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Archive for July, 2008

A Birthday Story

I had not planned on adding another story to my blogsite so soon after Tea Time, but something got in my way. . . old age! In spite of my years, I’ve had the good fortune to have escaped the usual stiffness and pain that so often accompanies the body on its way to, you know where. Because I neglected to take my usual amount of Glucosomine/Chrondroitin last week and overdid things a bit last Friday, I went from feeling like a young “fifty-five ” to feeling like an advanced “ninety-five” practically overnight. And that’s my alloted amount of old age carping for the week. 

     Over the past two or three days I accumulated a few news articles and editoral comments which I planned on analyzing and using as a base for an assessment against, say, ten years or so ago. Alas, that will have to wait. instead, I am coping out. I have always freely admitted that I am not a “born again” fiction writer, and I have never so much as thought of sending any of my work to a publisher in hopes of it being accepted. Because I have never experienced rejection, it follows that I’ve never had to recover from a prolonged period of dejection brought on by  my premature hopes of election to fame and fortune. I remember telling my children bedtime stories. . . not as many as I wish I had told them . . . but this is my first children’s story, a little birthday story I wrote for granddaughter Joie some years back.

This is a story about a little girl named Lyndy and her younger brother Mickie who lived in a pretty white house in the country with their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Rolli. Lyndy, whose real name was JoLynda, was ten years old when she went to bed the night before this story begins. Mickie, whose real name was Michael, was nine years old and Lyndy’s best friend. When Lyndy woke the next morning she was eleven years old because it was her birthday. Before Mother Rolli had a chance to call her for breakfast, Lyndy was out of bed and dressed. Birthdays always meant presents and every little girl looks forward to her special day. She ran across the hall and knocked on her brother’s bedroom door to tell him it was time to get up.  Mickie, was already up and dressed. Together, they ran down to the kitchen where Mother Rolli was dishing up a huge platter of pancakes and Father Rolli was already sitting at the table. 
     “Breakfast’s ready. Happy Birthday Lyndy. Morning Mickie,” greeted Father Rolli. Both Lyndy and Mickie quickly ran to their chairs hoping their father would not take too much time drinking his second cup of coffee because birthday presents were never given out until after breakfast. It was Lyndy’s birthday, but Mickie knew there would be something nice for him, too.
     “Who can that be knocking on the door this early in the morning? It’s only six-thirty. Perhaps one of the neighbors need help,” Mother Rolli murmured. Lyndy and Mickie both started to get up, but their mother wagged a finger, meaning, no. “I’ll go see who it is,” and she opened the door. It was their good neighbor, Mr. Kaufman who lived just over the hill and who raised all kinds of garden vegetables which he sold in a large nearby Farmer’s Market . 

     “Well, for goodness sake’s,” Mrs. Rolli exclaimed. “Carl, what brings you over here this early in the morning. Nothing wrong I hope. Do come in.” Mr. Kaufman smiled, which meant nothing was wrong and entered the cozy kitchen.
     Father Rolli called from the table, “Welcome neighbor. Good to see you. Come in. Sit down and share breakfast. Plenty of ham, eggs, pancakes and coffee on the back burner.” Mr. Rolli, knowing his neighbor Mr. Kaufman usually took his time with words, did not ask him why he came visiting.

