” We must have pie. Stress can’t exist in the presence of pie.”

David Mamet, Boston Marriage

I close the book. Summer rain falls. A breeze slips through the screen on the open door. Autumn is a patient friend. One who waits for leaves to fly. A resident squirrel, cheeks full with acorns, scoots between the tall evergreen and fence. The world’s metronome taps a steady beat.

Some things remain uncertain, even in their certainty. I miss my mother. She waits for the seasons to turn and the pandemic to leave.

“It will leave.”

Her voice sounds less certain, more guarded.

“I don’t know. The world’s a mess,” she says.

These are not the words I wish to hear. I want her to rally, offer up sage advice, to have an answer.

“Hold to hope, Mom. The world is changing, perhaps, for the better.”

The world is slowing down.

Every sunrise, hope returns. Built to heal, I find comfort in words, friends, mornings and increasingly, time spent in the kitchen. There is something sacred about standing in silence, in front of a stove, while flipping through the pages of a cookbook. If I can’t help you, I can nourish you.

I will bake a pie. Pie is a reminder of a simpler, slower time. The act of baking something as lovely as pie, soothes.

Pie is a memory.

‘Julie London’ croons from the speaker. My mother hums ‘Black Coffee,’ off- key. She stands in the kitchen, notices the large mixing bowl, her rolling pin, the one I kept. Flour dusts the floor. Pie is messy. Fruit stains like a bruise. She adjusts her apron.

I watch her turn. She pours herself a cup of Joe from the espresso machine. Tucking a lock of hair behind one ear, she pivots and smiles. “A looker,” with her symmetrical features, fairy- tale widow’s peak, a grid mark leading to a crown of raven hair. Red lips. She favoured red lipstick.

I remember. Standing in the doorway of the tiny bathroom, I’d watch as she opened the tube and etched colour to her lips.

She had said, ” The trick is to blot with Kleenex.”

As children, we’d find ruby lip stained tissues carelessly left upon the bathroom counter, accidentally dropped onto the floor or peeking from her opened purse. Sometimes, I would scoop one up like a specimen, tuck it into a book, all to preserve a tangible piece of her.

Those days, I’d sit at the table and exchange knowing glances with my sister. Our mother’s style is now lost, other era, a nod to a fancier time where dresses ruled the kitchen and sling backs waited at the front door. Her ‘French look’ and clothing cut from Vogue, tailored by Singer, was soon to be another lost art. We thought her beautiful.

I watch as she lifts a teaspoon from the drawer and samples the filling. She closes her eyes, pleased.

Turning around, she has gone.

It’s certain. The world spins, seasons change, people come and go. What’s new is old. Some people enter our lives to teach us. Others, so precious we never forget their presence, and then there is pie.

Once considered old fashioned, pies are having a moment. Boutique bakeries offer pies “to go” because “made from scratch” pies are thieves of time. There are steps to follow: use cold butter, cut it into the flour (use two knives). Slightly beat the eggs. Add sugar by the teaspoon. Squeeze the lemon. There is timing in the mix. Chill the dough. There are tools to assemble. Find a four inch cutter. Shhh. I use a marimekko sugar bowl. Find a pastry brush (a small, clean paint brush does the trick). Prep the fruit.

As children, we picked our fruit from backyard trees. Sometimes apple, other times, pear or plum and once in awhile, at the end of a particularly long school day, we’d arrive home and spy a freshly baked pie on the counter. Cinnamon whispered stories of far away lands.

Our family rarely ate pie. When the spirit moved our mother to make a pie (and it was usually in autumn), she’d save the left over pastry bits, kneading and patting the dough to form a ball. If she was short of filling, she’d substitute jam.

I sense my mother’s return.

Gently, she rolls the dough out onto the counter. Dipping a spoon into the saucepan, she tops each round with filling. A brush stroke dips into a saucer of milk, coats the edges of pastry. Overlapping and pressing, she lifts a fork, touching the tines to the dough. With a sharp knife she fashions a top cut.

“Hand Pies.” The semilunar fit was perfect for our small hands. Silently, we’d nibble along the pressed edge, allowing crumbs to fall into a dish of vanilla ice cream, every bite of steamed fruit, richer, tastier. In this moment, we understood. Mom had loved us enough to create a magical delight at the sweet end of the scale.

