Sometimes I feel the world is just spinning too fast. Everyone seems to want everything bigger, louder, and instantly. Everywhere I look, someone is wanting their piece of the pie, their fair share. I used to hear it’s the little things that matter most. Now everyone is telling me go big or go home. And I am supposed to hurry up about it.
This was especially evident recently when my husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary. Well-meaning friends said, “25 is BIG! Go on a cruise. Go to Paris.” Go big or go home. Knowing an elaborate vacation was out of the question, I did daydream about Paris. After all, it’s Paris. I imagined myself standing in front of the Eiffel Tower in the City of Lights, wearing a beret, my long red scarf blowing in the wind.
“Bonjour,” they would say.
“Bonjour, ya’ll,” I would answer back.
We would visit museums. We would shop. We would eat fancy pastries. We would go big. Then we would go home.
Of course, the 3 boys that live under my roof were not in my daydream. And being the good Momma I am, I wasn’t really going to run off to Paris and leave them so far away. So we settled on Warm Springs, a mere 45 minutes from home. Because the good Momma in me always thinks about the what ifs.
Warm Springs holds a special place in my heart because it’s where we spent our honeymoon. As a broke young newlywed blinded by the hearts in my eyes, it was the most beautiful place on Earth. It was quiet and sweet and full of antiques and Christmas lights. It was right out of a Charles Dickens story.
I wondered if it would seem different after all these years. Would it seem small-ish? After all, it doesn’t get much more not Paris than Warm Springs, Georgia. Somehow, in a world that has continued to spin out of control, this little place has indeed remained small-ish, wonderfully small-ish. Maybe it was the hearts in my eyes or the millions of little twinkling white Christmas lights, but The City of Lights didn’t hold a candle to Warm Springs that night.
We went small, and we went home. And it was big.
Opal was certain of one thing — she was shrinking. She wobbled over to the wall and leaned her back against it, touching her finger to the wall right above the top of her silver-white head. She turned around to look. “Sure enough, one notch down from Monday’s mark.” She took the pencil out from her apron pocket, made a new notch and wrote Tuesday.
Just as she dropped the pencil back into her pocket, Jules came in, the screen door slamming behind him. Opal jumped. After 42 years, Jules could still unnerve her. “Another inch lost. At this rate, I’ll be gone before you know it!”
Jules squeezed her shoulders.“Nonsense, Opal. Whoever heard of someone shrinking down to nothing. It’s normal to lose a few inches at your age. After 42 years, Jules also always made her feel better, sort-of.
Opal went back to fixing supper. Although when she went to eat it, the fork seemed bigger in her hand. And that night, the bed seemed bigger to her.
Jules snored as Opal lay sleepless in the bed, eyes wide open. She tried to remember just when the shrinking had begun. At first she hadn’t noticed it at all. Osteoporosis the doctor had said. You’ll notice some height loss, minimal. But that was 2 years ago. Opal had taken her calcium pills and gone to that silly Yoga class with all the vegan millennials. She had done her part. So, why was she shrinking? She stayed up late into the night Googling: shrinking, bone density, calcium deficiencies… until her eyes became heavy and she fell asleep on a pillow that was too large for her now child-sized head.
Wednesday was Opal’s beauty shop day. When Melba pulled the dryer down over her head, Opal had to stretch her neck up to reach. And when she went to the grocery store on the way home, she had to ask a young man to help her get a can of beans off of a low shelf. She wasn’t sure he heard her “thank you” over his headphones.
That night, when Opal took her bath she noticed her feet did not even reach halfway when she stretched out in the tub. And the towel was way longer than she was. Before getting into bed, she made another notch on the chart in the kitchen, a lot lower- Wednesday.
Thursday came and Opal could barely reach the kitchen counter to fix breakfast. She stomped her little foot and wrinkled up her little mouth as a sleepy headed Jules came in. “Hon, your tossing and turning kept me up,” he said, rubbing his eyes.
Opal narrowed her eyes at him. “Look at me!” She stood on a stool at the counter to pour his coffee. Jules watched her silently. He wasn’t sure what to say. She was obviously a lot smaller and whatever he said would probably be the wrong thing.
