Monday, September 26, 2005

Autumn - A 50-Word Micro Flash


We hope to maintain life’s vibrant verdant greens and rich reds, but death prevails. Beaten, we suck bitter amber liquid from glass bottles in honor of fallen comrades -- road dust on our worn-out boots, tanned arms and faces hard as leather, our dried corncob pipes cradling russet tobacco.

Soundtrack of My Life

My parents originally met while singing on a radio program. Both had lovely voices and a joy for music. I grew up listening and loving all kinds of music, from the classics to show tunes to popular music. I knew all the songs from Oklahoma, The Music Man, and Funny Girl. I wept with Sunrise, Sunset and laughed at Matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof. I knew all the leaves are brown and the sky is gray and that you could get your kicks on Route 66. I became acquainted with the old man that played knick-knack on my thumb, and I knew the old lady who swallowed a fly. I called the wind Mariah and wondered how much was that doggie in the window. I knew when Irish hearts are happy, all the world seems bright and gay, and I knew to get out of the way for old Dan Tucker. I wondered why the captain shouted for Dinah to blow her horn.

Sometimes Mom and Dad would play Moonlight Sonata on the piano. The power of that song touches a deep chord within me still. How could anyone ever forget the Red River Valley or not long to hear Shenandoah? My great grandmother and I sang Do your ears hang low to the rhythm of her treadle sewing machine, and it was from her I learned all of Mama's babies loved short'nin' bread. Grandpa taught me Ezekial connected dem dry bones, and Grandma carried me back to ole Virginny. When I took piano lessons, I learned to play and sing flow gently, sweet Afton and rock-a-bye baby.

Later, I went to scout and church camp and learned more about life through songs. I was taught the more we get together, the happier we'll be. When I was happy and I knew it, I clapped my hands. I knew if you didn't want to have a mother-in-law and fourteen kids, you'd better sip your cider from a pail. Forget about trying to get to heaven on a kite because the kite string will surely break. I knew to cover my spaghetti if anyone looked like they were going to sneeze so my meatball wouldn't roll off, and I never ate a peanut I just found laying around. I loved the mountains and the rolling hills, and knew the king of the bush was Kookaburra. Michael rowed the boat ashore while sister trimmed the sail, and I entreated the Lord to kum by ya. It was good to know the day the teddy bears have their picnic, and that if it didn't rain any more I wouldn't have to wash my neck.

As a teen I learned you could hear the whistle blow five hundred miles. No one knew where all the flowers had gone, but we all knew we'd overcome some day. This land was your land and my land, and we had a song to sing in the morning and in the evening all over this land. Who was the man who shot Liberty Valance? The answer was blowin' in the wind. I wanted to live where seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day. I knew we didn't have a barrel of money, but we could travel along, singing a song, side by side.

When I grew older, songs took on new meanings for me. In the days of wine and roses, all you needed was love. Any day now, Johnny Angel, the Duke of Earl, and Henry the Eighth would wanna hold my hand. I found out the sun shines bright on Loch Lomond and only love can break a heart. Breaking up was hard to do, but we knew our day would come. Everybody was doing the loco-motion. Ahab the Arab sang my camel to bed. We enjoyed dancin' in the street after a hard day's night and feelin' glad all over. We knew a horse was a horse (of course) and now we've been to the desert on a horse with no name. Mustang Sally, Major Tom, Mrs. Robinson, and a boy named Sue were all born free as the grass grows. I had boys sing Brown-Eyed Girl to me, although I was a Green-Eyed Lady. I knew to say a little prayer and let the sunshine in. What a wonderful world I lived in. The sounds of silence were broken only by good vibrations. We still had operators to help us make our calls, and the bare necessities included sitting on the dock of the bay and in strawberry fields forever. All along the watchtower we could see a bridge over troubled waters where proud Mary and the girl from Ipanema went walking to the house of the rising sun.

If I wanted to sing about travel, there was a white room with black curtains at the station, and a magic bus. Some guy was always leaving on a jet plane, and by the time he got to Phoenix, his woman (the one who was ever gentle on his mind) would be rising. We wondered if our friends were going to Scarborough fair and knew those boots were made for walkin'. Whether tip toeing through the tulips or riding a yellow submarine, we knew the road was long with many a winding turn, but Mary Richards reminded us we were gonna make it after all. We celebrated summer in the city, but a hazy shade of winter was kind of a drag. Kentucky raindrops kept fallin' on our heads, but we could still let a smile be our umbrella. My generation was there for the dawning of the Age of Aquarius and we coloured our world with hope. We bungled in the jungle and down on the corner, and learned to live and let die. Most of us looked at life from both sides now. Some tried to save time in a bottle. Mostly, I believe, we wanted to put a little love in our hearts.

Now that I'm older, the hills are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a million years. Memories light the corners of my mind, some too painful to remember. But it's the way we were. Welcome back, Kotter.

