Occasional letters from a prodigal daughter back on the prairie (Achoo!)
Apr 29, 2009:
120 YEARS AGO
"Four insane patients ar-
arrived at Oak Lawn Retreat
yesterday from Colorado."
120 years later -- no need to recruit from afar -- we're all nuts here!
Grab a cuppa and read on...
LAST DAY OF APRIL
As soon as the big snow started
disappearing a few weeks ago-- without pooling, it was explained,
ground never froze--skenes of geese called on their way north.
Amazing. Day and night I hear their calls. Here I am, heavy
with winter, yet hear come the geese! As blue gray as I've been,
I'm going to miss the season of hibernation. It's excellent
The other night I went off to hear Dr. Wolf talk at the library about Lincoln's (The Lincoln--Abraham) contemporary, Koerner. Sounded good to me! All of seven of us showed up (including the speaker). I took note of Dr W's spikey hair. Instead of combing the last of his hair up and over--Dr W is way too practical to worry about hair--it was cut short around his bald head. Looked good to me.
This weekend I finally visited Sal's country church--11 of us, including the pastor. The stained glass was everything I'd been told. But my eyes kept jumping from the windows to a head of gravity defying hair. An older gent had combed his hair from the bottom up and over, leaving an interesting bald circle behind for me to wonder what might attach there! Although hair can be interesting, second to the beautiful windows, were the amazing super broad shoulders of an older faded blond man 2 rows ahead. Visions of a blacksmith pounding red hot iron danced in my head. Shoulders like that I hadn't seen for decades, stuffed into a black and white checked shirt with suspenders. Not the hunched shoulders of weight lifters, but old fashioned, 3-D farmer shoulders. A wife with big hair sat beside. The yoga teacher in me was drop jawed and my mind ran wild.
Two lights on each side of a ceiling fan lit the church. The day was gray and showery. My stomach growled--my 2nd service for the morning-- as did rolls of thunder. Rain splattered. Afterwards I met nearly everyone and tried taking photos of the windows but refrained from standing on pews. Sometimes a gray day is good for light. Excused self to find the local cemetery. Neither rain nor snow is keeping me from photographing tombstones these days--my escape from cabin fever--I guess. A bit dark and wet for some stones, however I had a jolly time squooshing around, and found maybe 1/3 of the stones on the request list.. As I got in the car to leave, saw the distant silhouette of a critter watching from a bare field. Binoculars revealed Coyote.
Having been captivated for years by Edgar Lee Masters and his Spoon River anthology, and deeply affected by Wilder's Our Town--both of which I believe I encountered after leaving the Midwest--perhaps it was inevitable, I'd be comfortable wandering among the dead, pondering that thin veil and stories above and below.
Steamed broccoli and carrots with Sally crowned a wonderful Sunday on the prairie.
I'll do most anything to get myself to exercise. When the machine room where I enjoyed reading while I stepped (but loathed the tvs) became dreadfully hot last summer, began spending more time in the weight room. It's agreeably cool, crowded with rusty basic equipment, though the floor and a few ripped benches were recently been replaced. (Never thought anything was wrong with the old floor, but no one asked.)
Takes a rather high degree of mindfulness to negotiate the maze of benches and bars jutting out. When I stop in late mornings, most of the fellows don't mind if I take the edge off the radio volume (generally the oldies station). Lately no "Christian" has yelled at me for lowering the volume and turned the Christian station even louder. In loose plaid pants and tank top decorated with colorful frogs, I zigzag to the back of the room, slip between machines, face a mirror, and try to get myself to do qigong standing. Goal: 15 minutes of stillness (accomplished occasionally). Either because of the current economy or new competition, few others stop in. Sometimes I take advantage of being alone, walking meditatively through the machines, "opening and closing" arms with each step.
Usually I have at least part time company.
