Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams

Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: April 2011

Saturday, April 30, 2011


Baseballs smack against leather gloves.  A man in a Phillies hat pushes a wheelbarrow down the path where a group of volunteers paints the new gazebo.  A woman rakes the mulch around the dogwood trees that were planted last year in honor of two athletes who died too young.  It’s getting dark, but there’s a gentle warmth to the air.
In the dugout, the boys chew heartily on bubblegum—watermelon, cinnamon, mint chocolate chip.  Impossibly large bubbles emerge from their lips and splatter on freckled faces.  The brothers of the pitcher whine in the bleachers—they want a snack, their DS, a drink.
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Thursday, April 28, 2011

After the Storm

It’s not yet May and already some of my dandelions have gone to seed.  Maple trees are sprouting in my perennial bed.  Uncertainty hangs thick in the air as we wait for the predicted thunderstorm.  I cut away a handful of lilacs and dogwood blossoms before the wind can snatch them away and dash them to the sidewalk.  I want to preserve the spring; to hold onto the scent of lilacs through an open window. 
The storm comes and goes in a rush and my lilacs have survived and I have just enough time for a walk before dark.
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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This Situation is Only Temporary: Rules

 “You are going to pick that up, aren’t you?”  The man nodded sharply at the package that Destructo had just deposited on the lawn of the hotel. 
“Just need to get a bag.”  My husband popped the trunk on the car where we now keep huge quantities of plastic bags for cleanup duty.
“Oh! You can have one of mine!”  The man’s wife yanked at a cartridge she wore on her belt and produced a plastic bag.  With a flourish, she handed it to Squints.  “What a cute little puppy.”  She bent down and scratched Destructo’s ears.
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Friday, April 22, 2011


A woman friended me on Facebook the other day; a woman with whom I’d attended high school.  Her face looked familiar.  And I knew her name.  But I couldn’t quite place her.  I accepted her anyway: I’d remember her eventually.
She greeted me seconds after I logged onto Facebook the following morning.  “Where’ve you been? LOL”
 “Hi,” I typed tentatively.
She told me she’d been trying to find me for years.
I felt an odd combination of flattery and guilt.  Someone remembered me!  But who was she?  “I’ve moved around a lot.”
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Thursday, April 21, 2011

Commute to the Past

For some, the train that runs through my town is a nuisance.  It disturbs their sleep, waking them in the middle of the night with its shrill whistle.  It holds up the traffic when everyone’s rushing to get to work.  But the train helps me commute to the past: The sound of the long line of cars rushing by transports me to simpler, more carefree times.  Whenever I hear the train, I’m taken back to my grandparents’ farm. 
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Sunday, April 17, 2011

This Situation is Only Temporary: Stories

“I don’t think they allow puppies in the library,” the woman said to Squints, her eyes wide behind her round glasses.
After two weeks, my son has memorized his lines: “He’s a service dog in training.”
“You know,” she persisted, “that you have to give him back.”
Well, yeah.  That’s kind of the point. 
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

This Situation is Only Temporary

A year ago last month, my son fairly exploded off his bus before sprinting down the sidewalk and into the house. 

“Mom,” he began, not noticing the plate of cookies on the table.  A string of incoherent words burst from his mouth.  I caught a few of them as they whipped by.  They were scary words.  Horrible words.  Words like service animal and demonstration at school and volunteer.  And the worst words of all: “Can we raise a service dog, Mom?”
This was clearly one of those “oh shit” parental moments: Despite the fact that what my son wanted to do was good and just and noble, I really had no interest in allowing him to participate.  Couldn’t he be a do-gooder another way, in a way that didn’t involve bringing animals into our home?
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Saturday, April 9, 2011


Well, I’m sorry to say that Jacob has put me on a strict diet for the next two weeks: Only two dozen eggs.  No whole chicken.  Not even chicken feet, for pity’s sake.  But I’m promised as many necks as I want.  Sausage too.  Honey.  And as much milk as I can manage to drink.

I think I’ll get by.
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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Cultural Maps

I raced as fast as I dared, keeping careful watch on the kilometers lining the inner circle of my speedometer.  I didn’t yet have my Canadian driver’s license.  My Ohio plates screamed “foreigner”.  Anything could go wrong if a police officer suddenly appeared behind me, lights flashing.  On the other hand, an officer might help—I’d be escorted quickly to the hospital.  I’d have sufficient time to get my son’s emergency chest x-ray done before I had to meet my daughters’ school bus.

I left the doctor’s Oakville office and headed west along Lakeshore, towards the hospital.  I suddenly found myself in Bronte—an area east of Oakville.   How could this have happened?  I’d used the navigational technique my mother taught me years ago when I was learning to drive.  “Use the lake as your guide,” she told me as we drove along Lakeshore Avenue in Cleveland, Ohio.  “The lake lies to the north.” 

Of course: I no longer lived with Lake Erie to my north.  I lived on Lake Ontario.  And it lay to the south.  I’d been navigating according to my old map.  How could I have been so stupid?  My world, my life, had been turned upside down.  And I’d forgotten to make adjustments.
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Friday, April 1, 2011


The day begins, as it always does, with the National Anthem.  Everyone stands and freezes at attention as the song blares over ancient loudspeakers.  A cell phone rings.  A woman reminds her son to remove his baseball cap.  From somewhere behind me, a man sings loudly and off-key and I find myself wishing for his self-confidence.  The warm breeze caresses away the memory of winter.  A starling alights on the railing, peering at me with tilted head and beaded eyes, arriving too soon for the banquet of hot dog buns, greasy French fries and salty soft pretzels that the spectators will leave behind at day’s end.  The music stops.  There’s a smattering of applause.  The men replace their caps.  The stands begin to buzz.     
The track beckons to me, drawing me into a past that feels closer than it actually is.  I rub my thumb along the concrete of the stands, tiny pebbles suspended in cement, a solid foundation upon which to seat generations past.  My feet itch at the memory of the cinder tracks of old that—if you were unlucky enough to fall—would embed tiny black rocks into your knees and palms.  But the track is rubberized now; its lanes are numbered.  This arena belongs to my daughter. 
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