How We Got our Organ

(Writing 101, Day Twenty: The Things We Treasure
For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most-prized possession. If you’re up for a twist, go long — experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual.)

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I  was recovering from a major surgery that had sapped my energy.  I hadn’t been out of the house for most of a month.  I was starting to feel a little better, and was becoming restless.  Terry had some business to take care of in Minneapolis, so  we decided to make a day of it.

The weather was wonderful as we headed south from our house in the country near Brainerd. Spring was coming on in its full glory, and the tender green of newly-budded trees against the mild blue of the sky  kept me entertained for several miles.  I really didn’t need to talk.  Just to be out enjoying the countryside and the fresh air was a complete delight.  I still grew tired easily, and I fell asleep somewhere south of St. Cloud.  I remember waking up just as we neared the Twin Cities, hardly believing the time had gone so fast.

Terry quickly found the place he needed, and it didn’t take long for him to finish his business.  We had planned to find a place to enjoy lunch, so that was next on the agenda. As we ate, we talked about whether or not I had the energy to do anything else.  I didn’t think so.  I was amazed at how the energy just seemed to leak out of me, as if someone had pulled a plug.  So we finished our meal, walked back to the car, and headed north.

As we reached the outskirts of the city, Terry said, “Linda, there’s Schmitt’s Music.  The big warehouse, where they have pianos and organs. Do you want to stop and look?”

“Well, sure, I love looking at instruments, but we can’t take too long.”

“Did you see they’re having their semi-annual  sale?  Maybe we can find you an organ.”

“Oh, sure.  One of those little chord organs that only has one keyboard would be about what we could afford!”

The warehouse was vast. Pianos of every size crowded the first showroom. I drooled over the concert grands, the baby grands, the uprights and the spinets.  Pianos are such beautiful instruments. Schmitt’s had nothing but the best. It was a pleasure just to press down a key or run a quick scale. The touch and the tone were outstanding.

Terry had wandered ahead of me into the organ showrooms.  I’d had to sit down for a few minutes, and before I got up again he came back and said, “Come on, there’s something I want to show you.”

He took me to the middle of the showroom. The organ standing there was a Wurlitzer Concert, a digital organ, It had three keyboards, one of which was a synthesizer. There were other settings for rhythms, chords, and accompaniments, but the organ could also sound just like a pipe organ. Well, of course I had to sit down and play around. There were headphones I could plug in so no one else had to listen to me play. The pedals created a wonderful resonant bass, and I let out all the stops, so to speak. I think I fell in love right there.  

Of course a salesman was standing by. He was nice, not pushy. He told us the organ was a floor model that had been used as a teaching instrument, and he could give us a really good price, which he then named. He stood there beaming at us, waiting for us to jump at the bargain. But we couldn’t. The price he quoted was indeed reasonable for the instrument, but not for our bank account. Terry made a counter-offer, though, much to my surprise. I couldn’t imagine he’d be able to bargain the price down to our range.

We talked for a while longer, and regretted that we just couldn’t come up with the money. We were quiet as we got back into the car, quiet as we headed up the road. Then Terry said, “Linda, I think the Lord wants you to have that organ.  When we get home, I’m going to call the guy and make him another offer.”  He told me how much he thought we could afford to spend, and he said he knew it wasn’t anywhere near what the organ was worth, but he just felt strongly that he was supposed to try.

So he did. He got on the phone the minute we got into the house, explained who he was, and said, “I’ve thought about it, prayed about it, and I believe God wants my wife to have that organ. I’m willing to offer you $—–, and that’s as high as I can go. I’ll understand if you refuse, but I want you to at least consider it.”

The salesman laughed. He said, “Well, I have to admire your determination.  I’ll tell you what.  We have another couple who are looking at it.  If they decided against it, I’ll talk to my boss and get back to you.”  It sounded like your typical sale’s pitch, right?

After he got off the phone, Terry called the family into the living room. He explained to our kids what was going on, and how strongly he felt the Lord urging him to get this organ for me.  We spent some prayer time there, each one of us adding our own petition that we would see this prayer answered. And then, all we could do was wait.

By this time I was too tired for words.  Terry helped me back to the bedroom, and I don’t remember another thing until morning.

The next day, Sunday afternoon, the phone rang. Terry picked up, and looked at me as he spoke. “Hello, this is Terry. . . .yes, we’re the ones who called last night. . . .yes, we’re still willing to make that offer. . . .really?  Well, sure!  That’s terrific!  What. . . .you’ll deliver it up here?  Wow, we didn’t expect that. . . .no extra charge?  Sure can’t turn that down!   Okay, yes, my wife will be home. . . .  . . .right, she’ll be here. Tuesday afternoon will be just fine.  Yes, Thank you.  Thank you very much!  We’ll look forward to seeing you!”

