Realizations at the Return Counter

I have this pair of pants that has been a pain in the butt. I went to JCPenny at West County Mall a couple of years ago, because who can resist 60% off on all items? I was seduced by a pair of pants there. I tried them on, and I’ve never looked better in a pair of pants. The price was $27.98. So we went home together, my pants and me.

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Charity in the Checkout Line

So I’m once again in line at Walgreens. I’ve got an arms and hands load of products, and I  have walked off and forgot my cloth shopping bags again. At the front of the line is a very tall thirty-something white guy with a nice build in shorts and a tee shirt. He’s buying some deodorant and a magazine. Behind him is a sixtyish African American woman, white hair, slightly bent over from the years, flowered house dress. She’s got a cart full of products. She’s talking to the cashier, Laverne, whom I’ve encountered before, also African American about fiftyish. You just know that Laverne has never met a stranger. She gives each person in turn her best service and an occasional flash of wit. Directly in front of me in line is a small, young, attractive woman with long blond hair in high heels, a handful of small products in her right hand and a clutch purse in the other. And the five of us are doing the commercial line dance with poise and patience.

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It’s All in How You Look at It

It had been a busy work day at Apartment 438: two loads of laundry, preparing and cleaning up after two meals, a little housecleaning, considered off-limits by our regular housecleaner. I was tired. I’m learning to use this aging body more gently and caringly. But there was just this one thing left. A seven item shopping list. I could get it all at Schnucks, even the essential wine and corn patches. So I sat down for 10 minutes, thought “I can do this,” pulled myself together, grabbed three cloth shopping bags, and headed down to the parking garage.

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Going Home at Christmas

by Jim Andris

I love going home at Christmas,
First there are hugs all around—
         Grandma’s bony ribs seem so small in my hands.
Sister pats my back,
         And brother tries to pick me up.
Mom always asks
         “How long do you get to stay this time?”
         “I’ll bet you’re hungry!”
So we sit and chat
over the TV;
         dad puts down his organic gardening book,
         and everyone looks at me
and smiles.
Someone passes around the cookiesandcandy
And eventually
I go look under the Christmas tree
And try to guess
What’s in the blue box with the yellow ribbon.
The porch—scuffle, door pound.
Child voices and laughter
We are invaded
by my two nephews.
Conversations break out
in three different corners of the room
and the laughter
always the Holiday laughter
orange candle flames add glow to the
blinking neon tree ball reflections
We catch up on a hundred details:
the baby’s due in March
Gladys was in the hospital
Jeffry can play “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”
while Joey pounds the bottom keys
and squeals.
And after a while things
quiet down.
The Smith crew departs
like a three-sectioned wagon.
Grandma gets tired and slowly climbs the stairs
bent over—
         how strange—nearly
like a fetus.
Dad goes back to his balancing act
between the book on his lap and Police Woman,
and eventually drifts off to
half-lidded dozing.
Tom and Dee pack up their gear
and leave—
Tom has run out of jokes.
Mom finishes her crossword puzzle
and she and dad go to bed.
I just sit there
with the poinsettias and potted palms
and African violets
and remember
everything that happened that evening.
The Christmas lights
a tear-streak
on my cheek.
I pull the plug,
go upstairs,
get undressed,
and pull the covers to my chin against the chill of the night.
“Five days will go so fast,”
 I think
as I doze off to sleep.

Riding the Train in Sedalia: It Takes all Kinds

I miss the long overdue train to St. Louis, have an engaging interaction with an unlikely fellow, but it’s all ok.

IMG_6154(This is in a series of posts about my trip to Sedalia, Missouri May 31-June 2, 2018)

My most fascinating yet challenging experience in Sedalia had nothing to do with the ragtime festival. Even though I had had a spectacular time on my own, the two days in town had flown by quickly, and I found myself getting off the bus a block away from an Amtrak terminal near downtown an hour early.

I felt a bit intimidated. There was no one in the station, no agent, no passengers. The train just slows down and stops very briefly to drop off or pick up passengers, and then it is gone. I thought of a line from the poem I had memorized in high school, Ozymandias:

“Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”

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Riding the Bus in Sedalia: a Window into a Community

(This is in a series of posts about my trip to Sedalia, Missouri May 31-June 2, 2018)

I knew I would enjoy all the ragtime virtuosity that is almost continuously on display at the International Scott Joplin Festival in Sedalia, Missouri, but an unexpected adventure unfolded for me on Sedalia streets. It all went back to my decision to take a train ride. Stephen and I moved to Kirkwood, Missouri in April of 2017. The downtown area of Kirkwood, which includes an Amtrak depot, is less than half a mile from our home, and so I found myself walking there often. One day, quite unexpectedly, the idea popped into my head: Before I die, I want to take the Amtrak train from Kirkwood to Sedalia for the annual ragtime festival held there in late May.

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