Fourteen months

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Curious

~~~

Today’s RDP defined my day last week (was it only last week?) when I flew from Boston, MA to Washington DC to visit my kids and their families…including one adorable grandson (well, my kids are adorable too…but you know). I had not entered an airport or stepped on a plane since February 2020. Fourteen months ago. I had not been in a crowd of people of any size since then either. I don’t have to tell any of you why. But now I am fully vaccinated and as protected as I’m going to be, so it was time to take that leap.

As a lifelong curious person, I am known for asking questions – lots of questions – but this time there was nobody to answer them ahead of time as I planned this trip (I am also a rabid planner).

Such as…
What would it be like at the airport during a pandemic? Would people cooperate and wear masks? Could I check in at the kiosks? What would change about going through security? Would it be crowded on the plane? What if…

First positive sign: the kiosks were working (good news since my home printer was not). Checking in with security meant inserting my driver’s license into a machine where it disappeared for several seconds and then spit back out. The masked agent behind the plexiglass looked straight at me…would you pull down your mask please? The big reveal lasted only a few seconds, but felt bizarrely like I was being asked an intimate question.

My carryon and I made it through the screening process without incident. All the while I am breathing through a N95 super mask with rubber bands around my head trying not to hyperventilate. Which I had just pulled down for the agent. I wondered…what if?

As I walked to the gate I began to notice changes…

Except for passengers waiting at one gate, there was hardly anybody there. Most restaurants were closed. Coffee kiosks were gone. The bar was closed. This was mid afternoon.

So far it looked similar to the outside world as we know it now. It also sounded similar…muffled…as gate agents gave directions through masks into microphones. The directions for boarding were posted on the information screen as well. Perhaps that was why.

The flight was only about half full…allowing distancing…sort of. Drinks and snacks were handed out. Masks came off to eat and drink. That…I thought to myself…is one good reason why you wait to fly until you’re vaccinated. And then – as a friend of mine once said many years ago – you give it to God or whatever higher being you believe in – at times like these.

The plane arrived in DC on time. I knew my daughter would be arriving soon to pick me up. I figured I had a few minutes to linger in the gate area before leaving to find her in the line of cars outside the terminal.

I noticed how, in DC, passengers apparently don’t need roped off seats.

My daughter would usually text almost there! when she was about to arrive. When I hadn’t heard from her after a few minutes, I decided to make my way out past security anyway. By then most passengers from my flight had left. As I carefully rolled my suitcase past various security guards – paying close attention to where I was walking – a random thought hit me…I wonder if people still come inside to meet passengers anymore...

Which is why clueless me didn’t notice this masked little blonde almost 5 year old until he came close to alarming the security guard…

I will wonder no more…people still DO meet passengers inside the airport. Three of my favorite people in the world were there to surprise me. Daughter. Son. Grandson. I hadn’t hugged them since last August. Far too long.

Four days later I flew home and it was much the same experience. I am, however, already looking forward to returning in June to meet my newborn granddaughter.

I am very curious about her. ❤️

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: April 2

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: April 2

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

~~~

This post was published April 2, 2019 as an entry for the Photo a Day Challenge. Flashing back to happy times remembered in this post (when birthday parties were…normal) appealed to me more than flashing back to a 2020 pandemic post. This blog began as the keeper of memories….and today I revisit some funny ones.

********

Funny Faces

This post inspired by April photo a day challenge

Today’s prompt: Funny

When my kids were growing up, they had a birthday party every year they wanted one.

Several actually. One with family. One with friends. Sometimes a celebration at pre-school as well.

Why not? Another year. Another milestone or two.
Time for cake. Presents. Games.
Fun with friends.

One tradition…a group photo.
Squirmy party guests lined up on the couch.

The first take: Smile Say Cheese!

The second: Make A Funny Face! Make A Silly Face!

Always the favorite.

