Our Valentine Tree


Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960
Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Our Valentine Tree

 

We fell in love on Valentine’s Day.

 

The minute you laughed I knew.

 

I was destined to be yours, my love,

 

And I would be blessed with you.

 

 

 

We planted our special tree that year.

 

We cleared away the snow.

 

You insisted our love would always be strong

 

And you wanted the whole world to know.

 

 

 

You’re in my thoughts again, my love,

 

I imagine you under our tree.

 

Remember all the pledges we made,

 

And the passion between you and me?

 

 

 

The years passed by rather fast,

 

Then our kids were grown and gone.

 

We were there in our empty house,

 

Still together but each all alone.

 

 

 

My heart grew hard and I forgot our tree,

 

I insisted it blocked my view.

 

I was determined to chop it down,

 

Without even telling you.

 

 

 

It was early morning on Valentine’s Eve,

 

When I approached our special tree.

 

I was shocked and pleased with what I saw,

 

Then ashamed of the heart in me.

 

 

 

Instead of the tree being stark and bare,

 

Pink and red covered the tree.

 

Valentines and notes from all our years,

 

Proclaimed your love for me.

 

 

 

 

 

My love had been erratic.

 

There was little that I could boast.

 

But you were there as you always were,

 

Just when I needed you most.

 

My dreams and heart were renewed, my love,

 

By the valentines that covered our tree.

 

There was only one thing I could say,

 

“I’m glad you married me!”

 

 

 

I miss all you gave, my love,

 

And the tenderness you showed to me.

 

I want our love to be clear each year,

 

As I hang valentines on our tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a Breeze in the Back


One lump or two? Or fifteen?
One lump or two? Or fifteen? (Photo credit: Joff Hopkins)

 

With a Breeze in the Back

 

“One lump or two?” I heard the nurse say,

 

My heart began pounding twice as fast,

 

I wasn’t mentally prepared on that fateful day,

 

I thought, This day could be my last.

 

 

 

From his office into the clean crisp air,

 

Escaping because I was upset and afraid,

 

Suddenly I realized that I was almost bare,

 

And in front of the Thanksgiving parade.

 

 

 

I couldn’t decide exactly what to do,

 

I still wore my gown with a breeze in the back,

 

I was embarrassed and a little cold too,

 

But I was in the parade, the leader of the pack.

 

 

 

My mind was numb and I lost my fear,

 

And I began to relax and wave,

 

The crowd roared and began to cheer,

 

For they thought I was extremely brave.

 

 

 

High stepping and saluting to the crowd’s delight,

 

I marched past the judges’ stand,

 

I was in my glory and in full sight,

 

I won a trophy for most spectacular in all the land.

 

 

 

I led that parade down a frontage street,

 

Until I marched into the doctor’s office again,

 

I entered and had just taken a seat,

 

When the doctor rushed in with a grin.

 

 

 

He asked, “Have you been waiting long?”

 

As he spent two minutes looking over my chart,

 

“Well I marched in a parade and wrote a song.”

 

He squinted and said, “Patience is an art.”

 

 

 

Doc, I need to know.  Was it one lump or two?”

 

“Why would you want to know that?

 

I want my coffee sweet so two lumps will do,

 

My wife would kill me.  She thinks I’m getting fat.”

 

 

 

Two lumps of sugar had been my downfall,

 

I had led a parade where everyone could see,

 

It hadn’t been my lymphatic glands at all,

 

It was sugar that almost killed me.

 

 

 

In the doctor’s office listen to what he says,

 

Don’t jump to conclusions if you’ve found a little bump,

 

Unless he shows you the x-rays,

 

Let his coffee contain the lump.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Show Me the Shoes!”


Anthropomorphic Valentine, circa 1950–1960
Image via Wikipedia

She curled up next to me,

All soft and deliciously warm,

That was different than usual,

And set off my alarms,

 

She said, “I’ll make myself comfortable,

I need to unwind,”

I eyed her suspiciously,

Had she lost her mind?

 

“Would you like a back rub,

Or a nice tall drink?”

“What kind of trouble am I in?”

