31 Monsters of Halloween – October 30th

I’ve started with the last on this Halloween day, but do look through Kevin’s entire month of drawings. They are positively monstrous.
At any point, if you find yourself short of breath and trembling with fear, chocolate helps. Bourbon will numb.

Enjoy. And happy Halloween, y’all!

Made Of Lines

31 Monsters Contest: Share, tweet, or reblog any of the 31 Monsters or Made of Lines in general, and be entered to win one of 3 monster prints (monster of your choosing of course). The more you share, the more chances you get. Tag me or email me so I know you’ve shared.


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This one’s for Puck

Right up front, I will tell you that this story is true.  I should also warn you that it’s a little bitter-sweet.

When my brother Peter came into our lives my parents already had three girls. They longed for a son.

A couple of interesting points about this story:  First, like all good men living in the area of the Adirondack Mountains, my father liked to hunt.  Hunting season in those parts was a religion, sacred and holy; the woods, nature’s cathedral.  The thing about my father was that he had never bagged a deer.  He’d been hunting with plenty of other guys who had, but he’d never actually shot one on his own.

The second thing, is that shortly after the third girl was born, my father started growing a beard.  It grew fast and bushy, and with a red hue that didn’t match the hair on his head at all.  (Somewhere there’s a photograph of my dad at that time, sitting on my grandmother’s front porch, wearing an army style camouflage cap.  He looked exactly like Fidel Castro.)  My mother didn’t much like that beard.  My father said he would shave when he got a son or a buck.  Either one.  Whichever came first.

The third point is that my mother is half Mohawk.  She was born and spent the first decade or so of her life on the Akwesasne Mohawk reserve, which straddles the border of Canada and the US.  We would often make the winding drive to visit aunts and uncles and cousins there.  One day after a visit, on the return trip, the car held my parents, my sisters and myself, and a brand new brother, named Peter.  He was 18 months old at the time.

The particulars of how it came to be that we brought him home are not important.  What matters is that he was ours from that day on.  I wasn’t very old then, but I do remember the car ride home — I remember Peter’s little face peaking over my mother’s shoulder, watching us and smiling.  Oh, how I remember that smile.

Peter in an old photo taken when he was about 3. Even though the quality of the photo is poor, you can see how his face lit up with the sweet spirit of his smile. He was some cute kid! Peter in an old photo taken when he was about 3. Even though the quality of the photo is poor, you can see how his face lit up with the sweet spirit of his smile.

My father did not get his buck that season (nor any season, ever).  But he got his son, and true to his word, he shaved.  Peter grew and thrived, we girls grew and thrived, and my mother went on to eventually have three more babies – all of them boys.  And we were a rowdy raucous family of seven kids who were sometimes very close, and sometimes throwing things at one another.

Except for Peter.  At least, the way I remember him, and I’m telling the story so you’ll have to take my word for it.  If you happen to know or run into one of my siblings, they may tell the story differently.  That’s the way families work.

Peter was a quieter kid than the rest of us, he was by nature more even-tempered. And always, he was quick to smile.  He loved to hunt and fish, though he mostly used his hands for the latter – he was that patient and that quick.  As a teenager he took up wrestling and was pretty good and quick at that.  He was no push-over if really provoked.  Somewhere in those teen years, people started calling him Puck.

He tried his hand at many things.  He joined the Navy, hoping to travel, but that didn’t work out the way he planned.  He got married and moved back to the Adirondack town where we grew up.  He raised chickens for awhile, and for awhile he worked at the local paper mill.  Eventually he and his wife moved to Erie, Pennsylvania where her family lived.

Today is an anniversary of sorts.  Twenty-two years ago on a day like today, full of spring and glorious sunshine, I took my then two-year old son to the park, and later for the first ice cream cone of the season.  The phone rang as I was leaving the house, but I paid it no mind.  If it was important, whoever it was would call back.  Turned out it was my sister, and call back she did.

Peter was thirty-four years old on the last night he went to sleep.  A hemorrhagic tumor was the reason he didn’t wake up.  Twenty-two years is a long time.  Also, twenty-two years is no time at all.  It’s one of life’s many conundrums.

I believe in stories with happy endings, or at least in which there is the possibility of something honest and good.  In this story I once had a brother who possessed the kindest of hearts and a sweet smile.  We called him Puck.  He is with me still.  And that is enough good for now.

Puck holding my son. Still the same smile. Puck holding my son. Still the same smile.

How my mind works – in case anyone besides my husband cares

My brother took his girlfriend to the area in the Adirondack mountains where we grew up. She in turn posted photographs on Facebook. I looked at these two and thought – blog post.

Photo by Peggy Houlihan Bielecki

Photo by Peggy Houlihan Bielecki

This is the footbridge in Wanakena, NY.  Population: So low I can’t find it listed.  (Maybe 100 or so, if you don’t count students of the New York State Ranger School.) I remember calling it the swinging bridge because that’s what it did; kids walked out to the middle of it and rocked it back and forth.

The bridge photos reminded me of this photo which was taken by Mr. Vickers who lived in a house at one end of the footbridge.

Me with my two sisters, and our brother. I’m the tallest one.

Remembering this photo made me think that I should blog about the houses on each end of the bridge.  How different they and the people who lived in them were.  The one we were standing next to in our bathing suits, with the nice older couple, and the house at the other end of the bridge with the boy who liked to dunk smaller kids under the water when we were swimming.  He terrified me until one winter when I discovered that he, too, liked to pretend to be an Olympic figure skater gliding gracefully around the frozen river.

Then I looked again at the first picture and remembered the summer my grandfather was hired to paint that footbridge.  The best summer of my life.  I should blog about that.

Every afternoon that summer, he would drop by our house when he had finished for the day.  He sat at our kitchen table and drank a beer before heading home.  Besides being a painter of footbridges, he was also a magician.  He could pull coins from our ears.  Then he’d make them disappear on the top of his beer bottle.  When he picked the bottle up, there was the coin on the table where the bottle had sat.  He was quiet, this magic painter man.  And he was well-loved.  He had blue eyes and a bemused smile, but he didn’t talk much about himself.  What I knew about him, about his life, I learned from my mother and others who had known him for a long time.  Which led me to these photos:

My grandfather in his Army uniform taken just before World War I when he was sent with his company to fight in France.

This was how I remember him.

One of the things I’d heard about my grandfather, was that he had an operatic voice and had trained in New York City after the war.  Thinking about that made me remember sitting beneath the window of a particular house in Wanakena listening to a woman we all called Madame Tweedy do her vocal warm-ups.  She was an opera singer, a summer resident, and the closest thing Wanakena had to a celebrity.  I don’t know if she was really famous anywhere outside of Wanakena.  I wish I would have asked more questions then.

My husband doesn’t always follow my train of thought, which is usually because he hasn’t been privy to the circuitous route said train has taken inside my head.  But now that I’ve explained it, it all makes perfect sense.

Doesn’t it?