Summer Clouds Dancing Across the Sky

Hampton Beach NH at dusk

SixWordSaturday

Settled on a boardwalk bench after an anniversary dinner with my husband last night, I was witness to Mother Nature at work. The evening sky on display…only a short drive away from our home.

Behind me – and across the street – a bustling sidewalk of tourists balancing beach chairs, slices of pizza and fried dough moved along from T-shirt shops to ice-cream stands to the iconic arcade that has been blaring its bells & whistles from pinball machines for decades. A mashup of reggae, rock and country music poured out from restaurant decks and porches. A sea of humanity of all ages, shapes and sizes gravitated in and out of what my father used to call “Tourist Traps” but what I affectionately called “Souvenir Shops” back in the day. Last night it was: Get your name printed on a grain of rice! or a ring! Buy this shirt with a (totally tasteless) message printed on the front! Key chains! Sunglasses! And More! Racks of tie-dye…everything…lined the boulevard. Before dinner, we played a few Skee Ball games for old times sake – and collected enough tickets for a pair of dice.

Finally, the popular vacation destination of Hampton Beach was “back to normal” after 2 summers of pandemic restrictions. It was wonderful to see people out and about enjoying themselves.

After over a week of record setting heat and humidity, I was most grateful a more comfortable summer day had returned…with its gift of a beautiful evening sky.

What a difference some kindness makes

You have some wildflowers in the lobby!

I do?

Yes you do!

A phone call from my neighbor downstairs on Thursday pulled me out of a dark cloud…. It’s not my birthday. It is certainly not Mother’s Day. Why on earth would there be flowers in the lobby for me?

I should have known…

There they were, arranged in a bright yellow cup. Alongside an envelope with my name written in familiar handwriting – by my guardian angel of comfort from the building across from ours. Inside…a note of thanks and support “for all you do for our community”…(as mentioned in previous posts, I work on my condo board). With an uncanny sense of timing over the past year and a half, she has surprised me with homemade applesauce, gluten free muffins and treats. And once before…flowers like these…left outside my door.

Her note and thoughtfulness unexpectedly brought me to tears…of gratitude…it was such a stark contrast to my day to day dealings.

She and I don’t know each other well, but she is aware of what goes on. And most of all she is kind. Once again it made all the difference.

We need more people like her in this world.

SixWordSaturday

What a difference two years makes

On March 27th, 2020 I published a post about shocking prices at the gas pump…as well as on the absurdity of life. It was the beginning of a pandemic. A new virus that nobody fully understood – which would fast become a political football and plunge the United States and the world into a chaotic mess. A tumble into the Twilight Zone where toilet paper became the Item To Hoard. And the chicken that kept disappearing from the meat department at Market Basket. Empty shelves in my corner of America.

Wash Your Hands became the new mantra (although it had always been my mantra since taking biochem in college). The shock at the gas pump in March 2020 should have been a positive sign. But everything was shut down. Nowhere to go with a full tank of cheap gas…

March 27, 2020

Fast forward to yesterday morning. I returned to the same gas station…the same gas pump. It was another WTH moment. The metal signs that hung over the pumps in 2020 were gone and I suspect it was because the prices were rising so fast. Who has time to keep changing the numbers or maybe they didn’t have enough 4s. Whatever.

I just peek at the news now, in print only. Televised Breaking News is unbearable and horrific…and the horror has nothing to do with covid anymore. But somehow I didn’t expect this when I went to buy gas…prices doubled in 2 years:

March 11, 2022

The surreal is amping up again…falling into another version of the Twilight Zone. Toilet paper is stacked high in the paper goods aisle at Market Basket, costing 50% more than in March 2020. Chicken has doubled in price, but is usually in stock now. Hand sanitizer collects dust on shelf after shelf. I shop as quickly as possible. Grab, pay and go. Sale prices no longer seem relevant.

Once more, something else in life feels out of control. However, even as I continue to wonder if “normal” will ever return, I am profoundly grateful for the life I have…unprecedented high prices and all.

SixWordSaturday

Ragtag Daily Prompt: March

In the middle of a Blizzard

SixWordSaturday

January 29, 2022

The snow started falling this morning, a January Nor’easter as they call massive snowstorms here in New England. Warnings popped up earlier in the week on television, newsfeeds and on the radio. Maps with snow totals (12-20 inches!) began creeping into the Breaking News lead-in segment during the evening news. Mother Nature did it again. She preempted the pandemic, the economy, foreign conflicts, politics. She tends to do that, as if to say…Remember your priorities people! I am really in charge here!

News anchors cranked out the usual…Get your snow shovels! Batteries! Bread! Milk! When it gets down to it, survival needs can get very basic. Although, I noticed more shopping carts filled with chips, cheese balls, frozen pizza, beer and wine.

And then the term blizzard (with its definition of wind speed blah blah blah)…and then: this could rival the Blizzard of ’78! That got my attention. I spent the Blizzard of ’78 huddled in a tiny 3rd floor apartment with my then boyfriend, watching the snow fall. I don’t remember anything about bread and milk.

Ice cream man! Ice cream man!

SixWordSaturday
BeckyB’s PastSquares

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You could hear the kids yelling up and down the block as those familiar.. and oh so repetitive…melodies grew louder and louder. Summer days and early evenings interrupted by the sounds of the approaching Ice cream man! Ice cream man!. Always shouted in double time…and always “man” because…well it was always a man. I hopefully imagine that in 2021, there are women driving as well.

My sister, brother and I must have had super sonic hearing because we were out the door or across the yard in seconds – quarters clutched in sweaty hands (if we were lucky enough to finagle them from Mom). We needed to make it to the curb before the truck went by. Chasing it down our suburban street was just not the same, although we took off after it whenever necessary.

It was always a Good Humor truck. My favorite ice cream bar was the one with the candy bar inside, but it cost more so I rarely bought it. Chocolate Eclair or Toasted Almond were my usual go-to choices.

The truck featured in this square photo was parked out of the way at the National Zoo in Washington, DC during a visit in 2019. Plugged in and keeping cold. When I saw it kinda tucked in under several trees, branches resting on its roof…I thought of all the times when the sights and sounds of a simple ice cream truck became the highlight of my day. A blast from the past.

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

Up, up and on my way

Weekend Sky
Six Word Saturday

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This expands a bit on Thursday’s post…chronicling my first flight since February 2020. The plane took off from Logan Airport under drizzly cloudy skies. Not a very positive vibe.

However, it wasn’t too long before this view emerged…

That blue sky…and what looked like delicious whipped cream (I can’t help it, food comes to mind)…a welcome sight!