Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

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The last few weeks this true story has come up on more than one occasion, so I thought I would dust it off and share it once more. Enjoy!

The sound of the waves, the sand beneath his feet, the warm ocean breeze were all a part of him, ingrained into his very soul. He was a true island boy, climbing palm trees in the blink of an eye to retrieve a coconut, catching fish with his homemade spear in the most primitive manner. It was the only manner he had ever learned…not from his father, as he had never met the man who had given him life. His mother never spoke of him. He carried his questions in his little heart, the one place they couldn’t cause the fleeting glimpse of pain he sometimes saw in her eyes…the pain she thought she hid so well.

Puerto Rico, Army Jeep, Black and White Army Military Photo

He studied the only photo of his father he possessed, memorizing every detail. Even when he closed his eyes he could still see the way his father looked in his uniform, the way he slightly leaned into his military jeep as though someone had caught him on his way somewhere. Where was he going? Who held the camera that provided the only piece of the puzzle that was his life, his story? He held the tiny black and white photo, yet held not a single memory of this man…a stranger to him.

Mike and Mom Rita early to mid-1950's

It came as no surprise when the little island boy grew to be a soldier as well. He and his mother moved to the United States so he could join the army at the age of eighteen. It wasn’t long before the island boy fell in love, married and had a family of his own. His young bride, wanting to know everything about him would ask him to tell her about his father. She wanted to know if he ever thought of him, if he ever wondered what became of him, if he was ever curious to meet him. His response never wavered. He had a good life, a loving family, and no need for anything or anyone else. After years of seeing the hint of pain in his eyes, she stopped asking him. Many years would come and go before she would tentatively broach the subject once more.

It was the age of computers now, when the internet was becoming all the rage and she had embraced the technology. She loved being able to communicate with all the friends she made during their numerous military relocations. And, she had become interested in a genealogy website where she could build a family tree. Once again, she asked her husband about his father. This time, he handed her the tiny black and white photo his own mother had placed in his small hand a lifetime ago. She scanned it, placed it on the site and listed her husband’s name as someone looking for his father. Neither one of them thought anything would really come of it. Yet, life has a funny way of making connections so intricately weaved, they leave us mere mortals astounded.

Across the ocean, a secretary at a military base happened on that very website. She gasped when she saw the photo and immediately printed it. Her boss arrived shortly after, and headed straight to his office. The first thing his eyes landed upon was a printout of a tiny black and white photo of a man in military uniform. There was no mistaking it was his father. He immediately took the contact information his secretary provided, and made the call that would forever change the life of a little island boy. He never doubted for a moment this man was his brother. Their father had shared a story with him, and the time had finally come to share it with his brother.

Their father had been stationed on a small island and had fallen in love with a young girl. He had returned home at the end of his assignment, but headed back to the island during the first military leave he had only to find that young girl gone. He questioned friends, family, neighbors to no avail. In the end, he found one person willing to talk. The news he was given was heartbreaking. The young girl died giving birth to a baby boy who also didn’t live.

Their father had refused to believe it. In the following years, he made several more attempts to find what his heart believed to be true, but all attempts ended the same. With a heavy heart, he returned home, went on with his life, married and had children, never returning to that island.

Somehow his heart knew what no one was willing to tell him when he sought answers so many years ago. His son lived, and one day he would know their story. He had hoped to look in his son’s eyes, and share this history with him, hug him and let him know he had gone back for them. While on his death-bed, coming to terms with the fact he would never get that opportunity, he shared this story with his youngest son. Their father requested when the brothers finally found each other, the story be shared with the son he never met.

There was silence on the other end of the phone line as a lifetime of questions were finally answered. The island boy, whom my husband calls Dad and my children call Pappa, found a family he never knew he had and a story he never believed could be his own.

Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

Island Boy Finds His Once Upon A Time

I Slept With Him For Years…featured on Erma Bombeck website

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I am honored to have my piece, “I slept with him for years for fear of being alone” featured on the Erma Bombeck website today.

