Friday, December 30, 2016

Farewell to the Pufferbelly

I first saw this building almost seventy years ago, when I arrived by train in Kent, Ohio, to attend Kent State University. I came here because of the reputation of the art department. At the time I lived in Springfield, Ohio, and no one down there had heard of Kent State, and I had never set foot in the town until I got off the train.  That trip was to become quite familiar over the next four years, years when the superhighways were non-existent, and railroads were standard settings for travel.
The building dates from the late 19th century and served the Erie Railroad system for many decades. My children and I traveled to Corning, N.Y.on that line to visit my sister, and on the trip back to Kent   on the very last trip of the Phoebe Snow, one of its finest Erie  trains. Kent was a railroad town employing many workers at the roundhouse and freight yards, and the car shops. All that ended by the 1970s, and the train station sat empty for many years, until the late 70s, when a group of railroad and history buffs decided to save it from the wrecking ball. They raised funds, volunteered their labor and gradually restored the building to its original beautiful red brick self. At some point the Kent Historical Society, which has spearheaded the restoration purchased it.
The ground floor waiting room and office. area was remodeled and turned into the Pufferbelly restaurant which opened in 1981 in time for the Christmas holidays. My children and I ate lunch there the first week it was open. It was beautifully decorated for Christmas. Suspended from the ceiling are an Amish buggy and a canoe, and during the holidays they are filled with brightly wrapped boxes, and there is a very tall Chtistmas tree with silver garlands and lights. One night there is a brass band playing carols, which while festive , makes conversation impossible.
I have had dinner there once a week for years with friends. I have had lunch there frequently with my lady friends. We celebrated my 80 th birthday there and when family members come to Kent, that's where we take them. It's not fancy, but the food is varied and good. We had our annual Christmas lunch there last week, and I had my last dinner there with friends last night. Tomorrow is the last day that the Pufferbelly will exist.
The Historical Society decided that they need more money, so they have tripled the rent, making it beyond the ability of the current tenant to continue. The new management will completely remake the interior, tearing out the different levels of seating. It will become an upscale Italian restaurant with white table cloths and valet parking. Shave many Italian eateries around here, mostly for Casual dining, so I assume this one will focus on different Italian regional cuisine to be unique.
I shall miss my Pufferbelly, with its charming host, experienced servers, antiques ( all of which are up for auction) old photos of 19th century Kent and special steam locomotives, the canoe and the buggy.
We are all sad about this.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Trying to be Jolly

The tree is not up, nor is the manger. We do have bayberry candles scenting the house, a wonderful aroma for the winter solstice. We are having a laid back holiday with a minimum f gift giving, for thre main reason that none of us has anything we particularly want or need. We are not gloomy. Polly is here from Provncetown, creating great meals and good company.
Last Friday a group of friends gathered here for an evening of carol singing, which is sways a joy, since these are people with good voices and good ears for four part harmony. We covered several centuries of old favorites. In the interest of saving ourselves from reperive boredom we only sang the last verse of The Twelve Days of Christmas. We didn't use any instruments this time, relying on the very best, the human voice. It was a lovely evening. John made delicious pumpkin pie
 Which he served with Beckwith's superb cider. Paulette brought a box of chocolates to enjoy.
I have several friends younger than I who have become grandparents this past year. They range in age from sixtyish, mid seventies and early aighties. The older ones have waited for years to achieve this status and are so filled with joy that it's fun  to see the pictures and hear the stories. This might be boring to some, but I find their happiness mitigates some of the prevalent gloom of the time. My granddaughters are now lovely young  women, so I know how quickly the time flies past, and how soon those grand babies will be grown. Fast away the old year passes.
Enjoy the now.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Fly-by Fall

So I suddenly realized that November is ending today and I have not written one post. The same thing happened in October. I had spent a lot of time dealing with itch mites from my pin oak tree and a broken foot. As a result I had nothing much to write about., not that my life is usually rife with exciting adventures.
The recent election has left me stunned and confused. I have, in past tears been greatly disappointed in the past with presidential election outcomes, but not feeling horrified, a much mote profound emotion. I read the opinion pieces in the newspapers every day. Rarely watch TV News, except for Friday night's Wahington Week. I have no "friends" on Facebook  or in real life who are Trump people. Many Conservative pundits in print seem as horrified as I am. I do live in a bubble here in this university community.
I hear about the many hard working  mostly white, mostly male blue collar folks who feel left out of the mainstream, but that doesn't seem to me to account for the outcome. It won't be the first time that people have voted against their own self interest.
Oldest daughter Polly was home for Thanksgiving which brightened up our lives here. She, too, lives in a bubble, in a New England town noted for its artists, poets, writers, actors and playwrights, and others who make their livings in the creative community. We had a lit of discussions about the election and one conclusion is that as a nation, we are a people with a serious lack of critical thinking skills. We claim to care about education, but we don't really. We call educated people the 'elite," a word formerly used to describe the wealthy and aristocratic. I'm not sure what the opposite label is - knuckle-drag gears? - but somehow "elite" doesn't have the right ring to it. I remember when the word "intellectual" was used to describe educated people, usually used by pres

Monday, October 31, 2016

Free At Last

The last time I posted, I had just broken my foot and had to wear an orthopedic shoe thing and keep my weight off it by using a walker. My house is not built for that appliance, but I managed to  clomp around.
On top of the break I also had been dealing with a Job-like affliction of itchy bumps from a plague of
itch mites from the large pin oak tree in my front yard. For some reason this year has been  a big  year
for these microscopic insects which can blow through screens. There is nothing you can do about them, and it is recommended that you shower frequently, wash your clothing every day and use anti- itch cream, pop Benadryl and NOT SCRATCH.
When the broken foot happened I could not do the shower and clothes because I was not able to manage the maneuvers necessary to accomplish those tasks. At about the same time as the foot injury, that same foot developed a nasty looking scratching induced wound on the instep.
So then I started a sojourn at the Wound Care Center in Streetsboro, up the road.  I was not supposed to get that foot wet, and told to insert it into a plastic bag if I could take a shower somehow.  Well, I found out that I was eligible, through your tax dollars at work, to have a home health care worker AND physical AND occupational therapiss come to my home and do some helpful things, like give me a shower and other needed things.
So I had to get nekkid in front of strangers, but I was clean, finally. ( Until that happened I had been showerless  for over two weeks.) The physical therapy was similar to stuff I had learned at the fall prevention program I went through last year. (So why did I fall? No idea.) I didn't need the OT.
Today I had my last visit with the orthopedic doc and was pronounced  healed, bone wise. In the afternoon, at the wound care place, I was pronounced healed of the wound on my instep, and got to ring this bell they have when you are whole again. No more walker. I can now take my own shower. I can sleep without having to wear the orthopedic Birkenstock which has all this Velcro on it so that you end up with your sheets twisted around you if you move your foot.
I can now fix my own coffee and carry it into the living room. I do not have to clump around the house with the walker, sounding like someone in a horror movie.
John does not have to fix my breakfast, leave a sandwich in the refrigerator and come home and fix dinner after a day's hard work. Sally does not have to haul me to various docs.
Life is better for now.
I also had better watch my step, dammit.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

