Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 'St. Augustine Record' Holiday Short Story Contest Honorable Mention

Excited to have placed as an Honorable Mention in the 2012 "Christmas in St. Augustine" Holiday Short Story contest held by the St. Augustine Record. There were two categories, adult and youth. Stories were limited to 500 words.
Winning entries were printed in the Christmas Day edition of The Record.

My story is below. I hope you enjoy it!

Christmas In St. Augustine

     It was a cold and dreary night and I was alone. Even the lights in the Plaza, as I came out of midnight Mass, didn't cheer me up. It was the second year I had been a widow. My children lived too far away for a Christmas visit and so, what should have been a joyous night, had turned into my own “pity party”. I started to walk to my car when an elderly gentleman with a short white beard waved at me as he came out of the Cathedral.
     “Excuse me for approaching you this way, but I watched you during Mass. You looked so sad. Is there anything I could do to help?”
     I explained how I felt and he smiled, his eyes twinkling.
     “Could I at least offer you a cup of coffee at the Pub around the corner? That's about the only place open this late.”
     Why not? I thought. Maybe a little conversation would lighten my mood.
     When we were settled inside, hot black coffee warming me, he asked how long I had lived in St. Augustine. I explained that when my husband died, I decided to move here just a year ago. I had opened a small store on Aviles, lived above it, and rarely had time for just old-fashioned sight-seeing.
     “I've lived here all my life. Do you like Christmas lights? I know all the people with houses that are magnificently decorated. Would you trust me to drive you around and look at them?”
     I hesitated only a moment before accepting this stranger's invitation. He didn't look like the type who would attack me, so why not take a chance? I needed something and Christmas lights were always my favorites. He pointed to his car and held my elbow as we crossed the street. We were off and running. I hadn't realized how many different areas there were in St. Augustine.
     We wove through back streets where he pointed out certain houses. The old Victorian houses sparkled like gems. He explained about the people who lived there. Some were his close friends. I laughed at the stories he told me about his youth. St. Augustine wasn't such a tourist town when he was a teenager, at least not by today's standards.
     “We didn't have the traffic problem we have today,” he explained. “I could ride my Schwinn all over town without worrying about being hit by a car. Look over there. Magnificent, isn't she?”
     I turned to look at where he was pointing. A large schooner was anchored in the bay. Its sails gleamed with white lights. A Christmas tree was decorated on the deck.
     We drove around town for over two hours. When he finally dropped me back at my car, I glanced at the Plaza. Yes, Christmas was here and I felt the glory of it all around me.

Looking forward to a wonderful New Year and wishing you the best! Audrey

Friday, December 7, 2012

Christmas Blessings

As the year is coming to an end, I look back at some of my disappointments, but most of all I have so many blessings that have happened to me this past year.
My disappointment is the fact that I haven't gotten a job, so I've decided to stop looking. The economy is terrible, and there are so many young people needing jobs, someone my age doesn't stand a chance.
Ah, but the blessings I have far outweigh  the disappointments.
Love of family has always been first on my list. My daughters have been by my side through thick and thin. Their phone calls lighten my day like a shimmering star.
Having true good friends who care about me is another blessing. I have also made new friends this year. While they live far away, our daily correspondence and interest in writing has given us a bond. Thank you both!
As for my writing, I was thrilled to win first place in the St. Augustine 450th essay contest. I have been lucky to have many of my stories published in “Dew On The Kudzu”. I write daily and I think my writing is improving. That's another blessing.
Above all, though, I am blessed to have my God who is always there, carrying me through the tough times.
My thoughts will be with all of you and I wish you a very blessed Christmas.



