In search of story


May 16.23: Thursday Doors Writing Challenge

Grandma was bony. Her light summer housedresses added no substance at all to her frame, and her summer hugs were especially skeletal. It wasn’t that she was skinny exactly; she just seemed to the child-me to have a lot of bones.

She sat at her kitchen table with the dented colander in her aproned lap, cleaning green beans from a pile heaped on a torn brown bag spread over the oilcloth. Her long fingers, never manicured or jeweled, moved automatically.

Such a small sound, that snap of the bean, blending arrhythmically with the summer breeze which carried its own small sounds through the screens, bits of birdsong, leafsong and the tickling jingle of the ice cream man. In summer’s slow time, the air mingled with the fragrance of the fresh beans, and everything was new.

Two windows flanked the table, their curtains puffed lightly by summer’s breath. Grandma sat between one window and the back screened door, locked with a little hook. What a joy to a kid to flip up the hook and careen out, over the small porch, past the pantry window that used to be their winter icebox, down the wooden stairs, into the little yard festooned with tomatoes and moss roses.

And what a smack was there! That screened door slammed shut with decibels to wake the dead. BLAM! It was a sound that shattered the snoozy summer every time. That door slapped her house so smartly that it was hard not to think that it was going after the flies that tried to get in. I’m sure it got a few.

There was something satisfying about that smack. There was a door with character, purpose, a voice. Everyone with ears knew of it. It announced our going-forths like cannon shot. After Dad and his sisters grew up, it might have been a happy time for the door to be again in the harum-scarum forces of little hands.

In the comings and goings of children, the slamming of screened door, the grandma, busy with the things of living, maybe thinking in her bones about the day the door would be quiet again.



Submitted to Dan Antion’s

Annual Thursday Doors Writing Challenge,

with thanks both to Dan for hosting,

and to Lois, whose door photo

reminded me of the long-ago door.


March 25.23: Coping, but barely

I do not make this up;

I couldn’t even think it:

the label on this cleaner

tells me not to drink it.

How stupid do I look?

What nonsense, base and utter.

Like warning there are peanuts

in a thing called peanut butter.

I shake my head and ponder

how the planet can be greener

if we leave it to be governed

by those who might drink cleaner.

Really, dear reader, I try not to beat that poor dead horse and say “when I was a kid,” but sometimes I can’t help it. My generation has to bear some of the responsibility for this, but I staunchly maintain that we didn’t have to be told not to drink cleaners or that there were peanuts in peanut butter. Could it be that ours was the superior intellect? (Honestly, I am not a Trekkie, but some of those lines are eternally quotable!)

With thanks to the cult of Khan

and his wrath, of course.



February 5.23: Coping, but barely

Did you ever in all nobleness

make promise to yourself

that you wouldn’t touch that chocolate

in the corner on the shelf?

Did you succumb to self-delusion

like some invertebrate schnook

and tell yourself you’d only

take a little look?

Maybe also sniff

of cocoa-infused air

just to be assured (of course)

the forbidden was still there?

Well, maybe just a nibble

wouldn’t be transgression awful;

it’s not as though a nibble

is criminal, unlawful!

Your hand has barely moved

when you see the fearsome worst:

security is tight —

your conscience got there first!


Not that I’ve ever done this.

OK, maybe once.

Amazements to Susan Rushton for this too-real photo of my conscience.


December 31.22: Coping, but barely

The table is set,

pristine and inviting,

the menu unknown

as of this writing.

I wish you, dear reader,

a stew of your choice:

a toothsome concoction

for palate and voice,

words for your writing,

health for your soul,

a generous helping

of vision and goal.

May loved ones and muses

fill all the seats,

your fingers and spirit

be ever sticky from sweets.



Thanks yet again to photographer S.W. Berg,

and kudos to The Baker’s Wife Bistro,

Hampton, VA, for the ambience.