Evidently I'm a bit ADD. Watching bodies and overhearing banter keeps me standing when I might quit. I love studying alignment and how bodies move. Several friendly young fellows are regulars, along with law enforcement men (retired and nearing). While they run through their routines, I stand "like a post", or isolate repetitive tai chi moves like "cloudy hands" of "brush pony". Working in pairs, the men often chatter and gossip, ignoring me. Terrifically entertaining while I'm supposed to be holding still. When the jokes or cracks get out of line, I pick up my swimsuit and bag and announce, "Whoops, time to leave".
Other women come in occasionally, serious young workout gals--a prison guard or student.
This week I was extra entertained listening to officers discuss what they anticipate their wives cooking for Thanksgiving. When the junior officer (whose smooth lifts of the bar especially impress me) confessed his wife doesn't cook, I cringed as I anticipated responses. Lured by the subject matter, a roving custodian paused and offered the classic retort, "You need to teach her to cook". I was interested that the subject was ignored among happily married men.
Much time was devoted to detailing and comparing sweet potato and pumpkin pie. As a cranberry lover, I was surprised to hear raves about cranberries. When the officer with no cook wife said he didn't like cranberries, the men turned on him until I heard him say "Maybe he ought to try 'em". I was floored: when was the last time I heard anyone say they'd be willing to try something they didn't think they liked! I'm his secret admirer in the corner.
Need I mention, the bellies on all of us in the room that day cross thresholds first? A couple of young fellows who work out have wasp like waists--almost a thing of the past in Illinois! A few young ones have excellent posture, something I really, really admire. Mostly we enjoy Thanksgiving all year and it shows.
I particularly enjoy the wisdom of several mature men who workout regularly, who have given me shoulder ideas, beyond the conventional just work harder! Most of these men know their muscles and workouts well, something I appreciate.
As for my take on that favorite Thanksgiving subject--cranberries--which ran simultaneously during the officers conversation in the weight room--on this 4th (I think) Illinois Thanksgiving... This was the first Thanksgiving I remember since the 1970s that I did not chop or cook cranberries. Started making Beard's raw horseradish cranberry relish in the late 1970s and never stopped. Ever since acquiring the Vegetarian Epicure while working at Denver Public Library, early 1970s, I've also cooked up cardamom cranberries. Brought both cranberries to any gathering, whether or not I was asked. (Often they went home with me, untouched, while canned berries triumphed.)
However, since returning to the prairie, Thanksgiving has changed. Not only do people no longer cook much but families and definitions of "friends" have changed. Wish I had a list of where I've spent Thanksgiving since moving west--all the total strangers who've included me in all the different places (Salt Lake city, Grand Junction, Seattle?); a dozen or more agreeable Bellingham Thanksgiving gatherings where we all cooked and washed dishes and I stayed a night or two; a couple where I cooked... I remember food, people, slide shows, after dinner walks...)
Fortunately or unfortunately this year my strongest memory of Tgiving 2009 is likely to be Stan explaining his ear wax project. If I'm not mistaken, he lives to offend. I laugh inappropriately; Stan likes to gross folks out. Who's perfect! Delighted he can hear better; can't knock self care! But that's my memory.
Nevertheless I'll keep looking for an ear trumpet.
Being such a grinch, hate to admit I rather enjoyed Halloween this year. Hung basket of peanuts-in-shell on front door (cynics: porch light on) with help yourself sign. Headed off to the symphony Halloween concert that promised symphony and audience in costume. I'd managed to find (minor miracle) the mask I got while living in Seattle. And the feathers hadn't disintegrated-- 20 years later. With black cape and pants, I was off to sit in the balcony on a beautiful crisp full moon evening, after weeks of soggy rain.
The first thing I noticed was a policewoman at the timpani! So convincing, decided she was the real thing. (Not so.) Concert started with Bach's classic organ toccata. Then the conductor stepped out of a casket, swishing an attractive black and red cape, which he abandoned shortly explaining it cramped his movement. (He needz to werk on hez transylvanian accent!) Although I couldn't keep my eyes off the policewoman, slowly I recognized the slip of congregational woman violinist wearing desert storm camouflage, complete with pants tucked in boots. Probably one of those peaceniks--perfect! Who would have thunk it. After a while, recognized the mormon cellist in surgery gear--from spacey gaiter booties to head cover; by second half the white coat was off (too hot I'm sure). The small fellow playing first violin (presumably a guest professional) sported a tidy set of wings.
