Friday, July 29, 2011

Eaters of the Dead: A Mythological Analysis

Eaters of the Dead,” by noted storyteller, Michael Crichton, is an epic story told through the prose of a 10th century Arabic writer by the name of Ahmad Ibn Fadlan. Ibn Fadlan was a familiar to the Commander of the Faithful of Baghdad, Caliph al-Muqtadir, who was sent to deliver a message to a wealthy and prominent merchant. This merchant had in his possession a young bride with unsurpassed beauty. While waiting for the master of the home to return, Ibn Fadlan is seduced by the young temptress and gets caught with his pants down - so to speak. When a request from a far off king is delivered to the Caliph to send an ambassador to him from Baghdad, the wealthy and influential merchant insists that the Caliph send Ibn Fadlan. To save face, the Caliph is forced to comply and sends Ibn Fadlan on this perilous expedition.

Along this journey, Ibn Fadlan records the events of his travels, and his encounters with the Baskirs, the Hazars, the Saqaliba, the Turks, and finally the Northmen (Vikings). It takes more than three years for Ibn Fadlan to return to his home in Baghdad, the vast majority of it spent in the company of the Northmen, whom at first he loathes with the utmost contempt.

Led by their fearless leader Buliwyf, the Northmen and Ibn Fadlan are “called by the gods” to a hero’s duty, far to the north, to rescue King Rothgar, a distant relative of Buliwyf, from a “nameless terror.” Buliwyf is a fierce and mighty warrior, who has in his possession the power of the giants in the form of Runding, a sword of the ancients.

It isn’t until Ibn Fadlan is forced, at first, to unite with the Northmen to battle the notorious “eaters of the dead,” that Ibn Fadlan begins to understand, tolerate, and respect the differences between people of his culture and those of the Northmen.

It is, in Ibn Fadlan’s words, “[by] the grace of Allah,” that one amongst them, a quick-witted young warrior by the name of Herger, is gifted in the Latin tongue. It is through Herger that Ibn Fadlan is able to communicate with, and ultimately understand their extraordinary ways.

"Beowulf" - by pujaantarbangsa 

Eaters of the Dead” is a retelling of the classical Scandinavian myth “Beowulf.” Author Michael Crichton weaves a masterful tale, melding fiction with historical facts, making it difficult to discern between the two, despite many fanciful elements within the story.

There is little argument that the Muslim Arabic writer Ahmad Ibn Fadlan did exist, and he was sent as an ambassador to the Bolgars, now modern Kazan. What is in question is what transpired once he encountered the Northmen. In my opinion, this represents the “crossing over” point in the story.  In “Eaters of the Dead” Ibn Fadlan is on the ship with the Northmen warriors as they come upon the city of Bulgar, the very city he was sent to be emissary of. Ibn Fadlan pleads with the Northmen to stop and let him complete his task, but they do little more than laugh and ignore him. It is at this point I believe Michael Crichton deviates from fact to fiction, from the realm of the real into the realm of myth.

Sua the dragon Beowulf battles.

There are many similarities between the tale of “Beowulf” and “Eaters of the Dead.” In both stories the hero is summoned by an imprudent king far off to the north to assist him with a monster that is terrorizing his village. In the epic poem of “Beowulf,” Grendel is the monster. In Crichton’s rendition, Buliwyf is the hero, but the monster is the great fire wyrm, which turns out to be the fabled half-man half-beast people called the wendol (Neanderthals). Both heroes have to deal with a contriving underling who wishes to undermine their heroism; in Beowulf it is the King’s advisor, and with Buliwyf it is the King’s son. Both heroes do battle with a great dragon; Beowulf slays the dragon Sua, and Buliwyf battles the wendol who ride in the mist and take the form of a “glow-worm” given the name Korgon. Both heroes face off against the “mother” of the monster; Beowulf defeats Grendel’s mother by lopping off her head and Buliwyf defeats the “mother of the thunder caves” by stabbing her with a dagger.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Robert E. Howard: 75 Years of Silence - Part 2

Robert E. Howard Museum - Cross Plains, Texas
[PART 1] [PART 3]

