still on his navy blue jeans. Brand new. From Walmart. I wondered if some sweet wife somewhere had bought them for him--for his trip.

And suddenly, I wanted to write again. I had something to say. Something to write about.

I was breaking through the clouds into the sunshine again.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009


You know those little vacuum cleaner robots? The round ones that zip around and (kind of) vacuum your floor, without you having to do anything?
I have one of those. Kind of.

Only it's a lot more efficient model. It can really get under things and in things and around things. It moves really fast. It does awesome with cat food. I'm pretty sure it could handle just about anything. Including shirts, toy cars, Barbie shoes, and papers that your child's teacher may or may not have sent home with important lunch numbers on them.

No. It isn't actually a Roomba. Or whatever they're called.

And it isn't a goat. (Although that's a nice thought.)

It's Wee One. Very soon to make official Thing 3 status.

Watch out for your toes.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


I have this really awful habit.

(That got your interest, didn't it???)

Well. I do.

I never bring stuff in from the car.

I'd like to say that it's because my arms are so full of Almost-One-Year-Old child, not to mention Thing 2 who wants "UP" so he can "PUSHTHEBUTTON!" while trying to open the back door, let the cat in, and not trip over or otherwise injure Thing 1 that I just don't have the energy to go back out and gather all the STUFF I left in the car. But there's a good chance that I'm just lazy. So the stuff gets left there.

Which may or may not include the following:
An assortment of children's books.
A toy microphone.
A stale donut.
Empty water bottles.
Rotten baby bottles.
Raisins in the carpet.
Papers. Always. Papers.
Broken Happy Meal toys.
Receipts that I don't remember where they were from or why.
Frosties cups.
Frosties spoons.
deflated pool toys
possibly used swim diapers
1.2 tons of graham cracker crumbs

I think that's a fairly comprehensive list.


So what is that smell in my car?????

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Final Frontier

Here's the thing about celiac disease: there are so few things that you can eat that you feel like the things you're allowed to eat, you should be able to eat as much of them as you want. As often as you want.

Which, for me, means Frosties.

Because they're gluten free.

This is a revolution for me. In the Bread Years (as they will hence be known. I also considered the Good Years or the Tasty Years, but I digress) I would have a Frosty on rare, special occasions. Sometimes when travelling. Delicious, chocolate smoothness. Mmm.

But now?

Just don't be surprised if you see my ancient minivan, which resembles a sheep, pulling into the local Wendy's once a week. Or once a day.

Welcome to the Final Frontier. In search of all things Gluten Free. Especially Gluten Free things that are convenient, cheap, fast, and don't taste like cardboard/gruel/poop.

And Frosties so pleasantly fulfill every single one of those requirements.

Bless them.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


It has been a long time between writings.

Because there are things I just don't how to write about yet. Because sometimes life is all-consuming.

Currently, The Spouse has taken Thing 1 to go ice skating. It has been much anticipated by her. I hope that she is having a wonderful time. She doesn't have enough "wonderful" in her life these days. This past Sunday, I walked with her into her children's class and saw the three little girls in her class sit down together, put their hand over the one open chair, and say "You can't sit by us. There isn't room for you."

And my heart broke into a thousand pieces.

Because I know these girls are good, kind little girls. Because I know that they aren't being mean, intentionally. They are just friends. And she isn't part of the group. But the lost, forlorn look on my daughter's face brought me to such a helpless, hollow place. I wanted to scoop her up and carry her out. I wanted to tell her that there would always be a place by me, for her. But I can't do that. So I pulled up a chair for her, gave her a hug, and left.

Things like that leave very little in me that is worth writing, and they seem to be happening a lot lately.

And, at the same time--not.

Because I've spent this evening with Thing 2, watching him while he watched his current favorite: Robin Hood. His chatter about the characters and laughing over the story. He is my Boy. And I'll take half an hour of sheer joy in exchange for a day full of confused temper tantrums. Any time.

So there really isn't any point to this post, except a simple "Here I am, and this is where I am." I feel grateful, at least, to have someplace to say it.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Day 159: Clementine, Chapter 18

"Where are we going?" Violet moaned, as she dragged her feet.
"House hunting." I snapped.
"It's hot." she replied.

I spun around, "Go home, then! I'll go by myself!" I shouted at her. She cocked one eyebrow at me and screnched her big blue eyes.

I turned on my bare heel and stomped off. It was quiet, but after a couple minutes, I heard her feet plodding slowly after me. I was glad. I didn't really want to be alone. I really wanted her to come. But I didn't want to go home because my Mom would be there, and I didn't know if she knew where Rose was. I didn't want her to ask me. I didn't want to know what they'd been fighting about. And I didn't want her to tell me.

What we needed was a new house.

So I rushed down the wide streets of the trailer park and past the brick wall that was the entrance to Meadow Brook, with it's burned out lightbulbs and flowerbeds that were tangled with weeds and pansies gone to seed. I turned left and kept walking for a really long time.

Violet didn't say anything. She sucked on her fingers, savoring sticky remnants of Twinkie. I marched past neighborhoods that I knew well, looking for something new. I wound past the busy streets of town and up into streets I'd never visited before. These weren't subdivisions. These were neighborhoods. The streets were lined with arching trees. The homes were made of brick--some of it so old that it looked crumbly. Perennial flowers were established, here. Door knobs were worn with coming and going. Old houses. Beautiful old houses.