Please check it out and share away!

Hope your weekend is filled with love and laughter wherever you may be!

Kmart Christmas, Paid in Full, Holiday Tradition, Random Act of Kindness Pay It Forward

Christmas – Paid in Full

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“Lord, give me strength.” She pulled up to the house in the dark of night, cut off the engine, and leaned her head back against the seat. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. And so began her nightly ritual as she arrived home from her second job each night. She reached across the seat and grabbed the small bag containing toilet paper, toothpaste, a gallon of milk, and a loaf of bread before exiting the car. She prayed it was enough to hold them over until Friday when she would once again stretch her small paycheck like a magician pulling colored scarves out of a hat.

She quietly entered the old house, treading lightly across the creaky old floorboards so as not to wake anyone. After placing the milk in the fridge, she willed her tired muscles to carry her up the stairs, knowing once she reached the top her exhaustion would be forgotten as she stopped in for a glimpse of her sleeping angels. Her life wasn’t always that of a single mother with three children, but life doesn’t always turn out the way we once dreamed. She was living proof of that. And yet, she wouldn’t trade it for all the money in the world if it meant erasing the three greatest blessings in her life. As usual, she found the twins cuddled up together in one twin bed as though reverting to the comforting days of the peace they experienced in the womb. She covered them with a second blanket, kissed their foreheads, and made her way down the hall. She passed Jacob’s room, knowing she would find her ten-year old son asleep in her bed once again. She no longer moved him back to his own bed, taking as much comfort from sleeping with him as he did with her.

As she did every night, no matter how late she arrived, she filled the tub and soaked for a bit. Surely, it made more sense to take a quick shower and jump in bed, but she needed these baths. It always felt like a cleansing of sorts as she imagined washing away all her troubles before laying her head on her pillow. Otherwise, she knew her worries would circle her mind and sleep would elude her when she needed it most. Thank goodness she still had her mother with her to stay at home with the kids while she worked. She wouldn’t know what to do without her help, but she also knew she was getting older and that wouldn’t always be the case.

This time of year was always the hardest and loneliest for her. It was when she seemed to feel the full brunt of being a single mother the most. She wanted a magical Christmas for her children, but she had stopped believing in magic long ago. How do you continue to help your children believe when the world has stripped you of your hope, your dreams, your faith? As she lay beside him, she watched her son sleep and realized the tranquil look he once possessed was beginning to fade even in his dreams. “Lord, please give me strength.”

She woke before the sun. Gathering the envelope labeled “Savings” in her nightstand before heading out once more. She hoped to make it back before the kids woke up. As she pulled into the Kmart parking lot, she ran the numbers in her head and knew she would have to choose only one item on the list for each of her children. She didn’t have enough for the rest of the items she had placed on Layaway, but Christmas was just days away and she had to have at least one gift under the old Charlie Brown tree in the living room.

She asked the Layaway attendant to please pull up her list so she could select the items she could afford. The list wasn’t long, although she had surprised herself that day by allowing herself to dream for a bit, imagining she actually had the means to give her children the items they asked for this year.

The young girl hit a few keys and said, “Paid in Full.”

Kmart Christmas, Paid in Full, Holiday Tradition, Random Act of Kindness Pay It Forward

“There must be some mistake,” the woman said and repeated her name. The young girl gave her the biggest smile she had ever seen. “I was working the evening shift last night, when a couple came in with their two young children. I heard them explaining to their kids the meaning of putting something on layaway and how blessed they were to be in a position where they had never had to do that. They then asked me to pull up a layaway list that included children’s items and paid it in full. When I asked them if they wanted me to contact the person, they said no. Just tell them we said, Merry Christmas and God Bless.

The young lady then proceeded to hand the items over to the woman who stood motionless, tears streaming down her face. “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” The young lady handed over the final item and said, “Don’t thank me, that family gave me faith that magic still exists. Merry Christmas to you and your children.”

