I am using two books for comparison as I share opinions or impressions of Aesop’s Fables. The first is Aesop’s Favorite Fables Children’s Classic Collection, illustrated by Milo Winter and was first published in 1919. The illustrations and moral teachings are certainly consistent with that era. The “Great War,” WW1 had just ended and the ongoing issues at the time in this country include such things as “the Prohibition,” “Red Scare,” woman’s suffrage, worker strikes, and race riots.
The second book I’m using is Aesop’s Fable, illustrated by Caldecott Honor winner, Jerry Pinkney and published in 2000. I borrowed the book from the public library because of the illustrations. Although the pictures are less in Pinkney’s book, I find them pleasing to look at for children and adults alike. The language is simple and more in accord with the way I speak. The moral of the story is presented closer to reflecting my personal view. I find it a more positive and empowering message. I will use some of the illustrations from these books throughout the challenge.
Today I’m sharing a story I was not familiar with, but I find it amusing and certainly reflects a lesson in life that I learned long ago.
“APPEARANCES CAN BE DECEIVING. “ Jerry Pinkney (2000)
It seems a young mouse was beginning to get restless about getting out of the mouse den and seeing the world. He urged his mother to let him go out independently to explore and have an adventure. The wise mother agreed but told him he couldn’t stay away long. She instructed that when he was out and about to pay attention so that he could tell her everything he saw.
A short while after, the young mouse came running back as quick as his little legs could carry him and shaking in terror. “ Oh, Mother! There are strange things out there! I was enjoying the pleasant walk when I came across a beautiful creature with a thick golden fur coat and bright, shining eyes. She seemed so kind and gentle as she lay quietly in the grass. When she saw me, she waved her long fluffy tail and smiled. I would have gone over to speak to her and make her acquaintance, but out of nowhere came the most frightening beast! He was tall and loud with red meat hanging from his chin and on his head. The creature frantically tore at the ground with clawed feet, and when he saw me, he beat his arms hysterically at his side and shrieked ‘Cock-a-doodle-do!’ I was so frightened; I came home as fast as I could!”
“My dear son,” said the mother, “that beautiful, kind and gentle creature that you speak of is a cat. Cats would like to have young mice like you for dinner. The terrible monster you describe is but a rooster that prefers seeds or grains and small things he finds in the grass. He would certainly not come after you. Be thankful that you escaped with your life. Next time you when you go away, be more careful and remember, never judge others by their looks.”
How many times do we fall into that way of thinking? If we are honest, we must admit that we all have our biases and prejudices. I am reminded to “not judge a book by its cover.” I try to trust my gut and give others the benefit of the doubt. It’s a belief that is not 100% foolproof but for the most part, it has served me well.
Through the years, the story of Belling the Cat like many of Aesop’s fables has been re-written and adapted to different cultures and social norms of the moment. It is a simple story of a community of mice coming together to solve a common problem, a CAT!
The mice held a meeting and complained that it was impossible for them to go about their day peacefully with the threat of the big cat springing on them unexpectedly. As I am not an expert on mice culture and certainly not one to sit and observe mice, I suppose a family of mice would pursue happiness by being involved in activities such as building nests and gathering food.
In any event, the mice mulled over the fact that each time as they went about their business, the cat, being a hunter by nature, would do what cats do. He would bring his long sleek body close to the ground and with padded feet, quietly sneak up on them; He would pounce on one unlucky victim and capture it within his sharp claws. The other mice would scatter and run as fast as their little feet could carry them, knowing that they would never see their friend again.
The deliberations went on for hours. There was much arguing about what to do with this cat that was disrupting their lives and threatening their very existence. Ideas came and went, and finally, a very young mouse said: “it’s very simple really, hang a bell around its neck so that we can hear him coming and run for shelter before he grabs someone.”
“What a great idea! An amazing plan.” An elderly mouse who had not spoken before said, “I’m glad we all agree. Now my friends, who will have the courage to step forward to do it?” There was silence, and soon there was the shuffling of hundreds of little feet. It seemed that when looking for volunteers, they all took one step backward and the deliberation continued.
“Brave words are easier than brave deeds.” Aesop’s Fables by Jerry Pinkey
Have you ever been to a planning meeting at work, school or church and found yourself in a similar situation? Most times the issue is not anything dangerous, just time-consuming or merely new. There have been group meetings where we’ve pondered options that seem good in theory, but no one was willing to put into action.
It always amazes me that Aesop’s stories are still relevant today. We have come a long way and have developed many great projects and ideas, but over the centuries our nature remains the same.
