Wednesday, September 24, 2014

A string of pearls

I have two stories to tell, both about women who, at 17 and in love or in the beginnings of it, told a lie. Both went on to marry the man of their dreams, and both lived with them until the men died many years later. They both grieved deeply.

The first was two years younger than the boy, and they had grown up in the same neighborhood. He went away to college. The next fall, as he walked to class, he beheld a smiling beauty walking towards him. She seemed vaguely familiar, but he didn't know who she was until she said hello and he heard her voice. Wow! where had that skinny, harum scarum young girl gone to? She was now lovely, poised and smiling at him, flirting. He flirted right back.

They chatted briefly, then he said he had to get to class.

She said,"Oh, what class are you taking?"

He told her what it was. Economics, I think.

"What a coincidence!" she exclaimed. "That's my class, too."

So they walked together to class, sat hear each other, and the next day, she changed her schedule to include the class on economics. Did well in it, too. They hit it off. They fell in love. The following year, when she was 18 and he was 20, they married. Under Texas law, a woman of 18 didn't need parental permission. The same law, regarding men of 20, said men did need permission, which he received.

They were married more than 60 years, and had an adventurous life with their brood of children. They lived all over the world. They truly were partners.

And it was years into the marriage when she finally confessed to him that she hadn't been signed up for that course at all.

The second woman also was two years younger. She met the man she would marry her senior year in high school. He went away to college.

In her case, her parents had intended to send her to a different college than the one he was attending. So she researched school catalogues and hit upon a major that only was offered at the school he was attending. It was actually a pretty good fit for her, but she had not planned on that particular field. She told her parents that was what she planned to do, and they paid to send her there.

So she went to the school where he was attending, they dated, and after two years, were married. They settled in Texas and reared their children there. When the children were in school, she completed her degree in the field she told her parents that she wanted so much she had to go to his school. The lie she had told had taken her down the path to a degree in that field. So she finished her degree. And it was work she enjoyed.

It worked out all right. She went on to write a book that was published in her field. When illness took her husband prematurely, she missed him for years and has finally gone on with her life. She still is immersed in parts of her profession that still give her pleasure. After all, maybe she would have chosen it anyway.

I don't know if she ever told her husband or her parents. I do know that she has always tried to deliver what was expected of her. I think she takes a certain pleasure, even joy, in remembering the lie she told that led to marriage to the boy she was determined to have, the future she seized for herself.

I think the lies were different, and the repercussions were different. Certainly, the people were. The times were.

I cannot conceive of wanting to marry so soon. I couldn't then. I wanted to live on my own awhile before I married, and so I did. I don't personally relate.

Lies have repercussions, good or bad, for years afterwards, and in these two cases, probably for generations.

I know both of these women, their families. I have my own thoughts about the two lies. Are they the same? are they different? Do you like one more than the other? Both gave the woman an honest chance to build a relationship with the man.

And yet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Nice Day in the Life

Gracie and Brody were playing chase in the house today, and the rugs are all askew. Both came laughing up to me, panting and with tongues lolling, for scratches and petting. It is, after all, their little treat after moments of merriment, that I enjoy them so much I can't resist the petting.

I am glad they are happy. They don't see other people often, and that, as much as my poor training, is part of the reason they rush to newcomers and leap up on them. I can change their training and begin the walking I've always said I will do, but I don't feel I can change the solitude. My home has few visitors.

The dogs are such wonderful company in the evenings, when I sit down with a book or a television show if I can find one, and just share the time. They are constantly moving, demanding attention from time to time, and adding their aliveness to my own.

When we all went out on the porch to enjoy the super moon, though, I realized that my life is full of friendships, like beautiful beads on the string of time. I was somewhat frustrated earlier with a call from a friend from high school years, because she had continued to work during our call, and I could not always hear her well. Still, she had been on my mind lately, and I hadn't called her, so I am glad she did.

My fiftieth high school reunion revived friendships with two women I have known since elementary school. We email back and forth, and occasionally facebook. There are a couple more. Two friends from college, both former roommates. We try to get together for lunch every year. I had three professions in my working life, and have friends from each place. We email and get together once in awhile, as well. Some family friends. Most, however, are many miles away.

