Writing 101, Day Fifteen, They Canceled The Fair

fryeburgfairnightHow many years has it been? Twenty-five, no, thirty!  I’ve been going to the Down Home Agricultural County Fair since I was seven or eight, and now it’s canceled.  Sure, there are other fairs, I suppose – other fairs that are not the Down Home!

I had my first kiss underneath the bleachers next to where Frank’s Fabulous Pigs raced. I had turned thirteen the previous September, and Jimmy Reynolds, my friend and secret crush since third grade, grabbed a hold of my hand and pulled me under the bleachers.  At first I thought we were just going where we shouldn’t be, maybe to look for lost money, him beaming that ten-megawatt smile at me, and me awaiting further instruction, when he leaned in and kissed me.  My heart pounded and my hands were instantly sweaty as I kissed him back, and we stood there until the sound of feet stomping above us broke the spell.

We held hands the rest of the night, and although it was usually hard to shut me up, I couldn’t think of a thing to say – and neither could he.  We just kept riding the rides, playing the carnival games, and sharing fried dough, and a fresh-squeezed lemonade.

Jimmy moved to Florida at the end of the summer, and we wrote letters back and forth for a while, promising to visit, which we never managed, and after a year went by the letters slowed, and by the next summer, I stopped hoping for a response to my last few letters.

The Down Home County Agricultural Fair was a near guarantee to see everyone I knew – and the chance to eat my fill of french fries with vinegar, fried dough, and over-priced lemonade, that I enjoyed watching the vendor make for me.  “You like it sweet or tart, honey?”  Sweet for me, tart for Jimmy.

Time wore on, and every year the events that attracted me changed from thrill rides to animal shows, and after my son was born I went with friends who had children, and we’d meet year after year, first riding with our children on the kiddie rides, our knees scrunched up, or wider hips not quite fitting into the tot-sized cars, and when they were big enough, putting our children on the kiddie rides alone, and watching with happy trepidation as they thrilled or freaked-out, and when they were older, bidding them farewell with instructions to meet later by the front gate, and having them pretend they didn’t see us whenever they’d pass by.

With my son in college, and friends scattered around, I went to the Down Home by myself last year, and spent most of my time looking at prize-winning quilts, home-made clothing, garden and preserve entrants’ displays, and shook my head at the carnies luring game players to win prizes not worth the two dollars to play one game.  Back in my day, I find myself thinking, it was a quarter, and the prizes were bigger, and better quality too.  I might as well start yelling at the kids to get off my lawn.  I catch myself and laugh, I don’t want to be in the ‘old coot’ category – not now, not ever.

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

 

Writing 101, Day 10, Favorite Food

From: http://shortorderdad.com/?p=1734
From:
http://shortorderdad.com/?p=1734

“Why can’t I go with Lisa and Trudy?”, I begged mom for the third time in twenty minutes.  She was cutting up carrots, and celery –  and she gave me and my little brother a half a celery stalk for a snack, before adding the rest into the pea mash in the big stew pot simmering on the stove.

“For the last time, you’re too young to go out by yourselves.”

“But their moms are letting them go!”

Mom stopped chopping and eyed me, her lips whiting around the edges.

“Well, they are not your Mom, and your older brothers will take you after dinner, and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go at all.”  She wiped her hands on her blue and white-flowered apron before picking up the ham-hock and adding it into the pot. “And, it’s the first year your little brother is going Trick-or-Treating, and you’ll have to stay with him”  She turned around starting to chop the onions, and I knew I’d be in trouble if I said another word, but I couldn’t help groaning, and I left the kitchen when I saw her raised eyebrows.

I laid down on the couch in the other room to pout, and listened to the wind blowing leaves against the side of the house, and after a while mom began humming, and I could hear my brother playing with his Lincoln log set on the kitchen floor, the sounds making me sleepy.  The celery hadn’t made me any less hungry, but mom would just get irritated again if I started asking if supper was done.

I got up and went into the kitchen anyway, and sat at the rectangular Formica table with the bumpy metal trim I liked to run my fingers along.  I didn’t like the kitchen chairs in the summer when my legs stuck to the plastic seat.  My brother got his head stuck in between the chair top and seat last summer and mom buttered his ears to get his head back out.  The stupid kid tried to do it again but mom warned him that she would just leave him there this time.

I thought that sitting at the table would make supper get done sooner, but instead, it seemed to take longer.  I liked the way the windows were steaming up though, and I went to draw a finger picture on the window but mom yelled at me that it would leave grease marks, so I sat back down and laid my face on the cool table-top.  Mom told me to get up and get the bread out of the pantry and put it on a plate, and then get the bowls and spoons out.

I didn’t grumble this time because I was so hungry and I knew that meant supper was ready!  I even got the butter without being asked.

Mom sat my brother on top of the phone books on his chair, and she told me to get my brothers and sisters for supper.  I yelled from the bottom of the stairs, making my mom yell at me from the kitchen to walk upstairs and get them, but they were already stomping down.

We all sat and ate our dinner, my older brothers finishing first, and my sisters close behind.  I loved the soup so much I wanted another bowl, and mom said there was just enough for seconds.

