cronechronicler

You don't know where you are going. You don't know how to get there. And you arrive just the same. Ghanaian saying

Passing Strangers

On a sunny day in Mexico
Sitting on a high stool at a high table
Eating a delicious morsel, savoring solitude
I noticed a man walking toward me
Vintage-aged and lost in thought.

Lazily I noted his white t-shirt
Imprinted with an Indian in a feathered head-dress
Cleveland I immediately concluded
Then corrected myself
Chicago Black Hawks! Aha! I was a hockey mom.

The gentleman passed by
I spoke quietly “Go Black Hawks”
He looked at me, blue eyes now focused
Responding in kind, “Go Black Hawks”
He smiled, said “Thank you” and moved on.

The sunny day in Mexico
A beam of human interaction
Warmed my soul I feel it still.
I pray our fractured world
Will be surprised to recognize such commonality.

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Amazing Grace On the STC

No longer a driver I now rely on Senior Transportation Connection to get me to doctor’s appointments. A small white van picks me up and I enter a world shared with others who also have learned to do without a car. The drivers are interesting in their own right. Altogether I enjoy being differently-abled.

This morning I used the STC service to get to my dentist’s office. When my appointment was over another van picked me up for the trip home. I was the single passenger. As we waited at a red light a school bus drove by. The STC driver remarked that she wanted to drive school buses. We agreed how important and rewarding it would be to be part of children’s lives in these dangerous and uncertain times. A black woman raised in the South, she wanted to pass on the sound teachings and community values of her family. She believed children nowadays need direction. And she told me the story of her daughter who has ADHD.

Her story revealed her as a mother who sought help for her child and accepted the difficult diagnosis. A woman who educated herself about ADHD. After a long search she found a school who asked what they could do for her daughter and for her. She replied “Believe in me.” I marveled at her wisdom and humility, and her faith and prayers.

I told her about my son who recently didn’t get the teaching job he applied for in a prosperous suburb. Instead he interviewed with an inner-city Charter School and got what he calls the job of a lifetime. He is grateful to be able to give his gifts as an experienced teacher and help shape children’s lives in this time of upheaval.

We two women, one black and one white, both mothers and one also a grandmother, were bound in our love for children everywhere. It is amazing but not exactly unexpected that we came together as kindred spirits in these weeks of unspeakable carnage and grief. These tragedies also give birth to moments of hope, testimony that love still abides.

When we arrived at my home the driver gave me a hand getting out of the van. We spoke of blessings and promised prayers for each other. She reached out and we hugged goodbye. I asked her name. She said Angela. I think I had been speaking with an angel unaware.

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Writing 101 – Short and Sweet

For me writing and receiving comments, along with their ever-spooling threads, are the connective tissue of the Word Press Community. It affirms me when someone lets me know they “get” what lies beneath my words. I’ve learned things about my writing that I couldn’t have otherwise known. When I comment on a post I look and listen for meaning and reflect it back to the blogger. Intuition and empathy guide me.

And there is more. I love comments where another blogger and I find mutual kinship and continue in threads to “know” each other. After a while we comment and reply with few words like old friends. Blogging has opened up a wondrous new world for me.

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Quiet Ferocity Part One: Flames and Embers

It was all so long ago. In my senior year of high school it was the tradition in my small southern town to give parties – lots of them – to honor the graduates. The hostesses paired us girls up with a boy by asking us to choose an escort. I had had my eye on the class president for a while and jumped at the chance to go to parties with him. One thing led to another and eventually he warmed up to me. After graduation his family moved to another town and we both went off to college. The end of my dream – or so it seemed to me.

He came back to town to visit friends a couple of times after that. We had fun going to Christmas dances, another of the town’s cultural delights. Nothing much was said about “feelings”. That was the 50’s. Then out of the blue I received a gorgeous bunch of yellow roses from him the spring of my senior year of college. That summer he wrote a letter saying that if I weren’t wearing the fraternity pin or engagement ring of another boy, he wanted to visit me. I was getting used to his non-verbal style and found it quite romantic. Also I could read into it whatever I wanted.

Life went on. He went off to fulfill his R.O.T.C. obligation. Those were the days of the Draft when all young men were required to spend two years in military service. I went off to find a job and became a bank teller. That Thanksgiving when he was home on leave from the Army we got together for a college football game close to his home and the city where I worked. After the game we had supper in a small cafe on the town square. He asked me to marry him. Well, I did have to think about that! Next day I said “Yes”. We bought a bottle of Champagne to celebrate and with it a can opener that had a corkscrew and beer opener attached so we could open it. The can opener has out-lasted my two marriages. It is in my kitchen drawer as I write.

We were married for thirty years in the then-traditional division of labor model. We became parents of three boys we both loved dearly. I was the full-time mother and he was the full-time bread-winner. In time we began to live separate lives and divorced.

Five years after the divorce we attended our 40th high school reunion, separately. This was only the second reunion our class had celebrated and we had missed the first, our 20th. He had a companion with him. I was by myself. A classmate I had not known well began a conversation with me saying he had been in love with me in the sixth grade. He showed me snapshots he had taken of other classmates and me with his Brownie box camera, an early forerunner of the cellphone camera. I laughed and replied that I had no idea. This was the beginning of another story and my second marriage.

