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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Day 6 - New Years Eve!

Today is the last day of the year, do you have any fun traditions?  

Tonight my family will eat Chinese food and maybe rent a movie.  It isn't exciting.  When my husband and I lived in Revere (town just outside of Boston) I would have to order our food on the thirtieth and then pick it up around noon on New Years Eve, and keep it in the oven to keep it warm until my husband got home. The restaurant we used assigned 15 minute pick up times.  Everyone in that time slot had a name in a red plastic cup, you gave your name and they searched the cup.  If you didn't make it at your assigned time, your food went back into the kitchen.  

I always made it, so I have no idea what happened after your food went back.  

Here in Delaware we can just call at five and then pick it up.  That is all.  Easy.  

Tonight the town where I work will drop a giant mushroom.  In the town's defense it is mushroom capital of the world.  

Also there will be shooting.  I know that isn't restricted to my area, but when we moved to the Delaware Valley I had never experienced it before, but after spending most of my childhood here it seemed normal.  Then I married and he moved back here with me.  My husband isn't a fan of the shooting.  

Tomorrow is the Mummers Day Parade and he just loves that!  

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Day 5 - Julie Kavanagh

   Five Gold Rings  
Julie Kavanagh
“Are you sure about this?” Cassie looked up into her boyfriend’s dark eyes. They had always reminded her of chocolate buttons, but she supposed this wasn’t the time to think of that. She had more important things to worry over.
“Stop worrying, Mom will be thrilled to meet you,” Josh said as he pushed open the door. “We’re here!” he bellowed along the beautifully decorated hallway. Dark evergreens adorned the white bannister, intermingled with glittery scarlet tinsel.
“They’re here!” Loud voices echoed as a door open and two children emerged in a fluster of noisy movement, accompanied by two identical long-haired dogs which barked in apparent excitement.
Said dogs and children, which looked alike to Cassie, threatened to bowl her over until Josh stepped forward with a hand held out.
“Stop!” he laughed, dropping to his knees and grabbing both children in a warm embrace, leaving Cassie to fend off the over-excited dogs.
“Charlie! Mattie! Behave yourselves!” A tall, elegant woman appeared in the hallway from the same doorway, her voice carrying easily but it didn’t seem to have the required effect as the two dogs knocked Cassie on to her rear. Large, wet tongues covered every inch they could find, causing Cassie to giggle until she realized that the tall, elegant woman stood over her with an unamused look on her face. “Charlie, Mattie, go outside!” She pointed a long finger into the direction the two dogs had emerged from and she waited silently until they slunk aware with barely a wag between their tails.
“Cassie, you are okay? They can be a little mad when they’re excited.” Josh held out his hand to brush thick fur from the length of her new black trousers – the ones she’d saved up for and bought especially for today. The ones now covered in dog fur.
“Please accept my apologies.” Josh’s mom stood back, appraising the woman lying on the plush carpet at her feet. “Josh knows better than to let the puppies loose on strangers.” She nodded once before retreating back the way she came, clicking her fingers at the children who then followed like little sheep.
