Archive for the ‘Prose’ Category

Mountain Fern Road

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While on the deck writing, I look over at a small orange sliding board in the backyard.  It has been sitting in that same spot for at least fifteen years; yet, I can still see my daughter going down the slide, wearing her purple coat and purple, pink, and lavender hat, ears covered.  She is about four.  Her brother stands beside her, cracking jokes.  He is about eight, thin, and always smiling.  She is mostly serious, even as she slides.  However, there are many times he makes her laugh harder than anyone else in the world.


I look over at the snowmobile.  I see my son, wearing shorts, a t-shirt, and sandals.  He lifts the snowmobile’s cover and reaches his hand inside.  A swarm of bees fly out. He yells.  One got him on his ankle.  My husband takes the stinger out.  Then, I stare at the four-wheeler, wrapped in blue tarp.   I see my son walking up the red stoned driveway, helmet in hand.    He accidentally ran the four-wheeler off the road into the bushes, showing off for a couple boys his age.


My eyes avert to the rock pit.  Wild colors dance through the darkness as marshmallows roast at the end of long sticks, our brown faces aglow with delight.  Char and goo stick to our tongues and lips. Snakes slither from the pit of warm rocks.  No one is afraid. The night is too perfect.


I stop writing.  I walk back in the house.  It is quiet.  Our children are grown.  My husband and I come up alone now.  We browse antique shops that hold small and large items of history.  We examine unique treasures like zithers, Roseville pottery, vintage watches, and signed photos of living and deceased stars.  I purchase a signed photo of Debbie Allen and a book of poems by Helen Steiner Rice.  We dine at our favorite restaurant and enjoy the foods our grown children tell us we should not eat.


In spring and summer, we walk by the lake and take pictures. Butterflies are shy and fireflies pose in flight. In fall, we bear watch as they roam down the side of a wooded road.  In winter, we talk and play cards by the fire, remembering and forgetting shared and unshared moments our lives.  We swap secrets like candy as snow piles up outside for hours.  But we do not worry.  We do not regret.  The night is still perfect.




Backseat Conscience

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About a year and a half ago, my husband stopped to get some gas at Wawa.  It was summer and a pretty hot evening.  I, as greedy as I was at the time, said, “Hey, honey, can you run in Wawa and get me a pack of Peanut Chews?”


My daughter, who was home for the summer warned from the backseat, “As soon as you eat that you are going to gain ten pounds.”


Did she really think her comment was going to stop me?  It most certainly didn’t, but she continued to be my backseat conscience.


My husband got back in the car and handed me a pack of Peanut Chews. My hero, I thought, smiling, as I unwrapped the package.  I quickly shoved one into my mouth,  my conscience still grumbling in the backseat, saying things like, “Mother, you have no control.  I thought you weren’t eating sweets anymore.”


“Oh, be quiet, ” I mumbled with my mouth twisted in pleasure.


My daughter gave up. My husband drove in silence, and no one was prepared for what happened a second later.


I felt small legs moving on the left side of my tongue!   I screamed and spat  candy all over the center console, digging frantically in my mouth, searching for tiny parts that may have been left on my tongue.


My husband yelled, “What?  What’s wrong?!!!”  He thought I was choking.  I am sure he thought I better be choking, spitting all over the place like a fool.


I am not sure what I was saying as I spat, but I called on God a few times, tears in my eyes and nauseous with disbelief.  I remember holding  my hand over my mouth and saying, “Oh my God, Jade, what is it,” as she examined the half chewed chocolate pieces and watched the creature crawl. At first she laughed so hard she couldn’t speak.  “What?!  What is it?” I asked again.


“Mom, it’s beetle!!!! Ah….ha….Ah…..Hahahahahahahaha…”  I have never heard her laugh so hard!  “Mom, that’s what you get for being so greedy! Ah…hahahahaaha….”


Now, I was thinking, my mother always told me to never eat chocolate in the summer.  I thought back to the time when I was ten-years-old and had maggots in my Clark Bar.  I couldn’t even get mad at my daughter for calling me greedy.  I rode home, in silence, with my hand over my mouth as my husband drove with one hand and wiped off the console with the other.  I told them I just needed to get home and brush my teeth.


I haven’t had a candy bar since that experience, and I don’t want one either. So, the next time, you think you may want a candy bar, think of me and my beetle incident.  It sure helps me think twice every time a see candy bars displayed below the front counter of CVS or in the aisle of a grocery store.  I am now my own backseat conscience.


