I can cruise, too.

It’s that time of year. I listen dreamily to the beautiful cruises our friends are taking. Fabulous ports of call, elegant staterooms, exquisite food, warm climates.

Now go back a few years in time and envision a giant grey freighter, named The Keystone State. On board were a large steel and metal working crew, three passengers and not a single lounge chair.

My college roommate and I watched as our parents took their appropriately concerned last looks of us as we descended into a dinghy from the New York harbor, puttered out to the freighter, climbed up a steep rope ladder and were off to the other side of the Atlantic.

I don’t remember our sleeping quarters but staterooms they weren’t. The crew, as it turned out, could not have been nicer. They introduced us to Cuba Libras which we drank on a somewhat regular basis, in spite of our tender age. We had, actually, a lovely crossing.

We had planned to return on the same freighter with the same crew at the end of the summer so upon disembarking we asked if we could buy something for them to give to their wives, girlfriends, whatever. Perhaps a lovely scarf, some French perfume. No thank you they said but as long as we were going to be in Paris for a few days, could we pick up some pornography for them. Oh my….not what we had in mind. It wasn’t difficult to find. We just felt a little awkward buying it.

And then we felt even more awkward when we read it. That stuff made Fifty Shades of Grey look like Blueberries for Sal.

We had a lovely summer, working in London. Then the time came to return. At that point we had no money, a satchel full of pornography, two cricket bats,(that’s worth a thought or two), a pint of rum, a firm date to be back in school and we missed the boat! And there was nothing on the horizon that appeared even remotely accessible to get us home.

But my roommate’s father came to the rescue and got us space on another freighter, The Steel Fabricator, out of Bremerhaven, Germany. By that time, I was covered in hives and we reluctantly used the rum to ease the itching. We were also dead-heading…..think bar of Ivory soap tossed into the rough Atlantic Ocean.

We made it to Greenland and picked up fire trucks. Ballast is good and relieves that bouncy sea-sick-making thing. We were unaware of the Air Force Base when we got off the ship for a couple of hours. We met men who had not seen a female in way-too-long. Sue got five marriage proposals; I only got two.

College seemed a bit parochial when we returned. But the memories are good and that’s what matters.

Who’s cold?

I am. Almost all of the time. There’s either too little heat or too much air conditioning. Our cars are stashed with extra jackets, sweaters, scarves, socks, hats…you name it. I have to be armed and ready.

Ask my family. When we sit down at a restaurant table, they know to check the silverware. Not to see if it’s clean but to see if it’s chilly to the touch. If it is, pity the poor person who seated us at that table. There will be a change….maybe more than one until The Cold One is as warm as possible. Requests to turn up the thermostat will be made. The position of overhead fans will be noted and avoided. Trips to the car will most likely be made to gather extra clothing. It’s not easy being them.

It’s been a particularly cold winter….as all of us here know. Naturally, this results in a war of thermostats in this old house. That which was built over 200 years ago and was intended as a summer house is, simply put, drafty. The mere word sends me into shivers and a world of complaints.

I don’t for one minute believe the thermostat. The other one who lives here tells me it’s new and trustworthy. But he’s not cold. I am.

I tell him that the air coming out of the vent feels like air conditioning. He says it’s heat. But he’s not cold. I am.

I suggest we crank things up a bit. He says when we go into auxiliary overdrive or something like that the electric bill goes sky high. I don’t care. See, he’s not cold. I am.

I walk around like Linus wrapped in a blanket. I scoop up a cat to sit in my lap. I find a spot of sun.

Start to warm up. Hmmm….feel so cozy and nice. Getting hungry. It takes a lot of energy to be cold all the time. Want comfort food. Ice cream. A bowlful. A big bowlful. Breyer’s French Vanilla. Yummm.

Rats. Now I’m cold. Again.

Where’s our mail?

We are having trouble, right here on the river, getting our mail. It’s a long story and not worth going into but when you don’t get your mail, especially bills, you don’t pay them because you don’t know when they’re due or how much you owe and then things like phones, electricity, and water get cut off because you didn’t pay the bill you didn’t get and didn’t know you were supposed to.

That’s issue number one.

The second issue is that I am a born and bred West Virginian and we own a little land way back in them thar hills.

The issues are connected because we get tax bills from the state….or at least we are supposed to but because of our mail problems we aren’t getting them and so we aren’t paying the taxes and in West Virginia they get all huffy about that stuff and put those little tracts of land on the auction block and my father would turn over in his grave if I didn’t pay the taxes and lost that little piece of land in his beloved West Virginia.

