Tag: Flash Fiction

Treasure Hunt

Treasure Hunt

Emily surprised no one when she used her death to orchestrate one final treasure hunt.

“The prize at the end will taste sweeter for having worked for it,” she would tell to her grandchildren.

Emily beamed watching each child decipher clues and relished in exuberant expressions of joy when they figured out where the treat was hidden.

Whenever they visited, Emily handed each child a clue leading to another clue. Each clue took them closer to a treat, almost always round, pink candies or vanilla wafers. On hot summer days, the treat might be a popsicle.

Some days the prize was a quarter to be spent at the corner store. The first time a child found a quarter at the end of the trail sent them spinning and doing a happy dance. Your first quarter meant you were old enough to walk to the corner store on your own.

Upon entering the store, a glass counter to the right displayed all varieties of penny and nickel candy. Deciding how to spend twenty-five cents might take longer than eating the candy. Each time, the same internal dialogue: Hard candies last longer. Chocolate is better. Maybe a Tootsie Roll Pop. Mom doesn’t let us have candy bars, maybe a Snickers is the way to go.

Whatever the decision, the spoils from the treasure hunt went back to Grandma’s to be eaten on the front porch or under the big tree in the back yard.

* * *

cage-6At Emily’s funeral, the grandchildren sat in a circle sharing a favorite treasure-hunt memory. Nathan recalled the time he clambered up the big tree to find a clue.

“How did Grandma hide the clue up there?”

“I hid the clue in the tree.”

Mike revealed how as the oldest, he often assisted in placing clues around for the younger kids.

“As Grandma got older, the stairs to the attic or basement gave her trouble. I doubt Grandma ever climbed the tree. One year she promoted me to be her assistant and swore me to secrecy. Now you know. Whew! I’m glad to get that out in the open.”

At the reading of the will, each grandchild received an envelope with a clue to finding one last treasure.

“I have selected a something special for you. As you complete one more trek, remember, the joy is in the journey.”

All heads turned toward Mike.

“Don’t look at me. I had nothing to do with it.”

Everyone’s first clue led to the same place and included instructions to complete the quest together. Stacked with boxes of all sizes, Emily’s eight grandchildren each found a box with their name on it in the attic. The prize inside included a letter and photographs of the two of them together.

Tammy received antique broach she liked to wear when she visited Emily.

“I used to think I was sophisticated wearing Grandma’s fancy jewelry.”

Kathy found a crystal vase Emily brought from Ireland as a teenager.

“I used to pick wild flowers out of the field behind Grandma’s house. She always put them in this vase as if I presented her the most precious flowers on earth.”

Mike found his grandfather’s leather bomber jacket and a key to the antique motor cycle in the garage.

“I used to love hearing Grandpa tell me stories about riding with his brother.  I Can’t believe she gave me his bike.”

Roger opened his box to find Grandpa’s war medals and the flag used to adorn his grandfather’s casket at his funeral.  Overcome with emotion, tears in his eyes, Roger turned the flag over, smoothing out the corners.

Amanda started sobbing as she unfolded the quilt Emily made from aprons she’d worn over the years.

“Grandma used to let me bake cookies with her. I made such a mess, she always put one of her aprons on me.”

Nathan fell to his knees when he found his Grandfather’s baseball card collection.

“I spent hours poring over these with Grandpa. He came to every game I played from little league to high school state finals.”

Samantha showed off a hand-beaded clutch.

“Grandma let me carry her evening bag around when we played dress-up. I think that’s when I discovered my love for all things vintage.”

“Okay Cinda, last, but not least. We all know you were Grandma’s favorite. Look at the size of that box,” Roger teased.

All eyes on her, Cinda gingerly unwrapped an antique bird cage, fragile from the dry attic air. Detached from its hinges, the door lay on the bottom of the cage.

“What does it mean? I don’t remember Grandma ever having a bird,” Amanda asked.

