Saturday, May 21, 2011

“Summer Begins”



Summer begins
shedding stress by
lusting for Father Ralph
I become Meggie
slipping into heartbreak
reliving my own devotion
veiling my Catholic guilt under Italian lace
missal clutched in small, white-gloved hand
crystal Rosary, blessed by Pius XII,
soothing my restless fingers
his Irish brogue a supple song
his blue eyes like laughter
he kneels before me, eye-to-eye
proposes a date
he’ll be my father—
a surrogate breaking bread
erasing my disappointment
drying my tears with his finger tips
tugging my hand to the crook of his arm
his brilliance dazzles me
my heart worships him

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Every summer, to "come down" from the stress of the school year, I'd retreat into The Thornbirds for a week. I'd either dust off the novel and reread it, or I'd pull down the series. Either way, the hours spent with these characters put distance between me and my work.

Friday, May 20, 2011

“The Cottage”

Cottage on Inisheer, one of the Aran Islands, Ireland September 2010    


Whitewashed walls tinged rose by sunrise’s blush
sashes—a splash of sky
new thatch mixes with dew’s perfume
while flowers and ferns embroider the path of home
Door opens with smiles and cheer
Enter!
Enter!
Peat banked in the hearth
black pot nestles in amber embers simmering Guinness stew
Lace daintily drips from the table
—tatted by Grams’ steady hands
Oatcakes totter on a platter
sheep’s cheese, churned butter, honey, cream
and tea brewed black—a midnight sky swirling with galaxies
From the loft flows the fiddle’s enchantment
a boy’s toe tapping, keeping the beat
drowning out the past’s lament

Cottage at Bunratty Castle

tears of yesteryear hidden in another song
Share a pint
Share a verse
Share our life
Welcome home!
Welcome home.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Cottage at Bunratty Castle

During our entire trip through Ireland, a place I'd never visited before, I felt as though I was returning home.








Cottage on Inisheer

Thursday, May 19, 2011

“Our Vows”


In all faithfulness and tenderness,
I lovingly choose to be with you eternally;
to accept your life as my own;to give my life in return and to love you;
to share with you all that I have from this day forward.
This I vow before God and our friends.


            Thirty-two years ago today, David and I pledged to spend our lives together. What a wonderful journey we started with nothing but our belief in each other! We slept on mats the first months of our marriage, used paper boxes for our table, and stacked our clothes on the floor because we had no furniture. We ate pinto beans five days out of seven, didn’t use the air conditioner in the summers or the heater in the winters. For entertainment, we played music or stayed up all night sharing our hopes and dreams. Eventually, we up-graded our furniture to a borrowed bed, and card table with folding chairs, and a pair of unpainted chests to hold our clothes. Youth and idealism kept us strong. Love kept us happy.

            Over the years, we tackled the obstacles every couple endures. Sometimes we set aside dreams for another time. Sometimes we caused each other pain by careless words. Sometimes one of us sacrificed for the other because we made the decision to share our lives together. Most times, though, life’s complications welded our unity. We definitely spent more days in happiness than in sorrow. We made the choices that pulled our destinies together on the same path along our lifelong trek.  Always, we faced life’s avenues together with the strength that grows from bottomless love, devoted friendship, and profound respect.

And, if our fortune proves good, we’ll continue our journey for another thirty-two years!

             
Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Many people ask the trick to a long marriage. It comes down to loving someone enough to put them first, and trusting that they will do the same for you. You take care of each other, believe in each other, stand for each other. And, because of the love and respect you feel, you're willing to work the rough times as a couple so that you can enjoy the spectacular times.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

“Roaches”

            Growing up in Delaware and Illinois, occasionally a German roach or two crossed my path. These little insects seldom grew larger than the size of my pinky’s nail so they barely drew my attention. Whenever my parents spied one of the critters, insecticides permeated the air for days until the invaders vanished. Moving to Texas, however, changed my relationship with roaches forever.
Photograph from Flower Pictures@ www.flowers.vg
            When we moved to Texas, we stayed for a few days with my grandmother and my uncle’s family in League City. Their pier and beam home, built in the 1940s, sat on a huge lot with plenty of bushes surrounding the structure. In the back yard, Grandma kept chickens in a coop because she preferred fresh eggs every morning. The combination of a coop, bushes, empty lots, Texas humidity, and poor housekeeping added up to a haven for all kind of insects.

            The first night of our stay, I innocently went into the bathroom to take a bath. Holding my slippers, nightgown and robe in one hand, I flipped the light switch with the other. And the entire floor moved! Forty-five years later, the terror still hits me whenever I remember my earliest experience with Texas roaches—Gila monsters! Armored with brown exoskeletons, the hundreds of roaches clicked and clattered in panic as they escaped the overhead light. I screamed, backed out of the room, slammed the door shut, and pushed against it with all my might to keep these creatures from attacking me. My father laughed at my reaction, but I refused to use the bathroom during our three day visit unless he stayed in the room with me. My fear extended into the bedroom. I couldn’t sleep because my imagination insisted the hairy legged creepies crawled over me if I slept. My sister finally agreed to shake the bed off and on all night long because my childish logic reasoned they wouldn’t attack us if we kept moving.

