Category Archives: Memories

You Gotta Get on the Bus

You Gotta Get on the Bus

Please welcome a new Guest Contributor. . .

 

He couldn’t have weighed much more than his new raincoat.  It was so new, in fact, it wouldn’t let his arms hang the way that they should.  They hung out at his sides at an odd angle, and he could no more scratch his nose than he could turn his head strapped firmly in the hood.  He stood stiff beside the road, and he watched me coming for a long way.

As I passed by him, he looked at me in the strangest way.  His lower lip was curled under his front teeth in fear.  In that passing moment, I wanted to stop and comfort him, but it was called off by the rest of his expression.  When I found him again in my rearview mirror, I saw that it wasn’t me that he had been looking at, at all, but that big yellow school bus that was behind me.  “Oh, that’s right,” I thought, the first day of school.  His eyes were fixed on the bus in such a determined way that I knew he didn’t need any counsel.  Brave as any soldier, he was going to get on that bus for the very first time.

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Death at the Clip & Curl

Death at the Clip & Curl

 

We are, all of us, wandering about in a state of oblivion, borrowing our time, seizing our days, escaping our fates, slipping through loopholes, unaware of when the axe may fall.                                –Maggie O’Farrell, I Am, I Am, I Am: Seventeen Brushes with Death

We were alone, just the incredibly odd man and me. I thought it was the end for me, but what could I do about it? Scream, absolutely. Talk my way out of it, doubtful. Fight, sure, but given my lack of physical prowess, not a viable solution.

It was a day of heavy, jet-lag-meets-the-flu fatigue, arms too heavy to do my hair, much less my job. I pulled into what I shall call the “Clip & Curl” to have someone shampoo and blow-dry my tired hair. A lone stylist was there, a man. I did not think much of it until it was too late.

I do not frequent walk-in salons, but I had a chaotic day ahead and needed help, so I went into the no-frills vanilla salon. The only staff member there was a medium-sized man of about forty. I cannot say he greeted me, just soberly showed me back to the shampoo area and prepared me for what I hoped would be a relaxing head massage and speedy hair styling. Straightaway the man was odd.

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Dogs and Ducks & Swans Better Scurry

Dogs and Ducks & Swans Better Scurry

“If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between dog and man.” –Mark Twain

 

Didn’t get out much did you, Mr. Twain? Recently I risked life and limb rescuing the tiniest Dachshund from traffic during rush hour, no small feat. After, the little ingrate thanked me by biting me on the leg harder than I thought possible, despite his owner’s protests that “He never acts like that.” Critters can be persnickety.

Caesar and Cleopatra

Birds had it out for me from the get-go. Mom had two black swans, Caesar and Cleopatra. Caesar had no use for me, and with a wingspan of six feet, he was intimidating. He charged me routinely, enormous wings spread, serrated beak wide open, lunging for my bottom as I hightailed it toward the fence. The only human Caesar showed a modicum of respect for was my little niece Katy, who sort of scared us all back then.

We lived in the country with dogs, cats, cattle, horses, catfish, turtles, swans, ducks, and for a time, an alligator and one tiny fawn. Our place was also residence to coyotes, skunks, feral cats, Blue Herron, various reptiles, rabbits, squirrels, possums, and the occasional goose. I adore animals of most species, and we had some doozies.

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One More Midnight Confession

One More Midnight Confession

Sometimes I miss the younger woman I was. I do not look back and wish I had done this or that; I did most of it. What I do look back at with longing is the untamed spirit I had. The years have refined me, smoothed out my uncultivated surfaces, and tamed me.

Something as simple as driving, I saw as an adventure. I have collected more miles than average on my vehicles and it has not always been smooth cruising, or parking for that matter.

After overspending at the mall, I returned to my Jeep to find a policeman waiting for me. “Mam, your vehicle has been involved in a hit-and-run” he announced.

I told him I did not have a self-driving vehicle, so that was just not possible. He ushered me to the side of my car which revealed the entire side smashed as if I’d been in a significant accident.

A very-sturdy looking soldier approached, telling us he had “seen the whole thing.” We inquired how my car got smashed with no driver. He replied, “See that big green truck parked five spaces down?” We did see it. “He missed the space beside you and hit your car, got out, surveyed the damage, then moved his truck down a few spaces.” When the young driver returned to his green truck, he had quite the greeting party.  Read the rest of this entry

If It Has Tires or Testicles. . .

If It Has Tires or Testicles. . .

