I met this woman by happenstance while doing laundry in Florence, Italy. My son and I were on an extended holiday in Europe and as such were tasked with doing our laundry. Confounded by the intricacies of doing so in a foreign place, I lost 4 euros (about 5 dollars) in a change machine. I was disgruntled but just thought it was the price I had to pay. I sat down on 1 of the 3 seats available in this 10x10 foot smallish laundromat and waited as my clothes washed. A woman sat down beside me and we started to chat. I spoke English only and was amazed that this woman spoke fluent English as well. I told her about my travels and how I sometimes was confounded by the simplest things (doing laundry or finding the right train to get to my destination). She pulled out 5 euros and said she found it in the laundromat machine when she was buying tokens. She handed the euros to me and said that she had a feeling she would see me to give the euros back to me. I was amazed at her honesty in doing so. Thinking back, I realize how strange and beautiful it is to have experiences like this.
Wednesday, January 17, 2018
“To bed, to bed!” Mom chimed to her son Timmy. Timmy is a 5-year-old boy, and like most boys this age he thinks bedtime is one of the worst things in the world. On Timmy’s list it’s right up there with eating broccoli; even worse than eating liver and onions. You see, there is so much fun to be had. So many adventures to experience; so many games to be played. It seemed to Timmy that bedtime came much too soon.
“Mommmm! Please let me stay up for at least 15 more minutes! I’ll brush my teeth for an extra 5 more minutes and even pop right out of bed tomorrow without grumbling!” Timmy tried with all his might to use his most angelic face. He batted his eyes and begged like he’d seen his dog, Benji, do so many times. Mom stifled a laugh and recalled the times when Timmy was a baby and fought his bedtime even then. He would thrash his head from side to side and kick his feet in his best effort to stay awake.
“Sweetie, tomorrow is the first day of school. You are starting kindergarten and that’s a pretty big deal. It’s important that you get a good night’s sleep, so you can be ready for your big day tomorrow.”
“Okay, Mom” Timmy said, dejected. He shuffled down the hallway and into his Mickey Mouse bathroom to brush his teeth. He let Mom help him into his Buzz Light Year pajamas and kneeled with her to say his prayers. “God bless everyone” said Timmy. “Even those kids that get to stay up past their bedtimes” he added and glanced slyly to Mom.
Reluctantly time lay down on his bed. Mom covered him up with his favorite blue blanket and tucked in the blanket around him so that he looked like a little boy burrito. “Sleep tight” Mom said and kissed him on his cheek. “Get some sleep and I’ll see you in the morning.” She turned on his night light and closed the door halfway.
Timmy fidgeted and kicked the blanket off. He looked around his room thinking of all the things he’d rather be doing right now instead of going to bed (there were too many to count!). Timmy thought about asking Mom for a drink of water, but he knew if he asked for it too soon Mom would know what he was doing. Having an exasperated mother was not something Timmy wanted. “Night time is so boring,” he thought to himself, dreamily.
Truth be told, Timmy did like the way his new “big boy” bed felt. Mom had gotten this for him as a surprise last week. It smelled new and had a soft, squishy mattress that dented in where he laid. He also like the way the other bed was over his bed, so it felt like he was sleeping in a cave. Although Timmy liked how his bed felt, his favorite part was the bookshelf which was attached on the right. His favorite books, Goodnight Moon and Oh the Places You’ll Go were there, as was his favorite toy car—bright red with shiny silver trim.
The next morning Mom hummed as she entered Timmy’s room. She was both excited and nervous at Timmy’s first day of school. Her little boy was certainly growing up! “Timmy!” she sang. “It’s your first day of school! Rise and shine!” As she neared his bed and bent down to gently rouse him she gasped. “What in the world?!!” There were orange, green, brown, yellow, and black drawings not only on his new bed, but on the bookshelf as well. She moved closer and studied the drawings. They looked remarkably like the caves at Carlsbad Caverns they had visited that summer.
Timmy cracked one eye open as he heard his mother. Noticing the look on her face, he sat up with a start. “What’s wrong, Mom?” he said, rubbing his eyes as he tried to wake up. Mom just stared with eyes as big as saucers as she shakily pointed to the caverns with cracks and crevices which were drawn all over his new furniture.
“I need a minute” Mom stammered as she slowly backed out of Timmy’s room. What was she to do about this? On one hand, she knew that her son had done this and needed consequences for doing so. On the other hand, however, Mom knew that it was important to send Timmy off in good spirits to his first day of kindergarten. She sipped her coffee as she stared out the kitchen window, deep in thought. With time slipping away she made the decision to discuss this with her son and impose consequences after he completed school that day.
