Room to Write

[This essay was published on Brevity Blog, June 6, 2022.]

A couple of weeks ago, within twenty-four hours, both Stephen King and my mom told me I needed an office for writing. I decided if Mom and Mr. King agreed about something, I needed to listen.

My office space along the wall

Of course, Mr. King was talking to me from the pages of his book On Writing. He advised me (okay, he was talking to all writers) to have a space of my own with a door that closes. He wrote Carrie and Salem’s Lot in the laundry room of a trailer, but there was a door that closed. He never mentions if he ever threw a load of dirty clothes in the washer. I would have washed and dried clothes and written between the cycles.

Then Mom called. I felt too blue to just put a smile in my voice and chitchat about weather and family and the latest movie she had seen. Spurred on by Mr. King urging me to have an office with a door and frustrated by the traffic patterns in my writing space, I was weepy about not having a quiet place of my own to write.

My office space in the living room had worked if I was home alone, but my amygdala had begun to associate it with interruption and chaos. The living room is a thoroughfare from one side of the house to the other. When my husband is home, he likes to stop off and chat as he motors through. My grandkids also play in the living room three days a week. They inhabit the space with toys and voices and nonstop movement. While playing, they chatter with delight and argue with rancor, all of it mall-level noise. So, it didn’t matter if my husband and grandkids weren’t in the house when I tried to write because my brain would anticipate interruption and commotion anyway, leaving me frazzled. Logically, I understood why I was antsy, but it’s not easy to calm down a fired-up amygdala.

Mom suggested I turn the spare bedroom, tucked at the front side of the house, into an office with a pullout couch. “You can take a nap on the couch when you’re tired, and you can use it as a bed when the grandkids sleep over.” I wondered what Mr. King would say about napping in one’s writing office.

Sloth on a Shelf: I write faster than he does!

I rejected the pullout couch solution, but Mr. King’s and Mom’s advice started me thinking. Over the next several days, I wandered in and out of my two spare bedrooms with a tape measure, sizing up the dimensions of the rooms and the furniture, arriving at a solution. I swapped a desk and dresser and bought a bookcase. For the first few days, I would wander into my new space and stare at it with wonder and love, the way I looked at my children when they were newborns.

It’s not a whole office, but I like it that way. It’s a little cramped, but when I sit at my desk, it feels like a hug, and in a pinch, the bed right behind me serves as a table. Mr. King says a writing office should probably be humble, so my space measures up. I can shut the door, so I’m not interrupted. And when the grandkids visit, they aren’t allowed to play in my room.

My amygdala does yoga. I breathe and write.

Being Five and Making Friends

I did some artwork.

I’ve been taking my five- and three-year-old grandsons to the library because it’s spring, which means it’s too cold, wet, and windy to play at the park.

Evan, the five-year-old, is into making friends. Last week he made a friend at the library and they played and played. They also ran around. I told them not to run, the other boy’s mother told them not to run, and the librarian told them not to run. So, yes, they had a good time. After we left the library, he told me all about his new friend. Numerous times during the afternoon he mentioned his new friend. When his dad came to pick him up, he told him about his new friend.

Today we went back to the library because it was cold, wet, and windy because it’s still spring. On our way into the children’s library, we picked up the craft project then sat at a table to color the paper Easter eggs. Evan hashed a couple streaks of color on one of his eggs and said, “I’ll do these at home. I’m going to make some new friends.”

And that’s what he did. He made friends with a boy, and they played for almost an hour until the boy had to leave with his mom. Then Evan made friends with a girl, and they played until we had to leave. Evan looked like Droopy, the cartoon basset hound. I told him we’d come back to the library tomorrow, and he could make more friends. He grinned.

That’s how it is when you’re five. You go to the park or the library and meet other kids. You play, then you’re friends. No one cares about your resume, your politics, your religion, your economic class, your ethnic background, your orientation, or any other element that grownups use to drive wedges between people.

The kids have it nailed: show up, smile, introduce yourself, play nice, have fun.

