After The Thrill Is Gone … Maybe

fireworks

“These people, who launch fireworks like every weekend is the fourth of July, just don’t get it, do they?” Sarah leapt from her chair, a look of worry planted in her eyes.

“What’s that?” Michael asked in all innocence. “I don’t hear anything.”

Sarah eyeballed him. “Of course you don’t. It hasn’t started yet. Just wait.”

Michael focused his attention back on the TV and the ninth inning of a cliffhanger Sarah didn’t get.

“Michael!”

The room fell silent as Michael, aware there was no way to side step his young wife’s anxiety, finally hit “mute” and turned to listen. The winning run had been scored. He could relax.

He sighed. “I wish I understood. Tell me.”

Sarah sat beside him on the two-seater burgundy leather sofa. She checked the time on the clock above the mantle and reached for her husband’s hand. Any minute now, the not-so-magic hour of 10 p.m. would be marked.

“Listen.”

More silence. Then …

Boom! Bang! Whistle! Boom! Boom! Boom!

… for ten solid minutes the still magic of a summer’s evening was a bombast of cannon and shot from some neighbour’s yard somewhere down the street.

After a final flourish it was all over, the night its peaceful self once more.

Sarah spoke.

“Do you realize that every Saturday night since Memorial Day someone, somewhere in our small town has bombarded the air with this stuff. In the process, something designed to be magical has become annoying instead. The thrill is gone.” She stood and walked over to the window. “Never mind the fact we can’t even see the damn sparks fly, but we must listen to it, every weekend because apparently a summer Saturday night is incomplete without noise.” Sarah closed the window and continued staring into the darkness. “I dread Saturday nights now. Instead of being happy for other people’s festive happiness, my teeth grate and blood boils because yet again the silence has been needlessly disturbed. I don’t know how Maggie and Steve next door manage their tiny triplets with all this noise going on. They must have to shut every window in the house which, frankly, isn’t fair.”

Michael watched Sarah closely. The sparkle of her heightened awareness not lost on him. He slowly flipped the TV remote in his hand, over and over. He knew his young, sensitive wife was not yet finished talking.

“And does anyone even consider the trauma inflicted on the tiny animals who must endure this unnatural disruption?  Poor babies. The birds; squirrels; chipmunks; cats; dogs must all tuck themselves away from the horror of it.” Sarah took a breath. “Mrs. McGregor across the street says her cocker spaniel, Rupert, hides under the bed every time a thunderstorm rolls through, never mind the worried look he gets in his eye and the chair he hinds behind when the fireworks start cracking. It’s traumatizing for the little ones, really it is … ” she paused, “and downright bloody annoying for the rest of us who prefer a quiet evening in on the weekend.”

“Isn’t that what Sundays are for?” Michael responded, not meaning to sound flippant.

Sarah turned and sent him a withered look of warning.

Michael smiled. He knew she was simply letting off steam.

“Come on,” he coaxed, “I know how we can have our own display of fireworks … and not disturb the neighbours … maybe.” He winked.

Sarah felt a thrill and smiled back.

“Of course you do …”

~*~

1477384_696513200380722_443439577_nMy response to Kellie Elmore’s image prompt for this week Free Write Friday.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

 

 

A Poet Out Standing In His Field

Bear relaxesToday I have the distinct pleasure of interviewing one Shakespeare “The Equine,” a poet out standing in his field and, reportedly, a legend in his own mind.

The Daily Haymaker: Good day, Mr. Shakespeare.

Poet: Hay! And please, call me Mr. Bear.

The Daily Haymaker: Right then, Mr. Bear. Lovely of you to join us from Poet’s Paddock today. How are things in pastures green?

Poet: Well, Mr. Haymaker, we’re pretty laid back out there these days. The cruel winter is behind us, but we’re still waiting for the grass to be greener on our side of the fence. Everything is very late.

The Daily Haymaker: Are you the only poet in your paddock?

Poet: Yes, yes I am.

