Bedtime Story

“Would you read something to me before we turn out the light,” asks my sleepy niece, Amy, as I tuck her into bed. “Please.”

With her parents off on a well-deserved long weekend, Amy’s pulling an all-nighter at our house, something which doesn’t happen often, but which she loves because it means she can help out with the horses in the morning. She seems to love this more than anything in the world. Possibly even more than her devotion to all things chocolate.

Having no children of my own, I love to spend these impossibly rare moments with her. The somnolent tête à tête before lights out, when the dying embers of the day’s thoughts finally extinguish and we are left to our individual restorative peace. For some reason Amy, even though she is 12, still likes to be read to before I leave her to slumber. Perhaps it’s the special occasion of it. Our special occasion. It is a moment I am all too willing to share.

“Of course, sweetie.” I whisper with a slight yawn while setting myself down on the edge of the bed beside her. “What would you like?”

“A Shakespeare sonnet,” she yawns, drowsily in response.

“Really …” I tease and smile. She is a young woman who already demonstrates exquisite literary taste, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the William Shakespeare of old she has in mind. “And, pray, which Shakespeare is it to whom you refer?” I ask, while reaching for a small self-published chapbook that lives on the bedside table for the pleasure of anyone who might be interested in a moment’s distraction.

“You know which one, Aunt Ella,” she mumbles with sleepy agitation.

“Old Bill?” I ask.

“Old Bear,” she insists, her bleary eyes brightening slightly with anticipation. “Read me the one about love.”

“That one again?”

“It’s my favourite. He’s such a romantic.”

He’s such a romantic. She’s such a romantic. The he to whom she refers is my horse Shakespeare who fancies himself a poet. No, perhaps I am the romantic. I can’t help myself. When you’re a writer and a horse named Shakespeare trots into your life you have to do something with it.

“Do you remember what number it is in our little book here?” I ask while thumbing through the pages.

“I think it’s XIX,” she mumbles, being literal with her Roman numerals.

I continue to flip. “Ah, here it is. It’s actually XXI. Do you remember what that is in real numbers?” I ask, since the only numbers she considers real are the ones we use day to day.

“Twenty-one?” she murmurs, a little unsure.

“Geez, you’re a smart cookie.”

“I try.” Amy hunkers down under the covers as I flatten out the pages and hold the chapbook up where I can see it in the dimness of the bedside light. My fading eyes fight for the clarity of form and function. Removing my glasses helps.

“Okay then … here goes …” I clear my throat and begin in my best poetry reading voice ~ slow, methodical, lyrical.

~*~

Sonnet XXI

As in the dark of night a thief doth steal,
New love my heart hath seizéd in a trice.
And should I share with you just how I feel:
It’s thumpity-thumpy-thump is rather nice.
A feisty filly brightens this ol’ bay,
And so profoundly fills my Soul with bliss
I scarce believe, this cold Feb’rary day,
A shift from old to new hath brought me this.

I did not look for love; no, it found me.
And in my heart-home set most perfect peace.
Where once twas blind I now more clearly see,
For ‘pon this life love’s joy hath wrought new lease.
And to my heart hath whispered pure and true
With lovely presence of someone like you.

~*~

 We both wait for a moment before breathing a word.

“He is such a clever horse,” Amy says, dreamily.

“Yes, he is rather.” I smile. Amy knows that I am the pen behind these words. Still, Shakespeare, or Bear as we like to call him, is the Muse.

“Read it to me again, please?” My sleepy niece asks as she moves onto her side to face me. The draw bridges of her eyes close in as she buries her head deeper into the duck down pillow.

“Of course, darling.” I pull the covers up around her shoulders as Indy the black cat curls up in a ball behind her bent knees.

I repeat the sonnet ~ even slower this time, wrapping my tongue around every word so as to heighten its feeling until I am, again, without words.

“Again.” Amy demands, sleepily. She’ll be gone soon.

I repeat the sonnet, now at a snail’s pace as if it becomes a meditation, slowing the day to emptiness. (Gosh, now I’m sleepy.) And soon she is gone, into a netherworld I shall never know. Soundly breathing; her long, dark hair tucked in a pony tail; the collar of her flannel pony pyjamas poking out from the top of the covers.

With great care I ease myself off the bed and bend to kiss her soft cheek. I place the chapbook back upon the bedside table where I found it and turn out the light. But for the glow of the Full Pink Moon through the dormer window and a dim light in the hall way the room is in complete shadow.

“Goodnight, my sweet,” I whisper, as I creep toward the door.

“G’nmibh …” She mutters in her sleep.

Daily Prompt: Bedtime

 

Buying Time

 

fwfprompt

~*~

“Matyas, what are you doing?”

“Playing Liszt on a sad, old piano,” replied Matyas as he fumbled over the bass clef of an abandoned, battle-bruised upright.

“But, we are in the midst of battle.”

