When you were in the first grade you pressed your tiny hands into finger paint. I still have your red handprints on the faded yellow construction paper. Your teacher helped you to paste your picture beneath the handprints and you gave me the gift for Mother’s Day. The gift hung on my wall for so many years and then I tucked it away in your box.
There are mementos of each year we’ve been together in your box. Your pink cotton prairie dress which was your hippy mom’s idea of suitable attire for a christening, the crafts you made me at summer camp, the yarn rugs, the pot holders, the blue pottery teddy bear that Nana helped you make for me, the Christmas ornament with the picture of you that you hate (you were in that awkward stage) and just about every card, note and gift you’ve ever given me, they have all found their way into your box.
The gift you gave me this year overwhelmed me, caused tears to pour down my face, the face that you tell me is still beautiful and I know in your eyes it will always be no matter how old I am.
This year’s gift cannot be tucked away in your box. No one can see it but you and I and I don’t even know if you realize just how enormous this gift is, although you created it. You might not even know that you already gave it to me because Mother’s Day is another week away.
My gift was a simple phone call. You asked your husband to call me because your phone wasn’t working and you knew that I’d be worried about the things going on in your life if I couldn’t reach you today.
The gift had multiple facets, as many as a diamond or a kaleidoscope.
The phone call said much more than his words, “We don’t want you to worry today.”
Maybe I heard between the lines, but to me it said–you are sober, you are responsible and that you can look beyond your own needs. It said that you have enough respect for yourself that you know that you deserve to be with a good, hardworking man who respects not only you, but also your mother, no matter how crazy or ditzy we can each get.
The gift reminded me how very far you have come from that day when you walked into a treatment center with drugs hidden in a private region sixteen months ago. It was too late to save custody of your other four babies, but it was not to late to save you, my middle child, my baby. Everyday that you are clean and you are alive is your gift to me.
The gift said that you are fighting the odds and the system to embrace the second chance God has given you, your tiny baby boy and the rather tall teenager whom you gave birth to when you were but a child yourself, the two that you hold so close to your heart as you miss the babies that you can not hold, can not see, can not mother.
This gift will never be put away in your box, that’s true; but it will be alive in my heart and soul long after my bones have turned to dust.
For Jodie Lynne
Tangled in bonds forged by
Genetic matter blended
Knitted in the womb
Knots that cannot be untied
Ropes that were braided
On our creator’s loom
Lines that are unclear
Boundaries do not exist
Pain ultimately is shared
Young woman becomes
Woman with child
Child turned teen mother
Grandmother with babies
In her arms once more
Two women now
On opposite sides of
An open door
Her little girl only exists
In the mother’s mind
Bound by knotted love
Tangled in her
Living her own lies
Worse than fiction
Hearts ripped apart
By love that destroys
Always with the
The mother steps back
From the tornado
Of wrath and pain
Gut wrenching past
Today can’t restrain
Accused of coldness
As she slams the door
While in reality
She is burning with
Her daughter’s pain
Avoid the disaster
Detangle shredded ties
Attempts to close the door
Between her soul and
Her daughter’s mind
by Jeanne Marie
What do I say now, when there’s nothing left?
When I’m gone what will you remember about me?
Will you remember all of my mistakes?
Or will you remember the things I tried to be?
Will you remember the times I held you close?
Or just the times I failed to make the grade?
Will you remember the times our world turned upside down
Allowing black clouds to fog my brain?
Oh God, for love, the price I’ve paid.
Will you remember when I danced in the rain
My arms spread wide up to the clouds or
Will you be left with the times
our love brought you pain?
Looking back across the years
I recall the smiles, but I taste the tears.
So many wrong choices, how could I know
That the pain would go on forever
And that the dying would be so slow?
I see loved ones who have passed on
And I wonder what they think of me.
Do I disappoint them?
Or are they waiting arms open wide?
They say God doesn’t give you more than you can handle
So where did this crushing mountain of grief come from?
And who the f… are they, the invisible ones who say?
How do I start over when there’s nothing left
But regret, remorse, pain, pain, pain and more pain?
Surely, I will die soon enough. I know we all do.
But can I last that long?
How, when I can’t even breathe
With this mountain of pain crushing me, burying me alive?
Will you remember how you always corrected me
As if I were a child who didn’t know her own mind
Until it became true?
Will you remember me loving you?
by Jeanne Marie
First you are young
And then you are not
The life that you own is
The life that you bought.
You can’t return it
Like a dress that’s too small
You own it, you wear it, that’s all.
You have to make it fit
My, oh my, what a mess!
It’s torn and it’s tattered
Like an old favorite dress.
Repair the torn out seam
Sew on a missing button
Because once it mattered
It’s an easy decision.
It’s your life, it’s your dress
You own it, you wear it, that’s all.
by Jeanne Marie
They never tied the cord when
they tore you from my womb.
We are flesh woven together
like yarn on the weaver’s loom.
I’ve never cut you loose
connected by bloody strands,
I hide them deep in my soul
as you push away my hands.
A separate fragment of myself
removed and set apart.
Could it be that a piece of you
was left inside my heart?
by Jeanne Marie
Eighteen hundred miles from here there’s a place that she calls home, but it isn’t.
She left it behind long ago, this gypsy’s child who could not deny her urge to roam.
On the distant shore she still calls home there’s ocean air she longs to breathe…
the endless blue she aches to see, winds that howl all the way to her heart,
”Come home to me.”
When her longing for the ocean overwhelms her senses, she goes.
Sand castles that take so long to build; yet, never meant to last.
Waves that crash ice cold, slap against her legs, deliver burning blows, sting away her past.
As she tries to absorb the ocean through her skin the surf takes her pain and
batters it away, beats it senseless against her shins cleansing the memories from her head.
The salt in the air, the sun on her face must go straight to her head, drive her half insane
because what sort of woman lifts her body off the sand but lets her soul remain?
Still, home is just a word she doesn’t care much to define and her soul knows where it belongs.
