Tag: alison (Page 2 of 2)

i told you stupid things. thanks for not listening


when you are young
i tell you to hold my hand
when crossing the street,
and you do.

i tell you to eat your vegetables
and you do.

i tell you to put your coat on
before going out in the snow
and you do.

i tell you not to run with a pencil
and you don’t.

you get older
and the lines blur.
things get more confusing,
less clear . . .

i tell you how to flirt,
but you’re not interested
in silly games
designed solely to capture the attention
of boys.

i tell you that you have to invite
everybody in your class,
but you don’t because
you don’t like everybody in your class.
you don’t want to spend time with them in class,
and you certainly don’t want to spend your life outside class with them.

i tell you to wear comfortable shoes,
but you wear those shoes with 3″ heels
because they make you smile.

i tell you not to run for political office,
but you run for state legislature
and wind up in a runoff with the
career politician
because you love this country
and want to make a difference.

i tell you that you can’t save every stray cat,
and you make cat food your american express –
never leaving home without it
because while you might not be able to
bring them all home,
you can at least feed them.

i tell you that when on a small budget,
keeping yourself in fresh flowers is an
extravagant and avoidable expense,
and you surround yourself with them anyway,
in pretty vases throughout the house
and scattered in every patch of sunshine
in your yard
because you find them beautiful.

i tell you nobody needs that many silk robes
even if it does cost $5 at the thrift shop,
and you get it anyway
because it feels good against your skin.

moxie . . .

for all the times i confused
keeping you small
with keeping you safe,
when what i really wanted to say is
take up as much room as you need.
for all the times i sounded for all the world
like i want you to be like everybody else
when what i really want more than anything
is for you to be you, regardless.
for all the times i said anything that implied
i want you to let other people define and determine your worthiness,
when all i ever wanted from day one is for you to listen
to your own bones and let them tell you every single day
in a myriad of languages
“you are talented
you are beautiful
you are worthy,”
i apologize.

over the years,
i told you these things (and more)
in a variety of ways
subtle and dramatic.
when i really meant to tell you
just the opposite.

the minute you were born
i became a mother
and a switch flipped
way down deep inside me,
routing my heart to be concerned
with your safety
and that safety became its own language
that sounds for all the world
like i want to keep you small,
like i want you to blend.

i guess i turned stupid because
i never wanted you to be hurt
(i still don’t)
and yet i know that i can’t protect you every minute of ever day.
and even if i could, i wouldn’t deny you the opportunity to be hurt
to learn who to trust and who not to trust,
to learn who to call
and who to never speak to again.
to learn at the hand of pain
just how strong and resilient
and beautiful and worthy
and powerful
you truly are.


for all the times i said stupid things
(even though they were said with the very best intentions),
thank you for not listening to me.
thank you for always dancing to your own internal orchestra
to dressing to the tune of your own internal stylist
to singing to the tune of your own internal mother who was,
so many times,
much, much wiser than i.


p.s. “all” is figurative, you understand.
for example, when i tell you to slow down when driving,
i still think you should listen to me.

p.s. 2 that woman, that “mental health professional” who once drew up a dress code for you?
i should’ve punched her lights out
instead of wasting my life trying to talk to her.
people like that one don’t understand ordinary language.

p.s. 3 again, thank you for holding onto your self
even through all my stupid.

p.s. 4 all these things are quite true,
but please
don’t make me regret saying them.

p.s. 5 in case it doesn’t come through:
i adore you.
i absolutely adore you
and am honored beyond description
to be your mother.

happy birthday, my precious daughter.

now let’s go shopping and spend that birthday money!

Forgetting is Not an Option


We did what we could.

We did what we could.

We did what we could.

I heard that over and over again from the lips of each of the four Pearl Harbor survivors at Sunday’s memorial service. Now in their nineties, these men may not be able to tell you their children’s names or where they parked the car, but they can still tell you with absolute certainty, with absolute clarity where they were, what they did, and what they were thinking the morning of December 7, 1941 – 70 years ago today – when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.


