Sunday, October 1, 2017

The Little Woman At the Edge of the Wood




   As the night sky politely gave way to the morning who stretched and yawned and filled the sky with her glowing pinks and soft orange colors, the world at the edge of the wood began to wake up.  Rabbit in his tiny hutch nudged the other bunnies right out of their bed as he, too, stretched and yawned and reached much farther than the corners of his bed.  As he lay there, all stretchy and warm, he listened through sleepy ears for the soft rain of sunflower seeds and dried corn that sprinkled down on his house each morning.  

    It was the little old lady who lived at the edge of the wood who made sure rabbit and friends had plenty to eat.  She came to her porch every morning as the sun rose softly above the pine trees and reached into a bucket of seeds and grains, scooping up a cup of breakfast for the animals who lived near.  The porch door would creak as she stepped outside and with all the might she could muster, she would toss the seeds into the woods where they fell down softly on the forest floor.  

    The blue jays were always first to come to dine. Before rabbit could make his way out of his hutch, the pesky blue birds were buzzing this way and that as they gobbled up as many seeds as they could.  The bunnies came in pairs and sifted through the sunflower seeds looking for tiny pieces of corn or carrots that tasted so delightful.  There were always good things to find in the morning. 

    The little lady loved her woodland friends.  She sat in her rocking chair and watched them as they all came to eat with one another.  She laughed as the blue jays fussed at everyone for she knew they had frightfully poor manners.  The squirrels did not care for the selfish ways of the blue jays and would shake their tails in objection as they nibbled on the morning treats.  The bunnies were the old woman’s favorite, for they were quiet and kind and shared politely, the way friends should. 

    One morning, as the purple night sky turned to pink, rabbit yawned and stretched, but he did not hear the pitter patter of seeds falling into the wood. He yawned and stretched farther as he thought it could be too early.  Rabbit was not early, though, and the morning bounty never came. The blue jays were first to arrive to find the forest floor empty of seeds and good things. They paced around with heavy steps, wings on their sides and noses in the air, most displeased with this turn of events. The bunnies arrived and stood together wondering why breakfast was not there.  The squirrels ran about, shaking their tails as they looked for seeds or grains or berries, but none were found.  The animals gathered together and sighed a heavy sigh. 

    Many mornings passed and there was no creak of the porch door.  There was no seed scattered on the forest floor.  The little woman no longer sat in her rocking chair smiling at rabbit and all his friends.  On the fifth day, when the night sky had disappeared completely, rabbit sprang from his bed and called for the birds and the squirrels and all the bunnies. It was clear to them all that something was wrong.  The squirrels climbed to the windows and looked inside for the old woman.  It was there that they saw her sleeping in her bed, even while the sky turned the brightest of blue.  The woodland animals watched as new people came and went, but their friend continued to sleep as the days went by. Mornings arrived and then night pushed the bright sky out of view. The old woman slept through the days and nights and no seeds fell to the forest floor.

    It was rabbit who decided what must be done.  He called for the blue birds, the squirrels and the bunnies. They crafted a plan to help the little woman.  They each knew what to do and would meet again the next day as the morning sky stretched and yawned.  Rabbit scurried off to the apple orchard.  The bunnies gathered wildflowers that grew near a pond and the blue jays wove sticks together as they did when they made their nests.  The squirrels gathered pecans from the grove by the wood. 

    The next morning as the pink and orange sky gave way to good things, a bounty from the forest was left on the old women’s porch.  Rabbit left a basket of fresh apples.  The blue jays brought a wreath they had made of grasses and twigs and hung it high on the porch door.  The bunnies placed wild blue irises and morning glories in a jar on the porch.  The squirrels left pecans in a bowl by the door.  It was their turn to give back to the little woman who had fed them all every morning for so many years. Day after day, the animals brought fresh fruits and flowers to the little old woman in hopes that it may wake her from her sleep and bring her happiness. 
    Rabbit lay in his bed one early morning, dreaming of the apples he would deliver that day when he woke to the soft sounds of seed falling into the wood upon his house.  He sprang from his bed, causing all the bunnies to roll to the floor, and ran to the edge of the wood to see the old woman standing on her porch.  The blue jays had not arrived yet and only rabbit and the little old woman stood there in the clearing.  They both smiled and their hearts filled with warmth as they both knew what each had done for the other.  The little woman sat in her rocking chair as she waited for all of her friends to arrive.  They each came and enjoyed the seeds and grains and tiny vegetables that waited for them.  As the sky turned from pink to blue, the little woman held a shiny red apple close to her heart and politely whispered thank you to rabbit and all.    

