Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Joy to the Choir

iStock_000031593808XSmallIt wasn’t fair! For two years in a row, Shannon Adams got to be Mary and wear the blue veil and hold the baby Jesus doll in the Christmas Pageant. Shannon Adams stepped on my feet whenever she could. When we were in line and waiting to go into assembly, she would turn around stomp on my one of my feet, laugh, and then turn to the front of the line again like she hadn’t done anything. No way she should have been Mary two years in a row!

I sang in the choir, directed by Mrs. Luella Parsons. Mrs. Parsons had bluish grey hair that she sprayed into a helmet on her head. Her face was powdered to look like “a porcelain doll” as my mother called it. But I thought that she looked more like a powdered donut.

Each year our school, which was a private school, a fact that my mother liked to share with relatives in a way that didn’t make it “private” it at all, put on a Christmas Pageant. The local television station invited us all down to their studio and filmed the entire thing. It was the big event leading up to each winter break and we were all excited to participate. Mrs. Parsons gave instructions that we were to be like angels, look directly into the camera and smile as we sang. So ever wanting to be the good girl, and rarely succeeding, I held these instructions dear in the hopes that Mrs. Parsons might notice me and cast me as Mary next year.

It cannot be easy for a normal, mortal person to have to deal with 60 first through fourth graders who are excited about being on television and who have just eaten the robust supply of cookies, candy and brownies that the television station has put out for them. Like fat little puppies at the trough, we practically licked the floor when the sugary treats were gone.

Mrs. Parson’s got very upset with Leonard, a little boy in my class who regularly put his hand under his shirt and flapped his arm in such as way as to make loud farting noises. I never laughed at such things, because little girls were not supposed to, but secretly I thought Leonard was a very funny kid. On this particular day, Leonard had eaten several sugar cookies and a fair amount of candy. He stood before Mrs. Parsons as she tried to straighten the large white collar and enormous bow on his choir robe. I saw it happen. As Leonard listened to Mrs. Parson’s intently he got a mischievous smile on his face and when she smiled back, Leonard let rip a real fart, loud, rolling and fragrant. Leonard started to laugh. All of the kids around him started to laugh. Mrs. Parsons blanched and became visibly upset. She grabbed a handful of her helmet hair so hard that you could hear it crunch in her grip. For the rest of the day she had a dent in one side of her hair.

Now Mrs. Parsons had to avoid Leonard, because whenever he saw her, he started to laugh uncontrollably and that brought on more laughter from other kids, with the exception of the group of girls that included Shannon Adams, who stood in a small pack of prissy girls and glared at Leonard to show their disapproval.

Finally our choir was lined up to sing and I remembered what Mrs. Parson’s had said about looking right into the camera and singing with a smile on your face. So along with the rest of the choir, I sang the Reader’s Digest condensed version of The Hallelujah Chorus, Away in a Manger, and Jingle Bells. Each time the camera went by I looked right into the lens, and without really meaning to, leaned slightly forward and smiled as big as I could. What I didn’t know at the time is that none of the other kids followed Mrs. Parson’s instructions, so they didn’t look right into the camera and they didn’t smile, and none of them leaned forward each the camera went by. On the last pass of the camera as we were all singing Silent Night, I leaned forward a little too far and fell onto my face taking three other kids out with me. It is to the cameraman’s credit that he did not follow the descent with his lens; and to Mrs. Parson’s credit that she didn’t put another dent in her helmet hair. As I went down I could hear Leonard laughing in the background.

On Christmas Eve my mother, my aunts and my cousins and I watched the televised Christmas Pageant, and as we did my aunts were laughing and calling me a little ham. I scowled my best eight-year-old scowl and said, “I did exactly what Mrs. Parsons told us to do and I was the only one, too.”

“You were definitely the only one sweetheart,” said one of the aunts with a laugh that she tried really hard to keep to her self. With arms folded across my chest I watched the rest of the program as took out three kids in the fateful fall of Silent Night, hearing the none too stifled laughter of Leonard in the background. At the very end, the camera panned over to our principal who with a stricken look on her face wished everyone a “very Merry Christmas.”

I know now, that as I was watching the Christmas Pageant on television, somewhere in another part of the city, a powdered Luella Parsons with dented helmet hair was probably on her third martini.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Waiting for the Snow

iStock_000004021694XSmallGrey clouds graze the mountaintops as they slowly creep into the valley, fingers extended toward the east with dark and ominous reach, the promise of a storm. There is stillness to the air, a smell of snow, marked by gusts of stinging wind that redden the cheeks. Hands tucked into my warm gloves tell me with an ache in my finger joints, that snow and freeze are coming. I wanted to get out early today, before the cold wrapped its icy cloak around my world.

A special kind of foolishness has compelled me in the past to make the drive to my favorite trail when the roads are slick from a freezing snow–New snow, beautiful snow, beckoning like a siren’s song and speaking to the wild of my heart that feels the need to pay homage to the pristine blanket of white.

This morning I am alone on the trail, with a faithful Labrador that runs circles around me and searches with unrelenting fervor for the great treasure of abandon tennis balls. My boots beat against a trail still recovering from the floods in the fall. It is scarred by deep rivulets in places where the water is not supposed to go. Weeks of constant hiking boots and dogs have hardened the ground and worn away some of the more damaged places. I wonder if the large cracks will fill with snow and harden with ice, somehow healing the trail for spring.

