The Doll You Bought

November 27, 2013

A doll as a metaphor for a wife’s life? Well yes it could be – a discarded doll made new again and loved? From “Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered”.


One day when we were at the Will Rogers Flea Market, you spied an old, big doll. It was one of those dolls that came out of the 1950s or 60s. It was about two feet tall and had a dirty cream-colored dress. Its face and cheeks were dirty like the face of a little kid who had been out playing in the mud. You liked it, bought it, and took it home.

Once we got home, you put it on your dresser, standing upright with its eyes looking blankly out to the mirror on the opposite wall. She sat there for a short period of time until you began to remake her, to clean her up, and restore her to the beauty she once had when she belonged to a little girl whose identity shall remain forever unknown.

You removed her little dress and washed it. You cleaned her skin and face like you did your own kids when they were little. I remember you standing her back up clean again. She was almost back to normal, but she lacked one thing—some proper hair.

When I lived on the east side of town, there was a doll store near my old house where I took my daughter. Jane would walk up and down the aisles, staring in little girl wonder at the many pretty, made-up dolls. I took you there one Saturday to look for a new mop of hair for your little doll—now looking almost new again.

Like my once little girl, you walked up and down the aisles looking at the dolls; it seemed you were looking for ideas on how to dress her up. Then you talked to the lady who ran the shop and asked if they sold new pieces of hair for dolls. They did, and you bought a brown wig for your doll and took it home.

You took the little hairpiece out of the box and put it on the doll. Then all at once she looked complete—remade and transformed from a dirty waif to the image of a proper young girl. She looked more alive than ever; her eyes no longer stared blankly now. She seemed to be almost animate with her pretty, new hair and her clean, long dress. She adorned our bedroom with her new found glory—saved from perhaps being thrown out with the trash by someone who no longer wanted her.

The important thing about this series of events was not how well she cleaned up, but instead how you made the doll a metaphor for your own life. Like the doll, you described how you were discarded; but in the end, you had found belonging and beauty at last. In that way, you and the doll were one—perhaps even twins. Both of you were left by those who should have kept and treasured your beauty. Then later in life, others found you, saw your quiet grace, and cleansed away the layers of life’s grit, so your natural splendor could be seen.

We should all hope that in our darkest hour someone will pick us up and wash away the dirty grime of existence that hides our shining, inherent glory and be given a new life, just as you gave one to that lonely and nearly forgotten doll.


Loving in the Pool

November 27, 2013

I do not write erotica or the like but making love is a part of life and marriage. But here is a story from “Notes To Stephanie: Days Remembered” about that. It is a tale of cold beer on a hot day that did not cool us off – it is “PG13” not “R” or “X” by the way. Besides the obvious things it also taught me a life lesson too.

Neither of us is in to inappropriate public displays or actions that would seem improper, but one day we did something that I never thought we would do.

One day in the summer, we were in the pool on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. We had been drinking some, and we were both a bit tipsy. Not drunk, but we were leaning to the side of thinking we were invisible. We started getting frisky with each other; and without much hesitation, the bathing suits came flying off. Soon, we were making love by the step on the north side of the pool by the fence and bushes there. It is one thing to do that in the dark, which we also did, but in broad daylight is another thing entirely. Lucky for us, the trees, the fence, and the geometry of the houses meant no one could see us doing The Wild Thing.

Soon, we completed The Act, got our suits back on, and laughed about it later as we sobered up. Even better, the neighbors did not see us, did not complain, or call the police. You having been in Citizens on Patrol/Code Blue and both of us being in CERT would have made being arrested for public lewdness even worse. We were probably lucky, you know. Oh well, it was fun and one of the special moments that we had together, albeit one caused by the “demon brew” on that hot afternoon. Certainly, it was hot in more than one way, but we won’t go into details about that here.

This goes to show that sometimes things just happen; you do something you never thought you would do, but later realize that you did do it with some surprise. Hopefully, you remember the event in question with some fondness and laughter as well. Such inadvertent acts are part of what make us human after all. And as long as you don’t go to jail or get hurt, they are a good thing in the end. They should be treasured as much as some deliberate act of greatness that we are more apt to share with others. Their effects, while sprouted from spontaneity, are just as important as things we planned to do. So the next time you do something you thought you wouldn’t do, just forgive yourself and go on to life’s next adventure—perhaps in a swimming pool.


Do You Ever Wonder?

November 25, 2013

This is from “Notes To Stephanie: Middle Aged Love Letters And Life Stories”. It is another one of my weather/cirrus cloud themed Notes. And like many in this book it is shorter than the ones in the latter two.

Do you ever wonder what lies over the side of a hill? Underneath a cloud? Beyond the horizon and the curve of the world itself? Or wonder who lies underneath such sights as you gaze at them?

On a wintry day with high cirrus clouds streaming in from the west or the southwest, the visible curve of those clouds stretches back for maybe a hundred miles. Who lives under the overarching stream of whiteness? What towns are there? Whose lives are unfolding there? Seeing such things and thinking about who or what lies there gives me a sense of wonder and excitement that is hard to explain, but is there as sure as I tell you about it here.

