Friday, September 28, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "Gateway"

I skipped last week but am back again with another in the series of Friday Fictioneers. Click the link to learn more and join us! 

We took a rocky path through rainy woods in the hills near the Portland neighborhood we'd grown up in. She knew I found her exotic and told me of how in Japan such trails have gateways where walkers compose themselves. We stood between boulders, I reached for her hand, and we climbed in step, her red Keds and my black ones disappearing into the leaves.
I asked more when we rested at the top, fascinated with the beautiful silky dark and light of her ancestors, her hair, her very still face. She scratched one long red fingernail against the corduroy over her knee and sighed as she mumbled about shiny pillars and a small roof—no good for shelter, just symbolic.
Two decades later I bought the hill, built the thing, and shored it up with brick from my childhood house--even lit it with spotlights. But she has long since disappeared into the city.
155 words
NOTE: If you want a REALLY great story, a true one that's nearly unbelievable, read my entry from yesterday

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rejoice With Me!

Our wedding, July 5, 1986

Three years ago October I lost my wedding ring.  Mid-afternoon on Wednesday I was aware of it on my hand, and mid-morning Thursday I realized it was not.

I had been switching out summer and winter clothes as cold weather was settling in in Western Pennsylvania—pulling short-sleeve, lightweight garments off my hangers and out of the drawers and hauling big plastic tubs of heavy sweaters around in my room. Some things went into the dryer for freshening up; some things went into piles for Salvation Army. And somehow in the midst of all that my ring slipped off my finger.

My husband had designed the engagement ring for me in yellow gold. The diamond—a modest weight but of high quality--seemed to float between two swirls like hands curling around it from either side, and later the jeweler made a wedding band to follow the curves. The slender band broke shortly after our honeymoon, so we had the two pieces soldered together.  I wore it for 23 years.

The Thursday I realized I’d lost it I dedicated myself to going through every pile and tub and drawer, everywhere it might have fallen. I took almost everything out of my closet and crawled along the baseboards, listened to sounds in the vacuum as I passed the nozzle everywhere I could think of, retraced my steps in the house and garage, dug into the car I was driving when I realized it was gone. Nothing.  I held back the Salvation Army donation bags until I had a chance to sort through them again and finally released them. When spring came and I switched out clothes again, I searched everything again.  No. And the next fall and spring. No.  And the third fall, no.  Nor spring.

I finally filed an insurance claim a year ago, complete with my loving memory of the details of the ring and a photo from our wedding album—my hand, a beaded lacy point from my wedding gown, orchids,  my husband’s gold-ringed hand next to mine.  The insurance company sent a check, but we just didn’t have the heart to shop for another ring.

Meanwhile I’d been wearing my grandmother’s large diamond in a white gold setting, with a diamond wedding band—lovely but not mine.  My heart sank regularly when I considered what we had lost, what it symbolized, its beauty. Regularly I prayed that we might somehow find it. One day this summer I prayed like that, while walking on a country road:  “Lord, if that ring is anywhere out in the world, somehow, by some means, could we find it?” Even as I prayed that, other things crowded into my mind, hopes so much more important than recovering a piece of jewelry that I was ashamed to pray for its return. But I knew the Lord knew my heart—the hope of the ring became a pledge I made to believe Him for the other things.

A few weeks ago our oldest daughter became engaged, her diamond ring a delicate antique art deco filigree in white gold, and last week I drove to town to buy some gifts for her kitchen. I stopped in a local store where a particular clerk always calls out my name with a smile as she sees me coming. She knows my husband better because he stops in more often than I do. But she always cheers my heart. As she rang up my order I just happened to look at her right hand and saw what looked like my lost wedding ring! I could not believe it and looked again, then looked up at her—I know in shock—and asked where she got it, how long she’d had it. She looked a little puzzled and said her husband had bought it for her, probably five or six years ago, somewhere local but she didn’t know where. I told her briefly how I’d lost my ring and that I was almost sure it had gone to Salvation Army with a donation.

She said she didn’t think he’d gotten it at Salvation Army. No, I told her, they probably realized it was valuable and sold it to a jeweler . . . .  By this time I was aware of a couple of people in line behind me and didn’t want to take more time, but I couldn’t just turn away. I looked at her nametag, with her initials, and was ashamed that I did not know her name, even while she knows mine and my husband’s so well. I looked into her face and said, I know with tears in my eyes, that IF there was any possibility it was my ring, we would give almost anything to get it back. She asked for my number and said she’d talk to her husband, but she felt sure she’d had it longer than the three years I had been missing mine.

