Tag Archives: Memories

January 1 – A Gift I Couldn’t Have Imagined

by Sara Etgen-BakerWhen I was a small child, I rose on my tiptoes and stared out our living room window, watching and waiting until Father arrived home from work. “Mama,” I hollered as soon as I saw his pickup truck ’round the corner, “Daddy’s home!” Then I raced to the front door to greet him. Although he was weary, he often picked me up and twirled me around until I said, “Daddy, daddy, stop! Pleeeease!” He eased me down; and we giggled together, walking hand-in-hand towards the kitchen where I sat on his lap while he drank a cup of steaming coffee and talked with Mother about his day.

Now and then Father stood at the front door with his hands behind his back. “Pick a hand,” he’d say. His words touched me like an electric current, for I knew hidden behind Father and buried in the folds of one of his hands was a surprise meant just for me.

“This one,” I shouted, pointing wildly. He whisked out his hand and slowly, too slowly, uncurled his fingers. Finally, there it was: a gift I couldn’t have imagined; a prize from his box of Cracker Jacks, a package of M&Ms, a silver nickel, or a feather for my hair.

And I hadn’t thought of it until now, but it seems Father’s surprises had a curious way of coming on the days when I needed them most. The days when I fell off my bicycle, broke something irreplaceable in the house or went to the doctor with a sore throat. I suppose Mother told him. Somehow he knew I needed to be surprised with a gift of love that would help bind up my broken day.

His gifts of love taught me that no matter how devastating my struggles, disappointments, and troubles were, they were only temporary. A lifetime has passed since my childhood when I stood at the living room window eagerly awaiting Father’s arrival. Yet at the end of many days, I often stare out my office window and find myself thinking about Father and his special gifts for me. Even now, I can hear the voice of Father’s love whispering in my life.

I am reminded that the deepest need of the human heart is to be loved. To be loved utterly and completely just as we are, no matter what. We respond to our need for love in a lot of different ways. Sometimes we try to be perfect in order to earn love. Or we repress our need until all that remains is a vague restlessness and yearning. But one is loved because one is loved. Love is always bestowed as a gift, freely, willingly, and without expectation. No reason is needed for loving. And there is no surprise more magical than the surprise of being loved.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

Advertisements

December 3 – Claus Creativity

by Kali’ Rourke

I begin with the fact that I am a Christian, attend church, and yes, I know the reason for the season.

That said, my husband and I decided to make Santa Claus the spirit of generosity in our house and to make it FUN! As the girls grew old enough to appreciate it, there was always a special last present from “Santa Claus,” and it was often the most desired gift on their list.

But that was not the good part, believe it or not! 

Each year Santa was left a cookie or two, a glass of milk, and perhaps a little treat for his reindeer by our daughters. He always responded with bites and sips taken from all and with a lovely, handwritten thank you note to them.

The delight on their faces each Christmas morning as they discovered the evidence of Santa’s visit will live in our hearts forever. One year there were ashy footprints from the fireplace to the dining room. Another year, reindeer prints and reindeer poop (oatmeal mixed with chocolate powder and glitter) joined the mix. (Note: Do NOT do this on the carpet!)

As they added their precious gerbils to our family, Gabrielle and Xena had to join the party and those clever little rodents shredded some festive wrapping paper to decorate their cage and managed to put some of their little chew toys into the girls’ stockings.

Time went by and Santa got messier. Sometimes he apologized for making a mess, saying he tried to clean up but ran out of time and didn’t have time to put the Dustbuster away. 🙂

The girls started admonishing Santa in their yearly notes, to “be neater!”

Inevitably, they asked, “Is Santa real? Should we believe in him?”

My husband and I were prepared. We explained that Santa was merely the spirit of generosity and giving in our home, and when the time came that they no longer wanted to believe in him, he would go away. It was that simple. They looked at each other and decided to believe just a little longer, but one year they had both expressed their doubts and so that was a special Christmas morning.

