Posted tagged ‘early to bed’

“Chicken Alive”

November 21, 2017

Last night we all went to bed far earlier than the night, or rather the early morning, before, but it must have been too early for Gracie because she woke me up around 3:30 wanting to go out so we did. It was darn cold, and I hadn’t put on my sweatshirt so I urged Gracie to be quick. She was as she doesn’t like the cold either. I’m keeping an eye and an ear on Gracie as I heard her sniffing and snorting last night and this morning. She may have a cold so I’ll wait today but take her to the vet’s tomorrow for a check-up if she keeps snorting.

When I was a kid, Thanksgiving was the parade, M&M’s, walnuts and dinner. In school, we colored turkeys on work sheets to help pass the time. I remember coloring each feather on the turkey’s tail a different color. I hadn’t ever seen a turkey so I envisioned it more like the peacock I had seen in the zoo.

Wild turkeys are all over the place here on the cape and even in Boston where they have been known to attack people. I see them often on my street. Usually they travel in a group with one Tom and a bunch of females. The Tom always seems to be strutting, letting the world know he has a harem. The wild turkeys can fly. They even roost on branches. When they fly, they look lumbering like some military cargo planes.

I learned so many things when I was in the Peace Corps in Ghana. One of my skills, a seldom used skill, is cleaning chickens, plucking their feathers. In the market, I got to pick my chicken, my dinner for the night. I could never dispatch the chicken to wherever chickens go when they become dinner so Thomas, who worked for me, did the dispatching. He got the feet and head for his troubles and usually cooked them for himself. Foot and head stew is what I called it. The now dispatched chicken is dipped in boiling water to loosen the pinions. After that pull off the tail feathers first then the smaller feathers. My hands got tired when I plucked so I usually left the final cleaning, the pulling off of whatever was left, to Thomas. What surprised me was how skinny chickens are without their feathers. These were always free range chickens. Nobody had coops or fenced in areas. My chickens, except the brooding hens, left the yard in the morning and returned at night. I never knew where they went.

Before I left for Ghana, I read books the Peace Corps recommended, and I read the material the Peace Corps sent. I knew about the regions, a bit about languages, the tribal system, crops and the prevalent diseases, but I knew nothing about buying live chickens let alone how to pluck them. Why would I? Chickens never entered my mind before I left, and in my whole life I never thought about plucking them. Chickens came in packages from the meat counter, but out of necessity and being partial to eating chicken, I learned to pluck. Should that skill ever be needed here, I’m all set.

“It was Sunday morning, and old people passed me like sad grey waves on their way to church.”

October 15, 2017

I’m wondering where the sun is hiding. The day is damp and cloudy. It’s a quiet day, no breeze rustles the leaves and no voices are loud enough to be heard. I have to go out and do a couple of errands later and tonight is game night. That’s like a full day for me.

When I was a kid, the expectations for Sunday were pretty much nonexistent. It was a nothing day much the same week after week. It started with church. The only unknown was which mass I’d attend. Would I go early with my dad, the usher, or later by myself or with my brother? Sunday dinner was the biggest meal of the week. It was always a roast, sometimes a roast beef and other times a whole chicken. It was the one meal all week where we all sat down to eat together though my mother sometimes stood by the counter to eat. On weekdays my dad was late getting home from work so he was never there for dinner. We were usually watching TV when he got home.

Once in a while, on a Sunday afternoon, we visited my grandparents in the city. I was amazed by the city. Houses were close together. The Italian bakeries sold pizza. A house down the street sold Italian ice through an open window. On the corner of my grandparents’ street was a private club. My uncle was a member. I remember going there once for a family party.

If we didn’t go out to visit, we’d sit around watching TV until my dad took over and turned to a football game. That sent us to the kitchen to play a board game or down the cellar to play. If I had a book, I’d go read it in my room away from the noise. My mother cooked in the kitchen. She peeled potatoes and opened cans of vegetables. We usually ate around two. Most times there was no special dessert. We’d grab cookies.

