WHO IS THAT?!


© Jeanne E Webster  All rights reserved

I looked up and there she was, smiling at me with a squashed-cockroach grin.

Amid the hustle and bustle of Christmas shopping, I had been browsing a department store’s offerings early one morning. Sale items were piled here and there on shelves and hangers, tempting buyers to unleash their monies and take them home. In a hurry, I wanted to get a few last minute gifts before getting back home ahead of the rush hour traffic. I admit I was in a tizzy that day and probably should have stayed home.

She didn’t say a word, just stood there staring right through me as if I were a ghost. My thoughts rambled into a frantic search for a name. Who was this woman?!

Search….search….search. Nothing solid…a few pauses, hesitations to process. No, that isn’t it…no, not her. Running out of data…. She looks so familiar but I can’t pull out a name. WHO IS SHE?!

Knowing I had only seconds before this woman would call my bluff, I shuffled my feet to change position, trying to shoulder her out of direct vision. I caught a quick glimpse of movement and shuddered. My bluff was over!

Pretending I had just noted her presence, I slowly pivoted my body full force towards her, ready to face a tongue lashing. Before I could utter a word, the woman chuckled out loud, “Oh my! That’s me!” (I hadn’t noticed the mirrored wall at all!)

Oh well, another senior moment. Have a nice day!

The Witness

 

© Jeanne E Webster  All Rights Reserved

The Witness

PART 1

 

“It’s been a long time.”

“Yessir.”

“You haven’t changed much.”

“You neither.”

Moments faltered as stammered thoughts riddle through bygone days; eyes clung awkwardly like a skittish handshake.

“Ya wanna sit down?”

“Sure. Have you been here long?”

“Naw, ‘bout a year.” Hands fidget across the table, waiting for the right moment.

“I, er… I received your letter.” Compassion rendering his unsettled spirit, he gently muttered, “I’m sorry, Joe.”

Suddenly breathing came easier; hearts shifted back into normal sinus rhythm. “Thanks, man. I didn’t know if you’d come.”

“You knew I would. That’s why you wrote to me.”

“Yeah, I knows.” His fingers, stuffed in his pockets, fidgeted open and closed, open and closed, open and closed.

“Well…”

“I knows I have done sumpthin’ really, really bad, Frank. An’ I got’s ta pay fer it.” Clearing his throat he continued. “But that’s not why I asked ya ta come.”

Looking up with tearful eyes, he leaned closer to Frank, “I been doing lots ‘a thinking and …”

“…and I needs ya for my witness.”

“Witness for what, Joe?”

“. . . for when I meet my maker.”

The stagnant air became electrified by the hush. It wasn’t what Frank had expected to hear.

But I Could Catch the Biggest Bull Frogs

© Jeanne E Webster All rights reserved

Thank you, Lord, for Mom and Dad,
My angelic grandma I loved so.
Abundant sustenance all my life,
Safe environments in which to grow.

I respected my brothers and sisters,
Though we fought like cats and dogs.
We played and wrestled and got dirty
…I could catch the biggest bull frogs.

You gave me a sound body and mind;
I learned well to read and write.
Mostly I behaved quite proper;
A few wrongs but tried to do right.

Summer time we got rounded up
One year for that Bible school;
Met this gentle young man, Jesus,
Who taught me the Golden Rule.

He’s led me down life’s pathway,
Soothed my heart and hell-bound soul.
Cleaned me up one side and another;
Dug me out of that dark, deep hole.

The loving heart you gave me, Lord,
I used for lost sisters and brothers
That forgiving spirit was harder to bear;
But you said we should love one another.

Oh, the wisdom in that there Bible,
The tools for us to use in our lives.
I’m finding new ones most every day,
‘especially joys from just being alive.

A thankful heart and loving spirit
Is my offering, Lord, back to you.
Reflecting a happier way of life,
And a heart that’s tried and so true.

