Bobbing Along

A Lifetime of Stories: collected, painted, shared.

Green Bananas

I hear my mother’s words. Sometimes in my head. Sometimes, coming right out of my mouth.

“March!” she would say to me and my siblings when we dawdled too long.
“March!” I would say to my children when they, too, dawdled.

“Just put one foot in front of another,” she advised when I shared a problem I felt I couldn’t handle.
“Just put one foot in front of another” I advised others when their problems seemed insurmountable.

“Cindy, you know your dad and I don’t buy green bananas anymore” she told me with a wry smile as cancer began to ravage her body.

I now face the challenge of all challenges.

I am marching.

I am putting one foot in front of the other.

And with infinite optimism, I will continue to buy green bananas.

 

 

In the Trenches

What the hell happened?

I mean, really, what happened to this country?

I had asked that question many times a day for far too many days. That I was not a fan of the current administration should shock no one although the fact that many of you are still supporters shocks the bejeezus out of me. Railing against the news—flipping the bird at the tv screen or, occasionally, throwing socks—had failed to quell my rage.

It slowly occurred to me that I had to do something constructive. I could no longer leave the work to other nameless, faceless souls with more conviction. My excuses were no longer valid. If I wanted change, I had to be willing to work for it. And change is the one thing I want—change to the civility, the clarity and the caring (also the honesty, the intelligence, the inclusiveness…) that seemed to hallmark the previous administration.

By some twist of fate, I had been invited to a “meet-and-greet” social one day this past summer. This social was hosted by a former teacher whom I had admired for so long and I admit that my attendance at this social was fueled more by the chance of seeing her again than by a conscious interest in meeting the candidate. So I went.

Suddenly I found myself in the right place at the right time, asking the right questions and receiving the right answers. I was sold. I was hooked. And I was committed to being an on-the-ground grunt: knocking on strangers’ doors seeking signatures and hustling for votes. And it has been glorious.

Fully aware that I was interrupting dinners (and very possibly more than one doozer of an argument), I was regularly greeted with “HELL YES! WHERE DO I SIGN?”

Of course, I was also greeted by carefully shifted curtains that were not followed by an open door. And that scenario was still better than another canvasser who was greeted by an elderly man. A completely naked elderly man. So, no, the process was not all warm and fuzzy. (Well, except for the old man…)

I found that I was not alone in my anger. I was not alone in my worry. Many times, especially during one snow storm (we are a stubborn bunch, we Democrats) when I was brought into the home for the very purpose of listening to someone else’s concerns. Though these folks were “preaching to the choir”, they also gave me a warm reprieve from the elements.

There was one husband who wasn’t ready to sign anything; he just needed to research the candidates first. Fine. No problem. Perfectly valid. Yet as he was telling me this, his wife thundered down the stairs and burst—barefoot—onto the snowy porch, saying “I’LL SIGN!! I’LL SIGN! I don’t know what the hell his problem is, but I’ll SIGN!!”

In another home, the husband signed but was reluctant to interrupt his wife who was in the shower. Understandable, right? She must have had great hearing because as I was beginning to leave, here she came, head wrapped in a towel and body wrapped in a terrycloth robe. She perched on their steps and shared her grievances as she signed the petition. There was quite a puddle by the time our conversation ended.

A few weeks ago, my candidate started a tv ad describing his views on the issue of gun control. Trust me when I tell you that this is one hot-button issue in my area. Prior to canvassing that day, we were told that there was some controversy (surprise!) about his ad and we were given an explanation to help with any confusion over his stance.

Of course, I failed to read it. Frankly, I didn’t give it a second thought until later that day when one homeowner asked, “Is this the guy with the tv ad about guns?” 

Shit! What do I do now? And as I began to babble something completely unintelligible (and likely inaccurate), he reached and grabbed my clipboard, shouting “He’s got my vote! It’s about time someone does something about guns in this country!!”

Today we vote. My heart rests easier knowing that there are many who share my thoughts and who strive for change. Shortly, as I hurry to finish this, I will leave to work the polls until they close. And then I will wait in the hopes that my guy wins this stage of the process.