Sunday night we’d watch a bit of TV then it was early to bed because of school the next day. We always grumbled. That never got us anywhere except upstairs to bed at our regular time.

“Christmas Eve, and the tree blazed with lights.”

December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve is the second most popular day of the year. It is the longest day, not by the calendar but for every kid who can hardly wait for Santa. I remember wanting to go to bed around 5 or 6 figuring the night would pass far more quickly if I were sleeping, but the actual bedtime never really mattered. It took forever to fall asleep.

Today is rainy and warm, in the high 40’s. The sky is gray, but it isn’t a gray day as today has sort of a light of its own, the glow of Christmas Eve. The trees and all the Christmas lights in the house are lit. They are so beautiful.

I have some baking to do, but I wanted to finish here first. The TV is on, and I have to admit it isn’t Hallmark. It is the Syfy channel and The Abominable Snowman, the something out there, hardly festive fare.

My parents used to have a party on Christmas Eve. My father was never a fan until everyone came, and the party got going. He always had a great time. The guests were mostly relatives, my aunts and uncles. There was always singing, eating and drinking. The dining room table, groaning from all the food, was pushed to the wall. The kitchen counter served as the bar. The benches at the table in the kitchen were always filled. The living room was mostly empty. People gravitated to the kitchen and just stayed there. That’s always where the singing started. I can still see my dad standing beside the counter singing with wondrous enthusiasm.

My mother and I always cleaned up, but it was a special time for the two of us. We’d chat while cleaning, finish up, pour Irish coffees and sit in the living room. We’d put on a Christmas movie. We’d open one special present. We stayed up late. I loved those Christmas Eves.

Tonight my friends and I will put together our gingerbread houses. We won’t talk. We won’t socialize. We’ll be so intent upon the decorations that the houses will hold our full attention. That always makes me chuckle. We have this great time even without conversation.

Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas, my friends!

“cozy+smell of pancakes-alarm clock=weekend”

August 29, 2016

This morning I was forced to go to Dunkin’ Donuts. I had no coffee and no cream so Gracie and I jumped into the car and drove off for my morning elixir. When we got there, the outside line was long, but I had no choice. I hadn’t bothered to get dressed or even brush my teeth. Gracie didn’t mind the wait. She just poked her head out the window and took in the neighborhood and its smells. I listened to the radio. The line went faster than I thought it would. I was happy.

Today is already hot and humid so I am back in my fortress having shut the windows and doors and turned on the air conditioning. There are clouds but they do nothing except to obscure the sun. Rain is not in the forecast for the next couple of days. The weekend, though, will be lovely with daytime temperatures in the low 70’s and nights in the mid 60’s.  It is the Labor Day weekend, the traditional last hurrah of the summer.

My sister started work today. She is a pre-school teacher in Colorado. When I spoke to her last night, she was going to take a shower so she could get to bed early. I remember my mother sending us to bed early and reminding us we had school the next day. I also remember moaning and groaning and dragging my feet upstairs.

When I was a kid, I never kept track of the weekdays. I only knew when it was Saturday or Sunday. On Saturday my father was home. He did errands uptown and mowed the lawn. On Saturday nights he often barbecued. Sometimes we went to the beach all day Saturday or the drive-in on Saturday nights. Sunday had the only consistently distinguishing event, going to mass which also meant a change in wardrobe from shorts and a sleeveless shirt to a dress or a skirt and a blouse. After mass, the day was back to casual. We didn’t have Sunday dinners during the summer. It was more of a catch as catch can. Mostly it was sandwiches.

