Saturday, December 30, 2006

Mantle disornamented

"Took down Christmas" this afternoon. It's a strange expression meaning the packing away of Christmas decorations for another year, but it sounds like a wrestling term. Indeed, I am struggling with emotions as this year ends. Putting away the ornaments I had set on the fireplace mantle really got me weepy.

With three full-grown sons and their friends hanging out in the condo living room watching bowl games, we need the space taken by the Christmas tree. The tree ornaments are such a powerful connection to Fritzi that it's tough to put them away for another year. It's good to know that unpacking each decoration next December will be like opening the windows on an Advent calendar to find the joy and generosity of the Christmas season.

For twenty-five years, or basically all my adult life, my mother and I shared a joy of creating or finding perfect ornaments to remember the year. Each ornament I wrap and pack away is a combination of holiday cheer, charm bracelet, time capsule, and childhood scrapbook. We have ornaments to remember teddy bears, windmills, charcoal grills, ice-skating, school bus rides, fishing trips, firetrucks, 10K races, and aquarium fishes. Many remind me of the intense and loving involvement my mother had with her little grandsons, and her appreciation of the fine young men they became.

Someday these sons will create new homes and families. I will say a sad farewell to the ornaments Fritzi chose to acknowledge each boy's accomplishments when they migrate from our Christmas tree to theirs. I pray that each son will choose a partner who appreciates such simple and meaningful family traditions. I hope each of Fritzi's grandsons will feel her love and pride in them every Christmas.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Old rose ramblings

I wore an "old rose" blouse today. Got it on sale, of course. It has sewn-in darts, woven stripes, and machine-embroidered embellishments. Fritzi would have approved, although she could have sewn a better-fitting one.

Chocolate brown has returned to the little girl fashion scene. My little students are wearing brown with pink, turquoise, or lime green, and it fills me with an irrational hope for the future. The color combo and the floral print corduroy tug deep in my core to a basic sense memory of what it is to be a little daughter safe, cherished, and nurtured.

When my sons were small I read a story written by Fred Rogers, yes, Mr. Rogers, about how our feeling of home and safety is connected with our earliest memories of colors, patterns, sounds, and smells. I've never been able to find the story again. It may be that it is more powerful to me because I can't find it, and therefore keep looking! The story told of a young woman who was seeking a Persian rug for her home. As a very young child she had moved often to places all over the world, but her parents had always taken one rug to each new location. The young woman was searching for a rug exactly like the one she had learned to crawl on as an infant, but she didn't know it. That pattern would connect with her earliest remembered experience of "home".

The annual blouse sale at the Miller & Paine Department Store Budget Shop on the lower level of Gateway Mall in Lincoln, Nebraska, just down the stairs from Kresge's, was a crazy event in the late Sixties. Women would stand in line for the chance to paw through the racks and get into the fitting rooms. The Budget Store was also the place to get day-old Miller & Paine bakery bread, cinnamon rolls, and crumb cookies, and I can smell each of them just remembering! I can also smell the tired linoleum floor tiles and a hint of sizing. The stairwell from Kresge's down to the Budget Store smelled of ancient popcorn, plastic floral wreaths, dirty snow, and parakeet cages.

Going with Fritzi to the blouse sale was an acknowledgment that I was becoming a young woman, which was very scary, uncharted territory. Fritzi wanted me to have new clothes for ninth grade. The blouses I chose would inspire her fabric choices and sewing efforts to create outfits. She would even knit a coordinating sweater vest. It was a heavy burden, given my mother's perfectionism. I knew these choices allowed no middle ground, no enjoyment of the shopping experience for its own sake. This was Red Rover all over again.

Still, I recall each of the six blouses as if the sale were yesterday. The "old rose" blouse was a simple short sleeve blouse with the sleeves folded up. I had never heard the phrase "old rose" before I went into the fitting room, and I was sure I would look like an elderly spinster great aunt. Instead, the color is one of the most flattering for my hair and skin.

My next choice was a delicate, textured pattern of pale yellow and sage green vines on an ecru background of wide seersucker with very full sleeves. Fritzi chose a sage green wool remnant to make a simple button-front jumper with brushed silver buttons. The wool made me itch, but I will keep choosing sage and silver combinations as long as I live.

The third blouse was white with tiny woven stripes of embroidered blue, pink, and yellow flowers. The leaves were pale green, so the blouse also went with the jumper. Thirty-eight years later, I seek out the embroidered fashions. Fritzi also made royal blue culottes to go with the blouse, and I was grateful they weren't wool.

