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A Piano for the Children

March 26, 2017 • Editor

I found the children’s home off of Germantown Avenue in Philadelphia. Cunningham Piano sent me there to evaluate an old upright. The building was in a neighborhood that was way past run down and well into depressed. That part of Philadelphia is filled with large old houses and many of them are abandoned. The original owners had died or just walked away. The children’s home was housed in one of those buildings. Donations had paid for upgrades to the heating and the installation of better lighting. But, for the most part, the building looked and smelled tired.

I was taken into the room and opened the instrument. It was a mess. Some of the keys wouldn’t play at all while others would stick or respond badly. I felt the strings and the rust was thick on them. I knew what would happen if I tried to tune this old monster. The lady at Cunningham had asked me personally to do what I could. “They don’t have any money, John. Do the best you can and we won’t worry about the charges.”

I spent two hours trying to restore the broken keys and loosen the ones which had become frozen due to swelling of the wood. But the harder I tried, the worse things became.

Finally, I asked to use a phone and called the manager at Cunningham. “Rose, it’s hopeless. The piano is just too far gone to expect any real improvement. I feel terrible about it but I’m going to recommend that the piano be thrown away. If you would like, you can send another technician here but I doubt that it would make a difference.” Rose wasn’t happy to hear my report. Surprisingly, the director didn’t seem to mind. “I didn’t hold much hope for that thing. It was a donation anyhow. I hate to say it but we get things here all of the time that are way past their usefulness.”

I packed up my tools and left feeling really sad. But there wasn’t much I could do, not for that old wreck.

About a week later, I visited another house. This one was in Chestnut Hill, a Philadelphia suburb. The owner had just purchased a new piano for his daughter. Elizabeth was her name. The man played a recording of her playing their old upright. At that time, she was about eleven. Rather than do the things other girls her age did, Elizabeth wanted nothing more than to play. She taught herself new tunes and would sit for hours, practicing until she produced the song perfectly. I smiled. “She’s really good, Sir. I can understand why you made the investment in a new instrument for her. By the way, where is the old upright she was using?” The man laughed. “It’s right over here, taking up far too much room. As a matter of fact, I was going to ask you what we could do with it.”

When I finished tuning the new piano, I asked if I could look at the old upright. The man led me over to it. It was a mirror piano. About fifty years ago, someone got the idea of creating mirrored panels which were designed to cover the wood of an older upright. There was a large rectangular mirror which went right across the front of the instrument above the keys. The top of the unit had been cut back a bit and a nice wooden shelf was mounted there. Right in front of the tuning pins, was a second mirror. This one ran across the width of the piano. It was an effort to make one of those big old uprights look more attractive.

I sat down and played the older piano. The sound was great and the keys worked quite well. After testing the instrument for a few minutes, I removed the front panel and examined the action and the strings. I turned to the owner. “Are you interested in selling this piano?” He laughed. “I doubt anyone would buy it. The thing is far too big to begin with and those mirrors just make things worse. I’d give it away if I knew someone who wanted it.” Well, I knew a place where this venerable old girl would find a welcome home.

I called rose and explained what I had in mind. “All we’d have to do would be to move this piano to the children’s home. The crew could also remove that old upright and we could dispose of it. I’ve tested the piano and it’s in good shape.”

That was Monday morning. On Thursday, the moving crew collected the mirror piano and delivered it to the children’s home. They took the old wreck away. I tuned the piano and it did sound fine in that room with its high ceiling and lively acoustics.

The director must have thanked us a hundred times for the new instrument. At least, it was new to them. As I sat waiting for my driver, the director sat down and played the piano. In no time, the room was filled with children. They came from everywhere. Soon, I heard the children singing an old nursery rhyme. “Mary had a little lamb” filled the room and drifted down the time worn hallway. As I went out the door, a happy grin was on my face.

Story Categories: Career and Featured.

Baking Day

July 18, 2016 • Sue Lichtenfels

As I rub the sleep from my eyes and make my way to the side of the bed, I hear my four-year-old exclaim,” Mommy, I want us to bake a cake today!”