If Aesop were telling this story today, he would probably say: “ All talk and no action leaves us in the same predicament.” Don’t you agree? `
A year ago I participated in the A to Z April 2018 writing challenge. I had read about it on a blog that I follow, and it seemed like a perfect opportunity for me to commit to writing every day. I was too late to register for the official challenge or develop a theme, but none the less, I participated by sharing mental snapshots forged in my memories and used the letter of the day for my title or opening sentence.
I promised myself that the following year, 2019, I would be prepared with a theme and even planned to write some posts beforehand so that I would not feel so overwhelmed or pressured to write posts daily for 26 days. Life became somewhat complicated as the year passsed and my best intentions did not get me very far.
I do have a theme; however, it is Life Lessons with a Parable-A-Day. The idea for came about as I reviewed and revised some of my writing. I noticed that most of my blog posts share a memory and a life-lesson or a philosophy of life that I have as a result of my experiences. Sometimes my thoughts may seem cliché while others are a new take on a common belief.
Aesop’s fables have been a favorite collection of mine since I was a child. An elderly neighbor gave my mother a few vinyl Disney albums with music and stories that had belonged to her children. We played them over and over. Through the years, I’ve remembered stories especially the catchy tune “The world owes me a living, which ends with “I owe the world a living.”
My beginning post reminds me that we can count our blessings, but the world does not owe us a living. If we are able-bodied, we must work and strive for our own happiness and personal fulfillment. I’m not necessarily talking about money or status; I’m talking about taking personal responsibility for our lives, including reaching out for help when we need it.
Hope you can enjoy this old Disney cartoon that I’ve included. It’s funny to see how far they have come with animation. Please come back and share your own favorite fables and life lessons.
Alternate title: Ugly Sweater in the eye of the beholder
Lonnie Delopas rummaged through her carry-on looking for the earbuds she threw in there at the last minute. She would listen to music instead of trying to read. She had been on edge since she woke up this morning. She felt a difference in the energy around her. The overall volume in the airport terminal wasn’t any louder than usual, but the noise was causing her nerves to frazzle, and it was irritating.
Usually, a two-hour layover didn’t bother her, but at the moment she felt uneasy as if something big was about to happen. She hoped she would arrive safely and without incident to her destination. She had experienced this feeling before as a warning or déjà vu. She rechecked the weather status and listened for any cancelations or announcements of change. She was heading to the North East for an award and book signing. It was winter, just before Christmas, weather-wise, anything could happen. It felt strange to get back to the city where she grew up. When she first got the news, she thought: “Not a bad way to end the year;” but now, with the eeriness, she was feeling, she wasn’t so sure.
Lonnie finally fished her earbuds from the bottom of her bag, and as she sat up in her chair, she noticed a man walking at a fast pace toward Gate 19. The man was tall with thick salt and pepper hair that fell just over his ears and collar; a neatly groomed beard framed his face. He wore gunmetal square-aviator style Ray-Bans and a classic leather bomber jacket. He carried a large leather bag slung over his shoulder and finally having reached the Gate, he slowed down. He walked past Lonnie with the confidence of a man comfortable in his skin until he tripped of his own accord and almost fell at her feet. Without missing a beat, he stopped, smiled and asked: “Yeah, Is anyone sitting here?”
There was something very familiar about him. Lonnie watched him from the corner of her eye as the stranger relaxed in the seat next to her. She decided that the familiarity she found was his likeness to Andrea Bocelli. He was so close, she could smell his cologne mixed with the scent of his well-worn leather jacket. His long legs stretched out almost into her personal space, and she couldn’t help but notice his stylish dress boots. Lonnie regretted her decision to travel bundled up in comfortable, bulky layers for this trip. Suddenly, she was acutely conscious that her hair was having one of its unruly moments. Note to self, next time dress comfortable but trendy to announce that a successful creative soul has arrived. She silently snickered to herself that she even had these ideas. What was happening?
The Bocelli-look-alike was on the phone. His voice sounded familiar too, but Lonnie rationalized that she was, after all, headed to LaGuardia Airport and the familiarity she found in histone was nothing more than a strong Brooklyn accent. She had left many years ago; it seemed like another lifetime. She was a little sad that after all these years, it was no longer “home.” It was as if she were traveling to any other strange city around the country. Like herself, most of her close friends had moved away and lost touch over the years. Sadly some of her dearest friends had passed. Lonnie finally attributed her energy imbalance to nerves and nostalgia with thoughts of the “good old days.”
