Know thy classmates! Know thyself!
Culminating in: The great comebacks
DebK of Rosemount reports: “These days, I’m hardly ever the youngest one in a crowd. But at Sunday’s gathering of Taxman’s high-school classmates, I was the (comparative) spring chicken.
“I enjoyed that status — and my role, which was to prepare the evening meal for the reunees (which isn’t a word, but should be) while Taxman and his co-host, St. Roger the Farmhand, kept folks hydrated.
“Having extensively observed attendees through my kitchen window, I am able to report that members of the Class of ’62 are holding up well. Oh, there have been changes since the last reunion: hair color, certainly, and a reported increase in familiarity with the medical establishment. But their essential qualities are unchanged. Which is a very good thing.
“Taxman’s graduating class was always a small one, owing to its coming into the world during the final years of WWII, when many young men of procreative inclinations were otherwise occupied. The hardships of those war years, or the Polish and Czech immigrant tenacity, or the lessons learned from living close to the land — perhaps a combination of all those factors — produced first-rate human beings whose behavior in one area is utterly predictable.
“They bring food.
“Mom did the same thing, though her habits were shaped more by the Depression than by the War. We Dunns were known to be people who stayed ‘to home,’ but even we would occasionally go visiting — by which we meant dropping in unannounced on a close relative. These visits generally occurred after a heavy rain, when field work and gardening were impossible. It was inconceivable — and therefore unexpected — that one would fritter away good money on the cost of a long-distance phone call to alert Aunt Florene or Auntie Phyllis that we would arrive on her doorstep in a half-hour or so. In recognition of the surprise factor involved in such visits, farm-folk decorum required that those paying the visit would come bearing gifts of an edible nature. Mom brought cake — baked from scratch, of course: usually Peanut Cake with Brown Sugar ‘Fudge’ Frosting or Maraschino Cherry Cake (with nuts) topped with flamingo-pink powdered-sugar icing. (For the record, neither Mom nor any other drop-in visitor ever brought food — except perhaps a jar of freshly skimmed cream — to Grandma Bobzien’s, where incomparable desserts appeared in the loaves-and-fishes manner.)
“Taxman’s classmates seem to favor salads and bar cookies and bean-based casseroles as their famine-relief strategies. Given that I had known for weeks that the reunees were coming, and given that I had signed on to prepare dinner for the assembly, I was surprised by the arrival of so much food, which precipitated a Refrigerator Space Crisis. We have three ‘fridges at St. Isidore Farm, but one is dedicated to egg storage, and another is reserved for the cooling of beer (and an assortment of non-intoxicating fluids— but mostly beer). The food ‘fridge — the one in the kitchen, that is — was already groaning, stuffed as it was with items I had prepared. Ice-filled coolers were pressed into service, so all was well — until after dinner, when we were confronted with the problem of leftovers. There was some discussion of flagging down passersby to assist in disposing of our excess. Alas, our gravel road is lightly traveled. So we were left to the usual strategy: filling every available plastic container (cottage cheese, yogurt, Schwan’s ice cream) with food and foisting them off on the (mostly) willing.
“As is so often the case, some of the salads ended the day rather worse for wear, which posed another difficulty. As we debated the fate of a very nice taco salad, one of the ladies of the Class of ’62 suggested that it be given as a treat to the retired hens. Reflexively, I objected: ‘No! It’s too good for chickens.’ Without skipping a beat, the woman set to packing the salad in a large Tupperware bowl. ‘OK, then,’ she said, as she finished. ‘Now, you just tuck this in the refrigerator, and by Thursday, it’ll be just right for those chickens.'”
Know thy books! Know thyself!
Sharon of Roseville: “I attended the police and fire department fundraiser a couple of weeks ago and added another 100 books to my collection. I am now repacking and making room for them.
“Day 2 of reorganizing my books: Most people probably can pack up their books fairly quickly, but I can’t resist opening a book — like the 1881 Century Magazine collection which starts with a story of the wild sheep of the northwest. Then I have a 1920s book about the history of the Baltic countries.
