Category Archives: Writing

Animals, a List

This past week the lit mag North of Oxford posted a list of the 10 most read poems from their magazine from January-July 2020. It was exciting to see my poem “Medusa’s #Metoo” make the list!

10 Most Read Poems

After writing about my kitty Toby in No Goodbye: A Cat Story I decided to write about my other childhood pets, as well as other animals I encountered in life. Sort of clearing my head about my upbringing with animals. So this isn’t a story, per se, like the one about Toby. It’s more of a list of animals.

The first memory that comes to mind that involves animals I actually already wrote about on this blog almost eight years ago. You can find it here: A Ride with Memory. It’s about my earliest scary memory, and I wasn’t even three-years-old yet. This story involves a horse.

When I was in kindergarten my grandmother babysat me every day before school and all afternoon until almost dinner time. My aunt and her springer spaniel Sandy lived with my grandparents. I was repeatedly warned not to touch Sandy. I needed to stay away from Sandy because Sandy was a biter. Actually, the only person Sandy had ever bitten was me, when I was a baby. She bit my eyelid off, and at the hospital, a doctor sewed it back on. I didn’t remember that trauma, and I still insisted on making a meat pie to celebrate Sandy’s birthday.

When I was five or six, the neighbor’s Dalmatian bit me in the leg, but it wasn’t too serious.

Before we got Toby the cat, we had a bowl with goldfish a couple of times, but they always died. I think I overfed them, and it polluted the water. I had small turtles, but they invariably walked away out of our yard and never came back. Once my father brought home baby ducks at Easter time. Not chicks, ducks. I don’t know what happened to them, but I was terrified of how fragile they were and that I could hurt them. We had chicks one year, too.

I am starting to see the thread here. My father bringing pets home for the family. I’m sure it irritated my mother. Then he brought home a big cage with two guinea pigs.  My mother made us keep them in the basement. I’ve written a little story about this for my never-finished memoir, but to sum up: the guinea pigs were unfixed male and female. My dad helped me through the crisis that ensued.

A few months later, he brought home a puppy. A man he worked with had found the puppy at a lake where someone had tried to drown the entire litter. I suspect Perky was the only one left alive, and my father brought her home to us. My mother named her Perky after the man who found her: Mr. Perkins.

Here’s a scrapbook page my mom made for me of some childhood pets. The photo in the upper right is an example of how I always loved feeding the animals. But I still remember being bitten by a llama at Deer Forest Park.  Perky is the dog with the collie-type coloring.

Yup, that’s me and the gardener in the center, bathing Perky. She was already getting old there. In the lower left she was playing on the beach at our lake cottage with a “local” puppy. My brother is almost eight years younger than me. At some point, Perky really became his dog because Perky could hang around him while he was playing outside. The gardener and I were out of town when Perky had to be “put to sleep,” and my father and brother went together to the vet and stayed with Perky. That was as it should be.

In 7th grade, the girls and I cut through a vacant lot and someone’s backyard to get home from school. We didn’t notice the white German Shepherd in the dog house. He lunged at us, incensed at our audacity. We ran like crazy, but he was on a chain (poor thing, no wonder he was crabby) and so we were safe. Or so I thought. I slowed down just a moment too soon. He could still reach me, s0 he took a chunk out of my ankle. After that, I was scared of German Shepherds until I became an adult.

When I was fifteen I bought myself a cage with two finches: a brilliant scarlet one and a beautiful green. Of course, the green one managed to get herself egg-bound and although I held her over the steam like the book said to do, she still couldn’t pass the egg and eventually died from the exertion. I kept finches for years, but they were all gone before my kids entered my life. Good thing, or my babies would have been eating birdseed off the floor. Finches are lovely to look at, but very messy because when they eat they hurl the hulls of the seeds across the room.

As an adult I’ve had dogs, cats, the finches, hermit crabs, and a rat. (She was the best pet). I’d like to have donkeys, but it’s looking doubtful that that is going to happen.

