Monday, January 25, 2010

The Root Cellar - Part II


[In Part I of this story I told you how my brat brother played an evil joke on my Mother, and for this he was thrown into the root cellar and the cellar door shut tight…]

And so, now as I write this, I wonder. ‘What would today’s psychologists say about a child that would play that kind of nasty trick with a rope tied to a rock in the well? And would root-cellar-discipline head the discussions for weeks, even months on prime television?’

If there were to be any media discussion, it should be no more than three minutes. After all, Brat Brother got no physical beating. He simply got modern-day sanctioned time-out. And boy, did he get time out. I’m certain sure he would have preferred a good thrashing. I know I would have.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I did not have to press my ear to the cellar door to hear the muffled cries and sobs from that cold chilly ethereal pit of hell. My brother was trapped in an Edgar-Allan-Poe-nightmare with only darkness and the beat of his heart. And I was glad, so very glad, it wasn’t me.

But still, I couldn’t in my wildest imagination think how scared my brother must be. And although I so often told him that I hoped some day he would be so far removed from me that it would cost a thousand dollars to mail a letter, I did feel truly sorry for him and begged for his release.

But Mother was adamant that he would remain there for a time (long enough I guess for remorse to set in because remorse is important). But, of course how could he even for one New-York-second consider the weight of his actions in a place that so seriously threatened survival. Was there sufficient air? And I know he was thinking, ‘If I mold and die in here, they’ll be sorry.’

And so after hopeless raking and clawing at the root-cellar lid, and screaming until he could scream no more, and crying until his face was thorough soaked, he moved to the more dire thought of what would he eat. The eating part, to Brat Brother, was the most fundamental of survival. To survive one must eat, one must eat much, and one must eat often.

And if the experts are right, that eating is a remedy for other distresses, Brat Brother’s distresses at the moment were overwhelming, and so his next clear conviction was no matter what else, he must eat.

And so he felt around in the blackness of the cellar and had one flash of relief when he found a tin can with a lid. He managed to pull the lid off. He felt the stuff. It felt like jam. He tasted it. It seemed to have a weak sweetness. It was hard to know for sure what it was by taste, but because it was stored in the cellar, it could only be one of two things – pork lard or jam. And though questionable which it was, that weak bit of sweetness convinced him it must be jam.

And so, he commenced dipping and licking his fingers. Taste was of little matter. One MUST eat.

Now I expect my brother was probably in that cellar no longer than ten minutes but I’m sure, and quite understand, how to him it must have felt like many long hours. He was in survival mode and so he was eating jam. Unfortunately when the cellar door was eventually cast back and he was released, he found to his dismay, the meal he had partaken of was in fact, finger servings of, what was called in those days, axle grease.

So this is where we’ll leave this story, but now as I watch Court TV, and see so many suspects of child murder and abduction refusing to talk, I am so dismayed. Seems to me that within the Geneva Convention and the Fifth, the authorities have no way to force confessions, and no way to get to the truth – though that truth might redeem an innocent child.

But wait, maybe there are acceptable ways of making people talk. And it is not by locking them in cellar-holding cells in Remand Centers with painted walls, air-conditioning and concrete floors. These conditions are totally false misappropriations of what a cellar is.

The Geneva Convention and the Fifth (which admittedly I know little about) must be upheld, even when childrens lives are in danger. But, at the same time, society accepts without protest or qualm the new discipline of Time-Out.

So for those who refuse to talk, why not time-out in a damp, fusty, funereal, black-mold-lined, dirt-excavated cubbyhole five feet square and four feet high, piled with rotting carrots, potatoes, and turnips, inhabited by fungi of all slimy convictions, and misty demon-like poltergeists...crowded into a darkness as thick as black-strap molasses?

And if that be not enough to make them talk…
Dry bread and axle-grease for dinner!

