Holiday Gifts of Childhood

Photo by Clint Patterson from Unsplash.


Holiday Gifts of Childhood

Mid 1950s, Western Pennsylvania

Christmas morning at our grandparents’ house.

Doll with golden curls, evening gown, and pearls

waiting for me under the Christmas tree

when I was six or seven.

Photo by Marina Ambrosimova from Unsplash.

How excited I was!

Soon, though, I cut the doll’s hair in a crew cut,

wore her pearl choker on my wrist,

and went looking for bugs, rocks and frogs!

Late 1950s, Tidewater, Virginia

Christmas mysteries were in the air at our house

when I was nine or ten…

All of the colorfully wrapped presents under the tree

had been squeezed and shaken for days.

Photo from Pixabay.

On Christmas morning, there was a huge surprise…

Parked around the Christmas tree, there were

three Christmas bicycles for my siblings and me!

Mine was sky blue.

The three of us were always on the go,

bicycling far and wide for the next five or six years,

enjoying our newfound independence,

challenging our mother’s peace of mind!

Early 1960s, Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia

My brother, sister and I grew strong, riding our bicycles

up and down the steep hills of our little town.

Our mother soon learned not to worry…

to the extent that mothers can ever be free from worry.

There were no bicycle helmets when I was a child. For safety, wear a helmet! Photo from Pixabay.

Late 1960s-1980s, Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Christmas Eve…we exchanged gifts at my parents’ home.

My husband, Frank, and I were expecting a child in the spring.

The gift from my mother was an album of old family photos,

including pictures of my father and me on our tricycles.

In my future, there were three children

receiving bicycles for the holidays.

Like my mother and all other mothers before her,

it was my turn to worry!

Girl on a tricycle Photo by Tuan PM from Pexels.

I was shocked at first when our daughter Ellen,

age three, requested a motorcycle for Christmas,

but her father saved the day!

He found a yellow plastic motorcycle/tricycle.

Ellen was overjoyed on Christmas morning

to find the tricycle parked under the Christmas tree.

Like her mother before her, she was empowered.

She rode the little yellow “motorcycle” toward independence.

Several years later, Ellen received a shiny new bicycle.

She still bears scars from surgery that followed an accident.

Under her chin, are traces of gravel from later accidents…

Ellen always got back on her bicycle; she lives her life that way!

1990s, Miami Beach, Florida

Hanukkah menorah, dreidle, and presents. Photo by Dad Grass from Pexels.

Celebrating holidays with Drew and our children…

Joe, age eight, always adventurous, ever nimble,

climbed the trellis to the rooftop with his new telescope

from Dad, exploring the wonders of the night sky.

Our daughter Katey, age six, was dazzled

by everything she saw and wanted all of it, too…

but in the end, she was delighted with every gift she received,

a new bicycle or the small, sweet surprise of Hanukkah gelt.

Hannukah Gelt. Photo by Joey Dean from Unsplash.

Katey loved unwrapping a gift on each night of Hanukkah

and receiving Christmas presents, but most of all, she valued

being surrounded by the love of family and friends,

that most precious of holiday gifts.

Photo by Any Lane from Pexels.


Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia


Photo by Engin Akyurt from Unsplash.

Happy Holidays!

Wherever you are, whatever holidays you celebrate,

we wish you childlike wonder, pleasant surprises,

inspiring experiences, and auspicious new opportunities.

We wish you health, love, and joy in every New Year!

Robert & Cheryl

Bluebird of Happiness

The Bluebird of Happiness given to me by my sister. Photo by Cheryl Batavia.

Blue Bird of Happiness

My mother admired the glassmaker’s art;

the Bluebird of Happiness sang in her heart…

mesmerizing, sparkling, azure,

the iconic bluebird was Mom’s treasure.

To me, the bluebird was gaudy kitsch,

not something for which I’d ever wish!

My sister, however, had a different view

of the iconic collectibles in blue.

When the glassworks stopped operation,

my sister stocked up in anticipation

of spreading a lot of happiness around.

She offered me a bluebird; I turned her down.

One morning, having changed my mind.

I told my sister, if she would be so kind,

I would like a bluebird after all.

She certainly wasn’t expecting that call!

My sister sent me a bluebird in the mail,

and every morning, without fail,

like my mother and sister before me,

I hear the bluebird’s cheerful melody.


Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia

My Itty Bitty Ad in The New York Times Magazine

Two Poems: “Quoting Mom” & “Antiquated Sexist Nonsense”

Photo by Sophie Dale from Unsplash
Photo by Kenny Krosky from Unsplash

Quoting Mom

So often these days,

I find myself quoting Mom…

proverbs, quips, sayings…

Mom had a real treasure trove

of wisdom she shared with me.

