From Back in Time

I am from one-way streets lined by parked cars and houses so close you can almost touch two at once,

From Shell Gas and McDonald’s, just down the block from carryout hotdogs and 31 Flavors.

I am from a crowded ‘50s split-level,

Barely landscaped, unadorned, hearing every honk and door slam in your bed at night.

I am from the sky-high maple that shed helicopter seeds,

A patio and a patch of grass for a swing set where the neighborhood played,

I’m from homemade cocoa and popcorn waiting after school on winter days,

From Pooh sticks on the Spoon River bridge,

From Irene and Ray.

I’m from the “nose in a book” and “Don’t know? Look it up.”

From “Go to college” and “Get straight As.”

From synagogue and Sunday School, Hanukkah brachas and the Lord’s Prayer.

I’m from the Revolutionary War and Russian pogroms, pioneers and English coal miners,

From Osterizer latkes and Adele Davis whole grains,

From rope-turning seven girls deep where jumping in was your ticket to the game,

From roller-skates and scraped knees till the end of summer,

From home movies filmed under blinding light, played back with the tick-tick-tick of the film-wound projector,

From endless poses for pictures trapped in labeled albums,

Fading Kodachrome dimples, scanned and converted for another generation to treasure.


If you’re a regular reader, you know poetry isn’t usually my thing. Thanks to Freckled Foolery for the inspiration. Would you like to try it yourself? Here‘s a template and here‘s the original. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Here you go, Scribblers.

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Creating a Reader

To create a reader, you’ll need one parent, a brand-new child, and a large selection of volumes ranging from board books to the classics. Substitutions are allowed. Two motivated parents can make it easier or the child can be older, but at least one of each is essential.

If possible, begin at birth, spending long hours peering into the eyes of your newborn, between taking care of all her bodily needs as soon as they occur. Reading is a conversation between author and reader. This gazing is the first conversation of all.

By the time she can sit with support, pull out Pat the Bunny. Guide her hand to pat the fake patch of fur on the page. Repeat it so many times over the next year that you can still recite most of it twenty-five years later.

“Paul and Judy can do lots of things. You can do lots of things too.”

At six months, hold out two books and offer choice. Let her turn the pages while you read and she reaches out to pat the bunny, feel Daddy’s scratchy face, and peer into the tiny mirror.

Recite nursery rhymes as you bounce her on your knee. Sing songs in the car. Surround her with the joy of words.

Sit with a book yourself, as she plays beside you on the floor.

By one year, make trips to the library, while continuing old favorites at home.

Begin bedtime stories.

At eighteen months, try the library story hour. Then give up and come back months later when sitting still becomes a more realistic possibility. Let her see that other adults like to read too.

When she tugs on your sleeve with a beloved story under her arm, stop whatever work you’re doing. Sit down to make a lap. Use funny voices for the characters. Ask her about the pictures.

At six years old, she begins to decode independently. Drop everything whenever she wants you to listen. Let her know how amazing she is.

At eight, your child, who has always moved as if driven by a motor, suddenly sits still and quiet, lost in the world an author has created for her.

In third grade when she wants to start that series you aren’t sure she’s ready for, suggest that you read the first one together. Take turns by the page or chapter. Anticipate the ending and make predictions. Wait breathlessly together for the next volume to be released.

Pick up the novels she enjoys so you can discuss them. Continue to enjoy your own choices on the side.

In her teens, always bring a book while you wait for her at lessons, practices and meetings. Note the titles you see her bring home, but don’t say much unless she speaks first.

When she visits from college, sympathize with her course load and the boring texts she must study. Listen with rapt attention while she shares what she’s learned.

When she comes home to visit in her twenties, a working woman, hug her tight. Talk about anything and everything. When she unpacks and pulls out a book to read, you won’t be surprised.

Gallons

The first time I gave blood, I was with my teen-aged brother.

Once the nurse hooked us up and blood was flowing, I sat and relaxed. Nothing to it.

Not so much for my skinny brother. He looked pale and said he felt queasy. The nurse adjusted his cot so he could lie down.

Now this was my little brother who had tried to gross me out for years. So being a kindly sister, I tried to distract him from feeling bad by talking. I talked about the color of the blood, the tubing, and how fast the bag was filling up.

The nurse glared at me and moved between us. Honestly, I wasn’t making it worse.

Fast forward a few decades to last weekend, when we were both at a family reunion.

My sister noticed the Red Cross T-shirt my brother was wearing. “How many gallons are you up to now?”

“I just got my seven-gallon pin.” Now middle-aged and no longer skinny, donating is no problem for him.

I’ve been donating blood occasionally for years. But I’m nowhere near seven gallons. I’m going to a blood drive today. I have some catching up to do.

