Summer Day, Twelve

The cool breeze and shade diminished the heat of the sun as I walked down the road to Marie’s house.  I watched the big maples and oaks as I walked, their leaves rippling and swaying in the wind, the sun filtering through them creating dappled patterns, moving kaleidoscope-like on the pavement.  I tried leaping into spots of sun but the dance was too fast, I kept losing the game.

The rustle of chipmunks and squirrels startled me as much as I startled them, leaving me relieved to see them scampering under the leaf cover, over a log, or up a tree.  When the woods got thicker, the sun spots all but disappearing from the road, I worried about hungry bears and wolves attacking me, and I’d quicken my pace, but never run.  Running was cowardly, and the rule was, I’d only run if I actually saw a bear or wolf, otherwise, I just had to feel the fear, knowing that it wouldn’t be far until the trees thinned out, giving way to the fields, where I’d be back under the hot sun, hoping the breeze kept up.

Some days, when there was no breeze, I’d pretend I was lost in the desert, the shimmer of heat up from the pavement was a mirage – that wasn’t Marie’s house up ahead, really.  It would disappear when I got closer, my parched lips, dry mouth, and swollen tongue would find no respite.

The game ended when I reached her driveway, and sometimes she would be outside waiting for me, and then we’d go off, away from her nosy little brothers, and play games with her Barbie and Ken doll – marrying them and then making them get divorced for various reasons.  The hottest days, when she was inside, I’d revel in the cooler inside air, going over the kitchen sink, helping myself to a long drink of water – rescuing the poor desert wanderer.

My parents had divorced about two years then, and I liked being at Marie’s house where her mother and father were together, and they lived a life as normal as I wish I had.

It was many years later, when I had my child, that I realized what it must have seemed like to Marie’s parents – that no one wondered where I was, that I could stay over any time I wanted, no permissions needed.  Her parents talked of wanting to adopt me that summer, a conversation I heard and related to my mother, begging her to let me live there.  My mother, her pride kicking in, refused, thus sealing my fate – and I wish I had known how to ask skillfully, maybe requesting to stay at Marie’s for the summer, and not mentioning adoption…

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Abstractly Distracted’s Blog, 2010 – current.

 

Halloween Is Here Again, DPChallenge, I Wish I Were

I wish I were a child again – experiencing the night as I did all those years ago, the anticipation and fun.

I wish I were a young mother again – getting my son ready for Halloween night, and how much fun it was to roam the neighborhood with other moms and their children, witnessing the excitement, and helping create the sense of magic about to happen.

Spooky Halloween everyone! I hope you enjoy the day, and especially the night! Have fun and be safe. Cheers!

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Abstractly Distracted

On Hallowe’en, when I was around five or six (maybe even the same year I split my head open), my older siblings were allowed to leave on their own to go trick-or-treating, but I had to stay home until I finished my supper, and wait for my mom to get my little brother in his costume.

I remember thinking how completely unfair it was that I had to wait for my baby brother, and be treated ‘like a baby’, when my next oldest sister was only two years older than me, and she got to go out with my other sister and brothers.  After enough complaints, my mother warned me that she could leave me home while she brought my brother around if I kept harassing her.  I don’t think I uttered a word after that until we finally went out into the chilly night.

We had split-pea soup…

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BW (Black and Whitey) The Cat

When I was fifteen, I spent a lot of time with friends who had a couple of cats.  Shemee, and Black and Whitey, but we called her BW.  Shemee, a big black male, would often spray on the television (sometimes while we were watching TV – the brazen cad), and a couple of other areas, and BW was a slender girl who would also ‘spray’ in the same areas after Shemee had sprayed.  My friends had Shemee neutered shortly after he started spraying, but he continued to spray (although my friends seemed to think that the operation would end his spraying).  BW continued to ‘spray’, and would often try to mount Shemee, but Shemee would slap her down.

Both were indoor/outdoor cats, and my friends had hoped that BW would have a litter of kittens before they got her spayed.  BW seemed to think she was male, so I doubted she’d ever have kittens.  There was a big white Tom cat with one blue and one green eye who roamed the neighborhood.  He was usually sweet-natured to humans, but you could see from the chunk out of his ear, and other scars that he’d been in a few fights.

A few years went by and BW still did not have kittens, so my friends assumed she was barren.  One of my friends saw the big white Tom catch her later that year, and we wondered if she’d have a successful litter, and if she’d realized she was, in fact, a she.  The big day came, and BW was in labor.  She had a box in the closet lined with some soft rags, and was mewing piteously for a while, finally birthing – one kitten.  She was a good mama though, very attentive and sweet.  She stopped trying to spray the television, or mount other cats after that too.

Her kitten was an all white male, proving to have one blue, and one green eye as he grew.  My friends let BW get pregnant once more before getting her spayed, and she had a litter of six that time.

BW was a special cat to me, sleeping with me the times I stayed over my friends’ house, and always coming to me for attention.  My friends moved away a year or so later, and I never saw them, Shemee, or BW, again, but they remain fondly in my memories.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Westward Ho!

