Archive for the ‘Musings’ category

“Be not sick too late, nor well too soon” 

June 28, 2022

The rain finally fell around 1 AM last night. It had a slow start, a drop by drop start, then the drops got fierce, bigger and louder. I could hear the rain hitting the door and windows. That got me up. I shut the windows.

The morning is glorious. It is only 66˚ but the sun is working its magic, and today’s high should be around 75˚. The dogs have been in and out all morning. Henry is currently in and barking at my neighbor across the street as if he’d never seen the neighbor before this morning. Henry does that. He warns me about both the familiar and the unfamiliar.

My cold is just about gone. I had no coughing or hacking this morning, but my voice is still a bit hoarse. I think my sloth day, yesterday, helped. Today I’m taking it easy again. I may even take a nap. I should drink tea. My mother always gave me tea when I was sick.

I don’t get sick much now, haven’t in a long time. This cold was quite the surprise. I had shots this year: covid and boosters, flu, pneumonia, shingles and tetanus. The last time I had so many shots was during Peace Corps training in Ghana.

During the first week of training, in Winneba, Ghana, we had a full group lecture about the various illnesses and diseases we could catch in Ghana. There was a huge color-coded map of Ghana in the front of the room, the colors represented diseases endemic to the specific areas. Where I was going had every color, every disease, every illness, but I figured Peace Corps would protect us with shots and all, and I really wanted to live in the Upper Region so I think I just shrugged. In the course of the next two years I had a case of cholera caught while I was in Niger, a bit of dysentery from eating bad market food and nothing else of any note. During the dry seasons I stopped taking my anti-malarial pills, a huge Peace Corps no-no, but during the dry season there were no bugs, no mosquitos and no malaria. I was protected from just about everything: yellow fever, malaria (during the rainy season I took my pills), rabies, typhoid, paratyphoid, tetanus, diphtheria, polio and hepatitis. Shot day was part of training. I got a fever. Cholera shots were later after cholera had broken out. I had two shots, but I got cholera anyway. It was mild. Mostly for those two years, I was really healthy. Getting sick was always a surprise, never an expectation.

“Kids. You gotta love them. I adore children. A little salt, a squeeze of lemon–perfect.” 

June 27, 2022

When I woke up, we had sun then we didn’t. Now we have sun again, but I don’t know for how long as scattered showers are predicted. It is warm at 75˚, but the breeze, coming from the south, is cooling. It reminds me to put the screen in the back door which has that southern view from which all great breezes blow.

I have a summer cold. I hate summer colds. Even the name is an oxymoron. I’m coughing and sniffling. Of course, the first thing I did was test for Covid. I think a lot of people do. Nope, I don’t have Covid. I even tested twice over the course of a few days. I have a simple cold though there is really nothing simple about this cold.

When I was a kid, the world was a safe place. My mother never worried. On most summer days, I’d leave in the morning and get home in time for dinner. If asked where I’d been, I’d say around because that’s where I was. I had no destination. I just rode around. I’d stop if I saw something worthy of a stop. I’d walk my bike if I went uptown. I’d stop for lunch at my favorite spot, a bench on the town hall green. My last stop was often the library. I’d put the books in my front wire basket where they’d bounce in the air and sometimes even fall out if I went fast over a bump. Yes, I admit I had to stop to pick up books a few times which was annoying so I made the library the last stop before home. It was mostly a straight-away ride home, and the books were safe.

I never worried much when I was a kid. I was a busy kid. I loved school. I loved learning, and I was good at it. I had a bike for spring, summer and fall and a sled for winter. I had friends, some of whom I still have now. I had pretty much everything I needed. Being a kid back then was easy.

This summer I will celebrate eighteen years of retirement. I have enjoyed myself. Every day is Saturday.

“Good luck is another name for tenacity of purpose.“

June 25, 2022

The morning is already hot at 78˚ and the temperature will rise until it hits the low 80’s, the hottest day in a while, but after tomorrow we’ll go back to lovely days with temperatures in the 70’s. This has been the most beautiful spring.

