Friday, June 26, 2009


It's been six months since Mom died. On the way into the shop yesterday to get my hair cut, I passed under an arbor laden with fragrant white roses. I remembered how Mom, suffering from advanced macular degeneration, always reached out to touch the roses, invariably getting scratched or snagging her sweater sleeve.

Although Mom always complained that "those girls don't know how to do my hair," she enjoyed the fuss they made over her. After last Halloween, they passed out surplus Tootsie Pops. "Sam" asked me if Mom would like one. I was about to say, "No," because Mom was getting very persnickety about what she ate.

"Yes, I would!" she said emphatically.

She really enjoyed it, gooey chocolate center and all.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Not a Fun Fish

Our 6-year-old grandson was with me this week in the gap between school and summer camp. It was a week of non-stop chatter.

On Friday, he was telling me about an episode he had seen on ANIMAL PLANET.

"This man was trying to catch an alligator gar. It's a huge, monster fish!"

"Sounds like an alligator gar must be some kind of game fish," I replied, absently.

"Oh, no, Grandma!" he protested, "The alligator gar is NOT a game fish. It's a SERIOUS fish."

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Domestic Terrorism

As soon as I heard about the killing of Dr. Tiller, I thought, "Domestic terrorism."

Although I am a card-carrying member of NARAL Pro-Choice America, I always had qualms about late-term abortion. The murder of this man has brought some facts to light about this procedure. Now that I have read stories about what drove women to seek out late-term abortion, I firmly believe that the state has no grounds for interfering in a woman's decision, even in this case. This procedure must remain safe and legal.

I'm ambivalent about abortion. I wish it were never necessary. Like President Clinton, I want it to be "rare and safe," but we live in the real world. It's a necessary safety valve.

I can tell you three stories from my own experience. Both grandmothers and my mother had abortions. My maternal grandmother started married life in Cambridge Springs, PA, which was then a resort town. She and her husband lived with his mother. When grandmother got pregnant, her mother-in-law said, "You'll not have that baby in this house!" I was in my mid-30's when Grandmother told me this story. I pictured Great-Grandmother standing at her front door, sternly pointing out into the stormy night, as the young couple slunk away.

"No, not at all," said Grandmother, "I just went to see this doctor in Cambridge Springs, who performed D&C's all the time." Such things were possible in pre-World War I Cambridge Springs.

My paternal grandmother, Grammy, made no bones about it: "I never wanted children, " she'd say, when she'd had one drink too many. Nevertheless, she bore two sons in her early twenties, 16 months apart. These unplanned pregnancies nearly broke up the marriage. She loved her boys, but she never had any more children. Mother told me disapprovingly that Grammy "got rid of" the others. I'm sure contraceptive devices, such as the diaphragm, were available, if you could somehow get one. The laws of that time made it nearly impossible. The founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, spent time in jail for providing women with contraceptives.

During the Depression and leading up the World War II, abortion went underground. My dad, like his mother, did not want children. Mother wanted a large family. Eventually, they had two daughters, and eventually, they divorced. Early in their marriage, my dad convinced my mother to abort her first pregnancy. She said it was a humiliating and horrifying experience, performed in a back-alley room without pain relief of any kind.

I'm still ambivalent about abortion, but not about a woman's right to choose. I grieve for Dr. Tiller and his family and shudder to think of the terror that haunts others who provide this service.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Horse Dollars and Cents

We went to our cabin in Ohio over Memorial Day weekend. At "Miller's Hardware" in Danville, we always pick up a copy of THE VENDOR, a 50-page bi-weekly newsprint magazine that bills itself as "an Advertising Medium Serving the Plain Communities and Others in Ohio and From Coast to Coast." It features columns by "Aunt Molly," essays, poetry, puzzles, recipes, and announcements of birthdays and anniversaries. Each issue includes several pages of jokes, interspersed with folk-wisdom observations, such as, "Conscience keeps more people awake than coffee," or "Worry amplifies a whisper into a shout."

Then there are the ads, which give us city folks a puzzling glimpse into a different world. Here's an ad for the only "Equine Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber" in Ohio. There's an ad addressed to "turkey growers," advising them to place orders now for large broadbreasted white turkey poults. You can get 100 of these critters for $299.95, but at this price, you get only "day-old unsexed" poults.

Setting these mysteries aside, I turn to my favorite section, THE HORSE CORRAL, which is divided into buggy horses, draft horses, ponies, and "standing at stud." One phrase that shows up in almost every buggy-horse ad is "traffic safe and sound." Others are "women can drive" and "good traveler." Asking prices range from $1200 to $3000.

Some ads raise questions:

"Ten-year-old good-sized bay standardbred gelding. Shies a little at big truck's sound. Needs work." At ten years, I guess so.

"Not 100 percent safe, but women can drive."

"Sound, not quite safe, but women can drive."

"Traffic safe and sound, but not for women."

And finally, "Nice headset and fun to drive. Good old bloodlines. He's a cribber."