Posts tagged childhood

To Be Someone’s Everything

Since I was only 19 years old, sitting in a frayed chair,

I have loved looking down upon a sweet head,01090049

of soft,curly hair, stroking it, as it mixed with my own.

That was the incomparable joy of motherhood.

A sleepy head upon my shoulder, or laying beside me,

a soft, even breath when sleep finally came and I could rest.

I would lovingly touch their sleepers of pink or blue,

as I laid them beside me, watching them as they dreamed.

“It’s hard to be someone’s everything.” I told my friend.

A young mom too, she laughed and said, “But so sweet!”

In those difficult times, I though,how true it was,

To be wrapped in the joy of life’s greatest pleasure-motherhood.

Now, I am not young, and have spent nearly 40 years,

with a soft head of hair in many colors, and textures

laying beside me, or on my shoulder, they all loved being loved.

For me to rub their backs or heads as their eyes closed for the night.

We have been through so much, over the years-

the unimaginable joy of new life and the unspeakable sorrow

of the loss of a child, and still, running my hand through

each child’s hair has remained an unforgotten blessing.

Today, I walked into my teens room, music playing quietly,

and saw him lying there with her head on his shoulder,

His girl, not me, and I found it hard to hold back the tears

as I walked away knowing those days would soon end.

Yes, I would rub the heads of my many grandchildren,

such beautiful, soft hair, I touched and remembered.

But it wasn’t the same. I would lay them in their bed,

or take them to their home. Leaving me here, alone.

If only I could be young again, tired again, I thought.

Running my hand through silky hair, and knowing,

that this tiny act of love between us was so precious,

would one day be only a sweet memory, but not,

I hoped, today…..

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MUSCADINE MEMORIES

DSCN2817One day last week when I was at your house-okay cleaning out your now empty house, I noticed the most wonderful vine of the old fashioned Muscadine grapes growing up a tree at the edge of your yard.

I have never seen anything like it! Oh, Dad, how I wanted to run in and get you and show you the redbud tree hanging full of Muscadine grapes. You and mom grew up very differently, but I lost you both in your 87th year. Mom was a few years older, so I had to watch you drown in the misery of waking up without her after 62 years together.

l I haven’t been able to write for the past few months, since I lost you. There is so much inside me, I know I will never remember the feelings as I did when they were fresh, and I will always resent it. What kept me from writing was not because of you passing, but the pain was nearly as bad. A violation by someone, of my deepest thoughts, written in my journal, had made me feel as though I had been robbed of my most precious gift-the truths, good or bad that I written in a journal to the son I lost when he was 15 years old nearly every day.

When I saw the Muscadines, I knew the only reason they had survived was because they were wound around the branches so high in the redbud tree. Your neighborhood is full of bears, and my son who lives next door has seen many walking through your yards. My aunt on the hill above you had lost her grapes to the bears, as had neighbors and friends, I couldn’t think of anyone who hadn’t lost their grapes to the bears. A surprise for you, dad, but a couple of months too late.

All this time that I have been unable to write, I have though of you and mom, of my Andrew, all the loss, the sickness and pain I have endured, all the court stuff I had to endure in order to settle your estate. Hell has been my constant companion. Maybe that’s why the wild grapes were so special-a moment of joy and beauty amidst all the pain.

I can write now, the anger over having been put through a completely unnecessary hell during the weeks proceeding your loss have dissipated to the point where not writing would let the evil win-and I damn well wouldn’t do that. So I will write a few of the memories that the Muscadines brought to me. Perhaps, in some small way, they will help me heal.

Dad, I had seen your health failing for a long time, your memory and rationality fading as well, and I had been working to get things in order. I felt a lot of guilt, many of the decisions I had to make were hard. I knew without a doubt that I was doing what you wanted me to do, but there was still a ring of guilt to suddenly be the ‘one who held the gold’.My kids and I will never forget your slightly evil (but loving) smile, when we would want something that your conservative mind could not quite go along with and we would see you smile, as you looked at us and said, “You know the ‘Golden Rule?” And we did know it. Your “Golden Rule” had always been, “Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”(possibly first used by Confucius) -and it had always before meant YOU. Suddenly it was ME.

