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Archive for the ‘self-confidence’ Category

Goin’ Home

Maybe they’ve forgotten they used to love me.

The moment the guard handed him the papers, he knew it was time. He felt relief, but at the same time a heavy burden seemed to settle on his shoulders. Being free to go home left him scared to death.

“Well, Johnson, looks like you’ll have Thanksgiving dinner at home this year. Get your junk together and get out of here. We’ll see you again in six months; I’ll just keep your room clean and tidy.” He chuckled at his own wit.

Jim Johnson, a tall, slender, black man, had been in prison half his life. Armed robbery. He knew he was fortunate to be let out at all. He’d been sentenced before the law made it mandatory for a consecutive twenty years to be tacked on for the use of a gun. Yes, he was fortunate, but the time was gone, lost. He tried not to think about it anymore, it was finished; he was going home.

“Thank you, sir, but you won’t be needin’ to worry ’bout that cell, I won’t be back.” They shook hands, and Jim began to gather his few things.

At the outside gate, he caught a ride into town with a Correctional Officer. But still, sitting stiffly and looking straight ahead, he didn’t feel free. The guard offered a small amount of conversation but neither felt the need to speak so soon fell silent. Jim hadn’t had a normal conversation in twenty years, and wondered if he was still able to.

The CO dropped him off in front of the drug store which also housed the bus depot counter. The tarnished, copper bell on the door jingled as he pushed it open and it awoke a memory. He hadn’t heard such a thing in a long time and smiled to himself as he looked up at it.

“Dover please, one-way.”

Carefully counting out the money for the ticket, he took the precious piece of flimsy cardboard from the clerk.

Sitting on the edge of the wooden bench outside the building, he gazed around the busy little town. The sun began to warm him as he breathed deeply of the sweet-smelling, fresh air. Two-hundred miles; that was all that separated him from his folks. That, and twenty years.

Finally, Jim heard the bus gearing down as it approached and pulled up in front of the store. Raising his eyes, he drew a deep breath and stood, waiting for it to stop. He climbed aboard, making his way down the narrow aisle to a vacant seat as close to the back as he could. He hoped no one asked him where he was from or where he was going, he wasn’t ready for talk.

Staring out the window, he watched the landscape rush by. The bus stopped at every nook and hollow on the route to pick up a passenger or two, or to let one off. He was glad of the delays, but his heart beat rapidly with impatient anticipation at the same time. His thoughts were conflicted. He wanted to see the folks, to get back into the business of living with people who cared for him–if they still did. He was scared to find out.

It’s been a long time, maybe they’ve forgotten they used to love me. Aggravated at the tears that suddenly and unexpectedly began to run down his high cheekbones, he quickly swiped them away, his eyes searching to see if anyone noticed. No one did.

Four hours later, the driver called out the name of a town. Dover? Did he say Dover? That’s me. He felt panic tightening his gut, but knew there was no way to delay what must be done. I gotta get off now, can’t sit here no longer. He rose. I gotta go on home and see if I still got one. Lord, help me. God, I’m more scared than I was when they hauled me out of here.

He stepped off the bus and set his bag on the ground, looking around the town he’d grown up in. It hadn’t changed much. They’d painted the store fronts and the sidewalks looked new. Nice.

The few pedestrians didn’t bother to look up to see who got off the bus, and he didn’t recognize anyone–thank god. He’d like a cup of coffee but couldn’t take the time.

Jim shuffled his small bag into his other hand, and began the long walk. The folks lived way out past Murphy slough, about ten miles out and around.

About a half-mile out of town, Jim found the path that led through the woods and he lit out in a trot. Soon, feeling the dread of being too late, he began to run. Surprised to find his feet still knew the trail, he turned them loose while his mind reflected on the past.

Suddenly–impossibly quick, he came upon the slough. It smelled of rotten fish and slimy, green water. The spindly willow branches brushed against the damp ground. Jim felt a sudden urge to crawl underneath the dark curtain of leaves and hide as he did when he was a child. He wanted to stop and think instead of just rushing on.

I sure wish I could’ve let them know I was comin’; surprises aren’t always a good thing.

He continued to walk, fear and excitement roiling together inside of him, leaving him feeling as small as a guilty, wayward child. Emerging from the last stand of pine, he stood behind the thick, wild blackberry bushes and watched the house. The place was in bad repair; twenty years had taken its toll on it too. The once white painted clapboards were colorless, the weather having stripped them bare. He saw tar paper patches on the roof, and some corrugated sheet metal that seemed to be holding the little shack tight to the ground. It was smaller than he remembered.

The yard though, was swept clean of loose dirt and leaves, the same as it had always been. The old tire swing was still attached to the cottonwood, even though he knew the rope was so frayed it would no longer hold a child. The sight was beautiful and he smiled.

