Call me Löffel

May 12th, 2015

Call me Löffel.

I may look like a basic dinner spoon but there is more here than meets the eye.

In the kitchen drawer where I live, I have a constant struggle.  The other dinner spoons don’t seem to like me.  They say I’m “different.”  It’s true, I don’t match the others in pattern nor am I quite the same size.  I am not as shiny-brilliant as the others yet I know I have a valid place here.

The soup spoons want to get rid of me.  “Toss him out! Mangle him in the disposal!” shout the salad forks. They cruelly joke at their midnight meetings.

The knives and forks are split.  Some want to accept me and celebrate the history I bring to the table while others think my presence is the start on the slippery slope of random, patternless, downgrading from the so-called 18-10 pure stock they boast about.

They all came from a local store, all shiny and bright!  They think they are so special! Well, let me tell you, there is nothing really special about all that.  I arrived here via a different route.  Let me tell you about it. It is no wonder my finish is a little dull.

Like those upstarts, we had a common beginning. We were each stamped out of a sheet of stainless steel – borne of common stock. But here is where the story diverges.  I was made in Germany probably during that awful war.  My relatives were sent away to where, I don’t really know.  I ended up in a little corner of Bavaria, Lautrach – to be more precise.  I was in a small collection of kitchen implements that served the Radke family as they struggled to survive in a displaced persons camp housed in a former convent. They had come there under the spray of gunfire from the Ukraine.

I was only there for a short while – one January day, when Allied bombers strafed the area on a run to destroy factories in Memmingen, a premature baby was born as the expectant mother had run into a shelter from the terribly loud engines of the formation and threat of menacing attack.  This baby added one more person to the already crowded, and growing, camp.

So the family gathered me and a few of my ilk– a knife and fork, a few dishes together into their cloth sacks and they were sent to southern Austria – Klagenfurt.  In hastily constructed wooden barracks built in a field behind the school, I took up my new residence.  It was quieter there, a bit safer and it seemed the war was nearing its end. There wasn’t much for me to do but help move the soup and cornmeal mush from bowl to mouth, bowl to mouth, back and forth. Those mouths of mother Elfrieda, father Arnold and the two children, Reinhold and Elsa, were always open and ready for food that was barely enough for them. The war was about over – in fact Field Marshall Montgomery’s office was just around the corner from where this family stayed. I never got to meet his tableware but I heard through the grapevine it was high class – most likely they would have shunned me for my plainness and the lack of a hallmarked pedigree.

Just like in the other places, this camp also filled up with more people who had been driven from their homes in northern Italy, the Slavic countries and Poland so we were moved once more to Maria Saal, about twelve kilometers away.  There, I lived in a big, three-story L-shaped building that was run by nuns and overseen by Russian, then British troops. The flags overhead kept changing but the conditions remained pretty much the same.

How did I stay with this family?  I have no idea – times were so unsettled and places were so temporary. Orders would come and almost overnight, people had to move on.

We were moved again, this time into the Austrian state of Stiermark and the river town of Kapfenberg along the Mur River.  This town had perhaps a dozen or so camps or Lagers scattered around and I held out hope to become reunited in some dishpan with some of my distant relatives but, alas, that never came to be.
I remained with this same family which now grew by two more babies, first, Bernie and then Lydia.  More mouths to feed and not much more food to do it with. I was terribly busy.

We moved from one barrack to another as the family tried to improve their surroundings until one grim day, when Arnold had been off to work.  He worked in a factory somewhere across town and had supplemented his meager income making and repairing shoes on the side.  The camp director and a local policeman came and knocked at our door. Many in the camp had seen them approaching and knew something was up and it was likely not good. The camp director was usually the bearer of bad news.

“Knock- knock!”  Insistent and demanding. They gathered around, craned their necks and tried to listen-in.  Elfrieda answered the door and the man held up a hat and a briefcase.  “Do you recognize these items?” he asked.  She nodded.  They belonged to her husband, Arnold.  “Come with us,” they told her and off she went.

