When the dark set in, I waited petrified as the white of light moved into night. I’m not sure when the fear came to me or why, but it coincided with my parents moving me out of a shared bedroom with my sister into the redone den.
I’d read into the late hours, or I’d watch Johnny Carson’s Late-Night Show, laughing and avoiding the dimming of visibility. Puffy eyes aren’t the best look for a preteen. Once the lamp and blue sheen of the TV disappeared, I’d stare at the door jam. The metal edge where the closer slipped into the hole, edged ever so slightly. The gleam crawled like a caterpillar teasing its way upward, stopping, then inching downward, indecisive. I’d stare as it crept along. The wind knocked branches against the window, a dog howled at the moon. I slipped further under the covers, but I couldn’t breathe. I peeked out and still the metal edge moved, this time the door rattled, and light shone in along the hinge. Who or what wanted in?
As I trembled, I heard a crash outside my window. Rain pelted down on the picnic table. The swing set creaked, each link on the chain whistled. I imagined the goblins woke the Wicked Witch of the North and Dorothy didn’t get home. I worried about my dog Missy, wondering if she was out in the rain. I slipped out of my bed and ventured down the stairs. No night light to make my way. I avoided the basement at all costs. No tiny poodle waited at the front, kitchen, or dining room door.
Heart racing, I imagined the worst, wondered if my father had come back from his business trip. I slipped into my parent’s bedroom, peered at the lumps. When I turned back, I shrieked; a heavy-set man sat in the corner chair top-hat pulled down, he slumped inward. Tears puddled along my chin, dripped down my pajamas. I ran back to my bed.
A few minutes later the door turned, the hall light clicked on. My father entered to check on me. He stood tall for a short man, dressed not in a suit but his boxer shorts. He looked tired, waited for me to speak, but I pretended I was asleep.
That summer I dreamt of fields of wheat and corn that towered over my head. The sun beat down burning through my thick wavy hair, turning the deep brown to red. I was on fire, couldn’t escape the heat. I fought off the dizzying desire to sleep, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz had pushed forward. I woke sweating in my bed, the door wide open, a fan in my window, whirling hot air across my body. My father stood outside my bedroom, woken again by my screams.
This time he sat on the edge of my bed, waited for my incoherent words to make sense. They didn’t. “It’s hot out, you dream heated dreams that wouldn’t occur in the winter. You read and your imagination takes over.”
I wanted to believe my father. He explained away my other nightmares with logic. The man sitting in the chair, slumped over had been his clothes wrapped around the outside of the chair, his hat sat on top. Yes, it all made sense.
Years later I’d reflect on those outbursts. Logic made sense of them, but inside I knew that all I really wanted was the light, the laughter, the sense of calm. To this day, I refuse the dark’s entrance. I no longer fear the night. I’m careful with how I fill my brain. Dissension, arguments, scary encounters—I leave them for the daylight, when I see them clearly for what they are—out of control moments with no clear resolutions.
My nature clings not to the monsters, but to the Casper the Friendly ghost personas. Halloween isn’t for me, but I banish wickedness and love neighborhood walks where kids are welcomed to the delightful decorations with painted pumpkins, friendly families of skeletons, white sheeted ghosts, and the funny witches that smile. Light the dark … let the stars shine and guide us through our illogically lives.
Thanks to www.Wordsmith.org and A.Word.A.Day with Anu Garg, I have received for the last twelve years in my in-box a “word” with pronunciation, meaning, etymology, and usage. I must confess that the words eek into my brain and sometimes into my stories. Here are two words that struck me as noteworthy:
MEANING: adjective: 1. Rude; sullen; unfriendly. 2. Ominous or dismal (used for weather, clouds, sky, ocean, etc.).
ETYMOLOGY: In the beginning the word meant lordly or majestic. Surly is an alteration of sirly, from sir, shortening of sire, from Old French sire, from Latin senior (older man), from senex (old). Ultimately from the Indo-European root sen- (old), which is also the ancestor of senate, senile, senectitude, and senescence. Earliest documented use: 1566.
NOTES: What’s “surly” in “Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth” in the poem “High Flight” by the fighter pilot John Gillespie Magee?
Magee was born in China to an American father and British mother. He joined Canadian Air Force and was posted in England. Inspiration for this poem came to him in 1941 while flying a Spitfire at 33,000 feet. The poem celebrates the joy of flying. “Surly bonds” can be seen as gravity, “surly” emphasizing its unrelenting nature.
Later that year his Spitfire collided with another plane in mid-air. Both pilots died. Both were 19. Leaving the surly bonds of Earth now takes on another meaning.
MEANING: noun: A dog lover. adjective: Fond of dogs.
ETYMOLOGY: From Greek philo- (loving) + kyon (dog). Ultimately from the Indo-European root kwon- (dog), which is also the source of canine, chenille (from French chenille: caterpillar, literally, little dog), kennel, canary, hound, dachshund, corgi, cynosure, and cynic. Earliest documented use: 1830.
NOTES: If you are a cat lover, don’t lose heart. There’s a word for you as well: ailurophile. But, of course, dogs are the best.
A cloud hung over the surly child, whose actions were taken for rudeness. The problem wasn’t his nature, but the fact that his parents had cats and he was more a philocynic, and only gave love to dogs.
The opposite of a correct statement is a false statement. But the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.-Niels Bohr, physicist, Nobel laureate (7 Oct 1885-1962)
It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves.-Edmund Hillary, mountaineer, and explorer (20 Jul 1919-2008)
Instead of telling you about Sealy and Paul’s budding relationship away from Paul’s hometown in Maine, and their new connections to the past. I’ll leave my discoveries for another time. Sealy’s a painter and I have a secret wish for her imagined talent. In this section of the newsletter, I’ll insert a few of my paintings for you to enjoy; stories in another form.
This month I have another selection of interesting books I’ve read. Please note I don’t even mention the few that I didn’t like. Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, The Buddha in the Attic, by Julie Otsuka, Persons Unknown, by Susie Steiner, Where Dogs Bark with Their Tails, by Estelle-Sarah Brille, The Poet’s House, by Jean Thompson, and The Reading List, by Sara Nisha Adams.
Each of these books absorbed me within lives so unlike my own. Class struggles, detective stories, social injustice, coming of age, the competitive nature of the writing world, and the value of libraries to engage all ages with worlds and feelings they harbor within.
As the holiday season approaches, I’m offering all my followers a chance to buy directly from me, signed copies of all my books. I’ve created special bundling so that I can offer you a discount. I’m not Amazon but this way you’ll receive a message from the author, made special if you give me a hint of what makes you smile.
The special offer is: For those looking to buy a children’s illustrate book, you can gift to various people 3 hardback copies of Bubbie’s Magical Hair, for $44.99 plus freight a savings of about $3.00 per book. The hard copy books will no longer be available to purchase on Amazon.
Purchasing my three novels; River of Angels, Color of Lies, and Founding Stones allows you to read the entire series and follow Rosie in all her changing roles. The bundle would be $40.99 plus freight which is just shy of $11.00 in savings.
I’m still performing stories each month at 7-minute Stories in Burien. My next one will be on October 28th at the Highline Museum at 7:00 PM.
I’d love to speak via Zoom or in person at your next Book Group or at a special event. Request this here.
Can you measure
Of seconds or cents
Visions that slip
A kiss so gentle that
The wind carries the breath away
A curl to a baby’s lips
That tickles the soul
Filled with the rainbow
Joy, sadness, peace.
A life’s worth