In the meantime, I have been given so much through this experience. I’ve received hugs. And validation. I’ve shared laughs with strangers. I have listened to concerns from folks with more to lose than I could ever have imagined. And, as thunder rolled through the sky last evening, I left my last house with a gift:

I am not certain where I’ll place the sticker but the pin? The pin I am wearing with pride!!

 

Just Hangin’

There are folks out there who breeze through life with nary a care in the world. Calm. Confident. Capable. Chill. People who just have their shit together from the beginning.

I am not one of them.

I remember many embarrassing episodes, even in my early years, situations when I would burst—I can’t believe I’m admitting this for all to see—into tears in anticipation of or immediately after doing something stupid. Yes, there was that time in third grade when Miss Israel, as she passed out test papers, announced that we were only getting one piece of paper and we would not get a second chance should we make a mistake. (It was a penmanship test, by the way. Who does that?) Our first task was to write our name at the top. I misspelled mine. Oh, yes. Yes, I did. Tears everywhere.

And there was Mrs. Brown, my fifth grade teacher, who leaned over me during an assignment and announced in a perfect stage whisper, “You are such a Worry Wart!” No pressure there. Her pronouncement made our next recess really fun.

Somehow, I have managed to manage my fears over the decades. I’m fine, really. I work hard to keep my worrying to a minimum, or at least I try to limit it, saving the effort for important things, which, of course, are abundant if one has family and friends and plans and goals and stuff. Whatever. I try.

When my nine-years-younger sisters included me in the plans for a girls’ get-away this fall, I was delighted. The three of us, spending time together! Hanging out together! At a bed and breakfast! In Gettysburg! Touring the Battlefield! On horseback!

Wait? What? WHAT? Horseback?

Oh, no worries there, right?  Uh,  r  i  g  h  t.  Except, I hadn’t ridden a horse in years. I’m older. I’m, um, heavier. Would my left leg be strong enough to hike my body up? Would my right leg be able to swing over the saddle? Would the rest of me follow that leg up and over and land my ass right in the dust on the other side? Would the horse like me? Would I like the horse? How tall would the horse be? If I managed to remain astride, a very big ‘if’ at that, would the height create additional panic? If I managed to ride for the entire tour, would I be able to walk after? What would happen if I had to pee halfway through the tour? How long is this damn tour, anyway? Why in the bloomin’ hell did I agree to this? And on. And on.

And on.

Before I knew it, I was in Gettysburg, awaiting the start our adventure. After a restless night, I awoke to an absolutely, perfectly gorgeous day. The sun sparkled through the brightly colored leaves. The air was crisp and clear. I was in the company of my two favorite sisters. How great was that? Moments like these don’t happen just every day and I was as ready for it as I could ever be. Once we made our way toward the stables, I was relieved to learn that everyone had to use mounting steps. Worry #1, gone. The rest would soon follow.

My expert skill at mounting my new buddy, Duke the Horse, was gleefully captured by my sister Barbie. I may have mentioned a bit of my anxiety to her and Becky in advance. Nonetheless she was ready with the camera. I suspect a post to YouTube was next on her agenda…just in case my fears became reality.

 

So far so good, indeed.

I must say that touring the Gettysburg Battlefield on horseback is a remarkable experience. Without question, it is the best possible way to see for oneself how difficult the terrain was to maneuver and how hard it was to adequately determine logistics key to the battle. Our guide was exceptional; the horses gentle and slow (rescue animals, all). And I was in my own private glory: I am doing this! I am a rock star!!

And all those worries? Totally unnecessary. None of them came to pass. When was I going to learn what a waste of time it is to agonize over things? It brought to mind a favorite Mark Twain quote:

I am an old man and I have seen a great many troubles in my time. But most of them never happened.

When our tour came to an end, we returned to the stables where the wranglers stood, steps in hand, ready to assist us as we dismounted. I was perfectly happy to wait near the end of the line. After all, in my own mind, I was now an equestrian! Such confidence. Such chutzpah. Such…hmmm…

When it was my turn to dismount, I leaned forward, gracefully swinging my right leg back over the horse. I could feel the wrangler guiding my foot to the mounting block below. Oddly, though my body was now fully on the same side of the horse, I was not sliding downward. Something was holding me up. Alas, I was dangling, fully suspended from the saddle.

