Saturday, February 27, 2016

Pizza, Cats, and Other Kinds of Love

"Auntie, do you have someone you love?", Tracy's six year old niece casually asked her on their outing. Tracy knew what Emma was really wanting to know, but chose to answer her in an auntie sort of way. "I love  Grams and Papa, your mommy and daddy, Uncle Drew and Uncle Jake,", she responded. "And of course, you little munchkin, I love you the best!." Tracy tickled her as she said that.  Through peels of laughter, Emma declared, "and ice cream.  You love ice cream!" Love really is a funny word, particularly when discussed with a six year old. Of course Emma wanted to know if she had a someone to love like her mom and dad loved each other, or as the child's grandparents, Tracy's parents loved each other.  Even her brothers, Drew at twenty four, and Jake at 20 had significant others. Yet Tracy, not wholeheartedly content with her life in the relationship department, the eldest in the family, approaching 30, had nobody to love in that way.

Really, there never has been a significant other. The longest dating streak with anyone she had was a little over a year, and that went back to college. Moving several times for her career, and now, what she hoped was a longer term move to Chicago, it seemed like a good time to think again about settling down. Having her niece visit for the weekend was stirring all kinds of nesting instincts she had been suppressing.

Tracy's sister Melanie and her husband Jason were celebrating their 5th anniversary this month. High School and college sweethearts, they learned they were expecting Emma right before college graduation. It took a couple years before they officially married, though seem to have been a married couple since they were both 17. For the official anniversary, the couple thought it would be a good weekend to make the six hour drive to Chicago to see Tracy's new condo, and perhaps snatch some free babysitting while they took a couple days and nights exploring the city. They wanted to come the weekend after Valentine's Day, assuming everything would be overpriced or overbooked the weekend before. Tracy was over the moon with the prospect of one on one time with her niece, and planned a Chicago weekend of their own.

Having never been on a train of any kind in her short six years, Emma was fascinated by the "L". They had a great time exploring the Chicago Children's Museum, visited the Navy pier, and ate Chicago deep dish pizza. Though Emma liked the sauce cheese on top, she said very definitively that pizza is supposed to be flat. "Chicago is famous for this kind of pizza, and I love it", Tracy responded, with a poor word choice. Over pizza and lemonade, the word "love" reminded the child she still wanted answers. She didn't let up on the love question. It didn't help that the remnants from Valentines's Day were still sprinkled throughout the city. 

"Yeah, you can love pizza, but why don't you have someone like daddy or papa?" The child thought a bit more, remembering something. "You don't have to have a boy to love. Libby has two mom's instead of a mom and dad." This was followed by, "Daddy thinks you should get a cat. I heard him telling mommy that."  Great, Tracy thought, not yet 30 and already labeled the spinster aunt. Not wanting to get defensive to a child, but also wanting to impart a few gems of wisdom, she thought how she should respond.

"Em, there's a lot of people that I could find to love like that. I just haven't yet.  Until then, I am so lucky that I have all kinds of other people that I love and make me happy." She paused, seeing the wheels spinning behind her niece's eyes. "I  have friends that I love and spend time with.  I love having adventures in my new home, like we are having today. I love that you came to visit me." For the moment, this seemed to satisfy the child.

It had been a full day, so they called it done at about 6:00 and headed home to make mac and cheese, popcorn, and watch a movie. Emma was out within 15 minutes of the DVD beginning. They slept in a bit before heading out for Sunday brunch and a trip to the science museum, before meeting Emma's parents back at her place. They decided through text messages on a meal together of Chinese take out before the family got back on the road for home. The subject of love stayed at bay for a long while until Emma saw her parents again. Tracy had left them the code and keys to her place, and they were already there when the wanderers got back, take out food in hand.

Emma gave both parents a hug, and started telling them very quickly all about her weekend with Auntie. Her parents were amazed at the detail she recalled, and smiled at Tracy, her sister mouthing "Thank you," at least a couple times. Then, out of the mouths of babe, love made its way back in the conversation. "And daddy,", Emma went on, "Tracy may not want a cat. She has to save room for someone else to love. That guy will need to love pizza and she hasn't found him yet."  Love is a simple and complex, funny word.

This short story is part of the Write and Link project at In the Writer's Closet. We take the cue of the month, and the lovely Natalia opens up a portal for us budding writers to share our hopeful gems of creativity. Please join in as a reader or a contributor.  It's great fun!

Saturday, January 30, 2016

The Belfry

Bruges Belfry-Picture from Wikipedia
I want to travel the world, and Belgium, specifically Bruges is on my list of places to visit. While quite a dark movie, one of my favorites is In Bruges. Two hit men are sent to Bruges to hide out until the fate of one of them, who messed up a hit in a horrible way, is decided. I love Brendan Gleason's character as he attempts to make the banishment a sight seeing trip and explores all the wonders of the city. I always wanted to write something that took place in the that city after seeing that movie, using the Belfry, as in the movie, a pivotal character. Again, I might have gone all Harlequin on the story ending, so forgive me.Here are all the Write and Link submissions.

