WISHING ON A STAR


When I was a little girl I wished on the evening star which sat high over my house no matter where I lived. I thought that star followed me because I was such a good little girl and it wanted me to be happy.

I wanted to be like Gail Hollandsteiner, whose family was rich had a housekeeper and she got away with not eating her breakfast before school. But then her father lost his job, and her parents got divorced, so I was happy that wasn’t me.

I took dancing lessons and in spite of getting new curly hair and cute costumes, Nancy Joy became the star of the show. I really hated her and the way her mother pushed to get her in the spotlight. But I kept dancing and when I was in my middle years my father watch a practice session. After the performance he said “Don;t call us, we’ll call you”. I’m glad he got to see I could still step-shuffle-step.

I wanted to live in one house all my life, but instead I got to move every year and live all over the country which turned out to be be a good thing because I got to see most of the 50 states by the time I was twelve.

i wanted to be the most popular girl in the class which was difficult when you are always the new girl, and not particularly good looking. I tried being the smartest, but kids don’t like being shown up; especially young boys. So I settled on being funny which you can accomplish in a short amount of time without making too many enemies.

I didn’t like my Grandma’s church, so I visited all the other churches in town and found that I’m just not religious. I really just wanted to sing in the choir. I also discovered the interesting history of the world in the time of the Bible stories, which certainly helped me win in the quiz shows we began watching on TV.

I wanted to play the piano, but we couldn’t afford one in the Depression, so I took up the guitar which turned out to be a lot better because you can take that around with you and play at parties which makes everyone happy.

I wanted to go to college when I graduated from high school but I got married instead which turned out to be the best thing I ever did. After my children came, a small voice whispered to me that it’s never too late, so I picked up where I had left off and that turned out to be a very good thing too.

During a lifetime of art, I found that teaching others was something that made me quite happy. Life gives us plenty of time to change our mind, and one path may be as good as another if we decide to take it.

I still look at my evening star every night which somehow has found me everywhere I live. Has my star helped me to be happy, or has it only shown me that happiness is up to me? My wishes now encompass so much more than a little girl’s fleeting desires that I sometimes wonder if my star is big enough to hold them all.

Advertisements

MONKEY BUSINESS


The Winged Monkeys in the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz served at the pleasure of the Wicked Witch of the West and terrorized Dorothy and her companions, and thousands of small children watching the big screen throughout the country. My youngest daughter was one of those children. Many years later I purchased a pair of bronze candle holders in the shape of flying monkeys, and I am not allowed to use them when she is around.

I think for children the goblinlike Flying Monkeys. squealing servants of the Wicked Witch are the stuff of nightmares. For the most part the monkeys were not played by the same small actors as the munchkins. Only a few of the more athletic midgets were asked to don the monkey make-up and costumes fitted with battery-powered wings. The wings were motorized so they would flap while the monkeys were airborne.

Veteran Hollywood midget stuntman Harry Monty was one of the actors who played both a Munchkin and a Flying Monkey. Those who played the brown flying chimps mostly were too tall to play a Munchkin.

They had a harness around them and strung them up on wires. Then they would swoop down. One terrifying moment was when a Flying Monkey swooped down and grabbed Toto, Dorothy’s little dog. They were to be paid $20 for swooping, but there was a misunderstanding about the number of swoops were to be paid. The director assumed it was per day, and kept telling monkeys to keep swooping, while the Flying Monkeys thought it was $20 per swoop. To get the matter settled the monkeys went on strike. It must have been quite a picture– twelve monkeys sitting on chairs with their arms folded and legs crossed arguing with the director over money. As soon as it was settled they were back in the air on black cables which were invisible during the filming.

The rest of the illusion was created by dangling little rubber, painted monkeys about eight inches in length. These molded figurines–complete with foamlike wings and a pipe cleaner for a tail–were suspended on wires, much as the actor/monkeys were, and flown along at the same time to create the illusion of a large army of evil beasts. In 1996 one of the decaying, rock-hard rubber monkeys was auctioned off, fetching $3,000.

After more than fifty years, the slim steel tracks that were built and and installed in the reinforced rafters of MGM Sound Stage 29 are still there, high above the floor as a haunting reminder of Oz’s monkeyshines.

