Keep it simple this holiday season. We are in year two of this pandemic and it is so wearying. Some of our visits to family or friends might have to be postponed. When I feel stressed about this, I remember that all four of my grandparents lived through the WWI, WWII and the Spanish Flu pandemic! I bet they had many years when they wondered if life would ever get back to normal and what would that look like? My father in law spent at least four Christmas’s in a POW camp in East Germany, working in a salt mine.
Our trip to our favorite town of Tomball snapped us back to reality. Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. We will be alone this year and it will be fun. Pajamas and Netflix are on the menu. A friend gifted me some fresh chestnuts last week. I haven’t seen any for a decade. After boiling them, Teddy and I stood laboriously taking the double skins off. The internet advice about how to make this task easier was POPPYCOCK!! I cut myself, broke my nail down to the quick and ate half of what I was peeling. They tasted amazing.
Teddy hates nutcrackers in the same way that others hate clowns. It was very kind of him to sit in front of them – nervous but tentatively smiling. It is an historic Texas German town so there has to be nutcrackers, eh? I was amazed by the ingenuity of the various store owners. The white painted bike below is my favorite. The simple town tree in the last photograph is accompanied by a decorative oil derrick because most of Texas is sitting on oil or gas. Very little is drilled in our area anymore but we still have capped oil wells in our peaceful forest.
We passed a church food pantry with a line of cars as we walked through the town center and that gave me pause to be grateful. I am making a simple vegetable stir fry with the aforementioned dratted chestnuts on the 25th. As long as it is made with love, it will taste amazing.
On a final funny note, I ‘allowed’ Teddy to come to the supermarket with me yesterday. He skipped to the car for this special treat. He can go alone to the store but MUST NOT call me on the cell phone like the other dimwit husbands. Teddy has two degrees – figure it out! I parked the car and as we were walking to the door I noticed he was futtering with the buttons of his fleece. Not once but twice had he buttoned them in the wrong order. I rolled my eyes and gave him the withering stare that says, ‘Euthanasia is not off the table’. (Is it Euthanasia if Teddy isn’t willing??) Then I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. Remember to enjoy the little things.
It had been a few weeks since Tessa and Thom Goodwood found the beautiful baby boy on their doorstep. All of their friends and neighbors eagerly accepted their fictitious tale that Finn was the unwanted child of Tessa’s cousin in the north. The young couple were so warmly endearing that anyone would wish this happiness for them. Every day, Tessa woke up with a smile on her face and ran to the crib to see her baby boy. Finn didn’t sleep very much and both parents were worn out but felt it was a small price to pay for parenthood. Thom spent many wakeful hours crafting wooden toys for Finn and in a flash of tired genius made rockers for the crib. That helped Finn to drift off to sleep along with his new mother singing her favorite lullaby, ‘Green grow the rashes’.
Before long, many moons had passed. Tessa had returned to making bridal gowns. It was autumn so the dresses were embroidered in harvest colors. Gold, amber, crimson and darkest copper. In her few spare minutes, she fashioned delightful new clothes for Finn. This had led to a new demand for children’s clothes for a Saining or other blessed occasions. Tessa was tired to her core with the demands of a new, unexpected, baby and her tailoring tasks. She glanced over at Finn, playing on the floor, in indigo dyed breeches with pale blue stitching to match the softly knitted jumper underneath and her heart melted once more. It was all worth it.
One evening, Thom and Tessa were eating a simple meal of rabbit and mushrooms at the cozy kitchen table. Tessa had a coughing fit, and Thom ran around to pat her on the back. “Are you alright, my love?” asked Thom solicitously. “I think I just need some water”, gasped Tessa. “Perhaps I swallowed a small bone?” All was well, however, and Thom made her a warm drink of whisky and honey to go to bed with. A few days later, Tessa was on her own with Finn when she had another coughing fit. She covered her mouth with her handkerchief so that she didn’t cough on the baby. Finn started crying, in distress, and she rushed to hold him to her bosom, reassuring him that his Mam was fine.
After the baby settled down, Tessa retrieved her handkerchief from her seat where she had dropped it. She looked at it in horror, as she saw a blood stain. “The White Plague” she whispered under her breath and sat in the chair in darkness until Thom returned from the Mason’s yard. “Why are all the lights off Tessa?” shouted Thom as he arrived home from a long day at work. She passed him the handkerchief which he took to the fire to look at. As soon as he saw the blood, his face became ashen. Wordlessly, he reached out for Tessa who fell crying into his arms.
