Oddments

In search of story


19 Comments

July 25.22: Coping, but barely

A garden in a kettle,

what enticement to know more;

no ordinary flowerpot

hints so of family lore.

Kettles are like aprons,

remnants, scraps and shreds

of kitchens gone to dust

except inside our heads.

Replaced by kitchen jewelry

gleaming, digitized,

its plump and stolid air

is yet unbowdlerized.

Something in its roundness

brings noodle dough to mind,

vegetable soup with barley,

doughnuts cinnamon-brined,

children up on tip-toe

to watch and sniff, content,

the world in proper order

as it was surely meant.

Today its storied depths

give rise to happy greenery,

rooted, like our memories,

in distant kitchen scenery.

 

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to gardener and family preservationist D.J. Berg.

 


11 Comments

July 1.22: Coping, but barely

In crowded company

of musicians through the ages,

I’ve fumbled in attempts

to play while turning pages.

More than once I’ve chased

sonatas to the floor,

twisting off the bench

to nab the fleeing score.

Flagrantly contrary,

it always had the knack

to land so I’d dislodge

my sacroiliac.

To keep the left hand going

and play at obtuse angle

crossed Mozart with aerobics,

performance art fandangle.

Now comes a pageless music,

no flip and fumble here —

what a total wimp-out,

musicianship veneer.

What kind of ease is this?

It seems somehow a cheat

to keep your fingers focused,

turning pages with your feet.

 

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg.

 


19 Comments

May 30.22 Memorial Day: Coping, but barely

You’d have to be as old as I am, dear reader, to remember the days of packing red geraniums into the trunk of a car and heading out to cemeteries. Every year at the end of May. It was boring. I hated it.

We’d clean winter’s debris off the graves and then plant the flowers. Guess who was sent for water. There were faucets in the cemetery spaced with the express purpose of making kids walk miles with sloshing, heavy watering cans.

There was always a moment of prayer. What videos play in our heads at such moments! I can only imagine the videos that played in my grandparents’ and my parents’ heads: wars, polio and flu epidemics, floods, heart attacks, cancer.

The video in my head had to do with my bike, waiting for me to start summer vacation.

My complaints, registered every five minutes or so, were roundly ignored; it was Decoration Day, after all, and this tedious, bleak trek to the cemetery was non-negotiable, as were many family dicta. Against my young will, I learned that it wasn’t about the geraniums; it was about lives lived. Real lives. It was about remembering.

Decoration Day became Memorial Day and a three-day weekend, honoring real lives lost in service to this country’s ideals. Remembering.

This Memorial Day comes in a bloodbath. Locally and globally we are awash in the blood of real lives. I hope those who lost their lives in service to this country, in service to ideals, aren’t sorry they made the sacrifice. And I wish all kids were thinking only about their bikes.

 

My family served, but none died in service.

I do not pretend to the grief this day renews for many.

But I do think of the graves and the real lives lost.

It becomes harder to remember peace.

 

 


15 Comments

May 22.22: Coping, but barely

A machine that makes ice cream cones?

How could it be?

I thought they materialized

from some alchemy.

They simply appeared

from a summery haze

by a wave of the scoop

on tropical days.

In colorful turbans

turned quickly to goo,

they left us goatee’d

with sugary glue

while teaching hard fact

under brilliant hot sun

that time and fudge ripple

wait for no one.

Speed was the essence

of masterful lick;

neat slowed us down:

it had to be quick.

Racing the drips,

maneuvering the cold,

to push it all down

into cone’s hold

was no easy victory,

the skills were hard won,

but practice made perfect

and we’d hardly begun.

Like all childhood magic,

a part of it lingers

as we lick chocolate chip

from between grown-up fingers.

 

For me, dear reader, the only cone worth the drips was the “sugar cone,” which was the ultimate in crunch. It did not, like those flat-bottomed would-be’s, turn to flab in my hand and chew like rubber. No. The sugar-cone had character. It also had the tiniest hole at the bottom so that only the most skilled could come away with clean clothes. But the crunch held. What else mattered?

 

More thanks to photographer S.W. Berg,

and to Doumar’s Cones and Barbecue, Norfolk, VA.

 


9 Comments

May 7.22: Coping, but barely

This was me

and this was you,

our wings be-fuzzed,

mysterious, new.

