Losing a Friend

sunset     I walked to my front window after hearing the news.  As I looked out at the beautiful sunset, I thought of Nancy.   The sky was on fire with yellow-gold, orange, pink, and purple streaks topped with layers of fluffy white clouds.  Everything was calm and quiet.  I smiled and thought, Calm and quiet were not words that described my friend.

     We first met at school.  She had been there a few years and was experienced.  I was beginning my second year of teaching.  She was the first grade teacher and I was teaching the primary special education students.  The year was 1973 and there was no inclusion. My principal told me up front the first day of school, he didn’t know what to do with my kids but if I needed help, some of the other teachers would be of assistance.  

     And that’s where Nancy came in.  I didn’t even have to ask her.   I didn’t even know WHAT to ask her.  I was floundering and she sensed it.  Or maybe that’s just what Nancy always did to help out new teachers.   She dragged me down to the office one day a few days before school started and showed me where all the supplies were; even the ones we weren’t supposed to know about.  She showed me her room and supplies (there were many) and said Help yourself. She showed me the work area where papers could be “run off”  on the mimeograph machine and she taught me how to operate it.  And then she showed me how to get the ink off of my hands, fingers, and blouses.  A few weeks after school started, she invited my entire class to her classroom for storytime.  It became a weekly event. Sometimes we watched a TV show, or worked on an art project, or played a game of Seven Up.  I doubt she ever realized what a difference those invitations made to the students in my class…students who didn’t fit in well and were not always accepted by others.

     Nancy was one-of-a-kind, almost childlike in her enthusiasm which was why first grade was a perfect fit for her.  She was like a mother hen to all of her students; hugging them when they needed a hug, pulling and celebrating her students’ baby teeth, doctoring up skinned knees, and reprimanding those kids that seemed to stay too long in the restroom.  I remember her trimming one young student’s hair. She had mentioned to the parents that he needed a haircut but nothing happened.  She was convinced that the student’s hair was preventing him from learning to read.  He couldn’t see the book with all that hair hanging down in his face.  So she got her scissors out and solved the problem.

     The comments I saw last night from her friends, students, and colleagues mentioned kindness and a passion for what she did.  She had a deep faith in God. There was not a mean bone in her body.  She met whatever came into her path with kindness and determination. She had struggled once with cancer and won.  This time it was not meant to be.

Melanie, a friend, colleague, and mother to one of Nancy’s students of long ago said it best: “The world is a sorrier place having said goodbye to Nancy.  Heaven, on the other hand, is lighting up with joy.”

That must have been what was happening as I watched the sunset from my front window.

One Liner Wednesday…. The Winter Blues

The time has come, my husband said,

To talk of many things:

Of grocery bills and no more thrills

Of furnaces and dings

And why the bills are overdue

And why you’ve ceased to sing.


My first attempt at One Liner Wednesday (Yeah I know its kind of long)  It’s how I feel today.

Thanks to Linda for a great idea.  You can read more at this link


Whistle Stop

photo by Dawn Q Landau


“C’mon Ralph!  Hurry up! “

Ampersand jogged alongside the track with Ralph.

When they reached the clearing, helicopters hovered over the area.  Ampersand waved a small American flag and Ralph began to bark.

“Shhhh…Ralph. Behave.”


As the train approached, Ampersand jumped around doing a little dance.  But it was only the train carrying the entourage.

More minutes passed and Ralph and his child became restless.

Finally,  the train came into view, all decked out in red, white, and blue bunting.

“What’s your dog’s name?”  shouted President George Bush from the rear platform of the train.


This week’s story is based on a true event, President Bush’s campaign rail trek that came through Ohio in the fall of 1992.  The train passed near our home and we walked through a bean field to reach a farm crossing, hoping to catch a glimpse of George Bush.  President and Mrs. Bush were on the rear platform and waved to us.  We waved back as he shouted his question about our dog.   You can read a bit more here if you are interested.


