Out of Place

The speck of something, I don’t know what, lingers in my head, refuses to go away, rests happily atop the left-hand corner of my place mat next to a bowl of cherry yogurt with milled brown flax seed sprinkled on top. Is the intruder to my breakfast a random flax seed? Or is it left from last night’s dinner plate, perhaps a kernel of dried baby broccoli undiscovered until now? Whatever it is, the light-colored speck on the forest green placemat is ruining my place setting, ruining the order in my meal, the order I have created in my life. Yet another distraction that must be eliminated.

I lick my pointer finger — no particular flavor detected — and press down on the speck of whatever. It sticks to my skin, only to be released a moment later into the tiny succulent that adorns our small, round table. A table designed just for two, not for a speck of something to break the order.

The speck now gone, I can proceed with my thoughts free of clutter, free to create, dream, imagine myself elsewhere, perhaps with waves lapping gently at the side of my boat as I float in warm, clear water. No summer smoke. No chaos. No demands.

My granddaughter awakens and interrupts my reverie, tiptoes out to the kitchen like a hungry mouse. In her tiny pink pajamas with the laughing unicorn emblazoned on the front, she greets me with her own cheery face. She tosses her blonde curls to one side as she slips into the chair across from me without a sound.

Ready for breakfast? She shakes her head yes.

I gather up my dirty bowl and empty glass to take to the kitchen sink. Her favorite pancake batter awaits as I heat the griddle. It is the third morning in a row for pancakes.

What shape today? Kitty, she cries.

The batter to make a cat head, body, ears and tail is poured with care. I flip the cat pancake until both sides are golden brown and slide it onto a small, red plate. I place the cat and a bottle of Minnesota, tourist-size syrup in front of her, warning her to be careful with the sweet syrup. It pours easily.

She reaches for the pancake, then folds it in half as though it were a sandwich, with the cat ears flattened together and the tail hanging out from the folded edges. I realize I have forgotten to give her a fork. She holds the pancake in mid-air with her left hand, then reaches with her right for a speck of something, a speck resting on her forest green placemat. She picks it up and deposits it into the plant on the table. I hand her a fork and breakfast proceeds in an orderly fashion, followed by an orderly life, a penchant for everything in its place, poor girl.

Mom’s Scrambled Egg Casserole

Twelve dozen. 

Maybe just one.

Crack each open. 

Open each crack. 

Careful. 

Mindful. 

No shells in the sink. 

Just think. 

You are her. 

Then stir. 

No denial. 

On trial. 

Recipe fits, try it.  

Topping too fat. 

Think of that.

Push. 

Shape eggs into mush.

Cheese sauce on top. 

Stop.

Bake ‘til done.

—Victoria Emmons, ©2017

What is normal?

A tiny, little virus has changed our lives. “Covid” is not a word that I knew before this year, much less that it must have had 18 brothers that lived before it.

“It’s called Covid-19, Grandma,” my six-year-old grandson corrects me when I use the term coronavirus. We chat on FaceTime, the only way we’ve been able to communicate and actually see one another since December during my last visit to Arizona where the Missoula native now lives. “Maybe you can visit us when Covid-19 goes away,” he suggests.

His words hang in the air like an autumn leaf floating to the ground on a crisp October morning. Summer has officially ended and nine months have disappeared since I last hugged my grandson for real, not just some emoji squeeze or thin words on a greeting card promising ‘hugs.’ Covid-19 condemns hugs. Will they ever return?

The virus sparks new markets — decorative facial masks, tee-shirts that promote social distancing, and how-to books on Zoom for Dummies. Our Rotary club hands out People of Action facial masks to its members. I lead Rotary board meetings from my computer at home. I attend social functions and trainings online. I search my photo collection periodically to add new virtual backgrounds to my Zoom account. I grow accustomed to the Hollywood Squares-type faces gathering online, from my memoir class colleagues to family reunions to sessions on history from famous authors. I start to accept this new way of life.

But I don’t want to accept it as normal.

