Oddments

In search of story


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August 18.21: Coping

I’ve planted my person

on many a seat,

but the best was there

on Summer Street.

Grandma’s porch

with swing for two,

where summer breezes

lazied through,

was where I learned

what sages know:

if I want to be quick

I must first be slow.

Back and forth,

I moved unmoving,

Grandma too,

our own kind of grooving.

Words fell away,

we floated as one;

I can still feel her housedress

all cottony spun.

The cricket sang softly,

far ice cream bells jingled

a summon to vespers

with leaf whispers mingled.

So today a swing sighting

is potently rife

with certainties given

to last all my life.

A Coke for the world

was a once wishful sing,

but I’d write new words

and wish it a swing.

 

Yet more thanks to photographer S.W. Berg

for this wonderful portrait of invitation.

 

 


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August 14.21: Coping

Does one zinnia a summer make?

This is my one and only zinnia flower. The seedlings that lived with me in the kitchen months ago, transplanted into the garden where they would be the yippee colors of summer, were almost all destroyed by the rabbits. Except for a few which I triaged into pots and then transplanted yet again, desperate for them to make a showing.

The results:

And one flower.

I plant tomatoes to remember Grandpa Mauck, moss roses to remember Grandma O’Hern, and marigolds to remember Dad. Mom is in the whole garden. So, as all gardeners know, the garden is not just expensive, it’s personal. The rabbits tried to take it all from me, and right now on this planet every loss is part of a huge rolling snowball of loss — and helplessness.

If there’s anything I hate, it’s feeling helpless. Life demands at times that we resign ourselves to it, but I can get pretty mad about that. I have lived to wage war this summer. I have potted and repotted and have fought the good fight with Irish Spring soap, rubbing it on flowerpots and shaving it around plants. And I have installed rose canes, which do seem to have some persuasive powers.

I have ultimately saved a small garden corner where my one surviving clump of gaura now thrives, the rabbit-scorned geraniums blaze away, and, in sheer defiance, some marigolds and salvia, once tattered, bloom insanely. Several of those triaged potted things have made a brilliant, if root-bound, showing.

I salute Farmer McGregor, the Grand Pooh-Bah of Rabbit Rage. I aspire to his greatness.

 


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May 9.21: Coping

The world’s a big place,

it can tucker you out

when you’re trying to figure

what it’s about.

That doesn’t change much

as we age through the years,

those grass blades of life

still up to our ears.

We still need a wing

for safe featherbed,

but sometimes we rest

on a memory instead.

 

I’m not a big fan of Mothers’ Day, dear reader. However, I am a fan of mothering because mothering gets us started in life.

There are many who are not biological mothers but are mothers nonetheless. I salute every one, and I wish a happy day to all who mother.

On a more (typical) curmudgeonly note: you know, dear reader, I hate these geese; I do not thrill to see another generation. It is only with pained reluctance I am forced to say this snoozing fuzzball is maybe a little bit cute.

 

 

 


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November 28.20: Coping

My grandmothers were daughters of immigrants. One grew up in a Chicago tenement; the other grew up in the coal country of Pennsylvania.

What does this have to do with me in a plastic tent? Making do.

Do you know about making do, dear reader? It’s a way of life when you don’t have what you need or want. You make do with what you have. Just ask my grandmas.

Am I saying that making do today is the same as what it was for my great-grandparents? Hardly. But the inventiveness to make do may be the same.

My son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids hosted Thanksgiving most inventively on their deck. The temperature squeaked to 50 with a nip and it could have been cold. But they made do in most remarkable ways: I had a Granny Tent! They tell me this amazing contraption is for watching soccer games. But with one old lady and one heater it is a regal Granny Tent. Add one old arthritic Jack Russell on the arthritic old lady’s lap, and a blanket around both, and you have the perfect toasty throne, the shedding of the Jack Russell not exactly an ermine cape but still a thoughtful contribution to layered warmth.