This is our yearly tradition with our children, and all of us have come to look forward to it more than any other aspect of our holiday season. The story above is just one of the versions I’ve imagined in my heart throughout the years. Do you have a family tradition during the holidays?

Elf vs Hulk

Elf On The Shelf’s Costly Christmas Caper

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Once upon a time there was a little elf named Olivia.

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Not surprisingly, Olivia the Elf loved Christmas.

One year, Santa sent her a magical little elf which she named Melfy.

Elf On The Shelf, Christmas Elf, Holiday Tradition, Elf, Elf Mischief

Melfy had a great run for approximately two years before he mysteriously disappeared.

Unbeknownst to Olivia, her parents ordered up a new elf and secretly replaced Melfy.

(That was back when all the Elf on a Shelf elves looked the same.)

Of course, the moment the new Melfy arrived, the old Melfy decided to make an appearance.

And so Olivia’s parents made the executive decision that Olivia’s little elf brother, Evan, was now old enough for his very own elf.

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Evan the Elf named his magical elf, Dragon.

Melfy and Dragon had tons of fun for several years.

They wrestled super heroes, and even survived a fire.

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Well, not really a fire, but Melfy’s collar got burned and Dragon’s chin looked like he was attempting to grow a goatee.

That’s what happens after a day of hanging from the chandelier…literally.

Stick to the shelf, elves!

The battle scars served to differentiate the gender neutral elves, so all was right with the world.

Until…the family moved to Puerto Rico without their belongings and Olivia and Evan’s parents realized their faux pas.

New elves couldn’t be ordered because they don’t make them with unique burn marks.

Although the thought crossed their mind to burn two new elves, it was too risky.

What if they burned the left collar instead of the right?

What if the goatee now looked like a full beard?

So…two new elves arrived this year.

Meet Annabelle and Winston.

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They arrived with a letter from Santa, explaining what happened to Melfy and Dragon.

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Congratulations Melfy and Dragon on your recent promotion!

And, thank you for warning Annabelle and Winston to be very careful where they hang.

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I hope you enjoyed the tale of Elf On The Shelf’s Costly Christmas Caper.

If you don’t think it was costly, do the math.

Each elf costs $35!

I Slept With Him For Years For Fear Of Being Alone.

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He came into my life at a time when I needed him most and without a second thought I clung to him for many a night. It wasn’t like we had a relationship, the kind where you want to spend every waking moment together. It wasn’t like we would get lost in conversation, uncovering deep-seated feelings that connected us on an emotional level. We didn’t go to dinner. We didn’t catch a movie. We never went out – were never seen in public. Truth be told, I didn’t give him much thought as I went about my day, but as night would begin to fall I felt a yearning inside me I knew only he could satisfy. As I climbed in bed, I needed him with every fiber of my being. The thing is, I don’t regret a single night with him.

Stormy Night by Kalense Kid

For most, childhood memories of bedtime present images of favorite jammies, soft blankets, a certain bedtime story that could be told time and again before drifting off to sleep.

Not me.

Bedtime was always a tough time for me as my imagination without fail would choose that specific time to kick itself into overdrive, instilling fears in me so powerful I would hide under the covers ensuring not a toe or a brown curl was unprotected from what lurked in the dark shadows of night. I would stare at the inside of my Strawberry Shortcake blanket, focus on the pattern of my warm breath…inhaling…exhaling…inhaling…exhaling. Once drenched with sweat, gasping for air and believing I would face a fate worse than what existed beyond the safety of my blanket (passing out into permanent darkness),  I would peel a tiny corner of the blanket away from me, turn my head, and take in a large breath of fresh air before returning to my former state. At some point I would pass out, not from lack of oxygen or imagination but from sheer exhaustion.

It wasn’t until Louie came into my life that things changed for me.