The Daily Haymaker: Would you please tell our readers at The Daily Haymaker

Poet: Great name, by the way …

The Daily Haymaker: Well, thank you …. Now if you could explain to our readers just when you came upon your poetic prowess.

Poet: Well, it all started with the Scribe, of course.

The Daily Haymaker: Scribe?

Poet: Yes. As you might imagine, having hooves puts me at quite a disadvantage when it comes to recording my musings.

The Daily Haymaker: Indeed!

Poet: So, naturally when I was looking for a sucker, I mean horse mom to call my own I scanned the radar for someone who could write reasonably intelligibly.

The Daily Haymaker: And you believe you found him? Her?

Poet: Her, actually. Yes, I did, though I let said Scribe and horse mom believe that she found me. It’s easier that way.

The Daily Haymaker: Of course. So, how long did it take for you to plant the idea in your horse mom’s head that you had creative notions you wanted to get off your mind?

Poet: Not long, actually. She’s a sensitive soul and I could tell she was looking for an outlet. You know these artistic types, and if they’ve been in any kind of creative drought well, as you might imagine, they’re an easy target.

The Daily Haymaker: So, how does the creative process work for both of you?

Poet: Actually, Mr. Haymaker, I stand out in my field and eat, and she shows up at the barn one day and tells me we’ve written a poem.

The Daily Haymaker: Really, it’s that simple?

Poet: Absolutely!

The Daily Haymaker: How many poems have you written together? Any chance of a recitation? A couple of lines, perhaps?

Poet: Well, we have self-published three short chapbooks so far, and we’re working on a collection of sonnets. As for a recitation ~ from my Sonnet XIV, second stanza:

While beauty lies within the eyes that see

And no two eyes shall ever see the same

Believe, I must, her eyes were meant for me,

While others’ eyes their own beauty proclaim.

For handsome though I be to all who care

It matters most to she who calls me Bear.

The Daily Haymaker: Yes, a sonnet ~ like your namesake William Shakespeare?

Poet: Who?

The Daily Haymaker: William Shakespeare? The Elizabethan poet? You must have heard of him.

Poet: Neigh. The only other Shakespeare of which I am aware is my father, Shakespeare in Love.

The Daily Haymaker: Really?

Poet: Yes. And, just as a side, his father was Sherlock Holmes.

The Daily Haymaker: Indeed! An illustrious background to be sure. Where were you born?

Poet: Well, Germany. I’m Hanoverian. Some call me the Happy Hanoverian because I’m so, well, happy. Still, I don’t suffer fools.

The Daily Haymaker: And your relationship with your father?

Poet: I’ve never met him, but the Scribe has shown me a photograph. A handsome stud, to be sure. But then …

The Daily Haymaker: Of course, I can tell as you yourself are quite debonair.

Poet: Well, thank you, thank you very much. My mother, as I recall, was quite beautiful also. I have her even temperament.

The Daily Haymaker: And what do you do for exercise ~ you know, to keep the creative juices flowing?

Poet: Well, I’m trained in classical dressage, actually. One of my present challenges is to get back into shape since the Scribe has been unwell and I’ve had to back off my training. Things are picking up again, however, and this pleases me.

The Daily Haymaker: Any chance you’ll show?

Poet: I can’t answer that. It’s up to the Scribe. I’d be happy to but then, she must be comfortable.

The Daily Haymaker: That’s awfully generous of you.

Poet: Naturlïch.

The Daily Haymaker: And now, Mr. Shakespeare, I mean Mr. Bear, where might one read your poetic renderings? Actually first of all, please explain your nickname.

Poet: Actually, it’s not a nickname, it’s a barn name. It’s something the horse moms do to make life easier for themselves. Some equines, like myself, have rather sophisticated names noted in the breed registry which are quite cumbersome to use on a daily basis. Creating a barn name makes sense. In fact, I don’t mind the name Bear. I’m told it was given to me because I’m like a big, cuddly teddy bear, whatever that is. I try to maintain my dignity by not thinking about it too much. Still, I get the sense it suits me.