Lots of sad times with the animals. And some painful ones when I was bit (three dogs and one llama). But none of it deterred me from being an animal lover–from fish to horses, I love all the species I encountered.

###

In this pandemic I am so grateful to have my six cats. But last night Felix had to go to the ER. He had diarrhea, wouldn’t eat, and hadn’t peed in 38 hours. The vet said his bladder was small, so that was a mystery, but I was glad he wasn’t blocked. I hope he gets better fast and that it’s not something bad. Poor baby.

Here’s Kana to say HI and BYE!

Perry hasn’t said HI in awhile, so he wanted to hop in here, too. Cutie pie.

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Filed under Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

The Year I’d Like to Return: Refund, Please

I hope you and yours are all well, and that you are handling all this chaos and sometimes isolation.

We had some sad news this weekend. My cousin’s son passed away after all those weeks in a coma/on a ventilator/ on dialysis. He left behind a 6-year-old son, wife, mother and father, sister, and grandfather. I feel very sad for him, as well as for his son and wife. And my cousin and her husband have had a lot of tragedy in their lives before this, so it’s just too too much.

I have to stretch to find something positive right now to share as I want to retreat to my couch with an ice cream bar. I saw a cute hummingbird and took a couple of lousy pix and a short movie. And today is my birthday, by the way. A big one. Woohoo. Heh.

I can’t figure out what kind of hummingbird this one is. We live in Maricopa County, so I looked up hummers in this area, and he/she doesn’t really look like any of the ones pictured. The closest would be a male black-chinned hummingbird.

My mom got me this book of cute poems by kittens. It was written by the same author of I Can Pee on This.

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No Goodbye: A Cat Story

Five years ago, when the gardener and I adopted Kana, our black cat, I wrote a little bit about my first cat who also happened to be black. I thought I’d tell you the whole story this time. Here is TOBY’S STORY (and I’m sorry, but it’s not a pretty one):

The cat that lived with the Cuban brothers across the street had kittens the year I was seven. My parents had never shown an interest in animals, but because I was an only child and begged so desperately, they gave in and let me choose an all-black kitten.  My mother named him Toby. The only other interest I remember her taking in him was when he had a hairball, and she read up about how to care for cats with hairballs.

Toby spent most of his time hiding under my bed or in the basement.  Mom would tell me to take him outside to go potty, but he would refuse to come out. I had to find him in a dark corner downstairs or slide under my narrow bed and grab him so that he wouldn’t make a mess in the house.  I wonder if Toby and I were afraid of the same things in that house.

I don’t know how I got this pic of Toby in the living room!

One day my mother screamed. “Look what that cat’s done to my drapes!!” I ran into the living room. Tears streamed down her cheeks. The silk drapes had dozens of snags on them. Unfortunately, the drapes were the most elegant furnishing in our bungalow. They were cast-offs from one of my grandmother’s wealthy clients, and she had altered them for my parents.  I realized then that my secretive cat ventured out to the living room when everyone was asleep or not home.

A few months later, we picked up the baby brother I had been waiting for from the adoption agency office. Ted was a 6-week-old infant with a red rash covering his face. My mother hadn’t taken care of a baby for many years, and she became nervous and worried, imagining dangers.

One day that spring, when I got off the school bus, my father met me in front of the house. I was not used to seeing him home during the day. He sat me down and explained that Toby was gone. “Toby had to go away because of your new baby brother.” He told me he took Toby to a house in the country where he could live with more freedom. I don’t remember particularly believing him, but grief welled up in me like bile. Up to that point in my life, the only other serious loss I had encountered was three years before when I accidentally saw my mother cramming my white blankie into the garbage. Later, my mother would tell me, “Cats are dangerous to babies, Luanne. Toby could accidentally smother Ted.” But in those moments after I arrived home, only my father was there for me.