“I just can’t take it anymore,” I complained to Tammy, cradling the phone with my neck while I finished washing the dishes.  “I need a serious change and I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, why don’t you come live out here with me and Dean?  That way you have a place to stay for a while until you get on your feet, and I’m happy to help out.”

I was quiet on the phone for a minute. “Wow”, I finally said through my tears.  “Really, you’d do that for me?   You do remember what it’s like to live with a three-year old, right?”

Tammy laughed and said: “Yes, and I miss having a little boy around.  Danny wants to continue living with his father in New Hampshire, and that’s been really hard for me, but he’s thirteen, and he has good friends there, and I just have to accept that I’m only going to see him for vacations.  I think it’ll be good for both of us if you come live out here.”

“Let me think about it some more, and I’ll get back to you.”

“I’m here for you, whether you stay in Maine, or come out to San Diego.”

“Thanks, Tammy.  I love you.”

“Love you too.  Bye.”

“Bye.”

That conversation in March of 1994 changed my life.  I had a new option, and while I had friends and some support where I was, I was a single mom in poverty, with no car and only a part-time job that I was about to lose.  It snowed over a hundred inches that winter in South Portland, Maine, and I was very close to giving up my son to his alcohol-addicted father, and committing suicide.  I had a plan, and I was getting the courage to implement it when chance circumstances re-connected me with a friend I hadn’t talked to in nearly ten years.

Imagining a different life helped make the life I was in a bit more tolerable, and I began preparations to make the move.  Several friends and relatives told me that it would be stupid to move so far away with someone I hadn’t seen in so long, even though we had been best friends through high school, and I had a young child to consider, and what was I thinking, dragging him across the country?

The other contingent, whom I sided with, saw it as an opportunity to better myself and give my son a chance at a better life too.  As I went, so went my son, type of thing.

I made my decision, and Tammy, who was going to fly back East in July to stay with her father for a few weeks while spending time with her son, decided to drive out with a friend, and bring me and my son back out with them on their return trip.

She had a pick-up truck with a tall shell for the truck bed, which she furnished with a mattress, and I was to sell my beds and other large belongings because they wouldn’t fit in the small trailer we’d rent for the trip back to California.  She had a guest room with a bed that my son would sleep on, and I would stay on the couch until I found work and could buy new beds.  I sold all of our big furniture, and kept my son’s books and most of his toys, as well as dishes and whatever else could fit in the trailer, because we’d be taking turns driving while one of us slept in the back of the truck.  I ended up paying for one night in a motel room so we could have a shower and get a decent night’s sleep.

My boyfriend at the time and I had a rocky relationship, but we liked each other enough to work through issues.  He asked me to stay in Maine, but conceded that he didn’t know where he saw our relationship going.  The week before I left, he told me he would have asked me to marry him if I didn’t have a child.  After he said that, I knew leaving was the right decision.  So many choices in my life translated to ‘damned if I don’t, damned if I do’ propositions.

August 4th, moving day: Tammy and her friend, Ann, were to arrive around Noon.  I spent the morning cleaning my apartment, and bringing whatever didn’t sell, and I didn’t want, outside to bring to the dump when my friend arrived.  My son was upset that most of our things were gone, and he didn’t want to go anywhere.  By the time Tammy got there, I was sweaty and irritated, and wondering if this had been such a good idea after all.

It was really good to see Tammy, and Ann and I pretty much instantly disliked one another. She made some remark about my attitude, and I was kind of stunned that this person I barely knew was openly judging me after having worked my ass off all morning, with a crabby child in tow, and no other help.  “Fuck you”, I wish I had said, but having a bit more grace than her, I fluffed it off and asked Tammy if she’d bring the junk pile to the dump, while I got some lunch for my son and played with him for a while. She, being a parent herself, was completely empathetic about my state of mind, and told me to take a break, and she’d deal with the trash and help me finish whatever cleaning was left to do later.

It took several more hours than expected to finish up, rent the trailer, and make sure we were ready to hit the road.  We left Maine around 5pm, with my son and I in the back of the truck for the overnight drive.  Luckily the truck’s motion put my son to sleep fairly soon, but I had too much anxiety, so I slept very little.

We drove through the night, choosing a route through the Poconos, which Tammy later told me creeped her out because Ann had fallen asleep, and my son and I were out of view in the way back – the window into the cab being hidden behind boxes, blankets, and pillows – and she was thinking about the Sleepy Hollow legend, imagining seeing the Headless Horseman as she drove through the darkness, with few other travelers that late.  We could have kept each other company, but I wouldn’t have been comfortable leaving my son in the back of the truck where I wouldn’t know what was going on with him, or with Ann, who wasn’t fond of children.

I drove the next morning, our route taking us through most of Ohio, and then down through Kentucky, and finally into Tennessee where we would stay on I-40 for the bulk of the trip.

