Bobbing Along

A Lifetime of Stories: collected, painted, shared.

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!

 

 

A Few Words on Words

The morning after the 2016 Election, I sat at the airport awaiting a flight to Chicago. I was numb. I was heartbroken. And I was frightened beyond belief at the results of the previous day.

There was an eerie quiet amongst us, those passengers waiting to board. I could say that we all felt impending doom but that would be neither fair nor correct. Perhaps the quiet reflected a competing sense of relief that this most contentious of elections was finally over.

I do know that when the overhead monitor began to display Clinton’s concession speech, many stood attentively in front of the screen, each one somber. Respectful. Silent. I don’t believe for a minute that all of them were supporters of her campaign, yet even if their interest was based only on curiosity, their respect was profound.

That respect moved me to tears. If the behavior and dialogue that was espoused by our now President during the course of his campaign served as any indication, respect will certainly not be a hallmark of this new administration. Of this, I am sure.

Let me be clear on something: I am not a die-hard, vote-the-party-line person. I do have some lines-in-the-sand issues that inform my choices but I also know that sand shifts. I am open to other ideas (even if I do manage to argue my opposing points). I have occasionally been known to change my opinion (very occasionally but still…).

This election, however, was particularly difficult for me. You see, I was raised by a man whose words inflicted pain. My siblings and I have worked all our lives to heal the wounds inflicted by one bully, our father. The mental and emotional wounds will never be fully erased; scars will always remain.

I know only too well the damage that is done when words are used to control. When words are used to humiliate. When words are used to demean and diminish. And I know just how difficult it is to rise up against such words. It has taken me the better part of my lifetime to find my own voice and my abuse wasn’t on a public scale. No one recorded it. It was not displayed and discussed on the news. No one had an opportunity to stand up against it.

As a nation, we should have stood up against this bully who is now our new president.

But we did not.

For those of you who overlooked his words, please understand why I could not. Please understand why I cannot still. Please understand that words matter and for the life of me, I cannot understand why his words didn’t matter to you. To everyone.

To those of you who may feel that I am being disrespectful here, I answer this: Were my path to cross with the new president, I would behave respectfully. That is right and fair. He, however, will have to earn my respect. After all of his words, which were hurtful to so many people, I think that is also right. And also fair.

Words have consequences.

The words we use speak to our character.

Choose them wisely, Mr. President.

Choose them wisely.

 

Keeping Score

Over the Christmas holidays, Dear Dave and I decided to take the two older grandchildren on a trip to Washington, D.C.  Two nights and two days in that amazing city. A city filled with museums. And, uh, other things. And how did this adventure go, you may wonder? Well, let’s view it as a game—a competition between intent and reality, with YAY! for achieving the intent and OOPS! for screwing it up. I’m sure you can’t guess how this’ll turn out, right?

It was with great enthusiasm that the Rooster requested to see the White House “while President Obama still lived there.” Unfortunately, the tickets I sought from my duly-elected Representative never quite materialized.

YAY! 0,  OOPS! 1

We decided not to drive into D.C. given that we are cowards that way. Instead, we parked in Baltimore and took the MARC train, a two-level commuter train that runs between Baltimore and D.C. The Peanut was particularly thrilled to ride on the top level. Even though it was dark. And, high or low, we couldn’t see a thing. Still, we were on the top deck. Also, due to planning errors, dinner was a couple of bags of Cheetos.

YAY! 1,  OOPS! 1

It was rather late by the time we arrived at our hotel. It hadn’t helped that our cab driver got us all lost. Although it was too close to bedtime to use the pool, the kids and I went to check it out anyway. While we explored the “fitness” level, we made our way outside onto a small balcony from which we could see the gleaming dome of the Capitol Building.

The extremely well-traveled Peanut was thrilled. “This place is amazing! It’s is the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever seen!” (It was a Hampton.) And the Rooster was beside himself with joy. “WASHINGTON DC! IT’S A DREAM COME TRUE!”

YAY! 2,  OOPS! 1

Naturally, when those exclamations registered in my brain, my first thought was We’d better go home right now. We have hit the highpoint and there are more than 36 hours to go. I am so fucked. As they say, however, hope springs eternal and we continued on our adventure early the next morning. They loved riding on the Metro.

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 1

Then we got off and discovered that it was very cold.