I think my favorite weekends were in Ghana, especially the Sundays. There was a service in the dining hall where the furniture had been reconfigured to look more like the inside of a church. The students wore their Sunday clothes. Each of the four classes had a different fabric for their traditional three piece dresses, their Sunday best. They wore a top, a skirt to their ankles and a cloth wrapped around at the waist. After the service, the older students could go to town. Visitors were allowed. A photographer wandered around taking pictures, always in black and white. I have a few of the pictures given to me as gifts. When I went to town, I could see the students walking in groups and stopping at kiosks to buy personal items like powder. Others went to the market to load up on snacks to keep in their school trunks, especially gari, made from cassava and easily stored.

Being retired, my days tend to run together. I sometimes have to check the paper to see what day of the week it is. My chores and errands aren’t confined to a single day. I don’t ever have to go to bed early.

“My favorite meal would have to be good old-fashioned eggs, over easy, with bacon. Many others, but you can’t beat that on a Sunday morning, especially with a cup of tea.”

April 26, 2015

It’s cold again today. The high will be 51˚. The nights are still in the mid to high 30’s. The sun was here for a bit then the clouds came in and the sun was covered, but the day is still light.

When I was a kid, I either went to the early mass with my dad, the usher, or I walked to mass later in the morning. If it was a lucky Sunday, my aunt would be at the later mass, see me and invite me to the Stoneham Spa for a lime ricky. The spa was uptown. It was old and looked like the malt shops on TV. It had wooden booths with all sorts of names carved on the tables, faded signs on the walls highlighting some of the menu items and stools at the counter. It had been a hangout even during my mother’s high school days. I don’t remember when it closed down, but I know it was before I was in high school or we would have been there.

If I didn’t see my aunt, I’d trudge home after mass to spend the most boring day of the week in the house. We didn’t go anywhere to play or roam on Sunday because we had to be there for the big Sunday dinner. It was usually the only time in the week we had roast beef so it wasn’t all that bad being stuck in the house waiting for dinner. I’d read the comics, the only part of the paper I cared about, or watch the Sunday movie. Sometimes we’d go visit my grandparents after dinner, but mostly we just stayed around the house. On Sunday nights we went to bed earlier than usual. My mother gave us the excuse, which we never believed, that because we had been up late on Friday and Saturday nights we needed to go early to get our rest for school on Monday. We used to argue and plead but to no avail. I think my displeasure was evidenced by my feet pounding each step as I went upstairs, but I was usually wearing slippers so the noise wasn’t bad enough for my father to yell.

Sundays haven’t really changed much. They are still mostly boring. Now I read all of the papers, but I still start with comics. Old, ingrained habits seldom die. I don’t cook a big meal for myself but I like Sunday breakfast. That comes from when I’d visit my parents, and my dad always made me my Sunday breakfast. He’d cook eggs, anyway I wanted them, bacon and toast. Mostly I liked them sunny-side up. That’s what I make for myself, but he never broke the yolks. I sometimes do.

“Autumn…the year’s last, loveliest smile.”

September 22, 2014

Summer is busy packing. Gone are days on the deck, the flowers in the front garden, movie nights, hotdogs and burgers on the grill and the bright, warm sun. Fall is impatiently waiting in the wings for its big arrival tonight. Colorful leaves, crisp mornings, mums, pumpkins in all sizes and shapes, gourds and bales of hay are waiting their turn. Warm days and cool nights are already here. At 10:29 tonight fall is official.

My windows are open as summer is leaving with a flourish. It will be in the mid 70’s today. The day is lovely and smells of flowers.

When I was a kid, the start of school was the start of the year for me. It meant the end of carefree days, bike riding, bare feet and playing outside after dark. New rules applied. The street light turning on meant the end of playing outside for the day. Homework had to be done, and we were forced to go to bed early. Mornings started all too soon. Breakfast was first, then getting dressed for school then leaving with book bag and lunch in hand.

The school day never changed. We had the same subjects at the same time except art and music which were random and not every day. In music we learned songs like My Grandfather’s Clock. In art we used colored pencils or crayons. We made cards for our parents for every holiday. I loved art but I was horrible. I never moved beyond stick figures. In music I couldn’t carry a tune, but I enjoyed singing. The academics were my strongest suit.