“The warnings grew worse, depending on the danger at hand. Sex education, for example, consisted of the following advice: ‘Don’t ever let boy kiss you. You do, you can’t stop. Then you have baby. You put baby in garbage can. Police find you, put you in jail, then you life over, better just kill youself.” ― Amy TanThe Opposite of Fate: Memories of a Writing Life

 

The rare advice my Mom gave did come from left field, but thank God it was not as daunting as the warnings issued by Amy Tan’s Mom. Moms will dish out advice, generally unsolicited. My Mom was a different bird; she had a unique way of seeing the world and responding to it.

Mom shared her opinions frequently but seldom words of advice. She was terribly in love with her kids and guided us the best she knew how. I found her funny and intimidating in equal measure. Some of her words of wisdom still make me howl with laughter.

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Dreams, Memes, and Circus Clowns

Dreams, Memes, and Circus Clowns

“The circus is a jealous wench. Indeed that is an understatement. She is a ravening hag who sucks your vitality as a vampire drinks blood – who kills the brightest stars in her crown and will allow no private life for those who serve her; wrecking their homes, ruining their bodies, and destroying the happiness of their loved ones by her insatiable demands. She is all of these things, and yet, I love her as I love nothing else on earth.”

-Henry Ringling North, The Circus Kings: Our Ringling Family Story

 

At about seven years of age, I first went to the circus in South Dakota. I was overwhelmed with the largest crowd I had ever seen, the organ music, the enormous animals, and sheer excitement of it. They were selling tiny green chameleons that magically turned the color of your blouse or anything else you placed it on. I never gave a thought as a child to the fate of the little creature, the performing animals who were constricted to circus life, or the folks who lived the circus life.

I haven’t been to the circus for forty years. Even before we knew of the alleged mistreatment of animals and the perils of circus life for performers, I hated to see wild animals in captivity. I remember the last time I attended watching a regal white tiger run circles ad nauseam within a huge sphere; it was heartbreaking to me. I’m sure it was to the animal too. That was my last circus.

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Suppertime, and the Livin is Easy

Suppertime, and the Livin is Easy

Food, glorious food!
Hot sausage and mustard!
While we’re in the mood —
Cold jelly and custard!
Peas pudding and saveloys
What next is the question?
Rich gentlemen have it boys, in-di-gestion!

Food, glorious food!
Eat right through the menu.
Just loosen your belt
Two inches and then you
Work up a new appetite.
In this interlude —
The food,
Once again, food
Fabulous food,
Glorious food.

Oliver! -Lionel Bart

I love to eat. Constantly. If I am not eating I am thinking of food. You too? I figured. Eating makes us happy in a way nothing else can. Dining not only fuels our bodies and senses but is a superglue binding our memories and emotions. Those endorphins are furrowed right into our little taste buds.

When that combination of hot peach cobbler and sweet ice cream hits my tongue, I am right back in 1966, huddled around Grandma Sander’s kitchen table with my sister Jan and Roger and Howard Sanders. We are playing a game; I don’t remember it, just the flavor of her cobbler and ice cream like I have a bowl of it right here. I can feel the affection of those old friends and hear the music we sang. “Make the world go away, get it off my shoulder.” Cochran, Hank 1960

Unknown Coffee

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A Valentine to My Younger Self

A Valentine to My Younger Self

“God asks us to jump from our secure perches, to stop calculating the risks. Jesus bids us, “Take up your cross, follow me. . . . Don’t insist on knowing exactly what comes next but trust that you are in the hand of God, who will guide your life.”  Henri Nouwen —Turn My Mourning into Dancing

 My niece Jessica turned thirty recently; seems like she should still be my little four year old shadow. Her birthday takes me back to the thirty-year-old I was. Sometimes I think about that naive girl and wish I could tell her what only time and maturity can.

I found a worn photo from my thirtieth birthday; I worked for KATT radio in Oklahoma City then. I was holding my birthday cake with a sleepy KATT mascot iced onto it. The clock above her head read 8:15; I was supposed to be at work by 8:00. Still don’t like that morning thing.

30 B-Day Cake (3)

My expression in this photo clearly says “bite me”. I was newly divorced, on my own for the first time, and had just begun a new commission based sales job. I was poor, persnickety, and pale. Also a smidge insecure and overwhelmed.

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Have You Seen a Snow Goddess?

Have You Seen a Snow Goddess?

Wakonda high school, hats off to thee.

And our colors, true to thee we’ll ever be.

Firm and strong united are we!

Hoorah rah rah, Hoorah for Wakonda high school!

