His world (and welcome to it!)
Another family memoir, from Tim Torkildson: “My mother kept a candy dish on the coffee table in the living room. It was for adult company, not for children. Though I doubt she kept exact count of how many pieces of All Sorts were in the dish at any given moment, she did have an uncanny knack of knowing just when my stealthy hand had been picking through the mix for a yellow coconut piece.
“‘Have you been at the candy again?’ she would sternly inquire.
“‘So what if I have, old lady — what’s it to you?’ I’d sneer back (in my imagination; in real life, I just grizzled a bit and promised never to do it again).
“I have no doubt that mothers the world over all have the exact-same objection to good honest delicious candy: ‘You’ll spoil your appetite for dinner!’
“As a steadily maturing adult, I have exploded that particular bugaboo entirely. I often start my noonday repast with a Mounds bar or a handful of malted milk balls. Such a treat works like a non-alcoholic aperitif, and I enjoy my salami/anchovy sandwich with potato chips that much more. Before my evening meal, a generous helping of French burnt peanuts or Raisinettes gives a distinct relish to my poached egg and ramen noodles.
“But you’ll never convince a mother, any mother, that a Kit Kat bar prior to the spinach souffle might entice the little nippers to eat their veggies heartily.
“And, at least with my own mother, candy was just plain wrong on general principles because it brought me so much pleasure. My mother belonged to that strait-laced generation that believed happy children were either wasting time or sowing wild provender. A dutiful sobriety was called for in children at all times.
“Certainly wasting time was one of the main pleasures of candy when I was a boy. Wayne Matsuura and I would sit on my front porch, with jawbreakers rolling around inside our mouths, taking them out from time to time to see the color gradually dissolve from red to blue to green to orange. This seemed like absorbing work to our picayune minds. Candy button sheets were another reliable source of entertainment; you picked them off, one at a time, attempting to get as little paper as possible with each button. If not done carefully, I’d have to spit out the paper pulp like a watermelon seed.
“Harry’s grocery on the corner sold miniature wax soda bottles filled with colored sugar water. After drinking the liquid, I could chew contentedly on the wax like a cow for blissful hours on end.
“Though my tastes in candy were liberal and catholic, I never could quite cotton to the many peanut-based candies around, like the salted nut rolls handed out by ersatz Santas at Christmas or the stash of peanut brittle my mother bought at Powers Department Store to nibble on when she tried to quit smoking. I preferred anything with chocolate and coconut. And marshmallow — although after viewing one of Don Herbert’s ‘Watch Mr. Wizard’ TV shows where he put a marshmallow in a vacuum jar and pumped out all the air, causing the marshmallow to expand to the size of a basketball, I grew obsessed with the fear that I might someday be eating a bag of Peeps and suddenly be sucked into the vortex vacuum of a tornado and thus explode into sticky white pulp.
“Bubble gum was exempt from my mother’s interdiction, since there was nothing to swallow. I always bought the Bazooka brand, because each wrapped piece contained a Bazooka Joe comic panel on waxed paper. I fondly recall one panel where Bazooka Joe is wearing a belt made of clocks and one of his sidekicks tells him it’s a ‘waist of time.’ When you’re 6 years old, it doesn’t get much funnier than that.
“Of course Halloween was my saturnalia of sugar — all the candy I could collect and carry; so damn the cavities, full speed ahead! Back in the Eisenhower era, adults at least had some idea of how to celebrate the day with overflowing generosity. There were none of those wretched bite-size bars or disappointing candy kisses that are palmed off on kids today. No sirree bob! My bag was filled to the brim with full-size Hershey bars, homemade popcorn balls, gigantic all-day suckers, caramel apples, big bags of M&Ms and candy corn, log-size Tootsie Rolls, and hefty boxes of Dots or Milk Duds. (Just writing about such wonderful sweet excess makes me think I should get my blood sugar checked right away.)
“The ne plus ultra of candy in my neck of the woods was a box of Fanny Farmer assorted chocolates. They appeared only at Christmas, when my dad would bring home a one-pound box on Christmas Eve. We children were allowed to pick one piece, just one, out of the red satin innards of the box — and I always seemed to choose the one with maple nut nougat, which I thoroughly despised. To me, maple was not a candy flavor at all. One year I finally got fed up with this state of affairs, and when no one was looking I surreptitiously took a bite out of half a dozen pieces until I found one with a creamy coconut center, which I scarfed down in a trice. The resulting furor when my clandestine gnawing was discovered sent me to bed early, with a grim warning that Santa would be informed of my malfeasance — which just might interfere with his open-handed spirit that year.