     “Mighty kind of you,” Farmer Kaufman said and beamed his thanks to his host and hostess. He ruffled Mickie’s hair and grinned over at Lyndy as he pulled a chair up to the table. He was not really their uncle, but they called him Uncle Carl.
“And how is Mary?” Mother Rolli asked. She knew her friend Mary was usually far too busy for morning visits.
     “Mary’s fine. A little rheumatism in the joints here and there but nothing more than most of us get at our age,” and Mr. Kaufman accepted the platter of ham, eggs and pancakes set before him. Most farm folks don’t talk much over breakfast, so there was little conversation. That didn’t mean that the Rolli’s weren’t eager to know why their neighbor had visited so early in the morning. They knew he would tell them as soon as his plate was empty, and had had his first sip of hot coffee.
     During breakfast, Lyndy noticed every time Farmer Kaufman glanced in her direction, he appeared to have a special twinkle in his eye. That made her wonder if his visit had something to do with her birthday. She sat as quietly as she could but could hardly wait for breakfast to be over. She knew she would be excused to leave if she asked, but that twinkle meant something nice was going to happen and she wanted to know what it was.
     Finally, Farmer Kaufman eased back his chair a bit, took a sip of coffee and smiled a broad smile. He looked over at Lyndy. “Last night,” he began, “my old mare, Winkie, gave birth to a little filly. She was having a bit of a hard time bringing her baby into the world, so I called Doctor Boyer. He’s an excellent vet and good with horses. Winkie’s all right now, but the vet says she’s too old to make enough milk to feed her baby. Anyway, it’s about time I find me a younger horse for working my vegetable farm. Think there’s someone here who might like to raise a foal? I just plain don’t have the time.”
     Lyndy almost tipped her chair over backwards in her excitement. “Uncle Carl, you mean me, don’t you?” She raced around the table and threw her arms about him. “I’d take such good care of her. Can we go see her now?”
“Well, now, that depends on your mother and daddy, don’t you think?”
Lyndy didn’t have to ask. Her parents smiles were as bright as her own.
Farmer Kaufman continued, “Now of course the baby will still need its mother, so you’d have to take care of them both. That shouldn’t be too much trouble with a big fellow like Mickie to help,” and Farmer Kaufman smiled a big smile at Lyndy’s younger brother. “Winkie may be getting old, but she still has several years ahead of her and she is gentle with children. The two of you could ride her while the foal is growing up.”
     By this time, both children had their arms about Farmer Kaufman’s neck almost choking him with their delight. “Oh, Daddy, let’s go over now to see them,” pleaded Lyndy.
     “Why not go outside and see them now,” Farmer Kaufman said with a wide grin.
     “Here? Now?” both children almost shouted.
     “Yes, here and now,” and Farmer Kaufman rose from his chair. “I brought the two of them over in my old cattle truck `cause I kinda had an idea Winkie and her baby would find a good home and lots of love right here. I have some special nursing bottles Doctor Boyer gave me for the foal. He told me just how to prepare cow’s milk and how much to feed her. Might as well get started right now,” and he headed for the kitchen door followed by two excited children and their delighted parents.
     Mr. Kaufman’s roomy cattle truck was sitting under a large shady tree close by the kitchen door. Lyndy, in her hurry to see the foal, ran to the back of the truck. Winkie, a beautiful bay mare with a black wavy mane and long black tail, stretched her neck over the tailgate and nickered a welcome. “Oh, Winkie, we’ll take good care of you and your baby. Really, we will,” and the happy little girl turned and ran back to Farmer Kaufman and gave him a big hug of thanks.