The men took her to a morgue where she identified her husband’s body.  “We found him hanging in the woods, shot in the head,” they told her.  I was still and ignored for a day or so – splayed on the table covered with dried drips of coffee.  People brought in food, or had the family over for a meal and I sat cold and lonely on the table in their dim room.

Not long afterward, Elfrieda and her four children were transferred to a camp for widows and the elderly. It was in the center of Stiermark; the iron mining town of Eisenerz. Iron mine?  Was I getting closer to my roots? Iron becomes steel, steel is refined into stainless steel.  You get the picture…

I felt strangely at home there in the midst of the year-round snowcapped mountains.  Things got rather routine and quiet there.  The two older children were in school every day and the little ones were home.

The conditions in our little barrack room were very basic – two beds, a wood stove, a table a few chairs and a few shelves. The room was lit by a single lightbulb suspended from the ceiling. Water was carried in from the outside pump, heated on the wood stove for my daily washing or the Saturday night baths of the children. The latrine was a community affair a few doors away – downwind, thank goodness!

I was always busy, what with my feeding chores that consisted mostly of polenta and soup.  Lots of soup.  But I was also used for other things, like to pry open a can of government-issue food, lard, canned meat, canned powdered milk, etc.  The kids used me to squish roaches and bedbugs against the walls of their room. I did NOT like that job. The children delighted in this game but I hated the feel and sound of the crunch.

When the Brits left, the Americans moved in and the family was treated the best when compared to all the other places we’d been.  Some missionaries gave them treats and had the children over for dinners and parties once in a while. They’d come home to the barrack, Elfrieda would be stirring her tea with me and they’d tell her of the wonderful time they had.

There was a lot of talk in the camp and most wanted to leave. One way out was to immigrate elsewhere.  The Missionaries helped the family apply for immigration to the U.S.

On a January day in 1955, a message was delivered, “Be in Munich via Saltzburg in five days for your flight to the U.S.”  There was little time to organize and give farewells to friends. They gathered me and a few of my buddies up in their few suitcases and off we went to Munich – by bus, and then by train. But hold your horses because here it gets really interesting!

They were to board a plane in Munich but baby Lydia got sick and was running a fever.  “She cannot get on that plane!” they were told. (I could hear it all through the thin-walled suitcase Reinhold carried.)  “You have to wait a few days for her to get better.” That was a big break because that very same plane on the flight they were to board, crashed on takeoff and all were killed.  I would have ended up melted or swept off to a landfill somewhere!

But we did finally get to the next plane, and after a noisy 23-hour flight in this WWII vintage airplane, we landed in New York, were picked up by our sponsors and taken to our new home.

I stayed with this same family and when the oldest girl, Elsa, went off to college, I went with her.  I got mixed up with a few strays in the dining hall but that’s another story. Then she met some guy, they got married and I’ve remained with them, in their homes in New Jersey, in Illinois and now in Michigan; still spooning up the soup and stirring cream into coffee – a little bit at a time.

So, there you have it.  No, I am not as shiny and glamorous as my drawer-mates. I am a little worse for the wear, but I could teach them all a thing or two about the world out there.

The Wacky Town of Nirvanaberg

May 2nd, 2015

Welcome to Nirvanaberg, a City of Faith

In the beginning, in the little village of Nirvanaberg lived a tribe who were peaceful and happy.  They shared in their weekly homage to their sacred Book of Law Fear and Hope which they called, “The Volume.”

They were directed each week by a strict yet benevolent leader who was ordained after passing a series of tests and trials as prescribed by The Volume. Two of the trials involved hoops and hurdles while others led across hot coals to secret rituals, handshakes and passwords.

The tribe would gather in the town square each Granday (the last of their ten-day week), stand and listen to their leader interpret the writings of The Volume and help all apply its inherent lessons to their lives.

