Following the Rules: NaPoWriMo

 

Every year we’re given the cards to fill out. There are boxes to check, the numbers 1, 2, or 3. In case of disaster, we will either stay at school, be taken to some central location, or our parents will come for us. My mother doesn’t take it seriously. She randomly checks one box or another. But I am a child, and I want my mom. I’m scared my family will be separated. In my sleep, I overhear news about brinkmanship and missiles in Cuba, the Iron Curtain and freedom. In my sleep, I hear my parents argue, hear the word divorce. Dreamworlds and destruction. But I am awake. I am a good child. I calmly kneel with the other children on the linoleum, dusty with playground dirt and tossed-away dreams. Our heads rest against the lockers in the hallway of this Dallas elementary school. No one ever voices the thought: if the bombs are dropped, there will be no escape. We do as we’re told, trusting the adults around us and following the rules. I am a good child. I slowly and carefully tug my dress down so my underwear does not show.

 

Mushroom clouds unfurl

in the desert, blooms of death,

poisonous beauty

warn us, still we play again,

still we keep score, game, set, match

 

 

This is Day 20 of NaPoWriMo. I covered several prompts here. Though it’s not really about games or sports, my haibun does include a sports reference. (Gasps from all who know me.)

This haibun is also for dVerse, Haibun Monday (a few days late) where the prompt was to write about a fear we’ve experienced. And I’ve managed to include all of Secret Keeper’s words in this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: Score/Sleep/Free/Calm/Escape

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Week That Was, The Week We Dream

Monday Morning Musings:

 

“Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly.”
–Langston Hughes, “Dreams”

 

“I dreamed of 747s

Over geometric farms

Dreams Amelia—dreams and false alarms”

–Joni Mitchell, “Amelia (1976)

 

“Hope lies in dreams, in imagination and in the courage of those who dare to make dreams into reality.”

–Jonas Salk

 

Once my older daughter and I dreamed the same dream

in morning light, over breakfast plates

we discussed the dream, the hopes that wait

inside of you

to come at night, and go in day,

but I no longer remember what was said

the images now gone, the message, too,

there might have been a flute, or a dancer, perhaps

and I don’t know how it happened,

how our thoughts entwined or over lapsed,

but we share a common dream with many

a dream of justice for all, and ordinary,

for broken-wings that cannot fly

to soar on golden wings high into the sky.

 

I think of this in the fluster and bluster of the holiday season,

with thoughts that come without reason,

come now in moments of calm and comfort,

hot onion soup and warm spiced wine,

 

breaks for dreams and flights of fancy, transport

from tedium of work, of this and that, and revisions,

and I look down at my lap, try to imagine

the dreams of my cat, of his visions

wonder if there’s hope

or images of what has been.

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I wonder what he dreams?

 

In the fluster and bluster of the holiday season,

I see a glorious sunset,

visible above the suburban mall,

crowning it, a coronet

of orange and red, streaked with clouds of ash-grey

pausing before I look away

to start my car

but making note of it in my mind,

nature’s art, unsigned

left behind

because it’s cold, and I’m tired

and I so I don’t linger or stay.

 

On my car radio, I hear John Glenn has died,

a true hero, a man with dreams,

who worked to make them come true,

but still seemed humble,

even as he soared, appreciating the sun rising and setting

but never forgetting,

truth and facts matter, too.

I think of watching space missions

on school TVs perched up high on wheeled carts

we never questioned the conditions, the positions,

life took place in black and white then

over and over, again and again,

Us and Them

Cold War and the Iron Curtain,

the phrase, the image

both terrified and perplexed me,

rather than strong and powerful,

existence seemed strained and uncertain.

 

But that was then,

now–who knows?

now the images are colored,

but fear and ignorance is unfurled,

black and white, some still view our world,

see iron curtains, want iron walls.

False prophets and false alarms.

 

I refuse to accept this new normal,

where two plus two equals whatever is

Tweeted and Re-Tweeted

till many believe what never was, is.

I read of heroes,

and I know resistance is not futile

and I will not go gently,

will listen intently,

I will rage against the dying of light

will fight for what’s right,

because there is always the crack where the light gets in.

 

And so—

we eat comfort food

we drink wine

 

watch TV

and wrap presents

we look for magic in the ordinary and the extraordinary.

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Holiday Magic

 

And so—

I write, spread facts, not rumors

urge others to be consumers

of love and what is real

and what is already great,

but not hate.

I dare to dream,

to make dreams a reality,

to heal the broken-wings of hope

and send it flying

like 747s over geometric farms

I watch the sun rise and set

and think it is not over,

no, not yet.

 

We tasted some delicious wine at Sharrott Winery in Hammonton, NJ. Then drank a bottle with some brie.  And we talked of hopes and dreams.

 

 

December Celebrations: Warm and Cold

Monday Morning Musings:

My mother says,

That one year my sister and I received

Presents and celebrated

For nearly two months.

In the days before Amazon

And same and next day deliveries,

I suppose packages took longer to arrive.

So they came in trickles and waves

Over the course of weeks

To mingle with those already at home.

The season of celebration

Began with my sister’s birthday

In November.

