Thursday, April 29, 2010
You would have thought being knocked unconscious would have sort of put me off biking, but I needed to be mobile! I had to be! So with an ice pack tied to the knot on my head, Daddy and I tried again. And again. And again. It was starting to get dark, and Mom was freaking out about that, but we tried just...one...more...time.
This time I got it. I knew what I was doing. I was well-trained, and life was never the same for me. Now instead of having to run alongside the kids with bikes to go to the candy store with my nickel, I kept up with them on wheels.
One afternoon it was hot as Hades. There were heat mirages coming off the oil on the street in front of my house. Nobody was out, most were sitting inside in front of big fans watching cartoons on TV, but I went outside and sat on my bike in the back yard. I just sat on it with the kickstand down and started daydreaming. First I daydreamed about riding the bike, but when I closed my eyes, I saw the ocean, the waves crashing, the spray reaching to the sky, then as daydreams are wont to do, a pirate ship appeared on the horizon, and I had to prepare to do battle. My little boat would be no match for that giant ship that had just intercepted me, and I was trembling with fear.
What happened next was amazing and beautiful! My little fishing boat began to shimmer and glow! The masts went up. My boat was the most brilliant glowing gold vessel anyone would ever see! It cast off a golden light brighter than the sun, and when one of the pirates reached out to pull it in and tie it to their ugly, mean, big ship, electricity shot out to grab his hand and sent him writhing to the deck, screaming in pain, and in the biggest, meanest voice a five-year-old little girl could muster I yelled, "HA HA! YOU'VE MET YOUR MATCH NOW YOU UGLY DIRTY PIRATE!"
Another pirate, a meaner pirate, kicked his groaning partner out of his space, gritted his teeth and reached for my golden vessel, only to receive a shock even greater than his buddy had gotten, and he screamed like a little five-year-old girl who was playing all the roles. And without any hesitation, the pirate ship turned and sailed away, far away from the electric gold boat.
When Mom called me for lunch, I shook my head and looked up to see the gold masts flapping in the wind, only to see the leaves of a tree in my own back yard, and looked down to find I was sitting on the seat of my 24-inch Schwinn girl's bicycle. An imagination is an awful thing to waste. Now, as an adult, I consciously pick a quiet time of my evening to daydream and ride on ships made of gold and swim naked in the ocean. And sometimes I just sit on the seat of my blue bicycle and listen for my mother's voice.
Friday, April 23, 2010
One day I noticed she looked unhappy up there alone, not happy like I thought, until she was adopted by all my little granddaughters...all smiles and love here now!
Thursday, April 22, 2010
I'm not really sure what God thought of this guy, Don. He meant well, and his life had never really been easy. He had five brothers who regularly made him meaner. When I replay the events in my head that led up to his being inducted into the United States Army, I either laugh or cry, depending on how my own day is shaping up.
Don never won anything. His whole life he scrapped for everything from a quarter to go to the movies to a snack when he was hungry, stealing tomatoes from a nearby neighbor's garden and plums from trees scattered throughout the neighborhood where he and his six siblings grew up. "My neighborhood," he calls it now, and ironically I bought a house so close to his childhood home that I could almost throw a rock from my back yard into theirs. We spend a lot of time now reminiscing about the old days while sitting on my patio gazing toward the house he grew up in that is now occupied by another big boisterous family with the kids threatening to take over the territory.
Tired after a long day of classes, and anxious to grab his six-pack out of the refrigerator and settle in for a quiet night, Don flipped the old TV on in his little apartment that was above a business in downtown St. Louis. The Vietnam War was going on and when he changed channels to what was usually his after-classes Western, he saw, instead, that the draft lottery had just come on.
As he sat here winding down with a few beers, God said, "Let's see, son, if we can put some of that meanness, that spirit, those muscles to some good use."
Don had never won anything in his life, did I mention that? Until then. As he popped open his second beer, the voice on TV said, "And the winner is July 9! July 9, you are number one."