From Witchcraft to Night on Bare Mountain, Danse Macabre, Berlioz' part 4 March to the Scaffold in Symphony Fantastique, Batman theme... I couldn't hold still during Phathom of the Opera medley!
Another high point. At half time when I walked to the main floor, what to my wondering eyes did appear but the insufferably pompous retired teacher who can't lower himself to attend local productions donned out as a near perfect Rumpole, in barrister's wig and gown. Personally I'd rather have ale with real Rumpole than our own ill tempered clone, however, it was an excellent show (he took home first). (Later I learned the secret to the unexpected gift of his presence was a free ticket; though I'm inclined to believe the opportunity to dress up was the real thing. Now we've got his number!)
Turns out wearing a mask suited me; too bad it tickled so! I usually sit alone; everyone busy with friends, why not be incognito? and let folks try to bait me to talk. Since I'm in the midst of the sniffs, all the more reason not to open my mouth and start coughing.
My opinion--the symphony never looked or sounded better (like Rumpole-for-the-night, I've been known to wince repeatedly). Alas came home without my dark Italian shawl. Retraced steps from balcony to car, no sign of it. Trick or Treat! Maybe I'll run an add in the college paper...
What happened to fall!? Moved off the porch and almost immediately brought out the down comforter. (Now I can't find the seamseal for the new tent.) Spent our 2-1/2 days of Indian summer, waiting for tax phone calls, much like the kettle that never boils. So tonight on the way home, just as it turned dark, parked at the laundromat and walked a loop in the old neighborhood. Looked in vain for the new moon. How can one lose a moon! Lost in trees and scattered clouds I guess.
With sudden warm days, gobs of "Lady Bugs" appeared. (We're told they're beetles disguised as lady bugs.) Whatever they are, they're everywhere. Somehow I hoped we weren't going to have them this year! Don't recall them as a child--ahh, an import! Pick them off the white bedspread I added to the front window to darken the bedroom another notch. Tidy people are probably going nuts. Being a camper pays off. I flick them off without much drama, though I winced to find beetle wing under the covers this morning. Wish they weren't inside but they beat raccoons, now that I think of it, and ticks hands down. (Recent police report: raccoon fell through roof into occupied room.)
Jag brought home a church pie and offered to share (he knew I hadn't been invited to the gourmet party the other night.) Decided to bring zucchini linguini along as a pre-pie offering. Picked up Jag at school where he mentioned he'd invited cat consultant girlfriend. Whatever. Ended up recommending they start a 12 step cat dependent program in the neighborhood. Though dinner was appreciated ("great broccoli and onions" --hadn't used either), the true focus of the evening was the successful relief of the constipated cat, achieved in moments by switching to designer litter. Why me--must I be surrounded by the pet crazed! Yup. This was no Garrison Keillor skit, but my life.
It was foolish of me to fish for interest in an orphan thanksgiving in front of these family folks. For his amusement, Jag suggested I invite notoriously unpleasant married couples. Shudda forgone apricot pie and dropped the rascal at his door and gone straight home! Oh that I weren't such a sucker for homemade pie. Food!--the root of all evil! As Jag and friend practiced making fun of their new target, she/target, gathered up pans and left over farmers market tomatoes and savoy cabbage, and headed out, reminding herself how much she loves small town life. She does? (As one of my buddies moans--time to get a life!! Indeed.)
Hate to see the farmers market finish. It's been glorious and now it's pumpkin, squash and apple time. One of my favorite sellers is resourceful fellow willing to sell anything that can't out run him. He offered the first purple grapes I've had since childhood, or so it seems. Juiced 'em and went to heaven. Still haven't had a hard frost.
This afternoon we seniors sang at coach Mary's mom's nursing home. I was pleased to see a couple of water exercise class gals, one now also living at the home. Several of the tough singers in the back row, enjoyed watching me sit and jump up from a very wet chair. Moved over with the men. Coach was in good form, walking well again--yeah! Between songs, she presented grand stories.