FOILED


© Jeanne E Webster All Rights Reserved

I went shopping today for a few groceries and craft supplies. After loitering in the craft area for assorted items, I realized I was tiring and needed a rest room. The restroom came with explicit instructions on how to use the sink, water faucet and soap dispenser, and I was back out onto the main floor in just a few minutes.

One comment: I detest those self-flush toilets! I was “resting” on one of them that insisted I was finished every time I leaned forward just a tad bit. That gadget must have surprised many a rester.

Back to shopping, I pieced through the pet supplies aisle, picked out a few cans of dog food for my spaniel and a cuttlebone for my cockatiel.

Ahead was the sundry aisles . . . should have been a snap. I selected some room aromatics, a jug of laundry soap, a couple of mousetraps, and 12 rolls of toilet paper. Almost through, produce aisle awaits!

I am not a happy shopper. I detest the ordeal. Give me a list and I’ll go through a familiar store in no time flat. Usually; today was an exception. Perhaps I should not have shopped today, it being Sunday, the Lord’s Day.

In my previous life, we never went anywhere on Sunday, ‘cept church and Sunday school. We stayed home the rest of the day and read the Bible, sat outside in decent weather in the porch swing, watched the chickens go from yard corner to fence corner, kicking up lawn stubble as they searched frantically for bugs and more bugs.

Occasionally we were allowed to go swimming at the lake down the road apiece, if it was warm enough out. If it wasn’t warm enough, we would pitch stones across the water or look under rocks for fishing worms. Then, if that adventure was profitable enough, we’d do a little fishing from the bank of the pond next door to my uncle’s house. But we never, ever went shopping. We wouldn’t dare make anyone work on the Lord’s Day. No siree.

To get back to shopping, I was approaching the produce aisles, almost done with my ordeal in the store. I suddenly remembered I needed some aluminum foil, as I was in the midst of fixin’ Christmas recipes. I had already baked Gram’s filled cookies, a full charge of oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, a batch of penuche fudge, and a new recipe of oatmeal cranberry bars. All I had left to bake was the old-fashioned sugar cookies, and maybe if everyone behaved, a batch of brownies with a great big Hershey bar in the middle of it for added effect.

I returned to the paper product aisle and found the foil. All I needed was one roll, and not the heavy type for roasting turkeys and such, just one roll of regular foil. So much for that.

There before my eyes on the shelves from top to bottom was FOIL: heavy-duty foil, 20 feet of foil, oiled foil, frosted foil, thin foil, 50 feet of foil, extra heavy duty foil, 200 feet of foil, 3 foot long foil, unoiled foil, brand name foil and store brand foil.

This is why I do not like to shop. I make a list, a simple list of standard things, no embellishment stuff or bells and whistles on it, just ordinary everyday things. You’d think a person could go into a store, walk over to the right shelf, pick out the item, and set it into the shopping cart. No major decisions; simple equations. Go on to the next item, select it and set it into the cart and in no time at all, you’re checking out at the register, walking out to the parking lot, in your car and, poof, you’re home again without a hitch.

But it doesn’t work that way and I know it. I don’t want to have to make decisions that materialize from the atmosphere within the store instead of my organized frame of mind in my own home. Too complicated.

I made it home with all my STUFF, unpacked it and put it away. The box of ungreased, unlined, non-perforated, non-heavy-duty, uncrinkled, 200 feet of Great Value Aluminum Foil currently resides in my cupboard. And that is that. Tomorrow I am going to bake.

Summer Dawdlings

© Jeanne E Webster. All Rights Reserved.

“Summertime…and the livin’ is easy. Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high.”

I’ve always liked that song, mainly for taking me back to memorable  summer vacations spent at my grandparent’s home in Massachusetts. Those lazy, hazy days of summer were the happiest times of my childhood.

Small town life in the mid-1940s was kid safe; one could play outside unsupervised from sunup to sundown with no problems. We’d stuff a peanut butter sandwich in our pocket after breakfast, and off we’d scamper on our all-day carefree adventures.