My ice maker still doesn’t make ice. The repair man didn’t appear yesterday, but he did call, unlike the no-show repair man on Wednesday. The new appointment is Tuesday, the third one so far. My faucet still needs to be replaced. I’ll put it on the list for next week. I need deck flowers before the summer passes. Okay, I am exaggerating a bit about the passing, but it feels that way so I intend to shop for my flowers today. I swear. It is the only item in my list.

In my mind’s eye, when I think of summers when I was a kid, I see tall trees with their branches covered in leaves. I knew all the trees by the shapes of their leaves. I once had to learn them for a Girl Scout badge. I sometimes collected the leaves for a wax paper album of leaves, especially in the fall.

I can still recall the smells of my childhood. I remember the smell of the chlorine getting stronger as we got closer to the MDC pool at the other end of town. It was always a strong smell that seemed to permeate inside, outside and around. After I changed into my clothes, I could still smell it on my skin even though I had taken a shower.

Each store uptown either had its own smell or no smell like in the bank and the jewelry store. The fish market had a smell that was sometimes the ocean and other times fishy, too fishy, but I always stopped even though I also think I grimaced every time. The shoe store store smelled like leather, like the pile of shoes on the counter. The bakery smelled of freshly baked bread. It was the best smell in the square.

Sometimes I’d get a piece of cheddar from the wheel in front of Kennedy’s. They’d cut it if you asked for a taste. Maybe that’s where my love of cheddar started.

I have always counted myself lucky. I grew up at a time when I was free to come and go. My bicycle and I could travel all over my town and the towns around us. My mother didn’t worry. I was the first in my family to go to college, but it was expected I would. We never talked about it, but we all knew I’d go. I mean, really, why else would I have taken four years of Latin? I got into the Peace Corps, my first after college choice. I lived in Africa for two years, in Africa, the most amazing place. My career here began at Dennis-Yarmouth and ended there 33 years later when I retired. I loved my job, even during the hard times. I loved my kids all the time. I always felt lucky I had chosen the right path for me, the right job.

I love both the slow days and the busy days of my life now. Busy days get me out of the house. In the summer, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday are those days, all ukulele days. On Thursday, I take a sloth day, a well earned sloth day. Some Fridays, every other one, I have a play to see at the Dennis Playhouse so every other week is a really busy week. I thought I would mind the busy week, loving sloth days as I do, but I don’t. I remember how quiet last winter was when I had uke on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and nothing on any other days except a show or two near Christmas. Balancing busy now, busy summer, with quiet winter seems right.

I really do feel lucky, backwards and forwards.

“Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese.” 

June 24, 2022

Today is another perfect day. The air is still. The sun is bright and warm. It is in the low 70’s. Tomorrow the weather changes. It will be hot at 81˙. I’m already planning to be deck bound with a cold drink, a good book and maybe some cheese and crackers, staples in my house. I think I saw some cheddar.

When I was a kid, my mother always bought the orange cheese, the American cheese. I remember each slice of cheese was a perfect square, perfect for sandwiches. I don’t remember the taste. I do remember each slice of cheese had the imprint of the paper it was wrapped in on it, similar to the canned cranberry sauce and its ridges, but on the cheese, the imprint looked like a wrinkle or a seam on the earth from an earthquake, a dramatic interpretation.

Ghana had no cheese so I don’t think it was until after Peace Corps when my cheese palate expanded exponentially. Out was orange American. In was cheddar. A flood of other cheeses followed (I am using flood as the group name here. I like it.). Even now I’ll try a new cheese. There is a great cheese selection at my store. I always check it out. I always buy some cheese. I never want to run out.

I think cheddar is the main cheese always in my fridge. When I have company, I usually serve at least 3 cheeses on a charcuterie plate, my new appetizer. The plate is fun to make.

