Archive for June, 2011

#22 Name First

The little girl with the dancing curls and big brown eyes was walking just ahead of her Mom that day when we nearly collided at the intersection of White’s Woods.   When she saw the pug, she immediately stopped as he did, and I nearly tumbled over the two of them.  Her mother was close behind and quickly came to retrieve her daughter, laughing at the antics.  Once introduced, Samantha, Sam, asked her Mom if she could walk the dog.  I nodded that she could.  The walk was cool in the shaded riverfront, and Sam and OJ took the lead while we chatted at the rear.  I learned that Sam was a precocious five-year old, home schooled, and today’s lesson was based on the organisms in Vernal pools.   The mother said, “There’s a huge one just beyond the bridge, and we should get a good look at the merging amphibians.”  I was curious, but knew that OJ would be reluctant to cross the bridge.

On either side of the walking trail there were buttercups, violets, sweet grass and dandelions.  Spring had taken a foothold in the Litchfield hills, and winter seemed far behind.  Both Sam and OJ would stop if there was a strange sound, and Sam would go to her knees and pet him.  He was a perfect pug that day, no tugging or pulling to go ahead, just steady walking, stopping just long enough to ensure that we were right behind.   Any other day, there would have been walkers, runners, a myriad of dogs and owners, but today there was no one but me and OJ, Sam and her Mom, and we were coming to the end of our trail; the bridge loomed just beyond the curve.  OJ had stopped and was lying on the ground.

Sam was trying to coax him up.  She asked, “Why did he stop here.  Isn’t he coming to the Pool?”  I told her that he had never crossed over the bridge; we usually stopped and went back.  Sam asked me if she could try to get him to cross.  I looked at her Mom, and she shrugged that it was okay with her.  I touched the little girl’s head and looked directly into her eyes.  “Yes,” I said, “if you can get him to cross, we’ll go to the pool.”  She knelt down on one leg, lifted one of his ears and whispered into it for what seemed to be a full minute.  She then gave us the okay sign as she straightened and took the lead.  OJ followed, no fear of falling through the slats, no thoughts of turning back.  Soon we were over the span and the widest part of the river.

Just down the path, perhaps two hundred feet or so, a quiet pool of water had puddled under several large hemlocks.  Sam and her mother, wearing green boots with yellow frogs, stepped into the water, heads down, and using sticks, parted the leaves from the mud.  OJ and I watched from high ground as Sam explained that they were looking for the tadpoles who would be wood frogs that summer.  Her Mom had taken a small net and specimen boxes out of her backpack.  I was amazed that a five-year old could have so much information and in awe that her Mom would be so dedicated to her schooling.

On the way back, Sam and OJ took the lead and OJ stopped at the foot of the bridge.  Again, Sam knelt down and whispered in his ear.  Without a struggle or need to pull, OJ followed her.  When we said goodby at the intersection, Sam relinquished her hold on the lead.  The road leading to various trails was filled with joggers from the school, and OJ could see a Retriever and was tugging to see him.  I asked Sam if she could share her secret with me so that OJ would cross other bridges.  She shared her secret.

“When you told me he wouldn’t cross,” she said, “I got very close to him so that he wouldn’t be afraid.”  OJ had stopped tugging, and it seemed we were all hanging onto every word she said.  “There are no magic words, just say his name, and tell him that he can do it.  You have to say it three times.”  To ensure that I did it right, I asked her to say the exact words.  She knelt down, lifted his velvet-black ear, and this time in more than a whisper.  “OJ, you can do it.  OJ, you can do it.  OJ you can do it.”  And, OJ has done it ever since; thanks to Sam.





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#21 Living Water

Out of the blue, I picked up a call that had percolated in my phone for a year.  When I called for messages after a severe electrical storm, I was amazed to hear a voice from 25 years ago; the message was a year old.  I don’t understand telephonic, but I do understand opportune time, so I responded.

