When we went to Ohio my dad would tell me the glacier story. I grew up in North Carolina but we went to his family’s home in Ohio about once a year, usually in the summer. Dad always told me glaciers had covered the center of what is now the United States during the last ice age. As they melted and receded they left behind the flat expanse of prairie that stretches from Texas north into Canada. Our drive took us from the mountains and hills of West Virginia into the rolling, lush farmland of southwestern Ohio, land the glaciers had formed. Continue reading
The below poem is from 2015. I thought it was worth another look because I just saw Leaving Eden, a new play about Latinos in North Carolina.
You don’t know where back roads will lead
as you find your way along.
Highways cut into red clay hills,
leading to new lives or broken promises.
She grew up on the same food, the same clothes, the same cracked pavement.
Glitter and heels are so familiar, yet the voice and the face don’t fit.
Music coming from freckled faces and peach lips
straight from the highlands and hills
Learned by someone new who comes from the same place,
But made it miles to get there.
Water comes from unexpected directions.
Waves’ chevrons forcing you under.
Boiling above sealing you in.
Running its course.
The current pulling you under again. Layers
of force and motion play by their own rules.
A fluffy cake filling you with grit.
Parks in the rain, white Georgian perfection, domes by the river all
circled by roses.
A twilight walk from the heath toward Archway.
Fish in the afternoon after hidden blooms, trapped sunflowers, and ancient words.
Janice took off her gloves and walked toward the desk at the front of the ward. She was falling asleep on her feet. They had gotten three new patients today. She would leave her job in a heartbeat if she could but she would miss the kids and their families. She always asked herself what she would do, what she would be like, if it was her child in here.
They were an endless source of entertaining stories. Families from different backgrounds, all brought here for the same reason. Many of the stories, absorbed in the middle a hectic work day, would be forgotten. There were always a few that stayed with her. There were tales of pets, favorite places, recipes, recommendations for books and movies, not to mention more political opinions than she needed to hear. On some days the stories and the people who told them were the only thing keeping her going. She spent as much time with them as she did with her own daughter.
She got to the desk and clocked out. She waved good bye to Rita, the HUC. Rita held up her hand to stop Janice. “Janice, you’ve got a phone call.”
“Who is it?”
“Your daughter. Take it in the conference room.”
“OK, She better be glad I’m ready to leave anyway.”
“When are you coming home?”
“You called me at work to ask me that!”
“No, can you bring home some food?”
“What have I said about eating out. The answer is no.” Janice signed.
“It’s Friday and I pretty well on my math test, plus we didn’t get food last Friday.”
“I told you we could a movie and eat the lasagna Krissy made the other day.”
“No, I want pizza.”
“Rachel, do not fight me about this right now. We’ve had a hard day here.”
“I don’t understand why we can’t have pizza when no one’s around. I get left alone all day.”
“Rachel, you are not alone all day. You had school, and Krissy is going to take you to the park, right?”
“I don’t want to go.”
“I know you’re just saying that because you didn’t get your way about pizza. I’m done discussing this right now. Why don’t you take your book to the park.”
“I would if I had anything to read.”
“Come on, you always have something to read. I’m going to hang up.”
“I have too much homework.”
“Well, there you go, take some of that with you if you’re going to complain about it. Did Krissy take it out and look at it?”
“It figures. Well, at least it’s Friday and it doesn’t have to be done tomorrow.”
“Mom, why does Krissy have to come?”
“What have I told you? She helps me out when I can’t be there. You know you can’t be at home by yourself. Look, if you don’t want to take your homework fine, take Jane Eyre and we’ll pick up where you leave off tonight. It’s a beautiful day. Why are you sitting in the house calling me?”
” I don’t know.”
“I need to go Ray. The sooner I leave the sooner I’ll be home.”
‘Bye, I love you.”
“Love you too.”
“Ray, what movie do you want, Never Ending Story?”
“No, I think I want Coneheads.”
“OK.” Janice hung up, worried as usual, about Rachel, knowing the movie request would make her coworkers laugh.
We had a multicultural/international night at my school. I ate Colombian arepas and tortillas, both made from corn. I remembered a chapter in Confederates in the Attic, one of my all time favorite non fiction books. It was summer reading for the freshman class when I went to college. The author Tony Horwitz interviews a conservative white man from Atlanta about Civil War history. The guy happens to be married to a Colombian. He asks Horwitz where he wants to eat: “We can eat Southern, or we can go farther south than that.” Continue reading
A change of pace for this week. I haven’t done a movie post in ages. I used to go to the movies once or twice a week. Bills I didn’t have before caught up with me and I just don’t have the money to go as often. For some reason I have been going a lot this winter. Going to the movies always reminds me of my aunt Elizabeth who died in 2003. It was one of the few things we had in common. I think of her when I see a movie she would have loved. I also NEVER want to share my popcorn, something else that comes from her, ha. Here some films I’ve enjoyed recently, or have been thinking about a lot, even if they’re not current. Continue reading
“In the interim, all Neel could do, to make sense of the gurgling snowmelt of sound, was to pay close attention, not just to what Bahram said, but also to the gestures, signs, and facial expressions with which he amplified, enlarged upon, and even negated the burden of his words.” Amitav Ghosh, River of Smoke
In 2003 I traveled to France to study abroad. Despite having taken French for seven years with wonderful teachers my education did not really begin until I left the United States. My first memories of France are wordless snapshots of Paris steeped in culture shock and jet lag. The dappled light on the Boulevard Saint Germain kept me awake. Our tiny tour guide’s iron colored hair floated in front of us as we moved through the crowds in Versailles. The shops inside the glass enclosure of the Gare du Nord provided a respite from making sense of the elegant city outside. I was thrown into that surreal strangeness that is life without language. Words that had been familiar at school sounded completely different. Communication took constant vigilance. The rare successes made me very proud. Continue reading
The poetry well has run dry this week. In honor of my students who have moved here from other countries I’m sharing this list a second time. It was a Facebook post several years ago about what I missed the most when I left the U.S. Obviously friends and family come first. These are some of the little things you wouldn’t think of. The picture is Montpellier, my French home town, not taken by me.
What would you miss if you left home?
1. ICE: a big glass filled with as much ICE as I want when it is 90 degrees out.
3. Minimal tolls on road trips (People who complain about $6-$10 tolls here have no clue…)
5. the beaches
7. Real burgers (not fast food burgers)
8. Grilled everything
10. Mexican food and flavors, especially avacados/guac
11. A smile from a waiter/bartender/any customer service person
12. Shopping and eating out on Sunday
13. Peanut butter and peanut butter candy
14. Chewing gum (yes, as funny as it sounds, it is very different)
15. No paying to use public bathrooms