“Grandma had scarlet fever as a child. Her father gave her this cage and a song bird to keep her company during her recovery. She told me she always felt bad for the bird, locked up in a cage all the time. The day the doctor said she could go outside, Grandma set the bird free. Let’s see what the note says.”

“Cinda,

You are my youngest grandchild, the one most like me, in spirit. My wish is that you see the world for both of us. I removed the door on this cage to remind you to remain open to all life offers. Be audacious in your pursuit of adventure. Fly, little bird, fly, and I will soar with you.

Grandma Emily”

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The Music Box

The Music Box

My Dearest Liz, 

If you are reading this, you found the secret compartment. My parents are sending me to Maine for the summer to spend time with my grandparents and cousins.  They say the country air will be good for me.  We both know it’s because our families want to keep us apart. You will always be in my heart, no matter how many miles are between us. 

All my love forever, Jacob S.  June 1, 1863.

The morning she turned eighteen, Elizabeth opened her eyes and zeroed in on the music box on her dresser. The family treasure originally belonged to her great-great grandmother, Mary Elizabeth Pembroke. Elizabeth’s grandfather bequeathed the music box to her when she was born. Every year on her birthday, Elizabeth wound the mechanism and listed to the love song, How Can I Leave Thee?

Elizabeth found the love letter from Jacob S. that morning when the music box fell from the dresser and broke into a dozen pieces. She tried to catch the precious box.  She tried to save it, but she wasn’t fast enough.

Heartsick, tears in her eyes, Elizabeth gathered the shattered keepsake, tenderly placing fragments into an old basket. Among the rubble, she found the note and a silver charm of half a heart threaded on a chain.

Elizabeth read the note. Who was Jacob S.? Her great, great-grandmother Liz married Henry Madison Pembroke.

Elizabeth tucked the note and the necklace into her pocket and took the music box to her father, Henry.  He could fix anything. Henry brushed the tears from his daughter’s eyes and assured her the music box would be as good as new when he finished.

“Dad, are you aware of anyone in the family named Jacob, someone from a long time ago perhaps?”

“No one comes to mind sweetie. You might want to talk to your Aunt Minnie. She’s the keeper of the family tree. If anyone knows about a Jacob, it would be her.”

Elizabeth spoke to her Aunt Minnie that night after everyone at her party sang Happy Birthday and the candles were blown out.

“I have some questions about our family history. I’m looking for a Jacob S. He would have been a teenager in the 1860’s.  He may have been a friend of Grandma Liz.  Ever heard of him?”

“I’ve never found a Jacob in my research. Why do you ask?”

Elizabeth read the letter to Minnie but kept the necklace to herself. Curiosity piqued, Minnie raised her eyebrows,

“Want to go on a road trip to Maine this summer?  I love a good mystery.”

Always up for an adventure, Elizabeth asked,

“When do we leave?”

* * *

Aunt and niece checked into a bed and breakfast, their home-base in Ellsworth, Maine. They spent days meeting distant relatives, searched through antique stores for old family bibles and looked up marriage, birth, and death records at the county seat. Their search uncovered a Jacob Stein, but found no connection between Jacob and anyone named Liz.

Frustrated and exhausted, the women visited the last antique shop on their list before returning to the Ellsworth Inn to plan the next day’s excursion.

The shop owner looked up as the bells on the door announced new customers.

“Anything specific I can help you find?”

Elizabeth introduced herself, using her full name,

“Elizabeth Madison Pembroke. This is my Aunt Minnie. We’re looking for information about our ancestors.”

Elizabeth set the music box on the counter and unfolded the letter.

“I found a letter in a secret compartment of this box that belonged to my great-great grandmother. We’re hoping you might be able to identify the author.”

The shop owner walked over to a cabinet and set a wooden box next to the one on the counter.  It was an exact match.

Unable to speak, Elizabeth’s eyes nearly popped out of her face and her jaw dropped.