Santa said goodbye. He thanked them for believing in him so long and said he knew that their lives would be filled with happy Christmases. Then he added, “I really tried to be neat this year and even grabbed a shower, but I seem to have forgotten something important, and I can’t remember what it is! I am sure you will figure it out. Love, Santa.”

Hanging on the light fixture in the dining room, in all its red and green glory was a huge pair of Santa’s boxer shorts. Giggles galore, and we said a fond goodbye to a glorious family tradition that may very well be revived with the next generation of beautiful children.

Happy Holidays to you and yours!

Kali´Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, proud Seedling Mentor and a champion for children’s literacy through BookSpring. She blogs at Kali’s Musings where this post also appears, and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

 

_____________________________________________________

November 6 – Ode to My Gardening Gloves

by Sara Etgen-Baker

Alas, beautiful gardening gloves, I knew you well. I remember the early March day I opened the package and slipped you onto my hands. At first, you were a bit stiff and uncomfortable; but over time you softened and became my weekly companion, pulling weeds, cutting flowers, and guiding the nozzle on the water hose that allowed our foliage to flourish even during the hot summer months.

You’ve faded from our days together in the sun; the bubble grippers on your fingers are worn, and your fingers are tattered and torn and worse for the wear. I will surely miss you as I will miss the warm, languid summer days we shared together.

Sadly, I’ll soon cover my hands with my woolen mittens and furry gloves. But you’ll hold a special place in my heart as I stand on my front porch shivering and yearning for next spring’s arrival. And inside my desk drawer, I’ve placed my new pair of gardening gloves already purchased for next spring.

Each morning when I open my desk drawer, I’ll slip them onto my hands and say, “Spring’s coming. Spring’s coming.”

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

___________________________________________

October 31 – Happy Hallo-Wasp!

by Kali’ Rourke

I love Halloween.

When I was a child in Northwest Washington, it meant brisk mornings and cooler evenings with bright, colored leaves flying everywhere as my favorite holiday approached.

I spent hours deciding what persona I would let loose each year. My mother was my willing conspirator and her crafty skills and imagination created prize-winning costumes.

I dressed up for Halloween even after I moved to Texas as an adult, but it wasn’t quite the same. Embodying a Disney villainess in the heat and humidity of Austin’s 6th Street didn’t quite have that fall kick, but I adjusted, and my new town gave me my most frightening Halloween ever.

The weather turned cold very suddenly one Halloween weekend.

I realized that I needed to bring in my vulnerable plants or risk losing them. I hauled them in, hanging them in the kitchen, then I went to the front room and watched TV.

Bzzz…Something flashed by my head.

“What the heck?” I frantically searched for something to kill it. I didn’t know what it was, but it did not belong in my front room!

I cornered it at the window where it banged against the glass. It was an adult wasp.

Swack!…thud.

“That was exciting,” I muttered to the empty condo. I went back to the TV.

“Bzzz—Bzzz.” More wasps!

I hustled this time, starting to freak out. I realized that they were coming from the kitchen.

Bzzz… BZZZZ!

The kitchen was swarming. Wasps were flying in panic, hitting each other in their frenzy like a scene from a fifties horror movie!

I lunged for the patio door and threw it open, hoping they would exit, but cold air poured in and kept them inside.

I pulled on a scarf and cleaning gloves. I gingerly grabbed a can of Raid and a fly swatter. The wasps did not make it easy, but the cold air slowed them down, so I sprayed many of them in mid-air and then swatted and stomped them. The mess became immense.

I spotted one coming out of a plant I had brought in. It was a large plant, and I realized it must have a nest in it!

“Oh crud,” I thought, “What do I do now?  It has to go!”

I grabbed it with my Playtex pink, long-line gloved hands and ran as fast as I could toward the open sliding glass door. I slipped on smashed bodies of wasps on the floor, wobbling like a crazed skater. Lurching to the patio, I lobbed my precious plant into a corner!