I still feel ashamed about what happened next. To stop my tears, Dad offered to take me to the store right then to pick out any toy I wanted. I had never in my life been able to pick out a toy. A Golden Book, yes, but not a toy. When I did receive something lovely, it was usually a hand-me-down or a gift my grandmother had sewn. We always had enough food to eat, but we were upwardly mobile poor, and my parents never bought me trendy, name-brand toys. While my friends had Barbie dolls, I had a Miss Suzette doll from Grant’s basement.

Although I continued to cry, I followed Dad to the car, and we drove to a fancy children’s store I had only seen from the outside. Once inside, my tears and confusion made it difficult to concentrate. I tried to focus my eyes, and the first item I noticed was a black imitation patent leather Barbie doll case. It epitomized the type of toys I could never dream of owning, so I pointed at it.

On the way home, I clutched the case in my hand, knowing I had betrayed Toby. I had begged to have him, which altered the course of his life. Then I accepted an empty plastic box with a handle in exchange for his silky fur and beating heart.

###

I don’t know what ever really happened to Toby. I think it’s probably true that he went to live in the country because my father knew a lot of people and could have easily made that happen. But was he safe in his new home? That I don’t know. I hope he was happier than at our house. My father yelled too much, and that probably scared Toby. Since he would hide under my bed, I have to assume he wanted me to protect him. But I couldn’t protect him while I was at school. My parents would have never intentionally hurt Toby, but they didn’t make his life any easier. While I think it’s a likely story about Toby going to live in the country, I have never actually asked my parents if that is what really happened.

Alternative end to memory: I asked one of my parents, and he/she lied to me because they know I love animals and freak out about any harm to them.

I really can’t remember. What do you think?

 

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Filed under #amrevising, #AmWriting, Cats and Other Animals, Memoir, Nonfiction, Vintage American culture, Writing

Where Do I Send My Story or Poem?

The other day, Ellie from Crossed Eyes and Dotted Tees asked me how I find magazines/journals where I can submit my writing. On the chance that maybe what I do might help someone else, I thought I’d share my haphazard method for finding good places to submit short stories (both fiction and nonfiction) and poetry.

First, though, Kana says hi.

My list items are effective by themselves, but I also think that there is a synergy that develops from doing them all or a large portion. Kind of a 2 + 2 = 5 result. Some journals show up repeatedly, and I’ve learned more about them in this way. Then a new name springs up, and I check it and wow! a wonderful new mag for writers and readers to discover.

  • Let’s start with social media. I have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, my blogs, and a website. For the purposes of finding journals and magazines, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are arguably the most important.
  • On Facebook I joined writers’ groups and engage at least occasionally. I also “like” the pages of journals that are mentioned. When Facebook gives me suggestions to like journal pages, I either “like” and check out later or check out before I decide to “like.”
  • On Twitter, I follow lots and lots of literary magazines and journals, as well as writers. The more you follow, the more suggestions for journals you discover and, hence, the more you follow.
  • On Instagram, I follow “suggestions” for journals to follow.
  • I’ve taken writing workshops in the past where I met writers. I stay in touch with many of them.
  • When I find journals and have a chance to read and check them out, I keep track of them. I used to bookmark them on my computer. But the other day I deleted most of them because this method had become unwieldy. I also found that I have reached the point where I didn’t need it as much any longer.

What else do I do?

  • Search Twitter and Facebook for submission calls. Sometimes that search can produce a request for submissions from a journal you have never heard of before. Or maybe a themed issue that fits well with something you are working on.
  • Use the Poets & Writers literary magazine list as a guide.
  • Check out Clifford Garstang’s Pushcart ratings lists. They are invaluable for seeing which journals have published Pushcart-selected pieces (doesn’t predict the future, but looks at the past). Here is the 2020 list for Fiction. You can look around for nonfiction and poetry once you’re on the site.
  • Search for submissions through my Duotrope membership.
  • Read Allison Joseph’s site. She used to run CWROPPS, a valuable Yahoo group. When they shut the groups down, she started posting on her blog: Creative Writers Opps.
  • Read Trish Hopkinson‘s site for poets only.
  • Read collections of stories or poems. Then I check out the acknowledgements and see where the writing was first published. That gives me a solid list of journals.
  • Every time I encounter a journal new to me that looks promising, I read at least a good portion of an issue. Try it. See the bios of the writers published in that issue? They often give names of other magazines that have published their writing. Go check those out!