“They were puppies?” Cassie giggled like a naughty child, accepting the hand held out to help her up.
“They’re baby mammoths,” Josh chuckled. “Who knows how big they’re going to get.”
“And that’s your mom?” Cassie’s laughter faded under the thought of how evident it was that the woman had taken one look and instantly disliked her. Wasn’t that the story of her life?
“She came over a little harsh,” Josh said with a little shrug. “She’ll love you when she gets to know you, promise.” Cassie didn’t answer. She had already worked it out. “Come on, honey. You need a strong coffee after that welcome.”
She followed her boyfriend into a warm, bright kitchen with sunny yellow walls and cream cabinets. This was a kitchen to die for. One day, she would have a kitchen this big and well-equipped. Right now, her entire apartment would fit into this room with enough space to fit a car in too.
She sighed as a huge smile curved her lips – the food she could prepare in here. She couldn’t hide her looks of admiration.
“I told you she’d love it,” Josh addressed a man perched on a black stool and leaning on the top of the breakfast bar. “Cass, this is my dad, Jack. Dad, meet the most beautiful woman on the planet.”
“Cassie, it’s very nice to meet you although I have to protest about the most beautiful woman part. Josh’s mom wouldn’t take kindly to me agreeing with him although my son has very good taste. Coffee..?” Jack stood up, a hand held out to her and she accepted without hesitation. He looked like Joshua, or how he’d look in later years and it was a look Cassie appreciated. The touch of silver around his temples made him look, dare she say it, very sexy.
One cup of strong black coffee later and Cassie had begun to feel at her ease. Jack was as easy to talk to as Josh and the feel of inadequacy faded until Josh’s mom reappeared in the kitchen.
“Here you all are,” she said, with a cursory look over the half empty coffee mug and the small pile of cookie crumbs laying claim to how many Cassie had gobbled down. It had been a long journey and she’d eagerly accepted any food offered. “Josh explained that you both have to dash back to college tonight,” she said with a tone which said that she didn’t quite believe it.
“I told you that Cassie has a job, and with it being so close to Christmas, the restaurant is fully booked,” Josh said quickly as though he’d just thought it up. Even to Cassie’s ears, it sounded like a lie.
“You’re a chef?” Jack asked with evident interest as he nodded as though he now understood her reaction to the kitchen he’d designed.
“I’m just a cook,” she admitted, her face growing red. “But, one day, I’d like my own restaurant.”
“You’re studying French Cordon Bleu at college?” Josh’s mom, Clare, asked in a hopeful tone.
“I'm not at college,” Cassie admitted, her head dropping to avoid seeing the looks of disappointment.
“Cassie and I met at the restaurant. I insisted on meeting the creator of the most delicious dessert I’d ever eaten. Of course, I didn’t know she’d be so pretty too. Cassie really does deserve her own restaurant. I know I’d eat there every night,” Josh jumped in quickly. Cassie looked up into his eyes and smiled her thanks but she should have known his parents wouldn’t accept her – not since they lived in this huge house in a wealthy area. She came from nowhere and had only her dreams to offer. She couldn’t afford to go to college and barely made her way on the money she earned in the restaurant but one day…

