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Magic

The Band-Aids are blue. Four that I can see. One masking each little knee poking from below her skirt’s hem and one on each elbow, like patches covering holes on an old man’s cardigan. The rest are hidden, but I know they’re there. They’re always there.

Back one night as she lay on her firm cot, she whispered into the lamp’s soft glow; “They can change, you know. When I’m happy, they turn purple. It’s like magic.”

I’d stayed very still, blocking the breaths of the nine other girls asleep in the room. Silently willing Evie to share more secrets.

“But they’ve been blue for a really long time.” She said with a sleepy softness before drifting off.

Alone now, we sit facing one another. She scans my expression. I see her brown eyes, upturned and massive through strands of mousy hair. Her lips look dry. Her petite hands are folded in her lap. Her eyes dart from me to Jiffy. He’s trying his best not to squirm.

I’d planned various greetings while waiting for them to arrive today. Even said them aloud while fussing with the fruit bowl. But when the doorbell rang, I’d merely opened it and stood, my gaze dropping from the social worker’s eager eyes to Evie, her backpack and her Band-Aids. She seemed even more fragile out here in the big world and everything I thought I’d say had left me.

My heart thumps. What do I do with this helpless creature? Adopting Jiffy was so different. A single pat had sparked instant love. But this? I suddenly feel like a fraud.

I finally stand and she pulls herself smaller. Shrinks into the chair’s dark corner.

Resisting the urge to scoop her up like a curly new pup, I present Jiffy instead. “Want to hold him? He loves kids.”

She shakes her head. Unfolds her hands. Gathers her skirt into two mid-thigh rosettes.

“It’s okay,” I assure her. “He might want to get to know you first anyway. He’s smart like that.”

I smile and her body seems to grow just a tiny bit.

“You should definitely come see your room though. I think you’ll like it in there. At least, I hope so. I read every decorating magazine out there trying to make it look cool.”

She doesn’t laugh, but gently leans over and picks up her backpack. It’s a small victory.

I walk delicately. Terrified she’ll break along the way. But when I open the door, I hear her draw a quiet breath behind me.

It’s cliché, really. A room much like the ones most girls her age should find themselves in. Shades of lavender. A single bed. A fluffy rug and an old bookshelf I’d bought at a yard sale up the street. I’d been pleased with my efforts but now that she’s here, they seem somehow not enough.

My doubt mounts as she walks in and drops her knapsack. Kneels in front of the crammed bookcase.

“I’ve never owned a book.” She says in a Christmas morning kind of whisper. “We weren’t allowed to take them out of the reading room in foster care.”

“Which one was your favourite?” I ask, hoping I’ve masked the sadness in my voice.

“I don’t know what it was called,” she answers. “The cover was ripped.” She picks up one of the books I’d bought at the same yard sale as the shelves. Runs her hand across the front. Already lost in it.

I set Jiffy down and am amazed when he doesn’t rush at her like he would anyone else. We watch in silence. She takes the book over to the big beanbag and sinks in. It’s like she forgets we’re here. Her body becomes so engulfed in the chair’s violet fabric all I can see are the milky cotton socks spilled around her ankles.

I sneak away to make some lunch. She must be hungry and I’m sure I’ve burned through a thousand calories by now my heart rate is so high.

I smooth jam over bread, but can’t help myself and tiptoe back to Evie’s room for a peek. I find her and Jiff asleep on the beanbag and as I move Evie’s backpack out of the way, a frayed, coverless book falls out onto the floor. Stooping to pick it up, I notice she’s scribbled over her blue Band-Aids with a pink hi-liter, turning them a mottled purple.

“It is magic.” I whisper.

I entered a contest a while back. I didn’t win. Or even place this time. Which stings. But it’s okay. It’s okay, because I always pay extra to receive a serving of critique alongside my disappointment. And sometimes. When I’m lucky. It ends up making my disappointment taste like dessert.

Yes, there were words like, uneven and cliche (ouch) but the words that really stood out for me were…wonderful imagery, mind-blowing, my favourite sentence and I would enjoy reading more by this author.

And all of that makes me want to grow. Be better.

What’s not sweet about that?

Anyhow, here’s my story:

Missing Love

He fills with words that will only reach the earth, he’s been warned, should they carry their weight in truth. The sweat of his pudgy finger crimps the creases he’s so carefully folded, and he pulls himself in tight, hurling his most sincere spirit into what he must believe will be an accepting unknown…

It can be hard to remember how something began. Details fuzzy and timing, non-specific. But Elian and Luna are not spared in this way. The moment that first child disappeared is forever cut into their hearts. After all, watching someone fade is not easily forgotten. To see them laughing one minute and evaporating the next like a recalled raindrop, hangs heavy in their atmosphere.

Long before despair scraped its way to the core like a surgeon’s scalpel, this small town had been a home. They’d lived in colourful houses. Slept in cozy beds. Trailed fingertips through the fountain and sacrificed pennies for precious wishes. They’d even believed they could swing high enough for their toes to touch the hopeful stars. 

But as children began to vanish one by one, so did the bliss.

Panic took the place of the light hearts that once filled the streets. Terrified mothers imagined mass murders. Undiscovered bodies. Fathers waited with shotguns at the ready for an evil that would never show its face. Paranoia and mourning became a way of life for this once content little place.

Time passed and slowly the township reached a decision to try and understand rather than fight. And as they deliberated, they became shamefully aware that those who’d faded were solely the ones conceived outside of love. Their beginnings had cultivated from the seed of greed. Selfishness. Or pride. Some spawned from lust. Envy. And some, simply a product of rash disregard. 

Slowly, the town determined that not one of the lost had bloomed from a pure moment of tenderness or a sincere form of love.

And, as is human nature, they were eager to replace what was gone. To fix the broken. Fill the void. And so, no lesson learned, they attempted to conceive through what could only be deemed as despair. But their loveless efforts refused to bear the fruits they once had and their barren souls remained smothered in empty darkness.

Now, as Elian and Luna make their way to the fountain, unearthly quiet fills the creeks and crevices. Swings sway loosely in the intermittent wind, their rusty chains straining against a tongue-tied backdrop. The two maneuver through the littered streets, Luna’s fingers curving around Elian’s palm. Long and loose like the limbs of a weeping willow.

The park feels smaller now, its surrounding fence halting at their hips. And they loom over jungle gym bars they couldn’t even reach at three feet tall. Roots of now massive Oaks have thrust through the dusty earth. Tossed the time-warped slide upside down. A wavy serpent. Vacant face peering upward. And a carousel cocked on its side lies like a forgotten toy on a nursery room floor.

But today is unlike any of the many days they’ve ambled this same path. The waterless fountain urges them on, its surrounding air fused with static. A vibrating hum pulling them to it like the towropes that had once hauled them up to the highest of mountaintops. They carry no pennies. Only wishes. And with no words, they hear what the other is thinking. With one glance, they feel what the other is feeling. One touch and they want what the other is wanting.

They are one.

Elian turns and presses his lips to Luna’s forehead. They stand this way for some time, paused in the moment between what was, what is and what could be. Most gave up. Some moved on. Others simply bided their time. Waiting. Withering. Becoming ash between the sheets. But Luna and Elian had only grown stronger. Looked after one another. 

Flourished. Together.

And now they stand at the fountain’s edge. Luna’s lemon coattails flapping in the wind. Elian’s dark curls shifting freely over his brow. He takes her hand in his once more. Waits as the sky begins to change. Magnificent hues kaleidoscope into shapes and patterns. Azures and indigos fold into amethysts and tangerines. They believe it to be the most beautiful thing they have ever seen.

And for a brief moment, it is.

Until a small white tip, the determined nose of a well-intentioned craft, breaks through a slit in the sky’s colourful curtain and glides gracefully, softly, silently into the hearts of their two accepting souls.

This is the most beautiful thing they’ve ever seen. 

Luna feels the stir. Almost sees the pudgy finger. Elian reaches down to touch the swell of colours that cascade from the sky and stretch across her belly.

“Welcome, little one.” He whispers. “This is love.”

That’s The Spirit

Slop.

A spoonful of potato hits the plate with a wallop and a little spec of mash lands on the hand holding it.  Instead of shuffling on like most, he pauses, making eye contact.  I steel myself, waiting for a curse word or a dirty look but all I see is empathy.

It’s the last place I want to be and if I hadn’t already committed, I’d be home, covers over my head.

“Bad day?” he asks, his voice soft, but hoarse.

“I’m sorry,” I apologize.  “I didn’t meant to…”

“No big deal.” he shrugs.  “I’ve had worse.”  His smile, as he moves on, leaves me with goose bumps.

“Yes, please.”  The next one says as I turn away from the man with the smile.  Her toothy grin, oily bob and blackened fingernails win her an extra scoop.

“Oh, thank you!” she squeals, as though I’ve just given her a hundred dollar bill.

My head throbs and pain stabs at my sinuses as I wonder which would be more disgusting; wiping my dripping nose with my cuff or pulling out the last damp, crumpled Kleenex I’d tucked into my sleeve.

There’s a lull in the line and I stand behind my steaming tray, looking out at the fifty round tables we had spent the morning setting up.  I find it alarming that all are full.

My toothy friend sits at the one closest, chuckling and chatting with whomever she can engage, her worn out red coat contrasting with her dark hair but matching her cheeks, her potato-covered tongue on display as she laughs.

They are all oohing and ahhing over the stockings we’d filled and placed at each setting; holding up the toothbrushes, bath beads and chocolates, hooting at the decks of cards and bags of mints.

Boom, boom, boom.  I’m tempted to leave my post to grab some aspirin, but the hoards are headed my way.  The warming lamps hover over the food, making me sweat and I start to feel very claustrophobic.

“Just a little, please.” The tiny girl in front of me requests. “I can’t eat very much and I’m not allowed to waste.”

She’s only about five and the sleeves of her shiny dress are completely tattered.  Her chin is just above table level and her big, gold eyes are like dollops of honey suspended over my shiny, silver tray.

“Yeah,” her dad confirms.  “Not too much for her.  Leave the rest of her portion for someone else.”

“How about you?” I ask.

“Oh, I’ll take my fair share.” He says, looking down.  I feel his shame.

“I meant, would you like the rest of her portion?” I shrug, trying to be nonchalant.

“Well, if…” he continues to look down, head hanging like a scorned pup.

Very gently, I place a double helping next to his peas.

“Anybody asks,” I offer, “you send them my way.”

He finally looks up and I can see that his eyes are an older, much more trampled version of his girl’s.  He too, smiles a smile that leaves me reeling.

After about twenty more servings, there’s another break.  I really am desperate for some relief.  My headache has turned into a machete attack and my nose is about to explode over the entire table.

I slide two fingers into my cuff and pull out the mutilated tissue.  Cupping it against my palm, I bring it up to my nose but it’s no use.  There’s more crumple than cotton.  Embarrassed, I try to stuff it back under my sleeve, unnoticed.

Plates are clamoring and I realize someone has cleared my tray away.  That’s my cue to get out on the floor and start helping clean up.

Coffee and tea is being served and everyone’s holding their cup with both hands, aware it may be the last warmth they feel until, well, who knows when.

I make my way around the room, the blinking Christmas lights taunting my overly sensitive eyes, while I push the bus cart loaded with well-used tableware.

As I reach out for yet another empty plate, a familiar finger brushes mine.

“I’m sorry.  I know I’m not supposed to touch you,” he says, “but I thought you might need these.”

I look up from the tan and weathered hand and see his forgiving face once again.  He’s holding out a small packet of Kleenex, the same one I’d placed in his stocking this morning.

I did need them.  I needed the Kleenex, I needed the compassion and I needed these people.

I was ignorant for being surprised that every seat was spoken for, naïve for being shocked that they wanted no more than their fair share, but mostly, I was foolish for thinking that this was the last place I wanted to be.

Give hands 3

Holding Hands

I remember hands.

When I think of someone I haven’t seen for a long time. Or someone I will never see again. I see their hands. My mind pictures the shape of their nails. The length of their fingers. Slender. Wide. Rounded or squared. The curve of their wrist. The gestures they made.

Unique. Personal.

But they change. Our hands.

Fingers bend with an arthritic curve. Skin tells of our days in the sun. Scars. Lines. Creases. Spots. Yes. They change. And yet, there’d be no mistaking them. We would still know them anywhere. And to whom they belonged.

And that’s true for us. We bend. Curve. Digress. Succeed.

Scar. Fail. Fall. Fly. Hurt. Heal.

And change.

Because nothing ever stays the same. Even if it seems so. Not our hands. Not us.

But we will always reach for the familiar. Seek the uniqueness. Strive to see the recognizable.

The memorable. The unforgettable.

We’ll always look for what we understand. We will always know each other. Even through continuous change. Because despite sometimes believing we want things to stay the same, we thrive on growth. Diversity.

Spice.

The things that make us look closer. Use our minds. Feel. Find. Connect.

The things that give us a hand…to hold on.

AlanaHanad

I really don’t watch that much TV so ignore the remote and focus on the fact that I was brave enough to post this extreme close-up of my unmanicured mitt. It was a spontaneous shot. ;0)

Fortress

Autumns, roses, loves, leaves. Leavings and losings. Moons, stars, sorrows, souls. Forevers and goodbyes.

