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The Spider’s Lair–A Halloween Poem and Scary Tale

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My world is woven from a desire to create a reality.

Silken threads intertwine and twist in the moisture laden air,

all the while I wait and ponder the divinity I seek.

* * *

The darkness of the swamp engulfs and challenges this veracity.

Bottle green leaves and vines encircle my retreat,

drawing wisdom from the primordial ooze beneath my feet.

* * *

Patiently I crouch and wait, silent in my lair,

as gossamer strands of silken lace play upon her hair.

The dankness of the mire, the stillness of the day,

This I know is my actuality, my dominion I shall keep.

2014 © Copyright-All rights reserved www.silverthreading.com

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Miss Pensie Taylor walked down the dirt road toward the tiny house behind the swamp where she had been born many years ago. Her walk was slower these days as the arthritis had settled in her old bones. Her dress flapped forlornly around her thin legs as the humid sea air blew in from the Gulf of Mexico. Thick trunked oak trees with massive limbs creaked in the breeze, as she walked by.

She shifted her bag of groceries to her other hand to ease the cramp in her hand. She was almost to the swamp when she noticed billowing storm clouds building in the southern sky. The air was heavy and dank around the swamp. Frogs croaked in the murky water. Birds scattered and flew in different directions between the dark trees, as if they were getting ready for the approaching storm by looking for shelter.

St. Michael’s cemetery was across the street from the swamp a ways up on higher ground. Years ago, Miss Pensie’s father had been the caretaker of the burial grounds. Miss Pensie had followed him around as a child, while he read the names of the Confederate soldiers buried there out loud to her.

The cemetery was an old place and had been there for many years. Miss Pensie was used to it and not afraid of living so close to a graveyard. After all the King of Spain was buried there in 1807! It was just the history of folks you would find there. The stories of people who lived long ago could still be felt if you walked around looking at the names of the dead.

The large ornate tombs of white stone surrounded by elaborate wrought iron fences showed up brightly against the many trees scattered throughout the graveyard. Lightening pierced the dark clouds with jagged bursts of fury. Miss Pensie hurried as she leaned into the wind. Quickly she rounded the edge of the swamp that was part of the backyard of her property. Sharp lightning flashes reflected in the windows of her house, startling her.

She opened the back door with a shaky hand and walked into the kitchen to switch on the lights. She flipped the switch a couple of times. Damn, she thought. The power is out already. The storm is not even here yet and there is no electricity, she fumed.

Rain and thunder storms were a part of life in Pensacola, Florida. You never knew when one would blow up. Sometimes they lasted hours, some only minutes before moving on to the next location. Miss Pensie got out the candles and matches from the kitchen drawer where she always kept them. She lit a candle, placed it in the holder then set it on the table. The candle’s flickering light made the room feel welcome.

Hurrying to the old stove, she struck a match and lit the gas. A welcoming flame burst from the burner filling the room with an eerie blue light. Miss Pensie filled the kettle and set it on the flame. A cup of tea sounds good right now, she mused. Maybe this storm will blow over quickly, she thought. It was hot in the kitchen and she wiped sweat from her brow.

Outside the small house, the storm began to build. The wind and rain whipped up into a fury beating against the windows with so much noise Miss Pensie could hardly hear herself think. She looked out the kitchen window although all she could see was the rain blurring and distorting her vision as it struck the glass. Strange dark tree shadows blurred by the rain moved outside in the yard.

Thunder rumbled deeply and shook the walls of her little house. Miss Pensie made a cup of tea and waited for the storm to abate. The wind howled, thunder boomed, and the rain tore at the house for almost an hour.

Miss Pensie sat patiently waiting for the storm to be over with. As quickly as it had begun it was finished. The quiet was almost as deafening as the storm had been. Suddenly, the lights flashed to life as the electricity was restored. Miss Pensie jumped at the harsh glare from the overhead kitchen light. It almost blinded her.

Glancing at the clock on the wall, she realized it was well after suppertime and time to fix a bite to eat. Miss Pensie made a sandwich and sat at the kitchen table in front of the bay window to eat her dinner.

She watched the gathering gloom descend around her tiny house. The swamp was especially beautiful in the dim light. She could see the stark contrast of the bottle green leaves of the river birch rubbing against the deep forest green leaves of the magnolia trees. Water drops glistened on the leaves and seemed to twinkle in the twilight. Crickets chirped and lazy dragon flies perched on the bamboo sticks in her garden.

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As the darkness rapidly descended Miss Pensie noticed something out of the corner of her eye. There seemed to be a green mist hovering in the cemetery across from the swamp. It looked like a green fog as it spread and thickened – then dissipated, and was gone. White orbs suddenly appeared and bobbed up and down between the grave stones. The lights moved round and round, as they circled some of the gravestones. Then they were gone too!

“Well what could that be?” she said out loud. That was the strangest thing she had ever seen. 80 years living in these parts and she never saw a green mist with white orbs of light hovering over the cemetery before. She sat for a while more pondering the strange sight she had witnessed.

