SJ Escape 2017

About once a year, I abandon my daily cares and responsibilities and run away for about three days. Because of our big road trip last year, I didn’t get an escape. I was seriously due for one this year.

In the past, I’ve ridden the train and slept at B&Bs. I still love the train, but realized at some point that having to get up early for breakfast and socialization was not actually ideal for me. I don’t like getting out of bed, I don’t like people in the morning, and I don’t like breakfast. Why was I doing this to myself?

DJ has been suggesting for about three years that I try out Corhaven, a spiritual retreat center. I could drive there. I didn’t have to follow anybody’s schedule. And there was a creek there. So this year I made reservations.

When DJ went on retreat there, he requested to meet with the priest (it’s Anglican) for counseling and confession. Me? I just wanted to have space to think without interruption. I didn’t want an engineered spiritual encounter. I’m accustomed to dodging triggers at “retreats” and “Bible studies” like Katniss in the arena. As far as I was concerned, God could show up if he wanted to, but I wasn’t going to study the Bible and have praise and worship time to get him there.

So I packed up essentials like my laptop, Milano cookies, and my phone… oh, and a change of clothes… and headed off for Corhaven. Before I left, Sparkler came flying out the front door to give me my traditional  Escape Companion  (that’s two links from two previous Escapes).

Meet Estella Greta Grace:

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It wasn’t long into my trip before I sent a message back to the kids. Somehow half my coffee disappeared once when I was in a store. I was very puzzled by it:

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Meanwhile, Estella Greta Grace sure was chatty and energetic for a while.

I decided that I’d go on one of the several cavern tours that are available here. As soon as I drove in, I could tell I was on vintage ground. Its heyday was probably the 30s to 40s, the era of little ceramic gnomes set up in a comic tableau, before Disney’s animatronics swept away interest in still-life. (Of course, animatronics are now considered clunky and funny by digital standards.)

I was right. The cafe was “a 1957 original.” But the elevator we took 60 feet down to start our tour was built in 1931. And the entire park opened in 1922.

Sure enough, the little gnomes greeted us underground:

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And warned us not to break the law.

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All the rooms had grand names like “The Cathedral Room” or “The Diamond Cascade.” It was an interesting tour through time. Not just the vast span of centuries it took to create the formations, but also a glimpse into a much closer past when experiences were harder to come by, and these caverns must have seemed truly otherwordly.

All that to say, the cavern tour was fascinating even to twenty-first century people jaded by too much adventure. The park did a good job of making its walkways and lights unobtrusive, so you really got to see the formations around you. Except no touching. I hated the no-touching rule. I love the feel of rock in my hand, and these rocks glistened with crystals and minerals. But evidently oils from the skin can cause the minerals to decay and discolor, so I obeyed. Mostly. Maybe I brushed my fingertips across one dripping rock once. But only once, honest.

As I messaged my kids, I’d invited Estella Greta Grace to come with me, but she said she didn’t want to. Too bad, because she missed some very interesting formations:

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But she might not have been dressed for the temperatures; it was a steady 50 degrees in the caverns:

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Trying to wrap my mind around the timespan in these caves, not to mention the fact that rivers once forged pathways and carved out chambers, was almost impossible. Geologists estimate that a single nodule of rock can take up to 125 years to form:

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So a mid-sized stalactite has been around for much longer than any world we ever knew:

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And I didn’t take any pictures of the hundred-foot ones.

Everything had a weird melted-alien-plastic look to it. But it was solid rock. At least, that’s what the guide said. I didn’t touch any to make sure.

On the way back to the elevator, the guide pointed out the original access to the caverns from 1922:

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A tour in 1922 was probably a lot more exciting, really. “Watch out for that drop-off, ma’am, you could lose a kid there, haha! How’s your ankle, sir? Probably not broken. Now, those of you aren’t actively keeling over after the stairs, follow me up to this next room. But don’t talk too loud. Rocks are kind of shaky, don’t want to encourage them, haha!”

Back in the car, I told Estella Greta Grace all about it. She said she didn’t miss much. Party pooper.