Thursday, January 21, 2010



It was a secret door, almost secret, except for the metal circular ring that lay flush with the floor in a round shallow cut of the same size. You had to bend and look closely, within a certain line of light to see in the lino, the outline of the little square door that led to the secret passage.

When the ring was lifted and the small door pulled open, nothing could be seen but a few steps and a hole of black darkness. The coolness was such that when the door was opened, spirits rose from within in wispy transparent death-dress. Hell’s hole. Pretty much. But still, t his is where my Mother sent us for carrots, potatoes, and on one occasion — for disciplinary measure.

The root cellar smelled earthy, fusty, funereal. The five wooden steps were slick with black mold that made their sturdiness questionable. And when I descended gingerly with pail in hand, I shivered with horror and a definite foreboding. Multiple times, I offered my services to do another’s chores, or my small monthly allowance to a sibling to avoid the split-second task of getting vegetables for dinner. Descent into that tomb? Not if I could avoid it.

Always my greatest horror was someone would shut the door before I was resurrected to the light. And it would bind and stick as it so often did. And I would thus find in my crouched position on the upper steps a law of physics that in my mind was already suspect. That without methodology, instruction, or Newton-theory or Einstein-understanding that ‘an upward pressing force is far less efficient than an elevating lift’ –particularly if some stupid fool is standing on the door and cannot hear the pounding of my fists on sodden moldy wood or my yells to be released forthwith.

Monsters under the bed? So what?
Boogie-Man in the closet? With one eye in the middle of his forehead, and a pitchfork, and a black stallion for quickness of movement? So what?
In these matters I can be so brave because all of it and none of it was comparable to the horror of the thought of being trapped in the cold cellar.

And so a day came, when these theories were tested.

In one act of parental desperation my brat brother was put in the cellar and the door was shut. On that particular day, he chopped a hole in the ice in the well with an ax. He then tied a length of rope to a large and heavy rock. And when I disappeared for a time in the quiet of my upstairs room with books and dolls, that was the opportunity he was waiting for. That meant it was time to perform what he thought was a wonderfully witty joke on my Mother. And so then, while my Mother busied herself in the kitchen, from outside my brother sent up a terrible howl from the yard.

My Mother ran to the door to see what the problem was. There was my brat bother holding a taut rope some twenty feet from the well.

“Help Mom! Oh Help!”, he screamed. “Roberta is in the well and I can’t get her out.”

Without donning shoes or coat, my mother ran to the well leaping through the snow in bare feet to the bottom of a hill as fast as her legs would carry her. Meanwhile my brother was screaming, “The rope is slipping. I can’t hang on. The rope is slipping!”

And then, just when my Mother got within five or ten feet of the well, my brother let go of the rope and there was a horrendous splash as the rock he had tied to the end of the rope descended deep into the well.

By now, I heard the commotion and came running from my upstairs hideaway to see what all the hullabaloo was about.
Now my Mother was a very patient and kind woman. I don’t remember what was said, I know my mother wept loud sobbing cries of relief when she saw me. And then my brother, grinning sheepishly, was firmly grasped by one arm and tossed into the root cellar and the door was slammed shut.

That is the only time anyone was ever in there with the door closed that I know of.

(to be continued...)

NEXT POST: 2. The Edgar Allan Poe Nightmare

Saturday, January 16, 2010

January Desperation

Do you remember how fast time was flying from December 1st to January 1st?

It was speedier than Hub’s most frenzied driving. The G-force drove my hair back and pressed my lips and nose into flat tight lines. And then, before I knew it, before I was even ready, New Year’s Day arrived and it was all over.

And then the world stopped spinning. Time stopped. Even the sun no longer rose and fell in the sky. It didn’t seem worthwhile for Old Sol to climb so high, so slowly, with no height of day to rest before a return to hiding on the western horizon. Days dragged in 2-second increments with the sun in hiding and the sentry of night and day nothing but a cloudy moon. A cloudy moon that permitted no differentiation of night from day.

