Eliza Lynn Taylor

Eliza Lynn Taylor
Eliza Lynn Taylor Freelance Writer

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Happy Valentine's Day

Harrison walked into the office whistling. He stopped at his partner’s desk. “Hey, Gary. How’s it going?”

“Fine, I guess,” was the reply. Gary looked up from the spread sheet he was working on. “What got you in such a good mood?”

“I just scored tickets to that new play at the Grand. Jen is going to love it. That’s all she’s talked about for weeks. And I got a reservation for dinner afterwards.”

“Wow! What’s the occasion?” Gary asked.

“You mean you don’t know? Gary, it is Valentine’s Day.”

“Oh, I forgot. I wonder what I should do.”

Harrison clapped him on the back. “What did you do last year?”

“Nothing. I forgot then too.”

“Did Candice call you on it?” Harrison asked. His eyes were wide with curiosity. 

“Nope. She handed me a card and blew out the candles on the table. Of course she didn’t speak to me for a couple of days.”

“How about her birthday? You had to have done something nice on her birthday.” 

“No. I forgot until the last minute. All I could find on the way was a tee shirt with a kitten on it.” 
Gary shook his head. “I forgot she hates cats.”

Harrison snorted and turned his head to laugh. “Jewelry for Christmas?”

“I got her a gift certificate to a lingerie store. They had some pretty enticing stuff. But I can never remember her size.”

“Something you’d like to see her in?” Harrison asked.

“Yes, as a matter of fact,” Gary answered. “That doesn’t help for tonight.”

“How long have you two been married?” Harrison asked. “I’m just curious.”

“Ten years I think. I lost track.”

“So you don’t do anniversaries either I take it.”

“She understands. I’ve been working hard to get the business going.”

“Gary, we have been in business for years. We are doing really well. What is your problem?”

“I just haven’t thought about it.”

“Well maybe you should. Your marriage is just as important as this place. I’ve noticed you work late a lot. Do you even make it home to dinner?”

“A couple times. Usually she leaves me a plate to microwave.”

“I think you had better go get some flowers, a really big bouquet with roses, a bottle of wine, and maybe a take-out order from her favorite restaurant, if you even know what that is, and get home as soon as possible. I know her and she is a lovely and patient woman, but she is not going to sit around waiting on you to show how much you love her for much longer.” Harrison dragged Gary’s chair out from under the desk. “Now!”

Gary gave him a dirty look but got up and grabbed his jacket. He left the office and did what his friend suggested and headed home.

The lights were out when Gary got home. He glanced at his watch. “Kind of early for that.” He mumbled. He carefully carried the flowers and take-out to the house and opened the door. After he set it all on the table and looked around he noticed how quiet the house was. He went into the kitchen to get some plates and wine glasses. He found the envelope with his name on it attached to the refrigerator with a magnet.

“Gary, since you love your business more than me, I will leave you to it. I’m sure someone out there will appreciate me for what I can bring to the table and not forget all the little things that make a relationship work. Someone who will love me as much as I do him. Good luck with everything. P.S. Divorce papers are on the pillow. I’m sure you will find I have been more than reasonable. Just sign them and send them to the attorney’s office in the envelope. Goodbye, Candice.

Gary sat at the counter dividing the kitchen and dining room staring at the note. No ‘Love, Candice. No, “Sincerely, Candice. No X or O, Candice. Just ‘Goodbye”. Harrison was right. She wouldn’t put up with him for long. With tears on his face, he signed the papers.

It doesn't have to be extravagant or expensive. Just don't forget to show your love on the special occasions, like birthdays, anniversaries, and yes, Valentine's Day. Love and marriage takes care and nurturing, otherwise known as work. It won't take care of itself. Your significant other is significant for a reason. They are a priority, not an afterthought, not the bottom of the dreaded chore list. Make sure they know, don't assume they know, how you feel about them. 

A card, a homemade gift certificate with a promise to do something special together (and mean it), or if you have the money, a special gift or meal (in or out) can mean a lot. Tell them often and show them often. Amen!