So. My kind husband, who tends to these details, suddenly realized that the taxes on said piece of land are most likely seriously overdue.

Hence he made a phone call to get some help. The phone call went something like this:

Hi. I don’t think that we have our tax bill or the paperwork to figure out how much we owe you on that little tract of land that’s under my wife’s name.

Let me check, sir. It looks like we sent all that out several weeks ago and you should have gotten it by now.

Well, you see, we’re having mail problems. Could you re-send the materials?

I’d be happy to but the material we sent you that you didn’t get was the wrong material.

I see….well, could you send us the right material?

I can’t do that right now.

Why not?

The forms person is on her lunch break.

That’s okay. When she gets back, perhaps she could send the correct ones electronically.

No, I don’t think she can do that.

Why not?

Well, she’s still in training which is why you were sent the wrong forms which you didn’t get and I don’t think she knows how to do that electronic stuff quite yet.

I see. How long has she been in training?

It’s only been a couple of months. She’s making good progress but these things take time.

But our taxes are due and we need the paperwork to figure out how much we owe you.

Yessir, I can see that you have a problem but there’s not much we can do about it here and anyway if you didn’t get the wrong materials, how will you get the right ones if we send them to the same address?

You make a good point.

Is your wife Mr. Morris’s daughter?

Yes, she is.

He must have been such a nice man. I didn’t know him but everyone still speaks so kindly of him. Did you know he sent us candy on Valentine’s Day?

No, I didn’t know that but it sounds like something he would do.

Well, let me see what I can do for you.

Thank you. I would very much appreciate it.

End of conversation. We still don’t have the paperwork but hope springs eternal.

One thing I know for sure. We’re sending candy on Valentine’s Day. And maybe after that the forms person will know how to send things electronically. In West Virginia, candy can be a fine motivator. We’ll see.

 

 

A Ghost Story. Act Two.

My mother’s presence in the form of the sweet odors continued, following us through each of the four moves we made after her death. (There were no more brownies, alas.) I began to look forward to them as a means of communication and healing with her. They came to us less frequently and some of their strength was lost, but they were still very much with us.

Then something unusual happened. Not too long after we had moved to Bluffton, my husband was on his regular Sunday run to Starbucks. When he got home, he said that HIS mother had been with him in the car! She adored gardenias….could grow them year round…and he said it was as though a massive bouquet of gardenias had been pleasantly pressed against his face. It was her signature flower and perfume……no question that she was with him. A first for both of them. He was pleased and honored.

By now, of course, having experienced unexplained “smells” for so long, we didn’t, even for a moment, question the origin of the gardenia event.

That night my mother visited……for an hour! Unheard of. Truth be told, I was more than a little concerned about those two back-to-back and very unusual occurrences.

The next day, my husband went for his normal bike ride. What wasn’t normal was the accident. He was hit by a car….t-boned….and thrown four or five feet into the busy Bluffton Parkway. He was barely harmed but, by all rights, he should have been killed. The bike was totaled.

Coincidence? Did our mothers know something we didn’t but of course had no way of letting us know, of warning us? No texting, no voice mail…..nothing. Had they put their heads together and done the best they could? Kent’s mother through the gardenias; mine through a prolonged visit? Did they sit down with a cocktail….my mother, a light scotch and water, please; Kent’s mother, with her beloved vodka martini, (easy on the vermouth,) and try to find a means to alert us?

Of course, the bigger question is: were they responsible for his survival? And for my joy and indescribable relief?

There are no more sweet smells at night. It’s a genuine loss for me. Perhaps even bordering on grief. Crazy, huh? I know that’s what you’re thinking about this whole story but everything I’ve told you is true. I can’t tell you why or how all of this happened because we don’t have answers to those things. But true? Most definitely.

So the curtain comes down on this particular play. We, of course, don’t know what might be in store for us. We’ll just have to be patient, wait and see. And be open to things that go bump in the night.

 

A postscript: “Ghost story” was written several months ago, shortly after the bike accident. Indeed my mother has been absent during all those months. But guess what? She’s back! She showed up this week. A stronger, sweeter, fuller smell, but, undoubtedly, my mother. And no, I’m not making this up. I liked the other ending better but the truth changes everything.

 

A Ghost Story. Act One.