“I play anyway.” He culled from memory the patterns of finger play for the opening bars of the Hungarian Rhapsody. His lately unpracticed, nerve-frayed hands poking at the ivories with determination.

“You will alert the enemy.”

“Yes, to my humanity. I am not a killing machine. I am a man with a heart trained to do the unthinkable.” Matyas pursued the lilting, heart-felt movements with the passion of a man buying time, the tinny sounds of the broken piano resounding plaintively throughout the barren wood. A tear pooled in the corner of his eye. He wiped it away with the back of a dirty sleeve. “I must remind myself I am human. I must show the enemy I am more than a man in uniform.”

“But they will kill you.”

“Then let my last breath be the last note I play. Let me die in the rapture of the music I love.”

“You are a romantic fool, Matyas.”

“I know. Let that be written on my stone.”

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

Free Write Friday

 

 

 

The Hard Question

goodbye.jpg

~*~

“Which, of all the goodbyes in your life has been the hardest so far?” Manda, my inquisitive 12-year-old niece, has asked the impossible.

Good grief. How do you tell a child, albeit an old soul, about the painful goodbye to lost youth?

How do you get the young to understand that all that lies between youth and old age is time? Time well spent, or time squandered or lost, it’s the same. One way or another getting from point A to point B involves the loss of youth along the ever-flowing river of time ~ until it opens into the vast ocean of death that awaits us all.

For saying goodbye to my youth has been the hardest goodbye … so far. The transit to middle age a shock like none other as I realize that what time lies ahead is undoubtedly less than the length of life I’ve already lived.

Jeepers!

Sure, I’ve said my farewells to the living and the dead; to a bad marriage (good riddance), to a self-absorbed parent and to those who’ve used and abused my trust and good faith. Many more glad goodbyes, than sad ones, to be honest. Nevertheless, all painful in the moment.

Still, the transition that has proved most troublesome; the goodbye that’s taken the longest and still haunts, is that bade to lost youth.

Where did it go?

I look in the mirror. When did the crevices deepen; the hair lighten; the skin get loose and lumpy?

As my outer aspect fades and the bones and sinews and flesh succumb to the ravages of gravity and wear and tear it is, at times, poor compensation to witness the joyous expansion of my inner landscape as it learns to embrace the new reality. As it endeavours to pull together the threads of my life into a woven tapestry that celebrates the path and not just the now ebbed youthful vitality of the mortal coil that walked it.

Why can’t I have both? And not through cosmetic surgery which proves a desperation to which I cannot cleave. No! Why can’t we have youthful beauty and mature wisdom at the same time, and by-pass the carping, and griping, and complaining about creaky joints,  hair loss and exhaustion that plagues those of us who make it to the golden years? The years when society least appreciates our contributions and the wisdom we have gained through hard work and experience.

Youth forgets they will, one day, be one of us. Rejecting our wisdom, they must stumble into middle age and beyond like the rest of us who thought that day would never come. Eyes wide shut and feet wandering in an overwhelming wilderness of aging unknowns.

Youth forgets you cannot run from the past. That it is recorded in the deepest space of our inner knowing. And not just our past … that of those who have gone before. The corrupted lives that were not healed and passed their pain on down the generations. Youth forgets. Until they, too, are old.

The advantage of saying goodbye to lost youth is, of course, that we are not so easily manipulated. We do not bend, as before, to the will of those who abuse, so they no longer look to bend us. At best, they ignore us. At worst, they will try to break us.

As well, since as we grow older we tend to recognize more readily, and reject, the narcissists amongst us, we can gather to our bosom the will to heal the wounds they so selfishly inflicted.

“Goodbye, lost youth, goodbye,” she said with a sigh.

And though it has been the hardest goodbye, I would not go back there. I would not want to face the fears and trepidations of early life again; feel I am never good enough and must yield to a commercial standard of perfection which none can meet without the selling of their soul. The pain of being corrupted by lies is, perhaps, one of the greatest of all.

Saying goodbye to my youth has been the hardest, yet I cannot linger in that space now dead. I embrace the new path. Not all make it this far … and who knows how much farther this path will take me.

Manda would not understand these things. She, who still has her whole life ahead of her does not need to hear about this hard goodbye.

“Manda, sweetie,” I ply her with a homemade chocolate chip cookie and wrap my arm lovingly around her shoulder. “Ask me another question. That one’s too hard for me today.”

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

 

In the Pink

It’s 4 o’clock of an early spring afternoon and the mood in the kitchen is blue. As Manda and I both stare out the window to the paddock and survey the damage wrought by a spring ice storm we are rendered numb; speechless.

Mother Nature was reckless with her pruning shears. By the light of a full moon her inner were wolf violently slashed and crashed through our area’s tender woodlands and random old trees, leaving in its wake tree carnage as I’ve never before witnessed.

“Why did this have to happen?” Manda sniffs while interlocking her arm through mine. “That old maple was so beautiful and healthy, and now it’s gone.”

