Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The view from DQ

Picked up my new spectacles this afternoon, and these bifocals are working great so far.

The shape is slightly different, much like a Dairy Queen logo, so I feel like an eye-fashion trendsetter! Mom would have orchestrated the eyeglasses pick-up for at least a DQ Buster Bar on the way back home.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Easter Bonnets

"In your Easter bonnet, with all the frills upon it,
You'll be the grandest lady in the Easter Parade.
I'll be all in clover and when they look you over,
I'll be the proudest fellow in the Easter Parade.
On the avenue, Fifth Avenue, the photographers will snap us,
And you'll find that you're in the rotogravure.
Oh, I could write a sonnet about your Easter bonnet,
And of the girl I'm taking to the Easter Parade."
Irving Berlin

My sister found the box with our Easter bonnets in the closet of the room we shared as children. The two hats were packed in tissue paper. I am sure the box was tied with white string, although she didn't say. She had been in a lot of interesting boxes in that closet Wednesday, finding many sentimental gems.

In this photo from Easter 1960 I'm wearing a little blue hat with flowers and an itchy net tie that made a big bow under my chin. I think the dress is coral pink with little bees on it. I'm not wearing the matching coat, though. The hat might have been a gift from my maternal grandmother. I say that because it was not something my mom would have chosen for my coloring, but Effa Dale liked blues and lavenders. My brother wears a little blue cap. He is two, and I am almost five. We are holding the begonias given to children at First Plymouth Congregational in the hallway after the Easter service. Just thinking of it brings the scent of clay pots with nursery dirt, the feel of purple florist foil paper, and the sound of high heels on the stone floor of the hallway. My sister was only seven months old.

Over the phone she tells me how the hats are still in perfect condition, then surprises me by saying she was always so envious of my Easter bonnet. That blue hat with the big bow became HERS, probably by Easter 1961. I reverted to my original bonnet, which looked like a one-layer round cake frosted in fancy pleats of white chiffon, and accented with black velvet ties. The ties were more like a stuffed cord than a ribbon.

The neighbor girls told me my hat wasn't a real and proper Easter hat, as it wasn't straw, pastel, ribboned, or flowered. I was always very self-conscious wearing it, and secretly wished I could wear the more normal blue hat with flowers. My sister wore the blue hat because she got blue eyes, and I wore the black and white hat because I didn't. That was how I saw it. I think it was also that she had such a square jaw as a little kid that the big bow was pretty darling softening the bossy look.

How strange. I always thought I was the sister who had to wear pink because I didn't look good enough in blue. "Purple and blue," Mom told me, "accentuate the dark circles under your eyes." Turquoise was the only blue for me.

There was one Easter when we didn't wear the bonnets. Mom made us look-alike spring coats with little hats that looked like inverted tulips. Mary Jane's was light blue, of course. Mine was a pale yellow. I only remember the coat in black and white like a photo, but I know it was yellow because my Barbie had a coat made from the yellow scraps. Barbie didn't get a tulip hat, probably because of her bouffant hairdo.

For most of my adult life I refused to wear pink in passive-aggressive rebellion. I shied away from turquoise and coral even though I know they do look good on me. I was leery of blues and florals, and avoided purples like the plague. Stripes and plaids, red and greens were what I chose. What strange and ancient limitations we hold tight! I'm breaking free slowly. Nearly fifty, I bought a pink striped shirt, and a blue floral one. What distances over insecurities and old envies...

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Fabulous news

My sister called this morning just as I climbed out of the shower. She says our dad is getting crusty, opinionated, and intolerant again. Praise be! Howie's getting back to normal, our very own troll under the bridge, and we love him for it. [I can't help it. The little kids are acting out the Three Billy Goats Gruff this week.] Dad has enough energy to be pissed off, to tell it like he sees it, to follow his own motto, "Don't Hold Back", to be the guy with the long perspective on our current short-sighted, self-serving administration, not to mention cuss the jerks who drive too fast in his neighborhood.

It was great to hear, and fun to share the excitement with her. I had to get ready for work, though, so I was trying to get dressed while holding the phone and talking. It is very tricky to pull jeans onto two legs using only one hand, and just forget about zipping. I felt an almost physical blow to my chest as an awareness dawned of all the young soldiers being so glad to be alive but missing arms and legs...The old people whose villages were bombed or shelled "by mistake"...The child victims of land mines...So many people who will never put two legs into a pair of pants using both hands to zip.

The Three Sillies was my favorite folktale as a kid. It features a memorable Silly who hangs his trousers on the dresser drawer knobs at night, and makes many running attempts to jump into them in the morning. What about the Sillies who decided we should run and jump into Iraq????

Thank heaven for an old fart with enough gusto to rant and shake a finger.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Got my hair chopped short over spring break. The perm I had at Thanksgiving was okay, but now it was time to get back to the real me. Like most of my contemporaries, I could spend a thousand bucks easy on psychotherapy for my hair issues alone.

Came home from the Walk-Ins Welcome salon, and looked in the mirror. Fritzi looked back at me. My always slender face has become quite round. For forty-nine years I resembled my dad, and suddenly, I am the spitting image of my mom.

I could do worse. Mom's photo shines with enjoyment of the moment. Compare it to my scary anorexic-wannabe photo from 1989. Anxiety is the only vibe from the Ghost Dance photo sending out an SOS. I wore that little black dress twice. Somehow, I don't want to fit in it again!

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Extreme dreaming

A young student in a difficult family crisis created this lovely picture when we painted to music. It seems like a road map for my dreams this week. My brain is working overtime in parking garages, subways, golf carts, race tracks, and Intensive Care. I wake up exhausted, wishing I had eight hours to decipher the dreams, to run parallel with my eight hours at work.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Sam-I-am in clover

I would not could not at the play. I will not will not Tom DeLay.

It's Ides day again, but time is playing tricks on me. Beware of hidden emotional quick sand and tar pits. Teaching five year olds makes me feel like Alice big and small. I don't know how they got off on the subject of mothers dying. Under intense cross examination I explained with remarkable composure that my mother had died two months ago. "Was that before you were born?" Well, no, that wouldn't work quite right! Did she "pass off?" No, that's in soccer, not Mayo.

The older girls on the block when I was growing up preached the gospel of the news-worthy four-leaf clover and daisy chain. Fame would be ours if we could just find the perfect four-leaf clover. If individual fame proved elusive, we could go for the media discovery of the fabulously long clover chain we were connecting while we sat out on the driveway. We spent a lot of time sitting in the grass looking for the four-leaf clover(no fire ants back there!). We played hide & seek, kick-the-can, or jacks. We jumped rope, and sometimes folded paper "fortune tellers" requiring the selection of favorite car color and predicting our family size. We never were "discovered" by a newspaper reporter.

As for Tom DeLay, he makes me embarrassed to live in Texas. As for the play, it's at Theatre Three. Jeffrey Stanley's play, Medicine Man is about a NASCAR fan whose mother is dying of a mysterious illness. According to the press release, Stanley says the play is, "hopefully universal to anyone who has lost a loved one and hit the boundaries of faith medicine and faith in medicine." I certainly qualify, but just reading the press release brought on weird nightmares.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Four guys, three generations

My oldest son, Jeff, phoned home a little bit ago to say he had arrived safely in Lincoln, and was now hanging out with his Gramps, aka my dad Howie, his uncle Roger, and his cousin Brian. They are having Harp Ale, Roger's homebrew in honor of Brian's birthday, lots of cheese, and crackers, and probably a major storytelling/bullshitting festival. Perhaps the opportunity will arise for Jeff's two brother's and his younger cousin, Sky to join in a future family stag event. I hope Howie will tell stories about his own dad and brother.

The possibilities are interesting. Our culture lacks male tribal ceremonies. The generations of men do not retreat into the dark recesses to channel the group consciousness and oral history ala Clan of the Cave Bear. Admittedly, I am viewing this event from a female perspective. There seems to be a void instead of a significant ritual or extended dialogue for imparting from one generation to the next what it means to be a truly adult man. Most male "rites of passage" are conducted by peers and involve heavy drinking, hazing, acts of violence or bravado, and dangerous stunts mixing cars and high speed. The television male character is usually a buffoon, an under-achiever, the butt of family jokes, or a strutting rooster showing off his cars, women, and plasma t.v.s for his entourage before his next end-zone dance.

Somewhere in the last half century, the interpretation of the word "respectability" tilted heavily toward the qualities of being conventional, ordinary, boring, and having a recent haircut. What about being able to be respected, being worthy of respect, to merit the esteem, appreciation, and honor of others due to one's manner of conducting life, work, business, and relationships?

These issues apply to both genders. My core feeling is that both my parents made their decisions with consideration of future generations of life on Earth. They made choices and acted so as to be worthy of the respect of previous and future generations. That did not make them slaves to the regard of others or to the conventions of the moment. It made them honorable mature adults with clear moral compasses and a long-range perspective on actions and consequences.

