Life as a wife: Just like Emmylou

I’ve been remiss in posting here.  Preparing Sisters Born, Sisters Found: A Diversity of Voices on Sisterhood for launch on Jan. 5 has kept me beyond busy. (The book is on sale at Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista, Corte Madera, Calif., now and available for pre-order on Amazon at http://amzn.to/1DVNEiZ,)

I have, however, posted a few mini Life As A Wife tidbits on Facebook in the past couple of months, and I thought some folks might enjoy them. I envision publishing an ebook of them (the ones in this post will need to be expanded) at some point. So here goes:

10371948_10202949593215194_776740326066961341_nThe office holiday party was so much fun: great people, yummy food, lots of laughter, much of it from the gift exchange. You never know what you’ll find beneath the festive wrapping. Jim got a box of See’s Candy. I went for something more mysterious to my eye. Here’s what I got. Funny, he won’t swap with me.

 

 

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My Jim just a smidge irritated with me for taking a picture instead of holding the ladder steady.

 

 

 

 

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Jim just came home, saw me working away at my desk, paused to stroke my hair, which I stopped coloring about seven months ago, and said, “Your hair is beautiful. You are beautiful, like Emmylou Harris.” Oh, he’s a keeper, that man. Now, if I could just sing like Emmylou …

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Vying for Space

Here’s a mini memoir I contributed to The Sitting Room‘s 2014 publication, This Is What a Feminist Looks Like. The question writers were asked to address was, When did you first realize you were a feminist?

Vying for Space
by Laura McHale Holland

Kathy, Mary Ruth and I unwrap Bazooka in the back seat while our father starts up the Ford Galaxy. Feeling lucky that I, the youngest in the family, landed the coveted window spot on the driver’s side, I pop an entire rectangle of gum in my mouth, chomp down, and relish a burst of flavor.

4430261585_20417251dc_z“Give me your wrappers, girls.” Our stepmother cranes backward and extends her arm, palm up.

We crumple the wax papers and drop them one, two, three into her hand. She faces for-ward again. Our father backs down the drive. Excited at the prospect of seeing our grandmother soon, my sisters and I fidget, elbow each other and kick the back of the front seat.

“Stop that!” our father roars. He brakes; we all lurch forward. “Sit still, or you’re going right back in the house. No visiting Gramma today. I’ll count to three: one, two … three.”

We do our best to settle down, careful not to bump each other and set off a fight.
Our father resumes backing out just as our neighbors pull into their driveway. All four family members sit like mannequins in their respective places: father driving, son in front passenger seat, mother and daughter in back.

“That’s creepy—males in front, females in back,” Kathy says.

“They’re so weird,” Mary Ruth says. I bounce up and down in agreement.

“He’s got the right idea, girls,” my father says, catching my eye in the rearview mirror. “You’d just better hope my lovely wife doesn’t have a son someday. She might have to ride in back with you.” He pulls into the street, changes gears and accelerates.

I wince at the thought of a wiggling, squalling male heir in the front next to my father, and a full-grown woman vying for space in back with my sisters and me.

“That’s not funny, Daddy,” Mary Ruth says.

“It wasn’t meant to be.” He chortles, head thrown back.

We three sisters chew our gum in silence. The car crunches over gravel and hits a pot-hole. I kick the front seat right at the small of my father’s back. I kick hard enough to disturb him, but not so hard he won’t conclude the seat was just jostled by the bumpy road.

###

Are you a feminist?

(Photo is by Christopher Sessums and used under Creative Commons attribution license. My father’s Galaxy was white and a couple years older than the one pictured.)

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So Beautiful — Complete story

Here’s So Beautiful, the entire story:

So Beautiful
By Laura McHale Holland

Engulfed by early morning fog, Marcie spots a dusty green bottle in The Gap’s storefront window. Beyond vintage, the glass vessel leaning against a mannequin’s boot is conspicuous amid the stylish denim and knits on display. Marcie, wrinkled and bent, is drawn to it.

She’s been longing for a potion—a strong one—so she can jump up and down in the stands at a baseball game. Rain pouring or wind roaring, it won’t matter. It won’t matter because once she takes a sip, she will be thick skinned with rosy cheeks and nary an ache in her joints.

She wants a magic elixir so Arturo, her true love, can return to her, so they can make love from dusk to dawn in a tent on a far off beach, no worries about what the future will bring. She wants a potion to take her back—if only for a day—so she can race full tilt down the sidewalk to catch a streetcar and know in that moment exactly how beautiful she is.

She leans closer to the window and instinctively stretches a gnarled hand toward the pane. When her fingers meet the glass, they slip through, as though dipping into water. Startled, she pauses, holding her breath. Then she reaches forward. When she is in up to her shoulder, she grabs the bottle, snatches her arm back and slips the treasure into her trench coat pocket. Circles ripple where she had permeated the glass.

Marcie watches, transfixed, until all is still. Then she touches the pane, tapping at first. It’s solid. She slaps it with her palm. It doesn’t give. Pressing with both hands, she leans against it with all her weight. It’s like any ordinary storefront window.