That night, Opal backed up against her wall chart as Jules marked Thursday, significantly lower down on the wall.
By Friday, Opal had to stand on a step ladder to reach the kitchen counter. “How am I supposed to fix supper?” she fumed. Jules placed the takeout pizza menu in her tiny hands and walked away shaking his head.
Jules woke up to a panic Saturday morning. He could not find Opal!
“Opal? Where are you?” Jules called and a tiny voice responded from under the covers. Jules’ mouth fell open. He wasn’t sure what to say. His wife was toy- sized.
They sat together the rest of the morning, Googling: Osteoporosis, shrinking, reversing shrinking… until Jules declared himself ready for a break. He said he needed some air and left Opal sitting on the table.
He returned with a big smile and a big bag. “Looky, Hon. Got a surprise for you,” he said placing a Hobby Lobby bag in front of her. She was still sitting on the kitchen table. Opal poked her tiny head down into the bag.
Hobby Lobby? Opal couldn’t believe Jules went to Hobby Lobby. He had only been once or twice with her over the years and had complained the whole time she tried to shop. He was observant though and apparently remembered the dollhouse section. He grinned as Opal took a tiny bed out of the bag.
“Well, it’s just my size,” she said, misty-eyed. She wasn’t sure whether to laugh or cry.
Jules spent the rest of the day setting up Opal’s tiny house. He had even bought her a little window box with plastic flowers for the front of the dollhouse. That night, Jules tucked Opal into her tiny new bed and kissed the top of her tiny head.
She was so far off of the wall chart, there was no need for a Saturday mark.
When the Sunday morning sun woke Jules, he threw off the covers and ran to check on Opal. He peered into the dollhouse.
“How’d you sleep in there, Hon?”
“Oh Jules! I missed you last night! But it was nice having a bed my size and I do love the little house.” Jules tenderly sat Opal on the kitchen counter so she could watch him make breakfast. He placed a piece of egg on one of the dollhouse plates and handed her a doll-sized cup of coffee.
That afternoon, Jules placed Opal in his shirt pocket and took her outside for their usual Sunday “sit” in the sweetheart swing. He moved the dollhouse to the living room mantle so Opal could better see what was going on during the day, but he placed her tiny bed on his own bedside table. Jules took down the wall chart.
As time went on, he grew accustomed to doing all the things Opal normally did. Jules puttered around the house taking care of everything while Opal sat there on the mantle watching the world go by.
An owl lives under my pillow. It’s a little stuffed thing I got for Christmas one year. Santa Claus knows I love animals. And he knows I am a chronic teeth clencher and need something to squeeze at night. After all, he knows when I am sleeping and he knows when I am awake, right? So the theory is, if I squeeze the owl, I won’t clench my teeth. Theoretically….
I have also began doing yoga during my morning quiet time. Not wanting the noise of an instructor, I opted for yoga cards instead of a dvd. The cards show poses and have instructions on the back. The idea is that you can custom make your own routine and you will then feel calm and ready to tackle the world. Theoretically…
This didn’t seem to be working as well as I had hoped so I signed up for an actual class. The kind where I had to leave the house, wear yoga clothes in public, and listen to a real instructor. And that is where I learned my lesson.
The first thing we did in class was be still. Be still and know that I am God….Psalm 46:10 kept coming to my mind. I’d been doing it all wrong. In my effort to get my morning quiet time done, checked off my to-do list, I had been rushing through it all and missing the relaxation part of it. One thing the instructor kept saying is Breathe. The back of my cards say Breathe too.
