Reminiscing

Daily Prompt: Always Something There to Remind Me

A song comes on the radio and instantly, you’re transported to a different time and place. Which song(s) bring back memories for you and why? Be sure to mention the song, and describe the memory it evokes.

~*~

“It’s impossible to pick just one song, Manda. My life is a play list.” Aunt Sally dove into her memories to think of a song that transported her to time and place and came up empty. “It’s like asking me which is my favourite cheese. There are too many.”

Twelve-year-old Manda jumped from her chair at the kitchen table to turn on the old transistor radio accommodating her aunt’s window sill.

“First song that comes up I want you to share a memory … please … I love your stories.” Manda returned to her seat as the commercials wound down and the DJ introduced the next song on the 70s radio station.

As the first cheerful chords of an old familiar tune played Sally caught her breath.

“What? … What do you remember?”

Friday night it was late I was walking you home we got down to the gate and I was dreaming of the night …

The Little River Band. 1978. Sally’s thoughts returned to her 14th summer, spent at her grandmother’s in a small town in northern Alberta.

“Oh, Manda … this is one of my favourite songs from when I was just a couple of years older than you are now.” Sally took a breath. Her body started swaying to the beat and she began to hum along. She stretched out her hands to her niece and invited her to dance in the middle of the kitchen with her. The mid day sun flared shafts of memory through the window as the two girls sashayed around the floor.

The song was too soon over and Sally flopped into her chair and sipped at her lemonade. It was another hot, sticky day. The exertion almost too much, even with air conditioning.

“That’s a nice song, auntie,” Manda hummed what she could remember. “I can see why you like it. What memory did it drum up?”

Sally took a deep breath and wondered whether to make something up or be truthful. It wasn’t much of a debate.

“Oh, you know, that wasn’t a very happy summer for me. Too many hormones. Too little parental attention of the kind I needed. Terrified of life and trusting no one. I was really raising myself, at the time, and doing a poor job of it.” She sighed. “Gran was there, but I never felt I could trust her. Wasn’t her fault, I suppose. Oh, it’s complicated. … Anyway, this song,” Sally closed her eyes and hummed the opening before continuing, “this song always made me happy. It still makes me happy. I love the rhythm. There’s a promise in the song about never leaving someone alone, and I suppose, at some level, that’s what I wanted. To know I would never be alone …”

Sally’s voice trailed off as she saw herself lying on her bed at Gran’s scribbling in her journal, the radio her consoling companion at a time when nothing, or no one, else could be.

Manda waited, a gentle tear pooled in the corner of her eye. She walked around the table and gave her aunt a big hug. “You never need to worry, Aunt Sally. As long as I am here you will never be alone.” Manda squeezed hard and planted a kiss on her aunt’s cheek.

“Well, Manda, you are a dear,” Sally responded. “I am not alone anymore and haven’t been for a long time. I enjoy my own company now and you know it’s amazing …”

“What is?” interrupted Manda, curious.

“It’s amazing how the people you really need in your life gravitate to you the more you enjoy your own company. Perhaps you are too young to understand this now, but one day you will.”

“So you don’t need me?” Manda gasped, frightened by the prospect.

“Of course, I need you, Manda my dear,” Aunt Sally reassured, “but from a place of  love, not from a place of neediness. There’s a difference. Do you understand?”

“I think so …”

Sally released her niece and gave her a big smile. “One thing you need never question is my love for you and that great big heart of yours. How could I ever feel alone when you fill my heart with such joy?”

Manda smiled back and wiped the pool from the corner of her eye.

“C’mon, sweetie, let’s get ice cream. Chocolate or vanilla.”

“Oh … chocolate. Definitely!”

~*~

Reminiscing …

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Beware The Wolf

Daily Prompt: Brilliant Disguise

Tell us about a time when someone had you completely fooled, where the wool was pulled right over your eyes and you got hoodwinked, but good. Was it a humorous experience or one you’d rather forget? What was the outcome?

~*~

“Lots of people puff themselves up to be more than they are, Manda,” cautioned aunt Sally to her young niece, “it’s born of a deep insecurity; a need to be noticed. You want to watch out for those.”

Twelve-year-old Manda nestled deeper into her hammock and stared blankly into the spectral light that filtered through the rustling leaves of two adjoining maples. It was her favourite thinking place, and she loved it even more when her beloved aunt Sally sat in the rocking Muskoka chair close by and shared her stories.

“Do you have a story you can share to show me, aunt Sally?” Manda asked as she sat up and rested on her elbow, hope beaming from her eyes.

Her aunt thought for a moment. There were too many stories; too many wounded souls who’d pulled the wool over her all-too-trusting eyes. So much hurt. So much pain. Which of these stories could she share without overwhelming the innocence of her beautiful niece?

“Well?” Manda was getting impatient.

Sally smiled weakly. “Well, indeed,” she chided. “You need to understand, Manda, that the world is full of wolves in sheep’s clothing. People who are not what they seem and hide their pain under a clever, often unconscious, disguise. You must learn,” she warned, “never to allow another person’s pain to become your truth. Promise me?”

“I promise,” confirmed Manda, “but do tell me a story, if you have one.”

