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Posts Tagged ‘mothers’

Cutting The Cake, Amelia's hands cutting the cake, the day she turns 70, Central Pennsylvania, photo by QuoinMonkey, November 2007, all rights reserved.

Cutting The Cake, Amelia’s hands cutting the cake on the day she turned 70, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I’m sitting in Amelia’s kitchen. The smell of homemade chicken and dumplings spins across the room. My brother and sister-in-law stopped over for breakfast. Amelia made Canadian bacon, grits with butter, crumbled bacon and sharp cheese bits, scrambled eggs, scratch biscuits, orange juice, and French Roast.

My sister-in-law had us in stitches over a story about a trip to the Outer Banks in North Carolina. We were cracking up over our second cup of coffee, and it reminded me of all the rambunctious activity, laughter, and fun that’s taken place in this kitchen. Mom has lived here over 40 years. I find it comforting that she has the same Ma Bell wall phone with same old-fashioned  “ring” and the same 20 foot coil of cord that extends all the way across the kitchen so she can chat while she cooks.

In this fast-paced world, it’s nice to be able to go home.  And for home to still be there. Home and hearth were so closely connected in Mom’s generation. And many generations before her. These days a family is lucky if even one parent can stay at home, much less the whole family sitting down to a home cooked, family meal around the kitchen table at the end of a long day.


Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.    Balloons On The 70th, Mom's Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Mom turned 70 last Saturday. She’s seen a lot of change. The week before, my brother called with an idea to fly me home. My five siblings chipped in to buy a ticket from Minnesota to Pennsylvania so that I could surprise her. Everything went like clock-work, from pre-Holiday ticket prices, to flights, to coordinating busy schedules. It was meant to be.

It was so hard to stay at my brother’s for two days without calling Mom and spoiling the surprise! The first surprise was the party with my 4 brothers, 1 sister, and all of the extended family. I didn’t get to see this part, when she walked in with a huge smile on her face (I was hiding out in an appliance box!). She hugged everyone, my sister placed the tiara on her head, and she sat down to open presents. When my sister gave the verbal cue, “It’s too bad QuoinMonkey can’t be here.” Out I popped, arms spread, singing Happy Birthday off-key from a wrapped, bowed and ballooned, dishwasher box where I had been hiding the last 20 minutes.

Who's Inside The Box?, Mom's 70th Birthday, Central Pennsylvania, November 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey's nephew. All rights reserved. Mom burst into tears. I was soon to follow. I’d never seen her so surprised! (She’s very intuitive and we were rarely ever able to keep any secrets from her when we were growing up.) We exchanged a long hug. The whole family poured into the kitchen, and dove into all the homemade Southern food. There was banana pudding, pork barbecue, beef barbecue, hushpuppies, biscuits and sausage gravy, black-eyed peas and rice, sweet tea, lemon meringue pie, and a glorious birthday cake. (Hey, all family, please chime in in the Comments if I’m forgetting anything!)

Home and hearth. What matters to you? Each time I come back home, the grandkids, nieces, and nephews are taller, the parents and siblings are older. Health fluctuates, situations challenge and change. Home connects me to the past, and forges the future. It’s as if everything I ever did tumbles through a parallel universe. It’s good to spend time with my family.

Happy Birthday, Mom.


-posted on red Ravine, Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

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I’m more haunted by the things that haven’t happened, than I am by the things that have. Half worn radials rumble over the railroad tracks near Winnetka and Bass Lake Road, wipers slap another day of dreary fog and rain; I drudge up the things that haunt me. Porcupine quills in tender skin.

There were no trains in the distance. I thought of Liz’s photographs of mustard engines, rusty graffiti, barrel shaped cabooses. She stopped at a crossing to take a few shots; there were two other men there, shooting the trains. One carried a long tripod, stood firm with his son. The train backdrop blurred behind them.

It’s comforting to me that people still love what is old, what is dying, what has passed.

Nostalgia. I’m haunted by nostalgia. I don’t have many regrets. I’m not a regretful person. I try to make amends. And live with the fact that I made the best decisions I could, for the time and maturity. If I’m going to cut myself that break, I have to cut others the same.