When we traveled, my mother, my father and I, my mother always packed snacks. Late in the afternoon, after a day of walking, touring some city, we’d go back to the hotel. My father and I would play cribbage. My mother would make each of them a drink from the nips she had packed. I’d order a Diet Coke. My mother did crossword puzzles from the book she had brought while my dad and I played. After a while, she’d bring out the snacks. She’d packed those little packages with bread sticks and spreadable cheese, Velveeta I suspect, and crackers with peanut butter. Sometimes she’d even pack M&M’s. These were the perfect snacks. They reminded me of when I was a kid. They also tasted good, especially the M&M’s (I do love chocolate.). Those snacks held us together until dinnertime when the three of us would walk to a restaurant close by we had noticed and wanted to try.

My mother always brought those snacks. What gave me a smile was when’d bring out the orange cheese with the bread sticks. The cheese was in a square container. The whole scene was a throwback to that American cheese in the wrapper. The only difference was this cheese was soft for dipping. It looked the same and tasted the same. I think I ate all those snack crackers. I was able to lighten my mother’s load.

I still sometimes buy Velveeta. Nothing melts like it or sticks to a tortilla chip in the same way.

“Books fall open, you fall in” 

June 23, 2022

Today is a perfect day. It is warm at 72˚and will get warmer. The sun will shine all day. The breeze is strong. I can hear the leaves blowing back and forth. The dogs are in and out the dog door, but it is just about time for their morning naps.

My dance card is empty, and I am glad for the day of rest as I have been out every day this week. I even went to the dump on what was the busiest dump day I have ever seen. That was yesterday. There were lines of cars waiting to get into other lines of cars. I had a trunkful, and a very kind man hauled my bags out of the trunk to the dumpster.

When I was a kid, I was busy all summer. Most weekdays I went to the playground on the field at the foot of my street. I played softball against other playgrounds, played checkers and horseshoes, learned to play tennis and did all sorts of crafts. I used to buy gimp. I made bracelets, lanyards, key chains and even anklets. I first learned the box stitch then the rest. I remember I made a bracelet with the flat stitch. Many years later, my mother put a lanyard kit in my stocking. It had two colors of gimp. My fingers remembered it all. They made short shrift of that kit.

I have always had books. My mother told me she used to sit with me on her lap while she pointed to the animals on the backs of the Golden Books. I knew all of them. She said my favorite book back then was Chicken Little. I loved the rhyming names of the animals like Turkey Lurkey and Foxy Loxy. It was also my first science fiction novel of sorts. My first chapter books were the Bobbsey Twins. I read the classics, the girl detectives, the Hardy Boys, travel books, the backs of cereal boxes and the bulletin when I was at mass. When I was older, I traveled with books. They were a currency which could be traded. I brought The Autobiography of Malcolm X with me to PC training in Ghana and finished the book quickly so I traded it in what became known as the first of the great trades.

“I have always been delighted at the prospect of a new day, a fresh try, one more start, with perhaps a bit of magic waiting somewhere behind the morning.”

June 21, 2022

Today is another delight. The air is clear. The sun is bright. The wind is strong and cooling. It is 70˚, near perfection. Today the Summer Solstice, mid-summer, started at 5:13 this morning. Today is the longest day of the year which means it has the shortest night. Today we celebrate summer, a magical time.

When I was a kid, the field below my house was filled with fireflies. They lit up the night. It was like watching a light show, a haphazard show of a light here then here again then gone across the field. I used to sit on the tiny dirt hill behind the houses and watch the fireflies. The field delighted me. I believed it was magical.

When I saw Stonehenge, I had to walk the two miles from Amesbury having missed the bus. I remember standing on a bit of a hill and getting my first look at Stonehenge off in the distance. It looked grey and small surrounded on three sides by a huge field, but the closer we got, the bigger it got. The size of the monument was overwhelming. There were no barriers to the stones. I could walk the perimeter and see the patterns of the stones and imagine what was missing. I touched a stone and wondered about its history and its connection to the Summer Solstice. I always believed in the Druids. I believed it was magical.