Each year, in the second weekend of June, Project Pride, the Robert E. Howard United Press Association, and the Robert E. Howard Foundation host a 2 day event to celebrate the life of Robert E. Howard at the Howard House Museum. This year was particularly special as it marked the 75th year of Robert E. Howard’s passing. More than 200 people attended this year’s event, hailing from 19 different states and three different countries worldwide. One individual came from as far as Russia to participate in the gala. Occurring in Cross Plains, Texas during the same weekend every year is the Barbarian Festival. While Alisha and I weren’t able to attend either event this year, we were thrilled at the opportunity to gain a private tour of the Robert E. Howard Museum.

The clock was swiftly approaching 1PM when we left the Howard family gravesite. A quick pit stop at DQ for refreshments in Cross Plains – the must go to watering hole of any Texas small town – and we were off. The Robert E. Howard Museum was easy to find, just ½ mile up the road from DQ on the main drag through town (Highway 36). Noted as being the first place ever listed in the National Register of Historical Places in Callahan Country, the Howard House was beautifully restored by the many volunteers of Project Pride. It was a small white house, complete with a white picket fence – once the American dream. It was the house where Howard grew up and produced the vast majority of his writings until the day he died.

Back view of the REH Museum
When we pulled up to the driveway, it felt like we were stepping back in time; a time when life was simpler. When people talked to and knew their neighbors well; a time when a trip to the local drug store for a soda pop was a rare treat; a time when people would actually take the time to hand write and mail letters and post cards to each other; a time when people used sidewalks and would wave ‘hi’ to each other as they passed by. It was also a time without air conditioning, a modern upgrade the great people of Project Pride added during the restoration process, and one we were grateful to have during the summer Texas heat.

Our very kind and knowledgeable guide, Anne Rone
As we approached the back porch, we half expected to be greeted with a pitcher of lemonade or ice tea. Instead, we were greeted with something even better – a warm smile and friendly handshake from caretaker Anne Rone. Anne, like many of the other caretakers, volunteers her time to give tours of the Howard Museum. She was kind enough to take time out of her Saturday afternoon to open up the Howard House for us for a private tour of the place. She even arrived ahead of time to make sure the house was nice and cool (that was much appreciated).

After signing the guestbook, Anne directed us to our first destination – the bedroom of Howards’s mother, Hester Howard. I say her bedroom, as opposed to Howard’s parent’s room for a few reasons. First, his mother was sickly, battling tuberculoses, so it’s not likely that Dr. Howard would have spent much time sleeping in the same bed as his wife. The original layout of the house included a “Sleeping Porch,” which, we were told Dr. Howard used quite regularly. In addition, from what I understand, the couple didn’t get along too well at times. So much so, that at one time Hester moved out of the house and boarded with Robert while he finished high school in nearby Brownwood.

Dr. I. M. Howard's trunk and the window leading into Robert's tiny room. 

I was surprised that the bedroom was so large in comparison to the rest of the house. It was neatly decorated with period pieces of furniture, and even contained a few original items once owned by the Howard family. Two particular items caught my eye immediately – a large trunk originally owned by Dr. Howard, and the window it sat under. Before the Howard’s bought the property, the window opened up to the backyard. Soon afterwards they built on a small room for Robert to sleep in. Robert would keep an eye on his sickly mother through the window while he tapped away on his typewriter. Likewise, Hester loved to listen her son read aloud his stories. It is said that Robert always read his stories aloud as he typed them to help bring them to life. Anne told us that the family that once lived next door (the house now destroyed and gone after the 1994 tornado that swept through town) often complained about hearing Robert typing and acting out his stories until the wee hours of the morning.

Robert E. Howard's Living Room

Our next stop was the living room. This room was beautifully decorated with period furniture and art as well. It was quite inviting, and reminiscent of something you would expect to see in a Clark Gabel or Audrey Hepburn movie back in those days. I could easily imagine Dr. Howard sitting in that room, enjoying a good book with the windows propped open during the warm summer months. The corner of the room contained a bookcase that held a number of books that were once owned by Dr. Howard and still contained his signature bookplate in them.  Another item of note was a large bust of Cleopatra that Robert purchased on a family trip when he was a young teenager. A sign that even at a young age, Robert E. Howard was a fan of history, and possibly more telling, that he wasn’t your typical teenager.

