Saturday, July 31, 2010
William Maxwell's "So Long, See You Tomorrow" is a memoir of a man seeking to make amends for something he had done fifty years earlier and was ashamed of. It relates an act of murder and how it affected the tenuous friendship between two lonely boys. The narrator is writing from memory, from newspaper articles from the time and from imagination.
It is interesting how Maxwell could make the reader see and feel the setting and characters with such sparse lines and paragraphs. Perhaps his forty years as fiction editor at The New Yorker honed his own writing. He won the American Book Award for "So Long, See You Tomorrow". Would I read more of his works? Yes, if I happen upon them, but I probably won't put them on my must read list.
"The Long Song" by Andrea Levy tells the story of a child field slave on a sugar plantation in Jamaica in the mid 1800's. "Miss July" relates the story of her life over and over to her son so he can pass it on to his daughters. He encourages her to write the story down so he can have it printed for her because in 1898 this son of a slave is a publisher-editor.
Our library places "Rate This Book" slips in the front pocket of some of their books. Only one person has rated this book. On a scale of 0 to 4, they gave it a -1. I wouldn't agree with that, but only my resolve to finish a book I've begun reading kept me reading to the end. That and the fact that Ms. Levy won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and the Orange Prize for Fiction for her fourth book, "Small Island". Those awards made me think she must be worth reading. No, I do not plan to seek out "Small Island".
"Daughters of the Witching Hill" by Mary Sharratt was more palatable. And as it is based on the true story of women accused of witchcraft in Jacobean England (1600's), I found it quite interesting. It is also very scary to realize how poverty and social injustices can condemn innocent people. Ms. Sharratt lived in the Pendle region of Lancashire, England - the setting for "Witching Hill" during the years she researched and wrote the novel.
Reading this book makes it easy to understand from where the definition of "witch hunt" - "an investigation carried out ostensibly to uncover subversive activities but actually used to harass and undermine those with differing views" - comes. There is a part of me which did not want to read this book because I already knew the terrifying ending for these women. The author wrote it in such a way as to be hopeful and followed it up with an afterward of facts about the real woman her novel was based upon.
I have put Mary Sharratt's first novel: "Summit Avenue" on my must read list. I'll also read "The Real Minerva" and "The Vanishing Point" if I can find them.
For my final July read, I allowed myself the pleasure of another of my Minette Walters' mysteries - her second novel, "The Scold's Bridle". When rich, spiteful old Mathilda Gillespie is found dead in her bathtub, her wrists slit and the ancient scold's bridle clamped on her head, few people mourn even as they are puzzled by the way the old lady committed suicide. When suicide begins to look more like homicide, her doctor and heir who becomes a suspect, tries to aide the police in unraveling the mystery. In order to do that, they must delve into Mathilda's past of blackmail, perversion and deaths.
Another wonderful read! And August will begin with more of the same......
Friday, July 30, 2010
Doug and one of Mom's many cats,
in front of "The Cave", 1967. (And the brick
path I built to the outhouse when I was 12.)
Besides all of the buildings on the farm, there was one other place of importance. We called it "The Cave". More appropriately, it was a root cellar located between the house and wash house.
The cave was where we took shelter when there was a storm. I can't even count the number of nights we were awakened to "go to the cave!" because there were threatening clouds rolling in.
We would be down in the cave with a flashlight if we were lucky, but usually in the dark. Dad would be standing on the steps holding the cellar door half open, half closed watching the clouds. I remember one time a big limb came crashing down out of the Chinese Elm tree. He got the door closed just in time to keep from being hit. That same thing happened during a storm up at the Roberts'. Uncle Howard did get hit and hurt by a limb falling on their cave while he was watching a storm.
"The Cave" was also where Mom stored all fruits and vegetables she canned during the summer. Row upon row of good things to eat in pint and quart jars were lined up on shelves. Bushel baskets held potatoes and carrots dug from the garden in the fall and apples and pears from Grandpa and Grandma Ridnour's orchard.
I remember when there were jars of grape juice Mom had made from grapes from Reichardt's grape arbor. Betty and I sneaked out of the house one night to get a jar of grape juice to drink with crackers we had spirited away to our room. We called ourselves, "The Midnight Marauders" and believed we were so furtive.
