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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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.