You Look Like Me

My sister Margaret was born within a few weeks of my second birthday. She came into the world at a difficult time in America. Born at the end of September only a few weeks before the Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in October of 1962, she was barely six weeks old when our family life blew apart in a way that could never be repaired. While the rest of the world was still catching its breath after the compromise between Kennedy and Khrushchev, our lives were spinning off in terrible directions that we would not be able to control.

A year ago today when I wrote the post Peanut Butter & Jelly for her, I offered a bit of insight into the challenges we faced as children. If you take a moment to read that post, found below the baby bracelet, the rest of this will make more sense.

Margaret was blond to my brunette with blue/grey/green eyes to my brown ones. Growing up no one ever questioned that I was our mother’s child having her hair and eye coloring in addition to a bit of her overall look. Margaret however, took after our father’s side of the family with her fair coloring and light eyes.

It must have been so obvious to our mother who still maintained throughout Margaret’s early years, ” I don’t know who you look like ”  saying it in a way intended to keep her at arms length even more than she did with her other behaviors. Never a warm or loving woman, it was one more way she found to inflict pain on someone she should have loved and protected.

I wish I could have stated what was so obvious back then, but we barely knew our father’s family and they were all but strangers to us when we finally had a opportunity to spend time with them in the summer of 1970. Children don’t always see things as clearly as adults and we certainly don’t always know the right thing to say.

As Margaret and I age, the physical differences are shrinking, I can’t look at my hands without seeing hers and although our mouths have a slightly different shape, the laugh lines around them look the same and we share a worry line right between our eyes that is always there when we’re trying to solve a problem. We both are short waisted although she has me on height and if you were to hear us laughing together you might have trouble telling us apart.

Margaret is and always has been, courageous and talented. She is a woman of many skills with an attitude that defies the possibility that what she wants is not within her reach. As someone who can design and build just about anything, if I were ever trapped on an island, she’d be someone I’d want there to help me sort things out. A tender message of love and affection has more value to her than any material possession and the welfare of her family is foremost in all of her decisions. We’ve struggled through some difficult times together and apart, but I hope she can hear me when I say, you are my family Margaret, and you look like me.

Happy Birthday Margaret

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Kansas 1984

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Alaska – December 2008

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Peanut Butter And Jelly

September 28, 2008

We were warriors together from our earliest days, standing together in defense as children against things too terrible to speak of even to those closest to us.

Born two years after me, she is part of my earliest memories. She was my first audience, listening as I created elaborate eulogies for the roly-poly bugs we found belly up in the back yard when we were six and eight. Seated among the stuffed animals who made up the mourners at these morbid dramas, her face was the gauge by which I measured my ability to connect with the heart of my audience. It was through her that I first learned the power of my own words and awakened my love of storytelling. Shy and outgoing, blond and brunette, quiet and chatty, we have been opposites, but so alike in different ways.

For years we were always,“ Elizabeth and Margaret,” said in the same mouthful like peanut butter and jelly or cake and ice cream. Never just Elizabeth or Margaret, until one day, thinking only of my own salvation, I fled from the daily war-zone of our lives and I lost my sister. Her name was changed and she was taken away to a state where I couldn’t find her. Suddenly, I was no longer one of two, no more Elizabeth and Margaret, just Elizabeth with no peanut butter for my jelly. Not knowing where she was or more importantly how she was, was an open wound to my young heart.

At fifteen, I convinced an older boy with a car to drive me 636 miles round-trip back to the last house I’d lived in with her. I told my dad and step-mom a bodacious lie and jumped into the car that covered the distance like it had wings attached to the roof rack. She was already gone but I didn’t know it then. I was too afraid to venture down the rocky driveway to get close enough to look for her, but I stood at the end of the road wringing my hands and thinking of escape plans that had no place in a mind that should have been focused on teen worries.

I wondered for years if I would recognize her if she passed me on the street and I felt her missing presence during all the times you’d like to share with a sister. Our father suffered terribly in his quiet way and sometimes in an unguarded moment our normally stoic dad would drop his calm demeanor and his sadness would leak out through his eyes.