Mom walked down to Timmy’s room and attempted to appear calm and collected. “Let’s get you ready for school” she said while doing her best not to look at the new “artwork” on his new bedroom furniture.
While eating his favorite breakfast of pancakes Timmy said, “Mom, you would never believe what Harold looks like.” “Harold?” Mom said. “Yes, Harold” Timmy replied. “His real name is Harold the Spider, but he let’s me call him Harold. He’s the one that did that cool cave artwork in my room. Usually spiders gross me out, but not Harold. I mean, don’t get me wrong. He’s BIG. I mean really big. Hairy too. I like him though because he always has a big smile on his face. He wears a purple and yellow striped t-shirt that’s too tight and looks funny since it stretches over his belly. He told me that normally he’s sort of shy, but he wanted to be my friend since he’s 5-years-old too. And you know what Mom? I think I could draw you a picture of Harold after school!”.
“A shy spider named Harold?” Mom asked as she quickly cleared the breakfast dishes. “A shy friendly spider named Harold that talks to you? You say he wears a little purple and yellow striped t-shirt that stretches across his belly and that he is not only a friend, but he is also a gifted artist? He sounds like quite a character, son. I’d love to see a picture of him later, but right now we need to get you to school.”
Throughout the day, Timmy’s mother thought about the newly discovered “art” in her son’s bedroom. She had saved for a year to buy this for Timmy as a surprise, and within a week it was destroyed. Mom went into Timmy’s room and knelt to examine the drawings more closely. She brushed her hands over the strokes of color as she marveled at the detail of the depicted caverns. Quite honestly, she was impressed at the likeness to Carlsbad Caverns. There was even a sunset that had been drawn in oranges, purples, and pinks.
The time to pick up Timmy at finally arrived. When Mom spotted him, she was relieved to see that he had a huge smile on his face. She knelt to give him a hug as she asked about his first day of kindergarten. Timmy excitedly said, “I love school! My teacher is nice, and I have 2 new friends! Oh, and look Mom! I painted a picture of Harold the Spider for you today in art!”
Harold was exactly as Timmy had described him earlier that day. He was a basketball sized spider with a wide smile which stressed across his face. He donned that too small purple and yellow striped t-shirt and in one of his arms, Harold held a box of crayons. Mom began laughing. Softly at first that louder as she wiped tears from her eyes. “What’s so funny, Mom?” Timmy asked as they walked home. After composing herself, Mom bent down and looked Timmy in the eye. “I think you and Harold the Spider are both very creative artists, but let’s buy some paper so that the next time you and Harold get the desire to paint you can us it instead of your furniture. Would that be okay?” Timmy nodded and smiled as they continued the walk home. He began humming, “The Itsy-Bitsy Spider.”
Sunday, January 14, 2018
I think when we’re young we feel we have all the time in the world. Time to do those things, however outrageous to other people. We make a bucket list and have the intent to follow it; we hold onto those dreams tightly. In the last few years I have experienced the joys and pains as every person who lives to a certain age has. I’ve traveled abroad and meandered through Europe. I’ve lost my job and obtained another one.
I’ve witnessed my son growing up into a fine young man and graduating from college. He will soon be moving on and building his life, independent of mine. I’ve lost my father to cancer and I’ve placed my mother in an assisted living due to her diagnosis of dementia and her subsequent loss of independence.
The outcome of all of this is that I’ve come to realize not to put my dreams on hold. I can’t do this; I mustn’t do this. I’ve come to the conclusion to live my life and have no regrets. I don’t want to be that person who, near the end of their life says, “I wish I would have done this.” The reality is that no one has all the time in the world.
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
After several months of work, my book "shorts...a compilation of stories, essays, poems & ruminations" is available. These selected works have been written over the past 5 years and reflect events in my life, some of which are true and some fictional. I do hope to engender some enjoyment, some reflection, or some curiosity.
Friday, January 5, 2018
It seems some people are meant to move into and then out of your life. At the time of their departure, you may have a feeling of loss, of a fear of not having that relationship you’ve formed. Thinking back on this, however, it doesn’t seem to be mere happenstance that this has occurred. That person was placed in your life to contribute, in some way, to who you are and to who you are becoming. They make an imprint on you. Hopefully in turn, you’ve somehow done the same.