Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Memories

impressions of yesterday

1963 Aug Elouise Double Exposure flipped

A bit of nostalgia. We visited our son’s family yesterday for the first time since pre-Covid social distancing. This morning I couldn’t help thinking about this photo. It still makes me smile! Can you see D’s smiling face on my cheek? 

impressions of yesterday
captured by accident
a remarkable mistake
turned into a keepsake
hopes and dreams
yet to be realized
outer signs of internal graces
made strong through
the tempering heat
of life lived wide awake
in person and together
the beauty of two souls
bound together in one image

The photo was taken by a friend. We were at Tybee Island Beach near Savannah, Georgia. D had just taken the photo of me with the old roller rink in the background. He forgot to advance the film before our friend took a photo of us together. So we ended up with this dream-like double exposure.

The day was momentous. This was only minutes before D proposed to me as we walked down the beach. If it had been today, I might have proposed to him many months earlier. But that was then—August 1963, weeks before D left for the West Coast, and a year before I graduated from college. I was almost 20 years old.

Don’t miss the prices on the side of the pavilion. You can have a good laugh at how ‘cheap’ things were back then. The pavilion, with its roller rink, is long gone—doomed because of building code upgrades. A good thing, yet looking at this double exposure makes me long a bit for the good old days.

Impressions only? I don’t think so. Memories are dear, and now make up the majority of my lived world. They also capture reality—along with a healthy dose of nostalgia.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 24 May 2017, reposted 7 June 2021
Double exposure taken by DAF and a friend, Aug 1963

An Invitation

A walk in the late Spring
park of my mind beckons
beyond the open portal
of weary normal days
without wine and blossoming roses

Which will it be
I wonder in a weak attempt
to pretend this is about
a reasoned choice
or serious deliberation

The beauty of yesteryears
calls out from every corner
of my well-laden larder of
memories lying dormant
around and above me

Having already left this
world of visible reality
they invite my hungry heart
to feast at the table of friends
and strangers I never really knew

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 June 20

“Forest Feast” Artwork from Elizabeth Foster
Found at Melissa Shirley Designs, needlenook.com

a one-year old nest

basking in sunshine
beneath snow-white blossoms
a one-year old nest

That’s right, folks. Last autumn’s empty paper wasp nest survived last winter’s harsh reality weather! You can’t see them in this amateur shot through the window, but small wasps are buzzing all around the basket-like nest. Probably checking it out like a relic in a museum!

Will there be another queen and her subjects? I doubt it, even though the nest hasn’t lost any chunks to the ground below. Still, the story isn’t over, and I’m staying tuned.

Yesterday afternoon I finished my part of our 2-week attic books marathon (at least 30 boxes almost ready to go to The Theological Book Network). Then I started on my office.

This time it isn’t about giving things away. It’s about seeing what’s there in the first place. Most of it would count as personal memorabilia. Some needs trashing, and some will go to people who need more stationary or greeting cards (for example).

The best gift of all has been seeing bits of my life in personal notes, cards, photos and letters. Some precious, some OK to let go of, and some I don’t remember keeping at all.

At any rate, yesterday afternoon I had a wonderful teary session with these bits and pieces. Especially pieces I’d forgotten about. Which led me to wonder whether I know myself anymore.

Thanks for stopping by!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 May 2021
Photo taken by erf, 18 May 2021

The life of birds

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, adult male

Mouthing birdseed
and surveying what lies
around and behind him,
a young male grosbeak
shows off his brand new
white back feathers and
blossoming rose-breasted chest

Nowhere to go
in particular and
not much to say,
he munches birdseed
and enjoys an early
morning breakfast
before moving on

Reminder of a new day; reminder of Spring’s heartbreaking beauty; reminder of how vast this world is and how small and earthbound we humans are.

For the last few weeks D and I have been (yet again) sorting through our many books that sometimes weigh us down. We’ve been through this drill more than once, thanks to our academic lives and limited shelf space. I’ve often said our main decorative scheme is Books and More Books, closely followed by Shelves and More Shelves.

Some books and manuscripts are sacrosanct. This includes my collection of hymnbooks and piano scores going back to my childhood piano lessons. Plus those favorite recipe books (now antiques) that I rarely use anymore. Plus our bird and plant identification books, old college and graduate school yearbooks, and would you believe multiple translations of the Bible?

Sometimes I wish I had the life of a bird. Especially on a sunny Spring day with plenty of food and water available and not a hawk in sight.

However, on the whole, I’m grateful for the life I’ve had. Not because it was easy, but because it was and still is difficult, breathtaking, exciting, nerve-wracking, crazy-making, beautiful and precious.