My Left Foot

I broke my damn left foot. I broke it while falling in a graceful sort of spiral, my foot being the pivot point. I fell for no reason, other than geezerhood. My friend Carol had just pulled up in front of my house to take me to a poetry reading. Once John had hauled me to my feet, I limped out to her car, using my cane to counter the pain in my foot.
Once at The Last Exit Book Store, the site of the monthly gathering of local poets, I found a place with an extra chair on which to place my leg, thus elevating the foot. At this point I figured that I had merely twist d it. It didn't hurt. I had taken my poem about Dupree, which had won the grand prize
(of dog gear) in the WCLV Pet Poetry contest  several years ago, figuring that a prize winning piece would save me from the possible scorn of the other poets present, mostly., mostly Ernest young depressives. Actually this group is very accepting of all who attend.
I left at half time, figuring I had better come home and use an ice pack. Carol was willing to leave anyway, having read a number of her poems. Walking to the car was extremely painful. John helped me into the house, and I applied ice. It did not throb or hurt when I went to bed.
In the morning, when I got up it hurt like hell, so I decided I had better go to the ER and get an Xeay.
Our local hospital has been swallowed up by one of the mega-hospitals in Cleveland, and now goes by the awkward title of University Hospital Portage. County Medical Center.. They have instituted an ER service called InQuicker, which allows you, in non-life threatening medical cases, to book an appointment before you go so you won't sit in the waiting room for hours. It worked very well but there was nothing going on there anyway. I was in and out in an hour and a half. The radiologist even showed me the Xeay. That spiral fall fractured my third, fourth and fifth meta tarsals. A n
urse practitioner splinted the foot, and I was told to see an perhopedists as soon as possible.
I was told not to use any weight bearing activity on that foot. Hah! I am using my broken hip  walker and it is almost impossible not to use two feet to get to where I need To be, I could not get an
appointment until this coming Thursday, so I am staying off my feet as much as possible, except for staggering and dragging the walker to the bathroom. .
The NP said not to get the splint wet, and that I should keep my left leg out of the tub when I take a shower. Now, when you have an 89 year old person who lost  her balance for no reason, does it make sense that that person could manage to take a shower with one leg outside of the tub? Not gonna even try it.

Saturday, September 17, 2016


This  is my original tribe, the parents and siblings. The parents,  May and Sid , lived into their ninety first years and died two years apart. She had been one of the first female draftsmen during World War I, being hired right out of high school. There she met Sid, an intern engineer, right out of college. He was from Alabama, and she from Masachusetts, where they met. They were married over 65 years.
 There were five siblings,  born from 1923 to 1936. Three of them, the boys, were born in Atlanta, Georgia and two of them, the girls, were born in New Jersey. The girls are older than two of the boys. There was a bit of moving between these births. They all ended up in Ohio in 1940 and hated it for quite a while. The younger boys considered it their home first. Only one of the girls now lives in Ohio. The other girl lives in Nrw York state.  One of the boys lives in Oklahoma. Two of the boys have passed a way and are sorely missed. One had lived in Montana, the other in Ohio. Both of these boys were doctors, one a cardiologist, the other an orthopedic surgeon. The boy in Oklahoma is a =retired public relations/advertising professional. One of the girls is a singer/songwriter who has taken her music to many countries around the world and can be heard often on WCL Weekend  Radio syndicated  program. One if the girls is a retired prevention specialist for a mental health agency and an illustrator.
The five siblings have, between them,  produced twenty-six children. All of them have become grandparents, and two were great -grandparents, and one is about to become a great-grandparent soon.
The surviving siblings keep in touch through the Internet and telephone. Travel is not so easy as it once was, and FaceTime is a poor substitute. We've been scattered for many years, but always are able to connect through our shared past. 

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Visitors From Abroad

We just enjoyed a little over two weeks of having daughter Emily and granddaughter Elena (Ellie)  visiting from Germany. I had not seen Ellie for five years, and she is now an adult. Of course I've kept up with her on  FaceTime/book, but that's not the same as having her here in person. She's both lovely in appearance and bright, kind and thoughtful in personality. She is a certified Montessori teaching assistant in Munich, and hopes to get a degree in early childhood education. I think she knows more about children than I ever di even while bringing you all up. She wants to come to Kent State, and they spent some time there investigating options.
When Emily is home, so are half the people in Ohio. Well, not exactly, but it seems that way. David C. Barnett, who is Ellie's godfather and my son from another mother, was here several times, and Rich Warren, another son from another mother was here once, and they visited hum in Columbus, while also visiting a passel of Harper cousins.
There was also a day in Cleveland with a group of folks known as the Kaffe Klutsch, some former WCPN personnel, which puts together every year a Christmas CD. This CD has in the past included the Burnell Family Singers, the Petrou sisters, and presently, cousin Wille Walker, and the Corsini Brothers Trio. It is a not ready for  prime time effort, enjoyed mostly by its participants.
The weather was disgustingly dog breath, so not much cooking occurred. One of the first things Emily wanted to do was to go to Ray's Place, our favorite pub, with good eats. Emily and Ellie are vegetarians, who eat healthily back home, but had no problem downing Ray's great French fries and onion rings with their garden burgers. There were a couple of breakfasts out as well.
Since this is the corn on the cob season, we did brave the hot kitchen here at home to indulge in Ohio's finest golden treasure, along with Ohio ripe tomatoes.
We did end up once in a while with people sitting and staring at devices, clicking away texting. I don't text,  but I do get caught up in the FB vortex.
They left Thursday morning and we hated to see them go. As it does when you are with people you love, the time zipped by. The house is empty. However, as I write this post, Emily and I are having a conversation via messaging, something rather miraculous to one for whom long distance phone calls were so rare when I was a child with faraway grandparents whom I never really got to know. And they even lived in the same country as I did.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Family Business