But one day, some of those standing and listening began to express that their backs ached, their feet hurt and they had trouble seeing their leader speaking. One in their midst suggested, “If we all sit down, we can ease our pains and perhaps focus on our leader a bit better.”

Well, that caused quite a commotion.  Many felt, “We’ve never done it that way before!” So they declined the proposition.  Others agreed with the suggestion and sat right smack down in the middle of the town square.

When challenged to explain their unusual course of action, the sitters cited a passage from The Volume; Adhesions, Chapter 3, verses 4 to 6, “Be in repose to hear the Word for then the mind is clear to allow proper contemplation.”  But, those who favored to remain standing as they had always done, cited that same Book of Adhesions only this time Chapter 6, verse 8, “Stand rigid. The Word to the upright shall prevail.”

Over the ensuing months, the two groups grew steadily apart.  Each adopted a separate identity. One group called themselves “Standites.” They thought they were the right and the preferred people in the eyes of their Deity. The other group countered with their new moniker, “Sittites” who also took on a feeling of smug superiority.
Tensions continued to escalate until one day the “Sittites” gathered in another area of the town. They elected their own leader who was pleased his followers could sit and listen without catcalls and recriminations being hurled during the day’s message.

When new people were greeted into the village, an opening conversation would often include, “Welcome to Nirvanaberg.  Are you a Standite or a Sittite?” The new person stood a 50/50 chance of gaining acceptance by giving the hoped-for answer.

And so it came to pass, there were now two groups of believers in the village – each following The Volume but differences of interpretation led them to separate identities.

The Standites continued to meet in the square and good fortune soon had them believing this was a message of affirmation from their Deity – The Grand Exulted Sceptered Bejeweled Prince of All.

Down the block and around the corner, in a likewise manner, the Sittites grew in numbers and they, too, accepted their good fortune as a message of affirmation from that very same Deity whom they now called The Grand Exulted Sceptered Prince of Us.

The village became a two-group town and for a long time things were peaceful except for occasional rivalry on the village softball field and the one-ups-manship that began to dominate town celebrations such as parades and bake sales.

The Standites did their thing and the Sittites did theirs and rarely did they come into conflict with one another other than the infamous Village controversy that arose over whether or not park benches should be allowed along Main Street. Consensus was never achieved, therefore the sidewalks remained benchless. The Standites took this as a moral victory.

Each Granday in Nirvanaberg, as the Standites gathered in the square many began to note some wore penny loafers, many were barefoot and yet others wore sandals.  Immediately they called a conference to decide what to do.  It was proclaimed that because The Volume stated in Fallopians 4: 5-9, “Whosoever receives the word with skin bare upon the earth…is surely…better than the others,” sealed the deal.  A proclamation went out across the valley that from this time forward, “All Standites will remain barefoot, as it is written.”

That was fine with the ones already barefoot but others, especially the penny loafer group, who wanted to show off their shiny bronze coins, protested.  ”We feel we are unable to express our faith without our loafers,” they reported through a spokesperson.

Lo and Behold, their leading scholar, Jeremy Todd, found a passage in a new revised translation of The Volume, Nusmatics1, 4:3-5 that stated, “Great are the penny bearers for they shall shine in the light of the The Grand Exulted Sceptered Bejeweled Prince of All.”

Todd’s followers began to protest by wearing their penny loafers to the Standites’ meetings until they were forced to break off and form their own group who became known as Toddinists. The sandal group quickly followed their own path, based on their more generous interpretation and formed the Reformed Birkenstockians.

At that very same time, only a few blocks away, the Sittites were facing similar challenges. Their consternations involved sitting implements.  One group liked folding chairs yet their counterparts favored rows of wooden backed benches that were fastened to the floor. They called them pews.  The folding chair group cited the 7th chapter of Steelcasonians, verses 3-4 where it plainly stated, “It is right and proper to allow flexibility in arrangement as one hears the word.” as their spiritual mandate for their preference for seating.  The pew group cited the 3rd chapter of Laminations, verse 3, “Let nothing sway your attention from the word, not sky, not rushing waters, not chair arrangement nor layers of thin wood glued to a base…” to justify their preference for pews.

