The Thing We Treasure

As her old Pontiac turned not the familiar street so her neighborhood, Bea slowed down. Here were the streets she had pushed a stroller, greeted neighbors, held block parties. Many familiar faces had gone, some houses slightly changed, a new complex crowded in, only the trees seemed the same. Weary, Bea turned into her driveway. She hoisted her milk crate of newly acquired books out of the passenger seat. Shimmering in the back yard Bea noticed a strange emerald light.

The Secret Garden

{Day 18, Writing Prompt: Write from a twelve-year-old’s prospective}
Bea carried the wire milk crate of books into the bookstore. The crate was filled with children’s books, some brand new with tight, uncracked spines, others worn and well read from when her own children were small. She had been buying books and saving books for the grandkids when they came to visit but she had finally decided to ship her children their favorites and dump the rest. It was the beginning of August. No girls, no visits she had even tossed the praying mantis habitat outside. The time for waiting was over. Bea pushed into The Book Nook Used bookstore.
“Is this the last crate Mrs. Williamson? Are you sure I can’t help you unload the car?”
“Bea is that you?” Bea spun around into Veronica’s outstretched arms. Suddenly she was engulfed in a bear hug.
“I haven’t seen you in a million years. We have to get together. We just have to get together. You remember Sylvia?”
Bea shook her head cautiously, trying to jostle her memory.
“Of course you remember Sylvia. She was tall with lots of hair. Her husband has been cancer but he’s doing better and she started a book club. That is right up your alley.”
Bea wasn’t sure to be sad or happy for this unknown Sylvia so she sort of shrugged in a concerned way and waited for a break in Sylvia’s flow of words.
“Well I have to run I just wanted to pick up a book for Taylor, Monica’s daughter. Give me a call with the details. I just have to scoot to the back for that gift and hurry to the post office.” Bea hurried to the children’s section and hid behind a Dr. Seuss display. Veronica was still up at the front blocking the exit. Determined not to make friends, Bea sat on a squashed bean bag chair and began to read a thick collection of Frances Hodgson Burnett novels that was being used to prop open a window.

Green Fear

{Day 17 yada yada}
Bea wiped down the kitchen counters with brusque strokes. Then she peeked into the dining room. Bea swept the big squares of speckled black and white linoleum. Then she peeked into the dining room. Bea sprayed the kitchen table with cleaner, threw the cloth at it and went into the dining room. She pulled a dining room chair over to the antique sewing table under the big picture window and stared at her praying mantis habitat. Bea misted the egg sac lightly with distilled spring water and watched as drops of water glistened on the tawny brown sac. The habitat was a hideous kelly green with a cheap plastic base and a polyester mesh cover. Leo used to recommend this company, but she suspected the quality had come down over the years. Bea had lined the base with paper towels and spaghum moss based on some videos she had watched on youtube. The sewing table was the ideal choice because it was durable and window was sunny. Was it too sunny? Maybe the dining table was cooler? The kitchen was too drafty. Bea was afraid of temperature changes. She was afraid that she was misting too much? Or not enough? Leo used to do science experiments with all the kids, real Mr. Wizard-type stuff. Bea ruffled in the dry air. It had been two weeks of nothing. She returned to her damp kitchen table.

Lost & Found

{Day Sixteen of Blogging U. Writing prompts}
Scented with basil flowers and rosemary, Bea came in from the backyard garden carrying a basket of roses, cosmos, and herbs. Her knees and back ached from the demands of their sprawling flower beds. Vintage blue and green Mason jars lined the kitchen counters ready for the latest project. Sailing past, she knocked over a long oblong box sitting on the mudroom bench. Startled, Bea picked it up and stared at it. It was the praying mantis farm she had bought for the girls. The words: Open Immediately: Perishable shouted out to her. Bea remembered once Leo had ordered butterfly cocoons for his biology class and they had been delivered accidentally to the cafeteria and left to rot forgotten in a corner.
Quickly she dropped the flower basket in sink and rushed the box to the kitchen table. Bea carefully removed the contents scrambling to come up with some neighbor’s child to give the set to. The Browns, no the Schiavellis, no. Bea imagined having to explain why her grandchildren had not come, having to offer a neighbor the wonderful gift of bugs, Bea imagined being laughed about. She could always simply throw the whole thing away. Out fell the praying mantis egg sac in its special sealed plastic tube. Golden tan, wrinkled, slightly smaller than a walnut, each sac held approximately 200 eggs. Bea turned the smooth cylinder in her hand filled with a curious mixture of revulsion and delight. Tenderly she placed the tube on her gingham placemat and started reading the kit’s instructions.

