Secret.

Don’t you remember? That was me you whispered your dark stories to.

Me you held next to your heart all night.

Don’t you remember when you took me onto you in the cold quiet and let me think I was beautiful?

My heart knows you now, but I will not tell my soul how it turned out.canstockphoto46116925

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The Best Seller

Reading the preface to a best-seller is a bore. Writing one must be worse. It’s like trying to keep the attention of the cute guy at the cocktail party by talking about yourself. Your mouth is moving, but you sense he isn’t listening. His eyes are scanning for something, someone—else. 

Seeing this lapse in his attention you speed up a bit. You coyly augment your story with your humble greatness. You make intelligent jokes and drop names. Finally, you throw your hair back with a knowing shake. None of it works. He’s gone. He’s gone directly to Chapter One, that bitch who puts out within the first few paragraphs. She’s not refined. She doesn’t hold back.

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Earth Day in the Garden

Every Earth Day I do something like pick up trash in the neighborhood. We live off a postcard perfect old road that used to be an indian trail. It runs along a small hill and traverses the creeks and in and out a narrow bank of craggy oaks and walnuts. Living in northern Illinois, which is flat, I was drawn to the trees and hills, mini forests really, that still dot the land, although they are dwindling as the population of Chicago 

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The backyard pond

moves further and further west. I used to say we are so far west we’ll be in Iowa soon.

Prairie does not speak to me. It is too quiet. It is too dry. The wildflowers, with their thin petals, are not enough to satisfy this water girl. I prefer lush greens from wide leaves. Huge blossoms that hang heavy on the stem, almost tropical, but in beautiful balance with humidity, light and loam.

Ah humidity, my friend. My gardens in Illinois, once I learned how to amend soil, are soul-satisfying because of it. Each home we’ve had has benefitted from my gardening, however one family who bought my forever house, has planted over one garden with grass. Too much trouble for them. They preferred a fire pit which they planted smack dab in the middle of the shade garden, among the ferns and forget-me-nots, jack-in-the-pulpits and foam flowers. They even tore out the best species of viburnum that I propagated from a 4-inch hardwood twig in the middle of winter, kept under a heated cold frame for months until roots and leaves emerged. I stalk the old house and dream of rescuing plants. Stealing, really, but I don’t think they’d notice.

So today I am going to the corner to clean out the small bog with the cattails that catches plastic bags and pop containers, putting on my version of a cheap Wellie and wading in. Frogs like our latest place and on summer evenings, when the water in the bog goes too low for them to croak about, I see them flopping across the road to our place, where we keep a man-made pond splashing until November. Usually they don’t make it through the winter in our pond, but the other day I found a mud brown frog hiding in the filter, stunned from the cold water and waiting for the sun, like me.   

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Fishing in 1966

On any summer night, bedtime in a child’s room is license to play with magic. Once the cheeks are kissed and the still-damp hair is smoothed bdolly a mother’s tired hand, once the footsteps fade down the hall and little eyes adjust to the dark, the air becomes charged by fireflies and fairies, creatures given permission from eager little souls to sprinkle them with energy for the night, energy not seen since the ice cream man jingled by at 4:10.

In this particular bedroom, two little girls a year apart in birth, who during daytime hours fight over important things like who gets the fancy spoon at supper and who sweeps the floor, are now equal comrades, anxious to burrow deep into a game of Fishing.

In case you don’t recall this game, it requires a wire hanger and a youth bed with so much stuff shoved underneath it that when a hook is made out of the hanger and then swished around underneath the bed all sorts of curious things appear when it’s yanked out again: a crusty gray ankle sock once white, a Golden Book that is too babyish to read anymore, a glow-in-the-dark rosary, a pair of underwear, a Lincoln log and wait….it’s a doll’s leg, no body to it, just a leg.

The younger girl, hanging head first over the side of the bed like a true fisher-girl reaches for the lone leg, brushes some sand off it and tries to identify its owner. It’s not a Barbie leg because Barbie dolls are not allowed. It’s not Susie Sad Eyes because it’s too long. It’s not Skipper or the Elly May Clampett doll. Those dolls are small. It seems to be the leg of an older lady. One who wears high heels because it is up on its tippy toes in a very adult lady way. Through the process of elimination the girl decides the leg must be from the Jackie doll, once belonging to an older sister. Jackie as in Jackie Kennedy. The rest of the doll is gone, ruined by an older brother who stuck it up on the dartboard and threw darts at it.

In the swirling dark of the bedroom, with the teensiest bit of light shining under the door, finding the leg is enough. To a girl sprinkled with magic, it becomes the entire beautiful Jackie doll and the wall next to the bed becomes a fancy apartment and the little girl taps the leg along the wall, walking it from room to room because that’s what you do with dolls. You create life for them.

She imagines a wardrobe and an entire social calendar filled with dates with doll men that look startlingly like Ken. She imagines wearing makeup on her eyes and probably smoking cigarettes and driving a convertible and drinking things with olives in them. She probably lives in a big city and has lots of pretty high heels to match her outfits.