These folks are a lilies over one-third of the Harper tribe. They are the children of my late brother Bill and his wife Eileen. They range in age from 52 to 65. Two of them live in Ohio, three of them live in Montana, and one of them lives in Alaska and Montana. Between the six of them they have fifteen children, most of whom I have met at least once. Three of them have grandchildren, none  of whom I have met.
One is a former writer and editor who recently retired as the assistant to the president of a state university. One is a nurse-practioner specializing in oncology. One is a surgeon still in private practice. One is an accountant for an insurance company, while also rearing three grandchildren. One is a TV producer whose hobby is climbing very tall trees. One started out as a theater arts professional who worked with Stephen Sondheim on the  original production of "Into the Woods" on Broadway, taught scenic design at a small college for a while, and, deciding to get a real job, went back to school and is now a nurse.
I do not see them often in person. I keep up with those who are on Facebook, enjoying photos of their families. They have all the best qualities of their parents, good looks, intelligence, generosity of spirit, and wit. They also are very close to each other, friends for life, which is the way families should be, but often are not. I am very glad to be one of their aunts.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

Stuck in July

This will be a short post. We are into the third week of dog breath weather, the kind that saps my energy and causes me to lose the will to go on. I am not a field hand, or a road worker, so I feel a bit guilty for complaining. I have air conditioning. That's one of the problems, actually. They are window units, which make me feel closed in. I long for cool, fresh, real air.
I know it can't last much longer. We have had much worse summers. I remember eating the evening meal in the playroom in the basement. I remember days of over 90 degrees.  It feels right now as the the humidity is one hundred percent. I think all of this is because I am old and less tolerant.
I've distracted myself with old movies and the political conventions, but that was not a very pleasant distraction those political celebrations of themselves, and the results in one case are disturbing.
August is on the way and that means cooler weather, so I shall survive.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016


This is a portrait of my nephew, Luke Walker. I first saw it in the Arnot Art Museum in Elmira, to which my sister took me to see it. It is by Thomas Beuchner, a New York state painter. I bought a museum catalog so I could keep a copy of this very fine portrait. I didn't see Luke at this age, and the last time I had seen him, he had been a little blond boy of seven. Our families lived 300 miles apart, and in those days when my sister and I were raising kids (her 8 in western New York and my 4 in northeastern Ohio) we didn't do much visiting.
Barely two weeks ago, Luke died as a result of an accident in his workshop in Rhode Island. An expert craftsman, a machinist, an artist, a carpenter, a restorer of antique motorcycles and airplanes, a biker, a pilot, a multi talented  man.
He had met his wife Bess at Rochester Institute of Technology some 30 years ago. They had settled in Rhode Island, in the Newport area, Bess as a seamstress and decorator, Luke as an all around genius at all of the above. They were a very important part of the community and their work was and is very much in demand. Twenty two years ago their daughter Jackie was born, now a beautiful and gifted horsewoman.
That little blond boy I knew all those years ago had impressed our family even then. It's become a family story that foretold what he would become. While we were visiting, one of the children found a dea bird  in the back yard. Luke disappeared into the basement. An hour or so later he returned with a little wooden box he had built as a coffin for that bird. If you don't know woodworking, a box is one  of the hardest things to make, requiring precise measurements and the ability to cut and join the pieces correctly. As I said, he was seven.
One of his older brothers told me that he and the others in the family called Luke whenever they had a problem with a project, for advice and he was always right on it, and knew exactly what needed to be done.
Three years ago, Luke was in a terrible accident. A woman turned left in front of him as he was on his motorcycle. He was very badly injured, and suffered the partial loss of one of his legs and a traumatic brain injury. He fought very hard to recover, with the help and love of Bess and family. It was an epic struggle, and he was strong. He took up painting and ceramics and developed his artistic side.
The last time I talked with him was last year, when he called me on my birthday. He always kept track of birthdays.
Part of a large, close family, Luke's death leaves a huge gap that there's no way to fill, but everyone treasures the impact he had on each life he touched. The world needs people like Luke, makers and restorers of beautiful things, now lasting objects of his life's work. And that's a good thing.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Old Hands

i used to have rather nice hands. I had rather nice feet, too, not that I paid much attention to my appendages other than keeping them relatively clean, considering the sorts of things they were up to. I spent a lot of my childhood barefoot. I delighted in my prehensile toed feet, with which I could, until the past few years, pick up almost anything. I treated my feet to nice shoes, owning more than I actually needed, a trait that has been inherited by a couple of my daughters.) I can still pick up a few things, but my toes on one foot are crooked, and I have shoes I can't get into now.
But back to the hands.They are showing the favages of the years I have accumulated. They  are gnarled. The joints are swollen. They are claw-like. It would be nice if contemporary old ladiies wore those lacy mitts one sees in movies made from Jane Austin novels. I can do without the bonnets and caps of that era, but those little y mitts would cover a multitude of bumpy knuckles.
Not only are my hands misshapen, but they won't do things I need to do in an average day. Doorknobs are hard to turn. Pull tabs are impossible to pull. Ubiquitous plastic lids are resistant. For jar lids I have a gadget that helps, but as my hands weaken, even that gizmo has become harder to use. Buttoning a shirt takes a while, so I tend to pre-button them to save time and slip them over my head.
These things have a tendency to sneak up on you. What was easy last year is not so easy this year. So you keep on anyway, and adjust , and hand jars and yogurt containers to someone else if they're handy. If no one is available, you can just eat an apple.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Happy Fourth and Then Some

In my family the Fourth of July was not just the day to celebrate the Declaration of Independence and the beginning of  the United States of America. It was also the birthday of my sister, Mary Lucille, or Merry Old Seal as one of our great nieces called her.  For the last seventy some years she has been known as Mary Lu, the shortened version which her siblings don't use.
This year, she will celebrate her 90 th birthday, an age she neither looks nor sounds like. She has always been quite a beautiful woman and still is. She will deny this but the description fits.
After giving birth to eight children all now extraordinary adults, she learned to play the guitar at about the same time as churches began to use the folk music genre. She  decided that there were no suitable songs of that type for children.  She had always been musical, but without any formal training, but she started writing songs about the kinds of things that were important for children to learn about, things like friendship, kindness, peace, sharing, all those positive  aspects of human behavior that enhance life. They were not preachy, the tunes were simple and easy to learn, and could fit into church or school or home. Word spread about this music and soon she was maKing recordings, traveling around to conferences and presenting workshops on how to use song with children.
One of her most popular recordings grew from her life as the mother of a large family. It's called "Middle Age, Middle Class Mama Songs." I've always thought of it as an Erma Bombeck song book. It's funny, moving, and very true. She wrote further humorous songs, and songs about nature, the environment, and frustrations of the computer age. She's written songs about peanut butter, fire flies and dandelions. She's written songs for all of her grandchildren, specific to each one. She has brought a lot of joy and laughter with her music.
So this weekend, her children and their children are gathering in Corning to celebrate a life well lived and  their remarkable mother. And it's great to have her as a sister whom I dearly love.