Blood is always needed. To find a drive near you, go to http://www.redcrossblood.org/

Motherhood: An Adventure

I was raised on music and intellect. Five years of piano lessons didn’t take, followed by eight years of violin lessons that went much better, overlapping with four years of high school choir. This was in a time before Mozart and math ability, but my parents were believers.

High grades were a must and college was in the stars. On family vacations, we traveled to historic homes, battlegrounds and museums. I got my first library card as soon as I could write my name.

Once in high school, I told my parents, “I think I’ll try out for the volleyball team.”

I was met by such complete bewilderment that I never followed through.

So my early life left a lot of room to explore.

Then I married a man who was raised on sports and fishing. Together we raised girls who got to follow their interests by the season.

They took piano, violin, saxophone and voice lessons, but with no yearly requirements.

As a Girl Scout parent, I got another chance at horseback riding. A little saddle sore, I decided I wasn’t missing much.

When they wanted to learn to ice skate, I signed up too. At 37 I found out I didn’t have weak ankles after all.

When my older daughter was bitten by the acting bug, I learned about set design, blocking a scene, and making costumes. In just a few summers, I figured out how to fake grommets, sew on a collar, and make a top hat out of purple velvet.

One or the other tried T-ball (sheer comedy for six-year-olds), seasons of swim classes, the track team (world’s worst spectator sport), even boxing.

They both played soccer. I learned the difference between a striker and a sweeper. They both danced and I trailed behind with costume changes. In Junior High one dropped soccer and continued dance. The other dropped dance and joined a travel soccer team.

When my older daughter tried out for the dance team, I met mothers who were reliving their own dancing days. For me it was all new.

Who knew motherhood was so educational?

When it came to vacations, my husband favored locations with water. My kids favored the sand alongside. Thanks to my girls, I discovered motion-sickness applies to parasailing. I learned that I hate to breathe through a snorkeling mask. But I love to zipline from tree to tree.

My older daughter got me to finally take the trip to Europe I had always wanted.  We cruised the Mediterranean, stopping at ports in Spain, Italy, Portugal, France and Gibraltar. Three years later I got to go again with daughter number two, this time including Greece and Turkey.

You might say my daughters showed me the world.

Through My Dad’s Eyes

I’ve been thinking about my dad a lot lately. When he died thirty-five years ago, grief was rough and raw. With time, it has evolved to wistfulness, occasional wondering what he’d think of this or that, wishing he could be here to see the young women my daughters have become.

I remember being small enough to reach up for a door knob. I ran to the door, calling, “Daddy’s home!”

All through my grade school years, Dad followed with his camera, for every concert, every event.

I remember his deep voice reading to us from outside our bedroom doors, long after most kids have bedtime stories, choosing books he loved more than we did like The Wizard of Oz series and The Last of the Mohicans.

I spent my teen years fighting against his overbearing control and his temper. I saw him as overprotective, always needing to control us. I rebelled. When he bellowed, I yelled right back. Where I might have side-stepped a question or avoided a conversation, I didn’t wait for him to ask. I was in-your-face honest and dared him to disagree. Which he did, of course.

My mom would say, “You’re just like your father!”

I didn’t want to have a tinder-box temper or make others feel the way he could make me feel.  Gradually I changed.

In college, I chose a field that he thought was a mistake, but the choice was mine. He had loved his college years and loved launching us on ours. My siblings and I knew he loved us and was proud of us by what we heard him say to others.

At the time Dad died, I was 21, fresh out of college and starting my first adult job. In the last few months of his life he helped me buy my first car, find my first adult apartment, start out my new life. I suspect that if Dad had lived longer, he would have continued to tell me how to live my life, but at the time he died, it felt as if he had let me go.

As my kids were born and grew, I grew to understand some of the mystery of my dad’s parenting choices. I am not the parent he was. But maybe I would have been if I had lived the life he did before I was born, instead of the secure life I did live. Maybe I would have made more of the choices he did.

When my daughters were born, I remembered Dad’s love of babies. He’d jingle his keys and try to get any little ones in his vicinity to smile.

When the moodiness and rebellion hit in my daughters’ teen years, I didn’t yell at them, but I understood how my dad might have wanted to.

When I let my kids stay up a little later and later as they got older, I came to understand the 9:00 bedtime my dad set even through my high school years. In a house with three bedrooms and six to eight people, getting us to bed had to be a relief.

When I waited up for my teenagers, I remembered Dad falling asleep as he waited up for me, clear through college.

Maybe I am thinking about him more because I am his age when he died.

I have been married longer than my parents, and more happily, I think. I parented with more freedom of choice, and my daughters turned out well. I made different choices than my dad might have chosen for me and I have few regrets.

But when I look in the mirror, I see his dark eyes and the same dark circles beneath them. I see his nose. I see hair almost as dark as his, but without the curl and not nearly as silver as his by this age.

When I look through his eyes, I see a daughter he’d be proud of. When I look through his eyes, I can feel his love.

*Edited