Posted in Aging, Grandmother

Technology: “Crooked as a Barrel of Snakes” by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Grandma Keller’s Slot Machine

Technology: “Crooked as a Barrel of Snakes!”

Grandma Keller had a nickel slot machine in the hall next to the front door of her home. Several times a day she’d use her walker to reach a stool set in front of the machine and feed it nickels from a metal cup she held.

The machine was green and spun pictures of cherries, oranges, plums, bells, and bars for the chance to win the $7.50 jackpot. You could win five nickels for two cherries or a cherry and a bar. The machine never hit the jackpot, and 18 nickels (for three bells) was the most it ever paid out. Like other one-armed bandits, it was programed to keep you playing without emptying its whole stash of coins.

Grandma Keller, aka Madame Queen

Grandma loved to gamble! From betting on the horses at the New Orleans Fairgrounds to playing poker or bouree with her lady friends, she loved games of chance when money was at stake. And like most of us, she hated to lose. After depleting her cup of nickels at the slot machine, she’d mutter, “Crooked as a barrel of snakes,” before she’d limp back to her favorite arm chair in the living room or her large wooden rocking chair on the front porch. Then she could let a cup of coffee or a Salty Dog (depending on the time of day) help her forget her losses.

For me, dealing with technology is like pulling that slot machine’s long metal arm and hoping my nickel was not used in vain. When I try to reformat a document or navigate a spreadsheet, my head watches those wheels of cherries, plums, and oranges spin. Will my revised  document look centered and pleasing to the eye?  Will my saved numbers on my spreadsheet make it to my employer correctly? Who knows? Your guess is as good as mine.

At times the document I spent seventy minutes working on disappears, or the info I emailed to work gets me a reply that explains how I entered information incorrectly.

I’m not a total idiot. Before I retired from full time teaching, I managed my online grade book, and most of my assignments were linked to class calendars. However, I could no way navigate the current issues of a virtual classroom! When I successfully shared my screen during a Zoom meeting with some student teachers I work with, a twenty-one year old had to remind me, “Ms. Gannaway, your mic is on mute again.”  

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

My oldest son helps me with blog posts, and he tries to remember that patience is a virtue. But I hear his deep sighs and see him comb his hair back with his palm before saying, “Mom, what did we do last time we edited an image?”

Back in the ‘90s someone told me, “Don’t be afraid. You won’t break the computer or permanently lose stuff.” Well, I don’t know about that! I often have no idea whether clicking on a link or pressing a return button will have the result I want. The slot machine gears keep spinning and it’s all a game of chance!

I hate the fear and uncertainty COVID has created in our lives. Yet technology and social media put me on uneven ground years ago. SnapChat made me nervous when those weird animated photos all went away in 24 hours. But it’s also unnerving that FaceBook stuff never goes away.

I don’t understand or trust the Cloud and I wish texting had not become my go-to form of communicating. Since I seldom see people in person, I miss hearing their voices.

I’m still more optimistic than pessimistic, so I’ll pull that cold metal arm that sometimes sticks a bit and trust the technological slot machine of life as I say, “Please, Lord” while I cross my fingers and watch the blur of fruit and accept the whirring, spinning uncertainty of now. I never know when several coins will clatter into the pay-off slot.  

Emile is making sure the slot machine is still spinning
Posted in Pets, Photography

How To Love A Cat

How To Love A Cat by Nancy Malcolm

            We filled out mountains of paperwork, completed a background check, paid our fee, did a home-visit to the foster parent and solemnly swore to care for her until the end of time.  We knew we would be a good match, but did they?

            Emmy Lynn came to us through an adoption agency.  She had been born during Hurricane Harvey and transplanted to Austin shortly thereafter.  We have always been partial to little black cats, so after our Blackie left this earth, we waited one year to make sure we were ready.

RIP Blackie Marie

            “She’s shy,” the foster parent kept saying, but she also had two other cats and a loud, hyperactive Lab living there, too.  We persevered and finally got to hold her for a minute or so before saying yes, we wanted to adopt.  A week later, we were bringing her home, where she promptly hid inside our leather couch for two days.