The curtain opens on a sun room with comfortable sofas and chairs and a delicate little rose wood chair, the seat of which my mother had needlepointed. No one ever sat in the chair. It was old and fragile, purely a decorative item. She had made a pair of them.

After her death, the family chose those pieces from her house which they wanted and one of the little chairs came to me.

Not too long after her death, over the course of a week or so, the chair began turning away from the wall.….exactly 90 degrees to the right each time, toward the sun. We didn’t observe those events. We were just aware that the chair was in an odd position. There was no explanation…we tried and tried to come up with something earthly….and finally determined that my mother had to be involved. There was so much of her invested in that chair. Every stitch of the needlepointed seat had come from her hands, of course.   It happened four times. The fifth time we tracked it by going in and out of the room several times, as it turned, slowly but surely, by about 45 degrees. That was its last performance.

The companion chair was here on the island, in our son’s house. They had recently moved it next to a large coffee table with a heavy glass top. They were planning on putting it in the baby’s room, thinking it would be lovely to have something there from my son’s grandmother’s house.

Within a day or two of the chair being next to the table, the glass top shattered…not once but twice. No explanation was available. It had to be my mother again.

No one was thinking that these were positive things. And with a new baby on the way, to be named after me. We had to get rid of them. Too bad….they were pretty little chairs but up to no good.

Then the odors started at night, interrupting deep sleep. Pleasant, powerful, and dense fruity smells. A little difficult to define because they were fleeting….a few seconds and they were gone.   “Oh, it was just your imagination,” you say. You’d be wrong. The odors woke my husband, too. On separate nights, of course. Our research tells us ghosts rarely affect more than one person at a time. Must be in an instruction manual somewhere.

Early on, every time the aromas woke one of us, we searched our minds for earth-bound causes….a new soap, new detergent, perfume, shampoo….anything that might cause the “event”….but always to no avail. Obviously, we discussed the phenomenon between ourselves, trying to make sense of it. It became clear, after a fairly short time, that the “other-worldly” had entered our lives.

(At this point we were, slowly and perhaps a bit dully, putting things together with the chair events. Listen, there aren’t any guidelines to this ghost stuff. You’re on your own and sometimes it takes a while to get with the program!)

The chairs were a no-brainer with regard to my mother. But, how did we relate the fruit odors to her? Well, she was a fruit-a-holic. Peaches particularly. She couldn’t get enough of them.

This went on for over 15 years. Frankly the night visits became so commonplace, we frequently forgot to mention it to each other. We simply accepted her, hoped that she would find peace and in the meantime, welcomed her presence when she chose to be with us.

Before we close the curtain on Act One, there was one more thing that made it clear to us that she was our ghost.

Not only was she a fruit-a-holic, she loved chocolate even more. Back in our first house on the Island, I had a reading chair, just outside the kitchen. One afternoon, a very strong smell…delicious, of course….of brownies being baked emanated from the kitchen. I knew immediately what it was and just enjoyed the aroma. It happened several times. ( She even took her “cooking” skills to my son’s house one morning, much to their surprise and distress, despite my assurances that all would be well.)

One day, my husband walked in while the brownies were being “baked.” Apparently, she decided to share because he was delighted to think that I was actually baking brownies. Needless to say, he was disappointed to learn that they were spectral, not edible.

Next week, I’ll continue the story.   Another character shows up. She only has a cameo role but it was an important one. I’ll introduce you to her.

The Foot

Most likely, if you’ve had any contact with me over the last five years, you know about The Foot. It has a neurological disorder which is more of an annoyance than anything but sometimes it has enough pain to go past annoyance. All attempts in the south of finding an answer have failed so I decided to go to the BIG centers of competence where, supposedly, they could come up with a solution.

We wrote and within a day or two I got a phone call from one of them. The call was from the pain doctor’s assistant and she said she felt sure they could help me. Wow! This is good.

I said I’d send them my stuff…..all the data, etc. and then the doctor and I could have a phone conversation, or even Skype if he wanted to see what the foot likes to do and shouldn’t. She said that wouldn’t work. Why not, I said. It didn’t take long for me to realize that they wanted me to be an in-patient. In what particular area would I be admitted, I asked. Well, you’d be in the Psychiatric and Geriatric Locked Ward for a month and then (if all goes well) into a halfway house for another month with a roommate where I could cook my own meals. (This has quickly gone from bad to worse.)