He was mid-swig when the invisible man's voice came out of his television set. There was not any DVR or digital TV of course, so he could not just run it back and make sure he heard correctly. But when they ran down all the numbers again at the end, there it was, big as life, July 9, the winner, and Don's whole life changed.
God was pleased. Those days and nights that the nineteen-year-old boy spent cold, wet, homesick, and a little angry turned him into a man who learned what home and family really meant, and he set about making a family and a home when he returned, still willing to defend his people, but a little less likely to do so with his fists.
Yes, God was pleased that the draft made a man of this boy, and even though I might question God's methods, I am honored to have this man by my side. Had the events been a little different, had July tenth, or July eighth been the lucky number, just that small alteration could have sent our paths on different courses and we might have never found one another.
And I am pleased.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
But I am at a loss here, as to why these two dogs will quickly dash into the yard in the mornings to eat all the fresh offerings that were left by neighborhood cats and errant dogs, but will daintily pick the little bow tie-shaped bits out of their kibble and spit them on the floor.
It is a curiosity, I will say. Yes, a total curiosity.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
So, with no further ado, please welcome...SPRING! (Roar of the crowd, laser lights, chanting, astronomically-priced t-shirts, coffee mugs, and CDs)!
Oh, yeah, here I am, here I am! Mommy? Daddy? Oh, no! STRANGER DANGER!
Hey, where did that weird-looking red kid go? I promised his mother I would look after him after she got selected to sit on someone's table in that vase!
Early-morning springtime storms moving in over the neighborhood.
Angel watching over the gardens, the newborn birds, and the lost flowers.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Image borrowed from here:
When the doves coo their mournful mating calls in the early spring as black, beautiful, powerful storm clouds roll in, I remember my Gramma calling the doves rain birds, and a feeling of peace surrounds me when I close my eyes and listen with my heart.
The heavy impending storm makes their sounds three-dimensional.
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
I was a regular teenager. My clothes cluttered my bedroom floor. When someone with any authority tested me, if Mom yelled about my sloppiness, my dad would put his arm around me…you know how they do when they are trying to pretend they are your best friend when even you know they can barely stand to look at you, probably look back to the day you were conceived and wish someone had walked in on them before the big moment so you had never become an embryo, a bun in the oven, a bawling infant, sassy five-year-old, rebel teen…and he would use that low menacing voice only I could hear and growl, “There ain’t no free lunch boy, better get your act together before I have to beat the tar out of ya!”
My old man. He sure loved me.
I was pretty good in school, though, and enjoyed my walk to the high school. All my friends were always waiting for me and we set out for our algebra class together. I was a whiz kid at math, and regularly earned an extra few bucks by doing some kid’s homework. One Wednesday morning, just about time for first lunch, though, I thought the shit was about to hit the fan. The principal came into my science class, whispered a few words to Mrs. Gilley. They both looked at me, looking a little disappointed I thought, and before they stopped conversing up there, I had my books packed up and was ready to head to the principal’s office.
Mr. Roberts said, “Ian, come with me.”
We walked in silence to the conference room of his office, an inner sanctum I had never seen. It was a really cool office with a big table and soft high-backed chairs. It was nice and cool in there.
“Ian, I understand you’ve been helping your classmates with their algebra homework, and I even heard that a couple of juniors have you doing trig, a class you’ve not even had yet…is that true, Ian?”
I sighed, busted. “Yes, sir, that would be me.”
Mr. Roberts said, “Well, we would rather you find some other way to tap into your obvious math talent. We would like you to become a paid tutor.”
“You mean, like a job?” My stomach growled because I was missing lunch to be here, but I was thinking how happy my folks would be to learn I was going to become a responsible part of society. That shit is overly important to them, in my opinion. But maybe I could buy video games with the money I made. “Well, sure, I’d like that, I guess.”
Two lunch trays somehow appeared on the table in front of us, and I reached into my pocket for the two bucks to pay for it, but Mr. Roberts put his hand on my arm and said, “Lunch is on me today, Ian. Now, let’s talk about a plan for this tutoring job.”
