The New Ink Pen

“What are you doing?” asked Gracie.

”I’m trying out the new pen I got for Christmas.”

“That’s Pearl, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it’s a drippy and messy pen sometimes. Sort of the way Pearl can be. Even though it’s not perfect all of the time, it still makes beautiful lines. You just have to know how to look at them.”

“Messy but beautiful, just like with Pearl,” Gracie said with delight. “But who are the baby chicks? We don’t have any baby chicks here any more.”

“I know. Pearl wants to be a Momma Hen more than just about anything these days. She misses having Blanche at her side. She would like to have some baby chicks that look like her. So I made this drawing.”

“It’s like you’ve said before. Drawing lets you do things you would never be able to do any other way.”

“And that is how you and I will dance in the streets of Paris even if we never get to travel there together. But that is many drawings from now. I still would like to really go to Paris with you, Gracie.”

“Is there a reason why you did this drawing without any bright and pretty color? Besides Pearl being mostly white, I mean.”

“You and I both love pictures. And our readers love pictures too. But books with pictures in color are very expensive to print. So all of our books with color have to be short. No more than sixty-four pages. But it’s going to take more than sixty-four pages to tell some of the stories we want to tell.”

“So these books with black-and-white pictures mean more adventures?”

“Exactly right.”

“Even though you didn’t stay inside the lines all of the time?”

“For me it’s harder to go outside of the lines than to stay inside the lines.”

Gracie laughed, and we smiled together. It didn’t make much sense to either of us, but it didn’t matter.

“What kind of more adventures?” she asked.

“Adventures like Amelia flying to the moon and back. Adventures like you dancing at the Paris Opera Ballet. Adventures like maybe even Pearl having her own little family.”

“And some baby chicks wearing little tutus would be very nice. Can you draw that too?”

She nudged me with her head to make sure I was listening.

“That would make both Pearl and you happy, wouldn’t it? Yes, I can do that. But it will all take some time. A drawing that shows how much I love you takes time to get just right.”

“We can wait.”

“You know, Gracie, this really is A Most Wondrous Place just like you have always said.”

Happy 100th Anniversary, Little House!

Today is the day I’ve been waiting to celebrate for almost 14 years. December 15, 2020 is my house’s 100th anniversary, the day it turns 100 years old! The year 1920 comes from the city records, and the month and day December 15 come from the foundry date stamped into the bottom of the claw-foot tub in the bathroom. Happy Anniversary, Little House!

I bought my house in 2007, the year that marked the 300th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, Virginia. (Jamestown was the first permanent English settlement in the New World.) It is interesting to note my house’s neighborhood, Westhaven, was opened up for development in 1907 as part of Jamestown’s 200th anniversary celebrations. At the time this was “the distant suburbs” from the main downtown area of Portsmouth and there were still large family farms here along the Elizabeth River.

If you drive down High Street from the Olde Towne riverfront to the city’s border with Chesapeake, the neighborhood architecture tells the story of how our little city developed through the centuries and decades. Our neighborhood is at about the halfway mark and right across High Street from Maryview Hospital. (When I started doing some major renovation work on my house, it was nice knowing there was an emergency room right around the corner just in case I ever electrocuted myself or fell off of the roof!)

Rodman Avenue runs through our neighborhood all of the way from the original Rodman’s Barbecue Restaurant on High Street to Moseberth’s Chicken on Airline Boulevard. (Moseberth’s was renamed “The Chicken Place” in “How To Explain Christmas To Chickens.”) Airline Boulevard is also where you’ll find Norfolk County Feed and Seed. We get all of our garden plants, chicken feed, and chicken scratch from those good folks.

This is our neighborhood, and we love how it is tucked away from the main roads and has kept its distinctive “small town” feeling from decades ago. Even though we are right in the middle of a small city surrounded by even larger cities, you’d never know it. There are no stockade fences. Kids ride bicycles and play outside. I have chickens. My next door neighbor has a pig and a goat. Veterans have vintage cars in their garage and take them out for a drive on Sundays.

The main part of my house was originally just 28 feet wide and 30 feet deep. (Later a den and laundry room were added to the back.) My house was built on six city-sized lots, three along our street where the house faces, and three along the next street behind us where the railroad tracks to the port were. That was a lot of land for not a lot of house. But back then, that was how they started building homes here. At the time, I imagine the larger yards were good for gardens…and chickens! Over the years, portions of these generous yards were sold off and homes from later decades were built between the original homes. That is what happened with my house.

I’m really only pointing all of these things out for one reason: this is all real. From my little house to my chickens right in the middle of the backyard garden, it is all real. (But there are times when my imagination might get the best of me. The Bottle Cap Lady is actually a compilation of several different real people, not a single actual person.)
Often I wish I could be like writers who “create worlds” and “create characters” to fill those beautifully and elaborately created worlds, but I can’t. I just don’t have those skills, and it’s possible I never will.

But if your own imagination can fill in the colors and details that are missing here, if you feel like you know my chickens personally, and if you feel like you are sitting with us under the camellias surrounded by our backyard garden, then perhaps my limitations are not so bad. Thank you for sharing this Happy Anniversary with us!