Excerpt from The Munchkins of Oz, by Stephen Cox

IN T HE PRESENCE OF ANCESTORS


The Paddle to Seattle in 1989 was coordinated by our good friend Emmett Oliver (1913-2016) a member of the Quinalt Nation, retired Coast Guard commander, and educator, was serving on one of the State of Washington’s centennial committees. Tall ships would be participating in the celebration, and Oliver felt the state’s indigenous population was being ignored.

The high profile return of Coast Salish canoes to ancestral waters was a shot in the arm to Native cultures. A new generation of canoe carvers emerged. Young ones began learning their Native language. Elders who as children were punished for speaking their language, began teaching their dances, songs and stories.

Then, in 1993, in response to an invitation issued during the Paddle to Seattle, canoes traveled to Heiltsuk First Nation in Bella Bella, British Columbia, and the Tribal canoe Journey was born.

Villages long separated were once more connected by Native pride. Once more Arts and Culture were exchanged.

Emmett Oliver is gone, but his legacy burns on in his descendants. Son Marvin Oliver, professor of Art at the University of Washington, and daughter Marilyn Bard, are involved in the Journey, even the youngest grandchildren, too young to be pullers are learning their heritage. In the water, in their canoes, as they are traveling the highways of their ancestors, they cannot help but feel the powerful connection to their people’s lifeways, and for the connection to the other tribal territories they now visit.

OLD GUYS RULE!


Today in retaliation to the incompetency of local government inadequacy, Dr. A rose at five a.m. and joined the waiting line at the DMV to politely inquire where the heck his driver’s license was hiding within their files.

Paperwork in hand, and a somewhat pleasant attitude in place, he put the question of age to them. “Does the fact that I am 92 years of age have anything to do with putting my license in the holding file?” As our daughter reminded me, does the fact that he has never had an accident, that he drove over 300,000 miles a year over all kinds of terrain, and that his faculties are intact, mean nothing?

His Danish charm in full operation, they put him behind the wheel of his car to demonstrate that he still had it, and renewed his license for two years. It is truly a day of celebration!

AGE DISCRIMINATION?


It’s apparent that there is discrimination against pit bulls, people of other color and/or cultures. We are reminded that this is not a good thing. Get to know them and maybe you’ll like them. Except maybe the pit bulls. Other than the occasional rude hand signal or honked horn, people are generally kind to the elderly.

My puzzled rant today is against the DMV. Dr. A applied for his license renewal last February in advance of his May 92nd birthday.
He aced the test, but needed his eyes checked. He took the form in to the doctor and she signed it. The DMV lost the form, so he did it again. Still nothing so he went into the DMV where they gave him an appointment for sometime in July. When he didn’t hear again, they gave him another extension in September. Yesterday he got a phone call from DMV telling him to come in for a driving test next week. When he went over they said they knew nothing about it.

Could it be age discrimination?It’s hard enough being 92 without people thinking you are old.

I agree that older drivers may not be as sharp as in the past, but renewing a license to drive locally in daylight as long as all the other faculties are intact seems fair. Licenses are given to people who cannot speak our language and to thousands of teenagers without a second thought. Case in point, we have a large round about at the corner which teenagers routinely race into and around in the middle of the night. I don’t remember any nonagenarean doing this.

CHILES THE HEART OF THE CUISINE


Red chile sauce floated into California from Mexico as on a chile river. Discovered by the Spaniards when they rode into the Valley of Mexico in 1521, they filled their pockets with seeds and dropped plants along the way through California, Arizona and New Mexico. The beloved chili came in all shapes and in all degrees of heat.

Chile heat may not be to everyone’s liking, but it is an essential ingredient in Mexican cooking. Where would our beloved enchiladas and tacos be without red chili sauce?

The smell of roasting peppers is addictive, much like he smell of roasting garlic. I roast them over an open flame before stuffing with cheese for chile relenos. The kitchen is filled with the good smell of cooking, and it says that dinner is not far away.

