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Sunday, August 23, 2015

Do What You Love

art by my Great Aunt Elsie
Lately I've been giving myself permission to read and write more.  To let the laundry pile up and the dishes wait to be unloaded.  Because when I am stressed out and busy and don't let myself do what I love, I become a strange tense version of myself that I don't want to be.

Anywho.  One of the benefits of letting myself write more is having something to share on my little blog!   Below, I'm posting a poem I wrote about my Great-aunt Elsie. Enjoy!  (And by the way, what will you do this week that you just love?)

Card Castle

I never visited her,
my great aunt Elsie,
Never saw the life she built
out of the bad hand she was dealt.
Born to an overwhelmed father and an ailing mother,
with so many mouths to feed
in the Great Depression.
Not a single ace or king, nothing up her sleeve.

Her mother passed (Passed what? The final test?)
and her older sister (my grandmother) tried to care for them—
Elsie and her tiny twin brothers--,
her young newlywed husband (my grandfather) just couldn’t handle it. 
and so, it was off to the orphanage.
My grandmother stood tall, in heels and her best skirt,
watching small, wiry Elsie twist her dark auburn hair.
Finally, she signed the papers at the counter, so many words stuck in her throat,
and the clerk hurrying her with his eyes.
I don’t know much about the orphanage, 
except that that’s where my grandmother said
Elsie must’ve learned to be a lesbian.
Long years of living with so many other girls 
and no boys, she explained.
But I have the wisdom of time, 
and so many homosexual branches off my family tree.
Genetics are genetics.

My sister visited their apartment once, in Seattle,
Great Aunt Elsie and her artist partner.
They painted flowers and trees and laughed from a purple velvet couch.
They walked down to the farmer’s market every Saturday.
I like to picture them side by side,
Gray hair swaying,
pushing bicycles with baskets heavy laden 
through the shining streets.
I like to study her art hanging on the wall 
in my hallway in California.
The beauty she created smiles out at me.
I like to think of her, her head tilted,
considering the lines, the light, 
a cat sunning in her window.
I like to think of how she built a quiet castle
out of a bad hand of cards.  


  1. Oh TJ, that was lovely. I only got to meet her once and am glad to have a photo with her and some of her artwork. She was a beautiful, sweet woman with the happiest sparkle in her eye.

  2. Thanks, cuz! Hug your girlies for me! I love you all!

  3. I have so much trouble trying to post comments here. My first one completely disappeared I guess when I tried to post it. Let me try again.
    Your poem is lovely and I am sorry you never did meet Aunt Elsie. She had changed her name to Amber which I believe might have been to match the sparkle in her eye. How she, and all the other children managed to survive with such grace is truly amazing.
    I was kind of confused by some of your facts. I did not know that my grandfather drank, he could hardly ever find work but I don't know that I had ever heard he was a drinking man. My grandmother died very young from ovarian Cancer. Such a shame. She still had very young children. I can hardly imagine how painful the thought of leaving them must have been for her. And how these children grew to be filled with such grace, for they were all just that. My Aunt Amber would be so proud to know you wrote this. It is a spot light on her beautiful soul. Love you so my daughter also filled with grace! Keep writing, out of love comes beauty.

    1. I tried to post this but it disappeared. I will write it here. I am glad you are remembering Aunt Elsie(Amber). She was such a sweet and compassionate person. As for Grandpa Watson. This is what I remember. I think I was probable the closest of the grandchildren to him. He used to come to our house quite a lot. I remember him sitting on the bar stool in the kitchen talking to my mom. He used to visit Aunt Jean too so I know cousin Sue would remember him too. My mom and I went to West Virginia with him to visit his sister Muriel. She lived on a farm and we had a great time there. We also went to see the Maciniack bridge with him and fed the fish. He was a very quite man. He was not much of a drinker but would indulge in a beer with the men when we had a get together. The Watson family reunions at Firestone park were always fun too. As for Aunt Elsie.....My mom told me when grandma died of cancer grandpa was just too over whelmed with the children. My mom was 15 and had to quit school to get a job to help the family. The younger ones were sent to an orphanage after much debate. The nuns at the orphanage told Aunt Elsie that her mother died of too much sex. That is why Aunt Elsie did not want to be with a man. This is just what I remember. I wish we would have had this discussion at the camp. We all might have had some stories.

      Love to you,

    2. Thank you for those wonderful insights! I've updated the poem a bit. Love you all!

    3. I did meet Aunt Elsie a few times when she visited GA, just never visited her home in Seattle.