 The Belfry

The stairs were steeper than Connie expected, but she was determined to make it to the top. She knew she had lost a lot of her stamina in the last two years, but had turned a new page in her life with the turn of the calendar. She missed her old self, and decided she wanted her back. A few years earlier, as she approached 50, she slowly stopped doing many of the things she enjoyed.  These were activities that were keeping her toned and strong. Never having been particularly career driven, an evening with a calculator after an older work friends retirement party put some fear into her about her own future. Naomi was retiring young, at 62, with a tidy self funded retirement account, a husband with a firefighters pension, and they were going to now see the world. 

Hearing about Naomi and Franks plans, Naomi faced the reality that she was in her own boat for a future retirement.  The numbers didn't look good.  She had been putting a paltry 10% of her  income aside, but decided she now needed to contribute to the maximum allowed.  When she hit 50, she did the catch-up funds. This ate into her paycheck and soon her gym membership and rock climbing club went by the way side. She started scrambling for overtime, working late, eating microwaved meals, and using her lunch break for running errands she was too tired to do evenings. It was too much for Naomi, the loss of her carefree friend, who insisted Connie join her and Frank on their Belgium portion of their European tour. They had a cute two bedroom apartment in Bruges for a week, plenty of room for an extra, and air fare rates were at bargain prices. They specifically added Bruges so they could spend time with a younger cousin of Frank's, named Jack Cavanaugh, who was living in the city. Jack lived alone, his ex wife and adult children were back in the US.

Now here was Connie, in this beautiful Belgian city, looking up the staircase to make it to the top of the famous Belfry, back to her carefree self. "This will be magical," she told herself, having associated the Belfry with old world mystery and intrigue.  With each step, she pushed herself  along, a little smile forming at her lips.  She was happy her friend nudged her to come. The panic at being an old  woman who had wasted her life living like a carefree twenty year old, and now had to live on cat food, was gone. The annoyance she felt in the last twenty years since her divorce at well meaning friends and family trying to set her up with  just the right guy was stamped under each foot step. It wasn't that Connie shut the door on finding a partner, but she was happy enough with her life that she was not willing to settle for anyone less than perfect for her.  After a ho hum existence with the wrong person, she wanted something magical. 

At the top, she found glory. She saw the canal and people watched as they strolled in the open market. Before her climb, uncharacteristically, Naomi complained of a sore knee, and Frank didn't want to go up without her. She spotted them standing at a fruit cart, buying something, and walking towards a bench in the center. Naomi looked like she was walking perfectly fine, not favoring her strong knee whatsoever. She turned to take a look in the other direction and came face to face with a handsome man, almost bumping him in the nose with the top of her head. "Excuse me!" Connie said with a laugh, not knowing if he spoke English. "I need to watch where I turn." He smiled a warm smile back at her. "Not a problem at all. What's a bump on the nose between fellow Americans."  They chatted a moment about the sites, the sounds, the history of the city.  "It's just magical." Connie said.  Standing with his hands in his pocket he said, Do you believe in  magic, Connie?"  Not recalling saying her name at all, she was a bit taken aback. "I have to say, excuse me again.  I don't believe I told you  my name."  He took his hand out of his pocket and extended it towards hers. "Of course you didn't, but it is nice to meet you. My name is Jack."

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sleep Has Won

I've let my body decide to take the opportunities for sleep when needed.  I've been a sparse blogger on both sites.  The RA is flaring up and with a trip this week, I've decided to take a safe route and not push to keep up on prompts and poems.  I have plenty of inspiring themes though and may dive in tomorrow when we have a layover. For Justin and Natalia, I'm reading everything you write. I have a few ideas for posts swirling in my head so look out when I decide it is time to catch up!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Nature Doesn't Look at a Calendar

Write about changing seasons, that very particular time in the year cycle when it is not Autumn yet, but already passed Summer… Natalia has provided an interesting idea for day 54.  For more prompts, click HERE..
Nature clearly doesn't bother to look at a calendar many times during the year.  If it forgets to look in the fall, and pretends it is still summer, I won't complain a bit. We had the most glorious of all Septembers and it appears October is trying to match Septembers tone.  The days start out crisp and cool-but not cold.  It is not the cold where you suck in wind and your throat hurt, but the coolness that feel like you are sucking on a tin of Altoids-refreshing and cleansing. 
There is still plenty of green all around us.  Our yard is lush and long and almost looks like someone was out with a can of spray paint the green is so deep.  We are getting a touch of the yellows and orange, but not enough to be thinking pumpkins and turkeys yet. While lounging pool or lakeside in a swim suit and daiquiri by my side doesn't quite see to fit, spending a couple hours on the deck in lounge chair with a light sweater and either a book or my computer perched on my lap is not only doable, but entirely pleasurable.  Five weeks into the school year and I haven't had the morning argument once yet about grabbing a coat because it is too cold outside for just shirt sleeves. 

