Archive for November, 2012

This afternoon I found a package in the mailbox which came from fairly far away – Ludwigsburg, Germany. 

In it was another pair of cozy, colorful, washable wool socks I had bought from the mother of a woman whose blog I love to read every day. The blog is called From My Mental Library and brings me many nice memories because in the early 1970s when I was first married my husband and I lived in Stuttgart and he worked at the University there  in the Institute for Space and Airflight Construction.  Really, he took this job so that we could live in Europe – which I had never seen – and we could travel to Hungary whenever we had enough free time. Paul wanted to show me the world in which he had grown up, and let me meet the relatives he had there. It was an amazing time, to be so young and traveling with the man I loved more than anyone on earth and seeing a world – actually several worlds – that I’d never encountered even in  pictures. It was glorious!

A city we often visited was nearby Ludwigsburg. In the spring they had a wonderful festival of tulips and spring flowers. The palace was beautiful. There was a porcelain factory, a Museum, actually, beside it which began operation in the 1700s and which fascinated me greatly, especially the collection of figurines which represented all the typical working people of the time when the factory began, butcher’s and baker’s and candlestick makers and flower sellers and really probably  a few hundred different artisans are shown in the clothes they wore for their jobs. Beautiful work.

At first I was most interested in Meike’s pictures of Ludwigsburg and its surroundings, but soon became  interested in everything she chose to write about. Her blog is http://librarianwithsecrets.blogspot.com/.

Occasionally her mother would write a guest post and then a little later she opened an Etsy shop – that’s etsy.com. I think most of you will be familiar with this website which sells all manner of handwork and vintage items. Meike’s mother sells lovely socks and hats, mostly in that patterned computer generated yarn. I have now bought three pair (and some small hats for Em and her daughters) and use them mostly as slipper socks when I am at home. They are cheerful to look at and keep my feet cozy and warm.

http://www.etsy.com/shop/gigunelsasocks?ref=seller_info   is the url for her shop.

So today my latest socks arrived, but I was surprised to find a little gift in the package, an Advent calendar with cut out designs on two sides. I just got the mail on my way to my daughter’s to babysit Stephen so we set up the little calendar and put the votive candle inside so the designs would show up well. Isn’t it lovely! I was so surprised and happy to receive this.

I’ve also bought myself and both of my daughters the Jacquie Lawson online Advent calendar. I belong to (or subscribe to?) her online e-card service and that may be necessary to have this calendar. It begins Saturday and continues until Christmas.  We’ve always had Advent calendars and enjoyed using them.

BTW, WordPress insisted on making the first  paragraph blue with underlining, and I was unable to change it. My apologies for my unskillfulness.

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And not a turkey…..

We’ve had a wonderful Thanksgiving and all my lovely offspring are still here in Bath……..This morning those with small children (oh, how almost eight year old Nathan would not like to read those words) went to the Cleveland Zoo, but I stayed  home puttering about and Andy stayed because a friend was coming over. His friend has just left and we learned that he has a date for his wedding (next summer) and he asked Andy to be his best man, which is quite an honor. I’m invited too…Another honor……..

I’m no longer in that very serious mood of yesterday, so I thought I would share some photos of our Thanksgiving, even though I forgot to take any pictures of the table before the onslaught.

Remember the photo from last year of Sofia and Clara hovering over the platter of Hungarian Retes (pronounced “re’tesh) which my wonderful sil Alice and her husband Barney always bring? It is clear that the girls still have very fond memories of this! Sofia ate her turkey dinner very quickly and then firmly announced, “My tummy is full and now I need some RETES!”

On the left is the picture from last year and on the right from this year, Thanksgiving 2012.







It was really a too abundant feast like the one most Americans were enjoying…I’m not so interested in even thinking about food today, though I suddenly had a great desire to make a very vinegary tomato and onion salad. Perhaps an antidote to the rich unctuousness of the meal……..

