My First Love

Abbie-1

His name was Brett Claytor. He was in third grade while I was in fourth. We were both students at the Arizona State School for the Deaf & Blind in Tucson in the 1960’s. He played the piano, and I played the ukulele.

We decided to perform together in the school talent show. One of our favorite Three Dog Night songs was “Joy to the World.” After school while waiting for our parents to pick us up, we practiced in the second grade classroom which had a piano. I had a hard time playing this song on the ukulele so finally gave up and stood next to the piano and sang while he played and sang with me.

On the night of the talent show, I wore a long red dress Mother bought for me while he wore slacks and a shirt. Our performance was flawless, and we got rave reviews from parents and classmates.

Our relationship continued after that. He liked rockets, so I dreamed about us blasting off to a faraway planet to start a new life. We often went to each other’s houses where we listened to music.

A year later, he and his family moved to Oregon, and although we agreed to write, we lost touch until my freshman year in high school.

By this time, my family was living in Sheridan, Wyoming. One night at the dinner table, Dad said, “Honey, what ever happened to that boy you knew in Arizona?”

“You mean Brett?”

“Yeah, Brett, did you ever hear from him?”

“No,” I answered, and to my surprise, I found myself wishing I knew where he was.

“You wanted to marry him, didn’t you?” asked Mother.

“Yeah, and I still do,” I said, without thinking.

“Well, maybe we can find him,” said Dad. “I’ll bet he went to the school for the blind in Oregon. Let me make some calls.” This was in 1976.

Apparently, Dad was concerned that I didn’t have a boyfriend when other girls my age did. He wasn’t the old-fashioned parent who wouldn’t let his daughter date until she was thirty.

A couple of weeks later, again while we were eating dinner, the phone rang. Dad answered and after a moment said, “Abbie, it’s for you.”

“Who is it?” I asked, as I got up from my chair and walked to the phone in the hallway where Dad stood, holding the receiver. I didn’t get many calls.

“You’ll just have to find out,” said Dad, handing me the phone.

“Hi Abbie, it’s Brett Claytor,” said a male adolescent voice when I said hello.

Speechless, I turned to Dad who was already sitting at the dining room table with Mother and my younger brother Andy. They were all quiet.

I don’t remember much about our conversation except that we exchanged addresses and promised to send each other tapes of our music. Since our parting in Arizona years ago, I’d become proficient at accompanying myself on the piano, like him.

A few weeks later, his tape arrived. I listened, enthralled, as he talked about his life and played a lot of songs, some on piano, others on electronic keyboard. He even played a drum solo.

He didn’t sing, though, perhaps because his voice was changing, and he didn’t think it was any good. It didn’t matter. I still found his talent amazing.

I made him another tape with some of the songs I enjoyed singing, accompanying myself on the piano. At one point, I told him I still loved him and hoped he felt the same way about me.

Weeks went by and still no word from him. Dad said, “Maybe he’s waiting until he can learn more songs to play for you.”

After another month or so, it was clear I’d scared him off. Maybe he had another girlfriend. I was embarrassed. If only I’d kept my feelings to myself, we could have still been friends.

I don’t remember if I told my late husband Bill about Brett. If I did, Bill probably didn’t consider Brett a threat since I didn’t know where he was. Besides, he wasn’t the jealous type. You can read about how I met and married Bill and then cared for him after he suffered two strokes in my new memoir.

Who was your first love? If this person wasn’t your only love, do you still keep in touch?

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

Review: The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

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The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend

by Katarina Bivald

Copyright 2016.

 

Sara and Amy develop a long distance friendship with books as something they have in common. Sara lives in Sweden, and Amy lives in Broken Wheel, Iowa, a small town ravaged by hard economic times. After two years of correspondence, Amy invites Sara to visit. When Sara loses her job in a Swedish bookstore, she accepts. However, when she arrives in Broken Wheel, she learns that Amy has passed away.

The inhabitants of the town take Sara in, and she opens a bookstore, and the people fall in love with her. When her tourist visa threatens to run out, they devise a plot to marry her off to one of Broken Wheel’s eligible bachelors so she can obtain permanent residency. A cast of zany characters including an immigration official, two homosexual bartenders, and an eccentric old woman with a hunting rifle create a hilarious, interesting, yet satisfying ending.

