Category Archives: Flights of Imagination

Christmas Came Early.

Christmas came early for me this year.  It is always a thrill when I receive an email from the editors at Chicken Soup for the Soul that states an essay I’ve written and submitted  will be included in a new book.

My essay, called Community Spirit,  is very special as it involves my son, Nick Baker. Nick’s love of music, especially Christmas tunes, gave impetus to the tale of how we’ve come to attend a Seattle area event, Great Figgy Pudding Caroling Competition, as the annual launch of our holidays each year. This year we celebrate twenty years of attendance.

The folks at the Pike Market Senior Center, the beneficiary of funds raised at the Caroling Competition,  share my enthusiasm. I have been invited to sign copies of this Christmas volume and proceeds on sales of the book will be added to their coffers that evening.

My essay is one of 101 and each will bring joy to the hearts of readers.   I hope you all enjoy it too.

Christmas came early
Christmas came early
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Chocolate Comfort

As I pushed my cart through Trader Joe’s, I nursed my perceived wounds.  Earlier in the day I attended a writer’s workshop, an opportunity to see if my novel in progress proved marketable. All twenty four attendees, myself included, met the month prior with speakers who shared with all of us the work that lay ahead. I left this portion of the program inspired to rework the theme of my pitch to promote my novel to a literary agent.

The next few weeks I wrestled with words, read, reread and rewrote again. I called a friend and consulted, read my three paragraph synopsis to my husband, and queried both of them on my content.

“If you read this on the book’s back cover, would you be intrigued enough to open the book and read the first few pages?  Or would you put it back on the shelf?”

My husband waffled.  “I only read non-fiction, so maybe not the best person to ask.”

“Oh, I’d want to read it!” said my friend.

But hey, what are friends for if not to offer support?

I crafted what I believed to be a great start line, reread my three paragraphs for the umpteenth time, printed it out and departed for the workshop in great spirits.

I left the session with a flattened ego.

Instead of commentary on the brilliant pitch I’d worked on for weeks, I received no particular feedback at all.  I was the next to the last person to read. The literary agent listened to twenty two individuals before I took my turn. Made sparse notes; I observed  only one piece of paper on the table .  I watched as the notes were jotted up the side margin.  Possibly one too many hopeful authors’ story caused the “random access module” of his brain’s processor to max out.

On the drive home I chided myself. “Don’t take this so personal, rejection is part of the game.” I believe I possess a thick hide when it comes to critical advice. I take the bad with the good. I just needed some “retail therapy”. I drove directly to my favorite foodie store.

Wounded animal instinct propelled me into the frozen food aisle.  My shopping list included staples in my freezer like the Triple Pepper Mélange that needed to be replenished. The top shelves of this aisle are stocked with items I cannot resist, cookies and confectionary items. By the time I’d reached the checkout line my cart contained not only the items on my list but clear plastic tubs of Dark Chocolate covered Caramels and Roasted Pistachio Dark Chocolate Toffee.

Fortune smiled upon me as I sat in my car, my goodies on the front seat next to me. As I struggled with the plastic tamper proof rings, I dialed my sister. Thank goodness she answered right away! I poured out my heart and she made sympathetic noises.  I cannot munch on chocolate covered caramels and carry on coherent conversation at the same time. I felt better and ceased to tamp down my hurt feelings with  the chewy truffles.

I arrived home and began to unload my shopping bags. My husband greeted me.

“So, how did the workshop go?”

I met his gaze and mumbled “Tell you later.”

My husband took in my activity; the candy containers I’d shoved onto the top shelf of the highest kitchen cupboard and wisely posed no further questions.

If I said the uneaten chocolate wound up in the trash, I’d be a liar.

Tomorrow I’ll don my “big girl panties” and get back to work on a rewrite of chapter twenty-nine.

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Like! Share!

Hope for Hallmark® a Sabbatical from Likes…

It’s can’t be that difficult to actually write, with pen and paper a proper letter, or at least a note… of thanks.  The greeting card industry has survived for the last century, on sales of not only the printed version of birthday greetings,  but cards to celebrate other noteworthy (yes, pun is intended) occasions.

