DEAR MRS. JAQUISH


Dear Mrs. Jaquish,

I don’t know if this is the way your name was spelled when I knew you. It’s how it sounded to me anyhow. This is a note to apologize for all the rotten things we rowdy kids did to you so long ago before we knew better. We children were not good neighbors. I’m sure you did not plant your flower garden expressly for us to pick, nor your trees for us to climb.

I would have written an apology right after we left, but I got poison ivy as soon as we began settling into living in Connecticut and after that it was too late and you were gone when we came back home two years later. I still have the nice letter you wrote to me which shames me somehow now as not being particularly worthy of your friendship. It begins “Dear Katie Lou,” which was my childhood name, and gives me the news of the neighborhood. I disliked my name even then, and you will be pleased to know I tried out many new ones along the way before settling on the present one.

PALM I can picture Long Beach even now after all these years; hopping the squares in the sidewalk, the wonderful old palm trees lining the streets which all had squiggly black patches on them. The truck which came around with hot melted tar to paste on the cracks in the pavement lives in my memory because we used to chase it down the block and grab a piece of hardened tar before the man could catch us. We thought it was good for our teeth.

Maybe that’s what Life is though, a series of patching things up. Streets, houses, relationships. Even trying to make amends for shortcomings suffered three-quarters of a century ago.

I don’t know how old you may have been in 1938, but I’m sure I am older now than you were then, and with a love of gardening equal I’m sure to yours.

There weren’t many of us children in our neighborhood. Two or three more girls and a boy or two who lived around the corner where I was not allowed to play. If you will remember, in Grandma’s rooming house where I lived, there were a number of people who kept track of me.

When we returned home in 1940, someone else lived in your old house, and one of the two little sisters, our playmate Jackie Glass, had passed away as well as yourself. She was the youngest one at eight. I have her picture at my 10th birthday party taken right before we moved away. I don’t have a photo of you, but you live in my memory. You were the first truly old person I knew.

Anyway Mrs. Jaquish, if you get this letter somewhere up on your cloud, I have learned that apologies are best given with some immediacy.

Very truly yours,

BOY WITH A COOKIE


Lincoln with cookie

Standing in the sunlit garden, this small last progeny, munches happily on his giant chocolate chip cookie, bright beams of radiance bouncing off hair in pleasant need of a barber.

Who has not stood barefoot, awaiting his turn for a shower from the garden hose, then bolting quickly through the icy cold spray, thinking to stay as dry as possible, but secretly hoping not to?

Childhood memories of a bygone age, refreshed periodically by other children no less dear, fill my heart as I watch, entranced by this youngest sprite repeating the age-old summer activity.

When did it all go?

A BALLET OF HANDS


ballet2 bilinguism at carlos cano seconary school
Bilinguism at Carlos Cano Secondary School

The happy chatter of families, an occasional shriek from a child, and over it all, the ballet of hands celebrating the occasion.

The California School For the Deaf high school class of 2014 graduated 42 happy young students ready to take on the world. As friends of the family of one young lady, we were privileged to attend the event, where many scholarships and honors were awarded.

The school for deaf and blind was originally in Berkeley, located quite near the campus of the University and was moved to Fremont in 1979. Since then we have become accustomed to seeing blind and hearing-impaired people going about their business throughout town. The school provides home and education for children throughout Northern California from the ages of 3-22.
We talked with the mother of a 20 year old graduate yesterday who has lived at the school for 10 years.

I first became aware of the graceful beauty of sign language while following a car with several non-hearing people conversing, and realized it is like a ballet of hands. In my teaching life, I occasionally had a deaf person, with an interpreter handy to translate my garbled lesson. (grin) At a celebratory party after the graduation, several interpreters were present to help those of us who were limited by our “mono-lingual” condition.

ballet 1  Marc Petrocci   simpl;y sammy
Marc Petrocci “Simply Sammy”

During our meandering through the campus, we came upon a large bronze sculpture by Douglas Tilden, a scion of an early California family. Tilden became deaf at the age of four, and attended CSD in Berkeley where he taught at the school after graduation. He began doing sculpture while attending the school, and then went to France where he studied with another deaf sculptor. His monumental pieces can be seen all over the world.

bear hunt douglas tilden
“Bear Hunt” by Douglas Tilden

Sculpture seems to be an appropriate medium for a deaf person, since their words are expressed with their hands.

“If my hands could speak they would say something profound.”

