Thursday, November 3, 2016

A happiness poem written by 11 people

These moments of happiness were written by some of the members of the Thursday Morning Writing Circle, November 3, 2016, in just a few minutes.

Our inspiration came from the poet Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868) whose long happiness poem appears in the book From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited and translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson

Annie Wexler

happiness is when
i make squash soup
sauté ginger and curry
add a tart apple
finish with coconut milk

happiness is when
i wake up
in an alpine refuge
eat a baguette with butter
drink a cafe au lait
set out with my backpack

happiness is when
i start to paint
wetting the paper
brushing yellow and red
playing with color

happiness is when
i do morning meditation
no alarm clock
quiet rhythm
soothes my soul

Barbara Cartwright

happiness is when
the faster
the car goes
the more space i see
between the trees

happiness is when
i race through a book
never sensing myself for a second
and find another
in the series

happiness is when
i find the right words
to describe my feelings
and my listener feels that feeling
like an echo in their heart

happiness is when
a shaft of moonlight
makes a corridor across the water
a means to the other side
a gateway to the stars

Jayne Demakos

happiness is when
i feel cold
and lying there with my mother
i hold her hand
it is warm, fleshy, and comforting

happiness is when
i finally play piano
too many weeks have slipped by
my fingers are like lead
but still chopin nocturns are there

happiness is when
it's my birthday
and my friends come over
we sit around the living room
creating surprising and serendipitous writing

Mara Alper

happiness is when
you laugh and
even happier
when it's at
my joke

happiness is when
my heart is clear
and my mind
into peace

happiness is when
sun streams on the
bike path
and the wetlands
radiate light

happiness is when
my wave of sighs
and i yield to complexity,
let change change me

Marcy Little

happiness is when
the car won't start
but then i realize
i've simply forgotten
my key

happiness is when
the onions, garlic,
tomatoes, and basil
all ripen
at the same time

happiness is when
the snow starts
with earnest at 3 a.m.
and i awake to the notice
"school closed today"

happiness is when
i return home late
to the gentle hum
of jazz
and a hot pot of tea

Mike Schaff

happiness is when
after 108 years of struggle
the chicago cubs
win the
world series

happiness is when
i have this to look forward to:
my son-in-law reading his poems
this saturday, 1:30, at buffalo books

happiness is when
i have this to look forward to as well:
my daughter reading from her book of short stories
"Say Something Nice About Me"
next saturday, 1 p.m., also at buffalo books

Rob Sullivan

happiness is when
a child smiles back
giggling at the game
entranced by their power
to enchant and endear

happiness is when
music pulls me back
to embrace all
i have forgotten to love,
cherish, and honor

happiness is when
a new day dawns
to find me
once again
above ground

Stacey Murphy

happiness is when
it's breakfast for supper
and next morning
the house holds the scent
of bacon and syrup

happiness is when
the music is loud
and there are friends
to dance with
and time flies too fast

happiness is when
i feel known
and understood
just by looking into
a dear one's eyes

happiness is when
my wiggly 10-year-old
forgets himself
and climbs onto my lap
after dinner

Sue Crowley

happiness is when
the waters of the clyde river
reflect the sky like a mirror
and the bow of my little boat
cleaves through the clouds in silence

happiness is when
an old favorite song
arrives unexpectedly on the radio
and i sing with abandon
alone in my car

happiness is when
i catch sight of four young deer
three does and a yearling buck
grazing in the high grass
before they turn, white tails disappearing

Yvonne Fisher

happiness is when
i go to the movies
i buy the popcorn
and the previews

happiness is when
i sit at my computer
and make a plan
to go
somewhere else

happiness is when
i stay home cozy
the wood fire burning
i'm petting
the cat

happiness is when
i step into the shower
the hot water
runs over
my body

Zee Zahava

happiness is when
a friend sends an email
that says TY TY TY
and i don't know what it means
but then i figure it out: Thank You Thank You Thank You

happiness is when
i buy a new box of 10 pens
all different colored inks
and feel secure
for at least one month

happiness is when
everyone who is expected arrives
the circle is complete
a grey wet thursday morning

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A happiness poem written by 9 people

These moments of happiness were written by some of the members of the Wednesday Morning Writing Circle, November 2, 2016, in just a few minutes.

Our inspiration came from the poet Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868) whose long happiness poem appears in the book From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited and translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson

Chris Sanchirico

happiness is when
i call my cat
and he comes home
and i give him
a salmon treat

happiness is when
i am walking on the bike path
on a crisp fall morning
the sun sparkling on the leaves
and i smile

happiness is when
i make a cup of ceylon tea
and smell it before
adding the milk
the cup warm in my hands

happiness is when
i think of each of my children
picture them when young
think of what they are doing now

happiness is when
i wake up in the morning
and slowly come alive to the realization
that there are no plans
i am retired

Fran Helmstadter

happiness is when
i see my dog jump up
on the bed ... turn three times
and lie down ... her head on two blue pillows
her warm presence

happiness is when
i sink back into a lounge chair
on the deck
and smell the salty ocean
along penobscot bay

happiness is when
i remember the first news of
my grandson's birth
at home in his father's arms
in santa fe

happiness is when
i release great anger
after keeping it company
and emerging slowly
from it

Janie Nusser

happiness is when
i awaken without the sound of an alarm
stretch my fingers and legs and arms and
snuggle into the warmth one last time
before my day begins

happiness is when
i begin the day with a long difficult hike
take a break
retrieve the rake from the shed
and end the day with the last leaf

happiness is when
i have put the gardens to bed for the winter
snow shovels at the ready
long underwear traded back into the dresser
and the geranims snuggly asleep in the cellar

Liz Burns

happiness is when
i eat a cupcake
with chocolate frosting
and rainbow

happiness is when
i take a hot bubble bath
and sink
into the water
up to my nose

happiness is when
i start my computer
and don't have to call
the geek squad and chat with an agent
for an hour and a half

happiness is when
i read
that resonate
in my life

Mary Louise Church

happiness is when
i look up from my knitting
and see my friend
who always has some interesting comment
either about what i'm doing or what he is doing

happiness is when
i pull all the left-overs out of the fridge
put them together in a creative way
and my husband says "this is really good
we'll never have it again, will we"

happiness is when
my dearest friend suggests some adventure
and we have time together
to chat and laugh
and plan on doing it again soon

happiness is when
i'm working on a very difficult acrostic puzzle
where i not only don't know the word that fits the definition
i don't even know the words in the definition itself
but through working the puzzle i get the anwer to both


Rainbow Crow

happiness is when
i walk a path
of dying or dead plants
and grass
and find a purple violet staring at me

happiness is when
i am struggling
to find a comfortable
way to sleep
and my cat curls up
behind my knees

happiness is when
i find worms
and toads
and snakes
after putting the garden to bed

happiness is when
i see my physical therapist
and she flashes her dazzling smile
along with a little cleavage

Ross Haarstad

happiness is when
the sodden wrap
dripping with gloom
breaks off
in the brisk autumn wind

happiness is when
i write of it
in a circle
of friends
writing of happiness

happiness is when
the town fills up
with wizards
wands flying
through young enchantments

happiness is when
i am not unhappy
or stressed
or panicking
or many other things

Susanna Drbal

happiness is when
i look up at the stars
and at my feet
fireflies gather
and spark

happiness is when
i write
and the words flow
and i feel

happiness is when
i cross that bridge
from to-do
finally done

happiness is when
i hear the creak
in jerry garcia's voice
and i feel the
careless joy of youth

happiness is when
i hear thunder
followed by bulbous
plops of rain
and feel washed anew

Zee Zahava

happiness is when
i feel a bit drab
and then remind myself that
i can put on mis-matched socks
and i do

happiness is when
i decide i just don't care
and i let the leaves blow in
and i don't
vacuum them up

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

A happiness poem written by 14 women

These moments of happiness were written at the start of the Tuesday Morning Writing Circle, November 1, 2016, in just a few minutes.

Our inspiration came from the poet Tachibana Akemi (1812-1868) whose long happiness poem appears in the book From the Country of Eight Islands: An Anthology of Japanese Poetry, edited and translated by Hiroaki Sato and Burton Watson

Gabrielle Vehar

happiness is when
i'm lying all curled up
huddled in bed against the cold
and i realize that i'm toasty warm
because my two cats are lying with me

happiness is when
i go to a play
and i'm dreading seeing it
but then all of a sudden
it turns out to be soul-saving

happiness is when
i wake up on that special day
and realize that i actually did get enough sleep
to be all ready
to write with my friends

happiness is when
i get out of a cold swimming pool
on a cold day
and give myself permission
to take a long hot shower

Grace Celeste

happiness is when
i resist leaving home
but i do
and then i am delighted
that i did

happiness is when
i hear my children and grandchildren
sharing memories
and laughing
at family holiday gatherings

happiness is when
i listen
to the silence
of the first

happiness is when
i sit
in front of
my crackling

Kim Falstick

happiness is when
i give one cat a tummy rub
the other cat a chin-chuckle
then commune with my rabbits
and cook dinner for maureen

Linda Keeler

happiness is when
i wake up
and realize
my cold
is gone

happiness is when
our two bags
of halloween candy
all night

happiness is when
the day is cool
and the wind is at my back
as i ride my bicycle
around keuka lake

happiness is when
the storm windows are down
the garden pots
are stored away
and i am ready for winter

happiness is when
i put my thoughts
on paper
and the reaction that i get
is what i wished for

Lottie Sweeney

happiness is when
i have more time
than i realize
to read a favorite book

happiness is when
i feel clean —
clean laundry
clean bedding
and showered

happiness is when
i am trying to get to sleep and
my cat leaps up
to sleep beside me

