HISS

David DiBenedetto from Garden and Gun magazine says that dog people are the best kind of people. He’s welcome to his opinion but them’s hissin’ words if ever I heard ‘em.

He’s can take a swat at me but there’s an insinuation regarding my cats in that statement that I don’t like. At all. I’d sic my cats on him, but they’re asleep and have no interest in what others think. See, they know, I mean they really know, that they rule. So why does anyone else’s opinion matter?

It matters to me because I am devoted to cats and have been for over 50 years. Never had one I didn’t love to bits and pieces. Now, I know that dogs do things like deliver your slippers (good dog) or your newspaper (good dog). Cats do, occasionally, bring you the newspaper, but by then it’s been clawed and shredded into, well, I hate to say it, but into bits and pieces.

We have an obsessive-compulsive Cat. If, in his opinion, there is something on the kitchen counter that doesn’t belong, off it goes. (You’re telling me your cat gets on the kitchen counter? With his feet?? Yes, they all do.)

It’s best if the out-of-place object has something in it…water, wine, .…or is breakable (that’s the very best).   But he’ll settle for anything. A jar of vitamins, a magazine. Bad Cat, we say. Why bother? He doesn’t care.

Lest you think poorly of this Cat, he is also the one who refuses to eat until both he and his food have been blessed. His idea, not ours.  He was a stray, picked up entirely by accident by the Humane Society. He has set his own rules, trained us well and we behave accordingly. He’s a charming boy.

Any book about cats…and there are lots of them…. will tell you that if you have a cat in your house, a statue is unnecessary. There is such incredible beauty in their sleeping, dozing, stretching, just being Cat.

To say nothing of the joy finding Cat tucking himself into your arms in the middle of the night when you can’t sleep. A purr is worth a thousand Ambien.

I know. You don’t need to tell me. I’m a little compulsively-obsessed. Just like Cat. I like it that way. I’m pretty sure my cats do, too.

At least during those short periods when they’re awake.

 

Carolyn

Early on, I told you I’d introduce you some people I’ve known. So, with no further ado, here’s Carolyn! She was one of those rare birds who supplied her friends with endless joy and laughter….usually at her own expense. One of her many wonderful qualities was that she truly lived “in the moment.”

We had known each other well during our years in Ohio. Later in life, she moved to the Villages in Florida. Shortly after that move her husband of many years passed away.  She mourned deeply but maintained her joy in life.

This particular “event” occurred several months after his death.

She’d just returned from a cruise with friends, was tired, had not unpacked a single thing and was getting ready for bed. The phone rang; a friend who lived nearby asked her if she’d like to go to a movie. Of course, she’d love that, she said. She simply didn’t know how to say no if it involved being with friends.

There was one caveat, however. She wanted to drive her own car so she could get a good parking spot. She was tired and didn’t want to have to walk too far to the movie theater.

When the movie let out, her friends went on their way. Carolyn went to get her own car. Except she couldn’t find it. Now it was dark and she couldn’t remember just exactly where she’d parked anyway. (That could happen to her in broad daylight, too.)

Two young men were sitting on the curb. One said; “Lady, are you looking for a silver SUV?” She allowed as how she was indeed doing just that. They told her that the sheriff had towed it away.

Why, she asked, would they tow away a perfectly good car that belongs to an old lady?

They had a simple answer. “Because, Lady, you parked in the intersection.”

Now, I venture to say that most of us would panic. How will I get home? When can I get my car back, and how? How much will it cost? Who do I call? Will I get a ticket?   For parking in an intersection? Will my insurance go up?

Not Carolyn. She sat down on the curb with the young men and thanked them profusely for their help.   Whatever would she had done if they hadn’t been there to tell her what had happened? She wanted to pay them for their help. They said they couldn’t take her money.

Well, did they have girl friends? Yes, they said, they did. Would they let her pay for a dinner date with their girl friends? No, they couldn’t do that either.

Then could she at least have their names and make sure that the Village newspaper knew of their good deeds? (She was going to find a way to thank them if it took all night.)

They agreed that would be fine. At last, things were looking good. She might get some sleep after all.

Then one made a terrible mistake.

He lit up a cigarette.

