Midweek Mélange…

Good morning.  I hope the sun is shining wherever you are.  Here in the northeast, we had snow (again!) on Monday and Tuesday, but my weather app is teasing me with the promise of sunshine and temperatures near 50 today!  Welcome to this week’s Midweek Mélange, my opportunity to let my stream of consciousness brain take over and write about what has caught my attention lately.  

My life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue…. Oh my, has it ever.  I didn’t own a lot of albums while growing up, but Carole King’s Tapestry pretty much played on repeat throughout my sophomore and junior years of high school.  I didn’t care – probably didn’t even know – that it won the Grammy award for Album of the Year, I was simply drawn to the music.  The photo on the cover made me feel as if she was looking directly into my soul and we had a connection.  We celebrated young lust together (I Feel the Earth Move) and she kept me company on many a lonely Saturday night (You’ve Got a Friend.)  Back in February of 1971 (FIFTY YEARS AGO!) when Carole King’s Tapestry album was released, I could have had no idea how all the threads of my experiences were going to weave together to create my life, but this album is definitely one of those threads. Half a century later, it is still one of my favorite albums and one I would want if I were stranded on a desert isle.  Song lyrics can be powerful and emotive, and this album played a huge part in helping me navigate the awkwardness of my teenage years.  Did you have a particular album or song that spoke to you during your crazy, horomonal youth?  Do you still listen to it today?

Last week I received an email from Vogue.com with the article, These Are the 71 Best Documentaries of All Time.  I perused the list and decided to start with Bill Cunningham New York.  Mr. Cunningham was a unique American fashion photographer for the New York Times.  It is a delightful documentary!  

Mr. Cunningham was born into an Irish Catholic family and grew up in Boston.  He has been quoted as stating his interest in fashion began in church, “I could never concentrate on Sunday church services because I’d be concentrating on women’s hats.”  He attended Harvard University on a scholarship, dropping out after two months.  Drafted during the Korean War, he found himself stationed in France, giving him his first exposure to French fashion.  Back in the States after the war, he became a milliner, making hats under the name “William J”, working out of a tiny studio apartment in Carnegie Hall, where he continued to live for decades.  His hats were fabulous, but I think he truly found his calling when he was given a $39 Olympus camera.  He wrote for Women’s Wear Daily and the Chicago Tribune, and eventually had two weekly columns in The New York Times:  On the Street featuring people on the streets of Manhattan and Evening Hours, chockful of photographs of high society events.

I was aware of Mr. Cunningham as the bicycle riding street fashion photographer in New York City, but Bill Cunningham New York provided me with an intimate peak into his captivating life, as well as giving me a much-needed dose of my favorite city.   

I caught up on some projects this past Sunday morning and did not sit down with a cup of coffee and Mr. Smith to watch Sunday Today with Willie Geist until it was almost over.  Luckily, I caught his Sunday Spotlight on The Women of Gee’s Bend.  What amazing women and what extraordinary quilts!   Gee’s Bend, Alabama is a tiny town, population barely 300.  This small, remote black community has been creating quilt masterpieces since the early twentieth century.  Their works are bold and improvisational, often in geometrics that transform recycled work clothes and dresses, feed sacks and remnants into art.  Turns out, I had a close encounter with these quilters a couple of years ago.  The print in the skirt of Michelle Obama’s portrait dress that hangs in the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. was a beautiful reference to these talented women.  At the end of the episode, Mr. Smith turned to me and said, “Women of consequence!”

I hope something inspiring or comforting caught your eye this month.  I would love to hear what is keeping you entertained during this unusual time.                

C’est la vie.

She took a deep breath…

Even in the midst of many changes and unknowns She took a deep breath gathered her courage and dared to make today good.

Rachel Marie Martin

Every morning when I wake up, I spend a few moments easing into the day.  First, I try to figure out what day of the week it is.  My older and wiser sister tells me to let it go and not worry about what day it is, just be glad I woke up!

I eventually force myself out of the warm cocoon of my bed.  Mr. Smith, having heard my stirrings, prepares my morning cappuccino.  I drifted towards the fragrance, grabbed my coffee and settled into my perch near the window.  After scanning the outside world to be sure it still sits solidly below me, I start scrolling through my phone, checking for emails, text messages, or new Facebook or Instagram posts, hopefully featuring my grandchildren.  During my Thursday morning routine, I discovered the quote above by Rachel Marie Martin on my Facebook feed, via a Facebook friend.  Amy’s personal comment was:  Trying to make today a good day.  Thanks Amy, challenge accepted.