Thursday, October 25, 2012

Halloween Nonsense

Getting Ready For Halloween

     Night had almost descended. Lights were on by every porch, waiting for the little children who would knock on the door yelling “Trick or Treat”. Dressed in fanciful costumes, clinging to their bag of goodies, they laughed and giggled as they went from house to house.
     When they got to our place, they were going to be tricked before treated. My teenage son, Steve, loved Halloween, but he had a wicked sense of humor and spent hours preparing for the children to arrive.
     One year he purchased a “monster kit” containing putty and various other items that he plastered to his face and nose. Watching his transformation from human to monster was fascinating to my daughters and me.
     Still, he wasn't satisfied. One more thing was needed.
     He took soapy water and splashed it in his eyes until they were so bloodshot he could barely see. Plastic fangs completed his black outfit. When he partially opened the door he would let out this howl. Talk about shocked children. They didn't know whether to cry or just run away.
     Steve would immediately open the door wide and laugh.
     “Gotcha, didn't I?”
     The giggles and laughter would return as Steve filled their bags with several kinds of candy. By the time the last goblin or princess left, Steve's eyes were almost back to normal, much to my relief.
     One year he decided to try something different. He convinced the local movie theater to rent a coffin to be placed in the lobby. Dressed as Dracula, he laid in the coffin quietly, arms crossed on his chest. The minute he heard footsteps on the padded floor, he would rise slowly, bare his fangs and howl. On that one night he was Dracula. The startled movie goers would gasp, then delightedly laugh. Candy and drink sales soared, making the manager one happy man.
     Steve's pay? He and his friends got to see free movies.
     Looking back to those days I still smile at my son's antics.
                                                           Happy Halloween to all!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"Haunted" a winner in the Share Your St. Augustine Story Contest!

Congratulations to the Share Your St. Augustine Story Contest Winners 

"St. Augustine has its fair share of stories to tell. In fact, it has nearly 450 years worth of stories to tell. So, The St. Augustine Record and the St. Augustine 450th Commemoration decided to capture some of those stories to provide everyone with unique and interesting perspectives of our city. More than 170 entries were submitted in the contest. The top five entries in each category – photo, essay and video – were selected by a panel of judges and posted online for people to vote for their favorite St. Augustine story. More than 675 people participated in the voting process. The votes have been tallied, and here are the results, including a tie for the grand prize!"

To view the winners in all categories click on this link and scroll down to see the winning photos, videos, and essays. I am excited to share first place with Russell Thomas! Thanks to all who voted. Below is my essay. Audrey

Grand Prize Winner – Essay


By Audrey Frank

They say the town is haunted. Ghost tours let tourists mingle with the history of the oldest city. Do spirits still frequent the darkened streets? St. Augustine obsessed me since my first visit in 1947, when I honeymooned here as a new bride. It never left my soul. Widowed at sixty, I had my own ghosts to deal with. The memory of St. Augustine beckoned to me like an offshore siren. Dare I move to the city of my dreams? I packed my bags and began my life in a town that celebrates its past and looks toward the future. Twenty-four years later it still enchants me. The city has changed over the years, but my love of it will go with me to my grave. I won't be gone for good. My spirit will join the others and we'll watch the tourists look for ghosts.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Unforgettable Day Fang Died

