The sisters

Hi everyone,

I know that hackberry is not a pleasant sounding name for a tree, not at sonorous as maple, elm, walnut, cherry, ash. Hackberry sounds like a junk tree, an overgrown weed, a hairball on the landscape.

Our two hackberries, the survivors of three, were young and strappy in 1989 when we bought this lot for our new home. The builder brought in his crew with machinery and prepared to knock the young trees down to clear the way for construction. SANDY saw what they were about to do and demanded that they stop immediately. The builder was not a good sport about it. They were hackberry trees for Pete’s sake. Sandy remained resolute. I could have told him she would. The trees were spared.

How many hours have we spent now, loving these two trees, their shade, the privacy they provide, their beauty? How many generations of creatures have sought refuge among their branches, called victoriously from their highest limbs? How many young birds have viewed life for the first time, looking down through its leafy boughs?

We have watched the sisters, as these two sturdy plants surely must be, grow and mature. I remember the summer when tips of their adjoining limbs nearly touched. I, and I’m sure they, waited with anticipation for the next growing season when they would touch each other at last. Now look at them. They hold hands and sway together in perfect harmony on every fresh breeze and fight off stormy weather, twice as strong for their union.

Sandy, I should thank you more often for what you did nearly thirty-four years ago, back when you and I were younger, back when the hackberry trees were hardly more than saplings, back when you saved our trees.

Sometime things happen quickly

Hi everyone,

Last week I wrote a new story and submitted it on Friday to a favorite editor. It was the first new story I’ve done in quite a while because the 50 poems for the book with TIM RASINSKI and LYNNE KULICH took much of 2022. The idea for the story began to form on the planes between Springfield and Ft. Walton airports. I sat with JEFF on my left and SANDY on my right, and of course we talked back and forth, but the idea somehow grew until I had a pretty good notion of what I wanted to write by the time we got to the condo and unpacked our bags.

On Tuesday of this week at 9:30 that night, I received an email from my editor, expressing interest in what I’d sent her. Since then we’ve had other exchanges. No promises yet, but I have reason to be hopeful. Today I’ll work on some back matter and she’s already considering how the illustrations might go.

I’ve been reworking the long dormant middle grade novel and getting excited about it, but for now it goes back in the files. The new story has shouldered its way to the head of the line

And we’re back

Hi everyone,

Picture from 2019, pre-pandemic cruise

We had a wonderful time taking our family on a cruise in the Caribbean. Huge thank you to SANDY for planning the trip for eight people down to the last detail and being the perfect hostess, as always.

Best part for me was sitting together around a table at evening meals and watching JEFF, ROBIN, TIM, KRIS, TYLER, and JOSIE interacting in lively conversations and having such fun being there and loving the moment. Yesterday was long and tedious as we spent nine hours in the Fort Lauderdale airport waiting for a multi-delayed flight to Charlotte, eventually arriving there too late to make our connection — and then miraculously — that flight was delayed just long enough for us to make it. Home shortly before midnight. Sandy and I toasted each other and fell into bed. I slept in a hour this morning.

Naturally, my laptop and I had a tearful reunion and I made it certain promises that I might or might not be able to keep, but at least we’re both happy for now. The story it liked best was that I wrote the first drafts of a new story during the plane and layover times going and coming. Thank goodness for my writing pad and trusty pen. It began as an idea I thought I’d like to write about, but that never happened. Instead, the original thought segued into something quite different and kept morphing as it went. In the end, there’s no resemblance to the thought that got me started. But I like it. When I have time to type it and hone it, which may be a while, I’ll try an editor or two to see what I have.

Boy do I have a lot of catch-up stuff. It’s going to be one of those weeks.

What once was

Hi everyone,

Yesterday SANDY found an old flyer I made for our gift store, GAMBLE’S Gifts, that we owned and operated for thirty-four years from 1984 to 2018. After she retired from being a high school counselor, Sandy managed the store for twenty years until closing it. We had a wonderful staff who cared about people and were experts about our product lines. The pictures show one of our Christmas seasons. Dressing up a store to look like that was a labor of love.

Sandy still misses the store, staff, and customers and the buying trips to Dallas, Atlanta, New York, and Las Vegas, and other markets. I was on most of those trips too. My other involvement was to spend some time weekly doing back-office work, making some of our promotional pieces (especially in the early years), and designing the new layout each time we relocated the store (3) to be closer to our customer base.

We carried a lot of lines, some of them exclusively. The flyer lists Crystals: Baccarat, Lalique, Marquis by Waterford, Miller Rogaska, and Waterford. China: Christian Dior, Fitz and Floyd, Lenox, Noritake, Ralph Lauren, Royal Doulton, Spode, Villeroy and Boch, and Wedgwood. Collectibles: Department 56, Hummel, Lladro, Lowell Davis, Swarovski, All God’s Children, Bunnykins by Royal Doulton, and numerous others, and Giftware: Arthur Court, Brass by Baldwin, Fine Linens, Jewelry, Music Boxes, Root Candles, Wind Chimes, Picture Frames, Capodimonte Florals, and a host of others over the decades.

Sometimes, during quite moments of reflection, we look back at something we’ve done that we’re proud of. I feel that way about Gamble’s Gifts, but it was Sandy’s show and became an important part of her daily life for a very long time. I know she misses the store. I know she is proud of what she accomplished. She should be.