Let It Snow

My daughter called me from Alaska, lamenting about the beginning of snow season and having to learn the intricacies of using a snow shovel. As I sat at my writing desk next to an open window in Scottsdale, Arizona – she indulged me as I took her on a memory trip back to my childhood in Hinsdale, Illinois.

7 years of age was the general time for what parents came to call the Snowfall Rite of Passage. Wimpy kids of today would sue or divorce their parents for this.

Entrances to the houses all had storm doors which opened outwards – so with the first foot-deep snowfall, the dining room storm window was removed so the kid, boy or girl as there was no sexist views with parents when it came to that cold white flaky stuff, would be handed out the window so they could go around and pick up that weird tool to shovel the front door open.

Then, the child would head to the family car. I was one of the lucky ones as we actually had a garage but the routine remained. Using a broom and mittened hand, we would pound all about the hood of the car to awaken any stray cats who had found warmth from the engine the night prior. Hinsdale had a lotta strange looking cats due to this step being often overlooked.

Then it was time for the child to actually start the family car and remain inside until it was warm enough to put the heater on FULL because Heaven forbid a parent have to get into a cold vehicle. Those without garages spent the warm-up time scrapping the ice off the windows. I think it was Jerry Johnston who had the recognition of knocking their car into gear and making their garage a drive-thru.

As in “A Christmas Story,” kids did get their tongues stuck to slides, fire hydrants and lamp posts. This was in a time when we’d wait as long as an hour in snow drifts taller than us for the school bus. I still recall the time Pam Friedinger’s hair was not totally dry from her shower. I pulled on her pig-tail….and it snapped off. But – that’s another story.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

Grandpa’s Blocks

So, when my Mom was little,
There used to be this huge tree.
Fallen branches her dad would whittle -
This is way before there was a ‘me.’

Grandpa Lonn, he was a carpenter -
And taught like that kid from Galilee;
With the Word of God and lumber -
Passed on from he, to she, to me.

Media followed a witch hunting senator’s Red Menace dialogue -
As I popped into this world; an unsuspecting baby boy born with a tooth.
Grandpa bragged it took an O’Rourke to knock McCarthy the demagogue
Off the front-page news as my birth announcement took front page roost!

That tree that same blustery November,
Illinois lightning stabbed it in the heart.
But Grandpa was a carpenter remember,
Saving the fallen tree for a new start.

He taught in parables, “There’s no such thing as scrap wood,”
And in his workshop he kept a big box, what he called his “To Be” bin -
“What do you see in the wood’s grains?” stretched my mind good,
As my eyes watched his hands breathe life into the discarded again.

He’d write my imagined answers upon the scraps needing releases,
And I’d go back to Hinsdale eager for our next long drive to visit.
Where I’d receive a train, a dog, a horse, or a gun with moving pieces -
Grandpa’s carved homemade toys were the perfect travel ticket.

I pulled a branch from the bin as he told me of the tree,
Which the little me could tell he loved lots.
And just it was a few trips later when he gave to me,
This little boy’s box of beloved blocks.

Simplistically he forged from that tree pieces an inch by an inch by four inches -
Then spent long hours by his woodstove hand-sanding so as not to splinter.
Domino style toppling lines, pre-Jenga tumbling towers, and long bridges -
This only child’s mind created so much in the many, many years since that winter.

Then the lifecycle circle with typical moves and countless changes in my life -
I didn’t care what my age or how small my home for I’d never part with those old blocks.
Visions of Grandpa in coveralls by the woodstove pulling out his whittling knife -
You just can’t buy such love or memories in fancy malls with all their shops.

My seventeen-month-old Grandson came over to play -
Nervously so did my fifty-year-old blocks Grandpa had made.
Noah and I formed lines to topple and built towers tall that day -
Atop the coffee table that I’d built, love and blocks did cascade.

God and the Universe placed a tiny seed upon the wind -
From who knows where to birth a tree in Decatur, Illinois.
My Grandfolks and Mom’s siblings saw this tree sway in the wind -
Before it came in a new life as beloved blocks to this wee boy.