“My brother and I are restoring an old family home built by our great-great grandparents. They were married sixty years. Grandma Sarah died first and grandpa followed two months later. Everyone said he died of a broken heart.”

“During the renovation, my brother and I found this box hidden under the floorboards in Grandpa Jacob’s office. It’s filled with love letters from Liz M. to Jacob during the summer of 1863. This charm was also in the box.”

He held up half a heart.  The young man threaded his charm on Elizabeth’s necklace. The two pieces fit perfectly. Smiling  ear to ear he said,

“My great, great grandfather’s broken heart is healed at last. I’m Jacob Stein, may I call you Liz?”

Age is Only a Number

Age is Only a Number

Mother was always on the go.  She lived at home by herself and did her own cooking and cleaning.  Once a week I would pick her up then collect my two sisters who lived nearby.  None of them drove.  Thursday was our day to shop, pay bills and go out for lunch.

Mother spent four days a week at the church hall making sandwiches for the homeless, working on a quilt, knitting prayer shawls, cooking funeral lunches and whatever else needed doing.

On the seventh day, Mother was in the front row for mass and served coffee for the meet and greet after the service.  Sunday afternoon was reserved for family visits.  My sisters, brothers and I dropped by with our spouses and kids.  Weather permitting, the kids could be found outside climbing trees, playing hopscotch or a rousing game of statue.

The adults sat around Mother discussing family matters and solving the world’s problems.    Once the grandchildren went off to college, I would pick my Mother up after Sunday mass and take her to breakfast.

Recently I noticed Mother slowing down.  She started moving a little slower and walking with a cane on our shopping trips.   Her eyesight, hearing and memory never failed.  Now and then she would skip a day working at the church  proclaiming,

“It’s about time some of the younger women get involved.  I’m one of the oldest to show up.”

As designated driver, I took Mother to her annual physical.  On the short walk from the car to the office door she said in a shallow voice,

“I feel like I’m one hundred.”

I laughed and said, “You are ninety-nine you know.”

The part about feeling 100 came from a friend’s story about her mother.  The rest is a compilation of memories of my Grandma, my Mother and various Aunts.

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.

remnents-2

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.

remnents-3

 

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.”

chapter-dale-11-carnegie-quote-names-are-the-sweetest-and-most-important

* * *

“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.”

chapter-11-table-2

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.”

chapter-11-name-3

[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 10

Table for Two – Chapter 10

T-Squared Energy Connections[i]

December 31, 1972 –  Cheers!

Sadie and Lucy Abrams, owners of Table for Two, invited a few close friends to the restaurant for a special New Year’s Eve dinner. So much changed in the six and a half years since opening, they wanted to share their success with important people in their lives.

Carol, the restaurant manager, decorated with teal and silver balls, natural greenery, and gold votive candle holders. White place settings and clear stemware kept the tables simple.

Guests arrived to find an opening in the wall to the shop next door, doubling the square footage of Table for Two. A local radio station piped through the sound system, counting down the top 100 songs of the year.[ii] A self-serve bar complemented by appetizers spread across the counter.

chapter-10-teal

When it was time for dinner, Daniel Abrams stood behind his chair, glass raised, calling the guests to the table.

“I want to thank my twin daughters, Sadie and Lucy, I am proud of the women you’ve become. Growing up without a mother was difficult. I can say with certainty, your mother would be as proud of you as I am.”

“In the past six years, you managed to graduate from college, find jobs, keep Table for Two afloat, repay the start-up loan, and stay out of trouble.”

Daniel laughed, “Some people say twins are double trouble, not these two. Our first toast of the evening: To Sadie and Lucy, two of the smartest, kindest, most energetic, and loving daughters a man can ask for.”

“Sadie asked that we go around the table, each sharing a toast, news, or whatever is on our mind. I’ll start.”

“Being a risk-taker, I invested in horse owned by a family friend, Penny Tweedy. Penny believes Secretariat will be the next triple crown winner. I hope she is right. Please raise your glasses to Secretariat.”