Bonfires used to be lit to welcome Midsummer. It was believed the heat of the fires would help guarantee a good harvest. Also, it was believed that bonfires could help banish evil spirits. I remember bonfires on the beach, in the sand, in holes we’d dug. The flames lit up the night. They jumped from one dry driftwood piece to another. I remember the sky behind the beach was filled with stars. It was magical.

During the summer solstice, magic is thought to be at its strongest. Since the fireflies, I always have believed in magic this time of year. I could see it with my eyes. I could touch it. I love the Summer Solstice, the wearing of flowers and herbs to ward off evil spirits, herbs like rosemary which I always plant in the deck boxes. Coincidence? Maybe! Maybe not!

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travelers don’t know where they’re going.”

June 20, 2022

The day started all wrong. I had no newspaper. I hunted under the car, in the flower bed and along the driveway. No paper. Stolen? Maybe. My newspaper, my Globe, is always there. Perhaps a passing runner or dog walker decided to start the day with coffee and a newspaper. That’s how I usually start my day.

My leg is so much better. It hurts mostly in the evening. The top of the foot and the bottom of the leg are still swollen. That’s where the pain is. I’m tired of this.

Nala stole my new package of paper towels. It was unopened on the floor in the living room near the door. I went looking for it yesterday. I found it on the deck and in the yard, torn pieces all over the place. I cleaned the deck. Today I’ll tackle the yard. This morning Nala grabbed my sandal from the rug by the door on her way to going out for the first time of the morning. She looked at me with it in her mouth. I told her to drop it. She didn’t. Nor did she drop it at my second request. She went to the door where the inevitable dawned. She was not getting out with the sandal so she dropped it. I’m wearing it now. That dog is brazen and funny.

When I was a kid, we did the White Mountains, a one day tour. I remember my father driving up Mt. Washington. I found the trip both scary and thrilling. The road was narrow, just big enough for the two cars with a bit of space between them. I remember how cold it was at the top and that there was snow, a couple of piles of it. On that trip we also saw the Old Man in the Mountain. We went by it in the car. My father slowed down, and we looked out the window. Another spot where we stopped was the Flume Gorge. We got the last bus of the day. I remember walking back to the car.

I remember my first weekend in Accra, the capital of Ghana. We were still in training and were in Koforidua. It is 83km between the two cities, about 50 or so miles. I hitchhiked to Accra with a couple of friends. We got one ride all the way. We stayed at the hostel, the best 50 pesewas I ever spent and would ever continue to spend over the next two years. I remember going to the museum and walking to different monuments. I ate at a restaurant. We rambled that first weekend. We saw as much as we could before heading back to Koforidua and the rest of training. That weekend was the beginning of my love affair with Accra, still very much an old city back then. I loved to wander the streets and markets. I never had a plan except for maybe a movie one night. That was a big city event.

“She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father.”

June 19, 2022

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. 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. 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.

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 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 always said he never snacked, and my mother would roll her eyes. He kept chocolate under the couch, hidden from everyone else, but, we, everyone else, knew. He loved Pilot Crackers covered with butter. Hydrox was his preferred cookie. His vanilla ice cream was always doused with Hershey’s syrup. That man did love his chocolate.

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. 

“It is easier to go down a hill than up, but the view is from the top.”

June 18, 2022

The morning is a bit chilly, but the day will warm up to 70˚. Everything is bright with sun. The sky is a deep blue and stretches to the horizon without a cloud, but clouds are predicted for later. Outside is noisy. I can hear lawn mowers and edgers and the loudest of all, the blowers. My lawn was cut yesterday. It is still spring green. The flowers in the front garden are beginning to bloom. The newest to bloom are the purple flowers on tall stalks. The wild roses have small white flowers. This is their only hurrah. I can see the buds on the day lilies bordering the trees. They will be orange. Each year there are more of them. Three quarters of the fence is covered with white clematis, but, for some reason, it has never spread to the 4th section of fence so I’m going to help it along this year by moving it myself. Plenty of shoots are already growing as are buds on the tops of the vine-like greenery. When the clematis bloom, my yard is glorious.

