Sunday, October 25, 2009


Turfless - to be destitute of turf.

We woke at sunrise, the hound and I, and got dressed for our walk. The clear, bright Autumn Sunday with no wind blowing let the factory smells fade away, leaving only the crisp scent of the morning and the falling leaves.

As we stepped through the door, we each sniffed the air. Eloise chasing evidence of her arch-nemesis: Big White Cat. Me, searching for the smoke of a turf fire off in the distance. 3321.69 miles in the distance, as the crow flies.

The blue-gray smoke of a turf fire has the ability to cover time and distance. Cozy like oatmeal with a bit of cinnamon, or hot spiced cider and fuzzy slippers. Afternoons in front of the AGA in Ant's kitchen solving the problems of the world over pots of tea and McVitie's Ginger Nut bisquits. Waking up on a Sunday sofa covered in newspapers. It conjures warmth, shelter from the storm, lost places and boxes of old photos. Happiness with a tinge of longing, like most truly Irish things.

When I was packing to return to America, I stuffed the zippered pockets of my jacket with small bits of turf briquette before tucking it into my suitcase. Thanks Bord na Mona for making it so dry and portable. On days like this when I miss Autumn in Ireland, I light a bit of the turf in an incense burner and let the smell fund my memories.

When I lived in Ireland, I had a waxed paper envelope full of autumn leaves that I would take out of the drawer when I felt lonely for Autumn in America. In my mind's nose the red leaves always smelled a little spicier that the others.

There was a time in my life when I thought that all I needed to be happy was a little cottage by the sea with a turf fire and a ginger cat.

Hmm.  What was I thinking?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Maybe it's the sunstroke talking...

Disney World Orlando.  What an amazing place!

I have sunburn on my nose and blisters on my feet.  Lots of blisters.  There are little tiny geckos running around everywhere and while I think they are adorable, I am really hoping that one of them doesn't jump on me.

I was on safari in the Animal Kingdom.  I saw the Muppets in 3D.  I flew in a hang glider over the Golden Gate Bridge.  And I threw up after wobbling off of Mission: SPACE.  That wasn't one of the high points, but it was memorable.  I should have listened to the 4th or 7th warnings about bailing out if you are prone to motion sickness.  Who knew?  I do now.  In the future if anyone asks if I am bothered about spinning clockwise at the speed of light in a darked, enclosed space, I will definitely raise my hand and quickly step out of the queue.

I love amusement parks.  They're in my blood.  But I didn't expect to love Disney so much. The diverse cast of thousands went out of their way to ensure that the magic was seamless.  Litter was spirited away almost as it hit the ground. They have crowd control down to a science.  At times of the day when the queues for the most popular attractions are longest, suddenly a parade or street performers would appear. 

It was diabolically hot and outragrously expensive.  At times you really had to look to see where the attractions ended and the merchandising began.  There were far too few water fountains.  And let's face it, the heads on some of the Siamese Dolls in It's a Small World looked like they were about to fly off.   But what a wonderful place!  It's fantastic.  It's incredible.  If it is not the happiest place on earth, it deserves credit for trying.  I loved it. 

Just one thing though, I am more than a little creeped out that they keep taking my fingerprints. The nice young woman at the gate assured me that they deleted the information after the passes expired.  Can I get that in writing?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Vanessa vs. the Zombies of Bill Heffner Elementary School

Vanessa gave her mother one final spin to show off her meticulously mismatched outfit before planting a pink flowered boot on the first step of the bus. 

“Have fun, monkey butt,” whispered her mother. 

She waved goodbye and gave the driver a big smile as she looked for an empty seat.
When she was little, she always sat with her brother, but Billy was in Middle School now so she was making the trip on her own for the first time. He sure was a pain, but she kind of missed having him there. First day of school and all. You never know what to expect. 

Vanessa found an empty seat a few rows back. She patted her hair flip and slid across to the window. She turned and looked around at the other passengers. The bus was about half full. The last two rows were filled with 4th and 5th-grade boys, noisy as usual. The first two rows were filled with the shy kids and the little kids, not making a peep. In the middle, nothing but zombies. 

“OMG that is sooo cool,” cooed one of them as she examined the “I Y Hannah” bag carried by her seatmate. 

Vanessa rolled her eyes.

“Everyone knows you’re just jealous.” one of them said. At that, Vanessa laughed out loud. 

“Check this out.” declared another. “It’s a special one of a kind Hannah Montana watch. My mom got it online for my birthday.” She waved her arm in the air to give the others a good look. 

Two of the others were showing off their identical one of a kind watches.
“I guess one of a kind means that you have only one of that kind.“ Vanessa groaned to no one in particular. She looked down at her own oversized watch with the brightly striped leather band and smiled. 

Living in a military community means high turnover in the school population. Vanessa was relieved when the bus stopped again and she saw a familiar, friendly face from her class last year. Relieved, that is, until she spied the Hannah Montana Metallic Denim Scooter with Glitter Belt. 

“Oh no. Not you too.” 

“I got a wake up call this morning from Hannah Montana,” she chirped as she approached the seat. 

“You need a wake-up call,” said Vanessa as she shoved her monkey backpack on the empty seat. 

At each stop, a few more passengers got on. Some were zombies, collectively sporting the entire Walmart Hannah Montana clothing collection. The rest were regular students buzzing with the excitement of the first day of school. The seats filled up until the one next to Vanessa was the only one open. 

She picked up her backpack, pulled out her iPod and cranked up “Funkytown” to drown out the incessant zombie chatter. She sat back and rocked her flowered boots in time with the music. 

At the last stop before the school, a tiny first grader got on and bounced into the empty seat. Vanessa recognized her from the Family Support activities on the base. 

The zombies, smelling fresh meat, hovered near the new arrival, flashing their Hannah Montana Thunder Velcro Sneakers and their Purple Pouchettes. 

The little one, not knowing any better, was mesmerized by the glitter of it all. 

“Be careful,” whispered Vanessa. “they’ll suck out your brain.” 

One of the zombies slipped a Hannah Montana lip gloss ring on the little girl’s index finger. 

“Go ahead. Give it a try. It’s Rockin’ Blueberry. My favorite.” whispered the Zombie. 

“Nooooooooo,” screamed Vanessa as she grabbed the ring and threw it out of the open bus window. “That’s how they turn you into one of them.” 

The zombies hissed at Vanessa’s declaration and slid back into their seats. 

As the bus pulled up in front of the school, the zombies packed their Hannah Montana notebooks, pencils and school planners back into their Hanna Montana Glam Glitter Backpacks and Canvas Guitar Sling Bags and started leaving the bus. 

One of them leaned into Vanessa as she passed and whispered, “Next time.”