What has astonished me about a couple of the childhood friends is that they have grown up to share--over 60 years--many of the same interests I have. Well, I have a lot of interests. But wherever they are, however their lives have gone, somehow, we have popped out with the same concerns about environment, love of books, history, and in some cases, art and music. How did that happen? We were just girls who climbed trees together and rode bicycles and...never played baby dolls together, swooned over rock stars, or even considered skipping college. Huh. I guess we start picking through the threads of who we will become earlier than I thought.

That stuff isn't just phases we go through. It is picking the colors of life we like that will shade the life we have when we are grown. Some of us lead disparate lives that end with such similar thoughts and interests that I am amazed. We do change over time. Events, time itself can forge large differences. Somehow, though, I have ended up with these few childhood friends who have grown up in harmony with me

The friends of my life come from every age and aspect of my life. Some are almost as old as I am. I hope some new friendships will develop,also. I am too young to be stagnant. I am into the difficult years, when friends die or drop away due to dementia,or move away, often to be closer to their children. So they are scattered.

As I write, the dogs have given up on me. They always do when I sit down here to write, but they were hopeful when I went to get a yogurt and a banana. Food was present,now consumed, and they don't like bananas, anyway. And I ain't sharin' the yogurt.

Today is beautiful and hot, with a cold front and possible rain tomorrow. Hopefully, neighborhood cats will not be screeching around 2 am in the morning again, triggering wild barking from under my bed where the dogs sleep nights. I'm tired today. I don't do parties, but I have a couple of interesting meetings today. Neighbor Matt is getting his roof repaired from the March hailstorm. Dogs quietened down quickly when the hammering started early this morning, since every roof on the block, including mine, has been replaced.

A friend is having surgery today, another had surgery two weeks ago, and another has surgery planned next week. Standard fare for 70s and 80s. Parts wear out. On the other hand, the engine light on my car may have been due to insufficient tightening of the gas cap lid last time I gassed up. Car is getting older, too, but no maintenance today.

Yep. A good day.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Birth order dynamics in the waiting room

I had to go by the Social Security office, and the reception room was full of people of all ages sitting quietly. Well, all but a curious four-year-old, who wandered a bit despite the eagle eye of his grandmother and two older brothers, about 8 and 10. Grandmother ordered him to sit down. Then the eldest boy got up to go to the bathroom.

A reason to get up! The four-year-old immediately took off with his middle brother patiently following to corral him. Which he needed.

The four-year-old, naturally, didn't see which of the three doors his big brother went through. So he picked. He picked the locked door to the office behind the reception room and tried and tried to open the door despite all efforts of his brother to change his direction.

"This isn't the bathroom," the brother said, trying to grab the little boy's hand. Failing that, he tried to pick him up. The little boy resisted, squirming out of reach and saying, "Yes it is! Yes it is! I want to go to the bathroom! Leave me alone!"

In front of a roomful of people, including the aforementioned grandma, the older brother was trying very hard to gain control and not hurt the pre-schooler. So I interfered, as I am sometimes wont to do.

I am blessed with one of those deep, resonant voices that make persons on the phone call me "sir." I am a Grandma.

"Do what your brother says," I told the little boy firmly.

He stopped, looked at me. I looked back. He stood up and let his brother take his hand. I nodded to the brother, and he nodded back, the soul of satisfaction. They went in the men's room. They all came out and sat down again.

And I snickered to myself. The dynamics are already there.

Twenty years from now, the youngest will think he absolutely knows what to do about some thing or other, and his two older brothers will just give him that Older Brother look of tired, weary patience and knowing.

And the youngest will still look at his older brothers with exasperation.

"WHAT?" he'll say. And maybe they will sigh.

Because he cannot change one thing, ever. He will always be the youngest.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Ruminations on "The Sixth Extinction"

I have begun reading "The Sixth Extinction" by Elizabeth Kolbert, and I am deliberately reading it one chapter a day. I don't think I could bear more. I believe in honesty, and this book is honest. With the shmear of humans across the world rather like butter on a slice of bread, each year sees the absolute obliteration of species of living things, from flora to fauna.