I sigh. I don’t really know what to tell her. I could give her the whole El Nino reasoning, but scientific explanations seldom soothe the broken heart. Cold reason does not conjure warm feeling.

“Sweetie, come away from the window and let’s have our tea by the fire.” I take Manda’s soft hand in mine and guide her to the living room where a pot of camomile tea is cosily brewing on an old cedar chest, a family heirloom, that acts as a coffee table. Two cups and saucers and a plate of homemade oatmeal cookies rest beside it. Tea in tea cups always tastes better, for some reason, and I’m trying to instil in her these little niceties for which her parents have no time. They’re lovely people, but always so busy.

Manda slouches into the sofa and Abbey the collie, all fun and fur, jumps up and flops over the unhappy girl’s legs. She rolls onto her back as if she’s not too big to be a lap dog (which she most certainly is) and demands a tummy rub. Manda buries her hand in the dog’s hair and begins the slow back and forth of rubbing the one who has made herself most vulnerable. Abbey groans with approval.

“If you were a colour right now, what would you be?” I ask while pouring tea and observing the gentle scene unfolding before me.

“What kind of a question is that?” Manda snarls.

Hmmm … I don’t need to ask. I know. Black. She’s in one of those rare black moods that distorts thought and reason. A mood that’s particularly challenging when you’re teetering on the teenage years and trying to understand your place in the world. A destructive event like an ice storm is enough to send me over the edge, and I have some life experience. For Manda, my sweet, sensitive tree hugger, there is no sense to what she’s witnessed. Her tender soul is black and blue with grief for the beloved maple snapped in half by a vicious storm. I understand that for now, at least, there can be no consolation.

“Nevermind, love. Here’s your tea. Have a cookie.”

Manda pushes the sated dog to the other end of the sofa and takes the tea cup and saucer roughly from my hand.

“Careful, sweetie!” I protest.

She slides back into her spot and takes the cookie from the saucer. Dunks it in her tea until it’s good and soaked and then takes a bite. Her tea is now, of course, full of crumbs, but she doesn’t seem to care. She sighs, and sips, and sighs some more. I understand this mood.

“Do you want to talk about it?”

“What?”

“Whatever’s bothering you.” I don’t want to put words in her mouth. Perhaps there’s something behind the broken tree that’s really at issue here. I want her to feel safe to say so, if there is.

There’s no immediate response. Another sip. A purple sulk, and then a free fall of tears cascading down cheeks reddened by the warmth of the fire. I know she won’t share. She just wants me to hold space. She just wants me to be here to witness her sorrow ~ a sorrow she doesn’t understand; a sorrow for which there are no words; a sorrow for which there is no solace.

I move over to the sofa and wedge my way in between her and Abbey. Take the teacup from Manda’s hand and place it on the chest. And then I hold her while she weeps ~ weeps for the broken willows and birches and maples and pines. Weeps for the little animals and birds who have lost their little homes. Weeps for wanton destruction for which she has no reference in her happy little world.

After several minutes sobs turn into sniffs. I give her a clean tissue from my pocket so she can blow her nose.

“I tell you what,” I try to sound hopeful while hugging her tighter and whisper in her ear, “why don’t we call that fellow who does all the carving of old tree stumps in town and have him create something beautiful out of the maple stump? We can honour its place in our hearts and the joy it gave us with something meaningful.”

Manda leans back and looks at me, desperate for a happy outcome. “We can do that?” she pleads, wide-eyed with wonder.

“Of course!” I confirm. “Don’t you think it would make a wonderful rearing horse? You know, that symbolizes our ability to rise to the challenges that come our way?”

“Oh yes!” Manda sits up straight, her mood brightening as she begins to see a silver lining. “And can we plant a few trees, too? Another maple?”

“Absolutely, sweetie. There’s nothing I’d like more.” I hand her another cookie. “So, may I ask … what colour are you now?”

She smiles. “In the pink!”

That’s my girl.

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

Daily Prompt: Colourful

 

 

 

Alfie

remember-from-we-heart-it
Credit: We Heart It

#FWF Memory Prompt:

Write about your earliest memory. Good, bad, happy or sad. Before you begin, take time to dwell in that memory. Absorb everything you can about it. What you see, what you smell, what you hear and mostly, how you feel. Let it resonate. Marinate your mind in that one moment. Then begin.

~*~

“You want to know about my earliest memory,” I confirm with my 12-year-old niece, Manda, before travelling down that perilous road.

Manda, covered in a warm throw, slouches in the leather recliner across from me, my 20lb black cat, Indy, sprawled without apology across her lap. “Sure, if you want to share. I mean, it’s another school assignment ~ you know, interview an adult about their earliest memory and write about it.” She pauses, trying to act nonchalant, like it doesn’t really matter, but I know it does. Somehow she has the idea that I have the best stories. I don’t know why she doesn’t ask her parents these questions. “You know,” she continues, “like, do you remember what it was like before the telephone, that sort of thing.”