I place three Hand Pies into a tin. For her.

A text appears.

You bake pies?

I smile. Say it like it’s a bad thing.

You can’t.

Quote: David Mamet: Boston Marriage

COVID19 Moment

she bakes pies

Jacqueline: Draft 8

“Write our story,” she says.

The seasons cast differing light into the shoebox of her room. The ceiling is vaulted, the walls painted the palest shade of blue: ‘frost,’ as designer’s coo. If one looks up, one can imagine an open roof and paper-white clouds. The windows are long and rectangular to let in light. It is spring and the light exists like no other time. It shines on a distant branch, illuminating a chimney pipe on a neighbour’s rooftop.

Jacqueline refers to the care home as, “Heaven’s Waiting Room- orchids and white furniture all over the place.” The view exposes a tot playground. The sound of children laughing brings joy. Outside the window, she is transformed and twenty once more. A daughter is tucked against the space between her hand and heart.

She asks, “Where are the children?”

“It’s Sunday. Tomorrow they’ll return.”

“Anna. Set the clock. The time is off.”

Time is measured in setting suns. Her door remains partially open, a chance to glimpse a world beyond four walls. Familiar faces wheel past and hands flutter. Along a hallway is a sitting room with a coffee table. A newspaper is delivered for those who still read. The couch is slip covered and inviting, however, she never stays too long.

“Not much to do around here,” she says.

“There’s always Bingo,” I say. We share a wink.

” Anna.”

I cringe as she speaks my name, emphasizing the initial vowel, dragging it through air- “A-nna.”

” I’m not your Bingo gal. Never been my style,” she says.

I imagine Jacqueline in a gathering of women. Sprinkle in the odd man, the lone wolf. Curious, she slips on her best sweater, the one with the threads that sparkle. A forgotten lipstick is remembered. Fingers suddenly steady. She applies a pale shade of pink cream with the precise skill of a surgeon. Jacqueline removes her purse from the closet, scans the pocket for her wallet. There is just enough cash.

Her voice floats from across the room, interrupting pleasant thoughts.

“I went the other night. With Doris. We get a kick out of watching the others. Neither of us can hear.”

I reach for a hearing aide that lays on a table and hand it to her.

“This is why I like a calendar,” she says, “keeps me on top of my schedule.”

Jacqueline takes a novel from the shelf and opens it. She checks her watch. It is an unspoken rule, a signal to silence. It’s time. She must leave.

I await her return. All the sounds, smells, and personalities that enter her space are familiar. Chosen objects remain on display: a trio of Benedictine monks, a cluster of carved birds, all gifts from my father. Two oil paintings hang on the wall. Long ago, she stopped listening to music.

Lately, she has taken up traveling with the Scottish Clans. On our last visit, she whispered, “As a child, I wore a swathe of ‘Black Watch’ tartan, pinned to my skirt. Never owned a kilt.”

On the dresser, there is a sepia coloured photograph. I see a child, standing beside a weary eyed man. She is holding his hand. Beside her is a fashionable aunt wrapped in fox fur. One arm circles my mother’s shoulder. Mother leans in to feel the fox hairs kiss her cheek.

It is late. The cover on the bed is turned back. Tonight, she’ll steal away to Inverness, her dark hair flowing in the wind. Once arrived she’ll stand atop a hillside to scan a lowland loch. She is searching for home.

A memory returns. It’s 1965. My mother walks into the tidy living room of her father’s home and drops a box in front of me. It lands in the centre of a rose woven into carpet. The edge of the box has been slit with a knife. She has opened the box to peek inside.

“Take a look.”

She watches as I lift the cardboard flap and waits as I remove the book from the box. It is larger than other books. The jacket is divided into a grid. Each square contains a photograph: Dinosaurs, Mammoths, Galaxies, Early Man, and what looks to be a World On Fire.

“It’s for you.”

She speaks with a trace of Scottish lilt. “From ‘Time Magazine.’ Read it. “

I look up.

“Annie. Do something besides sit by the window.”

She has left.

The heat in her room smothers me. If I open the window, she’ll become upset, complain that she’s cold. If I’m quick-

“I’m shivering,” she says. “Somebody hasn’t paid the heating bill.”