Margaret Dennis

happiness is when
i discover a pound of coffee
way in the back of the cupboard
when i thought
i was out

happiness is when
i go into the library
and find
three new mystery novels

happiness is when
i look out my window
and see that the rain
has left a carpet of
glistening gold leaves on the ground

happiness is when
i open my computer and find
pictures of the new twins
looking like darling little
wrinkled elves in pointy caps

happiness is when
i walk to writing group
worrying that i have
no new ideas
and then i discover that i do

Marty Blue Waters

happiness is when
after 25 years of sitting empty on a shelf
or waiting in a closet of the house
a beautiful bamboo box suddenly finds a job
in the trunk of my car, bringing chaos into order

Nancy Osborn

happiness is when
i come up the steps
into harvard square
and see
that the bookstore is still there

happiness is when
i sit at the table
with my two sisters
laughing with
our newly-discovered cousin

happiness is when
my sister's cat
does not hiss at me
and i do not
step in his water bowl

happiness is when
i arrive at the end of my journey
and discover it is raining
and i have wisely brought my umbrella

happiness is when
i visit my mother
who savors her coffee
and smiles across the table at me
even though she doesn't know who i am

Nina Miller

happiness is when
i hear the voices
of my children
on the

happiness is when
i go to the cemetery
and talk to george
even though i don't believe for a second
that he can hear me

happiness is when
i find the handicapped parking meter
and discover that
i  have enough quarters to pay for it

happiness is when
i cook
a soup
and it lasts
all week

happiness is when
my granddaughter runs up the gangplank
from the boat in provincetown
her arms open
for a hug

Paula Culver

happiness is when
my 13-year-old daughter
who is now becoming a young woman
calls me into her room
and wants to snuggle

happiness is when
a friend posts a recipe on facebook
for caramel shortbread bars . . .
i check all the cupboards
and find everything to make them

happiness is when
the tea meets my lips
soothing lemon and ginger
sure to cure all
that ails me

happiness is when
my foot searches for yours
the first cold night —
a beacon of warmth
and comfort

Sara Robbins

happiness is when
i hold my grandson
and breathe in his sweetness
and he melts into me
and holds me right back

happiness is when
the wood stove is full
and more wood stacked
right near the stove
on a cold raw night

happiness is when
a friend gives me a new coat
and it fits
and it's warm
and i look just fine, not shabby as usual

happiness is when
i have a pot luck
and all my neighbors come
bringing treats
and laughter and sharing

happiness is when
i sit in a circle
breathing deeply
surrounded by friends
anticipating hearing their words

Sue Norvell

happiness is when
my demanding
lets me sleep
another hour

happiness is when
i find
the only remaining
fall crocus

happiness is when
the missing gardening glove
in last winter's
coat pocket

happiness is when
the red-bellied woodpecker
lands on the seed feeder
and shows his really
red belly

happiness is when
i am sitting
in a circle
alone but together

Sue Perlgut

happiness is when
i wake up
to the sound of
my granddaughter's
knock on my bedroom door

happiness is when
my former students
come to ithaca
to visit me
bringing love

happiness is when
i have a shelf
of murder mysteries
just waiting
to be read

happiness is when
i'm tired and achy
and my husband
makes the very best
chicken soup

Zee Zahava

happiness is when
i wake up with music in my head
it could be a sanskrit chant
or maybe aretha or martha and the vandellas
and it stays with me all day

happiness is when
my mother sends me an email
that contains only symbols
hearts, stars, fruit, silly animals, red exclamation marks
and i know she's been having fun with her smartie phone

happiness is when
i ride in the car with the love of my life
and we come to an open stretch of road
just as thousands of leaves
come dancing by  — right to left and back again

Monday, September 5, 2016

WORK: a collective list

Labor Day, Monday, September 5, 2016

With this collective list we honor ourselves, and all the different kinds of work we have done over the years . . . . and we honor all workers, everywhere

singing telegram deliverer, massage therapist, hair stylist, singer in a band, landlord, flower shop worker, after school program director, caregiver in a family care home for people with AIDS

gas station attendant in 1967, social worker, graphic artist, fundraiser, insurance agent, director of Head Start program, filmmaker, bookstore owner, member of two street theatre troupes

study hall monitor, washed pots and pans in a sorority house, assisted people who were looking for jobs, real estate agent

lemonade stand manager in my family's front yard, attendance monitor, arts and crafts teacher, assistant Girl Scout leader, crossing guard

legal assistant for prisoners' rights organization, instructor in one of the first Women's Studies programs, host for a French-Canadian folk song program on my college radio station, farm manager for a food co-op

crew member and navigator on my father's sailboat, family documentarian

dance teacher, choreographer, costume shop assistant and costume designer, stage manager,
librettist, cheerleader for deer, cat sitter
actor in children's theater, musicals, and Shakespeare plays

baker in a hippie bakery on a hippie farm, cake decorator at a Carvel store, menu planner and co-author of cookbooks at Moosewood Restaurant for over four decades

sewing machine salesperson, bank teller, plant sitter, book maker, restaurant hostess

worked at the jewelry counter at Rothschild's Department Store in Ithaca, New York

ballet studio owner/Artistic Director

owner and operator of Clean Sweep, a business that helps people with gentle (re)organizing

taught home and career skills in middle school, built houses with Habitat for Humanity all around the U.S.A., worked in a bank before computers were used

dandelion picker earning a nickel per basketful, dishwasher and fry cook at my family's truck stop, picture framer, bartender, night shift donut maker, go-go dancer, typesetter at a small alternative press

folded boxes in my family's bakery, made recordings for the blind, leader of a Camp Fire group, repaired books and typed catalog cards for an elementary school library

registered dental hygienist, abstract artist

registered nurse in various specialties including: intensive care, pediatrics, medical-surgical care, cardiac care, school nurse, home care nurse

wife, mother, grandmother of four

teacher of creative writing, blogger, gardener, herbalist, sailor, photographer

fed rats for a university experiment, taught five-year-olds in a Brooklyn summer program, teaching assistant in graduate school, part-time college professor, therapist

shoe store clerk even though I knew nothing about sizing shoes

data input in the early days of computer programming, potter, seamstress, errand runner, house painter, apprentice carpenter, fixer of broken toys, green bean picker for a large farm where I was one of two non-immigrant workers, generous listener

camp counselor at a camp for kids with cerebral palsy — my favorite job of all

entertainment director for a nursing home — I got to wander from floor to floor with a portable organ singing old classics and watching the elderly faces come alive again

receptionist for a demented flasher — I lasted one day

house cleaner, dog walker

taught non-violent conflict resolution to 5th and 6th  graders, using games, role plays, and discussions

copy editor for my college newspaper, facilitator for consciousness raising groups on Long Island and Manhattan

mail deliverer, dorm counselor, catering assistant, usher for the Cleveland orchestra, artist's model, puppet demonstrator at a toy store

did the family laundry in the bath tub, hung it all on the line to dry, then did the ironing

taught archery and, in another place and time, taught knitting

taught school in Sungai Gernong, Indonesia and in Oran, Algeria

chambermaid, chicken salad maker at a restaurant called "Food," abortion counselor, HIV counselor, razor blade factory worker in Amsterdam

drama therapist, extra in a TV movie about Japanese samurai, extra in a commercial for Suntory Whiskey

wedding harpist, church organist

sold Christmas cards door to door to win a transistor radio when I was 10, Sunrise Movie Theatre counter girl after my mom taught me how to make change correctly, Winn Dixie grocery store cashier, elementary school teacher for 18 years

small press publisher

groomed show dogs, bailiff in civil court

cashier and girl-Friday for an auto parts store, Tupperware dealer, haiku poet

owner of a commercial and residential cleaning service

analytical aide for the Department of Defense

homeroom mother while all four of my children were going through elementary and junior high school (15 years)

cashier at Walmart, problem solver

director of a literacy council, reading tutor for adults, children’s and young adult books author

temporary office worker: my typing skills were abysmal but I was an excellent envelope stuffer

washing huge pots and pans behind the scenes at my college cafeteria

bookkeeping, buying books, reading books, selling books, collecting books

writing about things that have made me curious

switchboard operator (it was necessary to cut off obscene calls), secretary to a cheap corporate lawyer who expected me to pay for his coffee, museum guide for curious children visiting the "mummies" exhibit

vegetable picker for Marian's Roadside Stand, delivery person for the Ithaca Journal, bicycle repair person at Big Wheel Bike Shop, liquor store clerk, student janitor and mail room office person

volunteer with Suicide Prevention & Crisis Service, library staff at Mann Library at Cornell University

mind reader, heart healer, animal rescuer, true-love believer

being my own best friend, which has sometimes been hard work

au pair for the family of a famous London writer — I lasted two days and was fired for being inept with the vacuum cleaner

cleaned the rabbit hutches from the age of six onward, picked beetles off roses for a penny a beetle, picked up nails and screws from Grandpa's workshop and was paid a penny a jar

piano teacher, leaf raker

read to my blind grandmother every day for one year

paralegal, mediator, toy seller, organizer for a youth soccer league, firewood chopper

bobcat tracker in Florida, fossil curator, dictionary writer, judge at a pie contest, docent for an animatronic dinosaur exhibit, bird enumerator

assistant in an art gallery on Madison Avenue — my office was the bathroom

sales clerk at a button shop, seller of raffle tickets, casting director, family's travel agent, video effects editor

cultural affairs officer for the Canadian consulate in New York City

milked goats, worked in a Jewish deli, telemarketer for a bogus product (unbeknownst to me)

taught English as a second language in Russia, Vietnam, and Mongolia

worked at the 92nd Street Y, interviewed homeless people living on the street in New York City, read the slush pile (genre fiction) for a publishing company, did voice-over acting for a Russian company that needed an English voice

restaurant busboy earning $7.50 a night, cocktail pianist (or was that lounge lizard?), cub reporter, lawn and pool boy, coat-check attendant, hat-band paster, conductor, fundraiser, assistant to a university president

intern for the Chinese textile collection at the Smithsonian Institution, Balinese music and dance student/dance instructor, teaching assistant for tai chi and qi gong classes 

seal lion pool cleaner at the National Zoo, fed hummingbirds by hand and handled a tame kestrel on a falconer's glove for Tri-State Bird Rescue

birthday party planner, kitchen and living room sweeper, TV commercial critic, peacemaker, entertainer of younger cousins and siblings, worrier, protector, creative thinker

filler of cat food dish, changer of cat's water bowl, cat cuddler

grilled cheese with tomato and basil maker, confidante, origami artist, assistant dance teacher, volunteer at the annual Star Search camp at the Community School of Music and Arts

ski instructor, ice cream scooper, re-upholsterer, candlemaker, playwright, chauffeur, interior decorator, swan feeder, fish feeder, proofreader, library page


