reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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up a notch and up a notch. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i do not remember my sweet momma ever peeling and mincing a garlic. i suppose it’s possible that she did – and i missed it – but i would venture a guess that she didn’t. garlic powder and garlic salt were in our spice cabinet growing up and i think they were the substitutes for the real thing.

they were depression babies, so my parents were not lavish spenders, fine-dining diners, exquisite kitchen-keepers. we had aluminum pots (it was a very big deal when they one day, at long last, purchased revere ware) and the infamous formerly-featured corningware. the cookware mattered not. family and friends gathered around the table together regardless. which, of course, is the point.

my dad was pretty proud the day he purchased my mom a portable dishwasher. they kept it in the laundry room right off the kitchen behind the accordion door that looked like it was made of woven straw. on special days they would roll it out and attach the hose to the kitchen sink spout, load it up and turn it on. when they moved to florida after they retired, a dishwasher-that-was-already-installed-in-the-kitchen was on my momma’s list. my poppo was in charge of loading and unloading, practically entirely washing the plates beforehand. my mom never tired of this amazing appliance.

i purchased a used dishwasher – not full-size, for our kitchen layout would not accommodate that – about a decade back and had it installed in the spot where the formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher dishwasher sat. sadly, it did not work for long. i should have purchased a new one, but that was not in the budget. the dishwasher-that-took-the-place-of-the-dishwasher is now also formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher. sigh. one of these days…

but friends and family have gathered around the table together – regardless of our dishwasher or cookware status – and we have happily prepared food to take to other gathering tables. which, of course, is the point.

when we lived on island, we had the same size dishwasher and i have to admit to being in love with it. it IS amazing – yes, momma! – you load it up and turn it on and voila! i know you know the rest. any time we are in airbnb’s and vrbo’s we embrace the dishwasher – well, not like hugging it…more like using it. it’s so twenty-first century! but i digress.

yesterday, when i was making rice, we got to talking about rice. (we are exciting people, folks.)

neither of us remember growing up with anything other than minute rice (and, of course, the exotic rice-a-roni array of rices.) with absolutely no judgement, we dove into the finer details of the cooking of minute rice vs raw rice that you boil and steep. it goes along with not peeling and mincing garlic, a collection of ragu and prego in the cabinet, canned and frozen vegetables. people’s habits and budgetary concerns are deeply ingrained and are hard to break.

from time to time we get pictures of what our grown kids are eating. they have prepared some fabulous meal or are dining out at a restaurant with incredible food and exquisite platings and presentation. often they are eating something we have never heard of; often my response is “wow!! that looks fantastic!” they have upped the notch on food from where we are and we glom onto what they send, asking for or looking up recipes, jaunting over to the restaurant website to ponder a meal there.

it’s funny how this happens. though i suppose it is not unexpected.

we have moved from garlic powder to real garlic in a generation. from the portable dishwasher to the installed dishwasher-formerly-known-as-a-dishwasher.

the next generation is taking it to the next level. dinners in instant pots, dinners with smashburger presses, dinners sous vide, dinners in air fryers, dinners with ethnic spices, sauces, harder-to-find ingredients, et al.

and a working dishwasher is non-negotiable.

of course.

*****

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the birdies. [merely-a-thought monday]

ehhhhh, i’ve turned into my parents.

that’s not a bad thing. it’s just a fact. well, at least it’s partially a fact.

on long island, in the middle of growing up, riding my bike with susan, writing poetry in my tree, practicing the piano and organ, doing my homework, playing frisbee at the beach all-year-round, toting my camera around, hanging out at the dive center, fishing with crunch, cruising around in my bug, adoring my baby nieces and nephew, i didn’t notice. maybe i just didn’t pay attention.

they talked birds. birds in the yard, birds on roadtrips, birds upstate, birds at the beach. birdcalls from the woods behind our house, birdcalls passing overhead. they tossed birdnames around and, every now and then, i’d catch one and it would stick somewhere in my memory. but for the most part, their lobbing of vital bird information swooped over me and flew by.

and now.

now i want it all back. because we.love.birds.

