Tag Archives: 1950s

Circles of Fire

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Winter is my white season.

My time of emptying soul through reflection.

 

I found out recently that my Aunt Jane died only several years ago while living in England. She had been a favorite character in the theatre of my life. She had also been a heroin addict. Her addiction began somewhere around age thirty.

Aunt Jane and my mother had been close friends. Sisters, almost. I felt like their mutual daughter when we three were together.

They were beautiful, magical women. And when my grandmother, Toot, joined – it was a generational trinity of wonder and wisdom.

But I remember the day that the magic broke and spilled its secret waters. On that current, a part of me washed away like cracked ice on a frozen river. 

A few of those fractured pieces want to speak. To return to the white of a snow-covered land with no footsteps. To remember something I fear I may forget to remember.

 

A Piece of a Conversation:

-Ruth.

-Yes.

-I heard from Bob today. He called to tell me that Jane burned the girls’ clothing last night.

-How could she have done something like that?

 

Mary paused. Swallowed. Straightened and extended her spine so that it sprouted upward from the kitchen table.

 

-He said she put the girls to bed, waited for them to fall asleep, and then cleared out their closets and drawers. She took the clothes up to the attic, tossed everything into a pile and set it on fire.

-My God, Mother, she could have burned down the entire house and killed everyone!

-Yes, I know. Luckily Bob was not on-call that night. He smelled the smoke and called the fire department immediately. Part of the flooring has to be repaired. They were lucky.  .  .  .

-What else happened?

-I keep hearing something scratching against the backdoor screen.  .  .

-Probably wind.  .  . leaves blowing.  .  . birds.  .  .

-No-o-o.   .  . but I’ll go on .  .  .

-Jane has been having BJ bury the used hypodermic needles in their backyard. Can you imagine the damage this is going to cause her? BJ is the oldest. Sharon may be too young to remember. Bob doesn’t think that she understands what is happening at all. But he’s worried sick about BJ’s safety.

 

Extended silence. Throats clear. A rustle of tissues. Wooden chairs creak. Footsteps softly pacing the linoleum floor. The screen door again.  .  . faint scratch of fingernail.  .  . soft thump.

 

-I can’t imagine putting your daughters through something like that. I could never put Jayni through that.  .  .  .

-No, you’ll never have to. You’re very different from Jane.

-Jayni adores her Aunt Jane. How can I explain any of this to her?

-It’s an illness. Aunt Jane is very sick and will have to go away for a long time. Jayni’s the youngest grandchild. She won’t remember much. By the time she’s old enough to know the truth, Jane may have died.

-What should I do? Neal has just been promoted. He can’t leave. He can’t take care of Jayni. I don’t know whether it’s a good idea to take her to Bob and Jane’s or not.

-Take her. The two of you go. Stay as long as you can. Let Bob know that the family is supporting him. I’ll prepare Neal’s dinners. I’ll call Theresa and have her clean the house

-But what do I tell Jayni? She’s a curious child. And easily frightened. A sensitive child.

-Yes, I know. Tell her you’re going up to Baldwinsville to visit your brother. She can visit with her cousins. Make it sound like fun.

-She’s shy around her cousins. BJ intimidates Jayni with her haughty attitude. Sharon treats Jayni like her personal servant. She really only loves her aunt.

-Well, there’s not much we can do now. You need to start making plans and packing tonight.

-Shhh.  .  . I heard the back door knob. Jayni’s coming in from the backyard.

 

A Piece of Home:

I enter the kitchen and glance at the mayonnaise-colored clock-radio on the counter next to the toaster. The surface is so glossy it looks like a petit fours’ fondant icing. I am hungry, but it’s too early for supper. The time is about 3:00PM. Daydream Time.

I hug and kiss my grandmother, Toot. Everyone calls her “Toot,” though no one remembers why.

But I remember the story: she requested to be called by the first words uttered by her first grandchild. My cousin BJ had the honor of naming Grandmother Ballard, “To-To.” Every family member adopted this new term of reference. Everyone, that is, until I was born and began to speak. I shortened the name to “Toot.”

One firm, commanding syllable. Its success was widespread: family members, neighbors, friends, business associates. People loved to feel the bubble of air that popped at their front teeth when they spoke this four letter word.