My husband’s birthday was ten days ago. While I intended for us to bake him a cake on the weekend following his birthday, we didn’t get to it. So here we are, the next Saturday morning and she’s ready to bake. This girl has got a mind like a steel trap when it comes to remembering the fun stuff we talk about. Tell her what not to do or try to have a serious conversation with her though and it’s in one ear and out the other. Of course, that’s probably pretty typical for a four-year-old.


I’m thinking since it’s Halloween today, a pumpkin cake would be appropriate. Many years ago my friend Sherri gave me a recipe for pear cake. After having mixed results with the pears, I once substituted pumpkin pie filling for the pears. The result was amazing and I’ve never used pears since.



Pear/Pumpkin Cake



2 Eggs

1 cup Vegetable Oil

2 cups Sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla

1 teaspoon Baking Soda

1 teaspoon Water

2 cups Flour

2 teaspoons Cinnamon

¾ teaspoon Salt

1 pinch Nutmeg

3 Pears (diced) or 1 can Pumpkin Pie Mix

Note: If I use the Pumpkin Pie Mix, I do not add the Cinnamon and Nutmeg.



Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 baking pan.

In a large mixing bowl beat eggs and oil until foamy. Add sugar, vanilla, baking soda, and water. Beat until light and fluffy. Add flour, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Continue mixing until smooth. Fold in pears or mix in pumpkin pie mix. Bake for 50-60 minutes. Cake will be moist.



Now, let’s see about finding a can of pumpkin pie mix. I think I have one but I’m not positive. I roll over to the kitchen closet, secure Maya as she climbs onto my lap and start searching the shelves. Almost immediately she exclaims, “I see pumpkin.” She places my hand against the can and says, “Look.” She understands that mommy and daddy’s eyes don’t work and so we look with our hands not our eyes.


Amazingly the can she is showing me is one of the few that I have taken the time to label with a Braille tag. I read with my fingers “pln pmp.” “Yes baby your right. That’s pumpkin but it’s plain pumpkin. We’re looking for pumpkin pie mix. Let’s keep looking.”


Systematically I begin searching the three shelves I can reach from my wheelchair. I begin at the upper shelf, feeling my way through the boxes, cans and bottles that fill the shelves. I’m feeling for a can that’s about as round as a can of corn, but almost twice as tall. If I was as organized as people think I am I would have each item labeled with a few Braille letters on a small piece of paper and taped to the item. I use to have a really good memory and knew how much I had of what and where it was without having to label. Since becoming a mother my memory lapses are becoming more and more frequent. I really need to be better about labeling the items that aren’t so obviously identifiable by their shape and the sound the contents make when I shake them.


My hands have traversed all three shelves and there’s no sign of the pie mix. “Hmm, what about brownies?” My daughter gleefully agrees to chocolate brownies so I begin searching again.


Eureka! I find a boxed item that looks to me like it could be brownies. It does feel a little light though for brownies, perhaps it’s a cake mix. Holding the box out before my daughter I ask, “Baby, what’s the picture on this box? Does it look brown like chocolate?” “it’s pink,” she replies. Immediately I remember that I did buy a strawberry supreme cake mix a few months before for her birthday. I didn’t use it then because she decided she wanted a chocolate cake so I made one from scratch.


Well let’s see. I peel open the box, tear the cellophane bag, and sniff. Sure enough, it smells like strawberry. Of course these packages don’t come with Braille or audio instructions so I put my husband to work on the computer. He types in into the browser and begins a search for “Duncan Hines strawberry cake”. He clicks on the Strawberry Supreme Cake and reiterates the directions to me.


“It says here you need one and one-third cup of water, one-third cup of oil, and two eggs. You’re supposed to preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake in a greased 9 x 13 pan for 33 to 36 minutes.”

Before I begin gathering my baking paraphernalia I roll alongside my wall oven, reach up to the flat digital control panel, and lightly glide my fingers across until I find the sticker labeled in braille as “bk”. I press the bake control and scoot my fingers over to the right where they locate the brailled number pad and enter 350. I hear the oven click on and feel the stream of air that circulates from below the door.