“But it was my 1882 book ‘Oliver Cromwell: The Man and His Mission,’ by J. Allanson Picton, that gave me pause. It was time for a break, and I climbed over the piles of books and boxes to the chair at by my desk. On opening the book, it became apparent that this book has never been read. I looked up the author and read a list of his other books, including ‘The Conflict of Oligarchy and Democracy.’ Since I have been hearing a lot about oligarchic governments of late, I checked Amazon and was happy to see that I can buy a copy for around $24. I’ll save up my Amazon points and place my order to add it to my collection.
“Now it is back to packing. I can’t wait to see what I find next.”
Not exactly what she had in mind
Norton’s mom of Eau Claire, Wisconsin: “The perfect gift for a centenarian? Perhaps not a magazine full of dead people.
“Norton’s dad and I have delivered Meals on Wheels almost every Wednesday since we retired in 2003. It’s been such a great experience . . . well, except that one time when a younger, mentally challenged recipient startled me by roaring (like a bear) at me from across the room — but that was an exception. I have gotten to know people that I would never have had the chance to meet in my daily life. They gave me a sense of what it would be like to live to perhaps my 90s or even 100s — a little window into what the future could be like. They live each day with a sense of humor no matter what life has thrown at them, an appreciation for the ‘now’ and the possibilities of the future. I try to give little extras back to them when I can, and that’s what this item is about.
“Our basement got a decent amount of water in it from the recent rainy spell that Mother Nature decided to send our way. As I was sorting out and moving the storage boxes (plastic; one of my better decisions), I came across some movie magazines from 1959 and 1960. I checked to see if they were worth anything on Ebay, and was then going to throw them in recycling, when I thought: ‘Why don’t I see if any of the Meals on Wheels recipients would like to look at these? They might really enjoy them.’
“I decided to offer one of the magazines to our 100-year-old Meals recipient, a very with-it, lovely lady who smiles and laughs a lot during our conversations each week. As she looked at the cover photo of Debbie Reynolds, she asked: ‘She’s still alive, isn’t she?’ No, she died. She flipped through some of the pages: ‘Shirley Temple . . . she’s alive yet?’ No, she died awhile ago. ‘How about Elizabeth Taylor? She’s living yet, isn’t she?’ The lady’s in-home care person was also there, and she started helping me with these answers, our voices getting a little more solemn as we kept saying: No, he/she died.
“After going though six or seven more celebrity names, all of them deceased, I decided that maybe a magazine from the past featuring now-deceased people wasn’t the best thing to give to an even-older-than-me person, but as I left she was happily paging through the magazine, so perhaps it wasn’t too bad. Maybe just a little ‘Oops.'”
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: Oh, the Gaul of those people!
“A sign in the bar at a golf course in Rush City: ‘Chicken Ceasar sandwich & chips.’”
Then & Now
StreetRodder writes: “Subject: What goes around, comes around.
“In 1955, I played little league in St. Paul for the CUBS. In 2018, my great-grandson is playing tee ball for the CUBS in Cottage Grove. I find it to be a really cool coincidence.
“He looks at my picture and can’t imagine it’s me. It’ll be awhile before my little man will grasp how old I am, compared to him.”
Then & Now (II)
KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Extreme Patience.
“I consider myself a pretty patient photographer. I can wait for hours for wildlife that I hope will come into my zone.
“But my wife takes it to a whole new level.
“On Father’s Day, I discovered that I was tagged on these two photos, side by side, on Facebook. On the left, I am walking with my daughter roughly 29 years ago. On the right, I am walking with that daughter’s daughter (recently). Both photos were taken by my wife unbeknownst to me. Now THAT is patience.”
The Gram with a Thousand Rules: “Subject: A promise I never kept.
“When I was a kid, my mother made baking-powder biscuits every week. To me, that wasn’t nearly often enough. I promised myself that when I grew up, I would bake them every single day.
“I still love baking-powder biscuits, so I baked some for dinner tonight — first time since the beginning of 2018.”
Our pets, our neighbors, ourselves
Doris Day: “Our darling neighbor Madelyn chose us to care for her two cats while she is away. Here is our instruction list. I hope you can read this; it is classic.