A note from Robert's English teacher.
Adjoined to the living room was the dining room. Outside of Robert’s own bedroom, this was my favorite room in the museum. There, on display, were many fascinating pieces of Robert E. Howard history. The dining table held many binders that contained photocopies of varied information; hand written stories he wrote in school, lists of articles that were published and how much he got paid for each, canceled checks from payments received for his writings, all amongst them. One document that I found particularly interesting was a photocopy of a paper he had written in school when he was 15 years old. On the side margin his English teacher wrote a prophetic message to him:

“Robert, I believe that someday you will be one of our major writers. Develop your talent.”

Postcard from H. P. Lovecraft
H. P. Lovecraft fans will be interested to know that Robert and Lovecraft were pen pals and friends. They would often write each other and banter on about various topics of writing, politics, and modern civilization vs. barbarianism. On display in the dining room is a framed original post card sent from H. P. Lovecraft to Robert E. Howard from Quebec, Canada in 1930. It reads:

“This place surpasses all my expectations – a veritable dream of archaic city walls, crenellated cliffs, silent spires, narrow, zig-zag, precipitous streets, and the leisurely civilization of an elder world.”

1 of 9 known copies
As awesome as that was, arguably the most prized possession of the Robert E. Howard Museum was a copy of Robert’s only published book, “A Gent from Bear Creek.” The book is a collection of Western short stories that originally appeared in pulp magazine “Action Tales” with a few additions to tie them together to make a complete storyline. It’s a rare book, with only nine known to exist. This particular copy was just hours away from being destroyed before a book collector by the name of Ian Snelling found it in the “toss” pile at a charity thrift store in South Africa. After careful consideration, Ian in turn sold the book to filmmaker and author Leo Grin for a mere $3700, a fraction of its true value. Leo then donated the book to Project Pride for display in the museum. For a Robert E. Howard fan, being able to see this exceedingly rare book in person was an unexpected treat.

Check back soon. I’ll be sharing the rest of my experience at the Robert E. Howard Museum, where I get a chance to sit in his bedroom where Robert composed his greatest works.

You can read [PART 1] and [PART 3] here.

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination 

Have you ever visited the Robert E. Howard Museum? How about the Barbarian Festival? What famous author’s houses have you been to?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tell Me Something Good #4

Brynn and her Momma

[With all the bad going on in the world – the economy, politicians exposing themselves, the war on terror, Oprah going off the air, NFL season in jeopardy, cats and dogs sleeping together – it’s about time we celebrated the good things in life. Here at Defying Procrastination, Tuesdays have now become “Tell Me Something Good” Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I will post something good that has happened to me or someone else in my life and I want you to do the same. Leave me a comment and Tell Me Something good that is going on in your world!]

It’s that time again for, “Tell Me Something Good.” This is where I share some good news with you, hoping in return, you will share your good news with me and others. I need your help to spread the love.

First thing on my list… HAPPY BIRTHDAY to Brynn! She turned 6 years old on Sunday. We kept the celebration simple this year. We had a few family members over to munch on some food, eat cake and ice cream, and watch Brynn plunge into her smorgasbord of Barbie presents. Who knew Barbie was such a tech nerd: iPod, iPhone, HD flat screen TV. In the afternoon we took her to Main Event for lunch, and to let her ride the virtual roller coasters, play some games, and shoot a round of glow-in-the-dark indoor golf.

QUOTE OF THE DAY - 9:30PM: After a long day of birthday celebration, Gavin is shocked to find out that it’s bedtime already. Brynn’s response: “Gavin, there’s one thing I’ve found out. The day goes by really fast when you have a lot of fun.”

