Napatree

In my mind I am often on Napatree. You're welcome to come along.

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December 31, 2014

Recently, I was asked to provide the history of the house where we are living.

Years ago we owned a house that was built in 1816 by a man named Elijah who had a wife named Sarah. After Sarah’s death, he married a woman named Honor. That house had a center chimney and a large cooking fireplace, with an oven, in what must have been the kitchen. It had smaller fireplaces in three of the other rooms, a front staircase, a back staircase, small window panes of watery glass and a door leading outside from the keeping room. When we were establishing gardens behind the house, we found, long buried in the earth, horseshoes, rusty nails and broken pieces of blue and white pottery. The walls of this house were thick, walls that had endured, and sometimes sitting at my desk in the quiet of a summer afternoon I would imagine I heard the sound of a woman in a long skirt moving about, the cries of a new born baby. Sounds the old walls remembered.

The house I live in now was built by a doctor almost eighty years ago. It faced Fourth Street then and only later was the house positioned so its address became Oak Street. This house was added on to over time acquiring more bedrooms and another bathroom. I am unsure of all who lived here I tell the person asking for its history, but I know a swimming coach and his family occupied this house at one time as well as another family with children. I found no buried crockery in the land around this house when we moved in but written on the walls of a bedroom closet were words, blunt and maybe dirty words, penned by a teenage girl about a teenage boy. Words that made me smile. There were "Hustler magazines," too, hidden carefully away since 1988 behind the insulation of a passage to the attic. 

8:14 am cst | link 

December 30, 2014

The average height of an American man is a bit over five feet nine inches. For a woman, the average height is five feet, five plus inches. At five feet four inches, I am under average, I am one of Randy Newman’s ‘Short People.’ And though my husband is above average in height, as are all my children, I have felt short, too short, on only two occasions.

One of those occasions was my youngest son’s wedding. My tall son married a beautiful tall young woman whose parents and siblings are also tall. Tall like in well above average. Tall like in tall dark and handsome. In wedding photographs everyone is visible from mid-chest up. Except for the mother of the groom. Me. Only my head can be seen in group pictures.

The other occasion when I felt really short, like unbelievably short, was yesterday when I was introduced to a family from Wisconsin. A tall blond Viking family, a delightful family who stood in the foyer of my house and towered over me. Way over me. So far over me, all the women were six feet plus, I looked down at my feet. Had I, I wondered, forgotten to put on my shoes?

8:56 am cst | link 

December 29, 2014

I’m not smitten with technology but I do not turn my back on it, either. I use it constantly.

Given a choice I would prefer to see a game live rather than watch a game, edited for me, on a screen. I prefer being outside to watching a documentary about being outside. And I would much rather see my friends’ faces than go back and forth with them on facebook.

Recently I read an article containing a list of ways to make ourselves happier. The first way, the article cited, was to be present. It stressed the importance to our happiness of being present to partners, friends and family members. Physically present. Social media connections, it stated, did not equate with being present.

I parrot the above, they are not my words. I am not an authority on technology in our lives nor an authority on what makes us happy. But about the following I might have an opinion. Yesterday I was talking to an acquaintance who said his in-laws had given his three children ipads for Christmas. The children who received the tech Christmas presents are ages five years, three years, and eight months old. 

8:25 am cst | link 

December 28, 2014

Yesterday I decided on the spur of the moment to head to Ikea, the blue and yellow purveyor at The Mall of America, of Swedish designed furnishings for the home. Furnishings with names like FINTORP and ULLGUMP only someone with the surname Llijdhal, Bjorkland or Hedling can translate or pronounce.

I like to visit Ikea. I particularly enjoy perusing the fabric there because it looks very much like Marimekko designed fabric, and I like many Marimekko designs which tend to be bright, clean-edged and uncomplicated. I also find the lighting options at Ikea interesting. Light is important to Scandinavians. They know how to make the most of it.