The wall of our cave extended out like wings to the east and west of the cement top. I remember that flat bit of cement being my "stage" where I performed my songs and dances. I would face west so I could watch my performance reflected in the windows of the porch. Then I would walk out first one wing and then the other, bowing to my audiences. We never took dance lessons, but the little neighbor girls, Cathy and Debbie Olive, did. We went to one of their recitals. I observed carefully and then came home to do my own tap dance on the 'stage' of the cave.
Katrina and Alyssa in front of "The Cave".
The cellar door was also a favourite place to play for Mom's grand kids and great-grandchildren. They would slide down the door, roll their cars down it, even ride tricycles down the incline and out into the yard.
It kept us safe. It provided hours of entertainment for generations. Its constant temperature safely stored provisions for our table. "The Cave" is another part of our past we remember fondly.
Thursday, July 29, 2010
"Poetry is an echo, asking a shadow to dance." (Carl Sandburg)
Whether it was because Mom read Mother Goose Nursery Rhymes to me as a young child or for some other inherent reason, I have always loved poetry.
As a young teen romantic, I began copying poems I liked into a white, spiral notebook. I used a nib pen and ink the color of claret.
Wordsworth's "I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud" was in there as well as Shakespeare's Sonnet #18, "Shall I compare thee to a Summer's day..." Sometimes the poems weren't complete - just a stanza or two I had heard or read somewhere. I would check a book of poems out of the library, looking for ones to copy into my notebook. That was when I began to realize that poetry had a calming effect upon me. I could read a novel and escape into another world for a time, but as soon as I put the book down, reality returned. But if I was upset, undecided, at wit's end, I could read poetry for awhile, put it down, and a peacefulness would stay with me.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
Betty, Ramona and Fritzi (I think)
My little sister, Betty Ruth Lynam, was not quite two years younger than I. (Sept. 23, '45 - Nov. 18, '43) There were times Mom dressed us alike. In this picture we're not dressed alike except for those @#*! long brown cotton stockings we always had to wear under our dresses. I still remember sitting on the stools in Dunham Drugstore with Mom and Betty, drinking a nickel coke (which was one of our treats), looking down and finding a dollar bill. I hopped down and picked it up. I was rich! Before I could quit imagining all I was going to spend that dollar on, Mom took us down the street to Biggar's Department Store, down the stairs to the basement and used my found money to buy some of those ugly brown cotton stockings! To borrow one of my granddaughter's laments: "It's not fair!!!"
Dad (Louis), Mom (Ruth), Ronald, Grandma Delphia, Grandpa Joe Ridnour in back, Betty & I in front. This picture was taken the summer of '47 when we went to Illinois to visit Grandpa's cousins. We were posed here on the lawn of Frank & Nellie (Gray) Anderson's. About two blocks from their house was a park on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River where we went to play on the swings and slides and merry-go-round and watch the ships and barges go up and down the river.
I don't remember the color of our matching, striped, dresses.
Norman Firkins, Mom, Betty and I on the west side of Jasper # 2 Schoolhouse. Weren't our plaid skirted dresses cute? This may have been the "end of the school year" picnic - or some special occasion - we didn't dress so well for a normal school day. Normie was clowning around. I was probably cuddling so shyly close to Mom because I had a crush on my brother's best friend.
There was a time in the early '50's when it was popular to wear 'Mother-Daughter' dresses. These I do remember, they were pink and aqua. The bolero jackets were pink over aqua sundresses. We had ordered them from a catalog, probably National Bellas Hess. This picture was taken in August, 1950.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
"I've been everywhere, man.
Crossed the deserts bare, man.
I've breathed the mountain air, man.
Of travel I've had my share, man.
I've been everywhere." (Geoff Mack)
A few years ago when we were talking about some of our trips, Katrina said, "You've been everywhere!" For a young woman who hadn't yet traveled much, I suppose it might have seemed that way. To me, it seems there are still many places I haven't traveled and still want to see.