I started to think,

 

Everything was too perfect,

With Valentine’s Day approaching soon,

My thoughts should have been about love,

Flowers, violins, and a romantic moon,

 

“Your gown looks mighty thin,

I don’t want you to catch a cold,”

Was I forgetting something?

I was trying to be good as gold,

 

“Oh, oh,” I thought, “I did it this time,”

When her eyes filled up with tears,

She must know I spent time with the boys,

And we drank too many beers,

 

“Dear, I’m sorry,” I started to say,

But she confessed before I did,

I listened once without interrupting,

To the secret that she hid,

 

“Yesterday I went shopping,

And bought the most beautiful shoes,

I thought you might get mad at me,

“You know, blow a fuse,”

 

But if you were already angry,

I’d buy some brand new clothes,

I told my friends that you did,

I said these were the ones you chose,

 

My girlfriends celebrated with me,

About what a generous man you are,

Things got a little crazy,

That’s when I wrecked the car,

 

I looked at her with my silly grin,

And said, “What’s this world coming to?

Yesterday was one of those days,

When one of those cold winds blew,”

 

When I reached over and turned out the light,

She said quietly, “Aren’t you going to say anything?”

I said, “Look in the cabinet for your Valentine’s card,

And also you’ll find a special ring,”

 

“I know it’s early to celebrate Valentine’s Day,

It’s not the car, but you I choose,

So put on some clothes,

And show me the shoes!”

 

Christmas and the Scrub Tree (Part 2)


English: A Christmas Tree at Home
Image via Wikipedia

Look at the Christmas cards we got today,” Mom called from the doorway.  There was quite a display.  There were cards from our aunt in faraway California, next door neighbors, acquaintances, and from stores trying to keep our business.  Those cards were spread out on the table.  But in Mom’s hand was the most beautiful card we had ever seen.  It had a picture of a beautiful Christmas tree decorated with candles and a great shining star on top.

“It’s from the Governor,” she said proudly.  Dad edged over to her side and peeked at the card.  “Guess that work we did in the Democratic primaries was appreciated,” he said somberly.

Mom gathered up the cards and she began taping them around the doorways next to others already posted. The Governor’s card was hung on the tree so any visitors would be sure to see it.

“We’re going into town today to buy gifts,” Dad announced a few days later.  “But first I want you all to come here.  You have a decision to make.”  Christmas was a time for giving and in order to be in the proper spirit we had to think past our own wants and needs.  “Do you want me to give you gifts or do you want money to spend so that you can give presents to each other?  I don’t have enough money for both.”

We looked at each other and it was decided instantly without a word being spoken.  “We want to get each other gifts,” Sue Ann said hastily while we all nodded in assent.

“O.K., If that’s your decision,” Dad said as he doled out the money according to age.  “Willis, Sue Ann, you each get ten dollars.  Twins, you each get eight dollars.  Danny, Billy, each of you gets five dollars.”

Christmas comes but once a year and it was a lot of money for us during those dark days.  As we rode the eight miles into town over the gravel road that sliced through the hills, we thought about the gifts we could buy.

“Over four thousand people live here,” Willis told me as we neared town.  “You’ll see a lot of stores.”

In town we decided to split up so that we could make our selections in private.   Before he left Willis took me aside.  “Danny, you watch out for Billy,” he warned.  “And don’t leave Woolworth’s until I return.”

“Why would I leave?” I thought.  “This store has everything.”

Everywhere I looked there were aisles and aisles of fancy things.  I saw prices marked and slashed.  Everything was on sale but I knew I didn’t have enough money to buy something for everybody.  Still, I had to decide.  I talked the situation over with Billy.  “If we put our money together, we can probably buy a present for everyone.”  Billy looked around, still awed by the displays.  “Sure,” he said quietly.  “I think that would be better.”

The previous year I spent almost all of my money on Mom so I thought we should wait before we bought her a gift.  We walked down the aisles looking, afraid to touch anything, with the clerk eyeing us suspiciously.  We decided on a grooming kit for Willis, and two packages of hair ribbons for Sue Ann.  Dad got handkerchiefs.  One half hour later we still hadn’t agreed on anything for the twins and Mom.