Store shelves and twirling spinners are filled full of lovely embellished cards, some worthy of framing and hanging on the wall. Every retailer seems to offer up the opportunity, lest one forget to commemorate an anniversary or console a friend who is under the weather.

Clever are the retailers who have “captive customers” such as those milling around at the local carwash. I admit to finding some of my best cards in these establishments. I had plenty of time too.  Not only were they washing my car, but changing the oil and checking the other fluids.

Ever intrepid, my local Danny’s Family Car Wash even had a windshield chip repair technician on site. I could read “War and Peace” whilst the tiny dings on my windshield were repaired and my windshield rendered safe from further damage. Unsealed chips might develop into unsafe cracks at any time and I needed to be prepared.

Back to my rant about how hard is it to actually communicate in written form. Many were certain that using email would be the death blow for the US Mail. Fortunately, spam in the form of mass mailing circulars will keep these couriers moving on the swift completion of their appointed rounds for many years to come.

When email to a friend failed to elicit a response, I spied her on the side Chat Bar that tells me who is logged into Facebook and sent her a message. She responded immediately.

Facebook, it seems, is the new communication platform by which many of our friends, a term used quite freely these days, utilize to spread their news, opinions, and post pictures of sometimes questionable taste.  Greeting cards are even posted on this massively viewed medium. Look out Birthday Alarm Greetings… your future may be in peril too.

I admit it… sometimes I have succumbed to clicking on the little thumbs up icon, better known as “liking”, when I felt compelled to let the friend know that I saw their post and enjoyed its content. I have even gone down the road of “sharing” posts of items that I truly “liked”.

My Home Page fills so rapidly with posts and people liking and sharing other people’s posts. One of my dear cousins recently called me out, for not responding to her comments on a post that I had commented on a day or so earlier.  I told her that some of my friends (she being a chief offender) post so prolifically that my fingers get tired scrolling down the screen trying to keep reading posts, as they pile into the column.

I can relate to another friend’s comment.   I feel like I am going down a To Do list each time I log into Facebook. I am compelled to click like on every post, so that my friends know I am paying attention.”  I liken this compulsion to the old anonymous doodle, KILROY WAS HERE, the graffiti made popular during WW II. Clicking on the little thumbs up or down lets everyone see that you were there… that you did indeed read the post and have marked it as such, so that all the rest of the friends know you were there as well.

Come on, admit it, you have clicked on the list of likes to see who else read an item posted by one of your Facebook friends.

A new concept is being shared around on Facebook… taking a hiatus from clicking on the LIKE button!

Imagine this. People are beginning to realize how hollow and mindless their attention to and appreciation for life events has become.  One friend stated she would stop for a week. On a later post she shared how difficult it was to not click LIKE! Maybe there is hope for the greeting card industry yet.

Spoiler alert!  I did notice that Hallmark has a Facebook page… along with all the other card companies.

I do see this as such a good step in a direction. It might lead to all sorts of random acts of communication. Two friends could call each other. OK… they’d probably TEXT. Make a  plan to get together. They’d sit down and have an actual conversation over a cup of coffee. A rich life experience, happening in person, in the moment, between two human beings!  WOW!

I was so taken with this idea that I “liked” it and “shared “it with all my friends on Facebook!

FB likes

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Puzzled!

“We’re Puzzled!” was the title of the recent letter we received.  I have to say that so were Hubby and I a bit confounded by the letter we received!”Hubby is still a member of the Alumni or at least if his membership has lapsed.. no one told the Magazine department which sends out the Alumni Association Magazine and other materials each year.

The latest outreach from my Hubby’s Alma mater is just hilarious!  I guess it would be in bad form to actually mention the institution by name… but let’s just say it is located in a state where the sun shines almost eternally and the place had a well deserved reputation as a party school. The bar was set so low back in the day that students with a C average were welcomed with open arms! If the student had great skills in joint rolling, it definitely increased their acceptance rate at the state University. I do kid, but not too far off the mark here.

