For this author, creative endeavors have been sorely tested by motherhood. But also transformed, and in ways she wouldn’t have imagined – couldn’t have, without her life “rewritten” as it has been, by her children. So linger here, to read all things weaverly, writerly and motherly.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Overheard

storypraxis daily prompt: "overheard"

When he'd overheard his mother on the phone trying to guide http://www.storypraxis.com/ he'd thought Gramma was trying to kill the bird; he'd imagined her holding down a flailing feathered hen while cradling the phone on her shoulder. His mother, having been making dinner herself, finally had turned the phone on speaker, and he'd heard his Gramma say she was taking a knife to it. Turns out, his mother had bought her one of those precooked chickens they themselves sometimes ate, and Gramma couldn't get the plastic lid off. She'd taken to stabbing at it instead.

His mother didn't usually put his Gramma on speaker. Whenever he'd overhear their conversations, his mother would talk very loud, as his Gramma was going a bit deaf, but cup her hand over the phone or turn toward a wall, as if she didn't want him to hear her yelling.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Resurrected Fish

This week Trifecta's word challenge is "decay":

She'd forgotten all about that – burying all her deceased salt-water fish in the flower bed. Her three clownfish, two blue damsels with those yellow tails she loved to watch flickering in the watery light when she was up nights sleepless. Even the large spotted grouper who'd reflected back her own baffled looks. Back then.They'd all died that first year she'd been trying to get pregnant, and she'd actually sent her husband out with a garden trowel to bury them. It had been his idea, anyway, to set up the aquarium, as if fish could distract her from the fact that they seemed unable to conceive. It wasn't an act of punishment making him bury them.

Sandra's Writing Workshop Hop

Having for years taught fiction writing, I'm missing sitting around some oblong table hashing out scene and character issues over dog-eared manuscripts and cold cups of coffee. So let's see if we can make this work, a workshop hop!

Meant to be informal but constructive. Open to all who write or would like to try their hand at writing fiction.

Weekly, I'll offer writing prompts, some inspirational, but mostly ones to help you focus better on the editorial and control of voice, etc. Remember, these are just offerings.

The first prompt is to write in the close first person

John Updike's short story "A & P" is a great example of writing from this close "I" colloquial point of view; it is in the spoken tone here, that we come to know this character is a teenager:

"In walks these three girls in nothing but bathing suits. I'm in the third check-out slot, with my back to the door, so I don't see them until they're over by the bread. The one that caught my eye first was the one in the plaid green two-piece. She was a chunky kid, with a good tan and a sweet broad soft-looking can with those two crescents of white just under it, where the sun never seems to hit, at the top of the backs of her legs. I stood there with my hand on a box of HiHo crackers trying to remember if I rang it up or not. I ring it up again and the customer starts giving me hell. She's one of these cash-register-watchers, a witch about fifty with rouge on her cheekbones and no eyebrows, and I knowit made her day to trip me up. She'd been watching cash registers forty years and probably never seen a mistake before."

Rules:

Tuesday's Tale: The Wrinkle

It's not a laugh or a frown line – I've been grinning, laughing uproariously and frowning deeply into mirrors, to see if the line, that very fine crease, would come and go. I've taken to wandering the house with a handheld mirror examining it in all kinds of light. The pale morning kitchen one. The brilliant sunny dining room. Out in the yard, birds glancing off my reflection. In all my car mirrors. Both side ones. Rearview.

"I have my first wrinkle."


My 93-year-old mother chuckled. "Your first?"


I could tell she was resting on her bed, head propped on her pillows, where she liked to rest most afternoons. Looking out the window at her yard where I'd staked her a new bird feeder.


I was upset. "This is my first real wrinkle. It's there all the time."


"Try hemorrhoid cream, like Carol does." Carol is the woman who comes in a few times a week for meals and to clean.


"On your face?"


"She has flawless skin and is just about your age."


This wasn't what I was looking for. "I'm not putting something on my face that goes on your butt."


"Well, then you have to start using serum and a good brand wrinkle cream."


"I use moisturizer."


"That's not wrinkle cream."


True. I've avoided anything labelled for wrinkles. Yes, I have some laugh lines and a few crows feet, but not wrinkles.


My mother couldn't stop chuckling. "Wait until you get a turkey neck. Then you have to start worrying. Or just wear neck scarves."


She owns a lot of neck scarves.


I wasn't prepared for this wrinkle, let alone a turkey neck, nor my new tummy: "Your metabolism has slowed, that's all," my doctor told me at my last visit after I weighed in a good ten pounds heavier even though I'm not necessarily gorging on chips.


My mother had already suggested I buy a girdle, so I wasn't going to add the tummy topic into the mix. . . .


