Monday, May 21, 2018

Springtime on the Front Porch, tucked inside the Boxwood

April 24May 4May 7May 10May 13May 14May 15May 16May 17May 18May 20 The fledglings have flown. Here lies the empty nest.

Monday, May 14, 2018

Choose a Title

During recent meetings about Leigh Fibers, textile waste processing company in Spartanburg, SC, I learned quite a lot about the challenges of the recycling industry. Nothing is easy when you are dealing with junk.

You do realize that the cheaper virgin materials are, the less like likely industries are to recycle or buy recycled products? For example, when oil is cheap, the interest in recycling used polypropylene drops through the trapdoor.

That is just one of the many depressing facts I learned in our 17th floor conference room.

But, honoring the delightful signage on the factory floor that a decade ago gave me Sort Quench, and Dump, I gathered a few other random phrases from the arcane world of recycling and manufacturing, always looking for interesting titles. Titles for what? That remains to be seen.
These are what I came with. I welcome your comments, and favorites.







Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Why Kentucky? Why the Falklands?

Like certain sexually transmitted diseases, the archive that is the pile of still-unsorted papers from the Orchard has proved to be the Gift that keeps on Giving.

Yes, we moved Mom out of the Orchard 3 years ago, and we sold the house 2 years ago. But, in her valiant effort to empty the house in time for the sale, my sister took hundreds of pounds of unsorted files and papers back to Maine with her, to sort at leisure. A very funny concept of leisure, it is true.

Over the years some of us have enjoyed the wide variety of weird solicitations that come in over the transom for my mother. And for the past 3 years my sister and I have been fielding, ambushing, and then jettisoning said weird solicitations.

We were pretty inured to supplications from Little Sisters of this and that, the Needy Orphans of Cairo, as well as the Fund to Save the Gothic Revival Outhouses of Western Massachusetts, or the Steering Committee for 2035 - Celebrating 400 Years as Bucket-Town, even the Society for the Reinstatement of New Belgium in the New World. We thought nothing could surprise us.
Wrong, again.
My sister just shared with me this personalized solicitation that my mother received in 1982. And then saved for the next 30+ years.

Why Kentucky and the Falklands? Yes, I know about conflict between Argentina and the British. I just don't know what Kentucky has to do with it, or why. Thus, I have wasted several hours researching the two regions and am no closer to an answer. But I do now know a few things about Kentucky and the Falklands.

While the population of the Falklands hovers around the 3,000 mark, Kentucky has 4.4 million inhabitants: in both cases most of the residents trace their ancestors to the British Isles.

Kentucky has more miles of navigable rivers than any other state in the US. It has also the two largest man-made lakes east of the Mississippi, and the longest cave system in the US. The Falklands are 0% water, but – predictably – are entirely surrounded the Atlantic Ocean.

Kentucky has horse racing, bourbon, tobacco, coal, and Kentucky Fried Chicken. The Falklands have sheep. Kentucky produces 95% of the world’s bourbon. The Falklands have five varieties of penguins (King, Gentoo, Rockhopper, Macaroni and Magellanic) and some very large albatross colonies.

The entirety of the Falkland Island print media consists of The Teaberry Express and The Penguin News. Kentucky has colorfully-named conflicts: The Beaver Wars of the 1670’s, and the Black Patch Tobacco Wars of the twentieth century.

The Kentucky state seal features two men facing each other in what we can only hope is friendship; one is wearing buckskins, the other is wearing formal tails. The Falkland Islands seem to have two coats of arms: one depicts a sheep, while the other pictures a somewhat misshapen seal.

It is unclear whether my mother sent money to the Kentucky Committee for the Falkland Islands. Who was this person, this Kentuckian, so obsessed with the valiant Falklanders? And why should anyone else care? His solicitation strikes me as equivalent to me hitting up everyone I am connected to on Linked In and everyone they are connected to, for the Fund to Pay Groundskeepers for the Holy Wells of Dubious Historicity in Brittany and Wales.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The Pleasure of Random Reading

I’ve written about it before, a year ago more or less, but it is no less true now than then, that one of the most pleasurable aspects of a week spent in Aquiares is reading at random.