I was crying. I’m not sure if it was because I was so excited, or that I was just amazed at the way God answered a prayer that was for something we didn’t need,  but that He took pleasure in giving us. Terry, of course, acted as if it were no big deal.  After all, hadn’t he felt prompted by God in the whole situation?

Tuesday came, and the truck pulled in just as they promised. They brought in this beautiful organ. They brought in the bench. They brought in the manual and the instructions, and they brought in a box chock full of sheet music created specifically for that organ, all included in the price. They set it up for me, dusted it off, undid the protective bubble wrap from the legs of the organ and the bench, and left me alone with my wonderful new gift. The kids wouldn’t be home from school for an hour or so, and I spent the whole time learning all the bells and whistles.

It’s been 25 years, and I still love my organ.  It came across the country with us to Pennsylvania, and it had to have some work after that, but it still sounds as good as new. Every time I sit down to play, I remember my husband’s heart and the heart of God, both taking joy in gifting me with something I would treasure for years.

I am thankful.

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I’ll Tell You Everything!

( 101, Day Seventeen: Your Personality on the Page
What are you scared of? Address one of your worst fears. If you’re up for a twist, write this post in a style that’s different from your own.)

When I opened my eyes, and the cloud of drugs had dissipated, I saw something suspended directly over my head. It was semi-dark in the room, and I couldn’t make it out at first.  Then, slowly, the reality became clear.

A huge net was indeed suspended from the ceiling. It bulged out in some place, was concave in others. Those places changed every few seconds, and I began to realize that there was something alive in the net. Something alive and trying to find a way out.

As I watched in growing horror and fascination,  I realized other things as well.  I was bound hand and foot, my arms and legs spread out in opposite directions.  My head was also restrained, clamped by some evil tool that kept me from moving anything save my eyes.  I had a raging thirst. My throat was on fire, and I was desperate to work up just a little saliva to moisten my lips and throat.  I was cold; I wondered how my throat could be so hot and dry while the rest of my body was bathed in clammy sweat. I was covered with goose bumps, and shivering hard against the restraints. I realized that I was naked. Completely.

My concern, though, was that net above my head. It was the size of a small sofa, as far as I could see. What terrified me was that I thought I knew what was contained in the mesh, and the horror of it was making my misery excruciating.

Training my eyes and ears on the net, I was sure I could see separate bodies.  Writhing, wriggling, sinuous, slithering bodies. Sibilant sounds came now and then, causing the cold sweat to run freely off my body.  And then, suddenly and clearly, I saw the unmistakable reddish glare of eyes that were staring staight into my own terrified eyes!  Those eyes seemed to emit hatred toward me, and a determination to do me harm. I was mesmerized. I was horrified. I almost fainted with fear.

And then I heard the voice.  Calm, soothing and reasonable, the voice spoke my name. “Well, Mr.  Blakesly.  It seems you’re in something of a predicament.  You know, my friend, I’d be glad to help you out of your situation. Of course, you know that means you would owe me something in return. Do you care to bargain with me?  If not, all I have to do is release the cord, and you will be smothered in poisonous, angry serpents. You won’t last long. Ten minutes at most, but what an enjoyable ten minutes–for me–it will be.”

I could hear the the insinuating sneer in his voice, almost see the satisfied smugness on his face.  Finally, after chasing each other across oceans and continents, my archenemy had me completely in his power.  Little fragments of the events of the previous day began to flash through my mind, but I couldn’t hope to follow those flashes.  At the moment, all I could think of was finding some way out.

“What do you want?”  I croaked.

“Come, come. You know exactly what I want. I want everything that resides in that magnificent brain of yours. Every contact, every password, every code, every plot. And I believe I will have them, won’t I?”

A small noise above my head had me straining to see. I realized that the net was closer by maybe an inch.  A stench issued from the net. Snakes have a foul odor.

“Let me go, and I’ll give you what you’re asking.”

“Oh, no.  Oh, my, no.  That would be most foolish of me, wouldn’t it?  You’ll empty your head to me right where you are, and THEN I will consider setting you free.”

“I can’t think straight with that horror hanging above me!”

“Well, then, let’s bring it a little closer so you can see exactly what you’re looking forward to.”

And the net came down again, hanging barely six inches above my head and chest.  Individual snakes were clear now, huge ones and smaller ones, all of them ugly and evil.  My worst nightmare.  How did he know?  How could he possibly know?

“All right. All right, I’ll tell you everything. But I have to have some water. Whatever you used to put me out is making me thirsty. Please, water, and then I’ll talk.”