we watch their antics in our backyard…at the birdfeeder, at the pond, on the fence, tucked under the awning over the back door, in the trees, hopefully building a nest inside the old barnwood birdhouse on the pine. they are sweet, sweet, sweet.

we guess what they are…sparrow, grackle, mourning dove, starling, crow (oh, so obvious), junco, wren, finch, cardinal, red-winged blackbird, bluejay, chickadee, tanager, oriole… i recognize some from home-home, but some have so many similarities that identification is tricky.

surely they are not looking at us thinking human or ….? they just know. so it feels important to know the difference.

on a great adventure at the botanic garden, we picked up the handiest little spiral pocket-sized quick-guide book called “birds of the midwest“. there are color-coded tabs and you open to the color page that correlates with the primary color of the bird you are trying to identify. such a remedial approach is good for us. (it’s kind of like avoiding the issue of looking up a word when you don’t know how to spell it…you don’t have to look up the bird under what kind it is when you don’t know what it is.) we keep it on our table in the sunroom and use it often as we gaze out back. i imagine we will take it with us as we hike.

in other amazing tools, thanks to dear deb-on-island, we have an app on our phone that is a bird identifier. not only can it identify a bird from a photograph or a list of questions you answer, but – and this is soooo cool – it can identify a bird from the birdcall you record. amazing! the cornell lab of ornithology deserves a giant round of applause for this app, which can identify up to 6000 bird species. the power of science. !!

my sweet momma had an iphone. she adored it, sending random photos to people and receiving photos from everyone in the family. it kept her in the loop and, at almost-94, she was a texting maven. we were in easy contact with each other and she with family and friends from all walks. she both embraced it and made silly technological mistakes, just like us, but nothing a quick turn-it-off-turn-it-back-on couldn’t really solve. it assured her that she was involved, particularly after my poppo died. the power of connection cannot be underestimated.

i wish that i had known – back then – about this app. it would have rocked her bird-loving world.

as it is, i know that every time we are sitting and pondering what a bird is or admiring one aloud or peacefully listening intently or just simply watching the bird-play in our yard or in the woods or at the shore or anywhere, she and my dad are giggling, knowing i’d get there someday.

*****

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“went to visit mom.” [k.s. friday]

it’s an octave. though it is not obvious to most and though it is difficult to see, it is an octave. well, slightly more than an octave, actually. d to d and then e and f. f# too. there are still 88 keys, even aged. still 88 keys, even devoid of their black and whiteness. still 88 keys, even in their new patina. still 88 keys, even though some may now be missing. it is still a piano. its soul is intact.

my sweet momma has been gone seven years today. seven.

the other day, in a group text with some dear friends, i read one friend’s response to a question from another about whether she was home. “not home yet,” she wrote. “went to visit mom.” it stopped me in my tracks and i stood still for a moment. those words – “went to visit mom” – were powerful moment-freezers. time suspended just for a few seconds as i pondered what it would be like to be able to write those words – “went to visit mom”.

i know that i was fortunate. my sweet momma was almost-94 when she died. and i was 56, so almost six decades of me sharing the same plane of existence. her life was inspiring and i was lucky to have her cheering for me in every success, in every travail. she was steady and a rock who was always there, whether or not, in different phases of my life, i recognized it. it was true for me that there was no one who was a bigger cheerleader for me – she had pompoms out the moment i was born and never hesitated to use them. and, as is true for most of us, i’m quite certain there were times i took that for granted, took her for granted.

“went to visit mom.” wow. what i would give to have minutes, hours, days with her. to seek her wisdom, watch her enthusiasm, see the glint in her eyes and hear her laugh, coffeesit with her, have a giant bowl of pasta fagioli or a big slab of crumbcake or some silly adventure. to feel enormous unconditional love. to hug her. to be hugged by her.

“neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.” (desiderata)

barney will reside in our backyard for a long time to come. this gorgeous instrument will continue to be worn by weather and the elements. its keys will fall off, the wood laminate will peel. it will still be a piano and each octave will still be an octave.

my sweet momma, i know, is the same. she is still there, as perennial as the grass. i know her love supersedes my loss of her.

maybe sometime today i’ll go out by barney. i’ll take a candle and light it. and i’ll text d, upstairs in the office working, “went to visit mom”.