It would not be an overstatement to say that reading is an enormous, and an enormously important, part of my life.

Much of my reading is project oriented. For instance, I have lately been reading Hungarian novels because I have created a character in my novel who is Hungarian. I have never been to Hungary, not do I know much about Hungary (current politics are rather unfortunate, so I read), but I believe that through novels I will gain an understanding of what it is to be Hungarian. Hence: Szabo, Esterhazy, Banffy and several whose names I cannot spell.

Likewise, with a reading group led by the remarkable and remarkably Proustian Anka Muhlstein, I am making my way through Proust’s In Search of Lost Time (about 60 pages to go), which led me to Chateaubriand, my latest crush. Also to Proust and the Squid, which isn’t really about Proust but about reading itself.

I particularly like guide books and reference books. Anything about reptiles and snakes in Costa Rica is appreciated.

The existence of this blog notwithstanding, I rarely read on a screen, especially small screens. I always have a small paperback in my handbag, because you never know when you will be stuck in a traffic jam or an airport or the checkout line at Costco. (Unlike Foodtown, where the magazine stand allows me to catch up on the peccadillos of celebrities I have never heard of.)

I feel about reading books the way others might feel about running, or eating chocolate: a non-reading life is not worth living.

So when I arrive at Aquiares, after making sure the volcano is still smoking, the first place I go is the bookshelf. Volcan Turrialba, seen from the Esperanza patio, and closer up, from the road to Irazu.
This past visit I discovered a novel by the poet James Schuyler, Alfred and Guinevere, about siblings who spend the summer with their grandmother and Uncle Saul, and are largely left to their own devices. It is simply brilliant. Then I picked up John Buchan’s Greenmantle and got about 50 pages into it before I realized it wasn’t necessary to continue; a little stiff-upper-lip, self-congratulatory, Brittania-rules-the-waves, can go a very long way. It felt perfectly acceptable to abandon Richard Hannay to his heroism, and turn to Barbara Pym’s Quartet in Autumn. This story of four single people, two men and two woman, who work together in an office that will soon become redundant, and their circumscribed lives, is rendered with exquisite and often painful tenderness and exactitude. My reading was enhanced by the pithy and witty marginalia of another sister-in-law, Fritz. After that I thought I would give mysteries a try, and there was Sue Grafton’s G is for Gullible. No, I just checked on-line, it is G is for Gumshoe. Either way, I couldn’t finish it. Her detective’s earnest heartiness became a little cloying, so I guiltlessly abandoned her and discovered Dawn Powell’s memoir, My Home is Far Away. This was not for the faint of heart. Anyone embarking on step-motherhood could find in those pages the absolute worst you could be. Lastly, I plucked Nabokov’s Transparent Things, which I had most likely read decades ago during my Nabokov-obsessive period, but even so, just in the first 10 pages I had to consult the dictionary four times and was rendered befuddled (I still am) by “unintentional pun” on page 14.* What could be better?

I wasn’t the only one reading at random. My sister-in-law, Sandra, was seen quietly laughing over Alfred and Guinevere, and then devoured several Barbara Pym’s. Even CSB, having dutifully read our book club selection, found some Faulkner that beckoned him. Only my brother Carl resisted the temptations of the bookshelf, and kept plugging along at Hawking’s Brief History of Time. I encouraged this, because I hoped to have him explain it to me. It is not exactly brief. Carl highly recommends the illustrated version.

We left Aquiares sadly, but one consolation was realizing that there remain several books, unchosen by me, that look intriguing. Until next year.

*3 Photos

Friday, April 13, 2018

The Passion in a Village on the Side of a Volcano

The last time we were in Aquiares, a coffee farm on the slopes of Volcan Turrialba in Costa Rica, for Semana Santa (holy week), was almost forty years ago.