“Jerry, you’re next. Anything to share?”

“We were all saddened last month by the death of our State Representative Harvey Clayton. The Governor called for an election to fill the vacancy and I decided to run. As much as I love being Mayor of Hartsburg, I want to play a larger role in the future of our state. Stop by my new office to volunteer. Any time you can give will be appreciated. And please vote. I guess your next, Gladys.”

“My news involves Jerry too. It’s no secret, we’ve been trying to have a baby. After two unsuccessful pregnancies, my doctor doubts I will be able to carry a baby full-term. We started the adoption process six months ago. No news yet, but the agency accepted our application and will begin sharing our profile next month. I want to toast Jerry. His love and support helped me deal with loss and give me hope for the future. To Jerry, the best partner I could have found.”

Daniel nodded to Irma, “You’re next.”

“Two things. I am applying for early retirement. Can’t wait. More important, I will be taking on a new job as the Nanny when Gladys and Jerry’s baby arrives. In the meantime, I will be volunteering for Jerry’s election campaign. Stop by. I’m sure we will find a job with your name on it.”

Irma looked each dinner guest in the eye. “Remember, I know how to find you. Better you come in on your own to volunteer.”

Irma turned to her left, “What’s going on with you Stuart?”

“My life is boring compared to the rest of you. Still in grad school at the University of Michigan. No, I haven’t learned to ski. No, I don’t have a girlfriend. Girls require time and money. Both are in short supply. My life is all about studying, labs, and the library. It’s good to be here. Cheers everyone!”

All eyes looked to Sara.

“I love my job at the Equine Assisted Therapy Center on Gull Lake. Stuart is only a few hours away; I thought we would get together more often. Both of us are super busy, so that hasn’t worked out. I am not used to the cold yet and winter is only beginning. I miss being in Hartsburg, but am learning lots to help me open my own center someday. I’m happy to be home for the holidays and sharing tonight with all of you.”

“I’m Dean, for those of you I haven’t met. Thanks Carol for inviting me to share New Year’s Eve. I’m passing through Hartsburg. From here I’m going home to Florida where I enrolled in Central Florida Community College. I’m not sure what I’ll major in, but I have plenty of time to figure out what I want to do with my life. Like Sadie and Lucy, I am a twin. My brother Dylan was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam. His helo was shot down. No one survived. I would like to toast Dylan, Tom, all soldiers, and veterans who serve or served in Vietnam and all previous wars. To Dylan and Tom.”

Tom held up his glass. “I’ll make this short and sweet. I made an appointment with Dean’s father to find out about making this left arm of mine useful again. To Dean, and all those who pass through Hartsburg making wishes come true.”

“Carol, what’s new with you?” Daniel winked at Carol.

“As regulars to the restaurant, you tried new menu items from time to time.  Some were better than others.  Thanks for your feedback. I graduated from culinary school this month and am starting a new job as head chef for a local restaurant. I’ll tell you more when I can talk about the details.”

“Congratulations Carol. Does anyone need a refill before we finish?” Daniel asked, looking around the table.

Lucy stood. “I am going to let Sadie address the elephant in the room, the hole in the wall. As for me, spending tonight with special friends warms my heart. I received a promotion and am moving to France next month. I will miss you all. Once I’m settled, please come visit. À votre santé! That’s French for cheers.”

“Last, but not least, Sadie will you address the elephant?”

“Sure dad. Hello elephant!” Sadie gestured toward the opening in the wall. “Seriously, Table for Two has done well. We signed a lease on the shop next door to expand the restaurant. We are adding new items to our lunch menu and will open for dinner on Friday and Saturday nights. The new space will also be available for parties and special events. We promoted Carol to head chef. Congratulations Carol. The name of the restaurant will stay Table for Two, but the addition will be called T-Squared. ”

I guess it’s back to me, Daniel added.  “Join me in a toast to the future, a toast to the past, and a toast to our friends, far and near. May the future be pleasant, the past a bright dream. May our friends remain faithful and dear.  Cheers everyone!”

chapter-10-cheers


[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.

