Monday, July 27, 2015

Emma - Part Seven of the Red Sweater Serial

During the month of April, I participated in the A to Z blogging challenge.  A first for me, I attempted fiction for the first time.  I had such fun with it that I decided to give it another go.

This time I will be writing a serial type of story.

I took a longer than intended break from the story.  But as promised, here is part seven. 

This tale seems to have taken on a life of its own.  I wonder when I will come to the conclusion that the story should conclude?

If you want to catch up on the Red Sweater Serial, click on the tab at the top of the blog or you can click here.

Part Seven

Addie would never forget that day.  Even after all of these years, when she thought about it, her stomach clenched and her jaw tightened.
 She vividly recalled how the sticky hotness of the day felt. Sometimes, the smell of a freshly mown lawn would remind her of that long ago August afternoon, causing bitterness and anger to rise from deep down until it bubbled up into her throat.  She could almost taste the bile.
The day that Rachel found Emma’s birth certificate was one of the strongest memory jolts she had ever felt. The memory was of the day Bob told Addie about the affair.
He had called her in the middle of the day.  He sounded agitated and was clearly upset. 
“Can you send the girls over to Jane’s house when they get home from school today?”  he had asked.   “I need to talk to you.  It’s important.”
“What’s wrong?” asked Addie, feeling sick to her stomach. 
But, Addie knew what Bob was going to tell her.  She had known for months. 
When Bob got home, he went into their bedroom and threw himself onto the bed.  He put his arm up to his forehead and his body began to shake from sobs he obviously could not control. 
Even though she knew about his affair with Marge, Addie wanted the satisfaction of watching Bob struggle with a confession he was now forced to give.  
Addie's mind was whirling.  She had questions, so many questions.  At that moment, though,  she only wanted the answer to one. 
"Is it over?"  she asked. 
"She's pregnant," Bob choked out in a hoarse whisper.  
When Addie began to have suspicions of the affair, she was almost cavalier about it.  She realized afterwards, after many months of therapy, that her aloof attitude was her way of protecting her own feelings. 
But she never expected this.  She was shocked and horrified. 
"She's pregnant?"  Addie asked,  now feeling confused.  
"She's sure the baby is mine," said Bob.  "Don, well Don," he stammered.  
"What?!"  Adele shouted.  "What about Don?"  
"He had a...well, he can no longer father children." said Bob. 
Several weeks after Bob had admitted to the affair, Addie confided in her best friend Jane.
“You know that old saying that the wife is the last to know?” Addie asked Jane.
“It’s not at all true.  Wives are the first to know,"  said Addie.
"Bob treated me differently, you know," said Addie.  "It was as though he was annoyed at me all of the time.  I couldn't do anything right."  
That saying should be changed to, “Wives are the last to admit it to themselves,” said Addie. 
Now the memories of that day and the months and years to follow were coming back once again to haunt Addie.  
She had snatched the envelope with the birth certificate out of Rachel's hand.  
"Oh, I've been looking all over for that."  said Addie.  
"Whose is it?" Rachel wanted to know.  "Who is Emma?"
Addie knew that she would eventually have to face this day.  She and Bob had talked about it many times.  They were supposed to tell the girls together.  
Why had they put it off, she lamented. 
She managed to stall Rachel by saying that she wasn't feeling well.  
"Listen, honey, this has been a long emotional day for me."  Addie picked up the red sweater from the   back of her chair and wrapped it around her shoulders.  It was her favorite one of the many that Rachel had knitted for her.  
"Do you mind if we call it quits for now?"
Adele was relieved when Rachel agreed. 
"I'll call you later, Mom, to see how you're doing."

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Red Sweater Serial - Where is the rest of the Story? Who is Emma???

I received a comment on my blog yesterday regarding the Red Sweater Serial story:  “Where is rest of the story? Who is Emma????

Yes, I have been neglectful.   Excuse number one.  It’s Summer!  
Yeah, there is no excuse number 2, 3 or 4.  

But now that I have been called out, there are no more excuses.

The Red Sweater Serial continues on Monday!

One day last week we visited The Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge.   Since the green head flies were swarming, we decided to do the wildlife drive.  

