INSTANT LOVE FROM THE GINGERBREAD MAN – A Short Story

Gingerbread Man

“Some memories are realities and are better than anything that can ever happen to one again.”
Willa Cather

I can still remember vividly the incredible smell of plump raisins buried in the belly of my Godfather’s gingerbread muffins. These extraordinary muffins were baked in his piping hot wood stove oven in a tiny, very cluttered kitchen filled top to bottom with newspapers, boxes, and knick-knacks.

Saturdays at my Godfather’s house were very special. The day started early as I walked the half mile down the quiet country road, lined on each side with dense woods, a few houses, and an occasional open field filled with wildflowers. When I arrived at his house, he would be out in the yard chopping wood for the stove, no matter what season.

I would sit on the wooden steps just outside the kitchen, humming as he chopped and stacked one piece of wood after another – enough to last for a few days. I would routinely grab the smallest bucket of wood, take it inside and set it next to the stove. Then I watched as Godfather, so skillfully, grabbed the coiled handle of the stove lid lifter. I worried that he might burn himself, but he never did. He would use his shirt or a dishtowel and grab it so fast I barely saw the lid come off the stove. From my small bucket, he would push in one piece of kindling after another until the stove was good and hot.

All during this prep time, I really don’t remember Godfather saying much – he wasn’t a talker, just a worker. He was always busy doing something – all day long. He would plow the yard, chop ice from a big block on the porch that he kept in an old icebox, sitting on a table almost hidden amongst a hodgepodge of tools, old chairs, fishing poles, boxes, and bags.

Although he was, generally, a loner, almost reclusive at times, he genuinely seemed to enjoy my company. I knew not to get underfoot or be too chatty. I also knew the routine and stuck to it religiously. Our time together was simply magical – filled with familiar sounds and smells of our routine – wood chopping, ice chips flying against the ice bucket, banging pots and pans, wind whooshing up the chimney, smoke from the wood burning and crackling in the stove. It was all warm and wonderful and the best was yet to come.

To most people in our small town, my Godfather, “Uncle Arthur”, was one of those “Boo Radley” kinda characters from the story “To Kill a Mockingbird”. To them, he was an oddball of sorts, interacting with people in the neighborhood only on an “as needed” basis. Stories told around town about “Uncle Arthur” had him drowning cats and shooting dogs who wandered accidently or on purpose through his property. Just short of drowning or shooting, he was known to chase neighborhood children off in terror if caught taking a shortcut across his cherished land. I did witness that a time or two, or more. Godfather was not an educated man, but he was good at so many things. Without even a high school education, he never had any trouble keeping his home, his truck, his tools or food on his table. He hunted whenever the season allowed him to do so and grew all kinds of vegetables in his half-acre garden. Generously, he shared what he had with his sisters, a handful of associates and with my family as well.

My dad was a singer and was always on the road, traveling most of the year. In his absence, it was “Uncle Arthur” that took us to the doctor, to the movies, or anywhere else we had to go outside walking distance in this small community. He was not a church going man, but despite his reputation of perhaps being a little ‘different’, he was a very kind man. He only wore bib overalls, a long sleeved shirt, a cap, and boots. I never saw him in anything else. He was always a little disheveled, but he was always working. Right next to his kitchen was a really big tin tub where he apparently bathed at the end of each hard working day – drawing water from the pump right next to the back porch, heating it to a comfortable temperature for a moment of relaxation after being up and moving from sun up to sundown.

Music at Godfather’s came from the birds chirping happily just outside the kitchen window where he lived. My memory might be fuzzy, but it seems that the birds never left – they lived outside that window all year long, serenading us as we made happy memories year after year in that kitchen. My visits were confined mostly to the kitchen and the back porch, as it was almost impossible to maneuver through the rest of the house. It was apparent that at one time, the house was really lived in. The room where the tin tub sat had remnants of what appeared to be a living room – there sat a couch, a curio cabinet, and lamps that looked like they had been selected by someone with a softer touch. I had heard stories that “Uncle Arthur” had once had a wife, but grown folks never talked about those kinds of things in front of us children. For me, despite his being known in the neighborhood as peculiar and somewhat distant, “Uncle Arthur” was one of the most loving and thoughtful men in my world.