     Our German Shepherd, Fang, was an extremely intelligent dog. She came to us as a puppy and seemed to immediately understand and obey our commands. At age seven she developed heart worms. Back then it was a death sentence.
It was heartbreaking to watch the once animated animal slowly succumb to the disease. My husband was away and I had just come home from work one afternoon.
     “Hey, Fang, where are you girl?”
     When she didn't respond, I checked out the back door. She had died under the bushes. I immediately called our vet and asked him what to do.
    “If you bring her here, we'll handle the rest.”
    Okay, just get her in the car and they'd take care of the body. Easier said than done. Fang weighed about eighty pounds.
     I drove around to the back fence and opened the gate. My neighbor and his friend were outside chatting. Surely they'd help me with Fang. Unfortunately, they were far enough away to not see the dead dog.
    I went inside and grabbed a sheet from the linen closet. By the time I had her wrapped in it, it looked like I was hauling a dead body, not a dog. I opened the two back doors to the car and started pushing and shoving Fang toward them.
    Did the two men ever look my way? No sir. They were too embroiled in some kind of heated conversation. I didn't want to interrupt, so I just kept pushing.
    When I finally got her to the car the biggest challenge was ahead – lifting her onto the back seat. A little push from the left side. A big pull from the right. Back to the left, then to the right, I heaved and hauled until I finally had her on the back seat. I could hardly breathe.
    Holy Mother of God, let me finish this without dying myself.
    Huffing and puffing, I turned on the ignition and backed out into the road. The drive to the Vet seemed endless. Once there I had to haul her out by myself because the place had closed at seven o'clock. I just yanked on her back legs and she slid out easily. I hated leaving her by their back door, but it had taken me way too long to get there. I covered her body with the sheet. I'd call the vet in the morning to be sure they had found her, then make the necessary arrangements for her burial.
     There were people strolling by. Didn't they wonder what was under the sheet? I could have killed my husband and dumped him there. Not one person looked my way.
     That night, as I lay in bed, every muscle I had ached. I cried into my pillow because there was no one to comfort me. My husband would be back tomorrow but that didn't help me now.
     Looking back over the years it seems ludicrous, even laughable, how little people comprehend what is right before their eyes.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

How Movies Shaped My Youth

      I grew up in a large two-story house. Off the kitchen was a small room which I used as a playhouse. It was actually the back entrance to the house. It was only about four feet square, but it was totally glassed in. There, alone, I let my imagination soar. I had a wild imagination!
      Growing up, my Saturdays were always spent in the movie theater downtown. For twenty-five cents you got to see two movies. There was the feature movie and then a western. You didn't even have to leave when the movies were over. You could sit through them a second time. There, in the darkness, I began my fantasy life that I would play out in my small corner room of my house.
      On clear days it became a trolley car and I was the conductor. I had an old wind up phonograph player and I would pretend the handle was the pump that the conductor used to steer the trolley. I would let passengers on and off and carry on conversations with my imaginary people.
      More than once my mother would call out from the kitchen, “Did you say something, Audrey?”
      “No.” I'd quickly yell back. I didn't want her to come and check on me. She would have thought it was silly and I didn't want any intrusion into my private world.
      I loved rainy days. As the wind pelted drops against the windows, I stood at the helm of my ship crashing through twenty foot waves. It was up to me to get through the storm safely.
      “Don't worry, men,” I'd call out bravely. “I'll see us to safety.”
      Sometimes I'd line up my tin soldiers on the window ledge and have my own Charge of the Light Brigade.
      Every time I went to the movies I came home and played the part of the hero. I was Tarzan flying through the trees, Mr. Christian battling the evil Captain Bligh. I was Kid Galahad, a boxer who won against all odds.
      Only a four foot square room off the kitchen? Nonsense, it was my flying carpet to a world I only saw in the movies.
      What kind of play was this for a girl? What about dolls and feminine things? Phooey. From the time I saw my first movie I was convinced boys had all the fun. I wanted to be the swash-buckling, sword-wielding hero, not the damsel in distress.
      Well, you get the idea. I was less than thrilled at being a girl. I think my father unknowingly helped. He had wanted a son and, although he loved me, he kept bringing home all these wondrous boy toys.
      I mean, if you're handed a toy rifle, why not be a cowboy? I remember I'd sneak a shot glass out of the kitchen, fill it with Coke, then down it after I'd shot the bad guy. All movie cowboys had their shot of whiskey after a fight Could I do less? I had to be true to my hero.
      The toy trucks and cars Dad brought home were used to transport dirt and build an outdoor city. I built roads way in the back of the garden so my cars could travel. I had a railroad track and trains that hauled stuff around. Actually, I think all that imagining eventually made me a better, more interesting woman.
      When did I realize I liked being a female? My first kiss convinced me. I eventually met my future husband and happily raised three wonderful children.
      All this happened before cell phones, twittering and Face Book took over. My kids learned how to amuse themselves. I also think that made them more interesting adults.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Dew On The Kudzu Short Story Sept 13, 2012

My latest story published on Dew On The Kudzu an online site for Southern writers. Find my other pieces by checking the link on the blog sidebar to the right and click on the Dew image.