After the whole meal was finished, down to the last slice of pecan pie, pumpkin pie, coffee and Grand Marnier, everyone went out for a little fresh air and the kids for a bit of surprising tree climbing……

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Something to Ponder

The Transparent Man

by Anthony Hecht

I'm mighty glad to see you, Mrs. Curtis,
And thank you very kindly for this visit--
Especially now when all the others here
Are having holiday visitors, and I feel
A little conspicuous and in the way.
It's mainly because of Thanksgiving.  All these mothers
And wives and husbands gaze at me soulfully
And feel they should break up their box of chocolates
For a donation, or hand me a chunk of fruitcake.  
What they don't understand and never guess
Is that it's better for me without a family;
It's a great blessing.  Though I mean no harm.
And as for visitors, why, I have you,
All cheerful, brisk and punctual every Sunday,
Like church, even if the aisles smell of phenol.
And you always bring even better gifts than any 
On your book-trolley. Though they mean only good,
Families can become a sort of burden.
I've only got my father, and he won't come,
Poor man, because it would be too much for him.
And for me, too, so it's best the way it is. 
He knows, you see, that I will predecease him,
Which is hard enough.  It would take a callous man
To come and stand around and watch me failing.
(Now don't you fuss; we both know the plain facts.)
But for him it's even harder.  He loved my mother.
They say she looked like me; I suppose she may have.
Or rather, as I grew older I came to look
More and more like she must one time have looked,
And so the prospect for my father now
Of losing me is like having to lose her twice.
I know he frets about me.  Dr. Frazer
Tells me he phones in every single day,
Hoping that things will take a turn for the better.
But with leukemia things don't improve.
It's like a sort of blizzard in the bloodstream,
A deep, severe, unseasonable winter,
Burying everything.  The white blood cells
Multiply crazily and storm around,
Out of control.  The chemotherapy
Hasn't helped much, and it makes my hair fall out.
I know I look a sight, but I don't care.
I care about fewer things; I'm more selective.
It's got so I can't even bring myself
To read through any of your books these days.
It's partly weariness, and partly the fact
That I seem not to care much about the endings,
How things work out, or whether they even do.
What I do instead is sit here by this window
And look out at the trees across the way.
You wouldn't think that was much, but let me tell you,
It keeps me quite intent and occupied.
Now all the leaves are down, you can see the spare,
Delicate structures of the sycamores,
The fine articulation of the beeches.
I have sat here for days studying them,
And I have only just begun to see
What it is that they resemble.  One by one,
They stand there like magnificent enlargements
Of the vascular system of the human brain.
I see them there like huge discarnate minds,
Lost in their meditative silences.
The trunks, branches and twigs compose the vessels
That feed and nourish vast immortal thoughts.
So I've assigned them names.  There, near the path,
Is the great brain of Beethoven, and Kepler
Haunts the wide spaces of that mountain ash.
This view, you see, has become my Hall of Fame,
It came to me one day when I remembered 
Mary Beth Finley who used to play with me
When we were girls.  One year her parents gave her
A birthday toy called "The Transparent Man."
It was made of plastic, with different colored organs,
And the circulatory system all mapped out
In rivers of red and blue.  She'd ask me over
And the two of us would sit and study him
Together, and do a powerful lot of giggling.
I figure he's most likely the only man
Either of us would ever get to know
Intimately, because Mary Beth became
A Sister of Mercy when she was old enough.
She must be thirty-one; she was a year 
Older than I, and about four inches taller.
I used to envy both those advantages
Back in those days.  Anyway, I was struck
Right from the start by the sea-weed intricacy,
The fine-haired, silken-threaded filiations
That wove, like Belgian lace, throughout the head.
But this last week it seems I have found myself
Looking beyond, or through, individual trees
At the dense, clustered woodland just behind them,
Where those great, nameless crowds patiently stand.
It's become a sort of complex, ultimate puzzle
And keeps me fascinated.  My eyes are twenty-twenty,
Or used to be, but of course I can't unravel
The tousled snarl of intersecting limbs,
That mackled, cinder grayness.  It's a riddle
Beyond the eye's solution.  Impenetrable.
If there is order in all that anarchy
Of granite mezzotint, that wilderness,
It takes a better eye than mine to see it.
It set me on to wondering how to deal
With such a thickness of particulars,
Deal with it faithfully, you understand,
Without blurring the issue. Of course I know
That within a month the sleeving snows will come
With cold, selective emphases, with massings
And arbitrary contrasts, rendering things
Deceptively simple, thickening the twigs
To frosty veins, bestowing epaulets
And decorations on every birch and aspen.
And the eye, self-satisfied, will be misled,
Thinking the puzzle solved, supposing at last
It can look forth and comprehend the world.
That's when you have to really watch yourself.
So I hope that you won't think me plain ungrateful
For not selecting one of your fine books,
And I take it very kindly that you came
And sat here and let me rattle on this way.


Sorry for the small font, (Hope I've fixed that now) and 
for my probably too serious mood this evening. 
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving all day, but I know holidays are not that 
great for everyone......

