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Category Archives: Weekly Writing Challenge

Snapshot of a lake in morning

Normally, I include a picture with all of my posts. Not today. Erica, over at The Daily Post, pointed out that with the prevalence of camera phones, we’ve gained the ability to visually capture any moment at any given point in time. But, in the meantime, have we lost the ability to capture the same moment in words? In this week’s Weekly Writing Challenge, Erica dares us to put down the iPhone and pick up a pen to record a moment we’d like to remember. “Using words only, take a snapshot of the experience.” 

I pause for a moment near the lake, only a mile or so into my four-mile loop around the neighborhood. From the roadway crossing the dam, I hop the shiny metal guardrail and pick my way over shoebox-size rocks to a peeling wooden bench overlooking the northeast corner of the lake. It is quiet back here at this time of morning; commuters have long since hit the highway, the school bus has already picked up all of its pint-sized passengers, and even though it’s a weekday, it’s still a bit too early for the considerate to shatter the calm with the drone of their leaf-blowers.

Ahead, on the glassy surface of the lake, a lone mallard tows a V-shaped wake as he moves with purpose toward the far shore, where canoes offer their colorful bellies like worshipful beachgoers, despite a lack of warmth from the weak wintery light. The mallard’s journey disrupts the crystal clear reflection of corpulent pewter-shaded clouds jockeying against each other to conceal wayward patches of pale blue sky. Read from the surface of the lake, the weather forecast looks even less promising than the radio DJ predicted earlier.

In the patch of woods off to my left, a pair of fuzzy grey squirrels chase each other in a tight spiral down the trunk of an aged oak tree, claws scritching against time-worn bark. Bare trees of every species stand ankle-deep in fallen leaves, a rustly, crackly hunting ground for half a dozen black-faced juncos. Try as I might, I cannot detect even the faintest whiff of oak, pine, or maple rising as the tiny birds stir the leaves in their search for insects and seeds. The crisp, dry winter air that is stinging my cheeks and making my nose run has body-slammed the scent of autumn like a wrestler pinning his opponent to the mat.

Suddenly my subconscious registers the sound of a far-off train whistle. In all the years I’ve lived here, I’ve never heard a train before. Strange. While I know that technically my neighborhood can’t be too far off from the rails that carry passengers and freight north and south between Washington and Richmond, I’m not exactly sure where the tracks are. This puzzle gives me the impetus I need to rise from my bench and continue my journey around the lake towards home. Google Maps and a steaming mug of English breakfast tea await.

 
 

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Honey, it’s in my DNA

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My hubby might possibly be the only married man in the Western hemisphere without a wife-generated Honey Do list haunting his every weekend. In nearly eight years of marriage, I’ve never penned one and he’s never questioned why. I even have a Honey Do notepad, handed down from my mom, but it’s only ever used for grocery lists.

How did the hubby get off the hook? Credit for his good fortune can be traced along several branches of my family tree.

First, let’s climb the tree to my paternal grandmother. She and my grandfather divorced when I was a wee one, so my memories of her were always as a single woman. She lived alone in the house my grandparents once shared until well after my college graduation. She was very financially savvy, she kept a spectacular yard and garden, but she couldn’t (wouldn’t) do a damn thing for herself around the house. Dread absolutely oozed from my parents whenever it was time to go to Grandma’s, because she was inevitably waving a mile-long Honey Do list at each of them before they even had both feet out of the car—once we were of a responsible age, my brother and I got lists as well (it was my job to wash and polish the crystals on the dining room chandelier). I don’t remember a single time when we went to Grandma’s just to sit and visit. In high school, I discovered the true depth of her dependency when I learned that she called the neighbor over twice a year to reprogram her thermostat for daylight savings time. For reasons I can’t explain, that single revelation eclipsed all of her previous “I’m just a poor helpless female” antics, and my theretofore-dormant feminist hackles went up. I swore in that moment that I’d never, ever, ever call a man, be he family, friend, or professional, for simple home maintenance chores. Hence, no Honey Do list for the hubby.

Next, we can swing over to my maternal grandfather’s branch of the tree. I did not inherit much from my mom’s side of the family, but the few traits I did get are worth their weight in gold. The most valuable is Granddad’s willingness to tinker. I’m not sure there was anything the man could not build, repair, redesign, or improve. I have some physical reminders of his ingenuity…an aluminum pot that he made from scraps at work on his lunch break, a set of roofing plans that he sketched, a level from his basement workshop. But better than that, I have his curiosity about how things work, his creativity to overcome obstacles, his common sense to plan a solution, and his mechanical aptitude to carry out the plan. As a result of my granddad’s influence, upon returning from a TDY the hubby found his wife had installed brand new tile in the entry rather than writing an entry on a Honey Do list.

Finally, we can climb back down the tree to my parents. There was a Honey Do system in place while I was growing up. Mom, unlike my grandmother, was willing and able to do a lot of the day-to-day household maintenance that cropped up. But she was busy taking care of two kids, and there were just some things that she felt Dad should do, so they went on the list. Problem was, Dad’s priorities and timeline didn’t always mesh with Mom’s priorities and timeline. Unfinished (unstarted) projects caused tension. Tension occasionally escalated to anger. I don’t like tension. Or anger. I knew that whenever I got married, no matter how wonderful and willing to work he was, my type-A personality would likely mean disparity between my priorities and timeline and my husband’s. For the sake of marital harmony, I’d rather just do things myself. If I am the one procrastinating, or taking too long to finish a simple job, I can’t be angry at the hubby. So the Honey Do system has never been implemented in our house.

Sometimes I wonder if the hubby is glad to have a self-sufficient wife (possibly even proud that she has her own drill and knows how to use it?), or if it hurts his feelings when I get out the ladder and replace the air filters myself instead of asking him to do it. Personally, I like that the absence of a list means our weekends can be spent doing things together rather than me micromanaging supervising while he struggles to complete designated tasks before his beloved Patriots play on Sunday. So unless he asks to join the ranks of the Honey Do husbands, I’ll continue to lean on my ancestry to preserve our harmony and his freedom.

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The Daily Post’s Weekly Writing Challenge was to examine how certain inheritances come alive in our looks and/or personality.

 

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