Sunday, November 23, 2014

A story behind every photograph

The paper in which my column runs usually puts the lead paragraphs along with a picture of me on the front of the Lifestyle section of the paper. The second half of the column usually jumps to a page inside the section.

Today, the front page had the column as usual, but somehow they didn't include the last half of it. My phone number is listed in the book, and it rang off the hook today. 

When I pointed out to the folks that the entire column was online and that I'd posted it on Facebook, most of them said, "Well, I'M NOT ON THE INTERNET!!!!" 

One demographic that my column tends to resonate with are older folks who grew up hard. Many of them survived the Great Depression, and although I came alone much later, the circumstances around my early life were not that different than many of them, so they identify with many of my topics.

As I mentioned late last week in this blog, the column is about coming across a cache of old photographs. I'll post it tomorrow night, but in the story I describe the picture below which is of Jilda's mom.

She's barely 15 and holding her first child, and there is a story behind this photograph. 

Be sure and come back on Monday night to read it.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Patient creatures

Dogs are patient creatures. They'll sit and wait for hours. Today I did yard yoga.  Caillou walked out with me to supervise.

He lay with his head on his paws while I moved slowly through my routine. It seems he's never bored, and rarely interrupts me when I'm doing my stretches.

Though meditation is hard for him to witness. Anyone lying on the ground obviously needs assistance.  

Today, while he didn't actually touch me, he was so close I could feel his breath on my face. He was so close, all I could see was his nose. 

I think he was trying to decided if I needed mouth to mouth. I'm glad he decided to wait until I opened my eyes.

Friday, November 21, 2014

And while we're on the subject of beaches

I'm not a world traveler like my blog buddy Jack, but we've been to a beach or two. I can say without a moment's hesitation, I've never met a beach I didn't like.

We've been in the Florida Keys, and points all along the gulf coast. We've been as far north a Boston, and as far west as California.

When visiting our friend Ken in Grand Rapids, Michigan, spent a weekend on Lake Michigan at Benton Harbor which was a treat.

I've been to Panama's Atlantic and Pacific shores, and we walked on beaches in Ireland. They all are multi-sensory intoxication.

I have a basket of seashells on the vanity in my bathroom that we've picked up on the beaches we've visited through the years.

This picture popped up in my Memoir app. It was taken at Gulf Shores several years ago. I thought it was serendipity that it showed up this evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thinking about the beach

Looking back at images from the past is interesting. This is a picture of me taken in the summer of 1969. Jilda's family had gone to the beach for the week and I was working at night while going to college. I sort of invited myself to go at the same time.

I headed out Friday afternoon with my cousin Tommy. I had a 1965 Impala SS at the time. It was fire engine red with an engine so powerful, it rattled the windows of nearby houses. We got a room at a hotel down the beach from where Jilda's family was staying.

I was as thin as a refugee when Jilda snapped this photo with her Brownie Instamatic. The color is washed out in this picture, but the gulf water was green as liquid jade. 

Even now as I close my eyes, I can smell the salty surf and hear seagulls squawking as they patrolled the sand seeking crabs and small fish on the shore.

It was before I understood the importance of sunscreen so hours after this picture was taken, I was red as firebrick. My cousin Tommy called me lobster-boy for the rest of the summer.

During the early years of our marriage we spent most every vacation at the beach because it was some place we could go that didn't cost an arm and a leg.

These days we only go once or twice a year.

We plan to go for my birthday in a few months and I'm looking forward to time on the water. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Autumn walk

Last night the temps dipped to 17 degrees which is frosty in this part of the country. Tiny ice crystal formations settled around the bottom edges of the great room glass at the front of our house which faces north.

Even though the sun stood tall in a cloudless sky today, the wind out of the west would cut you like a scythe.

This afternoon I walked with the howling wind and screaming knees. Even when Arthur is kicking my tail, I try to get my exercise in. Setting my timer for 25 minutes, I set out.