I am a hardy woman, giving myself to winter’s descent, in a walking dance to Persephone. Anticipating the ice of winter with its lacy beauty that will web and string its way through the now dried grasses, and adorn the sage with Snow Queen crowns. I try to commit to memory the trees that stand in silhouette, their gnarled hands against infinity and palms toward the heavens, waiting for the snow. All the seasons in this place are my church, allowing for long conversations of the heart, adoring and worshiping the mountains and the stillness of a lake that reflects the rocky giants in its mirror.

Strong legs carry me around the lake and back to the farmer’s ditch, which is mostly empty now, save for the small pools of water that provide a moment’s reprieve for a couple of  geese. As I age, I find myself rushing toward these images; drinking in their splendor  with an unquenchable thirst, while simultaneously feeling myself receded from the vitality of such moments. I am an older woman now, standing at the edge of my winter, punctuated by morning reverie in this temple of impending snow.


Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

Hear No Evil and Not Much Else Either

iStock_000015756375XSmallDaily Prompt: Hear No Evil – a WordPress “daily prompt”
Tell us about a conversation you couldn’t help but overhear and wish you hadn’t.

My prose teacher at college lived an artist’s life. I am not going to name her or my college, because I adored her. But…she was part of what I called the “angry poets and suffering artists” group– politically correct and wildly self-righteous about it. A socially liberal and fiscally conservative misanthrope like myself didn’t stand a chance in that environment. They, meaning most of my instructors at the time, would probably cringe to think that a former student saw them in such a way, but it is liberating to state it now, and I doubt that any of them read this blog.

Anyway, back to my prose teacher, a woman who taught me to appreciate the basics of reading and writing in a whole new wonderful way. She demanded a constant stream of short stories and journal entries that all seemed like they were due within hours of the assignment. She also had an ongoing exercise that all of her students were required to do, regardless of the class.  Every one of her students carried a small notebook–the kind that fits into a purse or your back pocket. The instructions were to write down snippets of conversations that you heard in the coffee shop or at the grocery store or wherever. Obviously you did this covertly and without intrusion.

Each week we all sat around and shared what we had recorded in our notebooks. The idea was to develop an ear for real dialogue. People speak much more inanely than what writer’s tend to conjure. Most of the conversations that I strained to hear, went something like this:

“Mama, can I have this?”

“Put that back.”

“Nooooo, mama!”

“Put that back right now”

“Arrggggh mama” — As the mother steps over the child screaming on the floor in the grocery store aisle, pretending that it is not hers.

I hoped for meatier conversations, but they just never came my way. Restaurants were always the best, because you could sit in a booth behind someone and have a tabletop to put your notebook on and write down what you heard. Once I heard a very upset man telling a woman that his hedgehog had died. I didn’t know if he was talking about a car or an animal and unfortunately he spoke so softly, I couldn’t hear all that much to of the conversation.

The other day I was getting my hair cut and I heard this from a woman with a dog:

“Don’t take it personally, he is much more interested in the food than he is in you. Can you sit Rosco? Can you sit?”

I waited for the dog to answer, but it never did.

The exercise of listening to how people speak is more difficult now than it was when I was in college. Everyone is texting or tweeting and I sometimes wonder what would happen if all of our cell phones just died one day and we had to look up, look into someone’s eyes and try to communicate. It would certainly make eavesdropping easier.

Posted in Comedy, Tragedy and What the F...?

That’s My Brag and I’m Sticken’ To It!

iStock_000010690028XSmallYou should not brag about the great sex you had last night. No bragging about how much money you make or whether or not you are the smartest person in the room. You don’t want to go through life looking like the child that got way too much praise during potty training!

On the other hand it is acceptable to brag about your grand-kids, your new living room couch or published works. I do not have any of  those things, but today I have bragging rights anyway because I completed the NaNoWriMo challenge of writing 5o thousand words in just 30 days.

For the past month while this poor blog lay fallow, visited mostly by spammers, who are now “following this blog,” I sat every single morning and wrote down approximately 1,666 words, creating a novel, my first…a couple of excerpts can be found in the November archives under the heading of “The Angel Twin.”

The long-format has been too daunting for me to consider in the past. How do you sustain a voice for 150 pages? And what is the story that you want to tell? I did not know the answer to either of those questions when I began on November 1, but I will tell you this–the way that you learn to write in long format is the same way that you learn to write in any format, you just get your yaya in the chair every day and write. And on the days that your story is flat and your imagination has left for Cleveland, you write anyway.

While I didn’t create the great American novel, I did create new muscle. I am proud that I took the challenge and made it to the finish line. As far as what I wanted to say–well, I made it up as I went along, just like I do my life. I started with a premise and went from there. Now I wonder what I might be able to do with an outline!

Thus ends the month’s saga of NaNoWriMo, a process that I recommend to any writer looking to stretch their talents and gain new strength and confidence.

I promised myself a day off before I revisit what I’ve written to see what is actually there. In the meantime,  I am dreaming about possibilities, all the while blessing my faithful little laptop and feeling pretty darn good about myself!