Oddments

In search of story


8 Comments

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?”

 

 

 


5 Comments

Connections: November 12.17

My bedroom. Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart.

And do I hear “been there, done that,” dear reader?

What I want to reflect on, though, isn’t the chaos. It’s the book on the bed. Throughout all this mayhem, I’ve spent a few minutes every night with this book. Fittingly, I finished it on Veterans’ Day.

The book is “Tail-End Charley,” by James E. Brown, who kept a journal during his time as an Army Air Corps pilot. A kid who grew up quickly in the skies over World War II. To me it was fascinating, not just for the story in it but for the story about it.

Jim Brown wrote a book based on his journal, but it wasn’t published. Fast forward to 2017. His son, Gary, a writer also, took that manuscript and made it happen. He and his wife, my writing mate Tamara, and their daughter, a graphic artist, did it. They self-published and this handsome paperback is the result.

It is very personal, not just because it is first-person, but because it is brought to the world by his family.

I never met Jim Brown, but, boy, do I feel as though I know him! Underneath his descriptions of planes and places flows his understated narrative about himself, subtle and steady. In my opinion, his understatement is consistent with his generation and when he allows us a glimpse into his own feelings its rarity makes for eloquence.

I recommend this book, not because I know and like Jim’s family (I do), and not because I love reading about war (I don’t), but because of the down-home skinny kid who reveals himself in it.

 


2 Comments

Connections: August 13.17

My family’s in the garden

the past grows ever green

my mom is in the phlox

most surely, though unseen

her dad in the tomatoes

my green-thumbed Grandpa Mauck

son of North Carolina

whose hills rolled in his talk

Grandma O’Hern in moss roses

her summer’s tried-and-true

her son, my dad, in marigold

(the only flower he knew!)

the dill for an unknown

its air a bit of mystery

but I know it figures somewhere

in my leafy family history

I don’t come (as they say) from money

I come more from dirt

so it’s good to feel them back

in horticultural concert.

 

 

 

Connections


2 Comments

Connections: January 20.17

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWhen the world is too much with us

and we need a Shangri-la

it’s time to get away

to the holistic basement spa.

With Tonka therapy

and sump pump ambiance

the clientele is served

with flair and flamboyance.

Sometimes they can’t keep up

I’m very sorry to say

I cannot get you in

they’re overbooked today.

With apologies to Wordsworth.

Connections


4 Comments

Vagaries in Gestation: December 6.16

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThus does the middle-aged dad (aka, my firstborn) demonstrate to his eleven-year-old apprentice (who is not easily impressed) how the core of the fake Christmas tree can be fake-played as a guitar.

Christmas is obviously underway. This tree was bought by my parents long ago and has seen over thirty Christmases. It always leans, but it wears its generations of ornaments proudly.

Amid a torrent of abusively dumb eleven-year-old-boy jokes, the tree went up, twisted limb by twisted limb. My grandson sipped apple cider from a plastic Christmas cup dating to his dad’s boyhood. Grit from the garage made its annual path through the kitchen. Tradition reigned.

Then came the phone call. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter had been in an accident. Everyone reading this blog knows that life can change in a blink, so I’m not here to tell you what you already know. My daughter-in-law and granddaughter are shaken but all right, and that is what matters.

But so suddenly did family goofiness change to intense family anxiety that the suddenness got to me. It was whiplash of a sort. There are certainly times in life when we feel as though we are on the end of the crack-the-whip line, and right now I’m that kid that goes caroming off in zig-zag trajectory, trying not to end up flattened on the blacktop. I think it was easier back when the Christmas tree was new.

 

 

 

Vagaries in Gestation