The Monster in Grandma’s House

Traveling in a Bus

Abigail Taylor was seven years old and her brother, Nathan was 5 years old.

They lived with their mama, in a big city, in the hot desert of Arizona.

All around, the cactus and mesquite trees grew out of the sandy dirt, and it all looked more brown than green.arizona desert

One day, Mama said “We are going to visit Grandpa and Grandma Taylor, in Oklahoma”.

Abigail and Nathan were full of questions about the trip.

“Where is Oklahoma?” Nathan asked.

“Oklahoma is very far from Arizona.” Mama answered.

“How will we get there?” Abigail asked.

“We will ride in a bus for 2 days to get there.” Mama said.

“It will be a long ride, but there are comfortable seats, and even a restroom, right on the bus. We will see all kinds of new places on the way, and you will have fun riding the bus.”

One morning, they all had a big breakfast and then started their trip.

At the bus station, Mama bought three tickets from a man at the counter.old bus station

Then Mama put their big suitcase in a cabinet at the bottom of the bus.

Mama and Abigail and Nathan climbed into the bus. “Watch your step.” said the bus driver.

They went all the way to the back seat. It was like a nice long sofa with room for all three of them.

And they were right next to the restroom on the bus. They thought that was a good thing, too.

The bus driver drove the bus for a long, long time.

Abigail and Nathan looked out of the windows as they left the city and rode through the dry desert and rolling grasslands of Arizona and New Mexico.new mexico

They passed many high purple mountains along the way.

They watched the cars on the highway and played games, like counting cows and windmills.Freeway 1960s

They also said hello to other people on the bus, when they came to use the restroom.

It seemed like they would be riding in the bus forever!

“When will we get there?” Nathan asked.

Mama said “Tomorrow, at lunchtime.”

A lady on the bus said she was going very far, to Boston, and wouldn’t get there for three or four MORE days.

“Wow, that’s a long trip.” said Abigail.

Finally, they stopped for a quick lunch. They had peanut butter sandwiches and milk at a lunch counter in the bus station.

Then, they went back into the bus and they were on the road again.

Abigail and Nathan were tired and took a nap.

When they woke up, Mama gave them some crayons and coloring books.

They colored pictures until the bus stopped for supper.

Supper was fun. Abigail and Nathan had hot dogs and French fries with mustard and ketchup.

There was orange soda to drink, and ice cream cones for desert.hotdogs and firies

Then they went back to the bus, where a new driver waited to take them on another long ride.

Soon the sun went down and Mama said it was time to sleep.

“On the bus?” Nathan asked.

Mama said “Yes. The driver will keep driving while we sleep, so we can get to Oklahoma quicker.”

So Abigail and Nathan went to sleep next to the window, while Mama dozed next to them.

They dreamed of cows and cactus, of windmills and mountains, of hotdogs and orange soda, and of people in buses and cars on the long highway.

Mama woke Abigail and Nathan early in the morning. The sun was just coming up, and they were stopped for breakfast.pancakes

The bus station had a restaurant, and the smells of coffee and bacon made them all hungry.

The nice waitress brought glasses of milk, stacks of pancakes, lots of butter, and six different kinds of syrup!

When they finished the feast, they hurried to the restroom to brush their teeth.

Then, they got on the bus for the last part of the trip.

Oklahoma!

In the bright morning sunshine, Abigail and Nathan looked out of the bus windows and noticed the desert and tall mountains were gone.

There were bright green plants everywhere – tall trees and grass and bushes and flowers!

oklahoma

It was very different from the desert where they lived.

When the bus pulled into another bus station, it was almost lunchtime, and they had arrived in Oklahoma!

Mama and Abigail and Nathan climbed down out of the bus.

“Have a nice visit!” said the bus driver. “Thank you.” answered Mama.

A pretty lady and a big, smiling man hugged Mama and called her Emma.

The pretty lady looked at Abigail and Nathan and said “I’m your Aunt Bella and this is your Uncle Cole. Your mama is our sister. We came to take you to your grandma’s house. You are going to have so much fun!”