“Don’t you think we had better get Winkie and her baby out of the truck and find a place for them in the barn.” Father Rolli interrupted. “Your Uncle Carl probably has lots to do at home and we have to find out how to mix the foal’s formula and what kind of grain Winkie is accustomed to eating. Come, we have work to do,” and Mr. Rolli grinned his thanks at his good neighbor. “This is a mighty generous thing you are doing.”
     “Not at all,” Mr. Kaufman replied. “I’ve been thinking for some time that Winkie was getting too old to do everything that needs to be done about the place, and yet she is too young for retirement to some pasture. Course, I didn’t plan on that Arab stallion breaking loose from the Donaldson’s barn and vising Winkie last Spring, but, things seem to be working out just fine.” With that, Mr. Kaufman let down the truck’s tailgate and pulled out the ramp so that Winkie and her new baby could leave the trailer and be led to their new home.
     “Oh, how beautiful she is,” Lyndy almost cried in her excitement. Winkie’s new foal was the color of a bright copper penny. “I’m going to call her Penny. My very own, Birthday Penny,” and Lyndy put her arms around the little foal and gave her a big hug. “Oh thank you Uncle Carl. I’ll take ever such good care of her. Really, really I will.”
     Mickie, feeling quite grown up, took the rope attached to Winkie’s halter and led her toward a small barn that had, once before, housed a carriage horse. The new mother whinnied to her baby to follow and looked back to make sure she was being obeyed. A wobbly Penny answered with a little nicker and hungrily nuzzled Winkie’s side. A few minutes later Winkie and her foal were in their new home and Lyndy and Mickie were paying close attentions to Farmer Kaufman’s careful instructions on how to care for their new responsibilities.
     “What a wonderful birthday this has been,” Lyndy said to Father and Mother Rolli before going to bed that night. “Wasn’t it wonderful of Uncle Carl?”
     “Yes, Lyndy, it certainly was,” replied Father Rolli. “but don’t forget to also thank your Aunt Mary. Winkie was her special horse and she often used her to drive into town for groceries and to visit friends. She must have a great deal of faith in the two of you to intrust her beloved Winkie to your care. Now time to go to bed. Beginning tomorrow, you are going to be a very busy little girl.”
     “I’ll be a busy girl but I’m not a little girl any more. Little girls play with dolls. I’m going to raise and own my very own horse. Goodnight Daddy. Goodnight Mommy.” Lyndy kissed her parents and went off to bed. A few minutes later she was back down in her nightgown. “If I’m grown up enough to own my very own foal, I think I’m old enough to be called JoLynda, don’t you?”
     “And if I’m old enough to take care of Winkie, I’m old enough to be called Michael,” came a determined voice from the top of the stairs.
    “You are indeed,” responded both Father and Mother Rolli.
     “Michael, JoLynda, it’s time you were both in bed. Scat,” Mother Rolli scolded, pretending to be annoyed, but then laughed and added, “I think if you are grown up that much, you are grown up enough to join your father and me in the kitchen for another slice of birthday cake and a glass of milk.” JoLynda and Michael did not need a second invitation.
“Just don’t forget to brush your teeth afterwards,” added Father Rolli.
“We won’t,” promised both children.
     “I wish every body who had a birthday today had as wonderful a birthday as mine,” sighed a happy JoLynda as her parents kissed the children goodnight. “Come on Michael,” said JoLynda. “Winkie and Penny will need us in the morning. Let’s go to bed.”