Thank you to all these hard-working contributors:

Alan Heath
Aniiyah Klock
Anne Killian-Russo
Audrey Jordan Gray
Barbara Cartwright
Barbara Hay
Barbara Kaufmann
Barbara Tate
Caroline Gates-Lupton
Debbi Antebi
Gabrielle Vehar
Grace Celeste
Helen Lang
Jim Mazza
Jo Balistreri
Joan McNerney
Joyce L Stillman
Kim Falstick
Linda Keeler
Liz Burns
Margaret Dennis
Marty Blue Waters
Mary Louise Church
Meryl Young
Nancy Osborn
Pamela A. Babusci
Paula Culver
Pris Campbell
Sara Robbins
Sharon K. Yntema
Sue Perlgut
Susan Norvell
Susanna Drbal
Theresa A. Cancro
Tom Clausen
Victoria Jordan
Yvonne Fisher
Zee Zahava

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Keys: Short Pieces on a Theme

I am not a sentimental person. When something is lost from my life I try to let go and accept it without holding on to relics from the past. My husband is the opposite. Being half French, he has spent many years of his life in France. He has a whole dresser drawer full of mementos. Half the drawer is filled with old keys. The key to his beloved grandfather's house outside of Paris. "Grandpere" has been dead for 60 years and the house has been torn down, only the cherry tree from his childhood remains. The key to his aunt's chateau in Bordeaux, long since gone from the family, along with the last bottle of wine, which we recently drank to celebrate our anniversary. The key to his late cousin's 300-year-old manor house by the sea in Normandy. Summers spent there from the age of 5 with large family dinners under an umbrella in the garden. All long gone now, but how wonderful to just open a drawer and have the sweet scent of long ago envelop you with love.
    - Annie Wexler

"You're grounded," Mom yelled. "Don't think I don't know about you sneaking out Monday night and I don't like those kids you're running around with." I wondered how she knew everything I did, every thought I had, but chalked it up to things mothers know about their 13-year-old and maybe, just maybe, I'd been saddled with a mother who was psychic. Oh, great. I stomped up the stairs to my room, pulled the diary from under the mattress, retrieved the key from behind my favorite stuffed animal and began to write. "Dear Diary — I don't know how she knew I snuck out but she did. Now I'm grounded. Well, I'll show her. There's a party at Glenda's next Friday night, I'll tell her I'm spending the night at Sue's (she won't tell, she's too afraid of losing a 'friend') then I'll go to Glenda's. By that time I won't be grounded and she'll never know." Closing the diary, I locked it, put it under the mattress and hid the key behind my little blue bear. "Nope, she'll never know."
    - Barbara Tate

The only key to the house is on a ring identified with a miniature light green plastic scuba diver flipper. It resides behind a flat rock under the hose mount. A damp spot. Reaching for it once I grabbed a toad. I'm sure we both shrieked. Little red newts have been seen to scatter from behind the shale. And one dark night something much larger moved. Black, with white spots, holy crap, a giant lizard. My brave friend picked it up and said "Dragon Newt." It's the green flipper. It beckons to the webbed and reptilian like a neon sign. Always open. They go there to get a couple drinks before going home. We actually never lock our door.
    - Camilla S.

I have owned a great many different sorts of key over the years. One that still fascinates me is what I knew as a bubble key. Traditionally, most keys have notches cut into them, such that the profile of the key is changed. My bubble key was made by taking a series of tiny scoops from each surface of the blank. The scoops looked like lunar craters on a very small scale. My key was a high security key which gave me access through special perimeter gates. I used to think of the scoops on the key's surface as bubbles of a strange gas which could pass through it. Curiously, that idea of permeability of metal was echoed in the way the key allowed me access through the campus perimeter. I found that link very satisfying. Some years later I discovered that my key was more properly called a dimple key. But that name works too . . . it made me smile.
    - David J. Kelly

I never leave my keys at home. So why that night? The one I assumed you'd have no part of until I looked up from dancing and there you were, whiskey in your hand, laughing. That night you asked me to dance salsa. Everyone watched. I was drunk and fucking up the steps, but damn . . . you did that thing where you slid your hand behind my neck and pulled my face towards yours and everyone hooted and hollered. We tore it up, all hips and hair. At 1 a.m. I realize I don't have my keys, and my roommate sleeps like the dead. You tell me I can sleep at your place. More drinking, more dancing, and the way your hands hold my hips, I don't know if it's the alcohol or you that I'm drunk on. But the night ends, and something shifts in you. I smell regret. We walk to your apartment arm-in-arm; there's a war in your mind but you're not looking for an ally to make peace there. You offer me your bed, saying you'll sleep on your chair in the living room. I fall asleep crying, painfully aware of the impossibility of unlocking you.
    - Deanalís Resto

Mark is about to run a five-mile race, his first in several years. At 60, coming back from a blocked coronary artery and severe ankle injury, finishing the distance will be a challenge and a triumph. Just before the race starts, I realize that I've locked both of our keys and wallets in the car, but I don't tell Mark. He doesn't need distractions. I see him off at the start of the race without a word. Knowing that Mark will be exhausted at the end of five miles, I have to get the car unlocked before he finishes. But how? We let our AAA membership lapse two weeks ago. Our insurance company provides roadside assistance, but their emergency number is locked in the car with our keys. I borrow someone's cell phone and AAA card, dial the emergency phone number. When the dispatcher notices our expired membership, I ask her to look at their records. "We've been members forever. Of course we've renewed," I lie. "You just haven't received the payment yet." Somehow this works. The locksmith arrives in record time and opens the car. Keys in hand, I am at the finish line to take Mark's picture, as I do after every race.
    - Deirdre Silverman

I have a dear friend in Pennsylvania who loves musicals just as much as I, and who is almost as critical of them as I. Well, she heard this song,  "Ring of Keys,"  on the Tony Awards last year, and she just knew right then and there that she just had to see "Fun Home" (the show the song is from). So she plays it for me, and I say . . . "meh." And when I ask her what the show's about, she says it's narrated by a lesbian looking back on her childhood with her closeted gay father, who ends up killing himself. Well, then I'm really thinking . . . "Forget about it." So then — and here's the kicker — my conservative, straight-laced, very narrow friend accuses me of being anti-gay! Me, the one who's been so close to gay men that it sometimes turned carnal (yes, that's just how much I loved them). And me, who has surrounded herself with lesbian couples all over the country, at whose tables I often sup (yes, I'm close enough to actually break bread with them). And, as for my friend — well, she in her suburban home, with her computer husband and 2 little girls — she thought that the song was about the little lesbian girl being excited by her father's ring of keys. Oh, no, no, no, I had to explain to her . . . not so much at all. Anyway, now, anytime my friend calls, she asks — at least once in the conversation — "and have you finally changed your stance on gay rights?"
    - Gabrielle Vehar

Keys were not part of my world growing up. Doors in our neighborhood were left open and I was always welcome anyplace. Of course I knocked before entering. I came and went from school and home, never losing keys or searching for them. Cars were unlocked and ready for a trip at a moment's notice. My world was safe from intruders then.
    - Grace Celeste

My father's key ring was loud and large as a custodian's. It bulged out of the pockets of his slacks, and where he walked the sound of jangling preceded him. If he asked you to hold his keys, it almost took both hands. Maybe those keys anchored him to a purpose, a bunch of purposes. Maybe those keys meant he knew the way in somewhere, or the way out, or just gave him gatekeeper's authority. When he got older there were just a few keys on his ring, resting motionless on the top of the tallboy. I guess he'd stopped bothering to announce his presence.
    - H. Fraser

My sister taught me to skate on the sidewalk, in front of our house. They were the old skates requiring the use of a key. It all seemed pretty complicated to a five-year-old, but I finally got the hang of it. It was great fun rolling down the sidewalk, although you had to watch out for holes and cracks or else you could go flying through the air, which was exhilarating, but also terrifying, because you always knew a crash landing would follow. One time, I must have hit a crack just right, because I fell straight onto both knees, and scooted along a bit before coming to a stop. Scraped knees, really bad. Time to go in. I was the last in line for a bath, so by the time I got there the water was cold. I couldn't understand how my mother could be so cruel as to have me bathe those sore knees in cold water. I let her know it, too, as I howled the entire time.
    - Janie Nusser

It was one week before Thanksgiving. I was a single parent with three small children, and I had decided we'd have an adventure by taking the bus for our grocery shopping. My secret motive was saving gas for later in the day when we'd feed the ducks at the nearby lake. Later, at home, the children helped in their way, shelving cans or putting things in the fridge as I lifted the turkey to the freezer. After naps, I went to get the house keys from my purse.They weren't there. I dumped the contents on the counter — wallet, tissue, extra pacifier, comb, the usual — but no ring containing house, car, mailbox keys. With children screaming and crying, I called the grocery store — no lost keys. There was no choice but to call their dad. Though he was most unhappy, he had duplicates made and brought them over later that night. Then three days before the big event, I lifted the turkey onto the counter from the brown paper shopping bag — something clunked on the counter   the frozen keys, and now I vaguely remembered trying to unlock the door, carrying the turkey, the three kids all over me, and throwing the keys in the bag I carried. We laughed and laughed at how I froze the keys, and to this day, someone always says, Remember when . . . .
    - Jo Balistreri