Alas and alack, each group felt it was right and therefore favored by The Grand Exulted Sceptured Bejeweled Prince of Us to the exclusion of the others.  They split from one another and formed the Reformed Sittites and the Pewtonians.

The small village of Nirvanaberg began featuring a number of places for worship – nearly one on each corner.  Groups continued to divide and proclaim their superiority over all others via self-interpreted divine right.

Within each group, perfectionists continued their compulsive quests for preferred posture at the banquet of spiritual salvation.  Some felt their faith should be static – remain steadfast to the professed wisdom of the past while others felt their faith should be dynamic and adapt to the changes of the times.

Nevertheless, things continued to change. Among the Standites, the penny loafer wearing Toddinists split into the Oxfordonians, Wingtipites and the Sneakerites who were viewed by everyone with much suspicion.  The Birkenstockonians broke into the ever-fickled Flipfloponians and the highly adaptable Keenists.

With every split, chapter and verse from The Volume – many translations sited – were researched and championed to justify the new divisions.

Within the Sitties, the Steelcaseonians were not to be outdone with their division into a padded seat group (The Softbottoms) and the stamped metal seat groups (Hardbottoms).

The Pewtonians divided into one group claiming spiritual justification with pew cushions (confusing all by also taking on the Softbottom logo) and another group who were convinced hard wooden seating surfaces brought the believers closer to The Grand Exulted Sceptured Bejeweled Prince of Us. (Pewtonian Hardbottoms – this was getting very confusing).

The town of Nirvanaberg grew increasingly diverse and the growing numbers of factions spread like tendrils throughout the land.

Over time, each sect became increasingly adamant theirs was the exclusive connection to the Divinity and those who differed were doomed to the gnashing of teeth, wringing of hands and chronically chapped lips. Each sect sought and occasionally achieved political power to impose their beliefs on the masses.

But, dear reader, please remember Nirvanaberg is a fictitious place.  People of compassion and intelligence would never allow such a system to occur in real life.

A Sharing Failure

April 20th, 2015

Apparently, George and Martha Robin were not in the same kindergarten most of us had attended.  Their willingness to share space near our back deck was as congenial and successful as a House republican’s (lower case “r” intended) willingness to compromise on an item of legislation.

After Lovie and I went so far as to re-arrange the grill a greater distance away from the construction zone, George and Martha chirped a few complaints and left behind some commentary in the form of (ahem) “splatters” on the grill cover, then flew the proverbial coop.  To where?  Read on.

Martha, with child (as they say) and with a look of great concern around her beak, was getting anxious.  “Why did I ever go out with that guy?” she was overheard complaining to Greta Goldfinch.

“I could have chosen Rufus instead.  He had been hanging around, displaying and such. He had a really nice display going on! He was HOT!!”

She continued, “My mother had warned me about George…’his entire flock is a bunch of last-minute, lazy ner-do-wells.’”

But, alas and alack, George was chosen – likely because of that unguarded moment of passion on the Maple branch out behind the garden shed.

Greta Goldfinch nodded in agreement.  “Well, MY Gunther is better than that!  I even had him background-checked by the Crow Agency over in the Oak tree.”

“In fact,” she continued, “When I went over there, I saw a poster on their bulletin board with a picture of George. It had a red circle around it and a diagonal line right through its center! Fair warning to all, I would say…”

“Humph…” was all Martha could add.

This morning, there was a flurry of activity just above the post that supports our front entry overhang.  It’s the ancestral home of George’s forbearers – third cousins of great-grandpa Reginald, thrice removed, I think. George was busy and not a moment too soon.

Long story short, before construction was completed, Martha had to settle-in to the nest. She squiggled around a bit and took on a look of concentration as she strained and relaxed, strained and relaxed.  George continued building around her as she strained and relaxed again.  “Focal point!  Focal Point!” he coached her.

