Category Archives: #FlashFictionFriday

#poppies #poetry In Flanders’ Fields, by John McCrae

The beautiful image of poppies that graces this post is by Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders and was found on Wikimedia commons. The beauty and serenity of the poppies, rising from the fields where such terrible conflict once happened, is a fitting accompaniment for the poem, In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae, the text of which follows the picture.

From Wikipedia:  “In Flanders Fields” is a war poem in the form of a rondeau, written during the First World War by Canadian physician, Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae. He was inspired to write it on May 3, 1915, after presiding over the funeral of friend and fellow soldier Alexis Helmer, who died in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to legend, fellow soldiers retrieved the poem after McCrae, initially dissatisfied with his work, discarded it. In Flanders Fields was first published on December 8 of that year in the London-based magazine Punch.

In Flanders Fields and Other Poems, a 1919 collection of McCrae’s works, contains two versions of the poem: a printed text as below and a handwritten copy where the first line ends with “grow” instead of “blow.” (…)

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

While bed-ridden and recovering in the Veterans Administration Hospital in Vancouver, Washington, after World War II, my father had little to do but read or crochet afghans. To keep busy, he and the other recovering soldiers in his ward made endless numbers of Remembrance Poppies to commemorate fallen American soldiers. Dad always wore his poppy on his left lapel, as it was close to his heart.

Memorial Day is more than just the official launch of Summer here in the US, more than just an Indy car race. Families have always cared for their family graves, but it became a designated day after the American Civil War in 1868, established  as “Decoration Day.” It was a specific time for the nation to decorate the graves of the war dead with flowers. Every family had soldiers who served and gave their lives in the never-ending wars, as we do today.

Officially, Memorial Day is the last Monday in May. In the US, it is a 3-day holiday weekend. Banks are closed on Monday, and the US Postal Service is also closed. The American flag is traditionally set at half-staff until noon to honor all those whose lives have been given in the service of our country. At noon, it is raised to the top of the staff, signifying that we, as a nation, will rise again.

My paternal grandmother never failed to keep our family’s graves neat and tidy, bringing flowers every week for my uncle, who had died while serving in the Korean War. As she got older, this tradition aggravated my father, who just wanted to listen to the Indianapolis 500 car race on the radio. He couldn’t bear dwelling on the loss of his brother, or the friends he had lost in France in WWII.

But he took her to the cemetery, anyway.

After each great and terrible war of the last two centuries, the hope was always that we had fought a “war to end all wars.” World War I, also known as The Great War, was spoken of in literature as just that: a war to end all wars.

With each conflict we still hope, but we are less able to believe it, today less than ever.


Sources and Attributions

In Flanders Fields, by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD, PD|75 years

John McCrae died of pneumonia January 28, 1918, near the end of the Great War. In Flanders’ Fields is a staple poem for Memorial Day services.

Wikipedia contributors. “In Flanders Fields.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 1 May. 2018. Web. 24 May. 2018

Poppies Field in Flanders, image By Tijl Vercaemer from Gent, Flanders #Belgium. File:Poppies Field in Flanders.jpg. (2018, January 13). Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository. Retrieved 15:55, May 24, 2018.

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#FlashFictionFriday: The Morning Crier by Shannon M. Blood

Every now and then I come across a poet whose work really strikes a chord in my soul.

Local Olympia area poet, Shannon M. Blood, produces work that is deep and lays bare the raw emotions we all keep hidden.

The Morning Crier appeared on her blog yesterday, and I found myself thinking about her prose and turns of phrase off and on all day.

When you get to the end of my reblogged sample, please click on the link to read the rest!


THE MORNING CRIER

It’s 4 a.m. and Robin Redbreast

scrapes nails over chalkboard

Sól lights her pine-fed torch

stabs bloody fingers deep in earth

 

I play possum to your prod

shun the unwashed kiss

oak floor groans with your retreat

a williwaw births new gooseflesh

 

(read the rest of the Morning Crier at Tidbits by Shannon)


Credits and Attributions:

The Morning Crier, © 2018 by Shannon M. Blood, All Rights Reserved

Book Illustration of a Robin and Wren By Plate printer Joseph M. Kornheim (1810-1896) published by Frederick Warne & Co. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

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#flashfictionfriday: Don’t Worry, Be Happy

For much of my childhood, my grandmother, Ethel, lived with us. She had the biggest influence on how I view my life as a woman.

