‘Seven Treasures: A memoir series’ Archives

A Seven Treasures post by Sabrina Ramnanan

Sabrina Ramnanan

Sabrina Ramnanan

SABRINA RAMNANAN was born in Toronto to Trinidadian parents. She completed her BA in English and BEd at the University of Toronto. Sabrina is also a recent graduate of University of Toronto’s School of Continuing Studies Creative Writing Program and the recipient of the 2012 Marina Nemat award. Her work has appeared in Diaspora Dialogues, Cerulean Rain, Writing in the Margins, The Caribbean Writer, and Joyland. Nothing Like Loveher debut novel, will be published in April 2015.

 

1.

Four years ago a dear friend gifted me a copy of Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Journal. It lives in my office, as most of my treasured things do, facing the door so that every time I enter the space I can’t help but notice it. I have made what I consider a valiant attempt to write one happy sentence a day since I received it. I haven’t always been successful. In fact, there is at least one day marked with an angry X for a reason that now eludes me. But for the most part I have chronicled in this journal four years of random snippets of joy that I can flip back to and relive as many times as I like. This simple act of penning my gratitude makes me appreciate things big and small, reminds me to smile on days I’d rather not, and calls to mind a friend with a spirit as lovely as this gift.

2.

I adore my collection of the Thousand Paths series of books. They are stunning little things full of simple wisdoms, and I am constantly arranging and rearranging them on my bookcase and desk because of how cheerful and pretty they make every space. I hunted these down in a used bookstore one summer, tiny gems in big bins of throwaway paperbacks. It’s funny that I haven’t actually read them all — or even one in its entirety — but every page flipped to at random holds just the perfect message, and I can’t imagine writing in my office without them.

 3.

officeprintsI had these prints custom made for my office about the same time I decided that I was going to be a writer — and tell people about it. Both quotes perfectly encapsulate how I felt when I made that decision, and thankfully, how I still feel now. They are reminders that I chose right, which for a person as vacillating as me feels like an Olympic win.

 

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I —
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. 
― Robert Frost

[Sabrina]

Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined. Henry David Thoreau

4.

courageAt a conference a few years ago, I was asked to close my eyes and choose an engraved stone from a box of maybe one hundred. My fingers could have closed around a Truth or Peace stone, but instead they found this Courage stone and hung on. I needed courage then. I was at a crossroads in my life, trying to figure out how seriously I should pursue a career in creative writing, and if I did, how far I should veer from the only career I’d ever known: teaching. I struggled, went back and forth on the decision a million times, it seemed, and for just as many reasons. For months I kept my Courage stone at my bedside table, and then gradually, as I felt more compelled to write, I moved the stone into my office, where it has remained ever since. I still need courage now; I need it every day, to write, to teach, to be a mother and a wife, to balance my roles and still look and feel like a normal (whatever that is) functioning person in society. And so, this stone is always relevant, special, and holds all kinds of meaning for me. This Courage stone chose me, and so I keep it near.

5.

My yoga mat isn’t the most expensive mat in the world, and these days I don’t use it quite as often as I’d like, but still, it is dear to me. On this mat I have discovered pleasant and unpleasant truths about myself, the strengths and limitations of my own body, and how to find stillness in the chaos. It is a symbol of my growth and a gentle reminder that my journey is only just beginning. This mat, so much like a magic carpet for all the places it has taken me, never fails to deliver just what I need, even if I don’t know what that is before I unroll it.

6.

In my filing cabinet lies an envelope in which author Lawrence Hill once mailed me feedback on a short story. I haven’t opened it in years, but it is tucked away in my writing folder along with all the other kind words instructors and writing mentors have given me over the years. When I feel discouraged, or begin to question just what it is I think I’m doing, pretending to be a writer, I glance at the file and know that all kinds of well wishes are tucked away in there just for me. They are like silent cheerleaders from the past and present, endlessly bolstering my spirit.

