WPC – “Spare” – The Lonely Sweater

Spare (Defined) “Not currently in use; in reserve”

Glancing in the window of a recently closed children’s consignment shop, I spotted this tiny, orange sweater hanging forlornly in the now abandoned store front.  I pondered why this one vibrant item adorned with teddy bears, remained.  Perhaps a testament to a dream that was not to be or more simply that the sweater was left in haste?  I like to interpret it as a statement of fortitude left behind from the proprietor.   A symbol that whatever the future brings, he or she will survive.     I shall leave the interpretation to you gentle readers, but this melancholy image brought to mind the word spare for this week’s challenge.   

sweater

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WPC “Circle” – Paper Plate of Positive Traits

 

The instructions were simple, even for a first grader.circle

“Write one nice thing about your classmate on his/her paper plate.” The plates were distributed to the children on the last day of school to take home as a memento of the year.

This simple but lovely exercise always touched me, particularly the heartfelt but honest sentiments scrawled by the children.  One phrase that appears several times for my son was “You are so nice to me!”

I loved that compliment. So easy to do and clearly too so very much appreciated.  After all, who doesn’t like to hear something positive about yourself?

I found this paper plate tucked away in a closet yesterday and thought it perfect for this week’s challenge. Find something positive in someone today, even if you have to dig a little. You may receive the compliment in return. Full circle.

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“My Happy Place” The Marvelous, Magical, Mystical Powers of a Bath

tub

“There must be quite a few things that a hot bath won’t cure, but I don’t know many of them.”

Sylvia Plath

I am a slave to hot water. It began in my childhood, at what age I cannot say for certain. I can envision myself and my two sisters bobbing around in our bathtub, a simple no frills fixture unlike the whirlpool spas of today. My mother, who instilled this love of baths in us, laid peacefully center.  It was those calming waters which somehow righted every wrong and made life at the end of the day oh so much more delightful.  “Can you start the tub?” we would call to my mother nightly and upon hearing the rumble of the water racing through the faucet, would immediately feel comforted.

As I grew into older childhood my nightly baths and love of, continued.  I remember bringing into the tub different props for amusement. My fondest memory involve the Barbie dolls which I would plunge into the water, their perfect bodies and pointed toes gracefully leaping from the soap holder which I would use as a makeshift diving board.

When I left for college I realized with some dismay, that my nightly baths ritual would become a thing no more. Bathing in a dorm bathroom shared by who knows how many others was something I did not find appealing – not to mention the cleanliness factor. Yes sadly, my nightly baths ceased upon entering freshman year in college and were promptly replaced by a shower.

Yet one night, the old urge struck. Returning from a night out and perhaps one Tequila Sunrise too many, I made my way to the dorm bathroom.  Perfect! At 3AM on a weekday there was not a soul in sight. I undressed and proceeded to the sink, my towel tightly wrapped around me. As I began to brush my teeth I felt the towel slipping. As it fell to the floor I was faced with two choices: pick it up immediately or finish brushing and then retrieve the towel.  Given the late hour and the desolateness of the dorm, I opted for the latter – my fatal mistake. As if in a dream I watched the bathroom door swing open to reveal a tall sleepy male, no doubt someone’s boyfriend as my dorm was all women. His eyes, which only moments before were half slits were now golf balls as he gaped at me standing before him, stark nude, tooth-brush still in hand.  I shrieked, tore past him and jumped on my roommate’s bed. Babbling and breathless I attempted to explain to her what still rates as one of the most embarrassing moments of my life.  Oh bath, how could you have forsaken me?

When I became engaged and began staying overnight at my fiance’s apartment I learned the meaning of true love.  Craving my bath one night, I mentioned that his tub did not seem well, completely clean.  I asked where I could find his cleaning supplies. “Do you have to have a bath every night?” he asked with some annoyance as he disappeared into the kitchen. Returning with a can of Comet and scrub brush he for the next 15 minutes, painstakingly cleaned the tub for me. And with that gesture, I knew I was marrying the right man.