We stayed in a motel in Tennessee the one night we didn’t drive through.  One bane of the trip was automatic flush toilets, which seemed to be installed at every stop we made, and which my son was afraid of, along with any loud, not-easily understood noises, so we had to find rest stops with a Port-A-Potty (or a wooded area) for most of the journey.

By the third day, we were all miserable, and my son was the only one vocalizing it freely and frequently, to which Ann questioned my child-rearing style of just letting him complain. I told her I had learned to tune out most of what he said, and did my best to keep him entertained by imitating his favorite Sesame Street characters voices, while making up stories, singing songs, and playing games, which seemed to annoy Ann, and made it even more pleasurable for me.  Poor Tammy was caught between trying to support her friend, but enjoying being with my son, grumpy or not.

I’m sure Ann was most happy when my son and I were riding in the back of the truck, or when she was back there sleeping.  I was most happy when it was just Tammy, my son, and I, riding up front.  I was driving when we neared Flagstaff, Arizona, and I saw a ‘Grand Canyon, 50 miles’ sign.  Ann was riding up front with me and my son, and I asked her if it would be ok if we took a detour as I had never seen the Grand Canyon, and thought it would be a perfect opportunity.  Ann said she’d rather not, but if Tammy was willing, then she’d go along with it.  The hitch was that I’d have to wake Tammy up to ask her, and I didn’t want to interrupt her sleep, so we continued on into California where Ann took over the driving until we reached her apartment in Ocean Beach.

I’ve always regretted not making a unilateral decision and just driving to the Grand Canyon because I still have not been there.

I was talking to Tammy on the phone the other day, both of us amazed at how much time has gone by, and she suggested I move back out once my son is through college, and I’m seriously considering it.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Too Young To Trick-or-Treat On My Own

On Hallowe’en, when I was around five or six (maybe even the same year I split my head open), my older siblings were allowed to leave on their own to go trick-or-treating, but I had to stay home until I finished my supper, and wait for my mom to get my little brother in his costume.

I remember thinking how completely unfair it was that I had to wait for my baby brother, and be treated ‘like a baby’, when my next oldest sister was only two years older than me, and she got to go out with my other sister and brothers.  After enough complaints, my mother warned me that she could leave me home while she brought my brother around if I kept harassing her.  I don’t think I uttered a word after that until we finally went out into the chilly night.

We had split-pea soup that night, which was one of my favorite dishes my mom made, but there would be no seconds that night.  I wanted to get out there and trick-or-treat until my pillowcase was filled to the brim with candy!  I never stopped to think how heavy it would be to actually fill a pillowcase full of candy.  Back then, there were no ‘fun-sized’ candy bars, only full-sized bars, but people often gave things like small boxes of raisins, or popcorn balls, or apples.  My mom would usually throw out anything that wasn’t store-bought, so I had to beg her let me keep a candied-apple one year, and she finally acquiesced after I badgered her so much that she told me it would serve me right if I found a razor-blade in the apple.  I also think I lied and told her I knew who it was who gave me the apple, so she could have them arrested if I died.

All week before Hallowe’en I walked home from school singing the Five Little Pumpkins song, and felt a chill up my spine when I sang, “Oo, ooh went the wind, and out went the light…!”  I would pull off any leaves still clinging to their branches that I could reach on my way home, as though that would hasten the arrival of the much-anticipated day.

My older sisters and brothers always ended up with more candy than I, or my younger brother ever got, and I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait until I was old enough to get as much candy as them.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

A Stitch In Time

When I was about five or six, my family moved into a two-story house heated by steam radiation.  I used to try spinning on the twist knobs at the bottom of the cast iron radiators, and managed a three-quarter turn.  I stopped my efforts at a full turn when I fell and got a black eye after hitting the knob. 

My older sisters and brothers used to scare me and my little brother around Hallowe’en by taunting us before bedtime with a ghostly sounding chant of: “There’s a bad guy in the window!”, starting low and soft and reaching a high crescendo after the third or fourth refrain, and we’d run screaming up to our rooms.  A night or so before Hallowe’en that year, my brothers got the bright idea of cutting out a cardboard silhouette of a man, placing it in the upstairs window near my bedroom, and illuminating it with a flashlight behind the curtain.

While the 'bad guy' in the window didn't look like this, this drawing I found is creepy enough to represent what it looked like to me.

I got so scared when I saw it, especially because one of my sisters was chanting the ‘bad guy’ theme just before my brothers moved to reveal the cut-out, or somehow made sure I saw it.  I ran screaming with my hands over my eyes and my head down, directly into one of the cast iron radiators.  I cut the top of my head open so deep that my mother had to bring me to the hospital to get stitches.

I remember that when we got to the hospital and they were cleaning the wound, the nurse told me that the doctor was going to sew me up, but if I needed him to stop, just tell her it hurt, and they’d stop.  I was lying face down in a pillow, and yelled as loud as I could for them to stop because it hurt so much, but they didn’t listen.  My only consolation was that it took three nurses to hold me still enough for the doctor to finish sewing up the wound.  I was so mad at that nurse for tricking me.

