Posted in Throwback Thursday

Birdie with a yellow bill

A birdie with a yellow bill
Hopped upon the window sill,
Cocked his shining eye and said:
‘Ain’t you ‘shamed, you sleepy head?
― Robert Louis Stevenson

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On the mornings when Mom woke me, instead of Dad, she would often come in reciting this poem, but would change the last line to her liking. It might be,

Good morning!

Or maybe

Time to get ready for school!

Or on a lucky day

Get up we’re going to the fair!

Peace . . .

Posted in Throwback Thursday

Schedule a play-date with your inner child

When I was young I could do backbends. I could stand on my hands. I could fall down, bounce back up and keep running. I could move a couch without wetting my pants.

It’s all too easy to come up with things I used to be able to but now can’t. Lately I’ve been trying to remember things I used to do and still can, but for some reason stopped. One day instead of hopping up on the bed to put on my socks, I sat on the floor like I did when I was a kid. The simple act created a small shift in attitude. What else can I still do?

  • Go outside barefootpexels-photo-634279.jpeg
  • Drink hot chocolate
  • Make clover necklaces
  • Watch tv with a blanket and a pillow on the floor
  • Squirt Hershey’s Syrup in my mouth
  • Picnic on a blanket
  • Color with crayons
  • Pick dandelions and put them in a vase
  • Stare up at the stars
  • Lay on my back and imagine shapes in the clouds
  • Make snow angels

Children have a way of keeping us young at heart. They encourage us to play and leave our cares behind. Playing with children allows us permission to indulge. But hey! When you were a kid, all you wanted to do is grow up so you could do whatever you want whenever you want. So if you want to act like a kid all by yourself, you get to do that.

What did you used to do that you still can if you wanted to? Go for it. I double dog dare you.

Your inner child is waiting.

Peace . . .

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Posted in Throwback Thursday

A trip down Memory Line

My memory lane is a train track. You might say it’s more of a Memory Line than a Memory Lane. The tracks ran less than a block from my house. I can still remember the mournful cries of the whistles announcing their approach in and out of Minneapolis.

We spent hot summer days under trees on a piece of land we called we called the ditch. The ditch was as long as our neighborhood, 100 to 200 feet wide. It ran alongside the tracks, and despite how fearsome it sounds, was the perfect playground for my mates and me. We climbed trees, both upright and felled and made moguls for bicycles. And the trains rumbled by. Sometimes we’d race toward the tracks to see the engineer at his place in front. We’d pump our arms to see if he’d toot the whistle and jump for joy if he did.

Holly Shopping Center is still less than a mile from where I grew up, but several other of our hangouts are gone. We biked or walked, and always crossed the tracks to get anywhere. We played a game to see who could stare at the top of the cars the longest. As they flew by, the wind swooshed against our bodies, and the train seemed to be falling down on top of us. Our screams of delight rivaled the roar of the cars. And always at the end, there was the red caboose.

As a toddler, clean from the bath and dressed in flannel, I’d sit on my mother’s lap looking out at the moon from our big living room window. We snuggled and she bounced me on her lap. Sometimes she’d read The Little Engine That Could. One of the songs she sang was Little Red Caboose. We’d get to the end and I’d join in. “Little red caboose behind the train . . . toot, toot!”

On nights when sleep defied me, I’d wait in the darkness and listen. At night you could hear the trains from miles away, blowing their whistle at each crossing.

I still like to hear the reassuring rumble of a train from my bed. As the cars drift away . . . clickety, clickety, clickety . . . they pull me back to my childhood home, and deep into dreamland.

Peace . . .

Posted in Lore

Where I Stand



Embed from Getty Images
Where do you stand on gun control?  I stand beside a maple night table placed to the left of a double bed, symmetrically balancing the one on the other side.  It looks exactly like I imagine every other parents’ bedroom looks in my neighborhood.  I’m a young girl, alone in the house, except for my friend.  My grandparents have left for the day, mother is picking up dinner on the way home from work.  It is just the two of us, contemplating what we ought do next.

I’m not sure how it became a topic, but it is.  I know the rules.  I know how it works.  I know what it does.  I know it’s kept in the drawer in the night table.

“Do you want to see it?”

I reach for the hard metal pull and the drawer glides open.  We exchange glances as we view the weapon lying patiently for employment.

The metal is cold.  I’ve held it before, yet it is heavier than I expect.  It feels as powerful as I know it is.  I place the firearm in her outstretched palms.  We look at it with wide eyes.

“Are there bullets in it?”

I shrug my shoulders.  She pushes the device back toward me.  Carefully, I lift it from her hands and set it gingerly back in the drawer.  I make certain it looks exactly as I found it.  I know the consequence for breaking this rule.

We breathe a sigh of relief.  The Thing is put away and we never have to hold it again if we don’t need to.  Or want to.  But if we do, we know where it is.  Both of us.

We go back to playing things that little girls play before their parents come home with dinner and friends are sent home to their houses for dinner.

That day we walked away from the night table with the gun in it.  And life went on.  But what if it hadn’t?

And that’s where I stand on gun control . . . by a maple night table placed to the left of a double bed.

Peace . . .

Posted in Family

The Kitchen: Heart of the Home

IMG_20140719_200225_256It is called the heart of the home.  The kitchen is where, no matter how big or small, everyone gathers at the same time.  The dinner table of my childhood was in the kitchen, nestled tightly between the basement and back doors, and the pocket-door to the dining room.  The traffic pattern rivaled Grand Central Station, yet five of us sat comfortably, served from the white gas range which stood against the wall.

The floor that was there before it was upgraded to linoleum was speckled, as were the counters.  The incandescent light was small, and gave off a golden glow amplified by the cheery yellow walls.  Frilly curtains ruffled from the window over the sink.

The kitchen is where Dad got me to eat canned peas by telling me they taste better when squished with the back of my fork, and fresh tomatoes by sprinkling them with sugar.  He put a scoop of ice cream on cantaloupe, and he dolloped ketchup on his beef stew.  Most of his meals he ate with a slice of bread slathered with butter and strawberry jam.  I can still summon his spirit with a slice of that goodness.

IMG_20140719_200749_195The refrigerator has changed remarkably since I was a girl.  Not only has it gotten bigger with more compartments and easier to maintain, it contains a plethora of condiments, seasons, sauces and flavors that never existed in my childhood fridge.  We had ketchup, mustard, Miracle Whip, Worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, Hershey’s syrup, and possibly a leftover jar of pickles or olives from the last holiday dinner.  There was no salsa, chili paste, Szechwan sauce, hot peppers, tabouli, pesto, hummus or even minced garlic for that matter.  Back then there was meat and there were vegetables.  If you were lucky, there was Jell-O for dessert.

Cooking and eating were not the only reasons we spent time in the kitchen.  My mother and grandmother ironed things like sheets, handkerchiefs and underwear in there, discussing the best practice for dampening the wrinkles, or starching the work shirts.  A child-sized iron and board sat in the corner, for pretending.  It really plugged in and warmed a little to the touch.

Haircuts were given to my reluctant teen brothers, who would rather have donned long sweeping styles like that of the Beatles.  Draped in towels or old sheets, the boys argued, whined and complained while the buzzers and Dad’s special hair-cutting scissors removed lengths of hair to the kitchen floor.

IMG_20140719_200807_532We shared news in the kitchen.  My brother leaving for the Marines, another getting engaged and later having children were all disclosed at the dinner table.  Accounts from the day and headlines from the paper were discussed over cups of milk or plates of spaghetti.

The kitchen was a classroom.  This is where my mother learned to cook from my father, who learned what he knew from his mother.  The grandmother I never knew was one heck of a cook, whose lemon meringue pies cannot be matched to this day, I am told.