“Treat other people

as you want to be treated.”

That one is golden!

It was Mom who taught me that

reliable guide to life.

Mom was unfailing

in her caring and concern.

She gave great advice,

but, in matters of romance,

was a woman of her time.

Mom’s take on romance

was antiquated sexist

nonsense, best ignored.

Mom’s true advice to follow

was, “Think for yourself, Honey!”

After thirty years,

Dad found a younger woman.

Mom kissed a few frogs;

Prince Charming never came, but

Mom found her inner Princess!

My mother, Marian Nicholson, on her ninetieth birthday!

Antiquated Sexist Nonsense

“It’s a man’s world,” was the mid-twentieth-century consensus.

My mother passed several of the following outdated gems along to me:

Always let boys win if you want them to like you.

Act helpless. Let a boy be your hero and lift heavy objects for you.

Play “dumb.” Laugh at all of his jokes. Always agree with him.

Pretend to enjoy doing all the things he likes to do.

Don’t chase after boys. Make them chase after you!

Play hard to get. Never be the first to say, “I love you.”

Hide your passions. You don’t want him to think you’re “easy.”

If you “give in” to a boy, he’ll “dump” you and “kiss and tell.”

Go to college to find a husband, even though you know

you will be a homemaker after you marry.

A woman must never make more money than her husband…

His delicate pride can’t handle it.

Let a man think he’s boss…

Use “feminine wiles” to get what you want.

The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach…

Cook all of his favorite dishes.

Men are like little boys…They like to be told

how handsome, strong, and smart they are.

Make a habit of paying exaggerated compliments to men…

It builds their fragile egos.

Men are unable to control their impulses.

Women must be the guardians of morality.

If a woman wears a short skirt and gets assaulted, it’s her fault.

Sex is something a wife must endure for the sake of her husband.

Fortunately, I never fell for any of this antiquated sexist nonsense!

Sorry, Mom, but I don’t believe in playing games.

I was paying attention when you taught me to be honest and to

“Do unto others as I would have them do unto me.”

With respect to this poem’s dubious advice, I quote Mom,

“You might as well laugh as cry!”

Photo by Jason Briscoe from Unsplash

*Cautionary note: Some of the antiquated advice in this poem may appear to work in the short term, but some of it could come back to bite you later! Authentic relationships tend to be based on honesty and mutual respect. How long would you be willing to pretend you are enjoying a food you actually detest? How would you feel if you found out that someone was playing you? Better to be real!


Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia

❤ Happy Mother’s Day! ❤

Show love to Mothers today and every day! Remember to cherish your mother’s wise advice, but don’t forget to “Think for yourself.” 🙂

Tribute to My Son

Joe Batavia

Tribute to My Son

My son Joe

makes his mother proud…

envisions

an ideal

world: ethical, kind, just…

and he lends a hand.


Copyright© 2022 by Cheryl Batavia

My Children…Ellen, Joe, and Katey. Joe’s service dog BABY.

Joe advocates for the rights of disabled people and disabled people with service dogs. During the pandemic, when homeless shelters closed their doors, Joe prepared hot food and delivered it to homeless people on the street. He helps homeless people whenever he can, finding information for them, giving them food, a pair of socks, or a haircut…

Visits Then and Now & A Tribute to My Daughters

Katey and Ellen visit their brother, Joe, and his dog, BABY, on their way home from my house.

Visits Then and Now

A couple of years ago,

when my daughters visited me,

we were on our way to swim with manatees…

All tours were cancelled!

On the road, we found

restaurants serving only carry-out.

Two hours before we arrived at our hotel,

the dining room closed…

The museum we had planned to visit

had closed the day before.

We walked around the city

for two days, eating carry-out.

Beaches had closed near my house.

My daughters caught

one of the last flights home to Texas…

Covid had arrived!

This year my daughters visited…

vaccinated, masks ready, restaurants serving,

beaches open, manatees waiting…

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Thanksgiving sunset at Blind Pass Beach. Photo by Ellen.
From my beach chair, I watched Katey build this sand castle with a moat connected to the Gulf of Mexico. Ellen, meanwhile, was swimming enthusiastically in the cool water. She came out just in time to photograph the sunset and Katey’s sand castle.

A Tribute to My Daughters

My daughters, Ellen and Katey, visited a very elaborate Pumpkin Patch near their home in Texas.

