You Are Your Moods

You Are Your Moods

BR Chitwood

You are your moods…just sharing some of mine…

My mother was a gentle, generous, and kind woman from a large loving family of four boys and four girls, the matriarch of the brood fervently involved in her Protestant Faith. The father was a quiet, gentle, corpulent man, a railroad foreman for the Louisville and Nashville Railroad Company, a most pleasant person who seldom interfered with the demands of his pious wife who each day offered a loud, long, tearful, prayer to her Father in Heaven, with all present kneeling for her long wailing wishes for blessings and forgiveness of sins committed by her and her brood. Despite the parental toughness of her ways and the seriousness of her moods, she was a kind and gentle person.

Two of the four boys would serve their country in World War Two, one ferrying our brave warriors to the shore at Omaha Beach. The youngest of the brothers was murdered as he was closing down his ‘Filling Station’ late at night in Knoxville, Tennessee. Stanley was his name and a most wonderful Uncle. Uncle Stanley saw me through some difficult times in my early life. I loved this good man and think of him often through all these years.

Uncle Stanley and my mother were so much alike, both holy of heart, soul, and honorable in their daily living…

My Mom was a boarding house cook and a Bell Telephone Operator/Supervisor. Because of economic conditions at the time my mother had to rely on the state of Tennessee and my grandparents for boarding and financial help – it was a necessary procedure for many families at the time.

My most memorable years came when my mother brought my sister and me to live in a lovely home across from a beautiful college where I played tennis with some of the students and attended elementary school. Times got better for our small family. My sister blossomed early and wanted all that went with a pretty face and desirable body…problems, yes, but the family worked through it.

Much of my life was molded from those early days, still given to thoughts of a past with too little good and a lot of ugliness. I served my country, got through college, taught writing to high school seniors, did some acting, commercials and film, married a few times, sired three beautiful kids who constantly amaze me with their goodness, settled at last with a lovely lady who is all a man could possibly want.

Oh, and I have written twenty books, many based on true crimes, mystery and romance, a couple of memoirs, some 375 blog posts, many ‘flash fiction’ pieces, short stories, and poetry.

Okay, had this quiet afternoon of reflection, felt like writing some of it down, and I feel better…and, I just felt like sharing it with people who might be reading my posts.

All of my books are on: https://brchitwood.com

Hope you can read some of my books…and perhaps leave an Amazon review if so inclined…

Somewhere A Lesson

Somewhere A Lesson

By BR Chitwood

By 10:00AM I was sated with Jenny’s steak and eggs  and ready for some serious beach time across the road from her sidewalk café in Santa Monica…it became a ‘ritual thing’ some six months back when I moved into Marina del Rey a few blocks east to taste the merry and often contrary life of a divorced male, still lying awake at night much too long evaluating those years brought by an insecure and troubled child and young-adult childhood. It was likely even seasoned psychiatrists would feign a ‘too busy’ schedule to ‘work me in’.

A ‘thought’ that tip-toed often into my emotional network, ‘I was loving every damned minute of my new freedom’…well, not every minute, but enough so that the ‘old me’ of my thirty years of living would not give one selfish minute to considering another legal ‘I do’ affair.

So, sated, along with some time-worn good jesting with familiar customers – mostly, over my casual attire (swim suit, jazzy tee-shirt, and white tennis shoes) – plus, some ‘life of the idle’ remarks that were good-natured and jokingly sent, I left the café.

As I crossed the street westward toward the sand and Pacific Ocean, I noticed a group of four kids in their early teens in some sort of lively debate and shoving action. When I stepped onto the sidewalk one of the youngsters accidentally crashed into me. Actually, shoved into me by one of the teens.

“Whoa,” says I, “what’s the ruckus, guys?”

I noticed the smaller kid who fell into me was the smaller of the group…it took me only a tick or two to notice the leader of this pack – you know the type: half-closed eyes, twisting his face into what he considered a menacing position, stood in a defiant stance, legs parted, hands rolled into fists, trying for all the world to look mad and mean.

I put my hand on the smaller kid’s shoulder, looked at the ‘defiant one’, and asked: “What’s your name, fellow?”

“What’s it to you? This is none of your business. Butt out.”

I took my own defiant stance. “I should slap the crap out of you, kid, so keep your mouth shut while I talk…”

The big kid started to open his mouth, and I moved forward one step closer to him. He did not speak.

“Okay, guys, what’s going on? Why is this kid being shoved around?”

The big kid started again to talk, and I moved within two feet of him with my eyes wide and glaring. He looked to the ground and did not speak.

Again, I asked, “What’s going on? Why the shoving. It looks like all three of you are against this kid. Why? Give me your names.” My cold stare reached them all.

The two smaller kids gave me their names – Danny and Sol. The shoved kid offered his name as well – Chaney.

“What’s your name, big guy?”

“I don’t have to give you my name. You’re not the police…”

“You know that for sure? Give me your name, ‘Big Shot’, or you just might find yourself in a lot of trouble.”

The big kid lowered his head, looked off toward the ocean just as a police siren was heard off in the distance.

He lowered his eyes and spoke: “My name is Oscar, okay?”

