Archive for the ‘Musings’ category

“The only time I ever enjoyed ironing was the day I accidentally got gin in the steam iron.”

March 5, 2021

Today has sun and a blue sky, but it is cold at 29˚. The high will only be 33˚. I’m thinking of going to the dump, but the dump is cold and unbelievably windy even when the rest of the world has no wind. I brought out a couple of bags of trash and put them in the trunk this morning, but that means nothing. My laundry basket can sit for days by the cellar door. I am so very wonderful at procrastinating when I have chores I’m not so fond of doing.

When I was a kid, my mother had a washing machine with a wringer. It was in the cellar next to the sink connected to a faucet. I used to watch her feed clothes into the wringer and catch them on the backside. I knew a kid who had gotten his arm caught in a wringer. His arm was sort of flat in one spot and wrinkled. I wondered how his arm got caught, but I never asked.

We didn’t have a clothes dryer until we moved to the cape. My mother hung her clothes on the clotheslines in the backyard. We lived in a duplex among a sea of duplexes. Each house had a tarred section in the back with six clothes lines, three for each side of the house. My mother had to haul her laundry basket out of the cellar and up the outside cellar stairs to the yard then hang the clothes on the lines. I remember she hung shirts from their bottom hem lines. Their sleeves hung down and sometimes the wind would take them. They did a dance worthy of a Disney cartoon set to music and looked eerie at Halloween. When it started to rain, my mother would make a mad dash to the yard to take down the dry clothes. My favorite laundry time was in the winter. If it got cold enough, the clothes froze. They were stiff. When my mother took them down, she couldn’t fold those clothes. She had to layer them in the basket.

I don’t know anyone who hangs out their clothes though I did when I first moved into my house. I couldn’t afford a dryer. Most of the clothes were wrinkled when I took them down so I had to iron the shirts and dresses. I still have that iron. It is nearly 45 years old, but it still works. That might give you an idea of how much I ironed.

“Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!”

March 4, 2021

It is 37˚ and cloudy, but it felt warmer than that when I went to get the papers. The clouds have the look of rain, but no rain is predicted. A warm-up is supposed to be coming next week, maybe even a little bit of spring. It is getting to look for the green shoots the garden time.

When I was a kid, I never noticed flowers. My father planted mostly pansies in the small front garden of our house, but I only noticed them because some of the flowers were planted near the front steps so I saw them when I was coming and going. Pansies always looked to me as if they had faces and were wearing hats, wide brim frilly hats. Somehow I always thought of pansies as garden sprites.

My mother used to read books to me when I was little. We started with Golden Books, and by the time I was two, I had learned the names of all the animals on the backs of the books. My mother told me she’d point to an animal, and I’d identify it and even make the sound if it had one. When I was a bit older, my mother read longer stories to me. I remember The Billy Goats’ Gruff and the troll under the bridge. I also remember Little Black Sambo and how smart he was making the tigers chase each other until they turned to butter. I still remember the illustration of the tigers chasing each other around that tree. I didn’t notice Little Black Sambo was actually Black. I thought that was just his name. Hansel and Gretel were tricky and smart. The witch wasn’t. I loved that Gretel pushed the witch into the hot oven. She was my hero.

I never was afraid of witches or trolls. I knew they weren’t real. They were just characters from the pages of books though I might have hesitated crossing a wooden bridge or looked underneath just in case. I did believe fairies were real. I saw them with my own eyes in the field below my backyard. They blinked in the summertime.

“You will find truth more quickly through delight than gravity. Let out a little more string on your kite”

March 2, 2021

By late afternoon yesterday, the temperature had started to plummet. It got cold, bone chilling cold. Even poor Henry was cold when he came inside the house from a quick bathroom run. I didn’t mind the cold so much. It is, after all, still winter but then the wind started. It was so loud the freight train cliche jumped in to my head because it sounded just like that. A couple of times Henry looked up when his attention grabbed by the wind rattling windows. When I let him out for his last bathroom run, he wanted in right away. The wind was tremendous and so very loud, emphasis on the loud. I watched Henry crouch and run upstairs to the door. I let him. After we had gone to bed, the wind howled from the north, and I could hear the branch closest to my bedroom window. Henry was on edge. He is still not great with the unexpected, but after a while, even Henry went to sleep.

Today is cold and windy but a pretty day with sun and a blue sky. When I let Henry out this morning, he made a quick dash out and back. Now he is asleep on the couch. The cats are asleep upstairs.

When I was a kid, I remember windy days and walking across the field below my street. I’d spread out my arms hoping the wind would catch me. My coat billowed. Sometimes my hat took off on its own route, and I’d have to chase it. But once we got beyond the field, the houses on each side of the road protected us from the wind. School was a quick walk from there.

