Archive for the ‘Musings’ category

“And everyone, men and women, seemed inordinately fond of hats.”

June 23, 2018

Last night got cold. I had to close all the downstairs windows, and I’m glad I did because it’s been raining all morning, and the house has a sweatshirt worthy damp chill even with the windows closed. Henry is quick to go out and quicker to come back inside.

When I was a kid, a rainy Saturday ruined the whole week. It meant staying inside and trying to find ways to entertain myself. TV helped fill the time. I watched all the Saturday programs. Later, if I had a book, I’d hide in my bedroom away from the noise of kids stuck inside and read.

It’s a rainy day, and I have fallen into old habits. I’m watching TV to pass the time, and I’ve started a book by Harlan Coben, Don’t Let Go. I bought the hardcover at last week’s farmer’s market. It was a dollar. I’ve already gotten more than my money’s worth.

I have all sorts of collections. I have hats. They are on a hat tree, a real tree in the guest room, and on the bookcase here in the den. Some of the hats are old. One is a red Panama hat I bought in Ecuador in the 70’s. All the women there wear a similar hat. I have an old navy hat and an old army hat. I have my ancient brownie beret and a boy scout hat. I have a brown fedora which reminds me of my dad who wore one to work all the time I was growing up. One of the hats was worn for Easter by my sister when she was young. It is a pill box with flowers on the top and a ribbon and bow. The ribbon hangs down in the back. Three of my hats are from Ghana. A red fez reminds me of Doctor Who. The bowler is like the one John Steed used to wear on The Avengers. The band hat has a plume. A soft brown woman’s hat has feathers. It looks like the sort of hat worn to complement horse riding garb. The train ticket collector’s hat is blue. I have a wide brim pink hat. It is one of my favorites.

What is ironic here is I don’t wear hats. I just collect them.

I haven’t bought a hat for a while, but that doesn’t mean I’ve given up hats. I am just getting choosier.

“The only man I envy is the man who has not yet been to Africa – for he has so much to look forward to.”

June 22, 2018

What a beautiful day! The sun is bright, a little breeze ruffles the leaves, the humidity is gone, and the air is comfortable at 70˚. My biggest chore today is to hose down the deck, the table and chairs. They are covered with leaves, small branches and parts of acorns. Under the chairs is still some pollen the jet spray should wash away. The birds have been busy so the feeders need seed. The suet feeder was opened by a spawn so it too needs to be refilled.

Forty nine years ago today, a Sunday, the greatest adventure of my life began. Forty nine years ago today I said goodbye to my parents and headed to Philadelphia for Peace Corps Ghana staging. My father drove the three of us, him, my mother and me, to Logan Airport. It was a quiet ride with little conversation. None of us dared to say anything. At Logan, we stood around the gate saying our goodbyes. My mother’s hug was a bit tight. As I walked down the jetway, I turned and waved. They waved too. That was our last goodbye.

When I got on the plane, I was loaded down with carry-ons. My 80 pounds of luggage, filled with clothes and stuff like sheets, towels, a few pans and spices, had been checked. When I sat down, my seat mate asked me if I was running away from home. I told him the Peace Corps. He bought me drinks. I landed in Philadelphia and went to the taxi line. I noticed a guy wearing a button-down collar shirt and a pair of khakis. Around him was more luggage than one guy needed for a trip to Philadelphia. I asked him if he was going to the Hotel Sylvania. He was. I had just met my first fellow trainee. We shared a cab.

Downstairs at the hotel I stood in line to register. I had my fingerprints with me, the last piece of my file. I registered. At that same desk, they gave me my large manila envelope filled with information about Ghana, the staging schedule including a one on one with a psychologist, training information and my room key. I got to my room and unpacked a few things, enough for the five days we’d be in Philadelphia. My roommate never showed. I found that amazing. How could she not show after the long process of being invited to train for Ghana?

Our first meeting on Sunday night was just introductions, more specific instructions and an overview of the rest of staging. They gave us a per diem, but I don’t remember how much. I do remember finding my way to the dentist to have my teeth checked, the yellow fever shot they gave each of us and the first session. It was so unexpectedly boring. I decided to skip sessions and see Philadelphia. That’s when I met Bill and Peg. We became friends and co-conspirators. We toured Philadelphia. I remember the Liberty Bell and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

We were originally told we’d have to make our own way to New York for the flight. It made no sense to us and eventually no sense to the staff so we loaded luggage and boarded busses to the Philadelphia airport. It was a TWA charter flight to Accra. I was nervous, a little scared, a lot curious and even more thrilled. I was going to Africa.

“it’s a smile, it’s a kiss, it’s a sip of wine … it’s summertime!”

June 21, 2018

Today is the solstice, the longest day of the year, the official start of summer, and Mother Nature has gifted us with a beautiful day, a summer day with a bit of a breeze and lots of sun.

When I was a kid, summer started when school was out for the year. It was glorious. I had two full months to do whatever I wanted, well, mostly whatever I wanted. It was actually whatever my mother let me do or whatever she didn’t know I did.

I remember going barefoot at the start of the summer and having every rock and stone hurt my feet, and I remember hopping one foot to the other on the hot pavement as it burned the soles of my feet, but it didn’t take long for my feet to harden, and I could walk anywhere and on any surface. My summer attire was always shorts and a blouse, mostly a sleeveless blouse. If I had to go anywhere, I wore sneakers, low, white Converse sneakers, with socks. The only time I wore a dress was to go to mass on Sunday.

We never had a set bedtime in the summer. I can remember sitting outside on a warm summer night. The outside light attracted all sort of bugs, and I’d watched them circle the light or bang into the screen. I used to go inside by the front door so I wouldn’t bring in the bugs.

My mother kept the living room shades down in the summer. She said the darkness kept the room cooler. Upstairs was always hot. I remember tossing and turning and trying to fall asleep.

Summer mornings are favorites of mine. The air is still cool, the birds are singing and the garden smells divine in the morning air. I love to sit on the deck with my coffee and papers. Sometimes I just sit there taking in what I can hear, smell and see. I always feel a sense of solitude, a sense of peace.

“Facts must be faced. Vegetables simply don’t taste as good as most other things do.”

June 19, 2018

Coffee is late today because I had PT, my last but oneand a blood test. Before I left for my appointments, I was busy picking up the pieces of flower pots which had fallen and broken during the short rainstorm we had last night. I would have liked more rain, but I did love the wind. It kept the house cool.

I have finally brought my laundry upstairs. It sat in the drier for more than a week. Part of the reason I didn’t get it was I had left mouse traps around the cellar, and I was afraid they’d be dead mice. There were none.

Today is as pretty a day as any. The sun is shining, the deep blue sky is cloudless and there is a strong breeze keeping the heat at bay. It is 76˚. I have a few flowers to pot, and I want to change my bed, the only items on my to-do list.

When I was a kid, my mother pretty much made meals she knew we’d eat. We weren’t big on vegetables except corn, peas and mashed potatoes. My mother, however, was quite clever with vegetables. She used to mash carrots and mix them with the potato. I always wondered about the orange in my mashed potatoes, but I never asked. I just ate the potatoes. They tasted fine to me.

Somewhere along the line I came to love a variety of vegetables. Count me in as a turnip fan. Cabbage is another. I sometimes buy a small head and cook it as a vegetable. I slather butter on it. Butternut squash is my favorite in the squash family followed by acorn squash. I don’t like yellow summer squash and I’m iffy on zucchini, unless it’s zucchini bread. I prefer broccoli and spinach uncooked in salads. Celery is a lot of work for nothing.

Some vegetables are really fruits like the tomato, the avocado and strangely enough string beans. In Ghana I ate okra for the first time. I liked it. It too is a fruit. I was taken aback. I would have bet the ranch that they were vegetables.