When we finished eating and talking, as I was fighting the crowded hallways, jockeying for position to arrive on time to my biology class, I flipped open my cell phone and dialed my dad’s number. He did not answer, which I expected. Dad is a real responsible guy who worked hard in a factory making bicycles. When his voicemail picked up, after the “beep”, I recorded my message: “Hey, Dad, it’s Ian. Just wanted to let you know that there IS a free lunch sometimes. I just had one.”
I laughed out loud as I put the phone away and wondered if I might get my ears boxed for being a smart ass when Dad made me explain my message that evening over dinner. I could not care less. I was a smart kid, a smart employed kid, who just had a free lunch with the principal, who talked to me as if I was special. Even though my room was a mess, I still had a job, and I had learned you do not have to clean your room to win a free lunch! Life was so good.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
First of all, the AAA TripTik I printed out from Gateway Arch to our hotel out by Forest Park, was incorrect. Need I say more? By the time we found it we realized not only had we driven past it twenty-two times, but were even in the parking lot at one point and didn't know it. We were very thirsty and hungry and on our way in the door to check in Don leaned down and whispered, "Don't tell them what a damned hell of a time we had finding this place, they'll think we're stupid." You can always say, "The TripTik was incorrect," and of course they are going to say, "Oh, darn, that's too bad!" The whole time wink-winking at one another behind the desk when we were not looking, you know what I mean? But the directions were REALLY wrong. Not just slightly off, but REALLY wrong.
After checking in, I treated my boyfriend to a nice dinner at The Highlander. After a couple of beers each, and one of the best-prepared meals I have had in ages, we were ready to snuggle in and prepare for the next day's adventure, the Easter car show.
Forest Park sounds like such an intimate small place, doesn't it? If you think that, you would be way wrong. It's ginormous. And beautiful. And when that car show is there, very, very crowded. The World's Fair was held there, and our hotel was decorated with old photos of that memory.
There are no parking lots, but it only took about five minutes of driving around trying to find street parking to learn the Forest Park Parking Rule: Even if someone is leaving a spot on the opposite side of the street than you are on, you do a quick u-turn and point your nose into it, beating out the person trying to zoom to it who is on the correct side. Nobody gets angry, they just chalk it up as being another outing in Forest Park. Everyone has to stop on both sides of the street and let you pull out and parallel park. My car's name is Myrtle. She is a green 2000 Ford Focus, and I can park her anywhere. If you had seen some of the tiny places I wiggled her into in Forest Park, you would have been so proud of her! Once I learned the rule, we had no more problems moving from place to place.
There must have been 1500 cars at the show, and ten times that many people. Here are a few car show photos:
I was wildly drawn to all the station wagons and I spent most of the day trying to decide if I should buy one, but there were so many, and I am not the most decisive person in the world, so I left on "empty." I especially liked the cooler that someone had put together, thought that was pretty nifty!
At the end of the show, Don and I were both tired and hot, but I was not leaving Forest Park without getting at least a glimpse of The Jewel Box. I had read all about it, but it was triple my expectations. It was the most peaceful place I think I have ever been. When you look at these photos, just hear how quiet it is:
And that is it for the car show and the Jewel Box, which, just by its very nature of being what I assume is an often-missed gem sitting out there in Forest Park, is very aptly named and turned out to be my favorite part of the trip.
Next time I will just post a few random photos, one you will not want to miss of Don thinking he might be able to climb a tree.
Wednesday, April 07, 2010
My prince charming chance encounter in the bookstore came to a screeching end when we arrived at the emergency room entrance to the local hospital. When I tried to follow him in, he turned around and glared at me sort of the way I would expect a demon to glare at me, so I beat a hasty retreat down the street and back toward the safety of my little store. I began walking back following the sun's travels across the bright blue sky. I was looking up, in other words, and just when the sun had entered the continental divide of noon, my life changed.
I stepped in a pothole and fell about ten feet, maybe more, actually, but that sort of thing is hard to judge as you are spiraling toward the ground rapidly with your skinny ankles about to take the pressure from the fall. I closed my eyes and held my breath, my hair standing straight up. Terrified would be such an understated adjective as I tumbled downward, that I will not even entertain such a ridiculous word!
