Saturday, October 19, 2013


The Smothers Brothers: Mom Always Liked You Best!

“Mom always liked you best”       
a long ago line from a Smothers Brothers’ routine        
comedy-a joke       
a Band-Aid covering       
deep wounds       
loved without effort       
gifted with endless attention       
a mama’s boy       
walking on water       
parting the Red Sea       
with his shallowness       
overlooked and forgotten       
faceless in the familial crowd       
a lost son       
never perfect enough       
always longing       
a pure soul       
Adoration and Neglect       
doled out in equal dollops       
so much showered on one       
nothing remained for the other        

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Friday, October 18, 2013


            Usually, I don’t pay any attention to television commercials. Most of the time, I dash out of the room to use the restroom, or head into the kitchen to sneak a peek into the fridge. I may even take a thirty second snooze (that sometimes creeps into the show I’m watching). I’d have a hard time telling you about any of the products, or the music, or any special elements from the advertisement.
            However, I have to admit that I’m in love with the baby from the Nationwide commercial. The song, of course, taps into my own memories. I identify with the young driver hovering over his car (I think I’d run across a parking lot to save the RX 8 from a maverick shopping cart.) 
            So today, I applaud the team that developed this short and effective ad. For once, I remember the product, the company, the message, and—THE BABY!  
Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Daddy's Girl"

Man in a Box   

Tears welled in his eyes   
a confident smirk masked his disappointment   
A girl—a girl   
His finger slid down the curve of her soft cheek   
then he stepped back   
building physical distance   
No clone    
No son to show off at company parties and family reunions   
“Do you want to hold her?”   
His eyes darted to his wife, his mother   
relief settled his shoulders as he realized his screamed denial was in his head   
“I think she has my hair,” his young wife crooned   
“I think she has my eyes.”  
His hand rubbed the stubble on his chin   
fatigue punched his gut   
Pretending sapped his energy   
made him dry and brittle   
A fox outwitted by the trap, he stood motionless   
fought the instinct to chew off his leg   
Instead, he boxed his panic   
nailed down the lid   
let days blend into months and years   
He encouraged his daughter’s adoration   
while he ignored her needs   
avoided her love   
silenced her angry tears by walking away   
He minimized her   
made her peripheral   
on the edges of his consciousness   
an orbiting object not worthy of his attention   
A girl—a girl   

Copyright 2012 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Randolph Macon College
            In Dune, the alternate pathways of life choices lead to infinite possible futures. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve appreciated the impact making certain decisions have had upon my life. I realize the ripple down effect and sometimes wonder “What if . . .?”
            My junior year in high school, Randolph Macon Women’s College sent a representative to San Antonio to talk to me. My parents, impressed that a college in Virginia showed so much interest in me, became determined to find a way to let me attend this extremely small, private institution. The scholarship package the school offered, along with grants and loans, covered everything but my transportation to and from the campus. Since the campus at that time closed down for Christmas break and Spring break, my parents would need to provide airfare several times a year. Or they would have to purchase a better car for me to make the drive from Texas to Virginia—alone. Either way, the finances didn’t add up since my father made less than $20,000 a year at that time. And so I made the choice to turn down this offer.
            I logged this decision into the back of my mind, and only recently wondered about the life I would have led if I’d gone to that college. Instead of attending a huge university, I would have been one of 1,000 students. Who would I have met? Would I have continued with my plan to study for and receive a Masters and PhD in Psychology? Of course, I’ll never know.

Trinity University
            By the end of my junior year in high school, I’d narrowed down my college choices to either Trinity University here in San Antonio or Texas A & M University in College Station. Although Trinity cost a small fortune, the financial aid package I’d receive along with my ability to live at home translated into an amount almost equal to A & M’s offer along with the expenses of living in an apartment. I remember feeling torn about which university to attend, and on a whim determined to let “Fate” decide for me. I told my parents the first school to send acceptance papers would settle my decision.
            I don’t remember why my father picked me up one night at work, but I do recall his excitement when he told me I had letters in the mail. He wouldn’t, however, let me know which school had responded. I clung to him as he zipped his motorcycle down Loop 410, wondering what future I would allow serendipity to choose for me.
            Then I stood at the dining room table and looked at two official envelopes! Yes. My resolution to let “Fate” intervene in my life was foiled. Both Trinity University and Texas A & M accepted me, and I received the news on the same day.  I resorted to Pro and Con lists for both institutions. I talked to my teachers and my friends. I already spent quite a bit of time with friends attending Trinity, and they invited me to evenings at Bombay Bicycle Club to meet more students and several professors.
            Just when I’d made my decision to attend Trinity, my father came home with the news that his job was transferring him to Houston, ruining my plan to live at home while I attended the more expensive Trinity.
            Not many people know that Texas A & M had moved to my second choice. My father spent a weekend hunting down an apartment for me, and I lined up a roommate (who kept putting off signing the lease and then  canceled just two weeks before school started). I ended up moving to College Station, living alone for the first semester, and stepping onto a different path with spectacular choices.
                                             Texas A & M University

Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


He inters uninvited, a shadow cast across my bed   
He lurks just beyond my vision   
His onion breath jars me to alertness, yanking me out of sleep   
He lays heavy-limbed next to me   
He pins me under his arm, making it impossible to breathe   
His bristled beard rubs my shoulder raw   
In panic, I pull away   
I kick my feet free of the binding blankets   
I elbow him in the chest, desperate for escape   
Heart racing, I bolt from the bed to see him sneer in pleasure   
His victory rests in my wakefulness   
He silently slips from my bed when I turn on the light   
In triumph, he vanishes, a shadow in the night   

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Monday, October 14, 2013


            Following formulas and dictates to create writing just doesn’t sit well with me. I probably incorporate practically every “Avoid This” or “Don’t Do That” dictated by well-meaning advisors of writing techniques. I don’t own any books on how to write and spend no time on “craft” articles suggested by friends and colleagues.
            When forced to write research papers in high school and college, I'd decide upon my topic within a few days of receiving the assignment. In my favorite nook of the library, I would pile books and periodicals a foot high, reading and documenting carefully. I’d sift through everything I could get my hands on within the first seventy-two hours.
            And then I’d think.
            And think some more.
            Mentally, I’d shift around my ideas. On the bus or in the car, I’d write and rewrite my drafts. In internal conversations, I’d revise and edit. Then I’d take one afternoon, and notes in hand, write my entire paper from beginning to end.
            All of this would be done before the due date of the first incremental stack of notecards and without an outline. Forced by my professors to follow their formulaic writing, I’d scribe neat notecards from my little scraps of paper. I’d construct an outline following the final draft that sat completed on my desk. Whatever hoops I needed to jump through to get the step-by-step grade, I did after I’d written the entire paper.
            For me, small sequential steps still don’t natural. I have this gestalt approach to everything. I survived by doing my own emersion into the paper, and then creating what the teacher or professor demanded for their grades or evaluation.
            As a teacher of writing, I allowed my students the freedom I never had as a student of writing. I didn’t require them to start at the beginning because sometimes that’s just not where a thought leads you. I had success in taking students who insisted they couldn’t write and turning them into outstanding writers.
With almost every assignment, the first two or three nights, the homework assignment would be—THINK. I’d instruct my students to think about their stories on the bus, during dinner, or on the toilet (seventh grade boy humor).
My formula driven kids longed to begin planning, so I’d let them scribble down ideas, make their graphic organizers. But that wasn’t required from every writer. Every year, I’d have a couple of students in each class who jumped into writing the way I did—feet first and fully emerged. They’d float down in the depths of their imaginations during all of that “think time” without penning a single word. Then on the days when they were told to grab paper, pencils and pillows, these previous non-writers would stretch out under a desk and write, write, write, write and write all of their thoughts.
         Sometimes, I miss watching those moments when students discovered their ability to think, create and write. But then . . . 
I realize that I get to  take on wonderful adventures because I have endless hours to simply, and enjoyably—THINK.
Copyright 2013 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"Old Graveyards"


            Tombstones lean into each other, as though in death family members still long to whisper secrets. Each marker represents a life, and I wonder. Did this woman cherish her children? Did she weep at her infant’s death or bare her grief in stoic rigidity? This man, who lived to be almost eighty, did he throw back his head in laughter over a pint? Did he labor in the fields or at a factory? Did his days tally anger or joy? Did he pull the blanket of death tightly around him in those last moments, or did he fight for each moment of life?

            I stand before this couple, together for eternity. Was their marriage happy? Did they linger close to one another in the mornings, cocooning for warmth before each sunrise? Did he smooth stray tendrils of her hair away from her face and sneak a morning kiss? Did she pull him down in playful lust? Did they sing sweet greetings as they reluctantly left their warm bed to build up the fires, tend to the children, or head to the barn? Did she glance out the window as she did her chores, longing for a glimpse of him as he toiled through his day? Did he rush back for his midday meal, hungry for her smile? Each night, did she reach for him in her sleep, entwine her legs with his for warmth? Did he awaken at midnight to watch her soft breath puff from her yielding lips? As the years flowed one into the other, did he notice the lines around her eyes when she laughed? Did she mind the gray in his morning stubble or the thinning of his hair? During those final moments, did they clutch hands and pledge everlasting love?

Copyright 2011 Elizabeth Abrams Chapman