Lonnie couldn’t help overhearing that the stranger was back in town to see his parents for the holidays but arrived a few days early to meet colleagues at a new job “in the City.” It sounded like he was pressuring someone to make plans to meet up before he had to leave again. He’d be back the beginning of the year, but he needed to pack up and close on his house first. The person on the other line must have said something to make him burst out laughing, and with a mocking voice, he said“Tony, it’s not that easy… I love you, man!” With that, the sophisticated, fine-looking man sitting next to Lonnie couldn’t finish his sentence as he folded over in a fit of laughter. His arms were flailing, and his classy boots stomped the floor repeatedly.
Lonnie couldn’t help but turn to face him, and with his RayBans off, she noticed the big scar next to his left eye. It still looked as terrible as it did decades ago. “Tony?” she asked. “Tony Petronelli?” He stared at her, not recognizing her at first. “It’s me, Lonnie? Alondra Delopas.” She smiled. It was then that Anthony Laurence Petronelli recognized her. He remembered the warm smile that at once upon a time made him feel mushy and gooey inside. A mop of short, wild gray hair had replaced the long brown hair that smelled of lavender and roses when ran his fingers through it; but the lively brown eyes and smile were still the same. “Oh my GAWD!” he said as they hugged long and hard as old friends do.
They spent the two-hour layover catching up. Tony told her that stayed in New England after college, but his parents were still in the city. He kept up with friends each time he came to visit his family. He married had children, but once the kids were out of the house and on their own, he and his wife found they didn’t want to stay married. It was as simple as that. Since college, he worked for the same a tech-company with contracts all over the world. Tony recently took a position in the corporate office back home to be closer to his aging parents. Lonnie had also married with children. Her first husband died tragically at a young age and her second husband was a mistake. She had been teaching and writing for some time and was pleased to have a best seller in her hands finally.
Tony made plans to attend the book signing. Lonnie said it would be nice to have an old friend there for support. Her book was a Christmas story she told him, inspired in part by one of her favorite Christmas stories, O.Henry’s “Gift of the Magi,” and without warning, there in the middle of the busy airport terminal, the unthinkable happened! Tony brought up “The Sweater.”
One winter Lonnie bought a cranberry colored, 100% wool, alpine sweater at a specialty shop in the small city near her college. Her new best friend Bertie, Roberta Borkson, had taken her there. Bertie was an avid skier, and she was going to get a sweater for her boyfriend to wear on their ski trip over Christmas vacation. Lonnie went along and started having her own ideas about the beautiful sweaters she saw.
Lonnie and Tony met at a lodge in the Poconos Mountains two years earlier during a winter camp sponsored by a local youth organization. She noticed him on the first morning when she and her friends came in from a walk just as the snow started to get heavy. Tony was sitting quietly by the fireplace, with a mug of hot chocolate as he listened to a couple of friends getting agitated about football teams. The girls went straight to the fire to warm up which caused a distraction for the boys and their sports.
By dinner time, they were all old friends. They had been laughing, telling stories and playing table tennis as the time slipped away. Lonnie and Tony somehow always managed to end at the same table for meals, and on the bus ride home, he shyly asked if he could call her. The group was heading back to the Poconos during the Christmas break. Lonnie pictured Tony in his new alpine sweater by the fireplace and her in a beautiful knitted cream colored hat and scarf she had seen downtown.
Tony and Lonnie exchanged gifts as soon as she got home from school that year. Lonnie was pleased to find the beautiful soft cream-colored hat and scarf set. Tony started to open his with a great big smile, but as he parted the thin sheets of tissue paper, his smile appeared frozen. “Reindeer?” He asked. He could not hide his shock. There were indeed, gray reindeer parading in between oversized snowflakes across the top of the sweater from one shoulder to the other. It was apparent that he disliked the sweater. Lonnieoffered to return it, but Tony regained his composure and being the sweet young man that he was, nobly put it on to go out with friends that evening so as not to hurt Lonnie’s feelings.
The sweater was a hit among their friends, but not it a good way. One did not see many alpine sweaters with reindeer around the Bay Ridge neighborhood in Brooklyn, NY. There is a reason there are no scenes with Tony Manero dancing his Saturday Night Fever in a cranberry red alpine sweater with gray reindeer and snowflakes. It didn’t fit the character.
On that cold winter night in the early 1970s and during the trip to the mountains, their friends warned Lonnie that she would never live that one down. And so it was that fifty years later when fate serendipitously crossed the paths of these two senior citizens with teenage grandchildren of their own; Anthony Laurence Petronelli brought up the cranberry red alpine sweater with the gray reindeer. All they could do was try to stifle the laughter until their bellies hurt and the years seemed to melt away.
The photos used here are not my own; they were found online and “no copyright infringement is intended.”
