Nature or Nurture

My sisters, mother, and her mother all read extensively, my father and brother, not so much so. It didn’t dawn on me until I was an adult that only the women in my family were avid readers, and I wondered why that was so. My first thought was it had to do with genes, that only the females in my family had inherited the reading trait-if there is such a thing. Then it came to mind it might be learned behavior.

I don’t recall ever seeing my father read when I was growing up, but my mother was another story. She didn’t have much leisure time, taking care of a husband and seven kids, a farm/ranch, and holding down a job in town from time to time saw to that. But when she did have a minute or two free, it would be spent between the pages of a book.

Most of Mama’s days were spent moving from one chore to the next with no breaks in between; there was no time to read. So she made time. Most nights when she went to bed, she read for a while before turning off the lamp and settling in beside Daddy—if he was there and not working out of state. She traded much-needed sleep for the world of words.

When I was around four, Mama’s mother came to live with us after Grandpa died. Granny was a reader too. I remember sitting by her in the old wooden rocker she favored while she read to me in her soft, gentle voice. I remember wishing I could read for myself, and envying my brother and sisters who had been taught to read at school. I wanted to go to school and learn to read too (Once I got there, I hated it…a story for another time).

I don’t recall seeing my brother read a book. I think he was busy helping Daddy and doing guy things, and picking on me and another sister who were younger than he was. Maybe he thought reading wasn’t manly. I don’t know; you would have to ask him.

I have one child: a son who is not a reader. When he was small I read to him, and growing up, he saw me with my nose in a book every chance I got. Still, he didn’t read for pleasure. (He listens to books now, so I am at least grateful for that.) I wondered where I went wrong. Then all squinty-eyed I looked to his dad, an outdoorsman, and saw the problem. I had produced a child with a man with no interest in books.

I came to the conclusion that either my son did not inherit my love of reading, or by observing his father and other males in the family, subconsciously believed that reading was not an acceptable male pastime.

Nature or nurture, or a combination of both…I still don’t know the answer.

What do you think?

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Around the Bend

running down
that dusty road
impervious to rocks
her shoe-leather soles

chasing sister
chasing brother
watch the baby
said their mother

her short legs
falling behind
a dollar short
and always behind

alway a bother
always a chore
sometimes left alone
and often ignored

she didn’t talk much
cried not at all
and stone by stone
she built a wall

to protect a heart
too tender to show
keeping it hidden
from friend and foe

every passing year
saw more bricks
added to the wall
rick by rick

until one day
she opened the door
stepped outside
joints stiff and sore

and hobbled down
that dusty road
cut and bruised
her old thin soles

chasing what
she didn’t know
only knew
it was time to go

she was ready
to reach this end
maybe it’d be better
just around the bend

© 2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

My Way

Not long after I pitched the last of Ted’s fingers out the Winnebago’s window, I saw the mean man and the sad woman.

Still on I-10, I had stopped to fill the gas tank when they pulled in beside me at the pumps. Now, I’m usually one to mind my own business, but they made it kind of hard, screaming and carrying on like they were. You could hear them even though their windows were rolled up. Him, at least. His voice was loud and pissed and carried a ways.

I tried my best to ignore the goings-on in the dusty red car. I had always figured what went on between a man and his wife-or whatever they were to each other-was their business, and nothing good ever came from sticking your nose in. So I stared out over the desert, thinking about Ted, while the gas went glug glug glug into the tank.

The slamming of a door pulled my attention back to the car. The man, a banty rooster runt of a thing, stalked around the front of the car and grabbed the nozzle on the other side of the pump I was using. He screwed off the cap, shoved it inside, then palmed his sweaty dark hair back from his forehead. His eyes met mine, narrowed. “What the hell are you looking at?” he growled. Continue reading “My Way”

Freedom

A crack zigzags across the old sidewalk
And wrenches apart the hot concrete,
Exposing a tiny sliver of earth
That for years untold
Has known only crushing pain and darkness.

While above . . . days pass, weeks pass,
And Summer relinquishes its sovereignty to Autumn.
Leaves fall; scarlet and saffron and umber tears
Scurry and dance across the sad gray surface.
Revivified wings flap overhead, rain patters down.

A frigid gale rides in on the back of the North Wind.
Ice crystals settle in the divide, cold elbows
Pushing against the argentine walls
That are desperately struggling to hold together.
The frozen earth shivers beneath this fresh onslaught.

While above . . . days pass, weeks pass,
And Winter reluctantly surrenders its silver crown to Spring.
Lightning splits the sky, thunder rolls and rumbles.
A deluge pounds the sidewalk; a cool river races through the cleft,
Torturously prying it open to the warming world.

