Anything

essay, non-fiction No Comments »

Sometimes when we get down or stressed, something as simple as a quick happy memory can lift us up…one of my memories that is a fast way to make me smile is a memory of of when I was five years old.

I was visiting my grandmother and her brother, my great uncle Fred, his wife, my Aunt Eileen, my Aunt Nancy and my great-grandmother in western Pennsylvania. I’d woken up earlier than everyone else in the old farmhouse, gotten dressed and gone into the kitchen ~ I was looking in the refrigerator when my Uncle Fred came into the room.

“You won’t find anything exciting in there, I’m afraid,” he said.

I closed the refrigerator and then Uncle Fred picked me up and placed me on the kitchen counter. He leaned close to me, put one hand on either side of me and said, “If you could have anything in the whole wide world today, what would you want?”

Was he kidding? Anything? I thought and thought and thought. Finally, I said, “If I could have anything in the whole wide world today, I’d want hotdogs for breakfast.”

Uncle Fred lifted me off the counter, pulled his car keys out of his pocket and jingled them close to my face. “Hotdogs for breakfast it is. Let’s go.”

Off we went to a diner where I indulged upon my hotdog breakfast, me, believing this was the most amazing and unbelievable thing I’d ever done in my whole life…thank you Uncle Fred for the memory that I will always hold dear.

nannette rogers kennedy 2012

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By Chance

art, non-fiction, poetry 2 Comments »

This poem tells the true story of my father and my brother….and how one of my father’s paintings (he was a watercolor artist) found its way back to our family many years after my father’s death.

By Chance

This time
down in the basement
not far from the washer and dryer,
stacks of boxed Christmas ornaments,
a table filled with fly tying materials,
and shelves of things forgotten,
the son’s father allowed him to watch
and listen. The boy was seven.
He sat high near the work table,
next to where his father stood
as he swathed the rough textured Fabriano
with pale colors of moving water.
This will be the ocean, he’d said. Then he began
his vibrato whistle, like that of a wood-wind solo.
Pensieroso.

He whistled as the sable bristles,
an extension of his own long fingers,
dipped and twisted into the swirls
of thick titanium white, aquamarine,
emerald green, and ultramarine blue
on his pallet.
The son’s eyes followed
the brush’s movements while
his father created
an ethereal seascape for someone
who did not yet know
that by chance he’d see it,
have it speak to him,
make an offer
and carry it into his home—
a gift.

Azure liquid leaked from a sponge
his father wrung. He blotted in shadows
from the ocean up to the edge
of the masking taped paper
and then wisped thin lines of black
out lining the upper part of the indigo
and violet shadows
and the son watched
the dark run
into clouds.

Several more strokes
and a wooden weathered boat
tethered to a mooring buoy
emerged on the paper. Now he whistled
a shanty, as he worked
the impression of the rig.
A burnt sienna mast appeared and rose
into the overcast sky,
and then a loosely furled sail.
The father knew then what the son did not
and carefully drew
the brush from left to right,
to the stern. The father stirred
the brush in an old
peanut butter jar
full of blue-green water, whipped
moisture from it, set it down. He stepped away,
reached for an angular bowled pipe,
tapped tobacco, lit a match
drew in the smoke. The line of his
back tilted away
from the art and he ran
the pipe’s mouth piece across
his lips. He returned the pipe to its rest
and chose a finer brush, held it and waved
it like a conductor’s wand
through the air. He punctuated
the motion into white,
then black, then to the paper. This is a gull,
he said, and dipped again into the black
for the bird’s eye. The vibrato
in his whistle began
once more as a stiffer brush met
with a soft, washed-out yellow. Yellow bled out and away
from the sea bird, that stretched his feet
to light atop the mast.
In staccato fashion the brush dabbed in barnacles,
moss, sea foam, rippled reflections.
It’s magic, the son said.
Spirit, said the father.
Art is from God.

* * * * *

Thirty-three summers after
his father sold the painting
thirty-three summers after
his father died,
the son stood inside the frame
shop. Non-glare glass shards, soft
leaded pencils, gray gum
erasers, a rainbow
of matting scraps, metal squares,
velvety polishing cloths, Exacto knives,
moulding lengths, coils of wire, minute
brads, and powdery sawdust surrounded him.

