life, non-fiction, personal writing

her smile

August 25, 2019

I was busy with myself, getting settled. Thinking about this and that. I don’t really like the hand-shaking. Seems unnecessary, but it’s what you do. So I turned to the left. To a young girl, around ten. A tender age. And a face looking up to me with sweetness and a ready smile. Then the mom. Like her daughter, a smile full of joy. A smile that went all the way to her eyes and to the far reaches of her face. Yes, some faces wear a smile end to end, and that was hers. No averted eyes, no reticence. A full smile, eyeball to eyeball. And her face was radiant, beautiful in the most natural way. She wore a black wrap on her head.

I turned back to myself. Who knows what I was thinking.

Time passed and it was time for our row to get up. The father, dark hair, maybe in his 40s. The girl. And then the mother, using a cane. Her pants, khaki slacks, the kind with a gathered waist, were easily three sizes too big. Like she’d lost 30 or 40 pounds. She didn’t look strong, as if walking was a struggle. There are times in life when reality smacks you in a flash, straight to your core. I don’t know what we’re supposed to feel, I’m not sure I could describe what I did feel. It felt numbing, and stunning, overwhelming, sad, desperate.

We made our way back. I think her face wasn’t smiling anymore. But it was beautiful in the most natural way.

life, memories, non-fiction

sound your harks

New Years Day we’d take down the tree. Always. Like it was required.

But, in a few days, I knew it would be Christmas again.

When I was little…four, five, six years old…I knew we’d celebrate another Christmas after the regular one was done. That’s just the way it worked in our family. My mother’s side of the family celebrated Christmas on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6. For a kid, that’s great. We didn’t get presents again, but we knew after we finished the first Christmas, we’d get to go to my grandparents’ on the 6th and have fun…cousins, aunts, uncles…eat, sing, play.

Our memories from childhood are pictures, aren’t they? That live on in our psyches.

I see me sitting on the stairs off their kitchen, laughing, making noise, playing with my cousins. I see my grandmother bustling around the stove. The kitchen table with lots of people scattered around. The soft butter my grandmother took from her white metal cabinet. Oh, the frivolous details that stay with us.

Then there’s the boxy living room. Two couches. One against the wall with the TV. A second couch on the opposite wall. And a single small picture hanging over that couch, Jesus knocking on a door.

My five uncles are gathered at the couch by the TV. Four of them sitting, looking up to the uncle who is standing, facing them. Directing them. Sort of like their choir director. They’re singing Christmas carols, harmonizing, and the rest of us are on the other side of the room, the audience. Now it’s time for Hark the Herald Angels Sing. They need to get in tune because the song starts strong, with a hark. The uncle who’s directing asks them to sound their harks, and they do. Hark…hark…hark…hark. Again. Hark…hark…hark…hark. That’s when they start giggling. Yes, grown men can giggle like little girls. So my uncle repeats, a bit sternly, sound your harks! And they go for it, this time with bad, goofy bad, silly harks. At that point, it all falls apart.

And we all laugh til our sides hurt.

January 6…sound your harks.