I wish you a good year next, dear reader, with my thanks for your presence here, and I dig down to the very last remnants of depleted optimism to express some small hope for peace in our future. I do find our little corners of blogdom are places for peace. Plus a few laughs. Some nostalgia. A touch of snark. Communal sighs. The occasional coffee-spit on the keyboard. Thus is peace had, and I’m most grateful for it. Thank you for helping me bungle through 2022!




December 29.22: Coping, but barely

Jeweled confection —

how dare we bite in? —

so perfect a morsel,

toothmarks would be sin.

The art of the little,

meticulous craft,

we must linger over,

admire, fore and aft.

From various angles

its magnificence savored,

the eyes are the palate

to guess at how flavored.

To taste with the eye

is the manner of some,

while others prefer

to taste with the thumb.

To find telltale hole,

the proof of the borer,

causes mannered among us

to recoil in horror.

What weaselly ways,

what etiquette lack,

to know what’s inside

and then put it back!


You may recall, dear reader, the indignities of my youth, with blue jeans not allowed. Not proper, said my mother. And yet — and yet! — there were the Fannie May or Mrs. See’s chocolates all pristine in the aerial view, but — what’s this? — a hole in the bottom? A hole which just happens to be the exact same size as my mother’s thumb? This is proper?

Thus did I learn that proper is a relative concept. My mother being the closest of relatives.


More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg.


December 24.22: Coping, but barely

The perfect world

isn’t real

except in goo

of warm pinwheel.

Perfection twice:

Christmas then,

and today rich air

savored again.

My wish, dear reader,

whatever your feast:

may memory and hope

be your yeast.


The other day I had the privilege of teaching my grandchildren about yeast dough and sticky buns, closely related to the brown sugar rolls Grandma O’Hern used to make, and also the Christmas breakfast of their dad’s childhood. Once again the kitchen was crowded, not just with teenagers, but with ghosts happily looking on. (They were happy because they didn’t have to clean up. Sticky buns are so named because of the state of the kitchen.)

I don’t think I look for a perfect world, though I think I’d like it; I do, however, look for a world with some sanity, and that seems completely elusive most days. Then comes a day to bake with grandchildren and I see perfect order in the universe.

There are many beautiful traditions at this time of year; whichever ones you treasure, dear reader, may they bring a moment of peace and wonder to your heart.


October 18.22: Coping, but barely

Party food

it feeds the heart

even before

festivities start;


thus depicted

makes for diet


and so it behooves

the party planner

to include an apple

or bannaner.

Or stick of celery,

knob of berry,

to appease the health-food


But, health aside,

it must be said

the apple is ever

in party red;

it adds panache

to homey show

with beneficent, jolly

Pickwickian glow.

Then in slices

like little smiles

it spreads its cidery,

juicy wiles

in sticky comfort

all around

with virtuous munchy

party sound,

and if you’re The Grandma

you tend to cooking

and lick your fingers

when no one’s looking.



With thanks to Susan Rushton, whose praise of Jazz apples caused me to try them. She said I should look for the reddest, so I did. Will it surprise you, dear reader, to know that the reddest were on the bottom of the pile? I will leave to your imagination how I distinguished myself in that shopping moment.

I join Susan in praise of Jazz apples; on the occasion of my grandson’s 17th birthday, we all approved! Next will be a search for Judy’s favorite, the Macoun.

I learn so many good things from bloggers!



October 12.22: Coping, but barely

The refined high art of breakfasting

cannot too much be touted;

its value to the day

ought never to be doubted.

In cherry tomato season

it’s especially exact;

one keeps the tomato whole,

juicily intact.

It’s cozied in the mouth

(don’t try to sing or whistle

lest you wing it into orbit,

the oops’d misguided missile)

along with crusty morsel

of sourdough browned just right,

one aims for balanced tandem,

the perfection in the bite.

The delicacy of timing,

simultaneous squirt and crunch,

requires selfless practice

sometimes ’til half-past lunch.