The Week That Was

Monk's Cafe--Inside Looking Out

Monk’s Cafe, Philadelphia Merril D. Smith 2018

I was born in this city where now we go to celebrate, the night before my birthday. Holiday lights glow through the misty air. We sit in a pub, warm and cozy, even though the nearby tables are loud with after work parties, students, and academics. I gaze through the window as two young girls outside take photos of an older couple standing in front of the Christmas lights. Perhaps the girls’ grandparents? My husband and I clink our glasses in a toast, and I dig into my mussels.


holiday spirits,

sparkling souls in glowing light

December revels

We walk around the neighborhood for a bit. Rittenhouse Square is full of light; the skyline shimmers. We see winter trees and signs of city life.


ghostly branches wave,

beckoning to seasons past

harboring futures

We go to show, laugh at the jokes and clever Broadway parodies. The woman next to me sits stoically, never applauding, but suddenly lets out a loud guffaw at a joke about [vice-president] Mike Pence waiting to be raptured. Well, it was a funny joke. It is raining as we walk back to the train.



raindrops dripping from branches—

glimmers in puddles

It is still raining the next day, my birthday, but we walk around anyway. Then go to a movie of cinematic splendor, filmed in black and white. The images linger on screen and in my mind–


puddles on cement

an airplane flying through clouds

crashing ocean waves

Class struggles. Race. But always women without men, raising children.



We eat Chinese food with friends, laughing, catching up with this and that. I receive roses from one friend, and another bakes me a birthday cake. My husband gives me chocolate truffles. I get birthday wishes from family and friends. I talk to one daughter on the phone, and I see the other at a winery holiday party. Despite the weather, this has been a wonderful birthday weekend.


I am thankful for this life.

I was born just before the solstice. The days have been gloomy, and the nights grow longer.

now coming darkness

then the coming of more light

long night’s moon whispers

softly from behind the cloud cover, where meteors blaze across the sky. Perhaps I hear them sigh.

I close my eyes. Like a vision—I see a snow owl. It swivels its head. Looks at me, raises its magnificent wings, and sails off into the night sky. I think of the owl I saw once on my birthday. Spirit animal? Magical vision? Who knows.  .  .

this feathered glory

shining white in midnight sky–

hope in the darkness


At Sharrott Winery, Members Holiday Party, 2018


I’m linking this to Frank’s Haikai challenge—solstice. We went to 1812 Production’s annual show, This is the Week That Is. We ate at Monk’s Café.  My daughter took me to the member’s holiday party at Sharrott Winery. We saw the movie, Roma. It will be on Netflix, but if you can, see it in the theater. The cinematography is worth it. Here’s the official trailer.



43 thoughts on “The Week That Was

  1. A lovely meander Merril. Your prose usually is soft and gentle but somehow your birthday weekend reflections seems even more so. Maybe because of your words ‘I am thankful for this life’.

  2. Happy Birthday and thank you for sharing your celebration. Your life seems wonderful and sometimes I’m envious until I remember that it’s your access to culture that I envy 😉 We both have much to be thankful for in regards to our family and friends 🙂 I used to live in San Francisco and sometimes i miss the urban life, the ease of taking a train or bus across town to catch a movie or dinner at a favorite restaurant. We used to walk a lot then, thought nothing of walking 45 minutes to our favorite Mexican restaurant on the other side of the park and back again (well, it did help to burn off the calories). Now, in the South, eh … car culture. You know your nighttime photos are just as inviting as your daytime photos? 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Marie. We are fortunate to live close to Philadelphia. Right here where we live in S. Jersey is car culture, too. It would be nice to live in some of the places that are actual town where you can walk to things–we have to drive to most things. And if we don’t want to drive in Philadelphia–which really is only about twenty minutes away, we have to drive about fifteen-twenty minutes to the train, but we’ve been doing that lately because then we do walk more. You got more exercise walking in San Francisco with the hills. Center City Philadelphia is fairly flat. 🙂 I told someone else that we don’t travel much, so we do lots of day trips. And thank you for the comment about the photos. I liked those night photos, too. I know I’m not much of a photographer, and these are from my very old iphone. I’m getting a new phone–so photos may improve. We’ll see. 😉 But in any case, it was a lovely weekend. I am fortunate, and you are, too.

    • That is so funny, Toni! Thank you! I wouldn’t think to associate mussels with Philadelphia–and I guess mine were Belgian style at Monk’s. We live right across from the airport in S. Jersey, and we’re in Philadelphia almost every week. My mom lives there.

  3. Merril. You lead such a lovely life. Truly you do. You have a partner who loves the same things you do: you go out to see movies no one has heard of (but are generous enough to open our eyes to), plays, musical concerts, restaurants… you two enjoy life in such a wonderful manner. You are truly blessed.
    And thanks for yet another “plug”! And happy birthday. Again xoxo

    • Thank you so much, Dale for your lovely comment. I have to pick all the movies, plays, and such, but I am fortunate that my husband goes along with all of them (and drives). We don’t travel much, so we do lots of day trips instead–and then we don’t have to worry about someone feeding the cats. 🙂 Your series is so kind and thoughtful, I feel like I should share it.

  4. I enjoyed wishing you birthday wishes on FB, Merril, but I’ll send them to you here again, full of wishes for hugs and creativity and love to you for the next year of your life. Your poems fill me with all of those things! By the way, when I saw the picture here of The Candy Box I was shot with a memory, which faded, but that box looks really, really familiar from my childhood….!!

    • Thank you so much, Pam, for your lovely comment and kind thoughts. I’m not sure if I’ve ever been in The Candy Box, but my husband gets me great chocolate from there–and I know it’s near the Pitman Golf Course–so you may have a memory of it from your childhood! How cool is that?!

  5. Pingback: #Haikai Challenge #66 (12/22/18) Christmas #haiku #senryu #haibun #tanka #haiga #renga – Frank J. Tassone

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