So off I went with a mental list of things I wanted to pick up: fabric, cutlery, dish towels and some picture frames. Some NYTTJA. Approaching the mall the traffic became horrendous, and the drives into the mall turned out to be completely blocked with cars backed up, and unmoving, on Highway 77 and the overpass bridge. A traffic gridlock. It happened that I never made it to Ikea because it appears that most everyone else, did.

8:23 am cst | link 

December 27, 2014

It has been warm enough to melt the snow; on Christmas Eve there was no white stuff at all to facilitate Santa’s sleigh. This morning, though, I looked out the window to see two grown women walking along Fourth Street and one of the women was kicking in front of her, as she walked, a hunk of snowy, white ice. Ice that must have fallen off a traveling car or truck.

Growing up in the Midwest you often walked to school dribbling, like a soccer ball, a good-sized piece of ice. Helen and I would start at Margaret Street and try and keep our respective ice going until we reached the entrance of Boyd Elementary School on Barland Street. It was a good feeling if you could keep your ice intact and moving all the way down Emery Street past the house where our mailman lived, the house where the woman who played the cello lived, the house where two Pekingese dogs resided and past Shaffer’s market. A good kick on an icy sidewalk might send your hunk of ice almost two houses ahead.

This morning I enjoyed seeing a grown woman kicking a piece of snowy ice. I speculated she must be a cold weather native. 

9:33 am cst | link 

December 26, 2014

Christmas, 2014, has past. If it wasn’t as white as you might have wished and the sweater you received not quite the right fit, Christmas was, and always is, the opportunity to be brushed by a feeling of thankfulness or wonder or hope

8:18 am cst | link 

December 25, 2014

It is a warm morning on Napatree. The skies are cloudy and the temperature, even with a blustery wind, hovers around 50 degrees. It rained all night and though the precipitation stopped at dawn, the air is filled with ocean dampness. In nearby Westerly the shed erected for the annual crèche scene at the Pleasant Street Baptist church is empty except for two bales of hay. The church parking lot, however, is quickly filling with cars for a morning service. At the entrance of Christ Church Episcopal, two wreaths look festive against the polished wood doors of the sanctuary. Watch Hill is pretty much deserted though a man and his yellow lab can be seen walking on Bay Street, and a family of bikes look recently parked on the bridge walkway leading to the yacht club. Among the ‘See you in the spring’ signs posted in shop windows is a sign taped to the outside door of the Island Outfitters store. In black magic marker letters, lower case and very neat like an elementary school teacher did the writing, are the words of the day. “Merry Christmas, Happy New Year.” 

7:01 am cst | link 

December 24, 2014

T'was the night before Christmas and the family of my mother gathered to celebrate. Assembled were my maternal grandparents, Dode and Bump, my mother’s sister Lois and her husband Bugs, my Aunt Doris, and Doris’s husband who might vary from holiday to holiday. The children included me, my brother, Richard, and our cousins John, James, David, Mary, Laurel, Louise and Randy.

The Christmas Eve party was festive and was held each year at a different family’s home. In whichever home of the three sisters it was held, Dode and Bump were always the honored guests. The menu was Scandinavian and usually included meatballs, wine, a ham, Swedish baking my mother ordered from the Edmundson sisters and scalloped potatoes made by my Aunt Doris. As we had earlier drawn names in secret Santa fashion, gifts were exchanged after we ate.

The Christmas Eves of my childhood were always the same and in my memory, perfect. But years ago I read these words which have remained with me. There is fiction between the lines of our memories.

7:29 am cst | link 

December 23, 2014

The cards arrive with photographs I initially glance at and, when I have more time, study carefully. The Christmas babies that become Christmas children the following year. The Christmas bridal photographs that in no time at all, fill with offspring. The beloved Christmas faces that acquire glasses and wisdom and mark the passing of the years.

Christmas card photographs remind me we are the sturdiest people, a surviving species. We adapt. The Christmas card photographs arrive and there are missing, from those groups smiling into the camera, a spouse, a child, a grandchild. There are faces you know are suffering from an illness, a painful condition, a broken heart. Yet, it is Christmas and we carry on.

