Monday, September 11, 2023

Here We go, Under the Maple, conversation #4


"How did your week go, guys?" Ollie asks as the entire gang comes chattering through the gate.

"Fantastic, guilt-ridden, Great, Better." All give Ollie a hug.

"Look what Twinkie brought," Simad says, finding his chair around the table. "Brownies, my favorite chocolately thing. Thanks, Twinkie," He sat down then bounced up. "Why do we always sit in the same place? Isn't that strange? Let's mix it up. Twinkie, I'm sitting in your chair."

"You're welcome, Simad." Twinkie sits her plate down, runs over, jumps on his lap, and throws her arms around his neck. You're in my chair," she says.

 Somewhat taken aback, Simad finally collects himself and says, "Why didn't I think of this sooner?"

She kisses his forehead. "You sat in my chair, you get sat upon." She pops up and runs back to her plate, rips off the plastic wrap, and places it beside the tray on the table set with coffee, tea, hot water, an ice bucket, cream, sugar, and lemons.

"Is that laced with anything, Twinkie?" asks Harvey.

"Nope, It's pure unadulterated melted chocolate, flour—you know, from scratch, regular stuff." She opens a jar and begins to dribble chocolate across the tops of the brownies.

Everyone dives in for a brownie, coffee, tea, whatever is already on the table and settles into their seats.

"Twinkie," says Harvey, "I'd expect Twinkies from you. Oh, do they make Twinkies anymore?"

"I don't think so," Twinkie says finding a chair, but I loved them as a kid—that's how I got my name. But when I learned that if you place one on a porch railing, it will still be fresh six months later. I envisioned one sitting in my stomach like a petrified rock. That stopped me. These are to thank you guys for last week. I'm unflappable today."

"How so, Twinkie? Tell us."

 "I was so anxious to tell you guys.” She sat forward in her chair, “I did as Shal suggested. I meditated every day for six days—today will be the seventh."

 "What happened?" asked Shal.

"I was miserable for the first two days. I couldn't stop thinking of a zillion other things I'd rather be doing. And then, on the third day, I got this message. It read: "Dear Twinkie, I gave you a heart, a brain, and courage. Use them." Signed, 'God'."

"Where did you find that message?" asks Harvey.

"Oh, Harvey, I didn't suddenly go bonkers and hear voices or find golden tablets. I wrote it in my notebook. It was a message from me to me—or from God. It got me thinking. I want to do what I want to do. And you know what that is?"

"No, tell us," said Ollie, sitting in her not usual chair. "This is sort of like who won the Design Challenge."

"It was sort of like that," says Twinkie. "I watched "Blown Away," the glass-blowing competition for inspiration. I've always wanted to try my hand at blowing glass. And not those little figurines you see at fairs, but the big stuff, bowls, and artwork. I thought Glass blowing was for big husky men, and I'm 5 foot 5 and what they call petite. With that show, I saw that a woman can do it. In fact, a woman won the competition.

"My arguments against it were that I thought I didn't have the strength or couldn't take the heat. I wasn't creative enough, or that I couldn't learn it. I thought my skin would dry up in front of a furnace every day, but I noticed the women had beautiful skin. Maybe it's like a sweat lodge where you sweat out the toxins—like from all those Twinkies I had as a kid--I'm strong. I can run five miles. But then there are those people who have 30 years of experience, and I'm 28 and just starting. And then there is the time and money. My roommate and I are just squeaking by working at Sacs, but I'm doing it. I found a teacher at the coast, so I'm driving over every Saturday and apprenticing under him."

"I can see it, "Twinkie's Twinkling Glass." Says Sally. "I'll commission a chandelier. Here's to you, Twinkie."

[Applause. Cheers!]

 "And you have a customer already, "says Ollie. "Who has a customer before they have a product?! Twinkie, look what you did."

"It will take a while, Sally, before I produce a reasonable piece. I have a lot to learn."

"I know, but you got started. I'm proud of you."

