Archive for January 2013
Anyone who knows me knows I am always cold. Always.
New York winters are self-explanatory but summers are as bad. Air conditioning! It’s why you’ll never see me without a shawl in my bag. I’ve been known to duck out of a restaurant to grab my spare shawl from the car. The only redeeming factor of air conditioning is I can go outdoors to warm up!
So, with such an aversion to the cold, why am I devoting a blog to winter and how much I love it? Because of the trees. For me, winter is when the trees come into their glory. I love seeing them stand graceful and tall, shorn of their leaves.
Bone structure; people attribute the beauty of women like Katherine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, and the model, Imam to their exquisite bone structure. It’s the same for trees, reaching up to the grey winter sky with their skeletons unadorned, their branches raised in a hallelujah proclamation.
A Glorious Study in Monochrome.
I first fell in love with winter forests when I used to drive to Michigan to visit a friend. Summer woods are soft and huggy but you don’t get to see into them. Driving west along Route 80 in January, I’d steal a second from the road to peek into the woods where I could see deep and wide, viewing it as I imagine deer, rabbits, fox and the like see it; even conjuring up the trek of a few Native Americans making their way home. (All this speculation when my eyes were back on the road)
Then, when I moved to the House of Mars, and it came with its own canopy of woods I was always surprised to see that there are houses just above me – in winter.
See the house? It’s just left of center.
In summer, they don’t exist – out of sight, out of mind.
But it wasn’t until Marcos came in to my life that I really began to like winter. Well, almost. Bundled against the cold we venture out in the early morning with trees our stationary companions. Walking slowly along the same route every day gives me the opportunity to notice things I never notice when driving or running. And in winter I notice even more. Trees and bushes, heavy with leaves, blend into each other, but in winter they glory in their uniqueness.
But let me say no more. It’s their show.
Marcos is ready
What great bone structure!
Hearty Winter Survivors of a Lush English Garden
A Winter Cheerleader with Pom-Poms
My appreciation of winter isn’t limited to my eyes. My ears notice too. The brook that flows through my little community is louder, clearer, with no leaves to muffle the sound.
. Gurgle, Gurgle
Rhododendrons have the amazing power to shrink when the temps dip below 32, only to bounce back as soon as the mercury starts to rise. But while they’re momentarily paper-thin, the wind turns them into wind chimes.
Before I go inside, let me introduce you to my new winter best friend.
Hi, they call me The Snow Boss
And let’s check in on my summer best friend.
Wake Me when Summer’s Here
It used to be that I’d see a lone person talking a mile a minute walking toward me, and I’d quickly cross the street. Then cell phone headsets happened and it became an everyday occurrence. Of course if I always assume it’s a cell phone conversation it leaves me open for a full out attack by a truly insane person. After all, didn’t we grow up being told only crazy people talk to themselves?
If that’s true, I think I’m in big trouble. Lately I’ve been hearing a voice, a familiar one – my own – speaking to no one in particular, and what’s even more upsetting, it’s out in public.
Still, I think I could defend myself in a sanity hearing. Most of the sights that prompt my conversations are worthy of comment, for all the wrong reasons. You’d comment too. Is it my fault there never happened to be anyone with me?
Do you mind if I run a few past you – just in case I have to defend myself in a sanity hearing someday? I’ve documented the scene of the conversation – with photos. You be the judge, do you think they’d stand up in a sanity hearing?
“What a bargain, dead plants!”
Saturday, October 27. A special sale outside Stop and Shop
Looks like everybody’s dying today.
Saturday October 27 check out at Wal-Mart.
Extenuating Circumstances: I had just passed another tabloid proclaiming Queen Elizabeth was also at death’s door. I hope the court will absolve me for not getting a photo of that one
The next two instances took place in the privacy of my home, with no one to witness, but troubling just the same:
In lieu of? In lieu of? WTF are you talking about?
The morning of Monday October 29. Watching all day storm coverage of the approaching Hurricane Sandy (before we know what we were in for,) The local news station’s traffic report let us know that the Bronx River Parkway was closed in lieu of Andy.
In my book, also called a dictionary, in lieu of means instead of. So was the parkway closed instead of Sandy? Huh? Huh? Huh?
Exhibit #4 A
A Sunday in November. Watching Sunday Morning on CBS. A segment about a man who wrote a book on How to Sharpen a Pencil. Odd as this was, my question had nothing to do with the book. He’d mentioned where his studio was but I couldn’t quite make out what he’d said.
