Archive for the ‘Musings’ category

The dead soldier’s silence sings our national anthem.”

May 29, 2023

For special days, I have traditional postings. This is one of them.

Memorial Day is a day for reflection and a day to give thanks. It is a day for honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military, those who gave, as President Lincoln once said, their “last full measure of devotion.” This is my annual tribute. 

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation’s service. It originated during the American Civi War when citizens placed flowers on the graves of those who had been killed in battle. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day. There is also evidence that organized women’s groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead.” While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it’s difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860′s tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in General Logan, Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, giving his official proclamation in 1868 designating May 30 as a memorial day “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.”. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

“Sometimes you need things rather than just thoughts.”

May 27, 2023

It is warm at 68° and will get even warmer, into the 70’s. The breeze is so slight the leaves dance. Everything shines in the bright light of the sun. The blue sky almost defies description. This is the perfect morning.

Today’s will be a short posting. I almost took a hiatus but, out of habit, my fingers hit the keyboard.

On my counter are the jars and cans from one cabinet shelf. In the sink are the expired cans and jars from the same shelf. I started this monumental task when I was waiting for my coffee to brew. I am sorry I started this whole mess as now I’ll have to finish. I guess the consolation is I’ll have room in the cabinet for more cans.

My den is filled with furniture, my TV, pictures, posters, my hat collection, my ukes and 12 music books, Bolga baskets, my record player and a pile of records, shelves filled with cookbooks and wooden boxes also with cookbooks but a couple of boxes are filled with my collections like snow globes, old bottles, tin toys and even clickers shaped like animals. I love this room though I suspect others would probably find it claustrophobic, but it is my space, the place where I relax, where I even take naps. I read the cookbooks some nights taking note of what I might make. I watch old movies, mostly in black and white. The dogs sleep beside me on the couch, one on each side of me. I’m leaving this room just the way it is.

“Life is about using the whole box of crayons.”

May 26, 2023

This morning is following the same weather pattern as the last few days. It is only in the high 50’s. The sun, pretty but not so warm, is shining high in a sky of deep blue. It will only get to the low 60’s today, but starting tomorrow it will get warmer for the long weekend. The deluge of cars will begin tonight.

When I was a kid, I was thrilled to march in the Memorial Day parade in my town. It was a small time celebration, a parade of boy and girl scouts, brownies, cub scouts, the high school band, little league players and a dramatic finale, fire trucks blowing their alarms. I was a brownie and matched with my troop and several others. I was agog with excitement and pride. My parents were always there, watching from the sidewalk, and I remember waving at them when they yelled my name. We marched through town to one of the cemeteries where there was a service of sorts honoring the military who had given their lives for their country. After the parade, we went home to a barbecue of burgers and hot dogs with a few sides. I think peppers and eggs, my favorite, was one of the sides.

I probably won’t be around and about this weekend. It is time to hibernate, to avoid the traffic of sightseers, beach goers and rubberneckers. I have a few chores I might finish or might not depending on my mood.

I used to like to color. Every Christmas I’d get a new coloring book and crayons. I’d sit at the kitchen table with my crayons strewn in front of me. I never threw crayons away, even stubs. I used to tear off the paper as the crayons got shorter so the nuances of color disappeared. Sunset and vermillion were just red. Cerulean and indigo were just blue. I was fine with that. I started with a small box of crayons, but every Christmas the box got bigger, filled with all sort of colors. One year my box had 64 crayons and a built in sharpener. It was my favorite box. I loved sharpening my crayons when the tips got blunter with use.

This last Christmas my sister gave me a coloring book called My Coloring Book about Ghana. I chuckled as it was described on the back cover as, “For kids under 8 years old.” It was made in Connecticut. She also gave me the box of 64 Crayola crayons, and it still has a built in sharpener. I can hardly wait to use it.

“In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: It goes on.” 

May 25, 2023

The day is already lovely. The sky is the deepest blue with nary a cloud. The sun is gleaming. The breeze, though, is a bit strong so the morning is a mite chilly, at 53°, but it will warm to the low 60’s. Welcome to a day in June on Cape Cod.

Sometimes I stare at the screen hoping for inspiration for the day’s Coffee. I sort through my memory drawers. I go way back in time and place.

