Tag Archives: “I Remember”

The Verdict

We left the dinner table and turned the television on to public broadcasting—the stolid, unflashy journalism of non-commercial news. PBS allowed us to take a pass on the stacked rows of talking heads, the frenetic split screens, and the emergency-of-the-day theme music of the major media outlets.

We watched, heartsick, as the Ferguson prosecutor unrolled his strange presentation. My husband’s face growing harder, the kids trying to figure out—as we all were—what he was actually saying in his weird, meandering speech.

Eventually, we turned the television off. The family wandered off to their routine pursuits, I slowly worked in the kitchen, listening to radio coverage and pausing now and again to check the rage burning its way through Twitter.

My nephew, a journalism student at a university in Missouri, tweeted that he couldn’t pull away from the Ferguson coverage focus on his homework. In  his classes, he’s learning what journalism is meant to be; why it matters; how to be a good journalist. On this night he was applying those lessons to what he saw before him as Ferguson erupted in pain and disappointment on the television screen.

We tweeted back and forth a bit. He wrote about seeing history in the making, about his hopes that the turmoil would lead to change.

Our brief exchange reminded me of so many things.

I remembered the excitement of seeing history unfolding before me when I was his age, my eyes increasingly opened to the world outside my own small environment.

The Challenger Explosion — The Solidarity Movement — The Fall of the Berlin Wall — The Breakup of the Soviet Union  —  The AIDS crisis— Tiananmen Square — Mandela’s Release — The Invasion of Kuwait — The Dismantling of Apartheid — The Dayton Accords  — so many others.

I remembered the names of people. The change-makers becoming icons before our eyes  because they acted on their convictions or because they unintentionally became the face of a movement that changed things for the better.

Christa McAuliffe — Lech Walesa — Nelson Mandela — Ryan White — Randy Shilts  — Václav Havel —Desmond Tutu — the anonymous protestor who stood alone in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square — so many others.

I remembered beginning to understand that behind those familiar faces, those big names, stood many unacknowledged and unnamed people who worked alongside them to make change happen.

I remembered how their hard-fought optimism seemed to sweep the cobwebs away from the world.

On the night the Ferguson verdict was announced and I stood in the kitchen tweeting with my nephew I knew—just as I knew yesterday when the Garner verdict was announced—that my college self, that naïve, optimistic college girl, would never have believed this.

That optimistic college girl would never have believed  that in 2014 she’d find herself standing in the kitchen listening to the despair and rage of the protestors in Ferguson, Missouri, who have had enough of blatant racism and brutality by police. Or that a few days later another, similar verdict would set off more protests, centering this time in New York.

She would never have believed that she’d witness an important historical moment revealing not how far we’ve come, but how long we’ve stood still, looking over our shoulders at a past we haven’t come close to leaving behind.

3 Comments

Filed under Imprint

Summer Afternoon: A Moment

I’m at the creek at the farm. I am ten or eleven years old, lying on my stomach on a big flat rock jutting into the low creek, the surface of its lazy trickle of water radiating the heat of summer. Dappled sunlight lights the creek bed lining the bottom of the narrow hollow I’d scrambled down hours before. It’s a while past noon now, and the shadows of the trees along the slopes are just beginning to stretch over me.

I’m looking in the water of a small pool set against the bank, deeper than most of the little water pockets created when the spring melt eroded the sides of the hills sloping above, but not by much. If I lie still I can see water bugs skating along the surface, crayfish scuttling along the bottom, maybe a salamander—black with red or yellow spots—if I pry a stick or stone from the mash of wet leaves and mud at the waterline. The cool water feels good on my hands as I lightly wave them on the surface. Dragonflies zip back and forth. It’s a sleepy time of day.

I don’t know how I do it—maybe I toss a stone in or poke the wrong part of the mud with a stick—but suddenly there is a startled water snake, a black slithering “S” winding its way across the pool. It stops under the hanging tree roots on the far side, turns its head, unhinges its jaws and opens its wide, white-cheeked mouth at me, curving fangs at the ready. It’s not a large snake. It’s not close enough to be dangerous, but this snake has had enough of my meddling. I have threatened it and I’m supposed to pay the price. Cottonmouth. Water Moccasin.

It’s a small one. I do not fear it. After all, I’ve read all the Little House on the Prairie books. I have one of them in the bag lying next to me on this warm rock in the sun.

This is what I have learned from Laura Ingalls Wilder’s novels. Nature is beautiful and dangerous and endlessly fascinating. When a girl is in nature, when she sets off to explore the wilderness—even in the relatively tame creek beds of southern Ohio—she must show the proper respect. It is up to the girl to get herself out of sticky situations when they arise.

I remain on my stone, staring, and the snake remains in the shelter of the bank, threatening, until we both get bored and move on to other things. No snake bites today.

*****************************************************************

Please ignore any advertisements you may see on this site.