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Tea Time

The Moving Finger writes; and having writ, Moves on. . . Judy Sanders paused, glanced over to the coffee table and to the last photograph taken of her husband Bill a few weeks before his untimely death in an automobile accident three years before. She stared through it rather than at it. It was, in reality, half a photograph. Judy had blacked out the bare, plump woman’s arm, her mother-in-law’s, that rested up and over Bill’s left arm, swollen fingers firmly grasping his wrist. Judy would have cut that section from the photograph as she had the woman’s body and face, but could not do so without cutting into Bill’s figure. She had good reason to cling to that particular photograph, to remember the elation soaring through her as she recorded the moment. Bill was smiling out at her as she had been smiling at him: They had a secret—and Bill’s mother was to be the very last of know of it. Another six months and . . . ?

During Judy’s long spell of depression after Bill’s tragic death and while recovering in a friend’s home, Bill’s mother had stripped the house of anything and everything once belonging to Bill. After returning home and before the elder Mrs. Sanders left, Judy confronted her. Though softly spoken, her mother-in-law’s words were etched in acid. I was just trying to be of help. Now you can get on with your life and do all those things you meant to do before marrying my son. Bill always said you were born to be an artist, and Lord knows he spent enough of his hard-earned money on those art supplies you’ve purchased over the years. She had paused, her hand gripping the knob of the front door, then added, almost as though to herself, If only Bill had gone to work in his Uncle’s Joseph’s factory, he would have been . . . The sentence remained unfinished.
Judy had watched as her mother-in-law descended the steps, walked to the waiting taxi parked at the curb and disappeared down the street and out of her life forever. Judy stirred herself back to the present and once again opened the book to her favorite quatrain from Omar Khayyam’s The Rubaiyat … nor all your tears wash out a word of it. She closed the beautifully illustrated volume of poetry. “Omar,” she mused as she rose to her feet, “I think you’ve pretty well summed up my life.” She placed the book beside the photograph. A small sigh of acceptance followed her as she made her way to a window overlooking a small courtyard.
Two stories below, every tree, bush, dried weed and blade of grass in the small enclosed courtyard lay encased in a wooly blanket of fresh snow. Judy looked down in rapt appreciation. A passing pedestrian, had he chanced to look up in the direction of the window, would have seen an attractive, pleasant-faced woman, some forty-five year’s old whose rich brown hair, slightly tinged with gray, curled about her face. He might have guessed her eyes to be dark brown framed with long black eyelashes—he could not have, from so far away, have observed their deep warmth and tenderness. Married or single, the passerby would have moved on with the same platonic longing to know her as he would have after viewing the Mona Lisa.
As Judy looked down upon the scene below, the sun began its westerly descent behind the row of apartments facing hers. She turned from the deepening gloom of the gathering dusk, switched the light of her reading lamp to low and headed for the kitchen. From one corner of the living room an exquisitely, hand-crafted Grandfather clock, a gift from her parents, chimed. It was time for tea. In spite of Omar Khayyam’s poetic wisdom, Judy experienced a momentary pain—she disliked this particular time of day.
Resolutely, she wiped away a stray tear as she busied herself pouring boiling water over the tea leaves in a waiting teapot. Pity for herself was not an emotion she accepted easily. A tempting, latticed-topped apple pie, still warm from the oven, occupied the center of the table, a knife and pie server nearby. From a cupboard, she took a treasured Dalton cup and saucer as well as a matching dessert plate and silverware that once belonged to her maternal great grandmother. She carefully arranged them in meticulous order. Even as she did so, Judy questioned herself. I’ve deviated from every habit I’ve ever had since moving here. I’ve completely remade myself. I’ve put the past where it belongs—at least I’ve tried. Why do I insist on this ridiculous routine? Why do I still feel as though Bill is going to come walking through the door with his mother clinging to his arm, and things have to be just so. I don’t mind eating breakfast alone, and I’ve a thousand things to keep me occupied during the morning and afternoon, but damn it, Bill, why is it I miss you most at tea time? Why do I still stop whatever I’m doing to come out here, brew tea and sit by myself?
