Lockdown Lessons

Many are saying that 2020 is the worst year ever. And I agree, I never would have chosen to stay-at-home. Many are suffering in ways that breaks my heart.

But if you are a glass half-full optimistic type person, there are silver linings. (I have been on a cliché kick lately). For some of us, this has been a time of reflection of our lives, and a time to ask for divine wisdom on where to go once the doors are open to rebuild.

I learned the joy in writing posts.

I learned that God provides in unusual ways, requiring me to step out of my comfort zone in two separate situations.

I have reassessed my writing projects, putting one on the back burner: my Coos Indian flash fiction series. I am writing my first sonnet, and I have to say I hate it. I will do it once to say I did one. Not all bucket list items are fun.

I opened my college grammar book, and decided it was time to brush up.

I have heard the phase “New Normal.” I don’t accept it. I see the major writing magazines writing many articles around this concept, and in a few this concept has taken center stage over their main mission – writing encouragement and advice. I enjoy writing as a hobby and hoping to touch a few lives out there, so I don’t read many articles on publishing. But I have been taking notice of the writing industry and how it will change in the days ahead, in this cultural war.

Banana Curls

“Suzie, stop that—makes you look unattractive. Go put on your leotard and get your coat on and gather your tote for ballet class,” said her aunt.

Suzie glared at her, twirled a fast and furious pirouette, and sacheted out of the entrance hallway to her room. She couldn’t remember where she had placed her leotard last and started tossing items high in the air, looking before they hit the floor again. She finally found it, pulled it on. She grabbed her tote, and added one more item she might need.

Her aunt came to her room to make sure she was getting ready. “Did you wash your leotard since the last practice? She walked over towards her, taking a whiff of the air. “Suzie, we don’t have time to wash and dry it. Just look at this room-how can you stand it? Hurry up and get your coat and let’s go, we’re running late.”

They walked to the car and her aunt drove fast to her hair appointment. Suzie clutched the door arm turning street corners a couple of times. At least it distracted her from what the other girls might do or say when they saw her hair.

Suzie held her nose at the smell of the permanent solution. Having to sit in the beautician’s chair for over three hours made her squirm like a puppy in a cage. The beautician was running late, being late for ballet class a possibility. No, she couldn’t get just get a body perm; her aunt thought banana curls were oh–so–cute.

They opened up the front door and the girls were sitting on the benches tying their toe shoes. Some of them looked up, their eyes widening, then nudging the ones who did not notice. Suzie grimaced, the silence of those looking away worse than the giggles.

Her aunt sat in the parent’s section. Suzie sat on the bench, away as much as possible from the other girls and pulled out her toe shoes from her tote and tied them on. The teacher called the class to order, earning Suzie’s gratitude. The class was rehearsing for the Christmas recital.

After class was over, Suzie took off her toe shoes and put on her street shoes, then put them in her tote bag and carried it to the bathroom. She locked the door, and took out the pair of scissors she had put in her tote, and took a satisfying snip for each banana curl, dropping them one by one into the garbage can. She looked at herself in the mirror, admiring her handiwork. She took a deep breath and opened up the bathroom door, closing her eyes and opening them to her aunt’s disgusted face.

Pie Crust

The living room walls flanked the moving boxes, containing her mother’s effects. She had risen early in the morning loading them in her truck, and moving them to her house a total of two times. Her back ached, traffic had been heavy.

Driven to the boxes, she wanted a touch of her mother’s life still in her hands. The warm pulsating shower on her back muscles could wait.

She needed to find something she needed to see, when she saw it she would know. After tearing open a few boxes and peeking inside, she saw her mother’s three Pyrex mixing bowls, wrapped in newspaper, stacked. The largest one was yellow, bright and warm. The middle one was green and the smallest red. Her heart settled.

Baking pie crust was a skill she outranked her mother on. The first time her mother taught her how to make a pie crust, it had been flaked-with-a-fork perfect. “You were just lucky,” she had said. The words had bitten her.

Walking into the kitchen with the three bowls, she decided to bake a pie. She gathered the pie plate, rolling pin, spatula and iced water before she got her hands sticky with dough.

As she pulled the newspaper off, the red bowl slipped out of her hand and shattered on the kitchen floor. She sank to the floor, salty tears charging down her face towards the scattered shards all over the kitchen floor. Not this too.

Loss was not the enemy, quitting was. Wiping the tears from her face, she stood up. Imagining her mother here with her in the kitchen, wearing that stripped caftan.

The note lay between the green and yellow bowls. It was her mother’s handwriting, hard to read. Her mother had never learned to print in elementary school, cursive was all she knew.

You always made better crust than me.

Final Salute

I entered my father’s palliative care room. The nurse checked the morphine drip inserted in my father’s arm, then stepped out of the room. He turned his head toward me as I entered the door and pulled down his breathing mask. I put my backpack on the floor beside the visitor’s chair.

“Aren’t you supposed to be in school today?” he asked.

“Yes, but Mom gave me a permission slip to leave early, and twenty five dollars gas money. I don’t have any homework tonight, and football practice was called off,” I said.

“I don’t want you to miss school, your mother should not have let you come.”

I swallowed hard. The oncologist had told Mom that my father had the beginning stages of pneumonia and he had not been told.

My father had been a supply captain at Camp Pendleton during peacetime. He took pride in the Corps. You had better not try and tell him the other services were just as good as the Marine Corps.

“How are you feeling, Dad?”

“My breathing is labored, but other than that I feel fine. Your Aunt Mimi came by today and left me a couple of Clancy paperback novels to read.” My father turned his head and coughed; I could hear the mucous rumbling through his chest.

“Have they told you anything about your cough—”

“Danny, don’t you start that. Do you have a football game coming up? Isn’t Homecoming soon?”

“Homecoming was a few weeks ago. We beat the Bulldogs by three points, but they were not in top form. I heard their quarterback is down with the flu and they had a fill in. They fumbled the ball a couple of times and once I gained control and scored a touchdown.”

I was worried about Dad having to take his breathing mask off so much to talk to me. “Hey listen, Dad, maybe I should come back another time when your breathing gets better.”

“Now, son, what did I just tell you? All I care about is not being in pain and the morphine drip is doing its job good. Did you go the Homecoming dance after the game?”

I did go with my girlfriend Tina, but my mind had been on my dad. His doctor had said stage four. “Yes, the d.j. played a good mix of slow and fast music. Tina told me all about her new job at Sonic. Look Dad, I am going to go so you can rest.”

He nodded his agreement. I desperately wanted to hug him, but I knew he would rebuff me. Why was he not fighting? I needed him.

I picked up my backpack, turned around and gave him a proper Marine Corps salute. When I was little, he would teach me the proper way—snappy with just the right angle, no hint of sloppiness. He mustered his strength and saluted me back, I knew, with his imaginary cover on his head. I turned back around and headed out the door.