Embroidery of Hope

peacockWhat was it I hoped for–
a sixteen year old
who was usually more interested
in volleyball than sewing–

when I French-knotted
salmon flowers and
stitched royal blue and lime
into a flowing peacock’s tail?

Was I thinking of a handsome husband
and happily ever after,
of a houseful of giggling girls
and Gerber baby boys?

I’m sure I didn’t imagine
sleepless nights with a critically ill baby
or what we would do
when my husband lost his job.

I also never envisioned
the thrill of twin grandchildren
jumping up and down by the window,
shouting, “Grandma’s here!”

I had a vague idea of my
hoped-for love and life,
but not an inkling of the
down-and-dirty daily press.

Now, the regal peacock reminds me
that my forever is still in the making,
and thanks to sacred covenants,
I should continue embroidering hope.

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Time Traveler

family in front of car

I am an “emissary from a vanished world,” (1)
a world of photos with scalloped edges,
a realm where my mother wore house dresses
and baked cookies for us when we got off the school bus,
a place of black-and-white television
and neighbors listening in on party lines,
a world where ten year olds could take off on bikes
for whole afternoons of riding around town
or gallop off on ponies for a picnic.

 

It was a time when enemies lived in faraway places,
like Russia and China,
but no one worried about getting shot by other kids at school
or by neighbors at the movie theater.
It was a world of American Bandstand and I Love Lucy,
a world that went crazy for a British boy band, The Beatles.
It was a place of piano lessons and band practice and junior prom,
a world where we could temporarily lose our parents
because there was no cell phone tracking.

 

 

[1] From Sparrow. “The Art of Aging.” The Sun. April 2017.

 

 

De-clawed

vanilla-the-cat

From her cover

behind the euonymus,

deadly talons

lashed out.

Dogs cowered

and even people

paid homage.

Behind a screen

of grape vines,

she crept, inching,

black ninja silent,

tail beating a slow,

metronomic trance,

eyes, burning coals,

then, bam!

a small bird lay dead.

 

Now,

the deadly

killer skulks

inside the garage;

snowy tufts of hair

fall out in clumps;

mice no longer

skirt the yard;

the graveyard

of feathers

is gone.

Today,

she mews

in her refuge,

a shadow

of her former

assassin-self.

 

 

My mother-in-law,

no less vital

than the cat,

used to wield

a wooden spoon

like a wand,

conjuring up gravy

and mashed potatoes

that caused people

to moan and swoon,

bringing down the

brawny defenses

of hulking

farm workers

with rhubarb pies

and whipping cream.

 

 

Now, ancient,

like the cat,

her world is

a room

peopled with

recurring memories,

memories

of days gone by

where truth

and fiction

intermingle,

of a time

when her spatula

was a spear,

her frying pan

fortress.

Unspooling

spools

Photo courtesy of Laurel Leaf Farm http://www.laurelleaffarm.com/

Great grandma Angie’s box
overflowed with wooden spools
left over from dresses and drapes,
quilts and petticoats,

wooden spools worn smooth
by girls and boys
making towers and towns,
ammunition, and counters for games,

remainders from hours at the treadle,
the thread moving up and down,
unwhirling from the bobbin
during countless hours

under Grandma’s able hands,
unwinding yards of pink and baby blue,
pristine white and practical black,
threads now absent from the spotless spools.

Breaking Out of the Bathroom

With the kids back in school and a flotilla of SUV’s in the school parking lot, my mind naturally turns to . . . autumn leaves? Actually, I remember how happy I was to graduate from the poop patrol to driver-of-kids in the big blue suburban.

“My burp is bigger than yours!” my son Shane bragged one day en route to T-ball.

“Well, listen to this!” said his friend Matthew.

“Get ready. This one will be humongous,” Shane replied.

Believe it or not, this conversation was music to my ears after the weekend I had endured. Give me belching! Give me rock music! Give me braggadocio baseball teams to haul around! Just please, please don’t put me back on the poop patrol.

To tell you the truth, I had forgotten about the poop patrol, or at least I had mercifully relegated it to a dusty, forgotten corner of my mind. All that carpooling must have numbed my brain. Until . . . my four-year-old niece bounced through the front door with a flip of her long chocolate curls, looked up at me with eyes that can melt your heart quicker than a new puppy, and said, “Aunt Judy, where’s the bathroom?”

Those words were like a heavy finger on the rewind button of my life. My mind quickly reeled backwards through gymnastics meets, piano recitals, basketball games, and baseball practices until I landed in the bathroom with wet wipes in one hand and a bottle of Lysol spray in the other.

I was on patrol again—the poop patrol. In less than 24 hours, this little pixie needed a bath, a shower, and a thorough scrubbing in between. I cleaned poop off the tub, the toilet, the floor, and the carpet in the next room. Plus, I did two extra loads of laundry.

Yes, it was deja vu.

“How was your day, Honey?” my husband used to ask.

“Fine, if you like sitting in the bathroom all day.”

“Are you sick?”

“No, but it’s a miracle I’m not.”

Really, our bathroom was not a bad place, but sometimes I was sure there were bars on the windows. With two barely trained boys, ages two and three, and a new baby, it was probably the most-used room in the house.

First thing in the morning, I changed the baby and powdered her cute little bottom. Then I escaped to the couch to read the morning paper. Before I got past the headlines, the boys pranced out in their jammies.

“Potty, potty,” the two year old said.

Dutifully, I ran him to the bathroom and waited while he did his thing. A few minutes break and a whiff of the baby told me it was time to go back to the bathroom. Then it was the three year old’s turn. Of course, he was scared to stay in there all alone, so I was trapped for another ten minutes or so.

Do you get the picture? I escaped every now and then, but each respite was temporary. The bathroom was my office, my home, my life. I made phone calls sitting on the edge of the tub. I read magazines while perched on the counter. I longed to jump in the car and go for a ride.

Hah! I got my wish. I became their on-call taxi driver (without the pay). I drove kids to driver’s training and to work and to the store. “Mom, I have to have the poster board tonight.” And to their friends’ houses and to the library. “Mom, it’s important. I have to be there in five minutes.” And back to their friends’ house and to practice at the school and even home once in awhile.

It was enough to drive a person crazy. But don’t get me wrong. I didn’t complain (not much anyway) because it was a giant step up from the poop patrol!