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This morning I’ve been thinking back to what turned me on to writing stories as a child. One of my earliest memories was Mother walking to the local grocery store several blocks from our home in Kansas City, Missouri, and she’d sometimes return with an Uncle Wiggily storybook for Cathy and me. This was during the ’40s and money was tight, so it was a special treat when we received these paperback books. My little sister and I read them over and over!

Uncle Wiggily was an “elderly gentleman rabbit” who usually had to deal with a “bad chap” trying to outwit him or harm him in some way—unsavory characters like Woozy Wolf, Bushy Bear, or Skillery Skallery Alligator. Of course, he also had many amicable friends who helped him out of his predicaments—Sammie and Susie Littletail, his nephew and niece; Lulu, Alice and Jimmie Wibblewobble, the duck children; Uncle Butter, a goat; or Dr. Possum, the local physician; to name a few.

Uncle Wiggily’s dramatic episodes inspired me to write similar stories, and my teachers often let me read my stories to my classmates at school. Their laughter and clapping cheered me on.

Today I went online to read more about the creator of these tales. American author Howard R. Garis worked for the Newark News beginning in 1910, and he wrote a new story every day, except Sundays, for more than 30 years! He published 79 books within his lifetime, and his stories are still available. What a great legacy!

Do any of you remember reading Uncle Wiggily stories too?

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L’Audible Art

Every year, the Village Writers’ Club presents a free program for our friends and neighbors in the community. We call it L’Audible Art. Each member who would like to participate has five minutes to share an original story, essay, poem, or memoir, and we serve complimentary wine and cheese. This year our program will be from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on May 15 in the auditorium at Coronado Community Center here in Hot Springs Village. I hope many of you will be able to attend.

The first year I participated in L’Audible Art was 2004. I’d been a member of the club all year, but I still felt uncertain about what to read and how the audience would react to what I read. However, others in the club encouraged me, and I decided to go ahead.

That year I had written a piece called “Dear Cathy,” a letter to my younger sister. There was a twist at the end where the audience suddenly realized that cancer had taken my sister’s life, but I was speaking to her as if she were still alive. I did not become emotional as I read, but the piece touched several in the audience.

Afterwards, one of the club’s longtime members, Mary Ann Robertson, came up to me and told me how much she had liked my reading. Her words of affirmation meant so much to me! By the way, Mary Ann was a participant in L’Audible Art from the very first year it began in 1997 until she died in 2012.  Her legacy lives on!

See you on Monday, May 15!

Monday, Feb. 27, the Village Writers’ Club enjoyed a presentation by Janis F. Kearney, noted Arkansas memoirist and publisher, entitled “Writing Our Lives—Recovering Lost Memories.” She led us to recall incidents from our past that perhaps we had forgotten—or perhaps even repressed because of the emotional toll it had taken. An early childhood experience popped into my mind.

I must have been five or six when this happened:

During those early years, Mother sewed most of the dresses that my little sister, Cathy, and I wore, and she spent many hours at the sewing machine. One day she accidentally slid her finger under the needle, and it penetrated all the way through. She cried out, and I panicked.

“Manny, run next door and get Mrs. _________,” she screamed.

I started to cry, and I bounded out the door, rushed to our neighbor’s house, and banged on her door.

She was home, thank goodness, and she and I hurried back to our house. By that time, Mother had been able to turn the sewing machine wheel enough to lift the needle from her finger, and our kind neighbor helped her care for the wound.

I don’t remember our neighbor’s name or even if Mother eventually went to the doctor, but now, over 70 years later, I can still recall how frightened I was to see my mother helpless and in pain.

Today, millions of children all over the world are experiencing those same emotions.

 

Time Will Tell

Recently, a friend commented about whether or not a letter I had sent to our local paper would be printed. “Time will tell,” she said. She was right. I’m still looking for my letter to be published.

That’s true for everything in our lives, I think. None of us has ultimate control. We can plan carefully for upcoming events, but we are not assured that we will be able to carry out our plans.

As a school administrator, I learned that lesson over and over. Many times, circumstances arose that caused us to alter our plans, and yet we came through, often in unexpectedly positive ways. I’ve also learned that lesson in my personal life.  Sometimes illness or accidents occur or death of a loved one interrupts our lives, but we adjust and carry on.

Today, I take heart in knowing that only “time will tell” how the future will unfold. When actions taken by our national leaders are harmful to our citizens and to others seeking asylum within our country, I see how these bumbling actions are stirring up a mighty revival of voices united for decency and justice.

This ground swell is only beginning!

 

I am ashamed to say that in all my 78 years I have never marched, either to support something or to protest something. But one of the great privileges we Americans have is that we can raise our voices in protest or in praise.

Yesterday, millions of women and men from all across our nation marched in small towns and large cities to tell President Trump and the U.S. Congress that we will not support any policies or reforms that trample on civil rights or basic decency. If, as Trump says, he wants to “return power to the people,” then he needs to take notice of the massive crowds that came out yesterday and declared that the core values of this country will not be destroyed.

We will not tolerate the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act if it hurts those who now have health insurance in spite of pre-existing conditions or if it deprives thousands of our poorest citizens from affordable care.

We will not tolerate the dismantling of any laws that protect women’s rights to make choices about their lives and their bodies.

We will not tolerate any laws or practices that discriminate against persons because of their race, religion, or gender identity.

We will not tolerate the deportation of undocumented young people, brought here as children through no fault of their own, who now attend school and/or work to contribute to our society.

We will not tolerate the deportation of any undocumented immigrants who are now living in our country peacefully.