Born in 1909, she had always been a staid, working-class housewife who “knew her place,” which was not what most people would have considered it.

Convinced that men couldn’t think their way of a room with doors nailed open, she expected they would keep their noses out of “women’s business.” That left her free to get on with the real work that kept her world running smoothly.

For more than ninety years, Grandma Ethel was an intrepid cleaner of all things soiled. Woe to the child who brought mud in on their shoes, or the man who thought he could sit down to dinner unwashed and wearing dirty work-clothes. Woe to anyone who sassed grandma—she had an Edwardian view of discipline.

Mothers and daughters don’t always get along. Grandma Ethel and my mother had a rocky relationship, rife with resentment (some justifiable) on my mother’s part and confused indignation on my grandmother’s.

I was often at odds with my mother, who until she defied Dad and went back to work in 1973, was the quintessential post WWII angry housewife. I embodied everything she despised about my generation, and she was articulate in expressing herself.

My grandmother, on the other hand, quietly despaired of my ever finding a dependable man, but believed I did my best and that was all that mattered.

The core of the strife between my mother and me boiled down to our radically different values and domestic styles. I grew up in the 1960s and had made a number of poorly planned relationship decisions that hadn’t worked out as well as I thought they would.

In the 1980s, I was the sole provider for my family, with three part-time jobs to hold down and no child support. Sunday was the only day I had for housekeeping. While the house looked great on Sunday night, by Friday it had become a disaster. I was married, but my ex-spouse’s role as stepdad and husband was like that of an ugly art piece given to you by a good friend. It takes up space on the shelf, and you keep it because you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. But it contributes nothing to the ambiance of the room, and you cringe whenever you dust it.

Surprisingly, despite the domestic free-for-all in my home, my staunchest supporter and greatest ally in the struggle with my mother was Grandma Ethel.

She was always there for me, a quiet force of nature. I could count on her to pick a spot and just begin tidying. She made it a game the kids enjoyed.

As she got older, Grandma lost her ability to taste food, and she stopped cooking, relying mostly on frozen TV dinners. She took the bus to Woolworth’s every morning, ordering toast and coffee in the coffee shop for her breakfast, and then treating herself by purchasing a small bag of menthol cough drops, thinking they were candy. She had a peculiar habit of sitting beside the fountain in the mall after she left the store, peeling the wrappers off each cough drop, leaving the wrappers in the Mall trash can. Once peeled, she put the drops back in their bag and put them in her purse.

She did this because “it saves time later.” Every afternoon, she sat in her chair reading a Louis L’Amour novel, listening to the radio and enjoying her “candy.”

Whenever we visited Grandma Ethel, my kids dreaded being offered a piece of “candy,” but they accepted it politely and thanked her. Once we were in the car and on the way home, the truth would spill out in that frank way children have, but I was proud of them—they loved her enough to be kind.

On Fridays, my mother bowled with a woman who worked at Woolworth’s. She told Mama that Grandma was known at Woolworth’s as “the cough drop lady” and mentioned Grandma’s habit of wrapper-peeling, saying it was “sweet.” Mama, of course, was horrified and embarrassed, and not very kind about it.

In her golden years, Grandma developed another fun habit. She listened to the local radio station all day, getting the news and singing along with every oldie or Top 40 hit of the 1980s. She knew all the words.

“Like a Virgin.”

“Billie Jean.”

“I Wanna Dance with Somebody.

Grandma knew and sang along with them all, but she adored Bobby McFerrin. In her last years, when she couldn’t remember anything else, she still sang “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” and danced in the kitchen with my ex-husband’s red long-johns.

When she hit the age of about eighty-five, she lost that fire, that thinly veiled resentment of all things male that had kept her going for so many years.

By then I was a single mother again and determined to remain that way. During her final year, Grandma was my closest friend and companion.

She had become vague and was often unsure what day it was or where we were going. She’d always had a sneaky sense of humor, but she became both shocking and hilarious, saying what she really thought without thinking first, quite loudly. She did whatever she felt like on the spur of the moment.

I lost a friend when Grandma passed away. But by then, my mother and I had come to an uneasy truce and were actually forging a friendship of sorts.