Finally, she decided that she would investigate and see what could have caused that fog and those lights. Miss Pensie grabbed her large flashlight and went outside. The storm was long gone and stars sparkled overhead in the night sky. The grass was wet and squeaked when she walked on it. A stray toad croaked as she made her way past the swamp to the front gates of the St. Michael’s Cemetery.

The gates were left open at night now since the company that managed the cemetery did not like to send someone out at night to lock up. Most people did not come here at night anyway. They thought it was spooky. Too many lost souls floating about. Miss Pensie did not mind though. The cemetery made her think of her Pa. She was not afraid.

Once through the black wrought iron gates, she shone the flash light around to see if the green mist or the white orbs were lurking about in the depths of the darkness. Nothing. There was absolutely nothing there except the grave stones lit up brightly by the flashlight beam in her hand.

“Humph!” replied Miss Pensie. “Got me out here at night looking for nothing,” she said with irritation in her voice. I must be losing it, she thought. One more look around with the flashlight revealed nothing once again. Miss Pensie turned and walked back outside of St. Michael’s cemetery. She turned and headed back home.

At the edge of the swamp closest to her backyard, Miss Pensie stumbled against a tree trunk that was jutting out into the grass. She felt something on her arm, and there in the beam of the flashlight was the largest spider she had ever seen! She got tangled up in the silky strands of the spider’s web as she tried to regain her footing. No, cemeteries did not scare her, but big HUGE spiders terrified her!

Miss Pensie broke loose from the web, grabbed the flashlight that had tumbled to the ground in the altercation with the spider, and ran. She ran as hard as she could for her back door. Bursting through the door, she tumbled into the kitchen and plopped down into a kitchen chair! It took almost 10 minutes for her breathing to calm down and for her heart to stop beating as if it would burst inside her chest. She was still shaking and sweating profusely.

She drank her now cold tea and looked out the window again. There in the distance, she could see the white orbs dancing around the tomb stones again. It was as if they were taunting her! Shaking her head in wonder, she knew what she would do. She was going to call Sam Pritchard, the County Sheriff. He could handle it. Her hands still shaking, she picked up the phone and called Sam.

Sam Pritchard took Miss Pensie’s call and came out to investigate himself. He knew she was getting on in years and wanted to make sure that she was alright. He had never heard of a green mist or fog with dancing lights in the cemetery before either. This was a new one. He had to see this himself.

Sam pulled up in Miss Pensie’s driveway in his old pickup truck. He knocked at her back door. Her lights were on however, she did not answer his knock. He called out Miss Pensie’s name, but there still was no answer. He walked around the yard a bit and looked across the street at the cemetery. He did not see any lights or mist. Where was Miss Pensie, he wondered.

He opened the back door and then he saw her! She was lying on her side, the phone clutched in her hand. Her mouth was open and a look of astonishment was captured on her face. Poor thing, Sam thought. It looks like she had a heart attack right after she called me. She must have been really scared of whatever she saw tonight.

Miss Pensie was buried in the St. Michael’s Cemetery right next to her Pa, with her Ma on the other side of her. It was a short ceremony because not many people knew who she was because of her age. Her favorite flowers, gardenias were laid upon her burial mound. The white gardenias filled the air with their heady fragrance.

That night, the green mist and the dancing orbs surrounded the hallowed ground where Miss Pensie laid for her eternal rest. Sam Pritchard saw the lights as he drove by the cemetery that night. Many people in town said that they started seeing them too. They figured it was Miss Pensie’s Ma and Pa showing her the way to her eternal sleep. Nobody really knew that it was that damn spider that scared Miss Pensie to an early death!

Nevertheless, if you drive by the St. Michael’s Cemetery in Pensacola, Florida any night of the year, you just might see those dancing orbs of light surrounded by a green fog! I know that people still see them because I have too!

2014 © Copyright-All rights reserved www.silverthreading.com

St Michael's cemetary

I hope you enjoyed this bit of Pensacola, Florida lore. The St. Michaels’s cemetery is real, although I did change the location to go with my story. If you want to learn about the cemetery click here.  The lights in the cemetery are considered to be real too.  I found this information on Haunted Places in Pensacola Florida.  Enjoy!

Happy Halloween!  Thanks for visiting,

Silver Threading

The Horse Hole–A Halloween Tale

 

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The sun slowly slipped behind the trees leaving a warm glow to the field. Night birds scattered in the branches of the trees while insects droned on in monotony. The air felt cooler now. Ground fog swirled around the grasses casting eerie shadows on the ground. The evening gloom was rapidly approaching. I shivered in anticipation.

Not far off in the field, our two neighbor horses steadily crunched grass, their teeth reflecting bone-white in the rays of the setting sun. It was Halloween night – All Hallows Eve. Trick-or-Treating kids would soon fill the neighborhood with the sounds of laughter, as they went from house to house showing off their costumes and collecting treats.

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The horse hole was visible in the fading light. The horses visited me daily looking for handouts of carrots or even an occasional apple. They would hang their enormous necks through the opening, all the while munching, as I rubbed their velvety noses. They were the best neighbors.

I was ready this time. Last Halloween I ran out of candy early. This year I made sure I had plenty of candy to hand out to the kids. My pumpkins were lit and my decorations spread around the front porch were inviting – not too scary for the little kids. I made myself comfortable in a chair and sipped my glass of wine, enjoying the descending darkness.