In order to find gifts for them we went farther into the store and paused at the Christmas tree decorations.  I could see Billy’s eyes twinkling.  “Isn’t that star beautiful?” he asked, pointing at a shiny star wrapped in tissue paper.  Its four points were silver and the red interior seemed like glowing embers.

Billy reached out to touch it but a rough voice stopped him.  “Don’t touch, little boy.” I turned and saw the red-faced clerk behind me.  I started to go but I turned and asked quickly, “How much is it?”

Haughtily he grumbled, “Two-fifty.  Too much for the likes of you.”

Billy and I whispered together for a few seconds. I drew myself up and said, “We’ll take it.”

The clerk eyed our money and recounted it several times.  Finally he put everything in a bag and rushed us towards the door and into the cold.  We found ourselves standing next to a woman ringing a bell.  “Who are you?” I questioned. “I’m raising money for the Salvation Army,” she replied.  “Whenever there is a disaster the Salvation Army goes there and helps families.”

Billy and I looked at each other.  I pulled out the remaining two dollars and put it into the kettle.  The woman looked surprised but managed to say, “Why thank you, boys.  God bless you.”

Later, while we waited outside Woolworth’s, we were torn between guilt feelings of not getting everyone something, giving away some of the money, and keeping the star for the tree.  “We do need the star,” I told Billy.  “It will make the tree beautiful.”  We talked for awhile and agreed to give the star to Betsy and Kathy.  Everybody had gifts except for Mom.  I worried about that but had no answers.

The day before Christmas the sky had a gray overcast.  I put on my coat and pulled my wool cap over my ears as I stepped outside.  In the distance I thought I saw a glimmer of lights, and that piqued my curiosity.    The lights led me across the gravel road and down to the store.  Displayed in the store window was a odd looking tree with tiny twinkling lights and I stood there for several minutes staring at it.  It was nothing like a real tree.  It was metallic and was shaped perfectly, not like our three sided scrub tree.  I pressed my nose against the glass, hoping for a better look.

A voice boomed, “Would you like to come inside and see the tree? I had it shipped from Chicago.”   Mr. Bradley, the storekeeper, stood at the door.  “I’ll have Dora make you some hot chocolate.”

“No, thank you.  I’ve got to get back.  I was just curious when I saw the lights blinking.”  I didn’t want to go in.  I was afraid that I’d slip and say I thought the metal tree was ugly.  So I just waved and started back.

I came to the schoolyard fence and climbed up the stile.  I stood on top and surveyed the scene like a king surveying his kingdom.  Something wet fell on my shoulder.  I reached out my hand.  It was starting to snow.  For a few minutes I raced around catching snowflakes with my tongue.  Then I realized I wanted to share the moment.  I ran home and pounded on the door.  “It’s snowing.  We’re going to have a white Christmas after all.”

With the snow putting a white blanket over houses, rocks, and trees, everyone seemed to be in a better mood.  Mom was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches on a gingerbread house.  Most of us stayed nearby, watching her work or helping decorate when she would let us.  As a final touch she sprinkled sugar over the orange-sliced roof and the gingerbread forest.

“It’s finished,” she said.  “Sunday we’ll take it to church and let everyone eat it.”  The thought of eating the gingerbread house gave me extra energy.  We were all aglow with the Christmas spirit.  We had presents, a tree, and snow.  What more could we want?

Christmas Eve passed ever so slowly and the afternoon was unbearably long.  Billy and I spent some time studying the tree and looking at the gifts under the tree.  The gifts were spread out over a sheet which covered the rock filled tub. The tub held the water which kept the tree fresh.

Most of the presents were easy to figure out.  The shapes of underwear packages and homemade shirts stood out.  They were always there at Christmas.  But there were other presents we weren’t sure about.  We wanted to shake them and see what sounds they made but we were afraid to overstep any forbidden rules.  Finally Dad said, “You two go into the other room and play Monopoly or something.”