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under A Moment, Imprint, Sun

Weeding the Front Bed*

It was time. The weeds taunted me, choking our few perennials, their colorful petals just visible through the wall of green. The blueberry bushes trapped behind a prison of crab grass. Strawberries competing with towering dandelions for a bit of sunlight. Through the latticework fence I could see the neighbor’s well-tended, raised beds. They were weedless and overflowing, even so early in the season, with beautiful red lettuces and rainbow chard.

A long afternoon of work ahead.

I glanced at my new Ipod, freshly loaded with entertainment. Portable, easy to wear, perfect for an afternoon of repetitive, tedious labor. I paused for a moment thinking of the possibilities and then left the Ipod on the table and went out for the pitchfork and gloves.

I got to work.

Jam the pitchfork into the soil, rock it back like a lever, feel the roots give way, pull them up, shake off the soil, toss them in the bag. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss, let the mind wander.

I remember the beautifully smooth blacktop of the horseshoe-shaped driveway leading up to and away from the convent’s front door.

I remember looking at my friend, thinking what she was thinking. A road test is a road test, convent driveway or not.

I remember our certainty that the nuns had horses somewhere on the property. (Why the certainty? Because we wanted it to be true.)

I remember our plan. We would volunteer to weed the convent flowerbeds. The nuns would be so grateful that they would let us ride their horses whenever we wanted to.

I remember my parents’ pride when they learned that their 10-year-old would sacrifice some of her precious summer hours to help nuns.

I remember there were really not many weeds in the convent’s flowerbeds.

I remember the curved wooden door of the white stucco building, like a Bavarian chalet; the cool foyer where we’d wait for a few minutes after weeding while a nun disappeared into the kitchen and returned to offer us lemonade or a store-bought cookie. (Didn’t nuns bake?)

I remember that eventually, after the offer of free horseback riding never arrived, I did my weeding alone. Peaceful, silent, and shaded by the gardener’s carefully manicured shrubbery.

Jam the pitchfork into the soil, rock it back like a lever, feel the roots give way, pull them up, shake off the soil, toss them in the bag. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss, smile.

I remember Grandpa Lynch’s garden beds. Narrow borders around the small back yard, full of dahlias, roses, geraniums, and—always—tomatoes.

I remember Grandpa Flynn’s garden. One long, long bed between the clothesline and the patch of the yard where he parked the car. I remember rhubarb and zucchini and corn growing there. Probably tomatoes—everyone planted tomatoes.

I remember that Grandpa Lynch’s beds meant it was a city garden. Grandpa Flynn’s giant bed was a country garden.

I remember Grandpa Lynch, in his old Heileman beer t-shirt and his slacks (never jeans), weeding the beds and bringing in tomatoes. Always a fedora or a cap when he was outside.

Jam the pitchfork into the soil, rock it back like a lever, feel the roots give way, pull them up, shake off the soil, toss them in the bag. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss, remember.

I remember our first garden together. We’d signed up for a p-patch in our college town, rode bikes to work the tough, crummy soil. We planted tomatoes, lots of tomatoes, because everyone planted tomatoes. Corn, too, but we didn’t realize corn was truly a challenge.

I remember I’d always hated tomatoes, but that didn’t stop us.

I remember that harvest. We were up to our ears in tomatoes. We visited our parents in turn, loaded down with tomatoes. We had to get rid of them somehow. They already had tomatoes—because everyone planted tomatoes.

I remember deciding that I’d better start liking tomatoes.

I remember thinking, “Can all these people be wrong?” It took seven years.

Jam the pitchfork into the soil, rock it back like a lever, feel the roots give way, pull them up, shake off the soil, toss them in the bag. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss, thoughts meander forward and back.

I remember the story of the neighbor boy who wanted to surprise his mother by getting all the ants off her peonies. He proudly showed her the flower heads in a mound on the ground. No more ants.

I remember picking violets so I could give a bouquet to old Mrs. Frank, who seemed so lonely.

I remember my mother explaining that while Mrs. Frank thought the bouquet was pretty, she’d rather the violets stayed in her flowerbeds.

I remember the two little girls sneaking quietly up my front steps very early on a May morning.

I remember being fearful about their safety because of moments in the past when they weren’t safe. What could be wrong that they were coming over at this unexpected hour?

I remember opening the door to their smiling, sweet faces as they held a secret May Day bouquet towards me.

I remember saying, “Oh! Were you going to surprise us?”

I remember they nodded happily. “Then I’ll pretend I never saw you.”

Jam the pitchfork into the soil, rock it back like a lever, feel the roots give way, pull them up, shake off the soil, toss them in the bag. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss. Jam, rock, pull, shake, toss, remember.

 

*This is my take on the memoir style of poet Joe Brainard. Thanks to Philip Dodd for introducing me to Brainard’s work and for inspiring me with his own “I remember…”

4 Comments

Filed under Root and Branch, Uncategorized