Friday, July 28, 2017

Searching for Me

In twelve days, my youngest child moves out and moves to college.  The house will never be the same.  I am excited for her, but I worry what comes next in my life story designed entirely around my children.  I'm not sure how to take center stage in a house soon set for two.  I find myself Googling distractions that I'm keenly aware will never fill the void.  Had I been online a day earlier, I would have purchased a 45 foot 1979 Gibson Houseboat.  Thank God, someone purchased it before I did.  I've looked at lake condos, sports cars, cabins off the grid, all which appeal to my sense of needing to find a hobby that has nothing to do with carrying kids to singing lessons, cheer practice, tutoring, or school.   I've watched Youtube videos on how to remove the popcorn texture from ceilings and plan to duct tape a 6 inch scraper to my husband's wet-vac and pretend I know what I'm doing.  I've learned to play enough piano to make me fun at a party, but frightening at a recital.  I've given up red meat and pretend to be vegan until I grab my Italian leather purse and head out the door.  While I've been searching for everything, the one thing I haven't found is the answer to who I am now.  My identify is slipping out the door with the last child and now I have to figure out how to do this on my own.

Somehow, I don't see the next chapter actually leading to a rustic cabin in the Ozarks or with me trying to pull a 45 foot boat into a slip without destroying a dock.  I don't plan to join the corvette club or give up a night on the town with a good juicy steak.  I think, at first, I will rest.  I will give thanks for the amazing 22 years it has been with both children and I will remind them how proud I am of both of them.  They are truly good people.  After that, I may learn a few of my mother's recipes.  There never was time to really cook together.  I may travel a little more. I will go see my dad and maybe take him to Shapiro's in Indianapolis for a Corned Beef sandwich. Perhaps this is my time to reach out to friends who I haven't seen in years.  I'll try not to show up at my children's doorsteps every weekend as I know that they have to spread their own wings and they don't need "Mom" there all the time.  As frightening as it all seems, there is a sense of excitement too, because I know that such great things are ahead for both of my children.  There are good things ahead, for me, too.

As I drop my daughter off at my old college, we both need matching shirts that say, "Lookout world, here we come!"  She will begin a path I once traveled and I will forge ahead, carving out a new story that I can share with her each time we meet.  Our stories will always intertwine and that fact, alone, is what gives me courage to walk a new path.  I can't wait to hear of the amazing things she is doing and  in turn, I will tell her of my new adventures.  My son will join us and it will be like old times again.  Because of them, I am not afraid of the next chapter. There is so much more to be written.  While it feels like it's over, it's really not.  It's just a new adventure waiting for us all.








Saturday, April 15, 2017

Dueling Tomatoes

Southern women grow tomatoes. It's what they do.  Whether they like them or not, tradition dictates that they don a floppy hat and dig in the dirt.  I have failed at my duty to produce any red, ripe delicious tomatoes. This year will be different!

My plan began with eyeballing a spot on the pool deck and deciding exactly where one fancy plant would grow under my careful watch.  It would be protected from the woodland creatures that eat everything in our real garden and would be close enough to the water hose to allow me to keep it hydrated and happy.

My husband watched as I planted my single tomato plant and questioned what I was doing.  "We have a full garden of tomato plants," he reminded me.  The problem is the fact that he is an overzealous gardener and when the first sign of a beefy boy tomato shows, he picks it while green and delivers miniature tomatoes to my kitchen.  I simply want one fully developed, red, ripe tomato.

"I'm suppose to grow tomatoes,'' I reminded him, "This one is mine."  And with that one sentence, the competition began.