A Tribute to My Daughters

Ellen and Katey volunteered at their church to help with Vacation Bible School, online this year because of Covid 19. They are standing in front of one of the sets they helped to build. Ellen was also involved in writing and other aspects of the project. Church members wrote the script, composed and performed original music, and videotaped the episodes with great skill! It’s a big church with a lot of talented volunteers.

Eve Ellen

makes her mother proud…

ambitious,

creative,

dedicated. Her life is

a labor of love.

Katey and Ellen frequently help out at a friend’s horse barn and enjoy riding the horses. All types of animals gravitate toward both of my daughters.

Katey Marie

makes her mother proud.

Her joy is

contagious!

Horses, dogs, friends, family…

life shared in photos.

Ellen and Katey enjoyed the sights and the rides at the fair.

Emails, calls…

My daughters have their

far-away

lives to live.

Times spent together, precious…

cherished memories!

Rez and Vibe love to cuddle. Vibe, in the foreground, is on his way to becoming a huge dog!
Vibe and Ellen. Vibe loves the pool…Rez, not so much! Vibe also enjoys kayak rides, but I am afraid he may already be too big for that.
Katey, Cheryl, & Ellen in front of “The Greatest Show on Earth,” a mural at the Ringling Circus Museum. The museum visit is one of the wonderful memories of our trip.

Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


This is the final post about my daughters’ visit during Thanksgiving week!

The second poem is my attempt at writing sharadomas, a form of poetry featured on David’s blog, “The skeptic’s kaddish of a son.” The poem, “Warm love or: Glowing memories” was posted on December 7, 2021. Sharadoma stanzas have a syllable count of 3/5/3/3/7/5. I didn’t attempt a cleave poem, although David’s was lovely!

Valued Possessions

Photo by Kelly Sikkema from Unsplash.

Valued Possessions

Forest

fire! Flames creeping

down the mountainside.

Air smells smokey in our yard.

We load our car with our treasures…

Fifteen photo albums,

our life story…

valued!

Forest

fire extinguished!

Smoke and fear dissipate.

We unpack our car with smiles and

new insights of what we value…

Family history,

daughter’s childhood…

valued!


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


One Saturday about forty years ago, when my husband was at work, my young daughter, Ellen, and I watched fire and smoke moving down the mountainside toward our house. We packed our car with something irreplaceable…our photo albums. My fifty-two-year-old daughter still has those albums, memories of her childhood.

An Album of Childhood

Photo by Joice Kelly from Unsplash.
Photo by Romina Veliz from Unsplash
Photo by Josh Applegate from Unsplash.
Photo by NeonBrand from Unsplash.

Photo by Deb Dowd from Unsplash.

Photo by Prince Abid from Unsplash.
Photo by Robert Collins from Unsplash.

Ghosts of Halloweens Past, Reblog

Photo by Taylor Rooney from Unsplash

Ghosts of Halloweens Past

Cauldrons of magic potions steaming,

Black cats awakening from dreaming.

Cardboard witch astride her broom

cackles under the harvest moon.

Disney princesses in jeweled crowns

are panhandling all over town.

Frankenstein’s monster is resurrected.

Roaming mummies have been detected.

Blow-up ghosts hover mysteriously,

orange lights twinkle in shrubbery.

Hanging from the live oak trees,

paper skeletons dance in the breeze.

Photo by Conner Baker from Unsplash

Spooky music is beckoning,

roving children are threatening,

“Trick or treat! Trick or treat!”

on every suburban street.

Little pirate brandishes a toy sword,

winning him a sweet reward!

Cat Woman says,”Thank you.”

Neighbor says,”Have fun, you two!”

Jack o’lanterns glow,

grinning at the passing show.

Flickering candles beneath

backlight their jagged teeth.

Vampires in windswept black

pantomime a plastic-fang attack.

Howling werewolves with hairy arms

induce us to pretend alarm.

A little troll walks with a giant bunny.

Funny thing is, he calls her “Mummy!”

Diminutive dragons are holding hands

with a Cat-in-a-Hat they call “Dad!”

Wolfing down all the candy they can eat,

Halloween’s children fall blissfully sleep.

Mom chews bubblegum. Dad eats M & Ms.

“Oh no! We can’t stop! When will it all end?


Copyright© 2020 by Cheryl Batavia

Cicadas & Snowbirds


Cicada. Photo by Shannon Potter from Unsplash.

Cicadas & Snowbirds

Late September now…

Cicadas singing swan songs,

summer’s last hurrah!

Still rainy in Florida…

raindrops dripping from palm trees.

Photo by Roberto Vivano from Pexels.