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 2

And it was very windy.

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 3

We couldn’t easily get close enough to the South Portico of the White House for a decent look, let alone a good photograph. Not even with the rather grim and disgruntled assistance of a parked Secret Service agent who ordered me “away from the car, Lady. Lady, away from the car. Lady, BACK AWAY FROM THE CAR!” Jeez. I was only trying to ask for directions.

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 4

At the museum entrances, there were huge, long lines. Obviously other grandparents had copied my idea. Also, there were security measures in place. So we had to wait. In the cold and the wind. And once inside, it was very crowded.

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 5

There was a lot of walking and a lot of waiting. Did I mention it was cold and windy?

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 6

The Rooster has long been fascinated with Abraham Lincoln. As Tour Leader, it took me a bit longer than it should have to change our course, but I did, eventually. We ditched the museums and cabbed our way to the Lincoln Memorial.

YAY! 4,  OOPS! 6

AND IT WAS AWESOME. We read the Gettysburg Address, engraved on one wall. We talked a little about the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg and about the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a lot to take in. Most important, I suppose, given their ages, I assured them (several times) that no, Abraham Lincoln was not really that big.

YAY! 5,  OOPS! 6

From there, we cabbed it back to the White House. I am nothing if not determined. We were going to see the White House and get a picture of it too. It was the North Portico, but it was still the White House, dammit.

YAY! 6,  OOPS! 6

Cold, tired, and a wee bit cranky, we then headed back for dinner and the much-anticipated swim in the hotel pool. The pool where a certain young person choked on some water, regurgitated some dinner, turned white as a sheet and decided to put the “sick” in homesick. A warm bath did nothing to help. Nor did the FaceTime with the parents. It was a long night.

YAY! 6,  OOPS! 7

The next morning brought bright sunshine and warmer weather, but we high-tailed it home anyway. This time, we used Amtrak but a train is a train and everyone was happy. Will we repeat this plan? Maybe. Maybe not. The jury is still out on that. When asked what they enjoyed the most about our adventures, and yes, I actually asked them that, their response was swift: the trains. All of them. But especially the double-decker. All Aboard!

YAY! 7,  OOPS! 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voices

We recently attended an event: Dear Dave’s 50th high school reunion. We had primped and powdered and felt reasonably comfortable in our old skin and not-new clothes. We were a tad anxious, but otherwise ready to participate in the inevitable task of matching old yearbook photos, long-unthought-of names, and the faces which might complete a connection. That task, ultimately, was his. I tagged along as “SPOUSE”.

True, I had met some of his friends way back during our dating days. And some of them I was looking forward to seeing after so many years. I will confess, however, that as we arrived at the venue and made our way toward the doors—passing long glass walls through which we could see a throng of people—I quietly said to my dear husband,

That can’t be the reunion. Those people look far too old. Let’s check at the front desk to see where your group is meeting.

Yes. I said that. Yes, indeed. And yes, the concierge confirmed what deep down inside we both knew: those “old people”—the ones that looked JUST LIKE US—were the rest of the reunion attendees. Busted.

Honestly, we had a wonderful time. As a spouse, it was great fun to watch and listen, to observe the delight in faces when that recognition hit and to hear the glee that accompanied it. Still, I was looking for one face. That one person whom I knew would be in attendance. That one person for whom I have such fond memories.

My only photograph of her was taken when we visited her and her husband (both classmates of Dear Dave), spending the night in their tiny rented house while en route to other cities in the New England area. It was with these friends that I first drank Ouzo and Retsina and the fact that I can remember anything about that evening (There was dancing. Something with an handkerchief?) given the amounts of Greek wine that were consumed, is nothing short of a miracle. This is the person I was seeking, and yes, ’tis I tucked in the corner on the left…

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And, as a bit of a side note, the reason I have been able to locate said photo is due to my early days of creating scrapbooks which in this case has never been completed.

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Reunions are among those occasions where using one’s eyes is not necessarily the best approach. Looks are very deceptive after fifty years. I know this because the image I see in the mirror each day doesn’t resemble me at all. Nope. Not one bit.

So how did I locate my friend? By sound. We were standing right next to each other. I heard her speak. That the sound of someone’s voice can transcend years and distances is amazing to me. Yet it did. And it absolutely made my evening. Let’s not wait another fifty, dear friend, ok?

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