Telling the Truth

connecting the dots of my life

Tag: Memories

Baby birds

Baby birds
Wrenched by snakes
From precarious nests
Flutter to the ground
Dead and dying

My first memory of daily life
On this lush planet
Teeming with death by
a thousand lashes of
whipping swords and
razor-sharp tongues
small and large –

Have mercy on us.

Lord, is it I?
The question haunts me

Silence and apathy pile on
Proliferating odds
Of global violence perpetrated
By ourselves against ourselves
Despite Your image
Carried within our fragile human
Bodies and aching souls

Have mercy on us.

It was the early 1950s. I’ll never forget the evening we heard a racket outside a window in the dining room. I was about 8 or 9 years old. A pair of cardinals had built a nest in a shrub outside and just below a dining room window. A first-class seat for the whole  family, as bird eggs hatched and little peeps began their regular cries for food! More food!

On this evening, however, the racket was huge. Way more than babies screaming for food. We looked out and saw a small yard snake attacking the nest. The cardinal mom and dad were raising a ruckus, going at the snake. Too late. Babies were already falling out of the nest.

By the time Dad got there, all 3 or 4 babies were on the ground. Still very young, and unable to make their way back to the nest. Dad got a shoebox, lined it with a towel, put on his gloves, and went out to see if he could help. Just before depositing them in the nest, he let us take a look from a safe distance.

That night we went to bed hoping all would be well in the morning. It was not. The babies were gone.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 22 May 2019
Photo of baby cardinals found at intothedeep.net

I Love Philly!

I Love Philly –
Its raw in-your-face ways
Its fierce determination
NOT to be NYC or WDC
Or proud Boston Brown Bread
Heavy with the blood of patriots
and all that watered-down tea

Give us Philly Cheese-Steaks
Italian Ice and Mummer’s Day Madness!

Sports teams scramble to recover
Their fair share of glory and grace
Weekend night-lifers crawl through
Crowded streets of over-enthusiastic
Pedestrians while car-lovers fight
For space on pot-holed one-way streets
And raucous horns inch their way
Toward old-timey traffic lights destined to
Stop them cold mid-way through
The next intersection

I Love Philly –
That great planned city of love
and a bit of Northeast craziness on
Any fine day or night of the year

So where did this come from? I wish I knew! I’m never sure what’s going to pop into my mind. This one came floating in the window this morning after I got home from an early morning blood test (and 12 hours of fasting).

At any rate, I obeyed my inner voice and scribbled it down. I’d been thinking about how happy and grateful I am to live in this part of the USA, as crazy and raucous as it is from time to time. During the last 36 years it grew me up as a real, live adult woman.

Cheers and Happy Monday!
Elouise

©Elouise Renich Fraser, 8 April 2019
Photo of Philadelphia’s LOVE statue found at WHYY.org (Click on link for a brief history of the statue.)
Statue Artist: Robert Indiana

So much for almost-raw red meat

So much for almost-raw red meat
And smashed sour cream-y potatoes

Or slices of luscious smooth
Spiced pumpkin pie topped with
Mounds of real whipped cream

Followed by unlimited spoons
Of yummy peanut butter straight
From the bottle into my mouth

Or thick slices of hot-off-the-grill
French toast drowning in butter
And swimming in maple syrup

Or those so-called health food bars
Slathered with creamy sugary icing
And held together with the goo of
Smashed dates or sticky caramel

And how could I forget fatty strips
Of sweet fried bacon beside boiled white
Grits gleaming with butter from real milk
Topped with generous shakes of salt
and maybe a few turns of the pepper mill

Written immediately after finishing my super-healthy breakfast smoothie. No, I don’t crave all those things. I haven’t eaten most of them for decades. However, I do enjoy feeling deprived from time to time!

