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Sunday, December 10, 2017

Birthday party survival plan

Laura came up on and turned into her sixteenth year in good order. She wanted a party. 

Our neighbor Cathy recognized my distress, and offered to organize it. Back when my girls were in school, every birthday was celebrated at a restaurant of their choice with friends of their choice.  They thought it was really cool, and you know what this teen-age inept mother thought.

This is what Cathy did. But, wait, it gets better. And, keep an eye on the helium balloons that go missing.

The party. Edibles were East of Chicago pizza, which we highly recommend. It's almost as good as Laura's homemade. And, root beer and cherry coke. And, thank God, water. And, Laura's fab cheese cake. Gone, gone, gone. No pictures.

Some  of the prezzies.

The organizer, and her grateful neighbor. Then we all went to the movies. 

We (the young women) saw Coco in one theater, and the organizer and her grateful neighbor saw The Orient Express in the theater next door.

Orient ended fifteen or so minutes before Coco, and Cathy and I stood in the lobby looking for a current picture of Kenneth Branaugh. Well, Cathy was all over her phone; I was amused. He did come up looking OK, though.

Then, Coco began exiting. First, a hall of adults, moving quickly and looking backward, followed by such howling and wailing. Literally, a sound chamber of banshees. The Coco adults were gone before our six teens arrived, some supporting others. 

Laura, Lexie and Meredith were holding up Anneka, Annie and Kayla, the howlers. That was so SAD, the three wailed in unison. Cathy and I had splitting sides and sore ribs, both from holding it in and losing our composure.

It was dark and it was snowing, and it was time to get back, so three teens with composure and two adults with some composure, herded the three sad-o's to our cars. I had Meredith, Anneka and Annie. Before the door was shut, Anneka swooped up the balloons from the floor. "They're still here," triumphant and recovered.

"How will you get a hole in it?" Annie's little voice. "Just like that!" Alvin's chipmunk voice rejoined. "Oh, My, God," pass it to me. Don't let any out. Three chipmunks travelling home. Grandma (Jo by now) in the front seat, ribs aching, eyes streaming, Bob Dylan, Everybody Must Get Stoned...

Say ON-A-Kuh. It makes the story even better.

Saturday, December 9, 2017


I was behind a car with an interesting logo that took me a couple of stop signs to make out. It was in honor of, a memorial to a Ranger, dead in the line of duty. I glanced down and saw the license plate announced a Gold Star family. I wished them peace.

There always have been rangers, in the definition as the men ahead, finding the way, forestalling trouble, mediating. I realized that definition when I was eight or nine, and allowed into the “adult” section of our public library. Having no idea how to assimilate all those books, I decided it best to start at A and read them all.

In short order I reached Altscheler and his series on the Ohio and Kentucky frontiers. Astounding to learn Ohio was wooded across, buffalo (bison) were here when the French priests came to proselytize the natives as long ago as the sixteenth century. I devoured every book I could find, and followed the exploits of mostly white men conquering the country. Jim Bridger, a hero, John Fremont not so much. Probably because Fremont was a politician, too.

The flip side of settlement didn’t escape me. I especially followed the history of natives in my state. Ohio has fascinating local history. The Delaware tribe was a loose association of smaller tribes that intermingled freely. One young man fell out with his clan and joined another. He rose to be that clan’s chief, but always was the newcomer, and Ohio has a town named for him, Newcomerstown.

The history of our natives, people too, was heart wrenching. Those of us past middle age know the story of the Trail of Tears or the Battle of Broken Knee, which was the same kind of massacre as the shooting at the Florida night club, but not preserved in history as a terror attack by our government.

I was much longer understanding what the movement of peoples did to the land. The prairie sod had to be broken, a job unlike tilling most anywhere east of the Mississippi. The “breaking plow” broke the farmers who set out to claim the west. That migration was relentless. One of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books dealt specifically with Pa, realizing he’d homesteaded in a reservation portion of Nebraska, and moving the family back to Minnesota.

The damage to the land didn’t occur to me until junior high school, when we learned about contour plowing, to conserve lands from wind and rain. I think that was the aha moment that set me rethinking what I knew. So, plowing caused the dust bowl!

If I had it to do over, my ideal life would be anthropology, archeology, history, ruminating over what I know. Then I had a family to care for, and so I’ve come out the other end, older, probably wiser. I think back on that first book, reading about the fictional ranger, Henry Ware, and his exploits in my part of this country. A simple little book, but it set my pattern of reading all these years.

I wondered how long “Rangers” have been a branch of our army, and looked it up. Wickipedia says the United States Army Rangers were established in 1943 (the year I was born), and are headquartered out of Fort Benning, Georgia, home of my dad’s army career. But, their history predates the Revolutionary War. There is mention of Army Rangers as early as the French and Indian Wars (another fascinating chapter of our history.)

The first name of the young man on the memorial logo was Benjamin. I wish his family peace.

My Uncle, Henry Rolf. One of the few World War II pictures I have. Uncle Hank was Transportation Corps, and moved supplies in convoys, over the mountains. I think he posed this picture for his family, back home. This was in France.

You know, I'm thinking this was still stateside. Those boots are too new.

Friday, December 8, 2017

A surprise look back

A card from my neighbor, Cathy, came in the mail yesterday. It’s our year captured in a picture on the 4th of July. We were invited by my friend to watch Fairlawn’s parade from the comfort of the front yard of her husband’s office. My friend and her husband have suntanned faces because they eschew social media, but the smiles started with Cathy, and went all the way down the line.

The card made me smile, and not because I have more than half a head of hair now. It’s the blazing smile from Laura, on the 4th of July. Six months ago. At her therapist appointment this week Laura mentioned Grandma had been angry with her one time the whole year, and it was because her clothes were all over the floor.

How I laughed. Her clothes have been ankle deep on her bedroom floor since we moved in. I could not care less. I was “angry” that day I could not pull her back from social media. “Oh, Grandma had a flashback,” said Mrs. A. “What’s a flashback?,” from Laura.

I took a big breath and said “Driving an hour to see you in a locked ward. No shoe laces, no belt, and, God forbid, no chap stick.”

“Oh,” said she. “I don’t remember that. Was that the hospital where they gave me Vaseline to use? They were pretty nice there.”

Laura thinks it’s OK her phone lives in my room half of every day, though she also says she’s busy enough now to only use it when she needs it. Knowing she puts it up to go to work and turns it off to go to meetings makes me think the same.

Tonight the birthday girl is in the kitchen with her friend Victoria, making pasta alfredo for supper. Then they will make cheesecake for the birthday party tomorrow. Victoria can’t make the party, so she came along tonight. The two of them can be up most of the night, laughing. That’s what sixteen year olds do.

And, I got a haircut today. My hair is still recovering from being half gone, but it’s getting there. And, that’s another day in our normal life.