I never let myself come wander these streets. As much as I could dream about a ranch home over in Willowmere subdivision, I couldn't even let myself imagine living in a home with old wooden floors, polished banisters, and narrow stairways. Houses like this weren't for people like us.

But today? I felt like that was just what my family needed. Maybe if we could live in that house, over there--the one with the wide front porch, then Rose wouldn't have to sleep in a closet sized bedroom and she'd want to be home more. Maybe.

Violet walked next to me as I slowed down. I finally came to a stop standing in front of a yellow house. It had a sharply peaked roof, gracefully curving stairs, and a wide lawn stretching to the road. Violet looked up at it and nodded.

"This is a nice one." she said. I sat down on the curb in front of it. "Yeah" I said "It's really nice."

And for the first time in a long time, I started to cry.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

South Beach No Cholesterol Gluten Free Diet = Super Awesome-ness

Um. For those of you still checking in????


I know I've been a total slacker in the blogging department. It's just that the karma I've got going on right now? It's pretty amazing.

You all know about the broken toes.
I found out that I have celiac disease. (Thanks, Mom.)
And high cholesterol. (Thanks, Dad.)
I'm doing South Beach.
And I'm trying to decide if I should homeschool.

Let's just say that if I worked on Clementine right now, it would probably have a tragic ending, and no one wants that. *grin*

So--I have a goal to deal with my plethora of issues, and be back writing each day starting next week. I'm taking one more week off. Then I'm back, and I've got chapters stored up, so please come check in and let me know what you think!!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Day 158: Clementine, Chapter 17

I almost tripped over one of the throw rugs.

I was thinking about 1,000 questions, I can tell you that much.

What was Rose doing, asleep on the Finley's couch? I didn't know she even knew the Finleys, really.

And suddenly I was furious.

My father had stayed up, waiting for her. He had sat in our uncomfortable chair in the front room, reading about Egypt. He had been worried. And she had been at the Finleys??? This didn't make any sense. My adolescent mind suddenly had the urge to pull her hair, run away, break something, eat something, and laugh all at the same time.

I followed Mrs. Finley dumbly into the little kitchen.

"Twinkie?" she asked, holding out a limp paper plate with Twinkie halves on it. I shook my head. Violet looked at my out of the corner of her eye as she took a Twinkie and placed it on the napkin Mrs. Finley offered. We all sat down at their kitchen table, a nice solid wood dining room set crammed into the tiny space. High backed chairs and velvet seat bottoms. I saw Violet sneak her pills and then take a bite of Twinkie. I honestly think I heard it crunch.

Mrs. Finley leaned forward conspiratorily "Rose is asleep in the front room, so we have to be quiet." I stared at her. Her eyes twinkled. "I don't want to wake her up, poor dear." My eyebrows raised. I think they disappeared into my hairline. I'm pretty sure.

Poor dear????
Selfish beast.

"What's she doing here anyway?" I asked, bluntly. Apparently I spoke too loudly, because Mrs. Finley looked at me sternly for a second and then opened her mouth to reply, but a voice came from the doorway, "None of your business."

Mrs. Finley's mouth smacked shut and she turned to Rose, who was standing in a pair of jeans and a rumpled tank top. Her hair was standing up in all directions and I could still see lines on her cheeks from a beaded throw pillow.

"Is so my business" I said, feeling bold, "Dad waited up for you all night. I had to sleep in their bed."
She rolled her eyes at me and turned to ask Mrs. Finley if she could hop in the shower.

At that moment, I felt like my sister was a complete stranger.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Oh, for the love.

Two weeks?! Has it really been more than two weeks?! Good grief.

I was doing so well!
I was being so with it!

I was doing flylady and whipping my house into shape.
I was following my strict eating rules.
I was making my BED for crying out loud!

And then I slipped on my bathroom floor tile and jammed my foot into the edge of the door. And I didn't even swear.

I just hobbled out to the couch to inspect the damage, which--of course--was an open invitation for my two year old to come zooming over with nothing less than a tennis racquet to see what was wrong and he whacked my foot again. And I didn't even swear.

I gimped around for the rest of that day--managing to pull together Father's Day dinner, somehow. Trying to lavish The Spouse with the praise and attention he so richly deserves. Then the next day, a family birthday, I dragged my poor children to the urgent care to get my foot x-rayed. Yup. Broken. They handed me a massive blue shoe and a bottle of Lortab and wished me luck.

So I took my lovely blue shoe to Girl's Camp this last week, which required a lot of up and down, and popped Lortab to get through the nights with sweet twelve year olds needing one more story and one more tuck-in. I am a much nicer person on Lortab. I still notice the things that annoy me. They just don't annoy me.

Home from Girl's Camp. No naps to be had. And my bottle of painkillers is empty. So what else is going to happen but get a nasty flu? It's probably the swine flu. I wouldn't put it past me, I really wouldn't. And my HAIR IS FALLING OUT.

Out the window goes my clean house! Pass the chocolate! Drown me in chips and salsa!

Did I mention that I didn't even swear?????

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lortab and a broken foot

This is Dave, Becca's husband. Becca asked me to post that she's sorry she hasn't posted in a few days, but she'll post again soon. I'll fill in with a limerick:

I shouldn't have kicked at that door.
But I tripped on that thing on the floor.
Now Lortab's my friend,
So my day's at its end,
I just wish I could take a bit more.