That first Semana Santa, my daughter was just learning to walk, and she practiced her steps on the dirt roads from our house, called Esperanza, to the Aquiares village church, where small girls in home-made saint costumes, were carried aloft on wooden platforms by their older brothers and fathers. Now all my daughter’s children walk and run, and I limp.

More recently the Aquiareños decided to mount the whole Passion story over the course of the three days leading up to Easter.

I have certainly heard of Passion plays all my life. I did after all go to a lamentable Catholic school where the only subject taught was religion, and even that badly. And in my hagiographic period I sought out and admired many saintly relics of dubious veracity and taste. But I had never seen a Passion play. What exactly did I expect?

Thursday evening we walked down to the playground where we found the table set for the Last Supper, on the basketball court. This proved to be a convenient choice, as there was existing lighting. An extravagantly bewigged and bearded Jesus entered from stage left, followed by his twelve apostles, with their names written in large letters on sashes across their chests. This being the 21st century, even in a small Costa Rica village, several of the apostles were played by young women. Then bread was eaten and wine was drunk, and words were said, words that that had been said thousands upon thousands of times before. Then Judas – a much coveted role – snuck out to meet with the Roman soldiers and tell them how he would identify Jesus with a kiss. For this, he got his 30 pieces of silver.

Judas returned to the basketball court, kissed Jesus and set the betrayal in motion. The Roman soldiers rushed the stage and took him away. I am sorry we have no more pictures, but it was quite dark by then and I had only a cellphone camera.

Good Friday was the big event. It was drizzling. We had Gallo Pinto, huevos, mangoes and papaya for breakfast, and headed up the Cuesta Dura hill. A large portion of the village was there, but not everyone. (Even Aquiares has a few Evangelicals, and presumably they would not be caught dead at a Catholic Passion Play.) People raised umbrellas or went back to their houses to get umbrellas. Mothers adjusted their children’s costumes. It was hard to tell when the action began. Then it did. Soldiers marched back and forth, very seriously, very much in step with the drummers drumming.

A word about the Roman soldiers: there were dozens of them, in age ranging from six to forty-six. They all wore tunics, capes, fitted pants, and soldierly boots. They all carried shields emblazoned with SPQR or a crab. They all wore silver helmets topped with broom bristles in a variety of colors. (Here, as previously seen in the Aquiares ‘super’.) Many soldiers had leather wristlets, and many others carried swords. Others drummed.

The soldiers brought Jesus out, his face almost completely obscured by his extravagant wig. His brown tunic was now marked with red paint. They flogged him with sponges attached to sticks. He made all the noises of pain, and a few children started to wail. If any young parents were questioning whether this spectacle was likely to traumatize their children, they did not make themselves known. The procession commenced, as it did nineteen hundred and eight-five years ago, with Roman soldiers marching, locals watching, commenting, greeting each other, and Jesus carrying the wooden cross. Along the way, various women stopped the procession and spoke to Jesus, often at length. It did not go unnoticed, by me, that all the long monologues were performed by young women. Halfway down the hill, Simon of Cyrene was enjoined by the Roman soldiers to help Jesus with the cross. And so we processed through the village of Aquiares, past houses of old friends, past sleeping dogs and lost shoes, past a pulperia and the ‘Super’ Mercado, past the tailler and the beneficio, to the churchyard. There, behind a scrum of Roman soldiers spreading wide their cloaks, Jesus was laid upon the cross that had been fashioned by the local carpenter earlier that week, with a platform for standing and straps to hold up his arms, in lieu of nails. More soldiers pulled the cross upright with ropes, and the well-known words were spoken, and a vinegar-soaked sponge was offered, and thus ended the day’s events.

What was our place in all this? The idle spectators? The gringos? The local populace? The interlopers? The Philistines?
Obviously, it is not every day that Jesus is crucified. It is also just an ordinary drizzling day in the village of Aquiares, and neighbors are chatting, and mothers are making sure their kids have snacks, and chickens are squawking on patios, and everyone, including the priest, is taking pictures on cellphones.