 

There’s a history of four letter words being dirty. Unutterable in polite company. This word, however, is clean and crisp. It stands with self-confidence. I’m proud to have authored it.

 

And I’m proud of my grandmother as I kiss her soft, powdered cheek. She is beautiful and elegant. Her blue-tinted grey hair is softly waved and secretly fastened in place with crinkled silver bobby pins. Her skin is perfectly smooth, uniform, unmarred by even one freckle. Her pores are sealed by a delicate layer of flesh-toned dust. She smells of roses. That frail scent of toilet water that whispers a flower’s fragrance. Strictly Ladylike.

 

In her lap, sits her burgundy leather purse. Her champagne-colored gloved hands are draped and lightly folded over the handles. Her feet, in matching burgundy pumps, are paired like bookends at the base of the wooden kitchen chair. They are alert. Heels ready to click – like Dorothy’s – into Oz.

 

Her suit is made of wool. So finely woven that it is soft enough to snuggle into. It’s a subtle plaid of complicated colors. Colors that blend so well together, the eye cannot distinguish individuals. A color palette that expresses the ultimate goal of Communism.

 

The suit is hand-tailored by Hellie Stelmacher, Toot’s personal seamstress. The precision of German craftsmanship is immediately evident.  .  . seamless seams, covered buttons, double topstitching on the collar, cuffs and pocket tabs – all impeccably parallel. Toot is always assembled with the awareness of every detail. And every detail is related to its neighbor. To its tribe. To its entire clan.

 

Her mind is as orderly as her appearance. She is a finely tuned machine, keeping my mother and me in good-working order. She tries to keep my Aunt Jane and my cousins BJ and Sharon well-tuned also, but they live several hundred miles away. So that family’s machinery is less tidy. The timing belts are looser. The spark plug firings less exactly syncopated. Their suggested maintenance schedules are not consistently followed.

 

I think this is why my Aunt Jane has had a breakdown. Her regular maintenance schedules were overlooked. And the intricate machinery parts – like the viscera of clocks – stopped working in unison. Some little tooth bit the wrong circular gear during the wrong rotation.

 

A Piece of Imagination:

Inside of my three-year-old mind, I imagine my Aunt Jane coming undone as I kiss the cheek of my meticulously-done grandmother.

Toot jingles her voluptuous key ring – the ubiquitous signal that she is planning to depart. I want her to stay. I want the conversation to continue. I want more details for my theory. So I excuse myself, saying, “I’ll go upstairs and play in my room.”

The expression on my mother’s face relaxes with a sigh. The commas around her mouth lengthen.

Oh, the relief of punctuation.  .  . it’s a pause for breath. And breath is life force. It’s a continual, silent chanting of Om. The voice of God. The sound current of creation that never ceases. In its vibration everything is contained. As in silence, everything is contained. As inside the pause between an inhalation and an exhalation, on that edge just before the next inhalation.  .  . truth is held in suspension.

 

A Piece of Recollection:

As I watch my mother’s mouth unfurl with an exhale, I hear Toot’s singing voice in my memory. The one she used in church. In the safety of a large congregation of Presbytery. The wavering silk thread of a soprano – quivering like uncertain hands pulling the silk from the worm’s cocoon safely nestled in the bend of a mulberry tree.

The voice looks like a lady trying to walk on a cobblestone street in high heels. The flavor is vinegar mixed with a teaspoon of honey.

My place in church was to stand next to Toot, between the floral garlands and the white taper candles burning safely on bamboo stilts, Polynesian style. The decor of special holidays.

 

A Piece of Protection:

And on these special occasions, I jockey for position so Toot and I can share a hymnal, and, so I can dissect the qualities of her scantily-heard voice. I memorize it for occasions such as this. For times of uncertainty and times of fear that make me want to dress up in pretty clothes and costume my anxiety.

I take this memory upstairs to my room, leaving the door ajar. I remember hearing my grandmother singing holy words of praise. Although I cannot decipher the exact words, I know they were sanctified. I know they were rising up to Heaven. I know she thinks they were beautifully offered in a voice that wears angel’s wings.

 

A Piece of Eavesdropping:

This memory is my adhesive as I put my right ear to the floor and strain to listen through to the kitchen below. But the voices wear mufflers. The words pass like exhaust fumes – sour in their pungency; intangible, ungraspable in their exit.