Now you're all glad Becca is writing this blog and not me.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Day 157: Clementine, Chapter 16

When I woke up the next morning, no one was home. My dad was gone to the cherry warehouse. My mom sometimes stayed late to finish her charts from the night before. I knew that my dad had stayed up, waiting for Rose. I heard him call my mom at work around 2:00, and have a brief, muffled conversation. I lay in their bed, listening, but I didn't feel especially worried, and was even less so now, in the daytime. Whatever Rose's problem was, she would figure it out.

I sat on the vinyl chair, holding a mug that had King Vitamin cereal in it and skim milk. Stale King Vitamin cereal tastes like sawdust and cardboard. No offense to anyone who likes it. Just my opinion. I looked around our kitchen. The small oven with a dish towel hanging over the handle. My mom hated that oven because you couldn't fit a Thanksgiving turkey in it. "What good is an oven that can't even cook a turkey?!" she would bemoan, every November. Yellow marbled laminate was peeling off the counter tops, showing the cheap pressed wood underneath. I looked at everything as if it weren't my own home, but someone else's. If I were a visitor, what would I think of this place?

"But then," I thought, dumping my uneaten cereal and milk down the disposal, "who would ever come to visit?"

I didn't bother to put shoes on as I walked out the door and down the street. I hadn't visited the Finley's in a few days, and maybe Violet would be home and come with me. On the way, I tried to think of every possible trouble Rose could get into. I wondered if she'd shoplifted something from her favorite store at the mall, Wet Seal. Maybe someone at school had given her some drugs. Weren't there drugs at every high school? Maybe one of those drugs that is supposed to make you super thin. I guess it could be about a boy, although I never saw Rose with one boy more than any other. That was part of the problem of having a teacher for a dad--they all knew him, and he knew most of them. Who would want to date a girl if you'd failed her dad's algebra class?

The problems of high schoolers were baffling to me. I knew that high school was important, I had overheard my mom say "But, Rose--in high school, you're playing for keeps" at least twenty times. The grades you made, you kept. The clubs you joined and sports you played would determine what kind of major you had in college. You were playing for keeps.

As I got close to the Finley's, I saw Violet standing on the curb. I was glad. She smiled and waved at me, and I waved back. She fell into step beside me, without saying anything, and we walked up the ramp to the Finley's front door. I knocked on the glass and Mrs. Finley cracked the blinds just a bit, motioning for us to be quiet. She silently slid the door open and beckoned us in.

We slipped in from the sunlight into the darkness of their front room. All the shades were still closed. The swamp cooler was churning out humidity. I could hear Mr. Finley typing at the keyboard in his miniature bedroom, working on his family history. And on the couch, under an intricate and ugly afghan, Rose was sleeping.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Day 156: Clementine, Chapter 15

I knew Rose was in trouble because my dad said "Hey, kid, why don't you go sleep in our bed tonight?"

Which meant only one thing--he was planning to sit in the chair in the front room and wait for her to come home, at which point he was expecting a discussion that probably wouldn't be conducive to someone who was sleeping on the couch.

I always felt like waiting up in the front room would've been so much more of an impressive gesture if he'd owned a shotgun that he could lay across his lap. A shiny, polished Browning rifle, catching the gleam of the streetlamp as the door slid open.

As it was, I knew he would be sitting in the chair with his latest book. The touch-sensitive lamp on to it's dimmest setting.

My mom had looked hesitant as she headed to work that night, sending meaningful backward glances at my dad. I was bursting to know what they were all fighting about, but I knew full well that my parents wouldn't tell me straight out. I would have to stay awake and catch the discussion, that was all. Or wait until Rose was in the mood to vent while we were brushing our teeth. She did that less and less, though, so eavesdropping was my best chance.

I took a long, cool shower, to kill time. I would splay my fingers and watch the water run off the tips in little arcs. I used one of the guest soaps that was shaped like a seashell. I shaved my legs for maybe the third time in my life. Then I stretched into a long-sleeved t-shirt and flannel pajama pants. I brushed and flossed my teeth. Twice.

I sighed. And looked at the little digital clock by the sink. It was 10:00.

I walked out to the front room and found my dad with his head bent over a battered copy of Egypt: An Economic Geography. He was a sucker for the giveaway bin at the library. I kissed the top of his head and he smiled at me absentmindedly.

"G'night, love. Sleep tight."
I nodded, "Sure, Dad. Good luck."
"Thanks, kid."

I walked down the narrow hall and climbed into the sunken mattress in my parent's bedroom. I turned off the overhead light. I stayed awake, for the longest time, listening to the soft sound of my dad turning the pages of his book. I was determined to stay awake until Rose got home, to find out what they were fighting about.

But Rose didn't come home that night.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Day 155: Clementine, Chapter 14

We never found a meadow. Or a brook. We did find a pair of broken binoculars, a size 6 shoe, a whole Walmart bag full of cans to recycle, and 1,354 cigarette butts. Give or take a few.

I invited Violet home for dinner. She asked if my parents would mind. "They won't mind" I blurted, without considering.

I'd never had a friend home for dinner before. I'd never really had a friend home for any reason before. My parents would probably have a hard time concealing their giddy delight. Maybe Violet wouldn't notice.

Pushing open our glass front door, I called out "I'm home!" and walked into the kitchen, Violet on my heels.

I had interrupted something. I could tell. My dad was standing at the sink, twisting the life out of a dishrag. His face was composed into a tight calm. My mom was stirring something in a pan--her shoulders slightly hunched. She didn't look up. Rose was standing across from them giving her very best teenage girl "I resent authority" glare. I hadn't noticed how much she had perfected that art form before.

"Hey" I chirped, falsely, suddenly embarrassed by the awkward silence, "this is my friend, Violet."

My Mom jumped and sloshed something over the side of the pan. It landed on the burner and started to smoke. My Dad slapped a smile on his face that appeared genuine, "Well, hello, Purple! Nice to meet you!"

Violet wore a gigantic smile as she shook his hand comfortably. She looked so at ease. I snuck a glance at Rose, who was now glaring at the curling, faded linoleum. Her arms were folded across her chest, her hands balled into fists against her sides. "What's with her? What were they talking about?" I wondered. I never sensed tension like this in my family before.

My Mom finished wiping off the stove and turned, finally, to meet Violet. "Violet. Hello. We didn't know Clementine was expecting company." As she said this, she shot me a glare that said "Some warning, next time, please?" Trying to make up for things, I asked if there was anything I could do, to help with dinner.

"No. Just grab a seat. We're just about ready" said my dad, placing a bowl of lettuce on the table. Rose, letting out a sigh that was meant to be heard, stomped out of the room. At least she didn't slam her door.

Good. She was gone. We only had 4 chairs at the table and I didn't feel like dragging one of the living room chairs in. My mom put a hot pad on the table and set the pot on it, while my dad poured some milk. He even found some napkins in a drawer and put those next to the plates. I could tell they were trying to make things nice, because I had a guest. I would have to wait until later to find out what they were all fighting about.

Once my parents were seated, we started to dish up. Violet rummaged in her pocket and I saw her pull out another little wad of pills in a tissue. She popped them expertly into her mouth when my parents weren't looking at her, and swallowed quickly. At least, she thought they weren't looking. I could tell from a slight tilt of my mom's eyebrows that she had seen. Might as well get it over with.

"Violet has C.F." I tried to sound offhand about it. I hoped she didn't mind me just dumping it out there like that. I was watching for their reaction. Ever the nurse, my Mom's eyebrows shot up to her hairline. My Dad, of course, didn't skip a beat, "C.F.-- Clown Feet?! Oh, how terrible for you, Purple! Do you mind if I call you Purple? But I'm sure that you can special order shoes from the circus, right?" He shot us a wink. I giggled, and Violet put on a tragic air "Thank you for your sympathy, sir. It is so difficult to find shoes in a size twenty around here. Especially in green, which is my favorite color." I was laughing, stirring cheese as it melted into my chili.

Which reminds me, what was my mother thinking--cooking chili on a summer day? Two options: dings and dents bin at SaveMart or Special Buy at Big Lots.

I was relieved, now that they knew about Violet. My Mom would be able to explain it to me. And they wouldn't think she was bad for taking pills. They would know why she coughed a lot. They would make it all make sense.

Rose came back in the room. She was wearing her swimsuit under a pair of shorts, a towel over her arm. "I'm going swimming with some friends."

My Mom didn't even try to veil her surprise, "Swimming? Where?" There was the slightest hesitation from Rose, and I could tell my parents had sniffed it out. "At a friend's house. They have a pool." I knew my parents wanted to find out every blessed detail--whose house this was, what friend it was, if parents were going to be home, who else was going to be there. But I had a guest. They didn't want a fight. Violet was looking at them, with her wide eyes, so they finally just nodded.

"Home by 10:00." said my Mom.
"Yeah. Sure." said Rose, slinking noiselessly from the room and out the front door.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Day 154: Clementine, Chapter 13

And I did what any 13 year old would do if they heard that sentence. I flat out denied it.

"You're not going to die, Violet."
"Yes, I am."
"Well, yeah--someday. Everyone's going to die, someday."
"My someday is probably closer than yours."

Now she was ticking me off.

"Yeah? How do you know?" I stopped. One hand on my hip, dangling the Walmart bag, wondering how death got into this conversation in the first place. Violet turned and looked up at me. She sure was short. "I know I'm going to die before you because I have C.F. And people who have C.F. don't live very long. I think the record is 32. Or something like that."

She sat down on the curb, so I sat down next to her.
"What's 'C.F.'?" I asked, repentant now.
"Cystic Fibrosis."
I scooched a bit away, and she laughed "It isn't contagious."
"Cystic Fibrosis." I spat. What an ugly sounding disease.

Violet launched into a spiel that I could tell she'd given before. It sounded like something straight from a thick pamphlet you would get at the pediatrician's office. It might be called "CYSTIC FIBROSIS: A CHILD'S GUIDE." She was talking about mommys being a plus or minus and daddys being a plus or minus, and if you get two plusses then you can get a kid with cystic fibrosis, which means you get a whole ton of mucous, which is snot, so you cough a lot and your parents have to smack you on the chest and the back so you can cough into a tissue. And you have to take pills when you eat. That's what I got from her explanation, but it still made no sense.

"So, you got it from your parents. But I can't catch it?" I summarized.
"Is this why you're so short?"
"I'm not short," she sniffed defensively, "I'm petite. And yes."
"Oh. I wondered. Because you pretty much look like you're 7."

And then we cracked up laughing. Hysterically. Sitting there on the curb, with tears rolling down our cheeks, laughing like it was the funniest thing in the world that she looked like a 7 year old. When we finally ran out of steam, I opened the plastic bag and handed her a sandwich. She reached into her pocket and pulled out a tissue that had some pills wrapped in it. They were huge, but she swallowed them without any water, then took a big bite of sandwich.

I was chewing my own sandwich, with the morning sun warming my back and my hair. I could tell it was going to be smothering hot today. I hoped we'd find a semblance of a meadow soon so I could go swimming.

I finished my sandwich and brushed the crumbs off my Bugle Boy jeans. My mom had handed me these jeans and said "They're name brand! Bugle Boy. They're cool." I wondered what year purple baggy jeans with a high waist and tapered legs were cool in.

Next to me, Violet clapped her hands together, dusting off crumbs. "Let's find that meadow brook."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Day 153: Clementine, Chapter 12

We walked down the street, Violet clutching a jar for anything she might find, and me carrying a plastic Walmart bag with two peanut butter and honey sandwiches. Violet walked purposefully, stopping on occasion to inspect anything that caught her attention. She had decided to walk to the back of the trailer park, and start the hunt for the brook and the meadow there. I lagged slightly behind, looking passively at the things that were as familiar to me as the back of my eyelids. Violet had a lot of enthusiasm. It was good that I was there to provide some balance.

Suddenly, I remembered that when I'd asked Violet what grade she was in, she'd replied that she didn't know. What kind of answer is that?

"What kind of answer is that?" I said. Out of the blue.
"Which answer?" asked Violet, holding an old, decaying leaf up to the light.
"What grade you're in. How can you not know what grade you're in?"
"I don't go to school."

Wait. Wait a second. My thirteen year old brain couldn't process this information. I could feel the gears turning. What could this mean?

"You mean you're home schooled." I stated, proudly.

No. I bit the inside of my cheek and scrunched up my face. Violet looked up at me.
"My parents don't send me to school." she admitted.
"They don't... send you... to school."
"Why?" I puzzled.
"It's complicated." she muttered.
I snorted.
"Did you really just say 'it's complicated'?"
She nodded, shortly, in response.
I waited, but she didn't say anything else.
"But everyone has to go to school. There are laws."

Wow. I couldn't believe that came out of my mouth.

We walked for a minute in silence. I heard a tiny sigh next to me.
"My parents don't send me to school because it's a waste of time."
"But that doesn't make any sense--you learn lots of good things at school. It isn't a waste of time."
"It is, if you're me."
"What makes you so special?" I asked sarcastically, kicking a pebble.
"My parents just don't see the point in sending me to school all day every day when I'm just going to die."

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Day 152: Clementine, Chapter 11

I woke up sore the next morning and watched specks of dust floating in the sunshine coming in through the window. I hated sleeping on the couch.

For one thing, I couldn't really roll over and go back to sleep--especially during the summer. The sun came in and hit me right in the face. Before long, it got hot. Even the sound of the swamp cooler, chugging along, send only a damp whisper of cool to this corner of the room. So I could either pick up my pillow and go lay on the floor in the hall, right under the swamp cooler, and risk being tripped on by Rose or my mom getting home from work, or I could just get up.

I got up.

I walked into the kitchen and got myself a glass of lukewarm tap water and stood there staring out the window at the street as I drank it. Tabitha Sloane was dragging her rottweilers and miniature pony down the street, carrying her shovel and plastic bags. She only did that for appearances. Anyone who lived in our trailer park could look in the gutters and see that she didn't pick up after her pony. Just down, I saw Paulette walk out to her car, wearing a skirt that I'm fairly sure was never intended to be worn before 8:00 in the morning. She saw me in the window and waved her cigarette at me. I nodded back.

It was going to be hot. Maybe I would go lay under the swamp cooler after all.

I put my red Pizza Hut glass in the steel sink and turned to go get dressed. Out of the side window I could see our front steps. Sitting on them, making dandelion curls, was Violet.

I walked to the front door and pushed it open, "Hey!" I said happily, "What are you doing here so early?" She half turned and looked at me "You said to come by sometime."

Yeah, I had said that. I guess I just supposed that "sometime" was generally interpreted as "some afternoon."

I walked out on the porch and sat next to her. She continued to peel thin strips off of dandelion stems that curled up delicately. "What are you doing today?" I asked her. Somehow, she seemed like the kind of girl that would have something in mind. "I wanted to find the meadow and the brook. You wanna come?" It took me a second, and then I laughed. "There isn't any meadow or brook. Miss Peggy just made Meadow Brook up." She tilted one eyebrow "Have you ever looked?"
"Yes. And there is no meadow and no brook."
"Well, I want to look anyway. Do you want to come?"

I curled my bare toes around the edge of the cool wooden stair. I had been thinking to go to the pool. Wandering around the trailer park in search of a meadow or brook that I already knew weren't there sounded hot and boring. But then I glanced over at Violet, who had tossed the dandelion curls into the grass and was looking at me.

"Sure. Why not? Can we bring a picnic? I haven't had breakfast."
Her eyes got a peculiar, guarded look in them, "Sure. Or we could look for berries."

All of a sudden, I knew the look. She hadn't had breakfast either. And she probably didn't have any food for a picnic, and she was embarrassed. I felt so much older and wiser as I smoothed things over, "Why don't you come in and have some cereal with me, and then I'll make us some sandwiches and we can look for berries, too?"

Her face brightened, "What kind of cereal?"
Then I scowled as I remembered, "We only have Captain Vitamin. It was on sale."
She didn't skip a beat, "But I'll bet you have milk!"

Monday, June 8, 2009

Day 151: Clementine, Chapter 10

Rose was back.

I got home from the pool, pushed open the front door that was never locked, and squelched to my bedroom. Only the door was shut. I never shut the door. When I opened it, I saw Rose flopped on her back on my bed. Only, I guess it's her bed again. Because she chucked some socks at me and told me to stay out of her room.

I squelched back to the kitchen and took off my wet sneakers and draped my anorak over the kitchen chair because it was damp. I needed clothes. I debated going back to Rose's room and asking her if I could get my clothes, but the closest thing to the socks she'd thrown had been her Sunflowers perfume and if she threw that, the whole trailer would stink.

I opened the fridge, stared at it for a second, then shut it again. I stood there, looking at the business card size magnets for JOJO'S PIZZA: WE DELIVER and BAILEY, BENSON, & FELDSTEIN, ATTORNEYS AT LAW. Sometimes I like to see how many letters of the alphabet I can find on one magnet. I'd already done the one for the lawyers. It had every letter but K and Q.

I opened the fridge again. Still nothing good.

My mother had a tendency to buy ingredients, rather than food. Food is things like Oreos and Doritos and string cheese, or even fruit. Stuff you can eat. Ingredients are flour and oil and soy sauce. Things that are absolutely no good on their own, and--therefore--of no possible use to a 13 year old. This made looking through the fridge a daily ordeal.

I slouched back to the table and sat down in one of the vinyl chairs. A lone banana sat in a bowl in the middle of the table, covered in black freckles with little fruit flies hovering over it.

I heard my dad's Sentra pull into the driveway, and I saw him out the window. He was carrying a grocery bag. Thank heavens.

He came straight into the kitchen and plunked the bag down on the table proudly, "Fresh cherries! All you can eat!" I pulled the bag toward myself and pulled out a big plastic tub filled with cherries. They were the ones that were a little bit dinged or bruised and would never last to get to a grocery store, but not damaged enough for pie filling. My dad could bring home as many of these as he wanted; it was the single perk of his cherry job.

He sat down in the chair next to me and reached for a handful of cherries, popping them in his mouth, chewing and swallowing. He never washed his cherries and he always swallowed the pits. Rose and my Mom would make faces at him, and say "That's disgusting." Which is exactly why I grabbed a handful of cherries and popped them into my own mouth.

"Going swimming?" Dad asked, between gulps. I shook my head, "Already been. Just drying off." Instinctively, he leaned his chair back on two legs and looked down the hall at the closed door of Rose's bedroom. "Ah. Gotcha. What's up with Rose?" I shrugged at him. I just knew she wanted to be left alone.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Day 150: Clementine, Chapter 9

And I don't know why I did what I did next, but I did.

I laughed.

And you know what is never a good idea? Laughing at someone when they tell you their name. I know this, from personal experience. When your name is Clementine, middle school teaches you pretty quickly that it isn't nice to laugh at people's names.

She shifted and placed her little hand on her hip and looked at me with wide eyes. I cut off my laugh with an awkward "harumph."

"Violet?" I cleared my throat, testing the sound of the name, "Like the flower?"
"No. Like the color."

She didn't sound mad at me for laughing.

"My name is Clementine." I offered.
"Like the song?" she asked.
"No. Like the fruit." I responded.

Suddenly, we were both grinning at each other.

"You said you live here--where is here, Violet?" She turned and pointed down the street, "We just moved into that nice, blue house. Down there." I got goosebumps down my spine, and resisted the urge to correct her. It wasn't a nice blue house. It was a double wide Clinton Homes Trailer, circa 1987. "Your family have an Astro van?" I blurted out. She raised one eyebrow at me as she continued to smile. I felt like I'd been caught spying. Again.

"Hey--what grade are you in?" I asked, changing the subject.
"What do you mean you dunno? How old are you?"
"You don't look ten."
"My birthday's July 4th. I'll be 11 this summer."

I studied her, trying to figure out if she was telling me a joke. She was the tiniest ten year old I'd ever seen, if she was telling me the truth. My sister Rose was already wearing a bra when she was ten, and Violet hardly looked ready to ride a bike without training wheels. As I thought about Rose I realized that we all had nouns for names--we were all things.

Thinking of Rose also made me realize that I was standing there in broad daylight in a dripping swimsuit and a soggy anorak and she wouldn't have claimed me as her sister at that moment if you'd bribed her with a shiny new car.

"I gotta get home, Violet. I live down there," I said, pointing, "In the gold trailer. You can come by sometime, if you want."
She nodded solemnly, "Thank you, Clementine."

I walked away, my wet sneakers squeaking all the way home.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Day 149: Clementine, Chapter 8

"Where have you been?" I demanded.
"Nowhere. Right here." she replied softly, carefully depositing a bug in her jar.
"I've been looking for you. And I haven't seen you. What's your name?"
She looked up finally, with her piercing blue eyes. They weren't light blue--they were dark blue. Not as dark as the sapphires on my mom's class ring, but close.

She studied me for a moment, and I shifted in my wet sneakers.

"Why were you looking for me?"

Uhhhh... rats.

"I just wondered, who you were. And, uh, where you live?" I stammered.

She turned back to the gutter, shifting to the next pile of leaves and trash. "I live here." she said softly, distracted.