The next day, a new plant arrived on my pool deck.  Sitting next to mine, was a full size tomato plant, full of yellow buds and already developed tiny green tomatoes. I eyed this mystery plant with suspicion and my husband pointed out that his tomato plant was doing much better than mine.  I glanced over at my tiny green twig poking out of its pot and gave it words of encouragement to hurry up and grow.  My husband groomed his plant with love and pointed out all of the little tomatoes just waiting to be served up on his sandwiches.  He reminded me that this was his plant and that I should not disturb it.  I smiled and returned to grooming my tiny plant with three leaves and little hope.

I've considered replacing my plant with a fully packed case of ripe tomatoes and simply leaving it on the pool deck.  However, I'm determined to be true to my roots and grow one large tomato before the summer ends.

A few days after our pool garden began, I arrived home from work and found my husband's plant withered and begging for water.  It had baked in the full sun.  My tiny tomato plant was standing up strong and happy.  I retrieved the water hose and started to water his plant and realized that I could be accused of sabotage if anything went wrong.  I hesitated.  As I stared at the tomato laden plant, my nurturing instinct kicked in and I bathed it in a soft mist of water and saved it from certain demise.

My husband's plant will certainly yield produce long before mine does, but it's okay.  I will tend to my tiny plant each day until that one prize tomato arrives.  In the meantime, I have secretly planted a banana pepper plant on the other side of the fence.  Imagine his surprise when I show up with full size peppers!  Let the games continue.







Sunday, November 6, 2016

Playing by Ear

I'm surrounded by people who are musically gifted and somehow I feel cheated in that department. My singing is best used to calm crying infants who are unable to speak about my made-up lyrics sung in the wrong key.  My piano playing, up until now, has been atrocious at best.  I have one song memorized and after 30 years, nobody really wants to hear Fur Elise again.  When the kids are sitting around playing guitars and singing their latest original works, jumping in with an early classical Beethoven composition just doesn't work.  It's a mood killer of greatest proportion.

None of these children have taken a music lesson so I wondered how they could play so well when I, who sat for years in Mrs. Perry's den, counting out notes on her piano, can not. They all play by ear.  This concept has always baffled me as I can't understand how someone can just sit down at the keys and "hear" the right notes.  Things just don't work that way.  But, now after fifty years, I may have stumbled on to what my children already know.

In the Google Search Bar, I typed, How To Play Piano.  Dozens of websites popped up.  It didn't take long to discover that chords were the missing link in my non-piano playing world.  I quickly memorized the major chords, then the minors.  Patterns emerged and suddenly things started to make sense.  Chord progressions popped up in my next search and before long I played an actual song with four chords.  It felt wonderful. It felt natural and my fingers seemed to know which notes to play without much thought.  My hands flew up and down the keyboard and I realized I was playing by ear.

I called my children and serenaded them against their will as we talked on the phone. My son suggested I try YouTube for further tips and later that night I was playing cocktail piano alone in the den in my pajamas.  It was liberating!   I attempted singing with my playing but was unsuccessful finding the chords to Michael Row Your Boat Ashore or Hush Little Baby.  Perhaps these are only popular with babies in need of a nap.

As my skills improve, I've employed the use of the pedals and the volume of my playing increases with each crescendo and fades off when a diminuendo nears.  I sound like I actually know what I'm doing until that last note arrives.  Every time, as if some piano curse has been placed upon me, I hit the wrong keys on the final note.  There is nothing quite like mesmerizing your audience, two cats and a sleeping dog, with a great piece of music and then destroying it on the final note.

I move like Liberace up and down those keys playing Moon River and Hallelujah, but when that final note arrives and my fingers pound down on the wrong keys, I'm back in Mrs. Perry's den, sitting under her scolding eyes as she says, Did you really practice?"  I can finally say, I'm playing by ear, woman! Even as the deafening sound of the wrong chord echoes through the room, I'm not defeated because I can now play dozens of songs without reading a single note. Move over Beethoven, there's a new kid in town and Fur Elise is on the shelf.