“Oh, Mr. B., you disappoint me.  I thought you’d hold out a little longer, so I could toy with you just a little more. Well, if you’re ready to talk, then of course you may have some water. After that, we’ll chat–just you and I and our slithery friends. If I doubt any word that comes out of your mouth–well, I think you know what will happen.”

I heard a metallic click, and the screech of an unoiled hinge. A little more light  came into my dungeon, enough to show me the true horror of what hung so close above me. As the man who entered helped me drink from a bottle, through a straw, I watched my nightmare.

“Thanks,” I said to the guard. “Don’t go away.  I’m going to need lots more water.  There’s a lot to tell.”

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We’re Moving

(Writing 101, Day Fifteen: Your Voice Will Find You
You’re told that an event that’s dear to your heart — an annual fair, festival, or conference — will be cancelled forever (or taken over by an evil organization). Write about it. For your twist, read your piece aloud, multiple times. Hone that voice of yours!)

I knew in my heart that it was coming, but hope was still alive that somehow that little church in southern Minnesota would vote not to call my dad to be their new pastor. I felt bad about hoping so, because I knew he wanted it. And Mom wanted nothing more than to go back to Minnesota where there were close friends and even some family members.

I had been only 10 when we moved from Minneapolis to Portland, Oregon.  We hadn’t lived in any one house long enough for me to become attached, and I was very excited to be living near both the mountains and the ocean. For this midwestern flatlander, that  was a dream come true.

Now I was fifteen. I’d nearly finished my freshman year of high school at one of the biggest schools in the city. I loved it there. I’d made friends and was looking forward to being a sophomore.  I dreamed of being in the choir, and in the drama program. I loved my Spanish class, and wasn’t sure at all that there would be such a class in the little farm town where my folks wanted to take us.

There were other things I loved.  Above all, I loved being near the ocean. It has still never lost its magical appeal for me.  I’ve never gotten over my wonder at the size of these immense bodies of water that circle and nourish our land masses. I loved the rare ocassions when we could watch a storm over the ocean from the safety of a high cliff.

I loved Mt. Hood. Every day, it stood sentinel over the city of Portland and treated us to the majestic view of its snowcapped shoulders and peak.

I loved the roses.  I’d never seen so many roses in one place.  Every spring, the city chose a Rose Princess from among its dozen or so high schools. The lovely winner in that contest got to ride on the official Rose Parade float, along with her court of princesses. It was a major event, and one I would never see again.

The Rose Gardens were wonderful. I never got bored with strolling through the vines, bushes, and trellises overflowing with roses of every imaginable color and size. Such an abundance of beauty and perfume. And I would very likely never see it again.

Jantzen Beach was an amusement park that we enjoyed in the summer.  In retrospect, it probably wasn’t as big as it is in my memory. It was a great place for a youth activity or a casual date.  I don’t even know if it’s still there.

The Columbia and Willamette Rivers meet in Portland. We had friends who had a boat, and they took us out on the river often enough that I became almost as entranced by the water there as I was by the ocean. Almost.  River water doesn’t always smell too good near the city.

And, of course, there was my boyfriend.  My first real crush.  I know, I know. I was only 15 (almost) and what did I know about real love?  I knew as much as any 15-year-old could know.  I loved him as much as my age, personality, and experience allowed me to love, and I was heartbroken over leaving him.  I can’t even tell you how awful it was to say goodbye. I was sure there would never be anyone else, and I was destined to be alone for the rest of my life.

So.  The packing up process, one I was very familiar with, began. Lots of stuff got thrown away or given away, and as we pared down our household I said goodbye to some things I knew I would never miss. Still, it was hard. Those years between 10 and 15 include the whole process of emerging from “little girl” to “young woman,”  There were mementos that I struggled with emotionally, things I wanted to keep but knew I would never even look at again, in reality.

And finally, the day came. The church my dad pastored had given us a farewell, lots of hugs and tears and “promise me you’ll write.” I’d said goodbye to my friends at school. We still had six weeks of the school year, and I was dreading having to do it in a new place where friendships were already established, and the other kids had known each other all their lives. But time goes on, and soon we were on the road, heading to a new life and leaving everything I loved behind us.

I thought I would never be happy again.

I was wrong.

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From Chepstow Castle

(Writing 101, Day Fourteen: To Whom It May Concern
Pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What jumps out at you? Start there, and try a twist: write in the form of a letter.)

(The book sitting right beside me is The Gecko and Sticky, by Stephen Gilpin. It is a book aimed at junior/junior high boys. It’s hilarious. The sentence I took from it will be in bold italics.)