"Here?" I asked, confused, "Where, here?"

Picking up the little jar, she finally stood. She screwed the lid, which was punctured with holes, on the top. Then she wiped one hand down her shorts. Then the other.

Looking me in the eye, she said "Violet. My name is Violet."

Monday, June 1, 2009

Day 148: Clementine, Chapter 7

It was going to be a hot summer. It was only mid-June, and the air already prickled with the heavy scent of hot asphalt. The leaves on the trees, which still hadn't lost their spring green, looked a bit wilted by the afternoon.

There was only one place to be in heat like this: Cherry Hill Community Pool. So packed with people paying $2.00 a person that it's more filled with people than water. The perfect place to sit and watch the world go by. I yanked on last year's blue swimsuit, which my mother said was a fortunate Goodwill find, and covered it with a green anorak. The anorak was ridiculous, but I wasn't about to walk to the pool without a cover-up.

For two hours, I sat and dangled my feet in the water, then slid in once to get wet all over. I spent ten cents for a Jolly Rancher, and then started home, water sloshing around my bare feet inside my tennis shoes.

I had just entered our trailer park and was finishing up the very last shards of my Jolly Rancher when, up ahead, I saw a little figure crouched down on her haunches in the gutter--looking at something.


I approached her quietly, like a wild animal. She was barefoot, wearing cut off sweats and another too big t-shirt. There were leaves in her hair. Her hand held a stick, and she was using it to turn over leaves and garbage. Next to her foot was an old baby food jar, which looked like it was being used as a makeshift rolly-polly bug habitat.

"Hey." I said, hands on my hips.
She didn't look up, but replied with a soft, gravelly "Hello."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Day 147: Behind the Scenes

I have missed two days. I know. I am very (very) aware of that sidebar that says that my goal is to write something here "every day". It's staring at me. Even if I'm ignoring it.

But I haven't really been ignoring it. I've been "storyboarding" or sketching out where I want this story to go--figuring out the Point A and the Point B. It's a good thing to do, I'm thinking. Because if I don't know where I want to go, how will I ever get there? But it's not something I can really share here... not really...

So, meanwhile, for the next DAY, I'm going to post one of my favorite stories I've ever written. I have never posted it here. Because I like it too much. ;) Let me know what YOU think!


It is always dark on Christmas day in the North.
There is no sun at all, but only stars that blink sleepily
and ribbons of light that dance across the sky:
red, green, yellow, and blue.

The clean white snow is sparkling,
and the whole earth is quiet,
as if it's taken a deep breath in,
followed by a sigh.

From above, a sleigh made of rich, polished wood glides down,
landing softly on the snow.
The reindeer that pull it toss their heads lazily about;
they are hungry from their long night's work.

Father Christmas climbs from the sleigh,
now light without it's Christmas load.
He steps to one of the reindeer and runs his hand over it's fur,
offering a small handful of oats from his pocket.

His eyes are tired, but sparkling.
His mind is filled with visions of Christmas trees,
with their branches wrapped around the secrets of the coming day.

Reaching into his heavy fur cloak, Father Christmas pulls out a small package,
wrapped in shining paper and tied with a red bow:
the last gift of Christmas.

Father Christmas guides his reindeer into the stable,
where they are groomed and fed,
and then he steps into his small and cozy home.

He places the gift on the heavy wooden table.
After hanging his cloak on the hook behind the door,
he fills his mug with steaming cider, and sits down at the table.

Taking the gift in his large, rough hands
he sings in a deep, strong voice

"We three kings of Orient are,
bearing gifts we traverse afar,
field and fountain, moor and mountain
following yonder star...
Star of wonder, star of light
star with royal beauty bright.
Westward leading, still proceeding,
Guide us to thy perfect light. "

Smiling, he pictures children around the world,
discovering the gifts he'd left for each of them.
He had many friends that helped him to make the gifts,
but each year there was one he made himself.

Father Christmas was very old.
Many, many years before a new star had appeared,
and his three friends from the East, the West, and the South
had gone to seek the star.

Each had carried with them a gift: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
But Father Christmas, of the North, had stayed behind, for he was busy,
and had not prepared a gift for his king.

So now, each year, working slowly and carefully,
he carved one gift out of the finest wood.
A gift worthy of an infant king, if ever he were to find him.

And each year, when he wasn't busy
carving and smoothing and polishing,
he spent every waking hour, making gifts for children everywhere.
This was his gift for his king.

Now, holding the last gift of Christmas,
that he was still waiting to give,
he gazed at the flickering fire and the snow fell softly against his window.

He thought of the children, waking now, and finding the gifts that he'd left for them.
Smiling contentedly, his heavy eyes began to close, and he hoped his gift for his king would be enough.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Day 146: Clementine, Chapter 6

"The trailer next door to the Finleys is for rent" I mentioned that night as I grated the cheese for dinner. My Mom stood right next to me in the tiny kitchen, stirring taco meat.

"Which trailer?" she asked, disinterested.
"The blue one." I replied, not quite sure why I'd brought it up.

My dad walked in, his hands stained orange from sorting cherries and circles under his eyes from teaching driver's ed. "We don't want a blue trailer. We already have a gold one." he joked, yawning and mussing my hair.

I put the cheese on the table next to the diced tomatoes and the sour cream, and then heard the front door slide open. Rose was home. I didn't even have to take a step to grab another plate out of the cupboard and put it on the table for her.