My mother, ever the student, one time subscribed to a cooking class encyclopedia.  She pledged to take it one class at a time until she was a master at the art of French cooking.   She cooked for hours upon hours, and did finally serve a delectable coq au vin in our formal dining room by candlelight, but not after scouring the city for chicken feet, or beaks or some such part.  We laughed all through dinner about how she had finally given up and used chicken wings.  It may have been the only recipe she ever used from that expensive volume of books.

IMG_20140719_200507_780Of course, I learned my love of food, both eating and preparing, in that kitchen.  There were early mornings watching Dad prepare the Thanksgiving turkey.  Late nights helping Mom with Christmas cookies.  Favorite casseroles cut from the newspaper, salads created from the side of a pasta box.  The heart of the home.  The home of my heart.

After my mother’s death, the things from my childhood kitchen were laid out, dollars and cents scribbled on tags hurriedly attached on the handles.  I will leave this full story for another time, but I was told, “These are just things.  They can’t bring her back.”  The words were meant to comfort me; to dry the tears rolling down my face.  At the end of the day, I did end up bringing home the things that meant the most to me.  And do you know what?  It does bring her back.  Just a little bit.

 

The photos in this post are some of the things I grew up with in my mother’s kitchen and are now a part of my daily life.

Peace . . .

 

From Shirley’s Kitchen:

Chicken Breasts with Wine

  • 4 boned chicken breast halves, skinned
  • 1/2 c. flour, seasoned with garlic powder and paprika
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1/4 c. dry white wine
  • 1 c. sliced fresh white mushrooms

Coat chicken with flour mixture. Brown in oil lightly. Remove chicken, melt butter, add wine and mushrooms; sauté over low heat until the mushrooms release their moisture.  Pour over chicken in baking dish.

This may be done the day before baking and stored in the refrigerator.

Bake uncovered 350˚ for 45 – 60 minutes.

 

Posted in Family, Music

25 Days, 25 Songs (Day 3) A Song That Reminds You of Your Parents

Italiano: It's My Banjo!
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There was always music in the little yellow rambler on 66th Way.  The most prominent piece of furniture, aside from the gold floral sofa, was the Wurlitzer in our living room.  I learned to read music sitting on its bench, before I learned to read words.  Also in that room was our hi-fi.  Remember the hi-fi in the wooden cabinet?  My brother had a blue and white electric guitar.  And my father had a banjo.

 

 

After we returned the dinner dishes to the cupboards, we retired to the living room, set aglow with mediterranean-style lamps.  Mom would situate herself in front of the organ, flipping through one of her preferred books.  I wish I could remember more of her favorites, but Hello Dolly comes to mind, as does Bicycle Built for Two.  Sometimes we would sing.  As the evening wore on, I would lie down with my pillow and a blanket by her feet bouncing rhythmically on the pedals, and fall asleep.

 

 

But now and then Dad would bring out the banjo.  He kept it under his bed in a black case.  It was a beauty with mother-of-pearl frets.  Dad let me blow into the tuning pipe while he turned the tuners, shortening and lengthening the strings.  I learned all the words to King of the Road sitting on the edge of Dad’s bed while he strummed.  He wasn’t very good at it, but that never mattered to me.  We sang slow, stopping and restarting every few bars.

 

 

Dad would have loved this guy.

 

 

 

 

Peace . . .

 

 

PS.  Thank you, Twindaddy, for this little walk down memory lane.  I’ve enjoyed the fresh air and exercise.

 

 

 

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Posted in Fun

25 Days, 25 Songs (Day 1): A Song From My Childhood

I was waking up with my morning coffee, minding my own business, and a Tweet came across my phone:

That Montreal Girl
 
@ThatMTLGirl
25 Days, 25 Songs — Day 1(A
song from your childhood) http://wp.me/p35uqm-Ws
..
In Twitter language this notified me that my WordPress/Twitter/Instagram friend had published a new post and the title, “25 Days, 25 Songs” enticed me.  While her Day 1 song was playing, I clicked the link that transferred me to Twindaddy’s site, Stuphblog, where she found the challenge.  It might be important to note that he found/borrowed/stole the challenge from someone else.  You can research further if you choose.
..
A little conversation took place in my head:
Me:  Oh that might be fun!
Me:  Who are you kidding?  You can’t post 25 days in a row.
Me:  Ooh!  I wonder what song I would choose from my childhood.
Me:  You can’t even think of a first song.  How are you going to come up with 25?
Me:  I wonder if there is a time deadline for the challenge?
Me:  You’re thinking about it, aren’t you?
..
Realizing my WordPress addiction . . . er . . . hobby had me running late for work again, I closed down my computer and hustled off to my car.
..
Every morning it’s the same thing.  I push the radio preset buttons one after the other . . . sports . . . stupid hosts . . . elevator music . . . stupid call-in show . . . and about every other day I find a song I want to hear to the end.  This morning I was belting out along at the top of my lungs.
..
Weeeee are the chaaaampions, my friends . . . .
 . . and weeee’ll keep on fighting . . . till-the-end . . .
dun dun dun . . .
..
And that’s when I realized I had to see if I could get in on this challenge.  Music is a time machine.  This morning, in the car I was a teenager again.  My parents signed me up for a bowling league.  They thought it was a good way to get me into sports.  Yes, I know that’s funny.  I wasn’t exactly cool.
..
Not only did my parents sign me up for a bowling league, but I was the last one to join.  All the other teams had formed, and they would have to find a team with only three players that needed a fourth.  There were no girl teams that needed a fourth.  They placed me on a team with three younger boys, all behind in their development.  Not only was I older than them, I was quite well-developed for my age.  We were an odd-looking team.  I didn’t talk to them much, but they learned to accept me, because I was a good bowler.
..
The last day we bowled together, the brackets were posted.  One by one, the teams dropped out, and we kept bowling.  When it got down to the last game of the last two teams, a lot of the other kids had gathered round to watch.  Some of the kids did the math.  Everyone knew who was up or down by how many pins.
..
Tenth frame, last player.  I picked up my grape-colored marbled ball, toed the line, adjusted, concentrated and began my approach.  I threw a strike.  The score was calculated.  If I threw another strike, we were golden.
..
Calmly, I lined up again.  My approach was strong and smooth.  Seven pins fell.  My boy-team was supportive.  “It’s alright.  It’s alright, but we need you to pick these up.  You can do it.”
..
My heart was beating.  The alley was whisper-quiet.  If I picked up the spare, we won by one pin.  I lined up.  Adjusted for the spare.  Breathed.  Adjusted again.  The ball rolled down the wooden lane and the three pins exploded.
..
Left: 1977-78 Champs Right: Top Girl’s Average

We teens, as awkward a group as you have ever seen, high-fived , fist-pumped and whooped!  One broke into song, then two more, and finally I joined in.  Within a minute the four pimple-faced bowlers were, for the first time that year, a team.  Victory can do that.  Music helps too.

..
Weeeee are the chaaaampions, my friends . . . .
 . . and weeee’ll keep on fighting . . . till-the-end . . .
dun dun dun . . .
..

Peace . . .

 

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Posted in Lore

A Night With the Bogeyman

Here Comes the Bogey-Man
Goya’s Que viene el Coco (“Here comes the bogeyman”) c. 1797

My bogeyman woke me up again last night.  When I was little, he would hide silently in the house, creeping toward me if I dared to breathe.  He wore a long black trench coat and a black fedora.  I never saw his face, but he appeared in my dreams often, conjuring suffocation curses for my family.  Upon waking, I would lie in the dark, so still my muscles would ache.  My ears would burn listening for any sign that he was in the house, and where.

I know now that the bogeyman was the fear of brother’s severe asthma.  Not understanding what could make a person suffer from lack of breath like that, I assigned a monster to it.  How was I to know that this is something that would not attack me or my parents.  To a little girl, this was a random assault that could happen at any time, to any of us.

