Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

Today is August 31, 2021, and I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge.

“Oh, look.” I strained to see where my wife’s gaze rested. Thinking perhaps she’d spied the two young deer that frequent our expansive back yard to munch on fallen peaches, I moved to stand shoulder to shoulder with her. Peering out beneath the oak grove, I spotted not the two deer, but one girl – my eldest daughter. Alone, she rested astride the old rope swing, gently swaying, now-long legs levitating above the ground. Not quite a silhouette against the painted evening sky. For a moment, my wife and I drank it in.

With twilight quickly approaching, I hastily moved toward the back door. “I’m going to go push her,” I said to my wife.

Closing the door behind me, I shouted down to the girl in the grove, “Hey! How about a push, kiddo?”

The girl’s face beamed back. “Sure!” she replied. I took off at a full sprint, meeting her back swing at just the precise moment to run through her and under her, catapulting her upwards to the stars high branches above. From that highest point, I heard a small exclamation of joy escape my daughter’s lips.

And suddenly I felt myself transported back in time, back to a time when she was five, not twelve. When her legs didn’t extend so far beyond the old stick upon which she now perched. When pink leggings covered those legs, not the middle school jeans she now donned.

Slowly, the swing returned to a gentle sway. And I watched as her eyes seemed to indicate she, too, was time-traveling. She pointed to a different branch on a different tree, over which a failed second rope swing still hung. “Remember we tried to make a second swing there?” she asked, lightly giggling. Then, she looked to her right. “And up there, I made my own swing under that little tree, because…well, I wanted to see if I could do it. Remember?” I looked. Yes, I remembered. I watched as her gaze silently spanned the entire yard, over the raspberry bushes, across the now-brown patches where the turtles come to lay their eggs in the late spring, past the grape arbor.

“I think I have a memory for every corner of this yard,” she whispered.

And then it hit me. Time is passing. My little girl is now in seventh grade. Time is passing. Time is passing. Indeed. I placed my arm around her shoulder. “Wanna head in for dinner?” I asked.

“Sure,” she replied.

Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

Today is May 25, 2021, and I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge.

I heard the cart wheel into my classroom. “The books are here!”

Looking up from my computer, I watched as my assistant teacher stood next to two much-anticipated brown boxes. The distinctive black Amazon tape brought relief to my entire being. Somehow, 12 copies of Sarah Weeks’ Save Me a Seat and 25 copies of Sharon Draper’s Out of My Mind had not gotten ordered, and our sixth grade teacher was about to launch a sixth grade Social Issues Book Club unit for the very first time. And the books were not here.

Not good.

Realizing this the week prior, I had nervously approached our wonderful school office manager, Sue, on Friday. Was there any possible way we might be able to procure the books by next week? I had tentatively asked. “Yes,” she’d confidently responded. “Let’s see what we can do here.” Then she added, “We have Amazon.” While silently realizing that Amazon is deeply problematic in several invisible ways, I will admit to breathing a sigh of relief in that moment. I looked on eagerly as Sue began to work her clerical magic.

A few minutes later, the marvelous words arrived: “The books will be here Monday,” Sue informed me. “I’m out of school all of next week, but you should be all set.” All set, I thought. For only $14.07 rush shipping, we were all set.

Approaching the cart now stationed in my room Monday afternoon, I felt what might be described as mild exhiliration. What a world of technology and convenience we live in! I thought. This ordering oversight would now never have to be known- the books had arrived!

“Be careful, this one’s kinda heavy,” I heard my assistant teacher say, as she pointed to the larger of the two boxes. Having thrown my back out recently, I bent down cautiously to lift the two boxes up to a rickety table positioned near the back of my room. Yes, one definitely felt heavier. I decided to open the lighter box first. Nestled inside, like a dozen brilliant jewels, lay 12 copies of Save Me a Seat by Sarah Weeks. Fantastic. I shook my head in what felt like ecstatic disbelief, as a grin crossed my face.

Now to the second box. Tearing at the black Amazon tape, I pulled upward, revealing what appeared to be a white shrink-wrapped box hidden within the brown cardboard. “That’s odd,” I thought to myself. “I’ve never seen shrink-wrapped books before.” Clearly the box lay upside down, so carefully, I flipped it over.

There, now resting before me on the old brown table, lay 30 16-ounce cans of Zero Calorie Monster Energy drinks. No Out of My Mind. Energy Drinks.


Time to call Amazon customer service. And no Sue here. Yikes.

Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

Today is May 11, 2021, and I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge.

“She’s in here somewhere, sweetheart.” I tried to reassure.

“But what if she’s lost again?” My daughter’s voice sounded full of worry, as we both continued our search for her small, striped stuffed cat known as ‘Clementine.’ Clementine had been lost before, years ago, during the days when my daughter was much younger and had insisted on kitty cat company for various trips in the car. Luckily, we had been able to locate a suitable replacement for Clementine, who soon became a nightime-only companion. Along with ‘Brownie’, Clementine’s chocolate-colored counterpart, these two vestiges of childhood now provide a quiet but much needed tether to the simpler days of childhood for my budding adolescent.