Uncle Cole fetched their suitcase, and then drove the car out of the city, up and down hills on a long road, and finally, through a wide pair of gates.

Grandma and Grandpa Taylor came out of the house.

Grandma was very round and smiling, with white curly hair.  Her dress looked like a flower garden.

Grandpa had bushy gray eyebrows and wore an old cowboy hat and overalls over a long-sleeved shirt.

They both had trouble hearing, so they talked very loudly.

“Come on in!” they said as they gave hugs all around.

The grownups went in and sat in the living room, but Abigail and Nathan stayed outside in the yard.

There was so much to see!barn

The wooden house was really old with brown sides and white window frames.

There was a screened porch on the front, and another porch on the back.

Grandpa Taylor had a BIG barn where he worked fixing machines, welding, and building things.

At one side of the house there were chickens and cats and dogs, all in a really big yard.

There was a big vegetable garden and some apple trees at the other side.

There was a forest of really big, bright green trees behind the house.

chickens and cats

Abigail and Nathan were learning how different Grandma and Grandpa Taylor’s home was from theirs.

They lived in a city in the desert, while their grandparents live on a small farm, out in the woods.

After they had been exploring outside for a while, Grandma called out “You kids come in the house. I have a surprise for you.”APPLE

When Abigail and Nathan went into the house, Grandma said “You just go look on the kitchen table. There are glasses of milk, apples, and some fresh gingerbread that your grandma made just for you!”

YUMMY! Abigail and Nathan had apples and gingerbread and milk for lunch!

After lunch, they ran around the farm doing all kinds of new things.

They petted the dogs and cats.

They watched Grandpa Taylor and Uncle Cole working on a car in the big barn.

They watched Grandma Taylor crocheting a rug, while she visited with Aunt Bella and Mama.

It was a very interesting afternoon!

Supper and Story Telling

When supper time came, Aunt Bella and Mama went to the kitchen with Grandma.

Soon the smells of fried chicken and gravy filled the air.

Abigail and Nathan sat in chairs at the big table in the dining room.

Grandma Taylor stuck her head out of the kitchen door. “Harold!” she called, in a very loud voice, “Supper!”

“Alright, Ginny!” Grandpa called in return.

Abigail whispered to Nathan “Harold and Ginny must be Grandpa’s and Grandma’s real names.”

Supper was so good! They ate chicken and potatoes with gravy and green beans and corn and biscuits with butter and jam, until they thought they would POP!

fried chicken meal

Then they all sat back in their chairs, relaxing around the table.

The grownups told stories about the adventures they had when they were kids while Abigail and Nathan listened with their eyes big and round.supper and story telling

Abigail wondered if she would ever have adventure stories to tell.

Soon, the sun was going down, but there was still time for dessert.

Grandma Taylor’s homemade apple pie was perfect!

By the time they finished their pie, the crickets were chirping and it was dark outside.

Mama said “Ok, it’s bedtime for my little ones.”

Grandma Taylor said “Emma, your old room is ready for you.”

Then she smiled and told Abigail and Nathan “You kids can sleep on the sofa-bed in the screened porch.”

Oh boy! That sounded like fun!

Noises in the Dark

Aunt Bella and Uncle Cole went with Mama to the back porch to tell more stories.

Grandpa went to his room, and Grandma went to hers.

Abigail and Nathan went to the screened porch at the front of the house.

They had forgotten to bring pajamas, so they just wore their shorts and t-shirts.

They stretched out on the sofa-bed, enjoying the warm summer air.

They were so excited that they couldn’t get sleepy.

They whispered about deserts and forests, about bus drivers and waitresses, about chickens and cats, about gingerbread and apple pie, and about the adventures of long-ago kids named Harold and Ginny, Emma, and Bella, and Cole.farmhouse at night

Suddenly they heard a noise! It was a scary, growling kind of noise.

Their eyes grew big in the darkness of the screen porch.

“The noise was coming from the inside house!

