Wednesday, January 31, 2018

You’ve Aways Got Your Nose Stuck in a Book.

That was my mother’s constant complaint/observation/criticism of me. It depended on how much she needed help and of course it wasn’t until I had children of my own and a house to run that I understood her problem with me.

And it was totally justified. I had books by my bed, always brought a book to the meal table and crammed every spare moment with reading. I was, however, a little miffed when Christmas came around and I got books from my grandparents and other relatives, rather than sweaters or games, but I came to love all those books and to read and re-read them all. To this day Jane Eyre and Little Women are my comfort books and A Tale of Two Cities is my ultimate thriller. It says a lot that I brought so many of my books with me across the Atlantic and I having been giving them away to my grandchildren in the hope they too will cherish them.

I do not remember my parents reading to me. I hope they did; we certainly tried to pass our love of reading on to our children. It was the age of Where the Wild Things Are and Dr. Seuss (neither of us was especially fond of the latter, although we thought we were supposed to be.) Our children all have memories of the books we shared with them and have become extensive readers. But their children are grown up in a vastly different age. Parents are facing the siren song of the world of technology.

I've read the articles about the bad effects of allowing children to spend too much time on-line and I have heard my grandchildren telling me that their computer time is rationed. There are a couple of TV commercials which show draconian mothers cutting off signal so the family can eat together (though in one case, when they do they seem to be standing around a table grabbing slices of pizza.) There are stories of the dangers of children not inter-acting with each other or engaging in physical activity interspersed with the accounts of how the writer spent his childhood happily playing with a stick and a ball of string. I tended to agree.

Then last week I read an article by Christopher Mims in The Wall Street Journal, which began, "Imagine someone traveling through time to the days before the internet, regaling audiences with fantastical tales of a future in which children can access devices containing the sum of all human knowledge and which gain new powers daily to instruct, create and bring people together.

Now imagine this time traveler describing the reaction  of most parents to the devices—not celebration, but fear, guilt and anxiety over how much time children spend with them.

You can see where this is going. An exhortation backed up by a recommendation by the American Association of Pediatrics to distinguish between different types of screen use—say FaceTime with Grandma versus a show on You Tube. (Grandma’s not going to win that one!) There were lots of statistics and articles by learned psychologists, all leading to the claim that the intelligent use of different types of technology can be beneficial. Now another guilt trip for parents deciding how to pit Grandma against Dora the Explorer, though I feel any parents worth their salt can, and have been, instinctively making good choices.

For me, the source of the sum of all human knowledge was a battered copy of an ancient Pears Encyclopedia which I read from cover to cover. Several times. I learned foreign words and phrases, the flags of all the countries. My Pears would never gain "new powers daily" to update their names from the Belgian Congo or Rhodesia. Let’s not even mention Sri Lanka. 

So the more things change, the more they stay the same. If I were growing up today my mum would be saying,  “You’ve always got your nose stuck in a computer."

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Happy Birthday, Blake

Each year one or two of our grandchildren reaches one milestone year or another. Today Blake became a teenager. It was five years ago yesterday that she came ready made into the family, and she is a real joy.

Here she set off on the long walk up the aisle and I think her smile said it all. She played her role in the wedding graciously and gave a self-assured speech at the reception. Laughter erupted from the guests as she described how she loved accompanying Lucy to second hand shops in the neighborhood and the thrift they displayed in buying their clothes in them.

In the last five years she has shown her interest in acting and singing, playing volleyball and doing well in school. Her hair has been long. Her hair has been short, but the smile is always there.

When Josephine and Veronica were in town last week the girl posse of Evelyn, Caroline, Lydia, Eleanor and Blake entertained them royally.
Happy Birthday, Blake.

 And we will never forget that Ernie’s brother and our beloved family member, Fr. Bob, would have been 91 today. He died nearly eight years ago, and we miss his steady, funny presence with us still.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Happy Anniversary, Peter and Lucy

Everyone who knows anything about Michigan knows that January is a wanton month. Take this year with temperatures of 2 degrees Fahrenheit, or other years with deep snow falls or ice storms. So no one with any sense invites people to travel from out of state or organizes a party or a celebration in January, right?

Well, five years ago we did. For so many reasons it was the right time for Peter and Lucy to be married. Invitations were sent, the church calendar worked out, arrangements were made for the reception and for flowers and musicians and everything that goes into a wedding. Lucy had her dress made and she took possession of it just a few days before the wedding. January 19 dawned bright and sunny. There was still snow underfoot, but the roads were clear. We all breathed a sigh of relief and everything went off like clock-work.

Now five years later they are the parents of three year old Joe and one year old Gigi and in March there will be a third little one. And come to think of it, summer weddings are often the occasion of 100 degree temperatures, monsoons and storms, so we did make the right decision after all. Happy Anniversary to two hardworking, hospitable and faith-filled people.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lovely Weekend

It is nearly five p.m. and I am sitting awaiting the next text from my son. Last I heard, he and his two littlest girls were eating lunch outside Cleveland.

For the last few years Andrew has come to visit us on the weekend of the Martin Luther King holiday. He leaves school in the middle of Friday, arrives Friday evening, gets to spend Saturday and Sunday with everyone and drives back on Monday, the official MLK holiday. Of course it is a great treat for us, but I am one of those worrying mothers who is nervous about winter conditions on the Ohio and Pennsylvania Turnpikes. Not without cause this year, as he reported seeing numerous cars in ditches and jack-knifed tractor trailers on his way here.

He made it safely, and this year he was accompanied by six-year-old Veronica and eight-year-old Josephine.
After a good night’s sleep everyone was ready to get together with the rest of the family. One of the best parts about living where we do (location, location, location!) is that we are a few blocks from the city park with its two cinemas, and this weekend we had a choice between The Darkest Hour and Paddington 2. Kate and Liz and their families arrived after lunch and off we all went to the movies, 11 to Darkest Hour and 6 to Paddington. Then since Kate had already organized a “back-to-college” dinner for Patrick, we all joined her, together with Lucy and Peter and the two tinies. I am slowly putting together some photo packets for my children, and some of the photos (as usual) caused howls of laughter around the dinner table.

The big attraction here for Andrew is the books.
Sunday included church, a few extra here for lunch and then a visit by Veronica and Josephine to spend more time with their cousins, both the big and small. This time we all broke up for dinner and then the two movies on offer here in the house were Dunkirk and The Diary of a Wimpy Kid. You may note a theme here: we have all been binge watching The Crown, which led us to The Darkest Hour which led us to Dunkirk. I leave most of the literary criticism to my son-in-law (well, actually all my children can be pretty vocal about the qualities of books or films), but I will go on record as saying I was not overly fond of Dunkirk. I have a feeling our exploration of WW II will continue, which makes it difficult for me, as most of the questions are addressed to me!

This was the scene as they pulled out this morning. It has snowed quite heavily since then, so I won’t post this entry until I have heard they are safely home in Maryland.

To everyone’s relief they made it to their driveway at 7:26.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Colder Than a Witch’s You-Know-What

I don’t need to say much about this photo, except perhaps that we by no means have the worst weather in the country. We escaped the storm which barreled up the east coast. Schools here were closed today and my sons in Virginia and Maryland reported that schools there were closed both yesterday and today. It was reason enough to stay inside and read, but we ran out to do a couple of errands, including a brief foray to the grocery store. Whoever designed the place had no sense of function (it must have been a man.) The cashiers’ stations are lined up right by the automatic doors into the parking lot and those doors were open all the time as people rushed in to stock up with necessities for the weekend. The poor cashiers were wearing coats and gloves. Weather conditions promise to be no better for a few days.

I am happy to announce that after a hiatus of six months during which he took a break and sang Gilbert and Sullivan, my son in law has brought back his blog with his reviews pf literature of all kinds. If you have never read a poem on Fried Bologna, you should check him out.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Caroline is Fourteen

I got out of the habit of commemorating family birthdays here. So I am trying extra hard this year to feature everyone on their birthday.

This is Caroline, the middle child of my middle child Elizabeth. Today marked her fourteenth birthday. All our Detroit family was together for New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, and Caroline was so very helpful as I attempted to get everything and everyone organized.

Here’s how her mother described her today: "she is dependable, responsible, hard-working, faith-filled and honest. She's ALSO kooky, silly, funny, surprising and irrepressible. “ I will add she’s a super student, a great volleyball player—and the only grandchild who bothers to read this blog. So thanks, Caroline, and keep up the good work. Love, Nana.