Martha labored on.  One, two and then three.

“Ahhh!” she finally chirped.  George flew off to get some cigars to pass out to his buddies.

Happy Spring!

April 17th, 2015

I’ve been to kindergarten. I know the deal.  I learned my lessons well, in fact that year in kindergarten in Chatham’s Fish and Game Club across from Fairmount Avenue School was probably the finest hour in my entire 51-year life in public schools.

I learned to take my humble place in a line – even if I am not the leader.  I learned to skip (kind-of) and I learned to share, although life has taken me down the dark path of confused contradiction when it comes to sharing lamb chops.

I can share a space – on the highway, if someone passes me, that’s O.K. If someone even cuts in front of me, I can slow down and share the road. I await my proper turn at a 4-way stop. In the words of George II, I’m a helluvaguy. In enclosed spaces, I move over to allow others to share my territory, yet because of those lamb chops, I do admit I take more than a normal share of space.

So recently, with the advent of spring, sharing space around our house has become a challenge for some who also claim it as home. Inside the house, my God-given instinctive sense of extending my personal space is limited. I cannot get away with expanding my territory with used bits of clothing strewn about. Lovie sees to that.

But outside on our deck, next to our grill, there is another challenge.

My trusty gas Weber is on the edge of our deck, in close proximity to a pine tree.  The grill has been there for years, ever since I saved up the lucrative earnings from my stint as a twelve-dollar-a-week columnist for the local daily (note to aspiring writers: “Don’t give up your day job”).  It took many weeks to earn that $600 grill so I do not take it lightly.

That pine, once a sapling, is now about ten-feet tall, making it head-high for me on our elevated deck. This tree’s presence has invited George and Martha Robin to set up a maternity ward to serve their immediate and future needs. Now here’s the problem…I am willing to share the space but George and Martha ARE NOT willing.

I’ve tried to be diplomatic. I have gone out there with my late afternoon medicinal beverage in hand, sat upon on a molded plastic chair and tried to talk with them. I used a calm voice, even a little sing-song-y. They took immediate exception to my presence, flying away and scolding me from a safe distance!  I took out a few painstakingly collected earthworms as a peace offering. Even then, they did not trust my intentions and angrily stayed away. Such ingrates they are!

Now, their nest is in the plastering stage.  George is busy flying back and forth with his beak full of mud, getting the ward ready for Martha’s offerings.  Martha sits on a branch nearby, observing George’s gallant efforts and sensing the growing eggs in her birdie lady parts, anticipating the blessed event.

What’s a guy to do?  I cannot upset the forces of nature – me being the omnivore and testosterone-driven master of the backyard grill versus the very basis of existence for these birds – their primal need to procreate. So who’s to prevail?

It is going to be an interesting summer.

My Poor Achy-Breaky Heart!

March 23rd, 2015

Well, boys and girls. After only two weeks, it happened.  New identities and new interests have come out of the first sessions of the line dancing class at the senior center.

“Lovie-Lou” and “Audrey-Sue” announced to me, “We’re a-goin tah mosey on down ta the Union Hall tah-nite tah practice our 8-step ‘l’ecteric slide!”

“Ya-all can string along if yew wish but it’s a-gonna be a late one.”

I looked up from the spring training baseball game on TV, wiped the drool from my chin, “This isn’t, you know, Wednesday…Ladies’ night…just want to warn you.  Heads will turn when you walk-in.”

Lovie-Lou smiled, and in her newly affected accent said, don’t yew worry about a thing, sweet darlin’…we don’t need no stinkin’ ladies’ night! We are women!  Hear us roar!!”

I thought it’d be a passing fancy but Noooo! They just signed up for the next follow-up series.