Cheers!
Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 28 March 2019
Photo found at Today.com

Looking for friends

During the last several weeks I’ve been restless and lonely. I’m sleeping better and feeling more energetic than I have in the last four years. The weather, on the other hand, has been wildly unpredictable, requiring more in-house activity than usual. Still….

Retirement is heaven on earth. Right? Wrong.

My body has changed and my age keeps creeping ever higher. Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t return to academic life with its regular access to interesting students and colleagues. My retirement playground sometimes feels like punishing confinement.

As a child and teenager, I felt left out and lonely most of the time. Not invited to parties, not allowed to go to movies, and not allowed many close friends. Not that there was a long line knocking on my door.

I thought I was over those childhood feelings. Yet they came crashing in on me this past week. Triggered by more than one conversation about a wonderful dinner party or get-together I knew I couldn’t attend even if I wanted to.

The truth is, I don’t want and can’t survive a busy social life. Neither do I want to become someone’s project. I want women friends. A few interesting, trustworthy women. Not for a fabulous dinner out, a trip to the latest show, or even to reminisce about old times.

I’m past the years of being a hostess. I’m beyond cleaning up for company, or trying to transform myself into the social butterfly I’ve never been. I’m also beyond being part of a church visitation team.

This is about connecting in person over a cup of tea or glass of water, going for a walk or not. It’s about regular face to face time with women who might also feel left out, forgotten, or simply in need of female company.

And no, I don’t expect you, my readers, to solve this for me. Though perhaps some of you have felt this way from time to time?

Thanks for taking time to listen.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 2 March 2019
Photo found at nationalpost.com

On listening to my father

My father’s shame, like mine, went back to his childhood. He endured family hardships as one child of many. These included things like carrying lard sandwiches to school and being ashamed to let classmates see him eating them; wearing winter ‘shoes’ made from pieces of old rubber and ropes; and living in fear of being shamed and beaten by his father.

Childhood shame became envy. One opportunity after another slipped through his fingers. He was a proud man, filled with deep-seated resentments. Then there were dreams he couldn’t give up even though they weren’t going to happen. On top of this, the older I became, the more difficult it was for him to celebrate my accomplishments.

In this slightly revised poem I’m inviting him to join me. I first wrote it about a poor woman in a portrait. I recognized myself in her. I know what it’s like to live with shame that feeds envy. I can’t change what happened between my father and me; I can, however, change the way my heart sees him today. I can also listen to him now in ways he couldn’t listen to me. Perhaps I might even weep with him.

Suffering from Obsessive Envy

I know this proud man
The look in his eyes
The slightly raised brow
The unsmiling mouth.

Heavy with envy,
His eyes keep sharp watch
Marking my own good fortune
As were it his loss.

Am I not entitled?
Do I not slave harder?
How dare she be happy
At my poor expense.

Dear father, I know you.
You cower in my heart;
Your anger, your silence,
Your pride, your fierce want.

Look at me if you dare
Look me straight in the eye
Describe your resentments,
The dreams you saw die.

Weep long if you must
For the life you have led;
Sit here on this bench
Let me wipe your tears dry.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 17 February 2019

I’m not my mother

I’m not my mother
Or the young girl
She wanted me to be
Surrounded by friends
Pretty with curls in my hair
Dressed in cheery colors
Enjoying a childhood
Unlike hers lived in fear
Of gossip and taunts
From girls going nowhere
Despite their self-assured
Superiority unknown
In my mother’s world

I fought against my mother. Refused her regular advice about clothes and colors. Felt ashamed of her outgoing ways and her polio-scarred body; her face devoid of make-up. Nothing could hide the tremor on the left side of her face. Or the sight of her estranged mother arriving at grade school, dressed like a diva bearing gifts to her royal daughter.

I endured with chagrin and barely suppressed anger her attempts to make my straight thin hair curly and fulsome, like her beautiful auburn hair.

And…she taught me to play the piano. Cook. Clean. Starch and iron clothes. Make beds. Fold towels and sheets. Organize drawers and cupboards. Things her absent mother never taught her.

