Mom Made A Pie

Mom made her famous pie.

And she was happy.

So she went to the kitchen table

and took a seat.

 

She sat there alone

and borrowed a big sigh.

 

Soon the kids would come inside,

Dad would finish his evening chores,

and the weekend Saturday sunlight

would soak through the kitchen curtains

across the tired table.

 

Then it would be time.

And she wasn’t quite ready.

But there she sat

SATISFIED.

 

She’d made her pie,

Betty’s famous apple pie

with bits of cinnamon

and the crust just so.

Sigh.

 

In not too long

the kids would be fighting for the last servings

of her buttery biscuits and stew

all the while Dad

be thinking about

-the pie-

-the pie-

 

And all her hard work,

all her labor of love,

-her magic-

would be eaten,

devoured,

-gone-

at that tired table

with 7 pairs of hands

and sleepy eyes.

 

Everyone wondering

when the next pie

would tempt them all

to come inside.

 

Dad always said

there were only two kinds of pie:

warm and cold.

 

 

La Cocina

There it was: that smell.

As I scurried quietly about my business, like a thief in the night, my nose twitched.

Tiptoe, tiptoe, tiptoe. Her door was half cracked and I snuck a peek inside.  Sleeping beauty was home, and it was my turn to get the Saturday laundry started; it couldn’t wait any longer.

My sister Karla was notorious for shedding her clothes like a peeled banana. She left them in piles on her bedroom floor after returning dead-dog tired from her waitressing gig at the local Mexican restaurant: La Cocina.  If you needed to know how many shifts Karla worked in a given week, all you had to do was count the piles.

As I picked up each pile and tossed it into the laundry basket, I made a game out of it to “guess the nightly Mexican food special” by the smell of her clothes.

Monday: taco night.  Spicy and messy. Little bits of taco shells fell from her apron.

Wednesday:  enchiladas supreme.  Red sauce on the sleeves.

Thursday: combo plates.  I could almost see the steam still rising from this pile.

Friday: chimichangas.  The worse kind of deep fried smell, mixed with cigarette smoke.

Karla slept on as the full menu of smells left her room and made their way to the wash.

These were Saturday mornings with my sister.

 

**As I took a trip down memory lane with this slice, I’ll treasure many memories of writing every day this month in the Slice of Life Challenge.  This is my second year slicing my way through March and it’s been great meeting lots of writers from around the world. Thank you to all who took time to read my writing and send encouragement along the way through your comments. I’ve developed many “writing crushes” on fellow writers in this challenge!  A big thank you to all at Two Writing Teachers who continue to build a community of teacher writers around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today in Pencil History

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I find it fascinating to read little blurbs written about “what happened on (insert day) back in (insert year).”  Today’s blurb in the New York Times caught my eye.

On March 30, 1858, Hymen Lipman of Philadelphia patented the pencil-and-eraser. Although his first name raises some eyebrows, Hymen created some controversy for other reasons.

Evidently, there was some debate back then about this being a true invention. Hymen’s invention was all about putting an eraser on top of the pencil. He was en-route to make a lot of money, but the Supreme Court declared the patent invalid 17 years later.  The reason: the pencil and eraser had already been around–and it wasn’t considered an “invention” to marry the two together.

Another pencil-related and interesting tidbit: before erasers were used, starting in 1770, soft bread was the way to rid papers of those silly mistakes.  Soft bread!  I wonder today if the bread would erase better if it’s gluten-free.

I’m still a big fan of the pencil.  There is nothing quite like the smell and feel of a freshly sharpened pencil.  Thanks, Hymen.  I count it as a cool invention in my book.

sol

 

 

 

 

 

A Strip Mall Surprise

Our combo smoke and carbon monoxide detector in the basement beeped and blurted in the early Sunday morning hours. After much fuss and patience while the loud digital woman’s voice warned of FIRE. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE. FIRE., we nervously fumbled to remove her from the wall. We pulled out her batteries, took relief in some silence, and scurried to find some new double AAs lying around the house. To my surprise, we had a fresh pack and gave those a try. Still she blurted, belched and beeped her warning cries.  We reread the owner’s manual that we had kept tacked up on the wall by her side-feeling proud of ourselves for the forethought years ago to keep it handy- and went through the suggested troubleshooting tips. Nothing. Reset. Nothing. Still she blurted and beeped in her obnoxious tones.  It was becoming clear:  we needed a new one. How does a combo smoke and carbon monoxide detector die?   And how much time should one invest in trying to repair it when the said detector loudly bemoans her troubles in your face while trying to bring her back to life? We gave it about 40 minutes before we made the dreadful decision to go buy a new one and laid her to rest in the trash can, on top of the dryer lint. Rest in peace.

