Anniversary today!

Today is our youngest daughter’s wedding anniversary.  They’ve been married 11 years, and in that short time the “in sickness and health” clause has been put to the test by lupus.   Our son-in-law has been great through all the hospitalizations, and he’s a keeper!

Happy anniversary, Robyn and Pat!  May you celebrate many more years.

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Let’s put on a show!

Last March, our youngest DD was given an Eastern Star appointment as district chairman for Cancer Research.  She was charged with raising $1,000 for this worthy project.  That’s a pretty tall order for difficult economic times!

Months of planning lead up to this weekend’s show:  Hoot ‘N’ Holler.  It featured a fried chicken dinner, followed by a Hee-Haw type variety show.  DD was the hostess and box office girl.

The Shriners clowns agreed to come and be part of the entertainment.  Did you know it can take up to two hours for these fellows to put on all that make-up?  Tell that to your man next time he complains about your beauty routine! 

Here are several pictures of our friends, to show you the theme decorations. It was fall and country all the way.

DH did a tribute to Junior Sample, complete with a commercial.  Here he is in all his glory,  going over last minute skit details with our friend Gayle.

Any good variety show will include music.  I hadn’t planned to play, as country isn’t my interest.  However, we received a $100 donation, on the condition that I play some numbers.  Here I am, playing some Fats Waller, and some Scott Joplin. DD sang also, but her daddy enjoyed it so much that he forgot to pick up the camera!  le sigh!

The Shriners clowns performed three skits for us, including this fishing-in-a bucket number.

Your fish has to be as big as mine!

The biggest catfish (pillow) ever was pulled out of the ice chest.

This is the picture of DD, her dad, and the clown named “Trouble” that was taken for the newspaper write-up. We are so proud of all that she accomplished with her committee.  The show earned $945!  When memorial contributions for the year are added, she should make that lofty $1,000 goal.  Wow!

Not now, Cato!

Do you recall the Pink Panther movies, where Inspector Clouseau had arranged with his servant, Cato, to attack him by surprise?  It was part of Clouseau’s training, to be ready at any time.  Cato usually attacks at the most inconvenient times.  Here is one of the better clips.

That is what life has been like with Archie.  Oh, he looks innocent here, but believe me, we spend a lot of time yelling “Not now, Cato!”  Just try walking across a quiet room, and suddenly there Archie is, wrapped around one of your knees, claws out, gnawing off your kneecap in mock attack.

We celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary this week, and DH, as is his custom, bought beautiful flowers to mark the occasion.

Aren’t they lovely?  DH is very fond of fall colors, thus our September anniversary.  Who wouldn’t love flowers and candle light?

Perhaps you have guessed that DH’s custom is to give flowers in honor of our anniversary to St. Patrick’s Episcopal.  Here is the full view.  I think they were absolutely lovely!  Thank you, dear.  I feel very celebrated!

A Tree Quest

Seven years ago this month I took Amtrack’s Sunset Limited train from New Orleans to Los Angeles for the birth of our granddaughter, Maggie Rose.  As the train pulled in to LA I saw several beautiful lavender flowering trees.  What were they?  Certainly not Crepe Myrtles – those grow here, and I know them well.  This (new to me) tree was the dimensions of a young oak or maple – full girth and height.

As we waited for Maggie’s birth, DD and DSIL showed me the attractions of LA, including the la Brea tar pits.  There, at the edge of the parking lot, was a whole row of lavender flowering trees.  DSIL is an MIT-educated rocket scientist.  Identification of west coast flora is not his specialty.  DD grew up, well, most places except the west coast.  She’d not seen them before, either.

Fast forward to our Disney World vacation this month.  As we entered Epcot, I spied two rows of lavender flowering tree framing Spaceship Earth (the big silver ball).  That’s the tree!  That’s the tree I saw on Maggie’s birth trip!  I asked the ticket takers “What’s the name of that tree?”  They admired it with me, but didn’t know.

We asked the guest relations cast member who was passing out schedules near the entrance.  He didn’t know, admired the tree with me, and directed me to a gardening pavilion.  Wonderful!  Terrible – it was only open on weekends.  Boo!

Those of you who know the determination of this knitter know the quest didn’t end there.  After all, the Annual International Garden Show at Epcot was in progress:  someone must know!  We inquired at the master gardener’s kiosk near the dancing fountain.  The lady staffing it was nice, admired the trees with me (by now, I was showing people close-up photos on my digital camera), and said she didn’t know.  le sigh!  But, if we could come back before they closed at 5 pm, she would find someone who knew.  Alas, it got busy, and we were a long walk away from the kiosk at 5 pm.

