Old Screen Doors, Friends, and Mayonnaise Sandwiches

“How many slams in an old screen door? Depends how loud you shut it. How many slices in a [loaf of] bread? Depends how thin you cut it. How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.” ― Shel Silverstein

Shel’s words put me to thinking of old screen doors, flapping in the breeze. I like quotes…other people’s quotes because I’m not bright enough to create my own. I’m a lot like an old screen door. How many slams do I have left?

The old door’s paint is an silver gray that was once white. In places bare wood shows, the paint worn away from the many hands pressing against it. I remember the slam it makes as it shuts behind you. A shout from one of the grownups, “Quit slammin’ the door!!!!”

A portion of the screen shows rust, ready to crumble if touched. The spring that pulls the door shut is sprung, not doing its job as well as it did when it was first hung.

My hinges are still intact but operate with a rusty squeak. Like the old door, with a little help, I’m able to do the job of filling the space I was first hung to fill. Just push the door closed gently and don’t make me move too quickly.

I don’t know how many slices of bread I have left in my loaf. I’m sure those that I have are dry like toast, and a bit moldy. Looking in a mirror, I’m thinkin’ moldy hardtack. Is it an age thing to contemplate your future as you look back on your past?

As the size of the loaf decreases, I wonder, “Is it better to slice them thin or cut the slices thick?” I do love my carbohydrates but to carry the metaphor further, “Isn’t it what is on the inside of the sandwich that makes the sandwich?” A fresh tomato sandwich is just a mayonnaise sandwich if you hold the tomato. Isn’t the bread there to soak up the sweet juices of the tomato and the tartness of the Dukes Mayonnaise? There may be a metaphor there too. Doesn’t our outward glow come from the juices within?

The rest of Shel’s quote deals with what is on the inside and I’m not sure about that either. “How much good inside a day? Depends how good you live ’em. How much love inside a friend? Depends how much you give ’em.”

I’m not doing a tremendous job of “living” my days well. If living them good requires productivity, I’m empty. I have plenty to do…I’m just not doing it. I choose instead to frolic with my new puppy or author essays that you people don’t read. Well, I must do some grass mowing and weed eating…tomorrow.

I have two close friends, my bride, and the legend Hawk. I’m lucky to know two people I can count on…outside of my family…maybe. Granted, they may grumble a bit…especially my bride. I feel inadequate when I compare their friendship to my friendship toward them. Is it enough to just be there? I feel I should do more. Are they investing more than I?

I need to be less contemplative. I feel inadequate when it comes to my family too.

Elbert Hubbard is quoted, saying, “A friend is someone who knows all about you and still loves you.” I do agree. It’s good to have someone to talk to who won’t judge you and holds on to my secrets like a miser pinching a penny. Thoughts I would never tell my wife I tell Hawk, and vice versa.

Friends are comfortable with each other. Comfortable to sit and listen and reframe from commenting. No opinion, no commentary, no judgement. Just a simple nod of the head. Comfortable to tell the truth when asked without fear of someone getting their nose out of joint.

Comfortable like your favorite jeans…or a worn-out screen door. They don’t even seem to mind when it slams behind you. Okay, maybe I’m a better friend than I supposed. I listen and nod my head a lot.

Now if I can answer the question, “Cut the bread thin or thick?” I think thick…go for the gusto and make sure the tomato is thick too…add a grilled hamburger with lettuce and onions. You get from life what you put into it. My grandmother would have said, “You reap what you sow.” I would say, “If you don’t take the time to plant them, there won’t be a tomato slice in your sandwich.”

Don Miller writes on various subjects in various genres. His author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR2Tt2GKJxfLHrqnRj07OkDGGWGHSd2QDPwTSQgohR3DMnLhAvDoeDL8nGY

Spinnin’ Plates…?

“Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.
― Orson Scott Card, Alvin Journeyman

I have a memory of speeding us home from MYF to claim my front row seat. The seat was in our living room, in front of a black and white RCA TV. Ed Sullivan was coming on and could not be missed. Every Sunday evening at eight we expected, “A really big shew!” The night of my remembrance was The Beatles, but I remember many other acts with dimming clarity. Some more than others and some that have become metaphors in my dimming brain.

Ed Sullivan

My memory was triggered by another memory, which was triggered by a conversation. A simple comment I made about the complexities of life. A comparison to an incomplete story, incomplete because the story had too many moving parts. Too many spinning plates wobbling as I try to bring my story to its conclusion.

From the conversation a rabbit hole opened, beckoning me to fall in and I obliged it. Slide on over Alice, I’ve come to join you. Set a place for me at your tea party preferably next to the Mad Hatter. We have much in common, especially our insanity.

The memory of Ed Sullivan led me to the memory of a tuxedo clad man with a bad haircut running hither and yon attempting to keep bowls spinning on dowls and plates spinning on the table the dowls sat on. As their spin began to slow, the plates or bowls would begin to wobble. The tuxedo clad man would run first to one and then to another while carrying a tray with glasses, eggs, and cutlery that he would perform ‘amazing’ tricks with while keeping the bowls from crashing to the floor.

