The Permanent Sisterly Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: A Tale of Two Sisters.
“My sister Ruth kept a daily diary from her teenaged years until she suffered a stroke in her late 80s. When she experienced a damaging flood in 1981, Ruth dried out the waterlogged books and salvaged as much as she could. Some of the passages were unreadable, but the bulk of them survived. She told her daughter that they ‘weren’t a secret’ and she hoped she would read them someday.
“My niece is in her 70s now and has been sharing some of the memories with me. I asked her the other day if she would look up Ruth’s entry for July 20, 1951. That was the day when a tornado raced through Minneapolis, and Ruth and I shared an adventure. I emailed my memories of that eventful day to my niece and said I thought it would be interesting to compare my version with Ruth’s diary. I experienced a lot of ‘I Love Lucy’-type episodes with my sister Ruth, but that was a most spectacular one.
“One of Ruth’s show-business friends was getting married, and since my brother-in-law was working, Ruth roped me into going with her.
“[Ruth’s diary entry: ‘Usual cleaning day, then spent the rest of my time fixing clothes for Virginia’s wedding. Nora stayed with the kids while M and I, all dolled up, left for “ye celebrazion!” Ha.’]
“I had a date that night, but Ruth said that was OK; we didn’t have to stay for the reception. We could take the streetcar over there, and she had arranged for our middle sister, Edith, to pick us up afterwards. As I remember it, we had to make a couple of transfers — and when we arrived at the address, there was no church in sight. She looked at the invitation again, and it seemed she had made a teensy-weensy little mistake: She had reversed the avenues and the streets.
“[Ruth’s diary entry: ‘Got off the streetcar at 27th. Had a sundae and stepped outside and RAIN! Buckets! I bought a plastic hood to save my hat. M had a cloth bandana which did no good at all. We ran 20 blocks in 25 minutes going to 28th and 31st Avenue instead of 31st Street and 28th Avenue. Picked up a collie dog on the way who helped not at all as we kept falling over him and stumbling in deep puddles.’]
“We were early (of course we were; Ruth was always early), so we hiked cross-country in the pouring rain and thunder and lightning. It grew very dark, and a big dog darted in front of me — and as I fell over him, I realized there was a barricade across the sidewalk. Yep, we and the dog were walking in freshly laid cement.
“[Ruth’s diary entry: ‘Got to the church in time and M’s dress had shrunk so as we walked in her slip showed several inches. Our shoes also squeaked and we looked like two drowned rats. Everyone else there seemed to be bone dry.’]
“Yes, by the time we arrived at the church we were drenched. Ruth sweetly flagged down an unsuspecting usher and unburdened herself of her wedding gift: a pair of sheets wrapped in tissue paper, which were now dripping with about a gallon of water. Fortunately, the rain had washed the cement off of our high heels as we squished our way down the aisle to view a most spectacular ceremony lit by candlelight and lightning accompanied by thunder and tornadic winds.
“As we walked out of the church, I discovered my gorgeous royal-blue crepe puckered dress was continuing to shrink on me as it dried. I now had a good 6 inches of wet, white petticoat flapping against my calves, while I was encased like a mummy from the waist up. Edith was waiting for us, good trouper that she was, thrilling at the adventure of driving through crashing branches and flying timber to rescue us.
“[Ruth’s diary entry: ‘Edith picked us up at 9:30 pm. Wild ride amidst hurricane-style winds and falling glass to get home.’]
“My sister Nora was babysitting my niece and nephew, and it was a scene of raucous bedlam when we arrived. The storm had short-circuited the doorbell, and Nora was keeping my date busy trying to silence the clamoring doorbell and changing fuses, hoping to get the power back on. He had no clue how to do either. The sound of Nora’s hysterical laughter at the sight of me drowned out the doorbell . . . which Edith managed to disconnect in seconds. Ruth and I went in search of some dry clothes — and my date? Actually, there was no date that night or any date with him after that. He had the look of an animal caught in a steel trap and made his escape from us four laughing sisters as soon as he could.”
The Permanent Family Record
The Pro from Dover writes: “Several years ago, BB had an ongoing topic of traveling photographers with ponies (and goats). At that time, I looked high and low for this picture, because I was sure that my mother had a copy. I never did find it.
“The last little girl in this photo recently died at age 86. She was my Aunt Arvilla, and I found the photo among her things. She is the first one on the left, next to Skipper the dog. Then came Aunt Phyllis; my mom, Norma; and Aunt Ruby. The photo was taken circa 1940, in front of the family farmhouse in South Dakota.
“These were all lovely ladies as I knew them, and I miss them all.”
Then & Now
Deuce of Eagan writes: “It may be the ideal political climate currently to return to the wearing of my collectible wristwatch.
“This timepiece was introduced in 1973 primarily as the result of political corruption.
“There is a strong possibility there is a designer staring at a computer monitor right now, tweaking some watch designs bearing the likeness of a couple of well-known individuals. As our president has such appeal with the editorial cartoonists, there may be a handsome watch with his likeness, available in the not-too-distant future. And for the ladies, an image for a fashion watch could be that of our Speaker of the House of Representatives, who seems to be another cartoonists’ favorite. The hour-hand style as shown might be appropriate for either watch design.”