That evening, the evening of good Friday, after the crucifixion CSB had trouble breathing. He couldn’t catch his breath. It was troubling enough that, after ascertaining that the local doctora was away from the farm, we headed for the nearest emergency room.
There, in the waiting room at the William Taylor Allen Hospital there was a flat screen television mounted in a corner, showing Ben-Hur. With the sound off. At first I didn’t know it was Ben-Hur, or what it was. I guessed Spartacus (Roman soldiers, ancient times, hunky actor) but I was wrong: that was another movie, with another actor. Even in a Turrialba waiting room, it is possible to Google “Charlton Heston, movie with Roman Soldiers” and quickly discover Ben-Hur.
Like the Roman soldiers in Aquiares, the soldiers in the movie wore tunics, fitted pants and capes. Their shields bore the letters SPQR or the image of a crab. They wore silver helmets, and maybe the costume department at Universal had not refashioned brooms to create their bristly comb, but the effect was the same as in Aquiares.
The health care was excellent and unbelievably cheap. It took a long time to get all the necessary tests read, but even so, we did not see the end of Ben-Hur.
I hear the movie ends well. CSB also is feeling much better.

Monday, March 5, 2018

A little self-puffery, from a robot no less

Truly, I appreciate all my SQD readers, small and select group that you are. But the following may well be the highest critical praise my writing has received…in quite a while.(And from a dirtbag, no less. We take what we can.) Someone at Roomba sent this to my rather remarkable niece, Eliza:

Your aunt is truly very talented and we look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. Perhaps she should write a book with poetry or even short stories? We think more people should see this and witness her amazing writing skills.

I am not sure where Alenda at Roomba got the idea that I have poetic talent. Maybe she was thinking of poetic license?

Response By Email (Alenda J.) (03/04/2018 12:54 PM EST)
Hi Eliza!

Thank you for sending us with this glorious piece which was written by your aunt Eliza!
It was an absolute pleasure reading this and we think that she has a real talent in poetry.

Being a Roomba owner myself, I've also had many ways I wanted to describe my Seth to my interested neighbors and friends but I was never able to find words that can be used to describe the beauty of Roomba. Your aunt was able to write how I felt about Seth with just a few keystrokes and for that, we thank her.

There were a few parts that were especially very interesting such as "When Roomba first arrived, I decided to name it. In our never-ending effort to be politically correct - why should house cleaners always be female?" This is precisely why I decided to name Roomba with a masculinity just for the sake of equality!

We also loved reading this; "I already have a vacuum cleaner, an Electrolux that is generally considered to be a first-class vacuum. But my vacuum requires a human being to push it around the house. Roomba requires only that he is recharged. And his dirt bag emptied."
Eliza, this is exactly how we want our customers to feel about our robots. We want them to feel at ease and relaxed while Roomba does all the work needed to keep a home very comfortable.

Your aunt is truly very talented and we look forward to seeing more of her work in the future. Perhaps she should write a book with poetry or even short stories? We think more people should see this and witness her amazing writing skills.

Again we do thank you for the opportunity to read this lovely piece and we wish you and your aunt all the best!

Additionally, we would like to know if you own a Roomba or if your aunt's Roomba is registered with us. Please let us know by responding to this email or calling us at 1 (877) 855-8593. We are available Monday through Friday from 9am to 9pm, and then Saturday & Sundayfrom 9am to 6pm (EST).

Warmest Wishes,
Alenda J.
iRobot Customer Support

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Dodging Bites and Branches

This came from the Hastings police 3 days ago:
Hastings-on-Hudson Police Department: currently tracking a wild coyote that maybe rabid and attacked two people and their dogs this evening. Please Stay out of all wooded areas in particular Hillside Woods.