You can see that this process is extensive and symbiotic, but not exhaustive. I certainly don’t do this all perfectly. But I’ve done it for a long time, and I don’t stop going through the process: the literary journal world is ever-changing. It’s important to keep up. Many journals have closed up shop in the last year or two, but many more are publishing their first or second issue.

If you have other ideas for finding places to which you can submit your work, please share!

This cactus flower was a little slower to bloom than the others. It’s nice to have one open now while it’s so stinken hot.

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What’s Good About This?

I haven’t mentioned the pandemic too much lately because it’s so much of the same-old-same. And I know when I mention anything on social media or Facebook to friends that some of them get depressed at any covid talk. But I thought about not posting because it’s all I wanted to talk about today–and I didn’t want to muzzle myself. Except with a 3-layer face mask, of course.

Arizona numbers are way up, and this is after I’ve been hibernating for over three months. The appointment for my daughter to look at bridal gowns is Friday, and I am supposed to go with her. It’s so so hard to develop much enthusiasm at this point.

So in the interests of our mental health (there is so little of it available currently) I will mention covid negatives that turned into positives only.

  • Following Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I started this program last fall and joined a local group for moral support. The group is still meeting once a month (by Zoom now), but the only thing I am writing in my morning pages is what I made for dinner each day. I have over 3 months of menus, but nothing else since the pandemic began. So what’s good about this? I like writing our dinners down. Maybe it will come in handy some day. HAHAHA And I am glad the meetings are still being held because it’s wonderful to consort with other women artist types.
  • I have pandemic brain. Very fuzzy and not very smart. I had to look up “consort” to make sure about the meaning. Yup. It means to “habitually associate with (someone), typically with the disapproval of others.” A lot of artistic women have experienced the disapproval of others throughout their lives, so we’re there (here?) for each other. So what’s good about this? Recognizing that we have each others’ backs.
  • I can’t/won’t travel, see my mother in Michigan, go out to dinner. Yes, we are being very careful. So what’s good about this? More time with my cats, especially with the oldsters, Pear and Tiger, who just want me near them all the time.
  • Although I wrote a few poems near the beginning of the “lockdown,” I no longer even want to write a poem. Or if I do, it’s a little tiny flicker, not a flame. Certainly not enough to sustain me through a whole poem. So what’s good about this? I took the time to organize my poems into one chapbook, then another chapbook, then I put both chapbooks together into a full-length collection. It might still keep morphing, but at least I feel like I’m doing something! I’ve been working on titles, too ;).
  • Because of the pandemic I am beyond exhausted and have way too much work to do. This happened because 1) I have way more work-work than I did before, 2) I have no occasional help as I did before, and 3) all that damn cooking. So what’s good about this, you might ask?! OK, this is a  little convulated. Maybe I’m pushing it. But I think it’s true. I don’t want to give up on my genealogy research, no matter what. But I really am too pandemic-brained and tired to do anything mentally taxing. So instead, I am doing a mindless fill-in-the-gaps project for my direct ancestors (I think I’ve mentioned this before) AND I am organizing my genealogy documents on my computer. Um, they were a mess. So I am pretty happy that I am making some structure out of chaos.
  • I miss hugging my kids. You got me there. Nothing good about that.

This probably doesn’t have much to do with covid, but I am only one journal away from meeting my publication goal for 2020! There are still four due to publish throughout the summer. Waiting on that one more acceptance . . . 🙂

Wear your masks, please. Wash your hands. Carry sanitizer with you. And if you need to travel and you’re female, get one of those pee funnels. If you’re male, get one of those portable urinals. That will save you from some restroom covid germs. I guess since I can’t hug my kids, I am trying to “mom” everyone else!