[ii] For a trip down memory lane, check out the  Top 100 Songs of 1972.

Table for Two – Chapter 9

Table for Two – Chapter 9

T-Squared Energy Connections[i]

December 21, 1972 – The Wishing Tree

chapter-9-treeA live pine, dressed for the holidays, filled a corner inside Table for Two. Four Christmas’s ago, the year the restaurant opened, owners Sadie and Lucy started a tradition: a community wishing tree. Residents of all ages wrote wishes on tags and hung them on the tree during the week of Thanksgiving.  Everyone in town was encouraged to select someone else’s wish to fulfill.

On December twenty-first, the Monday before Christmas, Dean parked his Harley outside Table for Two in the exact spot he and his twin Dylan had parked their bikes, two and a half years earlier.

Dean glanced at the tree on his way to the counter to order coffee and a sandwich. Carol, the restaurant manager, tilted her head and squinted at Dean.

“Good afternoon. You look familiar. I don’t remember your name, but I never forget a face. Have you been here before?”

“As a matter of fact, I passed through Hartsburg a couple of years ago, with my twin brother, Dylan. We were touring the country before enlisting in the Air Force.”

“That’s right.  Is your brother with you?”

“Not exactly.” Dean patted his jacket packet. “Dylan didn’t come back from Vietnam, but he made me promise to revisit our favorite places, and leave a few ashes behind.”

“I’m so sorry about Dylan. I’m honored our tiny restaurant is on your list of places to visit.”

“The food was amazing, and lunch was free because our draft lottery number was below 195.”

“We didn’t give away too many lunches that summer. Today’s special is free dessert for anyone who selects a tag and makes a wish come true. What do you say?”

Coffee mug in his left hand, Dean read the wishes still on the tree. One caught his attention; he detached it and walked to the table as Carol placed his lunch down.

“Who is Tom Savino?”

“Tom grew up on a farm outside of town. Like you and Dylan, Tom served in Vietnam. He came back missing part of an arm and part of himself. He’s had a difficult time adjusting. Why do you ask?”

“I would like to make his wish come true. How can I get in touch with him?”

Dean drove his bike to Tom’s farm. Clutching Tom’s tag, Dean introduced himself.

“Is there someplace we can talk.? I’d like to connect you with my father; he’s part of a team specializing in prosthesis for veterans.  I believe he can make your dream come true.”

[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 8

Table for Two – Chapter 8

T-Squared Energy Connections[i]

July 2, 1971 – Coming Home

Author’s Note:  When I started this series of posts about people who grace a Table for Two, I had no idea where it would lead.  As we travel through the last fifty years, I feel it is important to address historical issues as they occurred.  Thank you, readers for taking this journey with me, wherever that might lead.

Tom Savino returned home from Vietnam to protesters and accusations of being a baby killer.  The transport plane carrying Tom and fellow soldiers taxied away from the main terminal after landing in the United States.  Ground crew directed the plane to a small service hangar to avoid disruptions to commercial flights.

Armed guards escorted the soldiers to military buses with darkened windows.  The loss of his left arm, just above his elbow made it difficult for Tom to shoulder his gear.  A guard hoisted Tom’s duffel, tossing it into the luggage compartment under the bus.

Twenty-four hours later, Tom arrived in Hartsburg.  A joyous contingent of family and friends greeted him at the bus station waving small American flags.  The smile on Tom’s mother’s face and the bear hug from his father helped, but the horrible acts of war he witnessed and committed overshadowed the excitement of coming home.


chapter-8-scone“Look at you Sara, no leg braces.  Love the cane; very fancy.  I ordered you a coffee and Independence Day Scone.  I hope that’s okay.”

“Sounds perfect!”  Grinning ear-to-ear, Sara hugged her cousin Stuart, joining him outside Table for Two.

