Tuesday, December 22, 2009


At the holiday season, here is my celebration of my taste in gift giving. Seven years ago, at a mall in central North Carolina, I stood at a cash register with my selection. I was admiring the polo shirt I had picked out. It would fit either my husband or son. I ran my fingers over the fabric, gray and black horizontal stripes with a contrasting purple stripe bisecting the upper torso. Gray soft collar. A woman standing in line next to me said, “That is a great looking shirt. Where did you find it? I’d like one.”

“In the men’s department, and yes, I like it.”

She left standing in line at the cash register to go look for one.
I stood thinking about the short sleeves. They would be perfect for summer. The gray and black would be good for the rest of the year, a winter color. My husband is hot-natured and rarely wears sweaters in cold weather, so he could wear the dark colors. I paid and left before the other shopper returned.

On the Saturday before Christmas 2009, I heard the weather reports and decided to check out the mall during the afternoon, a celebration of clear roads, no snow, and crowd watching combined with a little shopping. My son probably could use another pair of winter pajama bottoms, so I looked for a pair. I selected a pair of lightweight flannel bottoms, in a wintry red and black plaid, concentric rectangles and squares. The pajama bottoms were holiday colors but suitable for other winter days. I also selected nondescript boxers and put both items over my arm. I turned from the pajama section to the main aisle in the men’s section and proceed to look for a green cotton sweater I had seen earlier.

A woman was coming down the main aisle. She looked at the pajama bottoms and said, “I like those.” I smiled and said, “They are nice.” I proceeded toward the sweater display and felt a tug on my arm. I turned around. It was the same woman. “Where did you find those? I really like them.”

I pointed across the store to the corner of pajamas, underwear, and other men’s “furnishings,” as one bronze lettered sign indicated. “Pajamas are over there, diagonally from where we’re standing.”

The woman left. I looked at sweaters and noticed a holiday Fair Isle design. In the south, however, Fair Isles and fair aisles come in mostly 100% cotton. Just like last time, I didn’t wait for the other shopper to return. I left the department store with my shopper’s instinct gratified and confirmed for another season and rehearsed how I would tell my son and husband about how my selections and their gifts were held in high esteem.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Lunch Break

I was in fifth grade. My elementary school was up the street, around the corner, and crowned a large, level tract of land. Usually I walked home for lunch. Our kitchen was an eat-in kitchen. A breakfast nook sat in front of a single window. Lunch usually consisted of soup, a sandwich, and a soda poured out of an hour glass bottle into a glass. For the past several weeks, during lunch, I read a Life magazine over and over again about John Glenn’s three orbits of the earth in Liberty Bell 7.

My parents left. My mother probably drove my father back to his business on Main Street. I was alone.

After eating, I took the magazine into the living room. The single chair, which matched our sofa, sat in a straight line from the kitchen. From the living room chair, I could look to my left and see the kitchen clock. I had been reading eagerly about John Glenn having to knock out the hatch of Liberty Bell 7 in order to reach the life raft bobbing on the ocean waves. There was a photo of him and his bloody knuckles.

I had forgotten the time. The after lunch bell rang to class to begin at 1:00 pm. I looked up from reading and looked to the left at the kitchen clock. It read 12:40 pm. I decided to run back to school. I put down the Life magazine, left the house, and walked back to school. As I approached the school building, no one was outside playing. I realized I was probably five or ten minutes late, but I honored my sense of duty and returned to the classroom. to be continued

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Entry on Money

I spent to protect myself from my parents’ contentious marriage. I spent to make the conflict recede. I spent to make every family moment smooth and content.

Later, I spent money on books to make myself certain I could publish. I spent money to smooth the way and remove the risk. I did not write for the direct polish and pleasure to my critics; I spent to remove the risk and make a painful path of reject and prelude to creativity, success, and acceptance.

Did I succeed? The next month will tell.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Road, Slow

Last June, PBS’s program, Antiques Roadshow, visited Raleigh, North Carolina. Last Thursday night, UNC-TV provided a preview of the program that will air on PBS and UNC-TV in January, 2010. My family felt the confetti of excitement, because my spouse and I had been volunteers during the June taping in downtown Raleigh. We invited two guests. Four of us journeyed the slow savoring way, down Hillsborough Street, to downtown Raleigh. We drove down the nighttime version of Hillsborough Street, through the North Carolina State campus. The street was lined with various neon lights, globe lights, twinkle lights, and assorted business fronts, dark and beckoning.

