#AtoZChallenge – Jumpy

The first day of the first class that all ten of them had together found them jumpy. They didn’t know each other yet. They had just been assigned a desk in the bullpen. It was a graduate class in management. The Professor walked in and in a booming voice said, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

She never forgot that quote and it came to signify their entire academic experience. They looked at each other and knew that the roller coaster of their graduate experience had begun. They all knew, from the outset, that getting a doctoral degree was difficult. Beyond difficult. It was a lifetime commitment. Some of them had families. Some didn’t have children yet, but were married. Some single. All determined to join the elusive Club. The Professorship.

They didn’t know yet that, by the end of their two years of classwork, and endless years of writing their dissertations, that the commitment to join the Club would take a heavy toll on their lives, families, and relationships. Only a few more than half of them would even succeed. For those that did, it would make their lives. It would define their lives. The Professorship would become more important to them and they would become more important to each other than anything else in their lives.

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#AtoZChallenge – Idealistic

They met when they were graduate students who happened to share the same field and the bullpen. That was the office where the university dumped the graduate teaching and research assistants. They studied there, prepared for classes there, got to know each other there. There were ten of them.

They were all drawn to each other. They had similar intellects, similar interests. As they grew to know each other, they found they’d even had similar lives, though their ages differed by as much as ten years. One characteristic they all shared was that they were idealistic, to an extreme. About life, about love. That would all change during the twenty, thirty, and in some cases, forty years they knew each other.

They mixed and matched in all sorts of smaller groups and pairs over the two years in that bullpen, developing strong friendships and relationships. They laughed that getting their degrees was like fighting a war together.

What they didn’t know then was that those were the Glory Days.

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#AtoZChallenge – Happy

As she grew up, she felt lucky to be part of a big extended family. She didn’t have any siblings, but she did have lots of first cousins. Their mothers and fathers were close, so the children saw each other often. There was almost 40 years between the oldest cousin and the youngest. It never occurred to her that they would not always be close. To her, the cousins were her siblings. She counted on them to be her family.

Until they weren’t. They all got older, married, and life got in the way. She was as guilty of that as any of them. Distance developed between them. There were still family reunions, visits, closeness, but as time passed, it became different and less frequent. She still counted on them.

Riffs in the family didn’t happen until a little more than ten years ago. She still doesn’t know what happened, but something did. Two of the cousins didn’t communicate with her anymore. She didn’t know why and, for a time, tried to find out but it was hopeless. Heartbroken, she gave up. As time passed, she heard less from the other cousins who were younger than her. She became embittered, angry, and very sad. She didn’t understand. From time to time, she would try to make contact, but it never turned out well.

She still had a relationship with her older cousins, but now the one who wrote the letter and revealed her private business in such a vindictive way had undoubtedly ruined that. She was alone, an orphan.

Except for her friends. Fate had smiled on her regarding her friends. She felt she had the best friends in the world. They had come through for her time and time again. She could never repay them. They had become her family without her realizing it. She hoped they felt the same.

She knew that it was time to move on and leave the dreams of childhood and that big, extended family behind, except for the handful who had stood beside her. The only way to be happy in the future was to find a future without them.

Author’s note: Posts A through H of the #AtoZChallenge are the beginnings of an idea for a novel. Thank you for reading. I would love your comments!

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#AtoZChallenge – Gracious

The only word that could describe her aunt was gracious. The other family on that hill, her second set of parents, were her mother’s sister and her husband. They were childless. Even as an adult, she ran between the two houses and didn’t really differentiate between her parents and her aunt and uncle. She loved them equally. Her aunt, like her grandmother, was a take-charge woman. Liberated, strong, but loving and above all, gracious. In so many ways, she saved her.

Her aunt was a teacher and she made a nice test student. She tested her for reading, math, all skills, from the time she was three or four years old. She insisted she be well-rounded and bought her a piano. She started lessons at seven years old. She had all the reading material that a girl could want. Between her mother and her aunt, they bought her beautiful school clothes in the nearest big city. She often felt like a princess. But, she was shy and most people didn’t know any of this.

Her aunt tried to teach her how to be a lady, but she was a tomboy. They lived in the country and all of her playmates, except two, were boys. She learned to play baseball and was the pitcher. Her aunt just shook her head. Her first love, for all of her life, were her dogs. Her uncle would find dogs by the road and bring them home to her. She would nurse them back to health. Her aunt would smile in spite of herself and shake her head again. She always found time to study and four hours each day to practice piano.

She had great respect for her aunt. She listened to her lessons about life. She listened to her lessons about their family. She particularly listened to her lessons about her parents. Her aunt desperately wanted her to go on into higher education and become self-sufficient. She didn’t really know what that meant then, but later she did and she appreciated her aunt’s push in that direction. She depended on her for so many things.

Later in life, when she was a very young woman, her aunt became ill. Her Daddy was ill. Her mother was ill. Her aunt and her Daddy died within three months of each other. She was forlorn. She still had her mother and uncle. She still had a large extended family. But, she felt the very fabric of her life being ripped out from under her. She was losing the families on the hill and she didn’t know how to cope.