These days the bogeyman resides in my head.  He says terrible, frightening things that wake me from my sleep, sometimes suddenly with my heart beating wildly.  Some nights I can lull him back to sleep by adjusting the blankets, breathing deeply, evenly.  Last night was not such a night.  I pleaded with him to go, but he would not.

He started out by reminding me that I had still not paid the bills that came in the mail last week.  Then he reminded me of some purchases I made this weekend, shaming me for my impulses.  I tried reasoning with him that it had been so long since I had new clothes, and he scolded me for my selfishness.

Next he went down a common path about saving for the future.  He shouted that I ought to hope to die before I run out of money.  I thought of the different ways I could end it if it came right down to it.  And he asked me, laughing, how many people I thought would actually show up at my funeral.  He was cruel.  Relentless.

In the wee hours of the morning, he told me my whole life had been a joke.  That my poor children had had a horrible mother, I never made one decent life choice, and what made me think anything I was doing now was better?

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“Maybe she’ll feel better if you give her your toy.”

As I sobbed hoping I could cry myself back to sleep, the dogs came and went, tails wagging low to the ground.  Instinctively, they nuzzled my side and licked my face.  Ever the protectors, they finally turned the bogeyman away. Two hours after he had awakened me, he was gone.  We all finally slipped off to sleep.  No longer than forty-five minutes later the alarm went off.  The dogs rose as if it had been any other night, eager for their morning walk.  While I propped my head in my palm at my desk, I imagined them home quietly napping.

I no longer recognize the bogeyman by his trench coat and fedora.  Now that I am grown, I recognize him by the fear he instills in the night, threatening me with the sharp blades of the unknown and incomprehensible.  He is the darkest part of me, surfacing in the deepest dark of the night.  All at once I am a child again.  Not willing to breathe lest he know I am here.  Just when I think I have outgrown the bogeyman, I find he has followed me into adulthood.  He waits and listens to my hidden thoughts and fears, using them to torment me.

Posted in Great Outdoors

Don’t Judge a Flower by Its Dirt

dscn0371There was something familiar about contemplating my weed to grass ratio last week. I sat on the front step and let my mind wander. It drifted all the way back, to a year in the late ‘60s. My best friend and I were young girls playing down at the ditch.

Anyone from my old neighborhood knows what I mean by the ditch. It was a stretch of land outlined by the street on one side, the railroad tracks on the other.  It was our playground, wilderness, bicycle course, sledding hill, place of all dares real and imagined. It was our turf.

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One lazy spring day, the kind that makes you think summer is here to stay, I sat with my playmate watching the clouds.  We contemplated the kind of reasoning that 9 year-olds will. Our attention was drawn to the petals dancing in the breeze. We knew what our moms grew were flowers. We also knew if either of our moms had seen any of these in the yard, they would be deemed weeds and promptly uprooted.

And so our analysis began. Who exactly determined a blossom was a flower or a weed? We both agreed the blooms around us were just as delicate, vibrant and fragrant as any daffodil at home. Children of our age understood well the injustice of social divisions. How sad for the weeds that they cannot be showcased in a garden. How sad for the flowers in the garden that they cannot mingle with the grasses in the field.

dscn0390We embarked, that day, on the creation of our first garden. Right there in our wilderness we churned the earth with borrowed tools. We plotted, envisioned, transplanted and dreamed our weed garden into existence. We irrigated with water hauled in pails from home almost a block away. As I remember, the plants responded to the care we gave. We were proud and diligent until childhood distractions lured us away.

Maybe we were just children of the ’60s. Or maybe some lifelong morals were instilled out under the sun that summer.  All I know is that I still believe in the childhood convictions we committed to so many years ago.

  • Don’t judge a flower by its dirt.
  • Living things, given a little water and fresh air, flourish.
  • Mingle with the grasses.
  • Dandelions are pretty too.
  • If you are a weed in a flower garden, get a good deep root and just keep popping up.
  • Summer is never here to stay.

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Photos were taken at Como Park, St. Paul, Minnesota