As the story unfolds, letters Amy wrote to Sara in Sweden are interspersed throughout the narrative, told from Sara’s and other characters’ points of view. The recording I heard of this book, produced by Random House Audio, had two female narrators- one with an American accent, who read Amy’s letters, and one with a British accent, who read the rest of the narrative. The British narrator did a pretty good job of portraying Iowa accents, but I think it might have been better if the American narrator read parts of the narrative from points of view of the people of Broken Wheel. In any case, this reader of Sheridan, Wyoming, recommends this book.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

News from Abbie’s Corner October 2016

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As I write this, it’s a beautiful Indian summer day in late September. The sun shines in a cloudless sky. Through my open front door, as I sprawl in my easy chair with my feet up, I hear the occasional car going by, dog barking, and a neighbor’s weed eater. Guitar music flows from my device’s speaker, courtesy of the public radio station in Billings, Montana, about 150 miles north of my home town of Sheridan, Wyoming. It’s 77 degrees, and the only thing that keeps me from writing outdoors is my tablet’s low battery.

By the way, I’m working with a new device, a BrailleNote Touch from Humanware. This is the world’s first Google-certified Braille tablet. I like this a lot better than my iPad. I don’t have to swipe, flick, double tap, or triple click. Although using the touch screen is an option, most functions can be performed with the Braille keyboard and thumb keys.

The down side is that it’s running an older version of Android, but most apps I’ve tried work pretty well, and the word processor is a lot better than other Braille note takers I’ve used. After I finish writing and proofreading this, I’ll upload it to Dropbox so I can access it on my computer, add finishing touches, and schedule it for posting. It’s nice not to be tied to my PC all the time.

Believe it or not, I’ve also been doing other things this month. On September 10th, Range Writers was pleased to have as a guest state poet laureate Eugene Gagliano. He did a wonderful presentation on character development and other aspects of writing. September 10th would have been our 11th wedding anniversary so I thought it only fitting that former poet laureate and dear friend Rose Hill read a poem she wrote for our wedding in memory of my late husband.

On September 17th, I attended a writing workshop in Buffalo, about 30 miles south of here. It was conducted by Lori Howe, University of Wyoming instructor and state humanities council road scholar. She gave us prompts and plenty of time to write and share our work. A poem I wrote during this time was posted here earlier.

On September 29th, I returned to Buffalo for a reception for Eugene Gagliano. Again, he did a great presentation where he talked about his life, read some of his work, and demonstrated some activities he does with children in the classroom. I had a great time.

Of course I’ve been busy singing as well. My group, Just Harmony, is working on Christmas music and already has several performances scheduled in December. On the 9th, I performed at Sugarland Ridge for a fall social. On the 27th, I sang at Westview for their monthly birthday party. I’ll be at Green House on October 4th and at Westview on the 25th. Sugarland Ridge has invited me back in November to do a reading and music in an attempt to promote my new book.

Speaking of which, I did a signing this month at Sheridan Stationery on the 24th and sold books in the lobby of the Sheridan Senior Center on the 27th. On October 8th, I’ll be part of a National Indie Author Day presentation at the library. I still have plenty of copies of My Ideal Partner to sell, and it’s also available online through Createspace, Amazon, Smashwords, and other sources.

Well, that’s all the news I have for now. Happy fall, everyone. I’ll be back next month with more news.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

Click to hear an audio trailer.

Like me on Facebook.

 

News from Abbie’s Corner August 2016

Can you believe that August is already here? Summer’s almost over, but you wouldn’t know it with the heat wave that has been ravaging the country. I recently read on a blog post a poem about dreaming of a blizzard on a hot summer day. Isn’t it funny how we long for snowstorms when it’s hot but wish summer would come when we’re slip-sliding down icy sidewalks and landing on our back sides?

In July, my brother, Andy, and his wife, Christina, from Florida came for a visit. They flew into Denver on the 12th and spent a couple of days with relatives before renting a car and driving to Sheridan to stay with me for a few days. They arrived here on the 14th, just in time for our annual national rodeo. On the morning of the 15th, we went to the rodeo parade. I hadn’t been in years, and it was so much fun. Andy sat next to me and read me the signs on the floats and described them to me while Christina snapped pictures of them with her cell phone. She’d never been to a rodeo parade and found it fascinating.

Afterward, we had lunch at Frackleton’s downtown and then wandered across the street to the Wyo Theater where a piano was set out for anyone to play. I played and sang a few songs, much to the delight of passers-by. Here’s a video snapshot Christina took while I was doing this.

