Tag: creative writing

Sunshine and Lemon Balm

“Six twenty-three,” Lorna guessed rolling over to bring the clock on the bedside table into focus.  No matter the season, her internal clock never failed; six twenty-three on the nose.  Mid-summer sun, filtered by plantation blinds on the east-facing window, reflected the warm subtle glow Lorna felt in her heart as she visualized the day blossoming before her: a day of sunshine and lemon balm.

Sitting on the edge of the bed, twisting left then right; a deep breath in, arching her back; exhale, rounding her spine, chin to her chest; sitting tall, shoulders down, tummy tucked in, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale.

Feet glide into her slippers, or house shoes as her mother called them.  Lorna walked into the kitchen, put a kettle of water on the stove and opened the door to her condo balcony.  Scissors in hand, snip, snip, a couple of leaves for tea. lemon balm 8

 

Lorna’s daughter gave her the original lemon balm sprig.

“Plant it in the garden.  The leaves are great for brewing tea, flavoring fruit salad or green salad, and for seasoning fish. Add stems to bouquets of summer flowers from the farmer’s market.  Your whole house will smell lemony fresh.  You’ll love it.”

Lorna spent the next five summers trying to control lemon balm from taking over her garden.

“You said it’s not supposed to spread,” she said to her daughter.

“If you keep it cut back, the flowers won’t produce seeds that sprout new plants.  Trim the plant way back a few times each summer.  That’s what I do.”

“Now you tell me.  Who’s going to help me dig up some of the volunteer plants?  I like the scent of lemon, but enough is enough.”

 

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Before Lorna sold her house and moved into the condo, she transplanted fifteen lemon balm plants and delivered them to the Alzheimer’s unit of the assisted living facility where her father spent the last two years of his life.

“For the resident’s,” the card said.  “Lemon balm is good for digestion, headaches, Alzheimer’s restlessness, and insomnia.  If you plant them outside, cut them back often to keep them under control.  If you leave them in pots, place them around the facility and they will add a fresh scent to the rooms.”

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Sitting in her favorite rocker, Lorna inhaled the scent of lemon from the potted plant she kept for herself.  As the sun peeked over the balcony wall warming her toes, Lorna remembered her last volunteer assignment at the Alzheimer’s unit.  She was assigned to keep an eye on the residents in the fenced-in yard.

Edna, a new resident, wandered through the garden stopping at every lemon balm plant.  She picked a stem, held it to her nose, took a deep breath in and moved on to the next plant.

Edna made her way around to Lorna and held out a bouquet of lemon balm.

“Take this.  I think it smells like sunshine.  I guarantee it will brighten our day.”

Edna repeated her trip around the garden gathering sunshine as if it was her first trip.  She presented each new bouquet to the next person she saw.  By the end of the day, every visitor to the garden caught a glimpse of Edna’s world:  a place of unending sunshine and lemon balm.

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Remnants

Remnants

“I’m putting this basket of fabric and yarn scraps in the donate pile grandma.”

Veronica looked up and shook her head from side to side and managed a “No.”

The after-affects of a stroke paired with the onset of dementia held Veronica captive in silence, lost in the past. Ronnie, her oldest granddaughter and namesake, set the basket of remnants next to Veronica’s chair.

Veronica reached into the remnants with her good arm and picked up a ball of delicate white baby yarn. Her wrinkled hand lifted the plush yarn to her cheek. Her face lit up with a sweet smile and tears welled in her eyes as she remembered the hours of love spent knitting a baptism dress for her first child.

“What is it grandma?”

“Baby Tim,” she managed.

You made dad a sweater with this yarn?”

“Dress,” Veronica uttered.

After a few moments of reflection Ronnie asked, “Is this the yarn from the baptismal dress you made for daddy? The same dress my sisters and I wore?”

Veronica nodded yes.

Ronnie labeled the basket of remnants ‘Memories’ and made sure the collection of treasures went to assisted living. Ronnie visited her grandmother every weekend. For months they went through all the small balls of yarn and fabric swatches. Ronnie created a journal with a snippet from each remnant and details her grandma shared during her more lucid moments. Ronnie included a picture of the person who received the finished product and a memory they wanted to share with Veronica.