I lived in a very lovely apartment in Brooklyn with parquet floors, high molded ceilings, and a small chandelier in the hallway. My next door neighbor was from Canada and she found it difficult to remember that we had an automatic lock on the door. If you closed the door incorrectly, it locked. Ironically, the only local grocery store was called Key Food. She would say to me KEY Food, emphasized in her beautiful accent. Don't know how or why I never forgot my keys there but I certainly was sympathetic to her anxiety.
    - Joan McNerney

The first key is Largo. I drive by the shell sand overgrown with pine, palms and mangrove. Ankle deep coral sits barely offshore; a rainbow of fish perform for tourists wearing the masks of exploration. The next keys run together: Plantation, Windley, Upper Matecumbe, Tea Table, Indian, Lignumvitae, each raised above the sea a few lonely feet. Lower Matecumbe Key, my destination reached, I am half-way home. In my camp near the Long Key Bridge salt-heavy air presses bones weary of travel. I fall asleep to the lullaby of cicada and waves of water and mosquitoes. A week of hikes, swims, and snorkel trips and even I am jaded by gorgeous sunsets and sated by beauty. I return to the calm of ordinary, relax in the hectic chores holding a string of keys in a pocket of memory.
    - Joann Grisetti

Graduation Day and I was to bring our son, the Graduate, in the truck, up to the highway, meet Husband there. We would go with him in his car. Husband told me the keys were in the truck. But I couldn't find them: not in the ignition, on the dashboard, in the glove compartment, or on the floor. I sent Graduate to check the keyboard in the house: not there either. I was frantic, and so was Graduate. Searched the truck again. Husband arrived home. I yelled out the truck window, "We can't find the keys." Husband had left them on the driver's seat: I was sitting on them.
     - Joanna M. Weston

The key to understanding the map is to understand that it isn't about the specific destination but rather it is about the journey itself. On the map, you'll find a legend that indicates mountains, rivers, lakes, and many other sights of wonder and natural areas. As you traverse this map, the schema of your life, take the time necessary to enjoy the beauty, the rugged terrain, the hills and valleys. As you journey, know that you have within you all that you need. You are enough. You are the expression of the underlying reality of all that is. That is the key to the map of life.
    - Katherine May

I don't remember his exact words, but I can still remember the rising pitch of my husband's voice on that Wednesday evening in February, the last one before we became parents, as he spoke into the phone and said something like, "Yes. Her water's broken, she's having contractions, and I've accidentally locked everything . . . her luggage, the car keys, the house keys, everything she needs, in our bedroom. Can you come?"  When the locksmith arrived, he didn't look at me. He ducked his head as he hurriedly followed my husband down the long hall to our bedroom. He worked quickly, and had the door open in minutes. Though we tried to insist, he refused payment. He said, "Have a great baby!" as he raced out the front door, leaving us to retrieve our carefully packed bags and head off to the birthing center. The baby didn't show up for six more hours, but we weren't to know we had so much time. We didn't know anything, really, when it came to that next phase of our lives.
    - Laura Gates-Lupton

Twice since I have lived at my house, I have had Ace Security come out and change the locks on all my doors because I gave a key to my sweetheart, who lives just up the road from me . . . and then we had a falling out and I did not want him coming in any time he pleased. Most recently, just within the last nine months, was the last time I had the locks changed and got all new keys. Then my sweetheart and I reconciled, as we often do, and yes, you guessed it, I gave him a new key. What was I thinking? But now, on this roller coaster relationship, we are once again estranged, and he has a key. I wish he did not, but I don't want to have the locks changed again and I don't want to get yet another set of keys. Ace Security will certainly think I am crazy. Perhaps I am.
    - Leslie Howe

Keys are a symbol of anxiety and worry. Everything must always be locked up tight. The front door, the back door, the shed, the bike. What if, what if, what if? Well, what if someone walks in? What would they take? Would it be replaceable? I mean no one's going to take our family photo albums, or the paintings off our walls. We can buy another iPad, another TV, another bike. Let's throw away all the keys — be open and inviting. Let the world in.
    - Linda Keeler

My father had a key ring with lots of keys, which puzzled me because I never saw him use any of them, except for the car key. The key ring was a simple round piece of metal. He always put it in his pants pocket when he left the house, but he seldom locked the door. We lived in a small town and in those days we often left the doors unlocked. When he wrecked our '57 Chevy, by driving through a yellow light and hitting a utility truck, his keys sat on the shelf for a few weeks, next to the spot usually occupied by his lunch pail.
    - Liz Burns

A hostile little rusty thing, stern and forbidding. Not you. Not in there. Find myself getting furious. The key to everything? Who would write such a sentence, the arrogance! Keys everywhere even invisible. Pianos for sisters and mothers, woodwinds for fathers. Strings for brothers. What key are you in? Who the hell knows, you can't see it. And silent unmusical you, you had a pencil. Weeks after Helen died, a key fell from the ceiling of the tack room landing at my feet. Helen's, on a keychain with a skull. Why now? How did it get in the ceiling? The horse she rode had died a week after she died. His name was Wave, and Helen's name was Hell-on-Wheels. Her key came to me after they both had died. And. Once I found the key to the junked DeLodge that my father had towed home from Detroit. I found it (I never found anything he sent me after) in the gathered blue leather side pocket of the rear seat, along with some francs. We had a car that came from France, barely alive, but still! And I found the key to it. How a word can lead you back to yourself.
    - Lou Robinson

Oh, which one is it? Which one is it? The keys were looped together with a thin strip of leather. They were old keys, not ones from BEST or Yale. Holy shoot, I jammed one in the key hole, turned, and heard the tumbler screech and then give up its "treasure." We were in the boathouse. I inhaled the familiar smells of gasoline, mustiness, and rotting wood. And there was Carmen's skiff — still broken, still sad. We stroked the hull, said a quick Hail Mary for Carmen, and ran out — using the key to lock the door and Carmen's memory.
    - Louise Vignaux

O.K. I'll confess. I googled a list of Nancy Drew books, assuring myself that there had to be several with the word "key" in the title. To my surprise, I could only find one: "The Mystery of the Black Keys."  And to my further surprise, I couldn't remember reading it. Oh, no matter — the real beauty of the Nancy Drew stories for me was not in the specific title or the plot. It was a given that among the characters there would be the dashing, widowed lawyer/father; the fretting housekeeper, Hannah; Nancy's faithful followers — the gentle Beth and the boy-like George; and of course a few nefarious characters who were usually thieves or pretenders of some sort. All the tales were, thankfully, free of real violence. As Nancy swam, hiked, or drove her sedan down perilous cliff roads, I thrilled to each adventure. And they were instructive. After all, how often do we come across the wonderful words "sleuth" or "sinister" today? No, it was never the specific plot that captured my imagination. It was, for this shy, socially inept eleven-year-old girl, an entry into a vivid, romantic, and mysterious world, in which a strong young girl seemed capable of anything. It wasn't even the fact that Nancy was female, although I had more in common with her than with Joe or Frank Hardy. It was that she was young, independent, and so very brave. I needed some bravery then, as much as I do today. In fact, I think I'll wander over to the library and look for "The Mystery of the Black Keys." Don't try to call or text me. I will be busy.
    - Margaret Dennis

I like to keep my keys hanging right by the door. One day when I was in NYC, browsing through the MOMA gift shop, I came upon a white plaster sculpture of a human hand. It is life sized, with outstretched, cupped fingers, and it is designed to hang palm up against the wall. My various keychains each slide down one of the fingers and dangle artfully against each other. Some people might find this ghoulish. I find it hilarious that my keys are actually handed to me each time I go to the door on my way out of the house. It has been a long time since I've lost my keys and can't remember where I left them. They seem to be happy to rest there and I'm happy to have this common, but modernly artful, place to hang them.
    - Marty Blue Waters

The large bronze key that hangs by the mantle in my kitchen has made a very long journey. Its original lock is in the door of the wall around an ancient city in Algeria. The city is now in ruins and the key found its way into a basket of assorted keys in an old man's shop in an oasis in the Sahara. My husband, who is drawn to antiques, discovered it and knew he had to own it, so he bargained diligently and effectively and brought it back to our home in Oran. Our little daughter thought it was wonderful and used it to lock up all her treasures. She called it Goldy. Then it made its way to our home in Ovid, New York, and has taken up residence beside our mantle since 1983.
    - Mary Louise Church

When I was five years old my favorite band was "The Heartbeats," a local group out of Trumansburg, New York. Four women vocalists, playing fiddle, guitar, and bass on the Big Stage at the GrassRoots Festival. Tara Nevins, June, Rose, and someone whose name I can't remember now. They had a song that went: "Whole lot of keys, whole lot of keys in this town. Not enough keys, not enough keys to go around." I loved that band so much and I remember going up to Rose with my parents, after a show, and telling her what a big fan I was.
    - Mary Roberts

On my way to work, heading for Owego, I stopped at a gas station, having run low on gas. For some reason I locked the door as I left the car to fill the tank. Suddenly I realized that I had left my car keys in the ignition. Panic. I worried that I would be late for work. I called AAA and moments later they arrived. It wasn't a disaster after all.
    - Mike Schaff

The most important key when I was in elementary school was my roller skate key. If you were smart you wore it on a string around your neck. But if you also used it for playing hopscotch then you just had to keep it in your pocket and hope that it didn't fall out in the grass. Who remembers these keys, used to tighten the clamps of metal skates onto your shoes, almost to the point of discomfort? They were held in place by stiff leather ankle straps and metal clamps around the toes of your shoes. And long after you took them off you could still feel the sidewalk vibrations that had run through your feet when you skated and could still, unmistakably, feel the pressure of the clamps on your toes, tightened as tight as possible by your skate key.
    - Nancy Osborn