*****

LEGACY

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LEGACY from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood


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a spot of tea. [merely-a-thought monday]

care packages would arrive often from my sweet momma. a big box that, inevitably, my poppo had turned inside out so my momma could pack it up with anything and everything she could think of. macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, m&m’s, twizzlers, stickers, pa pads, andes candies, newspaper and magazine articles she read and wanted to share, coupons. the list was long and always included a new tea or two.

she was clever about packing these packages, taking the tea bags out of the boxes – to take up less room – and putting them in glad bags. but she would enclose the label from the box and sometimes, she’d enclose some other smidgen or two.

the other day, in a tea mood, while searching for the perfect tea, i came across one of these smidgens. a side of a celestial seasonings box, a harriet beecher stowe quote, perfect timing. my momma’s care package did it again. a source of comfort, of reassurance, of love, unexpectedly, in the course of a day i needed it. “…never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

our lives – in actual comparison to what else is happening in the world – seem ridiculously easy. we have had our challenges and setbacks, but i wince when i think about complaining in the middle of watching news coverage of the atrocities of ukraine or climate crisis real-time in lands of glaciers or the amazon rainforest or the overall covid pandemic decimation or the fight to maintain absolute LGBTQ+ freedoms or womens’ ability to choose what is right for them and their bodies or the continued discrimination of black lives or the economic hardship that is befalling vast numbers of people in our own country. i trust that harriet beecher stowe, a woman before her time, would shudder at ALL of this.

it would seem – even upon simply reading headlines – that this country is in retrograde. we are slipping backwards and it horrifies me. each day i read of people-with-agenda designing ways, strategizing, lobbying, legislating, to usurp the freedom of others just trying to live their lives. i wonder how these people – some with screaming loud and obnoxious voices, some with haughty, righteous, quiet intentions, some with silently evil thoughts – sleep at night. how they live with their own warped view of equality, their own bizarre view of peace, their clear disdain for the basic tenets of life, of loving one another. they become more and more powerful as we watch and i think of the work of harriet beecher stowe and i think of my sweet momma’s approach to life. retrograde, indeed.

referencing harriet’s arguably most powerful book, “uncle tom’s cabin”, it was written “the goal of the book was to educate northerners on the realistic horrors of the things that were happening in the south. the other purpose was to try to make people in the south feel more empathetic towards the people they were forcing into slavery.”

to educate. to make people feel more empathetic. the value of truth-telling, stifling deadly misinformation. the necessity of looking – really looking – at oneself. the compassion that empathy brings to the soul. these make all the difference. to bring kindness – always and under every circumstance. to not stick your head in the ground and avoid the tough stuff. to speak up, to speak out. to hold on, even in the hardest moments. to never give up. to hope. to believe. the tide will turn.

i looked up and whispered “thank you, momma” when i found the tea-box-cardboard quote. i didn’t hear anything back at that very moment, but i knew she was listening, perhaps, though, with half an ear. i suspect she was busy. there’s much to be done. my sweet momma and harriet were likely having a spot of tea.

*****

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scrabble dreams. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

i’d be looking for a double-word-score square. or even better, a triple-word-score square, though that would be less likely. but heck, 8 points could be 16 or 24!

i love scrabble. i love words. and spelling. and, yes, even punctuation, though i know i am not impeccable in that arena. that is all sort of nerdy, but my sweet momma passed it down to me so i come by it honestly.

i was, admittedly, kind of nerdy in school. i never cut a class, never skipped a day jaunting around. i did my homework and i didn’t sit in the back. i passed notes all folded up into tiny squares, like everyone in the days before cellphones, but tried really, really hard not to get caught. i did my share of daydreaming but never in math class, which i also loved.

my sweet poppo, in later days, would sit in his chair by the sliding glass doors and gaze out over the lake out back of their house. he’d watch the cormorants and ducks, study the water for the slightest hint of an alligator, soak in the colors of the sun as it passed over the water. and i suppose he would daydream. all their travels and experiences – a rich melting pot of daydreams from which to fish. his quiet sitting was peaceful, almost meditative, interrupted only by coffeetime or a small project at his workbench in the garage.

