Sunday, August 30, 2015

The World through Grandpa's Eyes


My grandparents somewhere in Europe
We knew it was almost time. Uncle Bill and Dad carried a few chairs into my grandparents’ living room. Uncle George brought the projector and rested it on the metal folding table. We had to end our hide-and-seek game since the living room was off limits, or we could “take our game elsewhere” for the next twenty minutes while they got the room ready. 
“Elsewhere” was easy in the old Brookline “mansion” Mom grew up in with its many bedrooms and bathrooms, a nursery, and Grandpa’s doctor’s office. Sometimes the seeker would give up, defeated. Sometimes the hiders didn’t know the seeker gave up and would remain hidden until hungry or bored. When Grandpa called everyone to begin the show, about ten of the nineteen grandkids would wander out of hiding spots often smelling like mothballs. 
We were expected to get excited to see the slides from Grandma and Grandpa’s latest trip to Europe. “Okay, are we ready? Everyone has a seat? Lips zipped?” His eyes twinkled when he said something funny.  
My cousins and I pretended to zip our mouths shut. “Wrrr rrrdy.” The adults sat on the soft, striped couch. My sister, cousins and I sat cross-legged on the floor. The toddlers on the laps of the older cousins. 

While waiting for Grandpa to get the slides changing properly, I traced the Oriental rug pattern with my finger until the lights were turned off again. Sometimes Grandpa would mess up a slide and grandma would be smiling, upside down. Giggles traveled around the room, from cousin to cousin. I was sure he’d be mad at us for laughing, so I tried to hold it back. Grandpa was a perfectionist—as a surgeon, he had to be—but had a sense of humor. “Look at Grandma doing a headstand!” We all burst out laughing, even Grandma.  
“So here we are in Ireland…” Grandma stood, wearing an Irish knit sweater, in front of a thatched cottage, surrounded by daisies and wildflowers. I didn’t pay much attention as he droned on about the history of Ireland and the cottage where they stayed. It was old, and Ireland was green and pretty. Men wore skirts. Picture after picture of Grandma and Grandpa near cottages and green hills or stone walls, a taste of Ireland. One of my uncles hummed, imitating bagpipes. 
Grandma added the negatives. “The cottage was much too drafty. I had to sleep wearing my cardigan sweater over my nightgown.”
“You did love the food, didn’t you?” 
“Yes, we woke to the smell of homemade biscuits—almost as good as mine. But the air always felt damp. It wasn’t as nice as Switzerland. Nothing could compare to the beauty of the Swiss Alps.” 
“You should’ve seen Grandma skiing on the Matterhorn in neon yellow snow pants.” He had that smirk on his face again. We could only picture Grandma in the kitchen, stirring gravy, not zooming down a mountain.
“Silly Grandpa. They don’t make snow pants in my size.” 
“I think Grandma liked Switzerland for their chocolate.” 
Grandpa threw in some older slides of their trip to Switzerland and Italy as if we hadn’t seen enough pictures of them in front of this building or that garden. 
Grandma told her Italy story again. “You wouldn’t believe the boldness of the people. As we walked through one cute village, a man pinched my bottom.” She covered her mouth, as if it were shocking, but she giggled too.”
“I guess he liked a large target.” 
Grandma glared at him, still smiling though. “Ooh, you’re in trouble, Grandpa.”
After the hundredth picture of green hills and sheep, and a few echoing snores, as the projector clicked and clicked rocking the little ones to sleep, Grandpa surprised us with pictures of the grandkids. My sister jumped up and pointed to the screen. “Look that’s you in the high chair with egg all over your face!” Soon all the kids were standing, trying to get a closer look. 
“These are my favorite pictures,” Grandpa said. Grandma agreed. We all agreed. 
Looking back I wonder if one of Grandpa’s favorite reasons for traveling was to put on a slide show for the family. He couldn’t take his three sons, six daughters, and nineteen grandkids with him, but he could share the places he loved with the people he loved. And since we loved him, we put up with the thousands of pictures of scenery. And maybe we did absorb a taste of other cultures.
 This story received an Editor's Choice award for Faithwriter's weekly contest.








