The Permanent Family Record
The Gram With a Thousand Rules: “Subject: The Mystery of Life.
“As I hear about the plight of the parents who are struggling right now with home schooling, I realize how lucky we kids were: We had all the atlases, maps and research books at our disposal right at home. Our mother had been a teacher before she married Dad, and she had us conjugating verbs and practicing our multiplication tables EVEN DURING SUMMER VACATION! She was determined that her kids weren’t going to return to the classroom each fall with a vacant brain like some of the ‘dumb bunnies’ she remembered teaching back in Iowa. It seemed as though she could answer any question we asked her, except one: The Facts of Life.
“When I asked Mom where babies came from, she simply said: ‘Well, they grow from a seed. It takes about a year before they are born.’ So, when I was told the unhappy news that my sister Raye had lost her second baby, I searched around for some seeds to take to her, hoping one of them might be the ‘lost’ baby.
“After my sister Ruth gave birth to her first child, I heard bits of conversation about which parent he took after, and I asked: ‘What does the father have to do with it?’ I was told that my nephew had inherited blood from each parent. OK. Now that little bit of news just gave me more questions. How did the dad’s blood get into the act? I figured that it must be something that occurs during the marriage ceremony. A blood transfusion, perhaps?
“Since both Raye and Ruth had eloped, I was really excited when my sister Edith got engaged, because I was going to attend the ceremony and find out the answer to The Mystery. I was 10 years old and quite small for my age, and I was hoping Edith would ask me to be her flower girl, but since this was a wartime ceremony, it was going to be small, with only Nora as her bridesmaid.
“There was no room in our cramped living room, so Ruth was informed that the ceremony would be held in her living room — with all of the family attending: aunts and uncles, cousins and Crabby Grandma. All of the guests climbed the three flights of stairs to Ruth’s apartment and sat in the extra chairs she had lining her large living room. Mother had made me a lovely white dress with a blue satin sash, and my Uncle Bob gave me a sweet little bouquet of flowers to carry. As I held that pretty little bouquet, I pretended to myself that I was her flower girl, but then when Ruth’s husband surprised me with a rather large corsage to wear on my shoulder, I thought I looked a wee bit silly.
“Ruth had put a scatter rug against the front wall for the bride and groom to stand on, so that everyone could see their faces during the vows. I staked out my chair for the best view. The last to arrive was our minister and his wife. Since our minister was blind, his wife directed him to where he should stand, mistakenly thinking the rug was his spot. Shoot. All our plans were foiled. Now we would see only their backs and the minister’s face. On top of that, Mrs. Minister came over and thanked me nicely for saving a place for her and took my chair! How was I going to get the view I needed to see the blood transfusion take place?
“Ruth’s husband had been entertaining the groom and his best man in the kitchen, and by the time the ceremony was about to begin, the best man was stoned. The white-faced groom, accompanied by his staggering groomsman, entered from the kitchen and were pushed into their designated spots. Edith and Nora entered from the bedroom, both of them looking radiant in the gorgeous suits Mother had sewn for them . . . and Raye’s 2-year-old son suddenly went ballistic. Why? We didn’t know, although looking across the room at Crabby Grandma might have induced his screaming hysteria.
“Raye tried to quiet him down as he screamed ‘GET MARRIED UN-HUH’ over and over. She took him into the bathroom and turned on the bath water full force, trying to drown out his screams. Didn’t work. It just sounded like someone bellowing during a hurricane. Since the bathroom plumbing was adjacent to the living-room wall, it wasn’t a very clever solution in the first place. In one last desperate measure, she darted out of the bathroom through the living room into the kitchen and took him kicking and screaming out the back door, where he could terrorize the entire neighborhood from the three-story balcony.
“Mercifully the ceremony was quickly over. No one could see too well, and for darned sure no one could hear any of it. After all the guests had made their way down the three flights of stairs, Raye’s perennially late husband arrived with a corsage for her and another (large one) for me.
“I had attended my first wedding. I was not the flower girl, as I had hoped to be. With the bouquet of flowers in my hands and a grown-up-sized corsage on each shoulder, I looked more like the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby — and I still didn’t have an answer to the mystery.”
Then & Now
Our Community of Strangers Division
Ramblin’ Rose wrote, last week: “Bulletin Board has effectively reminded me that it is like a democracy in some ways. No, we don’t get a vote on the submissions selected. But if we don’t participate, it may become something we no longer recognize, or may even cease to exist. That would be a blow to the kinder side of life, one I don’t want to endure. Consider me effectively chastised. In the future, I will pour out those odd and sometimes funny thoughts that rattle around in my head, those ruminations that I often tell myself that I should ‘Bulletin Board,’ but somehow don’t get around to. I will do my best, although sometimes you may be sorry you asked. [Bulletin Board interjects: We sincerely doubt that, ma’am.] To start:
“With everything shut down earlier this summer (yes, it’s still summer) and the writers desperate to fill the sports section, the STrib did a nice article on the 30th anniversary of the game in which the Twins turned not one triple play, but two. This had never been done in the history of major league baseball, and hasn’t been done since. This record may never be broken.