XOXO

Pear Blossom, age 20 1/4

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My (Feline) Nursing Sideline

Tiger Queenie Princess Mimi Josefina has not been herself lately. For the last year and a half she has become pickier and pickier about her food. But it has gotten so bad in the last few weeks that for the most part all she will eat is a tiny bit of shredded chicken, a tiny bit of fried ground beef, and/or Temptations treats in seafood or tuna flavor. When she’s had enough appetite stimulant and this Pepto-Bismol type stuff for cats to coat her tummy, she might eat the tiniest amount of Friskies chicken or Weruva Lamb Burgini.

So I brought her to the doctor last week who took her from me at curbside (tears shed from both Tiger and me!) and did blood and pee tests, as well as a physical exam. When the lab results came back, the vet recommended an abdominal ultrasound. I said yes. Tiger is sixteen, but then she is only sixteen. Her sister Pear is twenty, and Tiger seems so healthy in general. The vet even said she appears healthy. Except for her mild to moderate kidney disease.

Next stop was the specialist to do the ultrasound. While I waited in my car (more tears shed at letting Tiger go through it all alone), the specialist called me and said nothing showed up on the ultrasound. She explained her theories and suggested a chest xray and a biopsy of her intestines (going through her esophagus). I approved the chest xray, but not the biopsy.

Tiger is my smallest cat, and coupled with her age, I don’t want them doing something so invasive. And to what end? To find out she has lymphoma? Then what?

The chest xray turned up nothing, so it’s possible that she either has some irritable bowel something or other going on or has lymphoma. That’s when I got the purple medicine that is like Pepto-Bismol–it coats the stomach. We also got Cerenia for nausea. The thought is that Tiger must have a tummy ache that makes her not want to eat.

The only other treatment we can try is steroids, which I am reluctant to do because of her kidney disease. I will see if we need to do that. I am focused on trying to get food in her every day.

 

Tiger on the warm laundry in the basket

In the evening, I lie on the couch with a book or my Kindle, and Pear Blossom is at my side and Tiger lies just below her, also at my side. Pear is twenty, so she’s Tiger’s big sister. Sometimes Perry lies on the back of the couch because he’s a jealous boy and wants to be on the couch with Mama, too. But he’s starting to realize he needs to not annoy the two old ladies.

 

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Mamas in the Yard

It’s been five years since the hummingbird mama grew two babies to adulthood in a nest right outside my back door–and then a few weeks later nurtured a second nest of babies! I was lucky enough to capture on video a baby leaving the nest in flight for its very first time.

Now it’s May once again, and we have two hummingbird nests in the yard! These are in the front yard–one in an oleander tree and the other in a wind mobile.

See her nest right there in the middle of the photo?

Look for the mama in the next photo! It’s a little harder haha.

She looks like she’s trying to blend right in. Here she and the nest are from a different angle.

Right underneath the mobile are a few flats of flowers that we have not yet planted. She keeps going to them for nectar as if we set them there for her babies.

Maybe these mamas are the babies of the ones I saw fly off into their lives!

Cat news: Perry is so stinken smart. It’s become clear that he absolutely knows what “Hold on” means and is willing to do it every time I say it. If we are walking somewhere in the house (he follows me), and I have to turn back for something, I say, “Hold on.” He then sits right where he is and waits for me to come back and then picks up following me again! If I were so inclined I think our boy might be trainable for Youtube.

One last note: I hope these mama hummingbirds and my cute boy Perry give you a little glimpse of hope after a tragic and sad week. Here is Emily Dickinson on the subject of hope:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

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A Walk in the Neighborhood, Arizona Style

What do I see and hear and smell on a walk near my house?

From the moment I step outside I smell flower fragrance. So I take a big sniff and keep walking. I hear songbirds singing.

Next I see the seedpods. Everywhere. Here are just a few.

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Then I see the pretty Mexican bird of paradise plant.  See how fiery and unique the blossoms are!

