Gwegwussel

Say it out loud and it’s what our three boys used to call Gregg Russell.  Way back when they were too young to have fully formed their R’s. 

All the way from Ohio to Hilton Head, every year, all we’d hear was: “When are we going to see Gwegwussell?”  Over and over and over again.  ‘Til we’d finally give up and drug them just to get a little peace and quiet.

Once we got here, of course, we went to see Gwegwussell.  Doesn’t everyone?  And since we were from Ohio we knew that if one of ours was chosen to be on stage with Gwegwussel, he would eventually ask them: “What color is your van?”

Forty-four years, he’s been doing this.  Sitting under the Oak Tree in Harbour Town every evening, all summer long, singing, laughing, making children and adults happy and glad to be on this Island.

He’s charmed four generations of our family.  I’m not sure I can say that about anybody else on this earth. 

I would like to use this little space to thank his family for loaning him to so many of us over the years.  There had to be nights when his own kids, his wife, friends and family, just wanted him for themselves.  But that was not to be.  He had, and still has, another place to go, songs to sing, stories to tell, families to laugh with and enjoy. He is, after all, Gweggwussel. 

If any of you, from far away, would like to see him in action, just click here.

Good News!

     

This article from The Island Packet from June 2, 2021 sites a woman, 35 years of age, who, after much research and study, finally determined that it was OK for her to get The Shot.  She studied reports, listened to all sides of the issue, peered into published journals and more. The newspaper credits her information-gathering effort as the impetus for her change in perspective.

Well, I’d put money on another reason for her willingness to stick out her arm and say yes. And it’s just one little word:  threats.  And I’d also be willing to put a little more money on that and say that those threats came from her parents.

We all know, as parents, that trying to persuade a child to do the right thing through calm and rational pleading has no chance of succeeding.  At all.  Ever. Period.  End of discussion.

But, thank goodness, we, as parents, also all know which buttons to push when we really need to get our way. And getting our families vaccinated is something we really want.

The threat of: “We’re sorry but you won’t be able to stay with us when you come to the beach this year” is a good example.  That one affects the whole family and has real meat on its bones.

The perhaps slightly-veiled threat of: “Alas. I guess we’ll have to miss Christmas with you and the kids” can also work quite well.  There are presents and money involved in that one.  Very toothsome.

And, now, if none of that works, it seems there’s beer. This bait comes directly from the White House. I never thought of beer as incentive but apparently there are those who do.

So, we’ve got a little blackmail on one hand; a little booze on the other. Whatever it takes is fine with me. Let’s just get it done.

Vaccination cartoon by Zdenek Sasek

Remembering. Again and Again.

It should never have happened at Columbine. But it did. It happened on April 20, 1999.  12 students and one teacher.  Shot and killed.  

And it happened again at Virginia Tech.  On April 13, 2007.  32 Students and faculty. Shot and killed.

And yet again at Sandy Hook.   On December 14, 2012.  20 elementary school students and 6 teachers.  Shot and killed.

And then again in Charleston, SC.  On June 7, 2015.  9 adults at church, in a Bible Study class.  Shot and killed.

And, it happened again, just four short days ago, in San Jose, CA.  On May 26, 2021.  9 adults at their workplace.  Shot and killed.

Those are just some of the “highlights” through the years.  We won’t forget any of them.

There have been 232 mass shootings so far this year.  “Mass” being defined as three or more fatalities in a single incident.  And it’s bound to just keep on keeping on.

It’s feels like there’s a knee on America’s neck.  Choking us ‘til we can’t breathe.

We’ll remember. Again and again.

Aging: Up and Out.

The aging-up thing was fun.  Bit by bit, we aged-up into lipstick, bras, two-piece bathing suits, dating, drive-in theaters, driver’s licenses.  Then we aged-up even more into marriage, children, work and responsibilities.

Aging-out is a whole different ball of wax.  I, personally, have aged-out of thongs, skinny-dipping and stilettos.  But it never crossed my mind that I would age-out of the New York Times, and, specifically, The Sunday NYT Magazine, which has been my go-to repository for fun and information for so many years.

My pattern for reading The Magazine has never changed.  First, I do a quick glance at the puzzle.  Does it look like fun?  Hard? Easy?  No matter.  I’ll get back to it soon.  The mystery medical column is up next.  Do I have any of those symptoms?  Should I call the doctor? Once I’ve passed that test, I’m off to the Letters to the Editor.  That tried and true process has never let me down.

