Monday, July 23, 2018

A Dime A Daisy and Queen Anne's Lace

A summer walk can be lovely especially if there’s a light breeze,  puffy white clouds and – low humidity. And that’s how it was that evening last week. So off I went.

I hadn’t gone past our tree line when I caught the glint of something on the asphalt. Right on the white line the highway guys paint every year. It was a dime. I almost left it there, but it looked kind of needy.  As though it had been through many hands, countless checkout lines and the occasional washing machine. It had chewed up edges. Probably it had been run over many times with no one seeing it down there on the white line, suffering. So I picked it up, gave it a little salute for its valor, and twirled it in my fingers as I walked.

The Queen Anne’s Lace is profuse this year. Before my husband planted pine trees and began building his compost pile on the top of our small hill out back, we had lots of it. Not so much anymore. So when I saw it nodding and bobbing along the roadside, I snatched some. These happy ditch dwellers have always fascinated me. Made up of dozens and dozens of minute white petals it sports a tiny, deep purple flower smack in the center of the bloom. Love them. And if you know how it got its name, text me.

Just at the curve on the back road, the one where I quicken my step in case a big old truck is coming around to surprise me, I spot her. Daisy. A single flower with a couple of fallen pine cones in the grass at her feet. I could swear to you the  little leaves that sprout from her stem are hands and they were up waving at me. “Over here!” she seemed to say. No doubt she’d spotted Queen Anne and dime riding along happily in my grip and wanted to be included in the adventure. "Okay, okay," I mumble, quickly plucking Miss Daisy and scooting past the curve. No truck. Whew!

We scared two rabbits. We caught a glimpse of the railroad tracks through a neighbor’s pine tree border. We noticed the blackberry bushes, so full of promise three weeks ago, were now bereft off all fruit. As we turned away from them my companions and I strolled up the short incline back to the main road. Heading for home we saw it. A blob in the distance but growing more distinct as it came at us. A biker. A dedicated rider with his head down. Not looking up until he was only feet away. He swerved sideways, slightly, when he saw us. I raised my hand full of flowers and a dime to greet him. But. He was a dedicated biker and he took little notice.

The driveway to the old homestead was now only a few hundred feet away and then we’d be home where a small flower vase and a cozy place in my coin jar waited.

A summer walk can be lovely. Especially when you have a dime, a daisy, and Queen Anne’s Lace for company.

I’ll be taking the month of August off. See you in the Fall! We’ll go for a walk.

Image: My walking buddies

Monday, July 9, 2018

Hometown Street Fair

Are hometown craft fairs, festivals and bazaars pure Americana or what? I’ve got to think so. This past Saturday we drove the six miles necessary to see our granddaughter in a local children’s theater play, A Year With Frog and Toad. The kids did a spectacular job and I don’t suppose I need to tell you that our granddaughter excelled. Right? I didn’t need to tell you that.  

Outside on the streets of Chatham there was a fair going on. Summerfest 2018. You could smell it. Hot dogs, cotton candy, food trucks, pretzels. You could see it. Pop ups and long tables with coolers and boxes stashed beneath. Good things had come out of those boxes and hopes were high that folks would buy. You could touch it. Doll clothes, homemade toys, nifty things for dogs and cats. Earrings, metal art, and children’s books. You could hear it. “Are you registered to vote?” Yes, we answered – and she seemed pleased. Across the way the gentle voice of a singer accompanied by his own guitar floated over the crowd. Children bounced along, eyes wide and ever on the lookout for that cotton candy I mentioned and tugging at their moms to hurry up.  

On the ride home I pondered. Every sense is stimulated at these events. Besides the five we own, there are the others. A sense of hope. Every vendor hopes the day will be rain free. It was. Every vendor hopes their carefully crafted items will sell. Every shopper hopes to find one unique thing available nowhere else on earth and for a good price, too! Every town hopes the fair or the fest will be successful and reflects well on their name.

It brings out the poet in me.

Do you recall when you were ten

Excited for the fair,

That came to town like a happy clown

Who hoped to see you there?