Did I mention my mother was extremely competitive? “Competitive” is a weak word when describing how my mother viewed any game or contest. She outlived both Grandma and my dad, which meant she had won, and which was all that mattered.

She “loosened up a bit” too, as she approached sixty-five. Mama began having an occasional cocktail at lunch.

Occasionally, every day.

Margaritas.

By 1990 Mama thought Cheech and Chong were a riot and loved the Rolling Stones, Mick the Stick in particular. 1989’s Steel Wheels was her favorite Stones album, and there was a time right after my dad died that if you went anywhere with her, you listened to Mick and the boys… over… and over.

The 1990s were her decade, musically. She loved U2, and Hootie and the Blowfish.

Music blasting, Mama drove her Aerostar like every road was a racetrack, and she was determined to win at any cost. Pedal to the metal, yellow lights mean “step on it and hang on to your hat.”

Mama loved jewelry, nice clothes, Mexico, and going on Caribbean cruises. She played cards twice a week with her girlfriends. She and my Aunt Lillian went to the casino once a week and played the slots like pros. At seventy-two, Mama found an awesome boyfriend and was in love for the first time in her life.

Once she turned eighty, she really began to have fun. When it came to restaurants and hotels, Mama expected a lot and usually got it. Waiters and cabana boys adored Mama because she looked far younger than her age, was an outrageous flirt, and tipped extremely well.

So now I’m the senior grandma–a responsibility I’m determined to fill well. With five adult children in our blended family to appall, I’m really looking forward to my golden years—I’ve earned them.

I’m not sure I can live up to the glorious examples set by my grandmother and my mother, but I’m an author so I should be able to come up with something suitably fun. I figure I have about fifteen years to work up an awesome shtick to trot out in my dotage.

In the meantime, I never forget the two women whose unique personalities and work ethics made me who I am. My motto is Don’t Worry, Be Happy and always tip well.


Credits and Attributions:

Three Women on board a Ship, ca. 1930 by Australian National Maritime Museum on The Commons, Samuel J. Hood Studio collection. Sam Hood, photographer (1872-1953) [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

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#FlashFictionFriday: Elegy for Hawking

Stephen Hawking, Star Child,

Entered the world in the Year of the Horse

While bombs fell over London.

Rebel,

Always went his own way

Even when his way was difficult.

Revolutionary,

Freed his mind to travel the cosmos.

Sat taller in his chair than giants stand.

Quantum thinker,

Body shrunken to a singularity,

Mind as expansive as the universe.

Dreamer,

Stephen Hawking

Left us in the Year of the Dog

While we baked Pi for Einstein

And marveled at what we had lost.

 


Stephen Hawking,

Born 8 Jan 1942; died 14 Mar 2018 at age 76.

Author, Motivational Speaker, English Theoretical Physicist.

Hawking was the Lucasian Professor of Mathematics at Cambridge University, a position once held by such notables as Charles Babbage and  Sir Isaac Newton. Afflicted with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig’s disease, or ALS), Hawking was confined to a wheelchair and was unable to speak without the aid of a computer voice synthesizer. However, despite his challenges, he made remarkable contributions to the field of cosmology, which is the study of the universe. His principal areas of research were theoretical cosmology and quantum gravity.

Hawking also co-authored five children’s books with his daughter, Lucy.

Hawking’s book list can be found at Amazon: Stephen Hawking’s Author Page 

Popular books

  • A Brief History of Time (1988)
  • Black Holes and Baby Universes and Other Essays (1993)
  • The Universe in a Nutshell (2001)
  • On the Shoulders of Giants (2002)
  • God Created the Integers: The Mathematical Breakthroughs That Changed History (2005)
  • The Dreams That Stuff Is Made of: The Most Astounding Papers of Quantum Physics and How They Shook the Scientific World (2011)
  • My Brief History (2013)

Co-authored

  • The Nature of Space and Time (with Roger Penrose) (1996)
  • The Large, the Small and the Human Mind (with Roger Penrose, Abner Shimony and Nancy Cartwright) (1997)
  • The Future of Spacetime (with Kip Thorne, Igor Novikov, Timothy Ferris and introduction by Alan Lightman, Richard H. Price) (2002)
  • A Briefer History of Time (with Leonard Mlodinow) (2005)
  • The Grand Design (with Leonard Mlodinow) (2010)