the internet makes it easy to daydream. google anything and there is fodder for your wishes. yesterday i spent well over an hour immersed in all the details of a mountain home i literally fell in love with. dreaming, dreaming.

we bought a big bag of scrabble letters at an antique store a while back. we were going to use them to spell out words for our website and for marketing “the roadtrip”, a play we wrote that mimics a.r. gurney’s “love letters”. we used a few of them on our old stove, labeling the front/rear burners and oven with magnets glued onto scrabble pieces.

visiting a new antique store a bit west, we stumbled across another use of these tiles. thoughtful personalized gifts. with all the letters at your disposal, anything is possible.

it made me think that it might be fun to have a giant bowl of wooden letters – especially the blank ones which could make things interesting – and a scrabble tile holder out somewhere – on the table or the kitchen windowsill. whenever you wanted to, you could pick out the letters for how you were feeling or what you were thinking.

“dream” is a good place to start.

so are a few blanks in a row.

*****

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my poppo in my dream. [merely-a-thought monday]

my subconscious was in overdrive. i had heard some news late in the evening and, clearly, it played into all i was thinking about in my overnight sleep. both my sweet momma and my poppo were in my dream, as were people who were stars of the news i had heard, and, unlike many other dreams that vanish with the dawn or fade to irretrievable mishmash, this one stayed with me.

in it, i wanted to tell my dad what had happened, wanted to share the news with him, wanted to give him the back-story of it all, which, of course, he already knew (especially from his vantage point a dimension away). he was setting up microphones for me – something he truly has never done in real life – and he looked over at me. he furrowed his brow. “i’m working for tomorrow,” he said. “work for tomorrow,” he encouraged.

i can still see him, bending over a mic stand, adjusting a boom mic and looking forward. his words have stuck with me. “for tomorrow.”

i knew enough in the dream that he wasn’t pooh-pooh-ing the value of today – neither was he sloughing off the importance of work in this day. today. rather, it was somehow clear to me that he was discarding the what-had-been, the back-story i was going to repeat – again – and he was leaning on the hopeful of tomorrow, the promise of work done today helping tomorrow, and it is likely he would agree with juliette gordon low, the founder of girl scouts of america, one of my mom’s passions, when she said, ““the work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.”

i woke up the next day still in the dream. my poppo was somehow still present with me. and the news i had heard, though not unexpected and certainly a little bit satisfying in a puzzle-piece-found sort of way, became less worthy of my time. some stuff is just more important left behind. there are plenty of fascinating puzzle pieces ahead.

as i take bags and boxes to donation sites soon, i know that clearing space – out of the basement and out of closets that had been full of unworn clothing – will be invigorating. i have been going through, going through, revisiting memories, feeling the visceral that touching clothes you wore and objects you used brings you. but, hanging on to too much old stuff, too much excess, too much old yuck too tightly squeezes life out of the air. letting it go allows a flow of fresh in. it will open up room for other things to enter or it will just simply open up room. because, as my dad says, it’s working for tomorrow. tomorrow…a time of renewal and hope and change.

there will hopefully be many “days after today”. as i create history on this day, it is my hope that it is always with an eye to tomorrow. i know not every day will earn a spot in the books. there may be many we do not care to revisit in the ‘réview mirror’; there is room for growing. i guess that’s where learning comes in. (“learning is the process of acquiring new understanding, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, attitudes, and preferences…the result of experience.”) but in looking to tomorrow, instead of yesterday, there is hope. even the tiniest flower wholeheartedly and courageously peeking out of the nearly-still-frozen ground knows that.

that poppo of mine. he’s one smart cookie.