Being lied to about pain when I was a child led me to always tell my son that shots, or stitches, etc., would indeed hurt, but that I believed he could handle it, and it would be over as quickly as possible.  Thankfully, there weren’t many times I needed to prepare him for pain.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Another Summer Day

I’ve just woken up, and the smell of grass, flowers, and trees wafts in through the kitchen window as I heat water in the kettle on the stove for my coffee.  I turn on the radio to hear, Summer Breeze, by Seals and Crofts, and smile at the moment’s synchronicity.

Another breeze gently billows the kitchen window curtain and this time the scents carried in place me back to a summer morning when I was fifteen.  I’d been woken up around five that morning by my friend, Steven, who urged me to get dressed quickly because he was taking me and his son somewhere.  When I asked where he said: “Nevermind that, just hurry up!”.

I pulled on my shorts and shirt, brushed my teeth, and ran out the door to his idling truck.  His sleepy-eyed four year-old son smiled at me, and I grinned back as I slid into the seat beside him, and we were on our way.

Steven would only say that we were headed up to Leyden, and that he wanted to show us something.  We rode in silence for several miles, Steven’s son having fallen back asleep as we drove on.  Steven finally broke the silence by announcing that we were almost there.  We turned off the main road onto a dirt, tractor path, heading out toward a field ahead of us.  It looked as though the path was not often used as a patch of thick grass grew in the rise between the tire ruts, and thin weeds spotted the tracks themselves.

Steven drove his truck to a rise in a copse of trees and parked.  He got out and motioned for us to do the same.  Steven picked up his son as we got out of the truck, and I followed him to the edge of the trees overlooking another field where he stopped, telling us to crouch down and be very quiet.  He began speaking in a loud whisper about a morning some months before when he and another friend had been camping at that very spot and witnessed a UFO rising from the field below into the sky early that next morning; the only sound they heard was a deep hum, as you might hear in an electrical plant.

He continued telling us how he and his friend watched the massive disk-shaped craft rise straight up until it cleared the tree line, and then sped up in diagonal trajectory, gone from their sight within seconds.  After some time in disbelief of what they had seen, and in fear that the craft might re-appear, they hesitantly made their way down into the field to find flattened grass, but no other trace that anything unusual had been there.

I felt scared as we watched the field, but nothing happened.  Steven brought us down into the field after waiting expectantly for what seemed like the better part of an hour, but nothing had been disturbed, and he was disappointed because he said he had a feeling that we might witness the UFO again.  I gave him a look of sympathy, but inwardly felt relieved that nothing had happened while we were there.

He took us out to breakfast before heading back home.  Later, I told my friends Steven’s story, but they scoffed and said he was just messing with me.  I laughed it off with them as a good practical joke, but knew that Steven had been quite sincere.

I think about that morning from time to time and always feel special that he chose me to share it with.  He must have known that out of anyone else he could have asked, I’d believe him.  I hope to see an alien craft someday, but have no wish to meet alien beings – even if they’re harmless.  I’ve seen too many movies that display the opposite qualities.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Long Ago Summer Night

Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad, by, Meatloaf, is playing on a humid July night. I’m reading Pardon Me, You’re Stepping On My Eyeball, by Paul Zindel, on the hood of a friend’s Chevy Cavalier, waiting for a few of my other friends to show up and decide what we’re going to do with the rest of the night.

It’s quiet on the Avenue, but I hear the strains of Meatloaf out of the jukebox coming from the bar next door, and I look up from my reading to watch the moths and other night bugs swirl around, looking like aberrant snowflakes in the street light above the car I’m perched on.

My shorts and top cling to me in the sticky humidity, and I hope we decide to go swimming in the Green River, or at the Leyden Glen.  We had been removed from there by police officers the week before, but they couldn’t be there all the time, so we took our chances going back on hot, humid nights.

I had worked at, Zapmia Pizza (baby), earlier that evening, and was glad to be done with my shift on such a hot day. I was anxious to meet up with my friends, and hoped they would show up soon.  Debbie was the first to arrive. I was so absorbed in my book that I didn’t notice her until she hopped up onto the car hood, causing it to buckle a little as she plunked down, but the hood popped back up as she shifted her weight toward the center next to me.

We exchanged greetings and then chatted about the book for a few minutes, and finally other friends started arriving so we made our evening plans.

I remembered this so strongly tonight that I could feel the night air around me as I did back then, and hear how the music sounded muffled until a patron went in or out of the bar and the music would blast out from the entrance for a few moments until the door was shut once again.

While I don’t miss that time of my life, and especially what was happening to me, I dearly miss my friends and the closeness we shared.  A part of my soul is back there with them – maybe it’s even trapped in some odd space/time continuum – or perhaps less trapped than enshrined.  I get to visit the museum exhibit in my mind, but it’s an empty picture of the vibrant life that was actually there.