All during the Pandemic, I have rejected the thought of a “silver lining.”  People are dying, people are isolated, out of a job and struggling to get by.  How on earth could anyone find a silver lining?  A phone conversation with my first born one evening made me reconsider my pessimistic stance.  I decided to look up the definition and make sure I was interpreting the expression correctly.  According to vocabulary.com, “The common expression ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ means that even the worst events or situations have some positive aspects.”  Like many others, my son and his family have worked to find their silver lining in a less harried lifestyle and more time together.  Not every moment is perfect, but they are doing a great job of surviving the restrictive environment with creativity and some ingenuity.

So, I want to gather my courage and try to make today better, but for a self-proclaimed planner, the Pandemic has been a huge challenge.  Without something to look forward to, I have felt stagnant and stuck in a rut.  No get togethers to plan, parties, or themed sleepovers. Mostly I miss my family. Because there is still so much uncertainty, Mr. Smith and I are leery of planning a Camp Grandma for the summer of 2021.  We aren’t comfortable asking all our children and grandchildren to travel until we are more confident that all is safe.

 But I do need a project, something to plan.  I thought about what I treasure most about Camp Grandma and one of the things at the top of my list is the cousins having time together.  They live hundreds of miles apart and have few opportunities to be together.  So, as often happens, my musings led me to a new undertaking.  I am going to initiate a round robin style letter between the cousins and me.  I will start by asking some prompting and fun questions but give them plenty of room to share what’s new with them, draw a picture or tell a joke.  My goal is to keep their connection (and the letter) going and remind them that when it is safe, we will again roast marshmallows together and talk about the time Camp Grandma was cancelled.  

Over the horizon, ever so faintly, I see a glimmer of hope.  There are slightly warmer temperatures in the forecast.  More and more people are receiving the magical life-saving vaccine.  My grandsons will be returning to their classrooms soon.  My granddaughters will have playdates with their friends. Thank you, Amy, for providing some much need inspiration to be creative and create my own silver lining.  Or at least my own grandma keepsake of a Pandemic round robin letter with my grandchildren.

C’est la vie.

Women of Consequence: Beulah Mae Donald

Along with several other awards she had received, in December of 1987, Beulah Mae Donald of Mobile, Alabama was named one of Ms. Magazine’s 1987 Women of the Year.  I feel extremely sure Mrs. Donald wished there had never been a reason for her to receive those tributes. In honor of Black History Month, meet an extraordinary woman.

In March 21, 1981, Mrs. Donald, a divorced single mother of seven, woke from an unsettling dream around 2:00 a.m.  There was no falling back to sleep so she got up and headed to the kitchen.  On her way, she passed by the bedroom of her youngest son, Michael Donald.  He was not in his bed.  She telephoned one of her grown children where Michael had visited earlier in the evening, watching television with his cousins.  She was told he left before midnight.

Beulah finished two cups of coffee before moving to her sofa and waited for the sun to come up.  At dawn, Michael still wasn’t home.  To keep busy, she went outside to rake her small yard.  As she worked, a woman walked by and told her “They found a body” and continued walking.  Shortly before 7:00 a.m., Beulah received a call.  Michael Donald’s body was discovered hanging from a camphor tree.  There was a perfectly tied noose with 13 loops around his neck.  He had been beaten to death and his throat had been slit three times.

Michael had been alone, walking home, when he was spotted by Klansmen Henry Francis Hays and James (Tiger) Knowles.  That week, a jury had been struggling to reach a verdict in the retrial of a black man accused of murdering a white policeman.  The killing had occurred in Birmingham, Alabama, but the trial had been moved to Mobile.  When the jury failed to reach a verdict and a mistrial was declared for the second time, a local Klansman declared, “If a black man can get away with killing a white man, we ought to be able to get away with killing a black man.”  Spurred on by the hateful rhetoric of the United Klans of America, Hays (26 years old) and Tiger (17 years old), grabbed a pistol and a rope and headed out in Henry’s car.

