Tuesday, March 21, 2017

21/31: Something About Salt Air #sol17

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting the #sol17 writing challenge!

There's just something about salt air. 

Each breath in is a promise, each exhale a freedom. Brine mixes with the sort of sunshine you only find next to the ocean, and with every lungful, I feel new. But there is a familiarity there. A comfort. Salt air always tastes the same, no matter how long it's been since you breathed it last. 

I walk toward the waning sun, next to my sister and behind my mother. Translucent jellyfish who long ago gave up the ghost dot the beach that stretches in front of me. They catch the light, looking like delicate soap bubbles that have yet to burst. Miniscule shells crunch beneath my bare feet, their textured sides mingling with the puttylike consistency of the wet sand that tickles my toes. Above, a bright red kite soars in the blue, blue sky, the cherry on top of the sundae that is today. 

My sister and I share the same stride, our feet striking the sand in tandem. We talk, pull faces, and execute overwrought leaps (a halfhearted attempt to recall the days when we used to dance) that cause us both to double over in laughter.  She points out dogs and wishes they would come closer so that she could pet them. I dart into the cold waves, shrieking each time the tide envelops my toes. Our wind-tossed hair mingles as we walk. Her brown strands are darker than mine, but the texture is the same. 

Time has passed since we were last together, but us? We are the same. We pick up right where we left off. We are a beloved book that has been shelved whose story is instantly familiar the moment it is opened again. 

My sister squints against the sun and looks forward at our mother, who is slowly becoming smaller and smaller as she moves away from us. 

"Let's catch up to Mom." 

I nod. I take in a deep breath. There's just something about salt air. Each breath in is a renewal, each exhale a declaration. 

And I run, exhaling and screaming and giggling and whooping like I'm six again. And my sister is right beside me, our feet striking the sand in tandem, our breaths mixed with bursts of laughter. 

We close the gap. We reach my mother at the same time. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

20/31: In Transit #sol17

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting the #sol17 writing challenge!

Author's note: I'm traveling to South Carolina today to see my family, so here's a short poem (written in twenty minutes since that's the duration of my free wi-fi here...get it together, Lambert!).

The airport is...
A revolving door,
The in-between,
A constant state of limbo. 

We are
We are
In transit. 

I am a boomerang 
But always returning
Back to where I started. 

Sunday, March 19, 2017

19/31: The Cinnamon Roll That Wasn't #sol17

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting the #sol17 writing challenge! 
9:50 AM.

I sighed and turned my phone over so that I wouldn't be tempted to check the time again. 

"She said 10, right?" I looked at my husband, the corners of my mouth turning down slightly, a move that he knows is the precursor to the Full-Blown Katie Pout (TM). 

He nods his head. "Do you want to wait?" 

I looked at the table in front of us. Both of our dishes were empty. Traces of my ham and egg burrito and smears of the whipped cream from his French toast were the only remnants of our breakfast. I glanced over at the chalkboard sign over the counter that bore the words that had haunted me since we walked through the doors of Russell's Cafe: Saturday is Cinnamon Roll Day! 

I looked Scott dead in the eye. "Yes." 

I have A Thing for cinnamon rolls. Simply put, I adore them. They are nature's perfect food. So naturally, when Scott and I arrived at Russell's at 9 AM, the first thing out of my mouth after the perky girl behind the cash register greeted me was, "So, about those cinnamon rolls..." 

Her face fell momentarily. "Yes, we have cinnamon rolls, but they're not ready yet. They take a while to proof. They'll be done around 10, I think." 

So here we were. Our breakfast was finished. Scott had drank at least three cups of coffee. I was nursing my second glass of iced tea and had read the free copy of St. Louis's food magazine from cover to cover in an attempt to take my mind off of the cinnamon roll (of course, this happened to be their pastry issue. Mission NOT accomplished).

10:05 AM.

Just as I was about to give up all hope, I heard a squeal from the girl at the register. "Oh, they're ready?! Awesome!"

She could only be talking about one thing.

I swear my ears literally perked up. I sat up a little straighter, waiting to witness the moment where the pastry I had (not so) patiently been waiting for was placed behind the counter next to the cookies, scones and muffins already on display.

Another worker walked out from the back, reverently holding a giant cast-iron pan. Inside sat six of the largest cinnamon rolls I had ever seen, each the size of a small dog. I'm pretty sure a heavenly glow surrounded the pan. The aroma was enticing. The rolls were perfectly browned. Steam rose from each perfect rosette of happiness. But something was missing...

"There's no...there's no icing?" I tore my eyes away from the rolls to look at Scott. The sorrow in his eyes confirmed my fears. NAKED CINNAMON ROLLS? The horror! 

10:10 AM. 

I picked up my keys and slid out of the booth. Scott didn't have to ask; I had already made up my mind.

There would be no cinnamon rolls eaten today. After all, when it comes to breakfast pastries, a girl's gotta have standards. 

Saturday, March 18, 2017

18/31: Where the Music is #sol17

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting the #sol17 writing challenge! 
Author's Note: I had the pleasure of hearing Noam Pikelny play at The Old Rock House last night. I have a deep, deep appreciation for bluegrass music, so this was basically my version of nirvana. 

I shift on the leather stool I am perched upon, straining my eyes in the dim lighting of The Old Rock House to gaze at the small stage scattered with various stringed instruments. The low murmur of conversations floats across the intimate venue as we wait. The crowd is small and varied. An older man with suspenders and a flowing beard stands next to a girl in a floral dress. Off-duty musicians are given away by the callouses on their fingers. Older couples twine their arms around each other's waists, their heads tipped together as they wait for the main act to arrive. I take it all in. I am waiting too. 