Fall Creek Falls - Tennessee State Park
Wednesday the family and I are headed on vacation to Tennessee to visit my family and have some fun. This is the first time Alisha will be meeting my extended family, so she is a bit nervous. I told her not to worry; they don’t like me too much anyway. This of course isn't true, but it brought a smile to her face, which always brightens my day. We will be pressed for time, but I’m hoping we can visit Fall Creek Falls while we are there. It’s such a beautiful and peaceful place to see. When I used to live nearby, I would go hiking and exploring there for hours and hours. If you have never been, you should.

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination

So now it’s your turn. Share something good that happened to you or someone you love this week.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Robert E. Howard: 75 Years of Silence - Part 1

"They were lovely and pleasant in their lives and in their death they were not divided."
Robert E. Howard Family Gravesite
[PART 2] [PART 3]

June 11th, 2011 marked the 75th anniversary of the passing of one of America’s great writers and poets, and without question, one of the father’s of Modern Fantasy - Robert E. Howard. Those not familiar with his writing or his name will most assuredly know his creations. You’ve probably read comics, played video games, watched movies and Saturday morning cartoons inspired by his work and not even know it. Robert E. Howard was the creator of legendary characters like, Solomon Kane, Bran Mak Morn, Kull the Conqueror, and his most infamous character, Conan the Barbarian.

Robert E. Howard's earning in 1935
Howard was a pulp fiction writer who thrived and excelled during one of the most economically challenging times in American history, the Great Depression. He wrote stories in many different genres, but gained most of his success, and money, writing stories for the pulp magazine Weird Tales. At a time when most people were struggling to put food on the table or keep a roof over their heads, Howard was earning in excess of $100 a piece for his published stories; a pretty healthy sum even for today’s standards.

Unfortunately, like many gifted – and troubled - writers, artists, and entertainers, Howard’s life ended tragically and far too soon.  On the early morning of June 11th, 1936, Robert E. Howard took his own life after receiving the news that his mother, Hester Howard, would not survive her latest bout with tuberculosis. He calmly walked out to his car, with his mother’s nurse watching out the kitchen window, retrieved his gun and shot himself in the head. He was only 30 years old.

To honor him, Alisha and I wanted to visit his homestead in Cross Plains, now The Robert E. Howard Museum, and his family gravesite in Brownwood, TX. As I mentioned before, we made a day trip out of it; our first stop being the Greenleaf Cemetery where Howard and his parents were buried. It took a little effort to locate the cemetery. Google Maps and the navigation feature on my Droid phone usually work great - when there’s a signal. No signal? No problem. Brownwood is a relatively small town, so someone should know where it is.
Robert E. Howard's Death Certificate

We stopped at a local watering hole (convenience store) to wet our whistle from the long drive (~3 hours from Austin) and I asked the clerk where I could find the Greenleaf Cemetery. No luck. She wasn’t “from around these parts.” No problem. There can’t be too many cemeteries around, one of the local funeral homes will know for sure. Nope! The funeral director had never heard of the Greenleaf Cemetery. Are you kidding me? What was complicating our search was the fact that the little sleepy town of Early, TX and Brownwood were anchored side by side, like the great cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis. Only these two great cities were not separated by a mighty river. They were just a stone’s throw away from each other.

After some thought and consideration, the funeral director said she thought there was an old cemetery off of Highway 377, but wasn’t certain because she had never buried anyone there. Interesting. I knew from studying the maps prior to our trip that the Greenleaf Cemetery was on the Northwest part of town, and the cemetery she spoke of fit the description. So off we went.

Robert Payne College as it would have appeared when Robert E. Howard attended back in 1924. 
As we sped towards our hopeful destination, we passed another noted landmark from Howard’s past – Howard Payne College. Robert E. Howard attended college there in 1924, and is also where he got his taste of fame when he published his first story, “Spear and Fang.” Howard received $16 for his efforts. Inspired by his success, he quit college to pursue writing, and never looked back.

