BedPans and Walther P38s

(The conclusion)

The families were leaving, and I was informed by unanimous consensus I was to send a screenshot prior to all purchases for their children. My four-year-old self’s inner monologue screamed, “You’re not the boss of me.”

Instead, I shouted that I wasn’t in an assisted living home yet and asked, “What’s next? Taking car keys away?  Don’t forget who will be having to taxi me around town, if that’s what you’re thinking!” 

I stopped just short of threatening to have an appointment every day when I remembered the party scheduled the next day and abruptly changed my tone to be as sweet as Royal Icing on a sugar cookie. I reminded them to drop the littles off at 4:00 p.m. They weren’t sure if that would happen.

“But we always have a Mad Hatter’s Tea party on Christmas Day,” I implored, “Since you were knee high to a grasshopper. It’s a thirty-something-year tradition.” 

They weren’t convinced. I slammed the door. I heard engines roar and tires squeal. 

Four o’clock Christmas Day came, and grandkids filed into the house, all in smiles and costumes appropriate for the Mad Hatter. But I suspected their attendance had more to do with quiet time and free babysitting––their parents looked quite disgruntled and no one spoke. 

“Don’t mind them,” Holliss, a precocious child, piped up and hugged me with the strength of a baboon and within a split second I was cocooned in a group hug, “You’re the best Gram ever. Parents just don’t understand.” 

Bedpans and Walther P38s Part 3

Part Three of a Family Christmas Past

The moment the kids had waited for 365 days arrived. I beamed at my family­­–– mostly for the expectant joy on all faces. I donned my Santa hat and began dispersing gifts. The family rule was to wait until everyone had all their gifts piled at their side. The teenagers offered to play Santa’s elves to speed things up. 

I gave the traditional secret Santa signal and madness ensued. The neat freak son-in-law trailed behind, best he could, crumbling shreds of wrapping paper into large, black trash bags. 

Holliss, seven, shrieked, “How did Santa know I like red foxes?” 

Her mother, Rebecca, the family baby, gave me the look that she was famous for and I asked what was wrong. 

“Really, Mom? You gave my daughter a water bottle that reads “‘What the Fox’?’’ 

I couldn’t answer. 

“Mother!” 

It was Christa, my second-born and mother to seventeen-year-old Janessa, who screamed, “What are you thinking? The Kama Sutra? A book on sex? She’s seventeen!” 

Oh boy, I thought, I know I’m in BIG trouble. Still, I said nothing.

“Gram-Gram.”

I turned toward the voice. It was Nathan––his face was as white as Christmas snow.  He told the room that Cohen had just opened his present. As he spoke, he twirled what looked like a toy gun in his hands. Nathan, 15, was a sharp shooter whose goal was to become a Special Ops sniper. 

“Did you know this gun is real? It’s a Walther P38. You bought a five-year-old a gun?”

The room was still, not-a-creature-was-stirring, not-even-a-mouse kind of still. And quiet.

I felt the blood drain from my face as I stammered, “I-I-I.”

“This is a mistake, Amazon doesn’t sell guns,” I yelled, and I snatched the gun away, “You all how Amazon is, remember the fuzzy elf slipper incident?” The details are best left unknown. 

I proffered a weak defense that I knew nothing.

Dylan started blubbering. His mother clutched him at the elbow and escorted him into a bedroom. 

Everyone began gathering their things. The grandkids begged to stay and be entertained by the annual reading of The Night Before Christmas, and the parents acquiesced. They helped themselves to a glass full of my home-brewed eggnog. I was thankful this year’s batch was alcohol-light. (The cook may –– or may not have––consumed the 32 ounces of rum the recipe called for.)  I noticed a flask being extracted from Rebecca’s pocket. 

I was called into the bedroom and Dylan tearfully told me the tale. He noticed my Amazon page open and thought he was being helpful. When questioned about the book he said he added that to the cart because Janessa likes to exercise, and the book cover looked like people were exercising.

He admitted he looked at toy guns for his cousin because he knew Cohen wanted to be a policeman, but insisted that he didn’t order one. I knew he was being truthful, making the mysterious appearance of a real gun even more puzzling. 

“How did you order?”

“Easy. Buy now with one-click, Gram-Gram.” 

“What about your mother’s stack of ten road signs that read ‘Drive like your kids live here’?”