Thanks to Rochelle Wisoff-Fields at Friday Fictioneers for this prompt.  https://rochellewisofffields.wordpress.com/




It was an odd hobby, seemingly fitting for a writer.

Lelajack had saved every pen she had ever used.   When they dried up, she plunked them into a box.  When it filled up, she got a larger box.  Then she found a large plastic bin with a lid and Lelajack immediately dumped the years’ worth of writing utensils into the clear container.

ff 2 20 15

Copywright Marie Gail Stratford


That’s better, she thought.  I can see all the beautiful colors of the pens.

Years passed.  Lelajack continued to write, not succumbing to a word processor or a laptop.

Maybe someday, she would share her writing.


Friday Fictioneers…. using a photo, write a complete 100-word story.  Hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields each week.  Check out this link to read more stories.


Riding my Bike


She was waiting for me at the end of the sidewalk with her hands on her hips.

“You may as well put that bicycle in the garage for the next two weeks. You could have been killed.  Lucky for you that driver had his eyes on you because you weren’t watching where you were going.  Put it away and come in and get washed up.  You can help me with supper.”

“Two weeks!  Mom…. it wasn’t that close.  I had plenty of time to turn around in front of that car!”

“I saw the whole thing out of the bedroom window.  You turned right in front of a car without even looking.  End of story.”

I knew she was right.  I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing.  My heart was still pounding and of course, my Mom had been right there to see what happened.   I parked the bike in the back of the garage and slowly walked back to the house.

That was the end of the conversation.  In two weeks, I had to find enough nerve to ask my Mom if I could ride again.  I was at her mercy.  She was known to stew about things like endangering your life, and she could possibly tack on another two weeks.

It was 1959 and I was a girl in a neighborhood of mostly boys.  I learned  that it was way more fun to be a boy than a girl.  Boys got to wear pants all the time, boys didn’t have to “do” their hair, and in general they just had more freedom than girls.

I was often told that my behavior was not ladylike. I needed to sit like a lady and act like a lady.  I don’t recall boys ever being told to sit like a man or act like a man or be more manlike.

The simple inequalities of childhood were obvious.  My brother was a prime example. The fact that he was five years older than me, played into the inequality, too, but at the time, I just thought it was boys vs. girls.  My brother got to do all the fun stuff.   He got to go outside and help my dad, while I had to stay in the house.   He made stuff out of wood and got a two-wheeled bicycle.  I had to play with dolls and ride a tricycle.  He was allowed to walk back to the woods by himself.  Not me.  I had to stay close to the house.

Things changed for me when I had my ninth birthday.  I got my first  two-wheeled bicycle.  It was a Schwinn, powder blue and I was in heaven.  I had already learned to ride my brother’s three speed English bike, so when I hopped on to my very own bike, it was a piece of cake. There was a steep hill/driveway that led to the back part of our farm behind the granary and it was the best fun to coast down that hill at top speed.  At the bottom was a 90 degree turn to the left and then a little creek to cross.  I was allowed to ride back there all I wanted.  There was also had a bank barn, built with a steep hill leading to the haymow,  It was a shorter run that the hill behind the granary, but just as much fun.  I could coast all the way down, wind blowing the hair from my face, and coast all the way past the corncrib, the house, and finally to the road.  

Finally one day, I was allowed to ride down the road to the next house and back.  (My mother stood out in the middle of the road, ready to throw herself in front of a moving car, if one came along and threatened my safety.)   The feel of the smooth pavement under my bike tires was unforgettable.  Can you imagine how fast I could go if I wasn’t riding on stones or dirt paths?

I had to wait until the next summer to be allowed to ride on the road.  I couldn’t go very far, never out of sight of my mother’s watchful eyes, but it was worth waiting for.   Pumping my legs up and down, standing up to pedal and gaining speed, wind whooshing in my ears.  My first sense of real freedom.