 

When I was a kid we lived in the Tundra for eight years. The incessant cold all but atrophied my grey matter; the above is what is left in the memory bank of our school song, a cloudy memory from the second grade. This Christmas season brings back memories of that time, and my parents, whom I miss more than I can say. This was a divine time in our lives, a time of innocence and possibility.

Our first years as a family were fairly idyllic in small town South Dakota, Wakonda, population 405. Wakonda is an Osage Indian word meaning “Great Creator”, an abstract, omnipresent spirit. Curious that my awareness and seeking of God began when we lived in Wakonda.

SD House Sized (2)

My folk’s first home was actually their dream home; they paid less for it than you would a used car now.  It was on a corner two acre lot with cherry trees, apple trees and crab-apple trees. This place was an absolute marvel for a kid!

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What We Kept

What We Kept

“I want to take all our best moments, put them in a jar, and take them out like cookies and savor each one of them forever.” ― Crystal Woods, Write Like No One Is Reading

 

I moved recently, and learned some things about myself. One of them is that I am exceedingly and rather pathetically sentimental. I found items preserved for years that reasonable adults do not to cling to.

I have two jewelry boxes, not because I have marvelous jewelry, but because they are both filled with small treasures.  The content, bits and pieces of my life.

I found name badges from jobs gone by; there were many. What do I think I can do with these?

Actually, one did come in handy on a date with a memory challenged bucket head who kept calling me Linda. I went to my car and retrieved one of them, put it on, went back into the restaurant, pointed to my name, Karen, and asked him if he thought he could just read it. Again, boy can I pick em!

There were three large copper colored sequins at the bottom of one box. These were tossed onto me by Bernadette Peters at her concert with the OKC philharmonic. To date, they have imparted no more musical talent than I had before.

Enormous peach colored, dangling, ball earrings were way back in the corner of the larger box. Dad chose these for my birthday all by himself when I was about fourteen. I also found a blue western blouse in the closet he helped me buy for a rodeo when I was in the eighth grade. The man would rather take a poke in the eye with a sharp stick than shop for or with a woman. But, do I really need to cart these around for 40 more years?

In that same closet I found a long, glittered, wildly patterned, purple dress I wore in 1972 when Kelly and I were chosen as a duo for the Varsity Revue at Oklahoma State University. I thought I’d wear it to my church’s annual Mardi Gras fund raiser.

I could get it on it on but I could not breathe-much.  I could not bend-at all. I wore stretch pants and a top.

Two little lapel pins that say “Never too Old to Rock and Roll” were in the bottom drawer along with an old ticket stub from a Kenny Loggins concert, circa 1985, marked $8.50. Under the lapel pins was a check made out on my account for one million bucks and signed by Kenny, right after he kissed me. Backstage passes-those were the days!

An extra large, very brittle, medication capsule Dad used for horses when he was in practice rolled out from the back. Really? There was a champagne stained Golden West Broadcasting bookmark signed by Gene Autry dated November 5th 1980, and a worn out “Winnie the Pooh” watch.

So many things I should have let go of years ago, like the three tiny pink buttons from my Aunt Alma’s nightgown that I wore for years. They are what is left of it.

And, evidently I am a Christmas card hoarder. Who knew? You could wallpaper the louvre with the cards I found! To my credit, I kept lovely ones. Maybe I’ll find something creative to do with all of them one day. . .

Three cat eye marbles rolled out of a tiny marble bag. Dad sewed Mark and I these bags himself to hold our marbles when we were kids. I can’t just toss those can I?

Examination of a crumpled, very old cocktail napkin with a really nice ink sketch on it revealed a little note on the backside that said “Someday, when I get a job, will you marry me?”  I did not.  I suspect this was kept for the ink sketch.

There was also a Christmas list sent to me by my niece Katy when she was about nine. On it, her hearts desires. At the bottom she closed with “I love you more than life itself”.

There were a couple treasured cassettes from my singing days, recorded with Howard, the singing partner of my youth. “Make the World Go Away. . .” I wonder if I even have a device to play them on now.

The pièce de résistance though was a glob of candle wax. Yes, I saved a glob of candle wax.  It is a particularly artful, lovely glob. I saved it not because it held a particularly warm memory from a night of extended passion, but because it was striking. I offer exhibit A, to the left.

Why do in the Lord’s world do we keep these things? Because, they give witness to our lives. It really happened. I still miss her. We were all there. It was a beautiful trip. I wish I could do that again!  I was in love then. My Mom was proud so of that!  That was so much fun. . .

Think back. What are you silly sentimental about? What did you keep?

“Sentimental blackmailing is the melodrama done by heart over our brain.” -Upasana Banerjee