Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Doctor's Orders

I sit very still on the examination table. The sound of the crinkly paper under my thighs is distracting. I want to listen, very carefully, to the doctor's advice.
"Anxiety is the body's natural response to danger," he says. "Many years ago, if a person was being chased by a bear, for instance, the person would experience anxiety. It's called the fight or flight instinct. The person's blood pressure would rise; and the person would be ready to run from the bear. Now, not too many people find themselves up against a bear; but the human body is still hard-wired for fight or flight. You seem to be experiencing fight or flight in situations that don't require fight or flight. Something stressful happens. Your blood pressure rises; and then something else stressful happens, and it goes up again."
"What should I do?" I ask. "I do feel stressed."
"Do you like to do anything that relaxes you?" he asks.
I think about it. I really don't like massages or running or napping or manicures.
"I like to soak in the tub and read books," I say. I would shrug; but I remember the crinkly paper. I raise my eyebrows like question marks instead.
"Do that," he tells me. "Soak for hours if that's what it takes. Read lots of books."
Doctor's orders.
And so, when I feel like fighting or fleeing, I turn on the faucet in my little tub. I don't have a fancy soaking tub. I pour bubble bath that smells like pomegranate or lemon or lavender vanilla. I pour the bubble bath directly under the hot water that streams from the faucet. I swirl my hand under the surface and lean back in the bubbles. I wear a claw clip to keep my hair dry.
I dry my hands on a towel so I don't get the pages of the book wet.
I soak until my skin is as wrinkled as the skin of a prune.
I soak until a little jagged piece of my toenail polish peels off and floats like a miniature pink island.
I soak until I read to page 100; then I read at least two more chapters.
* * *
"The good news," the doctor says, on the day he gives me a prescription for bubble bath, "is that your ancestors were probably very good at running from bears. The calm people were eaten."

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Mother Dreams of Houses

My mother dreams of houses
She dreams of our old house
the yellow house on Pear Street
the house where my sister and I
were children
the house where my mother
sat with us in the front yard
and taught us how to weave clover crowns
the house where my mother
filled the golden tub with bubbles
the house where my mother
helped us cut paper dolls
and hosted sleepovers
the house where she made blueberry pancakes
on Saturday morning

My  mother dreams of houses.
She dreams of our old house
the brick house on the hill
the house where my sister and I
were teenagers
the house where my mother
made fruit pizza and lasagna
the house where my mother
planned surprise parties
and helped with science projects
the house where my mother
waited up until we came home
the house where she signed report cards
and mailed college applications

My mother dreams she is in her old room
in our old house
She dreams she has broken a hole
through the hard wood floor
My mother dreams she is using a trowel
to dig in the ground under the floor
My mother dreams she is planting two strong trees
"What crazy dreams," my mother says
My mother dreams of houses
My mother dreams of trees
My mother dreams...of my sister and me

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

A Long Good-bye

My elementary school
was organized
with grades 2nd through 4th
on the main floor;
5th through 8th upstairs.
First grade tucked into the side wing.

Moving upstairs
was tough for me;
and I imagined,
it was tough
for my old teachers, too.
So every day,
during my fifth grade year,
I made the long pilgrimage...
from class to class,
after the bell.

"Good-bye, Mrs. Quillen," I said
to my 4th grade teacher.
She always looked surprised,
her eyes wide behind her glasses.
"Have a nice afternoon, Mrs. Carter,"
I called, lingering at her door,
hoping she might ask me
to help tidy the bookshelves
or organize the maps.

"How was your day?"
I asked Miss Davidson.
She was my dad's
2nd grade teacher, too;
and he told me
about the wooden paddle
named "Dr. Pepper"
that lived in her bottom desk drawer.
By the time I was in 2nd grade,
Miss Davidson was still teaching;
but Dr. Pepper had retired.

Finally, skipping a little,
(so I wouldn't miss her),
I made my way
down the long hall
to the first grade wing.
"Good-bye, Mrs. Shackleford,"
I said.
She drew me in
to a one-armed hug,
her heavy book bag
dangling from the opposite shoulder.

"Good-bye, Sweet Pea!" she said,
seeming to shrink each week
until the last day of fifth grade,
before summer break,
I realized I was eye to eye
with my first grade teacher.

In sixth grade,
I settled for waving
from the other side of the playground
or in passing
as we left lunch...
hanging on by the thinnest thread
to teachers who knew me.
I was learning to move on.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On the Loose

Two lanes
too busy
two hands
on the wheel
windows rolled down
cold breeze
races in
wreaks havoc

One loose paper
takes a chance
launches from the backseat
in a frenzy
over my shoulder
past my ear
out the window

I see her
in the rearview mirror
straight down the yellow line

Nowhere to pull over
I watch
as she grows smaller
a crumpled ball
dodging tires
free to roam the winds
from gutter
to lawn
to rooftop

Perhaps she'll meet
the same fate
as the plastic bag
I saw last week
trying to fly
but stuck
in the top of a leafless tree

I wonder
are all chances
worth taking?