Dearest Uncle Alwon,

I am  of all women the most unhappy!  Please, if there is any mercy in your heart for me, rescue me from this dreadful place! Why you ever thought I could be happy here I will never understand!

Let me tell you about Chepstow Castle. It is immense. It is dark, and damp, and full of wind and foul odors. The walls have the grime of 200 years ago, and none of the walls are graced with the beautiful tapestries of your castle, my home. The lord of the castle is cheap and stingy. He doles out coal for personal fires as if each piece were pure diamond.  He is my husband, or at least he soon will be, and I am terrified of the day when I will say my voiws with him. He is as cold and as bleak as his castle, with nothing of beauty to make him attractive to me –or to anyone else!

The other day, Dear Uncle, I was in need of the privy.  I am not allowed a pot in my chamber; I am required to use the nook carved out of the castle wall that sits high above the river.  Uncle, it is very cold here. The wind is unrelenting. There is nothing of warmth or comfort in that dreadful closet, and I was ill. I needed it almost constantly that day,

It is difficult for me to speak of such personal matters, but I want you to understand how difficult my life is here. It is as if my lord wants to see how I will tolerate hardship. He is as relentless as the wind. When I went to beg him a pot for my chamber, he gazed at me unspeaking for several moments. Then he said, “If I allow you a pot, you will be responsible to empty it yourself whenever you use it. I cannot spare a maid for such work when the privy is available.”

So I used the privy. As I walked in, facing the seats, I could see that the dark, lazy river that ran through the countryside was a collection of many things, but mostly water and waste. All the villages upriver used it for cleaning, cooking, watering their animals, and emptying their night waste. At this point,nearing the end of its journey to the sea, it was murky, full of tree limbs, a bloated animal carcas here and there, and many other pieces of flotsam. I shivered, thinking  how the castle made use of the very same water for cooking and drinking.

No wonder I am so often ill.

Uncle, I beg you. Send your men for me, take me home, save me from this wretched place. It may be the biggest castle in this country, but it has no welcome for such as I. I fear that once I produce a male heir, I will die.

In dire need, I remain

Your respectful Niece,

Lilybet

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Voiceless

(Writing 101, Day Twelve: (Virtual) Dark Clouds on the Horizon
Today, write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. For a twist, include foreshadowing.)

When I went downstairs to greet my next clients, the husband stepped in front of his wife. Holding her right arm with his right hand, he introduced himself before I even got my mouth open. Then he brought her up beside him and said, “And this is my wife.” He did not let go of her arm; he did not tell me her name.

As I always do, I extended my right hand for a handshake and introduced myself. My eyes locked onto his, and his were hard to move away from. They were bright blue with a dark black center, the pupils dilated enough to be noticeable. He released his wife’s arm long enough to shake my hand. I released his hand right away and offered my hand to his wife. Again, his right arm went up across her body.

“She doesn’t shake hands. It’s a germ phobia.”

She hadn’t looked at me yet. If I’d had to describe her at that point, I could have told you about the part in her dark brown hair. I could have described her clothing and her purse. Not her face.

“That’s fine.  I understand. At this time of year, it’s wise to avoid touching someone else’s hand, isn’t it?  Let’s go upstairs, then, and we’ll talk.”

I’ll talk. My wife is very shy with strangers.”

The door to my office was already open.  It’s a pleasant room, warm and welcoming. I have several items hanging on my walls that are handmade. One, a counted cross-stitch piece picturing a teapot, cup, saucer, flowers on a lace cloth, is one of the last ones my mom completed. Another is a wonderful piece of calligraphy done by my son Ken, featuring the words “Be ye kind one to another.” I like my office.  It’s comfortable.

I gestured to the sofa and invited them to sit. He pointed to the far corner of the sofa and waited for her to sit. Then he sat right beside her, placing his arm across her body and resting his hand on her far knee.

“So, I just want you to know that I will be the one controlling this meeting,” he said. “I tried to get a male counselor, but you’re the only one who takes our insurance so I had to settle for you. You need to understand that I don’t take orders from any woman, ever. We’re here because my wife needs help. I want you to help her understand what the Bible teaches about marriage and men and women. Our pastor suggested we come here, so we’re here. We probably won’t be coming back, so make this as clear as you can. What are your credentials?”

I paused, waiting for my temper and my fast mouth to settle down before I spoke.  Gazing again into his intense eyes, I told him my credentials; I also told him about my strong faith in God, my belief that every word in the Bible is truth, and my lifelong experience of learning and teaching God’s Word.  Just to sort of level the playing field.