Today will be a mishmash.

I don’t remember when I first spent some time thinking about life in general. That was a skimpy drawer until I was older. Life, when I was a kid, was school, my bike, the library and playing in the woods, the field or the swamp. I had Girl Scout meetings and drill practice, but nothing else was planned. Life just happened.

I am sort of back to that place. I have my uke twice a week, practice and a lesson, and I have concerts. In June there are about twelve of them. The rest of my time is unplanned. Life just happens.

The spring cleaning infection I’ve had is getting more intense, weirder. Yesterday I cleaned the cabinet at the bottom of the hutch. I found a few neat surprises. I also cleaned my silver. I don’t have a whole lot of silver, but I do have what were tarnished serving pieces. They now shine. I can see my face in the tines of the fork. What an accomplishment!

My favorite European country is Portugal. I visited there with my parents. We traveled north into the Douro Valley, to Miranda do Douro. We stayed a night or two in Nazare at a hotel on the water. It was off-season. We ate seafood at a restaurant across from the beach. We could see the ocean crashing against rocks, and we watched the sunset. My other yummed his way through a platter of shellfish. In Lisbon, on our last two nights, we stayed at a hotel, a grand hotel, in the middle of the city. That was our custom, to splurge at least once, during every trip.

When I lived in Ghana, I used to go to Togo, mostly Lomé , the capital, during school vacations. My high school French got a workout there as French is the national language. I stayed at the Peace Corps hostel. Usually I met friends there from Ghana. We roamed the city. I remember eating lobster off the grill on a patio of a huge hotel. I visited bakeries, pâtisseries, every day. I ate crème glacée. I shopped at the Grand Marché, on the third floor, for cloth. One time I rented a mobilette, a moped, well before I bought my own motorcycle. I rode all over the city in heavy traffic. It was frightening and amazing.

Okay, I managed to find something to write about today. Talk to you tomorrow.

“I must have a prodigious amount of mind; it takes me as much as a week, sometimes, to make it up!” 

May 23, 2023

The house was colder than outside this morning. I was surprised how warm it felt when I went out to the yard to get the papers. There are a few clouds, but the sun is wonderfully bright as becomes a spring morning.

When I was little, I had easy decisions to make like what I wanted for breakfast, what I wanted packed for lunch or where I wanted to go on a Saturday. None of my choices were life affirming. I didn’t even know what life affirming was. On school mornings, I had to decide whether I wanted cereal or eggs. I figured that was a big decision, a seriously big decision. How did I want my eggs?

The first real decision I had to make was where I’d go to high school. The town’s high school was not in the mix, only Catholic schools were. I had to take entry tests for every one to which I was applying. Some schools were co-ed while others were all-girl. My friend Jimmy and I made a pact to fail the single sex school tests so we could go to school together. We did and nobody was the wiser. Nobody wondered why we got into all the co-ed schools and only the co-ed schools. After we were accepted, we talked it over and made our choice. That was my the first hurdle out of childhood, the first one that counted.

My college choice was all mine. I stayed with co-ed. I stayed in Massachusetts. I stay with Catholic, but that was not really part of my decision. It was just happenstance. I always thought my college decision was sort of my first adult decision, one with impact moving me closer to adulthood.

The most life affirming decision I ever made was to accept the invitation to join the Peace Corps and to go to Africa. The rest of my life has flowed from there. I found my life’s passion in Ghana. I became a teacher.

As for now, I’m back to whether or not I want cereal or eggs for breakfast. Should I go out or stay home and be warm and cozy? What’s on my dance card? The most difficult decision I have to make is what I’m having for dinner or do I just order a pizza.

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

May 22, 2023

The morning is a delight. It is a bit cool, but the sun is strong and quite bright. A breeze is blowing the leaves and the small branches on the oak trees. It is the perfect day to be outside.

This is a quiet week for me. I have only uke practice and a lesson, but I do have a few house and yard projects I hope to finish. Nana is a hole digger, and the last few days she has dug a few deep holes. I want to fill them in before I step in one and break a leg.

Last night I went out on the deck to turn off the white lights on the rail and fence. The timer doesn’t work. It was around 1:30. Everywhere except my yard was dark. Everything was quiet. The dogs followed me out, and they went into the yard. I stood on the deck taking in the night. It was lovely.