            “She’s shy,” we mused.

            She finally crept out from the couch and began purring, rubbing our legs, eating, and pooping.  Then, over night she began racing around the house, demanding snacks and kicking her litter out of the box. 

            “Remember, she’s just a kitten,” Boo smiled.  “She needs our love and support.”

            “I don’t get a minute to myself,” I countered.  “She follows me around the house, wanting me to carry her everywhere and is only happy if I sit still and pet her.”

            “So?”

            “I’m busy,” I retorted. (Busy being retired) “She’s like a toddler.”

            In the morning during my sittin ugly time, she would sit on my lap while I did my prayers and daily reader.  If I dared to get up for more coffee, she would chew on my Bible and try to bite me when I took it away.  Get thee behind me, Satan!

            She would race from room to room, jump on counters, and at Christmas she jumped up into the tree trying to bite the lights.  At one point, I called the adoption agency behavior hotline.  I was anonymous, but I felt ashamed as I kept asking, “Is this normal?  I don’t know what to do. I got a water bottle to spritz her when she acts up….”

“Oh No,” she interrupted. “Absolutely no spray bottles!!!”

The hotline worker kept repeating that she is a kitten and simply doing what kittens do.  “The only acceptable discipline for her is ‘time-out’, she said.

            “How do I do that?”

            “You go in another room for a few minutes and she will eventually understand that Mommy will not accept her behavior.”

            “Thank you,” I said without meaning it, and I promptly went to my room and shut the door.

            The next day, I went to the swanky pet store in our neighborhood and asked for help in keeping this little kitty happy and entertained.  Money was no object as I purchased several ‘never fails’ and ‘guaranteed’ toys and gadgets.   I vowed to stay calm and renew my patience with this adorable, bad to the bone kitty, and s l o w l y she adjusted to life and we have adjusted to her.

            Emmy has charmed the grandkids and trained them to her liking.  She will play fetch with her soft felt balls, even bringing them back, and dropping it at my feet.  She sleeps with her tongue out and still is the happiest in my arms or on my lap.  She sits in the ivy in the front yard and waits for mothers pushing strollers so she can greet the children, and she climbs up between the comforter and sheets on the guest bed to nap when no one is home.  If we go out of town, she is always forgiving and charms her sitters with good behavior.

She is delightful, funny, loving and loyal.  She’s our little black kitty and this we know to be true…In a perfect world every cat would have a home and every home would have a cat.

Posted in Nature, Relationships

COVID Connections

COVID Connections by Ginger Keller Gannaway

In March I started 7:20 a.m. walks through my eclectic neighborhood. 

Early mornings I pass subsidized apartments, an elderly elementary school, a head shop, a short strip mall that includes a convenience store with an impressive mural of Ice Cube on its side wall, a local take-out pizza joint, a Mexican restaurant, and a hair salon. A mental health hospital is a few blocks away, and a very unpopular Sonic is across the street from us.

I begin my walks down a sidewalk-less street with mostly trailer homes. I turn onto a shady street of duplexes and small houses. Later I follow a busy street towards a tiny park with lots of trees and a few backless stone benches. I pass a Korean Catholic Church before I head back home down a wide street with bike lanes on both sides. After I pass the elementary school, I turn onto my own street of apartments where people work on their cars and hang out after work. I hear music and conversations more often in Spanish than English. 

A Lounge of Cats

Lots of cats roam my street, and one cat gives me the willies; I call it the opossum cat because of its weird white face and its pointed nose and menacing stare. A black dog with huge balls and stubby legs appears some times. He wears a frayed grey collar without tags that was once blue. He’s a curious guy without menace. His walk is brisk and reminds me of Tramp from the early Disney movie; he’s resourceful and scrappy and free.

After I’d been walking for several weeks at the same time each morning, I began connecting with some people. Brisk Walking Woman was my first connection. She lives close by, makes fast laps around the streets, and wears a wide-brimmed orange floppy hat. 