Evidently we do what it takes to get through tough times, others be hanged. I oughta know. I snap, crackle and pop regularly. Why oh why didn't I run away to the convent (and find the same lessons waiting). Ha! I'm impressed by current stories of iron willed folks exploding at each other. It's tempting to use the cliché "mild mannered elders", but it's rarely the case; most are fierce. How often these days I/we get to make the decision whether to take three breaths, or snap and let it rip. Touchy times.
Speaking of elders/nonogenarians, been making calls to learn if I can be helpful to mom's old birdwatching friend Barb. Seems I can't. If she doesn't want a power of attorney, so be it, it'll all work out. This newcomer will learn yet.
I love reading local columns by the regional Mark Twain. Freida has a way of putting things in perspective, just in the nick of time, that I appreciate no end. They're my idea of a insightful ramblings with humor. Look forward to the upcoming indigenous play by said story teller. (Why am I so surprised that the center of recidivist religious and social life here, who specializes in sharing contentious news, scorns the bard he won't read?)
Something tells me, despite predictions, almanacs and caterpillars, it's gonna be a long winter. After all, it started way early. Just received a query about sharing yoga with a support group come April. April? As in next year, 2010?? Who knows who'll still be around? We may have done each other in, like overcrowded rats! More likely, upended like overstuffed turkeys from so many church dinners! They're well underway!
Whata mild summer. Boy did those whose remaining brain cells melt in the heat luck out! Of course, others "froze". (I always shuddered at the sign in Boise saying something like "Never Fear, Heat is Near".)
Need I mention it's a heck of a wild world these days? (Of course, not all agree.) One of the inmates here (I refer to the entire town as the state hospital) is oblivious--"What do you mean by crazy world", she says.
Didn't start sitting on the back porch until well into the summer, but when I did, I fully relocated, blissfully enjoying the glider, hours at a time. Initially started going through boxes from the garage but that didn't last long. Loved listening to unprecedented rainfall.
More or less stayed home 'til the end of August, save jaunts to surrounding counties, plus one to IN to meet cousin Ann for the first time since toddler hood. (Noted a dandy lake to put the kayak in some year.) Genealogy prowls are still my main excuse for visiting central Illinois courthouses. Love those midwest oaks, rivers and valleys, as one goes east.
I know it's a crazy world, because after years of safe driving I've been clobbered twice on the main drag. Once from behind, last time T boned on the right side. Although I felt kinda lousy, laughed when I thought I recognized the officer. When I asked if we hadn't just met, he said he files hundreds of reports. I WILL no longer drive on Morton. Real jumpy now. Though the body shop fellow I'm getting to know thought the toyota might be totaled, heard yesterday the check is in the mail. Doors and leaks to be fixed. Again. Starting to look for a prius--the RAV's a few miles from 200,000-- and staying off Morton..
Whenever I can, I put the tent up in eastern IL to listen to night sounds. Don't remember the occasion, but there must have been a chance of rain 'cause I pulled on the gooey rainfly, stuck to the tent, to spread it, when the tent began splitting in rows and I knew it was the end of an era. Deeply offended--absolutely love "Cloudy Hands" as I named the tent! Only used about 20 years! No replacing, I learned; apparently dome tents are "out" of fashion. Ended up with a biker tent, as in motorcycle, that may do the trick.
Since I purchased the new tent from an unfamiliar store, figured I'd better try it out on the back deck. Ended up moving in for the rest of the summer, putting rainfly on and taking off daily (for both bird and rain protection), drying bedding often, since it continues to rain. Sleep so much better outdoors. Alas the tent is red and can be seen from the street, not to mention neighbors....
Summer got better when I moved outside.
Also a wonderful summer for ants. I've "fed" them all summer on the kitchen windowsill. Only a few weeks when they weren't parading. Perhaps the rain? Hate to have the whole house sprayed.
