Monday, February 16, 2009

He Shouted With a Gritty Look in His Eyes

Words that make other words sing.
Or shout or cringe.
How I wish more words would stick in some file box of my brain.
So I could draw them out when I want to explain
That weird loneliness that creeps over me.
How do I describe the combination of a smell and a breeze
That is like time travel?
Just a hint of fried chicken at 5:30
On a spring early evening
Takes me back to age nine and a safe feeling
Mom would be in the kitchen
And I would eat supper
And I never worried about having enough
It wasn't the crispness, greasiness, or warmth.
It wasn't just the sun and shadows and sprinklers running.
It wasn't even the thought of home.
It was somehow all these together but I don't know how to say it.
I felt secure, contented, sheltered,
But never then could I have said that.
At nine I'd have said
Hungry or happy or playful.
It's the looking back I can't express
I think it's complete, tender, soft, sweet.
I think it's innocence and green and light.
It's a dream and a wish and a reality.
No gritty looks, no evil eyes.
Just blue and love unspoken,
Yellow and love lived.

One Day There Was a German Man Who Wore a Turban All the TIme

Sure, I could envision Hitler in a turban – perhaps his moustache would need to be wider and thicker. A little Polka music to charm the snake out of the basket. Bratwurst on pita bread. Curried sauerkraut. And, for dessert, German chocolate cake washed down with Chai tea.

America is all about the melting pot, mixing cultures, varied cuisines. But, we do have SOME distinctly American traditions. We even have regional cultures as do many other countries. So, just as our children should learn that the turban might be worn in India, and the Alpine hat would adorn the head of a German gentleman, they should also know that the cowboy hat, created by John B. Stetson, is an American tradition.

Other things American include cowboys, blue jeans (especially Levi’s and Wranglers), sweet iced tea, Major League Baseball, and the NFL. We have our own holidays such as Thanksgiving and Presidents’ Day. We have what is known as parlor songs, such as “I Dream of Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair” and “Home Sweet Home”. Country music and hip-hip started here.

It’s okay to say ya’ll or youse guys. It’s fine to eat chittlins or clam chowder. One day, in the 1980s, I was visiting New York City for the first and only time so far. My husband and I had just one day to experience all we could, so we climbed the Statue of Liberty, went up the Empire State Building, saw a tiny portion of Central Park, rode the subway, and got a hotdog from a street vendor. That is where I got a dose of regional differences. The purveyor of the hotdog snickered and poked fun at me when I asked for mayonnaise on said hotdog. I didn’t know that only people in the south, and probably few of those, used mayo in this way. But, you can go almost anywhere in the USA and find a hamburger – and you can Have It Your Way!

I’m glad I’m an American from the south. I’m glad I’ve got friends who aren’t. And, as John Howard Payne penned:

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home


As a teacher of twelve plus years I have gathered some amusing phrases and sentences from my students. Most of these come from 4th-7th graders. They always make me laugh, but then they make me think. So this is the beginning of some thoughts prompted unknowingly by children that one day I hope to put together under one roof, ie a book.