“It’s getting late,” Cassie leaned over to whisper in Josh’s ear. They’d had a fun afternoon in the park with Harry and Raya, Josh’s younger siblings and the two dog monsters. She hadn't known a family could be so much fun, but now they had to say goodbye to his parents and she wasn’t looking forward to it.
“I need to use the bathroom before we go,” Josh said, holding the door open as the twins and the puppies rushed through. “I’ll be back in a moment.”
Cassie waited awkwardly in the small entrance hall by the back door, unseen by Jack and Josh’s mom.
“What does he see in her? She doesn’t even have a college education,” Clare muttered. “Did you see the amount of rings she wore? Who needs to wear four gold rings? It’s so cheap.”
“She’s easy on the eye, she’s great to chat to and she knows a lot about food,” Jack defended Cassie. “Besides, she’s the first girl Josh has brought home and I wonder why that would be.”
“I don’t know what you mean!” Clare huffed loudly as though this was not the first they’d had this conversation.
“No one will ever be good enough in your eyes for Josh, but it’s his decision. They’ve been dating for nearly two years…” Jack paused as though he realized his mistake.
“I didn’t know that!” Clare grasped.
Cassie closed her eyes and sighed softly. Of course, Josh hadn't told his parents about her. Why would he, although, she didn’t know why he’d brought her to meet them now. She thought he’d understood her lack of interest in family Christmases. The holiday season was very different in the children’s home she’d grown up in, although they had tried their best to make it festive.  
“I don’t care what they say,” Josh told her as though he’d heard his parents’ conversation. “I love every bit of you.”
“They’re right though,” Cassie whispered as though her voice didn’t have the strength to admit the truth.
“Come.” Josh said as he took hold of her hand to lead her into the kitchen. He nodded at the twins as they perched expectantly on identical chairs each with a large puppy snoring at their feet. Jack turned with a huge grin on his face at their arrival as though he, too, knew what to expect. Clare simply stared coldly, a cup of coffee held in her hand.
“Mom, Dad, I had a very good reason to come here today,” Josh started, pulling Cassie along in his wake. His warm hand told her not to worry, his smile sang of his love and his chocolate brown eyes asked her to be brave. “I wanted you to meet Cassie and I really wanted you to love her like I do. She’s beautiful and funny and brave. I've never known anyone like her. I don’t care if she’s never been to college because she’s taught me so much about life and love and I never want it to end.”
He dropped to one knee, whilst keeping hold of Cassie’ hand and ignoring her grasp of astonishment.
“Cassie Evans, cook extraordinaire, to-be-owner of the best restaurant in the world, will you marry me?” Josh stared up into Cassie’s face with a look of nervous anticipation.
Cassie didn’t know who gasped the loudest, her or Josh’s mum but she realized that it didn’t matter what anyone else thought of her. The man that she loved and adored loved her back and he believed in her dreams. How could she say no?
“I thought you’d never ask,” Cassie laughed. “Of course, I’ll marry you, but only once you’ve finished college and not before.”
Josh leapt to his feet, his lips caressing hers as cheers and applause echoed around them. Even Clare managed a small smile.
“Oh, I nearly forgot,” Josh gasped, fending off excited children and two large dog monsters as they bustled around them. Out of his pocket, he pulled out a small black box and extracted a shiny golden ring which he pushed onto Cassie’s finger. “Now you have five gold rings,” he laughed, leaning in for another kiss, knowing it was going to be the best Christmas ever.
The End
Find Julie on Facebook and Amazon