“I have little sisters.” 

I was thankful he didn’t order a sleigh full of toys. Or an Oozie. 

Gram,” Dylan added, “When I was playing Minecraft, you got an email attachment that I clicked on. They might have downloaded spyware.”

“It’s O.K., Dylan. I’m not mad and you’re not in trouble,” I comforted, “I’ll get to the bottom of this after Christmas.”

 I remembered getting a package that didn’t quite look like it came from Amazon, but the gift inside was in wrapped in Santa Claus paper so I shrugged it off.  My imagination exploded like gas on flames and visions of ruthless arms dealers in Nigeria popped into my mind. 

As I turned to the hopeful crowd waiting for their story, memories of my own childhood prank streamed like an Amazon Prime movie. When I was nine, my little sister, Lisa, and I walked across the field to Gramma’s house. She was outside hanging clothes on the line and unaware of our presence. I had a flash of brilliance and coerced Lisa (so she claims) into making the house appear ransacked. Then we hid while waiting for Gramma’s reaction. 

No one laughed at that either. 

Bedpans and Walther P38s–Part Two

BedPans and Walther P38s
(Part Two of a Christmas Past)

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Photo Credit: Jessica McCollam jessicasvisionsphotography.com

It was seven days before Christmas, and I still had to purchase gifts for 21 grandchildren, two great-grandchildren, and 10 adults. Technically, Christmas was eight days away, but our family gathers for dinner on Christmas Eve, opening gifts after the grandchildren wash the dishes.

Ho! Ho! Ho! Oh, here I go. I snuggled into my favorite love-seat position: blanket; feather-pillow; pajamas; steaming mug of coffee latte at the ready, with the Amazon page brightly shining and resting on my lap. Christmas / Saravejo 12/24 by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra transmitted via Apple TV. The music  was so loud that I thought I heard the neighbors singing along.

I read that Amazon Prime members were extended an offer-of-the-day to have purchases gift- wrapped for free. I started to clap my hands. I had forgotten I was holding the latte, and nearly doused my shopping cart.

The doorbell rang. I was greeted by a small crowd; my third-born daughter, Angela, her six-month-old twin daughters, Annakate and Adeline, and her ten-year-old son, Dylan. I welcomed them in, and as they were seated, Dylan spied my computer and asked if he could play Minecraft on it.

“Of course,” I said with a wink at the platinum-haired boy, “That’s why I downloaded it, silly Dilly.”

He carried the laptop to the dining table and I set my attention to oohing and awing over the twins.

They left. I returned to my Amazon shopping, made my selections and set about washing dishes, making the bed, and tossing clothes into the washing machine.  As I cleaned, I made a mental grocery list for the big dinner. Then, it came to me; a jolting revelation, so jolting I swear I heard the angels sing. I could order all my groceries on Amazon.

*     *      *     *     *

I opened the door to the UPS delivery truck driver asking for my signature and I happily signed, although I wasn’t sure why this particular delivery required a signature; she didn’t look happy. She must have made 12 jaunts––truck to doorstep, using a dolly–– getting more red-faced each time, as I gawped. Her parting words were something about why I thought I needed 42 Christmas hams and concluded with a caustic Merry Christmas as she offered a hand signal that may or may not have signified her IQ level.

I smiled, dripping with saccharine to shield my consternation, I called out something about her job security. I ogled (my face as frozen as the hams) for a few minutes at the mass covering the front porch and decided the Amazon SNAFU could be dealt with in the morning and began dragging the boxes inside.

The new day arrived; the sun shining in a clear blue sky despite putting my order with the Big Guy for snow. I wondered if I should have checked for availability with Amazon Prime.  I hoped and prayed that the one special gift would arrive before dinner as I baked all day for the expectant, hungry horde.  The gift was delivered at last, and I placed it upon the swollen mound that exceeded the ‘under the tree’ notion.

I rang the Amazon office contact number only to reach an automated response: closed for the holidays, please try again December 26, 2017.

Walther P38s and Bedpans

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Photo Credit: jessicasvisionsphotography.com (Jessica McCollam)

Bedpans and Walther P38s

(A Christmas to Remember)

Part One
*A short story that is loosely based on true events of Christmases past: 90 percent pure fiction.