“I slept badly that night, as only a greedy and guilty little boy can, but the next morning proved that the jolly old fat gent had not stinted despite my crimes. I got a Wham-O Air Blaster, an Erector Set, and a stocking full of chocolate coins wrapped in gold foil. Having demolished the chocolate coins in one piggish sitting, I declined the waffles Mom had made that morning for breakfast. And for once, thank heavens, nobody prated at me about spoiling my appetite.”
Life as we know it (responsorial)
Gregory of the North: “I just read Tim Torkildson’s account of his being required to use ‘elbow grease,’ and it brought to mind an episode from my childhood at my uncle’s cabin ‘up Nort.’
“There always were plenty of chores to be done, especially upon opening it in the spring. The garden had to tilled and planted, the outhouse had to be attended to, and tarnish had to be removed from the brass joints and couplings inside the cabin. The latter was my job. I was given a rag and bottle of Brasso and told to ‘go to it.’
“My efforts were less than spectacular as I rubbed the Brasso on and off, without an appreciable change. I frowned at it, and asked my uncle why it wasn’t cleaning like it should. He took a quick look: ‘You need more elbow grease, boy.’
“I looked at the bottle of Brasso and immediately concluded I didn’t have the right cleaning substance. I maybe was only about 7 or maybe 8, I don’t remember, but I did know that cleaning took the right solution or it wouldn’t work. (I had learned that lesson when, in trying to help my mother with the laundry, I dumped probably a half-gallon of Hi-lex into the washing machine. The point had been very emphatically made to use the right cleaner for the right job.)
“As I had just been paid my allowance, and had most of last week’s still in my pocket, I decided to ride my bike into town. I hopped on (without telling anyone I was leaving) and headed down the dirt road that would lead me to the main street of town and the hardware store. The two-mile trek seemed MUCH longer than when we drove in the car, but I finally got there. Mr. Swenson (I had met him on earlier visits with my uncle) was behind the counter, and I walked right up to him.
“‘I’d like to buy some elbow grease, Mr. Swenson. I have about 40 cents.’
“‘Who told you to come and buy elbow grease?’ he asked.
“‘No one told me to come and buy it. My uncle told me I needed to use elbow grease to clean the metal things in the cabin. All I had was Brasso, so I rode my bike in here to buy some elbow grease.’
“At that point, Mr. Swenson started to laugh out loud. ‘You Alex’s boy?’
“‘He’s my uncle. I’m at his cabin, and he told me to clean the metal things.’
“Mr. Swenson held up his finger in a ‘Wait here’ gesture. He went to his big black phone and dialed a number. I heard him say: ‘Alex? This is Swenson, at the hardware store. Say, are you missing a boy on a bicycle?’
“I didn’t hear anything else except for one side of a muffled conversation, and Mr. Swenson laughing again. When he came back, he handed me a Nesbitt’s orange pop and told me to sit down somewhere and wait for my uncle, who was coming to get me.
“We never did buy any elbow grease, and Uncle Alex didn’t say a word the whole drive back. When we got back to the cabin, he grabbed my ear and ‘guided’ me inside, where my mother and aunt were washing and putting away dishes. ‘Tell dis boy about elbow grease!’ he said to my mother, and left to return to whatever he’d been doing.
“‘What did you do?’ my mother asked me.
“‘I rode my bike into town to buy some elbow grease.’
“Both my mother and my aunt started laughing. And from that moment, a family legend was born.”
Lucky Buck: “Tim Torkildson‘s recent post about elbow grease [which ended with “I wonder if you can order it online at Amazon.com”] had me look it up on Amazon.
“Yes, it is available in at least four sizes, up to a gallon. $99.00 for the gallon.”
Another close encounter of the natural kind, documented by Jim Shumaker of New Richmond, Wisconsin: “Subject: A deer in our yard!
“A doe checking our bird baths! Looks like she’s in pretty good shape!”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede writes again: “I walked around the yard to see what was happening with some of my blooms and captured these to share.
“The sunlight was hitting this petunia blossom ‘just right,’ I thought.
“And my giant hosta was first to bloom again with its rather complicated blossom arrangement.
“My next-door neighbor has this cutey.
“And the dianthus I have are faithfully blooming.
“As are the seed dahlias.