Trouble On The Reef
      It was only seven-thirty in the morning, but already the hot Florida sun beat down on the bleached wharf. Nick watched the fishing fleet move slowly out into the Gulf.
               “Wish you were out there?”
      Startled by the voice, Nick whirled. Sheila Blake smiled up at him.
      “Oh, it's you,” Nick stammered. A flush spread over his cheeks. Why did he always feel uneasy when she was around?
      “I didn't mean to startle you. Your sister said I would find you here. I have a favor to ask.” Her dark eyes searched Nick's face.
      Nick turned away abruptly. He knew what she was going to ask, and his heart pounded furiously.
      Sheila smiled uncertainly. Why did Nick seem to dislike her?
      “I was wondering if you'd be my diver buddy when I swim out to the old sunken wreck today.”
      The words sent ice water coursing through Nick's veins. Sheila thought nothing of swimming out to the reef, but then she had no reason to be afraid.
      With Nick it was different. Thoughts of how he had almost drowned doing the same thing swirled in his brain. The muscles in his stomach seemed tied in knots. Cold beads of sweat broke out on his forehead. Sure,he was just a kid back then, but fear like that doesn't easily go away.
      How could he explain how he felt? He didn't even want to admit his fear to himself, much less to this laughing, bright-eyed girl. He closed his eyes, trying to blot out the memory of the swirling water as it pulled him deeper and deeper.
      “Well, will you?” A hint of impatience tinged Sheila's question.
              Nick kept his eyes on the horizon, watching the fishing fleet get smaller as it moved away.
      “I'm busy. Besides, you're my sister's guest, not mine. Let her help you,” he grumbled.
      Nick ran his fingers nervously through his short, black hair. Everything he said came out wrong and disagreeable. If only Sheila understood what had happened. He almost died out there on the reef. The water had sucked him deeper and deeper, filling his lungs, eyes, and ears. If old Charlie hadn't seen him go down and summoned help... Nick shivered in the heat of the sun.
      When she finally spoke, Sheila's voice was icily polite.
      “I was thrilled that Mary asked me to spend a week with her. I thought I'd be welcomed by all the family.”
      Nick remained silently brooding.
      Hands on hips, Sheila sighed.
      “I'm not asking you to take off the whole day, just a couple of hours. Mary was the one who suggested I ask you to dive with me.”
      Nick's head shot up.
      “Mary said to ask me?” Why would Mary do a thing like that? She knew how he felt.
      Sheila nodded as her eyes swept over the shimmering Gulf in quick appraisal.
      “It's out there to the right, isn't it? The minute I heard that an old ship's hull was lodged on the reef, I knew I wanted to dive down and see it.”
      She glanced back at Nick, her eyes pleading.
      Nick felt his face redden under her stare. He frowned.
      “It's not good to dive out there. Last year George Miklos drowned while diving for the ship's log.”
      Nick bit his lip. Maybe if I told her the real reason I don't want to dive, perhaps she would change her mind.
      “But we don't have to enter the hull. I just want to dive close enough to see it.”
      “I won't go with you. It's too dangerous,” Nick insisted.
      Anger sparked in Sheila's eyes. “Is it too dangerous, or  are you just too stubborn to help me?”
      Nick pointed toward the reef. “That ship is lodged on the edge of the reef. The slightest motion could send her tumbling to the depths. Would you like to be dragged down with her?”
      “I know it's dangerous, but I'd be careful,and you're a good diver. Change your mind, Nick, please.” Sheila caressed the word “please” until it came out like thick honey.
      Nick shook his head. Why did she have to keep goading him?  
      “You don't realize what can really happen, but if you won't listen to reason, then dive alone.”
      The minute the words escaped his lips, Nick regretted them. It was too late.
      Sheila stamped her foot and turned back toward the house.
      “You – you're just impossible,” she shot back over her shoulder as she stalked up the gravel path.
      Nick watched Sheila disappear around the corner of the house. An uneasy feeling settled in his stomach. What if she did try to dive alone? No, he reassured himself quickly. She couldn't be that foolish. Besides, Mary wouldn't let her. Again Nick found himself wondering why his sister had prompted Sheila to ask him to dive.
     Suddenly a smile played at the corners of his mouth. Of course, it had been Mary's way of trying to make him conquer what had eaten away at him for so long. If a pretty girl couldn't tempt him...
      Nick glanced again at the old white-shingled house. Tonight he would tell Sheila. He'd apologize. Then, perhaps in a day or two he would find the courage to dive again. Yes, that's how it must be. Nick felt the muscles in his stomach relax for the first time that morning. He hopped into his Jeep and headed to town. Maybe he'd even get a little gift to placate Sheila.
      It was afternoon before he arrived back at the house. As he parked the Jeep and headed up the gravel path, he heard Mary frantically calling.
      “I'm coming,” he shouted as she continued calling his name. Why did she sound so upset?
      “Nick, something must have happened to Sheila.”
      Nick gripped his sister's arm. Alarm at what she was about to say, made the hairs on the back of his neck rise.
      “What about Sheila? Where is she?”