The Daily Haymaker: I’m sure it does. Do you get called “Bear the Bard?”

Poet: No.

The Daily Haymaker: Now, where can one find your poetry?

Poet: I have my own website, Poet’s Paddock. It’s currently being redesigned, but I believe it’s still up for grazing.

The Daily Haymaker: Marvellous! Well, thank you so much for stopping by The Daily Haymaker today. It’s been a pleasure to speak with you.

Poet: Pleasure’s all mine. Say, do you have some spare hay for a starving artist?

~*~

1477384_696513200380722_443439577_nMy response to Free Write Friday with Kellie Elmore.

Here is the prompt:

per·son·i·fi·ca·tion
pərˌsänəfiˈkāSHən/
noun
1.
the attribution of a personal nature or human characteristics to something nonhuman, or the representation of an abstract quality in human form.
Select something nonhuman and write about it as though it were human. It is up to you whether or not you reveal what it is, but I have found it a lot of fun to leave it a mystery and allow others to guess at what you were writing about.

~*~

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Just A Statue

“That’s a bit dark, isn’t it?” Mona screwed her mouth into a pouty knot and grimaced. “Miss Liberty looks like she’s had a few.”

“A few what?” asked Lisa.

“You know, molto vino.”

“Don’t be ridiculous! It’s a statue!”

“Whatever … she’s seen better days.”

“No doubt.”

Mona and Lisa stood together and studied the desolate rendering.

“I wonder what it means,” Mona offered a half smile only half interested.

Lisa withdrew into herself for a moment, an emptiness filling her eyes that Mona found profoundly disturbing.

“What’s up with you?” Mona asked between smacks of gum.

Lisa didn’t answer right away, trying to grasp the image’s message. Sharing how she felt was going to be a challenge. Mona was easily distracted.

“I’m trying to imagine myself empty, broken and as betrayed as that poor Miss Liberty,” Lisa explained. “I’m trying to imagine everything I represent crumbling on uncertain ground and me landing in a heap with my head smashed in.”

Mona wasn’t buying it.

“But it’s just a broken statue. It doesn’t mean anything,” she whined.

“It’s not the statue, it’s what it represents ~ liberty and freedom for all. What if we forget that freedom demands responsibility; demands it be supported by deeds and not just paid lip service.” A tear sprung to Lisa’s eye. “Imagine how you might feel if the very people who claimed to love you undermined everything you represented by their actions or, for that matter, inaction. When we forget who we truly are, when we forget what it truly means to be free and are unwilling to defend that to our deaths we are as fallen as that statue. We need to wake up. We need to wake up soon.”

Mona thought for a moment. Took another look at the image and sighed. She couldn’t see any meaning.

“You’re weird. It’s just an ugly piece of art.”

Lisa turned to face the friend she realized she hardly knew.

“Perhaps, but we’re both free … for now.”

~*~

1477384_696513200380722_443439577_nMy response to Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday challenge this week. Follow this link to find the image prompt.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

The Writer’s Nightmare

Weekly Writing Challenge: Poetry

 The Writer’s Nightmare

No inspiration,
There is none,
I sit here, void, and
Twiddle thumbs.
It’s writer’s block that
Bogs me down.
The channel closed;
My smile a frown.
I patiently await a sign,
A notion that
Might just be mine,
That from the Ether
Will descend
And soon to Earth
Through me be penned.
But somehow it
Has missed
Its mark,
The channel
Unaligned; no
Spark.
A shift in
Wave length
Must be wrought
Before the
Words flow
Into thought.
So ’til that time I
Wait and
Wait and wait and
Wait and wait and wait,
Til once again Muse
Can be free
With words and thus
Inspire me.

~*~

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Go Away!

 

 

to-love

 

~*~

“What the hell does that even mean?” Cynthia glares at me with raccoon eyes and wails. “What do you know of my pain? My suffering? You who have everything. You think my life can be fixed with empty platitudes? Go away!”