7.

pondMy Canadian home backs onto this lovely pond framed by just enough trees to give it a rural feel, even though it is a dot in a suburban maze. In the autumn at least one flock of Canada geese glides across the pond’s surface; in the winter it is a Narnia wonderland; and in the spring and summer a blue heron perches on a rock in the middle to witness the unfolding of warmer days. There is always something to see on the pond. I can lose myself in its simple beauty at any given time of day, and when I walk away from the window I am always, always just a little stiller.

Read an excerpt from Nothing Like Love here.

For more writing inspiration, browse the Seven Treasures series.

Friday, March 13th, 2015

Seven Treasures: On Stuff that “Digs In,” guest post by author Alice Kuipers

Alice Kuipers

Alice Kuipers

Bestselling author ALICE KUIPERS was born in London. She moved to Canada in 2003. Her first novel, Life on the Refrigerator Door, was published in 28 countries and won several awards. Since then, she has published two further award-winning YA novels internationally, with a fourth, The Death of Us, released earlier this month. Alice has three small children and she began writing picture books for them. Her first picture book, Violet and Victor Write The Best Ever Bookworm Book, will be published in December this year. Alice’s website is full of tips and hints for those of you who want to become writers too. Find her here: www.alicekuipers.com, or on Twitter, Facebook, or Goodreads. The Death of Us Blog Tour started September 2: #DeathofUsBT

Here is Alice’s contribution, with a twist, to my Seven Treasures memoir series.

 

I don’t like stuff. It weighs me down. I regularly go through the objects in my house and put them into various boxes: to donate, to chuck, to gift. When I look at piles of things, I feel cluttered inside, stressed out, and I find myself removing, tidying, emptying. There’s an essay by E.B. White where he talks about how stuff clings. He writes, “Under ordinary circumstances, the only stuff that leaves a home is paper trash and garbage; everything else stays on and digs in.”

Read the rest of this entry »

Thursday, September 11th, 2014

Tokens of War: A Seven Treasures post, by Pat Irwin Lycett (#22)

Pat Irwin Lycett is a former creative writing student of mine. In fact, she participated in one of my first memoir writing workshop series for North York Central Library, seven years ago, and has followed my website and kept in touch. Her beautiful Seven Treasures post below ventures a little beyond the series’ usual form — but you’ll see why I want share it with you.

♦     ♦     ♦

 

This morning I hung my father’s Second World War army blanket on the line to air. During the winter it sits on the veranda in an old trunk filled with grandkids’ toys. A few days from now, for our outdoor family party, it will be attached to a tree with clothes pegs, enclosing a See-Your-Future booth, courtesy granddaughters Cassie, Emma, and Keara.

It’s made of harsh, sturdy fabric, iron-grey with black stitching. I send a silent word of thanks to our Canadian Government for providing this amenity, hoping it gave some warmth to my poor father, in France or Holland, in those days of long ago. One wonders where they bedded down, young and old (my dad well over 40), so far from home. In the movies, fortunate soldiers found a barn, breathed in the warmth of living animals, or sliced into a vein to suck out mineral-rich blood, hoping the animal was healthy.

“This is Lowell Thomas with the news at six,” blared the radio, as I climbed onto my grandfather’s knee to be updated on the latest atrocities of the war, dimly aware that my father was over there, somewhere, keeping those bombs from our house. We sat together in Grampa’s old wicker rocker (now a fixture in our home, eyed by my son Matt and his son, Alex), heads wreathed in smoke from his pipe, a shared and comforting experience for a four-year-old. Grampa struck a match on the right rocker, the worn spot visible to this day, and I got to blow it out.

Other tokens come to mind. Still in my mother’s jewellery box, packed in a bottom drawer, are small buttons from his uniform, and the pin from his breastpocket with attached tiny cap, a replica of the one tucked into his epaulette. In the last picture taken before he left for overseas, he’s in full uniform, cap in place.

I recently unearthed a small khaki sewing kit, about a foot long and three to four inches wide. Made of strong cotton, it’s divided into three pockets that fold up and tie with the attached heavy string — a small flat bundle assigned to soldiers, part of their army gear. We used to call it “kharki” when I was a kid — don’t know where the r came from, but I remember it clearly.

