Amen

Here is a memory
I shall keep for you
all of my days:

when we ask
Where is your turkey?
you pat the colorful creature
adorning your shirt
while attempting to say
gobble gobble

and when our family
gathers round the table
to pray

amid the reverent cadence
of your Grampa’s words
I hear you say

nen

nen

nen

—I shall keep it for you,
this memory:
Thanksgiving gold
your one-year-old
baby voice
blessing us all

Amen

Of angels and stairways

with thanks to Carolina Lopez for the Open Write prompt on Ethical ELA today

I’ve Been Writing This Since

I’ve been writing this since
I looked into the wide vent-grates
of the upper room floor
of my grandparents’ apartment, 
sure that I saw angels
in the depths

in the same way 
that I saw stairsteps to Heaven
in the light fixtures
of the doctor’s office ceiling
when I was a sick child.

Yeah, well.

I am still here
believing
when those I loved
are long gone
yet cheering me on
from the other side of portals
I cannot see

perhaps they are looking
through vent-grates
and light-fixture stairways
at me.

Lighting & grate. Photos by Portland_MikeCC BY-ND 2.0.

The baptism

Faith of a child

pure and bright

trusting the shepherd

for guiding light

*******
in celebration of my granddaughter’s baptism
by my pastor-son

“Behold our God shall live with us, And be our steadfast Light,
And we shall e’er his people be, All glory be to Christ.”

—Dustin Kensrue

Something sacred

Summer evening
after dinner
the three of us
are riding home
through the countryside

late-day sun
is amber-bright
when giant raindrops
begin to slap
against the windshield

Raining while the sun shines,
says my husband
from the passenger seat
(I’m in the back;
the boy is driving)
—there’s got to be a rainbow
around here somewhere

The boy makes the left turn
—There it is, he says

wide shimmering bands
hanging in the air
like a gossamer curtain
touching the road
right before us

breathless, we ride
right through it
to find another
and another
just ahead

so many rainbows
gleaming down through
the trees
over the fields

heaven’s glory bending
to caress the earth
a prismatic promise
poured out

all along
our way home

At the end of the rainbow. Mara ~earth light~. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

I didn’t get photos, alas, but the rainbows touching the road before us yesterday evening happened to be near the spot where my husband and I saw an eagle sitting majestically by the roadside back in early 2019. In this picture the background is dark whereas our scenery was vivid green in the amber-gold light of late day… but there’s an eagle, and the sojourning child carrying solace and security in the form of a teddy bear in a backpack speaks to me.

Something sacred is in this place.

On this day

Nine months
since you entered the world
making mine
exponentially beautiful
every single day

Three years
since your Grandpa
had a massive heart attack
while driving
and the deputy sheriff
came to tell
your future dad, uncle,
and me (Franna)
that he’d run off the road
and was being taken
to the hospital
where we were told
he’d been resuscitated

they weren’t sure
he’d make it

he did

Grandpa lived
to see you
love you
and call you
“little angel”

I say
there must be
some mighty ones
all around

Micah, 9 months, looking up at her Grandpa

Solitary existence: the hummingbirds

Hummingbirds lead a solitary existence.

I saw one hummingbird out back last week, darting about the pines. It turned in my direction, tiny pale-bellied fairy-creature suspended in midair, as if to acknowledge my presence across the yard before zipping away. I wondered if it was making some kind of request. The next day I bought a feeder and hung it outside my kitchen window; within moments, a tiny female landed to sip my homemade nectar.

The next day another female arrived. I watched the two of them competing for turns at the feeder. All day they chase each other away, each still managing to land and feed for the few seconds it takes to sate a creature so tiny. One tentative male finally showed up today, his ruby throat resplendent in the sunlight. I haven’t managed to get a photo of him yet. I hope he’ll return, despite these territorial females.

There’s a lot I didn’t know about hummingbirds. They’re curious. They watch me through the window as I’m watching them. I read that they’re highly intelligent; they learn to recognize the person who feeds them and may even remind this person if their sugar water is running low. They are not social, not flock birds. When they migrate to Mexico in the fall, they go it alone. Why does this pull so terribly on my heartstrings? I cannot shake the image in my mind of this tiniest of birds flying so far by itself.

They do not think of themselves as fragile. They are not lonesome.

It’s what they do. They lead a solitary existence.

With that, the hummingbird memory stirs.

Summer, long ago. Riding in Grandma’s rocket-red Ford Galaxie 500 along the dusty dirt road to her sister’s house. The Galaxie doesn’t have power steering or air-conditioning so the windows are down and Grandma has a Kleenex stuffed into her cleavage to catch the trickling sweat. Fortunately Aunt Elizabeth only lives about a mile away, in a little bungalow house with square tapered columns, off to itself by cornfields and groves of hardwoods. There’s a path in the grass of her yard where her old maroon car (I think it was maroon, either a Ford or a Chevy, I can’t recall exactly) is parked by the weathered outbuilding. Grandma and I park behind it and walk in the shade of the trees to Aunt Elizabeth’s back porch.