The doorbell chimed just as Judy was about to cut the pie. Neighbors in the apartment complex did not, as a rule, visit often and almost never, during the late afternoon or early supper hours. Prudently, she peered through the one-way small lookout before opening the door. A tall man with a luxuriant head of silver-blonde hair waited in the hallway. Behind him, the door to what had been an empty apartment, hung open. Without further caution, she opened the door. It was obvious from the array of boxes, some opened and their contents strewn about the room, she had a new neighbor. Judy turned her attention to him. She liked what she saw. He was at least six feet tall. Behind the gold-framed glasses he wore, a pair of mirthful blue eyes smiled down into hers. She guessed his age to be between fifty and fifty-five.
“I’m sorry to bother you. I hope I am not imposing. I’ve just moved in, and I find myself in the embarrassing position of having to ask a favor of you. That is, if you have what I’m about to ask you for.” The stranger paused for a moment as though not sure he hadn’t acted on impulse. “I’ve been unpacking all afternoon and find myself in need of a cup of tea. I’ve located everything; tea kettle, cups, silverware, everything except my canister of tea. I really do not like to ask this of a complete stranger, but would you have a bit of tea I might borrow? Even a tea bag would be welcome.”
Country hospitality is not left behind with a move into the city, and Judy was country-born. At the moment, a neighbor in distress was a welcome intrusion into her organized life, and he could not have arrived at a more apropos time. “No problem at all,” she offered and swung wide her door. My name is Judy Sanders,” she continued. “I can’t provide you a tea bag, but I have plenty of good English tea you may have until you locate your own.”
“That is most kind of you,” and Judy’s new neighbor stepped into the room. “My name is Frank, Frank Ashley. You have no idea what this means to me. I guess I spent so much time in England these past several years, I’ve become accustomed to relaxing with a cup of tea in the late afternoons. Unpacking boxes is not something I do willingly, or with any great expertise. Your offer of the real thing sounds great. I’m not against tea bags in an emergency, but there’s nothing to equal English tea that’s never known a paper wrapper.”
Judy started for the kitchen, then turned back. I’ve a pot of tea ready and waiting in the kitchen. Why don’t you join me there. It will be so much easier for you than having to make your own, and there’s plenty for the two of us.”
“That’s more than I ever hoped for. I’d like that. Don’t mind if I do.” Frank thoughtfully allowed Judy’s front door to remain open as he followed the trim figure of his hostess into the kitchen.
It would have taken blinders for Judy not to notice the appreciative stare with which her new neighbor surveyed the pie. “Perhaps I could persuade you to have a piece of pie” she ventured. “It’s still warm and apple pies are one of my few specialties.
“Men and apple pie are as compatible as tired feet and old slippers,” Frank Ashley offered and settled himself at the kitchen table. For the next hour the two sat in comfortable acceptance of each other. Judy spoke of her husband’s death and her desire to earn a Master’s degree in art at the local university, a dream she postponed when she accepted Bill’s proposal of marriage. Frank, Judy learned, was recently widowed and worked as a photographer for a prestigious, worldwide travel agency. He was on a year’s sabbatical during which time he planned to write a mystery novel. “I decided a small university town would be the ideal location. I checked into the library facilities here, and a friend recommended this apartment as quiet and off limits to rowdy students. So far, I rather like what I see.”
“Your friend knew what he was talking about,” Judy naively responded. “I came here almost five years ago and hope to complete my studies by spring. Have another piece of pie?” and reached for the pie server.
“I haven’t eaten pie like this since I was a boy, and Frank accepted another generous portion. They finished their third cup of tea; an unspoken bond of friendship firmly established between them.
As Frank rose to leave, Judy urged him, “Please take enough tea to see you through until you find your own, or at least until you get to a store. There is a tea and coffee specialty shop over on Windsor Avenue, not far from here. If they don’t have what you want, it can’t be found anywhere in town,” with that, she brought out an empty jelly jar and filled it with Earl Grey breakfast tea. “It was so pleasant having someone to share tea with. Do come again.”
“It was particularly pleasant for me,” Frank responded. “I’ll remember that pie for a long time to come, and I’ll certainly be back again.” Frank took Judy’s offered hand, held it a moment longer than courtesy demanded but pleased her more than she would have admitted. Frank then turned, crossed the hall, entered his own apartment and closed the door behind him, humming as he did so.
Judy closed her own door and made her way back to the kitchen. She picked up a tea cup and almost dropped it. She was humming. She was humming the same tune Frank hummed as he left her apartment—I’ll Be Seeing You.

