The Permanent Maternal Record
Or: Life (and death) as we know it
Little Sister writes: “A scrap torn from a newspaper marked the spot, just two chapters in, where she’d stopped reading.
“I had come across the book in a box of my mother’s belongings, things my sisters and I packed up for the last time. My mother had been an avid reader, and I was looking for something to take with me on vacation. When I opened it, her makeshift bookmark fluttered to the floor — and along with it my breaking heart. I found myself with that now-all-too-familiar lump in my throat, being reminded that I was a new member of the club no one wants to join. It doesn’t matter that I’m a senior citizen myself and have my own family; not having living parents makes me feel like I’ve somehow lost my bearings and become disoriented in an unfamiliar world.
“Mom always referred to herself as ‘a tough old Swede,’ made hearty by the years of guzzling strong, black coffee, and she proved this true until the very end. At 94, her body was just plain worn out and ready to take a permanent rest. The book reminded me that despite her frail condition, she strived to keep her mind sharp with her books and daily newspaper. Sadly over time, Mom’s cloudy eyes would lose focus, and she found herself rereading pages until it was no longer worth the frustrating effort. That is what happened with the book I found in the box — the reason she’d never been able to finish it and it was still on her bedside table when she died.
“So, on my vacation, I picked it up and started reading, knowing that just a short time ago, my mother’s tired eyes had been struggling to focus on those same words.
“The pragmatic part of me knows that Mom was ready to leave this world, a world she could no longer enjoy. But a huge emotional part of me will allow myself a good cry whenever I fill her old mug with morning coffee, hear the rustle of a newspaper, or come across one of the countless frayed and tattered bookmarks she had tucked away, waiting for me to find.”
Now & Then
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “Once again I decided to match up a vintage postcard with its modern-day location, and once I again I choose a place at Como Park.
“Como Park’s giant granite frog first appeared in 1910 as part of the original Japanese Garden. When the golf course was built in 1928, the Japanese Garden was removed, and the frog found a new home in the pond in front of the Conservatory which is now known as, you guessed it, the Frog Pond.
“Here is a postcard from the late 1950s (judging by the cars in the background) and a photo I took recently. Apparently during one of the Frog Pond’s renovations, the frog got turned around.
“And as a bonus, here is closeup of the frog today with a few of his web-footed friends.”
Now & Then
Postcard Division (Addendum)
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “I finally remembered where that ‘web-footed friends’ reference came from. We watched ‘Sing Along with Mitch’ all the time when I was a kid, and apparently this very brief song stuck with me.”
Keeping your eyes open
Friendly Bob of Fridley: “Subject: See world.
“Sunset, Thursday, August 9.
“Not sure I’ve ever seen a cloud formation quite like this.”
This ‘n’ that
From Vertically Challenged: (1) “Our theater of seasons (Floral Division).
“I can’t seem to take any spectacular flower-blossom pics like all the beautiful ones submitted here. This one doesn’t really do justice to this zinnia — but sending it anyway, as I thought this one had some unique coloring.”
(2) “To sleep, perchance to dream (responsorial):
“Papa on Elm Street’s entry about counting when not being able to sleep brings to mind what my mother’s cousin used to do. I was much younger than she was. We have a large family, and she always prided herself that she could remember the names of all of our kids — first and middle names. Whenever she couldn’t fall asleep, she would recite their names, first and middle and in order, right down the line! Said it worked!
“She was always so much fun to talk to, and I sure miss her!”
A day in the life
IGHGrampa: “I went to the county fair Thursday, the 9th. It was as I expected — predictable, I guess. I did not get any food at the fair, but did bring one of those big bottles of Gatorade. It was a very hot day. I stopped frequently to rest and take a drink. I left just before noon. It was just too hot for me.
“On the way home, I had a lunch at a fast-food place (air-conditioned). Feeling hungry, I ordered one of those giant burgers with three patties, lettuce, onions and sauce. Three patties are just too many. The burger wanted to slither all apart every time I took a bite. It was good, but too much of a job to eat it.”
Silver Haired Fox of Almelund, Wisconsin: “Subject: Bad singing.
“When I was a teenager, our family had a dog that I really liked to spend time with. In the summer, I would sit outside singing to Laddie. My favorite song at that time was ‘It is no secret what God can do.’ I would sing it over and over. At some point, out of the kitchen window my brother Dick would yell: ‘Who is sick out there?’ It didn’t matter; I would just keep singing.
“Many years ago, my husband and I moved into a house trailer next to my son’s family. When I take our dog Cody outside, I can’t keep from singing. Recently I started singing ‘I fall asleep counting my blessings,’ and I heard my son Jerry from next door say: ‘Quiet over there. Don’t you know people are still sleeping?’ Then he said: ‘Just kidding.’
“Oh well, I’m 79 years old and still bothering others with my bad singing. Sorry, people!”
Al B of Hartland: “I happened upon a common milkweed plant that had survived the mowing of a roadside. The plant had a monarch caterpillar on it. One milkweed makes a difference.”
Vanity, thy name is . . .
Semi-Legend: “Subject: License to uffda.
“Plate spotted in the Lunds parking lot on Ford Parkway in St. Paul: ’00 SVEN.'”
Department of Duh
KH of White Bear Lake reports: “Department of Duh.
“A groundhog has been decimating our lettuce crop. I shot it several times with my camera, but that didn’t seem to deter it.
“So we decided to try a live trap. I did some research and found that one of the things we could use for bait was . . . lettuce. Well, sure, if it had LEFT us any lettuce, we could do just that.”
BULLETIN BOARD SAYS: Last time we were at the supermarket, they did have some lettuce available for purchase!
Our birds, ourselves
Also from KH of White Bear Lake: “Subject: Worse than kids.
