Saturday, June 4, 2011

“I Want to Give You the World”


I want to give you the world
with its promise
with its pleasure
with its plenitude
I want to give you the world
without the doubts
without the debt
without the desperation
I want to give you the world
with its splendor
with its sunrises
with its surprises
I want to give you the world
without the worry
without the weaknesses
without the wantonness
I want to give you the world
with its hope
with its humor
with its happiness

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, June 3, 2011

“Our Home”


Our house today

            Twenty-seven summers ago, we purchased our house. Originally a three bedroom, one bath Ranch, we knew we’d spend a lifetime on remodeling and updating as the house was already eighteen years old when we bought it.
In our back yard- 1985 
First time painting
            David and I, only married five years when we entered the housing market, sweated out the interest rates on our loan since home loan rates changed almost daily. We closed at 14.75%, and celebrated that victory because rates topped out at almost 21% that summer. We heard over and over again how we wouldn’t stay very long in this small house, but both of us knew we’d never afford another home. My salary as a teacher in Texas topped out at $6,000 those first few years of our marriage, and I had school loans that ate up chunks of that income. Over the next few years, David ended up dealing with lay-offs and rounds of unemployment that finally led him to self-employment. It didn’t take us long to realize that our “starter home” would, in reality, be our final home.
Entry light custom designed

            Over the years, our home transformed to fit our needs more. As Paul started growing, we realized we’d need a second bath. The addition we designed added a family room, master bedroom and master bath. Slowly, our plain Ranch morphed into a home that reflects our tastes. We gutted our kitchen and enclosed the garage, often laboring long and hard as we did the work ourselves. We’ve all learned how to remove wallpaper, texture walls, and apply custom faux finishes to the walls. Knowing we’re not “upwardly mobile”—that this home is our one and only—led us to dare to apply black paint to walls and ceilings to Paul’s rooms and remove a wall to create a handicapped bathroom for my mother.
Back yard now!

            Outside, we’ve created a special getaway out back—pond, bird baths, hot tub, gardens and my beloved swings in a tree! We wove a fence for the front garden last year after returning from Ireland, using branches and limbs from bushes we had to remove. In future years, other projects will grow as our needs continue to change.

            Looking back, I’m happy we stayed in this one house. We have friends, community—roots as deep as the massive live oak out back!


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

"On the Outside”

Required attendance
Yet superfluous and unnecessary
once there
out of place
in the drunken alien celebration
every weekend of the year
Standing unnoticed
Sitting ignored
Free to observe
the tribal dance around the fire
Invited out of habit
Mandatory appearances
Yet resented and misunderstood
for Differences
pointless as a fork in a bowl of cereal

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Sterling Silver"

Part of a set brought out for special occasions
showing guests wholeness and belonging—
            matching, complementary, complete
            “All for one, and one for all!”
The family motto reiterated in ritualistic chant


Part of a set displayed on holidays
buffed with care into sparkle and gleam
            hiding flaws and secrets
            under layers of protective polish
Impressing outsiders and onlookers


Part of a set exhibited for ceremony
identical in rigid expectations
            proof of continuity and unity
            loaded with traditional roles
Indistinguishable utensils of the matriarch


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

"My Writing Process"

            Life stays with me in still shots. Vivid photographs develop in my memory which I neatly catalogue for later reference. When I write about a past event, a slide show runs in my mind until I find just the right moment. Then I hit the pause button and recreate the event. I can again feel annoyed that my hair, carried on the hot breath of summer, whips across my vision. I relive instantly the parental frustration of hearing another chorus of “I’m bored!” My eyes water once more with chlorine burn from staying in the pool too long, trying to decipher the rippled words spoken under water. Not all writers work in this way, but for  me, searching for that word or phrase that allows me to translate these pictures into someone else’s vision becomes an obsession. If I create a new world or character, I want my readers to experience my imagination with me. If they catch their breath at the turn of a phrase, or blush at an intimacy, or feel the flash of anger at an injustice I’ve revealed, then I feel triumphant.


Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, May 30, 2011

“Memorial Day”

 
            The year my father spent in Vietnam, we moved to Danville, Illinois because Mom wanted to be closer to her family. My uncle, Bob Thompson, still lived in England in the 1960s, visiting the states once every few years. Uncle Bob left his small hometown in Illinois during WWII and ended up being a liaison officer between our military and the British forces. In the middle of all the bombing and deaths, all the struggles to survive, he fell in love—with the country. He rarely spoke of his role in the war but always recounted wonderful stories of the people he met. My other uncle, John Thompson, spun a tale for me when I asked about his scars. He said he parachuted behind enemy lines during the war, but the German’s shot him early in the battle. He told me how the soldiers checked for survivors, killing them if their wounds were too serious, or taking them as prisoners. He stated that he lost consciousness before the German’s came to him and that they left him for dead. He assured me our own soldiers rescued him when they regained the zone in battle. For all my life, I felt relief that my Uncle Red managed to survive for I loved him dearly. Who would have had the patience to teach me to whistle? Who would have treated me to A&W root beer floats? Who would have laughed at my silly jokes while I sat on his lap at family picnics?
            A few years ago, I learned more of Uncle Red’s story. The part he kept hidden from a nine-year-old child. The German troops didn’t mistake him for dead. They picked him up and imprisoned him in a Nazi P.O.W. camp. I don’t know if he didn’t want to answer the inquisitive questions of a child, or if he simply preferred not to mention this part of his life. I know both of my uncles down played war and its repercussions. I believe they tried to make it less frightful for us as we waited for Dad’s return from his own war.
            So when Memorial Day ceremonies play out on television, I think of the young man who carried scars into the night, and how he tried to protect me from my own fears as my father’s battle played across another ocean. Isn’t that the soldier’s way, to offer protection?
            Each of us has an Uncle Red or Uncle Bob, or other family members sent to distant shores because of the power of duty. Luck followed our family because each of these men returned home.  Many families will spend today honoring those who didn’t survive. And I wonder about all the little girls who never learned how to whistle because their Uncle Red died on a battle field.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, May 29, 2011

“Sometimes”

sometimes the sun shines, oh, so bright, and sometimes the air is sweet and clear
sometimes my world glistens and glows, and sometimes the future feels so near
then one day the sun doesn’t shine; one day the air is closed and too hot
then one day my world's dull and dim; one day the future that was, is not
I cannot cry for lost sunshine, and I cannot long for cool, sweet air
I cannot see the world I know, and I cannot touch the future bare
so I dream of gold lights of warmth; I dream of breezes in the dark night
so I dream of my life's freedom; I dream of magic futures of light


Copyright 1976 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

I wrote this poem when I was still in high school. It's one of my favorites because it reflects the optimism in which I've tried to view life..