Back in the toasty warm kitchen, anticipating the highlight of my Saturday with “Uncle Arthur”, I waited for the magic to begin. With the stove nice and hot, the ice chips ready for our glasses of sweet lemonade, the real joy for me and my Godfather’s afternoons together began. Under the instruction of the master gingerbread maker, I gathered the sugar, molasses, spices, flour, baking soda, milk, and eggs. Godfather would bring the stove to just the right oven temperature – adjusting each piece of wood left, right, up or down, as if adjusting a modern day thermostat. How he got that oven temperature just right is still a mystery to me. It was like magic. As he poured all the ingredients together in his giant yellow porcelain mixing bowl, each addition of an ingredient released level upon level of incredible aromas for the best gingerbread in the making. Individually and collectively, I could smell the molasses, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. But the very last ingredient added was the piece de resistance! The raisins!! “Uncle Arthur” soaked his raisins while mixing together all of the other ingredients. As he added the raisins, they seemed to float endlessly down into the yellow mixing bowl. Their smell was so incredible that I believe he soaked them in some magic potion – perhaps some of that dandelion wine he used to make and bury in the ground next to the back porch. The finished product was an unbelievable and indescribable treat.

My magical Saturdays with my Godfather continued until I turned eighteen and went away to college in 1965. I truly missed those magical moments with a man who didn’t have to say that he loved me – he showed me, my whole life. And even in college, I couldn’t wait to receive my care packages from him – seemingly still warm from that wood stove oven in my Godfather’s kitchen – instant love from the Gingerbread Man.

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DISTORTED IMAGES

DISTORTED MIRROR IMAGES

Oft times the world around us prefers that we live a clone like existence – one in which inhabitants follow each other mindlessly – like lemmings going over the end of a cliff. It becomes difficult to encourage individual thinking in this kind of society.

If T.V. executives decide that reality shows are the success media of the day, then every station promotes reality shows. Overzealous health fanatics can quickly convince the world that every other thing we put in our mouths will kill us in short order; however, in six months, the same thing that has been killing us will now make us live an extra twenty years.

We look in the mirror and never see our true selves, but images distorted by the latest fad, the most popular trend, the current money making scheme, the newest eco-friendly lifestyle, and the most popular urban mantra of the month.

Back in the day, it seems, we just lived — free of mind-bending influences and trends that changed every few months. It takes a brave person to decide to just ‘be’ in this day and time. To ‘be’ whatever has been planted deep within each soul to be – naturally and without undue influence, stress and struggle.

If I choose to march to my own music, to beat my own drum, why should this be of concern to anyone walking around in their own skin? We all have different passions and approach even those with similar passions in very different ways. There is room in this huge universe for movers and shakers and for the unambitious; for the pious and high and mighty and for the humble, simple and serene. The world turns on many axes and all these axes help to make the world go round.

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Woman Power – Fluttering on Wings of Unity

TURTLEQUEEN'S WRITEPLACE

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I write for those women who do not speak, for those who do not have a voice because they were so terrified, because we are taught to respect fear more than ourselves. We’ve been taught that silence would save us, but it won’t.

Words of Audre Lorde -Carribean American Writer

I love that my mother and grandmother planted seeds of power and relilence in me. As a woman I, like so many other women, battle to maintain a continuous balance against who we truly are and the mixed messages that we so often hear about what our roles should be.

