50-36 – Memorial Cardinal


​My mother-in-law loved her backyard. She worked harder than anyone I know on her flowers. No special mixes or soil. Her fertilizer was some compost – egg shells and fruit peels. Every spring, bags and bags of dirt, but as I said, nothing special. 

The front of the house looked nice, and inside she had a Christmas cactus that was pretty for the one week it bloomed, but the backyard was her special place. Gorgeous giant sunflowers grew along the back fence. She couldn’t wait to get rid of the mulberry tree that ruined everything around it. There was a crabapple tree that she hung windchimes and the occasional birdhouse on. It looked like a fairy playland.

When we visited in the spring, usually around Easter, we drove her to Home Depot for dirt. Pounds and pounds of dirt, and before we knew it, it was gone and she needed more, so off we’d go for a second trip to Home Depot. She didn’t drive, and she couldn’t carry that much on the bus.

She grew herbs and tomatoes, and we were sent home with dozens of them every spring.

After a while, the full garden became too much, and she began container gardening. It was unbelievable how nice the containers flourished. I’ve never seen containers grow so well. She had a green thumb, and passed it on to my husband who’s really great in our garden. He grew two pumpkins or gourds and we were all excited when we brought them into the house.

When we were visiting in June, she asked about her garden, so I took some pictures on my cell phone and brought them into the hospital to show her. She still hadn’t gotten the hang of any kind of technology; she got an air conditioner for the first summer in 2014 or ’15, but she was excited to see the pictures of the bright yellows and purples of her perennials that never disappointed her.

She died unexpectedly a few days later.

We drove down the following weekend for the memorial service. We had planned to take a few of the roots to bring some of her garden home with us. We’ll have to wait for spring to see how they’re doing. We might have to go back and retrieve a few more roots in the spring.

While I was in the bathroom getting ready for the service I noticed a bright, red bird through the window, outside in the backyard. A cardinal. He sat there long enough for me to get my cell phone and take a bunch of pictures including one that was mid-flight when it took off.

it seemed like an odd time for a single bird to show up.

Cardinals were my mother-in-law’s favorite bird.

50-33 – Our Engagement


This was inspired by the prompt, Engagement from my memoir writing group. The original prompt came from The Sun magazine.

It really is an exaggeration that our engagement was a disaster. To be fair, I didn’t know it was a disaster until later, but my future husband’s plans did not go as planned. One reason is planning is hard, and planning a surprise is hard and even he would admit, he’s not good at it. Right now, he’s planning a birthday surprise for my 50th in a few weeks, and I know it’s stressing him out. 

At the time of our engagement, I didn’t know that we would be getting engaged despite thinking that it would/should happen soon. We were on vacation in Pennsylvania.

My future husband had planned on a special dinner on a boat; not quite a cruise, I think , but the timing was wrong, and so we arrived too late to do that. There were no more tickets or the last boat had already left. I don’t remember. He was trying to come up with something else that would match his vision for this evening and there was a smaller boat that we could rent. I was appalled. I hate the water. I’m terrified of it and boats. I’m not sure why this never came up before but I was adamant that no, I wasn’t getting on that rickety, little boat. Nope. Nuh-uh.

We ended up going to dinner at the Chi-Chi’s in Harrisburg. There was a two hour wait and then they forgot about us. This was actually apropos because on our first date five years before, we were at a Chi-Chi’s with a waiter who forgot us and we ended up eating for two plus hours. That first date culminated with the movie, Stealing Home which we thought was about baseball, but was actually about suicide. That was my second first date movie that turned out to be about suicide. Maybe I should pick the movies from now on.

We did eventually get engaged on that trip, in the hotel room right before his self-imposed “deadline” – my husband likes to commemorate anniversaries, so our first date, engagement, marriage are all on the same date or the day after. It’s really very sweet.

The ring he gave me was his grandmother’s ring that his mother brought over from Northern Ireland. I treasure it and twenty-two years and three kids later, our disasters still seem to be working out.

50-26 – Horsing Around


Writing Prompt – High School
I had three very close friends in high school. I am still friends with them today, seeing them daily on Facebook. Every high school class has its senior skip day and we were no exception. I don’t remember which one of them planned it but it was most definitely a conspiracy against me.

First, I should say that I grew up on Long Island. I can’t swim and I hate the beach. Maybe it’s all the water. Most of the senior classes went to Jones Beach for their skip day. The school had gotten wind of this over the years, so pretty much anyone who went to Jones Beach got detention. The assistant principal, Mr. Allen would drive down there and scour the sand for students, jotting down names, walking the beach in suit and tie and his school shoes.

We, however did not get detention. We did not go to the beach.

We got into Ds car and drove east on the LIE; the Long Island Expressway. It was forever in the car. I think I was in the backseat. It was a “surprise” but clearly I was the only one in the dark. I don’t know when I figured it out, maybe there was a road sign, but we were almost there when I realized we were going to a horse ranch – a stable. Of horses. I nearly jumped from the moving car.

Here is where I should probably mention that when I was in elementary school, I went with my cousins to a dude ranch in Peekskill. I loved it there. I loved horses. They are beautiful creatures, but I could not get on the horse. Not any of them. I cried. It was traumatizing.

I wondered if crying as a high school senior was appropriate now.

I got on with ranch hand assistance and off we went. The sky was that perfect blue, not a cloud in it, dust kicking up from the hooves as we set off from the corral into the wooded area. It became a bit darker under the trees and slightly cooler, but it was still a comfortable temperature – the shade keeping the heat of the sun from really getting to us, and our horses.

I had the gentlest horse, or so they told me. He was trained to follow the horse in front of him which was great, espeically when the horse in front of mine decided to trot along the edge of the cliff. It probably wasn’t a real cliff, this was Long Island after all, and I probably wouldn’t have died or anythihng but it was still terrifying. I fell getting off at the end, but I had still done it.

One and done.