Of course with things like these, one can’t put it off.  With the death of such an important fixture in your home, if you do delay, for even just one day, surely that will be the night your home catches on fire and to everyone’s dismay the morning headlines will read:

HOME FIRE TAKES THE LIVES OF TWO ADULT MALES AND THEIR PET FAMILY. FIREFIGHTERS FOUND THE HOME HAD NO SMOKE DETECTOR AND CALL THIS AN UNFORTUNATE REMINDER FOR ALL TO INSTALL AND MAINTAIN THEIR DETECTORS. DETECTORS SAVE LIVES.

We headed to Ace Hardware later that day to pick up a new lady friend.

As we left the hardware store, which is located in a strip mall, we noticed a new business a couple doors down. A cremation business. In a strip mall.  We had to have a good laugh. After having spent some moments of our day with a morbid digital woman reminding us to avert possible perishable situations, we delighted in some morbid humor ourselves. “Hey, let’s stop in there to get Grandpa taken care of after we pick up a new rake. How convenient. You run in there, and I’ll go pick up dry cleaning. Meet you back here in ten.” It’s not really funny, on a normal day, to think of these things, I know.  But it is, kind of. And if that makes me that much closer to the burning fires of hell, well, then I know where to go to get there faster.

Thankfully, our new combo detector is hanging up and showing us she’s working with her little green flashing light.  No more blurting–and a bit of peace will help us rest through the nights.

We’re safe for now.  But in the event that something should happen to one of us, it’s a blessing to know that cremation is right around the corner.

sol

 

 

Kickback to Kickball (And Other Catholic School Memories)

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St. John’s Catholic School. Not much has changed except some cosmetic updates.

Having attended a Catholic school from kindergarten through sixth grade, I have many fond memories of life and learning in an old brick schoolhouse.  After recently running into my first grade teacher and reminiscing about the good ol’ days, I’ve been having many thoughts come and go about how those elementary years influenced who I am today. I think about how school was then compared to how it is now, private schools compared to public schools, teaching then vs. teaching now, etc.  It’s amazing to think how far we’ve come, and in some instances, how far we have yet to go. 

When I close my eyes and focus in that “memory box” of  elementary years, vivid images come kicking back up: clapping the chalkboard erasers outside to clear them of  dust, little school desks with pencil grooves carved into their wooden tops, uniforms, strict Sisters, and rulers tapped on student desks as reminders to pay attention. I remember principals that spanked (never me, of course), and the classic reading, writing and arithmetic lessons.  I remember spelling bees, math workbooks, and Martha, my fifth grade teacher (who I was always a bit scared of- even though she was pretty nice).  I remember jumping off the wooden stage in the gymnasium, families that knew each other’s gossipy stories, having the same kids in my class grade after grade, and walking back and forth from the school to the church across the black asphalt parking lot. Within each  of these memories lives a story, but one that kicks up today, probably due to the beautiful weather outside, is of warm spring days and pickup games of kickball after lunch.

Every day when it was time for lunch, our classes trotted across the parking lot from the school building to the church, where we headed down to the basement cafeteria. Lots of stories and vivid images live in the cafeteria, too. The old melon-green plastic trays with little compartments for your food choices, pan-baked cheese sandwiches, and lunch ladies in hair nets. Big pots of chili cooking on massive stoves and days when you wish you had home lunch because the cafeteria cooking wasn’t as good as Mom’s. I remember walking through lunch lines that snaked through the kitchen and then finding myself a seat on sometimes filthy folding tables amongst all the children and their chatter.  It was always a race to finish and get outside to play.

After lunch, I’d race up the stairs to the outside playground, which really was the church’s parking lot.  Most of the time, cars were not permitted to park in the lot during the school day so that the kids could play various games and congregate. There was a fenced sanded area for swings, slides, monkey bars and merry-go-rounds.  Often times the sand from that play area stuck to the soles of kids’ shoes and was dragged onto the hot asphalt, making running, rope-skipping and kickball a slippery feat.

Kickball. I can still see skinned elbows and knees as bell-bottomed pants flapped in the wind while kids ran from base to base. The feeling of a home run kick that soared over electric lines to the cheers and jubilee of teammates. I remember how kickers lined up against the warm brick wall of the church as they waited their turn listening to the screams and yells of the outfielders. I remember the red bouncy kickball coming at high speeds when it was my turn to kick and the sting of the rubber on tender skin when a stray ball caught me by surprise. I remember knee holes that wore through my blue corduroy pants and patches sewn on the inside until I was due for a new pair. I remember the sweat and stickiness after the game came to an abrupt end as we were summoned to line up from the teachers’ piercing whistles; the girls in their checkered dresses and the boys in their bellbottoms running wild to be the first in line. I remember the kickball, abandoned mid-air, and how it bounced, bounced, and bounced away to find a resting place for the next group ready for their recess kickball game.