Bells rang at the door—
unoiled hinges echoed its opening. A small
round, older man entered,
and in both hands he carried a large
paper wrapped painting.
Good morning, the son said.
The man placed the painting
on the counter, tore away the paper. It
means a great deal to me, the man said as he turned
it toward the son. Someone I loved
gave this to me. The man’s eyes
didn’t look away
from the art.
The son’s eyes focused
on a sea gull,
the yellow bleeding out and away
from it. The son ran
his hand down the glass
as though scanning prose and
rested his forefinger to the right
of the artist’s signature.
This is my father’s
work, said the son.
I sat next to him when he painted it. The man’s
eyes met with the son’s. He used to whistle,
said the son.

The man left the painting
for a new frame. The son
spoke to his mother, his sisters.
Come see, he said. The mother
set her hand near the name. The sisters
touched the frame.
The son stood back and realized
the sea. It is the ocean.
He watched and listened.

Two weeks passed and the son
called the man. I finished the frame,
said the son. The bells rang
at the door—the hinges now oiled
made no sound. The man stood back from
the painting, the ocean, the boat, the gull.
Your father would be happy, he said. The man
opened a manila envelope and handed the son
papers. This is a copy
of my will. The painting
will return to you one day. The son
did not meet eyes
with the man. Black type bled
through the yellow
highlighter—the son and the father’s name. The son
shook the man’s hand
and nodded. The son did not hear the bells
as the man closed
the door behind him.

Three days later the man
appeared again, carrying
a large paper wrapped painting.
This painting
belongs with you, the man said.
No need to wait
until I die.

Nannette Rogers Kennedy
November 17, 2002

This is the painting the man returned to my brother ~ it hangs in our home.

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Romeo & Juliet Text Messaging

essay, non-fiction 23 Comments »

text-messagingDost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.
Benjamin Franklin
(via Loren P Matthews)

A curve ball came my way about three weeks ago.  I share this not to hang out the family laundry, but in hopes that this story will help teenagers and parents understand that there are other dangerous risks of text messaging besides driving and texting.

In mid January I had this instant intuitive mom flash of my 15 year old son skipping school.  With this “vision” in my head, I decided to drive over to his high school.  About a block from the school, off campus, I saw my son playing hacky sack with some other kids.  Playing hacky sack is not such a big deal, but my son was supposed to be in class and he is behind in school.

Of course he saw my car, with the words “LOVE” and “BE THE CHANGE” on the windows and he cringed.  His shoulders dropped as he approached my car.  I put the window down.  “What class are you missing?” I asked.  “You know how embarrassing this is?” he asked.  “Go to class and I won’t ‘embarrass’ you.”  He turned and headed for the school.

Jumping ahead to just after dinner that evening~my son sat in his room doing his homework.  I popped my head in to see how the homework was coming along.  It wasn’t.  He sat as his desk, text messaging.  I put my hand out and said, “The phone is mine until the homework is finished.”  He handed me the phone and I turned it off.

At 10:30pm someone rang our doorbell.  My husband and I had just gotten into bed.  We both looked at each other as we NEVER have visitors this late.  My husband went downstairs.  All I could hear was: Yes sir.  No problem sir.  Then I heard my husband come up the stairs and enter my son’s bedroom.  “Wake up.  The police are here and want to speak with you.”

I flew out of bed and followed my son and husband downstairs.  Two policemen stood in my dining room.  They asked my son if he’d sent any text messages to his girlfriend that might cause concern.  My son said no.  The police asked for the cell phone, which I quickly handed over to them.  They found a text message from my son to his girlfriend that said he was going to end his life.

From there, the police did an on the spot check to see if my son needed to be taken to the hospital.  After a half hour or so, the police determined that he was not a threat to himself, and asked that we make an appointment with a therapist.

After the police left, my son and I spoke at some length.  He felt that he was so far behind in school that failure was inevitable.  Immediately I let him know how much I love him and that ending his life wasn’t the answer.  I allowed my son to try and reach his girlfriend as it was clear that she had called the police.  It was late and he received no answer.

The following morning, I offered to my son that he could stay home from school given we’d been up so late the night before.  He declined the offer.  I drove him to school and returned home.  Within twenty minutes my son text messaged me to please come get him from school, that he couldn’t handle it.  There were three back to back messages that sounded panicked.  I called the dean of students and asked that they locate my son and that I was coming to the school.

