Saturday, December 18, 2010

M&R; No Worry

His wife’s brother-in-law wanted to discuss going to Greece in the fall. Stan mumbled in reply before looking up from his breakfast. His large right hand crumbled the stiff linen napkin lying across his stout thighs. It plunged it into his water glass. He gently lifted it to his best friend’s face. Blood leaked from John’s nose.

“You’ve been sniffling. What happen?”

“Your sister-in-law and I were making the bed this morning. I stuffed my extra firm down pillow into the pillowcase just a little before she did. “Pillow fight!” I announce and bounce mind off her. She smiles. Then she nails me down low followed by a whack in the face. I forgot she has a buckwheat hull pillow.”

Stan’s eyebrows rise. His broad swimmer’s chest expands. His massive hand relinquishes the water soaked napkin to John. The concern on his face melts into a smile as a silent chuckle begins to shake his frame.

“To me clear,” John jokes as he daps at his nose, “my wife hit me with a bag of grain!”

Stan throws back his head and chuckles aloud. A perplexed, attentive waiter rushed to John’s side with a similar red napkin stuffed with ice. John mumbled his apologizes to all and headed to the men’s room.

Visibly upset, the owner approached Stan who’d returned to eating his breakfast. Stan’s sea green rose from his oatmeal as the trembling shadow fell across the Irish linen covering their table. The small man stood before him trying to figure out what to say.

Stan helped, by explaining that Monsier Sienna was fine and added, “His wife hit him with a bag of fagopyrum.”

That didn’t help. The man’s teary expression twisted as his brow furled and eyelids fluttered in confusion. But, an audible sigh assured Stan that the man understood that the bloody nose wasn’t the restaurant’s fault. Apparently, he worried about losing their business.

“We’ve been coming here for generations.” assured him waving away the idea as he’d seen his wife do on a thousand occasions.

That man stood beside John’s empty seat, hesitant to leave. Finally, “Generations pass, I mean time passes-”

“Not us, we’re Christians. We are going to live forever.” Stan replied with a chuckle.

His fair complexion flushed in merriment.

The little man didn’t laugh. Stan making an effort to speak gently commanded the man to sit. He mentioned that his daughters eat at the proprietor's fine establishment “all the time”, that his wife and sister-in-law ate lunch here constantly and then he himself ate more dinners here than at home.

“ Shoot! You have your best table set aside with this fancy tablecloth.”

As he spoke, Stan hefted the handsome woven red tablecloth then indicated with a sweep of his large hand the rest of the restaurant decorated in clean plain white linen. The owner smiled weakly at the big man and let his gaze fall to the table. Actually, the Irish linen on their special table had more to do with spilled red wine and beef tartar, then the special relation his family shared with the Sienna family for the last three generations.

He glanced up at Monsieur Scamander and admitted that sometimes he worried about the future. Stan’s responded with a quizzical squint of his eyes. Stan glanced around the room as though more perplexed by the abstract notion than the little man’s personal problems. The larger man mentioned that the little man’s grandfather kept the place open during the Nazi occupation. He knew the Frenchman could handle whatever minor things came up now. The little French man sat up straighter at the reference to his grandfather; the resistance fighter, and his proud family heritage. Seeing the smile on the owners face, Stan returned to his meal, then stopped with the spoon mid-air,

“It’s not a financial problem is it? We have money?’

The owner promptly replied “No.” in a hurried whisper. He almost touched Stan’s arm in an effort to stop the too public conversation, but he then thought better.

Stan waited until the small hand retreated to its rightful position, then leaned in conspiratorially. “If it is any sort of problem, anything at all, we can help. We know people.” His emphasized “know”. Stan made the word “people” sound like a curt double-entendre

“Nothing like that Monsieur Scamander. I just am reaching-” he sighed again “ retirement age.” He didn‘t know how to phrase his thoughts, so he asked for Stan‘s. “Monsieur, don‘t you ever worry about the future?”

“No.”

The little man took the simple straightforward reply as a curt dismissal and scurried away. In truth, Stan never worried about the future. He had plenty of money, but he and Roxanne never really needed money. He’d never worried about the girls growing up and then turned out fine. He had no concern about his wife’s affection ever ending. He didn’t doubt that his best friend would always be at his side. If he envisioned a future for the grandchildren, it would obviously be a bright one. His prayers were the “Prayers of the Church”; he never needed anything personally. He simply had no concerns about health or aging. He recalled, distractedly, that John wanted to talk about their trip to Greece. Stan had a cousin with a barley or fagopyrum farm outside Athens. They’d stay there for the season.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

TLtS: To Fight the Wind


I dreamt a magic spell the other night for knocking down a breeze. First you kick a stone into the wind. Next you break a "cookie" into pieces. I call it a cookie, because it actually could be. It is the round symbol of Malkuth. In my dream it was actually a piece of round serrated tile. Whatever you've make it out of, it's circular and divided into quarters. The Northern quarter is painted citrine and represents earth (dirt). Sourthern fire and is painted black. (Black icing on a cookie?) Western segments is water and dyed my favorite color; russet. Finally, East, olive; air. You break off the appropriate chunch, in this case the olive piece and toss it into the wind. The wind should stop blowing. I suppose the same logic (?) would apply to stoping a rising river, putting out a fire and stopping a landslide!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

M&R: Claws on Concrete

Mrs. “DK” and her two grown daughters stood at the doorway of their apartment complex waving vigorously and calling goodbye too loudly. It appeared they would be doing so until Roxanne and Maeve were out of sight. The next half block would be a long walk!

The two sister-in-laws walked side by side with forced smiles on their faces. It looked very unnatural on Maeve. In truth, their expressions were something between good natured embarrassment and shock.

Through gritted teeth, still staring straight ahead without turning to her best friend Maeve asked, “Does everyone in this neighborhood get that excited about an invitation to lunch?”

Replying softy under her breathe (she sounded unnatural for Roxanne) “We’ve only been here with the new outlet for a couple of weeks. We’ve invited a few business people to Friday night dinner, but…” She shook her coppery tresses in confusion.
“They knew it was lunch? Right?”

“Yes, yes I referred to it as “tea” just to be sure.” Roxanne assured the brunette, while her voice rose in pitch. “I confused about something else too?” Out of the corner of her painted eye, she saw Maeve nod softly for her to continue. “I thought they were supposed to be Indians.”

Maeve’s dark eyes risked a questioning glance at Roxanne, without turning her head and giving away that they were talking about the brown skin trio behind them.

“You know Native American?”

“Oh,” Maeve sighed in understanding. The shoulders of her black brocade jacket slumping in the process. “They are Indians, as in “from the sub-continent of India”. Hindu I think.”

Roxanne giggled gleefully at herself, her sharp nose rising high with her laughter, her green eyes once more alive with their natural delight. “Oh, Indians!” Once upon a time she would have added how stupid that was of her. Maeve broke her of the habit ages ago. No one bad-mouthed her best friend. “Oh, those girls clean up real good!”

“Roxanne!” Maeve exclaimed as she grabbed her elbow.

“Oh honey, you know what I mean! They wear those beautiful evening gowns…”

“Saris.”

Roxanne started to nod in agreement, then her chin came to a stop and she asked mischievously “Sorry?”

Maeve elbowed her good-naturally in response and then added absently, “That’s what they are wearing to lunch.”

“Is that what I agreed too? My English, their accents!” Roxanne’s bright red lips curled in consternation and she glanced about as they finally made the turn towards their company’s new warehouse/home. “In this neighborhood? In saris?”

Roxanne’s concern for their guest was well placed. Their family’s import/export business needed room and they could only find it this run down semi-industrial side of town. The realtor had described the surrounding neighborhoods as once “full of people who could afford to move out of their trailers into rental homes, but don’t afford lawn mowers. Couldn’t afford the ladders to take down their Christmas lights, either.” The Seinnans arrival was part of the current “gentrification” of the community. Still walking down the side streets was not an option. Roxanne’s concern was ironic because she and Maeve wore custom made dresses and handmade heels to match their outfits.

“I hear that some women might feel concerned about walking through this neighborhood, if they were well dressed, might attract unwanted attention, were petite or foreigners.” Maeve rattled off the list absently. They weren’t petite, particularly not Roxanne, but the rest of the list applied to them. They were sauntering down a street that salesmen coming to visit their store had second thoughts about.

“It might be best if us and the girls (Roxanne’s grown daughters) escorted them. You wouldn’t have a sari you would?”

“A closet full.”

Maeve arrived well before lunch with a selection of saris. She wore her favorite one; black and blood red, a gift from business associates of her husband’s. Although the colors weren’t her favorites, Roxanne made quite the bouquet of her daughters and herself, with a matching parasol to match each sari. Her daughters exchanged knowing looks about the weightiness of the umbrellas and the extreme sharpness of the tips. But, no one admitted to anthing, they were too excited about the luncheon. They headed off to the “DK” residence with Maeve and Roxanne in the lead. The playful party of five was half way there when Maeve pointed out something ahead. Four red-neck looking guys huddled around he hood of a truck.

Maeve saw more beer cans than tools. “Reminds me of your neighbors in Alaska skinning an illegal black bear in the back of their truck.”

Roxanne nodded in agreement. Maeve and Roxanne weren’t hard on the eye. The girls definitely were worth looking at and the guys were not giving them the time of day. A little black mixed-breed rushed out, tail-wagging to bark at them.

“More fright than might, you know.” Roxanne assured everyone and clapped for the sweet little doggy to come to her.

“Get away from my dog!”

The creature in question darted away. Roxanne offered a weak meaningful, "Sorry."

“ Ain’t Gizmo, is she?” commented Roxanne’s eldest, referring to one of the family dogs.

The speaker stepped from behind the pick-up grabbing up a big crescent wrench in the process. “People like you is what is wrong with this neighborhood.”

All four of the other women turn calmly and looked to Maeve. Her dark eyes looked up at the beer bellied Cretan with anger and dire wrath. Disturbed to the heart the man visibly shuddered. Maeve veiled her head with dark fabric, there is none darker. It fell back in folds that waved around her lithe feet as she lead the Seinnans on their way.

Braver at a distance one of the men called after them, “Dressed kind of gaudy ain’t ya?”

“Thanks.” Roxanne called over her shoulder with a laugh. “He thinks we look like goddesses; godly! My english!” she explained to the girls.

They laughed at her joke to the consternation of the four deyfusses behind them and went merrily on their way. The girls using their umbrellas as canes and sashaying along like Mae West. Only Roxanne noticed that Maeve never looked up.

Roxanne and her daughters can be a little overwhelming on the best of day. Big, loud and obnoxious (without a mean bone in their bodies), they could be a little intimidating. They towered over the slighter, browner, petite women. But, at the sight of the saris the Indian women screamed with delight. Mrs. DK had flowers for the “tea table” in a small yellow porcelain pitcher hand painted with purple iris. The riotous party moved back the way they’d come and in minutes they were within sight of the now drunker driveway mechanics. All four men, visible agitated moved towards the sidewalk armed with wrenches and fresh beers. Their dog yapped at its angry master and approaching women while spinning in circles on the lawn.

“Yeah!” bellowed the loud-mouth. “It figures you’d be friends with the towel-heads down the street!”

One of his buddies loudly encouraged “J.C.” The other two seemed uncomfortable.

Roxanne’s daughters still smiling and strolling had flipped their parasols, heavy, sharp end up and carried them high with both hands. Roxanne reached for the flowers that Mrs. DK carried. She dumped them on the sidewalk and hefted the pitcher in the air, sharp spout down.

“All you foreigners need to go back to where you came from!” “Yeah!”

“Let’s not mention that their mothers crawled out from underneath rocks.” Roxanne suggested sweetly while eyeing the temple of the nearest.

Instead, Maeve uncovered her head, snapped her fingers and said, “Here Gizmo!”
Behind her Maeve could hear the rapid breathes, smothered whimpering and anxious prayers of their guests. She could also hear claws on concrete approaching rapidly. A small bundle of black terror bounded to her mistress’ side and leaped joyfully for the summoning fingers. Then Gizmo saw the men. The other dog yelped and ran for the house. As much as it could, Gizmo’s curly death-black fur stood on end and she backed up until her haunches guarded Maeve’s ankle. Her deep guttural growl echoed off the concrete with a hum.

“Jake, can’t be far behind.” One of the sisters said.

They gathered in tighter around the Indian women as a 120 pound monster hurled by and landed at his mistress’ left side, a big glob of drool lay across his snout. If Jake was blacker than his mate, it was only because of white foam in his jowls. Jake was so big and fierce that he’d never learned to growl; didn’t need to. The big foul-mouthed guy turned pale. He tried to fight it, but he got dizzy trying not to cough up his last gulp of beer. As he fell back one of his buddies spun him away from Maeve’s black heartless gaze.

Another stepped up, palms forward. “JC’s drunk. Ignore him. We don’t want any trouble. “

Maeve glided on by, leading her party. Her dogs lingered on now silent and waiting. She called them as she turned the corner and they were gone. The guys bent to check on JC who was now coughing up blood. There was a noise behind them. Almost afraid to look the peacemaker turned. It was Roxanne.

“Forgot the flowers!” she exclaimed as she hefted the hem of her gown and scooped them off the sidewalk. She grimaced at JC now crawling around on all fours, as she departed. “Sorry.”

Sunday, November 21, 2010

M&R: Maeve’s Sly Sister

The French waiter in a French restaurant handed Madam Sienna a menu written in French.

Maeve Sienna laid it aside and asked what the special was. She ordered that as her sister-in-law Roxanne examined the offerings. Roxanne glanced at the waiter to see his response. It would be okay. On other occasions Maeve would say she’d forgotten her imaginary glasses or would simply order what she wanted. That didn’t always work. Roxanne ordered with a resolve that set the waiter back on his heels a little. It should have been a hint as to what would come.

“Did you ever think about going back to school?” Roxanne asked absently.

Maeve’s right hand fell. The table thumped. Her silver charm bracelet clanged. Her mouth fell open, of course. Her black eyes widened and began to tear in the effort to not laugh.

Red-headed Roxanne mistaking her hilarity for offense, gasped in concern. Maeve couldn’t hold it back and a howl erupted.

“Dearie, I didn’t mean anything by it. I was talking about me going back to college!”

As she threw back her ebony locks and flung back her right hand. The laughter that followed made it clear that Maeve was not offended by the question. The color that rose to her cheeks and the way she pawed blindly at her best friend’s hand proved that she was embarrassed for the red-head not for herself.

Roxanne recoiled in offence. Which only made her friend just laugh harder, startling Roxanne. Her shoulders fell and she had to join in the fun.

“I could do well in college.” Chuckled indignantly and unconvincingly.

Still chuckling Maeve began “As I recall you passed a few classes when you were studying political science because your advisor and you-“

“Maeve!” Roxanne burst out, and then started laughing again. “I wasn’t the best student last time around.”

Maeve’s pale white hand patted Roxanne’s ruddier, apologetically. Softly she added. “You’re smarter than me.”

“Oh, dearie!” Roxanne gushed, worried again. As Maeve’s head drops “Oh, dearie!” Roxanne exclaims.