Maggie was ecstatic that I returned the call, even if it did take a year.  When I explained what had happened, we both agreed we had to meet that day, and as soon as I showered, I was off to Massachusetts.  Not knowing if we would recognize each other, we exchanged information on cars and hair color; we said what we would be wearing.  We traded cell phone numbers, and she told me she had never turned hers on; however, she answered on the first ring when I arrived early.  Time had not been gentle with her.  She was stout, short, stooped when she got out of her 20-year old red Volkswagen with the grey door.

Her hair was magnificent; pure white, with a simple cut that enhanced her youthful face and smiling Irish blue eyes.  In a split second, we knew each other and remembered; the thread of our lives picked up as though it were yesterday.

In the restaurant, we were giddy as schoolgirls.  Sun streamed through the window, and framed Maggie in its warmth; she settled into it like a kitten.   The bank of memories floated as bubbles above our heads, and we pulled them down, one by one, testing the texture of their context, exploring emotions laid bare.

Maggie had been my mentor for a year.  She was a seasoned public relations writer, and I was her assistant.  We spent most of the winter working at her magnificent country home with acres of rolling farmland.  Shortly after, her husband’s business spiraled out of control, and they lost everything.  In the years that followed, we lost contact.  She was, and is still an accomplished writer; she had been a faithful wife and would forever be a loving mother.  When divorced, she became a recovering alcoholic, had severe depression, lived through a stroke, and was, I learned,  about to lose her home.   Nothing of which she said, though, could take away her passion for life, her inner peace, and her faith in healing grace.

We paid our bill, and knew there was more to be said, more to this opportune time.  The restaurant had an outdoor dining area that had been closed for lunch.  We were able to climb over its low stone enclosure and sit at one of its tables.  We talked of our faith and prayed for our families under the shade of a towering oak.  We hadn’t noticed the fountains when we sat down.  It was, perhaps, because they were quietly running.  As we prayed, the sounds of water became louder, and when we looked up, the water was living; it was tumbling in torrents, sheets where there had been trickles.

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#20 A

Just thought you might like to see my little rose boquet for the recitals.  The white roses are old-fashioned, have a lovely, heady scent, and thankfully bloom just at ballet time…Everyone gets a pin from my private collection…S.

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#21 The Tutu

What can be more endearing than a two and a half-hour recital of dance students in the local, beautifully renovated, Art Deco theatre?  When the local ballet instructor with 25 students has a theme-driven, personally written storyline to go with classical music at the local VFW hall.

Instead of the beautifully dressed, perfectly coiffed smiling grandmother of last night’s recital, I am the crabby wife who was woken by the smell of coffee brewing by a husband who is leaving the house at 5:30 this morning so that we can attend the 2:00 recital of yet another family tumbler.  Mascara from last night’s event has settled under my eyes, I have bed head and can’t fall back asleep.  I can’t get it out of my mind how much simpler life was in the olden days when I was the mother and not the matriarch.  I can assure you that the same feelings happened to my mother before me and hers before her.  Do you follow my line of thinking?

I believe I am most tired of super-sized flower bouquets for two-year old prima ballerinas.  No matter how much or how little money I’ve had over the years, my children and now grandchildren have always gotten a single white rose neatly tucked into a floral tube of water, that is wrapped with green, waterproof tape and white satin ribbons.  Festooned with white tulle and cascading pink and purple ribbons, I then attach a beautiful pin to the tulle.  Last night’s performance garnered an antique pewter sprite with magical stones on her wand and dress that change colors  as you turn.  An enameled butterfly of bright yellow and blue will cover today’s event.  Cost of all:  my time, white rose from the garden, and $3.50 for the tube and pin from the thrift store.

Shall I mention the costumes.  Yes, I must.  When my girls were on the dance circuit, my sister made the tutus for me;  yards of tulle layered one atop another and gathered by an elastic band.  I bought the rest of the costume from monies saved from grocery shopping in a tin jar, and added sequins if any, by hand.  I had to close my eyes for one routine last night.  Employing a Rockefeller Center routine, the costumes of the 21 pre-adolescent girls bought on temporary vertigo as they tapped and turned, one after another, black, sparkling sequined costumes reflecting throughout the theatre’s darkened space.

