Archive for May, 2010

Goodbye Old Reliable!
May 28, 2010

OLD

Out with the old, in with the new…

When I was a child in New Orleans, we had some wonderful women who came into our lives to help create order out of the chaos that comes with rearing six children in one household. Mind you, this was back in the days before microwave ovens, fast food and polyester blends, much less computers, crock pots and Roomba vacuum cleaners. 

Think about the task of washing clothes for this many people, including boys who played on sports teams. I think we actually had a clothes line to dry clothes at first, but I need to ask Mom to clarify that. I recall that it was in what we called the “dog yard”, a fenced in area that the dog always escaped from. The rabbit hutches were out there, and we also grew vegetables in that space.   

Think about the task of ironing the clothes for this many people, including starching slips for four little girls (I HATED those itchy petticoats!). I believe that even our sheets got ironed. Probably our underwear, too. 

Just to add a extra element of hardship, we didn’t have air conditioning in that house for some time; there was a window unit or two, but central air? Nope. Think about how hot it must have been to do wash, cook, iron, etc. 

Cooking for this many people must have been daunting. Mom did her fair share, but I know she relied on Helen, and later, Rachel, to help get dinner on the table night after night. We all had chores, as well, but the really hard work was done by Helen and Rachel. 

Helen was African American, as was Rachel, who was light skinned; it would be interesting to know her heritage. Rachel is the one I’m thinking about tonight as we are about to replace all our major kitchen appliances. 

For you see, every day when Rachel headed home in her enormous pale green car (vintage 1940’s), she would call out, “Goodbye old washing machine! Goodbye old ironing board!” and so on as she took leave. 

And so I bid fond adieu to my oven/range, refrigerator and dishwasher. All are decades old, and have served us well. It was just “time”. Each has had issues, but nothing like a major failure. So it is a very strange concept for me to replace something that isn’t really broken. 

(Miss Frugal here… ) 

It’s actually the first time in my life that I have indulged in getting something new just to “upgrade” things. I’m a little anxious about leaving my comfort zone and learning how to work all these newfangled appliances; Joel was reading to me tonight about the different burners on the range and what they each do. 

Wait, did I know this when we bought them? Here I am envisioning ruined meals all because I used the wrong burner. And then there’s the issue of not wanting to mess up the spanking new appliances; they are just so pristine looking! 

Too late now. My task at hand is to empty the refrigerator (transfer things to the auxiliary fridge in the laundry room); the old oven is already outside, and the dishwasher still has a few loads to do before d-day (delivery day). 

The last thing to do will be to dismantle my refrigerator “archive” of photos, clippings, artwork, cartoons and the interesting magnets themselves. It’s time to retire many items in this collection, but the classics will continue on the laundry room fridge, which will now look quite festive. 

I don’t know why I feel so disloyal for abandoning the old equipment; it’s not like they have feelings or personalities. But because I do, it is with a great deal of sentiment that I bid adieu to my hard working trio… Goodbye old refrigerator. Goodbye old stove, Goodbye old dishwasher!

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A Rockin’ and a Rollin’
May 20, 2010

I feel the earth move under my feet…    – Carole King 

I would have missed the whole thing if Joel hadn’t gotten up to get a drink of water while I slumbered on the 7th floor of the Ritz Carlton in beautiful San Juan, Puerto Rico last Saturday night. It was 1:15 a.m. when he woke me up, saying, “Quit rocking the bed!” 

(note #1: sometimes when he snores, I’ll do that very thing to try to get him to turn over and quit making a racket) 

Back to our story, I was just “a tad peeved” by his assumption that I was the culprit, so I answered him back, “I am NOT rocking the bed!” (with just a subtle undertone of annoyance, of course) 

Then it dawned on both of us that the bed was rocking on its own. Earthquake!? Could it really be one? Or was it the mojitos that we’d sampled at the Barcardi Distillery after our tour earlier that evening? 

The rocking and rolling felt somewhat like air turbulence on a jet, and it didn’t last very long. Joel promptly returned to a snoring mode while I lay there wide awake, imagining the worst. Was this a precursor to a massive quake? Or had there been a big one further away, and these tremors were just on the fringes of it? (dear God, please not in Haiti again… one island over)   

What is one supposed to do during an earthquake when one is on the 7th floor? I knew where the stairs were, since I always check that out when I stay hotels (in case of fire; my mother in law would be so proud of me). Should I get dressed in case we needed to exit the building? What is the earthquake protocol? Alas, it is my nature to fret. 

(note #2: my friend Jeanine told me that you are supposed to go beneath a doorway in the event of an earthquake) 

At some point, I finally dozed off, and as is my wont to do, I internalized the situation via an epic dream. Somewhere in the middle of it, I awoke with a start, imagining that the building was listing. Oh dear, was the power still on? Was the big one coming? 

No, no, it was just my overactive imagination running amok, complete with a pounding heart. Back in sleep mode, I dreamt that the police had confiscated my luggage after a thief had tried to steal it, but instead, he fell to his death from the balcony of my room, and I was now a suspect in custody. 

(note #3: I dreamt this because my flip flops got stolen from the beach while I was walking, and my friend, Sue has been taking a forensics course which we had just discussed that day) 

The rest of the dream is now lost in my hazy memory bank, but snippets included being woefully late to the airport with stuff piled everywhere but in my bag. Add in a mistaken rent car and being chased by the rightful owner of the car, and there you have a classic anxiety dream. 

Morning came all too soon, and the first thing Joel and I said to one another was, “Did that really happen?” I jumped out of bed to check the news online, and sure enough, the lead story was “Moderate Earthquake Strikes Puerto Rico”. Magnitude was 5.7 on the Richter Scale, and the epicenter was 63 miles from San Juan at a depth of 68 miles down. Thankfully, no injuries or damage were reported. 

So we weren’t crazy after all! Downstairs, the staff was all buzzing about it, but our friends who were on the same flight as we were had slept through it all. I would have, too, had not Joel awakened me. Now, in hindsight, I’m glad he did! What a unique Puerto Rican memory to tell our grandchildren about…

The Valley of Tears
May 7, 2010

…give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen – prayer excerpt from the Book of Worship 

I can hardly read the hopeful words I wrote just a week ago after Bobby’s successful surgery. A sudden and massive heart attack snatched him away from us last Monday, and three days later, Bobby passed peacefully into eternity, with his precious wife, Mary and devoted sister, Abbe holding his hands. 

We are all devastated, in shock and numb. How can it be that this vital and dynamic man is gone? It will be a very long time before we can adjust to this new “normal”. 

The only consolation that Mary has is that he is now spared from the misery and suffering that fighting his brain cancer would entail. He had come through the initial surgery with flying colors, but was dreading the follow up chemotherapy and radiation therapy.  But now Bobby is at rest, with no pain, no fear, no sorrow. 

I find solace in this poem by John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

High Flight

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth,
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds…and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of…wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up, the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, nor even eagle flew.
And while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space…
…put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Godspeed, dear Bobby! We will meet again someday for a happy homecoming. ‘Til then, save us a place… 

(Pewperson will return on May 21.)