The Ancient Willow

A while back, I wrote up a post entitled What Good is a Roll Without Butter? about my dear brother-in-law Jonathan and how we composed a poem over the course of two days via text message.

Another while back, my husband, brother-in-law, and I were out on a jaunt in the little ol’ white Honda, and composed the following moving sonnet. We alternated lines as we rolled down the highway.

My lines – will be in regular type
Timothy’s lines – will be in bold type
Jonathan’s lines – will be in blue italics

The willow tree lies barren in the glen.
Its leaves have fallen down to grow no more.
Its mournful beauty still forgot by men,
Who wander aimlessly toward beck’ning shore.
What memories it holds and tales could tell,
Of evil and courageous deeds of yore,
Of yonder church when peals its wedding bell,
And cries of men who lie upon death’s door.
Though endless ages used to pass him by,
His time on earth is growing rather short.
For all that carries life must one day die,
And age and time both ruthlessly contort.
So life, an endless circle, rolls along,
And still none heeds the ancient willow’s song.

In case you were wondering…yes my family is amazing!

© Rachel Svendsen 2014

When Family Traditions Go Awry

“Oh and I bought canned whipped cream,” my mother-in-law said. “So if you want some on your pie it’s in the kitchen.”

Several happy chirps rang out from the inhabitants of the table. I kept my peace. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and that nasty spray can whipped cream is more sugar than dairy. It actually surprised me that it was even there. My in-laws are healthy eaters. You know the type; organic vegetables, unpasteurized milk, and cereal that tastes like cardboard. When I first came around their family, holding hands with their tall curly haired brunette boy, I was about thirty pounds heavier than I am now. I felt like Bertha Big Butt among the clan of Healthy Stick People. Thankfully they loved me anyway.

Back to present. Once I got over the initial shock of hearing this garbage food item was in the household, someone said, “Can we spray it into our mouths like we used to do at Nani’s?”

Really? I thought. No. No they won’t.

“Sure,” my father-in-law said. “We need to do the two little ones first because they never got to.”

I tugged my husband’s sleeve. “Timmy, is this usual? Like some Thanksgiving tradition that I knew nothing about?”

Tim shrugged. “We used to do it at Nani’s.” Okay love… I’d heard that part.

The can emerged from the kitchen. Apparently Dad was the one to administer, Father’s privilege I guess. I watched them squirt the squishy sugary sticky slop between the open lips of everyone around the table: the two little ones (four and eight), my sister-in-law, Jessica, my brother-in-law, Jon, and then my husband. I knew Mom wasn’t going to partake and Dad held the can so he didn’t have to worry…

“Do you want some Rachel?” Jon asked.

I considered. I knew I didn’t care for the stuff, (I’d had it before) but it’s good to push your boundaries and try things when you have the opportunity, especially when they are unlikely to cause real harm. Besides, what if I die tomorrow. I could see myself lying in my hospital bed, looking into my husband’s tear filled eyes and murmuring in a weak hushed voice, “Now I’ll never know what it is like to have whipped cream sprayed into my mouth.” The heart monitor flatlines. My husband presses his wet eyes to my hand.

“Oh why not,” I said. “You only live once.”

If you can’t understand what I’m saying with my mouth full of whipped cream, I asked, “What do I do now?”

It should have stopped there. We had all been apportioned our share of gross chemical dairy product, but my sister-in-law really wanted to administer some of the delicious whipped treat herself. My brother-in-law, Jon, volunteered. He asked the video to be taken in slow motion. What followed was completely unplanned, impromptu, and all around unscripted. Here it is below. It was well worth the cleanup. 🙂

(and if you listen very closely, you can hear Pinkie, my mother-in-law’s pet stegosaurus, humming Thanksgiving carols in the background)

What Good is a Roll without Butter?

My mother’s despaired moan came from the backseat. “They forgot the butter for my roll.”

“No?” my grandmother gasped in horror.

“Yes!” She dropped it back into the paper bag from which it came. “What good is a roll without butter?” she mumbled.

I was driving. There was a lovely lilting rhythm to my mother’s words. My brain quickly composed a little ditty. I silently willed it to stay in my sieve-like brain until we made our next stop, at which point, I pulled out my handy-dandy-notebook and wrote the captured words out before they broke free like stallions into the wild frontiers of forgotten memories. (The wild, fresh smell of the grass and allurement of so many companions must be the draw.)

What good is a roll without butter,
Or marmalade on it to smother?
It’s just useless bread,
And better off dead.
What good is a roll without butter?

I recited my creation to my mother. She nodded vigorously. “You tell them!” she concurred.
Next step in the process, text my goofy creation to some appreciative party. This is usually one of two people, my husband, who was currently working and would be unable to chuckle for hours, or my brother-in-law, who usually responds within an hour on the average day.

My brother-in-law and I have an odd relationship. He is quickly becoming my closest friend. I can’t quite put a finger on when this started, it probably had something to do with our mutual obsession with literature, but we text nearly every day and I often find myself literally laughing out loud at our incomprehensible conversations.

I typed out my limerick-ish poem and sent it off into text-land. My mother and I deposited my Grandmother at home then trotted off to the gym. I was reading Mere Christianity on the incumbent bike when my iPhone made the Perry the Platypus sound. That means an incoming text. Instead of the expected “HAHA” or emote con, I received the following response.

In response I must say that a butter less roll,
May yet still be used as an onion soup bowl.
Take a knife and a spoon and scoop out a large hole.
Add soup and eat up, for it’s good for your soul!

I burst out laughing. The truth was I should have been anticipating something like this. Pleased as punch, I composed the proper response.

What good is a beach without sand,
A soft place for your butt to land?
For if it were rocks,
‘Twould ruin your socks!
What good is a beach without sand?

My day rolled forward. Hours later I looked at my phone to see the following answer.

A sandless beach, I think you will find,
Can be lots of fun if there’s rocks to be climbed!
You can stand on the top looking out to the sea,
Solid rock at your feet, spread your arms! You are free!

I burst into peals of laughter. My husband insisted on knowing what happened. I shared the conversation with my beloved then began to beat my head for another question.
“What good is a feast without food?” my husband offered. I snapped my fingers at his brilliance and typed into my phone.

What good is a feast without food?
You’ll have to agree that it’s rude.
The guests would be mad,
And that would be bad.
What good is a feast without food?

My response came a while later.

Man shall not live by bread alone.
They could sit in a circle, play telephone.
Let fellowship take the place of the yeast.
Friendship will out at an un-fooded feast.

This was his best one yet. I dangled one more before his eyes.

What good is a day without sun?
I don’t think it would be much fun.
For I need sun to tan,
Or I won’t get a man.
What good is a day without sun?

My response came about 12 hours later.

What could be better than a sunless day?
With books and tea, inside you can stay!
And as for your tan, you’ve already got a man
And he will love you either way.

I smiled.

Me: You’re hilarious by the way.
Jon: Thank you :p

I love my brother in law. 🙂

© Rachel Svendsen 2014