Long Pond

This piece was written in response to the photo prompt at The Red Dress Club: RemembRED.

Your assignment this week was to write a memoir piece inspired by this picture of a garden hose. In 700 or fewer words, show us where your memory takes you

I watched the spray from the hose rise in a twinkling arc over the tomato plants. Fat drops of water rolled from the end of the sprayer and splashed onto my bare feet. The water was shockingly cold in the heat of the morning sun. I looked down and watched the cold, almost painful drops land on my foot. A puddle formed around my toes and made the soil of his garden muddy. My feet were dirty, but he didn’t care. I dug my toes into the earth and absorbed its muddy warmth.

I reached over and plucked a ripe, red cherry tomato from the vine and popped it into my mouth then followed with another. When I’d arranged a tomato in each cheek, I called to him and flashed a beaming smile. He turned from tying a tomato plant to its stake and laughed at the sight of my bulging cheeks. His laugh was magical, spreading warmth and washing me with happiness.

“When are we going to go fishing?” My voice sounded muffled and hollow as my words pushed their way around the tomatoes filling my checks. I stood holding the hose in one hand, watering his tomato plants, and poked at my puffy cheeks with the index finger of my other hand. The skin on my cheeks began feeling like it was stretching, so I bit down on the tomatoes, breaking through the skin and washing my tongue with their sun-warmed sweet and sour interiors.

He never yelled at me and his hands never hurt. He shared his time and paid attention.

“You want to go fishing, huh?”

“Yup, and I’m gonna catch the biggest fish ever!”

He laughed, and then left the garden to enter the cellar. The dirt interior was like entering a cave. The ceiling was lined with fishing poles. He knew just where mine was located and pulled it down, along with his own. The tackle box and oars followed and were pushed into the bed of the truck. We always drove the short distance across the street and down the hill to the boat.

At the shoreline, I stood with the gear and watched him turn the boat over and unlock its chains. His moccasins squished into the damp weedy shoreline as he slid the boat into the water. “Come on,” he’d say, “Watch the mud.”

I gingerly stepped to the boat, walking along the clumps of grass and trying to avoid the blackened mud that sucked at my sneakers. The boat shimmied as I stepped onto the rear seat and made my way to the bow with my arms out in an attempt to balance. He’d pass the oars into the boat, then push off and climb in just before his feet met the water.

The water slapped against the side of the boat and the lily pads dragged at the bottom, trying to slow the momentum of his push. We’d pause there while he arranged the oars and I’d pull at the flowers growing from the lily pads, finally pulling one of the long slimy stems from the water and allowing my fingers to drag through the wake as he rowed me around Long Pond.

Those short summer weeks – always too short, were strung together by days full of nothing that were everything.

Our last day spent fishing together happened in 1998. I was no longer a little girl.

I watched his hands flip the boat and unlock its chains. His moccasins squished through the damp weedy grass of the shoreline. His progress had slowed over the years and, that day, his feet didn’t escape the water when he pushed the boat from the shoreline.

My throat tightened and my eyes burned with the threat of tears so I turned and plucked a flower from among the lily pads. I dragged my fingers through Long Pond and realized that I was beginning to say goodbye.

