In search of story


Disconnections: December 25.18


Do you remember, dear reader, two Christmases ago when my big beautiful tree fell flat on its face, ornaments and all? And we (my son) had to wrestle it across the room and tie it to the bannister with twine to keep it upright? Here it is again. More or less. Well, definitely less. This is the top part.

As you know, this has been the year of The Downsize. The tree is a little shorter, and so am I. We hold a million memories anyway.

Our tinsel might be tarnished,

our limbs a bit askew

but we wish a merry Christmas

and peaceful heart to you!






Connections: July 24.17

Maybe you remember

my Christmas tree mishap

when it toppled over

and flattened carpet nap.

Family ingenuity

perhaps aesthetics-free

brought it back to standing

with pragmaticality.

And now my poor tomato

bowed by wind and rain

lists like my old tree

risking break and sprain.

So whether Yule tradition

or heavy-laden vine

when the question comes from listing

the answer comes from twine.







Connections: December 21.16

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAYou may recall, dear reader,

when last you saw my tree

it was prostrate on the floor

Christmas gang agley.

The ruins have been salvaged

my firstborn saved the day

the tree is standing upright

with minimal crack and fray.

A festive touch, the Christmas twine

functional, albeit

a rarely-used adornment

please pretend that you don’t see it.



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




A place called Me

I’ve had a most interesting exchange with a writing mate. I asked her about home. She asked me back. Home has been on my mind recently, so I’d been thinking about it but I hadn’t put anything into words. You know: words. Those bothersome markers that make a thought visible, graspable, kickable. But they are also the stepping stones. When I lay down the words, I lay a path.

And so it was this morning that I wrote my thoughts on home and began to put down the path.

I grew up in a home. It was authoritarian, cramped, explosive, stable. Sometimes hilarious. My parents had deep roots in the area and those attached to me. So I knew home then.

But not so much in my adulthood. Those things that were the nature and aspect of home for me — marriage, faith, family, house — dissolved, and so I was required to re-define home. Or to admit I would never have it again.

Do externals define home? Yes. The smell inside the old breakfront, the lopsided Christmas tree, the wooded Indiana backways, stories that begin “When I was growing up” — the seeing, hearing, touching, smelling of geographical, architectural, hand-me-down place.

But what about the internal place, where the senses work only in memory? Isn’t that my essential home, and if I don’t know home there, will I know it any place else? And if I do know home there, or, rather, here, inside me, do I need it any place else?

I am 72. These questions have might for me. The path I write will not be straight, cannot be long.


Just so

Christmas at our house was a cross between Fezziwig’s party and a root canal. There was serious intent to celebrate with a simultaneous — and cross-purposed — intent to make everything just so. Take it from me: celebration and just so do not co-exist in tranquility.

To me, Christmas was the highlight of the year. Aside from my grandmother’s rages, I loved everything about it, even playing Christmas carols in the summer. (Oddly, my parents objected.) Books on Christmas crafts, Aunt Mary’s spritz recipe, the red plastic Christmas cookie cutters — delirium! transcendence! I stared at Christmas lights as I would an archangel.

But then the tree. Mom dragged me into bitter cold to tree shop under bare light bulbs that dangled in a most unstarry-like aspect over trees stiffer than I was. Only one tree in a million met her standard of just so. I have never warmed up.

Dad had to make the tree fit our living room, which was finite in the extreme. Drag it in, drag it back out. Saw. Repeat. Needles flipping everywhere. Sap-sticky and frozen, Dad was distinctly unmerry.

After they wrestled it into a militarily upright position, the decorating began. Lights with daisy-like reflectors, then ornaments, then tinsel — all according to The Rules, which were immutable for tinsel. One strand at a time, individually smoothed, gently draped at the tip of the branch, one side longer than the other — NEVER hung at the half-way point — MOM! GET A GRIP!

In the end it was, of course, magnificent. I peeked at it reverently from my bed at night. And thus was born my suspicion that the way to Fezziwig was through just so.

From the time of Just-So

From the time of Just-So