I’m Thinking

The Thinker

“Nana, be careful. You almost stepped on me,” Charlie, my three-year-old grandson, said.

“I’m trying not to, but you’re walking willy-nilly around the kitchen while I’m cooking breakfast.”

“No, I’m not,” he said. “I’m thinking.”

I stopped to watch as he paced the length of the kitchen and back. The top half of his little body leaned forward, his eyes focused on the floor, and his hands pushed against the sides of his hips. Damn. He was indeed thinking. I didn’t ask him for his thoughts. He kept pacing, and I kept making breakfast.

The next day we were back in the kitchen. I walked past Charlie and he started to twirl around. I did that as a child, spinning and spinning until I could barely stand. During one of his rotations, he smacked his hand on the chair.

“Watch where you’re going,” he said, rubbing his hand.

My three-year-old grandson often mimics phrases he has picked up from adults or his older siblings. I love it when he quips, “That’s not how my day goes” after I ask him a question or make a request. At his age it’s funny, but in a few years, he’ll be accused of being a smart aleck when he imitates adults.

“I didn’t bump your hand. You hit it on the chair while you were spinning around.”

“No, I didn’t,” he said. “I was thinking.”

I wanted to tell him he needs to pay attention while he’s thinking. I didn’t because I would be standing on the San Andreas Fault as I said it. This past week I’ve come close to putting peanut butter in the fridge, dirty dishtowels in the recycling bin, and regular milk in my other grandson’s cereal. He’s lactose intolerant. If someone had asked me “What ARE you doing?”  My only defense would’ve been—“I’m thinking!”

My problem? I spend a lot of time thinking about writing while I’m doing mundane activities. It’s worse when I’m working on a specific story or essay. I’m surprised that the kitchen scissors don’t end up in the toothbrush holder and my toothbrush doesn’t end up in the junk drawer.

Cabela has many talents, but she’s not good at babysitting me.

At the end of January, I had a seismic-thinking episode. I was sitting at my computer writing a story but had to stop because Cabela, my senior dog, needed to see the vet for a shot. It was a subzero day with lots of windchill, so I went outside, unplugged the extension cord from the outside outlet, then started the van. Because it’s tough to unplug the cord from the tank heater cord, I decided I’d do that just before I left.

Five minutes later I was ready to go. I noted the extension cord was still plugged into the tank heater. I planned to unplug it, but first I loaded both dogs in the van and placed my purse on the front seat. Then I got in the driver’s seat and drove off. I was writing in my head. My hands might have left the keyboard, but my brain was still at the computer.

Cabela was a good patient. We were soon back home, and I was writing again. A few hours later, I took out the garbage and noticed only one cord on the driveway. Someone had pilfered one of our extension cords. But that was ridiculous, why not take both of them. Maybe an unselfish thief? Couldn’t be. Perhaps my husband had driven off with the cord plugged into his tank heater. I doubted it. He’s not a writer, so he’s never thinking about a story. I must have driven off with the missing cord hanging from my van. The more I thought about it, the more I couldn’t remember having unplugged it from the tank heater. The more I thought about it, the more I knew it was my mistake.

My husband was going to think I was crazy. He was going to ask, “How can you not unplug the extension cord?” It would be a rhetorical question because he knows I’m capable of such things. He was going to be upset about his missing extension cord. But he was going to be more freaked out about me being okay. I was freaked out about being okay—I’m at that age.

My only excuse would’ve been “I was thinking.” His retort would’ve been “Yeah, but not about what you were doing.”

It had been hours since I’d been to the vets. But I got in the van and went to look for the cord. I drove less than eighty feet. Curled up at the corner of our lot, where the street intersects with the avenue, was our yellow extension cord sunning itself.

I stopped the van and retrieved it. I looked around to see if anyone was watching. I gave thanks for the kind person who had picked up the cord, coiled it, and set it on the corner. Then I hoped it wasn’t one of our neighbors who would ask my husband, “Was that your extension cord in the road the other day?”

I wasn’t going to tell my husband. But I called a friend and confessed because I needed to tell someone.