Tears fell from both of Finn’s parents’ eyes and he looked at them with worry in his big brown eyes. Thom quietly went around the house, lighting gas lamps and putting the remains of last night’s meal on the fire. Then he sat down with Tessa and they worked out a new plan. Tessa had earlier been infected by the White Plague when she was 14 years old, living in their hamlet in the far north east of Alba. Her mother wisely sent her to her cousin, Elspeth, who lived in an even more remote valley who had skills as a healer. Elspeth had helped numerous patients with the White Plague and Tessa appeared to fully recover. There was always a chance that the malady could return.
Tessa and Thom agreed that the best plan would be for Tessa to go and stay with her mother initially, and take Finn with her. He wrote a letter to Tessa’s mam, stamped it with his red wax seal and handed it to a messenger on the next coach headed north. They decided not to tell Mam about Finn because it was just too complicated but did tell her about Tessa’s sickness. Their friends and neighbors were told another white lie; that Tessa’s Mam was poorly and so she was headed home to care for her. Before Tessa left, on the next full moon, neighbors had been delivering little pots of curd or a fresh baked soda bread so she felt assured that Thom would be looked after. She sadly packed a bag with warm winter clothes for her and Finn. Finn didn’t really have enough warm clothes yet but she knew her mother would quickly knit layers for the boy.
Thom and Tessa hugged each other and Finn with such love that could hardly be expressed in words. Tessa and the baby got into the carriage. Thom tucked a wolfskin around both of them and sadly bid them farewell. Tessa cried silently and Finn gently pulled at her hair for comfort. It was such a long, cold and unhappy journey to the hamlet but when she arrived, Mam was waiting with a look of such concern. Tessa stiffly came out of the carriage with Finn fussing in her arms. She put a finger up to her mouth to warn her mother know not to say anything.
Her mother’s eyes widened with shock but wordlessly she took Tessa’s bag and they walked into the cottage. It was so warm inside with the delicious smell of stovies warming on the fry pan. “Let’s get you both out of those cold, damp clothes,” said Mam in a soothing, pragmatic fashion. Tessa handed Finn to her mother who was so well wrapped up that you could only see his brown eyes. “Before you ask, Mam,” stuttered Tessa anxiously, “The bairn was left on our doorstep in a basket. Finn is a gift from the Gods.” Meanwhile, Mam was gently unwrapping Finn from all his layers, in front of the hearty fire. When she saw his fluff of almost silver hair and his beautiful face, she gasped. “He’s a changeling…”
Thank you to Pixabay and Wikipedia for images and links.
Many moons ago, Thom and Tessa Goodwood lived in a village in the middle of Alba. The village was named Inverselkie, for its famous stone-built bridge across the River Selkie. They were a lovely young couple, similar in many ways. Both were short and bonny. Their eyes were blue, hair dark with the rosiest red cheeks. They resembled generations of their farmer ancestors. When married they moved from their remote forested hamlet to Inverselkie – a place of opportunity.
Thom was gifted in the masonic trade and helped to build the current stone bridge which replaced the old rickety wooden one. This made him one of the most admired young men in the village and Tessa was so proud of him. Tessa had wonderful skill with a needle and made many bridal gowns for her neighbors. They were simple affairs made of ivory flax but Tessa embroidered them, almost magically, in vivid hues of scarlet and indigo. Recently the blacksmith’s daughter, a gentle soul, had asked for a more delicate embroidery and Tessa had fashioned the gown with exquisite pale pink and peach freesias. Now all her customers wanted pastel colors.
Despite their success in their new home, Thom and Tessa longed for something else entirely. A baby was all they wished for. Despite prayers and potions from the village wise woman, nothing worked. Every month, Tessa was so disappointed when nature revealed her infertility once more. She sobbed and Thom held her in his loving arms, wishing for circumstances to be different. They both tried to shake off their sadness but it wasn’t helped when village busybodies patted Tessa’s tummy and asked when they were having a baby. Tessa usually laughed and said, “When the Gods provide…” but a little part of her soul died at each response.
Tessa longed for the comfort of her straight forward mother at times like this but they were many leagues away in the far north eastern corner of Alba. The landscape and the poor roads made travel difficult and they hadn’t seen each other for many moons until Tessa’s Granny died. It was an awful, grief filled journey, made worse by freezing snow and an uncomfortable carriage. Tessa and Thom launched themselves into the loving arms of their families, neighbors and friends. There were awkward questions from family members too, as they had been married for seven years, but Tessa’s Mam helped deflect them. Her advice was, “Just keep praying for a miracle”.
The night they returned to Inverselkie, Tessa and Thom settled themselves into their comfortable down filled bed at around 9 pm. They both prayed silently but were beginning to doubt their worthiness. They gently settled into slumber until they were woken at midnight by a quiet mewling at their door. Tessa woke up first and shook Thom awake. “It sounds like a cat, Tessa! I need my sleep…” Eventually, they both tentatively opened the front door of their thatched cottage and saw a basket. They both leapt back when the thistledown blanket moved but then they saw a little hand emerge. It was a baby!
Tessa immediately picked the basket up and Thom looked around to see who had left it, to no avail. They brought the basket into the warmth of their living room and put it on the kitchen table. Tessa pulled back the delicate blanket and stared into the eyes of the most beautiful baby boy. His hair was a silvery flaxen and his big round eyes were the darkest brown. “It’s a changeling!” gasped Thom. Tessa shushed him and gathered the beautiful child to her chest. “The Gods have provided our miracle baby, Thom. Please may we keep him?” Tessa’s eyes were brimming with tears and yet as happy as they had ever been. Thom’s heart unfroze and he reached out to cuddle the baby. As soon as he held him, he knew this was their answer from to their prayers.
They spent all night feeding and cuddling their strange new child until exhaustion took over. Thom woke with a start thinking, “I am late for work!” Tessa snapped awake too, looking with disbelief at the tiny babe with the big brown eyes. They were full of unanswerable questions for each other. ‘How do we explain the appearance of this beautiful Oddling’. ‘What will we name him and who left him for us?’ They sensibly decided to wait until Thom returned from work and they would make a plan. During the day, Tessa learned how to change a napkin, soothe an unsettled baby and most of all, how to love with all her heart.
When Thom came back from work at the stonemason’s yard, Tessa was full of excitement and ideas to explain the appearance of the baby left in a basket on their doorstep. “Perhaps we should check if someone has lost a baby or at least consider that the child might be a changeling?” queried Thom who, after a hard day at work, was now apprehensive. “Hush, Thom!” said Tessa – “Keep your voice down. Finn is our miracle gift from the Gods”. A faint cry from the basket near the fire alerted both new parents to the object of their concern. Thom gently lifted the newly named Finn into his arms and melted as the big brown eyes met his. Tessa smiled indulgently at the two beloved boys in her life. “Has he eaten well?”, asked Thom. Tessa told him with a satisfied smile, “He has had warm Goats Milk, a softly boiled egg and sucked on a rag dipped in honey”.
“Why did you call him Finn?” asked Thom. Tessa explained that Finn was a Celtic name that means white or fair. His halo of silky flaxen hair was certainly fairer than most Alba folks who usually had blue eyes with dark hair. Since they had only just returned from Granny’s funeral, they decided that they would tell their neighbors that Finn was the result of a liaison between an unmarried cousin of Tessa’s and a visiting Norse trader. That would explain the curious light hair and Finn’s sudden appearance. Tessa and Thom would be seen as caring relatives who took in an unwanted baby.
Tessa eagerly showed Thom a small layette of baby clothes that she had stitched when Finn was napping. She had used the finest linen from her store and knitted some items in delicate lambs wool. Even so, nothing was quite as soft and magical as the thistledown blanket in his basket. Silently, Thom and Tessa gave thanks for Finn and wondered how his mother, fairy or otherwise, could give him up.
This latest fairy story series is based on the true story of my husband’s loving adoptive parents.
Teddy asked, “What’s the difference between Queer and Gay?” Kerry scoffed, “Gosh, you really are old, aren’t you?” She then Googles it because she doesn’t know the difference either. Later she explained the difference to Teddy who said, “What does the plus stand for in LBGTQ+?” “I have no idea” she responded. “I don’t think we need to know at our age…”
“Good morning, Kathleen” said Teddy referencing that Kerry looked like her mother while staring vacantly into the middle distance in her beloved lilac dressing gown. “Feck off” responded Kerry.
“She’s nae bonny, is she?” said Teddy to Kerry while they were watching a dreadful reality show. The girl was a tad plain. “Do you remember your mum and that poor girl’s prom dress?” responded Kerry who was referencing an incident back in the 1970s when Nessie, a skilled seamstress, persuaded a girl, quite overweight, not to choose a white fabric. “What was the expression she used”, asked Kerry. “She would have looked like a galleon in full sail” And that was her trying to be kind.
“Would you like a savory snack, Sir?” asked Kerry, with her best impression of a British Airways flight attendant with a London accent. “Yes please, Miss!” responded Teddy in a high-pitched dweeby London accent.