Monday, June 27, 2016

June Is Bustin' Out All Over

Well, actually it's just about all over. It has been a busy month in the world, not so much here on Edgewood Drive. It's not that it's been excessively hot, except for yesterday and today. It's more that there's so much going on in the world,  the election, the NBA  win by the Cav's, the Brexit. One's mind becomes dazed by it all.
Last week this area celebrated Cleveland's first big sports win in 52  years, led by a local kid from Akron. I watched the snail-like parade, but the big payoff was watching the local hero making  his speech on live TV, peppering his oration with a couple of f-bombs and other words made famous by George Carlin's monologue on the seven words you can't say on TV. But  Lebron used about half of them and nobody  really gave a s-**t. A rather crestfallen group of Channel 5 reporters, trying not to laugh, did later offer an apology for the "offensive language.
There were a little more than one million people at that parade in Cleveland, which it's now preparing itself for the gloom and doom of the Republican National Convention. The city had pledged to raise 5 million bucks for the RNC, but for some strange reason, the presumptive donors are sitting on their Swiss bank accounts, revealing a reluctance to support one of their fellow billionaires who is running for the major office, alas. The city has spent already a ton of money sprucing up the place, building hotels, widening roads, etc. Even  Akron is getting into the act, with several new hotels available, since it's only about 30 minutes from downtown Cleveland. Our friend David from the Cleveland NPR station works about 3 blocks from the convention venue, but I don't think he'll be covering it, since his beat is the arts. Maybe though; isn't there a book called "The Art of the Deal" by one of the candidates?
Brexit has stirred up the proverbial hornets' nest. My granddaughter, Katina, is a student at a British university, and although she was born in Germany and has lived there all her life, she is not, and cannot be a German citizen. She has to pay the full out- of-country fees. She recently acquired a Cypriot passport, which gives her status as an EU citizen ( her grandfather was from Cyprus)' but now that won't count. In the large scheme of things, that's not that serious. I gather from my British friends that it  is the high number of immigrants who have come  to England, causing a burden on the National Health, jobs, housing and schools. Sounds a lot like Trumptalk to me. England is not in Europe anyway, they say, so my third grade geography teacher was so wrong. As a matter of fac when I was in the third grade, the world globe in the classroom had about a gazillion pink countries all over it, all part of the great British Empire. Alas, those days of glory are long gone, even though
some of the damage lingers on.
So June has zipped by while I ponder these large issues. I think I'll go have some fruit.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Hare

A couple of weeks ago on BBC Radio4 the book f the week was "The Running Hare," by John Lewis Stempel, an English farmer and author. Like most British writers about nature, his use of language and imagery takes you right there. This book is about his wish to develop a field where hares would settle. He leased a little over two acres of land a few miles from his own farm. His plan was to sow a wheat field interspersed with a wide variety of native species of wildflowers of many colors. (Along the way he tells us how the cornflower got its name. It seems that centuries ago the seeds got mixed in with corn seeds and bloomed along with the growing corn.)
He starts his field in the very early spring, and  describes  the process of the plowing and sowing and waiting for the hares to show up, the first being a female, which he calls a Jill. Before long, there are several pairs, and then the leverettes, the babies. He takes the reader through the seasons of the year, with the colors, the feel of the sun and the air and the scents, it is just a very fine and lovely experience to share.When asked how one becomes proficient as a nature writer. his advice is to go outside and sit in it.
Hares are related to rabbits, but have much longer and larger ears and very strong hindquarters. The first time I saw hares close up was a rather macabre experience. I was in the large central market in Florence. It was around Christmas  time and the place was a sensory feast. Strolling along enjoying the sights and sounds, I found myself suddenly confronting a counter lined with giant hares, skinned except for their furry heads. Their dead eyes were the size and color of purple plums. I could not unsee this sight. European butcher shops do not put things in little plastic packages. They know what they are eating, Inguess.
I have had rabbit before. When I was a senior in college a couple of my friends had gotten married and invited me for dinner frequently. One was of German descent. Her father would trap rabbits in his yard in Cleveland Heights and my friend Nancy would make hasenpfeffer, crumbling ginger snaps into the gravy. When she got the rabbits,  her father had already cut them up like chicken, so I never had to see a rabbit looking like the Italian hares in the Italian market with their furry little heads on.
My other married friend was from Vienna, and I learned never to ask her what the meat was. She had told me that where she was from they used every part of the animal possible. We never had rabbit there, though.
The next time I saw hares was from a distance, and was a much more pleasant experience. Emily and I were returning on the train to Erding after a day in Munich. It was late afternoon and I noticed what looked like a couple of dogs running through a field. Then I realized they were leaping, and had very long ears sticking up, and they were hares, alive and well  and enjoying a frolic. I was amazed at the size of them.
They may have eventually ended up in ginger snap infused gravy, but for that late afternoon life was good. The hares running in Stempel's two acre flower filled wheat field no doubt looked the same.