*****

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happy seven year anniversary to the release of my sweet momma’s book SHAYNE! ❤️


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the miniblinds. [k.s. friday]

one of the first things i love to do in the morning is open the miniblinds. dogga helps me. “open up the house with momma,” i call to him and he tags along. the moments of letting in the world again.

at night i really like closing the blinds, turning on the lamps and happy lights, closing out the world and cozying into our home. but in the morning – and i attribute this to my sweet momma, the person who would flit from room to room singsonging “good morning, sunshine!” – i can’t wait to greet the day.

there have been days when this hasn’t been so. days when the cold from the outside and some despair on the inside have led me to keeping it all closed up, locking it all out. humans, with a gamut of emotion, we all have those times, i suspect. the days when looking out doesn’t seem like a good idea because you can barely get past the membrane of your own heart or the nagging of your mind. but, in the way that time does, the moments tick by and somehow you do the work – even just a little, sometimes just enough – and you move past closed blinds.

an acquaintance – who i hadn’t seen in quite a while – asked me the other day about my children…where they are living, what they are doing these days. i told her that my son was living in chicago and answered that my daughter and her boyfriend had moved to north carolina. she looked at me and said, “oh! that’s right near where you’re from!” i hesitated a beat or two and tilted my head at her. she continued, “well, you’re from new york, right? that’s right near new york!”

i didn’t quite know what to do – i wondered if she had unfolded the usa map in her head as it seemed there was a folded overlap somehow making ny next to nc – but i answered, “why, yes! they are both on the east coast and on the same ocean!” it was kind of her to ask about my family and if, by choice, you haven’t left the midwest much, save for those all-inclusive-mexican-resort places, those states ‘out there’ might be kind of confusing. it’s a big country. and it’s a big world. it can be safer to stay put, yet, like miniblinds, it might filter out the light.

though the pandemic still has its seesawing challenges, i can feel the tug of backroads and adventures. though cleaning out still has its sentimental obstacles, i can feel the urge of less-is-more. though careful budgeting is always a dominant force, i can feel the itch to freshen things in our home and yard (good grief – that dug-up front yard will be a necessity!). though i feel a little tentative, i can feel the impulse to seek out ways to let creativity bubbles float and fly.

i open the blinds carefully and look outside. the rising sun hits my face and the birds are singing. dogga is by my side, triumphant in helping me open up the house. and i think that today i will make a live-life-my-sweet-potato list. things on either side of the miniblinds. opening up, little by little. to light.

*****

that morning someday

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THAT MORNING SOMEDAY from BLUEPRINT FOR MY SOUL, THE BEST SO FAR

©️ 1996, 1999 kerri sherwood


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universally understood. [k.s. friday]

my sweet momma and my poppo would hold up their hands in the universally-understood gesture of “i love you” every time we left. walk away, drive away, it mattered not. their hands were always up gesturing, their faces were smiling, but you could see it in their eyes – the leaving. the sign language said words they just couldn’t muster at those moments. i love you. universally understood.

all over the world, in sunshine and in shadow, people use the international hand symbol for “peace”. everyone understands it. it had a different beginning – as the symbol for allied victory in world war II morphing into the symbol for peace. the written peace symbol is just as recognizable. universally understood. dreamed for and ignored, both.

the sun streamed in the morning window and spilled onto the white wall behind me. with early coffee, i was reading news articles, mostly about the invasion in ukraine. heartbreaking and frustrating. i read of people’s lives devastated, of people staunchly fighting for their country, of people on cement basement floors with children and a few possessions, underground and under siege for undetermined periods of time.

i put my coffee mug down and stared at the light streaming in. i raised my hand in the simple peace gesture and held it to the east. i whispered “peace” to our friends far away in distance but close in this galaxy.

universally understood, the shadow whispered as well.

*****

PEACE.

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PEACE from AS IT IS ©️ 2004 kerri sherwood


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i would imagine. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

at 93-almost-94, i would imagine that my sweet momma felt much the same as she had decades earlier. i would imagine that she would have expected herself to move about the same way she had, to participate in life the same way she had, to be able to do most anything the same way she had. she was always startled when she looked in the mirror, self-deprecating her wrinkles and changed body to the end of her decrescendo. but i would imagine that inside – sans mirror – she was feeling like she felt back in the day, back in the forté of her life.

i actually get it. i, too, am in denial when i look in the mirror. i am shocked to think of myself as almost-63. i am shocked to wake with aches and pains, having had a measly amount of sleep in the night. but behind the wheel? with country music blaring or perhaps the soundtrack “about time” or a lowen and navarro cd or john denver or james taylor and carole king maybe … i am back in my skin.

