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

Saturday, July 14, 2012

"The Simpler Years" Published on Dew on the Kudzu

"Dew on the kudzu" celebrating the Southern Written Word, published my short story "The Simpler Years" online on July 9, 2012. It is printed below. To visit their website, click on this link which will take you to the home page. You can see the latest stories by others there. To find my story on the site, go to the left hand side of the home page and scroll down to Search for Stories Here blank. Put my name in the blank and hit go! Look for my next story to be published on August 14th.

The Simpler Years

The Simpler Years

By Audrey Frank

     When I was a child, if you didn’t have an open front porch to sit on, you sat on the front steps and watched your neighbors and friends go by. Summers were a time of simple magic shared with loved ones.
     One summer evening, when I was visiting my Aunt Ida and Uncle Jim, the three of us sat on the front steps, and breathed in the soft night air.
     Uncle Jim puffed silently on his ever-present pipe. He didn’t care if the tobacco was lit. He just liked to puff his pipe and tap it in the palm of his hand. That gesture stays fresh in my mind today when I think of him.
     Suddenly, he looked up at the velvet sky and pointed.
    “Falling star. See it?”
    Sure enough, a tiny, bright blaze of light shot across the sky.
    Uncle Jim nodded wisely. “Somebody just died and went to heaven,” he mused.
    The thirties were an innocent time. People talked more about superstitions. Maybe they didn’t really believe, but they sure talked about them!
    Today, every strange happening can be scientifically explained into oblivion. I think I liked it better when we saw a smiling face in the craters of the moon rather than watching our TV set while astronauts tramped all over it.
     My generation grew up on a myriad of superstitions. Don’t walk under a ladder. Don’t let a black cat cross your path. Don’t step on sidewalk cracks. God forbid you broke a mirror. If you touched a frog or a toad you’d get warts. (That one made me chuckle as an adult! My children and I caught frogs and lizards when we lived in central Florida.)    
     Now we know warts are caused by a virus, so haul out Compound W. We break a mirror and buy a new one. And when was the last time you avoided stepping on a crack?
    Looking back, it all seems silly. It sure was exciting for a young kid, though. I mean, nobody would put shoes on a table. Who wanted to stay single all their life? Black cats summoned visions of witches and were to be avoided like the plague. Toadstools sprouting on the lawn brought good luck. If you took green moss, put it in a jar of water, when the next full moon rolled around, it might turn to gold.
     Nonsense? Of course. Exciting to a child? Absolutely!
     So the three of us sat on the stoop and stared solemnly at that falling star. I held Uncle Jim’s hand tightly, hoping it wasn’t someone I knew.

Bio on Audrey Frank

     At eighty-four, Audrey Frank is getting back to her roots of writing. In her younger years, with children at home, her time was devoted to raising her family and writing children’s stories. She had over a hundred short stories published in religious magazines for children. That field is now fairly obsolete. Remember True Confession magazine? Several of her adult stories were published there. True confessions were more na├»ve then compared to the tell-all writing today. She placed with others finalists in a Writers Digest competition in the mid sixties.
     Life changed, as it does, and writing was put to the side.  Now from her home in historic St. Augustine, Florida, she has joined a writer’s group and is writing daily at the computer. Memoir writing is the genre she loves best now. She is transcribing her journals into short written essays and sharing a time lost with others.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

July Artist Of The Month at Claire's Collectibles Art Rubber Stamps.

July Artist of the Month - Audrey Frank.

Visit Claire's Collectibles online
or at the shop located at
78-A San Marco Avenue
St. Augustine, Florida 32084

Artist of the Month Link

"Audrey Frank likes to do larger cards, because it gives her more to work with.  One of her techniques is to use copies of backgrounds that her daughters have either painted or she photographed.  All she has to do is add a foreground.  For example, the photo of the flamingo planter is perfect for the fairy, and the bathing beauty is a nice touch for the painted beach scene.

Audrey has been stamping for over 20 years and recently resumed writing short stories about her past.  Ask her about the monkeys!"

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Geese That Never Went Near The Water