I am a four season kind of gal. While we get the early spring days that tell us winter will soon be a distant memory, the lack of color, the remnants of brown and grey, and the dirtiness of the last of the snow, masks the warm feelings.  Someday I want to to be able to pick how long the seasons last, by moving my destination to suit my preference, but for now, I am happy in this 5th season of Sumfall. 
7 minutes

The Island Village

Write about a village, real rural countryside. Do you idealize it as many writers and poets have done? Or, as Agatha Christie, see its dark side? Rise and Write is back and I am having fun again.  

The Island Village

I fell in love with the Bennett's Island series of books written by the late Elizabeth Ogilvie.  The first book I ever read, The Season's Hereafter, when I was sixteen started my love for Maine and Island communities. Besides being a proper Anglophile, I am a Maineophlie as well, and spent my high school years dreaming of going away to college in Maine, and getting a job for the summer in a quaint fishing village just off the Maine coast. I learned years later that Seasons was actually part of a series of books, that originated some twenty years earlier, with a story line told in book one through a flashback to pre-depression, 1920's glory, moving into the depression.  

In both books, I learned about the island village, which consisted of the various family houses, the little store, fish buyer, and post office all in one, and the little school. In book one, read more than a decade later, I learned the back ground story on most of the main characters.  I grew up with them-came of age with them.  I suddenly understood the references in the newer book.  There actually were nine adult books in all.  Three focusing on the main family, really the eldest daughter, then three more focused on newcomers to the village, and three more, that incorporated the next generation in more detail.  The last was written towards the end of Ms Ogilvie's life.  She wrote some children and young adult novels set on the island as well.  Of course, I read them too, and enjoyed them with my daughters. 

Bennett's Island is the fictional version of the real island known as Criehaven, where the author spent many summers.  The island village was in her blood, and she chose to immortalize in her beloved books.  You can see picture on the Internet of how the village looks today, though I believe there are no year round residents any more, no school, and no store at all.  However, nearby  Brigport as it is called in the books, but is really Matinicus, still has a thriving, if not tiny year round community.  Spending a week on either Island is on my bucket list, though Matincus is probably more likely as it actually has accommodations. That is the wonder of a good story teller.  They create such a vivid picture of something, you want to be there.  I want to be whisked away to another time, another place, and be absorbed in the island village life each time I pick up one of her books. 

16 minutes

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What's behind the door?

Write about a door – wooden, glass, heavy, tall, Dutch door, garage door or a magic door (Open, Sesame)…
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share. Read more about Rise and Write here.

What's behind the door?

I have little envy of the Real Housewives of any where. Their lives seem chaotic and filled with ridiculous drama that if not scripted,which I highly think it is, you couldn't make up.  The weekend get aways at 5 star hotels and personal chefs-who care!  I can meet up with a friend, a real friend, any weekend for a walk around a neighborhood and a stop at a coffee house, and sit down to a homemade pasta dinner. No, if there is anything I envy is the always immaculate and spotlessly clean homes.  Of course these homes are camera ready at all times, and come with cleaning personal.  I would love to live in a house in which I do not feel the need to keep certain doors closed at all times. 

 I know most people have the room of doom, the clutter room, the space with a head case.  I seem to have many of them.  Closed doors are my friends. I can spend a whirlwind fifteen minutes and get my immediate walk in space tidy enough that I don't want to crawl in a drawer if my mother in law shows up, but if she opened those doors, I might burst into tears. Those doors are meant to stay shut, unless I or a family member open them. A few months ago, we wrote about door knobs. Like my door knobs these are basic house grade doors-nothing unique.  But when they help hid my clutter, or my unmade bed and dirty laundry strewn shamelessly about the room, they became my ally.

6 minutes

Beauty Queen

This is prompt 51 in Rise and Write.

Write about a queen. Is she a real figure in history or a fantasy character from your favorite fairy tale? Is there some thing about her you find admirable or enviable? Is there something that you dislike about her or her status?
OPTIONAL: Work on your fiction and share.

Beauty Queen

I've not been into the whole pageant Queen lifestyle but the last six months, I had a bit of interest.  the daughter of a woman I went to high school with was crowned Miss Minnesota about six months ago, making her the state representative for the Miss America competition.  I followed her mother's post of her daughter the pageant Queen, and even watched the television program.  She looked stunning in her 10 seconds of national fame, being able to announce her name and a bit about the state.  She did not make it into the semi finals, so other than a crowd glimpse, that was all.  I must say, I do not understand what the criteria.  There evening gown, physical fitness-what they now call the swimsuit  competition, evening gown, and a random question.   That I found completely  random.  Two girls received questions on such hot button topics as gun control and Planned Parenthood, while another got a question on Tom Brady's participation in the deflated football.  I watched to support my former classmate, her daughter, and community, but I think I am done.  Good for the women that truly enjoy this kind of competition.  It is not my thing, but if they enjoy the challenge, more power to them. 

Five minutes!