Monday, May 18, 2009

My Remembrance of Things Past

The tree is what I remember most about my childhood home. It was a tall, willowy elm thatgavesoft breezy relief to summer’s heat but railed against winter’s cold when ice coated its barren limbs, nearly forcing them to break rather than bend. I remember how its summer shadows covered the curving walkway that ran from our front porch steps to the sidewalk below and how I would roller skate down that walk, certain I was destined for roller derby stardom when I grew up.

In spring I’d eagerly await the tree’s sprouting of buds on its limbs that promised another year of shade. Most of the neighborhood kids equated the season with the coming of summer vacation with hours to while away doing not much of anything. I, instead, spent the time watching my tree for signs that the remnants of winter weather would soon turn warm enough to plant the flower seeds Mother had bought for me. The beds would be turned and made ready in the backyard, but it was the tree out front that signaled when the timing was right. If the tree had not yet put out buds then the ground out back would still be too cold for the seeds to sprout and all my work and planning would be in vain.
Once the flowers bloomed and my gardening chores were reduced to weekly watering and weed pulling, it was time to pull on the skates over last year’s weather beaten high-top Keds, tug the straps snug against my ankles, tighten the prongs over my toes with my skate key and take off down that long, curving walkway toward the sidewalk. I can still hear Mother shouting from behind the front screen door, “Now don’t go skating into the street. And don’t fall down and skin your knees again.” And of course, I’d occasionally gain too much speed, lose control, and go bounding right through the grassy parkway on the other side of the sidewalk and end up in the street. Skinned knees became my badge of honor.
After what seemed hours of rolling from the top of the walkway, making my smooth trademark turn onto the sidewalk, knees bent and body held low, I’d haul my sticky hot, tired body back up and onto the cool grass beneath my tree and lie on my back and dream. Looking up through those leaves that waved and sometimes laughed at me, I dreamed big dreams of what life would be like when I grew up, all the while hoping not to grow up too fast.

But grow up I did, as we all do. I continued to dream, even after the roller skates were hung up and adult reason and responsibility took over my life. But they were no longer the dreams one dreams in childhood; not the dreams of a nine year old lying beneath an old elm tree and seeing the world as full of infinite possibilities.

Several years ago my husband and I went back to visit the hometown I’d left decades before. As we drove down my childhood’s street of dreams my anticipation heightened. Would the house look the same or would it seem much smaller than I remembered? Houses in which we’ve once lived always look smaller when we return to them. Would the front yard still be tended and would my tree still be helping to cool yet another hot, muggy June day?

I held my breath on approach but relaxed as the house came into view. Yes, it was still there. I pointed out which was my bedroom window and which was my brother’s. And yes, the house did seem smaller. The front yard looked much the same. My roller derby walkway heaved a bit and sported a few cracks, but it was as I remembered. But something wasn’t right. I scanned the yard once more and then it hit me. Where was my tree? My faithful, sturdy, tall and slender elm?

“To everything there is a season.” I’d had mine in this place of childhood wonderment as had my tree and now I was a child no longer just as my tree was no longer.
“Dutch elm disease”, I surmised as we eased away from the curb. But looking back as we headed down the street and back to our adult lives I swear I could see the remnants of Old Elm waving good-bye to me, ever so gently.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Color of Spring

My first day back in the garden in spring sets my spirit soaring along with my allergies. My friends ask me why I do it, why I dig, and shovel, and sneeze. I can't give a valid explanation. I think there must be something in my psyche that pushes me out the door and holds me captive till hunger and thirst force me to resist. I find it miraculous that soil and sun can produce the flush of anticipated new growth that I waited for all winter long while I wondered whether or not my wait would be in vain. But come spring, when buds poke through the dirt where I planted bulbs just after Christmas, I realize the foolishness of my concern.

I remember how cold it was the day I dug into the garden's hard clay soil, made nearly impenetrable by November's blustery winds and December's sudden freezes. Bulbs can't be planted in October in north Texas as early as they're planted in other parts of the country where winter comes in its proper time. In north Texas one must wait till the end of our extended autumn when the last warm fall day is finally chased away by a final Blue Norther that turns the sky indigo with a wind fierce enough to suck the breath right out of you as it singes your face. That's when the bulbs go in.

I wore a tightly knitted wool ski cap that I pulled snuggly over my ears and down as close to my eyes as I could and still see. A wool scarf wrapped around the neck of my jacket and heavy garden gloves covered my hands so the only parts of my body exposed to the elements were my nose, my lips, and my cheeks. And when the wind whipped out of the north my nose ran, my lips chapped, and my cheeks burned. Planting bulbs is often a dirty nasty business but somebody has to do it. And I took great pleasure in the doing because I believe in miracles, that in just a few months my efforts would be rewarded with yellow daffodils, red tulips and lavender hyacinths.