I’m haunted by not knowing. Not knowing what will happen to Mr. Stripeypants. He’s clearly in so much pain and cannot tell us why. Not knowing the right decisions to crucial questions about my future – about money, writing, teaching, art. That haunts me.

There is risk in moving into new territory. It makes me uncomfortable. Do I have the strength and stamina? Or will memories of failure continue to haunt me.

I’m haunted that I didn’t go to my Grandmother Elise’s funeral. That is one regret I do have. I would do things differently now. I would love her, hug her, call her and ask all the questions I never got to ask.

I was 29. Maybe 30. Insecure. I remember when I got the call. No cell phones then. The phone clamored and rang. She’d had another heart attack and passed away. I cried and cried and cried. Sandwiched between Bitterroot Mountains and Big Sky, I drove the cherry red Subaru wagon all the way down to Hamilton, Montana. I cried some more.

I wasn’t thinking about the beauty. And Montana is a beautiful place. I was haunted by everything I had missed. The connections broken. I was grieving my grandmother. I was grieving the past. I wanted to let go. How could I let go of something I had never fully claimed?

I visited her graveside with my mother, Amelia, last June. It’s across the Savannah River on a slightly sloped hill, in a wide open, ancient cemetery, along the border of east central Georgia. A silk lily had flown loose from another grave. I picked it up, thought about placing it on hers. But then I noticed the tipped container near the flat granite stone of a stranger’s grave nearby, and slipped the lily back into the brass vase.

Empty-handed, full-hearted, I sat with Elise for a moment. It was brief, short. Silent. My mother was there. And my step-father, Louis. We visited a lot of gravesites that sweltering day in June. And I taped a lot of memories.

Last week, I started transcribing them. Each day, I stretch out with headphones attached to my laptop and listen to wav files, voices from the past. I laugh. I cry. I type. I rewind to catch obscure snippets of Southern drawl. I think, “This is my life.” I am not haunted. I feel a great relief to know the bits of truth memory has to offer.

I’m haunted by not knowing. By what I have yet to do. Not what I have done. The haunting is fear, I know it. And I use all the tools in my arsenal to work around it, move through it, sit with it, even in it, when that serves me best.

I know I have to go to these places. I’m willing to risk feeling. Deep, intimate feeling. In return, I understand what it means to feel joy. The payoffs are big. The gamble is great. I could fail. I could make a wrong decision, the right one for the time.

Speaking of time, it’s up. Rain pelts the windows near my desk. Billowing gray clouds give me a feeling of longing. Can I live with the past? Or not knowing the future? If I’m present, neither of them matters. My grandmother is with me every day. I can always go home.


 -related to post, WRITING TOPIC – HAUNTED

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Blue Light Special, downtown Minneapolis from the car window, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Blue Light Special, downtown Minneapolis, shot from the car window, August 3rd, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I’m a creature of the night, a night owl all the way. On Friday afternoons, I’m pondering the wonders I’ll accomplish when daylight melts to dark. Maybe I adopted the tendency from my Mother. She was a night owl, too. And on a recent trip to Georgia together, we’d be up all hours of the night, writing and working on the family tree.

When I was younger, Mom and I would watch Lou Grant (who I saw in a guest spot on Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm tonight) on the Mary Tyler Moore Show,  or Sam on Bewitched; then I’d give her a peck on the cheek goodnight, and head to bed. I had school in the morning. But the highlight of Mom’s day was just beginning – blessed time to herself.

With six kids, she never had a moment’s peace. Unless she slipped into the bathroom of our small ranch-style home for a long soak in Avon lavender bath beads and SkinSoSoft. Or stayed up late, riveted to a Lauren Bacall film until “This Is A Test Of The Emergency Broadcast System…” echoed down the hall.

In the 1960’s, baths and late night television seemed like the only options for busy mothers to have time alone. I’m probably projecting all kinds of things on my Mother. All I know is I have no idea how she did everything she did, and still managed to keep her sanity – unless it was to steal a few moments after the sun went down.

As for me, I just plain love the night. And her shroud of darkness. It’s quiet. And still. The light is fuzzy and falls around me in rusty yellows and browns. The focus is warm, far less than sharp, and sooths my restless heart. When the rest of the world is lights out, a whole underground culture emerges. I love to go out photographing the city at night.

