Sunday, May 8, 2011

Chasing Words

The weekend, like most of my life was spent chasing time, sleep, and words. After many decades, there still is not enough time to do everything I want or sleep as much as I think I need. I remain tortured over the exact meaning of words and live life in close proximity to dictionaries and thesauruses.

Precious time goes by as I search for nuances between words such as amid or amidst and among or amongst. Unrelenting, incessant debates rage over correct verb tense and punctuation. I’ve learned it’s difficult to win a debate when you argue with yourself. I wonder how much of this linguistic battle spills into my life impacting all that I do. How much of the quest for the perfect word bleeds into my definition of self? How much energy do I expend searching for the right, the perfect, and the best?

I’m not that sure that I care although I do mull over these questions. I am who I am and I believe words count. Words are important and this weekend, I found a few locked away in a cedar chest. Old writings from childhood lay in piles describing life with cats, first loves, and storms. As I spent the day working on an essay to enter a writing competition, I remembered thinking as a child that I simply wanted to grow up, write, and be happy. That’s still all I want to do and as I compare the topics of a youthful childhood, it’s remarkable that I still write about topics of first appeal. Except for the animals, unless you consider descriptions in my mind for some people I know. I could write about last weekend and the cat that jumped up on the toilet and urinated like a person or the dog that lay on the couch like a little man. Alas, these are other stories.

What I know is that I love words and in my quest to find those that matter most, to rise above the mundane, the cliché, and the overused, I am fortunate. I have a vocabulary that will prevent me from ever using the word party as a verb and amidst the trials of life, I am amongst friends. In the end, that’s all that really matters.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bologna and Blessings

This Easter weekend I prepared my first bologna sandwich since the days my father packed four school lunches in small, brown paper bags. He would tuck in pieces of fruit and if we were lucky; a “Little Debbie” snack cake. The tiny bags and shiny dimes for milk money were lined up each morning as my brothers and sister clamored to school. Some 40 years later, the white bread had changed to wheat; the mayonnaise to light and the pickles to sugar free, but the thick bologna bore the same distinctive red band. Shortly, I found myself humming the old Oscar Mayer commercial tune.

My father and I carried our sandwiches outside and sat on the porch overlooking the rushing creek. Swallowtail and monarch butterflies floated above the school of minnows darting in the cold water and hiding under cloak of tree shadows. The season’s first hummingbird came in the annual search for food. Dogwood trees and blackberry bushes alike bloomed and I remembered my granny’s cobbler. Thinking back, I also remembered the long eight hour car rides to this land of his parents. I hated the trip, the heat, the gnats and sleeping with my sister in the same bed. I hated dusty roads, cow patties and unpasteurized milk. I hated the loud crows of the rooster waking me up and then having to get up before dark in order to eat the only food available until lunch.

And yet, here I was, excited about my bologna sandwich and spending time with my father in this familiar place. I suddenly longed for time with my sister and family and wished for breakfast with my grandparents. I wanted to pick along the land with my granny and search for polk and turnip greens and stroll in the dark to the hen house and gather the morning’s eggs. I wanted to play in the barn with my cousins and hide in the scratchy hay. I wanted to walk up the country road to my uncle’s small store and be rewarded with a small glass bottle of coke. I wanted to bite into the cold flesh of ripe watermelon after swimming in spring creeks. I wanted to go pond fishing for catfish with my uncle and let anyone bait my hook.

I turned to my father and asked, “Did you ever imagine growing up that we would be so blessed and have all of this…?” He looked up from his sandwich and with a knowing smile replied, “No.”