Monday, December 28, 2015

Day 4 - Elizabeth

Four Sheep

Sports aren’t easy on families, David knew that. Sometimes he wished he had not become a professional hockey player.  He loved the game.  He loved the people involved in the game.  He wouldn’t really want to change anything.  Not really.   
It had been almost two years and he was still working on getting used to being a Bouda.  Sometimes the hyena side of him would rise up at inopportune moments.  It had happened that night when he had decked someone for chirping him on the ice.  The other player had said something about his girlfriend, Rose. Guys running their mouths on the ice was par for the course, agitators were part of the game.  Punching agitators was part of the game as well, but it also got him a seat in the penalty box for seventeen minutes.   David had beaten the other man so badly, he had to leave the game.  
The full moon had been the 25th, between then and losing his temper on the 29th there had been two full games and the first two thirds of a game.  Three games in four days.  He was tired and there was this animal in the back of his mind clawing its way out.  And there was one more game to play before going home.
He didn’t know how the other guys dealt with it.  
After the game he made his way to the home locker-room to apologise to his victim.  Then David had to defend himself to the media.  After swimming through the crap that he had caused himself he finally made it back to his room at the hotel.  The other guys were going out to eat but all David wanted to do was to call home.
“Are you alright?” Rose asked, picking up the phone on the first ring.
“You’ve seen worse happen to me.”
“You don’t normally knock guys out.”
“I know,” he sighed, “did Lisa talk to you today?”
“About the sheep?  Yes.”
David couldn’t tell what Rose was feeling through the phone, he hadn’t realized how dependant he had gotten on his enhanced senses, “And?”
“And I am totally confused.  Is this a hyena thing? I mean, what am I going to do with three sides of beef? And a feather?”
“Well I didn’t know what to get you, so I got you the twelve days of Christmas.”
“I don’t remember the fourth day being sheep.”
“It’s the Faroe Island version; one feather, two geese, three meat, four sheep, five cow,  six oxen, seven dishes, eight ponies, nine banners, ten barrels, eleven goats, twelve men, thirteen hides, fourteen rounds of cheese and fifteen deer.”
“Is sixteen a farm?” Rose asked with a laugh.
“I was thinking that maybe day sixteen would be making you like me?” David’s heart was pounding.  He hadn’t brought up turning her into a hyena shifter since Thanksgiving, and he hadn’t planned on talking about it over the phone.  And she was quiet.
Until, “Makeing me like you and a farm for all this stuff you've given me.”
“Is this a negotiation?”
“No, but you can’t just get animals without thinking about where you are going to put them.”
David laughed, “for now Rob and Lisa said they would keep all of the gifts.”
“What did you do about twelve? You didn’t get me guys did you?”
“I got you chickens.”
“Soooo,” she said with a chuckle, “do you have a place in mind?”
“Do I need to have a place for you to be ready to take this step?”
“It would help.”
David’s hear crashed down into his stomach, “I don’t want you to do anything you don’t want to do.”
“I want to,” she said, “but I talked to Lisa and she thought it would be best if we didn’t live on the property with them.”
“I’m buying a place, I close on the third.”
“What is it like?”
“The place?”
“No, I’m sure you picked out a nice place,” She said, “What is being like you like?”
“Well, I travel around and play a kid’s game for a living,” he said in a jocular manner.
She didn’t take the bait, “that fight, is that the way it is for you all the time?”
“It’s not like that all the time.  It is like that sometimes.”
There was silence between them.
“Are you changing your mind?” he asked slowly.  
“No,” she said, “I just wonder what will happen when my boss fights with me after?”
“Well, once you are used to it, everything will be fine.”
“That’s what Lisa said,” there was a few seconds of quiet, “When do you guys come back?”
David sighed, “if there aren’t any delays I should be pulling up the driveway after midnight on the first.”
“So I’ll see you for New Years day?”
“I was planing on going straight to your house,” he said.
“You have a key just come on in.”
She sounded more relaxed and so he settled back on his bed, “I will. Unless I just don’t wake up when we land.  We still have that game on the 31st, then we fly home.”
“I’ll be here, with all the crazy animal gifts you’ve given me.”
“I miss you,” David said, his voice almost a whisper.  
“I miss you too,” she cooed, “and you need to get a goal for me to make up for getting kicked out of the game tonight.”
“I’ll do my best,” David said.  
“Will we talk tomorrow?”
“Of course,” he said with a smile, “and when I get home I’ll take you to see the place.”
David thought of something before saying goodbye, “the farm has apple trees.”
“That will be neat” Rose said.
“after we settle I think we should Wassail them.”
“You want to sing to trees?”
“and give them liquor. Yes. After everything, I’m starting to feel like magic is important.”
She laughed. Once she was under control again she said, “and you are a hockey player, so tradition is everything.”
“If it wasn't would I have bought you four sheep today?”

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Day 3 - Katie C

My True Love Gave

by Katie C.