As my husband gets one of the glass pans down from the upper cupboard, I begin gathering everything I’ll need. Into the center cupboard under the island I go, feeling for the mixing bowl I want and pulling out the hand mixer too. I reach for the electrical outlet between the oven and stovetop. When I contact the edge with my middle finger, I use my thumb and first finger to firmly push in the mixer’s plug. Inserting the beaters into the mixer is a breeze because they only go in one way and they lock into position. Next I shuffle my hands into the drawer where I keep my measuring cups and spoons. Quickly I locate the one-cup and one-third-cup measures by the Braille on their handles. Once I’ve collected two eggs from the fridge and the large plastic bottle of olive oil from the pantry shelf, I begin to consider which parts of this process I can safely have my daughter do.


“Baby, go wash your hands please. And make sure you use soap.” I hear the bathroom faucet run for five seconds before she bounds back into the kitchen. “Did you use soap?” I ask. Let me smell.” “Oh!” she exclaims and rushes back to the bathroom. “here mommy, smell,” she announces as she raises her chubby hands to my nose.


We start by greasing the pan so it will be ready when we need it. I pour a little olive oil into the bottom and we use our fingertips to make sure it gets spread all over the bottom and around the sides. Maya grabs us a paper towel and we wipe our hands before beginning on the cake.


She is just tall enough to reach the front half of our Corian counter tops. Passing her the cellophane bag of cake mix, I instruct her to dump it into the bowl. I hold the edge of the bowl because I’m afraid her arms will bump the side and send the bowl tumbling. Next I hand her the one-cup measure and we shift over to the sink. Although she can reach the spout, I need to turn on the water control. Then, as she fills first the one-cup and then the one-third-cup, I hold the bowl nearby so she doesn’t dribble the water. While still at the sink I crack two eggs into the bowl, handing Maya each empty shell for the trash.


Of course she complains, “Mom I wanted to do that.” I can tell she’s got a pout on her face from the sound of her voice. “I’m sorry baby. Maybe next time we’ll get a separate bowl and you can do the eggs.”


For our final ingredient I hold the one-third cup measure over the bowl while she carefully pours it full of oil. Now it’s time for her favorite part, the mixer. I stabilize the bowl with my left hand and place my right over her hand on the mixer. We begin on the slowest speed with me showing her the small circular motions made around the bowl to make sure everything is mixed well. I bravely turn the speed up one notch and instruct her to keep the mixer down against the bottom of the bowl.


As soon as the mixer stops, she dunks her fingers into the batter. “mm, it’s yummy mom. Wanta try it?” “Sure why not!” Knowing that we won’t be offering this cake to company, I stick my finger in too. It really is yummy. I hand her a beater to lick while I run my finger over the other one collecting the clinging yumminess.


After rinsing the beaters and washing my hands, I carefully pour the cake batter into the greased pan. Maya is still at my elbow steeling fingerfuls of batter.


This reminds me of a time a few weeks earlier when Maya and I were preparing dinner. Her job was to hand me the pierogies while I placed them into the microwavable dish. Feeling the pierogies I noticed that the first two or three had a corner missing. At about the time of this realization, I hear Maya chewing on something. Here she was taking a nibble of each pierogies as she pulled it out of the bag. Once since the pierogies incident I caught her taking a bite of raw bacon as she aligned the strips in the frying pan for me.


When I’ve gotten all the batter I can out of the bowl, I jiggle the pan to make sure the batter gets into all four corners and any finger prints are erased from the batter’s surface. Into the oven it goes for 33 minutes. I set the timer on my iPhone and head off to another chore while Maya plants herself on the couch in front of the TV.


When the timer bleeps from my iPhone on the island counter, my husband helpfully removes the cake from the oven and places it on the cooktop. Carefully I run my fingertips over the cake’s surface and it feels firm. No moist areas and the corners feel firm but not burnt. I grab a toothpick from a kitchen drawer and insert it into the cake’s center. The pick feels clean so my husband turns off the oven.


“Maya, do you want to come look at your cake.” When she arrives at the cooktop I ask her if she wants us to icing it or just eat it as it is. I’m hoping she says it’s fine the way it is. That means we can cut it and enjoy it while it’s still a little warm. Surprisingly she opts to leave it as is. I thought for sure she would want to ice it and then cover it in sprinkles.


Grabbing three pieces of paper towel, I cut us each a piece. It’s so light and fluffy and smells amazing.

The warm strawberry flavor is so refreshing for this time of year. It’s a definite success despite the Maya germs.


“This would be even better with real strawberries baked inside,” I suggest to my husband as I munch on my extra large piece. He counters, “It would be really good with fresh strawberries and whipped cream on top,” just before he asks for a second piece. We may just have to try that next summer.

Story Categories: Cooking, Family, Featured, Lifestyle, and Relationships.

Nature’s Beauty

July 6, 2016 • Ernest Jones

Third Place Winner - TheReImage 2015 Launch Contest

Autumn wrapped me in her cool grasp as I headed up the narrow gravel road. There was no trace of city smog – the smoke from last week’s fire just west of this valley had been either blown or washed away leaving the air fresh and clean. Situated miles away from the large city, there was not a hint of the city’s belching factory exhaust or coal burners filling the air. If one might catch a hint of anything not associated with this rugged land, it may be a very faint scent from the saw mill in the valley below with its fresh pile of shavings lying in a heap.

I zipped up my wind breaker as I walked – the sun might be shining on the hillside above, but there was a chill to the air in the valley buried under towering trees. Large Tamarack, Douglas fir & Ponderosa Pine stood like sentinels along the road with more scattered across the nearby hillside. Though today the stream was bouncing and gurgling as it dashed over large boulders strewn in its path, I knew in a few weeks this same stream would be buried under a heavy layer of ice and snow.

The only animal life I found was one old porcupine waddling through the ditch heading for the brush, & a couple ravens flying noisily overhead.

The road, hardly more than an old logging trek, wound up the valley as it followed the twisting stream.
Making a right turn onto a narrow over-grown trail, I pushed myself up the hill, leaving the creek behind. I heard the wind as it brushed through the trees, and a whisper coming from the creek far below. The raucous cries of the ravens continued to penetrate the quiet. Other than the crunching as I walked up the gravel road or rocks rolling down behind me, the world was void of human noises.

“Ah,” I whispered, as I rounded a bend and stopped in a place where I had a
panoramic view of the terrain around me. To my Left I looked through a narrow ravine to the valley far below. I saw what could be described as a patchwork quilt, as green grass pastures vied with the dull yellow of a harvested grain field and the brown of several plowed fields. There were a couple houses and even an old weathered barn, its once red siding faded by years of harsh weather.

Turning to my right, I saw one hill after another, each decked out in a splash of color worthy of any king. I stood just drinking in the view, knowing that one day this too would be gone. I was determined to have a picture that could never be blotted out of my mind. I beheld splashes of red, orange, yellow and green covering the hillsides. This was the Tamarack, or otherwise known as the Western Larch, time to shine. These trees were dressed in brilliant gold and orange as they hovered between summer and winter. Scattered between these bright trees were the darker greens of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir. Lower in the valleys stood the yellow birch and red of the maple interspersed with the dark green of the cedars.

I drank in this marvelous sight as my eyes passed from mountainside to hillside, from Tamarack to pine to the maple far below, to the crystal clear azure blue sky overhead. The sun was a ball of fire, magnifying the beauty of the world stretching out before me.

Filled with this majestic view, I retraced my steps home, planning to return to this mountain dreamland
one more time before winter claimed sway over the mountains
Soon, I knew, those beautiful Tamarack Trees would stand stripped naked as the wind blew through them and the snow fell around and over them. They would stand like dead trees, waiting for the warming of the earth to once again bring them to life with first a touch of light green changing to a dark summer green. Could there be any place more beautiful?

Returning home, I knew I would never forget this glorious scene. Maybe the ophthalmologist was right – I could tell the tunnel vision was closing in. But no-one would be able to take this picture away from me – I’d still see in my mind this glorious land, my home.

Tags: Contest Winner. Story Categories: Featured and Leisure. Tags:

Fishing off My Dock in the Early Mornings

July 6, 2016 • Ron Milliman

Second Place Winner - TheReImage 2015 Launch Contest

When I wake up in the early morning here on Lake Barkley the singing of various bird species and the scampering of squirrels across the roof tell me it is time to get up and head down to the dock to see what’s happening in the bay.