      For an answer, Mary pointed toward the Gulf.
       “She's been gone for over an hour, Nick. I'm frightened.”
      “You mean she went diving alone after all? Why didn't you stop her?” Nick shouted more than asked.
      “ I tried, but couldn't. She seemed angry. She said something about showing you. I don't know, Nick. She just stormed off.”
      Nick ran his tongue nervously over his lips as he stared out at the Gulf. He spotted old Charlie shuffling along the beach. He raced down to the old man.
      “Charlie, did you see Sheila this morning?”
      Charlie's lips parted in a toothless grin.
      “Oh, yes, I see her. She's pretty angry with you. What did you say to her?”
      “Never mind that now. Did she head out toward the reef?” Nick asked impatiently.
      Charlie nodded.
      Nick threw up his hands in despair.
      “Why didn't you stop her? You know how dangerous it can be out there. Mary says Sheila has been gone over an hour now. Charlie, don't you realize what could have happened?”
      Charlie cocked his head to one side. “ Do you?
      “What kind of stupid question is that? Of course I know what could have happened. That's why I'm worried.”
      Charlie pointed toward the dock.
      “Then you must go find her. When I could not stop her, I brought your equipment down from the house. Hurry now.”
      Anxiety shot through Nick like a bolt of lightning.
     “Me dive? I - I can't.”
      Charlie grabbed Nick's shoulders and shook him roughly.
      “You must,” he whispered hoarsely. “There's no one else to go.”
      Nick felt his body sag. Charlie was right, of course. But the thought of what he had to do made Nick tremble. Almost automatically, Nick strapped on his air tank and flippers. Charlie helped him with the weight belt. After adjusting his face mask, he was ready to start.
     Mary had stood silently by. Now she touched Nick's shoulder
      “You'll be able to do it, Nick. Only hurry. Hurry!”
      Nick nodded mutely and strode to the water's edge. For a moment he hesitated, fighting the panic rising in him. Biting down on the mouthpiece, he opened the valve of his tank and headed for the deep water
      Terror, mingled with his anxiety for Sheila, made his head buzz strangely. He felt his heart beating furiously somewhere up under the roof of his mouth. What would he find when he reached the reef?
      Soon the water was over his head. Down, down he went until the bottom  seemed to drop from beneath him. He started paddling through the green haze. With each stroke of his finned feet he shot downward. Fear for his own safety faded, as his fear for Sheila's safety grew.
      Suddenly the decaying hulk loomed ahead. Through the strange, underwater light he could see it had settled on the extreme edge of the reef. One good shove could send it plunging to the bottomless depths. As he reached the hull, Nick switched on his waterproof flashlight. All he could see was green slime and decaying wood. He began circling the ship.
      Minutes passed, measured only by the hiss of the oxygen from the tank. After what seemed  an eternity, he saw a shadowy form ahead of him. It was Sheila. Her body seemed to sway back and forth in rhythm to the long, trailing streamers of green slime. As Nick reached her, he could see that her air hose had become tangled on one of the ship's rusty valves.
      Sheila motioned feebly. Her eyes, staring wildly at him through her face mask, told Nick more than words how frightened she was.
      Nick motioned for Sheila to remain still, then he began working on the tangled hose. Freeing it would be touchy work. One wrong move and he could tear away her vital supply of oxygen. As he worked carefully, but quickly, a growing doubt gnawed at him. By now Sheila's air supply must be very low. If he couldn't free her in time...
      Suddenly the hose slipped from the valve. Sheila was free. As they swam quickly toward the surface, Nick could hear the drone of a motor somewhere above them. That would be Charlie in the launch. Soon the nightmare would be over.
      “Over here,” Charlie shouted as Nick and Sheila broke through the water's surface.
      Later, Nick wasn't sure who helped whom aboard, but there they were, the hot sun warming their chilled bodies.
      “Oh, Charlie,” Sheila gasped as the old man headed the launch toward shore, “That was a stupid thing I did.”
      At Nick's surprised look, she hurriedly explained what had happened.
      As the words penetrated Nick's tired ears he could hardly believe what he was hearing. Sheila and Charlie had planned the whole thing. That's why no one had tried to rescue Sheila, why no one seemed too concerned over her dive. But their plans had backfired.
      When Sheila finished, Nick asked, “Why? Why did you risk your own safety for me?”
      Sheila stared at him, her eyes big and soft. When she spoke her voice trembled.
      “Don't you know why?” she finally asked.
      Charlie's voice boomed above the engine. “Somebody had to do something. When I told Sheila why you wouldn't dive with her, she wasn't angry no more. She just wanted to help you get rid of that crazy nightmare.”
     Sheila blushed. Nick realized how beautiful she was, and how stupid he had been.
      “I wasn't very smart, but I learned a lesson today. I'll never dive alone again.” She reached over and touched Nick's hand, her eyes holding his.
      Nick felt a small, throbbing current of delight race through him. His fingers twined around hers. There would be time later to really thank Sheila. Nick knew there would be lots of time for them, together. But for now...
Author: Audrey Frank