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”

June 18, 2018

The morning is a delight. The wind is from the north. It is sunny but not yet warm though the prediction is for 75˚. Boston and north of Boston will hit the mid-90’s. Some schools even cancelled because of the heat. Few schools are air-conditioned. Friday is the end of the year for many schools including here. I always liked that day.

I don’t remember school lasting this long when I was a kid. I think the public schools always went longer than St. Pat’s. That was one of the perks of going to a Catholic school which sort of made up for having to wear uniforms.

When I was young, some of the nuns scared me. My first grade nun, Sister Redempta, was the scariest because she was the first. I have glimpses of her in my memory bank. I remember her hurrying up the aisle, her veil billowing behind her as she confronted some poor kid. Luckily I was never one of those kids, those poor kids.

Today I find myself reminiscing. I’m thinking about all the places I’ve been. I am generally amazed. When I was a kid, we traveled to Canada, not far into Canada, just to the falls, but that trip was a turning point. It was my first step in fulfilling the vow I had made when I was 11: to travel to more places than Marty Barrett, a classmate who went to England a few times to visit relatives. On that fateful family trip, I saw Niagara Falls, went up Mount Washington, watched ships go through the Eisenhower Locks and stayed at a cottage on the edge of Lake Ontario. I wanted more.

I didn’t take my first plane trip until I was a freshman in college. My father treated me to a flight from Boston to Cape Cod as an Easter gift. I loved everything about that flight: the small plane, the view of the ocean and the landmarks I recognized as we flew over them. I wouldn’t fly again until the flight to Peace Corps staging in Philadelphia and, from there, the flight to Ghana.

I still have that wanderlust. I have more places I want to go, but I am hoping for one last trip to Ghana in 2021, the fiftieth anniversary of the completion of my Peace Corps service. I’m already feeding the coffer.

“A father is only capable of giving what he has, and what he knows. A good father gives all of himself that is good.”

June 17, 2018

This is my annual Father’s Day post. Many of you read it every year. It is about my amazing father, my funny and loving father. This morning, as soon as I woke up, I wished him a Happy Father’s Day.

In my front garden are a couple of ground cover plants. They have been there for years. My father planted them for me. One weekend he and my mother came down to visit. My dad brought his lawn mower, a hand mower, garden tools and those few plants. While my mother and I shopped, my dad mowed the lawn in the front and the back. Both yards were fields no longer. He weeded the garden. I could see the flowers. The garden was lovely. I get to remember that weekend every time I go out the front gate and see my father’s plants. They touch my heart.

This is my annual Father’s Day post. It brings back a rush of memories every time I read it. It makes me smile and long for my father. He was one of a kind in the best of all possible ways.

I have so many memories of growing up, of family trips and my dad trying to whack at us from the front seat and never succeeding, of playing whist in the kitchen, with the teams being my mom and me against my dad and brother, of Sunday rides, of going to the drive-in and the beach and of being loved by my dad. Memories of my dad are with me always, but today my memories are all of my dad, and my heart is filled to the brim with missing him. When I close my eyes, I see him so clearly.

On a warm day so he’d be sitting on the front steps with his coffee cup beside him while reading the paper. He’d have on a white t-shirt and maybe his blue shorts. He’d wave at the neighbors going by in their cars. They all knew him and would honk back. He loved being retired, and we were glad he had a few years of just enjoying life.

He was the funniest guy, mostly on purpose but lots of times by happenstance. We used to have Dad stories, all those times when we roared and he had no idea why. He used to laugh along with us and ask, “What did I say? What did I say?” We were usually laughing too hard to tell him. He was a good sport about it.