Little children making funny faces never disappoint.

birthday-6yr-funny-faces.jpg
Six year old fun
Five year old fun

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: March 5th

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: March 5th

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

~~~

This post was published March 5th, 2019 as an entry for Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge. I enjoy Cee’s photo challenges and this was no exception. Tender moments? I have dozens of photo albums full of them. Frozen-in-time moments that trigger sweet memories and smiles. The big sister and little brother below now live only a few blocks from each other. Little brother is a grown-up uncle to his big sister’s 4½ year old little boy. This May he will also be an uncle to his big sister’s new baby…a little girl. More tender moments to come.
(on a totally unrelated side note: I will be a grandma…again…which probably should have been the lead sentence! 😊)

********

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge – Tender Moments

This post inspired by Cee’s B&W Photo Challenge. The topic this week: Tender Moments

Being a big sister is not always easy.

I know that from experience, as I was a big sister 4 times. By the time my youngest sibling was born, I was in high school and became more of a surrogate parent than a sister. 

My daughter was almost 6 when her brother was born.
Five and three quarters! she would be quick to remind us.

The transition to sharing parental attention was a challenge I understood and tried to make as smooth as possible for her.
Without shortchanging her little brother.

Well, my husband and I got lucky. And with some guidance on our part…their relationship blossomed from the start. Her love for her brother was palpable. As was his for her. Not without some healthy competition of course. And normal periodic friction. Racing to the front door to be first. To the car for the front seat (Shotgun!). And down the stairs to see what Santa brought.

But there were also the quieter moments. Looking at picture books.
Playing games. Giggling at secret jokes.

And sitting under the backyard trees exploring what was hidden in the grass.

tender moment 9-3-88
Big sister age 6½…exploring nature with little brother…age 1¾

Their childhood together lasted until he was 12 and she was 18 and left home for college. Nineteen years ago.

But their connection remains solid to this very day.

And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: February 12

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: February 12

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

~~~

This post was published February 12, 2019 as an entry for Irene Waters’ “Times Past” Challenge. I always enjoyed participating in these “look back” challenges, as they fit right in with my diary 2.0 theme. With this one in particular, I am struck by how “tales of fear” from parent to child have changed over the years. Now there’s a virus added to the ever growing list.

******

Tales of Terror: Times Past

Irene Waters’ “Times Past” prompt challenge topic for February is: Tales of Terror

Can you remember any tales of fear that your parents used to stop you going out of bounds. Please join in giving your location at the time of your memory and your generation. 

~~~

jungle gym
on top of the world circa 1962

As a baby boomer growing up in the USA suburbs, I basically roamed the tree lined streets of my working class neighborhood. On foot. On my bike. On my skateboard. On roller skates. I specifically remember the house I lived in from the age of 4 to 11. There were woods to explore at one end of the street before it curved uphill to circle around to the next block. Houses lined up close together and near to the street.

My mother issued two clear directives to keep me safe:

 Don’t take candy from strangers.

This was in the context of a stranger driving around the block, who might stop, open the door and try to lure me into his car with a Nestle’s Crunch. I would then never be seen again. And terrible things would happen…which were never spelled out in any detail, but an implied tale of terror just the same.

I will admit I considered possibly grabbing the candy and making a run for it. However the opportunity never presented itself.

Being the immortal child that I was, I was unafraid to ride my bike for hours at a time…for long distances that perhaps would have been prohibited if I had advertised my adventures. Which I didn’t.

A favorite trip: to “the little store” on the other side of town…saved my allowance and bought my own candy. Smarties, Mary Janes, Mounds, tiny wax bottles (remember those? argh), button candy, Bazooka Bubble Gum. No strangers needed. Sometimes I let my younger sister tag along, swearing her to secrecy.

Interesting side note: when we first moved there, my sister was 3 years old. One day she packed a lunchbox with napkins, hopped on her tricycle and took off…without telling anyone. Her destination: where we used to live…a long car ride away. A dozen houses later – almost a quarter mile – she arrived at the far end of our road, about to pedal down the cross street. A dangerous intersection at the crest of a hill. The neighbor on the corner stopped her in time and called the police.

So my sister got a ride in a police car…which is where she was eventually spotted by my frantic mother. Who had grabbed me and my infant brother and probably went looking for strangers with candy. An actual tale of terror thankfully averted.

Don’t go near Tony M.

Tony was a mentally challenged teenager who lived a couple of blocks away. At least I think he was a teenager…to my young eyes he could have been in his twenties. He lived with his parents and sometimes wandered around looking somewhat disheveled.  It was never explained to me what he might do. Or say. But the look in my mother’s eyes spoke fear. My questions about why went unanswered. I rarely saw him, but when I did he mostly looked lonely and sad.  I wonder what happened to him.

554 calvin 1958030
Family gathered safely on the front porch – 1958

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: December 18

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: December 18

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