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One Sunday, Ronnie overheard a nurse asking Veronica about different entries in the journal. Veronica beamed and pointed to pictures of her children and grandchildren holding the gifts she crafted for them with love.

“You created quite a legacy Veronica. You must be pleased to know your family treasures your gifts.”

Ronnie walked into her grandmother’s room, gave her a big hug and kissed her on the cheek.

“How are you today grandma?”

Veronica squeezed Ronnie’s hand.

“Only one piece of fabric left. It looks like white satin. I thought it might be from you wedding dress so I brought a picture of you a Papa on the church steps. Did I guess right?”

Veronica reached for the picture. She placed the photograph on her lap and touched the image of her husband with longing and tenderness.

“I miss grandpa too.”

Ronnie created a journal and attached the photo and fabric. She handed the journal to her grandmother who cradled it next to her heart.

Ronnie said goodbye, kissing her grandmother on both cheeks, “Till next week grandma, I love you.”

The next morning the nurse on-call found Veronica’s lifeless form sitting in her bed, journal open to her wedding photo, a peaceful look on her face. The remnants in her journal telling the story of a life well lived and full of love.

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Table for Two – Chapter 11

Table for Two – Chapter 11

November 6-9, 1974 –  What’s in a Name?

T-Squared Energy Connections[i]

 

“No Gladys, I can’t let you do it. You want to name the baby for your mother. I understand. Ruth is a fine middle name. If Ruth is her first name, I can hear the teasing now. The first time she cries at school her nickname will be Cry Baby Ruth. Kids can be mean.  Let’s not start her out in life with a built-in obstacle.”chapter-11-name-2

Sitting outside Table, for Two, Gladys sipped her coffee and took a deep breath before responding.

“I don’t want to fight about naming our baby. What do you suggest, Jerry?”

“Let’s find a meaningful name kids can’t turn into something hurtful. If we keep Ruth as a middle name, her last two initials would be RT. What are your grandmothers’ names? Perhaps one if them would work.”

chapter-11-baby-name“Margaret on my mom’s side and Helen on my dad’s. Margaret Ruth Taylor sounds like an old lady to me. Helen Ruth doesn’t do anything for me either. Aunt Irma made me promise not to use her name. She’s never liked it much. We could name her for someone in your family Jerry.”

Jerry swallowed the last bite of a pumpkin spice muffin, “The way my grandmother tells the story, to keep everyone happy, she named my mom Reese Irene Thelma Agnes. It kept the peace until Mom changed her name to Rita, an acronym for all those bad, baby names.  After that, no one was happy.”

“I never heard that story. No wonder she goes by Rita. Sounds like we are better off not offending anybody by naming the baby after a family member. If we choose a name beginning with A, her initials will be ART. Why don’t you read through the baby name book again?  The hospital won’t let us take her home until we decide on something.”

After suggesting half a dozen names, Jerry asked, “How do you like Alysa? It means princess, in Greek.”

“Alysa Ruth Taylor. I love it. She is our little princess. Our miracle baby.”

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* * *

“Hello Alysa. I’m your Great Aunt.”

Rocking and cradling the infant, Irma gently stroked the baby’s head. Alysa latched on to Irma’s finger and found a permanent place in her heart.

“I’ve waited a long time to hold you. You are so special. Mommy and daddy waited almost two years for the agency call telling them of a match. When they met you and your birth father at the hospital, it was love at first sight.”

“Alysa, you and I are going to have so much fun together. Your mommy is going to work part-time for a while.  As a State representative, daddy is going to make sure the world is safe for his little princess.  You and I will get along royally.”

Gladys stepped into the nursery as Alysa slipped off to sleep.

“We have a lot to be thankful for this year, Irma. What a perfect Christmas gift. We’ll put a crown on your head, Alysa, and call it a day. I have everything I want.”

* * *

“Surprise!”

Sadie’s hand went to her chest, her eyes opened wide; she gazed around the room. Her friends had taken over T-Squared to give her a surprise bridal shower.