"Wildlife Drive: An 8 mile self-guided tour of saltwater marsh, freshwater habitat, and upland forest. This area is known internationally as a birding “hotspot”. Observation towers, complete with telescopes, are located at Gull Pond and Turtle Cove.”
That is the Atlantic City Skyline in the background

Widow’s Lace

Osprey Nest

Osprey Dad(or is it Mom?) bringing home fish for dinner

I want to go back again when we can get out of the car and perhaps climb some of the towers or wander down a path or two. 

If you want to catch up on the Red Sweater Serial before Monday, click on the tab at the top of the blog or you can click here.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Melancholically Empty Nesting

Our Jersey shore beach vacation was pleasantly and at the moment, presently memorable.  The weather was nearly perfect all week long.   We had one day of rain.  That was Thursday.  But, by then we needed a break from the sun and surf.
We have been home only 10 days and my memories of our time together are already starting to fade.  I took over 300 photographs which are sure to serve as reminders.
(See end of post for all 300 pics)  Just kidding ;)
Even though that there were eleven of us, each distinct in our ages and stages, we blended and bonded with ease.
By day two we began to fall into a languid routine.
Derek and I were always the first two to be up and about.  We both respected our “I am not a morning person” tendencies  by a murmuring of “Good morning” while we each went about our own business.  He with his coffee and paper, me waiting for the water to boil for my tea.
One of my favorite parts of the day was sitting out on the back deck, sipping my tea.  If I sat in just the right spot and with a squint, peered between the alley way of the two houses across the way, I had a slit eye view of the ocean.
Ross would soon join me and we would have important whispered conversations.  After all there was much to discuss.  Like, for instance, the whether.  You know, whether or not we would go out for breakfast, or whether the weather was going to be nice.
After tea I took a brisk 3 mile long walk.  Bella came with me the first three days, but she hurt her foot, so I was on my own the rest of the week.  One of the days Bella was with me, Ross drove us over to the boardwalk for our walk.  He waited for us on a bench with his Kindle.  Afterwards, we treated Bella to breakfast at The Varsity Inn.
Generally, when I got back to the house after the walk,  everyone else had eaten breakfast and were bustling around getting ready to head over to the beach.  When I came into the house,  Jackson, the two year old, would greet me, “Hi Pop-pop.”  Yeah, he can’t say Grandma, so I’m Pop-pop for now.

One day, while we were on the beach, Kenny and Ty asked if I would take a walk with them.  I promised we were sure to find unique sea shells for their collection.  Well, they certainly did.
The boys found a WWII bullet shell casing.  They were excited to show their dad, who was pretty impressed with their find.

One evening I introduced the kids to the game called “Mother May I.”  Surprisingly, none of them had heard of it.   Even more of a surprise,  they actually had fun playing.   Imagine that, especially since there were no electronic devices involved.  (I may have to tirade about the subject of the aforementioned devices in another post.)

Another evening, I enticed four of the grandchildren to join me in the “story corner” of the porch.  When there was a bit of a scuffle over who would get to sit in the rocker, I responded with, “Why the story teller, of course, gets to sit in the rocker, silly children.”
While I was telling the story, I had a sudden revelation.  Bella, my eleven year old granddaughter, who is now taller than me, kept trying to interject logical thoughts into my story.   And she was always such a believer in my fairy dust.
But, I was still able to get the three boys, two seven year olds and a six year old, wide eyed and giggling.  I left them with a cliff hanger to be finished another time.
The next night, after much begging of “When can we hear the rest of the story?” I agreed to finish the tale.  Bella and Ryan were interested.  I could tell that Tyler, the six year old,  wanted to join, but his older brother, Kenny, didn’t want to.  So Ty hung back too.  Soon, though, he sheepishly came out, with his little Ty grin, and asked if I would start the story over again.  Of course I did.
After “The End”, Ryan asked if he could tell a story.
“Uh, Grandma,  I get to sit in the rocker.  I’m the story teller,” he said.
Ryan’s story was quite complex.  Bella and Ty, quickly lost interest.  But Ross and I remained attentive throughout the next 20 minutes.
I found it fascinating that as Ryan, the story teller, went along, he would adjust the plot accordingly, to fit in with what would make sense to the storyline.
The story was about a giant wave that periodically, over many years, would swallow its victims and keep them captive in its belly.
At one point he mentioned,  “The Titanic, you know Grandma, the one that got knocked over by a big wave?” was also caught in the monster wave’s stomach.
I interrupted him.  “Ryan, the Titanic collided with an iceberg.”
“Grandma,” the seven year old admonished me, “my story is fiction.”