Still, I wasn't getting what I needed from her. Probably because usually our conversations are about her own crises, ones that are relatively small but at 93 are big. Like misplaced canes and glasses. A bottle of pills that has rolled under her bureau. Towels that are missing.


Every so often though, as much as I may try to suppress it for her sake, I need my mother in my own little crises, even what might just be a little twist of my mind –sometimes, I just need my mom.


I wasn't ready for this wrinkle. "Why is it suddenly just there?"


I'd moved outside to sit in a deck chair. Usually when we're on the phone, I'm be up and about, multitasking, doing dishes, even checking email. But now it was me who needed her undivided attention – at 49 complaining about wrinkles, I was feeling twenty-something after some relationship with some guy hadn't worked out. When I'd turned to my mother then too, knowing she could put what seemed a tragedy into perspective.


The reality is, long after I thought I needed it, she remains the warm hand brushing my hair back off my forehead as she would when I was a little girl. But as she has weakened and become more dependent on me, I find it unbearable to need her in this way.


Then the comfort words did come: "Dear, you will age beautifully. I have no doubts about that."


I was able to breathe a little easier then, enough to relax back in the plastic adirondack chair, to look up at the sky. "I'm old," I sighed, which sent us both laughing at both the truth and the absurdity of that, in light of both our ages.





Interested in writing fiction? Come link up with my

new writing workshop hop!




Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Chicken in the House

This week's Trifecta challenge word is "wild"

Marge had a stray chicken in her yard. It was smart. It had found a hole in her lattice and slept in a safe haven beneath her deck.

The chicken had escape when her neighbor, Ted, died, and his kids sold his house, and the old hen house was razed. They'd donated the other chickens to some local farm. Leona evidently hadn't wanted to leave.


One morning, Leona was pecking at the screen door. Marge opened the door, and Leona marched in, assessed the place, then ate a crumb from Marge's breakfast granola bar off the worn linoleum floor.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Tuesday's Tale: The Driving Test

At age 93, my mother has been issued a mandatory date to appear at the state DMV office of investigations, for an "interview" and road test. First floor. Window 22.

Window 22 was at the far end of a long counter marked by 21 other windows – each window framed by ivy sprigs rooting in vases of pretty glass marbles. As if DMV could be any more inviting than a blood lab.

For the interrogation, a lady with a clipboard asked politely if I would "step away" from the window so she could interrogate my mother about what happened when she drove her car into the wall of the carpet store. When she mistook the gas for the brake pedal.

I sat on a bench – just within earshot of my mother referring repeatedly to the brake as the "clutch." What she learned to drive on what, a good, 75 years ago? I wanted to pinch her.



Friday, May 18, 2012

The Writer's Post Blog Hop: The Last Straw

Every afternoon, the new neighbor's old greying retriever would mosey across Marge's front lawn, do its business, then nudge her garbage pails to knock out microwaveable dinner containers. Since she didn't cook much anymore, there were a lot of those, and he licked them clean.

"Why don't you go talk to them about the dog?" her daughter would say on her weekly phone calls. "There are leash laws, you know."

Marge didn't know why she didn't, except with so many new folk replacing the older generation on her street, she felt a stranger in her own neighborhood.

And this latest new family had moved into Ted's old house. Before he died, he'd been tethered to an oxygen machine and Marge would go over daily to tidy up his kitchen, and collect eggs from the chicken coop. Back when both their own kids were growing up, Ted's chickens had been a welcomed novelty on the suburban street. More so than now, when a backyard jacuzzi was more the rage. After Ted died, his kids sold the chickens and tore down the shed to prepare the house for sale.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A blogging award for Moi!

Thank you to Kat for this award! She is a truly dear soul with wonderful insights on her blog http://myviewthroughkateyes.blogspot.com/ . Do drop by there if you haven't already.

I'd like to pass this on to Ada of http://www.ofwoodsandwords.com/
for her wonderful insights into the wilderness!


And to Amy of http://amywritesnet.blogspot.com/

who did a phenomenal memoir exploration in the A-Z challenge



Thanks so much again, Kat!

Trifecta Writing Challenge: TROUBLE



"Trouble" he knew best from when his mother warned him not to steal Batman croc charms from the Stride Rite bin.

But the actual meaning of the other "trouble" he came to know without really knowing the word for it: the way his mother could look even during one of his thumb magic tricks.

Maybe she could look that way because she knew how the plastic thumb worked, having bought it for him herself. But he had taught himself new tricks, and she liked to see them except when she was cooking dinner or picking up after him. "I'd have time for tricks, if you'd hang your coat up yourself. ..."

