Tag Archive: Memories

Day Three

From NaPWriMo.net:

I challenge you to write a charm – a simple rhyming poem, in the style of a recipe-slash-nursery rhyme. It could be a charm against warts, or against traffic tickets. It could be a charm to bring love, or to bring free pizzas from your local radio station.

For Sarah.


A charm to help you know the truth

A picture of us right by the sea,
A necklace that you made for me,
The cakes from parties your friends all adored,
One Monkey Too Many, in case you get bored,
The lullabies, sung with exhausted love,
And pick any Michael Jackson-type glove,
For perspective, the eye of a household fly,
And a journal that proves I wasn’t a spy,
A clock that shows all this ticking time,
And a sentence, far too big for the crime –
Toss them all right into the pot,
Now I pray you remember all you forgot.

~Liesl Dineen, 2014

Let the sun shine in

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Dad, 2013, shooting the sunrise over Myrtle Beach S.C.

When my sisters and I were kids, we traveled a lot in the Summer. Our parents both worked for the public schools, and camping was a cheap and effective way of seeing the sights. I didn’t know we didn’t have a lot of money by the way, that sort of thing just never came up. We took things as they came, and I know I asked for a lot more than I got, but the same can be said of a rich kid who has more than I  can imagine. Kids…

Anyway, we saw so much. One Summer, I was 5 or 6, we took the Chevy convertible and the Cox camper and drove from New York state to California and back. I didn’t appreciate the heroics of taking 3 girls under 10 on a journey like this until decades later. The car was hot. It overheated often enough that each time spent waiting to get going again has blurred into an amalgam in my memory, and it lives as only one experience, rinse, repeat. My dad may have cursed about it, but if he did, I don’t remember. I just remember him adding water and the waiting. And of course, I remember bickering with my sisters, arguing over the small amount of space we had in that car. I remember getting car sick in most every state we passed through. I’m relatively proud of how many states I’ve thrown up in actually. Sorry parents.

The thing I remember most though is the views. The things we stopped to watch, the things we drove by. Incredible things, Grand Canyon, fields of gold, the view coming down Pike’s Peak (we lost power steering on the way down, and I was sure we’d die, but it was as beautiful as it was terrifying). And mostly, the sunsets. My father has taken tons of photos of sunsets over his years. He would often stop the car, and just as often slow down and tell us to be quiet and look out the window at the gorgeous sunset. He wanted us to gasp in awe, and we really should have. I don’t think we did though. I’d like to say I remember gasping in awe. I do, however, remember the sunsets. I did look. And I don’t know when it finally sank in, but at the ripe old age of 47 I can say that now I remember the sunsets over plains and mountains, canyons, and through ridiculous heat that you could see rising in waves from the earth. I remember, and I’m so grateful for the sunsets, and for a father who wouldn’t give up on making us stop and appreciate what was right in front of us.

I don’t think I stopped the car often to show my kids the sunset. But I slowed down an awful lot. And I nagged them, and forced them to put down the Gameboys and LOOK! I hope to God that they remember some day, and torment their own kids with the beauty of sunsets they won’t appreciate until later on. I’m not sorry for nagging. I’m only sorry I didn’t completely stop the car more often, and take more pictures.

I’m reading this chapter of a very good book right now that describes the inextricable link between joy and gratitude. It’s gratitude that brings joy so often, according to people who manage to be joyful on a regular basis. While I’m working on the joy, I couldn’t be more grateful for the sunshine, and the stubborn will of parents who know something the children will eventually know for themselves, if they’re very lucky.

I just spent the weekend at the beach with my father and stepmother. I was the first one up, at 7:30 Saturday, just in time to take some snapshots of a gorgeous sunrise. I was giddy with it. And I’d beaten my dad – he missed this one. But the next day, I peeked out my blinds at 7:32 and saw him on the deck, camera in hand, fully focused. I snapped my fingers old-school style; darn it, he’d beaten me. I rushed into my robe and hustled outside anyway.

I snuck up on my dad, took a couple pictures of him and the sunrise with my phone, and then announced myself. He laughed, but didn’t stop shooting. And that was awesome.

I killed a squirrel, once.

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It’s true. I was 11. I lived in a fairly citified neighborhood after growing up in the burbs, and I was trying to find my way in the “big” city. Really, Rochester NY is not that big, but when you’re 11 and your main play space is the art gallery park (which was part pavement, part grass, and had this big rock which was popular with the pot-smoking teens), you feel pretty cool.

I was what the other kids called a “tomboy” and I probably still fit that, but at that age it made me nuts when they said it. So I was all into jeans, sneakers, and t-shirts and I could climb a tree faster than most, so what? Gender roles have always confused me.

So at 11 I was still trying to prove… something. The boys in the neighborhood found me amusing I think. They were always challenging me to stuff. And this one day I was out with this slingshot, I have no idea where it came from anymore. I was pretty good with it, but I’d never in a figurative million years aim at an animal if I thought I would actually hit it. But those boys, they told me I was a useless girl and couldn’t hit the broad side of something or other (I mean, I’m paraphrasing because there were no barns anywhere within 20 miles, just asphalt, and I doubt they’d ever actually heard that phrase anyway).  Of course I stood up for myself, something clever like “Oh yeah?” I was always coming up with clever things like that.

Then they made the Big Dare. They dared me to hit that squirrel up there in the tree. And by the way, life in the city being what it was, the boys handed me a piece of broken glass to use. We didn’t have much, but we made do, you know? So you know how dares go. You can never win. Walk away and you’re a chicken (bawk bawk), stay and try and you suck. Or, you could take aim and kill a squirrel. Seriously,  I was completely sure I would never hit it. But I never used to back down. I’m fairly sure I’m not still like that, but please don’t test me, the results could be fatal.

So I shot, and the squirrel surprised the hell out of all of us by falling out of the tree, dead. I still can’t believe that really happened, but the memories of the sound of it falling, and of all three of us scattering in different directions stays with me. I ran home, threw my slingshot in the garbage and cried for a long time. Then I cried more, vowed never to take up arms again, apologized to everything living and dead. I’d wanted to prove I was powerful and competent, but I didn’t want the power over life and death.

To be fair, the boys were damn impressed. It was a boost to my rep at a time when I needed it, but I couldn’t brag like they wanted me to. I stopped taking dares, probably. I’m not positive really, because we moved away sometime fairly soon after that, to a small town where nobody knew I was a killer. In an ironic twist, I became famous at a retreat once for my dead squirrel jokes. (Why did the squirrel fall out of the tree? It was dead.) Hey, we all cope in our own ways.

I told my kids about it once, when I think my son wanted to shoot squirrels with his airsoft gun, and I was a little freaked out. I was hoping to make a point about the sanctity of life, or maybe not taking stupid dares,  but I think what came across was “Mom is a big mushy mess when you remind her that she killed a squirrel, so use it whenever you want to get away with something.” My kids are wicked smart that way.

The last few years, I’ve been working on putting the past behind me in a healthy way. It’s hard because things are constantly being dredged up and I’m challenged to remember every terrible thing I said or did. Some of them I did, and not others, and some I can’t remember or never even knew about. But I’m sorry. Also I killed a squirrel, and I’m sorry for that. I’ve honestly never meant to hurt anyone*, even that poor squirrel in the tree. But I need to try to move on now, because if I carry every bit of guilt I feel, I won’t be able to go to work and feed my family. And trust me, they eat a lot.


*Okay, there was a girl I sort of beat up once, and I meant to at the time, but it felt terrible afterwards, and she never let me get close enough to apologize.

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