Now, remember, she’s tired, has no car, no idea how to get home or how to retrieve her car, her phone is still in an unpacked suitcase, her friends have gone home, but now something much more important has happened. One of her new friends is smoking! And at such a young age.

I fear the young man got a long and impassioned lecture on the evils of cigarettes, the damage to his lungs, the potential for a shortened life, money spent poorly on cigarettes, yellowed teeth and every other smoking bad you can imagine.

I don’t really know when she got home, or how. At that point, the one and only thing on her mind was to get this nice young man on the path to a long and healthy life.

Car?? What car?? People always came first for her. New friends or old.   Didn’t matter. She was there, in the moment, and she had work to do. Everything else would eventually, and always did, fall into place.

Sadly, Carolyn, has since died. We all, who knew her, miss her like crazy.

The Boys on the Bus

So there they were. Nineteen of them. Lacrosse players and their coaches. Big, strong, fit, healthy and hungry. Very hungry.

They arrived on a Greyhound bus. Watching them get off the bus was like watching Shriners clowns climb out of a Volkswagon beetle…except there were more of them and they were bigger….much, much bigger.

We knew they were coming. And we knew we were going to feed them.

So, we went to Sam’s to buy “in quantity,” as they say. The pickle jar alone was too heavy for me to pick up.

We’d been warned that they eat a lot….a whole lot.

Question: What’s a lot?

Answer: Think big and then add more….a lot more.

So we did. We bought 60 hamburgers, 40 hot dogs, 100 cookies, many pounds of mac and cheese, dozens of devilled eggs, jars of chili con queso, tons of fruit and sacks and sacks of chips and pretzels.

Nicer young men I’ve never met. To a one they were thoughtful, appreciative, (yes, cute, too). When they arrived, we gave them Easter baskets and sent them on an egg hunt. We were prepared for groans but they smiled and took off like rockets in search of plastic eggs. The one who got the golden egg with real money in it shared it with his teammates.

The fact that one of them is my grandson didn’t sway me one little bit. I did do a little of his laundry but that was his only perk.

When dinnertime came, they ate it all. Every bite of it. Gone.

If only we’d known, we woulda bought more.

We certainly coulda bought more.

We definitely shoulda bought more.

My reward….and it was a great one…was that each of them gave me a hug and a thank you as they climbed back on the bus and took off.

They won their game the next night. That was the icing on the cake.

Obviously, we shoulda bought one of those, too. A big one. A great big one. What were we thinking?

OBSERVATIONS FROM THE SET

Some years ago, I was involved in the production of a small independent film, Emma and Elvis. When the director asked if they could film a few scenes at my house, I was thrilled.

Should I redecorate? Paint the house? No, they tell me, that’s not necessary. They’ll find a few spots in my house and yard. I’ll hardly know they’re there.

I offer to perform the morning craft services (in movie lingo, craft services is breakfast and snacks….not lunch…..there’s a big difference.) I can certainly buy a few muffins and fire up the Mr. Coffee. Well, they say , there will be about 20 of them and I should seriously consider two large urns of strong coffee, many muffins and a variety of juices. Movie people need a jump start.

Okay…..I can do this graciously if not on a slightly larger scale than I’d originally planned.

8:45 is the appointed hour. I’m ready! The juice is chilled, the muffins are fresh, coffee’s hot (no Styrofoam cups, please….this group is ecologically correct.) But there’s no sign of anyone anywhere. Where are they? I know from my brief experience in this business that things can change in a minute. Did they change their minds? Are my colors wrong? I’m getting nervous.

Suddenly, I hear cars…no wait!…I hear vans, cargo vans, moving vans, passenger vans. They’re here! They come into my house with their wares: cameras, wires…..large, black snaking wires,….screens, batteries, sand boxes, sound booms.   They are grateful for the coffee, etc. and say so, sipping and nibbling as they interdependently and individually go about their work.

I’m sitting graciously in my living room, waiting for their approval and decision on the scene. Suddenly, I realize they’re setting up in the garage. THE GARAGE??? For Heaven’s sake….no one ever suggested that. How will I ever explain this to my mother? But yes, it’s true….not one but two separate scenes in my garage. I don’t even ask why…..I don’t want to know.

