Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wednesday Night Tennis People

~Wednesday Night Tennis People~

Heading to the Green Center
to play tennis with people
older than my parents.
What a thrill to see friends
playing and serving and aging
all in the name of the little yellow ball.
Familiar faces, hugs, and welcomes 
from the permanent court people. 
Tonight I am a substitute player paired 
twice with an opposite gender partner.
“I don’t like to lose,” he tells me,“so don’t mess up.” 
I hear this every time we play together. 
Across the net the composite age 
is about 160. We are only 105. 
I assure my white, wiry-haired partner we will win.
The pop of the sound of tennis balls fills
my head for the next hour and a half. Shouts hailing
my brilliance come as often as the words
“waaaaayyyyy out,” when the ball just misses the line.
Nothing is too serious until we are down in score.
Tense serves and tennis chatter between the partners 
brings the players in the present. We win, 
because we don’t lose.
Partners change when eight people play
on two courts. The winning teams pair up 
and exchange partners while the two losing teams 
do the same. There is no shame in position with
the Wednesday Night Tennis People. All win,
because they don’t lose.
Point, Game, Set, Match. Court time over.
Off to Murry’s, the restaurant where a table
is waiting for the Tennis People to imbibe.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

There's No Place Like Home

Growing up, my Dad told of a town character who would dramatically exit her car after crossing the line from Callaway to Boone, kiss the ground and exclaim proudly "Boone County, Boone County!" I've often wondered if she said it the way Dad imitated it. Probably not, but in my 30 years on the road I still mimic her--or my Dad--after a long drive even if I do not leave the car. In the words of the great mystic Rumi: "there are hundreds of ways to kiss the ground."
"My people" have been here for five generations before me and I see more to come ahead of me. Boone County, Mo., gives me a solid place to stand in this world.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A Centenarian Named Annie

Nannie surrounded by some of her great-great nieces and nephews at her 100th birthday party on September 15, 1976. I am standing directly behind Nannie wearing a dress that she wore when she was a young girl. I found the ivory lace dress in a trunk in the attic shortly before the party.  

Annie Alice Britts
September 15, 1876-November 30, 1976 

My namesake lived to be 100 years old. Take a close look at the dates above. Nannie entered this world in the centennial year of our country and died toward the end of the bicentennial year celebration. This club is small: through hypothetical calculations, I have determined that only about 100 people in the United States could also claim an exact centennial birth/bicentennial death.
Nannie treasured having a baby named for her and doted on me my first ten years. Wonderful and imaginative childhood experiences came from time I spent visiting Nannie for the weekend at the old family home in Clinton. I reminisce: sitting in the parlor hearing family stories; sliding down the ultimate banister; walking down to the square to buy candy at Ben Franklin's; a winding back staircase to run up and down; the lure of the attic; simply an endless playground of discovery and history.

She also taught me an appreciation of the written letter and, being my first pen pal, we exchanged mail regularly. She addressed the letters to “My Dearest Namesake” and as a young girl in a big family the special attention felt really important. When Nannie died in 1976 it ended an era in her branch of the family and within two years the 1868 family home disappeared and a Phillips gas station supposedly arose in its place. I've never bothered to check it out. In my mind the Britts home still stands on Franklin Street in Clinton, Mo.

As a Young Woman

I can still hear the trains in the distance and smell the woody scent of the old house in Clinton. 
This was my favorite place to be when I was 7-10 years old.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

To Be of Use by Marge Piercy

In a world that often defines people by what they do for a living being unemployed has been a humbling and eye-opening experience. After 25 years of growing a career that brought pride and challenge, the job layoff this summer felt like a heartless punch in the gut. 
Being a free agent can’t last forever but I choose to embrace it. My roles have never been so varied: babysitter, writer, book seller, editor, lawn mower, and more. Yet I’d trade nothing to have the time and ability to help my Mom when she broke her femur earlier in the summer. It takes a lot for my fiercely independent mother to need or ask for help. But the wicked surgery and the long and painful recovery process perhaps humbled her in a way similar to my layoff. We both have to count on others right now. The ability to give back to my Mom--the person who has devoted her every being to her family--has been one of the most precious experiences of my life. 
Today she faces a second surgery on her femur that will take her recovery process back to where she started. It’s serious stuff and all I can hope is that she realizes that she has a daughter that just needs to be of use. 
To Be of Use
by Marge Piercy
The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half-submerged balls.
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.
The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil, 
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used. 
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.