            Naturally, these monsters dogged me throughout my childhood. One spring, I volunteered to cut back the dead parts of our palm tree. The roaches landed in my hands and hair, sending me screaming in desperation for my dad again. Another time, I stayed a friend’s house where they made a surprise attack when I entered her kitchen. Fortunately, I didn’t encounter the roaches often, and usually my father rescued me from their assaults by smashing them with something. I learned that these roaches appeared in every house in Texas, coming in for water and to chow on stray crumbs. Every surprise raid left me trembling and phobic.

            The worst invasion I experienced, though, occurred when I lived in College Station. The four guys occupying the apartment above ours forgot to take out their garbage before Christmas break. When I entered our apartment, the stench of rotting fruit and meat permeated the entire place. Gagging as the stink practically knocked me off my feet, I quickly threw open all the windows so my roommates wouldn’t have to deal with the odor. At first, I thought we’d left something in our own kitchen, and so I went into that room and switched on the light to investigate. Imagine my horror when those giant roaches poured out of the ceiling light fixture and dive bombed through the room, aiming for my head! Needless to say, my roommates found me sitting out on the porch when they arrived a few hours later.

            As an adult, I’ve tried to overcome my fear of these huge insects. When my son captured one and insisted on having it as a pet, I managed to dust the area around its jar without total meltdown. I watched Joe’s Apartment and closed my eyes only a few times with each viewing. However, the unexpected attacks of these Texas monsters still send me scurrying for cover. My husband scoops them up for me and tosses them into the toilet with heroic nonchalance while I scoop my feet away from the floor or dash into another room, often screaming like a girl! I guess some things will never change.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

“Naked Nightmare”


            As the school year winds down, all my friends still in education post on Facebook, with fairly high frequency, status updates on their “no sleep nights.” With gratitude, I realize that retirement ended my horribly restless nights and bad dreams. My dream frequency always increased in number right before returning to work in August and then again in the weeks prior to the end of each school year in May.
            These dreams or nightmares invaded my REM sleep relentlessly, leaving me with battle fatigue because of their vivid nature. Two nightmares recurred off and on for years. In both, I find myself back in my first high school classroom. This interior room, with no windows and plain brown paneling and musty orange carpet, lingers in most of my school dreams although I taught in five other classrooms before I finally retired. I’m certain Freud or Jung would have interesting interpretations on why I find myself back in the same boxed room over and over again.
            In one dream, I sit at a student desk aiding a student with a passage in our literature book when the principal’s voice breaks into the quiet. “Mrs. Chapman, report to my office. Now!”
I feel my cheeks burn as I hurry down the hallway, stumble down the stairs, and dash madly to the administrative building. When I get to the principal’s office, he gestures for me to sit in a chair as he angrily sorts through piles of papers. Finally, he triumphantly waves a document and announces, “Do you realize you never graduated from high school?”
            My mouth drops open in comical disbelief as I gasp. “What?”
            “Look!”
            My hands shake as I read my high school transcript and realize that for some reason, I never took government and economics! “Why didn’t my college admissions notice this? Why didn’t my high school counselor notice? What am I going to do?” The panic attack hits quickly and painfully.
            “Only one answer,” my sage principal replies. “You’ll finish those two courses here.”
            And the remainder of my dream blurs with me teaching my own classes and attending those two high school classes during my conference period. Each time I have this dream, I’m never certain if I’m a student or a teacher. Of course, in education this reality exists—we are always both the student and the teacher. Every day, I learned as much as I taught.
My second recurring nightmare finds me in the same classroom as the previous dream, usually standing before my students, giving instructions for the day’s assignments. With every eye riveted to me, I walk across the front of the room, move up and down the rows, pause here and there as I gesture for emphasis. All of my students pay attention to what I say, and I feel pleasure that I have their total concentration focused on me.
            I move back to the front of the room and glance down. With horror, I realize that I have no clothes on. Nothing. Nada. Totally naked! I look back at my students, but they’ve begun their work.
            “No one’s noticed!” I whisper to myself in relief.
            Looking next to me, I notice my clothes neatly folded and sitting on the corner of my desk. So my plan is simple. I just need to get dressed without anyone noticing. Certainty floods me that my students will only notice my nudity if they become aware of my reverse strip tease. Flustered and embarrassed, I sneak over to my desk where I try to casually don my underpants and bra without catching anyone’s attention.
            Never once, in all the years I dreamed this nightmare have I pulled on an item of clothing without one student looking up and the entire class laughing at my nakedness!


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, May 16, 2011

“Progress?”


Framed in a window
is the picture of progress.
Cars planted where
wild grasses once grew.
Telephone poles marching
where oak trees towered.
And we claim to be
a modern civilization.

It’s so brutal, our progress.



Copyright 1975 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sometimes, when I go through my old journals, I'm struck by how much things haven't changed! Maybe because we've become so accustomed to our parking lots and telephone poles? Do we convince ourselves that they have their own beauty?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

“Rain Dance”



rain dancing on a hot July evening
just before sunset the sky opened
tinsel streaks sparkling
we dashed outside with devilish grins
heads thrown back in supplication
arms akimbo
knees bent like chickens’ legs
an ancient dance of guffaws and belly laughs
twirling in the rain with mouths open
hearts wide




Copyright 1999 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Our one morning of rain this week made me search out a poem written during another long drought.