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.

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life, memories, non-fiction

sound your harks

New Years Day my mom took down the tree. Always, as if it was required. In a few days, though, I knew it would be Christmas again.

When I was little…four, five, six years old…we celebrated a second Christmas after the first one was done. My mother’s side of the family celebrated Christmas on the feast of the Epiphany, January 6, and for a kid, that’s great. We didn’t get presents again, but we knew after we finished the December 25th Christmas, we’d get to go to my grandparents’ on the 6th and celebrate again…cousins, aunts, uncles…eat, sing, play…food and fun!

Our memories from childhood are pictures, aren’t they?

I see me sitting with my cousins on the stairs off my grandparents’ kitchen. Laughing, making noise, keeping an eye on the grown-ups in the kitchen. I see my grandmother bustling around the stove and lots of people scattered around the kitchen table. I see the block of soft yellow butter my grandmother kept in her white metal cabinet…the silly details we hold onto.

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 giggle. 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.

life, music

catch a falling star

Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket.
Never let it fade away .
Catch a falling star and put it in your pocket.
Save it for a rainy day.


– Perry Como –
written by Paul Vance and Lee Pockriss

An old beautiful song. One of those songs you find yourself humming.

When I was in grade school, there was a boy in my grade who had a wonderful singing voice. He was a quiet boy, and good looking, one of the best looking boys in class. I was only seven or eight, too young to have crushes, but even then I knew he was ‘cute’.

We were getting ready for a performance, a concert for our parents, I suppose. All the class was to sing as a group. But this boy, the one with the singing voice, would sing this song by himself.

Our school was Catholic, so our teachers were nuns. And Sister would, very nicely, give the rest of the class an assignment. I think she asked us to draw a picture. It was clear, even to a young kid, that she needed time to help this boy practice. We didn’t mind … drawing pictures is fun enough for a second-grader, and we got to listen to him sing this song, over and over. I don’t remember anything about the performance, just his practicing.

This is where we decide as writers if we want to stick with the sweet tender memory. Or do we want reality? The reality is this boy died when we were both around 18. We weren’t close friends, but when you’re 18, you don’t expect someone you went to school with to die. But he did. I hardly remember anything about him in high school, but what I always remember, every time I hear that song, every time I think of that song, is him singing that song, with his sweet young voice, when we were both children. And me sitting at my desk, drawing a picture.

Bittersweet.

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etikser

sky

the time of the season

Last night I looked up in the sky, and saw a tiny light flicker, like a firefly, way too late for the party.

I waited….

….for another flicker.

Nothing.

So I moved my head this way and that, and stretched my neck to see more of the sky. Suddenly there were many tiny lights.

Ahh, stars of course, playing hide n’ seek with what’s left on the tall trees outside my window.

In July, August…you wouldn’t see stars in that part of the sky. You’d see the dark shadow of leaves. But we’re moving fast towards winter.

Cold nights. Leafless trees.

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