There’s Daddy on the porch. Just sittin’ there, not even rockin’… Jim choked and tried to swallow the knot that’d suddenly come into his throat and watched, drinking in the sight. He desperately wanted to fill himself up with all the lost years and spit them out.

A movement at the corner of the house caught his eye. He turned his head slightly and there she was. “Mama”, he thought as he took a few steps forward She must still have a garden as she was carrying a small basket. She looked so small. She was wearing a dark dress that reached to her ankles; her style hadn’t changed a bit. Jim’s eyes sparkled with tears, blurring his view. A red bandanna was tied around her head, with wisps of gray hair peeking out here and there. Mama, you and Daddy grew old too fast. I’m so sorry.

Jim dropped to his knees, giving thanks to God for allowing him to come home and see his folks again. When he rose the tears were flowing, but he wasn’t ashamed this time, nor aggravated. Raising both arms as if he would gather them close, he laughed joyfully.

Leaving the bag where it stood, he began to run across the small field separating the woods from the yard. His laughter carried to them and both looked up, shading their eyes with their hands, to see who it was coming at such a gallop.

“Jimmy?” they each whispered, as the garden basket slipped to the ground unnoticed, and they both shouted in one voice, “It’s Jimmy! He’s come home!”

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Cheapskates Avoid Stress Better

I like cheap, the cheaper the better.  But not junk.  I use yard sales and thrift shops a lot.

As young parents with little money, we learned to make-do, to get along with what we had.  I have completely furnished a two-bedroom house for fifty dollars, and it looked good.  My husband painted and re-glued while I cleaned and polished.   Authentic old furniture magically appeared as antiques to friends and family.   They eyed it greedily and we glowed.

Our house was always filled with a passel of kids, so nicks and scrapes were common to our furniture.  I didn’t stress over them because I knew furniture was replaceable.  And cheap.  Another bonus is that old furniture was better made than the new, lower-end stuff.  I’ve owned both and believe me, low-priced new furniture is pure junk!  You’re wasting your money.

As the children grew older and our finances improved, we bought new stuff and it was nice, but we didn’t enjoy it as much.  Is that strange?  Not to me.   Kids can’t romp and play on new furniture.  They can’t bring a snack into the living room and enjoy family conversation or games when Mother is worried about stains and scratches.  The fun is taken right out of the day when a child is banished to the kitchen.    Kids are more important than ‘stuff’ and they give hugs.   Mine have good memories of their childhood and I’m glad to say I helped.

Now that we are retired grandparents on Social Security, we’re back to the thrift shops.  This time for yard toys.  Slides, swings, rocking horses and tricycles – even a Little Tyke playhouse was added to the backyard for five dollars.  These are good, top-of-the-line toys that other kids have outgrown.  The cost is minimal.  The memories the kids will have of visiting their Grandparents will be priceless.

I don’t see the sense of spending hundreds of dollars for toys that will be outgrown or forgotten too soon.  I would rather spend as little as possible and do without the stress if something breaks.   Wouldn’t you?  Of course you would.  

If the kids are old enough, they can help clean the new toys, maybe paint a trike for a younger brother or sister – apply some decals.  They will develop pride and self-esteem through their artistry, they really will.   Do you see those runs in the paint?  Dab their length with a bright candy color, or gold.   Bring them out to be noticed.   They’re supposed to be there!

And, in my opinion, anything that aids brothers and sisters to get along and like each other is a huge bonus and stress-reliever for everyone.

Procrastination Gets a Bum Rap

Today I will answer a question found on the Discussion Forum.

Help! *`Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’ The first line won’t come and I sit and stare at the blank screen!

Alice: `Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
Cheshire Cat: ‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to’
Alice: `I don’t much care where–‘
Cheshire Cat:`Then it doesn’t matter which way you go’
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Lewis Carroll

Now, most would advise this writer to just write anything to get some words up there. Even if it’s ‘I want to write but can’t think of anything!’ about a hundred times. That’s supposed to unblock the imagination so the story hidden deep inside can come out. I’m not going to say that. I’ve tried that logic, but found it got in the way of procrastinating so I don’t advise it anymore. Procrastination is a good thing, and we should learn to appreciate it more. It’s been getting a bum rap for too long.

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Getting Read,Reviewed and Rated

You’ve decided to join a writing workshop to show your work and hone your skills. You’ve read in the ad’s that, ‘members read and give constructive reviews,’ and you definitely want to be read! But did you quit reading before the end of the sentence?

With excitement you think: “Will anybody read it? Will they like it?” Then, you take the plunge and, Merry Christmas! It was read! And it was critiqued. Oops.

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Paul Smith — Typewriter Artist