Nearly (and understandably) speechless, I slithered to the floor and, for some unfathomable reason, told her I could walk upstairs all by myself. I think that remark, irrelevant and having to do with absolutely nothing, confirmed her thinking that I was definitely in need of Psychiatric assistance. The Geriatric part goes without saying. Locked and Ward were still troubling words.

We chatted a bit. No clothes would be needed; they supply those. No cell phones allowed; there’s one public phone so she suggested I bring a couple of rolls of quarters and be prepared to stand in line when I chose to make a call. All drugs that I take now (one) would be confiscated. How about visitors….like my husband?   Did I not understand the “locked” part of this? No innie/no outie. Can you spell ankle-bracelets that set off alarms??

She asked if I had any questions. I said indeed I did. Just one. A simple yes/no question.   I was pretty sure I knew the answer but I asked anyway: “Do you have a wine list I can look at?”

I don’t recall her exact response.   The foot still hurts occasionally but wine helps, as it always has. If scientists all agree….and they absolutely do… that alcohol IS a solution, you’d think those pain people would get with the program, wouldn’t you?

 

PS – Thanks and kudos to Susan Mrosek of ponderingpool.com for this week’s graphic!

Camellias

The camellia is a lovely flower, perhaps one of the most beautiful and appealing, coming in a number of varieties to satisfy the most distinguished of…..

 Ahem….Excuse us…

 Yes, who are you?

 We are the poets and the writers who have, through the years , written…most likely more eloquently than you….. about flowers and gardening and, in particular, the camellia.

Whoa…that’s a little egotistical. Besides this is my blog. Not yours. So it’s really all about me. Are you telling me there’s no more room in this world for words about the beautiful camellia?

 No, we’re just suggesting that you might want to find a topic that has not been saturated by the real bards and writers.

What happened to freedom of speech?

 Hey, you’re free to say anything you want ….we just don’t want you to embarrass yourself.

I’ll be the judge of that, I daresay, and anyway, I was just getting warmed up and you have no idea where I was headed with this.

We see and we understand. Do you know where you were headed?

Well, now that you ask, perhaps I’m not entirely sure.

Can we be of any help?

Well, as far as I can tell right now, you’re being anything but helpful. You could be encouraging and supportive for starters.   Most likely no one can compete with you so you needn’t worry.

 You have that right. Ok…we’ll try to help. What can we do?

 I suppose letting me use some of your poetry and prose and allowing me to claim it as my own is out of the question.

 That’s called plagiarism and if we’re going to help you, we need to keep you out of jail.

 Good point. Moving right along…. Do you have any words about the camellia that you didn’t use but might be willing to share?

 If you do that, you’re not using your own talent, (questionable here, anyway) so, no, we can’t help you that way.

 You could edit my stuff.

 We could but as far as we can tell, you haven’t written anything.

 Again, point well taken but I’m feeling a little discouraged.

 We’re sorry about that. Don’t be. Just write down what you feel and see where it goes. We’ll help.

 Ok. Well, in that case, I would just like to say that I feel blessed and so fortunate to have bushes and trees in our very own yard which are on fire with camellias during the blooming season.

I love to bring them in the house.

They add beauty, life and color to the simplest of vases.

They make me happy when I look at them.

And the cats don’t even seem inclined to eat them.

How’s that, huh? Pretty good, huh?

 (Silence)

 Are you there???? Was that so terrible that you can’t even speak to me?????

 We’re here but we’re fading fast. That was very nice and heartfelt…even the part about the cats which would not have occurred to us but as you said, it’s all about you.

Finally, we agree on something. Talk to you guys later…

 

 

 

Everything Old Is………

New again. Really!

At Christmas dinner, I asked my teenage granddaughter what her favorite Christmas gift was and she said it was a record player. I assumed that she was taking into account my age, my ignorance about electronics and was, thoughtfully, sparing me the details of some fancy music-making thingie. Record player indeed. I knew better. I knew it was something the size of a quarter, with somewhere between five and seven tiny buttons (not visible to people over 40), each of which would have to be pushed in some obscure sequence or nothing would happen.

So I asked again. And again she said it was a record player.

Her father was at the other end of the table so I called down to him. He said she indeed got a record player and that she has two records, one of which has a scratch and skips!

It WAS a record. What else has scratches and skips? She really got a RECORD PLAYER! One that has a spindle that turns and has an arm and a needle.

It has an on/off switch, an up/down volume knob and a cord that goes into a regular electrical outlet. You can even get replacement needles! No charging required and you don’t have to struggle to remember where you put it. Or when….or why.