Harvest Festival

Bea polished the dining room. The lemon oil glimmered over the dark veins of wood. She placed the square glass vase in the center of the table. Her roses fell to one side bleeding red petals on to the freshly polished surface. Tenderly Bea gathered the petals in her hand and carried them to the trash. She thought she heard the mailman coming early. Nothing. Bea went through her shelf of vases and chose a curvy milk glass one. Carefully Bea transferred the roses from the clear vase to the white one. More petals rained into the sink.
The mailbox lid creaked. Bea hurried to the door and then slowed her steps. Her mail was two advertisements, some bills, and flyer from her old school for upcoming Harvest Festival.
Memories flooded into her of the pumpkin painting, apple bobbing contests, corn husk dolls and the children laughing and the heady sweetness of warm mulled cider and Mrs. Weismann’s homemade bread and butter pickles. Bea had been on that committee for eleven years and had chaired it for seven before the bitches from Language Arts took over everything. She flung the flyer into the trash. As she closed the door Bea noticed the oblong box leaning by the door. She didn’t remember what it was at first then realized it was the insect habitat she had ordered for the kids. She hadn’t wanted the summer to be all princess tea parties; she wanted science and adventure. What she got was a box of praying mantids.
Sighing, Bea bought the box over to the counter, thought better of it and set the box on the bench by the back door. She moved the flowers from the white vase back to the clear and returned the square vase to the table trailing scarlet petals all the way.

Feather Boas & Tempura Paint

(blogging University Writing 101 day 14)
With the phone cradled between her shoulder and her ear, Bea listened to her daughter gently lie.
“I just don’t understand. I thought this was all arranged. The girls would stay with me the first two weeks after school ended.” Bea tried to control her voice.
“I know, I know, but Taylor has this new tutor and camp is starting earlier than I thought,” Monica stuttered. Her words rushing over one another. “I mean if there was anything I could do.”
“So Aaron wants the kids to go to his parents” house, right? We can share the time. Let me talk to him–”
“No!” Monica suddenly snapped. “Please Mom this is not about Sarah and Norm.”
“So what is it about?”
Monica went silent. Bea gripped the phone desperate to catch every word. Monica exhaled.
“Look, Mommy, try to understand. You know what it is like trying to make everyone happy and being caught in the middle and the drive is so long and you know how Aaron gets and you know how it is.” Monica said.
Bea leaned her back against the wall to keep the room from spinning. “I understand.”
“Maybe we could do something at the end of summer?”
Bea let her daughter babble on until the conversation dwindled down and stopped. She hung up the phone hard. A card from the French memo board fell to the floor. Happy Birthday, hope you have the happiest of day all my love Bobby. She could tell that the card was signed by his wife, Mika. She wrote the same thing every year. Bea returned the card to the board and went to put away the chest of dress up clothes and boxes of arts and crafts that she had set up on the dining room table.

Snowglobe

(Writing 101 prompts Day 11, 12 & 13)
Bea bolted upright and smacked the large display digital alarm clock. She would love to linger in bed, roll in the sheets, make a mountain of pillows, but laying in bed is for lazy people. Quickly and efficiently, Bea made the bed. She smoothed the already smooth sheets and lovingly patted Leo’s side. Next she straighten up the bedroom wiping away imaginary dust and rearranging the large stack of magazines, journals, and books on her side of the bed. Leo’s nightstand held only a tall, narrow lamp and a snowglobe of a country house and barn from their trip to Lancaster. Bea held it in her hand. She had grown up in a house like this with six brothers and sisters. As the fourth child, second daughter her chief duties were laundry and not getting in the way. When she was young Bea would steal away to the barn to draw pictures on butcher paper and stare out at the sky. Bea liked to think Leo kept this snowglobe to remind him of her but she knew he liked it because it was heavy and kept his letters from blowing away.
The phone rang breaking Bea’s thoughts.
“Hey, Mom. Did I catch you at a bad time?”
“No, sweetheart, I can always make time for you.” Bea tighten her stomach for disappointment.