A bus pulls up to the curb. Marcie boards.

* * *

Kelly spreads a blanket on the sand as her son, Jason, dashes barefoot to the shore. “Stay close,” she calls to him, though she is not worried. This little bay is a spec of calm beyond which wind surfers navigate rough waters. And five-year-old Jason never wades in deeper than his ankles unless Kelly is beside him, holding his hand.

Jason’s sister, Coco, fusses in her stroller. Kelly unbuckles the tyke and lifts her up. The child squeals and coos and slurps. Kelly marvels at the array of sounds one little baby can make and feels grateful for the flexible work schedule that allows her to hear her daughter’s language unfold.

Kelly sits down, Coco on her lap, and pulls a jar of mashed sweet potatoes from her diaper bag, along with a baby spoon and napkin. Keeping an eye on Jason, who is now at work on a sand castle, Kelly feeds her daughter. Coco giggles as food dribbles down her chin. Kelly wipes the tot’s face and then puts the food away. She won’t force Coco to eat, for the babe is plump and rosy-cheeked—unlike Jason who was born premature at 28 weeks. His first two years were a rash of incisions, tubes, monitors and transfusions. Kelly fretted constantly because he was underweight and slow to develop. But now, ready to start kindergarten, Jason is normal in every measurement, with scars beneath his clothes the only reminders of his struggles to live.

Jason calls out, “Mommy! Mommy! Come see this itty bitty sand dollar.”

Kelly rises, picks Coco up and carries her to the spot where Jason is busy shaping turrets atop a rectangular mound. He shows her the smallest sand dollar she has ever seen, about half an inch in diameter.

“It’s perfect, Jason. Absolutely perfect.” She says.

“Hold it for me?” He hands her the treasure.

“Sure. I’ll put it in my bag.” With Coco on one hip, Kelly strides back toward the blanket. Along the way, she notices Marcie on a bench, tossing chunks of bread to a flock of pigeons at her feet. Kelly sees the woman here often. Last week they greeted each other and exchanged names and a few words about the weather. Kelly imagines she, too, might spend afternoons feeding pigeons when her children are long gone.

The wind picks up, and dark clouds come into view on the horizon. Shivering, Kelly wraps the sand dollar in a napkin and tucks it into the padded diaper bag. She fits Coco into a jacket that used to be Jason’s and settles her on the blanket with a set of plastic blocks. Then she holds up her son’s cardigan. “Come get your sweater,” she calls. “I don’t want you to get chilled.”

“Can I just finish the moat?”

“Sure, Honey Bear, but don’t take long.”

In the light dancing at the water’s edge, it looks to Kelly as though Jason sports a golden halo, like an angel. She expects she’ll tell her husband about this over dinner, and they’ll agree her sleep-deprived eyes are playing tricks on her. But she can’t imagine wanting to trade places with anyone, ever, no matter how often she’s awake in the night, rocking her babes back to sleep.

* * *

Ho lifts the Open/Closed sign from his shop’s front window, turns the hands of its clock and flips it. “Closed. Back at 1:30” now faces the street. He hasn’t taken time off for lunch in years, but his wife, Lily, and daughter, Jasmine, have been down with the flu for a week, and one of his long-time neighbors, Marcie, just dropped off homemade chicken soup for them on her way to the beach. She said it contained a secret elixir that would fix them up in no time. Ho doubts that, but he does believe in the healing power of good old chicken soup.

He carries the warm soup up the back stairs to the flat where his family lives. There’s just enough for three people. He serves Lily and Jasmine, who out on living room couches, watching an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Back in the kitchen, he pours the last of the savory brew for himself and takes a sip. It slides like a caress down his throat. He makes a mental note to ask Marcie if she could prepare a big batch to sell in the shop. He brings the spoon to his lips for another sip when he hears a thump, then glass breaking, followed by his store alarm blaring. He races down the back stairs, through the store and out the front door just in time to see a man running, with Ho’s electronic cash register under one arm and a bottle of liquor under the other.

The thief is almost a block ahead, but Ho gives chase and finds he is surprisingly fleet of foot. The thief looks over his shoulder. Ho recognizes Darrell, one of the thugs who hang out on the corner and make eyes at Jasmine whenever she passes by. Incensed, Ho runs faster, thinking it must be the adrenaline that is helping him catch up to the man.

Darrell reaches the beach, and his heavy boots slow him down in the sand. Ho hits the beach and runs faster. Gaining more ground, he calls out, “Stop!” He sprints harder, and sees Marcie, a young woman and baby playing with blocks on a blanket, a little boy at the water’s edge and several other people milling about. He keeps going. “Stop!” he calls again.

The scoundrel drops the cash register and the liquor, but though his load is lighter, Ho continues to gain on him.

“Stop! I said,” Ho calls.

Darrell finally stops, spins around and pulls out a semiautomatic pistol. He shoots. Wildly. Without aim. He twirls and shoots, twirls and shoots, twirls and shoots. The beach becomes one enormous scream. Ho continues to run, unable to stop. A bullet hits him in the heart. He drops. Darrell points the gun to his own temple and shoots.