Saturday, May 14, 2016


See that car? I have a long story about it, so get a cup of coffee. Or a shot of bourbon and settle down.
Several months ago, the Akron Beacon Journal published an article about an area man and his first car, a 1929 Model A Ford woodie. The man's name is Kirk. When he was in his teens he worked on a farm up near Lake Erie, where his parents had a summer home. He and  another teenage  boy discovered in a shed on the farm a decrepit  station wagon, with no tires, with the middle and back seats removed so it could be used to haul hay. They were intrigued, and asked the farmer if they could have it. Neither boy had a driver's license yet, but like most boys that age, they knew how to drive. The farmer let them have it, figuring they probably couldn't get it running anyway.
They scrounged around the area junk shops, finding parts they needed and soon had it running, loving every minute. They named her Genevieve. They bounced around in the fields on the tire deprived
rims most  of the summer. Somehow they managed later to find tires for it.
The older boy, Kirk, graduated from high school and enlisted in the Navy. It was 1945, and the second world war was still on. The younger boy took the car back to his hometown fifty miles south of the farm. He painted it gray.
When Kirk got out of the navy, after the war, he looked up his friend and bought the car back.  He was on his way to Cornell University, and painted it red and white, the school colors. He used it all the way through college, and finally sold it after he married. He lost  track of both the car and his fellow farm worker.
A few years ago, he tracked down Genevieve, I believe through the Ford Model A Club, and has restored her in all her glory, as shown in the above  photo.
This story was what I read in the paper. Since it was about boys who were now my own age, I  related to it, and loved their ingenuity and those days of the past, when my older brother Bill and his friends
I'm had fixed up an old Midel T Ford when they were in high school. Cars and boys!
Two days after the story was in the paper, my friend Cynthia Lynn, who helps me by driving me here and there, picked me up from a doctor's appointment. She started telling me about a conversation she had recently had with her mother. She had asked her about when she had started dating her father. Her mother said that she was fourteen and he used to come by her house in his old woodie Genevieve.
"Yeah he had this old woodie and he''d take her out for ice cream and.."
"Wait a minute, a woodie named Genevieve?" I told her about the article. Neither she nor her family get the Akron paper, so I knew she  had no idea about the article. I knew her family had for generations summered up by Lake Erie. Also the article had said that the younger by had taken
The car to Warren, where her father had grown up.
When we got to my house I rushed in to show her the article, but, alas, it had already gone to the
recycling truck the day before. I did show her the online article, and she was sure it was the same
Genevieve her father had talked about, as well as the farm work he had done during his teen years. At this point, her parents were at their winter home in Florida. I told her to give me her father''s phone number, and that I would  e-mail the reporter who had written the article to  give it to Kirk.
Cynthia's father is one of those active, athletic men who love to hunt, fish, play tennis and perform other manly tasks. However, of late he has suffered a number of debilitating health problems which have caused depression and discouragement about having to limit himself. Cynthia called me a couple of days after the revelation  about Genevieve to tell me that Kirk had called her father, that Kirk told him he'd been trying to find him for over 70 years, and that as soon as Bob and his wife were back in Ohio, they were going to get together and take a ride in Genevieve.The effect on Bob Lynn has been a complete turnaround and given him a new lease on life.They have talked a number of times since that first phone call, and Kirk has invited Cynthia and her sister Judy to dinner and kept in touch.
I contacted the reporter again to give her an update on this remarkable result of her original story, which she did, being very much pleased at such a positive outcome for these two octogenarian men.
Last night I was invited to dinner with Cynthia by Kirk and his wife Do't at the posh retirement community where they live in Hudson. In front of their house sat Genevieve, gleaming in the late afternoon sun. We drove in it to the dining hall in style.
i felt a little guilty riding in it before the Lynns get to.
The horn goes "Ah-yooogah

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Comeuppance and Schadenfreude

I did this drawing for a post I wrote in 2012, when it was obvious that the GOP was losing its collective mind. The party seemed in thrall to the wackier elements of the Tea Party, focusing on Obama's birthplace, fans of Fox News, denying evolution and climate change,  disparaging Europe, favoring fundamentalist religiosity and other extreme right wingism issues, all with an undercurrent of anger at the way things were in the country ( which some of us interpreted as fury over the fact that the president does not look like them.) Mitt Romney, who had been a moderate Republican governor of Massachusetts, bought into this wackiness and lost  the presidential election.
Now the Republican primary  voters, angry white men mostly, have reclaimed much of that 2012 dogma, opting to support a demagogue who is about as prepared to lead the country as any of them are. The GOP has been breeding these folks, adding fear to the mix, and now they're up the proverbial creek. This should make me happy, but it's a very sad situation. We've gotten so far away from any kind of intelligent discourse in this country, or, apparently have a serious lack of informed voters, that despair seems the only possible response.
The GOP convention is about thirty miles up the road from where I live. I guess the bars during the week will be full of morose Republicans hoping for some dues ex  machina to rescue them. Maybe the Cuyahoga River will catch fire again and distract the delegates or catch the billionare's hair on fire as happened to Mayor Perk  many years ago. Without that hair  he's even less than nothing.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Lead in the Head

I think there is now much evidence that the terrible situation in Flint, Muchigan is not confined to that beleaguered locale.  Increasingly, there is evidence of severe brain damage on a national scale. How else to explain the clear madness affecting voters in so many states during this primary season?
There can be no doubt that the lead contamination has affected the water supply across the country. In state after state, voters have gone to the polls and chosen as a nominee for president a person with the mentality and behavior of a thirteen year old boy.
Apparently the poison in the water has caused these people to imagine that this whole system of choosing a president is like that old "Let's Make a Deal," TV show where people put on ridiculous costumes and props to get on the show. Ever since men like Nixon and George W. Bush were elected to second terms, I have not had much trust in the American voter, but this time it seems downright hopeless. I know that there are those who switched parties during the primaries, either to give the Demicratic nominee a clear chance to win the general election, or to thwart the Big Orange Face's victory, but I think that strategy may backfire, and one hates to see the gloating and bragging that happens with every primary victory he bags.
So check your water supply. Buy the bottled stuff. Clear your brain.
Or just don't drink the water.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Being Socially Responsible

I have joined the Socially Responsible Sweatshop, a group of women who do good things in a basement. Well, it's not just any basement. It's in the beautiful home of my friend Carol. There is even a fireplac, comfortable couches and chairs and about 8 or 9 sewing machines. The group consists of women from the Universalist  Unitarian church and the year -round Kent Farmers' Market. The purpose of this group is to proved funds for those who use food stamps, by adding access to fresh produce and helping them to stretch their food budgets.
How they do this is so ingenious and practical and fun that the sweatshop moniker doesn't really apply in reality. They make yoga bags, pillows and meditation cushions. Kent is a big yoga town, with a number of studios,which are happy to purchase these goods. The materials are recycled from numerous sources (including the occasional dumpster). For instance, Goodwill sells silk scraps by the pound. At my first session, my job, since I can't sew these days, was to go through a big box of these beautiful  scraps and lay them out flat into neat piles which then went to whoever was ironing that day. These particular scraps will be made into smooth and lovely eye pads for yoga people. I think they're filled with soothing herbs or something. Om.
A woman next to me was cutting strips from tee shirts, which were then used to stuff the meditation cushions. I reckon those are what a yoga person sits on to chant and think beautiful thoughts.The women on the sewing machines were making bright and colorful yoga bags and the cushion covers. Altogether, there were fourteen of us.
A little after noon, we went upstairs for lunch, prepared by Mara, who loves to cook, and had a terrific lunch, with real lemonade, not the frozen stuff. We sat at two tables and ate and talked. I only knew two or three of the people, but it was easy to feel at home with all of them. Some of them are rather earnest and serious about the mission, but that doesn't get in the way of the general feeling camaraderie.
We had a man show up, Brad Bolton,  whom Carol had invited to come and observe the action.My family may remember Brad as the musician who played the turkey baster at my 80th birthday party. He's also one of the best guitarists in Northeast Ohio and a fine photographer. He didn't bring his guitar, but he did take a slew of photos and was very impressed.
I was also impressed, and look forward to the next meeting. Carol said maybe I can stuff some catnip mice, a little product they make to sell at the farmers' market. Sounds like a plan to me.

