When Age Was No Longer Numbered

When the world no longer aged,
learning did not cease
but development did.
Husbands loved their expectant wives
with their rounded bellies & tiger mom stripes,
& the mothers loved their little one(s) within,
who floated as if in a state of suspended animation,
the mothers,
in suspended celebration.
The babies born were loved for who they were
& who they would never become.
Developmental milestones became a thing of the past;
educational milestones became the next big thing.
There were no more birthdays—
just calendars marking each day
since the last birthday had been celebrated;
there were anniversaries, however,
for Time continued marching on,
leaving a lighter bootprint
with every passing year.

It was an era of endless childhood:
of childhood sweethearts who would never marry,
of teenagers who would never know wisdom,
of young parents who would never become grandparents,
& of grandparents who would never pass away.
Those who loved their age loved their lives;
those who wished to be young again would be old forever;
& those who wished to grow up would never know independence,
for no matter how much they learned,
they would never mature.
There were no more conceptions or births,
no more deaths from old age but unnatural causes.
Those who loved what they did would do it seemingly forever,
& those who did not
could not bear an eternity of hating their livelihood,
so they went back to school
in acknowledgment & the reclaiming of their perpetual personhood,
for they had all the time in the world.

In this reverse Groundhog Day,
where the days changed, but the routine did not—
the world began to live in an almost hypnagogic state,
for the only promise of tomorrow was that it would come.
For some,
this cessation was the spring of eternal life,
for others,
a never-ending winter.
And for those who were too young to know any better,
it was all they knew.

*Fiction Friday: Poetry Based on the Book

He was still staring at the picture,
or rather past it,
& I knew that’s where his thoughts were—
in the past he rarely shared with us.
Mother had made Caitlin play the piano
since she had been old enough to sing “Frere Jacques,”
even though Mother, as a child,
had been forced to play all the time to keep her hands busy,
for idle hands, according to her mother, were the work of the devil.
If idle hands were the work of the devil,
then Mother had done his bidding for years,
letting David be her hands for the both of them
in the hopes that perhaps her belief alone
would be sufficient grace for him,
even as his labors of love would sanctify her indulgent indolence.

That night placed my mother on the trajectory
that would change her life as I knew it,
for David had left her a note:
You won’t ever have to play for me.
Her bewitching beauty had cast a spell,
her piano playing akin to the voice
of Andersen’s little mermaid,
enchanting this prince of an unknown palace.
David had heard the melancholy in her music
flowing through her fingers
& wanted to dispel it,
believing he was so like God,
he could banish it from her soul.
The music had not set her free,
but enchained her to David forever,
for he always found us.

She had met David the day before she was to marry my father.
He had separated her from her piano,
which she hated,
to the man she made my sister and me give laud,
whom she’d never loved.
David had never separated her from anything she had loved,
even as what she would come to love—
the ideal that the Mormons preached—
would separate her from him.
He was the wedge,
even as I would become the hammer.

I had never doubted Mother’s love for my father until that moment.
I became David’s priest as he confessed his love for her,
even after she belonged to someone else.
The woman I knew as Laurie Nolan
believed in honoring her father & mother,
but the woman who had been Annie Laurie McCarrick
had honored them in public when she had married Patrick Nolan
but dishonored them in private when she had continued to love David,
to pine for him alive
as she had never pined for my father dead.

There were no grandparents or aunts, uncles, & cousins
to call us on birthdays or visit on holidays.
I had never known the joy of getting a card in the mail
with a ten-dollar bill inside,
or the delight of listening to stories
about Mother & David as children
from those who had known them as I never would.
I had never known the adventure of sleeping
in any house other than mine.
I had never missed this lack of extended family before,
but after the Church came into our lives
& I saw how it was with others,
I wanted that kind of dynamic for myself.
Mother & David, like Patrick, were trees without branches—
reaching high but neither wide nor deep.
The sounds of another life were muffled,
& the sights hovered on the edge of my peripherals.
It had all been different somehow.
We had known our neighbors,
had once had friends.
Just what were we running from?
David hugged me to him, & I held on,
wishing there were no more secrets between us.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

*Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

For the Mormon women of Green Haven Ward
that November day of 1999—
in the circle of condominiums known as Washington Square—
home of Mindy & Carl Wiley,
a consensus was reached:
If the wearing of the lingerie led to the act of procreation,
the ends justified the means.