The next day we returned to Epcot I was determined to try again.  We found a different lady staffing the master gardener’s kiosk.  Picture shown, admired, not recognized…you know the drill.  Yet, as we were exchanging regrets, another lady arrived.  She was a horticulturalist from one of the Florida Universities, and she knew right away the tree I’d been seeking.  “It’s a Jacaranda, the Mimosa variety.”

Yippee!  I had visions of lavender flowers on my lakeshore.  Alas, we live about a zone and a half too far North for the Jacaranda.  At least my quest had been successful.

Olives for Christmas

I mentioned in an earlier post that it isn’t Christmas without a jar of olives, and that there is a story behind it.  When I was little, mother’s brother, Bob, my “Unca Bob” was still in high school.  However, that didn’t stop him from giving some beautiful gift boxes to my mother.

Inside the large, beautifully wrapped box was a slightly smaller, beautifully wrapped box.  And inside the second box was a third, slightly smaller, beautifully wrapped box.  Three or four boxes later,  was the actual gift:  a jar of olives!

This gift-in-a-gift-in-a-gift… was given year after year.  Finally, when I was 10, there was a really large box at the back of the tree.  I mean, it was almost as big as a washing machine!  Although it had a tag addressing it to mother, she ignored it throughout the present opening.  Finally, Unca Bob couldn’t stand it any more:  “Aren’t you going to open your gift?”

“Oh, that’s just my jar of olives!” mother answered.  Since it was the last present “under” the tree, Unca Bob prevailed, and mother began opening the big box.  This year, there wasn’t a smaller box inside.  Instead, it was a kitchen utility cart, complete with a drawer for storing silverware.  The kitchen in our old house was very short on cabinets, so this was a wonderful gift.  Mother joyfully opened the drawer, and inside she saw…her Christmas jar of olives!

Now you know why olives were always served at our Christmas dinner.  If you have a hard-to-shop-for relative, feel free to wrap up the olives.  They’ll have a blast opening them, and you can have them with your Christmas dinner.

Mother’s Christmas diplomacy

When I was a child Christmas Eve was celebrated at father’s mother’s home,  Christmas morning we were at home, and late Christmas afternoon we went to mother’s family for Christmas dinner.  It wasn’t until after father’s death that I learned the true rationale, and the diplomacy involved.

Father was, at best, a stern man.  I could never watch “All in the Family” because Archie Bunker was too spot on.  Mother, on the other hand, was extremely intelligent, and had her own way of handling his temper and pride.  Take the Christmas celebrations, for instance.  Mother hated goose.  She said it was extremely greasy.  But Grandmother D. felt it wasn’t Christmas without a Christmas goose.  (Note that it was a Christmas goose, not a Christmas Eve goose.)  Thus, Grandmother D. was given the “honor” of having our first celebration, Christmas Eve.  Result:  I’ve never tasted goose in my life.

Christmas morning involved more diplomacy.  Father insisted that a large, specimin orange belonged in the toe of each stocking as a Christmas treat.  It was a big deal to get fresh citrus like that in the Midwest in the 50’s.  However, it was nothing like the oranges that have been developed today:  it was bitter and could be stringy.  If we didn’t eat the oranges, it would have been a big insult.  Mother to the rescue – she created a “tradition” of having ambrosia for Christmas breakfast.  Her recipe called for sliced bananas, coconut, maraschino cherries, oranges, and enough sugar to make it taste good.  We children cheerfully gave our stocking oranges for the cause, and peace prevailed.

Christmas dinner was lovely.  Grandmother Z would make a ham, scored and studded with cloves.  It would be surrounded on the platter with orange cups cut in zig-zags, and filled with whole cranberry sauce.  She served spinach souffle molded in a ring mold, and decorated as a wreath with egg slices and pimento strips.  The highlight for the children was her sugar cookies.  If you’ve seen the cookbook pictures of sugar cookies decorated with royal icing, Santa’s face painted in multiple colors, then you’ve seen something like her work.  The cookies that come in cookie bouquets approach her standards.  They were too beautiful to eat, but so yummy that we forced ourselves!

So, my friends, never underestimate the power of an intelligent woman.  If Hillary is half as good a diplomat as Mother, we’ll be just fine.

Innocents in NYC

Major Knitter wrote Saturday of attending the Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.  I have only waved to that marquee in passing, but there is a story to tell about that.