If you’ve read my posts before, you may remember that I started taking writing seriously in March 2018. I’ve been working on my craft just about every day. If I’m not posting here, I’m reviewing and editing or digging deeper to get to the real story. I recently joined a local writer’s association and today I had my first meeting with a critique group that meets once a month. This particular group regularly has five to six members attending, which is nice to allow everyone a chance to voice their opinions.
As it happens the group just started changing the format and the focus is on flash fiction. That suits me fine because I tend to be wordy. I can use the help. I like to give as much detail as possible to that a person can get the full effect and feel as if they are sharing in the experience.
This week’s topic was to write about an embarrassing moment and the lesson learned. We were to bring six copies for folks to read along. Of course, on my first day, I left the folder with my copies on the kitchen counter as I headed out the door. I’ve Emailed to the group and I’m including my entry below. Let me know what you think.
Critique Group: Embarrassing Moment
In the year before my retirement, “Knee Deep” by The Zac Brown Band was my theme song. That last winter, as I ran away from a New England blizzard, I prayed that tune would carry me through my golden years. I packed a truck, drove south and arrived at my daughter’s doorstep in Florida. My ultimate goal, was for “the only worry in the world” to be “Is the tide gonna reach my chair?” That plan gets complicated in the middle of the Sunshine State, and in a few months I packed another truck and drove further south.
Shortly after arriving in Aguas Claras, Florida, I realized that early retirement is not all it’s cracked up to be. My permanent vacation would have to wait. I became a Realtor, and after a few months, a busy team hired me as an assistant. A significant part of his business was at least thirty minutes away, but I agreed to take the job. It was a no-brainer. It was a great opportunity, and with my handy GPS, I already felt I conquered the South. I became familiar with the new area; clients were starting to refer their friends, I was on my way.
One day, I took a particularly chatty group of snowbirds to search for a piece of paradise that would fit their budget. They brought friends for second opinions, and half the contingency followed my car in caravan style. The first couple of houses were in the general vicinity where our team regularly conducted business, but they wanted to check out condos near the next county to the north. It would be another 15-20 minutes away, no problem. I had taken clients before. I knew how to get there.
We visited a couple of units on the other side of town, and when we finished there, the passengers in the other car needed to stop for gas. While waiting, I remembered that the route I found the last time was not the best to showcase the community. It was Old Florida, but not the charming, sweet-tea–on-the-veranda scenes from the brochures. There were old houses that needed maintenance and broken down cars or tractors were the lawn ornaments out front. I wanted to reprogram my GPS to avoid that route. All I needed to do was go back to the main road and not take the first right. The GPS would automatically “recalculate” and we would be all set.
For some reason, as we drove away from the gas station, I turned West instead of East, and it was downhill from there. The traffic had picked up by now, and I lost my bearings. I drove a little further to where I thought there was a road that would connect to back, but the GPS kept yelling at me to make a U-turn. There were “NO U-TURN” signs posted all along that road. I was flustered, I could feel my face burning, but I kept going following new the directions on the GPS.
I kept driving hoping the GPS was going to turn to the main road that ran parallel, but the GPS has a mind of its own, and it didn’t. The caravan kept heading north, which was fine but instead of moving toward the East, the road curved out toward the West. We drove through what could have been a picturesque fishing town with water from the bayous overstepping their boundaries and reaching the edge of the road. It wasn’t.
After a while, we reached the State Road where I could finally turn east and get to the condo community. When we got there, and as soon as the passengers in the other car got out I was reprimanded for taking a long way around. A drive that should have taken 15 mins took 45. I played it off as if I was showing my out-of-town clients the scenic route, but no one was amused. Needless to say, they didn’t buy anything, and I never heard from them again.
Lesson Learned: Don’t trust the GPS and map out your destination the old-fashioned way if you have no idea where you are going.
I like to read other bloggers stories. I truly believe the human experience is one. Often I find something in the blog that resonates with my spirit. Yesterday I was visited by Simplytrizah, and when I visited her page in return, I was quite amused. In Trizah’s Random Thoughts, she tells the stories of her adventures looking for romance from the perspective of a millennial newly cast in the adult world. As I commented on one of her posts, some things about dating during this time period are the same regardless of age.
I was reminded that on my trip back from visiting my family, I had a three and a half hour layover between flights and I started looking for something light and funny to read. I came across an e-book that looked promising. It was supposedly a humorous look at romance in the Third Age. I enjoy romantic comedies with the likes of Jane Fonda, Helen Mirren, Meryl Streep and of course the adventures of Grace and Frankie. When I looked at the reviews, however, I was discouraged. It seems that some readers were disappointed that the protagonist did not exhibit or reference any signs of aging. I suppose the idea aging gracefully is subjective, but it did get me thinking about the message we are leaving for the young woman. What have we learned as the generation who created the sexual revolution is aging?