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Miami Dog Races

     My father always liked spending Christmas in Miami. We'd pack into the car and head down Route One. There were no Interstates at that time. It was a pleasant drive. Those years the weather was pretty consistent. When it got cold in New York it stayed cold. The minute you crossed the Florida state line, you knew you had entered a tourist's mecca. Not only did palm trees line the roads, but the sun warmed your bones and you shed winter coats for summer gear.
      At twelve, I was a very mature, full busted, five-foot-seven-inch tall girl. At that age it used to embarrass me because I was so much taller and more developed than my friends. I was the kid with the big boobs. I never appreciated those remarks.
      My father decided to take advantage of my stature. “Let's take Audrey to the dog races with us,” he suggested, grinning.
      “She's too young,” Mother argued. “They'll never let her inside the track.”
      Never one to be daunted, my father got this idea to dress me up, put some lipstick on me, and pile my hair on top of my head. The transformation was incredible. I actually looked eighteen. I suddenly felt very grown up.
      When we got to the race track, no one blinked an eye as I walked through the gates.
      “See, Helen,” my father said as he kissed me on the cheek. “I knew we could get Audrey in.”
      So our night at the races began. I was having fun at first. As the hours ticked away, and the screams of the betters rang in my ears, all I thought of was how tired I felt. When were we going back to the hotel?
     Mother was winning every race. She never checked the “Track Insider”. She'd simply watch the dogs as they paraded in front of the crowd. Then she'd pick one because she liked the way the dog looked. I was fascinated at this strange ability she had. People around us were asking Mother which dog to bet on.
     I finally pushed my way through the crowd that surrounded my mother, and tugged at my father's sleeve. I pointed to a nearby bench. “I'm just going to sit down for a while. My feet hurt.”
      “Sure, Baby, sure.” He turned back to Mother and I slumped onto the bench.
      I fell asleep. The woman turned into the child who needed to be in bed. I vaguely remember Dad waking me up. I slept the whole drive back to the hotel.
      My father loved telling the story to our family and anyone who would listen. At first I was embarrassed, but then I realized how proud of me he had been that night. You could hear it in his voice and, for once, Mother didn't say “I told you so.”