The kit contains one very large needle, and one much smaller for reattaching buttons, still threaded with dark grey. The needles are woven into white patches of flannel, folded over. A strand of thicker thread lies across. A large circle stamped on the closing flap has lost its print over time, but still holds the word Ottawa, and the date — 1940 — the year I turned three. On the outside, the number B28976, issued to him when he joined up, remains very clear.

I’d seen this little kit before, somewhere in my past, and it surfaced again lodged beneath Mother’s recently discovered family history. I’d never checked beyond the needles, thought the three pouches were empty, until I had a better look this morning. Searching through the pockets — strange that I hadn’t done this before — I find a small advertisement, showing purple diagrams on a buff-coloured background. It purports to interest the reader in solder repair, inviting him to “Write Today for Free Sample and the Method.”

I can imagine my mother, concerned for his return to civilian life and about the availability of jobs, offering suggestions by mail. Sitting at Gramma’s little oak desk (mother and I still living with her parents), she may have written, Jim, perhaps you could get interested in car repairs as a line of work. More and more people will be buying one. And his possible reply — negative and disgruntled, beaten down by life and the war — I don’t think so. Anyway, not many people will be able to afford cars.

On his return in 1946 he became a postman, a job open to many vets. I don’t remember his ever looking really happy. I do remember his stifled tears on the death of our little dog. My father had spent many formative years in a Catholic orphanage, and I realize now that Brownie was likely the only dog he was ever allowed to own.

In the early ′50s Mother asked him to leave, concerned about his losing his job and worried that his gambling debts would cut into her hard-earned nursing income. We never really saw him again. We learned in the mid-′60s that he died in an institution, thirty miles from our home.

Life buried my father way before his time. Who knows, had things been different he might have lucked into a thriving business, “repairing cracked cylinder heads,” right there in our hometown.

I fold the little buff-coloured paper and put it back in his sturdy sewing kit, which now sits, intact, near my desk.

♦     ♦     ♦

PAT IRWIN LYCETT is a retired nurse, real estate broker, nutritionist, iridologist, tai chi teacher, and owner of a book and crystal store. She has 7 children and 20 (and counting) grandchildren. She is author of the blog helpingyourselftohealth.wordpress.com, and is writing a loose collection of family memories from 1892 to the present.

 

 

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

A Seven Treasures post by Janis McCallen

The Seven Treasures series is back by popular demand, with this guest post by Janis McCallen.

As a young girl, JANIS MCCALLEN began writing about her life in small diaries — the kind with a little brass lock and key. At eleven she wrote her first novel on a Royal portable typewriter set up on a card table in the basement. In her teens, she wrote angst-filled poetry, and she has continued to write ever since.

Currently Janis writes poetry, short fiction, and memoir. Both her poetry and prose have been published. During the warmer months, she can be found in her writing studio tucked at the back of her garden. She is the Membership Coordinator for the Writers’ Community of York Region and a member of the Writers’ Community of Durham Region. Together with Elaine Jackson, Janis co-facilitates day-long Writing from the Centre yoga and writing retreats. Every other week, she pens a writing-related blog post on the Writing from the Centre website.

1.

My sister and I waited several months after my mother’s death before we could bring ourselves to sort through her cedar chest. There we found it, wrapped in brown paper: her wedding dress. It is cream-coloured satin, gathered at the bodice, with a full skirt and a long row of satin-covered buttons down the back. The Second World War had delayed my parents’ marriage and the ceremony took place in October 1946.

Sixty-one years later, on a sunny June day in 2007, I wore that dress when I married my longtime partner, Tom, in our garden. With a few minor alterations, it fit perfectly. Although my mom had passed away the previous year, as I walked down the garden path and under the honeysuckle arbour, I felt she was with me in spirit. She probably smiled to see her gown in the spotlight one more time.

2.