I wore the olive green shirt with the exaggerated cuffs and collar for my ninth grade photo. I tied a paisley scarf knotted like a necktie, and wished I looked more like a Mary Quant/Jean Shrimpton /Twiggy-esque model in my Yardley white lipgloss. There was only so much Edholm and Blomgren Photographers could do to make me look better! The photo shows a ninth-grader far more childlike and naive than most of my current third grade students.

The fifth shirt was a simple warm light blue. The color was so satisfying with the chocolate brown skirt and the brown and white groovy mod scarf around the neck! I was definitely channeling Petula Clark here, and not sleeping on the subway!

In those days I felt the most glamorous in the button-down-the-back peach blouse with the extravagant ruffled neck that made me look like a tropical fruit-flavored signer of the Declaration of Independence. Fritzi created a peachy tweed outfit of pantskirt and long vest with covered buttons. Then she knit a coral sweater vest, and found matching coral tights. How amazing that we dressed so nicely just to crank the journalism class mimeograph machine!

That blouse sale in my Wonder Years still tints my color choices. On some deep level it feels like home, both safe and with psychic baggage.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Dewey, Dick, detectives, and delicacies

My little students often ask if the picture books I read in class are "stories or real?" What a complicated process it must be for children to sort out the fiction and non-fiction in all the mediums that bombard them from the moment they wake up until they finally manage to fall asleep at night. That's when dreams and nightmares add to their confusion.

As I read aloud, I sometimes ask, "Dzthat ever happen to you?," at the oddest parts of the story. "Does your daddy do that?," I ask with exaggerated skeptical eyebrows. I love the kids who know I'm playing when I ask, "Did you ever drive a bulldozer?" They play back by saying yes and telling me what color hardhat they wore at the excavation site. The twinkle in their eye lets me know they understand the making of a story. These kids are ready to study the Dewey decimal juvenile non-fiction books to fuel their own creative play and story-making. The more you know about real aircraft carriers, the more satisfying your imaginative play becomes.

As adults and registered voters we still watch, read, and listen to news and wonder if it's a "story or real?" Chew on that for a moment, please. Does Dick Cheney eat peanut butter and pickle sandwiches in his undisclosed location? If we knew, he might seem closer to human. Sue Grafton's fictional alphabetized sleuth, Kinsey Milhone, eats PB and pickle sandwiches. Not my personal choice, but the detail makes Kinsey believable.

Janet Evanovitch's numerical New Jersey bounty hunter, Stephanie Plum, never gets zits. The girl eats the most dreadful, greasy fast food in paperback after paperback, and can still zip her jeans. Would I confuse these mysteries with non-fiction? Of course not. This is clearly as fictional as Bush's "Mission Accomplished."

Are my posts "stories or real?" Let's say they are as real as Kraft Miracle Whip is to mayonnaise. The details come from the Dewey decimal section, but the words might spring from Once-upon-a-time-Time. The recipes come from the middle drawer next to the twist-ties for Baggies and the hamburger patty-maker.

Fritzi served an occasional lunch of creamy peanut butter and bacon on toast with Miracle Whip and iceberg lettuce, Weavers potato chips, and cold skim milk. When Steve Blow wrote about family food idiosyncrasies, I related. I wanted him to try putting lettuce in his PB and mayo sandwiches. It was fun to remember Mom fixing sandwiches in the kitchen on a cold Saturday.

So many people wrote Steve Blow about peanut butter sandwiches, that he offered a second column on the subject:

PB and pickles? I'll take your word for it
06:42 AM CDT on Wednesday, September 6, 2006
I feel a little bit like a culinary Indiana Jones. I have stumbled upon a lost civilization. It's the secret society of peanut butter and mayonnaise eaters. A month or so ago, I wrote about families and their peculiar food traditions. And for the most part, I talked about my family's longtime love for avocado toast. Although I never met a single person who knew about avocado toast, I felt I would surely hear from many others who know what rapture a ripe, mashed avocado is on warm buttered toast.

