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"Oh, thank you, thank you, dear Witchy!" Honey sobbed. "And, why, I'm not fussy! Not at all! Why don't I bring a dish? I'll bring you one of my special desserts." Honey's voice sounded excited. "Why not my angel food cake? Why not my marshmallow coconut surprise? You'll love my honey vanilla pound cake?"
Witchy shuddered. Everything sounded so horribly terribly sweet! The aroma of sugar and honey and marshmallow gooiness would make the good folks from W-Land gag!
"Honey, we'll have enough. Don't--"
"I insist! Oh, I'm so happy! I'll bring Sparkles! Oh, thank, you, thank you, thank you!"
And Honey hung up.
Oh no. Not Sparkles. Sparkles was a poodle who was just too friendly and always yapping for attention. He looked as though he'd just come out of one of G-Land's exclusive beauty parlors. Heavens, Honey even put ribbons on him. He'd tease the felines and annoy them by his very presence. And this was Midnight's day! What would they do?
But Midnight was excited about her party. Witchy told her about the people and felines invited. True to their name, the Mischievous Team planned fun pranks for everyone. Buckets hanging from ceilings would unexpectedly dump treats.
On the day of the party, Witchy and Midnight's home was perfect. Cobwebs hung decoratively from every corner. Dust bunnies played happily under all the furniture, only occasionally hopping out to play. Catnip mice and toads littered the floor, and real bats whizzed back and forth.
Witchy was still mixing the lemon cabbage juice punch when she heard the clank of the door knocker--their first guest!
She went to the door, Midnight at her side.
It was honey, wearing a pale blue floor-length gown, and Sparkles yapped by her side. Honey carried a gift with lots of ribbons and bows.
"Happy birthday, Midnight!" Honey cooed, stooping and holding out the gift "Midnight, meet Sparkles--"
Sparkles and Midnight were already introducing themselves, but they didn't seem to like each other too much.
"Hisssss!" Midnight told Sparkles.
"Grrrrrr!" Sparkles responded.
Midnight's green eyes glared, and she scrunched into a pouncing position. She leaped at Sparkles. She swiped at him with her claws. Then she ran under a bed and hung out with the dust bunnies.
"Oh no--Sparkles! Are you OK?" Honey scooped up her poodle into her arms. "My baby--oh no! See?" She pointed to a drop of blood on Sparkle's fur.
Meanwhile, Midnight had run under a table and was telling her troubles to the dust bunnies. She hissed at the world from time to time.
Witchy didn't know what to do. She wasn't exactly wicked any more, so she couldn't go, "Ha, ha! My cat beat your dog! Ha ha!" But she wasn't exactly a good witch and didn't want to say, "Oh, poor dear Sparkles. Should I get him a bandaid?"
Honey began to cry. "I--I'd hoped they'd be--friends," she said between sobs. "That they'd get along. That we could visit and we'd be friends and they'd be friends."
Witchy's green eyes widened. Did Honey really want to be her friend as well as her cousin? Even though Honey was a sickeningly-sweet witch from G-Land and Witchy a formerly-wicked now mischievous witch from W-Land? What in the world did they have in common? But maybe Honey wasn't all that bad. She did come to the party and bring a gift for Midnight. And she didn't yell at Midnight for having scratched her precious Sparkles. (If Sparkles had scratched Midnight and drew blood, Witchy might have turned Sparkles into a mouse. Which wouldn't have been good at a cat party.
"Well--even if they hate each other, that doesn't mean we can't be friends." Her voice was gruff because, after all, she wasn't a good witch. "You and Sparkles can still visit. We'll just keep them separate."
Honey's blue eyes lit up. "Do you mean that, Witchy?"
The rest of the party was wonderful. Witchy and Honey put Sparkles in a separate room, safe from feline claws, and they visited him and played with him often. Some young witches and warlocks even played catnip mouse catch with him.
Midnight had lots of presents and everyone rolled around, happy, after catnip cake.
Keiko and Caitlin are friends. They are the Problem Solver team. They like to help people. They first met in kindergarten. Keiko felt bad that their teacher, Ms. Williams, had been out sick with the flu. So did Caitlin.
"Let's make her a gift," Caitlin said to Keiko at lunchtime, "What do you think?"
"What if everybody in our class draws her a picture?" Keiko suggested.
"A whole stack of pictures, like a book!"
So after lunch, they went up to Ms. Hernandez, the substitute teacher.
"What a great idea!"
So they all drew pictures. Some said "Get Well soon!"
Keiko and Caitlin are best friends.
They start an adventure club.
Each week, they go to a different exciting place in Chicago.
(But how do they get there? I'd love to model this book after The Saturdays, but that was set in a different era where kids could travel by themselves in a big city. Nowadays--no publisher would glance twice at such a book. So--who chaperones them? Parents? Big sisters? Big brothers? What about having a school Adventure Club? But then Caitlin and Keiko wouldn't be in charge, and for this type of book, they need to be the bosses…)
What I live for…
My siblings and their families.
Realizing that I'm part of a family, that I'm loved.
Hope that I'll find my romantic soulmate.
The joyous possibility of making the world a better place.