On to my escape. It turned out that DJ was right. That happens pretty much all the time in our marriage. In fact, it was his idea to get married in the first place. But Corhaven was exactly what my tired, closed-in soul needed. The woman on staff showed me my room and the bathrooms (in two separate buildings — that was a fun 3am bathroom run), gave me just enough instruction that I knew my way around, directed me to a binder with more information, and then vanished until I needed her again.

 

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It turned out that God didn’t have to “show up.” He was already there. From finding rocks in the creek, to sitting outside at night watching the fireflies, to reading bits and pieces of books I’d never tried before — everything I did, God was with me. It was a deep, quiet, profound refreshment.

I trekked up the path to a restored slave graveyard, which had been forgotten for 150 years until Corhaven bought the property and found the graves. I also picked up Maya Angelou for the first time, and wish I’d read her sooner. I’ve been thinking a lot about the racial wounds of our past, and now I see that there were voices crying out all the while. I just didn’t know to listen.

These two books gave me a lot to think about. I didn’t finish either one. I read enough that I had a lot to think about, then put them down.

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I always asked Estella if she wanted to come along with me on walks, but she was a slacker.

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She could have at least kept an eye on my Milanos to see how they kept disappearing. I have this trouble on every single escape, come to think of it.

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However, I always had a very affectionate and enthusiastic companion in Yates. He lived for the moment that I walked toward the gate that led to the woods:

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“Haha! Look at me! Egg drop soup!”

“Get out of my lunch, Estella.”

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I stayed two nights at Corhaven, then took a leisurely drive back home along Rt. 11 — which I knew very well from my Sunday rambles a few years ago. As I left, I assured them, “I will see you again.”

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And I got home to a clean house and a family who was very happy to see me. DJ and I spent a good half-hour catching each other up on what was, objectively speaking, three rather uneventful days — but full of ordinary-life goodness.

I unpacked my stuff and got ready to settle back into real life. And discovered that Estella Greta Grace had gotten into my coloring stuff:

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I guess she had a good time, too.

8 Is Great!

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“Imagine if a box was empty, but it cost all the money in the world to buy.”

“Would you rather… have to sleep on a glacier, or on obsidian?”

Ranger’s mind is constantly buzzing with these conundrums. He’s often too busy “wondering” to take into account the consequences of his decisions.

Like when he found a can of white spray paint, smashed it open, and anointed several objects including the back fence, the mailbox, and the hood of the van before it occurred to him that “maybe I should ask about this first.” He’s always very sorry.

He’s like quicksilver when it comes to video games or board games. He insisted on graduating himself to the adult version Settlers of Catan, and it turns out that he’s entirely capable of understanding intricate rules and strategy. DJ and I rarely have to take age range into account now when we decide on a game to play with the family.

He’s very affectionate and a peacemaker at heart, although he spends most of his free time turning everything — from sticks to breadsticks — into guns.  His best friend is Sparkler; he thinks she’s really funny, and when she gets bossy he just tunes her out so it’s all good.

He’s 8 years old today. I’m actually not home with him today, although I pointed out that I was present on his original and most important birthday. He’s happy with his presents from his siblings, the cake that Sparkler is baking for him, and playing games with Dad.

Imagine if… your youngest child grew up into a big boy much more quickly than you were expecting. Would you rather have that little baby back again?

Nope. We love our big-boy Ranger. Happy birthday!

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For the Record: Williamsburg and Easter

As much as I love inviting others to read my blog, I do keep in mind that, in the end, my best and most enduring audience is my family. The blog serves as a scrapbook and journal for us.

With that in mind, I’m posting lots of pictures and commentary from our recent family + grandparents trip down to Colonial Williamsburg. I hope you find it at least mildly interesting; but I’m confident that six years from now my kids will still love to see the pictures and talk about the memories.

[I’m anxious to get this done. I put off doing it too long last year when my mom and niece came to visit, and then when I sat down to transfer the pictures from my phone, managed to delete about forty of them. I’m still kind of heartsick about it all. I hope to go through my pictures, salvage what I have, and make a kind patched-up record of it after all.]

Anyway.

We went to Colonial Williamsburg.

This “living museum” has re-created the village of Williamsburg, Virginia, as it would have been circa 1774. Not only did they restore and rebuild businesses and residences, but they have demonstrations of skills and crafts of the time, performed by historian/actors who wear authentic costumes and don’t break character. It is, as you can imagine, one of the ultimate field trip destinations in our area.