The sand fills with blood.

* * *

Marcie sees Jason go down, then Kelly. Unable to tend to both at once, Marcie races to the boy. Waves lap at Jason’s body, which is oozing blood into the water. Marcie sits in the wet sand and cradles his head in her lap. She pulls the green bottle from her pocket, uncaps it and pours liberally on wounds in Jason’s chest and abdomen. The boy lets out several short gasps, and his bleeding stops, but Marcie sees fresh blood on the sand. She looks at her belly and realizes the blood is her own. She slides Jason off her lap and, crouching, pulls him away from the water. She tries to stand, but stumbles and falls. So she crawls up the beach to Kelly and empties the last of the elixir into a wound in the young mother’s neck. She re-caps the bottle, but then grows dizzy; her body tingles; the bottle slips into the sand.

Marcie hears sirens. Commanding voices. Footsteps canvassing the beach. She hears Jason call, “Mommy! Mommy!” as he is carried away on a stretcher. Someone picks up Coco, who is wailing. A paramedic checks on Kelly. “I think this one’s gonna make it,” he says.

For Marcie, the cacophony of rescue, pungency of rotting seaweed and sunscreen, and sensation of blood pumping from her body quickly fade. Someone leans over her. The person’s lips are moving, but she doesn’t hear the words. She closes her eyes, lets out one last breath. And then Arturo is before her, holding out his hand. She pats her torso. She has no wound. Feeling vibrant and strong, neither young nor old, Marcie races to his embrace. “You are so beautiful,” he says. And Marcie knows in that moment he is absolutely right.

* * *

Long after the crime scene tape is gone, Ho’s daughter, Jasmine, stands on the spot where her father died. With wind from the water blowing her hair back like a super hero’s cape, she whispers. She tells her father all that is in her heart, including how much she appreciates everything he did for her, everything he gave her, down to the last, delectable bowl of soup on the day he died.

When she has no more words, Jasmine scans the beach and spots something glistening a few feet away. Inching closer, she sees it is green glass. She digs with her bare hands, pulls up the bottle and wipes away bits of sand clinging to its surface. Then she holds it up to the sky and shakes. The bottle gurgles. Wondering what kind of liquid it contains, Jasmine puts it in her pocket and ambles homeward. Along the way, she nods to a woman with a baby girl in her lap and little boy at her side. They’re feeding bread to a flock of pigeons at their feet.

The End

I will welcome your comments and insights about this story. And iff you like this post, please sign up for Letters from Laura at the top of the sidebar to the right. You’ll be among the first to learn of new projects, insights, deals and other inspiring aspects of my creative endeavors.

 *  *  *

Copyright  ©  2014 by Laura McHale Holland

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So Beautiful – Part 4

Here’s the fourth installment of my short story So Beautiful.

The first three parts are at:

http://lauramchaleholland.com/fiction-2/so-beautiful/ 

http://lauramchaleholland.com/fiction-2/so-beautiful-part-2/

http://lauramchaleholland.com/fiction-2/so-beautiful-part-3/

So Beautiful – Part 4

Marcie sees Jason go down, then Kelly. Unable to tend to both at once, Marcie races to the boy. Waves lap at Jason’s body, which is oozing blood into the water. Marcie sits in the wet sand and cradles his head in her lap. She pulls the green bottle from her pocket, uncaps it and pours liberally on wounds in Jason’s chest and abdomen. The boy lets out several short gasps, and his bleeding stops, but Marcie sees fresh blood on the sand. She looks at her belly and realizes the blood is her own. She slides Jason off her lap and, crouching, pulls him away from the water. She tries to stand, but stumbles and falls. So she crawls up the beach to Kelly and empties the last of the elixir into a wound in the young mother’s neck. She re-caps the bottle, but then grows dizzy; her body tingles; the bottle slips into the sand.

Marcie hears sirens. Commanding voices. Footsteps canvassing the beach. She hears Jason call, “Mommy! Mommy!” as he is carried away on a stretcher. Someone picks up Coco, who is wailing. A paramedic checks on Kelly. “I think this one’s gonna make it,” he says.

For Marcie, the cacophony of rescue, pungency of rotting seaweed and sunscreen, and sensation of blood pumping from her body quickly fade. Someone leans over her. The person’s lips are moving, but she doesn’t hear the words. She closes her eyes, lets out one last breath. And then Arturo is before her, holding out his hand. She pats her torso. She has no wound. Feeling vibrant and strong, neither young nor old, Marcie races to his embrace. “You are so beautiful,” he says. And Marcie knows in that moment he is absolutely right.

*  *  *

The fifth and final installment is coming next week. As always, my friends, I will welcome your feedback. I still haven’t fixed WordPress so that it resumes sending me emails when people comment, but I’ll check my dashboard regularly so I can respond in a timely manner anyway.