The picture is of the woods last week, after we'd had a few warm days.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

The Granddawg

I have written about a couple of cats, so now I must write about Polly's magnificent pooch, Petey. He is part standard poodle and part Southern hound, which is not a breed, but seems to describe one of his  parents. I only know Petey through pictures, videos, and the words of Polly. She did not mean to get a large dog, but the shelter told her that he was just the dog for her. He was about six months old when she got him, and was a big puppy. I think he looks quite beautiful. All of her friends love him, too  take care of him when she comes to Ohio to visit our cat dominated home.
His godfather is one of Polly's friends, who I think would like to steal Petey. His name is Paul Lisicky, and he was just awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship literary award. His latest book, a memoir  titled "The Narrow Door" has received glowing reviews from all the top lit critics everywhere. (He is one of the dog sitters, and has taken some very cool photos, including the one below, which shows off Petey's greyhound-like legs. This relationship makes Petey an obscure connection to fame, of course.)
When a portrait of Petey was posted on Facebook, my favorite comment was that he had a sincere face.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Izzy Petrou

I have to show off another great-grand cat, which I have never met in person. She is the first cat in the Petrou family since the tragic demise of the late, great Mookie. He lived to be quite old, so the girls had never had a kitten when they were small, since Mookie came before them. He was a beautiful Maine Coon cat, about the size of  a VW Beetle, almost.
So, basically, Izzy was greeted with the joy only an adorable kitten can engender. I have pictures of her cute kitten antics, one of which was a kind of skittering crab walk, where she hopped sideways on all fours. It was a much admired talent. She was probably smothered by the Mookie-bereft family, which had been catless for several years. I remember visiting when he was old and the girls were young, and their asking if they could get a gerbil when he died. They weren't being heartless; they just wanted something little, I think. Anyway, Izzy filled the need very well.
Since the arrival of Francine, I hear that she has become a bit distant, obviously feeling betrayed by he former adoring humans, and spends a lot of time outside. She does not like Francine the usurper. I find this unusual. Sixto has adopted a cute fluffy gray neighbor cat, with which he frolics out in the yard. And Dupree and Herman, the constant tiger interloper slept side by side on the back of our couch, which was Dupree's spot, like Sheldon's. Maybe it's because Izzy and Francine aren't into sharing space or humans. As I mentioned before, girl cats are different.

Drawing Class

We finished Susan Shie's online drawing class last week. This was the second class I took this winter, and it was so enjoyable, mainly because of the quality of the students. They were talented, creative and witty.
These classes are not instructional; that is, Susan doesn't tell you how to draw, or critique your work. She does some videos demonstrating how she goes about her own work, as well as showing different media. We have specific assignments, specific as to topic, but allowing each student to develop her own interpretation of that topic. Aside from these assignments, there are various "Special Eventsr,"  which arise as things that may dominate the media. One can choose to participate or not in these events. My previous drawing of Emma was related to the death of Harper Lee.
We have a private Facebook page,  available only to the students in each class, where we make our own albums and add our drawings. You can see everyone's work and comment on it. Everyone is supportive and encouraging, so that creates an atmosphere in which you can experiment and have fun. Participants are from all over the country, and occasionally from Europe.
The above drawing was my response to the assignment called "Blues." I thought of the Blue Man Group, while most of the others did musicians. It all worked, of course.
I'm going to take a break, but will get back to the class later. They run for four weeks, and are offered frequently. It helps to keep me from my IPad addiction. Almost.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Francine Petrou

I have two great-grand cats who live in Germany. I have never met them, but there are photos emailed or on Facebook from time to time. One is pictured on this post. Her name is Francine. The other is named Izzy, and I'll write about her another time.
I did the painting above about three or four years ago. It is from a photo taken by Elena, one of my granddaughters, who is a very good photographer. I loved the colors in the photo, especially the twilight blue outside the window, the bright red chair, the dark red wine and the general yellow glow of the whole thing. It was very Gabrielle  Munter.
Like most cats in our family, Francine is loved and spoiled. We are cat crazies, all of us. We like dogs, too, but appreciate the feline ability to take care of themselves better than canines do. Ours have always been people oriented and not  aloof, although females do seem to have that attitude more than males. (As I type this, there's a sleeping cat curled up on my lap.)
Francine is a tortoise shell cat, prefers the indoors to outside, is a little plump, and loves to do cute
poses on the stairs, which requires caution on the part of the humans who live with her. She and Izzy do not get along. These things I only know from hearsay.
The picture below is another, quite recent photo by Ellie, who was trying to read at the time. I was struck by the similarity of her face to the look in the earlier photo. She gives one a straightforward look, confident, and in charge of the moment, a sense of entitlement.
Cats! What good are they?

Friday, March 25, 2016

Maple Syrup Time

This past Sunday was the last pancake breakfast day this year. Because Lent was so early this year, there were only three Sunday's available before Easter. The fish fry Frudays had the same problem. We only got to one of each this year. Both are down home, community doings  in very small local villages, with people coming from far and wide to experience that Norman Rockwell ambience. (I've written previous posts about both in the past, including one fish fry during which I managed to break my left hip.i proceed cautiously at such events these days.)
The Shalersville pancake breakfast is presided over by Mrs.  Goodall, a slow art 90 something retired teacher, newspaper columnist and doyenne of Goodell Maple Orchard and farm. She is quite tall and motions people to their seats. Young students attend the tables, filling coffe cupe, offering refills on pancakes and sausage. Everything runs like clockwork, but there is never a feeling of being rushed.
It is a thoroughly satisfying experience.
The fish fry is held in a little town called St. Joseph, founded in the late 19th century by German Catholics. There's a scattering of houses and farms surrounding an umpressuvely large church and school. The dinners are held in the huge gym, which is filled with crowds of fish lovers, served by  dozens of elementary school students. Again, it is extremely efficient, and the food is excellent  - cod, shrimp, Mac and cheese, green beans, potatoes baked or fried, slaw and homemade desserts. No seconds, but you don't need anything else.
Well, both these events are over for the year, but we still have a couple of church spaghetti dinners left. One must eat, after all.