Not all of the kids were excited by the prospect of driving four hours to go to some kind of historical place where you had to walk a lot. But even the reluctant ones were willing to make the trek because we’d be meeting DJ’s parents.

They live in Canada, but this spring made an epic road trip down the East Coast to Georgia, and then back up again. They caught us for one night on the way down, and then on the way back we all met in Williamsburg.

We dedicated two and a half days to The Ultimate Field Trip. Better homeschoolers than us would have done a week. DJ even knew of a family who made their own costumes and eventually moved from another state to Williamsburg just to be closer to the village. But we were there long enough to have a good time without anybody deciding to hate history and life and the universe. Then all of us drove back, and Grandpa and Nana visited till Easter.

But to quote Gaston, how can you read this? There are no pictures!

Okay, fine. Here you go.

All pictures thanks to Nana and Grandpa.

This shot of us at the local park looks kind of like an album cover for a band called Suburban Nerds.

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Bookgirl and I didn’t mean to match, but when both wardrobes consist mainly of comfy pants and t-shirts, it’s easy to do.

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At Williamsburg, the costumed “interpreters” gave a human touch to what would otherwise be an elaborate but hollow museum experience.

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Grandpa, Gamerboy, Bookgirl, some kid making a weird face who surely isn’t one of my kids, and DJ hanging out. The first three are reading notices posted to the fence, actually; some advertising goods for sale, some alerting townspeople to an escaped slave.

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One of the best things about Williamsburg is that you hardy have to say “don’t touch that!” You can wander off the main sidewalk through gates and gardens, whatever catches your fancy. Lots caught Ranger’s fancy. We spent at least a fourth of the time trying to find where he’d drifted off to.

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Besides Williamsburg, we tried out mini-golfing as a family. Mini-golf is a risky proposition. If the kids aren’t old enough or can’t master the club, it’s a disaster. But it worked, and all four of the kids were amazed at how fun mini-golf was, and why hadn’t we done this before? Well, because your parents like to minimize their own traumatic experiences, that’s why.

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Don’t be fooled. These men are not taking up piracy. They’re probably inviting him to church.

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All the kids got goodie bags as we left the golf course. The bags included noisemakers., which I really wanted to dispose of about six seconds after they opened the bags. After we got to the hotel, Ranger went to the room he shared with Nana and Grandpa. Nana sent me this picture of him showing off (and demonstrating) all his loot. “Young pirate!” she remarked. “He’s got good and generous grandparents,” I replied.

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So, all in all, good time was had by all. Even if Gamerboy does look like an imp with somewhat diabolical plans for someone off-screen.

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Of course, there was a major reason why we had such a good time.

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Back home, we enjoyed pretty much perfect weather and a very busy Easter week. But we still found time to get Sparkler a new bike. She needed it because Ranger had almost suddenly learned to ride without training wheels and inherited the bike she had been riding.

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Nana and the girls in their Easter finery.

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We didn’t want to say goodbye. But then, that’s nothing new.

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And be honest. You’d at least click on a sample track of a band named Suburban Nerds.

 

 

Mundania: Old Houses, Coloring Pages, and College Plans

To lead up to Easter, DJ got the bright idea to order poster-sized coloring pages of the fourteen Stations of the Cross. He left them on a table in the church and invited people to color them. But that’s all he did — he didn’t specify any coloring times, organize any snacks, nothing. Just said, “Feel free to color.”

Oh, and he also bought two 64-pack crayons to go on the table too.

And people colored those pages. Mostly kids, but some adults did, too. In fact, some of the kids hid the pictures from DJ so he couldn’t hang them up before they finished them. He found them and hung them anyway. The Sunday before Easter, he walked into the fellowship room to see this:

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On Easter morning, all fourteen stations were fully colored… as was the fifteenth and best of all:

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It was a surprisingly successful idea.

*

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This is an abandoned house along the remains of a road near us. I first noticed the  sign for Red Post Road because it branched off the main highway. So I followed it. It ran a few hundred feet, but then it disappeared… in a church parking lot. I explored the area a bit, and discovered that after I crossed the four-lane highway and a Sheetz gas station, Red Post Road reappeared briefly before merging into the highway again.