New ride, a 14-yr. old rusty-red pickup – A.M. radio that gets only one station on its coat-hanger antenna, new “duds” (as they call ‘em) plaid western-cut shirts, bandanas, pointy leather boots, waddya-call-them – skinny jeans?,  spurs that go jingle-jangle when they “saunter” around the “bunkhouse” and the “inside chuck wagon,” are all part of the scene.

It continues with a more than subtle drawl from binge-watching Hee Haw reruns, hats – Stetson.  Big Stetsons and then there are the belt buckles – the size of manhole covers that might have been designed by Liberace.

I’m going to stay home and rustle-up some grub for when they come back. My God, what’s happening here?  …at least I don’t have to pour her beer into a glass anymore…

The Curse of the Line Dancing Class

March 10th, 2015

Lovie’s never been interested in cars.  When asked, “What kind of car do you have?” she’d answer, “a white one.” So now, in her third week of Line Dancing class at the Senior Centre she caught me by surprise.

“Let’s go out for breakfast! You can pick the place!”  Too dumb to know something is up, I agreed since I have been pining away for the Belt Buster Special at the Arterial Sclerosis Café (“ASC”) on the edge of town.

As I was finishing up my second pork chop and mopping up the last of the maple syrup on my plate with the end of my cinnamon roll, she suggested, “Let’s drop by the Chevy dealer out on the highway!” Huh???

Aesthetically, this was instantly bothersome since I have avoided American-made cars ever since our infamous 1977 green Plymouth van debacle.

Chevy dealer?

We drove into the parking lot and instantly, a well-dressed man ran over and helped us out of the car.  Holding the door open for her, another guy waited for me to get out and got into our car, “I’ll park it for you.”

I glanced back and he was unscrewing its license plates!

“A little sure of himself,” I surmised.

In the showroom, I started walking toward a nice Malibu sedan but Lovie grabbed my arm and led me over to the Silverado – a massive bright red pickup with crew cab, and 4×4 painted on its side. This is the kind of vehicle shown during commercial breaks on virtually all sports shows on TV; manly voiceover, rugged, flannel-shirts, lumberjacks, red meat and beer all to the backdrop of some guy who sounds severely constipated shrieking some obnoxious song about freedom.

With her newly affected southern drawl, Lovie said, “This is the one!!”

Looking at this truck, I felt a very strange sensation, one that had been absent in recent decades.  From some mysterious forgotten place, out of the depths of my being came a surge of testosterone rushing to my brain.  I immediately had to remove my hat and hold it in front of me. The salesman understood and quietly stepped aside while I regained my composure.

The driver’s door was opened and quickly, Lovie brushed me aside and climbed into the driver’s seat.  From her purse she took out a CD and slipped it into the slot on the dash.  She turned the key to “accessory” and from the 16 Bose speakers in the cab I heard:

“Don’t break my heart, my achy-breaky-heart!”

I thought the boots and the leather vest we got last week would end it but no, it was the curse of the line dancing class striking its biggest blow yet and claiming another victim.

Traffic, Groceries and Technology

March 7th, 2015

The middle of the intersection of Main Street and Passaic Avenue was marked by a large circle – painted white. Chatham, NJ, c. 1947.  The circle was either for the benefit of the DeSotos and Packards driving through it or it was for the benefit of Traffic Officer Blatt who stood in its midst, waving the cars with his white gloves. The circle told him where to stand and told the motorists to respect that space of his.

The circle was replaced by stop signs, not the red ones we now see but these were  yellow with black lettering and studded with white reflectors.  Now, the intersection is controlled by electric traffic lights. The Officer Blatts of these days roam around in their patrol cars or walk an occasional beat around the downtown or hang out in the donut shop, next to the Maytag repairmen, waiting for a call. Digital red light cameras and self-braking, speed regulating and self-parking cars are here and self-driving cars are coming our way. Can’t wait to see how that impacts NASCAR.

The downtown Chatham A&P, only a half-block away, had shelves and displays stocked by hand and each item was individually marked (by an actual wage-earning person) with its price.  That made it hard to change the prices higher until the lower priced items had been sold. We still have shelf/display stockers but they have no connection to pricing items.