Sally took a sip of lemony iced tea, so cooling on a hot and sticky summer day, and settled more deeply into her rocker. The rhythm of its gentle sway bringing comfort as she wondered what to share.

“Well, I had one friend … and I use the term loosely … who, well,” Sally felt tongue-tied. She had no wish to lay bare old emotions caught up in past pain. “Look,” she changed tack, “the people you want to watch out for are narcissists.”

“What’s a narciss … whatever that is?” Manda asked, confused

“Narcissist, sweetie …” corrected Sally.

“Narciss … ist …” repeated Manda, still uncertain.

“Narcissists are people who make the world revolve around them at the expense of others. Every conversation; every activity; every experience you have with them will be about them, and if it doesn’t start out that way it will most certainly end up there. They make big gestures based on fantasy; they make promises they never keep; they take what they need without asking at the expense of others and give no thought to its impact on those they offend. They don the mask of perfection so that no one will see the unpleasant truth and they always appear better than everyone else in some way. They take up so much room, and take up so much light you dwell constantly in their shadow and are barely able to see yourself … .” Sally gasped for breath, memories of unveiled wolves suffocating the moment.

Manda jumped from her happy place and knelt beside her aunt’s chair.  “Aunt Sally, please don’t be upset,” she pleaded.

Sally gathered herself. “Ah, you’re a good girl, Manda, but even in your concern for me don’t make my pain yours. You will have enough to contend with in your life.” She paused, “Just remember, Manda, that the surest way to protect yourself from these people is to have a strong sense of self grounded in reality. By all means, have your self-esteem, but never at the expense of others because then you rob them of theirs.” She ushered Manda back to her happy place in the hammock and continued. “This is what narcissists do to you, Manda,” she counselled, “they grab all the attention in the room and take you for all you’re worth and then, when you no longer serve their purpose or they see that you are wise to their ways, they dump you in a heap of pain … their pain. They can never own it, or deal with it, so they spread it around to make themselves feel better … and others feel worse.”

Sally remembered a supposed mentor, an equestrian coach who, when it came down to it, had no one’s interest in mind but her own. Not even the horses’. She cringed at the memory of too-tight side reins the coach had put on her young horse during a training session. At the time Sally had trusted this person to know what they were doing. However, it soon became all too clear that her coach was nothing more than a blow hard when the distressed horse sat down, with Sally on him, and fell over within a few steps of the equipment having been adjusted. Her coach took no ownership of her mistake, solidly pointing the finger at Sally and the “stupid horse.”

The humiliation of not recognizing then what an energy-sucking vampire her coach had been, and the fact she’d allowed herself to be victimized by her for a further four years still hurt in far off places in Sally’s psyche.

“Aunt Sally … where are you?” Manda called her aunt back to the present.

With a shudder Sally returned and smiled awkwardly. She took another sip of her almost-finished iced tea. “Oh, I am sorry,” she offered. “I don’t know if I’m being helpful at all, but let me offer one more thought on the matter.”

“What’s that, aunt Sally?”

“As long you are true to yourself and pay attention to how people make you feel when you are with them you can never go wrong. Some people are only happy when those around them are miserable. If you feel miserable in someone’s company; if they bring out the worst in you; if they abuse your friendship or must be the centre of attention all the time, don’t walk … run! For sure as I’m sitting in front of you today they won’t care if you’re unhappy as long as you make them feel better … in whatever meaning that has for them.” Sally paused for effect. “Always pay attention to how you feel in the presence of another. Understand what your body is saying to you when you feel a pit in your stomach, or your bowels start to churn or …” she stopped. “Goodness me, dear, too much information. … Let’s put it this way. How do you feel when you’re with me?”

“I feel excellent! Happy! Loved!” Manda responded with the exuberance of youth.

“Good,” Sally responded, “let this be your guide wherever you are and whoever you’re with. If you feel anything less than this, leave them to their misery. Will you do that for me?”

“Oh, yes, aunt Sally … for you anything.”

“Lovely … now let’s get some more iced tea.”

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Nectar to Hummingbirds

Daily Prompt: The Kindness of Strangers

~*~

“It was such a long time ago,” Sally mumbled sadly to herself as she gazed through the window to a hummingbird hovering by a feeder which hung there.

“What was, Aunt Sally? What was so long ago?”

Young Amanda flopped down on the sofa next to her favourite, albeit only, aunt, and wrapped her arm around hers. She was pretty astute for a 12-year-old. Some thing, some memory, had loomed in her beautiful aunt’s expression that she just had to understand.

“Why are you sad, Aunt Sally? I don’t like it when you’re sad.”

Sally grabbed her niece’s hand and held it tight. She loved her Manda; an old soul full of youthful vitality. Such a gift … and such a burden.

“Don’t grow up too fast, sweetie.” Sally released Manda’s hand and attempted a smile. “And enjoy every blesséd moment, because they go by so fast.”

“Are you thinking of any moment in particular, auntie?” Manda asked, curious.

Sally sighed. “Yes, yes I am.” She turned to face her niece, and smiled. She should share it.