In my mind, I removed the four-lane highway and gas station, and reconstructed Red Post Road. It didn’t disappear in the church parking lot — the parking lot was Red Post Road. Then I saw this house. It was built near Red Post Road, was probably pretty grand in its day.

I felt a pang as I thought of what this place used to be. People lived here. They had neighbors — all traces of them are gone now. They’d sit on the porch in the evenings, and recognize every car ambling past.

I snapped this picture just to remember what I never knew in the first place.

*

On a related note, I remarked to DJ the other day, “I’d love to be able to turn weightless and invisible, and explore all these old falling-down houses.”

Pause.

“I’d probably walk through people’s houses too, just to see what they look like.

Pause.

“I don’t think I’d use this power responsibly.”

*

We recently spent a few days at Colonial Williamsburg. The College of William and Mary is right there next to the preserved colonial town, with a very much 21st century bookstore and cafe. Bookgirl remarked to me after we got a snack there, “I want to see if the college here has a good English program. Because I really like this bookstore and cafe.”

I assured her that most colleges have this sort of thing.

*

Ranger isn’t sure if he’s going to college because four years is a long time to be away from family.

*

Sparkler’s reader yesterday featured an interview with an author, so DJ assigned her to ask me three of the questions. Today she asked me the rest of the questions. Well, yes, I was pretty flattered that she wanted to hear more of my answers.

*

It’s a big year for Bookgirl, college considerations aside. She got her driver’s permit a couple of weeks ago, and has practiced in the driveway and behind the grocery store a time or two. I saw her sitting in the driver’s seat, and had a sudden flashback to this child:

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Bookgirl in 2004

When did they start letting three-year-olds drive, anyway?

Okay, okay, I know she’s quite grown-up. A couple of months ago, she achieved a personal goal of many years. She now has red hair:

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Myself of 2004 would be all admiration for the beautiful young woman my pigtailed toddler has turned into.

*

How’s Gamerboy been lately? Well, back before Christmas he found a Dungeons & Dragons group at a local gaming store. Wednesdays are the highlight of his week. We don’t mind so much either. School and chores get knocked out with fearsome efficiency on Wednesdays. I’d say we all rolled high in this encounter.

*

Cosmic the Bunny is doing well too, thanks for asking. Here he is “at work.” Most mornings he sits under my chair as I write, and asks to be petted.

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Thanks for stopping in to catch up with the Joneses.

 

The Box of Niggly Thoughts

Like a pocket full of jingling change, most of us carry around a mental collection of Niggly Thoughts. These are snatches of memories, conversations, or stuff we’ve read that we don’t exactly agree with, but have never resolved. They’re annoying, but not something we feel a burning need to take care of.

Well, I’m in a spring cleaning mood. Time to dump out my Niggly Thoughts and see if I can get rid of a few.

Let’s see, sorting through the pile… what have we got here?

The Pastor’s Guilt Trip
Many years ago, a former pastor told the story of how he and his family were all packed up and ready to go on vacation; but as they were heading out of town, he found out that a parishoner had been admitted to the hospital. So he had to cancel the vacation, and his family understood this was part of serving the church.

Dear pastor,

  1. You didn’t have to be the one to stay. You could have arranged for an assistant pastor or a deacon to fill in until you got back.
  2. You knew you’d shortchanged your family. You told this story to justify yourself to the congregation, casting yourself in the role of the dedicated pastor who gave his all to the church.
  3. You expected all your members to do the same thing — our families be damned, your church was the thing!
  4. We didn’t realize that you’d treat us the same way you treated your family, and decide it was time to move on to another church, leaving us stranded and forced to accept it as “God’s plan.”

I’m so done with this one. Wad it up, toss it away.

**

Contrived Plot Device
In a story I read years ago, the two women shared a fence and a deep dislike for each other. But when one of them died, the other discovered that they’d been best friends in letters they wrote one another for years through the local newspaper.

Dear story,

  1. Was that a thing in the previous century? Newspaper penpals? It’s possible I misunderstood the setup, since I was young. And I don’t remember much else about the story to check it out now.
  2. How could you become such good friends and never realize you lived right next to each other? It’s not like an anonymous internet forum where people can be from anywhere including Venus; it was a local newspaper so you both knew you lived in the same town.
  3. I lived in a small town. I didn’t know everybody, but I guarantee that it wouldn’t take too many details in a letter before the townspeople began to pinpoint location and family connections.