I decided to share a portion of a short story that I’m working on. I’ve enrolled in an editing, and re-writing course and this is one of the stories that I want to do. I might even work it into a longer piece about OneOrdinary Life. This part of the story centers around a modern tribe of women who periodically get together for support and encouragement – think Red Tent in modern day New England. The friends are gathered to make a large pot of fish chowder on a cold winter night; add a little wine and conversation and I have a story!
Is it possible to be practical and a romantic at the same time?
“At this stage of the game,” Nan continued her lecture, “dating is all about the practicality of the matter. It’s not about Disney princesses or Hollywood’s love stories. That doesn’t happen in real life and much less at our age. Before you step into the labyrinth called dating, ask yourself why do you want a man. Do you want entertainment, part-time companionship, just sex, financial security? Determine that first, and then go after what you want…”
Examples and testimonies followed, but Clotilde was unusually quiet and had stopped listening. She sipped her wine and chopped her vegetables as her mind wandered to places where her friends could not imagine.
That night she wrote in her journal:
“They tell me that there are no castles in the clouds, nor do valiant princes exist who ride on white stallions and risk their lives for fair maidens. They tell me it’s all a question of convenience, the practicality of the matter. They say that the years pass us quickly and if we don’t act with good judgment now, we are weighed down by life’s regrets.
I was a lonely, caged dove unable to spread my wings, imprisoned by fear. Your eyes sparkled with mischief, and I said “Who cares! Let’s fly!” With you, I believe there are indeed places where dreams come true. Your warm breath touches my cheek, and your kiss awakens the sleeping beauty of my soul. My spirit flies like an eagle! The years fall away. I transcend the clouds safely nestled in your arms to find that castle where dreams become a reality.”
Nan and her friends were too late with their intervention that night; for Clotilde had already crossed over to the land of unicorns, rainbows, and pots of gold.
You grow up the day you have the first real laugh at yourself. Ethel Barrymore from AZ quotes
The other morning I had one of those episodes where I had to laugh at myself or in spite of myself. I find I do it quite often these days; I believe it’s one of the perks brought on by aging and wisdom of our years. I started my morning with my mind set on a plan for a project in the yard. I’m house sitting while taking care of my daughter’s eighty five pound furbaby. She and her husband have their hands full with careers and a toddler size human baby, so I decided to make use of idle time and clean up the yard a bit before they got home. Nothing major, I’m not a gardener. I had a small flower garden once which was mostly landscaped already when I bought the house. With minimal fuss, that garden managed to come back and thrive every year from spring through fall. These days I’m working on trying to get a potted orchid to flower again.
I was up and dressed bright and early with gardening shorts, t-shirt and safari hat. I wanted to get it done before the temperature became unbearable but I couldn’t find my daughter’s gardening gloves. I have allergies and an intense dislike for creepy crawly things, so I wasn’t going out there without gloves. What a dilemma! I had to run to the store to pick up a pair of gloves, but I was dressed for tropical weather gardening, not shopping. To understand my problem, we’d have to go back to my family of origin where the mantra was “we may be poor, but we are proud!” Mom always made sure our clothes were clean, ironed with starch and our shoes polished. She learned from her mother. My grandmother was an adorable, plump little woman. Over the years I’ve mentioned a few times that someday I wanted to be a cute, little old lady like her. (I’m practically there). She wore her thinning white hair in a small bun at the nape of her neck. Her back slightly curved from years as a seamstress. In her late 70s, her alabaster skin was without blemish and smooth, and her eyes were a turquoise green like the tranquil waters of the Caribbean Basin. It was just recently that my aunt had convinced her that she didn’t need to iron my grandfather’s boxers or her bed sheets because of the new permanent press fabrics. She still starched and pressed her house dresses and my grandfather’s white cotton shirts and khakis. One summer when I was visiting my grandmother, she asked me if I wanted to go shopping in town with her. She was walking to town and wanted some company. We were already in town, but she meant about 20 minutes to the stores on the main street, more if she saw friends along the way. I dressed quickly and waited for my grandmother on the porch.