~~~

This post was published December 18, 2018 as an entry for Nancy Merrill’s Photo a Week Challenge.

Now…in 2020…a stark reminder of all that we may have taken for granted before. Most glaringly in my eyes…that gift of time together.

********

Photo a Week – Things That Matter Most

Nancy Merrill is hosting a photo challenge. The theme this week:

A Photo a Week Challenge – The Things that Matter Most

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO OR TWO OF THINGS THAT MEAN THE MOST TO YOU.

The things that matter most are not things. At least not to me.

I have heard it said that when you are on your deathbed, you don’t wish you had spent more time at work. More often it is…I wish I had spent more time with my family.
My friends. My kids. My grandparents.

The “things” that matter most to me are the family and friends I love and care about.
And who love and care about me.

What else matters?

That I am fortunate enough to have a roof over my head and enough food to eat.

8-14-90
Family…the Beginning

frisbee
Family…the next generation

IMG_1217
Food

IMG_6819
Shelter

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: November 27

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: November 27

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

~~~

This post was published on November 27, 2018 as an entry for the Ragtag Daily Prompt challenge.

I still say…a walk in the woods…always worth taking.

********

Walk

This post inspired by Ragtag Daily Prompt: Walk

It was an adjustment, to say the least, when our youngest child left home for college. For him as well as for us.

He chose a college where it was warm…and far away from our New England town. I understood that, as I had also wanted to establish myself in a college town far from my home.

Colleges have an annual “Parents’ Weekend” in the fall. So parents can check in. And check out their kids. And kids can touch base with their parents. Our freshman son was on his own for the first time and we were grateful for the opportunity to visit.

Although not a big fan of endless parent questions…how are you?how are your classes?your roommate?is the food good?where is the library?…are you okay?, he was happy to show us around campus. He led the way. The grounds of his university were lush with greenery of all kinds. With a bridge. And a pond. In a very warm spot in Virginia. We attended these Parents’ Weekends every year, but the first one…well, that was extra special.

Conversation always flowed a bit more freely with a walk in the woods.

father and son 2006

Thanksgiving Revisited

Thanksgiving 2020 Centerpiece – a gift from my daughter and her family

Today is Thanksgiving Day, a traditional American holiday, but – as one friend texted in response to my Happy Thanksgiving text…Hopefully last one like this....

My husband and I are celebrating on our own this year, as many others are. A smaller version of the feast we used to make years ago…(cooking less is a silver lining here)…we are still as thankful as ever. That part hasn’t changed.

And, no matter what, there will be pie. But just one. Pumpkin.

Do we miss sharing this day with friends like we did last year? Most definitely. And the special times with friends and family from many years back? Absolutely.

But I know we are not alone and my heart goes out to the thousands who don’t have a job or a home or enough food to feed their families…much less a Thanksgiving meal. The pandemic’s ongoing toll.

So my focus today is on gratitude for what I am blessed with…and also for looking back on memories made in years past.

Below is a post I published on November 22, 2018 – the 4th Thursday of November – and, in the United States, celebrated as Thanksgiving.

🥧 🥧 🥧 🥧 🥧 🥧

Thanksgiving

A day – if you’re fortunate – set aside for family.
For gratitude. For sharing a meal.

Usually a massive meal – in our house it was based around turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, some kind of vegetable. Rolls or banana bread. Every year the “fixins” changed somewhat.

The most important part: many pies. The dinner was basically a stop on the way to pumpkin…apple…cherry pies.

And my personal favorite…playing cards while eating dessert: aka pie.

