Night Time is the Hardest

Since my young Marine deployed to the Middle East a few months ago, I’ve worked especially hard to stay busy. I fill my days with activity, most of it worthy, or at least pleasurable to me. A typical week is filled with meetings, political events, dance lessons, committee meetings, dance classes, doctor’s appointments, political rallies, and dance parties.

When I get home, I work. I write a lot of stuff that I won’t show anyone yet. I set up or plan more meetings. I practice dancing. I do a huge amount of research every day. And I’m in the process of figuring out a way to get paid for some of this. I spend hours researching and writing.

But then it gets late. And my eyes get tired of staring at the computer screen. And the only stuff on TV is stupid or boring. And my back hurts from sitting too long. That’s when I realize how tired I am.

So I shut down the computer after finding some place to end where I can pick it up easily tomorrow. I turn off the television, and stand up to stretch.

That’s when it happens.

I start to think.

No one said that being a MoM* was easy. I knew when my son joined the Marine Corps that there would be difficult days ahead. Having been born and raised in a military family, I knew the days would be long and hard. It’s just different when it is your dad who is gone and when it is your son who is gone. The years between the two experiences make a difference, too. I didn’t know as much when dad was in Southeast Asia. Sadly, I know way too much now about the Middle East.

So I think.

Some nights I go outside and pace my long driveway. I’ve learned that, if you look carefully enough, and long enough, you can see the occasional meteorite. You notice that stars actually come in a variety of colors – red, blue, white, orange. I look at the moon and watch it pass through each phase of the month. Because I live at approximately the same latitude as that in which my Marine is located, I imagine that the night sky looked the same that evening in both places, just several hours apart from each other. I wonder if he looked up at the moon and thought about home.

And when my sadness starts seeping from my eyes, I go back inside my quiet house. There is a difference between quiet and peaceful. This is the former; it’s just quiet. I wonder if I was right to turn off my computer – maybe I should work a while longer. But my tired eyes say no, so I head to my bedroom.

Lying in my bed is no different. I turn on the diffuser and fill my room with lavender in hopes of relaxing enough to sleep. I read something that will keep my focus, but not important enough to matter the next day if I don’t remember it. In desperation, I reach for my cell phone to play solitaire, or watch music videos – anything to make me stop thinking.

Night time is the hardest.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

 

*Mom of a Marine

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Spider Webs and Memories

There is a large spider in the window beside my front door. She has constructed a greatly intricate web across the window pane just to the left of the door. Needless to say, when I’ve had to go outside, I’ve either used the back door, or stepped well to the right side of the front door, giving the spider a large berth.

I have a very rational fear of spiders. Ever since I was told that “the average human swallows three spiders in their sleep every year,” I’ve been afraid of them.* The meme’s you see on social media outlets regarding a fear of spiders were written about me. I actually HAVE done 30 minutes of aerobic exercise in two minutes after stepping into a spider’s web, and the thought of using a flame thrower to destroy a spider on the living room floor originated with me.

In the interest of avoiding an insurance claim, an exterminator visits my home every month. Every month! He sprays every crevice and cranny on every floor. The first time he stopped by, he saw a large spider, similar to the one I have this year, on the back porch and assured me that he would get rid of it, too. I stopped him! That spider would remain there until the cold winter would end his life naturally.

When my children were young, I read aloud to them the delightful children’s book “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White. It was the first of many that we would read together. While we only read it once, it would affect many things in our lives, including how we deal with spiders that create such detailed webs where we can safely enjoy their beauty.

Through many years, my sons and I have admired the handiwork of these creatures. We’ve watched moths, flies, and gnats land perilously in the webs, only to be surrounded quickly with more webbing so that the spider could end their life painlessly and gain nourishment from the insects. We’ve watched them spinning the web with perfectly straight lines, magically spaced with the exact same distance between each row. We’ve stood for hours in the doorway, safely inside, watching these mysterious arachnids work to create a web. It was a joy to get up in the morning and see it dripping with dew drops in the sunlight. Beautiful!

No, the spiders outside of my home live completely free from human harm. Unlike their indoor neighbors, they have no reason to fear my wrath, or even a heavy shoe, machete, gun, flame thrower, or exterminator. They live in peace.

My sons no longer live at my home. Both are serving our nation in faraway places. I wonder if, somehow, they might find a spider, at a safe distance, and watch her skillfully work to construct a web just as I watched the one here.

Sometimes it’s the little things that can evoke such memories. Little things – like spiders.

 

~Temerity Dowell

 

*For the record, the average human does NOT swallow three spiders while sleeping. Not every year, not ever! This is a lie! A myth!!

Thanks for the Memories

Thanksgiving is a two-day long celebration for my family. Due to conflicts with some of my siblings’ in-laws, we decided many years ago to celebrate Thanksgiving for our extended family on Friday rather than Thursday. This allows me to get to prepare a special meal for my own family on Thursday. We have often invited guests who have no local family to join us for this special day. This year was no different.

As I began preparing some foods Wednesday evening, memories of past holidays flooded my mind and my kitchen. I made my paternal grandmother’s ambrosia recipe and thought about the wonderful times I sat at her table. That woman was the quintessential southern cook! That table now sits in my dining room, bequeathed to me when she passed away many years ago. Many family members wanted that table, already a prized antique, but she had written in her will that it was to go only to me. She loved me.

I also made a delicious seven-layer salad, another of my grandmother’s recipes, but one that had been given to me by an aunt. She had lovingly hand-written this, and many other, recipes to give me when my husband and I married. She wanted to make sure I knew how to cook for him and our future children. My favorite cookbook is a photo album in which I have assembled many such recipes from our family. Each time I open it, I recall a time when I made this dish or that one, what the situation was when I prepared it, and who enjoyed it with us.

When it came time to stuff the turkey, I pulled my maternal grandmother’s recipe out of that cookbook and made some of the yummiest stuffing in the south. Just the right combination of dried bread, butter, eggs, poultry seasoning, sage, and broth works every time. What’s odd about this recipe is that there are few measurements involved. The trick is in knowing the taste and sampling it to see if you get it just right. Because I have known that taste for a very long time, I never miss. I hope I can share this with future generations in my family so that they can enjoy it, too.

My sister had brought her family with her to my house on Thursday, and we had some friends here also. There were five teenaged through early 20-something young men in my home, reducing the mental age of the two adult men to roughly 16 years old. This led to a boisterous day filled with showing off their various shotguns, rifles, and handguns, target shooting, and some hunting (they were just too loud and scared off all the deer). Of course, we recalled the time that one of my nephew’s had climbed on my older son’s back and then fallen through the drywall upstairs. We laughed as we regaled how we had had to fix this huge hole quickly since my husband’s family was visiting the next day.

Friday was at my mom and dad’s home with the rest of our extended family. After dinner, my niece and I sat down to work on wedding plans together. She and her fiancé are getting married in the spring, so we had to pick colors and flowers. After a few minutes, my mom pulled her aside quietly. A few minutes later, she called for me to join them. She told me that my niece wanted to try on my wedding dress.

I was shocked! I thought my dress had been destroyed in a house fire over twenty years ago. I ran upstairs and there it was. I vividly remembered the emotions we had experienced when my mother’s home had burned. One of my nephews was still an infant, and had been upstairs napping only a few minutes before the electrical fire began. Because my brother was a member of the local volunteer fire department, he was allowed to go into the house once the fire was under control and bring out items of sentimental value. I had not seen him bring out my dress.

While my niece looked stunning in that dress, it’s not the dress for her. But what a joy it was to see her wearing it and recalling memories from the last time it was worn. I love that dress, puffy sleeves, bow on the butt, and all. Tears flowed as I looked at that beautiful, yet dated, dress. I rocked that puffy sleeve even better than Lady Diana Spencer had when she was married.

Later in the evening, the girls in our family gathered around the table to plan our mom and dad’s fiftieth wedding anniversary party. My mom shared the story of how they had traveled across half the country to meet each other’s parents and for my dad to ask for my mom’s hand in marriage. My grandfather had refused! It really is such a sweet story, and one that I had not heard in many years. I’m looking forward to planning this event for them – every single detail.

This Thanksgiving and holiday season, I’m so thankful for the memories. Even the bad ones serve to remind me how fortunate we’ve been in the long run. But the good ones remind me how very blessed we are and are like sweet nectar to the soul. Thanks, God, for the memories.

 

~Temerity Dowell