Forewords

  • Black Holes & Time Warps: Einstein’s Outrageous Legacy (Kip Thorne, and introduction by Frederick Seitz) (1994)

Children’s fiction

Co-written with his daughter Lucy

  • George’s Secret Key to the Universe (2007)
  • George’s Cosmic Treasure Hunt (2009)
  • George and the Big Bang (2011)
  • George and the Unbreakable Code (2014)
  • George and the Blue Moon (2016)

Stephen Hawking, StarChild, Image By NASA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Wikipedia contributors, “Stephen Hawking,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Stephen_Hawking&oldid=830584312 (accessed March 15, 2018).

Elegy for Hawking, by Connie J. Jasperson © 2018 All Rights Reserved

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#FlashFictionFriday: The Marriage Counselor

I shook my head to get rid of the sudden, loud buzzing sound in my ears. Feeling a little disoriented, I looked at the calendar, which said Thursday, the day I dreaded most. Sometimes I felt like it was always Thursday. It was nearly time for my regular two o’clock appointment… the couple from hell, pardon my cursing. After my heart attack about six months before, they had begun coming to me, and were likely to give me another. They never missed an appointment no matter how I wished they would.

I watched the clock tick from one fifty-nine to two o’clock.

My receptionist opened the door. “Mr. and Mrs. Haydes are here. Shall I show them in?”

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I lifted my pen from the notepad and regarded the couple seated across from me. “Would you listen to yourselves? You make marriage sound like hell. It doesn’t have to be that way. You both sabotage it every chance you get.”

“Of course marriage is hell,” said the husband across from me, dressed in a double-breasted, blue suit, giving him an almost nautical appearance. Add a captain’s hat and he’d look like a cast member on The Love Boat. “It’s the absolute worst thing that could possibly have happened to a once studly man like myself. But just like the moth flying into the flame, I had to do it. ‘Don’t go toward the light,’ my friends all said. But did I listen? Hell, no!”

His wife snorted. “Luke always does the exact opposite of what anyone advises him to do. That’s what he gets for being a devil-may-care, I’m-gonna-do-it-my-way sort of a guy. He’s Satan. That makes me Satan’s wife. Of course it’s hell—it comes with the territory. If I can put up with him, he can put up with me.” This week she wore little makeup, and was neatly coiffed with not a hair out of place. In a counterpoint to Luke’s dashing attire, she wore a beige wool suit, cut to just below her modestly crossed knees, with low-heeled pumps. Mrs. Haydes could have been a proper matron from any Protestant congregation, right down to her puritanical sense of morality.

This forty-five minute session of misery began promptly at two o’clock every Thursday. They booked their appointments under the pseudonyms, Lucifer and Persephone Haydes. He preferred to be called Luke, and she preferred to be called Mrs. Haydes. After six months of working with this pair of nut cases, I was beginning to suspect they were playing a game of mess-with-the-counselor.

Last week she’d been dressed like a teenaged skateboarder, and he as an English literature professor. The week before that, she was a hippie, complete with headband and love beads, and he was a cricket player.

Every week it was something different but always opposites. Mrs. Haydes seemed to choose her wardrobe based on what she thought would annoy him most, and he went with the opposite because he really couldn’t do anything else. He had the worst case of oppositional defiant disorder I had ever seen.

“Why are you here?” I had to ask, despite knowing I wouldn’t get an answer. “I no longer understand what you are trying to save here. You never take my advice. And you’ve been aware since the outset that I am a pastor, not a magician. What do you hope to gain from this?” I tapped my foot and looked at the clock. We were only fifteen minutes into this session, and I was already exhausted. “What you really need is a good divorce lawyer, not a counselor. I can tell you every reason why you should stay married, and if you are looking for religious affirmation, I can give you chapter and verse on the apostle Paul’s views regarding marriage. Over the last six months, I have done so repeatedly.  We’ve discussed what you originally saw in each other and what you each want from your relationship, but you’re still at this impasse.  I think that at this stage divorce is the only answer for the two of you.”

Luke snorted. “Don’t bother telling me anything the apostle Paul said—I wrote that book. I was delusional.”

“I think the pastor is right,” said Mrs. Haydes, primly folding her hands. “Divorce is the only option. I’m sure no one would blame me for leaving a devil like you.”