In the early morning hours, one last plunge, she shares the waves with a wayward dog.
Their eyes meet, sentiment is shared, “This ocean it is mine, for this moment, it is mine!”
Dried kelp, empty crab shells, seaweed, rocks, she gathers with a fury she can’t explain
because what sort of woman flies to the ocean and attempts to carry it back home on a plane?
She hauls back a suitcase filled with rocks, stones of every shape and hue.
Still her ocean slips away, not even this gypsy woman can possess the bewitching blue.
She flies away, minus her soul, maybe she’ll return to stay, maybe when she is old.
Painted by many, photographed by even more, none have ever captured
the Lady’s true essence nor managed to carry home the sandy shore.
“I want to live at the ocean,” she tells him when she walks off the plane.
He mourns for the longing in her eyes, her lust for oceanfront property undisguised.
She knows the answer before he speaks, money stands between the ocean and her door.
She’ll have to settle for a visit each summer.
Meanwhile she’s returned to frozen lobster, dirty dishes and unwashed floors.
She gently arranges her cache of shells, goes back to work not quite resigned.
“If I ever sell a book,” she whispers, “I know which cottage I’ll call mine.”
LOVE DOGS. Love lots of dogs even more.
We used to go RV-ing to the drag races, with three poodles and a Yorkie. They would start to run around the house and bark just because we were loading the RV. Plus, we pulled a race car. They all slept on our bed, two slept on our heads. We r down to one Chihuahua and seriously considering adopting two more babies. My little girl barks at us to get on the floor and play and then she runs up on the couch and snuggles into our warm spots.
The truth escapes me
Sifting down through
The cracks in the floor boards
To live beneath our home.
The walls absorb reality
Which never was quite clear
Facts taunt and tease
Sneak in when I’m alone.
Yesterday’s unwashed dishes
Fester in the sink
Mold grows in the cellar
Moving boxes still unpacked.
The truth lies under the house
It awakens me at night
It waits for me in my dreams
When I’m vulnerable to attack.
Behind the bathroom mirror
Demons guard the walls
The truth is not what it seems
Deceit covers reality like paint.
by Jeanne Marie
I recently published my book, Women Who Think Too Much. I held onto this manuscript for almost 20 years, afraid to be judged, because I bared my soul in those pages. I waited so long that someone else published a book with the same name.
My writer’s group encouraged me to edit and finish this book and they believed that my words had value. My editor and friend poured her heart and soul into this book, she fell in love with this book. Read every draft, every word, over and over and over.
My writing group believed that my words could touch and maybe help another person, and to my surprise, releasing my book released so many of my own pent up fears, that it helped me. After growing up with my promise/threat to publish WWTTM, my son just kept saying, “Just publish the damn thing.”
I am out there now. ME, THE REAL ME. I felt the walls come down. And so, I helped myself, even if I never sell more than the 11 copies I have sold.
I am not hiding in my blog, I am coming out.
Hello, fellow writers. This is me. Jeanne Marie.
This is my book’s dedication.
To my mom, Mrs. Grace Christine Doucette, 1926-2009.
Mom, without your love and support, I wouldn’t have found the courage to write this book. It all began with my first computer and a four-page letter to you in 1998.
You proudly passed the pages (composed of essays, poetry and pictures) around to family and friends.
When they asked for more, I let my imagination fly in print. That was how the newsletter, “Women Who Think Too Much” was born.
Within a few months, I had subscribers in eleven states and Canada. The full-color newsletter grew to sixteen pages and at my invitation, many guest poets and guest writers were featured, but most of all, I will always treasure your submissions.
I wrote WWTTM for twenty-four months and then I allowed life to get in my way. The bulk of this book was written back then, but never finished despite your persistent encouragement. It may not even be finished now, but it’s printed.
I miss you every day…
Until next time, love, Jeanne Marie
Women Who Think Too Much available at:Ebook
Google sent me a text from its no such place mansion in The Cloud, asking me a stupid question in the middle of night. They asked me if I wanted to update Google Play. They asked me that question at 2:00 a.m., to be exact, and it is far from the first time that Google couldn’t sleep. Well, Google let me think about this…
I was sound asleep.
I don’t play with Google on my cell phone, only on my Android pad.
Texts in the middle of the night mean one thing to me…someone I love is in deep do-do because…
I have a daughter who makes the Hot Mug Shots page at least twice a year.
I have a great-grandson who was born less than 2 weeks ago, promptly turned yellow and we discovered that he fractured his little shoulder during his journey through the birth canal, (8 pounds, 8 ounces).
I have four kids who live in three different states. I have 15 grandkids, ages 4 to age 30, and they live in four different states.
My elderly mother-in-law lives two hours from my house.
My son almost died in a car wreck a little over a year ago.
My sister’s son almost died in a car wreck 7 days ago.
My oldest granddaughter just left after spending two weeks with me because she was in an emotional crisis and Grammy is the family tear wiper.
So Google, where ever you are, do you think I want a false alarm (2:00 a.m. panic me good) text asking me to get up and check out your new games in the middle of the night?
To make it perfectly clear, NO.
How many people actually respond to your a.m. requests?
No, don’t answer, I’m better off not knowing.
NO, I do not want to play with you, especially at 2:00 P.M. NO, I don’t want to wake up from my dream of a White Christmas 30 years ago in New England.
You have invaded my boundaries and abused the privilege of knowing my unlisted phone number.
I would notify you of my desire to be left alone when I am sleeping, but since you live in the no such place mansion in The Cloud, I don’t know even know how to get in touch with you, although obviously, you know how to get in touch with me.
My Cloud wants to talk to your Cloud. I’m sure you have his number.
The ants were watching the housewife. Zoe, their Queen was dead. Boric acid and sugar. They had delivered it to their Queen in all innocence. Princess Zia was leading them, because without a leader they were helpless, but she was so young. She was trying to take her mother’s place but she hadn’t even begun training for her own nest when her mother died from the tainted sugar.