“Gaetti to Newman to Hrbek. Crisply. Twice. Once in the fourth and again in the eighth inning. Kent Hrbek was quoted as saying that in the moment, they didn’t realize how special this was. After the second one, he casually tossed the ball to the pitcher’s mound as he ran back to the dugout. Now it’s one souvenir he wishes he had. He wants the ball, and I want my ticket stubs. Yes, we were there.
“How did two born-and-raised Minnesotans end up in Fenway Park on that historic day? We were living in Connecticut and feeling very cut off from most things Midwestern. Remember, it was 1990, before cellphones, the Internet, and SportsCenter were ubiquitous. The Hartford Courant had the Yankees, Red Sox, and Mets to cover; the rest of the teams were lucky to get their box scores published. So when we saw an advertisement for a hotel in Boston offering tickets to the Twins and Red Sox game, we jumped at the chance. Boston was an easy three-hour drive; we made a reservation and packed our bags.
“The heat and humidity were wilting, but Fenway Park is a gem. We were fortunate that our tickets were out in right field, in the shade of the second deck. [Bulletin Board notes: They must have been nearly in foul territory; there’s no second deck in most of right field.] They were probably considered second-class tickets, but we were lucky; a woman in the blistering sun on the third-base side succumbed to the heat before the sun went down.
“The game was brisk, helped by the two rally-killing triple plays. Honestly, the first one was so quick and unexpected that it didn’t register with me until my husband started shouting; the fans around us groaned. The second one was astounding; even some of the Boston fans recognized the achievement and applauded, though not many. That was all we had to cheer, as the Twins lost 1-0.
“We either weren’t smart enough to save our ticket stubs, or they’ve been lost in the intervening years. They might be worth something today — certainly more than my life-size cardboard Brian Dozier. He was a premium sent to all season-ticket holders, likely in his Gold Glove season. I thought we were the only ones who still had one, and was shocked to see him standing next to a business owner in a picture in the STrib. He’s kind of hard to display and decorate around, so he’s been relegated to our guest room. We’ve offered him to people for free, but there were no takers. I don’t have the heart to throw him out.
“Current Twins pitcher Randy Dobnak has a unique look. He wears special sports glasses and has a Fu Manchu moustache. He recently raised money for charity by selling T-shirts with an Impressionist image of just his glasses and moustache. When an interviewer asked if he planned to keep the unusual ’stache, he said that good things started happening in his career right after he grew it, so his fiancée insisted that he keep it for their wedding. The interviewer was surprised, and asked how he responded to her. ‘Yes, dear,’ was the reply. My husband dryly commented that Dobnak ‘knows right answer when told.’
“Keep it up, Randy. I predict a long and happy marriage.”
Our birds, ourselves
Doris G. of Randolph, Minnesota: “Cedar waxwings love to eat the berries from the cedar trees.”
Our theater of seasons
Gregory of the North: “I was sitting out on my deck when I noticed a couple of examples of nature-being-fascinating.
“The first is of a tree, already turning red, that is towering above the others nearby, as if to show off its fall ‘plumage.’
“This second one is of the pond’s resident geese.
They seem to practicing for their inevitable migration by suddenly taking flight, making several circuits around the neighborhood, and then settling back into the water, upon which many of them appear to sleep, perhaps being tired by their migration drills.”
Mounds View Swede has been out and about, camera in hand: “Subject: 5 beginnings of fall color photos.
“I was surprised to see some tree leaves already turning. On my one remaining red oak tree, the changes seem pretty well distributed.
“And some neighborhood trees are going full out already. The reds were really striking!
“This one had a nice range of colors.
“And this one, a broad swath along one side and on up.
“This one spared no time at all with getting to the leaf change.
“Of course I wonder why the approach varies so much from tree to tree, species to species. It is fun for me to note the differences and wonder.”
“Subject: 5 late season blossoms.
“On my weekly trip to the compost site with food scraps, I pay attention to the flowers planted there. The bees really love this one as they get ready for fall.
“And a couple of hollyhocks were still getting some blossoms open.
“The salvias were doing well.
“And over in the weedy corner, I spotted this blossom.
“The regular site manager was on vacation and would know what this is, but I don’t.”
