City of Dreams

City of Dreams

Sunday Photo Fiction is a weekly challenge to write a 200-word story based on a photo prompt. If you are interested in joining in or reading other stories like this, just click HERE.

 The photo below is one I took on my visit to New York City a few years ago. New York is such a magical place, but surprisingly, I struggled with a story. Too many options.  One of my favorite Frank Sinatra songs is  ‘New York New York and I wanted to include it, although in the end, I simply elude to it. The rest of my inspiration came from personal life and growing older. I hope you like this week’s story. Let me know if you do.

SPF July 8 2018 (2 of 1)
Photo Credit: Susan Spaulding

The old woman gazed out the bedroom window, capturing the images of her world for the last time. Far in the distance, the Hudson River caught the light of the morning sun. Morning gems, she called them.

Outside the room, the stairs creaked with each step of her daughter’s ascent.

“Time to leave, Mother. The taxi is waiting.”

“I could have been a Rockette,” her Mother said to no one in particular. Everyone said so. I just wasn’t tall enough.”

“You father danced too you know. In the early years he was in a small troupe. Not Broadway, but it was only a matter of time. But then your older brother was born, and well…. It was a blessing your father got the job at the post office.”

Patiently, the daughter nudged her Mother back to the present.

“The taxi, Mother. It’s waiting.”

The old woman surveyed the room, now empty of everything that once made it hers.

“Where are all my things?” Her voice rose to the level of panic.

“They are in your room, at your new home. Waiting for you.”

“We could have made it,” she said sadly as she walked out of the room forever.

 

 

Treasured Memories (Day 16 – Photo 101)

Treasured Memories (Day 16 – Photo 101)

My grandparents never threw anything away. By today’s standards, they might have been considered hoarders, although the overflow was confined to sheds, dressers, and cabinet drawers. They were a product of  The Great Depression, believers in the notion that you  never knew when something might be useful.

As a child, rummaging through my grandmother’s treasurers was one of my favorite past-times. No doubt this led to my love of old things. I’m not an antique collector, or a real collector of any kind; however, over the years I have acquired a great number of ‘treasures’ of my own, many of which live in an old second-hand china cabinet with only three legs.

Whether it is my daughter’s origami, mementos from my first cruise, or my mother’s china; my treasurers connect me to my past, both good times and bad.

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One of my shelves is devoted almost entirely to shot glasses. These remind me of the places I have been and the fun times I had traveling.

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I don’t know the story behind my father’s collection of Toby mugs but I have several of these in various sizes.

 

 

If I had to choose from among all the things I treasure, I would choose the letters my mother wrote to my grandmother while she and my father traveled from job-to-job. Some were written before I was born, some soon after when I was still with them,  and the remaining few were written just before she was diagnosed with cancer. She died before my second birthday and these letters are the only way I know her.

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A Moment in Motion(Day 13)

A Moment in Motion(Day 13)

Humans experience time as a series of continuous moments, all strung together. One moment feeds the next and we don’t notice where one ends and the other begins. What makes a photograph special is that it captures a single, unobserved moment before it disappears forever.

This photograph was taken at Galveston Beach. It was April 20, 2013, late in the day. My first trip to Galveston and the first time to the shore after a very long absence. The day was filled with motion: sea gulls hovering over the water and swooping down to catch a small fish; waves rushing to the shore, only to recede and re-form; families splashing in the cool Gulf waters, or simply strolling along the sandy beach in search of sea shells. In the snap of a camera, this moment came and went. This moment was unique, and this photo is the only remnant that it ever existed.

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Taking a Chance on YES

Taking a Chance on YES

Last week was the first anniversary of a major event in my life. Just last year, I was united with my five unknown half-siblings from my mother’s previous marriage. This was a good-luck story fitting for the evening news. I woke up one morning to find an e-mail in my inbox from a complete stranger. The gist of the email was the question: are we related? The answer was a hesitant YES.

To understand the magnitude of this WOW moment, you need to understand some history.  I was raised by my paternal grandparents after my mother’s death, who died before my second birthday. My father was around until I was 13, but for whatever reason, he never spoke of her. My mother and her life was a complete mystery to me. I picked up on a few hints  here and there; tidbits I carried inside me until later in life when I began a serious search for her ancestry.

I discovered one important hint when I was about 16 years old, the day my grandmother told me my mother had been married before. I vividly remember sitting on our large front porch in California. I don’t remember what led to the conversation, only the bombshell that my mother had other children.

“She would bring the little girl with her”, my grandmother told me.

I couldn’t believe what I had heard. I had a sister! She provided no details and as I grew older and the conversation faded, I wondered if  my grandmother’s words had been a false memory. Mom’s obituary did not mention other children, which seemed odd to me.  I almost convinced myself that this was nothing more than a fantasy derived by a lonely, only-child.