The ants waited, silent, deadly, hungry, watching the housewife, hoping she would release the grains of white sugar from the container that they couldn’t breach, the big white plastic gallon with the ant proof, tight blue cover. Then they could eat and regain their strength before the battle.
Oh yes, there would be a battle today.
They watched as she drank her coffee and started to pull down items from the food closet. They hated her. She had killed so many of them over the past few months and they were out for more than sugar now, they also wanted a taste of revenge
No luck yet on the sugar. The crazed ant killing housewife didn’t even use sugar in her coffee. They watched her, never taking their teeny eyes off her as she bustled about the sparkling clean kitchen. Bleach. The physco even knew about bleach.
She wiped down the white counters and washed the kitchen floor with it every morning, hoping to wash away their scout’s scented trails. Thanks to her, most of their scouts were dead. Cruelly crushed by her deadly pale fingers and then washed down the stainless steel sink.
It wasn’t fair. They had lived here in the empty house for years because the crumbs and sugar spilt by the previous owner, a ninety-year old woman, had been more than enough to support the nest. She had never even noticed them when she was alive. When she died, the empty house had become their own private food locker. The kitchen drawers alone had held enough crumbs to carry them for ten years or more. Under the stove and the refrigerator there had been mounds of crumbs, more than they could carry back to the nest, even if they had worked night and day. But they hadn’t worked night and day.
They had become lazy and smug, taking nights off to run around and play. They had thought the house would be empty forever. Thanks to the endless food supply, the nest had flourished, spread out to encompass over a thousand square feet beneath the house. Their house.
Then the housewife moved in and started cleaning out the drawers, washing the counters and the floors, vacuuming the rugs.
At first they had still been able to feed, favoring the new supplies she bought in abundance instead of the moldy, old crumbs. They were still happy little ants and then BOOM. One day she found them in the food pantry and she had declared war. Bombing, spraying, squashing, poisoning in devious ways. Pulling out the electric stove and the refrigerator, she’d scrubbed under them with bleach, and then she had sprayed more poison. She poured flaming Cayenne powder around the cracks, behind the appliances and under the cabinets. Then she sprayed more poison.
Just when they thought she was calming down and they could sneak back into the kitchen, she found them scouting in her bathroom and she absolutely freaked when she found the stupid baby ants playing on her bed pillows.
The war had escalated. She began to tempt them with dishes of sugar-water and boric acid, laying out traps and lairs to capture the stragglers who hadn’t died from the insecticide. That was the death of their beloved Queen Zoe.
Now, it was going to end, one way or the other. She couldn’t kill them all unless she burned the house down and they weren’t going to move out. Zia stood and gave the signal. Thousands of soldier ants silently crawled into formation behind Zia and began moving toward the housewife’s feet. The line was about an inch wide, hundreds of tiny red sugar ants on the march, silent, slow, and short-tempered. Streaming steadily toward the woman. She was oblivious to them as she continued to arrange the ingredients for her baking project
The ants were on the offensive now, crawling like an upward stream of brownish red sludge, they moved closer to her. Closer. They were almost to her feet.
Zia reached the housewife’s big ugly right toe first and she stood defiantly on the craggy toenail to instruct the troops. “I may not live long enough to become your Queen,” she signaled with her antennas. “But today we will drive this housewife out of our home and we will avenge my mother, Zoe, your Queen.”
More ants poured out from behind the fridge and flowed down the cabinet. They joined the thousands already on the floor, marching as one, they streamed toward the housewife.
When she woke up that morning, she was determined to make her mom’s Christmas cookies. She had been too depressed to make them for a few years, since Mom had died three years ago, but this year she was determined to restart her Christmas spirit engine and what better way than rekindling her best Christmas memories? Kneading Italian cookie dough for hours with her mom and hand rolling hundreds of the little wreaths for friends and relatives. She’d made the cookies for years with her own three kids and then with her grandchildren. Mom’s Italian cookies, anisette, orange, lemon and strawberry, they represented everything she now needed to touch, to smell. They would light her heart back up, she would become focused in the simple task of rolling cookie dough in the palm of her hands, little strands of finger shaped dough, folded over to make wreaths and then dipped in different types of sprinkles, chocolate, red sugar, green sugar, multi-colored dots, she had bought them all.
She knew from past cookie baking projects that she would become focused and happy, smelling the memories of her mom’s wood stove, remembering the big tins of warm cookies they would get ready to mail to all their relatives.
She didn’t realize until she was a grown woman that the cookies were all her that mom had been able to afford, that the long hours of back breaking labor needed to bake the three to four batches she’d helped mama roll each year were love offerings sent in place of store bought presents. No boxes wrapped in red and gold, no packages tied in ribbons and bows.
The kitchen and the wood stove had been the center of their minute corner of the world during Christmas seasons gone by and every Christmas, without fail, the Christmas cookie mixing bowl came out of the cupboard. People might forget Christmas presents they unwrapped under the tree and checks that came in the mail, but no one ever forgot her mom’s gift of delicious bright-colored cookies.
She reached up into the spice cabinet and took down the little brown bottles of flavoring and the four plastic bottles of food coloring. Red, green, blue and yellow.
The batch of dough required twelve eggs, twelve cups of flour, twelve cups of sugar and the mound of dough would be enormous. It would be cut into four sections and then each section would be kneaded with a different food color and flavor.
Sometimes she cheated and made a half-batch, but not this year. This year she was going to mix up a whole batch and spend several days rolling and baking the scintillating wreaths. She began to break the twelve eggs into a glass bowl, watching for pieces of egg-shell.
The phone rang and she washed her hands, catching it on the last ring. “Hi honey, nope I checked, no ants this morning. I even decided to make cookies since it’s been a few days since we’ve seen any of the little buggers. Ya, I know, I’m sorry they got in your spagetti and meatballs. It was the darn sugar I put in the sauce. I know, I know…okay, love you too, see you later.”
