Monday, November 28, 2016

Musical Christmas Diary

A little tap on the door. I knew who it was, but the excitement of opening the door never seems to dull. On the other side of the door was my granddaughter Emma. Full of smiles and excitement, she flew into my arms. "We brought you a Christmas tree, MeMe!" She exclaimed. The smell of pine and the giggles of a little girl. Things just don't get any better.

While I was waiting for this knock on the door, I decided to put on some Christmas records. As I was doing so, I thought of the days when I sat listening for hours to music rather than watching TV. Listening to records and daydreaming. I sang along with them. I danced to them. And, sweet memories were associated with them. Christmas was better with records.

As Daddy was cutting the end off of my new tree, Emma and I danced to old tunes. She twirled and sometimes jumped into the air. Not a lot of grace, but a great deal of effort. We danced in circles with my sixty-nine years and her four.

When this delightful duo left, the house seemed a bit emptier. I didn't have the heart to decorate the tree. That needs to be saved for little people. Emma wants to put all the red balls in one spot as she did last year. Emma had turned off the record player and closed the lid. She is quite a helper. I put the records back into their sleeves. Then it hit me. Some of these records were over sixty years old. Henry Mancini, Andy Williams, Bing Crosby, Firestone records, Goodyear records. Records that Mom and Dad gave to me. And, those I bought with my own money after I moved away from home.

My children grew up with these records. Now my grandchildren will enjoy them as well. What they will not know is the joy they bring me in the remembering of special people and special times in my life that come to visit when I play these songs. I am catapulted back that lane where I was first introduced to a record player. It kept me company all through my childhood and during those teenage days of love and romance. The sleeves protect sweet memories that I took along with me into adulthood. Those dear vinyl records are a musical diary of my past. So today when I held them and played them, I opened the door to yesterday and savored the moments.

Next week my grandchildren and I will open boxes of yesterdays. Old friends, the decorations, will come out to greet me. It is that time of the year. For now, I think I just might put on a record and do a little twirling.

Monday, November 21, 2016

More than turkey

This should be an easy column to write this week. However, I found it extremely difficult. I am a firm believer as a journalist and as an honest person that I not write anything that is not true. I owe it to you and to me. Perhaps I owe it to the past.

I had decided to look for fun facts about Thanksgiving, and sometimes research hits you right between the eyes. You find things that you never knew and those that cause you to pause and reassess. Did you know that our current Thanksgiving came into being after WWI? It was promoted through text books and in elementary schools to nationally inspire. Hm. I certainly thought that it was Pilgrims and Native Americans. Hm, again.

The Thanksgiving that we currently celebrate was on a day that defies celebration. It was a day of slaughter of an entire tribe of Pequot Indians. There was an earlier meal with Squanto and the Puritans. Squanto was the only Patuxet to survive smallpox left behind by white men when their ships came in to steal slaves from the tribe. He did teach the Puritans to raise corn and to fish. He also caused many problems. Problems that lead to the entire Pequot tribe being wiped out on our Thanksgiving Day. A day when women, children, the entire tribe died at the hands of people who took their land. A day when that tribe would have celebrated their Green Corn Festival.

You can check the facts. They are there for the reading, the tears, and the sorrow we should all feel. In reading about this tragedy, I found myself thinking of the hate we see today. A hate that has brooded for centuries. A hate against race, a hate against religious belief, a hate against sexual orientation. Hate that is based in ignorance. The same type of hate and ignorance that took the lives of a tribe. The same hate that people hold on to so they can feel justified.

No, we don't want our Thanksgiving spoiled by remembering its roots. We want it to be about turkey, family, all the things we feel we deserve to embrace this one time a year. Things that make us thankful. Perhaps we are thinking that we are now civilized and have moved on from that place in 1637. I am wondering if we have learned much.

My new Thanksgiving creed changes this year. I am thankful for the many colors of humanity, for the many voices that in different tones that reach the ear of the same God, for the differences in people that I am asked to embrace and not condemn. I am thankful.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends. It is a time of thanks and of giving.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The moon is full

Question: What does the supermoon have in common with me?
Answer:  The current supermoon is the closest to the earth than it has been in 69 years. I am 69.

Back then I was only about six months old. Hardly old enough to care, right? However, I think it is important to point out that these two incredible events happened that year.

I could cover all of the ins and outs of the supermoon, but I will leave that to the astronomers. My Uncle Phil Barnhart was married to my Aunt Esther Loxley Barnhart. At a very early age, I was introduced to the stars through the huge telescope at my uncle's university. Uncle Phil was full of technical talk, but he opened up the skies to me.

