Monday, August 11, 2008

Cleaning Memories

So the big move is underway.

Since I'm not allowed to pick anything up these days, my job is to pack the valuables and unpack them later. First day of valuables--books. Yeah, like that involved not picking anything up. I lifted a book on Restoration authors and literally cursed the name of the author. That book was HEAVY--not to mention the Norton Anthologies. Then I took it back, of course.

Yesterday's valuables? Family things. It's always sad for me to pack them away, even if it's just for a trip to the next county like this move is. I was somewhat astounded this morning to realize that sometimes it's even sadder to unpack them.

My mother's nationalization flag. It's a small flag, from 1958--all fifty stars and thirteen stripes still bright although the gold paint on the little golden finial is faded. As I unpacked it and put it in its normal place over my desk, I wondered what my mother would say if she saw how cheaply that citizenship is held today. Chiding myself for my obsession with politics, I pulled the next item out of the box.

A crystal Vernus de Milo given to me by my grandmother--my French grandmother. The first time my mother took us (my brother and me) to France, we met our grandmother for the first time. Jeanne Herink was a woman who'd led a colorful life. Her husband, my grandfather Jean Herink, was a cafe' owner in Paris during WWII. When the Nazis marched into Paris, he opened his cafe' and its access to the cellars to the frantic flight of those leaving the city. He operated successfully in the French Underground until the Nazis evacuated just ahead of the Allied invasion. Apparently, he was suspected because the Nazis dragged him from his cafe' and executed him in the street before they left. His widow, my grandmother Jeanne, began an affair with a British officer--a lord,or so I was told. My mother hated that and resented her for it until the day she married my father. The day after, the two quarrelled over some teacups my mom wanted to bring to America and didn't speak for twenty years. Almost like us, in a way--that extended bitterness. The Venus de Milo, a little statuette that stands about 8" tall, was the first gift I ever received from her in her little apartment just across the river from the Eiffel Tower.

My grandfather's traveling clock. A small but heavy clock set into a heavy red leather case. I was told he'd brought it with him from Czechoslovakia as his family hurried west after the Bolshevik revolution in his native Russia. My mother was born there, in some town with an unpronouncable name that I only know from the turn of the century paperweight enscribed with its name. Both of them together, as they've always been, on the shelf with my Shakespeares.

A 19th century hand-sized Sonnets of the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barret Browning. She's my favorite poet from the Romantic era and this little book was the first thing I ever kept from my store inventory. It's faded and aged brown, although the little painted nosegay on the front still glows with light pastels, and I'm afraid to open it. It's in perfect condition, a time capsule from the 1890s and the ultimate temptation: it holds what I want, but I'm afraid to go get it.

The more I went through these things, the more I hung handles on them: Mom's things, Grandmere's things, Grandpere's things--rarely our things or my things. I've moved these things all over the country since my mother's death, revering them--almost sanctifying them because they were hers, or my family's--links back to people I can never see or touch again. These things I treasure, perhaps because they represent relationships or feelings or memories that I don't want to give up. A whole side of my family, and my daughters' heritage, lost save for the trinkets I preserve in my china cabinets and curios.

I think I'll write my family's story down for my kids. Then, one by one, I'll write the story of each little thing and pack it away with its history.

For them to find.

Saturday, August 09, 2008


Okay--I get to have a brag post!

The first reviews of The Gift of Redemption are coming in. The first came from Coffee Time Romance, which sort of surprised me because they hadn't reviewed any of my work--including The Reckoning of Asphodel. Anyhoo, Regina has this to say about Redemption:

This has to be the best fantasy romance I have ever read. I could not put this book down until I had read the final page. While it is clearly the second book in a series, the author does such a good job of weaving background information into the storyline that the reader never feels cheated. Ms. Summers skillfully draws her readers into the book. The characters are so realistic that they appear to step from the pages. A devilishly wonderful book that I highly recommend to one and all!

You can read the entire review here.