Ten years ago, however,  I discovered evidence that confirmed the truth. My mother had been previously married, she had five children, and what’s more, I knew one of their names. I found the information on Ancestry.com, in a World Tree project with a cryptic name I did not understand. Not only did it mention Mom’s marriage to a man named “Jim”, but it also listed her marriage to my father. I eagerly contacted the owner of the tree who agreed forward my email to the submitter. And so I waited.

After a few weeks of no news, I sent a second email and was  I told that if I had not received a response, he could not help me. I felt I was at a dead end. I didn’t whether my sister did not get the email, or if she simply didn’t want to respond. I feared the latter. Why, I thought to myself, would she want to know the child of the man who stole her mother away? As a mother myself, I could not comprehend any reason I would ever leave my children. Yet my mother did, including an infant. If I had been in my sister’s place, I don’t think I would want to know me either.

The family tree gave me just enough information that I was able to piece together my lost family. I knew each of their names, and where they lived. I thought of contacting one of the other children, but I was scared. If I had been rejected once, why would I think the others would accept me?

So when I read that email a year ago, my hesitation was founded on fear. Fear of rejection, but also fear of how my life would be different. I was an only child. What did I know about being a sister? What if I didn’t like them, or they didn’t like me. Lots of what-ifs. I could have refused to answer, or I could have said no, sorry, it must be some mistake. Instead I took a chance and said yes.

That day, a tornadic funnel of emotion sucked us all up. My siblings embraced me as if we had spent a lifetime together. Thoughout the day I learned the story of their lives after my mother left. Their father, I was told, was abusive. The fights between my mother and their father were terrible. After one horrible fight, she left to run an errand and never returned home. A divorce was filed but my mother did not get custody of the children. My brothers and sisters never knew their mother had another child. I don’t think they really knew when she died. Theirs was a sad life, one I never would have imagined.

As fate would have it, three of my sisters lived only a few hours away, so we quickly arranged a reunion. It was a wonderful day, full of stories, laughter, and love. The sibling honeymoon did not last long, however. In a few short months, our daily communion dwindled. Today, we are, at best, social media friends. The anniversary of  the day that changed my life passed by as if it were nothing special. Even Facebook forgot to remind me of the memories we shared a year ago.

The story fills me with regrets of what might have been. But in reality, there is nothing other than DNA to bind us together. We have lived almost an entire lifetime in separate worlds. Our experiences have made us as different as night and day to believe that we would suddenly become best friends is the stuff of fairy tales. While the blood that runs through our veins makes us related, it doesn’t make us ‘family’. Only time will tell if we ever truly become one.

Writing101 – Day Eleven

Writing101 – Day Eleven

Tell us about the home where you lived when you were twelve. Which town, city, or country? Was it a house or an apartment? A boarding school or foster home? An airstream or an RV? Who lived there with you?

The year was 1969. A lot going on that year. Richard Nixon took the oath of office as the 37th President of the United States and Neil Armstrong leaves the first human footprint on the moon. A new counter-culture took shape with Woodstock and the Beatles break-up ended a musical era. It was a year of unbelievable atrocities, of Charles Manson, the Vietnam War and My Lai.

And for me, 1969 was the pivotal year between childhood and teenage. It was the year I turned twelve. Read more

Day 10 – Happy Breakfast!

Day 10 – Happy Breakfast!

Tell us about your favorite childhood meal — the one that was always a treat, that meant “celebration,” or that comforted you and has deep roots in your memory.
 
Back in the day, before bad Cholesterol, good Cholesterol, and Triglycerides, there was bacon grease. Bacon grease just makes things taste better and no Southern household south of the Mason-Dixon line would be without it. People are so health-conscience today that bacon grease typically goes in the trash, if bacon is let in the kitchen at all. But when I was growing up, the grease from the frying pan went straight to an old Crisco can sitting on top of the stove and used in just about every dish where a little oil was called for.
 
My favorite breakfast using bacon grease is what Grandma called ‘egg toast’. The recipe was simple: take a couple of whole eggs (yes, you have to include the yoke) and beat them you were scrambling eggs. Then, dip  a couple of slices of Wonder White Bread (was there anything else?)  in the mix, coating both sides. Slap the bread in the sizzling pan of  bacon grease, frying on one side until golden brown, and then the other. Serve it up hot and it was the best thing in the world. Some of you might be saying, “hey, that’s nothing more than French Toast”, and you would be almost right. I didn’t realize there was anything called French Toast until I was an adult. I actually thought egg toast was some strange dish my Grandma made up. Poor Southern folks ate lots of strange meals. Granddad liked to mix cornbread in buttermilk and call it dinner. They also ate brains and eggs, which is too awful to describe. On those nights I was usually given an option of a Banquet frozen TV  dinner. Fried Chicken was the best. 
 
I don’t have any special memories tied to egg toast. It was just breakfast. Its one of those comfort foods it served my own family. I call it French toast now and my daughter puts pancake syrup on it, but the rest of the recipe is the same. It reminds me of a simpler time, of being a kid and eating this great tasting food, and wondering what the rest of the world ate for breakfast.