Oddments

In search of story


9 Comments

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.

 


7 Comments

April 26.20: Coping

Let’s start the week

with a fond reminiscence

of life’s punctuation

with sweet evanescence.

Dessert is but transient

gone in a trice

yet forever recalled

as joy in a slice.

So here on purpled plate

an offering to you

of memory, then hope,

evoked by finest goo.

 

 

And maybe, dear reader, a day will come when we eat dessert with others —

safely!

Meanwhile, I salute you with blueberry goo and hope you are safe and healthy.

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg, and his fine eye for desserts!

And applause to Forno, Baltimore, for the gorgeous presentation!


8 Comments

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.

 

 

 


6 Comments

April 7.20: Coping

“Lavender blue”

and “lavender green”

a few “dilly-dilly’s”

and “you’ll be my queen.”

I never could figure

the words to this song

but that didn’t stop me

from singing along.

I find peace in my garden

and old-timey words

where twitters and tweets

come only from birds.

 

 

Family update: my son had “a bit of a relapse” yesterday.

He is being careful.

 


5 Comments

March 24.20: Coping

Coping is as coping does.  Me, I’m attacking my Fibber McGee family history closet.

It is arguable that this is the worst project I could undertake since I am isolated and already filled with dread and anger.  With every envelope and box I open, ghosts waft out. Loss is freshened and grief revisited. I miss these places and these people long gone — who were they and why did they make the choices they made?

You’d think, given the load of paper they left me, I’d find the answers. Not a chance.

There are photos and negatives (remember negatives?), deeds, receipts, bank books, letters, post cards, diplomas, telegrams, cocktail napkins, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks…the Smithsonian of, yes, oddments. What a tell-all lurks! If only I could figure out the “all” to tell!

For now, I sift and sort. One bit of history at a time.

Take, for instance, this historical scrap, which, in other circumstances, would be timely: my dad’s tax return for 1941, the year he and Mom were married, shows the princely income of $2674.68. But, even better, his whole return was completed on a one-page — one page! — 8.5 x 11 tax form. If you live in the USA, you are grabbing for the smelling salts.

Or this: the bedroom furniture you see in this photo — bed, chest, dresser — was purchased in 1946 for $79. I think they got their money’s worth.

The flip side of this way of coping is that I can write about it. Blogging is coping, yes? Maybe in the writing I’ll get to some of the answers I seek. Or maybe I’ll learn to ask different questions.


4 Comments

March 4.20

Salad days

judgment green

wings untested

life unseen

soaring spirits

buoyant dreams

endless visions

plans and schemes

ideals of beauty

reason, truth

halo’d by snow

but more by youth.

 

Apologies (and thanks) to Shakespeare.

Thanks also to Wabash College for use of this photo,

and to S.W. Berg for sending it.


4 Comments

January 17.20

You are right, dear reader: you have seen this little sighing bird before. In my last post.

He has been with me in a singular way. Allow me to take you back to the late 1940s, when I was in kindergarten and my mother was lobbying the highly-respected (read: tyrannical) piano teacher in our area, who didn’t take students before they could read. I was not consulted.

Mom won. I couldn’t read but I started lessons, and I spent the next several years in tearful plea to be allowed to quit. I hated my lessons and I hated practicing. Mom said I could quit after ten years. I remember the moment because one remembers when one’s blood runs cold.

At that ten-year mark everything changed because I had my first Liszt étude: Gnomenreigen. It was the beginning of my suspicion that Liszt had fifteen fingers. Two years later, my next Liszt étude: Un Sospiro, The Sigh. I played it well. Not brilliantly, but well.

I had two dreams as a pianist: to play the original Rhapsody in Blue and to play La Campanella, The Bells, another Liszt étude. I never accomplished the first. I could only approximate the second. Alas.

But I think about the eloquence of those études. A sigh. The bells. They are there in those magical acrobatics. And I marvel at the transcendent power of a grey image, a D flat, and, yes, a tyrannical piano teacher.


6 Comments

December 19.19

Language isn’t always words —

it’s far more complicated;

not everything in life

can be articulated.

That’s why the things of Christmas

assemble every year,

preserving time and place

we won’t let disappear.

Each family has a history,

hero, legend, fiend;

words fall short, but things

keep them evergreened.

 

There is nothing in this photo, dear reader, that doesn’t tell a story, including the chunk of mid-century furniture that belonged to my parents. Not everyone celebrates Christmas: I get that. But most people understand how things tell a story, and we probably all have at least one thing tucked away somewhere that says more than words alone can say.

For me to put into words everything said here would require an epic. There are things from my Grandma O’Hern’s house. From my sons’ childhoods. From my bachelor days. From friends, from family. Then to now.

Sometimes meaning is better told without words.


2 Comments

December 12.19

Many the Christmas

has faded away,

but here are a couple

preserved for today.

The curly-haired toddler,

a bit knobby of knee,

recalls the first Christmas

for cute little me.

The other, my parents,

with some of their caucus,

a nefarious bunch,

unruly and raucous.

A time to be serious

about four-in-hand,

and to mutter at tinsel

hung strand by strand.

Life wasn’t perfect then,

but still I hold dear

the Christmases seen

in life’s rearview mirror.

 

That’s my dad in the middle, and my mom is the one looking down at him; I can’t tell if she’s thinking what a great guy he is or his collar needs more starch. You will notice, dear reader, the Christmas tree in the far right of the photo. If you can remember the insanity of hanging tinsel strand by maddening strand, then you also remember the days when ties were what you could always get your dad for Christmas.

 

 


8 Comments

November 26.19

The road to here

from distant there

is mapped as

greasy thoroughfare.

‘Mid stain and splotch,

old gizzard drip,

evolution in

encrypted scrip.

Notes to self

in mishmashed order

chase themselves

around the border,

not merely scrap,

timepiece instead,

the years piled up

like cubes of bread.

From my neatnik Mom

through freeform me

the family stuffing

legacy,

preserved in splat

of butter, sage,

for, I hope,

another age.

 

There was nothing like it: the smell on Thanksgiving morning. No, not coffee and bacon. Onion and celery and butter! Smells to float on. Dad would go to Mass and some years I went with him, but usually I stayed home to help. OK, so it should be “help.” I was very good at putting things away just before they were needed, and I was very good at reminding my mother how I disliked pumpkin pie. What a model child I was!

I hope your Thanksgiving memories are good ones, dear reader, and that, amid the bleakness of our times, we can give thanks for the things and people we know to be true and good.

I thank all of you who have stopped by my blog and left an encouraging word or like. Writing is ever on the edge of not-writing, and your kindnesses have kept me going many times.

A very happy Thanksgiving to you, dear reader!

If there is travel, may you and yours come and go in safety.