Long walks on residential city streets.
Making sense of the puzzle pieces of my life; trying to fashion them into a hopeful memoir.
Writing for kids.
Bestfriends (Jennie, Maggie, and Laurie--and Ty, bestfriend and son)
God (I believe even though I may never worship at a church again)
Christian values of love, forgiveness, and not judging others
I walk past a 9:30 a.m. house window and hear a flute, not the polished perfect notes of a professional, but those of a student hoping to improve, or maybe, better, of a music lover enjoying the miracle of being able to produce sounds that blend together and become melody, and as those notes hover in the neighborhood air amidst sunlight and spring leaves and birds expressing themselves in chirps, I realize that there's a special beauty in amateur music--a joy in music purely for itself, much as children create with crayons free of any self-centered strivings for glory.
I sit at Jeri's Grill, and another booth patron, an old man in gray, raises his hand in greeting, "Hi." Surprised, I say hi back, but maybe too quietly for him to hear, and I'm suddenly back at Woolworth's, nineteen, a counter guy telling me he can see I'm smart, but not able to relate to the average, ordinary person. He didn't say it as a criticism, but a fact as ordinary as the weather and whether you'd need an umbrella.
But I wanted to relate to ordinary people. The casual arrogance of smart rich kids at Northwestern repelled me.
Today people on food stamps use Linc cards that look a lot like innocuous debit cards, but back when my mother and I were on food stamps, they were, well, stamp-like, in stapled-together booklets, and you had to show a long green ID card whenever you made a purchase, and you had to separate eligible from ineligible items. Toilet paper wasn't eligible, neither was the cheap Pink Lady dish detergent we bought. Sometimes I read or overhear criticisms of what people buy on food stamps--heavens, sweet rolls--and I think, these heartless critics want to add even more humiliation to poverty.
I was born on Emerson's birthday, the day later named Geek Pride Day. When I encountered Emerson in sophomore English class, his belief in the value of the self was a joyous discovery--no one in authority had every told us kids to trust our own ideas. On the contrary, I'd gone to Catholic school grade where the key rule was "Obey." I tried to follow Emerson's philosophy--oh, even that sentence shows how far away I was. as the very act of "following" is a crime against the self. But sometimes I've gone overboard, keen on following myself and neglecting others.
The dandelion probably still lays in my belt bag, a memory of the May day I walked around the block by myself and saw the dandelion in its royal glory, regally oblivious to those who would dismiss and discard it as a mere weed, and plucked it, sniffing it, remembering sitting in Deering Meadow when life stretched ahead of me and I was full of dreams of glory. The thing is, years later, I still feel full of dreams of glory, still hope to write the great Chicago novel, and like the dandelion, I refuse to be easily dismissed. No.
Sometimes, as I write of my life, I feel it's divided into two parts--before family and after family, with my marriage to my ex-husband smack in the middle. Although the marriage wasn't healthy, my ex was the one person who volunteered to visit my mother with me on a regular basis. My half-sister and I agree that my ex, an extrovert, pushed us half-siblings together in a way that may not have happened, given our more introverted ways. And if it weren't for my ex, my son wouldn't exist, lighting up my world and those of other family and friends.
I feel so overwhelmingly sleepy and haven't accomplished nearly all I wanted to do today. Worked on another personal essay at Dunkin Donut's, about my third grade teacher who was the first person who ever praised me, but I fear it's evolving into another poor me, look at my rotten childhood essay, instead of focusing on praising Miss D. for awakening something in me--a striving for excellence? An awareness that I was special? And how do I qualify that, to not sound like I thought I was more special than anybody else, but that I believe each person is special?
Sunday afternoon, beautiful sunny weather, and despite fun 7-11 walk and lots of fun writing to do, I feel so despondent, and I can't entangle why or decide what to do to climb out of this mood pit. I'm probably anticipating my son moving out to his dorm this week, but I really don't him to know that I'm feeling lonely because of that--and that's tricky because he knows me and can read my moods. So, how do I stop feeling this way? I think, too, that some of my friendships aren't as strong anymore, so I'm anticipating more loneliness.
Now you know, in the land of Wicked Witches and Warlocks, or W-Land, Halloween is the national holiday. No little witches and warlocks go to school that day to learn about spells, potions, and tricks. Instead, everybody goes downtown to watch a parade with floats in shapes of giant spiders, bats, and rats. They have a huge party during the day with games for kids like the rotten egg toss, designing the scariest jack-o-lantern, and broomstick races. They even have an unbeauty pageant where the ugliest witch and warlock won prizes. At night, grownup witches and warlocks attend a ball.
My son moves into his dorm tomorrow, and my sister-in-law swimming buddy is driving us. Excited for him, anxious for me--hoping I won't feel too lonely, and a little nervous as one knee is recovering from knee replacement surgery and the other needs to be replaced. But my weekend is already packed with social stuff--meeting M. for a write-in Friday night, monthly Saturday morning IHOP breakfast with H. and later my nephew's birthday party, and Sunday morning swim with S. Not too much time to be lonely--plus I need to work over the weekend plus do my critque group critiques.