And underneath the clouds high up and far away from where our lives unfold, do the people there look up as I do and wonder who or what lies underneath their distant sky? Underneath everyone’s skies are people like you and me, living and hopefully loving.
Most people go about their daily lives largely unaware of who else is looking up and out at such scenes. But there are some of us who do notice the unfolding beauty high above and gain a rich sense of being alive as its bright curve of whiteness reaches around the larger node of existence and covers the wide arc of greater life-realities beneath it. Our lives forever enriched by the wonders unfolding above and beyond our own world-line.

Jeff To Stephanie February 28, 2007


Riding Segways in Austin

November 25, 2013

A different Thanksgiving story. No turkeys or large family gatherings but riding seqways in Austin, Texas. This is from “Notes To My Kids: Little Stories About My Grown Up Kids”.

To Roger and Jane:

One of the favorite things we ever did was ride the Segways in Austin the Thanksgiving I was working there on the Carlton-Bates project. I do not remember how I came up with the idea to do that, but I wanted to do something other than just walk inside of the capitol’s dome downtown or go have nachos at the Oasis on Lake Travis with you. So we rode the Segways, and it was a fun time indeed.

Over the years, I had seen the Segway “vehicle” on TV, but I had never seen or rode one. I remember talking to the place in Austin that gave the Segway tours of downtown and asking questions about them. I asked if they were easy to ride, how hard it was to balance them, and if teenagers like you would enjoy the ride. Since the answers I got were acceptable, I made our reservations for the tour.

That Thanksgiving was a bit hectic if you remember. I came home to Fort Worth, and it was my turn to have everyone over, so I was busy getting the smoker ready for the turkey and the ham. We had everyone over and you two spent the night. We got up the day after Thanksgiving and drove to Austin and left our stuff at the extended stay place I stayed at. The next stop was downtown and the Segways.

We parked on the street, and we walked into the shop and gazed at the odd-looking devices, which looked like an old fashioned pogo stick with two large wheels on the bottom. We checked in and got trained on how to run them. Then we departed for our short tour of downtown Austin that cool and cloudy day.

We started down the street in a line; there were around eight of us in total and a guide. We quickly got used to driving them and how they steered. It really became a very easy and natural thing to do, like riding a bike or driving a car. None of us wrecked or hit something, which was good.

Over the next couple of hours, we road down by the Colorado River and the streets of the southern part of downtown and went by the State capitol building. We snaked up and down the little hills and wound our way back to the starting point where we reluctantly parked our two-wheeled steeds.

After our ride, we ate lunch at the Texas Chili Parlor, which unfortunately was not so good, and toured the inside of the capitol. Of course, we went to a store by UT to look at T-shirts and saw the football stadium too. It was a fun day in more than one way, one grey and cold but filled with the warmth generated by the fire of being together and having a good time.

And so it was that day and weekend. On Sunday, I drove you to Austin’s Bergstrom airport to fly back to Love Field, home, and your waiting schoolwork. On Monday, I went back to work there in Austin.

That was one of the most fun weekends I had with you two after you were grown. Riding the Segways was a segue in life because I started to realize more and more that you both were no longer little kids. In that way, driving the Segways that day was like driving down a new road in the way I saw you two: a new highway of our lives that we were driving down, still together, even today.


Smoking A Turkey With Your Son

November 23, 2013

“Smoking A Turkey With Your Son” from “Notes to Stephanie: Days Remembered” tells a similar story as does “Granddad Tom’s Smoker” does in “Notes To My Kids”. A family tradition passed to a step-son in this case.

On many a Thanksgiving and Christmas, my dad would fire up his smoker and cook a turkey and a ham in it. He would build the fire near bedtime, let it burn down, and then put the meat on and let it cook all night until it was done. When we woke up in the morning, we would test the meat for doneness, and when ready, take it off of the fire and carve it up. We savored the freshly roasted meat and the cracklings as delicacies. It certainly was good food, and so I kept doing the same thing as do other members of the family.

But the part of that experience I liked the best, especially as an adult, was not just eating the meat, but standing by the smoker in the dark and the cold and having a drink with my dad and shooting the breeze. We would have a beer or a Jack Daniels, and the smoke wafted around us while the cold wind blew, too. Maybe the moon was out, or maybe it was just a dark, starry night; but it was a special time we had on those holidays at my mom and dad’s that always meant a lot to me. So when we married, I wanted to show your son the same thing since he had no dad to show him such things, and I wanted him to have the same warm memories of holiday times as I did.

And I did just what my dad did. I got out the charcoal, soaked the mesquite chips, and set the thing ablaze, showing him how I did it. I also told him how much fun I had with my dad, smoking a turkey when he was alive. So, we got the fire burning and had some drinks in the dark like me and my dad had on the last Thanksgiving we were together.

In comparison to showing your son how to smoke meat, hearing how you could not roast a turkey was funny indeed. You and he both recounted how you simply stuck a frozen bird in the oven one Thanksgiving and were given back a half-cooked, inedible bird. Thus, when you and your kids had smoked turkey and ham, you were indeed having something new and delicious.