As I slammed the door shut, wasps started to pour out of my broken plant, looking in vain for a new home in the cold. I watched in fairly unsympathetic silence since I was still shaking with adrenaline!

Later, I called my friend. told her my Halloween horror story and she laughed.

“Oh Girl,” she said, “I can just see you running around going ‘Rambo’ on wayward wasps!  And what was that get-up you were wearing again?”

It was pretty amusing, all right.. afterward.

Happy Hallo-wasp!

 

Kali´Rourke is a wife, mother, writer, singer, volunteer, proud Seedling Mentor and a champion for children’s literacy through BookSpring. She blogs at Kali’s Musings where a longer version of this post appears, and A Burning Journey – One Woman’s Experience with Burning Mouth Syndrome.

 

 

______________________________________________

October 26 – Memories and Ghosts

by Sara Etgen-Baker

In the two days since my arrival, Granddad and I exchanged only a few predictable, cursory words.

“Here’s your cereal; no milk, right?”

“Right, Granddad. Thanks.”

“You sleep okay?”

Although his silent house had kept me awake, I respectfully replied, “Yes sir. I did,” followed by, “How ‘bout you?”

Granddad Stainbrook

“I’m old: I never sleep well,” he grumbled.  “Just too many memories and ghosts.”The house became still as we struggled with what to say to one another. So we ate breakfast in silence; a silence so thick I could feel it drape around me like an old shawl. I pulled it against me as I plopped down into my grandmother’s chair suddenly aware of something else in the house, something different; a faint rustling, a soft presence of some sort. I didn’t know what it was.

Perhaps it was the lilt of Granny’s lavender perfume that lingered in the rich tapestry fabric, stirring memories of when I sat in her lap reading a book or sharing hot cocoa. Perhaps it was Granny herself. I closed my eyes and remembered that the house was full of noise and laughter when Granny was alive.

Now, though, the house seemed empty, lifeless, and unnervingly silent. I was young and impatient and needed to shatter the silence and to understand why Mother had sent me to visit my grandfather. I just couldn’t make any sense out of her cryptic parting words: “Remember, this visit isn’t about you.”

Granddad glanced up from reading his morning newspaper. “Your grandmother loved sitting in that chair and watching her grandchildren.”

“I loved sitting in Granny’s lap when she sat in this chair.” I watched his face. “It still smells like her.”

“Yes, it does.” He adjusted his glasses. “Her memory keeps me awake at night.”

“The silence at night frightens me and keeps me awake.” I choked back the tears.

He slowly raised one eyebrow and fumbled for words. “Why…uh…uh…why are you afraid of the silence?”

“Because the silence just makes me miss her more.”

Granny Helen Morain Stainbrook

“I miss her too.” He peered over his glasses. “In the silence, I hear her voice and feel her spirit rustling through the house. In that silence, I don’t miss her as much.” His chin trembled and his voice cracked. “I’m terribly afraid I’ll lose her forever if I don’t keep the house silent.” After another moment’s silence he mumbled, “Like memories and ghosts, she quietly lives in the silent shadows of both of our lives.”

“You’re right, Granddad,” were the only words I could muster.

We hugged one another; Granddad shuffled off to his bedroom. Nothing more need be said.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

_______________________________________

October 1 – A Fading Memory

by Sara Etgen-Baker

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / Veneratio

It was a perfect autumn day. Far enough from summer to have lost the heat and not close enough to winter to have that bite of cold. I slipped into a lightweight jacket and stepped outside, smelling the sweet air that was all around me. The rising sun had dyed the sky purple and gold; the rain had stopped, and the clouds had disappeared. But there was a chill in the post-dawn air reminding me that winter wasn’t far away. I walked down the street, and the crisp autumn breeze welcomed me like an old friend.