Our marriage lasted almost twenty years. Good years. We traveled to most of the places I had long wanted to see. In time the same old division of labor thing intervened. I should have known that my hard-won sense of being my own woman clashed with his idea of my role in his life.

In the last few years of our marriage we began spending Christmas at my son’s house. My daughter-in-law had decided she would invite us and my former husband along with his companion to dinner. Things grew comfortable between all of us. The day after Christmas one year my daughter-in-law took some of the out-of-town guests to see a local attraction. My husband, my former husband, two of my sons and one grandchild stayed behind. My daughter-in-law, who loved to cook and decorate the dining room table for guests, was late getting back. We got hungry and decided to feed ourselves leftovers. My former husband, two of our sons and I rummaged around in the refrigerator and came up with a fine meal. We stood at the kitchen counter and ate from containers – a stark contrast to my daughter-in-law’s elegant entertaining. We looked at each other and suddenly recognized that we were acting like the “family” we once were. We were bonded by our old habits. My husband and the one grandchild sat at the breakfast table and looked on in amazement as the circle of family kept spinning.

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Family Connections

Family to me is an indefinable, inextinguishable feeling. It can be brought on by rummaging through old letters as I did recently. I found a note of congratulation for a long-ago milestone event from an uncle whom I loved as part of the family but don’t remember ever having a conversation with. I cherish the idea that he had thought of me. When I visited my son and his family a few weeks ago on the occasion of my grand daughter’s tenth birthday a similar epiphany occurred.

On the maternal side of my family my mother’s wedding veil became a family tradition. She wore it in 1927. Since then my two sisters and I, four cousins and my sister’s daughter have worn it. My daughter-in-law, the one I was visiting, is the first bride not descended from my mother to wear her veil. For years pictures of us cousins wearing the veil hung on the wall of my aunt’s staircase. I always said I wanted them when she died – and she remembered. They were with me for twenty years when I lived in a townhouse that had stairs for “the brides”. Now all nine of us hang in the mini-hallway of my small apartment. One sad note to my story is there is no picture of my mother wearing her veil.

There is another generation of brides descended from a cousin whose daughter and granddaughters have also worn my mother’s veil. Another set of pictures grace walls of their homes. My first cousin once removed (to be old-fashioned and proper) is making an album combining both sets of pictures. She asked all of us brides to send her a copy of our wedding photos. My daughter-in-law was in the midst of a stressful project at work and forgot to send hers. I volunteered to help her locate a photo while I was at her house visiting. Our going through her box of wedding memorabilia was a real moment of family bonding. Her mother, who died a few years ago, had created a wonderful book of wedding events which I took part in but had little memory of. Now we had fun reliving that remarkable wedding, including my son’s entrance accompanied by bagpipes. My mother’s veil trails behind many memories.

The day I mailed my daughter-in-law’s photo one of those serendipitous things happened that surely can’t be a coincidence. I discovered an object that connects my paternal family. In 1883 my grandfather started a small business making custom shirts which is still in existence and still run by descendants of his brother, a founding partner. A woman who is interested in the history of small family businesses has contacted cousins on my father’s side of the family for information. She was interested in any shirts or other things we might have collected and saved over the years. She emailed a picture of a shirt her husband had bought in 1974 showing the store’s label. I have a wooden coat hanger with the company’s name and address printed on it which has been in my family as long as I can remember. It’s probably seventy-five years old. I was excited to tell her about it. The woman replies to “all” in her emails and a cousin I haven’t seen since 1957 when he was ten years old picked up on my email. He replied that he had a coat hanger, too. He posted a picture of a coat hanger identical to mine except the placement of the company name and its address were reversed. A coat hanger is a humble object to connect a family, but it could be a seed of new growth in my family tree.

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Costa Rica Memory

One day on my recent trip to Costa Rica our group stopped for lunch in a small town. After we ate we had free time to wander around the town square and, of course, shop. I’m big on packing everything I expect to need when I travel in a small carry-on bag which allows for no additional items. Therefore, I’m not big on shopping.

I found a shady spot to sit on a park bench in the middle of the square. I looked around me and noticed a white Peace Pole planted in the flower bed across the sidewalk from my bench. That’s lovely, I thought. Soon I saw a young boy riding his bicycle on the sidewalk and smiled at him. He smiled back. In a moment when time seemed to stand still he reached toward me with a flower in his hand. I received the flower with a sense of wonder that this boy and I, and the Peace Pole, were somehow framed in a halo of love. I basked in the afterglow.

When I rejoined my fellow travellers to get back on the bus, I noticed that many of the women held flowers. They were discussing if they should have given him some money in exchange. I think that what was an epiphany for me was a market-place moment for some of them. I felt a little foolish. Love will do that to me. But I still believe that the boy wanted to give and wanted nothing more than for me to receive his gift.

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Transportation: A Haiku

Words are tiny things.
Yet span continents and worlds
Bridging human hearts.

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