Your sharp little corners have been poking me for years. Fold it up, drop it in the trashcan.

**

Marriage Advice
Someone (probably irritated at my admittedly-irritating twitterpation when I was engaged) told me that two years into marriage, DJ would stop being so affectionate and thoughtful.

Dear person,

  1. We’re 16 years in. And it hasn’t stopped.
  2. I’m sorry about your marriage.

My throwaway stack for “Stupid Advice from People I Didn’t Ask” is pretty thick now that there’s Facebook.

**

Parenting Wisdom
When I was pregnant, more than one really annoying person laughed and said that once I had my baby, I wouldn’t sleep through the night again until the baby was 18.

Dear annoying people who thought my uncomfortably large abdomen gave you permission to say discouraging things,

  1. It wasn’t true, at least not in our household. Can’t help what happens in yours.
  2. Never say this again to a very pregnant woman.

Mark this one for ritual burning.

**

Because English
The English language allows me to say, “I was impressed. Which I expressed by laughing.”

  1. Impress and express ought to be opposites, but they aren’t in that sentence.
  2. English, you’re crazy.

This one… well, actually, I kind of like this one. I’ll put it back for now.

There, my Box of Niggly Thoughts isn’t overflowing anymore. Maybe I’ll dig deeper another time — but for now, sure does feel good to get a little cleaning done!

“Date with a Career”(a Mid-Century High School Story)

Once again I provide my valuable service to you as the person who blogs about books that nobody else knows about.

My friends Swanson the First and his wife AJ always send me a February care package. AJ is a wizard at finding vintage novels, and included one in my box this year. I could tell by the cover that it was going to be a good romp through the mid-century teenage American landscape:

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I guessed it was from 1961. Actual publication year, 1958. Points for me.

I’ve read a lot of 50s and 60s stories. I think it’s because I started getting books from the library in the mid-80s. Our library was a small-town Southern establishment, so most of the books I pulled from the shelves were easily twenty years old. I’m well-versed in the world of wholesome high school kids who go to the movies, “get a coke” at the local diner afterward, do their best in school, and very earnestly uphold social manners and civic responsibilities.

Date with a Career did not disappoint.

We have all the usual characters:

Lee, the heroine. She’s a newcomer in town . She grew up moving from place to place with her actress mother, most recently in New York City; but now she’s spending her senior year living with her grandmother in the little Massachusetts town of Fairmeadows. Grandmother wants Lee to follow in her late father’s footsteps and become a concert pianist. But Lee doesn’t want to play the piano, she wants to be a dress designer. Thus does conflict cloud her otherwise sunny life in Fairmeadows. (Seriously, could you come up with a more precious name for a town?)

Jock, the boyfriend. He’s tall, blond, and blue-eyed. His name is Jonathan Bradford (good Massachusetts stock; Grandmother approves of him) but goes by Jock, which is kind of giggly because he actually plays saxophone in the school band. He asks Lee to the movies the first weekend. He’s annoyed when somebody else asks her before he does the next weekend. After that, he asks her to go steady. Jock is exactly the kind of boyfriend that every teenage girl dreams about. He buys her a charm bracelet with meaningful charms for Christmas. He’s sympathetic when the Mean Girl steals Lee’s thunder at the Halloween party. He’s on hand when she doesn’t get accepted into the New York art school, firmly refusing to let her give up on her dreams. He’s respectful, funny, and kisses her only three times the whole school year. In short, he acts like a 30-year-old man. Teenage girls always want a 30-year-old man, just in an 18-year-old package.

Janie, the cute BFF. She’s bubbly, a cheerleader, popular with the boys, and has a combative romance with the clownish Win.

Miriam, the somewhat poor, poetic BFF. She’s serious and loyal.

Sid, the off-brand boy. He’s not bad, he’s just not as handsome or courtly as Jock. He drives a hot-rod. Lee expects him to be a wild driver, but no, he’s in a club and they adhere to very careful rules about how to drive and how to behave on the road. He tells her so, sounding like he’s quoting right from the article that the author read about these clubs. Anyway, Sid is manipulated by the Mean Girl because she wants access to his car. But he ends up with the sweet poet, Miriam.

