Archive for June, 2016

Without Knowing

Reva, about a year after her adoption was finalized.

Reva, about a year after her adoption was finalized.

Sometime around the turn of the millennium, hubby and I took a long day’s drive to travel from Vermont up to Toronto. My father was born there, and although we had lost track of any living relatives, we did visit the graveyard where many of my ancestors are buried.

One marker caught me off guard. David… my uncle. My father’s baby brother, who lived for only a few weeks. I knew the story. When my father and his big brother were somewhere in their early teens, my grandparents had another baby boy. I think they knew late in the pregnancy that the baby would not survive. Of course it was a difficult time for the family; but by the time I was old enough to know the story, it was ancient history.

Seeing his grave marker gave me pause. Here was someone I knew…sort of. He was my uncle. If he had lived, he would probably have carried me on his shoulders or told me all kinds of stories about my father that I’d never hear from his own mouth. Instead, his life was tragically short. He was and will forever be a baby.

Around that same time, I had the odd feeling that there was another baby I should know…or rather, one that I would know. We had been trying to get pregnant, and I’d hoped to give birth in the year 2000. That didn’t happen. But I did have it in the back of my mind that we could adopt a baby, perhaps even one born in the year 2000. Somewhere, out there in the world, was a child that would someday be mine.

A few years later, hubby and I had graduated from college and bought our first home. We spent months going through foster parent training and certification, just to wait an entire year after that with no child placed in our home. We did respite for several children, but none of them were able to be placed with us permanently.

Then one day my hubby came home with the picture of a grinning, toothless little redheaded girl. She was in foster care and would very likely soon be adoptable. She was not in the private foster system we were registered with; she was a ward of the state. It took time, red tape, and paperwork to resolve that, but our six-year-old daughter (born in 1999) moved in with us in 2005. Two years later her adoption was final, and I gave birth to her baby sister.

It feels somehow fraudulent to claim that I loved two babies without knowing them. I love my Uncle David, though he died long before I was born. I loved my daughter before I knew her.

Love knows no boundaries of time or presence.

Love simply is.

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James, Mary, and the Mustard

I’m participating in a writing group at church. The focus is autobiographical, sharing our own stories. Each week we write a page or two on a different prompt. This one was “What was your family’s life like before you were born?”

James and Mary army uniform 01Neither James nor Mary was a native to Florida. James was a Canadian whose parents had moved to upstate New York when he was a teenager. He met Mary there, at Emmanuel Baptist Church, then said a sad farewell to spend three years in the Army.

Their courtship continued long-distance.

James’ parents, as well as his older brother, had moved to Florida, so when James was discharged that was where he went. Mary’s over-protective parents allowed their daughter to travel down the east coast to visit him, and she came home with a ring on her finger.

Florida became home to the newlyweds, but life was different. Orlando was hotter than Schenectady. They had to give up being Baptists, as that particular denomination is very different between the north and the south. Mary, a nurse, was the breadwinner while James went back to finish college. Lawn-mowing included killing the occasional snake. Frugality was the rule. One tiny jar of mustard easily lasted them several years.

Baby number one arrived, and some things changed while others remained the same. James was still in school, but Mary stopped nursing to stay home with the baby. They still killed snakes with the lawn-mower, but with a crawling baby this duty took on a new importance. In addition to the three nieces they already had, another was born.

James finished school and went to work for Martin-Marietta. Their toddler daughter, destined for great achievements, uttered her first word, Gesundheit. There was church. There was family, some close, some in distant Schenectady. There was a dog. These things would remain the same as the sixties became history and the seventies began.

Other things would soon change. On Florida’s eastern coast, man would no longer blast off to the moon. Another daughter would be born to James and Mary. The brood of nieces would expand to include one nephew. Employment opportunities would take them to places that were neither New York nor Florida.

And that little jar of mustard that usually lasted several years would suddenly disappear in hardly any time at all.

Hmmm… with an ending like that, I’ll have to eventually write a story about the mustard.

Multi cover banner 2016 06 28

Morning Glories

The following isn’t an entertaining story, it’s a rant cleverly (~cough~) disguised as a story.

Morning glories starting to climb the trellis on my back porch.

Morning glories starting to climb the trellis on my back porch.

Holly looked up and around. Three hundred and sixty degrees over her head, the long-awaited community gardens were finally prepped and made available to the station’s citizens. She’d paid for her plot almost a year before, and it wasn’t cheap. Sure, she could grow a few things in her quarters… the lights were designed for photosynthesis and water was no longer a problem thanks to the Bertea-Reichower mission. But the little four meter by four meter plot would let her indulge her horticultural creativity, as well as let her meet up with like-minded friends to spend a peaceful afternoon amidst nature’s splendor.

“What are you planting on the corner trellis?” asked Dotty, who had the plot just spinward of Holly’s.

“Morning glories!” she said happily. She’d planted them in her incubator a month ago, in anticipation of the opening of the garden. The corner trellis would make a perfect backdrop for the small bench she wanted to get.

“Bindweed!” Dotty said, her floppy hat falling off as she suddenly stood up straight. “You’re planting bindweed?”