Fine webs spun off the tattered edge of a torn heart.

Broken

Bleeding

Beautiful

Pain. Ache. Loneliness. Things that make it hard to breathe. Things that make it easy to cry.

Things that turn on the light before we reach the switch.

The wishes we shouldn’t make. The things we don’t know we want. Endings leaving happiness to interpretation. Beginnings making unhappiness clear. The hope that turns the page. The rock that keeps us anchored. The robe that makes us feel safe while we dream.

The pocket that carries us.

Every song worth hearing. Every story worth reading. Has these. And they are the things that hold us.

While we listen.

IMG_8143

Killyleagh Castle, Co Down, NI (Photo credit: Me)

Wild Blue

I’m crazy.

 

I say this with a sigh, so you get a feel for where I’m at. Oh, I may try and pass it off as Hazy, but no. There’s no doubt in my mind I’m certifiably nuts.

 

And sometimes I forget to tap into that. To use it to my advantage.

 

Because it works for people like me. People with a creative inkling. So does a little shot of something strong and throat-blazing first thing in the morning, although I’m holding off on going that route just yet.

 

But I have been pondering this blog lately. Wondering what its really about. And I don’t mean the content. Because honestly no one ever truly knows what the hell I’m rambling on about. Including me, most of the time.

 

And because of that, my sentiments will mean something different. And serve a different purpose. To whomever who reads it. Which I like to believe is a good thing.

 

No, what I mean is. Why am I doing it? At the end of the day, it doesn’t seem it’s getting me any closer to this “making it” thing I hear people referring to. And I’m not using it to get ahead. Or herd myself any closer to what I want to be when I grow up.

 

So yeah. Just when I was thinking the sky was falling—creative people have a tendency towards the fatalistic—I received what I feel compares to a loved one at the finish line cheering me on. Just as I’m about to give up on completing the last grueling marathon mile…

 

It was a morning text.

 

Right after a restless night’s sleep. And I honestly couldn’t have dreamed up anything better than what it said. That I’m talented. And write beautifully. I’m prophetic and a gift! And that I should publish my posts into a book.

 

Now, I know that had I not received that message, I’d still be here, my friends. I know because this blog helps me. And I can only hope it does the same for you. Writing is my passion. And we know there’s no stopping what the heart wants. The heart’s a stubborn bugger, don’t you know.

 

I simply need to bring the scarecrows in off the fields. Shake the birds from their nests. And trust that even though it’s hidden from my site, there is a wild blue over yonder.

 

And trust me. Believing it’s there, even though I can sometimes barely see it through the clouds, is like finding a secret tenner in the glove box just when I thought I’d used my last penny.

 

Boom.

Wildblue.jpg

County Down, Northern Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

Dear Life

Did I mention we have pups?

 

Ohhh yes. We sure do. Well, they’re pups bordering on adulthood. But when we got them back in October 2016, they were wild and bouncy babes.

 

And because of them, all kinds of things are happening.

 

They are mini magicians. These doggies. They’ve magic’d our entire carpet into one big potty. And all of a sudden, our kitchen table seems to be about two inches closer to the ground.

 

Yes, they are as cute as all get out, but me oh my, are they a handful.

 

Times two.

 

And as I say, they’re making things happen.

 

We are currently in the process of replacing the carpet in question. Which is, of course, a very welcome change of scene. But as all updates and renovations do, one thing has led to another and we are now replacing the entire lower level flooring.

 

The stairs.

 

And the landing.

 

And doing so, has prompted us to hire an 18 foot long skip to clear out the last 18 years of our life in this house. One foot for every year. A somewhat eerie coincidence, don’t you think? (Okay now…where’s my little pensive emoji guy)

 

And as I’m sure you know, the arduous task of clearing out. Unburdening. Is both entirely painful and hugely liberating. But to make it especially challenging, I have apparently kept every single card

 

ever

 

given

 

to

 

me.

 

Not to mention every single card I have ever given to my three children. And my husband. And I sat there in the driveway, on a little stool beside the skip, and read through…

 

every

 

single

 

one.

 

It took days. And it was lovely. Tucked inside every card was a memory that made me smile. Things I thought I’d lost. Photos that melted my heart. Sentiments that had me in tears. Events I’d forgotten.

 

And some that I will never forget for as long as I live.