“Look, guys, I spent a lot of my childhood around bullies who liked to tell others what to do and get them into a lot of trouble. I’ve got a feeling Oscar here is a bully – he’s bigger, feels that buys him special rights, like, picking on smaller guys and being known as the ‘big wheel’. It’s a matter of time when these ‘bully-guys’ will not be around to torment others…they go on to become criminals and spend years in dark prisons, away from anyone who could or would love them.

“So, look, guys, don’t treat people like you would not like to be treated…here’s the plan: Oscar, you take off, think about what I’ve said here – it’s just as easy, Oscar, to win friends with kindness as with ‘bully behavior’. I just hope you get that sooner than later. Your life will be much better…go on, take off, but don’t bother these guys again. I live here and will be looking out for any troublemakers.”

Oscar turned and walked away, went a short way, then ran full speed southward down the sidewalk.

“You guys okay now?” I asked.

Each in turn seemed relieved and would eventually head eastward and home.

After the boys left, I stood watching them while they were still in sight, and, for some reason a memory I own from my own teenage life came to me.

*

[NOTE: one of my fictional novels – Hammer’s Holy Grail – which, like most of my fictional books, contain some factually accurate content…brought to my mind the scene below…

The scene in the book deals with an encounter where my Mom, a cousin, his sister, and I are visiting my Dad in his hotel room to tell him about my sister, age sixteen, eloping with an Army Corporal. Mom and Dad, divorced for some years, with Dad an absentee father we seldom saw for the most part… Suffice it here, but that was a scene I shall never forget. If you want to read more, the book is available on Amazon Kindle and Paperback.]

*

I did live in Marina del Rey, did have breakfast at a small café in Santa Monica, and the following aforementioned scene did occur – both, really, and in Hammer’s Holy Grail.

*

Dad’s hotel room was large but there was not enough chair-seating for all of us. My club-footed Cousin sat in a chair, and his sister sat in a matching chair next to him. Mom sat on the big king-sized bed, and I sat on an uncomfortable radiator by a window some ten feet across from my Mom.

Dad finished his phone call, walked around the room, smiling, looking us over. He knew something was amiss.

“Something’s going on, so let me in on it.”

Dad came to the big dresser and mirror across from the bed and leaned against the top.

Mom was cowed at the pillow-end of the bed, her hands wrapped into each other, her face a pitiful chalky white looking very nervous and scared…she had known a number of times of Dad’s beatings of her and my sister…

Finally, Mom spoke in a soft, terse voice: “Bobbie Jean ran off and married an Army fellow…” Tears came and poured down her face, and her lips tried to form words but could not. She bent her head to her bosom, her hands shaking with terrible stress.

All was quiet in the hotel room for some few seconds.

Dad’s eyes turned into squinted monster eyes. He walked one way, then, another, finally walked to Mom, hovered above her for some seconds, then, with an open hand slapped her so hard on her left cheek, the force of his blow throwing her into the headboard of the bed.

On my uncomfortable radiator grills I was a jumble of nerves, frightened as I had always been in those tense moments when Mom and Sis were beaten, but, not this time. Oh, there was the usual partial paralysis, but also a sudden mix of anger as I looked at my trembling mother on the bed.

As terrified as I was, something moved me, and I dashed with tears streaming from my eyes off the radiator and tackled my Dad onto the lower part of the bed, and swung my fists at him as hard as I could…

For whatever reason, my tackle and my blows had an immediate effect on Dad…surely, they could not have hurt him so very much – although I was then much bigger, playing football, and much stronger than when he beat her years before.

Dad calmed down so quickly that I thought I really might have hurt him…but it was his eyes that told me differently. He looked into my face with a sorrow I cannot describe, like, maybe he had destroyed a part of something most important in his life.

That was the ending of hostility, and I don’t remember when my breathing came back to normalcy, but I was happy that day was over and my Mom was calm again.

We all knew there would be no more rage and spousal abuse.

There were always reasons behind actions taken by someone…I loved my Mom. I loved my Dad. However, there were times when reality could place you smack in the middle of a scary and ugly movie.

Such is life – the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly!

*

BR Chitwood – August 11, 2020

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When Dreams Collide

-Image by: Johannes Plenio – Unsplash-

When Dreams Collide

It was early AM. Darkness still ruled the night, and the dream I was having collided with an aberration, a rather obediant traitor to my sleep on occasion.

Many of my dreams are bleak and dark, depicting scenes of me trying to reach my kids, my mother, my wife for some urgent reason…an example might help me here:

My aged and infirm mother, having finished her day job for the day, is walking laboriously with bags of groceries up a sidewalk in a big city. She is also caring for my children, and I’m rushing to reach her, to help her with her bags of groceries. I’m also worried about my young children, arriving home from school and finding no one home…

So, I’m harried in a hasty rush to reach my Mom and help her with the bags of groceries, but I keep finding my way blocked by some crazy twist in the dream – I’m on the wrong street… I’m out on the outskirts of town, trying desperately to find my way back to the city, and a speeding train is coming toward space that I must cover to reach the city… There are also scenes of the kids, about to end the school day, but it is a bizarre dream laced with anxiety, fear, and desperation. 