My grandmother, Mrs. Plumeria Bridge put one foot out on the porch, looked at me and stopped in her tracks. She looked up and down at me, and I noticed the tranquil waters in her eyes were starting to churn like angry waves before a storm. “Go in and change. I’m not taking you with me like that.” Period and end of the story were implied in her tone. Of course, I was young, and I needed to ask why: “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing?” At the time, I thought it was cool for a girl from the big city to wear overalls with a T-shirt and sneakers. My question triggered a lecture on the proper attire of lovely young ladies going into town. She didn’t want to hear what I did back home, so I went in and changed to a sundress, ladylike sandals and wore my long dark hair in a braid. Fast forward to 2018, and I’m standing at the doorway with my car keys in hand, ready to go to the Town Center in workout shorts, a sleeveless t-shirt, sneakers without socks and my wild hair particularly unruly this morning. I was just going to run in and out but what if I saw someone I knew? Well, I don’t know many people in this town, I thought as I encouraged myself. Besides Hollywood A-listers do it all the time, I just won’t take off my sunglasses! That’s when it happened; I laughed at myself for giving so much thought to explain my options as if to my grandmother. As it turned out, once I was at the Town Center, I remembered a couple of other things I needed and made another stop. I was not just in and out at either store. I chatted with the clerks and a woman behind me in line. No one asked me why I was wearing comfortable workout shorts and sneakers without socks to the trendy Town Center. At another point in my life, I probably wouldn’t have gone out, or if I had to, I would have changed to something more “presentable.” I realize though that if anyone I know passes judgment about me because of the clothes I wear, then they don’t value me for the person I am. I am beyond the point where I feel the need to prove my worth. I am what I am, and it is what it is. Since it’s my nature to ponder, I reflected on how often we judge others by their appearance. I often say that it seems like the experiences from our school years play out throughout our lives. We see the same behaviors at work or in social groups. Only the names and faces change. Naturally, whenever this topic crosses my mind, I am reminded of a young girl, a classmate from my middle and high school years, Grace Fore. I was an average kid. I managed to stay under the radar and out of trouble. I wasn’t popular but had friends from different groups that I had met through various activities like art electives, tutoring, orchestra, boosters, yearbook, and church.
Grace Fore was a loner. I didn’t know anything about her home life, but I knew she played the viola beautifully with such sentimentality. I remember that it was apparent that she was trying to fix her appearance. Kids teased her when she tried a new hairstyle and her hair still looked disheveled or when she wore a misshapen dress that she made herself in class. They called her Grace Forlorn. I didn’t verbally defend her, I usually just moved my friends along before it got worse. I always wished I had been braver. A few years ago as the world turns, I received a Facebook friend request from Grace Fore with a simple question “Do you remember me?” “Of course,” I answered, “you played the viola beautifully. Do you still play?” She wrote to me about the difficult life she had growing up and how it turned out not much better as an adult. And then she broke my heart when she said: “but you were always nice to me, and it meant so much.” I really didn’t much. I was taught and always believed in the message: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” Wendy Mass, The Candymakers from Goodreads. If she hadn’t reached out, I would have never known that one small kindness would mean so much after all these years. She unfriended me shortly after over differences in political ideology, but I’m glad we connected. It validated my core beliefs. After driving home in this meditative state, I needed a drink before I tackled the yard. It was the middle of the day in Florida with temperatures in the triple digits. I poured a tall glass of iced tea, put my feet up and decided I would start fresh tomorrow. I shook my head, I snickered to myself.
“Fantasy is escapist, and that is its glory. If a soldier is imprisioned by the enemy, don’t we consider it his duty to escape?. . .If we value the freedom of mind and soul, if we’re partisans of liberty, then it’s our plain duty to escape, and to take as many people with us as we can!” ― J.R.R. Tolkien from Goodreads
The sun had turned down the furnace and dusk approached with a hint of a breeze and clear skies. The girls’ excitement mounted when darkness inched its way into the neighborhood. Daddy had bought poppers and fireworks at the supermarket in an attempt to recreate for them the memories of his childhood celebrations. It was the Fourth of July!
After the poppers, the girls reluctantly agreed to sit with Mommy in their camp chairs to watch Daddy from a safe distance. The fact that they weren’t hands on didn’t hamper the enthusiasm and the chatter. When Daddy wasn’t setting them off quickly enough like the ones at the park, they cried, “Don’t you have one more Daddy?” In the neighborhood, we could hear other families cracking and popping small arsenals. Not far away, small rockets exploded into the air showering the night sky with colorful stars high above the trees. It all looked magical against the silhouette of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
I was quickly caught up in the excitement of our mini celebration. When our fireworks display was over, we noticed fireflies or lightning bugs in the dark spaces between the houses. As you may know, I was raised a city kid, and nature never ceases to amaze me. We didn’t have fireflies in our asphalt jungles. All of a sudden, I couldn’t help myself; I was in the moment and on the edge of reality again. I said to my granddaughters, “Did you know that some people think that fireflies might be fairies in disguise?”