When I was a kid, I read everything. After I found mysteries, I read Trixie Belden, Donna Parker, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I read all the classics. I remember the Christmas I got Little Women. I started reading it to the exclusion of everything else. I didn’t even hear my mother call me to dinner. I was totally absorbed into the pages of that book. Jo was my hero, a strong woman who bucked convention. Treasure Island was another book which held me enthralled. I didn’t want Long John Silver to be a bad guy. I read all the Doctor Dolittle books. I loved the pushme-pullyou. I always wished I could talk to animals. I wish it even now. I imagine the conversations Nala and I would have. I expect she’d be sassy and whiney. Henry would be personable. He has a constantly wagging tail. His whole rear end wags with it. He likes life. Doctor Doolittle proved he could talk to animals in a court case. He had the judge’s dog on the stand and questioned him in dog speak. By the dog’s answers, the judge believed Doctor Doolittle. I’d have Nala take the 5th.

“I hope you have an experience that alters the course of your life because, after Africa, nothing has ever been the same.”

May 20, 2023

Rain is coming. It is supposed to rain all day, but the rain is welcomed as it is so dry. I have one errand. I have to go the grocery store to get a few items to fill my larder. I’m also thinking a Snickers bar.

Today is Africa day here on Coffee. I am wearing a t-shirt my sister gave me which says, “I don’t need therapy. I just need to go to Ghana.” My house is filled with my treasures from Africa, some I brought back and many I bought on subsequent trips. I have a metal chess set I bought in Ouagadougou, the capital of what was Upper Volta in my day and is now Burkina Faso. It was a weekend getaway destination for me. The station wagon would pick me up at my house which was on the road to Ouga. The road was laterite until close to the city where it was paved. I remember during the rainy season we had to get out of the car so it could pass through places where the road was flooded. In Ouga I stayed in a hotel with air conditioning. It felt like a resort. I dined at L’eau Vive, a wonderful restaurant run by nuns. I shopped at the market which was below street level in the middle of the city. It is no longer there. I really liked the city and went often, but now Burkina Faso is dangerous and violent because of extremists, a great loss.

In Accra, the capital of Ghana, Hausa traders used to sell their wares on High Street. I always stopped there hoping I could get bargain. I spoke enough Hausa to chat so I usually got a good deal which was probably not a good deal but felt that way to me. Accra had many Lebanese restaurants, one Chinese restaurant and a few western type restaurants. I always ate once a trip at the Chinese restaurant. It was a treat, a sort of expensive treat, but mostly I ate Lebanese food. It was cheap and good.

I used to shop at Makola Market, the largest market in Accra. That was where I bought my mosquito net which I never used. On the cloth side of the market, yards of folded cloth were stacked tall. I’d look for neat cloth patterns for dresses. I was usually lucky to find some. I still have some cloth stacked here in the den.

When I walk my house, I see memories everywhere.

“No matter how far we come, our parents are always in us.”

May 19, 2023

The nights get cool, even cold. The days stay in the 60’s. The sun slants through the trees in the backyard. The clouds hide the blue. Pine pollen covers every surface. Welcome to spring on Cape Cod.

Today is a quiet day. I did vacuum earlier because the hall floor had clumps of Henry hair which flew into the air when I walked to the kitchen. The only item on my to do list is water the plants. Last night I even made dinner, a real dinner with potatoes. I’ve got leftovers for tonight.

My mother had sayings for every occasion. I don’t know if they came from the mother’s handbook given to her at my birth or from her own mother. I remembered one this morning. I made a pot of coffee with new coffee to me, coffee from Uganda. I ground the beans and eyed the amount to put into the filter. The coffee was strong, but I do like strong coffee, but it reminded me of my mother saying, “It is so strong it will grow hair on your chest.” I don’t what she was talking about, but I remembered growing hair on my chest. “Wait until your father gets home,” was a viable threat. There was the famous, “Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.” My father liked that one too, but his threats seem real, not like my mother’s threats. I remember her telling me to wipe that look off my face. I’d say I had no look, and she’d counter with you know exactly what I’m talking about. She was usually right. I didn’t get, “Six of one and half a dozen of the other, until I was older.” One of her all time famous lines used to drive me crazy, “Because I said so.”