When I was a kid, my father always planted pansies and geraniums. When I think about them now, they seem an unlikely combination. The pansies are delicate, fairy like with their colorful faces. Geraniums are blunt. They all look the same. The ones my father planted were always red. He’d put the geraniums in the back and the pansies in front. In memory of my father, I always try to have a planter with pansies, especially in fall when all the other flowers are fading.

I never really noticed all the flowers beyond my yard when I was a kid. I noticed the grass. I used to ride my bike down the grassy hill on our side yard. My father always yelled. He’d catch us because we’d sometimes leave tire marks on the grass. It was a neat little hill, the end of which was a bit of sidewalk then the hilly side gutter leading to the street and the big hill. I loved that ride in the spring. The grass was tall and spongy. My bike tires were wide. They always left a distinctive mark down the hill, the best little hill leading to all the other hills. We had to be careful at the end of the big hill as the cross street was a busy one. I don’t remember anyone ever getting hit. I just remember speeding across that street into the field. It was an amazing ride from the grassy hill to the field almost without pedaling.

When I was living that hill, I never realized the memory I was making. I just loved every bit of the ride down. Up was much more strenuous. My goal was always to make it up all the hills without walking the bike. It took a while before I could get up the big hill. I seemed to make it only only to the middle time and time again then finally it happened. I pedaled all the way up the big hill to the sidewalk and to the grassy hill. I was thrilled. I always pedaled from then on, but I didn’t pedal up the lawn, and I didn’t push my bike up the lawn. I went around.

“There is never enough time for fun.” 

June 17, 2022

Thunderstorms are predicted for the afternoon. Right now the morning is damp and cool and the constant breeze is strong enough to move even the biggest branches of the tallest trees. The sky is covered in clouds. I can hear the birds. They are especially busy this morning.

One of my slippers has gone missing. I took a nap yesterday, and when I woke up, the slipper was gone. I check in all the right places, Nala’s hiding places, but did not find it. The yard is overgrown in spots so it may well be hidden by greenery. I’ll check again before the rain.

My dog Duke, the boxer I grew up with, did not steal except for the time he took the roast beef defrosting on the counter for Sunday dinner. My brother and I saw him and wrestled the roast beef out of his mouth. Other than a few tooth marks, it was none the worse for wear. We hid the marks, and my mother never noticed. The beef was good.

When I was a kid, when I left the house on my bike, my mother always wanted to know where I was going. I would say around town or up town or to the zoo. I never had a set destination. I’d just ride. Sometimes I’d ride to the next town over and sit at the train station. Other times I’d do a giant loop through two towns then back to my own. Lake Quannapowitt in another town over was one of my favorite destinations. I’d circle the whole lake. The houses facing the lake were old, large and beautiful. I used to imagine living in one. At the head of the lake was Bayrd’s Indian Trading Post with two teepees in front. I used to wander the store and was amazed at the exhibit of the Native American artifacts which had been found in the lake. There were beaded Indian costumes and colorful, feather headdresses. Mr. Bayrd constructed those feathered headdresses and the beaded outfits he sold at his store. They were authentic as Mr. Bayrd was a half Narragansett Native American. I didn’t know that at the time. I just loved everything he sold especially the beaded pieces. Once I bought a small beaded change purse. I’d saved a long time. After the shop, I’d usually head home. I’d go the long way through the next town then back to my town. Usually I’d have been gone all day. It was late afternoon when I’d finally get home. I was always tired, but it was a good tired, a fun day tired.

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