I was really pleased with Regina's take on the book--she really seemed to get where the characters and the story were coming from and she'd never read the first book. So I had a little SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEE! moment and went back to moving.

Which I hate.

Then this morning, I found a review in my inbox from Brianna at Bitten by Books:

I’m giving The Gift of Redemption 4 ½ tombstones. I loved revisiting the characters,and watching them grow – especially Tamsen – was a delight. Celina Summers really packs in the drama and love that was so evident in her first novel into this action-packed delight. There is a scene at the end that left me in tears. I would read the first book in the series, The Reckoning of Asphodel, before I picked this one up. The Reckoning of Asphodel is integral to understanding the beautiful world Summers has created.

How can you argue with a reviewer that admits my story made her cry???

Exactly. You can't.

So, I went outside and had a celebratory Coke and cigarette. While I was sitting on the deck, Emily the hummingbird buzzed by my head. She does this now whenever my husband Shannon or I are outside, buzzing our heads to let us know she's there and then looking at us for a few minutes like she's thankful--very cute. She hovered for a minute, her dark eyes glittering and contented again, and then went back to the feeder. I think she's coming along better now that her eggs have hatched. She's filling out a bit and starting to store it up for the impending trip to warmer climes. I suspect that it won't be long before she brings her babies by to inspect the deck, the flowers, the silly old Lab asleep in the sun, and teaches them how to drink from the feeder. I really hope that when this occurs, I'll be sitting out there also with my laptop handy.

If it does, then I'll tell you all about it.

Thanks for sharing my SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEs in threes. Emily says hi!

Friday, August 01, 2008

Casualty In The Great Hummingbird War of Hocking County

So we walked into the garage today and got a horrible shock.

Emily, my little hummingbird friend, was trapped in the garage. The poor little thing kept flying into the ceiling, bashing against the wall and the garage door, desperately trying to find a way out. She wouldn't settle on anything to rest; by the time we found her, she must have been bumping into things for hours. She was exhausted, and terrified.

We knew we had to get her out.

Now picture this: four adults, armed with brooms and ladders and plastic containers trying to herd a scared hummingbird into something so that we could take her outside and set her free. Not only was it probably funny to anyone that might have caught a glimpse of it, it was upsetting. Other hummingbirds lined the fence outside, calling to Emily as she darted from side to side, her little wings beating so slowly that it was like watching any other species of bird. She's particularly gaunt at the moment, having (apparently) hatched her eggs in the privacy of her woven spiderweb and lichen nest.

She's also spunky.

Twenty minutes passed, and finally my husband, perched precariously with one foot on the ladder and another on the top of the SUV, trapped her in an old plastic tub. When she settled down finally within it, Shannon slipped a plastic lid over the tub and we took Emily outside.

She was so tired that when we removed the lid, she just sat there looking at us. It's the closest I've ever been to a living hummingbird, and this one just stared at us from dulled eyes. The only life about her flashed from her emerald feathers--the ones on her back that I'd never seen when she darted at the feeder.

She stayed with us for five minutes, communing in her silent way with the two huge creatures that has brought her out into the open. She could smell the dusty scent of the grass, the fading aroma of the late lilies, the wind swirling gently around her feathers. She permitted me to touch her--one gentle stroke across her little back, then cocked her head and glanced over her shoulder with a quiet chirp.

Then she pushed off from the plastic container and rose into the sky. She didn't hover; she fled to the safety of the nearby woods, probably to check on her growing young ones.

An hour later, she visted our feeder again. She hovered near us, looking at us both, then perched on the little yellow flowers of the hummingbird feeder and drank her fill.

We saved a hummingbird today. What a great karmic experience! But, in the end, I realized that in some way Emily had given us a precious gift. For a few quiet moments, we earned this tiny creature's trust. And then she rose back onto the skies, and we knew that our efforts had been rewarded. She would live, and thrive, in the environment she was meant to enjoy.

And on one hot August day, we would live and thrive in the knowledge that we had done some good for the earth she lived on. It was a great feeling.

So...we drank vodka to celebrate.