Thanks for reminding me, ybonesy, my 6a.m. friend, how much I love the twilight, the space between day and night, the sullen gaps of light that blanket the night dwellers.

Around sunset, when the light shifts and the moon peeks her ashen head over the oaks, I’m buzzing with electric energy. Except for tonight, when I find myself needing rest. The clock strikes 12 in a midsummer night’s dream; it’s been a busy month. And I have an early day tomorrow.


 –Night Owl posted at Midnight on red Ravine, Friday, August 10th, 2007

-related to post, A Morning Person


UPDATE: the building with the blue neon ring is the top of the Fifth Street Towers I.  The bottom photo on the link shows both towers at night. Fifth I is a little shorter than Fifth Street Towers II which was built later. See discussion in the Comments of this post.

Here’s a link to all the buildings on the Minneapolis Skyline: Buildings of Minneapolis. If you click on each of the links you can see photos of the buildings.

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 Edges, Thursday, June 7th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

-Edges, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 7th, 2007, all photos © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


It was 96 degrees at 5pm. Mom and I did a quick geocache in Martinez, Georgia, right off of Columbia Road and Buckboard Drive. Geobrother, who has logged more than 1000 caches, gave us a few tips. I have barely learned to use a GPSr. Mostly I depend on Liz who easily navigates geocache land with stealth and grace.

When we got to the cache site, Church of Our Savior stood in the middle of a drive around circle. Cars were parked on theLabyrinth, center detail, Martinez, Georgia, June 6th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved. grass, edging their front bumpers up to the hedge. We spotted a cool resting place next to the path and grabbed a pen, handwritten directions, GPSr, and Canon gear. When we turned the corner past the hedge, there it was, a beautiful brick paved labyrinth. Mom knew it was there because she had been talking to my brother earlier. But I had not been clued in. I was gleefully surprised.

I told Mom about walking the labyrinth at Carondelet as part of my practice during the writing Intensive last year. The pattern at Church of Our Savior drew a familiar map – a medieval replica of the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral. I couldn’t have been happier. Mom immediately spotted the high resting cache, Inward Peace, from the edge of the labyrinth. Liz will be ecstatic. It’s our first cache in Georgia.

Geobrother’s map of found caches goes all the way up and down the East Coast. Liz’s goes from East to West – Maryland all the way out to Wyoming. And now we can add Georgia. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll grab a cache in South Carolina before we leave for the far north on Saturday.

Oleander, Augusta, Georgia, June 6th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.For those who love labyrinths, there is a great tool out there called World-Wide Labyrinth Locator. You can type in a zip code, city, country, or state and up pops a list of addresses and descriptions of labyrinths in the area. Some have photographs and there are details of the architect and model, and whether the labyrinth is grass, brick, dirt, concrete, painted, mowed, or buffed.

We didn’t have a chance to walk the whole labyrinth this afternoon. Though I did take a few photographs of Mom winding toward center. The brick red against summer green created high-contrast beauty. The surrounding inner path was lined in oleander. Only the evergreen leaves were present but I was taken by their shape and beauty. Oleanders are also poisonous and loaded with myth and history. My mother knows all the plants down here, most which bloom in stunning and fragrant color. I have spent much of the trip asking her detail names of plants and trees.

Magnolias, miniature gardenias , crepe myrtle, mimosa, yucca, and lantana to attract the butterflies and bees, are only a Lantana, Augusta, Georgia, June 6th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.few. We saw a brilliant lantana yesterday when we stopped to see a home that had been in my family. The same woman Mom met last year when she brought my youngest brother down was standing outside the house, tending her plants.

“Remember me,” Mom laughed. And the woman said, “Yes, sure I do,” as she walked toward the car for a chat. She said she used to visit her own grandmother in the same house.

I asked her if I could take a photograph and she graciously agreed. When I stepped behind the chain-link fence, the squat, bushy lantana was to the left, covered in dipping butterflies and darting, fat bees. And that’s when my step-dad and mom piped up about the nickname, Ham and Eggs. I kept being amazed at their knowledge of the plants, trees, shrubs, and flowers surrounding them. It reminded me of what Natalie said about knowing the trees in her neighborhood, about paying attention to the details of our environment. It’s important to know what surrounds us in earth, sky, and water.

