“When I remember my own childhood, I put myself in the place of my parents and wonder: ‘What were they thinking?'”

Then & Now
Or: Mundane to Profound (responsorial)

The Farm Boy of St. Paul writes: “Subject: Did I have bad parents?

“A few years back, when the debut of Bulletin Board ushered in the age of social media, I was a somewhat younger man. I enjoyed it when others shared their stories about the good old days, but I saw the world from a young man’s perspective. My life was in the present.

“But as the years passed, I began to have my own ‘old’ stories to share. Some were things I’d heard about or learned from Dad, but more and more I began to realize I had my own memories that were now part of a past that was unknown to younger folks.

“In the years since the debut of Bulletin Board, I’ve become the father of two kids, now grown up and off on their own. And now, when I remember my own childhood, I put myself in the place of my parents and wonder: ‘What were they thinking?’ By today’s standards, were my parents neglectful? Did they fail to protect us kids from danger?

 “The Linguidiot’s memory of the feeling of freedom that came with being old enough to drive made me think about my own driving coming-of-age story. On my 16th birthday, Mom and I made the trip to the county seat, where I had an appointment with the driver’s-license examiner. No drama there. I passed easily, although I was disappointed I didn’t achieve a perfect score. My only deductions came from some extra maneuvering during parallel parking. (Anyone who can picture a 1971 Chrysler Newport will understand why.)

“The real story comes that evening. It was church softball night. We were playing at a church in another town about a dozen miles away. I’m sure Mom was relieved that she didn’t have to drive me and spend the evening swatting mosquitoes while I played ball. So off I went, a newly minted driver, to a ball game in another town.

“Wasn’t she worried?

 “Oh, I forgot to mention. I took my 9-year-old brother with me.

“Wasn’t she terrified?!

“If she was, she didn’t show it.

“But my parents were not neglectful. Far from it.

“What I see now, being a parent myself, is that from an early age my parents treated us kids like adults. Rather than treat us as if we were helpless and in need of constant protection and supervision, they expected us to act responsibly, and — most of the time — we lived up to that expectation. They trusted us because we hadn’t given them reason not to. And I think that worked out pretty well.”

Now & Then

Grandma Pat, “formerly of rural Roberts, Wisconsin”: “Every day we hear news of crime and violence. It all cries out for answers. As disturbing as this is, it is not entirely new.

“I have been delving into old boxes of newspapers that were kept by my family. One of these is a St. Paul Dispatch dated January 4th, 1933. On the front page is a headline which says: ‘Governor Cites Need for Legislation to Prevent Rampant Lawlessness.’

“The next headline reads: ‘$100,000 Cash Taken in Mail Raid’ (at the St. Paul railroad depot). A still smaller headline says: ‘Hunt for Russell Bandit Trio Widens. $4,500 Taken as Bank Robbers Flee in Hail of Bullets.’

“Sounds quite familiar.”

Then & Now
Including: The highfalutin pleasures

LeoJEOSP writes: “I purchased my first guitar at Woolworth’s in the summer of 1969. Most of my 45-rpm records were purchased at Woolworth’s. The store also had many ‘cut outs,’ which were 45 records that did not sell when they were first in stores. These unsold records were shipped to the distributor, and a small hole was punched through the non-playing part of the record, and they were really cheap compared to the whopping price of 75 cents for the new 45s.

“My nephew has my 45s, but I borrowed them from him and recorded them to my computer, with scratches and all!”

Now & Then
Including: The highfalutin pleasures

The Doryman of Prescott, Wisconsin: “Subject: There’s No Place Like Google.

“The cold spell has got me to thinkin’ again. Comfort foods! I’ve already gone through some mac-and-cheese and a bowl of Campbell’s Cream of Tomato soup — with a grilled-cheese sandwich, of course. Then I remembered a delicacy that’s been missing in my diet since my mother passed: dried-beef gravy on toast (not ground-beef SOS) with copious amounts of ground pepper. I went online and discovered it was hardly my family’s secret concoction. There was the recipe in all its simple glory. The perfect filling for a tired kid who was ravenous from ice skating all day or an old retired guy hungering for the past.

“I hope they still make dried beef. I haven’t noticed it for 60 years now. Sometimes the pesky Internet can make it possible to go back home again.”

Now & Then
Or: The highfalutin displeasures

Twitty of Como: “Subject: Pet peeve.

“I’m sitting in my truck in a parking lot while I wait for my better half to do some shopping. Could be a long wait. That’s a story for another time.

“What gets me as I wait is this: A lot of cars made in the past 30 years or so come equipped with key fobs with which you can open or lock or even remotely start your car. It’s a convenience thing. Some (maybe all) emit an audible ‘beep’ if, as you walk away, you depress the lock button. In my vehicle, I can disable the audible alarm, and have done so. I prefer to lock my doors in silence, whether I’m in my truck or walking away. But not everyone, it seems. Example: Bright-red convertible pulls in. Woman gets out and strolls away. She must have depressed the remote lock button 10 times before she was 10 feet away. She pressed it three more times before she entered the store.

“Why? Press it once, and if it beeps, the door is locked. Simple. Pressing it 10 more times isn’t gonna make it lock more. Locked is locked. Conversely, if it didn’t lock the first time it beeped, it likely isn’t gonna lock no matter how many more times times you press the button.

“Long before the advent of remote locking devices, I taught myself to habitually manually lock my car doors upon exiting. It’s a habit that remains. Not for everyone, though, apparently.”

Now & Then
Or: The Permanent Paternal Record

Writes Red’s Offspring, north of St. Paul: “Subject: Voices from the present and the past.

“As the plumber finished his work, he stepped back, clapped his hands, and declared: ‘Just like downtown.’

“My wife had never heard the expression before, so he and I explained that it meant a task had been successfully completed.

“I then informed both of them that my dad would add this: ‘Only not so crowded.’

“I can still hear your voice, Red.”

Life as we know it
Or: Till death us do part

The Polish Prince of Pine City: “Greetings, Comrades.

“The other afternoon, I was at the dining-room table studying the obituaries in the Sunday paper. Only one guy I knew from high school in this week’s listing. My long-suffering, lovely and talented spouse was in the kitchen boiling noodles for dinner: a hearty and tasty tuna hot dish — not the tuna hot dish with potato chips on top, like my mom used to make, but an excellent modern-day version of the classic and timeless tuna casserole. Anyway, I noticed the pot she was using was a little banged-up. Scratches, minor dents, nicks, repaired handle, faded paint on the outside. I remembered when we first started hanging around together and she showed me this very same pot. She was buying things for the day in the future when she would get married. Now, I was absolutely crazy about this girl. I mean, really crazy about her. But I never thought she would marry a schmuck like me. In fact, I never even thought about marriage. Much less that, 48 years later, the noodles for my tuna hot dish would be cooked in that very pot.

“I think the banged-up pot is an excellent metaphor for marriage. Expect some dents and scratches over time. Not as shiny-looking as it first was. But if you’re as lucky as me, the two of you will be cooking dinner with it for a long time.”

Till death us do part

Dragonslayer of Oakdale: “Subject: Humor is where you find it.

“I’m primary caregiver for my wife — dementia and expressive aphasia. It was about noon as she rose from her chair and walked towards me.

“‘Are you getting hungry?’ I said.

“She replied: ‘No, just the opposite.’

“I asked: ‘Do you have to go to the bathroom?’

“‘Yup,’ she said.”

The Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon
Our Community of Strangers Division

Rafi’s Aunt Barbara: “Subject: You’ve gone international.

“This is from a British cozy mystery I am reading (‘Wrongfully Infused,’ by H. Y. Hanna): ‘How weird! I thought. What a strange coincidence that that term should be in the crossword. I’d heard of the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon—when something new you’d never experienced or heard of before suddenly starts cropping up everywhere, straight after you’ve just encountered it.'”

Keeping your eyes open

Grandma Paula reports: “I had a chance to try out my new phone to see how well it takes photos. I could not pass up the red sunset.”

Our times
Or: The Lowest Common Consumer

The Mighty Wickard of “Blaine — Where Surely You Know I Won’t Call You Shirley”: “Subject: I’m cleaning on a jet pain.

“While doing an online preflight check-in, I saw a panel called ‘Advice to Passengers.’ It sounds as if updated restrictions mean Delta passengers will no longer be able to bring fireworks, ammunition, car batteries or household cleaners on board. Note: Please plan accordingly for your car-battery, compressed-gas-cylinder and household-cleaner requirements in flight. 

“Remember back in the good old days, when the flight attendants would go up and down the aisle with a cart selling a full selection of car batteries and then stop by later to pick up your empty compressed-gas cylinders? In First Class, they’d even just give one to everybody. 

“‘Oh nice! 1985 Ford Bronco, please — and a Drano and an Easy-Off oven cleaner, too, if you don’t mind. Mine are almost empty.'”

The verbing of America

Sainted Theresa of St. Paul reports: “(Last) Sunday’s Pioneer Press carried an article about a Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas. A retired Coast Guard Captain explained that she had moved from Galveston to Mission because of the Center: ‘I’ve butterflied in other places, but this is where you go to get some incredible tropical butterflies that you won’t see anywhere else.'”

What this country has been needing?

Kathy S. of St. Paul writes: “Subject: An idea for libraries.

“As a haunter of multiple libraries, I notice problems and solutions. Recently I heard about workstations designed so that a small wooden playpen for babies is attached to a small desk for projects or computer use. Genius! The idea seems to have gone viral, so I bet they will be in our libraries soon — even if we need a donation jar in the libraries, to get this done.

“Next we need a solution that works for older kids who can climb out of the box. . .”

Our community of strangers

The Daughter of the Gram With a Thousand Rules writes, from Hawaii: “I am emailing you to let you know that my mom’s book is done and for sale, live on Amazon now. I have been working with her the last two years, compiling all her stories that you published in BB under her pseudonym, The Gram With a Thousand Rules. Plus, she added many other stories she has never yet submitted. It includes many historical photos to bring to life this great history of her family and childhood in the Twin Cities in the ’30s and ’40s!