Near the park I pass Scraggly-bearded Man in a motorized wheelchair with a small white dog on a leash. He is often barefoot, and I once helped him untangle the dog leash from his wheels while the dog sat in his lap and barked at me. The man and I both wore face masks; I was equally fearful of his dog biting me as I was of catching the virus. 

In July after I’d said hello to Young Gardener tending her raised bed of flowers and vegetables, she offered me fresh tomatoes! Score!! I later gave her blueberry muffins, and after swapping names, we now swap fresh produce and baked goods. 

There’s also Wonderful Woman who carries a cane for protection and has a sunny smile to match her bright disposition and bold colored wardrobe. 

I also wave to Tie-dyed Lady who wears her dog leash around her waist and Tall & Handsome Guy who walks a hyper black and white puppy that gives my hand puppy-nips when I pet him.  

Recently I encountered Tiny Woman who has grey and black curls and walks her dachshund near the elementary school and waves at me across the street.

Waving to my walking friends reminds me of a Dan Hertzfeldt’s cartoon: “Billy’s Balloon.” In the cartoon, a stick figure kid gets lifted into the sky by his red balloon, and while he’s floating into the clouds, he sees another kid being carried upward by a yellow balloon. They wave at each other from across the distance. They smile. Then an airplane ploughs right through the kid with the yellow balloon.

My walks connect me to others, and when we wave hello and make mundane comments about the high humidity or the welcome breeze, life seems almost normal. Yet underneath the brief bits of friendliness lie the uncertainty and fear that never fully go away. 

My face mask hangs from my left ear when my sidewalk is empty for blocks ahead. About fifty percent of early walkers I see have masks.

Last week Wonderful Woman was on my side of  the street, and after I said, “Feels like fall,” when I passed her, she pulled down her mask and said, “ What? I can’t understand you.” 

So standing a few feet from her, I pulled down my own mask and we had a one minute conversation as I shoved worry and fear into a back room of my mind next to paranoia and uncertainty.  I feel the need to connect to others as much as I feel the desire to stay safe. May we handle our connections with equal amounts of compassion and safety.

Posted in Mothers, Piano

My Mother’s Piano

My mother~ Margaret Armenta Claughton

The story of my piano is bittersweet but beautiful, and begins with my mother.  As long as I can remember, we have had my mother’s piano.  You could say it was part of her dowry when she married my dad, and it is one of the few things I have that was hers.

The piano was a beautiful shiny black, but somewhere in the ‘60’s, my dad repainted it in that ever popular antique avocado green.  Why, we will never know, but it became that  ‘green beast’ color until today.  My brother and his wife housed it lovingly for years, until sometime later I pleaded with them to let me have it, which they did. Although my father always referred to it as ‘your mother’s piano,’ it has been mine ever since.

If this piano could talk, we would all be entertained for years.  The music bench is filled with music from my mother’s era, and the lesson books from my sixth grade.  “Songs of Alpha Chi Omega”, when my mother was at O.U.,  “Tip Top Tunes for Young Pianists,” and “The Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” are all mixed in with my lesson books to travel through time in music.

There is a corner chunk of wood missing off the bench from an ‘unchaperoned’ high school party by my youngest daughter. 

 There is a long, deep scratch on the top from a hectic move during my divorce’ years.

 Our grandkids have banged on it pretending to play their favorite songs. 

And there are strange loud moaning and groaning sounds nightly that used to scare my husband.  He thinks the piano is haunted by spirits, but I think the piano has been sad about its green color.  

Almost everyday for the last twenty years, I have passed by the piano and wished it was back to the original color.  I never thought it would be possible, but somewhere along the line my thoughts changed to, “I’m going to paint the piano.”

I would say it to myself and to anyone who would listen, but I either got a surprised look or half-sincere encouragement with a side of ‘naysayer.’  I had no one who was interested in my endeavor.  No one believed in me, except my old, true-blue friend….Pinterest.  Even the paint guys at Home Depot gave me a ‘look’ when I asked about the best type of paint to use.

