Thankful Thursday #81

This week I’m thankful for…

  • NaNoWriMo even though my friend, Ed, beat me to 50k words.  Good job, Ed.  Sorry, did my begrudging tone come through there?  Seriously, Ed, congrats.  Darn, there’s that tone again.
  • the smell of rain
  • morning snuggles with my littlest nephews
  • sweet time spent with friends doing absolutely nothing
  • travel
  • the joy of coming back home
  • my umbrella
  • my Little One who wrote a love song to the whole class
  • Jack the dog
  • my husband’s laugh

Spoken Over Me

This is a special edition of Thankful Thursday, birthed out of a writing prompt from the National Writing Project Annual Meeting.  The direction was to take a moment to write a thank you to our writing mentors in the project.  I, of course, DID NOT follow the directions and instead wrote to my very first writing mentor.

Dear Mom,
You were my very first writing mentor.

You put books into my mind before I was old enough to hold them in my own hands. You took me to the library and let me read whatever I wanted just for the pleasure of reading. Even when it meant I only read Sweet Valley High and Babysitters Club. You had faith that I’d grow out of those books, that I’d grow up into richer things.

Thank you for giving me crisp notebooks to fill and for always reading my poems, even the really dreadful rhyming ones.  Maybe especially those ones.

You were careful with criticism and generous with praise, honeyed words that drew me back to the blank page time and again.

Thank you for understanding that my first language is the written word and for speaking it to me fluently in notes in my lunch box, birthday cards, post cards when you were away and hosts of other scraps of your writing that I’ve squirreled away.

Those scraps of paper have bound me into the writer I am today.  You were the first person to call me a writer and I’m starting to believe you.

I walk this earth, from the sunny skies of California to the humid heat of Africa, I walk with my pen in hand and a blank notebook because I am a writer.

I am a writer in large part because you first spoke that word over me.

Thanks, Mom.

Everything is Upside Down

Everything is upside down because you are not here.  It hits me in the most unexpected places, on the most unexpected days and today is one of those.  I can’t call you and tell you about the books I’m reading, about the speakers I’m hearing, or about the big thoughts I’m thinking.

I thought about you as I slid into the cab and the driver spoke in a thick Eastern European accent.  His voice was so deep, so low that I had to lean forward in my seat to hear.

“Where to?”

“MGM Grand Conference Center, please.”  I hold my bag on my lap and look out the window at the drizzle raining down on the Strip.  It’s not enough to fill puddles, just enough to give the street the illusion of being clean.  It’s the quiet of morning, no flashing signs, no men snapping fistfuls of paper women at passerby.

“Where are you from?”  I ask, watching the corners of the windows etch with steam.

“I live here.  Where are you from?”

“California.”

“Los Angeles?”

“No, Northern California, the pretty part of the state-with lakes and mountains.”

“I lived in California many years ago.”  He waits for the light to turn from red to green.

“But where are you from?”

“Romania.”  He clips the word and I hesitate for a moment, wondering why he left Romania, wondering what he isn’t saying, always wondering, always wanting to know the rest of the story.

“I’ve been to Romania.  My grandmother took me on a bus tour of Eastern Europe for my thirtieth birthday.  Romania is beautiful.  I always had my nose pressed to the bus window when we drove through Romania.”  My rush of words fog up the cab window.

“What towns did you visit?”

“Oh, I’m terrible with names.  Say some of the names and I’ll tell you if we visited the towns.”

“Romania isn’t very big.  Only the size of Oregon.”  His eyes meet mine in the rearview mirror.  His are brown almost black and mine are turquoise today.  “Of course there’s Bucharest.  And there’s Brashov.”

“We visited Bucharest, but Brashov was my favorite.  I prefer smaller towns.”

“I am from Brashov.”

“Do you visit Romania often?”

“I haven’t been back there in twenty-six years.”  He says, the decades stacking in his throat, the lapse of time thick in his tone.  He pauses and I don’t say anything.  “But I’m going back in March.”

“This March?”  I resist the urge to ask this stranger about the long stretch of years between homecomings.

He leaves me wondering and asks another question instead, “Why did your grandmother take you there?”

“For my birthday.” I repeat.

“But why Romania?”

“She loves,um, loved-” I correct your life to past tense and it stops my heart for a moment.  “She loved to travel to places she hadn’t been before.  She had a heart for meeting people all over the world.”

“She gave this to you.”

“Yes, it was a present for my birthday.”  I fiddle with my wallet, slipping out cash, guessing at the number of bills I’ll need to pay when we arrive at my destination.

“No,” his eyes smile in the mirror.  “You’re here.  She gave you a love of travel.”

“Yes, I suppose she did.”  I smile back.

“Her heart is your heart.  Her blood is your blood.”

The taxi comes to a stop at the curb.  I hand a wad of folded up bills over the seat, more bills than I’d first counted out, still a paltry offering for this taxi driver who has walked the same streets you and I walked, an entire ocean and calendars of years away.

I think about how the cash I give him isn’t nearly enough for the man who reminded me that you’re still here, that my blood is your blood, that your heart is my heart.

“Thank you.  Have a safe trip home.”  I say to him.

“You, too.”  He tucks the bills in his back pocket and flashes a last smile.

I step out onto the curb and I no longer feel so upside down.  The rain holds its breath and I begin to feel righted again.

Thankful Thursday #80

This week I’m thankful for…

  • waking to the sound of rain
  • rain that stops just in time for recess
  • chocolate covered pomegranate seeds
  • my NaNoWriMo writing buddies
  • rain boots
  • parent volunteers who literally did all the heavy lifting for me on our field trip when my back was out
  • the chiropractor who opened his office on Saturday and put me out of my misery
  • ice packs
  • my hubby, who does everything in his power to make me feel better
  • Mexican food
  • the scent of rain on asphalt
  • the kid who dressed as Clifford the Big Red Dog on Halloween
  • my little ones who are donating their Halloween candy to Treats for Troops
  • the safety of my loved ones and my home