Teddy grabbed his wife’s delectable ass while passing her in the kitchen. Kerry laughingly responded with the expression she has been using for 40 years, “Don’t touch what you can’t afford!” This evoked a play chase around the house with Kerry screaming for her husband not to touch her. Over the years, the chasing has become a bit more sedate and they both collapse on the bed with no further action. Sometimes Kerry begs, “Don’t squeeze me – something awful might happen!” Teddy responds, “We don’t have to bring up your family’s bowel and bladder problems…” Hysterical laughing followed by a rushed trip to the bathroom.
Teddy starts a monologue, “I need…blah…Amazon…blah…cable…blah.” Ad infinitum. After he finishes, Kerry says, “You have just wasted another five minutes of my rapidly diminishing life cycle. Do whatever the Feck you want.”
“Can you get me the industrial vinegar from the garage, Ted?” asked Kerry. Some time passes with clattering in the garage. Kerry shouts “If I have to come in and find it, you are in so much trouble!” “It’s not here!” he exclaims. Kerry walks into the garage, opens the first cupboard and it is right in front of them. Teddy is futtering about in the second cupboard – every shelf is labelled. Kerry sighs in exasperation.
Teddy and Kerry are watching a French movie on Netlix. “Ecoutez!” booms the French actor “…et répétez!” shouted Teddy and Kerry in unison. Their shared experience of the Scottish education system sets off some familiar phrases. “Ma tante ouvre la fenêtre!” says Kerry. Teddy responds, “Mon oncle trouve la plume!” They lose track of the movie.
With no segue, Kerry states “I haven’t found a foolproof way to kill you since they put bittering agent in anti-freeze”. Teddy gives her a withering stare and she cackles.
Kerry is doing something in the bedroom when a hulking creature appears at the doorway. She screams, “Stop creeping about the bloody house!” “I live here, too” he responds sadly.
“I think we need to cut down the wine” said either Kerry or Teddy. A few hours later, “Are you still not drinking or would you like a glass of wine?” “Yes, please!”
Kerry is reading while on the toilet, against her gastroenterologist’s advice. Teddy walks in and says, “There you are! I have been looking for you everywhere. The back door was unlocked but the front door is still locked and I was worried”. Kerry shouts, “I miss my privacy since you retired. GET OUT!”
My friend Ruth, aka rkontheroad, nominated me for Outstanding Blogger Award. I am always honored to be nominated for an award and this one was new to me. Ruth’s blog Musings from the Mountains is full of the most fantastic photography. She has had an amazing life, living around the globe and now settled in Colorado. Our lives have segued in some ways with our love of travel, writing and volunteering. Thank you for the nomination, Ruth!
Ruth’s questions for the nominees
1 Why do you blog?
At first, I created the blog to provide a conduit to my book, Memoirs from Cairo on Kindle. Once I started to connect with other bloggers, I shared travel posts and eventually very personal posts about my mental illness. One friend advised me not to share so much but I felt it was therapeutic not just to me but to my readers who felt less alone with a stigmatized illness.
2. What themes do you blog about?
Generally I blog about travel (fond memories), mental illness, fairy stories, fashion and my ancestry. There is no real rhyme or reason, just following the strange patterns in my head. I enjoy vlogging too, especially during this Pandemic. After a while it feels like other bloggers you connect with are real friends – and they are. We find each other through shared interests, passions or beliefs.
3. What do you like to read?
My favorite genre is fantasy/science fiction. When I was younger, I read most of the books in our local library, even other genres. I have belonged to book clubs over the years and I like that it introduces you to books you would never have chosen. I feel it is my personal mission to introduce people to really good science fiction and fantasy. My choice one year was The Martian and everybody loved it! My illness or perhaps my medication for (OCD, depression and anxiety) sometimes affects my ability to concentrate and read a whole book. It is a real loss in my life but I read other blog posts or article of interest on my laptop make up for that. That’s why I am on/off with blogging – I have to have the muse.
4. Who or what is a person or event that has influenced your life?
I had to think long and hard about that question. In truth, it was my mum. My mum also had a mental illness and a bad relationship with alcohol. Although she has been dead for 18 years, she still affects my every step. I loved her and she loved me but we both resented each other at times. I admired that she had immigrated alone to the States in her early 20s, traveled from east to west. When she returned to Scotland, alone with me, she worked as a private detective for an agency that got taken over by the famous Pinkerton agency. Life was much harder after her major breakdown and it has probably molded me into a caretaking person. She was a beautiful, smart and kind woman whose illness/alcohol use made her narcissistic and critical at times. That contrasted hugely with the funny loving mummy that I lost.
5. What’s one thing that’s important to you in your non-blogging life?
This was easier – my husband. We have been married for over 38 years and had our ups and downs. For the most part we are a very good match and really make each other laugh. He is incredibly supportive of me and I know he always has my back. I always wanted to marry someone who was genius smart, good looking and incredibly funny. He still makes me laugh so much that my body farts without control which makes me laugh louder. Despite that he still thinks I am his baby bunny…albeit with digestive problems.
6. If you could go back and choose a different career, what would you do?
Speech Therapy. I longed to do something in the para-medical field. My family were very insistent that I spoke clearly with a neutral accent. No slang dialect was allowed in our house. At high school I joined drama and debating clubs and realized the pleasure in making your voice heard. I was rather shy as a young teenager and the whole school was asked to write an essay for a Glasgow wide competition. I chose to write about social equity, corruption in the Catholic church and other ambitious topics. My teacher asked me to read it aloud in class and I blushed red. At the end the whole class applauded – it was overwhelming and eye opening. I came second in the school competition to someone who wrote about Scottish Nationalism, a very popular subject at the time. The English principal whispered to me that I should have won. The topic cost me dearly as one of the rigidly Catholic assistant Headteachers refused to give me a referral to college. Our bank manager gave me one. This is why it would have been a joy to help people use their voices to the best of their ability.
7. What would you rather be doing right now, instead of writing your answers to these questions?
Despite the pandemic, there is nothing I would like to do other than answer the questions. Scots are like the Dutch – they don’t do anything they don’t want to do! I have kindly demurred many awards, mostly because I have already been nominated for them. This was a new category and I was delighted that Ruth asked me. To be honest, the pandemic has stopped me talking to so many people. I chat briefly at the grocery store but my Scottish accent sounds like Klingon behind a mask. This post has given me the opportunity for a wee gabfest, as they say in the old country. On a final funny note, I phoned one of my neighbors, during our deep freeze in Texas, to ask if I could take out her wheelie bin. In her New York accent, she queried, “What now?” and I had to go through all the alternatives – big green thing for the rubbish, yellow recycling, trash can, garbage. It was hilarious – and that was without a mask…
Kiera opened her eyes and couldn’t believe the vista in front of her. She was lying on a sumptuous canopied bed covered in golden silks looking at an oasis. She sat up and saw some wild camels drinking at the pool. Suddenly there was a shimmer and Shula El Masri appeared. He smiled broadly at her and Kiera realized that she was unclothed. With a blush and laugh, Kiera pulled the golden silk up to hide her modesty. “It is a bit late for that, isn’t it”, chuckled Shula. She met his twinkling green eyes and smiled as broadly as he had. “Is this a mirage, Shula?” asked Kiera. “No, this is my home in the Sahara. I whisked you here before you woke up.”
Kiera clapped her little hands with joy – the wonders of a Djinn suitor! Lovemaking with a Djinn was a sublime experience. She felt that they were both transformed into the four elements – fire, water, air and earth. “What do you see in me, Shula?” asked Kiera very aware that she was an older fairy. “I love your essence, Habibti (darling). Your kindness, your laugh, your warmth and those blue eyes”. Shula explained to Kiera, that as a Djinn who was able to shapeshift into any creature, his perception or vision was different from hers. It was though he could see her every molecule and loved her entirety. “Ana uHibbuka (I love you) Shula” responded Kiera with happy tears in her eyes.
Shula had prepared a light breakfast of dates, hummus and bread. Kiera ate with relish; her evening had been more energetic than it had been for years. She was content and warm but aware that they had to get back to the Texas School of Fairies. It was time to get back to work. No one seemed to have noticed their disappearance but they both emanated a subtle golden glow. Shula’s copper treatment for the blight combined with some old potions was working for most patients so there was some reason to celebrate. The survivors of the Fairy Blight, however, were faced with long term problems. The worst was wing drop – their wings desiccated and fell off. This left the fairies unable to live a normal life and they had to rely on others for their care. The Fairy Crafters had been working on prosthetic wings. They had used plant fibers, spider silk and balsa wood but it was as impossible as recreating a dragonfly’s wing.
As soothsayer, Kiera was again struggling with the feeling of despair in the school and the entire fairy world – the contentment in her personal life contrasted starkly. Shula noticed how bad she was feeling and asked her to join him in his suite again that evening. “I might have some good news…” Kiera shook herself out of her gloom and later knocked gently at his door. The suite was still transformed into an Egyptian scene but this time it resembled a blacksmith’s forge. Shula’s greatest skill was with metal so she was curious about what he had been working on. She gasped when she saw that he had constructed a fairy wing out of titanium, the lightest of metals. Titanium turns into a rainbow of different colors depending on what level of heat is applied to it. Shula held out prosthetic wing that was colored deep blue. “Stand back, Kiera dearest”. He blew a fiery breath on the wing and it changed color to fuchsia pink.