We, as women, hold the keys to the universe. Without us there is no universe.  Even in the game of chess, the Queen is the most powerful piece on the board.

https://theturtlequeen.wordpress.com/previous-catalog/the-chess-master/

We must recognize and accept our naturally powerful nature and raise our daughters to use their power without…

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No In-Between

We live in a world of extremes: extreme TV, extreme wars, extreme images, extreme thoughts, feelings, and more. As I examine my inner thoughts and feelings, I find myself sometimes in a maze of extremes — extreme judgments, extreme opinions, extreme overreactions and more.

I worry about this crazy world in which we live and the part I may play in its increasing state of madness. I know that we all are playing a part in our own demise. Every time I make a statement in the extreme, I am tearing away at our universe. Just one extreme word can remove a small grain, then, a stone, then a mountain, then before we know it — all creation is gone. Sound extreme? Yeah!! But think about it…..

It is extreme to think in terms of us and them, of your religion vs. mine, of black vs. white of rich vs. poor, or my right vs. your wrong. Why is there not room for much diversity in thought, in image, in worship, in personal approaches to living?

I plead guilty to being an extremist sometimes, though outwardly appearing open-minded and receptive to differences of opinion. I’ve comfortably used the word “HATE” and have felt extreme opposition to other’s views, even when I didn’t speak it aloud. It is in our personal spaces of hate, separateness, superiority, patriotism, and religious fervor that the danger lays. We only see it when looking at someone else, not at ourselves.

In building these very tall walls of separatism, with extreme coverings of single-minded judgments and opinions, we have created a world of fear, isolation, and dehumanization. This is truly no way to really LIVE.

Today the world is on heightened military alert because of those among us who have taken a single thought, lacking real judgment, and built a fortress of extreme hate. That level of extreme thinking has meant the loss of life for those merely expressing their own personal opinions. Just when does your opinion become so much more important that it gives you license to control, alter, or even take my life?!

Life is more than extremes at either one end or the other. There really is an ‘In-Between’. That in-between is called by many names that we need to add to our vocabulary and our way of living every day. That requires a daily dose of RESPECT, UNDERSTANDING, COMMUNICATION, EDUCATION and finally the core of what I believe lies buried in every soul — LOVE — for each other and for ourselves.

I pledge this day to begin with me, and take my first dose today by sending you this message. I pray that we all do the same, one day at a time.

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DREAMS DEFFERRED

As I begin a new year, I reflect on thoughts I collected into writings throughout last year. This blog I wrote last summer made me think of my 2015 new beginnings. So, I thought this blog was worth sharing again, as we write those lists of resolutions, make those promises, and start checking off our goals — hoping to finally reach those Dreams Deferred.

The Turtle Queen WritePlace

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I’ve sometimes been guilty of getting stuck in a dream – one that plays over and over in my head like a bad movie. I become tortured by the repetitiveness of these recurring images that seem never able to become a reality. At heart I am procrastinator and must push myself to turn my dreams into action. I can over think the process of making my dreams happen — to the point of paralysis.

I am learning, though, that if we treat every dream like an exciting new project and not some impossible, unreachable climb up Mount Everest, it might be easier to reach. As Project Manager I am able to write out a plan of action – step by step – adding a timeline – then make the project happen, enjoying the journey as I go. The minute I think of what I want to do as a “dream”…

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About advice and being told what to do…

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THE TEA LEAVES TOLD THE STORY

tEA LEAF READER    I remember so well sitting at my grandmother’s kitchen table, waiting anxiously for Sister Rose.  She came by every Wednesday to bring my “Nana” mystical news of good fortune.  You simply didn’t bring bad news to my grandmother’s house. Nana’s small tenement took on a whole new aura on those Wednesday mornings — our little eyes looking around for unknown and unseen spirits also hovering in silent wait for Sister Rose.

First, the whistle of the kitchen kettle set the mood for the readings.  Then sip, sip, sip ’til the cup was empty. The remaining tea leaves then mysteriously told the story.

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QUIET PLEASE!! – THERE ARE HUMAN BEINGS PRESENT.

                             electrical utility poles image
Alice Miller
I am one who loves peace.  In today’s world there is far too much noise! People constantly talk over each other’s words, never stopping to really listen to what someone else may be saying. We see it on TV talk shows, certainly on reality shows, in our daily conversations and in political commentary. I find myself just shutting down in the midst of this kind of confusion — this nonsense.
When I awake each day I pause to listen to the still peaceful sounds of nature. I find comfort in a tinkling wind chime or a singing bird and even in the gentle rustling of the wind. But as the day goes on, the world becomes filled with human rumblings that are so irritating and distracting.  What is happening to our human species?  Are we all just slowly going mad?
Thank God there are remnants of a world created first in silence and then in the quiet beauty of natural things.  Humans have become a constant buzz that can sometimes drive one nuts! It’s like that buzzzzzz from those electrical giants sitting like dangerous soldiers, preparing for battle, along the perimeters of our back yards.  They are killing us slowly — just like the drone of noise we inflict upon each other, all day – everyday.
Quiet Please!!  There are human beings present.
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Reserved Only For a Special Month

Abuse thrives only in silence. You have the power to end domestic violence simply by shining a spotlight on it.”     Leslie Morgan Steiner – Author of book “CRAZY LOVE”

Today I received a TED TALKS video from my son that left me in tears.  These were tears of sad remembrances and they were good tears.  I am so proud that I have a very sensitive, caring and understanding son.  Our family survived a very dysfunctional life, and despite all that we experienced, we managed to create more beautiful lives.

I was a victim of domestic abuse in the presence of my children.  Children should never have to experience watching a parent suffer — in any way, especially being abused by the very one that should set an example of love, respect and caring.  Fortunately, I have strong, resilient and wonderful children who understood the key to overcoming that dysfunction we lived for so long – love, undying love.

Like so many months of the year that are set aside for “awareness”, Domestic Violence Month comes and goes and in and out of so many minds, then forgotten.  Domestic Violence is not something that is ever forgotten in the minds of the abused or those there to watch it happen repeatedly..  We live with it long after the abuser is gone.

When I received this video today from my son it truly moved me.  It moved me to not only share this video that is so very powerful, but also to send a reminder that abuse of any kind is not just a problem for the victims, but for all of us!  That message was so poignantly conveyed in this video. I related to every word this woman spoke, I felt her every emotion — been there and, unfortunately, done far too much of that same story.

October – Domestic Violence Awareness Month is gone, but the abuse continues daily – 1 of every 4 women in this country is experiencing this while others stand by and watch it happen. I implore you – BE AWARE – 365 days a year!  Be the one –  the one to make the call to the police to save your neighbor or your friend, the one to listen when a victim needs an ear, the one to give shelter when there is no where else to go, the one who says to the abuser “It’s never ok to hurt the ones we should love”.  Teach your sons and daughters, your nieces and nephews, your neighbors and friends. Speak it, live it by example, and maybe — just maybe — one day we won’t have to reserve a day or month to bring attention to this awful condition.

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A HORRIBLE DISEASE FAR TOO HARD TO CURE…

TURTLEQUEEN'S WRITEPLACE

dOMESTIC VIOLENCE IMAGE 1

 

disease. A pathological condition of a part, organ, or system of an organism resulting from various causes, such as infection, genetic defect, or environmental stress, and characterized by an identifiable group of signs or symptoms.

Domestic Abuse – A very debilitating condition that often weakens one to the point of suicide if the disease doesn’t kill them first.

As human beings we are all subject to disease of some kind — some as frightening as “The Big C”, Cancer or The Ebola Virus, the world’s most recent epidemic.  But other diseases are more sinister, existing quietly in our midst, right next door, or just in the next room in our very own homes. The sounds and images of Domestic Violence – a truly pathological condition – are often so frightening that we refuse to even speak about it out loud.  We know it’s happening and do nothing to…

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