Maeve took a deep breath. Her laughing face had turned stern for a moment. Then she shook her slender frame. “What sort of a degree are you thinking of?”

“I’m not sure.”

“Well, I can’t see you in a lab coat doing chemical analysis.”

“I can’t see me in a plain white coat, no”. she agreed shaking her dangling earrings and shoulders of her brightly colored gown.

“And theoretical physics? No, you are more of a people person.”

“Definitely, dearie.”

Glancing about at the crowded restaurant, flooded by strong noon time sunlight for a moment, Maeve suggested, “Well you’ve raised two batches of children and five husbands. I think you have a few things to share. How about teaching?

“Really?’ responded Roxanne hefting her ample bosoms in pride. Her right index finger tapped her plush lips in thought. “Actually, “Roxanne said turning to Maeve and raising a glass of wine. “I’m thinking about learning Greek. It’s my husband’s first language and he often uses it he speaks his daughters and back home in the Kaddafi Valley.”

The two friends touch glasses. Roxanne turns to as a crowd of chattering school girls invaded the restaurant.

“Probably have to go to school in Greece eh?” Roxanne mentioned aloud.

“Yeah, their dialect is Pontic. That’s only studied in Athens.” Without even a hint of manipulation. “I’d hate going by myself.”

“Stan has business there. “ Maeve mentioned hopefully.

“Not that much, dearie.”

“What would I do during the day?”

“You could take classes.” Maeve sat up a little straighter. “They have a French language program.”

“I already speak French and I don’t speak any Greek.

“Yeah. So, no one would notice that you can’t …” Roxanne paused there with a very sly smile on her face.

“You are so sly, sis.”

Friday, November 12, 2010

M&R; The Weather is Perfect

The low sea-green waves rolled insistently across the wide clean beach. The steady breeze the waves carried blew warm and moist into the cluster of villas below the red-roofed hotel.

“The weather is perfect! “ Roxanne sighed for the umpteenth time. Her deep bosom heaved with wordless delight.

The steady breeze blew back loose strands of coppery hair as her bright sea-green eyes gazed upon the idyllic scene. Not a cloud in the azure sky. Not a chilling raindrop. Neither a scorching wind nor an occasional pocket of cold air.

“The weather is perfect here! “ She sighed deeply again.

Around Roxanne (and her sister-in-law Maeve) lay a fenced yard full of succulents and potted cacti. Behind them came the laughter of their grandchildren splashing in the swimming pool nestled amongst the villas. Across the way sat Roxanne’s step-daughters in the shade of the other villa John Sienna rented for his family. The younger women sat closer to the sparkling pool and rowdy little ones, telling tales of their mutual youth.

Sitting at Roxanne’s elbow sat her best friend Maeve Sienna. In contrast to Roxanne’s sun blushed cheeks, was Maeve’s cloud white complexion. Whereas Roxanne Scamander’s hair glistened like copper in the light coming down from above and bouncing off the sand and sea before them, Maeve’s hung straight and dark. Today, Maeve’s black eyes glistened with the same mischievous sparkle as Roxanne’s. Both their mouths contained the same secret smile, as they eavesdropped on their “girls”.

“What was his name? “Eric.” “Anyway, remember we went on that field trip to the beach in the fifth grade?” “Who was this?” “ Eric! Ninja Eric!” “Ah! Didn’t he have like sixteen Ninja turtles?” “Different themes you know.” “Anyway, there was a guy there with a Parachute Ninja that Eric just had to have. You know, where there is a ‘kerchief with strings attached? Like, he already had sixteen, but he wanted this one. The guy said he’d swap it for Eric’s new watch. So, Eric does it. Well, the guy said if Eric changed his mind he could swap back. He throws the thing up in the air a couple of times. Of course, it was lame. And the guy was gone with his watch!” “He learned a lesson!”

Red-headed Roxanne wrestled against laughter with plump red lips and managed to succeed with a sip of wine. Her step-daughters fell over themselves with fits of delight

When Roxanne turned to share a secret smile with her best friend, she found Maeve’s face taunt and body tense with the effort to hear her daughter-in-laws. On Maeve’s drawn features laid an expression unlike the hilarity Roxanne expected. Maeve’s dark eyes darted to the woman that was as close to a sister and sibling as she’d ever know. Maeve returned Roxanne’s barely suppressed grin with a nervous tight smile, then turned to eavesdropping.

“Didn’t he have a crush on you?” “Well, yes, but..” “Oh, yeah she did. I recall us singing; Eric and Callirrhoe sitting …” All three sisters joined in. “in a tree; kay – eye – esse – esse – eye – en – gee. First comes love then comes marriage, then comes Callirrhoe with a baby carriage.” They all giggled. “Yes, I had a crush on him, until the chair incident.” Everyone burst out laughing. “It’s funny now! You know how boys are. I thought he was being such a gentleman holding a chair for me And then he pulls it out from under me. “ All the younger women roared with laughter.

But full-figured Madam Scamander didn’t join with them this time. She concentrated instead on the shadows fleeing across the blank expression on Maeve’s face as she listened; fascinated by their girlhood stories. Maeve never knew girlhood.

“Did he leave you a May Day basket?” “Ugh! I’d forgotten about that!” “I’d forgotten about the holiday?” “I remember daddy teasing me for a week! He almost stepped on it going out the front door!”

The three daddy’s girls bawled with hilarity until one of them yelled at their young sons for diving off the pool-side table into the clear water of the pool.

A glance of Roxanne’s emerald eyes caught a tear rolling down Maeve’s glacial cheekbones. She had no memories of her parents. Maeve always said the best gift her husband ever gave her was his family; the only one she’d ever know. A great sob shook her frame. She continued to glare out towards where the sea loses itself in the horizon.

The three sisters where now silent, startled at their mother-in-law’s sob. The children instinctually aware of “danger” by their mother’s silence grew quiet or were hushed by the first born kids.

Roxanne turned in her seat, more to her step-daughters and grandkids than Maeve. “Dearie?”

Roxanne asked in her naturally loud melodious voice. She added a tone of authority to the question as though it was an announcement. Everyone looked her way.

“I was just thing about a story from our childhood.”

A soft, “What?” escaped the lips of the eldest of Stan Scamander’s daughters. One of his other daughters pulled at her elbow. No response showed on Maeve’s pale wet cheeks and quivering blood-red lips. She had no idea of the gift Roxanne intended her. Before anyone could take a breathe to speak , Roxanne bustled on ward.

“Remember when daddy got transferred to Japan? And we had to go to school on the military base with all those army brats? “

Mouths hung open. Glances were exchanged. Even the happy go lucky breeze of Coronado Island stopped to listen to history in the making. Confusion began to flutter Maeve’s long black eyelashes. He lips stopped quivering.

“Anyway dearie it was us two sisters against all those terrible army brats.” Roxanne took her “sister” by the hand and interlaced their fingers. “and that awful Mrs. Bellinger, Mrs. Ding-a-ling wouldn’t even let us sit together. Remember how you had to go to the front of the classroom when you needed more wide-lined writing paper?”

As she spoke Roxanne began to nod . Maeve numbly mimicked her.
“You probably don’ remember this.”

She continued sweetly and firmly. Madam Stan Scamander could be and was often a force of nature. Today was one of those days. Her step-daughters now received the runt of her ample charms and deep-sea gaze..

“ I went up to get a sheet of paper. When I turned around you were coming up to get one, dearie. So, I wanted to hand it to you…” Roxanne’s bejeweled right hand hung in the air between them; index and middle finger extended, spread and horizontal, thumb pressed against them. “and when I did my finger twisted and there were two sheets of paper there. “

Roxanne chuckled. Maeve lifted her jaw and joined in. Her tears now dried.

