Archive for the ‘Musings’ category

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”

November 26, 2020

Thanksgiving Day is filled with memories. The smell of the kitchen while the turkey cooked was nearly sublime. I used to sneak and open the oven to steal the crisp end of the stuffing hanging out of the turkey. I remember being shocked when I was a kid to find out the stuffing was not in the turkey’s head. The kitchen windows were steamed from the heat of the oven while the turkey cooked. All four stove burners had pots filled with vegetables. I especially remember one pot because I think my mother had it forever. The pot had a dent and a black spot on the side which never disappeared. It usually held the potatoes.

We watched the Macy’s parade. We snacked while we watched. I remember tangerines, M&M’s and mixed nuts in the shell served in a special bowl. The nutcracker was thick metal and looked a bit like scissors in having two sides. I always thought the walnuts were the hardest to crack. I liked the Brazil nuts but not the almonds. I’m still not a fan of almonds.

Befitting the occasion, we sat in the dining room. The table always looked lovely covered in a holiday tablecloth and set with special dishes. As my family got bigger, we ran out of room at the table so the overflow ate in the kitchen.

My father always wanted a drumstick. The rest of us, except my brother the vegetarian, weren’t particular. We ate both white and dark meat. I remember passing the filled dishes around the table took some maneuvering with the table so tightly packed with food.

My father ate quickly so he could get back to his football games. The rest of us sat at the table to finish eating. Soon enough, the table emptied, and my mother and I tag-teamed for the cleanup. I cleared the table, and she loaded the dishwasher, and we both cleaned the kitchen. After everything was cleared, we brought out the pies. The always pies were apple and lemon meringue. Sometimes they’d be blueberry, pumpkin or sweet potato. My father loved his apple pie with cheddar. That’s a New England thing. I had lemon meringue.

Today I’ll miss family and friends. It will be a quiet Thanksgiving. I’ll wear my turkey earrings, and I may even get dressed.

I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

“But see, in our open clearings, how golden the melons lie; Enrich them with sweets and spices, and give us the pumpkin-pie!”

November 24, 2020

From inside, the world looks lovely, filled with bright sun and a light blue sky, but if you go out, dress warmly. It is windy and cold. Tonight will get down to the 20’s. Tonight is winter

I have ordered my Thanksgiving dinner. It will be ready for pick-up Wednesday afternoon. Dinner comes with all the fixings, and I added rolls and a piece of chocolate cream pie for dessert.

My sisters and I remember well Thanksgiving day and our mother’s turkey. It was always huge, big enough to feed the six of us for days. She used to get up at the crack of dawn Thanksgiving morning to stuff the bird and get it in the oven. We usually ate around two so the turkey cooked for hours and hours. The menu was our own traditional dinner, usually the same from year to year.

My mother made great stuffing. She used Bell’s rich with sage to season it. I love the creamed onions, one of my dad’s favorites, and they always had a spot near him on the table. I haven’t had creamed onions in years and writing about them makes me want to change that. Turkey was the star but mashed potatoes was a close second. I can still see my mashed potato mound with a dip in the middle to hold the gravy which still ran down the sides of my mound anyway. The table groaned with the weight of the dishes, and we kept having to rearrange them to make room for the next dish. My father had a small dish of canned asparagus in front of him and he didn’t have to share. Also around the table were the sweet potatoes, sometimes mashed and sometimes in their skins, a green bean casserole, a squash casserole we all love and maybe peas and carrots. The cranberry sauce almost always came from the can. I remember once my mother hollowed out oranges and filled them with a cranberry orange sauce she’d made. I loved it, but it wasn’t universally welcomed to the Thanksgiving table. After that we stuck with the can and the decorated cranberry sauce. I did think it was decorative. I didn’t know the lines were imprints from the can.

Dessert was always assorted pies: apple for my father, lemon meringue and sometimes blueberry and pumpkin. My mother made all of them. I ate all of them.

“Loud roared the dreadful thunder, The rain a deluge showers.”

November 23, 2020

Yesterday’s dark, dreary day is still here, but it is even getting darker. Overnight it rained, a quiet rain. Everything is still wet. My papers were on the steps, but I needed to go across the street to my mailbox then I had to rehang some of the ornaments on the outside tree. Meanwhile, my coffee was perking.

Today is warm. Tonight will go down to the 30’s. Right now, we are under a tornadic thunderstorm warning. I have seen lightning and heard the thunder. It will rain and off all day. I got an emergency communication about the tornados and also advice as to where to go in the house to be at the safest. The chief warned of downed wires because of the heavy wind and rain.