But I hardly heard from any other devotees of that dish. Instead, the outpouring of enthusiastic response came to my mention of a concoction that I thought surely my father had invented – peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwiches. They sound so vile that I was a little bit embarrassed to even mention them. But I got e-mails by the hundreds from people who thought they were alone in the world with their love for PB&M sandwiches... I do need to make a correction. I said mayonnaise in that earlier column. But when Southern boys say "mayonnaise," they really mean Miracle Whip. Strictly speaking, those were PB&MW sandwiches my dad taught me to eat. But I heard repeatedly from readers that my peanut-butter-and-mayonnaise sandwiches are missing the crowning glory – cold, crisp lettuce. Apparently the crunch factor sends the sandwiches into taste heaven.

Now that my guys have returned for the holidays, I want to share this concoction with them. I get hungry for these peanut butter sandwiches at least once every winter, but the guys' dad didn't encourage my sharing this delicacy. His opinion was along the line of, "it'll be a cold day in Hell when I swallow that." That's the same opinion I have whenever Dick Cheney's lips move.

I'm going to serve a toaster oven open-face sandwich Steve Blow would like--mashed avocado seasoned with garlic, then slices of tomato,topped with a mound of grated monterey jack cheese and sprinkled with paprika. It's especially good if you have been outside shoveling snow, but the weather isn't cooperating there. It's so warm in Dallas we are tempted to turn on the air-conditioner! And that's the Dewey decimal truth.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Silver and stainless

The Dallas Museum of Art's exhibit, Modernism in American Silver, running June 18 – September 24, 2006, leaves me far colder than a long handled spoon in a tall glass of iced sweet tea. A few bowls in natural, asymmetrical forms please me, along with a simple glass bowl on a silver base creating geometric shadows and rainbows. The highpoint of the exhibit it the "Celestial centerpiece" with its beautiful, thin tapers and sapphire dandelion fluff. This centerpiece was designed for an exhibit at the 1962 Seattle World's Fair.

The dandelion fluff on the Dallas skyline is the Reunion Tower. I enjoyed looking at all the lighted buildings of downtown Dallas during last evening's Late Night at the Dallas Museum of Art. The DMA's website rarely works, so I won't add it here. Late Night is a monthly event sponsored by Starbucks with activities and music for all ages on a theme connected to one of the current exhibitions. Last evening's theme was the World's Fair.

The idea of a World's Fair was confusing stuff to a second grader in the years of the Mercury manned suborbital missions. What was that space needle? Did it give shots? The monorail was more kid friendly. It was the transportation of the Future! All I knew, I probably learned from My Weekly Reader!

My tastes in silver, stainless, and other tableware was already being formed in 1962. The "modernism" silver pieces at the DMA do not have the simple, clean, elegant shapes of the stainless serving dishes and trays my mother preferred. Her stainless is timeless, and much respected today. The silver of Gorham and Reed and Barton on display look quite ridiculous, like someone trying to hard to be cubist or Jetson space age.

This Elvis movie was being projected on the Ross Street plaza wall outside the museum. Silly stuff with Elvis taking a little girl to the fair and playing ukelele. The sort of stuff your mother, or at least my mother, warned me never to do. (I probably didn't need a warning about ukeleles, just strangers at fairs.)

So many World's Fair predictions for the future never materialized. I'm going to have to track down a recording of the Firesign Theatre's "I Think We're All Bozos On this Bus" to hear the robotic President at the Future Fair. Just remember, "the Future's not here yet!"

Thursday, July 27, 2006


There's a fine line between careful attention to detail and paralyzing perfectionism. I grew up in a family teetering a bit over that line. I'm grateful that I learned the maxim, "Anything worth doing is worth doing right," at a very young age. I strive to do my job and conduct my life by that motto. I'm equally grateful that I learned the expression, "It will never be seen from a galloping horse," when I was a young, frazzled mother.

Everybody else is galloping through their own lives giving scarcely a glance back over their shoulders at my efforts. In my mind, they are galloping on beautiful dark horses along the top of the Great Wall of China, if not along the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism. Don't quite know why they are in China, but they must be holding back the fourfold psychic invaders of Disorder, Depression, Diarrhea, and Dr. Pepper.

My mom taught me every way she could to do every task of life to perfection so that she and I could never be judged inadequate. She taught me to match plaids and sew them together with microscopic perfection. The cost in time and anxiety was great, but the fear of being judged lacking was greater.

It was such a revelation to learn that everyone else was galloping along the Great Wall of China on their own plaid-matching missions. Even if the gallopers gave a diddly-do about my plaid matches, they were moving far too fast to see my results. I was the only person giving a diddly-do about my personal plaids! Most of my life was being marked Pass/Fail based solely on my attendance, and next to none of it was being marked in permanent Sharpie on my Permanent Record.