Beatrice and Hannabel

   My husband, Bob, was very skeptical of any pets the kids and I brought home. He liked dogs – that was a manly thing. It was all the critters we'd sneak by him that he objected to. Still, because he loved us, he would relent and a new pet was added to our household.
      We had just moved into a house with seven acres of land off a large lake in Winter Haven, Florida. Along with the house there was an artists' shack facing the lake. It seemed like a sublime location. Still, something was needed and the kids and I found the perfect answer.
      While at the local feed store we spotted two geese in a large cage. Daughter Barbara and I looked at each other and nodded simultaneously. They would be a perfect addition to the back yard.
      “But what about Dad?” Son Steve was concerned. Our third child, Pam, was not with us that day.
      “It'll be okay” I assured him, so we crated up Beatrice and Hannabel and headed home. Where to hide them for a while? The artist's shack seemed the perfect answer. We herded them into it, filled a large container with water so they could get wet, and set out a bowl with food. They'd do nicely there until we broke the news to Bob.
      This worked for about a week. I don't know how, but the geese got out of the shack.
      Bob had gotten home one night and was standing looking out at the lake.
      “Hey, Aud, look what wandered on – oh, no, are they ours?”
      I had already fixed him his martini and I scrambled out to where he stood. He raised an eyebrow and cocked his head at me.
      I gave him a quick kiss and smiled. “They really will make a great addition to the yard,” I purred.
      Suddenly Bob laughed. “What am I ever gonna do with you and your pet mania?”
      “Love me and accept my quirkiness,” I suggested.
      He did and things settled down for the night.
      The next morning I went outside to feed Beatrice and Hannabel. They were nowhere in sight. Had they swam off during the night? I checked the shack and there they were, happily jumping in and out of the water.
      “No,no.” I scolded them. “You belong outside now.”
      I finally got them back on the lawn. I walked toward the lake calling them. “C'mon, babies.”
      They just sat there, honking as though to say “No thanks.”
      They didn't budge. I dragged the container of water to where they were squatting. They immediately took turns hopping in and out. With a whole lake waiting, they were happy where they were. At nightfall I watched them waddle back into the shack.
      Bob just chuckled. “Looks like you've got landlubbers there. Just let them alone.”
      Nope, I decided, geese belong swimming gracefully in the lake.
      They were back in the yard the next morning, gobbling up the food I had put out and, you guessed it, hopping in and out of the container. The lake didn't hold any appeal to them.
      For a frustrating week I tried to train them to follow me down to the lake. Where was the answer? Was it because they had been cooped up too long at the feed store? Or did I just have two stubborn geese on my hands? I finally realized Bob was right. They were more fun to look at closeup anyway.
      Beatrice and Hannabel lived happily doing their own thing, honking their approval when I would approach with their daily feed. Sometimes I felt they had outsmarted me. Still, as long as they were well and content, that's what counted.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

A House Of Love

     Aunt Ida's house was always warm and welcoming.  As soon as I was allowed to take  my bicycle off our block, I'd whiz the six streets to Aunt Ida's. As my legs pumped rapidly up and down, my heart sang. Her house was a place of refuge for me.
     From the minute I entered her back door and climbed the three steps up to her kitchen, I knew I was with someone who loved me. She didn't expect anything from me. I just felt secure.
     There was always a tender hug and a kiss, and an offer of something to eat. A pot of some sort of soup or stew forever bubbled on the stove. Her kitchen smelled like love should smell – delicious and comforting.
     If nothing else, Aunt Ida was predictable. Her kitchen was the heart of her home. Sunny, yellow polka dot curtains hung at spotlessly clean windows. A large breakfast nook was the place to sit and munch fresh baked cookies with frosty milk in oversized glasses. From the comfort of padded wooden chairs you looked out on a small but well kept garden.
     I remember I was nine years old and I had just seen Shirley Temple in the movie “Heidi”. I had raced over to Aunt Ida's  to tell her about the wondrous chunk of yellow cheese that Heidi had toasted golden brown over an open fire.
     “It was hard and crusty on the outside, but inside it was all soft and warm,” I explained.
      A twinkle lit Aunt Ida's eyes.
     “Really? I just happen to have a chunk of cheddar cheese and some fresh baked bread.”
     Did she mean what I thought and hoped? Could we really melt cheese right there in the kitchen? As though in answer to my unasked question, Aunt Ida produced a large, two-pronged fork and a brick of hard, yellow cheese. I could feel my mouth watering. I licked my lips in eager anticipation.
     Aunt Ida jammed the cheese on the fork, lit the front gas burner on her immaculate stove, and handed me the fork.
     “You heat this while I put out the bread and butter.”
     Maybe I wasn't at an open campfire in the middle of a green forest, but Heidi had nothing on me. I held the cheese over the flame. I could already taste its warm, soft goodness.
     The cheese started to char and little yellow bubbles exploded to the surface. I could even smell them. I turned to let Aunt Ida know it was almost ready. Suddenly there was a thud and sparks flew from the burner. I stared in horror as my beautiful chunk of golden cheese splattered all over the immaculate stove top.
     Quickly, Aunt Ida was by my side. She shut off the burner and shook her head. Gooey melted cheese had oozed over the burner and white porcelain stove top. It was a yukky mess, and I held my breath waiting for Aunt Ida to yell at me. I peeked at her out of the corner of my eye. She was laughing.
     “Audrey, love”, she chuckled, still shaking her head. “From now on you'd better leave this kind of cheese melting to Heidi.”
     I helped her clean up the mess, totally disillusioned with movie magic. Heidi's cheese must have been phony not to fall apart. And I was overwhelmed with love for this gray-haired, stout lady who took it all in stride with never a harsh word.