I hated having to wait for my little brother to finish, but mom let me go get my costume on while she cleaned up my brother.

After Trick-or-treating, the house still smelled like the pea soup, but I was too full of candy to want any more.  Mom made us pour out the rest of our candy to see what we could keep, while I smirked at my secret of already eating several pieces until my stupid brother told her we ate some on the way home – and I had told him he could have some only if he didn’t tell mom when we got home.  She told us to go straight to bed, adding that if we were poisoned it served us right for not listening to her, but when my brother burst into tears thinking he was going to die she relented and let us stay up another half-hour.

Through the years, Halloween has held a special memory of my mom’s pea soup, but I’ve yet to have, or make, pea soup as good as hers.

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

Willing Life

Chester smiled at Bree, squeezing her hand, “What an absolutely gorgeous day!”

“I know! After all the rain, it’s nice to feel the sun again.”  Bree lifted her face toward the sun, she and Chester standing still for a long moment on the park’s dirt path, just past the weathered magnolia tree not yet in bloom.  “The air smells so clean, doesn’t it?” Bree inhaled and exhaled, looking at Chester who nodded his affirmation, his eyes still closed against the sun.

Bree clasped her fingers through Chester’s and they walked on, enjoying the greening grass, the azaleas, rhododendrons, dogwood, cherry, and ornamental pear trees in varied states of blossoming.  Spring was the hardest for Bree, the time of re-birth and awakening, but this was the fifth spring without Jason, and Chester seemed to sense her thoughts as he brought her hand up, kissing her fingers.

The path turned onto the broader paved bike lane where concrete benches sat every few hundred yards, and shade trees offered respite from the sun.  A calm breeze ruffled the edge of Bree’s new spring skirt and she hoped the wind would stay mild.  She bought it because she needed something new and pretty, but more because it was Chester’s favorite cerulean blue, and he liked it when she wore something other than jeans and t-shirts.

A woman sat knitting on a bench, and Bree felt her stomach tighten as she noticed it was a small, red, sweater.  Chester put his arm around Bree’s shoulder as he felt her trembling, and guided her beyond the bench.  Tears welled up in Chester’s eyes at the memory of Jason at two years old, in the red sweater Bree had knitted him, the sweater he was wearing that awful October day.

Bree had been doing laundry down cellar while Jason napped.  He had fallen asleep on their drive to the store and hadn’t woken when she brought him inside.  She put him in his crib and rushed to get some chores done while she could.  She had just finished transferring clothes from the washer to the dryer when she was seized with terror.  She ran upstairs and into Jason’s room to find him hanging over the side of the crib, the neck of the sweater having gotten caught and twisted on the crib’s edge, choking him.  He wasn’t breathing, his body tinted a grey-blue, and Bree heard herself scream but it seemed that someone else far away was screaming.  She frantically untangled him and began CPR, but it wasn’t working.  She scrambled to get the phone, her shaky fingers missing 911 twice before she connected.

She begged them to call Chester at work, not able to remember where he was at first.  The first responders found her clutching Jason to her, her face swollen from sobbing, and unable to speak.  She heard herself growl as they tried to pry Jason out of her arms, and she came back to herself when they told her she would have to let them help her child.  She thought that meant he was alive and she jerked herself up holding Jason out to his redeemer.  She didn’t notice the other responder had taken her arm and was pulling her back.  She heard soothing tones, but she didn’t know what he was saying.

Jason wasn’t coming back to life, and Bree felt hers slip away too as the edges of her sight narrowed and she was no more.

She woke up in Presbyterian Hospital, Chester holding her hand, looking gaunt and vacant. “Hi, love”, he said, bringing his face closer to hers, taking her face in his hands, and kissing her. “We almost lost you, too.”  Tears dropped onto her face, mingling with her own.

“He’s gone.  Our baby’s gone, isn’t he?  They lied. They didn’t save him.”

Chester kept his face next to Bree’s.  “They tried, honey.  They tried with all their might. I love you so much, please stay with me.  I can’t lose you too.”

Bree wailed, the sound chilling to all who heard her grief, and Chester dropped his head down to her shoulder, sobbing along with her.

The next year went by in a blur for both of them.  Their families and friends rallied around them, providing them with meals, comfort, and distraction.  They decided to sell the house and move into a condo.  Chester and Bree took leaves of absence from work, and it was several months before Bree stopped contemplating suicide daily.

Several years passed until Bree’s mourning was less surface, and she and Chester were learning to live side by side with their grief.  The first time Chester and Bree laughed felt like a new ability to Bree, but she felt guilty for having mirth, as though the world should be in black and white now, and always raining.

Bree had a psychic friend who came to tell her that Jason needed to see her happy.  He was waiting for her, just out of sight on the ‘other side’, and her joy would make him glad, and comforted.  Bree wasn’t sure she believed her, but she appreciated her friend being kind and consoling, and trying to guide Bree into the present.  Chester often looked lost and not as ready with a laugh or a joke as he used to be, but he went back to work sooner than Bree, and he started telling her about his daily routine again.