Feats of will or obstinacy occurred in the weeks before my aunt came to live with me, when her husband left her for his lover. Dividing their things, packing up the house, putting down the ancient dog, finding the lost car keys, and driving 600 miles to my town, an hour from the house where he would die of cancer weeks later. My aunt's strength went with him to his lover's house, folded up inside his sweaters, slipped inside LP jackets, snapped shut between the pages of books, a fine dust on the lenses of his eyeglasses. Her ability to pilot life safely was boxed with things to be looted by his lover, who took possession of his body, decided which letters to burn, which to concede to his cast-off wife, who refused to divide his ashes. We are all frail in rejection, depression, grief, but sometimes strong, persistent, and fearless before death, humiliation, desertion. Maybe it's a kind of denial — not knowing what terrible shape we are in lets us find the keys and stolen reserves, drive the distance and insist we be given the ashes — or, in the end, decide that ashes are not worth having.
    - Patti Witten

I have so many keys on my key ring and really only use three. As I looked through all of them I realized that I don't know what the others are for. All unlabeled, basically the same. Where did they come from and where do they go? I'm afraid to throw them out — what if I need them to unlock something; something important? So, I took them off the ring and put them away in an envelope. There if I need them.
    - Paula Culver

My first apartment was on sidewalk level in an old green shuttered building on St. Phillip Street, the French Quarter, New Orleans. 1966. The rent was $60 a month. A green double door guarded the entryway to the courtyard. A key was required. Once, in the early morning hours, I was coming home — altered in a wildly inebriated state — and discovered that I did not have my keys. I panicked. How would I get inside? Along came a young man dressed in jeans and leather jacket and I asked if he could help me. He responded and in some way, I don't remember how, he opened both the entry door and my apartment. He came inside and I freaked out. Suddenly frightened that a stranger was in my apartment, I rushed to the kitchen, got a knife, returned to where he stood with his back to me, and I stabbed him in the back. I heard the leather of his jacket tear. He ran for his life.   
    - Priscilla Walker

My relationship with keys changed eighteen months ago when I moved from Ithaca, New York to Cape Town, South Africa. For many years, the tidiness, safety, and orderliness of my life were reflected in the quantity and quality of the keys I carried. For more than two decades, my key ring contained 5 keys of uniform size and shape, except for the slightly larger car key. Front and back door keys to my home and office. Tidy. In South Africa, everything is locked and, therefore, everything has a key. Burglar bars, security gates, and padlocks exist on every door and window. Even the inside French and sliding glass doors that open onto lovely indoor courtyards in many houses are louvered and locked. Most keys are the big, old-fashioned variety, commonly found in Europe, not the smaller type found in the U.S. South African key rings are heavy and dangle with dozens of keys of varying sizes and shapes. These key rings don't slide easily into pockets and even overpower many purses. It didn't take long for my new, increased key ring to tear a hole in the pocket of my favorite sweatshirt. My life in South Africa is not nearly as tidy, safe, or orderly as I'm used to and this is reflected in the quality and quantity of the keys I now carry.
    - Rukmini Miller

The key to my heart is kindness. And humor. And chocolate, dogs, gardens, and spring breezes. I think I'm easy, so many ways to open my heart.
    - Sara Robbins

I bought a new used car two weeks ago and the same thing happened that always happens. When I changed the keys out, I discovered at least two that no longer belong anywhere. Or anywhere I can currently remember. This is the recurrent problem of random key accumulation. I imagine that keys will go the way of the typewriter sometime in the near future. So, fifty years from now, assuming we're still here, some people will no doubt enjoy the hobby of antique key collecting.
    - Sue Crowley

Last summer, on a warm and sunny day, Mike was off to volunteer for the Cancer Resource Center and needed his car, which was parked in front of mine in our narrow driveway. I was working on the computer, but needed a break, so I grabbed my car keys and backed my car out of the driveway and waved as he drove down the street. I reached for the front door knob to discover I was locked out! No house keys, no cell phone, wearing my slippers and no book to keep me occupied for the two hours he was supposed to be gone. I did have my car keys and knew the general direction he was headed so I got in my car and tried to find him, to no avail. Returning home, I told my neighbors my plight. Just as we were planning a break in —  much to the delight of a ten-year-old — Mike returned home early. Whew!
    - Sue Perlgut

Your key broke in the lock. That key with the imprinted photo of penguins in Antarctica, in the lock that doesn’t lock very well, in the door the police had to break down. One of the doors the police had to break down. The broken part of the key you were able to pry out, the door you were able to sand and reset and bring back into working order. The second door shows cracks and missing veneer and the handle rattles a little. The third door, they could’ve just turned the handle, but by then, I suppose, they were amped up, ready to tackle you and break some furniture. Now you have a new key. Another new key. It’s shiny and silver and hasn’t got stuck anywhere. It turns smoothly in the lock, provides entrance to our home, jingles in your pockets, and gets lost in your mess. It’s not broken, the doors aren’t broken, and I don’t care about the furniture. The key bites into my hand as I warm it, at home, waiting to let you in.
    - Susanna Drbal

As I prepare to go out, I gather up my keys, keys to lock the house, car doors, mailboxes, to keep things safe, closed off, away from prying eyes. The keys of my childhood opened things. I loved playing with a big pewter key that I imagined opened doors in the woods where fairies frolicked among toadstools and fireflies, or unlatched pirates' treasure chests, like the ones printed on the bottom of our backyard pool. My mother opened her jewelry box with an ornate key to give me beads from broken necklaces that I'd restring for dress-up. I remember one day my grandmother took me by the hand, then used a rusty key to open the door to a corner room that had once been my father's, overlooking the din of Manhattan. In first grade, a boy who walked home with me each day gave me a necklace and bracelet set; it had "key-to-my-heart" charms — a tiny pink heart hung next to a gold key. I still have the necklace, but that pewter key got lost somehow as I moved from place to place.
    - Theresa A. Cancro

These were the status symbols for girls in my sixth grade class, 1961: black patent leather Mary Jane shoes with sling-back straps; nylon stockings; a training bra; a pink Princess phone of your very own. I had none of these things. These were the status symbols for the boys: a huge collection of baseball cards to trade; a real leather wallet that could be crammed into the back pocket of a pair of pants; the ability to curse without blushing. I had none of these, either. But what I did have was a small silver key that opened the front door of our apartment at 2004 Vyse Avenue. My mother presented it to me with a flourish, then immediately took it back and zipped it into a small compartment in my pocketbook. "You are mature enough to have this," she said "but I want you to know you will never have to use it. Grandma or I will always be here when you get home from school. You will never have to use the key. But you should have it, in case of an emergency, which there will never be. But still. It's good to be prepared. Don't worry. And don't tell anyone about this." I never used the key. I never told anyone. I was always very worried.
    - Zee Zahava

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Hands: Short Pieces on a Theme

I place my hands upon the body and it speaks. It tells me things. Things. Secrets, that sometimes make no sense, but still I listen. These hands follow this divinely inspired road map, they fold and unfold, following tiny lines that form large pockets of blue. Water. In the water the path can change. One drop at a time moves mountains, clears away muck that’s been stuck for too long. We walk together, my hands and this body gracing my table. Energy arises when hands touch the body. Our energy together, sparks movement of flesh covering bone. And flesh is the vehicle. The vehicle on the journey which follows the divinely guided road map. And I, I place my hands upon this body and it speaks.
    - AniIyah Christina Klock

There is a person who has no idea what they've done. There is a person who has no idea that because of them, I have a bruise on the back of my hand that's been there since last Thursday. There is a person in the state of Texas who called my sister's phone in all innocence, probably intending to talk to their Great Aunt Jerry who lives in Trumansburg or Syracuse or Elmira. There is a person who, I am sure, has no idea that during the time in which their great aunt didn't pick up, I was carrying my sister's phone into the playroom, wondering who the heck could be calling us from Texas. There is a person who doesn't realize that after the phone stopped ringing, as I was walking back to the living room, I banged my hand on my portable ballet barre hard enough to send aches shooting through my arm. There is a person who has no idea that any of this ever happened. There is a person who is guilty in all of their innocence.
    - Caroline Gates-Lupton

I was thinking about the importance and significance of my right hand today, as I realized how connected I feel from my eyes to my brain through my heart to my pen held tightly by the grasp of my fingers and balanced by my wrist — skating across the page as the commanding signals march their orders through my muscles, my tissues, my consciousness, my mind's eye — awaiting inspiration, pouncing on thought, listening to the words hanging in the air — controlling the lines that form the letters that make the words that form a phrase or sentence as a thought congeals and then transforms. They move the pencil through drawings sketches images symbols too, and put something from thin air into 2D dimensions which feeds back a loop to my eyes my mind my thoughts my heart my feelings — sometimes surprising me with content or form but also with complexity. I am so very grateful for my right hand and its dutiful obedience, faith, work, trust, and being. — The scribe.
    - Chris Carstensen

Papito was my great-grandfather. I met him when I was younger than 10 and he was real old. Like close to 100. I remember sitting next to him on a couch in my aunt's living room. He would rest his hands on his lap and I would stare at the veins popping out of his bony hands. To me, his veins looked like small roads, and some big roads, traveling up and down the top of his hands toward fingers and wrists. Sometimes I would hold his hand and touch the veins and press on them. They would move and something about the holding of Papito's hand was soothing to me. I look back at this memory and I think about how kind he was to just let me be, not saying a word, just letting me sit beside him holding his hand.
    - Deb R.