A restlessness began to stir within me that winter.
I began to change as the leaves did.
I began to imagine what it would be like
to be independent of my nuclear family—
the power plant that had given me a rock
upon which to build my life,
if not my faith.
I wanted to be strong & independent
when Elder Roberts came back for me,
but I couldn’t pray to God about it,
for if the Church was true,
He would be against our love.
The only comfort I had was in knowing
that God’s will was not always done.

Contentment had been my life before the Church—
enjoying only the contributions of others
while contributing nothing myself.
Mother had her Church & David,
Caitlin had her piano & dance,
David had his art & professorship,
but the Church had made me want more,
& so I had to be more.

The three of us stood before a Mormon temple—
a tableau of what I felt was another time,
a time of bygone days:
A pastel pink rose rested on a black, baby grand piano,
& sitting before the piano was a woman
whose back faced the viewer,
adding to the painting’s mysterious quality.
Long, luxurious dark hair fell not in waves but ripples,
like the notes I imagined flying from her fingers.
Something about the scene was familiar,
but I couldn’t place it.
I blinked, & the painting was as it had been before.

She had been Annie McCarrick,
but I had only ever known her as Laurie Nolan—
a dark beauty who had reinvented herself from the poor only child
of an Irish father & a Russian mother
to become a common hausfrau to an Irishman like her father,
to the uncommon paramour of a man so unlike any man,
whose identity was as mysterious as his past.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

Her Magical Childhood

1954 (10)

Her childhood had been sweet,
filled with marshmallow hugs & chocolate kisses,
of butterfly, angel, & Eskimo kisses,
of kisses that flew from her hands like cosmic dust
to decorate the sky,
& of kisses from Grandma
from that gold-paved paradise over the rainbow;
of stork bites & tales from the Cabbage Patch,
& monsters in the closet & under the bed
that disappeared with the always precise aim
of Mom’s crafty glue gun;
of make-believe games & make-it-yourself puzzles;
of art class with junk mail scraps & broken crayons,
& a refrigerator that had become a museum gallery,
with Lego magnets holding up hodgepodge collages;
of music class with the laminated lyrics
of hymns, folk songs, & Christmas carols;
of PE in the park,
field trips to everyday places,
& lunch where cookie butter & Nutella sandwiches
were always on the menu;
of science class on the beach & Sunday school under the trees;
of math class with numbers that had special significance—
in her life or the lives of others or the history of the world;
of a 24/7 library with fairy tales, folk tales, & tall tales,
& thick scrapbooks that told the family history—
the history she would end up repeating—
that of happy marriages & childhoods,
with written instructions & real-life examples
on how to make them happen.

1954 (2)

The Homeschooling Mama’s Dilemma

Pledge

The frazzled, second-time mama,
whose nerve endings were frayed,
grieved for the time she robbed from Penny to spend on Polly,
for the times she snapped at Penny because of Polly,
& for the times she did not even hear Penny because of Polly,
whose color of hangry ranged from tomato red to beet purple.
As the principal of Sally Jane Richards’ Homeschool for the Housebound
(& wife of the dean)
cradled her colicky cuddlebug,
her other hand reached out to reassure her doodlebug—
this shiny new piece of change who had come into her life
without a heads-up & put her into a temporary tailspin—
that Book Club & Reading Club,
Math with Monopoly Money,
A.M. & P.M. Bingo,
Wheel of Fortune-inspired Hangman,
& Alphabet Soup & Word Salad with Bananagrams,
had to wait for the not-so-secret formula
to do its disappearing noise magic trick.

