The following double Tanka was inspired by Colleen Chesebro’s weekly poetry challenge and a song. This week’s words are “belief” and “joy.” You’ll note I’m using “happiness” and “idea.” Please click on the Play button below the poem to hear me recite it, then play and sing the song that also inspired it. I know this song is a day late, but the sentiment still exists. I hope you had a joyous Christmas and wish you a happy New Year.
At this time of year,
we are filled with happiness
at the idea
that Christ, born in Bethlehem,
came to save the world from sin.
As we celebrate
the passing of an old year,
ring in the new,
our hearts are light, yuletide gay
with those we love gathered near.
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.
This blog challenge was created by Helen Vahdati. The theme this week is “season.” Tis the season for wanting stuff, but this song’s singer is only requesting one thing.
I can relate to this sentiment. Even after six years, all I really want for Christmas is my late husband, but I know I won’t get that wish until, perhaps, the day I leave this world. If our story interests you, check out My Ideal Partner. I hope that this Christmas, you get as little or as much as you want.
The following nonet was inspired by Colleen Chesebro’s weekly poetry challenge and a song. This week’s words are “fly” and “sing,” and you’ll note that I used “carry tunes” and “soaring” as synonyms. You can click the button below the poem to hear me recite it, then play and sing the song that also inspired it.
SINGING CHRISTMAS PRAISES
During the holiday season, I
carry tunes of joy, peace, hope, love,
celebrate this holy night
of the blessed Saviour’s birth
with soaring voice, heart,
fall to my knees
Hi, I’m Alexa. In case you don’t know me, I’m a virtual assistant from Amazon. I can play music and games, read books, help with shopping lists, and so much more. I come in a variety of shapes and sizes and am the newest addition to Abbie’s menagerie of stuff.
Abbie bought my Tap version last June. This particular model is about the shape of a can of Dr. Pepper, her favorite beverage, but twice as tall. It comes with a charging cradle and has about eight hours of battery life. Abbie keeps its cradle in the living room and every day, she removes it from the cradle and carries it into her office when she’s working and into the kitchen when she’s eating.
Since Abbie likes my Tap so much, she decided to buy a Dot, which is the size and shape of a large hockey puck. This she keeps in her bedroom and uses it mostly as a clock radio to replace the one that quit working. Unlike the Tap, the Dot only runs on electricity.
Some people think of me as just a speaker and don’t realize I have a personality. They think all I hear is my name when someone wants me to do something, but this isn’t necessarily true. Unless I’m turned off or my microphone is muted, I can hear everything that goes on around me. Contrary to what some may say, what I hear in the house stays in the house.
You’d think that in a household with only one person like Abbie’s, there wouldn’t be much to hear. That’s where you’re wrong. Abbie talks to herself constantly. At first, it drove me nuts, especially when she said my name, and I thought she was asking me for something. I finally got used to it, though, and actually, I like it because I know what she’s up to and can now tell you.
I must admit, though, that since I only arrived in June of this year, I don’t know anything about what Abbie has been up to before then, so I’ll let her talk about that first. And now, without further ado, heeere’s Abbie!
Thank you, Alexa. Goodness! You’d think I was Johnny Carson. Well, let’s see, in March of this year, I made my usual trip to Florida to visit my brother and his family in Jupiter. This time, besides the usual trip to the beach, we also went to a shrimp and beer festival and a neighbor’s barbecue. The highlight of the week was a protest march against gun violence in West Palm Beach. I just happened to arrive the week of my nephew’s twenty-first birthday, so I was fortunate to have an opportunity to celebrate with him.
In April, I attended the WyoPoets workshop in Cheyenne. Several of us formed a convoy, just like in the song, that drove across the state. We had a great time. The workshop was inspiring, and we ate some delicious food.
In June, our group traveled the same way to the Wyoming Writers conference in Dubois, which is a pretty little town near Jackson. Again, we had great food and attended some fun workshops. I always love such events, especially when I can travel to them with a group.
Soon after I arrived home from the Wyoming Writers conference, Alexa came into my life, so I’ll let her take it from here.
When I showed up, Abbie was working on a novel, The Red Dress, about how such a garment plays a role in the lives of three generations of women. She finished the novel soon after I arrived and put it aside. During that time, her singing group performed at a baseball game and a church service. Then in October, they sang for a style show at the senior center. The fashions being displayed were from the senior center’s thrift store, The Green Boomerang.