Until last week.  The following is a paragraph from a much larger article in the NYT Magazine, titled ” Million Dollar JPEGS.”  I should have known, from the get-go, that the article wasn’t written with me in mind but I trundled on until I got to this:

See what I mean? Apparently, there are some things I’m simply not meant to grasp. The good news is that the puzzle was fun and I didn’t have a single symptom of the mystery disease. I’d like to think that I’ve aged sufficiently, however you cut it, to accept that I can take what I need and leave the rest. All’s well that ends well.

Quote from the New York Times magazine, May 16, 2021

Mother’s Day

Yes, I know.  Mother’s Day was last Sunday.  And I hope everyone had a lovely one.

Mother’s Day has never been my favorite day.  There are reasons for that which are no longer relevant but some things never change and it’s still not my favorite day.

For some reason, this year I started looking around our house and found, somewhat to my wonder, much evidence of my mother.  There are “rules” which she had that I follow, to this day, without so much as single thought as to why. Some examples follow:

Those colorfully artistic jackets on hard-back books are pitched before they’re permitted to take up residence in book shelves.

One would never, ever, under pain of death, put just two flowers in a vase.  Even numbers aren’t artistically correct.

New candles are lit, their wicks blackened and then carefully tended as a little wax dribbles down their sides. All of this before they appear in public.

First thing in the morning the front door needs to be opened, just a smidge, no matter the weather, to allow for a small waft of fresh air.

Feign would a cocktail be served without a proper napkin.

Those new, fancy, back-up mirrors are for sissies. Rather, you crack open the driver’s door, look down and back up by following the line of the curb ’til you can straighten out the wheel and go forward again.

All of this reminds me of one of my favorite poets, Ruth Zardo. She said, and I quote: “Long dead and buried in another town; my mother isn’t finished with me yet.”

Candle images from Ryan Gander “Shadows Go The Wrong Way”

Little Lending Libraries

There was one just down the street from us in Bluffton.  It was the first one I’d ever seen. It was right on the main drag so visitors and residents alike could take or leave a book. 

Now, to my happy surprise, I find that we have one here in our little community.  It wasn’t here a few years ago and I applaud whoever started it in the meantime. There’s nicely a smaller one for children. Thoughtfully placed at kid-friendly eye-level.

Clearly, there’s a difference between the little lending libraries and regular libraries.  The little ones have no due dates, no late fines, no check-out lines.  Just grab, go and please return.  The books are contributed by residents and there’s no rhyme nor reason to their placement.  They’re all just jammed in together.  Exactly like my own bookshelves.

Most of the offerings are what you’d expect.  Lots of “who-dun-its,” written by all the usual suspects.  Sue Grafton.  James Patterson.  Faye Kellerman.  Easy reads.  I borrowed a British mystery recently, am half way through and it’s still unclear as to whether the corpse was murdered or simply died of natural causes. Oh, how I love those Brits.  

Stuck in the middle of the mysteries are a couple of outliers.  There’s one on gender and elections.  Another on media distortion in the news.  A slim volume tells us where to find adventurous arts in America. There’s even one one on alien secrets! Engaging topics, indeed. I’d sure like to know who put those books there, but, alas, unless I catch ’em in the act, I’ll probably never know “who-dun-it.”

The Mister and I wish all mothers a happy day.

Driver’s Education. Redux.

It’s that all-important first step to freedom. The path to all things fun and un-chaperoned. It’s a requirement for the ticket to ride in the driver’s seat. And it’s usually forgotten once the license is in hand, but there are exceptions, of course.

Back in our little town, when oh-so-many years ago our group became of-driving-age, we did as expected. We took driver’s ed.  The leader of our pack was the first up.  Her name was “Mary Blair.”   A lovely, southern, double-name, she was always, always, “Mary Blair.”   Occasionally MB, and maybe sometimes just Blair but never, ever, just Mary.

The driver’s ed teacher didn’t get that and he called her Mary.  She was in no position to correct him since she really, really wanted to pass the course.

We’d hang on to every word as she’d tell us about her “sessions” with the instructor and the art of turning, parking, and passing.  We all knew we’d all have to go down that road some day and she was our canary in the cave.

Driver’s ed teachers are, understandably, deeply concerned about intersections.  That’s where bad stuff can happen to anyone, let alone a newbie.  So every time our friend Mary Blair and her instructor happened upon an intersection, he’d say:  “Now ease out to your vision point, Mary. “  But we lived in West Virginia and the teacher was a bit of a hillbilly with a slow, easy drawl and a serious touch of twang, so it came out more like: “Eeeeze on out to your veee-zhun point, Meery. “  Which may not sound funny now, but let me tell you, it was funny back then and the Mister and I still use that little phrase for many things.

