Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Popopotomous

I wrote this story in my dad's birthday card this year.

The dedication: To my favorite story tell and the hippest Po I know . . . my dad, on his 57th birthday:

Deep in the heart of the Kruger National Park, south of the Sahara Desert in East Africa, is a large swampy area known to locals (which there aren't very many you can find, you know) as the Big Mashed Potato. Now, Africans aren't very familiar with potatoes, so having something named after one makes the place seem very exotic, and VERY expensive. So with sub-Saharan Africa and all of its poverty and nakedness, too many people and creatures think it waaaaaay out of their price range (they usually vacation at the Hairy Leaf, or the all-inclusive Ebony Tusk, the Purple Nurple even gets a good Spring Break crowd.) But anyways, The Bigh Mashed Potato just sits around being marshy and empty - just the way it ONE resident likes it.

A rather large, stocky Hippo, Popopotomous likes to sit alone at the deep end of the marsh, flicking mosquitoes off his hide and watching the jungle around him like it was a prime time television series. He got his name from the sound he makes when he walks on dry land - his knees pop, his ears pop, his teeth pop and sometimes he makes the sound of microwave popcorn as the air comes out of his tush. Popopotomous is a legend in the jungle. So few people have seen him, but he is known all over the land. He has a keen sixth sense and a loud booming voice, and he uses them both to talk to the birds flying above.

One day, while watching them fly through the sky between the clearing in the trees, he had a great idea.

"Hey birds," he boomed in a language I don't know, "why do you fly just this way and that? IT doesn't seem safe and doesn't make much sense and, truthfully, it's kinda boring to watch."

The birds just looked at each other and kept flying on . . . you see, birds flock together and don't really have a leader so they weren't really sure who would decide where to go or how they would choose what to do.

Seeing their confusion, and sensing their dilemma (remember, I told you he had a keen sixth sense), he offered his guidance.

"If I told you what to do and showed you where to go, would you do it?" They agreed unanimously (as any group without a leader would have to do) and started working together to create one of the most beautiful things you can see in the sky.

As he sat in that swampy marsh, swatting flies with his stubby tail and watching the birds fly overhead in formations he created, carving the sky like brushstrokes on a canvas and making the birds into more than they started out to be, he knew he was doing what he was meant to do.

Word spread all around the jungle and soon all birds flew together to create art in the sky. Popopotomous had job security, fulfillment of his place in life, but still felt he was missing something.

Because he was a famous flocking plotter, birds far and wide knew of him and could find his swamp if they looked hard enough. A couple flighty flamingoes would sneak over every once in a while and sure, they were fun and all (and boy, were they pretty!) but none had the Stick Around Stuff that he looked for - you know, like the cougars have.

Yeah, he sure did like the cougars . . . their fur was always taken care of, sometimes out of whack - but perfectly out of whack, nice legs and a great but . . . and there was always this ONE cougar who always "accidentally" mistook his swamp for her designated watering hole. A little, "Oops, my bad, hope I'm not disturbing you," every once in a while, made him wish it happened more often in a while.

But, she did always bring friends with here - yippy, yappy friends - and those damned giraffes she always hung out with . . . sticking their necks in everyone's business!

Eventually, he found himself primping and waiting for her more often than he was comfortable with. He would scope out shaded limbs that overlooked the water that would be the perfect spot for her to lounge on as they talked about the future and what dreams would come.

One day, she stopped by to bring him his favorite Pinwheel flowers to eat. She perched on that limb and never left. They talked and talked and talked until day turned into night and night turned into forever . . .

I signed it, Happy Birthday, Dad! I love you more and more each year - stick around as long as you can, you old coot!!!

It was the day he would have received it, his birthday, that they found the mass in his colon that turned out to be cancer. I wake up every morning and get to say "Hi, Pops," and hear, "Goodnight, baby" as I pop my head in before going to sleep. As sad as I have been the last month (it's been exactly that long since my mom called to tell me the cancer returned and they were sending him home) . . . I at least have that.

