California Babe

She’s kissing him again. The jutting brick wall around the recessed doorway hides him, but only partially hides her. I can see him leaning back against the closed door. She leans into him.  Their heads are locked together, his arms tight around her.

I loiter out in the yard, waiting. Lunch period is almost over and though I know they cannot be seen from the teacher’s vantage point, I remain as her unofficial lookout. I don’t want her to get into any more trouble.

The bell rings and Betty disentangles herself from the boy with one last kiss. She turns around looking for me. I make eye contact and she gives me her brilliant smile. I smile back in relief. She wasn’t caught. This time.

Her light brown hair bounces on her shoulders as she walks over to me. Not for the first time, I wish I had her air of self-confidence, her lightness of being.  Together we make our way to our next class.

“Did you bring your radio?” she asks.

“Yes, I always do.”

“Can I borrow it? You know how I hate Math.”

I hand it over as we take our seats next to each other. She opens her notebook and lays the pocket-sized radio upon it. With the volume turned low, she places her ear against it and gives me a wink.

She knows Mr. Garcia will assume she’s hunched over on her desk because she’s having a “bad” day and won’t call on her. The wink tells me that the only thing causing her cramps is the homework she didn’t do.

On the walk home she tells me about the boy. I don’t know him, but I’ve taken an instinctive dislike to him. When we reach her house, we stand on the sidewalk for a moment.

“Be careful, Betty,” I tell her.

I’m not sure what prompts me to say that, but I feel a need to warn her, to look out for her. She is my friend. She could have been anybody’s best friend, but she picked me.  Next to her I feel dowdy, timid. Social graces don’t come easy for me. I have to mentally rehearse what I’m going to say ten times over before I can get up the nerve to actually say it out loud.

“He’s going to California and he’s taking me with him.”

“But what about school?”

“School is boring,” she says, then turns and skips up the walk to her front door.

I watch her go inside and then continue on home. I know chores are waiting for me and I will have to carve out time for my homework.

A few months later, Betty is looking a little drawn and pale. She lacks the vitality from before.

“I’m pregnant,” she says to me without preamble.

I suck in my breath. Now I know why I don’t like that boy, why I’ve never asked his name or anything else about him.

“What are you going to do?”

“We’re going to get married. I told you we’re going to California.”

I want to believe, but it doesn’t look like she believes it herself. Soon after, Betty drops out of school. Selfishly, I feel bad for me.

When summer comes, I have time to go visit her. She takes me to her room and shows me her brand new baby boy. The crib is set into a recessed area in one wall. It almost seems as if someone carved out a spot just big enough to fit it in. The room is cluttered with girl things and baby things. There isn’t enough space for it all.

“What happened to him?” I hold her gurgling, fat little son in my lap.

“His family sent him to California,” she says looking down at the floor. “He’s going to send me money.”

We both lapse into silence. I know that’s not true and I think she knows it too. He won’t send money and he won’t come back. His family has sent him to keep him away from her, to help him evade the responsibility of raising this child.

He is, after all, a child himself. Fourteen, just like Betty.





Procrastination Block

Does procrastination count as writer’s block?

Is there such a thing as writer’s block?

I tend to think not. Material is never lacking. I think what’s lacking is the will to sit down and write. Write all those thoughts that flow into your head at odd moments. And then take the time to sort out the jumble and end up with stories or poems.

I find I do that all the time. Forget to write down my thoughts. I plan to do it later, but then the thought is gone, or at least partially gone. But now I have a new gadget, new to me that is, an iPhone, and it has this little Notes function. Looks like a miniature yellow legal pad. It’s a little thought catcher.

I find it so handy. Don’t have to carry the actual notebook I always stuffed in my purse anymore. I felt naked without pen and paper at hand. I was incomplete without them.

Now I have an easier way to catch my thoughts before they fly away into the ether. The next step is to decide what to do with them. November is almost upon us and it’s time for NaNoWriMo once again. No, I haven’t signed up for the challenge, not officially that is. But, this year I will sign up in spirit. See what I can produce.

If you’re signed up, good luck and happy writing!



Crafting Memories

grandparentingYesterday, when I should have been working on the quilt Falling Leaves, I felt compelled to make a new blankie for my little granddaughter. I’d bought pink Dora the Explorer fabric months ago and had been debating how best to use it.

