Archive for December 2012

Where Have the Little Children Gone?   6 comments

My-my-my generation came of age in the 60’s and now we’re facing the realities of life in our 60’s. Everyone has their own moment when the mirror turns into a cruel tattler. For some it is the first gray hair(s). That was never a concern for me. I actually wish my hair were grayer. No, my mirror delivered the blow in the form of lines. Maybe I should rephrase that. Some people might think I am talking about cocaine.

A couple of years ago, my mirror pointed out that lines were appearing around my mouth. Years have come and gone, and still it taunts me. I think it has some kind of visual magnet embedded behind the glass because no matter what I may be doing – applying eye makeup, tweezing my eyebrows, fixing my hair – things that have nothing to do with the lower portion of my face –  my gaze ends up fixed on my mouth or chin.

I blame my big smile. I once read Mick Jagger used the same defense for his creases; to which Keith or someone else replied “No one is that friendly.” (Let me stop and point out that Mick has a few years on me.) But I’m straying far from my point, and yes, I do have a point here. Actually a very serious one.

Friday morning I was at work, scrolling through my company’s twitter account. Believe it or not, part of my job is to hang out on social media. As a result, I learned of the Connecticut tragedy before most people did. Twitter always gets there first.  When I saw  “Sandy Hook school on Lockdown.” I  thought they were talking about the Sandy Hook  that serves as the gateway to  the Jersey Shore.

Then, “Shots fired in Newtown, CT School.” Wow, I thought, I’ve heard of Newtown. I think that’s near Danbury.

Then the tweets started falling like snowflakes Oh my goodness I thought it’s an elementary school. When I saw that a teacher was shot in the foot. I began scrolling faster. Tweets about the incident were popping up like crazy, soon outnumbering all the other topics.

My eyes remained glued to my monitor but when I saw the words Kindergarten, and whole class missing, I had to get up and share it with a friend in across the hall.  It would be hours before I or anyone else would learn just how tragic this was.

As long as I was up and it was lunch time, I decided to go out for a walk. My lunchtime walks are  usually dual-purpose – exercise and meditation.  I’m not sure what you’d call this.

As I walked I tried to digest the fact that these were very young children, of the age I’d taught when I was a teacher.  Mass shootings are horrific no matter what the age of the victims but there was something about lives being taken when they’d barely ventured out into the world that filled me with survivor’s guilt. Oddly enough my thoughts went to my creased chin.

These little six and seven year olds, they’re gone. They’ll never have lines on their face. All of a sudden I saw my lines as a privilege. Not everyone is blessed with a long life, one filled with enough experiences to earn those lines. Good experiences …….

……as well as bad.

I thought of those periods  I never thought I’d get through; the year I taught the fourth grade from hell— the horrendous year of watching my brother succumb to cancer——  broken relationships and betrayals

In the light of the afternoon sun, I began to cherish these incidents for the strength they showed me I possessed;  the strength it took to endure, and come out the other side, wiser and stronger, and yes, still retaining my sanity. These children would never get to experience any of them.

But then, maybe they didn’t need to. Maybe this brief lifetime had showed them all they’d come  to learn, all they’d come to accomplish, and now God had taken them back.

I am no longer what I’d call a conventionally religious person, but a nebulous image came to me in that moment, only to re-appear a couple of days later, brighter and more firmly outlined. It was Sunday night, I was watching President Obama speak in  televised interfaith service in Newtown. He was speaking of the innocence of those twenty children.

The image sprung to life in full color and I remembered where I’d seen it – on an easel in the front of my own  kindergarten classroom nearly sixty years ago, when I was their age.

Jesus

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Food for Thought   4 comments

I mentioned in the Kool-Aid post that one reason we drank so much Kool-Aid in my family was because we were not a water-drinking family. Well, that sent my mind on a rambling goose chase, and I found myself following a trail. One that led to a couple of strange eating and drinking habits in my family.

As to the no thank you, no water, I can’t swear to it, but I think this sprang from the fact that my father had a thing about water. He said that he “once got sick after drinking water”. I wish I‘d asked more about this experience like “how do you know it was the water?’ Or “what else did you eat or drink that day?”But I was I was very young when I first heard this and whatever Daddy said was taken on faith.

I wasn’t  young in Daddy’s later years when I’d visit him during various stays in hospitals and nurses would ask me why he wouldn’t drink water.

nurse

But I’d still say “once he got sick after drinking water.”  After a few days, he’d have them won over, and all the nurses would bring him orange juice when they came around with the medicine cart.

But this isn’t the only drinking problem our family had. There was also Aunt E., one of Daddy’s older sisters. Her problem was milk. She drank it, but only if she couldn’t see it. Brother A and I always liked eating at her house since she poured our milk into coffee cups.

cup It made us feel like grownups drinking coffee.

Recently I was reminiscing with Cousin J, her son, and he pointed out that she always let her ice cream melt to liquid before eating it, and she only ate vanilla ice cream – in a clear, crystal dish.

Melted ice cream, t hat brings it around to yours truly. I’ve never really psycho-analyzed myself but I’m pretty sure ice cream is the reason I don’t like big parties.  During my early years, say three or four, my mother was always taking me to kiddie  birthday parties. The kids weren’t my friends. We did kind of play together in the park but it was our mothers sitting on the benches who were forming the real friendships.

“Don’t be silly,” she’d tell me when I said I didn’t want to go. “Parties are fun.”

Sure parties had their moments.

pin the tail

Pin the Tail on the Donkey was funny,

musical chairs

and Musical Chairs was exciting.

But with the end of each game, dread and loathing inched a little closer. It meant ice cream and cake was just around the corner.

