METAMORPHOSIS


We all have stress in our lives; some is good stress and some is not so good. A prospective wedding can be both in terms of stress. I remember both my daughters stress level before their big day. While perusing Webster’s dictionary, I discovered that there were several definitions for the word “Metamorphosis. “a striking alteration in circumstances” seems to fit that situation. Nothing seems to go the way planned, but at the last-minute, everything perks along just fine. For some prospective brides or grooms, the sense of doom crashes down while walking down the aisle. Only the brave or the foolish continue walking.

It’s an unnatural time for most of us. The sometimes months long preparation, the economic guilt, the frayed emotions erupting into meltdowns should send the happy couple off to elope in a far away place by themselves.

The photos of the joyous couple with mile wide smiles hurrying to get on with things, were not photos of me seventy-two years ago. At eighteen and twenty, we were children who thought they were grown up enough to handle the adult world. I will admit that I for one, doubted it. It wasn’t the first time I was wrong of course, nor the last. We have watched too many marriages come and go, and I am pleases to say that after 72 years with the same handsome guy, and after producing children, grandchildren and great=grandchildren, life is still good. On September 7 I will make him his obligatory bowl of oatmeal, give him a kiss and wish him many more days sitting across from the same girl who wasn’t quite sure it would work out. Happy Anniversary Doctor Advice, I couldn’t have done it without you.

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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.

THE GREYHOUND BUS


During the years I was busy growing up in Long Beach, CA, my maternal grandfather came to celebrate each holiday with us. Having been long divorced from my grandmother, with whom we made our home, he lived alone in the tiny town of Tujunga, nestled in the arid foothills of the San Gabriel mountains east of the city of Los Angeles. He moved there sometime in the 1930’s, taking advantage of the dry mountain climate as a palliative for his asthma.

I remember the long hot, infrequent drives we made when we visited him. Upon arrival, we asked for him by name, and were directed to the clump of large oak trees in the park, where card tables with other old men seemed to play unending cribbage games. But our best visits were when he came to stay with us.

It never occurred to me to wonder how he got to our house. He had no car, yet there he would be standing on our front porch; a small grey man, dressed in a grey suit and wool cap, carrying a battered cardboard suitcase and a jolly smile. To my knowledge he never owned a car, so he took the bus whenever and wherever he wanted to travel.


“GO GREYHOUND AND LEAVE THE DRIVING TO US”

Aptly named, the Greyhound bus has been in operation since 1914, thanks to a young entrepreneur named Carl Eric Wickman, who came from Sweden in 1905 to work in the mines in Minnesota. When he was laid off in 1914, he went to work as a Hupmobile salesman. Failing as a car salesman, he took his own vehicle, a seven passenger car, and transported mine workers from Hibbing, Minnesota to Alice, Minnesota, (which also happened to be where the saloons were) for 15 cents a ride.

In 1915 he joined forces with a similar service going as far as Duluth, Minnesota. By the end of World War 1, Wickman had 18 buses, and saw a profit of $40,000. Four years later, he purchased a West Coast operation and began the first national intercity bus company.

The Greyhound name had its origins on the inaugural run from Superior. Wisconsin to Wausau, Wisconsin, when the operator, Ed Stone, saw the reflection of his 1920’s bus in a store window as they passed. For some reason it reminded him of a greyhound dog, so he changed the name of that segment of the route from the Blue Goose Lines to Greyhound. The name became popular, calling to mind the speed of the greyhound dog, and later applied to the entire network.

After my father retired from the Navy, he and my mother moved to Grants Pass, Oregon, my father’s hometown. In order for me to visit, I had to drive or take the bus, as there was no airport, and the railroad only went as far as Dunsmuir, CA. So gathering my two daughters aged four and six, the three of us set off on our first Greyhound bus ride. My husband drove us to the downtown station in Oakland, CA for an overnight adventure. And an adventure it was.