Why do wedding rings go on the left hand? Why is it called your ring finger? Why do we feel it necessary to adorn our hands with rings? Why do we shake hands with someone as a greeting? Why do we lend a helping hand? When someone pleases us why do we give them a hand?
    - Donna DiCostanzo

My hands have undergone changes throughout the years. First of all, they are very small with short fat fingers. That's just so that you will know them if they come your way. As a child, and into young adulthood, I played piano and violin, and both of my teachers were strict about their no-long-nails policy. When I began  to get into my teen years I tried to grow my nails just a little (and even got on a fingernail polishing jag for a while), but then it was time to buckle down, so I would file them to within an inch of their lives. Later on, after I gave up playing an instrument, I experimented with different length nails, and now I just grow them until they break and get all jaggedy and uneven. And then I start over again.
    - Gabrielle Vehar

When I was in high school I thought I wanted to become a doctor, so my parents introduced me to their friend's daughter who was in medical school. Phoebe was her name and she talked about her Gross Anatomy class, the examination of a cadaver, the first course in med school. She asked me to guess which part of the dead body affected her the most. I thought it must be the face, perhaps the heart. No, she said, it was his hands that made me cry as I cut them and examined them. Hands, she said, are for hugging; they are what you hold when you are a child and need comfort. They do your work and they are needed to help you eat. Hands are the most human part of a person with the opposable  thumbs that are unique to our species. I didn't become a doctor  but I have always remembered a young doctor's view of human hands.
    - Greta Singer

When I was little, my father would hold me in his lap and examine my hands. He would feel for bones and pronounce that I had none. He said he hoped my hands would remain soft and squishy for the rest of my life. Well, I guess rebellion can take many forms, for now my hands are nothing but bone and big, protruding knuckles. I equated soft, squishy hands with being a child and having no power, so I think I willed the bones to form. Sorry, Dad, but now my hands are my favorite part of me.
    - Janie Nusser

I am looking at my hands. My dear precious hands. It’s so nice to be able to see my hands, to behold them and thank them. My very own hands. Many, many years ago I had a laparoscopy for endometriosis. They dropped a little camera "down there" and drilled a few little holes in my tummy for a knife and the movie of my surgery was made. After the (successful) surgery in which the doctor told me if I wanted to avoid another surgery I should get pregnant, they handed me my movie. When I first saw my uterus with three small fibrous mounds on them, I cried. “There! There is my uterus, so precious though wounded as she is.” And here are my hands, aging as they are. And it’s not because they are so essential to how I express myself as a harpist and a pianist that I feel so speechlessly in love with them. It’s simply because the space around them is so beautiful.
    - Jayne Demakos

Together Ruth and I carefully washed my grandmother’s body clean of its struggle and clothed her in a simple cotton  dress. Water sloshed in her lungs as we moved her to different positions. When I took my hands away, I could see my fingerprints on her skin: prints like phases of the moon. Every detail was there, even the print of the scar on my right index finger which I had cut as a teenager while  throwing a broken glass telegraph insulator into the lake. I remembered running the mile home with blood spurting from that finger and how Luie had gripped it firmly and plunged it into a glass of green soap and hot water to clean the wound. We had arranged that Luie would not go to a funeral home, but instead be taken directly from our house to our family plot. When I lifted and placed her heavy body into the coffin, I imagined my prints must still be there. I folded her hands over her stomach with great care, then stepped back for the men to close the lid.  "Into Thy Hands I commend your spirit.” My own hands throbbed like two stunned birds. Not empty exactly, but hollow. Hollow like a drum.
    - John Lyon Paul

“Keep your hands to yourself.” In my years as an education evaluator, spending many hours observing in classrooms, I realized that this may be the primary learning objective for kindergarteners and other young students. Teachers spend inordinate amounts of time and energy compelling their charges to sit still on the mat and not touch each other. It isn’t respectful to hit or even touch someone else; each person has their own space and control over their own body. Hands are for practical skills like writing, holding things, and eating. It might make much more sense to instead teach kindergarteners about the miracles resulting from “the laying on of hands.”
    - Julia Ganson

Claire wrote a poem once; I found it by chance among some papers scattered on the dining room floor. She said my hands always smelled of tea. I held that scrap of sensory connection to my beloved daughter to my heart, through the tough years of her need for stern separation. Nowadays my hands still smell of tea. Like my grandmother's, whose morning ritual — warm pot, add leaves, boiling water, steep — I long ago adopted as my own. In appearance, too, my hands astonishingly morphed into those of an aging woman. Where I am able mostly to avoid direct confrontation with the effects of gravitational pull on face and body, my hands are always in my sight. And they mark the passage of time for me in a way I find both alarming and somewhat tender. Like Claire's ability to feel my familiarity and warmth through the code of scent, I link myself to the family members whose hands I've known so well, and loved. (Even Claire's hands, now 30 years in use, are acquiring the character bestowed by passage of time.)
    - Kate Halliday

My grandmother's hand were thick peasant hands, fingers all the same shape and thickness, rounded neat nails clipped short. Good for kneading bread and working the chocolate, picking olives, and praying. She had a hand mirror on her dressing table and she would sit there each night combing her long gray hair, twisting it into a bun and then using the hand mirror to inspect her work. Tilting the mirror this way and that and turning on the stool she sat upon for just the right angle — to make sure all the stray hairs were tucked in, to make sure the bun would last the night, hands turning and tucking and poking all the little hairs in place. I don't remember those hands caressing me or patting my head but I do remember them praying, lighting the candles, wringing the worry beads — apricot-colored beads about the size of Chiclets gum, strung together on a gold chain with an apricot-colored tassel hanging from the end. hands for praying, for wrapping, for kneading.
    -Katherine May

The warmth of my husband's hands as he touches my neck and face while kissing me: I am safe. The coolness of my mother's hand touching my fevered forehead when I was a little girl: I am cared for. The connection I felt as I held my father's hand while he was dying: we are one. The blissful love I feel when my daughter reaches for and holds my hand in public: I am perfect. The divine healing that flows through my hands, to those I love: I am blessed.
    - Kyna Alexander

Her hands look thinner now. The veins run as beautiful curving hills with smooth valleys in between. Her skin soft as silk, drapes over purple and blue veins. Long slender fingers, grasp. I can hold her hand in mine and feel it cool, its slightness not holding heat well. She gives mine a little squeeze. The wrinkles in that smooth skin shift about as her hand moves. And these are her dancing hands. If we sing, when Saoirse plays the fiddle, and Aaron plays the banjo, or even just dancing to the mood in the room or a playful thought: like little sparrows these hands flit and flutter through the air, a smile lighting up her face.
    - Leah Grady Sayvetz

When I was little I used to watch my fingers to see if I could see them growing. I'm not sure why this was. My mother's friends used to comment, "Oh, she's growing so fast," when they would see me, and when I'd get home I'd stretch out my hands and watch my index finger to see if it spontaneously grew outward. It never happened, though.
    - Liz Burns

Fingernails are scratching a message on the window screen, but I can't decode it! Is it a warning of danger, a plea for help on this dark night? My cat stirs. Cautiously I take my arm out from under the covers and cup her warm head. The dialogue continues —louder and more insistent! I creep to the window with Poe-like resolve, push out the screen and grab the offending hands — breaking and crushing the thin, dead branch.
    - Louise Vignaux

I used to hate it when cheesy announcers would say "Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for . . ." (and then the name of a celebrity.) Why doesn't he say "clap" or "applaud," I wondered. However, when each of my grandchildren got to the age where he or she wanted to perform, I started encouraging them to get up on the coffee table, and while they wrestled with a little guitar or got in position to dance, I found that saying that phrase delighted them. They seemed to love the idea of "putting hands together" for this fun reason. So I ended up repeating it over and over while they giggled and  jumped and sometimes toppled off the table. I was there to catch them. With my grandma's hands.
    - Margaret Dennis

My grandmother came here, to this country, from what was then Austria, later called Czechoslovakia, then the Czech Republic. Her English was difficult to understand, it was heavily infused with Slavic overtones. I remember her in a general sense as cold, perhaps because communication was difficult. All of my siblings agree that there was one exception — her hands. She would take us to the sink in the kitchen, with a bar of Ivory soap, and ever so gently she'd envelop our  tiny hands in hers and wash — slowly, softly, warmly. There were no verbal "I love you's" or other traditional displays of affection with Babicka, except for the deep loving affection shown in the transference of love from her hands to mine.
    - Margaret Snow

"What is the sound of one hand clapping?" Someone asked me that when I was a young girl, then stood there with a grin on his face, waiting for my answer. "Fingers in the wind, of course," I answered, as I ran off to climb a tree.
    - Marty Blue Waters

Writing hands, speaking hands, thinking hands, walking hands. Hands in my pocket, on your face, touching my face, my elbow, my chin. Hands over here, hands over there, hands everywhere. It occurred to me the other day how smart hands really are. So quick to decide and know what to do. On days when I feel absolutely sluggish, both mentally and physically, my hands seem to be incredibly smart. My brain goes "Oh, I don't know, I can't decide what I want to do today." My hands go "Quick! Save the boy from the passing car, pick up the thing you dropped, wave at the person you know, clear this table and do your dishes."
    - Mary A. Roberts

All hands on deck. This is not a drill. Secure all hatches. Mind your stations. This is the Captain speaking. Again, this is not a drill. — (Seconds later) — Hand over the fire hose sailor, there is a fire in the boiler room. I think we were struck by a torpedo on the port side. — (The Chief Petty Officer was pointing with this left hand.)
    - Mike Schaff

Hands in my family usually end up twisted by arthritis. When I was young I didn't know what that meant but I was well aware of my grandfather's fingers and the difficulty he had picking up pails of grain to feed his chickens. His fingers didn't exactly curve to fit the bend of the pail's handle. In fact they didn't much curve at all. He had no control over the directions his fingers bent. The same fate befell my father. His finger joints became knobby. His fingers bent however they wanted. He had trouble playing the piano. And now the same is starting to happen to me. When I sit in meditation I can see that my fingers do not rest neatly next to each other. The swollen joints are starting to cause my fingers to veer off-center. In the end the fingers of my hands will do as they wish. All I can do is breathe into their twists and turns.
    - Nancy Osborn