“As we were laughing about this, a very suave Hispanic boy came up for a sheet too. I don’t know now what we thought suave meant in the second grade, but you said it a lot dearie! “

Maeve marveled at the blush rising to her cheeks.

“Any way dearie, when I went to offer the sheet to you and him, my fingers twisted again and there were three!”

Everyone around the pool laughed, including the wind whose voice was provided by the seashell wind chimes as the breeze moved on his way.

“Do you remember that sis?”

Roxanne had just offered Maeve everything her money had never been able to buy her; memoires of a handsome proud father, a graceful overly protective mother and a childhood! Roxanne was offering to share memories of getting her pony tail pulled on the play ground, frilly holiday dresses, the two of them play with Barbie dolls, slumber parties, the first dance their dad let them go to and with a little nudging Roxanne might even reveal the teenage rush Maeve never knew.

Of course, she answered, “Yes! But the main thing I remember about Japan…” Maeve turned her face to the ocean borne breeze to dry her new born tears; tears of joy. “ is that the weather is perfect.” She finished by squeezing her sister’s hand .

Roxanne squeezed back.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

M&R: Quiet, Distant Things

Maeve appeared out of nowhere. Her delicate long snow-white fingers of her right bejeweled hand held a small plate of lefse and krumkake from the nearby picnic table. Her left hand held a long stem wine glass half full of red. She laid them quietly on the park bench next to Roxanne.

Roxanne held the youngest of their grandchildren in her lap. Norwegian Independence day celebrations even amongst the white blossoms of the Black Cherries of Central Park were a little too rowdy for slumbering tots. She sat upright on the bench, knees together, and eyes intently on the little one. She held the child with her left hand cupped underneath the head pinning the tiny ears in a vise like grip.

Maeve chuckled at her “sister”. As many children, grandchildren as they’d raised together, and Roxanne still looked like she feared dropping one of the little darlings. Maeve laid a gentle hand on the padded shoulders of Roxanne’s bunad.

Trying to imitate her husband’s voice, Maeve said, as she’d seen and heard her husband say to Roxanne a thousand times in this situation. “Relax.”

Roxanne’s shoulder’s fell. She tossed an appreciative glance towards Maeve. A smile came to her face. Her cheeks grew rosy; she turned the sleeping toddler in her arms and settled back in her woolen vest against the wooden bench. As Maeve slipped away to tend to the older children still eating tea sandwiches and chowder, Roxanne began thinking about quiet distant things to calm herself and the grandchild.

Across the park the cupola of one of the follies shined with a bronze hue. She chuckled to herself thinking about her first husband. Rex was such a force of nature; straw-colored hair, a wrestler’s body, a perpetual grin and endless energy. She sighed in remembrance of their carefree youthful marriage. He’d suggested late one night that they go camping. She pointed out he had to be a work the next day. He answer was, “We’ll take an alarm clock.” Sleeping bags in tow they drove his little car to the top of a pyramid-shaped “cinder cone” east of town. In the dim headlights she made out the sensuous form of an ancient windswept bristlecone pine where the firebreak stopped. It alone had managed to survive atop this shifting pile of pumice since the end of volcanic activity four hundred years before. Roxanne recalled hesitating at that moment. Now, she smiled at herself for the delicious night’s sleep that followed. While Rex laid out the sleeping bags, Roxanne braided her wild flaming hair and wrapped it in a stocking cap. Roxanne sang the praises of the brilliant stars above, as Roxanne snuggled into her bag. The soft rusty pumice pebbles, conformed to her shape and eased her towards sleep. Not a breathe of air moved the brilliant celestial lights.

She woke to soft crunching noises as her husband moved. He’d brought Danishes and pints of half-n-half for them to breakfast on. He wished his bride “Good morning, sleepy-head” and returned to gazing towards the East. Roxanne remembered rising from the soft cinders to see what her beloved stared at so seriously. She gasped then, and now Roxanne chuckled softly in warm memory of the moment. Before her emerald eyes laid the graceful “dawn” before the dawn in all its panoramic glory. A thousand feet below her, the Colorado Plateau rolled eastern, swallowing up small cinder cones, racing across the arroyos forming Walnut Creek, gobbling up lesser ridgelines, rushing across the Painted Desert and merging on the horizon with the Navajo Reservation. A cloudless sky the dim color of morning fog veiled the line between the world below and world above. Her husband whispered something about “streaks” as though not to spook them and after a moment she would see the bronze hue rising; gloriously streaming to heaven afar. She followed them heavenwards only to be unable to see them; the Milky Way blazed still above them. A gasp started out of her. Returning to the horizon the metallic light was almost too bright. The proverbial rosy fingers of the dawn rose in great shafts across the horizon to signal the stars departure. Distant ground fog formed. The brighten light revealed the hidden inversion layers among the canyon. The desert breeze began to move about slowly as though still stiff from a sound sleep. Radiant beams burst through the horizon onto her face. Roxanne gasped.

At that moment Roxanne took in a deep breathe of the chill morning air and found herself back on a park bench with the baby asleep in her arms. She smiled at the delightful old memory.

Across the way, Maeve and the little girls (in the glacial blue bunards of Alaska’s Little Norway) were putting away the picnic. The little boys waving miniature Norwegian flags in the air insisted their grandfathers take them swimming.

Roxanne laughed at the thought of sleeping bags. She hadn’t slept in a sleeping bag since God only knows when! When she turned 29 for the 11th time, she announced that they would be no more sleeping in the dirt! Except for that time at the cabin. Now,a gentler softer smile graced her rosy face. Their men folk at the deer camp awoke them in the middle of the night. “Leonid Showers!” her brother-in-law whispers over the satellite phone as though he hadn’t wakened all the adults in the house. Her grown stepdaughters were relieved that it wasn’t bad news and excited about seeing the meteorites showers. Maeve volunteered to stay behind with the youngest children who’d stayed asleep through the general alarm anyway. Roxanne and her stepdaughters gathered up all the older girls, sleeping bags and blankets they could.

Accompanied by the family’s dark-furred, sharp-fanged Jake and Gizmo, she led them all down to the bank of the Stikine River and settled into the dry river-washed sand above the high-tide mark. Roxanne smiled in delight at the memory; the young women and their daughters oohed and aahed at the passing of each ephemeral streak in the Alaska’s star-studded sky. She recalled with a heave of her ample chest how her darling little granddaughters had gathered around her, in her lap and under her blankets to guard against the chill. Each had to outdo the other’s in pointing out the fast-moving stars. “Grandmother look!” “Over her too grandmother”. “Aunt Roxanne, look here.” Now on the park bench she felt warmed by the cool memories. (Maeve always says she is the single most adorned person in their broad extended family.)

Naturally, Maeve’s (secret) favorite granddaughter got them all to notice the starlight dancing atop the overhead glaciers. Agatha convinced everyone to lie in the soft sand and wait. After a few moments of quiet, the stars seemed to grow brighter. When the little girls fingers were no longer tracing the falling stars from the sky, it get their eyes a chance to see the finer bits of light falling by the thousands over their heads of the bevy to dark-haired little girls. All was calm, all was bright.
With warm little children in her arms under the pile of blankets, they were all soon fast asleep.

Little Gizmo, wagging her whole moppish body, licked Roxanne awake shortly after that. With children in their arms, the women returned to their “girls-only slumber party” in the cabin. Still sleepy and fretting over her granddaughters, Roxanne never noticed the absence of Gizmo’s big, drooling mate. It wasn’t until the next morning when they found the paw prints in the dew-drenched sand, did they realize Jake had been keeping the bears at bay.

