Thanks to Charles French for inspiring this. In his post, he quotes a couple of sentences from books that strike his fancy and asks readers to respond with quotes of their own.
One sentence that came immediately to mind after reading this post was from Charles Dickens Oliver Twist. “But now that he was enveloped in the old calico robes which had grown yellow in the same service, he was badged and ticketed, and fell into his place at once—a parish child—the orphan of a workhouse—the humble, half-starved drudge—to be cuffed and buffeted through the world—despised by all, and pitied by none.” When I read this classic as a teen-ager, I was horrified to learn that poor Oliver suffered a lot of abuse.
Nowadays, I apply the concept of being cuffed and buffeted through the world to how I feel children should be raised. I’ve never been a parent, so I’m going by the experiences I had as a child. Too often, today’s children are coddled and not shown enough discipline.
I’m not saying children should be fed three meals a day of gruel or beaten, but parents need to be more authoritative, and there’s nothing wrong with a few good hard swats on a child’s bottom. That’s the way I was raised, and I’m proud of it. If punishment is swift and sure, children will grow up to be responsible citizens, and down the road, we’ll have less crime and violence.
What about you? Is there a sentence from a book that stands out in your mind? Why? I hope you have plenty of good books to read in 2019.
This feature is now being hosted by newepicauthor. This week’s theme is “doctor/health/medicine.” As Mary Poppins says in this song, “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun.” If I can listen to music while doing the most mundane tasks, they’re more fun for me. Enjoy, and see if you can find an element of fun in your daily chores. That will make bitter pills easier to swallow.
The following short story was published in the fall/ winter 2018-19 issue of Magnets and Ladders. I can think of no better way to commemorate Christmas Day and the 200th anniversary of the creation of “Silent Night” than to include this story along with a recording of me playing and singing the song. Merry Christmas, everyone.
The day before Christmas, my seven-year-old daughter Hannah was rushed to the hospital for an emergency appendectomy. I opted to spend CHRISTMAS Day with her. My parents, as they’d done every year since the divorce, had invited Hannah and me to their house for Christmas dinner, but I couldn’t leave my little girl alone in the hospital.
Hannah wasn’t on solid food yet, but a nurse offered to bring me a tray, perhaps realizing it would be difficult for me to navigate to the cafeteria with my limited vision. While Hannah slept, I sat by her bed and enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner complete with stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, and pumpkin pie. The food was surprisingly good for a hospital.
I said as much to the nurse when she came to collect my tray. “We have a chef now,” she said. “Of course many of our patients are too sick to appreciate it, but it’s certainly better than the fare we used to serve.”
The little girl in the other bed moaned and then started crying in earnest. I looked over and couldn’t see anyone sitting with her. “Oh, that’s Jessica,” said the nurse in a conspiratorial tone. “Poor kid, she fell out of her neighbor’s treehouse yesterday and broke her leg in three places. She’s in a body cast from her chest to her right foot.”
Hannah must have awakened for she said, “Ou, I guess I won’t complain about my tummy anymore. I’m glad I don’t have a treehouse, and I hope Santa didn’t leave me one.”
I marveled at how sensitive my daughter was. As the nurse went to Jessica and tried to comfort her, I said, “How are you feeling, sweetie?”
“I’m okay, but my tummy still hurts.”
“I thought you weren’t gonna complain about your tummy anymore,” I said, as I ruffled her hair.
Hannah giggled, then winced. “Out, Mommy, it hurts more when I laugh.”
“It sounds like you could use some pain medication too,” said the nurse, as she started to leave the room.
“No, it only really hurts when I laugh,” said Hannah.
“Well, in that case, laughter’s the best medicine,” said the nurse. “I’ll be back soon.”
“How old is Jessica?” asked Hannah.
“Oh, I think she’s about your age,” answered the nurse. “I’ll be back in a bit with some medicine for her, and that’ll make her feel better.” With that, she was gone.
Jessica was still sniffling, but it wasn’t as loud as before. “Mommy, you should go sing her a song,” said Hannah. “like you did for me last night when I was really hurting. I’m not hurting as much now, and I think she’s hurting more.”