My father was the last resort, the threat from my mother if we didn’t do what she told us to do. He had his own sayings. In the car he’d threaten to turn around if we didn’t stop whatever we were doing. He often complained he was the only ant in a family of grasshoppers. He described people as being good eggs. He was never made of money.

It’s funny and wonderful how often my parents come to mind.

“Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words!” 

May 18, 2023

Last night was downright cold. I shut the windows. I also shut the back door as I could feel the cold coming through the dog door. This morning is warmer but only 52°. It is a pretty day with sharp sunlight and lots of blue. The breeze barely ruffles the oak leaves. The dogs stay out in the yard. They like these cool days.

Today I have a concert, my third uke event of the week. Tuesday was practice. Wednesday was my lesson. After today, my dance card is empty until Sunday when I have, yup, you guessed it, another uke concert. I do have a to do list, but the sheet is yellow with age.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t a fan of carrots. Peas were my favorite vegetables. I never saw fresh peas. I’m not even sure I knew they came fresh. Mine were the very young, small sweet peas in the silver can. We had potatoes almost every night just not on Fridays and Saturdays. Friday was no meat so no potatoes, maybe fried dough or little pizzas. Saturday was baked beans. I don’t even remember ever seeing sweet potatoes, maybe Thanksgiving but I’m only guessing. Some vegetables were never served. Spinach was one of those as were Brussels sprouts. I didn’t see Brussels sprouts until I was older, and I thought they were baby cabbages. Our mashed potatoes were sometimes streaked with orange. My mother hid mashed carrots in the mashed potatoes. I just went along with it.

One of most glorious events in my life was when I learned to read. My mother used to read to me all the time, Golden Books when I was really young. She used to brag I was only two when I knew every animal on the ring of animals on the back covers of the Golden Books. I loved nursery rhymes. They tickled my fancy. My first library card was an occasion, a big event, my entry into the most wonderful world, one I still cherish.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of seeing the world. It was my all encompassing dream. I never dreamed of what I wanted to be. When I was asked by adults what I wanted to be when I grew up, a stupid question I always thought, I was stymied. Back then the choices for girls were sort of limited: teachers or nurses. My heroes were women who ran counter to custom like Amelia Earhart. I didn’t want to be a pilot. I just wanted the choice.

“The month of May has come, when every lusty heart beginneth to blossom, and to bring forth fruit.”

May 16, 2023

When I first woke up, I checked the outside world thorough my bedroom window. The morning is cloud bound. It looked chilly, but I was wrong. It is a warm day and already 71°. It is a day to ditch my sweatshirt for short sleeves. The sun is even beginning to make an appearance. I think it will be a lovely day.

Nala is outside at her usual spot by the back fence lying in the sun. Henry is here with me. It is just about time for their first naps of the day.

I have a couple of errands. My car is nearly empty of gas so the gas station is on the list. My larder is empty of essentials like cream and bread so a short trip to the grocery store is in order. I always buy a Snickers bar as a treat for me and biscuits for the dogs.

My dance card has a few items for the week. I hate busy weeks. I prefer to stay home and just enjoy the day, every day. I have uke practice tonight and a lesson and a doctor’s appointment, a regular appointment, tomorrow.

When I was a kid, we had a May procession every year. The whole school marched. The oldest kids were in front and the youngest in back. The second graders were all in white, the outfits they’d wore for their first communion. In school we practiced the songs we’d sing at the grotto, at the end of the march, songs like Mary We Hail Thee with Blossoms today and Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above. Parents lined the parade route which was a square around the block from the school to the grotto. An eighth grader always crowded the statue of Mary with a crown of flowers. During my eighth grade, I was the crowner. I wore a wedding dress belonging to a neighbor. I was at the end of the parade. I stopped a lot as people wanted pictures, and I was happy to oblige. At the grotto, we sang a few songs then it was time. The statue was in a niche on the front of the grotto. A sort of step ladder with a railing had been put there so I could reach the statue. I was scared stiff I’d step on the hem of my dress and fall. The priest saw my fear and held my hand as I ascended the ladder. At the Mary we crown thee line, I crowned the statue then gingerly walked down the ladder. I have a picture somewhere of me climbing the stairs. It was a momentous occasion.

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