Sunday, May 27, 2018

History by design

History by design. Fashions long forgotten yet big in their day. Looking back and in awe of what I do not remember, I find a past opens up with memories I cannot capture. Being in theatre, I learned what it was to look at history by design.

I love watching Call of the Midwife on PBS. Indeed, it is a wonderful series that takes place during the years I have been alive. It begins post WWII. The costuming is right on. I observe what my mother would have worn in those early days and learn a bit about life in those times. It takes place in England but not so different that what was happening in the United States. I often see a young Ruth pushing a pram. Her hair curled and her figure thin. She isn't wearing glasses back then, and, to this daughter, she is quite beautiful. House dresses buttoned up the front were made from sackcloth.  Shoes were designed for long wear. Dresses were practical. Clothing was worn for several days and bathing was not a daily activity. In these women I see my past life. I learn what it was like to live when the milkman delivered milk in a glass bottle, and people rode bikes or walked. A day of no television when radio was the main source of learning about the world outside of Neff Road.

In later episodes of Call of the Midwife, time progresses to where a modern world steps in removing the old and adding bright colors to the new. Appliances take on new colors and so do the clothes. This series is now into the 60's that I remember. Through this show, I travel through time.

And, yes, I love Perry Mason. I love the look of the homes, hair, cars and clothing. Perry goes from slim to not so slim. Della ages from young woman to middle aged. Paul, of course, is still a womanizer. I chuckle at the differences the years make and love every minute of the mysteries. Indeed we learn about our pasts by learning from that magic picture box.

I am in wonder at the speed at which time travels. We cannot go back. And, who wants to? Contrary to the past, we can design our own looks. I know this because I still watch TV. Heck, I can get a tattoo, wear white pants in December, ride on a Harley in leather and shave my head. All of the finger-pointing that took place long ago and the rules of protocol are tossed aside, so we can be who we want to be without criticism. I rather wish I were a teenager now. Not just because of the smooth skin and thin figure, but because I would be able to have my own voice and use it. I could be a girl of my own design.

We don't wear bustles any more. And cinched-corset designs gave way when, I would assume, some women said, "no more". For me the demise of the garters, girdles and pantyhose was the end of useless torture. We no longer dress for men. We dress for ourselves. Men can toss out the there- piece suit, tie tacks and pegged pants. They can be more casual and yet look good. They can design their own look.

History does indeed show us how far we have come. I will continue to watch Perry and try to remember if I have seen the episode four or five times. I will continue to embrace new shows that show me more options for my current look and those that remind me of my mother and sisters. Indeed the past was history by design. Perhaps the future is individuality by design.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Fields of flags

Curiosity got the best of me when I sat down to do the column today. I knew I wanted to write about Memorial Day. It was a time when grave stones were cleaned and grass trimmed. Mom and Aunt Welma allowed me to tag along running around looking at markers at Cromer Cemetery and Newcomers Cemetery. It was a tradition practiced by each family. However, there is much more to learn about this holiday. With the help of the History Channel, I found my interest fed.

It was the late 19th century that the US began the practice of honoring those fallen in battle. Ancient Greeks and Romans actually had annual days of remembrance for all loved ones. There began the practice of placing flowers on graves and holding feasts in their honor. Athens held public funerals for the fallen after each battle with public viewing before delivering them to the grave. (Hope they had outstanding morticians.).  In 431 BC, one of the first public tributes to fallen soldiers was held there.

Thousands of Union soldiers were held prisoner in a horrible camp in Charleston, South Carolina during the Civil War. More than 250 died from disease or exposure. On May 1, 1865,  three weeks after the Confederacy surrendered, more than 1,000 recently freed slaves accompanied by US Colored Troop regiments and a handful of white Charlestonians gathered in that camp to consecrate a new proper burial site for the Union soldiers who died there. They distributed flowers and sang. Flowers and music.

So how did we get to May 30th. Hm. It seems that in May 1886 General John A. Logan who was then commander-in-chief of the Union veterans' group issued a decree that May 30th should become a national commemorative day honoring the more than 620,000 soldiers killed in the Civil War. It was then dubbed Decoration Day. Logan wanted Americans to lay flowers and decorations at the graves of war dead. However, before Logan took up the cause, women's groups across the south gathered to decorate the Confederate graves. The Ladies Memorial Association of Columbus, Georgia, decided to honor the fallen once a year. Perhaps Logan caught his idea from them.

American love special holidays thus embracing Decoration Day. In the first year, more than 27 states embraced it. By 1890 every former state of the Union adopted it as an official holiday. And now we have an 'oops'. This Decoration Day only honored those who died in the Civil War. It was not until 1970 that it became an official holiday honoring the fallen soldiers of all wars. 

Of course, the day has changed with placement of Memorial Day on the last Monday in May. I remember laughing that May 30 was going to fall on the last Monday in May whether it was the 30th or not. Another 'hm' moment.

In looking to this Memorial Day, you might just carry a bit of this column with you. A day of remembrance that began in our country with a war within our borders. A war that tore families and the country apart. I am saddened that we still lose soldiers to wars. What is the price. Perhaps we can measure it in the flags flying on graves. Fields of flags.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Dum Dum De Dum

Tricky tune, right? Hm. The second set of notes are the same. Dum Dum De Dum. What does it mean? Well, just in case you have no musical sense. I will continue. "Going to the chapel and we're....". Yes, Loren and I are going to be married.

At one time I would have wondered why anyone my age would want to marry again, especially since I have been single for over twenty years. I would be the first to say I was pretty pathetic. However, Loren Nelson did enter my life a year and a half ago. We have tested this relationship. Questioned if this would work with a woman who loved her freedom. Through it all, we discovered that there is so much life and love we have ahead of us. He is my best friend and just a silly guy who loves his woman.

Loren is a professional photographer. His work is shown in many galleries on the west coast. A gifted photographer who has a wonderful reputation. He comes from a family of potters and artists. I come from a family in the performing arts. We are a good match. We have much to learn about one another and many adventures ahead of us. (https://www.google.com/search?q=loren+nelson+photography&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1)

Loren and I had a conversation on our return from a gallery show in Astoria about being at the perfect age to marry. Our priorities are so much different than those we had at a younger age. We both have been on our own and in other relationships, so we have a pretty good idea about love. We have no desire to move into a home where we will raise children. No jobs to bother with. We are focused on family, volunteering and creating with our own artistic interests. Plus, we have all the time in the world, any day of the week, to have a new adventure. What could be more perfect!

Perhaps you wonder at this strange column, but I am a child of Neff Road. Maybe I need your permission. We have it from our kids. Maybe you and I are, by now, old friends once a week. I will be bringing him back this summer. He is very interested in meeting all of you and walking down Neff Road with me. He plans to bring his camera and capture the house back the lane.

We are not sure when we will be married. Perhaps late summer or fall. Nolan is thrilled to be the ring bear. Yep, I said bear. Emma is ready to toss flower petals at people. What could be better? So we invite you to be part of our new adventure. Looking forward to our meeting you when we come back to farm country.

I just had to tell you.....dum dum de dum.