This year Jason would be seven, and Bree saw Jason in any boys about his age, wondering what he would be like.  She and Chester thought about trying to have another baby, but neither of them were ready yet.

Bree forced herself to breathe deep and slow, and find an object to focus on.  A beautiful maple tree grew several hundred feet off the path, and Bree noticed the tiny yellow-green leaves against the dark wood branches.  She looked at Chester who was also admiring the majestic tree.

“Life keeps going, honey.  Maybe we can think about trying to have another baby before we’re too old.”

Bree let the statement hang in the air, but she held Chester closer, and murmured, “I love you so much.  I’m happy to be with you, but I’ll think about more.”

Chester leaned in, kissing Bree full on the mouth, kissing her across her face and down to her neck.  He knew it embarrassed her, but he couldn’t help himself.  Being together in the beautiful day with his gorgeous wife, having survived such loss, but willing to risk again made life feel new for the first time in many years.

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

Things Remembered

When he was a boy
When he was a boy

101 Dalmatian pajamas, 4T. I breathe into the fabric, trying to catch the scent of my little boy, but I forgot that I washed them before packing them away in the box of baby remembrances when he had outgrown them.  The box also contained his cloth Madeleine doll, which showed where the scar was from her appendectomy, and the yellow rubber duck received at his baby shower that he had to have at every bath time.  I say ‘contained’ because when his sister, my nearly step-daughter, had her first child four years ago, I sent the rubber duck, after sterilizing it, with a letter, saying that I hoped her daughter would like it, and if she remembered how her brother had loved it when he was a baby.

His sister emailed me after she got the package, telling me how sweet that was, and her daughter liked it too.  When we went to visit them a few years ago, it was gratifying to see the rubber duck in among the bathtub toy collection.

She mentioned in a post how her daughter was enjoying the Madeleine books, and I knew it was time to send along the Madeleine doll, so beloved by my son at her daughter’s age, along with a little monkey puppet for her latest family addition, who is now a year old, and I haven’t yet met.  I got a note the other day telling me they received the package, and her daughter asked if she could keep the doll forever.

It seemed overly sentimental and silly to keep those few things from my son’s childhood, but I have no keepsakes, and no pictures from mine, so it was important to me, and I thought my son would one day appreciate the link back to his youth.  He thought it was cool that I had sent his niece the Madeleine doll, and we spoke about how he used to watch the Madeleine cartoon, and have me read the books over and over.  Rather than merely keeping useless things that only had meaning to me, the items became an heirloom of sorts, and re-connected my son and I with a happy memory from the past, as well as furthering my son and his sister’s bond, with her children too.

Keeping sentimental things just adds to my pile of stuff, so I’ve done my best to pare down, taking pictures of things before giving them away or recycling them. Having some tactile link to the past is important to me though, so the 101 Dalmatian pajamas will remain in the (now smaller) keepsake box.

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

Full Moon in Wendell Brings A Coffee House

Last Saturday, January 18th, Livingston Taylor played in bucolic Wendell, Massachusetts, at their monthly fund-raising Full Moon Coffee House.  The day had been snowy off and on, my boyfriend and I wondering if the event would be cancelled, or if we should attempt the winding back-road drive in the now heavy-falling snow, but it was so worth the risk getting there and back!

Taylor’s voice is higher toned, although of similar timbre or resonance as his older brother, James’ – but Livingston has a playfulness and sardonic sense that’s evident in his music and story-telling.  He grabs your attention from the start and holds it to the end through his self-effacing stage presence and excellence.  Whatever talent he defers to his older brother, he has himself, regardless of public acclaim differences.

The show opened with Carrie Ferguson playing the piano and singing several of her songs with her lilting, tremolo, vocals and sweet sound.  Taylor took a few moments after her performance saying that’s a tough act to follow, and then continued with ‘notice how I’m standing here, waiting for the memory of what you just heard to fade.  I’ll give it a few minutes more.’

From that opening, to his songs such as Life Is Good, Never Lose Hope, Pajamas, I Will Be In Love With You, Everybody’s Just Like Me, and several more entrancing tunes, he wove stories, and musical history through a magical hour and a half, bringing us snippets of Yip Harburg’s pop song work, who was inspired by Arthur Sullivan and W. S. Gilbert, and Harburg inspired others such as Edward Harrigan and Tony Hart, who also clearly enthralled Livingston Taylor, informing his musicality and love of music history.

Livingston Taylor teaches at Berklee College of Music in Boston, and his performance made me want to take his classes, and become the best musician I can be.  I bought his book: Stage Performance, and asked him to sign it for me, to which he readily obliged.  When asked to whom he should address it, I said ‘to Jerri, and add how wonderful it is to meet me, and what a great time we’ve had…’  His droll smile illuminated his face as he penned: “Wow! What a time!  To Jerri, Livingston Taylor”  I’m most pleased that I made him smile.

Taylor’s performance closed with his sweet rendition of Somewhere Over The Rainbow, to which we all joined in, and it was a truly lovely ending to a superbly entertaining show.

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