It's 1943. The country is still at war. A young girl catches a ride with a handsome airman. A few months later she meets him in San Antonio and they are married. This, her second marriage, will end in sorrow.
She was a widow and a washer woman who lived with her small children in a cottage on the edge of town, near a cool spring. She gathered the clothes each morning from the families in the village, sorted the darks from the lights, the shirts and pants and long skirts from the bedclothes. She set up her pots in the yard, gathered wood from the pasture across the road, and made her own soap from leftover kitchen grease and lye.
She boiled the whites first, then added bluing to bring out the sparkle. The lye soap helped take out the red dirt stains from the work shirts. The pants were scrubbed on the washboard. Each piece was wrung out and draped across the fence to sun dry. The work was hard but it kept her family fed and a roof over their head.
One of the worst things about getting old is not being able to jump. It’s not like she needs to jump or even wants to. But it’s just one more thing that she has to leave behind. Some days she’s ok with it and some days she really hates it. For the most part she’s in denial, looking in the mirror without her glasses, trying to find that 40 or 50 year old that had so much fun. That side of this aging thing, the mostly good side, is the self delusion: the ability to see what she wants to see and turn a blind eye to the rest.
But then she looks across the breakfast table and sees the son who’s creeping up on 50 and the fantasy falls apart. His choices, good or bad, are hers as well. She worries, that like his mother, he won’t take care of himself until it’s too late. Until ignoring the high blood pressure, eating the wrong foods, and not getting the right kind of exercise takes its toll. Like it or not, their boats are tied together. They will sink or swim in tandem. If it were in her power to do it all over again, maybe she would make different choices. But, having come to this place, having come this far, she cannot, will not, must not give up.
A Message from friend, writer, entrepreneur Therese Becker:
“I just did a blog that includes a small ceremony we each can do numerous times each day to help with this crisis in the gulf. It comes from Ralph Blum's Book of Runes.”
A Ceremony Honoring the Waters
I send the energy of love and gratitude to the waters and all living creatures in the Gulf of Mexico and its surroundings. To the whales, dolphins, manatees, turtles, sharks, pelicans, fish, shellfish, planktons, corals, algae…to all living creatures, I am sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you. I love you.
But it's a start. My new stand-up Junk Art workshop. I figure there's a deep meaning behind my obsession with rescuing bits of rusted metal, ribbon, plastic, glass, and other odds and ends. But, in the meantime I'll settle for the shallow satisfaction of having a place where I can work--if and when I want to.
In this town there were two mutes and they were always together. Mort lost his voice in fourth grade when Mrs. Donnelly made him stand in front of class and recite "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere." Emily was born that way. Some said it was a curse on her mother for not attending Wednesday night prayer meetings. But then half the members of Rock Chapel Baptist Church didn't attend and their children had all their faculties.
Except of course, there was that young girl who was born with water on the brain and poor Mr. Hughes who had that terrible crippling disease and had to drag himself in his wheelchair around town with his good foot. But neither of them was born here so they didn't count.
Mort and Emily both lived out on the Seminole highway and rode the same bus to school. Emily usually sat alone on the front seat so that she could see the driver motion toward the door when it was time to get off. After awhile, Mort began to sit up front too. And eventually he sat in the seat next to Emily. She didn't seem to mind.
The girls were born six minutes apart, Aphra first, then Zaida. Their mother died six hours later, leaving them in the care of their father. Randolph was ill prepared, having hardly adjusted to sharing his bed and now struggling to accept the emptiness.
His mother suggested a wet nurse but then he would need two. The thought of having anyone replace his wife was too painful to think about. So he bought a case of canned milk and more baby bottles and rolled up towels to create a nest for each baby in an apple crate.
At first he couldn’t tell them apart, so he wrote their names on the bottom of their feet. He loved the soft murmur they made when he lifted a foot to see who was who.
They grew fat and rosy and soon followed his face with their eyes. His sister came for a week to help figure out what to do with their mother’s things. What to keep so that someday they could finger the lace and pearl buttons and smell the delicate perfume that was the woman who brought them into the world.
Reportedly, this is the 100th anniversary of the dubious invention of the bra. I'm sure when I got my first one I was thrilled. Later, well not so much. In the 70s I decided they were a useless, uncomfortable apparatus, took mine off, and never (almost never) put it on again. A minor feminist gesture but a great act of personal liberation.
Margaret walked around to the back, checking to make sure the handy man had finished repairing the door to the storage area. The agent assured her it would be safe to leave the keys in the lock box. All that was left for her to do now was find some place to go every day. “Buyers don’t like to meet the seller face-to-face,” Betty had insisted.
Still, she thought, wouldn’t they want to know it had been well-maintained over the 30 years that she and Harry had lived here. He was real handy and did all the work himself. If he hadn’t toppled over that morning, right in the middle of putting the pale yellow ceramic tile in the bathroom, she wouldn’t have had to call the handy man at all.
She could tell from the look on his face, the wide eyed “what the hell” on his lips that he wasn’t expecting to go now, to go this way. But hearts have a mind of their own and when Harry’s was through, well it was just done.
They call me "The Fixer." For the last month, I've stepped up to a familiar role: picking up the pieces and creating order. Highlights include finding a home for the frozen turkey, making sure everyone got paid on time, and digging up the documents requested by the auditors. Fun, sometimes frustrating, but with any luck, tomorrow will be my last day. WooHoo!
PS We had to cancel the turkey bowling tournament.
In my life I've waited tables, raised sons, taught school, published books, and railed at politicians. I'm building a house, next to my son, where I can spend time with my granddaughter. I read, write, and dream about being immortal.