The Clue in the Climbing Tree

BeckyB’s July Squares: Treesquare
SixWordSaturday

“Tea for the Tillerman” album cover
Illustration by Cat Stevens

There is a tree on this square (!) album cover…so it is joining the Treesquare challenge today. “Tea for the Tillerman” also happens to be one of my all-time favorite albums. I don’t know if I’ve ever really noticed the tree before, but now that I have, it just ups this album on my meter of favorites.

Those two kids climbing the tree? Well, one of them could have been me way back in the day between the ages of 4 and 11. When I had what I called a Climbing Tree in the front yard of our small home. I don’t recall what kind of tree it was; only that its branches were at just the right height for me to grab, gain a foothold…and up I’d go.

We also had a backyard, but it felt more like a cage. My father installed a split rail fence around the entire perimeter and then covered it with chicken wire – ostensibly so my sister, brother & I wouldn’t escape and flee wander off into traffic. Except there was very little (no) traffic, so maybe it was because of my little brother – so he could be sent out there to play unsupervised. He did tend to wander. I’d try to get away with climbing over the fence, as the gate was locked, but I was soon discovered.

The thing is…I loved the front yard. Much freer place to play. No fence. No boundaries but the street curb. Plus a tree to climb and hide in when it was leaved out. I spent hours balanced on branches…”spying” on unsuspecting passersby and imagining exciting stories about what adventures they might be up to! Perhaps too many “saving the day” Saturday morning cartoons; although more likely it probably coincided with my addiction to Nancy Drew books. Perhaps I was developing my own “The Clue in The Climbing Tree” or “The Secret in the Street.” Unfortunately I have yet to unearth any photographs of my tree in the boxes of old photos stacked high in my closets.

Decades later I happened to drive through that NJ suburb on a family trip and was curious to see the “old house” again. Sad to say the tree was gone. Gone! The house, unfortunately, remained frozen in time. Nothing had been done to maintain it. Peeling paint. Overgrown shrubbery. Junk piled up and down the crumbling driveway. The 1950s windows…dirty and tired. A sad sight.

The climbing tree was a rare happy place from that time in my life. A special perch and hide-out all in one. Perhaps it’s just as well I remember it that way.

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Let’s not forget how this post started…Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf, released an incredible collection of brilliant songs on “Tea for the Tillerman” in 1970. As you can tell from the faded & worn album cover, it was well loved and spent little time on a shelf. We all have at least one album where we remember every word to every song…and know what song will come next as each one finishes. I know it’s cliché – but in this case…I think these songs are timeless. Below is a link to one from this album (and it’s hard to choose just one, so if you can, check out the whole record):

On The Road To Find Out
by Cat Stevens

Not So Frivolous

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #120: Frivolous

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Another Tourist Trap! my father would inevitably snarl as we approached a Country Store…my favorite destination for souvenirs as a child. My sisters, brother and I would be poised and ready to jump from the family station wagon as it pulled into a dusty parking lot. The result of a small side trip off the main road. We were all excited. He was not.

Keep in mind my family only went on a few – maybe 3 – “family vacations” when I was growing up. My mother always pushed for more, but my father was not interested in the minutia of planning and disruption of routine. To be fair, it couldn’t have been easy with 3 or 4 kids to pack up, transport and stay overnight in a new place. One time my paternal grandmother traveled with us, which severely dampened my mother’s usual enthusiasm.

But I loved a Country Store. There was one in particular in Vermont that we stopped at on the way to Expo 67 in Montreal. Penny candy. Those little wax bottles filled with colored chemicals that tasted like liquid candy. Straws filled with colored sugar. Barley rock candy on a stick. Candy buttons on strips of paper…(do you detect a theme here?). I think this was a Big Deal mostly because we weren’t allowed much candy at home. So it was okay to fill one of those small brown paper sacks with sweet treats “just this once.” A sugar high ensued for the rest of the trip. Tourist trap indeed…a kid’s little slice of heaven.

I didn’t usually have more than a few dollars to spend, but I always inspected all the shelves and displays…not just the candy bins. The “Gem Stones” or “Seashell Collections” glued to cardboard. Lucky Rabbit Foot key chains. The supposed pelt of a small animal (which I now hope was not really…real).

Nothing in those stores was essential. It was all unnecessary…and yes, frivolous, and would eventually rest in a drawer or sit on a shelf in my room. Never serving any useful purpose in the long run…at least that’s what my increasingly practical self concluded.

Except for one item discovered during a “day trip” which included a trip to a Country Store. A denim shirt. This was 1967 and denim shirts were extremely Cool (or as the term was back then: tough). I didn’t need a shirt. I couldn’t justify it in my mind as I could with the candy…I never get candy at home...because I did have enough clothes. And it was a men’s shirt. But boy did I want it with all my teenage soul. I hadn’t wanted something like this in a long time.