Off traveling some this month. Thought I'd missed Cruise Night, but no, it was tonight, so I stayed in--still recall blundering into it on Morton, of course, another Sept. Earlier today I'd gone to the Steam Show to see coal and gas fed engines saw lumber; to eat beans and wander in the mud. Allegedly between the Steam Show and Cruise Night, Jax population doubles. I'll dash back tomorrow to see if I can get more sorghum for those who don't like mud. Good exercise? Ran into Steve who it turns out is an antique hawk; slogged slowly around the giant flea market. He snapped up an intriguing WW2 watercolor, saying You Wouldn't Understand, one of his favorite dismissals--maybe true, maybe not. Grrr. While he caught his breath, we chatted with the trader. I admired her remarkably easily crossed legs--no back problems, she affirmed. She and S. swapped smoker and COPD stories, meds and treatments. Steve advised her re: medicare. Coal smoke drove him home.
Fall means Met broadcasts start soon! Yeah. Today I was disgusted that the breakfast group heavies somehow managed to snigger about sex nearly the entire time. Why me! Happens more often than I like to admit. The ring leaders never tire of their same claims and jokes. Mind you, we're all social security drawing seniors (except for a young twosome who keep mum at such times). Eventually someone managed to derail the dirty minded seniors going on like grade schoolers who think they're shocking rather than b-o-r-i-n-g) by bringing up the upcoming scandalous new Tosca production. Thank you! Possibly we were ripe for anything!
Time to turn in! 'night!
... Essentially everything is pretty much the same here--I'm fat, moody, busy, genealogizing, happy, depressed, lonely, crowded and overwhelmed, same same. (Never bored.) Life is good enough. I have shelter (G. added attic fan); more food than I can eat in a lifetime; more clothes than I could wear in 10 lifetimes. Restless about church. Write a lot; read a bit. Visit a couple of folks who aren't well. Otherwise it's all about me, something I'm not terribly comfortable with. Write 2 prisoners (try as I do, keep getting them confused). Miss the West terribly; enjoy people and history here enormously. Like coach Mary announces at the end of singing: "We're done singing". I'm done writing.
Have I mentioned becoming a regular "at the opera"! Right here in no river city (more or less). Bumped into a woman in TX this winter who waxed eloquent about The Met's live broadcasts and thought, ha--check that out when I get back. There's been a click ...urrh group going over to Springfield for months now. Why wait forever to be included? Seeing "Turnandot" at Santa Fe Opera years ago (recall only losing the coral bracelet I finally dared wear, and taking along a light wool shawl from mom), and a regional production of Madame Butterfly in Durango CO (with an Auduboner in the chorus), are the sum total of my exposure to live opera. Fondly remember dear Bellingham friend Barbara listening religiously to The Met Saturday afternoons. Try as I have, time and again I turn off the radio when it's opera. However, loving music, esp vocal, as I do, why not crash the party?
Knocked cold by Lucia di Lammermoor. Beside myself to "discover" Bel Canto. Where have I been! Thank you, passing stranger in TX.
Been a "regular" at the opera ever since. What a winter bonus! Everyone insists these shows are live, however they look like movies to me. That's how unsophisticated I am. (Ever since I saw The Emperor's New Clothes at Mac as a kid, no one's slipped anything over on me. Movie to me.) (No Idea what HD is.)
Not that I'm invited to carpool. I'm usually already in Springfield for meditation, just head west down Wabash to the theater.
As the weather warms, the theater's less crowded. The Jacksonville contingent is still strong. It's heavily episcopalian, save (ha ha) one Muslim and one undecided/uncertain (me). When the theater was crowded, we sat in clumps according to differently able. Now that the crowd's thinned, we scatter all over the theater almost as though we've never seen each other before. Jon who doesn't see well, always sits in a first row. Sometimes with Stephan, depending on his (S's) physical stamina. Jane hobbles up the aisle on bad knees. Kathy who doesn't see at all, sits happily in the top back row or where Chas escorts the heavy (church) benefactors on either side of him. It's an seriously elderly, peculiar crowd.
Today was the most entertaining layout yet. (I) scampered (I wish) up the stairs, ahead of the crowd, choosing the middle of the 3rd row from the top row, which included a sour local character I'm beginning to recognize to my left. He was joined by friends of my parents. I beckoned to Dave, particularly, to join me, without response. Just below me sat Carrie; below her, Dave. John2 sat alone yet another row down. Never did notice where the recent chemo returnee sat. Sometimes folks attempt to talk across the rows, though most are among the hearing or torso twisting challenged. I attempted to talk up to Kath, but she, as always, was deep in conversation. Impossible to snag that woman.
In my enthusiasm for the final opera of the season, forgot I was v. short of sleep. La Cenerentola was just beginning, when I heard my esteemed neighbor's (several seats left) hearing aid squeal and considered moving. The next thing I knew, I awoke, breathing uhh heavily, as in snoring. Wince--my poor neighbors below! Deep seats and lights off was irresistible. Before falling asleep a second time, heard snoring a few rows down. Can't expect anyone to believe I've literally been sitting on the edge of my sleep--darn--SEAT--with enthusiasm during the other performances (except when I closed my eyes in order to adjust to a 50 year old woman playing 15 year old Madame Butterfly... just a brief snooze.) Later, as I apologized to Carrie just below; she confessed she too had lost consciousness-- only momentarily she explained. I knew better. Others flatly denied sleeping, which makes the snores all the funnier.
At half time, as I call it, a clearly annoyed woman quickly moved out of the dorm. Don't blame her; I was sincerely embarrassed by my zzzzs. Hadn't chosen my seat with sleep in mind.
Ok, ok, another opera just came to mind-- slept through Mozart's entire Magic Flute in Seattle. Walked into the auditorium, saw the gray scenery and costumes and was out for the evening. Hence, not on resume of operas seen.
To add to the surreal experience of watching The Met in central IL, in a theater lightly scattered with folks, I was sure I was seeing a red dot glowing on a head. Finally determined-- not a reflection. Some kind of headphone gear or hearing implant??
By the second act I was rested, fully engaged. The audience children didn't go off until the final amazing group sings (whatever they're properly called). Their crying was mostly drowned out by sopranos, tenors and baritones. Whoever would inflict a 3 hour opera on little kids???? We are indeed a crazy people.
I was moved by the short black tenor prince winning beautiful blond Cinderella (not that I approve of blondes). I'd fallen in love with both voice and personality of the black tenor in "The Audition". Still haven't fully recovered from learning young Brian only lived another year after his stunning success. No!
Afterwards I walked in the woods at Washington Park before heading back to the barn, as it were, to hear Prairie Home Companion, my Saturday 5pm date for years now. Tried out the swing on the back porch. Yup, the next thing I knew I was waking up, but without disturbing others this time. Really missed that night of sleep.
Look forward to next winter--Tosca, Aida, Der Rosenkavalier, Les Contes de Hoffmann...
Time to sleep in the right place!! 'Night now...
Can so easily wile away hours writing that I have to hold myself back each winter! Small towns are veritable gold mines of stories if one's easily entertained like I am. Two weeks ago the big news was a septuagenarian running into Dairy Queen (drove forward instead of back). Verified this. One of the hazards of my rare health kicks (walking 'round community park) is passing DQ. Waited a whole year for the annual March special-- mint oreo blizzard-- to return. Detoured across the street--saw the bashed in wall--picked up an oreo blizzard and put on 1000 calories as I walked around the park. Not fair.
Been angry and cranky 'bout this weight biz. Seems one has to give up everything, the rest of one's life, in order to battle hulkdom. I'm haunted by the memory of the slight elder I met last fall who eats nothing whatsoever the day she has strawberry shortcake at September's Chatauqua. Clear evidence life isn't fair. I'm furious at the idea of giving up food. How American can one get! Got the winter crankies pretty bad this month.
I like it cold and nasty, the way I feel! Everyone else is whining about the weather. Suits me to a T.
The other evening I noticed a vegetable soup benefit for the prairie museum. My spirits lifted at the thought of a healthy soup social. (Couldn't interest the Friday night fish fry regulars.) Although I sat with "strangers", before I'd fully squeezed in, several of us recognized each other. My elderly neighbor on the right--a classic ageless farm woman--stunned me with easy friendliness and perfect hearing!
Passed up the dinner sandwich and had soup.... Was half way through (soup), when my young neighbor on the left pointed to the (obvious) hamburger. We smiled-- midwest vegetable soup--soup with vegetables v. soup without vegetables. Heartland this may be, but menu wise, the area is not all that vegetable friendly outside french fries and green beans. Before I left, I fished lemon filling out of a large piece of (commercial) lemon pie.
One needs a will of iron to lose weight in this region of fried foods and mega desserts!
Surely I can find news not linked to food! Wait, wait, maybe this.
The usual history buffs headed to the college one evening when a historical sociologist came to town. I wrote a classmate:
Since everyone sits on the ends of rows, blocking others from getting in, I waddled across the entire row to sit by a familiar but ferocious, bright eyed, fellow recidivist (as I call those of us who moved back to town). She returned to town 'bout the same time I did-- after being away even longer than me--60 years! Looking down her aristocratic nose at the rest of us who haven't (lived), she likes to say, "I've REALLY lived." I'm sure she has. Enjoy her 'cause she's wild about history.
Because Mrs. Mayflower (who cares!) has Indiana roots, I mentioned I was looking for the IN marriage of a preacher gggfather. "Go down to the church here, and push, push, push. You've got to push people to find things!" she reminded me. Right. Heard the lecture before. Imagined myself throwing a tantrum down at The Church, folks paying no attention at all. Why should they. Perhaps for a Mayflower descendant they'd ask how high to jump?
A local prof (short and bearded) introduced the speaker. Referring to Prof. Beard, the aristocrat turned and hissed, "Sure wouldn't wanna meet him in a dark alley". (I rather like Prof. Beard.)
Clamped my jaw tight. My mind was practically shouting, "Wouldn't want to meet YOU (meaning Mrs. Mayflower) in a dark alley!!!" Give me a bearded prof anytime over a fierce elder.
If I'd thought aloud, Mrs. MF wouldn't have heard. Like ever so many of us here, my fellow recidivist is fairly hard of hearing. (Not me, I come from a line of CIA quality listeners.) The evening got funnier. The speaker was so far from the microphone, I knew half the gray heads couldn't hear a word. Early on, on behalf of the elders I announced loudly, "Can't hear!" (not being a pusher, I didn't yell), cupped hand by ear, etc. No dice. The students behind suggested we move forward (pretty sharp, eh?) If I hadn't been blocked in, I might have fearlessly gone up and spoken to Prof. Beard.
Unable to hear, Mrs MF began reading the speaker's book. After 20 minutes I realized the speaker wasn't going to get to the subject so I sashshayed back across the row and headed home. Students were happily text messaging. Everyone happy, I guess. No one listening.
Life in Jax. Watch out for old ladies in dark alleys.
A few weeks later I seized another opportunity to hear Burlingame speak on his Lincoln research. He knew how to use a microphone and how to say a lot in a short time. Stunning. A faculty friend clarified that our expensive "luncheon" tickets were for the speaker (not the meal). Luncheon turned out to mean lunch meat, soup and potato chips). Having kept myself away from potato chips for several weeks, I couldn't hold back.
dreaming of asparagus, baked vegetables, fresh spinach, beets, and of course new peas. Must be time for spring!!
Mid January: Digging out of winter hibernation to drive south, get to know new country. Is it really warmer where everyone's heading? Last winter I swore I'd take a break--here it is. Really cold, yet I drag my feet. How can I pack up to leave, when one thing leads to another! Not only does the threat of travel inspire me to do what I shudda-- laundry, cmas cards, dishes, endless unfinished projects--there's stuff I absolutely gotta do to leave--organize plants for absentee watering; stock up on engine oil; chose music, books, magazines, books on "tape"/CDs; find extra cigarette lighter adapter. Assemble food box; print maps.
Keen to sew together the wool sweater I quit knitting in the early '80s. Found crazed knitter willing to finish my unfinished project. How much did it cost? Our lips are sealed. Finishing will have to wait 'til the return.