On Thursday, the rainy day, and also traditionally macaroni day, I got to play Ma again, by making my famous meatballs and gravy.

Vacations like this one are special. Having whole days and nights with my children, gave me a glimpse into their lives that a weekly phone call or occasional visit could never do.  Rather than a Facebook blurb or a brief text,  we were able to have unhurried, extended, sometimes personal and in depth conversations.

Although, Ross and I do enjoy our laid-back, unscheduled, not having to be or do, lifestyle,  I realize, especially after such a vacation,  that I do sometimes melancholically suffer from a little bit of an empty nest

Sunday, June 28, 2015

As The Day Winds Down - A Front Porch View

Well, I am really slacking off with my serial story, “The Red Sweater”. But I’m on vacation, down at the Jersey shore and the sun, sand, and ocean breezes have taken me elsewhere for a while.
The house we rented for the week has a deep covered front porch with white wicker furniture.  We are about a block in from the ocean.   Even though we don’t have a beach view,  we are on a peaceful street with only the occasional walker or jogger passing by. The bushes and shrubbery planted along the front of the deck are mature and provide some privacy.   The perfect retreat in which to nap, drool, and dream.
We arrived yesterday in a driving rain storm which lasted all night and into the early morning.
But, then, as is typical on an island, the wind changed direction chasing the clouds the other way. The rain suddenly stopped and the sky transformed in an instant from dusky gray to brilliant blue.
I made a pact with myself to walk three miles every day while I am here.   I was pleasantly surprised when my granddaughter, Bella, agreed to accompany me this morning.
Bella is a gangly 11 year old.   We definitely were not on the same stride.  It was three of my short legged steps to a single lanky one of hers.
Four of my other grandchildren are also here with us.  Four boys.  Two seven year olds, one six year old and a barely two year old.
The three boys were playing paddle ball on the beach this afternoon.  Ryan got a little too close to the paddle.  He is nursing a fat lip.  Poor kid.  
It was breezy down by the water.  The ocean was rough.  Probably remnants from the storm.  As the waves broke on the shore, the wind carried shoots of mist high into the air swirling them around like mini tornados.   The life guards called out to the swimmers with their shrill whistles, waving them  into shore.  The tide has changed, they warned.  It was not safe for anyone to go out as far as they had been.
It’s quiet now.  Their parents have taken the kids to the boardwalk.
The day is winding down.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Look Ma, I’m Writing

For the past six weeks I have been writing a serialized fictional piece.  Once a week I have posted a part of the continuing story here.  If you have been following along, you know that I am a novice fiction writer.

As I mention at the beginning of each post, "During the month of April I participated in the A to Z blogging challenge.  A first for me, I attempted fiction for the first time.  I had such fun with it that I decided to give it another go.  This time I will be writing a serial type of story.

It’s been an interesting project.  The process has certainly been enlightening for me.
As I was instinctively calling this a “serial”,  the first thing I did was look up the meaning of serial fiction.
I wanted to make sure that I was using the correct term by calling it a serial.

According to Wikipedia:  
  “In literature, a serial is a printed format by which a single larger work, often a work of narrative fiction, is published in sequential installments. The installments are also known as numbers, parts, or fascicles, and are either issued as separate publications or within in sequential issues of a single periodical publication.

Yes, that’s what I was intending.

Part One was easy.  I had an idea for a beginning, the introduction of a few characters, a vague idea of suspense, and a tease at the end.
When I started writing Part Two, I instantly became aware that logistics were crucial to the story line.
Questions like, “Wait a minute,  where did I leave Rachel in part one?”  “How old are Rachel and her sister when the story takes place?”  “When were they born?”  “Let’s see that must make their mother…”
I couldn’t keep all this straight in my head, especially if the story was going to continue for weeks, so I started a word doc with a list of characters, their birth dates, relationship to one another, etc.  Like I said, I am learning as I go and this one was an important lesson.  As I continued on with each part, my word doc became more detailed and a reference document.

One of the most fascinating experiences for me was how immersed I became.  As I was writing, and thinking and plotting,  my imagination grabbed me and plopped me right into the middle of the story.