When I spread out the fabric, I was surprised to find I’d bought two yards. Inspiration hit. I folded it in half, trued it up, and started stitching. I decided it would be a simple, light blankie.

As I sewed she hung around, enthralled with a new creation for her collection. I smiled, thinking of the memories I was making for her. Little-girl memories I’d not been given.

I never knew my father’s mother; she died before I was born. And before I was old enough for school, I was given one fading memory of my mother’s mother, shortly before she died.

But when I turned ten, fate would step in and give me a surrogate grandmother. It happened when my older sister married. Rosa was nineteen, her husband not much older. But his mother, his adoptive mother, was old enough to be his grandmother.

She and her husband had long been childless when an acquaintance of theirs became pregnant with an unwanted baby. Both jumped at the chance to raise the child and lovingly brought him up in a tiny little house. When he chose to marry, they did not hesitate to move to an even tinier house in back.

They lived down the street from us and I took to visiting my sister frequently, but it was really her mother-in-law Antonia I wanted to see. Afternoons, Antonia would sit outside under a large mesquite tree and crochet filigree edgings onto white cotton pillow cases. She’d edge dish towels and place mats that she’d first embroidered with colorful flower bouquets. All destined to be gifts, she’d patiently pedaled them into being on her treadle sewing machine.

Her crocheting intrigued me. My eyes strained to follow the slim silver hook as it flew in and out of the cloth with a speed that practically made it invisible. Varicolored purple and pink edgings materialized where before there’d been none. Her head bent over her work, she’d tell me stories about growing up in old Mexico, but I barely listened.

“You want to learn how?” she finally asked one day.

“Yes,” I said, drawing closer.

“Here, hold it like this.”

And with that, the work was in my lap, my fingers fumbling with the steel crochet hook. Its needle-sharp point hurt when I stabbed my finger instead of the cloth. But with her infinite patience and soft voice, she coached me along until single crochet and double crochet made perfect sense.

The day came when she would adopt a second child, a girl on the cusp of teenage-hood. Mothering once more took up her time and the quiet afternoons were few, but by then I was well on my way to crafting my own simple creations.

When I turned eighteen I married and moved far away, but I took Antonia’s teachings with me and built on them. I learned about treble crochet, and countless other stitches. I bought my own sewing machine and took a sewing class, then delighted in making clothes for myself and my child.

Those days are long gone, nothing but memories now. Time has moved away from that human-powered sewing machine of Antonia’s and even from my first plain Singer. The machine I now own is not even a sewing machine; it’s a sewing computer.

I’ve lost count of how many afghans I’ve made, and half-forgotten many of the intricate stitches I used to make them. Most of those blankets are scattered hither and yon across the country, gifts sent from my heart.

My crafting time now spent primarily on quilting, I only crochet during the moments I sit down to watch TV. A blue and white canvas tote, given to me at a writer’s conference, sits on the end table next to my spot on the leather loveseat. Within it snuggles my current project, as it is never emptied of yarn.

Though my work area differs greatly from Antonia’s, I still feel the calm I knew then every time I pick up my aluminum crochet hook. Sometimes, I imagine I can see Antonia, her white hair parted in the center and pulled back tight, as she bends intently over her work in the south Texas heat.

It was she who instilled in me the love of crafting, and the joy of giving, under the peaceful shade of that mesquite tree. Thank you, Antonia. May you rest with the angels.


Four Little Letters

I’ve never liked my name. Never liked the sound of it.

I pronounce it Erma, and many people try to write it that way. But it takes an I, an I that actually sounds like an E, as in eerma. But even then, it’s not correct for it lacks the trill, eerrrrma.

It’s a wonder how four little letters can be so misconstrued.

In many families, a name appears more than once. My mother and her only sister were both name Maria, with different middle names. But no one in the family had my name. I wondered if that was because nobody wanted it. Not until I married did I end up related to another Irma, with the same last name to boot.

Growing up, I didn’t give my name much thought. I figured I was bound to it regardless of how I felt. It wasn’t til I began searching for names for my own children that I wondered about my own name’s significance.

According to this site, and several others I’ve searched, it’s German, Spanish, English, among others. I wonder now if that’s what prompted me to study German in high school, though back then I had no clue as to its origin.

Its meaning, whole, universal, gives me pause.That is such a responsibility!

