Grammy Perume

Posted by jael on Oct 11, 2010 in Parenting, Spiritual Journey


Usually, the word connotes a visceral charge.

Many words do.

Makes me wonder.

There’s emotion connected to smells that occupy my thoughts today.

Made me remember what home smells like.

Home smells like welcome.

Baked apples and cinnamon.

From-the-garden, Vegetable soup simmered beneath a blanket of fresh, baked bread.

Coffee permeated the air like bacon.  Its bitter smelled sweet, and the cream was real, thick, cold and ready to pour from a brown, pitcher crock.  Only real sugar on the table in a chipped china bowl.  Not a rainbow colored packet anywhere.  Always time to linger over the mismatched cups.

The table was white and gray Formica.  The chairs around it didn’t match and had cracked seats.  Unless Grandpa was in the first seat on the right by the door, no one sat in his chair.

An apple cookie jar sat at the end next to the wall and neighbored the ever present bottle of Hot Pete sauce.  Always full, it hid the treasure of at least three kinds of cookies for little hands to grab.

40 Hour week.  The fruits of their labor is worth more than their time.

_Alabama, baby_

The one who worked behind this scene was a farmer’s wife.  Every inch a quiet, country town, church-going matron, there was simply nothing my grammy couldn’t do with a bundt cake pan and a rosary.  That smell was magical, and always different.  Butter from her barn, sweet, sweet, sweet.  Prayer-fingered beads blessed us one by one.

I can still taste my childhood when I smell cake bake today, though I can no longer eat it.  Nothing compares.

Fresh eggs straight from the coup smell moist and almost woody.  Their nearly orange yolks painted sunshine in the fry pan.

Grammy’s cheek smelled like morning rain, and like baptism washed us clean.

The cradle of her arms was home.

She was perfume.

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Be The Change

Posted by jael on Oct 10, 2010 in Education, Parenting, Spiritual Journey

Our church family participated in a Be The Church program this Sunday.  Very:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world,”
—  Mahatma Gandhi

our church family was called to go out and serve.

And it was good.

A less often Mahatma Gandhi quote opines:  “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

There is much I will mine from our experience together today.

I confess that I am overwhelmed.

Steeled by Fruit and sheer work ethic alone, inside, we rooted through roaches, mold and human excrement, while outside we primed and painted.   As we did so, able-bodied, adult, children of the couple we served were either dormant within, or absent from the home.

I need to think about and write more about this day, for now, however, I trust that under the litmus of both his oft and lesser quoted charges, Gandhi would have endorsed our work today.

I want to be the change Gandhi challenged, and live my life as a Christian he would consider a good branch of His vine…

It is well, it is well, with my soul.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!


Reading as a Contact Sport

Posted by jael on Oct 8, 2010 in Education, Parenting

Reading can be more fun than TV and tastier than buttermilk waffles with butter and maple syrup if you know some simple secrets to engage your child.

Children’s literature is inherently musical and packed with refrains.  It begs to be sung, drummed and acted.  The more active your child becomes in a story, the more fun he discovers reading can be…

a.)    Sing It!  Preview book to identify its refrains, once found, link them to the melody of a popular children’s song that you and your child can sing together every time it appears in the book (to tune of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, “Brown bear, brown bear what do you see?  I see children looking at me.”

b.)    Perform It!  Preview book for major plot points.  Organize props so that children can act out book as it is read. (Stone Soup: gather wooden spoon, pot, and pictures of featured vegetables, allow child to stir soup and add vegetables as they occur in book.)

c.)    Put it on Stage!  Allow children to use hand puppet and theater to perform book after it has been read.

d.)   Record Autobiographical Entries: Write brief accounts of daily events you have enjoyed with your child.  Let him practice his reading and block it for performance.  Practice together to perform when other family members return home.  Save entries for keepsake book.  (Sledding:  Greet Daddy at the door  in hat, coat and scarf when he gets home and take him for a ride in Living Room Park.  His ticket to ride- an envelope with child’s story inside!

e.)    Pick it Up and Put it Down!  The rhythm of children’s lit makes it a natural to be produced as an exercise video.  Identify the actions (verbs) of the book and turn it into an exercise routine.

f.)     Simple Signs!  Classics like Goodnight Moon invitie sign language education.  Teach child the ASL signs which correspond with the main words/refrains of a book.

g.)    Turn it Into Art:  Children love to paint and draw.  Let them illustrate their key scenes from their favorite reads.