Monday, August 20, 2012

A Child Is Born

     I was the eldest of five children. Unfortunately, I was also the only one to survive the trauma of birth. My unknown brothers and sisters died while still in our mother’s womb. I have often wondered, why me? Why did I survive while four, who may have made a significant contribution to the world, never breathed at all?
     Mother had been in labor over twenty-four hours. Complications set in. Between pain and fear, she had reached the point of exhaustion. I finally struggled and pushed myself into this world at six o’clock the morning of May 22, 1928.
     While holding me, the nurse asked, “Well, Mrs. Kaas, what do you want?”
     “A glass of water, please.” Later Mother laughed about her answer. “The nurse had meant did I want a boy or a girl. At that point I didn’t care. It was finally over and I was so thirsty.”
     My father was ecstatic.
    “Helen, did you see her? She’s beautiful, with thick black hair and laughing blue eyes.”
     Mother looked at him as though he was demented. “Bill, don’t be foolish,” she insisted. “All babies are born bald.”
     Bill grinned. “Not our daughter. She has real black hair. C’mon, I’ll show you.”  
    He helped Helen walk slowly to the hospital nursery. For the first time she really looked at me. I did have a head full of black hair. She took Bill’s hand and he held her close, his lips brushing her moist forehead.
     “We created her, Helen. Isn’t she a wonder?”
     I don’t know how much of a wonder I was, but born under the sign of Gemini, I think I’ve had a split personality all my life. Gemini is the sign of twins. I have always felt there were two sides to me, the obedient don’t-make-waves self, and the devil-may-care adventurous, restless me.
     When I was four years old, one of mother’s friends asked me, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
     “A man,” I promptly answered.
     Everyone laughed. “How cute.”
     I think even at that early age, I sensed it was a man’s world, and I longed to be a part of it.
     Instead I opted for motherhood and have never regretted that decision.


Thursday, August 9, 2012

Braids And Bitches

    There was a time when I had long, wavy hair. My mother, enamored by Shirley Temple's looks, wanted me to have curls. Every night before I went to bed she put curlers in my hair.
     I was twelve at the time, ready to graduate from elementary school. I hated curls. I hated Shirley Temple and her influence on my life. What was wrong with naturally wavy hair?
     One night,  mother and dad were out. I decided to skip the curlers and  went to bed.
     I couldn't believe mother's reaction the next morning.
     “All right, young lady,” she scolded,  “ If you  can't have curls, you'll have braids.”
     Braids? That was for little kids. Mother had this obsession about combing my hair each morning.    This particular morning I felt she was out for revenge. I had defied her and she had no intention of letting me get away with it.
     “You just come into the bathroom, “I'll show you.”
     “Ouch,” I yelled several times. She braided my hair so tightly I felt like the roots were being pulled out.
     When she had finished I looked in the mirror, mortified at what I saw. How could I face my friends looking like Rebecca of Sunny Brook Farm?
     No amount of pleading would make mother relent, so off to school I trudged.
     As I walked down the hallways of  my school, I imagined all eyes were staring at me. How ridiculous I must have looked. What twelve year old wore braids?
     Suddenly a voice behind me asked, “Audrey, is that you?”
     I whirled around, feeling my face flush. It was my teacher, Mrs. McDonough. I wanted to evaporate on the spot.
     She smiled. “You look so grown up I thought you were one of the high school girls from upstairs.”
     She softly touched one braid. “You know, braids are all the rage right now.”
     As she continued down the hall, a grin played  at the corner of my lips. Even if she was just trying to be nice, it was a lovely gesture and made a tortured day easier.
    Even after I graduated and married, we kept in touch by mail. I'm not sure why, except for the fact that I liked her and she was a great teacher. So I sent Christmas cards, pictures of each new child, and an occasional note. When she died her daughter sent me a letter.
   “Thank you so much for corresponding with mother all through the years. She so looked forward to your letters and cards.”
     A gesture of kindness made a young girl's day. As an adult, I like to think that I somehow  made her days a little happier too.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Snorkeling Momma