Everything is old. The porch floorboards, the screen door that squawks on opening and closing, the tiny, cramped kitchen, the worn linoleum revealing a slightly swayed floor, the living room with braided rugs…it’s a dark house, faintly musty. The smell of Time hangs in the air, unmoved even by the square electric floor fan humming on high speed. Aunt Elizabeth is pleased to see me. She opens her arms to give me a hug and kiss. Her pale cheek, faintly mottled with reddish freckles, is cool. She’s two years older than my grandmother. She asks how my Daddy is, says she sure does miss him, oh, she used to enjoy having him over to eat…

Aunt Elizabeth doesn’t have children. Not any that lived. When I first asked about it, Grandma told me of her sister’s two premature, stillborn babies. Tiny things, said Grandma; she was there when it happened. She held them, grieved for them. Aunt Elizabeth was married to Granddaddy’s youngest brother, who died before I was born. He suffered from some kind of condition doctors could never figure out. Without any warning, he’d lose consciousness and collapse. It happened numerous times until the day he had a spell and couldn’t be revived.

So my great-aunt, in her sixties, lives here alone, way out in the country where, in the 1970s, people still don’t have telephones; they drive to each others’ houses to visit and catch up on news. It is good that a few of her eight siblings live close by, that grown nieces and nephews make a point to come by to see her when they can. Aunt Elizabeth gardens, cans her vegetables and preserves in glass jars for storing on her kitchen shelves, drives to town, tends to herself, is completely independent, yet it seems a solitary existence to me. As she chats with Grandma I wonder if she’s lonesome, if she still misses her husband, gone for so long, and if she’s sad about having no children or grandchildren of her own. She hands some bubblegum out to me and I know she got it because she knew I was coming.

When our visit is over, we all walk out on the porch — that’s what you do, in the country. You walk out and wave until your visitor drives out of sight. Unwritten etiquette. Everyone does it. Same for throwing your hand up to any other car you pass on the road.

But Grandma and I don’t leave yet, because of the hummingbirds.

They’re everywhere.

Aunt Elizabeth has strung up several red and yellow plastic feeders around her porch. At every one is a horde of the tiny birds, dipping in and out. The air vibrates from the rapid fanning of their wings; I feel the circulation, a coolness against the heavy summer humidity.

I am awed. I have never seen anything so magical before. I can’t even count how many hummingbirds.

The sisters, in their delight, laugh like young children.

—It comes back to me, watching the few contentious hummingbirds outside my window almost half a century later. I didn’t know how rare a thing it was, then, the communal gathering of hummingbirds. I remember my great-aunt, not with pity. I hear the musical sound of her laughter and the humming of all those tiny wings there on her porch….knowing that in the long enduring of life’s losses and trials come moments of pure enchantment and abundant richness.

I shall need more feeders.

*******

with thanks to Two Writing Teachers for the weekly Slice of Life story-writing invitation

Raison d’etre

a reverso etheree

Hey
it’s me
I’m trying
can’t you see that
you’re my everything
you center my small world
even if I don’t have words
I adore you beyond measure
I know you’re busy but I am here
believing in you and your love for me

believing in you and your love for me
I know you’re busy but I am here
I adore you beyond measure
even if I don’t have words
you center my small world
you’re my everything
can’t you see that
I’m trying
it’s me
Hey

Micah, 8 1/2 months. How you adore your parents.
How your family loves you so. Franna

Return of the retro pet

My six-year-old granddaughter found the comics section from the Sunday newspaper I recently purchased (first time since I can’t say when). After poring over the funnies, she asked:

“Franna, can we do the crossword puzzle?”

Girl after my own heart…

“Sure, let me get a pen!”

On her own, she figured out ache for ‘Dull pain’ and treat for ‘Dog’s favorite word, probably’.

Then she asked: “What’s ‘Digital pet of the ’90s’?”

“Oh! Mister had one when he was little,” I replied (Mister is what she currently calls my son. This kid…). “I haven’t thought of it in years. A Tamagotchi.”

“Tamagotchi?! What is that?!”

I tried to explain.

Blank expression.

I looked it up and showed it to her on my phone.

She looked dubious.

There was only one logical thing to do….

It arrived today.

She picked it out (yes, they’re still out there; she chose one decorated like an ice cream cone).

She was, in a word, enraptured. Could hardly wait for the egg to hatch so she could figure out how to feed her Tamagotchi. And clean up after it. That was what puzzled her most when I was trying to explain how this thing….er, pet….works.

She’s a quick study in everything: “It wants my attention! Ohhhh nooo…it’s not happy! All its hearts are empty! Help! What do I do to make it happy?”

We tried to play a game with it but apparently we only made it mad.

Fortunately, Mister arrived around this time. With all the expertise of a previous Tamagotchi owner, he fed this digital pet of the ’90s a ton of snacks and filled all its hearts with happiness.

Then, with pure delight, my granddaughter cleaned up after it.

“When I am busy, you will have to Tamagotchi-sit,” she told my son, with authority.

I wonder if I am enjoying this too much…and if he remembers there’s an on/off switch…maybe I should remind him…

—Nah.

My granddaughter, waiting for the egg to hatch. By the time they left this evening, Tamagotchi had grown quite a bit and remained happy with all the attention it was getting (have fun with that, Son…).