Tabula Rasa (A Short Story)

“What were you like before you were my mama?”

I cradle Daisy to my chest, and we rock back and forth to the gentle rhythm of my breathing.

“I was different.”

I smooth her hair, trace my fingers along the hollow, soft spot just below the crown of her head.

“Were you scary?”

“I might have been,” I say. “I might have been lots of things.”

“Like what?”

“I think we’ll never know for sure, little dove.”

“But why not?”

I’m quiet for a moment. I say, “Because we all get to make our own stories, and this is the one I’m making.”

Daisy’s room smells of peppermint and lavender, a combination of my tea and her soap, and something else. Something old, damp, and dusty, but familiar, like home.

“Mama, can you sing to me?”

I hum a soft lullaby, and as Daisy drifts off in my arms, I think of the decision we made, all of us. The decision to be careful with our words, to let our children tell their own stories. We felt like it was a mercy, in a cruel world, to let them make their own history and their own future.

One day, far away from now, maybe I will tell her: There’s power in words. That’s your first lesson. And there’s power in their absence. That’s your second.

Or maybe I won’t. Right now, she is free and new and utterly, completely herself. How long can this last? Time will tell.

I don’t think anyone ever really, truly knows whether the thing they’ve chosen is the right thing. When all of this started, I didn’t have Daisy. At least, not completely. She was a blip in the universe, just a tiny thing knitting herself into my body. I only had myself and a collection of painful memories, existing within a world that didn’t seem to want me. The thought of starting over, of starting anything, and of creating a better place, washed over me like a warm summer breeze, and I was certain, in that moment, that I’d made the best decision for myself.

But for Daisy?

I worry.

She’s sleeping now, curled around her favorite crocheted bunny. I hope she has good dreams, always. I hope she grows up carefree and happy. I hope she is strong.

But I worry.

What is strength without adversity? Courage without knowledge? Wisdom without history?

There are nineteen families here, all of us raising children, all parents carrying burdens we never want them to see. We all have our reasons. They are good reasons, I think, but they belong to us, not to our children.

I asked Daisy a few days ago to tell me about her bunny.

“What does Bunny do when you’re busy at school?”

“Bunny stays home,” she said.

“Yes, Bunny doesn’t go to school with you. But what does Bunny like to do when he’s not with you?”

“He sleeps in my bed and hops around my room,” she said.

“What else?”

“Sometimes, he likes to look out the window.”

“That’s fun!” And then I asked, “Is there anywhere he wants to go when he looks out the window?”

“No,” she told me. “He’s happy here.”

Daisy’s world is so small. She’s got me and our cottage, Bunny and her friends at school, the green grass and the blue sky. But there’s so much she’s missing.

“Doesn’t Bunny ever want to go places? Maybe to the beach?”

“What’s the beach, Mama?”

I didn’t tell her, not really. I only said it’s far away and warm.

We’re supposed to let our children make their own worlds, to use our words and our knowledge sparingly, to give them space to create. I don’t know if anyone else questions the goal, or the method we’re using to get there, but I do.

I do.

Because they need us, don’t they? They need our stories, they need our wisdom and our experience. Don’t they?

I hear Daisy on the steps.

“Mama,” she calls.

“Yes, baby?”

“I had a dream.”

“Tell me about your dream,” I say.

“It was a bad dream,” she tells me.

“Come and sit with me,” I say. And then, before I can stop myself, I add: “I’ll tell you a story.”


Thank you for reading! This is the sixth of twelve stories I’ll write as part of my 2022 Short Story Challenge. Twelve months, twelve stories, and the theme this year is: Folklore

Here are the first five, if you’d like to read them:

The Winter Woman

The Lady in the Stars

Silly Superstitions

In Search

Sally’s Mill

I hope you join me in the challenge! I think it’s going to be a very good year for stories. But just reading is good, too, and I’m glad you’re here.

The next story will be posted at the end of July.

Staring Down a Busy Week

We all know the feeling:

It’s Monday morning. You wake up, crawl out of bed, find the caffeine, open your laptop, and there it is – the list. Or maybe that’s just me. I make a weekly to-do list in Excel. It’s color-coded. At any rate, you look at your list and think, “Oh man, there just aren’t enough hours…”

And that’s me, this week.

My color-coded list is full of time-consuming tasks, and I don’t know how I’m going to manage. But I will. I’ve done it before. And I’m excited about the work I’m doing (including my short story for June!), so I’m grateful. But man, I wish I had more hands and more time.

Don’t we all?

Weeks like this remind me to be thankful for the quieter times, and to really soak in those still, carefree moments. I’ll get back there eventually.

But for now, to work! Happy creating, y’all!