Years earlier, I’d worked as a registered music therapist. That was before Hannah was born, before I’d started losing my vision, before my world changed. My husband hadn’t wanted a child but was resigned to the idea once he learned I was pregnant. The vision loss after Hannah’s birth was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Fortunately, he paid plenty of child support. That, along with my disability payments, allowed me to be a stay-at-home mom, and once I learned to use a computer with screen reading and magnification software, I brought in a little income from freelance writing.
Now, I looked over at the little girl in the other bed. My specialty as a music therapist had been with elderly nursing home residents, not hospitalized children. I hadn’t even done a clinical practicum with that population. I remembered bed-ridden residents who smiled and relaxed when I sat by their beds, held their hands, and sang. I even performed at some of their funerals. The fact that my singing in the emergency room the night before had calmed Hannah made me think that perhaps I hadn’t lost my touch. I rose and pulled my chair next to the other bed, where I sat and took the child’s hand that lay on top of the white sheet covering her.
“Hi Jessica,” I said. “I’m Joan. My little girl Hannah is in the other bed. What’s wrong?”
“My leg really hurts,” she answered. “I’ll never play in that stupid treehouse again.”
“That’s too bad,” I said, stroking her hair. “Would you like to sing a song with me?”
“Will that make the pain go away?” she asked.
“It’ll take your mind off of it. What’s your favorite Christmas song?”
She was quiet for a minute, then said, “I like Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer.”
“All right, let’s sing it together, shall we?”
I started, and soon, she joined in, followed by Hannah. When we finished that song, Jessica suggested “Jingle Bells,” then “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” The nurse appeared and said, “What lovely singing. Jessica, I have some medicine that will make you feel better. I’m going to put it in your IV now.”
As she started to do this, I said, “Why don’t we sing one more song?”
“I want to hear you sing something by yourself,” said Jessica. “You have a pretty voice, and so did my mommy. She used to sing to me at night before I went to sleep.” A wistful look crossed her face.
“Why doesn’t she sing to you anymore?” I asked.
“She was killed in a car accident a few months ago,” she answered. A tear rolled down her cheek.
“Oh honey, I’m sorry,” I said, as I stroked her hair. Tears welled in my own eyes.
Holding them back, I said, “What song did your mom like to sing to you this time of year?”
“‘Silent Night,'” she answered.
“Yeah, sing that one, Mom,” said Hannah.
I took a deep breath and began. To my surprise, the nurse joined in, singing alto. Our two voices blending together in harmony was almost too much, but I managed to continue.
As we started the second verse, I sensed a presence at my side and turned to see a man standing there. “Daddy!” Jessica said, her eyes wide with delight.
“Hey princess,” he said, reaching over me and ruffling her hair. Then he said, “oh, don’t stop singing on my account. It’s beautiful.”
His voice broke, and it was all I could do to keep from losing it. We started the song where we’d left off and finished the second verse. To break the spell, I turned to the nurse and said, “You and I need to talk. I sing in a women’s group that could use an extra voice.”
“Wow, that sounds interesting,” she said. “You also have a nice voice. I need to see to other patients, but I’ll come back later after my shift, and you can tell me more about it.” She turned and started to leave the room.
Jessica’s father put a hand on my shoulder and said, “You and I also need to talk. It’s only been two months since I lost my wife, and I never dreamed I’d say this to another woman, but could I buy you a cup of coffee, maybe in the cafeteria?”
From the doorway, the nurse said, “Our coffee here isn’t as good as the food. Why don’t you two go across the street to Starbuck’s?”
We hesitated. “Your kids will be fine,” she said. “They’re both out of the woods. I have your cell numbers in their charts. If anything drastic happens, I’ll call you. Joan, you’ve been here all day. You need a break. Go!” With that, she was gone.
I looked at this stranger, not knowing what to think. Finally, I said, “I’ve been divorced for about six years. I’m losing my vision, and I never imagined another man would ask me out for coffee.”
I expected him to back away, but instead, he said, “Any man not interested in you is a fool. You’re a beautiful woman. You’re good with kids, and you have a lovely voice.”
