Lydia and the Little Dish in the Freezer

I’ve read a few good books lately, and one of them is The Two Lives of Lydia Bird by Josie Silver.  I enjoyed it immensely, though it required quite a bit of suspension of disbelief.  Which I am okay with, as I often feel like my own life is better when I apply that mechanism.

However as I read, I found myself struggling with some of the decisions Lydia made.  I pushed through because if there is one thing I have learned in the past thirty years of my life, it is that we all grieve differently.  And that is OKAY.

Grief comes in and out, intertwining in our lives, in almost as many ways as there are people who grieve, and for those who say “Well I’d never…..” I seriously wonder if they’ve ever lost someone they loved.  Grace is most needed when grief is in our lives.

After cringing a little at one choice Lydia made in particular, I continued reading, emotionally invested in the story, because I remembered the container in my freezer that I found a few weeks ago.  Any sane person would likely judge me and be disgusted, grossed out, or say I needed help.

And all of that would be valid.

But still…..

The weekend of March 14 our dancer was supposed to go with her competition team to perform two numbers in Atlanta.  The decision was made by the organizers on March 12 to postpone due to the governor’s decision to limit gatherings to groups of no more than 50 people at that time.  So I found myself with a Saturday morning free that I had not expected.  It was a pleasant day outside, so I decided to defrost my freezer.  There are no incriminating photos, but suffice to say it’s been quite some time since I did this and IT NEEDED IT BADLY.  I had a grocery pickup for later that day, and I wanted to have room for everything.  I listened to music and loaded things into a cooler and turned on the blow dryer and watched ice melt.

It was actually quite pleasant.  And I felt productive, having no idea the long road we had ahead of us.

In the midst of my moving things to the cooler, I found an old small plastic container.  I saw my Mama’s trademark masking tape she used for labelling things before I saw her red Sharpie handwriting with what was in it and the date.

Y’all.

As some of you may know, Mama left this world in February of 2013.  The label was for June of 2012.

I have most assuredly cleaned out this freezer many times before this year, and so each time I have, I guess I made the conscious decision (though I don’t recall) not to throw it out.

Because–grief.

My Mama used to make barbecue when I was growing up.  She cooked the pork roast and shredded it and made her sauce from scratch.  I still have the recipe here somewhere, and while I might have tried to make it a time or two, to be honest, I was never a really big fan of it.  It was tangier than I liked back then (though now I have different tastes), so at some point Mama started putting some aside and making a gravy so that I had pork roast and gravy sandwiches instead of barbecue.  This was not a common occurrence in our home.  Picky eaters were not indulged, as we were a family of six and could ill afford to cater to everyone’s individual tastes and preferences on a regular basis.  And while it might not have been every time she made barbecue, it is a precious memory for me that Mama took the time to do this on occasion.  I felt seen, heard, and loved.

Never mind that it was delicious.

The label on the small container said “PORK ROAST W/GRAVY” along with the date in June of 2012.

A date of no significance.

It wasn’t my birthday or any other celebration.  Just an everyday.  Regular plain old get up and do the daytodailies kind of day.

But Mama made it special by making me this pork roast with gravy.

Feeding folks was her love language, you see, and I felt so loved by her.  When she’d eat my mushrooms off my pizza (only as an adult–as a child I had to learn to eat some things I wasn’t exactly crazy about), when she made my quiche without bacon (it was a phase), when she made every single meal special somehow…..I felt loved.

And so that’s why I found that little container with my Mama’s handwriting on it seven years after she passed.

Because it reminds me I am loved.

And while I’ve had to let her go, I didn’t want to let go of that feeling.  Or of the reminder, the symbol of being loved for all my quirks and both because and despite of who I am.

And remembering all of that, I forgave Lydia her choices and really loved the book.

Finding that dish reminded me we all have weird and off the wall and outside what might be deemed socially acceptable ways of handling loss.  ~Loss-such a funny little word for something that encompasses every breath and fiber of our being.~

As our lives have all changed so drastically, some more than others, since that day five weeks ago when I was cleaning out my freezer, grief is bound to come.  I encourage you all to let it.  And–as Mama used to say sometimes–“as long are you aren’t hurting anyone, I’ll allow it.” Grieve however you need to.  And allow others to do the same.  Grief and grace are best served together.

