Tuesday, June 29, 2010


Eating supper Sunday evening, the OC was congratulating himself on having cut the grass, in the nick of time, since it was raining now.

"Doesn't it look nice?" he asked. Of course it did. It always looks nicer after it's cut than it did before, when it looked all scruffy and uneven, like the OC himself with a seven day beard. But he craves the praise, so.....Yes dear, it's lovely. You're so good.....Small price to pay for not having to cut it myself! Though I might try, some day, after I've done a particularly stellar job of scrubbing the toilets, to see if anyone would be interested in coming to gaze into their gleaming depths and be rendered speechless........Some day.

Enough speculation, though. Back to my story! The grass was cut and it had started to rain. Just the thing to settle the dust.

But it wasn't just raining. It was bucketing down, and as we watched, the trees started to thrash wildly.

"Where on earth did that come from?"

Fifty percent chance of rain, they'd said. Ho hum. A normal Florida summer afternoon. But Whoa! This had the look of a mini hurricane. Right there, in the recently calm and sunny back garden.

And as I heard the ominous "Craaaack!" and instant splitting of wood, I knew why the trees were writhing so wildly...they were trying to escape! But the small matter of roots prevented them.... We stood rooted, ourselves, by the sliding glass door, not daring to breathe, as a huge pine tree crashed to the ground. It missed the pool cage by a couple of feet. That would have been a disaster. And the OC airport-bound in half an hour!

And then it stopped. As fast as it started; and by the time we got to Tampa, the sun was shining and the sky was looking innocently blue....

"What? Me? Have a tantrum? No way!"

Monday morning I went outside for a gander. Two stumps, sticking up into the blue.

They'd broken off up high, so let's be thankful for small mercies. Had the trunks broken lower down, there might have been lots more damage. Both trees were on our neighbour's property, but fell onto ours. I don't even know if Bird-Legs-Bob is aware of what happened, or if he's even home. I do think we'll need to put our heads together and take down a few more....Like these bad boys....

We still have miles to go before hurricane season is over. The next one might fall in a much more inconvenient place!

The Bean went out, chain saw in hand, to clear up this mess....

Chain saws make me nervous, especially in the hands of one of my children. It's not that I don't think he's competent, he is. But I have an over active imagination, which is why my heart stopped when he came back in, fifteen minutes later, barely able to drag himself through the door. I was sure he'd cut off a limb, and I don't mean from a tree.... He hadn't, but had twisted something in his back and was in pain. So there he was, long spawgs stretched out on the carpet, groaning. Definitely a tripping hazard. Ice was applied, Florence Nightingale summoned, and the chain saw retired for the day.

When you're on a losing streak it's best to quit early!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Of Little Blisters And Dresses On Backwards......

My Dad came to get me from school for lunch and took me home on the back of his bicycle. Mum wasn't there when we got home and Dad told me she had gone to a special place in town to get us a baby sister. He promised to take me to see them after school. Then we had lunch and he took me back to school.

I was a quiet child, and shy. But this news was too huge to hold inside me! Breaking all the Senior Infants class rules, I left my seat and walked up to Miss McCarthy's desk, and whispered to her that I had a brand new baby sister and my daddy was going to take me to see her after school! To my mortification and astonishment, Miss McCarthy did not think this was a good enough reason to leave my desk without permission. She scowled at me and told me to return to my seat immediately. I crept back to my seat with a very red face. It was a cruel lesson, one I've remembered all these years. Anything nice that Miss McCarthy said to me, or anything encouraging or hopeful that I may have learned from her, were completely overshadowed by that scowl, and that dismissal of my wonderful news.

The OC had a similar experience. His family had just arrived in the U.S. from South America, where they had emigrated from post-war Europe when he was a baby. Having had his first few years of school in Argentina, he spoke fluent Spanish. He also spoke Ukrainian, which was his parents' native language and the main language spoken in their home. But,as yet, he did not speak English very well, though he was learning. His teacher asked him a question which he didn't understand, so she told him he was stupid.

My heart aches for that little boy, and for my six year old self, although the OC believes it is nonsense to dwell on such things. But I think events like these form and transform us. The wars and the toppling governments, the hurricanes and the tsunamis, the earthquakes and the collapsing bridges, the scandalous conduct of politicians, the abuses we are capable of inflicting on innocent children and defenseless animals all affect us greatly, but seemingly insignificant, personal events, like these, colour our thinking about who we are, about our place in the world and our value as human beings.