Andy’s class reunion was that weekend. When they weren’t involved with those activities, we went out to eat, explored our old neighborhood, got ice cream in the park, and visited with friends. Andy and Christina fixed my treadmill, disposed of a wasp nest under my old picnic table, and helped me pick out a new one at Home Depot. We also had dinner with my uncle and aunt who live out south of town. The following Tuesday, they drove to Yellowstone Park where they spent a few days camping and hiking before driving back to Colorado, spending time with friends, and flying back to Florida on the 25th. I had a great time with them, and I hope they’ll come back next year.

On July 8th, I played my guitar and sang at Sugarland Ridge. With the Fourth of July holiday a few days earlier and the upcoming rodeo, I performed a mix of patriotic and country and western tunes, much to everyone’s delight. I did the same program at Westview on the 26th, and those residents also enjoyed it.

On the 20th, fellow poet Christine Valentine and I were featured as part of the weekly Vaudeville program at the Wyo Theater where we performed the same poem we did in June during the Wyoming Writers’ conference. The poem, which Christine wrote, is called “Driven Insane by Mitzi Gaynor” and talks about songs that get stuck in your head. The songs mentioned here were “101 Pounds of Fun” from South Pacific and “Go Home with Bonnie Jean” from Brigadoon. Christine read the poem, and we sang the songs together when she got to them. It was a lot of fun, and the audience loved it.

Now, I’ve saved the best news for last. Those of you who follow my blog already know this, but it’s definitely worth repeating as part of my shameless self-promotion. My new memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, is now available for purchase from Createspace, Amazon, and Smashwords. It will eventually be distributed to Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and other sources. For those of you like me with print impairments, if you purchase the book from Smashwords, you’ll be able to download it in various formats that can be read on a computer or device such as a Victor Reader Stream. I also plan to submit it to Bookshare and record myself reading it and make that available as a free download from my Website. For more information and to order, visit the book’s page on my Website. Happy reading, and stay cool.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds

 

Review: The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid

by Bill Bryson

Copyright 2006

 

In this travel writer’s memoir, he talks about his life growing up in Des Moines, Iowa, in the 1950’s and early 60’s. He describes what it was like to have acentric parents who worked for the local newspaper: his mother making him pee in a jar when there wasn’t time for him to run upstairs to the bathroom, his father wandering downstairs bottomless in the middle of the night to make himself an elaborate snack. He discusses going to movies and a local cafeteria and other pleasures kids enjoyed back in the day and imagining himself as the Thunderbolt Kid, obliterating bullies and others who made his life miserable.

He makes it clear that as a kid, he didn’t try very hard in school and describes, in great detail, antics he and his friends pulled. He also touches on news of the day including the building of the atom and hydrogen bombs, the campaign against communism, and the persecution of blacks. All his chapters begin with news stories, some humorous, taken from local newspapers and magazines. At the end, he talks about how Des Moines changed over the years since his childhood and what happened to his classmates and partners in crime.

I heard about this book from the Utah State Library for the Blind and Disabled, where I occasionally get recorded books on digital cartridges. They’re hosting a discussion of this book today, and when I read about it in their newsletter, it sounded like an interesting read, which it was. The recording I acquired from the Braille and Audio Reading Download site was produced by Randomhouse Audio and narrated by the author. It includes an interview with Bill Bryson after his reading of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed his narration, laughing at many of his anecdotes.

Okay, call me an old lady or goody-two-shoes, if you must, but I feel this book is a negative influence on young people. I wasn’t impressed with the fact that Bill Bryson often skipped school, though he loved to read. He acted proud of the things he did: standing by while a friend put live insects in his soup at the local cafeteria, bringing the tainted food to the attention of the manager, and gaining them free sundaes. It was funny the first time, but his friend kept doing it until he was caught, and it got old fast. Then there was the time when Bryson forged drivers’ licenses from his father’s checks and let his friend take the rap, not admitting he was the one who did it.

Almost every kid occasionally skips school and pulls a stunt, but this is ridiculous. At one point, I almost didn’t want to finish the book, but I’m glad I did. Despite the fact that he got through high school by the skin of his teeth, barely graduating at the bottom of his class, only making an effort in school to avoid being sent to Vietnam, it’s a wonder he became successful as a published author. I’m sure his high school career counselor, who once said Bryson wasn’t qualified to do much of anything, feels the same way, if she’s still alive.