From the very beginning, Bud and I have traveled well together. We both prefer road trips. We both prefer country over city. We like discovering hidden gems and serendipitous finds. And I've always liked photography, so our travels have been pictorially documented - if only I had kept track of where we were and when we were there!
The top picture is of Amish buggies at a farm sale in SE Iowa near Drakesville. There were many more buggies and saddle horses tethered in this field across the road from the auction farm site. The attendees were predominately Amish.
Bud is always willing to stop whenever something catches my eye whether to take a picture or do some exploring. In this case, I saw a "Plants for Sale" sign next to a driveway off Hwy 2 in Van Buren County. He drove up the long, pot-holed, gravel drive where we discovered these very photogenic chickens as well as many interesting plants and a hospitable owner. She invited us to look around and let her know if we had any questions. I did buy some plants - the only specific one I remember was Horsemint. The last time we were down that way, I looked for the place, but didn't see any sign and couldn't remember exactly where it was.
We were headed to Louisville, KY for an RV trade show when we worked at Midwest Products when I saw this interesting looking barn. We had spent the night in Quincy, IL and were driving down the scenic route (Gardner Expy-Hwy 57) toward Cahokia Mounds. I had never seen shutters on a barn before.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Andrew, Tina & Nicholas Lynam
"Livin' on Tulsa time
Livin' on Tulsa time
Well you know I've been through it
When I set my watch back to it
Livin' on Tulsa time...." (Don Williams)
I have been unable to get this song out of my head since my nephew Andrew told me last weekend he is transferring to Tulsa, OK with his employer, US Cellular. I am happy and excited for him and his wife and son. I'm also a little sad for my brother not having one of his grandsons nearby. I remember being so glad for Ron & Ruthie when Andrew's moved to Red Oak from Indiana - they would be able to spoil Nicholas. I benefited, too, from being included in Nicholas' birthday parties.
I don't know how Ron views their move. I see it as an opportunity to explore a new area of the country. Bud & I have been through Tulsa, but didn't really stop to see anything. Instead we went over to Muskogee and Ten Killer Lake area. What I remember most is how really green and beautiful that part of Oklahoma is.
Our first trip to eastern OK was to Heavener so I could see the Heavener Runestone. That trip included stops at Tahlequah, the Cherokee Heritage Center and Natural Falls State Park. I'm already looking forward to seeing the Philbrook Museum and Gardens in Tulsa if/when we go to visit Andrew & Tina in their new home.
One thing I do remember about going through Tulsa, besides the Oral Roberts University buildings, was the barge traffic on the Arkansas River. I had never thought about the river being navigable that far upstream. Tulsa was known as "The oil capital of the world". It was also the home of Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys - they the originators of "Western Swing" music. "San Antonio Rose" is one of their hits. The name of Oklahoma's second largest city comes from the Creek word Tallasi meaning old town.
For Andrew, Tina and Nicholas, Tulsa means new town. I wish them a smooth transition and loads of happy new experiences and memories.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Bear Butte or Maho Pata
It was at a fiftieth birthday party for a friend of Kari's that I first heard of Bear Butte. The women gathered were talking about meaningful celebrations and places to go on retreat when one of them said she and her friend had gone to Bear Butte in South Dakota. They talked about how it was a sacred place, very meaningful AND very challenging to climb.
When Bud and I began planning a trip to the Black Hills in the 90's, I knew I wanted it to include Bear Butte near Sturgis, SD. Other than what I had heard at the party, I didn't know anything about the lone laccolith. At the visitor's center before beginning our midday climb, I learned the importance of the area as a religious site and landmark for the Plains Indian tribes. We were told we would see prayer cloths and bundles tied in trees near the paths and instructed to leave them alone. This wasn't some ancient sacred site but one very much in current use by the Lakota, Cheyenne and others making personal pilgrimages.
Armed with bottles of water and determination to reach the top, we set off on the nearly two mile "Summit Trail". It was easy going at first with lots of switchbacks and moderate elevations. I was fascinated at the many pieces of colored cloth tied to tree branches. It began to feel like we had already walked more than two miles when the steep part of the trail began.