I don’t remember how much it cost, but even though I had my own money from babysitting I had to justify it. It was (sort of) a Vacation! One-day trips were out of the ordinary after all. And so were purchases at a Country Store. And it was clothing (even as a kid, I was sensible). My mother was most likely not thrilled I was acquiring a non-feminine men’s shirt. But it was my money (a life lesson right there).

I wore that denim shirt constantly. All the way through college. It eventually became threadbare in places…and what does one do in the ’70s with holes in one’s clothes? Patches!

Later, after I was married with a family and a house, it became my “work shirt” during home painting and staining projects. It faded with each washing. Eventually…and sadly…the fabric started to shred in my hands after being laundered.

I had to stop wearing it. But I still have it.

My frivolous purchase survives to this day…retired and safely tucked in a drawer. Perhaps to remind me that it’s okay to splurge and only with time will the value become clear.

Even if it’s from a Tourist Trap.

Most of my other fervent purchases would collect dust and be saved for decades…until the purge of downsizing began.

But not this shirt. It’s a keeper.

I did need it after all.

And it’s no wonder that the moment I first heard Mary Chapin Carpenter sing this song many years ago, I fell in love with it.

On May 21, 2020 she performed “This Shirt” as part of her “Songs From Home” series she has been posting on Instagram during the pandemic.

During this series, her sweet dog wanders through the kitchen during her singing and can be heard off camera sometimes as well.

Lens-Artists Challenge: The Sun will come out Tomorrow

Lens-Artists Challenge #122: The Sun will come out Tomorrow

…with everything that is happening in the world, it’s a good time to remember that, although everything seems gray, tomorrow the sun will rise again and it will illuminate everything.

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I am putting this post together on a cloudy, gloomy morning – so searching the archives for hopeful signs brought by the sun is a welcome positive distraction.

At the end of an afternoon visit to a nearby apple orchard this fall, I happened to glance across the road where a field of corn was planted. A sunshine spotlight!

Hampton Falls, New Hampshire

A ray of sunshine often surprises me during a walk in the woods…showcasing what lies within…

I was awake early enough one November morning in 2016 to catch this sunrise…

Hampton Beach, NH

A sunset to remember in November 2018…

Exeter, NH

The sun…from morning till night…always a welcome sight to see.

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Instead of an inspirational quote, I will close with an inspirational song.

Enjoy…

We need Some Kind of Wonderful

BeckyB’s October Squares: Kind
SixWordSaturday

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Today is the last day of BeckyB’s October squares challenge. In the spirit of the theme – all things kind – I wanted to end on a kind…soothing…musical…note. Songs like There’s A Kind of Hush, One Of A Kind (Love Affair), A Sunday Kind of Love went through my mind.

I started looking through our vast LP collection in search of just the right kind of song. As I got closer to the K section searching in vain for the apparently donated Herman’s Hermits album (they are alphabetized courtesy of my musician husband), I heard a familiar voice in my head…🎶…some kind of wonderful....🎶

That’s it! It was very surreal. But I suppose not too surprising…since I only listened to this album thousands of times “back in the day.”

If, in this stressful day and age I am now hearing voices, this is a most wonderful kind.

Some Kind Of Wonderful is on Carole King’s album Music, the LP that followed her signature release of Tapestry.

The booklet inside the album listed the lyrics to every song.

Enjoy…

Wordless Wednesday…almost

field of confusion

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During my quest for a Wordless image that would speak for itself, I took a second look at this particular photo captured yesterday afternoon.

I had a moment. A title to a specific song appeared…as if in a thought bubble hanging over my head. The kind I remember from 1960s Saturday morning cartoons.

But these days I’m not laughing.

You just might find…

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #103: theme song

Let’s have a little fun this week, discovering our current theme song. Post a video, lyrics, or write your own.

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A “theme song” – let’s call it my pandemic theme song – has been looping through my mind ever since COVID-19 erupted in the United States back in March.

The chorus from You Can’t Always Get What You Want by (who else) The Rolling Stones popped into my head almost immediately.

It also happens to be embroidered on a large 14″ x 18″ patch of denim. Which is framed and hangs on the wall next to my desk where I write every day.

Whenever I look up, there it is in glorious shades of pink and purple. A good friend of mine from high school made it for me in 1972. She was kind of a hippy back then and is now a cloistered nun. A story I touched upon last year.

abby patch2

 

I mean, seriously, it does make perfect sense.  You can’t always get what you want…most of us learn that fairly early in life if we’re lucky…and I often feel comforted by this timeless bit of wisdom. The Stones immortalized it, but it is actually true…duh.

I try to keep this nugget of humble logic in mind…as I wake up each morning…open my eyes…and remember. It’s not a dream. The world is still under siege. We are still waiting for “normal.”

The Stones did a wonderful virtual Zoom rendition of this tune on April 18th, 2020 for the “One World: Together At Home” concert in support of the World Health Organization. How fascinating that – out of all the songs they’ve recorded – this one was chosen for such a monumental moment in history. It makes perfect sense to me.

