Monday, May 27, 2013

What We Remember

Memorial Day,  America's Day of the Dead, which is far closer to the Mexican Day of the Dead, than Halloween.  It is the Day of Honor.  The Day of Remembering.  The Day of Family.

I come from a family of giant souls, men and women, who fought, worked, cared in ways that leave my generation gasping for breath.  It's not that we haven't had our moments of bravery, humor, deep love, we have.  And our children will have the opportunities for that as well.  But they were something else.

When my parents were young, Memorial Day, was celebrated in a much bigger way.  My mom would gather buckets of iris, catapla blossums, snow balls, peonies and lilacs  and pile  them into the trunk of our 1957 Chevy, and off we'd go to the high country—Council, Midvale, Weiser—to meet family from all over  the state.  The family was buried in the Midvale area, on a beautiful hillside that allowed for the seeing of great distances.  We'd leave copious bundles of flowers on the graves of our matriarchs and patriarch, flags on the graves of the people who had served in any way, in any generation.  There were family who crossed the Great Plains, the last people on the last wagon train.  There were homesteaders, warriors from several wars, people who had birthed families of 7 and 8 children, all of them at home, people who went to the first schools, who drove the first cars, who tended ancient apple trees, people who told their stories.  Uncle Bemus.  Grandpa Ollie.  People of Honorable Lives.

Then we'd gather for lemonade, fried chicken, potato salad, and Grandma Belle's chocolate cake, and then settle in for the long drive home.

They did a better job of it than I ever will.  But those ghosts are alive and well in my genetic disposition.  I say something and  wonder where in the world that came from—my own personal ghosts.

I come from an ordinary Western family, with roots that go deep within the south-eastern part of my state.  Immense strength, humor, creativity, bravery, sense of duty and honor, God and Country, are my heritage.

And I suspect, yours.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Oh, Oklahoma

We know you.  We know your families, how there are three generations close by, with the kids coming home on Sundays, and mama makes a cake and mashed potatoes.  Maybe some ribs.  We know your low rolling hills of stunning green and your history with the dust bowl.  You've known great suffering and great love of the very dirt in your fields; the loss of everything and the ability to hold everything that matters, what faith feels like, what hope looks like, what love acts like.

Tonight, we feel sorrow.  Our earth is sending out the message of extremes, and we'd best pay attention.  We hold close to our schools, our churches, our baseball games, our farms.  The institutions that most make us American.  So do you.

You'll be tough.  You'll get organized fast.  You'll be of help.  Your medical people will work around the clock doing the best work of their lives.  Your teachers will carry the sacredness of these stories.  Your counselors and your pastors will reinstall hope.  Your police, your paramedics, and your fire fighters will be heroes a thousand times over.

As you will.

Brew the coffee strong.  You'll  find the clear light of dawn in a green and generous state.

Monday, May 13, 2013

When They Matter Again

When we were tiny, birthdays were such important milestones; we were soon to be old enough to go to school or to drive, somehow we were yearning for our first kiss, our first road trip without our folks, the first time we tipped our toes into an chilly ocean.  Momentous.

Then as we left adolescence, our birthdays ticked by and our milestones were further apart.  Not so many momentous firsts.  In my forties I lost track of how old I was.  It just didn't matter all that much and I'm still off by a year or so. 

Now that we are all in our sixties or close to them, birthdays again are exuberant celebrations, with tons of teasing, goofy jokes, great food, lofty surprises, the wealth of glorious friends and some amount of family.  I got to go to one of those last week at  a local restaurant, Cottonwood Grill.

It was Marty's sixtieth birthday.  You have to understand this about Marty, she looks like she's thirty-five.  She has a fairly new PhD, a growing reputation in the wholistic health field.  She's a nurse. Mom to Molly and Matt.  Wife to Mike.  We'd been plotting  her party for months.  The we here is The Blackberry Tea Club, Marcia, and Mike.  

The party started about 6:3o and Marty was appropriately surprised, due to some minor skulduggery by her friends, Marcia and Sherry.  Her friends from the university, her old friends from the hospital we all worked at, Molly was there and her friends, as was Mike and his golfing buds, great guys who pretty much stayed in the background and had a Scotch or two, a half-brother, Mike, whom the family particularly loves.  Marty thought that was it.  Plenty at any rate.  

Then her sisters stole the show.  They got there about 7:30, five of them flying in from all over the west.  Molly blasted the music We Are Family, and in the sisters come:  they each had on Mardi Gra masks, they were wearing purple boas, and vests with spangles.  And they were dancin'.  You couldn't call it dancing.  They are each doing their own spectacular moves, which might or might not have been in time with the music or each other.  Priceless.

I got to make the cake.  The restaurant was willing to do a cake, but it would have cost $150.  So I volunteered.  Here's what I learned:  that you can defrost a bag of strawberries or raspberries, mash them up to replace the liquid in your favorite recipe, and add it to the cake batter, along with 4-6 eggs and a cup of veggie oil.  I think you can use your old stand-by recipes or even a mix.  I doubled the recipe and baked them in layers in a big, big round pan.  Top it off with 7-minute icing, and you have a serious birthday cake that is moist and lovely. 

Marty was in tears.  


Monday, May 6, 2013

Baseball, And All That Goes With It

You know spring in the Pacific Northwest.  It can be 70 degree one day and snowing the next.  We can forgive our pansies for being the least bit unsure of their welcome.  We watch the Iris shrivel in the cold.  The lawns get green, then brown, then green again, particularly after the irrigation kicks in.  But that doesn't stop our kids from playing hard in the cold and the wind.  

It's the season for baseball.

I have a baseball park in my neighborhood.  Actually four in a quarter-mile radius.  So may be my confusion about which park is which . . .  is not unreasonable.  I was to meet up with my  buddies at one of those parks.  Of course, I got the wrong park.  Three times.  It not like baseball parks are subtle.   

In my search,  I knew I was on the right track when I saw some baseball-looking legs poking out from beneath the fence.  Red.  The team I was looking for was wearing red uniforms.  Bingo.  The park has an old-fashioned feel, mismatched bleachers, small stands for hot dogs, Cokes, and pie, everybody crammed into a small space, an electronic scoreboard you can't read when the sun hits it just right.  It's a lovely evening.  So there's some sorta magic involved here.

We were there to watch Noah pitch.  He's a junior in the neighborhood high school, the son of good friends, and a tall, skinny kid.  He's got strength enough that the ball pops hard against the catcher's mitt.  He's good already, but not as good as he will be.  He has a high cool factor too, a stand-out in lots of ways.  

I sit and talk baseball with Larry, our expert and enthusiast.  He loves to explain why this kid bunted and that one fouled out, why the pitch went awry, and why baseball is so American.   I have a hot dog, and who wouldn't?  Tim, who can' sit still for any length of time, has a piece of apple pie while walking around.  Perfect. 

I lose my mind for a minute and use the word: Yipee.  As in, "Yay! Noah!  Good inning! Yipee!"

The local five-year-old is appalled.  He whispers to his brother. . . "She said, Yipee!"  Would that he be so sensitive to all the other words kids say to  each other on a baseball diamond. . .

I have grey/silver/brown hair that stands straight-up most of the time.  Straight-out too.  I'm in my sixties, perfect for "the eye."  You know the one I mean, the one with one cocked eyebrow, no lapse in eye-contact, no humor or forgiveness.  I make the best use of that. 

He's not entirely sure he's home free.  

Also perfect.