Bud was eyeing the path ahead and judging how much further it was to the top, while I was begging for a rest and wondering if he should just go on without me while I waited at this gorgeous overlook for him to come back.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
This picture of my niece, Kristi, and her Dad was taken at Ron's birthday party in May. We had lunch with Gene & Kristi today to celebrate Gene's birthday. (July 22, 1942)
Our family has always called him Gene but his full name is Harold Eugene Beavers, so he also answers to Harold or 'Beav'. He's been a citizen of Creston for many years.
Gene was raised by his grandparents on a farm near New Market. After high school, he went into the Navy for three years. He got home from the Navy and started classes in the fall of 1963 - just in time to meet my sister, Betty. They were both enrolled at Clarinda Junior College.
I was waiting outside the HyVee in Corning for Kenny to get off work Saturday, October 26, when Betty & Gene pulled in to the parking spot next to my car. Betty came over and asked if I would do her a big favor - go out to the folks farm and tell them she wouldn't be home that night - she and Gene were eloping. I didn't want to, but I finally agreed. I didn't know how to tell Mom & Dad what was going on so I finally just blurted out, "Betty won't be home tonight," without thinking how they might interpret that. But before they could imagine the worst, I told them she was going to Oklahoma with Gene to get married.
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
All the sweet, green icing flowing down.
Someone left the cake out in the rain.
I don't think that I can take it
'Cause it took so long to bake it
And I'll never have that recipe again, oh no...."
For some reason, the prodigious rains we've been having reminded me of Jimmy Webb's 1968 "MacArthur Park". It was recorded by Richard Harris that year and Harris' version is my favourite.
There was a lot of discussion about the meaning of the song. To me it seemed obvious it was about lost love. I don't think it had anything at all to do with cake melting in the rain.
The icing on one of Doug's first birthday cakes was white, not green. However, it does look like it could have been melting that hot August night in 1963. I know I made the chocolate cake he is eyeing in this picture; not sure who brought the white one, probably either Grandma Ruth Lynam or Grandma Betty Botkin.
The picture was taken in the kitchen of our first house (after two apartments) on the south edge of Brooks - what we referred to as the Hanzie house. It was a cute little two bedroom bungalow with an open porch across the front and a big yard. The man who inherited it when his parents died offered to sell it to us for, I think, either $3,500 or $5,000. I know it wasn't very much, though at that time it seemed like a lot. I also remember him offering us an antique bed and dresser for $25. The bed was carved walnut, as was the dresser which had a marble top. At that stage in my life, I hated antiques. How many times since then have I wished I'd been smarter?
We lived there a little over a year before the house was sold to Gene & Carolyn Dixon. Later they sold it to Richard & Virginia Westlake who lived there for many years.
This picture of my parents was taken at Grandma Ridnour's October, 1962. Their cakes were made in honor of their 25th wedding anniver-sary. Mom's sister, Lois, probably made and decorated the cake on the left. She made and decorated a lot of cakes for weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. I'm pretty certain she was self-taught. I can remember watching her make frosting roses and being quite impressed.
Rain and cake. Is 'MacArthur Park' the only song which links the two?
Monday, July 19, 2010
We've had a lot of fun with our grandchildren over the years. This picture from the summer of 1990 (20 years ago!!) shows Grandpa Bud watching over Alyssa in the wading pool at Legion Park near our home in West Des Moines. Katrina is in her purple bathing suit looking to see what her little sister is up to while Zach is in the figured white trunks in the background, merrily splashing away.
I'll always be grateful for days like these spent with my grandchildren as they grew up. I'm so lucky we lived near them.
Friday, July 16, 2010
She always knows her place -
She's got style, she's got grace..."
I don't know how Grandma would have felt about Tom Jones singing "She's A Lady" to her though I think she would have gotten a kick out of it.
I've always thought of Grandma Bessie Lynam as a 'lady'. Specifically the definition "a woman of refinement and gentle manners" as opposed to the definition "a woman of superior social position".
This picture of her was taken in front of her house at 811 10th Street in Corning. It was her last visit to her home. She had been in the care center for several years but when her house was sold and was going to be torn down, we took her back for a last visit.
I've always loved this picture of my grandmother. Her sweetness and gentleness show through her slight smile. When my hair was long I wore it twisted up in a knot just like she wore hers because I wanted to be like her.