Prior to Louie, I would choose one or two stuffed animals to join me each night, but with the innocent mind of a young girl I felt guilty each time I chose them. It was bad enough I would have to face all the night’s scariest creations, I was subjecting them to the same rather than leaving them cozied up in the basket with the rest of their friends.

Which is why when my grandmother presented me with Louie the Monkey on my tenth birthday I was relieved – no matter that I was probably well past the age when children cuddled up to a stuffed animal. He was soft and brown, and looked into my eyes with a hint of a smile on his face. He was about the size of those body pillows they sell nowadays, or maybe that’s how it seemed through a scared little girl’s eyes. With Louie, I no longer hid under the covers. Instead, I held on to him for dear life. The fears were there still, but somehow they seemed a little less daunting with Louie by my side. I breathed a little easier and found a bit of peace before drifting off to sleep each night. His presence helped me sleep better through my high school years and even some of my college years.

Some nights, after a particularly rough day, I still yearn for Louie. I miss him. Not in the physical sense, but in the sense of peace he gave me so many years ago. As grownups, we take so much to bed with us each night with no surefire way to let those fears, those worries, those feelings just sit on a separate plane while we relax and get the rest we so desperately need. Wouldn’t it be nice to find something that would ease our minds each night?

I still have Louie, though you’ll be relieved to know I no longer sleep with him. He is in a box in the attic which does make me a bit sad now that I think about it, but he served me well. Ironically, he was the first one I thought of when my daughter was younger and had nightmares.

He served her well too. How was I to know at the age of ten that my nighttime companion would one day ease my daughter’s fears as well?

Did you have a Louie in your life?

The Ride of a Lifetime

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As stores begin to display Christmas wares way too early, and holiday commercials are rushing us into the holiday mentality, I can’t help but revisit memories of childhood Christmases surrounded by family, tradition, and the spontaneous ride of a lifetime.  I must have been twelve or thirteen, and it was an exceptionally cold Christmas Day in New Jersey. As my big family was prone to do, we were all gathered at my aunt and uncle’s house for what was our yearly tradition. It looked much like every Saturday did for us, with our big loud Cuban family cooking, dancing, and just enjoying each other’s company. The only difference was we were all dressed in our holiday best. The previous night, Christmas Eve, we had enjoyed a delicious menu of roasted pork, yuca, black beans and rice, and all the traditional foods reserved for that time of year.

For me, the highlight of the evening always came after dinner. My aunt, my dad’s oldest sister, spent weeks leading up to Christmas Eve organizing what she simply termed, “Chistes” (translation: Funnies). Everyone would pull their chairs into a circle and one by one we would each take the spotlight. Names had been randomly drawn in a top-secret ceremony where my aunt was the only one privy to the names selected.

The gist of the activity went as follows: You drew a name in advance, then purchased or created an item that was telling of that person’s year, and wrote a limerick to go with it.  I recall getting a gymnast Smurf the year I started gymnastics. I think one of my uncle’s got a wig the year he started losing his hair. There were no rules, and amazingly no one ever got their feelings hurt. That particular year, my dad got a plastic lobster since the highlight of his year was fishing in the Florida Keys and freezing his catch for a big paella later in the year.

This must have been the trigger because shortly after we wrapped “Chistes” my dad and my uncle started reminiscing about Florida and the warmer weather. That very night, it was decided that we would all take a road trip the day after Christmas! And thus, the “ride of a lifetime” was born.

At thirteen, you would think this ride involved my first time on a Harley in some Sons of Anarchy fantasy, but that ride didn’t happen until my 30′s (that moment was captured here).

Ride of a Lifetime

No, this ride was in a sixteen passenger van that automatically became a twenty passenger van for my big Cuban family in a time before seat belts were the law. Each family was told to pack only one bag, difficult to do for those families of four, but somehow we managed. Not only did we need enough room for passengers and luggage, but we also needed room for sandwiches and snacks because our income bracket didn’t allow for restaurants of any kind. My dad’s prized possession and the instrument to get any party started, his Ricky Ricardo conga drum also had to make it in the van.

Dad's Ricky Ricardo Drum

We were squeezed together like sardines. Napping was a luxury, especially when you had a relative’s foot in your face because somehow they decided they needed more beauty sleep than the rest of us. Stops at the gas station were a real treat, and to spectators we must have looked like a circus was in town. Each time, we had to unload the conga drum and several bags, so we could all pile out one by one to use the restroom.

The entire trip took 21 hours, but the memories of that trip have lasted a lifetime.

Do you have memories of a spontaneous “ride of a lifetime”

(clean enough to share here)?

How about fond memories of holiday traditions?

Merry-Go-Round’s Final Round

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I was different.

I knew this from a very young age.

I also knew I wasn’t different in the way other kids thought I was.

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Alone in the Playground by Michelle Weber

If I’m being honest, I felt closer to animals than the people around me, and maybe that’s something they picked up on. I didn’t have many friends, although it wasn’t for lack of trying. It’s just I wasn’t interested in their games. Pretending to save the world from make-believe villains seemed silly to me when there were true villains all around us, and so many who needed saving. Why pretend when we could take action? In turn, they weren’t interested in helping me carry a bird with a broken wing to safety or studying the caterpillar and guessing what colors it would be dressed in when it became a butterfly.

My disinterest in their imaginary playground adventures, only caused to further distance the other kids, which is why anyone watching me that week didn’t give my sitting off to the side another thought. Even back then, I knew I couldn’t save the world, but there were smaller acts I knew in my heart could make a difference.

I tuned out Ms. Valerie’s reminders on studying our vocabulary words for tomorrow’s test, and furiously scribbled the spelling words in my notebook as I stole glances at the clock. I tapped my foot, rocked my chair, and twirled my pencil, nervously anticipating the sound of the bell that would signal lunch hour. I was halfway out of my seat with my brown paper lunch sack in hand when the bell finally rang. I practically ran out the doors to the playground and took my post at the merry-go-round much like I did every day. The rusty old merry-go-round had gone its last round. No longer adventurous enough for the others it was often neglected. Like me, it had been pushed out-of-the-way, off to a corner of the playground where it didn’t get noticed much. It wasn’t that I was afraid someone would want my spot, more that they would discover my secret.

Mother_And_Kitten

I waited until everyone was distracted with their lunches and slowly crouched down under the merry-go-round. As I looked at the animals circling me above, I silently thanked them for protecting our sweet friends below. I pulled out my milk carton, poured it into the old plastic container I had hidden near the fence, and presented it to the sweet kittens that had become my closest friends this past week. As much as I wished to remain with them in this little alcove of ours, I also knew that drawing attention to them wasn’t a good idea. Back then, the thought never crossed my mind that there were people out there who didn’t instinctively love animals, but I had seen how some of the kids would throw rocks at birds that were perched on the slide or take a stick to a bug just to watch it ooze. It was something I didn’t understand.

I still don’t. The years have come and gone since the days when I sat watch over those kittens, many years of witnessing abused and neglected animals arrive at my clinic. Some I’ve been able to save. Others I’ve lost. In many ways I’m still that little girl who doesn’t understand that there are people in this world who don’t instinctively love animals. Worse yet, there are some who wish to hurt them. They should know, my joints may be a bit rusty and I may move a bit slower, but unlike the old merry-go-round I still have a few rounds left in me and will help and protect these innocent animals until my final round.

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This was my creative response to the Weekly Writing Challenge: 1,000 Words:  A fictional story based on the photo, Alone in the Playground, would be great. (Who is this little girl? Where is she? What is she waiting for? Where is her family?), but we also look forward to non-fiction posts inspired by the photo. How does the image make you feel? Does the girl remind you of anyone in your life, or of yourself? Are you as scared of the unidentifiable green creature as we are, and is that a nose or a beak?