They were the people who knew and understood me on a level that no one else will ever come close to, but they live on in my heart and soul, and I hope I live on in theirs.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

The Wild Ride

It was in the high nineties yesterday.  I helped my mom run some errands and then we had lunch and I brought her home.  The path down to her place made me feel like I was walking through a rainforest with the sounds of various bird calls, insects, and the weak sun filtering through the tree canopy on such a hazy, humid day.  I imagined that life was this way before we humans arrived, and would continue long after we leave (provided the Earth hasn’t been sucked into the sun by then – or whatever event precedes Earth’s demise).

I knew a storm was forecast for later in the day, and as I drove home, I could feel it coming on.  My gas warning light came on a few miles before I was near a gas station, but I was fairly confident I would make it as long as I didn’t have to idle anywhere.  I vaguely wondered if it would use more gas to turn off and on my engine if I did get stuck in traffic, but I wasn’t hindered by anything.

As I pulled into the gas station, however, the ominous clouds I had seen forming on the far horizon were now headed over the gas station canopy, while another cloud bank was converging into the one over me.  There was eerie greenish light in the storm clouds and a fierce wind picked up while torrential rain poured down.  I don’t know why I didn’t just stay there and wait out the storm.  I think I was worried about the gas station not being a safe place to be, so I pulled out, barely able to see through the rain pounding my windshield, even with the wipers on fast.  Traffic was stopped at a tree that had fallen across the road, so I made a U-turn to take another street.  I watched the tree limbs above me bending and swaying and while I was prepared to stop quickly, I had already decided to keep moving unless forced to stop.

I took the least tree-lined route, instead of my usual one, and at first I thought I had gone the best way; the rain had lessened in intensity, but the storm continued with lightning flashing and the wind still whipping as I turned up another side street hoping to avoid traffic or any accidents.  There was a tree in the road ahead of me, and a pick-up truck drove over to my side of the road, narrowly missing me as the driver careened around the tree and then corrected to get past my car.  I rounded the corner to see another tree down, but it had fallen at an angle with a gap large enough for my car to pass under it – which was really dumb of me, I know – but I was in amygdala/panic mode, not neo-cortex/processing mode.  I got through that to see another tree up ahead and someone ahead of me getting out of their car to check it out.  I put my window down and yelled at her not to touch anything if there was a wire down.  She ran back a moment later saying that there was a wire in the road.

My car has four-wheel drive and I told her I could avoid most of the tree top by driving up the hill around it, and she told me she was going to follow me.  I knew it would be easy to navigate that, and I waited to make sure the other driver got around it before continuing on.  I called the police to let them know that three trees and a wire were down on that road.  There were lots of tree limbs and other debris scattered about the road, but no more whole trees.  The storm was passing and I had turned on my radio after leaving the gas station in case there were any emergency broadcasts, but there was only regular programming.  I thought that was weird because it was such an intense storm, but I guess I was unlucky enough to be at the head of it.

The shape of the storm front reminded me of some kind of alien craft.  The entire edge was rounded while lower clouds were being kneaded into the larger mass, and it was very fast-moving.  I feel stupid now that my last act could have been putting gas into my car and trying to dodge being tornado fodder.  The best thing I could have done was to go inside the store and wait out the storm, or at least park beside the nearby open field.  I’m not sure getting into a ditch would have been a good idea unless I actually saw a funnel cloud because the rain was pouring so hard the ditches were flash-flooding.  Death by drowning might have been preferable to being sucked up into a tornado, but that’s a tough call.  Thankfully, I didn’t need to choose.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Doors Of Dublin

On my Ireland trip in 2009, I took pictures of doors that I had hoped to make into a poster after seeing various ‘doors of’ posters in the past that I thought were cool.  I don’t have the best camera, and am an amateur photographer (obviously), but here is my attempt (click on the smaller image to enlarge it):

I thought it strange that several doors have their knobs in the middle of the door, but that is an exception as most of the places we went had the knobs on the side of the door.  I wish one of the doors with the knob in the center of the door had belonged to a public venue because it would have been interesting to see if it felt as odd as it looked to open the door.

This back-garden hedge entry is not in Dublin, but I liked it so much I wanted to include it in this post.  It’s from a Bed & Breakfast that we stayed at in County Cork that made me feel like I’d enter Narnia by going through it, or at least into the Secret Garden:

I hope to take another trip when I can spend more time in one area instead of trying to sight-see the country in a week…

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Doggone Memory

When I was eleven, two girls moved into the commune with their mother, and brought their dog, Suzi, with them.  Suzi was a cute, short-haired mutt with a sweet personality, and she made life so much more bearable.

Today is Suzi’s birthday, and my memory of her is bittersweet.  Even though she was the other girls’ dog, she liked me and I was always playing with her – her owners being more occupied with their peers than I was (or than I was privileged to be, but that’s another story).

Us younger commune kids weren’t involved in the larger world around us that often, so it was exciting when we got to go anywhere, especially an event like the Memorial Day parade.  One of the adults decided to take a group of us kids to the parade in a town we had not been to before.  Our chaperone let me take Suzi, and she usually minded well, so I didn’t worry that she would wander off.

She had no leash, but did have a collar with her name on the tag, but no number to call if she was lost.  Even if there were a number, it would have been from New York where Suzi had been registered.