One more thing about that dish.  As parents or anyone loving someone else through this new way of living we find ourselves in, please know you don’t have to make big gestures to show someone you love them or to make precious memories.  And it doesn’t have to be a “special” day.  What that little dish with my Mama’s handwriting on it reminds me is that everyday, the “every” ordinary day is just as good as any special occasion day to show someone how much they are seen, heard, treasured, and loved.

May we all find a way to remind someone of that and to be reminded.  Make memories in the midst of the ordinary and the extraordinary.  Today is a great day for that.  In the words of my Mama, “Happy Everyday!”

Love to all.

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the kudzu patch

from the very first day of school
I can remember the rule sternly set
“no going near the kudzu patch”

it was out back behind the portable buildings
and the monkey bars and swing set
and beyond the patch where we played kickball
back before all of the regulations had
such things padded and fenced in

we were mindful of that
as we played kickball
with the hopes that no ball would go
into the forbidden territory

mindful of the warning to stay away
that is just what we did
until that one day
when you and the others
ran back there
with wild abandon

I stood mortified
of what could happen
to you, to all of you
back there
or later, when you were caught–
if you even survived

(part of me was sure you wouldn’t
for five year olds, kudzu monsters
can be very real)

you had your fun
and later paid the price in the principal’s office
and maybe even with your folks

I’ve always remembered that day–
when I looked on
and worried over what would happen

and now here we stand
talking about where life has taken us
we are the grownups now,
it’s amazing that somehow we made it to this point
despite all the bumps and bruises along the way

you look none the worse for wear, my friend,
a life well done despite your day of infamy
and me,
I wonder what I missed
from not playing in the kudzu patch
all those years ago

 

KudzuPlants

By Bubba73 (Jud McCranie) – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33772552

The Boy Who Loved the Stars

A few days ago I was waiting to meet Aub, so I walked over to the GW Boutique for a few minutes.  I was basically window shopping and admiring the way all the blazers were put together and noticing how the styles of coats over the past thirty years were all hanging in one spot on the outerwear rack.

I was walking by the rack with jackets and vests when I spied a grey hoodie. A grey NON-zip up hoodie.  Y’all know how I love me some hoodies, so it won’t surprise you that I was drawn in, and I pulled it out to look at it.  When I saw the horse on there in a rag quilt style (which impresses me all kinds of ways), I figured someone had put a lot of time and love into making such a unique creation.

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And then I thought about that horse.

I was once a little girl who loved horses.  Everything horses.  For my birthday, I had a carousel cake and Mama made me a book bag with an appliqued horse in it and a book about the rodeo was tucked inside.  Every time the Scholastic book order form came home with me I scoured it for horse stories and equine books.  When one was the 95 cent special that month, I was the first to turn in my order form.  I asked for Breyer horses for Christmas and birthdays; they sat on my bookshelf in a particular order when I didn’t have them down naming and appreciating the qualities of each one.  I loved shirts with horses and when I was in the third grade, my dream came true.  My Daddy got me a horse.

Her name was Betsy given by me, because it was close to Bess, and Good Queen Bess had been Daddy’s horse he had loved so much.  I also loved Betsy Ross, so it was a tribute to her too.  I learned to take care of our horse and I rode bareback and I talked to her about all kinds of things.

I was a little girl who loved horses.

The little girl who loved horses had a friend who loved science fiction and books by Tolkien.  He spoke of worlds not yet seen except in the imagination of great people, and he was funny and kind.  He even loaned her one of his science fiction books, and she tried to read it.  She really did.  He was a good friend, and never once did the girl I once was question her love of horses or the friendship she had with the one who talked of hobbits and adventures and a future that was beyond comprehension.

Somewhere along the way that little girl forgot she loved horses so much.  She grew up to real life responsibilities and adventures and hard and beautiful things.  She forgot a lot of things from way back then, but she didn’t forget the boy who was funny and imaginative and smart and kind.

Who grew to be a kind man.

The other day at the GW I took the horse hoodie to the counter and I paid for it and brought it home.  After I tossed it in the washer I drove to the hospital to see my friend whom I haven’t seen in a long, long time.  I didn’t know until I got there that I was really there to say goodbye.

