Nonfiction Series

My Mother

Marcy Hawley with daughter, Sarah, 1974 When I was working in Cincinnati many years ago at a popular retail establishment, a regular customer (who chose to remain anonymous) started leaving me gifts. At Easter he left a stuffed animal on my car (how did he know which car was mine?) and sent me flowers in May with a note that said, “I would like to get to no you better,” frightening for many reasons, only one of which was his spelling.

My store was open until midnight, and I was often by myself on some morning shifts. I was also responsible for a safe full of money, something my five-foot self was willing to fight to protect even if it was not what was suggested in the SOP manual. Given these circumstances, one can imagine how uncomfortable my new faceless admirer made me feel. So I called the police.

“Leave a note on your car telling them to stop leaving you gifts,” the officer said when I called the police station later that day. “Unfortunately there is nothing we can do until the person stalking you does something harmful,” Not soothed by this illogical response, I called the person whom I always called when frustrated—my mother.

She listened with her usual calm.

“Give me the number of the police station and the name of the officer you spoke with.” I did. The very next morning, a detective and two police officers walked into my store.

“Are you Sarah?” The detective in the suit asked.

“I am.” I responded, staring at the three of them in disbelief thinking, for me? All of this effort for me?

“Do you know a so and so?” The female cop asked.

“Oh my gosh, I do. It’s him? He comes in here at least three times a week,” I said. He was a car mechanic who was very quiet, always polite, and had several teeth missing (all of which I am sure had an interesting story as to their departure from his mouth.)

“Well, that is who has been sending your flowers and placing gifts on your car. We have instructed him to stop immediately and he will be in later on today when he gets off work to apologize. If he gives you any more trouble please let me know,” said the detective.

And then the three of them left.

My mother always knew how to protect me. Growing up I watched her shield me from the typical family feuds with my dad, or from my sister when she was being overly bossy, or from some mean girl ‘friends’ when puberty unleashed its hormone induced fury on our innocence and turned us against one another.

Marcy and Sarah at the beach

I inherited this protective instinct. I know this because about two decades after she saved me from my unwitting stalker, I almost stabbed her burglar with a pair of pink, Susan G. Komen themed scissors.

In July of 2013, the alarm company called our office to let my mom know that someone was trying to break into her home. Did she want them to call the police? “Yes!” she yelled. She slammed down the phone and ran to her car (she lives two minutes away from the office). “You are not going alone!” I cried. Before running down the stairs, I ran back to my office and grabbed my shiny, pink-handled Susan G. Komen scissors, my co-workers looking at me as if I’d gone mad. I had! I felt the adrenaline pump from the pit of my stomach to my shoulders, swirling around the base of my neck and into my head. I was becoming the world’s tiniest incredible Hulk.

We sped to the house. The minute I saw the side door with the windows broken out, I ran to it and screamed through the now glassless door frame and at the possible intruder, “Motherfuckaaarrrr! If you are still in there I am going to kill you!” It just so happened that a large, balding police officer was rounding the house from the back yard at that second. I startled him and he looked at me as if I was possessed. In fact I was possessed. I wanted to hurt the person who threatened my mom’s safety and who violated the house I grew up in and I felt no fear doing so. My life was not as important to me at that moment as my mother’s was to me.

Since I couldn’t climb through the window of the door, the police officer and I went to the front of the house where my mom was and she unlocked the door. The three of us started searching the house for the intruder—under the beds, in the closet, and behind the doors. The perpetrator, had I found him, would have gotten stabbed in the eye with my Susan G. Komen’s.

The intruder was not found in the house. He, upon breaking the glass, triggered the alarm and ran off. But not before slicing himself up on all of the shards. He was eventually found and charged for attempted burglary and sent where misguided, drugged up, lost souls go. My mother would rest assured that her house would not be broken into, at least for a while, and that her guard dog of a daughter would protect her at the first sign of real danger. (Whatever that means to have your tiny, five-foot-tall daughter protect you.)

Marcy and Sarah about to cry

But I know it means ripping my heart out of my chest and beating a person over the head with it if someone tried to harm her.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

The Minister's Daughters

You don't go into book publishing without a sincere love for writing. At Orange Frazer Press, we love writing that is honest, bold, well-crafted, loving, humorous, unsettling, warm, and even provocative. Because we strive to find these qualities in the books that we publish, we are constantly honing the skills within our own writing. And, we just have fun doing it. We thought we would invite you into our world and share with you pieces from our team. We write through a variety of genres--including playful flash fiction, limericks, and poetry--but it's no secret that we have a predilection for nonfiction. This is the first post in our nonfiction series, and it is by our Production Manager, Sarah Hawley. It is titled, "The Minister's Daughters."

-Kelsey Swindler, Marketing and Publicity 

384172_308125479209744_2090480842_n

 

When my sister Margaret and I were in elementary school, we would go to church with Dad while we were on summer break. Actually, we’d go to vacation bible school and take bible classes, coloring pictures of Jesus in coloring books or making shadow boxes of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph out of clay. Vacation bible school lasted just a week and went from the morning until lunchtime. When it was over and all of the kids left for the day, Margaret and I stayed behind with Dad so he could get in an extra hour of work. We played in the nursery with the toys. If we begged hard enough he would let us play in the sanctuary which was our favorite place because it had—microphones.

“But you can’t be too loud,” he’d say. “Ruby will get angry.”

Ruby was the sweet church secretary, and we could never imagine her angry. She babysat us from time to time and bought us root beers from the little market next to her house. So we said we’d keep it down—we adored Ruby. Dad would shut the doors to the sanctuary, flip a switch in the circuit breaker and Margaret and I were live. Once he went back to his office, Margaret and I would scamper up to the pulpit, grab the mics, which had cords so long you could jump rope with them, and put on a show. We’d sing songs to our audience of dolls we had dragged in from the nursery; songs form the musicals Annie or Grease. We’d slink around the sanctuary, the long microphone cords giving us enough room to become someone else. We’d sing and perform these tunes loud enough to entertain each other but not loud enough to get in trouble or bother Ruby.

However, there was one song that we could not help but belt out and it was Bette Midler’s, “The Rose.” Our eight and nine-year-old souls would mimic a tortured Bette as she woefully sang, “Just remember in the winter, far beneath the bitter snow…” And once we got to the last line of the song, we would forget about Ruby altogether and sing in unison as loud and as heartbrokenly as possible, “THE ROOOOOSSSSSSSSSSE.” bellowing the last word so that not only could Ruby hear us but so could Dad and possibly God. Then the doors would swing open and Dad would yell, “You are being too loud. Ruby can’t hear the person on the other end of the phone!” And then, ‘click.’ he would flip off the microphones. We didn’t protest, we knew we had gone completely overboard. But Dad, being dedicated to the time clock, still had more work to do.

So we came up with other games to play in the sanctuary. Cathedral ceilings presented nothing more than a challenge to us. Another game we enjoyed was to see who could launch Betsy Wetsy to the apex of the ceiling without knocking out any of the lights. “I bet you can’t fly her higher than the top of the cross,” Margaret would say. And we would begin flinging the doll as high as we could and any other doll we could get our hands on. They would cartwheel through the air, and we screamed with glee as they barely missed an ancient chandelier and landed on a pew or in the aisle. The sanctuary looked as if a nursery had exploded—dolls and toys laying haphazardly everywhere like a drunken congregation. Dad would come in, “Girls! You are being way too loud!” Defeated, we would gather up all the toys and put them back in the nursery. Dad realizing that two energetic girls could not be contained by a sanctuary or their adoration for Ruby, needed to just go home and play outside in the summertime sun.

Tiny Dancer Turned Author: Remembering Jane Murray Heimlich

Jane Murray Heimlich Jane Murray Heimlich stopped writing a while ago. Her Parkinson’s made her hands too shaky to hold a pencil and her memory required someone else to fill in the details.

The daughter of the king of ballroom, Jane was never much into the dancing empire her father, Arthur Murray, had created. Dancing had taken him away and turned him into a stranger to Jane and her twin sister, Phyllis. It had made her mother, Kathryn, crash into herself and attempt suicide because he loved the dancing business more than their family. He treated his wife as if she were his third child, leaving her home alone to eat the cold dinner she had hours earlier prepared for her king, while he gave a southern belle late night lessons at the dance studio.