But in due time, they move to the back yard. OK, it’s still not my living room but it’s a far cry from the garage. I’m more thrilled than ever when I realize that it’s MY back yard that has been chosen for THE poignant, final speech by the lead actress and that all is in readiness for Take 1.

Shooting a scene requires total silence…..no movement, no whispers, very little breathing.   We’re ready.

Suddenly suburbia explodes. A large golden Labrador jumps into the yard ruining Take 1. She’s collarless and nameless and not at all deterred by more than one gentle pat on the rump to send her on her way. A walk with her though the neighborhood turns up nothing. The only solution: the local police who arrive with their staticky police radio. Scratch Take 2.

The mailman’s mufflerless jeep intrudes on Take 3.

Cicadas do in Take 4 and airplanes ruin Takes 5 and 6.

An innocent lawnmower drowns out Take 7 and two people trimming a tree blast Take 8. We track them down but they insist on seeing the set. Scratch Take 9.

Take 10 looks pretty good but they’re a little concerned about a neighbor’s air conditioning which came on in an untimely fashion.

The afternoon brings them inside. I watch them work, some in advance of a scene, some with follow-up work, listening to the cries of “Locking Up”, “Rolling,” and “Cut” reverberate through my house. It’s serious business and no one takes a minute to relax. They appear choreographed and in tune with one another.   They are professionals and apprentices, working closely together.

Very little in my house is NOT moved.   They shoot three separate scenes and seem pleased.

Suddenly, it’s 5:00 and they’re gone. My house looks as though they’d never been there….cleaner nearly now than before. I took no pictures and have only a memory of watching them work so passionately and with such dedication.

I am grateful that at 5:15 when the neighborhood church bells ring for a wedding that no takes are destroyed and we don’t have to send a runner to ask for “Quiet on the set.”

The Tale of the Traveling Grill

During many of the years we lived in Oakwood, Ohio, we didn’t own a grill and have just, in recent weeks, acquired one. Our first in over 20 years.

For some reason, during that grill-less time in Ohio, we needed one. Our oldest son, who lived a mere mile away, had a grand one. Nice big side arms to hold the food, implements, drinks, and so forth. Multi burners. All kinds of nifty bells and whistles. As it happened, they had access to a truck that week-end and were pleased to loan us their grill.

Whatever we did with it worked out just fine, we didn’t ruin it and everyone was happy.

The time, of course, came to return it. At that point, access to the truck had gone away and we were left with a problem. How to get the thing home. There seemed to be only one way. We would walk it there. The wheels on that grill were not for nothing. It was, remember, a mere mile away.

Two obstacles stood in our way (well, really there were more than two but in our zeal to get the thing home, we ignored them.) The first was the fact that the mile that stood between us and our son’s house was quite hilly. The other was that getting to their house required crossing what is known as Six Points, Oakwood’s largest and busiest intersection. It’s not only Six Points; it’s six lanes.

Undeterred by the realities, we charged ahead with our plan. My husband manned the grill. He put on a billed cap, hoping to achieve anonymity, should our actions be spotted. I followed in my bright red Volvo, front and back warning lights flashing, license plate CATMAX, well known to all in our little town. No anonymity there. But then again, I wasn’t the one walking the grill.

We were doing quite well and made it to Six Points without incident. Being on one of the side streets, we naturally had to wait a spell to get the green light. Finally, it looked like we were next in line. We’re pumped and ready to go. Six lanes it is.   We can do this!

Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw our middle son’s car approach the Main Street intersection. Further, I saw him see us. There was no place to hide. We were cooked. He made a sudden left turn from the main drag onto our little side street, rolled down his window and said things to us that still hurt, deeply, to this very day. I can’t repeat them here and will only tell you that references to “old fools” and “obvious lack of good judgment” were made.

I told him in no uncertain terms that all of his unnecessary ranting and raving had caused us to miss the green light for which we had waited so long and so patiently and now we would have go all the way through another extended traffic light sequence thereby putting both grill and car drivers at further risk for problems which we had brilliantly avoided to this point and that if he so much as breathed a single solitary word to anyone or anybody about what he’d just seen he should consider himself disowned and no longer welcome in our home.