We celebrated the giving of gifts on Christmas Eve because Dad and Mom did not believe in promoting Santa Claus.  They wanted Christmas to be celebrated for the birth of Jesus.  So after supper the family gathered by the Christmas tree.  Dad read the story of Bethlehem while the rest of the family listened silently.  When he finished, Dad said a prayer of thanksgiving for another year.  Then he raised his head and said, “Let’s open presents.”

As head of the household Dad handed out the gifts as he came to them.  Gradually he worked his way around the tree.  When he read, “To Kathy and Betsy, from Danny and Billy,” I held my breath.

Eagerly they tore open the package.  I could hear them gasp as they saw the star inside.  They whispered together while they held it.  I could see no indication whether they liked it or not.  As for Mom’s present, we still felt guilty.  We had not gotten her a present but when we explained that we had given our last money to the Salvation Army, we were surprised.  Mom cried and said we had given her the best present ever.

Billy and I shot marbles, using our new Christmas agates and steelies, until Dad sent us to bed.  No visions of sugar plums or Saint Nick danced in my head because I fell fast asleep.

The aroma of pies and turkey woke me.  Mom and Sue Ann were busily scurrying around to keep up with the Christmas day schedule.  Mom wiped perspiration from her forehead.  “We’ve got Cream of Wheat on the stove.  Help yourself.  We’ve got company coming today and I can’t stop to help you.”

After finishing breakfast I stepped into the living room.  Kathy was sitting on the floor facing the tree. I noticed the tears in her eyes as I sat down beside her.  “Thanks for the star,” she said.  “It makes all the difference in the world.  It turned the scrub tree into a very special Christmas tree.”

She started humming “O Little Town of Bethlehem” and I joined in.  In the kitchen Billy’s voice lifted in song.  Other voices chipped in behind us and gradually everyone drifted into the living room singing.

That’s how I remember Christmas, all of us together, singing around the Christmas scrub tree. That Christmas our family bonds were stronger than ever.  It was a great ending for one year and a good way to begin a new one.  The scrub tree became a symbol of transformation.  It reminded me that something common could be changed into something regal.

Christmas by the Forest


A Thick Forest
Image by Jon Person via Flickr

He wasn’t a mean man but he was grumpy at times,

He lived alone and liked to write poetry that rhymed,

His house, next to a forest, had a very pleasant view,

He wasn’t very happy though he had much to do,

He was often forgotten, his children lived far away,

They, too, said they were busy, and they’d visit someday,

His days were empty of meaning, his nights full of screams,

What was he living for, the world had taken his dreams,

A miracle was needed to soften his heart, he couldn’t turn life back,

If he could help someone, his life would be back on track,

 

His heart did not hear the tears or feel the anguished pain,

As a family nearby called out in the cold and chilling rain,

Five children stranded in the night watched as their mother died,

They huddled and quietly prayed, after their tears had dried,

Harsh reality took the stage as they looked at their papa to lead,

But things change rapidly at times, life is so hard to read,

Their father could not help, for this country was not his home,

He had to leave, he was banned, no longer could he roam,  

Five children with no one, determined to reach a goal,

Could they survive a world so cruel and the winter cold,

 

They gathered and prayed once more, nothing else they could do,

No money, no parents, their hope should have been gone too,

The oldest daughter took charge, said they would go out swinging,

They sloshed through the snow, their angelic voices ringing,

Their voices carried through the night and across the snowy wood,

Where a man waited for a miracle, where he could do some good,

The man rose to hear this group and its cheerful sound,

He wondered why they were the only joyful group around,

He heard their songs and invited the five in, to sit before the fire,

They smiled when he told them they sounded like a heavenly choir,

 

Then he asked about their parents, then asked what will they do,

His heart was touched, “Please stay,” he urged, “I have rooms with a view,”

His house had been quiet far too long,

He needed to fill it with happy songs,

When he asked them to stay a miracle occurred for them,

And when they said yes a miracle occurred for him,

Christmas by the forest changed his life within,

Christmas by the forest meant their lives had a chance to begin.