The summer sun beat hot and sweet

With pop ups strewn along the street

And any kid who had a dime

Could simply have a glorious time

When you were ten, go back again

Remember when, remember when

Okay, that was off the cuff, but kinda how I felt as we headed for home. Thought I’d share my Americana thoughts with you. Have a super week!

Image: Free digital photos

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Casey at the Bat

Note: This story was published in Prairie Times a few years ago.
Like Father, Like Son, Like Grandson
True American Sportsmen

When my husband was in eighth grade he played basketball at a private school. His teachers were very strict but made him what he is today, I’m pretty sure. But he also had a mom who was concerned with his grades. Three cheers for mom, right? But then she got a note from one of the strict teachers who informed her that basketball was endangering his grades. Big game coming up. Big tension in the house. Basketball lost to  Mom and the teachers and one young boy was devastated. Many years later she told me about it because he never could.

Fast forward to our number one son, a baseball player. He truly loved this favorite American pastime as we did. He was a popular player and had his dad for a coach. What could be better? Many times he came through for Dad and the team and glory rose all ‘round. Until the day that has assumed the mantle of Casey at the Bat for us. Remember that old poem about the hero of Mudville? Until he struck out. All hopes were pinned on our son that day just as the hopes of Mudville were pinned on Casey.

“Get ‘em!” his teammates hollered. Lots of chatter from the outfield. My eyes and his brothers were all glued to our favorite batter. We just knew he could do it. He was a team player, and a good kid – who struck out. On the ride home our new maxi-van was barely able to hold the grief and this mother wanted to cradle her baby so badly and could not.

Pull the story into the present and another star has been born. Mr. Personality. The male heir. Funny, scary smart, and, best of all to Mom and Grandma, tenderhearted. Well, except when it comes to teasing his sister, but that’s a brother for you. It’s a kid thing. And then one summer our star faced a challenge that rocked our world. He had to absorb, cope, think about and rally against a perceived injustice. Tie score, worthy opponents(and a bit cocky), and a chance to break a tie to win against a team with no losses. It was beyond tense.

“You can do this, bud!” His mother yelled and I was so nervous for him I was speechless. 

His grandfather was keeping score and I looked over to see him squirm in his fancy lawn chair. He rubbed his legs like he always does when he’s tense and excited.

Sam clobbered the ball and got to first. One man ahead of him on second and then the ball was clobbered again and they were off. Our boy rounds third like a locomotive and  heads for home. Where chaos reined. Dust all over the place, an outfielder hum-chucking the ball for home plate. The player just ahead of Sam scoring, parents on their feet cheering, and the opposing team’s itty bitty catcher smack in the way. Sam’s way.  

Do you know how hard it is to stop a locomotive? You do? Then you know Sam couldn’t stop. With every sense dedicated to scoring and his judgment on call, he spotted the prize and decided not to slide. He did not intentionally do it but he took the itty bitty catcher out at the knees.

CRASH! Down went the poor guy and outrage exploded.

On their side for the turtle-on-its-back catcher. On our side for Sam who was suddenly caught up in a melee that got him thrown out of the game and threatened with suspension. “Yer Out!” the umpire screeched. Just like Casey in Mudville. Our boy with a red face and Niagara Falls wanting to spill from his eyes on the humiliating walk to the dugout.  And this time a mom as well as a grandma who could not cuddle their baby.

With all this drama and with a head full of memories all I can say is, there was more love in that van ride home than I’ve seen anywhere in a long time. And I’m sure there was the same on the ride home for the other team’s catcher. These were our boys, on both sides, needing every bit of understanding we could give them.