It was an overcast day, with a steady drizzle by the time we got to the town and were walking from the lot we parked in to a spot where we could watch the parade.  As we walked, I had to keep waiting for Suzi, who wanted to sniff everything, and I was soon falling behind the group I was with and feared losing them.

There were so many people and I was so scared when I looked up the street after waiting for Suzi and could no longer see anyone from my group.  I called Suzi one last time and then ran to catch up, thinking that Suzi would find us by following my scent.  She didn’t.

We spent about an hour after the parade searching and calling for Suzi, but couldn’t find her.  We called the police and described Suzi, and because we lived in the commune where someone always needed the vehicles, we didn’t take any trips back to continue the search for her.  No one even helped me put up posters, or made any real attempts to get her back.

The girls were understandably furious with me, and I was devastated.  I considered her my dog as well because I spent so much time with her and I loved her.

Writing this from my adult perspective, I felt the grief of losing her all over again, and I’m still angry that no one earnestly tried to help me find Suzi.  I was this powerless girl in a sea of adults who couldn’t be bothered.  It might not be worthy of a Charles Dickens novel, but it was pretty close.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Leaving Colorado

When I was nineteen I moved to Boulder, Colorado, to live with one of my sisters who couldn’t find a roommate, so she asked if I would move out there, find work, and help her pay her rent until the lease was up and she could move back east.  I was only out there for six months, but it was quite the journey for me.  We lived near the Flatirons, on Baseline Road.  My sister worked for the University of Colorado at Boulder, and I found office work about a week after I arrived.

Boulder is a beautiful city and my sister and I had a lot of fun doing things like walking around the Pearl Street Mall, and frequenting The Dark Horse, a really cool bar and restaurant just down the road from where we lived.

Our apartment complex had a pool and I taught a few of the younger kids who lived there how to do flips off the diving board.  I remember one girl, Michelle, who was about ten, flipped too close to the board and slammed her head on it.  What an awful moment that was.  I think she got a concussion and came through it alright, but I stopped teaching anyone how to flip after that.  Michelle became one of my constant companions when I was home, and even though she was a kid, I was emotionally immature enough that we got along well.  I think of her now and then and wonder how her life has turned out.  I hope she has had (and is having) an amazing life.

My sister made plans to visit her best friend in Seattle, who was about to have a baby, and I told Michelle that she could come to the airport with us to see my sister off.  I had made friends with a few people from work and they were going to see Jimmy Buffet, at Red Rocks (a gorgeous natural amphitheater concert venue in Morrison, CO), and invited me to go.  I was so psyched for the concert but it fell on the same day as my sister’s departure.  My sister understood and was fine with me not seeing her off, and I decided to just blow off my promise to Michelle about taking her to the airport.  What I didn’t understand was how excited Michelle was about going.  I knew she’d be disappointed so I waited until that day to tell her (hey, I was nineteen and an idiot!).  She wasn’t just disappointed, she was devastated.  I didn’t go to the concert, but was sullen and resentful for most of the way to Denver Airport.  I finally got over myself and had a lot of fun with Michelle, and I’m glad I did the right thing.

The summer went by quickly, as it always does, and my sister mapped out our journey back east.  She wanted to go to Yellowstone Park, and see the Old Faithful geyser on our way back, so off we went.  The small U-Haul my sister rented with the car wasn’t enough to hold all our belongings, so the back seat and the roof of the car was also laden down with our belongings.  We probably should have rented one of the small U-Haul trucks, but it either didn’t fit our budget, or they didn’t have one available.

Our trek back home is memorable for some of the mishaps and not just getting to see the amazing landscape as we went.  Our journey was to take us up through Wyoming, into Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, and finally Massachusetts (where I was going back to), and my sister would be driving on to Vermont (where her best friend had moved back to from Seattle).  It was a long, tedious drive from Boulder to Yellowstone Park, but my sister had booked our route to stay at specific motels along the way, so we had a schedule to maintain – which was good – but also added the stress of keeping to a time schedule.

After leaving Yellowstone we were anxious to make it to our motel for that night, and decided to take the advice of a local for a quicker route to our destination.  We were movin’ along, singing and enjoying our journey into Montana when we came upon a sign declaring: Welcome To Wyoming.  We both exclaimed ‘WELCOME TO WYOMING?!’ at the same time, stunned that our hours long drive had taken us back to the state we just left.  Trying to find our way to the right route with only a national map (GPS’s not having been invented for the general public yet, nor had cell phones, or the internet) took us through a small town on a winding road where my sister negotiated a sharp turn too fast and we lost some of the belongings that were tied to the roof.  We found what we could in the dark, secured the load on the roof, and finally made it back to the highway and on to that night’s destination.

The rest of the trip went more smoothly, but we did experience a harrowing ride in rush hour traffic on the outskirts of Chicago.  My sister lost a few more of her belongings on the highway, which we couldn’t stop for, but got the rest tightened up again after that.