“That’s Katmandu, a tattoo parlor.”
“No, Katmandu is a bar. I’ve been there.”
“There’s a Ben and Jerry’s Ice Cream at both ends of Hillsborough Street, appropriate for a college campus.”
“That’s where we play bridge.”
“At Ben and Jerry’s?”
“No, the building beside it.”
“There’s the bookstore.”
“There’s the bagel place.”
“Look at all the street construction around it.”
“Yeah, they really have torn this road up.”

Inside the car we were four disparate confetti flakes. Tim, our chain smoking neighbor, cigarettes at the ready, bundled up in layers of clothes, gray up to his chin and a navy peacoat folded over one arm. Pearl, who loves Antiques Roadshow. Tomorrow she would see a doctor to schedule surgery for her severe hearing loss. Seldom does Pearl hear accurately, which makes her conversation gambits flurries of neon-lighted interruptions, stark non-sequitors to what the three of us are talking about. We pressed on. Stephen as usual was reliving his delight in his volunteer status at Antiques Roadshow in June in Raleigh. He wore his Antiques Roadshow shirt and wondered out loud if he was in any of the segments. I wore chinos, a green sweater, and a gold fall leaf pendant. I noted in wonder the mild 60 degree weather, and my fascination with the slow scenery rolling past our car windows. We ignored Tim’s questions about taking I-40 to downtown Raleigh.

Tim punched in the directions to the GPS in his cell phone. I had printed a Google map. We found the location. I parked in a mostly deserted but faintly lit parking lot. The four of us noted singles and couples heading in the same direction, so we followed them. At the crosswalk on one side street, we’ll call it Breezy Street, Pearl heard well enough to pick up the audible chirping of traffic light signals installed for visually impaired pedestrians. Evidently Pearl had never before heard traffic lights with audio signals. She laughed uproariously at what she heard: “cuckoo, cuckoo, would drive you crazy if you had to listen to it all day.” We nodded. Bless Pearl, she could hear the audio traffic signals, however, she heard only about 10 percent of the conversation in the car, but she is on the way to improved hearing next week after her scheduled surgery. We kept an eye on her as we crossed the street against the traffic.

We approached the mall and the broad front steps of the Museum of Natural Sciences. Inside the glass front doors, I could see the museum foyer, the information desk, the executive producer our local channel. We walked in through the foyers and greeted the executive producer and the event organizer. I found our four nametags. Earlier in the week, I had forgotten Tim’s last name, so I had made up a last name for him, and informed the event organizer. I quickly handed him his nametag for the evening.

We were steered toward light refreshments: water with fresh fruit added for mild flavor and dry and spicy snack mix, a glistening mixture. Pearl and I made the rounds through the restroom. We rejoined the growing crowd. Tim decided to take one last smoke out side, so Pearl and I decided to claim our seats in the auditorium and save two for Tim and Stephen. The general manager approached the microphone and made a brief announcement. Because of an eight-car collision on the interstate, traffic was backed up. The staff decided to delay the start to allow latecomers a chance to park and enter the building. Pearl and I decided we were wise to avoid the interstate. We congratulated ourselves. I would tell any NASCAR teenager or former military warrior, when your destination is an Antiques Roadshow preview, slowing down to enjoy the ride is a wise approach.

Truth Serum

Coffee beans pebble and mound in the grinder lid. Six buzz times. They whirl. Beans, pebbles, grind, pour, fill, drip, perk, drink. Morning coffee I carry like a liquid offering to altars. Chair, computer. I persuade my spouse to visit a local coffee house where I prepare out two coffee mugs we carry in. Holiday brew, turbinado sugar, and for a treat, half and half. I carry two mugs like an altar girl, forget to bow, and lower them.

We sip and enjoy the prairie bread with butter and no jam. We talk.

Within the year, we may have to leave one state for another given our current state of unemployment. I scream within that we need to leave. During the coming year, if I stay unemployed, I will finish another murder mystery novel and prepare for gardening. My high priest of a spouse decides we need to stay, to give us two chances in two different states to seek employment. My reaction is employment at this point may be a waste of time, and let’s try raising our own food, acquire chickens if necessary, and learn to live a sustainable life, using several role models as a guide. My spouse wants to give our adult child several months to save money from his own part time job. I sip coffee and squelch my thoughts. So be it.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Slow Road

This space will include my first blog entry.