Today these words arrive in the mail. “A few paragraphs hardly begin to capture a year in the life of any family, as there are days that could become books and moments that change our lives forever. For you, our family and friends, we wish you the happiest of holidays and the healthiest of new years and the best chapters yet to be written in the life of your family.”  A seasonal wish, a perfect wish. A wish I send to you.

7:55 am cst | link 

December 22, 2014

It was a tiny confrontation. A common, life face-off happening all the time everywhere. This one yesterday at noon in a small cafe. I watched this war of wills with interest, almost pleasure, because I remembered and because the child involved, was not mine.

The small boy, not quite three, was helping his dad put used dishes in the plastic bin the restaurant provided for dirty cups and plates. Among the dishes they were taking care of was an almost full water glass The child held the glass poised to pour in the bin, knowing, it seemed, like this wasn’t a good idea. His dad said, "No, this is not a sink, I’ll put the glass up on the shelf.” “I’m going to,” said the child as he looked at his dad slightly tipping the glass. “No buddy,” said his dad, “You’re not.” The dad, who seemed a good dad, explained to his child why pouring the water into the bin was not what should be done, but the child kept threatening. The dad became more annoyed, the child’s voice became teary with intention. The little boy, looking at his dad, poured a few drops into the bin before his dad removed the glass from his hand and put it out of reach on the shelf.

As an uninvolved observer, this confrontation seemed a tie. 

7:17 am cst | link 

December 21, 2014

Shop windows. May they never disappear from our consumer environment. Last evening on a walk, I stopped to admire a cake in the window of the bakery/café, Cake Walk. A big cake, a winter cake. A grand-sized, white, tiered cake that looks like a wedding cake.

The seasonal cake is topped not with a Christmas tree but with an unadorned pine tree. There are smaller, similar pine trees here and there on the tiers. Also on the tiers are white polar bears almost camouflaged against the white icing. On one of the tiers close to the store window, so you could see it clearly, is a pale blue oval of icing representing a pond. In the pond a polar bear floats, on its back, on the blue frosting water.

This cake is not the best or the most beautiful cake I have ever seen. But it is a great cake. Great because it is a real cake. Not a cake on a screen or a cake in a photograph. A person can pause in front of the shop window and study this cake. One can imagine having a bite.

7:29 am cst | link 

December 20, 2014

The boy in the wheelchair is six. It pains me to write that his feet are floppy, his legs twisted, his head held erect in a brace. Exuberant, his classmates file back into their classroom after a half hour playing in the gym. They jabber happily among themselves as they find their seats. On his way to his table, one of the first graders pauses by the silent boy confined to the wheelchair. He stops, looks into the boy’s eyes and smiles. With his small six-year-old hand he lightly brushes the hand of his immobile classmate with such tenderness I am forced to look away.

8:01 am cst | link 

December 19, 2014

These words are written to honor my late sister-in-law, a woman who made the best plum pudding ever.

My sister-in-law was at home in a kitchen. A meal served at her table was a deliciously outstanding experience. Over the years there were many meals, and many plum puddings, as she was a generous, family oriented woman. A woman whose favorite season was Christmas.

Living in a distant state, our family’s plum pudding arrived by mail a couple of weeks before Christmas. Accompanying the puddings, there were always two, was the recipe for the hot butter sauce I was to serve over them. The recipe card always adorned with a Christmas sticker. The arrival of plum pudding to Connecticut each December signified, for me, the beginning of the Christmas celebration, the anticipation of something delicious and my acceptance into my husband’s family. It was an anticipated and appreciated gift.

The hot steamed puddings filled with raisins, currents, walnuts and apples, and infused with cognac, and always served with the sweet, buttery cream sauce, are remembered now with so much pleasure. They, like my late sister-in-law, were a part of our family Christmas. And like my sister-in-law, are missed.

6:57 am cst | link 

December 18, 2014

Maybe we never outgrow gifts. Seeing wrapped packages under the tree, the UPS man trotting up to the house with a box, the storm door sticking out because someone has stuffed something beautifully wrapped behind it, elicits a good memory, a tiny feeling of anticipation. Gifts, big and small, are a part of Christmas.