She set aside the cell phone and went back to cracking the eggs. Mom used to sing when she worked. Searching her mind for a suitable song, she set the eggs aside and began to measure twelve cups of flour into the huge silver bowl Mom had bought her. It sounds easy to count to twelve but knowing better than to believe she could maintain the necessasary concentration, she scratched a pen mark on a little piece of paper each time a cup went into the sifter.
Zoe paused on the woman’s big toe. Giving a silent signal to her troops, behind her the marching ants stopped. Zoe had seen a big can of Raid Ant Killer on the counter next to the woman and although she couldn’t read, she knew what was in that can and what it could do to her army. If they attacked now they would be covered in the deadly ant spray, easy targets as they grouped on the floor prepared to attack.
Zoe signaled again and the troops began to reverse their march, silently creeping back up the wall and into the small hole in the ceiling that led back to their nest. Zoe knew they would need a better plan.
The rain is coming
The shoulder knows
The bones warn me
Joints throb they swell
They ache they burn.
The rain is coming.
The shoulder knows.
Claims no rain
His million-dollar radar
Is wrong, so very wrong
The shoulder knows
And it is never wrong.
The rain splats down
The shoulder throbs
Picnics are cancelled
Disappointed kids run
Through the rain
Back to the mini-van
Whining, fussing, grumpy.
The shoulder could have told ‘em
The rain will pour down today
Stay home, rent a movie
Make some popcorn.
There is no comfort
In being right
How I wish it didn’t, but…
The shoulder knows.
by Jeanne Marie
A Thousand Voices by Jodie Lynne
I-am-alone, yet a thousand voices surround me,
ricocheting off the sounding board that is my mind.
I take a deep breath only to feel the weight of time
as if the world rests upon my shoulders.
Tall dark fences build the walls that close me in
as the sound of freedom, close enough to touch,
is really a million miles away,
a soft breeze flows through my very core, like a crisp winter wind.
I taste his kiss on my mouth, as my head hits
the hardness of a rubber pillow, just as I do when I rise.
Places and spaces blend together in the chaos of this insanity
that I alone have caused.
Pressure builds, yearning to combust amongst the ashes of my yester years.
Their faces stop the explosion, their eyes filled with the pain
I have inflicted, still, they plead for their mother’s touch alone-they go forsaken.
Just as his soul goes missing it’s other half, their souls scream out for me,
the same in the dead of night, as in the light of day.
Darkness at last engulfs me, even in the midst
of an afternoon’s sunlight.
I-am-alone, yet a thousand voices surround me.
Every thought I think is creating my future. The Universe totally supports every thought I choose to think and believe. I choose to believe that I have unlimited choices about what I think. Louise L. Hay
I choose to embrace emotional and spiritual balance in my life, gratitude for all the love in my circle, the awe I feel when I gaze upon my blessings from my children and my grandchildren, gratitude for the sunshine and the ocean breezes. What do you choose to think today? Jeanne Marie
In the end we only regret chances we didn’t take. The relationships we were scared to have and the decisions we waited too long to make. There comes a time in your life when you realize who matters, who doesn’t, who never did and who always will. From Christine’s Facebook
Life mirrors my every thought. As I keep my thoughts positive, life brings me only good experiences. As I say yes to life, life says yes to me. YES! Louise L. Hay
The past looms ever-present, but this moment is God’s present to me. I won’t ignore my present by holding yesterday’s regrets in front of my eyes. I cannot change the past, but today, the present is mine. I will create good memories. I will hold this moment, I will laugh and play. I will live today, love me today, and appreciate the people who love me today. I will share my present today. Jeanne Marie
Your life is a physical manifestation of the thoughts going around in your head! Think positive, attract positive. The Secret
I love hearing the soft splatter of rain against my bedroom window in those shadowy moments between sleeping and waking up. As I snuggle under the warm quilt, still half asleep, I feel silent anticipation surround me. It’s raining and from the rhythm of the drops as they splash the window it sounds as if it’s going to rain all day.
As I become more alert and in touch with reality, I realize that my happiness is flowing from the past. I learned to love the rain years ago. My dad was a bricklayer and when it rained he couldn’t go to work. I remember waking up on those rainy mornings knowing that it would be a bookstore day. I don’t know when the tradition started, but my memories seem focused on the year I learned to read. I loved books from the moment I could read, and my happiest childhood memories are of the days we roamed through the second-hand book stores, each of us searching for our favorite authors.
Dad would browse through the different cookbooks, and Mom would go digging in the dusty piles looking for Edgar Rice Burroughs. I’d gather up every volume of The Bobbsey Twins that I didn’t already have, and I’d quietly spread them out on the counter beside my father. He would talk to the bookstore owner for what seemed like hours, but eventually he’d turn to me and ask, “Jean, are you really going to read these books?” As I eagerly nodded my head he would call over to my mom and ask, “Grace is she going to read these, aren’t these books too old for her?” (I was only seven.)
It was his standard question, but I wouldn’t breathe until I heard my mom assure him, again, that I’d devour these books. “Well, just pick out two of your favorites,” he’d say each time.
I’d whisper to myself, “I want The Bobbsey Twins At The Seashore, and The Bobbsey Twins At School.” As I returned the others to their shelf, I’d change my mind. I wanted The Bobbsey Twins On Blueberry Island, and The Bobbsey Twins On The Deep Blue Sea! I wouldn’t make my final choice until my dad was ready to pay.
After he paid a nickel each for them, I’d cradle the books in my hands, and a warm excitement would flood my body. During the ride home I’d arrange the two volumes of The Bobbsey Twins on my lap, slowly brushing my fingers across the faded covers. Peeking into the book’s yellowed pages was like eating a root beer popsicle in August.
As my father opened the front door I’d run past him, back to my bed; back under the covers with the sweetest possessions in all the world, two volumes of The Bobbsey Twins!
Bert and Nan, the older twins, did their best to keep Freddie and Flossie out of trouble, but it was hopeless. The two little ones bounced with energy, and they just ran wherever they pleased, charming everyone with their antics. I loved the two toddlers with their honeyed curls and round cherub faces. Their wild spirits and endless curiosity often led them into dangerous situations, but thankfully, their parents, or the older twins, always came to their rescue before they’d get hurt.