At 23, after a tip from a young cousin, I made a few phone calls to a college in the middle of nowhere and told a couple of lies so big even I wouldn’t have believed them to an unsuspecting soul in the registrars office. It worked somehow and she confirmed my sister was enrolled that semester before giving me her home phone number. I was scared as I called the number and I held my breath waiting as I said, “Margaret…this is Elizabeth, don’t hang up.”

We saw each other for first time in ten years a few months later on my 24th birthday when I flew in to surprise her. She said later that she had a feeling she was going to see me that day. Sister connections and DNA …she knew I was coming. I wish I made it back to her sooner. I wish I could have gotten her to a safe place before she found it on her own. I wish I could have explained 34 years ago that I wasn’t trying to leave her, but trying desperately to save myself. There are a lot of things I’d change if I had the power, but there’s one thing she can count on now. I’m not going anywhere….anymore.

Today is a special day for me. It’s the 46th anniversary of the day my sister was born.

I’ve missed a lot of her birthdays in the past and it feels really good to be able to say that I hope today will be a happy day to the peanut butter to my jelly.

Happy Birthday Margaret.

Margaret Turns Six-1968

Beautiful Babies & Birthday Suits

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You must’ve been a beautiful baby

‘Cause baby look at you now.’

-Johnny Mercer

Birthdays are special days and I am delighted to celebrate John’s birthday with him today. Finding each other later in our lives, it’s only the second one that I been able to share with him and I’m grateful and happy to be able to be able to say Happy Birthday to my darling husband. When trying to decide which picture to use today, I asked him if he minded if I used the one above where he’s wearing only a curious look and his birthday suit. Easy going as always, he was fine with appearing naked in my blog. Today we’ll have a special lunch out in Padstow, a pretty little port town we both enjoy and a birthday cookout later in the evening with a carrot cake I’m making for dessert. I’ll be back with a few pictures of the day, but for now…here’s a few more of the beautiful baby who grew into a wonderful man.

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My Birthday boy in 2009

A Room Of One’s Own – Week 11 – Update

Can you believe we have been living with dust and disruption for 11 weeks? So far no one’s gotten snappish, grouchy, or stroppy as John would say. Stroppy and cross are popular expressions here and might be used in this way,

” Don’t get cross with me….”  Or  ” Someone’s being a bit stroppy…”  which might translate to ” Boy are you a grouch!”

All remains peaceful here despite my tendency to be messy one day and tidy the next. I’m generally a bit scattered with my stuff, but in fairness I don’t have a study to tuck it away into like John although his study has some of my things that arrived on this day stored in there too. My boxes are everywhere and so are our clothes, which are currently scattered throughout the study, guest room and the attic (loft) since we’ve vacated our bedroom during the renovation. Enough of this housekeeping chatter…here are the pictures from this week.

You can see a change in the pictures for today in that the wardrobe (closet) that John built last week is no longer there. We decided it didn’t look right once the bedroom lost a few feet to the corridor (hallway) so he shifted it back to the original space before the work began. It’s about the same length only now it’s slightly more narrow. It’s plenty deep enough and will be able to hold his chest of drawers, but it will run the length of the wall now.

This closet repositioning means we have had to change in the style of the new bed we had picked out because the closet takes up a bit of the bedside table space. We found a perfect remedy for this online this morning and I love the new bed frame we picked out.

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Look to the left of John’s elbow (sorry for the bad picture) to see the closet he put in and then ripped out.

It’s one mirrored door and one solid one off to the left.

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Here’s another view. (Sorry about the post being in the way)

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This is the corridor (hallway) that took some of the bedroom width with it.

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John putting up the plasterboard (sheetrock)

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Rebuilding the wardrobe (closet)

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Looking down the corridor (door to bedroom on left)

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Just so you don’t think all I do is sit at my computer…that’s me giving the house a coat of paint last Saturday

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John caught me with painting with my tongue sticking out (necessary for concentration)

Stop by on Sunday to see a little birthday blog I have planned for John if you get a minute. I’ll be baking his cake tomorrow. Thanks to everyone who sent me a carrot cake recipe, I’ll post the results after his birthday on Sunday.

Birthday Greetings From Cornwall

Karen Walrond over at Chookooloonks has a sweet post today about her husband, Marcus.  As you can see by my title, today is his birthday.