Greenleaf Cemetery - Brownwood, TX
When we arrived at the Greenleaf Cemetery it became clear why the funeral director had not heard of it. It was established in 1868, and although it was extremely large – more than 10 acres with over 18,000 gravesites – it looked mostly full. Once there, Howard’s grave was easy to spot. It was located just off the main road that enters the cemetery, and marked with a large historical sign that stood adjacent to it. Howard’s mother died the day after he killed himself, and they were buried together that following Sunday on June 14th. His father, Dr. Isaac Mordecai Howard, a prominent doctor in the area, lived another 8 years before being added to the family gravesite.  

After paying our respects, Alisha and I decided to explore the rest of the cemetery to see if we could find any other interesting historical figures buried there. There were quite a few family gravesites sectioned off from the rest of the cemetery and, gauging by the ornately massive headstones, we gathered that many of them were fairly wealthy – old money. Surprisingly, one of the first large family headstones we came across was a Walker family buried around the same time as Howard and his family. Aside from the numerous Stonemasons and Confederate soldier gravesites we found, the most interesting one was of Captain Weston Lafayette Williams, son-in-law of Texas’ very own Sam Houston. That was definitely an unexpected find. History can be found anywhere you go. You just have to stop and look.

Captain Weston Lafayette Williams - Son-in-law of Sam Houston

With our tour of the Greenleaf Cemetery complete, we were off to Cross Plains, TX; the heart of our adventure. Our appointment with Anne Rone, one of the caretakers of The Robert E. Howard Museum, was nearing and we didn’t want to keep her waiting.

Stay tuned. I’ll be sharing more photos and the highlight of our adventure - our personal tour of The Robert E. Howard Museum - in upcoming posts.

Read [PART 2] and [PART 3] here.

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination 

Have you ever visited Robert E. Howard’s grave? What famous gravesites have you visited? I want to hear about them.HiHisHist

Saturday, July 9, 2011

50 Days to Fame and Fortune

Not likely, but one can dream. Today marks the 50 day deadline from when my short story submission to Black Library will officially fall into the rejection abyss. Let me explain. Back on Father’s Day I made my very first submission to a publisher – Black Library. They have a policy that you will only hear from them if they like your submission. They don’t send rejection letters.

On the surface this may seem like a good thing, especially for aspiring writers like myself. Not getting a rejection letter means not feeling the pain of getting your hard work and dreams slapped back in your face with a note that reads, “This is terrible. You suck. Don’t ever submit anything to us ever again. P.S. Please consider a new line of work. Thank you. Hugs and Kisses, Publisher X.” Now, I would imagine that rejection letters are a little more professional and much less offensive than that, but to a writer, especially a newbie, this is what it would likely feel like regardless of the words the publisher chose to use.

Photo by Lordoftheukes
To have your writing rejected by a publisher is akin to being sucker punched in the gut - by your mom. Yeah, I know – that's rough. Imagine this. Mother’s Day is coming up, so you want to do something special for the woman who bore you into this world. For the woman who kissed your boo boo’s, and packed your lunch for school every day, so you decide to give her something special. Something made with your own two little hands. She will love it.

You start on your little project right away, with unparalleled eagerness and excitement. You know exactly what she wants. It’s all that she’s talked about for ages, wanting a new Thing-a-ma-jig. You have to work on it secretly in your room late at night and on the weekends, because you don’t want her to find out about it before the big reveal. You make sure every bolt is turned tightly, and every board is straight. You even take the time to find out what her favorite colors are, and make sure to include them. You’ve asked her about past gifts that she has liked, and include elements of them in your work too. Time is running out, so you push hard, working extra late every night to make sure everything is just right. When you’ve got something finished, you invite your friends over to look at it and tell you what they think. With their advice, you make a few alterations and additions. Now it is perfect.

Then the big day comes – Mother’s Day. You’re ready. You’ve done your research. You’ve done your due diligence. You’ve done the work. You’ve placed your heart and soul into this project, and you’re convinced she is going to love it. She may even shed a tear or two. You hand it to her with a warm smile and say, “Happy Mother’s Day mom.” She takes it, looks at it for a moment. Then, WHAMMO! She tosses at your feet and slugs you right in your soft belly. That’s gonna to leave a mark. That’s what I imagine it would feel like.

