Friday, September 14, 2012

"Earl Grey-Hot"

When summer sweated and bubbled the blacktop, in true Texan style, I iced the potion and gulped gallons of it. The flavors, like a wildflower bouquet, changed with my mood. Raspberry for lazy afternoons under the tree, and chamomile for restless nights after downing too much hot sauce. I used sun tea, in honor of Apollo, as an offering. Oolong and Darjeeling, with their heavier tones, stayed up with me through long summer nights.
Then a cold front drove down from the north, a dervish spinning among the tree limbs, bringing steel skies. Autumn’s warmth retreated and retrenched under the assault, weeping as she withdrew. The explosion of energy left a trail of loss and sorrow. Yet, I sat in safety, hands warmed by the cup I embraced. Steam fogged my vision when I raised the golden liquid to sip. My anticipation of its sweetness steeped me in pleasure.
I practiced my ritual, altered by my daily needs. Today, traces of sugar laced through the hinted flavor. Yesterday, dollops of honey hung suspended in the hot tisane. Tomorrow may lead to a deep brew of Earl Grey—hot, and cut with milk and lemon.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, September 13, 2012

"Teapots and Faeries"

My first teapot, a gift from my Aunt Esther, resides in my bedroom, tucked into a shelf with silk daisies sprouting from its top. I don’t think my aunt planned on the purchase, but who can resist the pleading green eyes of an eight-year-old asking for a teapot instead of toys? The pot, a plain brown Sadler from England, began a lifetime love of these wonderful vessels. Teapots became my well cherished gifts for Mother’s Day, Christmas, birthdays and anniversaries.
The collection rotates through the house with special holiday teapots making seasonal appearances. My prized tea set, brought back from Japan by my grandfather in the 1920s, includes a gilded dragon teapot that captured my childish imagination and enchants me still. My teapots, purchased more for their uniqueness than their values, hold warm memories as well as hot tea.

Back in 2002, my son (then sixteen) played a role playing game called Dark Age of Camelot with a guild filled with a remarkable mix of people. The guild suspended its eighteen-year-old or older requirement for members for Paul because they liked him so much. This eclectic group, with members from all around the United States and a few people from other countries, decided to host a LAN party in Shreveport, Louisiana and included Paul in their invitation. We decided to tag along and use the long weekend as a mini-vacation.
Shreveport’s museums, rose garden, and casinos kept us fairly busy, but the antique shops and curio boutiques lured me into their potpourri havens. One shop, in particular, captivated me with its fantasy displays of dolls, stuffed animals, gnomes and faeries. Two statues beguiled me so much that I made a rare and indulgent purchase.
Of course, my two faeries multiplied into a collection. The warrior set, that stands determined to battle, arrived one Christmas. Others appeared for special occasions while some flew into our home and perched on shelves and bookcases for no reason except to give me pleasure.

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

“I ♥ The Dark Knight”

         When the phone rang last Saturday, I didn’t expect the question, “Have you seen the latest Batman movie?” from one of my friends.
         “No. But I want to!”
         “There’s a show starting in a couple of hours. Can you get someone to stay with your mother for a few hours?”
         Could I get someone to stay with Mom? For a Batman movie?
         I know this friend knew I’d find a way to meet with her. If she’d tried to entice me with some comedy or romance, I may have dragged my feet a little, but for Batman?

Adam West
Adam West
         I love Batman in every incarnation.  Who can resist this tragic hero? As I young girl, I read the comic book versions. I watched the Adam West Batman cavort on the small screen with delight each week and loved the Kapows!  of obviously faked fights.

         Fortunately for me, Batman grew up. I remember the outcry as many doubted Michael Keaton as Batman, but I saw in his earlier films that edgy unpredictability that any actor portraying Bruce Wayne and Batman must possess. The charm of Batman rides in the fact that multiple actors can interpret this character with success. I enjoyed Val Kilmer and George Clooney as they battled against crazy villains. The most recent Batman, Christian Bale, had the luxury of exploring Bruce Wayne much more than in the previous films. Because of that, he’s become my favorite.

