Thursday, June 28, 2018
©Linda Goodman 6/28/18
I was an eight-year-old second grader when I saw the moving truck pull up to our apartment building. The apartment below ours was empty, so we could stomp on our floors without worrying about the noise we made. We were going to miss that.
I watched as the moving men brought all the furniture into the apartment. Once the movers had finished unloading, the family that would be occupying the apartment arrived. The father was skinny and tall and wore a tee shirt that said FOLLOW ME TO JESUS on the back. The mother was plump and happy. Her thick eyeglasses looked like they had been made by the Coca Cola Bottling Company. Between the parents were three boys. The youngest one looked to be about my age. Just one look at that boy made my heart pound. I had never been interested in boys before, but that was about to change. He looked at me through bright his hazel eyes and I knew right away that I was a goner.
The next afternoon, Brother Lee and Brother Allen invited those boys to go to the baseball field with them and play some catch. All three of them went. When they got back home in the late afternoon, they looked tired and happy at the same time.
That evening, I asked Brother Allen what the boys’ names were. He said, “Tommy, Danny, and Mikey.”
Trying not to appear too inquisitive, I asked, “Which one is the youngest?”
“That would be Mikey, and he’s too little to play baseball,” Brother Allen complained. Suddenly his eyebrows shot up and he said, “Wait a minute. Are you in love with Mikey?”
“I ain’t in love with nobody but Jesus,” I insisted. But that was a lie.
The next morning as I was walking to school, I saw Mikey, walking all by himself. I ran to catch up with him.
“Hi, Mikey. I’m Linda,” I told him breathlessly. “Why are you walking by yourself when you’ve got two brothers?”
“They think I’m too little to walk with them. I can’t keep up,” he explained, then asked, “How do you know my name?”
“Brother Allen told me. My name’s Linda.”
I must have been bolder than I remember, because, without hesitation I blurted out, “I want you for my boyfriend. “
He looked at me like I was crazy. “My mama says I can’t be a boyfriend until I’m at least 14 years old. I’m only eight.”
“What she don’t know won’t hurt her,” I protested.
“It don’t work that way with my mama. She knows everything,” he replied. Then he took off running and howling like he was being chased by a banshee.
I was not about to let him get away with that, so I started running after him, yelling, “Mikey, I am going to catch you and kiss you!”
He just ran faster, and I could not catch up with him.
The following morning, I watched out the kitchen window until I saw him walk out of our building. Immediately I ran down the stairs and out the door chasing after him. Once again, I yelled, “Mikey, I’m going to catch you and kiss you!” Once again, he started running and left me behind in a cloud of dust.
They say that the third is the charm, but that was not true in my case. I chased that boy to school for two weeks, and never even got close to kissing him.
Once cool, brisk Monday morning, however, I woke up with a runny nose, a sore throat, and watery eyes. I also had a hoarse cough. Mama said I should stay home.
I was tempted, but I could not even imagine a day without Mikey. “It’s just a cold,” I said. “I’ll be fine,”
I began my day as usual, finding Mikey and running after him, arms opened wide so I could grab him when I got close enough to kiss. As always, he ran faster than me.
Suddenly, I stopped. I remembered that colds are contagious, and I could not bear the thought of cute little Mikey, my almost boyfriend, getting sick because of me. I started walking to school at my regular pace. That kiss would just have to wait.
Imagine my shock when I realized that Mikey had stopped running. He wasn’t even walking. He was standing still, waiting for me.
“You give up too soon,” he told me.
Before I realized what was happening, he wrapped his arms around me and gave me a big, sloppy kiss on my lips; but it was a long kiss, and I could not breathe through my stuffed up nose. I struggled to get away.
When the kiss finally ended, he said, “Wow! I must have really turned you on. You couldn’t even catch your breath.”
The next morning Mikey had a cold and stayed home from school. I guess girls are tougher than boys.
As for me, I did not chase him anymore. Kissing was not what it was cracked up to be.
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
In honor of Morgan Leigh Deal’s Graduation from the University of South Carolina
May 11, 2018
©Linda Goodman, June 1970
They said, “There’s a cold, cruel world outside.
Please listen to us and try to abide by our rules. Stay Inside.”
So we did.
And some met failure, and some knew success,
And some didn’t bother; they couldn’t care less.