Roxanne turned her body a little to keep the slumbering tot from the sun and brushed back a black lock of his stray hair. “Holy infant so tender and mild.” She more whispered that sang. Then laughed and admitted to herself that she was no round young virgin!

She thought fondly of Maeve’s love of the Christmas Eve service at the Lutheran Church. They always arrived as early so the whole clan would sit together in the balcony. It was warmest there, what with the heavily bundled crowd below and the heat from the candles decorating the church. Roxanne chuckled again. Heat was an important considerations given that the furnace had failed twice in her memory during that service. (Once was a power failure.) As the little children tottered between sleep and excitement about Santa’s visit, their parent and grandparents watched the pews below become packed with women in bunards worn only for high holidays at church and the week-long festivities during Little Norway Days. The men all wore Norwegian sweaters with the exception of Maeve and Roxanne’s family. All their men wore three piece wool suits.

Two enormous trees flanked the altar, one dressed in ornamental balls of red ribbon, the other done up in white Christmas tree decorations. Twinkling lights peeked out from the foliage of both trees. Fresh cut spruce bows decorated the window sills (cedar was too rare and hemlock shed needles too quickly). Amongst them stood candles in tall glasses lighting the holy silent night outside with love’s pure light. Most years the ushers and “owners of the church” brought folding chairs out of the fellowship hall to seat the overflowing crowd. The congregation seemed more subdued, if not actually louder than normal, but that was probably due to its size. Pastor would be somber and nervous. Here was one of his twice a year chances to convert the heathens (husbands) accompanying their families. The service was all about shepherds quaking at the sight, Christmas carols and peace on earth. As the overhead lights began to dim, the acolytes lit their own candles from the “Jesus Candle” before the festive altar. Pacing with practiced steps down the aisle, they would share the holy flame with worshipers on either side. They in turned passed it on to those beside them. His light and warmth spread through the church. A silence full of awe fell upon the worshippers as they began to sing softy and sweetly of a silent night, holy night, … “Sleep in heavenly peace”, heavenly hosts and “Jesus, Lord at Thy birth " They were in the presence of the Almighty. That blessed assurance stayed with Roxanne and her family as they blew a kiss that darkened their candles as they filed out of the nave. In addition, on a rare occasion, on the holiest night of the year, fresh flakes of snow would be falling as they exited.

Something soft and silky slipped down the back of her neck. A cold chill ran down her body. If it weren’t for the sleeping babe in her arms, Roxanne would have jumped up screaming. She looked up to see the cherry blossoms floating earthward like new falling snow.

Monday, September 27, 2010

M&R: You, His Family.

Though sitting in first class, Caroline and her escort deplaned last.

She’d sent word to her boyfriend that her hair was black now. She couldn’t bring herself to tell Paul about how the ordeal of the last few months aged her. Nor about the scars. Nor about the limp. What remained of the woman separated from her true love for so long was her 5 feet eleven inches of confidence and nervous excitement, a fine figure, long hair no longer dyed blonde and her love of the man who had moved Heaven and earth to get her back.

Federal agents met her in the corridor before the gate. Her escort with hand on his gun took extreme caution in identifying them before relinquishing Caroline to their care.

“Missy, I don’t know who you are, but your fiancĂ©e must have some serious political clout. We’ve turned everyone out of the terminal except for him and a few others.”

Caroline’s nervous excitement turned to joyous tears.

“What? No, he’s teaches classical studies at a junior college. I‘m an archaeologist. We aren‘t anyone.”

But, apparently Paul Lusigan was more than just a classicist. Caroline remembered that Paul was tall, but she never saw him wear his 6’2” so well. He wore a military uniform, a National Guard dress uniform she’d discover like his brothers. His salt and pepper hair now seemed mostly gray. Caroline gasped at how distinguished he looked. She glanced at his dimpled chin, expecting to see him biting his lip or smiling his slim smile. Instead, his grin was toothy. He was tan! He looked grayer because his hair was sun streaked. He was broader across the chest than she remembered. She failed to notice the pistol on his hip.

Caroline abandoned her escort. They peered around skittishly. She skipped into Paul’s arms to hide her limp. She laughed nervously, tears raced down her unkempt face. He returned her hug. When he went to kiss her blistered lips she wouldn’t let him go.

“You shouldn’t have done this. Now, they know who you are.” Caroline whispered glancing nervously about.

Paul smiled sweetly. “Yeah, it’s time they knew who you are.” Stepping aside, he continued, “Let me introduce my grandmother Maeve Lusigan Sienna and my Great Aunt Roxanne Scamander. Ladies, I’d like to introduce Caroline Hale the woman who with your blessing I will marry.””

“Oh dearie!” Roxanne screamed and shuffled forward to hug her new granddaughter-in-law.

The younger woman took a startled step back and then rushed into Roxanne’s big bosomed embrace. Her pale drawn complexion turned red. Her tears flowed harder and sobs broke from her shallow chest. “There, there dearie. You are safe now.”

Caroline rested comfortable in the older woman’s arms for sometime before fighting back her sobs. Sniffling back her tears she apologized to “Madam Sienna” over Roxanne’s broad shoulders.

The grave dark haired woman stood at a distance. Her narrow eyes, glanced around the room predatorily both hands holding onto a tan leather bag, easily large enough to carry her gun. She waved away the apology with a black gloved hand. “Call me Grandmother. I keep hoping one of my granddaughters-in-laws will. “

“It’s not got going to happen.” the redhead giggled into Caroline’s ear.

“I’ll leave you three alone for a minute and go calm my brothers down. They are dying to meet you." Paul said.

“Everyone wanted to meet you, dearie! We will take it slow." Roxanne gushed in way of an explanation.

Caroline watched Paul stroll over to his “brothers” who huddled giddily on the other side of the terminal. One threw a false punch, while the other began to tease him about his “gorgeous girlfriend.” She laughed and then turned to the older women. “How can I ever thank you?”

“When Paul and his older brother Deuce came to me all teary eyed, I was happy to help save the woman he loved.” Maeve pulled off a glove and a glacial white hand reached out to comfort the trembling girl still tucked in Roxanne’s left arm.

“How did you get me out of there?”

“We know people, dearie.” Roxanne told her with a wrinkle of her nose and a little squeeze on the girl’s shoulder.

“But, the government said they wouldn’t negotiate with terrorists. Did you pay a ransom?”

“Let’s just say, we negotiated.“ Maeve said rolling her black eyes as she preened her long blood-red nails. Her tongue poked mischievously around the inside of her mouth.

Caroline looked across the hallway, Paul gruffly got his brothers and cousins organized and quieted down. Her lower lip trembled a little. “I almost don’t recognize him.”

“He’s changed.” Maeve sighed pleasantly. “ It’s not that he didn’t love us or we him. He was just different from us. But, since you disappeared he’s rejoined us with a vengeance, he spends all his time with us. Deuce says, Paul never knew how much he needed family until he almost lost you, his family.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

M&R: A Rose by Any Other Name…

A couple of icebergs recently calved from the glacier to the east, dotted the south end of the sound. Here in the little bay were the city park lay the green water was calm. The sand was white and the spruces lining the south and north sides tall and dark. Towering over the whole scene was Devil’s Thumb and the Coastal Range of Southeast Alaska

“Shep gets so silly." Roxanne laughed

Maeve’s handsome big shouldered brunette son entertained his equippiers with a story punctuated by the vigorous shaking of his hands, the rattling of his head, swaying of his torso, pumping of his legs and the squirming of his bare feet in the white sand. He wore a light blue ribbon pinned to his light short sleeve shirt. Naturally his brothers chose the same sort of ribbon. His blonde brother Nome leaned back and let out a howl in appreciation of the story.