My son sat in the office of the dean of students.  The dean and he were talking about the anxiety he was feeling.  And the dean recommended that we go to the hospital to get my son checked out.   At first my son agreed and then he changed his mind.  The dean left the office, saying she’d be right back.  My son burst into tears.  I held him, told him I loved him and that everything would be all right.  The dean returned with the school social worker who asked my son several pointed questions and then she left the room.  Within a few minutes the social worker returned saying that either I take my son to the hospital or an ambulance would come to take him to the hospital.  I would take my son to the hospital.

As my son and I were leaving the school, my son received a text message from his girlfriend’s mother.  His girlfriend  slit her wrists, was in the hospital, and she was going to be all right.  Because I’d taken my son’s phone the previous night and turned it off, my son was unable to respond to his girlfriend’s text messages that followed his threat.  So she thought he had ended his life and then attempted to end hers.

There are no words to describe the feeling that both my son and I felt.  As we drove to the hospital, another text message arrived, saying that the girlfriend’s father had canceled a long awaited visit with her just prior to my son’s text message of wanting to end his life.

There are a multitude of lessons here, not the least of which is that nothing is worth taking one’s life.  Another lesson for me is that the next time I confiscate my son’s phone, is that he tells his friends with whom he is texting that his mean old mom has taken his phone for the rest of the evening.  Also our children’s friends need to have our land line phone numbers and our cell phone numbers.  And our children need to have land line numbers and cell numbers of their friends’ parents.

Very importantly, text messaging is NOT the way to communicate serious issues.  This is not the way to break up with someone, to let someone know that someone has died, or any other news that can cause someone distress.  Face to face or eye to eye communication is ideal; ear to ear via the telephone/cell phone live talking communication would come next.  Unless one’s life is in danger and there is NO other way to communicate, save text messaging for the short notes like “See you tomorrow” or “Don’t forget your homework” or “I love you.”

In my home and my son’s girlfriend’s home, we are all counting our blessings and getting our children the help they need.

nannette

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Putting Away Christmas

essay, non-fiction 4 Comments »

red bowWhat’s with those of who hesitate, drag our feet, nearly refuse to “put away” Christmas?

I’m a member of this group.  And as I drove up to the store last night, I saw several homes remaining in ornamental light mode.  Some with just a tree or two in the yard lit, others “loudly” announcing Christmas with nativity scenes, Santa, reindeer, snowmen.  We don’t want the holiday feeling to go away.

My Christmas tree still holds all of its regalia in its branches.  A couple of days ago a friend let me know that she had just “unplugged” the lights on her tree ~ a start, she said.  Promptly, I walked into my dining room and took down the wreath.  I put away a wintry holiday snow globe yesterday.  Today I will begin to box up the ornaments. This got me to thinking that “dedecorating” might feel better as a process for people like us.

When most of us decorate, we set aside one day and transform our homes with not only nativity scenes, the tree, and endless stands of lights, but also with wreathes, mistletoe, garland, red ribbons, candles and gingerbread houses.  Within a matter of hours our homes change into our own personal magical kingdoms.  The air is different, the energy dances, sweet smells waft from our kitchens and smiles grow broader across our faces.

Of course if we leave up all the décor year round, then we would get used to it and the “magic” would fade.  But what if we systematically took down the decorations a little bit at a time so as to reacclimate into non holiday mode?  Well, I’ll keep you posted, because that is what we are doing this year.  The family has decided to do a little putting away each day instead of seeing the dramatic stark disappearance of the season.

The question remains though: How do we stay living in the season throughout the year?  Hark! I think the herald angels continue to sing.  Don’t store away your kindness, your sense of giving, love and gratitude with the décor in plastic tubs until next year.  I do, and have for the past several years left white lights (year round) outlining the large front window in my house~happy lights~happy reminder.

nannette

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New Year’s Eve is Like Every Other Night

essay, non-fiction 1 Comment »

2010New Year’s eve is like every other night; there is no pause in the march of the universe, no breathless moment of silence among created things that the passage of another twelve months may be noted; and yet no man has quite the same thoughts this evening that come with the coming of darkness on other nights. ~Hamilton Wright Mabie

With great gratitude to all my friends and family for being part of my life this year, years before and years to come ~ for each one of you have brought me gifts that without, I would not be who I am.

Let this be the year that marks the beginning of real peace. Begin at home, then to take it to your neighbors and friends ~ if each us does this all the circles will overlap and we will see change in 2010 ~ every day is a holiday; every day is a new start. Get out of bed in the morning and greet the world with hope, love and peace ~ and every night be grateful for all that you have ~ and the hours in between learn to forgive ~ it is a double gift.