I felt glad my parents were in tune with the history of the land around them. And I knew they had passed that down to me. I felt joy at spending that kind of time with them. As an adult, I have come to appreciate the unpredictable and solid makings of a family. For the hundreds of times in my youth when I wanted to run the other way, there are only moments left to discover what I might have missed.

Brick by Brick, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 7th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

Brick by Brick, labyrinth in Martinez, Georgia, June 7th, 2007, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


Friday, June 8th, 2007

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A train whistle howls in the distance. I hear it every night at the same time. A night owl growl out the window. It comforts me. A ritual I’ve come to expect. Hearing. Ears. Sights. Smells. The smell of the sweatshirt I’m wearing, a combination of both me and Liz.

The taste of the sweet tea on the nightstand by the bed. Brushing my teeth with the pocket-size Crest, flossing in the morning on the way down the stairs, rubbing my hand across the cool oak banister. Coffee. French roast in the morning. While I am travelling it’s been International coffees with vanilla cream. Stirring, There is the ritual of stirring.

Travel rituals – checking emails, grounding on red Ravine, text messages from Liz, voicemails from home. Mostly I write late at night. And still try to get some sleep. The work here is exhausting. The rewards are many. When I am on a road trip, the rituals are different. I sometimes drive in silence, no radio. Mom fell asleep on the passenger side while I was driving through North Carolina on the way down, much needed sleep. I simply drove in the peacefulness.

Sometimes we talked, too, and caught up, and listened to old country like Patsy Cline and Merle Haggard. And Mom said she knew Brenda Lee when she was a kid. Lee’s family lived close by and she walked into the Winn-Dixie one night where Mom worked as a teenager.

I haven’t been home in a few years. I took advantage of the travel time to fill in the gaps. Other times, I slept and she drove. Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Pennsylvania. We landed here, near the Savannah. Rivers are grounding for me. The Savannah is the boundary between Georgia and South Carolina. It seems I have always lived near trains and rivers.

Something I’ve noticed when writing memoir, digging for gold, is to be around places, landmarks, music, and food that you want to write about. When you interview people, take them to these places, play the music, go out and eat the food. It excavates the memories even more when the senses are stimulated. Memory is connected to ALL the senses.

Daily travel rituals, the things I do every single day: shower, wash my hair, shave my legs, brush my teeth, put on clean cargo shorts and a T-shirt, walk down the stairs, drink two cups of coffee, eat a light breakfast, check email, check the blog, call Liz, usually morning and evening, write, take notes in my Supergirl notebook, check my horoscope, comment on the blog, make the bed, make sure I’ve got a pen and tablet in my pocket when I go out of the house, carry my camera and voice recorder.

I sit in silence first thing in the morning, and last thing before bed.

Everything in its place on my piles on the bed. I restore order before bed. Where Liz would normally be resting are notebooks and cords and camera bags and photographs I’ve collected from long lost relatives. Articles my mother has set aside for me to read, history travel books, information on the family tree. Maps and the TV remote. My bifocals fall from my wrist when I hit the tired wall and land right where they fall until morning.

I check the odometer when I drive. I try not to let the gas tank get too far below a quarter left in the tank. When we drove out to Clarks Hill and stopped for gas, a local rolled down his window and commented on Mom’s license place. It has GRITS (Girls Raised in the South) in part of it. He was a gruff looking guy with a scraggly beard and green baseball cap and scared me at first when he started yelling out of his beat up Ford pickup.

He wanted to make a point to ask me as I went to pump the gas, “Hey, does that mean the same thing up there that it does down here?” I laughed and said, “Yep, we were both raised down here. You can’t take the South out of the girl.”

At the moment, I’m finding it hard to concentrate while I write. So I want to gravitate toward making lists. It’s 1am and I have to get up fairly early. Time to myself is precious. So is time with my mother and my step-dad and uncle.

Time is a strange thing. You never know when you might not have it again. I keep digging. And the well is deep. It’s the daily rituals that keep me sane.

Wednesday Morning, 1am, June 6th, 2007

-from Topic post, Rich in Ritual

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Magnolia, June 3rd, 2007, Augusta, Georgia, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

 –Magnolia, June 3rd, 2007, Augusta, Georgia, all photos © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


The magnolias are blooming in Georgia. And the mimosas, wisteria, Spanish moss. I don’t have to dig all that deep. Everything falls into place the minute I ask. My body is tired; I am holding all this in my brain. The 5th Street Bridge, one of the first Coca-Cola bottling plants, the haunted pillar, Richmond Academy.