Veni, vidi, vici. Back from The South. Two weeks later, can barely remember I was warm for a week, swam outside (Austin), wore t-shirt, camped comfortably under the stars, read by candle light. Loved visiting Austin's designer grocery store--mint malt balls--yum yum--and other delicacies (most of which probably looked better than they were). Still dream of the case of gelato. Possibly I'm in a lighter mood, able to tell days are longer. Rested deeply. However, as soon as I opened the overdraft I was more or less back to same old, same old.
Back home, falling into habit up picking up supper in take out styrofoam from the tiny catering biz across from the grocery store we had our first popsicles as kids. Last week I looked at the set of savory dollops of beiges--smothered pork chop, corn, cheesy potatoes, plus cool whipped fruit cocktail and thought: home--love it or leave it. Not a green leaf in sight. Don't let my Seattle friends see this! (Hold on, belly!!) Fall progress with TOPS vanished over the holidays.
Over the years, eating out has become the main way to socialize winters. Last week, locker room chums met for lunch one noon, another noon, high school class mates. The highlight of the classmates get together was the fight in the parking lot, right by my car. Cops had arrived by the time I took my camera to the window, and handcuffs were on. (Later, I was chagrined that I didn't pray first.) The scuffle in the parking lot says a lot about how challenging both winter and the economy is right now. Lotta us on edge.
One January genealogy Saturday turned into a long one. At the local library met another crazed long time researcher I'd heard about. She tells stories of her Portuguese family, but, of course, doesn't write 'em up like I think she oughta. Time rolled as I listened. Vowed to get back with her to write up her fine stories. Imagine a mom holding Saturday etiquette classes for the kids!! Yet another unrecorded living treasure, right here in No River City. Ahh, the past; I'm in the right place.
Slowly, slowly I get to know "neighbors". The other morning at the Y, a social dam broke, for a moment, and several of us talked openly in the weight room. K struggled to show this highly disconnected body/mind (me) shoulder strengtheners--how uncoordinated I am! Hear, but can't follow. When I saw K at the wall, I was soon demo-ing alignment. Fun to swap expertise. No speeding up Getting To Know You.
I sense a lot of us were affected, directly and indirectly, by the January suicide of a treadmill buddy. I will always seeing him listening to books in the machine room. And miss his warm, devilish smile and wave. Always. A lot of us feel cheated that he's not growing old with us.
Last Sunday night I had what I refer to (though not to faces) as the widows and orphans group over for supper, about 18 of us. All week I hauled stuff out of the main rooms to the back porch or back room. Put leaves in table; borrowed others. Set places with all the silverware I had, then moved to plastic. Emptied much of hall closet for coats. One thing led to another of course, as I dug out bowls and pots. End of week began soaking beans, cooking soups, grumbling to myself about how picky we all are. Maybe seniors have earned the right to demand this and that, and leave food on their plates!?? Recalled gloomingly all the prime food left on plates to throw out, when I did something similar 2 years ago--precious home canned tomatoes!! Not appreciated. It's all "just food". Home cooking appreciators these folks are not. Nor are they clean plate clubbers. Just because I slaved over the stove and sink, who am I to tell elders to try something before they take a lot and I end up throwing it out! We sure live in the land of too much.
With everyone's help, the evening went well. To my surprise, several women brought side dishes that fit well; one Lutheran, a hostess valentine's gift!! One never ever knows about folks, that's for sure. Folks didn't hurry off. What's to do in February? Two long tables socialized. Nan scooped my gingerbread by bringing cake, which folks always prefer. However, that was a blessing; the gingerbread turned out to be pudding, in the oven long after the cake was served, delicious to the couple of us who tried it.
I was assertive this time about everyone staying away from the dishes and dishwasher. Appreciated that Jan folded up her borrowed tables while I was escorting elders out to cars. After everyone left, leisurely loaded and ran dishwasher twice, as I listened to Christmas carols. Then collapsed into bed early, unable to stand up another moment. How people host big dinners effortlessly is utterly beyond me.
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