She slumps her fashionable thirty-something frame into the sofa and sobs like thunder.

Sobs I remember.

I know her pain. She only assumes that because I am older and seem to have my life together that I have never walked through the valley of shadows. But, she doesn’t know me. She only sees the illusion of me.

I recognize Cynthia as the woman I was 20 years ago ~ broken, confused, stuck, desperate, angry, frustrated, bitter ~ all hidden behind a finely applied mask of pretty lies that fit so tightly it almost suffocated the life right out of me.

With the ignorance of those who know only their own pain she doesn’t realize that the rutted and pot holed path I’ve walked is not so far from her own. A path bordered with noxious weeds and pretty plants that poison, overshadowing the cheerful flowers clinging to the healing rays of the sun.

She doesn’t realize that I know what it’s like to be in the choking embrace of another’s misery; to watch the petals fall from a once blossoming life; to have my fondest dreams lopped at the first branch or, most often, not even have a chance to take root.

She doesn’t know because she never looks beyond her own suffering.

Yes, I know her pain, and as I watch her sobbing there I feel it all over again ~ the heart-burning, gut-wrenching, headache-inducing dismay of disappointment and sadness rolled into one ugly ball of torpid feeling. A numbness that acts out like this. Cold. Hard. Stinging. Selfish.

As I witness her anguish, however, my awareness reminds me of triumph over adversity. It reminds me of how I am able, now, to look life in the eye and tell it “I love you” just because it is … and just because I am.

Cynthia cannot see this yet, and perhaps she never will. Perhaps she will wallow in her divorce, or lament her poor choices or berate her appearance and spout profanities to her dimming light until the end of her days. I cannot know for sure.

Still, what I do know is this ~ not I or anyone else can hold her hand and lead her down a path to healing until she is ready; until she opens her eyes and chooses to move beyond her pain.

I don’t know what that will take for her. Everyone’s wake-up call is different.

In the meantime, all I can do is listen and love her, my daughter, and pray she will be alright. That one day she will learn to love her life for the precious gift it is.

And that is all.

And as she bids, I go away.

~*~

My response to the Free Write Friday challenge from Kellie Elmore.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

As Good As Dead

 

This week’s Free Write Friday prompt from Kellie Elmore …

You find yourself in the lower level of an old ship. A calendar on the wall says 1682. There is a small window, and the view is nothing but open sea and a setting sun. There is a staircase and you can see daylight at the top…

 

Seems to me I’ve been lodged down here a long time.

I don’t care to look through windows. The sea means nothing to me.

And the setting sun? I’ve endured two summers below deck. I labour where it is always dark. When have I seen the sun set? What is a setting sun?

The light at the top of the stairs blinds, so I don’t look up. I am not permitted up the stairs anyway, so why bother torturing myself?

And the calendar? My lot don’t read.

I am used to the dark places now; used to dwelling in the shadows. Used to the filth. Used to scavenging. So, I don’t want to be seen. I don’t want the people upstairs to find me. I just want to be left alone among my kind. And, frankly, those others don’t bother me as long as I stay out of sight.

On the off chance the other lot see me by mistake I will make a desperate attempt at escape. If cornered I will fight back but am, as likely, as good as dead.

For some reason the people upstairs just don’t like rats.

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

Resurrection

 Lambs in Spring

Little white balls of beautiful fluff,

Bouncing and prancing and that kind of stuff.

Baaing and whimpering here and there

Sometimes they’ll do nothing but stop and stare.

Crying for mother on a lovely spring day,

Mother comes running; decides to stay.

Bounding and twisting round and round,

Looking for something no other lamb’s found.

~*~

This is the first poem I remember writing.

I was 10 years old at the time and my form teacher at school had issued a challenge during an English lesson to write a poem for spring. It would have been this time of year, in fact.

I wrote it. Handed it in.

A few days later the teacher was distributing the marks and asking some of us to read our poems to the class.

On my paper he’d written “Very Good!” but in front of the class he asked me, “Are you sure you didn’t copy this from somewhere?”