My head bows toward the floor. Its surface reflects back like polished glass. I see an outline. The features aren’t visible yet I know her. She is a daughter, sister, every woman who tries to please yet fails.

My mother’s voice interrupts.

“Anna. What are you waiting for?”

“I’m writing.”

She straightens. Her expression softens. The novel that’s held her captive, closes and rests upon her lap.

Is she pleased with my answer? The keeper of a story carries a heavy load. There are emotions to protect, characters to guard. If I fail to honour us, instead, dropping characters like stones, can she forgive me? Can we forgive one another?

“This is good news, Anna.”

“Perhaps,” I say.

Our stories have patiently waited, collecting like scattered pearls. They’ve accrue over years with interest. They’ve waited to be forgotten or begged to be polished and tossed across the page. Set loose, the windswept moments we’ve treasured, the landmines we’ve navigated, no longer will belong to us.

“Get on with it, lass,” she says. “Write it. Hurry up. I won’t be here forever.”

With these words, she re-opens her novel and parachutes onto the streets of Lille. It is June 9, 1940, just over a week since the Nazi invasion of France. The day is brilliant yet cold. She is wearing her best coat.

I imagine her footsteps, light and quick, running along the cobblestone street. She is looking for ‘The Hotel Beauharnais’, Rue de Lille. Inside her hand bag, hidden beneath silk lining, is an opening with enough room for a slender finger to slip in and pull out a note. On the note is a penciled name: Jacques.

Stories. There is nothing more powerful. Set free, stories travel in search of a home or a heart. Whispering messengers of peace, conduits of love, beacons in the dark, they search to find us and yearn to be shared.

I did not ask to be a family’s memory keeper, the child who watched and listened, who carried her own world. I write for her: the little dreamer, the quiet one, the timid and the brave. I write to understand why it is that the people we love the most, wound us deeply. I write to find beauty in the chaos and to prove I remember. I heard her weep behind closed doors. I watched him strive to be better.

Hope was the name of the bird that lived in our house. The soft touch of feathers from a wing that taught us to believe anything can happen and that magic surrounded the inhabitants of a simple Craftsman- style house on 13th Street. How else to explain the stubborn shoot that pushed through the concrete path? Each spring they crushed its greenery. While winter slept, it returned. Stronger. Curious, they waited and wondered. A flower bloomed.

Hope perched inside their hearts. It was the anchor in their storm, the lonesome dove perched upon a windowsill. It was all the words they couldn’t say until now. It’s the jewel buried deep in ash.

Darkness shadows my mother’s face, softening her features. There is something about her eyes. This evening, they burn bright.

“You are more than capable,” she says and wheels her chair to face me.

“Finish it. For us.”

I open the window, leaving her an escape. Her diminutive self, wings formed and ready, can choose when to slip out and soar beyond reach.

As if knowing, she says, “I’ll wait.”

TBC…

~ Jacqueline (Draft 8)

“Write it.”

My sister asked, “Do you remember that morning at the beach?”
 How could I  forget?
A memory of us. Two children lost in fantasy, tiny feet dancing as the ocean kissed the sand. Accidental twins, our small bodies snuggled in white hoodies.
“You took a stick and drew a huge circle,” she said,
I remember.
“I drew a circle to protect us.”
I see her step inside the circle. She is careful not to smudge the rounded edges.
The circle was our make shift island. A sanctuary, both too young to appreciate, paused moments are fleeting. We didn’t know of danger.
The universe knew. Two sprites and a majestic sea. Brave and shivering as the winds blew. A shipwrecked dinghy, marooned on the sand. Their stick, an oar.
It was as if our mere survival depended on circles.
Circles were everywhere throughout our world. We scampered through dense forests, our hard backs kissed by a honeyed sun. When night fell, two wolf pups mapped the stars and howled beneath a buttery moon.
We studied planets. Ever curious, our questions wheeled with ‘whys.’ Never sure, we chased certainty’s tail, passionate in our quest for truth.
We embraced circles. In the 70’s it was mandalas, knotted bandanas about our heads, and bracelets upon our wrists. We drove cars round blocks, cities, and countries, always to circle back home.
We are all circles.  The whorls on our fingertips, the irises of our eyes, our DNA cells, to the egg that gave us life.
 She asked, “Will life break us apart?”
“Never,” I said. ” If we drift apart, we’re returned by centrifugal force and universal law. Our fingers, forever tangled by an invisible thread that binds.”
She reaches for my hand.
Our circle is strong.