“Two years of equine assisted therapy training did wonders for me.  I’ll always need a cane to help with balance, but no more hardware to lug around.  I’m so excited, Stuart.  I told you about the job I applied for at a Therapeutic Riding Center for the Handicapped in Michigan.  I start August first.  Can you believe it?”

“I didn’t know there was such a place till you told me you were applying for the job.”

“It opened last year and is the first of its kind in the U.S.”

“What about your dream to turn Gramps’ farm into a therapy farm?”

“That is still my dream.  I can’t think of a better way to learn how to make that happen.  I’ll get real-life experience and pick their brains on how to get started here.”

“Maybe I can visit you at the Center.  I have another year of graduate school at the University of Michigan.”

“I have something serious I want to discuss with you Sara.  The Fourth of July Parade Committee asked me lead the horse guard with you again.  I want to ride with the guard, but there is someone I believe deserves the honor of leading more than I do.  I spoke to the Parade Committee about Tom Savino taking my place.”

“Didn’t he just get home from Vietnam?”

“Tom arrived a couple of days ago; I went to his welcome home party.  He lost part of his left arm and is having a hard time adjusting to the mixed reactions people have about serving in Vietnam.”

“Tom didn’t start the war.  He stepped up and went when his number was called.  Maybe we shouldn’t be there; but people need to get a grip.  Taking out their frustrations on Tom is wrong.  It’s just wrong.”

“I agree, Sara.  I was lucky; being in graduate school kept me out of the draft.  If Tom is willing, I would like him to ride beside you.  A show of support and appreciation from the people of Hartsburg could go a long way toward making him feel like the hero he is.”

“Great idea, Stuart.  Have you talked to Tom about it?”

“Not yet.  I wanted to be sure the committee would back me on this.”

“A little equine therapy might help Tom too.  Let’s talk to him and make it happen.”


If you have never seen the Vietnam Memorial, I recommend you make the effort to visit the miniature version as it travels around the country.  I guarantee it will touch you on a visceral level.

PTSD

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is defined as having flashbacks, upsetting memories, and anxiety following a traumatic event. It was first officially recognized as a mental health condition in 1980, only five years after the end of the Vietnam War. For hundreds of years, these symptoms have been described under different names in soldiers from many wars. However, Vietnam Veterans with these symptoms were the first to have the term ‘PTSD’ applied to them. Despite the passage of 50 years since the war, for some Vietnam Veterans, PTSD remains a chronic reality of everyday life. – See more at: Public Health VA [1]

A Few Statistics

Vietnam War – Casualties:[2]

United States: 58,119 killed, 153,303 wounded, 1,948 missing in action

South Vietnam: 230,000 killed and 1,169,763 wounded (estimated)

North Vietnam: 1,100,000 killed in action (estimated) and an unknown number of wounded


[1] http://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/publications/agent-orange/agent-orange-summer-2015/nvvls.asp

[2] http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/vietnamwar/p/VietnamBrief.htm

[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 7

Table for Two – Chapter 7

T-Squared Energy Connections[i]

December 2, 1969 – The Lottery

Gladys and Jerry read the sign on the door as they walked into Table for Two.

Free Lunch for Lottery Numbers 1 to 195

Sitting outside, enjoying coffee and bagels, they discussed how the draft lottery might affect family, friends, neighbors and Hartsburg.

“I’m so glad I am not eligible for the draft lottery.  It was close.  Another year older and my number would be 180.”

“I’m not sure who is happier, you or me,” Gladys reached across the table for Jerry’s hand. “Why a lottery, Jerry?”

“Before the lottery, any man between eighteen and 25 could be called to the local draft board for evaluation and assigned a status.  Community members make up draft boards.  Pressure from relatives and friends often influences who is exempted and who is not.  Turns out very few recruits come from wealthy families. As a matter of fact, I read the mix is twenty-five percent poor, fifty-five percent working-class and twenty percent middle-class men. Many come from rural towns and farming communities like Hartsburg.  A lottery is supposed to be more fair, or at least more random.”