Now I come to find out that all the hot new musicians are putting their songs on vinyl. Who knew? Maybe you did but I didn’t. I’m pretty excited. If we want music in this house, we have to go through several computer programs, housed in different rooms and I have no idea how to make any of it go. Happily, my husband does.

But knobs I can do! Now we just have to hope that Ella, Duke, Frank and Johnny….even though they are deceased….will get with the program.

Wait! I already have all those people on vinyl. Ooops. Of course I gave them all away years ago.   I foresee a spending spree and a little walk down memory lane. Dance party, anyone?

 

Screened doors/ Back doors

The very words imply family, good friends, easy and trusted relationships, entry into the heart of the house. Why do we always lock the front door and leave the back door wide open? Do we really think that a serious burglar isn’t going to check out the back? That our neighbors will always be there to call 911? That the hiss of the scared-to-death cat will deter criminal activity?

Once was the time when every house had screened doors….all before air conditioning, of course. They were opened to get a breath of fresh air…usually after dusk. In would come the smells of flowers, the chatter of neighbors enjoying themselves outside, children playing and begging not to go to bed….just not quite yet.

I imagine that this old house has seen its fair share of lovely ladies and handsome men coming in those screened doors. It’s clear they’re on their way to a garden party on the lawn. The ladies are in their summer finery, floral dresses, white pumps, a sun hat to protect their delicate skin and even a few in white gloves,

The men are in their seersucker suits, bow ties and brightly polished white buck shoes. Perhaps one or two have cigars tucked in their pockets.

Awaiting them are ice cold gin and tonics and comfortable wicker chairs. Later there will be trays of chilled cucumber and watercress sandwiches, a crystal bowl of black olives and crisp celery sticks and straight-from the-oven flaky ham biscuits. It’s dusk and the men wander down to the river to have their own conversations.

The women have plenty to say among themselves.   We can only imagine the things that are said with a promise not to repeat. But we know they will be repeated.

Isn’t it all so very grown up? If you look closely, you can almost see Zelda and F. Scott, himself.

Well, of course, things change.   All things considered, I think it’s better today than the olden days of formality, don’t you? Life may be a bit more scrambled and demanding than it was then but if we take the time to listen to the sweet slap of the screen door or the gentle knock on the back door and know that a friend is coming in to visit, drop off a book, share a problem or just say hello….isn’t that better?

 

Christmas and Love

Christmas is love so, appropriately, here’s a little love story.

They met in Georgia 60 years ago….well, they really didn’t meet…no one introduced them. They just happened to be at the same place at the same time.

She thought she was this little sophisticated 15 year old, on the prowl for the preppy boys. Lounging by the pool was as strenuous as it was going to get.

He was a year younger and wore hefty-sized orange fluorescent trunks. Entrepreneurial even then, he made hamburger patties for the snackshop in exchange for chocolate milk shakes and blew up rafts so he could use one for free in the afternoon.

Their planets were not destined to coincide at that time. Shall we count the ways?

They met again 7 years later… …same place. This time they were introduced by a mutual friend.

He had come back down to Georgia with a friend for spring vacation; her parents had decided she needed to get away from it all for a few days.

She was finishing her senior thesis on Bach’s Ornamentation. (So terribly serious and more than a little boring.)

He was looking for fun and a good time..…on the prowl for the cute girls. (So very “what me worry.”)

She went to her room with her parents. He called on the house phone and asked if she wanted to run into town for anything. She said it would be very helpful indeed if he would take her to a drug store for a little Bain de Soleil. (Hey, even if you’re planning to work all week, a girl’s gotta get a tan, right?)

They drove over the little bridge from the island to the mainland and that was that.

Together, they wish you the blessings of the season, a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

The Christmas Spirit

The year was 1961. I was working in Boston at the New England Conservatory of Music as a receptionist. It was, in all respects, a wonderful year. I was in love (still am) and was surrounded by talented, generous and joyful people.

But Christmas was always hard for me. What to give to my parents? My father never wore anything but a suit, had enough ties to last several life times, bought his own socks and had no hobbies. My mother was choosy about the things she wore and the things she had in the house. I always had great angst about what to give them. That year I found a little Japanese porcelain dish which I hoped they would like, but it cost more than my small salary could comfortably bear. Still, I bought it. There wasn’t any joy in the purchase, however. I was worried and poorer…not a good combination.