Playing by Ear

I'm surrounded by people who are musically gifted and somehow I feel cheated in that department. My singing is best used to calm crying infants who are unable to speak about my made-up lyrics sung in the wrong key.  My piano playing, up until now, has been atrocious at best.  I have one song memorized and after 30 years, nobody really wants to hear Fur Elise again.  When the kids are sitting around playing guitars and singing their latest original works, jumping in with an early classical Beethoven composition just doesn't work.  It's a mood killer of greatest proportion.

None of these children have taken a music lesson so I wondered how they could play so well when I, who sat for years in Mrs. Perry's den, counting out notes on her piano, can not. They all play by ear.  This concept has always baffled me as I can't understand how someone can just sit down at the keys and "hear" the right notes.  Things just don't work that way.  But, now after fifty years, I may have stumbled on to what my children already know.

In the Google Search Bar, I typed, How To Play Piano.  Dozens of websites popped up.  It didn't take long to discover that chords were the missing link in my non-piano playing world.  I quickly memorized the major chords, then the minors.  Patterns emerged and suddenly things started to make sense.  Chord progressions popped up in my next search and before long I played an actual song with four chords.  It felt wonderful. It felt natural and my fingers seemed to know which notes to play without much thought.  My hands flew up and down the keyboard and I realized I was playing by ear.

I called my children and serenaded them against their will as we talked on the phone. My son suggested I try YouTube for further tips and later that night I was playing cocktail piano alone in the den in my pajamas.  It was liberating!   I attempted singing with my playing but was unsuccessful finding the chords to Michael Row Your Boat Ashore or Hush Little Baby. Perhaps these are only popular with babies in need of a nap.

As my skills improve, I've employed the use of the pedals and the volume of my playing increases with each crescendo and fades off when a diminuendo nears.  I sound like I actually know what I'm doing until that last note arrives.  Every time, as if some piano curse has been placed upon me, I hit the wrong keys on the final note.  There is nothing quite like mesmerizing your audience, two cats and a sleeping dog, with a great piece of music and then destroying it on the final note.

I move like Liberace up and down those keys playing Moon River and Hallelujah, but when that final note arrives and my fingers pound down on the wrong keys, I'm back in Mrs. McArthur's den, sitting under her scolding eyes as she says, "Did you really practice?"  I can finally say, "I'm playing by ear, woman!" Even as the deafening sound of the wrong chord echoes through the room, I'm not defeated because I can now play dozens of songs without reading a single note. Move over Beethoven, there's a new kid in town and Fur Elise is on the shelf.


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Moses Supposes


    It is almost November and even though it still very hot outside, fall is all around us.  It is a time of pumpkins, cooler nights and fairs. Some of my best memories with my children are at state fairs.  I hope they remember the time we got stuck on top of the ferris wheel as a light rain began to fall.  It was a warm night and the rain brought with it laughter and fun.  Joey would rock the seat and we would grab on for dear life. Allie stuck easily for her fingers were normally coated in a fine layer of cotton candy residue. She wasn't about to fall out of that bucket.  Then, there was the fun house, which turned out to be more of a house of horrors for waiting parents whose children did not come out.  I watched as my young son entered, but did not exit.  More and more people went in and came out, but my son was not among them.  My mind raced and about the time I was certain he had been kidnapped and sold into the circus, I headed for the entrance prepared to take on the craziest of clowns in search of my child.  As I went in, he came out, hand in hand with a little girl who had also been stuck in the belly of the fun house.  Apparently, there had been enough fun inside to keep them entertained for much too long a time.

    My children love fairs, but I'm certain they must cringe when they think about the pageants and talent shows that go with fairs.  I love both and my children have equally been subjected to the spotlight that beams from the fair stage.  My daughter has been a Timberfest queen, a Founder's Day beauty and much more. My little boy was singing gospel like a pro at a young age and gathering up trophies across the south. This talent led us to the Mid South Youth Talent show in Memphis, TN. We packed up the outfits, the stroller, the cameras and a tiny blue suitcase that said "Going To Grandmas" and headed to stand where Elvis had once stood. Highly talented youth from around the south gathered here to tap their toes, hit those high notes and wow the crowd.  I will never forget the toe-tapping duo who performed "Moses Supposes His Toeses Is Roses."  I was unaware that Moses supposes erroneously, but now that line is stuck in my brain and will never leave.

