There are times when friends and loved ones need more than a get-well bouquet. In this month’s issue of Michigan Prime, I share ways to offer your help and support during an emergency or a serious health crisis. The column appears in the print edition of the magazine (delivered with your Sunday Detroit Free Press) and online here, on page 3.
Written during the years I worked at home while raising my son, Writing Home has been called “a love letter to home and family life.” Some of the columns first appeared in the Sunday Daily Tribune and The Christian Science Monitor, while others were published in national magazines including Reader’s Digest, Better Homes & Gardens, Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, and several popular anthologies.
I’m especially proud of the fact that — within the first year of publication — I sold enough copies to donate a few hundred dollars of my proceeds to organizations serving the homeless in my community. Along the way, Writing Home has been honored with several awards, too, including one from Writer’s Digest and another from Midwest Independent Publishers Assoc. But the real rewards, for me, come from the readers who tell me how much they’ve enjoyed the book over the years. Thanks to you, dear readers, it continues to sell in local stores and workshops, and on Amazon.
Local shoppers: Writing Home is now available at the Yellow Door Art Market in downtown Berkley — an absolutely wonderful shop specializing in Michigan-made art and products.
The start of a new year is the perfect time to de-clutter our lives, whether we’re cleaning closets or ditching toxic habits and relationships. In the January 2017 issue of Michigan Prime, I discuss what we can learn from our millennial kids about being less attached to all the stuff we’ve accumulated over the years. You might be inspired to clear out your own attic! Click here and flip to page 3 to read the column.
Wishing you all a happy new year!
Though I have few regrets in my life — and I count my blessings daily — I am sorry I didn’t keep my maiden name or use it professionally when I married my husband 36 years ago. How much are we giving up when we stop using our own names? It’s a dilemma married women face, even now, and I touch on the issue in Michigan Prime this month. To read the column online, click here and flip to page 3.
Artwork by Cindy La Ferle
Sorting through my mom’s papers after she died, I found a copy of this essay, which I wrote after my father’s passing in 1992. First published in the October 1998 edition ofÂ Mary Engelbreit’s Home Companion, it’s alsoÂ included in my book,Â Writing Home.
This is a potent month for memories. Yesterday I watched while my son and the children next door tumbled like acrobats in the fallen leaves. (Is there a kid in the Midwest who hasn’t done this?) And later in the evening, I sniffed the familiar aroma of wood-burning fires, another indisputable sign that winter is on its way.
For me, the smoky scents of October always evoke a favorite memory of my father raking leaves in the small backyard of our first home. The memory is more than three decades old, but it glows as vividly as the logs crackling in the grateÂ tonight.
When I was growing up — before environmental laws — everyone in my neighborhood raked leaves into neat brown piles, then burned them near the curb or in backyard bonfires. Dry and brittle as bones, the leaves and twigs snapped furiously when introduced to a match.Â In those days, October weekends seemed to drift in clouds of gray-blue smoke — the perfect prelude to Houdiniâ€™s Halloween.
Like most fathers, mine worked on weekdays, and often spent his weekends doing yard work. Long before the term “quality time” was coined by childcare experts, Dad would enlist my help raking leaves on Sunday after church.
I offered very little assistance, preferring to toss his neatly piled leaves back into the air, or to roll in what remained of his handiwork. Regardless, he seemed to enjoy my reckless company — and I enjoyed the novelty of helping him. Unlike my mom, who would have seized the opportunity for “girl talk,” my dad didn’t always communicate with words.
On those brisk autumn afternoons, with the sun glinting through bare branches of oak and maple, it was enough for us toÂ beÂ together. He raked, I rolled, and nothing of dire importance was ever said.
By then, I understood the seasons were cyclical; that the easy days of summer would return as surely as apples had ripened every fall. But I’d also begun to grasp the concept that time trudges ahead in a straight line, like it or not, ruffling the smooth texture of our days as it marches forward. I couldn’t have explained it quite this way, but suddenly I knew I’d have to “yield with a grace,” as Robert Frost once wrote, “the end of a love or a season.”
I recall watching my handsome young father in his plaid flannel shirt while he whistled and tended his banks of smoldering leaves, their acrid smoke filling my nostrils and forcing tears. I remember wishing that everything could stay the same — that I wouldn’t have to grow up or grow old; that autumn afternoons wouldn’t bleed to winter.
It was as if I had glimpsed the distant future and seen my father’s empty chair at our Thanksgiving table.
Of course, Dad had no idea that I had stumbled on a vast, disturbing truth and was forever changed by it. He worked contentedly, pausing only to watch me or to loosen the dried leaves from the long teeth of his rake. And that is the way I like to remember him: arrested in time on that golden fall afternoon, living in the moment, always whistling.
— Cindy La Ferle