3Nov1914TangaBattleWWIIn response to criticism of the draft’s inequities, on December 1, 1969, the Selective Service System conducted two lottery drawings – the first draft lottery since 1942, to determine the order in which men born in 1944 to 1950 were called to report for possible induction into the military in 1970.

The draft lottery was based on birth dates. Three-hundred sixty-six blue plastic capsules containing birth dates (including February 29) were drawn by hand, opened one by one and assigned a number from “001” until “366”. The first date drawn was September 14 followed by April 24, which were assigned “001” and “002” respectively. The process continued until each day of the year was assigned a lottery number. The lower the number, the higher probability men of being called to serve.

A second lottery was held with 26 letters of the alphabet to determine the order of selection among men with the same birth dates through the ranks of the first letters of their last, first and middle names. “J”, “G” and “D” were the first 3 letters while “E”, “B” and “V” was the last ones drawn, which meant men with initials “JJJ” would be first, followed by “JGJ” and “JDJ” while “VVV” would be last among those shared the same birth date. Eventually all men with number 195 or lower were called in order of their numbers to report for physical examinations in 1970.

The biggest change in this draft was the age priority. Instead of taking the “oldest men first” from the 18-25 eligible range as last time, local boards now could call 19-year-olds first. Therefore, young men now did not have to wait for years to learn their draft futures, which could affect their careers, marriages and family.


“What about our friends, Jerry?”

“Stuart Gibson will receive a deferral as a student at the University of Michigan.”

Tom Savino says he’ll serve if called.”

“Jimmy Kelly applied for conscientious objector status.  He wrote an essay to the county draft board and has an interview scheduled next week.  I hope it goes well for him.  Such a gentle soul, Jimmy has a hard time selling the family beef cattle for slaughter.  It’s hard to imagine him face to face with the enemy.”

“How difficult is it to be classified conscientious objector?”

“Not that easy.”


A conscientious objector is someone opposed to serving in the armed forces and/or bearing arms on the grounds of moral or religious principles There are two types.  One is opposed to serving in combat.  They would be drafted and assigned to military service not involving combat or weaponry.

The second type is morally opposed to serving the military in any capacity.  In the past, they were sentenced to two years in prison.  Draft boards can assign them to the alternative service program, run by the Selective Service System.  They work for two years with local employers in fields that contribute to the nation’s well-being such as health care, public service, education and conservation.

chapter-7-jfk-quote-2


“Scary times to be nineteen.  Young men, boys really, asked to participate in the invasion of another country no one wants to call a war? Would you serve in the military, Jerry?”

“I don’t know, Gladys.  I suspect I would.  Fortunately, we don’t have to face that question.  I respect Jimmy for standing up for his beliefs.  We’ll have to support him just as we support those who serve.  It won’t be easy around here for him.  Not everyone will understand.”


chapter-7-hondaTwin brothers Dean and Dylan parked their matching red Honda Dream CB750 FOUR motorcycles outside Table for Two.

“Your sign says, free lunch for lottery numbers 195 and under.  I’m Dean, this is my brother Dylan.  Our number is ninety-seven.”

“Welcome Dean and Dylan.  I’m Carol, Manager of Table for Two.  Beautiful bikes, where are you headed?”

“We’re working our way across the country before we enlist in the Air Force.  There is so much to see.  We want to experience all we can so we’ll know what we are fighting for.”

“Would you be thinking of enlisting if your number was 360?”

“Probably not.  Our number is so low.  If we must serve, we prefer the branch of the military be our choice.”

“That makes sense.  What would you like for lunch?”

“A number nine, a number seven, two sodas, chips and two chocolate chip cookies.”

“Would you both sign the ‘Uncle Sam Wants You’ poster?” Carol pointed to the wall behind them.

Dean and Dylan sat outside eating their lunch.  Carol came out with a “to-go” bag.

