Oddments

In search of story


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August 4.19

Sometimes

if summer is old enough

and the leaves heavy with heat,

continuo of cicada

tricks me, and,

for so brief an instant,

I am back

in the time of bikes, grass prickles,

summer sleighbells of the ice cream man,

clothespin dolls,

clover braids,

a time when we had not yet heard of

mass shootings.

But it — that time — knew of nooses

of word and of rope.

To go back is to ask —

how could a country of lynchings

not become a country of mass shootings?

There is no perfect then.

 

 


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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.

 

 


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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

 


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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

 


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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.)

 

 


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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