Oddments

In search of story


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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.

 

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Connections: October 22.17

I groped for the word: appalling? scary? astonishing? embarrassing? All the above?

This is one of two units in which the stuff of my life is stored. You know, dear reader: stuff? It isn’t life but it becomes life. Doesn’t it? It tells of people you miss. It tells of the daily. It’s the familiar, the comfortable, the personal.

It’s easy to disdain mere things. They are, after all, temporary. But they are also deeply a part of us. So I stand in absolute terror at the base of this mountain of things. It stretches floor to ceiling and wall to wall — in two units! What will I keep? What must go? How did this happen? What will I do about it all?

But, more important, what do I need? My writing mate Tamara is a minimalist. She and her husband have amazingly pared their life down to necessity. They have by example taught me to re-think ownership. That will enter into this. Also I think I’ve reached a time in life where the letting-go begins. Ironically, a holding-tight happens at the same time. I want to hold tight to memory even as I want to let go of the things that hold the memory.

Thus tension.

I might have a house to go to; I’ll know more in a few days. If so, the whittling begins. Look out for shavings!

 

 

Connections

 


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Connections: October 13.17

Economy of words

is not my strongest suit

I’m Irish, blather-minded,

an English major to boot.

But occasionally I’ll do it

say it all in just one word

here’s syllable to prove it

in a box of the absurd.

Packing up my years

forces me to see

in wording and in living

downsizing is the key.

 

 

Connections

 

 


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Connections: September 15.17

I am so old

that I can remember

a time we decorated

only in December.

What were we thinking?

Why didn’t we see

the whole twelve months

celebratorially?

 

 

Thanks again to the S.W. Berg Photo Archives

and to the D.J. Berg sense of celebration.

Connections

 

 


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Connections: September 9.17

Carousels, cupolas

hexagonal rooms

houses with frosting

universal heirlooms

fantasies, wishes

we want to hold on

to the horse and the magic

lest they one day be gone.

 

 

More thanks to the S.W. Berg Photo Archives,

Fernandina Beach (Florida) Gallery.

When I started to write this, I was not thinking of Irma, Harvey, Jose, Katia.

Now I am.

Connections

 


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Connections: September 1.17

 

I took my own advice. Except instead of seeking out a shady park to watch kids, I went to my granddaughter’s junior-high tennis match.

I sat with her and her team. Granny on the bleachers! I got to tell them about how, back in the day, my friend Connie and I devised our own scoring system: the more bounces, the more points. (It worked for us.) That was their first look of wonder. Like at a museum.

I was overwhelmed by energy, smartphones, sketchbooks, never-ending chatter, good spirits, water bottles, and a desperate search for quarters for popcorn. And by the saintliness of good coaches.

I learned I can confound at least eight junior-high kids at one time by pronouncing it “Annie May” instead of “Anna May.” (“Yes, I know what anime is!” Grandma growled. “But who is Anna May?”) That was their second look of wonder.

I got to use one of my best retorts before an audience: “Well, YOU don’t know what pop-it beads were!” That gets her every time. Their third look of wonder.

In one of my former lives, I taught junior high, and, sitting there amid the cacophony and hormonal mayhem, I was reminded of why I loved that age. They are full of life and imagination and hilarity.

I don’t think my look was one of wonder but rather of gratitude.

There is hope. Lots of it.

 

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