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#AtoZChallenge – Fair

After her Daddy came back home, she was changed. More mature in ways. Thankful he was back. They became more of a family on that hill. Her mother had grown up only 50 miles away, on a farm in the countryside. Her grandparents were still there. She and her parents visited them often on the weekends, sometimes spending the entire weekend. Sometimes just the day. The other family on the hill, her aunt and uncle, would join them. She was in the fourth grade.

Spending time on the farm was one of the best parts of her childhood. Her grandfather was the most fair and forgiving man. He taught her what men should be like. Her grandmother was a woman before her time. Liberated even then. Calling the shots. She probably got some of her fire and independence from her. But, it was her grandfather she identified with and who she talked with the most.

She was one of the middle cousins in age. Her older cousins were a lot older. She didn’t see them very much or when she did, they saw her as a child. Her younger cousins were either not born yet or still babies. Except for her uncle’s family and he was away in the military. She only saw them once a year. She was most often on the farm alone.

Some mornings, she got up early and went with her grandfather to milk the cows. Other days, he took her in his wagon, pulled by his mules, to his parents farm which seemed far away. It was a beautiful place with the old log cabin still standing. During those times with him, he talked to her about life, people, politics, and most of all, education. Lessons that helped form the rest of her life.

When she stops to think even now, she can see him and hear his laugh. Why do the most important people have to die and leave you?

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#AtoZChallenge – Destructive

60 years later. Long after that small girl had grown into a woman, a series of destructive experiences threatened to overtake her life. She’d had a good, full, eventful life. A good husband, more than one challenging and fulfilling career, wonderful friends, some supportive family. There were cousins who were like siblings. There had been disagreements between the cousins as there are in every family. There was one special cousin to whom she’d felt bonded since childhood. This cousin hurt the now grown woman’s feelings badly, during a difficult and emotional period in her life. If any cousin would support her, she had thought this cousin would. She was wrong.

The two women had an argument when the woman expressed her feelings of hurt to her cousin. Weeks later, she received a letter in the mail. The cousin said she was “documenting” their disagreement. She read on with interest, not understanding. The cousin recounted their argument. During their argument, the cousin had mentioned some financial dealings they had with each other. The woman was shocked when she saw that this so-called documentation had been copied and mailed to other cousins in the family. Cousins who were no party to the argument. Why would her special cousin possibly involve other cousins? Bother them with a personal disagreement of which they had no knowledge? She was crushed and her heart was broken. It was the most vindictive thing that had ever happened to her.

She learned some valuable lessons that day. No matter how much you trust someone, even in your family, don’t open your heart to them. Don’t ever let family be involved in any of your financial affairs. Don’t let trust come easily.

The woman felt she lost her family that day. She would never be comfortable with them again.

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#AtoZChallenge – Crushing

She made her way through Grades One and Two with the little girls. Her little sisters. The two families on the hill gave her pretty dresses for school and fixed her curls just so. She had two mothers and two fathers. She did the arithmetic, the reading, the piano. They thought she was special. She didn’t think about that. She didn’t know any other way.

Then the dark morning came. Her Daddy came to her bedside early. Not to wake her for school but to tell her he was leaving. He was going to take a job far away. She wouldn’t see him for a long time. She didn’t know what a long time meant, but she thought it sounded bad. The look on his face made her afraid. She started to cry and so did he. He reached into his pocket and found three pennies. He handed them to her and told her they were her lucky three pennies. That when she looked at them, she would know he would be back.

After that morning, her life changed forever, it seemed. Her Daddy was gone. She kept the three pennies in her hand always. At school, home, play. When she wrote, read, bathed, and ate. Her mother tried to get her to lay them down, but she knew she would lose her Daddy if she did. She didn’t lay them down and now, so many years later, they are in her jewelry box.

They were her lucky three pennies and she held onto them and waited for her Daddy to come home. She wasn’t special anymore. She would never feel special again after the Dark Morning.

#theme: descriptive adjectives

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#AtoZChallenge – Beloved

Before she was tutored and tested. When she was a baby and hardly more, she was beloved by the two familie on the hill. There were two other families that were also hers. A big extended family that sprouted from her roots on the farm in the country. Then the family in the north, her Daddy’s family, who spoke with a strange accent but who enveloped her in their love during the few times she saw them.

When she was only four years old, they visited the family in the north. A reunion her Daddy said. Not just her grandfather and aunts and uncles but great aunts and uncles and cousins. They sat in rocking chairs around the fireplace in the cabin by the lake and told stories of Sweden, the Old Country. She rocked on her grandfather’s lap and felt his big belly laughs. It was the first of only three times she saw him in her life but she was beloved by him and by all of them.

The women cooked on an old wood stove. Everyone ate, drank, fell asleep, and got up the next day and did it all again. They couldn’t get enough of each other. There was so much love in that cabin. She never felt that kind of love again.

At four years old, it was the last time she ever saw them all together, but she remembered it all her life.

#theme: descriptive adjectives

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#AtoZChallenge – Accelerated

As a small girl, she was the apple of their eye. The two families made sure she was accelerated in everything, except sports. Back then, girls didn’t do that. She was moved up in music, in reading, in math. To many levels ahead of her grade level. She was tutored and tested at home. The families were filled with teachers. It worked. Until her Daddy left.

#theme: Descriptive Adjectives

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