Music and Family (and a Crowd-Pleasing Singalong!)

In my family, it’s not a reunion unless there’s music. There’s always a guitar or three, someone singing, a harmonica and a mandolin in the background – you get the picture. A family day just isn’t complete without some good noise. And now that Graham’s family is part of my family and vice versa, it seems only right to share the music. Which is exactly what we did this past weekend.

And of course, I want to share it with all of you, too. 😊

So, here’s a favorite of mine and my dad’s, written by Gillian Welch:

And here we are goofing off on a crowd-pleaser, Wagon Wheel, with a family singalong and a cute mash-up.

We had so much fun, and I think the family did, too. I hope we all get to come together again soon, but until then, I’m grateful for the time we had, and for the happy memories.

A Weekend Break

Graham and I will be spending time with family this weekend. We’ve not seen some of these folks in ages, and we’re so excited. 🙂 So, in light of that, I’ll be taking a short break from posting. I’ll be back on Wednesday, June 22nd, though, hopefully with some good stories to share and good memories to keep.

Be sure to check back next week, and in the meantime, happy creating, y’all!

Hungry (A Poem)

Today, I woke up
(late, but)
To eat, sure –
I’m always that kind of
But also, to see –
to read,
to write,
to ponder,
to listen
and hear
and learn,
to know.
I am so
in fact, that I think,
if I lived a thousand years,
and wandered
the whole world,
I would still
never be

Reflections on an Accidental Week of Writing Poetry

I mentioned in Friday’s post that last week’s all-poetry theme wasn’t intentional.  The fact of it is, even though I pretty regularly post poems here, I’m always sort of amazed that I’m writing them at all.

I’ve never considered myself to be much of a poet. In high school, I hated the lessons that involved writing poetry – not as much as anything to do with math, but a lot. In college, I stayed very (very) far away from any class that would have had me writing poems, a policy that kept me from getting a concentration in creative writing. And even as I started this blog, and my current creative writing journey, I remember thinking to myself: “Well, I can write anything but poetry.”

It’s all very strange, because I love poetry.

I love reading it, performing it, pondering it, memorizing my favorite poems and quoting them, usually in full and often at inopportune moments. And so I asked myself, over the weekend, why I’ve always had such a hard time with the idea of writing it. And I think the answer is really simple: I don’t feel like I’m good at it.

Rest assured, I don’t need validation or compliments here, though kind words are always appreciated. What I’m getting at is, I think, a larger issue in our culture, whereby we seem to be operating under the incredibly damaging and entirely false belief that if you’re not really good at something, there’s no reason for you to do it.

Not a great singer? No karaoke for you. Go sit in a corner and be embarrassed at your wobbly warble.

Not a good runner? Find another form of exercise. No running groups for you! You’ll slow everyone down.

Can’t draw? Get out of here, false Picasso. No room for your stick figures on this canvas.

And I’m sad to say that for the longest time, this is how I felt about poetry. It doesn’t come naturally to me, and I’ve read so much good stuff (hats off to you, poets of WordPress!), and so I fell into the trap. Why even spend my energy on it? No future for me in it, so it’s a waste of my time. I’ll never be great, so why do it at all?

Except, I was wrong. Of course I was wrong. And these last couple of years have been a journey of discovering just how wrong I was. Because the why has nothing to do with greatness, or compliments, or money. The why is so simple: I enjoy it.

I’ve found, as much to my surprise as anyone’s, that I actually, truly, completely enjoy writing poetry. It makes me happy. I love the rhythm of sound and silence, and the way the words dance when you get them just right.

For me, there’s joy in writing poetry, even bad poetry, and that’s enough.

And frankly, that’s enough for anything – drawing, singing, running, writing… You don’t have to be an expert, or a natural, or even any good, to enjoy something. And enjoying it is reason enough to do it. Life is just too short to live it without joy.

So here I am, a not-very-good poet, clacking away on my keyboard, enjoying myself and appreciating that poems exist in this universe and I can write them (sometimes badly). It’s taken me years to get here, but I can say confidently, in this moment, I write poetry.  

A Naani Poem (or, A New Way to Say I Can’t Sleep)

Finishing out this week of poetry! (It wasn’t intentional. I guess I was just feeling poetic. Not mad about, it, though.) Here’s a naani poem for the June poetry challenge over at Fake Flamenco:

Staying up to greet the dawn,
to welcome the new day –
once a pleasure,
now a curse.

As with many of these challenges, I’ve never tried this poetry type before, and it was a lot of fun! I like learning different ways to put words together and create music out of sound and silence. 😊 If you want to give it a go, as well, I think you should!

It’s always good to try new things, right?