Last night I thought I’d order delivery. I read through three or four menus but nothing appealed to me. I did love one sandwich suggestion, one for a BLT. The description read a bacon, tomato and lettuce sandwich, a BTL.

Henry needs food, and the cats need treats. I need bread and light cream. I’m going out later.

When I was kid, every day made memories. My walk to school was the same route for eight years, but it wasn’t the same walk. Some days it was raining, even pouring, but I had to walk anyway. I loved the walk when it was snowing. I’d stick my tongue out to catch the snowflakes and throw snowballs at my friend who’d squeal and run. Her back was my next target. In the fall, leaves were great fun. I’d walk along the street next to the curb so I could kick up leaves. I’d get to school with bits of leaves on my skirt, my socks and my shoes. Spring time walking to school was amazing, my favorite of all the seasons. I got to watch the leaves bud and grow on the trees lining the sidewalk. The tree trunks were tall and thick, and the top branches were wide and long. Every morning felt a bit warmer, and I got to shed some layers. It didn’t take long for the leaves to grow and shade the sidewalk. By May, my walk passed green lawns, trees heavy with leaves and gardens filled with early flowers. That spring walk took me the longest to get to school. I kept stopping to take in the morning.

It has started to rain heavily enough that I heard it hitting the back door. This is the sort of rain which makes me wish I had a metal roof.

“Red squirrels… you don’t see many of them since they became extinct.”

November 22, 2020

Some days start out bad from the outset. I woke up cold. Henry was hogging the bed. My blanket was on the floor. When I reached over for it, I slid off the bed because part of the mattress topping was just hanging out there in space beyond the mattress. The drop to the floor was slow and didn’t faze me so I got off the floor, picked up the blanket, straightened my bed, got back in it under the warmth of the blanket then I tried to go back to sleep. I couldn’t. It was dark. Okay, it wasn’t dark. It was almost nine, too early for me, but I got up anyway. My house was cold.

Next, I put cream in my coffee, but it wasn’t cream. Believe me when I tell you that pumpkin eggnog and coffee are not a good combo.

My sweatshirt pocket caught on the cabinet knob. The pocket tore a bit. I just shrugged. That brings us to now. The cats and dog are upstairs napping. I am alone on the couch but am quite comfortable despite my torn sweatshirt.

When I woke up, the sun was shining. Without a breeze, 48˚ felt warm. A bit later a dark cloud appeared and spread across the sky, now totally gray, a whitish gray. It is just an ugly day, no rain predicted.

I was going to the dump, but I can wait for a few more days. I have only a single bag of trash and a few bags of newspapers and magazines. Besides, it is just the sort of day to laze around the house. I am going to hang the new spawn of Satan feeder I bought. It is a plastic horse’s head which will hang just above the deck rail so the spawn can reach it. I have to put peanut butter inside the head to hold seeds. If I’ve done it all correctly, the spawn will sit on the deck with its own head inside the horse’s head and will move it around to get at the seed. I need a bit of humor, and I figure the spawns owe me.

“I told myself that I was going to live the rest of my life as if it were Saturday.”

November 21, 2020

Today is a lovely, warm day. While I was out on the deck, Henry ran the yard, and I noticed the empty bird feeder swaying from a high tree branch above my head. It was the same feeder the spawn raided the other day. I watched its acrobatic moves from the deck rail to the feeders. I gave the squirrel an 8, a lower score because the jump wasn’t difficult. I have a wired feeder to replace the one the spawns visit.

When I was a kid, there was no better day than Saturday. All morning I got to watch my shows. I’d sit on the floor in front of the TV with my bowl in hand and munch Rice Krispies. In good weather, I’d head out the door after breakfast. My mother would always ask where I was going. I never had a specific answer. I always said, “Just out.” She was fine with that.

In winter I’d walk up town to the movie theater, to the matinee. Most times the movie was an old one preceded by a cartoon and coming attractions, but the movie didn’t really matter. What did matter was being there in the crowded theater dodging candy missiles, eating the longest lasting candy I could buy and sitting surrounded by my friends. The only movie I remember seeing is The Wizard of Oz. I swear the entire audience gasped when the movie turned to color over the rainbow.

In Ghana, I often went to town on Saturdays, especially on market days. I loved wandering the busy market in the early mornings. I bought meat, eggs, tomatoes, onions and sometimes bread, sweet, unsliced bread. Once in a while I’d find a surprise like the watermelon. I carried my stringed shepherd’s bag which stretched to hold just about everything, even the watermelon.

When I was teaching, Saturday was my sacrosanct day, a day for me. I didn’t do school work, no preparing lessons and no correcting. Everything was left for Sunday.

I joke and tell people every day is Saturday for me. It really is but without the Rice Krispies and a matinee.

