Buried in the Barn

Barn. Best One

(photos by the phenomenal Betty Bishop)

A wind whistled across the barn and blew right through my bones. This was the coldest winter in forever. Even too cold to snow.

I stood at the bottom of the ladder and looked back at my little sister. She had one foot inside the barn, the other outside, ready to take off.

“Come on, Rosie. Don’t be such a wuss,” I yelled. “Besides, he’s not even up there.” I stretched my neck back as far as it would go and looked up to the top of the rafters. No owl in sight.

“You are the most annoying brother,” she said, taking a tiny step forward.

I don’t know why I even try. My sister is afraid of everything that moves. Which means she’s afraid of just about everything except the walls and furniture. And sometimes even those because our dining room table wobbles, seeing as how one leg is too short.

“Dad said to stay away from the nest,” she said, as I started up the ladder. “Besides, it’s the first night of Hanukah and she could be here. Please, come back down.”

“There’s no such thing as a ghost,” I said.

“Kids, it’s getting dark.” Mom’s voice drifted across the meadow. “Jake. Rosie. Get back here, right now.”

“Let’s go,” Rosie jiggled the ladder.

She didn’t wait for my answer. From my spot, I saw her running through the meadow toward our house. As she reached our back porch, the blue and white twinkly lights came on framing our fence, our roof and almost all the windows.

Almost, because on my window half the lights didn’t work. But what did I expect? It’s always about cute little Rosie who does everything right and my big brother,  Ethan, who is so smart, my parents are sure he’ll be president someday. What’s the chance of that ever happening?

A blast of icy air hit me in the face. I climbed up a few steps, slowly, feeling the way with the toes of my boots. One more and, yes, there was the nest. It was made from twigs and colored yarn and…was that doll hair? Eww.  From my sister’s creepy doll with the missing eyes.

I couldn’t see inside the nest from where I stood but my hand reached the edge. I felt something cold and pointy. My fingers wrapped around it.

Betty's owl

Eeeeeeeeeeee.  The owl’s raspy scream cut into my ears and right through my brain. The air swept around me like I was in the middle of a million fans. I tucked my chin into my neck, clutched the ladder with my free hand and slid to the ground. I squeezed my eyes so tight, the veins in my neck hurt.

As I hit the dirt, the owl dive bombed at my back. I buried my face in the ground with my arms over my head. My heart sped as fast as a race car. Everything in my life spun around me. Mom. Dad. Rosie.  Ethan. Mindcraft. Hockey. Skiing. Hot chocolate. Grandma. Bye bye world.

But the world didn’t end. Instead, for one split second the owl’s humongous wings flapped above me and I saw my chance. I dragged myself up and ran for the door.

Our house seemed a million miles away. I clutched the  pointy object and bolted as fast as lightning.

Old Man Spike, who used to live in our house, stood near our back porch. His torn winter coat glowed in the light cast from our house. For a one split second, he even shimmered. I didn’t have time to talk with him. I barely nodded as I hopped up the steps. I flung open the door and leaned on the kitchen counter, panting in front of my whole family.

“Where have you been?” Mom asked.

Didn’t she notice my arms and legs shaking like crazy? Didn’t anyone notice?

“What’s that in your hand?” Dad asked, as he sliced the turkey.

I opened my palm. “I don’t know,” I said, staring at an old, dirty driedel.

I smeared the dirt off, revealing the four symbols: nun, gimel, hey and shin. But there was something else printed, “Spike and Olivia. May 2, 1950,” I mumbled.

“That’s her. The lady that died in the barn on Hanukah,” Rosie said, hugging herself like a baby.

“You mean, the one Spike murdered.”  Ethan tried to grab the driedel from my hand. “Let me see it.”

“He didn’t kill her,” I said, holding the ornament against my chest. “He couldn’t kill anyone. Did he, Dad?”

“Well, her body was never found,” Dad said. “When they searched the barn, all they discovered was lot of old junk from Spike’s toy store.”

I held the driedel in the air. “What do you think, Mom?”