Growing up, we were much closer to Mom's mom than we were to Dad's. I suppose it was natural that we spent more time with Grandma Ridnour. I can remember when I got old enough to reason, I questioned why I thought I liked Grandma Ridnour better when Grandma Lynam was so much "nicer". From reading my diaries I can see I spent much more time at Grandma Lynam's after I started high school - sometimes going to her house for lunch, other times spending the night. Her house was a block from the high school.
Bessie Lucille Duncan was born one hundred nineteen years ago today - July 16, 1891. Her parents were farmers. Her Grandmother Aggie was a 'grass widow'. She raised her little girl alone. (Bessie's mother, Flora.) I doubt any of Grandma's family ever had much money. Had she been born in different circumstances, I'm sure she could have quite easily been a LADY.
Years ago, I had a dream about Grandma and Barbara Graham. Barbara was the wife of the owner of The Graham Group where I was employed in Des Moines. Barbara really was a lady - rich and refined and so very nice. In the dream I walked into the dining room of a fancy country club and there was my Grandmother having lunch with Barbara Graham. When I showed surprise that Grandma was there, Barbara said she didn't know why I was surprised - that my grandmother was a delightful woman. I analyzed that dream pretty easily - two ladies enjoying one another's presence.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
First day of school, 1949
What I should have done for Ron's 70th Birthday was find an aviator cap to give him - one like he is wearing in this picture. Would I remember riding to school perched behind him on his bike without the visual image? I doubt it. What I do remember is teaching myself to ride his bicycle.
I wanted to be able to ride a bike just like my big brother but I couldn't even reach the pedals! So I took a bucket out to the road, upended it to stand on so I could get on his bike, then pushed off to coast down the little hill toward the other place. Did I tip over many times? Yes. (Luckily the road wasn't graveled then.) Did I learn to balance the bike eventually? Yes. So when I was tall enough to reach the pedals, I was ready to ride any time I could find his bike unused.
I wanted my own bike so badly. But that wouldn't happen until July 10, 1957 when we purchased Carol Vogel's bicycle. I had made a deal with Mom to clean out the brooder house and get it ready for the chicks that spring in exchange for a bike. I don't remember if we had already talked to Vogel's about buying Carol's and it just took three months to close the deal and get the bike. I just remember how happy I was to have wheels! And such nice ones on a pretty blue and white frame.
I started riding the bike everywhere - even down the lane to the pasture to get the cows. I felt so free being able to take off on that bike and go anywhere. Well, at least over to the neighbors. I had a special place to park my bike - leaning against the elm tree right outside the back door - ready to hop on for adventure in a minute's notice.
My multiple speed touring bike. Picture taken at "The Little House", 1981.
"The bicycle will accomplish more for women's sensible dress than all the reform movements that have ever been waged." (From Demerarest's Family Magazine, 1895 - Author unknown)
I didn't have another bike for another twenty years. We were living on the acreage outside Urbandale when I bought this bike at Montgomery Ward. I had already learned all about gears and the dangers of hand brakes from riding the bicycle Doug had purchased from a friend of mine. (Lois Campbell) I was riding his bike down to the corner east of "Our House" when I tried to brake to turn around and start back. By the time I remembered the brakes were on the handle bars, it was too late; I wiped out. You can still see the scars on my left elbow - no scars, just pain, in my left hip.
That bike was left behind when we moved back to Des Moines in '84. Eventually, I bought a used, brown, three-speed when we lived on 4th Street in West Des Moines. I think that one rusted after being in the flood of '93 and got put on the curb during clean-up week.
I always wondered what happened to my first bicycle. Then I found this picture (June, 1966) of my little brother and remembered - he made it into his "Bat Mobile". Or was it Bat Bike? Now I wonder what happened to it after that?
"The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard. (Sloan Wilson)
I was talking about riding a bike with some of my grandchildren last week. They began lamenting how their mom had taught them to ride by putting them on a bike and pushing them down a hill. I told them that was the same way I had taught Doug to ride - by putting him on the new red bike he got for his sixth birthday and pushing him down a hill in MacRae Park near our apartment off SW 9th in Des Moines.