~ an excerpt from a life

Some days, my mother prefers to read, ignoring my presence. In those moments, we are adrift. Mother and Daughter slip past one another, like ghost ships in the night. I fail to tow her back to now, to us, to me.

 

Today she stares off into the distance, a novel in hand. Her eyes close. She pauses. Much like Alice, she owns a slice of ‘Wonderland’. Her eye’s view of life is from an artist’s perspective, each lost or found scene, a painting. Stormy skies smear indigo grey to turquoise, her oceans, cerulean. The universe handed her this gift, both a blessing and a curse, the ability to meddle with clarity.

Her eyes open. She is ready to return.

Mom shares a story. A story that sticks. It links to my father. I listen as we time travel back to the mid 60’s. Years dissolve age and I see her, lounging on a deck chair. She wears white pedal pushers and an indigo sweater, her hair swept back beneath a knotted silk scarf. It resembles Pucci; it isn’t. Beautiful as she inhales on a cigarette. I watch her exhale. Smoke ribbons curl on the breeze.

 

 

 

 

A Revelation

It is six a.m.; the quietest time of day

It’s when I think of you

 

The light is softer

Cinematic and still, encouraging and lovely

Coaxing me to chase memories

 

I spent all these years waiting for a hero

And even in the most difficult chapters of my life, I believed

Someone else should hold the power

 

It is six a.m.; the quietest time of day

Silence reveals a beautiful Truth-

You have always had the strength to save yourself.

 

 

Currency

The value isn’t in the object. It is in the human story attached to it. The worn chair, the chipped saucer, a silver fork, her oil painting, a skeleton key, a one-eyed bear, a favourite find, a worn photograph. The memory is tactile, visual, and fraught with emotion.

Love. This is the currency to value.

love is the currency

~ Ikea.com

Tillago 20 piece flatware

 

 

Fathers and Daughters

 

I’ll cradle you in my arms like a small child sleeping

Holding fast to your lost flesh

Your once muscular body, feather- weight, gone

Your heart beat, silent

As I carry your ashes home

Where is home?

An island, Vancouver, Toronto, Australia?

It is anywhere we were, anywhere we are.

 

It is time to set you free

To know with certainty, you’ll return

In a child’s gentle touch or a stranger’s crooked smile

In a fairy tale mention of an ever- after land

In a scotch and water moment.

 

I am resolute; I’ll find the perfect spot

To lay you down to rest

A place where first light surprises darkness

On the razor edge of time

When Moon kissed Sun.

 

A sturdy tree your marker, a shelter from the wind

Yes, I remember. You sailed through storms.

A tree trunk to support me

As I collapse into the folds

The strength I seek, not found

I loved this man who died.

 

My charm, a ruthless hunter

I wish you back to life

My arms an anchor hitch to hold your heart

I beg you, “Say it.”

Speak the words you kept from me

In turn I’ll share a moment

Of a time you slept unaware

I whispered in your ear,”You are a good man.”

I kissed your forehead

Walked into our good-bye.

 

You say, “Hush.”

Rain mixes with our tears; I bow my head and crumble

And tell you, the years have been long

That I miss us; I’m sorry and know that you are, too

I speak love over and over

Love. Love. Love.

Until we believe it

Until you show it

 

You’re not here.

 

My fingers claw the earth

To find each broken bit that was once you

I’ll assemble you from pieces, return you to the day

Hold on closer than before

I ask you, wait for me.

 

Time has made me wiser

Aware of all I’ve lost

So I’ll tuck you in a pocket

Make you of myself.

 

And when it’s hard to sleep

I’ll offer you back to the night

Toss you to the sky

Sing a lullaby to the stars: this man with the gentle soul,

bless his broken heart.

 

My words form our story

Tender lyrics soothe your soul

A song of mercy

Sung from the book of grace

And I won’t forget to finish that which you could not:

to remember to hold each other up.

 

You must leave

I hear the rustle of wings, marvel at your strength

You glance back, see me wave

Soar heavenward.

 

The eyes of the deer watch me

I close my eyes to pray

Lift my palms skyward and whisper,

“This is the holding of a father and his daughter.”