DH was working in New Jersey on a two-year assignment with his mega-employer.  As if that weren’t enough upheaval for a family of 5, they decided on short notice that his expertise was needed in England.  The U. S. government does nothing on short notice, my friends, and none of us had passports.   A personal appearance application at our “local” passport office was the only hope, and that office was located in Rockefeller Center, NYC.

Our youngest, a preschool girl, was not required to appear in person.  The government, in its wisdom, decreed that if we presented her birth certificate and photograph and swore, under penalty of death, that we had this child, they would issue her passport.  The high school daughters, DH and I gathered our papers and rode the employer’s commuter van to NYC one early workday.  Their office was only a block or so away from Rockefeller center, so we did the “tourist walk” (head on swivel at the scenery) to the passport office.

The application process was uneventful, despite my fears.  You see, our oldest daughter was adopted.  To put it mildly, she looks nothing like us.  Yet her birth certificate lists DH and me as parents.  The challenge I worried about never came – I guess NYC is used to all sorts of variations.

After an hour and a half, much of which was devoted to waiting our turn, we were out on the street, with the rest of the work day to spend until the commuter van returned to NJ.  DH and I decided to walk up to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  There was park on our left, and skyscrapers on our right.  I was trying to explain to the daughters about penthouses, with trees and swimming pools, etc, on top of these buildings.  I got the “Oh, Mother!” response.

Then a jogger approached.  I recognized her, but didn’t want to be a tourist about it.  After she passed us, I said to the girls “Wasn’t it neat to see Yoko Ono?”

“Where?” they replied.  Ah, such is the life of a mother!

Gladly, the cross-eyed bear

When my mother was a little girl she attended a Sunday School whose superintendent was her grandfather.  Each Sunday they met for an assembly and hymn sing, and then dispersed to their classes.  Her favorite song was about a teddy bear named Glady:  “Gladly the Cross I’d Bear”.  The hymn that worried her the most was “Right in the Corner Where You Are”  (Brighten the Corner Where You Are).  She figured God was really keeping an eye on her!

In the spirit of such mis-heard songs, DD#1 called this week.  She had repeatedly heard a song on Musac at Olive Garden, and was pretty sure it wasn’t “One Ton Tomato”, no matter how much pasta sauce they made. Would you believe Guantanamera?  As we talked, she Googled it, and found a Wikipedia listing .

That’s all well and good for her.  Now I’m humming “One Ton Tomato”!

Everything old is new again

I spent the afternoon reading many of the cache of letters I have kept that I received from my late mother.  She was a regular correspondent, and enjoyed describing daily events, the weather, concerts, even activities and achievements of her former students.  (Mother was the head of a high school English department.)  I was searching for one gem of information, but found myself skimming through letters about the late arrival of robins, sharing peppermints with paperboys, and schnauzer grooming.

When these letters were originally received I remember wondering why she spent the time and money to write of such trivialities.  Now that the letters are all that remain, it is good to read her turn of phrase again.  But more than that, by another standard they fit right in:  Mother was writing blog posts before the advent of the Internet!

The City Girl and the Great Depression

The remembrance continues…
Mother was a "city girl", living in the county seat of Burlington, Iowa, a Mississippi River town.  I don't know the population back then, but as of 2000 the population was 26,000.  The town 5 miles from Dad's farm had a population of 1,464 at the same census.  That's a big difference!

The Great Depression didn't "sneak up" on them in 1929.  At least, Great Grandfather Zart, her father's father, was very aware of the impending monetary crisis.  He spread his money out among 3 banks (remember, there was no FDIC to guarantee your deposit – that came after, as a result of the crash).  Mom also said he bought up a lot of coffee (think commodity) and stocked his basement as a hedge.  All the preparations were for naught:  all 3 banks failed.  However, they did have coffee to drink for the duration! 

The Zart homes were not lost, but lifestyles changed.  Grandmother (I called her Mom Addah) took a job as a grocery clerk.  Mother tagged along, and told a story of getting in trouble by fooling around with a mop and pail someone had left mid-mopping.  Mother spilled it, and Mom Addah slipped in it, breaking her collarbone. 

I grew up in the 1950's child of these parents who gave us all they could, but never made a financial decision without looking back over their shoulder at the depression.  I was well fitted to "make do" as my DH went through graduate school.  The hardest part for me was to actually spend any money without guilt,  once he was out of school and a success.  Every news story today brings all the cautions of the past back.  As Bette Davis said in All About Eve, "Fasten your seat belts. It's going to be a bumpy night."

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