I throw her a sharp look. “I’m not that old,” I bark, playfully.

“I know,” Manda teases while scratching Indy under the chin, “I’m just trying to get you going. So, what is your earliest memory.”

“Give me a moment to think about it.”

“Okay.”

While Manda continues to cuddle the cat I’m abandoned to the past. I’ve been on the planet a half century and complex-PTSD has buried my memories beneath layers of trauma I’ve been working to heal. I don’t want to share something that might hurt her tender heart, notwithstanding it may be my earliest memory.

“Excuse me, sweetie, I’ll be right back.”

“No problem,” Manda responds absently.

I get up from my rocker and head to the kitchen to stare out the window at the horses quietly grazing in the paddock beside the house. It’s early spring and the grass is greening up. Soon, my equine friends will need to be on limited turnout to prevent them from getting sick with the high sugar content. Horses love sugar, and the grass is rich here in the spring. Old Molly horse is cranky, lifting a leg as if to strike the rambunctious yearling who keeps pushing her boundaries. Boundaries, yes, boundaries. My earliest memories reflect crossed boundaries. Not going there with Manda.

Ol’ Moll buries her nose in the round bale. Junior has moved on to pester someone else. In the massive maple the robins flit and flee. Birds. Charlie. Charlie the canary. My first pet. A bird cage. Newspaper lining the bottom. Bird seed all over the place. I’d rather muck stalls than change tray paper. Still, it’s not the memory I want to share with Manda.

Max, the ginger and white barn cat, perches patiently on the fence post, his eyes half closed as he basks in the early season sun. He’s my fourth orange and white cat. They just seem to gravitate to me, for some reason. Such characters, those red-headed boys. My first one, Alfie, could catch a pigeon before it touched ground and …

“Aunt Sal, where are you?”

“I’m in the … “

“I know you’re in the kitchen,” Manda notes with a hint of impatience, “I mean, where are you? Can I be there, too?”

I turn to face my lovely niece who’s standing in the doorway looking a little worried. She’s still unspoiled by the world and growing more mindful by the day, and I like to think I’ve had something to do with that. I’m the de facto baby sitter while her parents earn their bread and butter. They’re good people, too, but children can always benefit from the loving attention of an objective third-party. I love to pick her up after school and bring her here ~ her home away from home.

“Aunt Sal?”

“Yes, okay … sorry …” I reach for the biscuit tin filled with chocolate digestives and offer her one. Manda helps herself.

“So?”

“So, what?”

“Where were you?”

“With Alfie.”

“Who’s Alfie?” Manda gives me that quizzical look with which she’s always so generous when something doesn’t make sense. Her eyes half closed, head tilted, lips slightly pinched.

“Alfie was my first red-head,” I say pointing at Max.

“You mean you had another cat like Max?” She asks between nibbles of biscuit. “You’ve had more than one red-head?”

“Yes, in fact Max is number four.”

“Four!!!” Manda exclaims, amazed.

“Yes … Alfie, Gus, Oskar and Max,” I affirm. “But let’s focus on Alfie.”

“Why was he named Alfie?”

“Actually,” I grin as memory recalls, “his full name was Alfredo Raffaello di Verdi ~ Alfie for short. Your grandma named him after operatic characters. And a character he was. He used to follow me and the dog when we went for walks around the neighbourhood. He invaded the vicar’s summer garden party once and helped himself to the salmon. He slept on the kitchen table beside my pile of books when I was doing my homework. He … “

“How old were you when you had Alfie?” Manda asks, confused.

“Hmmm … we got him when I was seven years old and he died when I was … 21?” I have to think about it.

“You were seven?” Manda asks, disbelieving. “And this is your earliest memory?”

“It’s the earliest memory I’m going to share with you,” I wink while offering her another biscuit.

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

Tea Time

Daily Prompt: Leap

~*~

“Leap’s a funny word, isn’t it, Aunt Sal?”

“Why do you say that?” I ask while brushing the mud off my boots before entering the house. We’ve been out at the barn feeding the horses. Such a mucky day as the seasons transition.

“Well,” Manda pulls off her boots and shoves them in the corner by the door. “It’s such a small word that can mean so many things. And it sounds funny. Leap!” She says it over and over as if to make her point.

I give her shoulder a playful shove as we move from the mud room into the kitchen. Manda flops down in a chair at the wobbly kitchen table while I put the kettle on.

“You really need to get Uncle Bill to fix this,” she says, annoyed that it’s still a topic of conversation after several months.

“Your uncle has other things on his mind … I’ll get around to it in due course,” I respond, my own annoyance bubbling. She’s right, of course, but it’s not a priority. I settle down at the wobbly table and plant a plate of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies in the centre of it. We both reach for one. “Tea or chocolate milk?” I ask.

Manda doesn’t answer right away.