I am reminded of a mind-boggling green plaid double-knit outfit my mom sewed for me to wear to high school awards ceremonies--battle jacket and wide pants with giant cuffs. It was perfect, but I was still a smart and nearly invisible nerd. Everyone was silently evaluating me, I was sure.

Although I still don't know what I want to be if I grow up, I have gravitated to people and jobs requiring attention to detail mixed with extreme perfectionism. This is on my mind because today's papier mache project was a major league disaster. The powdered glue/goop/slime didn't set up when I mixed it, and the paper slid off the balloon forms. Sloppy globs of newspaper slid to the floor. It was a bit like walking through the stable! Don't step on that road apple!

Somedays you're Best of Show. Somedays it's good to know that nobody else really notices.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

The early bird gets the perm

I'm still surprised when the stylist twirls my chair around to the mirror, and I see my mom's reflection. How'd she get here? For over forty years my reflection was more like my dad's face shape and coloring.

I like having a perm, but it's always pretty scary when the stylist applies the finishing touches with blow-dryer, curling iron, and dreaded hairspray. I've left salons with hairdos stiff enough to protect an NFL player crashing his motorcycle without a helmet. That's not the real me. I'm strictly a wash, scrunch, and go person.

Today I lucked out. My post-appointment look doesn't make me cringe. I bet Fritzi would have been pleased to leave the beauty shop with this hairstyle. So there you have it! Being fifty-one means never having to say you're sorry to have your mother's hair! What happened to those flowers and San Francisco? What do you mean the Summer of Love was nearly forty years ago?!

The good news is it's a good day for watching hummingbirds going crazy around the blooming cannas on the patio. Wish Fritzi, Petula Clark, and Georgy Girl could join me.

If you're going to San Francisco
Be sure to wear some flowers in your hair
If you're going to San Francisco
You're gonna meet some gentle people there
--Lyrics by John Phillips

Yes, it's a good day for singing a song,
and it's a good day for moving along;
Yes, it's a good day, how could anything go wrong,
A good day from morning' till night
--Lyrics by Peggy Lee

So you can color my world with sunshine yellow each day
Oh you can color my world with happiness all the way
Just take the green from the grass and the blue from the sky up above
And if you color my world, just paint it with your love
Just color my world--(Tony Hatch/Jackie Trent)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Patio dining for a limited time only

Over the Memorial Day weekend the butterfly plant shot up over a foot, and then bloomed. The plant is next to the little table with the umbrella on my condo patio. A vivid red cardinal flew in, and claimed the table for his holiday picnic and concert. I'm the lucky one who enjoyed the dinner theater.

The blooms of the butterfly plant were at exactly beak level. The cardinal would bite off a bloom, and then promenade in a circle around the umbrella pole. It would sing a little, then march back for another bite looking totally smug. It repeated the show several circuits.

The plant grew another inch today. The cardinal better hurry back. By tomorrow he won't be able to reach his meal. I imagine him with the confusion of a drunk trying to negotiate a barstool. Maybe I should put out a booster seat for him.

In one of my all-time favorite books from childhood, The Twenty-One Balloons, there are dining tables and stools that hydraulically rise from the floor of the dining hall like mushrooms. After a meal, they lower back to floor level so all clean-up can be done with a mop, to the best of my childhood memory. This week's Indonesian earthquake brings that wonderful 1948 Newbery winning book to mind because the fictional dining hall is on the island of Krakatoa:

In this story, a sixty-six-year-old retired arithmetic teacher decides to take a hot-air balloon trip around the world in an effort to get away from everyone. Halfway around the globe, however, he becomes stranded on a volcanic island that is about to experience a massive eruption. The fantasy of The Twenty-One Balloons is built around an actual historic event—the massive volcanic eruption that destroyed the Pacific island of Krakatoa in 1883. But there the connection with history ends. The Professor discovers that the inhabitants of the island have established a unique, Utopian...

I thank enotes for refreshing my memory.

"There are so many greens if you are paying attention," I tell my students often. This week my patio is telling me there are so many reds in nature it takes a cookbook or a lipstick color chart to describe them all. There's a red geranium just like my grandma used to have on her porch. The coleus is that intense unnatural magenta of raspberry Jello. The mimosa tree behind the fence has fluffy blooms of a warm watermelon. The mums are in the colors of barbecue sauce, Gallo Hearty Burgundy, and a thick Tbone ready for the grill. There are a few volunteer strawberries next to the gate. The cannas remind me of boiled shrimp and lobster, but the miniature roses are Snow White's lips!