But I suppose I am whole and universal to my family, my children. The youngest of which was to be named Amelia, so that all would have names starting with A, and be written the same in English and Spanish.

Alas, when my husband called his father to tell him of her birth, his father heard “Emilia,” which was the name of his recently deceased mother. I grumbled, but didn’t have the heart to tell him he was wrong and disappoint him by refusing to name her after Grandma. I caved, and my baby’s name soon was shortened to Emma.

Emma was quick to make herself known as a focused overachiever and when she reached high school she insisted on studying German. She disregarded my pleas to study Spanish, as I could help her with that language. I’d never told her that I had studied German myself, since by then the only words I still recalled were mach schnell, hurry up.

Nonetheless, she hurried up through high school and went on to university to fulfill my unrealized, but unbeknownst to her, dream of studying journalism. It turned out my little Emma was another me, but better. And I’m not in the least surprised to learn that the name Irma is related to the name Emma.

The Gavel part 4

( A short/short in four parts.)

Are You My Punishment?

The man’s hand itched to grab his gavel; his fingers slithered toward it. He stopped short. The woman’s words had robbed him of even this small pleasure.

She continued to stand defiantly before him, her eyes boring into his, her  gaze challenging him. He could hear her unspoken words. Be a man!

Worse, he could hear her spoken ones. Are you my punishment? she’d asked.

As her composure grew, so did his discomfiture. He ran his hands over his sweaty face, peeking at her through his fingers. With a prolonged sigh he finally spoke.

“No,” he said. “You are mine.”

The Gavel part 3

(a short/short in four parts)

That Little Piece of Wood

The man and the woman eyed each other.

“You feel powerful with that little piece of wood in your hand?”

Startled, the man let go of the gavel as it were on fire.

“Watch your mouth, MIssy!”


“Or what?”

“Or you’ll watch it for me?”

The man flushed to his hair follicles. For he had been doing exactly that; her full sumptuous lips prompting an ember to glow.

She kept her eyes locked onto his.

“Are you my punishment?”

The words, uttered in a seductive whisper, caused him to lower his gaze. This witch could read his mind.

The Gavel part 2

(A short/short in four parts.)

Do Not Tempt Me, Woman!

“You will face your punishment now.”

“Which is?”

“You will live your life with one man.”

“Of whose choosing?”


“I see only you.”

“Do not question our authority!”

“I only question yours.”

“This impertinence will stop!”

“It will stop when I die.”

“Do not tempt me, Woman!”

Her lip curled into a knowing smile as he seemed to shrink before her. He clutched his gavel tightly, the only tool he possessed that was hard to the touch.


The Gavel part 1

(A short/short in four parts.)

You Stand Accused

“You stand accused of having loved more than one man.”

“Is that a crime?”

“Your heart may belong to only one man.”

“My heart belongs to me. I give that to no man.”


The gavel exploded onto the tall platform hiding the man from the chest down. He glowered down at the woman standing before him in full view.

The man was incensed. She did not cower before him. How dare she display such arrogance?

“You will not contradict me!” he screamed.

“I do not contradict. I clarify.”

Her voice held no tremor, her stance no timidity. She seemed to grow taller; chin and breast jutted out, spine erect. Her unblinking eyes showed no fear.

What was there to be afraid of? He was only a man.



Scary Love, part 3

“Alma,” he spoke her name, savoring it. “That means soul in Spanish.”

“That’s what I am,” she replied. “A soul.”

She faced him, seated cross-legged on the grass. The lush vegetation of the botanical garden formed near-solid walls around the small clearing they’d found. Overhead, the bright blue sky held a cresting sun as wispy, cottony clouds were ushered along by a sluggish breeze. Brilliantly colored butterflies flitted about, and the only other sounds came from the chirping birds.

He lay full-length in front of her, propped up on his elbow. He seemed to be idly plucking at the grass, but his attention was riveted on her tube top. With her long hair flowing freely, it was hard to tell there were no straps to hold it up.  But he was close enough to see.

“All I have to do is this,” he said, bringing his finger close to her breast and making a downward motion.

She said nothing, daring him with her eyes. His eyes bore into hers as he brought his finger to her breast again and left it there suspended, a hairsbreadth away.  After a moment’s hesitation, he hooked it into the top pulling it slowly down one side. She remained perfectly still as she felt the soft breeze caressing her breast.


(From Alma: A Soul Caught Between Heaven and Hell)