Imagine a world where everyone acted nobly; where no one abused the power they had over others. Imagine all children growing up confident that they are loved, and lovable, and worth listening to.....One day soon they will be the grown-ups. I doubt Miss McCarthy ever gave her sharp dismissal of my great news a second thought. Maybe she would be amazed that a woman, much older now than she was then, still remembers that day in Senior Infants. And if that insensitive NY teacher could see how un-stupid that little boy turned out to be, maybe she would have the grace to be ashamed.

Well! I seem to have gone off on quite the detour there. The Little Blister's birthday was last week, and that was what I intended writing about. Not that I was there to help her celebrate or anything so exciting! But it was a momentous day for me, the day she was born.

First of all, since Dad didn't have much of a clue about such things, I got to wear my dress the way I thought it should be worn. After school, I changed out of my school uniform and into a pretty cotton dress my mother had made for me. It wasn't until we got to the nursing home, and were admiring the new little sister, that my mother gave me an odd look, and asked my dad why I had my dress on backwards.

Secondly, it was the day my best friend was born. Of course, I didn't realize this until years later. I spent the first half of my life trying to give her the slip. I guess I was as much of an insensitive clod to her as Miss McCarthy was to me. Realizing the error of my cloddish, big sister ways, I have spent the second half of my life trying to spend as much time with her as possible. Which is problematical when you consider that pesky ocean that lies between us.

Even though she has not been blogging lately, she is still writing. She was recently short listed [out of 1500 entries!] in a flash fiction writing competition [Big sisters are allowed to brag!] Her duties at The Palace keep her on the trot and in spite of all my exhortations she steadfastly continues to un-blog. But I am not giving up hope.

And just so you know, even though my mum is no longer around to check on me, I don't wear my dresses backwards any more.

Have a great year Rise!

Note: That's us in the picture when I was home last year. She likes to think she's taller than me, but as you can see, she's standing on a rock. I rest my case.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Keys To My Innocence

I am prone to moving things [from places they shouldn't be!] tidying up, putting things in a "safe" place where I will be assured, maybe, of finding them next time they are needed. Somewhat like a squirrel. I recently decided to search, once again, for a key that went missing months ago. And, naturally, I'm the prime suspect. When something can't be found it is automatically assumed that I am the culprit, due to the aforementioned zeal for tidying up, or to my penchant for driving the men in the house crazy. So, in an effort to establish my innocence, and maybe even find the bloody thing,I decided to start with my jewelery box. Which, for me, was a logical place, since I often stash small items there which I want to keep "safe."

I'm not into wearing jewelery much,feeling a little like a Christmas tree if anything is dangling from my person other than a bona fide body part, but the jewelery box was a gift from my mother-in-law, who thought every woman should have a one. And at age twenty two, and clueless, who was I to argue? So it has sat there, on my dresser, part of the bedroom landscape, for forty years.

It measures 12"x7"x5".You wouldn't think it possible to cram large segments of a life into that small a space! But I seem to have done it! [Takes a bow...]

I lifted the lid and started my search.

No key was immediately visible, but looking at the disorganization of all the little compartments, I thought....

" I really ought to empty the whole thing out, and maybe, as I put things back, I'll find it."

Right. I'm nothing if not an optimist. I don't believe I've ever completely emptied it. Even when we moved, it would get taped shut, still bulging, and transported like that.I wasn't brave enough to just upend it, so I took things out, one by one, creating a fine mess,

examining each piece, puzzled by some, careening off down memory lane at the sight of others.

There is jewelery in there, most of it never worn. It would be more accurate to call it a memory box, because the jewelery is incidental; mostly it holds my memories and treasures, such as:

Hospital wrist bands from the births of each child;

Baby teeth, dried up and brittle, jumbled together so that it would take a DNA test to identify which tooth belonged to which child!

A tiny, silvery high heeled shoe that was on our wedding cake, forty years ago;

A Child of Mary sodality medal with my mother's maiden name on the back, probably from the mid nineteen thirties when she was in her teens;

Various Mary Help of Christians medals from my school days. She was the patroness of the order of nuns whose school I attended.