I couldn’t slide down.

I couldn’t inch up.

I was stuck.

I was just hanging there.

For an eternity.

Quietly giggling.

And trying not to pee.

My bra, clearly one of the wonders of the modern world, had hooked itself around the horn of the saddle. And there it seemed determined to stay. I tried wedging it off the horn. Impossible. I tried climbing back up. Nope. I tried everything I could think of. No way was that brassiere relinquishing its grip.

Given the pull of my dangling body (and possibly some laws of gravity), something had to shift and that something became the ladies. Yes, Mabel and Flossie slipped out from under that sturdy, underwired-possibly-chain-mailed contraption allowing my body to slip gratefully down. The stubborn lingerie, still intent on hugging the saddle, remained where it was as my chin slid downward to meet it. With feet finally on the steps, bra creeping closer up toward my head, I managed at last to disengage the troublesome unmentionable and tuck the rest of me discreetly back inside.

With that, I gracefully stepped off the mounting block and turned toward my sisters neither of whom had a clue about the missed video opportunity. Stifling my laughter still, I walked to join them with as much dignity as I could muster, dignity which quickly evaporated.

The ONE THING I had failed to worry about had happened. Never in my wildest, most worrisome dreams could I have predicted this. 

I suppose there should be a lesson here. It might be to stay off horses. Or it could be to go bra-less but, uh, that’s not gonna happen. I’ll take my chances riding horses again. This tour was an experience I want to repeat, definitely with the grandkids at some point.

The tour, I’ll share with them.

The story of their grandmother, the horse and the ladies? Well, someday. Eventually. Maybe.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Door Opens

History fascinates me. Not the economics and treaties and dates and stuff like that, you know, not the pesky details that one is tested on when studying the subject, no, not that stuff. I find history fascinating when people–ordinary and extraordinary–are the focus. After all, what is the point of history if not to remember how events affected ordinary folk or how extraordinary individuals affected events? And if the objects of our interest are members of our own families? Well, perhaps those stories need to be documented somewhere for those who follow us along that familial path and whose interest is piqued down the road.

When this blog was first bequeathed, I anticipated using it as a platform for mundane thoughts, random essays, and certain bits of memories. Though I am not as actively engaged in writing as I had hoped, many of my posts have been about those very things, random and mundane. And indeed some have been memories particularly ones concerning my parents and grandparents.

My intentions also included using the blog as a platform for showcasing my artwork, with occasional explanations about some of the pieces. That part of my blog has been sorely under-utilized. I still intend to do that, but time to adequately post the work is every bit as rare as time to adequately complete the work. So, yes, there’s that little conundrum.

I now have six grandchildren. The oldest is suddenly curious about family stories. He wants to know not just stories about his dad as a child. He wants to know stories about his grandparents. And great-grandparents. And great-great-grandparents. Well, he hasn’t asked specifically about the great-greats, but still…the curiosity is there.

One child, curious about family history. One grandmother, a keeper of the history. And one blog, ready and waiting for a redefined purpose. The stars are aligning. And someone needs to get her ass in gear!

All of which brings me to my purpose here today.

I am not certain when I will be able to begin actively documenting the stories from my forebears but I am certain where on the blog these stories will eventually land. The category “Anecdotes” is now “Ancestors and Anecdotes“. Yes, I will continue to publish random and mundane content on the home page, which is the page you are viewing at this moment, but

I am also determined that this blog, along with its other purposes, will become a repository for all those tales shared through the generations. As I write them, these stories will be housed in the new category, Ancestors and Anecdotes. I guess I’m a’gonna be busy! There may be photographs! With explanations! Maybe some actual documentation! A legend or two? Maybe! Who knows???