"The idea," says Shal, "is to begin wherever you are. When a gardener told John F. Kennedy that the tree he wanted planted would take 100 years to mature, Kennedy said, "Then you better plant it now."

"Is that tree still there?"

"I don't know."

"So, says Shal, how did everyone else do?"

"I completely zoned out one day," says Simad. "After writing until about midnight, I collapsed into bed with all meditation forgotten, then felt guilty the next day."

"Hey," says Ollie," don't beat yourself up. Just take a step back and regroup. We aren't saints, you know."

"I meditated the next day."

"There you go."

"Well," says Harvey, "I didn't do so well. It was painful. Every time I sat down, I thought of Liz."

"Oh Harvey," says Sally, "how long has it been?"

"Liz died two years ago on October 2."

"I'm so sorry you must go through that, Harvey," says Sally.

They could see he was beginning to tear up, and led by Ollie, the group gathered around his chair. Everyone put their arms around him, around each other, and genuinely wanted to take away Harvey's pain.

When they released him and each other, Harvey had tears rolling down his cheeks.

"I nev-er- cri-ed that day. I was too angry to cry. I loved her."

"We are here for you, Harvey, "Ollie said when they were seated.

"I know you guys try to stay upbeat," Harvey leaned his forehead into his palm. "I didn't want to bring you guys down."

"Nobody stays upbeat when they're hurting Harvey. We're here for all our feelings, not just the happy ones. Yes, we emphasize looking on the bright side,  but, Harvey, all feelings are important, and we want the sharing to be whatever is going on in our lives. I would love to hear about Liz. How about if you introduce her to us."

"Yes, I would like that. After a while, my friends and family stopped talking about her. It's as though they forgot her or don't want to remember, and it seems they want me to do so as well. Let it go...and you know this stupid thing about closure? Well, it's a damn lie." 

"Oh, Harvey, we never forget about the people we love. To this day, I miss my mom. I ask her advice every couple of days. Of course, she usually says what she said when I was a kid. 'I trust you. You'll figure it out.'"

People chuckled, even Harvey, who blew his nose with a big honk.

The groups almost laughed but stifled themselves.

"All the sweetness of Liz's family went straight into Liz. That's in contrast to me being a big lummox."

"You aren't a lummox, Harvey," said Twinkie, 'You're a big teddy bear."

"That's what Liz said. She was the light of my life; at 60, her light went out, just like that. One day, it was on, the next day off. You know how you come home after work? 'Hi Honey, I'm home.' I went to her office, and she wasn't there, but I knew the next place to look, the garden. In those days, she was hauling in cucumbers by the bucketful’s. I found her on the ground like she had decided to nap among the carrots. When I realized she was gone, I yelled until the neighbors heard me and came to my aid. The coroner said she had a heart attack. I didn't know she had a bad heart. I thought her heart was the grandest thing about her. Well, she was pretty, too. And a good mom and a good wife. I believe in soul mates, for she was mine."

"I'm glad you found yours, Harvey."

"It isn't fair, is it?" says Shal," Sometimes it seems as though the sweet ones leave early and the ornery ones stick around until the last cow comes home."

"When I see Liz, I will ask her if her cow came home."

"I'd like to hear her answer," says Sally. "Harvey, do you see your kids?"

"Yeah, I see them a couple times a year. They're busy. They love their pop, but it has been different since Liz died. We're careful like we're glass."

"Maybe you could have a ceremony of some sort when you get together, somehow honor their mother and your wife, and let people talk about her, not just like at a funeral." Simad offered.

"Would you guys come?"

"Yeah, of course, you betcha." Everyone agreed.

"We'll have a barbecue in my backyard," said Harvey.

"What say, I put on some music, and we dance a bit. I heard Liz Gilbert say that after losing her soul mate, she dances every morning to ease the hurt and honor her mate."

"Let's do it." Says Harvey, hoisting himself from his chair and offering his hand to Twinkie, who takes it, jumps from her chair, and begins whirling around the yard. "I love you. Harvey." She says, "Come on, let's boogie."