It’s in the Bag

Ah, winter in Maine…If you happen to be a faithful reader, you know of my borderline-deranged attachment to the beach and all things summer. If you are just joining me, welcome! My name is Kelli and I love summer and the ocean, preferably at the same time.
Late January has rolled around and I have just about had it up to here (that’s somewhere around the middle of my forehead) with 10 degree weather and blizzards. Why, just yesterday I shook my fist at the Gods of Snow and cursed them for causing yet another snow day. Perhaps sensing that I was teetering upon the brink of utter insanity, David arranged for a babysitter this afternoon. We had five – yes, you read that right, FIVE hours sans children. Come on…say it with me:
Today was supposed to be spent reading yet another memoir and wrapping up loose ends on my MFA application due in..jeez, one week and three days. Instead of hunkering down and being a hermit all day, I skipped. I ditched… played hooky and you know what? It was fun. I can’t tell you the last time that Dave and I spent five hours alone. We took advantage of our temporary freedom with a trip to Freeport.
If you aren’t from Maine, or haven’t been lucky enough to visit yet, Freeport is home of the LL Bean flagship store. It is also filled with outlet shopping and a Starbucks. Don’t forget the venti non-fat latte! Mostly, Freeport is home to one of my favorite stores. Until today, I have only ever gone in and wistfully stared. It’s hard to rationalize a purchase when you have three children to feed, clothe and entertain. Today we almost walked by. My heart wasn’t into shopping. It’s been so darn long since I’ve actually gone shopping unfettered, that I think I’ve forgotten how to do it. Dave, sensing that the world was off-kilter, grabbed my hand and led me into my favorite Freeport haunt. Sea Bags.
Weird, I know…just this past week I was raving about Sea Bags on the Narragansett No. 7 Facebook page. Having grown up on a beautiful lake in the Adirondack Mountains, I had the good fortune of learning to sail at a young age. To me, there is nothing quite as beautiful as watching a sail unfurl and fill with the wind. The crisp snap of the sail as the boat comes about and rides the wind across the lake is nearly magical. I miss sailing.
I discovered Sea Bags a few years ago. I was drawn to the window by the nautical colors. What I saw when I peered through the glass took my breath away. Totes made from recycled sails? Sheer genius. Alas, I admired them and their nautical glory from afar, wistfully sighing whenever I spotted a lady about town with that fantastic anchor tote slung over her shoulder. Like I said…three kids puts a damper on my purchasing power.
Well, the stars must have been aligning this week because Dave spied a bin of Sea Bags that were being offered at a steep discount. He bought me my first Sea Bag for the bargain basement price of $45! (Usually somewhere around $150.)
Hannah Kubiak, Sea Bags (who graciously allowed me to take her picture)
We also had the good fortune of meeting Hannah Kubiak, one of the co-owners of Sea Bags, who gave us a quick run down on the history of this Maine-based company. She gives credit to her dad, who founded Port Canvas, Co. in Kennebunkport, for coming up with the original Sea Bag…back when it was just a cool bag…made out of a sail. The bags are constructed from recycled sails right at 24-25 Custom House Wharf in Portland, Maine. I love that the company is staying true to it’s Maine heritage.

I love the notion that each bag possibly carried boats and the people who loved sailing them around the world. Someone struggled, waited, laughed, cursed at and then lovingly recycled their sail. My tote has a history. It has been filled with mysterious breezes, but I’ll never know it’s story. I can only imagine. Number 25 will accompany me to the beach this summer. In the meantime, it will be my reminder that there are only 60 more days until spring. Maybe this summer I’ll get one with a big ol’ No. 7 sewed on.

If you are interested in owning a Sea Bag, or just reading about this cool, Maine-based business head over to http://www.seabags.com/ and check them out. If you plan on visiting Maine, stop in and check out one or both of their locations.

P.S. I am in no way compensated for my post, I just like to share good stuff!

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Hello, Mr. Pretty Mantis

As I sit in the kitchen gazing out the windows, I hear the wind howling. I can see it moving through the skeletal remains of the deciduous trees and watch as it bends the pines. It’s grey and damp outside. It just looks cold. It looks like November. I’m already longing for summertime as I notice that I’ve forgotten to take my pots inside for the season. The one that remains on the porch steps holds the last vestiges of summer greenery. That was the spot that Mr. Pretty Mantis called home.

The praying mantis wasn’t shy at all. He moved in and made himself highly visible to the neighbors (us) right away. His favorite perch was the highest, feathery fern, to the right of the clover and overlooking the lavendar. Each morning, he was there to greet the warm morning sun with me. I’d enjoy my coffee and allow him to sit on my leg. We’d chat and I’d marvel at his big buggy green eyes.

When he first moved in, he was still a little guy so I kept him a secret for the first few weeks. As he grew, I introduced him to Joe and Gwen and let them look from afar. I explained how special a Praying Mantis is and instilled enough awe in their little minds to ensure there would be no panic induced squishing. As I invited him onto my hand, Joe whispered, “Cooooool.” Gwen made a tiny gasp and said, “Can I hold Mr. Pretty Mantis?”

From that day on, we all greeted Mr. Pretty Mantis with a smile as we passed. We often paused to say hello and let him crawl on our bare skin. We liked how he would raise his front legs and poke them out at us as if to box. Joe giggled at how tickly Mr. Pretty Mantis was becoming as he grew.

One day Mr. Pretty Mantis disappeared from the pot. I explained that he had probably moved on to a bigger, more comfortable home in the field. The kids were sad to hear about his move. “He didn’t say goodbye”, Gwen whined. Joe wondered what area of the field he relocated to and went off in search of his friend.

Sometime in late August I was weeding the garden near the front porch when I saw something move in the leaves of the lilies. It was large enough to make the leaf it was walking on slightly sway. It took a moment to locate him, but I would have recognized him anywhere. It was our old friend Mr. Pretty Mantis! He sure had grown. Out of habit, I held out my hand and he hopped on. He was heavy now and his sticky feet felt slightly creepy on my skin. I tried to be cool and he stood still. “Hey, guys!” I called to my family. Dave and the kids came around the corner and I told them that Mr. Pretty Mantis hadn’t moved away after all.

As I held out my hand, Mr. Pretty Mantis took off up my bare arm. His (several inches) long insect body suddenly felt too heavy and his sticky feet grossed me out. After my long “be careful” talk with the kids earlier in the summer, I struggled to maintain my calm demeanor. Dave saw a crack in my cool and started smirking. I looked at him, eyes pleading to come get this BLEEPing bug off me…NOW! He laughed. Mr. Pretty Mantis was on my shoulder now and heading toward my face. I screamed and stuck my face and shoulder in the hydrangeas to avoid squishing him. As I performed a frantic get-this-giant-bug-off dance, I carefully flicked him off my shoulder and onto the bush.

Having saved myself from Mr. Pretty Mantis, I pulled my body out of the hydranges and turned to face my family. The children were looking at me like I was insane and my husband could barely contain his laughter. They all turned and walked away. “Hey, but don’t you want to see Mr. Pretty Mantis? I called. “He got really big!”

Mommie Dearest and the Summer Boredom Blues


I’m having a day. I’ll be completely honest here and will probably offend someone in the process (or at least make you wonder if I should really be mothering three small children). But really, who hasn’t had one of those days where, by 3:00 p.m. every sound emanating from the general vicinity of your children makes you want to hop in the mini-van with a suitcase full of your favorite shoes, a pack of smokes and a copy of On The Road? Come on. Tell the truth. You’ve fantasized about a covert nap time escape, haven’t you? I have.

On many occasion, I’ve wondered exactly how stay-at-home moms can homeschool. You mean, you’re always with your kids? 365 days a year????!!!! 24 hours a day..7 days a week????!!! (What I’m saying in my head is, “Lady, you’re looney toons.”)

Can you tell that we’re on the downward swing of summer vacation and all of the fun “stuff” has started to lose it’s appeal? We’re almost at the new school year (28 days, 13 hours and 54 minutes to be exact). If that yellow bus doesn’t pull up soon I might just loose my mind. The most alarming part of this situation is the fact that the kids are only entering 1st grade and pre-school.

They’re bored. Boredom = problem behavior = mommy needs prescription meds.

Oh, the poor little things. They’re bored. Let’s bring them to Funtown/Splashtown, the beach, buy them a pool, go to Toys-R-Us, library, buy them a stinkin’ puppy, get them ice cream, go to the park, blah, blah, blahblahblaaaaaah.

What does a Mommy do when faced with such a challenge? Hmmmm..let me look for some ideas on the Internet! Oh look, here’s a blog entry titled “Bust Summertime Boredom”, I’m sure this nice lady will have some excellent pointers. Plus, it says that the ideas are also wallet friendly. Excellent!

 1. Family Dance Party.
Okay. I can do that..I’ll just turn up the stereo and get everyone to dance. “Look! Guys…look at Mommy. Hey! Let’s dance..guys…guys?”
Joe: “Mom, you look crazy. Can I have a treat?”
Gwen: “Can we go to the beach?”
At least Kate humored me with a wiggle.
2. Fort Building.
“Hey guys, wanna build a fort?
Joe: “YEAH! Hey Gwen, we’re going to build a fort!”
Gwen: unintelligible words followed by a delighted shriek.
Me: “BE QUIET THE BABY IS SLEEPING!!”  deep breath… “okay, now just go into the living room and use whatever cushions you need. Blankets too. Have fun!” Fast forward 2.5 minutes. A piercing scream comes from the family room. I enter to find that Joe has built a fort, turned on Transformers and banned Gwen from entry. The baby is crying because I yelled.

3. Family Cookbook.
Susan, the Blogging Wonder-Mommy, says that this is a great way to share your favorite cookbook with the children. Plus, all that measuring keeps their math skills fresh. She goes on to say that I should let my children pick the recipe they would like to try. Um, Susan? Won’t will also entail a trip to the grocery store? My favorite cookbook is Gourmet and the kid not glued to Transformers can barely count. I’d like to throw Gourmet at Susan.

4. Listening Game.
Susan, who is clearly doing a much better job at child rearing than I am, suggests lying down in the backyard to “listen”. What do we hear? Can you make that sound? This is what I heard:  “I hear a poo.” giggle. “Gwen, pull my finger.” Kate picked that moment to back up and plop her smelly bum on my head and Joe followed with, “Can we go to Funtown /Splashtown?”
5. I’m too bored with Susan to keep reading. I wonder what Susan would think about drawing on each other…
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