Flabbergasted, I said, “You just got here. Don’t you want to spend some time with Jessica?”
Jessica said, “I’m okay. My leg doesn’t hurt so much now that the nurse gave me some medicine in my IV. Daddy, Joan could make you happy like Mommy did.”
“Yeah,” said Hannah. “Mom, I think this guy could make you happy like Daddy did.”
Jessica’s father laughed and said, “I think these two, along with that nurse, are trying to play matchmaker.” He extended his hand. “By the way, I’m Don Gray.”
“Joan Clark,” I said, taking his hand and shaking it.
Still uncertain, I turned to Hannah and said, “Honey, don’t you remember what I’ve told you about not going off with a stranger?”
“Yeah, but he’s not a stranger. He’s Jessica’s dad.”
“She’s got a point,” said Don.
“My dad told me not to go off with a stranger too,” said Jessica. “but he’s okay. He’s been really sad since Mom died.”
I could feel my heart melting as more tears threatened. “Jessica and I could sing another song,” said Hannah. “How about 99 Bottles of Beer on the Wall?”
“Yeah,” said Jessica. She started the song, and Hannah joined in. Laughing, we both made our way out the door.
“Do you need to take my arm?” Don asked.
“Yes, please,” I answered, realizing I’d left my cane in the room. As I grasped his muscular arm and walked with him down the hall, I had a good feeling about this.
I was invited to participate in this challenge by blogger Lynda Lambert. Here’s how it works. Think of your ten favorite books and write them down. Then invite three other bloggers to create their own lists of ten favorite book titles and invite three other bloggers and so forth. You can read her guidelines here.
Below is my list of ten books. I must admit this was tricky. At first, I could only think of five books, but then titles kept coming. They’re not in any particular order. I just wrote them down as they popped into my head.
1. The Wizard of Oz by Frank Baum
2. The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
3. The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
4. Marjorie Morningstar by Herman Wouk
5. Little Town on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
6. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
7. Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens
8. The Swiss Family Robinson by Johan David Wyss
9. I Never Promised you a Rose Garden by Hannah Green
10. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
One thing on many parents’ minds is how their children will get to and from school now that classes are in full swing. Some students take the bus while others are driven, but how many children walk to school anymore?
During the first six years of my education in the 1960’s and early 70’s, we were living in Tucson, Arizona. Because of my visual impairment, I spent the first five and a half years at a state school for the blind before being mainstreamed into a public school. Because these facilities were too far to walk, and there was no bus, my parents drove me to and from school each day. However, I read stories about other children walking to and from school and longed to be able to do that.
When we moved to Sheridan, Wyoming, in 1973, my wish came true. For the first couple of years we lived there, our house was at the top of a hill, and the elementary school my brother and I attended was at the bottom. During sixth-grade, I delighted in walking to and from school with other kids.
When I started seventh grade, the junior high school was farther away. Dad wanted me to walk, but Mother prevailed, and I took the bus. I did walk half a mile to and from the bus stop each day, and that was fun.
In the spring of my eighth grade year, we moved to another house that was not within a school bus route. This time, Dad said I could walk, and Mother didn’t argue. It was a mile, the longest I’d ever walked. The route took me through downtown, so when Dad walked with me, he showed me how to cross busy streets with traffic lights by listening and watching the direction the vehicles were traveling.
Once I got the hang of it, I loved the long walk to and from school. I often stopped downtown, either at Brown Drug or The Palace Café, and had a milkshake. That was my after-school snack.
High school was a different matter. My main obstacle was a busy street with no four-way stop sign or light. At this point, I was given a cane that I held in front of me while standing at the corner in the hope that someone would stop. Hardly anyone did, and I often waited a long time for a break in traffic before dashing across.
After that, it was smooth sailing, through the park and up the hill. Thanks to that intersection, though, I soon lost interest in walking, especially in winter when the boardwalk up the hill was slick with snow and ice, and there was no railing. I was only too happy when my parents started driving me to and from school each day, although I could tell my father was disappointed.