“Birds are the eyes of heaven, and flies are the spies of hell.”

November 20, 2020

The wind is tremendous. It howls and rushes. The trees and their branches in the backyard are bending at their waists. I’m surprised the pines haven’t cracked. Pines have shallow roots. Today is warm, in the high 50’s, and it could even reach 60˚. I’m home bound today with an empty dance card.

When I was a kid, we had a toaster, and that was about it for kitchen electrical. That toaster was notorious for burning toast. I remember using a butter knife or a fork, my preferred tool, to pull out the toast stuck in the toaster. Crumbs fell all over the counter and floor from my determination to free the toast. I never gave any thought to the combination of electrical and my fork. I was a kid. What did I know? I never ate the burnt toast.

My mother later got a Sunbeam mixer, one of those black and white ones. It sat on the counter for years before being replaced by a food processor. The toaster became a toaster oven. Progress marched into my mother’s kitchen one appliance at a time.

My mind’s eye can conjure familiar routes and count the lights. Take a left at the fifth light. If you ask me where I live on Cape Cod, I’ll point to my elbow. We determine distance by time. How far to Boston? About an hour and fifteen minutes. We don’t tell you east or west, and once you’re over the bridge, you’re on your own.

I just heard a buzz then another buzz. The biggest fly I’ve seen in a very long time has found its way to my den, a sort of refuge I guess, but I figure it won’t be here for long. Usually the buzzing flies find a closed storm door, and I’m always happy to open the door and free the fly, but I’m suggesting it move quickly. Jack likes to eat flies.

“If by too much care you spare them every kind of discomfort, you are preparing great miseries for them.”

November 19, 2020

Yesterday was winter. Even though I wore my fleece top over a flannel shirt, I was still cold. It was mostly a run to and from the car. I finished three errands, and if I add the stop at the ATM, we’re talking four. I haven’t been to the bank in months. This is the first time in a long time I’ve money in my wallet. I even used it.

I watched MSNBC this morning. A governor from some state with a huge covid outbreak was being interviewed. He said he knows masks work, but there is no evidence that mandating masks work. I’m glad I don’t live in his state.

I remember getting shots before I started school. My smallpox shot was on the top of my leg instead of on my arm. When we visited my aunt one time, I was out playing and tore off the scab-like cover of the shot. I cried not because it hurt but because I was afraid of needing to get the shot again. I didn’t.

My life in Ghana was filled with shots. We got them before we left, when we arrived, every six months and when unexpected major diseases were rampant. Besides the shots, Peace Corps also expected, maybe demanded, we take Larium, mefloquine, an antimalarial, every week. It tasted awful if you didn’t swallow fast enough. I took the pills during the rainy season when insects, especially mosquitos the size of birds, filled the night air. During the dry season, not a bug was to be had. It was wonderful. Under a basket lamp shade hanging from my ceiling was a spot of light on the floor. In the rainy season there were so many bugs under the light you couldn’t see the floor, in the dry, none. I stopped being compliant in the dry season. I didn’t get malaria. Peace Corps looked unkindly on volunteers who got malaria.

Last night I went to get something to drink in the kitchen. On the way I got distracted by some dust and a crooked picture. I sleeved the dust and straightened the picture then went back to the den. I had forgotten I wanted orange juice. After I had sat down, I realized I needed my juice so back to the kitchen. While I was there, I rearranged the kitchen counter. I also remembered to get my drink, ice tea, not juice.

“There’s no insects in American cuisine? Not one? I don’t think there are. That’s so sad.”

November 17, 2020

Today is fall. The sun is hazy. The air is chilly, left over from last night’s cold. Every now and then a breeze blows the topmost branches. Birds are in and out at the feeders Henry and I filled yesterday. Henry loved being out with me and kept running on and off the deck. He was panting by the time we went back inside the house.

I need to go out today. I should have yesterday, but I just didn’t want to go; instead, I busied myself around the house, busy being relative. I moved a few things off the counter then moved a few more things to make storage room for what I took off the counter. My life is a domino effect.

When I was growing up, everything at home just happened. My clean clothes mysteriously appeared in my closet and drawers. While I was at school, my bed was made. When I grabbed my lunch box in the morning, it was filled with my lunch, my always tasty lunch. Floors were vacuumed and tables polished, all in secret. Like the shoemaker, we must have had elves.

When I was a kid, I wasn’t afraid of too much, maybe just the man with the hook. I knew spiders ate bugs so I liked spiders. Even now, I’ll help get a spider out of the sink before I turn on the water. I used to sing the ladybug song when one landed on me. I’d gently puff at the ladybug so it would fly away. I loved the way the ladybug’s wings folded. Last summer I bought ladybugs and let them go in the front garden so they could dine al fresco.