As you wait, please note that the photograph with which I began this post is one with certain significance. I will write eventually about the persons whose scrapbooks I have pictured. Meanwhile, it may be of some interest that visible in the picture are ration coupons and visa documents from World War I. Yes, the papers pictured are now one hundred years old. My grandson did the math for me as we were discussing all of this recently. Whoa. Math. I can’t even begin…but I will. I promise. If not for me, if not for you, then for those grandchildren.

The door has opened. All I have to do is walk through—through boxes and boxes of photographs and letters, through pile upon pile of papers and memorabilia, through fragments and whispers of conversations buried deep in my memory. These will be stories of a family. Of my family. Of my heritage and the heritage of all who follow me.

In reality the stories may not be terribly different from stories of your family, of families everywhere. We all have them—tall tales, legends, bits of history, dubious details. If the stories are not recorded somewhere, however, they’ll be lost to the ages and with them, the lives—ordinary or extraordinary—of those who make up part of who we are.

And, so…here I go…

 

 

Bluebird

You’re here!

You are our littlest one. Our newest one. Our Bluebird.

I have yet to hold you but that will be corrected soon. And when I do, I will whisper the same words I have whispered to each of your cousins: I love you. I love you. I LOVE YOU.

Can’t wait. Welcome to our lives, my little Bluebird. You are so very loved.

Mommom

 

Feed Me

“Feed me, Krelborn, feed me NOW!”*

Once upon a time there was a lovely garden filled with hydrangeas. The hydrangeas would produce their beautiful puffs of color from early spring to the first frost of autumn.

One afternoon toward the end of summer, a little surprise appeared, dangling merrily amongst the blossoms.

Fascinated by the single interloper, the owners of the garden, yes, a certain husband with two green thumbs and his wife with none, let that single gourd grow. It lived contently in the shadow of the hydrangeas until the first frost ended it all.

The gardener and his wife went about their busy lives, not giving the gourd a moment’s thought. Fall led to winter and winter led to spring which brought the first round of hydrangea blossoms for the new summer. Neither the gardner nor his wife considered the reappearance of the gourd plant until suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, this appeared.

Fascinated once again, the gardener and his wife continued to watch the plant grow. And grow it did. Before they knew it, the plant grew down the wall and onto the deck.

It grew over the wall and up the porch screens.

It grew onto the terrace, past the grill and inched its way toward the house.

It grew…and grew…and grew some more. (Yes, that is a wine bottle placed for the purpose of proportion. That mother was huge.)

And every time the gardener’s wife went outside, she was tempted to burst into song,

“Suddenly Seymour

is standing beside me…”*

Well, that’s the song she considered singing although the more appropriate song would have been,

“Feed me, Seymour, 

Feed me all night long.

‘Cause if you feed me Seymour

I can grow up big and strong.”*

(Fortunately, the wife didn’t burst out into either song, but that’s another story, perhaps.)

Yes, the gardner and his wife had managed to grow their very own AUDREY II*, right out of one of their favorite musicals. And what did they feed it? No one knows for sure, though, now that fall has arrived once again, the gardner has harvested some of the many, many gourds that Audrey III produced.

For what reason, you ask? The gardner isn’t saying. And the wife, well, the wife just wants her kitchen table back.

 

* from Little Shop of Horrors

 

 

 

 

 

 

Requisitions

On one summer’s day, out of the blue, the Rooster asked to see my artwork, specifically, my drawings. Can I tell you how much those words delighted me?  Can I tell you just how quickly I pulled those crusty old things out of their hiding place? Can I have stuffed any more commas into that first sentence? Jeez.

While I would love to say he was blown away, he was not. But we did have a lively conversation about line and texture and learning to draw. Frankly, he mentioned his friend from school who “is much better than you, Mommom”. Yep. He mentioned that kid a lot. So, yes, there was that. The nerve.

Nevertheless, his eyes lit up when we came upon one particular drawing.

He was drawn to the Superman image but he had no clue what the other part was. Of course I explained that my Superman was superimposed on the dial (the what?) of the pay phone (the WHAT?) which was used for communication during college since we didn’t have, well, shit, since we lived in the time of the dinosaurs, dammit.