Is there a monster in Grandma’s house?” whispered Nathan.

“Maybe we better look.” Answered Abigail.

So, creeping very quietly on the tips of their toes, they went in search of the monster.

pexels-photo-746742.jpeg

They crept through the door into the dim living room.

No one was there.

To one side of the living room, they saw Grandpa reading a book in his room.

No monster there.

Then, on they went, tip toe, tip toe, through the door into the dining room and kitchen.

The noise was much louder, but still they saw no one.

A light was coming from Grandma’s room, so they crept closer.

The noise grew louder.

With pale faces and wide eyes, they peeked around the door into the room, and saw Grandma lying on her bed.

There was the noise again, very loud!

Abigail and Nathan watched as they saw Grandma breathing, her round body puffing up with a breath – just as the noise came again, LOUD!

There was no monster, Grandma was SNORING!

Abigail started to giggle and put her hand over her mouth.

Nathan grinned and covered his mouth too.

They both scampered as quietly as they could, back to the sofa-bed, on the screen porch, where they jumped into bed and giggled until they got sleepy.old bus 2

In a few days, they would ride the bus back to their home.

Abigail knew that someday, her children, and grandchildren would enjoy her funny adventure story, about the monster in Grandma’s house.

The End

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Coffee Mugs

I had loaded the dishwasher in the late afternoon. Was it only yesterday? School had dismissed, but he was still at work, and I was already thinking of dinner preparations. Then, the phone rang. It was one of his colleagues. He had suddenly become ill… had collapsed… had some kind of episode… and was taken to the hospital. I grabbed keys and was out the door.

It was the coffee mugs that finally made me cry. There were just so many of them. They had come to us in small batches around holidays, and at the end of each term. Most came from the dollar store or Walmart. Some were filled with sweets or accompanied by a small stuffed toy. They had cards attached bearing sentiments like “To The Best Teacher!” and “Thank you for helping me learn”.

I was always happy for him, and very proud of these expressions of respect and affection from his students.

He shared the sweets with me and put the stuffed toys on a shelf in his home office, squeezed in between the books, binders, notepads, and pencil caddies. The coffee mugs went to the kitchen cupboard for daily use. I appreciated them as practical, tangible, rewards for the time, effort, and emotional energy that he invested in his job, in his students.

I don’t remember the drive to the hospital, other than the effort I made to stay within the speed limit, and the fear that sat like a boulder in my gut. Then, somehow, I was there, being shown into the exam room where he lay quietly on a gurney.

As time passed and the cupboard shelves slowly filled with more mugs, I started to feel a little irritated. Couldn’t they think up a new kind of gift? I couldn’t remember which mugs were actual gifts from students, and which few were anonymous exchange gifts from staff and faculty holiday parties. Although I expected him to feel a little sentimental, I assumed  that he had also lost track of the names and faces of the givers. Seriously, who could remember? How many mugs could one teacher use?  The trouble was that he did use them. Not only were the shelves full, but the dishwasher always had several gifted mugs in each load. And the “pretty” mugs that matched our plates? Seldom used. It offended my sense of… I don’t know… how things should be…?

American Flag Mug

I held his hand, while they asked questions. Had he ever had this or that condition? What was his family background? Was I alright to go home alone?  Could they help me in any way?  Dazed, I answered as best as I could.

While he always chose one of his mugs, I served him coffee in the “pretty” mugs, whenever I had a chance. I also mentioned the full cupboard once or twice, but he hated getting rid of anything. Finally, during a spring cleaning spree, I took all of the gifted mugs out of the cupboard and placed them on the counter.  I asked him to help me sort out which, if any, could be given to the local thrift shop, to relieve the crowded shelves. Reluctantly, he looked them over and searched his memory, slowly picking out two or three that he couldn’t attach a name or face to. I quickly whisked those away to a box for donations. Whew! I felt progress had been made. I thought, in a few months, maybe we can cull a few more.

Then, he began to pick up the other mugs, one by one, and to tell me stories about each student who had honored him with their humble gift. There was Marlene, who no one knew needed glasses, until he noticed her straining to see his notes on the board. And Omar, with a learning disability, undiagnosed until this teacher brought certain behaviors to the attention of the school psychologist. And years later, the graduations where they asked him to pose with them for photos. While I saw a mug covered with dead presidents, he saw Paloma, who remembered his love of history, and brought a souvenir from her special field trip to Washington DC. The generic holiday mug that said “Ho, ho, ho!” became Alex. And of course, the Santa mugs were Debbie and Sophia, the giggly, yet studious duo who liked to hang out in the classroom after school to straighten books and sort papers. The motorcycle mug was Joaquin, and the one with the U.S. flag was Destiny. For him, the mugs took on the personalities of the givers.

 I stroked his cool brow as they told me what had happened, and stated their diagnosis.9731318 MUG SANTA SHAPE CERAMIC

The memories didn’t stop with those who gave gifts. He recalled their friends and classmates, many whose dads were not around, and who needed him, not only as a teacher, but as a positive male role model. The memories also branched out to the families of his students. As a result of his efforts, Marlene’s mother, who had been struggling to find work and to learn English, was put in touch with a community adult education program, and was hired as an assistant in the school library. There were two girls whose mom, “the cake lady”, always baked for class birthday parties. Remember when their big brother became an intern to a US Congresswoman, and later was elected to the school board?  The time when Anisa joyfully told him she had been diagnosed with PTSD. She wasn’t crazy! What she had was really “a thing”! When Destiny returned from a family vacation at the beach, heartbroken about the uncle who had saved her life, only to lose his own in a powerful undercurrent. There were Monique and Tina, who constantly misbehaved, but who made a beautiful farewell poster for him when he left to teach at another school. There was Roman, a tough kid who talked back and resisted learning with everything in him, yet excitedly jumped up out of his seat to greet “Mr!” when his teacher showed up to fill in for a different class. Yes there were quite a few mugs, but so very many more memories!

I caressed the salt and pepper stubble of his pale cheek, as they discussed the actions that needed to be taken.

Ducati 750 Sport motorcycle illustration Coffee Mug

His nostalgic smile and the soft, far-away look in his eyes completely dispelled my negative feelings. Every one of those mugs served up a warm helping of recollections with his morning coffee. With a renewed sense of gratitude, I put the mugs away, realizing that the kitchen cupboard was much more than just a practical storage area. It had become a sacred place, a kind of magic portal to a time and place full of tears and smiles, trials and triumphs, and of watching his students learn and grow. Those mugs formed the background for a significant chapter of his life story.

The hard lump of fear in my belly gradually softened and spread until it surrounded me like a shroud.

Needless to say, the precious memory mugs continued to be used regularly, and the “pretty” mugs stayed on the shelf, untouched, for the most part. The only difference was in my perspective. I had come to understand that he actually did remember the giver of each and every mug, and that those memories helped him stay connected to the positive aspects of a very demanding profession. He kept those memories alive, and kept working long hours, late nights, and weekends, striving to do his best for his students. He also kept sharing their stories and his hopes for them with me, while he drank his morning brew from any one of his special mugs. Life went on.

I was lost in a fog, but somehow able to keep moving. They said “go home and rest, for now”.

All_pres_color2 MugsI drove home through the darkness, and somehow accomplished my nighttime routine. I fed the dogs, and locked up the house for the night, but my thoughts were still with him. Exhausted in every way, I finally slept, waking once or twice, only to quickly close my eyes at the memory of the hospital room, his hair fanned out on the crisp white pillowcase, his face, peaceful, but so pale. This morning, I still moved around as if drugged, slow and unsure. My routine was full of holes. The things I regularly did out of love, out of a desire to lighten his load didn’t need doing. There was no breakfast to prepare for him, only my bowl of cereal. No lunch to pack for him to take to work. No need to make sure he had his phone, school keys, and backpack full of textbooks and graded papers. I did my best to skip past the missing parts of the morning, feeling my way, a fragmented soul lacking enough light to see through the darkness.

I searched for things I could do to keep moving, all the while talking to myself. Life is about change… I fed the dogs and let them out to run. Some changes are bigger and scarier than others… I grabbed a broom to sweep the little porch. Try to think positively… Resolutely, I returned to the kitchen and started to unload the dishwasher. No more lesson planning weekends… First put away the plates and bowls. No more parent conference evenings… then the silverware goes into the drawer. Just keep moving… Pulling out the top rack, I put away drinking glasses. No more grading papers late at night… Lastly, I reached for his coffee mugs. Lifting the first one, I was struck by the fact that I was holding one of his treasures and I closed my eyes. There would be no more students with their gifts… For a moment, I felt as though he had left that hospital bed and was there with me. Memories will live on… Slowly, lovingly, I placed each mug on the shelf remembering the all-night grading sessions, the exhaustion he felt so much of the time. He could rest now… The stories he frequently shared with me about the students who needed extra help, the ones that made him laugh, and sadly, the troubled ones, those that had he felt unable to reach. The hard work was finished… The memories from those years washed over me. With one hand on the cupboard door, and the other still lingering on the final shelved mug, I stood for some time, tasting salty tears, clinging to my memories of the strong man he had been, drawing strength for the days ahead. Life is about change… Slowly, reluctantly, I closed the door, leaving the mugs in the cool, sacred darkness of the cupboard. All the memories, his and mine, I tucked away in my aching heart.

Posted in Short stories | 2 Comments

Gray-out

Bright sunlight streams through the open blinds,
But it’s dim in here.
The spring wind rushes through the trees and around the house,
But I’m surrounded by nagging whispers.
It’s early afternoon, and we’ve just had lunch,
The clouds are looming closer all the time.
My husband has been ill and is recovering, feeling chatty,
But I can barely respond.
I treasure our talks about books and brains and plain old bullshit,
But today I can’t.
The room is peaceful and quiet, our dogs snoozing on the carpet.
I am a storm, building to some terrible climax.
I stare out the window at the sunny day, trying to dispel my own turmoil,
I feel as if I may fly into millions of tiny particles.
I look at my hands, so still in my lap.
Why are they not trembling?
How can everything appear so normal?
How, when I am caught in this maelstrom?
My face smiles at my husband’s joke,
While I try to hold on a little longer.
The minutes tick by, the hours compress more and more.
I can’t ask for help. I can’t describe the terror…
I tell myself there is nothing to fear, yet I can’t escape.
So I wait. I keep breathing.
The meds will kick in soon. I’ve been here before and survived.
I find the strength to walk out on the porch, let the sun touch my skin.
The good, strong wind begins to punch through my darkness.
Fifteen, twenty minutes. There, the cold, murky fog is subsiding.
The whispers retire to some dark place, to wait for the next storm.
I’ve made it through. Once again, I’ve run the gauntlet of panic, and come out
Alive.

Perspective

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Friends

I don’t have many. I have quite a few acquaintances, but friends are hard to come by. I’ve recently been questioning why. Do I keep people at a distance, afraid of closeness, commitment, obligation? Are my expectations of friendship unrealistic? What are my expectations? Let’s get really basic… What is a friend? Further exploration is needed…

Posted in For the Spirit | 2 Comments

My Epic Battle with a House Centipede

Today, I woke up to see one of these on my ceiling. house centipedeMy husband advised that Lysol would probably kill the creepy thing. He also advised me NOT to climb up on a chair to spray it. Good thinking. He saved us from a trip to the E.R. See, once I sprayed the Lysol, the many legged thing ran across the ceiling, toward ME! So, without any thought as to where I was going to land, I fled in a series of hop/steps, while babbling in a totally unfamiliar language. Hubby says I approximated the river dance. movie psycho scared face(Not a good thing to do from on top of a chair.)

Anyway, the thing was still on the ceiling, very much alive. I tried the Lysol again, with similar results, twice. Between fits of hysterical laughter, my speech was becoming more unintelligible and more banshee-like. The final spray attempt ended when I actually hit the creature. It twitched and fell from the ceiling, MUCH to close to me for comfort. The Lysol can went flying, as I screeched a desperate war whoop and leapt (most un-gracefully) out of range. I caught my breath and recovered from another paroxysm of laughter, and trailed my prey as it slowly crawled across the floor into our bathroom. One (or 3…or 4) good smack(s) with my slipper put the hairy little beastie out of its misery.

Throughout this epic battle, hubby is lying in bed, ROARING with laughter, and occasionally offering strategic advice. I could imagine how I appeared, and have dissolved into giggles several time since then.

After things calmed down, Hubby looked up the critter online. It’s known as a House Centipede (’cause they like to live in houses) and it can sting, but no worse than a bee. That being said, I’m not fond of being stung, so these scary things can live in our yard, garden, woodpile, etc. But NOT in the house of the River Dance Banshee. Lysol and slippers are always locked and loaded!!Home alone spider

Posted in Aint Life a Hoot?! | 7 Comments

Unforgettable Baked Beans

Ahhhh… Baked Beans!

I was talking with a couple of friends at work, and the subject of food came up. I work in a fast food restaurant, so this happens pretty often! Anyway, I mentioned how good our hamburgers would taste with baked beans. My boss asked if I had a recipe… Boy, do I!

This is the recipe my mom used, and I think my grandma used it before her. To be honest, I don’t measure the ingredients any more. It’s more fun to add approximate amounts and taste (frequently!) until it’s just right.

(The measurements are kind of like the Pirate’s code according to Captain Hector Barbossa, Disney’s ferocious pirate of the Caribbean… “more what you call guidelines than actual rules”.)

So have fun tasting and adjusting ingredients to your preference.

Oh, and these beans aren’t just for supper. They’re also delicious cold, and great to take along on a picnic, with cold fried chicken, and potato salad… brownies… watermelon… iced tea… ahhh… that’s a good memory from my childhood.

picnic tableConsider this a bonus recipe for memories! You just add your favorite people, some cold beer, and a great picnic spot! Then, relax. ; )

BEWARE!!   As I described the recipe to my friends, my boss said “Oh! my husband will love these!”  I must warn you, as I did her,” you may not love him for a while… you might need to sleep in separate rooms!” Some of my funnier childhood memories surround the after effects of these delicious beans… who could fart loudest, longest, and smelliest!! Beano, anyone?

I hope you enjoy making these baked beans, picnic basket mt viewand lots of good memories too!

Baked Beans – Shortcut or Scratch       

Shortcut – Makes 4 servings

3 slices bacon

½ cup chopped onion

one 13 oz. can of pork and beans in tomato sauce

¼ cup ketchup

2 tbsp. brown sugar, or maple syrup, or molasses

2 tsp. prepared mustard

In a skillet, cook bacon, adding onion when there is enough grease in skillet. Cook until onion is tender, but not brown. Drain grease. (You can skip this step if you’re in a hurry.)

To bake in oven, in 1 ½ quart casserole dish, combine all ingredients and bake at 350 degrees for about an hour, or to desired consistency

To cook on stove top, in a medium saucepan, combine all ingredients and cook over low heat about 15 minutes or to desired consistency, stirring frequently.

Scratch… Mmmmm! Makes 10-12 servingsbaked beans

1 lb. dry navy beans, great northern beans, or red beans

¼ lb. bacon or salt pork, cut up

1 cup chopped onion

½ cup maple syrup or molasses

¼ cup brown sugar

1 tbsp. prepared mustard

½ cup ketchup

½ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. pepper

Rinse beans. In a 4 ½ quart Dutch oven* combine beans and 8 cups cold water. Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. (Or skip boiling water and soak beans overnight in a covered pan.) Drain and rinse beans.

In the same pan combine beans and 8 cups fresh water. Bring to boiling: reduce heat. Cover and simmer about 1 ¼ hours or till tender, stirring occasionally. Drain beans, reserving liquid.

In a skillet, cook bacon, adding onion when there is enough grease in skillet. Cook until onion is tender, but not brown. Drain grease. (You can skip this step if you’re in a hurry.)

In a 2 ½ quart casserole or bean pot combine cooked beans, bacon and onion (cooked or not, your choice). Stir in 1 cup of reserved bean liquid, molasses or maple syrup, brown sugar, mustard, salt, and pepper.

Bake, covered in a 300 degree oven about 2 ½ hours or to desired consistency, stirring occasionally. If necessary, add additional reserved bean liquid.

*Or use a crock pot/slow cooker and follow time/temp directions for beans. I soak my dry beans overnight, then slow cook them the next morning. That afternoon, I combine ingredients in the crock pot and a couple of hours later, we have baked beans for supper.

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The Old Warrior

Saturday morning, I went downtown to purchase a homemade pumpkin pie. A nice young woman bakes them from fresh pumpkins, using an old family recipe. Then she sells them in front of the food co-op. While her kids were giggling and wiggling, keeping warm under a blanket, we chatted for a bit. She told me she works as a secretary, and goes to school. She also writes online, under Spirit Words. I liked the sound of that; it was like opening a special door.

I was still thinking of that door, when an old man walked up to us and announced “I am Native American, Cheyenne-Kiowa, from Oklahoma.” The backpack he carried marked him as homeless. His clothes were worn, but they were clean. His skin was a beautiful dark brown, and his eyes showed his age. I told him I was also born in Oklahoma, and that my great, great grandma was Cherokee. He smiled at me. The writer of Spirit Words chided her little ones, to stay out of the way of passersby. The old man pointed to the two children, and said “I went to war for them, for children. I am not much, but I am someone. Just a warrior.” He looked at me and softly said “I went to war. I was a machine gunner. When I came back, I had a hard time.” I looked into his eyes, saw the pain, and just as softly, answered “I bet you did.” He asked if I might have a dollar to spare, and then he kept talking. I saw a couple of dollars folded in the palm of his hand. I fished in my pocket and reached to touch his hand, giving him a folded bill, while trying to preserve his dignity. He said “I served my country. I’m just a warrior.” I told him he was an Honorable Warrior, and he served with honor, and I thanked him. He was quiet for a moment, the he said “I heard Cher passed away. She’s Cherokee. So beautiful. I’m a old man. Gotta go sometime.” Another pause, I said “We all do. Until then, we walk the Beauty Way, right?” He smiled and answered that he tried to. He asked me, “Sister, you want a Indian name?” I felt my smile grow and answered, “Yes, I do!” He bowed his head slightly, closed his eyes, and softly sang for a few moments, first in his language, then in English. I heard only a few of his words; sunshine, beauty, smile, flowers, eyes. Then he raised his head and opened his eyes to meet mine. With a beautiful smile, he said “That’s it. Sunflower is your name.” “Sunflower.” I said, and thanked him. He talked to us a little more, mostly repeating his heritage, and his war experience, while he watched the kids playing. Then he touched both of our hands, thanked us, and slowly walked away.

I watched him go, feeling a strange mix of happy and sad. I hoped he would get a nice meal, and not drink his money away. And it was his money, not charity. He made a good trade with me. Of course, I supposed that he might give Indian names to lots of folks, maybe even the same name. Then I thought of the pain in his eyes, of his loneliness, and of his sacrifice for all Americans, Native or not. I decided to believe the sincerity that I thought I saw in his beautiful, weathered old face. I said bye to the pie lady, and headed home with a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. Funny, the extraordinary things that can happen when you least expect them. I went to get a pie, and came home with a new name, and the blessing that came with it. I’m writing this down, so I can keep the memory of the writer of Spirit Words and the Old Warrior, and how they both blessed my day. I hope, in some way, that my story also blesses you.

Gail ~ Sunflower

Posted in For the Spirit | 1 Comment