The challenge is called “1,000 Words” after the famous phrase, but don’t feel that you need to write that much (or that little) — however many words your story requires is the right number of words. Feel free to include the image in your post, with a link back here.

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Related Articles:

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/abuse_neglect/

http://www.nycferalcat.org/info-kittensnew.htm

http://www.animalalliancenyc.org/wordpress/2013/05/what-to-do-and-not-do-if-you-find-a-newborn-kitten/

http://www.petadoptionnetwork.org/?page_id=182

Wishing Football Season Was Already In The Rearview Mirror

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It’s an early Monday morning and I’m driving my seven-year old son to his first day of Football Camp. I keep stealing glances of him in the rearview mirror, each time catching his sweet smile with the missing front tooth as he stares out his window. His legs are doing the little kick thing they do when he’s happy or excited about something. This vision confirms our recent decision to start a new chapter in our lives. After one year of homeschooling him and his sister, we decided while they were doing exceptionally well academically they were missing out on social interaction and extracurricular activities.

Little Quarter BackI bring the car to a stop at the light and steal one more glance at my son. “So, are you excited about your first day of Football Camp?” There’s a slight pause no more than seconds, but in those seconds my mind runs the gamut of all the fears and insecurities he may be feeling. I don’t know how I do it, but just as quickly I mentally line up my response to each and every doubt he may express. I take a deep breath and just as I’m about to press my foot to the accelerator I hear him say, “Are you kidding? I’ve waited my whole life for this!” My body relaxes with relief and I’m suddenly lost in visions of my little guy grinning as he catches the ball just like we practiced at the park last weekend, high-fiving his new buddies on the field. I’m startled out of my fantasy by the honking of the impatient driver behind me and quickly get back to reality.

It’s a reality I’m not quite ready to face on several levels though I’m not quite sure why. I love football! I want my son to be around other kids his age. I want him to learn what it’s like to be part of a team. Of course, I worry about him getting injured, but that’s not what is nagging at my subconscious. At the end of week one of camp, I’m hit with the answer in neon lights as only a seven-year old can present. Again, I’m seeing him in the rearview mirror keeping my eyes between him and the road ahead almost like an old VHS tape…the image skipping though you can still focus on it. He’s struggling internally with something and I’m holding my breath once more hoping he finds a way to express himself to me…not wanting to rush him but needing him to assuage my fears.

“Mommy?” I compose myself and respond, “Yes, honey?” My heart skips a beat when he softly says, “I’m considering not going back to football camp next week.” Earlier this week he said he’s waited his whole life for this. He’s been named player of the day almost every day this week. All he talks about are drills and passes, his favorite coach and some boy named Jordy. He’s been in heaven all week wanting to call his dad the minute he gets in the car to give him a full report. I’m afraid to ask why but do it anyway. “It’s just that I hear some bad words, and I’m not sure I should keep going. I love going, but I know I’m not supposed to say bad words.”A Little Houston Football

I review what I’ve seen all week when I’ve arrived a few minutes early to catch him in action. I see him making an interception and the look of shock and pride on his face in that very moment mirroring the same look on my own face as I peer through the fence. I see him as his teammates congratulate him. I see his little face as he catches a glimpse of me and smiles from ear to ear. How do I respond? He’s right. I don’t want him around that kind of language even if I know it’s part of the world of sports. I’m angry that grown men can’t control their potty mouths when it comes to sports and especially around children. Yet, I also know I can’t shield him from these things forever and don’t believe it’s fair for me to hold him back from something he truly enjoys.

“You know what buddy? I know you love football and you love camp. You’re right about the bad language. It’s not something I approve of and not something I want you repeating. I don’t believe that kind of language is necessary. Unfortunately, it is unavoidable sometimes. As long as you know it’s wrong, I’m okay with you going back to camp next week.”

As I look in the rearview mirror once more, I see my sweet innocent little boy coming to terms with a reality that is new for both of us. He gives me another toothless smile, and I can’t help but wish we could fast forward past these uncomfortable realities and leave them in the rearview mirror once and for all.

