Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Fifteenth Day of Christmas or Thereabouts

I make my own timetable for when I put my Christmas decorations away, and this year it is because I am expecting a houseful this weekend.

I have written before about the birthday gift I get every year from my daughters—they come to put up my Christmas decorations and we all have lunch together. Of late they have been bringing their daughters with them. In the interest of making things go smoother earlier in the week I bring up from the basement the boxes and bags of the decorations I have amassed over the years. It was so much harder this year. Stairs are not my friend, especially the metal-edged basement stairs where I have at least twice taken a tumble. So I told the girls that maybe they should cull some of the wreaths and garlands and bows and baubles and that they were not to tell me which items were going to disappear, nor would I tell them what to get rid of. They took me at my word. I also said we would put nothing outside which necessitated climbing a ladder in the middle of winter.

So farewell to the outside decorations (just a few lights on the low hedges.) Even the mantel decorations were not as fancy as these in a photo from a few years ago.

Today there were far fewer boxes to take down to the basement and even so I have left one or two for the resident handyman. Last year we bought an artificial tree: a small one and I love it. No more needles to clog up the vacuum cleaner. I was sad when we made that decision, remembering the years when it was such fun for the family to go out and buy a tree together and to position it just right in its stand.

Soon everything will be packed away ready for next year, although I do intend to finish the patchwork tree skirt I started four years ago.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Yet Another Era Bites the Dust

Yes, a mixed metaphor, but you get the idea.

When we arrived in Detroit in 1966 it did not take us long to make the acquaintance of the J.L.Hudson Company. In downtown Detroit (and yes, there was a vibrant downtown) there was the flagship Hudsons store. Check out the link: it is mind boggling that the city which has become synonymous with crime and decay once boasted such a jewel. I have so many happy memories of riding up and down the escalators, of wandering around the classy and extensive fabric department, of eating at the fabulous restaurant—and the day in 1966 when we were Christmas shopping going to a huge bank of telephones with a dime clutched in my hand to call the obstetrician's office for the results of my first pregnancy test. We bought clothes there, we bought furniture: in fact it was possible to buy pretty much anything.

When the children came along it was a little harder to make the trip downtown, involving as it did the parking garage and the maneuvering of strollers between floors. But by this time the era of the Mall had begun, and there was a Hudsons out at Eastland Mall in Harper Woods, about twenty minutes from our house. That became our store of choice, anchoring the Mall which also contained a J.C. Penney store. Over the years we heard that the downtown store had come on hard times. Our friend Charles who often came to stay and always combined his trip with an excursion to Hudsons reported that whole floors were being closed down, until eventually came the great implosion.

We could still purchase whatever we needed at Hudsons in the Mall, although the store changed hands, becoming Dayton Hudsons, then Marshall Fields and eventually Macy*s (sic, they love their little star.) There were bigger Macy*s stores at the up-scale Somerset Mall and at Lakeside but all of these required a longish drive.

The writing was on the wall. Two of the four floors at our Mall store closed down and so it was no surprise when I looked in my Facebook feed last night and found this article. I am very sad. I don’t see myself driving way across town too much and I grieve the lack of stores close to my zip code. Whenever chain retailers consider Grosse Pointe as a site for a new store, I am told they draw a circle round the area to see what their customer base would look like—and find that 50% of the circle covers the lake. Circumstances being what they are, I am shopping on-line more and more, but I do not find that a satisfactory way to shop for clothes.

Goodbye Hudsons, Dayton Hudsons, Marshall Fields and Macy*s. I enjoyed knowing you.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Farewell to 2016

And in several respects—good riddance. But I will not let the year end without mentioning two wonderful events. I already wrote about the birth in April of our twenty second grandchild. Gladys Grace has come to be known as Gigi and when I get my new camera working, there will be many a photo of her and her lovely head of black hair.

In August the entire family got together at Hueston Woods in Ohio to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary. Every child, spouse and grandchild was there. It is possible that although “chunks” of us will be together in the future, there will be the odd one or two missing. Two grandchildren started college this year, in two years there will be three in college and the following year six. Each family had a cabin: there were plenty of activities to keep everyone busy during the day and the children took it in turns to cook dinner at night. On the final Saturday we went to mass in the town of Oxford, Ohio and shared the celebration with a couple who were marking their sixtieth anniversary. There is a photo of us all together, but it is still resting on Lucy’s phone and she can’t download it. Maybe one day, but until then—

Here is oldest child Al with his wife Gody. From left to right, Gody, Al, Ernie, Frederick, me, Manny, Nate and Alex.

Then comes Kate and husband Ron. The same two oldies (but goodies) are in all the photos, but here we have Kate, Ron, Charlie, Eleanor, Patrick and Daniel.

Next in line come daughter Liz and her husband Jeff. There’s Caroline, Lydia, Jeff, Henry (in front), Ben, Liz and Evelyn.

Here’s our younger son is Andrew, who with his wife Marcie is the parent of six of our grandchildren. l-r Veronica, Theodore, Josephine, Andrew, Sebastian, Marcie, Linus and Liesl.

Last, but not least, are Lucy and Peter. Peter is holding Joe, Lucy is holding Gigi and Peter’s daughter Blake is in front.

It was a joyful and fitting way to mark our anniversary. This December Gody’s Italian mother is spending the Christmas season with the family in Virginia. Andrew and his family joined them for Christmas dinner and Patrizia described the event on Facebook as “allegra confusione.” Sounds about right.

So here’s to more allegra confusione in 2017.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Remember These?

I have made headway in my big photo sorting project. I kept lowering the bar, from fantasies of creating albums for all my children or scanning everything to my eventual solution of making reasonably equitable piles, sticking them in brown envelopes and handing them out the the kids when we got together in August (I’ll get round to that before the end of the year.) Finally I found a box of slides. I didn’t want to get rid of them, but since I had not looked at them for fifty years, it seemed silly to mourn their demise.  Some were marked, but I wanted to know what parts of my past were captured in them. I tried putting them up to the light and squinting, but that was to no avail. I know we have a screen in the basement because we show outdoor movies to the grandchildren in the summer and I am pretty sure we have one of those carousel things somewhere. Memories of slide shows with back to front and upside down photos! But I wouldn’t know what to do with them when I identified them all.

I have no idea where I got the camera I used or what happened to it. I do have some photos which I had professionally printed at that period. They are so clear and bring back great memories and I suppose they too were taken on that camera. I obviously had the camera during my three years at the University of London. There are slides marked “Primrose Hill” and "Regent’s Park” as well as some arty views from my residence hall window in Swiss Cottage. The shot of the mail box wreathed in mist is  rather effective, but several titles containing words like “view from so and so in the fog” should probably have been changed to “underexposed.”

The camera went with me to Greece and there are countless views of crumbling temples, most of which I had the sense to label with the name of the site. I remember taking photos at the Corinth Canal, in Crete, at Knossos and Mycene, in Athens and Sparta, in Delphi and Epidaurus. The slides were a great memento, but now they too are part of the past.

The camera also crossed the Atlantic and I have slides of some of the wonderful friends I made in Los Angeles. I could just about make out a slide showing Ernie with a horse, and it made sense when I found others labeled “Will Rogers State Park” and “Polo at Will Rogers.” A number of slides of my oldest children as babies indicate the camera made its way to Michigan, but cheaper, easier and quicker methods of photography must have taken over. So I bid these mementos farewell, BUT . . .

. . . Santa Claus read my blog and guess what I found under the Christmas tree? I love the color.

More technology to wrestle with, but I am excited. Seven years ago I started another blog, with the aim of posting a photo every day. I had to abandon it because of computer problems. I was almost glad, because coming up with a photo every day was so hard, but it might be good for me now and get me out of the house.

Maybe 52at77?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day, 2016

Each Christmas that comes now is different. Not better, not worse, just different. I was reading a blog the other day where the writer remarked that she and her husband  “always have a glass of sherry and a mince pie on Christmas Day afternoon.” The idea of “always” seems a little foreign to me now.

No Midnight Mass for us—we would both fall asleep before it even started—but an early Mass this morning, followed by a nice breakfast for two, not the big ham breakfast for the whole family that has been our custom. It was rather pleasant and certainly restful to drink coffee and read the newspaper before putting together the dish I was taking to Christmas dinner. And what a dinner! Peter and Lucy hosted us in their new house which has plenty of room for the Detroit part of the family, and it was wonderful to be in the company of out two youngest grandchildren, who had nine cousins and their big sister to keep them occupied. Technology brought us two FaceTime encounters with the DC part of the family and with my brother and his family celebrating in Barton Mills. Lots of loud noise and handwaving as everyone tried to make contact.

Another readily apparent change this Christmas is seen in this photo of the basket where we always put the Christmas cards we receive. Although we can explain the lack of cards by saying that so many of our friends are infirm or in way too many cases now dead, I know from talking to younger friends that the exchange of Christmas cards is becoming a dying custom. I am saddened by that fact, but I regret to say that this was not a Christmas for us to send cards or the customary letter—and last year was not either. I have thought lovingly of old friends and I fully intend to make up for my failure with some letters in the new year, but we all know where good intentions lead. I fear the age of Christmas cards is destined to become the era of Christmas tweets.

Autre temps, autres moeurs.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

For to everyone who has . . .

 . . . will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Anyone reading this blog and noting that two of the last three entries have titles taken from the New Testament will be forgiven for wondering if he has come across an index to a book of homilies (or a political rant, of which there have been many in the press lately.)

This quotation came to me as I was writing in the last post about Cyber Monday and availing myself of discount coupons. I feel guilty. The catalogs that come from stores from whom I have already ordered offer me 40% off and free shipping. Krogers, where I spend an awful lot of money on food, regularly sends me a nice wallet of coupons with hefty discounts on some products I buy regularly (yes, Big Brother is watching) and a straight $5 or $10 on meat and on vegetables and $20 or so off my total bill.

I understand the business think. I am a regular shopper, known as a valued customer, and they are luring me back into their store for my well earned reward—and to spend more. But I wish they would provide a box where I could deposit my coupon for the use of someone who couldn’t afford to spend enough in the first place to warrant his own rebate. These would add up nicely for those who could use a little help with their grocery bills.

For to every one who has will more be given. I know this does not refer to material goods but to understanding. I still feel guilty.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The End of a Holiday.

Thanksgiving is over. I have performed my usual rituals—I sat patiently by the phone last night waiting to hear from the travelers on their way to Virginia (they finally got there just before 10:00 p.m. after twelve hours of bumper to bumper traffic), I have photographed the unclaimed objects (so far a scarf, a fork, a hat and a fuzzy throw) and will e-mail to the photos to any of the 23 people to whom they might belong. That’s only four families, so not so difficult.  I have begun the task of washing armfuls of flannel sheets and towels and I have placed the phone call to the appliance repair man to solve my problems with the obligatory appliance which breaks down on a major holiday. The time it was the dishwasher—and they can’t send anyone out until Friday.

Thanksgiving is the time for—well, giving thanks and I am so grateful to my wonderful children who have accepted the fact that my days as the official mater familias are over.  I think it was the time I dropped the turkey that did it. They take it in turns to host the major holidays and Kate and Ron even stepped in with a pierogi dinner two days after they hosted Thanksgiving. Everyone was at our house the day after Thanksgiving and we all pitched in. It wasn’t until dinner was over and I had lamented several times that I didn’t have anything green on the table that I remembered the spinach, brussel sprouts and cauliflower and broccoli in the basement refrigerator. Ah well. Corn too.

My photos show the dinner tables at Kate’s house. There was an adult table, a big kids’ table and a (slightly) smaller kids’ table. The age differences are no longer reflected by the grocery bills. Everyone (except baby Gigi and two year old Joe) packs it away these days. And what a treat it was to talk with my two college freshmen grandsons. They talked patiently to me about technology, but I am not sure much of it stuck. As the years go by it will be harder and harder to get everyone together. We missed Andrew and his family and Gody who was on call, but it was a wonderful holiday. Ron escorted a large group down to a University of Detroit/ Mercy basketball game and there were various other expeditions.

Yes, a photo would be wonderful, but I gave up on my camera a while ago and either my iPhone  camera is having a bad time or my hands are shaking. The next major holiday is upon us, so Santa Claus, if you are reading this, I have been a nice girl and my camera wants (and needs) are modest.