I began with the bench as I dipped my brush and kept moving.  Almost immediately I knew I had made the right decision.  There was no turning back, and I wondered why I had waited so long.  Fear was the main reason, I think.  Fear of messing it up.  Fear it might look worse, if that was possible.  But, there is something about being sixty-seven years old and knowing that time is fleeting.  Perfection is not necessary, but happiness is.  Restoring my piano to a gorgeous black color makes me very happy.

My mother’s birthday is today, September 28.  I wanted to do this for her as well as myself.  This weekend has been about change and restoration; patience and perseverance. I feel fearless and creative and I know she would approve of that.

Love you, Mom.

Posted in Aging, Family

Balled-up Kleenex by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Momma and me, 2010

Momma always kept a balled-up Kleenex in her right hand (or in her pocket).

She used this all-purpose tissue to wipe her drippy nose caused by what she called her “hay fever.” When we were kids, she also used her Kleenex to wipe a snot-nosed child’s face or to stop a scraped knee from bleeding. In the 1960s right before entering our Catholic church for mass, she could use a not-too-crumpled tissue as a make shift head covering for a forgetful daughter who had left her chapel veil at home. I still remember her pinning the white tissue atop my head using a stray bobby pin from her purse. No need for her to fuss at me for my memory lapse. My pin-scraped scalp was punishment enough. 

In a way always having the Kleenex on hand is a “Mom thing” – a being prepared thing. (for small spills, runny noses, dirty faces, fresh lipstick blots, minor cuts, or sudden tears).

When Momma was wheelchair-bound and barely talked, she still kept a Kleenex in her hand. After she died, I looked through the small leather purse she had carried everywhere she went. Inside I found her wallet, which held My Daily Rosary prayer card, her drivers license, and her library card. Also, there was a tiny round frame with a picture of my sister Kelly, a half-used Wine with Everything lipstick, a nail file, Double mint gum, and a couple of balled-up tissues. I smiled. 

I’ve been going on long walks around 7:15 each morning, and I take along a Kleenex in my pocket. I use the tissue to open the black iron gate that surrounds our apartment complex, to scratch my nose, and to wipe my forehead when the temperature gets in the 90’s. 

After my walk, the tissue is ragged and sweaty. It seems to symbolize my fears and uncertainty these days. The tissue keeps me from touching my face or some random object. The Kleenex I shove into my pocket before I venture out (for a walk, to the grocery, on an errand) feels as necessary as a face mask or hand sanitizer. 

Either I’m turning into my mother or channeling  a parent’s attempt to be prepared for life’s surprises and disasters. If a balled-up piece of tissue gives me comfort, I’ll take it. And I’ll focus on not tripping on the cracked sidewalks while I listen to birdsong and car horns.

Posted in Boo, Relationships

Zoom Zoom

Last week Boo had to attend substitute training in preparation for the start of school.  This man worked thirty years in the classroom and as an administrator guiding thousands of high school kids toward graduation.  Now, he substitutes as an elementary P.E. teacher (when he feels like it) doing hula hoop games and Kidz Bop dance-a-thons.

This year, being what it is, his training was on Zoom.  Boo has never been on Zoom and didn’t really know where it was.  This is a true story.  Most of us recognize the little blue square with a camera symbol, but Boo was a novice.

“I need your help,” he said.  “Where do I go for my Zoom meeting?”

“What do you mean?  Like the computer room???”

“I mean, where is it?”

We sat side by side and I showed him the icon, talked about the meeting number and passcode etc.  I agreed to be with him and help him “get on” his meeting.

Their first instructions said to turn off the camera and mic.

“But, I put on a nice shirt and everything,”  he said.  “How will they know I’m here?”

“It might be too distracting to have such a handsome guy on camera.” I smiled.

However, two folks did not follow directions and their faces were beside the presenter.  I became terribly engrossed watching them get up for water and coffee, primp in the camera and one even picked his nose.

Meanwhile, Boo, sitting straight in his chair said, “Can they see me?”

“No, I turned off your camera.”

“But, those guys are on…”

“They shouldn’t be.”

“I wish I was.”

“Maybe another day,”  I said.

The professional development progressed, but Boo was losing attention, staring out the window and checking his fingernails.  

