Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Day I Didn't Learn to Tat -- Guest Blog: Cheri Crane

By Cheri Crane

As numerous friends and family members will attest, I’ve inherited the family klutz gene. I will spare you graphic details; suffice it to say that I’ve spent more than my fair share of time in ER throughout my life.

I come by this gift naturally. All I have to do is peruse the Family Tree for verification. One of my 3rd great-grandfathers, William Alpheus Simmons, happened to be the only member of the Mormon Battalion to expire. Long story short, he got into an argument with a friend over how far a gun would shoot. He climbed up to a canyon ledge to prove his point and caught the bullet upside his head. (See pgs. 99-102 of "In Search of Steenie Bergman" by Blaine & Brenton Yorgason for further details. Incidentally, my mother was mortified that our family shame was on display in this public format.)

Grandpa Simmons’ great grandfather back there a ways, is a man named John Howland. John is my 10th great-grandfather. Among his claims to fame would be the fact that he fell off the Mayflower. Governor William Bradford recorded this sad state of affairs, also much to my mother’s dismay: " a mighty storme, a lustie yonge man called John Howland, coming upon some occasion above ye grattings, was, with a seele of ye shipe throwne into ye sea; but it pleased God he caught hould of ye tope-saile halliards, which hunge over board...he held his hould though he was sundrie fathomes under water till he was hald up by ye same rope to ye brime of ye water...his life saved..."

Thankfully, Grandpa John lived to tell about that adventure. We refer to him as the first water skier of the family. He later married my 10th great-grandmother and the rest, as they say, is history.

Light-speeding to 1970: I was 9 years old, and my grandmother Jackson decided to spend one day teaching me how to tat. To her credit, she never once lost her temper as she patiently untangled me from the thread, over and over again. When she finally realized I did not possess the required coordination for this project, she smiled and said, "Let’s try poetry." We spent a fascinating afternoon together as my grandmother taught me the basics of writing poetry. Gifted in this department herself, she quickly inspired enthusiasm as I learned how to rhyme words together. She also taught me about rhythm and counting syllables. This was no small feat, considering I couldn’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

However, the klutz gene wasn’t the only thing I inherited. I’ve always possessed a love of words, and an ability to play musical instruments by ear. This helped immensely as I learned the rhythm of poetry. (Too bad it didn’t translate over into items like drill team try-outs, but I digress).

By the time I was twelve, I had written several poems. Nothing too spectacular, but it gave my grandmother hope. She had a granddaughter who tended to face plant it on a frequent basis, but that granddaughter could write poetry! The woman practically beamed over those first meager attempts. Another exciting moment took place that same year; I taught myself to play the guitar. In time I united these new skills and began writing songs. My first song was about a caterpillar, and no, I won’t share. Bear in mind I was only twelve.

So, while I was a complete and total failure at items like P.E. (Yes, I was the type of kid who managed to come down head first into the springs while jumping on the trampoline, and we won’t discuss the time I bowled myself down the alley one humiliating afternoon) I became known as someone who possessed a smidgeon of talent. This boosted my morale on days when I walked into doors, tripped over my own feet, etc.

In high school, friends would beg me to write songs about their current romances and heartaches. I wrote theme songs for school dances and was asked to write a song for my high school graduation. I also wrote several humorous poems for the high school newspaper just for fun. Here’s a sample:

Ode to Meetings (1979)
Here I sit upon my chair
This really isn’t very fair
I could be home, having fun,
But here I sit until they’re done.
My legs are tired, I have T.B.
When will they finish boring me?
What’s this? They’ve finished? Happy Day!
I’m finally free to go my way.

For some strange reason, my grandmother asked me to send her copies of my poetry and songs. No matter how sappy some of those items were, she always told me they were wonderful. (Grandmothers are thoughtful like that.) I credit this grandmother a great deal for opening a world of possibilities for me. I grieved when she passed from this mortal sphere, but I was deeply touched by a discovery we made after her death. She had saved all of my pathetic attempts at being creative in a special binder. This binder also contains her own poetry. I inherited it and as you can imagine, it’s one of my treasures.

I still dabble from time to time with writing poetry. My poems range from silly to silly, with an occasional serious thought thrown in. Here’s one I wrote last week after surviving a couple of camping adventures:

The Joy of Camping (June 2007)
How can one explain
Camping in the rain
Camping when the weather takes a dive
Trapped inside a trailer
Warm weather was a failure
One must use creativity to survive.
I’d not be complaining
If it would just stop raining
I would frolic in the sun, and yes, cavort
But it continues to pour down
Mud puddles do abound
In this kind of storm I’m not a sport.
Running out of propane
Causes one to profane
As temperatures plummet to record lows
Still the rain keeps falling
As my husband continues stalling
Certain the fish will bite, and so it goes.
Huddled in a blankie
About to need a hanky
As a major cold settles in my nose
It drips much like the weather
Which isn’t getting better
I think I’ve lost the feeling in my toes.
At last the trial is over
As snow falls upon the clover
My husband’s had enough, it’s time to go
The truck hooks to the trailer
And I feel just like a sailor
As we make our way cross river overflow.
When asked about that vacation
In the trailer torture station
I decline to comment about the snow or rain
My husband makes it sound grand
He dwells inside a special land
Where reason can’t be touched by those insane.
The moral of the story
Touches not on glory
But highlights the true difference of the species
To men camping is quite thrilling
Though the weather may be chilling
As long as they come home with bounteous fishies.