With my heart racing  back in class, I daydreamed of being the next day’s Catholic school kickball king.

sol

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Debris

We live in a small brick bungalow, built in 1903.  The main part of the house consists of a kitchen and a living room.  Although the kitchen is small, there is room for a table that rests comfortably by windows overlooking our yard.  It’s where I do most of my writing and thinking.  It’s where we eat, where we congregate, where we sit and reassure our little dogs that yes, we’re home for now and you’ll get some playful attention.  One of our dogs likes to rest at my feet under the table when I’m sitting there for stretches of time. I cherish this peaceful feeling that ensues from his gentle snores all snuggled up underneath the kitchen table.

When we recently renovated our bathroom, the kitchen table became a collecting place strewn with papers, plans, to-do lists, manuals, tools, screws, and bandaids. There were even a few bottles of Advil and aspirin to alleviate some aches and pains (both physical and mental).  As the renovation s-l-o-w-l-y drew to a close, we vowed that the kitchen table would be reborn: classic and clean from the renovation ruckus that kept it looking less like a kitchen table and more like a workbench.

The kitchen table was cleaned off, the placemats washed, and set up to look, well, like a kitchen table should look, I suppose.

It lasted one day.  Maybe less.

The table came back to life with work related projects, bills, new to-do lists, receipts, reminders, dishes waiting to be put away, car keys, gloves, cookie crumbsetcetera. What I call the “daily debris” of our lives.

There are disadvantages to a messy kitchen table. If an unwelcome visitor were to make his way into our home on any given day, he’d be able to infer, quite easily, what is going on in our lives. Hi there, unwelcome guest, welcome.  Have a seat and you can find out all you need to know about us.  We’ve “set” the table for you.  When we don’t keep on top of what is on top of the kitchen table, piles grow. The thing I think I left here, was really there–mixed between two stacks of something or moved unintentionally by one of us; causing an anxiety-filled quest to find what’s missing.  It can become a game of looking for a needle in the haystack and the haystack is only an arm-span wide.

This is when we know it’s time to clean up the kitchen table (again) and set it up to look, well, like a kitchen table should look, I suppose.

I often dream that someday I’ll have my own little studio, a workspace that will become a cozy getaway to have my thinking and my work in an organized mess. It will be lined with bookshelves stacked full of books and journals, a comfy reading chair, sun-filled windows, a couch to nap and dream, and a little counter to drink coffee (and eat cookies).

A place without a kitchen table to make me feel guilty about how a kitchen table should look, I suppose.

sol

 

So this happened today…

I’m standing in front of a case of cookies at a new little neighborhood bakery. Why are these cookies calling my name?  I wonder.  I bend forward, without a second thought, and whisper to them. Yes, I whisper to the cookies. “Oh you little shortbread cookies, I think you need to have someone take you outta here, and it might as well be me!”  

“Can I help you?” a man behind the bakery counter asks. (Where did he come from? Did he hear me whispering to his cookies?)  Am I really forty five years old and whispering to cookies?

I swallow hard, and my face turns redder than the strawberry on top of the cake adjacent to my cookies.  “Um, no, yes, well, I think I’ll take a dozen of those little shortbread cookies.  The chocolate chip ones.” The bakery man gives me a side-eye and fills my order. “Ready to ring up?” he asks, walking towards the other end of the counter towards the register. But I stay stuck at the case.  I don’t know why.  I suddenly sense the bakery man is getting uncomfortable and doesn’t know what to say.  I don’t either.  But I’m paralyzed by the decision I just made.  I wonder if I should have gotten the shortbread ones with blueberries. I’m a self-concious mess. I’ve got a cookie problem.  I start thinking of how I get teased at home, in a playful way, of having food issues. I still stand there. I’m lost in thought, but craving the cookies.

The bakery man makes his way back over and breaks this awkward silence.  “Can I get you something else? Want to try a sample?” This man now speaks my language. Samples.  We are now connected.  He and I.  Baker and cookie consumer.

“I’ll try one of the little blueberry ones.  Are they as good as the chocolate chip?”  

“I’m a fan of the blueberry, let me give you one to try. And they like being whispered to as well.”  

I’m now officially dying.

“Thank you.  I best ring up now and get going.”  

I walk outside and stuff the little blueberry shortbread cookie in my mouth.  It’s good, but I can’t wait to try the chocolate chip ones.  I get in my car, drive two blocks away and pull over.  I eat ten.  Ten.  I think I now know why I get teased about having food issues. It’s like when you realize your fly is down in public.  You just want to hide.

It was my first date with that bakery and it went bad, real bad.

I’m the cookie whisperer.