The letter goes on to inquire about the lack of membership by Hubby, the alumni of said state University.  The “puzzle” theme is played on throughout the entire front page text, as they extol the benefits of continuing to support the Alumni Association.  Lists are provided to the reader of all the great activities that are supported by their funds and former graduates are encouraged to “make a difference” while enjoying the many benefits that their member avails.

The URL for the institution is peppered throughout the letter as well and the PS: at the end encourages recipients to flip over the page and find a special crossword puzzle that will test their IQ.

The puzzle is titled “Help Bonzo( name of the University’s mascot)solve this crossword puzzle.” And the reader is tipped off to the fact in the next line that if they visit “alumni ___ .edu/puzzle they will find the answers and much, much more!

This puzzle is so in keeping with the past spirit of the campus circa the 1960’s to 1980’s party school era fame.  In fact it looks like Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong may have been on consult for this fine piece of work. It smacks (no pun intended here) of their brand of comedy during their comedy album days! Their work was hilarious. In 1971 self-titled debut album of Cheech & Chong, … Their self titled  album was nominated for Best Comedy Recording at the 14th Grammy Awards.

The level of knowledge need to complete the puzzle is reminiscent of an album cut in which Chong plays Bob, a contestant on Let’s Make A Dope Deal.

(For my younger readers or my slightly “memory challenged” classmates of my age bracket:  this was a game show that asks a stoner contestant named Bob to give a correct answer to the question “What is your name?” Bob is truly challenged and  becomes more confused and anxious as he is unable to answer.  Even with the encouragement of the host, asking him “Come on BOB, what is your name” he still fails to give the correct answer in the time allocated by the clock.)

Back to our puzzle:

Example  Number one across is three letter answer and the clue says” “Also known as the Student Alumni Association” did you guess that the answer is “SAA”?

Ding! Ding! Ding! You are correct! Let’s move on to number five across which asks “What is the name of the school mascot?” Hint: look at the top of this page and read over the title!  Yup! The answer is “BONZO.” Wow, man this is so cool… you have scored two answers already! Want to try for another one?

Successive questions 4 across and 16 down ask the puzzle solver to provide the names of the school colors. Did I mention that this letter is in color? The heading of the letter has a beautiful full color rendition of the University name and logo. Wow so now if the reader is fairly accurate at spelling RED and GOLD… there are two more answers in the bag!

Bonus questions are a bit trickier but if one truly thinks about this it is not too high a level of difficulty. Here is the clue for 12 across: On their 50th anniversary, alumni come back for their _______ reunion!  Hey if you guessed “Fiftieth” you would hear the BUZZER of SHAME!  Like I said a bit of thinking is required.  Here is a clue. Those of you whose grandparents were fairly healthy probably celebrated their 50th anniversary. Do you know the other name for this celebration? Hint: it is a precious metal!

It is a shame that Hallmark no longer publishes those sweet little date calendars! Inside the front cover is a list of “Gifts for Wedding Anniversaries” starting with Number One which is “paper” and browsing the list one can see that the gift for 50th anniversary is “GOLD”. Oops… I almost gave this answer away!

Another answer that requires a bit of outside research asks the solver to give the name of the magazine published by the Alumni Association. This is usually an easy one, unless the reader lives in a household where recycling is taken out on at least a monthly schedule. Our stacks of magazines are piled on the kitchen table for several weeks… maybe a bit longer. So the answer to this one was literally right under our nose!

I truly hope that this puzzle was sent out in jest and not a genuine effort to bring the level required into line with the perception of former graduates abilities! Granted after years of abuse, I am sure that many of the minds are not as sharp as they once perceived they were.

In fairness to this fine institution and it current reputation for scholarship… rumor has it that a “Midwestern” state university has recently captured that somewhat dubious title of “Party School”.

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The icing on the cake was much thicker when I was a child.

I was about four years old. There was a beautifully decorated birthday cake sitting on the counter at my Aunt’s home. I was supposed to be down for a nap, with my cousins, to rest up before the party. I was so excited in anticipation of the upcoming party I didn’t fall asleep at all. I slid quietly off the bed and traipsed down the long hallway and into the kitchen. There was the cake.