As I read each volume I knew that I could count on a sticky sweet happy ending, with hugs and kisses all around. Their escapades removed me from my life. As I absorbed the words my mind danced through each adventure with the twins. My eyes flew across the dusty pages, scanning entire paragraphs in a glance, and before long I’d feel the last few pages between my fingers. I’d force my eyes to slow down and then I’d try to read each sentence, desperate to keep the story from ending. It always ended too soon. I’d read both books the same day, and by supper time I’d be longing for one more rainy day and another visit to the book stores. I must have reread each book a dozen times.
The dad in The Bobbsey Twins adventures loved his children. He taught them in a firm, yet kind and caring way. My dad could be that way too; until late each afternoon when he’d begin to drink. I didn’t understand why my dad drank, but I learned at a young age how to fade into the walls. My books let me run away from home when I had no place else to go. They showed me another world, a world apart from the emotional violence and the verbal abuse. They gave me hope, and without realizing that it was survival tools he was handing to me, my dad bought me my books, until I turned nine and started to haunt the libraries.
So, that’s why I love to wake to the sound of rain drops splashing against my window. It reminds my heart of the love my father was able to show, the treasures he bought me, the surprise in his eyes when he first realized that his little girl could read, his reluctance to let me grow up. The soft wetness surrounding my ears soothes the bad dreams; it chases away the nightmares; and it lets me forget the angry, crazy man that my dad had become by the time I had children of my own.
When it rains I forget the names he called us, I don’t care about the things he smashed, the holes he punched in the walls. I remember the love and the pride in his eyes, a hidden smile behind his words, the rain pouring down outside the converted garage that we called home, and his playful question, “You don’t want to go to the bookstore today, do you Jean?”
Thirty years ago my ex-husband carelessly lost my entire collection of First Edition Bobbsey Twins along with my Nancy Drew mysteries. The books fell off the back of our moving truck, and although I searched the streets he had driven on, I never found them. I’ve refused to buy shiny modern reproductions. I want my softly worn, second-hand friends, the books that whispered my dad’s message to me while the rain fell around us, “I do love you.” The gifts that spoke the words he could never say.
A few months ago, as I browsed in an antique store in downtown Collinsville, I found a 1913 First Edition copy of The Bobbsey Twins At Snow Lodge, with the original jacket still intact. I bought that old friend for four dollars and fifty cents. That’s all it was worth to the antique dealer, but I felt as if I had won the lottery when I took that time-worn book home, and gave it a special place on my bookshelf.
The author, Laura Lee Hope, will never know how her stories encouraged my timid spirit, or how she set my mind on fire, burning with an obsession to read and igniting a lifelong love affair with words.
My dad? The men he worked for called him a genius. Whether his hands touched bricks and field stone, or pastels and charcoal, he created masterpieces. Sometimes he’d take my tiny hand in his, and we’d walk through the gorgeous gardens that he and my mom had designed and nurtured. He’d talk to me about the wildflowers they had transplanted from the mountains and the woods of New England. Then there was his cooking; he could out cook the finest chef. I can still smell the delicious aroma of his sour dough bread baking in our ancient, black wood stove.
My dad? Today he is homeless, lost in the crowd of mentally ill who roam the streets in every city and town across America. He is an alcoholic who first lost his mind, and then his family, because he couldn’t walk away from the bottle. Family members search for him, but he doesn’t want to be found. He tells the few people he talks to that he doesn’t have a family.
The cherished edition of The Bobbsey Twins catches my eye every now and then, and I pause to brush my fingers across the worn cover, especially when it’s raining.
He couldn’t say the words, yet the rain still whispers to me, “I do love you.” I whisper back, “I love you too, Dad.”
PUBLISHED IN THE HEALING WOMAN 1997
Update: My dad died in 2000 and was buried without a headstone, or family present because family was never able to find him or his death certificate. Recently, my sister, with the help of two military friends, has found where Dad is buried.
October 16, 2019 he will be honored by the military and by his family. He will finally have a headstone. RIP Dad.
Last night I examined my husband’s head. He put his finger on his head and said, “What is this?”
“It is your head,” I replied.
“No, no, what is this bump?”
I have had no medical training and do not possess any particular medical skills, but I felt more than qualified to examine his head because I have been rubbing his head while he falls asleep for 30 years.
Hmmmmm. My first diagnosis was that it was a bug bite. Or maybe an allergy to shampoo. Maybe a spider bite. Hmmmmmm. Wait a minute. Another spot.
“Two spots. This is serious now,” I said. “I think you have been in the sun way too much and this may be skin cancer.”
I described the bumps to him.
“They are raised and looked healed, but they are red. Could be eczema or maybe lesions. Maybe it’s those worm bugs that get under your scalp like we saw on the Discovery channel. The integrity of the skin has been broached for sure. (I learned that phrase when I saw a dermatologist who cut out a piece of my ear last week.)
“I’m not sure. I can’t look if you won’t hold still.”
I parted the hairs over and over but couldn’t be sure of what I was seeing. He almost fell asleep.
Until without warning, I dumped his head out of my lap and went running from the bedroom.
I shouted back to him, “I really can’t see so I’m going to go get the Magnabrite.” I was so excited that I even had a Magnabrite!
By now he had changed his mind about having his head examined, but it was too late. I was on a mission. I came bouncing back with the Magnabrite and a flashlight.
“Now, you’re going to have to hold still,” I warned him, “because I have to balance the Magnabrite and the flashlight while I part your hair and you don’t want either one to smack you in the head. They are heavy.”
I was giggling at the thought of solving this mystery and he was for sure trying to sneak back over to his side of the bed, but I grabbed his hair, flipped my knees back under his head and held on tight. I had a job to do and I would diagnose these bumps.
Balancing all my instruments was difficult, but then I tucked the flashlight under my left arm, held the Magnabrite in my right hand and used my left hand to part his hair. I looked down into the Magnabrite.