“Bindweed?” Holly shook her head. She hadn’t heard the term. She chose morning glories because they were pretty and hardy; they could survive almost anything. If the carefully constructed mix of soil on the space station was less-than ideal, the flowering vine would probably still survive. “Doesn’t that violate the rule about non-invasive plants? Or something like that… I don’t remember what the exact wording was.”

Holly blinked, looking at the tiny seedlings she’d brought with her. “Invasive? Morning glories?”

Dotty came and knelt by her, the two of them in the dirt together. Holly opened her link. “Let’s see…” she said, going to the information site about the community garden. Dotty looked over her shoulder. “Is this it?” she asked. “Gardeners shall not plant any species that will threaten or invade other plots…” The paragraph dissolved into legalese after that.

“Search for the word ‘invasive’,” Dotty suggested. More rules popped up, all of which she’d read. She didn’t think the morning glories were invasive, but then again she’d never heard them described as ‘bindweed’ before.

“Oh, see there?” Dotty pointed out a paragraph. “If you’re vigilant about making sure the seed pods are collected and don’t plant too close to the border, you’ll be all right.” They both looked up at the corner trellis. “It’s not too late to move it to the middle.”

Holly had already bought a garden-bot to collect all the seeds from not just the morning glories, but her other flowers as well. She hoped to be able to trade seeds with her neighbors or donate some to the colony ship that would be leaving next year for a new world. She could move the vines to the middle, since the roots tended to grow deep and tenacious. Or, to save herself any trouble, she could rearrange some things in her quarters and just enjoy them there where she wouldn’t have to worry about whether any seed pods escaped to invade her neighbor’s gardens.

“If you use a flexible trellis you could—”

Dotty’s comment was cut off by a bark from a woman passing by pulling a small wagon with seedlings. “Those aren’t bindweed, are they?” She asked, squeaking out the plant name as if it was a curse. Holly’s jaw moved, but no sound came out. She had no idea what to say.

The woman grabbed one of the tiny sprouts and examined it. Holly caught her breath. The seeds, as tiny as they were, hadn’t exactly been expensive to import from Earth. But they weren’t cheap, either. Not only the expense, but the care she’d put into making sure they sprouted. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?” She threw the bit of greenery and dirt onto the path that separated the garden plots.

Holly gasped and lunged after the innocent plant, cradling it and checking to see whether the stem had broken.

“Well, there’s no need to destroy someone else’s property!” Dotty said with a huff.

“What’s going on here?” asked Dan, one of the groundskeepers.

“This woman vandalized Holly’s garden!” Dotty said, her tone accusing.

“I did no such thing! She left these weeds sitting on the path. And she seems to be completely oblivious to the dangers such things pose to the entire ecosystem.”

Dan squatted down to look at the tray of seedlings. Holly realized with a lump of guilt that the small tray was half on the path. It wasn’t exactly an impediment to foot traffic, but it was still impolite. “Ipomoea purpurea,” he said, examining the plants. “A bold choice. Hardy.” He looked directly at the invasive woman. “And perfectly legal as long as the gardener is responsible about collecting the seed pods.”

“Responsible?” the woman sneered. “Flower fairies like her shouldn’t be allowed in the community garden. Some of us are planting useful things like fruits and vegetables. My gourds can be used for—”

“I’ll tell you what you can do with your gourds!” Dan held Holly’s hands as she cradled the tiny, broken seedling. “She’s done absolutely nothing wrong.”

Holly cringed. She’d just been about to plant the prolificly-seeding plants at the very edge of her plot. It was a mistake…it would have been a mistake if Dotty hadn’t pointed out to her the rule she’d overlooked.

“Deliberate destruction of property, however, is grounds for arrest.”

Holly reached out and rescued her tray of morning glory seedlings as Dan and the offending woman started yelling at each other. Soon a small crowd had gathered, voices shouting, the occasional slur or questionable accusation punctuating the chaos. Dotty, who had been about to dive into the fray, turned to look at her.

Dotty’s face was red, but when Holly looked up Dotty softened, then she moved between Holly and the crowd. As quickly as she could, Holly put the few trays of seedlings into her crate, stowing the tools in their compartments. There was a shattering sound, and they both turned to see a clay pot from the offending woman’s cart broken on the path, the tomato plant it carried snapped off at the base.

The crowd started yelling even louder.

“Come on, sweetie, let’s get out of here while we still can,” Dotty said, a hand on Holly’s back. The crowd had spilled from the path, some of them trampling the carefully cultivated rows Dotty had been working on. “Never mind that. I put those seeds in just an hour ago. They’ll survive.” She sighed and shook her head. “If they’re not in perfect rows when they come up, oh well.”

“How can they trample your garden while they’re arguing about who is doing what to whose garden?” Holly asked, her voice hoarse and fighting back tears.

Dotty just shook her head. “I don’t know, sweetie, I just don’t know.” They reached the edge of the garden, entering the sterile halls that were the norm for most of the space station. “But humans of all nationalities, belief systems, genders and socio-economic backgrounds have been doing it for centuries. Millennia even.”

They turned a corner, and even the faint smell of the garden was gone.

“And it looks like we’ll be doing it for a few millennia more.”14 Hippie Freaks dedication