While it was wonderful to see so much of the United States, and experience some of our national treasures, and other interesting features along the way, I was never so happy to get back home.  My sister felt much the same, but on her way to Vermont, the rental car broke down, or ran out of gas, I think.  She got some help, but when they got back to the vehicle, someone had stolen the rest of her belongings from the roof of the car.  It was a disappointing end for my sister, having already lost so much on the journey home.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Swashbuckling Isn’t Just For Heroes

Once, when I was about seven or eight, Kyle – the neighborhood bully who was probably in fourth grade for the third time – challenged me to a fight later that day, to have time to gather our arsenal (just like the Wild West, only it was about 2 p.m. rather than high noon).  I showed up dragging a tree limb behind me as my weapon, and Kyle, who showed up empty-handed, probably because he was fighting a girl, hightailed it out of there as soon as he saw my epic cudgel.  I was full of bravado back then, even if I wouldn’t have gotten very far in a fight.  It’s funny to remember that incident now because I could barely pull that branch behind me, let alone fight Kyle with it.

Most of the kids I found myself in trouble with were great adventurers.  We’d roam the neighborhood, cutting through backyards, being yelled at as we went to “go home and mess up your own yard!”.  I found that the worst discovery in a new backyard was a dog.

We had a German Sheppard when I was growing up, who wouldn’t have hurt me or my siblings even if my father had commanded her to, but she would have torn the throat out of anyone else.  Consequently, I was not afraid of dogs in the least, which was remedied one summer day around my eighth or ninth year.

Kyle was often the ringleader in most adventures I had, and we had an uneasy tolerance for one another.  It was that or be bored.  My older siblings didn’t want me hanging around them, and my younger brother would often devolve into tears too easily, or was too little to keep up.

That morning was one of those sweltering-at-10am mid-summer days, the sweat making you uncomfortably sticky and ornery.  Kyle had the idea to bring several of us to a good swimming spot in the Ten-Mile River, but we’d have to take a new way to get there (translation: he had no idea where he was going).

The last yard we cut through had a thick stand of trees and brambles that we had to scramble through, branches whipping those of us unlucky enough to be right behind Kyle, while brambles tore at our legs.  After several complaints Kyle declared that we were ‘pirates’, and what was a few scratches?  If were we sissy-babies about it, we could go home.  No one left.

It was a sweet feeling to be out of the woods, but now we were in territory I’d never been in, and even had I wanted to go home, I would have been lost.  We started to walk through a yard where a dog was lying in the shade of the house, and I thought nothing of it.  Kyle said going through the yard would bring us to the river, and that was fine with me until I heard a low, bone-chilling, growling.  Two of the kids ran back the way we came, but Kyle and I were already half-way through the property, and the dog was between us and the woods.  Kyle told me to stand still, but I had never heard a dog growl like that toward me, and I ran.  Kyle ran too, not wanting to face the dog alone, and just as I hit what I thought would be a sloping hill, I realized too late was a cliff.  I may even have run through the air for a few seconds à la Wile E Coyote.

We were lucky that it was an angled cliff side, so that when we hit we were rushing down the rest of the drop with rocks and gravel – right toward train tracks.  I’d like to make this story much more interesting and say we just missed an oncoming train by inches, but it looked like the tracks weren’t even used anymore.  There were weeds growing all along and in them.

Neither Kyle nor I suffered more damage than scrapes and humiliation, but I would have jumped off that cliff again because that dog was still standing at the edge of the drop-off barking for us to ‘stay the hell off his lawn’!

We never did make it to the Ten-Mile River that day, but I certainly was glad to make it home.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Turkeys and Geese and Me, (oh my!)

There was a news story about a month ago around a turkey in a Cape Cod town that attacks the mail truck every day as it makes its rounds on a street abutting a wooded area.  One guy interviewed about it thinks that the turkey is probably attacking because of the eagle symbol on the mail truck.  The carrier who was interviewed said he doesn’t know what the turkey’s issue is, but it’s terrifying.

I’m a believer in fowl terrorists.  When I was eleven, I moved to a small farm-house in Western MA, where we had a cow, some chickens, and some geese.

Whenever I’d go out in the barn yard to go climb my favorite tree, or on my way to do chores, I’d be hissed at by the gander, and the other geese would join in.  As long as I didn’t turn my back on them, they’d maintain relative neutrality, and eventually start honking and waddling away – to plot – more likely than not.

The geese became more brazen as time went on and would run for my feet, but would be repelled as long as I ran hollering at them (maybe I didn’t need to yell, but it seemed necessary to me at the time).

That gander most likely resented me crossing his territory all the time, and it was on a sweltering September afternoon that he attempted his plan of attack. There is a railroad crossing next to the farm-house and during the school year, if the bus was late, it would have to wait for the freight train to pass to continue on.  Well, the bus had to wait for the  freight train to pass that day and I stepped off as I normally did, and turned to for a quick goodbye wave to my best friend, when I heard the hiss.