I could almost see the wind, for it seemed to move everything slightly like it was in control of the whole earth. Crisp copper leaves fell, and I watched them fall off the trees that gently swayed in the wind. Ahead of me, leaves tumbled from weary branches, twisting and rocking as they fell through the almost still air.

A single golden leaf caught my attention as it pirouetted down an invisible spiral breeze, spinning through the air as it let itself be carried down. It shook slightly as if it could’ve been whisked away any second by the grip of an icy wind. But it kept floating down the twirling course, blowing past my face and landing lightly on the ground. It was so delicate; I wanted to reach down and pick it up and hold it close to my heart, smoothing out any creases. But something told me that it belonged here, this corpse of what was once summer.

I meandered along the promenade, torn between keeping my eyes high to watch for falling leaves dancing their way to the carpeted ground or looking down to spy on the crunchy ones. Suddenly, the wind shifted to the north, and my hair whipped into my eyes carried by the now brisk autumn breeze. Wind like this amazes me with its chilly blend of cinnamon and warm spices, carried by whispers of comforting winter fires yet to come.

Leaves continued raining down; “lively blends of red and orange softened the hard edges of the coming cold season into a picturesque transition. Although the sun is still bright, still brilliant in the sky, it is cooler now even on the days that lack clouds. I shivered deep inside thinking about how autumn days fall by as fast as the leaves from the trees. The sun rises and sets as if on fast-forward as if there is some divine hurry to reach winter.

Soon every bough will be only brown, and the fiery colors they brought us will dim to a fading memory. But I will remember autumn, grateful that she showed me how beautiful it is to let things go.

A teacher’s unexpected whisper, “You’ve got writing talent,” ignited Sara’s writing desire. Sara ignored that whisper and pursued a different career but eventually, she re-discovered her inner writer and began writing. Her manuscripts have been published in anthologies and magazines including Chicken Soup for the Soul, Guideposts, Times They Were A Changing, and Wisdom Has a Voice.

_____________________________________

September 24 – Trauma’s Shadow is Rage

by V.J. Knutson

The author at the time of the incident.

“…he had always been popular and happy and things had always worked out.”
(Holly LeCraw, The Swimming Pool)

I close the book, feeling the rage shifting just below my sternum. It’s the second time this week that words have elicited this response. The first was an online post and the author had written something about how gently we come into this world; a man, of course, whose lack of birthing experience allowed him to think glibly about such beginnings – and, I know otherwise.

Flesh tears from flesh.

Pain builds and peaks and in a bloodied push of exasperation life emerges.

I’m not discrediting the miraculous. Birth is miraculous. And in time, joy overshadows the trauma, and we conceive again. This, too, is a miracle.

Maybe it is all this talk of he said/ she said dominating the news; women daring to call out their abusers. The ensuing backlash.

I named my assailant. Included his address, and full details of the abduction. Then buried the memory, and self, in a well so deep it wouldn’t emerge for fourteen years; knife-edged fragments butchering my complacency. Memory works that way.

No charges were laid, no subsequent trial; the judgment occurred on the spot the day that they found me, missing overnight, in a state of shock. I had asked for it; my clothes, the unfortunate choice to attend a bar underage, the willingness to get in a stranger’s car with friends. The defilement was my fault. How could I not bury it?

Happiness is desirable – no different for me – but I am also a realist/cynic; and life does not unfold in candy-wrapped sweetness. It stumbles along, meets with obstacles, and demands that we look within. To say that someone has lived an unmarred existence, as suggested in the quotation above, is just laziness on the part of the author. This is not truth, so why write it?

Life commands character.

Real life, that is.

The rage subsides. I’ve said my piece. I turn the page.

V.J.Knutson is a former educator, avid blogger, and grandmother. She and her husband are currently traveling cross-country in a 40-foot motorhome. Originally from Ontario, Canada, V.J. hopes this journey will provide healing for her ME/CFS, or at the very least, inspire further creativity. Find her online at One Woman’s Quest.

______________________________________