Hurricane season

giving way in October…

Birds migrating south,

nesting and raising their young

in Florida’s bright blue days.

Photo by Marisa Howenst from Unsplash.

November. Snowbirds,

fleeing winter’s snowy blast,

also migrate south.

Their nesting days are over…

Grandchildren come to visit.

Photo by Tima Miroshni from Pexels.

Holiday visitors flock

to warm, Florida beaches

in sunny December.

On the beach with grandchildren.

Radio plays “White Christmas.”

Beach in Fort Myers, Florida. Photo by Sarah Granger from Unsplash.

January days.

Bermuda shorts and sweaters

on the golf course.

Delightful weather!

February…still golfing!

Florida Golf Course. Photo by Mick Haupt from Unsplash.

In March and April,

snowbird thoughts turn northward

to dogwoods in bloom.

Snowbirds take their flight

to their summer homes up North.

Dogwood Tree. Photo by Jonathan Hana from Unsplash.

May…hot and sunny.

Cicada chorus and rain

June through September.

Hurricane season waning.

Cicadas sing finale.

Cicada. Photo by Stephen Walker from Unsplash.

Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


Katey and Joe Batavia visit their Snowbird Grandparents, Renee and Gabe Batavia. Boynton Beach, Florida, circa 1996. Photo by Cheryl Batavia.

My Dad, My Hero

Photo from Adobe Stock

My Dad, My Hero

My father never had any sisters. He grew up a wild boy skipping school to swim in the creek and trap skunks. In high school he was a basketball star very popular with girls, several of whom wore his class ring on a chain around their necks. He was a skilled hunter and fisherman and helped put food on the table. From time to time, he worked in his father’s siding business. When World War II began, he lied about his age and joined the navy at seventeen. He was, I think, a “man’s man,” always more comfortable in the company of men than in the company of women.

My birth may have been a disappointment to my father, my being a girl. I was also a lot like my mother, with whom he had little in common…imaginative, creative, a lover of art, poetry, and music, uncoordinated and not very good at sports. Still, he was proud of me, ambitious for me, and he was my hero!

My brother was born two years after me, and when I was four, my sister was born. While my mother was in the hospital, I remember Dad trying to make Shirley Temple-style curls in my hair one Sunday morning. I remember his consternation when the ends stuck out at the bottom. I must have been quite a sight going to church with my hair looking like that!

My father’s first assignment as a minister was to three little country churches in Pennsylvania. While Mom went home with my younger brother and sister after the first Sunday service, I always continued on with Dad to the second service. I listened to every sermon three times, never tiring of my dad’s wonderful stories. I remember standing beside the piano when I was five and singing my first solo.

Visiting my grandparents when I was four or five, we went to the swimming pool in Wheeling, West Virginia. My father asked me if I would like to dive with him. With my arms tight around his neck and holding my breath, we went off the high dive together. My father was my hero!

When I was seven, I started piano lessons, which continued for nine years, although I had little musical talent. Eventually, I played the piano and antique pump organ at church when no one else was available. I wasn’t very good! I sang in the choir for years, often performing solos and duets. When I was eleven or twelve, I would put my hair up in a French twist and go with my father to hymn sings at neighboring churches. With my hair up, I thought I looked older and hoped people might mistake me for Dad’s wife. Of course, that was pretty silly!

Mom persuaded Dad to include his daughters, as well as his son on his hunting and fishing expeditions. Though I didn’t shoot, I enjoyed going with my father and our dog, Lady, to hunt quail, and I was always the one to prepare them for cooking. When we went fishing, I was usually the one to clean the fish.

One day, Dad took my brother, sister, and me to fish for bluegills in a farm pond. I got my line hopelessly tangled. Trying to break the line by pulling against my foot, I embedded a fish hook deep in the calf of my leg. My father cut it out with his pocket knife. I was very brave. “You are lucky I just sharpened my knife!” my father said. I still have a little purple scar on my leg.

When I was in high school, hunters sometimes stayed at our house. They would get up at four in the morning to go deer hunting with my father. I also got up early and fixed them a hearty breakfast. I enjoyed listening to their hunting stories and fish tales.

Like his mother, my father was a talented gardener. His huge garden helped to feed our family. I remember Dad teaching me how to plant beans and pull weeds. We all shelled peas, snapped beans, and husked corn. In the early years, my mother canned, but when I was about six, we got a large freezer, and my parents kept it full of vegetables from the garden and fish and meat my father brought home. My father also raised beautiful flowers that my mother and I enjoyed making into arrangements for home and church.