 

A Spooky Spectacle


In front of haunted house during Halloween sea...
Image via Wikipedia

A haunted house
was advertised in the paper,

Teenagers
playing a misguided prank,

The ad was
pulled too late, the damage done,

The list of
the curious never shrank,

 

The
dilapidated two story worn out manse,

Proudly
stood in spite of the local shame,

Its history
linked with the rich and famous,

The mansion
had only them to blame,

 

Years had
left it collapsing in the middle,

A perfect
haunt made for the night,

Stairs creaked, screams trapped in the walls,

All the
windows and doors sealed tight,

 

Reminiscent
of popular ballroom affairs,

People were lined
up and waiting their turn,

Anxious to
see the scariest house around,

One that frightened
and made stomachs churn,

 

Cars filled
a field and lined the road,

Halloween
evening and monsters weren’t out,

Little
ghouls, big ghosts, gracious hosts,

Hidden with sounds to make, shrieks or shouts,

 

Blood thirsty
tales of murder would draw visitors in,

Those who
wanted to be scared came to this place,

Stories were
told about a missing man,

Who roamed
the halls without a face,

 

Fear that
was expected didn’t last,

Messages everywhere,
claims of death scrawls,

Evidences of
rudeness from the past,

Urine and
blood had been splashed on the walls,

 

A cemetery lay
stationed off to one side,

Rectangular plots
still open and ready to fill,

It was eerie
since a shed with its door open,

Stood
waiting just a few steps up the hill,

 

The manse was
a spectacle that I knew quite well,

I lived a
few houses down on the same street,

And I
believed the mansion sat at the edge of hell,

This was not
a place to go Trick or Treat,

 

There were
no tour guides, the routes were crude,

Invisible
witches with their friends the bats,

Swooped low
to scare the intruders,

Who were
avoiding the black cats,

 

Chaos and
confusion reigned through the night,

As uninvited
guests tromped into each room,

Often visitors
were disappointed by unbidden sight,

Not
realizing this house was a house of doom,

 

The druggie
in the corner, the starving child,

The wolfman
on meth who menacing and wild,

The monster
with chainsaw who chased at will,

Too old to
catch anyone, too old to kill,

 

Yet even
with evil residing in the house,

No one was
injured, not even a mouse,

Gargoyles
sat at the corners of the yard,

Protecting
children and staying on guard,

 

Other forces
stood ready to do their part,

To keep all
folks safe, especially the heart,

Though it
might be weird to keep folks from harm,

To the unprotected
the forces would swarm,

 

For
Halloween is more than tricks or fear,

It’s more about
fun, the message is clear,

Should you
have scary neighbors next door,

Be wary of
where and how you explore,

 

It’s just
one night, with a year between,

Stay safe
and have fun, this Halloween!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only a Witch


Halloween Vintage 05
Image via Wikipedia

She sat
primly on a bar stool,

Alone and waiting
for someone,

That was my
best guess,

Because she
ignored everyone,

 

Occasionally
she would sigh,

And someone
would buy her a drink,

She would offer
an angelic smile,

Giving the donor a reason to think,

 

One by one
she rebuffed their efforts,

As each man offered her his best pitch,

Mentally she
was called some names,

But none had
nerve to call her “b—-”,

 

The men
became bolder as they drank,

While I sat silently
sipping a cold brew,

Comments
flew at her, coarse and rank,

While the
night grew darker and a cold wind blew,

 

As a rule
when the drinks flow free,

Most women
get prettier as the night wears down,

But when she
was accosted by two on a spree,

Her face
wrinkled up into a giant frown,

 

Sparks flew
from her once beautiful eyes,

And the
roundness that filled her coal black dress,

Was
forgotten for she was no longer a prize,

Their
apologies they quickly tried to express,

 

She glared
at them as time stood still,

Then picked
up her hat and wished them well,

Her voice
changed and became high and shrill,

While all
stood frozen and under her spell,

 

Out the door
she walked and onto the street,

She didn’t call
a taxi, on a broom she flew,

Her voice
was raspy and definitely not discreet,

“When Halloween
is over, I’m coming back for you,”

 

I’m not sure
if that was clearly meant for me,

But when night
gets darker and a cold wind blows,

The men from
that tavern wait eagerly,

And I sit
patiently dreaming, for who knows?