Beyond them at the water’s edge their children played and waded. One of the littler boys found a stick, waved it over his head while calling for the family pets. Big friendly Jake raced that way with big ears flopping and tail wagging. The stick flew through the autumn air and splashed into the still water. Gizmo chased after her mate, but her shorter legs put her at a disadvantage. She slipped behind Shep just as he leaned back to howl himself, stumbled a little and tripped over her. He fell on this back and butt in the damp white sand. Then a shower of wine rained down upon him from the glass he’d held at the time. Shep was the first person in the family to laugh. His brothers good naturedly pulled him back to his feet.

His, father John A. Sienna and Uncle Stan X. Scamander rushed over to roughly check on him. His father had chosen a light blue ribbon, hence his sons’ choices. Stan to make it fair picked pink. Consequently, Stan’s daughters chose pink.

Maeve smiled with delight; because Roxanne laughed so hard her rosy features were now red. Roxanne always worried so much when the little ones played near the water, regardless of how much Maeve assured her everything would be fine.

“Oh how awful!” her sister-in-law gasped between guffaws with tears running down her face. “Shep could have been hurt!” At which point Roxanne’s buxom son-in-law repeated the pratfall for those that had missed it. Maeve thought Roxanne would fall over she was laughing so hard. A couple of the men did. “Well!” Roxanne sniffled, and then smiled foolishly at her best friend. “Let’s go see what names people have suggested.”

Big ruddy Roxanne wore a blue ribbon because she just knew her step-daughter really wanted a boy. Maeve understandably wore neither upon the white blouse that looked so unnatural on her. But wearing white on picnics was a Sienna family tradition.

“Let’s see,” Roxanne said looking at the suggested “Boy” name penciled up on the poster inside the pavilion. “John, Jack, Jon, Zane, Ian, Johann, Jean, Renaker Duvall…” She turned her coppery crowned head to look at her sister-in-law with a questioning glance.

“Well it’s different.” Maeve suggested weakly. She’d gotten one of the grandchildren to print it for her.

“We haven’t had a Johnny in a while.” Roxanne pointed out as she wrote it on the list.

The next poster on the wall was an enlarged photograph of Shep with a tiny baby. The caption underneath said. “Our bundle of joy came early!” Both women laughed at the joke.

“I sure fell for it!” Roxanne admitted with a chuckle.

“I know.” Maeve reminded her. “I was the one you were screaming at when you got the email.”

“You screamed when I read it to you.” Roxanne retorted with another chuckle and pleased smile.

“True.” Maeve admitted. The blush that rose to her cheeks produced a pleasant pinkness like the affect that red algae has on the pools of liquid ice during the spring high in the ice fields of Alaska. “My husband knew immediately that it was Nome with his hair dyed brown, holding one of his own children for the gag!”

On the “Girl’s” list it was, “Agatha, Angie, Agnes, Agave, Ness, Inez, Augusta, Aggie and Princess Xenia …” the last in the same hand as Renaker Duval. Roxanne smiled and penciled in Agatha again because she thought Maeve liked the name or maybe she thought that contrary to family impression, little Agatha was Maeve’s favorite granddaughter. Next stop was the weight/height pool. Most of the family bet for large and long.

“Any suggestions?” Roxanne asked as she pulled a couple of bills from her large leather handbag.

Several of their adult children and grandchildren paused to hear the response. Maeve just smiled and gave her best friend a wink. Roxanne laughed as she selected a leaner child. They both turned then to look towards the beach. They smiled at everyone else’s inquisitiveness. Smiles framed by bright red lips still livened their fair faces as they turned to watch the children play and admire the incredible skyline. Shep, the father to be at any moment, saw his mother and mother-in-law smiling at him. He adored his mother. Everyone adored his mother-in-law Roxanne. His giddiness might be attributed to the wine on an empty stomach, but everyone who knew Shep knew it was just excitement about the baby, delight in being around the whole family and love for his very pregnant wife. With his usual wide toothy grin he strutted over to the two best friends his broad shoulders sway with each step. His blonde brother’s fond gaze followed him.

“Hi mom.” He announced to everyone with a big beaming smile.

He grabbed Maeve up in his muscular hairy arms crushing her crisp unwrinkled blouse and lifted her off her feet and kissed her squarely on her blood red lips. She pretended to hate that, much to everyone else’s delight. Roxanne hugged her son-in-law with just as much as enthusiasm and left heavy lipstick on his cheek.

“What was that for?” Maeve asked as she shook her straight black hair into place and whipped the tears of laughter from her glacial cheeks.

“I just wanted to give you a kiss and tell you both how wonderful you are.” Maeve black eyes and her best friend’s green ones glanced towards Shep’s father to see if he’d instigated this as he often did when the boys were little. Their suspicion didn’t faze the handsome young man at all. “You are wonderful grandmothers to our children and wonderful mothers to all of us.” He said with a wave of his palm up open hand that indicated his wife, brothers, and sister-in-laws. Then he simple stood smiling. “Mom, my wife and I” he glanced into the interior of the pavilion where Roxanne’s very pregnant stepdaughter sat. She pulled her sisters closer in around her. Shep’s brother stepped up behind him and laid a hairy hand on his shoulder for moral support. Shep’s broad shoulder visibly fell in relief. He started again softy, “We are thinking about not using family names for the baby. Would dad be disappointed? ” He bite his lower lip and stepped back into his brothers arms.

Maeve and Roxanne exchanged a pleasant look. The red-head nodded for black haired Maeve to proceed. “I know your father would like that idea. “

“Really!” Shep gasped with a drop of his jaw and a stumble backward, so his blonde brother actually had to hold him up.

“Yes, dear!”

The two brothers nodded reassurances to their wives and after kissing their mother and mother-in-law again hurried off to them

“Okay everyone.” Roxanne announced loudly. “Maeve is going to scry the sex of the baby. “

Roxanne and her step-daughters gathered up blankets and their bed folks helped the lady of the hour to lay down in comfort.

“Dearie, Maeve will need your wedding band.”

Maeve pulled a length of tread from her bag. With Roxanne’s aid she secured the ring to it.

Maeve stretched her arm over her daughter-in-law and started the ring moving in a circle above the younger woman. The extended family gathered around and once they all quieted down, Maeve explained that if the ring started swinging lengthwise it would be a boy, crosswise a girl. From the corner of her dark eyes she could see money being pulled out of wallets. A breeze blew in from the glacier opposite the park. But the day remained warm and the crowd hot with excitement. The breeze elongated the circling ring long ways; a mumble came from the crowd. The breeze eventually led the ring to swing back and forth from head to toe. Cries of “A boy!”, “A boy!” erupted from the kinfolk. Money exchanged hands.

“Wait!” she called pleasantly

The pendulum began to make smaller sweeps and elongated crosswise, until it was moving from one hip to the other. Some suggested it didn’t work. Everyone was looking at the family matriarch when she looked up from her work.

“Sure it worked. Twins, one of each.”

Everyone one screamed. Cries of “What are their names? What are their names?”

Shep joyously helped his wife up. Nome came to his side.

“Augustus and Joanna”

The crowd gasped. Repeating the names to themselves and those around them. Then the laughter and applause began. John A. Sienna beamed.

Monday, September 6, 2010

TLtS: My Beloved Turned Away

I recently read Geoffrey Dennis’ moving essay A Song of Desire (Parabola Fall 2010). Dennis suggests, “Creation is one great ballad of longing and God is the One who sings they lyric in endless variations.” He goes on to point out that His famous question in the garden “Where are you?” is not the rhetorically question of a parent who knows perfectly well what is his wayward children are up too. Rather it is in the second person singular. It is the plaintive plea of a lover who knows that the “one” is avoiding him. Somewhere, someone said that God created the universe in answer to the prayers of the unmanifest. What if Dennis is right? God created us to fill a hole in His heart. Repeatedly the Bible talks of the Almighty’s love for us, His heartbreak and anger when we turn away and His jealousy. Jealousy? Not the sign of paternal love, but rather of a heartbroken lover. And yet time and time again God forgives, God cannot resist forgive us. We are His addiction.