To myself I vowed to always unplug both ends of the extension cord before starting the van. Promising myself to stop composing stories in my head while doing routine stuff would be futile.

No one has mentioned the cord to me or my husband. I haven’t mentioned it to my husband, and he doesn’t read my blog. And if he somehow gets wind of this story, I’m going to say, “I was thinking. Charlie gets it.”

Yet Another Frozen February Day

Normally, my dogs want to be outside with my grandchildren. But this was the position they took yesterday.

February has been cold. Yesterday was no exception. But when I asked my five- and three-year-old grandsons, Evan and Charlie, if they wanted to go outside, they were enthusiastic. It was snowing lightly, painting the already thick layer of snow with a fresh coat. The outside world looked enchanted—the kind of magic I remember from my childhood.

The temperature was in the low 20s, the winds about 11 m.p.h., and the windchill about 10°. The weather app on my phone doesn’t use the term windchill—the app and many weather channels now refer to windchill as “feels like.” Good for them, but I use the term windchill, and even the chill part of that sounds like a cover-up. Wind-polar-frozen-vortex-shatter-your-skin gets closer to the truth. “Feels like” is too nice. Think about it: That fabric “feels like” silk. The warm sun “feels like” gold. She “feels like” singing rainbows. “Feels like” is also used to soften a blow: She “feels like” crying—when what she really wants to do is throw a howling tantrum. (Just so you know, I’m not against all change. Unlike some people, I had no problem accepting Pluto being downgraded from a planet to a dwarf planet.)

After I bundled up my grandsons, I offered each one a scarf. Charlie wanted a one. He always does. Evan never wants one to start with, but sometimes, like yesterday, he changes his mind after being outside for a bit. I wish I would’ve taken a picture of them. Bundled up children are cuter than kittens curled up in a wicker basket. Plus, I could’ve shown off the scarves that I’d knitted. I don’t know how to knit anything else.

After sledding down the side hill for a while, Evan opened the back door and asked, “Nana, can we take the picnic table off the deck and put it on the big pile of snow?” It’s a small plastic table designed for preschoolers.

I said yes, but I didn’t ask why. It was a reasonable request, much more reasonable than last week when Charlie asked if he and Evan could go outside and play with the squirt guns. When I told him no, he didn’t think “It’s too cold outside” was a good explanation, and he wanted to debate the issue.

After my grandsons had been outside for an hour, nature flipped the switch on its wind machine from low to high. That’s how it happens—a flipped switch. You can stand outside and experience the exact moment the wind kicks up from fluttering to roaring. The sustained winds were 28 m.p.h. with gusts of 38 m.p.h. The temperature dropped to the low teens. The WINDCHILL dropped to 8° below. I love my weather app—so much detail. Remember when you called the phone company, and all you got were the time and temperature?

The weather details convinced me it was time to get my grandkids inside to avoid hypothermia or being hit by a falling branch from one of the trees in the backyard. Neither one of them wanted to come in, so I sweetened the deal by offering hot chocolate. Of course, it worked.

When they were taking off their outerwear, Evan stared at Charlie’s face and asked, “Are my cheeks as red as Charlie’s?” He was concerned.

I smiled and said, “Yes, your cheeks are as sweet and rosy as Charlie’s.”

Evan grinned. Something his nana described as sweet and rosy couldn’t be bad.

Outside the wind had the final word as it wailed, its breath bending tree branches back and forth to their breaking points.

Litter Critters Redux

Reading the new Little Critter books

My mother carried the first Little Critter books by Mercer Mayer into our house. She loved Mayer’s stories and drawings, and she thought Just Go to Bed was hysterical. By the time my second son was four years old, we had eighteen Little Critter books.

Last week my grandson Evan, five, discovered Little Critter books are filled with humorous illustrations. After looking at the pictures in one of the books, he handed it to me and said, “Can you read this to me? It’s funny.”

While I read the book, Evan discovered irony. He laughed at the words Little Critter said and pointed out that Critter’s words didn’t match what he was doing in the pictures. “These are really funny books,” he said. I admired his ability to grasp the gap between what was being said and what was happening. So much of life is like that, and it’s not always amusing.