In this case, I won’t have to experience that feeling, not initially. If Black Library likes my submission, I will hear from them within 8 weeks of the end of the deadline for submissions. That was back on June 30th. So starting today, I have a 50 day window in which I must wait. If after the 50 days I haven’t heard from them, then I get my delayed sucker punch. I asked you, which is worse?

But now is not the time to sit back and worry about something that is totally out of my hands. Now is the time to get to work. Get to work on the next submission; on the next project for mom.

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination

“Writing is easy: all you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.” – Gene Fowler

What projects are you working on? Have you made your fist submission yet? Are you a published author? If so, what was it like to receive your first rejection letter? I want to hear from you!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tell Me Something Good #3

[With all the bad going on in the world – the economy, politicians exposing themselves, the war on terror, Oprah going off the air, NFL season in jeopardy, cats and dogs sleeping together – it’s about time we celebrated the good things in life. Here at Defying Procrastination, Tuesdays have now become “Tell Me Something Good” Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I will post something good that has happened to me or someone else in my life and I want you to do the same. Leave me a comment and Tell Me Something good that is going on in your world!]

Rising Star Area Veterans Memorial Park

As I mentioned last week, my lady and I took a day trip to Cross Plains, TX to visit the Robert E. Howard Museum. We had a wonderful time, in spite of the blazing Texas heat. Along the way, we stopped and visited several Historical sites, including the Rising Star Area Veterans Memorial Park, Pioneer Cemetery, and the Greenleaf Cemetery, where Robert Howard was buried.

Our last stop found us visiting the J's Art & Soul art gallery right there in lil' ol' Cross Plains, TX. The gallery was converted from an old Methodist Church building. It was amazing. Alisha found a photograph of a Texas storm that she had to have. Look for future posts, complete with pictures of our trip.

Yesterday I got the opportunity to celebrate Independence Day with my extended family, the Williamsons. It had been far too long since I had the chance to see and spend some quality time with them.  Wesley fired up the grill and didn’t disappoint, with a buffet of hamburgers, brats, and extra lean Axis deer steaks from a deer he bagged.

We talked about the usual subjects; UFO’s, George R. R. Martin’s TV series “The Game of Thrones,” the evolution of man, business opportunities online, the fine art of making guitars, and Independence Day heroes - like Daniel Morgan. The children entertained us with piano and guitar performances, reminding me that I need to get back to playing my neglected guitar.

The only thing that could have made it better was the presence of my girls, my little step-munchkins, and my love, all of whom were either working or had prior engagements.

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination

So now it’s your turn. The world needs more good news. Share something good that happened to you or someone you love this week.  

Monday, July 4, 2011

Boy Turned Hero

I am a Boy turned Man.
Willingly forfeit my life on the dotted line.
My commitment cemented, I leave friends and family far behind.

I am a Man turned Solider.
Chest pounding with vigor and pride
My duty to service is limitless and often unrecognized.

I am a Solider turned Defender.
Crossing the borders of lands unknown
My presence brings hope to the oppressed and peace to those in terror.

I am a Defender turned Savior.
Guns blaze in glory and service to the flag
My enemy defeated; my obligation completed with remorse and debate.

I am a Savior turned Casualty.
Patrolling the streets to promote peace and goodwill
My life has ended; bones and dreams simultaneously shattered by an IED.

I am a Casualty turned Victim.
Placed inside a dark plastic tomb, my toe is tagged
My fellow comrades salute me one final time before I return home.

I am a Boy turned Hero.
Loved ones come to pay their respects and say goodbye
My body is placed into Arlington soil, twenty-one shots fire in my honor.


I wrote this for, not only my own family members who have served, but for every man and woman who has dedicated themselves to defending our Freedoms. While this poem uses the words “boy” and “man” in reference to the soldier, it is in no way meant to be sexiest, or diminish the contributions made by the dedicated women of our Armed Forces. When I originally wrote this poem I pictured it from the point of view of the men in my life - Father, Brother, Uncles - who served.

Originally I used the word “murderer” where the word “savior” is being used now. The idea of the poem was to represent the “titles” – good and bad - that are placed on soldiers by our society. Like us civilians, soldiers don’t always agree with the categories they get lumped into, or the tags they get labeled with.