I come upon flowering saguaros.

 

Closer.

The sounds I hear are silence, then a rush of cars, then this: babies in their nest–inside a saguaro.

Apparently some baby birds are very noisy when being fed.

On the writing front, I wrote a little essay this weekend. We’ll see what happens with it. Best part: #amwriting

Make it a good week if you can figure out a way!

Leaving you with a wild baby in my yard. This is a baby kingsnake.  They are not only harmless to humans, but they kill rattlesnakes. We have been nurturing a family of kingsnakes ever since we moved here. Isn’t he cute?!

 

 

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An Unintended Visitor


Last Tuesday, a hawk showed up on my patio. It was directly below a hanging plant, a long drapey succulent. Hidden underneath the thick spongy leaves was a dove nest with two babies. The gardener and I assumed the worst, and when we saw one little head moving up there, thought the hawk had killed the sibling and was hanging around to get the other.

I went inside and took this closeup through the window. I banged on the window to get the hawk to leave, but it just sat there.

Before too long I began to worry that it was abnormal for a hawk to just sit there on the ground without leaving.

I put in a call to the local wildlife rescue that specializes in birds. I have brought them quail chicks, doves, and pigeons in the past. But nobody called me back. I made some other calls and posted on next-door app. I was finally able to talk to a second wildlife rescue. They said to let the bird sit there overnight because it might have a concussion. If the bird was still there in the morning I was supposed to call them back. A concussion made sense because there was a window right by the plant with the dove nest.

While they first assumed it was a juvenile bird that was afraid to fly, one of my daughter’s best friends volunteers with raptors in Tucson. I showed her photos and she said it was an adult red-tailed hawk. That was helpful information because the rescue paid attention when I told them that it was an adult bird, so that the lack of flying was abnormal.

Next morning the bird was still on the patio, but in a different spot, and looking more bedraggled. About a half an hour after I got up, the bird stepped into the pan of water I had put out for it the night before and just stood there cooling its feet.


Through a series of events it ended up that the first rescue group that I called sent a volunteer to capture the hawk.

The hawk actually escaped twice after the events of the video, but was quickly recaptured each time. That afternoon, I wrote a poem about the hawk, making it a female.

The next day, the volunteer texted me and said that the hawk turned out to be a female (but I already knew that!). She wanted us to look for a nest. The thought of starving baby hawks motivated the gardener to search our neighborhood and me to post on next-door app asking people to look for hawk nests. We found two, but not hers so perhaps she didn’t have a nest after all. The volunteer said that if there wasn’t a nest close by it’s doubtful that she had one because she would have done anything to get to the nest, even if she couldn’t fly. She would have walked!

You might wonder how she’s doing. I sure do, but they don’t let people know. That is frustrating, but I’m satisfied I did what I could for her. What a magnificent bird. An interesting note: I read up on red-tailed hawks, of course, and discovered that they generally don’t go after cats and dogs, although they are huge and their wing spans can be six feet.

By the way, both dove babies are still alive!

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More Scrapping Scraps

I finished another story scrap for my SCRAPS scrapbook–finally.

As a reminder this is the first post. Click the photo to read it.

 

When I was a preteen, my grandmother sewed me shorts sets from cotton blend prints. She made the tops and shorts out of the same material, but the tailoring was fairly sophisticated, so the end product had more in common with a summer dress than a romper. I don’t know where she got the idea from or if it was in style in the sixties. At least one fabric was made into matching mother-daughter shorts sets for Mom and me.

 

But my favorite set was in a fabric that I found very cheering. Balloons in varying shades of spring greens, both solids and prints, float on a white field. The shorts were mid-thigh, and the top had a fairly high neckline. Because Grandma made it for me, the outfit fit perfectly. It was comfortable, and I felt good wearing it.

 

Not that I didn’t love to wear my denim shorts and short-sleeved sweatshirt. But Grandma’s short sets were lighter weight than my other play clothes and much more convenient than dresses.

