Where Does the Time Go? (A Poem)

Where does the time go?
Hither and fro.
Over and yonder
and far and away,
time is a child,
and the child loves to play.
September closes
while October waits,
and don’t we all have
plans to make?
So what comes next?
No one can say.
It belongs to us to
only bide the hours
and count the days.

September Evening, 2021

It’s been raining on and off today, and it’s nice and cool outside, and the sky is pink and purple, and the trees are starting to turn gold, and I just really think September in Virginia might be one of my very favorite things in the entire world.

Remember that time when we got married?

Y’all, Graham and I have forgotten our wedding anniversary no less than four times in as many weeks. We keep reminding each other. It’s tomorrow, by the way, and we’ll have been married for eight years.

So why do we keep forgetting? Life. That’s all I got. Life’s just been busy, and we’ve had a lot going on, and it’s been really hard to focus on making plans with just each other. And I don’t think this is an uncommon thing for couples. I think it’s easy to get caught up in the outside world.

But at the end of the day, we only have eyes for each other.

So, this week, I’m planning to make some time (forcibly, if I have to) for just Graham and me. Maybe we’ll even go on a date! (I can’t remember the last time we actually went on an actual date…) But no matter what we do, if it’s the two of us together, it’ll be special and lovely and fun, and we’ll probably laugh a lot.

So, to my Graham, my guiding star and my favorite human: I love you. I choose you. I’d marry you all over again. Thanks for choosing me, too.

A Virginia Writer Goes to New Jersey…

…for a whirlwind couple of days, to attend the wedding of a dear friend. A couple of thoughts here:

Thought the first: Every time I’ve come to New Jersey (which, granted, is only twice), I’ve been so pleasantly surprised at how nice and pretty it actually is. New Jersey, like Florida, or for that matter, the Appalachian Mountains of southwest Virginia where I grew up, is often the butt of mean jokes about bad hair and rude, unintelligent people. I’m sure those things exist – they exist everywhere – but my experience here in the Garden State has been nothing but lovely. And, having dealt with them as a mountain girl from down the holler, I’m pretty much totally and completely over ugly, unfair stereotypes.

Thought the second: I’m so happy for my friend and his bride to be. It’s wonderful to be able to celebrate with them, and to share their special weekend. I feel very fortunate, and I know that not everyone has the opportunity to see their loved ones and be together right now. This last year and change has been such a trying, awful, scary time, and COVID doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. I don’t really know what else to say. I just feel lucky, and grateful. I don’t know what the future holds, but I’m doing my best to treasure these happy moments, knowing that everything could change in an instant, and has, for many people all over the world.

So, that’s what I’ve got for today. I try not to ramble in my posts, but my mind is just feeling too many feelings this morning. And I’ve only had one cup of coffee, which is apparently not quite enough. I’ll leave you here, then, with a wish for you that your weekend is fabulous, that your coffee is hot and made just the way you like it, and that you are happy and well.

Happy Labor Day!

Just a quick post today to say happy Labor Day! Here in Northern Virginia, it’s sunny and breezy and just the right temperature. We’d already planned to spend the day out in the countryside with friends, but even if we hadn’t, I couldn’t think of a better thing to do with this beautiful Monday off.

Thank you for 400 followers!

Y’all! This little blog that I started in 2016, unceremoniously dropped about a year later because I was too afraid to actually write anything, picked up and lovingly pieced back together in 2020 when I got over myself and decided to just write what I wanted and let the world read or not, and now post on three times a week (as consistently as I can) officially has 400 followers! (Plus a few more, which is just the cherry on top.)

I am so happy! How happy? This happy:

(Okay, to be fair, that photo was actually taken in the fall of last year, when Graham told me my hair looked good and to smile for the camera. He ought to have learned by now that I am mostly incapable of taking a good and/or serious picture in all but the most important circumstances.)

Anyway…

I am, in fact, very, very happy! And so, so grateful to each of you (who I will likely never meet in person but love nonetheless) who read my work and keep coming back for more. It is one of the great pleasures of my life to put words together in just a certain way and make something that didn’t exist before. It’s the closest thing to magic I can do, and I’m glad you’re along for the journey.

So, in conclusion:

THANK YOU! Really, truly, thank you. This is a wonderful community and I’m glad to be part of it.

The September Kind (A Poem)

Try to remember them:
The days of smoke, of rain,
of golden leaves and woodfire embers
and orange twilights.
The growing nights,
ignited by the tawny harvest moon,
as full and round with possibilities
as the coming season.
These are the September kind.
The hours and minutes and memories,
the time and the turning,
the living and dying
that belong to us,
when we feel older and younger at once.
We are all the children of the fall.

Just Like Magic (A Short Story)

My grandmother believed in magic, and I loved her for it.

She lived in a small cabin in the woods, accessible only by a long dirt road marked with bright yellow “No Trespassing” signs. She wore her auburn hair long and loose, and her favorite shade of lipstick turned her lips the color of an overripe nectarine. She gathered flowers at sunrise, and filled her modest house with bunches of sage and lavender candles. She sat out on a picnic blanket at night and stared at the moon, and at dusk, she sang for the fairies. You couldn’t convince her they weren’t real.

“Happy nature, happy home,” she’d say.

And I’d nod, bobbing my tangled head up and down to the rhythm of the crickets chirping.

These days, I think we might call her an eccentric, or maybe even crazy. But to me, she was perfect. Some people just aren’t meant to be tamed.

I used to stay with her during those long, hot summer days when my parents were at work and I didn’t feel like being alone in a sweltering house with only the TV to keep me company.