The girl looks over at her sister who is silent across the sea of debris on the floor between them. The gentle summer night softly creaks with crickets. She is tired and drops the leg back to the floor, but for a few minutes more she lies suspended in that magical place of creation right before sleep.

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Tao of the Beater

She will never feel the back of her thighs sizzle on a black vinyl bench seat of a ’68 Suburban station wagon as it sits in the sun on any typical day in July.

She will never know the reassuring churn of a 1970 Plymouth Fury III at 7am on a January Tuesday while it flattens 12 inches of Michigan snow like a Clydesdale in a beer commercial.pinto

She will never sit three abreast in a Chevy pickup, sandwiched so closely between two farm boys that the hair on their arms tickles her legs as one shifts gears and the other slams an Eagles tape into the 8-track.

She will never see asphalt whizzing by under her feet through a hole the size of a football in the floor of her boyfriend’s green Pinto, the one he can’t give up because of the radio that pulls in Canada even during the day.

She will never wait two days in a tiny mountain town for spark plug wires for a Fiat.

She will never flirt with the California Highway Patrol guy when her white Ford EXP blows the head gasket while turning onto the busiest entrance ramp to the busiest highway in America at the busiest time of day.

And she will never know what she is missing, this daughter of mine who drives a reliable Toyota and dreams of a brand new Volkswagon convertible, butter yellow with a tan top. 

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The One Rule to a Life With No Regrets

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August is the dying month in my family. As July smolders into August, the buzzing days of late summer appeal to the fathers and grandfathers in our family as a good time to check out.

Held in the swollen glory of a humid day, a day so full of family reunions and ball games that it is possible for them to slip away without fuss, They made the transition from sweaty matter to incandescent soul surrounded by the sounds of family and life.

The grandmothers are not ready yet. They have life in their soft days filled with small tasks and gardens, smidgens of food and hours with photo albums. These women remember, recalling best friends and parties, boyfriends and first loves all with girlish detail and private smiles. These women have no regrets and that is how it should be.

Impending death is not the time to feel bad about your life. There is never time in life for regrets.

I used to go over events in my life to see which ones I’d like to do over. Should I have stayed in Colorado when I was twenty-four instead of continuing to California? Why didn’t I kiss that guy when he was standing right in front of me?  Why didn’t I buy that old Porsche when I had the money and no children? It has taken me years to accept that there is no purpose in beating myself up over past decisions. I have free will. I exercised it.

A life of no regrets requires no bucket list to define it and until we can all easily transport ourselves to another time and dimension, we are stuck with our lives as they happen. Regret just gets in the way.

Don’t despair. Here is the one rule to enjoy a life of no regrets: Be grateful.

Gratitude is love energy and that is powerful stuff. It propels the Universe and lives inside of you making every cell sing with happiness, health and those nifty rejuvenating hormones.

That’s it. Be grateful for every little thing that’s ever happened to you because you know what? It really DID happen for a reason, a reason you helped bring about (with the help of thoughts, emotions and the wonderful world of physics!).

So stop regretting the one who got away, the money you never made and the trips you didn’t take. Gratitude is the plan for the day, the focus of your prayer, the sound of silence. Gratitude is the wind on your face and the scent of lilies, the sun on your arms and tears on your cheeks. It’s the smile on your daughter’s face and the love in your husband’s eyes. It’s the sand in your shoes, the stones you collect, the business that tanked, the dog you found, the hair that’s thin, the wrinkles you hate. It’s the life you live.

It’s all good because you are an energetic being within the Universe and the Universe doesn’t make mistakes.

When I ran into an old friend (the one I regretted not kissing when I wanted to) I was ready to reminisce over a bottle of wine about a love life lost when he put everything into perspective for me. “Mimi, if we had gotten together then, I’d be divorced from you, not my second ex-wife.”

Bullet dodged. So grateful.

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FIVE. ALL THE WAY.

SCAN0097When I was four I decided my favorite number was five because it seemed happy. To a child five is a milestone. Once I turned five I could venture beyond the driveway and the long lonely days waiting for  my older sisters to return at 4 o’clock. At five I could go to school just like the other kids and start to be somebody.

Five has turned out to be my major life scheduling number too. Five years in college (I know, I know). Five years in California. Five years in Chicago before marriage. Then it was five years at the new house, five years at my dream house, five years in Denver, and now it is looking like five years in the suburbs until my daughter graduates from high school and life adjusts again.

For a while I toyed around with the number seven thinking it would be lucky, but it was just awkward. Yes, the age seven was great, but 14 wasn’t. Yes, I looked forward to turning 21, but since I’d been drinking beer since I was 14 that was no big deal even though the numbers fit. And who looks forward to 49? Or 56?

My husband’s mother divided her life up into 20-year segments. Twenty of marriage. Twenty of raising kids. Twenty of being alone. These days 20 years seems way too big of a life chunk. It’s gone before you realize you’re on your third chunk.

I prefer the more nimble five. It’s flexible. Responsive. Modern. Not as hip or edgy as two I admit, but still cool. Two can come off as a tad flighty. We all know three is predictable, and four is just boring, so it’s five. Five all the way.

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