When I got to the apple trees, there were about a dozen apples the size of softballs lying on the ground. They'd been basking in the autumn sun at the top of the apple tree, just out of reach of ladders and lifts. But the cold weather brought them to earth.

As I walked past today, I scooped one up, brushed it vigorously on my pant leg as if I were shining it for my favorite teacher.

When I sank my teeth into this apple, I stopped in my tracks and let the juice trickle down my chin as I chewed. It was, without question, the best apple I've ever put into my mouth.

I picked up several more apples and stuffed them into my pockets, knowing that Jilda would make something amazing with them when she got home.

I snapped a photo as I rounded the barn. It's just another example of light, shadow, and too many shades of color to name.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Old photographs

One of my accomplishments this week was cleaning out my closet. Back in the corner where only spiders and wintering mice fear to tread, I found a plastic storage box as big as a footlocker.

Inside the box was a cache of old photographs that belonged to Jilda's mom. We found it store in the back of her closet after she died.

Jilda and I started dating when she was only 16, so I witnessed much of her life and that of her family, but some of these pictures I'd never seen.

I decided to scan these and share them with family, but as I worked Jilda would comment on her memory of the photographs.

The experience was moving. In fact, it's the subject of the column that will appear in Sunday's paper.

I know it's a cliche, but I'll say it once more: Old photographs are what add color to the tapestry of our lives.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Ushering November in right ~ my column from Sunday's paper

We had a cookout on the first day of November. It just didn’t seem right that Halloween fell on Friday night and the following day, the kids were still cranked on high fructose corn syrup and their costumes were barely wrinkled. Halloween should definitely be a two-day holiday.

Jilda realized the opportunity a month or so before the end of October and started making plans. Its seems most of the parents were excited about such an event because it would be an opportunity for the kids to run off some of the sugar buzz left over from Halloween.

A call to our niece who is all about fun with the kids was in, and started ordering outside games for kids to play. I’m sure her credit card holders were smiling.

Our nephew Haven was all for it too. This was important too because he has the tractor and trailer we needed for the hayride.

Soon the commitments began rolling in. Jordan, his friends and cousins were excited.

The morning of the hayride, I gathered a truckload of oak and hickory from behind the barn to feed the fire pit. I put fresh charcoal in the grill and took another swipe at sweeping the deck even though I knew by party time it would be thick as a 1970s shag carpet with dried leaves and acorns.

That afternoon, Jilda put on a percolator of hot apple cider. If you’ve never smelled the blending of scents from vases of fresh flowers and brewing hot cider, you still have something to live for. There’s nothing better on a cool autumn afternoon than a cup of warm cider.

The weather was perfect. It was cool in the shade, so the grownups kept moving chaise loungers and chairs to keep them in the afternoon sun, which felt warm to the skin.

The fire pit was a great addition to our yard because the hardwood logs added an almost subliminal soundtrack as they snapped and crackled.

The kids would play until their hands got cold then run up to warm their hands over the fire before darting off to meet the next challenge.

Ella, one of Jordan’s friends from first grade came and stood close to me with her back to the fire warming her legs. I could smell the aroma of wood smoke in her hair and sweater.

It was that kind of day.

When the kids were about to spew from eating hot dogs, s’mores and leftover candy, it was time for the hayride.

Haven fired up the hay-strewn tractor and pulled it up the back of the fence. The trailer quickly filled with kids, grownups, and dogs that weren’t about to miss the excitement.

The tractor slowly puttered down around the barn and up the driveway that is lined with oak, hickory and pine. This time of year the foliage creates a colorful canopy reminiscent of the Old South.

The kids made a game of snagging scarlet and amber leaves as we passed.

When we were almost back to the gate, Haven steered the tractor under our apple tree.

His wife, Alesha, hopped into the tractor bucket, and he lifted her to the upper branches where a few choice apples were hiding. She picked one for all the kids and grownups and a few left over for an apple pie. Ella’s mom later commented on Facebook it was the best apple she’d ever eaten.

By the time everyone left, Jilda and I were whupped, but it was one of those memorable days. We hope the kids that came will remember it with fondness too.

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