“Happy Birthday”

(Day ten of Writing 101 prompts)
The cake was heavy. A lemon pound cake with vanilla frosting perched on a batter bowl green cake stand. Bea had the sudden urge to put flowers– daisies perhaps–around the base of the cake or silver dragees or jimmies or something. But she knew Leo wouldn’t cotton to that. She carried it into the dining room as Bobby and Monica burst into a giggly off key version of Happy Birthday.
Instead of singing Jamie was playing a tambourine and gyrating around the table.
“All right, all right, settle down!” Leo shouted over the din. The kids sang louder. He patted my hand as I put the cake on the table with no flowers no decorations of any kind. Leo looked up at me with a smile. He lifted his hand to my cheek and the alarm clock went off.
My eyes flew open and I reached for Leo before I remembered he wasn’t there anymore.

The Park

“She’s gone,” the left hand whispered. It spasmed violently and then rested on the rough hospital sheet.
I’m sitting on a worn, sun warmed park bench. My back presses against the sturdy wood. turquoise koi pond sparkles at my feet. I watch the large white and orange goldfish swim in lazy loops. I smell lavender and rosemary on the soft breeze. Peacefully, I look down on the space where my hands used to be. I turn my face up to the sun.
“Yes, she’s gone for good,” the right hand replied, patting the left gently.
The end

Legos, Legos, Legos

(Days eight and nine of Writing 101 writing prompts)
“Do we have to?” Liam whines, drawing out each word. “My tummy thurts.” Liam stretched out dramatically on his racecar bed rubbing his round tawny belly.
“Cut the baby talk and get to work,” I snapped.
Zack and Liam jump. Liam rolls off the bed and starts slowly placing brightly colored plastic blocks into clear bins. I rake handfuls of blocks off the checkered flag rug and fling them into bins. I sort through piles of toys and kid clothes and books. Zack grabs a stack of picture books and rushes to his bookcase and drops the stack. Zack turns to me and freezes. I glare at him and keep sorting. He quickly picks up books and places them on the shelves. Books start falling down as Zack shoves more into the shelves.
“I didn’t make this big mess,” I grumble.
“You know if we get this done that’s a big job. We should get a big dessert,” says Liam.
“Why is this my job? If you just put your toys away. How hard is it to put away damn pajamas?”
“We could go to Dairy Queen.” Liam arched his eyebrows. “We doing good job here.”
More books fall. Zack jerks around to catch my eyes, clutching books, piles of books. Zack scrambles to arrange them. I stare at him. My hands moving faster and faster.
“We could go to Rita’s.”
“Why am I doing this?” I sort. Crayons in art boxes, socks in the sock drawer, race cars fly into bins.
“This isn’t me.” Army soldiers rain into a bucket. My hands crush a half finished puzzle.
Zack’s eyes grow wider.
“I like water ice. And Daddy likes water ice. And Mommy you like water ice. ”
The entire top shelf of books cascades to the rug. Tears run down Zack’s face.
“Ooooo, I’m telling. Mommy, Zack knocked over all those books.”
My hands spring to Liam’s mouth crushing blocks into his mouth.
“No, Mommy, please, Mommy,” Zack pleads. He wraps his plump arms around my waist.
My hands return to my lap. Liam sputters and rolls away from me. Zack and Liam embrace. The toys are sorted into blue, green and bins. With swift easy motions, I organize the bookshelves. A row of stuffed animals smile at me from the wooden bureau. The boys watch me from the bottom bunk with cautious eyes I pick up the last of the Legos and leave.