My threats were not taken seriously.

We received phone calls with messages that, as above, shall not be repeated here. I will only say that questions regarding our sanity were posed in many forms and sometimes, we felt, in unnecessarily harsh and inconsiderate ways. At least those which we could decipher through choked laughter, which we also deemed to be unkind and thoughtless.

Well, I ask you? What would you have done? I mean when something’s gotta go, it’s gotta go and that grill had to go. It got home; no one was harmed in the process and, now, 20 years later we have our very own grill! Could you ask for anything more?

Them.

It’s nighttime. I have adjusted my blanket, just the way I like it. Gently pulled up to my chin, ever so soft and warm.  Sleep comes easily.

Later in the night, I wake. Cold. My blanket is at the bottom of the bed. It’s become a nest. For them.

They have entered stealthfully. Together. Thick as thieves. Which is exactly what they are.

They stole my bankie.

If I’m lucky, they’ve left me enough to cover one leg. I struggle back to sleep.

At some point, one of them says to the other, let’s sleep on her. You take the small of her back, I’ll get on her legs.

After a while, I wake. No feeling in my feet. This is not good at my age. I need circulation. I push the offenders off. They’re persistent. Back and forth we go. They win. I sleep. Again. Fitfully.

Later, the bed quivers and shakes. It wakes me. It’s them, of course. They’re stretching and limbering up for a nighttime snack. But they’ll be back. Soon. I know.

On and on it goes..…only dawn and their feral need for breakfast will break the cycle.

Later in the morning when I gently fold the well-loved Ann Arbor Blanket, I can see that Oscar needs a thorough brushing and Basil’s front claws could do with a little trimming.

Trust in the blanket. It holds the evidence and the story of the nighttime thieves.

Going, going, gone?

We’ve seen it coming. It’s been like watching a train wreck getting ready to happen. Whistles blowing, cars stuck on the track and nothing we could do about it.

It’s the extinction, demise, disappearance….whatever you’d like to call it ….of the dining room table.

I’m not smart enough to analyze the elements that are wrapped up in that one little thing but I’m pretty sure it’s important.

I don’t care where the table is…dining room, kitchen, family room…or what it looks like….plastic, wood, counter-top, a board on top of a bunch of bricks. That’s not what matters, of course. What matters is that families eat together, talk to each other, look at each other….not to their phones, lap tops or televisions.

I know you see it when you go out to lunch or dinner.…..families with their faces buried in their electronics. Families…in cars….on their phones….sometimes texting to the person sitting next to them!. Families at the beach…..fingers on the phone, not in the sand. It’s everywhere.

I’m not saying it’s easy, that families don’t try. I think they do. And sometimes they succeed. Not all is lost.

Kids have after school programs, athletics, play dates and so much more. Their lives are full of challenges. All those things take a toll on the opportunity to just be a family. Or, to just be. Life is so busy and programmed for young families. It’s especially hard for single parents. I have no idea how it will play out. I’m not sure anyone does.

I don’t know about you but (ever so long ago) when I was driving the children from point to point, they assumed I was invisible and had lost my ability to hear, so they talked…to each other. Oh, the things I learned that I needed to know.

Didn’t we gather information just by the tones of our kid’s voices even if the questions were the old classic ones.” Where did you go today?” ”Out.” “What did you do?” ”Nothing.” We learned to hear paragraphs in those two words.  Siri’s good but she can’t let you know your children’s feelings. And there’s so much parents need to know these days.

Remember when we’d say: “If only that table, that old chair, or those walls, could talk?”

Now so many of them have no stories to tell.

 

 

EGGSTRA! EGGSTRA!

The chickens are here!

They arrived last Frieday via Fed Eggs. Their delivery was delaid by the frigid temperatures of late.

I must confess I’m a little worried. The coop our neighbor built is quite salad but it’s out in the open and it wouldn’t be difficult to poach on the land and help yourself to an egg or two.

Shirredly, no one would be devilish enough to do that. My blood would boil over if that happened.

I guess omletting my imagination get carried away here. It’s easy to let your mind get a bit scrambled when you’re feeling protective about those precious little chickens.