“I am hoping the forecasted rains come. It is past time for these to be watered. I’ve been busy with other aspects of the lawn and gardens and forgot to pay attention to the watering aspects. I am not used to thinking about needing to water in June.”
Our birds, ourselves
Al B of Hartland: “I saw a black-billed magpie outside Bagley. According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, one of the behaviors of magpies is the supposed ‘funeral.’ When a magpie discovers a dead magpie, it calls loudly to attract other magpies. The gathering of noisy magpies may last for 10 to 15 minutes before the birds disperse. The sight of this beautiful bird caused me to listen to Rossini’s ‘The Thieving Magpie.'”
Our raccoons, ourselves
Dolly Dimples writes: “The recent news about a raccoon who climbed 26 stories on the exterior of a St. Paul downtown building (it was eventually captured and moved to a less busy suburb) stirred my memory of an encounter I had with one of those creatures.
“Usually I didn’t bring my bird feeder into the house at night. Lately I discovered if I didn’t bring it in, it would be empty in the morning. Some nocturnal animal was stealing the seeds.
“The feeder hangs on a shepherd’s crook an arm’s length from the deck. One evening as the light of day was fading, I opened the deck door intending to bring the feeder into the kitchen, and there was the thief, a raccoon, perched on the deck railing about three feet away from me. This large handsome fellow was holding the feeder horizontally with one paw and digging seeds out of an opening with the other. I don’t know which one of us was more startled. We locked eyes, neither of us blinked, and we didn’t move a muscle. In my mind I was weighing the chance that he might jump on me and bite me. In his mind he must have been planning a getaway, because suddenly he released the feeder, jumped to the floor, scurried down the stairs and disappeared into the darkening woods. I grabbed the feeder, which was swinging like a pendulum, and dashed into the house.
“When my family heard of this encounter. they warned me that those animals may carry diseases and I should not encourage them to stay in our yard. That’s why I bring my feeder in at night. But I really appreciated seeing this intelligent, cute animal up close.”
The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: Junk drawer.’org’
“Top picture: Have you ever had a task thrust upon you the first thing in the morning that you thought you did not have time or energy to accomplish?
“Bottom picture: But did!”
The Permanent Grandmotherly/Grandchildrenly Record
OTD from NSP: “I don’t have a Grandma Handbook; I have Grandma Rules.
“Grandma Rules are rules that apply to my house/car/yard/whatever. I would never spoil my grandkids; I just take orders and know how to follow them.
“One Grandma rule is: If you can find it, you can have it (normally applies to food and snack items that might not always be in residence at their parents’ house — gummy bears, anyone?). Manners were instilled by parents, so they still ask, get the Grandma look and recite the rule. Shows they were paying attention.
“Some of these rules, I was taught by my parents. My dad never took his kids to DQ (there was ice cream in the freezer), but a grandchild could ask and my dad was the first out the door to the car. I never got cookies for breakfast, but my mom made sure to have a supply of several kinds on hand for any grandchild.
“I take orders for meals/snacks and make sure I have whatever is whoever’s favorite on hand. This has necessitated having three versions of rice cereal-type bars in the freezer (regular, vegan, vegetarian; hint: use food coloring to make each one different, so much easier to find specific kind), two kinds of sloppy joes (regular and vegetarian), three types (and two sizes) of ice-cream-sundae cones, etc. You get the picture. Grandkids have more stuff in the freezer for them than I have stuff for myself.
“One benefit from letting grandkids ‘rule’ my house is they want to spend time here. The college-age ones come for lunch about once a week, text the day before and hint at what meal would be nice (which of course Grandma makes). I must have done something right, because they bring their friends and tell stories of how I let them do ABC and it was so much fun.
“It is nice to have grandkids who want to just hang out at your house for no other reason then it is Grandma’s, and they know Grandma loves them and they love Grandma back.”
OTD from NSP, the next day: “I forgot to add that the grandkids think there are state/federal Grandma Laws — the ‘laws’ grandmas are supposed to always follow. Laws like:
“Always having rice cereal bars in freezer. (My mother started this one with her grandkids.)
:Must have the latest supersoaker/water guns for summer back-yard fights.
“Grandkids and their friends are always welcome (and will be fed).
“Kool-Aid is always stocked and can be made by the glass (measuring spoon attached to Kool-Aid container).
“Sleepovers on weekends are standard, with ‘camping’ on the deck in summer required.
“Grandma’s kitchen is always available if you want to cook/bake, and she will be happy to show you how. (Cleanup seems to be optional; Grandma’s job.)