(The Jack Russell came post-dessert, needless to say. Their two dogs spent the entirety of Thanksgiving dinner making Precious Moments eyes at us. They wanted turkey but had to make do with warm laps.)

Most certainly we cannot make do when it comes to grief and human loss. But for those who tried to celebrate Thanksgiving carefully, there must have been a national make-do movement. Many made do with Zoom. Some made do with soccer tents. Therein, and not in the familiar table, lies tradition.

 

 


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September 10.20: Coping

The recipe,

that work of art,

bequeathed from bubbling

kitchen heart,

with stain and splot

of ancient dough,

bringing to Now

the Long-ago.

Penmanship of

floured hand,

preserved on paper

less than grand,

thus creating

choice giftwrap

of what was once

a lowly scrap.

 

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to Rose Schloot, owner of Cross River Lodge,

Grand Marais, Minnesota,

where this eloquent old piece of the past is displayed.

 

 


9 Comments

June 18.20: Coping

I see many references to isolation and aloneness these days. As an introvert, I’m comfortable with aloneness. Usually content with my own company, I do not crave the madding crowd. Aloneness isn’t always loneliness.

But I haven’t been with my family since March 6. No hugs for three months! There’s loneliness in that, as many elderly (and not-so-elderly) know.

It has recently occurred to me that there is another dimension to my aloneness. My close friends vary in age, but all of us have experienced family death in our parents’ generation. However, among my friends, I am the only one to have lost the sibling connection to the past; I’m the first to be The Last. This hit me as a revelation. Unaware, I’ve been grappling with a sense of aloneness among my friends.

I am an old single parent who is also The Last One of the family she grew up with — those are my particular circumstances — but I think most of us are grappling with some kind of aloneness, and maybe loneliness too, at this time. It doesn’t mean we have the same life experiences, only that we are in the same human condition. Human, but dangerously corrosive, all the more so swirled as it is with anger.

As I’ve said before, I think writers write about two things: what is, and what could be. Sometimes we can’t write about what could be until we write about what is. For me, this is what is.

 

 


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May 10.20: Coping

Ten of my mother’s favorite rules:

     Nothing is clean if you do it the easy way.

     If it holds still, iron it.

     Always counter the opposing view with “that’s just dumb.”

     There is no such thing as too many Christmas cookies.

     Always bake with butter.

     Never leave the house without a hankie.

     The punch line is irrelevant.

     Pie is for breakfast.

     Nothing is more beautiful than cows’ eyes.

     Gardening isn’t work.

My resident gremlin has hidden the photo I wanted to post with this. If you, dear reader, have experience with such a gremlin, then you know it is absolutely not my fault that I can’t find it. But I know my mom would love that peony bud.

I am not a big fan of what Mothers’ Day has become here, but I’m a fan of all mothers and fathers and grandparents and foster parents and all others who step up to nurture and protect children. May they all, present and past, be honored. And may we find ways to help them at this time.

 


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April 17.20 Again: Coping

Edna and me (not a recent photo)

Some years ago, I spent Saturday afternoons with my Aunt Edna, who lived in an apartment about half an hour away. I always called ahead for her grocery list so that, on my way to her place, I could do her weekly shopping for her. Then I’d pick up sandwiches for us.

When I would come out of the grocery store, shoving the cart into a driving cold rain, or, better yet, into a faceful of wet snow, and then try to get the bags into the car without dropping my purse into the slush, I must admit I was no saint: I grumbled and groused to myself. What a mess I was, and what a mess everything was. And then in and out for our sandwiches, and then wrestle all of it into her apartment…nope, not a saint.

But, on the side of virtue, I think I got a grip on my lesser self before she opened her door. She’d pour each of us a small glass of white wine, always the perfect complement to my all-time favorite tuna fish sandwich, and we’d settle into some good yacking.

Today we are having a very cold, relentless rain. It is dark and miserable. My wonderful daughter-in-law, hooded and dripping, just deposited multiple bags of groceries at my front door, and laughed a bit as we social distanced.

Am I thinking about the cycle of life? You bet.