“What’s going on in that pretty little head of yours?” I ask, curious.

“Well, I usually have chocolate milk, but I’m wondering if I should try tea instead.”

“Oh,” I exclaim, “you want to take a leap and try something new, then?” Manda rolls her eyes. “What’ll it be?” I ask, “Earl Grey? Lavender? Peppermint?”

“What are you having?” she asks.

I get up from the table and head for the cupboard where the tea caddy is kept. Take it out and return to the table. I place the antique wooden box in front of me and carefully open its fragile lid. It’s really too delicate for everyday use, but if it’s not used it’ll simply gather dust and get forgotten in the interest of preservation. I prefer things to be used up in gainful employment. Then they always have a purpose.

Manda looks on and asks, “Why haven’t I seen this before?”

I smile. “Oh, you’ve seen it. You just haven’t seen it.”

“It’s beautiful!” my 12-year-old old soul exclaims as she examines its intricately carved details. “Where did you get it?”

“It’s been in the family a long time. My grandmother left it to me. She used to love her tea in the afternoon. We’d sit together, much like this, and shoot the breeze.” I sigh. It wasn’t quite like this. There was a lot more tension, but she doesn’t need to know this. “Would you like to see what’s inside while I deal with the boiled kettle?”

Manda nods and I slide the fragile box carefully across the table cloth to where she’s sitting. “Oh look,” she notes, “the packets are all pretty colours! Like jewels!”

I return to the table with my Royal Albert china tea pot and two matching cups and saucers.

“Oooh, those are pretty!” Manda squeals. “I haven’t seen you use them before.”

“Yes, you have, you just haven’t seen them.”

“Why do you keep saying that? What do you mean I haven’t seen them?”

“Your eyes are opening, darling, that’s all.”

Manda looks at me funny.

“A lesson for another day. Now, pick a tea,” I suggest. “Anything you like.”

“But how do I know what they are?” she moans, confused.

“Well, you don’t, and that’s part of the fun. This is a leap of faith moment, albeit a small one.”

“What’s a leap of faith?” she asks.

“I’m so glad you asked,” I respond. “Pick your tea.”

Manda surveys the 12 flavours all stored separately in little compartments, their fragrances commingling to a heady sense of well-being.

“How do I do that … pick a tea?”

“Well,” I lean over and pull my favourite, though I don’t tell her that, from the box. I bring the mauve and sage packet to my nose and take a big sniff. Hmmm … delightful. “Smell this.” I give Manda the packet and she takes a whiff. “No, not a whiff … inhale it’s fragrance.” Manda takes a deeper whiff. I guess that’s as much as she can commit right now.

“Oh, that smells sweet. What is it?” Manda turns over the packet. “Lavender.” She reads aloud. “What does it taste like?”

“Do you want to find out?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Well, smell them all, if you like. Maybe there’s something else you’d like to try.”

Manda scans the box ~ rose hip; Earl Grey; camomile, peppermint, roiboos, et al. She picks up each packet and sniffs it. Her face registers delight or dismay accordingly and she separates them on the table into two piles. This takes several moments.

“Come on,” I chide, “I’m thirsty.”

“These smell nice,” she points to four possibilities in a pile to my right. The lavender we started with, green tea, liquorice and a citrus blend.

“Okay, so which one?” I ask.

“I don’t know,” she moans.

“Okay, so this is where we employ a leap of faith. This is when you take a chance on something not knowing what the end result will be and hope with all your heart it turns out in your favour.”

“It’s make my mind up time,” she states.

“It’s make your mind up time,” I affirm.

Manda eeny-meeny-miney-mos it. The tiger in my tummy is rumbling in time. Finally she lands on liquorice.

“Is that the one?”

“Yes,” she responds with certainty.

“Let’s see then. Open it up and put the tea bag in the pot.”

Manda tears open the packet, takes another whiff of its sweet, exotic aroma and then drops the tea bag into the pot filled with hot water. “I like liquorice,” she declares.

“I know.”

“How long does it take?”

“To steep?”

“Is that what they call it?”

“Yes.” I smile. I love these impromptu life lessons, especially when Manda’s of a mind to engage. ” A couple of minutes, that’s all.”

We wait. Manda takes another cookie and puts it on her saucer in anticipation. “Do we need sugar or milk?” she asks, hesitating.

“Not with liquorice,” I smile.

The Victorian Regulator ticks and tocks in the hallway. Abbey, the collie, lies beside her food dish and groans. A nor’easter wails against the windows. More rain to come.

“There. That should do it …” I pick up the tea pot and pour some liquorice nectar into Manda’s cup. “Wait for it to cool just a little,” I warn, “and no dunking.”

Manda nods and waits for me to pour my tea. The tension is surprisingly high for this little leap of faith moment. She sniffs at the steam as it rises from her cup. “Smells good,” she admits.

“Okay, you ready?” I ask after a couple of minutes of thumb twiddling and worried looks.