I was shocked and I started to scream. “Oh my God,” I hollered. “Oh my God!”
He hollered back, “What? What? What’s wrong?”
“Wow,” I said. “I can see every single hair on your head! This Magnabrite is so cool!”
“You’re crazy,” he said, as he moved away from me. “I’m going to sleep.”
“Okay, but I’m making you an appointment with the dermatologist,” I threatened. “This could be serious.”
With a pout, I set the Magnabrite and the flashlight on the bedside table.
Jeepers. I would have been happy to have someone examine my head for free.
Christmas is hurtling toward me again. My fifty-third Christmas season. The emotional burden of Christmas Past swoops down from the twinkling lighted trees and brightly lit homes that surround me. The blue and red flashing bulbs wring me out until I resemble a soiled, sour dish rag. I resist the waves of regret and remorse, work and work on my computer until my shoulders are on fire, EBay until my arms are no longer able to function. Work around the house until I can’t trust my twisted, deceitful hands (hands which used to be so petite, so pretty) to hold a Styrofoam cup of lukewarm coffee without letting it fall to the floor.
I’m tired. It’s time to lie down and accept my lashes. Lashes of regret for all the loved ones whom I’ve hurt, for all the loved ones who have slashed me with the tree switch of dysfunction, my remorse that has no cure, my rage that burns inward, my self-destructive urges to destroy the vessel that encloses my anguish. My sobs break free, my muscles clench, my flesh trembles from the anguish of forcing the traumatic memories back down; but still I see the cherished faces of nanas, grandfathers, mothers, daughters, grandchildren, sisters, brothers, fathers, sons, lovers and friends.
My ties bind me to people whom I’ve lost to foolish games; codependent lies, contaminated love, mine and theirs.
Each time I close my eyes, Past flashes me like a crazy pervert naked beneath his raincoat. Therein lies Justice because there is no place to hide from myself and myself is where Past lives.
I try my meditation. Relax my entire body starting with the top of my head, working down to my toes. Picture a warm pot of honey and Pooh Bear with a fluffy, yellow dipping wand. He encloses me in a cocoon of warm honey, swirling his sweet warm around me, gently starting at my head. Pooh doesn’t make it past my shoulders before I shove him aside.
I want to slice the pain away, run to the bathroom, and take a razor to my wrists until I have slashed through the skin that protects my veins. I want to cut and slice until the unbidden, unwanted memories Past forces on me leave me alone, my brain waves registering a zero.
But I can’t. After numerous botched suicide attempts, I’ve decided that life is an obstacle course with Heaven as my reward and I’ll pass God’s test if I don’t kill myself or any one else. Therefore, I am trapped, imprisoned in Earth’s orbit, each moment reminiscent of a corny Star Trek film where Captain Jim can’t break free from the aliens. I am captured by that damn, “Thou shall not kill-anyone!” clause.
So; instead, I cry raggedly into my poodle’s soft pillow which he left behind when he followed his daddy to bed. I wrap my little girl Barbie blanket over my arthritic swollen joints and I weep.
I remember the carefree crazy days when I carried two razors at all times, one in my left shoe and one tucked into my size 36 AAA bra so I’d always be prepared to self-destruct at a moment’s notice. (I broke that habit when I sliced open my pregnancy induced 38 C breast by roughly pulling off my bra before I removed the blade.)
That night, I put down the bottle too, cause hell, I was high enough on impending motherhood and each time I drank, I wanted to kill me or the baby’s daddy, maybe both.
I wasn’t able to put down the Southern Comfort the next time around, and although the scar on my mature breast has faded, my second baby still bears the thumb print of my addiction on her forehead.
Past is a stubborn, relentless enemy. He sucks, he tears and he drains, he holds me prisoner under the soft lie of a safe Barbie blanket. I wet her smiling pink face with my faucet of tears.
I get up to get a tissue though, because not even Past can force me to wipe my snotty nose on Barbie’s Sweet-n-Low smile. She’s the dream, the hope and the promise. She’s the little girl still hiding inside my haggard, worn body. I drag my butt to the bathroom for the Angel Soft tissues.
Sleep would be a blessing because I’ve learned to stop my dreams by staying awake until I’m exhausted, but Awake won’t let me close my eyes.
By the way, I just had to stop writing to go back and edit all the sentences where I had slipped into second tense in this ménage a tale of woe, because that is how I distance myself from myself, a survival trick that I learned long ago to attain comfort in chaos.
I’ve surrounded myself with pink and yellow, but the blue remains. A three foot Barbie is decorating my pink Fiber Optic Christmas tree from the Dollar General, pink dolls drip from the branches, a pink and cream handmade afghan drapes over my night gown covered knees, sunflowers burst from sky blue and sunshine yellow vases. The window behind me is open and the sharp winter’s breeze cleanses my Marlboro filled lungs and airs out my smoky living room.
Still, inside I am black. My dark, tortured soul beckons to me and my gut begs me to give in to the insanity. “Just let go,” they whisper.
Psychiatrists say that the truly insane don’t even know it, so maybe I’m simply deranged, damaged goods, but either way, I keep a viselike grip on my minute drip of reason because I’m not going down that black hole alone again. Not even I am that brave.
I decide to stay sober for just one more day. I decide to stay alive for just one more day. After all, I’ve put together over thirty years of sobriety by promising myself, for just one more day. The dream. The hope. The promise. My Barbie blanket and me.
These are the words that get me through lately.
I look for them over coffee and a cigarette, before the sun breaks.
A smart ass remark comes to my head every time I see them.
It says “Yeah right, Jeanne Marie isn’t fast enough to tag me!”
But that one remark in my mind is immediately greeted by a tailspin of thoughts.
“Yes, she is,” I laugh, trying to pull my mind out of this tailspin, because I know it’s going to keep charging towards the ground until it reaches that cold December day in 1978 when we first met face to face and then slowly gain altitude through a mist of memories until it’s over and it meets me here, where I started.