Our youthful bantam legs struggled as they carried us up that steep knoll to the top of Walnut Hill, then braked as down, down, down we coasted to the placid waters of Lake Mattawa.

Dawdling around the lake edges for a while, we’d skim stones across the water, search for baby fish, and wade into the warm clear waters to extract pretty rocks or other treasures not too far out into the lake.

After resting from our arduous one mile trek, we’d wander through the adjacent pine trees and head for Uncle Brad’s house. to play with our cousins.  We had an unwritten privilege of fishing rights to his pond, and after we had dug up worms and crawlers, we’d grab some of his many fishing poles and scamper down to the stagnant, bubble-gurgling pond. We were delighted to snaggle luminous bluegills and sunfish, and catfish and brilliant yellow pike were always in bountiful supply.

Tiring from catching such “huge” fish, we’d retreat to Aunt Winnie’s back porch and eat our sandwiches and partake of her home-made lemonade especially set out for our disposal.

It was our habit to linger a while after our repast and visit the hen houses, barnyard and outbuildings of their chicken farm. What merriment was had while playing in the granary, jumping on top of the loose corn and smelling the aromas of earth’s harvest offerings!

Next we’d ramble on south a couple of miles towards Aunt Judy’s house and spend the rest of the day interacting with her eleven kids. We’d play hide-and-seek, cowboys and Indians, cops and robbers, and with adult supervision, we could play croquet. We had no store-bought toys; we merely used our imaginations, which in all reality, was pure delight… pretty much.

Once one of my cousins dared me to pick some poison ivy and rub it on my arms and legs. So I double-dared him to do it too. Well…the next day he had poison ivy all over his body, and I had nary a blister. To this day I’m not allergic to the ivy!

Aunt Judy filled our tummies with her family’s supper fixings before we headed back to Gramp and Gram’s home. If the sun was still halfway up the western sky, we’d stop off at the churchyard and wander out back to the cemetery to pick the delicious wild strawberries there. They were so tiny but, oh, so succulent!

Summertime…heaven-sent days for earth-bound children, quickly spent and forever gone. Oh, to be a kid again!?

A Long Ago Story

 

© Jeanne E Webster. All Rights Reserved

“Jesus loves me this I know…”

Curled up in bed, she finds no escape from Mommy’s piercing cries. Softly tiptoeing to the window sill, she  longingly looks up to the heavens, as if searching for an old friend. She believes her home is out there and a heavenly, loving Papa awaits her return. Since learning the “Jesus Loves Me” song at Vacation Bible School one summer, she drew much comfort and hope. Peering impatiently into the dark, starry expanse, she pleads with her Papa. “I don’t like it here anymore, Papa. Please send an angel to take me back home.”

Only five years old, she knows fear… fear of her stepfather. He’s hurting Mommy now, and she’s afraid she’ll soon be the next victim of his drunken rages. Trembling with dread and hatred, she hears him bellowing her name. The routine is humiliating. He forces her to remove her clothes and stand before him naked, then proceeds to beat her with his army belt. Glaring into his eyes with intense rage, she is most afraid of crying in front of him, not the pain he inflicts. He mustn’t know he has hurt her; she must remain strong. “Please, Papa. I’m so afraid. I want to come home.”

“For the Bible tells me so…”

Stumbling through school with average grades and many sick days, she grew slowly into an angry, stubborn, withdrawn young girl. Teachers comment on her report card, “She will not act like a young lady. She’s always fighting with the boys.”

Home life is chaotic. Constantly on guard when her depraved stepfather is present, she keeps mainly to her bedroom or stays outside until nightfall. His lack of morals is evident as he prowls the house, naked except for a newspaper shielding his privates. “Thank you, Papa, for making me strong and protecting me. I wish Mommy would be strong enough to leave this nasty person.  I asked her once why she puts up with the beatings. She said, ‘Because I love him.’”