I, THE UNREADY


Ethelbert had nothing on me when it came to being unready, especially when it came to the wedding of our second daughter years ago. On a cold and rainy February 14th Valentine’s Day, I was lying near death in my bed entertaining the world’s worst case of the flu. I was feverish, with nose dripping, eyes burning, a hacking cough, and all two hundred plus bones in my body resisting movement, and I had convinced myself that people actually DID die of flu. I was prepared to join that sad number by mentally rehearsing my obituary for the event. In the midst of my sad wallow, my daughter came rushing into my darkened sickroom with the announcement that she and what’s-his-name wanted to get married, and that I was elected to both plan and execute this joyous occasion. She would gladly help when she could, but she was in the midst of finals, so not to expect too much hands-on assistance from her. Wasn’t it exciting? Oh yes, by the way, they wanted to execute this glad occasion on St. Patrick’s Day, March 17—less than one month hence.

After performing an abrupt right turn, the dark hairy hulk residing in my brain rose, shook himself free of End-of-Time thoughts, and realizing that I truly was nearly Out of Time. I needed to get up, get out, and get going.

I have to explain how thoughts of this long ago occasion entered my mind in the first place. While having lunch with good friends yesterday, the subject of multiple marriages came up, with the attendant description of the wedding dresses which accompanied them. When you take into account that the dress you choose will probably only be worn once, unless the bride chooses to recycle it for the next go-around, it is a most unchary purchase. Dr. Advice and I will be celebrating our 68th wedding anniversary soon, and I never found an occasion to wear the dress I borrowed from my father’s cousin again. The astonishing cost of some of these celebrity weddings would not only buy the young couple a home, but buy several of their children a first rate education at a prestigious university. Given the fact that half of the marriages are headed for the divorce court before the bills are paid, it’s a wonder that the Courts don’t ban the activity altogether.

Back to the Wedding-of-the-Century—I dragged myself from the cool comfortable confines of my bed and pasted together what I long considered to be the most charming country wedding I could conceive of. We were living in the country, and my daughter wanted to be married at home in our barn, which was a structure not built for the housing of animals, but was playroom, guest quarters, and studio space. While getting invitations, wedding dress and bridesmaids dresses underway, and the wedding cake baked, it occurred to me that some individual to validate the occasion was necessary, and not being a part of any religious association presented a problem in having them solemnize this event in the confines of our barn.

I contacted the Catholic Church, Episcopal, Methodist, etc. and no one was willing to come to us. This was long before the internet provided a way for any upright individual to legally pave the path to connubial happiness. Just as I was at wit’s end, a friend found a Mennonite minister without a church who would willingly perform the required task. I would have gladly converted just to salvage the occasion.

On the eventful day the weather went through its entire bag of tricks. First the sun shone brightly, then it rained, it hailed, it snowed, and a weak sun finally peered warily around a ragged cloud to see if it wanted to be part of the activity taking place on the ground below. At the appointed time, the group of family and friends were gathered in the warm and welcoming barn, and the lovely young bride took her father’s arm and slowly walked from her house to enter her new life.

It was a truly memorable scene, huge arrangements of daffodils filled the room, soft guitar music played, crickets chirped in hidden cages, the vows were taken under a canopy of silken ribbons, daisies and daffodils, the Mennonite minister spoke the required words, and I held our three month old first grandson while his mother, our oldest daughter and sister of the bride, performed her Matron of Honor duties. Immediately afterward, toasts were given, food was dispensed, the home-made carrot cake was demolished, promises were made to get together soonest, and the bouquet of daisies was tossed to the nearest 8 year old. It was all over! How could all that have taken only one month?

The guests departed, the bride and what’s-his-name left, she carrying a small caged cricket for good luck, but the luck ran out, the flowers wilted, the resident crickets went into hibernation, the sun shone brightly and the Mennonite minister remembered that he did not sign the marriage certificate!

Yes, it was a perfectly charming wedding. Oh, one more thing,—-the groom was a poor choice and did not work out.

A lifetime later, the bride planned what truly WAS the most charming wedding conceivable, and with a groom who truly was a wonderful choice for her.

WHERE THE WHITE DOG DANCES


vac2 “Good morning madam, show me your dirt”. We all have it. Some more than others. Imagine someone actually offering to see your dirt. If he appears to be an obnoxious, sly-looking pervert with a dirt fetish, close the door as quick as you can. However, if he is holding what appears to be a vacuum cleaner, invite him in for coffee and cleaning.

