Category Archives: Memoirs


OBX1990When The Daily Post‘s prompt asked me to dig around and look at the date on the first coin I came across, then write about what I was doing in that year, I figured I’d get around to it eventually. However, I was cleaning out the backpack I’d used over the weekend and buried deep in the front pocket I found a Japanese five-yen piece. I’d forgotten the coin was in there, a remnant of my climb up Mt. Fuji three years ago–it had come into my possession as change when I purchased my climbing stick at the base station. Later, I learned that five-yen coins are considered lucky because the Japanese pronunciation of the coin’s denomination “go en” is the same as the pronunciation of one of the numerous phrases that mean good luck. Considering the coin had seen me through the arduous climb up Mt. Fuji and the even more harrowing descent, I decided maybe there was some truth to its lucky powers and left it in the backpack for future travels. The thing is, when I pulled it out today, I couldn’t find a date. That’s because the go en is the only Japanese coin that doesn’t use an Arabic date–it is still stamped with the nengo dating system, consisting of the name of the reigning emperor and the year within his reign that the coin was minted. After a Google search and a bit of decoding, I discovered my coin was struck in the Heisei period, in the second year of Emperor Akihito’s reign–1990.

The inaugural year of the 90s was an important one for me. The beginning of the year saw me in the middle of my senior year of high school, flying high after receiving the acceptance letter from my first (and only) college choice. I was editing the high school newspaper, forging through AP classes, perfecting my driving skills, spending hours on the phone (remember how we communicated in the days before the internet?), hanging out with friends…typical teenage pursuits. Things weren’t all sunshine and roses though, as my grandfather in Virginia was fighting a losing battle with lung cancer. He passed away on June 1, my first experience with death coming just days before my graduation. In the midst of my family’s sorrow, we found out that my dad’s job in New Hampshire was at its end, and his company would be relocating us before the fall. Whenever I wasn’t at work that summer, I was sorting out which of my possessions would go with me to college in Virginia and which would go on the moving van to the new house in Texas. All of my college-bound junk was loaded into the family car in early August, along with the vacation gear we’d need for a week-long family reunion in the Outer Banks, NC, in the same spacious house that we’d shared with my grandfather the previous summer. While sixteen of us tried to enjoy our time together, I felt sadness for our family’s loss warring with nervousness about my upcoming boot from the nest, and under it all, a sense of mourning for the impending demise of my childhood.

The first semester of my freshman year passed in a flurry, marked by bonding with roommates (easier than expected for a girl who’d never shared a room before), making new friends, avoiding the freshman fifteen in the buffet lines of the dining hall, truly studying for the first time in my school career, taking sole responsibility for my own laundry, shopping, budget, and curfew, and counting down the days until Christmas break, when I’d be able to fly to my new, as yet unseen, home in Texas. On the ride from the airport, across the dark flat plains outside Fort Worth, I shared with my parents the pride I felt at having successfully navigated the first four months of my independence. In my new bedroom I found a small stuffed panda sporting a sign hand-written in my dad’s block letters, “Welcome home, Michelle. We have missed you!” A flood of love and relief overwhelmed me as I was accepted back into the family fold.


Posted by on February 25, 2013 in How It Is, Memoirs, On Me




Topsy turvy @Butterfly World, near St. AlbansI like to think of myself like the little cactus I bought at an antique fair last year (it’s not an antique cactus, just a sideline business of one of the vendors).  The stallholder said, “Don’t worry if part of that falls off on the way home, just stick it in some dirt and it’ll be fine.” Sure enough, part of the cactus did fall off, and I stuck it down in the dirt right next to the mother plant, where it is now outpacing the growth of its progenitor.

I’ve never been securely planted in any one place in my whole life. I was born in a little Ohio town, and left there when I was five, so I’ve never felt I could claim it as a hometown. Moving with my father’s job every couple of years until high school made it nearly impossible to put down roots. There was always a new assignment to knock our family loose, and we’d need to be stuck down in the dirt in a new location. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was growing stronger each time I was replanted.

As an adult, I haven’t done much better at clinging to a single patch of earth. I married a man whose job offers opportunity for travel, and despite my transient youth, I was eager for him to apply for overseas positions.  We’re a few months away from moving for the fourth time in seven years—a statistic that looks bad on paper, but has been such a blessing for my personal growth.

As a child, I envied my schoolmates who had lived in the same town, even in the same house, their whole lives, whose grandparents were within an hour’s drive, and who were certain that when they went off to college, got married, had their own families, they’d always know where home was. At the time, I couldn’t appreciate that having to put down shallow roots time and time again was actually giving me more stability than my deep-rooted friends. From my adult perspective, most of the people I know who have always been firmly entrenched in one place are sometimes narrow-minded, often intimidated by change, and hesitant to acknowledge or accept progress. I can now see that constantly moving and having to reestablish myself in new locations has enabled me to view the world from a broader and more open perspective, to adapt quickly to new surroundings and conditions, and to generally just go with the flow.

My mom used to have a fridge magnet which I resented with every fiber of my youthful being; it said simply, “Bloom where you are planted.” Every time I poured a glass of milk, I felt like those words were mocking our rootless family and my childhood misery over yet another relocation. But today, as I am once again thriving in new dirt, I see the wisdom in the magnet’s message, and follow its command without an ounce of regret or resentment.

Today’s post was a five-minute (okay, closer to 15 because I just can’t give up the editing and revising part) free-write inspired by the Five Minute Friday section of Lisa-Jo Baker’s blog. I cheated even more by not writing on today’s topic (Afraid) and choosing one from November.

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Posted by on February 1, 2013 in Memoirs





When I was a kid, we had a book called “The Churkendoose” about a strange bird that was part chicken, part turkey, part duck, part goose. I think I found one today!  He’d made himself at home in an overflooded ditch/field, and was having a good old preen in the late morning sun. He was all alone, which made me wonder whether, as in the story, all the ordinary chickens, turkeys, ducks, and geese had ostracized him for his unusual appearance or if it was just the type of morning best enjoyed in one’s own company. Find a vacant pond (no shortage of those, thanks to months of rain), have a bit of a paddle, stretch the old wings. Not a care in the world, until some strange lady with a camera comes along to ruin the solitude.  At least she had a pocketful of bread to share.

(If you’d like your own copy of “The Churkendoose,” used editions are available on Amazon today for $97.95. I assume the going rate was considerably closer to the 39¢ cover price when my parents purchased it for our childhood collection!)

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Posted by on January 3, 2013 in Memoirs