“I’m not giving up half of everything I own,” said Luke, clearly aghast at the notion. “Do you know how many divorce lawyers she has access to? No way am I going to let her off so easily.”

“I come from a broken family,” said Mrs. Haydes, discreetly wiping a tear. “I don’t want our children to grow up in a broken home. But it would be better than Anaheim. It’s a bad environment to raise children in. I want to move back to our palace in Hell. All it needs is a little remodeling.”

I couldn’t stop myself. I had to ask it. “And you think Hell is a good environment to raise kids in?”

“Well, at least there’s no crime in hell. We have the finest law enforcement professionals in the universe.” She glared at me defensively. “Where should I be raising them? Seattle? I’m not exposing my children to a bunch of pot-smoking vegans who ride bicycles and wear socks with sandals.”

Luke brightened up. “I love Seattle—perhaps we should move there. I could get some goats or raise alpacas. They have the best coffee in the world!”

Mrs. Haydes sniffed. “The place is full of vulgar vegetarians. They’re always taking their children to yoga and soccer, where everyone gets a trophy whether they win or lose—it’s just wrong. We will most certainly not be moving to Seattle.”

“Enough,” said Luke. “I’m going vegan and we’re moving to Seattle and that’s final.” He turned to me and missed her small, satisfied smile. “What I really want to talk about is the stint we did on ‘Home Hunters.’ She destroyed me in front of millions of people, and I have to watch it every time they rerun that episode, which they seem to do three times a week.”

“Well dear, it airs on one of your networks, and you make the rules. You’re the one who decides why the television viewing public has 999 channels available to them, and all but three of them at any given time are showing the same reruns of Pawn Shop Heroes, Home Hunters, or Gator Boys.”

From the look on Luke’s face, Mrs. Haydes had the knife and was twisting it for all she was worth.

She continued, “Besides, I said very clearly that I wanted the extremely modern condo, with all the sleek furnishings and the gorgeous terrazzo floors. I said it at least six times. It’s on the videotape of the show.” She smiled at him smugly. “You just had your heart set on that cozy, little pink bungalow with the seventies’ décor and the orange shag carpet. You insisted, and so, of course, I gave in. Once you make up your mind, it’s impossible to change it.”

“See?” Luke exploded. “See how she manipulates me? How could I not go for the house she said she didn’t want? It was like asking the dog not to eat the chocolate you left on the coffee table. I’m Satan! I’m not really an agreeable sort of guy, and she knows exactly how to manipulate me, so now, twice a week, everyone in America gets to watch me buying grandma’s overpriced, decorating nightmare. It’s been voted the most popular episode of all time! She embarrassed me in front of God and the world.” He dropped his head into his hands. “We’re moving to Seattle now, and it’s going to be hell trying to sell that dump in Anaheim. I won’t even be able to rent it out for enough to cover the carrying costs. What a life!”

I knew this session was going nowhere. Their sessions never went anywhere positive because they were masters at circular reasoning. “What is it you want from me? You must have some reason for putting me through this agony every week.”

“I despise him, so I want a divorce, of course,” said Mrs. Haydes, with a smug, little smile. “I’ll be happy with my half of everything, and, of course, alimony. I gave up my career to raise our children, you know, and they will need child support.” She aimed her tight, fundamentalist smile at me. “We won’t waste your time any further.”

“No. No. No!” Luke’s eyes widened and he leaned forward. “No divorce. I adore you, Persey—you’re the love of my life!” He kissed her hand.  “I would be lost without you. Think of the children.”

“I love you too, Luke—I just hate being around you. And now you’re going to be forcing all your hippy, vegetarian food on me.” She turned away from him, primly pursing her lips. “You know how I love steak.”

“No dear, not vegetarian. Vegan. It’s good for you, you’ll love it. Why, I’ve a recipe for smoked tofu that will put a smile on that pretty face in no time.” Luke smiled his most charming. “If there is one thing I understand, it’s how to barbecue. You’ll adore my smoked tofu salad.”

“If you say so, dear. I’ll likely throw up.”

The two rose and left my office. I sighed.

Luke might claim to be Satan, and yes, it was even possible given how contrary he was, but if that was case, Mrs. Haydes ruled in Hell. There was no mistake about that.

