m&mwithmistletoe.jpg One May day in 2003, my then boyfriend Jonathan Camp suggested a spontaneous trip to Disneyland on a Friday morning.

According to him, I had only to say, "Yes!" and then pack a small bag before our drive down.

I  informed my parents (much to their initial chagrin... after all, I'd never gone away with a boy before), threw clothes and a toothbrush into a backpack, and ran out to the front porch to await Prince Charming in his red Jetta.

Jonathan and I had been dating about five months, though I think we'd both agree our love affair had begun prior to that, nurtured by debates at Bible study, flirting sessions after church, etc. 
 
I don't remember much about that drive, our first 6+ hour stint in a car together, except that we talked and talked and talked and then, when it didn't seem possible that two people could have more to say to one another... we talked some more.

When we arrived at the park, pulling into the giant Mickey & Friends Parking Structure which was brand new to both of us, Jon could hardly contain his excitement.  I have a slightly blurry photo of him hopping up and down, pointing toward the tram stop, making a goofy face.  It's a favorite photo of mine: my happy, excited little boy, about to share Disneyland with his true love for the first time.

That was more than five years ago.  And this weekend, we completed our 25th trip to Disneyland!
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a cluster of dark leaves and white berries
floats like a host of tiny angels in my open doorway,
suspended above a face i've memorized,
presenting chilly lips now revitalized
by the hope of a rendezvous with my own.

heart to heart we embrace and tug, grasp, pull--
stretching myself up onto tip-toes--
with a flirtatious brush of my Eskimo nose
on his mountain man cheek...
feeling a rise of heat in response to my welcome.

tucked beneath a mink soft lock of dark hair
is the warm furrow of my collarbone,
one of the places he plants fervent kisses,
there and at the start of my lips...
...and just beyond.

shadows cast by the firelight are crimson,
white wrists and ruddy cheeks glow,
pressing together in a lovedance of souls,
of fingers and forearms.
our low laughter is like bells on a hillside.

i wrap my arms around him, snug and secure,
looped and moving, overlapping his back.
sharp shoulder blade under soft sweater...
face to face in the firelight,
we say, 'Merry Christmas.'

--Audrey Camp--

 

Over the years, I've been asked many times about my process as a poet.  Where does this stuff come from? 

Do the words rise from the dark earth like flowers, sprouting and entwining until I pick them at my leisure? 

Or is it a trek through a jungle, machete first, naivete in tow, with the poem to display as proof of survival in the end? 

Or is it calculated, premeditated, just type set end to end until it's time to slather the thing with ink and press it to the unemotional page?

I'd say All Of The Above.

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homeless.jpgJon and I are on our way to Disneyland for our annual Christmas trip.  We deplaned in Los Angeles and hurried to the curb to await our rental car company shuttle.  The night air chilled us and urged Jonathan to pull on a second layer.  December is cold even in Southern California.

Once in our chosen vehicle, a white Volvo ("Something German... anything German!"), we hopped onto the 105 and pointed our noses toward Disneyland.

Jon was hungry.  

We wear ourselves out with work and social engagements, frittering away precious time and energy on frivolity.  That's not always a bad thing.  Last night we saw The Nutcracker performed at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. 

It was a spectacle in every sense of the word, and I found myself clapping eagerly, giddy as a child, both in anticipation of the twirling and sparkling to come and in praise of the act which had ended only seconds before. As exhausted as Jon and I were when we arrived at home, the show itself and the conversation with good friends meant it was time well spent.
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Recently my family received an invitation to a surprise 40th birthday party for our old friend, Jennie Doering, a woman I knew when I was between the ages of ten and fourteen.  As part of the invitation, guests were encouraged to submit stories and memories of Jennie from years gone by.  Jennie, you see, is a storyteller herself, therefore appreciating such gestures all the more.  This was the perfect opportunity for me to write down my memories of Jennie. 

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At eleven-years-old, I was a tall, skinny girl aching for adulthood, and much of my time was spent structuring a specific definition for the term "grown up."  My main role model was, naturally enough, my mother -- a strong, assertive business woman with a quick laugh and an incredible sense of fun.  But I sought influence elsewhere, too.  Characters in literature from Nancy Drew to Scarlet O'Hara to Lois Lenski's Strawberry Girl impacted me, as did my teachers and neighbors.

Enter Jennie Doering.

babysitter.jpgWhen John and Jennie moved in next door to my parents' home in Newark, they were energetic, smiley people, and seemed not to mind the curious stares of the many neighborhood children.  Jennie, you see, was pregnant at the time, and it was the first time I was old enough to acknowledge what that condition meant.  There would be a baby and, as my mother pointed out, I was soon going to be old enough to transition from the babysat to the babysitter.

Such began my relationship with Jennie.  She was perfectly willing to entrust brand new baby Emilie to my care, young as I was.  At first I went to the house while Jennie was home and played with Em as Jennie operated in the periphery, but it wasn't long before I was spending an hour or two alone with the little one.

On one such occasion, I put Emilie down for her nap and realized I'd forgotten my current Nancy Drew installment at home.  The Doerings and the Pancoasts lived in townhouses, side by side, so I didn't think it would be hard to run five steps to the East, grab the book, and return. What I didn't bargain on was the front door of the Doerings' house closing behind me... and locking.

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After two very long, action-packed weeks, each brimming with holiday happenings and visits with friends and traditions and travel, I desperately needed to wind down.

I began with a trip to the barn for a riding lesson.  The moment I approached Vick, the strong-willed, strawberry gelding who was my mount for the night, I knew it would be a good night.  Dusk hung over the tri-valley like an exhale of mist in the air before my face.  Around me were the sounds of the stable... boots on dirt, leather slapping against leather, buckles clicking together, the scrape of the bit against the horses' teeth, stomping hooves, snorts, the buzz of the arena lights coming to life.

Towards the end of my lesson, I noticed that my husband had appeared at the rail.  He watched me absorb the instructions and attempt to carry out directions from my place in the saddle.  My fingers had been frozen at the outset of the lesson and, as soon as I had dismounted, returned to that state.  Jonathan, romantic, wonderful, chivalrous man that he is, presented me with a Starbucks hot chocolate... just the thing to chase the nip of cold from my fingertips.
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