The butcher counter featured burly nine-fingered men clad in “whites” or “reds” depending on time of day. They’d custom cut and wrap each of their offerings – that is where the terms, “butcher”, “butcher paper” and “butcher string” come from. Cleavers and big hacksaws hung from the ceiling above the heavy maple butcher block. Aromas of fresh and not so fresh meat and damp sawdust filled the air.

Then it was off to the produce department where the clerk would weigh each item, place it into a small brown bag and, with a fat dark crayon, scribble the related cost.

The non-perishables were stacked high on shelves and a clerk would use a long-reach grabber to grab or flip the requested item and catch it ala Willie Mayes in the center field of the Polo Grounds before handing it to the shopper.

The checkout counter in front was the final stop. It smelled good there. It was the alluring combination of Evening in Paris worn by white-apron-clad Betty, the checkout clerk and the fresh ground Bokar coffee from the machine at the end of the counter. Betty’d check the remaining items from the shopper’s basket and, with a soft lead pencil, scribble each item’s price on the brown paper bag.  Then the list would be added the old fashioned way, remember arithmetic?  Actual cash – dollars and coins – would be transferred from the hand of the customer into the clerk’s hand and drawer that pulled out from under the countertop.

Dairy and bakery products were delivered to your door by separate companies. The milkman and a bakery truck would come by a few times per week.

The A&P’s crayons and pencils were soon replaced by electronic scales, prepackaging and a cash register. The clerk would have to punch in each item and the machine would add it all up. A bell would ring and the cash drawer would pop open to allow completion of the transaction. Now we have self-scanners and barcodes while the unemployed clerks sit home worrying about their unemployment benefits and pensions being cut. An entire Aldi grocery store can easily be run these days with four employees per shift.

Are we at the nirvana of grocery shopping yet? Not too fast little Bucko, smart phone scanning, entire shopping cart scanning (like the metal detectors used at airports) are on their way and will be interfaced with electronic funds transfer.  No clerk, no fuss, no jobs for retail employees.

At one time we pushed the technology but now it is pushing us. Perhaps that has contributed to the reactionary political regression movement.

Acts of Nobility

March 4th, 2015

I have probably learned as much or even more from children than I ever have from adults. I was called a teacher but I really was the student. An entire book could be written about that…and was.

Even now in retirement, learning from children has continued.  Tutoring fourth and fifth graders in reading provided more such opportunities.

A year ago, I met fifth grader, Isiah.  He is a very bright, capable young man and really doesn’t need my assistance but he was part of the class I was assigned and we did not want him to feel left out.  He is creative in an artistic way and academically ahead of the curve in all areas. Recently I noted his hair is getting longer and longer. I asked, “How long are you going to let your hair grow?”

He answered, “Halfway down my back.”

“Are you going to tie it back? Pony tail?”

He responded matter-of-factly, “No, they will cut it off for kids with cancer.”

Nobility from an eleven-year-old. – Not much more to say about it than that one word.

Last week, church choir was accompanied by two young musicians.  Erin on violin and Julia on cello.  They are both freshmen in high school. With a violin or cello, one does not just pick it up and start playing at a level suitable to accompany anyone.  Their levels of playing result from years of lessons and hundreds of hours of practice.  But that is just the tip of the iceberg. They might not understand this now but their dedication over this prolonged period of time combined with the support of their parents is the continuation of our culture and preservation of our musical heritage. This cannot be done with an iPhone, an XBOX or a tablet. One cannot do this with the push of a button or the swallowing of a pill.  There are no shortcuts. It is more nobility from children.

Erin’s mom was a college music major and is now a professional interpreter for the deaf.  Her father was in college choir and is a medical lab technician. Erin’s younger brother, Kyle, also takes violin lessons. The legacy of honoring music added to the dedication, and the discipline of practice continues in this family.


Sooo tired!

