Oddments

In search of story


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Disconnections: July 28.18

It insists:

Stop.

Watch the air

spiked

plumed

spangled

raucous

with tumbling prism

merrily

redundant

bow and rise

and bow again

see-sawing fountainous

hypnotic swing

drink and bath.

Admit

your toes remember

it’s OK

  if you smile.

 

 

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Disconnections: July 24.18

Some of us know it

from school days gone by

the rarified glow

of a holycard sky.

Angels and saints

no laggards allowed

canopied ever

by holycard cloud

its edges alive

with a peachy-gold hue

it had to be thus —

plain white wouldn’t do.

It all seemed marshmallowy

pretend, and ideal,

but I see it right now

undeniably real.

 

A word about holycards: they were tokens of acknowledgement given out in Catholic schools ever so long ago. They all depicted role models. Kind of like baseball cards but more flowy. And with lilies. In that time a coveted laurel.

 

 


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Disconnections: June 16.18

Was there a merry-go-round in your childhood, dear reader? Ours were wooden with raised metal handles that marked the whole into wedges like a cut pie. Those handles were the thing. You glommed onto one and ran, full throttle, in circles, making the merry-go-round go faster and faster until — at the exact right moment — you could catapult yourself onto it. Timing was everything. It was an art.

Fast forward to something called The Roundabout. It’s been de rigueur in these parts to build The Roundabout everywhere there is a clogged intersection. So now, instead of driving in straight lines controlled by traffic lights, we drive in circles controlled only by the sense of timing (and patience) in other drivers. Even for those of us who have jumped on many a merry-go-round, The Roundabouts can be daunting.

So one doesn’t enter The Roundabout without every sense on the alert, and yet I didn’t see him coming. There was a terrible sound, an awful jolt, and for a brief second my car seemed airborne. I got broadsided by someone trying to jump on the merry-go-round. Thank goodness there was no one in the passenger side.

That was Wednesday, and I am still taking inventory of my person. The doctor says I’ll feel worse before I feel better. Meanwhile, I reflect on that fine art of jumping on. Were we really meant to be jumping on in cars?


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Disconnections: June 6.18

Summer afflicts me with memories.

Like family vacation. A surfeit of togetherness. Dad’s mother, our beloved Grandma O’Hern, sat between my brother and me in the back seat. Poor Grandma. My brother loved confinement as much as I did and we were not anyone’s first choice of traveling companions.

Our expeditions almost always started with a new comic book, a thing of beauty and a joy for…well…five minutes. After that the only thing it was good for was rolling into a tube and clobbering someone. (But that was only because he clobbered me first.)

There were, of course, no such things as seat belts. We could kneel in the back seat and look out the back window, trying to see if where we’d been were any more interesting than where we were. Nope.

Rolling the windows down (aka air conditioning) had nothing to do with pushing a button and everything to do with grabbing a knob and turning for dear life. Reverse to roll back up. A life skill we’d already acquired. Boring.

The view from the back seat had greatly to do with the back of my mom’s head and the back of my dad’s head. And sameness out the windows. Devoutly did we pray for Burma Shave signs, when there would be respite from sameness. At the end we’d all shout out “Burma Shave!” and then I’d lapse back into a comatose state of childhood on hold.

There were “guessing games,” of course. And singing. And coloring books. For some reason, though, my parents got touchy about melted crayons under the seat. Was it our fault the summer sun was hot?

The years distort, I know, but I’m fairly sure that’s my dad’s voice asking “Are we there yet?”

 

 

 


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Connections: May 13.18

It’s that time again: time to get on my apostrophe soap box. It’s “Mother’s Day” all over the place, but I insist on “Mothers’ Day.” Not only is it a day to celebrate all mothers, but it’s also a day that’s been so homogenized and hysterialized that Mom is what Hallmark has made her. Mothers’ Day hysteria hits hard. Now — heaven help us — there are even pop-up ads to remind us we need to do more.

Back in the day, it was simpler: you snuck someplace and made a heart-rending card out of construction paper and erasures. And you went hanky-shopping with your dad. “Hanky” is short for “handkerchief,” a decorative, often beautiful, piece of cloth we used to blow our noses in. Or for our mothers to spit on and wipe some goo off our chins. Or (we were Catholic) to plop on your head if you were a hatless woman (gasp) entering a church. Hankies were nothing if not versatile.

One year my brother gave Mom the Hope Diamond of hankies, lacy, white, with a very elaborate embroidered “M” on it, much to her bewilderment (her name was Evelyn). What’s the M for? she asked naively. “M for Mom!” he replied, with some exasperation — why did she need to ask?

After Mom died, I threw out many things, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw out her hankies, which now live in a drawer upstairs. Including the one with the flowing regal “M.”

Whatever your memories for the day, dear reader, I hope there is a mom or a grandma in your heart, on the phone, or maybe across the table. Maybe even an old hanky in your pocket.

 

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Connections: March 15.18

Wait

is a four-letter word

shameless, brazen, uncouth

the dig of a bully’s elbow

 the gnaw of a blunted tooth

it stops the clock on the wall

and renders good company mute

makes us ponder our hangnails

and feel like slow-rotting fruit

impolite, crass and unseemly

intrusive, indifferent to plan

from childhood to dotage it stalks us

intractable bogeyman.

 

 

Thanks yet again to the S.W. Berg Photo Archives and the ever-ready camera of the curator thereof.

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