My mother was an excellent cook and baker. Mom turned the abundance from the garden into delicious meals and baked pies, cookies, and cakes. Dad had been a cook aboard a ship when he was in the navy and was always reminding us that the best chefs are men! When it came to preparing deer steak or frying trout, Dad often did that job.

Always the athlete, Dad never played a sport he didn’t like…darts, bowling, ice skating, roller skating, skiing, hiking, swimming, college football…When I was in high school, he used to outshoot teenagers on the church basketball court. My father, brother, and I got our Red Cross lifeguard certifications together. They scored higher in the water test than I did, and I scored higher on the written exam! In his seventies, Dad was still skating with the church youth group.

The youth group activity I enjoyed most when I was young was hiking in Shenandoah National Park.We would pile into the back of an old hearse and head for the mountains. After the hike, we enjoyed burgers and hot dogs cooked over wood coals and we roasted marshmallows.

One day, without my parents’ knowledge, I wore my bathing suit under my clothes. Our group hiked to the top of South River Falls, a tall waterfall with a pool in the middle that was reported to be bottomless. Many people have died walking near the waterfalls in the park. Luckily, I didn’t die. I just climbed down through the middle of the falls and swam in the pool at the bottom. Oddly, I don’t remember being punished for that episode. Maybe Dad saw himself in me that day!

On another hike, I walked through a yellow jackets’ nest. Swatting the bees as I ran, I knocked my glasses off. Days later, my father returned to the trail and found my glasses. Remarkable! My Hero!

When I was in high school, my parents’s marriage, always a mismatch, began to steadily deteriorate. Life at home was often unpleasant because of the conflict between my parents. Also, I found the restrictions imposed by my parents unbearable.

I had a brief, but very unfortunate experience at a religious boarding school. The repressive and malevolent attitudes and the rampant hyprocricy at the school made me question religion. I became an atheist at age thirteen. Though I continued to participate in church activities for many years, I think my parents were aware that I no longer accepted their beliefs. Stubborn and independent, as both of my parents were, I obeyed them for the most part, but was pretty outspoken with them about my views.

My father was as frustrated as I was, I think. He had trouble seeing me grow up and was reluctant to relinquish control. When I was seventeen, he did several things to me that were very hurtful. I think he later regretted his actions, although he never said that he was sorry. He was much less controlling with my younger sister as she grew up.

After their children were grown, my parents went through a very messy divorce. Dad and I both made efforts to maintain a relationship until the day he died, but I could never fit his mold. I always loved my father, and he loved me, but, like Humpty Dumpty, our family could never be put together again.

My father died at age seventy-five in 2004. I have many treasured memories of my dad and a few memories it took me years to forgive. Fulfilling his wishes, family members sang some of his favorite hymns at his funeral in a little country church where he was the pastor. My father had “died with his boots on!”

To all the fathers everywhere, you will never be perfect. Don’t stress over it. All any of us can do is our best! We love you. We will always love you!

Blue Hole, where my family liked to swim and fish. Photo by Taber Andrew Bain CCBY2.0

My Father

Father,

human being,

excellent example

of many admirable skills:

great speaker and storyteller,

gardener, fisherman,

hunter, builder,

athlete!

Father,

good intentions

and high expectations.

He didn’t model compromise

or practice co-operation.

He focused on rules, not

relationships.

He tried.

Father,

childhood hero!

I was so proud of him,

and I know he was proud of me.

Though I could never fit his mold,

I always loved my dad,

and he loved me.

We tried.

South River Falls, Shenandoah National Park-Virginia, USA. Photo from Adobe Stock

Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia

❤ Happy Fathers Day! ❤

Mother

Photo by Priscilla Duprees from Unsplash

Mother

Mother

is proud of you

for every step you take,

picks you up every time you fall,

shows you how again and again,

and builds your confidence

to walk alone.

She’s proud!

Mother

hears your first word,

always listens to you,

wants for you what you want for yourself,

gives advice, knowing that someday

you will surely recall

what Mother said…

She hears!

Mother

sees potential

when those around you doubt,

has high hopes for you in tough times,

never, ever gives up on you,

even when you give up,

always loves you…

Always!


Copyright© 2021 by Cheryl Batavia


Happy Mothers Day!

This Sunday, May 9, 2021 is celebrated as Mothers Day in the US. Wherever you are, feel free to join in! Tell your mother you love and appreciate her. Spend time with her if you can. Call her, bring her flowers or candy, take her out to dinner…whatever is in your heart to do. If your mother is no longer alive, take a moment to remember her and all the good times you spent together.

To all the mothers out there, Happy Mothers Day!

Lots of love to you! ❤