A big city bus station at night was seemingly a gathering place for people who had no place else to go. As I look back on it, it brings back memories of the depressing Marilyn Monroe movie “Bus Stop” But a night trip with small children seemed a better option for us,.

Once on the bus, we found it to be large, spacious and clean, with enough room to spread out. I had packed enough snacks to last the night, but the convenience or inconvenience of bus travel is that it stops at every small station along the way to pick up or drop off passengers. Greyhound operates 2,700 stations across America, but in small to mid-size cities, an agent can operate from a convenience store or a roadside stop.

It seemed that just as we fell asleep, we were awakened by the bright lights of a new stop, and the voice of the driver telling us to get off and stretch our legs, drink coffee, or get a bite to eat. Luggage is stored in an enormous cavern under the bus, which sends bangs and crashes throughout the night as it is loaded. Then we were back in the bus and on our way again.

The long night over, in bright sunshine with dry mouths and sleepy eyes, we were met at the Greyhound bus station in Grants Pass by happy grandparents. A successful journey.

The Greyhound bus can take you anywhere, anytime.

THE CHILD


In those dark quiet hours of the night before sleep comes, our mind travels over many miles, exploring and revisiting memories from the past. Long dead relatives and friends come calling, often mixed in with an unfinished garden chore of that day. Vestiges of unrelated minutia crowd in to confuse and confound.

On nights when I fight my pillow and toss around like a tree in a windstorm, I remember all the beds I have slept or tried to sleep in. Moving often, as I did as a child, made me an expert bed tester. I mostly slept with my mother when my father was at sea, rarely having a bed of my own. When at Auntie’s, I slept on a cot in her sewing room, looking out the dark window at a few twinkling stars, and listening for the sound of a faraway train, while counting each chime of the old clock outside my door.

After moving to Connecticut, I often listened to the sound of the radio from another room, and joined the realistic panic after listening to Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds”, or “The Battle of the Sexes” radio show. Later, during the War, while staying with Aunt Hazel, my mother and I shared a makeshift bed in their common room, all of us listening to the Richfield Reporter give us the latest news of the War, and wondering where my father was that night. The summer we were with them, my mother and I slept one night outdoors in an open field counting shooting stars in August.

On a recent sleepless night, I was confronted in my mind’s eye with a child standing quietly while gazing around her in a tentative way. She simply stood in the middle of the room looking over at a piano which stood against one wall, and then at the many books on shelves in an alcove. She made no move to walk over to either, nor did she ask permission to either play the piano or read a book. She exhibited no interest in what the others in the room were doing, and seemed not to care that she was not a part of it. She simply stood alone in the middle of it all.

She was about eight years old, with a short Dutch cut hairdo, and dressed in the style of the 1930’s; cotton dress with puffed sleeves, and black patent leather Mary Jane shoes. As I wondered who she was and where she had sprung from, I recognized my mother, Grandmother and Aunt Georgia greeting one another with hugs and kisses, and I realized the child was me. I was being delivered to Auntie’s for another extended stay. I don’t remember if I had a little travel case, or what I often brought with me when I came to stay.

While recognizing this, it made me wonder just what my thoughts had been on the many times I came to visit. Was I happy to come, or sorry to leave Grandma’s house. I think I simply went where I was taken without any drama. Surely I loved Auntie and knew she felt the same, after all, I had been taken there since I was a baby in arms, while my mother would take a job. Remember that it was the Great Depression, and jobs were not easy to find and keep if you had few skills.

The great love affair of my parents lasted throughout their lives, though they were separated through a great deal of it due to the call of the United States Navy. When his ship came in, and she found it possible, she traveled to where he was. I was fortunate
to have a loving Grandma and my dear Auntie, though I sometimes wondered if Uncle Phil was as thrilled to have me.

Looking back at the child, I saw that she/I, though not shy, politely waited on the sidelines, deciding whether to sit or wait to see what the rest of them did. When I realized that, I saw that though not an introvert, I really DO wait to see how the land lies when in a new or different situation. Perhaps this is what the child came to show me. We do not change very much through the years. We are what we have always been, only more so.