I know you’ve heard this before, but it is one of my favorite Dad stories. He, my mom and I were in Portugal. I was driving. My dad was beside me. On the road, we had passed many piggyback tandem trucks, all hauling several truck loads behind them. On the back of the last truck was always the sign Vehiculo Longo. We came out of a gas station behind one of those. My father nonchalantly noted, “That guy Longo owns a lot of trucks.” I was laughing so hard I could barely drive and my mother, in the back seat, was doubled over in laughter.

My father wasn’t at all handy around the house. Putting up outside lights once, he gave himself a shock which knocked him off his step-ladder. He once sawed himself out of a tree by sitting on the wrong end of the limb. The bookcase he built in the cellar had two shelves, one on the floor and the other too high to use. He said it was lack of wood. When painting the house once, the ladder started to slide, but he stayed on his rung anyway with brush in hand. The stroke of the paint on the house followed the path of his fall. Lots of times he set his shoe or pant leg on fire when he was barbecuing. He was a big believer in lots of charcoal lighter fluid.

My father loved games, mostly cards. We played cribbage all the time, and I loved making fun of his loses, especially if I skunked him. When he won, it was superb playing. When I won, it was luck. I remember so many nights of all of us, including aunts and uncles, crowding around the kitchen table playing cards, especially hi-lo jack. He loved to win and we loved lording it over him when he lost.

My father was a most successful businessman. He was hired to turn a company around and he did. He was personable and funny and remembered everyone’s names. Nobody turned him down.

My father always went out Sunday mornings for the paper and for donuts. He never remembered what kind of donut I like. His favorite was plain. He’d make Sunday breakfast when I visited: bacon, eggs and toast. I can still see him standing over the stove with a dish towel over his shoulders. He always put me in charge of the toast.

If I ever needed anything, I knew I could call my father. He was generous. When we went out to eat, he always wanted to pay and was indignant when we one upped him by setting it up ahead of time that one of us paid. One Christmas he gave us all $500.00, not as a gift but to buy gifts.

My father left us when he was far too young. It was sudden. He had a heart attack. I had spoken with him just the day before. It was pouring that day, and I told him how my dog Shauna was soaked. He loved that dog and told me to wipe his baby off. I still remember that whole conversation. I still miss my father every day.

“I like it where it gets dark at night, and if you want noise, you have to make it yourself.”

June 16, 2018

This has already been a productive morning. I went to the opening of the farmer’s market. First I went to the ATM and then spent almost all the money at the market. By the time I was done, my Bolga market basket was filled with bread, honey, tomatoes, a few small pots of herbs and a coffee-coconut sort of skin cream. Before I bought it, the woman gave me a sniff-it was all I needed. I was their very first customer ever they told me.

Last night was so cold so I had to shut the windows. When I woke up, the house still had a bit of that chill, and here in the den is the last of it. The day dawned absolutely beautiful. The high for today should be in the mid-70’s, and the temperature is almost there now.

My street is quiet right now. I have no idea where all the kids are. There are nine of them 12 and under. When I was a kid, our neighborhood was never quiet. You could hear kids yelling at one another, and mothers yelling at kids. Fathers never yelled out the back door.

The back door was where all the communication took place. Kids went inside and the door slammed behind them. Mothers yelled don’t slam the door. Kids yelled back that the door slammed itself. At lunch time, mothers yelled for kids from each of their back doors. It was a cacophony of mothers. By supper time, kids were inside watching TV. Outside sounds disappeared when it got dark. In the summer, through the screen windows, you could hear the TV’s. If you stood outside and looked in, you could see the flickering black and white screens of those TV’s.

I can hear my neighbors some nights. The sounds seem to travel. One neighbor down the end of the street has quite the laugh, and I hear when he finds something entertaining. On my movie nights, I wonder how far the dialogue travels as I have the audio as high as it can go, but no neighbors have complained. I’m thinking they are being good neighbors.

I do have to buy a few things, coffee being number one on my list, but I’ll wait until the late afternoon. In between, I’m going to sit on the deck and read. I think it a perfect plan for today!