I understand his disappointment. Because he had to walk to school every day as a kid, it was only fair that his children should do the same. I wish I’d continued to brave that intersection. Better yet, I could have taken a longer route.
In the good old days, many children in rural areas walked over a mile to and from school each day. I remember reading in The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder about Laura and her sister walking home from school one day during a raging blizard.
Nowadays, I see children getting off of school buses every day but rarely encounter them walking to or from school. Because of security concerns, real or imagined, many parents are too over-protective. This is sad. Whatever happened to the good old days?
This is a chronicle, for young readers, of how our national anthem was written. The author starts by explaining how an elderly doctor in Maryland was arrested for mistreating British soldiers when he refused them wine and ordered townspeople to arrest them. She then describes how Francis Scott Key, a lawyer who wrote poetry on the side, came to represent the old doctor and ended up on a small boat tethered to one of the British ships during the battle at Fort McHenry near Baltimore. She talks about how Key was inspired to write the poem, as he observed bombs bursting in mid-air and marveled that the flag remained at full mast until dawn when the British retreated. She then explains how the poem became a song and how the song eventually became our national anthem. The book includes the lyrics with all four verses, a glossary, a timeline, and other information.
Since Deborah Kent was a recent guest speaker at a meeting of Behind our Eyes, a writers’ group to which I belong, I thought it a good idea to read one of her books, which are written primarily for children. This book’s language is such that it can be appreciated by adults. Being a poet and a musician who has performed the national anthem, I was intrigued by how Francis Scott Key jotted the poem on a piece of scratch paper while watching the British bombardment of Fort McHenry. Although this song can be difficult to sing because of its wide vocal range, I can see now how fitting it is as our national anthem. This book not only teaches young people about that part of our history but can open their eyes to how a poet is inspired.
Now here’s a little treat. Click this link to hear me sing our national anthem.
One morning, I was getting ready to go to my water exercise class at the YMCA and running late. I considered making a pit stop before putting on my swimsuit and clothes, but since I didn’t want my friend who was picking me up to wait for me and didn’t feel it was an urgent need, I decided against it. After I got in the pool later, I wished I’d gone, but I managed to make it through the class.
My body is like a little kid. You ask her if she needs to go to the bathroom before a long car trip, and she says she doesn’t. Then, you’re on the open road in the middle of nowhere, and she says, “Mommy, I have to go.”
When my brother and I were kids, and our family took long road trips, my dad had a solution to this problem. Whenever he needed to go, he said, “Piss call” and pulled over. He would then get out and do his business alongside the road.
My brother found this hilarious, and like his father, he wanted to do the same thing. My mother said my dad was a card. At the age of twelve, I found this fascinating. The only cards I knew about were playing cards and greeting cards. How could a person be a card?
Years later, after my mother passed away, and I was a registered music therapist working in a nursing home and with senior citizens in other facilities, Dad and I planned a trip to Los Alamos, New Mexico, to visit my brother and his family. My father had recently suffered a stroke and occasionally found it difficult to express himself or understand what was being said to him.
After driving for about an hour and a half, we stopped in Kaycee for gas. It was around eleven o’clock. I figured we would stop in Casper for lunch. Since that was only about half an hour away, I again decided I didn’t need to use the facilities. When we reached the outskirts of Casper, Dad suggested we go on to Wheatland, another ninety miles, for lunch. By this time, I had to go and didn’t think I could wait another hour and a half.
When I asked if we could pull into a gas station so I could use the restroom, Dad thought I was hungry and suggested I get a milk shake or an order of French fries at a nearby Burger King to tide me over until we reached Wheatland. We kept going back and forth, me explaining I needed to make a pit stop and him insisting I get a snack. Finally, I said “Piss call.”
That did the trick, although to my surprise and relief, he didn’t pull over. Sometimes, you have to speak a person’s language in order to be understood. We ended up going to Burger King, and I used the facilities, then bought a milk shake for the road.
What do you remember about road trips you took with your family when you were growing up? What about when you were an adult? Do you still take road trips with your family? I’d love to read your responses, either on your own blog with a link to this post or in the comments field below. Happy summer, and safe travels.