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Everyone arrived safely from Maryland last night and I’m about to return to Alice’s for dinner this evening. I was there earlier but everyone, grown-ups included, needed a nap this afternoon!

There isn’t much time to post anything before Thanksgiving, and who knows if there will be after, but I wanted to post something. I thought of Squanto whom I first learned about in grade school and who made such a big impression on my first and second grade self.

This is a copy of the book we used in Coffinberry Elementary School in the early 50s. I think a more colorful edition came out later which at least one of my brothers had, but this was ours.

Squanto was an Patuxant Indian who had perhaps a too exciting life. He was taken voluntarily to England when young, returned to the English colonies with the famous Captain John Smith, captured by an infamous Captain Thomas Hunt, who sold him as a slave in Malaga, Spain, and yet somehow was able to return to his original home with a better Captain a little before the pilgrims landed with the Mayflower.

But when he returned he discovered that every single person in his tribe had died of  some terrible unknown illness. He was the last Patuxant Indian alive.

Squanto lived with a nearby tribe and became friends with an Indian who interpreted for the English, Samoset. When the pilgrims landed, they set up their village in the very place where Squanto’s people had lived. Their first year was terrible. They came with 102 people and 51 died that first winter.  They had little food and were actually eating some of the seed that was supposed to help them plant their first crops. And they didn’t know how to farm in the much more difficult land on that coast.

Squanto, encouraged by Samoset, came to the pilgrims and showed them how to catch fish to use as fertilizer and how to catch eels to live. The idea of putting a dead fish into each hill of corn planted made a huge impression on me as a small child. I have a faint memory of putting a dead goldfish (we will not ask how it came to be dead) into the hole where I planted some zinnias one summer. At any rate, Squanto saved the pilgrims that year and helped them produce and hunt enough food to survive. He also helped them make a peace treaty with Chief Massosoit of the Wanpanoags. So he had everything to do with that first Thanksgiving in the Plymouth colony. Who knows how history would have turned out without his help? Not I.

I don’t know whether this story, a true one, is told in schools much anymore. I will ask my grandson this evening.


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We’re a bit short on ruined choirs around here, and some birds are still singing, but that world which a few days ago was still filled with the colorful glory of autumn is gone. We have a much more subtle beauty.

There is still a contrast with the evergreens, and a welcome color from hips, haws and crab apples.

But where once we had a thousand thousand shades of green, now we have a thousand thousand shades of brown and gray. The color in my life – even when the sun is shining – comes more from interior scenes, from art of various sorts and from playing with my grandchildren. ..

I’m still babysitting Stephen on Tuesdays when Alice volunteers at the school library, and he is often at my house with his mother.

Recently Nathan’s cub scout pack has been learning about and playing marbles and he was interested to hear that 58 (yes, that’s right) years ago I was a champion in the fourth grade marble tournament.  He wanted to play with me, so we had a match. I was pleased to still have a few of those skills. Andy came too and he and Nathan played as well. This is the exciting life we lead these days, though we’re all  involved in preparations for Thanksgiving when our Maryland branch of the family will be here for several days.

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Happy Birthday, Dear Papa!

My dear grandfather’s birthday was November 11th, 1892, and he was always very proud that WWI, that war to end all wars, ended on his 26th birthday. He was the sole support of his mother, wife and baby daughter (my mother) so he did not serve in the military, but his brother Axel did. I grew up knowing this, part of my sense of who I am.

I was adopted as a child and my first adopted father died when I was in Kindergarten and when I was seven my mother remarried. So I have five parents, and have been able to find out a lot of information about four of them.  I have two ancestors who fought in the the American Revolution,  one who fought in the War of 1812, on who fought in the Civil War, and two fathers who served in WWII, one as a flight instructor and one as a dentist in the Air Force.  I am not in favor of war, but sometimes it seems there is little choice. I honor all my military ancestors even as I hope that someday peace will prevail.

We used to call the two holidays that were days of remembrance for  our soldiers “Decoration Day” and “Armistice Day”, and now we call them “Memorial Day” and “Veteran’s Day”, but the intent is unchanged, to remember and honor those who have fought and often died protecting our country.

We had to memorize Major John McCrae’s  poem “In Flanders Fields” when I was in school and it is a good one to remember today. Major McCrae wrote this when a friend died in 1914, but he himself did not live to see that first Armistice Day. You may read more about him here:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

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