I heard my receptionist speaking in the anteroom. Yes, Mrs. Haydes was scheduling another appointment…two o’clock next Thursday.

Satan might move to Seattle, or he might not. Somehow, I knew his new penchant for tofu and coffee wouldn’t get me off the hook.

I shook my head to get rid of the sudden, loud buzzing sound in my ears. Feeling a little disoriented, I looked at the calendar, which said Thursday, the day I dreaded most. Sometimes I felt like it was always Thursday. It was nearly time for my regular two o’clock appointment… the couple from hell, pardon my cursing. After my heart attack about six months before, they had begun coming to me, and were likely to give me another. They never missed an appointment no matter how I wished they would.

I watched the clock tick from one fifty-nine to two o’clock.

My receptionist opened the door. “Mr. and Mrs. Haydes are here. Shall I show them in?”


The Marriage Counselor, by Connie J. Jasperson © 2015-2018, All Rights Reserved, was first published on 06 March 2015, at Edgewise Words Inn. Reprinted by permission.

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#flashfictionfriday: A summer evening spent fishing

A summer evening spent fishing

On black waters beneath a sunset sky.

Forested hills climbed high in the west,

As dark as shadows and just as safe.

Bears and their young came to fish the creek

That runs past the woods next door.

Deer swam across the lake to eat

Grape leaves and my mother’s roses.

Sunsets seen from my father’s boat

While fishing for perch or crappie.

And morning came, bright and young,

Filled with the scents of home.

Of potatoes and onions, crisp and brown,

And fish frying for breakfast,

And cinnamon rolls just out of the oven,

And coffee perking on the stove.

Smells that signified Sunday morning.

And when the washing up was done

I took my book to the alder grove

And drowsed the day away.


Credits and Attributions

A Summer Evening Spent Fishing, by Connie J. Jasperson © 2018 All Rights Reserved

Indian Sunset: Deer by a Lake, painted by Albert Bierstadt [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons ca. 1880 – 1890

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#flashfictionfriday: Going Home

October had arrived in the Pacific Northwest, chill and damp as always. Our friends, Jonna and Jake, lived on Black Lake, on the north end of the lake where my sister and I had spent our childhood. A true Northwesterner, Jonna had planned a day on the lake despite the weather. A women’s day out with my sister, Sherrie, our old school friend, Evonne, and our dear friend from Texas, Irene. We planned to cruise the lake and show Jonna and Irene where we had lived from 1963 through the 1990s.

Jake was worried we would wreck the boat, calling instructions as we pulled away from the dock. “Don’t worry,” we called back to him. “Jonna knows how to drive.” Nevertheless, he stood in the rain, fretting at sending his beloved boat out under his wife’s control, loaded with sparkling cider and a group of women he knew all too well. This despite the fact Jonna would drink no wine until after we returned.

Despite Jake’s misgivings, Jonna neatly negotiated the deeper channel between the half-sunk, rotting posts of the old Black Lake Mill, which had burned in 1918, and was never rebuilt. Like many parts of my childhood, the old posts had simply been left where they were, rotting corpses of a time when Timber was King, and money grew in the forest surrounding Black Lake.

Our boatload of women and laughter slowly passed the new summer homes and palaces of the nouveau riche jammed onto narrow lots, professionally landscaped and manicured. Crammed between the mansions were the familiar, now-ancient mobile homes and the older, rundown shanties. Our childhood friends, “Black-Lakers” all, had lived year-round in these flimsy, drafty homes. Oil was expensive, so feeding the fireplace or woodstove was how we stayed warm back then.

In the 1930s, when my father grew up in the hills above the other side of the lake, the area had been exceedingly rural, a poor place teetering on the edge of poverty. In the 1960s, when I was growing up, it was working-class but still small and insular. Many of the people around the lake had gone to school with my father, and he knew them well.

Jonna slowly followed the shore past those homes, old and new. It was surprising which tattered old cabins stubbornly held on, clinging to their places despite being elbowed aside by the beautiful new homes of the well-heeled few.

Hugging the shoreline, we went south, passing down the eastern side of the lake toward the house that had been my family home for thirty-five years. I was curious, wondering what it looked like. As we idled along, I thought about those years that we had spent there, the good and bad.