February 28th, 2015

Boy am I tired!  It’s been such a busy week already.  First I drove Lovie and friend Audrey to Tai Chi class, dropped them off and I sat in the coffee shop to wait for them.  They wanted to sign up for a Line Dancing class but we had to go out for the starter set of required gear; cowboy hats, big belt buckles and a copy of the CD featuring “Achy-Breaky Heart”.  At Travis Grit’s Emporium of Western Wear and Gun Shop out on the highway, I waited in the car for a whole hour! Luckily, cowboy boots are not required until the Advanced Line Dancing class begins in the fall. When class starts, I’ll get to spend more time in the town library.

Then we schlepped to the Dollar Store and I read my fitness book in the car while they perused all the bargains.

Back home it’s, “Please get out of your chair so I can vacuum under your feet!”  And later, “Would you kindly leave the kitchen so I can empty the dishwasher?”  So I close the refrigerator door, even though my search and grab mission is incomplete and I waddle back down to my mancave. It is unrelenting! Sooo tired!

I am disturbed from my self-pitying when Lovie asks me to put gas in the snow blower so she can clear the driveway.  I got her a really nice one, easy to start so her arm is not made longer with all the pulling on that starter cord. I hardly have time for my nap!

Recipe for a Reunion

February 25th, 2015

In the last few years, this space has provided some benefits.  First and foremost, it has been preventative in nature. It has held a state of possible insanity just beyond reach. How?  It is a relief valve and performs like the controlled release of kinetic energy that builds up behind a great dam like the Hoover.  It lets a little out at a time and, thereby, my mind is clear to do other things necessary for the continuation of life itself and marital bliss such as picking up my laundry from the floor, being patient while all labels are read and compared in the aisles of the supermarket.

But another benefit of this space for me occurred recently in the form of a reunion.  Through the magic of the internet, two former classmates found me. I wasn’t hiding, but like so many in this world of mobility, while we all began in the same place, time took us elsewhere.

In our 14th year on this earth we were in the same high school cafeteria in New Jersey, then the Big Bang of life happened and like the planets exploding into different orbits, they ended up in Florida and I ended up in Michigan. I am now in my 70th year but, to protect their privacy, I won’t mention what year they are currently enjoying. We met for lunch along the shore of the inland waterway down south.

So what were the ingredients in this re-connecting?

  1. Curiosity seasoned with a little mystery is the backdrop.  Having never attended a formally organized class reunion (for a variety of reasons) this was a unique experience shrouded in just a little mystery.  What has transpired in the past 57 years of life?  How has that changed us? I know am the same (just bigger and better)…but what about them?
  2. Character lines are in different places.  In 1959, they were called wrinkles and were in my shirts that I hastily picked off the floor when getting ready for school in the morning. Now they are “character lines” badges of honor from survival of life’s adventures and not so easily covered with a sweater.
  3. Hair.  It’s all about location. The peach fuzz was on my face and the hair was on my head. Over the decades, they have traded places.  Now it is peach fuzz on my head and “bush-face” (as they termed it) on my cheeks and chin.
  4. Body mass – let me put it this way – there is more of me to love.  Way more. Twice as much. Them?  Like all good women of a disciplined life, they have fared exceedingly well in this department.
  5. Common interests?  At age 14, one’s interests are a little more focused and intense.  I cannot speak for them but mine were certainly driven by hormones and a sense of curiosity that was only occasionally satisfied by perusing my grandfather’s copies of National Geographic. At age 70, some questions have been answered but others keep cropping up to keep life interesting.

At precisely 1 P.M., Lovie and I parked our car and began walking toward the restaurant a few hundred feet away.  Were we being watched?  Would they see me, shriek and run out the back door? As we approached the entrance, two ladies appeared just inside. They stood and watched.  That was a good sign since there was no indication of flight.

We got closer, greeted with hugs and smiles, had a delightful lunch and tried to fill in the gaps that nearly six decades had formed. It was good.