Dinner was also all about the conversation and stories we shared. So much time and opportunity for prolonged discussion when you are passing endless bowls of food around. Pouring wine. Pouring water. Carving more turkey. I just never knew what subjects would come up; but many became classics.

Such as…

In 1990, my husband and I hosted our first Thanksgiving.
I had never cooked a whole turkey before. An overwhelming task. I had heard horror stories about overcooked turkeys and dried out white meat. That would never happen to me…I’ll cover it! That should do it.

My parents and my in-laws were coming – to join me, my husband and our 2 kids.

I dusted off the big blue covered roaster pan my mother had passed down to me. Coated the fresh turkey with spices and some oil. Tied the legs together.

I put the cover on. It went into the oven. I set the timer. And let it cook. And cook. Many hours later – when, according to the recipe it would be done, I removed it from the oven. Look it’s ready! With great fanfare, I lifted the lid…Oh No!

It looked like a turkey snow angel! All the turkey meat had slid off the bones. We had turkey stew! There was nothing to carve. Legs askew. Wings fallen off. My mother was horrified. I laughed. And laughed.

It still tasted great…and…the white meat was NOT dry!

♥  ♣  ♠  ♦

The following year:

Twelve family members gathered at the dining room table to enjoy our Thanksgiving feast – including my parents, my husband’s parents, my grandmother, my sister and her family.

1991
1991

Upon noticing someone struggling to remove the meat from a turkey leg, my father-in-law shared a memory…a story that has become part of family lore.

He began describing his job at the First National grocery store in the 1930’s. When he helped get the turkeys ready to be sold for Thanksgiving. The turkey carcasses were brought to the store and his job was to pull the tendons out of the legs. Apparently, this made the turkey legs easier to eat. He went into graphic detail. Right in front of everyone. Who put their forks down and stared at him…as he explained this was probably not done anymore. Those pesky tendons still attached.

GROSS! we protested.

Shocked faces…especially those with turkey legs eaten or half eaten on their plates. There may have been some gagging. My big city brother-in-law’s face turned white. He got up and left the room…

♥  ♣  ♠  ♦

Empty nest Thanksgivings…

 left more time for documenting…

IMG_1302

But traditions remained the same.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: October 30

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: October 30

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of  your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

~~~

The following post was published on October 30, 2018. This year brings such a different trick or treat night for all those costumed kids. It is still scheduled to happen tonight (and tomorrow night) in many towns in NH, including where I used to live. Between the first snowfall of the season and COVID-19, I wonder how the Pencil Lady would have handled it.

Happy Halloween!

🎃****🎃****🎃

Trick or Treat

The Pencil Lady!!!

The Pencil Lady!!!

I would hear their voices…while they walked up the driveway.  Waiting by the side door, I watched through the glass. Little witches, clowns, princesses, ghosts, pumpkins, monsters, ballerinas…about to ring the doorbell.

They remembered my house.
And they were excited about pencils.
It was October 30th. The night before Halloween.
Trick or treat night where we lived for 37 years.

halloween-pencils-partial.jpg

I wasn’t always the pencil lady.  I handed out fun size Snickers and M&M’s like everybody else that first Halloween in our new neighborhood. It was 1980. But my conscience won out a few years later.

I worked as a dietitian at the local hospital. Cautioning my patients to avoid sweets and eat a balanced diet. Somehow giving out those exact items to young children seemed…well hypocritical. And I was young and very idealistic at the time.

Hence the pencils…

…which I ordered from a catalogue. A box of 12 dozen Halloween Pencils.

In 1985 I started using the lid to record how many we gave out every year. Including how many went to school Halloween parties. I didn’t know it at the time, but 2015 would be my final year as the Pencil Lady. I had already refilled the box before we moved.