I’ll stand before the Lord of Song with a book in our hands and a skip in our step, with nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah


Quiet Rage, part iii

Posted by jael on Oct 6, 2010 in Spiritual Journey

The iconic Hallelujah breaker of violence against women is considered in another woman

I thought I was done with Michelle for now.

However, I can’t stop thinking about her Hallelujah vacuum that risks entropy.

Thus, a third window into Michelle’s life. 

( For the first pieces of the story, see:   Quiet Rage, part i and Quiet Rage, part ii)

And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!

_quiet rage, part iii_

Her parents had left pissed.

Nothing new there.

Michelle had become so intimate with their disappointment that they were almost lovers.  She couldn’t remember a time that the way she responded didn’t frustrate them.  In an odd way that she knew was on some level was sick, their impatience with her felt safe and familiar.

She recalled the way her father had ended the abortive interview with that Polish cop who had just gotten a perm.  Michelle herself hated perms.  They smelled worse than sour kraut, like a helmet of funky cabbage.   She hated that cop too.  She’d always hated women who acted like dicks.  This one manned herself up behind a badge and had tried to eat her heart.

But oh, God, oh!  How Michelle loved poetry.  It kept her sane.  Pretty pissed herself, she had not expected to wake up to this old shit.  She had not expected to wake up again ever.  Even now though, inside a vise of almost claustrophobic, physical pain, she recalled a Sylvia Plath poem:

Lady Lazarus

I have done it again.
One year in every ten
I manage it–

A sort of walking miracle, my skin
Bright as a Nazi lampshade,
My right foot

A paperweight,
My face a featureless, fine
Jew linen.

Peel off the napkin
O my enemy.
Do I terrify?–

The nose, the eye pits, the full set of teeth?
The sour breath
Will vanish in a day.

Soon, soon the flesh
The grave cave ate will be
At home on me

And I a smiling woman.
I am only thirty.
And like the cat I have nine times to die.

This is Number Three.
What a trash
To annihilate each decade.

What a million filaments.
The peanut-crunching crowd
Shoves in to see

Them unwrap me hand and foot–
The big strip tease.
Gentlemen, ladies

These are my hands
My knees.
I may be skin and bone,

Nevertheless, I am the same, identical woman.
The first time it happened I was ten.
It was an accident.

The second time I meant
To last it out and not come back at all.
I rocked shut

As a seashell.
They had to call and call
And pick the worms off me like sticky pearls.

Is an art, like everything else.
I do it exceptionally well.

I do it so it feels like hell.
I do it so it feels real.
I guess you could say I’ve a call.

It’s easy enough to do it in a cell.
It’s easy enough to do it and stay put.
It’s the theatrical

Comeback in broad day
To the same place, the same face, the same brute
Amused shout:

‘A miracle!’
That knocks me out.
There is a charge

For the eyeing of my scars, there is a charge
For the hearing of my heart–
It really goes.

And there is a charge, a very large charge
For a word or a touch
Or a bit of blood

Or a piece of my hair or my clothes.
So, so, Herr Doktor.
So, Herr Enemy.

I am your opus,
I am your valuable,
The pure gold baby

That melts to a shriek.
I turn and burn.
Do not think I underestimate your great concern.

Ash, ash–
You poke and stir.
Flesh, bone, there is nothing there–

A cake of soap,
A wedding ring,
A gold filling.

Herr God, Herr Lucifer

Out of the ash
I rise with my red hair
And I eat men like air.

As if a director of a play, her father had cast himself in the role of her hero.  Her knight in shining armor.  Like he could rescue her now.   And she, only 18, didn’t care how many lives she may have been granted, she knew only that no one could rescue her now.

A fatigue deeper than pain had invaded when that bitch had said, “It’s only just begun.  She is going to have to face it.”

Michelle had no appetite left.

She was unleavened bread.


Quiet Rage, part ii

Posted by jael on Oct 3, 2010 in Spiritual Journey

The too common Hallelujah breaker of violence against women is considered in another woman

Here is the second part of another window into Michelle’s life. 

( For the first piece of the story, see:   Quiet Rage, part i .)

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!

_quiet rage, part ii_

“Just let me know where it hurts,” Dr.  Williams instructed.

She neither stirred nor opened her eyes.  She felt him draw back the starched, white sheet.  Cold air assaulted her mid section as he pulled up her gown.  He pressed her stomach in several places.  She groaned when he touched her for the fourth time.

“I know you’re sore, Hon.  You’ve got two cracked ribs and a nasty cut down here.  I want to make sure there’s no signs of internal bleeding or infection.”

She gritted her teeth again in an attempt to swallow her sobs.  Tears escaped from her tightly squeezed eyelids.

“I’ll get you something for the pain now,” Dr.  Williams said as he pulled her gown back down and replaced the sheet.  “I’ll send your parents back in too.”

She felt another gentle squeeze on her good hand and heard his steps move away.  She listened as the door swished open and creaked shut slowly, it sounded like the door of a school bus.  She heard the door open again.  She waited for the footsteps to approach her bedside.

“We’re back, Kitten,” Daddy’s voice said.  “Dr.  Williams said you could talk to our friend here while he got you some pain medicine.”

She opened her hazel eyes to see another stranger’s face next to Daddy’s and Mom’s familiar ones.  A pair of huge, brown, doe eyes met her curious gaze.

“Hi, my name is Officer Linda Kozickowski,” the round face said.  “I was hoping that you could tell us what happened to you the other night.”

This time she cast her blank stare like a net toward that new, round face.  She guessed that Linda had just gotten a perm; her chocolate-brown hair was a bouquet of short, tight curls that could only come from a salon.  Her large nose was crooked, and looked as if it had once been broken.  Her lips were painted a frosty pink and gaped open slightly like a microphone head, greedy and anxious to record every grisly detail.

“Can you tell us?”  Officer Kozickowski asked.

She looked up again, this time noticing her navy uniform top  and the gold MPD patch on her right shoulder.

“I’m going to turn this tape recorder on so I can get everything at once,” Officer Kozickowski explained patiently.  “Just talk like you do every day and ignore it, okay?  I’ll start.”

“This will be a taped statement, a case of rape.  The date is August 20, 2003 at 1:40 p.m.  This is Officer Linda Kozickowski in the hospital room of the victim, and with me is Michelle, M I C H E L L E, middle initial L, as in lilac, Larson, L A R S O N.  DOB August 18, 1986, address of 824 Bayview Drive, Millpoint, MA, 01775, phone, 978-897-5531.  There is no one else in on this interview besides Michelle, her parents, and Officer Kozickowski.  Michelle, starting from when you left your place of employment two nights ago, would you tell me in your own words what happened to you.”

Michelle let out a weary, exasperated sigh, clenched her teeth, and stared at Officer Kozickowski.

“Can you tell me what he looked like, Michelle?”  Officer Kozickowski asked.

Tears polluted Michelle’s vision.  Her parents’ faces appeared hazy and blurred as if she looked at them through carnival glass.

“Did you see his face?  Did you see the knife?”  Officer Kozickowski drilled.

Michelle slammed her swollen and bruised, hazel eyes shut and clenched her good fist.

“Where did the subject first approach you?”

Michelle turned her face away from her interrogator.  Her chest started to hitch up and down like an overtaxed furnace.  She lay there keening, her eyes squeezed so tightly shut that her brow and nose appeared to almost meet.

“Michelle, we need your help so this doesn’t happen again.”  Officer Kozickowski lectured.

Like a station transformer had been hit, Michelle went dark and became still.  She laid as stiff and unyielding as a fallen oak downs power lines.  She lay there unmovable and broken.  Her swollen, bruised face was drenched in tears and mucus, causing the cut which ran from her right earlobe to the center of her right cheek to sting even more.

“Look at me, Michelle, talk to me.”

Michelle refused to move or open her hazel eyes again.  She began to grind her teeth like an earnest apple press.  The frequent sniffling of her nose provided a somber wind accompaniment to their percussion.

“It’s only just begun,” Officer Kozickowski said, “She is going to have to face it.”

“That’s enough!”  her father spat.  “Get out, get out and take your fucking tape recorder and notepad with you.”

“Shh, Baby.  It’s okay, Michelle,” Daddy said.  “She’s gone.  We’ll take care of you.”

“It’s too late for that,” Michelle whispered hoarsely.  “It’s too damned late now.”


Quiet Rage, part i

Posted by jael on Oct 2, 2010 in Spiritual Journey

The too common Hallelujah breaker of violence against women is considered in another woman

Here is the first part of another window into Michelle’s life.

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah!

_quiet rage, part i_

She slowly opened her swollen, bruised eyelids.  She squinted as she struggled to keep her eyes open as her pupils adjusted to the glare of the bright light.  For several minutes she fought against her heavy, fluttering lids.  They staggered open like old theater curtains,  too worn from use to glide.   She stared up at the white ceiling, noticing the random disorder of its small raised bumps.  Her brow knitted in concentration as she steadied herself.  Drawing deep, labored breaths, she tried to determine where she was.  She attempted to turn her head to look around.  A sudden jolt of pain forced a grimace as she sharply gasped for breath.  Everything hurt.  Pain smothered her.  It was too much for her to withstand.  She surrendered, let the waves of dizziness wash over her like a tide, closed her battered eyes, and allowed the undertow to pull her away, lost in its vicious current of pain.

She lay stiffly and still.  Her forehead creased as her nose twitched.  She was awake again.  Her eyes paced back and forth beneath her puffed lids like sentinels, as if to consider whether or not to do battle with the light again.  She turned her head to the left before she gradually opened her hazel eyes.  They teared as she blinked and waited to adjust to the invading light.  Her eyes followed the length of her arm.  She noticed the small, bloodstained Band-Aid that was pasted to the inside of her left elbow.  She looked at the network of cuts, scratches, and bruises which covered her arm like a red, laced glove.  She tried to move her fingers.  They wouldn’t bend.  It was then that she saw the white band which taped her fingers and wrist to a brace board.  She could only see the mound of white tape and part of the thin tubing of her IV.  Tears welled up in her eyes and coursed their way down into her matted, blonde hair.   The hitch and pull of her sobs tired her quickly, and like a mewling infant, she cried herself back to sleep.

She could hear someone calling her name, beckoning her out of the deep, black fog.  The intrusion of her peace as unwelcome as the pain that waited to attack her again when she woke.  It pestered like a woodpecker holes a tree, and refused to relent.  She strained to identify the familiar voice.  Her eyelids felt too heavy to pry open.

“Let me sleep,” her defeated thoughts begged.  “Please!  Don’t!   Please!  Please don’t make me!”

The voice menaced with her again and again, “Wake up, honey,” it said.  “Come on, baby, open your eyes.”

She had to fight against her own resistance to remain below, and forced herself to swim up through the darkness, exhaustion and fog back into the bright pain.  Finally, she crested the surface and forced her eyes open.  She slowly blinked away her blurring vision to make out the faces of her mom and dad.  Adrenaline smacked her bloodstream like an intravenous drug.   The taste of tin fear coated the back of her throat before it completely registered to her brain that she was very afraid again.

“If they are both here, and together,” she clicked, synapses firing in her mind like lightning bolts, “It must be really bad.”