*Fiction Friday: Micropoetry Based on the Book

Mother’s wedding gown was a modest one,
with long sleeves & white lace that crawled up her throat,
making her swanlike neck seem longer,
even as the cut of the bodice
made her bosom seem almost invisible.
She looked like a bride around the turn-of-the-century;
the next century was coming in a couple of months,
& the New Millennium would usher in her new life as David’s wife,
which would place me,
having come of age,
as something between a stepdaughter
& something that defied definition.

As I gazed upon my mother in her bridal finery,
she turned to me & said,
“Someday, it’ll be you, Katryn,
& your young man will be able to take you to the temple.
Keep yourself worthy of him,
so when that time comes, you’ll be ready.”
She had turned back to the mirror then,
admiring herself,
reminding me of Snow White’s stepmother,
reassuring herself that she was, indeed—
with her eyes like dark chocolate Doves—
the fairest of Mormonland,
while I thought how much more loving it would have been
had she said,
Find a man worthy of you,
for it was something David would have said.

Mother’s bridal shower was held at seven p.m.,
or seven-fifteen, Mormon Standard Time,
with Sister Wiley as the mistress of a ceremony
that Donna found sexist,
as men weren’t allowed.
True equality, for Donna, was that men be as miserable
coming to these things as the women who came to them.
Sister Kyle handed everyone a safety pin as they came in,
while Sister Grahame helped Sister Wiley in the kitchen,
thrice saying Sister Wiley was the best cook in the ward.
These servants of the Lord
now served the sisters of the ward,
who trickled through the door like queen bees
with their Southern lilts that dripped with honey
& whose stingers sometimes came out at these things.

My eyes traveled around the room,
settling on each individual:
There was Sister Schafer,
pink elephants dangling from her ears,
as she worked for the local Republican party
& was a true blue, red-state conservative.
“A Christian Democrat is an oxymoron,”
was her campaign slogan for the Lord,
to which I knew Mother would have taken offense,
for David believed that even though capitalism
made a few rich,
it was liberalism that kept the many
from being poor.

A bridal shower in the Mormon Church
was like a G-rated bachelorette party,
where no man in a cop or firefighter uniform
would be showing up to remove it.
Donna had come for the free meal,
& had certainly not come
for the company of a henhouse,
where feathers often got ruffled
over the slightest slight,
without a rooster in sight.

Logline for Because of Mindy Wiley An Irish-Catholic girl coming of age in the Deep South during the New Millennium finds her family splintered when two Mormon missionaries come to her door, their presence and promise unearthing long-buried family secrets, which lead to her excommunication and exile.

The Comely Bones

She didn’t yet have a name,
but she had a job—
to someday watch over the sister,
whom she would never outpace in age,
after their parents had returned to Heaven;
to watch over the sister
who some saw as a cute little dot
on a wide spectrum—
this blitheful child who wrote in smileys
& spoke in echoes
& laughed at movement,
not jokes,
& whose dreamlike gaze
noticed the page numbers
but not the words.
But as the mother looked at her rapidly expanding belly
that contained an entire universe of being,
she wondered if this unknown quantity
would outpace the one outside her body;
for every parent’s worry about their child
whose needs were different than most was
Who will love them when I am gone?

Family Christmas parties, Dirty Santa, and the art of regifting

Shrimper

Every year, my husband’s family has a Dirty Santa Christmas party. There’s the pepperoni bread that all the teenagers love, the Bisquick sausage and cheese balls that are like savory truffles, and the peanut butter balls that take an insane amount of powdered sugar to make. When my husband’s aunt was alive, it was an Italian feast, even though she was from Maine and of French heritage. (My husband’s father, however, was Italian.)  

I don’t even bring food anymore because there is so damn much, and there are always too many desserts.

My brother-in-law (BIL) works for a liquor distributor, so there’s always plenty of boozea must-have for any holiday gathering where you’re seeing people you only see once a year and only because you happen to be related. 

As an introvert with social anxiety that I happen to hide very well (unless I’m around someone I think is hot or who I swear is laughing at me on the inside, which is sometimes the same person), I’m not a fan of parties with lots of people I don’t know well. It’s emotionally exhausting, but my six-year-old daughter is an excellent buffer.    