Last week, I joined five friends and one big, lop-eared dog named Ranger who all braved a rather cold evening outdoors for fellowship at Missoula’s Ten Spoon Vineyard & Winery. Being with friends live in a social setting, cold weather or not, is refreshing. Great conversation. Wine tasting. Yummy pizza. And even some comedians performing to boot. Laughs at no charge.

Take that, Covid-19.

Cancelled

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Forever gone from her life
And those of her friends
Who think they are special
Better than the rest
Way better than me
In my frumpy gymsuit
And zero brand collars
No penny in my loafers
Much less fancy tags
From places I can’t pronounce

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Not among the invited few
With privileges to enter
No member number by my name
To celebrate a marriage
Play a volley of tennis
Swing a new driver on wet grass
Race against time in a private lane
On routine morning laps
That anesthetize life
For the next generation

She tells me I am
Cancelled
My child not smart enough
For lavish play circles
Skilled in violin or dance
Ivy League study trips
To Kathmandu or Tokyo
Shopping sprees in big cities
Filled with faces of a different kind
On shores not of our making
Horses race to the finish line
Await the golden prize

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Undeserving of her anointed
Self-importance as though
My gymsuit remains baggy
Shoes tattered and socks worn
Running on empty streets
Curbs with no master
To slow me at red lights or stop signs
Before dawn cracks open her window
Enough to see the hospital walls
Ahead in the darkened alley

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Uncertain who resides behind
The mask of protection from
A March madness that seeps
Into Earth’s seams
Slows its rotation
Halts splashes in the waves
Stops shiny rings on young fingers
Hopeful of a future that may disappear
She remains unaware
Lost in old reruns to mark time in place

She tells me I am
Cancelled
Waves her black pastic in my face
To let me know she pays for the best
Most famous doctor on his way
To save her skin from everyone else
Who sneezes with aching brains
Scarred lungs and seared hearts
Like hers left from years of ugliness
Too selfish to consider the value
Of what friendship might be
If she chooses to look

She tells me I am
Cancelled
As I wipe droplets from her sweaty brow
Insert fluids into her bulging veins
Ignore her delirium as nonsense
Spews from her crusty lips partnered
With the venom of her kind
Gasping for air and life all at once
Retreat from the past
Act in the now
Save the woman from herself
Save myself, too

I tell her she is
Cancelled
God knows we tried our best
Gave all we could
Against all odds
Isolation, ventilator and
Life-saving drugs aside
The same outcome
Her daughter cries
I discard my gloves in a red bag
And move to the next room
Another life cancelled

–Victoria Emmons, copyright, 2020

Freeze Frame

Stuck in the age of Covid-19, racing to nowhere except a way out of this box to which the world has been condemned, a prison cell of prevention, or not, for those unlucky thousands who carry coronavirus with them to their graves, leaving the rest of us to worry about droplets lingering for days on Amazon delivery boxes, empty grocery store shelves, dirty gas pump handles, or our own Fido’s nose, even a child’s hand fresh from a playground jungle gym when the real jungle is Mother Earth spinning in all her infected glory, laughing as she twirls leaving that voice message that cries, “I told you so.”

—Victoria Emmons, copyright 2020

“The Ballad of Don Lewis: The Untold Story of a Synthesizer Pioneer”

Watch for this new documentary produced by Ned Augustenborg about my dear friend Don Lewis. 

Don Lewis gained iconic status in San Francisco’s live music scene during the 1970s and 1980s while performing on the LEO (Live Electronic Orchestra), an interactive network of synthesizers and sound modules that Lewis designed and engineered, that eventually proved to be more than a decade ahead of its time. Earlier in his career, Lewis was based in Los Angeles where his pioneering efforts in the world of Electronic Music lead to work with The Beach Boys, Quincy Jones, Billy Preston, Marvin Hamlisch, Sergio Mendes and Michael Jackson.

But after years of success as a live performer in San Francisco, Lewis was abruptly labeled a “national enemy” of the Musicians Union. Picketing of his performances soon followed which halted Lewis’s ability to continue making a living as a musician, fueled mostly by the Musicians Union’s fears regarding the advancement of electronic instrumentation. Don Lewis personified those fears.

Learn more: www.theballadofdonlewis.com  

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Don_Lewis_(musician)