John Baskin, as he was editing Jane’s memoir, Out of Step and trying to extract more information about her dysfunctional history, apologized for delving so deeply into her family. Jane’s response was, “That’s all right. Maybe one day I’ll have a go at your family.”

I made Jane tell the same story over and over again at her book signings, the one about her interview of actress Joan Crawford: Joan had brought Jane to her apartment so she could show Jane how she packed her glamorous outfits into her suitcase. Jane went reluctantly as she had already spent an entire afternoon with her and desperately needed to get home to her children. So when she finally had the opportunity to politely say, “Gee, it’s getting late, I really must be going,” Joan said, “Yes, but please wait one minute, I have a gift for you,” and whirled away into another room to retrieve what one hoped would be something magnificent and glamorous. Instead she returned with and placed in Jane’s hand, one wooden hanger. Jane, dumbfounded, took it and left.

After I had read this passage in her book, I said to Jane, “Wow, this lady sure had a hang up with hangers.” And Jane laughed her deep gravelly laugh; the one her husband said was so deep it was in the carpet.

Jane married Hank (Henry) Heimlich, creator of the Heimlich maneuver that will most definitely save you if you are choking. This I am sure of, having had it done to me when I was gagging on pizza cheese at the apex of my innocence. My mother saved my eight-year-old life, and as a result I did not eat pizza for several years.

Jane passed away Saturday at the age of 86 from her lengthy battle with Parkinson’s. All I could think about was the woman who made me laugh with her droll sense of humor and spoke slowly and measured, as if every word were on trial before it was pushed into the air. Jane and Henry came to Orange Frazer’s 25th anniversary party in July of this year. She was more elegant, even in her wheel chair, than the rest of us. I hadn’t heard from her since then because, I found out, the Parkinson’s had finally taken her voice, along with her ability to hold that pencil.

I would like to imagine, upon her passing, that she is twirling into the ether to greet her mother and father who had both died many years ago—a happy reunion, a family dancing to the twinkle of the stars, like the ending to a Disney film. But that’s not Jane. Her heaven would be a spot in solitude on her own private star, observing and writing about all the heavenly things that amused her and thinking to herself, “I never much liked dancing…”

We Will Miss You, Chad

Sometimes in publishing, you have to say goodbye. Our designer/in house comedian, Chad DeBoard, will be leaving us mid- September to work for a company in Tennessee. Chad has been with us on and off since 2006 and he leaves us with a lot of memories. I have created a resume for him, in case he needs to show his new employer some of his lesser known but equally important talents.

He can make stop-motion videos. He has heard the song “Starring” by Freelance Whales—the soundtrack to one of our stop motion videos—so many times he can sing it while sleeping. (See the videos at www.orangefrazercustombooks.com)

He can imitate a dolphin.

He can turn an umlaut into a comedy routine, and he has been known to launch into impromptu standup at places such as Toys R Us, to wit:

Chad to woman shopping: “You have just the one kid?”

Woman shopping: “Yes, how did you know?”

Chad: “You’re buying fruit wash. We used to buy fruit wash when we had our first kid. Now our third kid eats dirt off the bottom of his shoes. If we’d stayed with the fruit wash thing we would be buying fruit wash in industrial drums from Sam’s Warehouse and asking, ‘Can you get that with a pump on it?’”

He can fold paper into a three dimensional truck, plane, or boat.

He will share humorous stories about his children and other family members. A Christmas tree is now known around here as a ‘mimiss tree,’ and his Uncle Seymour says that the Kroger Plus card raises your insurance rates. (Uncle Seymour says they can see how much bacon you bought and this means your cholesterol is probably too high.)

He can design a website, a book, a t-shirt, a poster, a business card, a logo, a brochure, a post card, an outdoor sign and a hair-do. (And he can design them faster than you can say “mimiss tree.”)

He has been known to buy groceries for people out of work or pay their rent, and once he repaired the car of an Orange Frazer client—in the parking lot—while the client stood by.