It took me a minute for the name of the town to register. What’s disturbing is I couldn’t just let it go.
I actually answered my own question.
I rest my case. These all occurred within a couple of weeks and since then – nothing. Maybe it was just a fleeting spell. Maybe I’m over it.
But should you happen to come upon me, one day, and I’m talking to myself – I’ll understand if you cross the street.
Gregory and Sister Margaret Mary. It sounds like the title of a kids’ book, doesn’t it? If it were, it would be in the non-fiction section. It’s a true story, and one that took place in my childhood.
I first met Gregory in 195(a-hem) – in first grade. But my first concrete memory had to wait until third grade. We won a spelling bee. Yes. WE. Sister Christina ran out of words, and the rest of the class was getting restless, so rather than lose control, she deemed us co-champs.
Somehow sharing a title ignited a mutual crush. I’d forgotten all about this. It’s funny how one unearthed memory can lead to others. His desk was next to mine and I remember holding hands across the aisle. I came home and told my mother I had a boyfriend. She smiled. I told my father when he home for dinner. He fumed and muttered about how I was too young for “that kind of talk.” Oh well.
He had nothing to fear. Young love is fickle – especially that young. Gregory was smart, he was cute, he was mischievous but he faded into the background of my school-girl memories. What I do remember is that if there was trouble to get into, he was there; but as I said he was smart, he was cute, he was made of Teflon –until eighth grade. Enter Sister Margaret Mary, a red-faced, Irish-American whirling dervish of a nun.
Sister Margaret Mary had had polio as a child. It left her with a slight limp. The limp didn’t hold her back in the least. Let any one of us dare to pass a note, or whisper to our neighbor, and she’d could make it from the chalkboard to our desk in a semi-fluid motion, not unlike a modern-day Segue with one flat tire, black robe whirling about her legs, rosary beads clicking furiously down one side, and white knotted rope lashing back and forth on the other. Yes, the woman could move. And children are cruel – we dubbed her Hop-along Cassidy.
The destination of her fleet feet was often Gregory’s desk. Yes, she had Gregory’s number. And he, in turn knew how to push her buttons. They seemed to have a love/hate relationship. While she was on to his mischievousness, she also recognized his intellect …..and creativity. And he used that creativity to come up with more and better ways to bug her. And the more bugged she was, the more she beat the crap, oops, stuffing out of him. Those stories you’ve heard about Catholic School ? T-R-U-E.
But Gregory was just biding his time. Midway through the school year, he dreamed up the ultimate prank. But he kept it to himself, waiting for just the right moment, and finally it arrived. He primed her with some small irritation. I can’t tell you what it was but I can tell you everything else about the setting. The memory is as fresh as if it took place just this afternoon.
The class consisted of thirty-eight pupils. Our desks were arranged in six long rows. I sat in the fifth row, next to the last seat (back of the room, I was tall). Gregory sat three desks in front of me. (he was shorter) Whatever he did to provoke her worked. Up the aisle she flew, wailing and flailing. He ducked for cover and let her get back to the front of the class room before he rose from his seat, waving a bottle of blue ink.
Yes, a bottle of ink.
By now it was 196ahem and although ball point pens were accepted in other grades, Sister Margaret Mary required us to use fountain pens. And the ink had to be blue, not black, not blue-black only blue.
Gregory stood up, unscrewed the top of the ink bottle amidst a tirade about how he’d had it. He was tired of how she was always picking on him. This was it. He’d reached his limit. With a final declaration that she’d hit him for the last time, he threw back his head and chug a lugged the ink.
You could hear a pin drop in the class room. Thirty eight pairs of eyes opened wide. Thirty eight mouths went agape. Sister Margaret Mary stared in horror, frozen in place at the chalkboard. Then she ran to his seat, yelling “Gregory, no, no.” She grabbed the bottle – and the smell of lemon wafted through the air.
If only he’d used water instead of lemon juice. But water and blue food coloring probably wouldn’t have given him the right color and opacity. The time he must have spent experimenting! And the self-control to keep it a total secret! The drama with which he’d performed the scene! But was it worth the pounding he received from the recovered Sister Margaret Mary? Worth being suspended until he brought his mother in for a conference? We’d all say yes! It was the highlight of our eighth grade experience.