 

Another Piece of Imagination:

I begin to imagine instead.

I imagine Aunt Jane pulling down the spring-hung ladder that leads to the attic. I imagine her setting fire to the lives of my cousins. I imagine her face painted like a warrior – scrawled up bloody red. Her intent upon some distant invisible mission.

I imagine her walking into BJ’s room first, because she is the oldest daughter.

I see her open the closet door and pick-up ruffled dresses and blouses with white Peter Pan collars and pleated woolen skirts clasped with large gold safety pins. One at a time, flinging them into a box. I hear the metal hangers hitting the cardboard with a sound like pelting hail.

Once the closet is bare, she walks into Sharon’s room, and opens the closet door.

More fiercely now, she yanks clothing from the hangers:  a yellow and white seersucker sunsuit with shoulder ties like shoe laces, an organdy party dress with crinolines and wide bows at the waist, a dotted swiss Easter dress. Gaining momentum, she lets the wire hangers litter the closet floor. Her eyes grow more determined as she stuffs the clothing into the box. In her mind, she begins to chant, “I want to be a good housewife. I want to be clean and tidy and organized. I want my children to clean up after themselves.”

 

 

With the box in her arms, she walks in measured slow motion. Up the ladder, one step at a time, into the attic. She walks to the center, under the cathedral peak, where the four-cornered dormer sunbeams meet in a mandala configuration.

In the center she places the cardboard box, teeming with little girl’s clothing. Like an abundant offering upon an awaiting altar. From her apron pocket she pulls a can of lighter fluid – the kind my father uses to accelerate the combustion in our charcoal grill. She squirts it over the clothing, first in a star pattern, then outlines it in circles.

Like the circle of a Wicca ceremony, she moves around the box clockwise. Her footsteps become slower, hypnotic, tribal-like. She moves even slower, suspended like a Pa-Kua practitioner – walking the walk of an ancient Chinese warrior so deeply focused upon his internal components that his physical body appears to float. Walking the walk of the praying mantis. So graceful, patient, dancerly.  .  . yet fully committed to killing.

From another apron pocket, I see Aunt Jane pull a large box of safety matches.

She waves her right arm in the broad arc of a wing and drags a match slowly down the black strip on the side of the box. The red match head turns blue and yellow and orange as it erupts into flame. She tosses it onto the pile. 

With each step, she lights and tosses a match until she completes a full circle. She is living, now, inside of her Celtic ancestors. The flames surge. It’s a funeral pyre. A cleansing ceremony. Burning dresses, looking like the burning ghosts of little girls. I long to see their souls rise to Heaven.

 

In the orange afterglow, I see her face. It’s streaked with sweat and soot and red lipstick. Her lips move, but I can’t make out the words. She looks like a Hoodoo priestess in spellbinding-trance or a Shakespearean witch about to be consumed by the fire of her own making.

 

Her image begins to fade and curl like the skins of daffodils. I see my Uncle Bob sprinting up the ladder, two-steps-at-a-time. I see him reach through the licking flames and grab Aunt Jane, whose dark shape has a corona of wild hair and no face but a shadow. Her head bends and latches onto his left hand. She is biting his ring finger as he drags her from the flames.

 

A Piece of Kitchen Communion:

My reverie dissolves. I can only remember my beloved aunt visiting my mother and me earlier in the year. Talking and laughing and baking together in our soft, buttery yellow kitchen. I remember wrapping her apron ties twice around her waist, just so I could hug her a while longer.

 

A Piece of Hope:

My mother and Toot are making travel plans for me. Maybe tomorrow I will be driving with my mother up to Baldwinsville, New York to see my Aunt Jane. I hope that I can still hug her. I hope that my cousins are softer, kinder toward me. I hope that all five of us females can embrace in a circle of symmetrical love and flaming grace.

A Broken Puzzle:

This dream never came true, however, I am comforted now – knowing that Aunt Jane lived a long life in a faraway land without leaning upon any of us every again.

She left a silent legacy. A circle of mystery.

Aunt Jane died and I still don’t know the truth.

Red Sneakers

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Many years before Prince coveted his little red Corvette, I invested hours of begging my mother for a pair of little red sneakers. I was in love.

 

 

Red Sneakers

 

In those years of the late 1950s to the early 1960s, canvas-coated feet were emboldened in a battle between Keds and PF Flyers. My mother favored Keds.