Today the boy who loved the planets and thinking about all the what if’s left us to soar among the stars he loved and to hug folks he loves whom he hasn’t seen in a long, long time.  Today the boy who was so kind and whose story was intertwined in mine for all of our school years left the pain and brokenness and is finally home.

I am sad.  But as I sat here thinking and taking all of this in, I came upon the girl who loved horses, sitting by herself, weeping into her hands, unable to contain the grief she feels at stories that have ended way too soon.  The horses forgotten, the hopes and dreams that used to lull her to sleep at night, and the friend whom she will never see again in this life.  Who I am now is very sad, feeling this in my own “I suppose I have to get used to grief and losing people I love” way.  She, however, is 9 again, and the empty shelf where the horses once sat and the empty place where her friend lived is baffling and breaking her heart.

Tonight I’m thankful for a reminder of who I used to be.  How the joys of good and long friendships and horses’ tails flying in the wind used to give me peace and comfort and make me smile and so happy.  I’m thankful for the reminder, as hard as it is, that life is short so we need to grab hold of who and what matters to us and let them know that.

Tell someone you love them today.  If that’s too much, tell them they matter.  Thank them for being a part of your story.  Sit down and ask them what they dreamed about when they were 9.  Or last night.  Share a book with them, or let them borrow your pencil.  Toss out a thread to intertwine your life to another’s, because in the end, that’s where beauty comes from–the reflection of our hearts in the eyes of someone who cares.

RIP, BBC.  You will be missed.  Thanks for helping me see the stars way back then.  And today.

Love to all.

 

 

The Seventh Day of Christmas

On the seventh day of Christmas…..

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seven loads of laundry…..

or at least that many.  I kind of stopped counting in the midst of the Great New Year’s Eve Lego Challenge and Kids’ Only Dance Party and the Minions Movie and the Keeping Calm of the Dog During the Everlasting Fireworks.  A busy day, but the laundry HAD to be done.

Today.

Because I don’t do laundry on New Year’s Day.

It’s not so much about superstition as it is about tradition.

My Mama honored this tradition in memory of her Grandmother.  Her sweet red-headed Grandmama Eulalia, who let my Mama help her cook and made her feel so loved, never washed clothes on New Year’s Day because of the old saying, “When you wash somebody’s clothes on New Year’s Day, you wash ’em out of your life.”

I don’t have any desire to wash anyone out of my life.

And because I won’t do laundry on New Year’s Day, New Year’s Eve becomes a busy day of getting all of the things that we might possibly need the next two days washed, dried, folded, and put away.  It sounds a lot less involved than it really is.

Seven loads, y’all.

At least.

Present Me is really asking Me from the Past Couple of Days why on earth I didn’t do any laundry before now.  It piles up fast with all these folks around here.

So tonight I am celebrating the number 7 and the people behind it.  They bring me much joy, and so, by extension, does their laundry.  Their clothes in the laundry mean that they are here and doing well and that they have clothes to wear and to stay warm and dry and clean and comfortable.

And for that I am very, very thankful.

Wishing you all a Happy New Year, and in the words of my Mama, “Happy Everyday!”

Love to all.

 

 

Delta Dawn and Earworms

Isn’t it interesting to hear songs now that you once sang out loud as a child?  Does it ever make you cringe that you sang it, not knowing what the lyrics meant?

So many songs from all those years ago I can still remember the lyrics to.  One of my favorite radio stations is the 80’s one.  (It makes Cooter crazy, which gets quite comical at times.)  When I hear one of the songs from way back when, and the lyrics all come flooding back without me even thinking, it amazes me.  And sometimes is a little embarrassing.

And then there are the times one comes along and gets stuck.  In my head.  All day long.  I think they call them earworms now, but back then, we’d just walk around complaining, “I have a song STUCK IN MY HEAD, and I can’t get it out.”

I don’t know how old I was when Daddy came up with the solution, but it seems like it’s been a part of our story for as long as I can remember.

“Sing Delta Dawn.  It will break up that song stuck in your head.”

And he was right.