And still January progresses at a pace too slow to know, see, or observe. It seems a drag of too many minutes and too many hours; too many monotonous days, and too many monotonous nights. Nights that are far too long for restful slumber.

In the space of the Christmas rush, this is what I longed for, but now it is far too extreme, in reverse, to be appreciated.

And so what must be resurrected is a sense of humor. Oh yes, easy said, but not so easy done. Hub and I have just gone through whirling days of phenomenal feasts, grandchildren chatter, arrivals and departures from the front door, and lovely surprise offerings under the tree.

We have gone from Christmas carol-bells-ringing, tinsel glowing, lights glittering, endless and very busy activity to this dull, slow-crawling, and meaningless creep of time.

And so there is a new kind of desperation for humor. I didn’t realize how desperate until the situation of Hub’s lined-jeans-exchange. Hub was so happy when he got a pair of lined jeans for Christmas. He loves lined jeans because they eliminate the need for donning underwear. But the new pair was snug so yesterday he went to town and exchanged them for a larger pair.

Now the wee bit of disappointment for him in that exchange was that the original jeans had blue flannel lining, and the larger pair he brought home yesterday have red flannel lining.

So this morning he puts on the larger pair and says to me, “I wonder why these jeans have red flannel lining instead of blue? I’m not sure I like that.”

Of course, my response, (while thinking to myself – ‘silly old fool’), is…


“Because,” says Hub, “when I am out in the snow I might get them wet and they will turn my legs red. And then people will laugh and poke fun at me. They will taunt me. I can hear them already.”

‘There goes red legs. Ha-Ha! There’s that old boy with red legs again!’

If you didn’t laugh, you better. You were supposed to.

This is Motif 1 in Hub’s desperation (and mine), to find the sense of humor we had before the laggard tempo of January 2010 virtually stopped the clocks.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The Ejection, or should I say Rejection? (III-IV)

Part III – The Search for Redemption

For three days I punched every link I could find. I tried search engines from every possible angle and direction. I even went through these rituals on all three computers, but no luck. Yes, it was all too true. I was solidly shut out. No way to crash this party with that kind of 24-7 security.

Now I had one wee bit of fragile hope in all this. Hub and I are here alone most of the time so when my computer stalls, or cycles some kind of stupidity, or takes to flashing nothing but pop-ups, or refuses to be cooperative in a thousand other ways, I say to Hub, “I am having a problem with this computer. Will you have a look at it?”

And so Hub looks at it and always says the same, “What the hell did you do to it? You must have changed something. This wouldn’t be happening otherwise.”

And of course I say, “I didn’t touch a thing. Honestly I didn’t. I changed nothing.” And it is the truth. I didn’t change anything.

Then Hub, who fully understands computer hardware, virus control, and all the other behind the scene aspects of computers, goes to my computer and does his bit of magic, and we are back up and running in good form. Sometimes it is simply manipulation from the keyboard, sometimes it is installation of a new bit of hardware, but when he attacks a troublesome computer, the trouble is normally short-lived.

Now one of the truly most enviable things in the mind of a computer is that, if it royally screws up, or gets a really nasty virus, Hub can subtract the computer’s moments of irresponsibility or disease and reduce its life to only the good times. He can erase the errors, the mistakes, the blight, and actually subtract from that computer the memory, and all of the segments of its irresponsible past that interfere with its performance.

I so often think now nice it would be if human beings could do that as well. This day it would be particularly nice to be able to so easily recant something I may have said.

But Hub tells me that being shut out from anothers blog cannot be cured in that way. That is their right, that is their choice, and without an e-mail address, there is nothing that can be done to re-establish contact.

Part IV – The Come Back

I am so utterly heartbroken. I cannot believe how heartbroken I am. It is stupid, utterly stupid, how sick at heart I am. At the same time I am so techy-dumb, dumb, (and forgetful as well), that I wonder if I could have changed something on my own page that caused this?