The next day this came:
The Hastings-on-Hudson Police Department is currently tracking a wild coyote that maybe rabid and attacked two people and their dogs this evening. One incident occurred on Kent Ave. The second occured in Hillside Woods. The injured parties were taken to the hospital.

And for a change in what to worry about:

But we haven't forgotten the coyotes:
Message from the Mayor: Coyote attacks in Village
Last night, between 6:30 and 8:00PM, three people were attacked and bitten by a coyote and a small dog was killed. Two of these attacks occurred on Kent and on Overlook, and one in Clarewood Village. All attacks occurred on the street. The three victims have been treated at hospital and released. The animal also charged a number of other residents (and, in several cases, their pet dogs) though did not inflict any injury. The coyote has not been located and destroyed. It was last seen running toward Hillside Woods.

Hastings-on-Hudson Police Department: Coyote Information & Safety Tips
On February 28, 2018 at approximately 3:50 PM the Village of Hastings on Hudson Police Department received a call from a resident who reported being involved in an auto accident with a coyote on Broadway near Burnside Drive. Patrols were detailed along with the Greenburgh Animal Warden. It was determined the coyote suffered fatal wounds. The animal was transported by the Greenburgh Animal Patrol to the Westchester County Health Department for testing.

How many coyotes were there? Are they all dead now? At least one is still at large, licking its chops in anticipation of munching a lapdog.

Tristram was bitten by a rabid dog on his honeymoon, at a Temple outside Hanoi. He got a series of rabies shots, in Vietnam and back in the US, and hasn't thought about it since. (Unlike his mother.)

One small dog was killed, and at least 4 people have been attacked. I am pretty sure the dead deer I saw on the Aqueduct on Tuesday was killed by a coyote. I didn't think about it at at the time, which doesn't say much for my powers of deduction.

One coyote was captured and killed on Dunwoodie Golf Course. It was a scratch golfer.

Yesterday afternoon my mother's caregiver, Ava, called me from the Red House. I don't want to say she was hysterical. She was in a tizzy. Ava is somewhat zoophobic. Insects freak her out. When we set mousetraps in Mom's house, one of us has to go check on it early in the morning, before Ava can even see it. So it follows logically that Ava would be rendered quasi-hysterical by the coyote alert in our village.

The local police had knocked on the Red House door and told Ava and Mom to stay inside, because the coyote had been spotted in our backyard. I reassured Ava that coyotes cannot open doors, so that as long as they stayed inside, all would be well. I read in the paper this morning that a few minutes after that call, a car killed a coyote across the street on Broadway and Burnside, saving the sharpshooters from Albany the trouble. I never saw the police, or the coyote. Not this time.

I thought the coyotes were going to be the scariest thing to contend with today. And the most troublesome thing to contend with would be the leak in the bathroom ceiling. The ceiling leaks whenever there is heavy rain, and today there was heavy rain, and so much else. Then the sink upstairs started leaking, or just oozing water onto the floor. And since the stand is encased in porcelain, I cannot turn off the water valves, which I am capable of doing when such things are accessible. At the same time, the toilet in the powder room next to the kitchen started leaking, but CSB was able to shut of the water valve.
Coyotes were looking like a minor blip in the day. The chickens were safely locked inside. And as I told Ava, coyotes cannot turn door knobs.

The wind keeps blowing. In the kitchen the wind generates a high pitched squeal that has something to do with the weather vane atop the cupola. Upstairs the wind sounds like whistling, particularly like the whistling of someone with a missing front tooth.