Part of me anxiously awaited my turn at “holding the gold”, and part of me had always feared the responsibility that came with it. Now, that I did “hold the gold”, even though you were still here in a weakened condition, I found the responsibility both humbling and empowering. Every decision that was made was MY responsibility, every mistake made was my fault. Suddenly, I wondered how you could have held that responsibility all those years and smiled as you reminded us of it. It was completely terrifying.

Thinking back, again, (and not having allowed myself to write it), I remembered the little gift your grandchildren and I received within moments of your death. My son’s friend, who had been with us when you died and had loving called me “Mah-mah” since his childhood, had called my son on his cell phone and told him to look at a photo he had made with his phone. In his picture, directly over the spot where my mom (and soon you) would be buried, there had suddenly appeared a beautiful rainbow, so perfectly centered above your graves that it had seemed like a message from God.

Muscadines…they reminded me of so many of the moments in nature I had shared with my grandparents, parents and children through the years. Those little snips of beauty that stay with you as though your mind was a camera, even though you had no actual photo. I thought of Andrew, three or four years old, staring up at a huge sunflower. I will never forget the look of wonder on his face as he gazed up at that eight-foot high flower, as golden as the sun, above him. I remembered finding the hillside filled with bloodroot flowers whenI took a walk with my children were they were quite young. I showed them how the plant got its name from the Mercurochrome-colored fluid that flowed from the stem when it was injured or broken of. Many years later, I witnessed one of my children, telling the same story to their child.

Once, when I was about ten years old, my grandmother, aunt, my mother and I, went on our daily walk in my grandparents pasture. Suddenly, my grandmother almost stepped on a snake. My mother screamed and my aunt laughed, “Its only a garter snake.” she smiled as she saw my mother look away. My mother was never afraid of snakes or spiders and was quite embarrassed at her own reaction. “I hadn’t looked that close yet”, she mumbled, and we knew it was true. Mother always told me that she was much more afraid of men than of spiders and snakes, “because you knew what a spider or snake was going to do.”

My aunt ran a little country store and to this day, I can see my mother marching in with a black widow spider she had caught in a jar. Even the men stepped back a bit as she told them about catching it on the very steps they had just gone up. I could write a book on “the little store” stories that my cousins and I shared as we enjoyed freedoms modern children no longer have-wandering the neighborhood without supervision. To this day, my favorite “little store” stor is the time mu cousin, Johnny, who was maybe 14, pretended to vomit on the store’s steps as my furious uncle tried to sweep up the fake plastic vomit before someone stepped in it. A crowd of cousins stood at the edge of the store building giggling away. When my uncle realized that he had been duped by a teenager, he was madder than ever.

Sometimes, in this rough and often cruel life, a simple scene like the muscadine grapes will bring us back to all the good memories we have had. For a moment, we smile, we realize how much love surrounded us, even when we were a bit naughty. WE close our eyes and remember those who are gone now and find ourselves smiling rather than shedding ear. Just for a moment, those muscadine memories surround us, comfort us and ring us home. Maybe life wasn’t so bad after all.

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Into the Cold

The stars dangle from silver strings,

Glistening limbs amidst the dreams.

Even the air looks cold outside,

My dreams, my hope, alone reside.

I let myself curl up in bed,

dreaming of warmth, a fire, instead.

And brush cold tears from flowers, dead..

Childhood dreams within my head.

Where in my heart has gone the day,

a rope of twine upon the sleigh?

The laughter, screams of children near,

Deep, in the distance, I hear it still.

I close my eyes and see the days,

when decades past, my children played.

My grandkids, now rush down the hill,

laughing as they roll and spill.

Winter, you are now so cold,

or is it that I now am old?

Winter days, and sparkling night,

The moon, the clouds the dark the light

My picture book in black and white.

Crumpled pages, dark and light.

Life’s so short, so sweet and mild.

I wish, again, to be a child.

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Brave Souls

I felt my whole body shiver as the wind pushed me towards the white cliff only yards ahead.

It was early September, and unlike the beaches I was accustomed to back in South Carolina, the white emptiness seemed to swallow me up as I looked out upon the vast sea that separated me from my home.

“Why had I come here?” I asked myself as I turned quickly towards what I felt was more steady ground.