Like right now.  It says it all as we carefully ease back out to our vision points and hope, like crazy, that there won’t be any mishaps along the way and that life, as we knew it, is just right around the corner.

High Maintenance

Oh, bother and fuss.  It’s a never ending struggle.

There’s always something that needs doing.  I know this to be true because my mirror tells me so.  It persists in reminding me that there is work, much work, to be done.

It constantly informs me that:

            My teeth need whitening, my hair needs coloring.

            My chin needs firming, my cheeks need blushing.

            The bones need strengthening, our wrinkles need smoothing.

            Those legs need shaving, and that tummy needs tucking. 

           The muscles need toning and those hips could truly use some slimming.

            The lashes need thickening and the brows need plucking.

            The nails need polishing and my lips need painting.

            The boobs need lifting and that neck really should be tightened.

On and on it goes.  Unending and unrelenting.   If I listen to it, it keeps me busy, busy, busy, just playing catch-up. Not to mention the whole money thing.

Or I can sit back, chill out, pour myself a glass of wine, and sing along with the Beatles as they belt out “Let It Be.”    Clearly, the choice is mine. So, mirror, mirror, on the wall, I may not be the fairest of them all but you need to get over yourself and accept me as I am. I think we’ll both be happier that way.

Image from The Scream by Munch

“Above The Fold”

(Please click on pic for full image)

It’s that rarefied space on the first page of any newspaper.  It’s always the BIG news of the day.   It’s what you need to know right this very second and in print so big you couldn’t possibly miss it..   

It’s also, almost always, about loss.  People and things lost in wars, earthquakes, tornadoes, and more.  Not the jolliest way to start one’s day.

But, it’s what we expect and when it’s different, we sit up and take notice.  And so, just this last week, when the Above the Fold headline was: “Bluffton Students Break World Record for Cereal Box Domino Chain, I stopped cold.  Could anyone really give a hoot about a cereal-box domino tournament?  Surely it’s a stretch to greet us with that headline, even for our little paper.

But, if you read the article, like I did, you’d soon find out that 6,000….yes, 6,000….boxes of cereal were donated to the project. Nearly 5,000 of them were carefully lined up and subsequently toppled in domino form to grab the record for such an activity.  That’s a serious number of cereal boxes and a lot of hard work.  Those kids beat the record of 3,416 boxes set in New York in 2017.  Now we’re talking a big deal.

But they didn’t stop there.  Each box was then donated to a local food pantry.  And each box was tagged with a personal, handwritten note from a student.  How cool is all that?

It’s a win, win, win situation.  There’s a lot more Life (Quaker Oats), Kix (General Mills) and Vive (Kellogg) in that story than in our standard gloom and doom. 

So let’s give some Cheerios (General Mills) and Honey Smacks (Kellogg) to our little paper for giving them the above-the-fold space they deserved.

Picture from the April 6, 2021 issue of the Island Packet

Susan Sontag

What a force she was.  Google her and you’ll find quotes on more topics than you’ll ever have time to read.   One of her many noted observations appeared in the New York Times Magazine a week or so ago.

She said, and I quote: “Cameras go with family life. Not to take pictures of one’s children, particularly when they are small, is a sign of parental indifference.”

Oooops.

I have nothing but admiration for Sontag.  She was artist, photographer, mother, lover, philosopher, activist.  But she only had one kid.  So, I can assume that she frequently had one, if not two, free hands, in which to carry and operate a camera.

How different my life was and it had nothing to do with the whole artist, activist stuff.  It had to do with the number of children we had and the number of available hands I had at any given time.  I can only say that photographing them, as cute as they were from time to time, was not always front and center on my to-do list.

Nonetheless, I’ve stewed about that quote since I read it.  Many feelings arise:  Guilt.  Shame.  Remorse.  Regret.

Then I remember that having three boys, all at one point under the age of three, was not about capturing the moment on film or diligently documenting their lives. Most days were dedicated, simply to surviving and keeping them alive and well.  Hoping they’d still be ready to greet the next day, just being regular kids.

So,If all that photographic documentation of their lives is missing, I hope their imaginations can fill in the blanks. Some things are better that way anyway. And, frequently, just that much more fun.

Bridge, Anyone?

I’d put money….and you should, too…..on the odds that I’ve played bridge longer than just about anyone you know.  Let’s be clear.  That doesn’t make me a better bridge player, by any means.  It just means I’ve had my feet under a bridge table for slightly over 70 years at this point.

My parents played bridge most Sunday afternoons.  There were usually six of them.  Four at the table; two to do other stuff.  They cut in and out as the afternoon went on.  The sit-outs were in charge of libations, nibbles and gossip. The sit-ins obviously played bridge, until, as my father always warned: “Move your feet, you’ll lose your seat .”