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I Want Out

No, today’s title does not refer to my blogsite, Meander With Me, but to something entirely different. Today, I am going to refer to myself exactly as I see me: an old woman on my way to eighty-nine, followed by the really big. . . NINETY . . . and there are consequences that go with being THAT old. However, before I proceed I want to make this clear: there isn’t a day goes by but what I find good reason to think of myself as a damn-lucky old woman, so don’t think for one moment that I’m about to fire off a list of complaints. I’ll leave to others such things as aching joints, stomach problems, bills, unreliable tradesmen and so on. Above all: there’s one complaint I hope no one ever has to listen to coming from my lips. . . CONSTIPATION! I’ve listened to enough of that to last me a lifetime. No, I’m simply going to tell you why I am so suddenly, terribly tired and from what it is “I Want Out”.
When I first sat down at my computer this morning I already had a subject in mind but an email from a member of the writer’s group to which I am still, technically a member, changed my mind. Therefore, this visit really had its beginning this past Thursday, but I am hesitant as to how to tell my story.
Honest to whatever, I did not for a moment resent my offer to take a dear, kind and sweet friend to the hospital to see her husband who has been there for some weeks and not likely to come out alive. Her husband, once an erudite thinker: brilliant orator and a joy in conversation, scarcely remembers me. I did not resent the two hours I stayed in the room with my two friends nor the trip back to her home, however. . . who will be the means of her transportation today, tomorrow and all the tomorrows to come? I am one of the few friends she has who owns and drives a car and the retirement facility does not have a vehicle at their disposal for such purposes. As I drove home, I mentally went over a long list of former friends and acquaintences who found in me a willing and compliant taxi service.
As far back as I can recall, there seems to have always been those in my life who needed me and, to the best of my ability, I’ve been there for them. I realized, as I had not previously, that before I become a resident at the retirement home. . . I have a deposit assuring me future residency . . . I’d have to first dispose of my car . . . otherwise?
I dislike having to admit that one of the reasons I withdrew from the writer’s group was the fear of becoming a permanent “taxi” for members in need of such assistence. I spent one entire afternoon taxing one member from one doctor’s office to another . . . three in all . . . and it’s likely to get worse. My heart goes out to the unfortunate member I helped out that day, but I cannot continue as I have in the past. I’m worn out. She has, according to the update I received this morning: a recurrence of brain tumors . . . 3 in fact. She was operated on last Thurs. to remove 2. One will be removed by laser at a later date. According to the message, she requests prayers in her behalf. I truly wish I could be of help, and I hope there are others ready to take over, others much younger and more abler of body than I am. As for her request that I pray for her recovery, I rather doubt God needs me to bring my fellow-writer’s plight to his attention. I think a trip though any hospital where childen lie dying of cancer, would be enough to convince me of this: America’s God, as with all other gods, just doesn’t give a damn.
Yes, it is from such as the above that “I Want Out”.

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After publishing the poem,’Bobbi Bunny’s Last Will and Testament’, I was asked to publish another about bathing suits. Although I sincerely wish my good friend Conne Reese from the Harrisburg, Pennslyvania area, had her own blog and used it to treat others to her wit and wisdom, I am certain she will not mind if I use the following about her thoughts concerning the designers of women’s bathing suits. Thank you, Conne for allowing me to publish your work. I sure miss those cups of tea and chats I once could look forward to.

DESIGNING MEN, or, Beach Daze

by

Conne Reese

It seems that it’s too much to ask
Designers, for a simple task.
All I want is this, to wit;
Please, just one bathing suit to fit
A person not shaped like a pear,
One who’d just as soon not bare
some most essential industries,
A seemly suit that’s cut to please
Me, not some lechers on the beach,
A garment not priced out of reach,
with leg-holes not displaying charms
Or ending up beneath my arms.
I won’t swim in, nor do I hanker
For blousons, known as a sea anchor.
Nothing feels much worse, by heck,
Than halter straps around the neck,
Eacept for those, I do exhort,
Invariably are far too short,
Placing the top (I canot win)
Directly level with my chin.
Although a size is labeled “tall”
It’s rarely cut that way at all.
Though I am average, five feet six,
No bathing suits—all need a fix.
Before appearing anywhere
Wthout a most peculiar stare.
And now, designers pus the thong
Wth straps where one does not belong;
A fad whose time has swiftly psssed
As I refuse to go bare-assed!

Naturally, permission is required by others to usethis poem, but, isn’t that delightful? Thanks again, Conne

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