Young and Beautiful

Yesterday was packing day for Sunshine. She headed out early this morning to meet up with a friend for skiing and a better New Year’s Eve celebration than we will have at home. Apparently movie and game nights are not so appealing to twenty-somethings. (When did I become my parents?)

Pandora was playing in the background – Amy Winehouse station. A familiar song came on and I asked Sunshine if it was a movie tune.

She replied, “Oh, yeah. It’s from The Great Gatsby. Have you seen the movie?”

I hadn’t, so she stopped getting ready and we lounged on the couch and watched it together, a quiet afternoon of respite from preparations for another separation, my heart aching to keep her close and hers straining to be free. A moment of togetherness.

I’m not new to Gatsby. I read it a while ago. I found the decadent, hedonistic lifestyle superficial and the story depressing. Maybe that was Fitzgerald’s intention. The movie affected me the same way, maybe more so. The difference was that now I had this song I once loved cycling through my head for the rest of the day, bringing me down, reminding me over and over of the dark, selfish side of humanity.

And my daughter was leaving from a trip home that felt more like a visit than a homecoming.

Music reinforces those emotional memories.

It might be time to revise my playlist.



Write whatever you normally write about, and weave in a book quote, film quote, or song lyric that’s been sticking with you this week.


The Argument

The late night dancing raindrops shimmer
In headlights, as in the cold
We yearn for the warmth of a crackling fire.

Words fly, and the fire
Of pent-up frustrations shimmer
In tears of a love grown cold.

Though piercing words stream cold
And sharp, they fuel a fire,
Through memories that are but a distant shimmer,

And we discover a shimmer of cold love reawakening in fire.


The Tree


The tree sits proudly in the living room, boldly taking up a quarter of the available space. I was so grateful for the boys’ company that I let them choose it, and they chose the biggest one on the lot. With plenty of struggle and laughter, they helped their dad get it on the car, then squeezed it through the door of the house, and here it sits, a visitor enthroned in its stand, accepting its esteemed position in the middle of everything.

For days it sits like this, a needle-feathered forest visitor to the austere geometric world of our house. It’s so tall that I can’t reach the top to start stringing lights, and the previously willing helpers have all disappeared into their caves. I sit on the couch and ponder the sheer size, wondering how to tackle the job ahead of me. The rain is coming down in sheets outside, drenching the ladder that still sits by the house from the day my husband put up the lights. I’d probably hurt myself trying that anyway. I could use a chair, but the angle of the tree makes me wary of falling and taking the tree with me. Finally, my youngest son, blessed with height and long arms, deigns to help. We get the top string of lights up just as the timer beckons us for dinner. I will return later to finish the job by myself.

Again, I sit on the couch and ponder the tree, now adorned with white lights. Boxes of ornaments sit on the sidelines, waiting the arrival of my daughter from college. The tree stands in simple elegance, a stately sentry to the other half of the house.

We have been through many trees over the years. One year long ago we had a live tree. It now graces the bottom of our property, a tall testament to the passing of the years. When it snows, I position my youngest son beside it, documenting the growth of both of them with a photo. 

In our family, Christmas tree selection occurs right after Thanksgiving, and decorating it has always been a family affair. This was easier when everyone was home. My eldest is now out of the state, though we did wait for him to arrive last year. He won’t be coming home this year. My daughter just arrived from college, and although we waited for her, we ended up waiting even longer. We couldn’t seem to find the time to decorate.

I seem to sit and ponder the tree a lot.

Finally, through frustrated tears, I announce that I will be decorating this tree, and anyone who wants to is welcome to help, but it is happening now. My middle son, a fresh young adult who recently announced that he wasn’t celebrating the holiday, hugs me and asks me to wait one more day. He is meeting up with friends and will be back the next day to decorate with me. I acquiesce.

The tree twinkles its white lights at me. What does it know of the passing of time? I stare at the three glass ornaments placed on it in frustration. They will sit there for two more days before the box is opened.

In my mind’s eye I see smiling children perched on chairs, leaning precariously toward the tree, ornaments in hand, posing for pictures.  I see the carefully packed ornaments coming out one by one and us laughing at the first grade pictures and the glued together popsicle sticks. I see my middle son with an armload of nutcrackers. I picture us sitting cuddled under blankets, sipping hot chocolate from Christmas mugs, admiring our handiwork, music playing in the background. How many Christmases were spent like this?

Even the ornaments are packed with meaning. There is a sushi ornament for the year we discovered sushi and a small wooden ferry from our trip to the San Juan Islands. There are skiing ornaments and music ornaments and photo ornaments. Every year the tree becomes a 3-D album of our life together.

Last year’s plea was to not decorate the tree until they came home. This year I waited. And waited. And waited.

Next year I will pick the tree. It will be short. It will be thin. I will wait, but only for so long, and then I will lovingly pull out the lifetime of ornaments, decorate the tree and remember.

The Power of a Hug

There are defining moments in life, those that stick with you and create enough of an impact as to define and realign your thinking patterns. When my children were small, I had one of those moments.

We were in our family chaos pattern of divergent needs, all clamoring to be met immediately. My mind was going to its frazzled state, a common one at the time. Pressure was on the rise, the needle hovering around red.

All of a sudden I seemed to see my children not as the little wild things they were at the time, but as precious beings under my care. I took them into my arms (and you must understand that they were not being sweet at that moment) and just hugged them and hugged them and hugged them. No scolding. No lessons from mom. Just a fiercely loving hug.

It was as if the pressure release valve opened. All of the clamoring stopped, not just for the moment, but for the rest of the day. In that moment I realized that what my kids wanted more than whatever they were clamoring for was my love and attention. In an instant my little wild things had been tamed with the power of a hug.

In response to The Daily Post’s prompt: Tell us about a time when everything seemed to be going wrong — and then, suddenly, you knew it would be alright. 


A wisp, a spider’s thread, floating freely on the wind,
An idea intangible and unknowable as it floats.
Captured, it changes, adhering and clinging,
Binding one to another in a mutual web.
Fly your flag proudly
While the small are trapped, struggling, unable to escape.
You move in, seeing all, yet seeing none,
For an idea
That once floated
Freely on the wind.

Anywhere Door

Photo credit: Karolina Głowacz via / CC BY-NC-ND

I have no use for time machines,
Their paradoxes confound me.
And hindsight being what it is
It’s better off behind me.

To not be seen would be a dream
For many. Not for me.
In honesty I strive to walk,
Authentic for all to see.

Give me a door to anywhere
And feed my life-long desire,
To quickly go, endless places to know,
And quench my wanderlust fire.


Your local electronics store has just started selling time machines, anywhere doors, and invisibility helmets. You can only afford one. Which of these do you buy, and why?


Guillaume Brialon / / CC BY-NC-SA

Elusive and fleeting,
Sleep tempts and taunts.
The digital numbers wink as I doze.
I drift off,
Meandering through a dream world
Like a child in the toy department, gazing all about in wonder
At the curiosities that surround me.
And before I sate my curiosity
The gentle chimes remind me
That the real world beckons.

In waking I dream of sleep.


terrypresley / / CC BY

When life was young, I scrubbed your fingerprints
From the refrigerator door, my heart
Worn from the frantic pace of days.

Through swiftly passing time, your days
Overflowed with school, and those fingerprints
Graced many a roughly cut and painted heart.

Now you seek to fill your own heart
With a love to share your remaining days,
While I scan the refrigerator for a trace of those small fingerprints.

Yet in its ridges and valleys and whorls, life leaves its own fingerprints etched onto the heart in a collection of moments and days.