Then my friend Keith pointed out, that from a Veterans point of view, the word “murderer” came across as offensive and harsh. I agreed with him, but I kept it in the poem anyway. It was exactly the kind of emotion I wanted to induce from a Veterans point of view. As a Veteran who has defended your country, you should be offended when someone refers to you as a murderer. I personally don’t believe soldiers are murderers, but I know some do, and that’s the message I wanted to get across.

However, after I had the poem narrated, and was able to listen to the words that I wrote aloud, the word “murderer” struck a chord with me. Even though I’ve never served in the Armed Forces, I was personally offended by my own words. It was settled. I had to remove the offending word. Keith was right. The last thing I wanted to do was be disrespectful or offend our brave men and women. Artistic license be damned!

So I give to you, “Boy Turned Hero” in its final form.

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination

Winner of the DudeWrite Platinum Card Award

Dude Write

Are you a Veteran? Do you have family and friends who lost their lives fighting for the American way of life? I would love to hear your thoughts and critiques.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Child’s Special Gift – Part 2

Fragile Heart II by Jessica (PrettyFreakJasper)
[Read Part 1 here]
There’s a fine line between pack rat and collector. Or is there? I’ll be the first to admit that on the Pact Rat – Collector scale I’m pushing into the “rat” region. I’ve gotten better though through the years, mostly out of necessity. After my sister passed away in 2005, and then my father in 2006, my life became a whirlwind of ups and downs, and as a result, circumstances forced me to move around more than I would have liked to. When it was time to pack up and go, I had to decide what was really important to me.

When you have limited space and limited funds, as it was, this is especially true. Things that were once filed under the “this might come in handy someday,” and “I’ll do something with this eventually” quickly became expendable items. I imagine that is the case with most people. Packing up and moving helps weed out the unnecessary crap that we collect over the years that fogs our vision and clogs our souls.

Photo albums and loose pictures always make the top of the list of things that don’t get left behind. Pictures are time capsules of memories that cannot be replaced. Pictures help us remember special moments in our lives. They remind us how to cry and how to laugh. They remind us of loved ones long gone. They remind us of our journey through life, and why we must make the best of it while we still have time. No, pictures never get left behind; unless they remind us of something we want to forget.

Gifts my daughters, Amanda and Aletha, made me also never get left behind. Amanda was barely 3 years old, and AIetha was still in diapers when their mother and I divorced and parted ways. Then a few years later, their mother picked them up and moved them more than 1,200 miles away. When you are unable to see your children for days and weeks because of camp or school activities, it can be difficult. When you’re forced to go without feeling your child’s warm embrace, or hearing their laughter fill a room, or seeing the bright smile on their little round face - for a year – it can be unbearable. Those were unbearable months for me.

Distance, and my ex-wife’s unwillingness to mail me things my children made for me, left me with precious few treasures to keep through the years. I have one Birthday card that she had the girls send me when we first separated. No Father’s Day cards or Christmas cards. No letters or things they made at school. The rest of my keepsakes consist of a handful of drawings and paintings my girls made me in the summers they visited.

They are simple things when you think it about it – the little things that my children made me. They hold no value, yet they are priceless. They are old and fragile, yet they are everlasting objects made with pure love.  From a critical artistic point of view, they are not very well done. Yet to me, they are beautiful works of art worthy of a place in the Louvre. If they were to crumble away or get tossed into Friday’s trash pick-up, no one would care but me.

Like pictures, the things our children make for us are treasures that cannot be replaced. They are timestamps of memories impressed upon our mortal conscience. They remind us of the simple joys in life. They remind us of the innocence that we once possessed. They remind us that we created life, and with that, to do what we can to help them live long happy lives. But most of all, they remind us of the things that are most important to us – our children - and of a love that lasts forever.

Michael A. Walker
Defying Procrastination

What are some of the gifts your child has bought or made for you? Do you still have them? Do you remember anything you made for your parents when you were a child? Share them. I want to read about them.