“Watch over me, Lord.  I still want to come home but I don’t know how to make that happen.”

“Little ones to Him belong…”

Many years passed.   The young girl mellowed into a happily married mother of four. Life was good for the first few years, but overshadowing this semblance of normalcy was the Viet Nam war. “Papa, watch over my husband and protect him from harm and send him home to us soon. The kids really miss their daddy. Thank you.”

“They are weak but He is strong…”

Daddy returned from war a stranger, dishing out physical and mental abuse on a daily basis to the young wife. Physical battles ensued with resulting scratches and bruises. Before long Mommy had become the villain, according to Daddy. He encouraged the kids to hit her, declaring her an unfit mommy. The Sears & Roebuck catalog was searched routinely for a new mommy. Divorce ensued after Mommy got on a greyhound bus headed for nowhere, leaving her whole world behind and calling it quits to the abuse.

Due to the fierceness and severity of the divorce dynamics, the young mother had only one viable option regarding her children. She had to leave them in the care of their father. There were no safe houses, no support for abused families in those days, and she had no family support or a job. Her husband promised to shoot her if she applied for a divorce, removing the children out of state would result in a kidnapping charge, and both options were not in the best interest of the kids. A dead mom and a lifer-in-prison dad were not good alternatives. So she walked. And inside…died…for a long while.

“Please take care of my children, Papa, and protect them from harm. I know You are stronger than anything life can throw at them, and they are good kids. They are my life. I give them back into Your hands. I know I will see them again someday; that’s all that matters. I love you, Papa!”

Epilogue:
Long ago Anna B. Warner penned the song, “Jesus Loves Me.” A young woman took those words to heart and believed them and staked her life on them. Why? The Bible told her so! The Word of God is far mightier than abuse, fear, threats and even death itself.

The Lost Easter Egg

 

© Jeanne E Webster – All Rights Reserved

Once there was an Easter egg, the prettiest one you ever did see. It was many different colors: blue, red, yellow, and green.  It sat in the Easter basket with all the other Easter eggs. They were waiting for the mayor to take them to the city park for the annual Easter Egg Hunt.

Easter was only one day away, and all the children would come to look for them. The boy or girl who found the most eggs would get a prize: a big chocolate Easter bunny.

It was an exciting day for the Easter eggs too, for the first one to be found would ride in the Easter parade that afternoon. It was a big honor, and all the Easter eggs were so excited they had to be careful not to crack their shells.

One big, pink Easter egg said to the other Easter eggs, “I will be the first egg to be found because I’m the biggest egg!”

“No! I will be found first!” said the purple Easter egg. “My shell is shiny and bright, and the children will see me first!”

“I will be found first,” said the orange and red Easter egg. “The children will see my orange and red stripes and find me first!”

So, one by one, each of the Easter eggs boasted why it would be found first, all except for one little Easter egg. It was the blue, red, yellow, and green Easter egg.

“I will be happy even if I am not found first, as long as a nice boy or girl finds me,” said the little Easter egg.

Easter morning finally arrived, and the mayor took the basket of Easter eggs to the city park. The mayor had to get there early so he could hide the eggs before the children came.

He hid one Easter egg under a clump of grass, another egg behind a rock, another one under a piece of paper, and after a short time, he had finally placed all the Easter eggs. Sitting down on a park bench to rest, he waited for the children to arrive.

It wasn’t long before the girls and boys came. Before you could yell “Peter Cottontail,” the street was full of children, all eager to find the Easter eggs. Some of them came in cars with their mothers and fathers, some rode their bicycles, and some of them walked to the city park.

The mayor took a whistle out of his pocket and told the children to stand on the starting line and get ready to find the Easter eggs. The boys and girls all lined up and were excited to begin the Easter egg hunt.
The mayor began to count, “One! Two! Three!” Then he blew his whistle, “Tweet!”
With an exuberant rush, all the boys and girls ran to find the Easter eggs. One little boy peeked under the clump of grass, and there sat the big pink Easter egg. The boy was so happy he had found the first Easter egg and jumped for joy.