Then went on

To Thanksgiving,

Followed by

My birthday,

Hanukkah,

And Christmas–

The festivities went on and on,

Or so it seemed to us.

Then one day it stopped.

We asked,

“What no presents today? No holiday?”

I don’t remember this at all.

But that is what my mother says.

And though her memory is sometimes

A bit faulty

I suspect it’s true.

It may have been the year my aunt sent us

The Easy Bake Oven.

I made a few of those cookie-size cakes,

The oven set-up in our bedroom

Novelty there,

But, truthfully,

I was much more interested in

The real oven and stove.

I “doctored” canned soups

With spices from the rack

Before I tackled real meals

And baking.

I remember misreading “marjoram”

And thinking it said “marijuana.”

Well, that would have been interesting, right?

I’m not even certain how I knew the word.

This was before the War on Drugs.

And our schools were more concerned

That we “duck and cover,”

Giving me vague terrors

And fears

Of losing my parents.

Cold War fears

Of losing the warmth

Of family and home.

Is that what draws me

To the heat of the kitchen?

Now, that I’m older

I like to think each day is a gift,

Something to unwrap joyfully

With the dawn.

Of course, the dawn is so late in December.

Perhaps that’s why I bought myself a new laptop

For my birthday

And perhaps to chase away the coming

Winter chill

And fears of the future.

Well, it’s for my business, you know,

Even my husband agreed.

My old computer is only old in

Computer years,

Which pass faster than dog years,

But still,

They’re the ones that count–

To the computer–

And the person using it.

I haven’t spent months celebrating,

Well, not unless you count the weddings,

Three in about a years’ time,

But I did manage a week or so—

Hanukkah running into to my birthday,

Celebrating with dinner at a local winery,

IMG_0521

Then the next night dinner with my daughter and son-in-law

Followed by chocolate cake and watching my grandpets

Chase each other around the apartment.

Brothers of other mothers for sure.

 

The next day there was a trip to Grounds for Sculpture

Just hanging out

Enjoying nature on a

Freakishly warm December day.

Standing at a bread line

IMG_3177

Having a snack

IMG_3156.JPG

Dancing a waltz

IMG_3136.JPG

Maybe reading a book with a friend

IMG_3162

Enjoying lunch in the balmy weather

IMG_3166

Returning home to light the candles

The final night

Till next year.

IMG_3207

On my actual birthday

We went to the movies,

The Danish Girl

Me wondering how strange

And horrible

It must be

To feel like someone else inside,

And how sad but

Beautiful and brave

It was to love that person–

And to believe.

My husband and I discussed this

Over tapas and drinks afterward

(The Spinach and Manchego Buñuelos divine)

Because,

Well, celebration, remember?

And from birthday

We’re on to

Cookie-baking season

That is, not the usual cooking baking

That happens all the time here.

Special, once-a-year cookies.

And decorating them with our younger daughter

And missing our older one.

We will have to eat her share,

I suppose.

IMG_3219

It will soon be Christmas.

The skies are dark, dismal, and dreary

The news is ghastly, glum and, gloomy,

But there is warmth and light.

Our own little miracle of lights.

The light on the stove hood–

You know, the one that hasn’t worked

For months?

Well, now it does

Just like that.

IMG_3214

More lights are glowing

At windows

On trees,

And in hearts

That are open to it.

Soon the New Year will come

With new dreams

And old memories.

 

Wishing all of you a joyous and happy December-

And beyond.

With hopes that it is not too warm

Or too cold

But, just right.

Places we visited and things we saw:

Auburn Road Vineyards  

Kitchen 519 

Grounds for Sculpture 

The Danish Girl 

Cuba Libre 

And here’s a 1951 Civil Defense Duck and Cover Film. It would have terrified me, as a child. It’s before my time, but we were still ducking and covering in the 1960s.

 

 

Maps of Life

Cropped section of original image of three anc...

Cropped section of original image of three ancient maps, public domain Scanned by WMF intern Mike Hoffman, uploaded by Bastique, and cropped by Editor at Large (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Regular maps have few surprises: their contour lines reveal where the Andes are, and are reasonably clear. More precious, though, are the unpublished maps we make ourselves, of our city, our place, our daily world, our life; those maps of our private world we use every day; here I was happy, in that place I left my coat behind after a party, that is where I met my love; I cried there once, I was heartsore; but felt better round the corner once I saw the hills of Fife across the Forth, things of that sort, our personal memories, that make the private tapestry of our lives.”

Alexander McCall Smith, Love Over Scotland

Recently the son of some friends did very well in his school’s Geography Bee. It made me think about the whole subject of geography—not really something I’ve thought much about. I’ve only had one formal geography course in my life, and it wasn’t even a full year’s course. This world geography class was part of the 7th grade curriculum at Haverford Junior High School, but I didn’t enter that classroom until March, after we had moved from Dallas to Pennsylvania. As I recall, the teacher was a no-nonsense man with a crew cut and glasses. On one of my first days there he announced that the homework assignment was to read a new chapter in the textbook. I went home and read the chapter—because I always did my homework. But, as we all know there’s reading, and then there’s careful, in-depth reading. I was surprised by the “pop quiz” the next day, but my classmates had already learned to expect one with each new reading assignment. “Oh yeah,” they told me, “He always gives a pop quiz after he gives a reading assignment.”  From then on, I was prepared, but I don’t think any of the facts and figures I learned during that course remains in my brain. I wonder how much of what I learned then even applies to world now?