Today, I received these little gifts of the season: a loaf of pumpkin bread, a package of postcards, a snowflake ornament and a jar of homemade raspberry jam. Last night, I was treated to a dinner out. About kids, I have noticed this. They, most of them anyway, love to give gifts. Editing my life of things, as I have been lately, I am unable to jettison the gray vase with a pussy willow design, the plaster of Paris handprints, the gaudy blue earrings, the yellow heart pin, the striped rain scarf I have never worn, the bird made from stones, the t-shirt in a difficult color, the polk-a-dot plastic tray, the pop-up flower arrangement and on and on. These items are treasured gifts.

5:51 am cst | link 

December 17, 2014

Every December, sometime before Christmas, my mother and I, and my mother’s friend Alfreda and Alfreda’s daughter Kathryn who is a year older than I am, took the 400 Train from Eau Claire into Minneapolis. Our trip involved shopping at Dayton’s. We would leave Eau Claire before sunrise after being dropped off at the train station by my father and Kathryn’s father, Mr. Kidd.

When we arrived in Minneapolis I was too excited to eat breakfast in a coffee shop where we idled until Dayton’s opened. Once at the store we boarded a holiday tram that moved through the highly decorated store departments. There was always a visit to the toy department where Santa resided along many elves and a professional photographer.

Lunch was in Dayton’s ‘Sky Room’ as models circulated among the tables wearing beautiful holiday clothes. I remember those beautiful clothes. I don’t remember what we ate at those lunches but I do remember what I ordered for dessert. Every year the same dessert. A crème d’ menthe sundae. In late afternoon we’d stop somewhere for tea before we boarded the train for home.

6:20 am cst | link 

December 16, 2014

Recently I was in the audience at a Christmas pageant. I did not know any of the pageant participants. It was a standard production of the Christmas story: the announcing angel, the shepherds in the fields, the stable scene and the procession of kings, plus an addition, to this age old production, of hula dancers wearing grass skirts, jumping kangaroos and "Silent Night" sung in German.

At this particular Christmas tableau Mary had a few inches on Joseph and the main angel had great trouble with her wings. The kings wearing gold paper crowns and the shepherds in rope belted bath robes were of varying heights. The star of the production, though, was a small boy in the black and white costume of a cow. A boy with a luminous smile who waved to his mother. A boy who felt compelled to leave the stable scene and drift closer to the audience only to be  physically drawn back into the fold by his older, and also participating in the production, sister.

"Joy to the World," repeat the sounding joy. We do. Every year, everywhere, in a Christmas pageant.

5:52 am cst | link 

December 15, 2014

It is time for the annual Yankee Swap. The gift exchange of strange, cheap, out-of-the-ordinary, passe items beautifully wrapped.  I don’t remember what I brought to the Yankee Swap party last year but I remember what I brought home. A set of large white shells, I think there were a dozen, used for serving appetizers. Appetizers, like Rhode Island Clams Casino, that have to do with seafood. I actually used those Yankee Swap shells once or twice but later donated them to a tag sale.

This year I am bringing a small metal rocking chair, it stands about ten inches high, to the party as my ‘swap’ contribution. The rocking chair is really a picture frame as there is a place for a photograph at the back of the chair. I have attached a post-it note to the chair that reads, “your picture here.” I have wrapped the rocker/frame in shocking green wrapping paper and tied it up with a silver bow. As I write I don’t know what my gift will be but experience tells me, in spite of its beautiful wrapping, it won’t be that good.

It wasn’t. In a box wrapped in shiny red paper, a box decorated with sprigs of holly, was a nutcracker. A regular old you-know-what-it-looks-like, nutcracker. I am allergic to nuts.

7:03 am cst | link 

December 14, 2014

Though I am a reader of poems, a lover of good poems, I don’t go looking for them. Like stories, they find me. In last Sunday’s New York Times Magazine I happened on, just yesterday, a poem I am in the process of making mine. A poem I feel required to cut out and fold between the pages of a book or keep close at hand in a desk drawer. Words that give details of a story that belongs to me.