 

It is time to leave you

See. I am walking away with all of my strength

I am almost there.

 

I am singing. If you listen you will hear me.

x

 

~ Family

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Layers

~ vintage blanket
~ vintage blanket

 

It snowed this weekend and the world became just a bit more enchanted. Layers of water and ice glistened over the street. Ribbons of snowflakes tumbled and bedecked the boughs beyond my window. Lights twinkled, evermore bright, as darkness dropped a veil atop the blanket of white. A hush settled upon the land. The world was beautiful to behold.

I’ve learned to look closely, to appreciate the layers of a life.

Everything layers. The snow that buries treasure. The cut pine boughs that house an errant spider. The branch of Winterberries that feed the birds. The words we write; the silences we keep.

Look closely.

My eyes scan the room to view a mother’s treasured sideboard. Once it stood stained and polished, waiting for Sunday. On that sacred day, she’d set out the silver and china serving dishes. Her best effort. And we would celebrate family.

Look closely.

A patina of paint and wax covers the oak sideboard. The top sanded, the edges worn. The silver stands in a cast iron urn, a twist on up cycling.  The china serving bowls rarely make an appearance. I see the candle burning down. A daughter’s attempt to hold on, let go, to illuminate the night.

Look closely.

My fingers lift a gilded frame. The sepia photograph is of a woman. I trace her portrait.  She is standing on a deck, leaning against a railing, looking out to sea. Dressed in her finest clothing, her fingertips hold a hat. A lady always wears a hat. She was a believer in proper etiquette. Beyond her rolls the Atlantic.

Look closely.

I recall her eyes, shades of indigo grey. Behind their depth is another layer. Doubt. I imagine her pausing, pondering, “Should I leave England?” I dust off worry and discover bravery. Carefully, I lift another layer to expose joy ~ he is waiting for her to cross an ocean.  On another continent, he goes about his life, planning, constructing, beholden to a dream.

Look closely.

A certain magic fills the room. A whispered breeze kisses my forehead. I see my Grandmother; she is still beautiful. Time has gently taken its toll. Her once bright eyes have paled. They  glimmer, wet pools of faded blue. Her finest dress, threadbare. A pin of pearls is elegantly placed beneath the collar of her blouse.  Beside her armchair a weathered curtain hangs, the faded Irish lace rustles.

Look closely.

Everything is layered, weathered, chipped, cracked and broken. Be still. Pay attention to the forgotten. It is within glorious imperfection that we find beauty. Lift the layers gently, see beyond the cracks. Everything and everyone has a story to tell. The magic of the world works in whispers. You only need a heart that feels to see the wonder that surrounds us.

Autumn Light

Kissed by autumn’s softened light

I sit at my desk

Writing, wondering

The moment simple, quiet

Surrounded by words and thoughts

Tucked away memories

A gentle sadness, softened by time

Rustles

As I cast a spell of silence and peace

 

The wind whispers your name

Rock a bye, rock a bye

Siren’s sing you home

Rock a bye, rock a bye

To a land suspended in time

Rock a bye, rock a bye

Hush your weary mind

Rock a bye, rock a bye

Do not fear the journey

The stars, your compass

 

Memories flutter like cranes

Lifted higher upon the wind

Your love is true

Rock a bye, rock a bye

Our souls shall meet again

On the other side of time

Rock a bye, rock a bye

 

 

 

Elegance

Mahogany Cabinet redux~ annie sloan chalk paint
Mahogany Cabinet redux~
annie sloan chalk paint

 

The elegant bones were the give away. Once hers held richer presence. Austere yet luxurious, polished and shiny, shades of auburn and chestnut beckoned.

She stood behind a door, snugged against a wall, opposite a front window, preferring to stand in the light. The overcast  days cast too many shadows. Yet it was from behind the door that she listened.

Beauty fades, even hers. Bought on time; she should have seen the coming settlement of account. She was disposable. The carpenter’s base upon which she stood once solid, now broken. The scratches, scuffs and scrapes of time, earned and more than paid for.

Behind a glass exterior were hidden her best kept secrets. Evidence of coveted treasure and tales from a far away land. Slipped away whispers of hushed conversations as the china teapot passed from hand to hand.

Yet she stands whitewashed, transformed.