The first chapter is about the obliteration over the last decade or two of so many species of amphibeans. It doesn't touch on horned frogs, the mascot of a college here in the Metroplex. I played with "horny toads" as a child, as did my oldest son. The colony of horned frogs by the Methodist church where my sons grew up may have been gone by the time my younger son came along.

They were fairly easy to catch, and would close their eyes in bliss--or so we thought--if we rubbed the smooth skin between the spikes over their eyes.

My granddaughters probably will see them in zoos and never hold one.

This is happening all over the planet to grasses, trees, birds, insects,land and marine animals...and water supply. I see this. And I am sad, because I also see so little I can do.

I can, and do, oppose fracking. I have no personal experience with noise, smells, chemical effects, but I am passionately opposed to polluting millions of gallons of water--which will not be clean enough for the earth and humans to use for decades or hundreds of years--when humankind is facing massive overpopulation and widespread drought. It is madness in the name of greed. And frankly, it doesn't seem like common sense to me that something humans do which seems to cause accompanying earthquakes is very good for us, either.

Diversity in nature is important. To me, that's self-evident. We are always finding some little piece of the universe that after all fits in right--there--and makes something else work. So how much can die before we humans start dying off, too? will that be too late for the earth to revive somewhat?

Earth resources are finite, but we act as though they are infinite. We have some serious shortages coming up. The two Americans are noticing, however, are coffee, and chocolate. The whys would make a good book on each. Vanilla is less threatened, but also at risk.

Hopefully we will take better care of the growers of all three and make expansion of product possible.

Humans are so silly. We, too, are marvelously diverse, and it is one reason we have multiplied to such numbers as we now have.

I remember some survey awhile ago where people said that if they could genetically modify their babies in utero, what they would want would be for them to be genetically modified so they could eat all they want and stay thin.
Oh. And they want to live to be 100, too. It used to be true that persons who had reached 100 had never been overweight during their lifetimes. I don't know if that still is true.

I do know that being able to survive on less food is a definite survival trait for humankind. I am proof positive that one can love broccoli and be fat. I often eat far too much and can survive quite nicely on less food. As I age, and eye my retirement income, that is a nice perq. I am so used to my household that when I visit my son's family for a meal, I am somewhat awed. The one meal consumption--for six of us, granted--would feed me for close to two weeks (and boy, would I be tired of the rations by then!) They are younger and much more active. They eat more.

We have big fights over water brewing, I know that. I've already seen an article extolling the solution of extracting sea water and removing the salt to solve our drinking water problems. Maybe that will solve the problem of rising seas. Oceans,however, aren't infinite, either.

When I was a little girl, I was told that only humans have souls, and that we were the only planet with life in the universe. Even as a kid, I doubted the latter. You don't lie on your back staring at the night sky in New Mexico and say, "Earth is the only planet with life in the universe? Really?"

I don't know how it will all turn out. As I look around the planet, at the trash in our oceans, the poisons in our rivers, the smog in our air, the dying species, I can imagine some cosmic voice re-echoing around the globe: CLEAN UP YOUR ROOM!

The problem is, where do we put the trash?





Thursday, July 31, 2014

Apple Commercial Offers an Honest Feel Good

Lately, several television commercials have been enjoyable. Yes, enjoyable. They may be better than some of the shows they bookend.

One is special. (You guys with Tivo miss this stuff.)

Actually, I had to watch a couple of times specifically to find out whose ad it was, which seems to be a new trend. This one shows the Apple logo for several seconds at the end.

There's this woman singing a song. "We're Living a Life of Dreams." It's really great. Happy, lilting and poignant, all at the same time. It's in a commercial on tv. You can also Google it and there's a YouTube version.

In the ad, various parents are shown busily taking care of babies, toddlers, preschoolers in a seamless blend of scenes. You do hear the babies screech a time or two. There's the little blonde girl with the happy smile who is stopped in the nick of time as she is inserting a Q-tip in her ear (and I swear I have seen that footage somewhere.) The only spoken audio is the couple in the car consulting a diagram on a phone as one says, "he's got to be here somewhere," and the next frame shows a dog in the shadowed foreground, ears pricked, as a car stops down the street, the door opens, and the dog is off like a shot to the car. There is a woman jogging slower and slower as she pushes twins in a stroller up the hill, the music slowing, too. "Dreams...dreams....dreams." The last frame is this four-year-old who accidentally turns the hose on his daddy working in the garden, and the delighted, innocent smile of that boy as the screen fades to the Apple logo. It's humorous. And it plucks a memory chord, at one end or the other. Probably both.