My dad set great store in the power of the moon. The Old Farmer's Almanac:
  • Moonrise occurring in the evening brings fair weather, says one proverb, harking back to the belief that the waning Moon (full and last quarter, which rise in the evening) is dry.
  • The New Moon and first quarter, or waxing phases, are considered fertile and wet.
  • The new and first-quarter phases, known as the light of the Moon, are considered good for planting above-ground crops, putting down sod, grafting trees, and transplanting.
  • From full Moon through the last quarter, or the dark of the Moon, is the best time for killing weeds, thinning, pruning, mowing, cutting timber, and planting below-ground crops.
  • The time just before the full Moon is considered particularly wet, and is best for planting during drought conditions.
  • I added this one. The moon had an effect on Dad's three daughters. We didn't turn into werewolves, but he thought we were a bit more tempermental. 
  • Rail fences cut during the dry, waning Moon will stay straighter.
  • Wooden shingles and shakes will lie flatter if cut during the dark of the Moon.
  • Fence posts should be set in the dark of the Moon to resist rotting. Ozark lore says that fence posts should always be set as the tree grew. To set the root end upward makes a short-lived fence.
  • Don't begin weaning when the Moon is waning.
  • Castrate and dehorn animals when the Moon is waning for less bleeding.
  • Slaughter when the Moon is waxing for juicier meat.
  • Crabbing, shrimping, and clamming are best when the Moon is full.
  • Best days for fishing are between the new and full Moon.
  • Dig your horseradish in the full Moon for the best flavor.
  • Set eggs to hatch on the Moon's increase, but not if a south wind blows.
Amazing what you can learn from the Almanac.

My sister June and I had a conversation about the effect of the moon on the tides. She is in Key West for the winter. Streets ten blocks along the ocean have been blocked off due to moon's affect on the tides. One can't help but think that perhaps this will be the way of life as the glaciers continue to melt. ten blocks in might will eventually be beachfront.

In January 1948, the moon was actually twenty-nine miles closer to earth. This was also the same year the Cleveland Indians last won the World Series. In 2034, the moon will come even closer, within 221,485 miles. Another supermoon.

As a child I learned to look up in awe and wonder. I learned to ask questions and to seek my own answers. Teaching my grandchildren what I have learned about our earth and universe is giving them tools they will need for the future. A vision of possibilities, of a universe bigger than imagination, of all the things they can become. Supermoon.....inspiration.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Like any other day

November 9. Just another day. Day after election, but nothing significant about it. Just another day. Yet.......

On this day in 1972, the Great Boston Fire took place. It began in a dry-goods warehouse. I remember my Mom and Aunt Welma referring to a dry-goods store. (Called dry goods because they carried nothing that needed refrigeration. Oh, wait! There was no refrigeration. But I stray.) It was a windy day when the fire started and destroyed nearly 800 buildings. Not a good day in Boston on that November 9th.

In 1918, Kaiser Wilhelm II abdicated as WWI came to an end. He fled then to Holland. He retired a country gentleman, although he was not in his country.

This night in 1938 was one of the most horrid nights in the history of the world. A night we need to remember, so we do not let it happen again. It was Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass). The German Nazi mobs burned synagogues, vandalizing Jewish shops. Homes were invaded. A night of sheer terror, of shattering glass. A night a ex-boss of mine remembered well. He was one of the Jewish children who was evacuated from Germany to England away from his parents, hoping to return in a few months. His aunt was the only survivor of his family who were interred in the camps.

At 5:16pm in 1965 (the year I graduated from Franklin Monroe) the Great Blackout hit the Northeast. A tripped circuit breaker at a power plant on the Niagara River caused power surges, affecting interconnected power companies along the East Coast. Over 30 million people were affected by the blackout. It is said that the birthrate rose dramatically nine months later.

It was a memorable day in 1989 when the Berlin Wall was opened after 28 years. The wall was constructed when I was in high school in 1961 and came down a year before my daughter graduated from high school. So many lives were disrupted and families torn apart in that time. A war. A cold war.

Meanwhile back a lane on Neff Road, we were probably eating leftover Election Day donuts made by the church women. Those sugary delights were deep fried and covered with sugar. Oh, be still my cholesterol level. I loved eating those donuts freshly made at the church and adored the women who made them. 

This November 9th, I will be  spending time with my grand  twins as their parents fly off to New Zealand. We just might have a donut, and just perhaps we will set up our own November 9th traditions. Seems to me that every day we have in this life of ours that is spent doing good and being with those we love is a red letter day. So to you, my friends, Happy November 9th!