Hand me down all that I own, hand me down my walking cane, hand me down chord and tone, hand me down all the same. Hand me down a patch to sew, hand me down a ticket for the train, hand me down a place to go, hand me down when I'm on the wane.
    - Rob Sullivan

As I age my hands become more twisted and thicker. Working hands, not pretty hands. No rings, no polish. Nails cut short and kept clean. I wash my hands frequently, aware of cross-contamination at work; washing off dog smells at home. My hands are deft with a watercolor brush, with a knife, with folded paper chains, with a pen on paper.
    - Sara Robbins

When I was about 9 years old, I read a book about palm-reading. I found out that the left hand represents your potential, and the right hand shows what will actually happen. On my left hand, my life line was broken into two parts by my fate line. I thought I might die accidentally and be brought back to life, around mid-life. On my right hand, my life line was barely cut apart, and when I brought my pinky to my thumb, the gap disappeared. This gave me hope, suggesting that I might not have that terrible accident after all. Then I forgot about palm-reading for years. Yesterday I checked again. My left still has the severed life line, but now my right fate line passes through my life line; a bubble has formed at the center where the two interlink. Yes, I had my near-death experience, and survived. But it looks like smooth sailing from now on, life and fate peacefully intertwined.
    - Sharon K. Yntema

My left hand was injured in a horseback riding accident. I was where I shouldn't have been, inexperienced with horses, following an old cowhand for my job with the U. S. Forest Service. There was little forest around us, but in that moment we were riding up a mesquite bosque and my horse ducked under a branch, pulling me right along. My left hand reached out instinctively and the tree tore into it, the flesh and the nerves. Many miles from the trailhead, I looked down in disbelief.
    - Sheila Dean

It started with puberty, which cannot be a coincidence. Having been a psychologist in a prior incarnation, I can assure you it is a disorder of the compulsive form. My euphemism for it is "ragged cuticles," which enables me to ignore precisely how they get that way. Over the years, I've defeated the habit for months at a time, but always backslide. It isn't rare or dangerous, just inconvenient. Nail polish helps. It serves as a visual cue. The downside is that color may draw more attention to the hands.
    - Sue Crowley

I've always loved my hands. They don't gain weight like the rest of me. They work for me and make my life easy. So imagine how scared and confused I was when they stopped working. My fingertips were numb and tingly, I couldn't button my sweaters, my handwriting deteriorated, my husband Mike had to put my earrings on me (I also like and admire my ears), and I had to use two hands to put on my lipstick — very slowly. Turns out I needed a cervical laminectomy to fix this situation.
    - Sue Perlgut

Sometimes I look at my hands and wonder if I would ever recognize them in a photo. Maybe — maybe the backs of my hands. But I don't think I could pick out the palms if they were presented in a line-up. That seems odd to me. My hands are right in front of me absolutely in view for hours every day. There is dinner to prepare and my hands are holding the knife for chopping the onions, the spoon for stirring the batter, the tea towel for drying the big green bowl. I pat the cats with my hands. I drive the car, I write, I empty the dishwasher, maybe I even manage to text, feeling very clever and up-to-date, using my thumbs to type. But I do not see the palms of my hands, the pillowy bit at the base of my thumb, the lines (possibly prophetic) that run like roads — I do not know them.
    - Susan Lesser

When I was about 27 and between jobs, the temp agency called me with an unusual offer. A department store wanted someone to model gloves. I arrived at the store early, wandered around, and finally managed to locate the hat, scarf, and gloves section. The contact, Shirley, popped out from a back room, led me to an empty display case lined with white cloth where a boom-box played upbeat music. She asked me to select a few pairs of gloves to model. "I don't understand. How should I model them?" "Just sit behind the counter with your hands inside the case and let your fingers keep time to the music. Have fun with it!" For the next few hours, my gloved hands danced under the glass.
    - Theresa A. Cancro

Almost 90 years ago, when my grandmother was pregnant with her twins, her fingers began to swell and she took her wedding ring off. She put it someplace for safe keeping, but after the babies were born Grandma couldn't remember where that safe place was. She searched everywhere for the ring, in every corner of every room, in every cupboard and drawer and cabinet. She looked under cups; she looked behind tchotchkes. No wedding ring. Not any place. For the rest of her life Grandma's fingers, on the left hand and the right hand, remained ringless. Once I asked my mother if she thought Grandma never really wanted to find the ring. Was it possible she felt a sense of freedom without it? "Don't be ridiculous," my mother said. But I always had my suspicions.
    - Zee Zahava

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Numbers: Short Pieces on a Theme

It seems like can opener will be forever written in red dry erase marker up on the whiteboard in our kitchen. We've gone through twenty-two-and-a-half can openers so far. The "half" part is because Mom and Dad can't decide whether to scrap the one we have now. I can hear them arguing about it in the kitchen this very minute. Maybe we should just get a screwdriver or a hammer or something. One of those would work well enough, wouldn't it?
    - Caroline Gates-Lupton

What age am I, inside? Twenty-seven. I feel 27. I dream 27. That was the year I felt like an adult. I felt beautiful. I felt free. I felt brave. I had left a bad relationship. I quit an uninspiring, soul-sucking job. I joined the Peace Corps, stuffed my belongings in a backpack and flew to Africa, learned to play the guitar (poorly), looked death in the face (really), and walked away (gratefully). It’s been hard for other years to measure up. So I carry that year with me, every year. Still.
    - Edna S. Brown

Already, at sixteen, I was afflicted with affectations: gold-nibbed Waterman fountain pen to sign journal entries. (Single first initial. Period.) Lady Chatterley’s annual vernal reading — unexpurgated. I had a dog named MacDuff and a tree named Salix that wept. I kept a pet persona, nose-in-the-book brown-noser (Ahh, straight A's. Again.), but invested in the chase. Boys. One boy. Minus adolescent guises, I was the sort who would write, e.g., October 19th,1968 entry: I learn that David yearns for me as far as tears and yet — he will not have me. I’ve closed my heart.
    - Karla Linn Merrifield

I grew up on simple street. #101. I’d say it to myself before I fell asleep. I used to think of that number and its shape as part of my identity. It was a balanced family home, with strong supports on either side and an always open door in the middle class neighborhood. Our family was comfortable and secure. Suddenly I felt the columns fall when my dad decided to buy his brother's home in fancy-schmancy. We moved into #33. All curly and looking only one way. My dad left us there off balance and I toppled into adulthood too fast and stopped counting.
    - Kath Abela Wilson

There was a bulge in her forearm that stuck out like a bullfrog’s throat. She had gotten it caught in an old ringer washing machine when she was a little girl and now at 79, that bulge was big and puffy, and we all wanted to touch its squishiness and poke it down. From her sunken chin, throat strings stretched like the parallel lines of a rope bridge. The softest dried skin hung in fleshy narrows from her upper arms.  But it was her smell that we remembered as we
stepped through the door of the now empty kitchen.
    - Katherine May

I don't have OCD. Some people would say I do if they knew about my counting. I don't count everything, just important things like the number of stairs to the basement. It is thirteen steps down and, hopefully, thirteen steps back up. This is important to verify each time I go down. You know something is wrong in the universe if the count doesn't match. That's just being aware, not compulsive. And if the numbers don't match? I go down and up again and again until they do match. I want to live in a safe universe.
    - Lance R. Robertson

58, that's how old I am. Although I forgot one day last week and thought I was 59.
    - Liz Burns

For years, every Saturday afternoon at four o'clock, a bit of anxiety hit me. I finally realized that this was because of a lingering childhood memory of having to walk to St. Paul's Church to attend weekly confession. I had to time my arrival just right. A little bit later and the huge presence of Father Murphy would be encountered outside, ostensibly saying his daily prayers, but with a keen eye out for sinful stragglers. Once inside, faced with the problem of never having committed actual sins, I would make some up, so I could safely confess that I had lied. Then I'd push aside the dusty velvet curtains of the confessional, knees still shaking, and say my penance in the most heartfelt manner I could muster. The world was right again, until the same time the following week.
    - Margaret Dennis

I have a daily ritual I've grown to love: climbing the steps of our three-story house. Up 5 steps and I'm at the front door. 10 more steps take me to the landing where there are hanging chimes I like to listen to. 6 more steps and I'm at the second floor apartment door where the love of my life lives. Up 8 more steps and I'm at the landing where I shed my coat and shoes. The final 7 steps bring me to my paradise apartment on the top floor. An  ancient friend greets me there. He is a stone turtle named Joe, and he moves slowly, even for a turtle.
    - Marty Blue Waters

One of those nights long ago. My dinner on a snack table . . . one of four. Watching the Zenith, turning the numbers on the dial. Every channel showing nothing but loss. Body counts, battles raged and lost. MIAs (Missing In Action). A knock at the door. I hear a voice say "Ricky died in Nam." My friend seventeen, myself fourteen.
    - Pat Geyer

8, 11, 15, 22, 28, and if a sixth number is needed, 41. From a numerology perspective, the first group equals 3. Add the last number in and it's 8. Those are my “numbers” — representing birthdays and anniversaries. I did the numerology thing to find “the” number and for the past fifty years I have been playing all or some combination of them in lotteries or similar games of chance. And I have won bupkis! I guess I'm just lucky in love.
    - Rainbow Crow

1 is not the loneliest number. The loneliest number is 2 when 1 is missing. Missing in spirit, missing in will, missing in care. 3 is a number that carries with it great potential, but also risk. Will it become a crowd or give birth to a trinity? 4 is a holy number in most world religions. An even, solid, stable number. The basis for belief perhaps in directions and meanings beyond the ordinary.
    - Sue Crowley

Braylyn, who is 3 years old, asked me what is my watch for, as he grabbed it off my wrist and put it on his tiny little arm. I said it's to tell the time. Why, he asked. I thought about it. So many ways to answer such a profound question. I thought about whether time even exists or is it just a construct. But knowing he needs order and routine in his life I said to him: So you can tell when it's lunch time, when it's bath time, when it's bedtime. He looked deeply into my eyes. I could see him thinking and taking it in. In that moment he went from timelessness to a world of numbered restrictions.
    - Yvonne Fisher

My grandparents lived at 861 Elsemere Place, in an apartment on the second floor of a six-story building. One day I was daydreaming as I climbed the stairs and I walked right past their floor. I knocked on the door that I assumed was theirs, but it was the apartment one flight up. When a strange man answered the door I asked what he was doing in my grandparents' apartment. He said "Come in, little girl," but I could see that all the furniture was different. I stood there in the hallway and screamed until Grandma heard me and came running up to get me.
    - Zee Zahava

Saturday, January 23, 2016

It's Where My Story Begins: short pieces on a theme

I asked a few friends I know from the haiku world to share short prose pieces with me, so I could share them with others. Here they are — on the theme "Childhood Homes"

The House at 2141 Eunice Street
former northern border of Berkeley, California
by Alan Bern

2141 Eunice was the second of three family houses in which we lived in Berkeley, all three within one square block. It is the house I remember best as a young child, with the scary basement where the beer my father was making blew up.