“You’re the only kid I know who doesn’t like cartoons,” my dad told me once.

“I like making up my own stories,” I’d replied.

I guess people would probably call me an eccentric, too, at that age. And probably at this one. I learned a lot from my grandmother.

I remember one particular August day. I know it was August, because I remember the humidity, the gold slant of the sunlight, and the high cornstalks in the neighboring fields. And because school was about to start. My grandmother and I were sitting in her back garden, which she’d let go pretty much wild, on a worn-out plaid blanket. The sun hung low and heavy in the sky, casting shadows through the trees.

“You excited about school?” She asked me this as she wove a crown of purple clover flowers.

“I guess,” I said. I lay on my belly, propped up on my elbows.

“Fourth grade?”

“Yep.”

“I only got to about the sixth,” she said.

I sat up. “Really?”

“Yes, ma’am.” She finished the crown and placed it with a flourish onto my head. “There wasn’t much call when I was your age for girls to finish school,” she said. “My daddy needed me home to take care of us.”

“Couldn’t he do that?” I asked. “Or your mom?”

“There was only my daddy and me,” she answered.

I waited for her to add more, but she stayed quiet. So I took a deep breath and asked, “Where was your mom?”

She took a moment, straightened her legs out in front of her, and said, “I don’t know.”

And then she told me a story.

When I was a little girl, she said, about eleven years old, my mama changed. It was like she forgot who she was, she said, and my daddy didn’t know what to do, and so it fell on me to be daughter and mother both. He told me I had to leave school, and I did. He was not a loving man, she said, but he made sure there was money to put food on the table and shoes on our feet, and I made us dresses out of old sheets and curtains, and our small life was enough. And at night, she said, I sang my mama to sleep.

And one day, she said, I came in from the vegetable garden, and she was just gone. Couldn’t find her anywhere, and neither could anyone else, though we searched through the night and into the next day. And eventually people stopped looking, she said, even my daddy. And my mama never came back, she said. And after a while, people seemed to forget she ever existed at all.  

“Wasn’t your dad sad?” I asked.

“Oh, sure,” she said. “And so was I. We stayed sad for a long, long time.”

“Don’t you want to know what happened to her?”

“I do,” she said. “I wish I knew, and I wished it before I fell asleep every night for years. But you can’t live your life just wishing.” And then she added, “Believe me, because I’ve tried.”

“Does my mom know?”

“No,” she said. “No, I never told her, because I didn’t want her to be sad for me.”

“Why’d you tell me, then?”

“Because you’re my brave and smart granddaughter,” she said. “And because you asked.” And then she took my two hands in hers and said, “But don’t you be sad for me.”

I squeezed our hands together and said, “Okay.”

We stayed quiet for a long time after that, and watched the sun set through the tree branches. I picked at the blades of grass around the blanket, pulled them up and arranged them in a neat row. My grandmother hummed to herself. Just when the dark began to settle around us, she said, “I think things happen they way they’re supposed to.”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, it’s a special kind of magic, the way the world comes together.”

She stood up, and I did the same. As we folded up the blanket, she told me what she meant.

If I’d stayed in school, she said, I wouldn’t have been at the grocery store the day I met your grandpa. And if my mother hadn’t left us, I would have been in school. See, he worked there at the grocery store, she said, and I’d dropped a bag of flour all over the floor, and he helped me clean it up, and that was how we fell in love, just like that, in less than a minute, covered in flour, both of us. Like snow, but in the middle of summer. 

And, she said, if I hadn’t met your grandpa, I wouldn’t have your mother, or you. I’m right where I need to be, she said, and I never even knew I was heading there, but here I am, she said, and that feels an awful lot like magic.

“But that’s not magic,” I told her. “Those are all just things that happened to you.”

“You can see it that way,” she said. “Or you can see that all of those little pieces came together just as they were meant to, and that takes the sting away when the things that happen to you are bad.”

“My friends say magic isn’t real.”

“You listen to me right now, Ellie Jay,” she said. “A lot of people are going to tell you a lot of things you love aren’t real. You don’t listen to them. You listen to you.”

And it’s funny, because even now, all these years later, me sounds a lot like her.

I visited her once, years later, when she was in the hospital. I was her last visitor, as it turns out, and we sat together in her room, hand in hand.

“I sure would like to go home,” she said.

I answered by way of a sniffle.

“Why are you crying, little girl?” she asked me.

“Because I’ll miss you,” I said.  

“Did you know,” she said, “that when caterpillars go into their cocoons, they turn into goo before they become butterflies?”

“I didn’t know that,” I told her.

“That’s what I’m doing now,” she said. “I’m turning into goo. I don’t much like it, but I know it’s just so I can become something else. Just like magic,” she said. “I wonder what I’ll be.”

“Something amazing,” I said.

“Just like magic,” she said, and squeezed my hand.

And honestly, I think she was right, and I love her for it. Life is a lot like magic, only you have to choose to see it. It brought my grandmother to me, and me to her, and who knows where else it might lead me. But I do know one thing. Wherever that is, it’s right where I’m meant to be.

************

Thank you for reading! This is the eighth of twelve stories I’ll write as part of my 2021 Short Story Challenge. Twelve months, twelve stories, and the theme this year is: Home.

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

The Roads

This Place

Talk Out the Fire

Quiet Neighbors

The Return

Old Friends

Jesse’s in the Back Room

And if you want to join in the fun, here’s more information. I hope you do! But just reading is good, too, and I’m glad you’re here!

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