As of late I know this loneliness, this ache, a good friend has turned away from me. I know heartbreak and the desire to forgive. I know the frustration of trying and hoping for friendship. But, I have acquaintances and a family. How much more so must be the anguish of the Almighty who has sacrificed His only Son for our love.

Of course, Dennis references the Song of Solomon; an allegory for God’s love for us.

Let me see your form
Let me hear your voice;
For your voice is sweet,
And your form is lovely


These words might be mistaken for the words of a loving Father, but surely, the conversation about “twin fawns” would convince anyone the “Groom” is a lover not a father.

And once more the plaintive cry “But my beloved had turned away and had gone!”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

M&R: A Rose by Any Other Name…

A couple of icebergs recently calved from the glacier to the east, dotted the south end of the sound. Here in the little bay where the city park lay the green water was calm. The sand was white and the spruces lining the south and north sides tall and dark. Towering over the whole scene was Devil’s Thumb and the Coastal Range of Southeast Alaska

“Shep gets so silly.’ Roxanne laughed

Maeve’s handsome big-shouldered brunette son entertained his equippiers with a story punctuated by the vigorous shaking of his hands, the rattling of his head, swaying of his torso, pumping of his legs and the squirming of his bare feet in the white sand. He wore a light blue ribbon pinned to his light short sleeve shirt. Naturally his brothers chose the same sort of ribbon. His blonde brother Nome leaned back and let out a howl in appreciation of the story.

Beyond them at the water’s edge their children played and waded. One of the littler boys found a stick, waved it over his head while calling for the family pets. Big friendly Jake raced that way with big ears flopping and tail wagging. The stick flew through the autumn air and splashed into the still water. Gizmo chased after her mate, but her shorter legs put her at a disadvantage. She slipped behind Shep just as he leaned back to howl himself, stumbled a little and tripped over her. He fell on this back and butt in the damp white sand. Then a shower of wine rained down upon him from the glass he’d held at the time. Shep was the first person in the family to laugh.
His brothers good naturedly pulled him back to his feet. His, father John A. Sienna and Uncle Stan X. Scamander rushed over to roughly check on him. His father had chosen a light blue ribbon, hence his sons’ choices. Stan to make it fair picked pink. Consequently, Stan’s daughters chose pink.

Maeve smiled with delight; because Roxanne laughed so hard her rosy features were now red. Roxanne always worried so much when the little ones played near the water, regardless of how much Maeve assured her everything would be fine.

“Oh how awful!” her sister-in-law gasped between guffaws with tears running down her face. “Shep could have been hurt!” At which point Roxanne’s buxom son-in-law repeated the pratfall for those that had missed it. Maeve thought Roxanne would fall over she was laughing so hard. A couple of the men did. “Well!” Roxanne sniffled, and then smiled foolishly at her best friend. “Let’s go see what names people have suggested.”

Big ruddy Roxanne wore a blue ribbon because she just knew her step-daughter really wanted a boy. Maeve understandably wore neither upon the white blouse that looked so unnatural on her. But wearing white on picnics was a Seinna family tradition.

“Let’s see,” Roxanne said looking at the suggested “Boy” name penciled up on the poster inside the pavilion. “John, Jack, Jon, Zane, Ian, Johann, Jean, Renaker Duvall…” She turned her coppery crowned head to look at her sister-in-law with a questioning glance.

“Well it’s different.” Maeve suggested weakly. She’d gotten one of the grandchildren to print it for her.

“We haven’t had a Johnny in a while.” Roxanne pointed out as she wrote it on the list.
The next poster on the wall was an enlarged photograph of Shep with a tiny baby. The caption underneath said. “Our bundle of joy came early!” Both women laughed at the joke.

“I sure fell for it!” Roxanne admitted with a chuckle.

“I know.” Maeve reminded her. “I was the one you were screaming at when you got the email.”

“You screamed when I read it to you.” Roxanne retorted with another chuckle and pleased smile.

“True.” Maeve admitted. The blush that rose to her cheeks produced a pleasant pinkness like the affect that red algae has on the pools of liquid ice during the spring high in the ice fields of Alaska. “My husband knew immediately that it was Nome with his hair dyed brown, holding one of his own children for the gag!”

On the “Girl’s” list it was, “Agatha, Angie, Agnes, Agave, Ness, Inez, Augusta, Aggie and Princess Xenia …” the last in the same hand as Renaker Duval. Roxanne smiled and penciled in Agatha again because she thought Maeve liked the name or maybe she thought that contrary to family impression, little Agatha was Maeve’s favorite granddaughter. Next stop was the weight/height pool. Most of the family bet for large and long.

“Any suggestions?” Roxanne asked as she pulled a couple of bills from her large leather handbag.
Several of their adult children and grandchildren paused to hear the response. Maeve just smiled and gave her best friend a wink. Roxanne laughed as she selected a leaner child. They both turned then to look towards the beach. They smiled at everyone else’s inquisitiveness. Smiles framed by bright red lips still livened their fair faces as they turned to watch the children play and admire the incredible skyline. Shep, the father to be at any moment, saw his mother and mother-in-law smiling at him. He adored his mother. Everyone adored his mother-in-law Roxanne. His giddiness might be attributed to the wine on an empty stomach, but everyone who knew Shep knew it was just excitement about the baby, delight in being around the whole family and love for his very pregnant wife. With his usual wide toothy grin he strutted over to the two best friends his; broad shoulders sway with each step. His blonde brother’s fond gaze followed him.

“Hi mom.” He announced to everyone with a big beaming smile.

He grabbed Maeve up in his muscular hairy arms crushing her crisp unwrinkled blouse and lifted her off her feet and kissed her squarely on her blood red lips. She pretended to hate that, much to everyone else’s delight. Roxanne hugged her son-in-law with just as much as enthusiasm and left heavy lipstick on his cheek.

“What was that for?” Maeve asked as she shook her straight black hair into place and whipped the tears of laughter from her glacial cheeks.

“I just wanted to give you a kiss and tell you both how wonderful you are.”

Maeve black eyes and her best friend’s green ones glanced towards Shep’s father to see if he’d instigated this as he often did when the boys were little. Their suspicion didn’t faze the handsome young man at all.

“You are wonderful grandmothers to our children and wonderful mothers to all of us.” He said with a wave of his palm up open hand that indicated his wife, brothers, and sister-in-laws. Then he simple stood smiling. “Mom, my wife and I” he glanced into the interior of the pavilion where Roxanne’s very pregnant stepdaughter sat. She pulled her sisters closer in around her. Shep’s brother Nome stepped up behind him and laid a hairy hand on his shoulder for moral support. Shep’s broad shoulder visibly fell in relief. He started again softy, “We are thinking about not using family names for the baby. Would dad be disappointed? ” He bite his lower lip and stepped back into his brother's arms.

Maeve and Roxanne exchanged a pleasant look. The red-head nodded for black haired Maeve to proceed. “I know your father would like that idea. “

“Really!” Shep gasped with a drop of his jaw and a stumble backward, so his blonde brother actually had to hold him up.

“Yes, dear!”

The two brothers nodded reassurances to their wives and after kissing their mother and mother-in-law again hurried off to them

“Okay everyone.” Roxanne announced loudly. “Maeve is going to scry the sex of the baby.“

Roxanne and her step-daughters gathered up blankets and their bed folks helped the lady of the hour to lay down in comfort.