Okay.

I accepted the poverty of options. Secretly I preferred Keds also, because on close scrutiny of my friends with PF feet, I could see a deficiency in quality. The fabric was skinnier; the rubber was wobblier. From a distance, the colors and styling were eye-catching. Up close, the optical illusion gave way.

Keds had solidity. Longevity. Ankle support.

But they were poor in color palette. White, navy, and black predominated, which was a bit boring to a small girl with a big dream of being a fashionista.

Today I describe my go-to wardrobe as: black, white, and indigo. Once again demonstrating the power of the circle. The ceaseless circle of life.

I’m voluntarily back where I began.

Almost.

Against that background color trinity, though, I love accents of surprise from every pie slice of the spectrum.

But, in the post-WW II days, life was spectrally dim. Women wore quiet dresses. Men sore Obama suits. Children wore practical clothes, that is, clothes of colors that did not readily reveal dirt. Clothes that could be worn a few times without washing and still pass for respectfully clean.

Looking back, I appreciate that practicality. Fewer loads of laundry made ecological and economical sense.

But, still. I wanted a pair of red canvas sneakers. Just so my feet could shout a little. Be happy and dance a little.

And not just plain red low-riders. No, I wanted red high-tops. And that’s where the real battle began.

Not only did Mom see red canvas as a grass-stain magnet. She judged high-tops as completely inappropriate for girls.

What the heck? I never could figure it out, but, suddenly practicality became too masculine.

I was a tall, gangly kid in need of strong ankle support. So, why not high-tops?

My arguments were in vain. For six years of childhood, she denied me.

And that denial rode along with me into adulthood.

Decades later, I found myself periodically craving a pair of red high-top sneakers. This time, though: Converse. Yes. A pair of tall, red Chucks.

Somehow, every moment of zealous pursuit was foiled. My size was not available or red was not in favor with the fashion police or long shoelaces were not being manufactured. Some quirk of commerce always roadblocked.

Then.

This year.

In the midst of 2015’s final three months of holiday blitzing.

My husband surprised me with a wedding-anniversary gift:

 

RED CHUCKS!

 

 

Yes, it truly is never too late to have a happy childhood.

And today, on this Winter Solstice, may all of your sorrows be lifted. May all of your dreams come true. May a new season of happiness fill your soul.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Childhood Theory of Relativity

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The time is the 1950s. I am a young child. Not yet in school. My mother is driving me in a powder blue 1948 Desoto. We are traveling north on Route 206 from Lawrenceville, New Jersey to Princeton.

It’s a two-lane road. By today’s standards, it would qualify as a rural back road – winding through wooded fields and aristocratic country estates. Some Tutor houses slowly tattering in refined poverty; others quietly lush with noble wealth tucked inside ivy-splattered windows.

The narrow macadam road passes by Rider College, Lawrenceville Preparatory School and the Ice Cream Shoppe. Promenades right into downtown Princeton and Palmer Square where the wealthy intelligentsia shop for plaid skirts and wool cardigans; tweed hacking jackets and mahogany-colored penny loafers; polo shirts and professorial khaki trousers.

In the center of the square is my favorite lunchtime treat: a Rexall drugstore with a soda fountain, where I can sit and spin on the red Naugahyde stools while the malt machines whirl.

At a ninety-degree angle is the elegant continental French restaurant. A two-story restaurant with many petite rooms and small tables snuggled together. The coziest tables for two border the walls.

Deep window sills lined with potted geraniums remind me of magazine photographs of European villages. Tiny crunched towns with cobblestones.

Where life is dusky and gnarled old women create sunshine with colored flowers in terracotta pots. These women seem like conjure priestesses to me. I love their power of white magic.

And I love the white crocheted lace curtains that coquettishly cover half of the windows, so delicately divided into small panes by many narrow brown muttons. The windows look like tic-tac-toe games waiting to be played by strolling passersby.

Antique stores with dark, ornately carved furniture and large gold leaf framed mirrors in the windows dot the perimeter of the square. A grassy square of land sits in the center, interrupted by an X that offers shoppers a shortcut between right angles.

The buildings are brick and stone. Tasteful, quiet structures. The people are dressed in neutral colors. Statements of some older, wiser truth than the fickle fashion-minded New Yorkers, just 45 miles northeast.