Sure enough, the birthday girl would open her gifts and the next thing I knew I was crammed in with kids I didn’t know, surrounding a table with a big round cake festooned with white icing, and pink or blue or yellow roses. Candles with dancing flames sat on top.

birthday cake

 

Happy Birthday would be sung. I’d mouth the words because my throat was closing and the tears were forming.

I’d sniffle and gulp as some grownup with a big knife would slice the cake and put it on a balloon decorated plate before handing it to another grown-up who’d use an equally big knife to slice a rectangle of ice cream from the deconstructed carton, and hand it to yet another G.U who’d place the plates on a tray and give them out.

I just knew the ice cream was melting by the second, and I knew, I just knew I’d have to eat it . After all, the other kids were clapping and jumping up and down and devouring theirs on contact. But the more it melted, the soggier the cake got; and the more I tried, the more I cried.

ice cream & cake

That’s when the questions would start.

“What’s the matter?” some little girl would ask.

I’d shrug my shoulders,

“Why are you crying?” a mother would ask.

I’d shake my head.

“What’s wrong with you,” my mother would ask on the way home. “Kids like ice cream and cake.”

Well, this kid didn’t like ice cream-and-cake, not together. The cake wouldn’t have been too bad if the ice cream didn’t go and “soggify it”.

Maybe that’s what led to my beets and macaroni problem.

My mother always seemed to make macaroni and cheese

mac and cheesewhen she cooked beets.

beets

And since those were the days when a good square meal meant a starch, a vegetable, and a meat, no matter how you dished it out, the red of the beet juice was going to run into yellow of the macaroni and cheese. And I just could not eat the macaroni. No way. And so I sat and sat at the table….until I finished it.

The sands of time have had their effect on me,  but two idiosyncrasies (to put it kindly) remain.

Although I accept, and always have a great time, an initial invitation to a party calls for time to settle into the idea.

Oh yes, I always confine runny, juicy foods to their own little bowl, one that kind of look like aunt E’s ice cream dish.

Any formative food stories in your past?

Don’t Be Talkin’ Bad ‘Bout My Kool-Aid!   4 comments

I spend quite a bit of time on the internet, compliments of my job. And somewhere in my travels, this image confronted me

sugar kills

Hey, Mother Jones I thought, that’s not the Kool-Aid I knew!

Why is Kool-Aid always the fall guy?  First there was Tom Wolfe’s silly book, The Electric Acid Kool Acid Test.

th_006

OK, I admit it, I read it. And yes, I enjoyed it. But why Kool-Aid? Couldn’t Ken Kesey and his Merry Pranksters use something else to down their LSD? It could have been the Electric Raspberry Lemonade Acid Trip.

Then there was Jim Jones and the Jonestown tragedy.  I won’t dwell on tragedy but it did leave Kool-Aid with a besmirched name, and it led to people’s saying “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid” when they think someone’s blindly following an idea.  Look, I wish Jim Jones had not  used anything at all to mix his poison, but I’m just saying, if he’d  used milk people would be saying  “Don’t drink the milk”, and I’d be fine with that – I don’t like milk.

Why you might ask am I so sensitive about Kool-Aid. Do you remember my blog entry about how summers on Cape Cod did not officially begin until my brothers and I had bought our flip flops?

Well Kool-Aid kept the summer going.  If not for Kool-Aid, we’d have died of thirst with our flip flops on.  You see, we were not a water-drinking family – unless it had Kool-Aid in it.

And Kool-Aid was mighty cheap back then. 5 cents an envelope, with a bulk discount of 6 for 25 cents. I know because as the oldest child I usurped the responsibility of choosing the flavors. There was raspberry, orange, grape, strawberry, lemon lime, and another raspberry. That was 25 cents worth, and then I’d choose another six, this time replacing the second raspberry with a second strawberry to bring it to50 cents. There was a sixth favor I could have chosen. But it was cherry,

th_048

and I didn’t like cherry. Brother A did, but too bad. He wasn’t the oldest!

The twelve envelopes would just make it until the next week’s trip into Hyannis for grocery shopping. This was  summer time, and that meant my mother had to make a jugful to bring to the beach each day, plus a pitcher for the fridge because brother B was the most generous of the three of us, and he was always bringing his friends in for a glass or two.

Then there were the Kool-Aid pops.

pops

We’d save all our Popsicle sticks for weeks in preparation. After all, they were the most important part of the recipe. My mother would make the Kool-Aid and pour it into an ice cube tray with a stick in each section. Then she’d stick the tray in the freezer for an overnight stay.  The freezers of the early 60’s lacked the oomph of today’s freezers.

Getting the pops out of the tray wasn’t as easy as you younger people might think, or as quiet. Ice cube trays of that era were metal, not plastic – no flexibility.

ice cube trays

You had to bang it on the sink and wiggle the collapsible partitions that separated the ice cubes. Then more banging and rattling, and if you weren’t careful you’d end up with shattered Kool-Aid pops

I took a field trip last Saturday – to the powdered beverage aisle in the supermarket. I wanted to confirm my memories before I set them to paper. Yes, one envelope makes two quarts. And the directions for pops was still on the back, but what surprised me, besides the fairly reasonable cost of 20 cents, was the calorie count – zero. Were they now making diet Kool-Aid?

I thought about it for a couple of seconds and it came back to me – you had to add your own sugar! I should have known that. You see, with time, I graduated from Kool-Aid chooser to Kool-Aid preparer. The bad part was Brother A got my old job so I had to slit open the envelope and dump cherry powder into the pitcher, add eight cups of water, one cup of sugar, stir it up, and we were ready to h t the beach

One cup of sugar spread out over two whole quarts of water? That doesn’t sound so bad to me, Mother Jones, but then you’ve never seen me adding sugar to my coffee, have you?