May my sons be as worthy of esteem.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Fuzzy snapshots

Snapshot photos are deteriorating, yellowing, in the photo albums under the clear "protective" film. They aren't held in place by little photo corners purchased at the Ben Franklin for a quarter like my first albums. The 1965 photos from my Kodak Brownie Starmite camera are still clear. Snapshots of Grandma, her house, her older sister, Myrtle, Camp Fire Girl cook-outs, and slumber parties when we packed our nightgowns in our moms' Samsonite cosmetic cases are all well-preserved. How bizarre. We thought nothing of taking a bubble bath, three nine-year-old girls in a tub back then. We would bake a cake, lick the beaters, or eat tuna fish sandwiches and watch Alfred Hitchcock Presents...

These yellowed photos are more recent; color Kodaks from the summer of 1985 taken on a visit to hotter-than-hell Tyler, Texas. My brother was back from England with his wife and small son. My sister, mother, two sons and I drove down from Nebraska to see them. We arrived in Tyler, and went to McDonald's. Jeff, approaching his third birthday, tried to slide down the metal slippery slide in his little Carters outfit. Yow! It was hotter than McDonald's coffee, but in a less litigious era. The snapshots look like they were baked on that slippery slide like Jeff's little legs. Just remembering nursing the four-month-old Danger Baby in the backseat of the car parked on the asphalt at the Paris, Texas, DQ overheats a mama.

Who are those young, skinny people in the hazy photos?

Tomorrow I will drive across Oklahoma to find a college for a son who wasn't even born when this photo album was arranged. Sunday, Jeff will meet up with my brother and nephew at my dad's house. I hope they will take snapshots, make memories, and stay off the slippery slides.

Butter Tarts

Coming home from coffee with friends today, I kept thinking I should get the recipe for delicious butter tarts for Fritzi. She could make it for the bridge club ladies. That got me pretty choked up when reality kicked in. I will still get the recipe from JJ. Maybe you know some bridge club ladies who would enjoy a tasty, warm, buttery and sweet treat with coffee.

JJ got the recipe from her granny-in-law who lived in a rural Louisiana house with no plumbing and seven or eleven sons. With no plumbing, seven wouldn't be much different than eleven. Probably had kerosene lamps. Told her sons scary tales of the Red Eye, or loup-garou lurking in the bayous at night.

Fritzi always said her nose was crooked because of kerosene lamps. She bent over to light a match on the wooden floor of their farmhouse (only five kids, no indoor plumbing), and hit her nose on the back of a kitchen chair. My nose is crooked because of riding a saucer sled over a retaining wall. Sent my nephew an old, old lantern recently, to play Wild West or Lewis and Clark. I forget how his dad got a crooked nose, but we will all say a deviated septum is a low-level aggravation in the big scheme of things, but worth the effort of avoiding.

On my dad's side of the family there are also wise words on the subject of noses. He had an aunt, or maybe great-aunt, who used to holler out her screen door to approaching children, "You can come in if your nose is clean!" Teaching preschoolers in winter often reminds me of that saying, even if I can't use it.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

The little grey-green bird returns

Did some dirt therapy yesterday, fussing and digging in my little patio container garden. Planted two miniature rose bushes from Home Depot because one I received as a gift has proven so hardy and bloomed often. That one was pale pink. The new ones are red and coral.

I want to have fewer containers this year, and only terra cotta ones. Dumped out the white plastic flower pots back along the fence. This morning the little grey green bird returned to fuss and dig around in the myrtle looking for bugs in the dumped and dug up dirt. It's a very little bird, about four inches in length. The closest image in my bird guidebook is an immature Tennessee warbler. The bars on the wings aren't prominent, and the bird doesn't have a yellow rump.

I walked the Katy Trail with my exercise buddy today. We have been talking about doing this for at least a year. On our walk we met a bird watcher. I told her about my mystery bird, and she asked about the yellow rump. No yellow rump. The bird watcher suggested my bird was probably a pine warbler. Maybe so. My feeling is still that the little bird is a link to Fritzi, a message of hope and love. I have such a powerful connection to Mom flow through me when I see this little bird.

In one of my dreams this week I came upon a row of bushes with purple leaves. Red-spotted purple butterflies were floating and landing briefly on the purple bushes. My dream self stood and watched them, and I had a powerful sense of my mother beside me but unseen also enjoying this beautiful scene. Recalling my dream images, I am surprised to find the dream had a scent of warm dust, wild flowers, and an undefinable essence of Estes Park, Colorado!

