The luxurious, time-worn building located at 1618 Main Street was like a majestic Paramount Movies studio set.I lingered at its front doors and pretended that perhaps Gina Lollabrigida, Ann Margaret, or even Rock Hudson would emerge from the set onto the street where I stood.

            “Are you coming?” Grammy tugged on my shirt sleeve.“We musn’t be late for the fashion show!”As we walked through the picturesque lobby, I stopped and—like a tourist—gawked at the exquisite crystal chandelier above me.I even imagined Grace Kelly wearing a glamorous floor-length gown, mink stole, and elbow-length gloves slowly descending the department store’s signature double staircase.

“Little Lady, would you like to sample some perfume?” asked a woman carrying a perfume tray.

“Yes ma’am,” I said my eyes skimming over the tray.

“Shalimar, Chanel No. 5, or Evening in Paris? What shall it be?” I shrugged my shoulders.“Hmm…let me see.You look like a Shalimar gal to me.”She removed the dark blue cap and spray…


Those of us who grew up in the 50s knew what the recess bell was.It was a bell—an actual giant red bell—that rang at the beginning of recess in elementary schools all across America.When it rang, kids lined up to go outside to play—disorganized, loud, dirty play.When the bell rang again, kids lined up to go back inside. We had morning recess, lunchtime recess, and afternoon recess. In between recesses we had class.

One day in 1962, the afternoon recess bell rang at W.C. Daughtery Elementary.My friends and I lined up to go outside and play; once outside we scattered like frantic ants on the first warm spring day and headed in all different directions.Some ran to the slides; others toward the merry-go-round, the swing set, the monkey bars, or the seesaws. But others, like me, didn’t gravitate toward the playground equipment.We had something else entirely different on our minds.

“Sticker weed battle!” yelled my friend, Tommy, as he ran past me.“I want you on my team.Come on!”



In the two days since my arrival, Granddad and I exchanged only a few predictable, cursory words.
“Here’s your cereal; no milk, right?”
“Right, Granddad. Thanks.”
“You sleep okay?”
Although his silent house had kept me awake, I respectfully replied, “Yes sir. I did,” followed by, “How ‘bout you?”
“I’m old: I never sleep well,” he grumbled.  “Just too many memories and ghosts.” The house became still as we struggled with what to say to one another. So we ate breakfast in silence; a silence so thick I could feel it drape around me like an old shawl. I pulled it against me as I plopped down into my grandmother’s chair suddenly aware of something else in the house, something different; a faint rustling, a soft presence of some sort. I didn’t know what it was.
Perhaps it was the lilt of Granny’s lavender perfume that lingered in the rich tapestry fabric, stirring memories of when I sat in her lap reading a book or sharing hot cocoa. Perhaps it was Granny herself. I closed my eyes and remembered…


December extinguished itself in a rush of howling winds and pouring rain; January arrived, cold as frozen iron with hard frosts and icy winds that stung my cheeks and bit at my ungloved hands.Winter’s sunless days, brutally cold temperatures, and constant dreariness had broken my spirit.Then one clear January evening, I opened my garage door; stood on my driveway; and watched my breath mingle with the crisp, frigid air.

I glanced up; stars filled the vast dark sky above me like pale corn sewn into freshly-turned The lyrics of “Starry, Starry Night” played softly in my head. As the lights twinkled and the unheard music played, I pondered.Stars.What are they?Guardians of the galaxy? Blinking fairy lights in the night sky?Fireflies burning brightly against flowing black satin behind veiled layers of serene clouds above my head? Or are they keepers of light and heat?  soil.

I zipped up my jacket; tucked my numb fingers and hands into armpits; and felt the chilly winter wind tous…


After Granny died, Mother requested only one item from her mother’s possessions. “All I really want,” Mother told my uncle, “are her old recipe cards and antique file box.” Mother’s request puzzled me, for I knew Mother didn’t need the recipe cards and file box for any practical reason. She’d known for decades how to make Granny’s pumpernickel bread, sauerkraut, and her breakfast specialty—streusel kuchen.

But when the file box arrived a few days later, Mother stopped what she was doing and sat down at her kitchen table where she gingerly opened the box. Mother sniffed its contents.“It smells just like my mother’s kitchen!”She handed me the box.“Take a whiff. Don’t you agree?” 

I held the box next to my nose and took a long sniff.“Yes! And I think I smell her beef Rouladen,” I said smacking my lips.

“She did make the most delicious beef Rouladen, didn’t she?”A smile lit up her face.“It was so tender and juicy that it just melted in my mouth. Maybe we can find her recipe.”

So over the next…


“Hilda’s in labor!” yelled Mr. Davis.I leapt off the porch, ran next door, and watched Hilda strain as five milk-chocolate-colored Dachshunds slowly wriggled their way from her belly. The first was a runt who immediately captured my heart.I giggled, watching it and the other four bundles of energy squirming beneath Hilda’s tummy, all begging for lunch at the same time. But the magical moment ended when Hilda nudged her runt puppy away. The runt inched his way back, but she shoved him away, pouncing on his tiny back and breaking his tail. 

“She’s hurting him!” I screeched.“Make her stop!”

Mr. Davis scooped up the injured pup and placed him in my hands. “Run, kiddo. Get a shoebox and put that pup in it!”

I darted inside, gingerly holding the wounded pup in my hands; found a shoebox; placed the runt in it, and watched it stretch its tiny body ever so slightly.

“Hilda’s mean, Mr. Davis! Why would a mama dog hurt her own puppy?”

“Kiddo, Hilda’s not mean; her instinct tells her th…