When Hays and Knowles spotted Michael, they ordered him into their car at gunpoint and drove to a secluded area in the woods in the next county.  When they stopped, Michael, terrified and confused, tried to escape. They chased him, caught him and beat him with a tree limb more than a hundred times according to trial testimony.  When he lay still and was no longer moving, they wrapped the rope around his neck which they used to hang him on that camphor tree across the street from Hay’s house.  They raised his body high enough that it would swing.  Beulah Donald’s grief for her son, her youngest child, was overwhelming. She could hardly remember identifying his bloody body.  She did find the strength to insist on an open casket for her battered son so “the world would know.”  She wanted the world to witness the brutality of the assault.

Even though the Mobile police chief believed from the very beginning that the Klansmen were involved, they tried to redirect the evidence to suggest a drug deal gone bad.  The police arrested three young men described as “junkie types”, but they were soon released. At this point, the District Attorney’s office invited the Federal Bureau of Investigation to enter the case.  Their investigation produced no helpful evidence, and it appeared the killers would go unpunished.  Mobile’s black community organized local rallies that eventually drew the attention of Reverend Jesse Jackson who led a protest march in Mobile and demanded answers from the police. Two years after that horrible night in 1981, a second FBI investigation elicited a confession from Knowles, allowing them to convict Tiger Knowles of violating Michael Donald’s civil rights and Henry Hays of murder.  Henry Hays received the death sentence and was executed in Alabama’s electric chair on June 6, 1997, Alabama’s first execution since 1913 for white-on-black crime. Knowles who had served as a key witness against the Klan, was sentenced to life in prison.  He was released on parole in 2010. 

Finally, some justice for her son, but Beulah did not settle for that.  She wasn’t looking for money.  She wasn’t looking for revenge.  She was wise enough to realize that the death of her son didn’t happen in a bubble and wanted the Klan held accountable for the acts of its members. 

Early in 1984, attorney Morris Dees, co-founder of the esteemed Southern Poverty Law Center, approached Mrs. Donald about filing a civil suit against members of Unit 900 and the United Klans of America to prove Hays and Knowles were carrying out an organizational policy set by the group’s Imperial Wizard.  They filed a wrongful death lawsuit that sought to hold the organization and its members liable for the murder.  If they could prove in court that the “theory of agency” applied, the Klan would be held liable for the murder as a corporation is for the detrimental actions of its employees in the service of business.

At the culmination of the civil trial, it took an all-white jury in Mobile only four hours of deliberation before awarding Beulah Mae Donald $7 million.  The Klan didn’t have the money and eventually turned over the deed to its only significant asset, the national headquarters building in Tuscaloosa.  The building eventually sold for $51, 875, the proceedings going to Donald’s mother.  The result of the trial bankrupted the Klan and represented the first time the KKK was held financially responsible for the actions.

Mrs. Donald with her attorneys, Michael Figures and Morris Dees.

Beulah Donald’s is a story that has stuck with me, niggling away.  I think about her sitting on the couch waiting for the sun to rise, wondering where her son was.  I am also a mother and have worried about my children.  But unlike Mrs. Donald, I have never had to worry that my sons would be targeted simply for the color of their skin.  I think about her strength, her refusal to back down and how that began to change the options for victims of hate crimes and their families. 

And I think about her devotion to her children.  She was determined that Michael would not become “just another colored man, as they say, gone on and forgotten.”   Beulah Mae passed away in 1988 at the age of 67.  She was a hero and a Woman of Consequence.

********

Yesterday afternoon after I had scheduled this post for today, I received a phone call from my sister. She had seen a promo for the new CNN Original Series THE PEOPLE v THE KLAN, coming in April, 2021 focusing on Mrs. Donald’s fight for justice for her son. If this post piqued your interest, you may want to keep your eye out for the special. I know I’ll be watching.

Be my Valentine…

Happy Sunday and Happy Valentine’s Day!  

When I sent Mr. Smith off to work on January 4 after two 4-day holiday weekends in a row, I wondered how I was going to make it through January with no holidays or long weekends.  Now here we are, smack in the middle of February!

My granddaughters have been busily preparing to celebrate and have spent time working on their Valentine boxes.  This brought back warm memories of my time in first grade and the excitement of taking an empty cereal box to school to decorate for classmates to put their Valentines in.  

My grandsons on the other hand were not so interested in making fancy boxes and took reusable grocery bags to collect their greetings.  Sam did write out his Valentines, whereas Henry and Eli decided to just throw candy at the other kids and be done with it.   Eli explained, “It’s okay, I’m not really a fan of the love thing.”  Oh Eli, we’ll remind you of that in ten years.