Broad Street, one of the widest streets in the United States, and Green Street and Reynolds Street. Walking through Magnolia Cemetery where my great, great aunt is buried near her father who was a soldier for the Confederacy; watching my mother walk down the leaf crackling road with a plucked magnolia in her hand, laughing and smiling and content to be back in the South.

Chris Craft, June 3rd, 2007, Clark Hill Dam, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.Riding in the Chris Craft along the shores of Clarks Hill Dam. Calling the aunt I haven’t heard from since I was one or two. Hearing her Southern drawl on the other end of the line and knowing she’s related to me, bloodlines, blood kin, though I haven’t seen her in 50 years. It doesn’t matter. Before she hung up, she said she loved me. And I believe her.

My step-dad seems the happiest I have seen him in years. It’s as if he has a new lease on life. I ask the questions, we drive by childhood homes. He calls me Shug and tells me about Audubon Circle and the minute my chubby, two-year-old hands squeezed his cheeks and asked, “Can I call you Daddy?”

Hearing my uncle talk about our ancestors in the Civil War, photographs and relics lining his den, on shelves, and in drawers. Arrowheads and 400 acres of family farmland, and an island near Brunswick that can be traced all the way back to King George the Third; there’s proof on a letter that reads:


GEORGE the Third, by the Grace of God, of Great-Britain, France and Ireland, KING, Defender of the Faith, and fo forth, To All To Whom These Presents Shall Come Greeting: KNOW YE, THAT WE of our Special Grace, certain Knowledge and mere Motion, have given and granted, and by thefe Prefents, for us, our heirs and fucceffuors, DO GIVE AND GRANT unto…

And the letter is signed by the Surveyor General and the Governor in Council and dated April of 1763. Back, back, back. I listen, should not be surprised. All that history and the shape of shovels digging through the mind.

The things I carry are:

a Canon Powershot, an Olympus digital recorder, a trusty wirebound Supergirl notebook, a bag of Sharpies, Dell laptop, LG cell phone, cords to connect and connect and charge, two weeks worth of clothes, a 4 GB memory stick, black Adidas slingpack, camera bag, two sets of bifocals, a rolled family tree, water bottles, maps of Augusta and Georgia and South Carolina, a couple of rabbit fetishes, a lion, a turtle from Wyoming, and questions, yes, all those questions fall from me like curled rain.

Ameila's Magnolia, June 3rd, 2007, Magnolia Cemetery, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.

              –Amelia’s Magnolia, June 3rd, 2007, Magnolia Cemetery, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.


I carry the scent of magnolia, the purple of the martin, and the energy of all the ancestors, and I want to say I know what I’m doing, but I don’t. I have faith. I follow my nose and my heart and people seem to open to me. I watch generations before smile down on me, and generations to date, heal and let go. Soft kisses to the cheek and hugs all around. I am astounded every moment.

Tomorrow it is another trip to Clarks Hill Dam to meet my aunt who I found out helped her parents build the house I stayed in after I was born (and had photographed only hours before I called her). And I’ve located Mrs. Juarez but do I really want to spill the beans? Or should I save the story for the meet and greet.

Soldier, My Great, Great Grandfather's Grave, June 3rd, 2007, Magnolia Cemetery, photo © 2007 by QuoinMonkey. All rights reserved.I step across generations of sandy brown pine needles, past homes of Georgia brick. The land is red iron clay and the memories are mine. There is so much to say and too little time. I wanted to get something on the page, anything.

I wonder how long it will take me to sift the strainer and see what pours on to the page. It will not be everything. Only what is essential. Yet gathering these pieces leads me to feel complete.

It’s hard to explain what it’s like. All I can say is if you get the chance, go back and ask what you need to know. And write it all down. It is healing. It’s like discovering gold in a deserted mine where you thought the canary had sung her last note. But when you take a chance, and risk dropping down, you find the gleaming vein against a backdrop of emeralds. And somehow you know each line uncovers a rough-cut diamond made from thousands of years of lumpy coal, shining just for you.