I get the impression that the author doesn’t know a great deal about cars, due to paragraphs like this: Sid seemed glum. No car is improved by being buried in the snow for a couple of days, and besides, there had been a great deal of strain on it, driving through the blizzard, even though the car had plenty of reserve power. Once it had been fed gasoline, however, it had started up without difficulty. No word as to whether it nickered or neighed and tossed its windshield wipers in a spritely manner.

Beverly, the mean girl. In her polished, wealthy way, Beverly loses no chance to squash Lee’s spirit. That notorious Halloween party that she ruined for Lee? Well, Lee had designed her own outfit — her first “original” — and Jock’s mother helped her make it. But the design leaked out beforehand, and when Lee arrived, Beverly had seen to it that the entire party committee was wearing exactly the same outfit. Oh, yes, Beverly was bad news.

Now, the author took pains to explain that Beverly’s mother was divorced and so involved in clubs and committees that she had no time for her daughter. (Never mind that Lee’s own father was dead, and her mother was an actress touring with a company in Australia. Divorce and social preoccupation is what does the damage.) Beverly associated with a “tall, dark boy whose slicked-back hair was too long, his sideburns too prominent. Under his black leather jacket, a pink shirt and splashy tie could be seen.” I guess I don’t even have to say any more, do I? Well, I will. By the end of the story, Beverly elopes with that boy. When Mother finds out, there’s a terrible fight, and Beverly drives off… in Sid’s car. (“Doesn’t Sid lock it?”  “Yes, but he thinks Beverly had another key made.”) She crashes it. So that’s how she ends up — in the hospital and in legal trouble

Not to  mention the fact that she was removed from the rolls of the graduating class because she got married. “That’s the ruling of our School Committee,” Grandmother says. “And I think it’s quite a wise ruling.” I’m not sure why. Maybe to be an example to any other girl who thought she could just buck society and go get married whenever she wanted to? Or maybe because Beverly definitely was having sex now and would somehow contaminate the wholesome virgin girls in her school? The author didn’t feel the need to elaborate.

As for the plot, well, there wasn’t. Just the usual episodes and events. Movie dates, Christmas caroling, cozy dinners with Jock’s family eating roast beef and apple pie, a school play (ruined by a blizzard), a second show (thought up and designed by Lee) that’s a smashing success, ice skating, and even a trip in to New York City. The author was not shy about dropping in moralization when she felt that the reader needed it. Parts of it read like a helpful and instructive “teen-age magazine” of the time.

Through it all, Lee grows to love and belong in Fairmeadows.

Lee knew that wherever she might live in later years, she would always want to be back in Fairmeadows at Christmastime. No other place could celebrate it so well. Everyone entered into the spirit of the season; everyone enjoyed it. Yet it was all very simple and natural. And noncommercial, Lee added, remembering big cities at the holidays.

Exactly. The whole book was basically a tribute to Small-Town 1950s Americana, especially being in Massachusetts where of course America was born. And that makes sense. The writer, judging from her picture, had grown up through two wars and the Depression. Now the 60s approached, with its alarming new ideas. It was still a few years before the world would go completely crazy, but people could see it coming.

It didn’t surprise me that everyone in this story was white. Absolutely no ethnic or black characters appeared at all; even Lee’s grandmother’s longtime servants were white. Of course, that’s partly because it’s the Northeast, where the black population was smaller. But it’s a characteristic of most of the mid-century “teen-age” stories. There just wasn’t really any room in this idyllic American picture for those who didn’t look and behave “right” — that is, middle-class and white.

So I hated the book? Oh, no. I enjoyed it thoroughly, partly because it was so very mediocre. And despite all, the author stayed true to Lee’s dream to be a dress designer. By the end, Lee has plans for her career firmly in place; and her relationship with Jock is only semi-serious. That’s pretty progressive for 1958.

The author bio on the back says, Theater and radio work in Boston followed upon graduation from Radcliffe College. Her subsequent marriage interrupted her career, although her interest in the theater still persists. She never said it, but I ended up with the impression that she might advise a young woman not to rush into marriage, but get some real good out that career first.

 

Homemade Waffles, Just Add Waffle Iron

When I get very tired, my mind overcompensates. It’s like a relentlessly cheerful BFF who thinks that all I need is to just get moving! and I’ll feel better!

This morning, I knew I couldn’t do church — I’ve never understood those people who say, “After a long, exhausting week, I was so glad to get to church! So refreshing!”*

*I’m married to one of those people.

So DJ took the kids off to church for refreshment purposes (??), leaving me sitting on the side of my bed. Thinking. Laboriously. What should I do this morning?

Well, obviously, I should get my laptop and head off to my favorite hipster coffee shop. Coffee, my own music, and writing. That’s refreshing!

But still I sat. Maybe not my usual place this morning. Maybe I’d head to a different coffee shop about fifteen miles away. This one served extremely yummy waffles with orange-zest whipped cream and maple syrup. They’re fluffy and substantial. Perfect for a midmorning breakfast.

And yet, still I sat. Maybe I didn’t want to drive fifteen miles this morning. Maybe I just wanted to stay home. I am perfectly capable of making my own waffles, if I had a waffle iron.

Maybe, chirped my over-energetic brain to my over-tired body, we can go to the thrift store and BUY A WAFFLE IRON TO MAKE OUR OWN WAFFLES!

I seriously considered this suggestion for about 1/45 of a second. And then I laughed and realized how tired I really was. If I didn’t stop my inner BFF , I’d be shopping all morning for specialty waffles, making my own butter, and possibly planting my own wheat.

Instead, I poured myself a cup of coffee that my husband made for me before he left to be refreshed (??) in church. I cut myself a square of the apple-biscuitish thing I’d baked last night (I modified this recipe in a winging-it kind of way with apple pieces and applesauce). And I sat in the empty house and played many solitaire rounds of our favorite castles game.

It was really what I needed. I felt very refreshed. And my inner BFF didn’t have much to say because her mouth was full of apple bread.

Mundania: From the Camera

We know how this goes. I go through my camera gallery, pull off pictures, and write captions. Y’all read and enjoy it. Really, I’m doing most of the work here — which is, I think, really considerate of me.

We have a bunch of blankety children. Hang on, that sounds a lot saltier than I meant it to. What I mean is, our kids love blankets. Most of them have slankets — you know, the blankets with sleeves — and wear them most of the day from October to March.

Pictured below: two children have emerged from their blankets, leaving empty shells behind them. One is still in his cocoon.

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Not to be outdone, Cosmic loves towels. We’ll spread one on the floor, and he’ll lick, dig, and then flop. Here he’s sharing space with what was a cardboard brick, and is now one of his snacks.

 

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As part of our usual February festivities (ahem), we all took turns getting the flu. I spent basically two days in bed. Which means that Ranger was basically two days unsupervised. He treated himself to a bath one afternoon. I found this the next day in the undrained tub: about twenty (clean) rags, plus four sopping wet towels on the floor.

Let them be creative, they said. It’ll be great, they said. I’ll clean up the mess afterward, they NEVER say.

(But Ranger was clean and happy, and I was able to rest and get well. So I’m not actually complaining. Much.)

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And this made me laugh. The local volunteer fire department got a new fire truck.

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My writer friends treated me to a birthday outing. We went to a town where Main Street has a coffee shop, a gluten-free all-organic cafe, a chocolate shop, and a consignment shop that sells used saddles and silk blouses. We browsed a few shops that advertised exciting discounts. But you know, 70% off a $190 vest just gets it down to a price I’d consider if I could knock 50% off it.

However, one shop featured this door. I think it’s a display for the different types of handles available from this manufacturer. But as I was taking a picture of it, my friend remarked, “Ooh, that’s cool. Each handle takes you to a different place. Which one would I pick first?” This is why I like shopping with writers.

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Grocery shopping with DJ can be entertaining too. Here we found a basket of pet mangoes; somebody needs to come through and clean up their droppings. (You can tell we live with an animal who leaves pellets scattered about the house.)

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This pinball machine at my favorite coffee shop apparently finds life perpetually surprising.

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So there you have it. Did you read it? Did you enjoy it? Well, then, I guess my work is done.

Geology for Somebody Like Me

The way it started was like this. I came across an interesting article about evidence of a land where there’s just ocean now. The article wasn’t very well written, and I’ve got really big gaps in my knowledge of geologic history. (The Earth has got some big geological gaps too, but the Earth wasn’t trying to read an online article, so anyway.) I gave up halfway through, frustrated that I couldn’t quite grasp what was being discussed. I needed a basic overview of geologic history, written in a way I could follow it.

Where would I even begin to look for the right book? Well, that part was easy. I messaged Swanson the First. (Glance at First’s blog and you’ll see why I assumed he’d have an answer about a book.) He came through within minutes with a suggestion that I found at our library. I was reading it that afternoon.

It took me a good week to read the whole thing, and I’m pretty sure I’d completely bomb a mastery quiz about it. But I sure did enjoy it while I was going through it.

Bjornerud is a professor at a small college in Wisconsin. She’s obviously deeply interested in rocks and what they can tell us. But she’s also a very good storyteller. She inserts humor, wry asides, and even some puns. Even better, she’s good explaining her points in a way that someone like me can understand.

Why “someone like me”? Well, here’s the thing — I love rocks and I find the discussion of what could have occurred in the past to be very stimulating to my imagination. But I am not in the least scientifically-minded. By that, I mean that I don’t ask myself, “Why is the world like this?” Thunder makes noise because that’s what thunder does. Water turns to ice because that’s what water does. Molecules, atoms, isotopes… it’s magic. It’s all magic.

So while I want to know about Pangea and plate tectonics and I have a vague idea about subduction and marine fossils on the crest of Mount Everest, I quickly lose the thread of discussion when it comes to matters too small or too big for me to see. Bjornerud saved me many times by pausing and recasting her point in terms that I could understand.

“Someone like me” is also someone who came up through strict creationism. Not the creationism that flows out of a faith in God, so that a constantly changing and renewing Earth — no matter how it happens or how long it takes — is testimony to what he can do. I’m still that kind of creationist. I mean the creationism that sets itself up as the foundation for my faith. It says that if I consider any other point of view besides a literal six-day creation that happened about 10,000 years ago, I am crippling my entire faith.

(“They never say you can’t be a Christian if you believe in evolution!” No — not in print, anyway. They just point out that “even though it is not a salvation issue, the belief that earth history spans millions of years has very severe consequences.” Basically, you’ll get to heaven, but it’s going to be a pretty close thing.)

(And God’s probably not going to pick you up personally at the Pearly Gates.)

(He won’t send a fancy car for you, either. You get a moped.)

(Okay, I did add that part.)

(But for what I’m talking about, see this old article here, and this not-quite-as-old one here.)

Having left that strict, stifling creationism behind me, I now enjoy putting together the bits and pieces I know with what I’m learning. It’s all new and fun to think about. Well, “fun” in a “we are at the mercy of a giant moving, changing, reacting planet and who knows what will happen next” way. It’s astonishing how perfectly designed the Earth is to support life — not just us, but all branches of living creatures. At various times, the Earth has apparently undergone disastrous periods of extinction… only to eventually reorient itself and return to the business of making and supporting life. Far from injuring my faith in God, I’m endlessly fascinated and awestruck.

Me being me, I’m less taken with the formation of mountains and fossils of now-extinct creatures. Instead I wonder… what happened all those ages ago that’s now mostly erased from the Earth’s memory? Maybe we aren’t the first sophisticated beings to build a civilization and conquer the world, until the Earth shifted and buried them. What if it wasn’t volcanoes spewing carbon dioxide and methane into the air, it was smokestacks from some other ancient “modern” civilization? What if the Snowball Earth theory, when the Earth was encased in ice and nearly all life wiped out, was the geologic event that inspired the story of the Noahic Flood?

I’m not putting forth any of these ideas as actual theories. Just stories. Just a creative way to understand who we are, and — maybe a little bit — cope with the fact that we are very small and fragile on the one planet that can host us.

I can’t promise that you’ll have all these same thought if you read this book. (I’m talking about that book, Reading the Rocks, remember?) But if you’re at all interested in the study of the Earth’s past, I highly recommend this book as a friendly introduction.