Two tiny saints's relics, which might mean that somebody's ancient bones are sitting, all these years, on my dressing table! Can you tell I grew up Catholic??

Two kilt pins;

A large sand dollar and a few random shells. Artifacts from the beach find their way into all kinds of unlikely corners of our house!

A newspaper cutting from the nineteen eighties about Lily's synchronized swim team;

A drawing of a dinosaur by a very young Bean, for my birthday in the early nineties;

A ribbon and lace garter from Lily's wedding, thirteen years ago;

Various academic and soccer medallions from kids' high school days;

A beautiful gold cross and chain of oldest son's, whose leanings these days are more towards Buddhism;

A high school ID card for California Girl;

Coins from various times and countries;

A small bottle of water from Lourdes; my mother brought it back from one of her trips there with my brother; it must be at least fifty years old! And not all evaporated yet, though what little is left is kind of dingy and discoloured looking.

No less than,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,eight watches, in various states of disrepair. One of them is the watch my father gave to my mother on their wedding day in nineteen forty seven! I never had luck with watches, so depend on my cell phone these days for the time.

The stub of my airline ticket from Munich to Cork, from when I went to visit my German friends about five years ago on a trip home;

A note to the tooth fairy from a small boy, asking her if she could please leave his tooth for him this time "because I haven't got to keep one of my toothes yet."

An envelope containing curls from Britboy's first haircut in 1979;

A medallion from the Royal Life Saving Society---proof positive that, at one time in my life,I was qualified to save a person from drowning. Between you, me and the wall,if I'd been the person in danger of drowning I'd have died of fright instead to see "me" coming to "save" me! Fortunately no-one ever tested my abilities.

A string of pearls that belonged to my mother. I do wear them occasionally;

Several brooches which I used to wear, but rarely now, since moving to Florida. Bare feet and T-shirts never seem to call for the addition of a brooch.

After several hours I gave up the search, closed the lid, order [or some semblance thereof,] restored.

What I did not find: The keys which were the purpose of the exercise, so I will continue to be presumed guilty! Or my original wedding ring which I had lost several years ago. Since the OC recently bought me a replacement, I am confident that it is only a matter of weeks until the long-lost original shows up!

I am curious now: What do other people keep in their "jewelery" boxes?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Into The Trees

There was a frightful racket in the trees out behind us early this morning. I stumbled out of bed to see what was going on. From the window, I could see crows circling one particular pine tree, flapping their wings and squawking like fishwives. What was their problem? Didn't they know it was Sunday morning and people might want to sleep in, for heaven's sake?

And then I saw him.

The cause of their distress. A huge big owl, sitting on a high branch, imperturbable, while the crows circled and squawked. I grabbed the OC's field glasses and headed out to have a closer look.

The picture isn't very clear, but enough, I think, to give you the general idea. He could have had those crows for lunch. He just wasn't hungry. He certainly didn't look under-nourished! I watched through the glasses while he groomed himself. He looked like a baby bear sitting up there, confident that when he did feel a pang of hunger, there was a smorgasbord of little rodents available for the snatching in the brush down below. He lifted a leg at one point, and when I saw those massive talons, I was glad I wasn't a little rodent......

I've been making snails' trails blocks for a quilting project. I need to make forty of them [I know---what on earth was I thinking??] I've been a little obsessive about reaching number forty, sewing, sewing, day and night. Not healthy. Hunched over the sewing machine, muttering.....bubble, bubble, toil and trouble, 15, 16, 17, 18, ......[I got to #24 today!] So, to blow the cobwebs from my brain, I went along on a Little White Balls hitting expedition later in the afternoon.

I have a limited capacity for concentrating on watching people hitting Little White Balls, so it wasn't too long until my attention wandered.

This fellow helped.

He was up a nearby tree, chattering like a thing possessed, so I went to investigate. He looked down at me indignantly and launched into a long and involved rant, with much tail twitching and bristling of whiskers. He was very upset at having his peaceful afternoon shattered by men arriving to hit Little White Balls.
He'd been in the middle of a lovely nap when the first whack disturbed his slumbers.

"Don't you people have homes to go to?"

"It's Sunday afternoon, for Pete's sake! You'd think a fellow could take a little nap without having to worry he'll be whacked out of his tree by lunatics hitting Little White Balls!"