As a child I loved kindergarten — especially the art-making part. I recall the satisfying squishiness of the clay that my pudgy fingers teased into shapes. And I remember the smooth satiny feel of paint as I spread it with my fingers over waxy paper and watched patterns emerge. A painted wooden robin is one of the few pieces of my early artwork that survived. It’s made from wood scraps I glued together, fastened to a spool, then painted. It reminds me that my five-year-old Inner Artist is still alive, and that I need to let her out to play more often.

3.

My husband surprised me with a gift of this hand-painted porcelain brooch when we attended the Augusta Heritage Festival’s music camp in Elkins, West Virginia, over fifteen years ago. A guitar, banjo, and mountain dulcimer adorn its luminescent surface. For many years during our summer vacations, we attended such gatherings in the U.S., where we studied and played Southern Appalachian music.

Music is still a part of our lives. And the sounds that surrounded us during those heartfelt weeks come back to me whenever I wear this brooch. I hear guitar, banjo, mountain dulcimer, autoharp, fiddle, and stand-up bass along with the haunting sounds of southern singing. I also hear the teary farewells that were shared at the end of each meaningful camp experience.

4.

3. Photo of my GrandparentsThis photograph of my grandparents was taken in the backyard of their home in downtown Toronto in 1911. My grandfather, with his impish Yorkshire grin, looks so proud of his family: his wife Elizabeth and their children, Greta and baby Norman. Six more children would follow, including my mother in 1917.

I wish I could step into the photograph and talk with my grandmother about the unusual circumstances of her early life. In the late 1880s, she and her older brother were placed in an orphanage in Leeds, after their mother died and their father couldn’t keep them. They were sent to Canada, along with about 100,000 other “home children,” through the British Child Immigration Scheme. My grandmother was placed on a farm outside Stouffville, Ontario. I “found” her in a copy of the 1891 census in that town’s library. Her age: 10; her occupation: domestic servant.

So far I have been able to piece together only fragments, but I’m now embarking on more research so that I can write my grandmother’s story.

5.

6. Hand-painted Buddha DSC02269AOur image of the Buddha — just 12 centimetres square — was painted for my husband and me by a young Tibetan monk named Tseten Dorji, who lived in Kathmandu, Nepal. We began sponsoring him in the late 1990s and our monthly contributions both supported his religious and art education in a local monastery and assisted his parents. His family had seven children and lived on what Tseten’s mother could earn selling religious trinkets at a local market. His father was ill and unable to work.

We corresponded with the family over a four-year period, and have a scrapbook filled with letters and artwork we received. Through them we learned about daily life, religious life, school, holidays and celebrations, local plants and animals, and the political instability within Nepal, including the regular violent actions of rebels. After Tseten’s father’s health improved, our support was no longer needed, and eventually we lost touch. When I look at this framed picture Tseten painted for us I wonder what he is doing now, and if he is still in the monastery creating beautiful art.

6.

A delicate strand of cultured pearls is stored in its original blue velvet Birks jewellery box. My mother’s best friend, my “Aunt” Gloria, began putting pearls away for me at Birks when I was born. On my sixteenth birthday she presented me with this box wrapped in silver paper. I can still feel the coolness of her fingers and the happy chill that ran up my spine as she placed the pearls around my neck and fastened the silver clasp. I ran to the dresser mirror in my parents’ bedroom to admire them. I felt so grown up.

My aunt was like a whirlwind. She never sat still during her visits, smoked Sportsman cigarettes and left bright red lipstick rings on the butts. And she laughed a lot, throwing her head back and freeing what sounded like musical chimes interspersed with bursts of air. When my aunt was around, my generally sensible mother turned into a teenager. Her voice became high-pitched and her face flushed. Sadly, my aunt developed dementia later in life, and my mom watched her best friend of over seventy years slowly fade beyond her reach. I think of my aunt, so full of life, every time I wear those pearls.

7.

7. My Hiking Knapsack DSC02299AI bought this royal blue knapsack twenty-five years ago as I prepared for a two-week hiking trip in England, and it has accompanied me on countless other trails since that time. Some of its badges are now frayed, and in a few places it’s been lovingly re-stitched.