The Jewel Tea Company and Fuller Brush Company employed young men to canvas door to door offering to clean your house and hopefully sell you the equipment to do it. I purchased a Kirby vacuum cleaner about sixty-four years ago after firmly spurning it from the Jewel Tea man. That was before he went right ahead and cleaned a visible path through the center of my living room, clearing dust, dog and cat hair, and unmentionable debris to reveal a perfectly clean wall-to-wall carpet.

kirby2

My Kirby vacuum cleaner moved several times along with the rest of our family for many years. I don’t remember what actually killed it, but it did eventually die, and gave way to several other brands of vacuum cleaner, none with the precision, style, and efficiency, though not the weight and cost of the Kirby vacuum cleaner. Today’s models sell for about $1200, and even Charlie’s hair loss is not worth that much brass.

Segue through time and place, and changes of generation. Children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and who knows how many generations of furry friends have romped through our various homes through the years and each have left remnants of their existence.

I am generally able to forestall an embarrassing situation, but when your friends begin asking for a towel to cover the sofa before they will sit on it, it’s time to recognize that the resident brown and white dog is depositing a great deal of his hair throughout the house. Charlie doesn’t simply walk through a room, he chooses to perform his Jack Russell gymnastics on the red Bokhara and dark Persian carpets as he goes from room to room.

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My daughter purchased a new vacuum cleaner which promised to remove pet hair, so we purchased the same one. It did not perform as promised, so we gave it away. Since we seemed to be in the vacuum buying mode, we continued looking and researching for the perfect machine to suit our purpose. Our old vacuum was relegated to the garage rug.

Yellow Vac This is the beautiful new yellow vacuum cleaner which has come to live with us, and which promises to inhale most of the white hair which is evidence of the dance of the white dog.

The only problem is that this new acquisition has given way to a sudden surge of cleaning activity of all sorts. I found myself at midnight last night wondering what cleaning job I could accomplish today. Instead we went out and had an ice cream sundae.

OBSESSION


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I’ve been thinking a lot about the similarities between elderly people as well as the differences between the old and the young. You might think that is a no-brainer, but it isn’t really. My circle of friends includes all ages from a post-toddler to several ladies in their mid-90’s, so I am aware of these anomalies firsthand.

An elderly woman of 90 had a collection of old coins which in her mind were quite valuable. She fussed and fumed for several months to have someone take them to a coin dealer and assure her they were worth a few thousand dollars. Whenever she thought of it, she telephoned several times a day to get someone to take them. Finally they were taken and evaluated and discovered to be worth about their face value and not much more. The dealer bought them, and when she got the news and the money, she insisted and believed she could have gotten more. Similarly a small child will obsess about a lost toy or an implied promise of an ice cream until his parent is ready to disown him. It’s futile to try to convince either of them that it is useless to complain. It is what it is.

A gentleman living in a nursing home once asked a relative to make out his income tax for him. It was a simple one, and was returned to the old fellow promptly, who then insisted they had done it wrong, and he should get more money. With that in mind, he took it to a CPA, and when it was returned, it was found to be correct down to the penny. Even though he had been out of line, there was no apology given to his original helper. By the same token the ingratitude of children is well-documented, so we don’t need to get into that.

Both age groups and our canine friends have a similar sense of Time. Their need to “get it done immediately” is important to them. In either case, if they don’t get it done it will be too late. In the aged, that conception is understandable. The child and the dog only conceive of the Now. They live in the moment. And all are capable of throwing a tantrum if that moment passes.

The child and those at the opposite end of the spectrum often have a compulsive need to “do it themselves”. They reject help, even though it’s often needed. Old fingers and very young fingers aren’t as agile as they might be, and even though they may botch the job, they insist upon doing it themselves and then despair when their efforts are less than perfect.

At an early age little folk tend to babble a lot, as do the older generation. Any nearby human being is ripe for a conversation, and they view everyone as fair game. You can send a talkative kid to bed, but certainly not his grandparent. We have an adult grandson who once talked his way from the San Francisco Bay area to Diamond Lake, Oregon seemingly without taking a break.

Maybe this is the reason that small children and their grandparents have such a good relationship. Their similarities connect them. Their view of Life is open and willing to take a chance. The child hasn’t learned suspicion, and the old ones think nothing untoward will happen to them. Both are easy prey for a good con man or woman. Both have selective memories and hearing.

You might think that is a cynical viewpoint, but I find the comparison extremely interesting. We go through the various stages of Life either suffering or enjoying the same manifestations and thoughts.

It is considered necessary to sigh painfully and call the Senior years the “Golden Years”, or to complain collectively about the similar trials of poor health. It somehow connects that age group in empathy. In the poor health department everybody is probably right. Bodies like houses and cars, wear out, and eventually everybody has something. During my years as an art gallery curator, when asked what my job description was, I just said “I Pull, Patch and Paint”. Pull the nails from the last show, patch the holes and paint over. There is a lot of similarity.