So, if I can remember to be still, maybe I will remember the rest of the verse: and know that I am God. If I can remember that, I can remember that I don’t have to rush around getting everything done. It puts things in perspective. It puts me in connection with my creator and the creator of everything. Breathe…
And if I can remember all of that, maybe I won’t need the owl under my pillow. Theoretically…
Recently, my appliances have been teaming up against me. First the dishwasher quit, then the washer and dryer. Last week when the washer died, she was in the middle of a cycle and full of water! AND she was a front loader! After I gave her a few swift kicks, I thought to myself So much for Nellie Whirlpool and that is where the idea for this post came from. Creative inspiration is everywhere :)
Obituary for Nellie Whirlpool
Nellie Whirlpool expired this week. The cause of death is unknown, but an autopsy revealed she was full of mold. There is also speculation that she may have choked on a mouth full of clothes. She was quite picky. It would be nice to say she lived a long and full life, but the truth is she was lazy, did not live up to her potential, and expired young. There is some comfort in her death, knowing that she was accompanied by her partner, June Whirlpool. June was under severe distress and frequently became severely overheated. She also expired at an unusually young age with a mouth full of unmatched socks. Both Nellie and June were preceded in death by Frankie Frigidaire who at the tender age of 10 decided she was quite finished with life. She became sluggish, leaked on the floor, and expired with a belly full of very dirty dishes. The three of them have been replaced and will not be remembered fondly.
Honored to be on Southern Writers Magazine's Blog, Suite T today. To read the article, click the link below:
Click below to read Harlan and Gert, a flash fiction published in New Southern Fugitives Issue 12 from Southern Fried Karma Press.
Harlan and Gert are aging, but they aren't ready for a home, no matter what their kids say!
Duke the Dachshund is back with his Christmas tale for Susanna Hill's Annual Holiday Contest. Read Duke's story below and here is the link to the contest so you can read the other wonderful stories.
A Hot Dog’s Christmas
“Here Duke,” my humans call.
“We have a surprise!”
I jump and waggle.
I can’t believe my eyes.
There is a present
Under the tree.
A present they say
Is just for me!
“Hurry Duke!” they call.
“You’ll like this, Duke!”
“This is fun!”
Suddenly, I am cautious.
I stop dead on my feet.
I’ve heard this before
When it was Trick or Treat.
I remember that night.
Now I want to run.
I remember they dressed me
As a hot dog — in a bun!
But, it’s almost Christmas
So I go to the tree.
I slink over
To get the gift they have for me.
After all, it’s a surprise.
But it isn’t any better.
It’s a sweater!
This is not right!
This is wild.
I’m a dachshund,
Not a child!
I am so insulted,
This isn’t fair.
I don’t need a sweater!
I’m covered with hair!
I want a toy, a leash, or a bone.
But on it goes, over my head.
I look ridiculous,
Like Great Uncle Ned.
I want to bite an ankle,
Maybe a knee.
But I don’t dare
Because Santa is watching me!
Recently, I had the pleasure of taking a master writing class taught by Rick Bragg. I learned so much and afterwards, I asked the Pulitzer Prize winning author to sign my copy of one of his many books. He winked at me and asked where I am from. I said, “I’m from right here.” He signed my book, “Tonya, from right here.” Mr. Bragg has a wonderful sense of humor, but those words got me thinking about where “right here” really is…
“Right here” is so much more than a hometown. It’s a corner of time and space that belongs to a person. Today my “right here” is a very old house filled with dirty dishes and piles of laundry. It is a life full of unfinished projects, aging parents, and growing kids. It is a kitchen table full of bills to be paid and lists to be shopped.
I am learning to embrace the mess, even the laundry that seems to self regenerate minus a few socks every week, because it’s my mess. It’s my circus and my monkeys and my bills — everything in my “right here” is about someone I love. Most importantly, my “right here” is a life full of the love and laughter of my high school sweetheart and our three boys. It is a life unfinished with so much fun, so much promise and I thank the Lord for all of it, every day.
So, the next time I wish I was somewhere else; I am going to remind myself to be thankful for my “right here” because “right here” is where I belong.
Happy Halloween! Here is my entry to the Halloweensie writing contest- 100 word story for kids and here is the link to the contest:
Hot Dog! It’s Halloween
By Tonya Calvert
It’s dark under here
The family dressed me
What could I do?
I tried to run
They said, “Come Duke, it’s fun!”
So now I'm out here
Trick or treat?
All I see is feet!
This is wild
I’m a dachshund!
Not a child!
So here I am
Parading at night
Shadows and monsters
What a fright!
This is no fun!
They dressed me
As a hot dog ...
In a bun!
I want to bite an ankle
Maybe a knee
But candy corn just fell
And no one saw