I was a tender and insecure child being raised in a broken home and in the shadow of my mother’s operatic glory. To have the light shone on me at all was difficult enough but to be accused, perhaps even in jest, that the work I’d handed in was not my own totally mortified me. I defended myself, of course, and he seemed to accept it, but I have never forgotten how ill it made me feel to have someone question my integrity as a writer.

I know this poem by memory. To me it is one of my greatest early writing achievements. If I ever publish a proper book of my best poems this will have pride of place on the first page.

All other writing has sprung from this creative moment. It was the first time I saw myself as a writer and, ironically, the first time (and hopefully the last time) I was accused of plagiarism.

There was a huge gap of time before I was able to see myself as a writer in adulthood. Though I kept journals and occasionally wrote poetry I had disassociated when I was growing up so pursuing dreams and cultivating my talents was beyond my comprehension or ability.

It wasn’t until a kindly woman, my boss at the time, gave me a good, swift kick in the proverbial derriere (I was in my late 20s) that I began to awaken from my deep creative malaise and see myself as a writer, perhaps for the first time. I was working as her administrative assistant in the corporate relations department of a real estate association, and she saw something in me she thought needed cultivating. However, she had to threaten to fire me before I was able to wake up enough to see it myself.

This incredible woman waded through the muck of my unconsciousness to find something long hidden and almost lost, and gave me the opportunity to reclaim it. She taught me how to build an employee newsletter ~ research, write, edit, produce. It started at four pages and, as I got the hang of it, quickly grew to eight pages. Circulation about 150. I learned quickly and loved doing it. In time I was promoted to Editor of the association newsletter ~ a weekly publication circulated to more than 25,000 realtors in the Greater Toronto Area.

I suppose I share this to demonstrate the difference people can make in our lives, and to demonstrate that if we can only get out of our own way we might resurrect an important piece of our life puzzle.

Had my school teacher been more supportive and understood me and my life situation better he might not have been so free with his accusation and I might have had more confidence to pursue this obvious talent. There was no one at home to do this, so left to my own devices, confused and with nowhere to turn, my only alternative was to let it go. Even as a child it hurt too much to have my integrity questioned.

But, as I’ve learned, it takes just one person to see potential and show you what’s possible for you to start believing in yourself. And, as I am learning again in these middle years while pursuing a long-lost equestrian dream with a new coach, this can happen at any time in your life.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

Written in response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: Writerly Reflections

 

 

 

 

The Fabric of Music

Daily Prompt: Papa Loves Mambo

Music has always been a part of our family fabric.

From the ancestors who played in the brass bands of northern Michigan in the 1800s to my grandfather who played a multitude of instruments in his living room, to my grandmother who warbled like a bird while painting portraits of her beloved mountains, there was never any lack of music in my family.

It was only logical then, that at some point a generation would cultivate the gift of music and do something with it.

One side of the family inhabited the rock genre for many decades, touring the west coast of Canada and the U.S.

On our side of the family my mother Lois McDonallin the early 1970s, burst onto the international operatic stage as a dramatic soprano specializing in the Bel Canto repertoire.

It was her career and a vital part of our formative lives. Divorced and raising two kids on her own in a land far from everything she knew, mom was the sole breadwinner and worked long hours to provide for my brother and I. We enjoyed a comfortable, but not extravagant life.

Lois McDonall, my mother, as Violetta in Guiseppe Verdi's "La Traviata." English National Opera production.
Lois McDonall, my mother, as Violetta in Guiseppe Verdi’s “La Traviata.” English National Opera production.

Given her humble beginnings in the middle-of-nowhere, Alberta, and the difficult upbringing she had as an only child in a deeply troubled home, her success in her chosen field of music  was nothing less than miraculous. (Some day, when I feel so inclined, I may write about it.)

As you might imagine, then, our home was filled to the brim with classical music.

All through my formative years my mother’s career base was the English National Opera in London’s West End. My brother and I went to the opera a lot, so our memories of music revolve heavily around this experience.