“I think you should get that dirty old thing out of here.” She scowled at me as she carried plates to the table.

“I’m going to put it on the mantle next to the menorah,” I said, leaving the kitchen.

Menorah

“No, you are not!” Mom waved a fork in my direction. “Just throw it away.”

Mom’s evil eye burned into my back as I walked toward the living room. Instead of going to the fireplace, I opened the front door and sat down on the porch with the driedel on my knees.

It was the type where the top came off, and gelt would be stuffed inside. I picked it up by the spinner, trying to open it.  I jigged and twisted, and finally it cracked a tiny bit, but still wouldn’t budge.  As I balanced it on the palm of my hand, a gob of dust rose out of the crack like a snake and traveled up my nose. I sneezed about ten times.

I batted at the dust, or whatever is was. Because now it looked like old, curling witch fingers. I moved to the driveway, but the fingery blob followed me. It followed me everywhere, wrapping me in webs that stuck to my skin.

And then I heard a voice. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Hurt me? My heart slammed against my chest.

I made a three sixty in the driveway. “Who’s there?” I shouted.

The wind answered with a long, low cry. The webs separated for a second. Whoosh! I was sucked into a tunnel.  Down. Down. I curled into a ball, hugging myself. Gasping for air.  And then everything stopped. Stillness. Silence. Nothingness.

I wasn’t any place I had ever been in my entire life.  I couldn’t see anything around me. There were no sounds. No smells. I was nowhere!

A light flashed. Out of nowhere a scene appeared, hanging in front of me like a hologram. It was Old Man Spike, but he was young with lots of curly hair, and he was holding hands with a girl. Olivia. It had to be her.

“Meet me at the barn, at midnight,” Young Spike said.

The world spun around again. This time when it stopped, I saw Olivia writing a note. “I love you,’ she said. “But I can’t be here at midnight. It’s our Hanukah dinner. Meet me at the bus tomorrow morning. If you’re not there, I’m leaving forever.”

She tacked the note on the shiny barn door. After glancing around and waving at the cows, she walked out into the meadow. A ginormous blast of wind shook the barn. The note fell to the ground, drifted into the corner and was buried under a pile of dirt.

Proof! Spike didn’t kill her. I had to tell someone. I ran forward, smacking into a dirty window. I turned around and bonked my head into another window. My forehead throbbed. Was there no way out of this place? A tiny stream of light beamed down from above my head.  I tried climbing up, but I kept slipping.

“Jake! Where are you?” Rosie called.

“Here,” I yelled. But nothing came out of my mouth.

I screamed, silently pounding on my prison walls.  As I stared, a Hebrew letter came into focus. A nun. Do nothing.  And then a big eye stared at me. Rosie’s eye.  Fricken Chicken! I was inside the driedel.  No way was this possible. But it was.  Because next I stared into Rosie’s ear, all waxy and ugly. And up her boogery nose.

“Mom, I can’t find him,” Rosie said. “All I see is this old driedel he found.”

And then I was spinning around again.

“Help me!” I pounded on the smeared glass. “I’m in here. Rosie. Stop spinning me and get the top off.”

This time when I stopped, I saw the Gimel through the dirty window. Player takes all.

Gimel

I rose up. “Do something,” I screamed. I waved my arms in the air and stomped my feet.

“Oh no,” Rosie cried, as the ground dropped from under me. “I broke it.”

The dreidel shattered. My insides were totally whacked out.  But I was back on the driveway. Back to normal size.

“OMG! Jake.” Rosie bit on her fingertips. “Where did you come from?”

“I don’t know what happened,” I said. And I didn’t have time to think about it. “We have to go the barn. Now! I know Spike didn’t kill anyone. And I need your help.”

“I…Mom…we…”

“Please, you can sleep in my room tonight if you want,” I said.

I grabbed Rosie by the hand and dragged across our backyard and through the meadow. As we reached the barn door, the owl swooped us and into the night.

“Gaaah,” I cried as his wings skimmed the top of my head.

“I thought you weren’t afraid,” Rosie said.

“I’m not,” I lied. “Stay right here. Watch for him to come back.”

Moonlight slithered through the open slats in the barn.  Long, skinny shadows bounced around on the ground, like dancing ghosts. I kept looking back at Rosie, making sure she hadn’t deserted me.

Down on my hands and knees, I crawled into the corner where I saw the note had fallen. The barn rattled all around me. Something long hung over my head.  Whatever it was, it scratched and moved slowly down the wall. I couldn’t look up. But I had to. Toes dangled above me.  A body?

My breathing was jagged and painful.  But I kept digging, tossing dirt and leaves out of my way. The wind howled through the barn. The scraping grew louder.

“Watch out,” Rosie shouted.

Thud! A netted bag landed at my feet. Heads and arms poked through the openings.  I gasped.  Dolls. Just  frickin’ chicken dolls. My heart pulsed and pounded.

I went back to searching through the dirt. Finally, my hands touched an old piece of crumpled paper.

“Let’s go.” I grabbed Rosie’s hand and took off running.

“Hey, Spike,” I yelled, seeing him walking by our fence. I waved the note in my hand. But he didn’t hear me. He grew fainter, although he didn’t seem to be moving.

I wanted to run after him, but I didn’t want to let go of Rosie’s hand.

I barged through the back door. “Mom. Dad.” I shoved the note in their faces. “Old Man Spike didn’t kill anyone. Olivia left town. Read this. They loved each other.”

“Oh, be still my heart,”  Ethan clasped his hands over his chest.

But for once, my parents took me seriously. With Dad looking over Mom’s shoulder, they studied the letter.

“I’m right, aren’t I? We have to tell Spike. Can we invite him in for dinner?”

“Oh, Honey,” Mom put her arm around me. “Spike died last week. In his sleep.”

“But I…I just..” I thought about how he shimmered and looked so thin and see -through. Like a ghost.

A lump the size of a soccer ball, bounced in my throat. “We need to let the police know. And everyone in town.”

“We will,” Dad said.

“But poor Old Man Spike.” I stared out our kitchen. Snowflakes started falling onto the meadow.

“He’s okay,” Rosie said. “Ghosts know everything.”

 

cloudy barn

Happy Hanukah to all who celebrate. Watch for Tina Ferraro’s Christmas story, coming soon!

 

Posted in Barn, Hanukah, Owl | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments

Funny New Parenting Book!

Science of Parenthood cartoon

Two of my friends, Norine Dworkin-McDaniel and Jessica Ziegler have created one of the funniest, most intelligent books on parenting:   Science of Parenthood: Thoroughly Unscientific Explanations for Utterly Baffling Parenting Situations.

This book is quirky, clever, smart, funny and will make a perfect Hanukkah gift.  In fact, why not buy eight copies, one for each night to give to out to all the parents in your life.

Buy your copy today on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Posted in Authors, Hanukah, Parents, writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

It’s All About the Turkey

Just a turkey

Tomorrow is the fourth Thursday in November which means it’s Thanksgiving here in the United States. A holiday which took on it’s modern day form in 1863 due to a woman, Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of the Boston Ladies’ Magazinehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Josepha_Hale

Thanksgiving is a day spent with family and friends, watching football and feasting on an abundance of food.

Yes. It’s all about the food. Amongst a setting of cornucopias, flowers, and fruit bowls, there sits the usual suspects. Green bean casseroles (which I must add, I do love), cranberry sauces, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pies and plumped up in center stage: The Turkey.

For the past few weeks, the Food Network and Cooking Channel have bombarded us with programs on how to cook this star of the day. (If we spent this much time on how to bring about world peace, we may have a more unified world.)

According to these TV chefs, there are more ways to prepare a turkey than there are sex positions in the Kama Sutra. Some of the most popular are: Baked. Deep fried. Smoked. Grilled. Rubbed with spices. Injected with wine.  Bagged in beer.  Soaked in Brine.

And then there is that is the age-old question. To baste or not to baste?