The Conservatory was, back then, in a less than desirable part of town. It was surrounded by poverty level housing and people. There was a drug store right across the street that I visited on my lunch hour to pick up necessary items.

One day, near Christmas, I was at the drug store, mindlessly purchasing some stuff, not giving it any thought as I stood in line to pay for my items. An older woman was in front of me. She wasn’t dressed warmly enough for the cold Boston December day. It did strike me that she most likely didn’t have a warmer coat, but the thought was fleeting.

And then something happened that I will never forget. As my arms were carelessly full of stuff, I realized she was buying a single box of tissues. And I heard her say to the clerk: “This is for my friend for Christmas. She’ll really like it.”

I find myself as speechless now as I did then. And still a little close to tears. It was a hard reality. She was delighted with her choice of a gift for her friend, confident that it would be given, received and used with love and affection.

And I was worried about an expensive porcelain dish for my parents who needed nothing and would most likely put the dish in a drawer anyway? Not a Christmas goes by that I don’t think about that moment.

Sometimes, I wish our family could just exchange boxes of tissues, carefully choosing one that might appeal…they come in such jazzy colors and designs these days. Wouldn’t that be fun? We could wrap them up fancifully with pretty paper and ribbons, confident they would be used and appreciated.

Now, I know we can’t….and would never want to…deny our families the joy of Christmas morning and presents under the tree. Santa Claus does exist.

But, for me, perhaps, a box of tissues has become a symbol of friendship and love, of a longed-for simple Christmas season, of joy, of an opportunity to share with others less fortunate, and, of course, in its own way, the true meaning of Christmas.

 

Insanity Rules

About this time last year, I get a call from my neighbor. She has a fairy outfit. I’ve seen it. It’s quite elaborate if not breathtaking. She’s eager to wear it on Christmas Eve at the shopping mall. She would distribute peppermint candy canes and bring joy and light to all of those doing their desperate last minute shopping. What did I think of that idea? My chair was close to the ground so I didn’t hurt myself when I fell.

Now, she’s nothing if not persistent. A little while later, she calls back. As it turns out she also has an elf outfit. How about if I wear that and go with her to the mall in her fairy outfit on Christmas Eve and pass out peppermint candy canes? I ask if we’ve met and do I really look like that kind of person? She agrees that I’m an unlikely candidate. She hangs up, dejectedly, I can tell.

A few moments pass. I ask myself: just exactly how many more opportunities do you think you have to make a complete fool of yourself, as an elf, accompanying a fairy, on Christmas Eve at the shopping mall?  Passing our peppermint sticks and subjecting yourself to ridicule if not danger from crazed shoppers?

As it turns out the elf suit fit like a dream.

If I could have that much fun, that easily, that simply, again….just for a minute, well, I’d be there in a heartbeat. My advice to you…unsolicited of course….is go for it. Dress outside the box, take peppermint sticks and see what happens. You’ll have fun, too.

Thanksgiving 2014….more of a little letter than anything else.

Dear Friends:

Well, the weather, Ferguson and a snuffly cold put a real wet blanket on our Thanksgiving plans this year. Thus our feet remained firmly planted at home with the cats. It was tempting to hike up the air conditioning, put a fire in the fireplace, and pretend we were cuddled up with family in St. Louis as we had planned. Better safe than sorry but making the decision not to go was a difficult one.

Later in the day, and just for the heck of it, we checked on the flights we were to have taken and discovered that our 11:30 am flight out of Savannah had been “detained” until 4:30 pm. Five hours late!

Don’t you just love airline language! Detained, indeed! They knew full well that the people on that flight had just been sent directly into airport purgatory. Someone was looking out for us. I think we may have been lost in space forever.

The St. Louis group had a lovely day in spite of our absence. One of their ovens went down, our son spent two and half hours in the urgent care, there was a fire somewhere in the house and for some as yet unknown reason the police came to the door. Nothing terribly out of the ordinary for them. They handle stress well.

We were fortunate to be able to spend Thanksgiving with our family here. I know they were less than thrilled to have me bring THE green bean/mushroom soup casserole but, really, can you do Thanksgiving without it? The answer, of course, is yes but I was feeling a nicely traditional. Did you know it was orginated by Campbell’s soup in 1955. A conversation starter if ever there was one. Anyway, whatever you say about it, I think it’s yummy.