One of my favorite things about the St. Valentine holiday is that it has grown beyond roses and chocolates. Apparently, we have the fictional character Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation to thank for the creation of “Galentine’s Day”, a day of women celebrating women.  Leslie explained, “Every February 13, my ladyfriends and I leave our husbands and our boyfriends at home, and we just come and kick it, breakfast style.  Ladies celebrating ladies.  It’s like Lilith Fair, minus the angst. Plus frittatas.” With February 13 being unofficially added to the calendar, it is now more a “season” of love than one stressful day where significant others feel considerable pressure to create a perfect experience.  Acknowledging that there are many different kinds of love and none of them perfect, The Washington Post offers up this list of romantic movies showing love in all its permutations.

This year more than ever we need an excuse to disrupt the banality of our daily life and a little creativity may be required.  COVID-19 has made the possibility of our typical celebrations challenging and unsafe. Like so many, I am missing restaurants and longing to indulge in a long, leisurely meal at our favorite bistro, but alas we are waiting. Out on our walk the other afternoon, we passed our favorite Thai restaurant.  The centerpiece on the sweet little front window table is no longer a candle, it is a bottle of hand sanitizer.  Nothing says romance quite like that.

Mr. Smith and I rarely dined out on Valentine’s Day even pre-Pandemic, but we still endeavor to make the day pleasing.  Today we’ll get out for a long walk and then do some reading.  I’m planning to drag every candle I can find into the bathroom and have a lovely candlelit soak with my best bath oil.  We’re making pizza for dinner, sharing a bottle of Chianti and watching Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy.  And we are still each other’s favorite Valentines.    

C’est la vie.

A Congenial Table…

My baby jus’ wrote me a letter…

Every year as Valentine’s Day approaches, I embark on finding the perfect setting to create an atmosphere of intimate romance for our table for two. And since love is not something to be celebrated only one day a year, I decided to indulge in some fun this past Saturday.

I have been searching the internet for inspiration and was rewarded most serendipitously!  Most of the tablespaces presented for Valentine’s Day focus on the color red and hearts.  I wasn’t interested in purchasing “heart” plates and I’m not a huge fan of red, but one place setting of an older pattern from Mikasa caught my eye.  It was a little more subtle in its pattern but sadly, the pattern was no longer available.  Mr. Smith and I had previously used Replacements, Ltd. when we broke some dinner plates, so I hopped onto their website in hopes they might have some pieces.  One click led to another and then – there they were!  The sweetest little salad plates covered in script writing and named Love Letter.  As I entered my credit card information for the purchase, my dinner theme wrote itself.

Mr. Smith and I collaborated on the menu for Saturday night and agreed to keep it pretty simple.  The main attraction would be New York Times Cooking Filet Mignon with Mushrooms and Madeira Wine Sauce accompanied by Wegman’s Potatoes Gratin Rosemary & Thyme (so easy and so yummy), green beans with raspberry clafoutis for dessert.  Saturday morning, I made the clafoutis.  If you haven’t made one before, I highly recommend giving it a try.  This French light and custardy baked dessert is simple and has never disappointed.  With our dessert prepared, my meal prep responsibilities were pretty much complete which gave me time to focus on setting the table.

In addition to purchasing the new small plates, I ordered a couple of glass bead chargers from Etsy.  I usually try to work with what I have on hand but was really in the mood to add a bit of sparkle.  Plus, the chargers can do double duty as platters on a buffet table.  Lots of candles, some beautiful spray roses and a little surprise held back to add at the last minute.

With Chris Botti’s album When I Fall in Love adding to the ambiance, Mr. Smith outdid himself in preparing the filets and sauce.  The mushrooms, shallots and wine combined into an exquisite sauce for our delicious filets.  Mr. Smith’s choice of a tasty Bordeaux was the perfect complement our dinner.

Back to that little surprise I added to our table setting just before we sat down to dinner.  Little stacks of handwritten letters tied together with a ribbon. I have saved letters that Mr. Smith has written to me over the years, the oldest ones from the month after we married in 1978 when he went on a camping trip in Canada with his father.  All the letters were written before email and text became a way of life, when either he was traveling for work or we were in the middle of a geographic move, a literal timeline of our life together.  He had no idea that I had saved them.