“She is fast enough, she moves differently than you! She is calculating and precise, while I move zigzag and fast, all over the place, wasting energy, while she plans her next move like a chess player.”
I giggle it, over and over in reality, hoping that laughing about it will take me back to the present day and I won’t have to make this 1,000 mile per hour journey through my past until I finally reach myself when I was young.
But to no prevail.
It’s not that I mind. I have so many great memories of my mom, and I can’t wait to see the two of us young, in that sun that seems more orange than it is today, laughing.
But I also know I cannot control the memories.
I couldn’t stop from hurting her feelings, the way that I can watch the things that come out of my mouth today.
I am much smarter now, but the things I said in the past were at times dumb.
Things I said when I thought I knew everything, with no intention of hurting her.
I just wanted her to see how smart I was…even if that meant I had to prove her wrong.
(I know now that I rarely proved her wrong, but she would listen to my rationalizations and kindly shrug her shoulders yes and say “hmm”.)
Jeanne Marie tagged a photo of you.
Has she always been doing this? Before The Facebook was here to tell me she was doing it?
My mind firmly tells me yes. Jeanne Marie has never been far from my thoughts,
but it wasn’t till now that I realized that I haven’t been far from hers.
Jeanne Marie tagged a photo of you.
I can’t wait to see what photo caught her attention this time.
Is it something that made her proud of me?
Is it something that gave her the warm feeling of being a good mom and a sense of family?
Is it just a silly snapshot that was taken, that when done, turned into a captured moment that we treasure?
Did I ask her not to take this photo, only to thank her later for taking it?
Jeanne Marie tagged a photo of you. Today 6:00 am.
I have rescued several dogs over the years but the most recent addition to the family, Ms. Skeeter, a two-pound Chihuahua/Terrier mix, is the wildest little dog I have ever met. She is a ball of non-stop energy. When I first saw her at the shelter she was timid, curled in a little ball and she whimpered when I picked her up.
Then we brought her home and she became Super-Dog! She chased our eleven-year-old poodle around the house so much that he would bite her to try to get her to stop. She was unafraid and relentless so I knew we had to find a solution because telling her to STOP was just not working. I didn’t want her to get hurt and since the poodle was much older, she was wearing him out.
I don’t like crates and have never used one when training a puppy so I came up with my own solution. If it sounds cruel, remember it was much kinder than crating her and it was a fast way to slow her down gently.
I found a big box and put her favorite blanket and toys inside. When the poodle had had enough of the rough housing, I would tell Ms. Skeeter, “Time Out.”
That meant nothing at all to her, but then I would place her in the open box for several minutes and repeat “Time Out.”
I stood beside the box where she could see me and she was in the box for a very short time, usually several minutes. It only took a few days for her to learn what “Time Out” meant and she was quite happy to see the box get folded and put away.
Now if I say “Time Out,” she stops and looks at me to see if I mean it. When I repeat it firmly, she comes over to me and lies down beside me for a little while.
I have also learned that sometimes all she wants is love and attention, so the other calm down method I use is to pick her up and speaking softly, I pet her for a few minutes.
My groomer taught me to use the softer voice because my calmness actually calms her rather than agitating her and it is true, yelling at her to STOP just made her more excited because she interprets STOP as GO!
The last part of my calm down process involves daily walks, at least one, usually after supper. We walk at a fast pace for about fifteen minutes and the structured exercise goes a long way toward settling her down for the evening. It took several weeks to teach her to walk on the leash because she wanted to run free outside and she didn’t understand her limits. I kept the leash short and taught her to walk beside me instead of in front of me and as she learned to obey, I let more and more of the leash out, giving her more freedom. Our walks have become fun instead of madcap adventures and the exercise is good for me.
Ms. Skeeter is an adorable, loveable little dog and she makes me laugh everyday as I watch her play with the poodle, who weighs almost eighteen pounds. She dances in front of him, barking at him to get up to play with her and they are so cute together. They run, wrestle, play tug of war with the toys, fake bite each other and just have a blast. Her enthusiasm for life has the poodle acting like a puppy again and he loves running around the house with her.
However, teaching her to take a “Time Out,” is what made their friendship possible and it is the reason she has become a much-loved addition to our family.
I want a motorcycle. James Dean had an Enduro. There are far more practical motorcycles in the world. But James Dean had a Enduro.
There are lots of motorcycles in my town to buy.
There are fast ones.
There is the Lime Green Streetfighter from my young dreams.
There are new ones. The latest flat black killer.
There is a hip little Japanese Motorcycles made back when the Japanese didn’t build cars yet, just Motorcycles. I want a motorcycle. James Dean had and Enduro.
I am told they won’t ride nice. They will be rough. And although its seems fun to dream about riding down the trail on your Enduro, you are trapped in the pavement jungle, and that’s all the bike will ride on, and it will be rough.
So much for daydreaming of riding to the riverbank for a picnic.
Enduros are not practical.
I want a motorcycle. James Dean had a Enduro.
Her hands make love to his shoulders
Caress the tension from his neck
Fingers entwined in his soft curls
Her face buried in silver and brown strands.
Inhaling the heady scent that is him
She allows her tightness to slip away
Falling, falling into a dark warm mist
A vapor of safety created by his love.
Absence of pain, regret, loss or sorrow
Blankets of tenderness and devotion
Washed worn by life’s bleaching storms
More precious than diamonds and gold.
His devotion surrounds her flesh and her bones.
Thus, sleep is a cocoon which shelters her
Pillows of passions released time after time
Cradle the woman and her fragile dreams
Rocking her to sleep in his gently flowing river
Drifting on billows of unconditional love.
Floating to euphoria, wrapped around his back
She wonders, how is it possible that her love
Could increase beyond description, young and free
When time has removed the freedoms of flesh and bone?
She loves him beyond explanation, a rare dilemma
For a woman who was born to dance with words.
She loves, she loves and as his love enfolds her, she is sheltered.
She sleeps and she is secure because he is there beside her.
by Jeanne Marie, 2013
I get so dizzy struggling to keep up to myself, running from room to room, to garden, to garage, to shelf.