I had an appointment this morning with the water company meter reader. For many months they have been sending my mother (me) estimated bills because no one was reading the meter. The Suez service guy arrived. Ava wouldn't let him wait in the house, so he sat in his truck and I walked over to meet him. He drove down the driveway and I walked through the trees to the far northeast corner, where the property abuts our neighbor's property and Broadway. I noticed that the new owners of the Forge Cottage had installed a large wooden compost pile on our property, on our side of the fence. That seemed odd. I was thinking about how to address this issue, in a neighborly way. I haven't even met these new neighbors, and I didn't want the first thing I said to them to be: Please put your compost onto your side of the fence. And welcome to the neighborhood. Meanwhile, the water meter was right where CSB said it was. Then the young man headed back to his truck to get his tools, and I was still in the wooded area checking out the snow drops when there was ominous cracking, and then more ominous cracking and then an enormous limb came down, snapping off more limbs on its way down. I started running away from the falling tree, when I heard more and louder cracking, and an even bigger tree came down. I kept running to get out of the trees. The meter guy quickly departed, leaned out the window of his van and said they would call to make another appointment.

In the grand Darwinian tradition of idiots going for walks in swampy woods during a wind storm, I was almost flattened by a tree.

Afterward,I stopped in to see Mom and Ava (still all agog about the coyote). I did not mention the near miss by the descending tree.Going home I kep far away from any trees.

Just a few minutes ago I was having yogurt and berries in the dining room (the kitchen table can't go back until tomorrow) when I heard another loud crack and watched as the biggest of the birch trees went crashing down. Away from the house. That is two trees I've dodged today. I am feeling superstitious.

The birch is iconic to this house and this property. Something inside my head cracked with it.

PS: This was written yesterday, but I I couldn't post it as we had no internet. We still don't. I am getting creative.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

All stamps, all the time

It doesn’t happen often that CSB suggests a blog topic. How about never? However he has frequently pointed out subjects that he thinks do not warrant attention on SQD. Anything hagiographic. I would like to point out that many months if not years have passed since I have alluded to any saints, martyrs, or medieval mystics on these (imaginary, cyber) pages.

But CSB just suggested that I write about the stamps. The very many stamps. Back at the Orchard, my sister and I always knew that my mother had a large stash of stamps in her desk drawers. We had no idea of just how large.

Let’s have some context: Stamp collecting used to be a very respectable pastime. Lots of people collected stamps, traded stamps, and pasted stamps into albums. People acquired stamps from shops, from post offices, and from letters, back when the sending and receiving of letters was considered normal. Bon Papa, who traveled everywhere and loved geography, collected stamps from the countries he lived in, specifically Egypt and Indochina. As a child, whenever I visited my father’s office on Essex Street in Boston, I was allowed to roam free in the sample room and snip foreign stamps from the hundreds of samples of cotton linters and combers that were sent in brown paper from all over the world. In my memory, the sample room is the size of a coffee beneficio, and dimly lit; there are rows upon rows of wooden shelves and the samples are stacked on the shelves from floor to ceiling. I am guessing that my spatial memory is affected by my relative puniness at the time. I would bring my treasures home, soak them in water, and then, using special tweezers, put them in my stamp album. I was a strange and geeky child, but this was not the strangest thing I did. My collection skewed heavily toward cotton-growing countries: Turkey, Pakistan, Ethiopia India, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Brazil, and Mexico.

No one knows if my mother collected stamps herself, back when. Now we will never know. But we have figured out that sometime in the 1970’s, or maybe earlier, she started buying US commemorative stamps. Lots of them. Whenever a new stamp was issued, she bought a sheet, or three, or ten if she found it appealing. My mother was an excellent correspondent. She famously sent out 350 Christmas cards every year, and wrote letters constantly. Even so, she could not use up her supply of stamps, and over the years, the stamps piled up.

I don’t know what CSB found more bizarre: my mother’s remarkable hoard of stamps, or the fact that I spent Saturday morning calculating the face value of all her stamps. (It wasn’t that hard. Most sheets have 20 stamps and even I can multiply single and double- digit numbers by 20. I also have a calculator app on my phone.) The total was $1001.68. That is not an insignificant amount.