The author of the poem is Edward Hirsch whose work I have read before. A man I know a smattering about. Accompanying the poem is an ink drawing by the Spanish artist Miquel Barcelo. It was the painting that first caught my eye.

“Entering the Void”

New York Times Magazine, 12/7/2014, poet Edward Hirsch, artist Miquel Barcelo 

7:17 am cst | link 

December 13, 2014

Minnesota, land of Scandinavian sweaters, mainly Norwegian sweaters. There is a difference in sweater design among the Scandinavian countries, and I know this because of my subscription to "Selvedge" magazine. If you are interested in this unimportant sweater knowledge, you’ll want to know that the Swedish designs just look more Swedish, more modern than Norwegian sweaters. They look Gudrun Sjoden-ish.  Finnish sweaters incorporate a great deal of red. They are heavily influenced by Lapp designs. The Icelandic sweaters are most often knit in neutral shades of tans, greys, whites, browns and blacks, and the traditional designs most always circle around the sweater’s neck. The word for an Icelandic sweater is lopapeysa.

Years ago friends brought sweaters back from Iceland for our entire family. It was a lovely and generous gift though the kids complained that the sweaters made them itch.  Recently I was in a yarn store where I saw a woman knitting a Norwegian style sweater. It was an involved process, a challenge to her concentration. One has to conclude that the length and severity of Scandinavian winters influenced the intricate designs of these sweaters. Knitting very involved patterns of stars, snowflakes, diamonds, reindeer, etc. must have helped to keep a housebound Swedish, Finnish, Icelandic or Norwegian woman from going bonkers. 

9:33 am cst | link 

December 12, 2014

Yesterday was the December meeting of my book discussion group. The book we read this month was The Marriage Plot by Jeffery Eugenides. I liked this book, I read it twice. The setting of this novel was, in great part, Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. A place not far from Napatree, a place I know well and will always think of as home. The Marriage Plot has been described as a ‘coming of age’ work, a study of religious thinking, a tiresome piece about smart, and privileged, young adults. Exempting the word tiresome, these descriptions, for me, fit.

The author of The Marriage Plot says this about the craft of writing. “Imagine, when you are writing, that you are writing the best letter you’ve ever written to the smartest person you know. Write for the one person alone in the room whose time you are asking for.” The writing in The Marriage Plot asked for my time. I was happy to give it.

6:52 am cst | link 

December 11, 2014

On a December day, an ordinary December day with a coating of snow on the ground and patches of ice on the sidewalk, I walked through the neighborhood park with Scarlet. For the first time, I noticed the park bench I knew had been placed there in memory of a neighborhood woman, a beautiful, graceful woman, who had died too young. Unfairly young if we can determine what is fair and what is not. I read, with sadness, the words that gave the statistics of her life, her too short life. But the words that followed the date of her birth and the date of her death were the words that mattered. They read, as I had known, that this young woman had been greatly cherished. And they also read, as most of us must be continually reminded, “Life is a Gift.”

9:18 am cst | link 

December 10, 2014

->

Tuesdays the poets meet. We gather around a table to share our stories as poetry. Our meetings are necessary. On this day, Karen has written a poem about a crow. A true poem, a poem about important things. For a reason I have no knowledge of, I keep a crow feather on a bedside table. It is sleek and black like my Aunt Hazel’s hair. When our weekly meeting is over, we decide we will all write a poem to these tossed out words. “When crow moved into town…”

6:20 am cst | link 

December 10, 2014

->

Tuesdays the poets meet. We gather around a table to share our stories as poetry. Our meetings are necessary. On this day, Karen has written a poem about a crow. A true poem, a poem about important things. For a reason I have no knowledge of, I keep a crow feather on a bedside table. It is sleek and black like my Aunt Hazel’s hair. When our weekly meeting is over, we decide we will all write a poem to these tossed out words. “When crow moved into town…”

6:20 am cst | link 

December 9, 2014

I go to school to teach. Very basic math to those who struggle. But in the classroom, the school halls, the media center formerly the library, I am the one who learns, from the kids, important things I want, and need, to know

Yesterday I learned about tagxedo, a word I was unfamiliar with. Tagxedo is a word cloud with style. I learned that the kids love tagxedo, They love to manipulate groups of words on the computer into shapes using different type sizes and fonts. They love to use their technical skills to design.