With utmost care, Manda picks up her cup and draws it to her lips. Takes a sip. “Oooh, hot!” she squeals, but then takes another, this time more prepared. Her eyes get wide as she savours the exotic flavour of anise while it tickles her taste buds.

“How’s that for a leap of faith?” I wink over the rim of my cup while taking a sip.

“Hmmmmmm …”

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

Another Writer

Daily Prompt: Life After Blogs

“Honey, I remember life before computers, so imagining my life without one isn’t much of a stretch,” I wink at my 12-year-old niece, Manda, who simply stares at me in disbelief. Of course, her generation has practically been raised by computer, so imagining a world without one would be a challenge.

“So,  what was it like?” she asks, tentatively while gnawing on a homemade oatmeal cookie, part of a batch we made this morning.

“Well, life was simpler in a more complicated kind of way.”

Manda gives me the wooly eyeball. “What does that mean?”

I set my tea cup back in its saucer on the table and look past her through the window to the snow-covered garden. Cardinals are flitting back and forth from tree branch to tree branch, enjoying the sunny respite from what has turned into a frigidly cold winter. I feel old even thinking about the way things were before computers, so I stick to thinking about what it would be like to live without a computer now.

“Well, as a writer it means that I’d be doing my work on a typewriter, which is far more arduous, but in some ways,” I muse, “it’s more connected to the page. You make typos and learn to let them fly or risk interrupting your train of thought. With a computer you can back track and correct ad nauseum, which is great, of course, but it’s just not the same. There’s something rather grounding about using a typewriter. And perhaps this just makes me a nostalgic, old fool, but so be it.”

I gather by the look in Manda’s eye that something hasn’t registered.

“What’s the matter, sweetie?”

She hesitates. Takes another bite of her cookie and a sip of tea ~ such a sophisticated young lady for her age, full of curiosity and honest to a fault.

“C’mon, dear. Don’t be shy. I know you want to ask me something.”

Manda sets down her cookie and leans back in her chair. The kitchen table wobbles as she bumps the leg. The tension breaks with a giggle.

“I really must get that fixed,” I smile and nudge her calf with my foot. She smiles. There’s my girl.

“Go on then,” I prod, “what do you want to ask?”

“Well,” she looks at me with resolve, “what’s a typewriter?”

Of course, I didn’t see that one coming. Why would she know what a typewriter is? Still, I laugh.

“Hey, don’t make fun!” she squeals, “I can’t help it if I don’t know what it is.”

“You’re right, sweetie, and I don’t mean to make fun. It’s just when you say things like that I realize just how old I really am, and how much has happened in my life time. I laugh more at myself than I do at your naiveté.”

Manda turns her smile upside down and waits for some action on my part that will turn it right side up again.

“Here,” I stand up from the table and walk around to where she is sitting.

“What?” she snarls. I deserve it.

“I want to show you something.” I take her hand, which she allows with some reluctance, and together we journey up the stairs to my writing hide-out.

“Where are we?” she asks.

“This is where I write.” I tell her. “I haven’t brought you here before because I didn’t think you were ready. But since you’ve asked such an important question I wanted to show, rather than tell you, what a typewriter is and looks like.

As we enter the sun beams in gently from the southwest window which overlooks a mature forest of maples and firs. Book shelves line the walls, filled with the works of my favourite and inspiring authors, interrupted only by the occasional large, framed photograph of a favoured spot on our property. I lead Manda past the Apple to a corner of the room where sits an old oak writing desk. Upon it a lumpy form covered in a dust cloth, which I gradually pull back to reveal a vintage black Remington Rand manual typewriter, complete with ribbon. Beside it, a stack of paper.

Manda looks at it, the little laugh at her expense forgotten as her eyes wander its curves and crevices. She takes a step closer to the Remington and then turns to me. “May I touch it, Aunt Sally?”

“Of course, but be gentle with her. She is old.”

Manda lightly touches the keys and runs her hand across the top toward the cylinder.

“Mind the ribbon, though sweetie. It’s full of ink.”

“It still works?”

“Yes, except when the keys get stuck, or I run out of ribbon. But yes, it works wonderfully.”

“Do you ever write with it?”

“Occasionally, when I need to slow down my process. Sometimes my fingers get whipping on that computer over there and the magic doesn’t feel the same.”

“May I try?”

Without answering I reach for a piece of paper from the stack and feed it into the cylinder, rolling it to the perfect start location about two inches down from the top of the page. I show her the space bar and the carriage return. With a look of intense concentration she pushes down the letter I. There’s a chirp of glee as she experiences the mechanisms click into gear and the letter lands on the page. She types another letter, and then another, searching as she goes; frustrated a couple of times, until she’s typed I love my aunty Sal. I beam with pride.

“Oh, aunty, this is amazing! May I keep going?”

“Yes, Manda, of course. I’ll leave you to it.” I smile and give her shoulder a gentle pinch as I turn to leave.