As I step out onto the back porch of my lake house, I smell the honeysuckle in the air and a scent of dampness, like maybe it had rained a little.  The wind is blowing gently through the trees, and as I descend down the numerous steps leading down to the dock, I touch the right rail and notice how wet it is.  When I go from the last step to the gangway leading to the dock, I hear a big blue heron flutter away and make his squawking sounds as he flies across the bay to perch on another dock.  He thinks he rules the bay, and I am invading his space.  Suddenly I hear several little bait fish break the surface of the water, trying to scurry away from a predator, probably a bass.


So, I open the door to one of the storage closets on the back right side of my dock and reach in to select the rod, reel and bate that might tempt a nice, fighting, largemouth bass.  Ah, here is my Fenwick 6′ rod with the spinning reel loaded with 12-pound test braided line.  I shuffle through my tackle box for one of my favorite bass lures.  Oh, here is a top-water, buzz bate, a Torpedo; that’s been a good lure for early morning fishing.  Oh, no, I think I’ll try this rattle trap instead.  I’ve caught a lot of bass with these rattle traps. Those little rattling beebees inside seem to really entice the bass to strike.


The tiny bait fish are jumping all around the dock.  Something sure has them jumping for their lives.  They are jumping again and again, splashing the water each time they jump.


After I tie the Rattle Trap on the line, I cast out just past where I am hearing the bait fish leap.  The first couple of casts don’t entice a strike, but as I retrieved the third cast, I feel a tremendous slam on the end of my line, triggering me to set the hook, and the battle is on!!  The way he is running, pulling out the drag and line, I suspect it is a nice sized bass, probably a largemouth.  I hear the drag whirr on my reel as the big fish on the other end of my line makes his run to the open end of the bay.  After several minutes, and after the fish has broken the surface and jumped again and again, trying to shake the lure out of his mouth, I manage to win the battle and get him up on the dock.  He is jumping and flopping all over, and I struggle to get him under control.  I run my fingers carefully along his sleek body to see what kind of fish it is.  I have to be extra cautious just in case it is a catfish.   I don’t want to get finned.  When a catfish fins you, it hurts.  I mean it really hurts, making your whole hand and arm pain for a while.  It turns out to be a nice bass, probably at least 20 inches, maybe three or four pounds.  While I normally practice “catch & release,” I’m going to keep this one.  He’ll make a delicious dinner meal this evening, filleted, seasoned, and grilled over mesquite wood chips.


As I take this nice, chubby largemouth bass off my line, I realize I am hearing a big barge going down the river that makes up Lake Barkley.  Judging from how long it took the barge to pass the end of the bay, it must be a tugboat pushing at least three, probably more like four, barges.  I visualize them being loaded with coal, or maybe grain, common commodities shipped down the Tennessee and Cumberland river systems by barges.


After carefully taking the fish off my line, I put him in the portable livewell to keep him alive and fresh.  Then, I cast my lure out a few more times only to be retrieved without any more strikes.  So, I decide to change tactics and re-rig my line.  This time tying on one of my special, hand-tied, double-drop catfish rigs, with a ¾-ounce weight hanging off one lead and one of my favorite, razor sharp Mustad worm hooks off the other lead that’s tied several inches above the weight or sinker.  I bate the hook with an extra long, juicy night crawler to be a tempting, tasty meal for an unsuspecting big channel or blue catfish.  I carefully cast my line up toward the rocks, just close enough to be right on the very edge of the rocks, but not too close to get my catfish rig hung-up in the menacing boulders.  I’ve learned the hard way that those rocks have no sympathy for my hand-tied catfish rigs!


After a few minutes, I feel a slight tap or jerk on my line, followed by a couple more little tugs, then, several seconds of nothing.  All of a sudden I feel a tremendous, slamming jerk on my line, almost pulling my rod out of my hands!  I retaliate by counter-jerking my rod, setting the hook, and once again, the big battle is on.  Hopefully, my drag is set right. If it’s set too tight, the fighting fish on the other end might break my line, but if it is set too loose, the fish will go into the rocks, and I will lose him for sure.  Fortunately, it must be set just about right because I seem to be slowly winning the battle.  I reel in a few feet, and then, the fish, whatever it is, pulls out the drag and pulls out several more feet of line.  I reel in a few feet; the fish pulls out a few feet, back and forth, back and forth, so the battle goes on.  I am winning!  No, the fish is winning!  Finally, the fish is getting tired, but so am I.  My arms ache a little from the battle, but I am finally able to bring him in and up on the dock.