Evan enjoyed the books even more when I told him that most of them had belonged to his dad when he was a little boy, and a few of them had belonged to his uncle. Now, before I can read one of the stories to him, he asks who the book belonged to, his dad or his uncle. Most of the books have an inscription with a name and date on the inside cover. But some don’t, and it makes me sad that I forgot to inscribe on them.

After reading all eighteen Little Critter books to my grandsons in a marathon session, Evan asked if more books had been written. We did some research, and bought Just Fishing with Grandma (2003), Just a Little Music (2010), What a Bad Dream (1992), and Grandma, Grandpa, and Me (2007).

Minutes after the mail carrier delivered the books, my grandsons each grabbed two and scampered up on the couch. Evan looked at each book, silently studying each page. Charlie looked at each book, voicing his own dialogue for each picture.

I thought about my boys when they were young and how they loved new books. I remembered reading to each of them every night before went to bed.

After my grandsons finished previewing the new books, I read to them. Evan pointed out Little Critter’s small ironies. Charlie looked at one of the other books, while I read. He always feels the need to “read” a different book while I’m reading to him.

When I finished reading the books, I inscribed their names and February 2022 on the inside of each cover.

A Growing Bouquet

Out for an October walk

When I take my grandkids for a walk, they stroll and run along the city sidewalks, and with a child’s imagination, they turn each walk into an adventure. On an outing last October, they each picked a small bouquet of dandelions, Indian paintbrushes, and tiny yellow flowers from lawns overdue for a trim.

After we returned home, I put each child’s bouquet in its own bud vase and placed them around my kitchen. My five-year-old grandson had a prolific bouquet, so his vase stood on the kitchen table. By the next afternoon, the dandelions and Indian paintbrushes boarded themselves up like roadside stands at the end of the season, and the tiny yellow flowers discarded their petals like ticket stubs after a rock concert. I tossed the bouquets.

The flowers my sister sent.

A couple of days later my sister sent me a large yellow, orange, and red autumn-themed bouquet of flowers, a mix of daisies, a rose, and a sunflower. I placed it on the kitchen table.

Two days later my grandkids returned to visit. My five-year-old grandson walked by the large bouquet on my kitchen table, paused, then said, “I guess my flowers really grew.”

I gave him the facts—his flowers had died and were thrown in the garbage; these flowers were from my sister. He moved on and played with blocks on the living room floor.

Later I told my sister about his belief that his flowers had grown into the bouquet she’d sent. She hoped I hadn’t told him the truth, but I had. I’d been the Grinch before his heart grew, Scrooge before the Christmas ghosts visited, Joe Friday with the cold, hard facts.

Instead of entering my grandson’s world where it was possible for a handful of tiny flowers to grow into a substantial bouquet of large flowers, I used words like died and garbage. I’d become the eight-year-old neighbor boy who told me and my sister when we were five and four years old that there was no Santa Claus. I can still see him standing at the side of his house telling us Santa wasn’t real. My sister and I argued with him, but he clung to his story. We tried to believe after that, but we couldn’t—not even when our mother assured us the boy was wrong and Santa was real.

But if I’d gone along with Evan’s belief that his flowers had grown, he would’ve bragged to his older siblings, who would’ve set him straight.

He would’ve come back and asked, “Nana, did my flowers really grow big?”

If I’d said, “Yes, they did,” he would’ve doubted me, weighing what I said against what his siblings said, just like my sister and I weighed what my mother said about Santa against what the boy next door said.

If I’d said, “No, they didn’t,” he would’ve asked, “Then why did you say they did?”

But I still felt bad—I’d squelched a magical moment for him and replaced it with reality.

But the five-year-old wasn’t done. A couple of weeks later, he asked me, “Nana, did my flowers at least get big before they died and you threw them away?”

With the Grinch, Scrooge, and Joe Friday as my wingmen, I explained, “The type of flowers you picked don’t get any bigger than when you picked them. But they’re beautiful flowers and an important part of nature even if they’re small.”