Livia loved wintertime. From her perch beneath the gazebo, she relished the crisp midday air and the way the snowflakes fluttered to the ground. A small break in the snow clouds allowed for thin rays of sunlight to peek through. The peaceful scene made Livia feel alive.
But the man whose voice interrupted her thoughts made her heart pound with joy. With her thoughts drifting to the beauty of nature in winter, she had stopped listening to the story Heisuke was reading aloud. They always made time each day to spend an hour outside, talking about their day or reading their favorite stories, or trying to outtalk the other with outlandish tales and theories they had heard.
Livia looked forward to that time each day, no matter when it happened.
Usually they huddled close together on these cold days, but today, at Heisuke's insistence, they sat the bench so they could sit shoulder-to-shoulder, in opposite directions yet facing each other. Livia wondered why the deviation from the norm, but being outside had distracted her from asking him.
"Livia, did you hear me?" Heisuke had stopped reading, and turned to look at her with a serious face.
Sighing, she shook her head. "No," she said with a smile. "You know how much I love watching the snow fall."
Heisuke put the book down and rubbed her head with his right hand. "I know. Plus, I did not choose a good subject to read today," he said.
"The migratory patterns of European birds isn't my most favorite subject to listen to, no," she agreed, "but you know I listen to anything you read." She thought about his low and soft voice, and how it lilted when he read subjects of interest to him; how it revealed his deep desire for her when they spoke to each other. If he only knew how much she had always loved his voice . . .
"So you are not interested in learning about the streptopelia turtur."
"Why are you --?" The question died on her lips when she saw the intense look in Heisuke's eyes. She was used to seeing him straight-faced and serious: it was the face he wore every day. She knew how to make him smile, but rarely did he show emotion towards other people. What she saw burning in his deep blue eyes was something she had not seen before. She wanted to look away, but could not.
The butterflies in her stomach fluttered.
"Because we are like the streptopelia turtur, the turtle dove." Heisuke closed the book resting on his lap and stared at her.
Livia gave him a confused look. "We're birds?"
"How long have we known each other?" Heisuke asked instead. Livia noticed a sly smile touching his lips.
She laughed. "A long time, but you know that."
Heisuke stood up and moved around the bench to stand in front of her. "And in that time, how long have we been together?"
Together. Livia grinned as she thought about the last few years and their courtship. Not the whirlwind romance one reads about in books; Heisuke took his time with every aspect of life, including the ways he showed Livia how much she meant to him. She did not mind, however; she was patient - a trait she had learned from him long ago.
"Long enough to know we love each other," she replied after a moment. "Where are you going with this, Hei?"
He folded his arms across his chest and regarded her closely. Livia felt the heat rise in her cheeks. "I love watching the blush spread across your beautiful face."
"You're just saying that because you like making me blush," she said, and wanted to hide her increasingly red face. 
Heisuke chuckled. "Yes, that is true. But it is more than that. You are beautiful, inside and out, your failings and virtues make you a perfect kind of woman. I know you better than you know yourself at times."
Livia watched his stoic face upturn into a rare heart-stopping smile. The fluttering inside turned into waves of nervousness.
He crouched down next to her and pulled out a small ring box from his pocket. He took her hand in his, and offered her the box. Before she could utter a word, he spoke. "Livia Sou, you are my life mate. My turtle dove. I would like the world to know this with a marriage ceremony."
Speechless and overjoyed, Livia threw herself into Heisuke's arms. "As if you needed to ask," she said. "I wanted you the moment I realized I liked boys."
"When did you ever 'like' boys?" Heisuke's husky laughter was muffled by her scarf.
"Never. I only always liked you." Laughing, she pulled back and pressed her lips against his. "I love you, Heisuke Takahashi, and I will marry you."
He pulled them both to their feet so he could kiss her properly.
After several moments, Livia pulled away and gave Heisuke a playfully stern look. "But let's keep the 'turtle dove' angle between us, okay? My family will never let you live that one down."

“Deal,” he said and captured her lips once again with his.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Day 2 KB Inglee