 *  *  *

If you like this post, please sign up for Letters from Laura at the top of the sidebar to the right. You’ll be among the first to learn of new projects, insights, deals and other inspiring aspects of my creative endeavors.

 *  *  *

Copyright  ©  2014 by Laura McHale Holland

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So Beautiful – Part 3

Here’s the third installment of my short story So Beautiful.

The first two parts are at http://lauramchaleholland.com/fiction-2/so-beautiful/ and http://lauramchaleholland.com/fiction-2/so-beautiful-part-2/

So Beautiful – Part 3

Ho lifts the Open/Closed sign from his shop’s front window, turns the hands of its clock and flips it. “Closed. Back at 1:30” now faces the street. He hasn’t taken time off for lunch in years, but his wife, Lily, and daughter, Jasmine, have been down with the flu for a week, and one of his long-time neighbors, Marcie, just dropped off homemade chicken soup for them on her way to the beach. She said it contained a secret elixir that would fix them up in no time. Ho doubts that, but he does believe in the healing power of good old chicken soup.

He carries the warm soup up the back stairs to the flat where his family lives. There’s just enough for three people. He serves Lily and Jasmine, who out on living room couches, watching an episode of Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. Back in the kitchen, he pours the last of the savory brew for himself and takes a sip. It slides like a caress down his throat. He makes a mental note to ask Marcie if she could prepare a big batch to sell in the shop. He brings the spoon to his lips for another sip when he hears a thump, then glass breaking, followed by his store alarm blaring. He races down the back stairs, through the store and out the front door just in time to see a man running, with Ho’s electronic cash register under one arm and a bottle of liquor under the other.

The thief is almost a block ahead, but Ho gives chase and finds he is surprisingly fleet of foot. The thief looks over his shoulder. Ho recognizes Darrell, one of the thugs who hang out on the corner and make eyes at Jasmine whenever she passes by. Incensed, Ho runs faster, thinking it must be the adrenaline that is helping him catch up to the man.

Darrell reaches the beach, and his heavy boots slow him down in the sand. Ho hits the beach and runs faster. Gaining more ground, he calls out, “Stop!” He sprints harder, and sees Marcie, a young woman and baby playing with blocks on a blanket, a little boy at the water’s edge and several other people milling about. He keeps going. “Stop!” he calls again.

The scoundrel drops the cash register and the liquor, but though his load is lighter, Ho continues to gain on him.

“Stop! I said,” Ho calls.

Darrell finally stops, spins around and pulls out a semiautomatic pistol. He shoots. Wildly. Without aim. He twirls and shoots, twirls and shoots, twirls and shoots. The beach becomes one enormous scream. Ho continues to run, unable to stop. A bullet hits him in the heart. He drops. Darrell points the gun to his own temple and shoots.

The sand fills with blood.

 *  *  *

The fourth installment is coming next week. As always, my friends, I will welcome your feedback. WordPress stopped sending me emails when people comment, and I haven’t figured out why. I’ll endeavor to respond in a timely manner anyway.

 *  *  *

If you like this post, sign up for Letters from Laura at the top of the sidebar to the right. You’ll be among the first to learn of new projects, insights, deals and other inspiring aspects of my creative endeavors.

 *  *  *

Copyright  ©  2013 by Laura McHale Holland

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So Beautiful — Part 2

Here’s the second installment of So Beautiful.

You can read the first installment at http://lauramchaleholland.com/fiction-2/so-beautiful/.

Kelly spreads a blanket on the sand as her son, Jason, dashes barefoot to the shore. “Stay close,” she calls to him, though she is not worried. This little bay is a spec of calm beyond which wind surfers navigate rough waters. And five-year-old Jason never wades in deeper than his ankles unless Kelly is beside him, holding his hand.

Jason’s sister, Coco, fusses in her stroller. Kelly unbuckles the tyke and lifts her up. The child squeals and coos and slurps. Kelly marvels at the array of sounds one little baby can make and feels grateful for the flexible work schedule that allows her to hear her daughter’s language unfold.

Kelly sits down, Coco on her lap, and pulls a jar of mashed sweet potatoes from her diaper bag, along with a baby spoon and napkin. Keeping an eye on Jason, who is now at work on a sand castle, Kelly feeds her daughter. Coco giggles as food dribbles down her chin. Kelly wipes the tot’s face and then puts the food away. She won’t force Coco to eat, for the babe is plump and rosy-cheeked—unlike Jason who was born premature at 28 weeks. His first two years were a rash of incisions, tubes, monitors and transfusions. Kelly fretted constantly because he was underweight and slow to develop. But now, ready to start kindergarten, Jason is normal in every measurement, with scars beneath his clothes the only reminders of his struggles to live.

Jason calls out, “Mommy! Mommy! Come see this itty bitty sand dollar.”

Kelly rises, picks Coco up and carries her to the spot where Jason is busy shaping turrets atop a rectangular mound. He shows her the smallest sand dollar she has ever seen, about half an inch in diameter.

“It’s perfect, Jason. Absolutely perfect.” She says.

“Hold it for me?” He hands her the treasure.