Suddenly, we heard, “Type your response in the chat box, now.”  Wide eyed, he let out a few choice words and said, “Where is this chat room?”

“Ah, it’s a box, and you click on the word chat then type in your response.

By the time he completed his answer, the speaker was on a new topic…”You will be receiving a virtual backpack with information pertinent to your daily check in at school. Download now.”

I leaned over and downloaded the folders.

“What did you just do?”

“I got your backpack.”

His eyebrows shot up.

“It’s a virtual backpack, Boo.  I downloaded the information for you.”

“But, where is it?”

“It’s in our download file.”

“With the backpack?  Remember last year we got a coffee mug and the year before a grocery bag with AISD on it?  I’m excited about a backpack.”

“Honey, you really won’t get an actual backpack.  It’s virtual.”

“Oh.”

One and a half hours later, an accidental disconnect, much cussing and a virtual break-out session, it was over.

“Maybe, I should work at Home Depot,” he said.

“Don’t be discouraged, Boo.  This was just your first Zoom.  It will get better.  I think you did a great job!”

He sighed and with his sad looking baby blues, he looked at me to ask, “I wonder what color backpack I’ll get?”

Oh, Boo.

Posted in Boo, Nature, Photography

Squirrels Are Nuts

“Those Bastards!” I heard Boo hollar from the family room window.

“Those dang squirrels have eaten every bite of the bird seed and are now taunting the Bluejays.”

We stood side by side, noses pressed against the window watching as the squirrely creatures took over the backyard.

“It’s like a gang has taken over ‘the yard’ at Alcatraz.  Instead of the Bloods and Crips, it’s the Flying Nuts and the Angry Birds,” I said.

A few years ago our daughter and son-in-law gave us the Yankee Flipper bird feeder, which was our eighth bird feeder in five years.  It was pricey, sturdy and guaranteed to keep squirrels away from the bird food.  “Guaranteed!”  

The Yankee Flipper is designed to spin and flip anything heavier than a bird.  I hate to admit it, but we had a blast watching as it spun, and then gently tossed the squirrels into the grass.  No squirrels were harmed in the process, but it provided hours of entertainment as we watched our pesky guests become dazed and confused.

Squirrels are a member of the rodent family.  They include tree squirrels, ground squirrels, chipmunks, groundhogs, flying squirrels and prairie dogs. (I always thought a tree squirrel and a ground squirrel were the same thing.)  There are red squirrels and black squirrels and our usually brown ones.  Who knew there could be so many different species?

What is a squirrel’s purpose in life?  I used to think they were so cute, but now they dig up my plants and eat my bird seed.  Remember Granny from the Beverly Hillbillies?  She was always cooking up a mess of stewed squirrel or roast possum.  Sounds like the Keto diet gone amuck.  And talk about attitude…squirrels taunt birds and upset the cat with high pitched chirping, squeeks, scraping and barks.  They act entitled and indignant all at the same time.

Just for fun I read about having a squirrel for a spirit animal.  Who would openly admit this, I wondered?  To have a squirrel on your totem pole means you are very resourceful and that you prepare for the present and future.  And if you dream about squirrels it means you need to lighten your load of clutter and unnecessary items, and that you need more fun in your life.  I tell you this because I know there are still squirrel lovers out there, although the number may be dwindling.

Lest I digress, the Yankee Flipper motor had to be charged occasionally to keep the twirl and flip going.  But, as the years have gone by it has lost its ability to juice up.

Our birds love the large feeder but the problem is the squirrels think it is for them, too.  I personally have watched as a squirrel hangs between the feeder and the tree, perpendicular to the ground, swinging to and fro until he can make the leap.  Sometimes they jump from the tree onto the top of the feeder and shimmy down to the food.  I must admit, they are agile little daredevils.  When we open the backdoor, they freeze to see who it is.  If it’s me, they hang loose and gingerly take their time climbing back up the tree.  If it’s Boo, they disappear in a matter of seconds and perch high enough to chatter and backtalk until he goes back in.

“I won’t go down without a fight”  Boo saluted.  “They have met their match.  Remember when we went to Yosemite, and they taught us to clap our hands loud and yell ‘Hey bear’ if we came across a grizzly?”