However, moving beyond how to smoke meat and how not to roast a turkey, the times spent by a fire are special times between a father and son. It really isn’t a motherly thing to stand by a fire and drink booze, you know. I always will remember the times spent in the swirling mesquite smoke with my dad. These simple events built solid memories of growing up and being together.

And most of all, I hope your son learned something from my instruction on how to smoke a big bird; and one year hence, he shows his son, or maybe a daughter, the same thing under a cold, starry sky. And may his turkey and ham be well done and enjoyed by all on that holiday yet to come.


Winter Storm Damage

November 23, 2013

This is from ‘Notes to Stephanie: Days Remembered”. A story about damage from a winter storm – yes we have those in Texas – that shows how ladies can do things usually ascribed only to men.

In late winter of 2007/2008, we had a little winter surprise at your house, which we were then renting out. That surprise was the sudden and unexpected heavy snow fall that spread across our part of Tarrant County one day.

There were several inches of the white stuff on the ground; and as usual, any amount of snow was the end of the world it seemed. Traffic was crawling or snarled all around our area.

That, in and of itself, was not that big of a deal since contrary to popular belief it does snow in our part of Texas—sometimes a lot in one storm. The real issue for us was the phone call from the renters. They called with the shocking news that your metal patio awning had collapsed and was destroyed by the snow and ice. The weight of the frozen mass was too much for the metal sheets and posts. It could not endure the weight any longer and fell to the patio below.

We both went over there after work with the camera, and the sight was something I had never seen before in a snowstorm. After thunderstorms, there was always damage like we saw that day—but not after our area had been turned into a “winter wonderland.” There, in front of us, was twisted sheet metal, crumpled metal posts, and parts of the siding all heaped together in a tangled mass covering your patio.

This disaster meant something to you; it was more than just irritation from the damage itself. It was more important to you than normal since you had built the awning by yourself with some help from your kids. You had described to me how you built it with supplies and tolls from the Home Depot up the road in Lake Worth. But now it was a pile of junk for a metal scrap yard on the north side of town. Your great work, done with care and skill, was now just refuse on the ground, and the task then was to replace what had been destroyed. So over the next few weeks, we filed the insurance claim, removed the wreckage, and had someone rebuild it since we were short on time—the renters needed it rebuilt since the back door was blocked by the pile of debris.

Certainly, this episode shows that the old saying about Texas weather changing all of the time is true, but it also shows that you never know what a person is capable of doing simply by how he or she looks. Not too many attractive ladies with a doctorate could have built a metal patio awning, thirty feet long, mostly on their own. But you did build that awning, and that is the real story here to be told. Just because a pretty girl wears a dress, it doesn’t keep her from swinging a hammer or a wrench.


Your Rooms at My House

November 21, 2013

A kid’s room is a shrine in the parent’s mind sometimes. Special places for the ones held so dear. The ghost of their growing up years lingers on to haunt you when they leave the nest. This is from ‘Notes To My Kids: Little Stories About My Grown Up Kids”

To Roger and Jane:

After me and your mom split up, I had my own places. Whether it was an apartment or a house, I always had bedrooms set up for you. When you visited me, I wanted you to have your own space and your own things. Hopefully that would help those times with me seem more like you were still at home.

Over the years, your rooms at my homes had the usual stuff: a bed, a closet, and some other furniture like a little desk. Honestly, I did not spend a lot on those furnishings, but they seemed to work fine. You both had toys in the closet and a place to sit to do your homework. And you had your own TVs and later on stereos too. There were pictures on the walls as well. Yes, most were ones I already had, but each of you had one I had in my own room growing up – the sand dollar in Jane’s and the B-29s in Roger’s. When we weren’t doing something together, you two would sit in your rooms, play with your stuff, and talk on the phone to your friends or your mom. All in all, you had normal surroundings at my home where things were usually calm.

When you went home, you would straighten up your rooms, pack up your stuff, and off we would go back to Plano or The Colony to take you back to your mom and away from your home away from home—your home with me. As kids, you had two homes, you see.

While I had the rest of my houses to myself, your rooms were still yours, even if you were not in them much, especially when you were in college and grown. Your rooms are still there now. They are filled with your remaining stuff—Jane has more in hers—but those bedrooms remain yours not mine, even though they are surrounded by the rest of the house, which I alone now silently tread.

Even though I am the only one here, your doors are open, and your things remain. The rooms are still and quiet now, but in my mind, I still can see and hear you in them. When I walk into them, I can remember you sleeping in your beds, watching TV, reading a book, or eating a snack. The chalk portraits of you by your bathroom door are another reminder of those times. Those thoughts and images are echoes of your childhood that fill your rooms and my mind every single day.

So what now for your rooms you ask? Being single and with you two grown, there is no day- to-day need for them to remain as is. But they will remain yours as long as I am there. Maybe in not too many years hence, you might be back in them more—not by yourselves, but with a yet unknown spouse and maybe some kids of your own. When that day comes, your rooms and my house that were once filled with the sounds of your little voices and youthful games, will see that again. That is how your bedrooms at my house, which is also yours, should always be.