In this photo I am posing alone–to see the one with my mother look at the finished pages at the bottom of the post.

In our old photos, I found myself wearing the balloon set on two different dates. The summer photo came first. It was on the occasion of our trip to Canada to attend Expo 67. In fact, in a scrapbook, Mom labeled the picture, “Mother and daughter enjoying a rest.” A body of water is behind us. Below that photo, my mother had pasted another photo and labeled it, “Sawmill at Upper Canada Village.”  There is another image of just me in the same spot but without my mother (the one above). From examining the few photographs I could find online, I do think these photos of me are also from Upper Canada Village.

 

In the photos, I am wearing the shorts set, with its matching triangle headscarf tied at the nape of my neck. I also wear a blue ¾ length sleeve cardigan that Grandma knitted for me. On my feet are navy blue Keds-type shoes.

 

I’ve written before about our Expo 67 visit, but we also went to other tourist sites in Canada during our trip. Upper Canada Village was one of the places we visited. Niagara Falls was another.

 

My grandmother must have made this outfit for me in the spring of 1967 when I was finishing up elementary school (6th grade). I started junior high in September.

The other photo revives vivid memories. It was taken 31 October 1967, Halloween, probably around 6 PM. I remember my mother posing me in front of the living room fireplace. I have very few memories of actual picture taking, so this is very special to my heart.

I am wearing a heavenly sheer green silk flapper dress that had been owned by my grandfather’s cousin Therese Remine. It was heavily beaded, and over time, the silk had weakened, and the beads were too heavy for the thin fibers. By the time I got home that night, the dress had already begun to rip. You might wonder why my mother would allow me to ruin an expensive vintage dress by wearing it one night for Halloween. I wonder that myself, but my mother’s value system is limited. To sum it up: she didn’t have any interest in the dress, so she didn’t care what I did with it.

 

Because the dress was sheer, I had to choose clothes to wear underneath, and the only thing that seemed to my 12-year-old mind to “go” was the balloon shorts set because both outfits were green.  I made myself a flapper headband to match and carried a handbag that must have belonged to Therese, although I am not positive about that. You see, I used to collect old discarded fancy wear and had quite a collection from a few women.

 

It had been my mother’s idea to make a headband. I don’t know how much I knew about the 1920s, and I probably needed her suggestion to visualize the whole outfit. I have mulled over the question: where did I first learn about flappers with their bobbed hair and short skirts? Their narrow flat outlines so like my own. I don’t remember what movies or books might have shaped whatever image I had by age twelve.

 

An essential part of my costume that night was the large diamond-shaped earrings. I’m not sure where those dangly earrings came from. I hope I didn’t lift them from the dime store at the plaza.

 

While I stood in the middle of our living room, smiling into the camera, my mother pulled her face out from behind the camera and pinned me with her gaze. “This will be your last year trick-or-treating. You’re getting too old.” So that was that. I felt compelled to enjoy myself this one last time.

 

The living room accessories in the photo were accumulated from various places, generally from other people. The big brass candlesticks were heavy. The painting was not a copy, but an inexpensive original painting. The Don Quixote figures had been displayed at a home décor shop. My father had purchased an old house on Westnedge on a land contract and rented it to an interior decorator who opened the shop. When she went out of business, she gave my father some small furnishings in lieu of back rent. That was how we ended up with the large wood fork and spoon that hung on our kitchen wall for years (yes, like in Marie’s kitchen on  Everybody Loves Raymond).

 

I look so young in these photos, and yet poised on the brink of burgeoning womanhood. I remember how I felt wearing that flapper dress. The twenties was my era, and I felt as if I belonged.

 

As my photograph was snapped, the bell rang. My friends had arrived so we could begin the house-to-house process. That’s when I realized I had to wear my wool coat over my costume. Or rather, my mother informed me I had to.

 

We trudged from front door to front door, but the knowledge that this was my “last time” weighed on my mind. My fingers grew chilled from the cold that had arrived early to Michigan. That’s where this memory ends.

 

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