“Good.  Then you know the Bible says the man is the head of the home, and the leader in the church. This isn’t a church, so I guess it’s ok for you to speak even though I’m here. Just don’t be upset if I have to correct you.”

I lowered my eyes. My husband tells me that even if my face is blank, my eyes give me away every time. If this man saw the distaste and anger I felt toward him, there would be no point in our going any farther.  By this time, my heart was heavy for the poor woman sitting caged behind his arm.  I still hadn’t heard a peep from her.

“Well,” I said, looking directly at her, “I see on your intake sheet that your name is Susan. It’s nice to meet you, Susan, and I hope you’ll feel free to contribute to the conversation as we move along.”

“She’ll speak if I think she needs to. You’ll address all your questions or comments to me.”

This time I looked directly at him, making no effort to conceal my rising dislike. “You, Mr. B, need to get a couple of things straight. One, you are not and will not be in control of me. You may say whatever you think you need to say, but you will say it with the same respect I’ve given you so far. Two, you and I already don’t agree on whether or not Susan needs to speak. I would request that when I address her, you allow her to respond to me.  I will never be able to help you if I can’t hear from Susan in her own voice, her own words.”

“One more outburst like that and I’m leaving. We’re leaving.  I will not expose my wife to a woman who has no understanding of male authority.  I thought this was a Christian office!”

“It is. I imagine that makes you feel pretty uncomfortable.”  Turning away from his slowly growing outrage, I spoke directly to her. “Susan, I want you to know that there are places you can go to for help and shelter.  I see no evidence that Mr. B has physically abused you, but I’m almost certain he has. If you have children, they also need to be protected. I can help you find a place that will shelter you.”

As I spoke, tears pooled and broke, pouring from her eyes in a flood.  She finally looked up at me, dark brown eyes drowning in tears and hopelessness. She shook her head. Her fingers plucked at the sleeve of her husband’s shirt. Her body trembled.

“That’s enough!  I’m leaving, and we won’t be back!  No woman is going to interfere in my marriage or make my wife think of disobeying me! My wife is perfectly happy as long as she’s obedient. You are a Jezebel!”

He dragged his wife up by her arm, pushed her in front of him, opened the door and shoved her through. He turned for a parting shot: “You must have married a weak, spineless man!”

You, Mr. B., are a weak and spineless man.  I married a godly man.”

***********

I don’t know how this couple turned out.  I did call the police in their township, explaining my fears for her safety. They promised to follow up, but I never heard back from any of them.

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The Little House on the Corner

(Writing 101, Day Eleven: Size Matters
Today, tell us about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For your twist, pay attention to — and vary — your sentence lengths.)

When I was twelve, I was in seventh grade. That would have been during the two years that we lived in a rented house on Killingsworth Avenue in Portland, Oregon. I remember it as having a brick facade, with a pretty red brick chimney that had darker bricks making the pattern of a huge X about halfway up. I had a crush on a boy in my class who liked to tell me, “X marks the spot!” in describing where I lived.

The house was located in a pleasant residential neighborhood, within walking distance of the school where I attended 7th and 8th grades. It was also within walking distance of the library, so it had two of the most important features for me!  There was a park nearby as well, and grocery shopping was around the corner and down the street about three blocks. In fact, I remember that grocery store being robbed  while I was getting the milk and bread my mom had sent me to purchase, but that’s another story.

This is not a picture of the neighborhood we lived in, but it is from a street nearby. It brings back the feeling of the neighborhood for me.

There was a nice yard. The house was on a corner, and in my memory the front yard was small. The back, however, was big enough to set up a croquet game, and to enjoy the clear air and warm sunshine of a Portland summer day. I think there was a garage, although I’m not completely clear on that.

I remember the interior layout of the house very well. What I don’t remember is how it was painted or papered. I have a vague memory of the furniture, because it followed us from house to house. We moved a lot back then, My mom never complained, that I remember, about the frequent moves, but it must have become tedious. I was happy for her when she finally was able to settle into a house she and Dad lived in for over 20 years.

Back to the inside of our little rented house in Portland.

As you walked in through the front door, you entered the living room. Most of the room was to your right.  I remember windows and priscilla curtains, and the old hide-a-bed sofa that had traveled with us from Minneapolis.  It was showing its age by then, and it seems to me it got a reupholstery job somewhere during that period.

If you turned right  inside the front door, you were in the kitchen.  I liked that kitchen. I remember white octagonal tiles, little ones, for the counter tops. I’d never seen anything quite like that before.  I remember that the kitchen was large enough to accommodate more than one cook, which was a good thing while my sister and I were both learning our way around a stove and refrigerator during those years.  Lots of baking happened in that kitchen, and some really good meals as well.