And now the time’s come. We’ll be sheltered no more.
We’ll run to be free.
We’ll unbar all the doors.
And we’ll take our ideals,
And we’ll take our false gods
And try to work miracles where others have trod.
And we’ll say we want peace, yet we’ll follow the road
Where God is the plotter and Man is the mold.
And when we’ve worked hard and achieved to our best,
And our souls have grown weary and ready for rest,
Then we’ll remember these fast flying years
With laughter and wonder and warmth and tears.
Monday, April 30, 2018
This story was written to honor Earth Day (April 20)
Evvie Miser was the meanest person in the town of Cleanville. Some people even said she was the meanest woman in the world. She did not care about her neighbors. She did not care about animals. And she for sure did not care about the environment!
But Evvie Miser was also the wealthiest person in the town of Cleanville. She owned the big paper mill that was responsible for all the pollution in town. Its smokestacks belched out black smoke that filled the air, and Evvie Miser thought nothing of dumping her mill waste in the nearby river.
Once, a town councilman tried to get a law passed that would require Evvie Miser to buy new, environmentally friendly equipment for her mill. But he forgot that half of the town worked for Evvie. She called all her employees together and told them that if that law passed, she would close the mill. She had no intention of spending her hard earned money on new equipment when the equipment she already had worked perfectly fine.
Naturally, all the people who worked for Evvie Miser were afraid to vote for the law. They did not want to lose their jobs. And so they voted against it, and the law did not pass. That town councilman was voted out of office at the next election, and the air in Cleanville got more and more polluted, until you could not find a man, woman, or child who did not wheeze and cough.
One morning, Evvie Miser got to work nice and early. She walked right past her secretary, Miss Hoper, without saying a word, as usual, when she noticed something in the office had changed! Miss Hoper had two wastebaskets sitting beside her desk!
“What is the meaning of this?” Evvie Miser demanded. “Did I authorize the purchase of an extra wastebasket?”
“No, Mrs. Miser, you didn’t.” Miss Hoper replied softly. “But it cost only three dollars, and I thought it was time we started recycling here at Miser Paper Mill.”
“Well think again!” Evvie Miser waved her hands over her head and stamped her foot in anger. “You either return that wastebasket or I will deduct it from your paycheck, and you will be relieved of your duties here! Recycling takes extra time, and I don’t pay my employees to waste time.”
“Yes, Mrs. Miser,” Miss Hoper whispered as she gently wiped tears from her eyes. “You’re the boss.”
“And don’t you forget it!” Evvie Miser retorted.
That afternoon, as Evvie was driving home in her gas guzzling SUV. She stopped at the Burger Doodle for dinner. She threw a fit when the girl behind the counter gave her a hamburger and French fries wrapped in paper. And she got even madder when her coffee was served in a paper cup.
“What is the meaning of this?” Evvie demanded. “That hot food and drink will burn my hands through that paper! What happened to the Styrofoam that you usually serve your food in? That’s the only reason I eat here!”
The girl behind the counter had never seen Evvie Miser so mad! “Paper is better for the environment, Mrs. Miser. Styrofoam is not biodegradable. We have decided to run a green business here at Burger Doodle. We use only recycled paper now.”
“Biodegradable, schmiodegradable! If I can’t have my food served in Styrofoam, take it back! I refuse to get third degree burns just so you can feel good about the environment!” Evvie Miser complained.
The girl behind the counter got some left over Styrofoam containers and cups from the back of the kitchen, and she took Evvie Miser’s food out of the paper wrappers and put it in a Styrofoam box. Then she poured Evvie Miser’s coffee into a Styrofoam cup. “Please come back, Mrs. Miser,” She pleaded. “We want your business here at Burger Doodle.”
“That’s more like it!” said Evvie. Then she ate her food and drove home.
When she got home, it was dark. So Evvie Miser went to bed.
At midnight, she was awakened by a strange noise. It sounded like tin cans banging together! She turned on her light and there beside her bed stood her dead husband’s ghost! He was covered with garbage! He smelled rotten, and he was dragging a long line of tin cans behind him.
“Wharton,” she smiled timidly, “what are you doing here? You’re dead! And why are you covered with garbage?”
“I am wearing the pollution I caused in life. That is my fate,” Wharton wailed. “It will be your fate, too, Evvie Miser, if you don’t change your ways.”