A lesson in drawing quickly became a lesson in history, both of which he must have enjoyed because he asked if he could have the picture. And upon that request he was immediately forgiven for the comments about how much better his 8-year-old friend’s drawings were than mine. The drawing is now framed and ready for its new owner, The Rooster: Collector of Art Antiquities.

And just a heads-up for any other future familial collectors: This one has been claimed as well, and it is huge. I hope his parents have a wall waiting there in Connecticut. Won’t they be surprised!


 

 

 

Journal Entry: Exercise

When I last posted a ‘journal’ entry, summer was on the wane. In that entry, one might have guessed that I was about to redirect some intentions in my life. Which I did. With some success. Ok. With minimal success. Or maybe with an imagined amount of success as only my imagination can suggest. Whatever. I tried so let’s just leave it at that.

Summer has arrived once more and with it that glorious concept known as Camp Mombaba, which is code for babysitting grandchildren. Sometimes one. Sometimes more. Sometimes overnight. Sometimes not. It varies with their needs and our energy levels.

With the Rooster now nearing the age of nine—I know! How did that happen?—being with friends is of utmost importance. And since our area has a marvelous set of parks with an energetic summer program for kids his age, I am relegated each morning to sitting at his house while he participates in the park program across the street. It’s a win-win, really. He’s happy with friends. I’m happy with time to write.

I couldn’t just leave it at that, however: him playing, me writing. No. I decided that I should take full advantage of the walking path at the park and get myself some exercise. When the Rooster goes to the park, I follow. Not too close, mind you. He no longer wants to be seen with his grandmother. Sigh.

I decided I would do a few laps around the walking path each day before starting on my work. I will state right upfront that this commitment to exercise is an aberration. Three days in, however, I was feeling mighty proud of my 3/4 mile trek.

Until today, when I returned to the house: Sweaty. In need of a bathroom. Looking forward to the air-conditioning…

Proud…until I discovered I was outside the house and the house keys were inside. 

Neighbors have phones. Dear Dave arrived to the rescue. I am now where I should have been from the beginning. EXERCISE. Bah!! Who needs it???

 

In the Eyes of the Beholder, I Suppose…

I enjoy Facebook. I really do. I don’t post often and if I do, my posts more often than not are about family. My family. Friends I consider to be family. Grandchildren. And, yes, the occasional diatribe about the Toddler-in-Chief currently residing in the White House. Sigh. Moving on…

Having recently spent time enjoying an abstract art workshop (which I need to write about. It’s on the list of things I need to write about. And that list ain’t gettin’ any shorter, woman.) I decided to update my Facebook look by posting one of the paintings I did while I was there, using it as my cover photo:

This painting isn’t necessarily finished—it currently remains rolled up in the studio with the other works I did. The studio is filled with detritus from other rooms in my home, rooms that are having floors redone. It’s a mess, really. But I digress. This painting was very well received, which, of course, made me very happy.

I also posted this image as my profile photo:

And folks loved this one! Really loved it!! This is the photo of the wall. The wall against which all my paintings had been tacked while I painted them. I repeat: This is The Wall.

And the internet (or at least the folks who know me on Facebook. Ok. Maybe seven people. I’m not really counting…) went bonkers. One dear friend said it was one of my best works ever. Others felt it was “amazing” and “remarkable”. It. Is. A. Wall.

But ya know what? I’ll take it! I will take every one of those compliments and hug them to my heart! Because I am just that needy, I am! Remarkable, my arse.

 

It’s What I Do

It doesn’t take much to put a smile on the Peanut’s face. In spite of her parents’ insistence on preparing healthy foods, avoiding whenever possible the pre-made, off-the-shelf, filled-with-salt-and-sugar-and-unpronounceable additives, she fell in love with this:

When I returned her to Chicago after our holiday camp (including, yes, that trip to DC), we stuffed our suitcases with envelope after envelope of her new favorite cereal. And once she ate her way through all of those (and there were many) she insisted that the oatmeal she now loves could only be purchased in York, Pennsylvania.

What was one to do, other than ship two huge boxes out to her?

Which I did.

It’s what I do.

Being a grandmother is the best!