“Just some of the laws.
“From comments from some of their friends, I am unique in being Grandma. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
The highfalutin pleasures
The Lady Who Loves Little People: “I was looking for this monkey photo to send to BB when I came across the first email that my mother sent to me from the mailstation that I had given to her and Dad for Christmas of 2002. It made me smile almost as much as the memory of watching the two monkeys in the photo while they were gathering the bottles and glasses scattered around the pool at the resort we stayed at in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, last summer. I titled the photo ‘Party Animals.’
“The class my mother is referring to is a session taught by my two nephews who live next door, who had the goal to teach my mom and dad how to use their new mailstation. They both mastered the lessons, and I can distinctly remember the excitement they both felt whenever the light informed them that they had mail. Sure do miss those two.
“‘Date: Fri Dec 27, 2002 9:36:00 PM US/Central
“‘Subject: Re: Welcome to E-Mail
“‘We miss you and are having an early new years party. We are having a big fat turkey tomorrow that we’d share with you if you come.
“‘I am in class and they seem interesting…computer class. I am not sure I’ll make the grade. Maybe I need a real teacher like you.
“‘I am finding it very interesting, but it is going to take me awhile.
“‘Now you can write in your bulletin board that your 80-year-old mother is becoming computerized.
“‘-Goodbye for now, love mom—————————————–‘”
Worse than, like, y’know, sort of tons of iconic . . . whatever (responsorial)
D. Ziner: “I’m all for a ban suggested by Linguidiot (BB, 30-May-18) on ‘going forward.’ You can add ‘moving forward’ as well. I’ll sign a petition and even contribute to crowdfunding for legal assistance and lobbyists, if that would help.
“But that one is just the tip of the iceberg for me. I don’t know why I become even more curmudgeonly than normal when it comes to words or phrases that seem to take over our vocabulary. I did not like ‘Not!’ — and due to overuse, I don’t even like ‘like’ anymore. I know people mean well when they say ‘Have a good one,’ but the incompleteness and the lack of sincerity turn me off. And unless I’m describing my steel-toed footwear that might be out in the grass, I’m never going to say ‘boots on the ground.’ That has become so meaningless, I heard newscasters once describing a fighter and bomber attack in some Middle East conflict as a ‘boots on the ground’ operation. ‘Don’t go there’ is another one I’m not likely to say unless I’m warning someone about quicksand or to stay away from submerged pilings in an anchorage.
“But ‘going forward’ does have that extra bit of irritation, so unless a person can prove that he or she is describing an object that is not moving backwards, sideways, up or down, let’s have an app that self-deletes the phrase.
“And while I’m at it, unless I meet someone named Heywood and he prefers to be nicknamed ‘Hey’ as opposed to ‘Woody,’ I just might never be saying or writing the former. It took me so long to transition from ‘Dear . . .’ to ‘Hi . . .’; I don’t think I’ll live long enough to adopt ‘Hey. . . .'”
Then & Now
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Oldies but Goodies.
“Back in 1972, I didn’t take free paper bags from stores where I shopped, to ‘save the trees.’
“Today I bought a few items from a store, but refused to take a plastic shopping bag to help me get them home. I was inspired, in part, by a whale that died recently after ingesting 20-plus plastic shopping bags. I said that I want to save the whales. The cashier said she hadn’t heard that phrase in a long time.
“Sometimes the old sayings still come in handy.”
Or: Now & Then
Elvis writes: “Subject: Getting Older Than Dirt.
“This month was a 40th-reunion weekend at the alma mater of Elvis; his class is still a year away from the ‘Four O,’ but many of his former classmates and friends were back on campus.
“Social media started brimming over in the weeks prior, with old scanned — and mostly blurry (like Elvis‘s memory) — photos from our student years.
“Photos of young men and women sitting on the grass at Springfest in jeans and shorts, everyone with cups full of beer; guitar players in dorm rooms; commencement in dresses, caps and gowns; sweater vests with ties; softball teams; smiling young women with their arms around each other on the steps in front of St. Paul houses; lots of beards and long hair; Angela Davis and Dennis Means on campus at an infamous protest; and bagpipers. Basically a bunch of hippies.
“Now, in the days after the reunion, there are dozens of photos being posted of, well, old people. Lots of smiles, gray hair, or no hair. But old people. What happened?”
Band Name of the Day: A Bunch of Hippies
Law Firm of the Day: Greedy & Guilty
Website of the Day: “The Thieving Magpie Overture”