Graduation rolled around and the class split up to attend high schools all over Manhattan and The Bronx. I’d see Gregory from time to time – mostly at Church dances, and maybe mass. High school days morphed into College, and the old gang, already thinned out, spread even farther apart. I headed to a college upstate and Gregory left for Cornell …….and then????? There was talk that he stayed on at Cornell for Law School which surprised no one who had witnessed the histrionics and timing of The Stunt. But as for the friends I remained in contact with, no one ever saw him again.
As for Sister Margaret Mary, she was transferred to a parish in Yonkers sometime during our high school years and assumed the role of principal there. The last time I saw her was when she attended my high school graduation. A few years ago I heard from a friend living in Washington DC that she had retired to a home for aged nuns in Maryland.
Both she and Gregory faded into my past at about the same time. And there they stayed …until last week.
I have two friends with whom I get together from time to time, mostly in the city. One, let’s call her Joanie, I’ve known since third grade. She was in the class behind us and has kept contact with her classmates via an e-mail network.
Joanie let me know that Gregory’s younger brother had sent word to the group that Gregory had passed away a few days earlier. The cause of death had not been determined at the time. That was in late December
The other friend, I’ll call Andrew, the one mentioned above who lives in DC. Being an attorney, he’d had occasion to help out Sister Margaret Mary and the community of aged nuns in some legal matter, and heard from them from time to time. Andrew’s email arrived in my in box last Friday. Sister Margaret Mary had passed away that afternoon. Two weeks after Gregory. So if you heard a loud thundering N-o-o-o-o-o-o ringing down from the heavens last Friday. You know who it was.
May they both rest in peace – far from each other.
It started out a hunt for a Christmas tree and ended up a litany of farewells. With Christmas trees costing what they do, I decided it would be a good idea to stop at The ATM. I’ve written previously of my fondness for walking Marcos through Depew Park, and his reciprocating fondness for leading me out of Depew Park and all over Peekskill. Well, the bank is smack dab in the middle of downtown Peekskill and as I parked the car, I thought of last Christmas and how we faced the cold and wind but yet we trudged on. Marcos was always a dog with a mission A sad wave of nostalgia passed through me as I resigned myself to the fact that those days are gone forever.
Don’t worry Marcos is still here, but late last summer he let it be known that he prefers to spend his days differently .
With my money safe in pocket, I headed toward the highway and happened to pass Miller’s Motors to whom I entrusted both Truckito and my motorcycle for regular maintenance. But last spring, Truckito (perhaps in cahoots with Marcos?) gave warning that long trips would not be a good idea. So May saw me bade farewell to Truckito.
And in case you’re surprised at my mention of a motorcycle at my age, be unsurprised. Gone, too. I sold the bike in August. All my riding friends have either moved away or given up riding. I decided to tempt fate no more. The selling experience was phenomenal. I posted an ad on Craigs’List on a Saturday night, accepted an offer Sunday evening, and had the cash in hand Monday evening.
Farewell Ninja. May you and Donovan B. enjoy many idyllic rides.
All this nostalgia and I still hadn’t left Peekskill. In a pensive mood I continued on to the Tree quest. When I got to the farm in Hartsdale, there were fewer trees than in past years, and those they did have were huge. Wide huge. Fine for my living room if I planned to move the love seat and recliner into the dining room – but I didn’t. Also, prices started at $85. Change of plans. I’d run a few errands and head back to my local Home Depot. I was pretty sure they still had some trees.
Well, somewhere along the way. My Monkey Mind made the decision. t had something to do with the fact that it had grown dark and I had no energy left to deal with the tree stand that seems to prefer presenting trees that lean. So into Home Depot I walked and out I came with a tree that cost just as much as the ones at the farm … but it’s the last time I’ll have to buy a tree. Goodby lifelong tradition of live Christmas trees. Artificial isn’t so bad.
Now here we are in a New Year and far be it from me to start it with sad farewells. Similar to the saying that whenever God shuts a door, he opens a window, let me say that each farewell makes way for a corresponding hello.
It may be farewell, brisk walks in Depew Park….
……….but hello, recliner and giant coffee mug.
Farewell, Truckito but hello buying ten gallons of gasoline once a week instead of 14 every five days.
Farewell, bike but hello,more room in my shed……..
Well, there was more room for ……..about a week.
May 2013 be filled with happy hellos for us all. Change is good.