Our family in Maryland was nicely tucked in with their boys home for Thanksgiving break. Our son’s Achilles heel is on the mend. He can actually walk after months of hobbling on crutches. A great step forward….no pun intended.

So while there is much to be thankful for, we would be remiss in not mentioning a great loss to a community we know well. Warren was a good and generous man, one my husband always spoke of with respect and honor. We have his family in our thoughts and prayers.

This was not the message I had planned for today. I had a silly one all lined up. It can wait. Life got in the way and expressing thoughtfulness, gratitude and appreciation seemed to be more important. I know the big turkey day is over but the feelings remain and from my little space it seemed important to recognize them.

Fondly, Sallie

 

Ode to the radish

 

 

Especially at this time of Thanksgiving, I have the great pleasure of being part of a small team who work on Monday mornings to receive food from that most generous of organizations, Second Helpings. We clean, organize and bag food for the needy people of Bluffton and its surroundings. When that truck arrives, it’s like Christmas….we never know what we’ll get, how much, what condition it will be in but we’re ready for anything.

 

The Ladies are pretty much in charge of the fruits and vegetables. We know what to do and how to do it. For some unknown reason, the radish has become my specialty! After six months of doing this, I find myself in awe of those little red vegetables.

They can end up on the bottom of 30 pounds of heavy produce and still survive!

 

Pity the poor kiwi, with its hairy, ugly skin…..it crushes under the least bit of pressure. The apples and oranges make it through pretty well but we’d expect them to…..they have some staying power. Pears are so gentle; we usually lose most of them. Lettuces can be tricky as can the tomatoes.

 

But the radishes! Oh sure, they need their messy greens cut off but then with a good washing, they’re perky again, bright red and fresh as daisies. I’ve never had to say good bye to a single one. And I never want to. I admire their stability, their sturdiness, their determination to survive. If only they could give lessons to some of their more vulnerable kin.

 

But, alas, they are unique. I love getting my hands around them on Monday mornings, watching them recover from a hard trip and enjoying their revival. If only I could inherit just a tiny bit of their strength. Maybe, if I’m lucky and keep at it, a little will seep, like osmosis, through my fingers.

Thanksgiving 2013

 

 

We had barely been in the old house three months and were excited to learn that we would have two of the three families with us for Thanksgiving. And I was going to out-Norman Norman Rockwell, if it killed me.

 

I imagined the family lazily coming downstairs in the mornings, with their coffees, gathering in front of a fireplace, rejoicing in being together, catching up, laughing, getting a little caffeine buzz. In reality, our son had conferences calls each morning, our daughter-in-law had a little cold and we encouraged her to sleep in, and the teenagers emerged somewhere around noon, their language indistinguishable from guttural noises. Okay, so we failed Norman 101.

 

Now it was on to kayaking down the May River for the kids during the day, I thought. Oh, I could just hear their tales of competition, who got the wettest, how much fun it was. For the adults, a slow amble downtown, enjoying the art galleries, little shops, wine bars. I think the wine bars made the list but not much else.

 

Somehow we made it to Thanksgiving dinner. The table was stretched to its fullest, chairs scrunched around, the fireplace ablaze. A beautiful turkey, cooked to a golden brown, food brought by family members, everyone looking spiffy. A heart-felt blessing was said. A little wine hit for the adults, the candles lit, linen napkins…..it was oh, so terribly Norman. And then the teenagers started texting.   No, No. No. Not in my plan or at my table. What to do? I know those looks when you tell them to stop. They glare, obviously unhappy and certainly not willing to join the party. It was going to get ugly. Help me, Norman. Oh, that’s right….you never had to deal with texting. I’m on my own here.

 

We have a box of “dinner-party questions.” I ran to get them, quickly sorted out family appropriate cards and delivered two to each person at the table. This was either going to be a complete disaster or it was going to work. At the very first question, my middle son managed to seriously (and I think on purpose) offend both his mother and his wife. She and I looked at each other, locked arms and left the room, vowing never to return. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the phones go down and the lips turn up. What could be better than a family fight right in front of their very eyes? They were hooked. Couldn’t get enough. They were also fascinated by answers to the questions…..we all learned something about each other. The cards were a blessing.

 

The teenagers cleared the table, served dessert and…hold onto your hat, Norman….asked to play Catch Phrase after dinner!   Happy times can’t be prescribed, I guess. They have to evolve. We got lucky. So, Norman, I still love the memories you evoke in your paintings. That Thanksgiving, we made our own.