(c) 2004 Ginger Hamilton Caudill

"Soundtrack of My Life" first appeared in DeComp Magazine

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Happy Birthday - How Long Have You Loved Me?

“Mommy, when did you first know that you loved me?”

I’m pounding the keyboard, wrestling with the nuances of a difficult phrase, when my youngest child’s query pierces the affected armor I wear to ward off family interaction while I write. Something about her question interrupts the perfect connection between brain and fingers and I’m forced to stop typing. The words I sought are gone, leaving me to consider her justifiable request.

Just when did I first know that I loved her? Was it when I held her in my arms and she bawled, purple face scrunched, angry and indignant at being forced from the warm dark safety of my womb into the cold drafty openness of the world? Was it when her hungry perfect mouth latched onto my nipple and suckled, causing a warm and wonderful, painful yet sweet contraction in my lower belly? Was it when I caught a glimpse of her acrobatic fetal form twirling inside of me, captured for a precious moment on the ultrasound screen?

Could it have been when the doctor insisted on an amniocentesis and a dark feral shadow of fear crept across my conscious at the thought that something might be wrong with the tiny one forming within my belly? Or maybe it was when the office called and declared that she was a girl?

Was it when the pregnancy test confirmed my suspicions that an act of absolute loving passion had resulted in conception, a conception both of us wanted with all our hearts and every fiber of our being?

Or did I first start loving her when I was a girl making dream plans of how my family would turn out, with two boys and two girls, and maybe more? I’d dress my dolls and tell them how much Mommy loved them and how I’d always yearned for a daughter just like me, even though I was barely eight and didn’t yet know who I was.

I think it must have been much earlier than that. I believe in the pre-existence when all the spirits were whispering excitedly about where they’d be sent and what their lives would be like, I think she and I were dear friends. We loved one another then and promised that we’d find each other in the physical realm. Time without end, without beginning, always present since Creation.

“I’ve loved you since the stars were set and the moon was hung, my darling.”

“Good, because that’s how long I’ve loved you, Momma.”

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Moon Dance

Moon Dance

A ghostly white cat scuttles for safety
From the traitorous moon’s reflection while
I sit, hidden in the darkness, and smoke.

Black men walk the street and cross
When they notice me, a white woman, sitting
Alone on the stoop. They don’t want trouble.

None of us wants trouble – not the cat,
Not the black men, not me. I want to live
Bare-footed and dance in a meadow.

Instead buildings stand shoulder to shoulder
And crowd me, push me, smother me with
Their occupants’ conversations and shouts.

I was born to walk barefoot on grass, yet
My journey has brought me to this godless
Urban forest where even the cats live in fear.

I stroll through the garden to relax
(And to give the black men respite from
Local cultural expectations that I don’t expect)

And I sway in the darkness, hidden from
The treacherous moon’s light, and I dance
As a loving wind brushes my hair with his lips.

This ephemeral moonlight ballet will sustain me
Through another month of imprisonment in this
Strange cold place called the city.

(c) 2005 Ginger Hamilton Caudill

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Only A Week? Sheesh, What A Week It's Been

I was hospitalized, nearly died, learned of a serious health problem that had gone undiagnosed. Came home, been trying to adapt and adjust to my new routine. Quit smoking -- started again just today (after a week) but I don't intend to continue.

Thought I'd go for a relaxing stroll in the garden and discovered the yard men had whacked my tea roses to the ground. These weren't just any tea roses either; they were from my late father's rose garden. I'd even written an essay about them. I was literally so numb that I didn't cry but just stood there, dumbfounded, and stared at their stubby one-inch high remains.

I'm sure there's a lesson in all this. When I figure out what it is, I'll let you know.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Aloha, Gilligan, May you R.I.P.

Bob Denver passed away Tuesday of cancer. He was one of West Virginia's gifts to the world. I'm sure he never dreamed he would shake loose from his role as Maynard G. Krebs, the bearded beatnik in "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis." Denver's name was tied to the Gilligan character for the rest of his life.

Sail on, Little Buddy. Have a toke for me.

Going Back to The Flood

Someone from my local area posted a reply which led me to an annual potluck supper involving 1961 Flood Survivors. The picnic is Saturday; I plan to attend. I'm filled with black holes -- I won't recognize anyone and they probably won't recognize ME. I wasn't quite four years old the night of the flood. Both my parents are deceased. There wil be likely be people who remember my father because of his liberal ideas. Maybe even my mother because of her huge pregnant belly and the fact that her baby boy survived floating on a mattress. I'm sure no one remembers me.

I want to find out who Joe is/was and thank him. I want to hear the stories. I want to tie up the loose ends and learn people's names. I want to thank everyone for helping us that long dark rainy night.

Please honor the survivors of Katrina's floods. Give more than you think you can give -- they truly are starting over with nothing. Remember, our little family came out of the water stark naked, without jewelry or anything. But at least we had each other and a community around us who kicked in and did what they could to help us start over.