Another writer in the family. She, like me, would be fine without a computer.

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

Do Over

Daily Prompt: If I Could Turn Back Time

~*~

“I have no regrets, sweetie.”

“Yeah, but if you were given a chance to live another part of your life again … you know, a do over, would you?” Twelve-year-old Manda’s digging for a story.

“Hmmm … let me think about that.” I pour another cup of chamomile tea and reach for a fresh-baked double chocolate cookie. Manda takes one as well, and dips it in her chocolate milk. A triple chocolate delight. We both giggle when the kitchen table wiggles on its three good legs, the foot on the fourth having disappeared a long time ago. I really must fix it.

Memories flood back ~ memories of lost youth; lost love; lost opportunity. Years on I understand the root causes of so much loss, but that doesn’t make up for lost time. Now I’m simply trying to make the most of the years I have left with the awareness that I have struggled so hard to achieve. Such a wonderful gift I give myself.

“Have you thought of anything, yet?” Manda asks while agitating her cookie in her milk. “And nothing sad, like the last time. I don’t want to cry.”

Ah, the innocence of youth and their penchant for associating tears with all things sad. She’ll learn one day, I hope, that tears cleanse the soul in preparation for new horizons. If I cry for the past, it’s only because I’m giving myself permission to let it go and move into the future. Accepting permission is almost harder than the letting go.

“Okay, then …” I squint my eyes as if peering into the distance for a point of interest. “Right … I have a funny story about a botched date.”

“Oh, goodie!” Manda shrieks with glee. She leans back in her chair to get comfortable, and fixes her beautiful brown eyes upon me. “Tell me everything …”

“Well, I was 16 and just starting to date. I met him at school … or was it church? … gosh, what was his name?” I stumble for a moment fumbling with memory. “Doesn’t matter … let’s call him Rick.”

“You don’t remember his name?” Manda is astonished.

“Well, you need to understand that my tendency has been to block unpleasant memories. And while this seems funny now, it wasn’t at the time so, I’m afraid, I don’t recall the young man’s name.” I take a breath. “What I do recall is that he shared my birthday and was exactly one year older than me. And, oh yes, he was quite cute.”

“Oooh, that’s interesting.”

“Yes, I put rather too much stock in the birthday thing, to be honest. Like it was kismet, or something.”

“Kismet?”

“Fated that we should meet.”

“Oh,” Manda nods in understanding. “And was it fated that you should meet?”

“Well, we met, didn’t we?” I twiddle with the corner of the table cloth, remembering my pain. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to be sharp with you. Still a bit of … never mind.” I gather my thoughts and begin my story. “As I recall we hadn’t been dating long when he decided it would be wonderful to take me to the opera. At first I was excited that he should be so thoughtful. He knew my mother ~ your grandma, Esther ~ was an opera singer and I guess was trying to impress me with his sophistication. And he did. Golly, what was the name of that opera? I don’t know. Anyway, as the date got closer I started to back off.”

“Why?” Manda asks between nibbles of cookie.

“Fear, I suppose. Fear of getting what I wanted; of being happy ~ you know, having a nice boyfriend who wanted to do nice things for me. I guess I didn’t feel worthy.”

Manda frowns. “This isn’t sounding like a fun story.”

“You’re right,” I agree, and continue. “I decided I wanted to put him off, but he’d already bought the tickets and I’d made the commitment to go, so I went. But I didn’t dress up, I didn’t wash my hair, and I acted like a cold fish.”

“You did? That doesn’t sound very nice.”

“No, it wasn’t very nice. He’d gone to so much trouble and I was pushing him away, the same way I used to defend myself from all kinds of good things and people. I guess it was easier for me to be unhappy. My father had been such a deadbeat and so emotionally distant that the moment any decent man tried to get close I’d push him away. I just didn’t understand healthy, emotional interaction with the opposite sex.”

Manda gives me a quizzical look.

“Hmmm … I didn’t understand my own feelings let alone someone else’s … never mind being able to relate to them. I was guarded and insecure and it played out with me pushing back all the time.”

“This isn’t funny at all.”

“No, it isn’t. Poor guy was so bewildered and, frankly, so was I. And I felt terribly guilty about it. I had no idea what I was doing or why I was doing it. Just horrible …” I attempt to drown my sadness in a sip of tea and realize something a little stiffer would probably offer better success.

“So, how would you do it over?” Manda grimaces, so far not impressed with my funny story.

“Well, that’s the thing about do overs, isn’t it? Hindsight always gives us the perspective of age and experience,” I pause and sip more tea before continuing. “I would be more gracious, that’s for certain. He’d spent the money and gone to so much trouble. I recall us sitting in the gods ~ it’s all he could afford ~ and wishing I could be anywhere else, all the while conscious of my dirty hair and poor behaviour. He tried so hard and I was such a … oh, dear …” My thoughts trail off for a moment as I consider how many moments of my life I’ve missed because I was too afraid to enjoy them.