“It’s strange that Brownie’s here… but Clementine isn’t,” I quipped, working hard to sound off-hand and casual, knowing full well we now faced a potential mini-crisis.

“I can’t sleep without Clementine,” my daughter inserted the unsettling truth.

“She’s in here somewhere,” I repeated, as I lifted her comforter up for the third time. “We will find her.” For ten minutes, we quietly inspected any likely location for the missing Clementine: under the bed, behind the bed, beneath the desk, in the closet… nowhere could we catch any sight of the striped stuffy.

Anxiety began to rise, like pressure inside a capped bottle. It was late. I had to do something.

“Let’s go ask Mama,” I suggested. As silently as possible, I ascended the stairs with my daughter in tow. I knew my wife had just gotten my five-year-old to sleep, and this would likely be our last hope. Once upstairs with my iPhone flashlight now illuminated, I gently pushed open the door. I whispered, “We can’t find Clementine.” At first, nothing. Then I heard my wife stir. Although I could not see her, I was fairly certain my wife had fallen asleep next to my youngest.

“Bring the light over,” she whispered. Tiptoeing across the room, I approached my youngest daughter’s bed and allowed the light to gently spill across the sleeping toddler. There, resting peacefully upon the little one’s chest… was Clementine. My youngest, now asleep, lay calmly on her back, clutching the stuffed cat with both hands.

A silent theft!

Next to me, I could hear my oldest daughter begin to seethe. As gently as possible, I removed the stolen object from the hands of a very sweet little thief and handed it to the freshly angered girl next to me in the dark room. “Okay, honey, let’s get you to bed,” I said.

Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

Today is February 2nd, 2021, and I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge.

Death has, once again, laid its icy hands upon my chest.

It was just last Tuesday she called me. “You didn’t write this week,” she said. No, I had not written. It had been a busy week, I explained. Had she read my post from the week prior? I asked. “The one about the mandoline?” she queried. “Oh, yes. My friend printed it out and read that one to me. I gotta tell ya, I never heard of a mandoline for a kitchen in my life!” she laughed. We both laughed.

That small laugh – our final one – was one of hundreds, maybe thousands I enjoyed with my 100-year-old Grammy. Besides my mom, Helen Abner Callaway, my dear Gram, was the woman I had known the longest.

Until last Friday.

Yes, she had lived nearly four months beyond the age of 100. Yes, I am so lucky to have had her in my life for so long. Yes, I should have been ready, prepared somehow for her passing.

But still.

Perhaps one can never prepare for the icy fingers of death. I don’t know. But I do know the phenomenally long life my grandmother lived stands as nothing less than remarkable. Born during the year of Women’s Suffrage, Gram bore witness to so much change across her century-long life. She gave freely; she raised three successful daughters; she contributed to her community. She was an incredible woman.

Tears still fresh in my eyes, I returned home last Friday after receiving the terrible call from my aunt. The sun had retreated behind the clouds, and the frigid air bit at the tips of my ears. Reaching my front door, I cast my gaze downward. There, I noticed the thin, nondescript package lying in the snow. Tearing at the edge, I slipped my hand inside the mysterious package and removed a fresh, new button-down shirt. And a card. It read,

“Happy Birthday! Love, Grammy.”

That was her. That was my Gram. Never forgot a birthday. Even mine, which isn’t until March.

I know the icy grief will remain for a while. But I await the warm memories that will eventually replace the sorrow I feel now. I love you, Gram.

Tuesday Slice of Life Story Challenge

Today is January 19, 2021, and I am participating in the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Story Challenge.

The lady in front of us looked to be around 80 years old. To the clerk at the checkout counter we heard her say, “I’m here to pick up my order.” The clerk, wearing a blue vest and dark-rimmed glasses, instructed the lady to move to the side; her order would be brought to the front of the store shortly. She then turned to my two girls and I and motioned us forward. It was our turn to check out.

Moving toward the check-out counter of the cavernous Ocean State Job Lot, an east coast discount retailer known for selling household goods and apparel, my two oldest daughters and I placed our items in front of the clerk. Suddenly, turning her head toward the woman waiting for her order, the clerk asked, “What was your order?”

“Two mandolins,” came the response.

As my daughters and I exited the store, my nine-year-old asked me, “Papa, what’s a ‘mandolin’?”

“Well, it’s like a small guitar,” I answered, placing my arm around her shoulder as we crossed the parking lot toward our car.

From there, the questions came flooding out from all three of us: Since when did Ocean State Job Lot sell… mandolins? And why would an 80-year-old woman be ordering two of them? What would she do with two mandolins? Who were the mandolins for? Such a mystery!

Driving away from the store, my daughters and I began to laugh and laugh and laugh. The questions continued, tumbling out one by one: Was the old lady a music teacher? Were the mandolins for her grandchildren, perhaps? But the biggest question resurfaced over and over: Why was she buying musical instruments at Ocean State Job Lot?

A few dozen more questions must have escaped our lips as we made our drive home that day. As we walked in the front door of our house, my daughters both agreed this would be a shopping trip none of us would ever forget.

EPILOGUE: Later that evening, my wife explained that a MANDOLINE was a kitchen device used for slicing.

Okay, then.