Anxiety over all of it plagues me like a nasty head-cold stuffling my mind. And then, a few days later, quite by chance, I notice in my archaic tracking system that although I can no longer visit my friend’s site, my friend had visited mine. Now I know, though I seldom do it, that if I highlight the site that visited me, occasionally that will take me back to their place. And so I try, and oh glory, it works. But now what?

The site name was not altered in any way, but nevertheless, I cut and re-pasted it on my links and suddenly we were back in business. No door slams in my face. No barred threshold or virtual voice screaming, “Get away, get out of here, and don’t ever, ever come back!”

But that is computers for you. They screw up and Hub thinks I did something to make them screw up. And as for me, I suspect he inadvertently did something to make it screw up. But he is as persistent that he didn’t change anything as I am.

So I have to accept that computers, like myself, are not always lucid. And within their incredible brains, they sometimes reflect in ways that cross signals and alter synapses. And in doing so wrack horror and rawness on people that is beyond belief.

And so now, as a final thought, if my friend really did want me out of there (which I am quite certain was not the case) – then all I can say is that, like the Salahis' at the White House Dinner, I too, have crashed the party.

But my mind is at rest that all is well. Since that horrible time, we have spoken often, and our conversations are as delightful and openly friendly as they ever were in the past. This was obviously nothing more than a friendship thwarted by some kind of inexplicable computer interference.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The Ejection, or should I say Rejection? (Part I-II)

Part I – The Nightmare Begins

To begin with, I’m a strong believer in good courage. Of chucking one’s chin in and getting on with it. With the belief that things can only get so bad before they have to get better.

Still the courage I have is not always so deep-seated as I may lead others to believe. The self-confidence I have is not so deep-seated as I may lead others to believe. And the goodness I want to have. And the faith, appreciation, and strong work ethic, I want to have. I guess we’re all like that to a certain extent. If all our attempts to be all that we would like to be are not sufficient, we apply a bit of make-up to more than just the face.

Now I’m telling you this because I had a really raw moment a few weeks ago that I wanted so much to tell you about. But I hesitated to do that, because the rawness I felt at the time completely reduced to rubble the embodiment of courage that I need, and feel obligated to maintain.

And when I write in the moment of that kind of conviction, I can spread rawness like a wildfire, because rawness is pouring out of every cell of my body. And when that is the case, I feel like I could literally drown my readers in my own sorrow. But I am no longer saturated with that rawness and so I am finally ready to tell you what happened.

Part II – Me, and My Big Mouth

I have been blogging since March 2003, and since that time many blogger-friends have come and gone. Quite often there are clues in their final post. Some simply need to take a break. Others find a new significant other, move to a new job or locale, and suddenly fall silent. But the little clues of what happened to them are enough that I can deal with it. And yes, a few discontinue because of health reasons and when that happens I am very sad, yet all of it is understandable enough to accept.

What is harder to accept is what I am unable to understand. And so I was less able to accept the situation of going to a blogging site, that I frequent more often than most, only to find that I no longer had access. When I hit the link on my page, I got a message that said, “No Access”. When I googled the site, I got the same message – “No Access.”

But yet I had a rather strong confidence that this was not the type of person that would just disappear without a ‘fill-in’ or friend letting readers know what was going on. This was a person to ‘into blogging’ to just erase and shut down his/her rants. So what does that mean? It must be me. Me—and my always-at-an-obtuse-angle-big-mouth.

It must be something I said that was too sassy. I mean all I say in good humor, but what I say is easy to misconstrue. I must have somehow inadvertently put one foot in my mouth and the other over the line where enough is enough is enough.

I raked my mind and could think of nothing offensive that I might have said that would drive a person to such a radical reaction. I tried again and again to stop by, but it was like getting a door slammed in my face again and again. The discard of friendship and the bolted passageway hurt. And what also hurt was the foregone conclusion that I was not welcome there. Not wanted there. Like – “please leave and don’t ever come back!” There was nothing for it except my strongest suspicions that my ‘friend’ was still out there, but they were absolutely, completely, unalterably done with me.