Decades after leaving the third house and living away from Berkeley, I returned and moved with my family next door to the third house, where my parents still lived. I have lived in that house for over 30 years.

The man who bought my parents’ second house had let it run down, to the point that the front steps were so worn and splintered they had to be roped off. When the man died, his family began to restore it — this process went on for years, and eventually the construction company gave up. Then the family tore it down and built a new house.

Passing by on my neighborhood walk, I noticed that it looked like the former second house. When this house went on the market, I went to an open house; very spiffy, yet it was as if I were back in my second childhood house, almost a replica. I told the realtor, and all the prospective buyers who would listen, of the similarities. No one cared. The realtor became antsy, fearing that I was taking energy away from her selling the house.

I told them it was a ghost house. In a good way, of course.


Second Block, Third House Down
Akron, Ohio

by Barbara Tate

An older replica of my younger self, I lock myself away filling the hours, rewinding memories of Flint Avenue, second block, third house down. The pungent smell of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company, where Grandpa worked, hung heavy in the air if the breeze was right.

Through an archway from the living room was the large dining room where Grandpa's desk had its place and I was assigned the bottom drawer for my treasures. I remember Grandpa's pens, ink bottles, and the desk pad with a blotter where, once in a while, he would allow me to fill a pen. It was at this desk where I was encouraged to fill page after page of scribbles no one but me could read, and where I later practiced my letters when I began school.

There was a window seat where Grandma's canaries sang, and lace curtains hung on the windows. It was where Grandma kept her easel, oil paints, and canvasses, where I helped her make a braided rug, and where we put together a puzzle on the table. It was a room where Grandpa read me stories and Grandma recited poetry and read me the complete text of "The Song of Hiawatha."  It was a sunshine room.

Now I need a pause to take a breath, and return my heartbeat to normal as I recall Flint Ave., second block, third house down, and remember I was happy then.


Nowhere Zen New Jersey*
North Brunswick, New Jersey, USA

by Carole Herzog-Johnston

In the 1950s, Cleremont Avenue was white concrete with a line of tar running down the middle, tar that melted hot in summers. Our street was so safe; we could squat down in the middle, pull that tar like taffy and sculpt tiny animals from it. Maple trees and sycamores lined up like dancers along the avenue, swirling green, swaying rain, inviting us to climb.

Backyards, divided by yew hedges and rows of roses, were imaginary worlds inhabited by dragons and Davy Crocket. We chattered and bellowed from house to house, calling each other out into the day on chalk-covered sidewalks where we hopscotched, sailed paper boats in puddles, made mud pies. Kids skipped, skated, and cartwheeled on green lawns, shrieking like banshees, pilfering marigolds from gardens, catching fireflies in glass jars.

Names were like a ship’s manifest from Ellis Island: Herzog, Paladino, Szabadick, Busby. My father told me we were all equal and no one was better than anyone else. We mixed it up with innocent, joyful abandon.

* A line from Allen Ginsberg


Growing Up
Duluth, Minnesota

by Jo Balistreri

Growing up on the second floor of Grandma and Grandpa’s house at 1027 Lake Avenue South provided a childhood of wonder. Not only did I have the love of an extended family, but also a life of adventure.

Surrounded on three sides by Lake Superior, the only way to the mainland was to walk or drive over the famous Aerial Lift Bridge. The iron ore ships that required passage under the bridge signaled their approach with three guttural horn blasts. The bridge answered with a wailing siren. A slow process, this dialog permeated the air and gave us kids ample time to run to the harbor, climb up on the cement piers, and watch the steel girders rise into space, allowing the enormous ships to pass through. Because the harbor sat in a bowl of hills, thick fog often descended. The fog horn was another voice of our childhood, mysterious and lonely as it helped lost ships and visited our dreams.

Music also played a major role in my life. My grandma was a concert pianist and Grandpa played violin with the symphony. At night we’d gather in the living room to hear them practice. My sister and I would color, and mother knit. Dad read the paper. When it was time for bed, Grandpa would play Träumerei, or a Brahms lullaby. Childhood, a medley of sound, is the golden thread that still runs through my life.


The Rosary, Lucerne Street
Kent, United Kingdom

by Joanna M. Weston

Set among the hop fields of Kent was a small village with a post office/general store, and a pub. From the single street, I would open the green painted wooden gate, go past pink rambler roses tangled with goldenrod, and walk up a path of worn red bricks to the black front door. It was an old house, built in Kentish style with a two-storey uncompromising front, and a roof that sloped down almost to the ground at the back. Red brick and red tiled, all faded.

The rooms were small, with a front parlor and a kitchen complete with a deep "copper" for washing sheets, an uneven brick floor, and scrubbed wooden table. Here Mother piled washing, did the ironing with old flat-irons, made meringues or bread. The shallow stone sink sat below the window, which gave a view through crowding winter jasmine of hop fields, pasture with sheep, and orchards.


Childhood Memories
Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil

by Rosa Clement

My story begins in an old wooden house that had three bedrooms, a living room, and a kitchen where most of the action happened. It was located in a small dead end street near downtown, where everybody was a friend of everybody. It was natural to borrow a cup of sugar from our neighbor and pay it back sometime later.

My mom raised chickens and ducks in our backyard, and we kids often pampered one of them in our lap. In those days we walked to go everywhere — to the supermarket, to the church, to school — because they were all close to home.

My sister and I spent long hours gardening and playing with the neighborhood boys and girls after returning from school. There were no cars in this small street and we had lots of space to play. It was a sweet time.


A Nest
Chillum, Maryland

by Theresa A. Cancro

It looks so small now, but the boxy 1950s house seemed big to me, encircled by a neat, white picket fence. There was a playhouse out back that Daddy had built for us kids, complete with a pot-bellied stove. On snowy days, we'd gather inside with friends and roast marshmallows or sip steamy cups of hot cocoa.

One spring, I watched in fascination from our living room window as three blue eggs hatched in a tidy nest deep within the pyracantha bush. Over the next two weeks, I was glued to that window to catch glimpses of the baby robins and their mother in nonstop feedings. Then one afternoon when I came home from school, I found they had fledged.


Plants and Planets
Ithaca, New York

by Tom Clausen

My father worked at Cornell University, studying and teaching about plants. As a young child I thought plants must be quite important since that was how he got money to allow our family to live. In a sense I thought my existence was at least in part due to plants. But I began to recognize that people at Cornell were interested in all sorts of things. Our neighbor worked there too and he studied atoms, apparently. I was amazed at all that was going on over there.

My parents took me to the Fuertes Observatory one night to look in a huge telescope to see the surface of the moon. It was incredible to go up the spiral staircase and put my eye to the eyepiece and see that far away that close up. They had glass photo slides of planets and nebulae and I was now able to look into the night sky to see constellations and planets. I even heard that there was no known end to space. In one science unit at school they talked about the Big Bang when the universe began.

To this day I do not understand it any better than I did then, but apparently that was when it all began.


I Believe in Miracles
Moldavia, Romania

by Virginia Popescu

I have my first clear memories from a very young age — I was about three years old back then. I still see my mother, under the old walnut tree, carefully holding a soft boiled egg in her left hand, and in her right hand she held a wooden spoon.

Under the walnut, there was a long table with two benches on each side. On one of them, we used to sit down, the three of us kids, waiting for the Holy Communion, with our mouths wide open and staring at the wonderful egg.

In the middle of the table, on a wooden platter, a yellow maize porridge was shining in all majesty, sliced with a thread.

“Did you get porridge?” Mom was asking us, standing. “Yes,” we were all answering in one shout.

That’s when the ritual started. With the spoon handle, Mom was taking a bit of the white of the egg and a bit of the yolk, carefully feeding her starving children.

This was all happening after the Second World War, which had brought, together with all the other disasters, a terrible famine to Moldavia. My mother told us that the people who had a few sacks of corn in their barns were considered wealthy.

“You’ve had enough?" She was asking us, with a voice that wouldn’t have accepted any comments, and we were all answering as in the army: “Yes!”

Then, her face was glowing with happiness.

I see her clearly, a sacred image. Thin, pale, with big black eyes, with her dark hair swept back. I wonder now, after all these years, what my mother and father were eating. Maybe the rest of maize porridge left on the wooden platter.

Later on I read in the New Testament the episode of the five loaves of bread and of the five fish, without being too surprised by this miracle.

I always thought the egg that my mother was using to feed her three children was more amazing.