“When I was 21,” she began, “I was engaged to be married. It wasn’t a particularly happy engagement. I cried a lot. He was a good man, but not good for me. So, two weeks before the wedding after a particularly angry series of telephone conversations, I called it off and fled to Toronto.”

“You were a runaway bride?” Manda interrupted wide-eyed, her imagination running away with her.

“Yes, I was a runaway bride,” Sally confirmed with a wry smile. “I left everyone, everything I knew behind. Your aunt Ruby, my mother, was left to tell everyone what had happened and to send all the gifts back. Return the dress. Cancel the cake. What a mess. But I didn’t know any of this so absorbed, was I, in my pain and loss and suffering. I’d run far away to escape; to search for something, somewhere, else where I might be happy. Truthfully,” she paused and sighed, “I was probably searching for my self, at the time, but I just didn’t know it.”

Manda gave her aunt a quizzical and concerned look.

“Don’t worry …” Sally reassured and patted her niece’s hand. “It was a terrible time in my life. I stayed with my father, your uncle Joe, with whom I had no relationship at all, as you already know. He lived in a 20th floor apartment in the suburbs. I hated it but had nowhere else to go. He offered me a sort of safe haven until I could get my feet back on the ground, something I couldn’t do fast enough. It took me two weeks just to find my bearings. It was the dead of winter and colder than I’d ever experienced. I rarely left the apartment. My diet was Edam cheese and hot pickles. I watched a lot of Young and the Restless. I was not myself.”

Sally turned again to gaze beyond the bay window looking out to the pretty pond surrounded by willows. Manda sidled closer and rested her head on her aunt’s shoulder. She loved listening to her stories.

“Eventually I found work downtown as a secretary in a brokerage. Dreary really, but it gave me the income I needed to start saving for a place of my own. Then one day,” Sally’s expression brightened a little, “I was walking north on Yonge Street from King, on my way to the bank to deposit my pay cheque. I wasn’t that happy. The amount was less than usual because some extra deduction had been taken. Woeful thoughts of living the rest of my life in my father’s second bedroom haunted me. Anyway, as I walked a sporty red convertible with a couple of cute guys in it drove by. I noticed it only because it was quite different to all the other cars … okay, yes, those two young men sort of caught my eye, too.” She giggled at the memory and Manda giggled with her. “But they drove on their way and I continued sadly on to the bank to make my deposit, and that was that … or so I thought.”

Manda hugged her aunt’s arm tight. “Then what happened?” she asked, eagerly.

“Well,” her aunt continued blank faced, “I was walking along the busy street back to the office, still feeling pretty low. Lonely. Unloved. Sorry for myself, I guess,” she sighed, “when that red convertible pulled up beside me. The two young men were trying to get my attention. I thought they needed directions … not that I could have helped them, of course, being so new to the city myself.”

Manda released her aunt’s arm and pulled herself out of the sofa to rest on its edge. Her eyes were bright with query. “What happened? What happened?”

A big, beaming smile curved across Sally’s lips as a tear of happy remembering pooled in the corner of her right eye.

“I wandered over to the car and asked the fellow in the passenger seat, who’d been trying to get my attention, if I could help.”

“And?” Manda could hardly contain her excitement.

“He gave me flowers.”

“He what? Really? He gave you flowers?” Manda asked, astonished.

“He gave me a flowers … a variety, if I remember correctly,” Sally mused.

“Did he say anything?”

“Yes he did, actually,” Sally became thoughtful. “He said, ‘You are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen and I want to give you these flowers.'”

“Really? He said that?” Manda shrieked with such enthusiasm she almost fell off the sofa.

“Yes, he did,” Sally assured while grabbing Manda’s arm and pulling her back into the sofa. “Really, Manda, you must be more careful.”

“I’m fine, auntie.  … Then what happened?”

“Well, needless to say I was totally overwhelmed. The thing I needed perhaps more than anything at that time ~ some positive assurance that I wasn’t invisible ~ had happened out of the blue at the hand of a stranger. It was such a wonderful moment.” Sally sighed. “I could barely say thank you before the flower fella and his co-conspirator had driven off never to be seen again.” Sally paused and reflected, her eyes closed, her hands gently resting on her lap. “I was on Cloud Nine that whole afternoon. I felt seen. Felt alive; lighthearted; wonderful. For a little while life felt good again. And I felt beautiful.”

“Oh auntie, what a lovely story! But how did they know to find you when you were walking back from the bank?”

“Honestly, Manda, I don’t know,” Sally puzzled. “I have no idea how the timing of that worked and believe me I have thought about it often. How did they know I was going back that way? How did they know? I still don’t know, but I’ll tell you one thing …”

“What’s that, aunt Sally?”

“Life is full of little miracles if we will only pay attention to what’s going on around us. Even in our really dark moments someone somewhere … and maybe even a complete stranger … will do something randomly kind like that, something that will bring sunshine into our lives when all around us feels cloudy.”

“Are there many people like that out there, auntie?”

Sally thought for a moment. “Be a kind spirit, my Manda, and like nectar to hummingbirds you will attract kind spirits in turn.”

“Is that why you were given the flowers?”

Sally reflected, “Who can say, darling? Who can say? Now, come on … let’s make some of tea.”

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015