I sat on the kitchen stool and kibitzed during those afternoons.  I learned Goren, the system used to bid way back then.  My mother had a book or two on the game and we dealt hands together.  That’s a nice memory for me.

But what I really learned at their bridge table had nothing to do with cards. 

Primarily, I learned that bridge is fun.  That the game of bridge is also one of manners and respect.  That frowns, tsk-tsks, and  harrumphs were unacceptable.  That friends at the beginning of the game were even better friends at the end of it.  That scores meant nothing.  Even if you were playing for high stakes like a tenth of a cent per point.

I went forth into the world believing that.  And I still cling to that position even though some hard-core gamers tried, in vain, to disprove me of that notion.

As I enter my 8th decade of “playing” bridge, I, now more firmly than ever, refuse to give up the fun.  While that seemingly steadfast position may decrease the number of people who’ll play with me, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

Bridge my way, anyone?

An Enigma

Question: What do Covid and laughter have in common?

Answer:  They are each infectious, contagious and catching.

It’s a bit heretical to suggest there’s a scintilla of similarity when the two are such polar opposites.

We seek one out; avoid the other like the plague it is. One is as good for us as the other is dangerous.

It feels like a cruel joke to use the same adjectives to describe two such disparate situations.    I also find it ironic that our beautiful language can find similarities where none exist. 

Sounds like it’s all one big enigma and we should just leave it at that.

I

Driving Miss Sallie

And what a long, and sometimes bumpy, road trip it’s been. 

It all started with the foot.   The broken one.  People with heavy casts on their right foot shouldn’t drive cars.  And thus began Phase One of the Mister’s “Driving Miss Sallie” program. It was, simply, a concept born of necessity.

As we entered Phase Two, and the cast was off, we didn’t totally trust the foot to respond as needed in matters of traffic and so forth.   Thus, Phase Two of “Driving Miss Sallie” became a “better safe than sorry” kind of thing.

Then, there was Phase Three.  The foot had been released from care and pronounced completely healed by the docs.  But we still had Covid in our midst.  And so it was deemed prudent and wise to for the Mister to continue to Drive Miss Sallie.  That decision had no basis in reality or necessity so we simply referred to this period as “Miss Sallie’s preference.”

Now here we are at Phase Four.  I guess we should call this one “she’s back in the saddle again.”

It’s been a year and a touch more since I’ve been in the driver’s seat and it’s little like getting back on a bucking horse.  All those little bells and whistles in the car still startle me.  The flashing lights in the rear view mirror confuse me.  I know they’re there for my safety but don’t they know I’m still adjusting?  Couldn’t they come up with some soothing, reassuring sounds?

I’m slowly gettin’ my groove back and, in the meantime, I am very grateful for the Mister’s willingness to Drive Miss Sallie around during this strange time.

Going, Going……

Almost, but not quite, gone.

It’s a mere shadow of its former self.   The Mister says it’s so thin you could cut butter with it.

It’s our home-town newspaper, of course. I know local papers are in trouble across the nation but it’s really going to bring it home for me when I don’t see that little sleeve of paper on my driveway every morning. Just waiting to be opened.

It’s not that I get my news from the paper.  I don’t.  Like everyone else, I see/hear it on television or on-line. I’m not an avid sports fan so the sports pages don’t do a thing for me. Even our op-ed pages are slowly disappearing.

So what’s to miss?

Well, the cross word puzzles, of course. And, the obituaries, I regret to say. 

But mostly, I’ll miss the actual, physical, paper itself.  The folds and creases, the newsprint, the rustling sounds when you turn the pages.  It’s that whole tactile, sensory, thing that I enjoy.  And will seriously miss.

Scrolling, scanning, and clicking simply don’t cut my mustard first thing in the morning. One will grow accustomed to the change but that doesn’t mean one has to like it.

Photo thanks to paperindex.com

Free At Last!

We’re vaccinated, double-masked and rarin’ to go.

We’re anti-bodied, certified and ready to roll.

We’re showered, shod, scented and styled.

We’re lip-sticked, eye-lined, powdered and rouged.

We’re highlighted, gelled, teased and sprayed.

We’re manicured, pedicured, polished and painted.

Keys are in hand, there’s gas in the tank.

Look out world, here we come!

Or maybe not.

We introverts don’t change our stripes quite that quickly so maybe I’ll just wait a bit…perhaps a week….or even two….before I venture out again. What’s the rush? Really? Caution makes sense. At least to us.