Visiting my Home Town…..

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My Grandmother’s dressing table and my inadvertent selfie.
I have lived in and around Detroit for so long that I am now a Detroiter. I haven’t visited my hometown of Minneapolis and environs since my Mother’s funeral. My Aunt Betty has been asking me to come for quite for some time and I finally decided to go for a short family only visit. My brother, Bruce, is living with Aunt Betty. He is a chef and I wanted to taste his food again.

When I walked into the room where I would be sleeping, a rush of memories came back. The room was furnished with my Grandmother’s furniture. In the picture above, it is my Grandmother’s dressing table. I lived in her house for a some time and can remember seeing her at the table putting on her makeup. The picture came flashing back. Aunt Betty reminded me that she kept gum in the top left drawer to freshen her breath. And I remembered that I carefully removed some of the gum on occasion.

There was also a dresser, rocking chair and a reading lamp with an adjustable height so Grandfather could read in bed without disturbing anyone. I used the lamp to read at night. As I used it, I remembered it.

Although I haven’t talked about it much, I am a quilter. I am doing a Grandma’s Flower Garden quilt. I have seen so many of that pattern and none of them have seemed quite right. My Greatgrandma’s quilt was on the bed and it was just right.

20140814-102324-37404047.jpgthe best part of seeing it for me was that it was so well done. It shows a beautiful color sensibility and exquisite quilting. I can only hope that my version will be half as nice.

Bonnie Bars the Door

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Bonnie, my 13 year old Silky Terrier, keeps a watchful eye on my comings and goings. When I walk in the door, she greets me with wild abandoned joy.

She is vigilant for any signs that I might go out. She has separation anxiety. When she was a puppy, she dug an 11×18 inch hole it the wall leading to the garage. I came home and found a destroyed wood molding and the hole. She had plasterboard stuck in her whiskers and splinters everywhere. If dogshaming.com had been operational at that time she would have been the star for the day. I now have a baby gate between her and the door. Over the years, I have tried several things to alter behavior. She is far better now but the anxiety is still there.

She watches as I get dressed. She looks at me if I go near my purse. Reaching for the keys or going into the garage has her following me.

She has over the years developed strategies for delaying my exit. She runs to the kitchen and looks plaintively at her water bowl. I fill it. Even though she may have just been out, she pretends she has to relieve herself. She is out for a long, long time. She does come when I call her in my mother voice. Then, she races to the door putting herself between me and the door. I lift her 10 lb. body up and over the baby’s gate. She now gives abut 30 seconds worth of whimpers instead of the youthful howls I used to hear.

So the game is winding down and she now knows I will come home.

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Life Going Upside Down

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The house in the picture above is the first house for our family. At that time, the family was my mother, father, brother and me. It was one of the small suburban bungalows going up after the Second World War to house the “baby boom”. The house was in Richfield, Minnesota which is a suburb of Minneapolis. This photo was obviously taken in the winter. My story is about the summer of 1949.

There were so many children in the neighborhood that it was hard to be lonely. We played the usual childhood games of the era like “cowboys and Indians”, “cops and robbers”, “house”, tag, hide and seek and so much more. I was also allowed to go to the corner store which was about 3 blocks away without having to cross any busy streets to buy things for my mother. We played from morning until the street light came on which could be as late as 9:00 at night.

I remember on rainy days, Mother would play some music on the phonograph so we could dance in the dining room. Se liked to play the “Beer Barrel Polka” and would pick us up in her arms and whirl us around. She walked with us. During the winter, we went skating with her.

One of the neighbors got a TV and everyone in the neighborhood went over to see it. It had a tiny screen. It was so small that I could barely see it in the crowded room.

About the middle of summer, I noticed that Mom would listen very carefully to the news telling me to shush when certain things came on the radio. It was the report of the number of polio cases. I was too young to know what that meant. Mom told me that it was the number of sick people with polio in Minnesota.

I didn’t know what polio was. I had measles the year before and was quite sick. Mom said polio was worse. A little boy down the street was taken away in an ambulance. Mom said he had polio and I knew Joe. As the summer went on, the kids weren’t allowed to play together any more. We were all confined to our yards. We could sit on the edge of the property and talk to other kids. We didn’t play in each others houses any more.

Mom scrubbed and washed all the food. She peeled grapes. She peeled the tomatoes. Sometimes she let me help. My brother got sick and my parents got worried. Dr. Robb came by our house to see my brother. He got better and my mother got sick.

My brother and I were not allowed in her room. Mrs. McDonald from across the street came over and got our lunch. My Aunt Darcy took us to her house. We went home at night when my Dad got home. I knew things were so very wrong. My Dad cooked us breakfast for the first time in my life and didn’t smile.

After a couple of days, Mom went to the hospital. They said she had polio and I couldn’t see her. They told me she was in an iron lung.

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After some time, she could breathe without the iron lung. They told me she couldn’t move her arms and legs very well. She was still in the hospital. My brother and I were not allowed in the hospital, so Dad drove us to the hospital and pointed to Mom in a window. We waved at her.

Some days we were with Aunt Darcy and my cousins. Some days we were with Aunt Betty. And some days we were with Mrs.McDonald. It was a crazy time where things changed every day. Everyone changed. Mom was in the hospital with only day visits for about six months.

Very slowly, Mom got better but never fully recovered. She needed help doing some things and had difficulty walking. And slowly, the world righted itself again while we all got used to a new reality.

In 1949, there were 42,173 cases of polio and there were 2,720 deaths in the United States. The epidemic was also in Canada and the UK.

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My brother and I on the front steps of the house. I recently got a lot of pictures of my childhood and memories are being revived. I have also found that some of the memories have changed a bit when I see the pictures.