Monday, February 29, 2016

A Memory

In our online drawing class, we were asked to do a piece in homage to the late Harper Lee. One reason I loved "To Kill a Mockingbird" is that it is so evocative of my own childhood, which was during the same period as that in the book. In this picture, I am 9 years old. It is 1936 and we are in Atlanta, Georgia. The other person is Emma, and she is in her 70s, and was born into slavery around the time of the Civil War This did not seem remarkable to me, because in the South in those days, that war was about two weeks ago.
I am reading Emma's favorite comic strip in the Atlanta Journal. The strip is about a young woman named Pam, whom Emma calls "Pom." I am reading to her because she has forgotten her glasses, which happens every day. When I asked my mother about  this, she said that Emma probably could not read, but that I was not to say anything to her about this, ever.
Emma came to work after my mother gave birth to her fifth child, who was born about 18 months after the fourth one. Emma did the washing and ironing, and once in a while, the cooking. She made fried bread, and cooked greens in salt pork, and insisted that I drink the "pot likker" a bit of folk wisdom in that that's where all the vitamins ended up. I was the skinniest shie'd she'd ever seen and needed fattening up.
The only clue I ever had about her history was that during the Halloween season she was frightened by people wearing masks, which she called "dough faces," and also by kids wearing sheets to play ghosts. She told my mother that it all reminded her of the night riders, those terrorists who rode into Black settlements, torching cabins and burning churches.
It wasn't until many years later, when I read "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman," a fictional, but well-researched account of a woman born about the same time as Emma, who lived through  those awful times, and lived long enough to vote in her nineties. (It was made into a terrific TV movie with the magnificent Cicely Tyson.)  I immediately thought of Emma, and wondered if that gentle old lady had lived long enough to vote. I wondered if she had gone through some of the trials Miss Pittman had endured, especially as a child and young woman. Something had helped her survive into her seventies, still strong enough to go to work every day. I would never have thought to ask her about her life, which would have been rude, but I wish I knew more about her. 

Friday, February 19, 2016

The View From the Throne

I strive not to be indelicate. However, this post nay be considered thus.
Sixto loves the bathroom. When John takes his shower, he is joined by the black cat, who strolls around the rim of the tub between the curtains. If the door is closed before he hears the running water, he sits at the door and demands entry.
When I go in to, uh, use the facility, he comes running in, throws himself flat on the floor in front of my feet and stretches out on his back, requesting a belly rub. I have never had a cat that interested in that particular human activity, or assuming that I cannot function without him.
'Tis  a puzzlement. He has no respect for privacy.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Romantic Me

When my favorite radio station, WCLV, the best classical music venue, goes into its fund raising mode, I send in my contribution and then switch to WQXR until the money talk is  over. This usually lasts about a week. WQXR had previously asked listeners to send in their most romantic classical music choices. The top twelve were played yesterday in celebration of Valentine's Day.
It was a trip down memory lane to my adolescence and my obsession for the Romantic era  of music, and it's still beautiful to hear,  the old favorites, plus some I didn't discover until I was older.
My young choices, things I heard on the radio, which in those days had many classical music programs, and of which I bought those heavy 78 rpm albums  or singles were what I heard yesterday: Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet Overture," Debussy's "Clair de Lune," Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," liszt's "Liebenstraum," and Rachmaninov's Second Piano Concero. That last was also the soundtrack to one of the most romantic ( and saddest) movies ever made, "Brief Encouner."
A little later came the Liebestod from "Tristan and Isolde," the love/ death aria of their tragic love story. Somehow love and death were very appealing concepts to me.
Another on the list, which came into my life later, was that gorgeous second movement of Mozart's Piano Cocerto 21, which  became known for its use in the movie "Elvira Madigan," a story of two beautiful young lovers who end up committing suicide....more love/death themed associations. By the time I saw that movie I was pretty much over with that obsession, but I do love that piece.
Another one on the list that I discovered about twenty years ago was the adagio movement from Mahler's 5th Symphony, which is probably the most gorgeous piece of music ever written. It was used as the soundtrack to "Death in Venice," so there you are again.
As soon as I heard this program yesterday, I flashed back to that skinny adolescent sitting by the record pkayer, which one had to do in those says if you didn't have a record changer, so you could flip the record or  put the next one on as quickly as you could in order not to break the mood. TodAy, you have access to almost every piece of music ever composed with a tap of a finger on a device you can carry with you. Today's young people are probably a lot less inclined toward the old fashioned romantic fantasies of my era. I think I would be labeled "emo" today. Whatever. It was a rich phase to me

Monday, February 1, 2016

Iowa. What Good Is It?

It is still early in the day. I do not know what portends. A couple of weeks ago, on "The Good Wife," they only did the Democrat side, and  Hilary came in first, and Chris Noth, the raftink husband, came in last, thus dashing his hopes for the presidency.
I am already sick of the whole thing, tired of the media fascination with the Big Jerk, and worried about the state of intelligence in this country.
This is the last drawing of the online drawing class and it was fun drawing all those red faced, angry white men promoting their guy, aiming to vote against their own self-interest. Since the "American Dream" seems to be mainly about getting rich, I guess they think some of his wealth will somehow rub off on them. Oy!
I included a Miss Universe on the Far Right side. She only wants World Peace.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

My Stove

I mentioned that my next drawing for the online drawing class was to be of my stove. Susan likes to choose quirky subjects for this class which is part of the fun. Last Sunday morning we decided to watch CBS Sunday Morhing, which we don't usually do. It happened to feature a piece on an artist I was not familiar with. It was Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, and I loved his work. He was a contemporary of Gabrielle Muntet, the German Expressionist I discovered some years ago in Munich, whose work inspired me in doing my Amish paintings. I decided to use that for the stove drawing, using oil pastels. It went very fast and was most enjoyable. We have to use a huge (11x 14) sketchbook, double spread (22x44) and cover every inch. I'm used to working small, so I have found that a bit daunting, but this one was relatively easy.
Today I went to see '"Turandot," another opera with one good aria-"Nessum  dorma." Unfortunately, the tenor who sang it sucked. The production was lavish and gorgeous. Cecil B. DeMille would have been jealous. The production was designed years ago by Franco Zeferelli, who also did the over the top but beautiful "La Boheme." Less is more does not apply to some of these productions at the Met, although there was an interview today about the new production of h"Mamon Lescaut" coming up, which will be presented as a 1940s film noir, with a rather stark looking set. They are working hard to get new and younger audiences , rather than us geezers, who totter in to hear old favorites. Polly saw "Turandot" at the Met last week and saw quite a few younger folks there, so they are on the right track. Maybe they'll tackle "Tommy" some day.