Could be verse!
Tim Torkildson: “Money don’t buy happiness,
“or so I have been told.
“But still I wouldn’t mind a bit
“if I had lots of gold.
“Subjected to the trials of wealth,
“I think I could contrive
“to smile a bit at my Monets
“while chewing on endive.”
CAUTION! Words at Play!
Or: The great comebacks
Mogie of Stillwater: “When I was a freshman at St. John’s University, I frequently used puns with the guys in my dorm and especially my roommate.
“One morning, I was brushing my teeth and my roommate said: ‘Mogie, I’m glad you are finally cleaning all of those puns out of your mouth.’
“I replied, without even thinking twice: ‘No, I’m just brushing up on them!’
“He groaned and went back to bed!
“I still occasionally enjoy a good pun. :-))”
The Astronomer of Nininger writes: “Subject: Target Withdrawal Syndrome.
“The small city near where the Good Wife and I live used to have a Target store. It opened in the spring of 2000, to the delight of so many people in town. For more than seven years, people could shop there for everything that Target offered for sale. The Good Wife and I went there together several times a week, even on our way home from church. Sometimes we got there before the doors even unlocked. No telling how many times the Good Wife went there alone. I was kidding when I said that maybe the Good Wife would suffer Target Withdrawal Syndrome when it closed, but honestly, that could be the case.
“Now, if we define withdrawal as the discontinuation of something addictive and then suffering the consequences as exhibited by some well-documented symptoms, we can check the veracity of the Target Withdrawal Syndrome. First, this requires that one is addicted to shopping there. I suggest that shopping at any big-box store like Target or Walmart or any other place more than once or twice a week is a sign of addiction rather than simply meeting domestic household requirements. Even men do not go to Cabela’s that frequently. Admittedly Target stores are clean, refreshing, and well-stocked, and the staff [Bulletin Board notes: “Associates”] are generally very nice to their customers [Bulletin Board notes: “Guests”]. These are good reasons to shop there. But do folks merely shop for what they need, or do they need to shop there?
“I would say that going to the GPS to find the distance to the next-closest Target store is one symptom that one might recognize as compelling. Making sure that a stop at Target is on one’s list of places to shop is another sign. Readers can probably list other symptoms, such as reading the Target newspaper advertisement first or thinking about Target while taking a soothing bath.
“All in all, Target made a legitimate business decision when it closed our Target store. Could it be calling it ‘our’ Target store is another symptom of addiction? And because they offered good-value products, it was indeed worth going to other Target stores to continue shopping. The fact is, Target did not lose us as customers. We merely had to adjust our shopping habits. Are we still addicted?”
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: Silly is good.
“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:
“‘The weather outside is chilly
“‘inside we are often silly’”
Everyone’s a copy editor
Donald: “Subject: Not living up/down to his name.
“This one almost slipped by:
“From the ’NFL report’ on Page 3B of the Sports section in the December 31 edition of the Pioneer Press:
“‘Guard Richie Incognito will be staying with the Raiders after their move to Las Vegas. He signed a two-year, $14 million contract extension.’
“Why is it that someone named ‘Incognito’ appears in NFL news more often than many players, and certainly more often than most offensive linemen?
“This is the first paragraph of a Google search (September 25, 2019):
“‘His career has been marked by an accusation of bullying, an admitted pattern of drinking and drugging, brushes with law enforcement and an accusation of threatening to shoot up a funeral home while attempting to take the head of his deceased father, but Richie Incognito and the NFL aren’t done with each other.’
“Could the fact that he’s played in four Pro Bowls have anything to do with his longevity in the NFL?”
’Twas the season!
Mounds View Swede: “During our holiday travels, we encountered a city street and park that was well-lit with holiday lights.
“For some reason, the trees with the blue lights caught my attention the most. I enjoyed just looking at them.
“Several of the trees in the park had their trunks well-wrapped with lights and hanging light globes here and there. I liked the snowflake light the best.
“And lighted deer were here and there.
“I couldn’t help but wonder how long it took to arrange all this with light strands appearing high in the trees.
“I was impressed and happy they went to such lengths to provide such a wonderland.
“It was well worth the visit to look, explore and wonder.
“For this dark time of year, it helps make it seem more worthwhile to go through this.”
Our theater of seasons
From Maryhelen Tapio: “Ice Castle photo from 1937. I found it in my great-aunt’s stuff.
“I also have a B&W version.”
Our birds, our squirrels, ourselves
Booklady reports: “The Lighthouse Nut and I returned from a 30-day adventure to discover a series of mysteries in our woods.
“We hadn’t begun to feed the birds before we left, because the bears were still around, but when we arrived home December 21, we started our usual feeder regimen. The faithful chickadees and nuthatches came almost immediately, but there were no pileated woodpeckers. Instead, for the first time in 21 years, we have red-headed woodpeckers. The downy woodpeckers also appear, but we have seen no hairy woodpeckers, either. Does Al B have any theories on this?