The girls are at that age when a vivid imagination is easy to access. They teeter between knowing what is real and wanting to believe in impossible fantasies. I thought we could have some fun picturing little fairies buzzing around while fireworks were still going off in the distance – sort of like Disney… maybe. With all my enthusiasm, I forgot that one of my granddaughters, Catie Dee, wants nothing to do with bugs; while Anelie Rose, is a future crafty, horse-riding, flute playing art teacher and ninja scientist who is always trying to figure the why of things.
Instead of just marveling at the thought that there were fairies all around us, Anelie Rose wanted to catch one to see if it was true what people say. She promptly went back into the garage to grab a net and with determination announced that she was ready to start the hunt. Catie Dee stood there with a frozen smile and fear in her moss green eyes, but she dutifully followed her big sister. Anelie Rose didn’t have much luck with the net, but Mom almost caught one with her bare hands. Daddy remembered that when he was a kid, they caught lightning bugs in clear plastic cups to see them when they light up. Unfortunately, there weren’t any around us now. The fairies noticed that humans were trying to nab them.
We spotted what seemed to be a fairy picnic across the street. The fireflies lit up the trees as if it were Christmas; surely they could catch one there. Off they went to the edge of the woods with the net and two clear plastic cups. Daddy did catch one but when the girls took a closer look, it was still just a bug, and it didn’t even look like it had a light. We all decided it was best to let it go assuming it was probably too afraid to light up and much less to change into a fairy. As it flew away, we saw its little light glowing in the dark.
We were heading into the house for the night, making comments that we were glad the lightning bug or fairy was OK. All of a sudden Anelie Rose announced: “I have an idea; we’ll set a trap!” She was adamant about wanting to see for herself whether lightning bugs turn into lightning fairies. She had the idea to tie up one of the ornamental fairies from the flower garden, put it in the net and place it on the bushes. She expected that the other fairies would try to rescue their friend and one was bound to get caught in the net. She and Daddy went back out to set the trap while little Catie Dee came in the house with us. She had enough of chasing bugs to last her a lifetime.
The next morning while her dad was still asleep, Anelie Rose came into the guest room and asked me to go with her to check the trap. At first, she was disappointed because she hadn’t caught anything, but as she started to take it down, she said: “Wait a minute, it looks like the yarn is loose. They must have tried to untie her to set her free but couldn’t, and so they left. They will probably be back. I’ll try again tonight.”
She continued to set traps for three or four nights without catching anything. She asked her dad to look online for more ideas. Each night she and her dad tried another plan without success. Each morning she found another clue that made her think there had been another rescue attempt. She proceeded to explain the reason for her insistence. “If you catch a fairy; she will grant you a wish, and I know exactly what I’m going to wish for.” Convinced that she was getting closer to catching a fairy, she persisted. It was breaking my heart, and I was feeling guilty about mentioning the firefly fairies in the first place.
I was feeling guiltier still when told me that her special wish was the driving force behind her patience and persistence. She wanted to wish that I would come back again soon for a more extended visit – maybe a year or more. Aww, my sweet and innocent precious little girl; I felt awful. Later, her Mom and I reminisced about that Christmas Eve when she and her sister had spied on me and caught me bringing wrapped presents up from the basement with tags that read “Merry Christmas, Love Santa.” They were both so angry that I had lied to them about Santa Claus. Her sister told me she felt like a fool in school when at eight and a half years old, she still believed in Santa. (My bad.) “What else have you lied to us about?” They demanded. They got bikes and more Barbies that year. I think they are over it. It was fun to remember, but Mom wanted no part of the scam on her daughter.
On our way to the airport, Anelie Rose jumped into the car with a pad and pencil. “On the drive over, maybe we can come up with a list of other things that might work for our trap,” I suggested they get a play cookie or a cupcake and put it in the net. I’d heard fairies liked sweets and their play food looks almost real. She looked at me incredulously; I had suggested that before but she didn’t think that would work. She put her things down and said: “That’s okay; Daddy and I will come up with something else later.” I could imagine Catie Dee rolling her eyes from the back seat. She didn’t understand her sister’s mission. All she could see were the bugs; she couldn’t imagine anything past that. I’ll bet she hoped her sister would forget about it once I was gone.
The next day, when I was home, I got a call from my daughter, “Anelie Rose wants to FaceTime; she has something to show you.” After our usual greetings and I miss you more; and before her sister could get to the phone, she burst out: “Guess what?” She put two figures in front of the camera and in one breath said: “We caught two fairies! Daddy looked it up, and it said that fairies turn into statues when they get caught. Look, the wings are clear. And I already got a wish granted! I wished to be able to FaceTime with you, and we are doing it! We are going to let them go tonight, but I wanted to show you first.” What could I say? “Wow! That’s fantastic! They look beautiful.”
