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2020 Vision

Mom took the casserole she’d made the night before out of the refrigerator and placed it on the counter. It looked beautifully creamy and was topped with slightly browned, buttery bread crumbs. Half of it had been eaten. She encouraged, “Taste it.”

I reached into the silverware drawer and selected a fork. The mouthful I scooped up contained shrimp and a filet of fish in a thick, white sauce that tasted of lemon and pepper. I spotted bright slices of carrots and celery. The taste was exciting and exotic, probably owing to the plentiful presence of shrimp. “I’ve got to have the recipe for this!” I enthused.

On the following Thursday, I bought the ingredients needed to make the seafood casserole. Friday was my day off. I spent the afternoon painstakingly following the recipe. By the time my husband came home from work, it was ready to come out of the oven. I set the table and placed bread and butter between our plates and a trivet in the center of the small kitchen table in our mobile home. Carefully using oven mitts, I took the hot dish out of the oven and placed it on the trivet. I proudly announced, “Our supper is ready, Arnie. Come and eat.”

My young husband came and stood behind the chair at his place but didn’t sit down. He stared at the dish in the center of the table. Looking grumpy, Arnie questioned, “What did you make for supper?”

Taking a deep breath of shrimp-scented kitchen air, I explained, “Mom made this dish recently. It has shrimp in it and tastes really good. Try some.”

Seething, Arnie pointed out in a tightly controlled voice, “All I want and expect is a decent supper after working all day. I will not eat seafood casserole.” Picking up a slice of bread, he savagely slapped butter on it. Then he stalked angrily into the living room, all of eight feet away, and sank down on the sofa to glare at me as he stuffed the bread into his mouth. Devastated, I cried.

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Lingering Sweetness

Carrying my cup of tea into the living room, I sat down to watch birds outside the large window. Small chickadee and dowdy finch were busy eating sunflower seeds at the feeder. Every so often a strong gust of wind made snow sift softly down from the pine branches above. On the ground below, snow swirled, but didn’t bother a female cardinal who continued to scratch and peck the seeds dropped by other birds.

I took a sip of the hot, comforting tea. It was good to be indoors on a day like this. Picking up a candy I’d made the day before, I admired how it looked so very much like a real mushroom. Biting off the stem, the crisp, sugary meringue quickly melted on my tongue. Studying the rest of the candy, I admired its cinnamon and nutmeg toadstool freckles. Chocolate took the place of mushroom gills on the bottom of the meringue.

Remembering how this mushroom candy became a Christmas tradition for my family made me smile nostalgically. When I had found the recipe in a woman’s magazine, I laughed. My big brother Billy hated mushrooms. He said all mushrooms were slimy toadstools, not fit for human consumption. I’d told my daughters, “This Christmas I’m going to give Billy some mushrooms he’ll love eating.” Niki and Tammie were nine and thirteen years of age that year.

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Leaning Back

A cold, ice-particle-laden gust of wind swirled down the face of the hospital building, pushing so hard against my body I had to lean forward to make headway. Walking at my side was a coworker, Barb. She commented jokingly, “Here we are, walking through the tundra again.” Some of the ice particles melted on my face while others found their way under my neck scarf. I shivered and put my mitten-clad hand to my frosted forehead, wondering if it was possible to experience brain-freeze from a cold wind.

Barb complained, “Why in the world was this hospital built with a north-facing entrance? We always get a big downdraft in our face just as we get close to entering.”

Through gritted teeth I answered, “I don’t know what the engineers were thinking. But, at least on hot summer days, we get a welcome cool breeze.”

As Barb and I silently walked to the unit where we worked, I thought about Christmas, only two weeks away. I still had some Christmas cards to send, presents to wrap and cookies to bake. Our tree, usually put up a few days before Christmas, wasn’t even bought!

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Autumn Colors

I stopped working and leaned on the shovel I had been using to dig carrots. My garden was well on its way to being put to ‘bed’ for the winter. Arnie, my husband looked up from where he was working and commented, “Today is a perfect fall day.”

Nodding, I looked around. Clouds blanketed the sky. It felt warm, yet not too warm. A hint of coolness hovered around the edges. Night time temperatures the past week had been chilly. Our lush, green, freshly mowed lawn around the house contrasted beautifully with the deep burgundy sumac along our yard’s second driveway. I exclaimed, “Arnie, just look at how beautiful the sumac is today.”

My husband straightened up and looked. After a moment of silence, he asked, “What am I supposed to be seeing?”

I prompted, “The red leaves. Aren’t they pretty?”

When Arnie shook his head and denied seeing red leaves, I suddenly remembered he’d made certain comments in the past that made me realize he was unable to perceive the full spectrum of colors as I do. My husband was apparently partially color blind.

An article I read about colorblindness stated that men are more likely to experience partial colorblindness than do women. Trouble seeing the color red and green is most common. Complete colorblindness is rare. It occurs in only 1 person out of 30,000 births. Continue reading

The Path Best Not Taken

Sun-dappled shade blanketed the woodland floor. Green ferns peeked through last year’s papery fallen leaves. We heard the rustle of small feet scampering and the sleepy call of a bird in the tree tops. Along the trail, ferns stood guard over a slumbering, moss-covered log.

Ahead of us, we saw a sun-filled clearing. Stepping into the sun made me squint. Cleared by man, the woodland corridor allowed poles topped with electrical wires to march through the property. The path diverged at this point. A map mounted on a post showed different route options.

The path to the left would take us directly back to The Clearing’s campus schoolhouse. The path to the right would meander further from the campus, but eventually bring us back to the schoolhouse, too. Glancing at Tammie, I asked, “Which path do you want to take?”

My daughter stated, “I want to take the one to the left.”