She noticed her mother’s worried look right away; her brow was knit, her brown eyes were moist with tears and blazed with absolute fury.  A tight, strained smile painted her pale face into a grim mask of strained, maternal composure.

“Hey, Kitten,” Daddy said in his best salesman, I’ve-got-a-bargain-for-you voice.  “Rise and shine.  You can’t sleep this whole day away.”

“Honey,” Mom almost whispered.  “Are you alright? How do you feel?  Where does it hurt?”

Before she could answer, she heard a door being pushed open.  Heavy footsteps moved toward her bed.  She flinched.  Her panicked eyes strained to see who was coming.  She tried to seek solace in her parents’ faces, but they had retreated to greet the intruder.

Suddenly, a stranger’s face stabbed his stubby head over her.  She surveyed his salt and pepper hair, horn-rimmed glasses, big, ruddy cheeks and dull, green eyes suspiciously.

“And so, Ma’am,” he said smiling, “you finally decided to wake up for awhile.”

She looked up into his smiling face with a confused stare.  She noticed the stethoscope coiled around his neck, the white lab coat with a black smudge on the shoulder and the double Windsor knot of his navy necktie.

“It’s so nice to see you awake,” he said, still smiling.  “Now I can admire those beautiful, hazel eyes.  My name is Dr.  Williams.  I admitted you two nights ago when you came in.  You’re at Saint Joseph’s Hospital here in Millpoint.  I know you’re probably experiencing some discomfort.  We’ll give you something for the pain.  Along with everything else, you’ve suffered a pretty nasty concussion.  I’m going to have a look at you.”

Her split and chapped lips parted slightly as her eyes widened in fear.  She attempted to pull her shoulders back and hoist her waist up in an effort to rise,  bleated pitifully like a wounded lamb trapped under a fence, and collapsed back onto the bed.

“Now, now,” Dr.  Williams comforted.  “It’s all right.  No one will hurt you here.  Your parents will be right outside.  They can come back in as soon as we’re finished.”

“Go on, folks,” he said, directing her parents outside.  “We’ll just be a minute.”

“Hang in there, Poopsie,” Mom said, squeezing her good hand.  “We’ll just be outside for a minute.”

“Let’s get this out of the way,” Dr. Williams said.

She watched as he pulled down the silver, metal guard rails which surrounded each side of her bed like a barricade.  They looked cold.  She stared at the perspiration handprints he left on the bars as he lowered them.  The small beads of water looked like a ghost gripping the steel bars, refusing to let go.

“Okay, can you take a few deep breaths for me?”  Dr.  Williams asked.

She looked back up toward him to see he’d stuck the stethoscope in his ears, donning the instrument like a sacred, clerical robe.  His chubby cheeks appeared imprisoned by the silver tubing which joined together at his neck.

She stared at him blankly.

“Come on, Hon.” He said, pressing the head of the stethoscope to her chest.  “Just a few deep breaths.”

“Very good,” he said.  “Now let me help you sit up.”  Take my arm.  Let me pull you.  Don’t move around too much.”

She forced herself to relax while he pulled her into an upright position.  She fought crying out in pain by focusing on the black smudge on his shoulder which got larger and larger until her head was resting against it.

She felt the cold head of the stethoscope invade her bare back.

“How about taking a couple more of those deep breaths for me?” he said.  She buried her head further into his smudged, white-coated shoulder, and gasped to draw air.  She began to cry, soaking the fabric with tears, making it even harder to breathe.

“All right now,” Dr.  Williams comforted her as he lay her back down.  “Enough of that, you can rest now.”

Mucous streamed from her swollen nose to mix with the remnants of dried blood in her nostrils.  She licked her parched lips.  She closed her eyes.

“No sleeping yet, Dollface,” Dr. Williams said.  “Suppose you tell me what happened to you.”

She opened her eyes and stared at him, rage and pain darting from those haunted, hazel houses.  She gritted her teeth, closed her mouth like a vise, and shut her eyes again.

“Okay, we don’t have to talk now,” he said.

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