After we cleared the dinner plates, I poured us each another glass of wine and sat and sipped while I listened to my husband of 43 years read each and every one aloud to me.  The letters are very dear to me.  The thought that went into them, the time it took to write them and the journey they took to arrive, sometimes crossing the Atlantic Ocean.  I wonder if when I am gone my children will go through my box of treasured memories examining them to get a fuller picture of their parents, or if they will consider them my memories and nothing they need to see.

Either way, I hope that one day they will share with my grandchildren and greatgrandchildren that Mr. Smith wrote me letters that I treasured enough to save for decades.  Maybe they will be inspired to write a letter or two of their own.

C’est la vie. 

Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

I have been in a funk this week, bogged down in the wash/rinse/repeat of life. Every post I started for today came out sounding whiny. So my sister/editor who has had my back for the past 65 years, again stepped up and offered to provide a guest post. I don’t have any memory of the wringer washer, but I do remember the excitement of the arrival of an automatic washer and dryer at our little house on Fail Road many, many years ago. Happy Sunday and enjoy the post!

…a memory                                                                                                

…it’s 11ish, morning…I’m scanning the Times newspaper when the buzzer goes off signaling the chore of pulling wet clean garments from the washer and plopping them into the yawning dryer.    I sigh… like it’s a call back to the mines.  Suddenly I am awash with old memories…of my mother and me rolling that heavy awkward old round wringer washer machine from our covered back porch into the kitchen to start the weekly laundry drudgery.  She would pull out the two hoses stored inside and manipulate the washer around the floor to hook up the hoses to the kitchen faucet.  As the tub slowly filled with hot water Mom would grab her faithful big orange box of industrial strength Tide detergent.  She swore it was the best and got even the grimy boys pants clean.  ( She even made us kids bathe in it.) (I don’t recommend it.)

The load of whites always went in first, the agitator working away, back and forth, sometimes adding a splash of bleach to encourage brightness. After a bit of time (only Mom knew how much) it was time to put the clothes through the scary wringer.  All seven of us kids were warned with stories of fingers and hands being crushed in a wringer. We knew to pass on the admonitions to our younger siblings.  

Carefully each garment was eased into the rollers and then down into a second nearby galvanized tub filled with clean water to rinse out the soap.  We would splash them around, up and down, then back through the wringer and into a basket to be lugged to the back yard and hung on clotheslines…spring summer fall and the dead of freezing winter, hung with wooden clothes pins until they dried, not always an easy feat in wintertime. In polar temperatures diapers would freeze into perfect rectangles and needed to be brought inside to thaw before they could be folded.

After the whites came the pastels, same arduous routine and finally the darks of dad and brothers’ shirts and pants which were also the dirtiest.  If the water became too murky, we would empty the washer thru a hose into a bucket and haul that heavy load to the sink to empty and refill. I hated emptying the washer and hauling the dirty water out, in the summer  to the yard…must not waste water and the soap kept insects at bay, so mom said.  Occasionally we would run out of hot water and mom would fill large pots and heat water on the stove.

And this was my memory at 11 am in 2021, as my dryer buzzer called me.   I sat with those Indiana days for some moments realizing how my mother never complained but just got on with the task at hand. She was raised a farm girl. That’s what you do. As I headed down the stairs to transfer the laundry my thankful heart went out to the inventors and moms who today make my laundry day so simple and me feel a bit guilty.   May they all rest in peace.

…the duchess

My bookshelf…

The Lying Life of Adults by Elena Ferrante

Mr. Smith discovered this title on The New York Time’s list 20 Books We’re Watching for in 2020.  He requested it from our library, quickly devoured it, leaving time for me to read it before it was due back. It is the story of Italy’s haves and have-nots told through the eyes of a young girl. Giovanna is a meek, obedient, 12-year-old girl growing up in a middle-class part of Naples.  She overhears her father comparing her to his sister Vittoria who her parents have always described as someone in whom “…ugliness and nastiness were perfectly matched.”  From that point on, Giovanna begins a journey through the Hell that is puberty with her father’s words in her head.  There is chaos, deception and infidelity on the part of the adults in her life.   The book opened up a window for me into the Naples culture, allowing me a look into a very different world than the one I grew up in. It wasn’t my favorite read of the month, but I’m glad I stuck with it and appreciate that it expanded my horizons.  Elena Ferrante is a pseudonymous Italian novelist who also wrote My Brilliant Friend.

Us Against You by Fredrik Backman

My fan-girl admiration of Fredrik Bachman continues this month with Us Against You.  Set in hockey obsessed Beartown and full of human drama, you don’t have to have an interest in hockey to love this book.  When the star of the hockey team is accused of rape, the town is divided and struggles with the aftermath. Even though I know Bachman is a Swedish writer and his novel is set in Sweden, I could easily imagine it being northern Wisconsin.  The Washington Post review states, “Us Against You takes a lyrical look at how a community heals, how families recover and how individuals grow.”  Not a quick read, but well worth it.

Atomic Love by Jennie Fields

Jennie Fields’s own mother worked as a University of Chicago-trained biochemist in the 1950s. Inspired by her mother’s work, Fields wrote Atomic Love set in Chicago.  During World War II, the protagonist, Rosalind Porter, was the only woman working on the Manhattan Project.  Five years after the war, she is 30 years old and selling jewelry at Marshall Field’s.  When she is contacted by a colleague she had a passionate love affair with while working on the Project before he abruptly broke up with her, she is also contacted by the FBI who wants her to spy on her old lover.  There is science, love and espionage.  One reader aptly described it as “atmospheric, historically interesting and escapism” and I agree.  It was a quick read and a nice distraction.

And a Valentine book craft!

I recently came across a Valentine craft I had saved from a few years back.  I decided this was the year I would finally make the upcycle book-page treat bags ala The Refab Diaries.  I made a pattern and since I didn’t have any books to upcycle, I cut out my hearts from some sheets of crafting papers I already had on hand, as well as using ribbon and card stock from my stash.  The only thing I purchased was the candy to tuck inside.  I used a 4” heart template which only held one Hershey Miniature.   

They were quick and easy, and I think turned out pretty darn cute!  For those of you who may not have a sewing machine, I hand stitched one heart with two strands of embroidery floss using a running stitch.  Let me know if you are inspired to create your own!

C’est la vie.

Confessions of a (somewhat) remiss grandmother…

Have you ever started off your morning with a list of things you want to accomplish that day and ended up wandering in a totally different direction?  Has one thing led to another and before you know it, you are sitting on the bedroom floor sorting through piles of stored memorabilia that have been (im)patiently waiting for you?

This past Wednesday morning the first item on my list was finding and printing out a copy of Amanda Gorman’s The Hill We Climb to include in my granddaughter Olivia’s scrap-ish book.  I am not a scrapbooker by any stretch of the imagination, but ten years ago I started saving mementos for Olivia and putting them in a book to give her someday down the road.  I have the invitation to her baby shower, the label from the bottle of bubbly that Mr. Smith and I shared on the day she was born, and other bits and pieces I have gathered through the years.  

I found Ms. Gorman’s poem and was printing it out when a prickling of conscience hit me.  I was way behind on Olivia’s book.  Instead of continuing on with my “to-do” list, I pulled out her album and a large stack of pictures, thank you notes, drawings, and other grandchild keepsakes and started sorting.  I spent a delightful afternoon.  I basked in the memories and started speculating about new adventures we might share as soon as we get rid of this lousy Pandemic.

I donned my grandma crown in a big way from Day One.  I was working away in my office at the law firm in the fall of 2009 when my son Emmet called.  He and his wife Emily were expecting their first baby and I thought he was calling to report on a prenatal visit. He asked me, “Remember how excited you were to find out you were going to be a grandma?  Well, get ready to be twice as excited!”  Twins!  I spent the next hour floating around the firm, spreading the word to anyone who would listen that we were going to have not one, but two grandbabies!  I didn’t start scrapbooks for Eli and Henry, but I did buy a couple of boxes for their keepsakes.

The last time Henry and Eli were able to visit, we had a grand time sorting through their boxes. They loved seeing birthday party invitations from birthdays they can’t quite remember. My favorite souvenir is from the first Camp Grandma in 2012.  They were 2 years old.  One afternoon while we were hanging out on the beach, Henry came running up to me excitedly saying, “I found Goodnight Moon, I found Goodnight Moon!”  While playing in the sand, he had dug up a broken milk jug cap, but in his eyes, he had found the moon!

I have logged the most grandma hours with Sam, Eli and Henry’s little brother.  I was the grandmere au pair for the trio of brothers for 16 months a few years back.  Eli and Henry spent their mornings at preschool and Sam and I were the best of buddies.  We played at the park, we nibbled many a croissant, and spent hours creating fanciful creatures with playdough. 

I have been writing a letter to Sam each year on his birthday.  I tuck in a little cash, seal it up and put it away for later.  I’m thinking maybe his 18th birthday.  While he is no longer my little sidekick, I treasure the time we had together and want him to know how special he is to me.

Emily, Elizabeth and Eleanor each have their own envelope filled with the same sort of memorabilia, but I haven’t decided how I’m going to organize them.  Each of my grandchildren is unique and I want to choose the right format.  I’m thinking Elizabeth may have to have some sort of recording.  When we were Facetiming recently, she had a book that Mr. Smith and I had “recorded” for her.  She was fascinated that our “noise” was in there.  With the speed in which technology changes, I will need to do some research to discover if there is a way I can make a recording for her so she can always hear our noise.

So, I confess.  I let myself fall behind on my grandmother duties and I’m not sure why.  I want to leave my grandchildren with the memories of moments we shared and hope that my keepsakes will be treasured by them.  Are you keeping a scrapbook, journal or something else for your grandchildren?  Do you write them letters or save news articles or quotes for them?  I would love to hear what you are up to.

C’est la vie.

Midweek Mélange…

Good morning and welcome to the premier posting of Midweek Mélange.  According to Vocabulary.com, ‘A mélange is any combination of anything, but the word always heightens the glamour quotient…’. Glamour is certainly something I’m longing for these days.  Well, that and travel.  At least I am now scheduled for the coveted vaccine, allowing a glimmer of hope over the horizon.

Historically January was my least favorite month. That was until 2011. That was the year my first fabulous, amazing granddaughter was born. Happy birthday, my beautiful Olivia!

This year January, however, hasn’t felt all that different from every other month, but I am still pleased to see its end approaching.  I always feel like I’m just treading water, waiting for Spring.  While anticipating the thrill of seeing bulbs start to pop up through the earth, I’ll make do with my cheery tulips from the market.

If you are feeling the need to get away, I suggest Escape to the Chateau, a British documentary series that follows the story of Dick Strawbridge and Angel Adoree as they renovate and redecorate a 45-room, 19thcentury chateau in France.  The scenery is evocative and the renovations are inspiring and entertaining. While they are working on a much grander scale, it brings back many memories of our work transforming the old Victorian we purchased in Indiana over thirty years ago.  Mr. Smith sanded, stripped, painted and papered every square inch of the house, turning it into an inviting, cozy home.  The creative, charismatic Angel provided one of my favorite quotes from Escape to the Chateau.  While sweeping up a room full of dead flies she said, “Behind every romantic story is the reality.”  Having lived through our own renovation, I can relate.

If the Pandemic has left you feeling uninspired, I wholeheartedly recommend listening to Nora Ephron’s 1996 Commencement Address to Wellesley College. Having graduated from there in 1962, she returned on a rainy, chilly day in 1996 to address the graduating class. Despite the audience being huddled under umbrellas, to say she was well received is an understatement. I listened to it again recently and was amazed at how well it has held up over the passage of decades.

 Aware of my girl crush on Ms. Ephron, Mr. Smith recently passed along an article he read in New York Magazine, Mike Nichols’s Heartburn.  Mike Nichols’s 1986 movie Heartburn was based on Ephron’s book by the same name chronicling her marriage to Carl Bernstein that ended in a messy divorce.  We watched the movie this past weekend.  One of the joys of getting old is while the movie felt familiar, we weren’t convinced we had seen it before.  I particularly enjoyed the restaurant scene where they go around the table and everyone describes themselves in five words.  Ephron talks about this game in her commencement speech and how those five words change over time. 

Other activities that have helped me through these winter/COVID months are reading and embroidery.  I am working on more pillowcases and a little Valentine treat for someone.  There is something extremely satisfying in seeing your stitches come to life as a design on your fabric.  It can be as seductive as reading.  Just like telling myself I’ll just read one more chapter, I find myself thinking oh, just a few more stitches.  

Along with travel, I still miss shopping but don’t have much need for new clothes.  Or so I thought.  Despite the onslaught of emails with amazing post-Christmas sales at many of my favorite clothing stores, I have managed to keep my buying to a minimum, but a recent inspection of my lingerie drawer indicated it might be time to dust off my credit card.  I have been purchasing my knickers from Hanky Panky for several years.  Every July they send me a 20 percent off coupon for my birthday and I weed out what is past its prime and refresh my inventory.  Noticing some rather sad looking panties in my drawer, I realized I didn’t receive a coupon this past July! I was past due for an update.  While online looking for undie inspiration, I Googled “How long should underwear last?”  I was surprised that many gynecologists recommend replacing your unmentionables every 6-9 months.  Armed with that information, I spent some time on Soma’s website, filling up my cart.  When I saw the total, I hesitated and decided to sleep on it.  And what should arrive in my email the next morning but a 25 percent off offer!  I am happy to report all is once again well in lingerie land.

Do you also find it interesting how your perspective on something can change?  The birth of my first granddaughter gave me a new appreciation for January.  A vase of tulips on my dining table reminds me that Spring is coming.  Not being able to travel and shop reminds me how much I take pleasure in those activities and how I need to appreciate them more in the future.  Those things will happen again and, in the meantime, I have tulips and new knickers as promise of better days ahead.  It’s all in your perspective…

C’est la vie.  

There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow.” O. S. Marden

Ever since Joe Biden was declared the winner of the 2021 presidential election, the inauguration ceremony had been on my mind.  Even before the January 6 attack on the Capital, it seemed clear that our tomorrows would be very different from our yesterdays.  The ongoing Pandemic would dictate no parade down beautiful Pennsylvania Avenue, no large noisy crowds, and no elegant festive balls.  Would the scaled back events without the usual fanfare make the occasion seem diminished?  Can an inauguration taking place against the backdrop of seven-foot-tall fences and over 20,000-armed National Guard troops feel majestic and stately?

With these questions swirling in my head, I anxiously looked forward to watching the 2021 ceremony more than any in my lifetime.  Add to that the fact that a woman was being sworn in as Vice President, and my anticipation was bubbling over.  While I had blocked out much of my day for watching, my sister is a much earlier riser than I am and was in on the action before the sun was ever up.  She shared her early morning thoughts of Inauguration Day 2021.

It was 4:00am, January 20, 2021.  Robed and fuzzy slippered, hunkered down in my overstuffed chair, mug of hot coffee clutched close to my chest, I began to watch.  Still dark in D.C., yet shadowy folks already bustling about getting ready for history.  Slowly the sun arose behind the dome bathing it in gold.  An unfamiliar feeling somewhere beneath my ribs startled me. I was puzzled as it quietly expanded bumping against my crusty old heart….it seemed to be joy, it seemed to be hope.   I sensed this day was going to be extraordinary.  An hour later former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was being interviewed. Apparently, she sensed that same emotional bubble and called it “…new hope…” As she spoke the phrase went straight to my heart. Today is new hope.

All my fretting was for naught. From the moment the four hundred lights were turned on surrounding the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting pool on the eve of the January 20, I knew all would be well.  Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez and Garth Brooks all added to the proceedings.  Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman took our collective breath away. There appeared to be a relaxed sense of fellowship among the politicians on stage – both Democrat and Republican.  The sense of fellowship was as welcome as all the magnificent fashion on display!  The beautiful, vibrant colors made me rethink my predominately gray wardrobe. It was one of the classiest swearing in ceremonies I have ever seen.  Along with Senator Amy Klobuchar, I hope, “This is the day when our democracy picks itself up…”   

No disrespect to President Biden, but the big moment for me was Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor swearing in Kamala Harris as Vice President.  Making it even more special was knowing that my granddaughters hundreds of miles away were watching.  The Biden Inauguration Team made a free coloring book for kids to help celebrate the occasion.  

Olivia, Emily and Elizabeth sprawled on their living room floor coloring the pages, pausing when their mom directed them to the action on the screen.   When firefighter Andrea Hall led the Pledge of Allegiance, they stood and recited it along with their nation.  When Lady Gaga slayed us with her mixed meter version of the Star-Spangled Banner, three little voices sang along with her.  Children accept/take for granted things that they grow up with.  By the time my granddaughters are voting, hopefully we will no longer feel the need to specify “woman” vice president.

I understand that simply changing administrations is not going to solve our nation’s many problems.  COVID-19, the economy, climate change, immigration and equality aren’t issues that are going to be resolved overnight.  But Joe Biden didn’t become president overnight, it was a long and winding road.  With hope and expectation of something tomorrow, we must look for the light.

C’est la vie.