I was an only, though not lonely child. Being alone most of the time, I created my own fun or amusement. We did not live near other children, and moved so often I did not make friends easily until my high school years. Those friends are still with me after all these years and we meet once a month in Alameda. I am frequently reminded by those women of some of the wild or risky things I apparently got them into. Perhaps the quiet introspective child was simply biding her time and plotting all those quiet years. Or maybe she was simply weighing her options. Either way I’m glad she showed up the other night. It was good to meet her again.

Through the years, most of us cove a lot of territory during the night hours. No one has come up with a foolproof way to get and stay asleep, but as long as we can recapture the scenes of our life while safe in our beds it’s a nice end to the day.

THE CHINA CONNECTIION


I miss the sight of the roasted ducks dripping succulent juice into the trough below, and promising the harbinger of good eating. Alas, the Dragon BBQ restaurant is no more. It is only the latest restaurant which has closed with no prior notice. Though this city has a huge influx of Asian people, we don’t seem to have a decent Chinese restaurant. One or two Chinese buffets have come and gone through the years, but they don’t last long. Where do they go for good Chinese food? Conversely, we have many Mexican restaurants.

During the years I took Tai Chi each morning, we had a monthly pot luck picnic. I was the only Caucasian and usually took cake or a casserole. They brought ethnic food including chicken feet. unidentifiable dishes and many delicious steamed buns. Always with an enormous jug of hot tea with leaves floating around. It was a great way to get connected.

A number of years ago I wanted to buy goose livers for a pate recipe, so I went up to Oakland which has a large Chinatown, taking my mother in law for a day’s jaunt. Popping into several markets, I realized that no one spoke English which left me wondering how to connect with them. So I flapped my arms and quacked, hoping I sounded like some sort of barnyard fowl. I never got the goose liver, but I got duck liver and we both got a free lunch.

My mother in law was raised on a ranch in Chico, CA, where they had a Chinese cook, who still wore a queue. A ranch hand, thinking it a joke, cut it off one day. My husband’s grandfather chased the culprit off the ranch, whereupon he and the “Chinee” cook shook hands. Amazingly to my husband’s grandfather, the cook offered him a Masonic handshake. I now have a large porcelain teapot which came with the cook from China.

My MIL was quite fond of the Chinese, partly stemming from the herbalist who cured her mother’s paralysis. Would she be pleased or not with the amount of Chinese immigrants today?

HELLO GOD, IT’S ME AGAIN


I seem to be checking in more often these days with gentle reminders. You will have noticed another new arrival last week when Roberta Gullick joined your flock of angels. She preferred to be called Birdie. We were all lucky she stayed here for 93 good years. But she got a little tired at the end and just lay down and went to sleep. She was always good at making decisions.

She was Dr. Advice’s big sister, and the advice gene ran in the family. She may find better ways to handle things up there, and she was more often right than wrong so you can take it under advisement.


“She hated to have her picture taken so this is the best I can do. This is her brother with her, but he is NOT coming yet.

If you can fix her up with a bridge group, she would sure appreciate it. It has been awhile since she could see the cards. Her eyesight has been failing for awhile which took away her pleasure in watching the college football games on TV as well. She wasn’t hot on the pro games but she did love the college ones, especially her beloved Cal Berkeley.

She found a real fit while at Cal during the War when they started the Cadet Nurse program. She looked real smart in her uniform and later in the white uniform and cap of a registered nurse. Later on, she also did some nursing after her family arrived.

She left a great family down her which she started with a perfect husband for her. I don’t know how you managed to get them together but it surely worked out well.

She was pretty shy and quiet, but still managed to involve herself in her kids activities and in the community, including the successful Halloween Ghost House here. It took awhile for her to make friends, but when she did, she was a good one.

She took swimming lessons as a girl, but was afraid of water. But she made sure her kids learned to swim and they all swim well.

