Saturday, June 9, 2018

At Our Cabin in Ohio

Over Memorial Day weekend, we went to our cabin in Ohio. We started a day later than planned because, on Saturday night, my husband sank deep into our daughter's super-soft sofa and later had to struggle a bit to extract himself.  The next morning, on the day we planned to leave, he woke with an aching back.  So we drove to Ohio on Memorial Day instead.  It's a nine-hour trip. 

This picture from last year shows a couple of American chestnut plants. The American Chestnut Foundation is trying to breed a blight-resistant chestnut. My husband has planted over thirty seedlings near our cabin. Of these, over 20 seem to be blight- resistant, but he's had to destroy a half dozen that became infected with blight. The only thing he's planted so far this year were geraniums a his parents' gravestone at the chapel cemetery. 

The pink and purple wildflowers--dames' rocket--were very pretty, along with a profusion of yellow buttercups and white multiflora rose. I admired what I thought was a blossoming tree on the bank behind the cabin. Turns out  it was not a blossoming tree at all, but either a walnut tree or a tree-of-heaven with multiflora rose weaving its way through its branches.

A pair of phoebes built a nest on the eaves under the porch. While the female sat on the eggs, the male entertained us by catching flies mid-air and hovering over the nest to bring them to her. Their song was the only one we could separate out from the cacophony of birdsong at the cabin. 

We don't have the internet at the cabin and our cell phones don't work either. We have a TV, but we're not hooked up to cable or satellite, so it's just for watching videos.  We listen to WKSU, the FM station operated by Kent State University. 

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Review: A Tale of Two Cities

A Tale of Two Cities A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is the second time I have read this book. The first time was in fourth grade, because I remember our teacher telling us about Madame Defarge and her knitting. I read it this time because I had just returned from a 2-week vacation in London and Paris. I wanted to hold on to the two cities a little while longer and also to get to know them better. Nine days in London and five days in Paris barely let you scratch the surface of these two magnificent capitals.

As I recently reread this book, I wondered how educators back in the dark ages (late 40's) managed to abridge this novel into a classic suitable for children. There were scenes of unspeakable horror in the original. There is simply no way to explain "droit du seigneur"--the exercise of which set the whole plot in motion-- to a 9-year-old. I enjoyed the story as a story, but it raised more questions than it answered. So, to find out more, I have added two books to my already-too-long reading list: Alistair Horn's SEVEN AGES of PARIS, a popular history I found at a recent used-books sale, and Thomas Carlyle's THE FRENCH REVOLUTION. The Carlyle book promises to be tough going. It may take me to the end of my days as a reader to finish it. We'll see. I really want to find out what London thought of Paris while the guillotine was falling. The French Revolution, after all, followed hard on the heels of the American Revolution, the one that ripped the colonies out of British hands.

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Saturday, March 24, 2018

Mom and Billy Graham

In the autumn of 1950, some months after Dad married my new step mom, I came into the house one evening and found her with her ear pressed to the radio.  I knew who was speaking and I wasn’t happy about it. It was the popular new evangelist, Billy Graham.  I had nothing against him in particular.  It was just that my new stepmother was an unknown quantity.  I had been told by a friend of our family, someone who was apparently already acquainted with my dad’s new fiancee, how lucky I was to have this lovely new stepmother. She said I should do my very best not to give this paragon any trouble, as if it would be my fault if the marriage didn't work out. Although I did not exactly like the life my grandparents lead while I lived with them—the long nights at the Eagles’ Club, the drinking, the fighting—still, it was what I was used to. I did not want a suffocating piety to descend on the family.  I had just turned ten. 

During the next twelves years, while my father was alive, Mom appeared to put her religious yearnings on the shelf. She followed my dad dutifully into his county-club life, taking golf lessons, hosting cocktail parties and dressing up for weekend evenings at the club.

She also turned out to be the promised lovely stepmother. She largely understood me and often took my side against my father and grandmother, who could be over-protective.  We could talk about a lot of things together, except for sex and religion.

“But what about the people who never had a chance to hear about Jesus? Are they all going to hell?”  I would ask.

“We are not meant to understand things like that,” she would reply.

“But what about all that scary stuff in the Book of Revelation?”

“We are not meant to understand things like that.”

After my dad died, she regularly attended First Presbyterian Church.  If the sermons in this mainline church did not sound the same as the sermons of the conservative Presbyterian church she attended as a girl, she most certainly found echoes of her childhood church in the words of Billy Graham.  She also enjoyed the elaborate telecasts of D. James Kennedy and Robert Schuller. Sunday nights were reserved for Charles Stanley.  She liked his habit of providing an outline of his sermon before he began. She filled several notebooks with his words. However, it was Billy whom she loved the most. He was almost like a member of the family to her. 

That was why it should have been no surprise to me when she began crying in the mid-80’s as we were pulling into our motel at Ocean City, MD.  We were on vacation with her and our two school-age daughters. All three of them were in the back seat of our station wagon. 

“Mom, what’s wrong?” I asked.

“It’s Harold,” she sobbed.

“What about him?” Harold had been my dad’s best friend and drinking buddy. Neither one of them ever had time for church.  Harold had recently died quietly, but unexpectedly, at home.

“I can’t stand the thought of him burning in hell,” she said, tearfully.

“Oh, Mom,” I began, “Harold isn’t . . .”

“GET THEE BEHIND ME, SATAN!” she snapped.  I meekly retreated, ready to drop the subject.

Twenty years passed and Mom was living with us.  One day she said to me, “Your husband doesn’t love the Lord.”

Now my husband, like my dad, rarely went to church, although he had fond memories of attending church with his parents when he was a boy.   He had treated her with good-natured kindness ever since she had moved in with us. “Mom, why would you think that?" I asked. 

“Don’t you remember, when we were in Ocean City, that time he piped up about Harold? I told him to ‘get thee behind me’ and he never said another word!”

“Oh, Mom,” I said, not wanting to revisit that topic again by telling her it was I who’d tried to comfort her.  However, I couldn’t help but wonder why she had been so anxious about where Harold was spending eternity and  not at all worried about my dad.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Snow Foolin'

We're headed for Erie, PA this week end.

We don't expect snow up there this weekend, 
but this past winter they had a record-breaking snowfall of 50-plus inches.

This sign, outside a car wash, always amuses me.

It says: "Do Not Enter with Plow Attached"