There was an eating area at one side of the kitchen that looked out onto the street and part of the front yard. I remember a built-in buffet that had a mirror that ran the length of it. At one point, my mom had a parakeet name Mac. He was so much fun. He used to like to entertain himself by strutting up and down the length of that mirror, chirping and showing off the whole way.

As you walked through the kitchen to the sink, which was under a window that looked out over the back yard, you turned right from the sink and went to the basement steps. I remember moving down to the basement during the summer because it was cooler down there; also, it was the only time I didn’t have to share a room with my sister.  It wasn’t really a room, but I seem to remember blankets or curtains strung on wire that sectioned off a large corner of the basement.

Now, going back to the living room, if you walked straight across the room from the front door you would enter the hallway that separated my parents’ room, the bathroom, and Dad’s study from the rest of the house. Memory dims here.  I don’t remember much at all about those rooms.

Just before you would get to the hallway, there was a door on the left, near the piano, that went up to the big bedroom my sister and I shared. It ran the length of the house, probably one of the largest rooms we’d ever had. Seems to me it wasn’t quite finished when we moved in–I have a vague memory of linoleum flooring being laid either just before or just after we got there. We had twin beds, and there was plenty of room for each of us to have our own area far enough from the other that we could enjoy what almost seemed like privacy. We did share a dresser and the closet. I don’t remember if there was a desk, but I do remember sitting on my bed to do homework so maybe there was no desk.

I loved Portland. We lived there for five years, between the years when I was 10 and 15.  I loved the climate. It snowed now and then in the winter, but nothing like the Minnesota winters I was used to. It rained a lot, but we learned to use umbrellas and galoshes. The summers were gorgeous. There could be a rain shower in the morning, but usually the skies were clear and friendly after that. I don’t remember mosquitos. I do remember berry-picking, long lazy summer days, walks in the nearby park with a friend or two from school. It was a different era, one in which we never gave much thought to whether or not a young girl was safe walking back and forth alone the mile or so it took to get to the library.

Those were good years, and that little house on the corner is an important part of the memories I have of my junior high years.

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Sunday Dinner

(Writing 101, Day Ten: Happy (Insert Special Occasion Here)!
Today, be inspired by a favorite childhood meal. For the twist, focus on infusing the post with your unique voice — even if that makes you a little nervous.)

Sunday  dinner was the best idea ever that just doesn’t exist the way it used to. Sundays were always relaxed. We attended Sunday school and church, of course, and then went back for the evening service. Very old-fashioned, I know, but boy, did I look forward to all of it every week.

Prep for Sunday dinner usually started on Saturday, especially if we were having company. Saturday was the day the desserts were made. Cake was always good, but PIE was better because it always came with ice cream–two desserts in one!  My mom made the best pie crust anywhere.  I don’t know how she did it, I’ve never been able to get mine as tender, flaky, and perfect as hers were. For a long time, my favorite was lemon meringue.  I still love it,  Mom could always make the meringue stay glued to the pie crust and not shrink away.

Her best pies, though, were pumpkin, apple, and cherry. Pumpkin was reserved for “The Holidays,” and everyone knew exactly what “The Holidays” meant.  The first time I was offered pumpkin pie  long after  The Holidays, I was completely flummoxed.  Really?  Pumpkin pie?  I didn’t know you could even DO that!

The pies always smelled wonderful, except for the lemon meringue.  That one didn’t get baked. The others, though, filled the house with the glorious aromas of fruit and sugar and crust.  It was asking a lot for us to have to wait until the next day!

Sometimes, Mom baked special dinner rolls.  Of course, nothing smells quite so wonderful as homemade yeast bread. Just before the Sunday meal, one of us would put the rolls in a brown paper bag, sprinkle the bag with water, and put the bag in the oven for about ten minutes.  Good as new.

The meat was the center of the meal.  My favorite was unquestionably Mom’s rump roast. Before we left for church on Sunday morning, all shiny bright in our bobby-pinned curly hair and Sunday shoes, Mom would take a few minutes to make deep slits in the roast and push a clove of garlic into the slits.  The meat would close over the garlic.  Then she would sprinkle the roast with garlic salt and pepper and slide it into the oven to bake slowly while we were singing and hearing the preaching.  Sometimes, she would have us peel potatoes and carrots  that would be covered in cold water and left in the fridge until we got back home. The very first thing she did once she got her coat off would be to place the vegetables carefully around the succulent meat, sliding the whole thing back into the oven to finish cooking while we set the table, made salad, filled water glasses, and made sure there were enough chairs around the table. 