She got interested in sports as a girl when her father took her to baseball games in Oakland. She rowed as part of a crew when she was in junior high, later she played tennis until an accident on the court finished that.

She was not one for “show”, choosing to stay in the background more often than not. She had her own ideas and wasn’t shy about sharing them whether you wanted to hear them or not. Her daughter in law would sometimes say softly “Now Roberta”. Maybe we all need such a reminder.

I first met her when I was sixteen years old, and wasn’t sure what she felt about me at that time. If you had asked me I would have thought she thought very little. As I began thinking more about others than myself, I realized that some people have trouble sharing their feelings. Why is that God?

She was my “sister” for nearly 72 years and I will surely miss her, so be sure to take good care of her God. Have a chat now and then, you will like her. She likes a vodka tonic in the evening.

PREJUDICE


It’s a big subject. Too big for a simple blog, but we encounter it in some way each day in our private and public lives, so it needs to be addressed.

Conducting an interview with myself, I wondered when I first became aware of the mean spirited effect of prejudice. The strong Yankee-bred women in my family were ardent Republicans who thought the last best hope for the country had been Herbert Hoover. They gladly overlooked the Depression which was consuming the country; possibly as a result of Mr. Hoovers’ miscalculations.

Without knowing or caring who Franklin D. Roosevelt was, it was apparent from their conversation that he was the devil incarnate, and his busy body wife was a disgrace. My father, away at sea most of the time, did not participate in the conversations, so I had no idea on which side he dwelt.

Somehow, listening at dinner tables and eavesdropping in nearby rooms, I felt uncomfortable with the negative conversations. Surely this man was not as bad as they thought. I often differed from authority, and this gave me one more reason to determine my own path. When my father returned from a voyage, I found that he had voted for this same Franklin D. Roosevelt, which made me feel validated.

Prejudice touches so many facets of our lives. Politics and religion always draw the most heat, making them the most interesting of subjects. Due to my Grandmother’s dynamic leadership, we attended the Christian Science church, at least my Grandmother and I did. My mother and aunt, though believers, were usually busy on Sunday mornings. My father, needless to say, had no interest in the study of Christian Science. Auntie and Uncle Phil, with whom I lived occasionally, followed no religion, and we usually spent Sunday at the movies.

I never determined why, but overheard conversation told me that the Catholics, and possibly a few other religions, were not appropriate friends. I knew no blacks, though there were a few Japanese living in Long Beach in those days. We were a strong Masonic family, with various relatives holding office in the organization. We were a proud flag waving, Anglo-Saxon Protestant family. Not that any of these things were talked about; they were simply there, and you knew.

I had exhibited a few minor talents from an early age. I had a pleasant voice, I could dance, and I could draw a straight line. Grandma was convinced that I was a winner, yet I knew many other girls who surpassed my efforts, so it seemed uncomfortable to take any credit for anything I produced.

My feelings of being at odds with the accepted beliefs sent me on solo trips around town exploring various churches and the lone synagogue in Torrance where we were currently living. It was a marvelous education in the various views people held in the acceptance or non-acceptance of Jesus as the Savior. I realized that I had no opinion either way, which was no surprise. In fact, I took offense to the words of the entrance hymn which entreated the Christian soldiers to keep marching on to war.

On my first trip to the Southwest with my Indian friend Georgia Oliver, I immediately tried to fit in with the locals by identifying which village someone came from by the way they wore their hair. I whipped off a small sculpture of a woman’s head with something which looked like a Dutch cut, Georgia just smiled and said that I missed the back style. I smugly identified a man riding by on his horse as a Navajo. With a curled lip and a sharp retort, Georgia shot back “He’s a Mexican.” Clearly here lived prejudice, even in a country comprised of people who lived rather low on the totem pole.

Yes, there is prejudice wherever we look. It lives in small children and in the very old who should know better. Give it a chance, recognize it when you see it, and speak up to make a change.