I won’t tell you that I wept bitter tears. That sort of thing is too intimate and private to tell. I will tell you that I said to myself, in my extreme disappointment, that if I was so careless that this could happen, I best not blog. ‘Twould be best for me to shut it down, and go back to the furnace room and write only for the sake of writing, for myself, and no other.

To be continued....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Too 20th Century

Now you just can’t take someone as reclusive as I prefer to be, and have been for the last three years, and yank them away from familiar things and redeposit them in the fast lane without some thought, consideration, and re-orientation.

Now Christmas usually gives me a jolt. That’s when small discoveries and new discoveries are revealed to me that can be most puzzling.

The grandchildren come wrapped in tiny wires with little boxes with buttons and sometimes ear phones, maybe heart monitors, for all I know, and yatter at high speed in excited voices about the new gift. But despite all their garbled speech of excitement as they wave it in the air, I have no idea what it is, what it does, or what is so entrancing about it.

They rush past me at the stoop, head straight to my living room, seat themselves in a chair, plant the thing in their laps, and then go into a trancelike state. I can’t help but wonder if what comes up on the screen is nothing more than a hypnotizing silver ball on a string swinging back and forth and a low beep whispering in digitized voice, “You are getting sleepy, very sleepy….”

And there they stay in their trance-like state till dinner call. And when I ask, no one got a doll, no one got a truck, no one got a book, no one got a watercolor set, in fact no one got a thing that looks like anything from the 20th century.

I tell you this just so you realize how out-of-the-loop I really am. But I guess that is to be expected for someone who has avoided public places, shopping malls, and the whir of the city for several years now. It is enough for me to make the dreaded trip to town every two weeks. It is enough for me to stop on that dreaded trip at the one-person post office, the 2-clerk drugstore, and the 3-clerk grocery store.

But on New Year’s Eve, all that changed. Hub and I went to the city to stay with Youngest Daughter (YD) for a few days. Her house was quiet, warm, peaceful, like my own so I was grateful that for the first couple of days YD and Hub left me at home while they went on cruise about, gad about, shopping trips. But they are schemers and behind the fa├žade of quiet submission to my desire to maintain the reclusiveness I am used to, they were scheming to get me out and about.

The sessions of re-orientation to get me back into the swing of modern life and the real world started New Year’s Eve with an introduction to the World of Wii. YD and I played Wii golf, tennis, bowling, and even jazzed for a while with Wii rock band with guitar strapped to my chest.

It was fun at the time, but when our performance wound up, it was a bit discomfiting for me. YD was loudly applauded for her singing, while I was rudely booed off stage. They said it had to do with my guitar playing – it most definitely did NOT!!

They’re a bunch of dummies. The notes I played are important and add depth and a sweet resonance to the music and I played them for that very reason. Though other band members skipped over them. I played Minor chords at mostly appropriate times. And Minor chords are not so 20th Century as the younger crowd may think!

In the Wii World, the Sporting Wii World, I paid little attention to the avatar gawkers watching our games. I was too involved in technique and accuracy to worry about those little people scurrying about me. They probably poked fun at me then as well (because I’m old and less than graceful of movement), but I was oblivious to their disdain.

Then we went to a Wii Village and hung out. I thought that would be nice. In my youth I always liked sitting in a food court in a busy mall and people-watching and that is more or less what we did.

Watching the avatar inhabitants, I noticed that they wore brightly colored clothes (rather out of vogue with fashion in the real world) but none wore lovely plaid or paisley. I noticed they did not cluster with close friends as real-life mall-crawlers do. I also noticed they walked about with determination, like persons of independent will, strong mind, and strong purpose. Clusters only happened by chance when walkways were overcrowded.

I smiled cause I could tell they were happy little villagers. Friendlier, in some oblique way, than people in real life. Though not clustered in gangs, or hand-holding couplets, they happily looked about them for reasons to approach and interact with others.