    As my son made it to the finals, so did a tap happy little girl who could not control her toe tapping feet.  A large sign behind the stage said, "DO NOT TAP."  Obviously, this had been an issue before. As the show producer handed out instructions, a constant tapping drowned out his voice.  I stood back stage with my stroller full of goods and one sleeping toddler, eyeballing the tapping princess, wondering if she understood the giant sign in front of her.  She did not. Her feet continued to tap and the Moses Supposes words raced through my head again.

    My little boy sang "Old Time Rock and Roll" and the crowd jumped to their feet.  He was amazing. When the show was over and the phantom tapping stopped ringing in my head, we headed outside for fair food and fun.  It was 100 degrees out and I was melting.  My son simply wanted to play the game where you deposit quarters into the machine in hopes of pushing other quarters off the ledge.  I feared his love of this game may be indicative of a later problem and vowed to keep him away from the casinos. Quarter after quarter dropped into the machine and very few were returned as prizes.

    When the quarters were gone and I was drenched in sweat, I announced that I could take no more heat and was headed to the car to drive north until we found cold.  My family followed, uncertain of my sudden meltdown, but willing to follow me anywhere.  I mumbled to myself, "Moses Supposes" and would laugh each time I got to "Erroneously."   The summer heat and 72 hours of tap dancing sounds can do that to a person.  We made it safely to the car and I loaded the stroller, the toddler, the tiny traveling suitcase and all my family members.  We did not drive north, but drove further south until we found the cool dining area of a Cracker Barrel where I sat quietly while the sounds in my head settled into simple memories.  To this day, however, the first sound of a tap on a wooden floor makes me want to jump up and yell, "Moses Supposes Erroneously!"



Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Window

A young woman looks through me.  Her skin is smooth, her smile bright.  Bubbles float up from the sink as she washes the last of the dishes and stares out at her children racing about the driveway on scooters and skates.  She can hardly wait to join them.  The daily chores and I are the only things that stand between parent and child.  My rail and casing are strong and sure. My glass is clear and bright. I am the window above the kitchen sink that looks out into her world.
A sleepy woman looks through me.  It is dark outside and shadowy trees move in the distance.  Her entire world is under one roof, each child tucked safely in bed.  Nothing in the dark calls to her.  She wakes to check on her children and be certain of the security that wraps around her like a blanket.   My locks are secure.  My framework is strong.   My family rests peacefully until I let the light back in. 
A loving woman looks through me.  She watches the early morning snow falling gently to the ground.  She leans close and her warm breath meets my cold glass, painting it in a ghostly fog.  She smiles and readies herself for a day full of sledding and snowball fights.  That night, she will look through me again and see her children’s art, the snowmen that stand outside glistening in the moonlight.  My view is good and is filled with love.
An older woman looks through me.  She wipes a smudge from my pane and watches for the distant glow of headlights returning young drivers home.  The clock counts the minutes until midnight as she continues to stare through me.  Worry lines have replaced the smoothness of her skin.  My frame has shifted and my blinds are faded in color.  She pulls them taut as she keeps her midnight vigil until all children have returned home.
A lonely woman looks through me.  With hands that are no longer steady she pushes and pulls at my lock.  She is in search of fresh air.  I creak and sigh and give way to the bindings that have secured me in place.  Through my screen comes the smell of Gardenia, filling the room with memories of that which is no more.   Her reflection has faded.  Skin weathered and dry.  Smile subdued.   She watches for her children to return.

A young woman looks through me.  It is a different smile and a different face.  Standing where her mother had stood for so many years, she wipes my pane and secures my lock.  Lights fade and empty rooms echo the sounds of departure.  Both women, young and old, walk hand in hand towards the drive where they will leave together.  In my panes are the reflections of a life well lived.

Written by M. Brodnax
Sep 14, 16
First Assignment, Creative Writing Class