Oddments

In search of story


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January 8.18

This conflagration, dear reader, was my birthday cake last night. Today is the actual date (yes, me and Elvis), but last night was the family do. What makes this flaming cake blog-worthy is the arrangement along the far arc of it. If you look closely and use just a little imagination for the emoji candles, you will see (I’ve no doubt) that the 1001011 is my birthday in binary. My family, ladies and gentlemen! Undeterred by the lack of a 7 and a 5, they devised a binary 75! I seemed to be the only one at the table to be slow on the pick-up. Yes, yes, I know what “binary” means, but it is hardly where my brain goes when I don’t have the right candles!

You may note the second cake. My daughter-in-law, in all other ways an exemplary person, does not like frosting. So there is always an angel food cake for her. Full disclosure: no one objects to having a piece with her.

Now to real life: I lay me down last night after a full day which followed one of those rotten sleepless nights. Of course I couldn’t fall asleep. This is partly age, partly my lifelong struggle with insomnia, partly too much binary cake. After about an hour, I drifted off. At 1:20 I was awakened by chirping. Yes, chirping! One of these wretched alarms was chirping! Which one, and what would I do about it in this new house?

You may know, dear reader, that any venture in the wee hours starts with a trip to the bathroom, and that’s where I saw all the blood in my mouth. How long had that been going on? I rinsed and spit and spit and rinsed. It’s this blasted HHT, as you may know if you’ve read my blog for long. It took a few shaky minutes to stop it.

The bleeding stopped but not the chirping. There I was, at 1:30 in the morning, atop a ladder at the top of the stairs, feeling woozy and not at all patient. I couldn’t figure out anything about the rotten thing. So it continued its own happy-birthday song to me. And it continues now with its soothing beepathon.

And so begins my 75th birthday. I have broken my rule of the 300-word blog post limit, which I have abided by almost unfailingly. But it’s my birthday and I’ll write if I want to.

 

 

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Connections: December 12.17

My last two kitchens had islands

the ultimate luxury

the kitchen I live with now

is bestowed more modestly.

So I follow the ways of my grandmas

and my mother, apt and able,

enlisting our four-legged friend,

the enduring kitchen table.

But I have a homey bauble

with which they weren’t stuck

a low-hanging ceiling lamp

which I cannot remember to duck.

Hovering over the table

at just the exact right spot

it clunks against my head

and elicits descriptive bon mot.

Some day I’ll explain to my neighbors

the reverberant mystery

the gong heard ’round the ‘hood

it isn’t Big Ben — it’s me.

 

Yes, I know, dear reader. I took liberties with my French. It was too awful not to use.

 

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Connections: November 22.17

With apologies to Laura Ingalls Wilder, I have dubbed my new home The Little House on the Retention Pond. This is the view from my back door. The previous owner graciously left her swing.

I use the word “home” guardedly. It isn’t home yet. But I am doing the first thing to make it a home: bubbling celery and onion in butter, and simmering giblets. Ah, stuffing.

When I first visited this place and saw the retention pond, my immediate thought was ICK. My second thought was MOSQUITOES! Third, maybe I should see the inside.

But once I’d been glared at by herons and snubbed by ducks, I began to feel I’d been hasty. And once I saw the reflections of the neighbors’ lights at night and the reflections of the day’s lights at dawn, I felt I owed the pond an apology. This little drop of water knows how to throw light around. And I’m a sucker for anything that sparkles.

I don’t know yet if my family will be here for Thanksgiving. What I do know is that I will have turkey and stuffing. And, if I can find the can opener (so far, no luck), I will have canned cranberry sauce. If my family comes, they will bring assorted side dishes which will be served atop festive packing boxes, artfully arranged. The shining water outside will be nicely echoed by the shining plastic drop cloths inside, the ultimate in gracious slip-and-trip living.

Meanwhile, I intend that reflecting is something we will do together, the pond and I.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear reader, from The Little House on The Retention Pond!


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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 31.17

My daughter-in-law, dear reader,

in her finest witch’s chic

 flexes imagination muscle

a certified Halloween geek.

Eye of toad and tail of newt

bedeck the living room

it’s the masque of Hallowed Eve

from tip of toe to broom.

Many the middle-aged ghouls

(you mustn’t be naive)

who don’t outgrow the Snickers

or love of make-believe.

I salute them and their spirit

their hatted, robed hilarity

infusing real life

with a little jocularity.

 

 

Special Halloween thanks to the S.W. Berg Photo Archives for the header photo today —

and Happy Halloween, dear reader!

Connections

 

 

 


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Connections: October 29.17

Deaf phone line

hard blue chair

what’s the point?

no one’s there

austere right angles

sterile, glistening

rigid vacuum:

no one’s listening.

You may think this

nihilistic

but caregivers know

it’s realistic.

 

One of the reasons I started my blog was to write about caregiving. I return to that subject from time to time although I continually grapple with the related issue of denial. It’s so much easier to deny than to listen because listening requires acknowledging. But denial makes the caregiver’s isolation unimaginably more damaging.

 

With thanks to the S.W. Berg Photo Archives for this expressive, poignant photo.

 

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Connections: October 18.17

I call this Still Life With Mess.

Not that life ever stands still, though at times it seems to. But there is ever a mess. That is, unless we’re sitting around on our…umm…hands.

These three artifacts just happened to end up together as the movers plied their art, and of course I couldn’t help noticing the serendipity. The wonderful pine cone and seed wreath was made years ago by my dear friend Donna, and is one of my favorite things. The assembly-line autumn wreath has been fabulous on my front door here, if I do say so. The decrepit, ancient suitcase was my Aunt Edna’s and holds her academic cap and hood (the heavy velvet and gold of Ph.D.). To the left, the back of a print procured for me at a condo swap by my son and daughter-in-law because my son knew it was my favorite Ansel Adams.

What a mishmash life is.

Today I will leave this place that has been Grandma’s House for seven years. There is some melancholy. But another, smaller Grandma’s House awaits, and both grandchildren have given it a thumbs-up (as have I). So bear with me, dear reader, as I launch myself (albeit, it must be said, a trifle arthritically) into whatever comes next.

 

 

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