Looking at the turkey

In our family, my mother swears that basting is the only way to go if you want a moist turkey. My husband on the other hand favors soaking his turkey in brine for twenty-four hours. And take my cousin.  She’s currently deciding on whether or not to use the turkey baster in order to get pregnant.

And once we know how to cook the turkey, the master chefs are hell-bent on advising us what to do with our leftovers. All this before we’ve even eaten the special meal.

You can whip up turkey tacos, turkey soup, turkey enchiladas, turkey pancakes, cupcakes, smoothies, eggroll, dumplings. There is no end to the diversification of this grand bird. Even vegetarians get into the act with their variation: Tofurky.

I wouldn’t be surprised if turkey-flavored edible undies will soon be on the shelves. Or hot turkey oil for those “happy ending” massages.

With all this focus on the turkey, I often think that we’ve forgotten what we are celebrating.  You know the story about the Pilgrims arriving in America ill prepared for the winter? How they had a traditional British feast with the Indians who helped them survive? Imagine that? Dining with the Indians. But that’s a story for another day.

So, tomorrow we will eat, drink and eat some more. Eat ourselves into a stupor.

I’ll be thankful if I wake up on Friday without having massacred my digestive system. Or added to that turkey wattle on my neck that I’m trying so hard to pretend doesn’t exist.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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Moving Mom

Mom Cover Photo

Mom: Then

Mom muscle

Mom: Now

Moving my mother into a retirement home wasn’t easy.  My story was picked up by Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day.

I hope it helps, if and when you find yourself in this situation.

Janie

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A Personal Time Bank

http://www.dreamstime.com/royalty-free-stock-photo-wrist-watch-image8293595

THEN: Changing The Time

 

Rick's Phone

NOW: Changing The Time

With the end of Daylight Savings, I’ve been thinking a lot about Time.  That elusive concept that always seems to pass too slowly when you’re young and way too fast once you’ve crossed the half century mark of your life

I mean, really.  One minute you’re walking down the aisle in a cap and gown and the next you’re wearing a backless gown and being wheeled down the corridor for a colonoscopy.

So, I’ve been thinking.  What if instead of simply turning the clocks back an hour in March and then gaining that hour in October, we could actually save time itself?

If all those hours of Daylight Savings were actually saved in Personal Time Bank accounts.

Every Daylight Savings we would add another hour, not be used until we turned forty or of an age when we could really appreciate time.  Our hours would accumulate and then each fall when we turn the clocks back, we could go to our time bank and withdraw whichever hour we wanted.

Think about it.  You could withdraw an hour from a day in high school when you followed your crush around, waiting for him to smile at you.  To remind yourself of how young love felt.  To help you relate to that hormonal teenage daughter sulking at you from across the kitchen table who wants only to send a text to her boyfriend and not have to listen to you bitch about her lack of respect.

You could withdraw an hour from the day your child was born and relive how it felt to cradle her in your arms.  Before she learned how to talk back.

Or maybe an hour from when you were laid up in bed with a broken bone.  An hour that would remind you to slow down, take a deep breath.  You don’t need to be there for everyone, all the time.

If you were sad over something, you could take a “happy” hour from your bank to remind you of life’s ups and downs.  Perhaps withdraw an hour to help you through a tough situation.  Or even an hour to spend with someone who is no longer with you.

You could revisit the days when we called each other to say hello instead of sending emails.  When a text usually meant a book, a virus referred to something attacking our bodies, and a window was a large opening looking out onto the world.

And let’s take it one step further.  How about being able to withdraw against these hours whenever you needed a few extra minutes to meet a deadline? Instead of rushing from the market to the soccer game to the doctor’s to the office, you could borrow from your Time Bank and make that tightly squeezed day, just a bit easier.

Or maybe even trade hours with your friend to see how it really feels to walk in someone else’s shoes.  Oh, how we could learn to stop judging and just accept each other.

Best of all, we could loan hours to someone whose life is being cut too short.

Oh, the possibilities are limitless.

If only this were possible. But, it’s not. So, I’m going to use this hour for some “me” time.