It had a low, menacing, ‘turn around, punk’ sound to it, but instead of facing the goose, I decided to try walking away because the kids on the bus, waiting for the train to pass, had nothing better than to watch the scene unfold from the safety of their seats.

Well, Gander (Genghoose) Khan made his move, running at me, wings flapping, head down low for the charge, and just before he bit my ankle, something in me snapped.  I turned toward him with a yell that caused silence to descend upon the occupants of the bus, and fortified with my humiliation and rage I grabbed that gander by his skinny little neck, lifting him off the ground and shook him back and forth telling him to leave me the hell alone – yes I said Hell – and I’d say it again!  Then I threw him away from me, the fury still gleaming out of what I imagined were my now red, glowing eyes, and that bird ran back to his stunned posse – er – gaggle in defeat.

Cheers broke the silence and I became aware of the victory I scored not just personally, but in full view of twenty grade-schoolers.  I waved to my audience and walked triumphantly into the house.

That gander never bothered me again.

How sweet it would be if that were the end of my dealings with rogue geese.  I moved to San Diego, CA, when my son was a preschooler, and we lived there for a few years until poor finances and missing my family brought me back east, to Massachusetts.

The day before we left California, I spent the morning with a friend at a popular picnic site with a large pond.  It was a warm morning in May, and I took off my shoes and socks to refresh my feet at the water’s edge.

I had noticed the geese some lengths away from me, and had chuckled remembering my last encounter with geese all those years before when I hear a familiar hissing behind me.  Was this a relative of Gander Khan seeking revenge?  I was so shocked that I couldn’t gather my wits before that damn bird was nipping at my heels.

Laughter, from the half-dozen or so adults with their children, pealed through the morning air around me, and rather than come to my aid, they chose to be entertained.  I felt too embarrassed to effect my “Xena” persona, so the best I could muster was a “leave me alone” in what I hoped was a stern enough voice.

The goose was not impressed.  As I ran up the little hill from the pond that goose chased me until someone (who had the sense not to take their shoes off) shied it away from me.  While that encounter does not erase the triumph of my youth, it certainly dampened the victory.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.

Some Tree Climbing Is Not For the Faint Of Heart – Mine In Particular

Trees were my best friends when I was a kid.  I liked nothing better than climbing up into my favorite maple that had branches nearly as close together as stairs, and some large enough to brace yourself against to sit and read.  I would climb that tree as high as I could go and look out on the world, or be invisible to anything happening on the ground.  Sometimes I’d imagine I was a black panther, slinking among the branches, waiting for prey.  The few friends I allowed into that world with me grew tired of it pretty quickly, so I stopped being anything but me.

Once, when I was eleven or twelve, I climbed up into a really tall pine with my best friend’s brothers.  There were some gaps in the branches that made it difficult to ascend, but I was determined that if her twerp younger brothers could do it, I certainly could.  It was a fantastic view when I made it to where they were.  They started to descend, but I wanted to be up there enjoying the vista for a little longer.

Then I looked straight down.

I don’t think I’ve ever clung to a branch after that as hard as I did that one.  I yelled to my friend that I couldn’t get down, and her brothers were telling me I could, and even went so far as to climb back up to encourage me, but that made it worse – they were now rocking the tree!  I was verging on hysteria and they were trying to be rational.  “Just put your foot down to the next branch”, they coaxed.  I tried.  They kept intoning “Almost there”, but I swear the branches got further apart in the time I was up there, feeling all free and wonderful and completely forgetting that trees grow!

I was shaking now so there was no way I was getting down without help.  They all went to leave to go get their dad, and I screamed for one of them to “STAY WITH ME!”

When the boys returned with their father, he was all business. “You got yourself up there – now get yourself down!”  I started to cry again because not only was I completely humiliated, but I was still terrified and thought that I’d have to live in the tree now because didn’t he realize that I could NOT get down?!

So, he started to leave.  “Come on kids, dinner’s almost ready, and she’s made up her mind to stay up there.”

That was the motivation I needed, apparently.  I screamed “NO, PLEASE DON’T GO!”, and let myself stretch further than safety and sanity dictated, and found a foothold!  The relief that flooded over me was better than any high I’ve experienced since.  Unfortunately, I still had several tricky branches to negotiate.

Down to the next branch I tremulously advanced, and ‘CRACK’!  The reverberation alone was enough to cause warring nations to declare a cease-fire.  I slipped ominously down toward the end of the split branch.  My friend’s dad was under the spot where I was faster than humans can normally move, but I was faster and pretty much dropped to the next branch down, and the one after that.

The closer I got to the ground, the easier it was, and why was everyone standing around looking at me like my death was imminent?  I’d climbed trees before.  Jeez.

I think my friend’s dad would have spanked me if I had been his kid, but his bellowing voice detailing my stupidity sufficed to put the fear of needing his assistance ever again into me.  Then he looked me over for damage, and gave a curt: “You’re ok.  Let’s go”, but I swear I saw color come back into his face.

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© seekingsearchingmeaning (aka Hermionejh) and Life On Earth’s Blog, 2010 – infinity.