we – in recent days – have made a decision about roadtrips, which we adore. we have decided that we will not drive the seventeen hour all-in-one journeys of our younger days. we will not drive through the night. we will not drive in snowstorms or fierce rain. tornadoes are another story. we will do everything we can to outrun them. but, my point, since i am getting off-track, is that we are seeing the wisdom of exercising restraint on our drives. stop at dark, have a nice dinner, get a good night’s sleep and start again early in the morning. we are trying not to be foolish. because no one wants to be exhausted or stressed on a roadtrip anyway.

so we check the weather ahead. we try to reasonably plan where we are going each day. we book an airbnb, sometimes a hotel. we keep vigil with our accuweather app. we take the back roads anytime it is possible.

we are yes – getting off the road when it’s no longer safe to be on it.

we are yes – being smart.

we are not – no, not yet anyway – succumbing to our “age”.

i would imagine that won’t be anytime soon.

*****

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SMACK-DAB. ©️ 2022 kerrianddavid.com


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steady and predictable. [k.s. friday]

each time we stood in line at the little grocery in paris, we had a kinder bueno bar in our hands. we also had a baguette and camembert and a container of caprese salad and a bottle of wine. sometimes we had a fruit tart. just one.

i didn’t know it then, but the bueno bar is related to ferrero rocher which is related to tic-tacs. and so, in a roundabout way, we were honoring my sweet momma’s passion for tic-tacs. the ferrero group, clearly brilliant sweet-tooth satisfiers.

momma always had tic-tacs in her purse, in the car, in the cabinet in her kitchen. she never bought just one container, like when you are standing in line at target and see them and suddenly think of purchasing a tiny plastic box with the hinged flip-top. she bought multiples, all shrink-wrapped together, and shared them with everyone.

in recent days i decided to go through and reorganize the pantry in our kitchen. our kitchen, like our house, is old, so the pantry is not a walk-in, plastic-wrapped-wire-shelved cavern of space. there is a limit to this miniature cave of goodness, so one must plan and shop accordingly. we set up some metal shelves in the laundry room downstairs to hold rarely-used appliances, which gave us the illusion of more space in the kitchen. anyway….i was pulling everything out of the cabinet to restructure things.

diving into the recesses of the pantry, there it was, kind of hidden. a tiny plastic box of unopened tic-tacs. my momma was instantly there with me.

it is likely that this box came to wisconsin in a care package, for i cannot remember ever buying tic-tacs myself. we all had a never-ending supplier in my sweet momma, who eagerly gave them out “for your purse”, “for your pocket”, “for your backpack”, “for in the car”. and along with kraft macaroni and cheese, ramen noodles, andes candies, poptarts, bags of peanut m&m’s, twizzlers, interesting news articles she cut out, coupons she painstakingly clipped just-for-you, she would tuck tic-tacs, her favorite freshmints. when the boxes would arrive, you knew what was in them. some things are just steady and predictable. some things you just know.

it was a good time for my momma to be standing with me in the kitchen. it’s been a helluva couple years for us, for so many of us. last night, in the middle of the night, sharing a banana, we talked again about these last two years. in some strange way things feel both foggily distant and freshly raw. but they are no less astonishing, no less confusing, no less painful. it is a grand mix – a caldron of emotions.

i spoke aloud to my mom in the kitchen. i told her in bits and spurts – though i’m certain she already knew – about all that had happened in the last years. i told her about how i had just alphabetized the spice cabinet, which made her slightly gleeful. i told her thank-you for all the care packages, all the letters, all the ramen and the mac-and-cheese and the clippings and coupons and m&ms and twizzlers and the unwavering belief, the unconditional love. i told her i was sorry for the times, like everyone, i got too busy. i asked her to hug my dad. i told her i missed her.

and i saved the tiny box of tic-tacs. not to eat them. they are on the shelf in the pantry. steady and predictable.

*****

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CONNECTED from RELEASED FROM THE HEART ©️ 1995 kerri sherwood