As Halloweens went by, I discovered that decorative pencils were not popular with every trick or treater. Especially the older ones. For example:

A group of large size, teenage-looking ghastly creatures came by one year. Fake blood. A few in their football uniforms. Rubber monster masks. Practiced nonchalance. All holding out pillowcases filling up with candy.

“Happy Halloween!!” I greeted them.
“Trick or Treat” they monotoned.
I held out the pencils, ready to drop one in each pillowcase.
One  creature looked at me with alarm: “Pencils?”
“Yes! Pencils! They are great for school. You don’t have to take one if you don’t want to!”

The next morning I looked for and usually found a few broken pencils in the front yard.

halloween pumpkin064
Kid Carved – lighting the way for trick or treaters 1997

When I was growing up, our dentist lived at the end of our street. As I trudged to his house dressed in my hippie/flower girl/hobo costume, I knew I could count on Trident sugarless gum. Which was fine with me. Another neighbor handed out homemade popcorn balls. Another one gave us apples.  My favorite: Mounds bars and peanut M&M’s.

The trading back at the house with my brother and sister was intense. Almost as fierce as swapping houses and hotels in Monopoly. My brother often had an unfair advantage as he would trick or treat twice – changing costumes in between. I personally wished I’d thought of it first, although he only got away with it once. That I know of.

When my children reached trick or treat age, we celebrated with costumes and pumpkin carving. Candy trading. Traditions evolved.
Chili became Trick or Treat night supper since it was a fast one pot meal. My son and daughter trick or treated together in our family friendly neighborhood until she left for college. Either my husband or I usually tagged along. Not because they needed us, but because it was fun.

After they were both grown and out on their own, it was trick or treat from my viewpoint as the Pencil Lady. Those little faces so bright and expectant. Carefully climbing the 3 stairs to our side door; the light left on to welcome them.

From 5 – 8 pm every Oct. 30th, the doorbell rang and rang.
Costumes of all shapes and sizes – from lions and tigers to Sesame Street and Disney movie characters to robots made out of cardboard boxes – they were so proud.
The littlest ones trying their best to say Trick or Treat.
And, as they turned to leave, say Thank You.

I wonder if they miss the Pencil Lady.
She misses them.

Trick or Treat does not happen here in our over-55 condo community.
Although I suppose I could still hand out pencils in the lobby.

Lens-Artists Challenge: What a Treat

Lens-Artists Challenge #120: What a Treat

We’d love for you to share something that was a treat for you – a visit from your grandchildren, a special event, a recipe you really loved, maybe even a Halloween surprise ….it’s up to you.

~~~

My choice for this week’s challenge may seem kind of odd, but a recent package in the mail turned out to be quite a treat. And fitting for this election time of year. These days most everything is…well…odd.

I was recently in touch with my one and only cousin for the first time in several years. Her mother was my father’s much older sister and as a result we shared a set of grandparents.

She lived nearby our grandparents for most of her life (I did not) and knows more about them than I do. I wanted to learn about our grandmother’s history, as my father had only researched his father’s ancestry – and not his mother’s. For some reason, the maternal lineage is not as interesting? I think not. That’s usually where all the stories are.

I emailed my cousin, asking if she had any information about Grammy’s ancestors. She promptly called me on the phone, shared some hilarious memories and said she’d see what she could find regarding a family tree and “anything else.” The box of “anything else” arrived within the week.

What a treat.

Apparently Grammy’s father – J. J. Green – was involved in local politics in the tiny town of Graysville, Tennessee where she grew up. My cousin had an old photocopy of one of J. J.’s campaign “posters” – a musty yellowed 8″ x 11″ sheet of paper with Grammy’s notes penciled in around the border. 

What a fascinating peek into small town political history. I had to smile at the line: “the best moral comes through the influence of women.” A bigger smile for Grammy’s comment…”he always won everything he run for….”

I know nothing else about my great grandfather, but I sure am curious!

My cousin also sent a few photographs, several crocheted handkerchieves and a stack of written out memories from various family members.

Among the photographs…an undated black & white image of J. J. labeled “in the living room.”

I’d vote for this guy!