Sunday, September 16, 2018

Up, Up and Away!

Friday afternoon I took Liam to the Hot Air Balloon Glow (which was to take place at dusk) in Forest Park. We arrived at 3:30 p.m. to beat the crowds, but parking close was impossible.  It was a very long, hot (90 degrees) walk along winding, gravel paths, that all looked the same. I couldn't imagine how I would find my way back to my car in the dark.

By evening there were thousands of people on Art Hill and throughout the park relaxing on lawn chairs, blankets, and having picnics. But Liam never relaxes!

 He also has never met a stranger. He thinks everyone is his friend, and he asked the kids next to us to play tag and hide and seek with him. I am old and experienced. I brought food, beverages, bug spray, and I packed a wet wash cloth in a zip loc bag. We sure put that to good use.
 About 5:00 p.m. the balloon owners started pulling in and unloading their balloons onto sloping Art Hill, in front of the St. Louis Art Museum, where generations of kids have sledded in winter.

 We went right up to the fence so he could watch the balloons slowly inflate bigger than a house. Liam was so excited and exhausted from running all around. At 6:30 he asked to leave. So we headed back down the gravel paths and across foot bridges. I told him he would miss seeing the balloons glow when they illuminated them all at one time. He said he was too tired.

As we crossed the last bridge, one of the balloons lit up. He was as thrilled as I was. It took us an hour to get out of the park, because at 7:00 people were still arriving enmasse. When we pulled out into traffic we caught a glimpse through the trees of all the balloons glowing. Even though we did not stay until 9:30 for the fireworks display, we still had a thrill!

I told him the balloons would lay flat on the ground overnight, and on Saturday afternoon at 4:15 they would have the fox and hound race. All balloons would inflate again. One balloon would lift off, then fifteen minutes later, all the others would fill the sky as they chased it. He so wanted to watch them, but unfortunately I told him we would not be able to go, because his parents were picking him up at 5:00 p.m.

Liam woke me up at 6:30 talking to himself about the Balloon Glow. When his mom and dad came to pick him up, he was excited to tell them all about it. As they put him into the car seat, I yelled for them to let him out of the car. Off in the distance, the hot air balloons were drifting directly toward us. Liam was one happy little boy. Wind changed their predicted route and they came East instead of West... just for Liam.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Compelled to do SOMEthing



The Feelings Flag by Linda O'Connell

published in Chicken Soup for the Soul The Spirit of America, 2016


I stood in my living room and cringed at the sight of the first plane hitting the first of the Twin Towers. I thought, what an horrific accident. I felt terrible for the people on that plane, and for those in the World Trade Center building. I did not realize that the horror had only just begun.
I turned on my car radio on my way to work and listened intently to the reports. Then, I heard that another plane had made impact.

I arrived at school a few minutes later. No one was quite sure what was going on. Teachers were asking one another, "Did you hear about the plane crashes in NY?"
The gravity of the situation -America was under attack- was like a punch in the gut. We all felt winded, worried, and wounded.

My preschool classroom was in the lower level of an inner city middle school. What I remember most is the panicked young man in the hall who shouted at me, "America is at war!"

"Calm down," I said. "Don't jump to conclusions. Nobody knows for sure what's going on. This does not mean WAR."

They insisted they saw it on TV and that military jets were intercepting other planes.

I walked into my classroom, and watched as my students went about their school day, unaware of the attacks, I knew they were okay. My aide, Amy, was capable, so I left her in charge.

I felt compelled to do something patriotic to relieve the mounting tension and confusion the middle school students were feeling, although I was not in charge of any of them. I cut twelve-inch by two-inch strips of red, white and blue construction paper into strips, the kinds  kids use to create paper chains. I did not consult the principal or counselor. I acted on impulse. I visited each classroom and intruded on each classroom teacher. I asked each if might have a moment, then I said, "Nobody knows exactly what is going on. We've all heard rumors and news reports. It's a frightening time for all of us."

 I passed out strips of paper to the students and asked them to write what they were feeling at the moment. Any fears, any words— anything would be acceptable. Some asked about spelling, and some asked if they should sign it.

"If you want to," I said.

I collected more than 200 strips and rolled them into  loops, then I stapled them to the bulletin board in the cafeteria. I read an outpouring of emotional comments. "I am afraid." "I want to kick their behinds." "Bomb them." "Why did this happen?" "What now?" "I want to go home."

I posted one after another, row after row, until an American flag took shape. Some of the comments were laced with misspelled words and profanity; some were smeared with tears. I did not censor. I stapled every single one. I stood back and admired that "feelings flag".

At lunch I stood against the wall and observed teens and preteens, who were usually destructive with bulletin board displays, as they searched for their piece of that flag. I listened to them read their words aloud, owning their emotions, giving voice to their fears and frustrations, initiating conversations.

On that horrible day, when America came under attack, I didn't know if my actions would do any good. It just felt good to do something. 

My friend Tammy said, "With that spontaneous action, you gave children a voice when no one knew what to say."

The bulletin board flag stayed up for more than  a week. Then the strips began disappearing as individuals claimed their sections... and their feelings.


Thursday, September 6, 2018

Nature at its best and worst

Did your curiosity ever get the better of you? And were you able to conquer a fear?
We've seen cicadas flying about lately. Liam and I found a live cicada on the ground. 

 I picked it up and asked if he wanted to hold it. At first he said, "NO!" Then he saw it crawling in my hand and asked, "Will it bite?" I assured him it would not, so he asked to hold it. He was thrilled.
"Wow, Nana, his legs are spikey." He meant, sticky. I explained they are sticky so the cicada can cling to trees and other things. I told him he might find cicada shells on trees, as they shed them and emerge anew. Sort of like when a caterpillar leaves its "old clothes" in the cocoon and comes out a butterfly with wings.

At the park he told everyone the cicadas were going to leave their old clothes on trees. He and his little buddies searched the trees for cicada "clothes," but he found a painted rock, instead. Science and nature in your own backyard. Sometimes folks are in a big hurry and don't slow down long enough to discover the little things.

Are you trying new things? If you are a writer, are you considering a new genre or submitting to new venues? I have been stretching my wings, and waiting for a response from five publications. Waiting is the hard part. Writing is easy. Read about a hurricane at the link below.

http://sasee.com/2018/09/01/call-of-the-osprey/ Click on this safe link to read my latest story in Sasee Magazine.