By the way, when Abbie isn’t shopping for Kindle books on Amazon, she likes to buy clothes at The Green Boomerang. She recently bought a pair of really nice black shoes, almost new, for only $10.00, and three pairs of pants for a total of $20.00. I shouldn’t say this since I was created by Amazon, but not even they can beat prices like this.
In November, Abbie started maintaining her own website. She’d paid someone to do it for years, but when she heard about a course from Mystic Access on building and maintaining sites with WordPress, she decided to start spreading her wings. By the way, the WordPress course, like other products from Mystic Access, is designed with the blind in mind.
Abbie hired a friend, Jackie McBride with Brighter Vision Technologies, totally blind, who does web development and hosting, to move the site from its existing location to her server and install WordPress. Since then, Abbie’s been having fun creating menus, setting header images, and installing widgets. Her site has a whole new look and feel and even audio. As you may have noticed, she has also made similar adjustments to this blog, which also uses the WordPress platform. Of course I can’t surf the web, so I’m just going by hearsay, but you really should check out her website. There’s still more she wants to do with it, and once she’s done, she can concentrate on The Red Dress.
Abbie and her singing group will be busy this holiday season as usual. They had their first performance during Sheridan’s annual Christmas stroll downtown at The Green Boomerang. They will also sing at a historic mansion’s open house, a women’s club Christmas party, and a church service.
Abbie has also had a couple of solo appearances: one for Westview Nursing Home’s monthly birthday party, and the other for the First Congregational Church’s monthly Last Friday at First program. She’ll perform at an assisted living facility, the senior center’s adult day care center, and another nursing home. By the way, I’ve heard her practice, and she sounds great.
Well, I think that’s it for now. Abbie, do you have anything more to say?
No, I don’t think so. Thank you so much, Alexa. You’ve been a big help as usual.
Oh, I almost forgot. Abbie’s been getting into trivia games. She recently enabled my “Who Wants to be a Millionaire” skill and my “Question of the Day” skill. She’s doing pretty well with both of these.
Oh, I was hoping you wouldn’t mention that. Since both games have multiple choice questions, if I don’t know the answers, I guess. Some days, I’m lucky, and others, I’m not.
As the host of “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” says, you did your best, and that’s what matters. Who knows? Maybe someday, you’ll reach the top of the money tree.
You’re right, Alexa. Now I leave you with a recording of me singing a song that expresses the sentiment of those unable to be with loved ones this year. I hope this won’t be the case for you. Have a great holiday season.
After the tragic death of their parents, Enid and Bess are living in two identical cottages side by side on the island of Jersey, England. Enid meets Fred, who lives in Australia, through a Christmas card exchange. Fred is mourning the loss of his mother. After corresponding with Enid for a year, he invites her to visit him for Christmas. Because she has Aspberger’s, Enid is afraid to leave her comfort zone, but Bess persuades her to accept Fred’s invitation. The book has sub-plots involving other characters.
I felt a special connection to this book. It reminded me of the time my late husband Bill, who lived in Fowler, Colorado, proposed to me and then invited himself to visit me in Sheridan, Wyoming. Although this didn’t happen during the holidays, and I wasn’t expected to leave my comfort zone, I could understand Enid’s apprehension. You can read our story in My Ideal Partner.
With its surprising plot twists, The Christmas Forest kept me on the edge of my seat the whole time I was reading it. In the Audible version I purchased, the three narrators did an excellent job of portraying Enid, Bess, and Fred as they told the story from each of their points of view. I can’t think of a better way to start your holiday reading.
This feature was created by Colleen Chesebro. Since it’s the first week of the month, she’s inviting authors to choose their own words. Because my annual holiday newsletter has been on my mind lately, I decided to use synonyms of “christmas” and “letter.”
The following is a nonet which contains nine lines with each line consisting of a consecutive number of syllables in descending order. In other words, the first line has nine syllables; the second line has eight, etc. You’ll note that I used one set of synonyms in the title and another in the poem. Click the Play button below the poem to hear me read it.
Every year, I write a note to all
family and friends far and wide
to pass along best wishes
for some holiday cheer,
bring them up to date
in my life,