The kids came from every corner of the neighborhood, dressed as fairy princesses with dainty shoes, green colored Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, skeletons, Count Dracula’s, monsters of every variety you could imagine. Babies dressed up as bugs, teddy bears, and even a vampire baby stopped at my door to receive a treat.

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The darkness filled the neighborhood. The street lights were lit and an orange glow cast long shadows on the street. The children ran ahead of their parents, laughing with their friends. Parents milled about in small groups watching their children, always near. The sounds of laughter completed the friendly Halloween atmosphere. I watched and smiled at how cute the kids were, enjoying their banter.

By 8:30 p.m. most of the children and parents were finished with Trick or Treat and were heading home. A few crying fairies stomped their way behind their parents, mad because the great adventure was over for another year.

I cleaned up the porch, and put away the decorations in the bin I stored them in. It was such a lovely night, and a Friday night too. I refilled my wine glass and went out back to my patio that overlooked the field where the neighbor horses grazed.

It was a marvelous night. Stars lightly sprinkled the night sky and were spread out like a mantle overhead. The warmth of the day barely lingered and I could feel the coolness creep in between the folds of my sweater. I sipped my wine and appreciated the view of the night sky.

Suddenly, I smelled the most obnoxious odor. It seemed to waft, thick like fog from the horse hole in the fence. Far in the distance, I could hear the neighbor horses running as their thundering hooves hit the ground. They seemed frightened as their cries filled the vicinity of the field. I was rooted to my chair, unable to move.

There he was – the Headless Horseman! His profile was etched in the inky darkness of the horse hole! I heard my wine glass fall and shatter to the ground as shards of glass flew all around me.

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(Image credit: Telltale Games)

The horseman’s black steed snorted flashes of lightning through his muzzle, as his blood-red eyes glared at me! He balanced a glowing Jack-o-lantern in his right arm. I could see him clearly and there was NO head! The buttons on his coat were visible in the light from the pumpkin.

I swallowed hard and felt like my eyes were popping out of my head. I stared transfixed at the horse hole. The Headless Horseman whirled about and was gone! The fog churned in great billows and drifted about the field.

Slowly, the smell faded. The fog grew thicker and moisture dripped from the remaining leaves left on the trees. I started trembling uncontrollably. All around me it was silent. My breaths came in great gasps. I shifted in my chair and looked around my back yard. I looked specifically at the horse hole. It was all dark – just swirling fog.

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He was really gone! I could feel my heart pounding inside my chest. I relaxed my tightened muscles and gradually stood up. My shoes crunched in the ruins of the wine glass beneath my feet. Behind me, inside the house, a light came on in the kitchen which illuminated the patio outside.

My husband came to the back door and called out to me to come to bed as it was getting late. I told him I was just coming in and would be right there. Could I really tell him what had just happened without him laughing at me, I thought. No, I would keep this encounter to myself. Too much wine and a tad too much chocolate, I figured. I will just clean up this mess in the morning.

I went into the house, locked the door, and turned off the light. I had enough Halloween for one night.

2014 © Copyright-All rights reserved www.silverthreading.com

I hope you enjoyed my Halloween tale which was inspired from one of my favorite television shows, “Sleepy Hollow.”  Thanks for stopping by so I could scare see you!

Silver Threading

An Essay on the Importance of Halloween in American Society

Halloween has become one of the most celebrated retail holidays in our American culture although the roots of the holiday are shrouded in religious beliefs that have survived from the beginning of time. Think of Halloween and visions of costumes, jack-o-lanterns and candy appear. Lots of candy! But the earliest celebrations of Halloween symbolize the eternal struggle between good vs. evil which is still representative in our society today.

According to Maggie Black, Halloween, All Hallows Eve or Hallowtide includes Halloween evening and the feast of All Saints followed by All Souls’ Day (October 31st to November 2nd) and has a history rich in religious traditions that originated with the Celtic feast of Samhain which celebrated the end of summer and the harvest. (60) The Celts believed that on Halloween the dead walked the earth again and this brought much fear to the people. (60) Early agricultural societies revolved around the seasons and as summer traveled into fall and the warming influence of the sun waned, they began preparations for the long hard winters. The bounty that was evident from the summer harvest provided the perfect backdrop for a celebration. The Celts looked to the seasons to answer questions they had about their own existence and I believe this natural progression of the seasons caused them to try to explain how they thought their world operated back then.

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During the harvest celebration, the Celts also celebrated their dead which is also explained by the season of fall and associated with death. Bonfires were lit to drive the evil demons away and protect the souls that were still earthbound. Great feasts were held to celebrate the bounty of the harvest and religious rites were performed to purify the people for another year so they could produce another bountiful harvest the following year. As Christianity developed throughout the world, some of the more basic traditions from the Celts followed with the Halloween holiday. Gradually, demons became witches and Halloween in America settled into a celebration of the harvest and the bounty that the summer produced.

I recall as a child attending Halloween parties that were focused on the harvest of fall. Apples, nuts, pumpkins and gourds were readily found in the fall. Pumpkins were carved to symbolize laughing or crazy faces as if to mock the evil spirits from long ago. Costumes were worn as a disguise and I wondered if that was so the evil would not recognize my true form and find me. These Halloween traditions have followed us into the Twenty First Century.

Halloween has become one of the most important retail holidays celebrated in America today. At its humble beginnings, Halloween consisted of carved pumpkins and homemade costumes and Trick-or-Treat. I remember the thrill when I tromped up to a neighbor’s house all dressed up in a disguise and shouted out, “Trick or Treat!” It was equally thrilling when a full size Milky Way bar or some other precious sweet that I loved was deposited into my treat bag.

The retail phenomenon began about fifteen years ago. Suddenly, everyone had a lawn display that consisted of ghoulish graveyards, huge blowup Frankenstein monsters or black cauldrons boiling some smelly concoction. Hidden stereos spewed forth scary sounds in decibels high enough to make your toes curl! Neighborhoods had contests with one another and their neighbor’s yards were crammed with every imaginable Halloween decoration that is available for sale today.

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(Image credit: Outdoor Halloween Decorations)

“Halloween is becoming more sophisticated as people start taking their celebrating seriously,” says Kathy Grannis, a spokesperson for the National Retail Federation. “It’s a fun, stress-free holiday that allows you to be as creative as you want to be.” (Herbst 1) Coupled with that, the retailers want you to spend your money on their Halloween themed items. Halloween displays typically show up in stores across America before the kids have gone back to school in many cities! Halloween is big money in the retail world and we Americans have created a monster in sales.

“The average American will spend nearly $60 to celebrate Halloween this year. Consumers spend the most on costumes, averaging about $22 a person, followed by decorations, candy, and greeting cards.” (Herbst 1) Decorations are fueling the retail industry. Everyone wants to recreate their favorite horror movie scene or have the best graveyard on the block. No Halloween party in America is complete without cobwebs and giant spiders stretched across your ceiling! Besides that, the retailers remind us with every advertising venue possible that it is not fun to Trick or Treat at a house with no decorations!

Halloween is fun because it allows everybody to let loose and be something they are not. When you buy into Halloween, you buy into the fantasy of Halloween. Because our unemployment percentages are at the highest levels in years and so many people are out of work, Halloween has become the ultimate way to pretend that your life is better. As Americans, we need diversions that give us cause for celebration. Halloween does that. It’s the one night a year to live in a fantasy and then return to the reality of your life the next day.

Halloween is still about the fall season and signifies the first holiday of the traditional American holiday season. Just like the Celts long ago celebrated the harvest and the end of the summer, today we share the same thirst for the fall celebration. The religious overtones of the holiday have been replaced with a more commercial view of Halloween that is like an offering and a hope to keep all that is evil at bay. I think the Celts would understand.

Works Cited

Black, Maggie. “Saints and Soul-caking.” History Today 31.11 (1981): 60. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 9 Oct. 2010.

Herbst, Moira. “The Booming Business of Halloween.” BusinessWeek Online (2006): 1. Academic SearchComplete. EBSCO. Web. 9 Oct. 2010.

2014 © Copyright-All rights reserved www.silverthreading.com

Thanks for stopping by to see what I am up to.  It is Halloween Week and I look forward to seeing you again!

Silver Threading

Dear Tabitha

Dear Tabitha,

I could not believe what I read, but there it was in black and white, right in front of me. I had to write you immediately, because like me, you share an undying curiosity in the world around you. I know what I read will intrigue you. Have you ever heard of the Georgia Guidestones?

The Georgia Guidestones are massive carved slabs placed outside of Atlanta, Georgia in 1980. I came across them while reading the book, “History Decoded,” by Brad Meltzer. You remember, I told you about the T.V. show. I was absolutely dumbfounded by what I had read.

The stone slabs are crafted to track astrological and solar cycles. It is like an American Stonehenge! The man who ordered them to be carved used the name R.C. Christian. He paid for the work to be done in cash. The only catch? He wanted to remain anonymous. I guess no one to this day knows who the man was.

Interestingly, the messages carved in the stones are in English, Spanish, Swahili, Hindi, Hebrew, Arabic, Chinese, and Russian. There are ten lines of writing on each slab. You have to read from the bottom up or you will get stuck on the first one. Here are the first nine:

“Don’t be a cancer on the earth.”

“Seek harmony.”

“Balance personal rights with social duties.”

“Avoid petty laws.”

“Resolve international conflicts in a world court.”

“Protect people with fair laws.”

“Rule with reason.”

“Unite humanity with a new language.”

“Guide reproduction wisely.”

Number ten really made me gasp. It said, “Maintain humanity under 500 million in perpetual balance with nature.”

I had to read number ten a few times. What would we do with the almost 7 billion people in excess of that? Why were these stones with these directives placed there? Who came up with these directives? It all sounds kind of ominous to me.

The further I read in the chapter the more questions I had. One idea they came up with in the book was that the pseudonym, R. C. Christian is a direct reference to Christian Rosenkreutz and the Rosicrucians. We will have to find out more about them.

