Archives

13th Child

Warm, happy waves of excitement and cold, shivery chills of nervousness washed over me in turns. Daddy was driving me into town on a Saturday afternoon for a birthday party. I alternately fiddled with the wrapped present on my lap and the hem of my Sunday dress. My friend, Karen had invited me and more than a dozen other classmates. The party was at her house in Stratford. Along the road, we passed homes that I recognized. We were getting closer to where Karen lived.

I was used to birthdays celebrated in class rooms. Usually the birthday person’s Mom would send a pan of brownies or a jar of chocolate chip cookies to school to be passed around when Sister said it was okay. Many birthday parties that I’d been to, were for my nuclear family or for one of my neighborhood cousins. Those parties were limited to cake and ice cream after supper. Today was different. Today I was going to a real birthday party with games and many other children! Continue reading

Advertisements

Chef B

My husband Arnie opened the door and I stepped into the small, old-fashioned café. Three old men leaning over steaming cups of coffee at a large table glanced casually at us before returning to their conversation. They were busily discussing how to solve major world problems, such as famine, war and snotty youngsters.

Sliding into a booth, I looked around for Arnie. I spotted him across the room at the cash register sifting through a pile of newspapers. He’d stopped to select reading material to enjoy while he ate breakfast. I hoped the paper he picked had a funnies page. I didn’t like anything too heavy with my jellied toast and coffee.

Arnie loved what he called, “Mom and Pop restaurants”. He’d say, “Those places have homemade food that’s far better than anything you can get at a franchise place.” I had to agree with him.

We were visiting a town neither of us had been to before. How he had spotted this place, I didn’t know. The street facade was unremarkable. I suspected that finding places like this was connected to his uncanny ability of seldom getting lost.

After our waitress, Alice, took our order and Arnie started reading the paper, I looked around more closely. The café looked like a stage set from Mayberry RFD. The vintage décor wasn’t just a decorator’s attempt at inducing nostalgia. I suspected that they had opened their doors four or five decades earlier. Other than keeping the kitchen and dining room clean, no one had thought to update the wallpaper, furniture or anything else. If it wasn’t broken, it clearly didn’t need to be fixed. Continue reading

The Missing Link

I shivered and pulled my sweater shut, buttoning it absentmindedly without checking to see if the buttons and holes lined up. A jigsaw puzzle on the card table in front of me held all of my attention. Should I set aside all of the flesh and blue dress pieces first or the red barn ones? My decision to put the little girl together first came just as I reached the top button on my sweater and discovered there wasn’t a matching button hole across from it. Looking down, I realized that I’d mismatched them.

A sweet memory of my Dad popped into mind. One day when he was growing older, he put on a sweater and like I had just done, mismatched its buttons and holes. Looking down, he’d commented, “I look like a lopdeeddle.” Smiling, I shrugged and went to work sorting the puzzle pieces by color.

The silly word Daddy used was so typical of his self-depreciating sense of humor. In my family’s dictionary of funny words, a lopdeeddle was a silly, clumsy, inept person. He felt silly because he’d done the buttons wrong.

Shivering again, I pulled an afghan off the sofa and pulled it over my lap. From memory, I could hear my late husband asking me, “Why are you so stubborn?” I had laughed at him when he said that. To my way of thinking, I was a willow constantly swaying to his wishes and suggestions. I didn’t consider myself stubborn.

It was only after Arnie was gone that I finally recognized the trait he’d seen in me. Once I make up my mind about something, I stick to the plan. One thing I decided as a widow is that a person doesn’t need to heat a house until the inside thermometer never goes above 58 degrees. Continue reading

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

Set in Stone

An hour after I arrived at the hospital, large, wet snowflakes began to fall. It was my turn to work the Thanksgiving holiday day shift. The patients assigned to me that day watched the snow fall and reminisced about past Thanksgivings. They mused about how good the snow was for the deer hunters, but bad for families traveling to Grandma’s house.

Our unit was quiet and relatively empty because not everyone elects to have surgery right before a holiday. By mid-afternoon I felt restless, frequently checking the time and peering out the window to see if the weather had changed. The last hour of the shift ticked by slowly. By then it was colder outside and the snowflakes were smaller. A stiff wind whirled them around the hospital parking lot.

My shift finally ended and I cautiously drove home to change into holiday clothing. I felt as excited as a child let out early from school. Refreshed, I got back into the car and headed to the farm where my husband grew up. Arnie would already be there, but out in the woods hunting until dark, unless he had already shot a deer! In any case, he and his brothers would be back in time to eat their Thanksgiving dinner together with the whole family. Continue reading

Seatbelt of Shame

I peeked into the children’s bedroom before sitting down on the sofa next to my husband, Arnie. I said, “The girls went to sleep quickly tonight. Going for that long walk with me this afternoon in the cool, brisk air tired them out.”

Arnie said, “The weather today was more like it should be at the end of September. There was a chill of fall in the air and it’s only the beginning of August!”

I shrugged. “In a few days it’ll probably be as warm as July. Anyway, school will be starting in a few weeks.”

“That reminds me, did you call the bus company?” my husband wondered. “The lady at the kindergarten orientation meeting seemed to think Tammie would need to ride on a bus for the handicapped.”

I rolled my eyes before answering, “I called about getting her enrolled on the bus for handicapped children and was yelled at. The man I talked to was very indignant. I don’t know what his problem was. He seemed to think I was asking for something out of the ordinary or unnecessary. I tried explaining to him the lady at the kindergarten orientation suggested that I call…he just yelled at me in a most unprofessional manner! I guess he was having a bad day.” Continue reading