“All cat-related equipment and supplies were labeled and displayed for our convenience. (We have been cat owners for about 50 years each, but it is good not to leave anything to chance). =^..^=”
What’s in a name?
Or: Everyone’s a copy editor
Donald: “Subject: Of ‘Olympic’ proportions?
“This was the first listing in the ‘FAMOUS BIRTHDAYS’ section on Page A2 of June 20th’s edition of the paper west of St. Paul: ‘Olympic Dukakis, 87.’
“I wonder if she’s ever qualified for a medal.”
CAUTION! Words at Play!
Or: What’s in a name?
Semi-Legend reports: “I was doing the Monday New York Times crossword (a.k.a. the easiest one of the week) in the Pioneer Press today. Clue No. 52 down was ‘Prefix with -hedron’ — five letters, starting with T.
“Easy. TIPPI, no?
Another episode of creative hearing, reported by B. Dazzled of South St. Paul: “On the way home from work, I heard a newscaster and her guest talking about some group that’s battling a proposed underground pumpernickel mine up north near the Boundary Waters. I thought: ‘Jeez, what a bunch of killjoys. It would create jobs and increase the availability of delicious Reubens and Cucumber Tea-sandwiches . . . and . . .oh wait . . . she must’ve said “copper-nickel mine.”‘
“Dammit, ears! We’ve had a lot of good years together. Why you gotta turn on me now?”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede reports: “While driving through these northern suburbs, I have been enjoying the lush greenery everywhere and marveling at its variety and impact on my feelings.
“I have my own favorite patch of greenery in my back yard: this view of some of my hostas. There are about 14 varieties in this photo, with their different shades of green. I have a lot of different ones besides these, but this is the view I see when I look into my back yard, and I always feel pleased with the arrangement and how they faithfully sprout each spring.
“The site manager at the nearby Ramsey County compost site has two flower gardens growing. These poppy blossoms are from the garden started last summer with wildflower seeds I gave to her. That garden is really dense now and promises many blooms to come. The second garden just begun this spring is still just sprouting. I will be waiting to see what pops up that might make beautiful photos.
“More blooms to come, once I find out what plants they are.”
His world (and welcome to it!)
Tim Torkildson: “Subject: my unhappy childhood.
“Tolstoy wrote somewhere that all happy families are boring and all unhappy families are the basis for bestsellers, or something like that. But what did he know? As an old man, he lost his marbles and ran away from home to live in a train station, or something like that. Writers: They don’t know from nothing most of the time.
“Including me, of course. Whenever I make a conscious effort to be a ‘writer,’ I usually descend into bathos and moody wordplay. So this time around, I’m just scribbling and jotting down the flotsam and jetsam that surfaces on a Sunday morning after a good night’s snooze and the prospect of ham and eggs with buttered toast smothered in marmalade for breakfast. I don’t think Proust has anything to worry about.
“I’d like to write that I was a misunderstood child prodigy, which caused me enormous misery. But my parents understood me all too well: I was a rapscallion with the instincts of a guttersnipe and the work ethic of a three-toed sloth. By turns moony and cranky, demanding and put upon, I was an open book to them. Why they didn’t pack me off to Mao’s China to be re-educated by the Red Guards in some dismal rice paddy, I really couldn’t say. Lord knows I deserved it.
“Maybe they kept me around just for laughs. I remember a great deal of laughter while growing up.
“On Tuesday nights, I sat entranced in front of the television, drinking up the lowbrow antics of Red Skelton. One Christmastime sketch had him playing a would-be Santa on a snowy slippery roof, with all the attendant pratfalls and inevitable slush down the front of his pants. I howled in merriment to such an extent that I had to take a second bath that night.
“There was my mother’s spaghetti. It was good — no, I lie; it was superb. The pasta was Creamette brand, and the sauce came straight from a bottle. But she made her own meatballs, and the combination perfectly suited my taste buds. I always had seconds and strenuously wangled for thirds. Her spaghetti put a saucy red smile on my face that didn’t completely wash off until the next day.
