DIY FUD: more

I am Elwha, cat.

Day three of offerings. My Mother did not even take a picture of day two. I do not understand why she scorns my offerings. This is a precious mouse that I extracted from the Tower.

This was a difficult operation. I stood on the sheep that warms and carefully tried to remove the tangled mouse. Mother interfered a little, but at last I could jump down with it. And I have offered it in exchange for more food! This precious toy!

Many thanks to all who made suggestions the other day. I still do not understand how a sub would help, but I will watch for one. Perhaps if I continue to make offerings and observe, I will be able to communicate with Mother. She seems loving, even though she is also obtuse. I am still hungry and lose weight. I fear starvation. My sister laughs when I approach her, but she is smaller and does not have the same needs. Mother feeds us in separate rooms. It is frustrating.

In praise of stuff

A month ago my neighbor called. “Do you have a big canning pot?”

“Of course,” I say.

“Can we borrow it?”

“Of course.”

He came right over to get it. “The electricity was off for days at my cousin’s and all the berries thawed out in the freezer. Mom is going to make jam. Do you like jam?”

“Heck yeah!” I say.

The canner is way up on a high shelf. It has a tool to pick up jars too. “Do you need the lids?” I ask.

“No, we are good.”

I got the canner back a few days later with a beautiful jar of jam. Yum.

I am going against the fashion tide. My house is not spare and elegantly decorated. I joke that it is decorated in “Pack rat Cat lady”. I have two cats. My daughter wants me to not get ten or twelve. I don’t want ten or twelve either. Two is fine.

I have stuff. I have a house like my grandparents. Though really, I have less stuff than they did or than my parents did.

I loved my maternal grandparents house. It was an old farmhouse near Trumansburg, New York. My grandfather was a psychiatrist and professor at Cornell. The old farmhouse had a “newer” house built on, colonial style, in the 1860s. Fourteen foot ceilings and a fireplace in every room. There was a grand entrance with Corinthian columns that was almost never used. The hallway had a grand staircase and a spectacularly uncomfortable horsehair couch. My cousin always said she wanted it: I hope she got it. There was a back stairway as well, in the old house. The door from the newer house to the older one upstairs went into the attic, which was full of all sorts of mysterious old things. My sister and I were three years apart and had three other cousins between us and we all played for hours. We dressed up in my mother’s 1950s prom dresses and made fun of all of it. There was another attic, with a pull down ladder. I only got to go there a few times. I loved it. The back stairs were very narrow and twisty. The kitchen had huge cupboards made from old barn boards and with hand forged hardware. All the cupboards along one wall had doors in the kitchen and on the other side, in the dining room. That fascinated me too. There were two cellars as well. One larger one which once had a copperhead snake

 that my grandfather killed with a hoe, and a smaller one with a door flush in the floor. My grandparents had a wine cellar there and we were strictly not to go in there without an adult. There was a huge flagstone screen porch off the kitchen and dining room, with a table and chairs and a daybed. We practically lived there in the summers.

That house would be a nightmare to heat now. I love old houses, though. My house is from 1930 and really quite big. It is full of books and stuff, but my parents had a smaller house, a full two car garage with no cars, and two barns. I cleared that after my father died in 2013. Every time my daughter says I have too much stuff, I point out that I have gotten rid of a house full and two barns full. I am resting on my laurels for now.

My daughter gives me grief about the stuff, but she borrows too. She borrowed two sleeping bags for a trip when her brother helped drive her car because she had an injury. She borrowed “ugly mom shorts” for a summer job where the shorts had to be long. She tells me that she will get rid of it all when I die, but she has her eye on some things.

I am going against the tide. What is the idea behind having an empty looking house, a living room with a couch, two chairs, a rug and side table with a vase and possibly one book? Ugh. Not me. My living room must have at least 100 books on shelves along one wall. My mother was an artist and I am still trying to get her art out into the world. She was prolific. Watercolors, etchings, drawings, oil paintings and pottery too. My word.

I have a grandparent house. I have stuff and I know how to use it. I have books. I do look things up on the computer, but old books are amazing for understanding what people were thinking, what was acceptable, what discrimination would horrify us now, old recipes and photographs and children’s books. I am not an expert canner but I can make jam. I am a great knitter. I play guitar and flute.

I took care of a two year old neighbor about ten years ago, on and off. The first time he came to my house, I showed him the stick dragon, that would roar with flashing eyes, in one closet. He wanted the  door closed right away. But the next time he came, he went straight to that closet and pointed. “Do you want to see the stick dragon?” I asked. He nodded, very serious. I opened the door and we got the dragon to roar again. The grandparent house if full of mysterious things and old games and toys and grandparents who could possibly be witches or magical or grumpy some times.