Henry James and the Long Trip Home
London, December 1891
Emily was tired of the formal manners, the fussy clothing and the conversation about trivial things with people she didn’t know. There must have been 20 of them around the huge table.
There was only one other person in the room that she had met before. Henry James was seated to her left. She was surprised to find he knew who she was. "You are Anna Lothorp’s little sister," he said. She was so astonished she could only nod in answer.
"How did you get invited to this dreadful affair?" he asked. The servant who appeared between them with a carafe, gave him a withering look.
She sighed and told him, "I was to come with friends, but there was an illness in the family."
He was much more of Anna’s age. In fact Anna had dined at their house on Quincy Street, and had hated every minute of it. And now Emily was about to repeat the experience.
"How long have you been here? I seem to remember Willy writing to me that your husband had died and you had taken your grief abroad."
"If you mean in Europe, March 1890, so almost two years. I’ve been in London for about a month.”
"Have you loved every minute of it?" he asked, with a cutting sarcasm. Could he read her thoughts?
"No. It was fun at first, but…"  She was trapped between Mr. James on her left and someone named Bryant on her right. It would be impolite to burst into tears right here.
Mr. James deftly changed the subject. "Have you been to the South Kensington Museum?" he asked.
"No. Should I go? What is there worth looking at?"
"Harvard would do well to look into establishing a museum of its own. For art, I mean, not for those dreadful Natural History exhibits. How can something dead and stuffed be natural?"
She took a deep breath as her tears receded.
"Now be a good girl and talk to the gent on the other side of you. Lord, how I hate these affairs."
It felt like hours before the guests were allowed to leave. Emily was reminded of waiting for the school day at Mrs. Agassiz to end.
As they bustled into their coats ready to step into the cold damp evening, she found Mr. James at her side.
"I would be honored if you allowed me to show you the museum tomorrow. It has some fine examples of Flaxman and Landseer. I can pick you up at the Fields place about two if that is convenient."
Why does Henry James want to take me to a museum? He must want something.
"I must admit, I have an ulterior motive. I hope you will love the museum, of course. I was hoping to find someone like minded to enjoy it with me."
Likeminded? Does living a quarter of a mile apart make two people like minded? Surely he was simply being kind.
The day was bright and clear but cold. She would spend the morning in the shops looking for things to send to her nieces and nephews for the holiday. Late as always, it would be well into the New Year before they received them.
She found perfect gifts for each of the children if they had been ten years younger. Nothing that would suit the young men and women they had become. Nothing for their mothers; even less for their fathers.
A small leather-bound note book appealed to her, but she didn't know of anyone well suited for it. She liked it enough to spend more than a few coins on it.
By two she had put away her purchases to wrap and send tomorrow and was ready when Mr. James rang the bell.
Emily asked him what he was working on at the moment. He laughed and replied, "When in doubt in conversation with a Cambridge man, ask him about his book. Every man in Cambridge is writing a book. The old saw should include the many women who are doing the same."
"But you actually are," she protested.
It was getting dark when they left the museum. Mr. James slipped a small package into her hand. She could feel the smooth paper and lacy ribbon, but she was unable to distinguish the color in the shadows of the cab. The box was heavier than she had expected.
"Oh, but I have nothing for you."
"This is a gift, not a present. There is no obligation to reciprocate. I think you will understand when you open it."
Under the street lamp in front of the Field's house, Emily untied the silver ribbon with care and tore the red paper off the box."
"This is the fossil of a chambered nautilus. It's very nice but…"
He took her free hand as an elder and wiser brother might. "The golden spiral. There is a bit of history that comes with the object. Remember the Holmes poem? 'Leave thy low vaulted past, let each new temple, nobler than the last'…well, you know it.
"Professor Agassiz gave this to your father sometime before the war. Your father had to make a very difficult decision."
"But he and father didn't like each other. Why would he give him such a gift?"
"I believe you are confusing academic disagreement with personal dislike. You remember the great debate that followed your father's book on education. But didn't the Lothorp girls attend Mrs. Agassiz's school? And didn't your father continue to attend the Professor's morning lectures fairly regularly?"
She would have to think about that for a while.
"How did you get it?" she asked him.
"Your father gave it to my father when he had to make a similar decision, and he passed it on to me when I decided to give up law to write novels."
He shrugged as though the whole story were perfectly clear.
"Now you are making a decision that will change the rest of your life. You must have it."

Find KB Inglee at Facebook and goodreads

Friday, December 25, 2015

Day 1 Alison Ash

Why Christmas Carols Make Me Cry
by Alison Jean Ash

“..and cried when he remembered his mother.”
~ Jean de Brunhof
The Story of Babar

Preface:  My Mother and Me

My mother has been the single most important person in my life.
That sounds unlikely, even to me.  I am sixty-seven years old. I’ve been married three times—happily at last —and survived other tumultuous passions that (mercifully) didn’t go that far.  I have two children, four grandchildren, and several dear friends of various genders who are of great importance to me.
All the same, it’s true.  Mom—or, as she was known in various contexts, Shirley Anne Kellogg, Anne Ash, Anne Cramer, Little Tigger, Grandma Tig—sat squarely in the center of my universe until she died, in January of the year 2000, and for some years afterward.
Our relationship was tender, turbulent, and cruel, wistful with nostalgia, alight with laughter. Each of us felt for the other, I believe, equal parts of love, irritation, bitterness, and genuine admiration.   
For good and ill, I her eldest daughter, revolved around her, planet to her sun.  Now, almost fifteen years after her death, her memory no longer rules my daily life.  Still, whenever I pause to look at  
who I am, and at the forces that have shaped my mind and heart—by precept, by example, by accident, and sometimes by opposition—there she is, still, at the center.