It appears that her dad was feeling bad for her too. He decided to get a fairy figurine from the fairy village collection at the local craft store. She was so excited. Her idea was a success! That evening even Catie Dee got involved in the fairy sendoff; after all, they were no longer bugs.
What fun! I see a trip in my future. I guess maybe I should start packing my bags.
Happiness is like a butterfly which, when pursued, is always beyond our grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you. Author unknown, printed in “The Literary American,” 1848. (Credit- Quote Investigator)
I have difficulty finding a favorite quote to share because I have many. I store bits wisdom from a variety of people and sources. First and foremost I often quote my parents and grandparents, especially to my younger generation. Its the Wisdom of the Elders.
Through the years I’ve memorized quotes from the Bible and preachers; from educators and authors – even quotes from “the mouth of babes.” As we know kids say the truth no one else dares to.
These quotes and special thoughts are put away in seemingly random places in my mind, but they are usually available when I need them. I often sprinkle them among the sentences in my writings to endorse a point or a statement of my own. The particular quote above, I got from my daughter many years ago, as she explained the tattoo on playing peek-a-boo on her hip, but that’s a story for another day.
The quest for happiness seems an obsession of the human race since the beginning of time. People don’t realize that happiness is not something that can be measured by the pound or the yard and you can’t keep it in your pocket or on a shelf. It means different things to different people. Happiness is more of a state of being. I have seen people strive for one thing or another, thinking that it would lead to happiness only to be sorely disappointed. “I thought, once I didn’t have to worry about money … or when I lose weight… or once I was married or finished my education…” It’s sad that along the way they rushed by and possibly missed those moments that would have made them happy.
All those aspirations and dreams are worth the effort, but we must remember to keep our eyes, ears and above all our hearts opened to the showers of blessings that fall upon us when we least expect it. An old friend left me with a thought that I always remember, a simple truth, a quote I’ve used often – a lesson learned. “Enjoy each great moment as it comes, you don’t know when the opportunity will come again.”
I leave you with this, when you think happiness is out of reach, sit for a moment in the quietness of gratitude and fill your heart with the sweet moments you have lived. A smile from a stranger, a hug from a friend, the wonders around you like a butterfly on your shoulder; those memories will sustain you to continue your journey until you reach your destination because they help you remember there is good in the world.
Day Five: Hook ’Em With a Quote’ #everydayinspiration
I can’t remember the last time I was at Grand Central Station. If I had to guess, it was probably on my way home for the weekend in my freshman year in college. I grew up in New York City – the borough of Brooklyn to be exact. As a teenager and young adult, I rode the subways at all hours of the day. I was never afraid – I guess that’s the gift of the foolishness of youth. I remember the splendor of this transit station; the bright lights, the Tiffany clock, the marble that withstands time. I remember crowds on the trains and the streets in the City, but I don’t recall it like a sardine can of people but I saw it the last time I was there. I certainly have no memory of armed National Guardsmen at all large transit stations. It’s like another world, another lifetime.
I can see myself standing against the wall waiting for my train and watching all the people. Everything around me is a blur of people walking quickly by – just as the photographer caught it. There is a pulse to this place, a strong almost frantic rapid pulse. The noise level makes me crave at least five minutes at the shore early in the morning; just by looking at the picture my soul longs to synchronize with the rhythm of the waves rolling in an out on the beach.
Who are these people? Where are they going in such a rush? What or who is waiting for them? Was that me of another era? I remember someone complaining once that I walked too fast. My response? “I’m a New Yorkah, whadda you want?” That was years ago. Now I pick up the pace just only when I want to get my heart rate up.
What about the National Guardsmen? They are looking at these people too with different questions; with sharper eyes. Their presence everywhere reminds us of unknown dangers that have become part of our lives. Do they have mixed feelings because they crave some action in their otherwise boring day? I am reminded of the most recent school shooting. Are more armed officers at the school honestly the answer? Public schools are cutting down on personnel such as nurses, counselors, and teachers of the arts. They are spread thin throughout their counties in all parts of the country. Resources, in general, are scarce in our public schools, and yet the only answer is to arm more people in the school.
And then in the blink of an eye, I’m back at my desk, pounding on my keyboard, in the quiet space I’ve carved for myself. Like the song from Roger’s and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, “Then I’m glad to be back in my own little corner; All alone in my own little chair.”
Day Four: A Story in a Single Image; #everydayinspiration