Our seats in the theatre were a disaster.  I couldn’t understand how my daughter, one of the back-stage helpers, managed to get us the worst seats.  We were three rows from the rear exit. It wasn’t until my granddaughter dropped her beach ball prop, that we realized we were watching the wrong girl all three minutes of her act.   Nostalgia washed over me, and I yearned for the days in the musty VFW when we sat on folding chairs, holding toddlers in our arms.





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#20 Cousins

Luke and Isaiah are cousins in an extended family.  Luke calls me Mimi and to Isaiah, I am Noni; parts of a whole.

Children do it best.  Love that is.  In a secure environment where basic needs of food and water, shelter and clothing, love and instruction are met, the children thrive and love themselves and intuitively  love others.

My picture today is a tribute to cousins, and to the families who bring them together.

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#19 Sanctuary

“Janie, Ja..nie, J..a..nie,” each time my mother called me, my name sounded different, the pitch changed and the urgency of her call was punctuated by the number of syllables.  I was hidden in the crotch of our old Apple tree, in the midst of perfumed blossoms permeating the junkyard air that May morning.  I had my book, The Boxcar Children, and was trying to concentrate on the story rather than the hum of bees around me.  It was a typical Saturday; all my sisters were helping with chores, and I was living a fantasy.  The boys were already out on the truck with Dad.

I thought about my long talk with Sister Mary Alice after school yesterday, and how she helped me to think of ways that I could get along with my sister, Regina.  So far, none of them had worked.  We share a room, and this morning Regina hung a sheet as a dividing line, saying she could no longer live with my mess.  Dad came running when he heard hammering on the plaster ceiling, and he blamed me.  I get blamed for everything.  My mother says it is my smirk.  I’ve tried to change it into a smile for months now, but it doesn’t work.

If the room incident wasn’t bad enough, at breakfast, my brother Larry told me if I took his bike again, he would murder me.  My mother didn’t even bat an eyelash.  I whined and said that my bike had blown a tire.  Looking him square in the eye over stacks of pancakes, I asked, “Why can’t I use it?  You’re going to be working all day.”  I must have hit a nerve, because that’s when he reached across the pancakes and tried to grab me.  I was a champion runner these days, mostly out of necessity, and I slammed out of the screen door, down the back stairs and disappeared into the adjacent junkyard, climbing into the tree for cover.  My book was already there.  My books were everywhere; always prepared for a hasty retreat.  I was sad, though, I hadn’t eaten any pancakes.

Hunger got the best of me, and when I thought Larry had left with Dad, I picked a bouquet of the apple blossoms, put on what I believed was a contrite face, and walked into the house.  I had forgotten that Regina was setting up the little May altar to the Blessed Virgin, and when she came towards me, I thought it was me and not the flowers she wanted.  Anticipating her wrath, I grit my teeth, holding the look I hoped was not a smirk, and offered her the bouquet.  She accepted, and we both went to the little sanctuary that already held deep purple, French lilacs.  We both knelt in awe and unity; our silence a source of temporary and blessed peace.


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#18 River Stones

Her backyard is terraced with fill and stone.  Concrete, wood and stone walls hold back the dirt, imported at cost, that have helped to create the textures that embrace the luscious, shaded landscape of ferns and hostas, day lilies and others indigenous to deep woods flora and fauna.  There are ponds and a waterfall where she reads with summer’s breeze from the river lulling her to sleep.

Water and the whisper of winds commingle as butterflies and hummingbirds land on scarlet flowers. Redolent white roses and peonies perfume the air as do rosemary and mint when brushed.    Birds of all shape and color and nationality nest in the firs and hemlocks and take turns in their cacophony of sound.

Early morning, when she walks the gardens and lifts her hands in praise, the heron swoops along the riverbed, an ancient bird on a mission to unfettered ponds.  He returns in late afternoon, perhaps the original Phoenix, standing on a log in the river, waiting patiently for his prey.

Her riverbed is filled with stones laid smooth by the force of a surging waterfall above.  Its  sound from the rocks simulate Rachmaninoff in her muse.

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