“Sure. I’ll put it in my bag.” With Coco on one hip, Kelly strides back toward the blanket. Along the way, she notices Marcie on a bench, tossing chunks of bread to a flock of pigeons at her feet. Kelly sees the woman here often. Last week they greeted each other and exchanged names and a few words about the weather. Kelly imagines she, too, might spend afternoons feeding pigeons when her children are long gone.

The wind picks up, and dark clouds come into view on the horizon. Shivering, Kelly wraps the sand dollar in a napkin and tucks it into the padded diaper bag. She fits Coco into a jacket that used to be Jason’s and settles her on the blanket with a set of plastic blocks. Then she holds up her son’s cardigan. “Come get your sweater,” she calls. “I don’t want you to get chilled.”

“Can I just finish the moat?”

“Sure, Honey Bear, but don’t take long.”

In the light dancing at the water’s edge, it looks to Kelly as though Jason sports a golden halo, like an angel. She expects she’ll tell her husband about this over dinner, and they’ll agree her sleep-deprived eyes are playing tricks on her. But she can’t imagine wanting to trade places with anyone, ever, no matter how often she’s awake in the night, rocking her babes back to sleep.

 

 

The third installment is coming next week. In the meantime, I will welcome your feedback.

 

Ready to get moved and inspired? Sign up for Letters from Laura at the sidebar to the right.

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So Beautiful

Here’s the first of a five-part story I’ll post over the next several weeks. It expands on a little snippet I posted a while back. I’m inclined to not post pictures to go with it. That might change

So Beautiful
By Laura McHale Holland

Engulfed by early morning fog, Marcie spots a dusty green bottle in The Gap’s storefront window. Beyond vintage, the glass vessel leaning against a mannequin’s boot is conspicuous amid the stylish denim and knits on display. Marcie, wrinkled and bent, is drawn to it.

She’s been longing for a potion—a strong one—so she can jump up and down in the stands at a baseball game. Rain pouring or wind roaring, it won’t matter. It won’t matter because once she takes a sip, she will be thick skinned with rosy cheeks and nary an ache in her joints.

She wants a magic elixir so Arturo, her true love, can return to her, so they can make love from dusk to dawn in a tent on a far off beach, no worries about what the future will bring. She wants a potion to take her back—if only for a day—so she can race full tilt down the sidewalk to catch a streetcar and know in that moment exactly how beautiful she is.

She leans closer to the window and instinctively stretches a gnarled hand toward the pane. When her fingers meet the glass, they slip through, as though dipping into water. Startled, she pauses, holding her breath. Then she reaches forward. When she is in up to her shoulder, she grabs the bottle, snatches her arm back and slips the treasure into her trench coat pocket. Circles ripple where she had permeated the glass.

Marcie watches, transfixed, until all is still. Then she touches the pane, tapping at first. It’s solid. She slaps it with her palm. It doesn’t give. Pressing with both hands, she leans against it with all her weight. It’s like any ordinary storefront window.

A bus pulls up to the curb. Marcie boards.

 

 

Second installment coming next week.

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Merry Little Christmas

This is a different sort of Life As a Wife episode.

Merry Little Christmas
By Laura McHale Holland

We hauled all of our Christmas paraphernalia down from the garage several days ago, but the boxes sat unopened in the family room until yesterday morning, when I decided to surprise Jim by putting the tree up before he awoke.

I was stringing blinking lights around the tree when he walked in, big smile on his face. He likes blinkers; I don’t particularly. The last several years, I’ve had my way: nice steady lights. This year I decided to do it his way: alternating blinkers top to bottom.

Jim sorted through some CDs, put one on. Soon James Taylor’s voice filled the room. Taylor’s renditions of “Winter Wonderland,” “Go Tell It on the Mountain,” “Jingle Bells” and other favorites set a warm, festive mood. I continued to fiddle with the lights and then sort through ornaments, garlands and knick knacks. Then “The Christmas Song” came on. It’s the one with the line, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas.” The words and melody gripped memy eyes filled, tears spilled. I was surprised. Jim bought the CD last year, and the song hadn’t made me cry.

GD ornamentJim’s response? He said to Romeo, one of our dogs, “Uh, oh, the waterworks; it’s time for us to go, fella.” I shook my head, thinking he was channeling John Wayne again—or maybe Humphrey Bogart since he’d just watched “Key Largo” the night before. He ambled toward the kitchen, the dog padding after him. When he returned, we hung the first ornaments: balls with Grateful Dead art on them, part of Jim’s assortment of the band’s memorabilia.

Jim had an errand to run. I decided to do some other chores—pay bills, do laundry, that sort of thing. I thought about “The Christmas Song” while I worked. I remembered that my father used to croon that one, along with many others. He would sing with everything he had, like the Welsh miners who harmonized throughout their days in the old film “How Green Was My Valley.” When my father was alive, my days were bursting with music, especially at Christmas. Then he died, and the holidays of my childhood grew quiet and bleak.