Christmas Day, 2014

Twelve days before Christmas I attended a performance of the Bremerton Symphony Orchestra with my husband.  The program consisted of a Christmas carol sing-along, followed by a Tchaikovsky piano concerto, followed in turn by excerpts from Handel’s Messiah.
My mother, growing up as the daughter of a small town minister, sang alto in her church choir.  When I was a baby, she sang to me, lullabies, old ballads, songs in French and Russian and Welsh, and the darkly humorous Irish songs she’d learned from her grandfather.
When I grew older, we sang together, especially at Christmas-time.  We began a month before the day to play our holiday record albums and to sing carols together.  When we played the Messiah, she always sang along with with the alto part her favorite sections, especially “For Unto Us a Child is Born.”
As a girl I sang mezzo soprano. In some carols, such as “Angels We Have heard on High” with its chorus of “gloria in excelsis deo,” my mother taught me to hold the melody while she sang the alto in counterpoint, each voice singing its phrases in separate, independent but interlocking rhythms.
Of all the games we played together, from Chinese Checkers to Scrabble, from one-upmanship to emotional manipulation (more deliberate on her part, I believe, than on mine, and certainly far more skilled), the interweaving of our voices was the most intricate and the most joyful. For several weeks every winter, for ten or twelve years, we made a kind of magic together.
The night we went to the Symphony, my husband and I, we both became teary-eyed during the  
carol singing, as various songs reminded each of us in turn of our departed mothers.  Afterwards we dried our eyes to enjoy a piece with no associations for us, the Tchaikovsky, performed with fiery passion.
After intermission came the Handel. With the opening chords, familiar as ever though I hadn’t heard them in twenty years, my eyes began to fill with tears. With “For unto us a Child is born,” the tears spilled out and rolled freely down my cheeks. I had all I could do not to sob aloud.
I slept badly that night, and also the next night, Sunday. I woke Monday morning with my feet in agony, especially the right heel, in which I have a bone spur, legacy of the plantar fasciitis I first suffered immediately after her death.  I couldn’t set my heel down all day, in spite of large doses of ibuprofen, but walked on the ball of my right foot, holding onto something or someone.

My Feet, My First Chakra

For two years after my mother died, I’d walked in pain, near-crippled by the fasciitis, until I healed myself, not only by stretches and exercises, yoga and chakra work, but also by meditating, painting, and especially by singing, and at last by weeping for her.
Since I had never fully yielded to my grief after her death, the clogged flow of my emotion had settled into physical manifestation as pain in my feet. Once I understood that, I immersed myself in memories of my mother.
Deliberately, almost forcibly, I opened myself to grief for her, grief which necessarily included rage:  rage at her, at all the cruel and sneaky things she did to me; rage at the loss of her and all she did for me; rage at whatever had happened to her or been done to her, apparently quite early in her life, that made her spirit so full of pain and terror, rage at whatever or whoever it was that had broken her.
Rage at her for being broken.
My class-work that year at The Evergreen State College, a full-time Coordinated Studies program about the wisdom of the body and the connection between emotional pain and physical pain, helped focus the process. Readings ranged from hard science to spirituality, and we did yoga eight hours a week. I learned that the feet belong to the First Chakra, which is connected to home, family, our sense of being rooted in this world. My mother’s death had, in a far more physical sense than I had realized, knocked my feet our from under me.
In December of 2001, I spent a week at a retreat center.  I painted—not something I do well or often, but this was therapy, not art. First, as warm-up, I made a mad bloody picture of the goddess Kali, and then an equally mad and bloody-looking picture of my mother that I call Sea Monster Mother.
A naked woman with her face stands at the bottom of the sea, the mouth exaggeratedly wide and hungry. Her limbs are impossibly long and all her digits stretch away into tentacles, coiling, reaching for something to grip in a half-strangling hold, as she gripped me in her need for so much of my life.
Through these paintings I was able to express some of my rage, so widely and unclearly directed, and some of my resentment of the way she had clung to me, manipulated me, used me to feed her voracious needs. I expressed my rage and pain in both senses: I gave it utterance, and I pushed it out of myself, leaving me cleaner and kinder, more open to grieving for her.
Near the end of the week I sat alone in a yurt singing, first the Gayatri Mantra, which I’d learned in yoga.  Crudely translated from ancient Sanskrit, it means, “Praise the glorious light of the creative principle.”  I sang it 108 times, the traditionally prescribed number, and then I went on singing.
I sang everything I could think of: the lullabies she sang me; the funny, often macabre Irish songs handed down from her flame-haired grandfather; all the songs, the madrigals and hymns and Christmas carols we’d sung together.  I sang until at last the vibrations pried open the locked-up fountains of my tears, and then I continued to sing as I wept for her.
That afternoon I laced on my boots and walked along the highway to the ocean beach, a round trip of about twelve miles. At supper time I plodded back uphill to the lodge exhausted, with a fierce ache in my lower back, but no pain in my feet. I was healed. From that time the pain in my feet departed and I could walk normally again.