I just could not resist. With one little, tiny, swipe of my pinkie finger, I was tasting icing. It was wonderful!  OK, well, maybe just another little one and hopefully no one will notice. I am sure you have guessed by now my 4 year old will power was no match for that yummy cake! Boy did I get into trouble! Fortunately my Aunt was able to repair the damage and the cake was as beautiful as before.

My Aunt was a great dessert and candy maker too.  I lived for her vanilla caramels at the holidays. The recipe was basically in pounds! A pound of butter, a pound of brown sugar… and more, but I am sworn to secrecy on revealing the entire recipe. I made my first batch when I was pregnant with my oldest son. I developed a very elaborate system to hopefully slow myself down and not eat the entire batch in a short time. I laboriously cut and double wrapped every single caramel with waxed paper. Next I put the pieces into not one but two Ziploc bags and placed in a cupboard. My rule was I could only eat one piece at a time and had to take them out individually and reseal both bags each time I ate one!  I remember tipping the scales with a weight gain of 40 pounds and those caramels helped me get there, I’m sure!

My Aunt’s particular ice cream recipe, for the hand cranked treat that was always a special part of every family birthday celebration on my dad’s side of the family, was a well guarded one. Even as an adult I do not believe I ever obtained that one.  I remember the caramel taste profile. I believe it had some canned milk added that made it extra creamy and just a tad smoother than my Mom’s mix.  I do remember how happy we was when it was this Aunt’s turn to provide the mix for freezing. Here is the closest recipe I have found:

HOMEMADE ICE CREAM
1 qt. milk
1 c. sugar
6 eggs
2 c. Milnot
2 pts. half & half
2 c. sugar
4 tbsp. vanilla

 

Beat eggs and sugar 3-4 minutes. Add milk. Cook until hot. Cool. Add Milnot, half & half, 2 cups sugar and vanilla. Put in gallon of ice cream freezer. Freeze.

To offset the expense of ingredients needed to produce ice cream for the whole tribe, each family in attendance contributed additional batches of “mix” for the freezers or toppings.

At a different birthday party, my Mom elected to bring peanuts for our family’s part. Times were tight and the purchase of expensive canned peanuts was a splurge in the grocery budget. It was decided that the entire can could not be taken to the party, so a portion was doled out into a suitable serving dish, sitting on the counter next to the kitchen window.

I observed the preparation of these precious treats.  I waited until the supply was unattended and decided to get a taste of the rare snack.  When I reached up to get a peanut, I noticed that insects had discovered our treat for the party as well. A tiny stream of red ants was going to and from the bowl and out a hole in the kitchen window screen. I ran to report the ant’s invasion to my mother. She was horrified. Already in a bit of trouble with Dad over this extra expense, and knowing that there were no funds to replace these Peanuts with more from the grocery, she made a decision.  Very carefully she sifted through all of the peanuts in the bowl, removing every last ant. I was sworn to secrecy and promised to not reveal to any family members, especially my Dad, of this little deception.

When the ice cream was served and family members worked their way through the various jars of chocolate and caramel syrups, the sprinkles and of course those peanuts.  I stood by keenly watching in anticipation of a scream of discovery that additional ingredients were discovered in that bowl of nuts. When this did not happen, I finally blurted out “Gee I am so glad that none of those ants got in the ice cream toppings.” This let the proverbial cat out of the bag. My red faced mother grimaced as she explained to everyone what had transpired prior to their arrival at the party. She had a very stern look for me too. I was definitely in trouble. I knew that when we returned home, punishment awaited me, from both my parents.

The best part of every family birthday party was cranking the ice cream, either in a back yard or during the winter month birthdays, in the basement of the host  family’s home.   We youngsters could start cranking when the chilled ice cream mixture was first put into the cans and paddles set for churning. As the cream mixtures turned to more solid form, the men in the family all took turns, putting their muscle to the task required to complete the process. Think about that extra high pitch that my modern CuisineArt ™ electric Ice Cream maker makes as it nears the end of a cycle. That sound would be similar to the emanations from the men as they did those last few cranks!

4-grandma-hand-crank-ice-cream

Removing the paddles to let the ice cream “cure” was the best part. Any kids who happened to be hanging around in the kitchen were handed spoons and lined up for a turn to clean off the ice cream that clung to those wooden paddles when removed from the can. It was more the consistency of soft serve frozen custard, not hard like the store bought ice cream. We’d line up with small bowls and spoons drooling in anticipation for a few rapidly melting dollops.  Probably the only time ever I remember getting to have dessert first. I chuckle at this memory when I see the Pacific Dessert bumper stickers on cars. They read “Life is Uncertain… Eat Dessert first”.

Eventually my grand dad purchased an electric ice cream freezer. He had to endure a lot of kidding from his sons and other men in family, but he said it was too hard on his back to bend and crank! This and many other changes occurred as I grew up. I eventually married and had ice cream freezers to crank and birthday cakes to ice for my own children’s birthdays.

Grandparents age and die. Sadly, sometimes little cousins do also, way before they should. My Aunt had to endure the ache created by her youngest child, leaving this earth before she was even in Kindergarten. The cake I mangled that afternoon may have been one of the last my Aunt had made before her young daughter died.

I imagine that the icing, on any cake, was never thick enough for my Aunt ,ever again.

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Frost Filled with Opportunity

 

Frost whitewashing the cars created a fresh pallet for an imaginative artist to create some whimsical creatures. Thanks to Bristol AfterDark, www.afterdark.co, for posting this picture and providing inspiration!FrostOnCars

This photo plays into a “theme” from a recent writers gathering.  Topic starter phrase for our timed writing exercise was:  FROST WHITEWASHING THE CARS….

Frost whitewashing the cars levels the visual playing field. A white blanket creates a sort of anonymous cloak, covering the color of the vehicles especially.

Color is such an integral part of what the eye perceives in an object, cars are no exception. A red Corvette; that bright color almost screams “fast, speedy, hot, and sexy” to categorize this sporty vehicle. In fact a car’s red color is often heard as the “excuse” for a speeding ticket, issued because the cop noticed the red color more than a grey or white vehicle.  We are supposed to commiserate with the unfortunate recipient, rather that ignore the fact that many owners of sports cars like the Corvette Stingray, like to drive a bit faster and maybe take a few risks.

Taking color out of the equation is like removing expectations or possibly even prejudice about the abilities of an item’s performance or behavior.

Imagine that Corvette, or any sporty racing vehicle for that matter, painted a Mary Kay Pink!  A “Pepto -Bismol®” hued hotrod would be hooted at and the car’s owner could risk humiliation for the audacity to even drive up such a vehicle to the starting line of a race. The car styled with the same sleek aerodynamic lines and the same powerful engine under the hood as its bright flame colored sister would pale in comparison. It would not be the odds on favorite to win or even place in this competition.

The photo above shows what can be dreamed up when the colors are taken away. What treasure can be found?  In looking a bit deeper, scratching the surface a bit to see what is under the surface.  By digging under the frosted white exterior these impromptu artists created an opportunity to share humor with their whimsical display.

How different the world would be if one morning we all work up to a frost that masked each of our  exteriors, so that the work of knowing our fellow man involved digging a bit deeper , not judging  what we “see” on the surface.

A family joke is that our son, who is blind and works with many musicians made a hilarious mistake about the ethnicity on two of his friends.  The recording technician with short clipped speech, our son “assumed” to be a Caucasian person, like himself.  The tall skinny bowed bass player, who spoke softly in jive talk and used words that he heard from many of his black friends, was of course not African American at all.

Upon realizing his error he blurted out “I guess I truly am color blind as well as not being able to see!”

We tend to “eat with our eyes” and “judge books by their covers”.

Could we try “dining in the dark”?  There is a new restaurant in Seattle area called Seattle Blind Cafe.  www. theblindcafe.com/seattle-blind-café. It encourages diners to use their“other senses” to decide if that  unknown morsel is truly pleasing to our pallet.