And now I delight in yellow daffodils that light the way to where tulips announce their presense with bold red petals and hyacinths create a lavendar blanket along the edge of the bed. All too soon the days will continue to warm till the temperature reaches 100 degrees and the red and the yellow and the lavendar will be no more. But on my first day back in the garden in spring the winter just past is a mere memory and the heat of a coming summer sun will be ignored. Today is my day to enjoy the miracle of the yellow, and the red, and the lavendar.

Monday, March 23, 2009

“WAG #4: Do You Hear What I Hear?”

The luncheon cafe is filled to capacity so the din is overwhelming. Sound flies around the open room and bounces off the wooden floor till it seems the entire world is conversing in this one spot and I'm caught sitting in the midst of it.

Words, words and more words muffle into the constant roar that is the humanity of the place. I sit quietly munching my chopped salad while I strain to listen. Ever the voyeur, I pick up a word or two as an intense conversation at the table across from me increases. I hear "Oh, man, I just don't know." I imagine a broken love affair being discussed. Or perhaps the road less traveled is about to be taken by one of the two men talking. Come on, just a little louder, I want to hear more.

I go back to my salad, aware of the sounds inside my head as well as those swirling around it. The iceberg lettuce, chopped neatly into small, square pieces, crunches loudly against my teeth while the bits of tomato make much less noise as they squish against my tongue. And avocado pieces meerly melt away against the roof of my mouth. No noise there. Blessed avocado.

That's when ice clanks into the tall plastic glass the server hands you when you place your drink order. First the rumble as the machine prepares to deliver its frozen bits and pieces and then the dull thud as the cubes crash against the sides of a tumbler that someone holds.

The table across from me is empty now, but the din continues. I think the entire room suffers from tinnitus. While silverware and metal trays split the air in the kitchen with the suddeness of a sonic boom, a cash register whines as it spits out its receipts, on after another. Sounds like it's been a good day at the cafe so far.


Saturday, March 07, 2009


I was challenged to observe my surroundings and then write about something

I didn't notice at first. I thought the assignment futile because as a writer, wherever I go I try to notice everything around me because that's what writers do.

So I sat with friends in my favorite little restaurant and listened to the combo provided for the evening's entertainment. There were two young men who performed. One was short and one was tall. One with long hair and one with hair closely cropped, they looked like a modern day version of Simon and Garfunkel. They strummed their guitars made of maple-looking wood as they sang for their supper.

The tables where we sat were square - no tablecloths - just medium bare wood tops with a darker wood trim strip around the edges. The four wood chairs around each table had low backs and scooped seats that encouraged diners to enjoy the food, but not stay too long to make room for more customers.

When I looked down I noticed some specks on the rust colored cement floor and wondered if they were crumbs from a former patron, but they were only minute, irregular chips in the painted floor. Relieved by my astute attention to detail I settled back to scan the menu.

The lighting was dim - a dim dinner for discriminating guests - and on each table a candle with an everburning tealight at the base added neighborly ambiance. A small vase of lily-looking flowers, a burnished rectangular metal holder for crackers, salt and pepper shakers, and yet another metal basket that held multicolored packets of sugar and sugar substitutes crowded the the center of the table's surface, leaving just enough space for the waiter to provide the necessry plates, napkins, flatware, and glasses required for the meal.

The cafe doors were left open to the evening's cool breezes, but not so cool as to chill the steaming dishes placed before us. My overall impression was one of comfort and companionship that comes of enjoying a meal with friends in a pleasant situation. And I thought I had seen all that was to see. I had noticed everything in my surroundings, leaving nothing to be noted at second glance.

And that's when the "Lady from Banbury Cross" made her entrance and all eyes in the room turned to observe. I doubt she parked a white horse outside, but dressed all in silver, she definitely had rings on her fingers and I'm betting there were bells on her toes. Her right hand bore three rings while multiple bangles dangled from her delicate wrist. The left hand displayed yet two more rings and that wrist successfully balanced a silver cuff bracelet, complete with a monstrous dark stone plunked smack in the center that screamed, "If you don't do what I want, I'll CUFF you." To top it all off, she completed her outfit with an irridescent silver bomber jacket. Once the impact of her entrance was taken into full account I felt a fashion citation was defintely in order.

This exercise proved that just when you think you've seen it all, wait and look around. You never know what may be coming next.


Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Sky's the Limit

I've been advised by a well meaning friend to join the WAG (Writer's Adventure Group) to spur me on and unblock my current writer's block. This week's assignment is The Sky's the Limit. So, here goes...

The sky beckons and I wait impatiently as dusk turns to darkness. A warm magenta brushes against cool grey-blue and wisps of cloud swirl at the wind's discretion as the sun sinks lower and lower. Such gentleness then abruptly burns orange into the horizon. And I stand awestruck, anticipating darkness to cover me with a ceiling that will soon sparkle with the light of the stars.


Sunday, August 27, 2006