“I have no intention of changing my ways!” Evvie Miser protested. “My ways are perfectly fine!”
Her late husband continued speaking as though he had not even heard her. “At the stroke one, you will have a visitor. Then another will come at two and another at three. Pay heed, Evvie Miser! Pay heed!” And then he disappeared.
Evvie rubbed her eyes in disbelief. “I must have gotten a bad hamburger,” she mumbled. “This is just a bad dream.” Then she went back to sleep.
She was awakened again when the clock struck one. She could feel the presence of someone else in the room. “Who’s there?” she demanded.
Then she heard a tinkling laughter coming from a glowing light in the corner of the room. Evvie looked closer and saw an attractive woman dressed in a stylish housedress, just like the one her mother had worn when Evvie was a little girl.
‘Momma, is that you?” asked Evvie.
“No,” the woman replied. “I am the spirit of the environment past. Come with me.”
Before Evvie could object, she found herself standing beside the woman in a beautiful little park. It was the park Evvie had played in when she was a little girl. How she had loved spending time in that park! She remembered watching the fish swim in the clear water of the pond, smelling the many different flowers that bloomed there, and lying on her back in the soft green grass, staring up at the clouds.
“This park is giving you happy memories, Evvie Miser. I can see them in your eyes,” said the spirit. “Don’t you think that other children deserve to have a nice, clean place to play, too?”
“What do I care!” snapped Evvie. “I don’t even have children, and I don’t have time to waste strolling in a park. What has this got to do with me?”
Just then Evvie awakened again in her bed. “What! Was I dreaming again? I am going to sue Burger Doodle!”
But in that moment, the clock struck two, and another woman stood in her room. She had her hair back in a bun and wore black rimmed eyeglasses. She was dressed in a black business suit and wore sensible black shoes.
“I am the ghost of the environment present,” the woman announced. “Come with me!”
Once again Evvie Miser found herself in the park. But it looked different this time. The water was so cloudy she couldn’t even see the fish! And there were no flowers at all and very little grass.
“What happened to this place?” Evvie Miser asked.
“Pollution!” cried the spirit. “The smog produced by your mill has dirtied the water and killed the flowers and grass. Aren’t you ashamed of yourself, Evvie Miser?”
“Certainly not!” Evvie Miser declared. “I have to make a living, don’t I?”
“But at what cost?” the spirit implored. “In just a few years this park won’t be fit for man or beast to frolic in!”
“What do I care?” laughed Evvie Miser. “I’m an old woman. I’ll be dead by then!”
Suddenly Evvie found herself again in her room. The clock was striking three, and a large, ominous figure in a black robe was standing beside her. As mean as Evvie was, she was frightened now.
“Who…who are you?” she stammered.
The spirit said nothing, and before Evvie knew what was happening, she was back in the park again, standing on top of a trash pile.
“Get me out of this garbage! I demand that you get me out now!” she screamed.
The spirit said nothing, but pointed to two figures, a grown-up and a child, who were wearing what looked like space suits. The grown up was saying, “Son, I remember when these anti-pollution suites weren’t necessary. I remember when I could breathe the clean, fresh air. And just look at the park! There’s too much trash for children to play in it.”
“How did the park get to be so awful, Daddy?” asked the little boy.
“It was Evvie Miser that caused all this,” replied the man. “She never cared a lick about the environment. Since she was too powerful for anyone to fight, everyone else just stopped caring, too. There was a big celebration when she died. She was buried right there in the park, underneath all that trash that she was responsible for. Good riddance, I say!”
“What’s that?” cried Evvie Miser. “People celebrated when I died? I was buried under this trash! That can’t be!”
Slowly the third spirit pointed to a big pine box sticking out of some trash in the corner of the park. Evvie ran to the box and dug through the trash with her hands. There on the top of the box was a metal plate that said, “Her lies Evvie Miser. May she never find peace!”
“No, spirit!” screamed Evvie. “This can’t be! I don’t want to be buried in a trash pile! Tell me what I can do to change this?”
Suddenly Evvie was back in her room. She squinted at the sun shining through her window. It was morning!
Evvie Miser looked around the room. The spirits were gone. Had they all been dreams? Then Evvie looked at her fingernails. There was garbage underneath them!”
When Evvie Miser got to work that morning, she went straight to Miss Hoper.