“My buddy and me were trying to decide what to do about breakfast,” remembers one. “Did we want to go to the mess hall or did we want to go to the church around the corner where the pretty ladies would feed us free doughnuts and coffee? We never did decide – we never got breakfast anywhere that morning. I was a 20 year old Clerk, and when I heard that first bomb hit, I thought ‘One day somebody’s gonna’ ask me who was here and how many survived,’ so I ran down to the office, squatted down, and got the muster from the bottom file cabinet drawer. About that time my second lieutenant came in. ‘What are you doing?’ he asked me, and when I told him, he said ‘That’s a good idea.’ It was the last thing he ever said cause right then, a strayer came in through the screened window and killed him. I would’ve been killed, too if I’d’ve been standing up. I just thought to get the muster. We all did whatever we could think of to do.”


Pete remembers trying to get his bearings, trying to decide what he should do when another soldier appeared, his left arm dangling from the shot he took to the elbow. “What should I do?” the wounded soldier asked Pete. “Get in that truck over there,” Pete told him, pointing to an abandoned truck. “By the time I got to the truck, it was full of fellas needing medical attention. It was chaos. A nurse came out and started directing traffic. I’d never driven anything but a ’37 Chevrolet, but I drove that truck that day. I was grinding those gears – never did get it in second gear. Drove all the way to the hospital in first. I just did what I could.”


“Chester was a radio operator,” his wife tells me. “There was a drill scheduled for that morning, but it was canceled, so Chester left his post to stretch his legs and that’s when the first bomb hit. He went back to his station and radioed ‘Pearl Harbor under attack. This is not a drill. Repeat: this is NOT a drill.’ It was the only thing he could think of to do.”


The two-star General who served as emcee for the ceremony told me about going back to Pearl Harbor for some training once he made General. While there, he happened upon an old friend, an Admiral in the Navy. Knowing his friend was the son of a man who served as Commander of one of the ships stationed at Pearl Harbor on that fateful day, the new General asked “Where’s your father now?” “Down there,” said the Admiral, pointing to the water where the ships and so many other bodies are interred.



“He didn’t really want to talk about World War II,” Mark told me, “so I asked him to tell me about his scariest memory, and he told me how he was flying a mission to snap some reconnaissance photos. He looked down to turn his camera on, and when he sat back up, he was surprised to find this big silver plane flying wing-tip-to-wing-tip with his plane. ‘Where’s that guy come from?’ the American pilot was thinking. ‘Why didn’t he shoot me? Did he shoot my gunner? How in the Hell does that plane fly without any propellers?’ Questions like these whizzing through his brain, the fella looked back over at the strange plane (it was a German jet – the Germans had them, but the Americans had never heard of them), saw the German pilot salute him and then zoom off in that strange-looking plane.” Mark was so captivated by the story, he painted a picture of the two planes and presented it to the pilot. It’s now back in the museum at the Dixie Wing, the local branch of the Commemorative Air Force.

(Note: That’s Mark in the photo above, standing in front of the painting. Hard to see on account of the glare, I know. Guess you’ll just need to visit.)




My daughter travels around the country portraying Betty Grable at events like this. “You should’ve seen those Pearl Harbor survivors when you walked by,” someone told her as she took her seat before the service began. “They were all hunched over looking at the floor, but then Betty Grable walked by, and those shoulders straightened, those heads snapped up, and those eyes never left you for a moment.”

As she greeted the survivors, she asked what she always does just before thanking them for their service: Would it be all right if I plant a Betty Grable kiss on your cheek? She’s never been turned down.

Not once.


“Do you have as much trouble keeping your seams straight on those stockings as we always did?” one of the wives asks my daughter.



We went outside where the flag was raised then lowered to half staff followed by the ringing of the Navy bell. As the survivors stood before the flag, one instinctively raised his arm to salute, but his arm wouldn’t cooperate . . . until, that is, his wife quietly slipped her hand under his elbow and offered her support for his salute.


The stories from the two governments are not nearly so clear. There’s much finger pointing and enough questions to last eons. Theories abound. Heads are scratched.

Zenji Abe, a Japanese Raider, was surprised to find out on the 50th anniversary of Pearl Harbor that the United States considered it to be a sneak attack. It was then he discovered that the Declaration of War had not been delivered to the U.S. authorities in a timely manner. No wonder it was considered a surprise attack.

Information is withheld, stories are constructed – and I mean on both sides. When do we cross the line into propaganda, I wonder.

But most importantly, I see once again the power of stories – and I don’t just mean the telling but the bearing witness, too. When we tell our stories, and when we bear witness to the stories of others, gaps are closed. Healing occurs. And, if we’re lucky, history doesn’t repeat itself.


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Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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