So he tried to pick a time when she wasn't busy – after she'd just hung up with his elderly grandmother and she was just sitting at the table. She'd been bent into the phone, trying to explain something about a Visa card: "No, Mom," she'd said. "You can't do that, just charge the balance back to your card. That's why you're getting charged interest. You need to write a check, from your checking account..." Her forehead would be resting in one hand. There were other such phone calls, as when his grandmother couldn't open a precooked chicken.

But when she was just sitting there at the table, staring at the wall, he decided she wasn't busy and he could show her his new thumb trick.

"Sure," she said, sounding tired. She folded her arms on the table to play audience. Yet she wasn't as attentive as on the phone. She pretended surprise when he whipped a tissue out from behind her ear. Then she just looked at him as blankly as she had stared at the wall.

He slipped his thumb back into his pocket. Maybe he should have done one of his disappearing coin tricks instead. But by the way she still sat there even after he left the room, he didn't think it would have mattered.

 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tale Tuesday: Moon Trees

"But it got you out of the house," her daughter said.

Marge had just told she'd quit her volunteer position as a "tree" at the arboretum. She felt encased in glass as she sat alone at her table with an empty coffee cup. "Yes. That's what trees do."

Her daughter was running water in her sink. This seemed always the time when Karen called, when she was doing stuff; clatter of silverware into the dishwasher, mad bristly scrubbing of some pot. Marge's grandson fussing in the background, in his highchair with some shaky toy.

Her daughter's obsession with getting Marge out of the house started after Marge made the mistake of confiding to her about how her dead husband had come to her in on a full moon night and stood beside her bed.

"You were dreaming, Mom," Karen had said, in her squeaky-clean brand new perfunctory tone. As when she would tell Marge how she should toss out catalogues piling up in her house.

"I couldn't really see his face but it was really him. And he was angry."

"Daddy had no reason to be angry. You should be angry with him, for never listening."

Really, if anyone was angry, it was her daughter. 'What was he thinking?" she'd wailed, when Marge had to call and tell her that he'd keeled over from a massive heart attack one too-hot summer day while mowing the lawn.

For some reason, he had refused to acknowledge his heart condition, and that steamy morning, she'd watched as he'd hauled the push mower out from the garage. She'd even once suggested investing in a ride-on mower. "Why don't ya just get me a motorized wheelchair?"

Too damn hot to argue. She'd just wanted to get into her air-conditioned car, to get a couple of cans of tunafish for a tuna salad lunch. If she had protested, he would only have pretended not to hear: "Say what?" he'd yell, over the roar of the old gassy lawn mower.

This was all some years ago now, but she would think back to that, when she was a tree, when she'd quit, and when her daughter began telling her what to do. When their roles seemed to be reversing which left a metal taste in her mouth every time they hung up their phones.

What she'd never told her daughter was about her falling into the web of children at the arboretum, the real reason she'd finally quit; that back then, her balance was already deteriorating. When her grandson, the one fussing in the highchair at the other end of the phone, was still a toddler.

Now he was seven. She hadn't thought about the tree thing until this spring when she'd found herself telling him about it.

"You were a tree?"

"A maple. Just like that one," she'd said, pointing to the big one in her backyard. They'd been visiting for Easter. New leaves were just beginning to sprout.

"Wow. That's kind a cool. . ." He was scraping at the ground with a stick. "Do you believe in moon trees?"

"Moon trees?"

"We have some. In our yard. At least I think they're moon trees...the way they look when the moon is out. Anyway, I hope that's what they are. Because I promised this kid at school I would trade him moon tree seeds for seeds he has from this cool really rare tree, I guess, in his own yard."

"What kind of tree does he have?"

"Not sure. But it's supposed to be the only one on earth..." He shrugged. "He has a chicken coop too. When we had chicks in school, he took them home to their coop." He finished his drawing. It was a dragon. With two heads and breathing fire.

"Anyway, yes," Marge said.

"Yes, what..." He was distracted now, crouched over his dirt drawing, adding tiny clawed feet.

"I think there is such a thing," she said, vaguely remembering something about seeds being taken into orbit and then brought back to be planted on earth. Whether or not she learned that at the arboretum or just had it stored up with other odd bits which come with age, that she didn't know. Or remember.

"I do believe. In moon trees," she said, with a surety that she didn't necessarily have about much else.









 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Trifecta Weekly Challenge: ENIGMA

She didn't want to become an enigma. The old lady shuttered in her house now that she couldn't drive, rarely seen except at twilight when she would pace, through her dirty windows. She could imagine just that, how she looked, shrunken and bent and shadowy until she actually pulled shut the old wood shutters.

She knew the enigma of the aged, before she got this old, having watched in all these years other generations die away on the street. The last of them before herself, had been Mrs. Canister who used to live on the corner, and for years was only seen to let her dog out on a rope. She always wore a faded blue kerchief, and eventually wasn't even seen driving her rickety rusty sedan up to the grocery store. By the time she died, her house was peeling and engulfed by weeds.


It was an early spring, but already her own grass was encroaching on the house. So were the weeds. When she was able, she would have on a whim run outside and ripped them up by the fistfuls to toss them back into the woods. Now she could barely pull up her own socks let alone pull up the most superficially rooted weed.


She would spend the day calling newspaper ads for someone to come and cut her grass. To weed the driveway. And she would open wide her slatted shutters to let in the sun. And hope that once she was gone, her children wouldn't do what Mrs. Canister's had done, sell the house to be bulldozed down to its original earth, once potato fields that she herself could actually remember. She could remember digging a hand firmly into the earth and pulling out a potato and boiling it for dinner.

 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oh, to Light up a Room!

It's not every day someone lights up when I walk into a room.

In fact, most days it's me turning out lights no one else thinks to, most likely bathroom ones.


And some days people might actually like me not to walk into the room at all, knowing I may nag them to pick up dropped socks, old popsicle sticks or cheese-stick wrappers.


Though this time, I wasn't walking into a room; just into the small shack of our local farm stand. For my weekly purchase of apples, and pears and greens. In my house-clothes as I hadn't been out all day, and what the heck, who would notice me at a farm stand in my gerbil sweater (they're favorite to climb around in) and dirty muddy winter boots even though the spring sun finally had surfaced again.


He did – the one who lit up. "SO good to see you!" He grinned. A toothless one I might add. He was old enough to be my father if he were still alive, his face leathered from years in the sun. A pack of cigarettes hung out of his top shirt pocket.


He was unpacking a carton of organic apples. Other times, I'd seen him sweeping out the donkey stall. (Yes, this stand has a miniature donkey and one who bites. Plus two goats and a peacock.)


He couldn't stop grinning. "How are you?"


Look, let's face it. As a-stay-at-home-forty-something-perimenopausal mom who most days is shuttered inside a chaotic messy house, I'm easily flattered. He worked at the stand, and last I'd been in there was at Christmas for our tree. He'd trimmed the trunk and tied the tree to the top of my van. "Anything for you, Gorgeous." Then he'd stepped back to take one last good look at me. "Really. You could be a model."


A model?


"Sure. In those boots and that coat, and that hair...look at you. Just beautiful."


Back then, I must have had somewhere nice to go or was coming from. Because I guess I had been wearing nice boots and a nice coat. And done something with my frizzy nest?


At best these days, I can feel like some "gorgeous" insect he might unearth from some plant he'd be potting for their spring sale. But today I left with my bag of fruits and greens, shuffling along in my dirty old snow boots feeling, well, beautiful.


 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Once-Upon-a-Tale-Tuesday: I am a Tree

When you become a tree, you don't pick what tree. Otherwise, she would have picked the magnolia, with leaves so ample, it's the perfect umbrella. And with those big splashy fuchsia flowers!

Instead, Marge was cast as a maple. Yes, she had rich red leaves come fall and all that. And flowers too, though spindly and too delicate for her own taste. But she was not even a sugar maple. Just an ordinary maple, like the one in her own backyard.

Still, "I am a maple," Marge would enunciate loudly, as she stood beside the real one, with her maple paper script in hand, facing whatever group of elementary school squirmy kids arriving at her station; having trekked from tree to tree through the arboretum, the children were more interested in picking scabby elbows. Fact was, they too found the maple ordinary.

Like her, all the other arboretum trees seemed to be represented by aging arthritic widows; or so it seemed, when they'd first introduce themselves at the tree-training session. Going around in a circle, it actually could have been some grief therapy group. Some wore orthopedic shoes, and Marge wondered why in the heck they would volunteer for a tree-standing position, even if it was only for a couple of hours thrice-weekly.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

ONCE-UPON-A-TALE TUESDAY: Washing Gramma's Car

The boys were washing Gramma's car. Even though the old blue Dodge, its battery long since dead, seemed less a car than a dinged-up ornament in her driveway.

Ryan, with the relatively useless whisk broom Gramma had give him to sweep the floor matts asked, "Why are we cleaning your car, anyway, if you can't drive it?"

My mother's license had been temporarily suspended. Spectators to the car-washing, my mother and I sat outside in fold-up chairs on the lawn.My boys like washing cars. They probably wouldn't have been asking the "why" if Gramma hadn't vented a bit too loudly for big little ears, what she had vented at the optometrist who had dared to suggest she may not be able to sign the DMV mandatory eye-test form: "If they take away my license, I'll have a stroke."

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