Tonight I was thinking about that, and trying to remember who sang it originally.  After realizing it was not Helen Reddy, I remembered it was a very, very young Tanya Tucker.  I finally decided to look it up, and the cool thing is they both sang it.  (My memory is a little better than I thought, which is very encouraging after the week I’ve had.)  Tanya Tucker had a top ten country hit with it in 1972, and then Helen Reddy had a #1 hit with it in 1973.  And here’s what I found out that I had never known–Bette Midler also recorded it, and she planned to release it, but Helen Reddy’s version came out two days earlier.

Wow.

Bette Midler?  Delta Dawn?

Fascinating, but the truth is I couldn’t get through a whole stanza of her version.  VERY different, and just not the Delta Dawn I grew up with.

Except now I’m afraid the little bit I listened to of her version is my newest ear worm.

“Daddy, what happens if I sing ‘Delta Dawn’ and get rid of the song stuck in my head, but then Delta Dawn gets stuck in there?”

I don’t remember his exact answer, but I think it had something to do with it being a good song, so it would be okay, or it would eventually fade or something like that.

And so now, I guess I’ll do just that.  Go to sleep with a very slow version of ‘Delta Dawn’ in my head.  Unless Tanya and Helen can help me out.

What do you do to get rid of your earworms?

Tonight I’m thankful for this memory of my Daddy that made me smile.  I wonder what he’d think of Bette Midler’s version, but I’m pretty sure I already know.

May we all have a day of only the really good songs getting stuck…..

Love to all.

 

 

Click here for the link to the YouTube video of Helen Reddy’s version

Here for Tanya Tucker’s version

and finally, here for the Bette Midler one

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Bubba, the Lamb, and the Raspberries

A week or so ago I promised a story about my lamb Raspberry.  And so, true to my word, here it is.

Years ago, when I was 12 or so, I was in 4-H.  One of the activities we could participate in was raising a sheep for show.  I was all for it, and my Daddy was willing to help me, so we went to the auction.  The lamb I got had an 8 painted on his back, so I thought about calling him Eight Ball.  (My only friend with a two-story house also had a pool table, so I knew stuff–yessiree.)

After getting him home and in the pen Daddy had fashioned for him, my siblings were introduced.  My little brother Bubba, who was maybe 3 or 4, was fascinated with the gentle creature.  He helped me bathe him and lead him around with the rope.

One day Bubba came in the house with a couple of raspberries in his sweaty little hand.  He had picked them from the bushes out in the side yard–another 4-H project I think.  He offered them to Mama as a gift.  As she plucked them from his hand, she gushed with appreciation.  “Aren’t you kind to pick these and bring them to me?  What a sweet gift from a sweet boy.”  And then she popped them in her mouth and ate them with exaggeration, oohing and mmmmming.

“Oh good,” Bubba said, “’cause the lamb didn’t want them.”

Yep, turned out he’d offered those same berries to my lamb, who sniffed and mouthed at them but decided better of it.

And then my sweet Mama took my little brother in her arms, hid her disgusted face, hugged him and said, “Thank you very much for thinking of me.”

Ahem.

Bless her.

And from that moment on that story became part of our family lore, and the lamb who wanted none of the red jeweled berries earned that as his moniker.

Raspberry.

I miss my Mama.  You could give her a rock (and we often did), and she’d act like it was the greatest treasure on earth.  And no telling how many bookmarks I made her over the years, and she loved–and used–every single one of them.

Because she loved me.

That’s a big legacy to live up to.

May we all have someone who finds delight in whatever we have to offer, no matter how big or small, beautiful or not, previously “nibbled” or whatever–just loves it because they love us.

Love to all.

Raspberry and me--after he became Raspberry.

Raspberry and me–after he became Raspberry.

The Love Behind the Extra Leaves and Card Tables

I miss our big family get togethers from when I was little.

It doesn’t matter where. From my great Granddaddy’s to my Great Aunt’s to my Granny’s to Mama’s. I loved them all. The hustle and bustle of activity, tables or counters or stovetops groaning, laden with all kinds of good foods–and some that I wasn’t so fond of, but it didn’t matter.  In that setting, a no thank you helping was palatable.  Sweet foods were piled on the plates next to the casseroles.  Some casseroles were having an identity crisis and could have passed for both. (Pineapple cheese casserole, I’m looking at you.)  They had all the goodies of a church potluck, but these were even better–they were with our very own people.