“Oh, boy!” shouted the pink Easter egg. “I am the first one found!” My, how proud he was! Now he would get to ride in the Easter parade, and everyone would say he was the prettiest Easter egg. Puffing up with pride, he heard a soft, cracking noise. Looking down he saw it was only a small crack, so it didn’t matter. He would still get to ride in the parade.

A girl hurried over to a piece of paper and picked up the purple egg hiding beneath. Another girl found the orange and red egg hidden behind some rocks.  Boys and girls everywhere were finding Easter eggs, yelling and jumping up and down after each egg was found. It wasn’t long before the hunt was over and all the Easter eggs had been found.  Or had they?

The mayor and his helpers counted all the Easter eggs to check which boy or girl had found the most eggs.  Suddenly the mayor realized that one egg had not been found. Everyone scurried back to hunt for the last Easter egg. The children hunted everywhere, behind rocks, under papers, in clumps of grass. They even peeked into small holes in the ground. But no one could find the blue, red, yellow, and green Easter egg.

Finally they gave up trying to find the last Easter egg, and they all went home to get ready for the Easter parade.  The parade was over and all the people had gone home, the day went by quickly and soon it began to get dark.

The blue, red, yellow, and green Easter egg was afraid as he felt himself getting cold. He began to shiver so hard he was afraid he would crack his shell.
“I wonder why no little boy or girl found me,” he asked himself. “I am right here under this big tree.” He wanted to cry but was afraid he would crack his shell, and if he cracked his shell, he would get colder.
“Surely someone will come to play here in the park tomorrow, and then they will find me.” And with these good thoughts, the little egg nestled up to the tree trunk and fell asleep.

The sun was shining when he woke up. He was warm now and feeling much better. He heard a noise behind him, and looking up, he saw a big, brown dog standing over him.

“You are a pretty Easter egg. What are you doing here all alone?” asked the big, brown dog.

“I am lost!” answered the Easter egg. “No one found me yesterday at the Easter egg hunt, and now I am all alone. Can you help me?”

“No,” said the big, brown dog. “I wish I could help you, but I am looking for someone to play ball with me. I hope someone will find you soon. Bye now.”  And the big, brown dog hurried off to find someone to play ball with him.

Once again the blue, red, yellow, and green Easter egg was all alone. The sun was making him very warm, maybe too warm.  “I hope someone finds me soon. My shell will crack if I get too warm,” said the Easter egg to himself.
Pretty soon he felt something tickling him. Looking up he saw a little orange kitten sniffing him with her whiskers.  “Hello, orange kitten!” said the Easter egg. “Can you help me? No one found me at the Easter egg hunt yesterday, and now I am lost!”

“I wish I could help you, little Easter egg, but I am lost too,” said the little orange kitten. “I am looking for my mother, so I cannot help you. Surely someone will find you soon. Bye now.”  And the little orange kitten ran off to find her mother.

“I guess no one will find me,” cried the little Easter egg. “Oh, what will I do?”  Just then he felt someone picking him up. It was a little girl, and she had tears running down her cheeks.

“Hello, little girl,” said the Easter egg. “Can you help me? I am lost and all alone.”
“Oh, I am so glad I found you!” said the little girl. “I was sick yesterday and could not go to the Easter egg hunt and was afraid I would not have any Easter eggs. I am so happy now, for you are the prettiest Easter egg I have ever seen!”  Holding the Easter egg gently in her hand, the little girl ran home, so happy to have her very own Easter egg.
And the little Easter egg was happy too. He was not lost anymore, and the little girl had said he was the prettiest Easter egg there ever was. It made him so proud that his shell cracked a little, tiny crack. But he did not mind that, for he was still the happiest and prettiest Easter egg in the whole world.

THE END