When my daughter Tammie and I visit The Clearing for a vacation, we take classes to learn new crafts or perfect crafts familiar to us. This year, because of COVID 19, classes were canceled, but the venue remained open for self-directed retreats. We decided to go. A handful of other people had done the same. Consequentially, the campus was strangely empty and quiet. Following the hiking paths on the 128-acre campus, we found the less traveled paths were not as trampled or easy to follow. Continue reading

Little by Little

Looking into the bathroom mirror at Arnie’s shaving-foam covered face, I stated emphatically, “You have to till our garden this morning before leaving for work.” It was more a demand than request.

Arnie slipped on his glasses and picked up his razor. After pulling the triple blade across his jawline once, he answered, “You sound like you’re in a hurry.”

Combing my hair, I sighed impatiently, “I am! “Today is my day off from the hospital. My next day off won’t be for another five days. The weatherman on TV last night said it will rain by the end of this week. I want to plant my garden today.”

Making eye-contact with Arnie in the mirror, I saw a twinkle in his eye. He said, “It won’t hurt to put the garden in next week instead of this week.”

Crossing my arms, I glared at his reflection for several seconds before grumbling stubbornly, “I don’t think you’re funny. I want to plant my garden today because I have time today.”

Using a washcloth to wipe away the last bits of foam from his now clean-shaven face, Arnie leaned down to give me a kiss and said, “Don’t get yourself into knots. I’ll get it tilled for you this morning.” Continue reading

Twisted

Impatiently tossing the crochet pattern book aside, I looked at my small cache of yarn. I knew what I wanted to make, but was unable to follow through. I could read and understand the words, but by the pattern’s fourth step, confusion equal to what happened at the Tower of Bable would cloud my mind.

Pulling navy, white and red skeins of yarn closer to myself, I pictured a lap robe with wide crocheted bands of red and navy with a dozen white stars stitched onto it. The trickiest part of my design would be making the stars, but I had an idea. Picking a white skein, I took a strand of the yarn and twisted it around the crochet hook.

A warm, humid early summer afternoon breeze blowing through the living room window made the shear curtains flutter. All day an angry, dark blue sky had been threatening storms. Weather forecasters predicted tornadoes. Worried because I lived in a mobile home, I had the radio on so I could run for cover if there was a local tornado sighting.

I had been alone at home one May evening three years earlier when a tornado came through our mobile home court. Not having listened to the radio that evening, the storm startled me when I heard what sounded like a locomotive train alongside the house. Pulling a curtain aside, all I saw was nightmare-inducing greenish-black air between me and our neighbor’s house. Seconds later, the wind roughly picked up the front end of my house and set it down with a jolt three feet over. Continue reading

Trapped

I arrived home from work and found Arnie standing at the kitchen counter making himself his favorite snack, a cheese and summer sausage sandwich. Pulling off my coat, I opened the entryway closet and hanging it on a hanger, commented, “There’s a sharp edge to the wind this afternoon despite the sunshine. Clouds are moving in from the west. Maybe tonight we’ll get our first snow.”

Taking a big bite from his sandwich, my husband replied with smug satisfaction, “It’s a good thing I made a point of pounding in the fence posts for our snow fence this afternoon. In the next few days, the ground will probably freeze and then it would be too late.”

Eyeing the last of the sandwich disappearing into Arnie’s mouth, I guessed, “You won’t be looking for an early supper tonight, so I’m going to change the bed and do the laundry before I start cooking.”

Looking out of the dining room window at the big blue barn across the yard, Arnie mused, “I should probably go out and feed the cattle now instead of later. The longer I wait, the less I’ll feel like going out there.” Busy with my own work, I wasn’t sure when he actually went to the barn. Continue reading

Weigelsdorf

As I crested the hill, my eyes immediately focused on a farmyard on the west side of the road. Arnie and I had lived there from 1974 through 1979. The mobile home we had lived in and sold to the new owner was gone. In its place they had built a house. Many of the trees and shrubs around it were ones that my Mom and I had planted the summer I raked and seeded the lawn. Spotting a tall pine tree in the back yard triggered a memory. We had struggled to dig it up from a local ditch, unable to believe that a small sapling could have such a long taproot!

Shock filled me as I scanned the rest of the yard. Across the driveway where there had once stood a large blue barn, four silos and a small handful of stonewalled sheds; was a skinny, skeleton that merely traced the defunct barn’s outline. The landmark barn was disappearing.

The farm had belonged to the Weigel family. Bachelor brothers, Max and Leo, had been the last proprietors.  My husband and I had moved our mobile home there in 1974 from a lot in Marshfield. We were told that we lived in the center of an area some people called, Weigelsdorf. All the farmers living near this crossroad were Weigels or people who had married into the large Weigel family. Continue reading

Last Name…Dumb

The thermostat in my living room is set at 65 degrees. Although my front-room office is insulated and has a heat register, it is often at least 7 degrees colder than my kitchen, dining and living room. After working a few hours at the computer one night this past fall, I felt chilled to the bone. I walked into my relatively warm living room, wrapped myself in a blanket and sank into a chair.

The picture tube in my 27-year-old RCA television had gone “poof” a few months earlier. Since I haven’t watched television since 2005, I didn’t really care, but knew my grandchildren would. They occasionally watch DVD and VHS movies while visiting me. Deciding to use a flat screen television once belonging to my brother, I discovered I have access to digital programming the old set didn’t provide; mostly vintage and public television stations.

Feeling like a queen, I imperiously pointed the remote and clicked. In the past, only my late husband Arnie used the remote control. He liked shows that I didn’t like. That night, after a 15-year hiatus from watching television, I discovered I enjoyed cooking, travel, home repair and detective shows. Obviously, television enjoyment hinges on media control. If anything makes me uncomfortable or bored, I either change the channel or turn the television off. Continue reading