I am not sure about any of this. I will be glad when you get here next week so that we can tackle this puzzle face to face. I am excited about your visit. Be safe. I love you.

See you next week,

Love, Mom

This letter was part of Writing 101 wherein we were to pick up the nearest book and flip to page 29. What jumps out at you? Start there, and try a twist: write in the form of a letter.  The hyperlinks are provided for further research.

Thanks for stopping by today.  I enjoyed our visit.

Silver Threading

The Bigamist

Blogging U 9.14

Today in Writing 101, write a post with roots in a real-world conversation. For a twist, include foreshadowing.

I opened the envelope in my hands glancing at the return address as I ripped it open. Schultz & Kirkpatrick, P.C. it read. A lawyer, I thought to myself. From Milwaukee, Wisconsin, no less. The documents enclosed were the probate documents to my step mother’s will. She had died a few months back, and I was interested to find out how she disposed of her assets.

Over a cup of tea, I read the legal papers. When I finished, I shook my head and read them again. Just as I had assumed, my step mother had included me in her will inheriting along with 20 other people an amount to be determined 15 years after her death if certain conditions were met.  Typical.

In addition, she had written out my sister, (now deceased herself), and my brother… but someone else was listed, Carol Steinle. Who the hell was that, I thought?

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(Image credit: Opening the documents)

I read that section over and over again. The more I read, the clearer it became to me that my father had another child after me, with another woman he had been married to! AND, not my mother, nor my step mother. I stared blankly at the page. Could this be true? I shook my head in disbelief.

I called my brother in law, Jerry, who was the eldest in the family and had known my parents extensively. He listened as I read to him the information contained in my step mother’s probate documents. When I finished he let out a long sigh.

“You never knew any of this,” he asked me?

“No,” I told him, “I am completely in the dark about another child.”

Jerry asked me if I remembered my Father married to the other woman. He said it wasn’t long after my mother had died. I did, and it was not a good memory.

The last time I saw her, my drunken father had beat her up. I closed my eyes and could hear the sirens and see the flashing lights of the police car that had responded to the incident all over again in my mind. I remember crying and screaming for my Daddy. That was when Grandma and Grandpa came and got me and I started living with them.

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(Image credit: police car)

“Your father was a mess in those days,” my brother in law said. You lived with Grandma and Grandpa and he married her. We all knew it would not work out, but your father was not the kind of man you questioned, if you remember.

“Did he have another child,” I asked, afraid of the answer.

“We never saw her,” said Jerry. “Your sister and I knew, but not anyone else.”

“Your stepmother had a fit when she found out,” Jerry said. “Your father and step mother married in another state and your father never told her he had been married to the second wife.” “They had to get a divorce, so that he could divorce the second wife.” “Then he remarried your step mother,” Jerry said.

I was shocked beyond belief. All that moral crap they had crammed down my throat when I was young, and here at forty years old I learn my father was a bigamist? And, he had another child!

I hung up the phone after thanking Jerry for explaining it all to me. Now what, I thought? I have a half-sister somewhere out there. Does she even know about me or my brother? I began the search for the half-sister I never knew I had.

Thanks for visiting me today.  I look forward to seeing you again,

Silver Threading

My Step Mother’s House

Blogging U 9.14

My step mother’s house in Milwaukee, Wisconsin was a dark-red brick house with ivy growing all over, which colored the house according to the seasons.  In fall, the house blared out in wild hues of red, copper, and orange ivy leaves.  In winter, the house seemed stark, naked.  In spring and summer, deep green leaves contrasted with the red brick.  I thought it looked the best in summer.

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(Image credit: Sparklestar)

The house belonged to my step mother and her alone.  My father was not on the deed.  The house had belonged to my step mother and her first husband, who was deceased.  She never let me forget that.  Everything in the house had been theirs.  Not ours – theirs.  I hated that!

This house was the only one like it in the neighborhood.  To a twelve-year-old girl who was already considered different, and only wanted to blend into the masses, the house was a great source of my discontent.  The red brink accented by pistachio green window trim just screamed, “Look at me, I am different!”  I hated it.

The house was not large by any means in fact, it was quite small.  There was a large brick and concrete front porch that was never used.  The porch was flanked on the left side by the largest picture window in the neighborhood. It looked like a huge glaring eye staring out into the street.

The front door was for company only. On the right side of the door was my step mother’s and father’s bedroom, and that also sported a smaller picture window.  The house always looked like it was winking or, was off-balance somehow.  I hated that too.

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(Image credit: Brick house – not my step-mother’s house – just an example)

Inside my step mother’s house were two bedrooms, a den, a large kitchen, a living room, and one small bathroom.  There was a basement that encompassed the whole bottom floor that was accessed by a flight of stairs from the kitchen.

The basement contained a laundry area, a wood working room, another casual living area, and a pool table!  I was never allowed to play pool because the pool table held sentimental value to my step mother.  It belonged to her first husband.  I grew to hate that also.

The kitchen was the main living area of the house.  The walls were painted turquoise and bright red linoleum tiles covered the floor.  There was a round table skirted by three chairs nearest to the back door.  My father and step mother would come in after work and sit in those chairs and smoke and talk.  I was the only kid in the neighborhood or in any of my classes who had a “working” (step) mother.  I really hated that.