My sister would get mad at my mother and say, “I’m going to run away and live with grandmother!” We stayed with my grandparents for a week while my parents were gone. By the end of the week, my sister threatened my grandmother, “I am going to run away to mom!”

My house is ready. Now I need a grandchild. For now, I borrow them, while I loan out the odd things that people no longer have in their spare and elegant houses.

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I don’t have a picture of my grandparent’s house with me today. However, this is a picture with me on the left and my sister and the maternal cousins. I do not know who took it. This was in the late 1960s.

Small cat

The kittens were new in 2021 and are so much bigger now. Elwha is the biggest cat I’ve ever had. Tiger face and shoulders. They were a bit malnourished when I got them and Elwha grow out rather than up at first. He was also very worried about food and ate very fast. It took a while for him to trust that more food would come. So far so good and he is much more mellow now.

And they both love to go outside on harness and leash. I have to take them one at a time, because I can’t effectively carry both if one of them freaks out. Elwha is much more likely to freak out than Sol Duc. The recycling truck is particularly scary. Also people, dogs and SUVs.

Early on, when everything was new, Elwha jumped into the bathtub and howled, because he landed in water. He had previously found it empty. I had to rescue him and he was very upset. He spent a full thirty minutes cleaning himself.

Very happy New Year’s Eve. Be careful out there and I hope the New Year brings joys. I am hoping that this will be our last really bad Covid-19 winter, though we may need to do yearly vaccines.

Here is a tea-cat, Hot Kitty, in a teapot that Helen Burling Ottaway made. She was my mother and the poem on the teapot is mine. You can read it here. We drank a lot of tea growing up.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: new.

Songs to raise girls: lullaby

Just you wait: new stories. We visited my Aunt Pat, Uncle Jimmy and Aunt Joan, all in their 80s. I want more stories!

My Aunt Pat and Uncle Jim were married for two weeks and then took a newborn home: me. My mother was in a tuberculosis hospital for active tuberculosis and could not be around me. I would be infected and die. So I went with my father, my aunt and uncle, my paternal grandparents and my great grandfather Malcolm Kenyon Ottaway and Florence Henderson Ottaway, who were visiting from Lincoln, England for two weeks. My father, aunt and uncle were all in college at the University of Tennessee. My aunt says it was rather chaos.

My great grandfather Mal would walk up and down singing this lullaby: “With her head tucked underneath her arm.” It’s about Anne Boleyn as a ghost after being beheaded, haunting the Tower of London. So this was one of my lullabies. Some of the songs to raise me were fairly peculiar choices. This might explain some things about me. My Aunt Pat says that Great Grandfather Mal said “‘ead tucked underneath ‘er arm”.

Here are the lyrics: https://genius.com/Stanley-holloway-with-her-head-tucked-under-her-arm-lyrics.

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: just.

The photograph is Aunt Pat and Aunt Joan playing four hands Christmas songs. YouTube sometimes does not approve of my music choices. After finding these four versions of “With Her Head Tucked Underneath Her Arm”, it plays this to try to mellow me out. Just stop that, YouTube.

Weight

Sorrow weights my chest like lead: breathing
is hard. Today I can cry for a minute or so
and then that is over. Sorrow teething
tearing at me from inside like a crow’s
beak sharp pointed poking grabbing tearing
winter break approaching everyone goes
insane buying drinking drugging bearing
the cost into the New Year deepening woes
I miss the dead: father sister mother
Read my mother’s journals when I am ten
She writes about art and us and other
friends dead. Her voice clear again.
My mother is my age when she dies.
Her younger voice: memory smiles and cries.

Sterling too

I grow up with sterling.

My mother has a set of sterling. It is important to her. It is an emblem, a badge. She does not have as extensive a set as her mother.

My sister and I know the silver is special because of our mother. We like the tiny spoons best. They are silver with gold on the bowl.

“Can we use the special spoons?” we ask. For ice cream.

“Yes,” says my mother, smiling.

We run to get them, the small spoons, heavy for their size. Silver is heavier than stainless steel. The spoon also gets colder than stainless steel and tastes different. We eat our ice cream with our special spoons very happily.

We know that the silver is sterling. I don’t know what that means for a while. It means it is not plate. Plate? But these are spoons.

My mother shows us the stamp on the back of each spoon. “See? It says sterling. That means it is silver all the way through. Plate has silver over another metal.” She shows us the back of another spoon. The bowl has a worn spot. “The silver has worn away. And it does not say sterling.” We both study the two spoons and weigh them in our hands. The plate one is lighter. My mother is scornful of silver plate.