Sadie took the seat of honor at the head of the table. Her sister Lucy walked around the corner carrying a tray of rolls.

Sadie stood, pushing the chair away with the back of her legs. The twins embraced.

“What are you doing here? When did you get in from France? Where are you staying?”

“There will be lots of time to catch up later. As your Maid of Honor, I wasn’t about to miss your shower.”

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After lunch dishes were cleared away, Lucy passed paper and pencils around the table.

“Knowing how you hate party games, dear sister, I designed this one especially for you. Here’s how it works…

“On the paper going around is everyone’s name with an acronym next to it. In the blank next to the acronym, write what you think it means.”

“For example, next to my name is SOTB. Who can guess what that stands for?”

“Correct Irma, sister of the bride.”

“Whoever gets the most acronyms right wins the game and a prize.

“There is also a prize for anyone who guesses what Sadie’s name will be after she marries. We all know she is marrying Steven Green. Will she change her name from Abrams?  Will she combine both last names with a hyphen?  Or will she keep her name as is?  Only the bride to be knows.”

***

Carol, head chef for T-Squared, won the prize for the identifying all the acronyms. Each guest shared her idea about Sadie’s new name.

“Well Sadie, did anyone get it right?”

“One person guessed correctly. ”

“I want to keep my name as is, Sadie Elaine Abrams. Steven says he doesn’t care, but his family is more traditional. They think I should become Sadie Abrams Green, making my initials SAG instead of SEA. No way I’m living with SAG the rest of my life.

“As a compromise, I will be Sadie Elaine Abrams-Green. I keep my name, more or less, and the Green name will live on.”

“No matter what the paperwork says, I will still be Sadie.  Or you can refer to me as Princess, the Hebrew meaning of Sadie.  That’s what my father always calls me.”

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[i] T-Squared – In astrological charts the t-square configuration is a dynamic pattern that links and inter-locks energies. It can be seen in the major events, challenges, and themes that are encountered in life.

Table for Two – Chapter 2

Table for Two – Chapter 2

T-Squared Energy Connections

April 20, 1966 – Sara and Stuart

Sara met her mother at Table for Two after school. Their mission: find Sara a prom dress.

Table for Two opened four days earlier, on Main Street in Hartsburg. The restaurant provided the ideal spot to meet and strategize the search for a perfect dress.

Sara arrived first. She paced up and down in front of Table for Two with a bounce in her step. Weeks of scouring magazines came down to pictures of half a dozen dresses she liked.

Marge rushed up to the Sara, “Sorry I’m a little late honey. I had a cake in the oven for tonight’s pinochle club.  It’s my turn to bring dessert.”

Marge sat and looked over Sara’s display on the bistro table. “I like this one. It suits you; stylish but modest. The colors will show off your rosy complexion and grprom-3een always brings out your eyes.”

Sara was jumping for joy. She included dresses her mother wouldn’t like, hoping they would agree on her favorite.  And they did.

“I think I saw a dress almost like this in the shop down the street. I hope it fits. This might be the one,” she said, holding up the picture of a flowered dress with a pink ribbon at the waist.

“Let’s just sit for a bit and talk about prom. I could use a coffee. Would you like a cola?”, Marge asked. She wanted to be sure Sara’s expectations were realistic.

“Now? Can’t we wait till after we find the dress?”

“You are about to jump out of your skin. I need a few minutes to catch my breath so I can keep up with you,” Marge said, looking over her shoulder as she entered Table for Two.

* * *

Sara dreamt about going to prom but thought it was out of reach. A shy girl, Sara had a hard time making friends. Plus, she transferred to Hartsburg High last November, two months into her senior year. Most students lived in Hartsburg their whole lives. They moved from elementary school to middle school to high school as a group.

Starting in January, Sara overheard girls talking about their prom dates, shopping for dresses, and before and after parties.

“One more rite of passage I will miss,” Sara confided in her cousin Stuart at an anniversary party in March for their grandparents .

“We’ve moved around so much for dad’s job there’s never enough time to make friends. I feel like a shooting star. Now you see me, now you don’t.”

“I see you Sara. May I take you to your prom? That is, if no one else invites you.” Stuart asked.

Sara bit her lower lip and nodded her head.

“Karen won’t mind?”

“Too bad if she does. I’ve known you longer and like you better. Anyway, I think she’s got her eye on some fraternity guy she met at Christmas. He owns a faster car and lives in a better neighborhood.”

“Don’t be ridiculous. Who cares about those things?”

Having spent the last ten summers together on their grandparents’ farm, Stuart and Sara became best friends. Stuart felt like a protective older brother. Sara experienced what it might be like to have a sibling. They fed chickens and pigs every day. They mucked out stalls and groomed the horses. The reward for their hard work was naming a foal to raise as their own and learning to ride. Stuart named his horse Dandy. Sara named hers Lilly for her favorite flower.

Sara and Stuart loved night rides. Chores were done. A peaceful blue-black cloak enveloped the earth. Galaxies of stars shimmered from one horizon to the other, evoking a sense of infinite space. Time stood still.

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Sara and her mother were back at Table for Two making a list of things to do before prom.

“The dress is perfect, except for the length. Grams can shorten it.” Sara made a note to call Grams when she got home.

“You’ll need shoes. I think I have an evening bag you can use,” Marge added.

“How about jewelry? I hate the way earrings pinch. Can I get my ears pierced? The jewelry store does it. Please, mom.”

“Your father would have a conniption. How about I let you borrow my pearl necklace. It was a gift from your father. He would like that. Goodness, look at the time. We better get home. I’ll need you to help with dinner. Daddy and I are going over to the Meier’s for cards tonight.”

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Stuart picked up Sara in his father’s car on prom night. Matt, Sara’s father, met him at the door.

“Hello Stuart. Be sure Sara has evening to remember and stay out of trouble. I expect you back by one.”

“Sure thing Uncle Matt.”

Sara walked into the room and took a spin to show off her dress and hair.

“Where’s your pick-up?” Sara asked looking out the front window to the driveway.

“Tonight we go in style. You look stunning, by the way.” Stuart handed Sara a wrist corsage of lilies.

Sara pinned a red rosebud boutonniere on Stuart’s white tuxedo jacket.

“You’re beautiful, princess. Have fun, but not too much, if you know what I mean” Matt said as Sara and Stuart walked out to car.

* * *

“You are floating on air Sara. Was prom everything you expected?”

“More. The music, everybody dressed up and on their best behavior, the stars hanging from the ceiling of the gym. It reminded me of our night rides. Thank you, Stuart.”

“Such a beautiful night and too early to go home. Let’s go to Gramps farm and take Dandy and Lilly out,” Stuart suggested. We’ve haven’t been there together in a while.”

“Curfew is not for another hour. Besides, we can call my parents from Gramps phone and let them know we might be late. I think it will be okay.”

Marge answered the phone and gave her blessing for a midnight ride. At least she knew Sara was safe with Stuart. It was better than a post-prom party where who knows what might happen.

* * *

Stuart saddled the horses and gave Sara a boost on to Lilly before mounting Dandy. They rode out along the fence line till they reached the end of the property.

Taking a deep breath, Sara tilted her head up at the starry sky. The moon was behind the trees. “Look over there Stuart. A shooting star. Make a wish.”

As the tail of the star disappeared, Stuart asked, “What did you wish for Sara?”

“It’s the same every time. I wish people would look past the leg braces and see me.”

“I see you Sara. I see you.”

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Everyone Has a Story

Everyone Has a Story

Today I began NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month a fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.

Participants work towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel between November 1st and November 30th.

NaNoWriMo is for anyone who has ever thought fleetingly about writing a novel. National Novel Writing Month is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit (formerly known as the Office of Letters and Light). Their mission statement:

National Novel Writing Month organizes events where children and adults find the inspiration, encouragement, and structure they need to achieve their creative potential. 

One day in and I am exactly on track – 1667 words.  I’m still unsure what the novel will be about.  The first 1,000 words or so seem to be a warm-up and will probably be tossed out.  I will allow the plot to develop one day at a time and see where it goes.  See you on the flip side of November.

Do you have a story in you?