Kiera looked at Shula with astonishment – what skills this alchemist had. “I think this might work because it is light and flexible yet indestructible”, said Shula. They spent the rest of the night working on ways to attach the prosthetic wings. By morning they were bleary eyed but excited. They flew down to the infirmary to try the titanium wings one of the invalided children. It was attached by a brace around the chest area made of beetle silk, strong but soft. The first little fairy to try it was a Tumbleweed fairy with a mop of white fluffy hair. Her name was Teasle and like all Tumbleweed fairies was pragmatic and straightforward. Her first attempt was a little clumsy but after a few times she was flying around the patio outside the infirmary. “Don’t go too far,” pleaded Kiera. Teasle gently dropped to the ground her face gleaming with joy, then she ran to Shula and hugged him. “Do you like them?” asked the caring Djinn, while gently caressing her fluffy hair. “I love them but could they be a different color, please?” – everyone started laughing and crying. These prototype wings were a deep pink color but Tumbleweed fairies are unusually neutral in color. “How about a nice copper or golden color to match your outfit?” said Shula with a chuckle. Teasle grinned, her amber eyes sparkling; she was wearing mule hide suede pants with a matching fawn cotton sweater.
As the weeks flew past, lucky little fairies were attached with prosthetic wings of their color choice. Kiera’s old friend, Niloufar, a Persian Peri fairy, had brought her granddaughter to the Texas School of Fairies. Little Fariba had lost both her wings to the Fairy Blight. It was with the greatest of pleasure that Kiera fitted her with delicate bright green titanium wings; perfect for a Waterlily Fairy. As Fariba took her first faltering flight, Niloufar burst into delighted tears hugging Kiera and then Shula. Once the excitement was over, Niloufar and Kiera, spent the evening together. It had been years since they had met but chattered happily as though it was yesterday. “So, tell me all about this handsome Djinn, Kiera”, asked Niloufar. Kiera laughingly said, “I wondered when you would ask about Shula El Masri!” Neither of them knew any other Djinn and Fairy unions so Niloufar was fascinated by the details of the courtship. “I think Shula is my soulmate”, sighed Kiera knowing that this might be a fleeting affair. Niloufar’s beautiful emerald eyes looked sadly at Kiera and she reached across to hug her.
Fariba, the little Peri fairy, and all the others with new wings stayed at the infirmary for a few weeks to make sure that they had truly convalesced. The day came when Niloufar and Fariba had to leave for their home in Persia; Kiera tearfully waved them off. Shula spotted Kiera sitting thoughtfully by the fountain. “Would you like to go to the Oasis, tonight, dearest Kiera?” “Yes, please Habibi.” Shula fashioned a golden shimmer around them and in an instant they were at Oasis dipping their toes into the cool water. “Kiera, said Shula, “I need to talk to you about the future.” Kiera’s big blue eyes looked at him with dismay but she understood without words that his time at the Texas School of Fairies was coming to an end. The Fairy Blight was a worldwide pandemic and his skills were needed elsewhere. Tears dripped down her cheeks and he kissed her on the forehead. “Would you come with me?” he asked. She looked at Shula with a tremulous joy. “We could spend years traveling the globe helping our species” said Shula. Kiera whispered “Yes, Yes…”
This year has been one where we have had to be introspective and appreciate the little things. It’s a small silver lining given the tragedy of Covid-19 but perhaps it will give us new coping skills for the future. Teddy and I used to go out to lunch at least once a week. We knew all the wait staff and enjoyed the banter along with the food. It was my only reason to get dressed up as I wore a uniform, of sorts, at work. Like most of us I have cleared out the closets but the pretty dresses flutter sadly in the closet. Recently I bought two new nightdresses because that’s what I wear most. On the plus side, I found nightdresses with pockets – wow!
Teddy was pushed to his limit last week when Hurricane Laura blew through. It missed the large centers of population but it tore down large parts of our electricity grid to our east. The next day the power went out unexpectedly for about 8 hours. That seems perfectly reasonable to me but it was 100 degrees outside and 84 degrees in the house. Teddy had to stop work and paced the house like a tiger. He tested the generator (it works), he hunted for batteries and torches (which are all in the hurricane box which Kerry packs each year) and generally drove me crazy. After many hours, I shouted at him, gave him a beer and told him to sit his ass down. To his horror I said, “Look at the flowers” which is a line from Walking Dead before one of the characters was dispatched. I reassured him that it was a Freudian slip… Then nature sent us a little precious moment to calm him down. Two little squirrel siblings who had been running crazy along the fences and trees, suddenly stopped and started grooming each other. They snuggled and licked each other and our hearts melted.
I’m coming down for the snacks. Muchas Gracias, Senora!!
Like everyone else, our vacation plans have disappeared. We had planned something special for my 60th birthday/38th anniversary in July but instead I made Teddy his favorite meal. He loves potato gratin – so simple but I rarely make it. For dessert I made him something he had been hankering over for 30+ years. Many years ago I made a very decadent Pashka (Russian Easter cake) for a dinner party that we were hosting. I searched the internet for a slightly lighter version of my original recipe and then altered it a little. The main ingredients are butter, sugar, toasted almonds, crystallized ginger and vanilla. Teddy was so excited!!! I think it might have been the nicest anniversary meal we have ever had. Our expectations were low and I was not stressed.
Then there are the lizards. As you know, we have been without pets for over a year now. We rarely sat out in our back yard because Toffee was sadly sitting inside but now we can happily sit in our rockers looking at nature. We noticed that spotted Anoles would come running when we came out. Perhaps it was coincidence but now we have them named. Lorenzo has a regrown tail and Leo likes to sit on the prow of the deck. When we call them, they run out from under the deck and start displaying in front of us. Sometimes it is little handstands or head nods but if we are lucky they show us their red dewlap. They let us go within an inch of them to admire their chameleon coloring. We have one sweet little green Anole, Gerry, who is a native Texan. The spotted Anoles are invasive from Cuba and they are feisty. I Googled “snacks for lizards’ and they like live crickets and meal worms. They will have to eat what’s in the backyard…
Covid-19 has made me less obsessive about the usual bugs and germs. Teddy dispatched a giant tree roach in the house and I didn’t bat an eyelid or get out the bleach. We are in semi-drought here so insects are coming in, looking for water. In the middle of the night, I went sleepily to the bathroom. Through drowsy eyes, I saw what looked like a scorpion walking in while I was trapped on the toilet. It was big, brown and not a cockroach. Ruthlessly, I took a magazine and squashed it. Later, I discovered that it was a mole cricket and I have been grieving ever since. It was a harmless wee thing and I wish I had taken it out to the garden.
Mole Cricket with a curious pup, courtesy of Pixabay
Another day the lizards were agitated and when we investigated, they were chasing a velvet ant away from their babies – beautiful creature but with a deadly sting. Red throated hummingbirds have visited the Mexican Fire Bush en route back to Latin America. Finally, there are the babies. We have two nests of red tailed hawks behind our house. The baby hawks screech, “Mom, I need a mouse!”, then the Blue Jays start squawking and lastly the squirrels bark. What a racket!
Just before this capture of a blue jay, he had been screeching that the water was dirty… Just as well they are beautiful.
I think this is a mixed marriage…like Teddy and I.
In my last post, I mentioned that I thought I had mislaid my parents wedding photographs. Once I found them, and breathed a sigh of relief, I sat and looked at them. I never really knew my father – he was a creature of legend both good and bad. When I was young, my Mum tried her best to paint a balanced picture of Dad despite the unpleasant comments from family members. These photographs were never displayed but I had seen them many times. I was fascinated by the glamour of a professional shot and thought they were both attractive. As a youngster I really looked much more like my father with our dark Mexican roots.
As I gazed at the shots, I realized that neither my Mum nor Dad looked happy. They married after a couple of months of meeting but they were in their late 20’s, more than capable of making a sensible decision. My theory is that they were pregnant with me and I know that my dad asked my mum to have an illegal abortion. I had admired these photos for years, longing to have similarly glamorous wedding shots, but had never noticed the lack of happiness in their eyes. The social mores of two Catholics not marrying after a pregnancy were overwhelming. My mum told me that a distant relative offered to adopt me so the circumstances must have been dire. Eventually my mum divorced my dad in 1976 on the grounds of mental cruelty. He had already remarried in the States.
Then I found a photograph of my mum with a previous American boyfriend above. If anyone recognizes him, you might have been my sibling!
My mum had mentioned that he was a really nice guy, Italian American, but that she hadn’t fallen for him. Maybe she wasn’t ready but my mum looked truly happy in this simple photograph. How I longed for a normal father like him when I was young. As the years have passed I have come to terms with my Dad probably having some mental health and addiction issues (as did my Mum). I have so enjoyed meeting members of my Dad’s family – seeing distinct resemblances both in appearance and also personality. My mum’s bridesmaid, who has stayed close to me, told me many times that my Dad had a fascinating charismatic side that I had inherited. To the right is a photograph of Teddy and I signing the register 38 years ago – now that’s a real smile.
I am not sure who started painting rocks and leaving them on our walking trails but it was a lovely idea for young and old. Children must be so bored staying at home – so much so that I saw my neighbor’s toddler swimming the breast stroke in the street puddle (where the sprinkler water gathers)!
It’s hard to wish anyone a Happy Easter this year but I hope you are able to find small moments of joy. Teddy took this photograph of me on Good Friday while we walked around the containment pond. On route we chatted to some new neighbors across the fence, we met a fisherman who caught a foot long bass fish out of the pond! Whoo Hoo! We high fived from 10 foot distance – I have only ever seen heron sized minnow snack. Then we moved aside while a community minded neighbor mowed the walking path with her son so we could walk more easily through the long grass.
I think you can see from the look on my face above that I am struggling to keep being vibrant although the little Zen cairn made my heart happy. Just like all the vapid celebrities, I have no makeup on and a baseball cap to hide my hair… As we sat down last night to watch yet more Netflix or Prime, I commented to Teddy that this is probably my worst Easter ever. Immediately I felt guilty for comparing my luxurious life to anyone else’s this year. How awful to be in a refugee camp or to be any of our first responders. As I mused, I remembered my real worst Easter which was in 1970.
We lived in prefabricated metal public housing that was unbearably cold in a Scottish winter. In the autumn of the previous year, I started getting chest infections consecutively. My health and lungs had been compromised from babyhood in part from my mum having tuberculosis during her pregnancy with me. In our community there was no choice of family doctor and ours had many complaints about his incompetence. My mum pleaded with him to refer me to a pediatrician but he blankly stated that she was neurotic and continued to prescribe antibiotics. By midwinter my Nana and mum had created a little bed for me in the nook of the fireplace of the living room which was the warmest place in the house. I woke up every morning with dried mucus covering my whole face like a veil of illness. My breathing was terrible and I missed months of schooling.
In desperation my uncles gave my mum £40 (a fortune for us) to visit a pediatrician privately. He also worked for the National Health Service, as do most private surgeons, and I was in hospital the next day. By this time 6 months had passed and it was almost Easter. There was no room in the children’s ward so I and 3 other little girls were placed at the end of a Victorian long ward full of ladies with cancer. I was terrified by the older ladies barely holding onto life and the strangeness of the situation. The two little girls opposite me were sisters and had been flown in from one of the outer Western Islands. Was it a twofer or were they both genuinely needing their tonsils out? It would have been very expensive back then to fly in from Barra. They were relentlessly cheerful and kind to me in their soft accents from speaking Gaelic.
My mum tried to visit every night after her very long work day and I think I sobbed every visit. When I was wheeled to surgery, alone, I asked the surgeons if I was going to die. They removed my adenoids and tonsils – a complaint was made about our family doctor who we still had to see because of no options available. In those days they made you eat scratchy toast to heal up your throat – ow! All the food was awful and worst of all – it was EASTER! Family and neighbors rallied around with an array of chocolate eggs that I could not eat. All except a little egg box full of Cadbury’s Cream Eggs with a sixpence underneath each from my aunt Cathie and uncle Donal. I was able to suck the cream out of the eggs even though I couldn’t eat the chocolate.
Eventually I went back to school although I had some home tuition. I had no voice for weeks and I struggled to catch up. But I did, and life moved on. It was so stressful for my poor mum that she had a major mental breakdown after this and never worked again. I am so grateful for the all the kindness given to us at that time. One of the greatest sacrifices was from my mum’s colleague’s son who donated his extensive collection of rare American comics to this sick little girl. Richie Rich and his friends made me so happy. I still love the gift of a magazine – it feels like a treat. The taste of artificial cherry that disguised childhood penicillin makes me feel sick, as does the smell of a hot toddy.
Kerry’s egg shaped cyst behind her lungs
In retrospect, I realized that my peculiar egg shaped cyst behind my lungs may have made me sicker than I would normally have been. It looks like a portent of doom, doesn’t it, but the cyst has shrunk back to the size of a raisin. There is always light at the end of darkness. Hollywood endings are rare but we will overcome our current sickness and learn how to make our lives safer. I had the Catholic Last Rites when I was less than a year old but so far, so good. Keep faith in humanity.
I send springtime wishes to all of you, whatever your faith or lack of. Be well.