Friday, April 15, 2011

"Silver and Gold"

“Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other’s gold.”


            Recently, I chatted on the phone with my friend, Suzanne. Once a next door neighbor, we’ve shifted from daily visits to bi-weekly marathon phone conversations. If we’re lucky, we’ll get together once every month or so.
           I consider Suzanne a “new” friend, the silver in my life. Nineteen summers ago, Suzanne and her family rented the house next door. When I saw that she and her husband juggled a toddler and a six-year-old, I grabbed a huge blanket, tons of toys, and some snacks and introduced myself. We’d had neighbors cycle through this rental for several years, but from my first conversation with Suzanne, I knew we’d be friends.
            I still tease her about letting us take her daughter with us the very next day to my son’s birthday party at my in-law’s home. The party kept hitting snags, and I kept calling Suzanne with explanation on why we still had her daughter. Finally, I asked, “Aren’t you worried? We’re basically strangers to you, and we’ve had Felicity all day.”
            “But I know where you live!” Suzanne’s quipped back in her distinctive British way.

Liz and Suzanne Christmas 2009

            And that’s how our friendship began. Our children rotated between our homes daily. As couples, we’d eat meals together, stay up all night playing games, or just talk for hours. Although David has family in town, it was Phil and Suzanne we turned to when our cars stranded us, our lawn mower imploded, or I became bedridden with a series of ear infections.
            Our childhoods dove-tailed in a military up-bringing and gave us common ground immediately. Drilled on keeping high standards for housekeeping and yards, our kids would later comment that they felt equally comfortable in each home because of the similarities.
            Suzanne’s wry humor and tough spirit support me through the hardest days. I look forward to the next stage of our lives as our children start on their own paths. Our friendship has survived divorce, job changes and moves. It’s grown stronger through shared adversities and sweeter through years of laughter shared over glasses of wine.

“And Gold”

            She sat in the cafeteria, both arms in casts, unable to eat!
            “Lisa, this is Liz. She’s going to help you today,” my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Tidwell, introduced us to a lifelong friendship.
            Our world in fourth grade relied upon phone calls and spend-the-nights. In fifth grade, my neighborhood school opened, and Lisa and I no longer saw each other daily; but when seventh grade dumped us back into the same school, our friendship blossomed. Even Lisa’s move to the Valley didn’t keep us from writing long letters or visiting when her family made a trip to San Antonio. I even spent a week one summer visiting Lisa and her family. That’s when I learned I cannot play golf or tennis! But I also learned that friendship can last forever.

Liz and Lisa by David Chapman

            High school shifted to infrequent phone calls and occasional letters, but when I received my acceptance from Texas A&M, I wrote Lisa before anyone else because we’d talked years ago about attending the same college. Her answering letter informed me of her own acceptance, too. We’d be a pair of Aggies!
            We made a huge mistake of rooming together one semester. Our golden friendship almost tarnished because of immature expectations and youthful thoughtlessness. Fortunately, we matured enough to sidestep old hurts. We stand together for all the major events in life: graduations, weddings, birthdays, illnesses, losses, deaths.
            Lisa’s a doctor now, busy with her practice. When she’s not at work, she’s caring for her parents. Almost every week, she calls me from her car for a chat as she drives from her office to her parents’ home for her evening visit with them. We may not see each other for many months at a time, but when we’re together, it’s like we’ve never parted.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

“The Shell”

This small fragile shell, dropped by the sea, marks the end of foolish romance and the beginning of “just friends.”
Cradle it softly in your palm, catch each glistening particle of sand that now flows, ebbs, and descends.

Morning’s tide of gold light caresses castles built of sand,  
while silence enfolds two youths, hand-in-hand.
At water’s edge we lift a precious shell from its place—
as summer softly sighs, we passionately embrace.
Somewhere, between sun set and the changing of the tide,
the folly of our young love began to subside.
We rolled our Levi’s, but they still got wet,
as we ran into the surf, trying to forgive—to forget.

Forgiveness now arrives singing over the horizon
with promises of today and tomorrow.
So, I’m placing this shell among the cushioning clouds;
 it’s yours I’m remembering the love, not sorrow.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams

Back in high school, my Biology II class would raise money to pay for weekend field trips to the Texas coast where we gathered and studied marine life. However, we learned as much about our own lives through all night poker games, endless conversations about our hopes and dream, and falling into (and out of ) love. 