“Dearie, Maeve will need your wedding band.”

Maeve pulled a length of tread from her bag. With Roxanne’s aid she secured the ring to it.
Maeve stretched her arm over her daughter-in-law and started the ring moving in a circle above the younger woman. The extended family gathered around and once they all quieted down, Maeve explained that if the ring started swinging lengthwise it would be a boy, crosswise a girl. From the corner of her dark eyes she could see money being pulled out of wallets. A breeze blew in from the glacier opposite the park. But the day remained warm and the crowd hot with excitement. The breeze elongated the circling ring long ways; a mumble came from the crowd. The breeze eventually led the ring to swing back and forth from head to toe. Cries of “A boy!”, “A boy!” erupted from the kinfolk. Money exchanged hands.

“Wait!” she called pleasantly

The pendulum began to make smaller sweeps and elongated crosswise, until it was moving from one hip to the other. Some suggested it didn’t work. Everyone was looking at the family matriarch when she looked up from her work.

“Sure it worked. Twins, one of each.”

Everyone one screamed. Then some cried “What are their names? What are their names?”

Shep joyously helped his wife up. Nome came to his side. “Augustus and Joanna”

The crowd gasped. Repeating the names to themselves and those around them. Then the laughter and applause began.

Shep's father, John A. Seinna beamed.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

M&R; Too Much in Common

Roxanne’s step-daughters adored her.

Even though she’d come into their lives as grown women, she was really, the only mother they’d ever known. It’s not that they “came out of their shells” when she married their bachelor father, it was more like Venus on the half-shell stepping ashore in Botticelli’s painting. It’s not that she bought them flattering fancy clothes; it’s that she taught her daughters how to wear them. It’s not that they weren’t beautiful, it’s just under her practiced hand with lipstick and brush, they became breathing taking. It’s not that they couldn’t get good husbands, but rather she got them the best husbands. They held their breathes to hear her every bit of kindly advice and gentle witt. They mimicked her infectious smile, the laughing shake of her luxurious red locks, and the touch of the free, bejeweled hand as lay top the shining fabric veiling her thigh.

Roxanne paused mid-step. She could hear the tumult of the charge as they came down the hallway towards her. She could hear the “cluck” of their heels, the laughter and excitement in their shrill voices, the gurgles of the toddler or two on their hips and the baby talk they whispered aside to Roxanne’s darling little grandchildren. Even through all that joyous noise, Roxanne could hear, or rather knew she should be able to hear the steady crack of Maeve’s high heels on the marble floor behind the young women. Roxanne’s knew her sister-in-law's stride would be different, more steadfast and tiger like. He daughters blew into the room dressed in pastel yellow, orange and red like autumn leaves before a winter’s blast.

“We want to hear about your fourth husband!”

Roxanne burst out laughing! Her cascading coppery locks shook with her loud laughter. There was no subterfuge in their cheery request, no accusation of keeping something from them, no shock that their father was actually number five, just delight in an exciting new story to hear and to share with the woman they loved best in the world.

“Actually,” said Maeve in a soft tender voice. “we’d like to hear about all your husbands.” She made the request with her head bent forward and shoulders slightly rounded. Night black hair framed her fair features. The smile was hopefully. Her dark, flashing eyes gazed up at her best friend.

“Yes.” “Yes.” “What “Aunty” Maeve said, All of them.”

A little shaken and flustered, Roxanne glanced from one beaming face to the next and then to the next. When she glanced, again at Maeve she got an encouraging little nod. “Okay, then.” she started with a light clap of her palms. “Let’s all sit.” Once they all complied and the little ones settled into their mother’s laps, Roxanne wrapped her right arm across her body, just below her ample breasts, braced her left elbow in her right hand and stroked her blushing chin with her left hand. “My first husband was a tall drink of water with brown hair. Taller than me, which is pretty tall.” She emphasized the statement by hefting the coppery crown of hair on her head and straightening her broad shoulders. “His only fault was that he was young. He hadn’t filled out yet nor acquired a man’s features and frame. But, I’m sure time tended to that nicely.” She bit her lip to suppress the smile that surprised her and for a moment, her green eyes gazed far off. “We were young and in love.”

Her daughters sighed softly and continued to smile at their mother.

“He’s the one that taught me to laugh out loud. I was shy back then.

“What?” “No way.” “Aunty Maeve?”

Maeve could only shrug her dark clothed shoulders. Like them, she had only met Roxanne late in life.

Roxanne giggled to herself, turning as she did, making a show of throwing her chin up in delight. “Believe it or not. I was shy.” She brought her chin down, so she could glance across her shoulder at the younger women. “But I got over that.” She winked as she said the last.

“And were you skinner then?”

“Oh, dearie, I was never skinny.” She reminded her sister-in-law by glancing down at her chest. “Well, maybe around this waist, but I always had this fine round ass.” Everyone laughed as she slapped her hips with her hands of many rings. She glanced at the Persian rug beneath their heels before continuing. “Of course you all know, we lost our second child; a girl. That was our undoing. I, sometimes-”
“What about the fourth husband?” Maeve interrupted sounding a little irritated.
Roxanne laughed in relief and shook an index finger at Maeve. “I’ll get to him. He was religious you know. We had nothing in common. He got the call and went back to the church. We use to call him “Father What-a-waste”. I think he’s the current Pope.”

“Mom!” “Aunty Maeve make her stop.” “Oh, please!”

“Where was I?” Roxanne asked impishly, a perfectly manicured finger lying across her red lips.

“Second husband, and you weren’t married to Father Mike.”

“My second husband was a big guy, dark haired, swarthy, and hairy. He was a military man. He was really passionate and manly. The only problem was when our son reached eleven, family tradition dictated he should go to military school. I just couldn’t bare…” a tremble had entered her voice. Her emerald eye began to water. “ Couldn’t bare to lose another child… I ran with the boy.”

“What about the fourth husband?” Maeve asked again.

Roxanne shivered with the interruption. She breathed slowly and steadily to fight back the emotion. She smiled weakly at her audience. “ I’ll get to him. He was religious you know. We had nothing in common. His brother, also a rabbi died, so we had to annul our marriage so he could marry his sister-in-law. Levirate marriage, you know?” Her daughters shook their heads because they had no idea what she was talking about that. “Aunty” Maeve shook her head with a scowl, clearly letting them know that wasn’t true. “Where was I?” Roxanne asked sitting up a little straighter.

“Third husband.”

“A family friend, I remember him as being rather hunky when I was a child. He was white haired when we married. He helped me out of a jam. We intended to divorce after my second husband settled down. But, he passed away before we could…”

“Which brings us to the fourth husband?” Maeve chimed in.

“I’ll get to him. He was religious, you know. Didn’t believe in pre-marital sex. We didn’t have much in common. Ends up he was gay!” No one even bothered responding to that one. “But, first let me tell you about meeting your father.”

“You can’t tell them that story.” Maeve pointed out, although by the snickers Maeve suscpiced the younger women already knew that story. Roxanne’s fifth husband had actually been naked when he and Roxanne first met. “So, tell us about the fourth husband.”

“He was the cutest thing on two feet. Everyone adored him. From the first moment I met him I thought I’d known him forever. He was a tall carrot top with a fine round ass.” She shared her memories with an embarrassed smile. Then continued as if by rout, “ He wasn’t very religious, you know. Ends up we had too much in common. Ends up he was already married.”

Her daughters glanced at one another confused by the lack of emotion.

“That was your father that was a bigamist with another family. ”

Roxanne blushed harder than anyone ever saw her blush before.