 

Her words might
be for me and they might be true,

She was
beautiful so I’ve been practicing my pitch,

Yet I’m
careful to stay sober as I sip just one cold brew,

Because I’m
hoping she turns out to be only a witch.

 

 

If I’m Only a Watcher


Modern Guilt
Image via Wikipedia

With sadness
I watch passersby,

From my
window day and night,

Going about
their daily deeds,

Not
understanding their own plight,

But I cannot
call them to shame,

For deeds
they did not do,

For my guilt
is also to blame,

If I’m a
watcher too,

If they
ignore world events,

Or crimes
next to their door,

If I’m
judging what they’ve not done,

Then I’m
even guilty more,

I turned my
head when a baby cried,

Her mother was
angry and proud,

The mother had
given the child a pinch,

Because the
baby was too loud,

I didn’t
speak when a father ordered,

His son to
fetch a beer,

But I could
see a future day,

When the son
would cringe with fear,

Who am I to
ignore world events,

Or crimes
next to my door,

If I’m judging what others haven’t done,

Then I’m the
guilty more.

 

Before You Were Born


Mother's Day
Image via Wikipedia

She Loved You Before You Were Born!

Month after month she revels in the thought,

That her body contains what love had wrought,

She knows the changes that are taking place,

Features are forming, a beating heart, fingers and face,

Her own body is adjusting for new growth as well,

Preparing a temporary home for this life to dwell,

But most of all are the effects on her heart,

Forming emotional attachments right from the start,

Her heart is rapidly expanding as her child grows,

Her life will be changed forever as she already knows,

Her love will continue growing after the baby arrives,

Whatever happens around her, her love thrives,

She has loved you long before she knew your name,

Knowing the pain to come she wanted you the same,

Her love has developed and matured in every way,

For a mother’s love does not spring forth in a day,

When the delivery is over and she holds you in her arms,

She smiles and rambles on about your many charms,

Unconditional love that radiates about the room,

Unconditional love that dispels pain and gloom,

Finding inner strength she wasn’t aware she had,

Born of labor and love, she wanted a miracle so bad,

You are still that miracle, walking around on display,

The day you were born was her special Mother’s Day!

You Weren’t On My Schedule


Russian Orthodox Easter ceremony in Lvov (West...
Image via Wikipedia

I passed you today as I took my morning walk,

You looked cold and hungry but I didn’t want to talk,

I was looking up, you were looking down,

I was wearing a smile, you were wearing a frown,

I didn’t take the time to ask you what was wrong,

I was In the middle of humming a very special song,

I couldn’t be interrupted, for I had too much to do,

But I promised to ask sometime what was bothering you,

No, not next week, for there are things I have booked,

I checked my schedule in case anything’s been overlooked,

“How are you?”, “I’m fine,” but I really didn’t have time to chat,

I had people to see and things to do, you know, this and that,

I was eager to share my world with someone, but no, not now,

You took away my joy because you were in my way somehow,

You looked awful, perhaps struggling to find something to say,

But when tears rolled down your cheeks, you nearly ruined my day,

“Good grief!” I muttered, but I know I wasn’t being rude,

I chose to be patient because I wanted to keep my good mood,

 “Shape up, I don’t have time for this,” I snapped in dismay,

“Oh, my!”  You were looking sad and putting on a display,

“I don’t care what your problem is, you’ll just have to wait,”

“I’ve got to go and smile at folks, and now you’ve made me late!”

I rushed away, leaving you behind, despair plainly on your face,

I was hoping you’d find someplace else, be gone without a trace,

When I returned you weren’t there, much to my relief,

I didn’t want to see you again or put up with your grief,

 Life is short and there was so much I still needed to do,

Did you expect me to waste my time, on someone like you?

Outside the sun is bright, what a beautiful Easter day,

Yet inside my joy is false, I feel shame for my deceptive ways,

When you were hungry and in pain, I wasn’t there for you,

I was thinking just about myself, and all the things to do,

I cheated you by turning away, I should have listened with my heart,

Yesterday won’t come again, so I’m asking for a brand new start,

I really want to love others more, wherever they might be,

The best way that I know how, is to begin with you and me.

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