In my car outside, trembling, I called my husband and told him of the possibility. He could not believe it, either, but I told him I was almost sure it was my ring. We discussed it later and felt we should wait at least a couple of days for them to talk about it, to work it out. Those days turned into a long weekend, and finally she called me. Her husband, too, thought he had given her the ring four or five years ago, but they agreed that if I was convinced it was mine they wanted me to have it, and they would not accept payment for it. He could not recall what he had spent on it, and if she was content to give it to me, he was content to let her do so. I told her a little more of the history of the ring—my husband designing it and our having the band soldered to it, and we even discussed the size. I told her I wanted us BOTH to be convinced it was my ring or that it was not, and to be at peace about that. We agreed to meet the following evening. I kept trying to remember the ring—WAS it my ring? How could I be sure?

I took my husband with me to meet N-----*, and as she walked up to us she smiled her usual smile and pulled the ring off her hand. As soon as I held it in my hand I knew without a doubt. We showed her the photo from our wedding. Oh yes, she agreed, it sure looked like it!  She knew I knew it was the one, and she gave me a big hug and said “Happy Birthday!” She explained that her husband and his brother liked to get coffee together in a nearby town and then go poking around different stores. When he had seen this ring he knew she would like it, especially the design of the wedding band soldered to the engagement ring—like the one he’d given her years before.  

In the day or so since I got the ring—today is my birthday—I keep looking at it and marveling at this little miracle. It could have been lost in my own room all this time, and well I know it. But maybe it went to a Salvation Army in our town, and then to another town twenty-five miles away, and then a man from our town saw it and bought it for his sweet wife, and she’s been wearing it for two or three years, believing it much longer.  And then I happened to notice it on her right hand—had I not seen it during those two or three years? And then, amazingly, she and her husband were willing to just give it to me, content to have been temporary caretakers of a lost thing.

May the Lord bless N----- and D----* in their love, in their generosity, in the days to come.

What woman, having ten silver coins**, if she loses one coin, 
does not light a lamp, sweep the house, 
and search carefully until she finds it? 
And when she has found it, she calls her friends together, saying, 
“Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I lost!”  
Luke 15:8-9, New King James Version

*Not their real initials
** Greek drachma, "a valuable coin often worn in a ten-piece garland by married women" Ref.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"The Writing Revolution"

In this article by Peg Tyre in The Atlantic, we see the experience of a failing school as adults start investigating what's going wrong for the students. They learn that it's a lack of writing skills, so they implement a program that teaches the real nuts and bolts of writing, and with those tools students are able to build arguments and succeed.  How satisfying!

I'm interested in the debate linked here, too.  How about you?

PS  Thanks to my friend Jami for this corollary piece:  "Teaching Reading for Writing." 

Friday, September 14, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: "The Plans"

I believe this is my fifth entry for Friday Fictioneers. I highly recommend it!  Click the link and play with us!

The Plans

"They're all sparkly and gossamer and filmy and romantic!" she swooned, spinning around and hugging herself.

"But in some people's minds--most people's minds--they're creepy," the mother answered. "They have associations of death and haunted houses and witches--"

"--Or fairies and gardens and roses," The lovestruck girl replied quickly.  "And we can have little spiders--the friendly kind--to hang down from them."

"Now wait a minute!  Spiderwebs with dew I can handle, and a garden theme, but let's have some butterflies and pansies, not actual spiders!"

"Whose wedding IS this, anyway?" the girl glared darkly, fists on her hips.

And so began the weaving of plans.

110 words

My oldest daughter got engaged last week, and we've just spent several hours doing wedding gown shopping. I see a tiny bit of her in this character, but all in all she's delightful to plan with, and we have a peacock theme, not a spider theme. No "bridezillas" here . . . yet.  :-)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Friday Fictioneers: Spring House

It's time for Friday Fictioneers!  Join us here and play.

Spring House

Brick by stone by mud and stick they closed her in, these cares. Square blocks of paperwork yet undone, a gray cold stone the aging father. Fruit flies hovered over the moldering harvest in baskets on the floor. The mending raised the lid of the chest in which it lay. Each thing cramped her, each thing walled her in.

But a window remained--an airy bright clean square in the pile. Through it she could breathe and gather sunshine, while the rivulet of her thoughts ran fresh beneath it all. A few minutes on the porch at dawn, a nourishing page of a book--or from her pen, a hymn at the piano, a tomato with basil and warm from the garden--

The window was more true and strong than all the misshapen stones around it, but they formed the substance through which the window let her soul take flight.

150 words