Salad could be lots of different things. My favorite, and one I still make today, was a combination of apples, bananas, and raisins stirred together with–you’ll be surprised–Miracle Whip!  Hey, don’t knock it until you try it!  It’s wonderful.  I often serve it for a company meal, and I’ve had only one person in over 45 years turn his nose up.  Poor man.

If the potatoes and carrots weren’t baked with the roast, then we’d peel potatoes when we got home from church and put them in the pressure cooker for 15 minutes, which would make them perfect for mashing.  Mom had an old Presto!  pressure cooker that had many wonderful meals to its credit. When the spuds were ready, we’d pour off the water, pour in some milk and a big dollop of butter, plus a little salt. We used the top of the mixer to whip the potatoes right in the cooker.  Back then, you could take the top of the mixer off and use it like a portable.  Pretty cool, actually, but I have to admit I like my Kitchen Aide better.

While one person was taking care of the potatoes,  Mom was making gravy. Rich, thick, aromatic gravy  you could eat like soup. Garlicky, yummy.  My dad used to mound up his mashed potatoes, spoon a hole in the top like a volcano, and then fill up the hole with gravy. It was an art. He caught me watching him once, and he blushed. I was fascinated.  By the blush, not the volcano.

What can I say about the roast?  The garlic flavor was subtle; the meat was moist. There is just nothing quite like a good rump roast. I don’t prepare it very often these days, but now and then I treat us to a memory of Mom’s Sunday dinner.  Served up with hot veggies, fruit salad, warm rolls and real butter and topped off with pie. . . .well, it made Sundays worth waiting for.

 

 

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Point of View

(Writing 101, Day Nine: Changing Moccasins — Point of View
For today’s assignment, write a scene at the park. Up for a twist? Write the scene from three different points of view.)

The town park was busy. People were there to enjoy the fresh air, the new grass, and budding flowers in every corner. It had been a long, cold, dark winter with relentless snow. People had been cooped up indoors, suffering with what many began to call “the four-month virus.” But on this tempting spring morning, everything was fresh and new. 

Children too young for school were running, shouting, twirling dervishes as they drank in the sunshine and the mild, sweet air. Mothers pushed strollers that had every hi-tech advantage possible, veritable hotel rooms on wheels for their infants.  Old men sat at the picnic tables and played chess or checkers, swapping the same old-but-new stories they had always told. The walking and biking paths were busy. It was the best place to be.

A man and a woman were walking the path, strolling slowly and observing everything around them. They had very little to say to each other. They were neither old nor young, and nothing was noticeable about them. They blended into their surroundings with perfect ease, just another twosome out for a stroll. Unless you were watching very carefully, you wouldn’t have seen the woman subtly brush the man’s elbow with her hand as she reached up to adjust her sunglasses, tucking a wisp of dark hair behind her ear.  You wouldn’t have seen the man’s gaze sharpen as he looked in the direction  the woman had indicated. But someone else saw.

The little old woman sat on a bench facing the trail. At her feet was a knitting bag stuffed with bright red yarn. She wore black sneakers with no socks. Her plain navy dress covered her knees, exposing only a short length of leg above the sneakers. Her torso was encased in a frayed grey sweater buttoned all the way from ribbing to chin. Her hands were busy with the red yarn and a pair of knitting needles, the thread tossed quickly over the top of the needle in her right hand with each stitch. She seemed to be knitting a sweater, but it was hard to tell for sure.  Her movements were quick and rhythmic as her arthritic hands worked, stitchingstitchingstitching. Her sunglasses covered half of her face. It was impossible to know whether she was watching her knitting or the activity all around her.

The man and woman slowed their steps even more as they approached the knitter. She never moved her head or gave any indication that she saw them coming. As they neared, the old woman leaned down and put her right hand into her bag.

“Gun! Gun!”  yelled the younger woman, dodging off the path and executing a rolling somersault before she sprang to her feet behind a towering old elm. The man leaped in the opposite direction, streaking belly-first to reach the shelter of a bush.  The old lady was on her feet now, as well, moving her gun slowly between her targets, backing away from the bench where her knitting lay.

“The first one of you who moves will never move again!  I may not take you both out, but I’ll get one of you! Don’t make me start shooting!  You don’t want anyone here to die!”

There was silence for a heartbeat, and no one moved a muscle.

“CUT!”  came the director’s voice from the right side of bench. “That’s a wrap!  Good job, everyone!”

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Tea Pot Day

(Writing 101, Day Eight: Death to Adverbs!Go to a public location and make a detailed report of what you see. The twist of the day? Write the post without adverbs.)

Every year, my daughter and granddaughter take me to a tea room for my Mother’s Day gift. Kaitlyn christened it Tea Pot Day four years ago, when she was four. Today we invited our friend Betty to join us.

