What’s in a Name?

Lillian Mae Gruenwald. My full name before marriage. Lillian after my maternal grandmother, and by happenstance, my father’s twin sister. Mae after a beloved great-aunt. I hated it. The name; not my relatives. Cousins called me Lilly Mae or Little Mae. To everyone else I was Lillian.

In high school I was the skinny girl on the cheerleader squad. The only one chosen because of acrobatic abilities. I was also the only girl on the debate team. I dared to carry long metal boxes of index cards filled with researched “evidence.” I argued aggressively with boys, at tournaments all over the state of Illinois. To me, Lillian Gruenwald was a never-would-vote-for-homecoming-queen kind of name. And I was right. At homecoming, I was left leading the crowd in cheers for our Bulldogs while the Gail Shorts and Kay Savels left to change clothes. I watched as they sedately rode around the field at half-time, draped over new-model convertibles, donated for the occasion by the local Oldsmobile dealer.

So when my folks readied to leave me at college on that fateful day in early Autumn 1965, a crisp, cool, fresh day, I fidgeted. I willed them to leave before anyone came up to greet us. They finally did, after dutifully giving their Lillian lots of parental advice and enough hugs to smother me. I stood on the curb by the dorm, finally alone. Poised for a new life. On the brink of a new beginning. And then some newbie freshmen came up to greet me. I don’t remember who they were. Or how many there were. But I distinctly remember grinning, holding out my hand to shake their hands, and saying confidently, “Hi, I’m Lill.

sugar maple tree
dwarfed in surrounding green leaves
claims fall glory with crimson red

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Toni is hosting Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. The theme today is KOMOREEI…a Japanese terms that literally means the light filtered between leaves, usually occurring in spring and fall…that in-between season. We’re asked to write about something that has occurred in between seasons.  Haibun: 2 or 3 tightly written paragraphs of prose, not fiction; followed by a haiku. In true Japanese form, the haiku is not beholden to the syllabic count, rather must be about nature and include a “season” word. Pub opens at 3 PM Boston time. Photo in Boston’s Public Garden, Fall 2016. PS:  I’m happy being called Lill or Lillian these days….with age comes a knowledge that we are who we are, regardless of the name.

Tanka Tatting

nature’s lace makers
shadows made by rustling leaves
spider’s silken web
once empty spaces glisten ~
like memories easing pain

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Gayle is hosting Open Link Night at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets and we’re invited to post a poem of our choice. I’ve been lace-knitting a shawl lately and have become obsessed with the way making lace is all about creating empty spaces and joining them together. Making emptiness beautiful. Hence this tanka today!  A Tanka is a 7 line poem with the following syllabic form: 5, 7, 5, 7, 7. There is supposed to be a shift from the natural in their first 4 lines…to something personal / human in the last line.

Appreciating Differences

My mother and father were very different from each other. She was volatile and outgoing. He was quiet and non-demonstrative. A draftsman by trade, he had neat block printing. His basement workshop shelves contained Skippy jars of nails, nuts and bolts, each with its content duly noted on labels, printed in his steady hand. My mother was brought up in the Catholic Church in the days of “sister school.” I was told that at a young age, the nuns wrapped her knuckles with a ruler when she tried to write with her left hand. Consequently she became a right-hander with almost illegible script.

Our Christmas tree is a memory tree. On the bottom branches, I hang gift tags from years gone by. “To Lillian, Love Mom” written in her horrific handwriting. I also hang wooden ornaments made on my dad’s jigsaw, inscribed on the backs in perfect block letters, “Love Dad.” Nostalgic during the holidays, I occasionally peruse my 1947 baby book, not so much to look at the old black and white photos, but to see my mother’s script which fills the pages. The ramblings of a young harried woman, writing about daily life with me. It takes time to decipher, but I feel her presence more if I can make out the words.

My dad’s perfect printing. My mom’s wild scribbling. They fought, they loved, they played pinochle together. I treasure each for who they were and who together, made me. And I wonder, when I’m gone, will anyone keep these mementos? Or will the ink be so faded, they will be lost to time.

wildflowers constrained,
exhuberant colors vased
bonsai, controlled art

Written for dVerse Haibun Monday. Today Victoria is hosting and asks us to explore the Japanese art of Wabi Sabi – the art of revering authenticity, appreciating imperfections, slowing down to appreciate rather than perfect. The haibun form begins with non-fiction prose and concludes with a haiku. The haiku must deal with nature. 