Many people escape via expensive out-of-the-country vacations or by weekend get-a-ways. Some escape by watching movies or by playing games. Me? I Amazon. I’m addicted to seeing that brown box (the box with a questionable phallic logo) resting on my front porch as if to say, “Pick me! Open me!”

Amazon’s intrusion began several years ago. My ‘old-school’ wariness would not release me to commit such sin as shopping online. The realization that I could stay in my pajamas and get the all the grandkids their Christmas presents convinced me to risk everything.

True joy begins from that moment I see a screen-full of possibilities on my lap-top or iPhone, items to feed my addiction. The beautiful (sometimes ruinous) journey is afoot.

It didn’t take Amazon long before they offered the best marketing scheme ever: Buy Now With 1-Click? If ever a sentence could be described as delectable as hot chocolate topped with marshmallows this would qualify. But they didn’t stop there ––Prime Delivery––why, you can have this in two days for “free.” Free for an annual fee––ingenious. A recent addition is the all-you-have-to-do-is-tap-it button, ‘buy again’ red circle. Extremely convenient. What will they think of next? Telepathy?
I mesmerize.

As I sit pondering potential deliveries, I remember past disastrous purchases: the Christmas ornaments that looked huge on-screen but arrived a mere one-eighth inch diameter; the children’s farm-animal book that failed to pique interest of a one-year old; weirdly (and putrid) colored shoes; wall décor, museum-sized, for the 12 x 18 inch empty spot near the window, so large it could have covered the entire window. I have learned to read with care (and read between the lines) as my hand hovers over the keyboard ENTER key, I think twice¬¬––three times––before making the final click. That is, unless I have a Freudian tap.

I choose my items, and proceed through the steps: would you like the arrival date to be this Tuesday, postage-free; for $3.99 more you could have this on Monday; add to your dash (just tap it) button? It would be ever so easy to reorder. Thanks, Amazon!

I’m always eager to help family find just what they are looking for.

“Gram, you need a bedpan? Let me look for you.” I’m giddy.

If only hindsight had been my guide. I now have a bedpan in my Face Book feed; subject lines of countless emails read: because you bought a bedpan; just click here or tap to buy again; people who have purchased a bedpan have also purchased the following items; and finally (although, I’m sure it won’t be) I have a picture of Gram’s bright, shiny––thankfully still unused––bedpan in that blasted buy again? button. Or just tap it.

*Stay tuned for part two, coming soon.

Quest

 

 

Letters float and bubble up,
they string on weathered thread,
like popcorn strands on Christmas trees.
I clutch and nick and chomp and chew,
subsequently disintegrate,
with painful, funny, contorting moue.

Letter float and bubble up,
black on white in cytoplasmic fill,
they string and coil as DNA that replicate
I mush and mash and press and pound
a finger-tip from coherence,
little faith, am I not to be crowned?

Letters float and bubble up,
with orange threads of goo
like momma’s lava lamp.
Before my eyes I mesmerize,
I hook and hasp and snap and clasp,
Exasperated, I bowdlerize.

Q hovers and glides aside.
Me thinks Q is longing for U.

 

Day 364

I am ending day 364 doing what I love: writing for the pure joy of writing.  The little ditty below contains 16 names familiar to my childhood. Can you guess what they refer to?*

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16 Candles.  Who am I kidding? It’s 61 candles.

Through the days of my life,
I have ascribed to a guiding light,
While leading all my children
through the edge of night.

The young and the restless,
Search for tomorrow.
The bold and the beautiful,
Look in dark shadows.

As the world turns,
Ryan’s hope rests
In another world,
In secret storm.

One life to live,
Yet, love of life
May end within the general hospital
Hounded by the doctors.

* Before the days of talk shows, cooking shows, courtroom dramas and game shows, American day-time television was dominated by the juicy drama of the soap opera. The sixteen listed above are some of the longest running. A few soaps continue today: General Hospital (1963); Days of Our Lives (1965); The Young and the Restless (1973); The Bold and the Beautiful (1987). My mother loved to watch As the World Turns. I can still see the spinning globe on the small electronic box as the show came on the air as I was scurried outside to play.

Ode to September

September

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Jaydan

We wonder, September, who, what star will sing new,
And who, what star will wax far away.

Your third sapphire day’s star arose shimmering bright
only to apex and implode
into the heavens and dissipated.
The black it left is as bright as the light.
This, too, is to your ode.