I have two sons who have inherited their mother and grandmother’s love of baths.  I can hear the water running nightly and I have caught them filling up the tub to play their own Barbie doll type of diving game but instead they use pencils.  They catapult the pencils off the side of the tub in their own game of acrobatics.  At any hour, morning or night, at the slightest hint of a stomach ache or joint discomfort from sports, a tub is running.  Aqua therapy of sort.  I realize this is a luxury in our society and lecture them on the number and length of time spent in the bath.  But it often falls on deaf ears as my son races in from school, drops his back pack in the corner and heads up to the bathroom to turn on the bath.  He too understands the healing of the waters.

My adult bath ritual has changed only slightly since childhood.  I still take one every single night, but instead of the Barbies I bring one guilty pleasure which I lay on the side of the tub; four Hershey Chocolate kisses.  My second favorite comfort in life.

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Gregory’s Goodbye

Featured Image -- 293 He left us yesterday.  My twelve-year-old son’s best friend.  It was not unexpected, yet we were not really ready to say goodbye as we stood in his driveway that balmy September afternoon.

He was to attend a therapeutic boarding school in the rocky mountains of Colorado, for the next two years.  A school that specialized in the emotional as well as the intellectual needs of boys who were struggling.  He had battled anxiety and ADHD for as long as we knew him but lately a more sinister villain called depression was taking over.  Public school was not working for him and his daily trips to the counselor left him dejected and angry.  He hated school, he told us again and again.

He took refuge in nature. Whenever upset, he would flee to the solace of the woods, headlamp in place along with a survival kit he had purchased on the internet. Gregory loved the forest which seemed to hold for him, its own therapeutic powers.  As a going away gift we gave him a lithograph night-light with a forest of trees etched within, the golden hue soothing and calm.

He is a beautiful boy with deep red hair, fine features and porcelain skin.  His face reflects an impishness that is infectious. He is highly intelligent and intuitive.  My son and he became fast friends three years ago and enjoy a special bond as best friends do. We both knew this path was the best thing for Gregory but it did not make his leaving any easier as he had become a fixture in both our lives and home.

All contact at his new school was to be via letter, no social media of any sort, so I made it a point that we would write to him, at least once a month.  I have a book of postcards, each one a different flower fairy illustrated by the brilliant Cicely Mary Barker, an English artist known for her life-like depictions of fairies in nature.  I chose for Gregory a red-headed mischievous faced boy fairy and penned in the margin “this reminded us of you!” I then enclosed a second self-addressed card already stamped for him to return to us.

The next card we sent to him contained a dried wishbone from our previous night’s roast chicken. Growing up my father would always save the wishbone for me and my sisters. I thought it was just the type of ritual Gregory would enjoy.  “Find someone you like at your new school and break the wishbone!” I scrawled.  “We miss you.”  But then, a week later thinking again about the wishbone, I was filled with dread.  What if gets the long end and his wish is to come home? What had I done? In trying to comfort him I could possibly have made him feel worse.

One afternoon several weeks later, I paused at my son’s bedroom door after hearing him talking on the phone to what sounded like Gregory.  He was clearly upset, distraught and his words a hurried jumble of emotion.  “I want to come home.  I hate it here. I miss you so much!”  He had sneaked his mother’s phone while she was visiting to make the call. After several moments, my son replied in a calm voice “You have to push through…”  I had never before heard the expression nor my son use it. When I asked him what he meant by “push through,” he explained that his middle school track coach always told the boys to push through the pain no matter how hard and they may just find they were stronger than they thought.

I worried about how he felt losing his best friend “Do you miss Gregory?”  His response was always the same. “It’s fine mom.”  And then I realized, perhaps the strain of seeing his friend in so much pain was harder than letting him go.

The last thing we sent him was a care package right before Halloween. It contained fake fangs, a calendar book with different photos of forest scenes, two packages of his favorite gummy bears and a small stuffed owl that had strangely beckoned to me from high on a store shelf. I imagined the little owl sitting on his night table. I also included a pre-stamped fairy card he could send back to us with ease.  When I called his mother to review what I was sending, she paused when I had mentioned the stuffed owl.  “He asked me if he could have a real one last week for a pet!”

Several weeks later, we received the fairy card by return mail.  Gregory’s familiar hurried scrawl contained the following sentiments:   “I loved the red-headed fairy card — I am learning to play the banjo! — Thank you for the owl, I keep him in my backpack.”  But it was the last line that remains with me.  “I still don’t like it here” he confided, “but I am going to push through…”  And those simple words were all I needed.