Sunday, April 23, 2017

Spring Charms


I used to think my modest house took on its beauty only by candlelight.  But that was before I had a new front door installed with a half-moon transom built into the top.  Every morning this past week, as I descended the stairs, I noticed a brief pastoral scene framed in that window, as pretty as if it had been stolen from a colorful illustrated bible.  The window is also responsible for shedding a tender shaft of light on my living room floor that greets me each day as I pad across it to reach my coffee cup.

I've lived in my home almost twenty years now, so it is too steeped in memories to be seen in a detached way.  But I do take it for granted sometimes.  And since I've only just begun to appreciate spring as the lovely season it is, I always thought my house made its grand entrance on Christmas Eve when my tree shines bright along with the white votives I scatter across the bookshelves.  Not anymore...

As well as the new light in the morning, I realize I am truly indebted to the frieze of trees that shelter the front of my house and help keep things quiet around here.  Those elms are not yet in leaf but a coppery aura tell me that they will be green soon.  I learned about that from an old farmer once.  The birches are still blurred with a hazy pistachio-green foliage along with a lot of unnamed plants and bushes.  I don't have a green thumb but I have admire what gardeners choose to plant for maximum spring color.

Something as simple as a newly installed window has caught me off guard and made me want to head outdoors for walks.  But not for exercise - I want to scavenge for presents for the house. I clipped a communal bush for forsythia branches but now they have passed.  Next will be my mother's lilac which I will pilfer for both us.

There's always one moment in the house, when I sense that summer has arrived.  Sometimes it's the heat I feel from the second floor when I open the front door from work -or the unmistakable earth smell from the open bedroom windows.  But I've always ignored spring's visit - it's just been too painful.  Lucky for me, a friend has been showering me with love and holding my hand for the last few springs.  This year, with my new "view" from a simple built-in window that was really just an afterthought, I may be able to manage on my own.  Every season has its gifts.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Easter Finery


When I was too young to understand anything spoken in church, I asked my big brother why we had Easter.  His wise, all-knowing answer was, "Easter holds us over 'til Christmas".  And it made perfect sense.

My mother created Easter baskets for us but what I remember most fondly was the finery she outfitted my sister and I in.  There were winsome cotton dresses with smocking and sashes or colorful prints of flowers or birds, cotton ankle socks with lace trim, straw hats with excruciatingly tight chin straps, snow-white cotton gloves, and brand new shoes.  How I loved the shoes!  So much so, that one Easter Eve, a pair slept in their cardboard shrine right next to me in bed.  I remember peeking into the box just before sleep, peeling apart the crinkly tissue paper and inhaling the leathery goodness. Our shoes were often shiny black patent with petal cut-outs or dainty t-straps replete with pearl buttons. But sometimes we found the same version in milky white or pale pink.

The most heralded Easter garment however,  was the spring coat.  Each year on a special Saturday in March, when winter was still biting our toes, my mother would take my sister and I to the big city department store to search for new coats - coats that would have their debut only on Easter Sunday.  Formal and lightweight outerwear was not hard to find in those days because everyone had a spring coat back then.  They were as ubiquitous as ski jackets in December.  The quintessential go-to color was navy and if all else failed, it was the one hue that could be counted on to coordinate with any dress.  But more often than not, my mother found pretty pastels for us in nubby weightless wools or sturdy pique cotton with large tone-on-tone buttons.

Along with the coats, we would buy rustling slips and tiny structured grown-up-looking purses to match our shoes.

We gave Easter special honors by dressing as beautifully as could be afforded.  Our ensembles were thoughtfully planned, purchased and executed with an excited anticipation that belied a holiday my brother said just came around to hold us over.


Saturday, April 8, 2017

In Memoriam


I've introduced you to this handsome chap before.  He was the grandfather of a good friend of mine and I was delighted to see this newly-found photograph of him.  Known mostly as the favored dentist in our hometown, he is still remembered well by some of the parents of my high school friends - nearly 75 years after his death.  Imagine that...

Even with a torture chamber for an office, you may wonder why he is still talked about with such warmth and respect among local elders.  His striking good looks and untimely death are certainly mentioned but mostly he is remembered for kindness and generosity of spirit.  When he died suddenly at 49, nearly the entire town owed him money for the mercury-filled holes in their teeth. There are other stories too - but that's for another time.

More than a few years ago, a co-worker brought a newspaper into work that contained the obituary of the woman who used to run our department.  The first reaction was from another co-worker, who under her breath, simply muttered, "Ding Dong".  Everyone knew that was a reference to The Wizard of Oz when the bad witch had a house fall on her head.  There were a few snickers and a few shrugs too.  But I was left quietly stunned.  This woman - our former supervisor - was a mother and a grandmother of five.  Yes, she was punitive, even mean at times, taking the letter of the company's law to ridiculous and borderline inhumane degrees.  But she was a grandmother, presumably with small children who loved her.  Somehow, the in-congruence of that unnerved me. Even with an assumed loving family, there were still a not insignificant number of people who saw her as the Wicked Witch of the West and would remember her so.  It gave me pause -  I thought about legacies and the impressions that follow bosses and others in authority long after they are gone.

I've seen a lot of behaviors from bosses in my lengthy career.  I've worked for those willing to do anything to get ahead including walking over friends, colleagues, and underlings and then kicking the remains to the curb.  But there have been others who were principled enough to go the extra mile to do the right thing.  I suppose success can be had on either path...

Recently I left a job I liked a lot.  What I didn't like were the behaviors of the person in charge.  His actions were abusive to the degree that gave me no choice.  I guess in our careers, it comes down to what we choose to do at the fork in the road.  And at the end of our lives, how do we want to be remembered by those we served or by those who served us?  I'd prefer to be remembered like the beloved young dentist above and not by a reference to an evil player in a child's fairy tale.


Special note:  there will be happy springtime topics to cover here soon.  And this, in case you need help:  https://www.facebook.com/thatsharassment/