As I am not friends with any of my husband’s family on Facebook, and my husband ditched his account last year, we’re like the black sheep (my husband likes to call himself the stray sheep) of his family; in my family, I’m like the golden fleece, so think what you will about that!  

I cannot compete with my husband’s successful sisters, whose careers have been established for years, while I’m just figuring things out. Their kids are either grown or practically grown, whereas my daughter is in the first grade, and I am working on my bachelor’s degree at 38. I guess my husband and I are both late bloomers.  

So, “Dirty Santa” is always my favorite part of the party. I don’t have to mill around and mingle, as we are all sitting in a circle, opening presents. Honestly, gift giving is a lot more fun when it doesn’t cost anything, and it’s all in fun—when you don’t give a rip about what you’re going to get because you already know it’s probably going to suck.

The year I was into couponing, I tossed some Maxi pads (with wings; it isn’t an angel in need if it doesn’t have wings) in a gently used gift bag. That might have been the year I threw in a Bing Crosby CD in which he dreamily crooned about white Christmases (what the hell is wrong with a green Christmas where we don’t have to worry about dying in a blizzard?). So yes, sanitary napkins + Bing = a hard candy Christmas. 

Another year, I gave away some DVDs when a lot of the same movies I could just DVR (I will never, however, ever part with my Wings and I Love Lucy collection). Last year, I threw in some unused candles (from my candle collecting days), and this year, there’s “The Shrimper”a running gag that’s been passed around my husband’s family for years. I don’t mind getting stuck with it, as I am the queen of regifting. Most of the gifts probably end up donated or regifted anyway; I am not spending money on a nice gift so I can get a bobo present. A good third of Dirty Santa gifts were left behind last year, which, to me, shows a complete lack of regard for the hosts, who have to figure out how to (probably) dispose of them.

Since I have run out of things to regift (ain’t minimalism great?), I thank God for “The Shrimper,” as it’s recurrence keeps another item out of the landfill.

Something for Everyone: Resecting at the Sunday Breakfast Table

Something for Everyone: Resecting at the Sunday Breakfast Table

Resection (noun): Surgery. The excision of all or part of an organ or tissue.

For the Swen family,
The Deseret Daily Dispatch was like a game of “Operation.”
There was the crossword for cross-eyed Aunt Luz,
who tended to scrabble when it came to Sudoku,
for her numbers were often puzzling.
Grandma Posy read the obituaries,
always saying she was going to be next.
Joey Bischoff, aged 12,
whose E.I. was higher than his I.Q.,
ate the Sports section & Wheaties for breakfast;
his Irish twin, Jackie Oh,
would read her horoscope with horror & fascination.
Janey Rebel, at 6,
much to her daddy’s chagrin,
liked making paper dolls out of the society pages,
or drawing moustaches on the women
& dresses on the men in the funnies.
Perusing the personals was Mrs. White, the maid,
who played matchmaker on herself.
Mr. Swen, the brooder of the brood—
the rooster of the roost—
treated the op-eds as an appetizer to the business section.
With a sniff,
he’d claim that all the opinions smelled
like the late Mrs. Swen’s cooking,
which she had let burn while she read Dear Libby
or Helen’s Household Hints—
advice she never took & hints she never got,
for her tombstone read:

Here lies Anna Fox Swen,
beloved mom & Mrs.,
who just wouldn’t listen.

 

Party of Five

In a three-bedroom house
lived a gentleman and a lady,
a boy and a girl,
and a woman of The Sandwich Generation.
This woman,
fully-formed,
hadn’t lost her other half,
but a whole part of something greater
they had built together.
And while she cared for those who had treated her
as a daughter,
and cared for those as she had once been cared for
by those whose daughter she had been,
there was no one left to care for her.
For one man came and left,
and then another,
and another.
But never did she leave her father and mother in-laws,
nor the children that had first belonged
to the love of her life,
to cleave unto one of these men.
Rather,
she lived her life,
and when the right one came,
she knew,
for he stayed.

http://www.writersdigest.com/whats-new/wednesday-poetry-prompts-440