Have you been in a similar situation with your child? How have you handled it?

Final Toast

The Final Toast

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The first date read Sept 9, 1986 – Carmine’s. Being that it was their first date, they weren’t sure what to toast to exactly so they awkwardly raised their glasses while he mumbled, “to the future” and they both laughed thankful the waiter approached to take their order. They were young and hopeful, in love with the idea of love. Yet, by the time their Tiramisu arrived she had slipped the wine cork in her purse. Now, she rolled the cork around in her hand, not wanting to let go of the memory or the faint smile on her face.

She listened for sounds down the hall, before reaching for another. This one made her blush before it even made it out of the jar. Dec 31,1987, Hilton Times Square- a night she would never forget. Not a big fan of New Year’s Eve celebrations, she’d always watched the ball drop while cuddled up on the couch in her favorite jammies. Just like him not to ease her into it, instead going all out for their first New Year’s Eve as a couple. He had made all the arrangements and delivered a magical night she would relive every year on December 31. Watching the ball drop amid a sea of people was a bit nerve-racking at first, but when they embraced and shared their first kiss of the new year it was like they were the only two people in Times Square. After a little too much champagne they stumbled back to the hotel where she was greeted with a trail of rose petals down the hall leading to their room. It was in that same hall, where he pretended to drop the room key and got down on one knee to propose. A sigh escaped her lips as she dropped the champagne cork back in the jar.

Wine Corks

She never tired of this trip down memory lane, one cork after another, though she seemed to do it more often these days.

December 31, 1988 – Wedding Toast

July 8, 1996 – 1st Cruise Vac

Dec 13, 1993 – Our son

Thanksgiving 1995 – Lake Tahoe

June 7, 1990 – Our daughter 

Feb 14, 1989 – V Day 

January, 2005 – Dave Matthews

May 1, 1991 – Promotion

So many memories contained in this jar, memories of love, of family, of perseverance. They weren’t all celebrations, but even the bottles uncorked after an argument led to a celebration of sorts in the end. Off to the side, she stared at the blank cork she refused to date. She pushed it with her finger, and over and over again it rolled back toward her. Mockingly, as if to say, “there’s no denying my existence.”

Final Toast

She had prepared a special dinner that night, his favorite. The kids were away at camp, and it had been way too long since they had a night at home alone. He was due any minute having left the office early for once. She imagined he was as anxious about their evening as she. As she heard his car pull into the driveway, she was overcome with a nervous feeling. She almost rushed back to her closet to change clothes, suddenly feeling silly for putting so much effort into her appearance tonight. As she went to greet him, she wondered if she’d gone too far with the new red lipstick she had spontaneously picked up today.

Seeing his face as he walked through the door, all those thoughts were replaced with a gut wrenching fear in her stomach. In a couple of steps, he had crossed the living room and wrapped her in his arms. Words tumbled out of his mouth no matter how hard he tried to keep an even tone. Doctor’s appointment. Test results. CANCER. More tests. Follow up. She knew he was providing details, diagnosis, and prognosis yet all she heard was CANCER and still somehow she refused to process what was happening. Walking away from him, she headed to the kitchen to pour them some wine, catching a reflection in the mirror of a woman she didn’t recognize…a woman who just hours before had dressed and primped without a care in the world only to have that same world come crashing down around her.

She remembered him standing in the kitchen doorway, leaning against the frame, quietly pleading with her to listen. If she closed her eyes, she could still hear his voice telling her there was hope…there was always hope. He was going to fight this, and he believed they would be okay in the end. It was the first time she had ever doubted him in the years they’d been together.

Jar of Corks

After many tearful promises, a forgotten dinner and empty bottle of their favorite wine, they had made love all night as though nothing could ever separate them.

