Our gargoyles, ourselves
Gregory J. of Dayton’s Bluff: “I’ve always thought of myself as a fairly observant person. I might have to rethink that observation. I’ve belonged to St. Mary’s Catholic Church in downtown St. Paul’s Lowertown for five years, but have been attending Mass there periodically for the past 60 years. So why did I discover only a few weeks ago that there are two gargoyles on the church building?
“Gargoyles historically have served two purposes on churches. First, they direct water away from the side of the building; second, they ward off evil. The St. Mary’s gargoyles contain outlets from drains on the flat roof that supports the steeple. I’ll have to check if they still work the next time I’m there when it’s raining. As for warding off evil, St. Mary’s has survived the destruction of its surrounding neighborhood, downtown urban renewal, and the construction of I-94 literally right next to it. That’s a lot of evil that was kept at bay.
“There are two gargoyles near the back of St. Mary’s Church on the steeple tower. One faces its parking lot and downtown St. Paul; the other faces the evil freeway.
“The gargoyles are approximately 2 feet by 2 feet and protrude about two feet out from the building. They appear to be made of concrete and have been on the church since its construction in 1921/1922. They are incredibly detailed.
“Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any information in church records as to the company and/or craftsmen who created them.”
This old house
DebK of Rosemount: “To the casual observer, the farmhouse in which Taxman and I reside is completely unremarkable. Set back a decorous 50 yards or so from a rutted township road, it’s nondescript in shape, size, and color. In some years — years offering more-salubrious growing conditions than this one — the flower gardens might briefly attract the attention of passersby, as might the motley assortment of bird feeders hanging from the patriarchal oak that hugs the front porch. Otherwise, we’re a study in ordinariness.
“Except, it seems, in the eyes of the children who descend on us in a happy torrent every summer. From the first, visiting youngsters have discovered in this old house spaces that are invisible to the adult human eye.
“There’s the Top-Secret Room, a niche in the depths of the (only) upstairs closet where stout-of-heart hide-and-seekers can glimpse hand-hewn, spider web-shrouded roof trusses and learn the history of wallpaper.
“Unlike most pretend farmers hereabouts, we have a farmhouse Chapel, so named by young visitors for the array of prayer books, rosary beads, and reading glasses that keep company there with faded portraits of the Good Shepherd, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel, St. Isidore, and long-dead (generally uncanonized) family members. The collection usually includes a small gray stone brought by Cousin Steven from the Sea of Galilee. From time to time, that treasure disappears, to be returned to its accustomed place only when the next deep cleaning unearths it from wherever house cats Winston and Clemmie finished playing with it.
“We once had open-and-close window seats under the upstairs dormer windows. Although much in demand as hiding places, these spaces disappeared during a costly effort to encourage the farmhouse roof to stay the course for another half-century. The loss was a painful one, but it has been salved in recent days by the discovery of something almost as good.
“This happy development took place on Sunday, when Taxman and I were hosts to two St. Paul families whose children are being raised without electronic screens. Not surprisingly, the youngsters have flourished in their deprivation — are on their way to becoming accomplished athletes, entrepreneurs, writers, artists, and musicians. Best of all, they are voracious readers. Among those literary little ones was a pair of sisters who spent the rainy part of the day in the farmhouse living room, where they were bringing to life scenes from ‘Farmer Boy,’ the Laura Ingalls Wilder classic. As I was setting the table for dinner, the girls made a spirited case for following the lead of Mother Wilder. So it is that the living room will henceforth be known as ‘the parlor.'”
Words to live by
KMarie writes: “In this month of graduation parties, my siblings and I were recalling commencement speeches. Most of my siblings could not remember any of theirs, but one of my brothers and I each remembered one of ours.
“I’ll start with my brother, PhDJim. PhDJIm’s memorable commencement speech wasn’t high school, college or even for his graduate degrees, but was for the county’s eighth-grade graduates from the one-room schoolhouses. In the early ’50s, DDT was just being introduced into use, and the speaker chose to present a memorable commencement speech on the use of such toxic chemicals. This speaker’s topic was: ‘Flies, do we keep them or kill them?’
“Next is my memorable commencement speech: 1975 Medical Technology graduation ceremonies in the university medical college. Previous MT classes had chosen the more well-known instructors, including a prof who helped invent Bayer aspirin and a pathologist who was present at JFK’s autopsy in Dallas. Our class did not choose either of them or any of their esteemed colleagues. We chose the guy who washed the glassware in the lab — to everyone’s amazement, including his. Labs in those days used lots of elaborate liquid chromatography and other equipment that had to be washed and sterilized by hand, so his was an important job. Also, it was a tough academic year for us, and he offered us much-needed morale support, always a cheerful optimistic face. He proudly showed up at the graduation ceremony in an outdated suit two sizes small, but gave the most emotional, profound commencement speech I had ever heard. He knew his cleaning job was important and likewise talked about the importance of ours in our hospital lab work — describing scenarios, such as: A sick baby comes in, and our tests identify the cause, and the baby’s life is saved. Or: a terrible mishap, and our tests to match for transfusions save another life. He went on and on, walking back and forth in front of us, each time with more emotion, making us all out to be super-men and -women to save the day . . . and ended with: ‘We’re all in this together, all part of the team!’
“I’ve taken those words to heart throughout not only my various careers, but also in my life. I don’t remember that man’s name, but thank you, Sir, for your profound words.
“Congrats to all the graduates this year!”
Now & Then
The Ice Man of Merriam Park: “Subject: Personal memories of St. Mark’s School.
“This past Tuesday, I attended the final school day of St. Mark’s School. When the final end-of-the-day bell rang, it brought back many memories. For my classmates, it meant rushing home — perhaps to do their homework. For me, it also meant the end of my school learning for the day — but it had more meaning, as it was the beginning of my extracurricular activities. Well, that’s what I called it; Sister Resignata had a different word for it; Sister called it ‘Detention.’ But I got the last laugh, as according to my calculations, I still owe St Mark’s School 80 hours of deten- . . . er, extracurricular activities.”
Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in Northern Minnesota: “Subject: Threw up?
“This lede appeared in the Brainerd Dispatch today.
“The ‘barf-o-rama’ scene from the movie ‘Stand By Me’ comes to mind.
“I am reminded of my Johanna Junior High School ‘block’ teacher (English and Social Studies in a two-hour block). He looked a little like Gomez from ‘The Addams Family.’ When a student would refer to ‘passing out’ worksheets or tests or whatever, he’d say’ Pass out?’ and would tip his head to the side and pretend he was passing out at his desk.”
BULLETIN BOARD OBSERVES: Does anyone else have any suspicions about the byline “Frank Lee” ?
Vanity, thy name is . . .
CeeCee of Mahtomedi: “Here’s a license plate we just saw.
“I feel younger already!”
This ‘n’ that
From Al B of Hartland: (1) “The Midwest can be hard on spring sports. Rain, snow and cold lead to postponements.
“It’d be a cool night, so I dressed appropriately. A granddaughter played for the New Ulm Eagles, who faced defending state softball champion Faribault and a pitcher with a regular-season ERA of 0.30. I donned socks, T-shirt, hat and hoodie proclaiming my support of the Eagles. My wife wore three items of clothing displaying the team name and colors. Between us, we wore seven pieces of New Ulm clothing.
“New Ulm won 7-0. Seven Eagle items and seven runs. That coincidence made for smiles enough to melt a two-story igloo.”
(2) “I try to be more thankful today than I was yesterday.
“A young woman named Kaitlyn was in a writing class I taught. She told me that she had a goldfish named Sushi. I’m guessing it was a nervous fish. Fairgoers win fish in plastic bags by finding success in a carnival game. Not all of the fish make it home, and those that do are mostly short-lived. I reminded myself that I wasn’t a carnival’s prize fish. I’m thankful for that. I need to do that occasionally to keep my spirits properly buoyed.
“On my way home to my domicile after spending a grand day with remarkable students, I heard on the radio that 151,600 people die each day — 7,452 in the U.S. Uffda! There were no numbers given for goldfish.
“Life is good.”
Our birds, ourselves
Or: See world
Grandma Paula reports: “I removed the screen from my kitchen window last fall so that I could take better photos of the birds that come to my bird feeder. You might say that it was my assignment/mission to myself to capture the different species as they scattered lots of bird seed to the ground. I’m keeping Fleet Farm in business just by the amount of bird seed that I buy there. I’ve got hundreds of really bad photos, but I keep trying. Here are a few photos, after months of practice, that seemed to be the better ones. A pileated woodpecker, a cardinal, a Baltimore oriole, a hummingbird and a rose-breasted grosbeak.”
Life as we know it
Bloomington Bird Lady writes: “Our local elementary school has a special place in the hearts of our church. We used to meet in their gym back in 1957, as the new church needed a place to worship before building on a large lot a few blocks away.
“Many of us became volunteers as the friendship between the school and our church blossomed. For about 10 years, I was a Reading Buddy for kids who struggled with reading and were behind the rest of their class. Many times the child had ADHD, and just sitting still and concentrating for a half-hour was hard for them. What to do? I ended up writing a story, one page for each session, using the child’s name as the main character. Spurred on by seeing their own name in a story, the child would be excited to read at least for a while.
“I wonder what happened to those kids. We had a special bond, but life moves on.
“Another program for learning was started by a third-grade teacher who thought that
each child should learn to write personal letters. Through having an adult pen pal, the
child’s writing skills would improve, and it would be fun to exchange letters throughout
the school year. We got a notice from the school that adult Pen Pals were needed, and
many of us signed up. This program has thrived, and all of the fourth-grade classes now
become Pen Pals with our church members.
“The annual Pen Pal Tea Party, where the unknown pals meet each other for the first time, was held in the school’s lunchroom a couple of weeks ago. All the adults waited in the lunchroom with the door shut, and pretty soon we heard the crowd of kids outside the door, excited to finally see what we would look like! They poured in — and as, with help, each child found his or her pal, the noise level grew to amazing levels.
“What a good idea this has been! Learning doesn’t have to be just from textbooks. We hope this project never goes away.”
The kindness of strangers
Kathy S. of St. Paul reports: “Subject: Silence of (little) lambs.
“Since I never had kids, I fuss over relatives, and sometimes kids in stores, etc.
“Last year I was in IKEA in the afternoon. It was obviously nap time for toddlers. Virtually every little kid in a shopping cart was sobbing. I wished I could help. Sometimes a stranger can distract a kid enough so they stop crying.
“In one cart was a boy of about 1 or 2, screaming. I asked what was wrong. The dad said the boy wanted to hold his own ice cream to eat it. No amount of logic was working with him; I figured he was the couple’s firstborn.
“I pointed out that the boy was washable. The dad’s eyes lit up, though the mom seemed to think I was challenging her expertise. I wished them well and left.
“Not long afterward, I saw the same family. The boy was asleep in the cart with a little ice cream on his chin. And silence reigned.
“Sometimes busybodies can be a positive force in this world.”
Or: Keeping your ears open
Semi-Legend: “Subject: An embarrassment of ecstasy.
“Overheard at the Geek Love Café: ‘If I die from eating poison mushrooms, I’ll never live it down.'”
The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division
Our Official Electronic Board of the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: It can’t be done any better!
“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:
“‘WHEN GOD DOES THE DOING
“‘THE DOING IS DONE!'”
Band Name of the Day: The Busybodies