Tipping, toppling,

learning where

we stopped and started,

unaware

of cliffs and quicksand,

Pandora’s box,

we braved the world

of thorns and rocks.

Or so we thought. The really brave

were those close by

who hovered and watched

with wary eye,

letting us learn

from life’s tough classes

even if we fell

on our little

ummm

grasses.

 

Tomorrow is Mothers’ Day here; I am not a fan. I think it’s become a national day of panic. But that does not mean I don’t value mothering. I absolutely do. There are many who mother even if they’ve never given birth, and I salute every one.

Please pardon the quality of the photo, dear reader. You probably, and rightly, guessed that I was hunched down behind Venetian blinds muttering to that baby to HOLD STILL. He didn’t. Mother Goose (so to speak) did not cast a benign eye on me.

 

 


14 Comments

December 24.21: Coping

My world is little

as is my tree,

yet there’s a world

inside of me.

The thing to do,

I cannot doubt,

is turn my person

inside-out,

and hang that world

with due aplomb

upon this little

tannenbaum,

and then to watch

the tree grow tall

— not so little

after all.

The world within

is mighty crowd,

kaleidoscopic,

teeming, loud,

overlapping place

and year,

mix of music,

laugh and tear.

Mishmash? Yes.

But life is that:

it isn’t neat

and folded flat.

The world inside,

the story of me,

sparkles on

my Christmas tree.

 

Whatever your traditions, your rituals, dear reader,

may they bring comfort this year,

and may they keep the story of you.

 


8 Comments

November 24.21: Coping

In the kitchen

live the ghosts

that waft with air

of pies and roasts.

Abiding still

in towel and platter,

in recipe card

with ancient splatter,

they hover close

and scrutinize

with furrowed brow

and x-ray eyes

my every move,

my chops and pares,

as I use things

that once were theirs.

And then they squeeze around

to eat,

they watch our manners

heads to feet,

then, with a wink

to everyone,

salute themselves

for job well done.

 

 

Here is the crowd in my kitchen this week: my mother’s recipe for stuffing in her handwriting, the towel my Grandma Mauck would wet and wrap over the turkey to keep it cozy, their baster and meat thermometer, the platter my Grandma O’Hern’s turkeys came to the table on. Three women at my elbows.

You will note the towel is linen. My mother and her mother insisted on linen dishtowels, and, yes, my dear incredulous reader, they had to be ironed. Ironed damp, no less. In my generation, the technical term for such things was “flatwork,” and it was how we served our ironing apprenticeships. Handkerchiefs, pillowcases and sheets, linen towels…flatwork. Yes, we ironed sheets and pillowcases. And underwear. As I hear it, young women today wouldn’t know which side of the iron gets hot. (They’re smarter than we were.)

But I digress.

It’s a difficult time no matter where you live, dear reader; I wish I could make things better for you, for all of us. You might not celebrate Thanksgiving Day this week, but you can know that I am giving thanks for you because you have helped me write, and that has been a huge gift to me. Thank you!

 

 


19 Comments

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.

 


9 Comments

January 26.21: Coping

As you know, dear reader, I am an introvert. I love quiet. Forever the firstborn, I play by myself contentedly.

However, I do not crave a hut in the desert or a cave hidden by vines. Which is what this COVID thing is beginning to feel like.  After a while, even an introvert feels the tedium of her own company. Then a terrible thing happens: she eats. Why is it that eating is the antidote to tedium? While I ponder the answer to that, I eat some more.

Yesterday I caught myself headed to the kitchen again and gave myself a stern talking-to, made a right turn and headed upstairs, where I plunged into no one’s favorite project: culling the past.

I come from a scrapbooking family, and I followed that tradition, starting in grade school. I am not talking about those tidy, starched, color-coordinated Martha-Stewart types of scrapbooks, but the old-fashioned kind, with real scraps, bits of life as it was lived. Messy, haphazard, in a rag-tag glued chronology. Just like life.

I attacked the scrapbook that held the years from college graduation to marriage, 1966 to 1971. There were strangers in there, but the strangest one of all was me. Have you met your young self recently, dear reader? Did you recognize each other?

If you are now your young self, just file the matter for future reference, when your seasoned self happens upon you. And may you meet in a kinder time.