How about you?

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The Hippie and The Veteran

Hippie 4

If someone had told me when I was a peace-loving, bead-wearing hippie chick that as a middle-aged woman I would be married to a Republican, watch not only CNN but Fox News and frequent a bar at a Disabled American Veterans facility, I would have called that person batshit crazy.

I was a free-spirited, liberal girl out to change the world. I could never sleep with someone who owned a gun and voted for Nixon. But life doesn’t always turn out as we imagined.

Decades into the future, that hippie chick fell in love with a conservative Vietnam veteran. And, after subjecting him for years to poetry readings, self-actualization meetings and Woodstock wannabe festivals, agreed to accompany him one night to a place I never dreamed of going.

How has your life changed?

 

 

 

 

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The Swinging Seventies

Swinging Seventies

Have you ever been in the wrong place at the right time? Experienced a moment which changed your life for the best, although you didn’t realize it until it was over?

I have.

It was the seventies. The decade of tie-dye clothes, disco dancing, big hair and swinging. It was my decade of wanting so badly to be loved, to find a husband, to start a family that I was willing to say yes to anything.

So when Bryce, a co-worker I had a huge crush on, asked me if I wanted to go to a swinger’s party, I said sure. Seconds later the word NO swelled to goliath proportions within my mind, but failed to come out. Instead I asked, “What should I wear?”

“And now for the rest of the story.”  As Paul Harvey used to say.

Or click here for more.

 

 

 

 

 

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Puppy Love

Ziva 2 Ziva

We got a new puppy! Meet Ziva. And if you have anything you would like chewed, please bring it over.

xo

Janie

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Holding Up His Arms

Fan

So many things change as we age. And now this..

Holding Up His Arms.

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The Pluck of the Eyebrow

Eyebrow

So, the other day, I looked down and wondered whose hands were those attached to my wrists. They looked too dry and wrinkly to be mine. They reminded me of my grandmother. Well, she was a hard working woman. Having her hands might not be such a bad thing.

Then I looked at myself in the mirror. And I realized that my teeth weren’t exactly in the same place as they were yesterday. But my smile was still a good one.

And my ears. Well, let’s just say, I knew from family photos, that this particular part of my body would someday get larger.

In fact, it seemed that the entire landscape of my face was experiencing a shift in its foundation. From a geological point of view, I was experiencing eruptions (old age spots), floods (eye leakage), and quakes which were producing in new fault lines everyday.

Most of these changes I expected and was having no trouble dealing with them.

But the other day, I discovered something quite unexpected.

I took off my glasses. Something was missing. I leaned closer to the mirror. And closer still. Until my nose pressed against the cool surface. Yes, this particular part of my anatomy had vanished.

My eyebrows!

Where there should have been a nicely shaped arch covering the length of my eye and beyond, there was this little apostrophe. Just hanging there. Like it actually belonged on my face.

When did this happen? I have a ton of hair everywhere on my body.  On my head, it’s thick and curly with a mind of its own. The ones under my arm are long and snaky. If I don’t shave regularly ( I know, I should wax) they sneak out from the sides of bathing suit. There are several making a regular appearance above my upper lip. And no matter how many times I pluck that nasty one on my chin, it keeps growing back like a garden weed.

So why had my eyebrows gone missing?

I thought about all those wonderful adjectives associated with one’s brows, words used  to describe feelings and  emotions.

Sadness:  Her eyebrows dipped inward.

Confusion:  His bushy eyebrows crinkled.

Determination:  Her eyebrows, straight as a ruler, told me she played by the book.

Flirty:  He lifted one eyebrow and winked at me.

Eyebrows scrunch, gather, stray, lift, sag, tilt. They are an important part of our face.

I couldn’t help but stare at myself.

I was totally shocked.

But, of course, you couldn’t tell by looking at me. Because I no longer have eyebrows to raise in surprise.

Read about my last visit from Aunt Flo!

Posted in Aging, eyebrows, hair, Plucking, Surprise | Tagged , , , , | 19 Comments