“Subject: 6 more fall flowers and red vine photos.
“On my weekly visit to the compost site with food scraps, I saw some blossoms still giving it a go. I always feel happier when I seem some flowers still blooming.
“I took a different route home than usual and found these striking leaves. I know wild cucumber is an invasive plant, but have never seen it looking so good.”
A teacher’s life
The Astronomer of Nininger: “At a recent breakfast event, I had the good fortune to be seated next to a woman, Patty R, who had been my astronomy student some 30 years earlier. Indeed, it was good to recall those days. She worked hard in class, and while I cannot recall her grade in it, I am confident she did well. She still finds comfort in viewing the night sky and knowing more about our place in this vast universe and how it works. She said that I am one of the few professors she can even remember by name.
“I thought back, too, that over the years, how many students did I recall by name? Surely every student must remember some teacher and admittedly has in their mind so many facts, details and modes of understanding. Yet can they attribute that learning to but a few people when in fact, nearly all of their teachers contributed something to the whole person they are today?
“I thought back and realized that I had a lot of students in nearly 40 years of teaching, but can name only a limited number of them. There was Michelle B, who became a state senator, and Chris G, who also was elected to the state senate and now is a county commissioner. Megan became a Physical Therapist whom I saw perhaps 10 years after our calculus-based physics class, when my back surgery needed healing therapy. There is CJK, who became a dynamite science teacher. Janelle J completed an electrical-engineering degree and worked at 3M. I recall (as her adviser) that she helped develop a touch-screen computer system for use by surgeons during cardiac surgery. Klara Z is still in graduate school. Some just pop up on Facebook or LinkedIn.
“So many students. So many names and faces have faded with the years, but some made an indelible imprint on my being, in part because of their accomplishments. Some subjects do not lend themselves to factual obsolescence, but the sciences are always changing. Science students always seem to be curious about their surroundings, about whatever they are studying. They want to know more, do more, than what is in the book. It has been my privilege and pleasure to have worked with so many fine students over the years. I hoped to teach them how to think better, how to find truth, how to know their world better. In doing so, I hope they know themselves better.”
Everyone’s a critic!
Classic Television Division — leading to: Life as we know it (responsorial)
Semi-Legend: “Subject: Next stop . . .
“I enjoyed Zoo Lou‘s account of the ‘Twilight Zone’ episode ‘On Thursday We Leave for Home,’ also one of my favorites.
“I learned more about the one-hour 1963 episode at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_Thursday_We_Leave_for_Home.
“It was written by Rod Serling, whose final words of the closing narration were: ‘William Benteen, once a god, now a population of one.’
“Then there’s this eerie note in the plot summary: ‘In 1991, 113 people built a settlement on the desert planet V9-Gamma, hoping to escape the frequent wars on Earth. . . . [I]n 2021 . . . a rescue mission from Earth arrives.’
“How timely for a lesson in political governance.
“A few years ago, Matthew Rozsa wrote that ‘Rod Serling’s teleplay is so nuanced a meditation on political power that “On Thursday We Leave for Home’ is timeless enough to apply to today’s news cycle . . . .
“‘”On Thursday We Leave” . . . defines good leadership by highlighting its pitfalls and showing how power can be addictive to those accustomed to wielding it.’
“The show, he writes, ‘says as much about the self-destructive vanity inherent in many leaders as almost anything could.’
“He concludes: ‘Power is a complex, precious and possible corruptive tool, one that must be given to the wise and utilized with wisdom.
“‘No free society can long endure unless it remembers that.'”
CAUTION! Words at Play!
Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: A punny headline.
“I got a chuckle out of this headline on Page D4 in Friday’s STrib: ‘U.S. stores are flush with foreign toilet-paper brands.’”
Everyone’s a copy editor!
Email from Donald: “Subject: Win one (once); lose one (twice).
“Acknowledging the shortage of proofreaders at the Pioneer Press, I still felt this mistake was rather unusual:
“At the end of an article about the Twins’ defeat of the Cubs, on the front page of the Sports section in Sunday’s paper, this was the reference to the continuation of the piece: ‘TWINS LOSE, 5C’
“This appeared before the completion of the article on said page: ‘CONTINUED FROM 1B’
Dennis from Eagan: “Subject: Ramped-up TV memory?
“Maybe the sign maker for Eagan’s parking ramp at I-35E and Yankee Doodle Road was an avid fan of early 1960s local TV. Axel was certainly larger than life to some MSP kids, but he never once weighed 2 tons. I’m sure his nurse (Carmen) would’ve monitored his diet if he ever got too big.”
Band Name of the Day: The Dumb Bunnies
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