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

2016 Presidential Election Results Will Be Questioned- a Commentary

At the time of this writing I have no idea who won the 2016 Presidential Election for the United States.

This election has been fraught with accusations of fraud, illegal activities, corruption, and personal character assassinations on both sides. The mainstream media has shown unprecedented bias which only serves to destroy the vary thing that made journalists so important- integrity and impartiality in reporting.

Several years ago former Vice-President Al Gore ran for election to take the place of Bill Clinton who had already served as president for 8 years. He demanded a recount because votes were not counted and a little something called a hanging chad in the Florida ballot punch cards. Everyone thought he was just a sore loser, and that may be so, but it was his right to challenge the tally, especially with the challenged ballots and uncounted ballots.

Donald Trump has already announced he will exercise his right to do the same thing in the event he doesn't win because there have been so many allegations of illegal activity against the democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. He is being called a sore loser before the ballots are even tallied or cast. Unfortunately, he is right to assume the tally may be skewed. There is technology that was not available in previous elections, and actually, it is not legal to use it. I'm talking about photographing or video taping anything going on in the voting booth. People are doing it anyway. It has become a civic duty for them to do so, as only reporting the issues with the electronic ballot system may not be enough. Video has been showing up from early voting to election day voting that the electronic ballots are not actually recognizing the results of the voters. In some cases it refuses to register anything that is cast for the Republican Party, and in other cases it is outright changing the votes from Republican to Democrat right before their eyes. This is ridiculous! Paper ballots were not counted and some actually destroyed rather than be counted for candidates in the Democratic party in order to guarantee the candidate the party preferred won the nomination.There are also reports of intimidation of voters is going on and poll workers wearing tee shirts supporting the democratic candidate. That advertising for a certain candidate thing is actually highly illegal. Pamphlets, handbills, signage, or soliciting votes in any way is actually illegal within so many feet of a polling place. (Check for local ordinances on distance.)

What the hell is going on in this country people? This is the United States of America! We founded the idea of fair, free, and democratic elections. We often send the United Nations in to other countries to try to guarantee the same right to their citizens. I never thought I would see the day that the United States would need UN observers to monitor OUR elections to make sure they are fair and un-tampered with. We may be facing a civil war type atmosphere over this election when the results are revealed because people will just not believe the results one way or the other. Why should they?

Please try to remember when this is all said and done that we are one nation - indivisible, who has proven time and again that we can get through anything as long we stand together. Curb your tendency toward violence if this doesn't go your way. 

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Just Passing Time

Leanne sat on the porch swing with her eyes closed, earbuds in, listening to music on her IPhone. A warm breeze blew her hair across her face occasionally and she swiped it away. Her head bobbed slightly to the beat of the song. A butterfly lighted on her nose, tickling it until she sneezed. 

“Bless you, dear,” her grandmother said.

Leanne opened her eyes. Her grandmother was sitting in her rocking chair crocheting an afghan blanket, her usual afternoon activity.

“Thanks, grandma,” she replied. “Are you still working on that thing?”

“That thing is an afghan. It’s a type of blanket, but smaller, to cozy up with when it gets chilly,” she corrected.

Leanne looked closer and noticed that it was different than the one she had seen her making the last time. “How many is this one?” She had gotten up and walked the short distance to the chair and then squatted next to her grandmother.

“Five or six so far,” she told her. “I forget,” she added with a shrug of her shoulders.

“But why so many?”

“It’s a good way of passing time,” her grandmother told her. “It’s productive, unlike sitting on the swing with those things in your ears bobbing your head all day.” She looked at Leanne and made a face.

Leanne giggled. “I suppose I do something else at the same time.”

“You have to be able to multitask to do that.”

“I can multitask. I just don’t do it,” Leanne stated. “I do it in school all the time and school is out now.” She stood up and went back to the swing. “Grandma?” she said, absently pushing the swing back and forth with her feet. ‘It’s summertime. Why are you making all those afghans?”

“Well, if I wait until winter comes, it will be too late to use them.”

I should have seen that one coming! Leanne thought. “What do you do with them all, grandma?”

“I give them to the veteran’s home mostly, and some to the various nursing homes around town. 
Some people don’t have any family or they put them there and forget them. I am fortunate in that I have family, I’m healthy, and my family wants me around. If I can brighten their day and give them something nice to snuggle up with, I feel good and they feel good. Win-win!” She smiled at Leanne.

“Oh, I get it. It’s like when mom and I are in the kitchen baking cookies for the church shut-ins. We are passing time together and doing something good at the same time.”

“Well, that’s one way to look at it,” her grandmother said.

Leanne sat there a minute thinking. She pulled her earbuds out. “Grandma, I’d like to make those too, but I don’t know how to crochet.”

“Well, drag up a chair and I’ll teach you. That way we can pass time together.”

“And,” Leanne added sheepishly, “I can be productive and maybe hear some stories about mom growing up.”

“Oh! That would be just fine. Oh, the stories I could tell!” her grandmother assured her, smiling.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dirt to Run My Fingers Through

It's been thirty-six years since I've been to Macon. I do hope things will be better there in Georgia than here. The newspapers say we're surely on our way out of the 'depression', whatever that is. I guess we were never rich enough to notice when banks went broke, we never had a dime in one, but we also had a hard time making a dime on our farm.

I was eight years old the summer of 1899 when Papa decided to move the family to Kansas for a fresh start. He said the earth was played out and he couldn't get anything to grow anymore. It was a small parcel to begin with; only twenty acres and he share cropped another fifteen, but when the farmer died who owned the fifteen his son sold the place and they wouldn't let us share crop anymore.

 "Papa, are you going to sell this place?" I asked.

"No child," he answered. "One of you younguns might want to come back some day. It'll be waiting for you."

We loaded our big wagon, hitched up the horses and headed to Kansas. Our poor cow, tied to the back, lost so much weight from the walk she quit giving milk. Papa traded her in Missouri for a heifer due to drop her calf in a couple of months. It wouldn't have been a fair trade but she got bred to the wrong bull and they figured the calf would be too big and maybe kill 'em both when it was born. The farmer was willing to fatten out our older cow and see if she could be a good cow again, or he could eat her; either way he figured to win.

We arrived in the dead heat of the summer. Mama was about to have her own baby and the travel was real hard on her. The man in town that sold Papa the 'new' farm had told him the roof blowed off the house in a twister earlier in the year. But there was an old soddie that might work 'til he could put on a new roof. I found out quick just what a soddie really was; a hole dug into the side the hillside with a dirt floor and a dirt roof. The front was made of layers of sod. It looked more like a glorified cave to me. Papa said it would be a good root cellar when the house was fixed.

Papa and me cleared a field and dragged the cottonwood trees back to the house. He made what he called rafters to support the roof. Then he cut shingles out of other trees and nailed them to the rafters. We were real tired after so many weeks of working dawn to dark, but we got it done and Mama said she was real proud of us
Mama had a baby boy, Adam, just after we got moved into the new house. She prayed every night for him to stay healthy. She had already lost three children to a bad influenza back in Georgia. We never did figure out how come I was spared.

I had to go get Papa out of the field he was plowing to plant hard winter wheat when the heifer tried to have her calf. She was having considerable trouble. Mama didn't want me to watch because she said it wasn't fitting for a young girl to see such things, but Papa told her it was nonsense. I lived on a farm and that's just what happened on farms. He managed to save them both and that was the biggest, prettiest calf I ever saw.

We planted a fall garden, but an early frost got some of it. Papa's winter wheat made it through all right though. I helped with loading fire wood onto the wagon for Papa when I wasn't helping Mama clean the house and watching my little brother.

I remember that one day a couple of years later I heard a knock at the door and when I opened it there stood two men with reddish skin, dark eyes, and long, black hair dressed in buckskins with a rifle over one shoulder and a pack of some sort over the other. All I could do was stare. We had never had Indian visitors before and I thought they were all on the reservation.