There’s a saying I remember from my growing-up years. I didn’t care for it; my mother did. Her kitchen wall hanging proclaimed it boldly: “Bloom where you’re planted.” I couldn’t; neither could she.

Two lost souls thrown together. One extroverted, the other introverted. Both lonely; intelligent; eldest daughters; desperate to be loved and heard; musicians from the inside out. Overshadowed and dominated by a world of men. Unable to play and sing our songs freely without fear of having our wings clipped.

And yet…every time I read My mother’s body, I feel a tug at my heart. Pulling me back toward her. Not out of pity, but with understanding that’s still taking root in me. Softening me toward her and toward myself. Especially when I’m playing the piano, and feel some of her musicality playing through me.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 1 February 2019
Photo of winter snowdrops found at pinterest.com

soul-pain

Tears flow easily these days,
fed by inescapable beauty
plus the soul-pain of being
alive and open to life.

Or perhaps it’s chill winter
resurrecting shared memories,
turning spare light into a
celebration of what we
have together, parsed out in
days and nights of longing for
spring’s welcome thaw.

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 January 2019
Photo found at thefuntimesguide.com

Gifts of old age

Gifts of old age
Come slowly sifting
Decades of memories
Through a heart
Converted to truth

Soft and pliable
It weighs the years
Discarding self-contempt
For self-acceptance
And understanding
Of what and why
And wherefore these
Shadows are nothing
In the end but
The reverse side of
Life interrupted and
Redeemed at great cost

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 27 January 2019
Photo found at artistsnetwork.com

color me fragile

color me fragile
transparent windows open
to waves of music
floating through winter’s cold nights
from stars and planets waiting
to welcome me home

I think often of death these days. Not as something to fear, but as a reminder that today’s music won’t wait for tomorrow. It’s here. Now. Waiting to be experienced, honored, held close. A reminder of the good that has come my way and the good people who still sing to me when I feel lonely, scared or overwhelmed. Many now wait to welcome me home.

Morose? No. It’s food for my soul. A warm fuzzy blanket to wrap around me when I begin to falter. It’s the reason I greet each day with expectancy and hope mixed with sadness. Life sometimes feels heavy to bear. Then those reminders come floating in. A gift, if not proof, that I’ve had and have a life beyond the life I see and remember.

Praying your day is filled with graceful music from unexpected sources.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 5 January 2019
Image found at wallpaperup.com

through fading light

She drifts through fading light
Heavy with good old days
And nights of celestial fare
When aging memories signified
Faded minds and shrinking lives
Cemented in the here and now
Reliving ghosts of yesterdays
Remnants of fruit gone sweetly sour
With age and bitter longing

Written on the airplane after reading yet again Emily Dickinson’s poem “These are the days….”

My poem is a comment on aging and the conceit of the young. I’m thinking of the way my own young eyeballs used to roll in their sockets when the “old” folks got going. Relentlessly they recalled and relived their happiest, most longed-for yesterdays. How silly! Don’t they know the past is gone? And then there are all those not-so-longed-for yesterdays.

To my mind these aging relics were out of touch. Couldn’t they see the relentless coming and going of life’s seasons? Yet even then I was already collecting and hoarding my own memories. Preparing for days when I, like all those old folks, revisit the glories and not-so-glorious memories of yesterday that hover just beyond my grasp.

We can’t relive the past, We can, however, go back the way a short Indian summer takes us back to a bit of warmth and beauty before cold winter sets in. We can take that brief, spectacular look into the rear-view mirror of our lives and connect with ourselves yet again. This time with eyes more forgiving and content than we ever dreamed possible.

This week we’re on the West Coast, visiting our daughter and her husband. Being with them reminds me again that life is short and precious. I pray for you and for all of us the courage to stop and look back from time to time.

Elouise

© Elouise Renich Fraser, 4 December 2018

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