OUR WEEPING WILLOW

Mother carefully snipped

a small, green cutting

from her friend’s lush yard,

set it to root in an old jam jar.

We kids marveled,

as fragile shoots sprouted,

buds of leaves unfurled,

like baby fists, in sunlight.

Sometime later, Mother

planted the tiny sapling

in the fertile Iowa soil

by our backyard driveway.

We watched in wonder,

doubting its survival

under scorching summer

sun or cold, harsh winter.

But we learned that Old

Mother Nature is shrewd,

and by summer’s end

our tree grew four feet tall,

How we loved that willow!

We’d hide beneath its boughs,

to read, or nap, or dream,

our spot to plot adventures.


THE LAST GOODBYE

It’s October, 1969.  You scrape together enough money for a round-trip flight, Minneapolis to San Francisco, to see him before his Marine unit ships out to Vietnam.

 He drives you down the coast to see the sights: Big Sur, Carmel, Monterey, Steinbeck country, a six-pack of beer sits between you on the car seat.

 On Highway 1, your stomach flips, hands shake. He’s in a stupor.  You’re sure he’s going to veer off the tight shoulder, slip over the cliffs, and plunge you to your death in the churning surf below.

You make it to Monterey and stop for lunch, then head back north again to the city.

 That night he wants to catch some topless acts on Broadway.  The surly bouncer cards you, refuses to let you enter.   “I’ll be your girlie show,” you promise.

He finds a room down on Van Ness.   Before you head upstairs, he hauls you across the street to buy a jug of cheap, red Gallo.

Once inside the sleazy room, you need to wash up, so you trek down the hallway to a filthy, urine-soaked bathroom.

At your return, his muffled moans sear your heart, as tears stain his cheeks.  Fear flames in your belly. “Don’t cry,” you whisper.  “Please don’t cry.”  Then throw yourself into his trained-killer arms.

“Talk to me! Won’t you talk to me,” you implore.

He’s sobbing now.  Words shoot out like bullets: Dirty gooks, jungles, landmines, leeches, rats as big as cats, coming home dead, zippered in a plastic body bag.

You fall to your knees, panicked and confused.  After all, he’s the one who quit school, signed up, left you.

The next morning, good-byes are cool.  As the airport walkway pulls you away, you turn around once to wave, only to see his red-sweatered shoulders retreat into the crowd.

Back home, you join protest groups, march to the state capitol with new friends.  Some weeks later you write a “Dear John” letter you wish you’d never sent.

the end

USA, A PARTY DIP!

(a new metaphor for our country)

In honor of Juneteenth I hope we can accept each other as one human race, all deserving of admiration and respect.  I see America, not as a melting pot, but as a fabulous party dip: yellow corn chips, covered in brown beans, smothered in sour cream, sprinkled with black olives and red salsa…all ingredients crucial to the delicious whole!!

WHERE ARE THE CHILDREN?

   It’s a sunny, beautiful spring day. The trees are in full leaf, hydrangea bushes are budding, the scent of newly cut grass perfumes the air. Summer is coming!

Where are the children?

It’s late afternoon, but, other than the distant whispers of traffic noises from the main road, all is quiet outside my house.  My street is empty.  No bikes racing.  No kids chasing.  No basketballs thumping or skateboards bumping.

Where are the children?

After a dreary winter, cooped up in the house, wearing heavy clothes, heater blasting, and sleeping under thick blankets, I am eager to be out in the sunshine. 

I pluck a few weeds, chase my kitty around the yard, trek through the brambly, over-grown backyard, walk along the pier to sit on the warm wood of the dock anchored over Alewlfe’s Creek. I watch the water ripple, and spot snowy egrets wading.  One stands still, waiting to grab a fish or two.        

Where are the children?

When I was a kid, we couldn’t wait to get home from school, stash our books, grab a sweater, and rush outdoors to play in the late afternoon sun.

We’d jump-rope… jump, jump, jump, while chanting “Cinderella dressed in yella, went downstairs to kiss a fella;” Or “Teddybear, teddybear turn around. Teddybear, teddybear touch the ground.”  Then challenge our friends to some games of hopscotch…the board scratched in cement with pieces of chalk snitched from school.

Some days, we’d take a pile of jacks and a tiny ball to play out on our covered breezeway, the best spot, where we wouldn’t scrape our knuckles and the ball bounced just right.

Or else we’d clamp metal roller skates over our shoes and race up and down the sidewalks, then chase each other all the way down the block to Sweeny’s corner drug-store, clomp to the counter, plunk down our nickels, and order five cent, ice-cold, refreshing, cherry Cokes.

Other days we’d play hide-n-seek, red rover, red light, green light, or Mother May I? in the new green grass of each other’s yards. Or take out our beat-up, second-hand bikes and speed off down the street, hair flying free, sun kissing our rosy cheeks, shouting, “Look, Ma!  No hands!”

But the best adventures were reserved for week-ends. We’d play Cowboys and Indians with the neighbor kids, dash across our adjoining lawns, gleefully “shooting” and “maiming” each other with our toy cap guns, then hide-out, behind old sheds lining the allies, to ambush our enemies. Sometimes, we’d get our rusty, red wagon, put the younger kids in and pull our “wagon-train” way out west, all around the whole square block.

Where are the children?

One Saturday we were inspired to build a homestead.

We’d been running in and out of the house all day and by mid-afternoon Mother was irritated. I thought of setting up a bathroom out back, nestled among a bunch of fruit trees. So, we carted a bucket up from the basement, pilfered a couple of tattered sheets from the linen closet, and got to work. We nailed the sheets up for privacy, filled the bucket with water from a garden hose, and lugged it behind the “curtains”. Voila! An outdoor commode!

That night Dad got a phone call. The little girl next door tattled to her mom about our creation.  The woman immediately telephoned my dad. The woman threatened to call the Health Department if our out-house wasn’t dismantled ASAP. So, with dad supervising, I dumped the contents of the bucket down the sewer, washed it off, and set it down in the garage to dry.

Undaunted, the next day we were on to other, more exciting exploits.

Where are the children?

Our elementary school, Harriet Beecher Stowe, was perched on a hill, four houses down from our house (long before chain-link fences, no trespassing and no gun signs barred kids from school grounds after hours).

One blue-sky Saturday, we wandered up to the playground. Soon bored with the swings and jungle gym, we decided to explore the far side of the building. A grove of trees grew tall from the neighboring yard, grazing the tops of the school’s second floor windows. My best friend, Judy, noticed some vines tangled in the branches and dangling within reach. Suddenly, she snatched one and swung out into thin air….shouting: “Me Tarzan! You Jane!”. Soon everyone was swinging from the vines like a troop of monkeys,until our moms called us home for supper.

Back from my pleasant reverie, I marvel at the hushed silence of my surroundings….and wonder.

Where are the children?

Dianne Moritz writes from her home in Southampton,NY.  A former teacher, she has published 3 picture books for children.  GOING ON A GHOST HUNT will be out in fall 2022.

KIDS AT THE PARK

This little girl zooms down the slide.

This little boy feeds ducks.

This little boy likes to swing.

This little girl plays trucks.

Then…

the little kids cry, “WEE, WEE, WEE!” all the way home, 

Til…

Their moms stop for ice cream!