“Since last summer, we have been finalizing the manuscript, creating the layout of the photos inside, editing and re-editing, and putting it all together. I designed a cover piece for the book about two weeks ago. We both agreed last Friday it was time to ‘let the baby be born.’ Today it is for sale around the world! She is so happy with her BOOK. I am so glad her stories will be there for others to enjoy, too. So exciting!

“If you would like to see her book listing on Amazon, here is the link.”

This ’n’ that ’n’ the other ’n’ the other ’ n’ the other

Al B of Hartland: (1) “When I was growing up on a farm, my father taught me that alfalfa loves snow. A thick blanket of snow increases alfalfa’s chances of surviving winter.

“The alfalfa was smiling. On my way to church, I saw the white flashes of three large flocks of snow buntings, a flock of Lapland longspurs and many small groups of horned larks in my first three miles. I hadn’t seen many of these birds this winter because there was a lack of snow cover. They feed in the fields until deep or ice-encrusted snow covers their food and chases them to the roadsides where weed seeds and spilled grain are snagged by the gravel. They show up when the snowmobiles do.

“I saw a couple of rough-legged hawks later in my drive. I called them Christmas hawks when I was a precocious child (or was it a pestiferous child?). The roughies nest in the Arctic and have feathered pants with feathering to the base of their toes and small bills. Their feet, smaller than those of red-tailed hawks, allow roughies to perch at the tip-top of small branches.”

(2) “I sat in my office and listened to my long-suffering wife’s utterances from the kitchen as she watched a televised basketball game in which a granddaughter played. We each watched, on separate tablets. It’s safer that way.

“Her vocalizations traveled from agony to joy as the granddaughter’s team emerged victorious.”

(3) “The January temperatures moved into the 40s. I got an oil change and was given a card for a free car wash. It’s hard to pass up a free car wash on a day conducive to such an undertaking. I washed the car, getting some of the dirt off that had been on there since the Bush administration — the first Bush administration.”

(4) “A friend said his life was good. He’d gotten an air fryer for Christmas and doesn’t know how to use it or what it’s for, but he’s happy to have it. He’s the kind who eats soup once a week that he’s made from the detritus scraped from his microwave oven.”

(5) “We had the doorbell repaired here at the Batt Cave. Now I hear a strange sound I haven’t heard since before Covid hit.

“When the doorbell first rang in ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ TV series, the Clampett family looked at the walls and ceiling, hoping to find out where the sound came from. Later, they discovered that each time the music played, someone was at the front door. I’ve become a Clampett, probably Jethro.

“Now that we have a working doorbell, I’ll never win the No Bell Prize.”

Not exactly what they had in mind

DebK of Rosemount writes: “Our parish school’s annual fundraising gala fell this year on Super Bowl Eve. As always, organizers were generous in the provision of complimentary wines chosen for their propensity to bring on fits of profligate spending and roughish mornings-after. Having yielded to temptation, Taxman and I were unfit for early Mass and worshipped instead at the last Mass of the day. It was a mistake to confess the error of our ways to Cousin Linda, who cautioned that we’ve begun a sad journey down the ‘slippery slope of decadence’ that might take us as ‘low’ as tuning in to watch the aforementioned big game.

“In our defense, I asserted that Taxman and I have no objection to anyone else’s viewing the Super Bowl. It’s just that our pretend-farmer lifestyle isn’t suited to sustained television-watching. Moreover, we haven’t kept up with TV technology. Our TV is as dumb as we are, so sitting through a televised athletic contest exposes us to more ads than action.

“That response mollified Cousin Linda but got me to thinking about our recent involvements with both football and television, which occurred on Sunday, January 30, as Taxman and I were driving back from a family wedding in Georgetown, Texas. Being in the neighborhood, we decided to spend a couple of days with college friends who reside in a Dallas suburb.  

“Native Iowans and music majors whose interests run more to gardening and politics than to professional sports, our hosts have lived in Texas long enough to have acquired a very thin veneer of football fanaticism. Remembering Taxman’s rabid Viking-fan phase, they made it a point to deploy their smart-TV technology to record the all-important AFC and NFC championship games that were being played on the day of our arrival. About an hour before dinner, our viewing of the recorded games commenced. We settled ourselves in front of the gigantic screen, marveling as our hosts’ deft handling of the remote took us seamlessly, back and forth from one game to the other, skipping all commercials (except the must-see-TV cat ads for Chevy Silverado trucks) and enabling us to appreciate the excellence of both games. 

“The four of us were so thoroughly engrossed that we hardly noticed the arrival of our hosts’ grown daughter, who was joining us for dinner. Herself a true football fan, the young woman immediately joined us around the TV. But she’d hardly warmed her spot on the sofa before she interrupted our viewing enjoyment, demanding to know ‘why the hell’ we were watching last week’s games.”

Band Name of the Day: Rampant Lawlessness

Website of the Day: Winners of the 2022 Underwater Photographer of the Year Contest

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