Hometown

Stamford Train Station: Photo by Noelle

Stamford Train Station: Photo by Noelle

I pass through her shadow much like passing through a lake spring. I catch a glimpse of her in baggy shirt and jeans by the State theater, but it’s only a ghost that passes into the shade of an elm. I felt her pulling my steps into the same sixteen year old’s rhythm on Washington Blvd and I forced myself to pick up the pace. She haunted me at the corner of Summer and Broad where the old Caldor’s Department store used to be. Just thinking about that old five and dime throws my thinking back forty years. I shiver as the closed in feeling of a girl’s bathroom swims into view. Children laughing and pulling at my clothes as they shove me into the stall door. I dressed in hand-me downs and cheap clothing that all the kids knew where it had been bought. I stop walking and let her ghost drift past as I turn my face into the sun on Atlantic.

Caldors marketing stock photo circa 1970

Caldors marketing stock photo circa 1970

I look in boutique windows that I would have never looked in as a child and her ten year old shadow hovers at my hip. We were too poor to buy clothes in such places. Now I dally vaguely window shopping, I suspect because I can, but I need nothing. As I walk past the first McDonald’s in our town I remember my mother bringing home fries once when I was sick. Probably sounds like a curious luxury to a world gone wild on fast food, but in the 70’s it was a big deal. I had strep throat for the umpteenth time with fevers that got as high as 105. She packed me once in ice to bring the fever down and would lay with me running her fingers through my sweaty hair until I’d fall asleep. I often slept on the floor with the fans because it was the only cool place to be in the summer. Even now I remember how unbearably hot I felt and the gallons of ginger ale I drank. As the scent of the fryers comes to me on the street I remember the taste of the salted fries she brought home. She sat with me by the sliding glass doors where a breeze came in and we shared them. It makes me weep to think about it. The ten year old shadow takes my hand and we keep walking.

This is my hometown and yet I could not feel any less at home. Walking along is an immersion in a time capsule. I no longer run from my previous selves, but I feel their weight here. I feel the lack of self-worth and fear she had. So much confusion of how to act or how to be. Loneliness. Isolation. I am a thousand light years from here and yet I find I want to find her on the next street. Take her shopping. Hear her laugh and see that lightning smile. Tell her, as Dr Seuss told us all, “Oh the places you will go, my love. Oh the places  you will go.”

Stamford Train Station: Photo by Noelle

Stamford Train Station: Photo by Noelle

 

By the Lake

From adirondackalmanack.com

From adirondackalmanack.com


The crickets were so loud, I was certain, the boogie man could be right upon me before I’d know it. Still, the warmth and brightness of the campfire and my brother close by, made it hard to worry. I couldn’t camp out with all the other kids by the lake unless one of my older brother’s was with me. Mark and Eric were too much older and Chad’s friends too different, my brother Adam, too young, so usually it was my brother Cort. My mother never cut the grass, much to our neighbor’s dismay, so our lawn was the best on the lake to camp on. A rural vibe and more cushion for our beds. Even as I write this, I can smell the tallgrass, hyssop and selfheal that grew there. If I focus but a little, the head of a buttercup can be felt at the tip of my finger.

By nightfall, though, it was all warm glow and the smell of roasting marshmallows. I hardly remember what we spoke about all those summer nights. Yes, some ghost stories, but mostly we just goofed off. We had an old transister radio and in the early 70’s Three Dog Night’s, Shambala was hugely popular. I’m pretty sure I didn’t sing any better then, than now, but I certainly sang with heart. You could see the Milky Way then, as the world hadn’t turned on all its lights. I remember the first time I saw a satellite crossing the midnight sky. I didn’t know what it was and for hours we talked about space aliens and invasions. Someone kept singing the theme song to the Jetsons.

Our house was up on a hill and a wood separated it from the lake. My mother would hoot down to us to check in on how we were doing. Again, much to the chagrin of our neighbors who preferred well-manicured lawns and quiet, cordial discussion, sans hooting. She grew up on a farm. It was as natural to her as breathing and we could be a half mile off and know that sound. It was a comforting sound that brought a smile to your face. She never hooted like that out of anger. She only called this way when she was looking for you out of love.

I was often the only girl by the fire, thus the reason for my brother’s chaperone. The boys were honorable though. When I had to go to the bathroom they all kept their distance. They knew I was afraid of the dark and wouldn’t wonder far at all into the wood. I don’t remember wearing bug repellent, and yet, even by the lake I don’t remember being bit to death by mosquitos. Or it’s a testament to how easily we actually do forget momentary pain. Or maybe it was all the bats that flew throughout the night above our heads or the big sunnies, leaping into the air to catch them from the lake. I’m sure the frogs that sang to each other played their part.

When I feel empty or alone I need only travel a short distance in my mind to realize I am neither. I am so full of life and bounty it is a wonder I have any more room for anything new. Life inside me teems with children catching fireflies, boys wrestling down the side of a hill, the smell of fresh lake fish roasting in a pit, or a comic book shared by firelight. A billion lights could be turned on across the planet and still the iridescent beauty of a starry night lives on in me. I have lost nothing. I am a hoarder of beauty and innocence.

Dedicated to my friend, John Wilder, whose photograph of his east Texas cabin triggered a thousand memories of life within me. Thank you, my friend, for the unintended sojourn.

The Lake: Flash Non-Fiction, Episode 2

Nevada Ditch: Photo by Noelle

Nevada Ditch: Photo by Noelle

My heart, my mother’s lake. Long and slim. Fresh and dark. Bass and sunnies and tadpoles becoming frogs. She gardened here, but I dug in clay and looked for salamanders and toads. Piles of last year’s tomato plants now plowed under with muck from the lake. Good fertilizer she’d say. Full of leeches and fish poop I’d call back, tossing grasshoppers into the water that snap when the fish catch them. Honeysuckle dangled from my mouth that grows thick as thieves in the field. She chased the Canadian geese while I crawfished the stream feeders, my hand still, my breath held. Her death was like that, too. Me standing ankle deep in her sickness trying to catch her spirit as it leaped into the Great Lake. Now there is only the sunset shimmer on the water rippling in the summer breeze. Geese are gone and grass grows tall. The garden is dead but the fish still leap for water bugs that want for dragonfly wings. Iridescent blues that snap my attention from grave dirt. No lake clay here and I miss it’s pliability and the way that it shaped to my touch. Growing warmer the longer I held it. That is love. Warm the longer you hold it, which is why death beds are so cold. So I let the sun warm me before I dive deep into the murky water, letting the cold spot rack my bones.

Work in progress from the Front Range Writer’s Group: hosted. By Marj Hahne

Dead

Winter Sun: Photo by Noelle

Winter Sun: Photo by Noelle

Dead is the soup, no more potatoes on the board
Dead is the Shalimar soaked scarves on the door
Dead comes the memory of smashed pots on walls
And broken eggs still in cracked dishes on the floor

Dead giggles down hallways where she chased
Little girl hiding in winter boots and grandma’s lace
Dead comes the warm paper skinned hands
That kneaded the bread and rolled pie dough with cans

Dead are the winter nights as black as coal
Christmas light watching sipping her coffee cold
Dead are the secrets each of us carried
Dead is the garden of our arguments parried

Dead am I as cherished daughter
Dead is the place called home by lake water
Dead comes her call from decades now past
Dead are my longings for safe sail and mast

An anaphora (repetition of phrase). A work in progress from The Writer’s Church, Boulder, CO. Hosted by Marj Hahne