“Yes, Babe, but….”  As I turned to look his way, I saw him in his Ranger hat and filling up a water gun, but it was too late.  He was heading out into the back yard.

I give up’, I whispered to myself and moved closer to watch what would happen next.  Squirrels are nuts, and Boo… is Boo.

All photographs are my own…..obviously

Posted in Aging

Old Stuff by Ginger Keller Gannaway

        In 2016 while cleaning out my grandma’s attic, I held up a dilapidated box that held tap shoes from 1960 when I was four years old.

“Should I keep these?” I asked a friend who was helping us go through the treasure and the trash in a home built in the 1890s.

“Of course!” said Mark.

“Can’t believe Momma saved them! Can’t think why I’d want these.”

“We like old things,” Mark explained.

An epiphany hit me like a couple of rusted TV trays and a stolen ash tray from Caesars Palace (circa 1966). I do like old stuff!  Mama Joe’s pie safe where Momma stored mismatched glassware and playing cards; Dad’s beat-up paint stool that my cousin found on Grandma’s back porch; stacks of brittle love letters between Reggie and Gerry (my parents) when they were courting in the 1940’s; a partial set of Shakespeare plays, faded, bent and water-logged, that an intuitive student gave me right before he graduated. “I found these in our attic and thought of you,” he had told me.

Mama Joe’s pie safe

Also, my tastes in movies are in the “old” category: Casablanca, High Noon, and Rear Window. Likewise, two of my favorite books are Great Expectations and Wuthering Heights. I adore my turntable and stereo receiver from 1972. The U.S. city I most love to visit- New Orleans – is a place where the past clings to everything like the moss in the live oaks.

Old stuff comforts me. It connects me to some of my best memories. When I use Momma’s bent-up aluminum bun warmer she got as a wedding present in 1954, I remember homemade biscuits in the kitchen with family gathered for a holiday. I smell coffee from a well-used pot on the stove and hear kids and adults vying for space and talking over one another.  I recall the taste of hot boudin from Johnson’s Grocery. 

Lately, I’ve been obsessed with old pictures. I especially love the black and white photos, the ones from before I was born and the ones of me as a child. Life seemed simpler and easier. I’m not sure that’s accurate, but that rose-colored tint does slip over my memories before puberty hit and sent me to the land of pimples and self-doubt. 

Reginald A. Keller, 1929
Geraldine and Stretch, 1952

According to the CDC guidelines for the coronavirus pandemic, I’m “high risk” and I could go to the local grocery store’s early hours for old folks.  I suppose Gary (age 75) and I (64 today) are old people. 

Too bad our society does not extend a love of old things to old people. No one I know looks forward to old age. We fear the weak mind and frail body as much as the loneliness and incontinence. I wish I felt the same comfort and peace when I hold someone’s wrinkled and arthritic hand that I get when I run my fingers over the dents of a bun warmer or the rough paint flecks of a wooden stool. 

Dad’s paint stool from Keller Advertising days

I’m not one of the enlightened. I wish these uncertain days with lots of time for reading and praying and thinking might guide me to an appreciation for old stuff that includes old folks. As much as I like my fat-faced images when I was two, I should be kinder to the 64-year-old I see in the mirror now. She’s doing the best she can with what she’s got, and  that needs to be enough.

Posted in Relationships

Daddy Was A Saver

My daddy, J.C.Claughton, passed away eleven years ago today.

My Daddy was a “saver”.  A procurer of particulars…a frugal forager.  It was probably because he was a product of the Depression, but for whatever reason, if you needed ‘it’, he had it, at least one and an alternate.

When Daddy passed away we found boxes full of souvenirs, balls of twine, ink pens, jars of nails and business cards.  We found his report cards, measuring tapes, hundreds of bank statements and thousands of photographs labeled neatly into chronological albums.  There were boxes, bags and myriad other containers full of his mementos.   