We will support President Trump’s desire to defend our borders more carefully, but we will not tolerate any attempt to screen persons based on their religion or ethnicity.

We will expect our President to speak truthfully, and we will also expect our news media to call him out when the facts do not support his statements. We will not tolerate any denigration of our free press.

I applaud those who marched yesterday! And I stand with all who are working to uphold the core values of this great country.

The Case for Santa

Santa will soon be making his annual trip, so tonight I’ll share a little story I wrote several years ago. A true experience underlies the fiction. Merry Christmas!

THE CASE FOR SANTA

Madelyn F. Young

            Lisa felt her phone vibrate and retrieved it from her pocket. Glancing at caller ID, she shut off the vacuum cleaner. “Hi, there.”

“Hi, Mom. Have Michael and Ellen talked with you about Santa Claus this year?” Meredith’s voice sounded edgy.

Lisa paused. “Well, yes. Michael did mention they were not going to play Santa with Katie. He said something about them not wanting to lie to her.”

“I know! Isn’t that ridiculous? She’s only three years old, for heaven’s sake. What did you tell him?”

“I think I told him that was certainly their decision to make, but we might still slip up and mention Santa when they’re here at our house. In fact, I already have tags on some of Katie’s gifts that say ‘From Santa.’”

“What did he say to that?”

“He didn’t object too much—said she couldn’t read them anyway, so it wouldn’t be a big deal.”

Meredith pressed the issue. “But, Mom! You know we will be there too. What if Katie says something to Claire about there not really being a Santa Claus? There’s no way I want our daughter to have her belief in Santa ruined. That’s one of the most magical things about Christmas for children. I can’t believe my own brother is going to deprive little Katie of all that excitement.”

Lisa had to admit she was disappointed too. She adored both of her granddaughters. Born only eleven weeks apart, they always enjoyed playing together. Last Christmas, their parents brought the toddlers home for the holidays, and Santa delighted them with many gifts. This year, Christmas would be much more complicated.

Lisa tried to soothe her daughter’s feelings. “Well, I think we can all go on like everything’s the same. Katie is still too young to understand much about Santa. Next year we may have more of a problem.”

“Yeah, I’ve already thought about that,” Meredith said. “But this year could be bad too. I’m going to call Michael and Ellen and insist they tell Katie not to talk about Santa Claus around Claire.”

“Well, be careful. Try not to sound too judgmental. They only want to make sure Katie isn’t disappointed with them later on. Michael said they wanted her to know that whatever they told her would always be true.”

“Okay,” Meredith said. “I promise not to rant too much, but I still think they’re way off base on this one.”

After their conversation, Lisa wasn’t sure what to expect on Christmas morning. However, when the day arrived, her two grown children seemed careful not to provoke each other—at least, not in her presence—and no problems arose when Katie and Claire opened their gifts.

“See, Mommy!”

“Daddy, look!”

Their little faces beamed. Lisa felt her shoulders relax, and she knew she could enjoy the day.

A year later, when Christmas rolled around, the case for Santa still remained undecided. The girls’ parents reported their four-year-olds were much more tuned in to all the Santa talk at preschool where they sang “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and other Santa songs. At the mall they saw long lines of children waiting to sit on Santa’s lap.

Meredith said she and Stan took Claire to see Santa, and she happily perched on his knee, confiding in him everything she wanted for Christmas. Lisa looked forward to the photo.

“But, Mom, I feel so sorry for Katie,” Meredith said. “Honestly! Why can’t Michael and Ellen just let her be a child!”

When Michael called, he explained what he and Ellen had told Katie. “Many children like to make believe Santa Claus is a real person, but Santa is only pretend,” they said. “Mommy and Daddy will give you your presents, not Santa.” But Michael also said they cautioned Katie to be kind and not spoil other children’s fun.

Even so, Lisa worried. What might happen when Katie and Claire were together? And what about presents this year? Should they be from Santa or not?

Several weeks before Christmas, Michael called again.

“Hi, Mom. Guess what? I think the problem of Santa is solved.”

“Really?” Lisa laughed. “That’s great! What’s going on?”

“Well, the other day, Ellen and I mentioned we were going to put presents under our tree before coming to Nana’s house. There would be some for Katie, but they would be from Mommy and Daddy. We would all open our gifts together here before making the trip. When we told Katie our plans, she frowned, like she was thinking hard about that, and then she said, ‘No, I want some presents from Santa too.’”

Lisa smiled. “My goodness. What did you say?”

“Well, I’ll have to admit that comment surprised us,” Michael said. “We knew she understood Santa wasn’t real. So we asked her about that. What she said was, ‘I want to make believe about Santa too, like the other kids do.’”

“Bless her heart.” Lisa laughed. “She must have thought she was missing something.”

“I guess so,” Michael said. “Anyway, Ellen and I have decided it will be fine for her to pretend. We’ve told Katie, ‘All right, then. You can have a few presents that come from Santa, and, if you want to, we can even have some Santa gifts at Nana’s house. When Claire opens her presents, you can open some too.’ She really likes that idea. So, Mom, I guess you’re off the hook.”

Lisa laughed. “Well, that does make things easier. You be sure to give her a big hug from Nana, and I’ll see you soon.”

Lisa clicked off the phone and grinned. Thank you, Santa.

 

We thank you, God, for today, for this

Time in which we are living

Here in this place we call

America. May we

Never forget to

Keep the light of freedom

Shining for all

Generations. In this place

Individuals may raise their

Voices in protest or in praise; in this place

Inclusion of all classes, creeds, and colors is our goal.

Now we lift our hearts to you

God, the Source of all our lives and liberty.

We thank you, God, for today.

Madelyn F. Young, 2004