Oddments

In search of story


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Connections: May 13.18

It’s that time again: time to get on my apostrophe soap box. It’s “Mother’s Day” all over the place, but I insist on “Mothers’ Day.” Not only is it a day to celebrate all mothers, but it’s also a day that’s been so homogenized and hysterialized that Mom is what Hallmark has made her. Mothers’ Day hysteria hits hard. Now — heaven help us — there are even pop-up ads to remind us we need to do more.

Back in the day, it was simpler: you snuck someplace and made a heart-rending card out of construction paper and erasures. And you went hanky-shopping with your dad. “Hanky” is short for “handkerchief,” a decorative, often beautiful, piece of cloth we used to blow our noses in. Or for our mothers to spit on and wipe some goo off our chins. Or (we were Catholic) to plop on your head if you were a hatless woman (gasp) entering a church. Hankies were nothing if not versatile.

One year my brother gave Mom the Hope Diamond of hankies, lacy, white, with a very elaborate embroidered “M” on it, much to her bewilderment (her name was Evelyn). What’s the M for? she asked naively. “M for Mom!” he replied, with some exasperation — why did she need to ask?

After Mom died, I threw out many things, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw out her hankies, which now live in a drawer upstairs. Including the one with the flowing regal “M.”

Whatever your memories for the day, dear reader, I hope there is a mom or a grandma in your heart, on the phone, or maybe across the table. Maybe even an old hanky in your pocket.

 

Connections

 

 

 

 

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Musings on wild life: February 1.18

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit!

That, as you may remember, was my mother’s incantation on the first of every month. I’m not sure why except for the twelve rabbits’ feet involved.

I am not enamored of rabbits, as you know if you’ve read my blog for a while. They are the garden’s Visigoths and nothing can withstand their onslaught. Here, in the wee hours of one winter morning, by the light of the lamppost, I spotted one of their kind. It was huge. And obviously reconnoitering. Duly noted, you furry pig!

I am equally not enamored of Canadian geese, as you also know from my blog. They, however, are enamored of this retention pond. Why Mother Nature, who came up with the song of the lark and the wren, invented the honk of the goose is explainable only in terms of her caustic sense of humor.

Then, of course, the ants. Oh, they keep on a-comin’. At first in my desk. Now along the baseboard and up through the furnace vent in the dining room. Yesterday I was out in the cold mud dousing the side of my new house with Home Defense. In January? Really?

Having lived in California, I know about ants, which there put earthquakes to shame in terms of intimidation. They come like an undertow and pull you to your knees.

But this is Indiana, which, though definitely ant-ridden, usually doesn’t let the little rotters out mid-winter.

And have you ever noticed how observing ants can make you itch?

Rabbit, rabbit, rabbit, dear reader!

 


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Connections: December 23.17

A plate of Christmas cookies

is so much more than that

it’s a serving of family history

forebears’ concordat

it’s Grandma’s recipe card

in her distinctive hand

it’s Mom’s poinsettia plate

generational ampersand

connecting younger fingers

with those gone long before

sweet and sticky memories

toothsome family lore.

 

 

Connections

 

 

 

 

 


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Connections: November 12.17

My bedroom. Eat your heart out, Martha Stewart.

And do I hear “been there, done that,” dear reader?

What I want to reflect on, though, isn’t the chaos. It’s the book on the bed. Throughout all this mayhem, I’ve spent a few minutes every night with this book. Fittingly, I finished it on Veterans’ Day.

The book is “Tail-End Charley,” by James E. Brown, who kept a journal during his time as an Army Air Corps pilot. A kid who grew up quickly in the skies over World War II. To me it was fascinating, not just for the story in it but for the story about it.

Jim Brown wrote a book based on his journal, but it wasn’t published. Fast forward to 2017. His son, Gary, a writer also, took that manuscript and made it happen. He and his wife, my writing mate Tamara, and their daughter, a graphic artist, did it. They self-published and this handsome paperback is the result.

It is very personal, not just because it is first-person, but because it is brought to the world by his family.

I never met Jim Brown, but, boy, do I feel as though I know him! Underneath his descriptions of planes and places flows his understated narrative about himself, subtle and steady. In my opinion, his understatement is consistent with his generation and when he allows us a glimpse into his own feelings its rarity makes for eloquence.

I recommend this book, not because I know and like Jim’s family (I do), and not because I love reading about war (I don’t), but because of the down-home skinny kid who reveals himself in it.

 


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Connections: October 22.17

I groped for the word: appalling? scary? astonishing? embarrassing? All the above?

This is one of two units in which the stuff of my life is stored. You know, dear reader: stuff? It isn’t life but it becomes life. Doesn’t it? It tells of people you miss. It tells of the daily. It’s the familiar, the comfortable, the personal.

It’s easy to disdain mere things. They are, after all, temporary. But they are also deeply a part of us. So I stand in absolute terror at the base of this mountain of things. It stretches floor to ceiling and wall to wall — in two units! What will I keep? What must go? How did this happen? What will I do about it all?

But, more important, what do I need? My writing mate Tamara is a minimalist. She and her husband have amazingly pared their life down to necessity. They have by example taught me to re-think ownership. That will enter into this. Also I think I’ve reached a time in life where the letting-go begins. Ironically, a holding-tight happens at the same time. I want to hold tight to memory even as I want to let go of the things that hold the memory.

Thus tension.

I might have a house to go to; I’ll know more in a few days. If so, the whittling begins. Look out for shavings!

 

 

Connections

 


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Connections: August 22.17

A solar eclipse

box of family stuff

we have to admit

it’s never close enough.

We search for the clues

whether cosmic or cousin

and sigh with unanswered

questions by the dozen.

 

This is my dear friend Donna, visiting. She is the one who gave me the concept of Connections and who lives the concept. She is visiting family and old friends and acquired a box of family history along the way. Pure awe.

Connections

 


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Connections: August 13.17

My family’s in the garden

the past grows ever green

my mom is in the phlox

most surely, though unseen

her dad in the tomatoes

my green-thumbed Grandpa Mauck

son of North Carolina

whose hills rolled in his talk

Grandma O’Hern in moss roses

her summer’s tried-and-true

her son, my dad, in marigold

(the only flower he knew!)

the dill for an unknown

its air a bit of mystery

but I know it figures somewhere

in my leafy family history

I don’t come (as they say) from money

I come more from dirt

so it’s good to feel them back

in horticultural concert.

 

 

 

Connections