I may desperately want to see my family and friends in person…but I am still grateful I am not stuck in a long line of cars waiting for food. Or worrying I may lose my home or business. The financial impact on my family of 2 is not nearly as severe as it is for so many others.

Even though the April 18th performance doesn’t include the opening verses sung by the London Bach Choir, I highly recommend it.
(Bonus: you’ll get to see Charlie Watts playing air drums)

 

You Can’t Always Get What You Want

I saw her today at the reception
A glass of wine in her hand
I knew she was gonna meet her connection
At her feet was her footloose man

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you might find
You get what you need

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, “We’re gonna vent our frustration
If we don’t we’re gonna blow a fifty-amp fuse”

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes, well, you just might find
You get what you need

I went down to the Chelsea drugstore
To get your prescription filled
I was standing in line with Mr. Jimmy
And man, did he look pretty ill
We decided that we would have a soda
My favorite flavor, cherry red
I sung my song to Mr. Jimmy
Yeah, and he said one word to me, and that was “dead”
I said to him

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You get what you need

You get what you need, yeah, oh baby

I saw her today at the reception
In her glass was a bleeding man
She was practiced at the art of deception
Well, I could tell by her blood-stained hands

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need

You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need, oh yeah

by, Keith Richards and Mick Jagger
Released in 1969 on the album Let It Bleed

Bits and Pieces of the Past

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #95: bits and pieces

SixWordSaturday

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ticket stubs

 

I saved these ticket stubs…scraps of paper…bits and pieces from my past. I found them tucked in a drawer, old jewelry boxes and a business card case. Ancient rubber bands barely held some together. I smiled as I arranged them for this photo.

Allow me to share a few ramblings…

I remember…seeing Whoopi – my comedy idol – and waiting in the theater’s back parking lot afterwards hoping to see her.

There was the night we saw Bruce Hornsby and his heartfelt tribute to Jerry Garcia who had died a few weeks earlier.

A concert I never thought I’d attend had been #1 on my bucket list for years: Barbra Streisand. Tied for #1: Carole King. And there was Bonnie – could never get enough of her. And Bruuuuce…you know who I mean. Amazing.

When we took the kids to see the one-of-a-kind Harlem Globetrotters – back in the days of the basketball and Chicago Bulls craziness that consumed our family.

When You’re A Jet….a local professional theater did this fabled Broadway musical justice beyond our expectations. Again, a favorite.

And…Writers! Anna. Elizabeth. Joyce. Sonia. Atul. Inspiring and captivating…they welcomed us all into their world for an hour that went by much too fast.

I shared most of these events with family and friends. In theaters and concert halls both large and small. In New Hampshire, Maine, Massachusetts and Washington, DC. Singing, laughing and can’t-help-but-get-out-of-my-seat dancing…ain’t too proud sweet darlin….

I attended a few of the writer’s talks alone and will admit there was no singing and dancing, but laughing…yes.

Unique memories of a time gone by.

As far as I know, all of these once packed venues are closed for the foreseeable future. I hope that someday we all have another chance to collect more bits and pieces like these.

 
This song has been going through my head ever since seeing V.J.’s prompt. So in the spirit of live concerts please enjoy…

 

Nostalgic Cookie Sing-Along

Inspired by:

Lens-Artists Challenge #75: Nostalgic

…I look forward to seeing the nostalgic moments that are most special to you. Past holidays, times with family and friends, travel moments, or just something that reminds you  fondly of days gone by – it’s your call. Give us a small peek into the things you’re nostalgic about.

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #76: Music

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Get out the red and green sprinkles!
And the tiny chocolate chips!
Cookie sheets!
Cookie cutters!
Start the music!

It’s Time!

IMG_1598

When I was raising my children – and by the time each was around 2 years old – we made Christmas cookies together as a family. Simple cream cheese sugar cookies.

We used the same aluminum cookie cutters I used when I was a child.

Our tradition? I made the dough the day before so it was easier to roll out.
My daughter – and then my son – learned how to use a rolling pin and press a tree or bell shape into the flattened dough.

1992 t
Let the decorating begin!

Creativity was serious business.

The teenage years sparked unique decorating ideas such as the occasional anatomically correct gingerbread man. Ahem. All in good fun though…

Every year we were accompanied by the Sesame Street Christmas Sing-Along album pumping through the speakers (yes, we had speakers in the kitchen!)…and the clicking of the Canon camera.

My husband, I and the “kids” continued this annual family tradition for over 25 years…always accompanied by Big Bird, Cookie Monster (of course!) and the rest of the gang.

Cookies in the making. Oven warming. Four voices singing – the muppets’ lines memorized to perfection…

It’s that time of the year
When we all want to hear
A Christmas sing-along…

Or

Count, count, count — counting the days,
Count, count, count — counting the day…
I’m counting the days, ’til Christmas day is due…

(just a sample taste of this fabulous album – released in 1984 – just in time for our family).

A bit of nostalgia I never tire of revisiting.

1995 k t cookies
Cookies!
Decorated or about to frosted!

Both in pictures and in song.