Mama finally pushed me to one side so she could talk to them. They were traveling north and one of their party took sick and they had stopped a few days to let him rest. They'd already gone through most of their provisions, which would have lasted the entire trip had they not stopped. They were nearly out of food and had almost no ammunition. Mama gave then some flour and corn meal and a few potatoes. She said she couldn't spare anymore than that with her family to feed. They said they understood and thanked her. Then one of them took off his pack and gave Mama a few animal skins and a pouch of little colored beads. Mama accepted the gift and they were on their way. She said she had heard they would trade for anything they got because they didn't like to have things just given to them. She didn't want to offend their pride so she took what they offered. Come Christmas my brother got a small fur hat and a coat and shoes made from the hide after the hair had been removed, and I got a beautiful crocheted broach with the little colored beads woven into the pattern. I was very proud of it. 

The winters were cold but we kept warm with comforters and quilts Mama had made. I lost count of the birds I had to pluck to get the fill for those comforters, but they sure were warm.

After we planted the garden we all got a pouch tied around our waists full of seed corn saved from the year before and we planted a row at a time until the field was done. Papa marked the rows and made sure we didn't run out of seed as we poked a stick in the dirt and dropped in the seeds. It us a full week, but we got it done and had a real nice crop too. We had enough put away for us for the winter, to feed the animals, and even to sell some. Papa said he was proud of us for working so hard to bring in a good crop.

Mama made me go to school in the fall. She said I was old enough to learn reading, writing, and figuring my sums. I couldn't go all the time, but often enough to learn something. I had a sister, Belle, and another brother, Jessie, by then and she said we would all go, but as my brothers got older the more of my previous jobs they seemed to get. I got stuck in school learning and at home learning how to cook and sew. My sister Bell didn't mind, but I did. I wanted to be outside working in the dirt, barefoot. Mama did have a time getting me to wear shoes.

It was up to the children to get in the last of the vegetables from the garden before the snow hit. We could see it coming for days. We just barely got them all in, but at least the canning kept us all too busy to worry about all that snow.

A late season twister came through and Papa had to plant the wheat all over again. It was beginning to be a pretty regular thing, so Papa started planting it later. It was barely up when everybody else's was all pulled up and ruined. He still had his crop though.

I'll never forget the excitement when one day Papa found that old hollow tree full of honey. He was scouting for trees to cut for firewood for the stove and for winter and came across a swarm of bees. He said that tree fairly dripped of honey. He donned a long-sleeved shirt and gloves and a big hat. Mama wanted to cover his hat with cloth to keep the bees out but he said he couldn't see what he was doing. He took an old can of oil and stuffed a piece of burlap feed sack in it and then lit it on fire. He said he was going to smoke the bees out and take their honey, but not all of it on account of they had to eat too. He brought home two big wooden barrels of it and said there was lots more, but he wouldn't be greedy about it, especially since they seemed to be getting mad at him. He got stung several times but he didn't seem to mind. He said it was worth it, and that honey sure was good. Mama was forever shooing us younguns out of it. 

There were a couple of years of drought and no matter what we did that corn just would not grow much more than we could eat or the animals could eat. We hauled water up from the creek for the garden, but not as much as we would have liked. Papa was afraid it would dry up too. We used as little as possible ourselves.

In 1905 a twister hit. It tore off part of the roof and a good many of the boards on the front of the house. Papa salvaged as many of the shingles as he could and put them back on but it still leaked so he patched it with pitch and tar. The boards were only good for kindling and he couldn’t afford lumber. Our trees weren't big enough to cut for the boards either, so he made a deal in town for some thick black stuff he called tar paper and some nails. He said that would have to do for walls until he could afford the boards. The house seemed harder to heat and drafty after that.

By 1906 there were eight of us kids in the house, two of which were twins. The house was very full. Papa and Mama talked about making the house bigger, even though there wasn't even enough money to replace the tar paper on the walls. 

Papa had barely got the garden plowed for Mama's spring garden when she told him about number nine.

A few weeks later an epidemic of the influenza made its way to the area. People were dying everywhere. Mama had her hands full for sure. Papa coughed more every day and finally took the fever and chills. If Mama hadn't threatened to tie him down to the bed, he'd have gone out even then
A neighbor boy whose family had already been through it came to milk the cow and feed the animals for Mama.

We got weaker every day because we couldn't keep anything down and we couldn't stay awake long enough to figure out what might settle good and eat it. When the children started dying off Mama sent for the doctor to come back. We lost John, he was six, Chester, he was three, and Jessie. The neighbor boy helped Mama bury them. She was so tired she couldn't even cry.

The doctor gave Mama the last of his quinine and said he didn't know what else he could do for our family. He was worried about Mama too. She hadn't gotten sick and neither of them could figure out why. They were worried her baby could get hurt by it though. She was exhausted but kept on going, and he was afraid she'd collapse at any moment. She thanked him for his concern, but wouldn't slow down for a minute.

 She gave us the quinine and tried to feed us toast and chamomile tea when we were awake. She prayed a lot too. When four year old Ruth died Mama became more desperate than ever. She said she wasn't losing anymore of her babies. She kept a big pot of tea always made on the stove to keep hot and a big stack of toast next to it. She started waking us up every thirty minutes or so one at a time to feed us just one or two bites and a sip of tea. She only stopped long enough to put a fresh cool cloth on our fevered heads. At night she dozed in her rocking chair by the fire, but awoke at every sound or groan from one of us. 

When I finally got where I could sit up without getting dizzy and hold down food better, I helped Mama. I sat in the bed replacing cloths on the heads of my sisters and fed then the toast, though Mama always insisted she do the tea because she wanted it to stay hot and she was afraid I wasn't strong enough yet not to spill it on them. I guess I was still pretty weak because I did my share of sleeping. Mama said that was all right because I needed sleep to get better.

Papa was down for nearly a month and it was too late to plant the corn when he was able to get out of the bed. Mama made him stay inside and regain his strength. That took another week or so. He felt bad because he said we might actually get rain and the crop would produce like it was supposed to. Mama just told him not to worry about it and grinned to herself like she had a secret that no one else knew about. And she did.

 Mama made Papa promise not to overdo it trying to catch up on things before she'd let him out of the house. Imagine his, and our, surprise to find that our neighbors had gotten together and planted our corn. They took turns making the rows and got it all done in less than a day. They did ours first because Papa already had the field plowed. Then they'd move on to the next neighbor, plowing and planting until everybody's was done. Papa shared his corn with them when it was ready. It was our best crop ever and Mama said it was because it was sowed with love and human kindness. Through the years we all tried to remember that lesson.

When it was all done and over and everyone was back on their feet, Mama took to her bed and we waited on her for a while. She surely did deserve it. She cried for her lost children but said she couldn't stay down for long. Life had to go on even though she'd miss each of them terribly every single day for the rest of her life. She still missed the three she had lost in Georgia so she knew what she was talking about. The dark circles under her eyes eventually did go away and somehow she managed to have healthy twin boys, Charles and Jefferson.

 We didn't lose any more family members after that and Mama had three more children, Sara, Virginia, and Andrew.

 We all learned to read and write and figure like Mama wanted us to. It was just as well; between the droughts and the high winds, and the constant replanting in the same place over and over, the top soil is gone. Now they call this area The Dust Bowl. You can't grow a thing. The children are all grown with families of their own and like the topsoil, they have scattered across the country with the wind.

 I don't feel bad about leaving because I guess Mama and Papa are together in heaven watching over all of us. Mama passed two years ago and Papa a year later. He said he just couldn't live without her anymore.

 In 1908 I married that neighbor boy who helped Mama during the influenza outbreak. We had five children and even they have grown and moved off with their families; the youngest was married just six months ago. In spite of this 'depression' we are supposed to be in the old family homestead in Georgia is still in the family and waiting for me. At least there I'll have dirt to run my fingers through once more and it might actually grow something. Tired as I am, I can hardly wait.