Thursday, April 14, 2011

“You're Not What I Want”

You strut into my life, mirrors for your eyes.
Bragging on your style and worth, all to cover lies.
You demand worship, attention thrown your way.
Staging life’s events, you’re an actor in a play.
            You’re not what I want, so I’m stepping away.
            You’re not what I want, so I’m leaving you today.
You take and take cruelly, all that I can give.
Draining all my love from me, just so you can live.
You see no one else, feed only your dark needs.
Ignoring all the hearts you break with your selfish deeds.
           You're not what I want, so I'm stepping away.
           You're not what I want, so I'm leaving you today.
You expect to hold the world’s blind devotion.
Feigning love and care, your spirit lacks emotion.
You think I should thankfully kneel at your feet.
Allowing the abusive cycle to repeat.
            You’re not what I want, so I’m stepping away.
            You’re not what I want, so I’m leaving you today.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

I was listening to a cd the other day by Suzette Lawrence and The Neon Angels and started wondering what type of song lyrics I would write. I thought of some of my broken-hearted friends, and the self-centered men they'd dealt with, and "Not What I Want" resulted. Maybe it needs to be read with a Texas twang!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


Depression descended,
without warning,
unusually ugly.
Souls search
fervently forward
denying destitution.
An answer
no one knows
silently sounds.

Copyright 1985 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

“A Family’s Spin”

masks worn to hide empty souls
embraces feigning loving devotion
covers of shrill condemnation and lies
disguises of endless discord
prayers smugly offered for self-adulation
actors preforming prescribed scripts

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, April 11, 2011


“We can do it all!”
          The battle cry of women in my generation that resounded through our homes and schools. My parents insisted that their daughters go to college because that would give us a level of independence from men. Both had witnessed wives who put up with emotional and physical abuse from husbands because these women had no education or job skills. The message I received from my parents (and this was in the 1960s and 1970s) was “be able to support yourself.”
          Added to their message came the “You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby” campaign. My role as a woman shifted beyond marriage, children, and homemaking. I could do anything. Not only could I do anything, but I could do it all!
          Yes. I could have a successful career, happy marriage, 2.5 kids, and a three bedroom house in the burbs.
          What a wonderful pitch, too. Many of my friends believed that we could do it all.
          And we did.
          We went after college degrees, executive positions, or medical practices. We married (some of us sooner, others later) and started our families. We juggled pushing the limits at work with nursing ill children. We set high standards for ourselves, and when we reached those goals, we raised the bar higher.
           But have we had success? I’m not certain. Half of my friends have divorced their husbands. They’ve relied on babysitters and daycare to raise their children. In their fifties now, they worry about spending the rest of their lives alone. The half that remained married? They fret over lost years with their children. Many seem to be trying to make up the play time they lost with their children by spending more time with their grandchildren. And all of us complain of our everlasting fatigue. We’re tired. We’ve been tired for decades.
          I wouldn’t want to go back and change the choices I made because that would change the tapestry of my life too much. But I’d love to tell this next generation of women that they need to be careful of their choices. You can do it all, but you cannot do it all well. Something gets lost—marriage, children, or even a part of yourself—as you struggle to design the pattern of your life.    

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, April 10, 2011

"Connie's Smile"

                Tapping lightly on the classroom door, I stuck my head into the room at the mumbled welcome and spied a teacher sitting at her desk at the back of the room. The dim lamp light haloed her head and revealed piles of papers precariously perched on the desk.
                “Connie?” I whispered, not wanting to break into her concentration.
                “Hmmm,” she responded, her blonde head still bent over papers. Then she looked up from her task and smiled.
                And that was the first time I saw Connie’s smile light up a room. Her generosity led me into her classroom as she’d volunteered to let my Student Leadership class meet there every day during her conference period. I don’t know if she realized the full impact of her generosity.  We invaded her room with poster boards and paint. She only laughed in good humor when we made the faculty little reindeer necklaces with goo-goo eyes (that somehow got scattered all over the floor). Nor did she mind the endless tissue paper flowers that grew in her room as we prepared decorations for the first spring dance.
                Two years later, Connie and I became team members. We shared the same one-hundred-twenty students throughout the day. Our rooms, spitting distance from each other, became windows into our teaching styles and personalities. And every day, I saw Connie’s smile.
                No matter how badly the days disintegrated, I knew I could pop into Connie’s room to receive a smile and a portion of her stash of chocolate. That student who drove me absolutely crazy? She’d pull him into her fold, shooting me a smile and a wink. She had tremendous patience, a wicked sense of humor, and the ability to put things into perspective allowing me to make it to the end of those rough days.
                It’s easy to smile when talking of the people we love, and Connie’s joy over her children’s milestones spilled out in delightful tales accompanied, always, with her bright grin. However, adversity is more difficult to welcome with smiles and laughter, but that was Connie’s way. When she received her diagnosis of ovarian cancer, she never once doubted the necessity of her fight. It didn’t matter how weak she felt from chemo, or how worn she was from the stress, her smile always greeted me just like that very first time.  
                The final time I saw Connie, her family and friends encircled her with warmth, comfort, and love. When I leaned closer to hear her words, she asked about my mother, and then told me to have strength. Then she gave me, again, her brilliant smile.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman