birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


The skirt had large white flowers on a turquoise background. It was full of gathers and just kissed the bare oak floor. I kept touching it. The fabric was thick and coarse, and had a bumpy weave. I just had to touch it.

At the top edge of the skirt was a tabletop on which sat a little lamp with small shade, and my mirror and brush and comb that grandma and grandpa gave me for my fourth birthday.

Under it all laid a table scarf . My father had cut the wood for the top so that the scarf just fit. My other grandma embroidered that scarf for my mother’s wedding day; there were tawny kittens in a brown basket on each end and the edge was crocheted with yellow and green floss.

The lamppost was made of ceramic and had a decal of a man and a lady holding hands and smiling at each other. They wore colonial costumes—she had a fluffy ruffle at her neck and his hat had a huge plume of feather stuck on one side. The shade was pleated and edged with ruffles on top and bottom.

I loved my new vanity. I also kept saying that word—vanity. My mother taught it to me when my father brought the piece inside from his new woodshop in our new house, that we moved into just after my fourth birthday.

Across from the vanity was a big new bed. Well, it wasn’t really new.

It was the bed my parents slept in, in our old house when we all shared one small room. My crib there was tucked into the corner bumping up next to my mother’s side of the bed.

On the backboard of the big bed were thin lines of yellow paint like trellises, with small white and pink roses twining up and down. I loved them too, and traced them with my pointer finger, enjoying the raised roughness.

I also learned the word chenille then, when I got a “bedspread”. It was pink with velvety ridges running the length of the spread—row upon row marched across and up and down the whole thing. One more thing to touch—and there were so many things to touch. I hadn’t known so many textures before.

And, there was one texture that I loved more than all the rest—the silky feel of my special “rag” that went everywhere with me. The soft touch of it on the side of my nose calmed me when I was hurt or sad. It became the girl friend I didn’t have because there were only boys in my neighborhoods.

I kept it until I was six, until is was frayed to nothing, until I gave up sucking my thumb—so that I could have the pretty, pale blue, silk nightie my auntie bought me for my sixth birthday.

Writing Dreams Down

Hot, Cold and a Pancake Moon