“What had drawn me from my home, still summer-like, warm and welcoming, back to this dreary place where so much had happened in the years long past?”

 I felt the wind whip my hair, just as it did on the beaches at home, and tied it in a knot, so as not to find it filled with tangles. Back home, my curls would have danced in the heat of the sun, the glimmer of sand in the early evening sparkling like diamonds amidst the scattered shells.

I wondered what they called this place where the earth dropped off so violently to the sea. I could not, for the life of me, remember. Surely, it couldn’t be called ‘a beach’, as we called it back home. There was no beach, no glistening sand, no shells or sharks teeth to pick up as souvenirs. Only a harsh, sharp shrub, blown towards the sea, like a withered old man.

I felt my scarf swirl around my neck as I headed down the winding trail to the hut made of stone and partially covered by a roof of thatched straw and branches. The memories rushed back to me as the shadow from the house made the chill of the wind even stronger.

I remembered clinging to my mother’s hand as she ran down this trail when she saw father trudging up the hillside from the pasture below. I could almost smell the pot of steaming soup on the stove and the worn table and benches where we would sit and eat, the five of us, thankful that there was anything to eat at all.

Only then, looking upon my father’s gravestone, did I realize why my mother had taken her three little girls past that grave one last night, then loaded our sparse belongings onto to wagon with the echo of the horses hooves beneath us. We traveled for hours it seemed, towards the rivers’ edge and then boarding the ship, momma holding onto us as if we were made of glass.

 It was both the loss of hope and the search for something better that drove my momma into that shipyard that cold night. It was her strength and courage that found us living in a warm cabin across the endless sea that had given us what we had now.

I was filled with admiration for her brave soul, her staunch determination, as she made her way to that new land. I looked across the sea to America, to opportunity, to home.

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Some Things Never Change

Mommy was busy hanging out the clothes. It was a warm spring day and the country wind felt so good after a bitterly cold winter. Her skirt was blowing in the wind, a soft blue cotton, one of her favorite “everyday” dresses.

She couldn’t believe it was 1960. She had gladly moved to the country when her husband was transferred last fall. That is where she had grown up. She could hear the children playing down the hill. Their giggling was music to her ears. Even work seemed like fun here on the farm. There was no time for boredom. The day was filled with cooking, cleaning, working with the children, doing the laundry.

“Mommy!” a shrill voice echoed up the hill.

Mommy turned and ran down the hill where her four year old son sat in the muddy grass, half laughing, half crying.

“What in the world happened?” Mommy asked the little boy.

“I was running down the hill and fell on my ass!” he giggled.

“Jimmy!” Mommy scolded, you know better than to talk like that!”

“Johnny said it the other day.” The child said as he stood up and tried to brush off the dirt. “He said his sister had a big ass, and then he laughed.”

“Do you know what that means?” Mommy said.

Johnny patted his bottom and said that was what it meant.” He smiled.

“Well. Let’s don’t say that again, it isn’t a nice word.” Mommy smiled as she hugged the little boy.

“Mommy, I don’t think Johnny’s sister has a big ass.” He said as he looked up innocently as his mother began to hang clothes on the line again.

“Boys,” sighed mommy, “ There is just no hope. Even from the little ones.”

She shook her golden locks and went back to hanging the clothes. She knew that the more she said, the more enticing the “bad word” would become.

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Above the Mountains in the Clouds

I was about five years old. We were on our way to the beach for the first time. I opened my sleepy eyes as we went down the mountains and rubbed my eyes in disbelief. Below my was a fluffy layer of clouds with what looked like an island emerging from its center. Was I still asleep? Had I been lifted to some sort of magical land?

I looked up and say my parents in the front seat. My mom turned around and smiled, knowing my thoughts. “We are above the clouds, honey,” she smiled. “What you see is a mountaintop coming up from the valley.”

“Wow!” I though. “Could seeing the ocean for the first time really beat this?”

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I Close my Eyes

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The flight of life, all I am or hope to be. I close my eyes.

I am a child, turning as I look for signs of growing up,

then a teen, swirling in front of a mirror,

dreaming of college, midnights out, no curfew.

Suddenly, I awake to the sound of wedding music

and then a baby cries as I shake my head.

The laundry awaits, my feet hurt.

Life, where is it going, it used to seems so slow.