School children learn from the smart board how to use the computer, the tablet. All day they learn from, and about, technology. I am unsure if all the reliance on teaching technology is a good thing, if something important might be missing in our increasingly virtual world. Really, I do not know. As for tagxedo, you can decide...http://www.tagxedo.com

6:54 am cst | link 

December 8, 2014

The caption at the top of the newspaper page read "Holiday Must-Haves." Below were pictured the Must-Haves being sold in The New York Times Store:

Glass Perfume Bottles

Knit Hats with Faux Fur Pom

Reprints of the "Magic Flute" painting by Chagall and "Pitcher and Bowl" of Fruit by Picasso

Vintage Coin Cufflinks and Money Clips

Restored Antique Radios from the 1930’s

Mugs from "Halcyon Days"

Holiday Keepsake Boxes

World War II Plane Artifacts

Wooden Ship Models

The Ultimate Birthday Book

Refurbished Antique Clocks

Hometown and Front Page Jigsaw Puzzles

Personalized Pin your Journey World Map

Derek Jeter Rookie Card

It is the Christmas shopping season and these pictured items will find their way beneath many Christmas trees where they will be appreciated, enjoyed, maybe even loved. Then, after time, maybe even not much time, these same things will be spread out on tag and garage sale tables. We know this. It is the trajectory of things.

6:28 am cst | link 

December 7, 2014

Christmas trees now fill living room windows and patio doors. T'is the season. There were years when our family displayed, and decorated, living and balled Christmas trees. Years when we brought those live trees inside a few days before Christmas and hustled them outside, to be ensconced in earlier dug holes, the day after Christmas. Trees that lived to grow to great size in our yard. One year I encouraged a friend to think about a live Christmas tree.

George and Diane bought the biggest living Christmas tree they could find. The burlap wrapped ball of roots was huge. The tree, which was situated in the living room in front of French doors and decorated with lights and ornaments, looked gorgeous. As you must regularly water living trees, Diane was diligent about keeping the root ball wet. One day when vacuuming, Diane noticed, with horror, a good-sized snake sluggishly slithering over the beautifully wrapped presents beneath the tree. Diane who does not rattle easily managed with the help of one of her young sons, and a mop and a broom, to get the snake outside and out to the terrace via the French doors.

The regular watering of the root ball with warm water, and the warm living room, had awakened the slumbering reptile who had found winter refuge, weeks earlier, among the roots of the tree. Diane, to my knowledge, has never had another live Christmas tree. The snake story has become a part of her family’s holiday history.

7:43 am cst | link 

December 6, 2014

Some days are ordinary, very ordinary. Actually, most days are ordinary. Yet even the most ordinary of days have little glimpses or sounds or encounters that are special. Sights or instances that stick with you or give you pleasure.

On my way to school yesterday, I saw a bundled up jogger running along the sidewalk. She was running side by side with her dog, a large yellow lab. I assumed that she had the dog on a leash but when I passed the two of them, I was aware that the dog’s leash was not in her hand. Instead, the big dog was running with the end of his leash, which was attached to his collar, in his mouth. The sight of this untethered, serious looking happy dog, and the dog did look happy running in sync with his owner, made me smile.

7:41 am cst | link 

December 5, 2014

I love getting Christmas cards. They are starting to trickle in. Christmas cards are an old tradition dating back. Way back to 1843 according my quick, online check. Each year, though, snail mail cards are fewer in number, ecards often taking their place. I also, usually, like Christmas letters as I enjoy being caught up. Well sort of caught up. I am a recipient of a couple of annual Christmas letters that go on. And on. Letters that detail meals and trips and times at the cabin. Letters that that inform in detail every child’s sporting activities and SAT scores. But this is the thing. Even the tedious over the top letters, the ones that go over two pages and break down the past year by months, come from someone you know, someone you love, someone who is a part of your life. And you usually know that the person writing them needs to give the details of their house redecorations or their job transfer. The involved litanies are who they are and you like them anyway. You really do. Unless they forget the reason for sending a holiday message in the first place which is to send you, their sincere good wishes for a happy holiday season.