Packing for our cross country move from the Land of Lincoln,
Sadly, my Aunt Jean said I had to leave my Grandpa’s blocks behind.
It seemed what fit in our old Comet was all we were bringing;
So, hid below the back seat under MY behind the blocks arrived.

Windy Illinois, dry Arizona and now the last frontier Alaska -
To share memories and stretch a mind is quite a bill.
From Grandpa Lonn via PoPo rather than Santa -
To pass Grandpa’s blocks on to Noah was quite a thrill.

It was Joyce Kilmer who in prose did evoke
Wisely sharing with us that, “only God can make a tree.”
Now I thank God for that specific fallen Oak -
Cuz only God could make a Grandpa PoPo out of me.

Dollar Hugs

The young man explained he was 8 years old and working on a school project as I watched his mother grinning from the other side of the coffee shop.

“S’cuz me,” as he introduced himself. “My class is working on a project and I hafta hug ten people I never met. The we gotta write about it. It’s kinda weird but kinda cool too. I got six so far,” offered Brad.

“That’s pretty interesting,” I winked.

“We seen you before and sometimes you have that neat dog, and you’re real nice to him and them barsters know you.”

“Barristers?”

“Them too,” as his hands went to his face and we both laughed.

“Well Brad, I’m a writer and I’m doing an experiment. I am looking to give a dollar to ten different kids I never met, then write about the experience,” I smiled. “And you’d be helping me as I haven’t seen any other kids today.”

Brad and I completed our individual assignments and transactions, but before he walked away he looked at his new dollar and back up at me. “My mom and me will be here a couple hours,” he beamed.

“I need ten ‘different’ kids.”

“Oh, right. You said that,” he chuckled.

Getting in my car, I realized I’d set myself up. I told Brad I needed nine more kids. So, to walk my talk. I pulled into the strip mall.

As I strolled, if I made eye contact with a parent then I’d explain being a writer doing an experiment.

No strange reactions, just a lot of cooperation and happy, polite kids.

And by the time I’d gone thru 9 additional dollars I’d come to realize I’d averaged a dollar a hug.

The Skies Fell Silent

Sixteen years ago on what was to become a world known date, I lived in Scottsdale, Arizona. Out for my morning run with my dog Nubble. At that time we’d run 10 miles on the foot path of the banks along the canal.

Halfway thru, another runner, a female quite upset, hollared across the water that a plane had crashed into a skyscraper in NYC. I even recall where I was on that canal and was headed south.

Another mile and a man echoed such an announcement but added the words “attacked” when he mentioned the other building.

I was in shock yet continued my run until it sank in. Then I turned to race home.

I thought of my daughter and her mother’s family. They had a cabin up north which I often did building and repairs. Pondered gathering them and heading to those mountains.

Once home, I was like most – attached to the TV in appalling disbelief. I remember I called a couple of my high school alumni and Omega Vector buddies that flew for the airlines to check on them.

The days unfolded like many others. I just recall how eerily empty the skies swiftly became silent.

Having celebrity and production connections, I began work on a PSA which would be celebs and authors encouraging returning to the sky. I feared for us giving in to fear to fly, fear to live.

I had commitments of brave celebs and authors – yet could not get any airline to fully commit.

But I remember the day I gave thanks with tears when I saw the first airline return to the blue sky.

Fire and Rain Prayer

So God – I know I do not chat with you enough, and often I fail to listen enough. Often you hear me at your door with some kind of problem but this time my knocking goes beyond my needs.

I have friends like Roland Dezentje, Randy Wayne White, and Patricia Frappier in the wake of water – and across our country, friends like Peter Sherayko, Rob Word, and Cindy Landon seated near searing smoke.

In failing to listen, perhaps these horrific threats are our doing. So I ask for greater consciousness that we take better care of our earth, and each other in these storms and fires.

And I pray for you to listen to us of all faiths and all fashions of prayer, meditation and visualisation – please smother the fires and quell the storms. Please keep faith — in us.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.