It is about the matter-of-fact loving of children we rear and our dreams for them and for ourselves, and it isn't at all sentimental, but it isn't cynical, either. These people are just doing what needs doing, and the lilting, tender song reminds us, "We're living a life of dreams." Indeed.

So, where did the song come from? That's easy, I googled the title. I discovered the song was written and performed by Julie Doiron, 42, a pretty well-known Arcadian songwriter and performer in Canada, where she lives and was born. Apple has bought the song from her and you can get it for your ring-tone.

Would the rest of you have to do the same thing to know this? Probably not. Do you understand something I don't know? Very probably. If this is the way it works for everyone, I don't understand that, either. Subtle sells?

If I had something to download to, I would download this. It reminds me, as I scrub a filthy grill for a cookout, or take the time and patience to work with someone else, any age, really, that what always I am doing is the prep work for what comes after--dreams reached. A little dream of a happy outcome.

I'll take that. I have done so. I just realized I'm smiling as I write this down.

We do the scut, sweat, cuss, repair, hurt, cry, see our children cry, and we despair. There's that little laugh that goes with the despair as we grab a loved one anyway and just hold on.

And at the very bottom of it, if we look, so often what is left is...we're living a life of dreams. And the dreams carry us.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Like the flag, may the Star Spangled Banner always fly.

This is an honest question, based in ignorance.

Is the national anthem of any other country a story of suspense?  of danger leading to hope?

People call for an easier song to sing.

"America the Beautiful", for instance.  Bucolic, satisfying, happy and tuneful. It is all of that.

Or, maybe, even write another song.  Phhhyyt;

My older son commented earlier that the fireworks of the Fourth of July commemorate the celebration of the battles our country fought to become this country.
So does the Star-Spangled Banner.

A lot of emotion went into that tune.  It was about a suspenseful time in history, when after all we had struggled to achieve might go to ruin.

"Does the flag still fly?"

"Can we prevail?"

"Do we have the grit, the determination, the unsurmountable intent to build the country we lived in and make it all ours, warts and all?"

Can we survive?

And every time we sing that anthem, we affirm "through the rockets red glare, the bombs bursting in air, our flag was still there."

Still is.

So set off the fireworks, a happy facsimile of that night.

The flag is still there.

And for about 200 years now, so has the "Star Spangled Banner."

May it always stand as a vital part of the history of our country and who we are.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Robert Parker's successor writes his first Spencer novel

Don't  know if you ever read  crime-solving books by Robert Parker. He died in  2010, appropriately collapsing over his word processor as any writer might choose to do. Apparently the book in progress had notes complete enough that the book was completed and published.

In an unusual move, Parker's wife and children sold the rights to his series (there are three) to another writer, Ace Atkins.  They felt he knew Parker's moods and characters for these books well enough to continue them.

The writing style, of course, can't be duplicated. Parker wrote with a sparse use of words in short sentences that somehow conveyed a great deal of emotion and meaning. His characters were complicated.  He communicated this with the short sentences and paragraphs wonderfully well.
Parker's books were not thick. They were a fast read, and oddly rich in satisfaction.

Atkins'  "Cheap Shot" is his first book since he bought the series from Parker's estate.

The plot is definitely vintage Parker. All the cast members pretty much show up in their traditional roles. Sometimes I think he takes traits from earlier books rather than the later, and that's okay.  It is a Spencer book, Parker's longest-running series that got the television gig years back.

It was okay, maybe better than that for me.I  probably read every single book the man ever wrote, including the single novels before he started the Spencer series.

I read pretty omnivorously and definitely voraciously. I'm always looking for something to read. So I''ll  probably read another one or two or three.

This Spencer is just ....not-as.  Milk chocolate when I wanted dark.

It's a tricky business, taking on a character someone else developed and carrying them forward.  So much is really close to Parker. Maybe spot on.

Read it and see what you think. I'd like to hear some feedback.

Come to think of it, I haven't read anything else by Atkins. I ought to correct that.