A Writer’s Fairy Tale

After spending an hour picking and cleaning dandelion greens to make a salad, I went out for a walk. At the corner of Middle Road and Balsam Drive, I saw a shiny object laying on the sidewalk. It was a tiny gold metal charm shaped like a flower. Neither bronze, nor silver, but gold. In the center was a gold letter L, surrounded by a circle of blue enamel. I saw the faces of two roaring lions and read the word LIONS at the top and the word INTERNATIONAL at the bottom.

Lions Clubs International is the world’s biggest service club. The members, called Lions, help others in their local communities. I thought about the dandelions I had just picked, and I thought about the word dandy. Dandy means very good, as in dandy lion – a very good lion. I held in my hand was the lost charm of a dandy Lion! Was this merely coincidence?

I looked at the tiny metal charm and thought to myself, “It looks like a fairy-sized medal.” A medal is an award for being the best at something. It hangs around the neck on a ribbon. I could imagine a small fairy finding this charm and wearing it on a string around her neck.

I looked at the tiny medal charm and thought, “A medal is also an award given to a soldier for mettle.” Mettle means courage to carry on. If someone wants to test your mettle, they want to see if you have the heart to follow through when the going gets tough. Lions are associated with courage.

I looked at the tiny mettle charm, came to a decision and announced, “I give this tiny metal medal for mettle to the dandelion. Dandelions grow in some of the toughest places, in poor soil and up through cracks of asphalt. They tolerate frost, freezing cold and crowding. They grow fast and spread as quickly as the wind can scatter their seeds.

I looked at the charm and thought of fourth word, meddle, which means to mix or mess around in someone else’s business. This word stirred my imagination further. Do fairies meddle with people? I could imagine a small fairy carefully placing the charm down on the sidewalk and darting away into the bushes, giggling. All in good fun, of course!

A Writer’s Fairy Tale Continued: Our son, Neil, passed away with cancer in early 2017. Heartbroken, I was trying to figure out how to carry on with my life. This was difficult. Then, three months after Neil’s passing, I found another magical golden treasure on a sidewalk. My friend Gail, an artist whose primary medium is light metals, was showing me the new 2-mile walking path she had established in collaboration with the Health Equity Zone. The path runs through the most impoverished neighborhood in the City of Pawtucket, and it was created to promote more walking and safer walking. I had helped to inspire the concept before Neil became ill, and Gail had brought the idea into reality in the time since. As we began to walk, I saw an ornament lying on the sidewalk – a gold medallion. A medal-lion?

There were also many dandelions along the sidewalk. Dandelions are known for their detoxification effects, especially for cleansing the organs of heavy metal. All parts of the plant are edible, including the roots, stems, leaves and flowers. Each part will cleanse a different part of the body. Tea made from the root helps the digestive system, the stems support the liver and spleen, and the leaves detoxify the blood and lymphatic systems. 

Today while out walking, taking a break from writing this blog, I found three treasures… all mechanical pencils… in serviceable condition… in three different places along Cedar Avenue… perhaps telling me to carry on… keep on walking… dreaming… writing… and having fun with words… and so I shall.

I see… a high-caliber… sharp writer?


Letter Writing

After writing a long letter to someone Saturday morning, I attended the “RI Writing Project” Spring Conference in the afternoon and listened to Rhode Island’s Poet Laureate, Tina Cane, speak to an audience of school educators about social and emotional learning and, surprisingly, letter writing. After reading some of her poetry, Tina asked us to take a few minutes to write a letter to a teacher from whom we learned something important.

The lessons we remember are not the facts memorized for tests – math formulas, history dates or verb conjugations. Rather, we remember the relevant information we can apply to living mindful lives. Then Tina prompted us to circle the strongest words in our letters and use those to compose a poem. So here is my tribute to my third grade teacher, Miss Fribley:

DEAR MISS FRIBLEY.

You challenged us to use esoteric words.

Words like scintillating, onomatopoeia and loquacious.

We competed in spelling bees and homonym games,

and decades later,

when a Praying Mantis landed

atop the polished surface of our Punch Buggy,

to contemplate its reflection,

I did, too,

recognizing Nature’s astonishing word play:

Praying on a Beetle

Preying on a Beetle, a gargantuan Beetle.

Dear Miss Fribley, how does one swallow such a thing as that?

Wondering what Miss Fribley may be doing now, I conducted a search and came across her obituary:

Judith Ann Fribley, of Winnetka, IL., died July 7, 2008. She was 71.

Born April 25, 1937 in Pana, she was a 1955 graduate of Pana High School, and attended MacMurray College in Jacksonville Illinois, where she pursued a degree in elementary education. She taught for many years at Hubbard Woods School in Winnetka and did graduate studies in education at the University of Illinois. She spent several years teaching in Connecticut before returning to Illinois. She often traveled throughout the United States, pursuing her interests in wildlife and the Native American culture. Her trip to Alaska to see Mt. McKinley in the sun was one of her most memorable.

Ms. Fribley was an active member of the Winnetka Presbyterian Church, and an avid volunteer at Good News Partners of Jonquil Street in Chicago, which provides housing and other services for the formerly homeless. She also tutored and mentored indigent children through Good News’ programs, and cooked and served at the soup kitchen they sponsor. She was a longtime supporter of many local and national charities. She was known for her love of cats, and throughout her life adopted many from local shelters.

Ms. Fribley enjoyed gardening and visiting museums and cultural events with friends and family. She was an abundantly generous woman, and a wonderful daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. She resided in Winnetka until 2004, when she entered the Alzheimer’s wing of Presbyterian Homes, McGaw Care Center, in Evanston

There is a quote at the top of Miss Fribley’s obituary page: “Say not in grief: ‘He is no more’, but live in thankfulness that he was.” And so, I think of him, our late son Neil, who loved games as well as Miss Fribley.

From a social emotional learning perspective, this letter writing assignment serves two express purposes. One is to articulate a life lesson, and the other is to express thankfulness, a practice which has benefits that extend far beyond school and on into later life. Thank you, Miss Fribley.

A letter is a wonderful to say “Thank You” or to let someone know you are thinking about them. When is the last time you wrote a personal letter, by hand, and mailed it to someone special?

Slam Dunk!