“Aunt Sally?”

“Oh, sorry,” I shake my head and smile. “I’d have washed my hair, that’s for sure,” I wink, attempting to be light-hearted, and take another sip of tea.

“Sorry, Auntie, but it sounds like you have some regrets after all. And your definition of funny is not at all accurate.”

I sigh and gaze upon the loveliness of this innocent old soul. “Not regrets, sweetie, remorse. It’s not nice to hurt people’s feelings, and I’m afraid I hurt his. Still, I didn’t know any better at the time, and I have learned since then to be kind even when I may not necessarily feel comfortable. Not everything is about me.” Another sip of tea. Another wink. “And not everything is about you either, dear.”

“It isn’t?” Manda jokes in mock astonishment, her eyes big as coat buttons.

I shove the cookie plate in her direction with a playful flourish. “You’re funny. Here, just one more before dinner or I’ll give you something to do over.” We both giggle and take a cookie.

There’s nothing about this moment I’d do over .

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

 

 

 

 

Forgiveness …

The pain is deep ~

You put it there.

Not that you knew it,

You were simply sailing

Your oblivious sea

And I, being an innocent,

Was caught in your toxic

Wake; my life line

The place in my Soul you

Could not reach.

*

I forgive you.

I forgive because

Drowning in the pain

Of you hurts only me,

I forgive because

The power is within me.

I forgive to be the peace

I want to see.

I forgive to be

Free.

~*~

Personal freedom begins with forgiveness.

May we all be the peace we wish to see in the world.

Be well,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015

The Outsiders

Daily Prompt: The Outsiders

Tell us about the experience of being outside, looking in — however you’d like to interpret that.

~*~

Well, this hits close to home, Sally mused as she listened to her niece, Manda, tearfully explain how she’d not been invited to a sleepover with her supposed friends … again.

“I don’t understand it, auntie, what did I do? Why don’t they like me? Why do I always feel like I’m on the outside looking in?” Manda snorted through heavy tears and a stuffed up nose. She snatched at the tissue proffered by her aunt and blew hard into it. Nothing moved.

Sally sat beside Manda on the soft two-seater sofa and put an arm around her distraught niece. What could she say? It was a feeling all too familiar, but one with which she had learned to live while finding strength in her own solitude.

“Now, now, my sweet girl, don’t you worry,” she gave her niece’s shoulders a squeeze and then moved away slightly. “Look at me … please …”

Reluctantly, Manda turned to look at her beloved aunt and wiped a shaking hand across tear-tracked cheeks. She sniffed.

“Listen, Manda my love, you’re a strong girl, born into a strong family. We’ve learned to stand on our own two feet, and while that can feel lonely at times it is, in the end, the better way because we learn to be our own best friend. To take care of our needs without constantly needing the validation of others.” Sally reached for one of Manda’s hands and held it gently.

“What’s validation?” 12-year-old Manda asked with a sniff.

“Well,” Sally began, “it’s when people need other people to tell them how great they are all the time to feel good about themselves. Instead of finding that confirmation from within, they demand it of others. The only problem is that people can change their minds all the time about how they feel about someone. One day they think you’re great and the next you’re yesterday’s news. That can be really hurtful. These friends of yours, if they were true friends, would include you and not hurt you this way.”

“And it hurts so much!” Manda howled while doubling over into her knees and rocking back and forth. “I don’t want to be alone!!!”

Sally rubbed her niece’s back and gulped back her own sob. Oh, how she wished this lovely girl didn’t have to feel the pain of exclusion.  And how long the journey would be until she found contentment in her own company.

They sat in silence for a few minutes.

Finally, Sally spoke.

“Manda, I know this feels horrible now, and believe me I totally understand what …”

“No you don’t!” Manda sat bolt upright and looked straight in her aunt’s eyes, still shaking. “How could you possibly know how I feel?”

Sally sighed.

“Of course, sweetie, you’re right. I am not you and cannot possibly understand how you feel. But, I’ve had my own experiences with this, and even now I struggle with it at times. But I would rather be alone, and happy in my own company, than with fickle friends who blow hot and cold. That is too painful. … You may have noticed that I don’t have many close friends,” she continued. “It’s not that I don’t want any, it’s just that I … ” How could she say it without sounding like a snob? ” … that I’ve learned to be selective. To only welcome people into my life I know want to be there. Life is too short to waste precious energy on people you have to chase to like you all the time. Believe me, sweetie, pretending to be someone you aren’t for the sake of being on the inside is exhausting, and debilitating, in so many ways you won’t understand right now. But one day …”

” … one day I can look forward to being lonely like you?” Manda wailed. “No thank you …” and she stood up sharply and stormed outside to drown in her tormented sea of self-pity.

Sally reached into her apron for another tissue and dabbed at salty tears.

Now she felt on the outside.

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015