You may be asking, ” Sooooo what does that have to do with you Elizabeth? ” You’d be right to wonder because it’s not as if I know him personally, in fact I only know about him through Karen’s stories and the lovely images of family life that show up in her blog from time to time. What I do know about Marcus….is that he’s Cornish and seeing how he’s so far from his roots in Cornwall, I thought I’d put together a few images of my new life here to remind him of where his began.

Happy Birthday Marcus!

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A full English breakfast.

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The Cornish Flag

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Tell Me A Story Tuesdays – The Revolution

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Sister Teresa had a gruesome collection of toy doll heads that she had collected from students this year. In the beginning she had not realized there was a problem developing until two of her students had gotten into a fight over a missing head. The doll’s head was later located in the accused child’s book bag tucked into a pair of rolled up socks.

In order to stop the fighting, she settled the dispute by taking possession of the head. Taking it out of the hand of the boy who was shouting the loudest, she walked over to the bulletin board and stepped up onto the small step ladder. At 4’10″ she frequently ran into trouble when trying to reach the top of the chalk board or upper levels of the storage cabinets where other teachers liked to hide the confiscated collection of items that children should have left at home.

She reached up into the corner of the bulletin board, where she had several long stickpins, and moved one over to the top center, pushed the pin in and stuck the toy doll head firmly down over the big metal pin head. The head stuck out at a slight downward tilt so that from where the students sat in the classroom, it looked as if it were a head on a stake. It didn’t help that it was directly above the written book reports they had turned in last week.

Evan Anderson had written his report on the French Revolution mostly because he wanted to build a guillotine in his grandfather’s workshop for his class presentation. Because of the no-tolerance policy with having knives at school, he was forced to modify it a bit making the blade from cardboard,which he painted silver with some of his mother’s eye shadow. Evan had stolen one of his cousin’s dolls to to use as a victim and he’d taken the one wearing a big pouffy dress so the doll would look more like the pictures in the book he’d read. He’d even dipped her blond hair into flour so she’d look more like Marie Antoinette and less like Malibu Barbie in a party dress. Evan watched as Sister T stuck the head on the pin and positioned it right over the picture of the guillotine he’d drawn on the cover of his book report. He snickered quietly, thinking that it really was true what Riley Watkins said about Sister T being too spacey to see what was right in front of her.

All last week since the first fake beheading, heads had been rolling up and down the aisles between the desks. Evan and Riley, along with Scott and Justin, had been practically bouncing them off each other and still she had not caught them.

Even though his school report had been the reason for bringing the doll that day, it was Sister T who had inspired the game of rolling the heads and as of yesterday, the formation of the Rolling Heads Gang of Four, the name they christened themselves with over peanut butter sandwiches and juice boxes in the cafeteria. Of course his little brother Eddie, started moaning about why couldn’t he be a member too, but Evan had shut him up; ” You gotta be a 5th grader, ” saying them over and over in what soon sounded like a chant. Eddie had started to cry and said he was going to tell their mother about it when she got home, but Evan figured he would forget all about it by then.

His mom had been working so many late shifts down at the Handy Pantry it seemed like she was never home until just before bedtime. He wished sometimes that she could be there waiting for them after school like Riley’s mom.  When they’d moved here from Michigan to be closer to his grandparents after his dad died, he thought they would do more things together, but with his grandparents getting older it seemed like whenever she asked for a little help watching the boys there was always some reason why they couldn’t do it. He was getting kind of tired of hearing the same old response;  ” Roberta,” they’d say, ” we really love those boys, but we’ve already raised our kids and we’ve got things to do.”

He felt sorry for his mom when he wasn’t busy feeling sorry for himself. Whenever he began to feel too sad, he’d get angry instead and it wasn’t too long before he’d developed a reputation at the private school where he spent his days. Sacred Heart was considered the best school in Hattiesburg and it didn’t seem to matter that they weren’t Catholic as long as the tuition checks kept coming. That was one thing his grandparents did insist on doing. It was tradition in the Anderson family that children living in Hattiesburg had to go to Sacred Heart. Their dad had gone there for all of his 12 years of education before joining the Army and running off to see the world. Evan was beginning to see why the Army had seemed so appealing. Hattiesburg was pretty small and he missed the friends he’d left up north.