1970, the year I was twelve, was all about expression in the use of color within your home, and my step mother loved color.  Of course, I hated it.  In the bathroom, the sink, toilet, and tub were baby blue.  Pink tiles lined the walls.  My step mother added purple to the mix and the room was a psychedelic mess.  And, to make matters worse, there was no shower – only a bathtub!  I hated that worst of all.

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(Image credit: Psychedelic)

My bedroom was painted in a pale wedge-wood blue.  I had a comfortable double bed with many blankets to ward off the harsh Wisconsin cold.  There were curtains on the windows patterned with fall leaves.  I liked the way the coolness of the blue walls contrasted with the warm colors in the curtains.  White café curtains finished off the window decor and afforded me some privacy from the closeness of the neighbors.  My room felt like a sunny autumn afternoon.

Over my bed, hung three framed prints of birds from the Audubon Society;  a robin, a blue bird and a scarlet tanager.  They had belonged to my step mother’s first husband.  I did not mind them.  They were beautiful to me.

My father made me a wood desk which overlooked one of two windows in the room.  I sat at that desk reading, writing, doing homework, and dreaming of what I was going to become in the years ahead.  My bedroom, my sanctuary was the only room I liked in my step mother’s house.  Eventually, I would have to leave it all behind.

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Image credit: Dreaming of Life)

This was part of my Writing 101 assignment for today wherein we were to tell about the home you lived in when you were twelve. For our twist, we were to pay attention to — and vary — our sentence lengths.

Thanks for the great visit today.  I hope to see you again soon!

Silver Threading

My first German-Polish-Russian Christmas

I was born the fourth child to a German father from Kansas, and a Russian mother, who I was told was born on a boat coming to America. Apparently I was the by-product of a fabulous 35th birthday celebration that my father must have greatly enjoyed. I did the math and the numbers add up!

When I was three years old my mother suddenly died. My sister was married with a baby of her own (my niece, only one year younger than myself), and my brother was bundled off to live with my mother’s brother.

My father suffered from bouts of alcoholism and depression. He probably had PTSD considering he had served in World War II in Pearl Harbor and then again when the Korean Conflict flared up. He was not capable of taking care of a three year old girl, let alone himself.

In view of these facts, I lived with my grandparents on my father’s side of the family until I was about eight years old. My father had been seeing a woman. My grandparents instantly disliked her, and I am sure I felt some of that myself. It was no surprise then, when my father re-married and I was to have a step-mother!

My father and step mother were about 45 years old when they married, and I came to live with them at my step mother’s house. My step mother had never had children and hated them. Her favorite pastime was reminding me of that fact every chance she got. I lived within the shadows of her house staying in my room and out of the way of both of them. Truth be told, I was afraid of her. She terrified me.

I tried to be the girl she wanted me to be but, at eight years old I did not know what to do with someone like her. My step mother had grown up during the depression, raised by her grandparents who were strict with her. She applied those same rules to me. I lived in a child’s hell for many years.

In no time that first Christmas was suddenly upon us all and I wondered what the holiday would have in store for me. Christmas dinner was a lavish affair with my step mother’s German grandmother, and her first father in law in attendance.

I spent hours polishing silver for the table. China was brought up from crates in the basement and I washed and dried everything to a nice sheen. Table settings were of paramount importance to my step mother and I was instructed in the art of setting a formal dinner table.

Dishes

(Image credit: “Nostrovia.”)

There were candles and flowers placed in the middle of the table. Crystal glasses sparkled on the table. Napkins were folded and neatly placed to the right of each plate with the proper silverware on top. Mistakes were not tolerated!

My step mother cooked Sauerbraten, which is a German pot roast. It was her grandmother’s favorite. The sweet and sour gravy filled the house with a strong, but pleasant aroma. I remember we had mashed potatoes and broccoli. I recited the prayer I was told to say and our wine glasses were filled to the brim – including mine!  My father said, “Nostrovia,” and toasted all of us.  It was the first time I had felt part of a family in a long time.

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(Image credit: Sauerbraten)

Grandma was in her late eighty’s and a total character. She spoke more German than English and I loved her sense of humor. Papa, my step mother’s first father in law was a sweet Polish man. He was younger than Grandma, but not by much. Where I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin everyone was of a German or Slavic descent back then. It was a normal thing to me.

Grandma started drinking her wine and the next thing I knew she was singing the song “Silent Night,” in German to everyone at the table:

“Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht,
Alles schläft; einsam wacht
Nur das traute hochheilige Paar.
Holder Knabe im lockigen Haar,
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!
Schlaf in himmlischer Ruh!”

We all clapped when she finished. Papa, not to be outdone by Grandma, started singing “Jingle Bells,” in Polish!

“Svankie Svania, Svankie Swania,

Svankie Sauie Chas!”

Grandma and Papa suddenly got up from their chairs and did a little waltz around my step-mother’s kitchen. It was sweet seeing the two of them swaying in each other’s arms to music only they heard in their heads. Just outside the kitchen window snow was falling lightly, glistening in the late afternoon light.