I think Kari pretty much taught herself to ride. Her first bike was a pretty green, just like her birthstone. I bought it used for her sixth birthday. Preston taught himself to ride her bike before he was six. But I think he still had to wait for his birthday before getting a bike - a citrusy lime green one if I remember right, also a used one. It was easier to find pre-owned bikes in the city. (Plus I couldn't afford new ones for them.)
Last year Bud & I each bought a new coaster bike. I have to admit I haven't ridden mine as much as I thought I would. It's quite a bit harder pedaling up those hills than it was 53 years ago. But this morning I got it out, ready to pump up the tires and go for a spin. There's nothing like riding a bike to make you feel young again.
"When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race." (H.G. Wells)
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
There are many firsts in a person's life. Few are more memorable than your first child - unless it is your first grandchild. I blogged about Brock's birth on May 23 this year. This tandem picture of Brock and me on the left and Brock and his son on the right really shows how much they look alike.
Ridge is one year old today. He is my first great-grandchild. I have yet to meet him, but through the magic of facebook, I do see pictures of him.
Happy first birthday, Ridge William.
Monday, July 12, 2010
My Irish great-great grandparents, William and Catherine McDonnough Lynam with their six surviving children. (Five others died in infancy.) My great-grandfather, Barney Lynam is on the left in back. His brothers were John, Joseph and James; sisters were Anna and Katherine. This picture was taken sometime after William died in 1898. His picture was inserted - what we would call photo-shopped today. William was born in County Westmeath, Ireland in 1832 and Catherine was born in County Antrim in 1832. They met and married in Ripon, WI in 1856 living there and then in Somerset, Ohio before moving to a farm near Brooks, Adams Co., Iowa in 1878.
When I first became interested in family history and could trace some of my great-great grandparents back to Ireland, I became fascinated with that country and all things Irish. One of the first things I learned about my great-great grandfather and grandmother was that they were both Catholic. Interesting....my parents were Protestant as were theirs. Even Great-grandpa Barney was Protestant. I learned that both he and his brother James had married non-Catholic women which is the reason I was not raised a Catholic.
But reading all the Irish history put me directly on the side of Catholic Ireland. Which is why I became so incensed the first time I saw tv coverage of Orangemen marching on the "Glorious Twelfth" in Northern Ireland. I don't remember how many years ago that was. Certainly before the 1998 peace agreement which largely ended thirty years of violence between the predominately Catholic groups who want a united Ireland and the mainly Protestant unionists who want Northern Ireland to remain a part of Great Britain.
"The Twelth" also known as "Orangemen's Day" celebrates the victory of Protestant King William of Orange over Catholic King James II at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690. At the time I saw the tv coverage, "The Troubles" between nationalists and unionists was at its peak. Instead of parading in their own areas, the Orangemen paraded through the predominately nationalist areas, taunting with fifes and Lambeg drums, flaunting unionist dominance in Northern Ireland. It was obvious to me they wanted to provoke trouble. Why couldn't they just stay in their own part of town?
After several relatively peaceful years, today's "Glorious Twelfth" began with overnight riots in Belfast. Three police officers were shot and another two dozen injured as they tried to control the rioters - mainly pro-British Protestant groups burning Irish flags and photos of the politicians in favour of a United Ireland. Why the renewed violence now? Perhaps because it is the 320th anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne?
I could never side with the Protestant Orangemen. I'm glad my Catholic great-great grandparents left Ireland when they did.
Friday, July 9, 2010
"Whenever the wind drops
an alder catkin into my palm,
or a cuckoo calls merrily,
with trains screaming by,
I fall to reflecting,
and struggle to grasp life's meaning,
and, as usual arrive,
at the place where it slips from my grasp.
to a speck of dust in a starry nebula
is an old way out,
but wiser than trumped-up grandeur.
and it's no degradation
to realize one's own insignificance,
for in it we realize sadly,
the implicit grandeur of life.
(From Yevgeny Yevtushenk's Alder Catkin)
Somewhere in my reading this morning I ran across the word catkins. It nudged a memory from my childhood - nudged but did not summon. Was it in a children's book Mom read to us? Or was it a verse from a poem? Is there a nursery rhyme about catkins?