If the knapsack could talk, it might prefer not to recall exhausting climbs, sudden downpours, heatstroke, sweat, blackflies, and mosquitoes. But I think it would happily share memories of wandering on the rolling moorlands of Yorkshire, amongst black-faced sheep with wild locks. It would surely recall being on a rocky outcrop in Algonquin Park and spotting a moose grazing in a calm pool below. And it would certainly remember standing beneath the ancient red and white pines, two to three hundred years old, in Temagami. My knapsack will gather new stories when my husband and I return to Algonquin Park to hike this September.

Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

Seven Treasures, part 20: guest post by Hyacinthe Miller

A lifelong writer, HYACINTHE MILLER is editing drafts of her non-fiction book (Police Officer: Journeys from Recruit to Chief), two novels, and an anthology of erotic short stories. She is president of the Writers’ Community of York Region and a member of Sisters in Crime and Toronto Romance Writers. She maintains a blog, Write in Plain Sight, and is developing another site called The Police Professional.

*     *     *

 

 

1.

GrandmotherI’ve always been enamoured of snapshots, those frozen fleeting seconds of our lives that outlast memory.

The date printed on the pinked margin reads February 1938. Grandmother’s thick wavy hair is pinned back under a fancy hat. The camera registers her dark oval face, her unblinking gaze under a solemn brow, the fox-head stole draped around her shoulders. Her fingers grip a wooden plinth, as if to press it into the floor.

“My mother was a dainty woman,” Mom would whisper, prying the lid from a dusty storage box and easing grandmother’s shoes from a bed of crinkly tissue. Tiny (size 4), low-heeled and shiny black and soft as frosting, with a comforting, worn scent, those boots were a talisman. Wiping her eyes with the corner of her apron, she’d turn away to look at something I couldn’t see. I’d trace the sweep of leather buttons, the cobbler’s stitched signature on the instep. There was no question of me putting them on — at age ten I was almost as tall as my mother, with feet far too big. Eleven months after the portrait was taken, grandmother sat in a dentist’s chair to have a tooth extracted and didn’t awaken from the ether. At age 19 the orphaned guardian of three younger siblings, my stoic, graceful mother would wear the weight of that death all of her life.

2.

MomgardenThe photo of my mother at 22 hangs on the wall of my sewing room, in an antique frame we unearthed in her garage after she died suddenly in 1998. In it she is shy, slender, hopeful — I was that way too, once. She’s affianced of my father, a dreamy lad deployed as a sapper with the British Corps of Engineers in the pestilential trenches of Second World War Egypt. We’re not sure how they met, or when. My brothers and I speculate, injecting romance or intrigue into an invented history. In that unruly garden behind the family walk-up in Montreal, Mom looks more incandescent than sunlight. In fading convent-school cursive, she wrote on the reverse, Greeting to My Beloved, Christmas 1942. He returned two years later, not the man she’d thought she knew, but a wary, tight-lipped husk, besotted by an Englishwoman who’d reclaim him twelve years later, leaving my mother bereft again, this time with three small children of her own. Mom mourned/adored him till she died. I learned the persistence of love.

3.

My daddy, whom I would love even when he no longer knew me, stands at parade rest in a postcard photograph, cap rakishly askew over his right ear, dark khaki uniform sharply pressed, boots spit-shined, cloth service belt wrapped tight around his narrow waist. Birthed in a village somewhere in Cuba and lacking proper documentation, he’d lied about his age to enlist in the army. The sweet-faced poet-photographer-machinist-farmer looks to be on the threshold of tears. He inscribed the photo, From Ronnie to dear Eunice, with his love. Underneath what looks like a hastily sketched bird is a blotch of red, whether wax or a scrap from an album I don’t know. But it resembles a misshapen heart. When I first found the picture among my mother’s things, those words, his love, struck me as odd phrasing, but recalling the lives they’d lived — briefly together and decades apart — I knew that he’d lost whatever self he had, after he sailed on that troop ship and puked his way to war. He’d shaken hands with the Shadow.

4.