I remember feeling a peace and belonging that day. Little did I know that in the years to come my life would change drastically and those feelings would never be the same again.

Thanks for visiting and hearing my story.

This was part of our Writing 101 assignment where we were to tell  about our favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.  Today’s twist: Tell the story in your own distinct voice.

Silver Threading

The Red Sweater

A man and a woman walk through the park together, holding hands. They pass an old woman sitting on a bench. The old woman is knitting a small, red sweater. The man begins to cry. Write this scene.

Today’s twist: write the scene from three different points of view: from the perspective of the man, then the woman, and finally the old woman.

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The Man:

The morning sun is dappled as it flashes between the leaves of the trees lining the main pathway of the park.  I hold my wife’s hand easily inside my own, cradling it protectively.  We walk along slowly, savoring the time we have together.  We follow the curving path matching our footsteps in time.

Coming around the bend in the path, I see her.  An old woman, her grey hair blowing in the breeze, knitting a small red sweater, while seated at the bench.  I look at the woman and start to cry as the realization that I must leave tomorrow really sinks into my brain.  The thought of leaving now gouges at me.

I grip my wife’s hand tighter and say, “I know this overseas assignment is going to be hard on you, what with the baby coming and all.”  “Don’t worry about me,” she replies.  “Your folks will help.”

I look at her, wiping my eyes with my sleeve.  “I know,” I say to her gently.  I kiss her lips and hold her tightly to my chest, one hand on her protruding belly.  My baby is in there, I think to myself.

The morning breezes stir my wife’s hair, tickling my chin.  I smile down into her upturned face kissing her again.  At this moment and time, I do not want her to know what my mission in Syria will be.  It is better she never find out.

The Woman:

The park is cool this early in the morning as the mellow wind wafts through the trees.  “Our path,’’ I think to myself.  My husband firmly holds my hand inside his as we walk together enjoying the sounds of the birds flitting from branch to branch in the trees above us.  The sun is warm when it touches me in between the shade of the trees.  I feel like I am in a movie, like time is incomplete, or in slow motion.

We keep step with each other, in unison, walking and swaying.  I think about us walking like this and wonder if our life together has been just one long dance.  As we round the bend in the path I see an old woman sitting on our bench.  In her gnarled hands I see the flashing of red yarn as she knits a tiny sweater.

My husband sees the woman too and he cries out, tears in his eyes.  I know he saw that tiny baby sweater she is knitting, I thought.  I grab his hand tighter, holding on to him.  I feel the baby kick, tiny flutters pushing against his hand.  He kisses me deeply.

After a moment of blissful eternity, my husband says, “I know this overseas assignment is going to be hard on you, what with the baby coming and all.”  I squeeze his hand reassuringly, “Don’t worry about me.”  “Your folks will help.”  I choke back my own tears.  Plenty of time for crying after he is gone, I think to myself, gaining control of my emotions for the fifth time that day.

He leaves for Syria tomorrow.  An assignment we never thought he would get because the baby is due in only a few months.  He had worked it out with his commander.  He would be able to stay here with me until the baby was born.  That is life in the military.  If they wanted you to have a family, they would have issued you one, I thought bitterly.

He kisses me again, all the while looking at me with a wistful smile on his face.  I close my eyes and melt into his arms.

The Old Woman:

What a lovely morning this has been, thought the old woman.  I am glad I decided to get out of the house and enjoy the summer breezes here in the park.  The leaves rustled in the trees and flashed brightly in the pattered sunshine making her silver hair glow brightly in the sun.

She picked up her knitting, pulling the thick red yarn out of her basket.  The tiny red sweater was really taking shape.  She had been working on this gift for her new grandson for several months now. Her knitting needles clicked together, as if keeping time with the young couple walking down the path.

Red sweater

(Image credit: Cardigan Jumpers)

The old woman glanced up and noticed the couple hand in hand, in perfect rhythm, walking toward her.  What a handsome couple they are, she thought.  The wife is pregnant too!  How wonderful to see them so in love walking in the park, she thinks to her herself.

Curious now, and remembering her own past loves, the old woman peeks at them through her downturned lashes.  She watches as the man suddenly grabs the young woman tightly to him, and kisses her, their hands intertwined  over her large belly.

The old woman blushes as if she was witnessing something she should not.  How lovely together they are, she thinks.  This is a private time between them.  I should get up and leave them alone.

She gathers up her knitting and places the tiny red sweater in her basket. I just cannot wait until my grandson is born, she smiles to herself.   The old woman slowly walks past the couple who do not even see her leave the park.

Thanks for visiting.  I hope you enjoyed this story from three different perspectives,

Silver Threading

Connie and Ling

Today in Writing 101, you’ll write about the most interesting person you’ve met in 2014. In your twist, develop and shape your portrait further in a character study.

I adore my morning walks, especially now that autumn is imminent and the temperatures are lowering. I usually start out with my two trusty side-kicks, Sugar and Spice, my Pomeranians. They are sisters and almost eleven years old now. I think they are more passionate about our morning walks than I am. It appears there is something magical about their Mom having to clean up after them that makes them such happy dogs.