Catkins are those slim, worm-like flower clusters that hang from many types of trees in spring. The word is from the Dutch katje which means 'kitten'. Maybe what I'm remembering is Mom identifying the pussy willow catkins for us. I thought she called them catkins because they were gray and furry and soft, like kittens.
But the memory that was nudged was of this type of willow catkin - not the pussy willow type. So maybe I'm remembering the catkins from the willows around the pond? Mom was my teacher when it came to identifying every kind of plant. She knew all the trees, flowers, bushes and weeds. Recently when I was with Ron and asked about identifying a particular plant, I said, "Didn't you learn all the species from Mom when you were little?" For some reason, he did not. Which means either he wasn't interested in a botany lesson or Mom didn't identify plants and trees for him. I believe it was the former.
I've also speculated that as a daughter, I remember plants just as I remember familial relationships because of some inherited gene. From the beginning of time, it has been the females who learned what plants were safe to eat and passed the knowledge to their daughters. Just as they remembered the family relationships so clan lineage was kept distant enough to result in healthy descendants.
I'm almost certain I'm remembering the catkins of the willows. They are the one tree I can always identify by smell as well as sight. The aroma of Salix evokes many memories. Catkins are but one of them.
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Monday, July 5, 2010
Fireworks at the Boston Pops
Our fourth of July plans were washed out the same as many others' in Iowa. Creston postponed their fireworks display until July 31, but we went ahead with the planned cook out although we had to move it from the deck to the covered patio.
The only fireworks we watched were the ones from the Boston Pops program on TV. Which was ok, because we watched them from the comfort of the couch - no bugs, no humidity.
Even though we now have shade on our deck (thank you, Thea), the new umbrella couldn't keep the rain off all of us. The large umbrella is such a welcome addition - makes our space so much more usable in the afternoons.
Somewhere over the years I've lost my enthusiasm for fireworks even though the 4th of July was a big deal when I was a kid. The sale of fireworks was illegal in Iowa as was the possession and firing of same. The law banning fireworks in Iowa was passed in 1938 after the town of Spencer burned June 27, 1931 when a display of fireworks for sale was accidentally set on fire.
All the law accomplished in the southern counties of Iowa was making people drive to Missouri for their fireworks. I think Dad and his neighbor friends usually drove down to Hopkins - the first town across the Iowa state line in Missouri - to load up on fireworks. I remember "Fireworks for Sale" fliers coming in the mail in June advertising other Missouri locations with competitive pricing.
My sister and I were too young to shoot off firecrackers. We could have the sparklers, but that was all. At some point, we were deemed old enough to light "ladyfingers". These were very tiny little firecrackers. I can still remember how excited (and scared) I was the first time I held a punk to a ladyfinger. They often didn't even go off, which only prolonged the excitement until one finally popped.
We gradually worked up to some of the larger firecrackers, but never to the cherry bombs or M-80's my brother and his friends would set off under tin cans to see who's can blew highest or lit and threw into the stock tank to watch the water blow into a geyser.
It seemed like we always invited neighbors and/or family to come for supper of fried chicken, coleslaw, potato salad and baked beans, followed by homemade, hand-cranked, ice cream before the evening grew dark enough for the fireworks.
Dad would lean a section of eave spout against the front yard fence as the launching pad for the rockets. A few rockets were the highlight of the evening. In those days they only came in red or green. Dad wouldn't let anyone else light the rockets, but we all oh-h-d and ah-h-d as they exploded over the field across the road.
Some years later, bottle rockets were invented - or at least discovered by us. Setting off those little gems was as much fun as watching the big rockets, plus we could buy so many more. After my brother grew up and moved to Missouri, he used to bring fireworks back for the 4th. My kids went through many of the same rituals celebrating our country's independence as did I.
Maybe it was after they grew up that I lost my enthusiasm for fireworks. Or maybe I've become jaded and think of fireworks the same way I do mountains - you've seen one, you've seen them all. I still enjoy the getting together with family and eating, however.
Hope you had a Happy 4th of July and remembered at least once why we were celebrating.