She quietly slipped out of bed and into his work shirt like she had done so many times before. She stood in the kitchen looking out the window, imagining all their neighbors sleeping peacefully tonight while she faced the scariest day of her life. Inhaling deeply, she closed her eyes trying to stop the wave of tears she knew would eventually come. As she placed her hands on the counter, her finger brushed up against the cork. A sob escaped her as she reached for it and unlocked the dam that held her tears.

Months had passed, and many a night she had stood rooted to this very spot. Some nights she prayed, some nights she argued with God, some nights she felt nothing…so numb was she from the pain. The nights she journeyed through the corks providing her the strength she needed to face another day. Now, she stared at that blank cork once more knowing she would never date it, yet also knowing she would never throw it away.

She wiped the tears and took a deep breath. She dropped the single cork in her jar of memories. As the sun came up once more, she quietly walked back down the hall to wake her children for their father’s funeral.

Previous Stories by Little Miss Wordy:

Just Look For Emily

Just Look For Emily

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The old, brown Ford LTD pulled up to the school announcing its arrival with the screeching sound of brake pads that should have been replaced long ago. And yet, the little girl in the back seat found a bit of comfort in the familiar sound, as her finger nervously played with the tear in the leather next to her. Her red curls bounced as the car came to a stop, and she was grateful for the green ribbon she had pulled off the dried up bouquet on the kitchen counter as her mother rushed her out the door for her first day of school.

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She peered out the passenger window at the red brick building where she would once again try to blend into the background, making every effort not to draw any attention to herself. The place where Monday through Friday she would try to field questions she truly had no answers to, and those she could answer most people wouldn’t believe anyway. This place would be much like the rest. Children would ignore her other than to make fun of her thrift store clothing, her worn out shoes, and her mother’s sad excuse for a lunch…on those days she remembered to pack one. The teachers wouldn’t truly see her past the pitiful look in their eyes, but that was okay because she had gotten really good at making herself invisible.

She did it every time her mother brought home a strange man, wanting her to call him daddy, changing her last name once again, and promising their lives would change for the better this time. This time, they would be a family like the ones in her favorite tales…the ones with the tattered pages she kept under her bed. They were her only escape on the inevitable nights when the shouting would be the beginning of the end once again. Her tiny knuckles would wrap around the book’s edge, her little heart bursting with fear, tiny tear drops adding to the already tear-stained pages. She often wondered if the day would come when she would run out of tears…some nights she actually wished for it.

In her six short years of life, she had seen things no child should ever have to, leaving her with questions even she couldn’t answer. She quickly grabbed her pink backpack with one hand, hurrying to open the car door with the other as her mother yelled at her to get out or she would make her late for work. As she entered the school’s front entrance, she took a deep breath reveling in the familiar scent of every school she had ever attended. That was her, always taking comfort in the rare familiar moments in her life. The hall was empty as she slowly made her way to the school office, knowing she was tardy on her first day and also knowing it wouldn’t be the last time. She took her time, catching glimpses of students unloading their school supplies and for a moment wondered if the Bic pen she had found in the car this morning would make it through the day or if it would be cause to draw attention to herself enlisting a barrage of endless questions.

The receptionist’s counter was high enough any six-year-old would have to raise herself on her tippy toes to ring the bell. At the sound, a woman hurried out of a back office, as though not expecting anyone. Her voice was warm and soothing as she welcomed the scared little girl with the messy red curls escaping a bright green florist ribbon. “How may I help you today sweet child?” A tiny whisper floated up from the other side of the counter. “I’m a new student. Today is my first day.” The woman looked surprised, but asked for her name as she shuffled papers on her desk in search of a roster. “They’re listed in alphabetical order by last name, so it should only take me a minute to find you on here.” The little girl gasped. This woman had the kindest eyes she had ever seen though she hadn’t seen many, and yet her question brought tears to her big brown eyes. She knew something was missing this morning. In her haste to drop her off and get to her new job, her mother had forgotten to tell her what her last name was these days.

As she inched ever closer to the counter, tears threatening to spill, she whispered, “Just look for Emily.”