How many evenings had I sat beside my grandmother at the picnic table, gazing out across the water to the Black Hills rising above the lake and dominating the view? How many campfires in the fire-pit on the beach, and barbecues? How many summers were spent swimming from morning to evening? I couldn’t wait to see it again.

When we approached the place our home had been, we only recognized it because the contours of the shoreline hadn’t changed. Having fished those waters for so many years, Sherrie and I knew which half-sunken log meant we were nearing the neighbor’s house. Ours had been beyond the woods next door.

The neighbor’s house had seemed large and modern when I was young and had been referred to as “the airplane hangar” by the locals when Ken Nolan built it. I was surprised to see how small it really was. It was greatly changed, but I recognized the mid-century wall of glass facing the lake. The new owners had abandoned the small lawn and gone to simply having a large deck, surrounded by tall salal and Oregon grape. They had sacrificed much of the view from inside in the interests of privacy, I suspect.

Even though the neighboring house was so changed, I was filled with anticipation for the first sight of our childhood home, with me going on and on, telling our friends how beautiful the property was.

We never saw that house, despite my eager searching.

Just beyond the now-ancient grove of alders that had separated our property from the neighbors was a rundown building. It did resemble my parents’ house but was definitely not the home I had grown up in.

It had been made into a duplex and was clearly a rental unit for the large house that now sat behind in what had once been the swamp. The acre of lawn and gardens that had been my parents’ pride and joy was lost to the wilderness, with a dilapidated fence cutting the yard in two. On either side of the fence, narrow paths snaked through the weeds, muddy trails to the beach. Grass and weeds stood waist-high, obscuring the once-beautiful home.

The beach and swimming area were gone. A marina dominated the waterfront, with five dilapidated power boats moored at several docks. Thinking back on that sight, I suspect that summers there see few children playing in the shallows, as the formerly sandy beach is now a swampy morass.

I confess I was devastated to see the old family home in such disrepair.

The last time I had approached the house from the lake had been in 1995 after my grandmother passed away, while my mother still lived there. That day, as we returned to the shore, I had viewed the modest home in its park-like setting, with a broad lawn that took an hour to mow even with the riding mower. Cherry trees, alders, and maples had shaded the yard, with roses, camellias, rhododendrons, and other heirloom shrubs framing the house. Blueberries, cascade blackberries, and loganberries had pride of place in the immense vegetable garden that was to the right of the house when viewed from the lake.

When we were growing up there, the inside of our home was cold and damp and frequently in disrepair. There were no carpets because Mama said they would be ruined, and certainly the linoleum hadn’t stood the test of time. Our furniture had been worn out, and Mama wasn’t really into interior decorating.

Besides, as she was always reminding us, there was no money to fix things up. Dad had a good job, but money was tight. Nevertheless, however shabby it had been compared to the homes of our wealthier classmates who lived in town, it was immaculately clean inside and out. Nothing was ever out of place, because what would people think? Mama had strong opinions about people with poor housekeeping habits and was rather vocal about it.

As I said, the house itself had been nothing special, but the yard… 350 feet of waterfront and five acres going back toward the road. The yard and the view were what my parents had made themselves house-poor for.

When I was a child, the yard had been a magical place of refuge from disapproving adults, with many places to hide and read and to be important to someone, even if it was only the cat.

I didn’t know what to think when we saw the rundown hovel with a flock of boats parked in front. I was glad to be in the company of my friends and my sister, as I fought the sting and burn of tears. I think because I’m four years older than Sherrie, her memories were of happier times than mine, when Mama rebelled against Dad’s wishes and got a job outside the home so she could have some extra money.

Our friends in the boat, Irene, Evonne, and Jonna – they knew. These women could tell what had occurred, how it had set me back. They were united, a wall of strength, silently commiserating and allowing us to just take it all in, yet there for us if we needed to talk about it.

I didn’t. I couldn’t.

At last, Jonna turned the boat, and we idled along the shore, cruising south around the swampy end where the Black River begins its journey to the Chehalis River, and then to the “new” development of Evergreen Shores, built in the 1970s. Then we went north along the west shore, passing the strange dichotomy of shanties mingled between high-end vacation manors. Having circled the lake, we finally negotiated our way back through the rotting pilings at the north end and approached Jonna’s dock.