Woolworth’s sold kites. They were made with balsa wood and tissue-like paper. You had to be gentle when putting the kite together because the wood could break or the tissue paper tear. I’d buy the kite and a reel of twine. I’d look around the house for something to use for the kite’s tail. When the kite was all together, I’d go down to the field on a windy day and fly my kite. I remember holding it in my hand at the cross wood in the middle and running with it waiting for the wind. The kite soared into the air higher and higher after the wind caught it. Nothing was more amazing than the kite flying high in the air with the sky as a back drop. I felt the wind. I was the kite.

“The Peace Corps is guilty of enthusiasm and a crusading spirit. But we’re not apologetic about it.”

March 1, 2021

Last night it rained. When I went to bed at an ungodly hour, closer to morning than night, it was still raining. Right now it is just wet, no rain but it will return. The weather report is a high of 48˚ and a low of 14˚. No, that is not a typo.

When I was a kid, I dreamed of traveling around the world. I made a scrapbook of all the places I wanted to go. I got brochures from Logan Airport and a local travel agency. My scrapbook filled me with a longing which fed my dreams. Every year I took geography, and the rest of the world felt closer and closer. I knew more about Europe than any other place. It was history and the Eiffel Tower and on and on. South America grew coffee, bananas and pineapples, a fruit I had never seen except in pictures or cans. I never thought about Asia. It just seemed too far way. When my family went to Niagara Falls, we went across to Canada which became the first country on my already seen list.

Today is Peace Corp’s birthday. It turns 60. Having served in the Peace Corps has defined my life. To say it broadened my horizons is to reduce my experience to a cliche. Back then, Peace Corps PSA’s were on TV and in magazines. In the eighth grade, I was hooked. Eight years later, my senior year in college, I was still hooked. I took a language test and filled out my application. It was mailed in October of 1968. In January I got a packet from Peace Corps all about Ghana. The acceptance letter came a day later, special delivery. My training would begin in June 1969. I walked to North Andover Square and called to accept the invitation. The task of telling my father was designated to my mother. I knew what his reaction would be. He didn’t disappoint. He was furious. He told me Africans smell bad. I wanted to know how many he’d met knowing none would be the answer. He refused to answer. It took until April or May before he begrudgingly said I could go, as if I needed his permission, but I let him have his moment.

In the past 60 years, 240,000 Peace Corps volunteers have served in 142 countries. Ghana was the first.

My memories of Ghana have always been vivid. I knew I would go back some day. That was a given. When Iived in Ghana, I loved my school, my town and, most especially, the Ghanaians. I learned to haggle in the market. I traveled on bone shakers, mammy lorries. I ate foods I hadn’t ever heard of before, and I saw my first real pineapple out of the can. Training took close to 3 months in Ghana. We trainees, Peace Corps jargon for not yet a volunteer, became close in the shared experience. Most of us managed to finish training and be sworn in as volunteers.

The next two years were amazing. I loved teaching, and I loved my town. I especially adored my students. I never tired of the different sounds of Ghana, its languages, roosters at day break, and aunties trying to get my attention to buy from them. The colors of cloth were amazing, and I bought several yards for all the dresses I had a seamster make. When it came time to leave, I etched everything into my memory drawers so I’d never forget.

Ghana has always had my heart. It took me 40 years to get back, but I have been back three times, and, if Covid and my non-existent bank account, allow it, I would like to go back one more time with Bill and Peg. I can’t imagine being there without them.

I hope and prayer that Peace Corps rebounds quickly and volunteers are again allowed to give service. I remember hearing that Peace Corps is the best bang for a buck, that the value of the experience far out ways the cost. I found that out when 40 years later when I was recognized by former students and serenaded with Leaving on a Jet Plane, Miss Ryan’s song.

“Have you ever, looking up, seen a cloud like to a Centaur, a Part, or a Wolf, or a Bull?”

February 28, 2021

The day is not at all inviting. Clouds are still with us. During the night, it rained, but I didn’t hear it. The sides of the road are still wet. The air is damp. The high today will be 44˚.

I have a couple of pictures I need to hang. Yesterday I walked around carrying them and trying to find the perfect spot. It took a while, but I found the spot. I just need a couple of nails.

Yesterday I was busy. I emptied the litter boxes, watered plants, brought my laundry downstairs and put the bags and boxes for the dump run into the trunk. I baked potatoes. That doesn’t sound like much, but one sweet potato was so big it was the size of an infant’s head. I had to cut that potato into pieces, also big. A white potato too needed cutting. The smallest potatoes went as is. They will be perfect for home fries. I’m thinking dinner might be home fries, bacon and eggs. I do love dinner when it’s breakfast. Maybe, when eaten at night, that meal needs a neutral name like breakner or dinnfast. Okay, I admit that’s a bit much but give me points for creativity.