“Miss Hoper,” she said, smiling meekly, “I’ve changed my mind about that extra basket. You were right. We should be recycling here at Miser Paper Mill. Get the basket back, and get everyone else an extra basket, too. And I am going to give you a big bonus for thinking of it.”
Miss Hoper did not know what to think. She had never seen Evvie Miser smile before.
“And get that town councilman on the phone, “Evvie continued. “You know, the once who lost the last election? I want to hire him to get modern equipment in this mill, equipment that won’t harm the environment.”
“Yes M’am!” beamed Miss Hoper as she picked up the phone.
That evening, when Evvie Miser stopped at the Burger Doodle on her way home, the girl behind the counter served her food in Styrofoam.
“I’m sorry about last evening,” Evvie apologized. “Please put my food in paper. You were right to go green her at Burger Doodle.”
After eating her meal, Evvie Miser went to the car dealer and traded her gas guzzling SUV in for a small, economical hybrid.
She never took the environment for granted again. And if you should take a trip to Cleanville today and mention the name Evvie Miser, the folks will sing her praises. After all, they say, she cared more about the environment than anyone who has ever lived in Cleanville.
Saturday, March 31, 2018
©2/1969 Linda Goodman
This poem was written long ago, but it still haunts me.
This poem was written long ago, but it still haunts me.
They said that she was different.
She was stylish, it is true.
But it was said her attitude was at fault.
I passed her many times,
And while she often smiled, she never spoke.
But she did not know my name.
They said that she was pretty.
But pretty is as pretty does.
She was the height of sophistication.
I saw her gazing in a mirror once.
She seemed not to be looking at herself, but through herself.
But she did not know that I saw.
They said that she was unhappy.
Her friends, though loyal, were few,
And resentment for her was not secret.
I heard her crying once.
Her tears were light, but they were there.
But she did not know that I heard.
And now she is gone.
Some say she married.
Some say she is lost in a world outside our own.
I saw her at the terminal one day.
She looked at our town with pain in her eyes,
As if she loved something about it,
Yet knew that it held nothing for her.But she did not know I was there.
Thursday, February 15, 2018
This poem was written some years ago by my brother Allen Wright. I think it holds meaning for today. In the photo below, Allen is the boy in the white shirt. Standing beside him is my brother Lee. That's me with the glasses and Evelyn with the stuffed animal on the left.
by Allen Wright
Is Life really living?
Is Death really dead?
Do random thoughts really
Just enter our heads?
We are the same
as the things we see,
A pile of atoms
In shapes such as We.
Where do We come from?
Where do We go?
It's not for the Living
Nor the Dead to know.
Atoms to atoms
And dust to dust.
Is this the Fate
For all of Us?
We will be born again
As the Sun does rise,
To warm those around us
And brighten their eyes.
So We strive to rise
For an unseen goal,
To met our Savior
As eternal Souls.
Sunday, January 28, 2018
©Linda Goodman 1/27/2018
After I passed the fifth grade at James Hurst Elementary School in the Cradock section of Portsmouth, Virginia, I enjoyed a lovely summer vacation. I savored every minute of it, as I knew that, come fall, I would be attending sixth grade at Cradock Jr. High School. Brother Allen warned me that the sixth grade would be hard. He reminded me that Brother Lee, my oldest brother, had failed the sixth grade and had to repeat it. I cried when I heard that. I would have died if I had failed a whole grade. I assumed Brother Lee had been as upset as I would have been in that situation (I later discovered that it did not bother him at all.).
Sixth grade was strange compared to fifth grade. In elementary school, students had one teacher all day long in one classroom. In the sixth grade, I had four teachers who rotated from class to class. My sixth grade English teacher, Mrs. Mabry, took a shine to me. She admired my taste in books (we both loved Charles Dickens).She also discovered that I was writing a book, and she asked me about it every day. She knew how to nurture her students without being sappy. “Be proud of what you have achieved,” she told me at the end of the school year. “And here is my advice to you: think positive. Whatever task you are given, no matter how hard it seems, just repeat to yourself I think I can. I think I can, and you will always be at the front of the pack.
Sixth grade was not so bad after all.