But the good news is that they are indeed here now.   There will be time spent getting to know them, coddling them, patting their soft little feathers. When they finally go to their coop, they’ll all have names and personalities. We can hardly wait for the first egg to be laid.

So that’s my story, and I’m chickin’ to it.

 

PS. If you even remotely care, there are 16 really stupid puns in this thing. Two are a teensy bit obscure. There are no prizes. And I should probably be punished accordingly. Ooops…now there are 17.

PPS. I am almost, but not quite, desperate enough to say this is no yolk.

 

 

Thoughts on listening

        

Years ago, my husband had the great honor of working closely with Dr. George Gallup of the Gallup poll. They were involved in a world-wide survey together and in the process became friends. I was a beneficiary of that friendship as the Gallups graciously invited us, and our children, to join them in the Bahamas more than once.

They had a simple little cottage on a small island…..too small for us to stay with them. Their kitchen was the size of a large closet and Mrs. Gallup’s favorite, if not only, entertaining dish was hamburger soup. We had it often.

Dr. Gallup had a new gizmo….a radio that supposedly put him in contact with the world. The fact that he couldn’t make it work didn’t diminish his fun. If he even got close to making contact, he would puff up with joy and pleasure. Mrs. Gallup would always say “Oh, Ted, you think you’re so good” (that was her nickname for him) and everyone would giggle. Imagine, laughing at George Gallup, but he made it impossible not to. He’d join in, knowing that he really had no idea what he was doing.

For their stay on the island, they always brought all their old newspapers and magazines and made their way through them. Their lives were as simple and steady as the tides.

On the nights we were invited to join them, we would stay for a while after dinner. The children would sit on the floor, gathered around Dr. Gallup.

Now you might think he was telling them stories of his big, broad, and fascinating life…and there was certainly much to tell.

But that’s not what he was doing. He was asking THEM questions about themselves. What did they like, not like, who were their friends, where would they like to travel and on and on. Question after question. He was listening and learning…. not teaching or telling. It was so refreshing. The children loved it….and they loved him.

Neither Dr. nor Mrs. Gallup had an ounce of ego. It simply wasn’t in them.

They’re both gone of course, but they were, in their own ways, mentors to both of us.   I know we can’t hold a candle to them or their generosity but they’re in our hearts to stay.

I can cruise, too….a postscript

Who knew there could be so many questions but there were. I’ll try to answer them as best I can….this was a long, long time ago, remember. The good news is that Sue, travelling companion, college roommate and friend, has, I believe, an “eiditic” memory…she forgets very little. She is my resource for these attempts at explanations.

As to the trip itself, Sue’s father was in the shipping business so he made all the arrangements, knowing that we were always in good hands. He also made arrangements for us to have real jobs in London which kept us off the street from 8am until 5pm most days. That was no easy feat! We were actually paid!

We started our life in London at their YWCA, found it a bit confining (understatement) and were fortunate enough to find a small flat in Kensington which was perfect for us….close to fun and inexpensive restaurants, beautiful parks and Harrod’s. Couldn’t afford to buy anything there it but it sure was fun to wander through.

Both of Sue’s parents had dear and good friends in England who knew we were going to be there and had agreed to be our guardian angels should there ever have been a problem. They saw to it that we had good weekends….garden parties, and so forth…to attend and to have, in general, a wonderfully rich and cultural experience while we were there.

The cricket bats were obtained at a cricket match at Lord’s to which we went with a mutual friend whose Rugby classmates were there. Sue later gave her bat to him. He went on to be Ambassador to Egypt during a really tough period. Sue’s bat was signed by Nigel John Frederick Cartwright, who, because of his height, had to serve as a Buckingham Palace guard before he went to University. Apparently he still lives in Sussex and one of Sue’s English friend’s daughter baby sat with his kids years ago! Mine has no signature but I kept it.

The pornography most likely got left on the Steel Fabricator. I expect we kept a book or two as shock value for our college friends but I can’t be sure of that.

We believe that we missed our rendezvous with the Keystone State because it picked up other ports of call and since cargo, not people, was its mandate, we got left behind.