Me and My Backseat Conscience ; )





For quite sometime after this incidence, my friends referred to me as Beetle Juice  : /

 I have to admit, I do kind of  like that purple shirt ; )


Your Life has Significant Value

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     Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. –Psalm 51:5


I wasn’t born into the best circumstances. My mother was seventeen-years-old, on her way to college on a full scholarship.  When she became pregnant, my grandmother was devastated.  Too poor to pay the doctor to perform an illegal abortion, they experimented with pills, Tanqueray Gin, turpentine, and boiling water.  When the popular home remedy failed, my mother was sent to live with her Uncle and Aunt in Hartford, Connecticut.  She was supposed to put me up for adoption, return home to Atlantic City, and prepare to leave for Howard University in the fall. However, when she was eight months pregnant, she changed her mind and refused to sign the adoption papers.


My great uncle and aunt sympathized with their niece, but they still felt she was too young to handle the responsibilities of motherhood. They offered to adopt me, hoping my mother would feel more comfortable knowing her baby would be reared by someone in the family. To their surprise, my mother refused their offer, and much to my grandmother’s dismay, her college bound daughter returned home with a baby.


My grandmother had a right to be concerned. My mother was poor, unmarried, and knew very little about parenting, but when I came into her life, she gave me the best that she had.  My mother also wanted the best for herself.  When I was in Head Start, she went back to school.  Four years later, she graduated from Rutgers-Camden with honors, and used her education to educate me.  She also sent me to dancing school, read the Bible to me daily, and kissed me every night before bed.  Not once in my childhood did I feel unwanted or unloved, so when she told me about the circumstances surrounding her pregnancy and my birth, I was shocked, but not angry.


You may wonder why I know this story and why I’m sharing it with you.  First, I know this story because my mother understood that sharing her darkest moments with me would strengthen our bond, and I, in turn, would not be afraid to come to her with my own transgressions. Second, it is important for you to know that over four decades ago, God decided that I should live. He had a plan for me even though I was “unplanned,” and he definitely has a plan for you.   God can work anything out for you, and his plan will come to fruition regardless of your circumstances.


Dear Lord, please teach me to cherish my life.  Remind me that you have a wonderful plan for me even though I was born in sin, and thank you for your divine virtue that is more powerful than my worst transgressions. Amen.


Reprinted from Pictures in Glass Frames (Ambassador International 2011)



Visit before the Mountains

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My husband and I stopped by this elderly couple’s home on our way out of town.  It doesn’t seem right to call them elderly, even though they are both well into their eighties.  The husband still chops wood for the fireplace and his brown skin stretches firmly across his cheek bones.  The wife’s face is smooth and round and her voice hasn’t cracked with age.  Neither of them look a day over 70.  They live in the city. Their row home is humble and warm, and I felt loved as soon as I walked in the door even though they are not family.  The wife offers me a seat by the fire and I yearn to spend my vacation there instead of the mountains.  She talks about my book.  I am there because she wants more copies for her grandchildren.  My book sits in a pile of books on a table,  its page saved by an envelope. I reach in my purse and hand her a bookmark from a book I am currently reading, titled The Blue Orchard.  As she continues to speak, I am blessed by her life story. I have shared my life.  Now she feels comfortable sharing hers with me.  She says  so many profound things that I want to take notes, but don’t.  It would ruin the moment.  I tell her in so many words that I am moved by her wisdom and wish I had a pen and paper.  She says, I’ll remember and I hope I do.  I tell her I am surprised that she is enjoying my book.


She says, “Well, the first thing that kept me turning the page was the dedication to your husband because I know how I feel about my husband.  We have been married for 66 years and he still makes my heart skip a beat.”


I am so moved by her words.  I want to cry.  I silently pray that Jeff and I will share many more years together so my heart can skip a beat for him when I am in my eighties.


She tells me, “Your book is for anybody who can read till they can’t read no more.”   I will keep writing for that line alone.  I trust her.


I ask her about her family, looking around, absorbing memories that fill the room like ghosts.  She tells me about how she raised her nine children.  She speaks of her son’s death, staring at his picture above the mantle.  Her eyes focus on it in a way only a mother’s could who lost a child.  She looks at it and looks away from it several times, blinking, and taking deep breaths in-between her words.  She is not crying, just caught up in the memories.  She talks about how her husband was a good provider.  I look over at him and nod while he and my husband are speaking.  She is satisfied with him and with her life.  Her words, the room, the fire, and her husband with the tight face who loves her deeply makes me feel love completely, universally.   I tell her how comfortable I am in her home-how blessed I am in her presence.  She points over to the other room and says I keep blankets over there, and more than anyone else  in the world, I yearn to be like her.