The raw earth nestled in the crack feels a pleasant stirring.
A tiny fledgling breaks its surface and stretches toward the sun.
Oaken soldiers flanking the sidewalk tip their glossy green heads
To watch the miracle of birth arising from the ashes of neglect.
The dandelion nods its golden head . . . free at last.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

The Right Way

“You’re not doing that right,” Ted said, crowding up against my side at the sink, using his considerable bulk to nudge me out of his way. He opened an upper cabinet, swinging it so wide it almost hit the side of my head.

I moved a step to my right, pausing the round and round motion of the paring knife circling the potato in my hand. Taking a deep, calming breath, I stared out the small window at the distant mountains. The sun was sinking behind the jagged peaks, painting the sky in swaths of red and gold and orange. A hot puff of desert air found its way between the two panes of roll-out glass, riffling the sweaty tendrils of fading auburn hair sticking to my cheeks. I sighed.

He thunked down a cup on the countertop, then snagged the carafe brimming with fresh brewed coffee, sloshing some onto the Formica I had wiped down not five minutes ago.

“You need to use the peeler like I do…”

And just when’s the last time you did that? I thought. Continue reading “The Right Way”

Alas, Poor Cursive…

I read a while back that cursive writing has been making a comeback in our public schools. I have to say, that makes me happy.

When the Common Core State Standards Initiative was launched in 2010, teaching cursive was no longer a requirement. The reasons given for dropping it varied, but the two I have seen presented most often are: (1) it takes up too much instruction time, and (2) knowing how to communicate via technology is more important. Both arguments are valid, after all, teachers can’t teach everything. But if less time was spent expounding on social and moral issues (which I believe should be in the parents domain) to their malleable young students, more time could be spent teaching basic skills. — But that’s a topic for another day.

Some of the benefits of learning cursive as listed by Memoria Press are:

  • Improved neural connections
  • Improved fine motor skills
  • Increased retention
  • Improved spelling ability
  • Increased self-discipline
  • Higher quality signature

And one I found listed on various websites: The ability to read old and historic documents, like the United States Constitution, for instance. Think about it—do we really want to be told what is in the Constitution, or be able to read it for ourselves?

All this aside, I welcome the return of cursive. I know not everyone’s handwriting is a marvel to behold, mine included, but there is a certain beauty in the flow of words written in cursive, gliding across the page like squiggly dark waves on a pure white ocean where anything is possible.

Think of the creativity that goes into writing. When I was in school, by 3rd grade all assignments were completed in cursive, so by the time I graduated, I had developed my own unique style of writing. As had my peers. Some wrote tight and cramped, some loopy and loose, some with a light hand, some dark and bold. Some dotted their I’s with a small circle or heart, some mixed printed letters with cursive in their words. The combinations were endless. We all came to know our friends’ handwriting as well as we did their faces.

Some of you younger readers may not know this, but in days of yore, a handwriting expert could ascertain a person’s personality traits by analyzing their handwriting. Criminals could be identified by how they wielded a pencil. Can’t very well do that with a typewritten page.

I know we can’t live in the past, that we’re forever moving onward and forward, and it would be foolish to step off the techno highway and refuse to embrace the new. But I think we should bring with us the things that have served us well, and would continue to serve us well if our modern world collapses. We’ve already left so much valuable knowledge behind. Let’s not leave cursive writing behind too.

Copyright 2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Crow

crow comes at night
invisible in the darkness
slips in the window
while she sleeps
burrows its sharp beak
into her seasoned flesh
and tears at
the most tender morsels…
doubts
insecurities
fears
savors the sour flavors
of being hurt
of being fooled
of being played
again…
she learns not to sleep
stays ever vigilant
least crow
swallow everything
her pride
her independence
her reason
her life…
in the morning light
sometimes she wonders
if crow is real
is a force without
or instead
lives within
a black cancer
of bone and blood
cawing chaos, while
beating sharp wings
within each breath
scraping claws
through fragile capillaries
frantic to escape
its self-made
prison…

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

A Taste of Heaven

When I was growing up, summer was synonymous with blackberry season. I monitored the thorny vines from the first appearance of the delicate white blossoms, through the ripening stage—impatiently eating more than a few of the hard, red, sour berries—to when they were gloriously plump and black and juicy. A little taste of heaven.