Later, I returned to the tree. I pulled out a box of golden orbs painted with a glittery holly pattern and checked to see whether they still had hangers attached. I didn’t notice that Jim was at the stereo until another voice filled the room: Robert Goulet singing, “If Ever I Would Leave You” from the Broadway soundtrack of Camelot.

Sometimes I think “If Ever I Would Leave You” is the best love song ever written. I always think of it as Jim’s and my song. Often, words of comfort aren’t Jim’s thing. Jokes and music are. He knows I lost my parents when I was far too young and that even though I am happy now, sometimes a song or movie or painting or remark will remind me of past times of sorrow. He realizes these memories are fleeting but that they shaped the person I’ve become. He also knows I know he’s never going to leave me as long as there is breath in his body.

I looked up. We smiled at each other. I thanked him for playing the song. He sashayed across the room and gave me a big hug. I told him I want to donate to a toy drive this year in addition to writing our year-end checks to the local food bank and a few other charities. We used to donate games, dolls, action figures and more when our children were growing up, but we haven’t done so lately. I know a toy won’t transform a grieving family into a thriving one, but it might provide at least a moment of happiness, something that could help tide a child over to another good moment, and another, and another until such time as there are far more good times than bad.

Jim, of course, said he’s all for it.

Copyright  ©  2013 by Laura McHale Holland

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Sometimes

Sometimes
A reflection by Laura with a way cool poem by Moira Kathleen

11.23.versions.photoSometimes I feel like a bloated computer file stuffed with too many variations of the same old story. Other times I’m like a youngster again watching Jiminy Cricket sing When You Wish Upon a Star on the Walt Disney Show. But I wonder whether I’ve been wishing upon the wrong star, chasing something illusive, unattainable.

Typhoons and tornadoes rip across the landscape in far off lands and closer to home. Cars crash. Fires break out, consuming homes in a flash. Any of us could lose everything in an instant, or our lives could dribble away slowly.

I worry about all of this way too much, I know.

imageBut occasionally I’ll do something routine that shifts my perspective—like yesterday, I took a shower, toweled off and rubbed a new brand of vanilla lotion all over my skin. The scent reminded me of a poem my daughter wrote when she was 10 years old.

It was selected for the Anthology of Poetry by Young Americans, 1997 edition.

I looked through a book shelf near my bed and found the slender volume. I’d forgotten how wonderful the poem is. I hope I never forget again. It reminds me of the power of giving and receiving everyday, constant love—and what an honor it is to be my daughter’s mom:

image

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Mom
By Moira Kathleen Holland

My mom is as beautiful as the sunset
She smells like a bundle of new roses
She loves to garden and write
When I wake up in the morning
she smells like vanilla
My mom has a dancing heart
I love her very much
I think she is a child wrapped
in a grown-up’s body

 

Copyright  ©  2013 by Laura McHale Holland

 

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Fuckin’ Falafel

Fuckin’ Falafel
By Laura McHale Holland

Here’s another little something from my life as a wife:

IMG_1303I’ve removed the text of this post because for some folks it cast my husband in a negative light, which was not my intention.

I’m leaving the comments, though. If you’re curious about what prompted the comments, please get in touch with me through this site’s contact form, which can be reached from the menu at the upper right-hand side of this site.

 

 

 

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Domestic goddess—not

Here’s a little something from my life as a wife.

IMG_1302Jim pulls an old L.L. Bean shirt from the dryer, hands it to me and asks, “Can you do something with this?”

“Sure,” I say. “It’ll be great for rags. Chamois is really absorbent.”

“But I love this shirt. Can’t you fix the collar.”

“No can do, honey.”

“You must be able to fix it somehow.”

“Nope.”

“Well, you sure aren’t a domestic goddess, are you.” He purses his lips, looks me up and down.

“We’ve been together 29 years, and you’re only now realizing that?x!#?”

 

Copyright  ©  2013 by Laura McHale Holland

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Who knows where?

Here’s another Belinda Blue Brown draft. It’s the third in a series I’ve begun in the voice of a character who came to life in “Someday I’ll Have to Tell Him,” one of the stories in my flash fiction collection, The Ice Cream Vendor’s Song. The second in the series is in the post directly preceding this one. I am not attempting to make each of these episodes stand alone and will welcome your comments.

Who Knows Where?

The rain is thrashing my roof somethin’ fierce. You’d think the roof and rain were lovers and the rain just caught the roof kissing a wayward snowdrift. Gee willikers, I’m afraid all the commotion will wake up my little niece Pansy, who’s napping upstairs.

6824046205_b7ec521bdd_nIt sure is some crazy weather we’ve been havin’ here in North Bend lately; well, not just lately; it’s been all cuckoo for years now, which I hate to admit, because if I think about how long it’s been since the weather’s been normal, maybe I’ll accept that, say, three feet of snow in the driveway in April and weeks of 50 degree weather in December are here to stay, but be that as it may, this year has been a real humdinger so far, weatherwise.

Just two weeks ago it was snowin’, and I mean it wasn’t just snowin'; it was a blinding blizzard that came down from somewhere in Canada and moved eastward across the entire Midwest, coverin’ everything in its path, all the way out into the Atlantic. Gadzooks! It started the last day of March (ha, ha, ha to March comin’ in like a lion and goin’ out like a lamb, like they told us in grammar school) and it lasted for more than a week. Down, down, down it went without much letup, and little Pansy, oh, she was so upset because the day before the storm hit, a few crocus had popped through the hard, hard ground and, it’s such a wonder to see those lovely yellow petals pokin’ up after months of only shades of white and gray.

Then the snow came and covered up them flowers, and Pansy was completely distraught. We spent a whole afternoon shovelin’ the snow off; well, not exactly shovelin’. We had trowels, and of course the whole project was futile because as soon as we uncovered a crocus, the snow would cover it up again. This brought to mind the myth of Sysiphus, which I first heard when I was in high school English class, not that I was payin’ much attention back then to what went on in class, although I wish now that I had, but I did manage to get the gist of Sysiphus and his plight of rollin’ that boulder up a mountain only to have it roll down again and again, the same thing over and over ’til the end of time. Now, that story really depressed me, but for some reason I mentioned it to Pansy, while we were getting’ our mittens all soaked through to our frigid fingers from our efforts to rescue the crocus. Then, of course, she asked who’s Sysiphus? So I had to tell her the story, and she said flat out that she just didn’t believe it. She thinks Sysiphus probably escaped or got pardoned or something because nothin’ is forever.

Can you believe that? My little niece, just four years old, mind you, said something as profound as that. She comes to visit three afternoons a week because her moma, my brother’s wife, Glory (short for Gloria Jean), up and flew the coup when Pansy was just a little baby of five months. Glory wrote a note. Well, she didn’t write it; she typed it on her computer, and she said she had dark, dark thoughts, and liked to want to hurt Pansy when she cried—and, I do remember, little Pansy was a colicky baby. So Glory said in that note that she was afraid after being up all night, night after night, with my dear brother just sleepin’ away right through the chaos (she didn’t write that part, but I know it’s true) she said she had to split before she did something terrible to the baby.

She didn’t leave a phone number or address where we could reach her or anything, and she’s never sent one note or email. Nothin’. Not even her mama in nearby Cornville has heard from her, and she was as close to her mama as bubbles are to soap, yes indeed, but not even her mama has a clue where she might be, which some of us think is mighty suspicious, but Officer Renell, who is just plain old Bobby Renell, the guy who once shit his pants when we were in the third grade, isn’t askin’ for anybody’s opinion. He says he just wants the facts, thank you very much. But all we know for sure is that we don’t know where she is. She did say in the note that she might head south so the warmth could bake the bad right out of her.

6737125913_9883d2458b_nI think she must have had postpartum depression or maybe even that postpartum psychosis like some women, like that Andrea Yates, who end up drownin’ their kids in bathtubs. I wonder why our Glory didn’t go to a doctor like Brooke Shields did when she didn’t exactly adore her baby. Nowadays, a lot of folks in town talk bad about Glory, even my own brother, her supposedly ’til-death-do-us-part husband, and our mom, but I kind of think it was a brave thing to do, to leave for the sake of your child, if you think that’s the only way to protect the new life you’re holdin’ in your arms. And you know what else? I think, wherever Glory is, she’s grieving every single day.

Now Pansy couldn’t possibly remember her mom since Glory left when Pansy was so new to the world, so I don’t think she feels left out. We all love her like the dickens, so it’s like she has all these new moms (that would be me, my sister Corinna Mae and my cousin Lilac) who love her so much that if she were Humpty Dumpty and had a great fall, we’d find a way to put her back together again. But maybe somewhere deep inside Pansy does miss her mom, and that’s what makes her so wise to say stuff about Sysiphus like that, or maybe she’d say that stuff even if Glory was here right now bakin’ oatmeal raisin cookies for a snack after Pansy’s nap.

I don’t know, but I do know little Pansy will wake up soon, and she’ll want to go out and play in this downpour. We’ll put on our rain slickers and boots and find some puddles to splash in because, well now, she’s not going to want to do this puddle stompin’ forever. In a few short years she’ll be paintin’ her nails and talkin’ to boys, and I won’t exactly be able to splash in puddles by myself, even though I would enjoy it. People would talk if they saw me doin’ something out in public like that, and I won’t make a fool of myself for my dear husband Bernie’s sake. So little Pansy and I will go enjoy the downpour today, because god knows, with the weather so harsh and unpredictable like it’s been, pretty soon it could be bone dry here, and the puddles and mud out there could seem as distant as our great great grandparents, whose names most of us probably don’t even know. I kid you not. There area no more summer showers these days, haven’t been any for the last several years. They’re gone, just like Glory. Gone, and who knows where?

Crocus photo by Rose Robinson; puddle photo by gachiman; both used under Creative Commons license.

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It came on the breeze

It Came on the Breeze
By Laura McHale Holland

It came on the breeze, sidled through Gracie’s nose and lodged in her throat. The vibration was ever so slight, just a hint of sensation. She forgot all about it as she spent the day splashing and sunbathing at the community pool with her girlfriends. But when she checked email one last time before bed, her laptop monitor emitted a strong sepia light. Her heart thump thumped. The light dissipated. Her pulse settled down. She went to sleep.

Then, in the night, her world split open to a thundrous sound directly above. She looked up to a wide crack splitting her bedroom ceiling, the attic and roof. From a sepia orb suspended above the house desended thousands of faerie-like beings, each about an inch tall and carrying a harp or flute. They swarmed her, jigged all over her and played melodies reminiscent of ancient folk songs, but more strident, discordant.

Behind Gracie’s bedroom door, her mother’s voice boomed, “Gracie, what’s going on in there? Turn that awful music down!”

At that, her visitors retreated; the crack in Gracie’s universe closed.

“Thank you.” Her mom strode away, satisfied.

Gracie rolled on her side, thinking maybe she’d been dreaming. Then she saw a tiny harp on her pillow. She dropped the harp into a velvet pouch she kept on her headboard. It landed on a ring of fake garnet and gold she’d gotten from a vending machine while shopping with her mom. In her sleep, she dreamed of flying among the stars.

In the morning, she peeked inside the pouch. The ring was gone, but the harp remained. “Gracie, time for breakfast,” her mom called. The voice sounded weak, as though far, far away. Gracie tucked the pouch into her T-shirt pocket. It vibrated every so slightly as she padded toward the kitchen.

 

Photo is from ketrin 1407’s flickr photo stream.

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At least

At Least
By Laura McHale Holland

I never meant to leave him like that. I was driving to the mall to exchange some shoes that were too tight, and I just forgot he was there. Then I got sidetracked by all those end-of-summer sales. And then I saw my friend Rosie in the Starbucks line and I stopped to chat. I finally came out loaded up with goodies galore—flip flops, a new swimsuit, v-neck T’s, even some wading pool toys. It wasn’t until I opened the Camry’s door that I remembered he was there, because I saw him. Dead as a doornail in his car seat. Oh, what a shock. I mean, I killed my daughter’s baby.

At first I could barely see or breathe; the gravity of the situation hit me like a head-on collision. I sat in the driver’s seat, sun beating through the windshield, and leaned over the steering wheel. I sat there sweating like a pig and wishing I could just erase the last hour. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t even make a sound. But then I must have gone on automatic pilot or something because all of a sudden I was on the freeway, heading home.

Once I pulled into my driveway, I lifted my grandson out of the car seat and talked to him just like I would have if we were coming home after an ordinary afternoon of errands. Then I put him down in his crib and sang him a lullabye that would always put him right to sleep with the sweetest smile on his face. I tucked his favoite stuffed bunny up by his shoulder just where he liked it, too.

When my daughter comes to pick him up, we’ll walk into the bedroom and find him cold, unresponsive. We’ll both be completely done in. What will I do when she cries out? When she picks up her baby and leans against me, sobbing? Should I say it might be SIDS? I can’t tell her I forgot her baby was in my car. If I do that, then she won’t have her mother’s shoulder to lean on as she goes through this. I have to give her that, at least.

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The four of us

Here’s another episode in what began as a connected flash fiction experiment. This may be the last one I post in this series. I’m getting the urge to collect the ones I’ve posted so far and rework them and see what kind of shape the project takes next. I’m inclined to pick one point of view to run with, and I’m wondering whose voice would be the strongest. Any ideas?

The Four of Us
By Laura McHale Holland

The kids, Chloe and Drew, knew we were a family from day one. Carly and I took longer to see we were like four ice cream flavors blending into one scrumptious shake on a sweltering summer afternoon. Now, our friends and family are whooping and laughing as we dash across the dance floor. We’re nearing the exit, one man, one woman, one boy, one girl, hand in hand in hand in hand.

Image is from icomers.com.

The social worker caught Carly’s bouquet of white roses. Carly insisted on inviting her. “She kept us apart,” I protested when I saw her name on the list. “She brought Drew into your life,” Carly countered. Then there’s the kidnapper. He runs the maintenance crew for Carly’s housing community. A little while ago he leapt up higher than anyone to catch the garter. He and the social worker are dancing together now, looking retro, like Uma Thurman and John Travolta in Pulp Fiction. They’ll probably dance long into the night while the four of us fly away.

We’re going to the land behind the waterfall. My people aren’t dead like I was told long ago; they’re hiding from the metal monsters that once spewed death down from the sky. Now a metal monster is bringing me home, along with my wife and children. I hope our lives all become entwined, the old and new, giving and receiving, without causing undue harm.

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The prior posts in this series, in the order in which they were published are:

Back pocket wishes

Cascading to the sea

Right through the heart

Away today?

A dime a dozen

She doesn’t know them

On the seat

A pillar of the community

He needs a friend

Double rainbow

The one he always wants to hear

Give it some time

It gives my life meaning

Smiles

Extenuating circumstances

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