I promised a six week (or maybe more) story. A challenge to be sure.  Where was this story going? More importantly, how would it end?  Didn’t I owe an ending to my reader(s)?  Which by the way, includes me.
But then I remembered an incident that happened when my mother was living with me.  It was during the last months of her life.   The incident proved to be a revelation for me and it had an impact on how I thought about life.
One of the things that would have brought peace to my mother was to know that her son, my brother, was going to be okay.
The last hours of her life were spent in a non responsive state.  The hospice nurse told us that it seemed as though she was hanging on, not wanting to let go.  “Perhaps she was waiting for someone?” the nurse asked.
We immediately thought it must be my brother.  We called him.  We put the phone up to her ear, and he told her that he loved her and that he was going to be okay.  She passed a few hours later.
Of course, I knew that he wasn’t okay.  And that’s when it struck me.
I thought about all the worrying I do, especially about my own children.  But truly, none of us ever really gets to know the end of every story.  You know, Life Goes On.   That became starkly evident to me after my own son passed away.   There should have been so much more to his story.  After all he was one of the main characters.

Perhaps that’s why I chose to do a serial.  I, at least, have control of how this story ends, or not.

By the way, once I publish a part, I have difficulty not going back and editing it.    I will re-read a section and think, Darn, I should have had Rachel go here instead of there. 
But, that’s life!

Stay tuned for Part Seven of “The Red Sweater”.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Part Six of “The Red Sweater” - A Serial

During the month of April I participated in the A to Z blogging challenge.  A first for me, I attempted fiction for the first time.  I had such fun with it that I decided to give it another go.

This time I will be writing a serial type of story.
As I meander through my imagination, I expect an episode to take shape in time to be posted each week.  

If you would like to catch up, simply click on the “Red Sweater Serial Tab” at the top of my blog. 

The Red Sweater

Part Six 
Rachel brushed past Roz on the stairs mumbling, “Sorry.”  She fumbled in her purse for the key to her room.  Her hands were shaking as she struggled to get the key into the lock.  Once inside the room, she closed the door and leaned up against it.
It was now dusk.  The window shades were drawn, darkening the room but she did not turn on a light.    Her legs felt rubbery.  She slowly sat down on the edge of the bed.  With a rigid arm on either side of her body, and her palms pressed into the mattress, she tried to steady herself.
She slowly shook her head back and forth and began to cry.  She turned and crawled on all fours up to the head of the bed.  She sank down onto a pillow, pulled her knees up and hugged them tightly into her chest.  She tried to make sense of it all.  She had many questions and most of them began with “why”.
Earlier in the day, mid morning, right after breakfast, Rachel got into her rental car, typed an address into the car’s navigation system and started on her journey.  She wasn’t sure what to expect, but she felt she had no other choice.   The weight of uncertainty was suffocating.  Her episodes of panic and anxiety were becoming more frequent and intense.
Evie told her she was becoming obsessed with the whole thing.
“You should move on, Rach.   Dwelling on the past is not helping.”
She hated when Evie talked about moving on.  What would she know about it?
That’s not fair, Rachel thought.  Evie has been through difficult periods.  She knew her sister was only trying to help.
According to the GPS she would arrive at her destination in less than two hours.  During the first part of the trip she traveled on rural single lane roads.   Under different circumstances she would have been able to appreciate sitings of long neck herons as they skillfully tip toed their way through scenic grassy marshes.
This morning, though, her thoughts were narrowly focused.
Rachel vividly remembered the day she found the document.
It was a Sunday afternoon.  Her mother called to ask if she would help her clean out Rachel’s father’s study.  It had been two years since he passed away.  Actually the day her mother called was the two year anniversary of her father’s death.  With the exception of an occasional dusting, the room had remained exactly as it was when Rachel’s father was alive.  It had been his refuge.
“It’s time, Rachel,” her mother said.  “Evie and Ed are out of town.  It will be just the two of us, I’m afraid,” she added.
The room was small,  but her father had made efficient use of the space.  There were floor to ceiling book shelves along opposite walls.   Two club chairs were placed in front of a double window which looked out onto the street in front of the house.  Her father started out each day sitting in one of the chairs sipping on his coffee. He liked looking out the window, watching the early morning walkers and joggers as they passed by.  His desk and computer were situated along the other wall facing the center of the room.
The two women spent the afternoon sorting through papers they found in her father’s desk.
“What are you going to do with the desk?” asked Rachel.  It was an old worn oak piece.
“I was going to give it to the second hand shop.  You know, the one affiliated with the church.”
Rachel said, “I would like to have it, Mom.”
“This old thing?” her mother exclaimed.  “It’s full of nicks and scratches.”
“I know,” Rachel said.  But, it was Dad’s.  And look, here’s where Evie and I carved in our initials, she said pointing to the side of the desk.”
When her mother tried to open the center drawer, it stuck.
“It seems to be locked,” she said.
“Here let me try,” said Rachel.
Rachel tugged, but it wouldn’t budge.  She pushed it in and then pulled on it again and it gave way.
That’s when she found it.  An envelope, yellowed with age.
“Emma’s Birth Certificate” was hand written on the front of the envelope.  She recognized her father’s distinctive script.
Confused, Rachel’s eyes narrowed,  her brow knitted.  “Who is Emma?” she asked.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Part Five of “The Red Sweater” A Serial