My mother is an artist and goes to museums. She comes back from one laughing. “They have an exhibit about homes and decoration. There is a room with tv trays and very few books and wall to wall carpet and a large color television. I thought it was so dull and ugly. Then I went to the next room. Oriental carpet and books and a guitar and no television and art!” She laughs. “They have me nailed. I am such a snob and it looked just like our house!”

We do have a tv but it is the smallest black and white that you can get. And my father knocked it over one night. Now the picture is cup shaped. The top of heads are wide and swollen. Neither of my parents care enough to get it fixed or replace it. They spend their money on art supplies and books and music. Friends visit. “What is wrong with your tv?” I look at it in surprise. I am so used to the deformed picture, I stopped noticing long ago.

Once we are at my mother’s mother’s house. My mother tells another story. “I found mother sweeping to get ready for guests. She swept the dirt under the edge of the rug! I said, “MOTHER! What are you DOING!” Mother just looked at me and said, “It’s a poor mistress who doesn’t know the maid’s tricks.” My mother’s mother did grow up with servants. But not here. She was born in Turkey because her father was a minister, running an orphanage and school. My grandmother lived there until she was sixteen and the family was exiled from Turkey at the start of World War I.

I give my mother’s sterling to my niece, after my sister dies. My children are not very interested in sterling. That is ok with me. Things change and values change.

I still have some special spoons, and think of my mother and father and sister when I eat ice cream.

___________________

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: sterling.

Elephant

My daughter got the elephant in the mail yesterday.

She called me, very happy with it. “It has a TAIL! It matches the pillowcase. I love the fishy fabric.”

The back story is that when she was a baby, her father’s mother made her a pillow. It had two pockets. In the pockets were four small stuffed toys. Her older brother has one too. The toys were not exactly the same. Hers had an elephant.

When she got sick earlier this year, I start sending her care packages. I send the pillow with three of the stuffed toys. However, I don’t find the elephant.

She loves it but asks, “Where’s the elephant?”

“I’m still looking.” The elephant is pink, with fabric ears that are different from the body. I find it! She is coming here for a month, so I don’t mail it. She is very pleased with the elephant.

It goes AWOL before she flies back to work. “Check the tent, mom.” She stayed in the tent in the back yard with two of her friends. I take the tent apart. No elephant. I check the sleeping bags. I sweep under her bed and search the house. As my daughter says, my house has a lot of hiding places and the cats like the elephant too. No elephant.

So for her birthday I make one. I remember how it looks and I make it while watching some continuing medical education. It’s easier to hand stitch than to get out the machine. I have to buy a large bag of stuffing, because the store downtown only has one size. Never mind, maybe I will make more elephants.

I made her a pillowcase last year, with the whale/mermaid fabric and the fish. So the elephant matches.

And she likes it! Hooray!

_______________

My daughter says I can’t make clothes for her, but pillowcases and elephants are great! A breakthrough!

For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: breakthrough.

Arty’s warning

Trigger warning: non graphic mention of child abuse.

_____________________________

I don’t notice that things are frozen at first, because the cats aren’t frozen. I do notice the light. Also I notice the change in sounds. The car outside in the street is not moving nor making sound. Uh-oh.

I go to the front door. Might as well if everything is frozen. I just finished putting on make up, which always means a dangerous mood.

She lands first, on a white flying horse. Who smiles at me, showing fangs. Smoke is coming out of the Pegavamp’s nostrils. Eeeee.

Arty herself is in silver and black today. Silver cloth with black embroidery that seems to be writing a little.

“Good morning, Goddess.” I say, bowing. The other horses and dragons and flying motorcycles and pterodactyls are landing as well. Sol Duc is in the window. Elwha has gone to hide, quite sensibly, I think.

Arty stomps her staff on the ground. “I am really pissed.” she says.

“They named a rocket after you.”

“That penis toy? That is supposed to please me while they are killing virgins who refuse to tent their heads?”

“Sorry.” I hang my head.

“And do you know how much the smoke is going to shorten the lives of my birds and stags?”

“A lot, I think.”

“Do you all want to starve in the dark?’

I look up at her then. “No. I want grandchildren and a healthy earth.”

“Work harder.” she snarls. The rest of the dangerous crowd is muttering and snarling and the local cats have come out. They are sitting very respectfully at a distance. Rooftops. The ridge above my house three blocks up. The tree tops are frozen too.

“Do you need prescriptions again?” I ask. “I see that there have been a lot more rapists jailed. Thank you, Goddess.”

She looks tired for a moment. “We are hunting them everywhere: cities, countryside, hovels, palaces, movie sets, where ever.”

“You don’t turn them into stags any more?”

“Yes, sometimes. My hounds love to tear them apart. But sometimes prison is slower and crueler and a better punishment.”

I kneel. “What service can I do, Goddess?”

She touches me with the staff. I feel a hard bright shock, pain that roars through me and is gone.