“Ladybug ladybug fly away home,
Your house in on fire and your children are gone,
All except one and that’s little Ann,
For she crept under the frying pan.”

“It’s wisest always to be so clad that our friends need not ask us for our names.”

November 16, 2020

Last night the wind came first. I watched from the back door. It was so wild the leaves were falling like rain from the trees in the backyard and the huge tree near the side of the house. Its curled, yellow leaves fell on the roof. When I surveyed my estate this morning, I saw my driveway is covered in red and yellow leaves. The deck has disappeared under a blanket of dead, brown leaves. My lawn is a combination of leaves and pine needles and very little grass.

After the wind came the rain. The drops were loud and heavy. I remembered I had left my car windows cracked a bit, but I wasn’t about to race outside in the dark and into the rain to shut the windows. The seats will dry.

My bird feeders are just about empty, but I bought sunflower seeds so I’ll fill them later, and I’m going to add a feeder I found hanging under the deck. I might also do a wash of the animals’ afghans and my bedspread, but my track record with laundry is rather dismal.

When I was a kid, the first thing I did when I got home from school was change and go out to play, but once the cold weather set in, I didn’t go out. I played in the cellar, watched TV and read. I did my homework before dinner as I always did. Every night after dinner, I watched TV until bedtime.

Growing up, I was never really into fashion. I wore a uniform to school so I didn’t have a huge closet of clothes, but in my mind it was a glut of clothes. I had blue jeans as we used to call them, casual girly shirts, some sweaters, a sweatshirt or two, not hoodies, a pair of play shoes and a couple of Sunday dresses.

In Ghana I had to wear a dress every day everywhere. I did have a pair of Bermuda shorts which I wore around the house during the three digit heat of the dry season, but I would never have worn them in public. I have never been as dressy as I was those two years.

Right now I am in my uniform of the day, of most days. My red sweatshirt is from a Red Sox World Series championship. My flannel pants are a blue and black plaid. That makes me sound fashionable, but trust me on this, I am not. Each of my clod slippers has a hole right at the big toe, but they are so comfortable I hate to toss them. I wear them outside. Seriously, who would peek at my toes in Agway or Ring or the dump?

A View-Master reel holds 14 film transparencies in seven pairs, making up the seven stereoscopic images. The components of each pair are viewed simultaneously, one by each eye, thus simulating binocular depth perception.

November 15, 2020

The morning is cold. The sun is so bright I could barely see to navigate. Today I’ll be out and about. I need to buy animal food. Henry needs cans and treats. The cats need cans and a cardboard scratching post sort of thing. The birds need sunflower seeds. Quite a birds have been in and out of the feeders since I last filled them. As for me, I want a couple of new plants for the house. Most of my plants have thrived but a few died and I never replaced them. Their empty pots sit on the shelf. It’s kind of sad. I have a few plants rooting in bottles in the kitchen. They’ll so be ready for pots. I want all of the pots filled again.

Last night I was sitting in my usual spot. The TV was on but only as background noise. The only light came from the lamp on the corner of the metal table in front of me. I had shut my computer and was reaching for a magazine from a pile on the table when it struck me. This room, this lamp, this computer and this table make me happy. The light shines on everything. The top of the table has three piles. Two of the piles are books I will be reading. The third pile has magazines and catalogues and my iPad. My laptop just sits by itself. There is plenty of room on the table. It is huge. Three baskets are under the table. They’re filled, but I do keep finding room for recipes I cut from the newspapers or tear from magazines. I do leave this room, but mostly if I’m home, this is where I’ll be. I watch TV, Christmas movies this time of year. Henry sleeps on the couch. Jack is on the chair. Last night Jack snored so loudly Henry looked up to figure if he should bark or not. He didn’t. Last night is my typical night.

I have a Viewmaster. It is not the one I got for Christmas one year, but it looks exactly the same. I have several reels. I bought most of them on line. I picked places I’ve been and TV programs from when I was young, programs like Rin Tin Tin and Circus Boy. I have a reel of Eisenhower’s inauguration and the Queen’s coronation. I even found a Ghana reel. The pictures were a bit earlier than my Ghana, but I knew places. I recognized buildings. That was so amazing.

Every now and then I enjoy looking at my Viewmaster reels. They jog my memory. They make me smile. The colors on the reels are beautiful and bright. I usually remember to pull the lever down just right or it’ll miss the sprocket, and I’d see cardboard, no picture. I’d have to pull it out, turn it a bit then put it back in the viewer. It is skill you never forget.


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