Oddments

In search of story


3 Comments

June 16.19: Postcards from Emmy

Eyes up

or dead ahead

full-faced

uncorseted

youthful

 oaken vertebrae

steel-enforced

DNA.

Downcast eyes

will not attend

the future that

these two portend.

Fearless Girl times two

foreseeing

each steadfast

in her own being.

 

To all the dads who have given the world Fearless Girls, a very happy Fathers’ Day!

 

With thanks to the unnamed photographer,

to sculptor Kristen Visbal,

and, of course, to Emmy.

 

 


4 Comments

May 21.19

I grew up in northwest Indiana, just outside Chicago. “Da Region.” Steel mills and oil refineries, cinders and soot. And earthquaking freight trains. Charging, bellowing behemoths, lifeline of thriving industry, they snarled traffic with sadistic impunity.

Mindful that then our phones were back home, attached to a wall, you will understand that life stopped when those behemoths blocked our ways. So there was nothing like the excitement of spotting the caboose. Life could resume! What cheer to the soul! What revving of engines! Until it stopped in the middle of the crossing, taunting us with half a road.

The caboose had the power to make people happy or homicidal.

If you were a kid and lucky, you got to wave at the man in the caboose, and he would wave back. To be noticed by the genie in the caboose was high living tinged with envy: who wouldn’t want to live in a caboose?

Every once in a while, a caboose would show up in some incongruous place, like someone’s yard. Here was mystery. How did it get there? Is the genie still in it?

It was my early introduction to garden art. A caboose in a yard was never mundane. Nor was the occasional non-red caboose, like the jarring countercultural yellow.

As symbol of time and place, the caboose is nonpareil. And when the train is gone and the caboose stands alone in the quiet of clover and vine, what does the caboose tell of the old time and place? Since I am the caboose, I must ask and answer that question.

 

Many thanks to photographer D.J. Berg.

Part Three

 


4 Comments

May 19.19

In matters of parenting

we have to admit

some things beyond

our control and our wit:

whether two or two hundred,

one will get loose,

another will always

be the caboose.

 

 

If you know me, dear reader, you know I do not love these geese.

However, I have to grant they are occasionally hilarious.

 

PART ONE

 


4 Comments

May 12.19

I think they look huffy,

a bit high and mighty,

as though family life

is always this tidy.

I think it’s a ruse,

this complacent look,

a portrait for gloating

on their family Facebook.

Such serene air

is hardly the way

most parents spend

a usual day.

So here’s to reality,

mess by the ton:

a whole lot of work,

a whole lot of fun!

 

A happy day to all who mother!

(And, yes, some days the work:fun ratio is not stellar.)

 

 


6 Comments

April 28.19

The news makes me rabid. The endless rain makes me squishy in the head. Aging plagues me. And to make the world an even drearier place, our excellent local art supply store has been bought out and now closed by Michael’s. Another valued small business pulverized.

I dwell in the doldrums. My only hope is cookies. There is no other way to find good in the world.

In my childhood I learned about the good in cookies. Mom and Grandma O’Hern were cookie-bakers. Not that they didn’t bake other things, but they were believers in cookies, and thank goodness. A cookie fits in your hand so much more easily than a piece of pie or cake (though it’s quite possible to eat either from the hand if you aren’t too fussy).

Besides, there was “Raggedy Ann in Cookie Land,” one of my all-time favorite stories. Cookies that walked and talked and lived in a cookie house? You’d think such things would keep me from ever eating another cookie, but it didn’t work like that. It just added to the magic of cookies.

Maybe you also, dear reader, are driven to the doldrums by the news and by trying to deal with losses and worries in your own life. So I offer you my most favorite of favorite cookie recipes, my drug of choice, my portal to Nirvana. It is based on the old (not the current!) recipe for “Vanishing Oatmeal Cookies” on the Quaker Oats lid.

 

Better-Than-Phoebe’s Oatmeal Cookies

1 C. butter (no substitutes)

1 C. firmly packed brown sugar

1/2 C. granulated sugar

2 eggs

1 t. plus a tiny dribble Penzeys vanilla

1 1/2 C. all-purpose flour

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1 t. plus a pinch of Penzeys Korintje cinnamon

a few grinds of fresh nutmeg

3 C. Old-Fashioned Quaker Oatmeal (don’t be generous)

1 C. dark (not golden) Sun-Maid raisins

1/2-1 C. chopped dates (the best are the ones you chop yourself)

1/2 C. Heath toffee bits without chocolate (my grandchildren’s brilliant idea)

Whisk dry ingredients together. Beat butter and sugars, then add eggs and beat some more. Mix in vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well, then the oatmeal, raisins, dates and toffee bits. Dough will weigh a ton.

If possible, refrigerate dough at least overnight. Bake at 350 for about five minutes, then turn cookie sheet and bake another four minutes or so, depending on your oven. Cool on wire racks. Makes lots but never enough.

 

These are called “Better-Than-Phoebe’s” because of the episode of “Friends” wherein Phoebe says her oatmeal cookies are the best so she doesn’t bake them very often because it’s not fair to the other cookies.

I mention brand names so you will know exactly what I use.

If you want really chewy cookies, add coconut. Dark chocolate chips are another acceptable addition. However, such additions risk changing the nature of the oatmeal cookie, and that is unseemly to purists.

Wishing you homemade cookies, dear reader,

Maureen


10 Comments

April 2.19

I’ve been in California. Did I have fun? Was it a good time? Well, it’s complicated.

Both my sons, my daughter-in-law, and my grandchildren stood with me at my brother’s grave near a sun-crazed bloom of osteospermum. It was a beautiful day. As I walked away from the grave, I impulsively turned and said, “Bye, LB.” (He was LB and I was BS.) I felt awful. (Full disclosure: my brother and I spent our childhoods trying to kill each other. I do not wish to give the impression of lifetime sibling bliss.)

Then to his house so I could see it one last time. To our astonishment, the insides were being ripped out; it seemed the new owner had been granted permission to start renovations before closing was official. I think we scared the daylights out of her, a bunch of strangers led by my 6’5″ second-born. But then came explanations and introductions and a heady dose of her infectious excitement. Lots of hugs.

She invited us to go through, but I declined. I didn’t resent the changes but I wanted to remember his home in all its beigeness the way it had been. Everyone else explored the gutted insides. I visited his stalwart rose, that would live, no matter what he didn’t do.

The new owner commented on the sense of peace she felt in the place. The grave was still with me, but now also a happy sense of renewal. Complicated.

IMG_2018

Then legal and financial complications. All confusing to me, but, fortunately, not to my younger son. I leaned on him heavily. And on my new cane. I did not feel young! In the midst of it all, he took me to two art museums. My brain, entangled in the mesh of practicalities, struggled valiantly to adjust to the abstract and erudite. Complicated.

LA traffic was worse than ever. I’ve never been a city person, and the way of the city is but dirty mayhem and claustrophobia to me. It wears me down and depresses me. I felt mechanized.

My son’s friends invited me to dinner. A group of 40-somethings on a rooftop in the hills overlooking Los Angeles with — yes! — Emmy! I got to meet Emmy! I could see that the future is in good hands — and what wonderful calm amid the treetops away from the city!

Late in the week, as we sought the Santa Monica Post Office, I spied the Pig Jig. It hit my funnybone in a most unexpected way. As a usual thing, I am not particularly drawn to pigs, let alone when they’re dancing, but these three seemed to insist that they had a place in my week.

 

Life goes on? No, I don’t think so. We search for words to band-aid the loss, but the loss remains. Each of us feels it and fears it in his or her own way. It’s human. And there’s nothing more complicated than being human.

Our homecoming was marked by a bracing faceful of snowy air. Ah, spring in Indiana! What a finale!

If you have read to this last, dear reader, you have my thanks. This is by far the longest post I’ve ever written. In part, I wanted to explain my absence. But, as you well understand, I also turn to words to help me.

 

With thanks to photographer Patrick Mesterharm for the photo of me in the Kusama sculpture at the Marciano.

And thanks also to photographer Kelley Wilson Mesterharm for the official photo of the stalwart rose.

 


7 Comments

March 5.19

Of all the rites of spring

as sure as tulip spear

the forty days of Lent

anchored budding year.

Forsaking sweets (so saintly!)

with purpled liturgies

we plodded ash-benighted

with callouses on knees.

Fish and macaroni

— with a ho, for purgatory! —

we loved and gobbled up

in pleasure gustatory,

and through the season’s sackcloth

on temptation’s slippery brink

cinnamony hot cross buns,

penitential wink.

I laugh at memories ancient

and admonishments infernal

but I don’t laugh at the lesson

that spring can be internal.

 

 Whatever your traditions, dear reader,

may Shrove Tuesday bring you spring!

 

With more thanks to photographer S.W. Berg.