“Secondly, we were surprised by what seems to be a super squirrel. For the past 12 to 15 years, we have been somewhat smug about having created a squirrel-proof feeder system. Friends a few miles away had a track record of 20 years, so imagine our surprise when, on the same weekend, we both experienced raids by acrobatic squirrels. As far as we can determine, each couple has only one super squirrel. Their invader somehow manages to do a flip over the baffle to access seeds, where ours apparently has crafted wolverine claws to get it up the PVC pole and over the baffle. I greased the pole the other day, and that seems to have sent it back to the engineering department for the next development.
“Lastly, this morning we had at least half a dozen squirrels, black, gray and red, chasing each other around the yard and charging each other beneath the feeders. This is normal. At some point I looked out to see a black and a red squirrel partway up the nearest tree, about two feet apart and absolutely still — not even a tail twitch! About 10 yards away, on another tree, another black squirrel was just as frozen in position. They stayed paralyzed for at least five minutes and then resumed activity as if nothing had happened. We presume there was a predator in the vicinity, possibly the resident fisher. The birds continued their flitting to and fro, so we’re confident it wasn’t a hawk.
“For better or worse, in the woods our daily life is different from that of the city dweller.”
The highfalutin bemusements
Bloomington Bird Lady: “Subject: Crazy Thermostat!
“As creatures of habit, we usually go to bed about 11. Lately, though, with taking down our Christmas tree, putting away the decorations, vacuuming up the fallen needles, making a snow pile for the tree so the birds can hide in it a bit, other things can get forgotten — important things.
“We’d just finished a whole evening of watching ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ — the uncut version. I did my usual turning down of the thermostat to about five degrees cooler for overnight. Suddenly the thermostat ‘turned on me’! The setting numbers began to go back and forth wildly and not stopping. I called Birdman to come and help me, but he didn’t know what to do. We finally got the temperature set on a number and stumbled off to bed. Think it was a peaceful night? Nope!
“The house got colder and colder, and so in the middle of the night, there we were — changing the thermostat’s batteries. Any time it has to have batteries changed, the word ‘Hold’ goes off the screen. At our house, we do not have our thermostat programmed like people who are still working on a regular schedule. With ‘Hold,’ you control the setting by just pushing plus or minus, and it will stay where you want it to. Works for us.
“On Monday morning, I called the plumbing-and-heating business that’s not too far away and has nice guys who know what they are doing. I tried to explain our problem, and the man who answered said they wouldn’t be able to come until maybe Tuesday. What happens when ‘Hold’ is not there? The temperatures go up and down during the day, as if we were either not home, or coming home, or going to bed, etc. I had to keep resetting the temperature . . . all day long. The man at the heating place suggested we might need a new thermostat. Dollar signs! We had not had it that long; just forgot to change the batteries.
“Then a miracle took place. Resetting the temps so often like that had caused the word ‘Hold’ to suddenly appear on the screen. I will never know exactly how, but as fast as I could, I clicked on ‘Hold’ and it moved over to the other side of the screen where it was supposed to be! What a relief.
“I wonder if we learned our lesson: Always check to see if the little battery icon is on the screen trying to tell you something needs changing! These days, everyone has several remotes just for TV, or a gas fireplace, and they all have batteries that one doesn’t think about very often. Now we’d better buy some AA and AAA ones and have them ready to go.”
In the bucket — not!
Kathy S. of St. Paul: “Subject: Item for the un-bucket list.
“Message board at a library asked for the best hills for sledding.
“My answer: None.”
The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “Subject: An extraordinary obit.
“I want everyone to read this obituary of a good reporter and a great man: ‘”Your writing is only as good as your reporting,” Fuson once told me. “You measure a good story by how much good stuff you had to leave out.”'”
The darnedest things
WARNING! Cute kid story ahead, reported during a city visit from Cheesehead By Proxy, “back in Northern Minnesota”: “I came to the Cities last night in order to go to a doctor appointment this morning, and got to stay with my daughter, son-in-law and my little grandson, age 4. When I came up the stairs in the morning, Bodhi was so happy and surprised to see me, because he’d forgotten I’d stayed overnight.
“Oh, the morning hug I received! We should all be so lucky to have someone so glad to see us in the morning!
“I had two children, so there were many mornings back when they were little that I WAS so lucky, but of course I didn’t really think about it then. That’s ‘life as we know it’ . . . and one of the things that make it so wonderful to be a grandparent. I remember my mom saying: ‘Grandparenting is great because you get to do all the fun things again!’
“After my hug, I was going to heat up a cup of yesterday’s old coffee (believe it or not, the parents don’t drink coffee every morning!), and since they don’t have a microwave, I poured the coffee into a pan on the stove top. Yesterday’s coffee is always pretty strong.
“‘Man, this is some dark coffee,’ I observed.
“Bodhi asked: ‘Can I see how dark it is?’
“I lifted him up to see it in the pan, and he offered a solution: ‘Maybe if you turned on the light. . .'”
Band Name of the Day: The Four Laughing Sisters
Website of the Day: Saint Paul Winter Carnival