On that note, I’m back to the attic to work through another bookcase.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 14 May 2021
Photo found at pinterest.com

My unquiet mind

Last night’s fierce rainstorm
lingers in air clothed in fluffy clouds,
bright blue skies and hungry birds

Chill air seeps through cracks
In this old house still breathing
deeply in lockdown mode

My mind flies unbidden to
a youthful storm about what
mattered yet didn’t end well

Despite the lingering chill
my skin burns with heat and
anguish about changes in plans

Tired old ganged-upon feelings
stir within my memory
before spilling over into today

Yet again my blood boils
with anger and shame
eager to take me down a notch

When I grew up, I didn’t have the option of being too angry, sad, happy, or loud. Worse, my father got to decide when I was too anything. His clear intention was to break my will and keep me in line. Not just because he was my father, but because God told him not to spare the rod.

Several days ago I posted “Farewell, Savannah.” I meant it then and still mean it today. Nonetheless, I’m challenged to let go of the worst injustices of my growing-up years. Especially during the years I lived in Savannah, prior to my marriage.

In the later 1940s and the 1950s, proactive services and opportunities for women and young girls weren’t at the top of our national agenda. Nor are they today.

I applaud President Biden’s determination to make this a top priority. Not as a symbolic act for women at the so-called top of the ladder, but for women and girls everywhere. In families, churches, schools, sports, medical offices, hospitals, workplaces, politics, the military and much more.

The shame and anger I feel isn’t only about what happened to me back then. It’s also about what’s happening right now to women and young girls in the USA. Surely we can do better than this.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 6 May 2021
Image found at pinterest.com

Loneliness | Mary Oliver

I still tear up when I read this lovely, perceptive poem from Mary Oliver. My comments follow.

Loneliness

I too have known loneliness.
I too have known what it is to feel
misunderstood,
rejected, and suddenly
not at all beautiful.
Oh, mother earth,
your comfort is great, your arms never withhold.
It has saved my life to know this.
Your rivers flowing, your roses opening in the morning.
Oh, motions of tenderness!

Poem written by Mary Oliver, first published in Blue Horses (2014)
© 2017 by NW Orchard LLC
Published in 2020 by Penguin Books in Devotions: The Selected Poems of Mary Oliver, p. 23

When we’re born we have one chance. One chance to hit the jackpot of perfect parents, perfect siblings, perfect grandparents and all the other stuff that comes with perfection.

Yes, it includes gender, color of skin, color of hair, cuteness or ugliness, fat or skinny. You name it, and someone somewhere has known loneliness over these or other unchosen marks of our supposed superiority or lack thereof.

I grew up feeling like a fat girl with three younger sisters who were invariably cuter and more exciting than I was. To be fair, the preferred family term that stuck with me wasn’t ‘fat.’ It was ‘pleasantly plump.’

Every dress my mother made for me was ‘adjusted’ to mask my pleasant plumpness. My thin, straight hair was subjected to permanents every three months, even though the perms disappeared down the bathroom sink within two or three weeks. I never seemed to smile enough, laugh enough, or have enough girlfriends or boyfriends.

Yet thanks to our living arrangements, mother earth was always right there waiting for me. Unlike my father, she never told me to suck in my stomach, stand up straight, or wipe that frown off my face. Never.

Nor did she say “I told you so” when I was one of the last girls chosen for athletic teams. She just kept showing up, giving me time and space to turn my loneliness into freedom and a life of my own.

Thank you, Mary Oliver, for this heartwarming poem. I cried the first time I read it, and the second, and the third…. What a gift we have in rivers and roses. The handiwork of a Creator who understands us better than we understand ourselves.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 3 May 2021
Photo by Phil Banks, pixels.com

Farewell, Savannah

secrets of the Deep South
are etched in and on my body

scars and memories fester
even as they grow faint with age

what I love about Savannah
no longer makes up for what I loathe

steaming fear and flashbacks
to my growing up years sometimes boil

transporting me back to childhood trials
and the belief that I’m a misfit

not entitled to happiness or joy
or feelings of deep satisfaction

hence the necessity of these two words
I don’t want to say–

Farewell, Savannah

I’ve been pondering these two words for the past week. My youngest sister (#4) is selling the last house she and her deceased husband, and our deceased parents lived in.  It’s a small, cozy, beautiful little house. Full of memories and full of heartache.

I didn’t grow up in this house. I grew up in a large house that looked out on the Vernon River (above). I only know the house that’s now up for sale because I visited as often as possible after my parents moved in. It’s a lovely house in a small semi-rural community. A great place to visit. Neighborhood houses are built along and near marshy muddy banks and creeks near the end of the Vernon River.

It isn’t that the house holds memories (it does). It’s the reality of the Deep South and the way it both encouraged  and covered up abusive behavior in families like ours, in churches, in schools, and in work places.

Sometimes, when I’m discouraged or frightened, my mind, body and emotions revert to childhood fears and realities of my growing up years in the Deep South. Especially, but not only, my father’s treatment of me. I’m tempted to believe The Big Lie that says I’m Nobody. Or the other Big Lie that says Things Will Never Change.

It’s time to move on. Which is exactly what my youngest sister is doing. I celebrate her bravery and her sense of adventure as she moves from Savannah to be with her granddaughter and family far from the shores of the Vernon River.