“Here are some treats for later.  If you pass this way again, stop in and give us an update.”

“If what’s in this bag is as good as the cookies, we just won the lottery.”


[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 6

Table for Two: Chapter 6

T-Squared Energy Connections[i]

August 9, 1969 – A Matter of Degrees

“Good morning Sara. You’re in mighty early for a Saturday. What’s up?”

“I could say the same for you Sadie. Stuart and I are going riding at Gramps’ farm this morning. We want to start early; the temperature is supposed to go to ninety-four degrees. Horses don’t do well in extreme heat. My mission at Table for Two is coffee and scones. What’s your excuse for being here so early?”

“Lucy usually opens. Today she is shopping for a work wardrobe. Her new job starts in two weeks. I’m not sure why clothes matter. She’ll be wearing a lab coat most of the time.”

“Which offer did she take? Last time we spoke she was still weighing her options.”

“Lucy decided to use her degree to develop better drugs instead of better gas. She accepted the job with the pharmaceutical company. She’ll be able to commute, live at home for a year or two, save some money, and help out at the restaurant.”

“With both of you working full-time, what will happen to Table for Two?”

“My office is down the block so I can keep an eye on things. Carol will take over as manager. She’s been with us since we started two years ago and knows the business inside and out. Two part-time college students spent the summer training and will stay. Carol may need to hire another part-timer to help with catering jobs. We’re also working with community college culinary arts students. Real-life experience is the best teacher.”

chapter-6-scone“Here are your coffees. Which scones would you like?”

“Blueberry for Stuart and chocolate for me. How’s your job with the city? You’re in budgeting and financial reporting, right?”

“Yup. Good thing I like numbers. I’m using my accounting degree, learning a lot and meeting people from a variety of businesses. I like the regular hours, which gives me time to keep tabs on this place and work on my MBA.”

Dad loves to ask, “How many degrees does it takes to make a scone?”

My answer, “Four hundred degrees for twenty minutes.”

“Enjoy those scones. Good to see you Sara. Give my best to Stuart.”

“Will do. Congratulations to Lucy. I hope she develops a new drug that saves the world.”

* * *

“Chocolate for breakfast Sara?”

“Chocolate for every meal, if I had my way, Stuart.”

“When do you leave for Germany?”

“Not till mid-September. Equine assisted therapy classes start on the twenty-second. I can’t wait to be on my own. Mom and dad are worried. They hover more than usual.  They never want to let me out of their sight. Mom’s flying over with me, to help me ‘get settled’. Both of my parents plan to visit Thanksgiving week and I’ll fly home for Christmas break. When do you leave for U of M?”

“Next week. I’ll be sharing a house with five other grad students. We’re all in one medical school department or another. Two of my new roommates moved in earlier this month. Should be interesting.”

“How cold is Ann Arbor in winter? Are you ready to walk to class in eighteen-degree weather with snow up to you knees or higher? Will you learn to snow ski?”

“Slow down. Winter will be a shock to my system, no doubt. Skiing? Maybe. How about you? What is winter like in Germany?”

“About the same as Michigan or a little warmer. My dorm is near the stable on the horse farm and classes are held on the property. Little walking is involved.”

“What if I go all the way to Germany and can’t do this?”

chapter-6-degrees-5“Focus on your accomplishments. I remember visiting you in the hospital when we were kids. Doctors said you might not walk again. You never believed polio would keep you down. What did you tell yourself as you learned how to walk again?”

“One step at a time.”

“Here you are walking, riding, going to Europe. You can do this, Sara.”

“I don’t want to disappoint my parents, Grams and Gramps, or you. So much is riding on getting this degree.”

“Success is not measured in degrees. Success is the degree to which we use our talents to improve the lives of others. You are an inspiration to everyone who meets you.”

“Thanks Stuart. I’ll try to remember that when things get tough. If we head back now, we can eat lunch at Table for Two. Today’s sandwich special is six degrees of separation.”


[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.