In the seventh grade, my English teacher was Mrs. Mancuso, and she, too, enjoyed my writing. “You write so well, and you always use the correct grammar,” she told me, “And I have never seen you misspell a word. In fact, I think that you should enter the school Spelling Bee.”
I had never heard of a Spelling Bee. Mrs. Mancuso explained that it was a contest where students competed to see who was the best speller. “I know you can win it,” she assured me. “You just need to have faith in yourself. Positive thinking can accomplish anything.”
So two teachers that I loved thought I could win the Spelling Bee! That was good enough for me. I picked up the official Spelling Bee practice booklet and spent hours studying every word, except the small ones. I already knew them.
Some of the words were so hard that I had to memorize their spellings. But I had two teachers who had told me to say, I think I can. I think I can. I told myself that, too. And then I started telling my classmates, but by then my mantra had changed from I think I can to I know I will. I convinced myself that I could spell better than anyone else in my school, and I thought the more I staked that claim, the more positive I would be and the greater chance I would have to win that Spelling Bee.
Finally the big day came. I, along with nine others, sat on the stage of the school auditorium in front of every class in the school as we waited for the contest to begin. Each of us wore a number pinned to our chest. I was number two. Three judges, one lady and two men, sat at a table to the right of the stage.
Once all the students were settled in their seats and quiet, the woman judge stood up. “Number 1,” she announced, and my friend Maureen stood up. The woman sternly looked at her and said, “Your word is nicotine.”
Maureen nervously spelled out the word: n-i-c-o-t-i-n-e.
“Correct,” the woman announced. “You may take your seat back on the stage.”
How easy could this get?
“ Number 2,” the lady said as she turned her attention to me. I stood up and she announced, “Your word is across.”
What? That was a baby word! Why was I being given a baby word?
The woman cleared her throat and once again said, “Your word is across.”
I was grinning from ear to ear. I would win this contest in no time at all. I stood up tall and spelled a-c-c-r-o-s-s.”
“That is incorrect!” the woman announced. “Please take a seat down in the auditorium.”
I was shocked! Had I really spelled it wrong? A baby word? I could not believe it.
I felt like I was on a walk of shame. As I went down the steps to join the student body, I heard my classmates mates giggling all around me, saying “She bragged to everyone that she was going to win, and then she misspelled her very first word!” Cecil Boudreau, my classroom nemesis, started laughing so loudly he had to be escorted out of the auditorium.
I hung my head low.
My classmates kidded me for a few weeks, but they got over it. I carried the hurt and humiliation, however, for months.
It was Mrs. Mabry who set me straight. “Being positive is good, but you should understand that over-confidence can make you look like a braggart. The good news is, you can always try again next year.”
I took that little nugget and filed it in the deep recesses of my brain. It has served me well. To this very day, though, I cannot spell a word out loud in front of others. In the end, my humiliation made me humble.
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
A Special Christmas
©Linda Goodman 12/1983
My very favorite Christmas was in 1983, when we were living in Bay City, Michigan. Phil and I had just gotten married that May, and our daughter, Melanie, was eleven years old. It was our first Christmas as a family.
Not far from us was the tiny village of Frankenmuth. Visiting that scenic little town was like taking a trip back in time. After 25 years of living in the mild winter climate of Portsmouth, VA, Melanie and I were having our very first white Christmas.
For the first time, I was able to buy Melanie everything on her Christmas list (not always a good idea). For myself, I had asked only for a plush, fluffy robe to keep me warm during the cold winter. I got what I asked for, but its color was PURPLE! That was not like Phil at all, as he likes muted colors. I had fantasized the robe as being emerald green or turquoise. I must admit that I was rather miffed, as Phil knew what my favorite colors were. Still, my mother had taught me to appreciate whatever gifts I was given, and I made a fuss over that robe like it was the most beautiful thing in the world.
I'm glad I reacted as I did. After my faux demonstration of delight, Melanie shouted, "Dad let me pick it out!" Purple, I recalled, was her favorite color. I had once told her that purple was the color of kings.
"You're a queen now!" she exclaimed.
I wore that robe until hot flashes began to visit me, just 11 short years later. The robe is still hanging in my closet. Whenever I see it, I remember how blessed I am to be married to a man who loves my daughter as much as I do, and treats her with tenderness and great respect. Phil adopted Melanie on October 31, 1984, when we were living in Baltimore.
I would love to hear about your favorite Christmas.