“Write this. Write my warning. If this continues, it is death in the cold dark of nuclear winter and we will begin again.”

“Is that the only choice?”

“Oh, no, we are all being very creative. One suggestion has been the sperm banks. There is nothing that says they can’t be used to make one gender only. The one that rapes less and doesn’t kill young girls for what they wear.”

“Thank you for your warning.”

“Stand up.” she says. “You and every abused child, male or female, are under my protection. Yet the cycle must be broken and the abused must not become abusers. Write this.”

The Pegavamp drops one knee and she steps up easily. The other riders start to roar and shout and howl. Her winged creature jumps in the air and the whole group follows. There is a snap and they are gone.

The car in the street is moving and the treetops as well. The cats stand and move away.

I keep writing.

___________________

October 22, 2022

The extroverted feeler and “bad strangers”

My son is an extroverted feeler. I’m an introverted thinker. He’s a bit of an alien, but then we all are, really.

When he was four we flew to New Orleans. We were waiting in our herd. It was when you were assigned to herd A, B or C to load on the plane.

My son started talking to people. He went up to a stranger and held out his hand. The stranger shook it, slightly bemused.

“Hi,” said my son, “I’m (name). I live at (address). My phone number is (number). What’s your name? Where do you live? Would you like to come visit?”

The stranger answered in a rather bemused way and my son moved on to the next person and repeated the conversation. He worked his way through most of the herd by the time the plane loaded.

Even though I thought it was hilarious, I also thought we should have a talk about “bad strangers”. I waited until we were at the hotel in New Orleans. I said that it wasn’t always a good idea to tell strangers one’s name and address because some of them might be bad. He was quite enthralled by the idea that there might actually be a “bad stranger” that he might actually meet.

That night we ate dinner in a section of New Orleans that the hotel concierge sort of warned us about going in to after dark. Afterwards my husband went to meet a friend and listen to music.

My son had recently acquired a plastic bow and suction tip arrows. He had taken it seriously and had already gotten quite good at shooting them. He did not have them with him loading on to the plane, but of course brought them to dinner in New Orleans. Our understanding, I hoped, was that shooting them at people would result in immediate loss of bow and arrow privileges and result in confiscation.

So after dinner my husband had left and I was walking back to the hotel, a five foot two, 130 lb female, with a four year old who was holding a suction cup bow and arrow. Loaded and ready. I would describe my mood as alert, especially when my son started talking quite loudly. He was on the alert too.

“I hope we meet a bad stranger. I’m ready for them. I’ll shoot them with my arrow. I’m ready. No bad stranger will bother us.” He continued in this vein all the way back to the hotel.

As we walked through the fairly dark streets back to the hotel, I hoped that the “bad strangers” were too busy laughing in the alleys to bother us. No one did bother us.

And that’s how my extroverted feeler son learned about “bad strangers”.

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First published in 2009 on another website. For the Ragtag Daily Prompt: stranger. I took the photograph quite a few years ago.

My mom loved me

I struggled after my mother died of ovarian cancer in 2000. She was 61 and our love was complicated. Two years after she died I hit an emotional wall and had to go find help. My marriage was showing cracks too. I have written about Adverse Childhood Experiences, but there can be love too, even in a difficult household. I wrote this poem during that time.

My mom loved me

It’s herself she didn’t love
She didn’t love her anger
She didn’t love her fear
She didn’t love her sorrow
She didn’t love her shadows

She packed all her troubles in her saddlebags
and rode forth singing

When I was angry
she felt her anger
When I was scared
she felt her fear
When I was sad
she felt her sorrow
When I felt my shadows
she felt hers
I hid my shadows

I hid my shadows for many years
and then my saddlebags were full
They called me

I dove in the sea
I rescued my anger
I rescued my fear
I rescued my sorrows
I rescued my shadows

At first I couldn’t love them
My mom didn’t; how could I?

But I loved my mom
I loved all of her
Her anger
Her fear
Her sorrow
Her shadows
Her singing and courage

I thought if I could love her shadows
I could love my own

It was hard
It took months
I looked in the mirror at my own face
And slowly I was able to have
Compassion for myself

I am sad that my mom is not
where I can touch her warmth
and tell her I love all of her

I tell her anyway

I’m finding many things as I surface from my dive
Sometimes I feel the presence of angels
I was looking for something else
I found a valentine
that she made me
No date
Many hearts cut out and glued
to red paper

I am so surprised

My mom loves me
shadows and all
now and forever.

__________________________

My mother used to quote “Pack all your troubles in your saddlebags and ride forth singing.” Does anyone know where this if from? I have not found the source. It could be her mother or her mother’s parents.

The photograph is my father, the year my sister died of cancer, 2012. He died in 2013.