No wonder the cardinal feels right at home.

Charlotte Spivack. "The Twenty-One Balloons: Overview." Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults. Ed. Kirk H. Beetz. Vol. 4. Beacham-Gale, 1990. January 2005. 30 May 2006.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Window boxes

Breathing. It's all about breathing. My dad sent me a birthday card last month with words of wisdom from the great guru on the mountaintop. The key to a long life, according to the guru, is to keep breathing. The key to living through loss and grief is the same. So is the key to birthin' babies, enjoying symphonies, waiting for the next call of a hidden owl, and, I swear, the only way to match plaids perfectly when cutting fabric for a garment. Keep breathing.

Butterfly McQueen has been voicing my thoughts for a year and a quarter--"I don't know nuthin' 'bout grieving my mama." Most of the time I needed a slap to the cheek and a direct order to fetch hot water. Tell me what short steps to take on this new journey.

My parents took me to see the rerelease of "Gone With the Wind" at the Cooper Theater on Lincoln's O Street in 1967. It was an official acknowledgement that I was a Big Girl Now, and able to behave myself at a grown-up movie and handle the mature content. I'm thankful my parents kept wise control over my viewing, although I resented it at the time. I wish my students would all have such wise parents.

Fritzi has been a presence at several occasions in the last couple weeks. I could have sworn she was sitting with us around the table at the Albuquerque Outback restaurant two weeks ago to this minute. Her enjoyment of well-behaved young people sharing a delicious meal encircled us as much as the ABQ sunset.

This morning an unidentified owl called about eight times close to my condo. The calls were several minutes apart, in a range similar to a mourning dove's, and about eight notes in length. I had binoculars, but I was in my PJs, and couldn't venture too far out into the parking lot. Remembering Fritzi's excitement when owls were nesting in the maple tree by her patio swept me into the moment, even if I never saw the owl! It was a good day for birds as a cardinal sang alleluia by the front door after the lawn maintenance workers pruned, mowed, and edged.

Living with my mother was not without aggravations. She was a perfectionist extraordinaire. Her standards and expectations were non-negotiable, and controlled her own choices most of all. Last week my sons and I picked out a sofa at IKEA in under an hour. It isn't a perfect sofa, but it is comfortable, affordable, and the covers are washable. Plus, the sofa doesn't have to be perfect, and it doesn't have to last for the next century. Fritzi purchased three sofas in her entire adult life. I was along for the ride on two of those shopping missions (1966 and 1981+ or minus a year), so I know what it means to evaluate sofas for perfection. Bert Parks could not sing about a vision of loveliness so carefully selected. Keep breathing.

I'm more receptive to Fritzi's occasional presence and everyday influence in my life. I'm able to enjoy memories that I would have blocked a year ago. I'm able to channel some of this into my art.

One of the most profound experiences in the time after Fritzi's death was opening her box of costume jewelry with my sister and reminiscing about the pins and earrings. This sense of memory and surprise, compartment and opening, sharing and marvel showed up in my work in unpremeditated fashion.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Oak Tree Gang

Gil Morgan shot a 5-under 66 today to grab the lead after the first round of the 67th Senior PGA Championship at Oak Tree Club in Edmond, Oklahoma. Morgan is one of several touring pro golfers who call Edmond and Oak Tree home. From Thanksgiving Day of 1987 to Memorial Day of 1990, I also called Edmond home.

Dad and I are remembering good times in Edmond tonight. In August of 1988 the Oak Tree Club hosted the 70th PGA Championship*. Dad attended the tournament and my mom soaked up the company of her small grandsons. We celebrated my oldest's sixth birthday on the day of the first round. My gosh, we were all so young!

The "Oak Tree Gang" includes seniors Morgan, Dave Edwards, Mark Hayes, and Doug Tewell playing today. "Gang" youngsters Bob Tway, Willie Wood, and Scott Verplank are still too young for the Champions Tour (and AARP). My little Edmond gang of sons spent a lot of time running through sprinklers, falling into duck ponds, getting cockleburs in their socks, and staining those socks with the red Oklahoma mud.