Star light, star bright,
We wonder how you are tonight.

A new sapphire day’s star birthed and shines high, distant,
As if this new star would behold
The morning’s glory for an instant,
Our witness that we forget-you-not.
This, too, is to your ode.

September, your eleventh sapphire day’s star
Has darkened halls, the crowds gaze
Ever looking with mouths agape,
Searching beyond black heavens mar;
The blackness in the night stays.

Stars light, stars bright,
We wonder how you are tonight.

Sapphire days, autumn’s equinox, falling foliage,
chilly beginning, sweltering afternoon, asters wilting,
brown and spent. September sapphire days have
forever changed the history of our family lineage.
This, too, is to your ode.

A niece and an uncle’s star away were scurried
To mark the anniversary of my September birth,
Grand-ma-ma’s star flittered away one day after
the thirteenth anniversary of the same. All buried.
This, too, is to your ode.

Stars light, stars bright,
We wonder how you are tonight.

Your third sapphire day’s star arose shimmering bright
only to apex and implode
into the heavens and dissipate.
The black it left is as bright as the light.
This, too, is to your ode.

We wonder, September, who, what star will sing new,
And who, what star will wax far away.

Reviled and cursed is your third sapphire day, September.
Jaydan Anthony, we wonder how you are tonight.
On earth where you mingled, was your glowing ember.
May you light the heavens beyond our sight.
This, too, is to your ode:

WE MISS YOU JAYDAN.

Echoes––Part Two

The conclusion to Jack and Holly’s adventures reads below. Their expedition is based on factual events. Following the story is a list of what really happened.

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The boats of Coos Bay, Oregon

Echoes––The Conclusion

“Look Holly,” Jack commanded, “I found a family name here, my family, I mean.”

Holly looked up from the book she was searching through at a table in the Coos Library. She thought it strange he was reading in the first place when he had been quite vocal that he would rather be in the pub three doors down. The librarian hushed Jack with a classic look; glasses lowered to the tip of the nose, eyes focused and glaring over the rim at the perpetrator.

“It says here she married John and Eliza’s son, George,” Jack whispered, “Oh, wait, I take it back, George’s wife’s name is the same as my great-grandmother’s, but I don’t recognize her father’s name.  It can’t be my family.”

Holly breathed a sigh of relief and added, “That would be strange to think I’m a blood relative to you.” She shuddered.

“That would make things even more weird.” Jack said.

Holly didn’t miss the inflection in Jack’s voice. She wondered what he had meant by “even more weird.” Holly pondered on their relationship and wondered if the remark was about their marriage –– she had a hunch and hoped this was about how they had heard from relatives that their ancestors had been at odds.  But things have been weird between us these last few months and I can’t put my finger on it.

She tucked the remark away and continued her study of the local newspaper, Coos Bay Echoes. “Death Summons Prominent Citizen,” the headline read, and Holly was surprised to read in great detailof the life of John Yoakam. She thought how glad she was that reporters and editors included more personal details than they do today.

“It says here the girls are buried at Yoakam Hill,” Holly said, “Didn’t we see that on a map?” She glanced over her shoulder, expecting a scolding from the librarian.

“Let’s go,” Jack said, “Let’s go find this hill.”

“I want to see Eliza’s spinning wheel in the Coos Historical and Maritime Museum and visit the cemetery all the Yoakams are buried in.”

“Macabre.” Jack observed.

Holly started to defend herself, thought better of it and gathered her things in silence.

        * * *

The eastern sun streaked into the cab as Jack nosed the truck up the narrow, gravel road.  The area was heavily forested, isolated and devoid of human inhabitants.

“Are you sure the map said to head west on Cammon Wagon Road?” he asked without taking his eyes off the road.

“Positive, just keep climbing, we’re almost there.”

They reached the summit to find the road had ended, but a short driveway led to a home surrounded by a cyclone fence. They exited the truck and headed toward the house to ask permission to walk the property, but no one appeared to be home. They trounced around the forested property outside the fence looking for headstones. Jack was enjoying the exploration, but after an hour Holly grew frustrated, trudging in the dirt, brushing limbs, leaves and debris aside looking for markers.  She hoped that the house had not been built over the little cemetery.