The Steel Fabricator, our return “ride”, was built in 1943 and scrapped in 1974. It participated in the invasion of Okinawa in 1945. If you read its history, it had more than one grounding and on-board fire encounter. Glad we weren’t part of any of that!

It was an extraordinary experience, no doubt about that, and one that could not be had in this day and age, I don’t believe. I am personally grateful to Sue and her family for providing us with the opportunity and the memories.

I can cruise, too.

It’s that time of year. I listen dreamily to the beautiful cruises our friends are taking. Fabulous ports of call, elegant staterooms, exquisite food, warm climates.

Now go back a few years in time and envision a giant grey freighter, named The Keystone State. On board were a large steel and metal working crew, three passengers and not a single lounge chair.

My college roommate and I watched as our parents took their appropriately concerned last looks of us as we descended into a dinghy from the New York harbor, puttered out to the freighter, climbed up a steep rope ladder and were off to the other side of the Atlantic.

I don’t remember our sleeping quarters but staterooms they weren’t. The crew, as it turned out, could not have been nicer. They introduced us to Cuba Libras which we drank on a somewhat regular basis, in spite of our tender age. We had, actually, a lovely crossing.

We had planned to return on the same freighter with the same crew at the end of the summer so upon disembarking we asked if we could buy something for them to give to their wives, girlfriends, whatever. Perhaps a lovely scarf, some French perfume. No thank you they said but as long as we were going to be in Paris for a few days, could we pick up some pornography for them. Oh my….not what we had in mind. It wasn’t difficult to find. We just felt a little awkward buying it.

And then we felt even more awkward when we read it. That stuff made Fifty Shades of Grey look like Blueberries for Sal.

We had a lovely summer, working in London. Then the time came to return. At that point we had no money, a satchel full of pornography, two cricket bats,(that’s worth a thought or two), a pint of rum, a firm date to be back in school and we missed the boat! And there was nothing on the horizon that appeared even remotely accessible to get us home.

But my roommate’s father came to the rescue and got us space on another freighter, The Steel Fabricator, out of Bremerhaven, Germany. By that time, I was covered in hives and we reluctantly used the rum to ease the itching. We were also dead-heading…..think bar of Ivory soap tossed into the rough Atlantic Ocean.

We made it to Greenland and picked up fire trucks. Ballast is good and relieves that bouncy sea-sick-making thing. We were unaware of the Air Force Base when we got off the ship for a couple of hours. We met men who had not seen a female in way-too-long. Sue got five marriage proposals; I only got two.

College seemed a bit parochial when we returned. But the memories are good and that’s what matters.

Who’s cold?

I am. Almost all of the time. There’s either too little heat or too much air conditioning. Our cars are stashed with extra jackets, sweaters, scarves, socks, hats…you name it. I have to be armed and ready.

Ask my family. When we sit down at a restaurant table, they know to check the silverware. Not to see if it’s clean but to see if it’s chilly to the touch. If it is, pity the poor person who seated us at that table. There will be a change….maybe more than one until The Cold One is as warm as possible. Requests to turn up the thermostat will be made. The position of overhead fans will be noted and avoided. Trips to the car will most likely be made to gather extra clothing. It’s not easy being them.

It’s been a particularly cold winter….as all of us here know. Naturally, this results in a war of thermostats in this old house. That which was built over 200 years ago and was intended as a summer house is, simply put, drafty. The mere word sends me into shivers and a world of complaints.

I don’t for one minute believe the thermostat. The other one who lives here tells me it’s new and trustworthy. But he’s not cold. I am.

I tell him that the air coming out of the vent feels like air conditioning. He says it’s heat. But he’s not cold. I am.

I suggest we crank things up a bit. He says when we go into auxiliary overdrive or something like that the electric bill goes sky high. I don’t care. See, he’s not cold. I am.

I walk around like Linus wrapped in a blanket. I scoop up a cat to sit in my lap. I find a spot of sun.

Start to warm up. Hmmm….feel so cozy and nice. Getting hungry. It takes a lot of energy to be cold all the time. Want comfort food. Ice cream. A bowlful. A big bowlful. Breyer’s French Vanilla. Yummm.

Rats. Now I’m cold. Again.

Where’s our mail?