And so it goes.

The circle of Life.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Entertaining The Brother, Who Can Be Quite Entertaining. If You Have The Stamina!

I've almost forgotten how to do this! Blame it on my brother's visit. Blame it on the gardening course. Blame it on my airport taxi service. Blame it on Quilt Camp......Or, just blame it on life!

The volcano in Iceland nearly scuttled his plans, but my brother arrived, nothing daunted, a week late. He stayed for a month and went home two weeks ago with a great tan, and enough sunshine stored in his bones to see him well into old age. The Bean was delighted to have his uncle's help in the garden, and between them they got it shipshape.

I even had the grace to feel a little guilty. But I needn't have. Even though it's way too hot for my liking, outside in the middle of the day, he gloried in it! He'd be out there at noon, sweating and smiling, working away and marveling at how much nicer this weather is than the steady diet of piddling rain he left back home.

He spent hours swimming at the "Y", perfecting his stroke, our humble home pool being inadequate for his Olympic aspirations! Since he is in excellent physical shape for his age, I'm sure he caused some hearts to flutter among the elderly ladies as he ploughed through the water in his tangerine Speedos!

It almost made me hanker for the days when race walking was his obsession. Have you ever seen race walking? For him it was serious sport, and for a while he was one of the best race walkers in Ireland. But, for me, it was serious comedy! All those locked knees, pumping elbows and get-out-of-my-way determination! When he was visiting us, he'd train for his walking every day. He'd take off out the door and be gone for hours. Low maintenance. We lived in Belgium back in those days, in a suburb of Brussels, and one time he went out walking and didn't come back.

And didn't come back.

And darkness fell.

And the temperature dropped.

And it started to drizzle.

And still no sign of the bould brother. Or his walking companion, our black lab, Maggie. I was on my knees, weeping and pleading with the Blessed Virgin [who probably had forgotten who I was, it'd been so long!] begging her to keep him safe and to please not let my deceased mother's ghost find out what a terrible big sister I had turned out to be by carelessly misplacing the apple of her eye!

This was before cell phones took over the world. And the workings of the Belgian public telephone system were shrouded in mystery, not to mention foreign languages, neither of which he spoke. And his English was delivered with a very thick Irish accent....

I was pacing the floors in the wee, dark hours of the next morning, wringing my hands and letting my imagination run away with me, when lo! A knock at the door!

And there he stood, barely, exhausted and bedraggled, with a half-dead pooch at his side, who immediately betook herself to a quiet corner where she collapsed, and from where she did not stir for several days. You can bet she ran [or limped] for deep cover the next time she saw him preparing to go walking! Not quite the "walkies" she was accustomed to! I would give a lot of money to be able to hear the exchange between him and the Belgian police who gave him a lift from Waterloo back to our house!

A few years ago, Rise gave him a present of a course of swimming lessons, so, since he was getting older, and swimming is easier on the joints, he gave up the walking and fastened his focus on the water! Unfortunately the "Y" is on the other side of town, and since he couldn't drive here, I was constantly driving him there or picking him up. High maintenance. When we went to the beach he wanted to start out early, cook his bones all day long on the sand and in the water, basting himself occasionally with the magic creams that were his insurance policy against skin cancer.... After a couple of hours I would wilt in the heat and glaring sunshine, in spite of sun hats, sunscreen, beach umbrellas and towel tents. But heaven forbid I should suggest heading home before sundown! By the end of our beach sojourn there was The Brother, hale and hearty, full of fresh air and glowing bronzely, while a grease spot on the beach blanket marked what used to be me.....

He's a great guy, and he didn't stink after three days, but after thirty I was tired of having to have an agenda every day. I hankered to have my life back. And my blog! If he saw me on the computer he'd roll his eyes and say

"Don't tell me you're wasting time again on that yoke, and the sun splitting the rocks outside!"

I hope they'll have a nice summer in Ireland this year. He's much happier when the sun shines. He works hard, restoring antique furniture, for which he is much in demand, even in these economically lean times. Give me a year or so and I'll be ready to take him on again. Meanwhile, I'm hoping I earned some brownie points......I sent him home safe and sound, Mum! Give me a little credit!

So, there you have it: one reason you haven't seen much of me in these parts of late.....

Note: You can read another post about my brother here.