However, if he ever asks me if Santa is real, I’m going to lie through my teeth and say, “Yes, he is.”

What Is One of My Favorite Photos That I’ve Ever Taken?

[Bloganuary wants to know. It’s the WordPress blog prompt for January 20, 2022. The blog prompt actually asked me to choose my favorite photo ever. I have too many favorites, so I picked one of my favorites from 2021.]

Foreground to background: Evan, Clara, and Michael. Not pictured: me pushing Charlie in his stroller and walking my two dogs, Cabela and Ziva

This photo, taken April 14, 2021, is one of my favorites. My grandchildren love to go for a walk, so on days when they come to my house, we often stroll around the neighborhood.

Evan holds a grabber, and you can’t see it, but Michael carries a plastic grocery bag filled with trash and another grabber. In the spring our walks become garbage patrols. The snow has melted, and hidden wrappers, disposable cups, bottles, cigarette butts, and the odd mitten or piece of clothing dot the landscape.

My grandkids blurt exclamations of joy when they spot a piece of garbage. It’s an accomplishment. I know how they feel. When we were children, my sisters and I pulled a red wagon down our country road and picked up garbage. We were influenced by Lady Bird Johnson’s “Keep America Beautiful” campaign. We didn’t have grabbers, so we used our hands. Things were tougher when my generation was young. (As we age, we enter the I-walked-to-school-in-blinding-snow generation.)

I love walking with my grandkids. But before I took this idyllic photograph, pandemonium ruled, as it does before every walk. Once we decide to go, strategical planning and the ensuing chaos from working that plan almost swamp me. Everyone needs to go to the bathroom, including me. “There are no porta potties on the walk,” I say. I check Charlie’s diaper. We dress for the weather, and during the winter that means helping two toddlers into snow pants, jackets, boots, hats, and mittens. I put leashes on the dogs, who plead to be included, and I stuff poo bags in my jacket. It sounds simple, but understand that all four grandkids and both dogs are moving targets. Just as we are about to exit the house, one of my grandkids usually utters, “I think I have to go to the bathroom, again.”

At this point I think to myself, “Eisenhower had it easy–he only had to organize D-Day.”

However, once we hit the paved trail, serenity settles in, and my grandkids race each other, hunt for garbage, climb trees along the boulevard, and play games with rules only they know. Watching them, my memory of the pre-walk havoc fades. These walks will become cherished memories for my grandkids and me.

Bird Feeder Trilogy

Wednesday, November 24—

Charlie, September 2021

Charlie, my three-year-old grandchild, was cranky, and I was becoming cranky. I crossed my arms, looked at him, and said, “How about you and Nana take a timeout together?”

“Okay.” He agreed because he knows it’s not a real timeout if I’m joining him. I picked him up and carried him to the family room to begin our detention. On the way he wrapped his arms around my neck and snuggled his head on my shoulder, aah Charlie-Bear hugs.

Charlie and I needed a quiet place to gather serenity (and avoid tears). We knelt on the couch, rested our elbows on the back cushions, and watched the chickadees zip back and forth from the trees to the bird feeder. Our crankiness dissolved. Before long I heard Charlie’s five-year-old brother, Evan, ask, “What are you looking at?”

“The chickadees,” I said. Evan joined us on the couch, and we watched the chickadees dart to and from the feeder. Evan asked lots of questions—he always does. But he asked with a soft, reverent voice.

Next, their ten- and eight-year-old siblings, Clara and Michael, found us and asked, “What are you doing?” Funny how each child became aware that Charlie and I were missing from the front room and in turn abandoned their toys to find us.

The five of us sat in the darkened family room, stared outside into the dimming afternoon, and watched the chickadees dash in and out to grab seeds. I pointed to a red-breasted nuthatch cavorting on the branch of a pine tree near the feeder. Sometimes it hung upside down, and sometimes it hung right-side up in its frenzied search for food lurking in the bark.

The five of us were still and spoke in muted tones, sated with the joy of watching small birds eat supper. Timeouts are good for everyone.