Traveling a little farther north on Route 206 – or Main Street – is the cluster of castle-like buildings known as Princeton University.

The buildings are pieced together with stones that glisten like the twinkling in the eye of a secret prankster when a certain slant of sunlight peeks through.

Heavy vines of dark green ivy embroider their way up the sides of the buildings and drape like pearl necklaces above the tall windows. The greenery places a hush over the campus. It looks like a land from a fairy tale or the palace of a Celtic princess.

In-between Palmer Square and the University are rows of shops and houses. Thin domino houses, snuggling, sharing plots of grass. Somber buildings with the smile of flowers in window boxes. Skinny streets connecting to Main Street like diagonal arrows.

Somewhere in this section of town is where Albert Einstein lives and walks and thinks.

My mother sees a memory of his profile moving against the rows of dark brick domino-houses. She describes him to me: an elderly man, not very tall, slightly hunched. He is wearing baggy khaki pants, a dark woolen jacket over a brown sweater. The sky is silver grey and the air is cool. Mr. Einstein’s hair is platinum and fuzzy and is tousled by the gentle autumn breeze.

His face wears a bemused expression as he walks along pondering the motion of his sensibly clad feet.

My mother says that Mr. Einstein is a gentle man. He is kind to children. And he smiles as he watches their faces digest images and ideas.

He is a friend of my grandmother, Toot.

Toot teaches science in the nearby Valley Road Junior High School. And a few times a year she invites Mr. Einstein to visit her eighth grade class. He is the guest lecturer, but, my mother says he is more like an uncle coming to visit.

He laughs and plays with the kids. He tells them stories about the constructions of atoms and molecules. Stories about light particles and waves and the speed of traveling across invisible distances.

I am told that he has the students sit in circles on the floor. He is not like a regular teacher with attendance rosters. Not one who lines up students in grid formation for the pledge of allegiance.

He is relaxed. Rather sloppy, with messy hair and bright, sparkling eyes.

When I am old enough to go to school, I recall my mother’s stories of Mr. Einstein. And I wish that he could have visited my school and taught science with stories instead of leaving me incarcerated in textbooks.

I suspect that avuncular tales of physics in circles of children might have sent me into a different orbit of life. Might have carbonated my mind with fizzier ideas.

I smile as I gaze back, imagining the infinitude of possibilities that I could have called my future; my present.

 

Java Jolt – Chock Full O’ Memories

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Java Jolt - An Out-of-Tune Life

When I was growing up in the 1950s, radio was the Queen of Media. Especially in my family.

My parents didn’t even buy a television until the late 50s, so, I’m deeply in-tuned to the waves of radio frequency.

So much so, in fact, that I consider it religion within my secular upbringing.

Here’s a little memory of my mother’s kitchen cathedral belching out its radio religion:

Vintage Radio

Every Sunday night at dinnertime, my mother tuned the radio to WOR AM 710 on-the-dial. She blared the preaching of Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, broadcast live from Grace Cathedral Church in New York City.

We chewed pot roast and potatoes in rhythm to Norman’s power of positive thinking. My father claimed indigestion and left the table early. My brother and I had to remain until our plates were clean. We were, after all, eating on behalf of all the starving children in India. Norman wasn’t interested in feeding the poor, however. He was focused upon increasing the wealth and well-being of the world’s wealthiest people. Something seemed askew to me in the theology. Religion and business were married. The electrical charges of thoughts were reversed. Could this be healthy? Ethical? Possible? I wondered.

I recall something dingy in the kitchen lighting on Sunday evenings that never existed on other nights. The light was amber – almost sulfurous. It bore a heavy, sickening weight. It lessened my appetite. I used to think that it was the dread of Monday morning and the return to work and school that I was feeling, but, now I wonder if the radio waves carried a power of acidity – a fog of pollutants – into our kitchen each week.

I much preferred the special Sundays when the immediate relatives would gather for supper at either Toot’s house (my maternal grandmother), or, our house. We would eat roast leg-of-lamb with pan-roasted potatoes and a dollop of mint jelly on the side. There would be salad and green beans almandine. Pillsbury bake-‘n-serve crescent rolls. And dessert. Usually a fruit pie or strawberry shortcake.

These suppers were served at 2:00 PM. Daylight was always present. And even if the kinfolk were feuding, the air was light.