Finally, the night's entertainment begins. An unassuming dark-haired man with a banjo slung across his shoulder walks to the center of the sparse stage, and without preamble, launches a shower of bright notes across the room, flinging them across the rapt audience as if they were candy at a parade or meteors darting across a night sky. The fingers of his right hand dance, the silver pick catching the light as it moves up and down the strings. His left hand waltzes up and down the fretboard. We jiggle our feet, nod our heads and tap our fingers to the beat he sets, but we are otherwise silent. This music demands to be heard. 

He looks over the crowd, not at it, as he plays. His eyebrows arch in time with his notes. In brief moments, a smile quirks at the corners of his mouth, interrupting his otherwise stoic expression. As I watch him do what he so clearly loves, I think that he is somewhere else. He is not here, in St. Louis, playing for a crowd united only by their common love of bluegrass music. He is playing for himself. He is where the music is. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

17/31: The Forgotten Junkyard #sol17

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting the #sol17 writing challenge! 
I don't remember how old I was when I first came across the forgotten junkyard. Most of the memories I keep from the ages of seven to fifteen that have taken on an impressionistic quality, as if someone has taken their hand and smeared it across the still-wet paint. 

But I remember walking through the line of forest that cradled the 30 acres of land I grew up on, the smell of the decaying leaves wafting up with each step, the peculiar sort of silence that blankets places where human footprints are rare. I remember seeing the rusted plow, then the Pepsi can with a label that looked familiar yet foreign at the same time, then the burnished gold of an empty lipstick tube that was too ornate to be something that you'd find on a vanity today. And then I couldn't stop looking. 

This was not a diamond in the rough; it was the rough spot on a diamond. This was a landfill in the midst of my sacred trees. The oasis of the forest, teeming with life, gave way to this display of decay, recalling days where trash was left behind without a second thought. Discarded memories lay on their sides, slowly sinking into the ground, waiting to be forgotten for good. 

I stood. I looked, and I wondered, stories spinning in my head of the glamorous lady who had rolled the lipstick tube up and carefully painted her mouth and the man who had once looked at this plow with pride after a long day's work. 

These false stories lingered in the air, fabrications of my imagination, and for a moment, this blighted mark in the middle of the forest looked more like a beacon, shining with possibilities. I knew I would return here because it was both mysterious and familiar, history in layers, begging to be explored. 

And I did, for many years. I retraced my steps, always finding it right when I was sure this would be the time this portal to the past had closed. I discovered something new each visit: a set of curlers, a mason jar half-buried in the loamy soil with a fern growing steadily inside of it, a rusted Folger's can full of nails. My parents shrugged their shoulders when I asked where the forgotten junkyard had come from, but it didn't matter. It was there, and I had found it. 

 Someone else lives on those 30 acres now. I hope that, someday, as the smell of the decaying leaves surrounds each step he takes in the forest that I loved, he comes across the forgotten junkyard. And I hope that, for a moment, he pauses and wonders. Just like I once did. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

16/31: The Day Before Spring Break #sol17

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers for hosting the #sol17 writing challenge!

The day before spring break is sharing writing while sipping Kool-Aid.
It's reading, commenting and thinking.
It's the audible sigh of satisfaction that accompanies a job well done.

The day before spring break is hallways brimming with excitement.
It's Florida, Memphis and Cuba. 
It's lockers slamming with finality.

The day before spring break is the slumping shoulders of an exhausted teacher.
It's conferences, piles of paper and the light at the end of the tunnel. 
It's "I love my job, but now, it's time to rest." 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

15/31: The Purrfect Prank #sol17

Thanks to the Two Writing Teachers blog for hosting the #sol17 writing challenge!
"Quick! SHE'S COMING!"

With a flurry of motion, Victoria, Chloe and I gathered up the scraps of paper, tape and scissors. It was evidence. Victoria's red bun bobbed merrily as she disposed of our paper trail in the recycling bin, and Chloe's brown eyes shone with mirth as she darted across the room as if she was searching for fingerprints. I stuck my head out of the door and checked the hallway. Coast was clear. For now. 

I looked around the math classroom. It looked normal...until you really started looking. Then, you began to see them.


A furry fluffball peered out from one of the pockets of the calculator caddy. One stretched languidly across the clock, lining up perfectly with the minute hand. Cats covered the stapler, the tape dispenser and the water cup on Mrs. Porter's desk. Two glowing eyes peered out from the plant that sat on the windowsill. We had even taped a picture to the projector screen and rolled it up so that the next person who pulled it down would be confronted with cuteness. 

This was not a random cat bombing. No, this was purposeful. The portraits were all of one feline in particular: Victoria's Persian cat, Percy.

How could you threaten to deep fry such
a cutie?!
It all started last week when Mrs. Porter threatened to deep fry Victoria's precious Percy as a joke. Not one to just allow someone to disrespect her precious pet, Victoria sidled up to me one day and told me her plan. She'd make Mrs. Porter love Percy. And what better way to do it than to make her see his cute little face everywhere she turned? As a lover of both cats and pranks, I was all in. 

So, at the end of the day yesterday when Mrs. Porter ran home to let out her dogs (of course she's a dog person), we sprang into action. With all the aplomb of three criminals carrying out a heist, we came, we saw and we cat-bombed. 

I have to say, it was all worth it when, half an hour later, Mrs. Porter returned, walked into her classroom and shrieked, "Why are there CATS everywhere?!" The three of us, who were hiding out in the classroom next door, dissolved into giggles, proud that our prank had gone off purrfectly...no cat-astrophe this time. 

(P.S. Sorry not sorry about the awful puns. I have a thing for bad puns.)