No Longer Down the Hall

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Last year, when my daughter told me she wanted to study in Germany for a month in the summer of 2011, I wanted to say, “Germany?!!!  No, I can’t even drive there if you need me!  Germany?!!!”  But then I remembered I wanted her to see the world, study abroad, and experience places and people firsthand that I had only read about. But then I kept getting haunted by the fact that I could not protect her in Germany.  Germany!  Not to mention that it was not a cultural melting pot like America and right away the natives would know that she was a tourist. And once she spoke German with her cute American accent, how would they treat her? Would someone try to take advantage of her?  Kidnap her?!


Boy, my mind was going off in so many different directions, it was ridiculous.   That’s when I decided to pray about it–you know after I drove myself crazy thinking about all the worse possible scenarios.  Well, God put my mind at peace.  At some point a mother has to realize that she cannot go everywhere with her children.  They may not always live in your house, your town, your state, or even your country. With that in mind, I came to the realization that it was best to let her go without a fuss.  What argument did I have anyway?  She is living in God’s perfect will for her life, and He is with her everywhere she travels.


She had gotten to Munich safely. She wasn’t alone.  She was with 40+ other students from Princeton.  She was learning and site seeing.  We communicated through Skype every evening, so I got to hear her and see her face, so I got pretty comfortable with the idea, until… I read the headlines:  “World’s Largest E-coli Outbreak Kills 14 in Germany.” I continued to read, ” more than 300 seriously ill in Germany and it has spread to other north European countries and is expected to worsen in the coming week.”  Worsen in the coming week, I thought.  My child has to be there for 4 more weeks!  Maybe I should make her come home.  I consulted with my husband.  He was pretty relaxed about it, so it helped me relax.  He said, “Just tell her not to eat the cucumbers.”  Well, that seemed easy enough, but then the next report said that no one was really sure what foods, especially vegetables, were causing the outbreak.  So… one would figure, well, just tell your daughter not to eat the vegetables.  Well, that would have been just fine, but my daughter is a vegan, and I knew there was no way I could convince her to become a meat eater for the month she was there.  So… I verbalized my solution to her while we were on Skype, “Eat chips and water, that’s it.”


“Mom, that is not enough nutrients. I’ll pass out.”


“I don’ care.  I need you to stay alive.  Passing out is nothing compared to what the people are going through who have gotten sick over there.”


My poor child lived primarily off of pretzels.  I don’t know why she didn’t go for the bag of chips.  Apparently, Germany has irresistible pretzels. Well, even though I continued to worry, my daughter came home safely–a little thinner and very hungry, but she was okay.



She is now in her sophomore year of college, but she is home for winter break-right down the hall in her bedroom, and I am just a holler away, so I am one happy mom.   However, a few days ago, she comes to me and says, “Mom, what do you think about me studying at Cambridge for a couple months?”


“Cambridge?  You mean like in England?!!!!!”


Well, folks, what can I say?  I have a long way to go before I am completely used to her not always being right down the hall.


By the way, here is a photo of my daughter in Germany.  This is what she was doing while I was home worrying:



*My daughter has visited several countries since I have written this post and is now a senior! It is now the fall of 2013. I find it difficult to believe she is 21.  I don’t worry about her as much as she worries about me now.  Our roles have reversed in a way. Our children are young and resilient.  We are getting older.  It is time to take care of ourselves, so our grown children can live their lives fully without worrying about us.


Graduation photo:

Princeton Class of 2014


Quotes about worrying:

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.- Corrie Ten Boom


Philippians 4:6-7  do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.


No one can pray and worry at the same time.- Max Lucado




Morning after the Reunion

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When I was a teenager,  I worked in a t-shirt shop on the boardwalk in Atlantic City.  I hated the seagulls, the beach, the sand, the saltwater breeze, and the tourists who wanted to pay as little as possible for cheap souvenirs.  I don’t think I had ever taken a second look at the ocean because it was always there.  Water beating against rock, boring.  Seagull cries, annoying. However, this past weekend, the morning after my 25th class reunion, my husband and I walked on the boardwalk at 7am.  I photographed a seagull in flight and listened to his soothing call as he landed at our feet.  He posed for a few photos and continued to strut down the boards.  Tourists smiled and I smiled back as dark jetties, wild white waves, and Cream of Wheat-colored sand invited more peace into our lives.


Atlantic City, I have run for decades, yet you welcomed me home:

My handsome husband:


The very photogenic seagull: