The kindness of strangers
Full Heart and Hands Full: “Many years ago, our family ventured forth on Black Friday to start our Christmas shopping at a local mall.
“After a productive morning of finding great bargains, my husband, our 3-year-old daughter and I were ready to take a break for lunch.
“Six months pregnant, I wearily sank into a chair at a table in the food court and tried to keep my preschooler entertained while my husband waited in a long, slow line to purchase some fast food.
“After 20 minutes, my husband returned empty-handed with a woebegone look on his face. ‘They don’t take checks!’ he grumbled, perturbed that he had forgotten his wallet with his credit cards at home.
“I heaved my tired body out of my chair and took my place in the now-even-longer line, armed with my own credit card. When I finally reached the counter, I was dismayed to discover that the vendor did not accept Discover cards. Pregnancy hormones kicked in, and, on the verge of tears, I wailed to the cashier that I didn’t have enough cash to cover the cost of lunch, since they would accept neither check nor credit, and I had a hungry and not-so-patient child to feed.
“The woman in line behind me overheard my sad tale and took pity on me, generously offering to pay for our lunch. I gratefully accepted and put in my order.
“As I waited for the food, an idea popped into my head: I still had the checkbook, so I could reimburse her! I would be able to get our food, and she would not be out any money — a win-win situation. She was hesitant when I shared my idea and very reluctantly gave me her name as I wrote out a check to her. I thanked her profusely for helping me out of a difficult situation and returned triumphantly to our table with hot food and a heartwarming story of the kindness of strangers.
“That, however, was not the end of the story. A few days later, I received an envelope in the mail, addressed in unfamiliar handwriting, with no return address and postmarked from a city several hours away in a neighboring state. Inside was my uncashed check and a simple note that said: ‘Lunch was on me.’”
OTD from NSP: “Yesterday I sent checks to my local food and toy shelves. I encourage others to do the same. Every news source highlights that the help needed has increased tremendously this difficult year.
“With stay-at-home, I will not be hosting or going to holiday or family gatherings. I would normally have spent several hundred dollars for entertaining purposes.
“This amount was added to what I usually donate.
“Please consider increasing your donations, or making them for the first time. Any amount would be appreciated. There are many local options that you can check out personally.
“Stay safe and well, and wear your mask for your health and mine.”
Life (and death) as we know it
And: The Permanent Paternal Record
John in Highland writes: “With some chagrin, I note that November 29, my birthday, marks a new record of sorts: The Pioneer Press on that day has listed five and two-thirds pages of obituaries, which, if I am not mistaken, is an all-time high. It could be attributed to the pandemic, but also: The obits often are long, beautiful testimonials to lives well-lived.
“I worked for years with a local pulmonologist who cared for many patients as they were dying of emphysema. His advice to us was always: ‘Live today as if it is your last.’
“My dad, Ed, was a full-blooded Irishman. Before he reviewed the obituaries, he would say: ‘I’ve got to check the Irish Sports Pages!'”
Zoo Lou of St. Paul: “One of the nicest, most talented persons I’ve ever known was Carol Connolly, St. Paul’s first poet laureate, who passed away recently at the age of 85.
“I first met Carol in May of 2011 at the University Club on Summit Avenue, when I was one of the five winners of the St. Paul Sidewalk Poetry Contest, in which poems are pressed into newly laid sections of sidewalks around the city. Carol, who was one of the judges, was so complimentary, telling me how much she liked my poem and encouraging me to keep writing.
“It was at the University Club that Carol held her popular Readings By Writers series for many years. I tried to attend as often as I could, and invariably, Carol would introduce me to people as a sidewalk-poetry contest winner. I remember once, I said: ‘Carol also has a sidewalk poem. That’s quite a nice, permanent legacy we both have, as long as there’s not an earthquake.’ That got a big laugh from Carol.
“Carol was also a staunch supporter of the Saint Paul Almanac, an annual journal of diverse stories and poems about St. Paul. I had several pieces published in the Almanac, and Carol would always say how happy she was for me. She just had that knack for making you feel good about yourself.
“From her smile, warmth, sense of humor, advocacy for the literary arts, and down-to-earth nature, Carol Connolly was a unique and beautiful person, and it was my great honor to have known her.”
Life (and death) as we know it
Eos: “Love hurts.
“When someone you love is gone, it hurts.
“It leaves an empty feeling in your heart.
“You’ll never feel their arms around you again.
“You’ll never hear their laughter, or taste their tears.
“You’ll never giggle with them, or share another meal.
“You won’t hear their voice, or see the light in their eyes.
“But let yourself remember all of those things, and love wins.
“Love wins over sadness and loss.
“Love wins over the emptiness in your heart.
“Love wins over death.
What this country has been needing?
Kathy S. of St. Paul writes: “Subject: A challenge to inventors?
“Yesterday I had my first of two cataract surgeries. I’m in that joyous
period when the distance part of one lens in my glasses is obsolete,
but I need the ‘reading’ part for the computer, etc. It made me think
of the flat plastic sunglass inserts you get from the doctor when they
dilate your eyes. I wonder if someone could create a clear plastic
temporary insert like that which would have a reading glasses-type
prescription on the lower part of one ‘lens’ — to help people with
closeup work until they get their post-surgeries glasses.
“If no such product existed, I could theoretically patent this idea, but
I wouldn’t be able to get it made and into the glasses of folks like
myself. So I’m throwing the idea out there, to the ‘Shark Tank’ crowd
who could maybe make it happen.
“My very mechanical mom always wanted to get a patent on an invention,
and she transferred that ambition to me. I’m hoping this idea can get
‘out there’ to help folks — patent or no patent.”
Live and learn!
Snapdragon Grandma writes: “When we were about 4, my twin brother and I spent time at our great-aunt and great-uncle’s dairy farm in Wisconsin. Aunt Mary showed me her flower garden and showed me that, when pinched, her snapdragons’ mouths would open. From that day, they have been my favorite flower. I had them in my wedding bouquet!
“I showed them to the grandkids and how they opened. For a few years, they would ask: ‘Where are the dragons?’
“Through the years, I’ve found they’re not just annuals; they reseed. I had yellow and pink, and they cross-pollinated into peach — wow. Then the seeds moved to another area, in a rock bed. I didn’t have the heart to pull them up. The next year, they multiplied. We now have a forest of snapdragons — no watering, no fertilizer.
“Our neighbor saw our forest, I explained how it came about. She took seeds to add to her garden.
“So give those glorious flowers another look.”
Friendly Bob of Fridley: “Speedway has a commercial that invites us all to stop in at one of their fine establishments before work for assistance in getting the old Evinrude cranked up for the day. While some prefer a nice hot cup of coffee, others may opt for something cold, perhaps a Red Bull or other energy drink.
“One part of the commercial tells us: ‘We’ve got it hot / We’ve got it cold.’ My little brain automatically wants to make the next line ‘We’ve got it in the pot, nine days old.’
“I do not think I would be interested in nine-day-old coffee. I had my fill of that in the Navy. At least it tasted like it.”
Where’ve you gone, Mrs. Malaprop?
Email from Donald: “Subject: And watch out for the ducks.
“One of the pundits on a cable news channel offered this advice: ‘Get your eggs in a row.’”
Leading to: The great comebacks
Wayne Nelson of Forest Lake: “Well, my wife did it again this year!
“Last week she asked me if I wanted to have ham or turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner. I told her that I would like to have some turkey for dinner. So what did she do again, just like she did last year? I looked out the back window, and what do you think I saw? She again invited some turkey over for dinner — about 40 of them!
“Boy, am I ever glad that I didn’t want ham!”
Our squirrels, ourselves
Kathy of Maplewood, a.k.a. Marcie’s mom: “Our neighborhood squirrels are back residing in our pumpkin bed-and-breakfast. They came back this year despite the pandemic. They don’t seem to be too concerned about wearing masks or being socially distanced.
“The big draw seems to be the peanuts my husband puts in the pumpkin every morning.
“However, the pumpkin is getting a bit mushy now. Perhaps their residence will have to be shut down by the next garbage day.”
Our pests, ourselves
Christy of Menomonie, Wisconsin: “Thanksgiving Day and weekend were quiet at our house, just like many other households during this pandemic. Our only visitors were hubby’s hospice nurse, masked and suitably garbed, and one other masked individual. The nurse was expected and welcomed, but our second visitor ‘crashed’ the party.
“After baking the pumpkin pie, I set it outdoors in a cardboard box to cool on the patio. Hubby was taking an after-dinner nap while I loaded the dishwasher. The pie-in-box had been setting on a small table no longer than five minutes when I heard a crash outside the kitchen window. As I flipped on the patio lights, all I saw was a small furry butt, fast-waddling out the open fence gate. I didn’t catch a look at its face, but I’m sure it was appropriately masked. Raccoons come that way.
“(Pie was fine, BTW.)”
Our theater of seasons
Mounds View Swede writes again: “Subject: Early-winter photos.
“A sunny clear day drew my attention to the back yard. My back-yard neighbor had a tree with oak leaves on it catching the sunlight and providing an attraction for me. Their glow brought a sense of relief that some leaves were still here. I enjoyed their rusty glow.
“The near-50-degree day drew me to the holding ponds in Arden Park to see what was happening with nature there. Both ponds were mostly ice-covered, with just a small area of open water at their north ends.
“A few of the plants still had their fluffy seeds ready to disperse with the winds . . .
“. . . and get spring off to a good start.
“The north end of the north pond had more open water, and also some ducks still here.
“I am not sure how they would survive the winter once the pond is completely frozen, so I hope they get going soon. These ducks are suspicious of people and try to stay far away from them once they spot any. It was a relief in a way to see them still here — a sign that winter hasn’t arrived in full cold and desolation yet.”
Could be verse!
A Thanksgiving-week trio of “timericks” from Tim Torkildson: “Any day that ends with pie, and too much pie at that / is the kind of day that I consider can’t fall flat — / which is to say Thanksgiving as excuse to gourmandize / is the kind of holiday to win a Nobel Prize!
“The world is fraught with leftovers / as turkey gravy prowls / from fridge to fridge post-holiday / congealing all our bowels. / The tupperware is fit to burst / with dressing and green beans / and no one possibly can wear / a pair of decent jeans!
“I think Black Friday was a bust. / Nobody went a-shoppin’ / People stayed at home instead / to shop online non-stoppin’. / Of course I stayed above the fray. / Conspicuous consumption / takes more money than I’ve got / and a lot more gumption.”
This ’n’ that ’n’ the other ’n’ the other
All from Al B of Hartland: (1) “The times had yet to become enlightened with personal screens. There were more vending machines than digital devices. We called the contraptions Coke machines, no matter what brand was inside. They were rectangular coolers. You lifted the lid to pop bottles hanging by their necks and slid a glass bottle down a channel to a point where it could be freed by a payment.
“I sat near one of those in an Iowa gas station years ago. There was a youthful group enjoying salted peanuts in a Coke. An older boy asked if anybody had a church key and a straw. He said that was all we needed to get free pop. Who carried a straw?”
(2) “Someone sent me a list saying we swallow eight spiders a year in our sleep. I don’t know what you’ve been up to, but I don’t eat spiders. Unless you order spiders on your pizza or are a professional spider-swallower, you haven’t been swallowing any spiders. An open mouth snores like a souped-up Hoover vacuum cleaner and frightens spiders away.”
(3) “A neighbor called and said: ‘This fall, something made holes as big around as a pencil in my lawn. There were no mounds of dirt, and the holes went down a couple of inches. What is making them?’ I told him that a northern flicker, with its white rump patch and black bib, creates holes like your description. The woodpecker regularly feeds on the ground, eating ants or grubs.”
(4) “The cafe had a wobbly table. I was a hungry teenager. The waitress brought my breakfast special. The toast had been burned black as a lump of charcoal. I said nothing but stared at the toast. The server said: ‘Burnt food makes you smarter.’
“It’s true. I was smart enough to never eat there again.”
The passing show (responsorial)
Including: CAUTION! Words at Play!
The Divine Mum of Crocus Hill: “Loved the story about the Hormelovelies. I especially enjoyed the MinnPost story by David Hawley, which included this gem: ‘Jay C. Hormel, the canny scion of the Austin, Minn., canned-food family, went hog-wild for show business before his early death from heart disease in 1954.'”
Everyone’s a copy editor!
The Retired Pedagogue of Arden Hills: “Subject: A matter of emphasis.
“The Gophers’ men’s basketball team opened its season against Green Bay on Wednesday. This appeared on the front page of the Minneapolis paper’s Sports section on Thursday:
“‘Gophers 99, Green Bay 69’
“‘Revised Gophers look superb, then sloppy’
“The front page of the same day’s Pioneer Press Sports section featured this:
“‘Big Ten Basketball’
“The following Associated Press article summarized the Big Ten games with nary a mention of Minnesota.
“I know there were no fans in attendance, but . . . “
Perchance, to dream
Carp Lips of Wyoming (Minnesota): “How does a brain work? What makes us think of things unconnected and from long ago? How do they all come together in a dream?
“Thursday night, I dreamt I was at a bar, and a man I used to sing with (40 years ago in a male chorus) sat next to me and didn’t recognize me (probably due to my COVID beard). I tried to give him some clues, and finally told him to ask one of the women behind the bar who I was. So a lady I used to work with (30 years ago), wearing a wig like Nikki Blonsky in ‘Hairspray,’ said: ‘Richard Sterban’ (bass singer for the Oak Ridge Boys).
“WHAT!?! How in the world?
“I had not been listening to any music that would account for those people. Nor had I been thinking about my previous job or place of employment.
“I could blame it on overeating on Turkey Day, but I did not do so.
“Maybe I’ll blame it on COVID (the threat of). It’s been a very stressful year.
Then & Now
The Astronomer of Nininger: “I grew up on the South Side of Chicago. I suppose today one would consider it a rough neighborhood, but as a kid I really didn’t know the difference. We didn’t feel oppressed or different in any way. We just lived life to its fullest. What it was like is a story unto itself. What I care to share is how we recycled, then and now.
“In my adolescent years, I recall that my brother and I, when not in school, spent a lot of time out in the garage or up on the railroad, not more than a block away. That railroad tells another story, too. In the garage, I recall we salvaged reusable items that we could sell to the ‘Rags and Old Iron’ man. That was more than 60 years ago, but I can still hear his voice calling out for people to buy or sell to him items for resale at (hopefully) a handsome profit. He drove a one-horse wagon down the alley behind our homes. It was indeed rickety and seemed to moan as the wheels rolled on the concrete alleyway. Clop, clop, clop went the horses’ shoes striking the solid pavement, in a rhythmic pattern that was almost musical. The driver cried out ‘Rags and Old Iron,’ hoping someone could do business with him. He came through on Thursday. On Tuesday, a different vendor with another horse-drawn wagon sharpened scissors — and I suppose knives, as well. We saw him only during the summer, when school was out.
“It is strange how those sounds of the vendor calling to his customers seem to be lodged permanently in my memories. I suspect different senses have their own memory. I recall on Sunday afternoon that Uva (his last name) sold watermelons all summer along Cicero Avenue. ‘Waaater-mee-lown,’ he would cry out, with that old Italian accent.
“In any case, we had several 5-gallon buckets in the garage — one for scrap aluminum; another for old, already tarnished copper; and finally one with steel parts. I don’t recall ever selling any old rags, but I am sure some people did. We never made much money, just a few cents here and there, but that seemed like a lot to us. There were other youngsters all along the route the wagon drove doing the same thing. We always thought it would be interesting if, when the driver came into our garage and while we haggled over and negotiated a price for the metals, some other kids would be taking something off the wagon to sell to the next vendor. We never did this, but heard that others engaged in this dastardly deed.
“But habits stick with you. Later, when the Good Wife and I lived in Alabama, we recycled what we could. You could take items to the Piggly Wiggly grocery market. In Wyoming, we continued to take newspapers and aluminum cans to the Safeway store. There were no ‘Rags and Old Iron’ men, but we could take certain materials in for recycling to the ‘junk yards.’ While no one made us do so, we did it because it was the right thing to do. How could you just throw something away that had value?
“We continue the process today. The floor of our walk-in pantry had a large bin containing copious amounts of dog food, a grocery bag filled with newspapers (with some falling onto the floor), a wastebasket with aluminum cans, another with plastic bottles, and a plastic bag usually overfull of plastic bags. These containers moved around, so it was not inconceivable that someone might trip on them.
“Now the Good Wife has upped recycling to a classier level than ever before. She envisioned a combined Recycling Center. A quality carpenter, Kevin, crafted that Recycling Center cabinet in his spare time on a weekend. Kevin might as well be called the Dream Maker. He has done many impressive updates to our homes over the years, and now his son has taken over the business, so we expect the tradition to continue. They know how to keep their customers happy.
“The Good Wife shared a description with Kevin, and he understood exactly what she was talking about. He produced a five-compartment cabinet that was designed to fit in our pantry as if it were built there from day one. The Good Wife added her personal touch with computer-designed embroidered signs for each of the doors.
“Harper’s dog-food door is first, where 40 pounds of nuggets are securely kept out of her reach. She knows which one is hers. Then follow bins for Plastic Bags, Paper Products, Plastic Bottles and, finally, Aluminum Cans. A can crusher is mounted above that one to allow the flattened cans to drop through a hole into a bag behind the door. This keeps the recyclables neat and organized, but it makes our pantry cleaner, neater and safer than ever before.”
The sign on the road to the cemetery said “Dead End”
Electronic Board of the the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division (Pandemic Subdivision)
Our Official Electronic Board of the the Church on Lexington in Shoreview Division (Pandemic Subdivision) Monitor — Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul — reports: “Subject: A Biblical update.
“The most recent message on the electronic board of the church on Lexington in Shoreview reads:
“‘“As for me and my house,
“‘“We will stay where we are . . .”’
“‘a selection from 1st Isolations 24:7’”
Band Name of the Day: Raccoon Pie
Website of the Day: Book Cover Archive