She poked her head into the kitchen, "Mm, smells good, Mom." My Mother beamed at her, "Staying for dinner, Rose?" "Um, yeah. Think so. I'll be here tonight." There was a tiny hesitation in her voice that I noticed as I placed a fork next to her plate. She glanced at me and then looked away.

"Hey, kiddo" my Dad said to me as he plunked himself down into his seat "You wanna get in your pajamas and go to Brewsters for 'Free Ice Cream if you Wear Your Pajamas' night?"
I nodded vigorously, already going through the list of flavors in my mind. Grasshopper... Cinnamon... Chocolate Explosion... Graham Cracker...
"Are we not invited?" my Mom pretended to pout.
"No. You always complain about being seen in your pajamas in public" Dad teased back.

Half an hour later I was standing in front of Brewsters, considering the list of ice cream flavors. I was wearing my fuzzy purple pajama pants and an old t-shirt with my slippers. My dad was wearing matching navy blue silk pajamas with a black robe. We'd given them to him for Christmas. Former students gaped and giggled, and he smiled at them good naturedly. He already knew what he wanted "Fudge Brownie Mud Slide." I couldn't decide between "Jamaican Me Crazy" and "Birthday Cake Confetti", and then I saw the Flavor of the Week: blackberry.

Blackberry. Who was that girl? I'd kept looking for her, everywhere, in the couple weeks since I'd seen her there, in the blackberries. I'd purposely wandered through all the neighborhoods anywhere close to that wild berry patch, and never seen the slightest trace of her. I was beginning to think that maybe I'd seen a ghost.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Day 145: Clementine, Chapter 5

Balancing my melamine plate carefully on one hand and nibbling at bits of chip with my other hand, we made our way down the hall to Mrs. Finley's bedroom. I had to be careful not to trip over the small area rugs that she had placed everywhere to keep people from stepping on her nice, white carpet. She paused at the closed door, raising her eyebrows at me excitedly and said "Ready??" I nodded once and took a bite of Twinkie.

She threw open the door and said "Ta-da!"

The last time I had seen Mrs. Finley's bedroom, there was a patchwork quilt on her bed, a dresser with, approximately, 300 assorted knick-knacks, and a rocking chair in the corner. A bit shabby, but comfortable.

But now? She had outdone herself.

The window directly opposite me now had scarves of sheer fabric hanging lopsidedly over the metal blinds. Below the window, her bed was draped a deep red sateen comforter with heart-shaped throw pillows. The homey nick-knacks had been replaced with vases of fake roses that had fake, plastic dew drops on them. A feather boa hung on one corner of the mirror and an overwhelming scent of dollar-store, rose scented candles wafted out the door.

I almost choked on my Twinkie, as my eyes bugged out of my head.

"It's my sexy bedroom" she boasted "I watched a show the other day that talked all about how important it is to make your bedroom a romantic haven."

A romantic haven? Glancing over my right shoulder, I could see Mr. Finley's bedroom just down the hall. He had slept in a separate bedroom, he claimed bitterly, for more than 30 years. Crammed in there with a tiny television set, every book Louis L'Amour had ever written, and his steel toed cowboy boots.

"Wow, Mrs. Finley. I didn't know you liked red so much" was all I could manage. She beamed in my direction and waved me in with a breathless, "Make yourself comfortable, dear." I looked around for someplace to sit and finally settled on the foot of her bed. She chose the rocking chair, now bedecked with furry pillows that shed.

Taking a bite of hot dog, I asked her "You said it matched something. What does it match?"
"Oh!" she fluttered "I'll show you."

She took three short shuffles across the room and pulled back the sliding door to her closet. Reaching way into the back, behind all the eras of clothing surely hiding in that space, she pulled out a garment bag. Unzipping the bag, she slid out a red satin dress and held it up for me to see.

It was a very pretty tea length dress, the kind of dress you saw in pictures from 50 years ago. The folds in the satin were so established that it looked like they would be impossible to iron out.

"It was my going away dress. For my honeymoon." Mrs. Finley said dreamily, softly stroking the fabric, "I felt so beautiful."

Oh. I got it.

"Well, this quilt matches it just right then!" I said cheerfully. She smiled at me, but her eyes were still far away. She shook her head and put the dress back in it's bag and shoved it into the recesses of the closet again.

"Hey, Mrs. Finley," I asked "has anyone looked at that old trailer next door? Do you think anyone will rent it?"

I tried not to let my voice sound too hopeful. I knew that my only hope of getting a friend--a real friend--was for someone to move in. It was a long shot. Not a whole lot of middle schoolers moved into trailer parks. That's why my mom says "Hope springs eternal." Because you just can't help yourself from hoping that a new best friend will move in down the street and have a trailer even dumpier than your own.

"Hm. I think I saw Miss Peggy show it to some people yesterday. Driving a red Grand Prix. You can never trust people who drive Grand Prix."

I nodded.

Parents of middle schoolers probably wouldn't be driving a red Grand Prix. What I needed was a 1991 teal Astro van. If she spotted one of those looking around next door, then my chances were lots better.

"Well, I gotta go, Mrs. Finley. Thanks for the hot dog."
She nodded again, smiling, "Come back tomorrow, dear. You can help me re-do my bathroom."
I grinned as I waved to Mr. Finley, who grunted back, and walked out the front door.

I stopped short. Parked next door was a teal Astro van. I almost could've bet it was a 1991.