Clean this, write that, whip up a cake, pay the bills while making a fattening meal, that my hips know they can’t take.
What am I doing?
Cause I really don’t know–and there’s no going fast when I’m traveling so slow.
I’m stuck in the back seat with the driver asleep at the wheel while somehow the joyride has turned into a raw deal.
Well, no, not very much–dreams are dangerous races cause my mind is unguarded, drifting in and out of strange places.
Displaying my fears, scrambling my brain, inflicting grief with no notable gain.
Shoving back in my face what I thought I’d discarded and a nightmare revisited ends what I’ve started.
Perhaps I could slow down and buy me a piece of mind, but an accident’s gaining speed ramming into me, hard, from behind.
Preceding the crash, Past insists on driving my soul allowing ancient ghosts to tell my thoughts where to go!
“Jump out of the car!” my panicky brain tells my feet.
Run until you can’t remember, the pain, the anger, the bonus gifts of deceit.
As told by Peggy Sue to Jeanne Marie
I know that my owners were overjoyed when their last child left the nest. Still, I wish that they’d asked my opinion before they let him move out. I may be just a dog, but I have feelings too.
The boy came by the house to visit last Sunday and it was then that I realized just how much I’ve missed him, him and his big, sweaty tennis shoes.
While he was busy talking to Dad, I casually strolled over to the rug near the front door where the boy had politely left his shoes.
I stuck my head, well almost my whole body, in one of them. I rolled all around on the floor with his shoe and the odor brought back such fond memories.
I remember when the boy and I first met. He was very young when I joined the family and quite a handful. I used to help Mom with his discipline. I didn’t mind. I was glad to help. When she’d yell at him, I’d chase his rascally butt right into his room, nipping at his heels for good measure.
We also had two girls. One lived in Boston, but the other one always said, “Yes Mom, okay Mom.” What she did was another story, but at least she pretended obedience and I never had to chase and snip her. However, she did give me a few exciting nights when she tried to sneak out her bedroom window and inadvertently set off the burglar alarm. When Mom checked on her and saw her “sleeping” in her bed, I uncovered the hoax with some strong barking at the foot of the girl’s bed. Mom caught on real quick. She unrolled the covers and sure enough, the girl was fully clothed. The girl was somewhat boring except for her repeated attempts to beat the alarm. (She was a slow learner.)
On the plus side, she did share her yogurt with me and she scratched my head with her long fingernails while she watched the soaps.
But the boy? Oh, he was such fun, a human ball of energy! A stick of dynamite waiting for a match! Running through the house, going in and out, in and out! Me, chasing and barking all the while!
Sometimes I’ve gone too far, I have to admit it. I did bite him on the eyelid once.
Then, one time when he was being hollered at, I jumped up to bite him for emphasis. I caught hold of a piece of his shorts and if I had caught him just one-inch closer…well, let’s just say that I could’ve endangered his future fatherhood, if you get my drift!
I hung on; unsure of the protocol required in this situation while Mom rolled on the floor laughing. Finally, I realized that she was saying, “Let go Peggy-Sue, let go!” So I did, no harm done.
Sometimes the boy was nice to me. I remember when I took a stuffed Donkey Kong off his bed and I adopted him as my own. The boy said, “Let her keep it Mom, I don’t want it after Peggy-Sue messed with it. And they look so happy together.” I have tears in my eyes just thinking about his generosity.
One day, as he lay on the floor watching cartoons, I paused to take a bite out of his apple. He just laughed and called out, “Mom, come see Peggy, she’s so cute!” He thought I was cute!
The last few years that we had him were the best. I adored the way he would come in at all hours of the night. The way that it allowed me to wake up Mom and Dad with my insane barking. (Mom’s description.)
Nights can be very lonely for a poodle, what with sleeping all day, so I’d just lie on the bed and wait for a good excuse. The boy would turn the key ever so quietly and shut the door softly. But I didn’t care.
“YIP, YIP, YIP,” I’d shout out, using my “stranger\danger” bark to get the full effect.
Then, the mutt the folks had bought to keep me company, Charlie, would join in the ruckus.
Dad would yell at the boy and Mom would yell at Dad. “The damn dogs woke you up, not the boy!” and the whole house would be lit up like Christmas morning!
Just when Mom and Dad would start to fall back to sleep, the boy would tiptoe out to the kitchen for a drink and the whole thing would start all over again.
“YIP, YIP, YIP!” Soon as things quieted down again, his phone would ring. Third time around, I was pushing it, so any noise the boy made after that-I had to let it slide. Ah, how I loved those noisy nights.
Another favorite time was when the boy’s friends knocked at the door. I got some good barking mileage from them. His girlfriend was a special delight to chase from the front door to his room and then I’d catch her again on her way out. I knew she was scared of me and that made me feel like a guard dog, tough and strong.
I even miss the arguments that the boy and Dad used to get into. Those were great times for starting up a storm of barking. I’d run around them in circles, yipping to my heart’s content, taking first one side and then the other, as I tried to mediate. Although they never seemed to appreciate my efforts, I like to think that my participation often helped them work out a quicker settlement.
Now when the boy comes over, no one fights and the boy acts so different. I hardly know him. Saying weird stuff like “yes, ma’am” and “no, sir,” to the folks. His shoes smell the same, but I think that maybe he’s a man now. That could explain his strange behavior.
Dad and Mom are so hum drum. I can see their Golden Years coming fast. Most nights they sleep right through until morning. Thankfully, a fierce thunderstorm or a strange car door wakes them up now and then.
Without the boy, I just lie here and think of the good old nights. How much of a racket we used to make…
I never realized that he was moving out; although, I should’ve caught on when I saw him take a pile of boxes from his room to his car and then he carried out his bed. When he didn’t come back that night, I realized, I’d lost the boy.
There’ll never be another pair of shoes that excited me like his did.
We were quite a team. That’s why I miss the boy.
I think Mom misses him too because her eyes were dripping when she typed this story.