Now I’m bandaging skinned knees, paying mortgages.

I see my teen swirling in front of a mirror.

I find myself looking at the obituaries in the paper.

I notice a little gray in my husbands hair.

Graduations, weddings, then accidents, surgeries,

my back hurts when I garden all day, the house needs repair.

I cry at the tombstones of my parents,

suddenly becoming aware of my own age,

Life, speeding by at the speed of light.

Computers have replaced the written word.

I feel outdated, like I don’t belong here anymore.

Struggling to keep up, I feel the desperation of loosing my edge.

Yesterday, I was young, had hope, dreams, health.

I remember whirling in the wind beneath the moon,

Oceans waves crashing behind me, the bright lights of town

glowing distantly, calling to me, “Come, live, love!”

Now it is nighttime, winter, cold and bare.

The dreams have been fulfilled or died long ago.

I try to imagine where it all went, how it got away,

A tear rolls down a weathered cheek. I close my eyes once more.

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Estate Sale

Copyright-Ted Strutz

Today, an estate sale sign sat in the yard of my childhood friend. Thirty years ago, we all loved to go to Katie’s house. Wonderful memories filled my heart.

I stopped and walked in the door to the sale. It was as if I had gone back in time. Picking a few things that I remembered, I paid for them and returned to my car.

My hands were shaking. How quickly life goes by. Those treasures now sit on my mantle. What will happen to them if, one day, an estate sale sign sits in front of my house?

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Earth Day, 1969-2013

I remember the first Earth Day. I was in Junior High, in the downtown area of my city for the first time, my generations first step away from our neighborhood elementary schools. It was the year schools were integrated in my town. How excited we were, to be part of this first Earth Day, we were the “babies” of the “hippie” culture and were anxious to be considered part of the idea behind Earth Day-cleaning up the environment, getting back to home gardens and self-sustaining ideas. Of course at our age, our ideas were limited, as the concept of waste and growing up in a throw away society was our world.

We had just begun to think like adults, have our own ideas and concepts. This is one of the very first days I remember with my mind in an “adult” format. I will never forget it. In celebration of Earth Day, our art class went out and sat on a grassy bank in front of our school and were told to draw pictures of what downtown looked like. I am sure there were kids who were just glad to be outside, but for me, sitting on that hill drawing a picture my perception of the small city was eye-opening. I had lived there all my life, but for the first time, I REALLY looked at my city. I noticed the huge church next door with the domed roof, I looked out at the dogwood trees blooming on down the hill on our school grounds I looked back at the small chipped-rock playground where “recess” and P.E. were held.

Suddenly” my city” became more than simply “my neighborhood. There were still rows of 20’s era building lining the streets beyond the school. There were woods and grassy areas behind the area where the old brick school building set. A red brick wall divided our school grounds from the street below. s I took this all in, the world seemed like a much larger place for the first time in my 14 years of life. i noticed a possibly homeless man wandering the sidewalk beyond the school. His clothes were old and tattered and he appeared to be rather unaware of where he was or in what direction he was going. Having grown up a protected only child who spent her time shopping uptown with my mother, I had given little though to life outside my safe urban world. There were no real “malls” in my town, a few “shopping centers”. No drunks staggered down the streets where I lived. Being “Homeless” was something that happened “somewhere else”, not in my town.

We had a speaker on that first “Earth Day” that introduced us to the concepts of taking care of the world we lived in. In 1969, the world was beginning to seem much smaller and it was happening very quickly. I could not imagine, at that time, how quickly those changes would take place. There were three black and white channels on TV, huge, unsightly receptor antennas stood on top of our homes to bring them to us. Telephones had dials and curly cords. No one that I knew had a microwave, although, I imagine some of the “rich” kids” did. Most moms didn’t work unless they “had to” or at least until their kids were old enough to get off the bus and stay home alone until she got there. Now, letting even a 14 year-old come home to an empty house gives moms an uneasy feeling. I lived in a very innocent world.

There were many more Earth day celebrations in my future, all in an increasingly frightening, yet more aware world. We planted trees, cleaned up river banks, volunteered in homeless shelters. We became aware of the world around us. Sadly, the opening of the door to the fact that we MUST start taking care of our world, was the beginning of the end of the innocent world I grew up in. The old brick Junior High was torn down the next year. The hill was leveled, along with the woods and playground. An interstate now “by-passes” the tunnel through the mountain, which long separated my side of town just as the high bridge across the river separated us from the other side of town.