By the way, my own memoir, My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, will be coming out sometime this month. I promise there will be no boys breaking into their older brothers’ locked drawers just so they can see naked women in men’s’ magazines. I’ll let you know as soon as it’s available, so stay tuned.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

News from Abbie’s Corner July 2016

Friday, July 1st, 2016 1:45 p.m.

 

I’m composing this during what’s called a writing marathon, sponsored by the Wyoming Writing Project, a program developed by the university to facilitate writing. Here’s how it works.

After gathering at the agriculture building at Sheridan College, we split into groups. Each group’s goal is to travel to two or three locations around town and write for about fifteen or twenty minutes before sharing with others and moving to a new setting. Right now, I’m sitting at a picnic table at Whitney Common, a local park I often walk through on my way to other places.

Here’s the big news. My Ideal Partner: How I Met, Married, and Cared for the Man I Loved Despite Debilitating Odds, is soon to become a reality. David Dvorkin is in the process of formatting the manuscript for Createspace. It will also be available as EBooks on Smashwords and Amazon.

This month promises to be busy, what with my book coming out. I’ll write and send press releases to the media and mail sell sheets to bookstores and libraries. I’ll also plan as many appearances as possible to promote my book. It’s always exciting when a new book comes out.

On the last Tuesday of June, I did my usual monthly gig at Westview, where I played my guitar and sang, much to residents’ delight. This month, I’ll be at Sugarland Ridge, an assisted living facility, on July 8th. They’re doing a red, white, and blue social, so I’ll supply some patriotic music along with some country and western songs, since our annual national rodeo is the following week. On July 26th, I’ll be back at Westview.

Speaking of the rodeo, that’s the week my brother, Andy, from Florida, will be visiting. He and his wife Christina will fly into Denver on the 12th and rent a car. After spending time with relatives in Colorado, they’ll drive here the weekend of the 15th for his 30th class reunion. They also want to spend some time in Yellowstone Park, so I hope they’ll do that the following week and come back that weekend before returning to Colorado and flying back to Florida on the 26th. Will just have to wait and see what they have planned.

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Friday, July 1st, 2016 2:15 p.m.

I’m sitting downtown across the street from the post office. After sharing what we wrote at Whitney Common, our group has moved here. Time drags by on this hot July afternoon, as I sit on a hard bench with no back and watch cars go by. After about ten minutes, Aaron, one of my traveling companions for the day, says if we’d been using our heads, we could have gone kitty corner to the Pony Grill and Bar, sat on the deck, and had a drink. Oh well…

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Friday, July 3rd, 2016 2:45 p.m.

 

I’m in the Sagebrush Community Art Center, located near the Sheridan Inn next to the railroad tracks. I’m sitting in a cool, quiet room, surrounded by walls sporting paintings, most of which I can’t make out from where I am. On the way here, Aaron pointed out a yellow truck where a vendor sells a variety of foods including barbecue and stir fry. This reminded me of a food truck festival I attended with Andy and Christina when I visited them in Florida last March. The streets were lined for miles with nothing but food trucks selling everything from pizza to Chinese food. Anyway, after we’re done writing and sharing at the art gallery, we’ll return to the college and wrap up.

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Sunday, July 3rd, 2016 12:32 PM

 

Two days later, on another hot July afternoon, I’m reclined in my air conditioned living room, trying to put this writing marathon in perspective. It’s a fun activity for those who need motivation and inspiration to write. It provides a safe environment for writing and sharing, where no feedback is allowed, and readings are followed by a respectful “thank you” from others in the group.

Since I had an agenda, to write this blog post, I found the constant interruptions to share work and move to different locations an unwelcome distraction, reminding me of times when Bill was alive and I had to drop what I was doing every so often to take care of him. I guess I should have expected that.

Others in my group shared work inspired by their surroundings: a poem about children playing in the fountain at Whitney Common, a narrative about a homeless man wandering downtown streets. Next time, I’ll just go with the flow and write about what I see, smell, and hear around me. Who knows? A poem or story may come forth.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems

 

 

Summer Poetry and Music

The following poem appears in the spring/summer issue of Magnets and Ladders. To hear me read it and sing two songs I associate with summer, click here.

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SUMMER HEAT

 

Warmth ushers in flowers’ fragrance,

new-mown grass, steak on a barbecue,

happy cries of children, thud of ball against pavement.

Oh, to sit on the back patio, hear a ball game on the radio

while a summer breeze caresses the back of your neck.

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Author Abbie Johnson Taylor

We Shall Overcome

How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver

That’s Life: New and Selected Poems