Michael Keaton

Val Kilmer 

George Clooney

 Christian Bale

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

“Sharing Loss”

         The night of my father’s unexpected death, we gathered at my parents’ house in League City. I don’t know who suggested that we watch a movie together to take our minds off of our loss, but before I knew it, I was stretched out on the floor in the family room watching Jackie Chan and Owen Wilson in Shanghai Noon. It didn’t take long for us to burst into uncontrollable laughter at scene after scene.
         And in that raucous, rolling mirth and uncontrollable giggles nestled the first knowledge that we would recover from our unexpected loss. Grief, of course, shrouded us for months and months; yet, that first evening of laughter meant the world would go on. Our lives would change forever, but we’d find myriad reasons to smile and laugh again.
         Our personal grief entangled the next day with the September 11th terrorist attacks. The television, on in the background as we dressed to go to the funeral home, suddenly caught my sister’s attention.
         “Did that plane just hit a building?” she asked.
         The surreal elements of our personal lives halted as we stood to watch the initial reports, before the second plane hit. We left the house and hurried to the appointment to make arrangements for Dad’s funeral, knowing immediately that the attack would affect our lives immediately.
         At the funeral home, the television ran in another room. The director’s phone calls to Fort Sam Houston Cemetery went unanswered. Mom, able to collect herself as she listened to the news, commented that all of Dad’s friends at the sheriff’s department would go on alert. She made an immediate decision not to have a viewing. We picked out an urn. The director finally reached the National Cemetery at Ft. Sam only to be told that we couldn’t schedule any plans until after the crisis had passed. Mom gave instructions for Dad’s cremation, and we all decided that David, Paul and I would drive back to San Antonio with his ashes. We’d schedule a service later.
         I’ve always admired my mother’s strength, but never more than that day. When she called the Department of Defense to inform them of Dad’s death, the young officer handling her call burst into tears. I sat on the floor, holding the checklist of numbers to be called, and listened as my mother consoled this young man. He had friends in the Pentagon.
         I marveled that my mother, so wrapped in her own loss, could take a moment to consider the shock and loss felt by a stranger.

          Over the years, I've learned the power of laughter. Maybe if people took a moment each day to giggle or grin, or to belly laugh until they cried, our world would hold a touch more optimism.

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman








Monday, September 10, 2012

"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

Sunday, September 9, 2012

“People Kill People—With Guns”

Whenever the phone rang in the middle of the night, I’d sit straight up in bed, “Dad’s been shot!” the first thought hitting my sleepy brain.
Fortunately, that call never came. My father, a deputy sheriff for Galveston County, never fired his weapon once (while on duty) in all of his years in law enforcement.
         Dad loved his work. Although he’d come home looking like an arsenal—riffle, shotgun, hand guns, bag loaded with ammunition, he prided himself on his ability to rely upon his communication skills in dealing with “problems” at work. He often spoke of the dangers of the lenient gun laws in Texas. He complained that the danger in his work came more from domestic disputes than hardened criminals. A drunken and angry husband with a gun in the dresser drawer posed more threat to my father’s safety than any other situation.
         He stressed that it didn’t matter what kind of class people took for learning about guns and weapons because angry, or drunk, or drugged people do stupid things. He had many examples of “regular Joes” and their mishaps with weapons.  
Dad described one call he answered late one night. A man, distraught and depressed, stood in the middle of his front yard, weeping. He aimed his shotgun at his wife, threatened to kill her and then himself. This man held a good job, lived in a good neighborhood, and practiced his religious beliefs every Sunday. He didn’t buy a gun to kill his wife, or himself, or my father. Yet one terrible night, he found himself in a standoff with policemen. Captured in spotlights, his power amplified by his weapon, he stood ready to kill.
         I know some of you chant, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.”
         I don’t think you listen to just how plain ignorant that sounds.
         Maybe you’d have a different view if it was your father who stood within range of that weapon and had the job of diffusing the situation without loss of life. Maybe you’d understand that every gun within reach of the public, even “good, honest, hard-working citizens” meant possible threat to my father and other law enforcement agents.
         Whenever we hit an election year, I think of my father answering a call at some Joe the Plumber’s house where this upright citizen, who’s never broken a law, descends into desperation and despair. I want the laws to change to where the weapons this man has within his home don’t turn him into a tragedy because he’s capable of firing hundreds of rounds into his neighborhood.
                 Karl F. Abrams

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman