Friday, December 31, 2010

NEW YEARS RESOLUTIONS...

Readers of my newspaper column will always ask me at this time of year what my New Year's resolutions will be. And I will always admit that I have never made them.

Why not? I'm not really sure. Perhaps I haven't wanted to disappoint myself if I haven't kept them.

Or perhaps I simply never made the ceremonial "big deal" about the change from one year to another. After all, I sometimes joke, that change means I have to remember to write a new date on my check, and that's something I don't adapt to overnight. Sometimes, in fact, the new year comes along at about the same time I've finally begun to automatically write the correct date; and then it's not correct anymore!

And what about New Year's Eve? That never meant a lot to me either. I think such habits begin early, and since I never had a date on New Year's Eve, it never emerged as an important thing on my calendar.

As a teen, instead of a date, I would be looking forward to the baby-sitting money I could bring home on New Year's Eve---double the usual hourly rate; and sometimes more! And because my customers stayed out later on that night, the dollars really added up.

Was I a greedy girl? No. I was simply a girl who was one of the older children of a very large family, and my father had died when I was just 14. Helping to bring money into the household was important, and so was school. That required balance.

I enjoyed life; I enjoyed high school; I loved my classmates and still do. But my worries were different from the concerns of a lot of young girls of that time.

Go ahead---share with me your New Year's Eve adventures and misadventures, and share with me the New Year's resolutions you will make and break. I enjoy hearing about them.

But, as always, the old year will end and the new one will begin without any real help from me. I will be sleeping soundly when the change occurs.

However, I wish you and your loved ones a happy and healthy New Year. And I sincerely mean that.


Good wishes from Rose About Town, who is happy to receive your comments at randrmoore@gmail.com.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

DOES FROSTY THE SNOWMAN KNOW HE'S OBESE?...


Does Santa know he is fat; or care?...
Did Marilyn Monroe know, if she were a star today, she would have had to lose 50 pounds?...
Would the world have been a better place if Andy Rooney or Dorothy Fuldheim (the first female TV anchor) were skinny?...
Has the news business gained excellence because its female anchors have sylph-like silhouettes?...
Would Burl Ives or Pavoratti have been better singers if they were Hollywood-skinny?
If Jackie Gleason had been a thin man, would he have been a better comic?...
Would Ed Asner, Ernest Borgnine or Walter Matthau have been better actors if they had lost some weight?...
Would Theodore Roosevelt have achieved more without his pudgy profile?...
Would Winston Churchill have been a more effective wartime leader if he were not fat?...
Would Aristotle Onassis have been more successful if he had concentrated on a healthy weight-loss diet?...
Would First Lady Barbara Bush have influenced us more, or been more beloved, if she were stylishly slender?...

Then there are such portly figures as Buddha; Mama Cass; Alfred Hitchcock; Raymond Burr; Orson Wells; Eleanor Roosevelt...

So many people some would classify today as overweight have entertained us, inspired us, fought for us, protected us, set us on the right path, mentored us, taught us, befriended us, loved us, made us think more deeply and enjoy our lives more fully, been good leaders and been good neighbors... and so much more.

We would miss a lot in our lives by judging our fellow man on Body Mass Index...



(Through thick or thin, love the special people in your life... If you wish to add some words of your own, send them to me at randrmoore@gmail.com. I will share them unless you ask me not to)

POSTSCRIPT: Several of you have asked me what my weight is... or if I'm a "fat broad?" That makes me realize you missed the point.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

THE BRIEF BLUE SKY...

DECEMBER'S BRIGHT AND TEMPORARY DAWN....

I am startled to awake today to sunshine and blue sky. December in our valley has been smothered in dark clouds whose only asset has been the beauty of the snows that have softened the hard edges of the cold.

But now, as December moves toward the last days of the year, the sky has freed itself quite suddenly from cloud and darkness. The rising sun seeks breaks within the icy creek and lights a fire in its frost-chilled ripples. The tree tops on the valley's rim pick up the brightness.

Preening in the unacustomed light, the sycamores stand tall along the waterway, stretching slender fingers upward to the blue, their trunks extending long and white below into the creek's reflective waters, like the legs of dancing showgirls.

For all the morning's newborn clarity, the day is very cold; the air is frozen into brittle stillness. A jet trail paints its gleam across the eastern sky, and that cold beauty somehow makes me think of children sticking tongues on frozen flag poles.

The concrete cherub sitting naked on my entry step is bathed in sun that bears no warmth; I know that little guy would shiver if he could.

But I am comfortable and warm inside my house, and so I look away and daydream over coffee. And when I look again, the sky is thickly clothed again in clouds.

Like a bright idea quickly lost, the day has lost its brilliance.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

SOME SANTAS DO NOT FIT THE MOLD...

 

OUR MODERN VERSION of Santa---St. Nicholas, Kris Kringle, Father Christmas or whatever else you choose to call him---was built around the giving nature of the season. Through the centuries, he has grown in our imagination as a jolly gentleman of Christmas, with long white hair and beard, a bright red suit, and an airborne sleigh with reindeer.

My own favorite Santa doesn't fit that mold at all. He doesn't sport a beard and never has; nor has he ever worn long hair, though his perennial crewcut over time has turned snow-white. He doesn't drive a sleigh with reindeer, though he has often had a friendly dog of reindeer size who travelled with him in a truck. And though my Santa does like red as much as any other color, it's never been his signature, and the Santa suit has never been his garb; he's happiest in work clothes.

When my Santa's boys were little children, times were often tough financially, and my Santa devised a lot of Christmas fun for them that money couldn't buy. In the weeks preceding Christmas, footprints of Santa, elves and reindeer would mysteriously appear around the yard and house---compliments of Santa, who went into the cold of night when the world was sleeping, and made this minor miracle that brought such wonder to his children's eyes.

On December afternoons, he would help his boys stack piles of apples for the reindeer. Those apples would be gone by morning, and then it would be time to start again; oh, those hungry reindeer!

On a mid-December morning, he would take his boys out to the tree farm and let them choose the family Christmas tree for cutting. Invariably, they chose a tree that no-one else would want, a "tree that needed love." When it was time to stand the tree for decorating, these trees were guaranteed to give old Santa silent fits, with crooked trunks and most ungainly shapes.

MY SANTA ALSO HAD an active North Pole annex at our house. On many nights before the holiday, the garage became a workshop where Santa whistled, sang, sawed, hammered, sanded, painted ... By morning, all evidence of Santa's work was cleared away before the kids woke up.

This shop created wonders. One year, with new parts and paint and lots of patient work, Santa magically transformed a discarded, worn-out bike frame into a brand new, shiny bicycle. To this day, Santa claims it was a snap, compared to the year he purchased new-age Christmas bikes in packages fraudulently labeled, "Easy to Assemble. "

For our first-born, Santa's shop produced a child-sized, upholstered "Santa Chair." This bright red, sturdy treasure got a lot of use and then was passed intact from oldest boy to youngest, and then passed good-as-new to another family's child.

From Santa's shop one Christmas, there even came a set of bunk beds. That Christmas night, there was a lot of giggling as Santa climbed into the upper bunk and snuggled with his boys as Mama read the nightly bedtime story. The bunk beds held his weight, it should be noted, and Santa fell asleep before the story time was over.

This home-grown work shop also created treasure boxes; wooden horses; wood cut-outs of boyhood favorites (such as cars and cowboys pistols); handmade and painted alphabet blocks; a carpenter version of Tinker Toys or Legos, with glue and nails, a hammer, and pieces of wood in many shapes and sizes ...

Once Santa even left materials and plans for a doghouse for the boys' companion, Buster. After Christmas the little building was created by them all together, with a shingled roof, real siding, insulation and a swinging door. Well built, that tiny structure outlasted Buster, and when Buster died, it was a marker for his grave.

In those simpler times, this Santa made small gifts seem like the best gifts, and his presentation was ingenuous. A wrapped box might contain a map for an "X-marks-the-spot" game that led to the real gift ... A pocket knife might be wrapped deceptively in a box inside a larger box, with carving-wood and a sharpening stone included for after-Christmas lessons in whittling and sharpening.

ALL YEAR EVERY YEAR, my Santa blended into everyday society under the comfortable name of Bob. I first met him when both of us were young, and he has aged along with me. But in his heart and in my eyes, he's ageless; he has kept his Santa smile and spirit, and his eyes still sparkle with a boyish mischief

Now that Santa's sons are raising children of their own, Santa is retired, mostly, and has long since passed the Santa torch to the younger generation. Someday that generation too will feel a tug of sadness as they pass the Santa torch to yet another generation.

And then, like us, they'll warm themselves each Christmas with memories of the best December jobs they ever had.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS PAST...

(BRING ARTICLE TO FULL-PAGE SIZE AND THEN CLICK TWICE ON ARTICLE OR HOWEVER MANY TIMES NEEDED TO ENLARGE ENOUGH TO READ)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

THE CRIMSON CHRISTMAS BELL...

For me, a most spectacular childhood memory of Christmas was a crimson Christmas bell that appeared before my sleepy eyes one early Christmas-season morning when I was six or seven.


I had come downstairs for breakfast, and there it was ; and I knew it hadn't been there when I had gone to bed. Its splendid glowing red was framed within the wide wood doorway between the living room and dining room. It seemed so big and beautiful and magical, crafted as it was by a creative mother who had wrapped some crimson fabric around a wire form, while her children were asleep.

AND THEN I RECOGNIZED that heirloom fabric, and I was stunned. It was my mother's special shawl!
I had never seen her wear that shawl, nor had I ever known that it existed until one day I saw her pull it from a dresser drawer with careful hands. When I asked to see it, she let me hold a corner of its softness to my face and then returned it to the drawer.

Sometimes after that, I would open up that drawer and peer in at the shawl and touch it, but I never let my mother see me do that. I pondered on the mystery of that shawl.

Mom would never say from whence it came, only that she'd had it for the longest time, and I could see she loved it. It was a talisman; a thing of beauty for her. In years to come, I would make up many stories in my mind about that pretty piece that seemed to hold a special meaning for my mother.

And when that morning, in the week of Christmas, I saw the special decoration Mom had made from it, I was shocked at the enormity of her sacrifice.

But then I looked more closely at my mother and I could see her eyes were smiling at the pleasure that lovely Christmas bell would paint upon her children's faces.

Despite the Christmas tree nearby, the bell was all I seemed to see that year. It could have been a year without a tree, and I would not have known it.

Friday, December 10, 2010

1948--BEN AND THE BIG CHRISTMAS BEAR...

This Christmas story involves a big bear and my little brother Ben.

It was Christmas Eve, and I was an eight-year-old lying half asleep in my upstairs bedroom. Dad had not yet returned from a late B&O railroad run, and Mom was sitting quietly downstairs waiting up for him.

Suddenly I heard an intriguing and powerful sound from the street below.
I rolled over and peered out the window and discovered the source---the idling engine of a big red fire truck, being unloaded by fire men! I watched as they helped my mother carry packages into the house.

After the fire men left, I sneaked down to the basement where I knew my mother had gone with the packages. "Shhh!... Don't wake the others," she whispered. "It's
the Painesville Children's Santa Run. O
ur family was apparently on their toy list this year."

My mother was aware that I had prematurely stumbled upon "the truth about Santa," and she didn't shoo me upstairs. I watched as she added the brightly wrapped packages to the rather spare number of gifts she and dad had already bought, wrapped and hidden.

I told her that one of the toys I had seen being carried into our house was a toy panda bear, too big to wrap.
Mom reached out and put the bear in my arms, and that bear seemed as big as the girl who was holding it. I noticed the bear had a key, and I carefully wound it and heard the fine tones of the Brahms Lullaby. I loved it!

"The tag on this bear is marked for a girl 8 years old',
" Mom said. "That's you!" I knew I'd have to wait until morning to take possession of the bear, and I set it aside to help my mother finish the task of hiding the gifts.

When we had barely finished, we heard feet on the steps and we rushed to hide beneath the stairs.
From our hiding place, I could see the big dark eyes of my little brother Ben, busily poking around. "Now where did that big b'ar go?" he said aloud to himself several times. "I saw that big b'ar... " He finally gave up and trudged up the stairs and back to his bed.

I suddenly knew where that big bear should go, regardless of the words on the tag. Whether or not she agreed, Mom didn't say; she left the choice to me. And so, in the morning, the bear ended up in the hands of my little brother.

On Christmas morning, my mother seemed very concerned about Ben having seen the fire-engine that delivered the toys. What would he tell the rest of the children?

I heard her tell them,
"These came by fire engine last night," and then she hesitated. Before she could say more, I jumped in with an explanation of my own: "Santa ran out of time and needed help from the firemen," I told them. "Everyone knows that Santa calls the police or the fire men when he needs extra help."

Was I telling the truth, I wondered. Deep down I felt that I was. It seems that I hadn't completely abandoned my belief in old Santa.

I don't remember what toy I received in place of that bear.
But I do remember feeling that, unique among my siblings, I had received a suitable gift of my own from the night before. I had experienced the excitement of seeing that big red fire engine---so enormous it seemed to dwarf its surroundings; I had witnessed the happy laughter of the fire men as they unloaded the gifts; I could not have felt more like Christmas if I had walked downstairs that night and come face to face with Saint Nick himself.

And on Christmas morning, I also achieved a special new status as Mom's co-conspirator, she and I working together as keepers of the Christmas secrets and protectors of the Christmas magic.

And now this 70-year-old grandmother will tell you "the truth about Santa," as I see it today:

On one day
a year, at the very least, Santa is real. You can trust me on that.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

1965---SMALL BOY ASKS SANTA FOR A JUNK YARD

Once upon a time, a small boy sat on Santa's lap in a department store and asked Santa to bring him a real junk yard for Christmas. To the parents' astonishment, a startled Santa said "YES"!

Santa's indiscretion in making that promise resulted in the boy enlisting his mother to help him write a very specific letter to Santa. The boy included items he would need to run his junk yard, and the letter was taken to the post office and mailed.

A miraculous postscript to this story is that the junkyard actually did arrive on Christmas Eve, in a huge box delivered by a local junk yard dealer. Somehow the man had heard the story of the boy's wish, and when he arrived at the family's door, he told the boy he did not have the exact things the boy had asked for, but what he did have came from real cars and were real items from his very own junk yard, on Santa's direct orders.

The car parts inside the box had been carefully cleaned and were carefully labelled, with notes detailing what kind of cars they came from and how the parts worked.

The little boy treasured that gift and often slept with one part or another, as some small children might sleep with a stuffed animal.

In later years, in middle school, the boy would win a science fair by building a small model engine, to demonstrate and explain how a small engine works. His inspiration had begun with the Christmas junk yard.

The boy is now a father with children of his own. If he didn't understand as a child, he surely understands now, that the arrival of that special junk yard at his door on Christmas Eve, when he was four years old, was proof enough that Santa Claus can walk in many guises.

Including junk yard operators. And post office workers. And daddies...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

ROSE COZIES UP TO A SENTIMENTAL DOORWAY FROM HER PAST...


(Click on photo to enlarge)

In Dec. 2009, as the new high School in our Ohio town was about to be dedicated a few blocks south, I visited the old school (dubbed "Classic Harvey").

My reason for being there was to spend a few quiet moments saying goodbye to a doorway I particularly loved. Like many graduates of the old school, I admired the beauty of that doorway, and in my years at that high school, I had often read the etched quotation in the stone over the door---"AS THE OPPORTUNITY SO THE RESPONSIBILITY.

East of this doorway was a second doorway, a beautiful twin to this entry except for its carved quotation which read: "EDUCATION IS THE SAFEGUARD OF DEMOCRACY."

It was a sad moment for me in 2010 as I watched completion of the demolition of the building.
As a weekly columnist for a local paper, I photographed and wrote about the passing of the structure.

Through my column over that year, I had fielded questions from historians, preservationists, community members and alumni as to whether the carved stones at the old school could be saved. The demoliton experts had questioned the feasibility of that, but they did put great effort into the salvage attempt. And I am happy to say they succeeded in saving the stones!

Some restoration was needed, and Norman Monument Company provided the expertise for that. Now our Alumni Association is working with the school to find the best possible display place for the relics. The Association, in cooperation with school district officials, also has been working to establish an area within the building in which to develop an historical archives... a sort of "mini museum."

I congratulate the City Board of Education for its efforts over time to preserve the history of the old building in any way possible. They have wisely recognized the importance of preserving their past and blending it with the present and the future.

Monday, November 29, 2010

KENNY REED: HE JUST SEEMED TO ENJOY BEING HELPFUL .....

 
 
Kenneth James ("Kenny") Reed, owner of Design Images in Madison, was known to many as "the sign man," having created and installed signs throughout the region for more than 30 years.
 
At the time of his death in November at the age of 53, a good many people proudly declared that they had "Kenny Reed signs" inside and outside their homes and/or businesses. Having a Kenny Reed sign was a mark of distinction, and now their signs would serve as their souvenirs of a good friend and a good man.
 
His artistry in sign-making became, in fact, the central point of "The Sign Man's" formal eulogy at his funeral service.
 
My husband Bob and I are among the many people who can say we have a sign by Kenny. He crafted a sign as a gift for our front entry 15 years ago. Not long after that, he gifted me with a sign from his former shop by the tracks in Painesville, because he knew I admired the steam engine he had painted on that sign. More than a decade ago, he appeared at our house with an engraved stone marker for the grave of our beloved doberman, Lady, who had just been buried on our property. And for our surprise Golden Anniversary party, he created ALL the signs... from the signs that greeted us when we arrived... to the durable outdoor mural that was an oversized copy of our wedding photo.
 
We first met Kenny many years ago; he had become a friend of our eldest son. Over the years since then, he became a friend of our entire family, and we would see him often. We always enjoyed our conversations with him.
 
We knew him long enough and well enough to know for sure that, although he was famous for his signs, his true personal hallmark was his kindness and concern for others. He was a man of sensitivity toward the needs of others; a man who just seemed to enjoy being helpful to people.
 
So much so that, when calling hours began for Reed at Spear Mulqueeny Funeral Home in Painesville, the steady stream of mourners began immediately; and that great show of respect continued without let-up into the 2 p.m. funeral service.
 
People of all ages and from all walks of life shared among themselves their individual remembrances of "the sign man's" quiet, everyday kindness.
 
It soon became clear that his good deeds had been many and varied... ranging from the mundane (installing a tractor seat after seeing that a neighbor of a friend was having trouble accomplishing that task) to the magnificent (creating and installing a grave marker privately and free of charge, after hearing that one was needed for the burial spot of a young man whose mother could not yet afford one). 
 
In the conversations before his service, it also became evident that Kenny Reed had extended his kindness to friends and strangers alike; to people he had known for years; or people he had met only briefly; or even people he had heard about but never met at all.
 
My husband Bob and I share the sadness of the many people who have found it hard to say goodbye; and harder yet to realize he will no longer be among us in this world.
 
Rest in peace, Kenny Reed. Your many friends will not forget you.
 
 
 
 

Thursday, November 25, 2010

JACK OF THE BELLS

Black Jack Royal, aka "Jack"...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

FOR HIS HEALTH?...

It was early morning in my country neighborhood; the day had dawned, but it was raining heavily, and in the gloom it seemed as if the morning had returned to night.

We were travelling a familiar route, with hills and valleys; curving roads and heavy overhang of trees...

Suddenly... were we seeing motion on the road? What was it? We slowed almost to a stop.

It was a middle-aged man, dressed in dark clothing, with no reflective properties upon his person. He was jogging out on the roadway itself, for the rough roadside edges and the deepness of the country ditches in this stretch of road allow little other space to walk or run.

This runner never lifted his head toward us; he did not seem the least aware that we were there... Or that, had we not somehow spotted him in the blinding rain and darkness, we would have hit him.

Close as our vehicle was to him, he was concentrating only on his breathing and his running. And, for whatever reason, he had chosen the highway instead of the well-paved trails nearby that had been built and dedicated by the Metroparks for the safety of runners, walkers, bicyclists...

Without a doubt, this man was running to retain his youth and health.

In the darkness of that rainy morning, he came close to losing both.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

A BIT OF SPANISH MOSS BRINGS WHISPERS OF THE PAST...

Sometimes the past can whisper to you. I felt that strongly during my October visit to the southeast seacoast lands of Virginia and North Carolina.
 
At the family cemetery on the site of my mother's family's old Virginia homestead, I touched the stones that marked the graves of her parents---my grandparents---who had died long before I was born, and long before my mother met my father.
 
With my husband, I drove along the little roads that thread through the expansive lands that had once been theirs, and I tried to recapture the stories my mother had told and to see the places of her childhood. 

As a girl, I knew, my mother had loved the moss-draped trees that softly framed the waterways, and she had often photographed their beauty; many years later, as she shared those photos, I was mesmerized by what I saw. 
 
In my southeast coastal visit in October, I found those lands and waterways much changed from what my mother had remembered. Now largely designated as wildlife refuge, they have evolved over time into open, sunny grasslands.  Gone are the trees and moss of my mother's youth, for whatever reason, be it natural changes or generations of farming... According to locals, Spanish moss has not been seen in the area for many years.
 
I shared that disappointment with my cousin Donna, daughter of my first-cousin Rachel. Meeting them personally had been one special goal of my visit, and I spent happy hours with the two of them; though it wasn't nearly enough.
 
Today Donna emailed this photograph to me, and a bit of my mother's family past began to speak to me again. In her daily walks, it seems, Donna had searched for my mother's Spanish moss; and she found it today.
 
It was just a shred of moss, to be sure, but it was Spanish moss and it was looking healthy.
 
It was enough to bring my mother and her parents back to me for a moment...
 
And it was enough, as well, to make me see again the special nature of the cousin who had sent her photographic image of that moss to me.


POSTSCRIPT FROM MY SOUTHERN COUSIN DONNA: "I loved this... Soon after I saw this posting on your blog, I was delivering mail in a little area called Treasure Point along the Pasquotank River (North Carolina). I spotted a tree down river that was completely draped with Spanish Moss! I'll try to get a photo of it for you."

Sunday, November 7, 2010

TURNING RED...

There's a peculiar restfulness in TV since the election. Commercials are not as numerous, nor are they screaming, tossing slime and raising my blood pressure.

While I am personally a mix of independent, moderate and conservative---depending on the issue---I can't abide the crowing of conservatives about states "turning red."

That will only work if you stop crowing and if you learn the difference between "statesman" and "politician."

We must work for the good of our country and not for the good of our various parties.

Otherwise, "turning red" will simply mean "more political bloodshed."

And that continued bloodshed will surely sap the strength of a country that historically has been strong.

Friday, November 5, 2010

IT'S LIKE JURY DUTY...

You never know when it's going to happen. You open your blog and it's been hijacked by a squatter.

It's going to happen every now and then no matter who you are.

This is my second time in a year, and this old mind again has to change and remember yet another password, etc.

Last time, someone put hundreds of ads on my site... enough to spur an alert that my site was filled and no more writing could be accepted.

This time, someone put strange postings with contact numbers designed to have blogger and/or readers click on the numbers; real mischief ahead if you did that.

Just like jury duty, this can and often does happen when it's not convenient.

But with jury duty, at least you finish with a feeling of satisfaction; you've done something good.

With this hacking, it's simply frustration!

You're not a jury member... You're a victim!

Monday, October 25, 2010

IF YOU THINK BEAVERS ARE CUTE...

Yesterday, we photographed the beaver damage closer to the house; it's just the beginning; they are stripping the woods up creek and across the creek.
 
The photos here show an example of girdling of large trees and healthy saplings, and the loss is extensive.
 
Worse, some of the trees are tall enough to land on our house (notice the windows of our house in the upper right of one of the photos.
 
A diverse and beautiful woodland has been turned into a mess that is expanding rapidly, and soon will be a mosquito bog as well, as the water levels rise behind the dam.
 
Why do wildlife people re-introduce certain species without also re-introducing the predators that keep them in balance?)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

OCTOBER'S BEAUTIES...

Here in our home in this valley, where October presents such a beautiful face, we can bask in the glow of the shadows of dew-laden mornings, seen from our east front windows as we sip morning coffee...
We can laze at our west-facing windows, mellowing out with the aging day as it  tosses its dying light to the creek below, burnishing tree trunks; highlighting the yellows of bottomland forest, turning the leaves into stained glass lit by the sun as it falls toward the horizon...
We can say goodnight to the day as it darkens to dusk and the sun sets red...
We are blessed to be living where we can watch the outdoors in its days and nights, through every season.

Friday, October 22, 2010

COMMUNING AT THE GRAVESITE OF THE GRANDPARENTS WE NEVER MET...

It was a rainy morning in this October 2010 in far-southeast Virginia, when my sister Mary and I visited the gravesite of grandparents we had never known but often thought about: They were James and Elizabeth, husband and wife, who died many years before we or any of our large batch of siblings had been born.

Their gravesite is located on Fitztown Road in what was once the old and historic Princess Anne County, now a part of the large independent city of Virginia Beach. Their stones were among the earliest in the small family emetery, located on property that was once the homestead of our grandparents.

Much of it now is designated as wildlife refuge, and my mother loved that land and would be happy to know that.
RMM... Oct. 2010

ODE TO A GRANDFATHER (GRANDPARENTS) NEVER MET

>

I first wrote this piece as my  Fathers Day column for a local newspaper in 2008. I had not yet had the opportunity to visit the grave of my grandparents on the property that had been their Southeast Virginia homestead.
But in this October of 2010, my sister and I did visit that gravesite together.
It inspired me to share this column once again, and I dedicate it to my Virginia grandparents and to my sister and her family who made such grand arrangements for a visit to the area by my husband and myself.     RMM
 
Rose's ode to a father of another generation:
 
A DECADE AGO for Father's Day, I wrote about my paternal grandfather whose given name was Benjamin.  I had never met him; he died when my father was a teenager. But after all the years since his death in 1918, longtime readers of this column had begun to contribute information about him, and I had not previously known these things.
 
He was a native of the town in which I was born and still live. In recent years, I discovered that my father's father had a history with the city's water plant; he was the first non-Irish to sign the rolls of membership with the Knights of Columbus in our town; he was active in his community and his church; he was written of with great affection in the newspaper when he died in the Great Influenza epidemic in 1918, etc... 
 
In sharing him with you, I ended with the written wish that, "Someday, somehow, I hope my mother's father will also reach out from the past and say hello to me." In recent months, that has been happening. 
 
This given name of my mother's father was James, but he died so many years before my mother gave birth to me, I didn't know even that name. What little I did know was through my mother's small stories. He was a farmer in Creeds, Princess Anne County, Virginia. His property had experienced floods (perhaps in hurricanes) and been burned by wildfires. He was a practicing Christian, and she was the first of his children to "marry a Yankee and move to the north." (What would he have thought of that? He didn't live to see my mother married, but he might have enjoyed knowing that his southern Christian hymns became the lullabies of my childhood).
 
Through Mom, I knew he had a sense of fun, and a tenderness and protectiveness toward his family. I knew he worked hard all his life and had been widowed twice. I knew in 1923, when Mom was just 14, he had come into the house and collapsed and died on the spot. His wife died a few months later.
 
I had little hope of learning more, partly because his history had taken place so far away from here; and partly because my interest in him hadn't peaked until most people who might have known about him had passed away. Then my sister, who was stationed with the Navy in Virginia, acquired a photo bearing his name and the words "age 66." It was quite by happenstance, and the donor had said she had no other information to accompany that photograph. She only knew she was his great-great granddaughter and her grandmother's sister had been our mother.
 
I grinned when I saw the photo; he had a Buddy Ebsen-Jeb Clampett look. Then I looked again and thought about the person Mom had known, and I loved his look. 
 
I later learned that my grandfather's own parents were both born in England in the 1820s. They married there, apparently, and later settled on family land-grant property in southeast Virginia, in America, and raised at least five children there, including my grandfather.
 
I WONDERED, how could they or my grandfather have loved this land that brought such crushing work and regularly threatened them with wildfire and flood and other hardship? Then recently a Princess Anne County historian described for me the land my grandfather and his family seemed to love, and I began to understand.
 
It was partly farmland that had attracted people to this place, clear back to the early English settlers living on their land grants from the mother country, she said. The soil was tillable on the ridges; wildlife for food was plentiful along the waterways that threaded through the tidal and deepwater marshes; building materials were there for the taking, in stands of tupelo, bald cypress, black gum, red maple, hickory and several types of oak. Providing good spots for the settlers' mills were the many little creeks which wound their way to bay and seashore, where seafood was there for the catching too.
 
When the land was his, my grandfather and his family would canoe amid the swamp land forests, accompanied by an orchestra of birdsong above an understory of persimmon, sweet pepper bush, swamp azaleas and southern arrowheads...
 
Many decades later than that, I would see a family photograph taken by my mother on the property, in a season when the water stood among the cypress trees whose roots grew upward from the moisture into elongated "knees." Those knees, and the land and water all around them, glowed mysteriously from the light that filtered through the canopies of leaves and Spanish moss. (My family lost track of the photograph after our mother's death, but I still have the old camera with which she captured that scene).
 
Now that land, appropriately, is part of a large patchwork of wildlife refuges, state parks, national parks. "Princess Anne County itself no longer exists; it is extinct," the historian told me. "Most of its communities were absorbed into the independent city of Virginia Beach... As for Creeds, the community around your grandfather's land, you'd be hard pressed to find it listed anywhere."
 
MY GRANDFATHER'S NAME exists in genealogies and public records, and as his personal trivia gradually makes itself known to me, he is materializing. One late-1800s census, for instance, shows him as the owner of more than 200 acres.
 
Holding further concrete evidence of his family in Princess Anne is the still-existent family cemetery, deeded long ago to the family lineage by a daughter of my grandfather. Unlike many private burial grounds established long ago, it is still well-kept. It's also still in active use for descendant kin.
 
Knowing my grandather was a tender, protective husband and father, great sadness lies for me in the testimony of that burial ground. In a "virtual tour" by website, the first gravestone I encountered was for his wife Bainey C.(maiden name unknown by me). She was my grandfather's second wife when they married, and three years later, she and her unnamed first-born son died in childbirth and were buried together. I still am haunted by that stone.
 
In a grave near Bainey and her son is that of Jane (maiden name unknown), who was my grandfather's first wife. She bore him two daughters and then died sometime after that, possibly from childbirth complications so common to that era.
 
A double tombstone marks the graves of James and his third and final wife, Elizabeth. Elizabeth was 25 years old, nearly two decades younger than James, when she married him. For the good fortune of my grandfather and his family, she turned out to be the sort of woman capable of incorporating the daughters of his first wife so lovingly among the children born to Elizabeth and James, the family would forever seem unable (or unwilling) to declare which were half-sisters. ("We were ALL sisters. Together. As one," my own mother would declare).
 
A tombstone in the family plot near that of Elizabeth and James seems to indicate Elizabeth gave birth a year after their marriage. The baby, named Davana, died at the age of one. Elizabeth, however, went on to deliver a large and healthy family that was raised by both of them to be close and very caring to one another.
 
WITH THE DEATHS of James and Elizabeth occuring close together, their eldest son knew what to do. He willingly and lovingly stepped in to assume responsibility for my mother and her younger sister, who were still growing up. My mother always made me carefully aware of that, and in a sense I see him as a grandfather too. 

AFTER-NOTES:

*We also spent some happy time with a cousin, Rachel and her daughter Donna and family. I have gotten to know Rachel and Donna through facebook, and they are exactly like I imagined they would be. We felt so comfortable together, and why not? We are family, and that is truly how we feel about each other now.


*I was surprised to find the land today no longer seems to feature oaks and spanish moss along the waterways. But these mystery-shrouded places through which my mother often canoed will exist forever in my mind.

R.A.T. (Rose About Town) receives comments at randrmoore@gmail.com

Thursday, October 21, 2010

ZAC BROWN BAND A FAVORITE WITH FALLEN MARINE

The favorite band and favorite song of the fallen U.S. Marine who is the topic in the posting below was: Zac Brown Band and their "Chicken Fried."

Last October when he was laid to rest, "Chicken Fried" played all over our county, with vehicle windows down and volume up.

For the sad anniversary of the death of Lance Corporal David Raymind Baker, "Chicken Fried" is once again heard throughout our area. Some of us have wondered aloud, what would the Zac Brown Band think if they knew this?

Rest in Peace, Lance Cpl. Baker.

(Rose About Town accepts your comments to randrmoore@gmail.com)

REMEMBERING THE LOSS OF A YOUNG MARINE WHO GREW UP IN OUR COMMUNITY

THE ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN MY GAZETTE NEWSPAPERS COLUMN IN 2009, AND THE MEMORY OF THAT DAY, WHEN HIS FUNERAL PASSED THROUGH HIS HOME TOWN IN LAKE COUNTY, OHIO, STILL MOVES ME. EACH YEAR IN OCTOBER, I RE-POST THIS IN DAVID BAKER'S MEMORY. MAY WE ALWAYS REMEMBER THE SACRIFICES OF PEOPLE LIKE DAVID RAYMOND BAKER, USMC, AND THE SACRIFICES OF THE FAMILIES AS WELL. 


   This day is All Saint's Eve, Oct. 31 2009. My husband Bob and I are here on Riverside Drive in Painesville Township, awaiting the funeral procession of a native son---22-year-old local Marine Lance Cpl. David Raymond Baker.
   Baker was killed Oct. 20, 2009, while leading a patrol in the volatile Helmand province in the southern regions of Afghanistan. He has been carried home for local services, and soon he will be on the move again, to lie at rest among the heroes at Arlington National Cemetery.
   Everybody can't be everywhere at once, and the funeral procession from an Eastlake funeral home will slowly wind itself across so many places before it passes here, on its way to services at Zion Lutheran Church in Painesville.
   My husband and I have chosen to station ourselves along this road across from the school in which young Baker spent so many of his days of growing up. I am here not as a reporter, but to support him and his family; to stand witness to his sacrifice and to show respect to him.
   We hear from people, as they stop to station themselves beside us, that miles of freeways all along the route are lined with people holding flags, and some have found a way to hoist huge flags above the highway.  
   Some people say the nearby city of Painesville, where the services are being held, is all but shut down by the respectful crowds who've lined the highways and side streets with their flags and hands on hearts.
   All along Walnut Street as we have driven here, and even outside the procession routes, we have seen the flags and signs set up in Baker's honor. Here on Riverside Drive, homeowners have begun to come outside, to stand like sentinels in front of their houses; others have begun to walk in from the side streets.
   We have arrived quite early, and although the rain has almost stopped, the dampness and the darkness hold command. Despite the weather and the early hour, we are amazed how many people have arrived before us.
   Some, like us, have passed a railroad bridge abutment up the road from the high school. That concrete abutment, on a bank above the roadside near the Grand River, has always been a site for mischief, in the form of graffiti applied by graduating Riverside High School seniors. This time the painting seems appropriate and has been installed as carefully as youthful spirits will allow. In red, white and blue, the words stand out in Baker's honor.
   We find a place to park, and a clutch of flags is handed to us by an old war veteran, to pass along to those who have no flags. The numbers build up steadily on both sides of the road. Old people, young people, all ages in between... families and friends... people alone or in small groups, arriving with their flags, in ATVs, jeeps, cars, trucks, bicycles and on foot...  All will stand and quietly wait, showing no impatience...
   Many, like my husband and myself, are strangers to the young Marine. Most declare a common purpose: "to honor and support him and his family."
   It doesn't seem this mostly silent congregation has been organized by a group or is politically motivated; it seems instead they have arrived by individual volition; and some by sudden impulse. We scan our eyes in both directions along the roadside and soon we cannot see the beginning or the end of these long lines. Cars of people continuously come in for the purpose that has drawn us here, and soon they begin to seem like a procession in themselves.
   This somber mission matches well the somber nature of the weather. The mood is quiet and subdued, as if we've all lost one of our own. And in a way we have.
   As the time grows closer, the clouds droop heavily; the dark sky lowers by the minute, and a chilled wind sets the flags a-flutter. We see the flashing lights and motorcycle escorts that signal the young Marine's arrival. As they pass, the sky begins to shed more sprinkles until it's hard to tell the raindrops from the tears on people's faces.
   From a grove beside me, a sudden gust of wind strips sharp-edged maple leaves from off the trees, and they pass before my eyes like golden stars---not unlike the symbols of the wartime Gold Star Mothers, an organization for mothers who have lost sons and daughters in service to their county.
   And I, a mother of three sons, am reminded sadly once again, this fallen hero, the young Marine Lance Cpl. David Raymond Baker, was also someone's son.

ATTACHED photo by Rose Moore
"A sign in front of Riverside High School honors Lance Cpl. David R. Baker as his funeral procession passes through out community."
 
(Rose About Town accepts your comments at randrmoore@gmail.com)

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

HALLOWEEN GOTHIC: BOB & ROSE IN COSTUME?

 

BOO TO YOU FROM HALLOWEENS PAST...

 

A BEWITCHED ROSE-ABOUT-TOWN LOOKS BACK ON OLD HALLOWEENS

As a youngster, I loved Halloween--not for candy, but for costumes. Briefly in my little world, I could walk around as someone else--like a child playing dress-up with bits and pieces from an attic trunk.

The search through bureaus, trunks and closets was a joyful part of it. Sometimes the outcomes were surprising.

The first costume I remember was a grown-up's cast-off gown. My mother nipped and tucked, and slashed the hem to suit my height (or lack of it), and wrapped a brilliant scarf around my waist. She draped me with a fur-piece from her single life, and presto! I was transformed into a 1930s movie star!

Beneath the neighbors' porch lights, I got a better look and saw the vintage fur was made of little foxes, with eyes and little teeth and paws, each pelt clinging to the next. I was terrified!

My mother stood protectively behind us in the shadows. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, so I feigned illness. I couldn't wait to get back home and peel off those scary little animals. I soon became more independent in my costume choices.

When I was eight or so, I loved the smiling Aunt Jemima on the pancake mix and syrup. For Halloween that year, I decided she was who I'd be. I meant no harm; Aunt Jemima was to me a warm and friendly presence.

I tied a big red handkerchief around my head and donned a dress and my mother's apron, and then I sneaked down to the big coal furnace and smeared my face and neck with coal soot--an addition apparently unnoticed by my busy mother as I went out the door with my crowd of siblings. Mom wasn't happy with me when I returned that night from trick-or-treating. She refused to help me clean my face and ears and hairline, though for a week it seemed impossible to remove the soot from underneath my fingernails. "That's your punishment for disrespect," my mother told me. Even at my tender age, it was clear to me she felt I was disrespecting an entire race of people different from ourselves.

One year, Buster Keaton comedies from the silent movie days were a costume inspiration for me; no one recalled those silent movies I had read about, and I was mistaken for a bum!

Another year I dressed as Moonbeam McSwine, bad girl from Li'l Abner comics. That costume was a flop, because my mother saw the scanty outfit and promptly censored it into something else entirely.

In Halloweens of my teens and slightly beyond, I trick-or-treated or went to costume parties as a flower child, an Appalachian apple seller, a garbage man, a mail man, a housewife, a mechanic, a "Babushka Woman", a schoolmarm, a beatnik, a pioneer... With painted stripes on white pajamas, I was even once a jailbird!

My props included mops, sun bonnets, baseball caps, berets, pails, curlers, pillows, grease, wrenches, bubble-gum, blacked-out teeth, tambourines, bongo drums ...

Sometimes I wasn't really sure myself who I was meant to be; improvisation was the point and half the fun. As a teen, I showed up at a costume party as MYSELF, and won the prize for most original; the meaning of that wasn't really clear to me.

Similar to that was the Halloween that fell on the eve of my eldest child's birth, when I still felt well enough to escort young nieces and a nephew trick-or-treating. One homeowner spotted me behind the kids and urged, "Come forward, little pregnant mommy; what a costume!"

In modem Halloweens, trick-or-treat has rapidly faded, and grown-up costume parties have all but disappeared. Ten years ago, however, a relative-by-marriage delightfully revived the costume party for a lucky few of us, with a costume gathering in her family's cozy barn. Eureka!

That year I didn't think about my costume until an hour before party-time, when I dug into my closet, threw on a Russian shawl I'd never found excuse to wear, stuck colorful large hoops into my earlobes, grabbed a decorative straw chapeau from the hall tree, and went as "Gypsy Rose." I was escorted by my husband who appeared before me as an aging tie-dyed hippie whose crew-cut silver hair didn't look like any 60s hippie anyone of us had ever seen.

A Hunter's Moon was brilliant in that Indian Summer night. There was a campfire in the neighborhood, and some of us pretended we were smelling burning leaves, an aroma that has been against the law for many years.

For a little while that evening, we all were laughing kids again; and none the worse for it!

(Rose About Town can be reached these days at randrmoore@gmail.com. Though Rose may be up in the air on a broom this Halloween, feel free to leave a comment at that gmail address).


Tuesday, October 19, 2010

OCTOBER: A GOOD TIME TO HAVE YOUR HEAD IN THE CLOUDS...

 

 

TAKE US HOME, COUNTRY ROADS...

It's a blue-sky afternoon as we approach our deep and winding valley, after lunch on "Spaghetti Day" at our favorite little diner in the country.
Yesterday, when we returned from the south, all we could see was rain; and that's what we saw when we awoke this morning.
Soon, however, the colors still remaining in our fading country autumn re-asserted themselves.

A CARPET LAID BY TREES....

When we returned here yesterday from our travels, we could see our trees were mostly bare. They had laid a plush carpet of leaves on the lawns.
Tomorrow, we knew, would be a day of outdoor work...

BEAVERS' PROGRESS...

In the gloom of dusk on our first day back here in our valley, we looked down toward the creek that runs through our property, and we could see the beavers had added yet another story to their dam.
Click onto and enlarge the photo, and I think you can see that dam.
DAM(N)!!!..

Sunday, October 10, 2010

ROSE'S WILDFLOWER GARDEN ABOVE THE CREEK...

 

A weed, so they say, is a plant that grows where you don't want it to grow. That gives me plenty of leeway in my backyard gardens above the creek. I let these lovely wild things reseed and grow as they like... "giving them their head," so to speak.
Every growing season, they present a different face.
And I enjoy them all.


R.A.T. (Rose About Town). Comments can be directed to randrmoore@gmail.com
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(CLICK ON PHOTO FOR A CLOSER VIEW)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

JOHN DEERE AND HIS LADY, SLIP-SLIDING AWAY...

 
October, the month of Halloween and Trick-or-Treat, began here in my valley with a long spell of cold autumn rains on leaf-littered lawns. Finally today the sun is out and the skies are blue; it's a good day, I tell myself, for mowing lawn. I go out to check the tractor, noticing the leaves and grasses still seem wet. I sit up on the tractor and begin to think about a day some years ago:
 
   That day had been much later in the season, and the mowing was to be the last 'til spring. Like today, it had followed a cold and rainy spell that turned into a sudden, splendid stretch of bright and sunny skies.
   Never one to lose advantage of a window of fine weather, I started my tractor up, and soon I was engrossed in a favorite occupation---mowing lawn.
   My valley floor was dressed in 40 shades of gold, all of which had fallen from the forest that surrounded me. As I worked, I had a fleeting vision in my mind of Tom Sawyer telling his friends, "If you're havin' fun doin' a thing, it ain't work."
   Somewhere along the way, I really had convinced myself that mowing wasn't work, and when it came to my faithful little John Deere tractor, I had long since ceased to share the reins with anybody else. Like a favorite car, I looked at that machine with some affection, and sometimes even called him by his name.
   When John Deere and I that day began to mow the lawns in front, things went smoothly, as they always do; we were feeling fine and in our element together...
   I drove my trusty tractor to the land behind the house, a place where trees rise tall and I can see and hear the creek below. There the pleasure of my "work" was dampened only slightly when I ran into a large, aggressive cloud of Asian lady beetles. They settled on my clothes and hair and skin like noxious freckles, but I ignored them and continued mowing. All was still harmonious in the world of Rose and her buddy John Deere.
   I started down a shallow slope that leads to lower tiers of lawn, and the tractor went beserk! The unseen ground beneath the leaves and heavy grass had turned to grease as slick as oil on a roadway. John Deere's brakes were fruitless; his steering was useless; he careened in frantic circles... We missed one tree and then another; and all too swiftly we were heading for a drop-off high above the creek...
   I gained control---just barely---but my poor John Deere was not forgiven. As if he were a living animal---a mule perhaps---I scolded as I led him firmly to the barn, where I told him, "You can sit 'til spring, for all I care!" Perhaps it was unfair to blame the little tractor, but my John Deere was never one to argue.
 
   NOW IN THIS October 2010, John Deere may be older but he hasn't lost a thing. We treat him carefully, out of respect for the old soldier he is. He has his own special barn. He even has a snowblower which soon will be re-attached for yet another winter, and for that task his partner is my husband.
   Year-round now, Old John sports weights on his wheels and has bigger tires with heavier treads. "I think you could take that hill today, " I told him as I turned the key, and his diesel engine fired up with vigor; we were ready.
   I looked again at the wetness of the lawn and leaves and changed my mind. "Let things dry out for another day," I told him.
   As I killed the engine, I heard a sigh, and I had to wonder. "Was your sigh a statement of relief, Old John?  Or was it disappointment?"
 
 
 

Friday, September 24, 2010

SHARING THE SEPTEMBER MORNING...

It's the land we fell in love with; the land is the reason we built on this spot.
In every time of year, this land is our solace and comfort.
In our retirement, we still rise early so we can watch the days begin here.
The following photos are our way of sharing some of it with you on this mellow, sunny September morning, after a spectacular full-moon night.

SEPTEMBER MORNING IN THE CREEK

By dawn today, the beavers are returned to their lodges after another night of construction which has harvested a good number of trees from our pretty wooded bottomland. The housing industry for beavers hasn't slowed in the least.


P.S. Saturday night Sept. 25... Friends have come up from the bottomland to tell us we can plan a garden there for next summer; the beavers have girdled most of the trees. Oh well, next year we can see the devils; too many trees this year. An ODNR nuisance permit is in order.

SEPTEMBER MORNING GARDENER

My husband Bob goes into his garden today, after the sun has barely shown its face, to harvest watermelons. This, then, is the end of his production from this particular garden patch.

SEPTEMBER MORN AND ROSE'S FLOWERS

Today, my flowers are boasting. The summer has ended; the autumn is new, and my plants are trying their best to prove "We're not done yet!"

SEPTEMBER DAWN TODAY AT THE MOORE PLACE

This is what we see today outside our window, as we relax and talk and sip our morning coffee. What better way to start a day together/ We are feeling blessed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL PHOTO OF MY LITTLE BROTHER "WOOLLY"...

This photo was taken years after the "do-nothing machine" that is the subject in the story below. Woolly was a fast runner who won many trophies and medals and also a full college scholarship. He was a brilliant student as well. If he had lived a bit longer, he would have been married to his fiancee and received his diploma for administrative nursing. His first college diploma was in math and business, and his banking job after college taught him one thing; he didn't like that work! He far preferred the part-time work in hospitals that had helped him pay his college expenses. So he became the first male graduate of a practical- nursing school, went from there onto a full nursing degree and specialized in cardiac and terminal care, then pursued an administrative nursing degree. He worked at Metro General in Cleveland and later was hired by Duke Medical Center in North Carolina).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

CLARENCE AND THE DO-NOTHING MACHINE...

Today, a little brother would be 60, had he lived to that good age. My sister Mary reminded me of that fact, and in tribute to that brother we loved, I am sharing a story from his childhood. I wrote that story years ago:
 

IT DIDN'T FEEL LIKE a birthday. It was August 6 of 1963, and I was living in a place that seemed so far from home.

For the time being, my husband, baby and I were living in a walk-up apartment in Queens, New York ... struggling like many young couples of the time, busy at keeping our heads above water financially, trying hard to get ahead. A recession in Ohio was making jobs scarce, particularly in the construction business. So we'd gone to where the work was ... working with builders of the World's Fair.

We were working hard, and sometimes it seemed there wasn't time for laughter, or a moment for ourselves. As I went into my birthday, I was feeling homesick and frazzled.

Until, that is, the mailman rang and handed me a package. The gift I found within the wrappings transported me back home again, and back in time as well... Back to a 17-year-old-me who had driven home from work to find a younger brother's face at my car window as I pulled into the drive.

The boy was Clarence, mostly known as "Woolly"---he with the slight frame, gray eyes, freckles, sand-colored hair and serious demeanor.

HE LOOKED INTO my eyes and spoke so quietly I had to strain to hear. I saw his towel-wrapped hand and gasped, for it was soaked with blood.

"Don't tell Mom I cut myself," he begged. "I was using Dad's saw." Dad had been dead for a number of years, but Mom had kept his carefully-tended cache of tools, which still held great appeal for the boys he left behind. Mom, however, had firmly set those tools off-limits.

"Let's go!" I commanded, and my wounded little brother slid in beside me, his face bearing the grin of a happy conspirator. "I hope I need stitches," he said. "Then Mom might feel a little sorry for me, and go a little easy." I bowed to his logic; he was probably right.

When the doctor breezed in, he seemed annoying and a bit condescending in his false bravado. "Whatcha been doing, young fella?" he asked. "Lumberjacking? Whatever, it looks like you're not real good at it!"

My little brother's scorn was evident. Standing as tall as his youth would allow, he told the medic, eye-to-eye: "I was building a do-nothing machine. It took all afternoon, and it turned out just the way I wanted it. "

"That hardly seems worthy of carving up your hand," the doctor scoffed. "If you're going to waste your time on such a project," he said sternly, "It should at least do SOMETHING. Wasting time's a sin you may regret someday."

"My machine does nothing," my brother told him firmly, "That's the way I planned it. It LOOKS as if its doing something; it has spools and levers and rubber things, and it moves around a lot of different ways and makes a lot of different noises. But it doesn't really do a thing."

"That doesn't make a lot of sense," the doctor muttered as he worked. "Why would you want to waste your time and mess yourself up in the process?"

WOOLLY WAS QUIET for a moment before he looked up and told the doctor earnestly, "Sometimes you just need to sit and do nothing, but people always come along and say you should be doing SOMETHING. A do-nothing machine makes doing nothing look important; and the grown­ups let you be. "

The doctor's disapproval melted into a broad smile of understanding. "I gotcha!" he said. "I could use one of those machines myself; I really could."

"You'll have to make your own; there's only one." was the last word the doctor would hear from my perennially self-­contained little brother as the sutures were completed. Woolly and I rode home together to face the music, whatever the "song" would be.

AND SO IT WAS, five years later in a city far from home, that the memory of Woolly and his do-nothing machine resurfaced when the mailed package arrived. It was an unexpected birthday gift from Woolly, and as it turned out, it was also a lesson for me.

I laughed out loud when I spotted his do-nothing machine amidst the tangle of paper, and like magic, I got the message I think my brother had intended.

I grabbed my baby boy and put him in the stroller, and we skipped to the park to sit for hours in the summer air, doing nothing more than watching families come and go. Clouds sailed by; dust-­devils stirred up the playground floor; my baby fell asleep in his stroller, and I on my bench...

Later when we left the park, it was only because it was time to greet a home-coming husband. Before he arrived, I tossed some sandwiches into a sack and filled a thermos, and he and I and our baby piled into the car to head for the sands of a Long Island beach.

There we watched as the setting sun reached down and turned the marbled sand into flaming colors that even the energetic waves couldn't extinguish. As the day began to fade into dusk, a young man fishing down the beach brought in a skate fish, and his execution of that feat was timeless and graceful... Youngsters sat with their pails and scoops and taste-tested the sand, as youngsters always have... Couples strolled ...

As for us, we didn't even do that; we simply sat idle in the gathering dusk, and we did nothing. It was a wonderful birthday.

EPILOGUE: "Woolly"went to college, spent some years in a career he loved, then died from complications of diabetes while still a young man. Over the years, sad to say, I lost track of the do-nothing machine... but never the tender message behind it.

 Happy birthday, Woolly.


Friday, September 10, 2010

SENDING A SOUVENIR OF LOVE INTO THE WILD BLUE YONDER...

As we promised you, we hereby share our photographs of the mylar balloon-launching from the site of our 1960 wedding. Instead of just one photo, we have a series (and then some! tucked away as souvenirs), thanks to our dear friend and neighbor Connie Luhta.

We attached our note as firmly as we could, and the balloon took off in winds that might have defeated a real hot-air balloon. But it soon achieved its altitude and took off for the southwest. How far? Wouldn't it be nice if we had a miniature chip in the balloon that could track it's entire course?

But like life itself, and marriage, the future holds some mysteries we cannot know ahead of time.

Thank you for celebrating our Golden Anniversary week with us.

With love,
Bob and Rose Moore


AND NOW VIEW THE SERIES OF PHOTOS BELOW!

CHOOSING THE ANNIVERSARY BALLOON...

Our good friend Connie accompanied us on our Golden Anniversary Balloon Launch at the church in my hometown where Bob and I were married 50 years ago today. She filmed an entire series, start to finish, starting with us at a party store where we chose our balloon for send-off...

SECURING OUR NOTE FOR THE LAUNCH...

 

HOLDING TIGHT TO THE BALLOON IN PRE-LAUNCH WINDS...

 

WITH HELP FROM THE WINDS, A PERFECT SEND-OFF...

 

UP, UP AND AWAY!!!

 

TOASTING A SUCCESSFUL LAUNCH...

From out of the wild winds, we stopped at a sunny cafe in our neighborhood, for a post-launch lunch.


NOTE; CLICK ON 'OLDER POSTS' (BOTTOM RIGHT) to go back through postings of the past five days, our Golden Anniversary Week.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

DAY FOUR--PART III---GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY SERIES: "WHAT MARRIAGE IS FOR"...

Bob and I agreed it was an irony, on this eve of our 50th wedding anniversary, to pull the special-edition news magazine from our mailbox and see the large, bold letters of the cover story: WHAT MARRIAGE IS FOR.

We quickly scanned the associated stories and discovered that they covered the government's role, the political questions, the gay versus straight, the religious side, the history and a whole lot more.

We chose not to dive into the articles. At our age, we decided it's enough to know what marriage has been for us during these years that have flown by so fast that we can hardly believe our married years have added up to 50.

For us, marriage has been a strong and loving partnership. We have worked together and played together; raised children together and married those children off; lost loved ones and gained loved ones...

We have learned things and forgotten things; made money and lost money; gloried over triumphs and together handled disappointments; lived with health and lived with illness...

We have laughed and we have cried. Our years have been filled with joys as well as sorrows, but they have never NOT been filled with love.

We have lived a great many more years as a married couple than we lived as single people.

We have never NOT wanted to be with each other, and as tomorrow's Golden Anniversary arrives, we pray for as many more good years together as providence can send us.

So, what is marriage for? For us it's been the way to live.

We are blessed.

DAY FOUR--PART II OF GOLDEN WEDDING WEEK MEMORIES; "LOOK WHAT WE STARTED!"...

These--the human beings in the four photos below--are our joys.

Our sons are: Mark, born Nov. 1961, married to Christine; Bryan, born Nov. 1967, married to Karla; Kevin, bn. Dec. 1969, married to Kimberly.

Mark and Kevin live in nearby Geauga County; Bryan lives in Bremerton, WA near Seattle.