Saturday, November 27—

Chickadee and Goldfinches

It was cold outside, but there was no snow. I noticed small birds, including chickadees, goldfinches, and cardinals pecking at the ground and at tree branches and trunks, foraging for creepy crawlies, good sources of protein to nourish them through the winter.

A few chickadees swooped in and out to grab black oil sunflower seeds from the feeders outside my kitchen window, but only two or three chickadees at a time. In warmer months, I often see five or more doing touch-and-go landings at the feeder. Once the ground is covered in a thick, white batting of snow, the chickadees will dive bomb my feeders again. No matter how cold and snowy it gets, I keep their feeders clean and stocked.

A pair of goldfinches visited. Their yellow feathers, like the leaves and grass, have faded to brown. In the winter when a male goldfinch isn’t breeding, his brilliant yellow coloring turns a drab brown. A female goldfinch’s color fades too, but even in mating season, she’s never as flashy as her male partner. Mr. and Mrs. Goldfinch foraged on the ground and in the trees, but they also grabbed seeds from the feeders.

Mr. and Mrs. Cardinal dropped by. Mr. Cardinal was sporting his flashy red jacket. Unlike the male goldfinch whose colors fade in the winter, the male cardinal often turns a brighter red. Mrs. Cardinal was a shade of greyish-brown with a few red-feather highlights, a lipstick-orange beak, and a red-tinged mohawk. She’s always a combination of understated beauty and bold attitude.

Mr. Cardinal snuck up on the bird feeder. He started in the garden, poking his beak in the ground. He lifted his head, turned it left, then right. Looking, poking, looking, poking, in a nervous cha-cha-cha. After every couple of poke-and-look moves, he hopped a little closer to the feeders. Finally, a craving for sunflower seeds overtook him, and he flapped his wings. Lifting himself from the ground for a short flight, he landed on the tray of the red feeder. I snapped a picture of him eating and texted it to my family. My sister responded, “I like how the red bird goes to the red bird feeder.” I had the same thought when I took the picture.

Stopping by the kitchen window, I watched him fill up with seeds. Mrs. Cardinal, cloistered in a nearby cedar tree, watched him too. Cardinals usually mate for life, and she was looking out for her man. After all, he stands watch when she builds their nest.

Sunday, November 28—

Today a grey squirrel ate lunch and dinner from the bird feeder at the side of my house. The feeder, shaped like a craftsman style home, is designed to thwart squirrels. Wally “The Hack” didn’t get the memo.

I like to think Wally “The Hack” is “Flying” Wally, who, this summer, mastered leaping from one shepherd’s hook to another shepherd’s hook from which my bird feeders hang. After his leap, he would shimmy down the pole, sit on the feeder’s tray, and munch sunflower seeds. I put the plant hanger away for the winter, so if this is Wally, he has adapted.

Wally (it has to be him) figured out he needed to climb up the back of the wooden post then sit on top of the feeder. Next, he hung upside down, grabbed seeds from the tray, sat up, then ate his morsel before repeating his moves. He had learned that if he tried to eat from the front of the feeder, his weight dropped a bar and obstructed his access to the seeds. (Other squirrels still try to get seeds out of the front of the feeder.)

I sat on the couch and watched him, and he watched me watching him. He gave off a vibe of bravado and triumph—his pilfering of each seed, a boast. I left him alone and the chickadees left him alone. They flew to the ground to grab spilled seeds then darted back to the pine tree.

I wanted to open the window and yell, “Leave the seed for the birds,” but I admired Wally’s problem-solving skills, so I let him eat. I hope he doesn’t learn to hack my wi-fi and order his own sunflower seeds.

[Local birder Rich Hoeg has a wonderful website with beautiful pictures. He loves to photograph and write about owls, but also posts gorgeous pictures of other birds: 365 Days of Birds.]

[For pictures of beautiful birds from around the world, click here. To enjoy Michael Sammut’s blog about birds, click here.]