There’s something special about dressing for Tea Pot Day. We treat it as if it were high tea in England,  minus hats and gloves.  Make-up, hair, and jewelry all get special attention. We’ve arranged to meet Debbie and Kaitlyn at the tea room, so Betty and I left my house at 11 a.m. We plan on an early lunch and an afternoon of antiquing.

The tea room is on the main street of a small town near my daughter’s house. It’s an old town, with lots of big houses. Some have been transformed into apartments or shops,  and others still shelter families.  Our tea house is painted bright pink. It’s easy to find!

We pulled into the driveway and parked behind the house. The yard is lush at this time of year. A rambling rose covers the  archway, and rich red roses travel the cobblestone path to the rear entrance. The air is perfumed and heavy as rainclouds gather in the near distance. Humidity drops on us like thick fog, making us glad to be inside in the air-conditioning.

We are directed down a narrow hallway to a dining room we’ll have all to ourselves until we’re finishing our dessert. There are several tables set with pastel cloths covered with a lace overlay.Each china place setting differs from the other, delicate china cups set in flowered saucers. Menus waited by each place, offering a variety of flavored and regular teas. We each ordered something different, and later shared them with each other.

The waitress brought us cinnamon-chip scones while we waited for our lunch orders. Thick devonshire cream and strawberry jam came with the scones. My mouth waters remembering the blend of flavors.

We drank tea and enjoyed our scones, chatting about this and that. I spent some time, as I do each year, enjoying the decor.  We sat near a fireplace of white marble. The mantel held a collection of tea pots, dried flowers, and a marble boy holding a pitcher on his shoulder. The walls were papered in stripes of vines, berries, and roses. The ceiling border was pink peonies, and cabbage roses.  There were shelves holding tea pots, cups, saucers, and tea implements.  White lace curtains shaded the windows and provided a genteel feeling as we enjoyed our quiche, tea sandwiches, and an assortment of desserts. It was quiet  and peaceful, and we didn’t want to leave.

There is a gift shop upstairs. We decided to take a look to see if there was anything different from our last visit.  Halfway up the stairs, I glanced up to the top and was startled to see a woman’s face hanging on the wall, similar to the  carving on the prow of a ship, turned to seem as if it were facing us as we climbed the steps.  We all agreed she was creepy!

There were several little girls’ dresses of satin, taffeta, and lace hanging in the upper hallway,  available for tea parties. I imagine there have been many little girls who have enjoyed the fancy dress parties.

It took us a short time  to see that there was nothing we needed from the gift shop, so we trooped back down the stairs to the desk, paid our bill, and headed back outside.  Stomachs full, we were ready to enjoy the antique shops that are ubiquitous in this part of Pennsylvania.

A satisfying day.

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Temper(ature) Tantrums

(Writing 101, Day Seven: Give and Take
Focus today’s post on the contrast between two things. The twist? Write the post in the form of a dialogue.)

Southeastern Pennsylvania, Spring, 2014

Honey, it’s really cold in here. Did you turn off the heat for some reason?”

“Yup.  Turned it off because it’s May and it’s not cold out any more. We have to cut back somewhere!”

“But– Honey, I’m COLD!  My nose is cold, my hands and feet are cold.  It’s May, but the weather hasn’t gotten the message yet.”

“Put on a sweatshirt or something.”

‘You have got to be kidding me. Look, the temp outside is only 32°!  Turn on the heat!”

“Aw, for crying out loud.   It’s going to warm up to 50° today, and then you’ll be too hot!  Just dress warmer and when it heats up you can shed your sweatshirt.”

“Look, you.  Just because YOU like to be cold doesn’t mean I should have to freeze or go walking around with so many clothes on I look like the Michelin Tire Man!  How am I supposed to do my housework when I can’t even move?”

“It’s not cold. Look, the temperature inside the house is still almost 60° from running the furnace yesterday and overnight.  You’ll be fine.”

“55° is NOT almost 60!  Come on.  Turn the heat on.  If it warms up enough you can turn it off later.  I’m COLD!”

“You must be going through menopause or something.”Image

“Been there, done that.  I’m about to commit menopause on you!  If  you won’t go down and turn the heat back on, I’ll do it myself.  Good grief.  I don’t ask for much, you know.”

“Yeah, well, while you’re warm  I’ll be sweating like a horse. I hate being too hot.   In the winter I’m hot because you need the heat up to 69° and in the summer I’m hot just because it’s hot. Can’t win.”

“That makes two of us. I’ve learned to live with 69° in the winter, but I’ll never understand why you want to crank it up to 74° in the summer. . . . .”

 

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