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The surrounding area near my house is rather rural however, our housing area is not, and contains around 70 homes. We have a paved circular street which makes walking the dogs a breeze. For me, it is rather constricting and gets boring.

After the dogs have had their jaunt, I grab my weights (5 lbs. in each hand) and off I go for my walk. We have a rural road that runs adjacent to our housing area that borders a Navy helicopter practice field. It is a great walk and totals three miles. There is an abundance of wild life, birds, horses, and occasionally a snake shares the road with me.

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Most mornings I meet up with my two new friends in the neighborhood, Connie and Ling. The two women are sisters-in-law, as their husband’s are brothers. They are both Chinese, and I enjoy their company. Sometimes the language barrier makes for some interesting conversations. Nevertheless there is always plenty of laughter to make up for it.

Connie is the older of the two women. Her English is quite good because she has lived in the United States for many years. She is a thin woman with ramrod straight legs. Her graying hair is cut short and bounces when she walks.  It fits her personality.

Connie is always happy. Her smiles have lit up many a gloomy morning walk for me. Her eyes crinkle in at the corners when that smile spreads across her face. She carries two 5 lb. weights also because strength training helps battle osteoporosis. Believe me, I took her motherly advice!

Connie walks once in the morning and then again after work with her husband, Michael who works in an office all day. Connie still works fulltime at the local airport. She told me in China, her 80-year-old parents walk six miles a day! I have learned much from Connie and her culture.

Ling is about a year younger than I am. English is difficult for her to speak but, in spite of this our friendship grew. She is a tiny, short woman with black hair turning silver just like mine. Ling became a grandmother this year when her daughter had a little boy.

Recently, she has been pushing the baby in his push-chair or stroller around the neighborhood. She tells him I am his Auntie. I am greatly honored by this. In addition, her grandson is gorgeous! Lucky for him, he will learn Chinese and English. Ling knows French too, and she said she will teach him that also!

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I have enjoyed learning about China from each of these new friends. We have no pretense between us women; we just simply enjoy each other’s company. On September 8, 2014, Connie gave me some moon cakes to try for the Chinese Moon Festival celebrated that day. Here is the link to the story of the Moon Festival if you are interested.  The Moon Cakes were delicious!

Connie says there are so many legends to remember. I love listening to her tell those stories from long ago. Ling will interrupt her and tell her in Chinese if she does not get the story just right.  We three women have swapped vegetables from our gardens over the telling of many of these stories. I am so grateful for these two wonderful women who have become my new friends.  They have enriched my life with their culture and friendship.  Thank you Connie and Ling!

moon cakes

Moon cakes photo credit: echinacities.com

Thanks for visiting with me today.  It was good seeing you!

Silver Threading

The Envelope

I ran after the trash blowing in the wind down the path at the back of my house.  I picked up as much trash as possible  while cramming it into another trash bag as I surveyed the bushes on each side of me.  It seemed like I was the only one who ever took the trash out to be picked up by the trash men.  My husband certainly did not.  He was on another one of his working trips far from home.

The wind howled again as another gust blew papers and a dirty coffee filter further down the trail.  I am going to be late for work, I thought.  I do not have time for this today!  I kept on though.  I just did not want to leave the path strewn with papers and banana peels.  It just wasn’t right.

trash blowing

Finally I retrieved the rest of the trash in a pile of dry leaves swirling  in the wind.  I looked up and there on the tree in front of me was an envelope plastered against the trunk, blown there from the wind.  I went over to the tree and snatched at the envelope realizing that it was not my name on the front, but my husband’s.  Something  inexplicable drew me to this envelope.

I knew that I should not open this envelope as it was not mine; but in spite of this, I tore it open anyway.  It was a credit card receipt for the Motel 6 down the road.  My husband had gotten a king size bed for two and a full bar with room service last Saturday night.  The total of the bill came to $225.79.

I looked at the name on the receipt again and again.   Time seemed to slow down and stand still.  The name and credit card information was my husband’s!  I wrestled with this new bit of information.  He had been out of town last Saturday – working.  Again.

Now I knew the truth.  He had been cheating on me!  I felt like I could not breathe and I gasped for air.  I read the receipt over and over again.  Tears flowed from my eyes.  This hurt was deep.  I felt raw and exposed while these naked emotions shook me.  I just stood there with the wind blowing the remaining bits of trash around me in a circle.

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My cell phone rang shrilly in my pocket.  I answered the best I could with tears streaming down my face.  My voice was cloaked with emotion.  It was the Highway Patrol.  They regretted to inform me that my husband had been killed in a car wreck on the interstate yesterday.  They had tried to reach me this morning however, no one was home.

I thanked the officer on the phone and just stood there, rooted to the ground.  My husband was gone. Dead! Killed in a car crash.  If I had not found that motel receipt I would have never known what a cheating, lying, bastard I had married.

I tore up the motel receipt into tiny shreds and let the wind carry them away from me.  I wished I had never opened that envelope.  I walked toward my house, all the while mentally preparing myself to plan a funeral for a cheater.

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Thanks for visiting!  This short story was part of my Writing 101 assignment and is around 550 words:

“You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.”

 

Silver Threading