Animal Talk

The ends of the two scarves wound around my head and neck flapped in the frigid wind. I leaned over to pour sunflower seeds into a bird feeder, thankful for the warmth of Arnie’s old work jacket. Even though it hung off my shoulders, past the tips of my fingers and made my movements clumsy, I could pull my gloved hands and neck deeper into the generous folds of my late husband’s coat like a turtle.

A chick-a-dee openly hopped around on nearby branches in contrast to a shy woodpecker hidden on the far side of the flowering crabapple tree trunk, but giving away his presence by a rhythmic, “thunk-thunk-thunk!”

I announced, “I didn’t forget about you, woodpecker! I’m putting a suet seed cake in the cage.”

Carrying the rest of the seeds and suet to the birdfeeders on the other side of the house, I slowly trudged through the snow, examining animal tracks along the way. Something with skinny limbs had leapt through the deep snow to a tree. Then there were no more tracks. I looked up. The tree branches touched the next tree and the next. That had to have been a squirrel from along the river. Those greedy rodents like to gobble seeds whenever they find a birdfeeder. Continue reading

The Missing Glove

“Mama, when will Santa come?” I set a pan of potatoes on the stove and looked down at my six-year-old daughter. The plaintive tone of Niki’s voice made my heart ache for her. This was Christmas Eve, the day she’d looked forward to for the past month, but nothing was happening. Like every other evening, Mama was making supper with little sister Tammie sitting quietly nearby playing with a small toy. Daddy wasn’t home yet.

I hugged Niki. Her cheeks were warm and pink, flushed with anticipation and excitement. The kitchen window looked dark, as though it was midnight instead of only five o’clock. Kissing her, I said, “Do you remember what I told you this afternoon? Santa will come while we’re at church tonight. Daddy will be home any minute. After we eat supper, we’ll get ready to leave for church.” Continue reading

First Snow

Resigned to our dreary Wisconsin November weather, I pulled on a coat and slowly walked down the driveway to the mailbox. After the wind roared in the tree tops a few days earlier, the yard seemed unusually quiet today. From somewhere in the flowering crab apple tree, a chickadee wheezed, “Chee-dee-dee.”

I thought, “Now that’s a wintery sound! I wonder when it’s going to start looking like winter?” The kid in me looked forward to the first snow of the year.  As an adult, I knew that snow made travel horrid. Looking up at the gray sky, I sighed, “But it is so pretty to watch as it slowly, lazily falls to the earth!” Continue reading

The Other F Word

Louie, my slowly-becoming-civilized, white and black cat, sat purring on the office futon. Just looking at the lanky feline at rest that evening made me feel peaceful. When he dozed, his eyes closed and there appeared to be a smile on his face.

Leaving my desk chair, I crossed the room and sat down on the futon next to him. I reached out and stroked his silky side. Louie stretched and looked even happier. Something tickled my forearm. I looked down and saw a small bug. When I reached to pinch it, the small bug sprung straight up into the air like it had been launched by NASA. A huge surge of adrenaline flushed through my veins. Simultaneously, I felt flashes of Saharan heat, icy blasts of Artic chill and the need to expend energy by slaying dragons while galloping the circumference of the world. MY CAT HAD FLEAS!

Fear and loathing made my mouth feel like it was full of dirty cotton balls. I jumped to my feet, reflecting that the fleas had probably been around for a while. Being oblivious to the signs, I’d ascribed the itchy bites on my ankles during the past week to mosquitoes. There was no way I could continue in this denial. My house was fully contaminated and it needed a good cleansing! Continue reading

A Home Accident Statistic

Cradling Tammie, my two-month-old daughter, I carefully made my way down the stairway. Reaching the landing, I turned to descend the last six steps. Suddenly, the rubber sole of one of my wedge heels caught on the carpeting. Horrified, I found myself hurtling down the last five steps.

Although the time that passed between my tripping and landing could be measured in milliseconds, a million and one thoughts raced through my mind. They all centered on how to protect my fragile baby. Willing my body to encircle her like a wheel, I tumbled like a tire-rim tossed across a pile of rocks. Finally I banged to a stop.

My daughter was born with Thrombocytopenia with Absent Radius (TAR) Syndrome. One very serious aspect of TARS is an extremely low blood platelet count. Platelets prevent hemorrhaging from cuts and prevents monster-sized bruises. The last thing my baby needed was to be banged-up!

Laying on the floor and hurting in every place where my body had made contact with the steps, I lifted my head and examined Tammie. Miraculously, it appeared that I had somehow managed to protect her from injury. Relieved, I joined her in having a good, long, hard cry.   Continue reading

Vegetable Shaming

Waves of moist heat enveloped me the minute I opened the back door of my house and stepped out onto the deck. Purring loudly, my two cats Louie and Jonah wove back and forth, rubbing themselves against my legs. Despite their heavy coats of fur, they appeared to love the sticky July weather.

A pair of barn swallows spotted the felines and began a series of low, kamikaze swoops over the carnivores. They had instinctively recognized the cats as evil, baby-eating predators. Despite the risk to themselves they repeated the attack over and over. The swift birds with gorgeous tail feathers that made me think of an arrow’s fletching, chattered and scolded as they dove. All Louie and Jonah would have had to do was raise a paw to catch one. Instead, they stretched out full length on the sun-heated deck planks. I said, “You two are sadists! You’re enjoying this, aren’t you?” Louie lifted his head and gave me a happy, slow blink. Continue reading

Computer (Gee Whiz) Kid

Our teacher said, “Computers are an up-and-coming technology. Many of you may be working with them in the future, depending on what jobs you have.” After pausing for a moment to collect his thoughts, he continued on, “Right now computers are large and have limited functions. I heard of one at a college that’s as big as this room. In the future they’ll get smaller and be more useful.”

My mind was drifting during this lecture on future careers. Graduation day was in two weeks! Below the open classroom windows, I heard a lawn mower start up. Soon the scent of fresh-cut grass floated in on a breeze. The familiar smell reminded me of my happy, uncomplicated childhood. Feeling panicky, I thought, “I’m not ready to be an adult yet!” Continue reading