Barefoot and wearing shorts, my brother, sister, and I roamed the fence rows and overgrown fields in our search for the most succulent berries, which in many cases were just out of reach. When that happened, we had to go in. There was no passing by those perfect specimens just because of a few thorns.
We learned how to avoid getting scratched and poked, how to gingerly grasp each spiny vine between thumb and forefinger, ease it to the side and slide forward through the tangled mess, over and over, until we had worked our way to the prize. Then we had to work our way back out. Despite our best efforts, many times we didn’t emerge completely unscathed; instead, occasionally we sported battle wounds of bloody scratches on arms and legs. But those luscious berries were worth it. And the inevitable chigger bites were worth it as well.

Mama picked the berries too, but not for herself as did her greedy kids. She canned them in quart jars, and they joined our substantial larder to be made into blackberry cobblers in the winter months. And as long as the vines produced, we had cobblers during the summer too. When us kids could control ourselves, not eat everything we picked, all we had to do was take a pail of berries to Mama, and she’d make a cobbler.

Lord knows how many years it’s been since I’ve tasted blackberries as sweet and juicy as those wild ones of my childhood. My son cultivates the thornless variety, but just like any other plant that scientists have fiddled with, they aren’t on quite the same par as the original. Yes, they’re good, but in my opinion, a bit of flavor has been sacrificed along with the thorns. And they aren’t as juicy; when making a cobbler, one has to squish them a bit before baking to get an adequate amount of juice.

Or perhaps does the blame for the loss of flavor rest with my aging taste buds?

Or the viewing of my childhood through rose colored glasses, where everything appears better and grander?

The only way to know for sure would be to travel back in time and conduct a taste test, pop a few blackberries in my mouth and see if they are as special as I remember. Only thing with that is I might never come back, and mess up the whole space-time continuum. I don’t think the government would let me do that.

Damn government!

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabayhttp://www.pixabay.com

The Faded Woman

Martha was a ghost of a woman. She disappeared into her surroundings, blending in as if she were no more than a sheet of wallpaper, sporting bras, hose, and socks, pasted behind the pegs of merchandise she stocked. Like a chameleon, her form merged with her environment.

Day after day, her soft, pasty body trudged up and down the lingerie aisles of the superstore, pushing a shopping cart bristling with a flashy array of leopard-print panties, bright red teddies, and other exotic intimate apparel; but unlike the garments she put out for sale, Martha was anything but colorful.

Thin, straight hair the shade of week-old coffee hung dull and lifeless to her shoulders. Stringy tendrils obscured her downturned face. Pale and rounded and malleable, she was kneaded dough, punched down and waiting for a rise that never happened. When she spoke to a customer—and she only did that when forced to—Martha’s eyes stayed on the wood-laminated floor. Even her “May I help you?” and “Have a nice day.” were smothered things spoken barely above a whisper on good days, and on bad days, a tired, almost-inaudible sigh of sound.

And there were plenty of bad days, days when her head felt as if it were a ball of unmitigated pain that had been created for no other purpose than to punisher her because she wasn’t a good enough daughter, a good enough wife, but most of all, a good enough mother. Martha endured the frequent migraines without complaint, a firm believer that her suffering was atonement for past mistakes, and when God thought she had paid enough, the attacks would cease. And though she told none of her coworkers when she was in the throes of a migraine, a glimpse of her features told the tale—red-rimmed eyes sunk into dark hollows on an otherwise skim milk face.

But regardless of how she felt, Martha plodded through the days, doing her job and doing it well so that at the end of the week she could collect her meager paycheck. Not for herself, but for her two grown daughters and their children. She was determined that her daughters would never do without as she had. Yes, she would always be there for them, paying their rent, buying their groceries, providing whatever their respective husbands didn’t for as long as she had a breath left in her body.

Martha’s children and grandchildren were her life. Only in their presence did her eyes sparkle, her lips curve in a smile, her round shoulders square. Other employees took note of Martha’s transformation when her daughters came into the store; it was like seeing her for the first time. One worker said, “You know, I never realized it before, but Martha’s kind of pretty.” And another remarked on the lovely green shade of her eyes.

Then her family would leave, and Martha would fade away once more, becoming as translucent as the pantyhose tucked inside the packages she placed neatly on shelves. A see-through woman. Barely there at all.

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay

Forever Isn’t Forever

friends walk away
pass you by
many times
you don’t know why

what did you do
what did you say
is it your fault
they act this way

never drop by
never call
not there to catch you
if you stumble and fall

ones who loved you
turn their backs
don’t care to see you
take it as fact

they promised forever
to be your friend
but that didn’t happen
time to stamp “the end”

©️2019 KT Workman

Photo via Pixabay