The tuxedo clad man was Erich Brenn. His act was pure circus, but it reminded me of the circus that life has become for so many. Spinning plates have become a metaphor for life.

I’m retired. Life doesn’t get much simpler. Life is so simple my biggest struggle is to remember what day of the week it is or what time of day it might be. As simple as it is, I still remember and long for simpler times. What about those who now find themselves spinning plates in the Twenty-First Century?

Both my parents worked in the Twentieth Century. Shift work in a cotton mill weave room. Sometimes my dad would ‘work over’. An extra four hours here and there. Even working over he was always home in time for supper, the evening meal in the South. They owned their home, made payments on a new car every four or five years, and there was always food on the table. I never wanted for anything that was needed. Admittedly there were disagreements over what was ‘needed’.

They had time to have a life outside of the heat, humidity, and lint of a weave room. The job ended with the closing of the huge, sliding doors that separated ‘in there’ from the ‘out there’. They didn’t carry the job home with them…at least in their heads. They might have been bone weary, but they weren’t mind numbed. They didn’t have to work two or three jobs to make ends meet. They had money to put away for a ‘rainy’ day.

They had time, an irreplaceable commodity, to smell the roses. Time to do chores, work a crossword puzzle, paint by numbers, go to choir practice, or host the Canasta Club or just watch TV. Time to be parents. Time to do nothing if they wanted. What happened?

The modern world happened. Life morphed into something that would not be recognized in the Fifties, Sixties, or Seventies. Life has reverted to the early days of the Industrial Revolution…to the Great Depression, long hours as pay hasn’t kept up with cost. The Greatest Generation should be shaking their heads in disbelief. Life now resembles Erich Brenn’s spinning plate novelty act.

Today, many families of four can’t survive on one salary, are stretched to survive on two, can’t own a home, are forced to keep a ten-year-old vehicle running for five more years. In many cases, they are working multiple jobs and still making decisions on which bills to pay, which meds to take, living from paycheck to paycheck, one calamity away from being thrown to the curb. One disaster from living in their car or a cardboard box. Spinning plates.

This was before Covid, before runaway inflation, before soaring gas prices, before more rumors of war in the Ukraine turned out not to be rumors. Life is hard for this newest generation and looks worse for the next. Forget saving for a better life, saving for a house or college for their kids. It’s hard to save when catsup soup is the soup de jure.

I wonder how many more plates are being spun…or shattering as they fall to the floor.

I worry about my daughter, son-in-law, and grandbabies. They are lucky and I hope they realize it. I’m sure some days they wonder too. I’m sure they must make tough decisions. They both work, have good jobs, and both are home for supper. Sometimes my electrician son-in-law works side jobs but most days he’s doing taxi service to one practice or another. They sound much like my parents.

They are great parents. They amaze me. They put their children first…sometimes to their own detriment. I worry they are wearing themselves out sprinting in the rat race of life. No chance to slow down and smell the roses. Spinning those plates. They can call on family members when the schedule spins out of control, or when life adds a plate to the table. So far, no plates or bowls have come crashing down. Still, I worry.

Many young parents don’t have the support to soften the blow of falling bowls and I am sorrowful. Many grandparents who were once the support system still must work, still spinning plates themselves.

Spinning plates shouldn’t be a metaphor for life…yet it is. It is a metaphor for the fear many experience. One broken plate from going bust.

My parents had a dream their ‘baby boys’ would have a better life than they did. A better life was the same dream their parents had and a dream I had for mine. For some that dream was realized. For others, the deck was stacked against them from the beginning and has become dog-eared over time.

We keep being told that the American Dream is still alive. All you must do is work hard. I think that is a lie and for the coming generations that dream may be a nightmare.

***

As madly as we spin plates, I can’t help but point out that at least I’m not having to manufacture and use Molatov cocktails, and my grandchildren are not having their blood type sewn onto their clothing by their parents. I’m not living in a makeshift bomb shelter with a pet in my lap. To my Ukrainian friends, known and unknown, Любов і удача. Love and good luck.

Image is from https://wordwranglers.blogspot.com/2016/02/spinning-plates-and-shiny-objects.html

Don Miller’s author’s page may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR03_CNDnl9zP1PUcuPq3gRcw2MxMBnxKv6-Xb07S_k4BEx3dP81Yk912HY

Don Miller’s newest offering is “Pig Trails and Rabbit Holes”

Fair Winds

The warm and freshening breeze blowing across the lake brought memories flowing as swiftly as the breeze itself. Most were as warm as the wind driving them. The ones that weren’t were forced away by the bright sunshine.

According to the sign the trail we walk is 1.25 miles. I don’t believe the distance is accurate, but the lake it surrounds is much too small for me to be thinking about sailing.  Yet I was.

Ordinarily my bride would have had me talking or listening to her prattles, pointing out strangely shaped mushrooms or having me wait impatiently as she took pictures of the waterfall she has taken pictures of for the past three hundred and sixty-five days. Instead, she was quiet, as deeply into her own thoughts as I was in mine.  I did not know her thoughts, scary I’ll admit, but I knew mine. 

As I watched the wind driven ripples race across the lake, I thought of a twenty-two-foot sloop with a Bermuda rig from a time far, far distant. Mostly I thought of the people who crewed the boat…some gone but not forgotten.

The warm for November breeze stiffened in my face as I thought, “This would be a great day to be sailing,”  or for partying with friends while sailing.

In my mind’s eye I saw the white sailboat on a close haul, mainsail and jib pulled in tight, the sails singing as the wind’s pressure heeled the boat, the gunnels dipping perilously toward the water. I see us scurrying to the high side to keep from being capsized.  The high side of life?

Battling the tiller for control of the rudder as the speed and water pressure builds. Could this be a metaphor for life…my life? Where did my runaway thoughts come from and why did I quit sailing?

The little boat, narrow of beam with a swing keel, was quick and nimble with her racing rigged main and jib.  I’m surprised I remember any nautical terms; it has been nearly forty years since I gripped the tiller with an unsteady hand.

“Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be.  Just a dream and the wind to carry me, and soon I will be free.”  Damn, Christopher Cross is playing in my head…can “Southern Cross” by Crosby, Stills, and Nash without Young be far behind.  “So we cheated and we lied and we tested, and we never failed to fail it was the easiest thing to do. You will survive being bested, somebody fine will come along make me forget about loving you…
And the southern cross.”

It was in the late Seventies when I was invited to my first of many sailing weekends.  “Bring a date, spend the weekend.  You’ll love it.”  I did. Bill, Koon, Bobbi, Sybil, myself and a date.  There were a few others who sailed in and out on occasion.

Six of us on a small sailboat on a large inland lake in South Carolina.  Coolers filled with adult beverages or the mixers for a liquor drink.  The alcohol loosened our tongues and greased our laughter. Bill, our captain, always managed to sail us back to our home port, sometimes in the dead of night.

Too much liquor, well grilled steaks, great friends sitting around a wood fire, and a plus one…whomever she might have been at the time, there were not that many. ..or there were too many. Laughter was abundant. Good times. 

Any good time you survive should qualify as a great time.  Great times.  Somehow, we survived our youthful foolishness.  I remember nothing but clear, bright sunshine and fair winds…am I dreaming? No, I don’t think so.

Taking the tiller for the first time, I might well have been at the wheel of the Queen Anne’s Revenge awaiting Blackbeard’s next order.  “Arrr, let them eat steel maties”…or have another mixed drink.

Manning the tiller may be a metaphor for my life.  Sometimes it is hard to stay on course. Life, like tacking against the wind, tends to be made in zigs and zags.  Some zigs are short, some zags exceptionally long…or seem that way. Coming about into the wind can have painful outcomes if you aren’t paying attention.

For some reason my sailing days came to an end.  The storms of depression left me dead in the water. It was my actions I’m sure. There were bad times, dark times.  Depressed times. 

Times improved with understanding and a little wisp of a girl who calmed the winds and seas…except when our own hurricanes blew up.  Our foundation must have been built upon the rock of understanding…we are still here and still together. Our breezes are mostly warm and caressing like today but for some reason I never got back to sailing.

I purged those ill winds from my mind to keep from being driven crazy upon the rocks of life.  I keep them locked tightly away until a fresh, warm breeze hits me in the face allowing only the good memories to flow. 

In my depression I cut myself off from people who didn’t deserve to be cut off.  That was a failure on my part…I demasted myself and lost my rudder to boot. Like a solitary sailor, I battled my storm tossed seas alone…until my North Star became my guide.

I choose to remember the fair winds.  A bow cleaving the water. Great sailing in bright sunshine.  Sybil sitting on the bow, her legs straddling the bowsprit mocking a figurehead on an ancient sailing ship.  Koon’s big laugh and smile with a liquor drink in her hand.  “Now let me tell you one thing….” Blowing off steam in the sun and the wind on a small sailboat.  Sharing the joy and laughter with friends.

Sybil and Koon are silent now as is one of my plus ones.  Silent in the physical world.  Quite alive in the memories on a close haul through my mind.

I couldn’t help but smile as the warm breeze caressed the lake’s shoreline and my face. I miss them but see them sailing across the firmament at dusk. A small sailboat sailing close to the solar winds, white sails glowing red in the sunset.

Fair winds and following seas my friends.  May warm breezes caress you. You are missed.

Sailing by Christopher Cross

The image is from https://www.yacht-rent.com/talking-the-talk-basic-nautical-terms

Don Miller’s author’s page https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM?fbclid=IwAR3BYeO7eRpFl647KXrqSJD31DxD_NP-u4TMGa1hRS_EpP7vZ-4xQ06JjvM