6:15 am cst | link 

December 4, 2014

The beautifully arranged cookie tray at last night’s Christmas party was what you would want a Christmas cookie tray to contain: frosted sugar cookies in the shape of stars and bells, Scandinavian cookies like sandbakkels and rosettes, slices of fruit cake, biscotti drizzled with icing, cookies sprinkled with M and M's, pfeffernusse and for the very sweet tooth, fudge and peppermint bark. What the tray did not contain were the Christmas cookies of my childhood, a cookie my mother called opera stars.

An opera star cookie was two chocolate wafers filled with frosting.  A single cookie was about the size of, and had the look of, an Oreo cookie. But the wafers, a much lighter brown, were not terribly sweet and contained cocoa and strong coffee. The butter cream frosting inside the cookies was tinted a soft pink which was flavored with peppermint or a pale green which was flavored with wintergreen. I remember that my mother bought the wintergreen flavoring at the drug store. Not having my mother’s recipe I have, a couple of times over the years, attempted to make opera stars. I was never that successful which might be a good thing. Sweets, not so good for us. And it was impossible, I remember clearly, to eat only a single opera star.

6:32 am cst | link 

December 3, 2014

It appears winter has settled in. The scene outside the window is Christmas. People I know who live in warmer climes ask me how one survives a Minnesota winter. I shrug my shoulders in answer, like you’ve got me, but I know there are ways. We put up Christmas decorations early, often the day after Thanksgiving. We ski. We do things like learn to knit or cook. We take Russian and ballroom dancing classes. We overeat; we diet. We follow hockey and basketball teams. We jog wearing a wool face mask. We feed the birds and take photographs of the snow. We plant mental gardens.

Last night the waitress at the pizza restaurant commented on the bitter weather as we all removed our ski hats, mittens and heavy coats. She then said that she was so excited because she was going on a trip to balmy Mexico. A cruise. When are you going one of us asked? “In eight weeks,” she answered.  We survive a cold Minnesota winter in many and varied ways. We think ahead.

9:26 am cst | link 

December 2, 2014

Back to school from the mini Thanksgiving vacation, Becky and Nicole were eager to tell me what had happened in the days we’d been apart. They were both excited. So excited, in fact, it was hard for them to concentrate on learning the combinations of numbers that add up to ten.

Nicole said that she gone to her dad’s apartment one day and she had been allowed to hold her dad’s, and his girlfriend’s, new baby. She was thrilled. She loved holding the baby.

Becky said during Thanksgiving dinner at her grandmother’s house her dad gave her mother an engagement ring. A diamond. Becky said that her mother cried and then she and her older sister cried, too.

8:12 am cst | link 

December 1, 2014

We acquire things. We spend our whole life acquiring interesting and beautiful things. Sometimes lots of them. Our history becomes associated with possessions: the silverware left to us by our mother that we use on special occasions, the painting hanging in the hall done by our grandfather, the dishes given to us by a cousin, the trinkets made or purchased for us by our children. We also become the owners of things quite by surprise. A woman, who I barely knew, heard I was interested in fabric and fiber art. One day I came home to find a wedding dress, in its original box, this woman had left at my front door. The note in the box said she was long divorced, moving out of Northfield and that her daughter had no interest in her mother’s wedding gown. The dress was mine to do with as I wished.

I, like most everyone, am an owner of things. But I am finding what I like even more than the Chinese vase or the cribbage set used by a great uncle, are the stories associated with my possessions. I am, at the moment, editing my life of some of my things. Things passed down, things that clutter my house and my thinking. Gone are the collector spoons, the candlesticks from Mexico and the old sheet music. I will, though, hang on to their stories.

6:33 am cst | link 


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