Some things are so hard. But our choice in the tough times is to rage on or to hope. And for our family’s part, we went with hope. You won’t fail if you aren’t out there playing, but you won’t win, either. In the true spirit of American sportsmanship we keep on trying and hoping. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, June 25, 2018

And Now for a Re-read

I’m at it again. Re-reading Gone With The Wind. The first time I read it I was sixteen, the age of the heroine, Scarlett O’Hara, when the story begins. I was taking a library science course in high school and my mother forbade me to read it. So, of course, I couldn’t wait to snag it off the shelves. Honestly, I have no idea why Mom would issue such an edict – but it worked. I was in it for the long haul and boy, at over a thousand pages, it was a haul for sure. Lasted almost as long as the Civil War itself.

Need I point out that at the ripe old age of sixteen I already knew everything. Like most young people. Right?  So I skipped over Margaret Mitchell’s long, beautiful descriptions of life in the pre-war South and ignored the rich history she revealed. Instead I looked for the good stuff, Scarlett’s obsession with romance, Ashley Wilkes and her own very important self. The book struck a chord deep inside my emotional girl's heart and I buried myself in that book every night for weeks. At the end, when all seemed lost for Scarlett, I wept on my bed. My dad found me that way and when he asked what was wrong I nearly took his head off. Little did I know that my mother’s subterfuge had opened a whole new world for me. And at sixteen I now knew what love was all about, clutching my heart each time I thought of Scarlett O'Hara and her one true love, Rhett Butler (not Ashley as it turns out). Sometimes I miss that silly young girl who was me.

TCM featured GWTW late one night a few weeks ago. I was about ready to call it quits for the night when I came across it. There she was, my Scarlett, in her flouncy green dress, flirting with the Tarleton twins like a true Southern Belle. I paused and  hung in until the Cival War actually began and then hauled my ancient self off to bed. But it got me to thinking.

Even though this will be the seventh (yes, seventh) time I’ve read the book, this time it will be different. I will go in deep and find new things. I will do some research apart from the book, which was written in 1936, so much closer to the actual war than we are now. I will pay attention to what Mitchell has revealed about those times as she understood them. Will all that’s gone on since then with regard to civil rights, language, cultural sensibilities, etc. make me see this old telling in a different light? What will I gain from this re-read? My younger, by twenty years, sisters think the book and movie are racist. Will I, or can I, or should I see that now? There are certainly stereotypes of all sorts in the story including those relating to southern gentry, the hated Yankee, and slave and master relationships. I’d like to think I’ve gained some wisdom and perspective of my own since I was sixteen when – incidentally – I knew nothing.

There are many other books I’ve re-read, though not as many times as GWTW. I’ve read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy three times and all of James Herriot’s books about being a Yorkshire vet in the 1930’s at least that. I count The Wind in the Willows and The Screwtape Letters among my many re-reads.

I know there are millions of books out there to be read. Some for love, some for increasing knowledge, some for a challenge, some for a thrill and some for a lark. But only a few of them endure in our hearts. Care to share yours?

Image: The book my late mother-in-law gave to me because she knew I loved it.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Let's Be Creative!

As many of you may know, or have gleaned from what you’ve read here, I’m not much for foul language. Unless the word that starts with  F is “free” or “fantastic” I don’t want to hear it. And as for the C word – well – you better be talking about cheese and chocolate or I’ll scowl you into next Christmas.

On the other hand . . . I do love creative  language. For instance, the other day when the humidity crept through the back door and leaped onto my left shoulder, I knew within the next  ten minutes my hair would begin to “spoodge”. That’s a word I’ve created to describe the fuzz that overtakes my carefully coiffed locks when the air changes from the cool and dry of fall and winter to the ICK of summer.

Our mother, when confronted with a whiny child who wanted to stay home from school, dreamed up an illness for the teacher’s note she’d have to write the following day. Whichever kid it was was probably faking. Mom knew it. “I guess I’ll just say you had the thru-puppa-gudgeon.” Yup, that’s the word she used. It's a really cool all purpose disease. And I’ve probably spelled it wrong but I stretched it out like that so your own tongue could wrap around it for the silly thrill of saying it. Go ahead and repeat it a couple of times – I’ll wait. 

My mother-in-law was not one to use bad language, either. Thought it was low class. “There are millions of words in the English language,” she’d say shaking her finger in the offenders face. “You don’t have to use those!”  But this left her with having to be creative, too. And she was. My favorite was dopey dilldock. These words were most frequently used to describe my father-in-law who frequently transgressed and was the object of her ire. Frequently.

All through my life I’ve know people who are language wizards. Probably the one closest to me now is my friend, Marie. Hoooo boy. She has some doozies. On a few occasions we’ve attended ecumenical services together at the local Catholic church where the faithful “benuflect” before entering the pew. Once, at the butchers counter, she ordered “100 proof ” beef and failed to understand the laughter from the meat counter guy. Her husband could barely contain himself the time she looked at a restaurant menu and ordered, with complete sincerity, “chicken condom blue”. But her favorite term of utter disgust comes in the form of this plum, “dirty ratherford”. We know not from whence it sprang but she uses the phrase with vehemence when someone (aka her husband) trumps her ace as we’re playing pinochle. You don’t even want to be there.

Lastly, we have my new favorite You Tube stars, Diamond and Silk. Get these two blathering about politics and they’re going to expose a lot of S.ugar, H.oney, I.ced, T.ea that’s going on in the political realm. I just love ‘em. (Pssst – this was Mom’s favorite – ahem – expression of disdain but you didn’t hear that from me!)

So, that’s it from my side this morning. Have some creativity you’d like to share?  I’ll come back and read them later. I’ve gotta get moving on with my day. Gonna be hot and a bit muggy. Hello spoodgy hair.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

No One
By Susan Sundwall

No one won’t come home again
When no one goes to war
And brother slays not brother
On some clouded distant shore

No one will see poppies grow
‘Tween crosses row on row
But only wind kissed petals
Nodding there in glorious show

When no one calls the hell of war
By other than its name
And turns his back upon it
With horror and with shame

Will then there be a peace on Earth
And God will bless the more . . . when
No one won’t come home again
For no one goes to war

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Short Spring Drive

Sometimes an early spring drive is a worthy substitute for an early spring walk and I had one of those drives this morning. Had to go to the local blood draw lab and I wanted to be the first one there. They  open at 6:30. I was the second one there. But that’s probably because I didn’t rush myself. After all the sun was out and up and glorious. Not a cloud in the sky. Bliss.

Reaching the first stop sign, I had to wait for two vehicles.The second one made me ponder. It was a low riding street or drag car of some sort – all black. Like it just got its first undercoat and was right then being driven to a shop to be painted and detailed so as to inspire awe. If I hadn’t been on my way to see Dracula, I would have followed the guy to help him pick out the colors. Or not. Guys can be real funny about that stuff.

Being one of the few drivers on the road, the stillness of everything was delightful. I almost wished I were walking. There must have been a downy blanket of fog that had come over the land during the night and it was just dissipating as I moved along. Rolling down the country road I was able to see in the distance the Catskill Mountains nearly shrouded in that fog but reaching for the sun nonetheless. The streaky haze almost looked as though God himself had lit a fine cigar and blown silken smoke rings around the lofty peaks.

The perfection of my early morning trek to the lab had totally changed a half hour later as I made for home. (I got a nifty lime green arm wrap from the phlebotomist to show for my suffering – very cool). Anyway, the world had roused itself while I was chatting away trying very hard not to look at my blood filling her vials. The bank lawn was being mowed with a huge ride on mower. A little further down, at the elementary school, teachers were beginning to arrive and I knew the bus drivers were gearing up to begin their rounds to gather their young charges.The traffic circle was full of workers trying to beat each other to the jobs they all love. I could tell by the joy on their faces.

As I moved away from all this activity and got back onto the road leading to home, a barn swallow rose from the cover of some tall grass and swooped out to bebop alongside me for a few seconds. I smile and said “hello, birdie”. And then my driveway, hot coffee, and my breakfast – in that order – were calling to me and I was back at our little shack in the woods.

Yes sir, a Spring walk is a tonic, but sometimes a slow watchful drive is a pretty good substitute.

How has the season been treating you?

Image: Free Digital Photos