Monday, June 4th, 2007

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By dzvayehi


I didn’t have to even think about this. My favorite shoes are my fuchsia high tops, which I bought at Ross’s a few months ago. In fact, it already makes me sad to know that some day these shoes will be a thing of the past, the red suede is already getting worn out and faded in places, especially around the toes. That’s because I wear them all the time, even in the rain and snow and mud. And then there was the time I picked up a bottle of lotion in Big Lots and the top fell off and the stuff spilled all over the left shoe. I was so upset I ran to the bathroom to try and blot the stuff off with scratchy paper towels. I’d only had them two weeks, and it felt kind of like that first accident in your brand new car. I even stopped to talk to the cashier, threatening to sue the store if the stain didn’t go away when they were dry. I remember how she leaned over the counter with a puzzled look on her face, looking at my fuchsia high tops.

But I want to tell you more about why I love them. First of all, they’re that bright playful color, and the day I saw them, they screamed at me, “here! We’re over here!” and I put them in the little top part of the shopping cart and wheeled all over the store with them. I kept looking over my shoulder too, certain that someone else would probably covet them and that I had snatched the last pair. But then I saw another pair, and had a moment of doubt. Maybe they weren’t so special after all I began to think. But then I looked at them again fondly and just knew I had to have them, especially since they were just 10 bucks. Then there’s the arches too, soft and cushy and lots of support. And the way they fasten – laces on the bottom, and two velcro straps running across the tops. The really good part about this is that I can slip them on and off without unlacing them and I don’t have to smash down the heels.

Which brings to mind mules. I was over fifty before I discovered mules – those dorky looking sneakers that have no heels. But come to think of it, I guess they are not heels are they? What I mean is the back part of the shoe that rides up over the heel. High Heel Sneakers, I think that’s my favorite shoe song. But why hasn’t anyone written a song about platform sneakers? You know the kind I mean – the ones that have a two or three inch platform running the entire length of the shoe. Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen a pair of high heel sneakers – do such things exist? But what I really want to know, is what do you call that back part of the shoe, if it isn’t the heel. And now I’m thinking of all the opportunities I had to ask this question in fancy shoe stores I used to shop at and in dry cleaning places that do shoe repair. But I never asked, never even thought to ask, assuming as I did then that I knew all there was to know about shoes.

I guess I’ve always liked colorful shoes, bright things on my feet that make me feel like dancing though I haven’t danced in many years, and don’t really like to dance except with my dogs. Just last summer I bought a pair of cyan platform thongs. They made me about three inches taller (this is important) and were such an electric shade of turquoise that I felt neon when I wore them, not to mention, tall. I think I picked those up at TJ Maxx for $2. But just when they were starting to get comfortable, I left them in the living room one day and when I got home, found that one of the dogs had chewed the heel on the right one. He took off about a half inch or so, and when I wore them to the grocery store that night I found I was limping.

But my favorite shoes of all times were the deep purple/royal blue/wine red two-inch heels I spent $75 on in 1989. I’d never spent that much money on shoes before, but these had me hypnotized, and they were that soft creamy leather that you love to touch. I used to take them any time I traveled, in case I had to get dressed up for something, and for some reason I even took them home with me when my mother died. It was the middle of February, light slushy snow on the ground in the cemetary, and I left them in the closet that day. Following the service, our house would be filled with visitors, and my brother had locked all of his dogs, including his new puppy, in my bedroom to keep them from messing up the house.

When we got back from the graveyard I went down the hall and to my room to change into the black kaftan I wore each day of shiva that week. And as I went to the closet to find a pair of slippers to replace my wet boots, I saw the damage. Just one shoe, the heel mangled to where the white plastic showed through, like the shiny bone of a piece of raw chicken. The other shoe was perfectly intact, and I felt like everything, my mother, my shoes, my life, was slipping through my hands. And I felt stupid and guilty too, for grieving over a pair of shoes. The puppy wriggled at my feet and wagged her tail but I was still pissed. I took the chewed up shoe to three shoe repair places, but each man shook his head sadly, like he was giving a prognosis for terminal cancer, “nothing to be done,” they said. I think that might have been the last time I spent more than $40 on a pair of shoes.