Life is so uncertain - make every word count.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010


A little seedling sits in the middle of a beautiful garden, waiting for her turn to grow. She is scared to come out too bright. What if the sunflowers get jealous? Will the daisy’s still want to be her friend? She is not sure if she knows how to grow straight. What if her stem is not sturdy enough? Will she just wither and droop? She thinks she can never be as stunning as the blooms that open so near. What if she makes the garden look plain? Will even the bees come to say “Good morning”?

A grand Magnolia tree hangs over the seedling’s spot in the grass, giving shade to the poor soul’s pondering. As the wind picks up and spreads the leaves on her branches like the billowing hair of a pony’s mane, she bends just a little to whisper over the soft soil’s spread.

“Hello, precious. Welcome to the world.”

As surprised as she is that she is even noticed, the voice of the towering tree does not startle her. It intrigues her and she glances into the sun’s glare to get a closer look. My, it is a beautiful sight. Long limbs and a mighty trunk are softened by the perfect, taut and shiny leaves - reflecting the blue sky above her and the clouds all around, with the sun playing peek-a-boo between these deciduous digits. From the concave cup of one of the leaves, a drop of shining water splashes to the ground, quenching and feeding a thirst the little seedling never knew she had. Before she even knew what it was, the seedling now knew she was loved.

She was still just a small little thing, but she longed to be magnificent. She saw how the other flowers grew under the tall tree’s shade. She saw how the proud Magnolia nurtured her personal garden, and wondered if she would ever stand out from the crowd. She treasured every tending touch and grasped the glittering giggles they shared. Her fears as a withering seedling faded and she soon sprouted blooms so colorful and soft, happy to see how happy it made her wonderful tree.

Then one day, she thought it might be nice to be out in the open - out away from the safe, warm spot snuggled upon the trusted roots of the magnolia, and into the sunlight that made the grass seem so much brighter and under the open sky which made the other gardens seem so much closer. And the tree, sad to see her go but wanting to make sure she was there to help pick up any petals the flower would lose on the way, reached higher into the sky and stretched out her limbs as far as they would go. And she was never alone.


The Popopotomous lived forever with Nanny, his beautiful Puma. Their little family grew until there were not only the two of them, but a collection of different animals who changed the group as they came along - they had a little bird who had q huge heart, a crazy monkey with four hands to hold, a fuzzy earthworm who always spoke of joy, and a turtle whose soft underbelly was protected by his beautiful shell. There were days when the forest would sound off with their scuffles, or light up with their fireworks, or explode with their laughter - but they always seemed to cause
a commotion that others wished they could join. Over the yearsl they opened their home to four more little creatures - a sly, beautiful fox, a brave, tender tiger, a goofy, lovable koala bear, and a teeny, hungry mouse. Each nuzzled their own place into the warm, happy home, and made it glow brighter and laugh louder and made the puma and the Popopotomous prouder and happier than they ever could imagine.

Popopotomous was a great builder of dreams - he made his own a reality and helped others see what theirs were. He told stories with lessons and made teaching an art. He grew a flock of followers, but didn't let too many back to his marsh - it was full enough with ones he loved and they were all that he needed. He lived many years like this and helped the others grow and fly away, but always saved a place for them to come back. And he made that place beautiful - a fitting sanctuary for him and his love.

One day, a man called from a faraway land. He needed popopotomous to come share his stories with him and his people. Popa (as the little ones called him) did not want to go. He was happy where he was and had so much more he wanted to do, and he knew once he went to this man's land, he could never go back to his marsh, he could never see his family again. But the man was an old friend, and popa knew he wouldn't call if it wasnt the time. So, Popa rounded up his family and told them he would go soon. Everyone was angry and confused and sad, but He would show them how to be strong and how to love like there's no tomorrow. He grew tired and wary of his long journey ahead, but made time to share more stories, more laughter with his brood. When the time came for him to leave, he lifted his head up high and kissed everyone goodbye, holding on tight to nanny and promising to meet them all in their dreams. He turned to take his first step and fell onto his knees. He felt Nanny raise his chin for a kiss and she held his head in her hands, then each leg was carefully lifted by his kids. The little ones danced under his belly, and they all carried him on as far as they could go.

I'm taking in all the happenings in Kansas City and saving you all the trouble . . . I'll let you know whether to soak it up or squeeze it out!!