Monday, December 28, 2015

A Departure from the Norm

Every year for more years than I can remember we have sent out a Christmas letter. You know the sort. This year I ordered the paper and made a draft, handed it over to my editor in chief—then we both looked at each other and said "Do we really want to send this out?" We agreed what we wanted to do but we didn't agree on a timeline. And in case we don't, let me tell you what is important to me this year (and will, I suspect, become more and more important with the passing years):

Christmas 2015

It is a given that “old people” (and you known who you are) live in the past. As this year draws to a close, I realize that I am doing that more and more. And it makes me happy.

There are the friends I made before I left England. Diana and Yvonne started school with me when we were five and we continued at the same institution when we passed the 11+. Although we parted ways in our late teens, we kept sporadically in touch and I have seen them on my occasional visits to England. We now correspond more regularly and I admire the way they are coping with the problems they have faced. When I went on to college I made close friends in my own department, and what sad news I have heard from many of them this year. Yes, we are getting old. I think fondly of them and welcome all the news I get from them. Thank you internet! I can see photos they have posted on Facebook and read letters which would never have been written without e-mail.

Off to Los Angeles! My friends there seemed just a bit more exotic, and I treasure memories of Elizabeth and Rory, Libby (she played tennis with Barry Goldwater), Jane and the Trapps. Some I will hear from this Christmas.

When I married I met a whole boatload of Aments. My memories grew to include the parties and reunions which marked life in that large family. Of course we visited many of them and kept in touch, not only at Christmas but throughout the year. Now they are mostly gone and I have added them to the memories I mull around when I can’t sleep. Chief among them are Ernie’s siblings, Flo and Bob.

Our arrival in Detroit (and the arrival of our five children) led us to meet more people who are gradually becoming the fodder of my memories: the parishioners at St. Ambrose—especially the talented members of the St. Ambrose Players and their husbands—the teachers at the various schools the children attended and their fellow students, some of whom I still come across.

You can imagine how happy I was when my brother and sister-in-law visited us this year, not a memory but a beloved reality.

I am delighted in my children and in my 21 grandchildren. They are part of my present, but this year I wanted devote to the past. It worked for Scrooge.

Love from Beryl

Monday, December 21, 2015

Happy Birthday, Peter

In keeping with my newly re-constituted policy, I am using this post to wish Happy Birthday to our newest family member by marriage. He was a twofer, bringing with him our lovely granddaughter Blake. We will see her tonight singing at her school concert and celebrate with Peter and Lucy at dinner tomorrow.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

All I Want for Christmas . . .

No, I am not going to wax lyrical about my front teeth. Although I must admit to getting a splendid new molar yesterday to replace one that had broken off. My dentist was so happy about his new machine that allowed him to take a photo of my mouth and design a new tooth and color and polish it. When he wheeled in the new computer equipment to give me a lesson in dental design, I told him he was like a little boy who had found this equipment under the tree. I gulped a little as I wrote the check which follows the check to the dishwasher and cook top repair man and to Lenscrafters for my new glasses which I hope will enable me to read the newspaper in the morning. If they do, it will be worth it.

What I want is a series of two or three classes in punctuating—specifically blogs, which have a slightly different flavor. I am not sure if I learned punctuation in school—I suppose we must have because so much of our work was written.  I am sure I would not have been allowed that dashy thing in the last sentence. It is colons and semi-colons which cause me confusion, and where to put commas and periods (not a word I would have been allowed in England!) when I am using quotation marks.

I have Strunk and White in one corner of the basement and Eats, Shoots and Leaves in another, but I don't think I can deal with them. I have two close family members who are editors, but I don't think my daughter or son-in-law can constantly sit beside me and advise.

There we go: should it be "constantly sit" or "sit constantly? Adverbs after verbs, I suppose. Except for effect.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Minister is Pleased to Inform You

I received a letter from the Minister's lackey and my obedient servant  at the end of summer, 1963. Some time before I had received an eight-page brochure from the University of London listing those who had been successful in the "Examination for the Postgraduate Certificate in Education:June 1963." I don't know how many people had been unsuccessful. I think I should have, because all I remember of that year is playing the part of Ursula the Pig Woman in Ben Johnson's Bartholomew Fair, skipping lectures on "The History of Education", "The Philosophy of ditto"—oh, look, I wrote about this before.

I wasn't able to show you this somewhat tacky document. Once in a while I see important documents provided by important people and I realize what life was like before computers. The typing is uneven (and I am sure Mr. Simpson's secretary had her way with whiteout) and the whole document was copied crookedly on a Xerox.

I don't think I even looked closely at it before, because by this time I was getting ready to go to Los Angeles and the University of Southern California, but I see I was also qualified to teach in nursery schools, though I never knew a three year old anxious to translate Thucydides.

In LA I was a teaching Assistant. I loved teaching, and I think I was good at it. My original intention had been to return to England and become a teacher, but when fate decreed I was going to live in Detroit, I explored teaching here. I was offered a job across the river at the University of Windsor, but with no car (I couldn't even drive) and a succession of babies, that didn't work out. As for teaching in a high school, the State of Michigan required 50 or so University credits in Education. Too expensive, no baby sitter or car—well, that was not an option. To be honest, I never waved this document in front of them and asked if there was a short cut.

I have kept this letter "for future reference" and to remind me of what might have been.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Remember Holidailies?

It took me nigh on two weeks to write about Thanksgiving, so it is once again time, if not a little late, to take off my hat to the wonderful and prolific bloggers who contribute to Holidailies. These writers post a contribution each day from December 1 to January 1. I could never do that and try as I might in the "down" season after Christmas, I can never read them all. But it is a great way to come across bloggers I used to follow and to meet new ones.

Give it a try.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Nate the Great

Thank you to my adorable grandson for sharing my birthday today. This photo was taken last year in his new house in Manassas, VA. Looks like it needs a bit of Photoshop. I just noticed what looks like a large rat on his shoulder. He is nine today and seems so grown-up. We saw him at Thanksgiving in Detroit and hope to visit him in Virginia in the Spring.

Love you, Nathaniel.

Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Across the River and into the Trees

I must first start out with a confession. A rather shameful confession. The realization that my cultural literacy has let me down. When I came across the juxtaposition of a river and trees/woods, I never realized that Hemingway wrote Across the River and into the Trees. (Note to self: read more Hemingway. And F. Scott Fitzgerald.) This short video shows what I always conjured up when I heard these words. Though there is too much snow and ancient means of transportation and not enough Grandma (where's Grandpa?) and a Norman Rockwell turkey.

I love the idea of children wrapping up warmly in a sled, arriving at Grandma's house where there is already a smell of gingerbread and everyone sitting around the fire telling family stories. Yes, I love the idea, but it doesn't work out that way. This year I got six exhausted people who for some reason had left Virginia at two a.m., but got here safely in time for lunch. I had made cookies, but it did not take them long to devour the whole batch. (Note to self: make more cookies and hide some.)

As usual, my memories of the Thanksgiving weekend are a little confused. What DO I remember? Well, I remember the funny noise the dishwasher made Thanksgiving morning and the fact that it kept running and running but the soap never left the dispenser. Fortunately Kate and Ron were cooking the Thanksgiving dinner and I still had my summer picnic baskets filled with paper plates and plastic silverware (my favorite oxymoron) for the other days when I had 17-25 people a meal.

I remember Gody teaching Kate how to make authentic eggplant parmesan —hope you got it, Kate, it was delicious and we want it at more family meals. And as I look through photos, I remember how unenthusiastic I felt about taking photos. This dish was I side I served with a ham and roast potatoes. I remember we let the kids go ahead in the buffet line we set up and that there were no more potatoes left when we go to the front of the line. (Note to self: remember we have 2 18-year olds at Thanksgiving, a 16 year old, and the other ten were not much younger. With large appetites. Make lots more food ahead of time and freeze it.) Even this little elf will be eating large portions soon.

One of the interesting parts of Thanksgiving. Our son, the French teacher, who will quote Verlaine rather than pick up a hammer, actually fixed the downstairs toilet, the upside down soap holder in the shower and two lights in the upstairs bathroom. That's what having his own shed and a nice new house will do for him! (Note to self: leave more chores for his next visit.)

The day after Thanksgiving was rainy and I debated whether to drag all the kids to our local parade. "Is it the same one as usual?", someone asked. When I said it was, everyone politely declined to go to the parade. Not because it was raining, but because the parade is boring. So while two grandsons and their father went to an old car museum, the rest went to a bookstore.

So Thanksgiving is over. On to Christmas