Happy New Year ~ love, nannette

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It’s a Wonderful Life

essay 31 Comments »

Dec 23 09 006If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. Meister Eckhart

The journey of the holidays, the season of love, the start of a new year, the path of life is now. No matter what your particular tradition is, the energy is undeniable. If you are wrapping gifts, preparing a meal, building a fire, playing a game with your children, holding your partner’s hand, remember to open your heart and prepare to give and receive. As Yoda says, “Do or do not… there is no try.” Choose to do. These are the things of which memories are made. Make the memories good ones.

Pay attention to each precious moment, love all who come your way, live with purpose. Remember you are sacred and unique~ just as when Jimmy Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life, wishes he’d never born and Clarence the Angel grants him his wish, everything changes. Each moment is extraordinary. Savor these small increments of your wonderful life. Without you in the mix, nothing remains the same.

Remember, you are always on the journey of the holidays, the season of love, the path of life. It is always now ~Live in the season~

I am grateful for my followers on twitter, my friends on facebook, and all my family & friends.

Love & peace, nannette

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Ode to the Family Ugly

essay, non-fiction No Comments »

Family traditions counter alienation and confusion. They help us define who we are; they provide something steady, reliable and safe in a confusing world~Susan Lieberman

2009 ~ With so many of us financially strapped and the holidays upon us, maybe it’s time to start a new family tradition.  This won’t cost you a thing, but will provide lots of smiles, laughter and memories.

About twenty years ago one of my brothers, Ben, was about to have a garage sale, when my parents asked if they could give him a few things to include in his sale. “You can keep any money you make. You’re doing us a favor by getting this old stuff out of here,” my father said.

traditionNaturally, my brother took the items over to his house and began to go through and price them. One of the items was a large brown, ugly vase that Ben made in grade school for my mother. My brother called me laughing that our mother had passed off this elementary art project for sale in the own artist’s garage sale! We laughed and laughed until I said, “Wait. Don’t you dare sell the vase!” Ben said, “It’s ugly. Nobody is going to buy it anyway.” I agreed on its unattractive look and said, “Wrap it up and give it to Mom for Christmas. We’ll write a poem, place it inside with instructions for the family “ugly.” Again, we laughed.

Several months later on Christmas morning, all seven of my mother’s children, with our husbands, wives, our smaller children and my father looked on as my mother began to unwrap her present from Ben. My siblings and I knew what was coming. It took my mother forever to peel off the wrapping as we all tried to hold back our excitement and laughter.

As my mother pulled back the tissue paper and saw the vase, she and my father burst out laughing. “I got rid of this,” she managed to squeak out between gasping for her breath.

“There’s something inside. Read it,” I said.

After my mother reached inside and pulled out the piece of paper, she read:

Ode to the Family Ugly

To you we pass on this cherished ugly.
It’s been part of the family for years.
Do not take this passage lightly or smugly.
Or you may be foiled in future careers.

Let me tell you the story of this pottery’s latest travail.
This past summer Dad handed Ben old things in a box,
Ben’s school days brown vase inside must be allowed to prevail,
And honestly upon hearing this news the family felt shocks.

No. No. Not this. Anything but this.
This piece has history, memories and use.
To get rid of this treasure would be absolutely remiss.
Mom, how could you perpetrate such nostalgic abuse?

Take this torch and guard it with respect.
For this is your present for Christmas celebration.
We know you’ve wanted it and wont object.
Shame on you, Mom for attempted abrogation!

However, with this gift do not plunder.
Do not now become overly attached.
After all this ugly may appear as a blunder.
And it must, in the future, be re-dispatched.

We laughed and laughed until we cried. Over the last twenty years this ugly vase has been gifted and regifted to various family members for weddings, graduations, birthdays, house closings, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day and even one Groundhog’s Day.

The “ugly” has seen some wear and tear ~ one year it was dropped and broke into seven or eight pieces. It was promptly super-glued back to its near original shape.

It has become one of the most delightful family traditions we have. And whenever this “ugly” is gifted, a note which includes the date, the occasion and both the giver’s and recipient’s name, is folded and put inside with all the other notes. To further the tradition, all the notes are reread as the next recipient unveils his/her turn with the “ugly.”

(If I were in possession of the “ugly” currently, I’d post its picture~but right now it’s in the hands of one of my siblings…but not for long.)

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