BabyshoesIn a yellowing cellophane bag tucked on the top shelf of my closet, I’ve kept the pair of impossibly tiny pink booties that were mine. They seem more fitting for a doll than a full-term infant. I was born fourteen days short of my parents’ first anniversary. Babies were smaller in those lean days after the Armistice. I recall stories of how poor they were. How important the family connections. The sweater Mom knitted fits my outstretched hand. Decorated with scalloped edges, eyelet rows, and yellow ducks, the fine wool sweater’s much washed, the stitches barely felted, no longer pristine white but aged to ivory.

5.

Jess and I have been best friends since February 1961, when she blew into Sister John Francis’s class at Denis Morris High School, nudging the trajectory of my future. Drum corps and cheerleading, smoking Export ‘A’s pilfered from her dad, and . . . boys. At age 16, we are so innocent in our matching white jackets. Not for nothing in 1992 are we wearing dark sweaters, reflecting, perhaps, the lessons shaping our lives. In the photo I’ve grown into the same cautious eyes that were my dad’s. Unlike him, though, I’ve saved my self.

6.

SupernanaThe Superman sweater, knit when my son was in grade seven and before heroes fell from favour, later kept my mother comfy too. Graduated to a new outfit, he dropped by for a scheduled break from patrolling the 400 series highways, proud to show Nana his police cruiser. Years later, he would wear his dress uniform to her funeral. Captured forever in this photo, their innocent connection still warms.

 

 

 

7.

And when I thought that my options for bliss had frayed to a thread and that my fate, like that of all the women in my family, was to grow old alone, I met him at IKEA, my Swedish Viking. His first gift was a signet ring with stylized initials reading LH in one direction, HM in the other. Our lives have intertwined, like the letters. What serendipity.

Wednesday, March 6th, 2013

Seven Treasures, part 19: guest post by Natalie Shahinian

Artist and writer NATALIE SHAHINIAN is happiest in her pyjamas, snacking on peanut butter licked from the end of a spoon. When the spread is on sale, Natalie stocks up, solely in the event of an emergency. She has been quoted as saying, “I don’t want to imagine a world without peanut butter. That would be an awful way to live.”

(Read about Seven Treasures and find links to more guest posts here.)

 

1. Marbles

It may have been her parents’ farm, but it was B’s kingdom. An only child, B was audacious among adults, and immune to any punishment if she was caught. With acres of farmed fields stretching some distance, it was impossible to know all of B’s offences.

She putted large, spongy soccer balls of overgrown cucumbers at cars in the full parking lot. She terrorized the Italians, stealing mature blossoms from the zucchini patch. She pulled open a curtain of tall rushes and shot out on her dirt bike, delighted with the panic she stirred up among customers.

Through an unspoken agreement only parents understand, it was decided I was to befriend B and set a good example. I was stumped, for a while. Then I prepared for my next visit.

That day, when B saw the purple whisky pouch rattling in my hands, she bolted for the farm’s ready-picked shop, returning with an identical bag that rattled like mine. All that visit we traded Oilies and Pearls, lost in a tilled kingdom of our own. Until the big marble in the sky began to swirl orange, pinks, and gold upon our faces. Goodbye, goodbye.

2. Pencil Crayons

It happened the year my sister returned home from studying abroad. I came up to her knees. She came up to my soul.

You have to be careful with these. They’re special. Not like any of the ones you’ve used before. Her hands were holding something inside her unzipped suitcase. I stood up.

She took out the tin tray of pencil crayons, Caran d’Arche. The lid was so ornate and beautiful; I couldn’t believe the real gift was what was inside.

Colours arranged in perfect pointed tips. Just the sight inspired me, and still does.

3. Metropolitan Button

If I faced west on the entrance steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I could see the Front Desk in the Great Hall where I spent most of my internship. If I faced east, I could see Fifth Avenue, the M1 bus, doubles of dog breeds on long leather leashes, and a heap of apartment buildings. I could see the museum I kept rediscovering that is New York City.

