April 2014

Page 3

28 articles in April 2014

Hhere, the grass demands constant attention. First, grass is green. I mean intensely, vividly green. There is no escaping its greenness. Not only that, grass is everywhere; you see it in fields and gardens and pushing up through cracks in the sidewalk pavement.

If this were Ireland there would be poems about the green, green grass of home but it isn’t: this is Maine. Every time I look out my kitchen window I can’t believe how thick and high my lawn has become. I assume it has something to do with the seven straight days of rain we just suffered through but I still can’t believe how something as small as a blade of grass could grow so fast. Of course it might have something to do with the bags of fertilizer I dumped on it early in the spring.

Back then I was so sick of winter I desperately needed something green to look at. Now all I could see was green and it was time to get out there and whip it into shape. The first thing I did was roll out my hand mower so I could cut the swale around my property before I jumped on my lawn tractor to complete the rest of the task. Yellow dandelions also covered the swale even though the grass around them was lush and virgin pure.

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Ooh, the dream of America, or North America at that, how great it used to be. All my life I’ve heard nothing but how great that continent is. ‘It is the land where all your dreams come true,’ my parents would always say, but that’s all that it remained, a land of dreams, until a year ago when my parents decided that it was time to leave Slovenia.

We made it to America, all right, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t cry myself to sleep because of it. Never, in a million years, would we have dreamed just how much we were going to regret having that naïve dream: we should have known better!

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Wwe were all sitting around the dining room table like most families do after any type of family gathering, from birthday parties to Thanksgiving. On this particular night my niece’s husband, whom I assume is my nephew-in-law, made a comment that stuck in my mind.

Right before he sat down he said: “The table has never been this long.” What he meant by this was that he had finally put all the leaves in the middle of the table to accommodate what has become a rather large extended family. As everyone around the table settled into discussions of their own I found myself drifting off on my own little sentimental journey, thinking about what the host had just said.

One of my first memories of seeing the entire family gathered around the dining room table was when I was a young man getting ready to go to college. We had a summer party going on and the dining room table was laden with delicious and unhealthy food and all the chairs that could fit around it were occupied by aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces and a few other relatives I didn’t know and never saw again. By my third year of college I had left the dorms to live in my first apartment. It was a small studio in the middle of the worse part of the city but I didn’t care because this was where I would start my independent, adult life.

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Ssometimes life just doesn’t let you sleep. The other night I looked over at my alarm clock and was shocked it read 3:30 am. I knew I was tired but I also knew there were many things on my mind I just couldn’t shed off.

I just received another delivery of oil and was shocked to see that my heating bills doubled over last year. In fact, many of my bills increased from electricity to water. I know I will survive but having it keep me up at night was something I couldn’t control. I then started to think of other times in my life when a good night sleep seemed impossible. The first time I remember not being able to sleep was when I was under ten years old. If there were other times earlier in life my mind long since wiped them away.

I clearly remember this because it was the night before a very important baseball game. Back then all baseball games were important but this specific one would decide which team would go to the playoffs and then possibly evolve into being part of the Little League World Series. Of course, even then I knew this was only a dream but back then all I had was dreams. I remember looking up at the ceiling counting the minutes before the sun would finally wipe away the darkness. I turned my head to the right and left staring at posters of Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.

They had an eerie appearance to them because they were illuminated by a tiny night light that was stuck in an outlet in the corner of my room. My mind swept through hundreds of different scenarios about the events of the upcoming day. I remember smiling when I thought of the home run I would hit to win the game and also remember the sadness I felt when the slightest of mistakes could wipe away the dreams of all of my teammates. I don’t remember how the game turned out but I remember the night before when sleep was past my reach.

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Eevery time I complain about living in Maine during the winter, people respond by asking why I live there at all when I complain about it so much. I tell them I love it for 10 months of the year but there are a couple of months during the dead of winter when I would rather be some place else.

Correction; any place where, every time I left the house, I wouldn’t be afraid of the tears freezing in my eyes but, it’s not just the weather that bothers me; it’s what I have to do to survive the weather that drives me nuts. For example, during the early days of winter, when the first snow fall arrives, I eagerly take my boots out of hibernation in order to keep my feet warm and dry. These boots have long laces to tie them up nice and tight above the ankles to make sure no snow or ice can get in and freeze my feet.

With my boots tied nice and snug I can happily slosh around in the first snow fall knowing my feet will be fine. After a few months of putting these boots on every time I have to go outside the thought of having to bend over to tie them up again becomes a chore. I find myself huffing and puffing as I wind the mile-long lace around the boot and then around my ankle because the replacement laces I bought were too long for this model of boot. However, the original laces have long since frayed away under the road salt and other ravages of winter. It seems to me by boots gain weight during the winter and once I get them on I feel like Frankenstein’s monster attempting to outrun the vengeful villagers.

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Iiwas working in my office when I heard my wife’s shrill question up the stairs. I decided to exercise a prerogative of old age by pretending I was deaf and couldn’t hear. A moment later I heard the question again, this time from the top of the stairs, at the door to my office.

It was in a voice that blew out both eardrums and made my face shrivel with pain. After the pain passed the only answer I could think of was: “What croutons?”
This proved to be the wrong answer!

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Mmost people believe that the older they get the less competitive they are. That is until they get sucked into the trap, usually set by friends and relatives, that they have to move with the times; they have to change, they have to be “progressive”.

A few years ago, okay, many years ago, when my wife and I wanted to go out to a movie and have a bite to eat we scraped together what change we could find, called some friends and had a wonderful night out. Whatever the bill at the restaurant we would simply split it with the tip and go on with our evening. At the show we would buy our own tickets and a snack, and let the evening unwind at its own pace. Sometimes, after the show, when we didn’t want the evening to end, we would go for a drink or to somebody’s house and have coffee and conversation. We would nearly always be home, and in bed, by midnight. Things were so much simpler then.

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Tthe sun was shining.  “Hillary wake up! It’s almost nine, honey!” called out my mom from the stairs. After a few minutes I cleared my beddings and went downstairs.

When I finished my breakfast, I was standing by the window when I suddenly remembered the terrible nightmare of the night before, which made me sit up in the bed for more than two hours. How, when I woke up I had been terrified. The heavy silence was broken when my mom called out.

“Hillary, have you got nothing to do? If so, why don’t you take a walk for some fresh air.”
“Ok! Mom”.
I hurried to my room, picked up the phone and dialed Julie’s number.
“Hi! Julie?” I asked.
“Speaking!” Said Julie, in a cheerful voice.
“I was about to ring you up, to join us in my house. All the others have come.” She added.
“Great! I’ll be there in moments, ‘bye!”

I hung up the phone and opened my closet. It was a total mess but I managed to find a pair of blue jeans and a navy blue sweater that I had always admired.
As I was about to leave the house the doorbell rang; iit was the postman. He gave me a letter and hurried off. I was surprised to find that it was addressed to me so I took it and rode off to Julie’s.

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