He would rather have gone to the elementary school that was walking distance if you cut through the woods from the red brick apartment complex where they lived. He halfway thought that if he made enough trouble, the school might kick him out and he could go to public school with some of the friends he’d made closer to home.

Sister T had a thing she always said whenever the class got too rowdy or wouldn’t stop talking. Sometimes she’d add things to it like, “If you all don’t get in your seats, or If I have to repeat myself one more time,” but the ending never changed and after a while the class would mouth the words silently as she said them, ” Heads are going to roll!”

After the first head went up as an example, Evan lost what was left of his self- control. Whenever he heard her beginning the heads are going to roll threat, he’d signal the other members of the Gang of Four and the head rolling would begin. As much as Sister Teresa tried to maintain classroom discipline without being heavy handed, she knew no one was taking her seriously. Still, she kept collecting the heads as they rolled down the aisle and putting them on stick pins in neat rows across the bulletin board.

She didn’t think much about her collection of heads as they multiplied until one day when she turned to face the board she suddenly thought, there was something so gruesome, so perverse looking about those dismembered heads that she was going to have to find a new expression to use when dealing with those disrupting her class. She had not let her students see it yet, but sometimes she caught herself choking back a little giggle whenever  ” Heads are going to roll ” slipped out.  She’d need to give it some thought to come up with just the right thing, but she’d had enough of the “head games” these kids were playing. It was time to end the revolution.

Thanks to David Engel for the topic suggestion that I used for this week’s TMAST and also Gaelikaa who helped me finish the story with her sentence. I’ve highlighted in their sentences in bold so you can see what the inspiration was for this weeks story.

Gaelikaa has a story of her own this week so head over here to take a look. I also want to thank Karen for her topic sentences.

Judy Harper joined me again in writing a story for TMAST. Her story can be found on her blog here.

Please take a look at the pictures for next week’s TMAST and offer up suggestions for topic sentences based on the photographs. Thanks for reading and commenting and please consider writing along with me next week.

Additionally, I want to thank each of you who leave a comment especially on TMAST days. These little stories are fun to write and are the seeds I hope for the bigger stories and real work I imagine for my writing future.

Remedial Bread Slicing 101

“If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens.”

~ Robert Browning

I am not sure there is a food group I love as much as I do bread, I can eat it in almost all forms, but I think I like a simple slice of toast with butter and jam best of all. I’m used to buying hearty multigrain breads loaded with bits of heathy things that are prone to sticking in the teeth. Unless traveling where bread is unsliced, I almost always buy mine already cut into pieces perfectly shaped for the toaster. In this house, John prefers to buy his bread in long loaves untouched by the baker’s steel. He does a nice job with cutting his own gauging the width based on his mood and appetite. Since his loaves do not come with a sticker on the side listing ingredients along with the all important (to me) fat and calorie content, I have tended to have a different bread in the house which has been previously referred to as my bread. This weekend, they were out of  “my bread” so John came home with extra loaves of  “his bread.” In the past, I’ve had little experience with slicing my own and it seems I’ve been making a bit of a mess of it. John commented on it in a funny sort of way yesterday. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I worked a bit harder this morning trying to keep it on a straight line. Below are the results…

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At a glance it doesn’t look too bad baring the hole in one slice and the missing edge of the other. The loaf itself looks reasonably straight, but see it as it really is below…

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Tips on technique would be greatly appreciated.

A Room Of One’s Own – Week 9 & 10 – Update

I skipped last week’s update so I wanted to post a few pictures or “piccies” as they are frequently called here. Brits seem to have fondness for adding “ies” to words I wouldn’t normally consider changing in this way, such as rellies for relatives and wellies for Wellingtons the rubber boots we sometimes wear on our walks. Putting the language lesson aside for now, let me show you what John has been working on over the last two weeks.

When I posted the last update the new master bath still looked like this.

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The pictures below show the most recent developments and how close it is to completion.

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John tiled everything including the window ledge and all around.

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Thankfully, this shower is larger than the current one in the family bathroom which has a shower and a separate tub.

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These are typical shower fixtures for here where you can control the temperature independently from the water pressure. I still haven’t mastered this very well yet and ouch can be frequently heard when I’m washing up. I will not have this kind in my tub/shower combination.

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The wall is tiled even into the exit where the door will be into the master bedroom.

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Testing the toilet and sink placement… (not permanent yet) the hardwood floor will go down first.

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View of the layout from the shower (No wasted space)

In addition to all of this work, John painted part of the outside of the house (The master bedroom and ceiling multiple times to get a good coat of white.) and began knocking out parts of the fireplace so he can install a small woodburning stove. The one below is the one we’ll have in a few weeks. These are cute little mini ones compared to the ones I’m used to in America. I’m still deciding on paint colors and what I’ll need in the way of furniture. I’ve made some decicions, but this post is running a bit long so I’ll share that with you later.

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Calling All Master Bakers

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I have a funny story to tell you about the photograph above, but first I have a request. My husband John has a birthday coming up in a few weeks and I need the very best carrot cake recipe you have. If  you’ve got one that others rave about then I want a chance to bake for him. So please send me your favorite and let me give it a try.

Now about that story…. A few months ago, John and I had been out for a little walk and decided to stop by the pub before walking home. As is my way, I had my camera with me and although I don’t usually take pictures that aim quite so directly  into someone’s home, I’m afraid I did that day. Walking by a charming 200 year old cottage that I frequently pass on my runs and walks, I saw the carrots in the picture above hanging in the kitchen window. No one was around and it wasn’t like I was peeping in or anything plus the road is very close to the cottage. Because it’s so close, I was walking only a couple of feet from the window making it easy to snap two discreet pictures very quickly. I didn’t see anyone and I thought no one saw me. Remember now, we live in a village with about 500 people and sometimes I bump into people at the pub who might recognize me. Usually it’s because they know me now since I’ve been here off and on for the last 19 months and I’m pretty friendly and not at all shy. Well, a few weeks go by and John and I are in the pub on a Saturday afternoon and I go up to the bar to get a refill for John and to say hello to my favorite bartender Roger who you see below.

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While I’m at the bar, a man who is buying drinks for his daughter and wife turns to me and says something along the line of, ” You’re not  from here are you?”  Okay, I can’t remember exactly what he said, but in the course of our conversation I find out where he’s from because I can tell he’s not a local. It turns out he and his wife are staying temporarily with his daughter and her partner in that sweet little cottage I think of as Carrot Cottage even though it’s really named after a flower not a vegetable. His daughter was new to the village so I had not had a chance to meet her yet. Going over to the table I introduced myself and asked her about the carrots I saw hanging in the window a few weeks earlier. Since I’m living in a country with different customs as well as expressions that can get you into trouble such as, ” Stop being such a pain in my fanny ” because words may have a totally different meaning, I assume this hanging your carrots thing must be unique to the UK.

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As I’m describing what I saw that day she said, ” Did you have a camera with you?”  ” Well…yes,” I say thinking, ” uh oh.” She said I thought I saw someone out there taking pictures and told my partner Colin, (not his real name)  “I think there’s a woman out there taking pictures of your carrots!” As she said this, I felt kind of silly, but only for a moment. I mean, I think I managed to get a really nice picture of a bunch of carrots. Thank goodness their windows were so clean. It turns out the carrots on a string had no meaning other than he’d just washed them and was giving them a chance to air dry.  I haven’t seen them since, but I always do a quick glance at the window whenever I go by now. I thought I might print out the photograph so that it is in a greeting card form and leave it behind for them with a personal note and maybe a little carrot cake for two.

Remember….John’s birthday is fast approaching so please send me those carrot cake recipes. If you leave your recipe in the comment section we can all have a chance to sample some versions different from the ones we normally use. Everyone except me…I don’t have a carrot cake recipe of my own yet.

Tell Me A Story Tuesdays – Killing Time

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He came to see Meredith every afternoon. For the last four years Martin had rested here, siting on the same bench each day visiting with his wife. Most days he brought his lunch and a newspaper. He always sat in the same spot on what he thought of as his side of the bench leaving room for Meredith just like he had in their bed at night. He looked forward to these visits. He knew that people in town liked to talk about him and he’d seen the occasional tourist over the years snap a picture or two in his direction. He didn’t really mind the rumors he knew were out there about him or the pictures that strangers carried home to file away after passing them around the office the way people do after returning from a vacation.

Martin hadn’t known what to think when Meredith had first died and the police kept bringing him in to ask ” just a few more questions.” It was a line he got used to hearing when they would open the car door offering him an invitation to ride down to the station with a look that told him he’d better not refuse. Roberta down at the Handy Pantry was the one who had made him aware of the rumors going around the small town after Meredith’s body had been found. She’d told him one day after he noticed two big haired older ladies talking none too softly about him while he was waiting in line to check out. He could only hear bits of what they were saying, but it was enough to realize that they thought he had something to do Meredith’s death.

When he reached the cash register, Roberta had leaned over and whispered to him, ” I know what you’re going through.” For a minute he had no idea what she was talking about until he remembered that she’d had a thing with that man Obediah who everybody had said poisoned his mother. The police never could prove anything, but people talked just the same and the suspicious minds worked against the possibility of Roberta and Obediah ever having a real relationship. Roberta, if he remembered the rumors correctly had not been able to get past the possibility that maybe Obediah had killed off his mother for her. She’d spent enough time on the church pew down at Bethany Baptist to know that murder was a sin and she wanted a man she could trust.

Part of what Roberta had liked about seeing Obediah come through her checkout line was the way he always tried to take home something special to please his mother. After Obediah’s mother had died and Roberta had told him there was no way she was ever going to be his ” little love Bertie,”  Martin had read in the paper how they’d found Obediah lying in bed with an empty bottle of his mother’s sleeping pills and a plastic bag over his head with Handy Pantry printed on the side. He didn’t leave a note, but the whole town understood his message and Roberta was forced to take a few days off from her position as head cashier because everybody in town wanted to stop by the Handy Pantry to see just what was so special that would make a man kill his mother and then himself.  Of course, people forgot that Obediah was never charged with his mother’s death. It didn’t matter to the folks in Hattiesburg. The story was just too good to leave alone.

Martin had been buying a newspaper and a cold drink there everyday for as long as he could remember and after they’d buried Meredith and he’d gone back to work he saw no reason to alter that. He’d bring his sandwich from home and after picking up the local paper and Nehi Grape drink, he’d head for Hill View Place of Rest to read to his wife. When his wife was still alive, he would sometimes meet her on this bench in the cemetery on the hill. They used to joke with each other that they were a bit like the Victorians who used the cemeteries like parks picnicking among the dead on weekends and special occasions. On rainy days or times when she couldn’t get away from her job down at the Golden Gate Funeral Home, he meet her down in the basement break room across from where they kept the bodies cool while they worked on them. He had to say he preferred lunching with the dead below ground rather than above and in the next room. Working with dead folks had never bothered Meredith who would talk to them while she fixed their hair and makeup undoing all the traces that dying left on their faces. He could hear her sometimes when he was coming by for lunch talking and talking just like she was having a real conversation.

He thought about that and smiled thinking how Meredith would appreciate that he still talked to her. He’d found a nice spot up on the hill near this very bench they’d sat on so many times before. The cemetery had given him a good price on the two plots he’d bought because not many people wanted to hike up the hill to visit the few graves that dotted the steep incline. Martin didn’t mind the climb and he often thought about how they’d joked about how getting their heart rate up once a day like this would make them live longer.  He didn’t like to think about how much longer climbing this hill everyday was going to add to his life. He missed Meredith in so many ways and it felt like his life was just about killing time until he could join her in the empty plot waiting for him.

Taking a bite of his sandwich, he opened the paper just as he always did and began reading to Meredith as if she were still there sitting on the bench. Taking in the headlines he thought about how shocked she’d be to see the new President calling a puffed up ill mannered rap star who’d behaved badly the night before, a jackass. Martin liked President Obama and even though the White House press had said he’d been quoted off the record, he appreciated having a president in place who didn’t make excuses for people like that Kanye fellow who’d shocked everybody at the music video awards when he’d jumped on stage and interrupted that cute little songbird Taylor Swift. He’d seen it on the news that morning and still couldn’t believe it. I mean what was this world coming too when people stopped following basic rules of civility.

He wished Meredith was sitting next to him so they could talk about things like this. So much had happened in the four years since she’d died and he felt like he was more of an observer now as he went through his day noting things he’d share with her later. He picked up his grape drink and took a long sip before turning the page to the local news and began to read aloud in a lively voice that felt a bit forced. After reading a couple of sentences, he felt the emptiness of his actions and his words just sounded like a collection of sounds, meaningless without Meredith there to respond. What was he doing he thought to himself, she can’t hear me. Sighing loudly, he turned to the empty place on the bench beside him and said, ” Do you mind if we just sit quietly for a few minutes?”

Thanks to David Engel for the topic suggestion that I used for this week’s TMAST. David also has a story of his own this week so head over here to take a look. I also want to thank MrsDoF for her topic sentences and Judy Harper joined me again in writing a story for TMAST. Her story can be found on her blog here. Please take a look at the pictures for next week’s TMAST and offer up suggestions for topic sentences based on the photographs. Thanks for reading and commenting and please consider writing along with me next week.

Additionally, I want to thank each of you who leave a comment especially on TMAST days. These little stories are fun to write and are the seeds I hope for the bigger stories and real work I imagine for my writing future.

22 Years Ago – A Baby Girl

Twenty-two years ago, I was in the hospital having just given birth to my only child. I didn’t know it at the time, but this precious gift would steal my heart like no one else ever could. If you’ve followed my blog for any length time, you’ve seen snippets of Miranda scattered throughout my posts. I’ve tried to protect her privacy as much as any proud mother can. If I had my way Gifts Of The Journey might end up looking like a mommy blog as I could write post after post about smothering, I mean mothering Miranda over the years.

It is difficult for me to remember sometimes that she is grown now. Miranda is the same age I was when I was finishing my tour of duty with the Army and some days I have to remind myself that while 22 doesn’t seem all that old to a mother’s heart, she really has grown into a lovely quite capable young woman. With each conversation we have lately, I am able to see that she is doing just fine without a lot of input from me these days. That makes it easier to step back and enjoy her in a whole new way.

While I will not be with her physically this year, I will be ichatting with her in a few hours so seeing her on camera while we speak will have to do for now. When she was a baby, I used to kiss her all over her sweet face telling people I was stocking up for the days to come when she’d be too big for my exuberant displays of affection. While I’m sure I could still embarrass her with the delight I feel when close enough to smother her with the kisses she’s too old for now, today I’d settle for a big birthday hug and wish I was close enough to deliver it.  Happy Birthday baby girl!

beauty1

Below is the post I wrote last year for her 21 birthday…I wanted to share it again today as she turns 22.


M snowflake kiss

8:03

In a few days, my precious daughter will be twenty-one.

That’s twenty-one years since I heard a chorus of voices in the delivery room saying in unison, “ 8:03.”  Exhausted by a labor that had gone on for over two days, I remember thinking for about half second, “okay, so it’s 8:03” before realizing that the medical team were all marking time of birth.

So there it was, a Monday morning in September when my world changed forever at 8:03.

Married only three months and pregnant at twenty-six, I worried about how ill prepared I felt in my ability to parent anyone.  Even though I had joined the Army at eighteen and done more adventurous things by twenty-one than some people do their whole lives, I worried incessantly about the most basic of things…being a mother. That changed quickly as I held her that first night after everyone had gone home and we were completely alone for the first time.  I whispered my fears to her as I told her who I was and where I’d been. I told her I’d do my very best, but I was bound to make mistakes so some things we might need to learn together.

As you can imagine it was a very one sided conversation.  I talked, she stretched and yawned and then she slept…doing all the things a newborn does naturally.  Holding this tiny person in my arms, I made a promise to love and protect her and to stay open to the things she might teach me too along the way.  Life lessons come from unexpected places and the gifts that come from opening yourself to loving someone else deeply despite your fears can create a ripple effect that has the potential to positively touch the lives of more people than we realize.

Letting go, I learned what it’s like to love another without reservation, sweet unconditional love… no matter what.  My daughter, born four days after my twenty-seventh birthday has been the best gift of my life.  A blessing from the beginning, I learned how to love others by loving her first.  I expect she may take a look at this post, but it won’t be the first time she’s heard me say this. I’ve been telling her whole life that she has been the best blessing of mine.

Happy Birthday, baby girl – make a bold wish with those birthday candles and blow!