I seem to remember lectures about the Danube and Elbe Rivers in one of those first lectures. I assume the course of the rivers has not changed significantly—although I don’t really know. But when I was in that 7th grade classroom, East and West Germany were separate countries, and Berlin was still divided by a wall. Much of Eastern Europe was controlled by the Soviet Union, which was still the Soviet Union. The Cold War was in progress, and US troops were fighting in Viet Nam. The names of African nations I learned as a child have changed. The world has changed—as it always has.

Over millennia, the Earth has been transformed many times.  Both physical and cultural geography have undergone changes as civilizations have appeared and disappeared. When Europeans first came to my section of New Jersey, there were vast forests on both sides of the Delaware River. There were islands in the river that no longer exist. English settlers lived in caves built into the banks of the river, and over time built roads and buildings that covered swamps. Since my husband and I have lived in our current house, new houses have been built on our block and trees have vanished.

Learning facts about geography is important and valuable, but it strikes me that it is like taking a snapshot of a particular time and place. The borders and names of countries and cities can change overnight during wars or political upheavals.  Physical changes can take place, too, as a result of natural disasters such earthquakes, tsunamis, or volcanoes, or human acts, such as bombings.

Even with satellites, photographs, and computers, maps identify terrains that are in reality fleeting and mutable. “Those maps of our private world,” as Alexander McCall Smith refers to them, are also fleeting and mutable, at least in the physical sense. The first house you lived in might no longer exist, but in the memory of your childhood, it remains constant and unchanged by time.

When I think of myself as that 7th grade girl, I realize I had to learn and create many new maps. My own personal geography had changed. My family had moved to a new town, a new house, and I was in a new school.  Despite my terrible sense of direction (I’ve been known to get lost getting out of an elevator), I don’t remember having any problems navigating the physical geography. I felt a sense of excitement, along with the apprehension. I didn’t know what path my life would take, but I fashioned some new maps as I walked it.

As we go through life, we create many new maps and learn to live in different settings, both physical and emotional. We graduate, we marry, we find a new job, we become parents—all of these life moments change our own personal geography. Sometimes it’s scary; sometimes it’s exciting. According to legend, ancient mapmakers labeled unknown areas with the inscription, “Here Be Dragons.”  In truth, we all face dragons and uncharted territory as we go through life. Our futures are Terra Incognita to be explored and mapped. But really, would we want it any other way?

The Cold War and a Nuclear Family

... duck and cover drill

… duck and cover drill (Photo credit: x-ray delta one)

Once upon a time there was a nuclear family,
And we lived in a family time,
And we’d unite in a family way.
And off in the ancient mountain,
They were splitting every nucleus.
They said, “Don’t be alarmed,
Just don’t try this at home.”

-From “The Great Unknown” by Dar Williams

I grew up during the Cold War. As the US created and tested new radioactive weapons, my own nuclear family slowly disintegrated.

In school we practiced “duck and cover drills.” During these drills we ducked under our desks and covered our heads with our hands, or we went into the hallway and kneeled in front of our lockers. We girls carefully pulled our dresses over our bottoms as we knelt–because, of course, feminine modesty is important even in the face of impending nuclear disaster

At the beginning of each school year in the Dallas, Texas, public school district, our parents filled out cards designating my sister and me as a “1,” “2,” or “3.” If disaster struck, students were assigned a location to go to according to these numbers. One number meant the child would stay at school. Another number meant the child would be picked up by his or her parents. I don’t remember what the third number meant. Perhaps you would be bused to an undisclosed location? My sister and I always wanted my mom to choose the number that meant she would come get us. I was terrified that there would be a nuclear war and that I would be separated from my mom.

As a child I didn’t question how ridiculous these drills were. I trusted that the adults around me would keep me safe. I was only afraid of being separated from my family.

Although the specter of Joe McCarthy hovered silently in the background–along with some FBI agents–my family was not actually affected by the Cold War. We were prosperous: we had plenty of food and luxuries, such as air-conditioned cars and a color television. We traveled, went to shows, restaurants, and museums. But I was terrified of the images I saw on TV of the Iron Curtain and fearful of the test alerts by the Emergency Broadcast System.

Civil to each other and loving to us during the day, my parents must have exploded at night while my younger sister and I slept.  Their cycles of rapprochement ended. Their intimate words of destruction apparently penetrated my dreams like shadowy bombs because I was saddened, but not surprised, when they announced they were getting divorced.

Our subsequent move from Dallas to Havertown, a suburb of Philadelphia, turned out to be a good thing for me. I had never been a Texan—for one thing, I don’t like football, and I think Chicken-Fried Steak

is perhaps the most repulsive dish ever invented. In an age before Facebook and the Internet, I was far removed from my former life.  In my new school, I was able to reinvent myself, at least a small bit, although I never entirely lost those childhood fears.