During my first week of orientation, I picked up tips rarely circulated beyond the Museum doors. The green salad at the Restaurant is a hit or miss. The elevator outside of Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas is usually empty. The best fashion to be seen, outside of the Fashion and Costume Institute, is at the Roof Garden Café on a Friday, after five o’clock.

Granted, none of the insight shared qualified me as a native New Yorker. But that doesn’t mean I didn’t let myself identify with city’s inhabitants when a stranger would turn to me and ask for directions, or a tourist would want my opinion about a particular place or restaurant; the closest grocer, the best independent-designer shopping district, the specialty bookstores. The server at the bakery, who started put my order together before I walked through the door.

Deep down however, I knew, I had more in common with the city’s visitors regardless of what I had learned or had been told. It was in the way people not from there looked at everything in the city like it was under a piece of glass. The John Lennon Memorial in Central Park, the pretzel vendor on the street corner, the graffiti in the laneway. For me, the small, especially, would stand out: the sparkling granite of the sidewalk, the misprinted admission button for the Museum. Art was everywhere, not just within the galleries. And, still in love, I couldn’t help but look, and look, and look.

4. Shark Tooth

Lying on its side, the outline of the shark tooth I found while collecting shells at the beach looks like an irregular “D,” her first initial, and I remember.

The sunburn isn’t a big deal, D. Honest. It’s, like, nothing.

D calls my bluff with a palm-full of cold aloe gel on my reddened spine. THWACK! I never had a chance.

I howl, and then nearly choke on my own laughter, and she rolls off the bed in a fit so silly she can’t even glance at me. She’s crumpled on the floor, laughing and holding her tummy. I exaggerate my agony, laughing too now, filling the space around her.

5. Nest

Nothing about the day was remarkable. Not the weather, not the time, not the route. And if it hadn’t been for the fallen nest, lying on the edge of someone’s front lawn, I would have forgotten about my companion since, Mother Nature.

Look how the dry grasses are woven! Isn’t it amazing? A bird did this! With its tiny beak, it made a home. A HOME! With the neckline of my T-shirt, I wiped the tears from my eyes. Behind me, I felt Her smile.

At home, I presented to my mother what she had missed. Multiple sclerosis had put an end to our leisurely walks together. Relying on both of us for support, Mom peered over the nest, absorbing its craftsmanship with wonder. That’s when Mother Nature began to ease her hold, certain I could take the weight of Mom on my own, acknowledging my thankfulness, growing smaller and larger with every whisper. I know . . . I know.

6. Wacky Packages

To spend time with my cousins, I had to take an oath to belong to their exclusive fraternity. Thou shalt watch the cartoons of their choosing. Though shalt learn to pedal fast if thou wantest to ride bike alongside. Thou shalt wrestle and expect to get hurt. Furthermore, thou shalt not cry, nor tattle, nor be a sissy baby if thou shouldest get hurt.

I took the punches, and the plots of destruction, all the way to the convenience store, where the three of us would buy coveted Wacky Packages. It was a fair price to pay for acquiring a pack containing trading cards and stickers spoofing household brands. And with two brothers to trade and laugh with, I rarely had any doubles . . . or doubts about the time spent with them either.

7. Ceramic Mug

At the end of summer, L, your skin would be caramel brown. Your ponytail would be a brighter blonde. (Buttercup!) And you’d be taller. Much taller since the last time I’d seen you, before you left for camp.

What was this place that served peanut butter on hot dogs? Had beds so high you had to climb a ladder to reach them? I pleaded with my parents. Can I go?

Unlike L’s, my camp was in the city, at a local public school. A yellow bus dropped me off in the mornings, and in the afternoons took me back to the ketchup and mustard waiting for me at the kitchen table and the bed I could crawl into on my own. My days, however, were the notes in the margins of a story about to unfold.

I painted. I danced. I wrote stories. I put on a show. I made new friends, broke someone’s heart, and so, for a while, got used to sitting on the bus, alone.

And I knew it was right. All of it. It reached to the brim of my ceramic cup, the one I made in Pottery, and then began to flow over.

It tasted exactly like you looked in August, L.

 

 

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012