It was, for me, quite comfortable mingling there. More so than in real life in a crowded mall or airport. I had no underlying dark suspicions of them, or they of me. I fit in so easily. I had no fear of being followed, harassed, or having my open purse rummaged behind my back. It was a nice place to hang out. Really it was. And I had a comfortable feeling that here friendships could be easily formed.

The next day Hub and YD started a marathon of cruise about, gad about, shopping trips and sight-seeing tours. They took the puppies to the park, and came home from their frequent circuits full of gay laughter and adventure.

But then, oh yes, on the third day, having run out of excuses why I should, and could not go, I was compelled to leave the house. So that is when YD and Hub dragged me away for a dreaded shopping trip. I bumbled after them through parking lots and crowded aisles, (where did all these people come from?), with panicky fear that I might get lost. Of course neither would hold my hand – that would be too 20th Century!

Eventually we went to an incredible shop with every nature of kitchen appliance and furniture ever invented. Then as I followed close behind, YD paused by a large black recliner and told me to sit down and relax for a moment or two.

I leaned back in the comfy chair and as I began to unwind, something, or someone gripped both my legs firmly with a warm embrace. And then knuckles crawled up both sides of my spine in a rolling, circular movement.

When they reached the back of my neck, the knuckles unfolded and paddle-hands gave my shoulder blades and neck a patty-pat like those given in family hugs. They caressed the back of my neck at the sides slowly first, then rapidly, but still gently. They patted and circularly stroked my back some more.

Meanwhile my legs were compressed in spurts that put me in mind of a forward making a pass at me under the table skirts in a crowded bar. My feet were elevated gently and then lowered. I felt the warmth of the other body caressing me. No pinch of the thigh, but a gentle rub and firm nudge rather than pinch – and yes, it was located on the fleshy part of my upper, outer thigh.

After a few minutes, the chair released its grip on my legs and pulled away and I knew my lover had left. I wanted him to come back. I wanted to oil my body and sit naked in that chair. (Did I say that out loud?)

Now maybe another day when tempers are worn thin, I might not have reacted as I did. But today was a particularly good day. I was so enjoying the company of both YD and Hub once I realized they were not going to allow me to get lost. They were both so affable. In extreme good humor and so mindful of my comfort that when we exited the shop, I looked sideways at Hub and grinned.

I had no wish to purchase that chair. None at all. And I knew that back home no dogged and unsurpassable niggling yen would rear whispering without abatement, “I want and need that chair.” That isn’t going to happen because I have all the delights of that chair in easy reach – though so 20th Century it may be.

I have the comfort of such caresses without spending in excess of two grand to get a warm hug, a patty-pat and a wee nudge in the fleshy part of my thigh. The chair is good, but somehow it still lacks something in the ambiance, though I have to admit, what it lacks is not easily understood or described. And seems to me, without a strong sense of inner soul, and spiritual intuition, one could too easily supplant the delights of one with the other – and perhaps find warmth and human comfort as much in a chair as in a physical embrace.

But I think you now see what is happening here. Through all these experiences I am getting up to speed. Getting back in the loop of life outside of my own reclusive world of reading, blogging, and weaving in knit stitch, crochet stitch, and tatting stitch, threads of 20th Century nostalgia.

And so then we went to another shop. Here we looked at virtual gardening lamps and plant trays. One growing kit was half-price although there was only one left. We bought it. Hub and I brought it home. Seeded some tomatoes in the magic, dirtless, compounds of nutrition, stabilizer, water, heat, and light. I picked up the empty box to discard it and saw written on the box, "Dirt is so 20th Century”

So despite all that I have done, despite all that I have seen, despite the avatars that sought to draw me in, despite the chair that wanted to love and comfort me, sadly I choose to remain in the 20th Century. I happen to like plaids and paisley, minor chords, flesh to flesh patty-pats, and dirt. But I wouldn’t mind having a few avatar friends if they are as dear to me as my blogging friends are!