“Every spring produced baby rabbits in the decayed trunk of old Mrs. Henderson’s crab-apple tree next door. I couldn’t bear to touch them, because I was told that once the smell of humans was on them, their mother would abandon them. So I just gazed at them and let the warmth and wonder of creation flow into me.
“And despite the oft-repeated cry that we were all going to the poor house in another minute, which echoed around my house like waves crashing on a lee shore, I knew that if I asked Mom to buy me another Little Golden Book, it would be in my hands PDQ. I had ‘The Pokey Little Puppy’ fully memorized by age 6. And I doted on my copy of ‘The Wonder Book of Clowns’ as if it were a narcotic.
“Each year for my birthday, I got a cake from the little bakery that was adjacent to the Red Owl over in New Brighton. A white cake, with white frosting, with my name spelled out in thick blue icing on top. And I always got to cut it myself and was allowed to slice myself the biggest, gooeyist piece of all. You may prate about the woes of famine and want, but there’s something to be said for pure unadulterated gluttony on a little boy’s birthday. My Grandma Daisy always gave me a mere coloring book, but along with it she gave me lavender-scented hugs that linger with me still.
“Wild games of flashlight tag with the neighborhood kids on a sultry summer night. Water-balloon fights that left me hoarse from screaming and chortling as I bombarded my sisters unmercifully — there is nothing more satisfactory in life than drenching your own sister with a water balloon. Kickball games in the alley, with the inflated rubber ball ricocheting off garage walls with a bell-like peal. Rhubarb pulled fresh from the garden, dipped in a brown paper bag full of sugar. The first snowman of winter, with one of my father’s disreputable old trilby hats snug on the head. The Kool-Aid stand in the front yard where I drank most of the grape-flavored stuff myself. Kites. Roller skates. The arrival of Mountain Dew, with a grinning hillbilly stenciled on each green bottle. The elm leaves piling up in autumn, when the whole world was allowed to become messy and musty-smelling. Silly Putty. MAD Magazine. A new Duncan yo-yo. And roaring blizzards on a Sunday morning, which meant not having to get dressed up to go to Mass — instead lazing about in my pajamas while Mom made cinnamon rolls for breakfast. Fishing off the dock at Como Lake, where the aggressive little sunnies would bite at anything.
“And my dad’s rasping laugh — a rarity, indeed. I recall a Sunday afternoon when he and I sat together in front of the TV watching W.C. Fields in ‘The Bank Dick.’ At one point in the film, Fields is driving an open sedan past a busty blonde and raises his straw hat with the greeting ‘Hello, toots.’ This tickled my dad’s funny bone enormously, and he began laughing. I looked at him in wonder: So the old man could do more than yell and take naps on the couch; he could actually laugh! Someday, I said to myself, I’m going to make the whole dang ornery world laugh, too.
“And, by thunder, I did, for a while, as a circus clown.
“Ah, memory is such a pleasant companion — but such a terrible master. It’s about time to let those recollections float back to their misty homes and think about breakfast. Those ham and eggs aren’t going to cook themselves. And, come to think of it, I believe there’s a bit of pickled herring left in the back of the fridge. That stuff never goes bad (or, as my children firmly believe, it already is bad).”
The Permanent Great-Grandsonly Record
Peggy T of Osceola, Wisconsin: “Bennett was telling his mom how much he appreciated her.
“Bennett: ‘You are the best mom in the whole world. I love you so much!’
“Brooke: ‘Thanks, Buddy. Maybe you can skip preschool and stay home with me and stay little forever.’
“Brooke: ‘Let’s call Jody Videen (bus driver) and tell him that you won’t be riding the bus next year.’
“Bennett: ‘Whoa, Mom, slow down, I need to think!’
“Bennett is my 4-year-old great-grandson.”
Band Name of the Day: The Spring Chickens
Law Firm of the Day: Moony & Cranky
Website of the Day: The New York Times (.com) yet again discovers Tim Torkildson (and once again, Bulletin Board and the Pioneer Press warrant nary a mention!)