“You wouldn’t think it would be that difficult to get five birds to look at the camera at the same time.”
Found & Lost
Auction Girl: “Subject: Places We Lost.
“One fine August day on the creek. Doesn’t this look peaceful? Wouldn’t you just love to dip a toe (or a line) here? Those weeping willows tendriling down towards a babbling waterfall appear as timeless as summer.
“Yet, this entire scene — yes, the willows and the waterfall — are doomed.
“Why? Oh, that’s easy. Despite what you see, the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District has declared this spot a reason Minnehaha Creek is ‘unhealthy.’ God forbid, it has a man-made cement dam, when the creek should ‘run freely.’ Those migratory birds that roost in the willows, the frogs that trill in the tall grasses, the occasional bullhead hooked in the ‘fishing hole’ at the bottom of the falls — those are signs of an unhealthy environment. We must remove it all, dredge the curvy creek bed straight, replace over 100 very large and winter-proven old-growth willows, maples, oaks, etc. along the bank with nursery saplings. It’s for the good of the environment, after all.
“Yes, this is the way to protect the environment for future generations.
“On December 18, as you prepare for your holidays, the trees and waterfall will be removed.
“Auction Girl loves nature and is extremely sad.”
His world (and welcome to it!)
August 5 email from Tim Torkildson: “It is the first Sunday in August — known as Fast Sunday in the LDS Church. And I am thinking about, really lusting for, mutton.
“I don’t know why that should be, either. I’ve had mutton only once in my entire life. But before I get to that, I want to mention the awful childhood experience of a smalahove for Christmas.
“Smalahove is Norwegian for ‘sheep’s head.’ It is the head of a mature sheep, with the wool burned off and the brains removed. It is then either boiled or roasted. They used to eat a lot of those things in Norway a century ago, and it is a big tourist draw in places like Voss in Norway today. And somehow my dad got a hold of a smoked smalahove one Christmas season when I was still in Dr. Denton’s. He got it at work.
“He brought many strange and wonderful things home from Aarone’s Bar & Grill, where he worked as a bartender. People gave him things, or they just left them at the bar when they stumbled home. There was no Lost & Found at Aarone’s; everything left behind went to Tork. He brought us a mechanical Charley Weaver doll that blew smoke rings out the ears.
“I lost count of the number of metal plate and neon beer signs he lugged in the door. The names sounded like the prelude to an ethnic joke about Germans: Blatz, Schlitz, Leinenkugel, Stroh’s, Schmidt, and Rheingold. He often said, in a wistful kind of voice, that he’d like to put a few of ’em up in the living room, to make it more friendly — but Mom would have none of it. Each sign was immediately exiled to the garage, where my older brother Billy eventually nabbed them all for his cabin on Green Lake.
“I remember innumerable pen knives, tiny plastic baseball-bat key chains with GO TWINS! stenciled on them, churchkeys (bottle openers), rabbit-foot charms, detective paperbacks with a luscious blonde always on the cover, coasters, poker chips, Zippo lighters, ivory backscratchers . . .
“And the grisly smoked smalahove, which looked like something Bela Lugosi would find handy. It was wrapped in brown butcher’s paper and deposited on the kitchen table, where it stared evilly at me. It did not smell very good, and not even my dad really wanted to try it. He said an old farmer had come into the bar that day and drank so much Schlitz that he grew weepy and generous and gave dad the sheep’s head instead of taking it back to the farm as part of a yuletide feast. It hardly needs telling that Mom whisked that abomination out into the garbage with screeching dispatch. But it had already lodged in my brain and gave me disturbing dreams where Santa came down the chimney with a grinning sheep head instead of his jolly old face and whiskers.
“That experience should have put me off eating sheep in any form for the rest of my life — but years later when I hooked up with Ringling Brothers as a clown and the show was in Chicago, out by the stockyards, there was a chophouse that featured a large mutton roast steaming on a brilliant copper platter in their picture window each day. I passed by it each day on my way to the arena, and eventually the aroma got to me. I had to try some mutton.
“I told Steve Smith, Chico Severinni, Tim Holst, and Kevin Bickford, all First of Mays like myself, what I planned to do — and they decided to come along as well for a slice of mutton. None of them had ever had it before.
“The waiters gave each of us a smoking plate of mutton, with boiled red potatoes in their skins on the side. The mutton was fatty and gristly, but I enjoyed it. My companions gagged on it. Chico took one bite and spit it out as if he’d been poisoned.
“‘This is the worst sh*t I’ve ever had!’ he exclaimed, pushing his plate as far away from him as possible. The consensus of the others was about the same.
“And get this: These fair-weather friends blamed ME for inveigling them into wasting their money on such a lousy meal!
“‘You tricked us, Tork!’ was the universal cry among them, the nitpicking pissants. It was Chico who suggested that they get up and leave all at once, sticking me with the bill. I objected vociferously, and the noise attracted the owner of the place — a tall, imposing gentleman with a paunch the size of a medicine ball. When he heard about their disillusionment with the mutton, he calmly said they could each have a grilled pork chop instead, at no extra cost. That settled things down. When he looked quizzically at me, I shook my head; I liked my mutton just fine, I told him. He beamed at me, patted me on the shoulder, and proclaimed that my meal was on the house.
“I guess I showed those guys something, huh?
“But getting back to my current craving for mutton: There isn’t a blessed place in Provo that serves mutton. But just as I was thinking of getting some lamb chops from Fresh Market down the street, I got a Facebook message from my daughter-in-law, inviting me over for Sunday dinner. Since she’s from Brazil, I imagine we’ll have churrasco with arroz de coco. The lamb chops can wait until Monday, if I’m still in the mood.”
Band Name of the Day: The Giant Granite Frogs
Website of the Day: Hollywood Squares (April 26, 1968)