A white cabbage butterfly floated about the emerging redbuds as we walked the trail today, but it is still early for most butterflies. The mourning cloak butterfly is usually one of the earliest in the spring. I am not wearing a mourning cloak. How could I when Fritzi is so close, reminding me to look for new life in my own backyard?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Fears For Tears

Tears are such scary things to women of my preferred label vintage. We try so hard to manage our homes, careers, children, elderly parents, money, health, weight, relations with spouses or exes, communications with extended family or in-laws. Tears seem uncontrollable, so we fear and loathe them, as Hunter S. Thompson might have written if he had a sex-change operation in Las Vegas.

Nearly every woman I know is in this strange region of caring for others, loss, and grief. It is exhausting emotional work, but we are afraid to let our emotions do their best work. We shut them down, when they can serve us best by flooding.

The ancient Egyptians knew the annual flood of the Nile provided the fertile growth. A flood of tears can move us into a new growth of creativity, sensitivity, and awareness. It's a new experience for me, and I resisted it to my utmost. I'm pleased to find it is making me a richer human being, and a better teacher, too. Letting the tears flow doesn't remove the loss or lessen our honor of our parent or relative. Letting the tears flow irrigates and energizes us to use our loss. It makes us more approachable and inspiring adults. The tears let us unload many large black yard-size trashbags of unimportant garbage from the mildewed cardboard storage boxes in our worry-laden emotional basements.

Shoo Fly Pie And Apple Pan Dowdy

Lisa, Dad's next door neighbor, brought over a huge pan of apple pan dowdy in the first few days after Mom passed away. We had some other pie, so my sister and I divided the apple pan dowdy into many freezer containers for Dad to enjoy for bedtime snacks. He is still enjoying it many evenings like last night. You can't help singing the song, and it does put you in a happy mood:

If you wanna do right by your appetite,
If you're fussy about your food,
Take a choo-choo today, head New England way,
And we'll put you in the happiest mood. with:
Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy
Makes your eyes light up,
Your tummy say "Howdy."
Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff.
Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan dowdy makes the sun come out
When Heavens are cloudy,
Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy,
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff!
Mama! When you bake,
Mama! I don't want cake;
Mama! For my sake
Go to the oven and make some ever lovin' Sh,
Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy
Makes your eyes light up,
Your tummy say "Howdy,"
Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff!

(words by Sammy Gallop; music by Guy Wood)
Best selling records in 1946 by Dinah Shore (Columbia); Stan Kenton and His Orchestra (Capitol); and Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians (Decca).

(Recipes for Apple Pan Dowdy)

In the very, very olden days I was an only child. This would be 1955-1958. After that I became the very, very big girl big sister, a title I still hold. (They can't take that away from me!) Both of these roles conveyed certain privileges and responsibilities*. In the beginning, the main privilege was staying up very late, after 8:00 p.m. CST, to watch the "Dinah Shore Chevy Show" on the little black and white t.v., and to eat Skyline Dairy Swiss Almond ice cream with my parents. Ms. Shore used to end her show by singing, "See the USA in your Chevrolet", swirling about in her Barbie fashion dress, and then tossing me a big kiss. Our car was a Chevrolet, a pea-green 1954 to be exact, and even if we weren't seeing much of the USA in those days, I knew this t.v. show was being sent directly to me in the egocentric way a preschooler understands the world. The "Dinah Shore Show" went off the air in 1963, about the time Roberts Dairy purchased Skyline Dairy. After that the ice cream just wasn't as good. President Kennedy was assassinated, and then the Great Alaskan Good Friday Earthquake of 1964 changed my world view. Television wasn't about me. It was about "stuff out there" as reported by Walter Cronkite.

*If you can remember the gravity with which Bert Parks explained the responsibility of the Miss America runner-up to take over if Miss America should be unable to fulfill her duties, you will understand that I seriously believed from age three that I might have to take charge should my parents be unable to complete their duties as parents for my younger siblings.

They Can't Take That Away From Me
(Written by George and Ira Gershwin)

There are many many crazy things
That will keep me loving you
And with your permission
May I list a few
The way you wear your hat
The way you sip your tea
The memory of all that
No they can’t take that away from me
The way your smile just beams
The way you sing off key
The way you haunt my dreams
No they can’t take that away from me
We may never never meet again, on that bumpy road to love
But I’ll always, always keep the memory of
The way you hold your knife
The way we danced till three
The way you changed my life
No they can’t take that away from me