Day 20—Earrings with a Back Problem

Today’s earrings are gold with amethyst gems. I accessorized them with a mask while shopping for winter boots for my grandkids. Every time I put on my mask or removed it, I was careful not to catch an earring on the elastic strap. I found boots for my grandkids and kept both earrings in place. It was a good day.

My husband bought these earrings for me in 1984 before we married. I like their old-fashioned style. I used to wear them a lot, but until today, I hadn’t worn them in years.

Shortly after he gave them to me, I found one on the floor behind the bar where I worked. I didn’t feel it slip from my ear. It was the second time I lost one. The first time I found both the earring and the back. This time I only found the earring. I put the earrings in my purse to keep them safe.

The next day I went to the jewelry store where my future husband bought the earrings. I told the jeweler that I loved the earrings but was afraid to wear them because the earrings kept falling out of my ears. I was angry because the backs kept falling off. They were supposed to keep the earrings in place.

Flimsy, cheaply-made backs too weak to grasp the posts were the problem. So, the jeweler sold me a pair of sturdy backs that gripped the posts like a macho handshake. He told me to wear them with all my post earrings. I told him I was glad I hadn’t lost an earring because of the cheaply-made backs. I told him the backs that came with the earrings should’ve stayed in place. I told him I didn’t think someone should have to buy backs after buying a pair of earrings that came with backs.

But I still use those sturdy backs on all my post earrings.

After my nana died in 2003, I was given her amethyst ring. I don’t remember seeing the ring in Nana’s jewelry box when I was young. My sisters and I were captivated by her jewelry when we were young. We’d hold a piece and she’d tell us its story. The gold wedding bands from her first marriage. A gold cross and chain. Rosary beads. Rings. Necklaces. Earrings. Nothing extravagant, but all with a memory she cherished. Stories told again and again.

I thought Nana inherited the amethyst ring from one of her sisters, but my sister thinks Nana bought the ring for herself because she loved amethyst and the color purple. Either way, the earrings and ring look like they were destined to be together.

I’ve been wearing the ring since last week, and twice my five-year-old grandson has said, “Nana, I really like your ring.”

“This ring belonged to my nana,” I told him.

“Really? That’s nice,” he said. We looked at the ring. It’s important to share stories.

When I saw him today, I should’ve asked him if he liked my matching earrings.

Day 13—My Diamond Studs Get Jackets

Earring jackets. The posts go through the small holes at the top.

Yesterday I wrote about my husband surprising me with diamond earrings for Christmas.

He had one more bit of jewelry magic up his sleeve. When he bought my earrings at Christmas, the salesperson told him about jackets for stud earrings. Yes, it’s the Northland. Winters are cold around here. Diamond earrings need jackets, don’t ya know.

My earrings got their jackets in March, when I had my birthday. March is plenty cold, so jackets were appropriate. When I opened them, he called them something so cute that I wish I could remember what it was, but it wasn’t jackets. He had substituted some other word.

I remember my oldest son called the grill a congrilla. And on warm summer days, he’d ask me, “Can we get Grandpa George and cook something on the congrilla?” If I had time, we’d get something from the store to grill then pick up his great-grandpa George. My son still loves to grill. Sometimes I still use the word congrilla for grill.

I remember my youngest son, when he was about five, would announce, “I’m thirty.”

“You’re thirty?” I’d ask.

“No, I’m thirty,” he’d say.

“Oh, you’re thirty,” I’d say.

“No, I’m thirty,” he’d say, getting frustrated and near tears.

“Oh, you’re thirsty,” I’d say.

“Yes!” he’d say, relieved his mother finally understood.

I know. I was bad. But he still talks to me.

When my grandkids ask me for a drink of water, I ask them if they’re thirty. “No,” they’ll say, “we’re not that old.” I laugh and give them water. They look at me like I’m the Madwoman of Chaillot.

I wish I could remember what my husband called the earring jackets because his word was better. But he only said it once. It didn’t become part of an Abbot and Costello routine between us. So, the word is in my brain, but the pathway to retrieve it is permanently corrupted. But the imagine of him presenting me with the elegant jackets for my Christmas earrings remains. And so does the moment of humor, even without remembering the funny word.