Even when I was young, I thought fall was the prettiest season. Front steps had pumpkins and sometimes sheaves of hay. The red and yellow leaves were glorious. On Saturdays we could smell the burning leaves and see the smoke from so many fires billow and curl into the air. Fall was a feast for the senses.

“But I’m really enjoying my retirement. I get to sleep in every day. I do crossword puzzles and eat cake.”

May 31, 2014

The wind is blowing and even the tree trunks are swaying. The sun is more decoration than warmth. The high today will be in the low 60’s and tonight we’ll go down to the 40’s. The house is cold every morning. I still need my sweatshirt. The windows are closed because of the cold and because of the pine pollen. My car is covered in that yellow-green pollen. When it rains, small puddles are ringed with pine pollen while bigger puddles have a slick of pollen not unlike an oil slick, just a different color. The wind blows the pollen in small clouds. I sneeze a lot.

I’m at the stage of my life where sitting around isn’t boring. I don’t have to accomplish anything. I don’t need to be busy. The days go quickly regardless of what I do or don’t do. Some days my bursts of energy have me dusting and polishing. I do a few loads of wash. Gracie and I go to the dump. I buy some groceries. That is my busiest sort of day. It merits an afternoon nap.

When I worked, I got to school at 6:20 and got home around 4 which left little time to do anything but read the mail, have dinner, watch a TV show or two and go to bed early as the alarm rang at 5:00. In winter I was a mole and seldom saw the sunshine except through a window. The weekends were for doing all the chores and errands. I grocery shopped, changed my bed, did laundry, cleaned a room or two and went to the dump on Sunday. If I did anything fun, it was usually Saturday night. Back then I never stopped to think how narrow my life was. I was too busy with every day.

When I was getting ready to retire, I was asked if I had any plans on how to fill my days. I didn’t. It was enough knowing I no longer had to set the alarm and get up at an ungodly hour. I loved being retired from the first day. If I had nothing to do, I was fine with that. Each day was a blank piece of paper ready to be filled or even left blank. This summer it will be ten years since I retired. They have been remarkable years.

“Autumn is the hush before winter. “

November 16, 2013

Last night I went to bed early, my early around 10, and slept in this morning until 9. My back feels much better so a day of doing nothing and a good night’s sleep did the trick; of course, a day of doing nothing isn’t novel to me. I am a lover of sloth days and never need a reason to enjoy one.

Yesterday, in the late afternoon, I went outside to the deck. The air had the unmistakable smell of fall. It was earthy but not like in spring when the garden smells of newness. It was the smell of brown leaves on the ground slowly rotting away. Musky might be the better description. I didn’t need to see Gracie. I could hear the sounds of her paws as she ran on the crispy leaves under the trees and I knew exactly where she was. Leaves cover the back of the deck, the part under the trees, and I kicked a few over the side. I could have been eight or nine again and kicking the leaves      piled beside the sidewalk’s gutters. Yesterday’s leaves separated and flew to the ground, two stories below the deck. I could see my neighbor’s house and my friends’ house at the end of the street though the bare trees. The privacy brought by leafy trees is gone now until late in spring. A few birds ignored me and stayed at the feeders, mostly gold finches. I saw a woodpecker at the suet feeder. He has to eat upside down and doesn’t seem to mind. The thistle feeders had three or four gold finches all at one time. They don’t like to share on the big feeder but they don’t seem to mind sharing thistle. I cleaned out the bird bath of its leaves and pine needles then went inside the house. Gracie stayed outside.

I haven’t anything to do. There’s clean laundry to bring up but one more day won’t hurt; wrinkled is wrinkled. I have amassed a mountain size pile of catalogues so I think I’ll go Christmas shopping. The day is cloudy and uninviting so inside is the perfect place to spend the day. I feel good today about me and the day.


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