Jake had been standing there the whole time, likely expecting we would sink his boat. But we hadn’t, and bless him, he was happy to help Jonna park it.

I’m an author now, middle-aged. I’ve lived a long and interesting life, and still I find I have lessons to learn. A place is a place, and a building is only a home when someone lives there. I think that what I really discovered by going back to the lake house is that you don’t go home by returning to the scene of your childhood.

My childhood home still shines in my memories, but nowadays home means comfort and cozy evenings on the back porch with my husband. Home is a wall with photographs of our children and grandchildren.

I carry home within my heart and memories, and wherever I am, that is home.


Credits and Attributions

Going Home, A Memoir by Connie J. Jasperson © 2018, All Rights Reserved, was first published on Myrddin Publishing Blog, on January 17, 2018

Black Lake Sunset, by Florence Lemke, 1973. Painted by the author’s aunt, image reproduced from the private collection of Connie J. Jasperson. © 2018 All Rights Reserved. Printed by permission.

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#FlashFictionFriday: The Garden Choir in February

 

The crocus suite opens with a lone voice

A tenor, singing a hymn.

Gradually voices join, rising together

Swelling until a symphony of color

Blankets a pocket corner

Of the winter garden

In February.

The first lone soldier

Standing tall and singing

With voice and color proclaiming

This is my time! This is my corner,

My season in the garden

Is February.


Credits and Attributes

The Garden Choir in February, by Connie J. Jasperson, ©2018 All Rights Reserved

Woodland Crocus, By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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Early Morning Moon #flashfictionfriday

Early morning moon

Waltzing across the sky at dawn

Lights the frozen land beneath.

Winter morning moon

Not blue, not blood,

Unique only for its rarity.

Early morning moon

Naked, uncloaked by clouds,

Waltzing across the sky at dawn.

 


Credits and Attributions:

By Jeff Fennell from Oregon, USA (Early Morning Moon) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Early Morning Moon, poem by Connie J. Jasperson © 2018 All Rights Reserved

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A Dog’s Tale #FlashFictionFriday

I used to spend a lot of time in the backyard, howling. What can I say? I was young and impulsive in those days.

However, Dave bought me this new collar, which, while it’s nice to look at, has an inherent flaw. It becomes terribly uncomfortable when I howl or announce the arrival of that vandal who shoves trash through the slot in our door. He seems to be targeting our house. Since I can no longer yell at him to go away, I nip at his fingers through the slot. But he’s crafty now and doesn’t get close enough for me to do any damage.

I’m not complaining, though. I’m no different than any other girl. I’m quite partial to jewelry, but more importantly, I’m a responsible man owner. Since Dave is my human, I always show my appreciation for his thoughtfulness, even though he has no idea what sort of collar I’d really like. It’s the thought that counts.

Caring for a pet human teaches a dog to be patient and adaptable. Humans have a compulsion to keep redecorating their nests, and no amount of scolding on your part will change it—it’s the way humans are. Sure, it’s annoying to discover they have changed things around just when you finally had things arranged the way you like it. But putting up with trivial annoyances is part of the job of owning a pet.

Dave is no different than any other human, and it’s one habit I’ve been unable to train him out of. I don’t think he understands that the new cover he puts on the sofa when he leaves is not comfy at all. It buzzes and zaps me, so I just give up trying to get comfortable and sleep on the floor.

Dave seldom puts me in the kennel when he’s gone, the way some humans do. Bonzo, the dachshund from next door, spends all day in his kennel, which his human bought specially for him. Bonzo doesn’t like it but is too polite to complain as it was a gift. And there again, it’s the thought that counts. I’m only asked to sleep in mine when Dave and that woman have a sleep-over.

It took a while, but I have Dave pretty well trained now. He’s loyal, and never forgets to feed me, and he has never once left me alone in the car on a hot day. It’s a good life.

I’m feeling sleepy now, so I’ll just go nap by the front door, and wait for the vandal. He shows up nearly every day just before noon. Today, if he’s careless, maybe I’ll finally draw blood, and he’ll stop throwing trash into our house.


The Dog’s Tale, © Connie J. Jasperson, 2017-2018

This little bit of flash fiction was inspired by the above photo, found on Wikimedia Commons and first appeared here Feb 03, 2017.

Image: Pomeranian, By Chunbin (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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