I loved these occasions, especially at Toot’s, because my father couldn’t excuse himself for a football game. And my mother did not have command over the kitchen, so she was forced to relax. We four became equal. And the dining room was so elegant, with antique furniture and lace tablecloths and gleaming silver service sets. It was aglow with the history of love.

Somewhere in between church and daily life was the magic I craved. I vowed to search for it: the place that warded off the bogey men of Sunday nights and the bellowing of Norman. The place that balanced leather and lace.

My Odyssey From a Haircut to a Husband

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Is it really possible for a hairstylist’s cape to be a hangman’s halter? A means of unlawful restraint? An instrument of torture and interrogation?

Yes. It is. Especially in the loving hands of Eduardo, my decade+ hairdresser and friend.

Now, let me back up a bit and explain how I ended up in his “executioner’s chair” for three hours of captivity. Several years earlier, I’d suffered through an unforeseen and agonizing divorce that was finalized within five weeks and left me alone, jobless, homeless, and reeling from trauma. To heal my heartbreak, I’d moved to a tiny village about 65 miles south of Santa Fe – the city I’d called home and muse for seventeen years.

This tiny-tot-of-a-town was isolated in the midst of the high plains. And seriously lost in a time warp. It was so similar, in fact, to the spirit of my 1950’s childhood neighborhood, that I immediately felt familiar and embraced.

The town’s name translates from Spanish into, “The Resting Place.” Perfect, I thought. I can hide out, lick my wounds, and remodel an old house as I rebuild my soul. It was lonely enough that I was sure I’d never be at risk to fall in love again. It would just be me and my little house on the edge of miles and miles of prairie.

After three years of a love affair with solitude – of staring at air, of journaling daily with spontaneous abandon, of dating myself – I was feeling pleased that as a woman in her mid-fifties, I could create my own fulfillment and live a peaceful life.

One day, in 2009, it occurred to me that I needed to have my hair cut and colored. A minor outer transformation that reflected my inner shifts. So, I made an appointment with my big-city stylist.

When I arrived at the salon, he ordered me into a smock and then into a chair and then wrapped me snugly with a cape – tightening the Velcro fasteners around my neck with such force, I gasped for what I feared would be my final full breath of air.

Before I could focus, Eduardo spun the chair around so I was facing the mirror and he was standing behind me – armed with his utility belt full of scissors and razors and other weapons of mass re-construction. It was a sunny winter day. One of New Mexico’s unbelievably crisp, cold days with a crystalline-blue sky that looked like it had been colored with a Crayola crayon clenched in the fist of an over-zealous child. Grunge mail boxes in California Mohave desert USAThe sunlight poured in like caramel through the side window. There I sat: snapped, clipped, bound and gagged in its spotlight.

“Let’s give you a fresh look. Lots of layers, releasing your natural curl. A shiny platinum color to complement your winter tan.”

“Yes. Perfect,” I muttered, as I closed my eyes and settled in for pampering.

It soon became clear, however, that Eduardo had a secondary agenda. There arose questions about my social life; hints about the limits of solitude; suggestions about a need for intellectual stimulation.

Him: “You know, girl, a few of my clients have met wonderful men. One is even engaged to be married.”

Me: Silent.

Him: “And they’ve all met these men through one of two online dating sites.”

Me: Silent. Stomach muscles knotting.

Him: “I have one address written down. Let me get it for you.”

Me: Panic.

He handed me a yellow sticky note with a URL scribbled on it. “Here. Take this home with you and give it a look. It’s free. And, who knows, you may find someone in your same town!”

Me: Silently thinking, “And ruin my perfectly quiet life?? Date – at my age? Awkward. Plus, think of how many creeps are roaming the Internet? No thanks!”

Him: “Seriously, girl. I’ve known you for years and I know you needed time alone to grieve, but, I think you’re losing yourself in loneliness. You’re a dynamic person. You need to return to your true self before it’s too late.”

Me: “Are you kidding me? I love my new life!”

And so, for three hours, I was held hostage in that chair until I promised to search the dating website. I agreed just so I could go home to my uninterrupted peace.

The next day was Saturday. That evening, my DVD had not arrived in the mail, so, my private Saturday-Night-at-the-Movies date was canceled. I wandered over to my computer and saw the yellow sticky note I’d carelessly tossed on the keyboard. It haunted me. Enough that I felt compelled to fulfill my promise. To render myself righteous, so to speak.