To bring balance, I guess, my personal tastes leaned toward the country rock of the Eagles and other contemporary bands of the 1970s and 80s.

Both my brother and I learned to play the piano. He eventually moved on to the clarinet.

My musical training finely tuned my ear and to this day if an artist in any genre is the least bit sharp or flat, I cringe ~ turn down the sound, change the channel, turn the dial, walk out of the bar. My ears are spoiled for true sound. I suppose that’s why I’m not a big fan of auto-tuning.

Does this make me a music snob?

Perhaps. But I know what I like and I don’t like my ears assaulted. I’d rather listen to no music than be offended by something I don’t like.

Of course, I sing. Both my brother and I do.

Our small family enjoyed sing songs around the piano of a Sunday evening. Mom took the soprano part, I sang alto and my brother switched between tenor and bass. He’s always been clever that way.

In my late 20s I had the privilege of joining the 180-voice Toronto Mendelssohn Choir as a soprano and relished 12 seasons of pure music joy.

I’d always loved choral music and it was on my bucket list from a young age to sing in a large choir. This particular choir is one of the world’s great symphonic choral organizations, and one of the oldest. It’s noted for its pureness of tone and versatility. Singing with this amazing institution is one of the great music highlights of my life. Handel’s Messiah, Mozart Requiem, Brahm’s Requiem and so, so many more amazing choral standards and contemporary works resonate so deeply it’s like soul food to me.

Following my tenure with the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir I spent almost 10 years in a vocal trio ~ ChoirGirlz ~ so called because we met in the choir and decided we wanted to try our vocal chops on something new. Bluegrass and country was our first experiment, which went so well we expanded our repertoire to include a little bit of R&B, vocal jazz, as well as a lot of original material written specifically for our finely tuned voices.

ChoirGirlz' third, and final, CD ... "Livin' It."
ChoirGirlz’ third, and final, CD … “Livin’ It.”

We performed in bars, at fundraising concerts, at festivals, and recorded three CDs. We had a blast.

In 2010, we disbanded. We’d all had enough and it was time to move on.

I haven’t performed in public since, except for a hair-brained attempt at rock music in a temporary band a couple of years ago. Not my vocal genre at all, but fun. Through it I met a great voice coach with a jazz background and thought I might nurture myself into jazz. I enjoyed workshopping that for a while and have a great voice for it, but sadly adrenal fatigue put a wrench in the works. I just don’t have the extra vitality it takes (at this point, anyway) to sustain a performance to the standard I like and an audience deserves.

On one level this makes me sad. Still, if I was focusing on singing I wouldn’t be writing and that, to me, is where the thrust of my creative energy lies at this point in my life.

I have many fond memories of singing and the good fortune to have had it all start in a home filled with love and glorious music.

Once music is woven into our hearts it’s part of the fabric of our lives forever.

And what could be better than that?

Thanks for visiting,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

More Music

Sabbatical Songs: growing up in Oxford | ALIEN AURA’S BlOG: IT’LL BLOW YOUR MIND!
One Crazy Mom » Growing Up With Music
Papa Loves Dylan | The Magic Black Book
To Run in a Dream | The Nameless One
Hats, spurs and belts | Kate Murray
The One That Could Have Been [Ndifreke’s Story] | She Writes
Songs Of Yesterday | Awake & Dreaming
Wednesday’s Run | Oldman
A Dream: An Open Letter to Air Supply | Kosher Adobo
Punk | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
Will The Real Slim Shady Please Stand Up?! | Life Confusions
281. Hee Haw and Soap Bubbles | Barely Right of Center
Daily Prompt: Papa Loves Mambo | Basically Beyond Basic
Do The Diversity Dance. | Asta’s Space
The Greatest Generation Had The Best Music | Just Visiting This Planet
Daily Prompt: Papa Loves Mambo | A Mixed Bag
Minutely Infinite | Rewinding the mixtape
Let’s Not Go to the Beach | Green Embers
My Score ::E.N.Howie’s Motivational Moments
DP: TRIOS | DANDELION’S DEN
The Origin of My Musical Taste | wisskko’s blog

The Love Nest

Free Write Friday with Kellie Elmore.

This house has a story. Tell it.

~*~

fwf2
Image credit: We Heart It

I wondered if it would be a mistake to come back; to revisit a memory that is long since buried yet yearns to be resurrected.

Yet, here I am.

I am not surprised the “Love Nest,” as my gramps used to call it, is in such a state of disrepair, although it wouldn’t be had it stayed in my family. When gramps died about 10 years ago uncle Morris inherited it. He was the oldest son (not the oldest child) and whether he deserved it or not, he got the beautiful white clapboard house where he and my mother and five other siblings had been born and raised, and where I and my brother spent all our youthful summers.

It was such a romantic place then.

Nestled in a collection of elegant trees that shimmied and shimmered in the summer breeze, keeping us, my brother and I, cool while we played at hide and seek and other childish games. Grampa would call us in for dinner from his rocking chair on the upstairs porch. He was the great overseer.

We always felt loved here.

Wow, the memories are thick as cob webs now.

The porch at the front there, its door opens into a small hallway that leads upstairs to three tiny bedrooms. The only bathroom in the house is downstairs by the kitchen. Oh, the arguments we had about who would use it first in the morning. Sometimes I won, but not always. You had to be up bright and early to beat gramps to the punch.

To the right of the door way is the parlour. It used to have an upright piano by the window which gramma played on a daily basis, usually in the evenings before we would retire to bed. For as along as I can remember we’d all (gramps, Joe and I) gather around her as she tinkled those old ivories with a conservatory flourish, and sing the old gospel hymns.

Gramma had a twinkling soprano voice so I always sang the harmony ~ usually the alto line, but sometimes I’d lapse into tenor, just to test my sight reading. And when I did that Joe would instantly switch to my part. He was always up for a challenge. Yes, we all had our own hymnals. I wonder where they are now?

Gramps had a resounding bass-baritone and when he got going the rest of us would just stop and give him the floor. And then we’d all collapse in giggles when he finish and realize he’d been singing all by himself while gramma played.

Thank goodness he had a sense of humour.

Gramma was a wizard cook. She loved that kitchen and because gramps loved to eat he made sure gramma had the best of everything she needed to whip up a culinary delight.

I swear the house oozed with the scent of fresh bread, even when it wasn’t baking. Sometimes she’d make cinnamon rolls, which were my favourite, and on Sunday’s she’d always bake a pie of some description to go with dinner. She’d go with whatever fruit was in season, and in the winter would use her own canned peaches, or whatever else was in store, to create a sweet delicacy.

My mouth waters just thinking of it.

Often, in fact most Sundays, she’d invite lonely old Mr. Humphrey from down the road to join us. He lost his wife during the birth of their only child, Marty (if I remember correctly), and never remarried. Raised that boy on his own. He left home after school and moved thousands of miles away to chase history in the Middle East.

Gramma hated to see anyone as nice as Mr. Humphrey spend Sunday alone. So, unless he had somewhere else to be, he’d always come by after church and in the evenings after dinner share his frontier stories (he was a historian in his own right.) Once he gave me a signed copy of a book about the early pioneers and the Gold Rush that he’d had published. He fancied himself the Kenneth Roberts of the West. He was a talented writer, to be sure.

Of course, not all the memories of this house are good.

Family reunions were held every summer up until the year gramps died, and while they were fun for the most part, I hated bumping into uncle Morris. He was a creep. Upon gramps death, 10 years ago, Morris inherited the house and its 25 acre property. Let’s see, ol’ miser Morris would have been in his mid-fifties, I guess. He’d had no children. Never been married, in fact, so had no incentive to keep the place going. He was the black sheep of the family with the energy of a sloth and consequently let the place run down. He lived like a hermit.