Take a risk; open a book that has lost its jacket and to read for content,without expectation. Many a used book store or the local library’s used book sale has literary treasure on sale for $1 a volume.

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Vivid imagination…my entertainment!

As I rounded the corner I saw an ominous sign- a black dress on a hanger in the back window of an unfamiliar vehicle.  I looked up to the deck at the back of the house; a fluffy down comforter was hanging over the railing.  This was an odd time of year, I thought, to be airing out the bedding.

I have a vivid imagination. I love to tell stories, to anyone who will listen. If another set of ears is not available, I will entertain myself with a possible tale. I take a single clue and weave an entire story around that one little bit. A sound I hear or the sight of an object that seems a bit unusual will pique my imagination and off I go. The trajectory of that flight of fancy soars into the blue for miles.  Return to Earth happens when the reality of facts, unknown to me at the take off, pull me back into its atmosphere.

My latest story was sparked by the observation of a vegetable garden in obvious need of tending. Vegetables that I’d observed being planted and tended all spring and summer, were begging to be harvested!  I had my eye on this patch of ground for several months while walking my Norwegian elkhound.  He was a bit older and our walks were more leisurely strolls with many pauses to sniff and for me to take in the scene.  Norwegians are scent hounds. They relish every opportunity to engage their olfactory equipment, to the detriment of either one of us getting any real exercise.

That spring I strolled down that particular street, past that house on many occasions. I’d seen an elderly woman, grey hair pulled back into a bun, crouched on her knees, working in the soil of her garden.  If I spoke in greeting she’d nod and then be back to her work.

Each time I passed that corner, I would check the progress of the plantings, seeing seedlings start push through the earth.  On occasion the old woman would be bent over the rows, pulling out a weed or two that threatened to take away nourishment from the tender new plants was so intent that she did not see me or respond to my greetings.

Nor did she express any interest in my canine companion, which was rare since Norwegian Elkhounds usually garner lost of attention as we walk.  “What kind of dog is that?” is a very common question. Many a person will fondly reminisce; “Our family owned a Norwegian Elkhound when I was a kid. I loved that dog”. This comment usually followed by lots of petting and a wagging tail accompanied by joyful yips from our dog. My husband and I jokingly wonder why so many adults have such great memories but seem to have no interest in owning a Norwegian Elkhounds at the present time.

As the growing season progressed, I was  able to distinguish the feather tops of carrots, green straight tips of new onions, tendrils of what would be snap peas climbing up the stakes she’d put into the ground. A frustrated gardener myself, due to lack of space to plant on our own small property, I envied her the variety produce that I supposed she would be harvesting later in the summer.

Now on my latest walk, I saw abundance! A garden full of the fruit of the old woman’s labors appeared untouched since my last visit. Peas ready to be picked.  Rows of little baby lettuce and other greens crowded together and needing thinning out so that mature plants would have the room and nutrients needed.

What was wrong here? Looking around I saw no one at the house, or in the yard. Several cars were parked along the edge of the yard, not vehicles that I recognized either. The usual vehicles were in the driveway.  I remembered especially the Prius, since I owned a similar vintage. Mine was Salsa red; their Prius was the Cobalt blue. Maybe the old woman truly was ill, or worse had died! Maybe, the black dress hanging in the car was worn at  her funeral service!  The bedding was being air as a prelude to being packed away, never again to warm the older woman on a cold night.

What could have happened to the old woman to bring about her demise so suddenly?   Certainly nothing in her manor on the occasions I’d seen her out in the garden indicated poor health.     I had admired her agility at her older age, to be able to stay down on her knees, bent into the work, without seeming to be uncomfortable at all. I envied her this too, along with the abundant space available to till and plant! I have bad knees and if I did have the luxury of soil to be planted, I’d need that to be in raised beds, preferably hip height.

No one in the household seemed to be aware of ripe, ready to pick vegetables.  Should I offer to help out?  Intrude into the routine of caregivers busy with the tasks to help this sick woman?  A family who may be in the midst of grieving the loss of this old woman might welcome the assistance of a prepared meal arriving at the door. Receiving freshly harvested raw vegetables, needing to be cleaned and prepared might not be welcomed at all.