As Californians we understandingly eat a lot of Mexican cuisine. and their are plenty of Mexican taquerias around if you don’t want to cook. Years ago we hosted a couple of teenage boys from Kodiak, Alaska for several days. Knowing the appetites of teenage boys, I prepared a large tray of enchiladas and another of make your own tacos plus a big pot of pinto beans. They ate sparingly, and after dinner they asked to be taken to the nearest Kentucky Fried Chicken store where they purchased several dinners to bring back home. I had not taken into consideration that they had never eaten Mexican food. I guess unless you are raised in the chile river realm, a plate of good old fried chicken is the best bet; after all what’s not to like?

On my first evening in New Mexico, they asked if I liked chiles. Until that time my relationship with chiles was in a pot of beans, which I liked very much. When dinner was served I was surprised to see a large bowl of stewed chiles set before me. I remember drinking a lot of Kool-Ade to cool me down. In New Mexico large strands of chiles are strung together and hung beside the outside door to dry. You just pick one off when you need it.

It’s interesting to find the use of chilies in cooking is world wide. My friend from Jamaica grows the pretty and very hot Scotch Bonnet pepper. Asian cuisine claims other varieties of pepper, and the Middle East uses still another. Chile heat fills your nostrils, makes your eyes water, feels like your mouth is on fire. So why do we love it? Search me; I think it’s just because it’s good.

OLD AT THIRTY-THREE


There seems to be a difference of opinion as to when we get “old”. I think some people actually are born old. It would be nice to test that theory and watch the old wrinkled face and grey hair miraculously transform into vibrant, energetic youthfulness. It woud be even nicer to stop the process mid way when we became satisfied with the result and just stay there. Unfortunately that is not the case. The Mills Brothers in the 1950’s sang a warning not to be old at thirty-three. Does this mean that age is simply a matter of choice?

Looking at family photos of our families from the past, I am amazed at how old the people looked when still in their thirties and forties. They not only looked older than their years, they acted older. Their risk-taking and playfulness was gone and they were serious about their parenting and everything else.

When I was 38, being late for an appointment, I ran up a flight of stairs, taking the steps two or three at a time. I was reminded of my mother, whom I thought old when she was 38 and I was 18. I was shocked that I could have been so cruel.

Today I heard that we might someday live till the age of 122. The question is do we really want to stick around that long? We are bound to lose some important faculties in that extended time. Driving could be a problem, but With the advent of driver-less cars it might not be so bad. As with old cars, their would always be some tweaking to be done; a new paint job, valve change, emission tests, etc.

The Alameda girls, who haven’t been “girls” for over seventy years, gathered for lunch at Rossmoor last week. Rossmoor, for those of you who don’t know, is a rather posh adult retirement community in the town of Walnut Creek, surrounded by 1200 acres of gorgeous natural landscape. One of our members moved their five years ago, and though very happy, she no longer drives, and her daughter lives an hour away. So the maternal guilt will soon send her back to Alameda, where her daughter still lives. There are several daughters who bring their mothers, and one daughter brings her year old grandson. They listen to old high school memories and marvel that we were so ‘modern’ in the “old days”.

One of our mates has recently shown some problems with dementia, and will be living in a facility in San Francisco. Her daughter, who has brought her mother to our luncheons for several years, told the facility that her mother wanted to be “usefull”, so she is now folding napkins, towels, etc. Yes, she was busy and useful all her life, helping to raise children, help in her husband’s business.

One friend, in the ROTC with me, and ballerina with the San Francisco Ballet, works at her church feeding the poor, helping put on weddings, volunteering at the hospital. When she recently passed her driver’s renewal test, she went out and bought a new car. She, along with two others has lost a child within the past two years.

My point is that these women, all over 90, are still doing what they can. Do we look our age? Probably, but I haven’t noticed the change. My husband often asks if I think people know we are older? When young girls offer to help him lift a heavy bag of compost into the trunk, or someone rushes past me calling out “You need help Mama?” I think they recognize our advanced years, and I think people are genuinely kind.

Long ago, a very young grandson asked how old his great grandmother was. I answered that she was 82. He then asked how old I was and I jokingly said I too was 82. Puzzled, he gripped the sides of his hair and said ” well if you are both 82, why don’t you have that hair?” I wonder if they look at our photos now and see old?

Remember, it will all come out good in the end, and if it isn’t good, it isn’t the end.