I never liked him. He was mean to my mother, his sister, and gave me the willies. I never wanted to be left alone with him when I was young, and discovered all kinds of excuses to lock myself in my bedroom to write in my journal when he came to visit. He was the one person who stood between me and care-free summers with gramps and gramma.

So, I haven’t been back here since gramps died and I’m not surprised to stand here and see the once beautiful house in such decrepit condition.

It’s for sale. Uncle Morris died last month without a will and the property must be sold to cover his heavy debt load, though what he spent his (gramps’) money on I can’t begin to guess.

My husband and I have talked about buying the property to keep it in the family. This old house is too far gone now to be saved, so we’d have to raze it and build another. That wouldn’t be so bad.

Building on memories. Building our own love nest.

We’ll see.

~*~

Thank you to Kellie for another great challenge.

1477384_696513200380722_443439577_nThanks for visiting,

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

A New Life

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Clearing land, you know, it never ends. My land, and then Henry’s down the road.

Hard work. Real hard.

We came here with our families, see. From the ol’ country. Across the pond in one of them big vessels packed with other hopefuls looking for a new life.

We left everything behind that wouldn’t pack in a steamer trunk or two.

Ol’ Sal, my honey love, not so thrilled to leave behind gran’s antiques passed down the generations. Cupboards, and such. But passage for eight children is dear and sacrifices must be made.

We came here because the Canadian government was giving away land to newcomers to clear and make productive. One-hundred acre parcels in northern Alberta. Things is rough in the ol’ country and we want to give our wee ones a fresh start. So, we took the bait and, after months of planning and saying goodbye to the life we knew, find ourselves ‘ere ~ in this right pickle.

Imagine. Homesteading at my age. In my late 40s with a war wound or two. My hands ‘ave known hard labour, but nothing like this. I was a soldier. The Great War. It was hell, but a different kind. And I was younger then.

Clearing boulders and bush and dead trees by hand in all weathers, with the ‘elp of my wee ones and a couple of old plough horses is gruelling work. Friendly neighbours lend a hand when they ‘ave the extra time, which is rarely. They are farmers, after all. Like me from the old world trying to eek out a living in a new one.

It’s the 1920s. Times are tough all over.

We’ve been at this now for several months. Ol’ Sal cries into ‘er pillow ever’ night wondering why we came ‘ere. Can’t say as I blame ‘er. I wonder sometimes myself. And now we’re heading into winter which, I’m told, is hell frozen over.

So, we knock down all the dead pines and ash and maple, and a few healthy ones too, and break it up to store as fuel. Till the soil, saving some of the smaller rocks to heat in the stove for when we go out in the sleigh. I’m told it gets to 40 below around ‘ere. Neighbours who’ve already been through an Alberta winter are kind enough to ‘elp us prepare.

Ol’ Sal is putting in canned goods; buried in an ‘ole in the ground ’til we get the cellar done. It’s ‘ard times, but we do our best to smile through it. The wee ones, ranging in age from 18 to six, are getting tough with it.

We remember fondly the dear ones we lost and left behind. Five cherubs, all buried in Motherwell. Sad times.

Still, it’s not all bad. Weekly chicken suppers and dancing on a Friday night down at the school house lifts our spirits. Jim O’Malley plays the fiddle, right enough, and Will Grogan tickles those upright ivories with his giant farm labouring hands like it’s nothing. When we’re not dancing a jig we’re singing the ol’ songs around the piano. Kids run around making mischief, as they should. Hard labour is soul destroying when not balanced with a little high jinx.

My music talent lies with the bagpipes, but not at the suppers. Church on Sunday and funerals, mostly. Amazing Grace the most popular choice. I’m ‘appy to do it. Reminds me of my homeland. Brings a tear to these jaded eyes.

But, I must get on. The winter waits for no one and I and ol’ George Ivey from the farm across the way ‘ave wood to pile by the makeshift barn. We’ll fix that up next spring.

Tough times, sure enough, but at least there’s hope in a new life.

~*~

My response to Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday image prompt.

Thanks for visiting.

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti, Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014