We’ve all been influenced by wonderful family members, friends, and teachers, people who believe in us when we don’t believe in ourselves. Thank heavens for their input, kindness and their ability to recognize potential when it’s buried. Where would we be without them?

I don't know where I'd be without dear friends like Cheri . . . and I hope to never find out! Poet, philosopher, comedienne, photographer, and best-selling author of young adult fiction for the last decade, Cheri Crane is the most amazing person I know! When she heard how difficult this week would be for me she had two blogs in my inbox by the end of the afternoon. If you're all really nice, I'll share the second one in weeks to come. Thanks, Cheri! You're my hero!


At 6/15/2007 1:40 PM, Blogger Josi said...

That is wonderful, I've never grasped the art of writing poetry, what a great skill. It makes you wonder where you would be without your grandmother awakening that first love of words and understanding of structure way back when. It's too bad she's no longer here, I'd be willing to rent her out.

Fun Blog Cherie--and Kerri, I promise to be good, really good!

At 6/15/2007 4:03 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Good to "meet" you, Cheri -- I've been a fan since reading "The Fine Print." My grandmother was also a huge supporter of mine -- gotta love those grandmothers.

Oh, and I know how to tat -- but I didn't learn it from from my grandmother. :)

At 6/15/2007 5:33 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

Hi to you both, Tristi, & Josi. =)

Josi---I cringe to think where I might be without the influence of my talented grandmother. And like you, I wish she was still around. A few years ago I was given the lovely "opportunity" to write\direct a stake Christmas production. I based the script on an episode from my grandmother's life. My way of paying tribute to this great woman.

Tristi--- Good to meet you, too. I'm glad you enjoyed "The Fine Print." That was one of my favorite projects. In fact, I'm currently working on the sequel (finally). This time the feisty Type 1 diabetic has adventures in New Orleans. Loosely based on some of the adventures (I'm also a Type 1 diabetic) I experienced while there last fall. =D

Thank you both for being "good." I'll be sure to let Kerry know. (Now where do I send the bribes again?) =D

At 6/15/2007 6:07 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

P.S. I forgot to mention that Kerry is another one of my heroes. The woman has more talent in her little finger than most of us possess in our entire bodies. And she is without doubt, one of the most compassionate ladies on the planet. Not only that, she is a huge Chili's fan like me. That counts for a lot.

At 6/15/2007 6:52 PM, Anonymous Jennie said...

I'm not sure I should admit this but Cheri and I are "shirttail cousins." (Her great uncle married my husband's aunt or something like that) Someone must have known in the distant past that Cheri and I were destined to be relatives because we share the klutz gene. We did a book signing together once and our double vibes caused her sister to fall down a flight of stairs in the bookstore. Anyone who goes to lunch with us or shares a speakers platform is just looking for trouble--but we have fun. And don't get us started on our assorted sprained ankles, smashed fingers, falls down mountain sides, etc. We're proof positive that Kerry is a saint--she loves us both even when she has to put up with both of us at the same time.

At 6/15/2007 7:29 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

Yep, Jennie & I are shirt-tail cousins. And I don't think any of us will ever forget my sister's fall down the stairs. Trudi & I were laughing so hard after I drove her to ER the poor nurses thought they knew why Trudi fell. They were wrong. She hadn't partaken of interesting beverages. She had just stepped out into mid-air . . . it could've happened to anyone. Well
. . . maybe just our family . . . including Jennie. ;)

At 6/16/2007 12:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great blog, Cheri, and what a fantastic grandmother you have! That book of poems will be a treasure for generations.

Your poem about camping is a classic! Camping in the rain . . . shudder . . .


At 6/16/2007 5:14 PM, Blogger Cheri said...

Thanks, Stephanie . . . and you're right, that book of poems is a treasure. I typed up copies of the original pages for my cousins and siblings, but I'm keeping the original book. ;)

As for the camping poem, the adventures we had this spring while camping were the inspiration. It's never good to run out of propane at 3:30 a.m. when the temperature is around 35 degrees. And the next week it rained\snowed on us while camping. Good times. =D

Incidentally, my husband hates the camping poem. To him, camping is a sacred institution, and I mocked it big time. Shame on me. ;)

At 6/17/2007 7:37 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

I'm excited to hear about the sequel, Cheri.


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