Saturday, August 15, 2015

Planting My Feet in the Shadows

charcoal sketch by Terence McManus


At nine years old
I was either a dreamer
Or superstitious,
Or odd;
Following Randi’s steps,
I planted my feet
In my friend’s invisible footprints;
The shadow of her being.
Could I transport into her world?
Her golden tendrils become mine?
Her dimpled smile, mine?
Her perfect home, mine? 
Minor misstep--
It couldn’t happen, but
Dreaming could.
As I climbed her steps
My hand grasped the iron railing
Where her fingers touched
Marching behind,
Up to her pink room
Dappled with dancing daisies and rose ribbons,
Everything my room was missing.
I watched her mother part Randi’s hair
Into a straight line
Then gather her waves into bouncy pigtails.
Randi twirled them around like propellers
And they laughed.
Was it strange to love my friend so much
To want to be her mirror image?
Would I follow her
Into her battle with cancer?
I couldn’t.
Jesus offers
More than the world,
A smile,
Radiant from within
Until reaching the mansion he’s prepared.
A perfect home,
Dappled with daisies and ribbons of gold,
Choirs of angels singing tunes of praise and peace.
I could follow
His steps
That lead to life.

On September 13, I’m participating in the walk to end children’s brain tumors through the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation. I’m excited to fundraise for such an important cause. No one should have to suffer the way these families suffered.
If you would like to donate to this foundation, you can click on this link.


In addition, I will be donating 10% of my book sale profits to the Children’s Brain Tumor Foundation. If you are interested in purchasing my novel Randi’s Steps, you can click on this link to Amazon Books.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Long Way

My destination


I should’ve arrived at Cairn University in Philadelphia in less than three hours. My problem was not listening to that sweet voice speaking from my phone giving directions. The brochure for the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writer’s Conference said take exit 44 off I-95 so that’s the way I wanted to go. I was sure my phone was rebellious and being annoying, insisting I get off at different exits…so I decided to ignore it until I reached exit 44.
My journey began around 1:30 without any glitches. There was the usual sluggish traffic leaving long island and the wonderful smell of exhaust fumes and pollution, but no major problems.  Shortly after crossing the Verrazano Bridge, clouds grew dark grey ahead until they burst. Sheets of rain poured as I drove to a rest stop, but I could relax since I had less than an hour to drive. 

The smooth ride slowed down until my car was crawling along with traffic for at least thirty minutes. It looked like two trucks had smashed into each other and the divider. A body lay on the ground under a bag with feet sticking out. It was horrific. All I could do was pray and keep driving. 

I knew something was wrong when my phone started adding time instead of subtracting minutes. At the next exit it said to take, I listened. Somehow it led me back on I-95 in the other direction. My phone said I had another hour and thirty minutes to go. 

Finally I reached the street and heard: “You’ve arrived at your destination.” I wished my phone could answer questions. “Are you sure? Where’s the university? I was parked in front of a house in a quiet neighborhood. I grabbed the brochure to check the directions again. The address on the front of the brochure, the same address I typed into Google Maps, was the address of the director of the conference. I was at her house, not Cairn University. 

I typed the correct address in to discover I had another fifty minutes to drive. At this point, I’d already driven for almost seven hours. I didn’t cry, just kept driving until I saw a sign for New Jersey, and panicked. Did I pass it again? What if I clicked on a different Langhorne? What if I was still going the wrong way? A gas station clerk assured me I was heading the right way. Forty more minutes. Would this ride ever end? 

Eventually, I arrived at the conference safely after eight hours of driving to hear the closing of the first meeting. One of the staff had me wait with a woman who also had a much longer bus trip because of the rain. We both had passed the same car accident on opposite sides of I-95, her leaving Maryland, me going there. She was so calm, accepting whatever circumstances happened. “God must have a reason.” And I agreed. I would not have met this lovely woman if I didn’t arrive at the same time she did.  

One of the speakers spoke about writing with God and following His direction. “Bohemian Creativity Realm.” Not forcing my plans, but enjoying the experience of writing with Him and accepting the twists and turns and ending up in a different place than expected. My drive was the perfect illustration. I thought I would arrive in time for the book signing and hear the first speaker—instead, I got to sing the last song about His Amazing Grace, and spend the evening getting to know Lynn. She lifted my spirit and helped me laugh about the unexpected. After the challenge of reaching my destination, I felt blessed.
On the way home, I listened to the voice on my phone as if God were reading the directions. Next trip I'll bring an old-fashioned map.