We are having trouble, right here on the river, getting our mail. It’s a long story and not worth going into but when you don’t get your mail, especially bills, you don’t pay them because you don’t know when they’re due or how much you owe and then things like phones, electricity, and water get cut off because you didn’t pay the bill you didn’t get and didn’t know you were supposed to.

That’s issue number one.

The second issue is that I am a born and bred West Virginian and we own a little land way back in them thar hills.

The issues are connected because we get tax bills from the state….or at least we are supposed to but because of our mail problems we aren’t getting them and so we aren’t paying the taxes and in West Virginia they get all huffy about that stuff and put those little tracts of land on the auction block and my father would turn over in his grave if I didn’t pay the taxes and lost that little piece of land in his beloved West Virginia.

So. My kind husband, who tends to these details, suddenly realized that the taxes on said piece of land are most likely seriously overdue.

Hence he made a phone call to get some help. The phone call went something like this:

Hi. I don’t think that we have our tax bill or the paperwork to figure out how much we owe you on that little tract of land that’s under my wife’s name.

Let me check, sir. It looks like we sent all that out several weeks ago and you should have gotten it by now.

Well, you see, we’re having mail problems. Could you re-send the materials?

I’d be happy to but the material we sent you that you didn’t get was the wrong material.

I see….well, could you send us the right material?

I can’t do that right now.

Why not?

The forms person is on her lunch break.

That’s okay. When she gets back, perhaps she could send the correct ones electronically.

No, I don’t think she can do that.

Why not?

Well, she’s still in training which is why you were sent the wrong forms which you didn’t get and I don’t think she knows how to do that electronic stuff quite yet.

I see. How long has she been in training?

It’s only been a couple of months. She’s making good progress but these things take time.

But our taxes are due and we need the paperwork to figure out how much we owe you.

Yessir, I can see that you have a problem but there’s not much we can do about it here and anyway if you didn’t get the wrong materials, how will you get the right ones if we send them to the same address?

You make a good point.

Is your wife Mr. Morris’s daughter?

Yes, she is.

He must have been such a nice man. I didn’t know him but everyone still speaks so kindly of him. Did you know he sent us candy on Valentine’s Day?

No, I didn’t know that but it sounds like something he would do.

Well, let me see what I can do for you.

Thank you. I would very much appreciate it.

End of conversation. We still don’t have the paperwork but hope springs eternal.

One thing I know for sure. We’re sending candy on Valentine’s Day. And maybe after that the forms person will know how to send things electronically. In West Virginia, candy can be a fine motivator. We’ll see.

 

 

A Ghost Story. Act Two.

My mother’s presence in the form of the sweet odors continued, following us through each of the four moves we made after her death. (There were no more brownies, alas.) I began to look forward to them as a means of communication and healing with her. They came to us less frequently and some of their strength was lost, but they were still very much with us.

Then something unusual happened. Not too long after we had moved to Bluffton, my husband was on his regular Sunday run to Starbucks. When he got home, he said that HIS mother had been with him in the car! She adored gardenias….could grow them year round…and he said it was as though a massive bouquet of gardenias had been pleasantly pressed against his face. It was her signature flower and perfume……no question that she was with him. A first for both of them. He was pleased and honored.

By now, of course, having experienced unexplained “smells” for so long, we didn’t, even for a moment, question the origin of the gardenia event.

That night my mother visited……for an hour! Unheard of. Truth be told, I was more than a little concerned about those two back-to-back and very unusual occurrences.

The next day, my husband went for his normal bike ride. What wasn’t normal was the accident. He was hit by a car….t-boned….and thrown four or five feet into the busy Bluffton Parkway. He was barely harmed but, by all rights, he should have been killed. The bike was totaled.

Coincidence? Did our mothers know something we didn’t but of course had no way of letting us know, of warning us? No texting, no voice mail…..nothing. Had they put their heads together and done the best they could? Kent’s mother through the gardenias; mine through a prolonged visit? Did they sit down with a cocktail….my mother, a light scotch and water, please; Kent’s mother, with her beloved vodka martini, (easy on the vermouth,) and try to find a means to alert us?

Of course, the bigger question is: were they responsible for his survival? And for my joy and indescribable relief?