He can make birthday cards. Here is an example:

Thank you, Chad, for everything. For working through the tedium that book formatting presents, mulling over the puzzles of picture placement, and solving the text- roll fiascos. Roman numerals are a girl’s best friend in two-volume books, and to proofread a book it takes a village, of which you have been our presiding mayor.

All our best,

Your Orange Frazer Family

P.S. Needless to say, we are hiring.

Memories from Running Track in High School

We have been working on a book for several years about sports in Clinton County. We do have quite a history, believe it or not and the locals love our sports teams, win or lose. For my blog today, I am including an essay that I wrote for the book and it describes what it was like to run track for our high school when Roger Ilg was the track coach.

What Track was Like

I ran track simply because my sister did. Initially, I had no interest in it. The only running shoes I owned were cheerleading sneakers, Converse. They were meant for gently bouncing on your toes, some serious high kicks, and spirited dance choreography. I merely wanted to follow my sister around, as I had always done.

My inability to think for myself put me on the starting line of the 100 meters at the high school track for the 1987 spring tryouts. “Just run fast, Sarah,” was the only advice my sister gave me as I crouched at the starting line, nervously waiting for the coach to yell “Go!” When he did, I ran. I ran as hard as I could, my little cheerleading sneakers hitting the asphalt at an unfamiliar pace, this time propelling me quickly forward instead of upward.

When I crossed the finish line before everyone else did I was ashamed. My first thought, as I looked at my friends—all of whom I had outrun—was: Who would be mad at me because I had beaten them? Before anyone had the chance to respond, the coach had said, “Margaret Hawley’s sister has some wheels on her!” And that was the moment when my life changed.

Track practice was hell. No, what I mean to say is, comparatively, hell would have been a day at the beach. I had never experienced such pain before. My lungs burned, my stomach ached, my brain throbbed, and my eardrums were wind whipped. During every practice I felt as if my insides were trying to push their way through my skin in an urgent quest to find another body, one that was resting peacefully beneath a shade tree or watching a movie with a friend. Some of my new teammates quit. I have no idea why it never occurred to me to do the same.

I do know that those of us who stayed learned quickly how to deal with pain, to work around it, to talk ourselves through it, to get used to it, to grow from it, and to understand that a life without it is a mediocre life. Pain makes you beautiful. It makes you sexy. It makes you strong. It gives you the ability to say, “I’ve seen the devil and we worked things out.” All of my teammates and I, we ran with him, and we knew how to deal with him.

“Breathe through your nose!”

“Use your arms!”

“Don’t sit down!”

“Don’t you dare quit!”

“The faster you run this, the faster you get to go home!”

We not only developed mental ways to deal with our suffering, we became physical specimens to behold. Arms, legs, butts, and abs that were so worshipped they deserved their own church.

We also became winners. We won almost every track meet for four years and every annual South Central Ohio League meet. We knew the names of our rivals at Little Miami, Miami Trace, Washington Court House, and Lebanon. We could outrun Xenia girls and outhurdle Clinton-Massie. Our track meets were watched by the neighborhood boys who played their rap music through the chainlink fence and cheered us on, making the final events more bearable.

It was dark and cold at the 200-yard mark of the mile relay. Parents placed themselves strategically at certain points around the track where there was limited support. I can still hear those voices: “That’s it! That’s it! Don’t let her catch you!”

After four seasons, we had no choice but to move on. At the awards banquet I can’t remember what my coach said because I was crying through most of it. I didn’t want it to end. Being a part of Roger Ilg’s WHS track team introduced me to a person that my mother had only told me about. “You’re a tough cookie, Sarah.” Now I knew—and my teammates as well—how strong we all were. We had proof. We outran, outthrew, and outjumped our problems and insecurities. We crossed finish lines first, dusting both the competition and our self-doubt. The track was hot, but we were hotter.

Occasionally, I see some of my teammates now and we complain about how old we are— how we pulled a muscle running halfway around the block or hurt our back bending down to plug in the vacuum cleaner. How did we abuse our bodies so back then when running 100 yards down the street now is a trip to the couch for a week?

But when I see them, I know. I remember, that we outran demons who tried to bring us down, tempting us to give up and give in to the pain. And we, along with our coaches, parents, friends, family—and the community—cheered each other on and chased them away.