I have to be really extra cautious this time because I am pretty certain from the way the fish behaved in the big battle that it is a catfish.  I hold the fish up a little above the dock and run my hand carefully up his slimy body from his tail until I feel his large, extended fins with needle-sharp tips.  I wrap my fingers around the fins to secure the fish while I take the hook out of his mouth.  It looks like a nice, fat channel cat, probably a two or maybe even a three pounder.  As I put him in the livewell, I think: “Another delicious contribution to our grilled fish dinner tonight.”  I put my rod up and consider it a successful morning of fishing on the dock surrounded by the wildlife of Lake Barkley.

Tags: Contest Winner. Story Categories: Featured. Tags:

Shakespeare in the Buff

July 6, 2016 • Kate Chamberlin

First Place Winner: TheReImage Launch Contest

” There is flattery in friendship.”  -Henry V

They considered each other as friends and shared a love of reading recorded books from the National Library Service, NLS, yet, they had never met in the flesh. As fellow authors in the same writing group, Donna and Kate’s friendship began in 2010. Throughout 2013, either Donna, as secretary,  or Kate, as editor, reached for the phone to collaborate with each other on almost a daily basis and applaud, praise, or fret, about details of  their writing group’s soon to be published anthology, Behind Our Eyes: A Second Look.

“This is a way to kill a wife with kindness.” (The Taming of the Shrew)

“Yes,” David echoed back, as Donna presented him with their opportunity to fly to Colorado and meet Martha Harmon Pardee, her favorite talking book narrator whose narrations numbered over 2,888 books for NLS.

Martha, her e-friend of several years, had planned to meet with them for a brunch at The Buff Restaurant prior to Martha’s 12:15 p.m. curtain call for the Shakespeare play, “Henry V.”

“I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.” (Much Ado about Nothing)

Credit card points for the flights, hotel points for the room, and discounted car rental fees, were instantly activated to lock down reservations, as Donna heard the yes reply. Like Tigger on too much caffeine, Donna bounced with joy to share their anniversary trip news with the Chamberlin’s from up-state New York.

“Oh, Dear Gussie,” said Kate. “We can’t pass up the opportunity to meet each other and Martha Harmon Pardee, our favorite talking book narrator, too!”

“Woo-hoo, pack your bags and let’s go to Boulder,” exclaimed Donna.

“Men of few words are the best men.” (Henry V)

As a little girl, if Kate felt sad, happy, or hurt, her Pappy, a Rutgers University Shakespearian educator, would have a quote from Shakespeare to fit the situation. Though, reading the manuscripts in black and white print or listening to the recordings put her to sleep, Kate wondered if she’d been able to read the original 1620 Shakespeare folios, printed in different colored inks for each character’s lines, would the plays have come alive for her?

“To be, or not to be: that is the question.” (Hamlet)

Kate and her husband, Dave, began their trek from Rochester, NY to Boulder, Colorado with a very early morning flight, yet, due to delays, missed connections, and a variety of other snafus, they didn’t arrive at the new Hyatt Hotel until late evening.

“All hell shall stir for this.” (Henry V)

“But, I just showered and am ready for bed,” said David as Donna hung up from Kate’s late arrival call.

“It’s okay, babe, I won’t be too long. You can meet them tomorrow morning.”

Rounding the hallway corner in the Hyatt-Boulder hotel, Cruiser guided Donna to the elevator door. As Donna searched the walls to locate the elusive buttons, she heard something familiar. With excitement, she held her breath as she waited to meet the friends behind the voices that she’d known for five years. Dave and Kate, along with Kate’s guide dog, Tulip Grace, turned the corner and then, the tail-wags and greetings began. After Dave aided with the elusive button location on the elevator’s door frame, Donna pushed the down button and reminded herself to trust her dog. The party glided down and stepped out into the hotel lounge.

“If music be the food of love, play on…” (Twelfth Night)

The next morning, steam rose from the day’s first cups of coffee, as Dave, Kate, and Tulip Grace met Donna’s husband David in the hotel’s breakfast nook.