“Look, Jack,” she said pointing at the map, “The GPS coordinates say I am standing on the exact burial site, but there is nothing here,” Holly’s eyes welled, “It’s gotto be here, all the books, websites, and maps say this is the place,” Holly said with a disappointed and loud sigh, “I guess it’s time to give up.”

The couple plodded with a defeated posture back to the truck, climbed in, and Holly slammed the door in frustration. As Jack turned the truck around to head down Yoakam Hill, a black sedan crawled around a corner, tires crunching on the gravel and approached. The driver pulled alongside the truck and questioned Jack. He explained the reason for their presence and the homeowner, congenial and polite, told them she had lived there for over forty years and had never heard of the burial site. Holly handed her a business card and asked to please call if she ever learned any information.

Before Jack could engage the motor, Holly placed her hand on Jack’s right forearm.

“Wait, Jack, I want to ask you something.”

She asked what he had meant by things being even more weird.  He explained that he didn’t mean anything at all, there was no hidden meaning.

 

“I was referring to the weirdness that you had discovered our people fought against each other in the famous Battle of Culloden in 1746.”

“Oh,” Holly said with relief.

“Is that why you’ve been so quiet today?” Jack inquired as she relaxed back in her seat.

Holly sat still and shrugged her shoulders replying, “I guess so. Let’s head out of The Coos Pioneer Cemetery. I know we’ll find that.”

                                                                                      * * *

Jack positioned the rig onto the street in front of their house.

“We’re home. Another successful voyage across mountain and valley.” Jack declared.

Holly was annoyed at Jack’s habit of stating the obvious. Jack, thinking she was going to playfully call him Mr. Obvious, noticed her seriousness.

“What’s wrong Holly?” he asked, “Are you disappointed?”

“I really wanted to find those five gravesites, so yes, I am a little. Besides, I don’t think you enjoyed this trip much.”

“Listen,” Jacked turned and cupped her face in his hands, “I had a really great time. Do you remember me telling you that my great-great-grandfather was the trail guide for Brigham Young on the way to Utah?”

Holly nodded.

“The rumor is he converted to Mormonism after. I bet there are lots of records about him.”

“I thought this genealogy stuff bored you.”

“You were so excited, and in your element, it was inspiring.  Seeing my grandmother’s name got me rethinking. And I really loved traipsing through the woods on Yoakam Hill. I felt like an old-time wilderness explorer––we were Lewis and Clark.”

Holly smiled at the comparison.

“I know a great Italian place in Salt Lake City.”

Facts and Actual Events

  • Eliza and John Yoakam lost five daughters by a burning, falling tree, one a babe in Eliza’s arms.
  • The tragic loss of the Yoakam girls is documented in newspapers such as the Coos Bay Echo, as well as the “Death Summons Prominent Citizen” article, found in the Coos Bay Library.
  • The oldest girl that perished was adopted by John and Eliza after the girl’s mother passed away. It has been said that she was Eliza’s best friend’s daughter.
  • Eliza and John lost their oldest son to disease on the trail.
  • Eliza delivered the baby girl that died in her arms three days after arriving in the Coos Bay area.
  • According to a graveyard and burials website, and in Coos Bay history books, the girls are buried together at Yoakam Hill
  • Jack and Holly (aka ‘Frank’ and Janet) could not find the tiny graveyard.
  • The resident on the hill had never seen or heard of the graves in all the 40+ years living on Yoakam Hill.
  • Eliza Yoakam’s spinning wheel is on display at the Coos Historical and Maritime Museum.
  • Jack and Holly camped in an RV on Arago Beach beneath the cliffs of the Yoakam State Park.
  • Jack and Holly found Eliza and John’s grave markers at the Coos Pioneer Cemetery.
  • Jack, a Scotsman, and Holly, of English descent fought each other in some war in the ancient days: it may or may not have been Culloden.
  • Jack’s great-great grandfather was a trail guide for someone associated with Brigham Young, and was looking to settle in Utah.
  • Little Italy, in Coos Bay, is a fantastic place for dine.
  • Holly was often annoyed with Jack stating the obvious and called him Mr. Obvious.
  • Holly has never driven with an RV in tow, nor does she ever want to.
  • Jack would have rather been in the pub than the library but developed an interest in genealogy while in the Coos Library.

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John was a younger brother of Jasper and George. George died in 1901, five years before his mother, Eliza,  as pictured above.