During a recent time of grief in my own life, I relished the distraction of preparing food for my family. A long standing family tradition, Pork and Sauerkraut served on New Year’s Eve, just after midnight, had morphed into a New Year’s Day event, but still was well attended by everyone in the clan. The most recent gathering was for my own mother’s memorial service. Though she died in the late fall, the majority of the family had already made plans for the usual New Year’s Day feast and so our memorial for Mom was scheduled to coincide.

I considered harvesting the biggest of the peas, some of the larger greens, leaving them at the front porch with a note. What should I say in my note?  I had not yet confirmed any of the possibilities that my imagination supposed. Could I knock at the door?  Maybe later without my canine companion I’d return and catch someone coming or going from the house. I decided this was a less intrusive course of action.  I certainly was not prepared to do any harvesting at that very moment anyway… the dog was whining, anxious to continue our walk. I went off, looking back over my shoulder, to see if more evidence would present itself to help me solve the riddle of the untended garden.

Back at home common sense prevailed over my impulse to harvest.  I convinced myself that any intrusion into this situation would be unwelcome. I did not actually know this family. We certainly were not on speaking terms beyond the friendly hello and nod when I passed by admiring the garden on my walks.

The next day my courage returned.  I went back up the block to the brick red Master Craft home. Reader, I did not mention this before, but this house was one of the old style homes probably build back at the heyday of the catalog homes. There were several in our community. I enjoyed seeing this one in such wonderful condition.

Seated on the front porch steps was a woman dressed in modest running gear.  She was a very fit person, several years younger than I.  Her body benefitted from regular vigorous exercise.

“Hi there, I am an envious neighbor who wishes she had as much success as you do with your garden plot.” She looked up at me but did not comment, just continued to lace her athletic running shoes.

“I am curious about the older woman I’ve seen on many occasions working out here in the yard, is she doing well? I notice that lettuce is beginning to bolt and the peas will become a bit tough if they grow much larger. They need to be picked soon.”  “I offer my assistance if that would be welcome. Or you are here today do the harvesting already?”

She chuckled, “The woman you saw is my Mom. She doesn’t live here but has enjoyed helping out in my garden. We’ve been very lazy of late. My husband and I need to get out there and cut some lettuce at the next opportunity.”

Still uncertain about the older woman I pressed on. I sheepishly explained without giving too much detail of my fantasy story; “I’d assumed your mother was the owner of the home, given its age especially.  I’d supposed that the lack of harvest had to do with her inability to complete the task and I would be happy to help out.”

“No, my Mom is just fine”. The younger woman, obviously the owner of this home, was looking at me a bit more closely; I thought to myself maybe even a bit suspiciously. Maybe she wondered that I paid too much attention to her garden!  She stood and I felt I was being dismissed. “When you walked up, I was preparing to go for a run. I need to get going now.  Thank you for your concern about my Mom and your interest in my garden.”

“We usually have more produce than we can use and often put out baskets on the curb to share with others. Please feel free to help yourself when the occasions arise.”  There was no more conversation or opportunity for me to learn more about the family.

I started to think about the fluffy goose down quilt that covered my king-sized bed and decided upon my return to home that I would air it out a bit.  It was a nice sunny day with a gentle breeze, perfect to do the job.

More strolls later in the season revealed the generosity of this errant gardener. I delighted in the occasional offerings in baskets of greens and even the occasional bouquets of flowers.  My old canine companion succumbed to the arthritis plaguing his rear legs. Most days I loaded him into the car and we drove to the local beach with a flat level boardwalk that better suited his gait than the hilly terrain of our residential neighborhood. Our neighborhood strolls curtailed, so was the opportunity to see and possibly chat with the older woman again.

I never discovered who owned the black dress hanging in that strange car. Perhaps a visitor who’d later be attending a formal gathering and needed a change of attire?  The bedding hanging over the railing was another mystery to remain unsolved. Perhaps this would be fodder for a future mystery novel.

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