My brother and I waded through his things sometimes laughing …sometimes crying.  Towards the end of our sorting, we bantered across to each other, “You take it!”  “No, YOU take it!”  Still, we filled large, black Hefty bags with things to give away or dispose of.  His obsessive ‘saving’ wore us out.  Sometimes, as we discarded, I whispered a prayer, “I’m sorry Daddy, we just have to let this go,” hoping he understood.

Last year I was going through a box of Daddy’s things that I had ‘saved’ from ten years ago.  When I brought it home, I thought I would go through it right away.  But, ten years had passed and I had just found the strength to open the box.

Inside were our report cards, Baptism announcements, college essays, school pictures and more.  I found an old, faded manila envelope, sealed with a piece of tape and enclosed were letters and cards my brother and I had sent Daddy through the years; Father’s Day cards, poems, and notes we had written him.  Behind those cards were letters tied with a string….our letters to Santa Claus.

I unfolded one pristine piece of notebook paper and I was transported, as I read my brother’s childish handwriting. 

Dear Santa,  I hope that I have been good enough to deserve these things I want.  I would like a bulldog tank, an electric football game and a boy scout nap sack.  My sister would like a jewelry box, a ballarena doll, a girl cowboy suit and play doe, please.   From:  Jimmy and Nancy.  December 16, 1958

This letter was written one month before our mother passed away. Not all of our letters to Santa were saved, just this one and the ones the year after she died. My Dad wasn’t always good at professing his love.  He wasn’t the sentimental, mushy type.  But, after he was gone, I saw his tender side amongst the 14 retractable measuring tapes and boxes of Navy war memorabilia.  The cards and notes his children had sent and letters to Santa obviously touched his heart, although we never knew it.  His heart was inside this box that took me ten years to open. And, suddenly, all of this stuff he had ‘saved’, became a piece of him…a bridge to the other side, where he was standing, arms open wide, saying, “See?  I have always loved you.”  And finally my heart whispered back, “I know, Daddy.  I love you, too.”

Posted in Family

Cicadas by Ginger Keller Gannaway

Cicadas – 1963

trees in Eunice
Live oaks around my childhood home

I opened the shoe box gently to show Kelly my treasure.

“Just tree mess,” said Kelly as she moved the leaves, twigs, and moss around.

Couillon! They’re hiding from us.” And I gently picked up a green and brown insect. Its whirring whine made my three-year-old sister say, “Coooool,” as she petted its folded wings. 

“Careful,” I said and replaced the insect as my sister searched and found the box’s true treasure – a poopy-brown thing.  “Lookit this.”

“It’s dead,” said Kelly.  I set it on the oak tree trunk whose shade we sat in.  The brown bug took slow-motion steps up the trunk. Kelly could only stare.

“Looks like a seratops.”

Kelly reached to touch it with her index finger, but my larger hand covered my little sister’s whole hand.  “Leave it. Just watch.”

Our heads moved close, close to the bug on the tree. We watched it mummy-move some more.  Then it stopped.

“It’s dying,” said Kelly as she put her arm around my neck.

“Watch,” I repeated.

It took one and a half minutes for the younger girl to lose interest. “It’s really dead now,” she whispered into my ear.

brown cicada“Shhhhhh,” and I squeezed Kelly’s shoulder and pointed.  Kelly moved her head closer in. Did the brown bug’s back crack? Why was it killing itself? Then slow, slow a wet thing backed out of the cracked bug. Kelly remembered cartoons where a baby bird pecks its way out of an egg. She leaned in and almost kissed the tree bark.

I held her shoulder and brought my face over my sister’s.  As the new bug emerged, it paused to allow its folded wings to unfurl. The green translucent beauty of the wings brought soft gasps from both of us.

“Now he’s gotta dry off,” I said, and we both froze to witness the new and improved insect glowing atop the broken carcass. It seemed to be sunbathing in the broken sunbeams.

Kelly held her breath and I nodded my head. After awhile the cicada made its whirring, clicking whine to flyaway. Both of our heads tilted up to watch the miracle depart. 

Then I carefully took the split-open brown thing and placed it in my shoe box.

“Cool,” said Kelly.  I nodded and put an arm around my sister’s shoulder.

Kelly, age 3
Kelly, age 3