The tent beyond

Image by Evren Ozdemir from Pixabay

The vision was beautiful. Who can say where such things come from?

The tent was reminiscent of childhood camping trips, and the man was my father. He stood in the center of the tent with his hand on the pole in the center. I remember him telling me when I was little not to touch the pole when there was lightning. Always the one to watch over us, I wasn’t surprised that he was standing and my other aunts and uncles were sitting quietly.

“You made it!” he said. That would have been my line if he hadn’t beat me to it. My dad passed last April and the afterlife is never far from my thoughts. One moment I was reclined on my couch recovering from the office virus, listening to a gentle rain recording, and the next moment I was in my father’s presence.

Most things about the supernatural can never be explained. Was this an actual vision, a gift from God or the creative mind at work? It doesn’t matter, really. What I experienced was transcendent and comforting.

Carousel

The boardwalk by the ocean has both beauty and elegance with an old carousel. I was lucky enough to ride the wooden horses in Asbury Park before they were sold.

The Jersey shore with its carnival allure will always live in my heart. Hot, giant pizza slices and flip flops on the wooden planks are hard to forget. Arcade games, beach braids and custard cones make me nostalgic for my girls to be young again.

The working family’s summer vacation to Seaside Heights, Long Beach Island, Atlantic City or Point Pleasant may beat any trip the wealthy take abroad. Tonight, I am still a Jersey girl.

Thunder then and now

flash-1471724_1920


Thunder and white strikes of blinding light wake me. I can’t sleep now as my mind goes to how you always protected us.

On summer camping trips, when the storms came, we never got wet. There were canopies on picnic tables, tarps as rain drenched, hot soup, snug sleeping bags and always a dry deck of cards for play.

Loud crashing sounds now, and I lie endlessly awake, waiting for the storm to move into the distance. I wonder if you hear the thunder now, too. There was a time I knew what you thought about. I’m not so sure anymore. Time steals many things from us. One is our ability to think, remember and respond to all that is around us.

You will be back home in a few days, and a new normal will begin. The family will warm the soup, fluff the pillows and mind your every step to keep you from danger.

I’ve been keeping my hands clear from metal tent poles for years now. I’ve held flashlights in my sleep in case I need to move in the night. I’ve practiced taking care of myself for a very long time. Still, approaching storms make my heart race and wish for my father to tell me that everything will be all right.

Photo from Pixabay.

The peace left behind

beaver-2913309_1280

The last time I felt peace
I was standing
Under a grey November sky
Walking to see the beavers
Building a dam of mud and stick

At 15, and old enough to
Appreciate naked trees
My father pointed out
The progress of the dam
Some things can be measured

The grey sky muted the light
And the New England breeze chilled

I was comfortable in this skin once

Today my thoughts spin so fast
That a lassooing wrangler
Must tackle them at night
As they run, like cattle
At breakneck speed

Each day, bright lights
Dripping sweat, blinding sun
Slammed down by blunt force
No pooled waters of
The life I left behind

A Pixabay photo

Lilac comfort

purple, pungent lilac
on gravesite rests
Union soldier
Gettysburg death

a young child places
the fragrant vine
our family buried you
at 25

Gettysburg raged
before you died
we know you lived
to say good-bye

Connecticut boy
lived on these grounds
sweet lilac must have
been full ’round

Memorial day
the tribute we show
are the lilacs, we hope
were a comfort to know

years pass and the child
does not know this strife
sweet lilac remembers
its part in your life

Two, too large plates

gg2Hanging up a woman’s fur coat and a man’s overcoat were familiar rites of passage on Thanksgiving. When Joanna’s grandparents arrived, the day’s festivities got into full swing.

There is a front hall in the 1820’s New England farmhouse where she grew up. A long, yellow, stenciled bench there held hats and gloves. Above it, a rack held the coats. It was a short walk to the front hall, yet the coats were heavy for a young girl of ten or so.

At the table, the grandparents sat across from Joanna. Grandma wore a green print dress with a gold circled, pearl accented broche. Grandpa wore a double-breasted, blue pin-striped suit with a cranberry colored tie. The details of what her siblings wore don’t come to mind. There was a cranberry hounds-tooth skirt that may have fit the bill for Joanna. Her dad always wore a cranberry pullover sweater with buttons and a collar. There appears to be a clear color theme with at least three people!

Three small ornaments came out for Thanksgiving dinner. The first was something made in school in the form of a turkey of pine cone and pipe cleaners. The other two were wax figurines of a pilgrim man and woman. They sat on the windowsills in the dining room.

As Joanna wandered into the kitchen, her dad would be making cut celery with cream cheese and a sprinkling of paprika. It was the traditional holiday appetizer that they gathered in the kitchen to munch on while taking in the wonderful smells of the turkey cooking.

The pantry held the two traditional pies that would be eaten later. The first was a pumpkin pie, and the second was a mincemeat pie. They would be served with a hunk of white cheddar cheese.

At the table, the family sat down and began serving the food family style. Most tried to put a reasonable amount on their plates and knew they could go back for seconds. Not so with grandma and grandpa. They filled their plates mounded to about four inches high.

Grandpa, in his 80s, was showing serious side effects of his pernicious anemia with shaking hands. Still, each bite slowly made it into his mouth and they both cleared those dishes with no trouble whatsoever. Joanna’s mom explained that her parents had lived through the great depression and it had changed them.

Talk at the table began with family topics of what aunts, uncles and cousins were up to. Sometimes there would be stories of whose cars drove by her grandparents’ house that week. Other times grandma’s prized roses or lush blueberries were the topic.

“Old Mrs. Henkins was quite talkative on the phone this week. Every time I tried to make a call, she was talking to someone,” grandma said. Party lines on phones were, surprisingly, alive and well in some rural holdings.

“You talk plenty yourself on the phone, Helen,” grandfather would say. While a man of very few words, he reminded my grandmother of her talkative nature. The joke was that grandpa had selective hearing. He rarely even appeared to notice her talking unless there was a topic he felt obliged to join.

Sometimes there would be a sequel to the story of a broken fence and the neighbors’ cows coming into their property. Grandma was quick on her feet to run out banging kitchen pans to chase them back to their property. Next, the conversation would go to new recipes or television shows that the family was enjoying. Common, universal topics were discussed that didn’t anger or alienate anyone.

“Fred,” grandmother would say to her husband. “Isn’t this delicious? I don’t think I’ll be hungry later.”