Integration was the rule and we were at its inception. The concept of Middle School replaced Junior High. There were several big race” riots in the remaining years old my secondary education. Surprisingly, I don’t remember having problems with people with different colored skin. I do, however, remember that though we went to “same” schools, we rarely did things with children who were of a different color form u, or from a different part of town. Earth Day songs played by John Denver Appeared. The whole concept of saving our world from pollution and saving our poor from deprivation became a project for various civic groups.

Earth Day, in 2013 is very different from the first Earth Day. The focus, has ironically returned to its roots, but it is now organized, with special events, a more modern focus. As I talk to my grandchildren, who are still young, and to my teen, who is the age I was at earth Days inception, their world is already a much bigger place. News spreads fast, violence is everywhere, most moms have to work, cable TV, cell phones, technology in general are a part of their world from the time of their birth.

Still, I feel something very important is missing from their more protected, more violent, more technological world. There is an expectation of “things”, there are less moms fixing dinner for the family as they talk about how their day went. The is a lack of innocence, a lack of closeness and dependence among each other in families that to me is simply sad. Everyone is in their room playing with their ipods, ipads, computer games or watching recorded programs from Cable TV. They are not together, not reading books to the little ones at bedtime, not growing up appreciating the bonds of family or the importance of relationships with real people.

I would like to see Earth Day become part of a new trend towards family, community, doing things because they are right or good, rather that to get extra credit in school or bragging rights at the office. I would love to spend a day, heck a lifetime with my children and grandchildren able to savor the simple things in life, like sitting on a hillside drawing pictures with a pencil and table. My daughter, now the mother of two, won a regional prize or a report with the topic, “We must learn to ‘baby’ “Mother Earth”.

Today, I feel a good topic would be, “We must learn that ‘family life’ exists beyond electronics”.

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Memories of a Night’s Dim Light

creative writing prompt, fiction writing prompt, memoir writing prompt

The light flickered dimly on the dark, round table. She noticed the curve of the three legs, all sprouting from the tables underside. “What hand had carved these legs, “ she thought.  “What purposed did he have for the table when he carved it.”

She sat in the lone chair pushed up to the table and cupped her cold hands around the warmth of the flame.  It flickered, as if in protest, ands she moved her hands away just a bit, as the flame regained its strength.

Outside, the wind whistled in the night.  The quarter moon shone dimly in the window. There were no curtains to block the view of  the moon, a flash of stars, the outline of the Big Dipper.

For a moment, she sat quietly, contemplating her next move.  She had walked up the hill to the house her grandmother had been born in, searching for a place where her thoughts could flow freely and help her decided what to do.

She remembered the old radio she had brought here months before and walked to the shelf and turned it on. The radio hummed to life, a static in the background reminded her of the battery-powered radio she had listened to in bed at night as a child.

“The Geminid meteors will be visible tonight.” The radio announcer boldly spoke into the semi-darkness of the room.  She left the radio on, but returned to the table, remembering a long ago night when her father had come to her room, awakening her at 2 am.

“Come here, honey, I want to show you something.” he had whispered as he stroked her hair.  She had mumbled about being cold and sleepy as she slipped on her   and house coat and followed him outside.” Shivering, as he held her, she waited and waiting until she say a meteor streak by and then another.  That memory crept back into her mind as she lifted the candle and walked toward the door.

She sat the candle on the porch rail and walked into the field of dead December grass. Suddenly a brilliant streak of light flashed across the sky as a whip of wind made the candle’s flame shudder.

A smile crossed her face as another meteor appeared in the western sky. Her answer seemed so clear now, so obvious.  She shivered again, wrapping her arms around her to hold her sweater shut, reached over, gently picked up the candle and walked back inside.

The radio announcer was still humming out the news, but she wasn’t listening. She turned it off, blew out the candle and walked quietly out the door. As she walked back to the home she had lived in her whole life, she could see herself in that little house, reborn, renewed, refreshed. The light from the candle, the light in the sky , it was a sign. Yes, this would be her home.

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