The next year Mom and I joined Dad at the Southwestern Bell Classic senior tournament** at Quail Creek Golf and Country Club in Oklahoma City. Mom was every bit as enthusiastic about attending as Dad, as long as she was assured plenty of grandson time. This was my first golf tournament, and I can still remember watching Chi Chi Rodriguez and Gary Player, and following tall Al Geiberger for several holes with Dad. That was 1989, the year Callaways unveiled Big Bertha drivers!

Misty-eyed tonight. Since the continuing drought in North Texas requires limited watering of lawns and golf courses, maybe I should go stand on a green!

*Won by Jeff Sluman, in case you are wondering.
**Bobby Nichols.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Good Design and Easier Living

I still don't know why I believed as a beginning reader that this book on my mom's high shelf was a Guide to Easter Living. It must have been the font, as it is unlikely Fritzi would have called it a "homemaker's Bible". Still, Mary and Russel Wright's book, Guide to Easier Living, is a treasure reminding me of Mom. I brought it back from Nebraska last week after a good spring break with my dad. The Wright's book is the precursor for Martha Stewart, and for Proctor & Gamble's website, HomeMadeSimple "simple solutions for easy living," where you can play a Swiffer Dusters Clean Scene interactive game resembling The Sims, but tidier.

Mom's Guide to Easier Living is copyrighted 1954. It was a revolutionary volume for the post-WWII families moving into suburbia and a new casual lifestyle. Russel Wright's dinnerware pattern, "American Modern" sold more placesettings than any other in history with it's clean borderless aesthetic and stackability. You can find lots of this dinnerware on eBay. Wright "merged organic grace and technical rigor with an air of luxurious utility" according to Design Within Reach. The more I Googled, the more connected I felt to Fritzi.

The book has been reissued, and is as vital now as it was fifty years ago when we lived at 26th and Franklin.

My parents and my college watercolor professor were the only people who ever spoke of the "Good Design" mid-century modern movement. Now "Good Design" is more widely appreciated than ever. A touring exhibit, Russel Wright: Good Design is for Everyone will open at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio in Lancaster, Ohio on May 5, 2006, before traveling to Columbus, IN, Palm Springs, CA, Tulane University in NOLA, and Bellevue, WA.

Each year The Chicago Athenaeum Museum of Architecture and Design awards prizes in a variety of categories. The Museum’s historic GOOD DESIGN program originated in Chicago in 1950 and was organized by Edgar J. Kaufmann, Jr., former curator of the Museum of Modern Art. Originally the program introduced state-of-the-art, modern products into the office and the home marketplace throughout the post-World War II decade. The program featured products and installations by some of America’s pioneers of modern design including: Charles and Ray Eames, Eero Saarinen, Russel Wright, Florence Knoll, and George Nelson—the most prominent design minds in America in the 1950s who blazoned a new international direction in design.

The Good Design/Easier Living proponents believed that products for the home, office, and business should be beautiful as well as functional and affordable. So did Mom. I am lucky that she shared this aesthetic philosophy with me.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Goodbye to two friends

The good news today, my dad says, is he doesn't have to break it to Fritzi that the Berghoff is closing. She would be so upset.

When I went to Chicago for the first time on a college art class trip, Mom told me about the Berghoff and the Palmer House. In the early years of marriage before I broke onto their scene, my parents took the train to Chicago for baseball games, visits to the Art Institute, and lunches at the Berghoff.

I've only been to Chicago three times, but the Berghoff was a part of every trip. The wonderful waiters with the white towels over their arms were a constant in a world that sometimes seemed to be skidding off the track. After 108 years the Berghoff family is closing the restaurant.

Time passes. The soap opera intro says, "As sands through the hourglass, so are the days of our lives." The black wall clock on the blue wall has been at the dining room heart of our family for forty five years. The clean Fifties design is by George Nelson for Herman Miller, I think. About thirty years ago the second hand began to lag at a certain point in its orbit that gave meals a sense of pauses and nonlinear time.

Howie and Fritz's first grandchild was transfixed by The Clock. This colicky little guy always responded to the sight of the twelve black circles and the moving hands. He started saying "clock" about the same time he could say "mama", well before his first birthday.

Now it is always thirty-five seconds past the minute. How will Dad break the news to my son? Time moves on, even if the clock hands don't. Eat the dumplings while ye may.

To Virgins to Make Much of Time
Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
To-morrow will be dying.

The glorious lamp of heaven, the Sun,
The higher he's a-getting;
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he's to setting.

That age is best, which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.

Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry;
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.