There are no more sweet smells at night. It’s a genuine loss for me. Perhaps even bordering on grief. Crazy, huh? I know that’s what you’re thinking about this whole story but everything I’ve told you is true. I can’t tell you why or how all of this happened because we don’t have answers to those things. But true? Most definitely.

So the curtain comes down on this particular play. We, of course, don’t know what might be in store for us. We’ll just have to be patient, wait and see. And be open to things that go bump in the night.

 

A postscript: “Ghost story” was written several months ago, shortly after the bike accident. Indeed my mother has been absent during all those months. But guess what? She’s back! She showed up this week. A stronger, sweeter, fuller smell, but, undoubtedly, my mother. And no, I’m not making this up. I liked the other ending better but the truth changes everything.

 

A Ghost Story. Act One.

The curtain opens on a sun room with comfortable sofas and chairs and a delicate little rose wood chair, the seat of which my mother had needlepointed. No one ever sat in the chair. It was old and fragile, purely a decorative item. She had made a pair of them.

After her death, the family chose those pieces from her house which they wanted and one of the little chairs came to me.

Not too long after her death, over the course of a week or so, the chair began turning away from the wall.….exactly 90 degrees to the right each time, toward the sun. We didn’t observe those events. We were just aware that the chair was in an odd position. There was no explanation…we tried and tried to come up with something earthly….and finally determined that my mother had to be involved. There was so much of her invested in that chair. Every stitch of the needlepointed seat had come from her hands, of course.   It happened four times. The fifth time we tracked it by going in and out of the room several times, as it turned, slowly but surely, by about 45 degrees. That was its last performance.

The companion chair was here on the island, in our son’s house. They had recently moved it next to a large coffee table with a heavy glass top. They were planning on putting it in the baby’s room, thinking it would be lovely to have something there from my son’s grandmother’s house.

Within a day or two of the chair being next to the table, the glass top shattered…not once but twice. No explanation was available. It had to be my mother again.

No one was thinking that these were positive things. And with a new baby on the way, to be named after me. We had to get rid of them. Too bad….they were pretty little chairs but up to no good.

Then the odors started at night, interrupting deep sleep. Pleasant, powerful, and dense fruity smells. A little difficult to define because they were fleeting….a few seconds and they were gone.   “Oh, it was just your imagination,” you say. You’d be wrong. The odors woke my husband, too. On separate nights, of course. Our research tells us ghosts rarely affect more than one person at a time. Must be in an instruction manual somewhere.

Early on, every time the aromas woke one of us, we searched our minds for earth-bound causes….a new soap, new detergent, perfume, shampoo….anything that might cause the “event”….but always to no avail. Obviously, we discussed the phenomenon between ourselves, trying to make sense of it. It became clear, after a fairly short time, that the “other-worldly” had entered our lives.

(At this point we were, slowly and perhaps a bit dully, putting things together with the chair events. Listen, there aren’t any guidelines to this ghost stuff. You’re on your own and sometimes it takes a while to get with the program!)

The chairs were a no-brainer with regard to my mother. But, how did we relate the fruit odors to her? Well, she was a fruit-a-holic. Peaches particularly. She couldn’t get enough of them.

This went on for over 15 years. Frankly the night visits became so commonplace, we frequently forgot to mention it to each other. We simply accepted her, hoped that she would find peace and in the meantime, welcomed her presence when she chose to be with us.

Before we close the curtain on Act One, there was one more thing that made it clear to us that she was our ghost.

Not only was she a fruit-a-holic, she loved chocolate even more. Back in our first house on the Island, I had a reading chair, just outside the kitchen. One afternoon, a very strong smell…delicious, of course….of brownies being baked emanated from the kitchen. I knew immediately what it was and just enjoyed the aroma. It happened several times. ( She even took her “cooking” skills to my son’s house one morning, much to their surprise and distress, despite my assurances that all would be well.)

One day, my husband walked in while the brownies were being “baked.” Apparently, she decided to share because he was delighted to think that I was actually baking brownies. Needless to say, he was disappointed to learn that they were spectral, not edible.

Next week, I’ll continue the story.   Another character shows up. She only has a cameo role but it was an important one. I’ll introduce you to her.