I couldn’t get to sleep last night so I watched television. I watched Kolchak: the Night Stalker, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Lost in Space and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century. It felt as if I were in some strange time loop, a fun loop but nonetheless a strange one. By the time Land of the Giants came on on, it was 3 o’clock. The Time Tunnel was after that. I went to bed so I recorded both programs. Today I get to loll in front of the TV and watch favorite science fiction programs from way back. I have plenty of corn to pop. I also have a keen suspension of disbelief.

“They say that ninety percent of TV is junk. But, ninety percent of everything is junk.”

February 27, 2021

The high today will be 46˚, but the warmth will be lost when the heavy rains start later today. Already we have rain, small small as they say in Ghana. The weatherman has predicted rain all day and into the next two days. Earlier, Henry wasn’t happy waiting for me to let him inside the house. I told him he could come in on his own, but he ignored me and waited in the rain whacking over and over at the dog door cover. He is now upstairs on my bed brooding.

Saturday TV when I was a kid was filled with programs aimed at me, well, not me specifically but me as a kid. I watched cereal commercials, some with cartoon spokesmen, and endless toy commercials. I remember Slinky going down the stairs, and I remember wanting an Easy Bake Oven. Tony the Tiger and Snap, Crackle and Pop were my favorite cereal cartoons.

I used to like westerns back then like Rin, Tin, Tin and, my favorite, The Lone Ranger riding Silver, “A fiery horse with the speed of light, a cloud of dust and a hearty Hi-Yo Silver….The Lone Ranger.” I thought the theme was written just for the Lone Ranger. I was disappointed when I found out it wasn’t. Sgt. Preston in his red Canadian Mountie uniform patrolled the Yukon with his horse Rex and his faithful dog Yukon King. I think the program opened with a map of the Yukon. I remember how great his uniform looked with leather black gloves against the red, a lanyard around his neck and a wide brim hat.

Captain Midnight was my first taste of TV science fiction. I remember, for some strange reason, that Ovaltine was its sponsor. Gene Autry combined westerns and science fiction. He had his Phantom Empire, a serial moved from the movies to TV. It was so frustrating having to wait another week for the next installment, and patience was not my strong point. I remember the elevator taking Gene down to the underground city of Murania. It was the same sort of elevator you’d see moving up and down on the outside of a building. In hindsight, it looks fake, but I thought it was amazing back then. I thought all of it was amazing.

I have no plans today. Yesterday I swept and mopped the kitchen floor. It was covered from the door to the hall with dog prints. I wish I knew it was going to rain today. That would have saved me from toiling in the kitchen.

“The nap is a sort of easy version of meditation.”

February 26, 2021

The morning is chilly but pretty. The sun and blue sky have stayed around for another day. It is good to see the sun again, but I wish it had brought a bit of warmth. Yesterday was a banner day. I went to the dump which had not been on my list. I was out and about and decided what the heck. The dump was quiet.

I may go out again today. I think that ties my record for going out two days in a row. I want a trophy.

When I was a kid, I never really minded winter except when it rained. That was the worst. I’d get wet and cold and even start shivering on my way to school or when walking home at the end of the day. Once I was home, I immediately stripped off the wet clothes, got into my pajamas and under my bed covers where I’d read or even nap under the warmth of the layers of blankets. I still love to get cozy under the covers, and I also love to nap. As for pajamas, I stopped wearing conventional pajamas a long time ago. I prefer the t-shirt and flannel pants ensemble complemented by my sweatshirts. I do try to match the colors of the shirts and pants. I don’t know why: maybe it’s my weird sense of fashion.

This is sleep time for the cats and the dog. After I woke up and before I went downstairs, I greeted Gwen in her self-imposed exile. She got some pats and treats. Henry and Jack got their morning treats next. I have created two monsters who come running at the sound of rustling paper, and a running Jack is not a pretty sight. He is upstairs now with Gwen taking a morning nap. Henry is just chilling which means he is chomping on his bone beside me on the couch, a little snack before nap time. When I take a nap, Henry and Jack always join me.

Yesterday I was in line to sign up for the vaccine. My wait time was three months. I didn’t wait.

“I think I’m nostalgic for a time I never experienced.”

February 25, 2021

Today is a lovely warm day. The sun is deep blue everywhere. The clouds have gone. I have a couple of errands so I’ll be out and about enjoying the day.

The longer I stay home, the less I want to go anywhere else. The groceries came yesterday. My fridge is filled with veggies and fruit. I also have more ground beef, my most versatile meal. I’ve made burgers, spaghetti sauce and meat loaf. I’ll branch out this time into other countries.

The last time I went out was the last I got dressed in my outdoor clothes. That was a week ago. Most other days I am dressed in cozy clothes.

My neighborhood has been dark. When I let Henry out last night, I noticed only one other house had a lit light, and it was an outdoor light. It wasn’t even that late, around ten.