TV for Dogs

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I have Directv in my home. Yesterday they had a message that told me about a new subscription channel called DogTV. And yes, your right, it is a channel with content for dogs. It is supposed to provide relaxation, stimulation and exposure to new things. It is colorized for dogs. They also said with HD technology, the dogs can actually see it. And supposedly will watch it. They have a trial period. They want you to pay for it. The promos really play on guilt about leaving your dog alone.

My dog has given no indication that she wants to watch TV. Since it is free for a week, I will be running it while I’m at work today and see if it has any effect on her. Will my greeting be different? Perhaps she won’t want to leave the TV when I get home. Maybe she’ll object when I change the channel. Only time will tell.

Joe, Where Are You?

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I walked into the kindergarten class of Ms. Sawyer in Pontiac, MI where I was going to tutor kindergartners who were not “kindergarten ready”. In other words, the kids did not know colors, shapes, identify numbers and letters and sit still for about 10 minutes. About 95% of the kids qualified for both free lunches and breakfasts. Sometimes this was the only food they got for the day. I was told not to give the kids any gifts so as not to create a classroom problem.

Ms. Sawyer introduced me to the five kids I would work with once a week for about a half hour per child. Joe was a large chubby little boy who would be one of my kids. The first week, we sat down and just got to know each other in a separate space right outside the classroom. Joe was charisma personified and wanted to take me on a tour of the school rather than sit still. He could not sit still for any amount of time. I asked Joe to tell me about his life and he squirmed. When I took him back to the classroom, the kids were sitting on the floor waiting for a story. Several kids shouted for Joe to come and sit next to them.

I worked with Joe all year and found ways to help him sit still learn a little. I found when I was teaching him about animals and singing “Old McDonald had a Farm” with him that singing had an amazing calming effect. So, we sang songs about shapes and colors. I knew this was not going to work in the classroom but Joe was catching up. And his home life was getting worse.

One week I came and Joe had been suspended. He was under a table for story time and lifted a table with his feet which turned and landed on another child. It was termed violent.

The next week I changed things a little. I got permission to let Joe visit the therapy dog at the end of the half hour if everything went well. Joe and I got a lot done. Each week he hugged and snuggled with the large Golden Retriever therapy dog. His dad got out of prison and things improved a little. By the end of the year, Joe was up to speed.

During the year, Joe found his way into my heart and now after fifteen years I wonder where he is and how he is doing.

Les Élysées du Vernet, Paris 2006

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In 2006, my daughter and I traveled to France on a short vacation in Paris, Normandy, Brittany and the château country. We went in May and my daughter had a special Mothers Day gift for me. She had booked dinner at Les Élysées du Vernet near the Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

I had no idea what to expect. She had verified the reservation and informed me that it was a Michelin two star restaurant. The taxi got us to the restaurant just in time for our reservation. The entrance to the hotel was not impressive. But, stepping through the door was like stepping into another world. It was an elegant and secluded escape from the world. Almost like stepping into another time. As soon as it was clear that we had reservations, we were accompanied to the door of the restaurant pictured above. Just taking in the room before me made me wonder and anticipate the kind of meal we were going to have.

We were ushered to the table and my daughter immediately got a flute of champagne as a greeting. She got the menu with the prices and said to order what I wanted. My menu had no prices. I am allergic to crustaceans and quickly eliminated any dishes with shrimp, crabs, lobster or prawns. After ordering, we had a little time to look around the room. I noticed there were many empty tables and Char had a hard time getting a reservation. I am always curious so I asked the waiter when he came back. There was only one seating per evening and the diners arrived at twenty minute intervals. The service was a smooth and well ordered operation.

My appetizer was carpaccio in a vinaigrette. The meat was tender and the vinaigrette was just the right acid counterpoint to the sweet saltness of the beef. My water glass was being refilled before I ever had a chance to empty it. Right after the plates were removed, a little glass of a celery drink arrived. We got an amuse bouche between each course. We had several people attending to our table.

The table next to us finally had their diners arrive. Two men walked in and one had a small Cairn terrier under his arm. I am fine with dogs in restaurants although it is not allowed in the United States. After the diners were seated, one of the waiters brought a silver bowl on a silver platter. When he arrived at the table next to us, he carefully lifted the bowl of water off the platter and served it to the thirsty dog. I just had to laugh.

My daughter had told me the ceiling of the restaurant had been designed by Eiffel. It was so gorgeous that my eyes were drawn to it time and time again.

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I had ordered a pigeon dish for the main course. Many of the selections had a shellfish component. The waiter assured me that they were country pigeons and their feet had never touched concrete. It was served in a wine reduction with broccoli. And, it could not have been better. And another amuse bouche before the cheese board.

At this point, I left the restaurant to go to the restroom. When I returned to my table, i sat down with the assistance of the waiter. He removed my used napkin and replaced it with a fresh, warm napkin. Just another moment when I went, this is a new experience.

They had a cheese specialist, a fromager. The board must have had more than thirty cheeses. It was overwhelming. So many choices and so many cheeses I had never seen or heard of before. We made our selections. We had a variety of tastes from sweet to salty. Textures from hard to soft. Cheeses from cows, sheep and goats. It was amazing.

Although we were full, we decided to have a dessert, a baba au rhum. On the menu, it was listed as a dessert for two. How big could it be? It was huge. It was the size of a small watermelon. The sight of it made both of us laugh. I was good to be in a place where the waiters are not trying to rush you out to turn the table. So we waited a bit. And we ate a small part of the very big dessert.

This was an epic meal. It was the kind of meal where you don’t want to sully your mouth with food so the experience will stay with you. The experience has stayed for quite a few years and is still one of my best food experiences.