I typed in the address, waited for the dial-up service to connect, and then read the instructions for browsing. They required that a personal profile be submitted before granting permission to enter the sacred site. A waste of words, I thought. But, eventually, I pretended that I was facing my journal instead of a computer screen, and let spill a lyrical description of myself and my interests.

I submitted it, without editing, and spent the entire evening perusing the options within a 300-mile radius of my town. It was mesmerizing. The photos. The stories. The desires. The lies. It was romance and intrigue I’d never experienced before.

By midnight, I’d found three possibilities. One wanted a woman one-year younger than I. I wrote a brief message anyway, and sure enough – no response. (Oh, I forgot to mention. Being limited to dial-up, I wasn’t able to upload my photo.) So, I couldn’t really blame anyone for ignoring me!

Another man, who traveled the world for his spiritually-based nonprofit, seemed interesting. So, another brief message that met with no reply. (Of course, he’s probably in Tibet with no access to WiFi!)

Yet another man lived in the town where I attended church. His pictures expressed a cowboy persona, but, his writing style was very witty and professional. To him, I sent a flirtatious “wink.”

The next morning, I found a message from him. Lengthy, detailed, and highly complimentary of my poetic profile. With one more trial day remaining, I was able to write back.

We exchanged many messages that weekend and discovered many common interests. When the free trial period ended, I asked if he’d like to continue a correspondence. His response was immediate and positive. I promised to mail photos of myself, so we wouldn’t be unbalanced. But it almost didn’t matter because we’d fallen in love with each other’s words!

After a week, we met and lunched at a café. Turns out that two passionate wordsmiths can be ambidextrous: both agile on screen and nimble of voice.

We dated for nearly a year, surprisingly minus any awkwardness. And in the heart of autumn, we married. In a truly romantic ceremony, we exchanged vows in a white gazebo beneath a starlit Las Vegas night.

Several years later, Hubby and I are still sharing love for each other and for words. Two writers, united in matrimony, with a little help from a catalytic hair stylist.

Who would have guessed that a haircut could lead to a husband, and a new life lived in the magic of wordlore.

My Cake House

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tuxpi.com.1428006931I grew up in a three-tiered, cedar-shingled, mocha-iced cake of a house.

As I like to think, in retrospect, it was a tribute to my mother’s dessert specialty – that silky brown confection of mocha icing brocading over two layers of yellow cake.

Most every house on Greenway Avenue was either white or a grim red brick. In fact, those were the top choices for nearly every house in my suburban neighborhood. It was central New Jersey in the 1950s and paint colors were about as blank as our writing tablets and coloring books.

Perhaps it was in respect to The Good War – World War II – that the houses were somber and the housewives were demure. We were, in fact, giving birth to babies and hope at an alarming rate, but, nevertheless, these passions did not translate into color statements in my childhood.

Consequently, I was awed as a little girl that I lived in a home with an expression of personal identity. I couldn’t conceptualize this at the time, but, I did take note that there was a difference between my house and the houses of my friends.

The mocha icing seeped inside also. My mother had slipcovers made to update our hand-me-down furniture. And these were stitched in tones of brown and autumn gold. They created a soft, warm inviting effect that drew au courant comments from many a middle-class visitor. They also connected my family with our autumnal birth dates .  .  . all October’s children were we. Greenway Ave. - in Polaroid

Yes, Mom had a knack for making life look pretty and taste delicious. I think I inherited a tidbit of her talent. For as I grew into adulthood, I collected ragged old antique furnishings and clothing. Junking became a passion. And transforming an anonymous person’s trash into my personal expression of being became my art form.

I’ve always had a quirky tilt toward the abandoned, the rusted, the flaking, the fraying, the desolate.

I’ve always wanted to adopt the jilted objects of affection and buoy their souls with color – or – perhaps it was simply ferreting out the innate color of their souls that I’ve spent a lifetime questing for.

Regardless, I credit my mom for painting our aged, shingled house with a blend of chocolate and coffee.

Mocha. Probably the first color that shaped my destiny. And most likely to be the final color that places the psalm of a grace note on my life.

I may not like the taste of coffee, but, I love its velvety color and its fragrance of Home.