My breakfast is usually coffee, two cups. I do eat eggs but mostly for dinner. I tend to have toast as a late night snack. If I am feeling particularly playful, I use cinnamon sugar.

When I was a kid, snacks were often crackers with peanut butter or even a peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich, a great hold it and ride your bike snack.

Oreos were supreme when I was a kid. Back then we just had the original, no double stuff. It was a primitive time.

Emily Dickinson would be on my guest list for dinner. She’d join Mark Twain, Amelia Earhart, P. T. Barnum, Louisa May Alcott and Abe Lincoln. The dinner conversation would be interesting. The dessert would be cake, a recipe from Emily.

If I could go back in time, I’d travel the world in a PanAm Clipper. I’d stop at all the continents except maybe Antarctica. I’d take a slew of pictures and watch out for butterflies.

Black Beauty was the saddest book I read as a kid. It made me cry. The books I loved were about Doctor Doolittle. I read them all. They made me wish I could talk to animals. I think Gracie would have been clever and funny. Henry is impatient, and I can only imagine him tapping his nails and whining while he waits. He’d tell me over and over how hungry he is. He’d drive me crazy.

“Nothing touches the soul like music.”

February 23, 2021

This late good morning is close to good afternoon. My sleep last night was erratic. Even Henry couldn’t get comfortable. He jumped off the bed and went downstairs. Henry doesn’t like it when I toss and turn, but Jack sleeps through just about everything. Last night he was snoring so loudly I kept making noise hoping he’d stop. Finally I moved him a little bit with my foot. He stopped snoring.

Yesterday it rained all day and most of the night. The rain was loud and heavy. Henry wasn’t happy going outside for his last visit of the night. He got wet enough I felt guilty and dried him a bit. It was the least I could do.

Today is beautiful and winter warm again. The sky is a vivid blue, and the sunlight is so bright it reflects and twinkles off the snow still left on the sides of the street. I was blinded when I went to get the papers. The birds are singing as happily as I’ve heard them in a while. They like the sun. They also remind me to fill the feeders which I didn’t get to yesterday in the rain.

When I was a kid, I would have loved walking to and from school on a day like today. We’d take our time, and sometimes we even skip part of the way. I remember a lightness of feeling. The weariness of winter was gone for just a while. After lunch, we’d go out for recess. I think there was a collective groan when the bell rang for us to go inside.

My favorite subject was reading following closely by English and geography. I never liked arithmetic. I don’t remember having much science, but I do remember having religion every year. The sort of textbook we used was the Baltimore Catechism. Art was once or twice a week as was music. My first memory of music is singing My Grandfather’s Clock and, at Christmas time, Up on the Rooftop. We also learned Gregorian chant. By the time I was ten, I could read and notate the little boxes of notes. I never honed that skill. It is long gone. Really, how much Gregorian chant should a mind hold?

“Patience is to wait for the ice to melt instead of breaking it.”

February 21, 2021

When I first opened my eyes, I saw sunlight through my bedroom window. I turned over and went back to sleep, but I should have gotten up then because when I finally did get out bed, the sun had disappeared. I was bummed. I need a bit of sun. It is cold, 29˚. There will be more snow flurries today. I did see a few earlier but they have since stopped.

Lo and Behold! The sun reappeared, and I could see a bit of blue behind the wispiest of clouds, but in this second go-around, the sun stayed only a while before it disappeared again, and I was bummed again, but it came back. I’m figuring the sun will do the same all day, be here then gone then here again. I’ll take it, this bit of sun.

When I was a kid, I loved the way the sunlight glistened on the top of the crisp, unsullied snow. It looked like tiny diamonds shining, but sometimes the snow tops were so bright, I had to block my eyes. I couldn’t see at first. It took a little time for my eyes to adjust. I remember thinking I’m blind.

I remember taking swimming lessons at the pool on the other side of town. My swimming technique needed a bit of polishing so I was happy for the lessons. I was attending girl scout day camp, and they bussed us to the pool. Bathing caps were required. I hated wearing one. It seemed to squeeze my head and voices echoed. I don’t think anybody looked good in a bathing cap except maybe Esther Williams.

When I was in Ghana, we swam in the ocean. I remember being with a few friends one Easter at a swim resort right on the water. We stayed the whole day. We ate, we swam and we explored. On a walk on the wet sand down the beach, one of us found a hard piece of a palm tree. We used it for a bat and played a bit baseball, but the fallen coconuts were a bit big for throwing so we tossed underhandedly. Baseball became softball. I remember I got the worst sunburn of my life that day. I also remember how great lunch was.

Henry has alerted me to an interloper. I opened the door and found Skip, my factotum. He is shoveling my walk which really doesn’t have much snow, but I worry about ice on the bricks and on the steps. He’ll do the car and then the back steps for Henry who walks gingerly up and down the stairs when he goes out. Right now Henry is still barking. He’ll settle down in a bit. I just have to patient.


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