I am still not quite sure how Granny fit all of us in her little house. But she did.  Some folks ate at the counter that ran between the kitchen and the living room.  Others ate at the card tables she set up for folks in front of the couch with chairs on the other side.  Still, how her four children, their spouses and all the grands fit in there, it boggles my mind. Never mind how she prepared enough food for all of us.  It was so good that you had to work not to eat too much, because tucked away in the back bedroom–first known as the “Cold Room” and then the “Pretty room” after its denim and red bandana curtain/bedding makeover–was all of the homemade candy Granny had been preparing.  Divinity, buckeyes, Marth Washingtons…..oh my land.  I just gained ten pounds sitting here drooling over the memory.  I’m pretty sure Granny’s love language must have been food.  If you left hungry, it was your own fault.

Gatherings with my Mama’s side of the family took place first at my Great Grandaddy’s house.  He had a big table, so we’d all gather round the table piled high with food.  What I remember the most from their house was breakfast before dawn (Granddaddy was a retired probate judge and farmer)–biscuits and red-eye gravy.  Excuse me, while I wipe away a tear.  Those things were melt in my mouth GOOD.  For dessert a four layer cake with lemon cheese icing was a given.

Oh me.

After Granddaddy passed, we’d gather at my Great Aunt’s house.  I think she’s on my mind especially today as it’s her birthday.  A few years back I planted a yellow rosebush on her birthday because they were her favorites.  I expect later on I’ll go cut one and bring it inside and smile at all the ways she shaped who I am.

I was beyond thrilled the year I was deemed old enough to go get the extra leaf for her table.  She and my Great Uncle had a lovely table, but what with it being just the two of them, they usually kept it as a small round table.  As we all arrived, there would be a conversation as to how many leaves we needed–one or two.  Then someone would go fetch the required number of leaves carefully from under my Great Aunt’s bed.

Oh my, what a precious moment.  The gently gliding it out from under the bed, wrapped in its sheet.  Then the careful unwrapping and folding the sheet and placing it aside for later.  I carried it upright with both hands through two doorways, calling out to my siblings with a voice that near trembled with the weight of my responsibility, “Move please.  Step out of the way.  Don’t bump me.”  I could NOT hit the walls or doorway with this treasured piece.  The process of dropping it in place and securing it always fascinated me.  After it was all together, it was time to set the table and watch my Great Uncle fry up the okra.  That and my Great Aunt adding almond slivers to the snap beans or a casserole or two were the finishing touches before we sat down to eat.

These days such gatherings are few and far between.  I miss there being more people than I can count, but knowing every face I saw.  I miss the ritual of preparing for the people. It was sacred, a moment of reverence, of appreciating and honoring and creating a place for each one gathered there.  Each one mattered.  Each one had a spot at the table, the card table, or the counter.  And in our hearts.

Today I’m thankful for these memories.  For the hush in my heart when I remember sliding the leaf out from under the bed and feeling the beautiful wood.  For the taste of foods I haven’t eaten in years.  For the smiles and laughter and “scooching” over just a bit to fit in one more person. Because there was always room for just one more.  Most of all, I’m thankful for my Daddy’s sisters who have continued this tradition in their own way.  Who continue to set a place and gather us all close.  The words “thank you” just don’t seem enough.  But I do appreciate them so much.

May you all find yourselves in need of an extra leaf or a card table–surrounded by the people you love.

Love to all.

Duplicate Prints

My Mama’s cousin made time for a visit with us on Tuesday as she made her way back home to Florida after a trip to North Carolina.  It is always good to see her for many reasons, but especially because she reminds me so much of all the ones we love and miss.  And that we can love and miss them together.  So many stories we can share and laugh about.

She brought with her some pictures that her Mama, my great Aunt, had kept and put in albums over the years.  Pictures of us–some were from her trips up to see us, but many were ones Mama had sent her when we were little and ones I sent when my own Aub was small.

And the magic words came to mind:

Duplicate prints

Remember when we took film to the Mart and dropped it in an envelope after writing our name and address and phone number on it?  And those boxes–matte or high gloss and…..single or duplicate prints?