Thanks for stopping by.
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 April 2021
Photo of the Vernon River taken by DAFraser in 2010

Just as I am

My unquiet mind
Spins out of control
Restless and uneasy

Unvoiced conversations
Saturate space yearning
For calm silence

When did it begin?
When will it end?

An old habit from childhood,
I explain myself to myself
As though minus these many words
I would not exist or be believed
Or convince myself or others
Of my worthiness

Like comfortable old clothes
I pull them close
Trying to assure myself
That I am worthy
Just as I am

The older I get, the more likely it is that ‘just as I am’ can’t possibly be good enough. Too much water down the river and over the dam. Too many roads not taken. Too many opportunities turned down because I was too busy, or afraid. And too many mistakes and unhappy chapters already written into my life.

I want to believe that the older I become, the less I need to prove my worth as a human being. I want to say without hesitation, “It doesn’t matter what you (or I) think about my life.”

I also want to accept the daily invitation to be who I am today in the eyes of my Creator. Not who I wish I were. And not who I might have been in the eyes of my father, my worst boss, or any other human being who has tried to make me into their image of me.

Surely the Judge of all the earth will do right. Not just by me, but by each of us.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 18 April 2021
Photo found at medium.com

Too good to be true

It sounds too good to be true
because it isn’t true and never was.
Standing before hungry investors
Moving in for the kill
Smiling at every attempt
to fathom or unmask truth,
The Great Con comes crashing
down sooner instead of later.

Smiling at restless investors
itching for more money in the bank,
The Great Con reaches its apex:
“This is a no-brainer my friends.
We’re going to Make America
Great again! And I’ve chosen you
As my favored investment partners!
Believe me, you’ll never be sorry.”

By hook and by crook
the cons continue unabated
from one generation to the next
playing on our worst nightmares
and fears of being left behind
or hung out to dry and missing in action—
With thanks to the party of
Take All Prisoners of Their Own Greed and Discontent

It’s easy to get all worked up and even self-righteous about Bernie Madoff.

Yes, what he did was horrific. Yet he wasn’t and will never be the only Great Con in the history of the USA. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme, now back in the public eye because of his death, invites me to ponder recent history.

Make America Great Again was and still is a con. Invest your vote in Me and reap the rewards! I know how to get the job done! Your job is to vote for Me and send me a nice check! I can give you everything you’ve been longing for, starting with that wall and a stacked Supreme Court. What better future could there be?

Unfortunately, we haven’t yet woken up from this dream. And the con artist hasn’t abandoned his lonely ship. If it weren’t so tragic, I’d be applauding. But I can’t. Ponzi schemes aren’t known for success. Sadly, the fall of a large Ponzi scheme can be the downfall of us all. Here’s to the success of President Biden. Though it won’t be easy, it’s already worth the effort.

Full disclosure: The seminary I served for 28 years was one of many victims in a local Ponzi scheme. It decimated scores of educational, religious and historic institutions in Philadelphia and beyond. Worst of all, it made life more difficult for those who could least afford it.

Happy Thursday greetings to each of you. I hear the birds outside and am hoping for a lovely walk with D this afternoon.
Elouise

Elouise Renich Fraser, 15 April 2021
Cartoon found at IndianMoney.com

For the Women and Girls

No matter who you are,
No matter how you came to be
where you are,
No matter what you look like
or how many times you’ve said
‘I am a Full Human Being’,
I have old news, though not of great joy.

The fight makes us who we are,
Punches land on our guts,
Especially when we think we’ve
finally arrived in Paradise
rather than make-believe
pie in the sky, someday-soon status
that never arrives on time.

I’m disheartened though not surprised by our lack-luster pursuit of women’s equality in these so-called United States. We’re addicted to finding ways of turning back the tide of women’s rights. It doesn’t matter whether it’s about abortion, equal pay, or who will be the church pastor.

Too many people of ‘good will’ are unwilling to admit girls and women into the ranks of full human beings. Or they don’t know how to do it so everyone has equal rights in the workplace. It’s easier to hire tokens here and there, than to do the right thing for everyone.

Back in the 1960s and 70s, I thought we would get there in my lifetime. Today I’m not so hopeful. At the same time, if you’re a younger woman, and you’re looking for something worth fighting about, join up! It can make you a better, stronger woman, no matter what happens in the unknown future.

Why this post? D and I have been looking through old files from the 1970s. They were related to D’s first teaching job at a Christian college in the South. While he taught and attended endless faculty meeting, I was finding out what it means to be a stay-at-home mom (and so-called “faculty wife”) changing diapers and trying to maintain a semblance of normality.

You can read about my last straw breaking point in Faculty Wife: Part 17.

Despite everything, I’m grateful that those four years shaped me into one of those beautifully irritating women who can’t stop promoting full rights for all human beings.

Happy Monday!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 12 April 2012
Photo found at theeverygirl.com

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