Then I stopped. Just...stopped. There was no crashing and rolling and screaming, I just was falling one second and was sitting on what I guessed was the floor the next, and the first thing I saw were dolphins leaping out of the green grass of a field that stretched as far as my eyes could see, and on the other side, donkeys swimming in the ocean.
I closed my eyes and shook my head and opened one eye at a time, slowly, hoping maybe the dolphins and donkeys were back where they were supposed to be, but nope, they were still backwards.
Standing up slowly, I crept along the edge of the green field wondering if maybe I should try to walk where the water was, and eventually I just balanced precariously between the two places. In front of me dolphins, behind me donkeys, clowns to the left of me, jokers to the right, here I am...that song was playing in my head as I stared straight in front of me, really a little disturbed, definitely afraid to glance left or right out of fear that I might question my sanity even further, if you can imagine that was a possibility at this point.
Finally, though, I heard what sounded like a choir off to my left, and almost involuntarily, I turned toward it, and there, was a field of flowers that looked like cotton candy on stems, all pink and blue, the aroma filling my senses and conjuring up memories of being a kid at the fair. Dogs dressed in shorts and tank tops and t-shirts, all sizes, shapes, breeds, were dancing merrily, howling, laughing, and making merry. There were puppies, too, chasing one another around, playing tag, and to my right? Well, to my right was the strangest scene of all: Thousands of the most beautiful, colorful, exotic birds I had ever seen, all perched daintily in Christmas trees all decorated for the season, thousands of birds, thousands of trees, millions of colors.
I sat down. I sat down right where I was and started to think. I felt my head. There were no bumps and no blood. I rubbed my eyes, closed them, rubbed them, closed them, and assured that my vision was still intact, I let out a long, "Hmmmmm." Curiouser and curiouser.
My curiosity was getting the best of me, so I began to walk, trusting that everything was solid, and soon I encountered a boy. He was probably five years old and was wearing jeans, a white t-shirt, sneakers and looked as happy as I had ever seen anyone look. I asked him, "What's going on here? Where am I?"
He blinked took my hand and said, "Hey, don't you know? You're in Chelsea's dream, in her wonderland, and they sent me to bring you back to rule the pothole! Come on!"
"Whoa, whoa," I stuttered, digging in my heels and refusing to go anywhere with this kid, no matter how cute he was or how much I had always wanted to rule anything...just about anything but a pothole. All my control issues aside, if I had to be given a queendom to rule, why could it not have been a vat of chocolate or something? Pothole just sounded so, well, ugly.
As the light set, and I call it the light because it was not exactly the sun but just a soft castoff glow from the sun somewhere in the normal world, I began to think about my safety and decided where there was one kid, there had to be some adults, and it was way past time to find someone who could tell me just what I had literally fallen into.
Tuesday, April 06, 2010
The love was apparent. The love overflowed. Sometimes her daddy would come home from his backbreaking job as a farmhand, dirty, sweaty, and in bad crop years, like this one, paid usually in homegrown garden vegetables and small roasts for her mommy to put in the oven. She could cook anything and it always tasted like what Maggie imagined gourmet food must taste like.
She knew all about gourmet food because when she visited at Zoe's house, her mom was always watching cooking shows on TV while Maggie and Zoe played with their dolls in the cool living room. Zoe had air conditioning that kept her whole house cool, and Maggie's family only had a couple of window fans, but when the smell of the earth was being carried on the breeze and whisked through the window fan over Maggie's little twin bed with the blue quilt her gramma had made her before she died, those fans seemed like heaven's very own air conditioning, and Maggie, and she was sure her mom and dad, too, because she had tiptoed down the hallway one night to check to make sure they were not scared of the dark or anything, fell asleep with a smile on their faces in the cool, country night air.
Sometimes when she was on her way to school, walking the few blocks between her house and the little brick building that was all tiled and cold inside all the time in the warmer weather, Maggie would find a toy discarded by some other child, carelessly left at the curb for the trash pickup. What had lost its magic for one, was just beginning to weave its magic for the poorest girl in school. She would cradle it in her arms, hide it away in her backpack or wrapped in her gym shorts and play with it at home until it was useless.
One afternoon in the summer, with school out and the days stretching for miles, a surprise was waiting for Maggie when her dad came home from a hard week of work. It was a Saturday, she was sure of that, because she definitely remembered that the next day was church day, and one thing her daddy refused to do was work on the Sabbath. That was what he called it. Maggie was not sure why the Sabbath was so important, except that it meant her parents slept later and then fixed a breakfast of pancakes and syrup. But on this particular Saturday evening, the money had come in after a long, tough winter. The crops had done real good, her daddy said, and he wanted to take his little girl to a toy store, a real one, and let her pick out a brand new toy for herself.
They all three loaded up in the old Falcon they somehow kept running, and went to town, singing the whole way, the hot wind from the moving car kicking up gritty dirt into their faces, causing little streaks of mud to form in the rivers of sweat running down their faces.
At the toy store, Maggie was awestruck and shocked, overwhelmed by the pretty, shiny dolls and tops, the puzzles, the games, the colors, and the crowd of children bored with everything in the store, pouting, tossing it aside, whining.
Maggie freely wandered the aisles, clutching her ten dollars. Her mom and dad would move from one bench at the end of an aisle, to the bench at the end of the next one, so they could keep a contented and happy eye on their daughter, smiling at one another, happy to have been able to give Maggie a little something at last.
Suddenly, digging through the toys on a shelf, Maggie saw what she wanted: A box. A huge box folded and stashed behind a shelf of toys, a shipping box. When her daddy realized she was serious about taking that home, he took Maggie to the front where she asked, with all the charm only a small child can muster, "How much for that box?"
The clerks worked and worked to free the large box from against the wall, finally sliding it out the end of the shelves, and the man who helped move it said, "It's free. Enjoy it."
Maggie handed the ten dollars back to her daddy and holding her mommy's hand while he carried it to the car, she was shivering with anticipation.
Over the next couple of years that box was an airplane, a castle, a rocket ship, a train, a cabin, a tree house. Anything a child could want was contained within it, if only she dared to imagine.
To some it might have been just a box, but to Maggie it was a prized possession.
Monday, April 05, 2010
Our spirits were not dampened, though, because we had been needing a little getaway, and as we sloshed our way through Indiana and into Illinois, the sun peeked through a few times.
I had never been to the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. That is sort of an embarrassing thing to admit, having lived within about three hours of that awesome landmark for most of my fifty-three years. I have driven past it on the freeway numerous times, always on my way to somewhere else, never with the time to enjoy that almost mind boggling feat of engineering.
Having driven through the dark and stormy morning, my first close encounter with the Gateway Arch, on foot, at least, was this:
Look at that blue sky on this Easter Eve afternoon that met us in St. Louis!
Now, of course, Don and I both were pretty excited about the idea of taking the tram to the top where we could look out over our land, but we were a little disappointed to find out that by the time we arrived, about 12:30 p.m., the tram was already sold out for the day. I guess I should have realized things were not going to go as planned when the security people pulled me aside and confiscated my keychain-sized pepper spray. Imagine my sad face here.
But always the troopers, we went to see a fantastic documentary on the IMAX screen inside the Arch's foundation, about Lewis and Clark. I learned all kinds of interesting things I had never known about the expedition.
So, as close as we got to the top of the arch was when I used my zoom and took this shot once we were back outside:
Yes, those are windows up there, and I was shooting blindly. Maybe I wasn't so disappointed I missed the ride up there!
We then spent a little time strolling along the Mighty Mississippi. She was high, and there were places on the road we took to the arch that probably had been totally underwater a week earlier, so we planned our trip perfectly. Here's a shot of the river, and then the next one is a photo of the gorgeous young redwoods found all throughout the park and along the river.
Finally, the sun began to slide to the west, and we were ready to head out to the Forest Park area and get checked into our hotel, have a good meal, and chill out the rest of the evening, which was exactly what we did. The sun was glinting off the west side of the arch as we made our way to the parking lot, satisfied, hungry, and looking forward to the next day when we were going to the big car show!
Saturday, April 03, 2010
I specifically remember it was a Monday morning. The reason for remembering was that on my way to work, people looked cross and hung over from the weekend and totally unreceptive to my cheerfulness. My camera was around my neck because you just never know when you are going to capture that one in a million picture of a mockingbird or a train or a cloud, for example. In my little town I was considered a little odd because of that camera, and probably because of a few other things, but soon people became used to me and no longer stared. When the staring stopped, they mostly just looked down at the ground to avoid eye contact with me, like I was a witch doctor or something just waiting to cast a spell. Lucky for them the majority of them did look down. I was an up-looker, and it got me in a little trouble. Maybe genetically these folks were geared to keep their eyes on the ground to watch for danger. It possibly was not to avoid eye contact with me at all. In hindsight, I see that.
For two years I had worked at a little bookstore downtown. Work was an easy walk from my house and I not only saved tons of gas money, but also was toned up from the aerobics.* *Toned up is not the same thing as being slender, which I was not. And there just could not have been a better place for a geek like me to work. In two years I had probably read fifty books from the shelves, always careful to not smudge or wrinkle the pages or leave any tell-tale signs that the book was actually not a virgin to the person who took it home. I hate to admit it, but that is the type of relationship I have with books. It is almost a sexual gratification to read the final page and just as an intense pleasure to read the first page of the next pick. Luckily business was not booming, thanks to the economic catastrophe we were in, and the Kindle, so between dusting shelves and waiting on a few customers, reading became my recharge station.
It was on one of those shelf-cleaning expeditions that I met him. He was gorgeous from the top of his head to the tips of his Nikes. I have read a few romance novels, and I always shook my head at the descriptions of the men. But believe me when I tell you, this guy was sizzling! He was tan, had these gorgeous biceps, and even through his t-shirt I could make out his perfectly-sculpted abs. And his hair was to die for: Long, straight, just below his shoulders, black, shiny. Any adjective you would like to have attached to your hair, this babe had it.
Reaching my hand through the empty spot on the shelf from which I had just removed my latest read, I touched his face, or meant to. Instead I poked his left eye pretty hard and the moment became less a romantic chance meeting than a rush to the nearest ER with me driving his car like a crazy person. What is the attraction between men and manual transmissions? Hello! They now make what is known as an automatic transmission that does all this clutching and gear grinding for you! I was starting and stopping like the Energizer Bunny on crack, and his screaming about how expensive his car was and how much pain he was in from my claw-like fingernail nearly gouging out his left eyeball, was making me a bit irritable and nervous. And here is where things took a strange turn.
Friday, April 02, 2010
Thursday, April 01, 2010
The children were home, summer in full swing. Outside the cars zipped by on the busy street, a street whose tar was a little sticky from the heat, causing the tires to make a sound similar to what you hear in your own head when you chew a large wad of bubblegum too long.
Through the front picture window that was framed by outdated heavy drapes, yellowing with age, the sun is throwing its beams into the room, bright yellow-white heated streams wiggling where it cuts through the glass.
Heat lends a lazy listless lulled-like ambience, but kids will always find something to busy themselves, and soon all three are on the floor of the living room, sitting on the worn retro carpet, worn from years of use. They put the big plastic top on the floor and one pushes down on the low-tech (charming) handle on the toy. Whir. The blue, green, yellow, and red spiral painted on the floor of the top is so pretty! A little faster. Whhirrr. The colors begin a churned-butter mixing. A little faster. Whirrrrrrrr! The top spins furiously, causing a welcome fan of cool air that lifts the damp bangs of the children…and they see one color. Yellow. The stirring is complete, and yellow is the standout. Yellow is the definition to the top’s Webster’s entry. Yellow sun, yellow curtains, yellowing carpet, yellow top.
Spinning a yellow tale.