Friday, January 22, 2016

It's a Cold, Cruel World

Well, not really, since I have a working furnace and warm clothing. That title was inspired by looking out the window, where all is black, white and mainly gray. We have gotten a little sun now and then to keep us from S.A.D. However , the unsanitary going on in the political arena no doubt has made many people sad, wondering what's happening to those voters being polled who persist in following a total nut job, recently endorsed by the clown princess of nut jobs. Perhaps there has actually been an alien invasion, kept silent by the billions of dollars owned by King Nut, who claims to have great powers (cue Twilight Zone theme).
I am distracting myself by taking the fabulous Susan Shie's online drawing class, which is a sort of free form " express yourself" class. We do have assignments each week and special event  projects, that may involve the State of the Union address (our impressions of) or the Golden Glibe Awards
(our impressions of) or MLK 's birthday (our impressions of). It's a lively and fun thing to do, especially in the drab days of winter in Northeast Ohio. The above illustration is my impression of the late David Bowie as Ziggy Stardust, who I figured would want to meet VanGogh, somewhere amongst the starry skies over Arles. Thus week's assignment is to draw an impression of our kitchen stove, my least favorite appliance. This may sound strange, but the idea is to challenge oneself, and the results in the class are always original and imaginative. Lots o' fun.
My movie going has been sparse, mostly by choice. Not much appeals to me. I have seen a few of the nominees, found them enjoyable, but not great. Two were clones of "All the President's Men," namely " The Big Short," and "Spotlight." The latter will probably get the award, even though it is full f white people, as were all the nominated films. Hmmmm.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


I enjoy the phenomenon of dreaming. I know there are those who study this area and interpret meanings, and make claims about all sorts of issues connected with dreams. Freud and Jung made a big deal out of them. Gamblers, the kind who play the Numbers or the lottery, buy dream books, which are supposed to predict wins if you dream about certain things. In our family, we like to talk about them.
When all of my children were living at home, we tended to have similar dreams at the same time. Maybe it was from moon phases, or season changes. I particularly remember  once when we all had  dreams about soft, swishy things, like cushions, rubber toys, and fat pink snakes, when we all happened to have fevers. God knows what Jung would have made of that one.
I have dream versions of familiar places. In my dreams, everything is bigger than life. The buildings at my dream Kent State are the ones I knew as a student, only on a gigantic scale, with ceilings so high you can barely see them. I am usually looking for a bathroom in one of those vast halls and when I find one, it's usually a lone toilet in the middle of a public space. That has absolutely no relationship to an
ything I ever experienced there. In fact there was one women's rest room in Kent Hall that had great acoustics, and was a great place to harmonize in. Of course, campus dreams bring up the one where I go to take a final exam and discover I never attended class. That happened again last night, which is probably why I am writing about dreaming.
I also dreamed this dog ( see illustration); in fact there were two of them on leashes held by an old man. They were very small and had human-ish eyes. I asked the old man what kind they were, bur I don't remember the answer. They were very stylized, looking as if they were made of china, bur weren't. I happened at the time to be looking for two other dogs, one large and one very, very small, both of which  were made of pencil sketches. Really.
My dreams are usually fragmented, but there are some people, like my friend Nancy, whose dreams have comprehensive, if surrealistic, plots. Maybe that's a sign of a sound sleeper, or a more organized psyche. The brain is a complex and wondrous  thing, and dreams must lurk in all those folds and creases, triggered by who knows what. As Scrooge suggested, perhaps a bit of undigested meat, or a
dab of mustard.
Anyway, I don't interpret;  I just enjoy the weirdness of it all.

Saturday, January 2, 2016

A New Year Begins

I have never cared much for the  actual holiday of January 1. It might stem from the childhood feeling of Christmas being over and the knowledge that school loomed ahead for six months. Oh, there were the fun years of New Year's Eve parties, dressing up in glitter and convivial and alcohol fueled hilarity, but the thought of that just makes me tired thinking of it.
This year  there was our usual subdued day, with the bonus of discovering that Truman Capote's beautiful and evocative "A Christmas Memory" is on YouTube. We were able to watch it on TV, thanks to Polly's gift of Roku. (If we could have stayed awake afterwards, one of those TV movie channels was running a marathon of my favorite Mel Brooks flicks, "Young Frankenstein," the one with Cloris Leachman's immortal line, " He vas my poyfrent!" My eyes decided to close and I  missed it.)
The Truman Capote piece is right out of my childhood. My first Christmas in the South was spent in my grandmother's home in Montgomery, Alabams, crammed in with my Aunt Marie, her husband and her two children. At that time our family consisted of my parents, my brother and sister and me. I don't know how we all fitted into the house. My cousin, Little Amalia, was not at all happy to have to share our grandmother with usutpers from the North. She had recently acquired a playhouse in the back yard and let us know we were not welcome to enter it.
I didn't know it at the time ( I was 4 years old)" but the Depression had started to take hold, which was why we were there. My father's job in Atlanta would not start for a few months. I remember that we had fried squirrel for Christmas dinner. It was not a dreary time for the children, actually, but I can imagine that there was a lot of stress for the adults. My grandmother had a good job. There was a maid and a manservant who drove my uncle to his job, but that was just Southern custom, regardless of the economic situation.
When we moved to Atlanta, things were better. At Christmas, my father and brother would go out to the piney woods to get a tree. I remember picking pecans up on the ground and the smell of them. Mother would make fruit cakes right after Thanksgiving, and would pour a little whiskey over them in the weeks before Christmas. She did not make cookies, but rather all kinds of candies: dates in fondant, sea foam, divinity, penuche and chocolate fudge.
The Capote story has echoes of all this, including the Southern landscape itself, which is why I love it so. It was originally on ABC as one of their specials, and was so well-received that it was repeated a
week later. Of course I watched it again.
In all, our Christmas holiday was very pleasant, with Polly home from Provincetown, cooking us wonderful meals, chatting with Emily on FaceTime, several trips to Cleveland to Playhouse Square, Trinity Cathedral for the Boar's Head Festival and to the great Cleveland Museum of Art.
I think I am ready to cope with winter.
The picture above is of the woods a few weeks ago, early in the morning, bare enough to see the sunrise.