I seem to remember that the duplicates weren’t really too much more expensive than the single prints, so I usually checked duplicate.  I can remember the excitement of opening up the prints and going through, making a pile of the second prints to share with different folks.

And now, what a gift these all are…..put together in an album…..glimpses of my childhood and the beginning days of being a Mama…..almost twenty years ago.

Yes, I was moved to tears.  That my Great Aunt had saved them all those years and put them into albums, the love just shone through.  But most of all, I smiled and held the pictures and the memories in them close, thankful they’d been given to me all over again.

Me and my sheep, Raspberry.  How he got his name is a story for another night.  Loving the 70's fashion statement I'm making here--or early 80's.  It all sort of ran together.

Me and my sheep, Raspberry. How he got his name is a story for another night. Loving the 70’s fashion statement I’m making here–or early 80’s. It all sort of ran together.

Maybe 8 or 9 here.  About Cooter's age.  And speaking of my little guy.....it's possible that maybe he might actually look like me.  This is the first time I realized it.

Maybe 8 or 9 here. About Cooter’s age. And speaking of my little guy…..it’s possible that maybe he might actually look like me. This is the first time I’ve realized it.

My Mama, doing what made her happiest, loving on her grand baby--my big girl--this was almost 20 years ago.  Where has the time gone?

My Mama, doing what made her happiest, loving on her grand baby–my big girl–this was almost 20 years ago. Where has the time gone?

Tonight I’m thankful for visits and memories and stories from the past.  For laughter and tears and hugs and pictures taken to save a moment for always, I give thanks.  Most of all, I’m thankful for the people and the love that each story and picture holds.

Wishing you all someone to share duplicate prints with, and the delight of finding treasures from the  past.

Love to all.

The Bird Who Read the Newspaper

This evening I saw a writing prompt that was one word long.

Newspaper.

An interesting choice of topics, I thought, all while the wheels were turning and one distinct memory came to mind.

Chiefy.

My Mama loved parakeets.  With my sister’s allergies to dogs and cats, we only had them outdoors, and my sister couldn’t really be around them very much.  She fell in love with birds, and so began the parakeet part of our family story.

By Moe Epsilon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Moe Epsilon (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

The one I remember the most was a beautiful blue and white bird who was named Chief Grey Cloud.  Chief or Chiefy for short.  He had more personality than a little bit.  He thought he was human, and he loved my Mama.  His Mama too, I guess, he would say.  When she went down the hall to her bedroom, he followed her.  Walking and waddling behind her.  He would call for her.  But the funniest thing was he read the newspaper with her.

Mama would sit down in her chair at the end of the table with her glass of tea.  She opened the paper up and started to read.  As happens with newspapers, sometimes there was a lot to read on a double page spread and sometimes very little.  Chiefy would stand there on the paper, waiting for her to turn it.  When she lifted the page, he would chirp and squawk and go running excitedly to the opposite side, eventually stepping off onto the table just in time for the paper to land.  Then he’d hop right back on and wait for her to finish reading that page.  It was their little dance, and it was funny to watch.  She loved reading the paper with him, and the chirps and squawks were of happiness, not fear that he was about to be smothered by the paper.

Silly, precious bird.

Many tears were shed when he left this world.

I’m thankful for the one word prompt that brought back this memory.  I am even more thankful for the picture in my mind and heart of Chiefy chirping happily and waddling/walking very quickly over to Mama to welcome her when she left this world and went on up to The House.  I know that was one happy reunion.  One I have not thought about before.

Mostly I give thanks for the little critters in this life who bring us so much happiness.   What wonderful gifts of laughter and joy they bring.

May you all have someone to call for you and follow you down the hall because they love you.  Love to all.

play ball

in all the hot summers of playing softball
under the bright summer sky
and watching baseball games
and coaching tee ball

the two rules I remember best
are don’t throw the bat
and keep your eye on the ball

all those little hands throwing balls
looking first to see that the person on the other end
was ready to catch
prepared
watching
aware

part of being a good team player

if only we were as careful,
intentional,
and deliberate
as we tossed our words around
at others

instead of hurling them
without looking
across the room
that is our playing field–
with no referees to call
us to sit the bench for our callous
or unsuitable behavior

we hurl
we hurt
and we lose the game

via Wikimedia Commons

via Wikimedia Commons