This sort of dream comes to me here in Twilight, and I can make a certain deductive reasoning for the dreams, to remind me of something, to make me feel guilty, to mostly agonize about the grayish tone of the dreams…

So, I awake. I’m all fuzzy in my head. My cat, Lady Gray, is at my side in the darkness, obviously concerned about me, with either talking in my sleep or my movements. (I’m thinking she’s prescient, in my life her form but an embodiment of my Mom…) Okay, call me loco en la cabeza.

Anyway, I stroke Lady Gray’s soft furry back and whisper, “It’s okay, Sweetheart.” As my eyes venture in the dark toward the end of the bed, I think I see Julie’s face in the deep gray darkness. “Julie!” I yell.

I hear a weak reply. “Are you alright?” I yell.

“Yes,” she replies.

Then, it occurs to me to pat my side of our kingsize bed and I feel the lump, the lump that is Julie already back into her sleep… Julie can sleep with the best of sleepers – even, standing up, she has informed me.

A few minutes pass and I decide to get up and dressed. I want to see if I can capture this nighttime episode in a blog…you’re reading it.

While alone with my laptop I’m wondering if Julie might be worried that I’m… Well, I’m not, but I did cry a little when I read an ‘I Love You’ card she sent to me before we retired for bed last night.

Thanks for the audience. I had to get this out of my mind.

Who the hell needs ‘reminding’ they are getting older?

They know.

They feel.

Into the ‘knowing and feeling’ creeps memories and a life not all bad, but, certainly, the edges are frayed.

Life is still great here in Twilight.

BR Chitwood – November 2, 2019

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Requiem to a Boarding House Cook

Today, perhaps my mind is still unsettled, still searching for some ultimate truths, and that is okay. The words still mean something to me. Whatever my writing comes to be, somewhere in those sentences and paragraphs, in those characters and plots, there will be parts of me, and, actually, they are pretty easy to find. I am not a very large mystery in the scheme of things.

Maude Inez Balsinger
– My Mom –

Requiem To A Boarding House Cook

 

Don’t guess too many boarding houses even exist anymore, but let me tell you: the best food I’ve ever eaten was in a boarding house setting.

The cook? My dear, beloved, departed mother. In one of my books, I mention that she is up there with angel ‘Clarence’ ringing a bell when some earthly creature does something good — you will all remember ‘Clarence:’ he visits us each year at Christmas time in a re-run of the movie, “It’s A Wonderful Life.”

It might seem strange to sing the praises of a boarding house cook in a post, but the mind can carry you to some memory stations that leave a faint, sometime tearful, wisp of nostalgia.

The sleeping room in Mrs. Lester’s Boarding House my Mom and I shared was just across from the big kitchen, and, as a small eight-year old kid, I sat in one of the two rocking chairs in that room listening on the radio to a broadcast of a baseball game or football game, and the smells from that kitchen at dinner time would get me really hungry.

Just before Mom served the boarders at the long large dining table in front of the house, she would bring a heaping plate of food to me in that bedroom across the hall. Didn’t matter what it was, meatloaf, pot roast, pork chops, corn bread, biscuits, mashed potatoes with gravy or home fries, it was always the most enjoyable food I would ever remember eating. And Mom would always smile, give me a kiss on the cheek, and say something like: “You’re the best little boy in the world…”

My Mom was a boarding house cook during some of the most troubled times in our economic history…during the great depression era in Appalachia. East Tennessee would be more precise. Knoxville, Tennessee would be most precise. Mom and Dad were divorced, and my sister was living fifty miles away with my maternal grandparents because of the bad times. Mom worked long hours seven days a week and she always made the time for me, made the time to make me feel like all was really right with the world. Even in my little pea-brain I knew all was not right in our world, that there were things happening in our lives that were beyond my scope of understanding. But Mom tried and she did make me feel loved and very much wanted in her life.

So, when that big plate of food was all consumed and wiped clean with the last bit of biscuit or cornbread, the ballgame ended, I would become wistful about my Mom’s boarding house existence, feeling that she really did not have much of a life. I would sit in that room, stuffed with good southern cooking, Mom doing dinner clean-up duties, and I would try to write a poem…try to write a poem that would convey the love I felt for my Mom, try to say in words on paper what my tiny voice could not say.

My Mom always encouraged me to follow my heart, to sing my songs, to write my verses, and it was there in those days during World War Two when I first took pencil to paper. Yes, the words were the mutterings of a young unsettled mind, but they meant something to me then.

Today, perhaps my mind is still unsettled, still searching for some ultimate truths, and that is okay. The words still mean something to me. Whatever my writing comes to be, somewhere in those sentences and paragraphs, in those characters and plots, there will be parts of me, and, actually, they are pretty easy to find. I am not a very large mystery in the scheme of things.

My Mom gave me the great gift of writing, the wonderful gift of expressing myself with words. It doesn’t matter so much that the words will or will not ring so many bells down here.

It does matter that Mom and ‘Clarence’ might occasionally ring their bells for me.

Billy Ray Chitwood – 9/25/17 and 8/06/12

 

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