My Book

A year after that, at the end of 2002, I began to write a book about my mother, about her life and about our life together. I’ve worked at it, off and on, ever since, sometimes a few hours a day every day for a month, occasionally six to eight hours a day during a week-long writing retreat. Between those periods of intensity, I’ve returned to it in sporadic, desultory fashion, altering a few words here and there like a painter adding little touches and then stepping away to let them dry.
In 2013 I entered another period of working on it every day:  looking at it again, revising and re-organizing, writing new sections, even reading bits of it aloud at a literary open mic. I presented some excerpts to my writing critique group (though one member balked at it, finding it too “confessional”). But at the time of that Christmas concert in 2014, I’d barely touched it for months. I’d been writing romantic fiction, with some success. An independent e-book firm had put out my novella that fall, and I’d written and published a Christmas story and was at work on my Valentine story.

Aftermath of the Concert

Tuesday morning after the concert, after I’d hobbled around in pain all the previous day, I woke from a dream.  It began in a theater where a play was in rehearsal, a large amateur production.  (I should mention here that my mother did quite a bit of amateur acting, to great acclaim, in her thirties and forties, and was at all times theatrical in daily life.)
The play, apparently, was about a shipwreck. A crowd of “survivors,” sailors and rescuers milled around onstage, and more actors waited backstage for their entrance.  My mother was surely there somewhere.
Suddenly, in the way that dreams change scene without warning, we were all outdoors, by the sea, some of us in the sea. Now it was not a stage play but a film being produced.  Survivors flailed in the water or clung to rafts; sailors manned lifeboats. The cameras and all—sound, lights, etc.—were also on boats.  The scene was even more chaotic than in the theater, and the waters of the sea were real, salt and wet and constantly moving.
The director’s voice rose above all the noise.  “Okay, short break now. I thought we could do this in one take, but I was wrong.”  He dismissed everyone to dry off and dress, eat, rest, etc., and I awoke.
At breakfast I recounted the dream, which I recalled very clearly, to my husband, and suddenly I understood. Yeah, Mom I get it, I thought. I’d imagined I could grieve for her in one take, but I’d been wrong.
So I got back to work on my book—and my feet immediately stopped hurting.

Christmas-tide 2015

Again, the Symphony, the Christmas carols, the tears. It’s the opening chords of “Joy to the World” that feed the fountains this time—an instrumental performance, but I sing the words in my head, harmonizing with my mother’s ghost. And even though the orchestra is now playing another carol, we go on singing, my mother and I. We finish the first verse and move on to the second. “Fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains/Repeat the sounding joy/Repeat the sounding joy/Repeat, repeat the sounding joy.”

Shouldn’t I know by now?  Well, yes, I do know. And my feet don’t hurt. I don’t need the reminder this time. Beginning today, December 26, I am leaving for another week-long writing retreat, which I will devote to the book, her book.  The Valentine romance will have to wait.

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