Christ of the Abyss (photo from the web)
     I tried to learn scuba diving when I was in my forties. Took a class at a local YMCA. Unfortunately, I was the oldest “girl” in the class. Most of the females were in their twenties. You can imagine how much attention I got from a twenty-five year old instructor. We all sat at the side of pool as he told us what to do.
      He smiled brilliantly. “Now remember, if you need help that's why I'm here. Okay, let's get in the pool.”
      That was the last I saw of him. All those beautiful young woman. What did I expect!
      I struggled getting the mask on, turned on the oxygen and jumped into the water. I immediately sank to the bottom and panicked because I couldn't seem to breathe. I struggled to the surface, yelled for help, and still got none. I was so aggravated I left in a huff, called the YMCA and promptly got a refund. That began and ended my scuba diving dreams.   Ah, but snorkeling was something I could handle. Bob was away on business so I took the kids down to Key Largo, Florida. We splurged and stayed at a luxurious hotel. The kids spent the evening swimming in a jungle like pool. I stretched out on a deck chair and drank pinacoladas.                   
     The next morning we signed up for a cruise to the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. There were both snorkelers and scuba divers on board. We were a happy group ready for anything.
      The kids dove off the boat immediately. I was a little more cautious. I eased into the water and adjusted my mask. What I saw below almost took my breath away.
      There was Christ of the Abyss, an eight and a half foot, four thousand pound bronze sculpture that stands in twenty-five feet of water. His arms were raised as though bidding us to come to him. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen. Scuba divers could get close to the statue. I was content to take in the amazing sight around me. Thousands of fish swam, their colors intensified by the sun above. I felt I was looking through a kaleidoscope that encompassed all the colors of the universe. I could have floated above that scene forever mesmerized.
      Unfortunately, it was time to head back to the hotel. We stayed the night, then started our journey home. Along the road I spotted a small bay and slammed on the brakes to take a look. The water was crystal clear, harboring a small reef. It wasn't like the state park but it looked interesting.                 
      “Lets try snorkeling here,” I suggested to the kids.
      “You bet,” they answered together.
       Although it was a small reef, there were some interesting fish and beautiful coral. At one point, six small angelfish swam right up to my face, stared at me, then darted away. I reached out and barely touched the coral. I just wanted to see how it felt. It was sharp and I cut one finger. Well, enough of that. It was only a small cut so I thought nothing more about it.
      At home the next morning, my hands were swollen red and itched. I headed to the doctor, expecting some sympathy for my plight.
      He sat back in his chair, twining his fingers together, and began laughing.
      “Audrey, you've got the worst case of coral poisoning I've seen in years.”
      He gave me a shot for the pain, a medicated lotion to apply every few hours and told me to keep my hands out of any water until he checked me out in two weeks. As I left, he hugged me, still laughing softly.
      Thinking back, some good came out of my suffering. The girls had to do the cooking, wash the dishes, and clean up the kitchen. I got to relax...
photo from the web