The Conversation Went Like This…

‘I need some severed body parts.’

‘I know a couple people I can ask.’

‘Okay, I’ve got a leg, a foot, and two hands.’

‘Daaannnggg…did they struggle much?’

‘No, but they won’t be late on their bill again.’

This was the conversation between myself and a friend recently, with some work-related humor at the end. Obviously I’m not collecting real body parts. I was looking for props for the upcoming filming of a book trailer.

It got me thinking, though, of other similar situations where things could be misconstrued if overheard.

I have a friend who used to be in a mystery writer’s group called ‘Women Who Kill’. I thought they should make tee-shirts.

There was the time, as I’ve posted about before, when a friend popped into a meeting at work, to say, thoroughly disgusted, ‘I can’t believe you killed Kelly!’ and then left without explaining that Kelly was a character in a book.

There was the time I sent an email to a forensic scientist asking what a body would look like if left in a cave in the Pacific Northwest for a month in the winter.

There was a writer’s resource group that had guest speakers talk about how to poison people, how to use a knife in a fight, how to have a gun not be traced back to you…and they met in a corner of a large bookstore. I’m sure they were overheard regularly.

And of course there’s always the gleeful conversations at coffee shops and restaurants when writers get together to brainstorm plot ideas and what awful things they can do to their characters to create conflict and tension. I bet those are fun for others to listen in on. Or at least, fun once they figure out what is going on.

In the meantime, I’m now on the hunt for blood…

Continuity

Several years ago I was invited to a fire circle led by Chief Beavertail. His goal was to bring people together through story and song. As we arrived he welcomed us and all our ancestors who came with us and stood behind us.

That image has stayed with me all these years. That image of connection to the millions of ancestors stretching out behind us.

In the 1970s I took a course on how to do bobbin lace because I’d heard it was a dying art. Bobbin lace has a fascinating history if you’re interested, and I feel connected to that long history as I weave the bobbins.

Growing up, we sisters helped mom can and put up food. We hated it. Now I can willingly, following the traditions of generations. Putting up, stocking up, preparing for winter.

Continuity, tradition, ties to the past. To family. I love that feeling of connection to land and people. But not all ties are so easy to talk about.

Last night I watched a movie called The Last Full Measure. Being honest here, I watched it because Sebastian Stan was in it and because I like a good action film. But this wasn’t an action film, as I quickly found out. I’m glad my husband, ex-Army, elected to not watch it because these kinds of movies deeply bother him.

The husband

If you haven’t heard of the movie, it’s about William H. Pitsenbarger, a US Air Force Pararescueman who, during the Vietnam War, chose to stay behind to help soldiers on the ground. Before dying in battle, he saved over sixty men. He chose to stay. He was twenty-two years old. Younger than my son. Thirty-two years after his death he was awarded the medal of honor.

Where is my continuity here? As a child, I was oblivious to the Vietnam War. The news didn’t come on the television until 11:00 pm, well past our bedtimes. But still, I’ve wondered before how such a huge thing, that impacted countless lives, wasn’t even a blip in my little-kid-world.

But I do have an uncle. And one of the things I see in his poetry is how the time spent fighting in Vietnam bored so deeply into his heart and soul.

My uncle. Before.

I have ancestors and relatives who have fought in wars, including my father who was in the Korean War. But dad didn’t see what my uncle did. And dad didn’t live long enough to tell us kids war stories or choose to keep silent. So I don’t know what impact that war had on him.

Dad on the right

This uncle, though, this man tied to me by DNA and family and generations of ancestors, walked through hell, and I only see the briefest, tiniest, glimpses of what that did to him through his words.

I cried during the movie last night, and I’m not one who cries during movies. But those tears were more for what my uncle went through than for the story itself.

Those tears were for the paths many still walk and the stories that can’t be told, but that still bind us.

Tradition and Quirks

Many years ago I read a moldy old Reader’s Digest magazine while spending the night with Auntie (our grandma surrogate). I’ve never forgotten this little piece I read, although I have no idea who wrote it.

A young woman always cut her roast in half before cooking it. When asked why she did that, she replied it was the way her mother had always cooked roasts. When the mother was asked why she did that, she replied it was the way her mother had always cooked roasts. When the grandmother was asked the same question, she replied that she’d never owned a roaster big enough to hold the whole thing, so she had to cut it in half.

It stuck with me because it showed how we do things out of habit, and sometimes without understanding why.

Aunty and us Easter 2

Aunty with three of us. I’m not the one eating her basket.

I have passed on a tradition to my husband and son about making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You ALWAYS put the peanut butter on first, then the jelly.

My dad was diabetic and he loved peanut butter. Every night he would say ‘what are we having peanut butter on tonight, mother?’. (One time I suggested a spoon, which he didn’t find as funny as I did.)

Because of the diabetis, no jelly could contaminate his beloved peanut butter.

My husband and son aren’t diabetic. But still, the rule remains because of habit and training. Peanut butter first.

Dad

Last night we had hamburgers. They wanted tomatoes. When my son was putting his burger together, he put condiments on the bottom half of the bun, added onion, and then waited for the burger. I said ‘don’t forget your tomato’. My husband and son both spoke at the same time, saying the tomato had to go on top of the meat. I asked what difference it made. They couldn’t tell me. It was just the way you had to do it. Not me. I don’t add a tomato. I go for extra onion and I don’t care what order it goes on as long as it goes on.

Arts birthday & climbing 088

 

But all that got me pondering about the little quirks we have, the odd traditions we follow, the habits we form, all without remembering why, or being able to explain why. ‘Just because.’ ‘It’s always done that way.’ ‘The world will end if you don’t.’

For instance, always leave about an inch of beverage in the bottom of the glass for the fairies. It doesn’t matter what I’m drinking. It doesn’t matter if the glass is full, or partially full. It doesn’t matter how thirsty I am. I have no idea why I do that, and I don’t even realize it until I do dishes. But I’ve always left something behind, even when mom would get mad at me for wasting milk.

Lisa and mom 1994

Always avoid stepping on black ants, but don’t worry about stepping on red ants. Another habit of mine that my son has picked up without knowing why. As a child I read a book about kids shrunk down to ant size. The black ants helped them and the red ants were trying to get them. Ever since, I have to help those little kids and their black ant friends.

And so it goes. Traditions without known cause, habits from forgotten reasons, quirks just because.

We’re so strange.

Us three taken by Kathy