“Today’s the day! I’m so excited that we finally get to meet Martha,” said Donna, as she savored the coffee’s aroma.

“Hold that thought. You may think different, once we go hiking in the mountains,” chuckled David.

“I count myself in nothing else so happy, as in a soul remembering my good friends.” (Richard II)

“Eat in The Buff? I dare you,” said David, as Donna, Kate, and Dave, awaited Martha’s arrival in front of the restaurant.

“Donna, I’m here,” said Martha, as they hugged like two lost friends.

“Wow, it’s so nice to finally meet you in person. This is my husband David, and my dear friends, Kate and Dave Chamberlin.”

“Table for Chamberlin,” announced the hostess, as the party of five navigated through the crowd to their table.

As Martha began to read the menu out loud, Donna grinned in thought, “Hmmm, should I ask her to read it as Roarke, the Irish billionaire from the (In Death) series?”

That Sunday brunch at The Buff restaurant with Martha, started the friends Shakespeare experience with plenty of lively conversation and delicious food in a friendly ambiance and clear Colorado air.

After two hours of wonderful conversation and food, Martha’s 12:15 curtain call beckoned and brunch ended in a flurry of hugs.

“After my costume change, I’ll meet y’all out front,” said Martha, with another hug goodbye to Donna and Kate.

Minutes later, Donna reached for her iPhone as Siri announced two emails from Martha that warned of two events in “Henry V” that might disturb Cruiser and Tulip Grace.

“But, for my own part, it was Greek to me.” (Julius Caesar)

Navigating through the sold out crowd in the Colorado University theater, the four friends found their front row seats. With the stage only 15 feet away, Kate and Donna wrestled with not trying the Braille method to explore the actor’s costumes as they stood in front of them to say their lines before continuing onto the stage. When the gift from the King of France to Henry V was opened, Kate thought that Tulip Grace might try to get some of the tennis balls, but she was well behaved. Donna flinched during the loud cannon fire, but Cruiser remained asleep, until all the tennis balls bounced across the stage. With no escaping tennis balls to fetch, Cruiser’s head lowered with a resounding sigh.

Among the various roles Martha played in “Henry V” were a soldier’s bawdy wife and Katharine’s gentle woman’s hand-maid, Alice. Laughter swelled throughout the audience, as Alice tried to teach French Katharine the English names of body parts.

“Boy, that fight scene was loud; it was hard to sleep through or follow,” David said with a cocked eyebrow and grin, while they waited for Martha after the show.

Beaming with smiles, Donna and Kate posed with Martha for several photos and exchanged goodbye hugs before the next show.

“Break a leg!” said Kate, as Martha turned to leave.

“Absolutely, and thank you!” replied Martha.

“A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!” (King Richard III)

“Sorry, baby, but one Shakespeare play is enough for me. I’ll go hiking while you, Kate, and Dave, go to the next show. Afterwards, we can all meet for supper.”

Cruiser and Donna followed Kate, Tulip Grace, and Dave through the sidewalk maze and reached the CU Amphitheater to attend “Much Ado about Nothing.”

Donna, with Cruiser tucked under her legs, sat in an aisle seat. Tulip tucked in under Kate’s seat and Dave narrated the action and facial expressions from the seat left of Kate.

“In my mind’s eye.” (Hamlet)

As with all Shakespeare plays, scenery is kept to a minimum and presented “in the round, while actors invite the audience to fill-in with their own imaginations. At times, unwitting audience members were brought into the action and dialogue. As was the case when an actor, during “Much Ado,” stopped next to Donna and Kate to indicate they were virtuous women”.

“Thank you, my lord,” hung on the tip of Donna’s tongue, as she and Kate smiled at the actor.

“The deep of night is crept upon our talk and nature must obey necessity.” (Julius Caesar)

Drink glasses clinked around the BJ’s Brewhouse table in cheers, as the four toasted their friendship and reminisced about their quick, but awesome, Colorado anniversary adventure. Meeting each other for the first time and sharing live Shakespeare performances with Martha, a consummate professional, will be their shared and treasured memory.

“Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.” (Romeo and Juliet)

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