LittleRedShoes

Fuchsia High Tops, photo © 2008 by dzvayehi. All rights reserved.



About writing, Diane says:  They say we create our own realities. What scares me most about writing is I see myself creating my own past. I have been working on a memoir on and off for about six years now, more off than on. It began when I told my brother, as he was dying, that I would publish his paintings and poetry. It seemed so simple a thing to do at the time. But then, when I began to think seriously about it, I felt that I would also have to write something about who he was. And so I began my writing journey, taking workshops and joining writers’ groups, telling people I was working on a memoir about my brother.

Then people began asking if I was writing about my brother or myself, and soon, I began to ask myself the same question. I also began to realize that as much as we may love someone and think we know them, they are still an unfathomable mystery in the end. And with each step further down that path, I found there was a story in me that wanted telling too.

The more I write the less certain I am about what I remember, and sometimes I am left wondering who was living those lives I thought I had witnessed. I’ve taken workshops that talk about theme and character development and story arc and plot, and I have looked for these elements in my story and am still looking. As my own story unfolds, through writing and therapy, I am often surprised and humbled by what I learn. Most of all, I am grateful for the actual gift my brother gave me – the path of writing. Even if I never complete either story, or never publish, writing has brought so much into my life, especially the other writers I have met, in workshops, groups, and in books.


-related to Topic post, WRITING TOPIC – THESE BOOTS ARE MADE FOR WALKIN’

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A writer friend of mine who lives in Colorado is visiting New Jersey this week for her Aunt’s 100th birthday on Saturday, November 4th, 2006. A whole century. The birth of radio, TV and Internet, two World Wars, countless unnamed battles, and the death of the Ford Taurus, have passed over her lifetime.

One hundred years – 100 year old Bones.

Bones are one of the oldest musical instruments known to mankind. Made from the Musical Bones, maple - photo by Bob Devellis, released into public domain - Though originally made of the ribs of goat, sheep, or cow, most modern Bones are made of wood.ribs of goat, sheep, or cow, musical Bones date back 2.5 million years and have been found all over the world, from South India to Mongolia, and the Celtic regions of Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England, France, and Spain. Imagine – 2.5 million year old Bones.

Bones are connectors. Sturdy and steadfast, dependable and strong. Bones sing.

When was it I began to listen?

The bones of my mother, Amelia, will turn 69 on November 10th, 2006. I flew out of her womb in the hot, sultry July of 1954. She wasn’t even 17 years old. She married my father, Clarence Jerome, because she had integrity. Not because she was pregnant with me. That would come later. In the 1950’s, you married out of principle. And divorced only as a last resort.

I’d better get to Snyder’s Drug on Winnetka Avenue to purchase a card. As with Della Elise, her mother before her, Amelia taught me that the written word, Hallmark poetry, speaks louder than the spoken. The torch has been passed. I am a writer. And once a year, as the crow flies, words mutate over the 1205 miles between glacial Minnesota’s muddy Mississippi and the rocky banks of the Susquehanna River in central Pennsylvania.

Words have power. Words set intention. Writing harnesses the power of words. Then spits and splashes them back out over imagination and page.Writer’s Hand, illustration from 1918 edition of Gray’s Anatomy, image public domain

I received a post card in the mail that writer, painter, and teacher, Natalie Goldberg, will be celebrating the 20th Anniversary release of her now classic book, Writing Down the Bones, on November 11th, 2006. Three weeks earlier, in late October, along a lonely stretch of New Mexico called Half Moon Road, the seed for IncusPress was planted on a few acres of open desert near Blueberry Hill.

Synchronicity? Or lineage.

The #10 bone, Incus, middle of the chain of three, connects us as writers. Middle bone. Middle Way. There are no accidents. Writers live inside the snappy, spongy, middle bone in the inner ear of small mammals. They operate out of stinky, waxy “between” spaces, the steamy hell hole pits where no one else dares to roam.

What doesn’t kill you about being a writer, will make you stronger. I can say I am a writer. Or I can live, eat, sleep, and breathe writing. Active. Passive. Present perfect. Past perfect.

Future simple?

Imperfect subjunctive. If I’m going to make good on my promise to write down 100 year bones, I’d better get cracking. I am strong, silent, bent and broken. And I want to be heard.

Friday, November 3rd, 2006
 

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