The truth is that I enjoyed sorting through the stamps, witnessing what the postal service has deemed worthy of commemoration over the years. There were of course stamps honoring presidents, athletes, artists, cowboys, and scientists. Every Olympics got its own set of stamps. Flowers, flora and fauna, cuddly mammals, and American history get lots of attention. One of my favorite honorees was Dr. George Papanicolaou: he invented the eponymous Pap smear. Alas, the stamp does not show my show my least favorite medical device: the icy cold speculum. (The vaginal speculum we all know and love was invented Dr. Marion Sims, the so-called founder of modern gynecology, about whom the less said the better. He may have statues, but he does not appear on any stamps.)
Some old-time commemoratives, like these for “World Peace Through Law” (10¢, 1974) and “Energy and Conservation”(13¢, 1975), seem archaic,and innocently hopeful in our present political climate. Would a Trump-led Postal Service dare to extol "World Peace Through Law"? Must we prepare ourselves for a stamp suggesting "World Peace through Nuclear Armaments"? Or praising "Clean Coal"?
Some are just self-serving, honoring either the Postal Service itself, or extolling stamp collecting. Is a stamp featuring Stamp Collecting considered a meta -stamp?

So what do we do with them? More than half of the stamps, in denominations ranging from 6¢ to 39¢, require licking. Do we even know how to lick a stamp anymore? Who can conjure up that redolent taste of postage glue, sort of sweet and sort of toxic?

In the usual way of research, I looked on line to find out if there is a resale market for stamps. There is, after a fashion. There are a few sites that will buy unused stamps, at a deep discount: %50 of face value for complete sheets under 49¢, %40 for partial sheets. All of my mother’s stamps have a face value of less than 49¢, and remarkably few of the sheets are “complete and undamaged”. In other words, my face value calculation is somewhat meaningless.
The only way to get our ‘money’s worth’ from these stamps, is to actually use them for postage.

Let me know if you want me to send you a postcard. (My mother also has hundreds of postcards.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Olympic torch, reimagined

It was a fairly ordinary Sunday morning. CSB took Mom to church while the household's resident heathen lolled by the fire and did the crossword. He brought Mom back here with him, and she happily ensconced herself in the red velvet overstuffed wing chair by the fireplace. She went through the motions of reading a newspaper. Regarding a photograph on the front page of the opening ceremonies for the Olympics, she questioned, "Why are they all wearing the same hats?"
She asked several times what the date was and then checked what I said with the date printed on the newspaper.

Then she tipped over the ottoman where she had been resting her feet and began counting the bees on the fabric. It is a lovely pink Scalamandré silk with gold bees patterned across it, quite Napoleonic.

Mom said, "But it's been nice, I've been in here, I've been in there, I've been on the other side."
I said, "The other side of what?"
Mom said, "Of what I was involved before."

Then it was time to pick up my brother and his wife at the train station. It was pouring rain and I didn't want them to get soaked. I banked the fire and put the screen in front, and said, "Mom, I'm going to pick up Carl and Sandra. Carl, your son, and his wife, Sandra. That is: Carl, your son, and his wife, Sandra."
She said, "Well we just had them a matter of a week and maybe a bit more and what happened to them. Nothing happened to them. They just all hung around. He just appeared and he was really nice." (I think this means she thinks fondly of Carl, whoever he is.)
"Okay," I said, "Just don't touch the fire. I'll be right back. Chucker is just in the kitchen."

I drove the .6 miles down the train station, picked up my brother and sister-in-law, and returned. We emerged from the car and my brother note the pleasant scent of a wood burning fire. Did I notice that the scent was stronger than it should have been? I wish I could say I did.
CSB met us at the door, looking somewhat startled. A minute after I had left for the station, he had come into the living room to check on Mom, and through the large front window he saw my mother standing on the front porch waving a blazing Olympic torch. In fact, it was the fireplace broom, and the straw was flaming. My guess is that she thought she could put it out that way. But I can only guess, and I certainly cannot ask her. She was sitting comfortably in the red wing chair when we walked in, unfazed.

So, one scorched broom, and the house still stands.

A day like many others. A day like no other. I have to admit, I am annoyed that CSB did not take a photo of my mother with the torching broom before he actually put out the fire. Also grateful.