I Was, I Am

She stood outside the car, the driver impatiently snacking on pistachio nuts inside. The waiting seemed interminable. She’d come so far for this moment. Found the certificate stuffed in her mother’s journal. Attended the funeral, dry-eyed, in shock. This was her destiny. Would he recognize it as his?

How could a name inscribed on a document, assume fatherhood after a lifetime in absentia? She held the document in shaking hands, ready to show him the proof. She could see the trail of dust far down the road, kicked up by the approaching vehicle. A new reality was about to materialize.

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Written for Friday Fictioneers where the talented Rochelle Wisoff-Fields poses a photo prompt each week. Classified by some as “flash fiction” we are to limit our text to 100 words or less. Word Count here = 100  Photo Credit: Kent Bonham

 

Perpetuity

Come roundabout with me.
Twelve months
January then January,
again and again.
Hours one to twelve repeat
add A to M or change to P.
Teeter up must teeter down
hinged to teeter up again.
Perennials are as annuals will.
Your hands are theirs and ours
to fold, to point, to plant and pray.
Stones cast upon the waters
ripple out toward the morrow.
Time copulates where we are
and when we’re not.
I am. You are. We are will be
small arcs within the world
go roundabout with thee.

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My Dad

My dad was a quiet man. He wasn’t an exuberant fan of any pro or local sports teams. But I do remember him sitting on our fake leather hide-a-bed couch, watching Cubs games on our blonde console TV. Televisions in those days were cumbersome pieces of furniture. My mother stacked Readers Digests on top of ours.

I never saw my dad swing a baseball bat, but he wielded a mean croquet mallet. It sent many a competitor’s wooden ball sailing into our neighbor’s yard. And rather than joining the popular winter bowling leagues, he stayed late after work, one night a week, competing in a checkers club. He also loved pinochle and rummy. He taught me all these games, using very few words. And he never let me win — until I really did. I never participated in sports. But I did become a high school and college debater. I wonder how much the man of few words had to do with that?

tall oak canopy
acorn roots itself below
reaches for new heights

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Haibun written for dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Today Bjorn asks us to write about sport. A haibun is a piece of prose (cannot be fiction) followed by a haiku. Generally, the haiku must be about nature.

 

The Bed

We fancied ourselves antiquers in those days. In reality, we bought used furniture at farm auctions, garage sales, and dusty second hand stores.

In its day, it was called a sleigh bed. We spied the slightly warped high headboard and frame propped up against a wall, and bargained for a price we could afford. Back home, our daughter was fast approaching the age to move out of her crib into a “big girl bed” and my parents were with us for a visit. We enlisted my father’s help. He sanded then painted the headboard white and stenciled it with blue tulips and red hearts. Our daughter slept with that design above her head long after my father died. Until she left the nest and began her college years.

robin gathers twigs
nesting haven grows crowded
wind tussles emptiness

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Grace is hosting Haibun Monday at dVerse, the virtual pub for poets. Haibun: one or two paragraphs of prose (not fiction) followed by a haiku. She introduces the Japanese tradition of kintsugi, asking us to write about finding beauty in broken pieces or imperfections. Photo: headboard from the side. This is my daughter, many years ago, being awakened by a surprise birthday party from her friends.

Backyard Wonders

Introduction first : this poem is written by my 10 year old granddaughter, Stella Hallberg. She and I are sharing monthly prompts – for April, I sent her the word “glisten.” She could use any variation on the word. There are no edits here. This is what she wrote.

Backyard Wonders

I slip outdoors
left foot, right
sounds, sensations, engulfing me,
taking me far from my bustling home
into the undergrowth and brush.

The birds make thousands of different peeps
in a language not known among men.

The sunlight filters in through the trees
glistening like magic everywhere I look.

Gazing up I see the butterflies
seizing their chance in the spot light
forever free
to be stars in their hearts.

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Solitude

My lineage lies in bleached bones,
ash commingled with soil and sea.

I am the living
happily paired,
wed forty-seven years
progressing still.

Mother of two
grandmother of five.
Eleven total
in raucous revelry.

This crowded world
my species’ millions
and millions more,
multiplied by the unknown.

In the midst of all,
I savor oneness.
Scraps of solitude
contemplative discovery,

and recovery.
Sips of silence
to be and to know
who and what is me.


Posted from Bermuda. We are in midst of TransAtlantic crossing and will not have access to Internet for five days. I shall post again from Lisbon.