The apartment feels silent, now that T. is off at his college dorm, starting his senior year. I'm glad I have my writing, I've vowed to diligently practice my violin again, and I'm happy I have feline company. Plus I've lots of breakfasts and write-ins and birthday parties and swims scheduled with family and friends. Still, I envy non-single parents when their kids go off to college--it must be easier. Yet I learned of a perfect-marriage couple with kids my son's age who are getting a divorce--move-in day must be so much worse for them. I'm used to being alone.
I hate when I'm too tired to write coherently anymore. It's Melatonin's fault--but without those two tablets at bedtime, I'd have insomnia every night and wouldn't be able to write well at any hour. So it's worth it. But I was having fun revising my story about a wicked witch who evolves into a mischievous witch. I also played more on Red (my violin) than usual. I'm starting to getting used to living alone with T. off in college, luckily in the same city. What's going to be hard is when he gets his own apartment. That's the real separation.
Thirty years ago, I was there, in Washington DC for the 1983 March for Jobs, Peace, and Freedom, marching with a disability rights group, traveling in a caravan of cars and vans and buses. I assisted two people in wheelchairs whom everyone called the lovebirds, but when they had a fight and the woman asked to room with me, I said no, thinking they should work it out--and the next day she attacked me. One guy later preached not getting involved in other people's problems, and back then I considered him self-righteous--but I look back and yup, he was right.
What do I remember from the march, thirty years ago? One night, we crowded into the church where Martin Luther King had preached, and Jesse Jackson spoke; an older African American woman shook her head. "He just wants money." People along the march route sat to the side with radios, and our group organizers passed around sunscreen and handed out water bottles. Did Coretta Scott King speak? They played a recording of the dream speech over the Washington Mall speakers. I still have the T-shirt I bought, now worn, with King's picture and the words, "I Still Have a Dream."
Summer fades, and I dread winter, though of course it sounds funny to be anticipating cold weather when yeaterday it was 100 degrees. Still, this is Chicago, and we've had snow in September--and I'm wary of falling on ice. I'm gifted at falling, even without ice, although my physical therapist gave me helpful advice--to use my cane more when it's icy, and to buy special treads and attach them to the cane. But ice or no ice, I'll miss carefree walks in warm sunshine, getting Big Gulps at 7-11 on my lunch hour, or sitting outside reading on my Nook.
Insomnia. I finally give up and get up and go to the computer--why waste my wakefulness? Why not write or do the bills I should have done last night? Trouble is, insomniac me is nothing like me after a good night's sleep--the alertness just isn't there--and my body hungers for sleep. Tonight it may actually be worry, not toothache or the August heat. I don't regret sending my son to Catholic school or a small university, but I feel buried in student loan and credit card bills, not to mention more medical bills whenever I have my left knee replaced.
What do I still need to write for How the Bobbsey Twins Saved My Life? It doesn't feel quite done. I do focus more on my childhood and less on my adult sins, and it's plain wrong to wholesale blame everything on your childhood, or the world will never become a better place, because who hasn't been harmed in childhood, no matter how whole and loving the family? I think of leading off with an intro. forgiving everyone and asking for forgiveness, but isn't that's rather disingenuous when I'm reciting sins of others against me and leaving out my own?
I sit here at Caribou feeling crabby because of toothache and pouring rain outside--why didn't I think to bring an umbrella?--and H. changing the time of our breakfast, meaning I'll have to really rush tomorrow morning to get N. to the vet. Sigh. I should be able to get back home with N. by 7:45, but I knew I could make it by 8. It's been a Murphy's Law week, and, worse, I'm crabbier about minor upsets than usual. The mouse isn't working well with the netbook and probably needs a new battery--it worked so great at Starbucks on Saturday.
Last month, visiting relatives, I offhandedly learned that an uncle had died.
"Remember that really cold winter? We were in Chicago--for Uncle T.'s funeral--"
Nobody had told me. Until now.
Suddenly I was eighteen again, sitting on the floor outside my dorm room, with one of those yellow phones with curly-cue cords, a dial phone, listening to my Aunt K. and then my Aunt G. refuse to call my mother once a week, even though my mother was threatening suicide because I'd gone off to college, and the counselor had suggested that I ask my relatives for help.
Years ago, I remember expressing Ms. B.'s point of view to a coworker, asserting that when I had a child, I would send him or her to public school. But then I became a parent. I'd had a rough childhood, and looking back, I believed that faith in Something More had helped me, so I wanted that for my child. And as a single mom, the warm community of the neighborhood Catholic school appealed to me; I visited the local public school, and it just didn't have that nurturing feel. I don't regret my choice to be a "bad person."
I sit at Dunkin Donuts, which is becoming my coffee shop writing place--cheaper than Caribou or Starbucks, more comfy and less yuppie, too, and I like the pop music they play, Adele and then the song from Silver Linings Playbook, and it's closer to home. And like the yuppier coffee places, they don't care how long you stay. I overtip, appreciative of the writing space. Maybe I'll start carrying nut-free granola bars to the Y and hopefully find a place to munch one so I'm not starving on the way to Dunkin Donuts--I get so hungry after swimming.
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