 

And after reading. Deep breath. Eyes closed. Surrounded by the ones who’d sent them. I frisbeed each of them into the dumpster’s abyss. No, not the people silly monkey. The cards.

 

And it’s okay.

 

I’ll be okay.

 

Because once they’d disappeared. In amongst the trash. And the treasures. I looked around. And everyone…all who’d sent me those special somethings that are now in the bin…were still with me.

 

In my mind. My heart. And in my soul. Because what matters will always dig its nails in. Cling to the side. Refuse to fall away. Or be lost in the darkness of a skip.

 

So we can hold on to them for dear life.

 

Or we can let go.

 

See what sticks.

 

Because what sticks once we’ve let go, is what we hold life-dear.

IMG_2813

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blow

When I was young, I read all the fairytales. The pretty ones. The sparkly ones. The dark. And the doomful.

 

Most of us did, right?

 

But I wonder…did they have the same effect on everyone else? (If I were feeling silly, I’d insert that little guy here…the one with his finger and thumb resting on his chin. And a pensive look on his little face. (Ah, go on. He’s one of my favorites)

thinking-face

Stories like Hansel and Gretel and Little Red Riding Hood. Sleeping Beauty. And The Three Little Pigs.

 

Ohhh yes. I slurped that sinister stuff up like it was flowing from a big huge straw.

 

And it’s strange. Because I’m a realist in most areas of my life. Yet somehow, I’m gullible in this one regard. Probably because I’m a sucker for a great story.

 

I want to believe. Buy in. Exist amongst enchanting pages. And nestle safely between their protective covers. But hey. Only if there’s a good bricklayer about to keep the wolves at bay…I wouldn’t chance landing over in Dr. Seuss’s Green Eggs and HAM.

 

Anyway, back to my point. And it’s this. As a young girl, I believed in fairy tales.

 

I believed I could wish upon a star.

 

Or a birthday candle.

 

Or a dandelion.

 

And that it would come true. My wish. Whatever it was.

 

And I want that back. My faith. My belief. My gullibility. My trust in the process.

 

That if I dare to wish. Take the leap. And drink from the fountain. That it’ll pay off. That I won’t just be left holding a smoldering wick and a wilting stem.

 

That I can erect my own fairy tale.

 

That I can get back what I lost when I was young.

 

But I need you to believe with me…

 

So are you ready?

 

Okay now…

1

2

3

Blow…

Wish

Photo taken at Nendrum Castle Lookout, Co Down, NI

 

Right Here

Memories are fickle things.

They try so hard to keep us happy. And other times, are set on breaking us. Into the tiny little crumbs we find in the seams of our pockets.

Remember those?

Memories are illusionists. And they are the boss. They can have us staring off into the star-studded sky. Cue the dopey grin. And in one fell swoop. Taking a swipe at tears we swiftly find kerplunking into the darkness of our coffee cups.

But whatever the case—sad or happy—memories are invaluable. Irreplacable.

And we’re glad of them, aren’t we.

Always looking to make more. Searching for the next chance. The next stolen moment.

And while that’s okay—it is, after all, what keeps us going—it’s important to relish in the ones that already exist. Invite them in. Spend time. Offer them a teacake. Make them feel special.

Wanted

Needed

Important

And loved

Because sometimes. When we’re busy searching for the next best thing.

We forget.

That we can just put our hands in our pockets. And drag our fingers through those unexpected, joyful and delectable little tidbits. Relish their different shapes and sizes. And say…

“I’ve got everything I need right here.”

TunnocksTeacake

Click Tock

My time here is coming to an end. Normally, the word slowly might have been in there, but not so…this time. This time, time is running round the room. And I’m chasing its cheeky little naked bum, telling it to stop.

And settle down.

Behave.

But time is a rascal, isn’t it? It doesn’t listen when we pray for it to hurry up. And it sticks its fingers in its ears and hums a defiant little tune when we beg it to slow down.

We can plead with it. Finesse it. Scold it. And we can try to get it into that elusive bed. Tuck it in tight.

So it can’t move.

But those mischievous little hands will keep right on ticking. Showing us who’s boss. No matter what tactic we take.

And it’s because of this I’m finding it best to ignore time. Ohh yes. For now, I’ll just set it in front of the telly with a big bowl of sweet stuff. And maybe. If I’m lucky. I’ll be able to steal away a few more of its precious moments. You know…while its having a good chuckle at something we wouldn’t understand.

Because, you see, time also has a truly wicked sense of humour.

TheShrigleyClock3

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