During the month of April I participated in the A to Z blogging challenge.  A first for me, I attempted fiction for the first time.  I had such fun with it that I decided to give it another go.

This time I will be writing a serial type of story.
As I meander through my imagination, I expect an episode to take shape in time to be posted each Tuesday.  

If you would like to catch up, simply click on the “Red Sweater Serial Tab” at the top of my blog. 

The Red Sweater

Part Five 
Evie sat on the stool behind the counter, staring into space.  She was having a hard time concentrating on the inventory report and there were four boxes of yarn to unpack in the stock room.
Ed had gone out.   He told Evie that he was going to take a walk down to Uncle Pete’s deli.
“What would you like for lunch, Eve?” he asked before he left.
He was wearing his red sweater.  It was one of Rachel’s creations.  He had been in a panic earlier that morning when he thought it was missing.   He finally found it hanging on the back of his chair in the study.
Hand knit sweaters, in any shade of red, designed by Rachel was her way of showing affection and appreciation for those she cared most about.
“For my heart’s love” she would say.
Rachel tried to entice Evie to learn to knit.  She was a patient teacher.
“I’ll cast on for you,” she would say.  “And I’ll even start a few rows,” Rachel said, trying her best to convince her sister.
Then she would hand the ball of yarn and a pair of wooden needles over to Evie.
"Okay, hold the left needle like this.  That’s it, wrap your fingers around it and secure the stitches with your thumb.  Hold the other needle in your right hand the same way, with your thumb on top.”
Rachel made it look so easy.  But when Evie did she felt like she was all thumbs.
Evie remembered when Rachel first took up knitting.  It was in the late 70s.  Evie was sixteen, Rachel fifteen.
Rachel was trying to think of a unique gift for Sam’s mother, Marge.  Well, it wasn’t actually for Marge, but for the baby Marge was carrying.
“I’m going to knit a sweater.  A little red sweater for Marge’s baby, she told Evie.”
“You don’t even know how to knit, Rach,” Evie said.
“No,  big deal,” she told Evie.  “I bought a ‘How to Knit' book.  And I used to watch Grandma all the time. Remember the socks she made for us?”
Rachel and Sam were teenagers in love.  Marge was like a second mother to Rachel.  She could talk to Marge about anything.  Not something she could do always with their own mother.
Then one day, Marge, Sam and Sam’s father suddenly left town.
“I don’t understand, Evie,” Rachel sobbed.  “Why would they just leave like that?  They didn’t even say good-bye.”
She did not want Rachel to be sad. Evie did her best to console her younger sister.
“Come on, Rach, let’s go to the movies.”
Rachel would sigh, “No, I’m not in the mood.”
“Hey, how about if we go to Pinky’s and split a Belly Buster.”
But all Rachel wanted to do was work on the little red sweater.  It was to be the first of many she would eventually make to give away as gifts.
And then, years later, fate stepped in.
“I’m back, Eve,” called Ed.  “Got your BLT on rye toast, light on the mayo.”
“Let’s sit out front,” said Ed.
They sat in the white slat rockers, quietly eating their sandwiches, each distracted by their own thoughts.
“Huh?  What is it?”
“I was thinking that maybe we should take a little vacation.”
“Oh, I don’t know, Eve.  Rachel is away.  We can’t leave the shop, you know.”
“Eve?” Ed hesitated before saying, “There’s something I have to tell you.”
Evie held her breath.
Her phone rang.  It was her mother.
“Evie, sweetie?  Can you come by later?  There’s something I have to tell you. "